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Friday, May 16

Sunshine on Lunan Bay


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These salmon fishing poles looked to me a little like guns pointing in the
direction of the Scottish Saltire. 

Regular readers will know I love dull misty weather (if only I had a fiver for every post I've started like that) but in an effort to show I'm not a one-trick pony I thought it might be a good idea to take some photographs in sunlight to see how I liked it. I'd made up my mind on Monday evening that I was going to have a drive in the countryside on Tuesday and, to be completely honest, was hoping for a real, good stormy day.

It didn't quite work out like that. The weather was lovely and my first thought was to spend the day doing some work in the garden but then I thought, well, it can't hurt that much and at least I wouldn't need to take a tripod with me.

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A Hansel and Gretel beach hut against a WWII pillbox. Does it get much
more incongruous than that?

That was a nice idea as I like to work handheld with 35mm. Then I had a notion to do a McCullin and just go equipped with a camera and one lens slung round my neck. I picked my old Pentax MX and an SMC 35mm f2.8 "M". That combination is very compact and weighs next to nothing. Accompanying it in neck-encircling style was my Sekonic meter. In my pocket I popped two filters, a K2 yellow and a graduated ND.

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The tools of the trade. It's amazing how much you can get done with just one lens.

If I'm going to be spending a couple of hours out shooting some landscapes, I normally like to have something like a 28mm, 50mm and 135mm with me but I could definitely get used to this minimalist approach. Since Don is normally weighed down by a great, hulking Mamiya Press, I reckon I outdid him on this occasion.

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The beach is littered with old stuff like this anchor and coils of bleached and worn
 rope. That's Red Castle in the background.

My 35mm film stash is down to Adox CHS 100 II and Silvermax at the moment. A quick look at Spur's development info on the HRX data sheet showed that I could expose the Adox at the box speed of 100 ISO so I went with that.

The bay on another sunny day
a few years back
The subject was Lunan Bay some 15 miles up the coast. It's a wide expanse of the North Sea coddled by a few miles of lovely sandy beach and overlooked by the ancient and crumbling Red Castle. According to the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Red Castle is, "...situated on a promontory and isolated by a ditch, was founded as a hunting seat by William the Lion (1165-1214), was besieged in 1579 and was ruinous although still partly roofed in 1770.

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"The remains now consist of a possibly 13th century fragment of the massive wall of enceinte and the ruin of the 15th century rectangular tower. The name comes from the red freestone ashlar of which it is constructed." How's that for a potted history?

Red Castle isn't worth photographing in itself but it makes a useful backdrop for the things that can be found lying around, mainly associated with the adjacent salmon fishery but also including my old favourite, the wartime pillbox!

With the CHS 100 negatives before me, I'm pretty amazed at how well they've handled the extremes of light and shade on the beach. The HRX developer must have had a hand in this but, whatever, it's a wonderful combination for contrasty conditions. The tonality in the negs is lovely and, dare I say it, slightly old-fashioned looking? Adox did say that the predecessor to CHS 100 II was unchanged since the 1950s, I think, and that the film I was using is as close to the original emulsion as they could get. Could just be the K2 filter, I suppose, but I've managed to convince myself that some of these pics wouldn't look out of place in a British Journal of Photography Almanac from the 1950s.

What do you think? The scans I've posted here are more or less as they came from the scanner with just the black and white points set and a gentle warm tone applied to the highlights. Below is a quick shot of the negs sellotaped in their plastic sleeve against a window. These will be very printable indeed.

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To give you an idea of the tonal range on the negs here are a couple of shots showing how well they capture shadows and highlights. The first pictures of the pair are how I'd process them normally and the second pics have just had their shadows lightened. Where the weathered branch is concerned, the highlights in the scene were so bright they were almost painful to look at, bleached wood in full sun. Yet there's as much information both shadows and highlights as you'd want.

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Here, below, is the door of the pillbox making an appearance against the jumble of buildings in the background. I was struck by how much detail there was in the shadow in the doorway. On the negative there's detail all the way back into the pillbox and yet the white wall of the house in the distance is beautifully rendered. Impressive stuff!

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I can't go without eulogising about the MX and the 35mm lens. For reasons I've mentioned before, I have a sentimental attachment to the Olympus OM1 but remove emotion from the equation and I might have to say that the MX is my favourite 35mm SLR of all. It's an absolute peach and the type of SLR Leica should have made back in the 1970s: it's small, light yet solid and does everything it needs to do and nothing more. Can't fault the 35mm lens either, whether it's the focal length or the quality of results we're talking about.

It was an absolute pleasure wondering around Lunan Bay in the warm sun and makes me determined to do more of this one-lens photography this summer.

You might also like:

Adox CHS 100 II in Atomal
South of the Tay

2 comments :

steve said...

Your so lucky to have such historically interesting landscapes to photograph.

John Carter said...

Well, you have finally tasted what it is like to live in California. My development scheme is ruined when we get a misty or rainy day. In fact, I don't know what to do. You've done well. Maybe you can give an EI and Development Time difference between your rainy day and sunny day. I'd like to hear it.

I have a Pentax P3n and a Pentax 35mm f2, but I've never used the 35 one a full frame camera. Maybe now is the time. I enjoyed this post.