Sunday, December 18, 2016

Working From One End To The Other (And All Points In Between)

Well folks, the festives are upon us again - so he's blocked up the chimley, nailed don't-land-here-bird-pokey-spike-things to every available landing surface and yer Sheephouse has been finally relaxing and imbibing plenty of Woods Old Navy rum and typing - and rather like an avalanche waiting to happen and thinking what the hell will he round things off with, he thought:
'Yes, dammit, heck . . . well, why not? A summary of the year . . . yesh, thash a good idea' (hic).

In much the same way, Basil Rathbone exclaims "My dear Watson, you astound me . . ." in The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes (1939) . . . (none of this modern BBC stuff here, oh no, I like my Sherlock in tweed and pipe) so I wonder why I haven't done it before.

Ed's note: Look, I've had to read and re-read this a number of times . . . there's a lot of pictures, and it does come across like one of those yearly round-robbin (as in Look-at-all-the-wonderful-things-we-special-people-got-up-to-this-year) Christmas cards you used to get from folk at your Mum and Dad's church . . . but I don't think he means it like that. It's more of a kick up the pants to himself . . .
The Light waits for no man, and soon, very soon, the last glimpse you get of the world is that coffin lid closing and the flare of gas jets, so let it be more of a salutory, Dickensian-style, "Get Thy Finger Oot Whilst You Still Have Time."

Sub-Ed's note: Look this is supposed to be the Festive Season . . . it's not that bad, so grab a bagel and a cup of Java and let's get on with it!

I suppose the supposition is that the life of a blogger and especially one that writes about oooooo, photography, is an exciting round of gear, gottle-of-gear, adoring followers, Tweets from the WHITE HEAT of Photogblogging, Farcebook posts, more gear and people thinking you are the second coming of Ansel.
Well, I'm sure Bruce at the Online Darkroom would agree with me that it is nothing like that!
Us poor bunch ("poor bunch" being distinct from the whatsisnames and whatsisnames, you know who I mean . . whatsisname) tend to write about The Process rather than Yer Actual Gear.
Who gives a shit about how people actually use tools these days -  it's ALL ABOUT THE TOOL isn't it . . isn't it? Certainly seems that way from where I am standing.
But gear does come into it (to a greater or lesser extent) and I can completely confirm that acquiring new (old) stuff is an addictive and expensive buzz but also enormous fun and an integral part of what we do.
I think I've come to realise that I rather like having a ton of daft old cameras around - it aids the creative process, by giving things a new edge, and with the exception of my almost total neglect of 5x4 this year (and with around 250-300 sheets to use) I think I have explored the fringes of my wee collection quite well.

However, at the end of the day if you've nothing to show for it . . .

Anyway, maybe my idea of a summary isn't so good - yes I've bought a number of photographic aids this year, but if the truth be told I have done precious little photography and almost no printing - a lot of the stuff here is scanned from contacts (gasp!!) - to be honest I have not had the time to have a good darkroom session since around May.
That's appalling, but it has been my reality this year.
Never mind - what you'll get in what follows is periods of stasis and general other stuff, interspersed with intensive bits of creativity.
In fact so polarised is it, that I think my end of year report could read

" . . . Sheephouse . . . shows willing, could do better."

Anyway, here goes, hold onto your hats and watch a semi-creative year unfurl before your very eyes!


JANUARY

I started with optimism. Spent all my Christmas money, and more on an Arca B-1 ballhead, which was a total revelation to use along with the Hasselblad. Yes it was a few years old, and yes it came from the same family of the infamous Arca lockup (google it - plenty of info) however mine is a later model in which the problem has been sorted out (the PMF B-1) - it was boxed and in 'as new' condition from those lovely chaps at Ffordes and it grips heavy loads like a bulldog on your nadgers making using the Hasselblad a total cinch on top of ye anciente Gitzo Reporter.

Having just about survived Storm Gertrude (a neighbour's roof had a whole 3.5 foot by 1.5 foot Victorian chimney pot embed itself into it from about 60 feet up) I marshalled myself at the end of the month with an expired 2010 roll of Neopan 400, and went out on a dreich and overcast afternoon to produce this.

Film 66/18 - Expired 2010 Neopan 400 (EI 200) in 1+50 Rodinal. Hasselblad Panoramic Adapter


FEBRUARY

Took the M2 and Canon 28mm f3.5 to Edinburgh and took some snaps, but didn't develop the film for quite a while.


MARCH

(Almost) not a sausage done.


APRIL

Developed photos from February and a handful from March - to quote my diaries:

 "Total shite - worst photos I have ever taken"

See what you think (these are probably the best!):


Film 35/40 - TMX400 (EI 320) in 1+50 Rodinal



Film 35/40 - TMX400 (EI 320) in 1+50 Rodinal



Seriously thought about binning 35mm altogether.

Took the Hasselblad out and in a brief moment of Dad free-time I had a total blast with the Hasselblad handheld!


