Friday, June 23, 2017

Photography's Not Dead (It Just Smells A Bit Funny)

Morning folks - well, more time away from the keyboard just doing stuff has meant there's been little time for posting, however, some stuff will be posted the noo. 
So hold onto your hard-hats and be intrigued by the title of this.

You see, I really believed in my heart that photography was pretty much dead - I did and I bet you did too!
For all intents and purposes, our style of photography, pretty much is. 
Where are the massed ranks of analogue photographers rushing home to their darkrooms with oodles of film? 
I figure they are out there (the confidence shown by film manufacturers recently certainly says that something is going on) it's just that, be honest, apart from yourself and your mad friends, how many others have you actually seen?

Yer Sheephouse was recently extremely lucky to be invited on holiday by his parents-in-law (along with Mrs Sheephouse of course) to Dubrovnik, in Croatia.
If you've never been, go.
If you have been, you'll maybe know what I am talking about.
It's a stunningly beautiful place, full of some of the most happy and welcoming 'natives' we've ever encountered, but man is it rammed with tourists.
It's as busy as busy can be, and you know what? to a man (and woman) they're all taking photographs.
Billions and billions of them.
Everywhere.
All the time.
If I thought that Amsterdam was indeed the city of a plague of bicycles (which it is - they come at you from all directions) then Dubrovnik, is the city of the selfie-stick toting tourist.
Well, you'll be saying, that's just the modern age innit.
Yes it most certainly is, but amongst all the phone photography (and seriously, the selfie is an extraordinary phenomenon in its own right) I have never seen as many massive-lensed SLRs being carried, anywhere.
They were predominantly Canon, and toted by everyone from bearded/concerned young men, to grannies.
To my eyes, the digital compact is all but dead, having been supplanted by the phone, but for 'serious' stuff . . . well, SLR it is.
There was also a smattering of Sony NEX-style cameras, but these were outnumbered vastly.
So, photography isn't dead.
Indeed, were I to be stuck in a chair and tickled by Ken Dodd (overseas readers, look him up) then I would say, missus, that our lovely hobby is alive and kicking, in spades 
But (and here's the question) how many of these masterpieces ever make it out of their little envelopes of plastic, metal and silicone?.

So, it's alive, but worrabout Film?
Did someone say film?
Well, I've mentioned this before, but there is a curious phenomenon in the world, whereby the only people carrying film cameras in daylight hours are . . . young Asian women.
I believe they're mostly Japanese too (God bless 'em) and my spotting haul was good this time - 5 film cameras!
From memory they were: an Olympus OM1, another later OM (not sure what), a Minolta, a Praktika (!) and a gorgeous Pentax Spotmatic . . .

So what was I doing to hold our side up, film fans?  
What was Mr Sheephouse, proponent of film, film and more film doing?

Cough. 
Err. 
Cough.
No Film camera, cough.

What was that?

Cough.
Err, sorry, no film camera . . . 

OK, I chickened out again about carrying film through security scanners and ended up with the Sony A6000 and 35mm f2 Nikkor-O.
Now the Nikkor is a fine lens and I've taken a lot of photos with it that I actually like, but I dunno, on the Sony, that character it normally oozes is lost in a world of digital flatness. The Sony relates any detail captured in life-like colours and great quality, but the photos below look, to me, as dead as dodos.
Let me know what you think.
I can't begin to tell you how many times I hungered for a film camera!
Honest, I even dreamed about a Leicaflex SL. 
It was total pain (and shame) I was feeling, and I am now more determined than ever to travel with film. I've been thinking that something really really small and discreet like an OLD screw-mount Leica with the Canon 28mm f3.5 lens I have and using Sunny 16, would yield me the sort of photos I'd like to print.
Of course, I have the M2 too, but that is rather a target I believe, sadly. 

The other thing that came to a head with the Sony was it's reaction time.
Excuse me, as I am going to swear:

It was fucking fucking fucking fucking slow.

