Thursday, December 20, 2018

Lost Light

I KNOW, time is pressing; it's a few days before Christmas and you're rushing around, adjusting the pressure on the sprouts in the pressure cooker, wrapping pressies, having a fit . . . there's no time to read this!
So listen, just you go and do what you want to do and come back to this when you have time.

Just bring your own bottle next time you lousy freeloader you . . . 

Look, OK, I Know They're GNOMES!

Well, The Season is upon us again, and like last year, where I wished I'd taken more pictures during the year, I can honestly say that this year I haven't.
In fact film stats have been totally pathetic . . . and if you throw in a bare THREE sessions in the darkroom with RC paper (gargh!) then you can see:

'E's been a very naughty boy . .

This being said, I still think I can do what is fast becoming a Christmas Tradition here at Sheephouse Turrets . .

Ye Olde Annual Sheephouse Roundup

Oh yes, from the countless comments I've had - well, at least 7   - this is a popular read.
So without further ado, and because I know you're desperate to finish off that bottle of home-made 90% proof Egg Nog, I shall start where all good years start:

Ah, the month of post-Crimbo recovery where the delights of the curling, mayo-soaked Turkey sandwich quickly start to pale.

I started the year with good intentions, and especially with regard to my Large Format photography which has been totally neglected for a couple of years, but alas and lackaday, viewed from writing this in December, my enthusiasm came to naught.
I think part of that might be down to the nagging thought:
"How the hell do you make a photograph as good as this?"

Walker Evans
Portrait Of Hazel Hawthorne Werner c.1930

I was fortunate enough to pick up a first edition Walker Evans book (First And Last) for a small handful of quids, and there was another photograph from this session in there.
Heading towards 90 years old, this portrait of a (by all accounts) maverick, spirited young woman transcends those years and changes and could quite easily have been taken today.
Except it wasn't.
Look closely and you'll see a master at work.
The incredibly narrow depth of field; the stunning catchlights; the sheer non-pose; the blemishes. Damn, it is honest and raw and real . . and made with a Large Format camera.
With my arse firmly kicked, I folded down my front standard, compacted the bellows and retreated . .

Yes, January was an interesting month from the point of view that my lovely DeVere was unwell. Well it wasn't really, not in a life-threatening way, but in the annoying sense, because the bulb holder went! Bing-bang-biff-boff-pow it did and then it lit no more.
Now if you own a 504, maybe you'll not know it yet, but that lovely 24 Volt 250 Watt bulb requires a holder that can take the post-nuclear heat of the bulb chamber. It gets blindingly bright and red hot in there, even with the fan, so, if your bulb holder gets taken out by a rogue Chinese bulb, then here's the solution - what you need is a Gx5.3/Gy6.35 Low Voltage Lamp Holder

The one I got was made by Bender and Wirth, so German. High quality, and with some judicious manouevering, it fits.

I believe from memory mine is the 961 model. I also added some high temperature shrink around the bits where the cable joins the spade ends (I'd had to cannibalise those from the holder that had gone caput).
While you are there you might want to have a butchers at your bulbs. Basically, if it is Chinese or PRC, throw it out. It will shatter, and in may case it took out the bulb holder too.
You are safer spending money and either finding some NOS British or USA or European made bulbs or buying new:

Philips Focusline (Made in Europe)

GE Quartzline (Made in USA)

But seeing as production shifts around so much these days you are best checking with the vendor where they are made.
Trust me - you'll be glad you checked.

Ah, season of mists and solid coughing fits!
Well this year we were treated to THE BEAST FROM THE EAST!
Fellow blogger and pal, Bruce of the Online Darkroom was trapped in a car on the M80 for 18 hours . .  . without a camera!
I finished off a roll of Tri-X I'd popped into the olde Nikon F with the 24mm Nikkor (possibly my favourite 35mm lens) and popped another roll of Tri-X into the Leica M2/35mm Summaron combination. 
The difference between the two was notable - the Nikon being solid and I was able to shoot exactly what I saw; the Leica was intuitive and on the fly, seat-of-the-pants shooting - very different in a "snap first ask questions later" sort of way.
I mulled both experiences over and decided I preferred the Nikon way. That 100% viewfinder makes all the world of difference.

View From The Bus
Leica M2, 35mm f3.5 Summaron, Tri-X, Pyrocat-HD
#73 Bus, Dundee, 2018

Sadly, due to being in a hurry, I developed the Nikon film in some old (but not that old) Rodinal-type developer (R09 for all you fact fans) . . and the whole film was blank, saying to me that the developer was dead. It felt like a bereavement. Never happened before. 'New' Rodinal types have not the slightest bit of longevity of the proper old Agfa stuff . . and that's why I'll never use it again.

