Friday, February 22, 2013

The Photograph As Memory

Morning playmates, well, another momentous week.
Sheephouse has been particularly phylos filosphi philosofic thoughtful this week. 
He's been mooning around the decks, stroking his beard and gazing into the distance. 
He looked pensive and sad and happy all at the same time, and then disappeared below decks for hours at a time. Indeed the only way we knew he was still aboard, was that we were still asail and in the middle of a large patch of sea so he couldn't have got off, and then there was the occasional muffled shout of 'Arse!' from below.
Mog pestered him for while and I think that helped. 
You see being an extraordinary mouser, that cat has cleared this ship of every speck of rodent life, and has been getting lazy. So I bought some cat-mint mice for him last time we was in port, and have taken to hiding them in inaccessible places so that he has to learn even more cunning to find them.
Sheephouse appeared on the upper deck on Thursday, and Mog, being a cunning old cat, yeowled a happy yeowl, and went and started rubbing around his legs, very friendly-like. 
Sheephouse picked him up for a cuddle, and Mog wriggling free, leaped onto his shoulder, swiped down the cat-mint mouse that was caught in a rope behind Sheephouse's head, and in the same moment managed to blow-off in Sheephouse's face whilst leaping free back to the deck. 
Sheephouse looked disgusted (a cat's fart is powerful bad when the mice are all  gone and there's only fish-scraps and porridge left).
Oh how we laughed.
That cat - he'll do anything for a bit o'cat-mint.


You'll have to stick with this - there is photography here (as usual) but we're going to take a circuitous mountain path to it, so get your boots on and make sure your Mum has packed some nice sandwiches and juice . . .
Writing FB is something I can only compare with giving birth, except when you give birth you are aware of the presence of what you are about to thrust into the world. With FB this is definitely not the case. I will generally publish it on a Friday, and leave thinking about the following weeks until the next day, Saturday.
If I am lucky I'll already have a subject lined up, but if I don't, well . . . how do you drag a concept out of the air? it is bloody difficult actually, and though I might make light of, it is somewhat of a burden and a self-made responsibility
I have (at first very willingly) shoehorned myself into this regularity, but as every human knows, when you sit on the pot for a shit, if it isn't going to happen, it really isn't going to happen.
So, last weekend (which was a typical Scottish mix of overcast chill with a wind in from the North Sea and an untypical [Sunday afternoon] warmth with pale, watery sunshine) I was at odds with myself - namely:

People are enjoying reading this, (and a warm Hoots! to all regular readers by the way) you can't let them down (that's the angel on my shoulder . .) You have to come up with something.
But I've got nothing to say.
But you have to come up with something witty and erudite that people can think about or just enjoy for the writing.
But I really have nothing to say . .

So, for an entire weekend I didn't have a scooby as to what the nature of this week's post could be.
Saturday was taken up with a jaunty wee trip to the home of golf (not that I like golf, but it is a fine town to visit) St Andrews, which, in the Winter months, is the province of locals and students. It is quiet, and very much subdued -  more of the feel of how you would think a market town with one of the countries oldest Universities should feel.
And Sunday? Sunday was a lovely day. I had intended going out with the Koni-Omega and writing something about that, however I awoke late and to be honest couldn't be arsed doing anything, so I made a pot of tea, and picked up a book which I have been attempting to read recently.
Now as you may have gathered from posts in the past, I love reading, but for the past year of so I have really struggled with it. This has had to do with being absolutely knackered on my break at work and, instead of reading, which I always used to do, I have been having a cat-nap, so no reading gets done. Mornings and weekends? well they've been taken up with writing FB!
So last Sunday I thought, read. And I did, for a decent portion of the day. I added into the mix a lovely walk with my wife, and trying to eradicate a stray crab apple tree whose roots are I think starting to cause problems near our house; dyeing my hair; tidying up, etc etc, but still nothing got done with regard to FB at all.
Come the evening and we sat down at 9PM, watched an episode of 'Hustle' and a dodgy dvd of performances of bands on 'The Old Grey Whistle Test', and there was still nothing done.
However, a bottle of wine in, a thought struck me:
Although I had definitely read the book I was reading at some point in the past, I had absolutely no recollection of the plot.
This is strange don't you think . . after all, when a plot is so good that it moves you. when the writing is so fantastic that you are overcome with the economy of words and their subtleties then surely you must remember it?
And yet I didn't.
Strangely, I've enjoyed the two follow-ups in the series which I read around the Christmas period, but the first book . .nope - it is like a black hole.
Oh, and it's called 'Gifts' by the way, by one of my favourite writers, Ursula LeGuin. It is marketed as a book for late teenage readers, however I would dearly love to meet the teenager who could read this these days and get something from it. I really would!
So, baffled by my complete lack of recollection, and somewhat disturbed too (dementia looms big for anyone of 50+ years) I did a little searching to see exactly when I had read it. It might sound a little anal, but I keep a list of books I've read and the dates and years etc. and according to my records I read it from the 14th to the 21st of May in 2005.
So roughly seven years ago.
Not really a great deal of time, yet enough to eradicate it entirely from my memory.
And this set me thinking that if I can't remember that, what can I remember?
And such is the nature of these things, bingo, like a bolt from the blue, a topic for FB!
So, I consulted my photographic notebooks, and discovered that 2005 was the year I gave up photography entirely for a year.

A nation faints . . .
Women clutch newborns to them for fear of the consequences.
Grown men break down and weep!
Governments hastily call Emergency Meetings.
Stock Markets wobble.

But it was the right thing to do.
I had been too intense; worrying about it, obsessed to the nth degree, burnt out on repeated re-readings of 'The Negative' and 'The Print'.
After a miserable underexposed attempt at people photography (at night, by tungsten light and without a flashgun) I thought feck it, and stopped.
My chemicals went off.
My Rollei sat in its case.
My aesthetic sensibilities atrophied.
In a word, I turned my back on the one thing I can do without really thinking about it.
But the strange thing is, that apart from an entry in my photographic notebooks and a black hole in my contact prints, I have little recollection of the year's hiatus.
It is strange that isn't it?
After all, it was only seven years ago,  so hardly a lifetime, and yet now like a foreign land I visited with a blindfold on!
So where is this leading us you ask?
Get on with it Sheephouse . . we haven't got all day . . .
Well, leafing through said notebook, I looked at all the crazily detailed notes I make for every film, and I found the details of what I had written made things most clear.
So I went and pored over my contact prints and stopped looking at the notes altogether.
There was no need.
Each little 6x6 and 35mm image jumped off the paper like a tiny bite-sized parcel of memento.
So much so, that viewing some of my mountain trips with my Rollei, I found the smell and sweat of the sheer bloody effort of Munro climbing rising off the paper.
The feelings appeared without any tickling at all, almost like they are etched into my brain and physique permanently.
So why can I remember these things in such intimate detail, when a book which I am loving reading (and more than likely loved reading before) has left not the merest dent on my memory at all?
Is it to do with the physical reality of the photograph?
I think so.
Now this is where things get a bit nebulous, and the obvious effect of a whole pot of strong Yorkshire Gold tea, start to kick in . . .
In having taken a small cup to drink from the river of time and in ingesting it (by making a photograph of it) have I have somehow imbued time and memory with permanence?
Have I lifted something of life out of its transience; its fleet-footed hurtle towards oblivion?
Is the memory more real to me because it is something I have created.
Have I played the hand of God and captured something?
When you really start to think about it, you realise that a photograph is a truly remarkable thing.
Native Americans were right to be feared of the camera - it does steal souls.
Just as a person is forever changing, so the photograph is witness to that change. 
Your portrait is made, either seriously or in a casual manner, and that is you, in permanence, till imperfect processing do you part.
It is the same with landscape and cats, and fish, and insects and buildings.
To paraphrase Heraclitus, "No man can step in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man" .
The river of time moves on and we sail our little boats upon it for a while, and then we sink and become part of the detritus; yet that little spot where we pulled into the bank, had a lovely picnic and had our photograph taken is almost permanently etched.
Does this make sense?
I am not sure myself actually (and God bless you for sticking with it) but what I am sure of is that in scanning my contact prints of those early films I am easily able to recollect the photograph's making and circumstances of their making. 
So am I trying to say that a photograph is a very complex aide-mémoire or is it something else?
Well, I make aide-mémoires all the time:
Look at this.
Buy that.
How about the other.
What about using such and such?
But at the end of the day they're just bits of paper with notes on - they don't amount to anything more than things to jog my mind into motion - they become (and are of) the everyday, the mundane.
I purposefully go out with my camera - it is a deliberate act.
So is it the act of photographing that puts a full-stop (period) on time?
Does the making of a photograph add extra layers of formality and memory to the moment so that it becomes something other. 
An object that transcends the multi-dimensionality of the Universe and yet renders it in a simple two dimensional form?
I suppose it could be so really.
Funny to think that the family photograph (very quickly) became something other than just a formal picture and ended up as the defining memory of things happening.

