The abandoned croft house of Roddy Stewart

Memories rekindled of exploration with a camera on discovering a 40+ year old contact strip at the back of an old photo album.

In a few weeks time my wife and I anticipate celebrating one of the big milestones in married life. We’ve been looking through old photo albums and as we opened one from our student days a contact strip of black and white images fell out the back.

During most of the 1970s I took photographs with a Zenit E, a solid Russian brick of a camera with a 58mm Helios lens. My media of choice was slide film although on rare occasions I would use colour negative. I hardly ever shot on black and white film. Yet here was a black and white contact strip that I immediately recognised.

The original negatives are long gone and I never had any prints made but for whatever reason I had kept the contact strip made by the lab when they had developed my film. As I looked over the tiny pictures I began to remember what they were and why I had taken them, no doubt the reason I had kept the strip as a record.

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The pictures are of the abandoned croft house of Roddy Stewart, the neighbour and cousin of who in due course would become my father-in-law.

Roddy had given up his croft some time before and now lived out his remaining years up the hill and nearer the road in a house overlooking his old croft and Badenscallie Bay beyond. On my first visit to Badenscallie in 1973 the house still had a roof. A year later the roof had partly blown in. Seeing the photographs reminded me of the strong sense I had at the time that the house’s deterioration should be recorded, that by the following year there would be less of it to see. Nature was taking it’s course.

And so I walked across the hill with just my camera and a solitary 24-exposure roll of black and white film for company. The photographs record the sequence of my exploratory footsteps around and through the ruin. Looking back I remember the erie silence, the sense of being in a place where life had been lived, struggling with the challenges of daily living against the elemental forces of nature. A sense of life lived at the pace of the seasons and with the rising and setting of the sun. A hard yet peaceful life. Viewed now, the images recorded then have a beauty and a sense of being about them, reminders of what once was, thas I couldn’t just return them to the back of the album.

Why I didn’t have prints made was probably because at the time prints just weren’t my ‘thing’. It is likely that I had the film in my bag just for something to try on a dull day: most slide film of the time was a mere 64 or 25 ASA and I’m quite sure this black and white film would have been a ‘fast’ 400 ASA. The contact strip was clean so I scanned it and then as it pulled me in I decided to scan each individual frame and look at the story they told in more detail.

Here are all 24 frames, in order, telling the story of my journey some forty years or so ago. Hopefully I’ll return again soon and find out what has become of this place.

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A Brownie Outing

My first outing with the fifty plus year old Brownie 127 camera.

Following on from my nostalgic eBay win of a Brownie 127 Camera Outfit, as reported in my previous post A nostalgic find on eBay, the natural thing to do was load it with film and get out to take some photographs.

It so happened that the Edinburgh Lo-fi Photography Group, of which I am a member, had arranged a timely meetup for a wee jaunt along the Fife Coastal Path between Dysart and West Wemyss last weekend. What could be more lo-fi than a Brownie 127 camera? I took the Brownie with two rolls of Rera Pan 100-127 film and my Intrepid with six sheets of Fomapan 100 just for a bit of alternative interest.

The snaps taken with the Brownie came out rather well in my opinion, with just the one (accidental) double exposure!

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The Intrepid didn’t do too badly either but I messed up one sheet, due to forgetting to replace the dark slide after taking the shot. Oops! The ultra-cool Autoknips mechanical timer release that I also found on eBay got a wee outing too and performed magnificently for the group shots.

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 The Techy Stuff

On my return home I discovered that I had only just enough Ilfosol 3 developer to process the two 127 rolls and the six 5×4 sheets.

The Brownie is just a simple point and shoot camera with no settings to worry about as long as the light is good and bright. The day started bright and sunny but increased cloud cover as the day progressed reduced the light level considerably but I carried on taking pictures regardless, not knowing how the film would perform. The Rera Pan 100-127 is quite new on the market, produced by a Japanese manufacturer. There is little information available as a guide to developing times and none that I could find for Ilfosol 3, the only developer I had available! However by comparing the little information I could find for Rera Pan and comparing it with information available for other film/developer combinations, I eventually settled on 6 minutes at 20C in 1+9 dilution. The results are OK but I think I’d like to have a bit more ‘punch’ to them so I will probably make changes next time.

To give a wee contrast boost and to make the most of the clouds, I used a yellow filter on the Intrepid and consequently made a one-stop exposure correction on each shot. Developing the Fomapan was quite straightforward in Ilfosol 3, diluted 1+9 for 5 minutes 30 seconds at 20C using a MOD54 in a Paterson tank. The results are pretty much as I expected.