Film 66/19 - More Expired 2010 Neopan 400 (EI 200) in Rodinal 1+50


Film 66/19 - More Expired 2010 Neopan 400 (EI 200) in Rodinal 1+50



Had a rethink about 35mm and bought a super-cheap (sub £55) 28mm f3.5 Nikkor and an ancient CCS Gladstone bag (it was really cheap [30-odd quid] and in brilliant condition. It holds all my MF stuff comfortably and was a bargain compared to a new bag (CCS no longer exist, but their bags are stil laround - not made in the Far East, but here in the UK).
So it was that fully loaded and me and the missus off for a short long-weekend to my favourite place. It held the Hasselblad, Leitz Table Top Tripod, Rollei T AND the Nikon F3 with the 28mm Nikkor and a 50mm Nikkor as backup + notebooks, books, film, reading material etc etc - it's like the tardis of bags.


Action Man - of course, I could reveal my location, but then I'd have to kill you.




Film 66/21 -TXP 320 (EI 320) in Pyrocat-HD - eventually developed in May



Film 66/21 -TXP 320 (EI 320) in Pyrocat-HD - eventually developed in May


You can't get an idea of the sheer sharpness (and atmosphere) from these scans, even at 3200 dpi off of the contact sheet - take it from me they're SHARP AND ATMOSPHERIC!



Film 35/41 - Tri-X 400 (EI 320) developed in 1+50 Rodinal
It never struck me at the time, but these are like two Ents.




Film 35/41 - Tri-X 400 (EI 320) developed in 1+50 Rodinal




Film 35/41 - Tri-X 400 (EI 320) developed in 1+50 Rodinal

You know, for all the pixel-peepers say "Oh you've got to get the 28mm f2.8 Nikkor as it is soooo much sharper . . oooh, look at those pixels" the f3.5 is what the likes of Don McCullin and his 60's/70's compadres used and you know what - it is no slouch, especially on film.
A very cheap, solid, but decent performing lens!

There was a very good Scottish Photographers meeting at Alan and Sheila's in Perth at the end of the month - as usual, it was great to be able to talk and talk nothing but photography for an afternoon.


MAY

Bought a Pyrocat-HD kit off of eBay.

Had a fabulous time with the Hasselblad at St Andrews Botanical gardens, photographing their incredible collection of condensation, dried-on plant food marks (seriously!) and weird reflections in the hot-houses. If you're ever in St Andrews just go - one of the nicest Botanical gardens in Britain.
Vic the Hasselblad was handheld again - seriously - a total revelation about how to use a large, non-TLR, MF camera - I can imagine with the standard 80mm it would be even more of a joy to use.


Film 66/22 - TMX 400 (EI 320) in 1+50 Rodinal




Film 66/22 - TMX 400 (EI 320) in 1+50 Rodinal



Tested the newly arrived Pyrocat-HD kit on some sheet film . . hopeless results - operator error:



"What the feck is going on? . . Oh yeah, that's ANOTHER couple of quid down the drain . . . "
TXP 320 (EI 320) in Pyrocat-HD 1+1+100 - way too thin at that speed . . people used to say that about me!

Yeah I know I look like a Granny in the above - the lens was the 90mm Super-Angulon


Processed my MF films from April.


JUNE

Had been thinking about a Leicaflex as I so wanted to get a Summicron and it was the cheapest way, but after a few salutory emails from Ffordes about de-silvering prisms and an email from Bruce about perceived lens quality, I went mad, looked at as many old Leica photographs as I could find and finally bought myself a 35mm Summaron for the M2.
What a lovely lens - detailed in "Stepping Up To The Mark".
I tested the lens with a film I'd started using in the Nikon F back in mid-May, so I counted the exposed frames, rewound it and got back to the same point on the film in the M2.
Film was developed in P-HD. First two pics from Nikon end of roll, third a weird double 28mm Nikkor/35mm Summaron double exposure and fourth all M2/Summaron baby.



Tri-X 400 (EI 320) developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100




Tri-X 400 (EI 320) developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100




Tri-X 400 (EI 320) developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100




Tri-X 400 (EI 320) developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100




Holidays - hurrah!
I love UK-based holidays, because I can settle in to using where we are staying (usually caravans) as a base to explore the surrounding countryside and use my cameras to the point of exhaustion!
I took the Hasselblad and the M2 with the 35mm Summaron and loads of film. I've taken the 5x4 before, but (as detailed last year) using a changing bag is a total PITA, so this time thought, well why not use the Hasselblad for my 'serious' shots, and it worked a dream.

The Summaron shots were detailed in the post "Stepping Up To The Mark" from July and some of the Hasselblad ones are in "4K Burning Moggie" from September.

Here's some I didn't post:

FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100




FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100


You really do have to lose some speed with P-HD - EI 50 seems to suit FP4 well - my times and agitation were:
Constant and Gentle for 30secs
2 inversions per minute
Keep that going till 17mins, then let it stand to 20 mins.
Temperature was 20 degrees


FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100
This was taken at twilight, wide open.




FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100




FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100




FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100



FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100




FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100



FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100




FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100




FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100




FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100



FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100



FP4 (EI 50) - developed in Pyrocat-HD - 1+1+100


I'll nail my trousers to the mast here and say that the 35mm f3.5 Summaron has that vintage look in spades - it's sharp, it's creamy, it's got GREAT (but subtle) contrast and above all it's damn pictorial - there's a pleasing quality that I haven't found with any other lens.
Just wonderful.



JULY

Despite showing the pics from June last month, the holiday ones were processed in July . . carefully!


