Archive for photos

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

 

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 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.