Remember when you spilled your tea over the cat and Dad had his camera ready?
Look at that haircut!
I see you're still wearing the same trousers . . .

That is the power and the pain of photography - something which we all take for granted. It is remarkable don't you think that as human beings with our long-held (and I mean generations long) oral tradition of story-telling and the recounting of momentous occasions, that when something came along which supplanted the need for it anymore we dropped it like a stone. 
And where is that tradition today? 
Almost gone, so much so that around the world there are centres for trying to keep it alive, and remember that up until roughly a century ago, that tradition was very alive and kicking.
The photograph has become the Holy Trinity:
the tradition of recording the passing of life and time
an aide-mémoire
and a semi-truthful/truthful rendition of our world.
The old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" rings true. A photograph doesn't need to be justified by a note, it stands on its own merits. 
This is all fairly obvious stuff, so excuse me for musing in public, but as I said at the start I have little to say this week!
Anyway, onwards and upwards as they say.
Time is a funny thing - there was me writing about last weekend's visit to St Andrews, and below is a photograph of a visit some 20 years ago.
It is a fairly extreme example of a family snap/accident that requires no explanation, captured with great skill by my wife. However for want of anything at all to write I'll give you some background . . .
The story:
Well, being young and in love we'd made some sandwiches and hopped on the bus, got off, and after a wander around the numerous secondhand bookshops there used to be in St Andrews, we made our way down to the bluff overlooking the SeaLife Centre and knocked back the best part of a bottle of Pinot Grigio whilst enjoying said picnic. 
The day was typical of St Andrews in the Spring - bitingly cold, and incredibly windy. We were really being buffeted around. Anyway, in the interests of warmth we leaped about a bit, and I decided it would be a good idea to jump off a bench . . which I did.
Now happenstance has kicked in, because the shutter lag on the original Olympus MjU (which we were using) is about . . oh, three years (or so it seems), and yet my wife has anticipated that and managed to make a photograph that makes it look like I am falling from about 10,000 feet.
I still think it is a remarkable photo.
No motordrives or digital spraying for us . .oh no!

Man falls from 10,000 feet
Impact approaches

But say we hadn't taken the photographs and I had just noted down:
Went to St Andrews.
Had a great picnic and leaped around to get warm because of the cold and the wind.
It wouldn't have the same effect would it?
It would mean nothing to you certainly, and yet, to us, the photograph sums the day up.
Appreciate the greyness and the wind! Cold eh? 
Look at those breakers on the beach! 
Look at the sky! 
Look at the loony in mid-air!
The photograph has become an iconic image for my family - it has brought the day to life and provided an artefact for my son to look at, laugh at and wonder at the lunacy of his parents.
That is the power of a photograph.
My son might laugh at it, shake his head and say 'Oh dear!', but in many ways I have imbued a sense of perpetuity to his life too . . . 
I made the portrait below a long time ago, and now the wee boy you see there is pretty much a man, handsome and almost taller than his Dad. 
Very opinionated, unique, and at times a loveable pain in the arse. 
He now refuses to ever pose for photographs for me again. 
Ah dear, changed days . . .
This was made on the second film I put through my beloved and then newly acquired Rolleiflex T in March of 2003.
It was a freezing day, but a very young Alec Turnips and myself went for a walk around our local graveyard. There are another 4 frames of him, but I like this one because it isn't an ordinary portrait. 
My poor technique, camera shake and use of a wide aperture on the Rollei have resulted in my capturing a photograph of a ghost . . . well I think so anyway. I don't know why it makes me think of Russia, but it does.

Lost Ghost

The film was the original and long-lamented Agfa APX 100 (they might say the new stuff is the same, but as Public Enemy said: 'Dont Believe The Hype'. Old APX was an incredible film, the new stuff is just so-so)
I developed it in 1:50 Rodinal. You can get quite dense with such a combination, but it works and they always made a really great combo.
Anyway, there you have it, a sideways trip into the land of thought and musing. If this has prompted you to think differently about photographs, then that is good. If it has made you question what you are exactly doing the moment you push that shutter release, then even better! It's good to be curious about the world, and it is a good thing to question the nature of something you know inside and out.
I hope it all made sense . . . now I have to think of something for next week.
As usual, take care, God Bless and thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us

Mornin' m'hearties!
Well, Mog decided this week that he would act like a cowboy. Pretty unusual you would think, and especially because he is a cat, but there you go . . there's no accounting for some folk.
It was quite a job fitting him with them there leather chaps, especially because fur and leather are a bit of a mismatch when nature ain't taking a hand.
We finally managed to get him fully greased up with a dob o ship's lard though - he looked pretty weird, but we's got there.
Sheephouse was delighted - he thought it quite a hoot and bounced all over the midships shouting things at the top of his voice like:
"Put it there pard . . "
"Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeha, Doggies!"
Even Mog found the last one amusing - imagine calling a cat a dog, that would be like calling Sheephouse a photographer.
We had fun though, barrel riding and having a bit of a hoe-down.
It's amazing what sort of dances you can set to a shanty. I even managed a Do-Si-Do to "That Whale Took My Boys Down To Davey Jones' Locker, Damn His Eyes" which is a particularly jolly ditty written by some cove from Kernow.
Here's a little snippet:

That whale, boys
He took us down
10 fathoms, O-hey-O.
I thought my boys
We's goin' to drown
20 fathoms, O-hey-O

15 more 

And still we dive
Hey boys, O-hey-O.
Just five more
And then we'll die
40 fathoms, O-hey-O

It's a jolly tune, but can go on a tad long, being of about 40 verses and very detailed along the lines of The Shoals O'Orkney and Lying Off The Larboard Side and all that sailory stuff.
Anyway, a good time was had by all, though we've had to scrub Mog about 10 times with carbolic to get the lard out.
He wasn't happy about that, no sir.


