Monday, 29 February 2016

The things people do

People use the beach for all sorts of reasons.

Some park their car too near the sea, and then this happens:

Not very sensible, I agree.

Others bring their horsey down and gallop up and down, like this:

That looks like fun, I must say.  Although I am not a horsey person.  Missy was on horses once upon a time.  But then she fell off and that, as they say, was the end of that.

Friday, 26 February 2016

More old negs

So last week saw the end of The Uncle's trip to Hungary in 1938.  What we also have in The Archives is a bunch of negatives which were, we're pretty sure, also taken in Hungary.  Unfortunately The Uncle is no longer with us to ask whether or not these were taken on the same trip.  We know his friend Balazs was a University Professor in Budapest and I suspect he was in the field of Education, much the same as The Uncle was in Belfast.  Perhaps that's how they met, through some sort of Exchange Programme.

The collection of negatives is quite interesting - it consists of a series of shots of school children, mostly taken outdoors in a park, although some are inside a school.  They are all either 6x6 or 6x9 negatives.  I'm not an expert in Central European dress styles through the ages, but they look as if they could have been taken in the late 1930s.  If that is the case, I can't help but wonder what happened to these children through the war years - Hungary suffered particularly badly during that time, as we know.

Anyway, I printed a few of the group shots out...

The staging of this shot is great.  Apart from the obvious enjoyment of the girls, I like the fact that some are leading with one foot and some with the other.  Also the girl in the background looking at the troupe as they stride towards the photographer.  Nice!  I'd bet most of those dresses were sewn at home, too...

This one above I really like - books open on the grass, very relaxed and informal.  And an interesting background and sky as well.

A difficult one to print, this last one, being half in shadow and half in sun.  The subjects are clear enough though, which is the important thing.

All printed on Ilford RC Warmtone, for a change.  More to come next Friday.

Thursday, 25 February 2016


My mate, Dr C.  Here he comes, striding down The Prom ready for our little meeting.  He's got himself a FitBit watch thingy, so he's walking a lot more these days.

This is the posh end of Portstewart Prom.  Short for Promenade, y'know, where people can stroll up and down eating ice cream (or more often, sit in their car and eat ice cream).  The new apartments you see there stand where the old Windsor Hotel used to be, just for the record.  Mostly these will be holiday homes, for them'uns from the Big Smoke (Belfast).

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

...or here

Same road, just a bit further along:

When we was young, The Brother and I, we used to walk this road regularly.  The clump of trees you see there in the distance is Kiltinney More:

'More' is an Anglicisation of Mór, meaning 'Big' in Irish.  Where there's a Mór there's usually a corresponding Beg (small).  Kiltinney Beg lies at the other end of the road, but there's no signpost. Many of the old townland names are disappearing, only present in older maps, which is a great shame...not only are they a direct link to our heritage but they make the landscape a whole lot more interesting, in my eyes anyway.

So the farmer here at Kiltinney kept pheasants, all different sorts including golden ones, hence the reason for our walk.  Nowadays the farm is derelict, the buildings stripped of their slates and falling apart.  The Brother kept pheasants too for a while.  And we had guinea pigs and cats and hens.  That's the sort of thing we did when we was young and growing up in The Liberties.

We went through a hen phase a few years ago and I have to admit their eggs were lovely.  Very territorial birds though - they killed one of the newcomers we introduced to the flock, which was very upsetting for Missy.  We got rid of them - not because of that, but in the winter they attracted rats, which we just couldn't get rid of.  When we started seeing the rats running about in daylight enough was enough and the hens were dispatched.  No, not like that - how could you even think that?!  No, we took them back from whence they came.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Not much here...

If you go down our road a bit and then turn left up Kiltinney, walk past the chicken houses (holding your nose more often than not) and you get to here.

I know it's not much - and it's a bit dark.  Nice all the same though, in its own way.

Monday, 22 February 2016

A Winter's Tale

It's definitely Winter.  I can tell since the sun is just rising as I get up on a school morning.  I say the sun is rising, but that has to be taken with a pinch of salt in The Liberties.  Usually it means the general murkiness gets a little clearer.

However, the other morning, as is my norm, I found myself on the beach in Portstewart and it was looking a little dramatic, what with the morning sun pitched against some dark clouds and all.  So much so, in fact, that I pointed me camera at it (that would have been the rangefinder thingmy loaded with HP5+) and pressed the shutter release.

And on Saturday morning I escaped into the darkroom for about an hour...and this is the result, on Kentmere VC:

That is pretty close to how I remember the scene.  Of course it didn't just come out of the fixer looking as fabulous as that - no siree.

Here's the story - pictorally.

