Holiday with a Teenager in North Wales with a Fuji X Pro 1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2014 by yammerman

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We headed north on our summer holidays this year to visit the tribes of North Wales.  The idea was to visit Anglesey, a place we had been denied access on a previous visit by an over turned lorry.   The selected accommodation in Criccieth looked great in the online pictures and on this occasion the photos did not lie.  The place was huge and immaculate with stunning views of the sea.  Our hooded teenage monster grunted his approval and thrust his tablet at me and demanded wi-fi which, as any parent knows, is as important as oxygen to the young these days.

A first day walk along the beach set the pattern for the holiday with demands for me to calculate equations of distance v time, to which the apparent answer is framed in units of misery.  We set off walking on sand, my objective a rocky promontory in the far distance.  The mood was only enhanced by the rhythmic chorus of ‘Can we turn back now?’.   It was with great joy that we reached our way point only to discover that the incoming tide had pretty much covered the sand and we were forced to return on pebbles.

Why no one has not yet come up with an exercise machine based on such a surface I know not – or rather I do, it’s because it really is not very pleasant.  As we trudged back, the percussive sounds of our footsteps were accompanied by a chorus of ‘I told you so’ and adoption of a stick as a weapon.  I can’t entirely blame the boy as it is in his DNA; I remember his mother selecting similar tactics on a beach in Australia many years ago.  If one day, I should not return from a family outing and the reason given is that I accidentally fell off a cliff edge, a pier or into a river, I urge that the witnesses are questioned closely.

I thoroughly enjoyed the holiday, though it followed much the same pattern for the remainder of its duration.  The boy was dragged to Anglesey, Port Merion, Criccieth Castle, Beaumaris Gaol, the National Slate Museum and any number of fine beaches.  My wife and I loved the Llŷn Peninsular and the magnificent house we stayed in – wish that it was for sale.

The highlight of the holiday though was when we stopped for supplies in Criccieth and, rather than shop, the boy selected to stay in the car.   Now I swear this was an accident but, as I retrieved some bags from the back of the car, I closed the boot and automatically locked it, setting the alarm.  My wife and I then spent a pleasant 15-20 minutes perusing the High St until our return to the car where to my surprise the hazard lights were flashing.  Upon unlocking the car, a rather disgruntled teenage boy asked ‘Where the hell have you been?’  Apparently the alarm went off four or five times and he’d discovered you have keep very, very still to avoid tripping it. The family sitting on a bench nearby eating ice-creams seemed remarkably unconcerned and really I hardly laughed at all.

We might give the boy a break from holidays next year if he does well in his exams, oh and I love him really.  Anyway here are some snaps taken with an Fuji X Pro -1 and toned with an Aged Photo preset in Lightroom

 

 

Garden Macro with a Wista 45 and Nikon 120mm

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2014 by yammerman

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Enough time had passed since my last large format macro shots that I’d forgotten how testing it can be but, with the sun shining on the garden, the urge came upon me.  Internet wisdom suggests that 5×4 macro is a waste of time and only for the foolish, which makes me its target market.

When attempting large format photography, it’s like living in a camera flow chart; you need to know your gear and remember the steps.  Open the shutter at f5.6, compose the scene and focus, check the exposure, close the shutter, adjust aperture and time, set the lens to fire, put dark slide in, then open the slide and press shutter, and then close dark slide.   I’m bound to have forgotten something I usually do.  A whole heap of agro you might think, but it appeals to the purist in me and forces upon me a discipline that is quite unnatural.   The payoff is to view the scene so large on the ground glass, looking quite beautiful, it’s upside down of course  but almost everything looks stunningly clear and it gives me a thrill of pleasure every time.