I, Herman Sheephouse, being of feeble mind and sound body, do here declare that over recent years I have been extraordinarily focused. Literally.
You see for the age of a pig (a great expression and I have no idea where it came from) I did all my printing through an 80mm f5.6 El-Nikkor lens. This covered me, as most of my photographs were 6x6cm and 6x4.5cm.
Darkroom life was happy and very simple!
But then one day I went and spoiled everything and purchased a Pentax 6x7 and when that went back to the vendor (because it was faulty), a Sinar F . . and consequently, after I discovered that contact printing a 5x4" negative didn't really work (to my eyes anyway), I ended up packing away my lovely Meopta Magnifax enlarger and purchasing a DeVere 504 with a 150mm Rodagon.
So that was me up to two enlargers, two enlarger lenses and the ability to print everything from 35mm up to 5x4.
Everything was fine, until I received the second great gift. (The first great gift, was a truly lovely Nikomat FT [1965] and an early compensating type, 55mm Nikkor [the sharpest lens I own in the close-up range - honest, they used them to film Star Wars!]).
The second great gift was a HUGE box of Nikon gear from the parents-in-law of my friend Canadian Bob. If you are of sound mind and body, look away now, because imagine being a keen photographer and receiving this lot:

Nikon F Photomic S, Nikon F2S, 
50mm f1.4 Nikkor, 35mm f2 Nikkor
105mm f4.5 Nikkor, 300mm  f4.5 Nikkor, 
500mm f8 Nikkor-C mirror lens, 80-200mm, f4.5 Zoom Nikkor

Add to this, all appropriate cases, lens caps, rear caps, converters, manuals etc etc, and you'll being to see why I call it the great gift. Everything was in superb condition, and even though it had seen a semi-professional life, it had been carefully cared for. I paid the robber barons of UK customs £90 in fees and duty, and it all arrived.
I was overwhelmed to start off with simply because I hadn't thought properly inside the 35mm frame since college. But I eventually ended up approaching it with gusto, moving out into the dawn light with mostly the F2 and the 35mm lens.
It was a revelation.
I was no longer tied to a tripod as I was with my Sinar and to an extent with my Rollei. I could shoot as many pictures as I wanted, though actually, I still found that my Medium Format Discipline worked very well and I tended to compose carefully and hopefully make each frame count (though there are more than many frames of utter rubbish).
Here's a print from that earlier time - I like this.
It was made with the 35mm  Nikkor and the F2 and was around the time I started to discover that you could find the whole world in a window.

Fuji Neopan 400, BT 2 Bath
Bet this makes you feel hungry.
Easily the most bizarre thing I have seen in a shop window.
It's a shame Fuji Neopan 400 is so expensive these days - look at that tonality.

Anyway, I seem to have moved away from the theme of this.
Was there one?
This town ain't big enough for the both of us . . .der, der, derder. . . and it ain't me who's going to leave!
As I stated at the start, my adventures into the land of enlargers resulted in me owning two lenses, the 80mm El-Nikkor and the 150mm Rodagon. They are both very fine lenses, however as it always seems to be with photography, somewhere an itch starts and you begin to wonder whether you are getting the optimum sharpness from your lens . .
Now this is dangerous territory, because like all things like this, the search for optimum sharpness doesn't actually result in anything useful . . . or does it? Well such was my actual thinking.
I only print up to 10x8". I could go to 11x14" . . hell I could actually go up to beyond about 23" . . but there's no room for the trays in my darkroom, so I stick to the manageable.
I also wanted a dedicated lens for printing 35mm stuff, so the upshot of my thinking was that I found a good deal on a 1980's 50mm Durst Neonon.
If you don't know about Neonons, basically they were re-badged by Durst but made by usually Schneider or Rodenstock . . . however, they also had lenses made for them by Pentax.
Now this is quite a big thing for Pentax collector's because the company never made enlarging lenses.
Quite unusual don't you think for such an esteemed manufacturer?
I don't know how Durst managed to pursuade them, but they did and they made an excellent job of it too!
50mm Neonons will either say Made in W.Germany or, Made in Japan. Obviously the Japanese ones are Pentax. 
Mine is a very nice example - very sharp indeed and an excellent lens for normal size prints from 35mm negatives.
So, three enlarger lenses and the ability to print anything I fancied . . . you would have thought that would be enough, but no as it has got to be a bit of a mania.
For instance I recently found a 100mm Vivitar VHE for sale for £20. Too nice to turn down. It arrived covered in strands of fungus (and was apparently discovered in a box in a factory unit that was being cleared - it is unused, that is obvious), however some ROR and TLC and I now have a mint condition 100mm Schneider Componon, for that is what it is. There are some who say that the optical formula on these is the same as that of the legendary  Leitz Focotar II's which were made for Leica by the Schneider factory around the same time. Who knows, there certainly was a 100mm f5.6 Focotar II and from what I can find (which is sketchy) the optical formula of the 50mm VHE seems pretty similar to the optical formula of the Focotar II.
All I do know it that the VHE is an excellent and sharp lens.
So, four down . . and even further down madness street I spotted a poor wee orphan. It was huddled in a doorway, weeping quietly. I kept an eye on it for a number of weeks and it wasn't going anywhere. My heart broke and I took it in . . .
A 50mm f2.8 El-Nikkor - the second version.
It was a stone-cold 'dusty optics' bargain from Ffordes .  . whipping out an SK Grimes spanner wrench, I removed the rear element, used a Giottos blower, and hey presto . . mint condition lens . . £19.99.
Hard to believe really - they were over £100 when they were being manufactured . . .
Now a lot has been written about the f2.8 Nikkor, but what really swayed me and made me trust this orphan, was reading the books Darkroom and Darkroom 2 on Lustrum Press.
Just about everyone interviewed for the books was using this lens to print 35mm, so I thought why not . . . and you know what? It's reputation is deserved. I am delighted with it.
I decided to use it for a print session, and was very pleased with its ease of use and sheer quality.

Printed with a 50mm El-Nikkor, 14 sec, f8
Grade 2 on fairly old Kentmere Fine Print VC Glossy.
Kodak Polymax, Kodak stop, home-made plain fix.
400 Dpi scan.

I am happy with this print, though it is one of the world's duller photographs.
I made it on 8x10" Kentmere Fineprint FB VC.
It's an OK print but nothing special, and has gone into the big box of prints (unsleeved). Only my favourites go into sleeves.
So, from here, this is where it starts to get crazy.
Five enlarger lenses in, and a thought struck me during this session that I had three 50mm lenses to hand (there's one I haven't mentioned yet!) and time on my hands . . how about testing them in a practical way for me. Not MTF charts and all that stuff, but real prints and sections of prints, so, I thought, why not give it a shot. The above seemed a suitable candidate as the lettering was clear, but still has that hand-held element of slight unsharpness and would hopefully do the job. I wasn't going to be scientific about this - I like making prints not studying my navel, so I strapped on my leather chaps, had a tot o' red-eye in the Last Chance Saloon, girded my loins, gulped in some courage and came out shooting.
Firstly, there was only one way to go with the enlarger and that was up - as high as possible.

