Wednesday, October 14, 2020

River Boy And The Autumnal Darkness

Well folks - good morning and apologies for the length of time since I last posted anything, but my bloody eye thing isn't really clearing up and to be honest I probably have more swirlies now than I did back at the start of the Summer. 

If you've ever seen Quatermass And The Pit, where one of the workmen drilling into the alien craft disturbs something, is chased by a telekinetic vision of Martian life and is heard to utter:

"They were jumping, leaping through the air, in and out, them big places . . . in and out of them . . huge, right up into the sky!"

Well, that's what a PVD can be like with floaters!

Anyway, what excuse is that when you have nice little DOF engravings on your lenses? 
Oh YUS! Hyperfocal focusing is a wonderful and useful thing - it's like bungee jumping without knowing whether anyone has attached your bungee to the bridge, but fortunately, physics has clipped you in, so you can jump to your hearts content.

So, have I taken any photographs? 
Oh yes. 
But are they any good? 
Oh no
Not really; however there's a few that I do quite like, but that's mostly from the point of view of the light conditions.

The below were taken at dusk (approximately 7.22 PM ST [Scotsman Time]) whilst on holiday.

Having our tea and then heading out with my wife's blessing and a camera around my neck has been something of a feature and great pleasure of holidays for me for a number of years. 
I love the gloam, and especially so when you add in some top-notch countryside.

River Dark 1

I think I love it so, because it takes me back to being a teenager living next to one of the great trout rivers in the South of Scotland and having a quarter mile stretch of riverbank as my own domain. 
I would sit in the oncoming dark and watch trout rise; birds settle for the night; mist rise from fields and gently lay itself over the water; fishermen (unaware of me) about their business; coypu (honest); mink; kingfishers; heron; clouds of flying biters (who never bit).
In fact anything you can think of that could call a river home were my subjects  - I'd have my beady mincers on them all.

And somehow this recent holiday, spent alongside another of Scotland's great rivers, connected me with that time.
It made me think deeply. 
Maybe it was the fact that everywhere I looked, everything looked like something published in Camera Work (and you'll have to look that one up . . Steiglitz' Camera Work - fab Taschen Hardback around at the moment!). 
The glare and fuzz (like an early portrait lens at times) made me deeply aware of my own mortality. 
I'm no spring chicken, but I like to keep healthy and fit; however when something like a PVD (OK - Posterior Vitreous Detachment) happens you realise you're not anything special, just a hummin' bean. 

I felt that the dark was oncoming, both metaphorically, literally and (in my case) physically.
When you start counting the counters, you realise you've spent over half of what you were given and some monkey is pinching your change.

I've just re-read that and realised there are only two possible outcomes to the ageing process.

1. Oh alright then, that's fine. I'll just get my slippers and a nice cup of tea. Remember to close the curtains when you leave.


2. F**k me! I am going to die. SOON. Right you bastard, I am going to meet you head on (with my crash helmet on of course!) and have a bloody good go at keeping going as my old self for as long as possible.

Age takes everything. 
Your hair; fitness; facial structure (I won't even talk about the beard shaving-off that happened during lockdown . . well OK . . it was like Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers . . . but with Gnomes); mental faculties; memory; word to speech co-ordination; memory . . . 

But what has this got to do with photographs and gloam you might well be asking?

Well hold onto that swig and listen to the sound of birds and a fast running river . . . ah, that's better isn't it!

Well, it's just that in that glorious oncoming dark, with the sun dropping fast behind the hills (which in turn threw the whole river valley into a state of noise and peace) I realised that he was still with me.


Over there, young chap full of vim and hope. 
I quite like him actually. 
He's not too bothered what you think any more (that's the consequence of being a reformed fat-boy) but he's quietly hoping for a future that isn't too difficult.
He'd really like to do something of consequence with his life, but then the future is darker than the shadows under those sloe bushes. 
He can't read it. 
He can only hope.
The worst thing is that he's leaving this place soon - this bank where he has sat and dreamed and watched and listened. He's only known it for a handful of years, but the time has gone so fast - an all too brief interlude in the noise of life. 
However in that short time, it has eaten him. 
All the serenity and the weight of time and the power of Mother Nature in all her rawness - it's eaten him right away.
He feels at one with the world. 
His soul is at peace - how could it not be? - however the excitement, uncertainty and sheer terror of the future are weighing heavy on him, because (even though he's never heard of Heraclitus) he knows that: 

You really can't step in the same river twice

This is it.
He's leaving.
His world will change dramatically.
In truth, he's scared to death.

