meeting expectations

Berlin’s Night of Music takes place on the longest day of the year, and that was yesterday; consequently, we are now on the slow slide into winter. That’s not really a bad thing as I like the winter months. It’s also the signal to begin the marathon of festivals and events that make the summer months interesting.

Like we have done for the previous two years, I – along with a group of intrepid artists from the Brücke Kunst – took up our positions on the crossover bridge at Berlin’s oldest harbor near Jannowitz Brücke. We do this to engage with people, both young and old in the process of painting, modeling, etching rubbing, playing an unplayable instrument and posing for an almost instant photographic portrait, all for a bit of loose change.

It may sound odd but we are getting repeat business, especially for the portraits. One family has gone from one child to three over the period and they have sat for a portrait with each new addition, becoming old friends, although I was assured that there would be no extra child in next year’s picture.

The two young ladies in today’s image are sisters from Melbourne, Australia who are travelling Europe and only in Berlin for a couple of days.

And if you were to ask ‘Why do I find this picture interesting? Because it looks like any standard tourist snap shot” then I would reply, “Where are the flash marks, why aren’t the highlights (faces) blown out by the flash, and isn’t the light nicely balanced to bring out the blue in the night sky?” It’s a movie version of what a snapshot should look like.

It looks like a travel snapshot because it’s designed to look like one.

In post some grain was added, a vignette filter to darken the top and warmed the image up a little, but other than that it’s straight out of the camera.

The soft even lighting on the young women is not the product of skillful lighting on my part, but modern technology in the form of a ring flash that cost just over €100. that I was using as a key light in portraits for the first time yesterday.

I think it is important to consider what a photograph will be used for, which in this case is memories of Berlin, and that’s why it is the way it is.

50mm, f5.6, 1/180sec, ISO320, Yongnuo Ring Flash at ½ power


A Tale of Resilience

One of the major differences between film and digital photography are the stories one can tell. In the digital realm to tell someone that you underexposed 10 or 12 photos 2 or 3 stops without noticing just means you are not very good at what your doing.

Alternatively, mistakenly putting a 50 ASA film in the camera and metering for a 400ASA film will extract humorous groans from those who have also done it. It becomes an more interesting tale when you compound the mistakes. In this picture which I shot two weeks ago I never noticed that the film was not the much faster HP5 that I thought it to be and I consequently metered and developed it as if it was. But what makes the tale interesting for those who like such things are the extraordinary details. Such as because the film was over ten years out of date I was reluctant to buy new developer and the internet said that Rodinal  film developer could be kept for a few years before it went off. I had an open bottle of it that had been hanging around for about a year and a half so I thought  why not give it a go, even though the chemical’s colour had shifted from light amber to almost black.

The fixer (just as old) smelt a little, but what the hell.

The end result is that the chemicals did their job and properly developed the film , but due to the massive underexposure  when I shot the film the negatives are seriously thin and it took a slow 3200 dpi scan to get a sort of image.

Considering everything, a 4-second handheld exposure, terrible lighting conditions, gross underexposure, old out-of-date film and failing chemicals, I was surprised to get anything and yet I still got a picture. And it looks like a very old photograph  straight out of the camera, which is cool.

Film, it’s amazing stuff.

Bronica SQa, 50mm wide angle, f4, 4 second exposure, Ilford Pan F, ISO 50.

Street Signs

Still with film in the land that time forgot.

Here is a little proof that the Catholic pedophile story was out in the open a long, long time before the early part of this century when the avalanche of abuse stories could no longer be ignored and the world was forced to take notice.

Like yesterday’s photo, this one was also taken in 1994, that’s about seven years before the Australian police and politicians caved in to public pressure and decided they could no longer ignore the fact that boys had been repeatedly abused by the clergy, who under the auspices of the courts had been operating as their legal guardians.

I met and talked to this man after I saw him three days in a row moving slowly up and down a street in Perth, Western Australia. He told me that he was being treated as a crank and trouble maker by the authorities, and while the police at first had tried to stop him from carrying his sign they had soon realized that due to lack of interest from passersby it was easier to just to ignore him.

Castledare, Clontarf, Bindoon and Tardun were all Catholic boys’ schools. All of them had been quietly closed by the 1970s without any priests being charged, that was to come later, much later.


Bronica SQA 80mm lens, Kodak Tri-x, asa 400.

