Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bridge Over The River Foible

Morning Folks! 
Can I ask you to please read the footnote (down there at the foot of the page . . in green) before you read the rest of this - it's important (well it is to me).

You know, photography is a funny thing, but beautiful too, because it can help to illustrate little foibles you might have as a human that you possibly aren't even aware of.

Oh no - not another bonkers discussion of the weirder side of things Sheepy - we can't take it any more - and if it is about Cartesian Dualism, we're outta here!

Well yes, I fully understand your feelings, however it is true. 
Look, stop whining and do yourself a favour . . drag out those boxes you've got with tons of old prints and contacts in . . or even stoke the steam-room and fire up your Gargantua Mark II Super Computer, and have a skeg at your Hard Drives.
Now see if you have any photographs of the same thing. 
There, that's better . . . you do don't you!
Crisp Packets? 
I'll bet there are certain things in your archives that you've photographed LOTS of times. 
It's one of those things - we're drawn to certain objects like flies to shite, time and time again. 
And in my case, it happens to be bridges. 
Yep, without even thinking about it, I seem to have a collection of bridge pictures.

And just what was the instigator of this weird train of thought Sheephouse? 
C'mon man. Snap out of it. You're losing it and us big time! The stats for your last post about snapshots was well below par. 
Just what the feck is going on???

Well I was having a clearout. 
Chateaux Sheephouse was just too crammed with shite and bits of paper, books, vinyl records, more books, maps, cameras, gadget bags, more bags, more cameras, and prints
BOXES of them
And when I waded into that ghastly/enriching/triumphant/terrible mire, I was struck by a thought that fell into my head - Clang! - it dropped in, struck me and stuck. And it was something that had never really struck  me before.
I love bridges. 
And it isn't just the case that they stop your feet getting wet/stop the car becoming a submarine; and it isn't just the case that they could imply a transition in life either.
I think in my case, it comes from an appreciation of form over function or meaning. 
Bridges are beautiful things. 
They're as basic and as human an artifact as you could imagine, and yet they seem (to me) to be far more than just a means of crossing a chunk of water. 
I have a lot of deep memories tied up with bridges; from nearly falling off and drowning because of a rickety gamekeepers bridge in Moffat, to being just married to Ali and crossing the Forth Rail bridge at dusk on a hot Summer's evening in a sleeper to London, to sheltering with my friend Steve under Jocksthorn bridge whilst a particularly heavy shower passed by, and even down to some of the sublime photographic moments I had whilst making some of the photographs below. And sublime isn't an understatement.
There's something about taking your time and setting up beside a rush and a gush of water, or the lapping of a mighty estuary or the quiet waves of a lost loch somewhere. You see, bridges don't mind how long you take to photograph them, but you have to do it right
I think there's a certain aspect of you that has to adopt a measure of stone-age man-style respect for such constructions. 
You never really think about them do you, and yet they're marvels. They just are. Under-appreciated; taken for granted; scoured with bloody awful graffiti (can you hear me Newcastle?) and just generally not thought about at all. 
And yet. 
Can you imagine the land without them? 
No. Of course not, it's impossible - they're a part of your psyche; an archetypal remnant of your genes; a solution to a problem as old as man himself!
Bet that shite has got you thinking, and if it has, good. 
Don't pinch them, don't poke them and above all else Don't take them for granted.

So, unashamedly, here we have (in no particular order) some pictures of bridges. 
Pictures made by me and in praise of the span.

Bridge In Galloway. 
This was made on TMX 100 with the Wista and 90mm Super Angulon. it's a scan of a contact print and a poor one (scan) at that.

Not technically a picture of a bridge, but this is the underside of the Tay Road Bridge - it's the biggest bridge I have near me, so it gets photographed a fair bit. 
Again the Wista and 90mm Super Angulon.
It's a scan of a contact print.

This is a part of the railway sidings lead up to the Tay Rail Bridge - a mighty Victorian edifice
I liked the clouds in the puddle.
Lens was the humble and cheap 150mm Symmar-S

Another bridge in Galloway. 
Hard to tell from the scan but the print has lovely detailing in the shadows . . however this is a scan of a contact print, so you can't see it . . .
It was deffo the Wista and I think possibly the 90mm Angulon - very soft in the corners (just like me)

Aha - it's the Tay Road Bridge again.
Whilst this is pure cliché for lines, I rather like the light and the overall generally 'concrete-y' feel to the whole thing.
Scan off a 5x4 negative.
90mm Shooper Angulon.

