Friday, November 22, 2013

Things To Do When It Is Raining

Morning folks - I know, I know . . where have I been?
No doubt you'll have a mind's-eye picture of your intrepid Blogger, stepping out of a train carriage somewhere, camera tucked underneath his arm and steely glint in his eye with the thought towards a photographic expedition . . 
Well it has been all of that, and none of that.
I have been photographing, but I've not been detailing it in the way I have previously for some simple reasons . . the first of which is childish - apart from a handful of kind comments, nobody gets in touch! I am a sociable person, but it often feels like I am firing these blogs out into the ether like orphans . . left to make their own way in a dark world. It is disconcerting!
So say hello . . the contact form at the side makes it easy. 
The comments bit at the bottom makes it easy.
Just saying . . that's all . . nagging over.
The other reason, is that I just plain haven't felt like it actually. 

Anyway, the other thing I have decided on is to try and slim things down. FogBlog became more bloated than a walrus on a cod binge! It was vastly intensive to read. I mean, those of you who have read a lot of the stuff have been brave and sterling - kudos to you, because it took a lot of time (I know, I've re-read them!) and time as we all know is a precious thing, not to be wasted on mere fripperies like a madman's ravings! 
So to that end, at the moment, brevity is hopefully the way and you can leave these pages happier human beans.

Large Format cameras. 
Gosh they're great aren't they? 
You can do almost anything with them, really - you can.
However there are times when they are dashed inconvenient . . in fact . . dare I say it, there are times when I'd rather be toting a tiny point and shoot. 
That comes as a hard thing to say as I love using mine, but at times it's the sheer effort involved that gets me - I average 30 minutes per exposure . . which does seem rather crazy, especially when you see some of the dog's dinner photographs I have made in those countless 30 minutes! 
Not only that, but come Winter, unless you are incredibly brave, strong and fit, and either don't mind being stared at or are happy lugging that gear for miles so you can photograph in peace, then the creative urge to use one of them can get rather hobbled by self-doubt. Add to that the double frustration of your own inabilities/raging at the weather and the timeless LF photographer's cry of: 'Oh God! What's the fucking point!, becomes a poignant and appropriate call to arms!
Oh yes, follow me on any of my expeditions at this time of year and you'll often hear that shout echoing off a hillside somewhere deep in the Glens. 
Frustration is the order of the day, closely followed by the cold
Let me say this,  it is a mugs game trying to adjust a camera properly in a windchill of -15
Add to that the biggest pain of the lot . . . steamed up ground glass . . and you have a tantrum waiting to happen! 
I have at times exited my billowing dark cloth in a hail of swearing only to look at vast clouds of steam falling out of the end of it - the camera on a tripod looks like some strange wood and metal Yosemite Buffalo/Bagpipe beast, snorting and champing in the morning light. 
Well why not hold your breath when you're under there, I hear you say.
Yes, I could hold my breath, but even then the heat from my face is enough to fog everything . . and don't even talk about loupes. 
Look. Don't go there. Right? I've told you already . . just don't munchen it!

Temperature (Celcius)

It is very easy to see from the above that a Large Format photographer's life (at times) is not a happy one - at a temperature of 0°C and a lazy wind of 10 mph you're into serious windchill territory. 
Now factor in that when I go hill walking I regularly encounter 40 mph winds and it starts to get deadly serious . . not least because the camera/dark cloth will start to act as a sail. Try  holding one down in 40mph winds at 3000 feet . . 
Then factor in the cameras construction - I guess the whole reason wooden field cameras are still popular is because of the entirely obvious thing that metal and Winter don't really mix well. 
I've used a Sinar in the field at well below zero, and I can honestly say it is a deeply unpleasant experience
It is a hardy soul who ventures far with a big boy's camera in the Winter - I really marvel at how Ansel Adams and all those wonderful American (and European) LF landscape guys managed/manage.
So where does this leave us?
Grounded and frustrated? Angry and kicking the cat? 
Well no. Just because you can't get out and about doesn't mean you can't do anything.
You can still photograph around the house.
Wot's that? Pictures of furniture or walls, or paint drying?
Well no - over the years I've quite enjoyed setting up little scenes and snapping them. They're not still lifes or found objects (though I like those too) but little Pictorial things. 
They're fun and easy and with a big camera and a wide lens you can adjust to your heart's content.
It's just something different really.

The following two images have three things in common - both were made on the Sinar, both were made in the Autumn/Winter with heavy rain/snow on the ground, and both were made with the tiny, junky, universally dismissed Schneider 90mm Angulon f6.8. 
Two very different images I am sure you'll agree, but it just goes to show what you can do if you put your mind to it. 
I know which I prefer.

Winter Mausoleum

Lazy Afternoon

The first image is of a mausoleum - it was made at 3.30PM on the 27th of December 2009 with HP5 rated at EI 320 and developed in Barry Thornton's 2-bath developer. The stonework was placed on Z VI, but at f22 and accounting for reciprocity, this resulted in an exposure of 145 seconds . . Brrrrrrrrrrrr
Standing around, waiting for time to happen . . triple Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

The second is a self portrait (don't worry, that isn't my bra) made in the afternoon of the 25th October 2009 - I had gone out and been defeated by torrential rain, so had stomped home and set my brain to work.
Film was Adox CHS 100 (the old original version) developed in 1:50 Rodinal for 10 minutes 30 seconds.
I used 9 degrees of front swing and shot wide open at f 6.8. 
It's dreamy and creamy and the film/developer combo is delish! 
I'd focused on a shoe placed in the bed at where my foot would be and had carefully moved it and used a long cable release. 

So there you go ye men of LF . . be defeated not by weather. Just because it is snowing/raining/pitch black doesn't mean you can't have fun!
In the words of the band Stretch, 'You Can't Beat Your Brain For Entertainment'


  1. Very pleasant surprise to see you back, Phil. I can only imagine what it must be like up the hills with a 5x4 in winter 'cos you'll not catch me doing it! I plan to shoot a lot of 5x4 over the winter but it must be within hypothermia-induced staggering distance of the car.

    I thought it funny looking at your wind chill table that the temp gets warmer at wind speeds over 60mph. The answer is easy then - wait until it's really windy before going into the hills!

    Nice photos, too. I like the lie-in shot. The light in your bedroom is very nice.

  2. Thanks Bruce - yes a large camera and a big tripod can nearly kill you - it requires a gargantuan effort to climb a Munro with one. The key I've found is lighter boots (strangely) but even then . . .
    The light in the bedroom is from the North West . . it's quite smooth, but it also means we only get sunlight in for a few months of the year .. in the evening!

  3. Well, not many comments so far. Disheartening...I know how it feels from my own blog. "Why bother?" is a question that frequently crosses my mind. I guess it's a curse of the "free" internet.

    I can only say that your posts have been an inspiration to me. As a matter of fact, I've been re-reading all of your output from last year: literature, music, art, memory, family, growing up and of course photography...I enjoy(ed) all of it and I hope that you continue to write a new post whenever you feel like it.

    All the best,

  4. You know Omar - your site is very good, and like Bruce I think you should view it as that you are putting something back and educating people at the same time.
    I really very much appreciate your comments and am glad you are re-reading my posts - hope it isn't too intensive.
    Thank you - you and Bruce have actually made me feel I should continue no matter what.
    I'll do my best!