Light, Time and Silver with a Roll of Kodak Verichrome Pan

Posted in black & white, film, photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2018 by yammerman

 

DSCF6134The hottest summer since ’76 has finally passed into history and the attic darkroom has become habitable to the human species once more.  With rolls of film piling up, I cleared the space of cardboard boxes and guitar speakers to make room for some old fashioned film processing.  I had been given some developing equipment by a friend, who’d obtained it in an auction, so I began sorting through it to see what might be useful.  In a developing reel box, along with the new reel, I found an old roll of 120 Kodak Verichrome Pan; I confess a film new to me.  It was old enough that the rubber band wrapped to prevent exposure had fused to it.  Imagine my delight; here was delayed gratification on a grand scale.

How old it was, I could not tell, it sure looked ancient.  How long does it take a rubber band to fuse to paper? Google failed to help with that, although I came across a few archivists who didn’t have a good word for rubber bands, suggesting it takes many years.  Incidental fun fact, it was invented by Stephen Perry in 1845.  Other clues included a metal film spool which Google failed, as it so often does, to provide a definitive answer but the switch to plastic seems to have occurred in the early seventies.  The older the better I hoped but I learned nothing definitive from my efforts.  Really, I was just putting off the moment when I’d have to get the film on a reel and decide how long to process it for and in what developer.

The Massive Dev Chart had a list of options for obsolete films including Rodinal which I have in the form of Adonal.  It has been open for a couple of years but the urban legend is that it lasts for ever.  So, that combined with the person on a photographic forum who said ‘this was a popular film in its time with a high latitude for exposure and development’ – how could I go wrong?

I was slightly nervous that the film might have stuck to itself after many years, but it was fine and wound on to the reel without problems and the backing peeled off just as they do now.  I settled on a combination of the Massive Dev time with other online advice to give it slightly longer.  In the end I gave it Adonal 1+50 @21degrees for 10mins one inversion every 30 secs.  A quick bath in the Stop and 4mins in the Fix.  Then the moment this film had been waiting 40 or 50 years to arrive, a human eye was looking at what the light, time and silver might have done.

So the first thing to say is that it was 6×9 film from a camera that clearly had a malfunction half way through the roll.  I had four shots of a dog; one with a young girl.  It all seemed to go wrong for some reason and the last four shots were one more indistinct shot of the girl with the dog and then just nothing but strangeness.  Did the film jam; did the camera break; and is that why it was left undeveloped for decades?  I’d hoped for something that gave a clue as to the age of the film; some drama; or some evocation of the past, but this all seemed very mundane.

I thought how disappointing, only two shots in focus because the dog moved, the camera moved, or the limits of range focusing had been reached.  But as with all old photographs that capture a moment in time, it makes you think of the future and what might have happened to that young girl.  Is she still alive?  Did she have a good life?  She is like all of us, waiting for an unknown future to unfold and hoping for the best.

I wasn’t even going to bother scanning the others but then I thought silver salts and light even by accident can do magic.  Maybe complete failures are more interesting than the almost focused, almost exposed, successful shots.  Man Ray comes to mind, achieved with a broken camera in a backyard, somewhere sometime, by an act of  serendipity.  Could digital do this?, well not in my experience, which is why I love film.  You can screw up big time and still get something interesting.  Viva analogue, viva accidents and viva failure.

I wonder what sort of dog that is?

 

 

Three Days of the Condor with a Fuji XPro-1 and Fuji 18-55mm

Posted in photography with tags , , , , , on September 30, 2018 by yammerman

DSCF5955

People never ask, “What are your big influences in photography? “ but, in line with Stanford’s research that ‘walking aids creativity, I came up with one this morning, from the 1975 film ‘Three Days of the Condor’ starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway. The budget clearly didn’t run to the six days imagined in the original novel. In the film Redford, a relatively lowly CIA analyst reads publications looking for…….well I’m not sure, fnords maybe? Anyway (spoiler alert) his entire office is murdered while he is out getting lunch and on his return, frightened for his life, he takes a gun and leaves the building to call into CIA HQ New York. Things go awry from here and he ends up kidnapping Faye Dunaway and forcing her to take him home.  An almost certainly ‘problematic’ plot device by today’s  standards but, hey, this was the seventies and after all it is Robert Redford.

