Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Hanging around

So, back in Portrush we are in the piazza.  Well, OK, maybe not exactly en par with an Italian Piazza, but nevertheless it's a public space with interesting shapes and what have you.  A grand place to hang around with a camera.

Via the Nikon/HP5+, 50mm lens with a yellow-green filter and an old Epson scanner.  The old clock tower of the railway station in the background.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Churchyard stone

Another one I've posted before, but this time via lith developer and Slavich Unibrom paper, with a mild sepia tone:

Gravestone in Killowen Churchyard, Coleraine.  The print appears slightly more contrasty than the scan, to my eyes anyway.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Winter is here

Winter is definitely here in The Liberties.  Minus 4 here this morning, which is a pretty low temperature for us, being so near the coast.  Although it's rather lovely out - dry and bright with no wind - it's not my favourite time of the year, since I'm none too steady on the old legs.  A few friends of mine who also have AS have ended up with neck fractures after falling on ice&snow, so extra care is required when the temperature drops below freezing.

But life goes on.  My wife has had her gall bladder successfully removed and is recovering at home, while I pretend to be in charge.  It's prize day today at school and Missy is very nervous - worried that she might trip and fall while walking across the stage to collect her certificate and book token.  I'm sure she's more excited about the book token than the bit of paper - she's a keen reader, too keen at times which means it can be hard to get her raised from her bed in the morning.  Ah well, it could be worse, as I keep telling myself.  Long may it continue.

I liked the soft light and shadows on the tree trunk the other day - but failed miserably to notice the post sticking its head up in the background. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

I Surivived

Well I survived the Camera Club evening.

I took along a few prints, on different papers so as the audience might get a feel for what this thing is up to.  Some regular resin-coated stuff, some fibre, some toned and some lith.  Some from FADU Print Exchange and some from Roy Karlsvik.  I wasn't sure what to expect by way of feedback/interest - I got a couple of questions about different papers and 'what camera was used here' but that was about it.

And I took along a developing tank, a couple of reels and a few exposed films so people could see how easy it is to load a reel in the dark.  Well, mostly it is, provided everything is clean and dry.  But when it goes wrong, as we know it can do from time to time, it can get quite stressful.  Best I find to dump everything in the tank, close the lid, go for a cuppa and start again sometime later.

The view from the wee houses in Portbradden that I posted in a snap yesterday - looking out across the North Channel towards Rathlin Island in the distance.  A lovely wee spot to find yourself in.  Portbradden is from the Irish 'Port of the salmon' apparently.  We didn't see any salmon that day, unfortunately.

I took along a few cameras - a couple of point-and-shoot charity-shop finds, the old 6x4,5 Zeiss (another charity shop find) and a rangefinder (no - not that rangefinder, the Yashica GTN.  You know - the one that the back keeps springing open 'cos some-one (cough) put the wrong felt in when re-doing the seals a while back and never got round to sorting out.  It's on the list - promise).  And I took the Nikon N80.   I decided that the Franka was just too delicate, the German Rangfinder just too expensive and the FM3a was just too nice to take along.  And the recently-acquired Square-Shooter was just, well, too new.  Plus, I would still like all those to work for some considerable time.  In the end there weren't that many people there - perhaps 20 in total and it was all very informal.  As to be expected there were lots of oldies like myself who had used film in the past - quite a few still had cameras sitting in lofts etc.  But it was clear that a lot of members simply stayed away - for last week's talk on Aurora chasing the place was packed out, maybe 50 people.  "Auroras are interesting, film photography isn't" I guess is the lesson for this week.

I took along the 'Field' camera - the Sinar.  Not that I'm an expert on large format photography by any means but I can get by and I thought the good peeps from the Ballymoney Photography Club might appreciate seeing a proper camera for once.   So I built it up 'live' and invited people to inspect the ground glass and get a feel for what the whole LF thing is about.   I introduced it as 'the perfect antidote for those of you who feel it's just too easy to come home with a few images too many after a day out with the camera'.   I think they got the picture, so to speak.  Let's face it, you are never going to come home with too many large format images no matter what the occasion.  Actually it garnered a lot of interest and quite a few people remarked how it was great to look through the ground glass, the clarity of it and being able to use both eyes (I have a binocular viewer for it - not reflex, just straight so you still see a reversed, upside down image).

