Thursday, 28 December 2017


The staircase in The Mineral Water Hospital, Bath is rather special.  Ok so the actual treads are a bit uneven in places (not that suitable for people with mobility issues I guess) but the finials (is that the correct term?) are beautiful - if a little dark in this print:

HP5+, Adox paper, mild sepia tone
I had the Pentax ME Super with me this year and I just stuck it on A and shot away in blind trust to Pentax's metering system - in any case, there is no manual metering option.  I always rate HP5+ at around 200 anyway but even so, perhaps I should have used the compensation dial by the rewind knob and let even more light in.  But the print is a fair reflection of the scene - the wood (mahogany I would guess) is very dark.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Tells a story

This little print tells a story.  It's upstairs in The Mineral Water Hospital, Bath.  All up the rather grand staircase we have (unusually for a hospital, but that's The Min for you) proper big oil paintings, mostly depicting past surgeons in the hospital.  This is what greets you on the top floor, where no-one usually goes unless you are on the AS course and are looking for the laundry room:

Level 2 in The Min, 2017

A snapshot of the state of play in the National Health Service, perhaps?  Some grand old oils on the wall - a wall that could do with a spot of redecorating at best and maybe re-plastering too.  The oils go well with the splendid wooden staircase with brass guard rail (a recent addition, it has to be acknowledged, but very sympathetically done).  Then we have a beat-up radiator heater in the recesss, which looks like it should have been dumped years ago, and old armchair sneaking into the shot from the right (I can't really see the need for it myself, unless you want to rest while admiring the art) and CCTV camera.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The Unit

There aren't many places in the world you'll see a sign like this:
Deep inside the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Bath, 2017.  Adox paper with some very old bleach and sepia toner.

The RNHRD is one of the few - perhaps the only - hospital on this little planet of ours which has a dedicated team to support people with Ankylosing Spondylitis.  AS (as if you didn't know, eh?) is an inflammatory disease which affects joints and soft tissue - muscles, tendons, ligaments and the cause of syndesmophytes and all that.  When I went to Bath this year I took the Pentax ME Super with me and to be honest I didn't take very many snaps at all...but I wanted to document the place which has been such a good friend to me for the last 35 years, before it finally closes it doors sometime in early 2019. I think the building is being preserved - and quite rightly so as it is pretty iconic, being in the centre of Bath for nigh on 300 years.  But turned into an upmarket hotel?  Ah no...come on, now - you can't be serious.  Can you imagine being the Chief Executive of the Health Authority which signed off on this?  I mean, there he or she is (although I suspect it's of the male variety of the species) with his grand-daughter on his lap, some 50 years from now. 'So Grandpa, what was your greatest achievement on this planet?' to which he answers 'Well, we were faced with mounting loses in the old Bath Mineral Water Hospital so after nearly 300 years I was the one who finally was able to sign off on the deal to sell it to The Big Hotel Company for Wealthy Tourists'.  Nice.  Yeh, I know, I'm as bitter as hell about it but I'm allowed to be as this place has saved my life many times since the first time I entered its doors in 1983.  The Unit is moving to the Royal United Hospital at Weston, on the outskirts of Bath and by all accounts it will be pretty amazing - but it won't be the same.  No longer will AS patients be able to walk out of the hospital just after treatment into the hustle-and-bustle of downtown Bath, drop into a cafe and feel 'normal' for a while - whatever that is.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Bath Christmas Markets

I was, as you may know, over in the Min (aka Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases) recently for my usual round of physiotherapy - I go every couple of years of so and it's a bit of a service for the old joints.  Although in-between treatments you can go out and about, this year I did a lot less of that than usual.  But I did venture out on my last night in Bath, which coincided with the opening of the Christmas Markets.  So I loaded up the Pentax ME Super with HP5+ and took to the streets:

Christmas Markets, Bath, 2017.  Adox paper.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Spirit of Christmas?

This ghostly apparition was snapped up outside the Garrick's Head public house in Bath the other week:

I hadn't realised that this building was once the home of the famous Beau Nash.  It lies next door to the Theatre Royal and you stand a reasonable chance of spying a luvvy or two if you happen to be around in the evening.  I once saw Lionel Blair dancing his way through the public bar - raised a cheer and a smile, he did.

Monday, 11 December 2017

the sun and her flowers...

...was what she was reading at the time I snapped her up:

Via the Pentax ME Super, for a change.  Adox paper.

Not much in focus, apart from the logo on her top, but so what.  She's a good wee reader, is Missy - likes her books, she does.  No doubt Santa will be bringing her a few more...

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Oh la la

Another from the Archives.  Funny how pretty girls ended up being photographed by one or other teenage boy in the McNeill household back in the day.  This one was somewhere in France, I believe - where we holidayed a couple of times in the 70s.  Taken by the brother, if I recall correctly - I was too young and innocent for that sort of thing back then.  Still am, of course...

Monday, 4 December 2017

Billy Reid's Fresh Meat Market

OK so this hospital thing is dragging on a bit.  I haven't been near the darkroom for about a month and while there is light at the end of the tunnel I'm not out of the woods yet.  Enough mixing of yer metaphors, I hear you say!

