Thursday, 31 October 2019

A bug's life

That would be a great title for a film, don't you think?  ;)

This is another fail from the Nikon F3 test film I ran through the other day.  I think this was with the 28mm close focus lens - which was very nice to use I have to say.  As expected, you can get close to things...real close.

Variegated leaves in the garden (and a bug)
I didn't notice the bug thing until I printed it - it must have been very small.  The low contrast doesn't seem too bad to my eyes in this print - it kind of suits the subject, I think.  And it's on Ilford Warmtone fibre paper, which probably helps.

This shot of the hawthorn berries was close to being fair to middlin' (as my grandfather would have said) but the background on the top half of the print is too distracting.  I think this was the last shot, or one of the last on the roll so I was eager to get it finished.

Hawthorn berries in October

Monday, 28 October 2019


I've found myself a job.  Not a proper job, of course - been there, done that got the t-shirt etc etc.  No this job is to help a friend of someone in the Club sell their late husband's photo gear.  It's the sort of thing that's hard to say no to.  So about a week ago four bags of varying sizes were carefully placed in the back of the car.  I'm not sure what I expected, but it certainly wasn't this (Health Warning - could lead to a bout of Gear Acquisition Syndrome):

Nikon F3HP with the following AIS lenses: 24mm f/2.8, 28mm f/2.8 (close focus), 35mm f/2, 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4, 100-300mm f/5.6 plus as many Nikon metal lens hoods as were ever made, I think, along with a bag full of Nikon&Tiffen filters (including a 72mm polariser and special hood made for the 85mm f/1.4).  All in 'as new' order except for the 50mm which has a scratch on the back element.

Hasselblad 503cw, dedicated winder and remote, 45 degree prism, 60mm CB lens and 120mm Makro-Planar.  Again with hoods and filters.  And again, 'as new'.

There's a couple of flashguns as well, if you like that sort of thing (Nikon and Metz).

It's fair to say this gentleman had expensive tastes.  I'd like to think he got a lot of pleasure from using this equipment.

Reed bed by the River Bann;  Nikon F3, 85mm f/1.4 On very old Barclay graded paper.
I set about seeing if the cameras were in working order - no reason to think otherwise but I thought it might make it easier to price/sell if we could vouch for them. Nothing whatsoever to do with me just wanting to play with a new toy. The very thought...  The F3 needed new batteries but after that everything seemed good to go, so I went out and about and snapped anything and everything just to see (a) how much I liked it and (b) everything was working OK.  Oops...wrong way round. Honest.

Naturally I had to try out the F3 and the 85mm f/1.4 first - a beast of a combination, it has to be said.  If it were ever dropped you would hope it didn't land on your toes, that's for sure.  The F3 is from another era to the FM3a that I really is a solid bit of kit and feels like it would withstand a lot of abuse.  Mind you, you won't ever forget you're carrying it around...

The print is poor - I had a rare failure when developing the film.  My go-to for HP5+ is ID-11 diluted 1+1 but I thought I'd economise a little, since this film was just a test of the gear and I knew there wouldn't be any masterpieces on it.  So I diluted 1+3 and gave it the suggested 20 minutes. I was a bit too slap-dash though and must have messed it up somewhere along the line as the negs came out horrible - very low in contrast.  My mind must have been somewhere else...

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Danny Boy

Well our Club judge, Danny, did the business on Monday night.  He seemed a very decent sort, older gentleman with plenty to say about every image and print, which I liked.  Some judges have a tendency to skirt over some images when they have very little to say about them and I don't think that's very fair to the photographer.  But Danny wasn't like that - he had a lot to say about each and every one.  Unfortunately with my non-existent hearing I wasn't able to ascertain what he was actually saying - though when it came to my prints maybe that was a good thing.  There are 3 categories - projected digital images, colour prints and B&W prints.  Obviously there's only one of those that I enter - and here's a not-very-good phone snap of one of my prints:

Rejected: Clouds over Inishown

Danny almost selected this one to go through...almost.  He kept coming back to it but in the end he preferred something else.  I asked my friend David what he was saying and the response came back that Danny liked my print, said it was 'a print like you would have seen back in the days of film'.  But that he thought the other print would have better success in the competition.  While that did make me smile I think he got it spot on with regard to the chances of success.  I was pretty OK with that, since when I go to the trouble of mounting a half-decent print I want it go on my wall, not disappear to goodness-knows-where and be handled by goodness-knows-whom and be returned with grubby finger marks all over it.  It's my precious, see...

