Developing Tanks Are Go!

Following my last post I have now dusted off the developing tank and successfully developed both rolls of 35mm film. Both were well past their use-by date but still gave well exposed, contrasty negatives and it was odd to see images I’d taken a couple of years ago.

I’ve kept careful notes of the processing times etcetera for future reference but everything worked smoothly and I was left with two sets of clean, unstained negatives.

© Dave Whenham
Zac – two years ago perhaps?  Canon A1 35mm film camera. Film home processed. Scan from warm-tone darkroom print

I had such a lot of good wishes from friends via social media in particular regarding my return to the darkroom that I thought I’d share my very first test strips and print with them … but the only way to do so is to scan it into the computer!! Oh the irony!!!

My return to darkroom printing is about expanding my own horizons and skills and I hope to use my darkroom prints for The Postal Photographic Club monthly folios and competitions as well as my own walls.

More to follow including the first test strips and first finished print.

Back to the Darkroom

My enlarger arrives Monday. I’ve finally progressed in my photography sufficiently to go back to the darkroom – this time with a Hasselblad 500CN and a Mamiya RB67.

© Dave Whenham
Lake of Mentieth, Scotland.
Camera: Mamiya RB67
Film: Fujichrome Velvia 100

Now that is not something I was expecting to be writing even as recently as 27th September. However, on the 28th, and courtesy of my wife, I achieved a long-held ambition and became the proud owner of a Hasselblad film camera.  Just two weeks earlier I’d been contemplating selling my Mamiya which has languished unused in a box on my bookcase for at least four years.

There is a saying the when life throws you a lemon then you should make lemonade; so applying the same principle, and in short, I am going to shoot film again after many years of being exclusively digital. Over the last weekend I spent a few days in Snowdonia with members of the Postal Photographic Club some of whom still shoot film, a couple exclusively. Chatting to them over dinner one evening I realised that if I’m going to do this then I may as well do it properly so have spent the last few days creating a space in which to establish a permanent darkroom. More on that in a future post.

Whilst clearing out though I found an envelope of negatives and transparencies dating from 2009-2011 and couldn’t resist scanning some of them.  The results exceeded my expectations and I shall be printing some of them (digitally) later to then compare with a darkroom print once I’ve got the equipment set-up and the chemicals have arrived from the suppliers.

© Dave Whenham
Marlborough Downs, Wiltshire.
Camera: Pentax 645
Film: Ilford XP2 Super
© Dave Whenham
Imperial War Museum, Salford
Camera: Mamiya RB67
Film: Fuji Neopan 400

Over the weekend I shot four rolls of 120 roll film using the Hasselblad (48 pictures in total) and one roll of 35mm film (36 pictures) using a Pentax ME camera I’ve owned for a while and never previously used. On getting home I found two rolls of exposed 35mm film in a drawer and on inspecting the film magazines for the Mamiya found that one had two frames remaining and the other had four. In total I sent nine films off for developing last week and I’m eagerly awaiting their return. Once I’m happy that the camera is functioning properly I will start to develop my own films again but I want to remove that variable at this stage of the process; I need to know the cameras function properly without wondering if any failures were down to my processing.  I’ve since found two more part-exposed 35mm films in a Canon A1 and Canon EOS 650 which I’ve finished and will use for my first foray into home developing since the mid-1980’s.

So, watch this space and in the meantime here’s a few more scanned images.

© Dave Whenham
Camera: Pentax 645
Film: Fuji Acros 100
© Dave Whenham
Amanda – who started this all! c.1982
Camera: Canon AE1
Film: Agfachrome

I mentioned at the top that I felt I’d progressed enough to return to the darkroom – at least I hope I have!

12-Portraits: Joe, ballet dancer

Back in March I suggested a 12-portrait challenge to get me doing something out of my comfort zone and I’m delighted to say that I have just completed the first. Joe’s Mum got in touch with me after a mutual friend pointed out my Facebook post and suggested she get in touch with me. We met on a cold, blustery day in early April for an initial chat and for me to take some test shots to help me gauge how to approach the shoot. It was also an opportunity to find out the type of photography that Joe liked, I wanted to be sure that he was going to be happy with what we produced. As it turned out my idea of an urban-themed shoot went down well and my choice of black & white was also well received. Joe is also a fan of Instagram so I “grunged-up” a few shots for his Instagram feed from that first meeting. © Dave Whenham Scouting the right location was important and the time spent on this aspect was well rewarded with a very productive final shoot lasting around an hour and three quarters. After playing with a few post-processing ideas I settled on a toned black and white using a Lightroom preset as the starting point for the final shortlist.   The final portfolio has been well-received by Joe, his family and my peers and I have to confess to being well pleased with the first challenge. The bar has been set high so I’m now looking for the second challenge – back to Facebook I think!