Went for a 12 mile hillwalk, carrying no camera gear but the Leica M2 and Summaron and Leitz table top tripod - it was a revelation and I rather like the cut of the jib of a Summaron as a landscape lens - a joyous tool to carry and use and as I've said before, want a reliable companion tripod but can't be bothered with a big 'un? get a Leitz table top - brilliant wee things.


Loch Esk
Film 35/46 - TMX 100 (EI 50) - Pyrocat-HD 1+1+100


The Sedge At Loch Esk
Film 35/46 - TMX 100 (EI 50) - Pyrocat-HD 1+1+100



 
Leica M2, Leitz 35mm f3.5 Summaron, Leitz Table Top Tripod




The Mythical Wild Man Of The North (caught in reflective mood)
Film 35/46 - TMX 100(EI 50) - Pyrocat - HD 1+1+100


Film 35/46 - TMX 100 -PHD 1+1+100, EI 50

And this is what Storm Gertrude did to a bridge in a glen back in January - the bridge was solid as a rock, but nature had other ideas!

The flat concrete bit is bolted to a boulder that must weigh a couple of tons, the bridge was bolted to the concrete with concrete piers too. All gone - I kind of wish I'd been there to see it.


Ed and Sub-Ed's note: Non-photographic, essential stuff coming up.


Discovered my chimney was in a state of disrepair . . . basically the flue for the old boiler that was present when we moved into the house, was a steel pipe, dropped down an (unknown to me) chimney. The flaunching (a word I'd never heard till this year) had perished and basically the top of the chimney was wide open to the elements! OK, so it's an old (1888) chimney and has been dealt with in an awful way by intervening generations . . so, me being me, and bouyed-up by last years use of hairy lime putty to bed in my front windows, I started investigating and reading and eventually got some NHL (Non-hydraulic Lime) 5.
This is lime, the stuff they used to use before cement ruled everything - it's a time-consuming but benevolent mortar mix. It is also hydroscopic, so unlike cement (which is utterly waterproof from both sides) lime mortar allows moisture to pass from its interior to its exterior! This was just what I needed considering the fabric of the chimney stack had become damp.

Eek! Slate covers old chimney and flue is below.

So, work was required, and that meant me!

AUGUST

After a quiet statement to myself of "Holy Bungos" I got started and rebuilt the exposed part of the stack with the NHL - I used a premixed version from Conservation lime - it was very nice stuff and really does improve your muscle tone trying to mix it!
The hardest part was stopping it drying out too quickly in the really hot weather we were getting so I was hopping up the ladder three times a day with my plant sprayer and spraying it down and then covering it over.
With lime they recommend you use hessian sacking to cover it with because it stays moist, however I didn't have any so had to make do with painters exterior masking tape (the orange stuff) and those giant blue Ikea bags which are really rather good.
Anyway after 8 days of this regime, I was ready to expose my work. And it seemed to have dried fine, it is however no wonder modern builders rarely use it - it's so time-consuming, and these days no one has the time do they?
Anyway, at the same time of doing this I thought I'd use a roof coating to go over the felt. We have about 18sq metres of flat stuff - and economy was the name of the game; so after HOURS of debate and study I settled on a product by Scotch/3M called Scotchkote. It is a range of coatings, all designed for industrial purposes - they're breathable and come in a range of systems ranking from 5 year before first maintenance right up to 25 year! I was impressed by this and also by some feedback from industrial roofers, so I put my money where my brain was.
I went with the 5 year (Polytech LS 657), because it was the most economical.
But this ties into next month . . so . . and still no photography done . . .


Flue still there, but now upper section is rebuilt with lime.


Oh and I liberated some pensioners of their pocket money, went mad and bought myself a guitar.


SEPTEMBER

Well, what a beautiful month! The weather was something else at the start.
I chickened out at the thought of taking film through an airport, sold the Canon EOS and used the funds to buy a Sony A6000 and a Metabones Nikkor adapter, seeing as I have tons of Nikkors lying around like leaves off a tree . . . 
And guess what . . another holiday!
This time we scraped together all our spare change, robbed a few more pensioners and flew to Amsterdam and then by train to Brussels.

The shots were detailed in "Ogden's Not Gone Flake" published in September, but here's a few more.


Film 00100111001 - Sony A6000 + 35mm f2 Nikkor-O

Film 00100111001 - Sony A6000 + 35mm f2 Nikkor-O

Film 00100111001 - Sony A6000 + 35mm f2 Nikkor-O

Film 00100111001 - Sony A6000 + 35mm f2 Nikkor-O

Film 00100111001 - Sony A6000 + 35mm f2 Nikkor-O

Film 00100111001 - Sony A6000 + 35mm f2 Nikkor-O

Film 00100111001 - Sony A6000 + 35mm f2 Nikkor-O

They're two outstanding European cities with different (yet similar) cultures but they are friendly and beautiful places and so very different from the a-typical views people have of them:

Drugs and sex - Amsterdam
Boring - Brussels.

I took a lot of photographs with the non-PC Sony A6000 and a 35mm Nikkor-O.
OK - it's not film-based, but you know what, I was happy to use it and think the results are really excellent, though I've not printed a single one.
The Sony and ancient (1971) Nikkor give a colour quality that pleases the hell out of me - very 1970's but very crisp too.

