Edgelands

Outskirts of Halifax – site of a disused railway track

When I was studying a few years back a couple of concepts really caught my imagination. One was psychogeography which I wrote about HERE. The other was the “edgelands” which is the subject of todays post. The two are for me interconnected as my own exploration of the edgelands concept in the past, and indeed more recently, has been conducted in the manner of the flaneur we discussed briefly in that earlier post.

For the purposes of my studies back then, the discussion about these edgelands was linked primarily to the book EDGELANDS: Journeys into England’s True Wilderness by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts published in 2011. I have just reread the book prior to writing this post and found it as engaging as the first time I read it over five years ago.

Take two steps backwards and you’d fall off the edge

So, to a definition. Farley and Roberts acknowledge that the term “edgelands” is not theirs. It seems that geographer Marion Shoard got there first. She wrote about England’s edgelands and gave them their name. The edgelands too are perhaps not really meant to be seen, no one creates edgelands to attract people to the space. As Farley and Roberts note they are more likely to be seen as a blur from a car window than experienced for their own sake.

For me, when we talk about the edgelands, we are thinking about those places where one urban space meets another or where town meets country. Typically they are untidy, neglected areas where neither town nor country have the ascendancy. And they shift too. Periodically, new development will sweep away the neglected periphery replacing it with something shiny and new. Yet there will always be edges, they don’t get rubbed out but are simply relocated.

If you know those places where overspill housing estates break into scrubland, wasteland; if you know these underdeveloped, unwatched territories, you know that they have ‘edge’.

Farley & Roberts
Halifax – edge of the town centre

Take my home town of Elland. The edges of the town clearly show the effect of the decline in industry, particularly the textiles and allied trades, that has caused Elland to become run down over the decades since textiles ceased to be King in this part of the country. Surprisingly, behind some of these crumbling and dilapidated walls business does go on, albeit in far less skilled trades and far less grand surroundings. But there’s no escaping that the periphery of town is in many ways no-man’s land. Unloved and neglected but still very much there. From time to time a piece of land is repurposed, perhaps a few new houses, but that simply relocates the edge; there is never a neat transition twixt the town and country.

The edgelands then represent a complex landscape, a debatable zone to quote Farley & Roberts. As the economic and social situation changes so too can the fate of these edges. High demand for new housing and the opportunity for a good profit for example can make that derelict plot on the edge of town more attractive to house builders than when the original factory that had been slowly decaying was demolished years before, the land left to its own devices and slowly being reclaimed by nature.

Revisit an edgelands site you haven’t seen for six months, and likely as not there will be a Victorian factory knocked down, a business park newly built, a section of waste ground cleared and landscaped, a pre-war warehouse abandoned and open to the elements. Such are the constantly shifting sands of edgelands that any writing about these landscapes is a snapshot.

Farley and Roberts
Development Opportunity

Photography too can only reveal a snapshot of the edges. A moment in time which few will remember and fewer still care for. As photographers it feels almost incumbent upon us to capture, to celebrate and to remember these fleeting edges.

But there’s the rub.

As photographers we tend to try to make our images as appealing as possible on the whole, especially those of us with a leaning towards the pictorial. Let’s face it unless the images are part of a documentary-style story who wants to see the crummy face of town? However, whilst I am at heart a pictorial photographer I have nevertheless always been drawn to the less-glamourous face of the towns and places I live and work in. I’ve even been known to seek out the grimier side of town when on holiday or visiting somewhere new. It seems I have a natural tendency to gravitate towards the edge.

Literally on the edge of Elland

As I perambulated around the edges of Elland a few weeks back I was musing on how run-down the town is and not for the first time started to wonder how I’d photograph it to attract visitors, say for a tourist information website. But, how much more interesting to document it as it really is. The plain, unvarnished truth rather than the glossy, beautified fiction of a tourist guide. In truth, I have lots of both types of these images already, particularly the less picturesque but these days I’m drawn to the edges even more. The pandemic is of course partly responsible for a change in behaviour as movement was restricted. I have probably walked more of the edgelands of Elland in the last eighteen months than in the previous eighteen years.

One thing that I’ve noticed more recently is that even the cobbled lanes running along the backs of terraced houses seem to constitute an edge. The periphery of a back yard where it abuts the unadopted lane, no one willing to “own” upkeep of either and so the edges creep like tendrils into the town. As an urban photographer there is a seemingly never ending supply of subjects for my lens. That I tend to photograph the edges using a more pictorial rather than documentary style is perhaps how I put my own stamp on edgelands images.