Here you go, then...taken and printed around the late 70s, this shows Railway Road in Coleraine:

The big bollard things with the plants in them at the sides of the road were put there after an IRA car bomb decimated that part of town in 1973.  Six people were killed and many more injured - if you're up for it, there's more about it here but it's not a particularly easy read.  Thankfully events like this in the North East Liberties were few and far between.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Country Road, c1978

Our wee road as it wss in the late 70s, complete with lovely stone whitewashed pillars::

Monday, 27 November 2017

The Young Fellow

 It was the Young Fellow that brought Famous Clare around the other day - they're an item, y'see.  Far too young and far too good-looking, the pair of them:

Friday, 24 November 2017

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Rank Audio Visual

Nope, you haven't come to the wrong place, it's just a colour print from back in the day:

A little dark this one but that's me on the right talking to some dude from the RAV/Nikon stand.  I've no idea where this was, although it might have been the photographic shop The Brother worked in as a Saturday job for a while.  I worked in a different photographic shop on the other side of town, by the way.  I was probably drooling over a F2AS or something - still a camera worth drooling over, of course.  Way, way beyond my budget and the guy probably knew that but he still seems to giving me some of his time anyway.

Both The Brother and I did colour for a while - The Brother was more into his Cibachrome (prints from slides) while I was more into printing from colour negatives.  The output from the Cibachrome process seemed to be a lot better quality than my efforts - that I do recall.

I've been a bit brief with my posts recently as I'm not here - I'm in Bath, at the old Mineral Water Hospital getting some intensive physiotherapy and hydrotherapy for a couple of weeks.  The Min as it is affectionately known in Bath, is a centre for the diagnosis and treatment for ankylosing spondylitis and while it's tough being away from the family for so long it really does help me manage the disease.  It has a fascinating history, The Min - sited just up from the Roman Baths in the centre of Bath and opened in the early 18th Century.  You can read more about it here.

Monday, 20 November 2017

One too many

While it looks like yer man here has had one too many the truth is he always looks like this:

Given the lack of available light, I had to set the 'Blad on a chair and hope for the best.  We were long past the hand-holding stage, as we were down in the bowels of Rathlin Island's best (and only) museum.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Autumn light

The sun was coming in through the kitchen window the other day and casting an interesting light on the door:

I snapped it up on HP5 using the rangefinder and printed it on Adox paper.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

National Prison Museum, Drenthe

Earlier this summer (as you know if you've been paying attention) we visited my old Uni mate who now lives in Drenthe - somewhere in the middle of The Netherlands.  One of our little trips out was to the National Prison Museum, aka the Pauper's Prison:

It was a fairly sobering experience, as you can expect.  While it started out as a good and honest venture back at the start of the 19th Century it ended up something a little different.  From what I could glean of the whole thing (which may not be that accurate given both my understanding of the Dutch language and the state of my hearing at the time - my tinnitus was playing up, badly) the initial idea was to provide quality accommodation for the nation's destitute and at the same time give them land enough to grow crops and provide for themselves.  Sounds OK so far.  The authorities rounded up people who looked like they needed rounding up and brought them to this purpose-built camp...they would now have shelter, heat, regular food and do honest toil on the land to make the whole venture self-sufficient.

It quickly became the place that no-one could leave.  Well, perhaps not strictly true as we read it was possible to buy your freedom but I got the impression that rarely happened.  So it became more of a prison than a place of refuge.  Inmates were allowed to marry and have children but there was a pretty strict regime of early morning starts, long hours of manual labour, a fairly institutional environment, meagre rations and basically not a lot else.

Nowadays the whole complex is given over to a museum dedicated to the lives of the people who lived there.  Some of their images appear on large displays in the courtyard that you can see in the photograph.  The 3 cards below each photograph give basic information about the person - name, height, weight etc as well as where they were from.  I suppose we should be thankful we have their photograph - it certainly makes the whole thing more personal.  But there's a terrible sadness in their faces - they were street beggars to begin with and then became inmates in a place where there was no freedom and very little free will.  They had hard lives, these people.

Monday, 13 November 2017

(Just Get A) Grip (On Yourself)

Found this one the other day lurking in one of the boxes of prints from the 70s:

One of The Brother's, I think. Definitely his writing, anyway.  I can just make out enough of the words to recognise the lyrics of a track from my all-time favourite band of that era - The Stranglers.  Their early stuff was just right down my street and the deal was sealed when they came to the New University of Ulster (as it was called then) and I got the chance to see them live.  Little did I know I'd end up working there some 35 years later.  The lyrics are from the iconic song Grip, or to give it its proper title (Just Get A) Grip (On Yourself).  In latter years their lead singer/guitarist Hugh Cornwell left and although they're still performing it just ain't the same.  But, if you're interested, you can see the original lineup playing Heroes and Something Better Change live at the Hope&Anchor in 1977 by clicking here. It takes me back years, that one does - all that teenage sweat and what-have-you.  Flip me I enjoyed those gigs, I really did!