This is the remnants of a ghillie's bridge over the River South Esk - it's a weird place - the sandstone work is quite beautiful. 
Camera was the Sinar F with a humble 90mm Angulon. 
Film was FP4 in HC110 - a good combo.
The print is a little dark for my tastes these days

Go on . . . have a guess.
Agfa 6x9 box camera with Ilford SFX when I could afford it. Surprising results really - it has an atmosfear all of its own.
The bridge is at The Hermitage in Perthshire.

Ah yes, the South Esk/90mm Angulon combo again.
It's funny, but driving over that bridge, you have no real idea of the epic groundings below it.
Again though, a little dark for my tastes!

You've been spared though, because there's more, but you are let off for good behaviour today.
Anyway, whilst that little collection was interesting (to me) I got an urge recently and felt compelled to explore the Tay Road Bridge again, but this time with the Hasselblad/60mm Distagon combo.
Here's the contact - as you can see it was fairly thorough - though stupidly I had the Hasselblad mounted on my Linhof Twin Shank tripod and the Gitzo Series 5 head which kind of limted how far back I could tilt the camera. This was overkill I know, however I had visions of me setting the camera up in water at times - the Twin Shank is dead easy to use in water situations as it has a bare, skeleton frame.
There was a lot of extreme balancing involved, but fortunately such is the quality of the lens you can shoot at f4 and stuff will still be super-sharp. I can say though that it is incredibly hard trying to photograph a very tall bridge from ground level with a wide angle lens, but hey-ho.
Film was well-expired Pan-F in 1+25 Rodinal.
Oh, and I've never heard of this before . . . but don'tcha think they have 'The Hasselblad Glow' ?

Bog standard contact print. Film was Pan-F (3 years past expiry date) rated at EI 40 (just because) and developed in 1+25 Rodinal (R09). 
Camera was the wonderful 500C/M. 
Lens was a 60mm CB Distagon - without a doubt the sharpest lens I have ever owned.

Hasselblad 60mm CB Distagon

I dunno about you - but to my eyes this has something. 
It is contrasty and yet it glows - I wish you could see the actual print because the lower left shadows contain a lot of detail. You can actually get your nose right up to the print (Hey, watch your greasy nose on my lovely print!) and the detail goes on and on. 
I wish I had owned this camera and lens years ago - it kicks me up the pants and makes me think What If?!

And that's it folks. A humble paean to the span.
I'll not bore you any more.
Just, if you can, take a little time and appreciate them, and if you feel like it, go on, ask "please" and make some photographs.
Just be sure to do it right.


On a sad footnote, FogBlog is dedicated to my mentor Mr. Joseph McKenzie, photographer, lecturer and great human being, who sadly died on the 5th of July (but I only found out today).
My thoughts are with his family.
To several generations of students at Duncan Of Jordanstone College Of Art in Dundee, he was a  true friend and an inspiration, and I suppose (actually, in fact I know) that you wouldn't be reading any of this were it not for him. 
His passion for photography was inspirational and he lit a fire in me which hasn't diminished.
R.I.P Joe

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Gates Of Delerium

Morning - 'scuse the title folks, but a hero of my youth died this week - Chris Squire - an incredible musician whose early work was unfettered by all the mores of his time - he wasn't just going to play four on the floor bass . . he was going polyrhythmic AND melodic. An extraordinary approach to his chosen instrument laid down a whole new substrata of music. He was a man who wasn't afraid to tread his own, very distinct, path. A true individual.

Anyway, enuff o' zat - you'll have to bear with me, because this isnt going to be an article about photography, and yet it is an article that is ONLY ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY . . . but maybe not in the sense of snap away, 20 billion frames a second, current photography. 
Y'see, at the end of the day, as I have stressed many times, it's all well and good having eleventeen billion pictures on a memory card, triple-archived on hard drives, securely backed up in the centre of a Swiss mountain on military grade whatever . . . but if you haven't got a photograph in front of you, IN YOUR HAND, you haven't got a photograph. 
Remember a time? 
Laughter, tears, hilarity, greasy fingers, grains of salt from peanuts, drink spills, more laughter . . . yeah, wasn't so long ago was it.
The Print. 
The Snap
Where are they? 
They've vanished from folk memory like mist from a field. 
No one does them anymore - it's all fecking Facebook, fecking phones, fecking anything but the thing that matters.