Were I to actually print this, the image size would be 25¾ x 17 inches!

My darkroom is a tight space.
The DeVere topped out and was jammed up against the ceiling - it could have gone  higher (if the ceiling weren't so low).
For the benefit of the photograph, my easel isn't in this picture.

The victim's were as stated: El Nik; Sergio Neone and . . . a stranger in town.
He'd ridden in on a dusty old donkey, climbed down, pulled back his poncho and positioned himself outside the corral. I was friendly and offered him a drag of an old charoot I was chawin'. He accepted and came in. He was a wizened geezer, but he still looked tough . . .
Turned out he was one of those immigrants from Germany. His name was The Old Timer.
This was going to be messy, but I had to know who could be the guy for the job.

Each lens was set at the same aperture, for consistency, though in the case of the Elmar it was approximate, as it moves from f6.3 to f9 . . . and from there I set up my easel, focused very carefully with my Omega critical focuser, and eased some 6x4" paper into the slots . . .
All prints were exposed and processed for the same length of time.

50mm Nikon El-Nikkor (N), f8
50mm Leitz Elmar, f8 (approx)
50mm Pentax/Durst Neonon, f8

Now there are a few things quite remarkable about this . . .
Firstly it is extraordinary how much you can squeeze out of a properly processed 35mm negative . .
And secondly, that paper I used for the sections was Jessops own-brand resin coated . . it was roughly ten years old. It hadn't been kept frozen, indeed I had forgotten I had it, only discovering it in a pack of Silverprint Proof . . I knew it was Jessops because it was 6x4" and I'd only ever bought that size from Jessops.
Astonishing quality for a RC paper. No compensation for loss of speed or grades. I think it may well be re-branded Fotospeed - again, not many people use Fotospeed RC however I will flat out say it is the best resin coated paper on the market bar none. It just seems to exude quality, more so than Ilford or Agfa/Adox. If I had to print on RC, that would be my choice. In fact I would say that of all RC papers it is the only one I would consider of exhibition quality . . and that is saying something
Anyway, another thing I would say about this little lot, is that it is remarkable how similar they all look.
So I have gone one step further and scanned the prints at 720 DPI . . . thinking this will separate the dogs from the pups . . the judgement is all yours dear reader.

El-Nikkor, Section 720 Dpi

Neonon, Section 720 Dpi

Elmar, Section 720 Dpi

Yes, there are obvious differences, however when you weigh it all up and consider that we are talking markedly different lenses here the differences aren't that massive are they.
The Nikkor, is I think the winner. It has rendered the grain very sharply, with a good balanced contrast. 
The Durst is also very good indeed, though it hasn't quite resolved the text quite as sharply. For a lens that cost £15 secondhand it is still an excellent performance, but then I suppose it is a 1980's Pentax lens so what do I expect. 
The surprise for me is the Elmar. The story behind it? It is a 1934 uncoated lens - I use it for making pictures on a regular basis.
Stop the presses . . hold on.
A lowly lens from before the Second World War?
Can you Adam and Eve it? 
Oh sure, it was fairly difficult to focus and the grain was very mushy wide-open at f3.5. Stopping down was difficult due to the aperture control on the lens, but against all odds, it has rendered the lettering very well.
Certainly, there is a slight mushiness, but remember we are dealing at an enlargement size way beyond what it was ever intended for. I should think that for my standard printing size (10x8") it would be alright.
The other surprise about it is that it has given the image a very smooth quality which I quite like, and it has made me wonder whether it might be worth trying out some of those old uncoated Schneiders you see on eBay . . . .
Obviously when it comes down to practical everyday darkroom use, the Nikon and Durst win hand's down with their lovely illuminated aperture controls. As I have already said, an old Elmar's aperture control is difficult to use in daylight and almost impossible in the dark. But if you lost everything and this was all you had left, you would still be able to make decent prints with it . . . folks . . that'll be a future FB methinks!
So there you go - madness and lots of it.
I'd actually love to have a massive Alamo-style shootout with all sorts of different lenses. . it would be interesting, but I don't know if I am quite mad enough.
Anyway, just to prove that the session wasn't entirely an exercise in tomfoolery, here's a genuine print from it.

Kodak TMY2 400, Kentmere Fineprint VC Glossy
Gofos And Ena Just Love Dundee's Waterfront Project
December 2012

The negative was made on a cold late Winter's afternoon (approx 3.30PM and the light was going!) and I was footering around down by 'Vision' - Dundee's 'digital hub'.
Basically it is a massive white elephant in the heart of the city, down where the old railway yards and sidings used to be. I remember the area being full of coal and trains back in the 1980's, but now it is full of recently constructed empty buildings thanks in no part to the British Government's attitude towards tax breaks for computer games programming. Foreign governments give healthy ones and value the industry, and in Britain we don't, so consequently the much predicted coming 'golden age' of games programming didn't happen here.
If you are interested in such things, Dundee was an early player in the industry - it was the place where they programmed Lemmings (remember that?) and Grand Theft Auto . . so we have a hell of a lot to account for! 
Duncan Disorderly College Of Art in Dundee still has a hefty investment in animation and programming and so on and it is considered to be a key course . . . a heady change from the day when someone broke the Quantel machine . . 
Anyway - I used the 1960 Leica M2 and the 1934 50mm Elmar. Do I like old cameras? Erm . . .
The film was expired TMY2 400 rated at approximately EI 400, though I was guessing exposures . . . 
It was developed in HC110 Dilutuion B for 7 mins and 30 secs at 21 Centigrade.
I printed it on ancient Kentmere FB VC and used the newly acquired 50mm El-Nikkor. The grain is crisper than a family bag of Walkers . . . I am going to really like using this lens.
Two other things - firstly, the physical print is great I love it and it is sleeved, so I must like it. It has cockled a bit on the edges, but that's the paper for you.
Secondly, greyscale scanning on my scanner imparts a greenish hue, which makes it look terrible, like a non-selenium toned bromide print from years back if you can remember that . . . .
Also you cannot get the full quality of a nice glossy proper silver gelatin print from the web . . go to an exhibition and see some in the flesh - they will knock you out.
It was a weird photograph to make. I'd pushed through a broken fence, turned around, and there was a frog's face! Yes it is very low contrast, not least because of the failing light, however the Elmar has actually rendered things very crisply. The detail of the screwheads is there, so I must have had a steady hand that day . . . 
Anyway, as usual thanks for sticking in - I have had fun doing this and spent a number of hours of my life writing it all up. Hope you found it interesting. Please let me know.
Take care and God Bless.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Waiting For Dawn

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The things we do for this dark craft . . . .
Time: 5:03AM
Temperature: -2° C
Colour Of Sky: Black
State Of Brain: Fuzzy
Clothing: Comfortable 'Weekend' Stuff.

