Monday, 30 December 2019

God loves a trier

That was one of my Grandpa's many sayings which has stuck in my mind all these years.  I guess it's a polite way of saying "You're not very good at this, are you?".  For some reason it came to mind when I tried to print this shot, from some very old Forte film left in a bulk loader that I acquired from a school clear-out a while back.  I had no idea how to process it so I just dunked it in my usual ID-11 for about 11 minutes.  Not quite long enough, perhaps or maybe it's lost a bit of speed over the years but whatever the reason the fact is the negative came out very flat, with little or no contrast.  Hmm.  What to do, eh?  Nothing else for it but to try and lith it, I thought - and here was the result on Foma 131 paper:

Sand dunes on Portstewart Strand, 2019.

The scan is a wee bit brighter than the print, which is even more moody than you see here.  I had used a longish exposure on a very windy day, so the dune grasses in the foreground have some movement in them.  You've got the usual lith-on-Foma warmth but I dunked the lower half of the print in some PotFerri to bring out the highlights a bit and as you can see they've lost that warmth.  Still, it works, to a degree...

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Irish skies

I don't know what Japanese skies look like but I suspect they look different to the sky in this shot of my Irish-Anglo-Japanese relations on Portstewart Promenade in August:

Portstewart Prom, Summer 2019

On very, very old Tri-X in ID-11 and Ilford Warmtone fibre paper.  On it's way to Japan very shortly, once I get my act together and mount it.  The statue in the background is the War Memorial, in case you were wondering.  And check out the fancy new street lights we got last year (along with the fancy new stainless steel railings). 

I'm off to make some meringue now, in case you were wondering what I do with myself on Boxing Day morning (or St. Stephen's Day if you prefer).  Yesterday was Christmas Day of course and it was a beautiful day here in Ireland with blue skies.  I even got a dander down the road with The Hound, although he doesn't like to go very far these days.  This morning it's wet and windy and pretty horrible.  It would be an ideal day for the darkroom but we've a pretty full house and yesterday was like all Christmas Days - long and tiring.  But good.  Very good, actually.  I hope you had a good one too, wherever you are.

Monday, 23 December 2019

Oh, the stone

OK so I couldn't resist a little reprise on the last title - apologies.  But this is how some exquisite centuries-old Italian stonework comes out on Foma paper via some lith developer:

Bergamo stonework, on HP5+/Foma paper, lith developer

The composer Donizetti was from Bergamo, but you don't get it shoved down your throat when you're there - thankfully.  A bit like the fact that Ireland's finest Mr James Joyce spent many years living in Trieste - there was no sign of that when we were there 25-odd years ago.  Times may have changed, of course...

But back to Bergamo and Donizetti.  This stonework was either from the house in which he resided for a time, or one very close to it.  Just round the back of the Basilica, in case you were wondering (it's not a big place). Anyway, came out rather sweet on the old Foma 131 fibre paper in lith developer, I thought.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Oh, the water

It was something my mother said to me recently - that water was a great healer.  I'd never really thought of it before like that, but she's right.  I guess that was almost 90 years of living gives you - clarity of thought.  I've spend a large part of my life in water - mostly hydrotherapy pools, or swimming pools, to help the symptoms of my ankylosing spondylitis.  By symptoms I mean joint pain, of course.  Any excuse and I'm in there.  Well, as long as its reasonable, temperature-wise.  And these days as long as there's not too many people watching...

So here's some water for you, on print, via film and an old Hasselblad camera with a Zeiss lens (probably 250mm Sonnar):

Sea water, on Ilford Warmtone Fibre paper

It's sea-water, in case you were wondering - from roughly the same place as this shot that you might have already seen was taken.

And I almost forgot - the title.  Now Mr Van 'the man' Morrison is not everyone's cup of tea, I'll be the first to admit.  Heck I'm not even sure he's my cup of tea. As a person, from what I have heard (first hand) from people who worked with him he's not the easiest of guys to get on with, but some would say the man's a genius and so he walks a different walk to the rest of us.  Whatever.  But And It Stoned Me was one track that I thought was pure genius.  The lyrics are here.  A recording I guess can be found somewhere out there without too much trouble and although obviously it's sung it does give a good idea of how we speak in this part of the world...

Monday, 16 December 2019

Just playing (and some very old Tri-X)

I probably mentioned a while back about the visitors we had in the summer - all the way from Japan. My new-found cousin, her husband and two children. Not the time to be experimenting with long-expired Tri-X (a film I’ve never used before), but for some unknown reason that’s the way it turned out.  OK so not for some unknown reason at all but just from lack of planning.  It happens.  It actually turned out OK (ish) in my usual ID-11.  A tad grainy but as the man said Grain is Good - right?

The film I acquired from a school clear-out a while back. It was inside a Watson Bulk Loader and I’ve no idea what age it is - I would guess around 15-20 years old.