Of course, you have a dark cloth over your head while composing and focusing so it gets darn hot with the sun shining.  Then there’s the wind shaking those darling buds whenever you point a camera at them.  I also found on this occasion that I needed a small torch to see the aperture numbers so, with the exposure meter, loupe, dark slide and torch, your hands are pretty full.  A manservant would be the ideal accessory, perhaps serving a small aperitif before each shot.  When I think of photographers in the 19th century out in the world, working like this with tougher conditions and more cumbersome equipment, my jaw drops in respect.

After an hour of huffing and puffing and the occasional curse, I had, what I hoped, were some interesting large negatives to process. This gave me the opportunity to use a new method of development, replacing the trays with a MOD54 plastic frame that allows six 5×4 negs to fit in a Patterson three reel tank.   This means I don’t have to stand in complete darkness for ten minutes with only the robotic female voice of an audio timer for company.   Operating the timer and manipulating the film into three trays while experiencing this sensory deprivation is an art in itself.   A weaker man than I might experience the return of his childhood fear of the dark, or be forced to confront hideous monsters of the Id, in the gurgling nothingness that is a light tight darkroom.

The learning curve on the new MOD54 wasn’t without mishap as I tried to load it to its full capacity of six negatives.   Having practiced in the light, it all seemed to be going so well in the changing bag until I took out the filled tank to find a sheet of film had fallen off in the bag and was now ruined.  I’ve learnt to shrug off these disasters now, as it seems to be the price for not practicing this art more regularly.

The massive Dev chart suggested 9 mins @20 degrees for HP5+ in Ilford HC, but experience has taught me that my set-up and method always needs less time, so I knocked it down to 7 mins.  The only other problem was my fix had gone off a tad so, although it appeared to be working, it was cloudy with white bits.  I pressed on regardless as the corner shop gave up stocking photographic chemicals a long time ago.

The negatives turned out OK (though with a fair amount of white specks possibly dust or fix debris) but some seemed to have been mis-loaded or had jumped out of their grooves during agitation plus, to my horror, the MOD54 seemed to have scratched them at the edges.   A quick Google confirmed that others had suffered the same fate and the suggestion was to load less sheets and to smooth any burrs on the plastic of the MOD54.  I followed this advice and processed four in the second batch and appeared to have no scratches. I think practice will make me better, so it’s a big thumbs up from me for this method of developing 5×4 film.

Smart people will spot that I messed up one of the sheets with a double exposure, which I put down to poor method and a lack of discipline.  I quite like the others, though some might say that 35mm or digital would produce better results a lot easier.  But, heck, where’s  the fun in that; plus when I die and go to photography heaven, I can look those Victorian antecedents in the eye and say at least I tried on occasion to do it their way.

A few tweaks in Lightroom 4 and then scanned with a Epson V700.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy and Pain of Shooting Film at the Cardiff Photomarathon 2014.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 1, 2014 by yammerman

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At last the Nikon F3 practice was over and the day of the 2014 Cardiff Photomarathon had arrived, so I assembled with the other 400+ hardy souls at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay.  It was the 10th anniversary this year and, as a special treat, fifty people were allowed to use film to replicate the good old days when it first began.  I’m not sure how many stuck their heads above the parapet for this offer or how many  like me were fervently praying that the film would load and rewind  correctly.  This could also be viewed as a punishment to those who might have muttered over the digital years that film was the one true path…. not me you understand.

After a short anniversary speech and the customary group photograph, the first set of four topics was handed out.  The first is always a topic linked to your number, this year it was ‘Me, Myself & I’.  Because I shot film I won’t see them until June 20th and, of course, neither will you but as my wife mentioned the possibility  of gardening this morning, I feel it important I describe my adventures in loving detail.

Taking sometime to relearn the controls of the F3 may have paid off as, heroically, I went for a triumph or disaster triple exposure for my first shot.  Of course the beauty of film is I can imagine the fantastically clever shot with the three of me holding my number until the exhibition.  If you see a morose figure slinking away on opening night, it may not have gone so well.

