Nostalgia on a Roll of Rollei Retro 400S.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2015 by yammerman

Pic013 There are projects online where people take great pleasure in processing old film that has been left for years sitting in a camera or on a shelf. These are moments in time, waiting to be revealed to a world they could not have imagined.  Young girls that are now old maids, soldiers on tanks their fates as yet unknown, an analogue world pregnant with possibilities.

Then there are those so seduced by the new digital age that, though they shoot film, are actually too lazy to process it preferring the instant gratification provided by the shiny new pixel machines. Not me, of course; I would never allow 10 rolls of film to back up on the shelf for years, convinced that nothing in the viewfinder was of much interest, but merely created because the sound of a shutter clicking is rather pleasant and fondling a film camera is a delight……..well, OK, maybe.

So this is the first roll that’s been through the chemicals,  a three year old roll of Rollei Retro 400S shot while the country was awash with Olympic fever in 2012. I think you’d have to agree that these images capture the true flavour of the spirit that gripped the nation during that heady summer. It’s hard to believe such a remarkable record of nostalgia could remain unprocessed for so long.

The Massive Dev chart reckoned on 22min in Rodinal 1+50 @20degrees  but I always find those numbers too long for my setup and went with 17.5 mins.  They seem to scan a bit better when under developed like this. The only problem is the dust, which drives me nuts and which I get bored trying to clone out.

I give you eight off the roll not because they are any good but because I can. In a world with some staggeringly good photographers, I feel I could claim a niche in the ‘dullness’ movement. I just need to work up my artistic statement and then, look out, Turner Prize.

I feel duty bound to leave no film unprocessed upon my demise as I can only imagine the disappointed faces of the retronauts when they unfurl the rolls from the fix. Scanned and tweaked in Lightroom.

The Wisdom of David Hurn

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2014 by yammerman

 

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Having been to a lecture by Magnum photographer David Hurn this week and inspired by his story and wise words, it was only natural that I was eager to put this new found knowledge into practice.  It was fortunate then that my good friend and fellow photo enthusiast Paul Williams was due a visit this weekend.  On Saturday morning, I suggested we head down the coast to the wetlands near the Aberthaw power station and mine its rich seam of photo opportunity.

To David Hurn it is all about subject matter and it is this that great photographers talk of when they chew the fat.  It is not about the gear or highfalutin artistic concepts, but what would make a good subject.  For him it was the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 when he found himself one of the few photographers who made it on to the streets of Budapest.  He learnt to follow the journalists and photograph what they found – thus his name was made.

He talks as you would expect from a man who has survived and prospered in the tough world of commercial photography.  His passion is clear, as at eighty he was still able to hold forth and enthrall for over two hours.  He put up a list of the friends who had slept on his floor in the sixties and it read like a list of photographic icons.

He recalled  how he found his ‘tinsel town’ niche in 60’s magazines and the importance that networking and luck had played in his life.  And how he was asked to do the stills for a small film which happened to be Dr No, the beginning of the James Bond franchise.  He realised that success came from hard work and the instinct to come up with a subject that might excite a Picture Editor.  He had a brief period taking fashion shots while also working for magazines like Nova and Holiday.  He reminded the many students in the audience that WH Smith still has over 3000 magazines on sale.  He also suggested thinking globally about where your work might sell; his own work with the Nursing Times has been used in over nine countries.

He spoke of those photographers now regarded as artists who were just trying to make a living when they did their great work.  His best advice though was that photography was simply made up of two things – first where you stand and second when you push the shutter; get those right and the rest will follow.

He believes that the greats in any field need not fear the constriction of a brief but be able to satisfy its demand while maintaining their own unique authorship.  His advice was not to copy anyone but find your own vision and learn from the great, especially their contact sheets.  It is from them you will learn how they came to capture that great image.  It is rarely with one shot, but with a chosen background worked at over several frames until by luck or judgement the elements come right in the frame.  It was a marvelous talk, possibly his last in the UK, and I feel privileged to have been in the audience.

The wetlands proved not to be the rich seam I had hoped, but Paul and I spent a pleasant couple of hours clicking away.  We then returned for lunch on Penarth Pier and a visit to the rather wonderful Ragnar Kjartansson  ‘The Visitors’ installation at the Turner House Galley.  I highly recommend the installation though my photographs might suggest it’s not for everybody.  My own ‘something and nothing style/organising the chaos’ should, I feel, keep me safe from the pressures of commercial photography for a while yet and I’m ever hopeful that one day I’ll figure out where to stand and when to push the shutter.

Fuji XPro-1 with 35mm F1.4 and tweaked in Lightroom

 

Remembering Tugg.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 22, 2014 by yammerman

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It was eight years ago today that my father died on the morning following Trafalgar Day. In happier times, as a 25 year Navy man, it would have amused him. He went from diagnosis to death in three months and really, his only desire at the end, was the avoidance of pain. He described the Hospice at Salisbury District Hospital as ‘paradise’ and to them I am eternally grateful.

After he left the Royal Navy in the seventies he became a commercial artist, though in my teenage mind I preferred the title ‘cartoonist’.  Under the name ‘Tugg’ he knocked out 20 ‘singles’ a week in the hope the tabloids would pick-up a few, which they did and on at least one memorable occasion by the mighty ‘Punch’.  It was a brave step by a man who was born with this gift and entirely self-taught.   The Navy who nurtured his talent also provided work in the form of a strip in the Navy News and various commissions for the great and the good.   He loved the Navy and they appeared to love him as he was honoured with a memorial service and a fly past shortly after his death.

He was a happy soul and was mostly amused by life except those ‘pinko lefties’ taking the country to the dogs.  He never seemed to mind much that his wife and three sons thought him a few paces right of Attila the Hun.  Family gatherings were not complete without a huge political row as nothing gave him more pleasure that winding up his Guardian reading kin.  He left me with a tolerance of the right not shared by my peers for, despite his politics, he was a really decent man.

You may be wondering what this has to do with a green Volvo V40 Estate so I shall explain.  This was the last car he owned, bought new in 1998 and as my wife needed a car it seemed sensible that we should take it over.  I did think it might be a bit big for Gillian but it turned out to be perfect and she grew very attached to it.  Somewhat like driving a sofa, it seemed imbued with my father’s character.  You might think a massed produced object in this day and age could not have any soul but, on the few occasions I drove it, I always felt his reassuring presence.  Whenever Gillian used the  ice scraper he had bought that had a built in glove he was remembered  fondly and the boiled sweets he had secreted about the car kept us going for months.

The car declined slowly  with battery, locks, suspension, alarm all proving troublesome.  After seven years, with a new car policy introduced at Gillian’s place of work, it was time to say goodbye.  It was sad to see it go and break this connection with my father so I took a few snaps for old time sake.  It seemed slightly strange photographing this old car at the time but now I’m glad I did.  Still miss the old bugger.

Here are some examples of  his work.

 

 

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.