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


  1. Thank you Omar - he was quite a chap. But what amazes me more, is it took 9 days for any form of tribute to be published locally, and I don't even think I have seen anything else anywhere. This is pretty astounding, for instance you could guarantee that if say Albert Watson (a student of Joes') died, it would be out there immediately. But such is the way it was for his whole career - all I know is that I was incredibly fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to benefit from his kindness and wisdom.

  2. Have you ever made a portrait of him? You knew him and I presume you had access...

    If not, you must be regretting it. I know I would...deeply.

    I found a self portrait of Mr McKenzie here: http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/scotland/fife-funeral-for-father-of-modern-scottish-photography-joseph-mckenzie-1.889767
    (scroll through the pics at the top)

  3. You know what Omar, I hadn't actually seen Joe since 1991 - I suppose I could have gone and visited, but I don't like to feel I am intruding on people, so I didn't.
    I have 'bigged him up' a number of times here in FB and I had some hits from the Tayport area, so you never know he might well have been aware of that.
    I do have 2 prints by him with personal dedications on the back, which are treasures, but at the end of the day it's the memory of a kind and understanding man who did nothing but encourage me that stays in my heart. He was a master printer and a stickler for archival stuff and it was a pleasure to watch him seemingly waft his hands across a baseboard and piece of paper and then watch the magic emerge in the trays.
    I should also mention his long-term (and long-retired) assistant, Sandy, who was also an excellent printer and technician.
    Sad to say, Duncan Of Jordanstone doesn't seem to teach 'proper' photography anymore . . it's called 'Time Based Art And Digital Film'


    I'm sure it is adequate for the modern world, but it is a long way from the craft-skills we were taught . . . oh and I spoke to a lecturer there a while back and he said there was a "hunger" with "the kids" to learn proper stuff, but no facilities to do it!

  4. I took a chance and looked at your URL for Duncan of Etc. Crikey! They seem to learn everything except astro-navigation and how to turn out a decent Victoria sponge. So I clicked on the showreel. Crikey again! You can't help liking the all-too-brief Man with Step Ladder, can you?
    Not yer average Edie Weston by any means. Take heart. In today's modern steam-powered world, it's possible to study elsewhere. Blowed if I can tell you where.

    Another blow: I've just discovered from the Walker Cameras website that Schneider and Rodenstoclk have followed Nikon and no longer make proper lenses for Proper (Ahem... Analogue, LF) Cameras. Can this be the end of the world? There's always Cooke, of course, for the Mercedes-driving classes.. And eBay.

  5. Slowly but surely corners are being painted into . . however there's more than enough olde Schneiders and Rodenstocks to go 'round . . how about Fuji?



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