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Friday, December 30

Bring on 2017

For a whole variety of reasons, 2016 has been a horrible year for the Robbins household. Sticking to the photography-related ones, I just can't get going at all despite constant attempts to jolly myself along. It's just not working for me photographically-speaking. Sometimes when a striker finds himself going through a barren patch in front of goal the manager will say he's not worried because the player keeps getting into good scoring positions. I'm not even managing to do that. It's not that I'm skying it over the bar from six yards out but rather that I just can't seem to "see" a photograph at all.

Regular readers might remember that this has been going on for a year or longer where I'm concerned. I've written about it a couple of times. There's what seems like a malaise hanging over me that's killing my enthusiasm and my creative eye. I'll just have to keep plugging away and hope that it turns around at some point. Today was a case in point. I dropped Cath off at a friend's house in Fife and had a few hours to while away, a bit of freedom I used to revel in.

The light wasn't looking great but I thought it was a good opportunity to get back in the saddle after Christmas and see what I could come up with. Very little was the answer at the end of the day. What light there was was out over the North Sea so I headed to the coast to see if I could make the most of it. It remained resolutely over the water and barely touched land. This wasn't the miserable and moody weather that I don't mind but just that bland, featureless greyness that turns every scene into the equivalent of a photograph of your cat or that tulip at the bottom of the garden. Pointless, in other words.

I was well-prepared as well having the night before looked out my Olympus gear and filled a large bag with a comprehensive outfit knowing that it would be mainly confined to the car boot. I ended up in Lower Largo, home of Andrew Selkirk upon whom the Robinson Crusoe character seems likely to have been based. This was a bit of a walkabout so I had the 50mm f2 Zuiko macro on the OM1 and a 24mm Zuiko in my coat pocket, the rest staying in the boot. The film was the usual Tmax 400.

Lower Largo is a strange wee place, a fishing community stretched out along the coast but with an incongruous viaduct dominating the scene behind the harbour. Apparently, the viaduct was built to provide a railway link for all those mad Victorians who were desperate to see Selkirk's home town. This seems decidedly weird behaviour to me but I suppose you had to get your jollies where you could in those pre-internet days. Maybe it equates nowadays to something like making a "pilgrimage" to the Kardashians' mansion. There's a sign somewhere in the town, which I couldn't find, that points to the island 7000 miles away where Selkirk was marooned.

The viaduct to nowhere.

The Railway Inn (very well thought of, btw) which must have enjoyed a brisk
trade pre-Beeching - and the Premier shop where I enjoyed an egg
mayo sandwich post-photography.

General Greyness - Scotland's most decorated soldier. The ugly building in the
background is the Crusoe Hotel.

Dr Beeching, the butcher whose cost-cutting report on the nation's railway network killed off hundreds of wee stations in the 1960s, did for Lower Largo's link to the outside world as well, leaving the disused viaduct as a cruel reminder of what used to be.

I took a few shots of the harbour, looking into the sun, but I don't think there will be anything special there. It didn't help that the meter needle on my OM1 was jumping around like Beeching would have been doing had I been able to attach electrodes to his gonads and wire them up to the mains. This had me in a bit of a foul mood because it left me without a functioning Olympus body - and I've got five of the buggers! Take a look at that useless lot below.

The big Minolta SRT 101 is excused as he's just waiting for a roll of film but the four OM2s are just useless lumps of metal at the moment. I had them on my desk as three of the OM bodies and the Minolta all needed new seals. The three chrome OM2s should hopefully be fine once new batteries arrive next week but the black one, which was my main 35mm SLR, still has a slipping problem when winding on. Supposedly (so says internet wisdom) this fault can be circumvented by using a motor drive to wind the film on. I gave that a go and it seemed to work but now the camera occasionally jams with the Winder II attached. With the OM1's St Vitus meter needle becoming increasingly irregular (it'll be twerking next week) I'm now a bit stuck as far as Olympus goes.

