Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Old Polaroids And Lost Souls

This was written a while back when I went through a phase of 'getting it down on paper' as it were . . an aid-memoire for the braincells . . .

I'd recommend doing this, to everyone - you won't know what you've got till it's gone . . . and even then, well especially, even then! 
 
Be warned though - it's a lot of reading . . . especially if you can't be arsed . . . but if you can, sit down with a nice 'holiday' of Soma and let's get on with it . . .

Morning Choppers - I hope you are all well today - it is jolly cold here, about minus 5 actually and yer Sheephouse Studion is filled with the chill of early morning and memory, because further to the last FB about my youth (which was bloody ages ago actually) I find myself in a reflective state of mind.
As Ali and I sat and did our usual, post film (or in this case post Series 4 of The Tudors) trawling through fun music videos and Sunday night Y'TUBE-ing (surely everyone does this . . a form of free thought scatting [loosened by wine of course] through musical memories and new discoveries) I was reminded that I was once told at Lockerbie Academy that I looked like Meatloaf.
Combine this to archetypal Scots' insult of the late-70's ("Y' Tube" - and no, I have no idea why people called people Tubes, but it was damned good and funny) and the tumblers tumbled and the locks opened.
Then, throw in a viewing of Meatloaf's performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test, circa 1978 and you have a lovely set of ingredients for a reminisce.
The performance he and his band gave on "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" caused quite some comment at Lockerbie - it was bombastic, over-acted, over the top and downright suggestive to a bunch of kids whose rural (semi or complete) upbringing had brought them little more than visits from the vet, lambing, tractor graffiti (a true thing) and the quiet (and often boring to a kid) niceties of a childhood raised in small towns and villages and fields.
Re-reading that, it sounds like I am slagging them - far from it - they were damn lucky to have had such childhoods - in truth I reckon most people would give their right arm (albeit unknowingly) to be raised in the freedoms a rural setting can furnish.
But fecking Meatloaf!
Needless to say, I looked nothing like him, not even in the dark, but it was one of those casual kid throwaway things that damn well hurt.
My self-image at that point, as an ex-fat kid trying to make good by starvation and exercise, was I was still fat.
So it was just what I needed - a barbed comment, tossed like a random hand-grenade before the trip home on the school bus.


Err, no, I don't want to go to Aberdeen



Ah, the rural school bus . . . sweet exquisite pleasure and pain wrapped into one.
Ours was typical of the one you see above; a Bluebird apparently, quaint, coach-built with leather seats and a driver called Davey (who was not only all right, but kept an eye out for me too).
I lived approximately 13 miles North of Lockerbie Academy, so shared the bus with the kids from Johnstone Bridge, Wamphray, Beattock, Moffat and all points inbetween. There were a fair number of us on that daily trip, from seniors down to first years, but the problem for me was, though I might have lived there and shared the same incredible landscape and weather, I wasn't of the place, and therefore was anathema
(You can come from, or be from a place, but if you weren't born there, you couldn't be OF the place.  That is simple fact. 
It used to be commonplace in Scotland, but has been diluted a bit in recent decades . . . however please note [from a friend who moved to rural Ayrshire] . . . it still exists.)
This resulted in me (for pretty much two years: '77 and '78) being totally ignored and sitting on my tod.
Usually I just stared out the window or read; other times I thought about guitars and music; other times I bit down the loneliness in my soul, uncocked the mental Uzi that made me want to spray the back of the bus full of condescending bastards, and just kept my head down. '
Cause y'know, shit happens.
You get things chucked at you.
People talk about you in the seat behind you . . .
So I ignored them.
It sort of worked.

Quite how much it worked, was brought home on the bus last night when I was told off by the conductress (honest, pure mortification!) which set a drunken bloke to laughing and then staring and shouting at me (in a totally pissed Dundee accent):
"Mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate, mate . ."
so I ignored him too and eventually he wandered up the back of the bus swearing and bemoaning his lot in life.

Anyway, ignoring shite got into me and for a while I ended up quite a solitary person - worlds away from the semi-gregarious soul I'd been at Harrow.
My best friend Steve recently reminded me that at school, we'd had a circle of friends - not the high achieving sports kids and academics, but the B-Team - who had (ahem) followed us.
Now I have no recollection of this other than some memories of having friends at HH other than Steve.
Oh, like a gatecrash at a funeral, here they are:

The Obvious Benefits Of A Private Education.
The B-Team In All Their Glory!



But back to solitaire.

That sort of (voluntarily-imposed) removal from the usual scrum of teenage life can end badly sometimes, if you're a teenager (which I strangely enough was); the world looks a blacker place than it really is, with isolation and little hope of kind words and friendship.
I've detailed what happened to me when I first got to Lockerbie before HERE where you can read the whole sorry tale.
Unfortunately, to dig the solitude even further, the kids that had befriended me (down to earth, pretty rough, yet lifesavers) didn't live in my neck of the woods, and whilst nowadays I love Moffat, back in the day the kids came across as snooty, unfriendly and downright condescending; the kids from Wamphray were  . . . well . . . let's just say not my sort (though they could have been had they tried).
So it was Me vs. Upper Annandale!
But against the odds, I survived that first year, until the ones I had made friends with in 1977 left after Summer term in 1978, and I had to reconfigure friendhips again

I know, where's the Kleenex . . . 