Are you drawn to the edges? Do you lend a pictorial eye to these less-loved spaces? I’d love to know your thoughts on the subject!

Psychogeography

A few years back I completed a diploma in photography. Much to my disappointment at the time virtually all of the course was theoretically based rather than practical and a grounding in art history and appreciation was taken for granted it seems. Without an art foundation course under my belt I struggled if I’m honest. Exploring personal motivation, history, art theory and influences amongst other topics I eventually fell out with my tutor as he wouldn’t (couldn’t?) accept “because I liked it” as a motivation for making an image. When I started inventing motivations to satisfy the academic requirements I knew this wasn’t something for me and so rather than complete the full degree I took my credits and the award of the diploma. However, there were two subjects that did pique my interest and that I have explored further since. These were psychogeography and the idea of exploring the periphery of our towns and living spaces which were given the label “edgelands”. In this post I want to consider psychogeography, hopefully I will return to the edgelands concept in a later post.

I wrote a full, hopefully academic, essay on psychogeography back in 2015 or thereabouts and much to my frustration have been unable to find it despite my best efforts. So, I will need to start afresh. And I might just ditch the academic rigour whilst I’m doing it. 😀

Psychogeography was founded in 1955 by Guy Debordas as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals”. It is also a term much associated with photography these days, particularly in the academic environment. As far as I see it, there appear to be two main ways in which photographers approach this genre, although I doubt that there is one “true” way to approach the activity.

For the likes of Pedro Guimares in his project ‘Bluetown’, and Marco Barbieri’s project ‘Our Drinking Habits’, both have set out a code as the basis of their wandering. Guimares’s code determines the location he will stop at to take a photo, with each photo in the series linked by this code. Barbieri’s code is the choice of object (ie evidence of street drinking) before he then wanders to find that evidence.

The alternative approach is to decide on an area to wander to find what catches the photographer’s eye. A series is then bound by the link between place, photographer and choice of subjects chosen in that area. Debra Fabricius’s project ‘Urban Drift’ is a good example of this approach where she wanders along a pre-defined area and photographs what catches her eye. This creates a commentary on that place along with its relationship to the photographer.

Author Will Self in his book “Psychogeography” noted that the psychogeographic fraternity is typically middle-aged males “armed with notebooks and cameras”. Now, I probably resemble that remark, although perhaps a bit older than the typical! He also likened psychogeographers to “local historians with an attitude problem”. Make of that what you will!

The concept of the flaneur is a key one within psychogeography. The French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) described the flaneur as a person who walks their environment in order to experience it. As I was writing that now-lost essay I realised that a lot of my approach to my hobby fits very neatly within psychogeographic principles.

Occasionally I will undertake what I call a “9 in 45” where I will decide on a starting point and then walk, often at random, for 45 minutes, stopping every five minutes, exactly, to make a photograph (within 60 seconds) of my current surroundings. Nine photographs therefore in forty five minutes. I believe that this too fits within the spirit of psychogeography as related to photography. Since the start of the pandemic the majority of my photography has been urban in nature, and almost exclusively the result of random wandering around Elland turning left and right as the whim takes me.

For me a wander with a camera is in a sense a form of therapy. Walking, exercising, looking and seeing, remembering and thinking are all potential attributes of this form of photography to my mind. It’s an opportunity to turn off the noise that constitutes twenty-first century living. A perambulation around the streets of my childhood or any of the towns and cities in which I’ve lived and work will throw up many memories and feelings. Walking along the local stretch of canal however is both familiar and alien. Familiar in that I’ve walked these towpaths countless times in the last few years yet alien as they stir no real memories for me – as yet. I still manage to “lose” myself however, pondering the history of the canal or losing myself in memories of different places and times. The longer I live here however, the more localised my memories are becoming and the canal is slowly but surely becoming less alien and evolving into the familiar.

For those of you wanting a diversion from pure photography I can highly recommend digging into this subject a little deeper. It is possible, if desired, to avoid the overly academic and to relate elements of psychogeography to the photography of many of us so there is something for everyone regardless of whether you like the theoretical, academic or simply the practical.

In particular an account of the flaneur may well strike a chord for some of you!

All three images taken on the day this post was written, within ten minutes as I walked from car park to dentist.