In my photographic life I always strived to get the best quality I could out of everything I was using, which, when I restarted making pictures again, was entirely my Rolleiflex T. There's a lot to be said for making the most of what you have, because my Rollei and I travelled a long way and made a lot of great photographs. I knew exactly what I was going to get, and that by (on the T this applies . . others Rolleis differ) stopping down to f11, I would be maximising the performance of the Tessar lens. And this did. For a long long time, until one day I felt an itch that had to be scratched . . . it was an itch that posed itself as a question: "What if?"
The what if, was based entirely around, "What if I moved up to a larger format?" It is a question that most photographers will come to eventually, and it isn't actually based on any sane decision; it just gets bigger and bigger, like that scratchy bit underneath that plaster cast you had when you were a kid, and eventually you break down and scratch and scratch in an insanity of scrimping and saving and more What if-ing, until, like me you end up with a ridiculous number of cameras of a larger format (and by this in my case, I mean larger than the 6x6cm format of the Rollei). In my case it is a three: A Koni-Omega Rapid 6x7, a Sinar F 5x4" monorail camera and a Wista DX 5x4" Field Camera. Add to that a 150mm Schneider Symmar-S, a 203mm Kodak Ektar and a 90mm Schneider Angulon, plus two large tripods and obviously an enlarger that can enlarge 5x4" negatives (a DeVere 504 Dichromat) with its appropriate lens (150mm Rodenstock Rodagon) and then the necessary gadget bags to carry a field camera in, and film holders, and currently about 150 sheets of Kodak and Ilford film in cold storage and you can begin to see how that itch has become something a tad unmanageable.
I think I really got to this situation because of a love of the great American photographers like Mr.Wynn Bullock, Mr.Ansel Adams, Mr.Edward Weston and Mr.Walker Evans who all inevitably found themselves dining at the table of Large Format photography, because of the sheer ability to manage your image and because of the breadth of tones available to one when one makes a Large Format photograph. For my own ends, I go further back to Mr.Clarence White and Mr.Frederick Evans, purely because I love the lyrical beauty of their photographs. I have dreamt of making beautiful, exquisite photographs like my heroes. Photographs that are breath-taking in their depth and luminosity, but you know what, save for a very few early attempts, I have never managed it. I have dallied and made roughly 200-odd 5x4 exposures (4,000 square inches of film!) - not an inconsiderable number, but squeezing that quality out has been difficult, and in the meantime I have all this gear!
I wouldn't mind though . . if I were using it, however dear reader, the truth of it is that I made my last 5x4" negative in June of 2012. As you can see, with such a substantial financial investment, allied to the time investment that was required in my learning to use the cameras correctly, such a situation is rather embarrassing, not to say, goading, like a pixie on your back! It gets to you. and eventually something has to give, and that something is now. Today, Saturday 3rd February 2013. So I am sitting here, at my command post, drinking tea, listening to Dear 23 by The Posies and typing this whilst waiting for dawn, for it is my intention to go out this morning and make 4 exposures. It has required considerable effort to get here, and I feel rather like a hapless Tommy, waiting for the whistle to go so I can climb out of the trench and advance on the enemy guns . . .wish me luck! Oh and it is freezing . . .
Oh bollocks . . . there goes the whistle!
Well I parked up, near the Tay bridge with a hope to capture the preternatural dawn light as it illuminated that lovely staircase, however what I hadn't factored on, was the fact that the place was lit up brighter than a winter's football match . .. streetlights and spotlights, searchlights and just lights . . 'ave you got a light boy? Lights everywhere. It was incredibly depressing and as I was hunting around trying to find an angle that wouldn't be illuminated, I started to get colder and colder. Allied to this that in a view camera your image is upside down and reversed then you start to get an idea of the difficulty. Add poor eyesight to this (and no I don't wear glasses normally, however I do use them for composing on the ground glass) and the glare from the lights and you have a semi-disaster waiting to happen.

By the Tay Bridge
First Skirmish.
As you can see, the lights are ON!
I have had to lighten this - it was a lot darker.

Now, in recent years I have developed Raynaud's Disease, which means that my fingers and toes go white (and sometimes blue/black) and have no feeling to them whatsoever . . not the thing for adjusting cameras, and when you are staggering around like an idiot, with a camera on a nearly fully extended tripod, peering at a ground glass that keeps misting up, snot flowing freely because of the sheer out and out balticness of the wind, your fingers and toes take a real hit, and you sort of become a bit hypothermically befuddled. However, my determination got the better of me and I set up and took a cliché Yep, long exposure, 'smoky' water .  .gawd dontcha hate those photographs. And now I've made another one . . but it was so cold, I had to show something for my efforts . . but you know what . . I wish I hadn't bothered. 
It is, to quote a famous Chinese proverb, 'A giant heap of clap'.

Tay Bridge, Dawn
Woah!  You mean it is back to front AND upside down?!
Second skirmish, and again, a lot lighter than it was.

So, disgusted by my own inability to deal with the cold, and trying to get my extremities back to some semblance of life, I strode off swearing as loudly as I could, and dear reader, you may think your hero is a mild-mannered timerous beastie, but boy can I swear! I reckon I could hold my own in a builder's yard. 
Anyway, as some of you may know, Dundee's delightful ex-tourist destination Tayside House is currently being dismantled, nibbled away by the busy gnomes of Safedem (a Dundee company) a floor at a time. It is exceedingly spectacular in its disappearance, so I had the bright idea I would photograph it as it was disappearing. I positioned myself on a wheelchair ramp opposite, which gave me about 25 feet of height off the ground. I was still bloody freezing, but at least my movements had brought some life back and at least I had something to keep my mind occupied . . oh and it was getting lighter! However dear reader, yet again I was to be defeated . . this time by ineptitude with dealing with verticals. Now regular readers will know I place great importance on them . . but this was a weird one. The right edge of the building (left and upside down on the groundglass) was parallel with the guidelines on the groundglass, but the left edge of the building is heavily angled. I think this might be to do with the netting surrounding it billowing out, but it still looks weird. I grumbled and groaned, I f'd and blinded, but I couldn't sort it, so I made the bloody picture anyway (£1.50 per sheet of film in today's money). 
Again, why did I bother . . .
Embittered by defeat, I staggered back to the car, packed my gear down, and muttered bounteous supplications to the Gods of Photography.
My next battleground was back to a favourite haunt - that old University building as detailed in previous blogs.
I was determined to get something decent and knew that if I was careful there were enough things to make photographs that look like you've seen in books by some of the American greats. I forgot earlier to mention other American photographers I admire. Step up Paul Caponigro and Frederick Sommer, and Harry Callahan too. All legends. All influences. 
I wanted to make something they might have made, but with my own pulse.
First off, was another of my reflections. I seem to have taken an inordinate number over the years, simply because I love them. You never know what it is you are seeing. Nor where reality begins or ends and unreality starts. I like that!
First picture, was the early sun catching a tree reflected in a window. This was a bit better, but there are two things wrong with it though - the first is that I overexposed it - I wanted darker areas - broad swathes of them. And the second is I didn't develop it enough, as the tree should have stood out a lot more - och well . . never mind; that's the nature of the game.
My last picture was of something that makes me laugh out loud. You'll maybe not believe it, but these windows have been like this for about three years. They just get dirtier and dirtier, and of course the dual meaning of that comes in too.
I'll do a brief aside here and also explain that up till my last picture I hadn't used a dark-cloth. For non-photographic readers, you know when you see films of old photographers and they disappear under a big blanket . . . well that's a dark cloth. Mine, is a rather hopeless modern variation - two t-shirts, one inside the other. The elasticated end of the shirts goes over my head and the loose bottoms over the camera - it sort of works, but if I am honest it is a pretty shite solution. And especially, in the case of my last photograph, it was utterly annoying. The air had got cold again, and draping this semi-heavy layer of cloth over my head resulted in the reading glasses I was wearing (I find it easier to compose on the groundglass wearing them) misting up . . . not just once though, but about twenty times. I do wonder what the odd student passing by thought, a man with two t-shirts over his head, cursing loudly, and rubbing away frantically at something under the t-shirt. Anyway, it looked good on the groundglass, so I made the image.

