South Bank Spraypaint

Some more of my photos from the London trip, this time of the grafitti around the South Bank (if you look you can see the blurred skaters). Nothing ‘special’ about these, I just loved the colours which I think look better on film than they would have on digital, something about the way film captures images just, well, works…I think anyway!

Shot on Ultramax 400, Pentax MX with (probably) the Hoya 28mm lens

Norwich on Expired Delta 3200

A while ago a friend was clearing out his film fridge and said did I want anything, well that would be a yes so I said ‘surprise me’. Among the stuff were some rolls of Delta 3200 which expired in 2004, so significantly out of date but I knew he’d have looked after it. We were going away to Norwich (‘A Fine City’) for the weekend and I knew that while I was taking my 6d digital it’s not a great camera to carry for popping into the city, especially as the forecast was for a bit of rain…well in the end…a lot of rain! So I loaded it into my Pentax MX and as I was in experiment territory put the Hoya (remember them?) 2.8 28mm lens on the front. I thought that would be a good nightime city scape lens, and also practically it goes to infinity at 3m and I don’t manually focus so good in low light these days. Given the age of the film I shot it at 1600, which is also the fastest film speed the MX can deal with, and decided that as it was largely sacrificial film which cost me nothing and was only going to cost me a shot of developer and some time to process I’d just shoot it for shit and giggles.

There were 5 or 6 on the roll I thought were quite nice, and after I scanned them decided that a blue split tone gave them a nice effect. Pulled the contrast up a bit and left it at that.

I definitely want to get some in date 3200 and try some more city at night photography with it, though I’ll have to take a light meter or guess the exposure on the MX…

Morocco ’88 (part two)

I’ve got it down to the final 31. Interestingly, even now shooting digital I still psychologically feel that nobody wants to look at more than a roll when they look at photos so 36 or less is a magic number! It’s been less of a tough sort than I thought it might be, I’ve had to let go of images I liked, but which in the end I decided just didn’t have it.

The final count was, of the 31, 23 were ones which I’d originally put into the album with 8 new entrants. I think this is because, frankly, a lot of the ones which didn’t make it into the album, which was originally 80 images, just werent that good and now I probably wouldn’t have even tried to take, or would have taken ‘better’ so statistically most of the worthwhile ones would have been in that 80 image subset.

So now it’s going to be down to a lot of scanning….here’s where I find if investing in Vuescan was worth the money 🙂

Morocco ’88 Revisted: part one

In 1988 Sue and I visited friends of her’s in Morocco. My memories, to be frank, are not great: I’d never been abroard before, it was very different to anything I’d seen in my life, it was very hot, and I got food poisoning (the only time I was happy to get on an airplane and be presented with cardboard food processed to within an inch of it’s life was on the way home). But I took a lot of photos, which in the days of film meant less than it did now but definitely a fair few rolls of, I suspect, Kodacolour II.

These got sorted through and the best 80 put into a flip album of the trip: 80 being chosen because it’s the number of pockets in the album rather than for artistic or philosophical reasons. The rest went into a file box where they’ve sat for the past 31 years, and I doubt I’ve looked through the album more than half a dozen times. Quite often I get an old negative out and scan it to put it on my blog or Instagram, and I found myself wondering three things about the Morocco trip

  1. If I were picking now, would I pick the same images as the strongest?
  2. What do they look like scanned from the negatives and digitally processed rather than the somewhat bland prints from Supersnaps I got back in ’88?
  3. Back then I sequenced them chronologically, would I do that again now?

So I’ve taken them out of the album, numbering them in order so I know which were in the original sort, I want to put the album back as it was because it’s part of our history and also represents my photographic thinking thirty one years ago, though I’m pretty sure I wasn’t thinking like a photographer back then! I’ve mixed up the album photos with the spares for each town and picked out the ten or so images I think are the strongest, eh photo above shows the town of Meknes. The next step will be to take the ones I’ve picked for each location and pull them down to the forty strongest overall. I sense this is going to be tougher, but I’m following more or less the process I go through from a shoot now where I hammer through the images in Lightroom accepting or rejecting, then go through a process of making choices, doing some processing at which point I invariably decide some just are not working, then pulling out the small percentage of the originals to go here, or my website, or social media. I’ve already found something I’d hoped which is that I’m removed enough from the taking for them almost to seem like somebody else’s images rather than mine, though a lot do still make me absolutely remember taking the photo, and the circumstances around that. Lots of these don’t make it into what you might call the semi-finals as one thing I’ve learned is that just because it’s a massive memory jogger for me doesn’t (necessarily) make it a strong image which somebody else might enjoy.