Friday, 10 November 2017


She's hiding in the shadows, she is:

This one was in the kitchen of my old Uni friend in Holland - the one with the hands, you might recall (or just click here).  His daughter, pictured above, is quite special.  Unfortunately this print isn't, albeit via the rangefinder on Ilford Warmtone RC paper.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Back in the day

I came across this one in a box recently, printed what - a few decades ago? Late 1970s so getting on for forty years ago.  Sounds like a long time, eh?  Wonder where all those years went...

Anyway, it was such a cracking print I just had to share it with you:

To tell you the truth I'm not even sure who the band is - not one of my usuals, anyway.  I think it might be the Xdreamysts, a local outfit who used to play in a venue called Spuds in Portstewart around that time.   If it is them, I'd be mighty pleased since they were pretty damn good back in the day and this might be my one and only shot of them.  For some reason I didn't go to Spuds very often - I was more of a Portush Arcadia man where the touring bands came.  Anyway, the Xdreamysts were signed initially to the legendary Good Vibrations label (Belfast) and subsequently to Polydor.  Perhaps they didn't quite 'make it' but they still had the honour of recoding a session for John Peel and had some of their songs covered by other artists such as Paul Young and the Q-Tips.  And I'm pretty sure they had a blast along the way.  Stay The Way You Are was one of their finest and you can hear it through the magic of the Internet by clicking here - a cracking little tune it is, too.

My mate Prof Simon would remember Stay The Way You Are well, since I played it pretty much non-stop one year we shared rooms while at Bath Uni.  I must have been feeling homesick.  We almost fell out over it, actually - but we got through the rough patch and have remained good friends ever since.

Monday, 6 November 2017


Yup, it was very windy the other day in Portrush, as you can see from Missy here:

FP4, on Adox paper.

I know - I timed it well, didn't I? Missy was most impressed...not.

This was last week - the same week as the World Surf Kayak Championships were being held in the town.  Well, not in the town per se, in the water - you know what I mean.  You can see more here if you're interested in that sort of thing.  There were lots of different folks around and I should have been down there with a camera - not for the action shots (I'll leave that to the digi-boys&girls) but for the other stuff.  But I wasn't in the mood, to be honest, so I stayed home and got on with some much-needed sorting-out-of-stuff.  It leaves you feeling good, having a right old sort-out, doesn't it?  Leaner and keener, I guess.  Anyway, it was half-term as well and Missy needed a taxi on call most of the week - I guess that is not uncommon when there's a teenager around.  And why do all her friends have to live in the middle of nowhere?  I mean, I know we live in the middle of nowhere, but why do they all have to live in the middle of other nowheres?

Friday, 3 November 2017

A. Pier View

Well, that's what it says on the sign, anyway.  I've no idea why there appears to be a full stop after the A and I guess we'll never know now, since the Bed&Breakfast establishment (Grade A, once upon a time) is long closed.

Portrush, 2017.  FP4+ on Adox 312 RC paper
On another note, I'm determined to use up this box of 5"x7" Adox paper that's been kicking around the darkroom for a couple of years.  Probably like most darkroom peeps I've a load of boxes of paper around, some with only a few sheets left in them - although the Adox box is pretty full.  It's a lovely paper to use, comes up nice and slow in the developer.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Pretty Pumpkins

All lined up in a row, they were - in Portrush, of all places:

FP4+. Adox paper
In hindsight I think this might have worked better snapped head on rather than from the side.  Ah well, sure there's always next year, if we're living and spared.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Famous Clare

You might remember Clare, of the 'shoes' fame (here and even earlier here).   Anyway, she came over yesterday for a wee visit and I pointed the rangefinder at her, fitted with a 35mm lens.  I didn't mess about too much - just snapped her as she was then and there.  And now she's here:

Clare, on FP4+, Adox paper

Friday, 27 October 2017

Bad hair day?

Me, or at least a 1977 version of me. Shot & printed in 1977 and stored in a box of Kodak Veribrom WSG.2M paper for the last 40 years.  Flip me that sounds like a long time when I write it like that...
Perhaps not so much as a bad hair day - more a bad hair decade I think.  That's what happens when your mother cuts your hair.  I can't remember ever going to a barber's shop - but I guess I must have in my later teens.  I remember my great-uncle cutting my grandfather's hair with the clippers - I guess there just wasn't the money around for anything else in those days.

I can place this shot precisely - it was at the University of Stirling, in Scotland and was the summer of 1977, which would make me 14.  We stayed at the student halls of residence, took Granny and Grandpa with us so I guess it was an affordable holiday that the extended family could all go on together.  Self-catering.  Looking back, I guess it was a bit of a busman's holiday for my mum and Gran, with two men and two growing lads to feed every day as well as themselves.  The Brother, Grandpa and I spent a lot of time playing snooker on their full-size tables.  Strangely I can't remember what my father was up to - perhaps he was happy to leave us to Grandpa's charge.  And the best bit? - There was no-one else around...I mean no-one - we had the place to ourselves.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Putting my feet up

Another one from The Archives.  Initially I thought this was me, but on closer inspection I think it's The Brother - we were pretty similar-looking at a certain point in our lives.  In which case the title should be 'Putting his feet up' but we'll not split hairs.