It’s all about the feeling …

I’ve been making photographs since my teens and after nearly fifty years of the hobby I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not about what you use to make photographs but about how you feel when you’ve got a camera in hand. I’m currently thinking about what kit to pack for a few days on the coast and as ever it will be a mix of film and digital. One of my pinhole cameras will certainly make the cut as will my 35mm film swing-lens panoramic camera and my drone. But what about my “daily” camera? Film or digital? DSLR, SLR, compact, rangefinder?

I’ve got it down to two, both digital as it happens. My recent purchase, an elderly Canon 5DII DSLR is currently favourite despite the fact that the other, a mirrorless Fujifilm X-H1, is arguably the better of the two, particularly in terms of ergonomics. The Canon has a fixed screen and basic live-view compared to the tilting screen of the Fuji with its well thought through live view and EVF. The Fuji is lighter and smaller, has better low light performance and I love the JPEGs it produces. I also have a better choice of lenses for the Fuji.

So why am I dithering? Put simply it’s how the Canon feels in the hand.

I used exclusively Canon kit for many, many years starting with a Canon AE1 and so when I moved to digital it was logical to stay with them. I started with the diminutive 400D and progressed through various models until I was using a full-frame Canon 5DIII, which is what I used for the image above. Even though it’s a few years since I swapped systems, it turns out that I still retain a lot of muscle memory from so many years behind a Canon viewfinder. Picking up the 5DII a week or two ago just felt natural. I wanted to go out and make photographs. It fits my hand well, it is surprisingly familiar still despite it being several years since I last picked up a Canon DSLR.

How a camera feels in your hand, how it makes you feel when using it and the pleasure you get from using it are just as important as the camera specs in my view.

Yes, I enjoy using the X-H1. Yes, I really like the quality of images it produces. But, picking it up doesn’t make me want to immediately rush out and take some photographs.  I’ve been using it this morning as it was the right tool for the job today, and whilst the images are exactly what I’d hoped for I didn’t get the same buzz from making them as the old Canon provides.

Whenever anyone asks me what camera they should get I do my best to ask questions and help them narrow the field BUT I always then recommend that if at all possible they should handle them before choosing. A few years back a very good friend of mine had narrowed his choice to a couple of Canon DSLR models, partly because he’d borrowed one of mine. He was however pretty certain which of the two he’d plump for having regard for their relative specs.  However, when we visited a camera store together I encouraged him to handle several other models.   He left the store with a Nikon D700 DSLR. When I asked why he went for that one he replied “it just felt right in my hand”. I’ve never forgotten that moment.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, if you are a first-time buyer or someone looking to upgrade, don’t be swayed purely by specs. Or by what others say about particular models.  Pick it up and ask yourself the question … “does it feel right?”

As for my current decision … I’m taking both! Now, what film should I take for the pinhole?


This post first appeared in a slightly different form on my Ko-Fi pages. https://ko-fi.com/post/Its-all-about-the-feel-H2H8BHMCH

Review of 2021 (Part 4)

My “365” Challenge for 2021

Looking at the mosaic (above) of the images from the 2021-365 Challenge I was struck by how “black & white” it was. Bear in mind too that the majority of these images are digital with the minority being created on film. It turns out that around 90% of these daily images is in B&W, which actually correlates quite strongly with the film stats for 2021 too. Around 96% of the roll films I used in 2021 were B&W and the percentage for LF is closer still to 100%. Ilford HP5+ was my most used film with Fomapan 100 pushing it a close second. Unsurprisingly these are my go-to films for my panoramic cameras and pinhole cameras respectively.

This fourth, and final, post covers the period October to December although sad to say the year ended as it started with just the single post in the last month. October though was another busy month blog-wise with sixteen posts, Holga Week, the arrival of the 6×17 pinhole camera and even a few days Shropshire, an area we had not explored previously.

The RSS 6×17 brought with it the need for a new “scanning” approach

I rarely write technique guides but in both October and November I wrote fairly extensively about digitising negatives (a three-part series) and about the Trichrome process (five posts in total). Another essay appeared on the theme of doing your own thing photographically and allowing yourself to have fun with it. Not conforming to the whims of others was a recurring theme in my blog over the year.

Two images taken for my own amusement – I practice what I preach in that regard!

October saw Holga Week and my first participation in this annual event. I entered into it wholeheartedly and dedicated six posts to the event. Using a Holga 120N exclusively for a week was fun, even the roll where I inadvertently switched the camera into bulb mode for all but one image. Guess it could be labelled UnIntended Camera Movement (UCM) rather than the more often seen Intentional Camera Movement (ICM).