Nearly 3 seconds to wake up and react to my presence and that stupid fucking electronic viewfinder . . ah jeez. Well, you can tell, I was frustrated as fuck. In fact I would rank the electronic VF (apart from the nice red focus confirmation bits) on the Sony as being WORSE than the faff that is focusing and composing on a screw-mount Leica.
So, is the Sony going to get the boot?
I dunno - potentially.
I think I should replace our 7 year old Panasonic which is getting a bit long in the tooth (and whose screen has started to go) but still takes a decent pic, with something that'll do the job with an optical VF, but that is compact, and for the rest, well, hyperfocal with the Canon on a screw mount Leica - how does that sound?
Or accept the cudgel, get a Sony short focal length zoom for the Sony, use that as the 'general' camera and forget about using Nikkors on it.
Oh and I think solid B&W from now on - none of this colour stuff for me (even though I like it) - so that I can come home with 36 or 64 real negatives that I can easily deal with, and not nearly 500 digital ones, that are so-so and consume hours of time to sort.

So why is photography a bit smelly then Sheepy?

Well, the thing this has all highlighted for me, is that in the total move to digital, we, as photographers, have lost SO much. 
Yes, you get an optical VF with an SLR, but you also get a camera that is huge and has just way too many options that make me personally just say:

"Oh fuck OFF!"

I want something that reacts in the way an M2 or a Nikon F reacts. Quickly and intuitively. That lets the photographer be a photographer and not just a button pushing curator of menus. Yes, I know, there are the likes of the digi-Leicas and Fujis, but they're really expensive. there has to be a cheaper common ground.
I doubt this very much, but

If there is a camera manufacturer out there, who would like me to design a camera that old-time photographers WOULD ACTUALLY LIKE TO USE, then please, send me a message!

I reckon I could design one for you.
There's a huge gap in the market for something as simple and wonderful to use as the old Olympus Trip.

Anyway, without further ado, Dubrovnik . . oh and the wonderful Kotor (in Montenegro). 

I make no pretensions about these photos - I just enjoyed taking them, but the results are so-so to my eyes, they're not 'art' they are '(ph)art' and they're sifted from, as I said, around 500 in total - what a fecking nightmare!

















































And that's it folks - normal service will be resumed shortly - got a massive backlog of negatives to be printed - I just need some time.
Be good, keep taking the pills and remember that a bird in the hand will more than likely crap in it too.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Fun With Rocks (And Mist)

Well, I think fun is stretching the michael a bit, but combined the two are kind of interesting to me.
Let me explain myself - I've got screeds of lengthy stuff coming up, but haven't even started writing it yet, so consequently, recently whilst looking through some prints for Bruce and Omar (yes, I haven't forgotten!) I rediscovered some prints I'd made years ago from a couple of really rather lengthy hillwalks.
If you've ever done a hillwalk you'll know two things - mist is often inevitable, and there are lots and lots of rocks. OK, stay on the beam, I'll get there . . .   
When a good mist comes in, there's really nothing quite like it, because it is disorientating and fast, often thick, cold, wet and blanketing. All external sounds are draped and you become acutely aware of your heart and the noise of the bood in your ears and your breathing. It makes you stop in your tracks sometimes - it's that surprising. The world looses all colour and becomes completely grey - even the brown upland grasses and heathers loose their colour and if you are really unlucky and haven't taken rough bearings things can start to deteriorate pretty quickly. I call it brown-trouser walking, because believe me, losing your bearings for even a few minutes is incredibly worrying. But that's why people carry a compass. Or do they? It's incredible the number of people you meet on the tops who are dressed in jeans and trainers, no obvious map or compass, a lot of times no rucksacks . . .really amazing! 
As I can attest from the photograph below, your surefootedness can quickly turn to "Oh shiiiiit!".



