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Out of date film is a lottery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 zipper at dusk
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

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.

365 becomes 1500

Back in 2017 I was invited to take part in a picture-a-day challenge on Flickr, starting 1st January 2018. I’d attempted a picture-a-day once before a few years earlier. This hadn’t been a full 365, but simply for one month … let’s just say it wasn’t my most successful project. The low point was a phone snap of my suitcase in the boot of my car at 11pm as I checked in to my hotel.

30th October 2017 and the image that started it all

One thing that I had learnt from that earlier experience was the importance of making the challenge simply a part of my normal routine for the day and not something that needed to be specifically planned in every day. With this in mind I set myself a 63-day challenge to make a picture-a-day for what remained of 2017. I completed the challenge and reflecting on the experience was glad that I’d done it as by the time 2018 started it was almost just a part of my daily routine. It would be a few more months before it was totally embedded but the start to that first 365 was undoubtedly eased by the 63-day Challenge.

Mosaic of images that comprise January 2018 in my 365-2018 Challenge – the first month of what would be my first ever “365”

I ended 2017 and started 2018 rather unwell with pneumonia, an illness that lingered for almost three months, but somehow I still managed my daily picture. It would be two years later when a pandemic restricted me to my home for four months that the discipline and experience of those few months would pay additional dividends too. As we entered 2020 the “365” as I was calling it then was a well established part of my daily routine and it would take more than a global pandemic to divert me from the challenge. Even if I was shielding and confined to the house.

Fast-forward to 23rd November 2021 and I’ve just uploaded my 1,489th consecutive daily image to Flickr. A picture a day, in an unbroken run from October 2017. Whilst I don’t always post them on the day the rules of the challenge mean that they have to be taken on the day. Some days I only make one image, specifically for the challenge, whilst on other days I choose from the series of images made that day.

When I started out I was a bit sniffy about using my phone but I’m relaxed about that now. Since starting the challenge I’ve also returned to film photography as my main method of making images so these regularly appear in my daily uploads. I’m debating dedicating my 2022 “365” to film photography only but I’m not sure I want to commit to such an undertaking for a whole year. I’ve posted daily film photographs for extended periods from time to time but a whole year might be a step too far. Perhaps I will aim for a full month, “Analogue April” perhaps?

January 18th 2019 – Huawei smartphone

So, as I approach my 1,500th consecutive daily image on 8th December I’ve been browsing through over four years of daily images and reflecting on what I’ve learnt.

2020 – my first “366”

One thing I have got into the habit of doing most days is my “insurance” shot. An image taken early on in the day, usually in or around the house, which I have in reserve just in case I am unable to get out with the camera later in the day for a more considered daily image. I rarely use them but it is reassuring to know they are there and there have been a few occasions when I’ve been grateful for the insurance.

Undoubtedly, the challenge itself provides a strong creative energy and the further into it I get the more determined I am to maintain the sequence. The completer-finisher in me helps keep me going. That said, I’m only human and there have been days when I’ve not felt like bothering but they are few and far between as the 365 has become just a part of my normal daily routine. I get up each day and each day perform the routine hygiene tasks (washing, dressing, eating etc) without really considering them a chore and my 365 image has similarly become almost part of this hygiene routine.

Horizon Kompakt and Fomapan 400 – 30th November 2020 in the rain/drizzle

I firmly believe that the challenge of trying to find a new image, and bear in mind that the majority of my 365 images are taken within a mile of my house, has sharpened my eye and I see compositions and creative opportunities more readily as a result. This has undoubtedly been a major benefit of undertaking the challenge and has also been a great help during the restrictions that we’ve put up with over the last twenty-plus months.

I mentioned earlier that I am now mainly working with film and one of the by-products of this has been playing with a range of cameras and discovering genres such as pinhole and panorama (true panoramic images not simply cropped into a 3×1 format). This variety has helped to keep the interest alive and I’ve a couple of other ideas up my sleeve for the coming months too – watch this space!

November 2021 – still experimenting (6×17 pinhole camera)

So, I continue to make a daily image and continue to enjoy the experience. Many of the images I’ve taken would not exist if it were not for the Challenge BUT there are none that I would not, with hindsight, have taken so hopefully that means I have not compromised on the quality of my photography because of this apparent focus on quantity. It’s a big undertaking undoubtedly and not one for everyone but it is now as much a part of my daily routine as eating breakfast (which I never miss). I’ve just signed up for the 2022 challenge and have my eyes set on May 2023 and image number 2000!

Until then, the next milestone comes on December 8th 2021 when the consecutive daily image tally will hit 1,500!

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.