Most likely printed on Kodak Veribrom paper - grade 2, since that seems to be the most popular among the boxes in which the prints have been resting for the last 35+ years.  Strangely I can't place the shot, even with the flowery curtains, which look to be 1960s vintage.  A good forensic detective would be able to identify the trainers from the pattern on the sole, but unsurprisingly I haven't a clue.  I remember Dunlop Green Flash being very popular around that time, but I think they had a honeycomb pattern on the soles, so if I'm right that rules them out.

The recumbent pose is funny, as I'm pretty sure we would have been told fairly sharpish to get those feet of the sofa had an adult been around, so it's safe to assume The Brother and I were on our own when this shot was taken.  Camera would have been either a Zenit B or more likely the OM-1 which came on the scene around 1974.  Film was probably FP4, which was our go-to film in those days - nowadays I seem to been favouring HP5+, although the Ilford stuff is getting expensive compared to other film on the market.  I might have a try at Fomapan, since that seems to get a good press, particularly when developed in Rodinal, or the modern equivalent.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Playing with fire

Yes folks, in the good old days it was possible for kids to play with fire - literally.  I was browsing through some boxes of our (The Brother&I) old prints from the 1970s and this one caught my eye:

Note the 'chopper' bike on the right and of course the flares on the lad on the left - yup, definitely the 70s.  I've no idea who these kids are, by the way - but they look to having a great time setting fire to some stuff.  The wee ones on the right are just about to learn that smoke gets in your eyes, I reckon.  Totally irresponsible, of course - but super fun when you're 9 or 10.  And at least they're outdoors, eh?

Friday, 20 October 2017

Young man with keyboard and cigarette

Snappy title, eh?

Anyway, another of Missy's 'Porto Buskers' series for you today.  This young man was really pretty good on his keyboard and didn't seem to have an ounce of self-consciousness - he just set up in the middle of the general chaos on Festival Evening in June and did his thing.  At one point he had a traditional Portuguese Music group next door for company but he didn't seem too perturbed.

OM-1, 35-70 Zuiko zoom, HP5, Adox paper

I'd forgotten, until this print came out of the darkroom, about the cigarette.  He had clearly spent many hours perfecting the art of playing with both hands on the keyboard whilst smoking a cigarette  Not sure about the cigarette myself but his keyboard skills were good enough to warrant Missy getting fairly close to him and snapping him up on her OM-1 for posterity.  And so here he is, captured on film, printed out and scanned for this place so now he'll hang around 'The Cloud' or at least encoded as a load of 0s and 1s on some Web Server for a time (as well as in a box upstairs, unless he makes it onto the wall for a while, which he might, actually).  How long he sticks around in the Internet-world place no-one knows.  Could be forever - but then again that might not be very long given the state the world is in...

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Busking a la Porto

This was one of Missy's snaps from Porto, which I printed the other day.  She was transfixed by this group and we spent a very long time standing listening to them, Missy edging closer and closer.  Perhaps it was the presence of the (electric) cello, as Missy plays the cello herself and you don't often see a young, tanned, good-looking (?) guy playing one in the street.  I can't say whether they were good or not, since my tinnitus was playing up and everything seemed out of tune to my ears, but if the crowd were anything to go by they weren't bad at all.  Not only did Missy contribute one of my hard-earned Euros into their collecting tin but she went back and exchanged some more Euros for one of their CDs...

The light was fading and the band were playing 'under the arches' down by the river so there wasn't much natural light around.  I think Missy got the exposure on her OM-1 spot on as the scene looks pretty much as I remember it, nice and low-contrast.  A little sepia tone on the Adox paper seemed to add something to it.

Oh and we survived Ophelia - to be honest, it didn't amount to much around The Liberties.  Other parts of Ireland got it pretty bad, though.  We were lucky.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Waiting for Ophelia

Well the whole of Ireland is braced for the storm of the decade, or so it seems.  What's left of Hurricane Ophelia is heading this way and there's an air of uneasy calm at the minute.  Hardly any wind and an eerie light - very dark.  And it's spookily quiet - all the birds have gone into hiding, it would seem.  But it's warm, very warm for the time of year, with temperatures around 14 degrees.  All schools across Northern Ireland are closed for the day in light of the weather warning - might seem like a bit of overkill but many pupils come in from the country and with the risk of falling trees in the afternoon I guess the authorities are playing it safe.  Missy was of course delighted to hear that piece of news late last night and no doubt took advantage of the situation by staying up late with a good book.

So while we watch and wait, let's look at a bunch of Dutch folk (and visitors such as yours truly) looking at horses at Orvelte Museum Village in Drenthe:

Via the M6/35mm/HP5/Adox paper, sepia tone
It was Horse Day, apparently - and there were a load of them around.  Mostly huge things, all beautifully presented and with the lads and lassies on them well turned out too.  I'm not a big fan of horses, especially great big ones like these were.  Probably on account of me not being able to move very quickly should one decide to start throwing its weight around.  But I can appreciate their beauty - from a distance.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Fair play to him

This gentleman was snapped up on Belfast Train Station platform.  He seemed totally engaged with his book, completely oblivious to the chaos of the platform as people like me waited for their train.