A Very Different Creative Act

It’s no secret that I’m a confirmed digital photographer, who on occasion shoots film.

Processing today’s image got me thinking about the whole digital vs. analogue thing, not about which is better or more relevant, but about the differences. I make no distinction as to which is the better medium, each has ardent followers, whereas I’m rather ambivalent about it all. However, today’s picture gave me pause because it seems to me that it is a striking example of monochrome analogue photography. Ignore the grain and warm toning and look at the smoothness with which highlights blend with the mid tones. And the blacks seem to have a depth I rarely see in digital images. Also, the image is not sharp at all, yet the focus is perfect, and finally, it looks like old technology, because it is. This last dated technology look I think is the main difference, it’s subtle and difficult to define because Photoshop users such as myself can do wonders with a digital image, but more often than not even well worked pictures look like someone has done wonders with them in post processing.

I will admit it could only be nostalgia tugging at the heartstrings, and yes, I will endeavor to create a digital image that looks like film, but I expect most of the heavy lifting will need to be done in camera if it’s to be done at all. This expectation stems from a past when I only used B&W film. Like so many others at the time I trained myself to see the world viewed through the camera’s viewfinder in the same tonal range of black and whites as the film stock and it showed in the final result.

I now think in colour and digital post-processing, it’s a very different creative act.

The link below might be of interest to some×20-inch-camera-in-10-hours/

Canon EOS5, 50mm, Fomapan 200asa film, Rodinol developer.




If any one thing exemplifies the reason I needed to reorganize my library of images it is today’s post.

Having spent the week moving pictures around and doing very little else I decided that the last post of the week would be a photograph from my favorite shoot of 2015. My memory for pictures is good, but reality and memory are two different animals. The picture is from a large group of individual portraits I did in a single evening. In my memory the shoot took place around February/ March whereas it actually took place in November 2014. As this was a very specific set of pictures I knew where to find the folder but more obscure shoots under the old system would take a lot of looking to find.

It’s easier now, although the filing system can and will be further refined. But it is the sheer volume of images that has surprised me, not that I’m blind to the amount of times I press the shutter release, but the massive amount of people, places and objects that needed to be properly categorized for easy access has been mind bending.


This picture was shot with Ilford HP5 6x6cm roll film using a Bronica SQA camera with a 50mm wide-angle lens attached. The film was developed with Adonal (A Rodinol clone) developer and pushed 1 stop to help alleviate anticipated problems with fogging, because the film was very old and very much out of date. It may not have been my favorite shoot from 2015, but it is still one of my favorite shoots in recent years.

difficult directioning

After a week of enforced inactivity the weekend proved an opportune time to practice long ignored lighting techniques, many of which I had re-watched during the week (I watch how-to -videos like other people zone out with TV, it staves of boredom without requiring any input) via YouTube.

Originally I began using only speed lights, but batteries wear out fast and as a consequence I reverted to studio flashes for purely economical reasons. The major motivation for practicing with both speed lights and small portable flashes in contrast to the much easier/controllable studio variety of flash, is for the obvious reason that you should never practice on a paying customer and innovative lighting is a matter of understanding the process and what’s going to happen in advance.


If there’s a difficulty with this type of exercise it’s that stuffed toys don’t take direction very well, so you need to put in a lot of extra effort with camera angles, which is again, good practice.


I think if I was pressed then I would have to admit that the very most favorite pictures I like to make are portraits. I’ve done some very good ones over the years, and I’ve done some very poor ones as well. But then the risk factor is part of the excitement I experience when shooting portraits, and when you get a great shot, you can lean back contentedly and say to yourself, ‘I did that.’


Two lights were used for this shot, one with soft-box on camera right side and the other also on CR, with a homemade honeycomb grill that was directed at the white wall behind the toy to give separation. It may look like a studio shot, but it was done during the day, at home in a cluttered room with white walls.

24-70mm, f9, 1/125sec, ISO100.

Before and After

It was about a year ago that I began investigating ways in which I could make a modern digital image look like a very old analogue print. In the interim my goals have changed as today’s picture demonstrates. What interests me now is how I can add to the overall aesthetics of the image, add interest to the original without really changing it, and deepen the potential for an understanding of what I am trying to say in a visual manner.

I know this is a tall hurdle to jump, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I like the way the post-processed images look, also it isn’t something that can be done in camera.

It’s a personal opinion I know, but isn’t everything?


70-200mm, f8, 1/125sec, ISO100