Morocco Revisited – tis done

It’s taken a while but finally I’ve sorted, selected, scanned and sequenced the photos from our 1988 trip to Morocco. It’s been a fun project in which I’ve found the images are so different in many ways to the machine processed enprints (remember when they were called enprints?) from SuperSnaps then. I’d say about 75% of this final selection had been in my original sort, while the remainder were ones I’d discounted at the time; in some cases I’m just not sure why. I’ve captioned where I ‘believe’ they are, but if anybody wants to correct me then feel free in the comments: I’m not precious about this…

One thing which is notiable is that the colours are often more punchy, even without processing on the scans and the dynamic range is greater – apart from the baker who still has that huge sinister black pit of an oven next to him. I also noticed differences between rolls which must be down to processing as while they all (there are 8 in total) were bought at the same time and place and so must be out of the same batch, were processed at intervals. The film is almost certainly Kodak Gold 200, though I can’t prove this it was very much a goto film at that time for me and the photos would have been taken on a Pentax K1000 with the 50mm Pentax lens and a Super Paragon 135mm telephoto.

From what I’ve seen in videos now, Morocco in 2020 is a different place to Morocco in 1988, so these are in some ways an historical document!

So, here you are now

Yashica 35-ME and a Plustek Scanner

A while back I picked up a Yashica 35-ME (the link is wrong by the way, it’s not a rangefider, it’s zone focused) for very good money in a deal with an Olympus Trip.

It all seemed okay so I took it out in London and shot with it, processed the roll of film….and my scanner broke! Given that it was nudging 10 years old this probably wasn’t surprising. After much thought I decided, rather than get another flatbed I’d go for a proper film scanner and bought a Plustek OpticFilm 8200i SE. So after a hiatus of several weeks, I can now share some of the photos from the Yashica. I dont’ think they’re as good as the ones from the Trip, but for a camera to keep loaded in my pocket they are, as my old dad would have said, good enough for a coal boat.

Hurdy Gurdy Man

My scanner is out of action at the moment, so there is neither any new work nor can I delve into the photos from my past (seeing as most of what I’m sharing at the moment is film based). But we can go back to the distant past of summer 2017 for this photo which I like. It’s shot on Ilford FP4 which I’d have rated at box speed, which frankly in the UK normally means a summer day with lots of sun; I suspect the reason we shoot so much HP5 and Tri-X here, and so many british film youtubers discuss pushing film is the weather. Interestingly though, back in the 70s I remember shooting almost exclusively FP4 and only occasionally going up to HP5. We always remember our younger days as being perpetually sunny, maybe it was true!

I’ve done a bit of online research and the musician is Mike Smith, who is also a painter – here are links to his website, and his Instagram

St James’ Place – Bauhaus of the Cotswolds

Okay, I win the award for Clickbait of the Day on wordpress if such a think exists for that title, but hey we’re all allowed a bit of clickbaiting now and again. Though frankly my readership isn’t the sort to fall for clickbait.

Last year, year before maybe, the financial company St James’ Place (not a sponsored post) demolished an old garage and car dealership and built themselves a swanky new office block in the ultra modern style. I was very exited by this because, well frankly I thought you’d never get to build anything in the Cotswolds if it wasnt’ made of stone effect blocks and somehow resembled something from a remake of a costume drama. I blame ‘A Vision of Britain‘ by HRH, a book which probably has a huge readership in these parts. But build it they did. Well the other day I was out and about with my new Olympus Trip looking for something to photograph with it, and the sun was shining on the SJP building and I thought “It’s like Dessau…” Full disclosure, I’ve never been to Dessau (though I’m hoping to go later this year) but I’ve seen the pictures and something about the SJP building in cirencester made me think of them. So I used up half a roll on it.

I don’t normally do posts with multiple photos, but I’m really pleased with these and wanted to share them. I’m coming to the idea that I’m an urban landscape photographer if I’m going to have a label. I don’t really do well photographing the great outdoors, the majestic views and so forth. I like some sign of human occuapation for my images and I think I produce better work when there is some.

Early Morning; Buscot Weir

This one is just a photo post. Last week I got up early because it was supposed to be sunny all day and I was hoping or spectacular dawn light at Buscot in Oxfordshire which is one of my favourite locations. Well the spectacular light didn’t happen, but I was quite pleased with what did.

These are all taken on my Mamiya 645, shot on Portra 400. Processed and scannned by A G Photolab who do all my colour stuff, and then tweaked in Lightroom.

I was hoping the early light would break right over the old pillbox, and TPE said it would, but the cloud just sat, though there was a faint hint of pink on the horizon. Needless to say, half an hour later when the sun was up the clouds had cleared, but that’s photography for you.

said it would, but the cloud just sat, though there was a faint hint of pink on the horizon. Needless to say, half an hour later when the sun was up the clouds had cleared, but that’s photography for you.

