Seven days

Responding to a Facebook challenge to post seven photos over seven days.

From time to time I like a challenge, particularly when it involves photography, and it happened that the time was just right when I was nominated for such a challenge by a Facebook friend.

On the face of it, something quite simple: just post one photo each day for seven days and each day nominate a friend to join in. A chain-letter style bit of fun online. It was easy to jump straight in to accept the challenge, overlooking that the photograph should contain neither buildings nor faces. Given some thought, the true nature of the challenge was not in the frequency or regularity of posting but in the subject matter of the posts themselves!

It so happened that on the morning of the day I was nominated I had taken a camera with me on a fairly regular Saturday round of ferrying grandchildren, dog walking and weekly grocery shopping. The weather had turned wet but behind the purple-grey clouds was the promise of sunshine to follow and beautiful contrasty light sparkling on wet surfaces. I had my first post already in the camera!

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Day 1: Raindrops

There’s no getting around the convenience of a digital camera to record images that are to be posted daily but I wanted to use emulsion-based media where time and opportunity permitted.

That opportunity came on Day 2. I chose to use The Countess, a sixteenth-plate camera gifted to me just one year ago, having loaded its plate holders with direct positive paper. Not being a working day I had time to make exposures, develop, dry, scan and choose an image to upload.

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Day 2: Fallen blossom

With the working week under way, Day 3 was back to digital and what caught my eye was the bright colour of a group of flowers, or perhaps they were weeds (I confess to horticultural ignorance!), growing by the path while out on my lunchtime walk.

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Day 3: Orangeness

Like many others I awoke on Day 4 to the news of a suicide bomber detonating himself amidst a crowd of young concert goers in Manchester. As the day progressed the grim news unfolded of twenty two innocent young lives lost and around sixty injuried, many seriously. My thoughts dominated my choice of photograph to upload. Indeed I wondered whether to pause the frivolity of posting an image at all. In the end I decided to post, along with a summary of my thoughts.

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Day 4: The edge is not the end

Some days I pause a while when walking on the beach, to watch a ship as it approaches the edge of the world before falling over and disappearing from sight.

Reassuringly I find that ships appear from beyond the edge of the world and I watch them too, comforted to know that beyond the edge is not the end.

Today’s post is for Manchester, for those who have lost loved ones, for those who are suffering physically and mentally, for those who’s lives have been changed by what they have experienced, for those who have sought to help and to bring comfort. For the young people of our society that they might know there is hope.

Day 5 saw me return to the beach in search of some small details to photograph in the day’s bright sunshine, yet I found  my thoughts dominated by the idea of fragility.
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Day 5: Featherweight

 

An incredibly early start to Day 6 gave me time to wander the shoreline enjoying the soft morning light sparkle on the gentle ripples of a peacefully calm sea.

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Day 6: Specular sparkles

 

For all that this challenge started out as something fun and an opportunity to take a break from emulsion-based photography if only for the expediency of daily uploading, the bombing in Manchester on Tuesday weighed on my mind. I found myself looking not so much for subject matter to fit the parameters of the challenge but for images to express my emotions and reflections on that dreadful event and it’s aftermath.

What the final image of this series should be has been growing on me over the past couple of days. People from all corners of society have come together, helping, supporting and sharing. I’d like to think that this image is a reflection of the good in our society and of the hope that we have for the future as a result.

 

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Day 7: Society

Kissing in the dark

My eyes were closed as I savoured the moment with the object of my desires, gently feeling my way around in the darkness, the rythmic sound of the darkroom clock in the background as the sweet aroma of fixer filled my nostrils, knowing that at the tip of my fingers things were developing …

My preferred method of developing sheet film is six at a time in a Paterson tank with a MOD54 adapter. However if I have only one or two sheets that I want to assess, I resort to tray developing.

Tray developing is done in the darkroom, in the dark: no comforting warm glow from a red safelight, knowing where everything is laid out, relying on touch to gently work from tray to tray, listening keenly to the tick of the darkroom clock, shutting out all distractions to count down the seconds. It’s an intense spellbound time alone with just a piece of film for company. Strangely I often find myself closing my eyes as if to shut out the dark in the darkness.

The experiment

I’ve been experimenting with a zoom pinhole technique in an attempt to create a ‘look’ for a wee project I’m thinking about. It’s quite a simple idea: To use the ratchet focussing mechanism of my Intrepid field camera to adjust the pinhole projection distance during a long exposure with a lensboard mounted pinhole.

So today with good, bright conditions forecast I exposed two sheets of Harman Direct Positive paper and then two sheets of Ilford FP4+. With a five stop ISO difference between the two media it would be interesting to see the different results each would produce.

Direct Positive Paper

For the Direct Positive paper, exposures given were about three minutes – I feel four would have been better but I got what I wanted from the prints. The zoom range was from 190mm to 100mm with a 0.5mm pinhole. It felt difficult to match the zoom action to the time available and the second exposure was much the better for the experience of the first!

The first ran out of zoom and was zoomed a second time before the exposure was completed. It was also a poor choice of subject with a big slab of shadow on the right (left in the print!) that’s pretty much underexposed. The second is a bit underexposed but is close to the effect I think I’m looking for and my favourite from the day.

FP4+

The FP4+ exposures were over the same zoom range but with exposure times much reduced to around four seconds. I had expected that zooming over a shorter exposure time would be easier but actually found it rather rushed and very difficult to control.

The first is a bit jerky as I struggled to cover the zoom range within the exposure time. I was ready for it for the second exposure and though I like the result, the day was too bright to fully achieve the effect I wanted. The exposures were just too short – an unusual comment for a pinhole!

It’s been an enjoyable day: out and about with a camera, trying something different, taking food for thought from the results and of course, that sensual time in the darkroom!

A Pinhole Day Wedding

When my daughter chose Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day 2017 as her wedding day I just had to make an appropriate photographic record of it.

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day has been an event on my calendar for some years, usually meeting up with a group of friends to make cameras, take photographs and encourage non-pinholers to give it a go.

When my daughter announced the date for her wedding, something at the back of my mind rang an alarm bell. No, it wasn’t the thought of giving a Father-of-the-Bride speech, it was the date itself – Sunday 30th April 2017 – the last Sunday in April, the day ‘reserved’ each year to a celebration of pinholing.

There was nothing for it. No father could ask his daughter to change the date of her biggest day and I wasn’t going to be the first! My daughter is sympathetic to my photographic distractions and we agreed that I would take some pinhole wedding shots on the day.

I chose to rely on my Harman TiTAN 5×4 camera and to make my exposures on Ilford FP4+ film as that combination could be expected to be more reliable and require shorter exposure times than something homemade and exposing on paper.

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The TiTAN, six sheets of film, a small tripod and a basic lightmeter made up a lightweight and fairly compact kit. Somehow I managed to waste one sheet, but the other five have worked out much as I hoped. The day was bright and exposures were all around eight seconds.

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Breakfast setting for a new bride
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Flower girl
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Bridal flowers
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Two white dresses
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The happy couple

I have yet to decide which one image to submit to the WPPD2017 website. I rather like ‘Two white dresses’ but I’m leaning towards ‘The happy couple’  as I think it sums up the day more completely. So far I have only scanned the negative but I’d like to print them too, perhaps as salted paper enlarged prints.

The Father-of-the-Bride speech? – I winged it and I think I got away with it!