It appears the club has one other darkroom user - Freddie, who brought along some kit (including a lovely Mamiya C330) and some nice big prints.  He's been gradually moving to digital, though, and I got the impression his darkroom might not be in use for much longer but at I'm happy there's at least one other guy who for now at least still enjoys this sort of play.

It'll be interesting to see how the whole club thing plays out over the next few months.  I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016


The other day Mr Karlsvik over there in Norway was writing about camera clubs and stuff...wondering whether or not to sign up and to which one.  I was a member of the local club here in The Liberties in the 70s, when I was a spotty youth.   To the best of my knowledge it folded more than a few years ago.  But now there is another one on the go and it seems to be going strong by all accounts - it's a member of NIPA, the Northern Ireland Photographic Association.  NIPA runs competitions and generally supports the work of the clubs around The Province.

Like most clubs the prevailing wind is digital photography and that holds little interest for me.  I did digital for a few years but just didn't enjoy the workflow - all that sitting in front of the computer, editing pixels and stuff left me cold.  I really enjoy the physicality of film photography and while I love me cameras and stuff I seem to get most enjoyment in the darkroom side of things - probably as that's where the magic happens, I guess.

Out along the Antrim Coast, just past the Giant's Thingmy.  A good spot for a wee house, sheltered from the prevailing North-Westerleys by a big lump of rock.  Portbradden, I think it's called.

Anyway, I was up by Mountsandel Wood the other day with The Hound and was just returning to the car when I noticed a guy with his foot up on the car boot lip, stretching his hamstrings getting ready to go for a run.  His car was sign-written and I realised this was the guy who runs the aforementioned local camera club.  He looked approachable so I couldn't just Walk On By, as the song goes.  (I've always liked this version - it takes me back to me youth).   So we chatted for a bit and I told him I'd looked at the club's guest speakers last year and it seemed to be mostly digital and blah blah blah.  Anyway, to cut a long story short, it turns out that on the 22nd November there is a 'Traditional Film Photography' night planned.  You'd be correct in thinking 'That's tonight'.  Next thing he's asked me if I would like to come along and speak and well, I couldn't very well turn him down, could I?  So later this evening I'll be at the Sperrin Club in Coleraine, flying the flag for 'Traditional Film Photography'.  Wish me luck.

That phrase always gets my attention...traditional this, traditional that.  It's like our local chippies - it's always 'Traditional Fish n Chips'...never 'Contemporary Fish n Chips'.   Surely to goodness there are other liked-minded people in The Liberties who don't actually like soggy chips cooked in weeks-old oil and fish batter that isn't crisp.  Actually when I think about it, they all seem to do a roaring trade, so maybe it is just me...

Monday, 21 November 2016


OK so I know y'all have seen this one from Castlerock beach before, but here's another version of it:

On Slavich paper, Moersch EasyLith developer

Last time you saw, it looked like this:

On Foma 131 paper, same developer.  It looks toned, but isn't.  Clearly much warmer than the Slavich and not really lith-like at all, by comparison.

Back to the Slavich paper, but with a sepia tone:

Friday, 18 November 2016

Sand, sea and sky

I got into the darkroom yesterday morning for a short printing session.  Some good, some not so good.  Not sure what category this one comes into, mind you.

Portstewart Strand, sometime last week

I was doing some lith work, using the old Moersch Easylith stuff.  20ml of A, 20ml of B and about a litre of warmish water (25 degrees or so).  And a new paper for me - Slavich Unibrom.  What came out was very different to the only other paper I've tried with lith, the Foma MG131.  The Slavich came out very neutral to cold and with a much more pronounced lith effect.  If it sounds like I know what I'm talking about, I don't really - I've only played with this stuff a handful of times.