University Of Dundee
Somebody get me a sponge.
The eye of truth lands upon a suitable scene.

There's something really beautiful about a groundglass!
Even though you can see that the glare from the surroundings has washed out any image whatsoever, I put this picture on, because I thought it looked nice. Obviously this was pre-t-shirts and swearing.

University Of Dundee

I eventually made my photograph, despite the circumstances and glowing in the aftermath of achievement, I packed everything up and headed back to base.
Now we come to my favourite bit - development time! why? because in the words of Forrest Gump's Mama: 
"Life is like a box o'choclits. You don't know watcha gonna git!"
Photography is like that. You can narrow down your choice of choclits, but at the end of the day, you are still In The Hands Of The Gods Of Photography.
All the care and precision and concentration you can muster is required at this stage, because once you get into the dark there is very little going back.
I tray process my film, one slow sheet at a time . . . and yes it takes ages. I have tried handling multiple sheets of film before as recommended in many LF technique books, but I have also been a fisherman, and to be honest, handling 4 sheets of 5x4" film in pitch darkness is akin to handling very thin, very delicate, inert eels, in a coalmine, without a lamp.
They slide everywhere.
I could do it if I didn't care about what was on the film, but I do, so slow and easy does it.
I use a metronome to count out the seconds, speaking aloud the passing of each minute. I have tried doing it mentally, but found myself zoning out, so I started speaking the minute to keep myself awake and aware . . and it works.
I was using Kodak TMX 100, rated at EI 80. I have used a  lot of TMX in 120 size, but this was a first for sheet film. Developer was HC 110, Dilution B (9ml syrup: 295ml water), temperature 21° Centigrade. and you know what I think next time, I'll use Rodinal. HC 110 is a fine developer, but with TMX and enlarging to the print size I normally do (8x10") the grain is almost invisible. I actually prefer a bit of grain - it gives edges an edge as it were. TMX in Dilution B in 120 size is very nice indeed.
Time was exactly 7 minutes 30 seconds for each sheet. Agitation was constant for 30 seconds and then a gentle tray sequence (tray: left lift, centre lift, right lift, centre lift) every 20 seconds from the minute mark onwards.
And this is what came out.

Dundee 2013
Spawn Of The Unfortunates.
A land of grey awaits the unwary.
And as you can see my verticals are oot! 

Right, the way to read the above is as follows:

Top Right: Bridge landscape. Utter shite and a total cliché. A total waste of film. Even the bleedin' horizon looks off . . but it isn't (by much).
Exposure was 1 minute 30 seconds at f32. I placed the bridge shadow on Zone IV.

Bottom Right: Tayside House. As you can see, the right vertical is correct, but the left isn't. I am wondering whether my camera was properly aligned. The thing was, it was so dark when I initially set it up I couldn't quite see what I was doing, so it may well have been.
The Wista DX doesn't have infinity stops, just lines engraved in the rails . . .
Exposure was 11 seconds at f22. I used front rise and placed the netting on the building on Zone V.

Top Left: Dundee University. Another of my window pictures from this disused building. I would dearly love to get inside and photograph it. It has the look of something slowly slumping into decrepitude.
Exposure was 10 seconds at f16 and I placed the shadows on Zone III. The focus was precise on the reflection of that tree on the right.

Bottom Left: Dirty Windows. At last, something I can be happy with. It looks grey (very) on the contact print, but it isn't actually.
Exposure was 6 seconds at f22. I placed the lighter bits of the concrete on ZVI. I always do this with concrete - it is the correct tonality, though the print is slightly darker.

So, making some executive decisions from this, I decided to print my final frame.
It is the only one I am happy with.
And here it is. I printed it on some really quite old Kentmere Fibre-based VC paper. It is an exceptionally fast paper, with exposure times around half those of Ilford Galerie. I find it difficult to use fast papers. Dodging and burning requires a little more time, however, despite my rapid hand movement, I have come up with a print I am happy with. Actually, Kentmere is a good paper . . . though this batch was from before Harman/Ilford took them over. It has a little of the Lake District in it . . .

Kodak TMX 100, Kodak HC 110 Dilution B
Dirty Windows

So the question I am now going to pose is, where has all this agony and ecstasy got me?
Is the above any better than pictures I could make on my Rollei, or even 35mm for that  matter?
Is Large Format photography more akin to carrying on a tradition, striding the world with your be-bellowed camera and the weight of giants upon your shoulders?
I don't know actually. Speaking for myself, the masochist in me says:
Oooh Ya. Yeah. Great. Bigger Format. I need Bigger Format.
But then he gets locked away in his room, and sanity reigns.
I do sort of feel a weight of responsibility to those who have gone before. In this world of the instantaneous, there is something very archaic and perverse about making random pictures of everyday rubbish, in such a way that you simply spend ooodles of time making an image that you only feel marginally happy about.
So to close this I will leave you with a LF photograph I am happy about.
It was made with my lowly and humble mid-60's Schneider Angulon (90mm, f6.8), mounted on the mighty Sinar F, on a Gitzo Series 5(!) pan and tilt head, topping an ancient and wonderful Linhof tripod . . . in other words, it weighed about 16 gravities.
Film was Ilford FP4+ and HC 110 Dilution B.
I followed this route on the recommendation of the great American photographer Mr.Steve Mulligan, who is still alive and kicking.
He said this combo was the one he always came  back to, and I can see why just from the sheer quality of image.
The grain is crisp and tonality is everything I could want.

Schneider 90mm Angulon F6.8, Sinar F
I think this print is on Ilford Galerie.
Unfortunately you cannot get the quality of the finished article from this scan.
I did have one on Polywarmtone, but I cannot find it.

And that's it folks - another wee adventure with me and you. Hope you had a nice time . .
LF Photography is a massive pain and incredibly difficult, but also strangely satisfying at the same time.
Maybe now the mornings are getting lighter I will get back to my occasional weekend regime of a 4:30 AM rise and dawn will be waiting for me for a change!
Take care and God bless.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Say Cheese! It's Leica Time.

Hoo Har, scuse me maties.
The spitoons are fairly o'er flowin' with the gobbings of a chesty crew.
Oh yes mates, we got the lurgy real bad. Something to do with pullin' into Liverpool and too much Brain's Bitter in them pubs, and then some rather dodgy kebabs on the way back aboard. Then Sheephouse appears, having visited his Aunt in Chester and brought us back something rather nasty in the form of the worst cold we's ever had.
The riggin' was slippery with cloughers, the decks awash and truly awful.
It's been a nasty week no doubt about it - we even had to use up Mog's collection of small bear costumes to deal with the sputum . . very very nasty indeed. They solidified fairly quickly and got chucked overboard as we were leeward of the fair town of Morecambe.
My arse.