Monday, 21 October 2019

Fun times

Nothing much new here, I'm sorry to say.  It's Club night tonight and we have an external judge coming in to look at our work - let's call him Danny.  Danny's job is to select which prints and PDIs (projected digital images) go forward to the Northern Ireland Photographic Association (NIPA)'s Inter-Club competition.  There are 5 rounds and tonight is round 2. The theme is landscape. Hmm....

Now NIPA judges don't usually give me a warm glow, it has to be said.  Some of the comments last year were, quite frankly, laughable.  It takes all my willpower to actually submit an entry to these things and I really only do it to show support for the Club.  I have no desire for any of my prints to be selected.  Having said that, there aren't usually very many B&W prints submitted so the chances are pretty high of having a print go forward to the competition proper.  My usual modus operandi is to have a bit of fun and submit a print they'll hate - something deliberately out-of-focus, or a lith print.  Either of these usually throws them completely, since they all seem to have a 'thing' about sharpness.

Unfortunately when I went to dig out something that might vaguely be considered landscapey, I could find nothing really suitable.  I tried to print a couple of negatives yesterday morning - lith on Slavich paper but that paper needs a certain sort of negative to come alive and neither of these really worked.  In all honesty I don't think I could bring myself to submit these, notwithstanding my views on the whole thing...

Portstewart Strand, on Slavich/lith

Mt Errigal, Donegal.

On the other hand...

I'll reveal how it went on the next post, if y'all can handle the suspense.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Sinar games

A new guy at the Club is into his film work and asked me about the 4x5 Sinar I don't play with very often.  I promised to bring it into the next Practical at the Club and so with that in mind I set up a little demo at home.  I thought it would be fun to show off the swing on the front (and, as it turned out, rear) standards and how that changes the plane of focus.  Here's the basic setup, lit by natural light coming in the window on the left of the shot:

Obviously I just threw the canisters on the table and they fell neatly into the pattern you see.  I know - incredible, isn't it?  Or Not remotely credible, might be closer to the truth.

As you can see, the first print is a straight shot - the line of focus cutting across the middle row of canisters. The plan was to now change the plane of focus so that only the HP5 canisters were in focus, running diagonally front to back.  I fiddled with the front standard a bit, focussed, inserted the dark slide and took the shot.  Here's what I got:

Not quite right.  The back 3 HP5 canisters are in acceptable focus but then it drifts off and the front two definitely aren't in focus.  F for Fail, Michael.  I failed to check the focus over all the ground glass.  So...back to the 'studio' for another attempt.  What I found was that it was a lot easier to get the focus the way I wanted it by using a bit of rear standard swing as well.  That nailed it - exactly the effect I was after:

All good fun.  All taken at f/5.6 with my one-and-only lens for this camera, a 210mm (equivalent to about 60mm in 35mm terms).  The online depth-of-field calculator told me that I had about 4cm of focus to play with, by the way.  Printed on old Barclay paper that someone gifted me - it's a graded paper, (grade 3) and comes in RC form with a lustre finish.  And it's a really lovely paper to work with - almost feels like a fibre paper in the hand.  The finish is rather nice, too - not glossy, but there's a sheen to it.  Pity it's not made any more (to my knowledge, anyway).  I'd like to find a modern equivalent.

