Monday, May 22, 2017

Fun With Rocks (And Mist)

Well, I think fun is stretching the michael a bit, but combined the two are kind of interesting to me.
Let me explain myself - I've got screeds of lengthy stuff coming up, but haven't even started writing it yet, so consequently, recently whilst looking through some prints for Bruce and Omar (yes, I haven't forgotten!) I rediscovered some prints I'd made years ago from a couple of really rather lengthy hillwalks.
If you've ever done a hillwalk you'll know two things - mist is often inevitable, and there are lots and lots of rocks. OK, stay on the beam, I'll get there . . .   
When a good mist comes in, there's really nothing quite like it, because it is disorientating and fast, often thick, cold, wet and blanketing. All external sounds are draped and you become acutely aware of your heart and the noise of the bood in your ears and your breathing. It makes you stop in your tracks sometimes - it's that surprising. The world looses all colour and becomes completely grey - even the brown upland grasses and heathers loose their colour and if you are really unlucky and haven't taken rough bearings things can start to deteriorate pretty quickly. I call it brown-trouser walking, because believe me, losing your bearings for even a few minutes is incredibly worrying. But that's why people carry a compass. Or do they? It's incredible the number of people you meet on the tops who are dressed in jeans and trainers, no obvious map or compass, a lot of times no rucksacks . . .really amazing! 
As I can attest from the photograph below, your surefootedness can quickly turn to "Oh shiiiiit!".

A Cautionary Tale

You see, for some reason, I'd spotted this rather dull rock, which had a nice patch of permafrost running away from it, so I left the path I was on and walked the 50-or-so yards over to this to see if I could  make it look interesting. Those were the days when all I carried were the Rollei T and my Slik Baby-Bambi tripod.
Now I was stupid moving off the path without first looking round, because I would have seen that things were closing in rapidly, but oh no, a stroll over to the rock and whammo - Mist-out! Right I thought, no problem, I marked a heel gouge in the grass and told myself I'd come up to that. No problems, just go back exactly the way you came and you'll be fine, but take the photo first. Duly taken and things packed away, I searched in vain for my heel gounge and could I find it, could I fecundity! So I went to the rock and thought, well if I move like a spiral around the rock, I am bound to find my mark. So that's what I did - clever thinking thought I - and the further out I got, the dimmer the rock got until I realised that the rock was the one sure thing in the whole world of mist I was encompassed by. No gouge was to be found, so I headed back to the rock in panic.
At times like that, clear thinking very much takes a back seat and it really is only through a force of will that you come down to straight thinking. It is bloody difficult though, because every ounce of your being is saying, "This Is It - You're Lost, You Stupid Bastard!" Visions of the old yellow Mountain Rescue helicoptors stooping over my emmaciated corpse weeks hence were very real!
I hunkered down against the rock and tried to calm myself down. Oatcakes were eaten, water was sipped and then I realised a friend was to hand - my map and compass.
I roughly knew where I had been before the mist came down and could see from the map that the path should be approximately due North from my position, so in an act of daring-do which I have never repeated, I let my compass do the talking, got up, and headed into the unknown, with only a slip of magnetised plastic between me and oblivion.
You see that's the weird thing about mist - it utterly removes you from the normal world.
I must have walked for a good 15 minutes on that compass bearing; I sweated buckets; every hump and drop of landscape was some new torture. But I held as true as my bearing and eventually stumbled out between two hillocks onto a path.
It is a Sheephousian Truism that "it might look no far on the map, but it's further than you think on the ground".
I can see where I went wrong now, it was a Sheephousian triangle I was on and I ended up heading on the long edge of that . . . but I got there in the end and I suppose the thing I learn from this is that I really should brush up on my compass skills!