The Beast was still Beasting, so I took advantage of all that snow (calf-deep in places) and loaded a roll of Delta 400 into the Hasselblad and had a mini-explore of an area right next to me, but which I had been unaware of in the 20 years we've lived here. The path had more than likely existed all that time, but hadn't at all been obvious till the Council decided to add some new steps. Anyway, it takes me down beside a school and thence through what must have been at one time the lost footings and gardens of grand houses, then over a railway bridge and out onto a main arterial route.
I had a great time using the 500C/M - easily one of the finest cameras I have ever used.

The Beast Visits The Harris
(Yeah I Know It's A Bit Squinty - It Was F'in Freezin' Right)
Hasselblad 500C/M, 60mm Distagon, Delta 400, Pyrocat-HD
Harris Academy, Dundee, 2018

The enjoyable experience made me think that I'd really like a better walkabout camera too. I love my Rollei T, but you know what GAS is like, was there something better out there?
I had also become enamoured with the 24mm Nikkor, really enjoying the really wide perspective of photography. I put two and two together and rather than investing in a large and heavy 40mm for the 500C/M, a thought came and hit me over the head like an enthusiastic mugger:
Looking around I discovered that they were getting scarce and expensive, so with the encouragement of my darling wife and the thought that I could (like my Father) be dead in 10 years time, I thought Feck it, and bought one.
It was a 1982 SWC/M with the more desireable Prontor CF shutter, just serviced from the good chaps at Ffordes. A lot of money (borrowed off my son) and a couple of years paying back . . but it really was love at first feel.
This is him - left and right profile:

He's got a few scrapes on the finder, but in reality most of the battle scars are on the film back - which was serviced, just looks a tad rough.
My feelings about the camera were to be cemented when I processed the first film.
It was tough getting my head around the field of view - this is the best of a bad bunch:

Dawn Dog
Hasselblad SWC/M
Dundee, 2018

You really have to get your whole perspective (sic.) around that wide view though - it isn't an easy camera to use initially - the need to get as close to everything as possible really is quite different . . however, that clean, undistorted image is well worth it.
To cut a long story short . . . I love it.


Lee Friedlander
Peter Exline, Spokane, Washington 1970

This photograph, made my jaw hit the floor the moment I saw it - it contains almost everything I like in a photograph, weird metaphors, a photographer, sunlight and reflections. On the latter it is utterly subtle but they're there in a "WTF How did he do that?" sort of way. Allied to that the large arrow of light pointing to the guys temple and the striping of his face make you think you're entering some weird world of ritual and symbolism.
And there, Stage Left . . Mr. Lee Friedlander. I'd known his photos (selected ones) for years, but upon reading that he almost exclusively used the Superwide I investigated further and discovered a delight of humour and ideas. Have a look for yourself.

Inspired, I headed out with the SW and tried to see what I could do.

She's So . . . Modern!
Hasselblad SWC/M, Delta 400, Pyrocat-HD
Dundee, 2018

This was my favourite.
I don't know what it is about it.
Her obvious delight at being a stereotype?
His obvious delight at having a young woman flash her gnashers at him?
The gnashers and reflection of window bars being almost as one?
The legend at the top:
"Leanne's Delight Is Our Customers Rewarding Their ???"

Actually, I think it is the way her hair has been rendered by the Biogon.
It's spot-on to my eyes.

At the end of April, after a years' absence, I took to the mountains and came back with just about my favourite landscape photograph of all the landscape photographs I've ever taken.
It was courtesy of the SW.
I also got others I was proud of with the 150mm Sonnar, but this, this is it to me:

Lost Burn, Glen Doll
Hasselblad SWC/M, Delta 400, Pyrocat-HD
Clova, 2018

Rather like Leanne's hair, the Biogon has rendered the grass and light in such a way as to be almost ethereal to my eyes.
It was chucking with rain at this point, and the light was terrible - sheltering under trees, guarding the camera from giant drops that were gathering and, er, dropping from the canopy above wasn't easy.
I was lucky to have bought home any bacon at all.