Now fortunately this is where my guitar playing paid for itself.
I wasn't much of a guitarist in those days, but I did have a 4 year, totally obsessive headstart on the kids who were being swept up in punk and unwittingly (and by default) became a bit of a gear-guru.

Parents, don't tell your kids that their obsessions are a waste of time - all those hours spent staring into music shop windows in Harrow had paid off and I was able to help people!

My new friends from Lockerbie and Langholm and 'Fechan (names withheld to preserve the innocent, but you know who you are, and THANK YOU) were furnished with my in-depth knowledge gleaned from Beat Instrumental, Guitar and International Musician magazines.
It was a wonderful time to learn an instrument actually - with the feeling that literally ANYONE could do it. They all got the bug and became caught up with trying to sound like The Stranglers or the Pistols or even Pete Townsend (!) - impressive idols.
For myself I was in love with Andy Summers of the Police and Jeff Beck and Mick Ralphs of Mott.
With hindsight (and a smug, congnesceti look at things) I still think that gave me an edge in the guru stakes, because I had a foot firmly in a rock past, but was willing to learn and listen to new stuff.
And what new stuff!
I did my best to listen to it all, from borrowed records and John Peel every night; to the Friday Rock Show, Fluff on Saturday afternoon, Whistle Test and of course the all important Birthdays and Christmas (new records!) 
Along with my rock leanings, I developed a deep love for early Wire, Radio Birdman (Australian and more like the Stooges than the Stooges), Dead Boys (RIP Stiv), Richard Hell, The Rezillos, The Human League and a whole gamut of smaller indie bands producing 7" singles in gargantuan quantities week in, week out.
Reading Sounds and NME in the library at Lockerbie became a frustrating experience.
I had hardly any money to deal with the vast 'must-hear-must-own' sea of music exploding around me.
There was no weekend job; in fact nothing except full-time employment in the Summer.
Oh, and I got virtually no handouts from Mum and Dad, simply because they didn't have it.
So there I was with less than two brass farthings to rub together.
It really was Church Mouseville.

Anyway, if you're lost in a spiral of "where the feck is he going?" please bear with me, we might well get there if you stop throwing nuts at me from the back seat . . .

Now, these days you can buy a really decent/excellent guitar for well-under £100, it's incredible really; back in my day you could also buy a guitar for that price (though £100 was a huge amount of money) but they were mostly shite.
So there I was Mr. Gear-Guru and what did I have?
I had a Vox Clubman II - arguably the worst production guitar ever made - currently priced around £200 as a 'vintage' instrument, the Clubman gave the expression "all fur coat and no knickers" new creedence.


Where's Yer Knickers?
GGGRRRRRooovy Daddio!



Mine cost me £20 in 1975 - oh boy did I think it was the bees knees!
But then I grew as a player and realised (rather like the late, great Gary Moore) that having a Clubman II as a first electric (yes, he did and hated it too) really did make you yearn for the finer things in life.
In two words, it was utter cack - hell it was a struggle trying to fret anything on it - the action was a rough 1/2" at the 12th fret, and no I am not joking.  As a design it was a catalogue of errors - one only has to look past the rather super-groovy Red 'POP!' finish to see - hmm, yes a bridge that came off an Archtop; NO TRUSS ROD!!!; a plywood body; and the cracker - instead of the bog (and industry) standard 1/4" jack socket, it had a male/female UHF socket (the sort you find on TV aerials) attached to another 'groovy' artefact . . the microphonic curly lead . . . but I suppose what do you expect for 1963 . . .
So there I was - way ahead of my time with regard to vintage chic, but waaaaaay behind the times with regard to a playable instrument . . . 'Mr. Experience', toting the crappiest guitar ever made and all these lads coming in to school with their new fangled Ibanez' and Yamahas and Fenders and Hondos - it was totally embarrassing!
And so it remained, until 1979 when Dad died, the world fell apart, and Mum insisted I go to London for the Summer to work.

Stick with it . . you're doing well!

Much like the summer of 1978 where working for the Forestry Commission had enabled me to buy a stereo (OK, I couldn't stretch to speakers but my Sennheiser phones were just fine) so, the Summer of 1979 meant working for Michelin on what would become the 1980 Michelin Hotel and Restaurant guide. Yes that guide, you know, Michelin Stars, lunch at La Gavroche, etc. A remarkably civilised Summer job which enabled the purchase of a rather nice secondhand Chris Eccleshall Les Paul Junior . . .
Suitably bouyed and with a Summer spent becoming enthralled and obsessed with the burgeoning rock scene (proto-NWOBHM) I returned with some credibility, and chops
If you're not interested in guitars, chops will make you think I had brought my Mum back some lovely bits of meat from London, but actually in guitar terms chops means playing ability.