During our holiday I replaced my blood with Belgian beer and felt better for it. I've been a beer enthusiast since well before the word "craft" came into the language and it pleases me to see so many guys brewing their own and starting micro-breweries. I did my own proper, non-kit home brewing back in the 1990's, but discovered I couldn't even touch the likes of Westmalle and Samuel Smiths, so gave up . . 

Came home and cleaned out the loft - an epic job.

OCTOBER

We got back, and the weather changed to 'orrible and rainy, so I steeled myself, waited for some decent weather (not so easy when all you have is weekends) and then started in earnest on coating the roof.
If you can imagine painting an unwilling, very hairy cat onto a flat surface, then that is what it was like, but it's all about technique and I got there.
It's pretty damn marvellous stuff too - you can apply it in falling rain and down to 0 degrees, though this isn't to be recommended from the applicator point of view -  we did have our first frost in October and kneeling in ice and applying stuff like this is not to be recommended - doesn't half make your joints ache!
It was a heck of a job, two coats and an embedment mesh in places too - got there though - phew!



The bit on the left in grey and white is my work - this was taken from the window of a flat for sale next door.

Near the end of the month an excellent package from Omar Ozenir arrived containing both copies of his self-published photo-journal Gözaltı.
It's great stuff and highly recommended - you can find it here - tell him Sheephouse sent you.

Re-discovered that I really love playing the guitar - it has been a 20 year break, as in nothing done, for 20 years, which, if you know me is highly unusual.
Basically looking at it with the benefit of hindsight, I think I stopped because there was nowhere else to go.


NOVEMBER

No real photography done, just a wee tickle out at dusk around the graveyard with the Sony

Film 00100111001 - Sony A6000 + 50mm f1.8 "K" Series Nikkor


DECEMBER

And the same again.
There's a roll of FP4 in the M2, there's film in the fridge and I just need time.
I am on holiday for Christmas so hopefully there should be some full-on camera usage going on!


And tha-tha-tha-that's all ffolks - I hope you found that interesting and not too dull -despite the lack of vast amounts of stuff, at least I have been trying to do stuff, with only commitments and lack of time getting in my way. Next year I am planning on doing more.

So can I, on behalf of yer Missus Sheephouse and Alex Turnips too, take this opportunity to wish you and yours all a fantastic Christmas and an even better 2017 and for the world, a little peace perhaps, that can't be too hard can it, not if you really want it to happen.

I'll leave my final thought to Bruce Cockburn from 1971's "Sunwheel Dance" and the track "Going Down Slow":

God, damn the hands of glory
That hold the bloody firebrand high
Close the book and end the story
Of how so many men have died
Let the world retain in memory
That mighty tongues tell mighty lies
And if mankind must have an enemy
Let it be his warlike pride

Let it be his warlike pride


Take care, be good and remember to keep eating your peas.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Death Of Photography?

To offer up a little relief to the unending gloom of the title of this post, can I add that I started writing the below about 8 months back . . things have changed a bit for me since then - my creative juices are flowing and I am just trying to factor in some time to go out and make some new negatives and prints. I've tweaked the below a bit and realised that I can't cover all the bases and maybe haven't quite hit the nail on the head with what I wanted to say . . . but anyway, if it provides food for thought then great, and if not, well them's the breaks . . . anyway, here goes the Time Machine!

Hi Folks - it has been a strange time here at Sheephouse Turrets recently - I've done very little photography because I just haven't felt like it and also I've not had the time for it either, but the two have combined into forming this awful stasis of non-activity and a HUGE questioning of things, namely, and to-wit . . what is the point?
Or should I say:
"What The Eff Is The Effing Point?!!"
I don't know about you, but the world has undergone a transformation in the last 10 years - it's not the advancement of digital stuff (though that is the cause), it's not a general malaise with regard to the realisation that if we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it ad infinitum (new Holy War/Crusade anyone?) - these things are big things, and mine seems so trite by comparison, but nevertheless, we have to comment on things that are having a direct effect on our lives, so what is affecting my life is this:
Life is now awash with imagery.
EVERYONE is a photographer.
Yep, no longer the domain of Dads' and Mums' and people who just liked seeing what light did when they pressed a button and Aunty Lou was there looking pretty in her Easter bonnet, nope, no more.
EVERYONE IS A PHOTOGRAPHER.
From your 2 year old with the their first phone (I kid you not - heard just recently) to reporters and shoppers and Neds and school kids and OAPs, bloody everyone has a phone with a camera on it and as such has a handle on my (our) hobby and passion . . .
And you know what?
It really hurts (he said, churlishly throwing his Nikon F2 out of the man-pram . . )

