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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Three months with the Leica and Cadair Idris.

“There’s nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” – Ansel Adams

It has been three months since I started the 12-months-with-the-Leica project. The aim has been to rid myself of digital picture fantasy making and to return to a purer form of picture making with me in control and not computers and software. Overall I have enjoyed my photography much more, have many a number of improvements processing the film and have felt a little more motivated as the below adventure demonstrates…

A few weeks ago when we had that week of absolutely glorious English weather. It does happen you know! I had, for want of a better word, the fortuitous happenstance of booking a trip to Cadair Idris which is a fine mountain of goodly stature in the south of the Snowdonia National Park.

The schedule was rather punishing. Out of bed at 05:30, in the Jalopy at 06:05 for the three odd hour drive to the car park which starts the walk at the south side of the mountain. Generally the Cadair Idris route is a straight there and back, but, being the non-conventional sort I decided to do a circular route that first ascends Mynydd Moel, a Cadair sub-peak, then a leisurely walk along the Cadair ridge to the summit itself. The views from Mynydd Moel on this particular day with bright azure horizon-to-horizon skies was absolutely amazing. With a vista to the Arans, the Arennigs and twenty-seven straight miles distant was the complete Snowdon massif. The light and the conditions were stunning. The appearance of some fluffy white stuff to break up the beautiful blue would have been wonderful. Neither that nor the slight haze actually detracted from the pleasure of the day. After a six hour odd hike it was the sad time to drive home and arrived there at 20:25 collecting a takeaway in the process.

The Photography

I decided to travel light and take my iPhone and Leica M2 which was loaded with Ilford FP4 Plus. I was in no hurry to develop the single roll of FP4 and did so the following weekend. By now I have standardised my development and use dilute Kodak HC-110 at 1:120 at 20deg. 30 seconds of agitation and two inversions every seven minutes for 21 minutes. I exposed the film at EI125 using Sunny 16. Overall I am quite pleased with the result.

Tree.

Shadow of wire on Stone.

Woods.

The Chair of Idris.

Done in Style.

Cadair Idris.

Fallen.

Shaft of shining.

Cold dark waters.

Rock detail on Craig Cau.

Shadow Selfie.

Little pool.

Gully.

Shadows on Llyn Cau.

Llyn Cau.

What is real?

I keep on reading, here and there, now and again, of what is real imaging. I hear this mainly from the digital brigade in justification for their distorted and faux interpretation of reality.

About one million years ago a large number of hydrogen atoms fused in a G-Type main sequence yellow dwarf star of no particular importance. Each pair of hydrogen atoms that fused created one gamma ray, one Neutrino and one Photon. Our particular group of photons took one million years to mitigate the turbulent nuclear atmosphere and intense gravity field before being ejected across the vast reaches of space. Eight and a half minutes later they found themselves hurtling through the blue nitrogen rich atmosphere of the third planet. Within a fraction of an instant the photons had been deflected from an opaque object, were then collimated by five slightly convex slices of thin silicate before being unceremoniously smashed against a slither roll of acetate covered with an even thiner photon sensitive emulsion of silver halide. The impact of the Photons with the halides changed some of them. This strip of acetate was then repeatedly washed in various liquids until an inverse image was fix thereupon.

We call this Photography.

How more real can you make it?

It is in fact, a combination of Physics and Chemistry.

It is a miracle!

The latter stages: The Darkroom.

The digital brigade then bleat on about the old film guys faking it in the darkroom. Sure they did! But if you think there is ANY commonality between the darkroom and the lightroom beyond terminology then you really need a sober reality check and perhaps a swift kick in the derriere.

Faking it in the darkroom involves immeasurable skill procured over years of hard practice and the results are usually unrepeatable. Insomuch that a second copy is not exactly the same as the first. If you make a mistake there is no “history” - you have to start again. Editing negatives is even harder and impossible in the small format especially with multi-layered chromogenic films.

In the darkroom, you try removing that seagull that inconveniently flew into the scene as you pressed the shutter. In Fauxtoshop done in about one second. In the darkroom… ?

By all means have a go. Perhaps you’ll develop a sense of humility, appreciation and a realisation on how very easy you have it. The old darkroom fakers were seriously skilled people. The fact that the world is simply awash with crap images of untold magnitude is testament to how digital has made it so, so very easy.

No matter their skill the darkroom worker is confined and still limited by physics and chemistry. How more real do you want?

Incidentally, It is quite funny that of all the wet printing I have done it is colour printing that I have enjoyed the most, despite being a monochromist. I am really crap at wet B&W printing but pretty happy with the colour prints. Figure that one!

In the faux fantasy world of digital the only limits when manipulating pixels is your imagination or lack thereof.

The negative, the positive and the wet print is an image of reality distorted and created by the inescapable limits imposed by the confines of the real world. Physics and Chemistry! It is true photography, drawing with light. Whereas digital capture is pixelography, drawing with pixels. A faux world with no limits, no borders, where the boundary between photography, manipulation, art and digital imaging is as blurred and as soft as your plastic lenses.

It seems that for many the real world just isn’t good enough any more!

… and if you have reached this far can I conclude with some pictures from a stroll last week, the Castle Dell, Chepstow and a few from nearby Devauden and Trelleck. Leica M2, 5cm Summicron, Ilford FP4+ in Rodinal, Sunny 16. Semi-stand development.

Old ruined farm house, near Devauden, Chepstow.

Shadow on Door, Trelleck.

Farm, Trelleck.

Post, near Trelleck, Chepstow.

Leaves on wire, near Trelleck, Chepstow.

A glimpse. Chepstow Castle from the A48.

In blur, Chepstow Castle.

The Dell, Chepstow.

Seat. On the way to Tutshill, Chepstow.

Ivy covered. Kirk in Chepstow.

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.