What has this to do with photography you’ll be asking yourselves? Well me too because this is 2018 and we all have the attention span of a gnat; but you see Faye Dunaway is a photographer, her black and white prints fill her walls. Redford observes that there are no people in her photos which look like they are between autumn and winter, maybe November.  I’m not sure the intimacy that occurs between them is entirely believable considering he’s holding a gun on her and ties her up but they are good enough actors to make it just about believable.  The cheesy sex scene interspersed with her photographs while a moody saxophone plays is not Sydney Pollack’s finest hour. I’m imagining the studio said ‘you’ve got Redford and Dunaway, make it happen’.

I’m not sure when I first saw the movie but I’m certain I didn’t notice the photographs. But 30 years later, when I’d started taking my own black and white pictures, they resonated with me. I’m not much of a people photographer myself, so details of park benches, empty streets, trees with no leaves and an absence of people have a certain appeal.  At one point Dunaway confesses to ‘taking pictures not like her but they must be because she took them’ but she puts those ones in a draw. Redford has a good line about those are the pictures I’d like to see but even though she’ll sleep with him, those pictures stay in the drawer.  Do you give yourself away in the act of creation, I think you better had by accident or design or you’ve got nothing.

I don’t think my penchant for detail and raising the ordinary to something more comes from an inner landscape as suggested by Dunaway in the movie. But more as I’ve mentioned before as some kind of need to obtain control in a world gone mad. I think I’m seeking a mood or serenity and that light that I’ve come across in many an arresting image. I see it more than I successfully photograph it but when I’m fishing in those seemingly empty scenes it’s what I’m looking for and often ‘Three Days of the Condor’  comes to mind.

 

Here as some examples from my recent casting of the net. Shot with a Fuji XPro-1 and Fuji 18-55mm lens tweaked in Lightroom.

 

 

Lost and Found

Posted in black & white, film, lost and found, photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 6, 2017 by yammerman

 

 

6x7027As readers of my last blog will know, I misplaced a film during the windswept expedition to West Wales and, as a lover of a happy ending, I am pleased to report its return.

Gather round….

I went walking yesterday and took the Mamiya 7II out but didn’t take a single shot. When I left, I took a new box of spare film as I have a fear that aliens will descend from the sky suddenly or Lord Lucan will appear strolling on the promenade and I will be stuck without enough film.

On my return, as  I took the spare film from my pocket, I had one of those problem solving revelations that used to strike me quite often as a computer engineer.  I’d be trying to fix something for hours (I’d confess to days but that would make me sound completely hopeless) when suddenly inspiration would strike and the opaque would become transparent.

In this case, the moment I noticed the spare film box was open I knew what some idiot had done and that I would find the lost film inside. This is something I ordinarily never do but in extremis, like a war zone or a little wind and rain on a welsh hill, the centre cannot hold.

As I pulled the film from the box, I still couldn’t quite believe it; had I not brought the full weight of my man looking skills to bear on the search?  Had I not looked several times; would my wife not present this to a jury of my peers as evidence that I cannot find a damn thing?

A man without my moral courage might have just overlooked the whole thing, but when I processed the film in Illford HC  1/31 @20 degree for 6.5 mins I had four images I liked well enough to share.

In Rain and Sun with a Mamiya 7II

Posted in black & white, film, penarth, photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2017 by yammerman

1

I made a visit to West Wales where the stereotype that it would rain the whole time was confirmed by plumes of spray on the motor-way and low cloud pressing down on the hills.  I patiently followed a cement mixer along the winding country roads for many a mile, hypnotised by its slowly turning drum as the rain continued to fall.  I’d come to visit a friend in Cardigan and mount a photo expedition with my Mamiya 7II.  We dined on Shepherd’s Pie and red wine that night; a sound preparation it turns out for the next day and a wet and windy Pentre Ifan.