The correct spirit of the competition would be to wander the streets of Cardiff searching for images, but I leave that to the younger folk.  I tend to work the more manageable Penarth where I can slip home for tea and cake on a regular basis.  For the second topic ‘Street Level’, I had to take my camera on to the street, something I never do, but this is a competition and I had my game face on. The Big Issue seller turned me down which was unfortunate, so I was forced back on the rather obvious, putting the camera on the ground or more precisely in the gutter.  It might have all ended there as it turns out fire engines need quite a bit of the road.  It is as well that I’ve not completely lost the agility and speed that left many a lumpen full back sitting on the turf back in the day.

Mostly people ignored the strange man lying on the pavement but one lady did come up and ask ‘What on earth was I doing?’  When I explained and finished with ‘I expect it seems a bit insane?’, she replied ‘Well yes’.   Still the traffic kindly stopped as I set the timer going and walked away from the camera until I heard it click.  I’m thinking beautiful parallel yellow lines with my feet slightly out of focus…. we shall see.

I then spotted a couple of teenagers in full army gear with collecting buckets and, as the next topic was ‘Camouflage’, I couldn’t resist.  They were brilliant, as not only did they say “yes” but they came up with the idea of being near a tree and one them slightly hiding behind it.  Who are these people who speak disparagingly about young folk?

The fourth topic ‘Ten’ began my struggles, as being literal and photographing things is the creative danger of the flagging photo-marathoner.  In the end I found a clump of ten daisies (OK there were eleven but that was soon sorted) and used coloured plastic numbers to collate them.  I know, not a topic winner, but pretty colours have to count for something.  This left me ahead on time and meant I could actually have lunch. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that film is quicker than digital because you can’t shoot a 100 shots for the best one or try ten different ideas.  With film there is indeed a decisive moment, you look at the frame in the viewfinder, the crowd hush, in a moment of stillness you press the shutter, hear the click and then the moment is gone.

Collected the next four topics at two ‘o’clock the first being ‘We’re all in this Together’.  As with all my photo-marathons, in the end I fall back on constructing images.  I found a globe in my son’s room and set it up with some candles underneath and, boom, you have global warming.  Usually I’m good with the ideas, it’s the turning them into decent  photos that’s the problem.  For the next topic ‘Attention to Detail’ it was another hour of ideas chosen and rejected until, in desperation, I wandered the streets of Penarth again.  The best I could come up with was some ‘Keep Penarth Tidy’ stickers on a lamppost.  I liked the shot but I suspect the judges might not concur.  The seventh topic ‘Control’ I’d known what I wanted as soon as I’d seen a sail boat at Cardiff Bay.  I grabbed a 300mm lens and went hunting somebody messing about in boats.  From the barrage, I found two running together and this is when I started to miss digital.  I suspect I should have shown more patience but, as soon as I got what I thought was a vaguely decent shot, I clicked.  This left topic eight ‘Crossed Wires’ so I focus grouped some ideas with my family who stared back at me blankly.  I mean a mouse chasing a cat, that’s comedy gold right there.  In the end  I took a roll of film and fed it in to a small digital camera. Well I thought it was funny.

Once more ahead of the curve I felt good until the ninth topic ‘The dying of the light’ presented itself.  Here I hit ‘the wall’.  I was tiring and the only two things in my head were the literal sun going down kind of shot or nipping up to the cemetery.  I spent too long by the River Ely nearly clicking on the sun in the trees or the swans on the water in silhouette.  With digital I’d have shot both as insurance and moved on but in the end it just seemed too literal.  I lost 90 mins there searching for something else while it clouded over enough that the light didn’t just  seem like it was dying but actually dead.  In the end, just to move on, I shot an image across the bay. It was my Paula Radcliffe peeing by the side of the road moment; the thread was broken.