Here’s Mom&Son just playing (i.e., learning) in the little sandy beach by Portstewart Prom. That be Donegal/Inishowen peninsula in the distance (Malin Head, Ireland's most northerly point is the bit sticking out in the far distance).

Mom&son in Portstewart, Summer 2019.  Tri-X on Ilford Warmtone fibre.

I dunked the bottom third of the print in some very old (but still working - does this stuff ever go off?) PotFerri just to brighten up those white areas in their shirts, otherwise it's a straight print.  After mounting it'll be on it's way to Kanagawa, possibly to end up on a wall - who knows?

I like this shot.  A little shared moment in our lives - Mom, son and the guy with the camera.

It's a tad early for New Year's Resolutions,  I know - but I'd like there to be more people in my shots than there currently is.  That's going to be something I'll be working on...

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Portrush East Strand

A while back a few of us film users in the Club went down to Portrush for an evening's shoot. It was a nice evening for it - a little bit of swell in the sea.  I stuck the Hasselblad on a tripod (rare event, be noted)  and after metering set a shutter speed about 1 second for this shot:

Portrush, looking towards East Strand.  On Ilford Warmtone fibre paper.

The sky got burnt in a little, just to bring out the cloud detail - otherwise it's a straight print.  I spot-metered the darkest shadow area under the railings and closed down 2 stops, so there's a bit of detail still visible there.  I've not idea why there are steps cut into the stone - presumably years ago there was some sort of building or shelter there, long gone.  The white things in the middle distance were seabirds either resting or feeding on the water.

Monday, 9 December 2019

It's good but it's not right

That was the catchphrase of a TV game show host a few years ago - a guy by the name of Roy Walker, if memory serves me correctly.  The game show was, rather aptly, called Catchphrase and is still going today, albeit with a different presenter.  A thoroughly decent chap Mr Walker was, too - from Northern Ireland, so that's a given, I guess ;)

It always struck me as a particularly polite way of telling a contestant that his or her guess was completely wrong.  You can't really tell them, 'Wrong!' or 'Nope!' and 'Hmm...not quite' is a bit fence-sitting but 'It's good but it's not right' is just a rather lovely way to let them down gently.

This was how I felt about this particular print, of clouds over Portstewart:

Clouds over Portstewart, with added bits.  Ilford Warmtone fibre paper

If you click on the image you'll see the problem - the white dots (black on the negative).

This is a good example of what happens when you step outside your comfort zone.  Unfortunately this is a film developing problem and it arose because I had run out of my usual ID-11 and had only a fresh box of DD-X to hand.  The DD-X I had bought for a specific use in mind, namely some Ilford Delta 3200 that I have sitting waiting to shoot.  But I'd used DD-X years ago with HP5 and knew it to be a super developer, albeit it on the pricey side.  No matter, I mixed it up (1+4) and away we went.  And about half the frames came out with a good covering of black dots.  Not always easy to diagnose the problem but I think it may have been down to the DD-X having settled a bit in the container and perhaps it needed to be mixed with the water a little more energetically.  The other possibility is air bubbles but I always tap the tank after inversion and have never had this problem before, so I'm blaming the DD-X.

I cropped judiciously in software (it was a 120 neg) and got this - which is OK for Web but I doubt I'd get an acceptable print from it.

Severely cropped

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Back inside

Another one from inside the prison-hospital-art-gallery thingmy in you-know-where:

Art Gallery.  On Ilford Warmtone fibre paper

Printed about 10 minutes ago this damp Thursday morning in November on the North Coast of Ireland - I'm a bit behind with my printing (and taking).  No excuse other than it's been a busy time.  My wife's son has just bought and moved into his first house with his fiancee - and it feels like we've spent the last few weeks moving house as well.  Plus I went to Belfast to speak to someone about cochlear implants, on account of my poor (non-existent most of the time) hearing.  A scary proposition and not one I'm going to rush into.  My hearing has been reasonably good (for me) this last few weeks and as usual I'm hopeful that this upward trend will continue.  I think I would need 12 months of total deafness before I would take the plunge for an implant, as it destroys any hope of 'normal' hearing again.  Although I go through some very bad phases (and this year has been the worst) my hearing always returns - in one ear, at least.  And so far, I should add.  I don't take anything for granted any more - when I wake up in the morning I have to deal with whatever hearing I have.

Monday, 2 December 2019


This scene caught my eye - in one of those many courtyards I was talking about last time. This print was my first attempt at it and there's more work to be done but here it is anyway:

Bicycle in Bergamo.  HP5+ on Ilford Warmtone fibre paper, toned

A little more contrast would make the white frame of the bicycle stand out better, I think - although it will be just a little more.  As I've said before, these days I'm tending to favour lower contrast than pushing every scene, every print to full black shadows and paper-white highlights.

The left hand side of the print needs a little burning in to balance it out and while the weak sepia tone I used here is good I think it could benefit from a being a little warmer.  Perhaps a sepia-selenium combination might work well.  I'll post my next attempt in due course.