This weekend Zac decided he wanted to finish the roll of Ilford HP5+ in his Canon Ace and develop the film – himself!
We ended up developing the film, cutting and sleeving the negatives and this morning printing one of them in my makeshift darkroom. Wherever safe and practical he did everything himself and as we worked we chatted about what we were doing and why. It was a very nice way to spend a few hours with my Grandson and we both enjoyed ourselves.
On a whim I posted a fifteen second video of him agitating the developing tank to my Twitter account. Expecting my usual 20-30 interactions I was stunned when my phone started going crazy. Within twenty-four hours it had racked up over 4,500 views, 33 people had retweeted it and around 60 have commented on it.
Who knew that a 15 second snippet of video could attract so much attention!
Whilst I have been making digital photographs since around 2003 I actually took up photography in the 1970s so I have always kept an interest in the film photography world and have also continued to shoot the occasional roll of film. Thus it was no surprise to me when I found myself shooting film more regularly in early 2019. What had been half a dozen rolls a year became a couple of rolls a month. My year-end tally for 2019 however still showed that around 85% of my photography was still digitally based.
This was the situation going in to 2020 and then the World as I knew it went mad. However, despite the pandemic and despite shielding at home for four months, I still made images. On digital and film. Thus it was that by the end of 2020 the situation had reversed and over 90% of my photography that year was film based; I shot and developed 180 rolls of film, both 35mm and 120, along with around 40 sheets of 5×4 film.
Well, initially it was down to Lockdown that affected me from mid-March until early August 2020. Not being able to go beyond my front gate for over four months I ended up reading more and I also bought a few more rolls of film to amuse myself. Cameras that had been in boxes for years saw the light of day, were cleaned and brought back into use. A few purchases to replace lost filters or minor accessories such as eye-cups soon became a project to build up a full Bronica ETRS medium format film system; don’t ask me how! By the time I emerged from my isolation in early August 2020 I was shooting film daily and almost exclusively.
It wasn’t all film though. My 365 Challenge, which I had started in October 2017 was still going strong and my most-used tool for this job was still the Fuji X100T. I realised however that I was using it like a film camera, often taking just one or two images with the 365 in mind. In early August when my consultant gave me the thumbs-up to take short walks I found myself walking to every corner of the small town I live in. Nowhere is more than 20 minutes walk, so forty minutes there and back. This was when my ongoing project, documenting Elland’s urban landscape on black and white film, was born.
This project however hit top gear in October thanks to an impulse buy. I bought a new-to-me camera, the Horizon Kompakt. A Russian-made, swing lens camera for shooting 120 degree panoramas on 35mm film.
Needing to run a few rolls through to test the camera and also get it moving freely again I bought a brick of 35mm film and got out of the armchair and onto my feet. I found that as each completed roll of negatives hit the light pad I was starting to see subtle changes in the way I was using the camera; my eye was becoming attuned to the panoramic format and how to create depth within the image. All the usual photographic skills however, nothing different or new. Simply using light and shade, shapes within the urban landscape and utilising the sound knowledge of exposure acquired through years of using cameras manually and regularly choosing not to use the automatic modes or at least knowing when to override the electronic Brain in the camera. Of course, many of the cameras I’m using these days are purely mechanical with no electronics. The Kompakt for example is clockwork as is the Horizon S3 Pro I bought as a late Christmas present to myself.
One of the first tangible results of this project was a ‘zine’. An A5 Landscape book/magazine with 50 pages of 170 gsm silk paper with a 350gsm gloss cover. Over 20 double page spreads where incorporated and I was thrilled with the quality. I had twenty copies printed, kept one for myself and sold the rest via Twitter so fellow film photographers in the UK, EU and America; so I covered my costs too which was a welcome bonus.
I will return to the project in a future blog post but in the meantime to celebrate my return to full-time film photography and the start of my urban panoramas project I’ve included a few images in this post come from the first few months of seriously shooting film panoramas.
FOOTNOTE: When I first returned to using film more extensively I initially felt that I had left the warm cozy world of photography magazines, unlimited YouTube videos and countless other online resources relating to digital photography and in to an arid desert. But I was wrong. There is a thriving worldwide online community dedicated to film photography and none more so than on Twitter. Many images get shared but the biggest plus for me is that there is real interaction and it is on the whole done in a fabulously generous and tolerant way.