Number ten was ‘Stacked Up’ in which I came up with the highly original idea of supermarket trolleys.  This did lead to more human interaction as a guy stopped his car and asked me ‘What kind of photography is that?’  Oh Lord, an art critic is all I need, I thought and began to mumble an explanation.  He then explained he’d taken a picture of his daughter with his phone under the Penarth Pier and I knew immediately what he was getting at as I’ve taken that shot myself.   All the legs and struts do indeed make a great pattern but as to what kind of photography it was, my mind was a sudden blank.  We settled on abstract and this meeting of great photographic minds was at an end.

By this stage I was flagging badly, knackered and at the bottom of my barrel of ideas.  Number eleven was ‘Join the Dots’ and went with the first thing that popped in my head, a guitar chord book and my fingers making the chord on show.  I became subject and Art Director for this one as my wife had to push the shutter.  I imagine that’ll be the best shot of the twelve.

For the last shot ‘It’s a wrap’ I cut off my photo-marathon armband and placed it next to a cup of coffee and a piece of strawberry cheese cake.  Not a great finish, more of a whimper than a bang, but that’s the pattern with most of my marathons.   I love doing it as it’s a fantastic challenge but I’m pretty much a zombie by those last few shots.

As I drove back across the Cogan Spur, having delivered my finished roll, the sky cleared to leave a majestic sunset with swirling patterns of clouds bathed in a beautiful red light.  The dying of the light had never looked better and while the photographic gods chuckled, I vowed to be back next year for Cardiff Photomarathon 2015.

Thanks to the people who make this possible and here is a link to the Flickr feed showing how darn good people are at this event.

 

 

The Soul of the FA Cup with a Fuji X-Pro1 and 60mm Macro.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2014 by yammerman

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We have had a glorious few days in this part of South Wales, the first burst of summer.  It coincided with my annual gathering for the Cup Final, a ritual I keep in homage to those far off days in the 70’s when the family gathered to watch the finale of the football season. Teams would leave hotels on coaches, men in terrible suits would walk nervously onto the pitch and a titanic struggle would ensue for that most romantic of silverware.

It was a big day with some big games now etched in the memory.  The fancy dans of  Chelsea v the cloggers of Leeds; the miracle of Jim Montgomery’s save to win the Cup for SunderlandCharlie George’s sizzling winner  for Arsenal in the week I bought a Liverpool bag; and Bobby Stokes, Roger Osborne and Alan Taylor becoming folklore.  In the eighties, it was Coventry winning; Ricky Villa’s goal for Spurs; while Smith had to score for Brighton; and, of course, the Crazy gang of Wimbledon toppled  Liverpool.

With the arrival of the nineties, the Cup lost its lustre as the filthy lucre of the Premiership became more important than the glory of the Cup.  Teams playing weakened sides in order that they might cling on to the gravy train at the top table.  The early rounds are still marvelous, the big boys having yet to come up with a way of ruining Third Round day.

You might be able to see what’s been gained by looking at the balance sheets of a dozen clubs but what’s been lost is something unquantifiable and invisible to the bean counters.  These days it’s either two rich clubs suddenly getting interested for the Final or a lucky minnow that generally gets trounced.  Well done to Wigan for ripping up that script last year.  This year it was Arsenal v Hull and we all knew how that was going to end.

The last few years the kick-off has been moved from three to five pm, no doubt after a financial analysis of advertising rates suggested a richer revenue stream in emerging markets. These are hollow men without imagination who think, Premiership B teams playing in the lower leagues is the way forward.  I rather hope one day the plug gets pulled on the money in football and sanity will be restored, but I’ll be long gone before that point is reached. The recent Richard Scudamore  sexist remark scandal tells you all you need to know about the attitude and mind set of those in charge of football in this country.

If you haven’t yet watched the game, spoiler alert for a brief ten minutes where Hull could do no wrong and scored two goals but, inevitably, Arsenal came back to win 3-2 for their first silverware in nine years.  For supporters of lower league clubs like myself, the idea of a nine year wait for an FA Cup doesn’t seem much of a hardship at all.  I’ll still be back next year, if only as it happens around my birthday and guests feel obliged to bring me presents.  It’s a ritual I still enjoy, even if the game has turned into a generally less than memorable side show.