Adox paper, light sepia tone.  On the M6 I think, although it could have been the Nikon.  Either way, HP5+ and a fairly close crop.
'Fair play to him', I say.  That's a great phrase in these parts - in fact, all over this Emerald Isle - and can be used to great effect in many situations.  Or, 'Fair play to you' if the person is present.  It sort of means, 'I take my hat off to him', 'Respect', or similar - most often used when someone is making the best of their situation.  In fact, it's hard to think of a situation when the phrase can't be used. Interestingly, it usually also signifies the end of the discussion, since there really is nothing more that needs to be said.

I think one of the best examples of the use of this phrase was in a story I was told a few years back by a colleague.  He was travelling 'down South' - County Kerry or somewhere where the tourists go - and found himself in a car park at the top of a hill renowned for it's all-encompassing views of the surrounding coastline.  Anyway, my colleague says he was just sitting watching the goings-on around him when he noticed a guy dressed as an old Irish tinker sitting on the grass next to a donkey and cart.  The cart was laden with turf.  'What's he up to?', my colleague wondered to himself.  Next thing a coach-load of tourists arrives and discharges its load.  Yer man with the donkey leaps up and makes himself visible to the tourists, who all line up to take his photograph, either with or without their wife/husband/partner. Money was parted with.

When the coach departed, my colleague wanders up to the fellow, tips him a smile, a nod of the head and a knowing wink and says: 'Fair play to you', before taking his leave.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Porto People

Taken late one evening in Porto, June this year. A busy place, as you can see.  HP5 was in the Nikon, rated about 200 so I was in the dead zone with regard to shutter speeds.

Adox paper, sepia tone.  Nikon, 50mm lens

Monday, 9 October 2017

One man and his dog

Yup, it's that bloke again - the one I went to Uni with about a zillion years ago.  That's him all right. And his pooch, who is right poseur when he sees a camera around, as you can see:
Adox 312 paper for a change, with sepia tone as you can tell.  A bit more sepia than usual, 'cos I sloshed a bit more of Additive#3 in as at first it looked as weak as dishwater.  Then it took off and ended up a bit too much. So it goes. 

You might have seen yer man before on this place - here.  I will take more snaps of him next time our paths cross (hopefully in the not too distant future) as I think he is a very snapable person.  As is his dog, if you know what I mean.

Friday, 6 October 2017

You have to try...

It's that time of year when the weather in The Liberties can be a bit miserable.  Believe it nor not, in this part of Ireland we do get the odd overcast day when it rains, or seems to, all day.  Once we get to winter proper I find things improve, light-wise, so in the meantime we just have to put up and be patient.

Of course such days are good to spend in the darkroom but sometimes you just want to take some snaps, so the other day I dusted down the Sinar 4x5 (aka Big Boy) and took a couple of indoor shots.  Something I should do more of, I tell myself every time I use the Sinar, since it really is a lot of fun when you're in the mood for it.

I've no shortage of stuff to take photographs of, since my wife is an avid charity shop browser and buyer of junk objets d'art.  When she comes back with her latest purchase I typically greet her with a 'What are bringing now, woman - more aul' tat?' just to get a rise out of her but after all these years she's wise to my ways and no longer takes the bait quite as quickly as she once did.  Takes all the fun out of it, it does - well almost...but you still have to try, though, don't you :) And she loves her candles, bless her, so I nabbed one of her latest investments and disappeared upstairs to my lair/studio with it.  This is the result:

This almost came out as a contact print - in hindsight, I should have contact printed it since I was using 5"x7" paper, so not much larger than the negative itself.  The few times I have contact printed though I find the 4"x5" just a tad too small in the hand - even though it's very close to postcard size (6"x4" or thereabouts).

I'm quite aware of the implications of that last statement, by the way.  Dangerous territory, that -  8"x10" sheet film is not cheap but then again, decent sized contact prints and all those lovely alternative processes.  And life is short...hmm.

Anyway, back to reality this particular shot was taken as close as I could with the only lens I have for the Sinar - a 210mm Schneider Symmar-S f/5.6 - so the bellows were almost fully extended.  Wide open there ain't much in focus, as you can see in the print.  Actually I think this might have been f/8, but still a very shallow depth-of-field and maybe I should have stopped down a bit more to at least get all of the hanging chains in focus.  I used a little front movement in order to set the plane of focus to coincide with the candle-holders...12 degrees of swing was enough according to the Sinar's scales and it seemed to work out OK, although I'm no expert - obviously.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017


I can't seem to resist a good waterlily these days - you might recall the masterpiece that came out from Porto, here.  Not content to leave it at that, I've only gone and done another masterpiece for your delectation - only these are Dutch waterlilies, not Portuguese ones:

Ilford Warmtone paper, light sepia tone

I might stop snapping waterlilies now, since clearly nothing can better these prints.  Perhaps...