I (like you no doubt) see images every single minute of every single hour of every single day.
And they're not like the olde snapshot thing either, because it's become a piece of piss to make a billion images of your life very very quickly and thus EVERYTHING is now documented to the nth degree and posted online to an audience of 560 trillion excited viewers in milliseconds
No longer do you sit around with Charlie and Sue, grab a glass of wine, and laugh, yawn, look excited, enquire enthusiastically, pay attention when the newly printed envelope of holiday photos gets handed round.
There's no more groans of 
"Oh my God, what were you doing" 
No more
"I couldn't help it if that dog decided to have a pee on that tree trunk (hidden by your head) Darling."
Nope sadly those moments of angst and anticipation have been banished by the dreaded chimping and instant deletion of non-perfection.
You know I'm telling the truth don't you?
Of course you do.
An endless tide of samey/similar imagery swamping a world that really doesn't give a shit any more because it is so commonplace.
Thing is, I'm damn sure some of it would be passable documentary photography too, were it photography, but it isn't.
Why?
Because that isolation of a moment in time is no longer there.
We now have a broad stretch of imagery documenting every single fecking second, it's like watching a finely chopped-up film, and ultimately, though it might well be trying to make a point, it fails because the point is, there's no longer a point.
And I feel that. 
That hopelessness and pointlessness of the struggle.
My struggle.
It makes the spending of 20 minutes of my life setting up a LF camera, endlessly going through correct procedure, waiting for the moment, taking the moment, getting home, unloading the DDS's, and processing the exposed film on a single sheet basis seem so utterly arcane and foolish, that the whole enjoyment factor of the thought that:

I might 
(and yes, bear that in mind, it is a big might) 
somehow project this little moment of time 
(captured by a [big] little man on the East Coast of Scotland) 
forward into the future . . .
so that someone might look at it one day and say "Oh!", 
(rather than what I suspect is waiting for my stuff . . the skip at the end of the road) . . .

But my efforts and skills (sorry, the word 'craft' is now banned around here) are now rendered null and void by a tsunami of endless pixels.

If you were to turn what we all do (us amateurs) into an equation, it would be the worst equation in the history of equations:

Time + Energy + Money + Thought + Love = Skip

Think about it, it's true isn't it, pretty much.
With the ubiquitousness of the mobie and camera there's now a new equation on the block:

Life + All-Encompassing Machine + Thumb + Internet = Instant Immortality 

What's not to like? No wonder everyone is doing it. Like we used to sing at Barrantyne back in the 60's:

Everybody's doing it
Doing it
Doing it
Picking their nose
And Chewing it
Chewing it
Chewing it

I'm sure Mr. Irving Berlin would have loved that variation on his classic from a time of depravation and naivity, but needs must and all that - the transistor radio was just about filtering down to the masses back then, we had to make our own entertainment. You see, back in the day when film, though (comparatively) cheap, wasn't really something you could use willy-nilly simply because of the effort involved in dealing with it, photographs were taken to emphasise a point, the point being the subject and the isolation of it in time as a MEMORY adjunct.
The two went together like that famous Scottish East Coast heart attack in a container Chips and Cheese.
They were natural partners. 
Nowadays the emphasis of a point of time as a special memory has been nailed to a fecking Facebook  (sic . . ad infinitum) wall as an endless parade of utter inanity. You might well enjoy your chips and cheese, but I don't want to know about it.
And we as photographers are under attack. Actually we're not under attack, because the 'enemy' has over-run the barricades already and we're down to the nitty gritty of street fighting to make our skill and effort MEAN ANYTHING AT ALL.
If you can imagine the Planet of the Time Lords over-run by 11-Teen Billion Mr Blobbies, you'll get what I mean.
Jesus, if I see another selfie-stick, I'm going to snap it, and if I see someone 'filming' some pointless activity on a phone I'm gonna wheich their phone off them and smash it. It really feels personal.
Now I've got my gander up and going, if you're a film-maker how do you like the way the world is going? Yeah I thought so - for all the freedom phone filming has brought, it really makes your carefully edited and compiled Super 8 footage seem like a waste of time doesn't it.
I wasn't going to go off on a  tangent, but strangely happenstance works sometimes so here goes:
Last night, Ali and I watched a marvellous little hour of film-making called 'From Scotland With Love', though to these East Coast eyes it was more, 'From The West Of Scotland With Love', but never mind; it was Glasgow-centric, but then they've got all the artistes haven't they?


Anyway, the beauty of it was (and I've had a whole night's decent sleep to mull on this) the music (by Fife musician King Creosote) melded so beautifully with the footage as to make a sort of symphonic love story.
It was really very good and strangely moving in a way I can't quite describe. 
But what I can describe is that all the archive footage, carefully made and cannily shot and edited - because it was expensive to produce - has provided these (often very) short moments in time that emphasise that moment in time.
In the film, there's one tiny clip of a laughing woman being followed into her cottage by a sheep and it has stuck with me all night (and even months later) because it has all the grace of simple genius and beauty.
It's not hours of tracking shots of the sheep following the woman and how she's reacting, nor the consequences of the sheep's action; there's no over-egging the pudding of subject matter, because though the point is a small point, edited to emphasise that point, somehow the point becomes more than the sum of its parts.
Brevity encourages questions:

Where is this crazy place?
Who is the laughing woman and why doesn't she mind being followed by a sheep?
How long ago was this?
Who filmed it and why?
Etc etc etc . . .

See what I mean? And it's like that with photographs, or rather it used to be like that with some photographs.
The object became the memory, or even the portal into memory. 
That's an important thing.
F'rinstance:




OK - once you get over the mass expanse of white sky (it was a foggy day) you'll notice there's a chap with a cat, on a lead, in a lay-by, in what looks like the middle of nowhere.
You see what I mean, the definition of that moment in time as a photograph has already brought up some interesting questions, like:

Why is the cat on the lead?
Who is the man?
Where are they?