So, some credibility, a head start in instrument knowledge and interested disciples (haha!) - I was all set!

Well, actually what happened is that my now firmly established friendships were just that, and interest and enthusiasm were traded around in a lovely sort of muso-bonhomie - the guys were real lifesavers to me - they brought me out of a s(hell), which had been firmly cemented on by circumstances:

Moving from London (and my best friend) to the middle of nowhere.
Starting in 5th year, but on receipt of my exam results being relegated to the 4th Division (year).
Living in the middle of nowhere with nothing but sheep, fish and cows as friends.
Dad dying from cancer (the biggest thing of all).
Being pretty much ignored by anyone my age that lived within 10 miles.

As I have said before, we might not have stayed in contact (these things happen) but they really helped, even though it might not have been obvious at the time. So, chaps of Lockerbie Academy, circa 1978-1980,  thank you.

My time at Lockerbie was, sort of like a death and a rebirth. 
I think it went a long way to contributing to who I am today. 
It gave me, though not obvious till years later, a thick skin and a general attitude that if people aren't prepared to accept me on my own terms then that is their lookout. 
One thing I'll say about myself is that in my 50's I am still pretty much addressing the world in a way that isn't based upon what I would consider compromising myself.
Of course, it is easier to be like that (mostly) these days, but it's also incredibly hard too: men are still expected to wear suits, women are still expected to wear heels - it's a dress code that I think is incredibly old-fashioned and narrow-minded.
OK, I am probably looked upon as a scruffy oik for wearing hoodies and combats all day, every day, but my Dad wore a suit to work (even operating a machine with a brown overall over the top!) and I hate the bloody things - they're suits fer Gawd's sake!
Self-expression (though it was to an extent denied them) is a freedom my parents fought for. Were it not for the guts and privations of their generation we might well all be working in state factories dressed in grey, so there.

'The man' is still about though - tales of Alec Turnips daring-do in his weekend job tell me that - plus ca change . . .
In fact, thinking about it,  have things changed much since I did my own bit of fighting him?

I dunno - I looked unconventional (though very tame by modern standards) in the 1980's when I squared up to him, but I am sure if you trawl the law books, you'll find somewhere how one little man with long hair kept a QC working for Alf Rice Music tied up with the truth and a meticulously kept diary for months.
Oh yes, Sheephouse vs. The Big Machine . . . been there, flew my freak flag high too.

Not had enough yet? Blimey - you're a glutton for punishment!

Do you want the story? 
OK, here goes (in a nutshell):

General buyer/stock processor for Virgin Records in Dundee.
Virgin's smaller shops sold to Alf Rice.
Alf Rice management keen on "rules and procedures' and dislike the 'freedoms' afforded Virgin employees.
Virgin employees slowly picked off by ramping up pressure. Good men and women picked off like chickens in a tiger's pen.
I served customers one week (with hair at chest length) and was told I looked "dirty" and could no longer serve people the following week without getting it cut, because I might offend them.
[Honest, a girl who worked with us (a proto-Goth) was sacked for wearing too much black!]
"You can't do that!" said I quietly to myself, and after a week hiding and getting more and more riled and extremely stressed, I did the correct thing and resigned.


And I think I had that whole "You can't do that!" attitude to thank Lockerbie for.

Initial circumstances there made me tougher (though I could never have thought of myself as tough in the slightest) but I ended up tough enough to say ENOUGH! to the lovely people from Alf Rice.

CODA: In the end curiously, after fighting my side for constructive dismissal (which it was) I settled out of court and spent most of the proceeds on a guitar (thus nicely tying this blog together . . . oh the joy of the syzygy!)
It was a mad thing to do, I know, but I still have it, and it plays like a dream.


Anyway, like I always say, this wouldn't be FB without a modicum of photography (PHEW! AT LAST, the nuts have just run out!) . . .

. . . and here it is, courtesy of my old Polaroid camera and my Mum.
Happenstance too, for there is my old Eccleshall Les Paul Junior, and a proto-mullet.

What you sadly can't see is my amp - our old stereogram with Jensen speakers (weirdly with a jack input custom added to the record deck's amplifier).
Oh yes, pure rock n'roll - imagine the Clash in '78 playing the Hundred Club or the Marquee with a backline of old stereograms! They would have set the 'retro' behemoth into motion a full 10 years before Guitar Player magazine started it.
It (Garrard record deck and Hacker radio/amp in a teak cabinet) was right up there with the best amps I have ever played. 
The whole thing vibrated in a synergy of rock crunch and noise and I loved it and wish it still existed on this earth.
Sadly it went to landfill decades ago.


Meatloaf and his Axe
Autumn 1979
That's a genuine Parker-Knoll chair y'know . . . 