A Cautionary Tale


You see, for some reason, I'd spotted this rather dull rock, which had a nice patch of permafrost running away from it, so I left the path I was on and walked the 50-or-so yards over to this to see if I could  make it look interesting. Those were the days when all I carried were the Rollei T and my Slik Baby-Bambi tripod.
Now I was stupid moving off the path without first looking round, because I would have seen that things were closing in rapidly, but oh no, a stroll over to the rock and whammo - Mist-out! Right I thought, no problem, I marked a heel gouge in the grass and told myself I'd come up to that. No problems, just go back exactly the way you came and you'll be fine, but take the photo first. Duly taken and things packed away, I searched in vain for my heel gounge and could I find it, could I fecundity! So I went to the rock and thought, well if I move like a spiral around the rock, I am bound to find my mark. So that's what I did - clever thinking thought I - and the further out I got, the dimmer the rock got until I realised that the rock was the one sure thing in the whole world of mist I was encompassed by. No gouge was to be found, so I headed back to the rock in panic.
At times like that, clear thinking very much takes a back seat and it really is only through a force of will that you come down to straight thinking. It is bloody difficult though, because every ounce of your being is saying, "This Is It - You're Lost, You Stupid Bastard!" Visions of the old yellow Mountain Rescue helicoptors stooping over my emmaciated corpse weeks hence were very real!
I hunkered down against the rock and tried to calm myself down. Oatcakes were eaten, water was sipped and then I realised a friend was to hand - my map and compass.
I roughly knew where I had been before the mist came down and could see from the map that the path should be approximately due North from my position, so in an act of daring-do which I have never repeated, I let my compass do the talking, got up, and headed into the unknown, with only a slip of magnetised plastic between me and oblivion.
You see that's the weird thing about mist - it utterly removes you from the normal world.
I must have walked for a good 15 minutes on that compass bearing; I sweated buckets; every hump and drop of landscape was some new torture. But I held as true as my bearing and eventually stumbled out between two hillocks onto a path.
It is a Sheephousian Truism that "it might look no far on the map, but it's further than you think on the ground".
I can see where I went wrong now, it was a Sheephousian triangle I was on and I ended up heading on the long edge of that . . . but I got there in the end and I suppose the thing I learn from this is that I really should brush up on my compass skills!




Near Broad Cairn



And as is so typical of the mountains, I stumbled back to safety and the mist lifted and this massive big puddle lay before me, so I celebrated photographically as it were. Bambi held the Rollei safely and I lived to fight another day. The misty horizon encompasses the whole of Broad Cairn (998 metres high, and on OS sheet 44) a massive, stone-strewn lump on the Mounth Plateau (for those of you of a geographiocal bent); the heady drop down to Loch Muick is on my right. I have never actually made it to the top of Broad Cairn simply because every time I tried . . . yep, you guessed it . . mist. I've wandered very closely to it though, just never actually climbed it proper as it were.

Anyway, onwards, so there I was, about a month earlier (yeah, weird eh? - no permafrost or snow in the above ones!) - it had been a wild sort of morning, with mist clearing to a wonderful crispness. The big snows of Winter hadn't yet started, but the permafrost was starting and new showers were coming in and the ground was hard as iron, smattered with new snow and the air was as sharp as a knife. I was climbing a well-known Munro and I was nearly there when I spotted this rock on the horizon. Had I not been footering about and observant I could have easily missed it, but it looked interesting and I took a detour, and discovered what I will call (and have ever since called) "The Watcher".
I think it's quite something and who knows what it (HE? almost certainly a he) has seen in the last 11,500 years since the glaciers tumbled him there!
You get that a lot - improbably gigantic boulders, I mean some of them are larger than a modern detached house, just sitting on a hillside minding their own business, waiting for time and more time to wear them down.
Anyway, back to the photo - this one is made with something I never use . .  Acros 100. The Acros was shot at box speed and developed in 1+50 Rodinal - you see the power of those notebooks - it was the 26th of October 2003 and this was the 3rd frame, shot at 1/60th and f22 . . . no tripod.
I've always liked this, but for some reason have never made a decent print of it.




The Watcher



Coo, all this walking has drummed up a hunger - I'm STARVING - now, where's the dumplings? Anyone got some? And follow that with a heavy dob of mashed potato and maybe even a deep fried pizza and a white pudding supper.
Full yet?
No? Well satisfy your gums with this stodgy, heavy-handed feast.
A true vintage Sheephouse print!
After hours of searching it seems to be the only one I have, sadly.
The thing is, the negative is gloriously tonal, and I know I can get a decent print out of it . .watch this space.
It was made with the Rollei T in 645 (or 16-On as it is known) mode!
Wonderful, because you are using most of the central portion of that lovely Tessar.
It also features the glorious tone of Ilford's FP4 and the Rollei Blau filter!
You know what, the older I get the more I think FP4 is just about the perfect film for tones. It seems to have them in spades, and whether that's because it's an old skool, medium speed film or not I don't know, but I like it.
Developer was 1+50 Rodinal again and this was made in October of 2003 - I seem to have done a lot of walking that year.
It wasn't really a misty day, but you can see that it wasn't exactly crystal clear either