Oh, and yes, I do know there’s a bit of grit or something in my film holder! 🙂

The Go Players

Another photo from my youth this one, I’ve got lots of negatives in thef file, I just need to remember to scan one now and again!

Back in the late 70s or early 80s, at Olympia in London, there used to be held the festival of Mind, Body and Spirit, which was a deeply alternative, or at least tried to be deeply alternative, event for a whole raft of faintly alternative activities. It was never really Alternative with a capital A, the people exhibiting were always rather clean cut (the same could not always be said for those attending), and there was never a hint you were going to be munching a nut burger one minute and on the minibus to Los Angeles the next as somebody I once worked with used to say. But you could go there and find out about lots of and lots of interesting things, eat interesting vegetarian food, and nobody minded you taking photos; none of this ‘you can’t photograph me because my aura will be damaged’ stuff.

It was never all just spiritual practices, as this photo of some people playing Go illustrates. At this time it was really quite unknown in the UK, remember before t’Internet pretty much all this stuff was pretty much unknown in the UK unless you could make it in to London for the bookshops or were lucky enough to have a genunine grow your own sandles wholefood shop in your town. Those were great of course, pity they’re dying out. It’s going to be taken on my Pentax K100 using Ilford HP5, scanned using VueScan and cleaned up in Photoshop. I love their expressions, it’s as though they’re okay but not okay with being photographed, and sort of don’t really know what to do so they’ve just opted to look at the camera, apart from the beared guy who is either contemplating his next move or definitely NOT being photographed.

Wind, Click, Ker-Clunk: Shooting Film

First of all, I’m not going to say anything revelatory about why I shoot film, nor anything which really every content creator on the Internet says about why they shoot film. So spoiler alert, no revelations coming. But I don’t think there is any law which says I can’t add my voice to this one, if there is, then talk to my lawyer, if I had one.

Like most people of my age I started out shooting film, it was the only game in town back then so if you took photos film is what you used. Looking back, oddly, one never thought about the act of shooting film very much, one just did it. Got the roll, opened it, loaded it, shot it. Job done. It was the process of photography. I used to do a bit of monochrome darkroom and there was always magic in that, seeing the image appear in the developer tray from nothing. The almost monastic feeling of being alone in the dark with the smell of the chemicals (always use in a ventilated space my arse). I used to have a pair of cut off jeans I called my painting shorts because they were comfortable in the warm room and I knew I could wipe my hands on the legs without ruining anything. Or maybe it was just an affectation? Who knows.

Then once it became an option I made the move to digital. It was so easy, and as we had small children then it was a godsend, you could take as many photos as you liked and be pretty sure of winding up with ones you were happy to keep. I make no bones, at all, for the value of ‘spray and pray’ photography when you’ve got small children, it’s what you need. Upgraded the camera, shot digital everything, got into Lightroom and was really enjoying my photography.

Then for shit and giggles I shot a roll of film again.

It was so different, for the first time in ages I had no idea what the photo was going to look like. Hell I even stared at the back of the camera reflexively and wondered why there wasn’t a screen. It was a blast, so I did it again, and again. Film began to inhabit the top shelf in the fridge door once more. It was just fun. I acquired a couple of film Canon SLRs from my mother in law who no longer used them, I always shot Pentax before. It’s quite nice to have a camera with which I’ve got no emotional history and which I haven’t had since before I met my wife. I can shove one in my bag when I’m going out and about and not worry about it getting stolen or knocked about.

The word you hear, a lot, among film photographers is ‘tactile’ and that’s really the crux of shooting film. It’s amazingly tactile; even more so if you’ve got a camera without autowind as you thumb the film advance lever to cock the shutter. There is that satisfying mechanical ‘clunk’ as you push the button and the shutter releases. Wind, click, ker-clunk – the sound of film. There is also the fact that with film your photo is a thing, you have to manually load (with a degree of difficulty related to the camera) the roll of film and then every time you take a photo the environment physically reacts with the film surface. It’s not hitting a sensor which writes some data to a memory card which you can (and will) just over-write when you’re done. The image is a physical thing which has altered that frame of film forever. You can’t just over write it and reuse it. That fraction of a second is forever recorded onto the film. At the end of the shoot there’s no just popping the card in and downloading the data stream, you have to take that roll of film and then develop it. Once more the physical medium is forever altered and your image appears, and then when you look at the negative there, in that small square, is that fraction of a second forever frozen in time.

Now, I’m not getting all luddite and dewy eyed over this. I’m not even thinking of giving up digital and going all film. I’d not want to go back to taking n rolls of film away on holiday with me and then trying to get them through the modern X ray equipment without fogging. I love being able to take bracketed insurance exposures of things, and also taking images which aren’t worth taking as photographs but because I’ll know that whenever I look at them I’ll remember being in ‘that’ place and time taking it. With film you’re careful about using your film stock up. I love being able to take out my phone when I see something interesting, photograph it, edit it and upload it to Instagram. Digital lets you do great things and I’m all for that.

But I’m also absolutely going to keep shooting film too