Well, that's easy it's my Dad, Sheephouse Senior!
The year?
1974!
How the feck do I know that?
Simple, it's an Ektachome slide - they printed the month and year they were processed on the hairy cardboard mounts!
Who's the cat?
Cookie!
Why is she on a lead?
To stop her running off whilst we stop in a lay-by on the journey from Scotland back to Londinium!
OK - what happened next?
Well, after I'd taken the photo (a precious moment, this was a Kodak Instamatic, it was an honour and a privilege) Cookie wanted to explore further so I let her. She started climbing a bank towards some trees, so naturally I let her have her way . . . . and then she slipped the lead and was off! I gave chase up the bank, but found the going (all loam and leaves) difficult. I struggled up to near where she had settled herself to watch my efforts and then I shouted in horror as the banking gave way underneath me and sent me tumbling back towards the road. Now in memory it was quite a tumble, but it probably wasn't. However what I do know is that the white cricket trousers I was wearing (don't ask alright, just don't ask) were now a reddy-brown-mud colour and soaked.
Dad had checked I was alright and went and fetched Cookie and after (no doubt) some tea from the flask and probably a whole cake, I felt a lot better and we proceeded on our way.

And whilst I'm not saying a photo taken of the same sort of thing on a phone isn't valid, I don't know, the sheer perfection and ease (to my mind) don't really encourage you to enquire further . . . photos shot on phones are almost too perfect.
I've become like the rest of the world; I see one, I glance and I move on.

I have become complacent to something quite remarkable - the freezing of time.

Look at the slide again - my long dead father is frozen in time. I look; I am moved; the hole his death left in my life has never been filled some 40-odd years later.
Cookie the cat too, we were friends from when I was 11 till I left home. She was called Cookie because she'd originally been owned by some American relations of a friend of my Dad who were returning to Ohio. I loved that cat.
And those endless trips from London to Scotland for holidays or maintainence of the cottage before Mum and Dad retired and we moved permanently.

ALL OF THAT from one fuzzy, stored away, cardboard-edged memory. Shit, its quite something isn't it.

When the iPhone 7 looks as antiquated as a fixed to the wall "Whitehall 210" wind-up phone from the early 20th Century, that piece of hairy cardboard and plastic and dyes could probably still be around.
Will Facebook walls housing years of memories still be there?
Will Instagram exist?
Will JPG's still be readable or more likely, will the hardware they are stored on still be connectable?
Will your digital life be being held to ransom by Mega-Greed Inc. who now run the world's servers and want a monthly fee?
See what I mean. It's hard to imagine isn't it.
It's almost like we're rushing towards the precipice.
Technology for technology's sake has made everyone a photographer and film maker and director and producer. It has made what us amateurs do seem so utterly antiquated in the same way that MIDI technology for keyboards in the early 1980's made everyone chuck their old, unpredictable Moogs into the skip.

So I suppose, as a traditionalist (and thinking about it a bit) using those materials that are still around, well, maybe my efforts haven't been rendered pointless.
What do you think with regard to your own efforts?

Is photography still alive or are we lumped under the massed banner of imagery? To my mind it sort of looks like the latter - as mankind stands at this time, our photographs seem irrelevant to everything save the efforts and love that goes into producing them. But maybe history will prove me wrong. Maybe somewhere down the line, some being will pick a soggy, scratched bit of card and plastic and colour and light from the rubble of the 21st Century and say to themselves "Why is that feline on a leash?"

Sad isn't it - we may not have been rendered pointless just yet, but we've been emasculated. Our collective nadgers (or cojones if you like) have been chopped off and nailed to a Facebook wall.
Don't despair though, all I can do is shout encouragement from this barricade and encourage you all to do the same.
So go on, you over there, behind that wall, shout it loud:

"I'm a photographer! I'm Arcane And I'm Proud."








Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bruce And The Online Darkroom

Morning folks - this is just a quickie to say that if you are trying to find The Online Darkroom and just come up with a domain expired page, that's what happened.
From the horse's mouth:

"Pain in the bum, Phil. I stopped using an old email address a while back and that was the one that I'd used when registering the domain name. They've probably been sending me reminder emails about renewal but, of course, I didn't see anything. Didn't know the website was down until someone from FADU told me yesterday. Not quite sure what to do now as I can't remember the company I'd registered with!"

So please bear with it - I'm sure normal service will be resumed as soon as possible and of course if there's any offers of help then I'd be pleased to pass them on.
HS

Friday, September 30, 2016

4K Burning Moggie

Morning folks . . well, in an unprecedented move here's another post . . .and in the words of a disgraced TV personality from the 1970's . . "whacka, whacka, whacka . . . . can you tell what it is yet?"

OK, so that's enough mystery for one day . . . the title of this blog is deliberately obscure just because. But anyway, the more Cryptic Clue-minded amongst you will have worked out, that seeing as this blog is mostly about photography,  and seeing as yer Sheephouse is mostly not quite all human, then the title "4K burning Moggie" can only relate to one thing . . oh yes . . PYROCAT-HD!

Pyro-wtf? Eh? Wot?

Yes, Pyrocat-HD, Sandy King's wonderful and really rather rooty tooty developer, that's what . . . so all I can say is fasten your safety belts, get your rubber trousers on (preferably before the safety belt) take a good swig of tea/coffee and prepare to be amazed!

