TMP Blog

Landscape photography with a difference!

 

Polemic spleen venting blood boiling verbose banal diatribe from an Aspergic point-of-view! Or not, as the case may be!

My new m8

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With a dawning sense of horror, I came to the realisation that I have not made a post for almost six months!

Half a year!

Gone!

What have I been doing in the past six months that has caused me to fall silent? In one word…

WINTER!

I loath winter! It's not the cold, nor the rain, but the distinct lack of Sunlight. That factor alone profoundly affects my mood, ebbs enthusiasm and saps energy levels. It takes a time to recover, often months.

Photographically I ended last year on a high. I had abandoned most things digital and returned to a more pure form of photography in the use of my 1957 Leica M2 and wonderful 5cm f/2 Summicron.

Then Winter happened and everything went to pot. The inevitable slide into the darkness in both mood and weather happened with me in a state of catatonic inaction. I watched as my photography fell apart. Posts ceased, creativity plummeted, the shutter silenced. The long wait began.

It was January when I started to notice that glimmer of light that evocatively and tantalisingly danced on the far horizon as the Sun ebbed its weak Winter light into the bleak. That evening glow provides no warmth, save to the weary of soul, signals the loosening of Winter’s cold and heartless grip.

In this sojourn of darkness, I lay photographically redundant, creatively impotent. Then, as the light waxed, I felt like using a camera, but not the M2!

I reached for my Olympus E-1, then the Leica M8. Yes! Digital! Yes! Colour! I felt like a heretic, an apostate to pure form photography.

I muse that Winter by itself is inherently monochromatic, dull, drab and sombre, that I craved the bliss of colour. Colour lifts the mood. Colour expands consciousness.

I recall with somewhat of a shudder the proclamation in 2006 of the first digital Leica M, the Leica M8. Leica, digital, M in the same sentence! How could they! Then, in late 2015, by the sale of equipment, I summoned all my available cash and I made the purchase of a Leica M8. I know not why. I was browsing the pages on www.ffordes.com and my cursor momentarily hovered over the “buy” button. Before I knew it and for some unfathomable reason I “clicked” the mouse. A Leica M8 was mine.

 

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Leica Hiatus!

Winter.

How I hate Winter!

Short days, bad light and bad weather.

It can, however, result in an albeit few crisp and bright days. The glimmer in the darkness.

When I shoot with film I like the conditions to be just-so. The light just right. In my enthusiasm since picking up the Leica in August, I totally forgot about the Winter.  In those dark depressing months (when I should be in the Algarve) the film photography is packed away and on those few days where I actually feel like venturing forth I use the DSLR. Why? Mainly because the lack of Sunlight reduces my motivation substantially and I just don't have the mental energy required to shoot and process film. In the unrelenting and unremitting grey of a Welsh Winter, I find the burst of digital colour lifts the mood and breaks the stranglehold of bland monotony.

Over the years, I have used so many digital cameras that it is rather embarrassing. I still, however, keep coming back to my third DSLR, the Olympus E-1. Mine is 12 years old and still in stunning condition. The five megapixel RAW files are more than adequate for A3 printing, and considering I rarely print to this size anything more than five megapixels is a waste. I really like the colour rendition and feel of the Kodak sensor in the E-1 and the sheer quality of those Digital Zuiko lenses. I recently purchased a second body, also in immaculate condition, for £70. Even better, this particular body still had firmware 1.1 and a shutter count of 282. Once in a while, I use an E-3 and also have a retired E-300.

I don't set out to produce competition winners or masterpieces even if I was good enough. I do all of this for the sheer pleasure and enjoyment, to see fantastic views, to walk some big hills and to appreciate the wonderful gift that is colour and light. I rarely spend more than ten minutes on a picture, contrast, levels, saturation and a little burn here and there. You won't see me with an ND grad or a tripod or using Fauxtoshop!

Not to worry, it will be spring soon, Summer is on the way and the Leica is already fully loaded with Ilford Pan F+ and ready to go!

So, if you don't like digital and colour now is the time to turn away and use the sick bucket

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Ysgyryd Fawr Summit

Rodinal + Fomapan 100

There I was, looking at the last three rolls of 35mm I have to develop. One roll each of Fomapan 100, Kodak Tri-X and Kodak TMAX 400.

After thinking for a while I selected the Fomapan. I don’t know quite why. “Hmmm”, I said to myself, “I wonder what is on this roll?”.

Quite quickly I decided to experiment. This is another thing I love about film. Over the years I often have used a stand development method where you use a very dilute developer agitate for 30 or 60 seconds and then leave to stand for an hour or two. I use to have very good results but in recent years someting has changed with my water and the method doesn’t now work as satisfactorily. The negatives are very spotty and stained. Initially I thought it was my drying process. To overcome this I tried all sorts of drying methods, different angles, differing dilutions and timing of wetting agent. All to no avail.

To overcome these problems I now experience with stand development I decided to try semi-stand development. This being the use of dilute Rodinal at 1:100, agitate for the first 30 seconds and then two inversions every ten minutes for forty minutes. This was followed by a water stop bath, acid fix, ten minute water wash followed by a two minute distilled water wash. This cured the problems as already outlined but the negatives were very dense.

It is always a thrill to pull the negatives from the tank and when you look at them for the first time instant recall occurs. October 2014 using the Leica M2 and Sunny 16. You look at the negatives afresh and, as a result, evaluate them better. I think with film you are acutely aware of the limited resource in your camera, are much more engaged with your subject, are more cognizant and the memory much more atuned and involved. I find that the memory recall at seeing developed negatives for the first time is a stronger sensation than doing the parallel with digital files.