Monday, 2 October 2017

Statue in Igreja de Sao Francisco, Porto

Snapped in Porto, in one of the big churches that abound there.  This was in the museum part of the Igreja de Sao Francisco if I remember correctly.  I was taken by the child, almost hidden behind the main figure, whoever he was:

Nikon, 50mm lens, HP5+, Ilford Warmtone paper, sepia tone

Perhaps he was St Francis himself, I can't remember.  He was pretty ornate, as is the style in that part of the world - there was lots of gold in the church, I recall.  You can get an idea by clicking here.

When the print came out of the wash I was thinking should I lighten the child's face a little, but decided against it.  The child was meant to be almost invisible, I reckon, positioned as it was, hidden in the folds of the cloak - so I left it as it was.

Friday, 29 September 2017

We're loomed!

There's an old TV programme called Dad's Army that you might be familiar with and in it there's a jovial Scotsman called Frazer who's catchphrase was 'We're doomed, doomed I tell you' - spoken in a strong Scottish accent along with mad, staring eyes.  He was, of course, anything but jovial (he's an undertaker) but a great character.  Nothing whatsoever to do with this print, by the way, just I was reminded of his catchphrase by the subject matter:

Old Dutch loom, Orvelte Museum Village, The Netherlands.  Ilford Warmtone paper, sepia tone

I didn't have high hopes for this when I first saw the print emerge in the darkroom but after sepia toning and drying it I was pleasantly surprised.  There was a lovely soft light coming in from a window on the left and HP5 seems to have captured it pretty well.  On the M6/35mm lens.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Kitty of Coleraine

Another print from my walk around Coleraine Marina recently.  This was a brass fixing and screw on a very old wooden boat in the process of being restored.  A very famous old boat, as it happens - none other than 'Kitty of Coleraine'.  Now I know that as well-read you lot are, it is very unlikely you will know about Kitty of Coleraine, but around The Liberties it's known not just as the name of a boat, but as the title of an old Ulster folk song.

Part of the boat Kitty of Coleraine, under restoration.  Ilford Warmtone RC paper, sepia tone. 120 neg.

Perhaps a little better known that I imagined, actually, since a bit of desktop research reveals that none other than the great Bing Crosby covered it, which if you are a Bing fan you might like to see&hear by clicking here.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Not quite sure...

...what this is, but as it was from the roll of film snapped on my walkabout Coleraine Marina I'm guessing it was part of a wooden hull of a boat.  I think I had the close-up filter on the front of the lens, so I'm not even sure anything much is in focus but since when did that matter?  On Ilford Warmtone RC paper with a bit of sepia toner after-effect:

Friday, 22 September 2017

Kelp House, Rathlin Island

A place at which I have stood a number of times and even printed it out on lith more than once, but this was the state of play earlier this summer:

From the 'Blad, HP5+, Foma paper and Easylith developer

I had to clamber over the rocks to take this snap and Missy, who was exploring round the other side of the Kelp House when I pressed the shutter release, had a panic attack when she saw where I was.  I was ordered to 'Stay Put' while she came to my rescue - I was actually quite happy to accept help, as if I had taken a tumble the 'Blad might have got damaged :)

Wednesday, 20 September 2017


The house in The Netherlands we were staying at recently.  Not a typical Dutch House, apparently - more your Scandinavian/Finnish House.  Lots of wood inside and out - very nice it was too.  Sauna upstairs and all. Anyway, I snapped the outside of it up on the M6, printed said negative on Foma paper and dunked it in some lith developer.  Came out rather well, I thought - some darkish bits, some lightish bits and some bits in-between:

A Finnish-style house, in The Netherlands, 2017

Monday, 18 September 2017

Dutch barn

When I printed out a 35mm neg from our recent visit to Orvelte Museum Village in The Netherlands, it turned out like this:

The side of a barn, via 35mm rangefinder camera&35mm lens
So I dried the fibre paper thing off and pressed it for a couple of days in the garage using my bespoke pressing apparatus - a couple of bits of melamine-covered chipboard on top of which I place a very old and heavy Sony CD player once belonging to my Uncle and a similiarly heavy socket set from the days when I used to mess about under cars - long gone I can tell you.  Anyway, it seems to work OK for after a couple of days the prints are fairly flat.

After all that, I decided to immerse the print in some H2O and then bleach it and finally sepia tone it.  After another round of drying and flattening it came out looking like this:

Not quite sure it was worth the effort, to be honest...

Friday, 15 September 2017

Westerbork Transit Camp

A rather grim, but important reminder of the bloody history in Europe not so long ago is Westerbork Transit Camp, in Drenthe, Netherlands.  We went there.  There's an interesting and very informative museum with many stories and artefacts of the camp's inhabitants.  Unfortunately most of the written history is in Dutch and I was surprised how little I could understand - my school German, with some top-ups over the years isn't too bad but Dutch seems to have different roots so I was floundering a bit.

Originally, the camp at Westerbork had been erected by the Dutch as a refugee camp for the many thousands of Jews streaming across the border with Germany in the 1930s.  Interestingly, in 1938 The Netherlands closed their border with Germany due to the increase in refugees after Kristallnacht.  In 1939 Westerbork was built to house the refugees (although the Committee for Jewish Refugees had been required to underwrite the camp's expenses).  Anyway, when Germany invaded, the function of the camp changed to become a transportation centre to Auchwitz-Birkenau (over 60,000), Sobibor (over 34,000) and Bergen-Belsen.  Only a handful survived.  Anne Frank and her family were among the families transported in one of the very last trains to leave the camp.