Now the well-read amongst you will know that I have long extolled the virtues of Rodinal/R09 - I have loved this developer dearly for many years now and for sheer convenience and longevity, there's little can touch it . . but you know what it's like when you've broken your arm, and there's a wee crawly thing, crawling away under the cast and you're enraged and want to scratch it and you cant . . . well photography is like that. What if I had a better lens or better camera, or developer?
Well seeing as I've explored the former rather too thoroughly, I thought I would explore the latter. 

Over the years I've used, D76, ID11, Rodinal, Barry Thornton's 2-bath, HC110, Rodinal, R09, D23 and did I mention Rodinal? But I dunno, one day I woke up and thought, I must try that . . the that being Pyrocat. 
And then I started looking around and discovered that I could only buy industrial-sized quantities of Pyrocatechin from Silverprint and seeing as I was going to just be trying it, why did I have to spend around 50 squid on chemicals?
And I nearly gave up, but then a thought occurred to me and I did a wee bit of ebay searching and sure enough a kit came up - this link will take you to an ebay shop:


100% feedback helped me make my choice, so I ordered some - it was very reasonable (this was pre-Brexit, so it was really reasonable)! 
OK - chemicals off ebay . . hmm, yes, however, Vincenzo, the vendor, was incredibly helpful (and thus comes Sheephouse-recommended) with my requests about mixing instructions, and when his kit arrived, I was really surprised at how well put together it was
It looked like it was meant to be used professionally if you know what I mean; everything was pre-measured in sturdy plastic vials and the instructions were clear and concise . . . in other words, apart from the fact it wasn't in a box, it looked like something you could have bought from a 'proper' manufacturer. 
Seriously - I recommend having a go with his kits!
Allied to this, I also made the executive decision to mix Part A in Glycol, which apparently extends the life considerably. Now I could have ebay'd that too, however having bought some dodgy borax before, and given that Glycol is now used in production of e-cigarette vape, I took another executive decision and bought it and some distilled water from a place called Darrant Chemicals. They're a 'proper' chemical distributor to labs and schools and so on but don't mind dealing with normal bods too!

And so, it came to pass one Saturday morning I started mixing. 
The hardest thing about the whole process was getting the Glycol hot enough to dissolve the chemicals in. I had to use a double boiler (in my case a jug in a pan of boiling water) which resulted in me over-heating it! My thermometer was reading a constant temp and then all of a sudden it jumped sharply - so if you are doing this, take care, CONSTANTLY MONITOR YOUR TEMPERATURE and try not to rush (which is what I was doing).
Rushing this is definitely not recommended, just because it'll take you a while to do it properly, and if you rush and don't concentrate enough you run the risk of spoiling all those lovely chemicals.
The second hardest thing was mixing the Potassium Carbonate in. It took a lot of stirring. But don't let me put you off - it is an adventure. And a worthy one!
When it was mixed, I think my overheating of the Glycol and the mixing in of the chemicals for Part A had partially oxidised the solution it had the faintest pinky/purple hue to it, but I had made it, and I was determined to use it, so ahead I went.

The first films (expired sheets of 5x4) I developed in it seemed awfully under-developed (based upon times found on the net) and the usual dilution of 1+1+100, so I moved to 2+2+100 which was good but very very contrasty. 
This set me back a bit, but after some convos with Ian (lostlabours on FADU) we concluded I must have oxidised Bath 1 . . . I still didn't want to give up, so I thought about it and came to the conclusion (based on his times) that I needed a new approach.
A quick word here - most times you find on the net these days are for scanned negatives - they can afford to be thinner. We are printing . . we need meat and potatoes, so if you are getting a time off the net, make sure someone has actually printed some negatives from it and not just developed and scanned..

Anyway, my first move was to cut box speed to half, and the next was to extend the development time massively (I figured if it was hard to blow highlights with it, then the only thing I was going to do was lift the shadows . . . same with the new film speed). 
Anyway, what this meant is that my new times for Delta 400 (which I have been using recently) are EI 200 and with PHD at 1+1+100 and 20 C, I develop for 19 minutes. This consists of continuous gentle agitation for 30 seconds then 3 gentle inversions every minute up to 17 minutes, then let it stand to 19 or even 20 minutes. 
This is longer than the old days of dilute Perceptol!!!!

So where does all this tomfoolery get us? 
In a new space where film development takes a lot longer, but where you'll struggle to burn-out any over-exposed highlights and where, with a modicum of technique tickling you can produce negatives that are just about damn near perfect. 
 Now you read about the perfect negative a lot - certainly the Reverend Sir Barry Of Thornton did his best to produce such things and I know he did, but some of them proved that you needed to be a little pernickity with your technique. As good as BT 2-bath is, I found that for all it's ability to even out exposure times into one homogenous whole, it somehow lacked contrast, whereas I can honestly say with Pyrocat, you'll regain that contrast, but also you'll gain balance.
Yes care is still needed - it's like giving birth (not that I ever have to a human, but there's things men give birth to that put women to shame . . .  anyway . . . hope you've still got some savour left for that croissant.
And how have I come to this conclusion about PHD? 
Well, go on, have a gander at this.





