Sunday, February 05, 2017

(Elephant Gun) An Interesting Session

Morning . . I know, but it's a metaphorical one, not a literal one.
I am an elephant fan having been raised on a steady diet of Babar and more Babar . . especially that bit in "The Travels Of Babar" where the elephants paint eyes on their bottoms, colour their tails and use wigs on their rear-ends and reverse to the crest of a hill to put the wind up the oncoming rhino army! It's pure gold.

I'd had a number of negatives from April 2016 that I needed to print. I'd sat on them and sat on them and actually wondered when I was going to get a chance. You know how it is - other things get in the way and before you know it time has flown and you're no further forward.
Anyway, frustrated by my lack of photographing in the latter part of last year, I was (over the Festive period) determined to go and see what I could do. 
So, Hasselblad loaded with expired TMY 400 I went out late on one gloomy Monday and came home with an elephant. Now this wasn't in the slightest apparent to me at the time. It was only when I made the prints that it struck me.

More of that in a minute, but firstly back to the negatives from April. As mentioned in FB from last year I'd had the opportunity to photograph at a place I knew very well. It was a childhood playground and exceptionally dangerous, being as it is, a crumbling 15th Century Tower. 
Health and safety would have kittens these days - but back in the early '70's Steve crawled into long lost barrel-vaulted cellars, accessible from a wriggle through old grass and a tiny gap in the masonry, and together we part-climbed the crumbling stonework and just generally footered around. 
In the 1990's when my Mum was still alive, we climbed the 'renovation' and had a lovely flask of coffee and some sandwiches looking out from our vantage point over a part of forgotten Scotland.
These days however it is fenced off all around and literally falling apart thanks in part to the over-use of CEMENT to patch a place that would only have ever known LIME.
(S'cuse me whilst I get my Hi-Viz jacket on)
Lime is a sacrificial binding material and allows movement of the substrate and the passage of moisture and frost and time through masonry; cement is a solid lump of impermeability - fine and solid yes, and initially maybe it looks like the perfect answer, but when frost gets in behind it, the original stonework "blows" and so starts the slide into oblivion. 
It's definitely not the sort of thing you'd use on ancient stonework - just ask Historic Scotland.
It was this (albeit well-intentioned) use of cement that has caused the Tower to age quicker in the past 30 years than it ever did in the previous 300.
I'm not even a builder, but you just have to read about it, and before you know it you can see how totally wrong it is.
Anyway, surrounding the Tower is a wonderful Oak wood - it is quite small, but some of the Oaks are around 500 years old, so entirely comensurate with the age of the Tower. 
I've walked through this wood my whole life from the age of 7-ish and I love it deeply, as one can only love the familiar landscape of one's childhood.
I've only partially photographed it before, and then not seriously and have always wanted to go back with the skill and the gear to do it justice . . and . . . I'm still not there.
How does one capture atmosphere?
Especially an atmosphere leaden with history, dark deeds and a slumbering peace bought by blood and death?
Damn near impossible if you ask me.
You'll see what I mean from the following:

Wilderness Garden
This incredible, dense patch of wildwoodedness grows on the site of formal 17th Century gardens

View From The Motte
The stonework you see is the 'refurbishment' - it is all falling apart now.

I think, in reviewing them, I need to go back again (what an excuse) and expose more than 1 roll.
On that day we were there, we were beset with cloud and snow showers and a rare glimpse of sun  - the below shows the view from the car whilst a shower was on. The snow isn't apparent as it wasn't lying, but it was baltic. The 'flare' is actually a sleet shower passing through.

I was desperate to capture the feel of the place, but have failed I think. 
Never mind eh!
Also. and it has taken me a while to realise this, the Distagon is very prone to flare. I have the correct Hasselblad hood for it and use it all the time, but if you look at the second print, the flare is obvious as 'sun spots' - pentagon-shaped grey smudges. I was shooting into the light there, but I need to be more careful.

The prints were my usual Adox Vario Classic (until I get it finished). Grade 3 to compensate for its age. The negs were Pyrocatted. Meow, Yeow, Mo-o-o-o-w!

And forward 8 months - that time machine is amazing, but it needs new mud-flaps.
Anyway, here's a tip. Unless you are feeling REALLY inspired, think twice about loading your camera late on a Winter's afternoon and going and seeing what you can find with not a lot of time to spare till it gets dark.
You'll come home with mostly shit. 
Well that's what happened to me - basically it was too late out, too little time to execute things, and my eyes and compositional nuance had decided they were going off on holiday to some sunny spot . . at least that is my excuse.
They were a dreadfully disappointing bunch. Film was expired TMX 400 and developer, W-o-o-o-o-W, Yowl . . you've got it.

Weird Day
DOJCA Architecture Building Front Door (And Me)
This would look a thousand times better if the door wasn't double-glazed.


You see what I mean? 
This was round the back of the Art College, just step over the nearly new Marrut film drier, now on its side and in the rain (honest) and slide in beside the knackered and thrown out print cabinets. See that grey/white object on the right? Darkroom sink - decent condition. 
I fecking hate what they've done to photography at Duncan Of Jordanstone - Joe would be turning in his grave.
Anyway, I was unaware of capturing an elephant until I started printing. 
When I saw it, it was just a bit of fake nylon fur draped over a table and that's sort of how it looked on the contact too.. 
I could probably selectively bleach the 'eye' and the highlights on the fur just to make it more obvious. And look, there on the fur, another flarey grey smudge, courtesy of the light at the top of the frame. 
Och well, them's the breaks - it's not every day you get to "shoot" an elephant though is it?

And that's it again folks.
Printing is fun - I urge you all to do it, even if it is making contacts from 35mm film onto tiny bits of paper. You have to do it if you call yourself a photographer - it's the whole point!

TTFN - and remember, if Noddy had paid the ransom, the elephants wouldn't still have Big Ears.