But in a lot I’m catching a faint smell of heat and dust; of of Rick and Ilsa.

Venturing into Polaroid

Ever since I got back into shooting film, I’ve had a hankering for a polaroid camera; it appears unusually none of my relatives ever owned one, I have no recollection of any of my friends having one either, in fact so far as I can remember I’ve never even seen one used! I was in one of Cirencester’s Charity Shops a couple of weeks ago (Helen and Douglas House in Cirencester if you’re interested, lovely people) and they had one. I got them to take it out for a look, and it looked okay but of course with the battery in the film cartridge you can’t test them. I decided as it was very sensible money I’d take a punt, and they even offered to let me return it if it didn’t work! So I ordered a pack of Polaroid Originals 600, watched some videos on how to use it, and loaded up the film. There was a lot of satisfying whirring and the dark slide popped out, all good thus far….so I pointed and shot…

Well, you have to photograph the cats don’t you?

Totally rethinking

I’ve been to California.

I’m not just bragging here about my latest foreign jaunt, amazing though it was, there’s a really important photography learning moment to this. We had a couple of days in San Francisco, saw the Monterey Bay Aquarium, drove highway one, saw Yosemite, visited Alcatraz. We did the tourist stuff (though as one local chap pointed out “the reason it’s tourist stuff is that it’s cool stuff man”). I took photos I was happy with, had a great time.

But, for a photo nerd moment, two things stood out. The second was visiting the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite and seeing his photos, actually printed by him, not mediated by a reproduction for publication or anything, actually printed in a darkroom by Ansel Adams so you can see the image exactly the way he meant it to be (some are also printed by his long term assistant who Adams said knew the negatives as well as he did), and actually seeing them in Yosemite in a building he knew and worked in was pretty awesome. But, the stand out, OMG moment of my trip, was a visit to meet Kim Weston in the house on Wildcat Hill where Edward lived and worked, I have to admit I was almost embarrassingly star struck by this. Kim and his wife Gina are lovely people who made us feel super welcome and gave us a great tour. We saw that pepper photo, and that portrait of Tina Modetti, actually as photographic prints on the wall, saw Edward’s darkroom, saw Kim’s darkroom (the latter has an enlarger, Edward’s didn’t) and Kim’s studio. It was all great fun and absolutely one of the highlights of trip for me (even Sue enjoyed it and she’s not a photographer).

What I came away with though, and this is something which has grown on me in the weeks since we got back, was that Kim shoots on film, with a Mamiya 6×7 which he inherited from his father, and a couple of lights. He’s up there in the Carmel Highlands producing amazing work with equipment which is probably older than a lot of photographic Youtubers. So I sit there and watch my favourite Youtube photo channels, which I really enjoy, but they’re using this combination of graduated filters, and they’re selling their presets, and discussing if they should make the move to mirrorless, or comparing one really expensive lens to another….and somehow I keep seeing Kim’s studio in my head and wondering why bother?

Now fortunately, I’ve never been a gear nerd. I have very little ‘stuff’ compared to probably most keen photographers, a fair bit is second hand, or that I’ve owned for years, and I’m happy with that and frankly never want to buy new shiny things. I’m also not going to fall into the trap of ‘gear not mattering’ as Mamiya medium format is really nice and Mamiya glass is stunning (I know, because I own some, well I will if the chap I want to buy it off ever gives me a price so I can buy it). But it does bring home the fact that actually you really don’t need new stuff, or a lot of stuff. Investing in something simple but good is frankly all you need.

The key thing is to do what Kim, and his father, his uncle and his grandfather (and his son, and various other relatives) all did. To take photos a lot, to think about the photos you’re taking, and to really, really care about the whole thing.

Am I doing this? You know, I wonder if I am….

A Cat Can Always Be Counted Upon for a Descisive Moment


It is a fact universally acknowleged that one of the two main uses for the Internet, a technology which can communicate instantly across the globe, is the sharing of cat photos (the other being starting fights with random strangers). The reason is, I think, more than the fact that moggies tend to be very photogenic…it’s that generally their desicsive moments are less than, well, ‘moments’ and more like descisive hour or twos. Unless of course they are doing something very, very photogenic and you have to go and get a camera, in which case they’ll decide that they need to move just as you set the autofocus point; another reason I suspect for their popularity on Instagram as generally you can grab your phone and get the shot. Which is what I did here, black and white cat, white windowsill: monochrome conversion, who needs it?