The Cairn On Mayar

And now our last serving of carbohydrates.
It might not look it from the print below, but mist definitely stopped play.
This is where I carried a Sinar F, 2 Lenses, Linhof Twin Shank Tripod, Gitzo Series 5 head, 8 Film Holders, Loupe, Dark Cloth, Glasses, Emergency Gear, 2 Litres Of Water, Lunch and the heaviest 4 season boots I had (nearly 2kg a pair) up to a coll in an attempt to scale a Munro on a misty day.
It took me three hours to climb something that normally takes an hour and a half, but I got to the top of the coll and the bloody mist came in and draped me in doubt.
Memories of previous brown-trouser walks swept over me, so I retreated, rather than thinking it worth going on.
In truth I was utterly knackered and nearly dead by the time I got back to the car, and the one thing I learned from this is that you don't need battleship stability to make a photograph.
And yes, if you are wondering, there's no trickery involved, the path does ascend that 45 degree hillside.
 Details from notebook: 15/11/2009 - film foma 100 ei 80, 1+50 Rodinal



Shank Of Drumfollow


And that's it folks - in truth this is just a patch job - I've been taking loads of photos of stuff over the Spring/Summer along with my usual Summertime DIY projects (oh joy!) but rest assured, normal printing will resume as soon as possible.
And remember, if you pick that scab again it isn't going to heal . . .

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Warning To The Curious

Morning varmints - well today I have decided to use the title of my very favourite MR James story and BBC Christmas Ghost Story, simply because I can.  
It sort of works.

I am no doubt sure you've all bought secondhand cameras before, well, here-in lies a tale of woe with regard to that subject so horrendously awful it'll have you wringing your withers and crying into your pint o'meths. 
Oh yes, it's that bad.

But first let me preface:
A couple of weeks back, in a fit of "We're all doomed in a nuclear/end of world/environmental disaster beyond all imagination sort of way" I went mental again and promised to pay myself back or sell a kidney just to make ends meet, and on the sage advice of Bruce who said:

"The 60mm and a 150mm on the Hasselblad would make a nice kit Phil . . ." 

or something like that, I purchased a very nice 1990 150mm CF Sonnar for the Hasselblad. It is in really lovely condition and I am delighted. 
I have to say, you know people go on about things snapping in and out of focus just like that? well, this is the lens for it. It's as clear as day on the VF even with as poor eyesight as mine. 
Anyway, last weekend I decided to test it out on a trip to St Andrews - the photos are shite (that'll save you looking at them) but they showed me the potential of the lens on a tripod (which I wasn't using).
Here they are:



Contact Sheet - TMX 100, EI 50, Pyrocat-HD





Not My Family

Not My Family Either

They're Not Mine Either



Anyway, having made a few cursory test prints on the last of the Fotospeed RC, I was knocked aghast.
There!
Yes, there!! 
Marks!!!
Top left corner of all the frames . . . !!!!
The wailing and gnashing of teeth took me into proper, out-of-it territory, and then in a brief moment of lucidty before the walls of madness closed in again, it struck me and the Time Machine got to working again and I remembered a time long, long ago, when yer Sheephouse was all but an egg, and the planets hadn't yet formed, and all was blackness and void and noxious gasses.


Not An Out Of Focus Alien Armada

Ditto


You see what I mean?
When I did examine them closely I knew exactly what they were.
If you're a Roy (Cropper . . .tsk tsk, Corrie fans) this probably won't affect you, but if, like me, you only ever print full-frame, then this is a very very pertinent thing. 
And you know what, years and years back I'd written an article about it, so here it is:


DUST DONKEY AND THE HAIRY MARY PROBLEM

I know this is stating the obvious, but it only becomes truly obvious when it happens to you and things are spoiled by it. 
Here's a truism - in photography, cleanliness is next to godliness.

There, I'll repeat that, in photography, cleanliness is next to godliness.
There is so much emphasis placed upon lens cleanliness that other areas are totally ignored - for instance how many things have you read that say that you must check inside your camera body for dust and particles?  
Eh?
Go on, I'm waiting . . .
Thought so. 

