Archive for light

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

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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.

 

 

Green Rays with a Nikon D600.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2015 by yammerman

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I took these at Christmas last year when my brother gave me a torch that you can strap to your head and a set of coloured filters. When I thanked him for it he suggested I do some creative photography and so I found myself in the cold dark garden, my blood alcohol levels reasonably high with my newly acquired Nikon D600 and a tripod.

I used two Nikon lenses, a 24-85mm zoom and a 60mm macro on manual and inevitably slow speeds, just to see what I could produce.  It took a while to figure out how to get anything interesting but eventually I started to like the movement effect I was getting. Thankfully the neighbours remained unaware of my cavorting in the darkness with a light strapped to my head and eventually handheld for better control.

The Green Flash is a phenomenon seen after sunset or before sunrise when a green spot or flash is observed above the sun or as a flash from the sunset point. It is caused by the atmosphere separating the sun’s light. A rare optical occurrence, it has been used by a few artists including Jules Verne in his Green Ray  novel,  Eric Rohmer in his film of the same title.

In Jules Verne, the Green Ray is missed because the hero and heroine are too busy staring in to each other’s eyes. I guess this is the kind of thing Tim Hunt was musing on when ‘joking’ about women in science. There is no truth in the rumours that, in Verne’s sequel, the lovers later separated due to the constant bickering over whose fault it was that they missed that damned Green Ray.

In Rohmer’s film, the heroine Delphine is having trouble in the dating game until she over hears  a conversation about Jules Verne’s book and learns  that ‘when one sees a rare green flash at sunset – our own thoughts and those of others are revealed as if by magic’.  I think I saw the film 20 odd years ago, so *spoiler alert*: Delphine finds her man; they see the Green Ray; and, I guess, live happily ever after.  I suppose this is as sound as any other method for choosing a mate but, if it doesn’t work out for you, don’t come a looking for me.

I think my own Green Ray reveals me as a dyslexic Mekon with a bad case of camera shake – smart ladies will choose to move on.

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

 

 

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.

 

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.