The Collection
Left to Right:
Vox Clubman II
Chris Eccleshall Les Paul Junior (wonderful vintage brownburst)
(Borrowed) Baldwin 12String - back finished in Artex (I kid you not - back was white and rippled, front of guitar was red)
Epiphone FT 150 (Spruce top, so, yellow/brown)
Front: Dulcet Classical (very orange - like the Dale Winton of the classical world)




Spring of 1980 - amazing the changes a hard Winter can bring.
The mog is my beloved Cookie (RIP)



So, where has that ramble got me?

Well, I suppose at the time, my incarceration at Lockerbie seemed like a form of hell, till I made (albeit briefly) friends that were on my level, and then everything seemed a lot more rosey. So unexpected was their friendship that I guess the old turn of phrase 'every cloud has a silver lining' has a real ring of truth to it, and no matter how black things seemed at the time, there was something solid in those friendships that helped to make me more resilient, after the rug-pulls mentioned above.

And where has this ramble got you?

Well, no doubt everyone has a similar story to tell, but that's mine.
Unexpected friendship is a great and welcome thing in what can be a cold and lonely world.

Anyway, enough, you're tired and the Soma has begun to wear off.

I know there's been precious little photography recently, but time really has been at a premium, however I will get there, fear not, and anyway, there's still a tiny bit of photography in here courtesy of that proto-nascent cult item which is making a comeback  with 'The Kids'  (courtesy of the Fuji INSTAX) . . the instant camera! 

Is FB 'On Trend?' . . to quote a hero of mine Mr.Arthur C. Mullard . . OH YUS!

Oh and as I have explained on FB before, there's nothing special been done to those polaroids - they're the best part of 35 years old and were stored scattered in a uncovered tea chest in my Mum's loft until I found them again.
Quite amazing really.

TTFN and remember, keep on truckin'!

Monday, October 09, 2017

A Chance Discovery

Morning folks - do you ever get the feeling that time is playing tricks with you?
I do. I have a mountain of printing to do, but the weekends just seem to run away and before you know it, it's back to the daily usual and nothing done.
Anyway rather than me trying to shoehorn in another Dundee thing (we are The City Of Discovery - literally, Captain Scott's Antarctic ship is berthed here and well worth a visit should you ever decide to visit - but just about every single business in the city tries to fit 'Discovery' into their wording, or so it seems) instead, I will pen a little ditty about coming across something of which I was not aware, but which surprised the heck out of me.

If you've read FogBlog much you'll know of my enormous respect and love for Joseph McKenzie, 'father of modern Scottish Photography' (whatever that is!), mentor, friend for a time and purveyor of jokes, tea, chat and advice. In other words the sort of person anyone would be glad to have around.
Whole days spent in his office, spotting prints and talking and the enormous push towards a degree show, which showed a lot of my landscape photographs . . 
Err, what a fantastic idea eh? 
Go for a graphics degree and end up displaying nearly as much trying-to-get-the-spirit-of-place landscape photographs! 
Ah yes, I was a stone cold genius (read fool) predating the rediscovery of landscape by the masses by oooh a few years (and if you believe that you'll believe anything). 
Still it was a stupid move really, but you know what? I was proud of my photographic exhibition - it is the only one I have ever done.

Anyway, that's away from the main drag - which is the discovery of an image that I personally think is absolutely stunning. 
I found it a few years back (can't remember where, so don't ask) when trawling around for Joe's images on t'net.
It stopped me in my tracks, mainly because I was unaware of its existence, but also because of the technical mastery. 
Now I would say that it appears to be a lithographed print (because it is a poster) so one does wonder whether any tickling-up occurred during the plate-making process. 
You never know. 
It does seem to have that heavy 'graphics' look to it . . 
This was something I practiced, oooh, decades ago when at school and preparing a portfolio for admission to college. 
It's a simple technique - basically, look at something with half closed eyes - your brain will render that down to shapes and light and shadow - then draw it. 
It can also be very useful when taking photographs of iffy subjects too, especially in even dodgier lighting; it renders things down, cuts out superfluous detail and you can get an idea of what a good bit of heavy-handed (or light and delicate!) printing will do to the negative. 
I still use it if I need to.

Back to the poster, though - yes the 'heavy' look is there, but also if you look at the sky below the bridge spans, that looks pretty damn naturally photographic to me. 
The New Tay Railway Bridge bridge opened on the 13th July 1887 - at the time it was a marvel of Scottish Victorian engineering. 
Joe's Centenary photograph gives it an air of wonderful permanence and solidity and dare I say it for something which is so huge - a certain grace and beauty too.
As to the 'graphic' aspect, well certainly he could print anything, and the fireworks do have that aspect, but look closely too - it does have the look of a proper Scottish Summer night, when it never really gets that dark. So, tickling up or not, you decide
Technically, well, it was Joe so more than likely he was using Tri-X and D76 . . it doesn't look like it though does it . . . 
Anyway, that's an aside. 
Here's the poster.
I think it is a technical tour-de-force - let me know what you think.