I picked up the chrome OM2s in various auction lots for not a lot of money and I've never used them as they all needed seals, batteries and a good scrub. I'm hoping there's nothing amiss with them when the batteries arrive as it's not economically viable to have them repaired. The OM1 can still be used along with a handheld meter or just Sunny f2.8 as it is up in Scotland at this time of year but it's not ideal really.

Thankfully, or sadly depending on how you view these things - I vacillate between the two, I've still got more than a few alternatives where SLRs are concerned. I bought a few packs of AA batteries for the Contax 137MA that ran out of juice a couple of weeks ago and for it's siblings who sit unused in an aluminium flight case waiting for the draft. I've got a wee Pentax K outfit and some Nikon gear as well - and my growing but as yet untested Pentax screw outfit - so the Olympus thing is more like a half-hearted rebellion than a serious coup.

It wasn't so long ago I was bemoaning the fact that I'd accumulated far too many 35mm SLR cameras and lenses but now I'm glad I did. I got them when prices were rock bottom but they've been steadily climbing for a year or two now and it would cost me quite a bit more than I paid to replace them. And they won't half come in handy as the odd SLR body gives up the ghost.

Of course, all this blather will be fairly irrelevant if I can't stop my enthusiasm giving up the ghost first. There are numerous ways of overcoming the doldrums but I'm going to stick with dogged determination. After all, it worked for Andrew Selkirk and helped him find his way back home from the middle of nowhere and I'm not quite that lost.


DougH said...

Ultimately, I'll need a change in scenery to get motivated, photographically. For now I'm doing some printing of negs I haven't printed before. For me, at least, this seems better than just shooting.

DcAnalogue said...

Best wishes for 2017 Bruce!
Next year will be better for sure...! ;-)

DavidM said...

Sixteen has been a curious year. I too have had a hole where I used to keep the enthusiasm. Other things happening off-stage, but not a house-move. Moving house is a perfectly satisfactory excuse in your case, surely?
I wonder if all the fuss over voting the UK into penury and casting Scotland into outer darkness has had a depressing effect.
I'm wondering if a working camera would help? Something sensible yet classic and satisfactorily historic like a Nikon F2, plain head, with a Weston Euro might be the sort of thing. One lens on camera and (only on your birthday and only if you know exactly what it's for), another lens in the pocket with a red filter and a second roll of film. Take a different lens each time if you like. No camera bag at all unless you use it for sausage rolls and a Thermos. If you are going to take along lenses that you won't use, why not leave them at home and take along a modest tripod to fill the lonely space in the boot. On dreary days, a tripod is far more use than ten extra lenses. And a tripod puts you in a proper frame of mind, I have found. Promise yourself to take all of one roll or all of two rolls, but no half rolls, ever.
In short, set off disguised as a photographer instead of a camera collector.
But keep up the good work and a Happy New Year to you and the ever-lovely Cath.

slackercruster said...

I just wrote about the same topic at my blog.


My post was all digital, but film or digital, the 'I'm in a funk' recovery tools are the same providing the film photog can timely develop their wet work. I had to give up wet processing as I have no room for a darkroom any more other than a very small bathroom. Living expenses are very high nowadays and the cost to maintain a darkroom are tough for me to swing.

In this day and age, the film photog has to recognize they are putting tons more stress on themselves shooting film. If they do the film / digital comparison they may be disheartened. The digital photog has little lagtime between the finished product compared to the film photog and all the work that needs to be done to get a home developed neg and silver print in hand.

With my own work, the funk area I'm in is this; I have between 4 and 5 years of (digital) work piled up I never even looked through. I keep trying to chip away at it, but it sometimes is so overwhelming I have a hard time even getting started. I prob would keep blanking it out of my mind except my computer is full and am filling up external drives and it is getting to be a mess. (really was a mess years ago)

This is the benefit as well as the downfall with digital, too easy to produce prolifically and be weighted down with tons of junk to sift through. I recall reading a photog on a forum that wanted to shoot hi-res video to do his street work. He bragged he could shoots tens of thousand of frames with video and was almost assured of getting 1 keeper that way. Well, I don't shoot video, can't imaging what that would be like to sift through all that.