This was driven home to me recently after I had spent a week on holiday and taken three rolls of images which I obviously wouldn't be able to repeat again; we'd got home; I developed them, examined them with a loupe and then . . . 
AAAARRRRGH! . .  
Left hand side, about halfway down the frame, a hair - just one, but enough to make big problems on sky areas.  
Not only was the air blue, but the feeling of having captured something special vanished immediately.  
Disappointment mixed well with my f'ing and blinding - I simply couldn't believe it. Knifing a print is a pain (though curiously therapeutic), but with each negative I print, I aim to not have to do anything. 
The regime I have at the printing stage usually means this is the case - but things like that bleeding hair really got my goat.  
You see it was alright on a lot of the negatives, as there was a lot of grassland and a small line of black wasn't really going to affect the image, but on some of the lovely unrepeatable dawn skies . . .
I still get really annoyed about it.
Anyway, I grabbed Olly (the Rollei [a 1965 T for afficionados]), and there, attached to a seam surrounding the baffle just behind the lens was a tiny, fine, but enormously intrusive hair. 
Suddenly, from a small and not often visited corner of my brain, Dust Donkey brayed at me.
"Thought you'd been thorough eh Sheephouse?"
Well yes actually Mr Donkey, I thought I'd been really thorough - so much so, that in a pre-holiday-fantastic-image-unrepeatable-got-to-have-a-clean-camera type thing, my thoroughness to remove any possible problematic dust from the lens cavity had meant that I had been just too over-zealous and had blower-brushed more than necessary, not noticing that said Rollei seam had depillated one hair from said blower-brush, trapping it for all time on three unrepeatable films.
"Huh", he snorted, "gimme another carrot and I'll tell you what to do."
I dutifully did as I was told.
"Well, yer actual problem there was not us Dust Donkeys, but the dreaded Hairy Marys," he said pointing his hoof at the offending hair, "and those girls will get you every time.  Us Donkeys are easily blown out of the way - all you have to do is turn your camera back upside down, so that your lens is facing skyward, and use your blower brush or yer Rocket Air to move us around - we will invariably fall to the floor - but don't be too rough with your blowy-sweepy actions  as the Marys will attach themselves to parts of your camera that you weren't even aware of - internal body seams an' all that.  When you think you have chased off the herd, turn your camera around, place it lens down (with lens cap in place) on a flat surface, and then use a small torch and a pair of glasses or a small loupe to thoroughly check the interior for any Hairys - if there are any (and Sod's Law states that there probably will be) you can easily remove them with the likes of a speck-grabber, or pair of plastic tweezers.  You don't want any free-floating Marys in there," he said, "they're a bleeding nightmare."
Hmm, thanks donks.
"No probs matey, oh, and don't forget that you don't have to do this with every film, unless you are really really prone to dust - some people are, some aren't. Just watchit, 'at's all I'm saying, capisce?"
And there you have it, the (very sensible, but easily overlooked) law according to Dust Donkey - he's just off to the corner of the field now after having gloatingly stated the entirely obvious.  
Just wish I'd listened to him before I went on holiday.

I unpacked the Hasselblad, took off and thoroughly examined the film back . . that was clean, so I set the shutter to B and fired it and examined (with torch and glasses) and sure enough, there (just behind the bevel by the internal 'doors') it was.
A small scumble of impossibly fine fluff!
It looked all soft and cute and stuff, but there was no room for it in my herd.
I cleaned it (with my finger tip and a pair of tweezers, not a microfibre cloth as I thought this might introduce more fluff), released the shutter and wound on a few times and each time, new fluff appeared.
Who knows how long this stuff had been waiting to extrude itself from some unlit corner of the interior of my camera!
And eventually I got there and I reckon my camera is now clean.
Here's hoping.
You can't say fairer than that can you.

So what are you waiting for?
Trust me, this is something you really want to check.
Things like this can be sorted before a photographic adventure, but remember, time and light and things happening wait for no man.
The unrepeatable is just that.
You know it makes sense.

TTFN and if you see Dust Donkey, tell him his Mum hasn't heard from him in ages.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Scouringburn Memory

OK, this was called "Adventures In The Poley Triangle" - an intriguing title I grant you, however, not very inspiring, so I changed it.
So if you'll excuse me, I'll skip the guff and just plop you down on a map, oh, and there's a Mace bag with juice and oatcakes and an emergency flare or two just in case we get separated over there . . .


Poley Triangle


There, that's better isn't it!
(OK map and accurate angles fans, as you can see I have overshot the mark, and then corrected my mistakes with an oval; this is simply because it's not an accurate triangle, more of a metaphorical one, but it is sort of triangular isn't it . . .)

