Monday, 16 September 2013

No, No, No, No, NO, NO, NOOOO!!!

  I went out shooting at the weekend.  Which turned out to be a very bad idea.  A very very bad idea.  I discovered last week that a section of coastline not far from me had lots of wooden coastal protection.  Coastal protection = photographers delight so I decided to head out there on Saturday (along with Jess who, as it was sunny, decided to leave the house).  We had a lovely walk but alas it was too sunny and I only shot two frames.  The tide was a little too far out as well so there wasn’t really much to photograph as I was in a long exposure mood.

  I decided to head back at sunrise the next morning when the light would be a bit flatter and the tide would be all the way in.  I woke up Sunday morning wide awake, grabbed my gear and shot out of the house.  Half an hour later I was parked up and walking through the dunes, it was drizzling a little but I thought I’d endure, I could always run back to the car if conditions got worse.  I setup and shot 5 or so frames, keeping my eye on the tide as it turned out I had arrived just before high tide so the water was coming in fast.

  On the 8th or so frame as I was setting up the water came shooting in up the side of one of the coastal protection barriers and headed straight for my bag.  I ran back and snatched up my bag only to turn and see my camera ditch sideways into the sand. ARGH!  I ran back and up-righted the tripod to find my camera encased in grit.  I dusted it off and re-seated the tripod just as the tide came sweeping in again and half inundated my camera bag. ARGH AGAIN!  I ran back, rescued the bag and moved it further inland just as my tripod decided to blow over again and ditch my camera into the sea. 
AAARRGGHHHH!!  I ran back, rescued the camera and ran inland.  Well, the water had washed off the sand which was nice but water and cameras are never a good mix.  Fortunately there are very few electronics in my Bronica.  I grabbed my gear and decided to head home.  I split my SLR kit up and put it on the passenger seat of the car with the air blowers on full.

  When I got home I used a brush to dust off as much sand as I could and left the gear to dry.  It’s still drying now and every few hours I dust off any loose sand.  Handily the squeak on my 80mm lens has disappeared but alas my 50mm makes a horrible grinding noise when focusing.  It looks like no water got into the camera body or the film back which is a bonus; it’s just the 50mm lens that seems to have taken most of the damage.  Ill dry it and clean it as best I can but time will tell if any salt remains inside to cause any damage. 

  I decided to develop my film using PMK Pyro, praying that it would have some good shots on.  Alas, on removing the film from the tank it was almost transparent.  I’m not sure what happened, it looks like it didn’t develop fully.  My guess is the Pyro was dead as it was a very old stock solution, but I can’t be sure.  So now I am left with a potentially knackered camera and no pictures to show for it.  Damn.

But here’s what I learnt from my day of tragedy:

  1. heavy tripods are a wise investment
  2. sand and seawater do not compliment camera gear
  3. PMK Pyro solutions need to be used up quickly
  4. incoming tides move in rapidly
  5. cameras take a long time to dry out
  6. hats are useful for covering lenses
  7. it is hard to keep filters sand and water free when it is raining and you're on a beach

Hopefully you will learn a lesson from this tale of woe.  Keep your gear dry and avoid wet and windy beaches.  Right, message sent - i'm off tripod shopping...

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Long Silence: Part 2

  A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about exploring a local abandoned mental asylum and said I would follow up with more pictures.  Well, after hours of scanning, rescanning, stitching, rescanning, stitching, colour balancing, rescanning, stitching and re colour balancing (I hate Photoshop) I have finally managed to scan my prints and get the scans to look (almost) like the prints.  I really should learn not to print bigger than 8 x 10 because my scanner can’t fit the print in and my computer struggles to run photoshop (I really need to get round to wiping it and reinstalling everything).

  First things first though, a little bit of history (Wikipedia based of course).  Construction on the asylum began in 1869 as the three Lancashire asylums in Prestwich, Rainhill and Lancaster were deemed to be full.  It was designed by Henry Littler, Architect to the Lancashire Asylums Board.  It officially opened in April 1873 and had an initial capacity of 1000 inmates.  Within the grounds were a church, a chapel, a large recreation hall and a farm estate.  In 1878 a new annexe was started to the north of the hospital and this was completed in 1880.  This allowed a further 115 patients to be housed and a dedicated Post Office to be created onsite.  Shortly thereafter in 1884 a sanatorium was established in the hospital grounds to cater for patients with infectious diseases.

