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 Such as because the film was over ten years out of date I was reluctant to buy new developer and the internet said that Rodinal  film developer could be kept for a few years before it went off.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Considering everything, a 4-second handheld exposure, terrible lighting conditions, gross underexposure, old out-of-date film and failing chemicals, I was surprised to get anything and yet I still got a picture.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.

On Film, Ism’s and Rituals

Once a site of resistance, the Peace Wall in Prague is now a place where insignificant individuals desecrate symbols of resistance for reasons of narcissism. Let’s face it, the mass of tourists who feel a need to write on walls such as the John Lennon Peace Wall are those who come late to history via a homogenized journey but want others to think they would have risked life and limb if only they had been born earlier, or in a less salubrious location, or under an oppressive regime, or didn’t have to go to uni, or….

The folk law version I heard from the locals back in the mid 1990s was that during the communist era someone did the original graffiti/paintings and the authorities painted over them, and then more were done, the authorities would removed them and back and forth it went. Finally someone who was caught repainting the J.L. mural was badly beaten, which resulted in the violent protests of record.

Ironically, Wikipedia gives a different, more homogenized and palatable version, but by the 1990s tourists had begun to do what organized oppression could not, they were taking the wall away piece by piece, paint chip by paint chip as souvenirs to put away and forget or were tagging what was left with rather stupid minutia.

The wall looks much different today, I guess because it’s now a site of entertainment, an ode to the corrosive power of any dominant ism no matter the label

The reason for these pictures is that I have begun to regress and have once again fallen in love with film. Not for the nostalgic reasons so popular today or because film is better, but for the ritual of loading film, taking light meter readings and being restricted to the amount of shots (12 in the case of this camera) to a roll of film. These actions slow everything down, makes me more selective and contemplative about composition and why I want to shoot the image. It also costs 30 to 50 cents a shot and a lot of work goes into making the final picture so each image is important. The process is therapeutic you might say, in its own odd way.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lennon_Wall

Bronica SQA, 80mm, Ilford HP5, developed in Rodinol. 1994

Complaints and Cold Reasons

Unusual for me, I have a real complaint I want to share with the world. For those who read my last post: you would have seen that we travelled to Gdansk and that I had camera problems due to the extreme cold as todays picture attests; however it isn’t the cold I want to complain about but invasive corporate marketing tactics.

We travel regularly and more often than not book our hotel through Booking.com, so why would they alienate us with malware that directs almost all internet searches to their site.

It seems under the disguise as a Flash player update they – along with a virus cleaning program (the irony doesn’t escape me)Booking.com surreptitiously placed two programs onto my computer. These programs first told me I needed to activate the virus checker because I had a malware problem and changed my web browser to one preloaded with Bookings preferences. It took me, a computer literate person, ten minutes to locate and get rid of all the shit, so it would take a novice a lot longer. That’s why I am telling everybody I know as well as those I don’t know to look for alternatives to Booking.com,if for no other reason than you computers integrity.

I really hate this sort of marketing and believe the only way to stop it is to boycott companies that practice it. A quick search of the net will reveal that I am not alone in my antipathy for this companies behavior. I would go so far as to advocate that the person who suggested the idea and the manager who OKed it should be criminally prosecuted as vandals.

 

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, back to photography.

This picture is sort of comforting to me as it shows that even in the digital era where no chemical stains can bring surprise results a camera malfunction can throw something interesting into the mix.

It Was Cold in Gdansk

We spent the last week in Gdansk, and it was cold. Oddly, before we went there I had followed Gdansk’s temperatures, which were within a degree plus or minus of Berlin’s. Prior to our departure the temperature in Berlin had been around -3/-4, which is cool but not oooh it’s so very, very freezing cold. But -4 in Gdansk is seriously cold, a cold that slides through the layers of clothes and chills you to the bone.

However, the sense of history that permeates the very fabric of the city makes it an interesting place to visit.

Old town is visually interesting and the European Solidarity Museum alone makes the trip worthwhile. Although the city itself is not really pretty, the shipyards supply a vista rarely seen elsewhere. Food and beer is inexpensive (we found a tiny Chinese restaurant that has great food but only seats 8 people), even in the tourist enclaves where we were, consequently we enjoyed our vacation but be warned, during the winter months it is very cold in Gdansk.

 

As an aside the cold played hell with my camera. After about an hour outside in the cold I began to get all sorts of weird things happening with the photos.

happening to the images.

 

28-300mm, f5.6, 1/400sec, ISO 125.

StillLife

I hope everybody has had a good start to the year. Personally, January 2017 has not progressed as well as I would have hoped.

To begin, on Jan 2nd the hard drive on my computer decided that as the warranty had expired three weeks previously it would refuse to do any more work. Fortunately all but two days work had been backed up so there was minimal loss.

Yesterday my wife’s computer also decided that it had had enough and wished for a quieter existence on the scrap heap. A logic board failure is the chief suspect, but as the computer is over 6 years old it isn’t worth throwing money at it when we know the end result will be that repairing it will be prohibitively expensive.

While my computer was away awaiting the technicians pleasure I fell back onto my usual fallback, books. So on the one hand, work flow was retarded, but on the other I managed to read a few very interesting books.

I also did a couple of pictures that required minimal processing, because after all one needs to keep doing what one needs to do.

This simple little picture required three lights to get the effect I wanted. On camera right, up close in front of the piece was the key light with a soft box. Also on camera right but behind is the second light with a honeycomb grill attached. I used this light to create the highlight lines on the right side of the piece. On camera left side and almost vertical to the piece is the third smaller flash which was used to both fill in the shadows on the left of the piece and spill light onto the background.

Shooting this picture was both interesting and fun, it also eroded some of the dull free time I would normally have enlivened working on pictures with the computer.

70-200mm, f11, 1/125sec, ISO100, 2 500watt studio flashes and 1 200watt flash with silver umbrella

Light Comfort

It can’t be denied that snow makes the world just a little bit more colouful, brighter as well as colder.

While the rest of Germany has been deluged with storms and heavy snow falls, Berlin has seen very little of the bad weather, which has been both great and not so great.

The occasional long snow fall made Berlin brighter, but the weathers switching between warmer/colder temperatures has made the ground underfoot in the park where I take my daily walk treacherous and uninviting, no fun at all.

But for photographers snow is a huge bonus. This picture, taken in the rear courtyard of our apartment house comes alive because the cold blue-toned light contrasts subtly with the yellow incandescent lights, which to my eye makes for a warm and inviting picture.

Odd when you consider that it needs to be cold to give the picture a feeling of warmth.

 

FujifilmX20, f2, 1/30sec, ISO400