Best of luck with figuring out how to get back in the groove!

tjen said...

have a creative and healthy 2017 .What you're telling about 2016 is for me so recognizing ! Better times are coming !!

Herman Sheephouse said...

Hi Bruce - well I know how you feel, but I am with David on this - there's an F2 down here and some nice lenses if you want a shot- the meter even works on it, or if you want basic, the old F and the 35mm f2 - it's a bloody marvellous set-up for guessing exposure.

Yes, the light has been pretty poor, but you have to battle it and just get out there and see what comes along - I really do know this isn't an easy thing, but it can produce results and you have proven you can get results in atrocious weather! So get out there and try and look at things from a different view-point - say if the scene dictates to you your normal shooting distance, query that and get in closer or lower or higher or quirkier - it's all about your frame of mind.

Of course you also have a prodigous amount of negatives to choose from, so how about showing us some of those, work through them see if you have carried over themes from different eras etc etc. Trying to feel fresh is hard, but like I said you just have to try and approach it from outside the box.

And I am dying to see this Pentax M42 collection in action -can't wait.

So, on that note, to you and Cath and Freya, all the best for 2017 . . . the year of the CCS Bag-off (or bust).

Derek said...

Hi Bruce Take a look at this link and see what is said in the latest article.

Happy New Year to you


Anonymous said...

After coming across your blog in the final third of 2016, Bruce, I have returned to film photography, which is all I ever wanted to do, and I am happy. In 2017, I plan to work on producing darkroom prints that please me. I know, I know: me, me, me. A friend and I exchange prints by mail, and his opinion matters to me, and I share the occasional print with my wife and sons, but that's about it, and that's all right with me. This evening I went to The Online Darkroom in hopes you had written something new, and you did! Hang in there, pal. Bill

Anonymous said...

I feel you the 'not seeing' photos problem. I went through a long dry spell a little while back, and never really managed to make sense of it. I did, however, eventually come of it, if that's a comfort. I wrote about it at perhaps unnecessary length here:


DavidM said...

Here's another thought, based on what Admiral Brickhouses says.
Sometimes, we don't quite know what we're doing as we snap merrily merrily along. And, if i may name-drop, something I learned on a John Blakemore workshop. (...and if the chance arises, get yourself on one)
Like everybody else, you will have a pile, or achieve as we call it in public, of images, most of them unprinted. It's a common experience when looking through old contacts to exclaim, inwardly or outwardly, "Why did I not print that?" We all know about this and if we don't, it's probably because we haven't made contacts but relied on squinting at the negs and chasing the ones that looked best when very tiny, with a light-bulb behind them and held up at arm's length. Enough of my confessions.
My suggestion is to look through past work, but not too far back. Look as if you were contemplating to work of a strange and unfamiliar person, (perhaps pretend that you're looking at a student's work?) and don't try to pick the surefire winners. You've done that already. Try to deduce, from the evidence of the contact sheets, what really interests this unfamiliar photographer rather than picking out the successes. What is this person trying to do even if they don't succeed? You'd be a very odd photographer if all your images were intended solely to test film/developer combinations and the excessive fragility of Olympus cameras, so there must be things that appear more frequently. It's frequency rather than success that is the clue here.
It seems obvious when said, but if you keep on trying something, then it must hold some interest for you, even if you are unhappy with the results. The fact that you persist is the evidence for this.
Unhappily "Strictly..." has now gone from out screens so you'll have to discover other evenings when there's only tedium on the box. Then settle down with your pile of contacts, some decent light, a magnifier if you like, your beverage of choice and perhaps a few very thin slices of cheese or, as you're north of Hadrian's Wall, something made of oats to nibble. Some people might care to scribble notes, but making notes seems to me to be a way of keeping things out of your head, which is where you want the information to nestle.
You will not find the Holy Grail of snapping but you will see where you have been going. Then you can keep on going there.

Perhaps I should take my own advice, as I'm in the same position without the excuse of house-moving. But there's a new Midsomer Murder on the telly tonight. Ho hum...