UCM – not for the conformist!

In November I finally succumbed to Andrew K’s suggestions and gave Trichromes a try … Trying Trichrome was the obvious alliterative title and I didn’t resist its lure. For many reasons I haven’t pursued it further since working out a process that suits me but that will be rectified over the coming months as I have plans for some large format trichomes possibly even glass plate trichomes but that needs to wait for some better weather.

During November I also reflected upon my ongoing 365 Challenge which celebrated its fourth anniversary at the end of October.

Reality So Subtle 6×17 pinhole

Review of 2021 (part 3)

So far we have wandered through my blog posts from January to July 2021. A total of around sixty posts over the first seven months of the year. Over the next two months though I added thirty five more posts, twenty four of these in August alone. We spent two days in Salford Quays during August and I somehow managed to create eight blog posts from that two-day trip.

Media City, Salford Quays, 12th June 2021 Horizon S3 Pro and Rollei Blackbird

August saw a couple of essays, one a slightly tongue-in-cheek dissertation on how film, not love, is the drug contrary to what Roxy Music might say. The other was more serious and talked about camera club competitions and how the desire to please the judges leads to homogeneity and stifles personal expression. It was a topic I have returned to many times throughout the year including a further essay in September entitled “I #believeinfilm”.

KMZ FT-2: subject of eight blog posts in August alone

I made more use of 5×4 (4×5?) during August and September including a four-day project over five days in September when I visited and revisited a small patch of local woodland with the Intrepid 5×4 and both film and glass plates. Entitled “Into the Woods” this was a spontaneous project and ultimately one of the highlights of 2021 for me.

From the “Into the Woods” series
J Lane ASA 2 dry-plate Intrepid 5×4 camera
16th September 2021

In September we also managed a few days on the coast which provided me with a rare opportunity to fly my drone an all-too infrequent event over the last couple of years.

So, August and September were the most productive in terms of my blogand unsurprisingly in terms of film usage too. These two months accounted for a quarter of my total rolls of film in 2021.

Whilst 5×4 played an important part in my 2021 it was roll film that predominated, Over 230 rolls of film went through 24 different cameras (remember excluding LF) and almost a third of those were exposed in the Horizon S3. Panoramic cameras accounted for around 40% of my roll film usage in 2021. Over 20% of my total for 2021 were pinhole meaning almost two thirds of my roll film usage last year was attributable to panoramas or pinholes.

It was indeed my year for panoramas and pinholes!

I’ve not compiled the stats for my large format photography in 2021 but have a feeling that pinhole will make a very good showing there too. If I get time I shall include some LF numbers in the fourth and final part of my 2021 retrospective.

Review of 2021 (part 2)

After a slow start blog-wise to 2021 things picked up apace and from March to July I averaged around ten posts each month. I never set a monthly target for blog posts, preferring to only post when I’ve something to say, but nevertheless like to see a healthy output of writing to complement the photography.

One of the projects that I started in May was a new zine, entitled A Sense of Place, which brought together a series of images all made in or around water. My “happy place” as it were, as I love being beside water be it the sea, a river, a lake or a reservoir – I even enjoy the rain sometimes! The initial intention was to print and sell the zine to recover my costs but ultimately I made it available to anyone who wanted it via the ISSUU website.

Also in May was a very small set of images made with a swing lens panoramic camera in the back streets of Halifax town centre. The resultant images, documented in a blog post entitled “Here Be Rats”, were a totally unexpected hit on Twitter and amongst my favourite images of 2021.

Halifax town centre 10/5/2021 Adox Silvermax, Horizon S3, FX55 developer
Here be Rats. Have you ever peered behind the facade of your town centre? I do reglarly, in the name of urban photography, and the service yard behind these four fast food premises in Halifax town centre on 10/5/2021 were a sight and smell to behold. I didn’t stay long as the rats were getting curious! Adox Silvermax, Horizon S3, FX55 developer

In June I wrote “An Ode to a Wooden Box”, a blog post that subsequently became another zine which I gifted to my friends in the Twitter #believeinfilm community. I really enjoyed all my excursions with my various pinhole cameras over the course of 2021 using them for my “365”, in urban settings at home and whilst away from home, on the sea shore and in fact at pretty much every location I visited during the year. For obvious reasons my travel was severely restricted this year but I still managed to get quite a large number of films through my pinhole cameras over the twelve months.