I’m now 15 days into the 63-2017 project and have created a Flickr album to house the growing collection of images in the 63-2017 series at https://flic.kr/s/aHskr3ELaY
With a lot of domestic and club responsibilities this week I can honestly say that without the focus of the picture-a-day challenge the cameras may well have stayed in the bag this week. Instead, I have awoken each day with the thought in my head that I need to find my image. I am determined not to snap the garden at 11pm or grab a quick shot of baby eating tea just to fulfil the brief. It’s very satisfying therefore to note that most of this weeks images were pre-planned to a greater or lesser extent.
63-2017-9 is a case in point. I had this in mind from the start of the day and kept a close eye on the light as tea time drew near knowing I wanted a little bit of the blue hour to complement the orangey tinges to the night time streets.
63-2017-10 was the result of checking the weather apps the night before. It is shot from 190 feet above Marsden Moor as the sun rises and was a pre-planned image which saw me setting the alarm for an early start to drive to the moors. I was not expecting any frost based on the forecast but there was just a hint of the white stuff which reflected the first rays of the day. With the temperature down to 1°C and a bit of a breeze I soon lost all feeling in my ungloved fingers. Once the drone got above 200 feet (ie more than 1500 feet above sea-level at this location) the wind turbulence was too high for successful photography so with real pain in my finger tips I was probably grateful to bring the drone home and land it just a couple of feet from the car.
63-2017-11 – the River Calder from Elland Bridge is a favourite spot for images that I have visited countless times over the years. It involves a short but steep ascent of Got Hill one of the oldest streets in the town which is mostly cobbled and therefore lethal on wet autumn days with decaying leaves added to the mix.
I had originally intended taking a shot over the weir looking in the opposite direction but in the event decided to leave that shot for another day and to make a mental note to take a small tripod and neutral density filter with me to slow the shutter speed down. I also decided on the square composition to use so that is another 63-2017 image opportunity stored away for the right conditions. Despite having shot in these locations many many times in recent years it’s amazing what opportunities are still available with some thought.
63-2017-12 “A Warm Reception?” The windows were glowing warmly but the heavy front door was firmly shut and the sign says visitors must have a prior appointment. Number 12 in my 63/2017 series is one where I simply went for a wander to see what I could see and is the first in this series where the title came first and the image was made second. It’s a simple image but perhaps it tells us something about our society whereby a reception can look both warm and yet uninviting at the same time. I won’t ponder too much in case it gets pretentious!
63-2017-13 This is quite simply an homage to one of my favourite photographers although when he was here in 1937 he was shooting the scene in B&W. I’ve written about this part of Halifax dozens of times over the years and it was inevitable that I’d be drawn to create another image for the 63-2017 project. I have a different composition in mind that calls for some snow so we will see if 365-2018 provides the opportunity.
63-2017-14 was something I’d had in the back of my mind for a while. Amanda and I always observe the two-minutes silence on the 11th November and also on Remembrance Sunday when the two do not coincide. We also stand to watch the parade pass our front door on their way to the war memorial for the laying of wreathes and poppies before marching back to the church for the Sunday service. I have often wanted to create a photograph from the event but wanted something other than the usual images with poppies or veterans with rows of medals gleaming in the autumn sun. Inspiration came when I saw Amanda looking out of the bedroom window as they marched past on their way to the memorial and thus when they returned I was at said window watching and hoping that I would get a large enough gap in the procession to highlight some long shadows. This was the result and hopefully it is a poignant image especially on Remembrance Sunday and particularly when linked to its title of “The past casts long shadows”.
63-2017-15 So to number 15 in the series, todays image as I type this. I set off this morning with an image in mind but this was not it. A slight misunderstanding over timings meant I was not able to get to my chosen location after dropping my wife at work so I decided to make the best of the situation and shoot at the planned time but in a totally different location.
The biggest part of the challenge for me is not necessarily to take an image a day, although that will be tough I suspect, but to find something new to photograph every day when I am unavoidably confined to the house and therefore my shooting opportunities of necessity will be restricted to Elland. There are a few indoor projects on the cards for the winter months and on those days it will be easier but I don’t want to post an image of a water splash for seven consecutive days now do I?
I enter the third week of the 63-2017 Challenge in a good frame of mind and already have tomorrows image in the back of my mind. It won’t be long though until 365-2018 starts and I suspect that will be an even bigger challenge – or opportunity if you prefer.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted on the blog but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped making images or thinking for that matter. I have material for a couple of VLOGs, although I hesitate to call them that, they are more accurately personal video diaries to my mind, ones that I don’t mind sharing. There’s a lot of very well executed VLOGs on YouTube at the moment with exceptionally high production values hence my hesitation. There’s even a newly formed Facebook group celebrating UK landscape videos/VLOGs on YouTube.