Well it's a cold Tuesday morning here below decks and as usual, I could think of nothing to write. All I had in my head is an image I made on Saturday, which I have rather taken a liking to. It isn't in focus, there's a twisty camera shake to it, it doesn't even look like a 'proper' photograph, however I do know that I will print it to my best ability and keep it with my other prints.
How did I take it? Well, this article is either going to be about surreptitious photography or, probably more likely, an anatomy of a trip out with my camera. It'll probably be the latter, though I have to warn you in advance, the scans of the negatives are shite, courtesy of my Epson V300 scanner. It is fine for certain things, but for film not so good. And I'll add to that, that I only made the photographs last Saturday (the 26th of January) and have only made a contact print so far.
I'll also not bore you with the jetsam but I will go through the contact print and present the larger images . . . so here goes . . got your hard hat ready?
Regular FBers (there are such people . . what a strange bunch!) will know that in recent times I have had a dalliance with Leicas - it just seemed like a good thing to do at the time.
I really saved up for one, at not a small amount of difficulty, and then had to send it back (Leica Sniff Test) which made me sad as I had really enjoyed using it.
So I scrimped even further and added some more money and bought a 1960 Leica M2.
Now I will state this here and now, undoubtedly they seem to be regarded as rich boy's playthings, however don't knock 'em till you have handled one. I have used a lot of cameras over the years, but I have never used one which was so beautiful to handle.
Yes mine is what they term a 'user' - it has been well-used over the years, but the rangefinder is accurate and the viewfinder is relatively clean.
The film advance is like nothing you have ever tried - my Nikons are smooth, but this is like mechanical butter. It actually is a joy to use and considering it is a tad older than me, I think, pretty remarkable.
To put it into perspective, it was made before Vietnam, before Kennedy's assassination, before the Beatles changed the world, before Psycho became a benchmark . . . and it hit the world running.
It was a not inconsiderable investment by someone at the time, and it has been used, a lot.
It hasn't been treated the way Leica collectors seem to do things by putting their precious investments away in cotton wool, nope, internally, parts of the film advance are worn away to their brass. It has a few scratches. it has a slightly wheezy 1/15th of a second, but when I use it, it feels like an extension of my hand and eye. And to be honest, if you are a photographer, that is surely all you could want.
Those craftsman in Wetzlar who made my M2 were the real deal.
It is in fact so well put together that to my strange and romantic mind, it seems to have transcended it's highly machined physicality to become something other.
Can machines have a soul?
Yes, I truly believe some of them can.
I have been tempted to return it to the vendor and say "Oi, why is the shutter wheezy like that, when you said the shutter was serviced?" but to be honest I have already become attached to it.
I would dearly love someone from Leica to read this and say, "Come on then, send it to us at Solms and we'll give it a going over . ." and restore this amateurs instrument of joy back to its former glory . . . but dream on Sheephouse, it isn't going to happen.
Anyway, onwards.
The camera as stated is a 1960 Leica M2.
Lens is a 1934 Leica 50mm f3.5 uncoated Elmar, fitted with a FISON lens hood. The lens and hood predate the Second World War . . that too is incredible.
Film was Kodak Tri-X, which I rated at roughly EI 320.
The thing with using the camera the way I am going to describe is that film speed is a nominal, relative thing. I take a meter reading before I go out, and then adjust from there. As you'll see from the contact print, it doesn't always work, but then the overexposed images are still useable. You just have to up the exposure when you are printing . . simple.
Film latitude is a thing that not many people bother with. But certainly if you are using black and white, then you will have enough to deal with a huge range of lighting conditions.
It is all very flexible.
I used to meter everything, but have moved through all that in 35mm work to realise that roughly anything you take will be ok, so long as you follow the one cardinal rule:
Do not underexpose!
Overexposure is fine. Even that dread combination Overexposure and Overdevelopment is fine . .
One of my heroes is Ralph Gibson.
I never knew photograph could be so lyrical until I sat down one day and looked at his essay 'The Somnambulist' . . suddenly a large number of cogs moved together, like a smooth-working Leica advance, and I knew that I could make a photo essay.
I haven't yet, however I am getting there . . there's more than enough images to be gone over.
The key is, that for me it isn't a deliberate journey. I have a lot of similar images that will serve each other.
Anyway, I am digressing again - Mr.Gibson's key thing is that he deliberately Overexposes and Overdevelops!
It's mad.
It is so against what you are supposed to do, that it is like heresy, and yet, there is a lyrical intensity to his images. They are like a waking dream. They are all his own.
He said that he only discovered he could do this when he was watching a lithographer ink up some plates for the first publication of The Somnambulist. The extra ink created rich deep blacks, and it hit him that he could use broad expanses of black against highlights and get to where he wanted to go.
Whilst I might emulate his approach, I am not copying him, so you won't find anything like the depth of what he does . . but then, I am just me.
Anyway, intention set, camera loaded, my little key turning on my back . . off I went!
Two sessions/walks.
Film developed later in the afternoon.
Developer was Kodak HC 110, Dilution B at 20 degrees Centigrade.
I used a very small tank, so it was 9ml developer to 298ml water. Agitation was constant and gentle for 30 seconds, then I did 4 inversions every 30 seconds, halted at 7 minutes and poured developer out at 7 minutes 30 seconds.
A lot of people would say that I have overdeveloped this film, however to that I will add that everyone is different.
In my case, because of the extreme lack of contrast from the Elmar (due to its age and being uncoated) I felt that developing for longer would be the way to go to gain extra contrast and accutance.
Anyway, Tri-X and HC 110 is a classic combination - I like it, and to be honest looking at the lack of fog on the film base, I think the time is just about right actually!
Right, here goes.

Don't panic!
Contact prints of a film invariably look rubbish.
This is because there is just too much going on and your eye can't settle on anything.
Ilford Multigrade RC, Kodak Polymax, Agfa Ag Fix.

This is my contact print and as you can see, I have slightly underexposed the print.
The key thing with contact prints is to use the old maxim 'Minimum Time For Maximum Black' (MTFMB), basically meaning that when the unexposed edges of the film are indistinguishable from the exposed black density of the paper, you have exactly what you have shot.
Obviously film does develop some fog when it is being developed, however it is something you don't really have to worry about.
Try and get that film edge indistinguishable from the density of the paper. MTFMB is a useful base point and means you can read your negatives on the contact print, relative to something.
You don't get this frame of reference with scanning negative strips.
As you can see from my contact print, some of the frames are a tad underexposed and some are overexposed, however given that I haven't given the print enough exposure, then you can see that the overexposed frames will print down slightly more.
I wanted to try something with my lens on this journey, and that was to keep a set aperture and vary exposure by using shutter speeds, which is what I did. I tended to keep the f-stop at f9 (it's an old lens - and doesn't adhere to modern settings). The only frame I didn't do this on was number 16 which was approximately the equivalent of f5.6.
It was a cold morning - the snow from the day before had frozen, and there was plenty of condensation in the  shop windows, hence my first two frames. From there, I wandered up to one of the old University buildings (which is a waste of a huge building . . it is totally unused!) and from there, dondered along the back of the Wellcome Foundation building on the Hawkhill and down by the side of Duncan Of Jordanstone. From there, it was back up the Perth Road and the famous Tartan Cafe and back to the car.
Afternoon, was park opposite Tescos at Riverside and  walk along the river, skirt the Discovery, go along the back of the Leisure Centre to the Tay Bridge and then walk back.
You have to be receptive on trips like this. I view it as sort of like 'I have film loaded and I want to use it all - so let's see what we can see'. There is no set agenda as to what I will make images of. It is all down to what catches your eye at the time, and that can vary depending on your frame of mind, energy levels etc. It really is a voyage of discovery and one of the great pleasures in life. Photographing isn't the dark art a lot of pseuds would have you believe. Getting what you have on film into something you can use, is a semi-dark art/craft, but one that can be learned by anyone. I feel that I am at a stage now where making images is as natural as breathing. I have done a Joe Pass - 'Learn it all, and then forget it all.'
I have decided to limit this to 8 images as I don't want to bore you too much. This is after all all about me, and for some reason you are reading it . . .
Right, here goes:

