On being sociable

The flurry of posts here over the last few days didn’t go unnoticed in the land of the bird. “Are you becoming a Superblogger?” asked one, tongue firmly in cheek. Well, to give a serious answer to a not-so-serious question, no. Tried that, couldn’t keep up! Not just with coming up with something to say every day but finding time to write and post it. It was a bold experiment not least because I was working full time. But even noting that, I wouldn’t attempt it again even though I’m now retired.

This recent flurry, after a break of several weeks, does however serve to reaffirm that this blogger also has a life outside of social media. And outside of photography. My 365 continued, aided by the mobile phone and school run, but “serious” photography took a back seat due to unexpected and pressing family duties. It reminds me why I’m glad to be an amateur, without the demands of a professional practice. I could deal with real life without worrying about letting clients down.

For the record, I did briefly set up a portrait business soon after retirement. It was hard work albeit very enjoyable. However, the illness and death of my father, shortly followed by my uncle and then father-in-law meant that within six months I’d had to put the business on hold. When the time came to resume work I didn’t have the enthusiasm to start from scratch again, almost a year after pausing, that I took the pragmatic decision to return to strictly amateur photography – and the life of a full-time grandad!

One of, indeed probably the major, benefits of being resolutely amateur is not having to please anyone else. Not having to follow a brief, however vague, allows for full artistic freedom. I unashamedly make images for myself. Of course, if others enjoy an image then that is also fabulous; we all like to be appreciated and I’m not so self-centred that I don’t like applause from the sidelines. One thing that social media has done for me however is to introduce me to a group of people with similar outlooks, who appreciate the work that goes into an image and are always supportive even when work isn’t to their taste. I’m talking about the #believeinfilm community on Twitter of course.

I recently passed the 5-year marker on my picture-a-day (365) challenge. Belatedly I made reference to this milestone and amongst the responses was from Helen who commented on the mix of photographic methods I’ve employed over these five years:

“… mine was almost entirely digital – doing so many different types of photography along the way is just amazing.”

Helen H

It’s the type of support that we see daily from across the #believeinfilm community and means way more than any number of ticks, thumbs-up or heart emojis. Appreciated as these are its when people take time to engage that makes the time spent on social media worthwhile. And yes, any social media interaction worth having has to be worked at; you can’t simply post work then sit back and await the plaudits. The community works because people get involve, share ideas, provide feedback, encouragement and support. Like most things, the more you put in the more you get back.

“You are supporting my devious master plan of helping all photographers, across the world, enjoy their film cameras. I see you doing this too with your amazing blog!”

John F*

Another great thing about the community as I experience it is the diversity of experience and ways of working. From educators and authors through to complete newbies and every level in between, everyone within the community shares knowledge, ideas and even kit. I interact with photographers from around the globe and with such a diversity of photographic practices. Can you tell that I’m passionate about the #believeinfilm community?

So, I started by talking about the joys of being an amateur but this has ended up as an eulogy for the #believeinfilm community … I’ve even had to change the title of the post! If you are on Twitter please do come and say hello!

* The Art of Black & White Developing. John Finch

The Influence of Intent

Does intent influence photography? By which I mean that if I’m just out for a walk and happen to take a camera with me will my images be any different to those I’d have taken if I’d gone out intending to complete a dérive or make images for my portfolio? Or if I’m out and engaged in routine domestic activity will that change how I see the world through my camera? For that matter, does what photographic device I am carrying (phone, digital or film camera, pinhole etc) make any difference?

School run 28/9/22

I’ve probably not explained that very well so let’s take this morning. It’s a weekday and on most weekdays I leave the house around 8.20am to walk one of my grandsons to school. There are basically two routes and he always chooses; it makes no odds to me as both take the same time.

Today it’s the front door route. Out of the house, turn right and walk to the end of the terrace and through the enclosed path behind the pub. Down a slight incline, turn right and walk in a straight line until the school gates are reached. A simple walk, it takes under ten minutes, twenty if you include the return.

