Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Sequence In Dream Minor Part One

Hah - only a handful of days into 2018 and he's pestering you for your attention again!
What the hell is going on?
Erm, time off, that's what, and time off can only mean one thing; some concentration on picture-making and jolly lovely it was too.
As to how I got there, read on, dear reader - it isn't too long this time.

Well, there I was with time on my hands, a camera with a slow film, a rainy late afternoon in September and an urge to make some photographs . . . so what did I do, yep, you guessed it, I took some photos.
There was no intention of doing anything with them other than maybe having one or two I liked and could print, but the weird thing is that apart from Print Number One below, the other five were on the same negative strip - look:


I was a bit surprised by this, and actually, looking at the strips there are a bunch of others that can be printed too . . . but alas, misfortune struck . . more of that later though.

Like I said at the start, we were on holiday, but the wettest holiday you can ever imagine - 7 nights, maybe a total of one and a half to two clearish days and the rest of the time rain, ranging from drizzle (proper Scottish drizzle, which you don't get anywhere else; it looks innocent enough, but more than 5 mins and you can be utterly soaked - it is pernicious and relentless and very, very wet). So our days went from that to full-on torrential and all points inbetween.
Anyway, I had to take photographs no matter what, but chickened out a bit at getting the Hasselblad out in such conditions, so I found myself using my Nikons. I'd taken the F3 and the F in the belief that the F3 would be the better camera because of the meter in it. It sort of was fine for one film, but then battery problems led to it operating unreliably, so I thought Feck It and got the old F out instead.

As I have said before unless you have held a Nikon F you haven't really lived photographically. It isn't perfect, but you know what, it nearly is
I've found myself preferring it to the M2 recently, simply because it is heavy and can be held reasonably steady, and, unlike a lot of SLRs, the mirror is actually wonderfully smooth and un-jerky. Mine has the old Nikon AR-1 soft release fitted which is a great thing.
The Serial number of my F is 7152839 which puts it into this production range:
15xxxx AUG 1970 to OCT 1970
Now bear in mind the serial number range beginning 716xxxx started in October 1970 and finished November 1970, mine was made just before sales exploded. 
10,000 mechanical cameras a month!
Imagine that.
I married the camera with the Nikkor-N 24mm f2.8 (serial number 342054). This puts it in the serial range of 1971-1972. Given that the last of the single coated 24's was 353252, then mine is a late model. After this they all went to f22 AND multi-coated, which I am surmising would have benefitted contrast, but maybe at the expanse of other things.
  • So, it's a decent marriage, nearly timeous in fact!
I rather liked that synergy and have concluded that of all the Nikkors I have, this 24mm is my absolute favourite.

So, there I was, in the rain, underneath a railway bridge, feeling rather mellow just listening to the rain falling on the loch and the bigger drips coming off the bridge and I fell, somehow, into The Zone.

The What?

The Zone - you know, that place where picture making is as natural as breathing, you're looking and adjusting and balancing and not thinking, just judging composition through the viewfinder, rejecting certain points of view, accepting others, it's almost like a soft possession. Well in recalling it, that's what it feels like to me - you have no conception of time nor are you bothered by the thought of it. The inclement (or clement) weather falls away and all your energies are devoted to providing a portal where three dimensions are taken and by your skills, transformed into two meaningful dimensions.
It's magic when you think about it and quite unlike anything, except maybe writing good prose where you key with your subject matter, or improvising on an instrument where you key with your inner feelings or other musicians. A beautiful and actually rather profound feeling no matter the discipline.

Oh, and I'd taken a meter reading off the back of my hand before heading out and sort of winged the exposure which was pretty much 1/2 second at f8 and it sort of worked.

Before I fell though, I was so pleased with my situation in that place and at that time and the feeling of intense peace which seemed to ooze out of the loch, the willows, the mud and shale, the bridge and the damp air, that I decided to make some videos too!
So grab the popcorn (Super-Mega-Massive Bucket [256kg of toffee popcorn, £265.79]) and 15 litres of full-fat Coke and try not to rustle too much.


