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Sunday, August 31

Analogue Archives: Kevin MacDonnell

This MacDonnell column is from 35mm Photography magazine and dates back to February, 1985. I've added a Kevin MacDonnell page in the right column where there are links to the other articles of his that I've already published on the blog.

Friday, August 29

Is Vivian Maier over-rated?

The story of the shy nanny who spent her spare time chronicling the streets of Chicago and further afield on her Rolleiflex but who died under sad circumstances before anyone could appreciate her ability touched me as much as anyone else.

You can't listen to her story without being moved and the thousands of photographs she left behind are a fitting testament to her life and work. BUT, switching from heart to head, did Vivian deserve to be fast-tracked onto the list of near-mythical photographers?

Wednesday, August 27

Stormy skies

Above and below: Contax 137 MA, 50mm f1.4 Planar, Adox Silvermax

Unlike a previous post where I was struggling for a foreground to go with a stormy sky, these foregrounds just sort of suggested themselves. Having said that, I still had to drive around a bit to find them.

I spend far too much time in the car looking for subjects, a strategy that nowadays costs a small fortune with petrol the price it is. But what else is there to do? Unless you like taking flower shots in your back garden then you either have to drive to a particular location, park the car and get out and hike or just trawl the highways and byways until something catches the attention.

Monday, August 25

Another few from the quarry

All pics shot on an Olympus OM2 on Adox Silvermax developed in Spur HRX.
This one was taken with the 50mm f1.8 Zuiko, probably the best tenner you'll
spend on a lens.

I really have to go back and photograph this old, derelict place in 5x4. When photographs are all about texture and light and shade, there's nothing better than a good, big negative to capture it all. The pics here are some more scans from the roll I shot recently at Newtyle Quarry.

Friday, August 22

Singular Image: Delta Sky

Sorry for the pretentious title. It could have been worse: Signpost to God, anyone? I'm absolutely hopeless at coming up with titles for photographs. I've got a desktop littered with stairs1, stairs2, sky3, etc. I tend to make them purely descriptive so I can identify them from their names.

The only one I've been entirely happy with was this one:

Thursday, August 21

Kodak BW400CN no more

Will Ilford be the last man standing? It's certainly looking increasingly that way. Kodak Alaris's coat seems to be on a shoogly peg, as we say in Scotland, following their announcement earlier this week that they are discontinuing BW400CN, their chromogenic film. I can see one Kodak film after another ending production - and, let's face it, there aren't many left now. I don't know if Fuji is doing much better although their 400CN chromogenic film is still around.

Ilford were quickly out of the gates to confirm that rival film XP2 Super will not be sharing a similar fate as BW400CN - at least for the "foreseeable future". They have "no plans" to stop production. Of course, it's anyone's guess what "foreseeable" means in this context. A month? Six months? Two years? Longer?

Wednesday, August 20

Large Format: Tenement Stairwells

Here's an embarrassing confession to kick this post off: I exposed these sheets of 5x4 on January 2 and just developed them on Monday. In fact, I wrote about the process of taking these photographs in this post here on January 3. They've been sitting in their dark slides wrapped in a black plastic print bag all that time. What can I say? Not a lot really. Sometimes I have so much inertia that I can give the immovable object a run for its money.

Monday, August 18

Quarry Office Revisited

A while back I published some aged HDR pics I'd taken, including one of an office at an old, disused quarry near the Perthshire village of Newtyle. That's the abomination in question below. The response in some quarters was quite brutal (only teasing) with a few readers leaving me in no doubt of what they thought of this digital carry on.

Friday, August 15

OT: Barn Find Bicycle

If you're a vintage vehicle enthusiast, whether bicycles, motor bikes or cars, the "barn find" is the holy grail. A machine not widely known, not on the market and in danger of being lost forever without your intervention. There are plenty of Youtube videos where cars left to languish at the back of a barn for more than 30 years have suddenly come to light, usually when the owner who left it there dies.

Such a barn find was this 1948 Hobbs of Barbican bike, the pinnacle of post-war racing machines. Happily, the owner is still very much alive and kicking although now approaching 90. As a vintage racing bike enthusiast, I found out about this particular bike when I bought a 1936 lightweight from the owner's older - and now deceased - brother. The older brother told me his younger sibling had a pre-war Hobbs so I got the phone number and gave the chap a ring. That was about 12 years ago.

