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.
Yes, there!! 
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


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:


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?  
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 . . . 
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.