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Never Stop Playing

This is a mainly visual posting. I got an email recently which contained a quote from Sebastien Michaels:

“How do I become a better photo artist?”
“Create art.”
“Yeah, but how do I get better?”
“Stop overthinking it. Just do it.”
“Do what?”
“Create art.”
“But then what?”
“Create more art.”
“That’s all there is to it?”
“Well … keep learning, obviously.”
“That’s it.”
“That’s it?”
“Keep learning. Keep creating.”
“Yeah, but …”
“And have some FUN with it. Whoever has the most fun, wins.”

And I immediately thought, yes, he’s absolutely right. It is far too easy to disappear up our own backsides debating whether what we do is art or otherwise. An artist creates and if we are pondering or pontificating we are not creating. I spend a lot of time reading and then trying out ideas I come across or ideas that have come to me as a result of reading or more importantly looking at other artists work.  So, in the spirit of creating, learning and having fun here are a few images I’ve produced this week.

© Dave Whenham © Dave Whenham © Dave Whenham© Dave Whenham © Dave Whenham © Dave Whenham© Dave Whenham © Dave Whenham © Dave Whenham © Dave Whenham © Dave Whenham © Dave Whenham

Do you read the manual?

Well? Do you? Chances are that like me you probably don’t, at least not until something goes wrong. I do read a lot of “how-to” articles however in both print and digital media and something I see regularly, and no doubt it’s in the manual too, is that you should cover the eyepiece of the camera when shooting long exposures. Not that I usually bother but every now and then I do get all conscientious and do as recommended.  Until last week though I’d never experienced any problems with this somewhat cavalier approach.

© Dave Whenham
Top – without eyepiece covered
Below – eyepiece covered

Trying some long exposures on a very slow moving river in Scotland last week I set the camera on a tripod with a very bright sun above and behind me filtering through the trees. With a polariser fitted to cut glare on the water and a ten-stop neutral density filter for good measure I dialled in a five minute exposure, fired the shutter and wandered away to explore some bracket fungus growing a few yards away.  When I checked the image back on the LCD screen to make sure I’d estimated the exposure time correctly I was surprised to see a magenta cast. A few minutes head scratching followed after which I decided to repeat the exposure but this time closing down the eyepiece blind on my Nikon.

Wow! As the two RAW files above show the oft-repeated advice to cover the eyepiece lest stray light upset the exposure is after all more than scare mongering. Given the right circumstances it does make a difference showing that it does make sense to follow the advice provided in the camera manual or by other users even when it seems that it is a bit over the top. To keep things in perspective though this is the first time it has happened to me since taking up digital photography and whilst it isn’t an issue when handholding as your head blocks the viewfinder I do take a large proportion of my images from a tripod and unless it is a short exposure when I do stand behind the camera I am prone to wandering around or even sitting down when using long exposure times.

© Dave Whenham
Goodie Water – the final image made using the bottom of the two RAW files.

The 12-Portrait Challenge

© Dave Whenham LRPSI strongly believe that to stay fresh as a photographer it is important to continuously learn and more importantly to challenge yourself. It is far too easy to get into your comfort zone and slide into doing the same things that you did the month before and never really progressing. It is from this belief that the 12-Portrait Challenge was born. I am challenging myself to create 12 series of images from 12 different portrait challenges and the subject matter is down to chance.

To start things off I posted on my Facebook page:

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.44.07 In the first hour I had two, very different responses both of which will challenge me both in terms of the subject matter and the techniques needed. No big clues yet but one is definitely an outdoor pursuit whilst the other isn’t traditionally seen that way – but with a bit of creative thinking I’m working on some ideas to take it outdoors.

A date is already in the diary for one of these and I have two weeks to scout locations and work out my initial shot list – oh and identify any gaps in my skills! From a quick call today it is clear that there will be plenty of creative input from the subject too and I for one am very excited about the shoot. Fingers crossed the weather holds, watch this space!