Ah, well there I was, on the cusp of some DIY. our sitting room hadn't been decorated in 18 years - it was tired, and at that point in time I thought to myself "Y'know, the paper and woodwork is a mess. Why not strip it all back and start again."
N'er a truer word is said in jest, and little did I know then that what I was about to start on, would be the hardest physical job I have ever done . . . and I've done a few. But this, this was something else.
I blithely peeled back a corner of peeling lining paper and got my scraper out . . .

and 6 months later I finished . . .
I won't bore you about trying to Escape From Alcatraz With A Teaspoon, but that is what it was like.
I won't bore you with trying to clean up half-done scraping jobs filled with polyfilla, lining papered over and then varnished on top of that; nor will I rant about the clouds of fine dust that burst from a woodwork undercoat/ground made from a thick mix of Linseed Oil, Lead Oxide and fine Plasterer's Sand; a ground that was in truth harder than concrete
Underwear hanging around your knees saturated with sweat? 
8 pints of water drunk in one afternoon to deal with dehydration? 
Carbide scraper blades blunted in a couple of hours? 
Chaos, mess and more chaos? 
Drops of wallpaper 1 metre wide and 3.3 metres long?
It was all of that and more . . nearly 60 square feet of sheer exhaustion. 
What a job.

This is a small snapshot of the wallwork . . . add into this the paintwork which encompassed 4 doorways, one 9 foot tall window and allied skirting . . . och you get my drift!

Clear Striations - Antique Wallpapers Welded Together

Cultural Vandalism - I Am Not Proud Of Myself For This
But It Had To Be Done

Like Thick Lino.
After I'd Removed The Top Layers, I was Left with a 3mm Thick
Layer Of Soldified Concrete.
Steam And Chemical Stripping Didn't Work . . AT ALL.



At the end of May, fed up of scraping I got up super-early and headed out with the SW, only to be beaten by tide timings, so Dundee city centre it was!
This was my favourite from that session - to my mind it looks like something from 'proper' Soviet times:

Comrade Dennis
Hasselblad SWC/M, HP5, Pyrocat-HD
Tay Bridge, 2018

I liked the look of HP5 in PHD so much, that for 2019 most of my faster film will be it. Plus it's the cheapest good quality named fast film you can get at the moment.

I had one more visit to the city centre with my camera before the end of the month

Cultural Upgrade
Hasselblad SWC/M, HP5, Pyrocat-HD
Dundee, 2018

The above is a scan from a 6x6cm contact print, so not a proper print (no time).
I was astonished by this Cultural Upgrade, solicited by Dundee City Council in a wee lost lane, called Mary Ann Lane (it's next to the Bus Station of you're interested).
The hummingbird is ok - nice colours, but the debris left behind (this was typical of the whole lane which too had been 'treated' to some lovely street art) was something else - I would say the Tesco Savers Lager tins outnumbered the spray tins by about 10 to 1!
Nice work if you can get it.
Oh to be an artist . . sigh . . .

St. Paul's Court Portal
Hasselblad SWC/M, HP5, Pyrocat-HD
Dundee, 2018

I wrote about this delightful place in FB at the time, so I'll say no more except pack the disinfectant gel and remember to wipe your feet after you've visited (it's right opposite Gelatly Street in Dundee if you're a visitor - cross the Seagate; see that pend? pass the bins and turn left).
I am super-chuffed with this print. It is on Ilford MGRC and was printed on Grade 3; I must make the time to make a proper archival one on Galerie.
The thing I love about it, is the combo of HP5 and Pyrocat-HD and how they have interacted with the Biogon. Have a decko at the detailing of that door-grill. Most lenses I've used (including decent LF ones) would get nowhere near that balance of detail and tonality.
Like I said . . super-chuffed!

The consequence of all that blood sweat and tears was that, in the finest Summer people could recall for years, I spent most weekends indoors working like a blue-arsed fly.
That was for mortals! 
That was for moles! 
Hah, what need had I of that when all I thought and talked about was scraping fecking walls and woodwork.

Well actually, that's not all true.
St Andrews Bottie gardens provided a day out for some not very good photos on really ancient (around 5 years expired) TMX 100. Sadly all fairly underexposed because I'd set the wrong EI on the light meter AND underdeveloped them . . where's that kipper???

Underexposed, Underdeveloped Hothouse
Hasselblad SWC/M, Anciente TMX 100, Pyrocat-HD
St. Andrews Botanical Gardens

We did manage to get some R&R (not rock n'roll, though there was plenty of that played whilst scraping) and a couple of days out, plus a really lovely stay in Edinburgh

I used the Rollei T as a walkabout in Edinburgh and it was very fine. I even had a dreamy-eyed old Dutchman come up to me in a cafe, point at it and say:
"Aaah, Rolleiflex!".
He used to have one . . and by the look of it, he was going home to buy another one.

I've not had a chance to properly print any of these, so they're scans off of the contacts.

Waiting For My Friends
Rolleiflex T, Delta 400, Pyrocat-HD
Moffat, 2018

Weird Afternoon
Rolleiflex T, Delta 400, Pyrocat-HD
Edinburgh, 2018

My favourite month, and did I see much of it?
Did I feck!
Feeling like a Morlock, I worked hard at paid work during the week and at the weekends came home and threw myself against the massed canons of ancient decor:

 Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.