So yeah, him
River Boy.
He got left behind when City Boy, Work Boy was born. 
He was packed away carefully though - mainly because the wrench of pain at having to leave somewhere he felt truly at home was all too much to deal with.

Yet, in the current dark of a quiet 2020 Autumn's evening, beside another powerful river, I realised that he was still there, standing there in the oncoming dark, watching whilst I fussed with focus and composition and light meter.
He'd been waiting, waiting for a moment like this quiet twilight to come forth and say:

It's OK. We're still OK.


A while back I said:

"A boy and a river, once joined, can never be parted."

I liked it in a Ray Bradbury-esque sort of way, but it's true.

Me and River Boy - we're so different, but we're oh so the same.
That evening, the similarities struck me like the splash of a big salmon breaking free of its domain to briefly grasp the stars, before crashing back down to a watery reality.

I realised (standing there in really dark conditions - 0 to +1 EV on FP4 if you must know) that he would be well satisfied with the outcome of 40+ years; because here I was, NOW, trying to write (in essence) onto film, the feelings of awe and peace my soul had felt on our old riverbank all those years back. 
I was honouring the nature we both love(d) to the best of my abilities; quietly and with respect; the old intonements of reverence and silence measured by the soft buzz of a shutter. 
My concentration on the process a fit meditation on time and spirit.

Maybe this is all borrocks (as they say in Tokyo) and everyone feels the same. 
At least being Supreme Commander at FB I can please myself and air this and make sense of things.
40 years ago, all this guff would have been confined with brevity, to a diary, to possibly be read by those coming after, or else chucked in a skip. 
It might never have made it anywhere, only internalised, never to see the light of day.

Life is short.
Physical things like a PVD really hammer home how short.
We're not invincible - you don't need me to tell you that.
All the more reason, when you find your natural state of being (and I guess I am lucky, I know that a river runs through me) to pursue it, and if you are fortunate enough, to live it.
Being cut away from that is some sort of purgatory.
Not that I'm saying anything about where we currently live, I'm not, but it's not the same by any stretch of the imagination.
Maybe it is why I hunger for these sort of places - it's a hunt to recapture that state of otherness, yet naturalness, which goes beyond the normal physicality of life.
It's deeper than the life we know. 
It's a well-spring of feeling that transcends time.

Mother Nature will continue long after we have gone. 
I love that.

As for me, whether I am scattered to the winds or buried in the rich soils of the Southern Uplands, somewhere, at some time, along some lost riverbank, me and River Boy will be walking with just the one set of footprints again. 
I know that as completely as anything else.

River Dark 1

River Dark 2

Whatchoo talking about Willis?

You know, I don't know - sometimes I just write and stuff comes out.
Hope it makes you think though. 
If it does, that pleases me.

Right, at last!
Photographically the above were made on Hasselblads
The first on a 500 C/M with a 60mm CB Distagon. 
The second with a SWC/M.
Exposures on both were quite long - 6 and a half minutes in the case of the second one - I told you it was getting dark.
The first was HP5+, the second FP4+. 
Both were developed in Pyrocat-HD and printed on (for the first one) Adox MCC, and Agfa MCC for the second - just 'cos.  
The second print was also tootled in Pot-Ferry because the printing was a little heavy-handed.
Adox and Agfa MCC have the same emulsion but the surface's gloss is quite different. The Agfa is a late-90's box I picked up. Lovely stuff!

And that's it really, apart from . . here's a message from our sponsors:

River Boy then and River Boy now. 

River Boy 1978

River Boy 2020

1978 and 2020 respectively - the first was taken by (I think) my Dad - handler of all things photographic at the time, on my old Polaroid, though it could well have been my Mum. The mug contains whole milk with Camp Coffee in it (we couldn't even afford instant! . . and before you ask why I was using Polaroid film if that was the case, the film was around 4 or 5 years old) and that is my second Digestive. I was just in from school, before heading down onto the riverbank in the gloam.
It's a scan off the original Polaroid and has been stored in a very haphazard way over the years and is fading slightly, but then so am I. 
The second is a scan from a negative on Delta 400, taken by t'missus a month ago on a Nikon F3 with the 28mm f2.8 CRC lens - it was quite dark, so it was about a 30th at f4. There's something about it I rather like.

And that's it.
Sometimes you need to do a bit of meditation and that's what I've done here. 
Writing it has explained something about life and growing up to me.

Till the next time, take care and Gods bless.