© Joseph McKenzie Estate 2017





I would dearly love to see the original print . . .
It actually very much reminds me of (if they'd had the same speed on their plates) something that could have appeared in Steiglitz' Camera Work in the early 1900's. 
Maybe that was his intention - it wouldn't surprise me.
If you look closely, you can see, beside the firework traces, the remnants of explosion clouds; those, balanced with the solidity and power, well, one can only wonder at the marvellous happenstance that brought together, light, gunpowder, water, engineering and technical mastery of a medium.
Hands down, it's the best fireworks photograph I have ever seen.
I love it.

Anyway, that is that, more treading water by me till the next 'proper' FB creaks its way out of the fog on its battle-cart . . .

So, before I head, I'll ask you to charge your glasses and raise them to Joe (again).
Photographer, mentor, friend to many, and all-round good egg.
Cheers Joe!


© Joseph McKenzie Estate 2017



TTFN and remember to keep taking the tablets.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Danger, Danger - High Voltage!

Fire in the disco
Fire in the Taco Bell
Fire in the disco
Fire in the gates of hell


Morning folks - I'm not sure whether any of you have heard of The Electric Six, but you should immediately go to Y'Tube and seek out 'Danger! High Voltage'  . . . oh go on and 'Dance Commander' too. Much fun and great music, and appropriately for once, relevant to my next tale (well 'Dance Commander' isn't, being more of a wonderfully noisy take on The Fast Show's Channel 9, but I like it anyway) . . . so.

Anyway this is just an interim post just to provide a warning for all of you with DeVere enlargers contemplating your navels and wondering where your next bulb is going to come from.
The bulb in question . . . the equivalent of 3 megatons of course! - the 250Watt 240 Volt ELC. 
It's bright, hot and er, potentially dangerous if not handled correctly. 
Well, the replacements might well be. 
You see in our urge to get even more for our pennies, safety and quality seem to have been utterly thrown out the window. 
Take as a good example, my new replacement bulb, the FXLab 250W 24V GX 5.3. It was very reasonable I thought, so I ordered one.
Now for a start that should have got the alarm bells ringing, but reading around it seemed OK and decently reviewed in a number of places (damn . . should have checked Amazon).
It arrived quickly, looked decent in the box, so I rushed to the 504, unscrewed the lamp compartment and pushed it into the holder . . . it was all too easy, except the pins hadn't engaged at all, the lamp fell off the socket and I realised that the pins had disappeared!
  WTF were my mental words. I looked at the bulb and the whole sorry tale of woe unfolded. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's some pictures.






















The white 'ceramic' appeared to have the consistency of a very soft Minto . . you know the sort you see melting on a hot pavement, all chalk and squidgieness - it actually turned out to be softer than chalk!
Now can you imagine if the pins hadn't disappeared and I'd fitted it and then the 'Minto' had decided to give? 
One exceptionally hot, ie 'Ooo ya!', third degree burns hot, bulb, just hanging about unsupported and ready to cause chaos. 
DANGEROUS
Very very dangerous.

So, the moral?
Well, this may have been a one off, but more reading and I discovered that it was 'a thing' with this make, so, my hard won advice?
Buy something from a 'known' manufacturer like GE or Osram or Philips or even some NOS ones on eBay, i.e. something that was made/is made, where the old (and currently very much neglected in this world) QC (Quality Control) reins supreme.

Over and out . . . now, where's my 'tache?


Friday, August 25, 2017

Yer Arsenal

Mornin' Varmints!

Well, I recently had a rather lovely time armed (why is it photography has all the combat terms? . . Shoot, Kit, Armed . .) with a very lovely MF kit:
Vic the 500 CM with the 60mm Distagon and 150mm Sonnar, and Olly The Rollei, with his ancient 75mm Tessar.

Now you might think lugging this amount of gear around would be a pain, and in one shoulder bag it certainly is, so that's why I resorted to two bags . . one big 'un with the Hasselblad stuff and the other much smaller with the Rollei.
Despite the fact they're MF cameras, they're both relatively luggable:

On a its oh-so-1960's skinny strap, the Hasselblad in particular seems to accomodate less of the space/time dimension than a modern 'Pro' SLR - it strangely looks smaller too, and I can't get my head around that!
Also, because of the optical quality of the Zeiss lenses, hand-holding such a decent-sized camera is relatively easy, simply because you can afford to take photographs even wide open with little appreciable loss of quality on the negative.
It is this factor (as well as feeling very 'professional') that endears me to Hasselblads.