I see in fact that it was October 20th that I last put electronic pen to digital paper, when I reflected on the phenomenon that was Ophelia,. Which isn’t as long a gap as I’d thought but long enough. I have made a token effort to process the images from the last five weeks and a selection have appeared on my Instagram feed and on my Facebook account. Not my Flickr account though. I seem to have completely fallen out of the habit of posting on Flickr, even though it’s the account I’ve had for the longest and is after all designed for photographers (allegedly, but that’s another story).
When I look back at what I’ve posted I will no doubt find that those I’ve processed so far are those that have instant appeal. The more thoughtful photographs will follow in due course and these will be the most fulfilling for me personally. As they are also those that are less likely to have that instant appeal they may not make it to Instagram at all. I find it amusing that I happily post anything that interests me to my blog, which is my more “grown-up” social media outlet yet hesitate to share the more challenging images to Instagram or even Facebook where the only people I interact with are people I know and in the main, are people I have met in the real world. It seems that my social media usage is falling into three buckets almost:
Instagram: Instant hit – an ego boost?
Facebook: sharing my best work primarily with my friends
Blog: sharing what I like, what I feel and think.
Arguably, this blog is my more honest face on the social media merry go round.
Throughout 2017 I have been following the “365” exploits of Maxwell Law, a member of the same camera club as myself whom I interact with mainly via Facebook, email and very occasionally the telephone. This has inspired me to do the same in 2018 and I’ve already applied to join the Flickr 365 group to which he belongs who hopefully will have space for me in the new year. I really do carry a camera, and not just a mobile phone camera, everywhere but whilst I use it regularly I do not use it every day. It will be interesting to see what being a member of a 365 group does for my photography. Will it reenergise my photography, will it become a chore, will I end up photographing the garden in the dark to grab that days shot? Will I last the year? A month? The first week? They don’t call them a challenge for nothing and I am at least going into this with my eyes open. It’s possibly the most social thing I will have attempted in recent years and no doubt I will cogitate on the subject over the next sixty-three days as we count down to 2018 and may even post a few words on the subject here.
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
This quote, delivered by Brutus in Act 4 of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar crops up regularly in fiction, from Agatha Christie to PG Wodehouse. Paraphrasing wildly, I take it to mean that we should seize opportunities and not be afraid to go with the flow. So this week I did just that.
For weeks, nay months, now I’ve rarely got out with a camera. Something always got in the way be it domestic chores, (grand)child care or, inexcusably, that the weather wasn’t that good. So last week I determined that on the three days when I didn’t “have” to be at home all day I would go out with the cameras for the morning and see what I could come up with.
Bright, sunny, cloudless blue sky. Undaunted, at 7:15am I threw camera and drone in the car and headed for Ringstone Edge Reservoir, not far from where I live in West Yorkshire.. The aim was to scout the location and identify possibilities for future shoots. My thought was that if I went and explored the access, ascertained parking opportunities, sized up the likely compositions and with the help of The Photographers Ephemeris identified where the sun set and rose I would be better placed when the light was “right” to take advantage of conditions. I produced a short video for the blog detailing my mornings work.
The outcome? There definitely is potential for both still and aerial photography at the reservoir and I have identified several key vantage points from which to shoot in the future and also noted what conditions are likely to be best at each. It was far too windy for the Mavic to be too far away from me so I contented myself with some aerial landscapes with the drone reasonably close to me, albeit ninety feet above me at times. I found the drone really effective for taking landscapes from around twenty feet up which gives a different perspective compared to a tripod-mounted shot. I will definitely return with both a stills camera and the drone when the opportunity arise.
Harden Beck is a stream that flows from Hewenden Reservoir to the River Aire in Bingley, West Yorkshire. The beck flows through Goit Stock Wood, which is known for being a good example of broadleaf woodland and cascades over Goit Stock waterfall which is 20 ft high. The waterfall was known as Hallas Lumb until the early 1820s when its name was changed to Goit Stock.
Tuesday dawned bright and sunny with another cloudless blue sky. Yet, at 7:10am I was bounding out of the door with camera bag in hand and heading for the door. I had been to this location previously but had never approached it from the south before so was accessing the falls from a different angle. In the end I shot mainly video footage on the Fuji X-T20 and produced a short video for this blog but I also managed a few reasonably decent monochromes which were a bonus. So another successful outcome.
Would the impetus see me through the week for the final planned excursion on the Friday? Or would the necessity of being at home Wednesday and Thursday return me to my normal lethargy?
7am. Grey skies, heavy drizzle and a 10% chance of it raining at any given point of the day. What is a photographer to do when the house is warm and he’s half way through an excellent novel? Why jump in the car of course!