Ali and I were talking last night about birthdays, and that set me thinking, it's always about the birthee not the birther.  Hail to mothers everywhere. 
I always remember my Mum on my birthday - she made a double bus journey to the hospital in the throws of early labour, and all she could think about was having an ice-cream at the end of it.
Our talk set me running to my study, flinging open a drawer in my desk, opening a folder of my 'proper' archival monochrome prints. 
Stored in there with them is an unsupposing little envelope, all safely tucked away with the big boys.
This is it.


Y'see a number of years back, I asked my Mum if she could look out some baby photographs of me - she had oodles of family photos - so she did, and bought them up, in that envelope, the last time she visited us - and in that they have resided ever since.
She's dead now.
You know, there's something about relics of your parents . . . I have an address label from a pre-paid slide processing packet written by my Dad in the 1970's and it is a precious thing. You see when your parents are gone, tiny, stupid things like bits of real writing, actually take on the burden of memory.
So, yer blog today, is a dedication to her and my Dad, and the sheer common sense of keeping pictures in envelopes (or albums) where you can easily find them without thumbing through miles and miles and miles of images only to thrust your phone in someone's face and say 
"'Ere, cop this!".

My Mum - she was always laughing

So here, in no particular order, is a history of the early life of one H. Sheephouse Esq. B.A. (A.R.S.E.)  of this parish, rendered clearly in that wonder of wonder, The Snapshot.

Dad and Me - Circa 1962

Mum and Me - Circa 1962

Droopy Undies and a Pen?
Fortelling the future methinks.

The Family Snap - again Circa '62

Dog Attack.
I remember this quite well - for some reason we were at a boat yard.

Alien Attack In Cornwall - Circa '67

Birthday at Newbury Close.
These were all friends from Barantyne Junior School in Northolt

Another birthday at Newbury Close.
Again, all friends from Barantyne, Northolt . . . and my cousin Dougie.

Zoning out after 23 slices of Cake.
My outfit would look at home on a current Doctor Who

Ah - Boy's Brigade Summer Camp, where 23p could purchase 251 tons of sweets.

My BLUE Spacehopper (for the stouter figure).
I loved that Spacehopper.

OK - maybe baby was stretching it a bit, but that was up to about the age of 11. 
And there they are, in that envelope, just sitting there, a bit dog-eared by time and lots of handling, but really, archivally, pretty damn sound.
I wonder if you can say that about a bunch of early inkjet prints? Doubt it very much.
You see what is being lost? 
Even the CEO of Google, Vint Cerf, for whom I have to say thanks for the wonder of Blogger and so on, says we are losing stuff - you can read it here
Yep, sadly a whole several generations worth of happy, wonderful, thought-provoking, warm, loving, vital, human, stuff is being shifted into an arena where you have no idea if, say in 50-odd years time, you'll be able to look at it! 
My Snaps will still be around though if they're looked after . . .
Sad isn't it.
But anyway, that is a divergence, because in the envelope, beside my treasure there was treasure of Ali's too. She was as cute as a button as a kid . . . here she is. 
She is younger than me, hence mostly colour . . 

Circa 1971/72

My Father-In-Law looks so much the boffin in this!

Ali says she loved that dress

Family Snap.
No matter how many photos you see of my Father-In-Law in the '70's, that shirt is omnipresent.

I still see this look - amazing how things are set down when you are young.

Now that's a funfair ride.
We recently re-enacted this on a proper, restored, Victorian Merry-Go-Round.

And then they were over . . . but wait, there's one more in there - this:

Left To Right:
Patricia Van Cauteren (now dead - a very generous and nice friend of ours)
Dinosaur Jon Hoad - Pure Enigma, still alive and the world's finest Dinosaur Artist (look him up)
Me and Joe
This was outside the entrance to our first proper, bought, flat.

And so a circle comes around again, and maybe in 50 or 100 years time someone will find my Snaps and wonder at them, maybe long after the words I am typing here have vanished in the ether.
Maybe they'll laugh, maybe they'll consign them to the skip of forgetfulness, who knows. All I do know, is that here and now, mine have been carefully placed back in that stupid brown envelope and have been tucked away with the big boy's prints.

Get your Snaps out and have a laugh and a cry and a reminisce and realise that these little pieces of human existence are the true gems of the modern world.

Bonus find - My Mother-In-Law.
This Print was tucked away with our snaps.
It's from 1946 and has been handled about a trillion times and is as good as new.

TTFN. Now where's that Victoria Sponge . . . .