Kodak Tri-X, Kodak HC110 Dilution B
Frame 2

Well, it was, as I have explained a very cold morning, so here I was confronted with a lovely flower shop, but, the condensation was such that you couldn't see anything. To be honest this would have worked better in colour as they were all muted and covered in whitey-grey condensation droplets. It caught my eye, I was aware of only having around forty minutes, so I made this by focusing on the droplets and as is often the case with my window pictures I am in there too! 

Kodak Tri-X, Kodak HC110 Dilution B
Frame 4

Then it was up to the Hawkhill via the lane at the side of the Tartan Cafe. This passes that disused University building I was talking about. It has become a bit of a magnet for graffiti, however and strangely, a lot of the graffiti is in chalk, so I am assuming that the artists are Art students from the nearby DOJ. 
This photo is unusual in that the grafitti is in spray paint. It could be by skaters as they use the vast expanses of concrete around the building. The interesting thing about it though is that it shows what happens when you use an uncoated lens into bright light. The shadows take on this flare of light and are almost contrastless. It is a nice effect, but relatively uncontrollable.

Kodak Tri-X, Kodak HC110 Dilution B
Frame 13

Moving on, I went round the back of the Wellcome building making another 8 pictures and headed back down to the Perth Road. 
This inspiring lump of concrete is actually the 'new' Crawford building of Duncan Of Jordanstone. The lower windows are the library. 
I like the way that the Elmar has made this look like it is a photo of the Bauhaus! Though, again the scanner has not managed to scan the full frame, so my verticals are terribly iffy.
The light was very beautiful, but I was even more aware I was running out of time . . .

Kodak Tri-X, Kodak HC110 Dilution B
Frame 18

They really ought to employ some window cleaners though . . . again the Crawford Building. 
I have cropped this, because the ****in scanner cannot scan a complete full frame. In my negative the verticals are correct . . in the scan they aren't . .so crop it was.
What attracted my eye, was the incredible brightness and that scuff in the lower part of the picture.
"Ooo aaar . . round these parts they be callin' that a waste of film . . ." 
Anyway, although that didn't actually conclude the pictures I made, it was frame 17.
I made another three and then headed for the car.
Yum yum . . lunch.
Boo boo . . housework.
Vroom vroom . . Dad taxi.
Happy happy . . Leica time.

Kodak Tri-X, Kodak HC110 Dilution B
Frame 27

It was incredibly icy down by the Tay, but the light was quite bright and some watery clouds were advancing and threatening more snow.
Again, another picture with me in though I am not nearly as svelt as that. 
Again I have had to crop very slightly because of the scanner. Incredible to make such allowances to infallible technology!
This is the back of the soon to be extinct Hilton Hotel . . it looks like a Victory V from the other side. The river side though is fortunate to have this incredible vista. 
What you can see is Fife and the Tay Road bridge. There's also a massive anchor stuck there too . . just to remind you of the area's heritage.

Kodak Tri-X, Kodak HC110 Dilution B
Frame 28

Well just to prove this is a city with its various bunches of nutters, further along by the Hilton's gym window, I discovered an area where someone had had a go at smashing what is fairly obviously safety glass. They hadn't suceeded and the crack was covered in film - hence the above. 
I rather like it as it reminds me of Minor White and some of the American photographers of the 1950's and 60's. It almost makes me want to go back with the 5x4 camera and do it as a large negative.

Kodak Tri-X, Kodak HC110 Dilution B
Frame 32

I have cheated a bit with this. I don't know why but I must have been listing when I took it as the vertical of the bridge on the left is ever so slightly squint. I can impart a bit of Gary Winogrand's wisdom here with regard to photographs. Try your best to keep the left vertical straight. The rest of the verticals in the picture and the horizontals can go to hell, but that left one has to be straight. It is sensible practice when you think about it, as we read from left to right, and visual disturbance on the initial scan will affect your whole view of the photo!
This photo also illustrates the beautiful drawing qualities of the old Elmar. 
Look at that glow from it - really lovely. 
This is under the Tay Bridge by the way - that staircase takes you up to the road level and I think it is a beautiful stair - it looks like a Mies van der Rohe two fingers to the Nazi's from 1933. Interesting to think that my lens was made one year (1934) after the Bauhaus was shut! That's that old heritage thing at work again.
Anyway . . onwards.
The following is a scan from the 1967 Edition of The Leica Book by Theo Kisselbach. It's a marvellous book and highly recommended for users of all film cameras.
It shows what I wanted to achieve.

Walking Snapshot
If only photography was still like this.
The text describes very well how to go about achieving the 'walking snapshot'.

Unfortunately for me, my technique let me down!

Kodak Tri-X, Kodak HC110 Dilution B
Frame 37

When out photographing I try to adhere to my own adage .  . always keep one up the pipe. 
Meaning, save a frame for the final bit of the walk back to your starting point. I did, and there, coming towards me was the most extraordinarily shaggy and weird looking dog I have ever seen. 
I had to capture it, so I thought I would capitalise on the Leica's quietness, and do the walking snapshot:
I preset the focus to 3.5 metres and I could see from this that my depth of field at f9 would take me from 2.5 metres to just beyond 5 metres . . so plenty of leeway for things being in focus. I set the shutter to 1/60th and nonchalantly wandered towards the dog and its owner with my camera on its strap around my neck. I thought I could angle the camera down and capture it that way. Snick and it would be done. 
Well, I did all that. 
The camera was almost silent, the lens was smooth to focus, but I didn't figure for the fact I would be so shite at it. 
Hence the above photograph. 
Dog missed. 
However of all the photographs I made on that cold Saturday, it is the one I like the most.
So there you go, the last photograph of the day and my favourite!
You know reading this week's blog, it is sort of a paean to Leicas. 
I still find it hard to believe that I am regularly using a lens that is 78 years old . . and it isn't junky . . it is beautiful and jam-packed full of character. I also find it hard to believe that a camera made before I was born could handle in such a way that it is as natural as breathing. It's a testimony to craftsmanship and design and fine engineering.
I would also state that my little visual expeditions are always done in the spirit of the man who taught me - Mr.Joseph McKenzie. He always urged us to go out and make photographs of anything that caught our eye. And that's what I do.
Well as usual, God bless and thanks for reading.