Oh, and I did some pictures as the last shaft of light arrowed across the garden.  Then I sucked the life out of them in Lightroom as a homage to the vampires of football leaving just a faint glimmer of the beauty that once existed.

 

Double Exposure with a Nikon F3

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2014 by yammerman

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Still in my on-going familiarisation process with the Nikon F3, so I thought it wise to have a look at the manual to ensure I was its master.  I was prompted by the fact that I couldn’t find the self-timer which I was convinced it must possess.  My assumption proved correct as the movement of a lever by the shutter dial does the trick.  I noticed that I could also achieve double exposures with the use of another small switch by the shutter button.   This aroused my curiosity with the possibilities.

This week I set about my annual ritual of oiling the garden furniture which means placing the chairs in two rows in the garden.  Rows of empty seats are familiar to me from my days in no-hoper bands, playing to an indifferent public; so  it occurred to me I could perhaps use these in conjunction with my new found understanding of the Nikon F3 to create some images.

To this end I set about what is recorded in the selection of snaps below.  It’s best not to indulge in too much analysis of what on earth I was thinking, though professional psychologists might enjoy holidays in five star luxury on the fees they might accrue from seeking an explanation.

It is said you should become familiar with just one type of film so, ignoring that advice, I’m on my third different film this week. This time it was Rollei Retro 100 in Rodinal at 20 degrees for 10 minutes.  That’s over 20% knocked off the recommended time but it seems to work for me just fine.  All shot with Nikon 60mm.

 

Tweaked in Lightroom 4 for no other reason than I can.

 

Light Found in a Bin with a Nikon F3 and 60mm Macro.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2014 by yammerman

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I’m tidying the darkroom/studio in my attic  the night after I’ve seen ‘Looking for Light‘  the quite splendid documentary on the life and work of Observer photographer Jane Bown. I’m thinking about the huge 35mm prints up on the screen and the Olympus OM-1 sitting in a bag somewhere amongst the pile of old cameras I’ve acquired  over the last few years.  I’m feeling inspired by the images I’ve seen and the slight grain I could see in the prints leaves me itching for the smell of fixer and the gurgle of water.  But the rain hammers on the roof  and I must clear enough space so that my brain can function before I shoot anymore film.

I plod on and then as I throw redundant packaging and old guitar strings into the bin, I see the roll of film I’d processed on Sunday and grumpily thrown there when I’d discovered my own stupidity manifest as a light leak. I remember an image in the viewfinder of a  plant standing tall and a twisting piece of metal looking like a cobra about to strike. I surveyed the roll and discover that image and several others have escaped the full eviscerating effect of their accidental exposure to light. ‘There you are’  Jane Bown used to say after wandering around her subjects till she found the person she was seeking for her portrait and I mumbled  the same as an incantation to the gods of photography.  They are not perfect as the gatecrashing light seeps in one side of the images but I like them well enough that I’m glad I gave then a second chance before the oblivion of landfill. I found twelve images I could rescue and after scanning choose the four below as worthy of posting.

I love a happy ending though it’s back to the tidying for me now.

 

A Few Shots with a Nikon F3 and 60mm Macro

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2014 by yammerman

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Further use of the Nikon F3  using the 60mm Macro, which has always been a favourite for both film and digital.  A stroll to the pier and then some macro in the garden. It was all going so well until I discovered the back of the camera opened as I rewound the second roll. Give light a second and it does it worst to those grains of silver. A  deep sigh then processed and found to be ruined so straight in the bin. Naturally the second had the award winning images on so that was a damn shame. Here is the best of the first roll.

Shot with  Ilford FP4 at 125 processed in Rodinal/Adonal 1 to 50 for 12 minutes at 21 degrees.