Wednesday, August 13

Large Format: Enlarging v Contact Printing

Is a contact print from a 10x8 large format neg better than a 10x8 enlargement from a sheet of 5x4 film? Well, it seems that the answer depends on who you're asking. I've been reading up on this subject for the last couple of days and I don't believe there's anything really definitive out there one way or the other.

Last week I posted a video about the art of large format photography which elicited some excellent comments. It was these that got me thinking. David M wrote, "The only thing missing from this film is a demonstration of the astonishing texture and detail which is one of the glories of LF photography, particularly in contact prints.

"Alas, this is not possible on even the finest screen (enlarged details don't have the same impact) and we must seek out and view physical examples. Many LF photographers speak of the shock of a face-to-face encounter with an actual print and their immediate conversion to the art of Inconvenient Image Making."

Monday, August 11

A Poem in the Shadow of the Grand Mosque

By Omar Ozenir

Having found refuge from the searing heat in the small tea garden beneath the wall of the Grand Mosque in Adana, we got into conversation with the neighbouring table. Once he felt comfortable of his new found company he opened up and told us about his difficult past. He talked, we listened.

I started photographing when he recited a poem he had written for a woman a long time ago. As he remembered - who knows, maybe the life that had slipped past him - tears welled up in his eyes...

Back at home in the darkroom, I decided to print the frame where he had looked away for a moment and his eyes had caught the light.

The picture was taken with a Bronica RF645 rangefinder camera and a 65mm lens. I developed the film, llford HP5+, in ID-11 diluted 1+1.

The main difficulty with this photo is that the background is rather messy (as can be seen in the neg or the top left frame in the contact print). In spontaneous situations like this, we can't always move people around to a more pleasing setting, so we've just got to live with what we have and try to make the most of it.

In the darkroom I worked towards calming down the background as much as I could, which also helped focus attention on the man. Lowering the filtration to grade 1 after the main exposure, I gradually burned in the background, first using my hands, then moving around a piece of cardboard with a large hole in it, slowly building up density in the highlights.

This is the wet selenium toned print on fibre based Ilford MG IV:

In the print there was a greyness in the whites of the eyes, which I removed with a few touches of bleach (PotFerri) on a cotton swab. I very much like how Nathalie Loparelli uses local bleaching towards the end of this video, which I’m sure many of you have already seen. She makes it look too easy! She also seems to be using local bleaching as a matter of course; quite the contrary to my way of printing, where I rarely feel that a print would benefit from it. But that could well be due to my own poor judgement!

Friday, August 8

US Schools Promoting the Darkroom

A striking self-portrait by one of the students at Cambridge
Rindge and Latin High School in New England

Sometimes it can seem as though we film photographers are a bunch of fossils not just for the fact that we're still practising a very old art but also because analogue seems to be predominantly a preserve of those above a certain age.

Thursday, August 7

The art of Large Format

Next time a digital photographer tries to argue that there is as much skill and involvement in using a DSLR as there is in film photography, show them this video. It's only a few minutes long but it gives a nice flavour of what it's like using a 10x8 Wista camera. It's so easy to pick up a 35mm SLR and snap away but LF is a real labour of love. Photographer Luis Placido used long-expired Tri X sheet film and developed the negative in ABC pyro, contact printing the image.

Monday, August 4

Singular Image: Baxter Park

This is a photograph from the same roll of film as the night shots I posted about last Monday. Baxter Park is a centrally-located park that was gifted to my home town of Dundee back in 1863 by a rich mill owning family called Baxter. It was laid out by the famous Sir Joseph Paxton who designed the even more famous Crystal Palace in London.

I'd gone there to finish the roll which had about four shots left on it. I'd dropped Cath off in town and had about an hour to kill. I couldn't think of anything to photograph so went to Baxter Park to have another go at Phil Rogers-style window reflections in a glass pavilion in the park.

Friday, August 1

Rollei Blackbird - refreshingly different or clever marketing?

There are some photographers who are driven, creative individuals who know exactly what they want to do and just go and do it. The rest of us, a bit jaded I suspect, look on in envy as we desperately search for something new or different to give our creative juices a stir.

In digital photography, some savour the ability of their cameras to be adapted for use with just about any lens to try out optics from all eras and price bands. From what I can see, this doesn't seem to produce anything genuinely different but it's certainly a lot of fun.

From time to time, I also find myself in the doldrums, lacking motivation and inspiration. I'm a little like that at the moment at which time I often think of trying a different film for an artistic jolt. Lately, I've been looking at some of the more obscure films such as Rollei Blackbird. It's an interesting looking film but, as is often the case nowadays, it's not always clear whether this is something different or just the result of creative marketing.