But you know what (and as others have uncovered before me) as a walk about camera for those who hate having to use 24 or 36 exposures at a time, a nice little TLR of quality build, makes a wonderful and very very adaptable friend. Olly (my Rollei T) is a reasonable, light, quiet and relatively rugged little machine; he only draws admiring glances and comments, because he is so beautiful and so damn old-fashioned looking.
OK, so a 2.8 or 3.5 Rollei E or F would be maybe a nicer machine from the optical point of view, but let's set this straight - Olly's 3.5 Tessar is a damned fine lens with a really wonderful treatment of out of focus areas. His optimum (optimised) aperture is f11 and I can confirm this is what you should use on a Rollei T if you want it really sharp all over.
The image softens a tad at wider apertures, but you don't notice actually - it is a homegenous mess of crispness and smooth OOFA..
The greatest thing about any TLR though, is that you can actually hand-hold with reasonable expectation of decent sharpness all the way down to around a 1/4 of a second. Brace yourselves, your hand or the camera, or employ a nice little Leitz Table Top Tripod, and 1 second is easy.
I use a neck strap with mine (original Rollei scissor strap) and gently pulling down on the strap and breathing out really make the lower limits of hand-holdability expand beyond the horizon.

Anyway, enough of this guff - here's the films and the photos.


The Hasselblad Stuff.

First up are the Hasselblad films - both HP5. Now I've never had much success with HP5 really, but this was reasonably priced so I snapped it up and developed it in Pyrocat HD for 16 mins at 21C, and then let it stand to 20 mins. I think I have reached a conclusion too - whilst I appreciate 'T-grain' films for their versatility and bombproofness, and whether my eye has changed a lot, I don't know, but I do think that these days I prefer 'normal' films like FP4, HP5, Tri-X etc.
I think it seems to come from (not the grey palette per se, because you could look at any John Sexton photo and say the grey palette of TMX is second to none) some combination of greys, shadows and crispness? I don't actually know, but I do know that I think I can differentiate between T-grain and normal. So there must be something . . . ***

Hoist 'Pon My Own Petard!

*** Well actually, that was my thinking when I blearily scanned the contacts and wrote the above without referring to the film types . . .
The Hasselblad films as mentioned were HP5, but the Rollei films were ancient TMX 400 (ARGH!) and Ilford Delta 400, both at EI 200 (DOUBLE ARGGGH!!!).
And you know what? jings, TMX 400 and a single coated lens (the last two photographs are that combination) - well, I think the results speak for themselves - though these aren't properly printed things, just 3200 DPI scans from the contact prints and a bit of tickling up in Photos.
All the same, to me, they have that proper old-school air about them that I see in photos I love from the 1930's and 40's.
Strike 1 for T-Grain! ***

Anyway, back to Hasselblads and HP5 - the first film was taken at one of my favourite places in the world and whether the weight of the words of David M were weighing on my shoulders or not I don't know. But last time I posted photos of the place (roughly a year ago) he wondered whether I could put the place in its place as it were - give it more of a detailed air and reveal more of its structure.

And you know what, I bloody couldn't.

The tower is damn near impossible to photograph well, because it is fenced off and surrounded by heavy wood and impassability - honestly, it was like trying to make photos of a very tall building somehow magically shrunk into a tiny room filled with magically shrunken trees - I had no room to move, and no space to stand back and get it all in - even with a wide-angle lens.

So I struggled, picked my tripod up, put it down again, huffed, moved around, and then spotted some horses and was like a child:

"Ooooh, HORSES!" 

said I, abandoning the tripod and merrily taking nearly a whole roll of film of some of the most poor horse pics you have ever seen:



See What I Mean



You see stupidly, in my excitement about HORSES, I forgot to swap lenses and go for a wide option, so the whole bloody lot were taken with the 150mm Sonnar - no wonder they're stupid close-ups like the horse is photo-bombing every frame!

But things changed after that (no, really, they did) - I knew that the horse pics were a disaster, so, intent on saving the weekend (I only had 2 days effectively in total) I had a stern talk with myself and became determined to make better photographs . . .

We had some lunch, and the sun came out, and in fact it got downright roasting, if you can use such a term in Scotland. We were both shattered from our working weeks, but despite the temptation (very big) to head for a snooze, I gritted my teeth, loaded the second HP5 into the Hasselblad and went in search of a mini-adventure.

I turned up at a place I have been intending to visit seriously for quite a number of years. It's fully apparent on an old OS map I have of the area, as Hotel, but I never knew of its existence; indeed back in the day, my trips here were filled with visiting a relation, tending a grave and no exploration of the environs, so it slipped under my radar. I'm acutely familiar with the road it is on now though,  but I'd only ever sailed past a couple of times and still never visited it.

Anyway, back in 1997 this wonderful building was struck by lightning whilst the owners were away on holiday and underwent a devastating fire, to the extent that rebuilding would probably have cost more than the whole place was worth; try finding someone with the skills for building with Lime these days and stone masons who can cut and chop raw stone so beautifully. Trust me, there's precious few around - so, subsequently the house has slid ever since.

A Lost Cause


It'll start to properly collapse in a few years which is awful because it is beautiful and in an incredible setting; not far from a river, surrounded by wild hills and woods and fields. Having read further, it is also apparently well-haunted, but personally I could find nothing like that (being sensitive to such things) other than an air of abandonment - all the ghosts have gone elsewhere - they like warmth and being reminded of what it is like to be human . .

