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!

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.

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.