It wasn't a place that I really felt like taking many photographs but I did like this piece of sculpture which I snapped up as I passed.  Printed out on Slavich paper, lith developer and some sepia tone.  It's a bit over-done, but perhaps that's appropriate given the subject:

Wednesday, 13 September 2017


Somewhere north and a bit west of Amsterdam lies the province of Drenthe, in The Netherlands. It looks like this:

Well, Ok, I'll qualify that statement.  Part of it looks like this when printed out on Slavich Unibrom paper and sloshed about in lith developer.

Monday, 11 September 2017


The Marina in Coleraine isn't very big - OK, it's very small, truth be told, but it's good for a walk about with a photo-apparat.  It's the sort of place you have to take your time and look at things and I like that.  Not that this is the best capture in the world ever, mind you but it sort of came out OK when printed on the very last sheet of my beautiful Foma 131 paper and developed in nearly the last drop of my Easylith developer:

Square format...simply the best.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Memento Mori

Inside St Thomas' Church on Rathlin Island is an unusual piece of stonework on one of the walls - Memento Mori, remember you have to die.  A reflection on the transient nature of earthly things and pursuits.  An example, apparently, of a transi or cadaver tomb that depicts the decayed corpse of the deceased.  Whatever your take on it, and its message, it is an unusual piece of work (at least for this part of the world) and one that I like to photograph when I find myself on the island.

All mounted and everything.  Memento Mori, September 2017.  Handheld on the 'Blad, 50mm lens.

With all the stone work I just had to develop the print in lith.  I took a chance and re-used some I'd made up a while back and while it was a little slow to get going on the Foma paper it developed quite nicely in the end.  For those interested in such things I over-exposed (in the darkroom) by 3 stops, which seemed to give a decent amount of contrast.  As we all know (from Tim Rudman's book on lith printing) in the land of lith, contrast is increased by cutting exposure and developing for longer.  Since there is (or should be) infectious development going on it isn't always easy to gauge the right time to lift the print from the developer, particularly since you're working under the safelight.

I have a safelight wired into the enlarger timer so that it comes on once the print has been exposed. A second safelight sits near the wet bench - this one I keep off until I can see the image getting close to being ready, which can be anything from 3-10 minutes, for me at any rate.  When I think it's nearly cooked I'll switch this second safelight on and lift the print out of the developer and hold it close enough to see what the blacks are like.  If need be, the print gets re-immersed in the developer for another bit and then I'll take another look.  When I think enough is enough I'll dump it into the stop bath and then fix it.

It helps, I find, if I've already developed a print which has some nice blacks in it and is now sitting in the water tray.  That way I've something I can compare the current print to try to get the right snatch point.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Wifi in de Trein

That's what it said on Dutch Railways when were there visiting the dude you saw in the last post a couple of weeks ago.  The trains ran on time.  I mean, on time.  They could teach the UK a thing or two about running a rail network, the Dutch could.  Or pretty much any other country, I reckon.  OK it helps when the country is relatively small and relatively wealthy, as The Netherlands is.  And boy are they tall over there!  We were lucky enough to share our train carriage with members of the Dutch Olympic Volleyball team (so it said on their apparel) and I can tell you, those lads had some height on them.

But anyway, Yours Truly had obviously been trying to save a few sheckels and had booked an early flight from Belfast.  It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, though goodness knows what I was on at the time I booked it, for the upshot was we had to get up at 3am - early by anyone's book I would say.  It's not the getting up is the problem, of course, it's the travelling...the waiting around for connections, the hawking bags about, the waiting...and did I mention the waiting around?  Suffice to say when we eventually reached our destination it was time for bed according to our bodies, but in the real world it was early afternoon.  Ah well, we powered on through as best we could and of course the company and the renewed friendships made it a whole lot easier.

I had the M6 with me - the ideal travel companion! And so I couldn't resist a little snapping of Missy in de Trein as we sped through Amsterdam.  I purposefully waited until we had a station sign in the background before pressing the shutter release, as I thought it might make a nice story...only I forgot I was compromised on me aperture, on account of the available light, so the writing on the sign got lost somewhere in the silver halide crystals that are present in Ilford HP5+ and are brought to life in ID-11 and projected onto Ilford Warmtone RC paper:

Not a Zombie, but as close as you will get in the real world.  Missy, en route from Schipol to Assen, August 2017

Monday, 4 September 2017

Just some old guy I know

Just a scan of a darkroom print of some old guy I know, that's all:

It didn't scan well but there you go. On Ilford Warmtone RC paper.  I do like it - I think I got him.  You saw an earlier version of him here, by the way.

What's that you say?  What's going on with the hands?  I dunno.  That's just him, being himself, I guess...

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Can't win 'em all

'Tis funny, since quite often you know when something might or might not be quite right when you press that shutter release.  Actually, writing that sentence made me wonder, do digital cameras have shutters - as we know them, that is?  Turns out they do, or probably do, since apparently the sensors need some sort of shutter to stop them recording what they see all of the time.  So there you go.  No better explanation on the 'Net will you find.  Perhaps.