This is a straight print. 
No dodging or burning, just a print made direct from the negative in a glass carrier printed onto some ancient Adox Vario Classic (now long gone) paper - I filtered to a Grade 3 because of its age. 
Chemicals were bog standard: Fotospeed developer, Kodak Stop and Ilford Fix, a very light toning for archival purposes in Kodak Selenium and that was that.
Admittedly I am using one of the finest MF lenses ever made - the 60mm Zeiss Distagon*** which can do pretty much anything required of it, from pin-sharp detail, to easy to use hyper-focal measuring (very handy in the semi-twilight of an abandoned building) to wonderful, creamy out of focus stuff, to micro-contrast, to gorgeous greys and a massive tendency to flare, but all the same . . . .

If you look closely at the print, the lens (and developer) have managed to do a sterling job of capturing a really hard lighting situation: the wall at the right was in bright light, the wall to the left was in shadow and overshadowed by dense vegetation, and the bit at the end of that wall was in a half-light. 
It would have proved soot and whitewash with many setups, but this is balanced
Not only that but the Zeiss has somehow managed to capture pin-sharp detail and contrast and blended it with some of the nicest out of focus stuff I have seen, but that has been captured with less contrast and somehow lends an overall 'older' feel to the image whilst still retaining the sharpness and contrast of a modern lens. 
When I saw this as a negative I was bowled over - it looked gorgeous, and the same happened with the print too. 
CHUFFED is not the word . . add a FECKING to the start . .
 
This was taken whilst on holiday in June and is a looong story that involved me walking countless miles to try and reach an old Norman Motte and being defeated every time, by fences and walls, bulls, rain, crops, more walls and some of the tallest, wettest bracken you have ever seen, so I gave up. And then before you could say bunga-ahomogenius-tomato I came across a sad (yet wonderful) semi-derelict cottage. 
At least, it could be even more beautiful were it not hard up against a road and if someone had taken it in hand a couple of decades back rather than let it slide into disrepair.

Here's some more pictures.














These exposures ran the gamut from 1/15th at f5.6 (the first print) to 145 seconds at f11 (the third, interior shot) . . BUT they're all on the same film. Now do you see what I mean about a near perfect developer.

Yes I know, they're hairy scans and there's a few rebate mistakes, but on the whole what do you think? 
They were easy as anything to print. No messing. No SP**-GR***. Nothing like that.

A Little Sheephousian Aside:
You know, I read some of my printing books and look at split-grade this and split-grade that and think, you know what? in 3 decades of printing (pretty much, minus the 15 year gap, but it does sound better than in a decade and a half's printing . . ) I've never seen any point in split-grade - it just seems like so much faff to achieve a print that really, could be done with a lot more basic techniques. yeah dodge and burn, selective bleaching and selenium or any toner you fancy. 
Seriously, printing is a craft skill that can be achieved by anyone with an eye for tone and quality.
The caveats I would add to this are try and make it fibre paper if you can, though to be fair the RC papers that are left are pretty decent, but there's something about a fibre print. Also, dare I say it, try and find graded paper - that narrows your options down massively, but if you don't feel confident, go MG paper. 
To be honest I have never used Ilford's ubiquitous MG in fibre. I used to use it a fair bit in RC and never really got on with it - maybe I am missing something. 
Ilford's Galerie on the other hand is probably top of the heap for paper quality these days - yes you have to re-mortgage to buy it, but honest, there's nothing like it anymore. 
At the end of the day I believe the cost to be worth it.
Another paper I do really like is Adox's take on Agfa MCC - it is pretty close, though not quite. The original Agfa papers were outstandingly beautiful AND kind to the printer, seemingly producing decent prints from even the most cack-handed of efforts.
How long have we got left as printers and printmakers? I really don't know. It all depends on the young and whether they feel they can justify spending nearly £90 on a box of 100 sheets of 8x10"!
How sad it has come down to this - in a world awash with imagery, does anyone care anymore about handling a physical print? Or are we at the narrow part of the pass - the vintage prints will carry on and be lauded, the work of the concerned and talented amateur, and I am talking to any of you out there who have cared enough about printing to actually make your own are destined for the skip of eternity. You know what it is like:
"I see your Uncle Ernie died . . I was sorry to hear that"
"Yeah, thanks. He was a funny old fucker really. Had all this old school photographic stuff and boxes and I mean boxes and boxes of pictures, big ones of all sorts of shit - trees and signs and strange things - it was so much to look through. In the end we didn't have the time 'cause we had to clean his house out and get it on the market before Winter. We chucked the whole lot in the skip. All that work of his. The only thing I saved was this picture he made - it's about 6x6" square and it's of a dog in a hat and the dog is looking right at the camera and I dunno . . it just makes me laugh. Ernie liked that sort of thing."

Back To The Point:

Anyway, where were we . . . ah yes Pyrocat-HD. 
Bloody marvellous stuff.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words . . so I'll stop now.
If anyone wants to know more, please leave a message at the bottom, or do some trawling - there's a lot of stuff written about it.
Suffice to say, I can see myself using this for a good while yet . . and next time I might even mix it with more care!

TTFN, and remember, around the ragged rock, the ragged rascal ran, until his trousers fell down

*** Why do I say this? Well, renowned Rollei fan, Helmut Newton. Now I like his photographs so I was rather surprised when I visited his museum, in Berlin that in a case with his other cameras, was a Hasselblad with a 60mm Distagon . . . food for thought!