When dry, cut and sleeved, it was scaning time. Now, at the moment I am using a Nikon Coolscan V and Silverfast scanning software. After scanning a strip is was obvious that Silverfast could not cope with the density of the negatives. I even scanned in HDRi mode to see if this would improve the situation. Nope! Luckly I am also a long time user of Vuescan and using Vuescan I had some very decent scans.

Notwithstanding the poor subject, the dense negatives, the staining and marks on recently developed negatives leads me, as aforementioned, to the conclusion my water is very dirty, full of goodness know what! I suppose it is how my water is filtered and treated at source that is the problem. These Fomapan negatives were very clean. It was the final bath in distilled water that was responsible, as it is a new addition to my development process.

The next roll of film is going to be the Tri-X. I will modify the semi-stand development to using Rodinal 1:100, 30 seconds initial agitation followed by two inversion every ten minutes for twenty minutes. Water stop, Water wait bath for twenty minutes, fix, wash for ten minutes, distilled water final wash with wetting agent. This should provide a less dense negative. I find both Vuescan and Silverfast provide a better scan when the negative is thin. Less development means less grain and less loss in the highlights.

You may notice that the grass in the Piercefield Manor photos looks almost white and gives an almost infra-red result. This is due to the density of the negatives lifting the zones. The negatives are also very sharp. Fomapan 100 is made by Foma in the Czech Republic, is a traditional film giving a more classic look. It probably hasn’t changed for decades. I like it! The density of the negatives increases the grain, but I like this film.

Posts. Welsh Street, Chepstow.

Bollards, Chepstow.

Door, the Back, Chepstow.

Balls, the Back, Chepstow.

The Severn Princess. Before the first bridge this vessel used to ferry cars across the Severn. She ends her life here as a rusting hulk.

Graffiti on Pillar, Chepstow.

Selfie, Chepstow.

The Welsh side. Your meter would have cocked up doing this exposure and would have under exposed it by two stops.

The Manor, Piercefield, Chepstow.

Out for a walk. The Manor, Piercefield, Chepstow.

The Manor, Piercefield, Chepstow.

Bikers at Hoggin the Bridge, October, 2014.

The Eagles Nest off the rails. Chepstow.

A tonic for the jaded - the iPhone 6 Plus

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In light of my recent berating of all things digital and Fauxtoshop, a few friends have asked me how do I reconcile the use of the iPhone as a photographic tool.

A few years ago a friend of mine purchased a Samsung Note 2. We happened to be sitting in a local coffee house while he had this huge thing glued to his ear. Of course I had to have a play. Now, I don’t like Android, but I did like that huge real-estate screen. Secretly, I coveted it (in a round-a-bout wholesome way may I add). So when Apple announced the iPhone 6  Plus I just knew the 6 Plus was my next phone.

In March of this year 2015, it came time to retire my iPhone 4S. Being three years old it was beginning to look a little worse for wear and one of the switches was starting to behave erratically. Despite these little failings the battery life was still excellent, despite three years of constant use and abuse. 

My hands are not the largest and I was concerned that the 6 Plus would be too big. Not a problem at all. In fact, when I pick up my wife’s iPhone 5S I think “Wow! That’s is just sooooo small, the screen is just sooooo small, it’s TINY. However did I cope with my 4S?”. Yes, you become very accustomed to that large area of real estate. And what real estate it is, a very impressive screen! In fact, it could do with being a little larger!

To be able to take your photos, edit them and then upload them to a cloud service, Facebook, Instagram, Revel or whatever all on one device is just amazing. In fact, I would not be surprised if in a few years mirrorless and DSLR’s will be able to do the same. It is the way it is all going.

I can’t fault the performance of the iPhone 6 Plus camera. The colour, white balance, exposure and sharpness are all of a very high quality. I would like more dynamic range though, stuff more pixels, I want more dynamic range! Another thing I would like is a dual lens arrangement with the focal lengths of 35mm and 135mm. That would be fab!

I love iPhone photography! The essence of the matter is that the iPhone provides a welcome break from my usual work. My approach to iPhone photography is very different from using, what I call, "real cameras". It is very therapeutic. Of course, you don’t need an iPhone, any phone with a camera and editing apps will do! Yes, that includes you Android people!

When I am bored, feeling jaded or fed up or just need a break or some fresh approach, enter the iPhone. With it I commit all sorts of photographic sins. My iPhone photography is blasphemous, heretical and breaks every rule in the book. I like producing absolutely adulterated imagery. It’s dirty and sordid and I love it!

This is what I like doing with the iPhone…

Pen Cerrig Calch from Sugar Loaf.

Pen y Fan and Corn Du.

The Second Severn Crossing.

Reflection, Chepstow.

Pen y Fan and Corn Du from Cribyn.

Swrd yr Eira near Ystradfellte.

My home town - Chepstow.

Cloud above Pen y Fan.

The winding path up Corn Du.

365 Steps.

The mighty South Ridge, Snowdon.

The Awesome Crib Goch from Snowdon Summit.

Yr Aran.

Crib Goch.

Stairs near Chepstow.

Hay-on-Wye market.

Sudbrook wall.

Chepstow Castle.

St. Mary's street, Chepstow.

Sugar Loaf from Table Mountain.