Whet your appetite Wednesday

I’ve been for a few walks in a small local wood over the last four days. Accompanied by an Intrepid 5×4 large format camera, a couple of lenses and a bagful of assorted black & white sheet film I have battled dry, damp, dull and dimly lit conditions in the pursuance of my art. Blog post to follow when I’ve finished developing and scanning.

A Wanderer in Wilsden

Walsden is a large village near to Todmorden on the western fringes of West Yorkshire. Apparently, it has few claims to fame, or few that Wikipedia bother to list, but it does have a sprawling garden centre which is why I was there last week – as chauffeur for my garden-centre-loving wife. The Rochdale Canal also runs through Walsden, hugging quite close to the main road. So, after first consuming my wages of a bacon sandwich and strong black tea, I set off down the road to find the canal whilst the wife went off for her retail therapy. I was light of heart despite knowing I’d be light of wallet later and despite the nagging headache I’d woken up with.

As ever I was travelling very light with just a small shoulder bag. A mini-tripod, a few rolls of film, a couple of filters and an umbrella were the only accompaniments to the Nikon L35AF and Horizon S3 Pro, both loaded with Ilford Delta 100, a film I rarely use but had bought on a whim earlier in the month.

I had no real agenda or project in mind but instead was keeping my mind and my eyes open as I wandered. A few hundred yards along the main road I stopped to look at the textures of an old wooden fence, crudely patched with a wire mesh in places. I heard a bus pulling up fifty yards behind me and almost simultaneously I saw two ladies running towards me gesticulating at the bus. The camera in my hand was the Horizon S3 Pro and I instinctively raised it but then paused, realising that the image would have more impact if I could give the viewer some context. I waited for them to pass and then photographed them running towards the distant bus. It was I knew a good start to my wander.

All images: Delta 100 developed in ID11
Cameras: Nikon L35AF and Horizon S3 Pro

Moving on down the road I wasn’t sure where I could access the canal but knew it would be on my right. Coming to a large junction I spotted my route and turned right to join the canal at a road bridge. There were five potential routes from this one spot and so I was glad I’d plumped for the right one.

Reaching the canal I turned left and continued walking out of the village. I knew I would have to turn around fairly soon but was keen to explore a little way in both directions.

I got talking to a chap walking his dog and enquired as to whether when I turned to head back I could come off the canal nearer to the garden centre. He explained I could but that it was easy to miss the point of exit as it wasn’t obviously a footpath. Armed with full instructions and a warning that if the garden centre appeared on my right then I’d missed the turning I turned and started walking back in towards Walsden.

I found the exit very easily with the instructions I had been given and I almost certainly wouldn’t have noticed the way out without the clear description from the chap I’d chatted to earlier..

By this time I had wandered for around an hour, using both rolls of Delta and enjoying the opportunity to wander out of doors. I made the last exposures with the S3 Pro just yards from the point at which I would rejoin the main road and decided not to load new rolls but to return to the car. My headache was no more, I had a few new nettle stings and the opportunity for a cool bottle of water was very appealing.

My favourite from the day

Back at the car I unloaded both cameras, checked Twitter on my phone and caught up with notifications and new posts from overnight and enjoyed a drink of cool water (always park in the shade folks). My wife is known for completely losing track of time at a garden centre, or any shop for that matter, but in the event she was only in there for three hours or so which by her standards is a quick visit. We celebrated this achievement by sitting in the car with an ice cream each before heading for home. Driving back, with some decent latent images (I hoped) on the films nestling in the pocket of my shoulder bag I reflected that it had been a grand day out.

I #believeinfilm

“How do we want to use our artistic voices? Do we want to elicit a favourable response from others by playing to the crowd, or do we want to speak the Truth as we see it with the things that we make, even if the response from people isn’t the one we want?”

Sean Tucker – The Meaning in the Making

These are not my words, they are from photographer Sean Tucker, known to many for his YouTube channel but watched I suspect by many people just to hear his philosophies on life and in particular the art of photography. He articulates better than I’ve ever done a recurring theme in my own personal philosophy towards my photography. I was only truly happy with my work when I stopped playing to the gallery.

This conscious ploughing of my own photographic furrow started a few years back and pre-dates me joining Twitter and engaging with fellow photographers, mostly film photographers, and encountering the #believeinfilm community. I have found that by consistently being true to myself I’ve connected with like-minded souls. Some have similar tastes to mine but many have different tastes and I’ve enjoyed seeing and discussing their work immensely. I have also enjoyed seeing the pleasure others derive from their own work and this encourages me to stay true to myself. Whilst it’s not necessarily influenced changes in my own approach it has definitely led to a greater appreciation of other approaches and been a source of inspiration and motivation. Oft times too it has sparked an idea which I’ve then run with on my own terms as it were.

That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes post a “crowd-pleaser” for the enjoyment of others. I do – but only work that remains true to myself and thus I hope that it is not solely for my own gratification (although we all appreciate an ego stroke occasionally). I’ve also learnt how much pleasure, and at times inspiration, these images give to others. I make that last assertion carefully, it’s not intended as arrogance but in recognition of the mutual support the community gives to each other.