Before we start, the correct pronounciation (though if I'm wrong I'm damn sure Bruce [Dundee's own Viv Meier] will tell you) . . anyway Poley (as in Polepark Road, as in Poley Triangle) is pronounced round 'ere as "Pole-Ee"
OK? 
Good - before you know it you'll be able to say:

"Meh wa's are a' baa dabs."
"Eh. Meh wa's are a' baa dabs an a'"

Which sort of means:

"Goodness me, the children have been kicking a muddy football against my wall."
"I know what you mean. The varmints have been kicking a muddy football against my wall as well."

And just to ease you in to the accent, here's an old Dundee joke . . .

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Fred.
Fred who?
Fred Eggs.

Anyway, enough of this hilarity - the Dundee accent (which is slowly dying) is a peculiar mixture of Scots, Irish and a certain lilt that was apparently naturally cultivated so that people could be heard shouting above the thunderous noise of mill machinery.
You see, mills were this cities heart and soul and there were many many of them.
When the flax trade stopped (pretty much entirely because of the Crimean War, as flax had been imported from Baltic countries) some bright spark came up with a process whereby you could treat natural jute with whale oils (Dundee's other main trade at the time) and make it a workable product that was exported worldwide. 
To get an idea of how huge this industry was, in the 20 years from 1831 to 1851 the population of the city increased from just over 4000 souls to approximately 64500! That's an enormous increase in a short span of time and it just goes to show how much the industry meant to the city. 
There's now no mills operating at all; the last closing in the early 1990's.
So what happens to the places of work no longer needed? Well, they're either done up for flats or they slide.

I'll draw your attention to the map again:

Poley Triangle



By way of explanation, this is a bit of Dundee, that is slowly crumbling, and is largely un-modernised. ie, it has slid, quite massively post-WW II and is still in need of tlc and thought rather than laissez-fair. 
Twenty years and it'll be gone - mind you they were saying that twenty years ago.
There's empty words here
They've done a couple of installations in the old DC Thompsons building and of course there's the marvellous Verdant Works
But that's about it. 
Millions needed to get it looking like anything again . . anyway, you see that bit at the conjunction of Brewery Lane, Polepark Road and Brook Street? That's the Coffin Mill, so called for the apparently horrific death of a young millworker there and also because the courtyard bore a resemblance to a coffin.
(It was also the site of another death-knell - the scene of yer young Sheephouse's adventures into the world of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal with the band 'Warlord'.
Oh yes, it was an old garage in what was a largely falling apart mill, and it was f'ing freezing.
The band?
I didn't last long - they had ideas above their station and the music was, er, cough cough, shite.)

Anyway, here's what that bit of town looked like in 1947 (apparently).


Poley Triangle 1947




That squared-off U of a building, centre bottom is the Coffin Mill . . . and here it is with its famous mid-air hovering red circle . .



Poley Triangle 1947, with hovering red circle



This is the area we are concerned with. 
As you can see it was a hive of industry, but is now an area of dereliction, some done-up-ness, industrial units in old mill buildings and more dereliction.
Having lived not far from here for over 25 years, weirdly I've never explored it properly. There used to be a Comet electricals retailer in the area, and I knew an artist that worked in the WASPS studios, but that was about it. 
It had passed my radar by. 
My itch started itching again though when (governed by the price of a pint [average £3.50 in yer standard Dundee pubs, £2.05 in the Counting House]) I started my monthly-or-so walk into town (to meet old band mates Chic n' Currie) along a new route, which involved Guthrie Street - site of one the earliest mill buildings in Dundee (a flax mill built in 1793).
The buildings have always been bad to my memory, but I was really taken by how ruinous a lot of them are. 
I think most city councils would have flattened the area decades back, but I am glad Dundee hasn't - there's a ton of history here.
Anyway, wishing to take the M2 out for a walk a couple of Saturdays back, I loaded up some ancient TMX 100 and set to!

I have to be honest, I started off thinking pictures of dereliction rather, how shall we say, not immature, but certainly not the work of an experienced eye, simply because it is too damn easy to make them look great! After all, a bit of dereliction brings with it that certain je ne sais quoi of litter, vandalism and just general run-downness; a soupçon of nature doing what nature does bestest - starting to remove all trace of ugly mankind. It is astonishing how buddleia can be so tenacious, but tenacious it is, adhering itself to the smallest of cracks and beginning its not-so-long work of cracking masonry if left unchecked.
Throw in vandals who get a sniff of potential fire-raising situations, no street cleaning, fly-tipping and general neglect and you end up with easy to make pictures which look great because of all the messness and fallingapartness.
Piece of cake!