The following morning, the BBC Weather app normally so unreliable proved accurate as their picture of a cloud with two drops of rain could be confirmed by a drawing back of the curtain.  But a couple of eternal optimists like our good selves were not to be discouraged by the predictions of a supercomputer and so we found ourselves leaning into the wind and rain, my Mamiya 7II wrapped in a plastic bag.

One thing I can confirm is that the ancients did not erect these stones for the purpose of shelter although, when combined with a decently placed umbrella, you can change a 120 film with reasonable speed.  Unfortunately it does appear that you lose the film you take out at this point and it has not as yet turned up.  An enquiry into who was at fault in this matter is yet to be convened.

I normally don’t wander about in the rain with a camera so that may explain why some pretty basic stuff becomes something of a challenge.  Taking the lens cap off and focusing, it turns out, are somewhat essential to photography even when you are trying to keep the damn camera dry.

The ancient gods smiled upon us for our efforts and the cloud base did lift enough that we could see the coast from our lofty position.  We then visited the beach north of the river at Parrog, where the remnant of Storm Brian had left seaweed in great quantities giving the appearance that it was making an attempt to become a land based creature.  It didn’t appear to be raining but the air was full of water, pleasantly warm while clouds hung upon the higher ground.  I imagine in summer it would prove to be rather idyllic. We breakfasted late or lunched early in the Vic North Cafe an establishment of some pedigree and highly recommended.

Then next day as I drove home the autumn sun shone, mist hung in the valleys and the mirth of the photographic gods could be heard echoing through the hills.

I still had 5 shots left in the camera and so, on my return to Penarth on a completely different kind of autumn day, I finished the roll.  I’d processed the two rolls of HP5+ in Ilford HC 1/31 @20 degrees for 6 mins before remembering there must be a third roll I’ve misplaced.  Gratification delayed for an eternity I fear and possibly the greatest images taken but never processed, I like to think.

In a radical move I tweaked them in Lightroom using a colour preset.

 

 

A Walk with a Mamiya 7 MkII

Posted in black & white, film, penarth, photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2017 by yammerman

Walk005

The last days of summer are upon us and in a break from the everyday 35mm I took out my Mamiya 7 MkII with its 80mm lens. Only ten frames of 6×7 on a roll of 120 generate a feeling you need to make every frame count but on a sleepy afternoon in Penarth, it’s not so easy. I’ve done this walk hundreds of times so I don’t expect to find anything new but a different camera always has other ideas. Few things in life are as lovely as a large black and white negative fresh out of the wash, shiny and wet offering up its delayed satisfaction.  You know I might even print some in the darkroom.

This is the whole roll of Ilford FP4 processed in Ilford HC for 6:30mins @  22 degrees and then tweaked in Adobe Lightroom.

Rollei Retro 100 in Ilford HC

Posted in black & white, film, photography, Uncategorized with tags , , on May 30, 2017 by yammerman

Garden009

I delayed the gratification so long on this roll of  Rollei Retro 100 that I’m not entirely sure of the camera  used. Processed in Illford HC for 6.5 mins @ 20 degrees (1+31 dilution). Given an Antique preset in Lightroom.

 

 

 

 

 

Walking with a Rollei B35.

Posted in black & white, film, photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 21, 2017 by yammerman

rollei002

I took a Rollei B35 for a walk around Penarth. It is a small pocket camera from 1985, which is about as simple as it gets. A roll of film in a tin with a 40mm lens on the front.  Distance focusing with a simple meter. I used my first roll of Kentmere 100 film developed in  Ilford HC (1+31) for 7mins. I rather enjoyed the results.

Antique preset added in Lightroom