Monday, 14 October 2019


My wife likes to browse Charity shops.  We've had a long association with a couple of Charities over the years but they can be strange places to work at times so now we've only one that we give any serious time and energies to.  That's OK - it's a good 'un and we're happy with things as they stand.  This was one of the many, many (too many if you ask me) artefacts that we have acquired from those places.  It's typical in that it's not perfect - if you look closely, she's lost the tip of her nose.  But that's OK - I like imperfection.  Hey! - Whatdoyamean, you know! 

Mi'lady, via the Sinar & FP4+ in RO9 printed on 8"x10" Warmtone fibre
I set the Sinar 4x5 up to capture her.  Plonked her on a small table and rigged up some black fabric to the read and right hand side.  Natural light was coming through the window on the left.  Came out OK, I thought, considering I've no idea about posing a still life object or lighting it or anything else much about indoor photography, come to that.  I have to say I enjoyed the experience - and perhaps for these wintery days that are approaching a bit too rapidly for my liking a few more Still Lifes might be just the ticket.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Have a look...through the round window

Older readers from the UK (are there any?) might get the vague link in the title to Play School - a kiddies programme back in the 60s and maybe early 70s where there was a choice of round, square or arched window to look through each day.  That's what counted as 'interactive tv' in those days, where anyone watching at home was invited to guess which one.  And yes, I did have to do a bit of desktop research to identify which programme it was - in my head it was Watch with Mother but nope, the Internet Thing tells me it was Play School.  So there you go.

Anyway, enough drivel.  Well - enough of that drivel.  If you were awake last time (and this guy was, it appears), you might have noticed the round thing in the wall at the back of the play park.  As I wandered about, Hasselblad in hand, I took a peek and this is what I saw, captured for you on HP5+, developed in ID-11 and printed on Ilford Warmtone fibre paper:

Portrush Play Park, 2019

Through the round window lies the East Strand and if you could move a little to the right and look a little to the left (if that makes sense) you might see the Whiterocks and even over to the Giant's Causeway, a few miles away.  I should really go to the Causeway some time but it's a busy old place these days.  Perhaps I'll wait until a really horrible day in January and go then.  I'll bet there'll still be others there too, though. People, eh?

Monday, 7 October 2019

Just playing around

It was good to be back in the darkroom this morning.  It's been a busy couple of weeks in the McNeill household - this was the first time in a couple of weeks I was able to near the place.

This one was from a walk in Portrush a couple of weeks ago with some film users from the Club.  The light was good early on in the evening, but then it disappeared behind some houses and things were less good.  Still, I was happy with this one taken early on with the Hasselblad:

Playground, Portrush. HP5+ in ID-11 on Adox MCC paper.  A lovely combination, if you ask me.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Perfect symmetry

This was taken a couple of weeks ago in Portstewart, when out with the film lads from the Club.   It was early evening and the light was rather tasty. We all had the tripods out (as good Club Photographers do) and I had the 'Blad with the 250mm lens attached.  A quick point-and-shoot beast it is not...

I was composing a shot of the School on the headland - the Dominican College, formerly a Convent School - hence the cross sitting atop.  I'm a Governor there, for my sins, and I'm always on the lookout for the definitive photograph of it - it's one of the most recognisable buildings in the area, perched as it is overlooking the bay and the Promenade.

Anyway, I was vaguely aware of the young girl as she was climbing up the rocks in the foreground.  A bit mad, if you ask me, but that's the sort of thing you do when you're young - and quite right, too.  I didn't really have the camera trained on her or anything but I thought Well, kids are interesting - you never know, so I re-composed so that she was included in the shot.  And then, just for a second as she reached the top, she posed for her friends below with her arms outstretched.  I knew that was the shot and I didn't hesitate - I pressed the shutter release and hoped for the best with regard to focus.  As luck would have it, she's perfectly mirroring the Cross on the school, albeit some way away.

Dominican College, Portstewart.  Adox MCC fibre paper

This might be the shot to present to the school - perhaps they'll choose it as as a Christmas card or something.  I'd be very happy if it ended up bringing in a few funds to help the students.