Approaching it was rather like approaching the photographing of a Vet (eran) - you know, Army, Wars, laying down their lives so we can do everything we take for granted - you have to be utterly respectful and do them justice and hopefully establish a rapport which transcends mere film and chemicals - it is not as easy as it sounds. In fact that goes for most portraiture - check out some of Arnold Newman's transcending photographs to see what I mean.

Strangely (to me, and despite trying my hardest) I don't think I have got anywhere near doing it justice - my rapport was non-existent given I had hardly any time.
I'll just have to go back methinks (any excuse) and photograph it in snow and rain and storm and sun. There, I feel better now!

Anyway, I really did try - the sun was out (it was mid-afternoon) there were hard shadows everywhere and I had a feeling like I was stepping back in time. I was excited and a bit trepidatious too . . .

The use of the two Hasselblad lenses was also interesting  - I still need to get my head around the 150mm - I've never done a full lens set-up approach before and I found it challenging, in that it seemed to really complicate my view of things, so rather than just get in and shoot, I had to stand and think AND I still need to get my head around the 150mm!

I believe I am more of a wide-angle man actually, though as we'll see later, the 75mm Tessar on the Rollei proved to be as natural as breathing.
Hmmm . . . maybe an 80mm Planar would be a good choice on the Hasselblad . . .
Anyway:

That's Better!


The above were roughly divided half and half - Sonnar at the start, Distagon at the end.
I actually like both - the Sonnar definitely has a more 'pictorial' quality, whereas the Distagon is pure, hard fact - it's an inspiration-inspiring lens.

I really haven't done it any justice though - in reality it needs something more panoramic with a large tower that I could get up so that I don't keep getting converging verticals, but can get the whole scene in - bring on the cherry pickers!

The broom and especially gooseberries were rampant, and to my eye they kept the dereliction in place - the house was sinking into a sea of vegetation.
I've photographed a lot of city dereliction and it is always RAW and in yer face as it were - I definitely prefer the former.


The Rollei Stuff - Part 1.

Anyway, partially satiated, I wandered back to the car, still amazed at how such a lovely place in a lovely bit of land can remain so neglected, and then thought, 'Well . . Why Not?!' and pulled Olly out of the boot and went back.
As we'll see, it might only be an 'advanced amateur' camera, and as old as me, but it takes a lovely photo that reveals atmosphere. I'll put it down to the Tessar - single coated and reverential.

The sun was still shining and the Tessar concentrated my mind for a few frames, and that was it.

Olly the Rollei? He's a good old stick is my T
(I seriously thought I'd broken him a few years back, when, using a tiny amount of WD40 to sort a very squeaky take-up spindle, the whole camera siezed and would not work. I was frustrated as feck, left it a few months, tried again, still nothing, so in desperation, thinking that maybe the WD 40 had loosened some lubricant which had then [this being Scotland] re-seized somewhere important, I did what I have done with a couple of old LF shutters . . left them on a warm but not hot radiator for a day or so. It worked! And has worked ever since. It's just a theory of mine, but worth a try if you are at the OH SHIT! stage.)
He's been a companion of mine for a long time now and we've seen some lovely landscapes together.

Anyway, before we get back to the house, I'll set the controls on the Time Machine to the previous day and detail this properly chronologically:

The first film through Olly was very expired TMX 400 without a light meter . . you can tell can't you. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and it was dull and quite unpleasant, but that didn't stop me -
I guessed and snapped and guessed some more after only a brief EV reading of shadows.

(Oh and the change in format of the contact sheets, is because I bought some very cheap Printfile 120-3HB sleeves. I don't know why, but I've always used the "4 sets of 3" sleeves . . but these were a revelation. One less cut, and less mucking about! Also less chance of scratching and dropping, if you know what I mean.)

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible . .


The Ramblin' Man Stuff - Skip If You Like!


