Friday, July 28, 2017

A Walk On The Wild Side (In Sheep-O-Vision)


Morning troops - this is something sick-makingly different.

Well, you've seen this walk before - way way back in Off Piste 1 & 2, but anyway, I felt it was way too long since I'd done this walk and way too long since I'd been on the hills AT ALL.
It really is shocking how time disappears, it seems like the world is moving at a faster and faster pace, but the reality is that I am just getting older and slower - of course the world turns at the same rate - life continues as it always has done. It's just that in some little corner of my brain, my take on it is that it is getting faster!
The sad fact is, that I am just turning into an addled old shite.

Anyway, suitable packed I headed out, well I say suitably packed, I had to rip out and rearrange the lovingly sorted, perfectly ideal, nicely divided interior of my Tamrack 777 bag!
That was a nightmare in itself - so why did I do it?
No, quiet at the back, not because I am an addled old shite . . . it's because I had to make room for the Hasselblad and gear for taking pictures a long way from anywhere.
Last time I'd done this it was full-on 5x4 . . . but seeing as I have had no inclination to do any LF work in a couple of years now, MF it was!
Trust me, if you have a backpack for your gear and you work in different formats, do the right thing and buy a separate bag for each format (if you've got the room). Why? because it is a total b'tard having to tear out and rearrange those velcro panels!
When you get it just right, it's a good feeling, because it is there for almost perpetuity . . . but having to rip out that perfect arrangement to accomodate another format . . well, it's my idea of Dante's Seventh Circle. Anyway, I had no alternative, so rip, rip, feck, feck, rip, it was.
The air was bluer than a Smurf Convention!

Anyway, so here we are, on a lovely walk into the middle of nowhere.
I've got my camera (Hasselblad 500 C/M); the 60mm Distagon and some rolls of Ilford's really wonderful Delta 400. I took some FP4 too, but ended up on the Delta.
This walk really is off-piste - basically I followed a well-known track some of the way and then followed fence lines (always a reliable way to go) doing some moderate climbing, till my destination was reached. It isn't a massive walk as far as these things go and definitely not an exhausting one, but it was still uphill.
The slight frost on the ground cleared away quite quickly and I found myself 2000 feet up in bright (and very windy) sunshine.
Sadly for me, but not for the animals, I found no winter kill (ie dead animals caught by fences) It happens a lot with snowy ground and deer fences, but we had little snow this year, which is good news for the beasts, but not for me, so photographically it had to be all hill . . .
Photographing hills isn't as easy as people think, because, inherently, they can be quite dull (unless they have dramatic sky attached) and on a day like this was, the sky was a long way up and the hills were bathed in bright sunshine. Not exactly ideal.
I photographed the hilly bits, had a rooty-tooty time and headed back, because I knew that there was more to photograph. The truth is hill-mates, I secretly hoped that the upcoming subject matter was still there. I'd spied it a few years earlier and photographed it, and desparately wanted to photograph it again. It was maybe the whole reason for the trip . . . not that I've done it justice . . but never mind.

And now the Sheep-O-Vision bit:

Have a butchers at these stupid videos (shot on a PiePhone - yes a Wallace's PiePhone 2 . . . that's a Dundee joke dontcha know) with the added bonus addition of EWN!
That's EXTRA WIND NOISE . . .
It was unavoidable - in some shelter it was fine, but stand up and well, wind.
I made them as a bit of laugh and record for myself, but when I got back and watched them, I thought I could shove them on FB and see what happens. They'll give you a decent idea of the place, but it's just a shame there's some gnarly old twat talking to you.






video




video




video




video



OK, I've called the emergency services and they'll be here in a few minutes. Hope the recovery position isn't too uncomfortable and that the CPR hasn't hurt your chest too much.
So, I did take some photographs too - honest! 
In fact here's the results. 
None of these have been properly printed - just the two contact sheets, scanned at 800DPI and the actual photographs are just scans from those contact sheets at 3200 DPI. 
I am surprised they look not bad considering.
Film as mentioned was Delta 400, EI was 200, and development was in Pyrocat HD for around 20 minutes


























And that's about it really. It was a decent walk of around 8 to 10 miles with a fair amount of gear, but I loved it.
I need to get out more actually, it's criminal
I am barely managing two proper walks a year at the moment.
If I had my way I'd be out there every day - it's food for the soul, and fat-burning for the middle-aged spread.
Any exercise is good exercise, and especially when you can breath really clean air and experience all the majesty of the Scottish hills; well, you can't put a price on it, can you.

TTFN, and remember. Er, what did I say to remember?.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Normal Service Will Be Resumed As Soon As Possible

Hi folks - if you normally subscribe to FB by email, you will not doubt have been very surprised by a post this morning that seems half ready - please ignore it - it is an incomplete one posted by an errant set of fingers and a tea-deprived brain. 
It is nearly ready though, but needs tweaking. 
(Ab)normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.



Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Dr. No? Blofeld? Nope It's Goldfinger!

Morning folks - y'know, in a galaxy far, far away and a long time ago, people actually used to prInt and mail out paper catalogues! 
It was dead exciting getting one through the post because you could muse for hours over your choice of whatever you liked from a planet full of stuff, narrowing your choices down day by day, till the ultimate list was made!
No more searching your High Street and feeling despondent and glum because your local shops never stocked anything you wanted at all. No, for a small amount of postage, there were wonderful people who would send you everything your heart desired.
And so it was with photography.
There are still a number of excellent mailorder suppliers of photographic stuff in the world - you should be using them rather than Ebay, or Amazon, simply because they care, they are knowledgable, and it is their business. Yes, you'll maybe pay more, but you are paying for a service and deep stock

Goldfinger pre-dated Silverprint (in London) - this is one of their mailorder things - it used to be available as a download on Silverprint's site, but it vanished a few years ago - I guess they thought 'Who wants to read this old stuff!'
So, in the interests of knowledge and some bloody fantastic reading, here it is again as a fully downloadable PDF.
My apologies to Martin Reed and Silverprint, but I just feel that stuff like this should be 'out there' as it were and not consigned to the digital skip of history! Though if you are from Silverprint, or indeed are Martin and you don't want this to remain posted please contact me.

This post buys some time for me - a small stop-gap whilst I try and get some more printing and writing done . . . but that's another (series) of stories . . .
The Godlfinger Craftbook is a well written photographic processing discourse. Sadly the price list has gone . . . as has a lot of the stuff mentioned.
I hope you enjoy it, oh and if you do, remember, FogBlog is pretty much dedicated to Ye Anciente Arte Of Printing And Processing, so have a look around - there's some interesting stuff on this blog if I do say so myself.





This is the link:


It works. It'll open in Google Docs and is fully downloadable.
Every home should have one.

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.