Leica M2, 35mm f3.5 Summaron, Kodak TMX 100, Pyrocat-HD



It wasn't a day that commended itself to photos - it was overcast and cold and had been raining earlier on in the day, but sometimes you just have to force yourself to get going!
And you know what?
I had a hell of a whale of a time (a Tay whale no less) blazing through all 36 exposures in around an hour, which was astonishing to me - it normally takes me a while to finish a film! What was going on? Well, there was so much to photograph, that I got caught up in the moment.
This being said, there's a lot of camera shake too, and I'll blame that on my boyish enthusiasm.


This Dangerous Area was all fenced-off.
Did that discourage me?
Nah - not me - I might have stubbed my toe though, so I got off lightly.



Weird place for a beauty parlour.
The picture of the bride (?) is unashamedly '70's



Welcome to Douglas Street!



WTF?
Other wot??



Incredibly, this is the entrance to a Convenience Store.
How welcoming and fresh!



Sorry - couldn't resist.




OK, they're not wonderful photographs, but certainly they helped with one thing - they helped me refine my eye and inspired me to go back with Victor The Hasselblad.


Hasselblad 500CM, 60mm CB Distagon, Kodak TMX 100, Pyrocat-HD


I've been using Victor hand-held a bit recently, but I decided for maximum recording of the fine details of urban detritus, a tripod had to be employed. Lens was as always (it's the only one I've got in the V-system) the 60mm Distagon. It's a great lens. equally at home with infinity as it is with closer distances. Film was 2 years past expiry date TMX 100, rated at EI 50 and developed in 1+1+100 Pyrocat-HD.


Anyone fancy a Solero?

Incredibly I fore-went (?) the tripod on the above one. I could barely see the scene above a wall that was at eye-height, so I threw caution to the wind, hyper-focused the Distagon, rested the camera on the wall, pointed it in the general direction, locked the mirror and let rip. Incredibly the verticals are vertical . . . must be a good wall!


Arnotts were (back in the day) one of the largest Department Stores in Dundee.
This is the gate to their old warehouse


The reason it just says "Arno" is because there's the wreck of a car to the right, and I didn't want to include it. Maybe I'll get the full scene one day.



Scouringburn Memory.

I thought there was something strangely tranquil about this.
The chimneys belong to the now derelict Queen Victoria Works.

For all the detritus photos, this last one is my favourite. I've no idea why the tree is on its side.
Brook Street, only became Brook Street in the 1930's, before that it was known as Scouringburn, a real burn or small river which became a natural source of power to the mills.
It is still thereapparently, under the modern Brook Street. 
Shame. 
I prefer the old name, it speaks of times gone and nature subjugated and old memories.

Anyway folks that's enough for now. I think the area will repay visits, so watch this space (as they say).

TTFN now and remember to clean your teeth and pack a fresh pair of underpants just in case.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I'm In The Phone Booth (It's The One Across The Hall)

So qouth Ms. Harry when I was but a tender bit of a lad and she was the one girl that every boy at Lockerbie wanted to date. They were heady days, were them 1978/79 days - all exams and hormones and in my case (woe is me) pain and loneliness.
But anyway, enough o' that guff, I think that was the point in time that the British Phone Box became cemented in my being. Jings it was expensive to actually own your very own wired phone in your own house; we had one at home, but I had to really think (and ask permission) if it was OK for me to phone Steve in London on a Saturday afternoon . . . and even when I could it was for a restricted time . . . London was a long way away!
And then I moved to this Lost City on the East coast of Scotland. Being but a poor student, I had to rely on phone boxes for saying hello to all the parts of my family that were roughly a billion miles away (well, they might have been in real terms). 
Yes I wrote letters, frequently, received food parcels from my Mum, received letters from Steve and not so much from the rest of my family, but if I really wanted to speak to someone that wasn't paper, then it was load up the 10p's and head to the nearest phone box. 
I guess you can say that I became acutely familiar with that strange mixture of stainless steel, and business cards, scratched polycarbonate windows and the delightful tangy whiff of the end of an evening well spent inside the box . . . 
(Why do guys pee in phone boxes? Probably the same reason they sometimes pee in their own wardrobes [true story . . not me] anyway, it's utterly disgusting, but when the next nearest box is a mile or so away, you put up with it . . .) 
The bog standard phone box became a feature of my life - a wee lifeline home.