Your valiant scribe eschewed all thoughts of a nice cold beer with the missus in the garden and donned a heavy duty face mask and industrial gloves instead.
Pah, that's fer wimps!

Covered in clouds of Lead Oxide dust, flakes of old paint and a white residue of sanded filler, I soldiered on.
Man it was HOT.

For a period of two weeks I was banished from my ladder . . . 
I had to do something . . 
Anything that didn't involve swearing and tears.. 
Now what was it?
Ah, the annual break . . so Brussels it was!

If you've never been, GO
It is quaint and posh, downtrodden and chic; a city of character, great food, astonishing beer and really interesting things to see and do. 
This was our second visit, and honestly, I'd go back again. 
It felt like a home from home.
I took a Nikon F3 (for its metering capabilities) and a 28mm f2.8 Nikkor (late version . . another bargain actually) - film was Tri-X. 
I loved using the F3 with a proper Ai-S lens . . . 

Why on earth was the digital camera ever invented???

Three Girls Waiting For Their Friend
Nikon F3, 28mm f2.8 Ai-s, Tri-X, Pyrocat-HD
Adam Museum Of Design, Brussels, 2018

Dirk Frimout - The Belgian Spaceman
Nikon F3, 28mm f2.8 Ai-s, Tri-X, Pyrocat-HD
Brussels Planetarium, 2018

Portal To The Underworld
Nikon F3, 28mm f2.8 Ai-s, Tri-X, Pyrocat-HD
Basilica Of The Sacred Heart
Brussels, 2018

A Quiet Moment
Nikon F3, 28mm f2.8 Ai-s, Tri-X, Pyrocat-HD
Petite Sablon
Brussels, 2018

Impossible To Get A Boring Photograph
Nikon F3, 28mm f2.8 Ai-s, Tri-X, Pyrocat-HD
Brussels, 2018

Les Pionniers Belges Au Congo
Thomas Vinçotte (1921)
Nikon F3, 28mm f2.8 Ai-s, Tri-X, Pyrocat-HD
Cinquantenaire Park
Brussels, 2018

The push was on! Not only was I working on the deco at weekends, but also evenings!
I chatted many times with Bruce about getting out and taking photographs . . he even cleaned out his darkroom (!) but still I had no time for anything other than The Grand Finish.
It was at this point that hope disappeared.
Faced with the underside of a horizontal doorframe lintel, where I'd missed scraping the nightmareish ground, I broke down and had a good cry.
Then I had a good swear.
Then I scraped it, manned up and strode forth refusng to trim my beard till it was all done! 

Weird though - it got to the point in November where I seriously began to doubt my own sanity.
Everything I turned my hand to needed tweaking or sorting or putting right - I was spending 10 hour days working at the weekends with 15 minute lunch breaks. 
I lost weight, lost tools, and lost my mind.
It wasn't just crazy, it was super-crazy-with-knobs-on . . .
Despite this and the odds being against me, eventually,  I got there.

Yes I Know It Is Out Of Focus OK!
That's What Happens When You Don't Concentrate

The above is an example of why you should treat a SWC/M like a Large Format camera and perform a check of everything before you operate the shutter:

Composition ✔️
Lighting ✔️
Exposure ✔️
Focus ❌
Also, it is a tiny scan from a contact print, so stick that in yer pipe and smoke it.

Anyway, eventually, the carpet was laid and furniture assembled. 
My beard, which had been tripping me up, was trimmed and a bottle of champagne cracked in celebration.

Yep - that's now.
I'd planned on getting to the hills before the snow arrives in earnest, but it was not to be. The remnants of storm Diedre (?why did they have to start naming storms? I have no idea and will chalk it down to some touchy-feely brain-storming session at the Met Office) was bringing in freezing rain and snow, so I chickened out.
Still, the streak of grim determination cultivated over the Summer got me out and about - there was no way I wasn't going somewhere to photograph something - this was the first 120 film I was going to use since June  . . .
And I did it!
I'll detail the trip in the post-Festive FB . . it was quiet and relatively quick . . but FUN and made me think about a lot of things photographically and also how I am going to move FB forward . . but more on that next year.
Just for now here's a sample.

A Quiet Path To A New Year
Hasselblad SWC/M, Ilford Delta 400, Pyrocat-HD
Wormit To Balmerino, 2018

But until then folks enjoy The Festives.

And that as they say is that.
Thank you all so much for reading this drivel over the year - I hope some of it makes sense. 

Good luck for Next Year.
Make time for photographs that count.

Now if one of you could help me with these compression stockings . . . that should disguise me nicely.