Apart from the big bit of dust on the negative (which looks like the moon), the first print (above left) was way too dark.  So I blower-brushed the dust off and adjusted the exposure and got my second print there on the right.  Still not great - I liked the sky OK, but the whole thing looked too dark for my liking.

My third effort (above left) was a crude attempt at dodging where the sand dunes are on the left in an attempt to bring out some detail there. Rubbish, really.  For my fourth effort I cut out a bigger bit of card and dodged a bit more.  Still rubbish - and my attempts to straighten the horizon were getting worse, not better.

At this point in time I was becoming disillusioned with my abilities in the darkroom if not life itself.  Patience, I told myself.  A different course of action was required.  I did two things.  First thing I did was draw some horizontal lines on the back of an old print which I put on the easel in an attempt to sort out the horizon.  You have to remember to take the old print out of the easel though otherwise you run the risk of putting the unexposed sheet of paper under the print with the lines drawn on it.  Not that I would ever do that, of course...  Secondly I decided to dodge the whole of the lower half of the print to lighten the foreground and provide some balance to the sky.

I think I got there, or close to where I wanted to go.  Here's the final version again:

When it dried I wondered if the foreground was now a little too light...and maybe the sky is too much.  But...I think I'm inclined to leave it alone.  There's a reasonable range of tones I think.

All in all a good way to waste a couple of hours on a wet Saturday morning in February.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Hiking in Hungary

A couple of shots of The Lads with their walking gear on:

Definitely still a touch of the old Scouting Movement about their attire - perhaps they were staying in hostels that required some sort of affiliation.

Most of them had invested in the latest backpacking gear - apart from the dude on the right, who looks more equipped for a business meeting rather than a hike across the Hungarian Great Plain.

Here's one of them sporting my old School Blazer again.  Nice high-waisted trews, as well.  And that's an impressive roof structure on that building - a hint of Asian architecture there perhaps.

That brings to an end the main part of the trip that The Uncle and his mates undertook in 1938.  But it's not quite the end of the story...

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Dogs on the brain

The shadow thrown by this stick on Portstewart Strand caught my eye the other day:

Like a wee doggie, I thought.  Although with paw prints all around it perhaps that was my imagination going into overdrive.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Peaks and troughs

Well, not many peaks around The Liberties, but plenty of troughs:

Thankfully all the animals are inside this weather.  Well, all the cows are inside - the sheeps are still out and about, but then they've the coats for it.

I wonder what the collective noun for troughs is.  A herd of troughs, perhaps?  Too obvious.  What about A silence of troughs, since there's not much chat out of them?  Or maybe A suspicion of troughs, since you peer over a hedge and there they are, looking as if they've been up to something.

Oops - caught the top of the gate in that last one.  Blame the Yashica.  That's the University's Wind Turbine in the background there.  If you ask me, it's too large for the rural setting it's in - completely dominates the landscape.  Not to mention the view we have from our garden, which used to be nice.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Spot the difference

This one had me fooled for a bit.

Here is a shot from 'down our road' taken on the Yashica T4:

The place is flooded, as you can see.  And as you can also see I'm getting streaks along the sprocket holes - again.  And I was being really gentle with my agitation, so I don't know.

Here's more or less the same shot, taken on a different day with Herr German Rangefinder Kamera:

And I was thinking to myself, what's going on here then?  Then I remembered, I'd stuck a dark red filter on the rangefinder the other day, as it was Mr Boring Blue Sky, to see what happened.  And of course I'd left it on, since on the rangefinder you're not looking through-the-lens, right?, so you don't notice what filter is mounted.  Still, it's different.  It has potential, that filter does.  Perhaps.

Monday, 15 February 2016

It's been doing this a lot lately

This was the view from inside the Methodist Hall in Portstewart, which is where we do our Tai Chi on Wednesday mornings.  Dominican College just make-able out-able through the murk.  It was, as you can see, raining hard.  It's been doing that a lot recently.  I tell myself the ground needs it, otherwise everything wouldn't be as green as it is in The Liberties.

Friday, 12 February 2016

People and places

Just some shots of people and places from Hungary in 1938.  Not quite sure why this one was snapped, but clearly The Uncle saw something there worthy of a 6x9 investment:

While the fence looks pretty sturdy and the main building on the left has a part tiled roof, the outhouse on the right looks like it's been cobbled together with whatever was lying about.  Pretty good job, too.  I like the roof - looks like it's thatched, like part of the other building we can see.

This next one looks like either a wedding or a confirmation:

It's a well-built building there in the background (town hall, manor house?) and then you've got the covered horse-drawn wagons outside.  The girls all look well turned out for their Big Day.

At first glance I thought this cow was pulling the wagon parked up outside Samuel Szoffer's shop...