So, a number of years back (after I'd given them up and had owned my own actual phone for a long time) it occurred to me that with the relentless march of personal communication these doyens of British public life were falling into a massive state of disrepair. 
I started looking at them seriously and realised that neglect was really nibbling their edges, so I started photographing them. 
Now obviously I could have made them formal, straight up and down 'portraits' but that wasn't in the slightest what interested me, because (rather like that heady mix of burned cheese and brick hard pasta at the end of a lasagne, or the wonderful carbonised pieces of meat and onion in the bottom of a cast-iron griddle after a well-fired steak) the interiors of these boxes were taking on a superbly gnarly, crusty 'air' of abandonment and reflections and light. 
They were like small worlds of utter strangeness that, though being a part of the general everyday scene, were, in themselves far apart from anything normal
It was this I saw and started to photograph.
I think I might well have been the first in this obsession, because I've quite a ton of photos of these worlds now, probably enough to have an exhibition with, and, more importantly,  I've not seen anyone else doing the same thing . . . stick that in yer pipe and smoke it. 
You read it here first, so don't go nicking my ideas.

Well, recently I've been a bad lad actually - no photographs taken with the M2 since last June which is just terrible isn't it. 
I'd loaded a film (FP 4) last September with a view to taking it to Edinburgh, which I did, but wanting to enjoy the experience and not just keep stopping to take photographs, I managed a scant handful, came home again and carefully stored the M2 away with the film still in it.
And months passed.
A few weekends back I thought I really must do something about it, so, a trip to the home of golf and use the film up, which I did. Results were developed in the now standard for me Pyrocat-HD.

But before I show them, I think I have also discovered the very best way to hold a Leica (in my opinion).
Up till now I've used a wrist strap mostly, and because of the relative lightness of the camera that worked really well.
I've also used a standard strap over my shoulder carrying it at about hip height, which didn't work so well, but then inspired by Ernst Haas and this self-portrait with a Leicaflex I started thinking differently:

Ernst Haas - Self Portait, New York, 1971


I really tightened up the length on my Domke Gripper strap, draped it around my neck and it worked like a charm.
Chest height is good, because you can simply hold the camera as you walk and stop it banging around, but it is always ready to go and not too far to move from chest to eye. 
With your camera fully around your neck, it sort of makes you look like a tourist which is also good. Plus if you get to look even a tenth as cool as Ernst Haas in that photograph then all is right with the world!
This is the way forward to me - I know it sounds basic, but comfort with the camera and also how the camera looks to the outside world is an important thing.
Like this you look a bit of a putz and less of a threat and I really don't think anyone would take you seriously . . . at least that's my opinion.

Anyway, enough of the obvious, here's a few boxy pictures - I've photographed this particular box many times and it always turns up something interesting - this time it's where UV is cracking all the film stickers on the box/booth.


Don't Fence Me In 1



Don't Fence Me In 2


I wanted to find more pictures of this box, but since changing over my system all my filing of scans has gone to pot, so I didn't find them, however I did chance upon these two, which were taken in Edinburgh (about a year ago with the M2 and the Canon 28mm; film was TMX 400 and it was developed in 1+50 Rodinal.)
I love these two, especially the last one, which gives me the idea of a sort of space age rendezvous, and I have no idea why!
One thing you'll notice when taking pictures of phone boxes is that to get in tight, you need a wide-angle and you will also be restricted by the dimensions of the box (ie. the framework of the box will nearly always intrude in some manner, be it a reflection or the thing itself) but it's worth it - focus on your point of interest  inside or outside the box and let happenstance take the rest of the photo . . the results are nearly always interesting.


Don't Fence Me In 3




Don't Fence Me In 4


Well that's about it. I've spared you hours of reading this time!
No doubt phone boxes are in danger in your part of the world too - document them if you have them - they'll not be around for much longer.
And tell them Sheephouse sent you!

TTFN, . . . .

" . . . thus spake Billy Fury, ten years ago . . . ten years ago, that's a long time ago. What is happening now, that's an interesting question. Now what is happening now . . . I'll tell you what's happening now . . . urgh, Jean Jeanie flies on her own man . . . 
We're getting rather frustrated with one thing and another, this is the solution . . . 
Violence, violence, it's the only thing that'll make you see sense . . . "

OK you need to be a Mott The Hoople fan to get that last bit . . . 

Saturday, February 04, 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.




Elephant?

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.