Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saturday Morning Pictures

Well, like a charging Berserker wielding a Battle Club and splitting your skull asunder, unfortunately another working week is upon us! I don't know about yours, but mine was faster than ever - no sooner have you downed Friday nights gin, than Sunday nights vino has gone the same way . . .but at least I did get out and do what the heading of this blog says . . . .
Yes, out into a new brave dawn!
Grim of face, but true to the spirit of photography!
When mere mortals were still abed, FogBlog Man strode the streets in search of new subject matter!
But enough of that shiitake . . . . to preface a little . . .

My son, when he was very small, in a moment of total genius, managed to distill the Postman Pat song down into a haiku-esque 6 word precis:

Early Morning
Day Dawning
Happy Man

This to me is perfect, because it sums up my photographic escapades to an absolute tee. I love being out in the morning - as early as the light permits, which in the summer in these climes can be as early as 4 AM-ish.
Operating within a city at these times means that you can usually photograph to your hearts content without being bothered and without having to worry about being hit by a van as you stand in the middle of the road.
The only hazards really are revellers on their way home, early dog walkers, and (rarely) other photographers. This being said I was once very nearly arrested for taking photographs near an airport. The Duty Manager had phoned the police and they had obviously thought that someone carrying a large rectangular shaped camera was a threat to security - and quite right too - I have no bad feelings about this at all; in fact it is nice to know someone somewhere is doing their job in these uncertain times. However, I digress. Thinking fast with visions of my camera's back being ripped open and my lovingly composed negatives being cast to the wind,  I quickly managed to pursuade the officer that really, I was of little danger to national security wielding one of these:

The above (modelled by Mr. Alec Turnips in a symphony of blue . . . and yes I know the case isn't fixed to the right side properly . . .) is the camera I have owned the longest - it is a 1965 Rolleiflex T and I love it. It has been a constant companion on many hillwalks and morning escapades and has operated flawlessly for many years. The lens is the superb f3.5 Zeiss Tessar. It makes remarkable photographs at it's best operating aperture which is f11, however wide open or stopped right down to f22, it is still a sterling performer.
The beauty of Rolleis is that they were perfectly designed from the off. Everything fits, and the accessories are totally useable and simple to get your head around. The ones I use the most are the Rolleinars and the 16-on kit. The former are a series of parallax corrected close-up lenses which can produce incredibly sharp photographs. The latter allows you to shoot 16 frames of film (instead of 12) in a rough resemblance of the 645 (6x4.5cm) format (as opposed to the standard 6x6 cm format).
For many years I would stride the streets with Oly (the Rollei) taking photographs of all sorts o'stuff that I found amusing or interesting. Sometimes I would make photographs I was rather proud of.
Then I bought a Pentax 67, a camera that, whilst seeming to be brilliant (and curiously in a masochistic way, WAS) proved to be a definite early morning job, as it's sheer size and noise made you stand out as much as if you had been wearing a pink catsuit (with bells on and embroidered flames running up the legs). For all its macho size and tank-like looks, it unfortunately proved unreliable (a common theme with the earliest models, though not the latter ones) and I returned it, but somewhere at the back of my head I always hankered after that lovely 6x7 cm negative size. It nagged and nagged, and so began a game of chance and research, luck and money. After many hard hours of scouring lists and reading blogs and looking at books, my quest for a 'better' negative resulted in me jumping formats altogether, moving up to Large Format photography and purchasing a Sinar F monorail camera.
Sinars are without a doubt the unsung bargain of modern photography, because:

a.) There are so many of them (and their bits and pieces) that they are relatively cheap. For sheer VFM quality, I think they are untouchable.


b.) Because they are truly built to last and so wonderful to use.

If you have never used a Large Format camera and you've only used 'miniature' cameras like a 35mm, then I can heartily recommend the effort required to use one. Everything about them takes time; from setting up, to composition, to making the photograph, to processing and proofing . . and  . . what's that? You want to print them at a size bigger than the actual 5x4" size? Oh, well you'll need a new enlarger then, or at least a good quality flat-bed scanner that will accept such things as a negative that is nearly as big as a small slice of bread. Personally I got a DeVere 504 enlarger (thank you Granny Mac) and haven't looked back.
The original point of this diatribe though, was early morning photography . . . and it is here dear reader that being oot and aboot at the Crack O'Dawn really works with the LF camera. No one will bother you, because they aren't about. You can wander around lugging said camera attached to a tripod like a mad Victorian, darkcloth around your neck and a crazed look in your eyes! I even once attracted an audience of two young guys on their way home from a club, who (curious about why I was standing on a Black and Decker Workmate, with my ancient Linhof tripod at its full extension [about 8 or 9 feet] photographing a series of roof-scapes on an industrial unit) simply stood by, munching their pies, uttering things like  "Woah" and "Coooooool".
I am not sure if that last bit wasn't just the product of their evenings inebriation though . . . . but I appreciated it and had a good conversation with them about the camera. At least they didn't knock me off my Workmate.
Believe it or not, there are some brave souls out there who use LF cameras at normal times of day in public places and I just don't know how they do it - I haven't mustered up the nerve yet.

The above photograph was made at another abnormal time of day. Dusk. A Winter's Dusk to be precise. Snow had fallen, it was about - 4C and there was definitely no one about. A camera (especially a metal monorail like the Sinar) can freeze to ones hands at such times. But I was tough, didn't cry and managed to accentuate everything a wide angle lens and a monorail camera can do. Apparently you aren't supposed to make the world look like this, but what the heck . . it got the atmosphere of the place. The original print, is far superior and has a strange plastic look to it, which I can only put down to the extreme exposure and choice of developer. The snow looks exactly like snow lit by street lights at dusk, which was exactly my intention.
Personally I feel it would make a rather good book cover. Preferably a book of proper spine chilling ghost stories in the Gothic style.
Mr. Jonathan Aycliffe - please write some more books again soon . . . . .
Oh, and it wasn't taken on a Saturday!

Camera: Sinar F
Lens: 1967 90mm f6.8 Schneider Angulon
Film: HP5 exposed for a remarkable 145 seconds!
Developer: Barry Thornton's 2 bath

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