But then I looked more closely, and noticed the legs of what would appear to be a donkey hiding behind the cow.  The cow looks like it's just standing around chatting to the donkey - I can't make out if it's tethered to anything.   I pity the wee donkey, though - that wagon looks pretty well laden to me.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

All that rain...

All that rain that falls from the sky in this part of the world does make your garden green:

We don't really do flowers and such in our garden.  We like our fifty shades of green we do (and a bit of yellow).

In late springtime the hawthorn blossom (May-flower) can be spectacular, as it was last year:

Those would be our raspberry bushes there at the bottom, trying hard to get some sun and light.  I just can't bring myself to cut back the hawthorn though, so they have to make do.

Occasionally you get pink hawthorn blossom, which is a bit special:

It's so rare to see this nowadays, since the farmers all cut the hawthorn hedges back to almost nothing, which, as you know, irritates me no end.  So we let ours grow, as you can see:

I mean, you can't even call that a hedge on the left, can you?  Where are all the wee birdies going to nest in the Spring?  Or find berries in the Winter?

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Around the coast

That's usually what the good folk of The Liberties do for a wee day out - head round the beautiful Antrim coast for a drive.

Not that there's much of that activity lately, on account of the weather which has been, even by our standards, pretty atrocious.  This one was taken a while ago, on FP4.  In Ballintoy, if you must know, which is now famous as a Game-of-Thrones location.  You can't get near it in the summertime these days.  Way in the distance there is Fair Head and a bit to the left, though not visible in this snap, would be Bonnie Scotland, which is quite clear on a good day.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Country boy

Here's The Lad, looking all countryfied...

He looks like he's smoking there - but he's actually chewing on a bit of grass, as one does in the country.  This was taken a while ago - in the pre-Clare days.  You remember Clare, of course - the one with the shoes.  Not that they'd be any good for a stout walk in the country...

Monday, 8 February 2016

That sinking feeling

I try, I really do, to carry some sort of (film) camera with me as often as possible.  But why is it that the times when you don't have one with you, there's something worth snapping?

Take the other day, for instance.  It's been blowing a gale here since about 2015 and so when I take The Hound to Portstewart Beach in the morning I usually stick the little Yashica T4 PointNShoot in me pocket.  Perfect, it is - I can operate it (i.e., press the slider to open the lens cover and press the button to take the snap) with my gloves on.  And if it were to fall on the sand or even worse I probably wouldn't be too worried.

So, there I was on the beach and snapped away at nothing in particular except the roaring sea and what have you, when it indicated the film was finished.  Now I didn't hear it automatically re-wind the film into the cassette, as it normally does at this point.  But this didn't unduly concern me, since a) I have very poor hearing at the minute, since my tinnitus is back with a vengeance and b) it was blowing a gale.  Back in the house I made the mistake of opening the back to see what gives and of course it hadn't rewound anything, so most of the film will be horribly light-leaked - as you will no doubt see over the next few days.

Anyway, I threw the camera into the darkroom as fast as I could when I realised the situation and left for my Tai Chi class in Portstewart (which is going Great Guns, by the way).

But that's not really the point of the story - which is coming, OK?  Just to set the scene, here's a shot of the Usual Situation in Portstewart Harbour sometime in 2014.  The Pilot boat there does the job of guiding larger boats into the Barmouth and up the Bann Estuary, which you might remember from these snaps.

Yes I know there's something going on there with the old sprocket holes along the top there - I think my agitation was a little too energetic in those heady days.

So...all the talk in the Tai Chi class was of the Pilot Boat sinking in the harbour.  But since I only had me phone with me, humble apologies for the pixelated snap.  In my defence you don't see many of those in This Place.

Now it's a bad job when the Pilot Boat sinks, I can tell you.  The sea has been particularly rough as of late but still, you'd think it would be all right just sitting in the harbour there.  Just goes to show, eh?  Now how are the bigger cargo boats going to navigate the Barmouth?  The Liberties won't get no...whatever-they-bring any more.  They used to bring coal, but I'm not sure what they bring nowadays.  I suppose I'll find out when I go into the shops and there's empty shelves...

Friday, 5 February 2016

In the Bükk Mountains

Continuing their sightseeing around Hungary, The Uncle et al found themselves in the Eastern Bükk Mountains.  The Palace Hotel in Lillafüred was, and still is by all accounts, the place to go, as this period postcard shows:

And here are the lads, in situ:

It's pretty strange the stripey blazer in this shot - this was the 'summer blazer' of my old school, Coleraine Academical Institution.  Pretty fancy stuff.  Not that I ever had one - we had to make do with plain old black blazers, winter and summer.  Eh, times were hard in the McNeill household...