Stopping briefly at a well-known fast food outlet for a breakfast wrap I headed for Ogden Water Country Park & Nature Reserve, also in West Yorkshire. There are lots of paths to explore as you walk round the reservoir going well up into the woods and beyond but I chose a short circular walk through the first area of woodland and along one side of the reservoir. It was still drizzling steadily when I arrived but I walked to the top of the picnic area which gives a great view over the reserve and happily ate my breakfast and supped black coffee from the flask I had brought with me.
Whereas Monday had been mainly about stills photography and endeavouring to grab some drone footage this trip turned out to be mostly a test of my videography skills. It was a very productive three hours as I concentrated for the first time on simply shooting for video rather than trying to think about stills and moving imagery. I’ve yet to edit the footage together but I had a quick look this morning and am hopeful that I’ve got the material for another in my “Recce” series of blog posts and associated videos.
Oh and that 10% chance of rain? Make it 90% and it would be nearer the mark!
So, I really made the effort this week. Identifying three days when I had the opportunity to get out of the house with my cameras and making sure I did just that. It’s too easy to take the easy option and sometimes we do need to seize the day as it were. It’s Saturday as I write this and I am already looking at the weather forecast for next week. Once again I am going to be free to wander Monday, Tuesday and Friday next week and Brutus’ words are already ringing in my ears.
What do you do when for whatever reason you find yourself going through a barren spot creatively? I used to worry about it but no more, chiefly because it’s happened so many times over the years it’s almost an integral part of the process for me. Plus of course, I also have my cure-all right here on my doorstep, literally. The back yard!
So after a few very unproductive weeks I got the chores done early this Saturday and headed back home to grab the camera and have a play in my own backyard. I did not create enough material in June to accompany a six minute video diary for the blog but was hoping to get some images I could use to create a slideshow to make up some of the missing footage. With temperatures touching 40 degrees (Celsius) at midday it was not ideal for plant photography but that wasn’t really the point. The point was to grab the camera and play.
I even played with some bokeh before I went outside by photographing an orchid in the front room using the front yard beyond as a front-lit backdrop (image at top of page). I’ve not really played with the Samyang 85mm prime lens yet but popped it on the X-T1 just to see how it played. Your mileage may vary as they say but I was happy with how it turned out. It’s a manual focus lens that I bought mainly for portraiture but which I’ve not yet had a chance to use properly. The focus ring is reassuringly stiff and I found it easy to focus precisely especially using the X-T1s focus peaking capabilities.
My go-to camera at the moment is the Nikon D7100 simply because that is the body to which the Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens is attached and the Sigma is my favourite lens for playing in the back yard.
I have just nipped indoors to post this on the blog having written it on my iPad first, wish me luck as I return outside to hunt for some more images for the “June” video diary update!
You may have realised that I spend a lot of time in my backyard. I often eat my breakfast sat on the upper patio (that sounds grand!) and when weather permits I like nothing better than sitting with a mug of tea and contemplating life. As well as domestic duties (note the washing line) it is also one of my main photographic locations as I’ve noted many times in my blog over the years.
So what I thought I’d do this week is something that Postcard Cafe actually suggested a month or so back and that is a slideshow of just a few of my favourite backyard images both old and new. I mentioned in a previous video post that I once owned two slide projectors and struggled vainly to produce the sort of slideshow that nowadays many photographers take for granted – I’m hoping that my 2017 attempt is better than my 1977 efforts!
So enjoy this selection, I always enjoy making photographs in the old back yard and I hope you enjoy seeing them.
It’s that time of the year when I spend hours fruitlessly trying to capture winged creatures in the garden. It’s like bashing your head on a rock and so I call it my annual penance as I rarely get something worth keeping.
Nikon D7100 with Sigma 105mm macro lens. Handheld 1/800th sec f7.1 ISO 400.
I was just about to close PS down for the day when I noticed that the last nine images I’ve worked on have all had flowers in them. Must be the start of my floral period, or perhaps it’s simply an interlude. Taken with a variety of cameras, Nikon D750, Nikon D7100, Fuji X-1 and the Fuji X-T20 which reflects how much variety I have enjoyed in terms of handling and also lens choice over the past few weeks. If it can be helped I try not to change lenses when out in a field of, say, rape seed crops and that has been what has happened here. Looking at the RAW files on my computer I can see that all five of my cameras has had at least three outings in the past three months, and some of them even more. Not sure how long this can be sustained, I usually have several lean periods every year, but enjoying it whilst I can!