I must admit though I'm really liking the Slavich paper with this developer, even though I probably over-cooked this one somewhat.  Came up on me rather quickly, it did.  Next step is try a little tone with it, to see what happens.  All good fun.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Here's looking at you, kid

Here's one of the wee beasts in the fields beside us, snapped up a couple of weeks ago in the early morning light:

Good open Ulster farmland all around us, dotted with the odd wonky electricity pole and mobile phone mast. On HP5, via the Nikon/50mm.
I don't think the animals will be with us for much longer, since they've eaten pretty much every blade of grass in the fields.  The other day I caught them massing at the end of our garden, looking very closely at the grass in our lawn.  It wouldn't take much for them to trample down the wire-and-post fence, mind you, if the notion takes them.  And it wouldn't be the first time that has happened, either - a fair auld mess ensues, I can tell you.  Hopefully they'll be moved into a nice warm shed sometime very soon.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Seat with a view

Snapped up on Ramore Head, Portrush the other day - a seat with a view.  Not just any old view, mind - that would be Benbane Head there in the distance, where the Giant's Causeway lies.

Annoying when you get the print in your hand and notice that you failed to spot something strange going on - as in the 'feature' on the right hand side of the print above.  It's not on the negative, so not quite sure what's going on here. That's the trouble with the darkroom - there ain't much light in there.  On Kentmere VC Select.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Monday, 14 November 2016

Ash tree

I snapped up an ash tree the other day - the one that lives at the bottom of the garden, near the compost heap.  It was looking a bit naked, after the few windy days we've had recently.  It's fair to say that winter is approaching - more often than not the days are damp, dark and a bit miserable.

There was nice light around last Sunday so I took a wee dander about the garden and pointed the camera skywards for a change.  Printed on a new one for me, Ilford MG Art 300, which is a very nice paper to hold in the hand.  Lovely textured eggshell surface, it has.  Not the cheapest on the block, mind, so it's not an everyday paper.
We have a lot of ash trees around us in The Liberties.  The females are the ones with seeds, of which there are usually thousands, which hang in big brown bunches at this time of year, not quite ready to drop just yet. Every year I pull out loads of little ash tree-lets as they take root all over the place. And boy are those suckers hard to get out - even a 6-inch high treelet requires a fair old tug to remove it from Mother Earth.  Makes me wonder what the roots of a 60-foot tree might look like.

Friday, 11 November 2016


I actually got into the darkroom yesterday for a couple of hours.  Very enjoyable it was, too.

The new(ish) installation down by Portrush Harbour, with a nautical theme. The residents along Kerr Street weren't too happy with these fairly large structures when they appeared.  I think they're pretty impressive, but then I'm not living opposite them.  On HP5+, ID-11, printed on Kentmere VC.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016


Hard not to be more than a little surprised by voting patterns in 2016, both here in the UK and now in the USA.  I've just woken up to the Big News - President Elect Trump.  It's going to be an interesting few years.

Portrush - the old clock tower by the railway station just visible in the middle.  The 'piazza' got a make-over a couple of years ago and a pretty decent job was done, I have to say - lots of interesting lines and funky lights.  The sort of place you can walk around looking for some interesting patterns, if the light is right.  Which I will hopefully do, one day.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

A forest walk

We actually managed a walk in the forest last week, during half-term.  Very nice it was too, up by Mountsandel Fort along the banks of the Bann.  There was as thick a carpet of fallen leaves as I ever remember - still pretty dry and very pleasant to walk on.

Hard to beat the country at this time of year.  At any time of year, really, when you come to think about it. I've done the city living thing, across there in England and while I enjoyed it well enough at the time I can't say I'm in any rush to get back to it.  On HP5+ via ID-11.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Not many left

Portrush Harbour last week.  Not many boats left, as you can see. It was a nice bright day, but with a cold wind.  The wind direction in The Liberties has shifted over the last couple of weeks and is now coming from the North, with associated drop in temperatures.  Still, with the right gear on it's not unpleasant - better than the rain, for sure.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Out of the mouth of babes...