I was rather amazed by the number of abandoned buildings - this place never ever used to be like this - it used to be quaint and full of moneyed old ladies. In fact the town was almost impossibly English in places - and why not, beautiful surroundings, not far from the Border. The locals were semi-accepting of the invasion because it brought money into the town - of course, it was a different matter if you were of school age back in the 1970's, but that's another long story . . .
And it is still quaint and I love it, but when I started exploring, I was really unsettled by how rundown it is in places and thought to myself something had happened in the 30-odd years since I'd lived here, and I think I might well have got to the nub of it.
Basically . .  ready?
Property prices!
15 years ago you could buy a detached Victorian 4 bedroomed villa here with gardens for around £100,000 to £150,000 . . and they weren't just bog standard Victorian houses either; these were built for the moneyed of the area; from émigrés from Edinburgh and Glasgow, to the local landed gentry and well-off - basically 'the nobs'. And as with all varieties of nob, excellence was demanded, so they were built to a very high standard indeed.
At the time, similar properties in the rest of the UK must have averaged around at least £250,000 for a 'normal' house and of course in London you'd have been well over a Mill or two.
Prices like that don't stay hidden for long.
You're 60-odd miles from Glagow Centre and the same from Edinburgh . . . England is just a couple of hours away - it's a good placement with a good community (and I'll say that, the community is sterling) but I think what happened is that cheaper properties (of which there were quite a few) have attracted people from Darn Sarf (In much the same way my Mum and Dad were attracted and bought a whole house for £600 in 1967!). I'm not denigrating the community, but where before the émigrés were old ladies and retiring couples with money (bank managers, teachers, you know the sort of social level) now it is a broad swathe of society with people from every social background, good, bad and indifferent, and that has bought with it a 'tougher' feel.
It always was a tough community - you ask some local farmers, and I can personally attest to the penury of hill farming - but it is different now.
Do I sound like a snob?
I dunno - probably - though it's a word I wouldn't apply to myself, being council estate raised. It's just that on our 1960's/1970's estate, most people really cared for their property - albeit rented - because they knew the worth of having decent bricks and mortar, having gone through the intensity and destruction of the Blitz.
Yes there were problems, but they were minor.
(After we left London, drugs, guns and gangs moved in and my old estate became known as Little Beirut. But that was brief and as far as I can see these days it's an OK place to raise a family.)
But anyway, nowadays decent housing is taken for granted, but believe you me, it's not that long ago when it was definitely not the norm.
But there's something else at work too - the way society is now, people are about as rootless as a hoe'd weed - you're no longer 'of the place', maybe even no longer 'from the place', you just 'live there'
This is a new phenomenon.
Communities up until relatively recently have been fairly closed. You, if you had been born somewhere and could trace back a few generations, were 'OF' the place. If you'd just moved there, you were 'FROM' the place. It would take quite a while for you to be utterly accepted - sometimes a couple of generations. This is true in my opinion - I've observed it and been on the brunt end of it.
But now there's new dandelion seeds in town, they move where they can afford, and this area was affordable compared to other parts of the country; they come and stop and life deals them some rough hands and they flit and the houses get caught up in legal red tape and all the while the weather keeps going and Winters' come and go and the house starts to slide and before you know it (as in the last two photographs at the bottom) your front window has fallen in; your rear outbuilding has elder trees growing out of the walls; the drains and gutters are choked; water enters the property; damp takes a hold; insiduous mould creeps on; vermin, rot, and boring insect attack all take their toll; in very little time you have a derelict (requiring vast expense) property on your hands.
People wipe their hands of it and vanish.
The paper trail of responsibility dries up, and poor Mrs McKenzie, who, maybe 30 years ago bought a lovely wee semi-detached next to some good solid neighbours finds herself tethered to a disaster in decreasing property value and saleabilty . .
And all because property prices are cheaper here than elsewhere.
Town Councils need to get a grip and sort out situations like this before they go beyond anything sortable - it's shocking and needs to be acted on, or, as is happening in my old home town, things will start to get really really bad - Mr David Mundell, Secretary Of State for Scotland take note - it's one of your communities I am talking about!
Over and out . .


The Rollei Stuff - Part 2


Anyway, enough of the ramblin' man shite - here's the photos!

First into the ring is ancient TMY 400 developed in Pyrocat.


Yes, I Know . . . Remember To Consult Exposure Meter Next Time


Next up is the Delta 400.
The river pictures bring an instant tear to my eye as it was where I was raised. Getting down under the bridge and just standing there for 10 minutes, before taking some photos and immersing my hands in the cold, clear water was a salve for city life.
As for the house, well, I guess it reveals it - please excuse the converging verticals, it was inevitable from the ground!
I think an atmosphere has been captured though, as you might see from the (ahem) OK-They-re-Not-Really 'Prints'.




Weirdly Semi-Guessed



The 'Ere-Ain't-They-Just-3200 DPi-Scans?' Bit




HASSELBLAD



 "You Talkin' To Me?"




 "You Talkin' To Me?"




 "You Talkin' To Me?"




"Well, Then Who The Hell Else Are You Talking . .  ?
You Talking To Me?
Well, I'm The Only One Here."



I Love The Comedy/Tragedy Masks Someone Has Nailed To This Trunk




Wonder Where The Wheels Went?




Mirror, Signal, Manouevre




Fire Escape For Ghosts




Had To Crop This Because Of The Verticals




A Nice Comfy Sitting Room




And Again




Potrait Of A Van
 


          
ROLLEI



I Dunno - I Think I Captured Something




Anybody Home?




Just Us Ghosts




My Parents Are Buried Here




Home




Abandoned House I (With Curtain)




Abandoned House II (With Webs)


And that, as they say, is that.
Sorry for the length of this post, but hope it has been interesting.
As usual, comments are most welcome unless they're 'Anonymous'!
TTFN and remember:
Mony A Mickle Maks A Muckle, But No Any Mickle Maks A Pickle!

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.





















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?.