Dave Whenham LRPS

Dave Whenham LRPS

The Royal Photographic Society Distinctions are recognised as the most prestigious in the photographic world and it has been an ambition of mine to achieve recognition through the society’s distinctions scheme. So, I am delighted to announce that just this week the RPS conferred their Licentiateship and that from the next reprint my business cards will read Dave Whenham LRPS.

For me the LRPS is not only recognition that I can produce images of a high standard but confirmation of the professional approach I take to my photography regardless of the final audience.

The image your wall deserves

© Dave Whenham
Spurn Sunrise – available at Fine Art America

Landscape photography is a source of great enjoyment for me. It is my escape from the daily grind, my opportunity to hone my skills away from the frenetic activity of photographing young children about their daily business. It is my photographic passion in many ways.  So I am therefore delighted to be able to offer some of my best landscapes online via Fine Art America.

Go on … find that image that your wall deserves 🙂

I shall be adding to the portfolio regularly and don’t forget any image on my website can be available – just drop me a note!

To print or not to print …

© Dave Whenham LRPS
Not a masterpiece – but a memory that is in danger of fading too quickly

Over the last few weeks I have seen many posts and news items concerning the fate of today’s photography. It seems that we are taking more photographs than ever before yet as most of these are snapped on smart phones and uploaded to social media sites we have the paradox that this could well be the least documented period of time a hundred years down the road. You see, all those digits, those ones and zeroes, will become lost in the ether. Stored on technology that the average man in the street can no longer access or simply lost when the user got bored and closed their social media account. When one of the big-wigs at Google is a leading voice on the subject you know there is a problem brewing. Put simply, the problem is that we are simply not printing enough.

Or, the majority are not printing at all.

So in the future the box of family snaps and, in my case, old slides, tucked away at the back of the cupboard is an endangered species. I have a large suitcase, yes, a large suitcase, overflowing with pictures taken by myself and my father over the years. These go back to the 1950s and when my own children were younger they loved rifling through the case looking for pictures of Dad in his shorts pulling a wooden cart around the garden, aged two. The early colour snap of me in “that red jumper again Dad” caused much mirth. The girls simply couldn’t envisage that in 1959 I only owned one, perhaps two, jumpers. Many are small 2.5″ x 2.5″ contact prints, most are black and white and many are slightly dog-eared, but they will remain viewable long after my latest modern digital storage device has found its place in landfill heaven.

I see this a lot with portrait work where increasingly I am asked for digital files and the “Facebook-ready” set is shared with obvious pride and pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the technology is fabulous and I enjoy seeing people enjoy my work and the pleasure they get from sharing it. I just worry that we are not doing enough to preserve these precious memories for future generations.  But there is no getting away from the fact that print and canvas sales are on the wane. As a professional I prefer to take control of the printing process myself. Whether I print them myself or outsource the job I can ensure the highest quality particularly when it comes to producing faithful colours and a print that will last a lifetime.

I am looking at the packages I offer at the moment and am tempted to provide an option to have the set delivered as a packet of 9″x6″ prints.  To make it a cost-effective option I would need to outsource the printing but I would at least be making my own small contribution to the large suitcases of the future.

Photography as representation

The images here are important. I don’t mean artistically, although I like them, nor do I mean that what they portray is particularly important. They are important because of what they represent.

© Dave Whenham
Pinfold Lane

Last year I was unfortunate enough to need a heart op – nothing too serious, “just routine” said my surgeon – but that leads to a different story. By the end of 2014 I was less fit than I have been at anytime in my adult life.  So at the start of the year I resolved to walk for at least twenty minutes every day in January.  I managed it, just, but a walk around the block which took me thirty minutes on 1st January was taking me around twenty minutes at the end of the month. It is now the 18th February and so far I have continued my daily walk, in all weathers.

So what about this picture? Well it represents the fact that yesterday I walked to the top of Dewsbury Road, something I would not have even contemplated thinking about six weeks ago let alone completing it twice on consecutive days as I’ve just done. So the significance of this image for me is that it represents my climb up the hill and then along Pinfold Lane just to see what was up there.

© Dave Whenham
View from Dewsbury Road
© Dave Whenham
Whitwell Green Lane

© Dave Whenham