Back home, the films were developed for my usual times in Pyrocat HD - this is a lot longer than most recommended times, and I find that no matter the film or EI, incredibly you can settle on a generic development time, so 21°C, 22 minutes (Agitate for 30 secs then twice [gently] per minute up to 17 mins, then leave to stand). It works. Dilution is 1+1+100ml, so for a small Paterson tank, 3+3+300ml. Peasy Pie.

Next up was the darkroom and being of unsound mind and body, I decided to try something different. I have never printed on 5x7 paper before EVER, but having picked up a box of 100 sheets of Tetenal TT Vario, for about £17 I thought I'd give it a shot. 
It's a RC VC paper, but you know what, it's a damn shame it is no longer made, because it is beautiful, giving a really pleasing slightly warm tone.
Developer was Kodak Polymax (liquid Dektol), stop was Kodak and fix was Ilford.

I made my initial test on Grade 3, because I had no idea how long the paper had been hanging around, and established a ballpark time with this.

Test Print
Grade 3 (40M), f11on a f2.8 50mm El-Nikkor.
Increments of 4 seconds for a total of 32sec.

I was heartened by the quality of the paper, so determined that I should go Grade 2 (no filter) and a base exposure of 8 secs at f11. 
And that was about it - there was a small amount of burning in some of the prints, but only lightly. Some of them (like Print Number Four) are just the base exposure. There was definitely no split grade faffery (how the hell anyone can be bothered . . drone drone drone).

As I was printing them, the dream-like quality struck me and I found myself thinking of the title of this Blog, and so it stuck. 

I was powering through printing them and having a great time, when, disaster struck.
Remember me moaning about Chinese bulbs here?
Well, the Sylvanias I got also proved to be made in the PRC and in reality aren't much better than the Sound FX ones, so, what happened? Yep, bulb cracked, but it took out the bulb holder too!
I was bloody FIZZING.
I'll reiterate again, on enlarger bulbs, only buy Philips or GE - made in Japan/Europe and the USA respectively. Everything else is Chinese unless you can find some good old NOS ones from Thorn and the likes which have proper provenance. 
Buy cheap, buy thrice.

The crack stymied me, so the first 'print' in the sequence is actually a scan, but all the rest are 'as is'.

Eaten enough cheese yet? 
What are you waiting for? Get that 3lb block of Cheddar and get dreaming . . . .

Sequence In Dream Minor

Print Number One

Print Number Two

Print Number Three

Print Number Four

Print Number Five

Print Number Six

And that's it.
Eagle-eyed readers will comment on the light patch on the right of Print Five - I know - twas just pre-disaster!
OK it is a bit pretentious, but if some of the stuff that passes for art these days passes for art, then why can't I do the same?
I'll have a Part Two as and when the enlarger is up and running again - new bulb holder ordered (German-made too). I'll include the part number in the next post, as the fit in a 504 head is tight to say the least.

Oh and this has made me determined to print these on fibre paper, which I am looking forward to immensely.

TTFN and remember when the chips are down, the dogs will feast.
Oh and Happy New Year!


  1. I thought your test print was a photo of trees growing next to flooded stairs, haha. The finished print is beautiful, along with numbers four and five. Holidays are over, but call in sick and go make more photographs.

  2. Thank you Marcus - that is very much appreciated - although I always just print for me, it is always nice having your ego massaged ';0)

    Four and Six are my favourites too. And I've also got a "big boys prints" FB coming up with Hasselblad stuff.

  3. Well, for me, in my current abstract loving form, it's 2, 3, 4 and 5. Actually 6 does it for me too. Brill!

    1. Thanks Julian - very much appreciated, a thumbs-up makes all the difference actually, no matter how much I insist "Nah, itsch norra 'bout me, itsch abat the food!"

  4. Great prints, Phil. I like number 2 the most but not for any reason I can explain. It could simply be that I've just never seen a shot like that - where the photographer is happy to leave about half the print as a big bit of mostly blank-looking paper. I like the asymmetry as well which is why I prefer it to number 3. Good stuff and works for me!

    I've been printing about 6x9 on 10x8 paper so not that much different from you and I agree that those sorts of sizes work well for 35mm.

  5. Thanks Bruce - I quite like those too, in a dreamy sort of way.

    Try 5x7 - it works great!


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