June also saw the start of an ongoing project that came to dominate the blog in July. A series of “dry” posts chronicled my entry into the world of dry glass plates using both my large format Intrepid 5×4 camera and also my 5×4 pinhole cameras (a Titan and a Zero Image). Over the Winter months I paused the project but there are a supply of plates in my cellar awaiting the Spring when I will resume my experiments. A very niche subject in a relatively niche hobby I guess.

Zero Image pinhole camera and a J Lane dry glass plate 25/7/2021

July saw another essay, this time pondering on the longevity of digital images as a source of family memories. It was more than anything a plea to print out these precious memories rather than trust to the anonymity of a computer hard drive or the inimitable cloud drive where I suspect so many family memories fester unseen. My large format pinhole camera continued its travels on it’s “world” tour and the growing group of participants kept up a lively and often irreverent discussion online. Meanwhile, I continued to expose film in my pinhole cameras and develop an even fonder affection for the genre.

I am not a huge podcast follower but there are a small number that I tune into fairly regularly. One of these is The Lensless Podcast so you can imagine my pleasure at being invited to take part in an episode during July 2021. I was apprehensive to start but it turned out to be one of the highlights of my photographic year. The host, Andrew, coined the phrase “a photographic butterfly” when introducing me and that indeed does describe my current approach to the hobby as I have eagerly attempted a host of new challenges throughout the year and indeed have plans for more in 2022.

The image that launched Dave’s Pinhole Camera World Tour 2021
Olympus EE3, Rollei Blackbird rated at 64. Id11 (1+1) 10.5mins

As a further development on the panoramic theme, and not content with using the various panoramic cameras at my disposal, I chose a half-frame camera to create, in-camera, joiner-style panoramic such as the one above which uses six consecutive frames from an Olympus EE3. I also “discovered” Rollei Blackbird during 2021 which in the right situations proved to be a fabulous film.

Three vertoramas from the KMZ FT-2
ONDU 6×6 pinhole at Salford Quays

This was the second part of my 2021 retrospective, I’ve deliberately refrained from putting “nth of x” because I’ve not yet written subsequent parts … we will see when we get to the end how many parts there were!

Isn’t it ironic …

I’ve recently reread Nick Dvoracek’s book The Pinhole of Nature, and whilst doing so I made a few notes of particular passages that caught my eye.

A pinhole image of The Pinhole of Nature

“… it is rather incongruous to make a negative by the most primitive method possible, and then, use such hightech methods to make the positive”

Nick Dvoracek The Pinhole of Nature

Now, this resonates quite strongly with me. Not least because it links back to some of the conversations I had last weekend. I do find it amusing (do I mean odd?) that I sometimes spend hours creating negatives or glass plates, only to copy them with a digital camera and import them into Photoshop to finish off. I typically only print from the negatives in my makeshift darkroom during the Winter months when shorter days and unpredictable weather are more likely to see me indoors.

I’ve commented before on the irony of going to the expense, and at times the trouble, to create images using so-called traditional methods only to then digitise them in order to share them with others. Modes of communication have changed and you are more likely to share images and even ideas with fellow enthusiasts via social media these days than in person.

Now, I could use an inkjet printer to make prints of these digitally finished images but that would mean buying a printer and I could never get cast-free black and white prints when I did own a printer. Or I could have prints professionally made, something I’ve done from time to time when I’ve wanted something to hang on the wall.

Media City, Salford Quays – this one hangs on my wall

But who would see them? Who for that matter sees my darkroom prints when I do manage to wrestle one out of my study cum darkroom?

I’ve decided , and your mileage may vary, that it doesn’t matter if I’m the only one who sees my prints because I’m the only person for whom I make prints. I’m certainly not yet competent enough to think about actually making darkroom prints for other people. Which segues nicely into another Dvoracek quote:

“I’m not sure if I could have come up with this good a print with traditional darkroom methods, and it would have taken me forever, wouldn’t be easily repeatable, and driven me crazy. I’ve never romanticized darkroom work.”

Nick Dvoracek The Pinhole of Nature

Now, ain’t that the truth!

Dvoracek was talking about using software and a printer to create digital prints of his pinhole images. He makes a great point. So long as the source file isn’t amended then in general the printer can churn out as many identical prints as you need. But, do we need to reproduce exact copies? If we are not selling prints then I’d argue it is not a necessity. And if we are selling prints isn’t the unique selling point of a darkroom print that it is a one-off?