School run 28/9/22

On days like today I leave the house intending to return straight home after seeing Harry safely into the care of his teachers. I always have my phone and sometimes a camera as I often make an image during the walk back. I’ve been working on a picture-a-day project since October 2017 and these “insurance” images take the pressure off me if the day evolves in an unexpected way. So, whilst I have a camera the purpose of the walk is practical and mundane and definitely not something I’d class as a dérive. Or “serious” photography.

At this time of the year the sun is still working it’s way up above the terraced houses yet it still sneaks it’s way through the gaps, bouncing off windows and creating wonderful patterns and shapes. I can’t resist. Never.

School run 28/9/22

This morning I made four images during the journey. Each uses the shadows created by the rising sun as it filters through gaps in the houses. None are what I’d call pictorial; I doubt if anyone thinks they are pretty and they are certainly not traditional picture postcard material. I’m probably the only person who will like them, especially once I’ve removed the colour.

They aren’t really documentary images either except in the sense that they are documenting something I saw. Rather they represent the way I responded to the urban landscape. These are the vignettes, small slices of the landscape, that caught my eye this morning on a walk I’ve probably made hundreds of times now.

School run 28/9/22

As I’ve been writing and thinking this morning I’ve realised that, to answer my own question, whatever my reason for being out I still photograph with the same intent. What differs is the amount of time I can devote to the act of photographing the world around me. However, this is something that has evolved over time so in a way is a learnt behaviour. I do remember a time when I termed an outing as either a “serious” photographic expedition or a “snapshot” day. The former would inevitably be me alone with “proper” kit including a choice of lenses, two or three cameras and a bag containing filters etcetera. The latter? Any time when I was with a member of the family or when the trip was for a specific purpose other than photography.

So what changed? Well, I did I guess. I believe that subconsciously I must have gradually realised that any outing could form the basis for “serious” photography. Slowly the things that caught my eye when out with a camera started to merge into a more coherent form. Still an eclectic mixture but the “serious” and the snapshot have gradually merged and I just take photographs these days. Perhaps “serious” photography should be renamed as “my” photography?

Whilst not necessarily “pretty” my photography still exhibits fairly formal composition – part of my “style” perhaps?

Thinking about it, I have always made photographs that appealed to me. Yes, I went through a brief period of entering competitions and did so successfully. But I very quickly realised that in many ways I wasn’t being successful as a photographer but as someone who could identify an image that a camera club judge would deem worthy. I enjoyed the accolades at the time but it was a brief dopamine hit if truth be told especially as I realised that in a lot of cases I no longer liked my own photographs any more! I soon reverted to making work for myself. If anything I took a conscious step away from the typical camera club aesthetic and returned to film photography, embracing pinhole for the first time and in doing so found a photographic genre that really resonates with my view of the world.

Reading: pre-breakfast wander 25/9/22

I have habitually carried a camera at all times for the last fifteen or more years. Every time I leave the house I am full of intent. My intent is to capture images that resonate with my view of the world. Whether that’s through a day dedicated to the craft or something I fit around other activities is irrelevant to me. Be it a couple of quick images on my phone or several rolls of film. But it hasn’t always been like that and I’m sure the same is true for many people.

Turning briefly to the last question in my opening paragraph. What difference does the type of camera make? The only difference it makes these days for me is from a practical perspective. I routinely carry a wooden medium format pinhole camera in my bag and with exposures lasting into the minutes I am constrained in where I can place the camera in an urban environment by the need to stay out of peoples way. My panoramic swing-lens camera has a clockwork motor and is not a discrete tool; I was using it recently at an indoor exhibition (photography was allowed) and in the cavernous mill loft I was sure that people at the far end of the room could hear every exposure as it was made.

The Ian Beesley retrospective at Salt Mill

In truth I can only answer the question I originally posed through the lens of my own experience. For me the answer would be that it used to make a difference but not any more. I make images that appeal to me, that reflect how I interact with the world and how I interpret it. Increasingly, the images that I share are the most personal rather than sugar-coated picture postcards (think stunning sunsets or sunrises) and in many cases are the complete antithesis of the work currently in favour amongst many photography enthusiasts.