This support ranges from the emotional to the practical and I’ve encountered so much of it in the twelve months I’ve been active on Twitter that it’s changed my own attitudes too. In the last few months I’ve loaned out five different cameras, one of which is doing a UK Tour, gifted many items that I no longer need but others would find useful and provided support in many other ways by sharing my experience and learnings from the last 45 or more years. In return, I’ve had the chance to borrow cameras and even glass plate holders, tap in to a wealth of knowledge, exchange ideas and experiences and learn from so many talented photographers. This corner of social media has for me turned out to be a friendly, supportive one that I look forward to dipping into every day.

Another quote from ST:

“… find joy in the act of photographing alone and not necessarily from the results.”

Sean Tucker – The Meaning in the Making

Again, this captures exactly how I feel. There have been many times when I have been totally underwhelmed by a strip of negatives yet have had so much pleasure in the process, from loading the film through to hanging the negatives to dry that I don’t feel in the slightest bit disheartened. The physical act of creating those negatives in all its tactile glory has often been enough for me. This quote also ties in nicely with my philosophy of creating work that makes you happy and count any positivity from others as a bonus.

I know that this has in some degree trodden old ground for me, but it has hopefully put that into its current context. I shall continue making film photographs until I stop enjoying it or until I’m robbed of the faculty to do so. I hope that I will continue to plough my own furrow, to share and interact with like-minded photographers around the globe and gain enjoyment from the sum of the many parts that form the hobby and not get fixated on simply the outcome – however important it is.

Posted to my blog with thanks to the whole #believeinfilm community on Twitter.

A stream of consciousness

My last blog post generated a fair bit of conversation over on Twitter even though the images themselves were only to be seen in the accompanying video. To rectify that here are a few “views”extracted from the rather long negative.

As experiments go it was one of my more successful and whilst I cannot claim it as an original idea, I’m sure its been done many, many times in the past, it was new to me. Roman on Twitter kindly commented:

I like these photos a lot. Feels like a kaleidoscopic impression of a walk.

Roman W S on Twitter

I’d seen them as a visual stream of consciousness but like Roman’s description too. It’s given me an idea for a variation on the occasional 9 in 45 series. Just need to find the right opportunity – perhaps Holga Week in October?

It’s a hobby!

It’s drizzling this morning. That fine, almost unnoticeable kind of rain that leaves you soaked in under ten minutes. The sky is like a huge soft box; white, tending towards grey, unbroken cloud lining the heavens and ensuring that there are no places for shadows to lurk. It’s a lose-lose situation for the photographer. Everything is dull and uninspiring, colours seem to be hiding, shyly withholding their colourful bounty. The contrasts between light and shade, the black and white photographers stock in trade, are barely noticeable.  In short, a morning that will be challenging for both colour and black & white practitioners of this dark art we call film photography.

It’s also the first day this week when I’m free to indulge my hobby and get out with a camera and a roll of film.  There’s something special in getting out with a camera especially these days when we’ve spent so long confined to our houses. As a result even a wander around my local patch, something I’ve been restricted to in many ways, is still a pleasure.  Whilst I was “shielding” I didn’t leave the house except to sit in the garden. Four months, which could have been a nightmare, but were not thanks to my hobby. Since Lockdowns have eased and then subsequently been lifted I’ve made a few trips outside of the area but photography has still been largely confined to a one or two mile radius of my front door.

Infrared film photography in the front yard

Returning to my four months confinement. Four months in which I actually bought a new camera kit despite not being able to get out and play with it.  I spent the time instead playing with apples and pears, photographing them using window light on my new-to-me Bronica medium format kit and even making the effort to set up the monorail large format Calumet camera.  I even made some darkroom prints, something I don’t often do outside of the Winter months.  Determined not to be defined by my incarceration I actively looked for things to do to keep me active, to keep me interested and to keep me from getting down in the dumps. I bought some black and white toners and played with those. I decommissioned the darkroom in my cellar and relocated it to my study taking advantage of the growing number of places now willing to deliver almost anything including large sheets of MDF.

Moving the darkroom upstairs

Freed from the shackles of confinement I bounded out of the door every morning with a camera and a roll or two of film and became better acquainted with my local patch.  With families not allowed to mix and my live-in daughter furloughed my child minding services were not required. For the first time in years I was free to do what I wanted. And I did.  I discovered an aptitude for urban photography hitherto hidden from me. The very ordinariness and familiarity of my surroundings made me work harder and with this came the rewards associated with working harder.   A few months later I was to discover the world of swing-lens panoramic cameras but that’s well documented already.

Two minutes from my back door

But, back to today. It’s an hour later and I’m sat in a local cafe enjoying a Full English with a mug of strong, black tea. It can truly be called builders tea not least because most of the clients this morning are from a couple of local building sites.  The light has changed, it’s one EV brighter, but other than that it’s still the same.  The drizzle hasn’t abated and the pavements have a dark sheen, damp but not yet wet enough to provide reflections and the opportunity for the canny photographer to make images from these.    It’s sat here, that those months of walking the streets around my home looking with fresh eyes at familiar places, starts to repay in spades.  I’ve a plan and a pinhole camera, a roll of Fomapan 100 and a mini tripod.  All I lack is the cable release that will help keep everything stable with exposures in the minutes. 

Breakfast eaten, tea drunk and the bill paid I’m back on the streets again, armed only with a pinhole and a roll of film I’m ready to take on the day!