  In 1892 works began to provide electric lamps throughout the grounds and another new annexe was started, followed by another in 1912.  By 1915 the hospital housed 2820 inmates, more than double the original capacity.  The Whittingham Hospital Railway which was used to transport coal, goods and staff between the hospital and Grimsargh was closed in June 1957.

  When the First World War struck a new annexe was commissioned to cater for war casualties.  Patients who died were buried on a private cemetery within the hospital grounds.  When the war ceased the hospital returned to private use.

  In 1923 the decision was made to change the name ‘Whittingham Asylum’ to ‘Whittingham Mental Hospital’, presumably to make it sound a little less imposing.  When the Second World War struck the hospital was again used in treating victims of the war.  In 1948 the hospital was renamed to ‘Whittingham Hospital’ after it became a part of the newly formed National Health service.

  In the late 60’s meetings were held with senior staff to discuss complaints of cruelty, ill-treatment and fraud within the hospital.  Those who held the meetings were then threatened with actions for libel and slander.  Eventually the Hospital Management Committee intervened and began inquiries into the allegations of corruption and abuse.

  The hospital eventually closed in 1995 and the hospital still sits there, fenced off.  Plans have been in progress for a number of years to build new homes on the site, but as yet have not been finalised.

  That’s the history, now let’s take a look inside.  I have included the 2 pictures from my previous post just for the sake of completeness.  As previously stated I decided to use the lith process on these prints as the high contrast and graininess would really complement the textures within the decaying buildings.  I used Agfa Brovira paper as it retains highlight detail really well when lathing and you can get a wide variety of print tones depending on developer dilution and life.  I hope you enjoy:

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Last Shot

  I seriously don't know how people can shoot 35mm film.  Not the format, that doesn't bother me - it's the fact that you've got to shoot either 24 or 36 frames!  I honestly can't go out and shoot that many frames!  I shoot mainly 6x6 which means i get 12 shots to play with.  Even so, i still often find myself shooting randomly just to finish up the last shot or two on the roll so i can go home and develop the film straight away.  I'm not the kind of person who can spread a roll of film out over a week or so, it preys on my mind and i picture all manner of light leaking through my camera onto my film.

  That being said, when it comes to taking holiday snaps 35mm is the way!  Jess and I recently went to Greenman festival in Wales as we do every August, and this year we took along our Yashica FR-1 and some rolls of Provia 100F.  We went a bit trigger happy but still only shot 3/4 of a roll (the curse of also having cameras on phones).

  The next weekend, however, we were off to Maryport in the Lake District to visit some friends of ours.  We took the Yashica along, of course, in anticipation of good times.  Good times were had, but mostly indoors in the dim light - not suitable for 100iso.

  Our friends have horses though.  Really nice horses.  I'm not really a horse fan but these horses are lovely.  I decided to finish off the last few frames on the roll taking photos of the horses because the light was nice and soft and one horse in particular had a lovely grey coat.

  The weekend ended (as it always does alas) and we headed home.  I posted the film off the next day (i don't yet develop my own E6) and then counted the days until it would come back to me in the post.  Back it came and i'm sat at my computer flicking through my holiday shots.  To my surprise the most stand out picture on the whole roll is one of the horse ones:

  I know it wont be everyone's cup of tea and it's not going to win any awards, but I like it because it is nice and soft and just has lovely detail.  And here we get to the point of this blog post - sometimes the shot you take to finish off your roll is the best thing you'll shoot all day.  It has happened to me many times, just taking a quick snap to complete the film and then that picture turning out to be the one you spend your time printing and framing.  It's strange how you can spend ages metering, filtering and exposing one frame and getting a very bland result, yet use guesswork and quick focusing on another and get the best shot of the roll.

  But this is photography and this is what we do.  Never be afraid of the final few frames on your roll, and never underestimate the power of a quick snap!