Finally, I spoke with someone yesterday that I’d not spoken to since before the pandemic. She and I had both been on the same college course a few years back and had stayed in touch. Writing on the college forum later she said: “Love the images you shared, very evocative and they are very much your style.” That made my day.

As for style that’s a topic for another day but perhaps the evolution of intent has been hand-in-glove with the evolution of my style?

I Want Rain

“What are you doing today? [subtext: I want you out from under my feet.]
“Depends. If it rains I’m going for a walk”
“I want rain!”

At Whenham Towers … 8am Saturday

It has been very dry of late. The urban landscape is dry. Parched grass, wilting flowers and dusty grey pavements. It needs rain. The plants and grass need rain. I need rain!

So I load the camera. Unsurprisingly it’s the Horizon S3 Pro, this time with a roll of Fomapan 400. The ONDU 6×6 pinhole is already loaded and sat patiently in my shoulder bag. But with what is it loaded?
The label has fallen off somewhere and apart from a guess of ISO 100 or 400 film I’ve no idea what is inside. No worries, I will expose at ISO 200 and push or pull as required when I develop.
Or should I expose at 400 thus giving a 50% chance of a normal development?

Decisions, decisions.

Fortunately, that decision can wait a while yet- SO, I wait.

Patiently(ish).

For the rain.

An hour later and I am still waiting. Patiently(ish). I check the weather app
on my phone. When I checked earlier in the day it had indicated that rain WAS due, around lunchtime, and that it would be heavy. How it reads “Mostly Cloudy”. It then teases with: “Rainy conditions due around 5pm”.

5pm! Even then it’s only a 50% chance of rain and sunny conditions are forecasted to return within an hour or so.

What does that mean for me now though? I want rain! The wife wants rain! Oh, and some daylight please. This is the UK. It ALWAYS rains here surely.

I settle back to wait patiently(ish).

It’s not easy though. I’ve spent three weeks either childminding or DIY-ing and I’m due a walk with a camera – in the rain!

Have I mentioned rain?

I sit. And wait.

Patiently(ish) .


Postscript: I’m still waiting

Polaroid Week 2022

This is Polaroid Week, an annual celebration of instant photography. I’ve had all sorts of instant cameras over the years but these days just a couple of Instax cameras adorn my shelf. However, there is a vibrant online community and I do enjoy seeing what is posted. From straightforward images of everyday life to fabulous fantasy creations the instant film community is thriving.

Out of date film is a lottery
But instant photography can be very rewarding
An instant twist on an iconic scene
One camera that I owned and used for a while is the Lomo’ Instant

I have however gone through occasional phases of using instant film as well as a fair number of different cameras and formats. I have blogged about it too of course on several occasions. My Perfectly Imperfect series springs to mind in this context too.

Priceless! Harry and the pepper plant he grew

So, whilst Instant photography isn’t something I do that often, it is priceless for capturing and sharing little moments. Harry is very proud of the pepper he grew from seed … this morning we took his picture with an Instax Wide and he’s proudly carried it to school to show his teachers. Priceless!

ps – the print behind mine is one he took himself

Lomography camera – Instax film
Double exposure: Instax Mini 90, Neo Classic.

So, to those of you celebrating Polaroid Week 2022, good luck, have fun and I’m with you in spirit!


The Big Orange
Finally, a link to the online ‘roid week album on Flickr

Cross Street – a work in progress

I photographed these disused, near-derelict houses in Cross Street a few weeks ago for my 365 Challenge and at the time decided to return when I got a chance with a medium format camera and a couple of rolls of black and white film. This short series of images puts Cross Street in context and finally focuses in on the small vignette that so attracted my attention on that first visit.

Looking at these again this morning before posting them to my blog I am thinking about printing them but also about producing a zine with a series of short urban vignettes such as this drawn from my local area. Before I do either of these though I need to reprocess them to produce a visually consistent set of images. I believe this will help tell a more coherent story.