But to get back to to the case in point, sometimes when you press that shutter release button, usually on the top of the camera - although on my old Practica MTL5 it resides about 3/4 way up from the bottom plate, which is actually a really comfortable place and one wonders why other manufacturers did not follow suit but that's another question for another day in what is already becoming a very long sentence - one has a bit of an inkling whether or not there might be something worthwhile captured.  As we film users don't have the luxury of 'chimping', we're left wondering until we pull the film from the Paterson spiral after the final wash and as we dunk it into the Kodak Photo-Flo we catch a sneaky look to see if there might be something there.  Hanging it up to dry in the improvised film-dryer courtesy of Ikea we sneak another peek.  But only after drying said film, as we cut it into strips of 6-, or maybe 5-negative rows before inserting into our PrintFile negative sleeves (or similar) do we really begin to look closely.  And then maybe we might lay said film strips onto a light box if one has one available and look through a magnifying loupe, or alternatively, as I do, one holds said film-strips up to the light to see what one can see.

But anyway, after all that palaver, you might get the impression there might be something worth printing - perhaps a couple of frames of the film at least.  I've said before that I gave up scanning negs some time ago and much the better do I feel for it.  Most times I'll print it if a neg looks half-decent and after looking at the print, if it's still only half-decent I'll not do anything more with it.  If I think it 'has potential' then it's a different story...usually an expensive one as well as it'll take a few, or more than a few, sheets of paper to get it the way I want it.  Sometimes, of course, it never gets to be 'the way I want it' but takes me on a different path altogether and that's OK.

After all that chat, here's a print.  Now I kinda knew at the time that there was a lot I liked in this shot - lines, shapes, stonework and even churchy stuff in the background -  but I also knew that I'd be losing the sky, since there was really nothing being Portugal in summer and all.  A filter of some sort might have helped, but it was a family holiday and I was in 'tourist' mode and wasn't going to break up the party for half an hour while I futtered about with camera stuff...

Steps of the São Francisco Church, Porto, poorly snapped and poorly printed
To futer, by the way, is pronounced 'footer' and is a good NE Liberties word (probably Scots fouter, possibly originally old French foutre :) or Irish futar) meaning to fidget, or similar, although my grandfather would have used this word frequently in the context of being a bit kack-handed, or clumsy.  'Stop futtering!' 'What are you futtering at? - give that to me!' Not to be said in any angry sense, mind you, more a relaxed/helpful way...

Monday, 28 August 2017

I'm trying... bring her up properly, the one that is known in This Place as Missy.  Of course she has her phone and snaps away merrily on it and shares stuff on Instagram and what-have-you, but she has grown rather attached to her OM-1 as well and most times these days she reaches for it when we head out somewhere.  And she insists on B&W film, too.  I neither encourage or discourage, I leave it up to her.

It's fully manual, the OM-1, as you know, and she has to think about focus and metering and all that but she gets it.  Sometimes I think I should splash out and get her an OM-2 or something semi-automatic at least, and maybe I will one of these days...but not just yet.  Manual is good to learn on.   She scorns my Nikon FM3a, with it's 'A' setting.  She's right too :)

The OM-1 was my first real, proper camera, way back in '73.  I had a Zenit B before that which actually was quite OK, but the OM was a proper system camera - and about half the weight of the Zenit, with bayonet lens mounting, a built-in TTL meter and no separate stop-down ring.  Made me a better photographer overnight!  When I see Missy with it, it takes me back to when I was the same age.

On Ilford Warmtone RC with a bit of hot selenium added to try to get some contrast in there.  Didn't work.  Taken just below Portstewart Prom - the little bit of sand that there is there...same time&place as this one which worked much better.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Summer's over

First day back at school for Missy, so summer is officially over in The Liberties.  Well only a half-day at school - they're breaking her in gently.

To round off the summer we had a short break last week in The Netherlands, visiting an old Uni friend - the dude on the right of this snap, as it happens, who is now somebody very big in gas, apparently.  The girl in the middle would be Carol and the androgynous bloke on the left would!

On Ilford Warmtone RC paper, with a light sepia tone

Now I can place this snap pretty accurately to early 1982, when I was 18 about to hit 19.  Thirty-five years ago.  How did that happen, eh? Taken on the steps of the Halls of Residence of Bath University, up on Claverton Down, using my Olympus OM-1.  It was a great camera and it was a great time, I have to admit.  I was sent on me way from The Liberties late September, all my worldly belongings in two suitcases (no wheels in those days) to last me until Christmas and that was it.  I wasn't exactly jealous of the other students being dropped off by their parents with a car-load of gear and then going home every other weekend to get their washing done but it did make me feel different.  If anything it made me stronger, since I had to sort things out for myself.  A quick weekly phone call home every Sunday from the public phone box outside our Halls was it.  Well there was the odd letter as well of course.  It seems very strange looking back at it now, when we're in constant contact with our Loved Ones through email, social media, txt...  Where did it all go wrong?