About this time last year I acquired a camera that had been lying around The Brother's garage for a few years - a Nikon N80, complete with a Sigma 28-80 zoom and a part used (colour) film.  Recently I got round to putting fresh batteries in it and lo-and-behold when I put the switch thing to 'on' (What's all that about, then?) the thing came to life.  It's auto focus, has P mode (Program) as well as an S mode (Shutter Priority), an A mode (Aperture Priority) and an M mode (Manual, presumably).  There's an LCD screen and loads of other buttons dotted around -  it's one of those cameras you'd really need to read the manual if you want to know what they all do - not like the rangefinder, or the Franka, where you have about 3 things to fiddle with (focus, aperture and shutter speed).

Anyway, as we headed off for a forest walk yesterday I happened to mention to Missy that she might like to take the N80 with her and capture some of the autumn colours on the last couple of frames of the film.  She looked at the camera a bit sceptically and asked what she needed to do to use it.  I explained it was pretty much auto-everything and all she had to do was turn it on, lightly press the shutter release to focus and then all the way down to take the snap.  Her reply was interesting...'That's not a proper camera, then, is it?'.  She did take it with her but she elected to leave it in the car while we walked.  I didn't push it.

One of Missy's masterpieces, from the OM-1 and some Ilford film.

While it was a funny comment straight from the hip, it got me a little worried - have I brain-washed her with all my talk of film, f4 and 1/125th of a second?  I don't think so - I think it's just that she sees me use 'proper' cameras every day.  She uses her phone to take a lot of snaps, of course, like a lot of others her age do.  But from time to time, when the mood takes her, she'll dust off her OM-1 and take it out for some old-school.

It will be interesting to see how things pan out over the next few years - I'm looking forward to watching from the sidelines, deo volente.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Nothing much happening here, lots over there

Not much happening in The Liberties - it's half-term, so we're all taking a break from the routine.  I kind of like the routine, as it happens - but I seem to be in the minority on that one.  I mean, I still wake at the usual time (well, an hour earlier now the clocks have gone back) and so I'm up and ready for action...but there isn't any.  Missy is taking a well-earned rest - which she needs, so I'm loathe to annoy her too early in the day.

Most days I give The Hound a bit of exercise in the back garden, saving the planet a little by not driving to the beach.  Then it's more 'tidying up outside' before winter hits us - moving leaves from one place to another, taking stuff to the local dump, chopping firewood and so on.  I never remember so many projects outside as there are this autumn - must be the good weather.

Thatcher Woods, West Chicago. Taken 2 years ago when I visited The Brother for Thanksgiving.  Not sure I'll get back this year, maybe next year, if the £ recovers somewhat and the US still allows me to visit.  Interesting times over there in the States right now - I watched a short interview (Channel 4 news) the other night with a Democrat, a Republican and a kind-of Republican-but-undecided-whether-or-not-to-vote-for-Trump.  What was clear was the separation between the people supporting the two main candidates - there was a lot of anger and distrust in the air.  Whoever gets in come November 8th will have a heck of a job bringing the country together.  I wish them well.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Grand so

If you've ever spoken to a man from around Clonmany, in what is the North West of Donegal, you'll likely have heard him say 'Grand so'. A lot of times, for it tends to be said frequently in conversation with such a man.  It just means Fine, Great...OK.

I've been to Clonmany...not many times, it has to be said, but I've been there all the same. One main street is what I remember, with lots of public houses - like this one in Eniskillen:

Charlies Bar, Eniskillen, snapped a while ago.   A lovely part of the world, Eniskillen and the lakes around it - about a 2 hour drive south west of The Liberties.  Wonder what was in the newspapers that day, eh?

That's a funny turn of phrase in itself...public house. Anyone is welcome by the sounds of it. Grand so.