Near Broad Cairn

And as is so typical of the mountains, I stumbled back to safety and the mist lifted and this massive big puddle lay before me, so I celebrated photographically as it were. Bambi held the Rollei safely and I lived to fight another day. The misty horizon encompasses the whole of Broad Cairn (998 metres high, and on OS sheet 44) a massive, stone-strewn lump on the Mounth Plateau (for those of you of a geographiocal bent); the heady drop down to Loch Muick is on my right. I have never actually made it to the top of Broad Cairn simply because every time I tried . . . yep, you guessed it . . mist. I've wandered very closely to it though, just never actually climbed it proper as it were.

Anyway, onwards, so there I was, about a month earlier (yeah, weird eh? - no permafrost or snow in the above ones!) - it had been a wild sort of morning, with mist clearing to a wonderful crispness. The big snows of Winter hadn't yet started, but the permafrost was starting and new showers were coming in and the ground was hard as iron, smattered with new snow and the air was as sharp as a knife. I was climbing a well-known Munro and I was nearly there when I spotted this rock on the horizon. Had I not been footering about and observant I could have easily missed it, but it looked interesting and I took a detour, and discovered what I will call (and have ever since called) "The Watcher".
I think it's quite something and who knows what it (HE? almost certainly a he) has seen in the last 11,500 years since the glaciers tumbled him there!
You get that a lot - improbably gigantic boulders, I mean some of them are larger than a modern detached house, just sitting on a hillside minding their own business, waiting for time and more time to wear them down.
Anyway, back to the photo - this one is made with something I never use . .  Acros 100. The Acros was shot at box speed and developed in 1+50 Rodinal - you see the power of those notebooks - it was the 26th of October 2003 and this was the 3rd frame, shot at 1/60th and f22 . . . no tripod.
I've always liked this, but for some reason have never made a decent print of it.

The Watcher

Coo, all this walking has drummed up a hunger - I'm STARVING - now, where's the dumplings? Anyone got some? And follow that with a heavy dob of mashed potato and maybe even a deep fried pizza and a white pudding supper.
Full yet?
No? Well satisfy your gums with this stodgy, heavy-handed feast.
A true vintage Sheephouse print!
After hours of searching it seems to be the only one I have, sadly.
The thing is, the negative is gloriously tonal, and I know I can get a decent print out of it . .watch this space.
It was made with the Rollei T in 645 (or 16-On as it is known) mode!
Wonderful, because you are using most of the central portion of that lovely Tessar.
It also features the glorious tone of Ilford's FP4 and the Rollei Blau filter!
You know what, the older I get the more I think FP4 is just about the perfect film for tones. It seems to have them in spades, and whether that's because it's an old skool, medium speed film or not I don't know, but I like it.
Developer was 1+50 Rodinal again and this was made in October of 2003 - I seem to have done a lot of walking that year.
It wasn't really a misty day, but you can see that it wasn't exactly crystal clear either

The Cairn On Mayar

And now our last serving of carbohydrates.
It might not look it from the print below, but mist definitely stopped play.
This is where I carried a Sinar F, 2 Lenses, Linhof Twin Shank Tripod, Gitzo Series 5 head, 8 Film Holders, Loupe, Dark Cloth, Glasses, Emergency Gear, 2 Litres Of Water, Lunch and the heaviest 4 season boots I had (nearly 2kg a pair) up to a coll in an attempt to scale a Munro on a misty day.
It took me three hours to climb something that normally takes an hour and a half, but I got to the top of the coll and the bloody mist came in and draped me in doubt.
Memories of previous brown-trouser walks swept over me, so I retreated, rather than thinking it worth going on.
In truth I was utterly knackered and nearly dead by the time I got back to the car, and the one thing I learned from this is that you don't need battleship stability to make a photograph.
And yes, if you are wondering, there's no trickery involved, the path does ascend that 45 degree hillside.
 Details from notebook: 15/11/2009 - film foma 100 ei 80, 1+50 Rodinal

Shank Of Drumfollow

And that's it folks - in truth this is just a patch job - I've been taking loads of photos of stuff over the Spring/Summer along with my usual Summertime DIY projects (oh joy!) but rest assured, normal printing will resume as soon as possible.
And remember, if you pick that scab again it isn't going to heal . . .