The waterfall here by the Anna cave is pretty impressive:

But the star of this snap is undoubtedly the lady in the foreground.   Not one to be messed with - she looks like she could give you a quare clout with that handbag, should the need arise...

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Ballywillan Old Church

Just outside Portrush lies the parish of Ballywillan, or Ballywillin and particularly interesting Church ruins.

Not that this set of snaps is particularly interesting but there you go.  This was a bit of a scouting mission to see what was there and the plan is to return here and have another go at capturing the essence of the place.

Dates back to the 12th Century, apparently.

Unusually, inside the walls of the ruined church is full of gravestones.

Now there's a bit of a story about the oldest gravestone in this place, which goes like this.  Once upon a time - 1689 to be precise - the King of England, James 2nd was travelling through this area.  Now if you know your dates, this was an important period of time.  He was en route to Derry, which was under siege.  The story goes he took a shine for a local farmer's daughter and the farmer, thinking it would do no harm to curry a bit of favour with the King, allowed his daughter to be entertained by the King of an evening.

 Now eggs being eggs and Kings being Kings it comes as no surprise to the intelligent reader that a child was born to the farmer's daughter approximately 9 months later.   King James, of course, was nowhere to be seen and denied all.  (He had, apparently, seven illegitimate children during his life).   And so the child, Dorothea, was born and raised locally, unfortunately to die in her twenties.  She was buried in Ballywillan churchyard and her headstone is said to have been erected by Queen Anne, her half-sister.  Had she lived to survive William 3rd and Queen Anne she would have had claim to the Throne of England.

I think I'll come back here armed with the Sinar once it warms up a bit - try to capture some of the texture on those old stones and Celtic Crosses, y'know.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

On the Prom

On Portstewart Prom the other day and noticed all the seagulls were facing the same way:

Presumably they were facing into the wind, otherwise they'd get their feathers ruffled or something.

Inishowen nearly covered by low cloud in the distance.  Raining again there.  And that usually means it'll be raining in Portstewart in about 30mins.  Still, at least you can see it coming and dive into Roughans or even Warke's Deli for shelter and a cup of green tea.

On that note, the last few times I've noticed something funny going on.  I have a suspicion they've changed their brand of tea in my usual haunt as it just doesn't do it for me any more.  I must admit I'm kind of addicted to Suki Sencha Green tea, which is what I drink at home.  I even took some to Bath with me but the water there is very different to The Liberties and it was almost undrinkable.  I had to buy bottled water to use - I know, very decadent and very fussy.  Still, when you know what you like...

They're in the process of ripping up The Prom as I write - taking out the old railings and putting in new ones.  And taking out the pavement at the same time - not that I noticed anything wrong with the pavement as it is, mind you.  The rumour is that they are putting in some sort of pavoir brick paving.  Sounds nice, although apparently it will need power-washed every so often to keep it looking good.  Still, the ratepayers will just pay up, as usual, so it's all fine.  Right?

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

On the beach

My constitutional on Portstewart Strand one morning last week:

I know - the sun was out!  As you can see, 'tis the Done Thing in this country to, whenever possible, drive your car onto the beach.  Pretty risky if you're not careful.  And pretty annoying to those who come to the beach to do normal stuff, like walk.  To be fair, these are probably the tracks of the 4x4 used by National Trust volunteers to help keep the beach in order.  But sometimes you do get eejits who just drive at speed along the full length of the beach - because they can.  And that doesn't half get my goat.

That one looks like it was taken on a different day, where the sky was full of cloudy stuff, as per the norm.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Walk on by

That's what these people were doing on Railway Road one day, so I snapped them up, as you do:

Why is it that the streets near railway stations are never the most salubrious?  This area of Coleraine is quite run down, as you can see - even the bus is Not in Service.

I like to study people walking...I've a thing about people's gait, you see.  Comes from having a very poor one myself, due to the old spondylitis and ceramic&metal bits when me hip joints should be. Leg extension, heel strikes, flat feet, oh yes, I would come top of the class on that topic.  Years of being edumacated by physical can tell I listened, too!

Probably the same reason why I love ballet.  I'm just in awe of the grace, poise and power of dancers.  When I lived in Brighton I used to travel up to London to see the odd performance - anything by Tchaikovsky does it for me, I'm not that sophisticated.  Now that I'm in The Liberties there's less opportunity to see decent stuff, but we get the odd one from time to time.  I saw one a couple of years ago in our local Riverside Theatre.  Unfortunately I can't remember the principal dancer's name, but he was, even he would admit, past his prime.  However, he still had it and the nice thing about the Riverside is that it is small, so we were very close to the action.  When you can see the effort on the dancers' faces and hear their breathing it actually gives you an insight into their world which you don't get at the bigger venues.  It seems to be a tough profession and not that well paid for most.