Which, I guess, tells us a little about how we consume images these days. Increasingly, images are viewed individually as little bite-sized portions on social media. The photo-essay (and I’m not suggesting this post constitutes a photo-essay) is less often seen in an environment where individual images are the predominant form in which photography is viewed. That said, I actually took these with the intention of creating a short series that hopefully told a story but I then post-processed them as individual images over the course of an evening and morning. This was partly because I wanted to see how they had turned out and also partly because I wanted to post one to Flickr as that day’s image for my 365 Challenge. In other words, they were produced individually to feed social media in as timely a manner as possible. As such, the “final” series doesn’t fully reflect my aims when starting out so I shall consider this set as a marker along the way. A more visually coherent set is the next step, followed by a set of prints (I will print more than this selection and play with the sequencing on the table) and finally their inclusion in a zine as the “final” form.

So, having used this blog post to choose the final images and view them as a set, I will now transfer the RAW files onto the computer and re-process the final selection using a consistent and hopefully coherent treatment. I might even try a sepia feel to them too but that’s getting ahead of myself.


TECHNICAL NOTE: All of these were made with a Bronica SQ-A medium format film camera and I used two rolls of film, one my old faithful Ilford HP5+ which I rated at 250 ISO and processed in Perceptol and the other a new-to-me roll of Kodak TMax 100 which I developed in Rodinal (1+50). I “scanned” the negatives with a Fuji X-H1 and post-processing was done using the JPEGs on an iPad with the Snapseed app.

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

Flirting …

… with a DSLR!

Yes, I know, the “D” refers to digital and I’m primarily a film photographer these days. But whilst it was film in the beginning, there was a good-sized digital window along the way. Indeed, as I’ve recounted before it was a digital camera that rekindled my passion for the hobby at the point when my film use was down to a dozen rolls of 35mm – a year!

Canon 5DII and 28-135 EF lens

Just recently I’ve been confined to barracks again and with time on my hands and no inclination for anything strenuous I’ve been solving number puzzles and thinking back over my years in photography. Starting in the late 1960s with a Kodak Instamatic which I believe used 126 film. I’m not going to rehash a previous post except to say that my first experience with a DSLR was the diminutive Canon 400D, bought as a twin-lens kit from Jessops in Huddersfield. Bought on a whim and it was only a matter of a few months before I realised it was too small for my hands. In those days I actually had a disposable income that could be measured without the need for a microscope so I was able to move up to a Canon 40D fairly quickly. My next move though was a fair few years later when I followed the herd into the world of full frame. Not the best DSLR I would ever own, but my first and by a good chalk my favourite – the Canon 5D MkII.

No surprise then that I briefly put my pencil down and grabbed the iPad to “just see” what prices were like these days. I was both horrified and quietly pleased … a very good condition 5DII with just forty thousand shutter actuations, ready to be delivered the following day for £350! With a six month warranty too. It was exactly as described, came with a 5DIII strap and two batteries.

What can I say? Senior Management just raised her eyes patiently towards the heavens. The following morning, I fitted the Canon 50mm f2.8 II “plastic fantastic” that I use on my EOS 300 and disappeared onto the wet streets of Elland. With the 28-135mm also in my pocket I had a very productive, but most importantly, a thoroughly enjoyable walk eventually ending up walking along the canal.

It was like I’d never sold my original camera. The years fell away and I was once again immersed in the part of photography I love best, composing images in the viewfinder.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I’m not about to launch on another “I sold my DSLR to move to mirrorless then sold it all to go back to a DSLR” story. My reasons for moving to the Fuji X-series have not changed and I am still very happy with the weight savings in particular. A view that has been reinforced over the last week as I’ve been taking the 5DII on my perambulations.

Sweet, sweet irony. I sold my full-frame DSLRs with some lovely glass in the name of reducing weight and here I am, older and arguably more in need of weight savings, repurchasing a “heavy brick of a camera” for the sheer pleasure of using it!

I’m not going to list the pros and cons especially as in terms of ergonomics this camera is starting to show its age (and I never liked the on/off switch). I would say though that it takes just as good images as it ever did and for an experienced photographer it offers a very satisfying experience even in 2022.

Canon 5DII – a very satisfactory “return”

Am I returning to digital? Am I returning to a DSLR and forsaking my mirrorless system? No and no. However, it’s a timely reminder that its not about the gear … its about having fun and this “relic” of the recent past has given me a blast!

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