At the end of the day we come back to a question I’ve posed before. Who are you making photographs for? The answer to that is key in determining if any of this actually matters in the final analysis.

Thoughts on …

I don’t often feel compelled to write a blog post but this morning I’m feeling the need to write … something … anything. Usually, if not from the start, as I finish the first sentence I know what my theme is going to be but today I’m not sure where I am headed.

I’ve spent the last five nights away from home. Initially, it was just the two of us but the last three nights have been spent in the company of members of a photographic group on the group’s annual Rally. The days have been spent out with a camera (never just one with me though) and the evenings spent talking “shop” and catching up on the domestic goings on of the other members. We only meet once a year and for the first few years we attended it was pretty much just photo-talk but as the years have gone on we have spent more time catching up on events in each other’s “real” lives. It’s alway a fabulous long weekend, regardless of the weather.

iPhone 11

This year we were in Shropshire, an area of the country I’ve only ever driven through prior to this weekend. It’s an area I hope to return to though. Until today the weather has been very kind to us. Today, I loaded the car in the rain and we very quickly decided that the planned walk would leave us uncomfortably wet, especially with a three hour, minimum, drive ahead of us. As “luck” would have it we passed a large garden centre just outside Shrewsbury which is why I’m sat pounding a keyboard – garden centres are the wife’s pleasure and definitely not mine!

But it’s give and take. She spent an hour or more yesterday sat on various rocks whilst I photographed a river, a waterfall and then a reservoir. Today is my turn to sit patiently. At least I haven’t had to scramble over slippery rocks and boulders nor have I slipped and slid down muddy river banks. I haven’t even had to wade across the same stream four times, so I count myself lucky.

My habit at home is to develop films on a daily basis, as I expose them basically. Being away, all that I’ve been able to do over the last few days is carefully stow the exposed film in the bottom of the suitcase ready for our return. I have taken a few images on my phone and also on my Fuji digital camera however so I’ve had something to play with in between the various activities of the day. It gives me something to share on social media and I often come up with something that pleases me aesthetically too.

Which leads me now to the point which, unbeknownst to me, this post has been heading all along. I am the only member of the group, which has around 100 members, who still works primarily with film. Two others use film occasionally but everyone else is fully digital. Most of those at the Rally were very interested in what I was doing. Many were amazed at the variety of formats I work with, pinhole, 35mm, panoramic, medium and large format; my regular reader knows how diverse my work is. A very small handful were frankly scornful. With all the digital delights available why was I messing with glass plates, large format cameras and everything else when “you can create the effect in Photoshop”.

But that’s just the point. Everything that they are creating in Photoshop is derivative of earlier photographic processes. They see no irony in the fact that I was creating with my hands a tangible artefact which they were also striving to create, albeit with software on a computer, to exist as only a string of data on a hard drive. One didn’t even realise that the term “dodge and burn” predates photo imaging software. Couldn’t understand how the basics of contrast, exposure, localised and global adjustments, toning and vignettes and much more all have direct references across to darkroom printing. They left much wiser than they arrived.

My philosophy with regards to photography is to try everything at least once. To gain as wide an appreciation of both the history and application of the subject. I have tried virtually all genres of photography, apart from extreme sports and underwater, some of these I enjoyed and continue to work in today, others weren’t my cup of tea and I moved on from. Currently I work primarily in film, predominantly black and white film which I process myself. I also dabble in glass plates and darkroom printing. A secret pleasure is drone photography, I have a full mirrorless system based on the Fuji X-series and have previously used Nikon and prior to that Canon full-frame DSLRs. I’ve been down the Photoshop rabbit hole, have some embarrassing reminders of the early HDR craze, composited images to create a completely fictional world. In short, I have spent almost fifty years learning and trying all sorts of photographic processes – cyanotypes any one?

So, my message to the two “less educated” individuals was that until they’ve tried something for themselves it might be wise to refrain from spouting “digital is the only and best method”. It has many benefits and even I continue to be amazed at what I can achieve in a few minutes on the computer. My first published piece was for Airfix magazine, over forty years ago, when I wrote an article showing how to create the impression of spaceships in flight with models, wire, fishing line, coloured gels and 40 watt bulbs. All on Kodachrome 64 slide film. So, no margin for error. What took me several days in the late 1970s can be done to a far better standard in minutes these days. But I bet I had more fun in the process!

I doubt if even my most patient and loyal reader has made it this far … but if you have thank you an mind as I pop my soap box away … until the next time!

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.