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Sunday, January 8

The Robbins Files



After my last post bemoaning my lack of enthusiasm for photography at the moment, my pal Phil Rogers suggested in the comments that I should try scanning some old negatives instead of looking for inspiration in producing new ones. I thought that was a great idea and started looking through my files to pick out some images that I thought it might be worthwhile showing.

As I was doing that, TOD contributor and another friend (yes, I have more than one) David M. also got in touch with the same suggestion. That seemed like a sign to me that I was on the right track pursuing that route so here's a post that resurrects some old and forgotten negs.

My "files" aren't like most photographers: I have many medium format negs stored as single images in 5x4 negative bags. I'm not sure why I started doing that. Maybe I'd run out of the usual file sheets but had an abundance of large format neg bags. I did try to catalogue them once but gave up. I'm just not that organised. So they sit in a shoebox, one behind the other, making it a bit of a pain to look through them.

The "selection process" (I was going to write "curating process" for a laugh), involved grabbing about 20 negative bags, holding them up to a window and picking out a few, tossing the others into a pile. David M. and Phil suggested that I might start to see a bit of a theme emerging and that has been true to some extent. What it showed me is that I've been taking more or less the same photograph for the past 35 years. Not a great discovery to make!

There's an undeniable sameness to some of the photographs, though. Going down the "curating" route, I might try to argue that the negatives represent a "coherent body of work". Don't think I'd get very far with that bit of sophistry. Whenever I hear a photographer or art critic speaking of a "body of work" I tend to glaze over.

These pictures, therefore, are more a representative sampling of the kind of thing that catches my attention rather than an example of any effort on my part to follow a particular theme. Don't get too caught up in the technical side of the images as I couldn't find the plastic gadget that holds the negs in place on the scanner so I just popped them down directly onto the glass platter and fired away. They're not too bad but probably could be a bit sharper.

One thing I did notice is that the appearance of the image on the screen in Lightroom didn't match the software's histogram. When the highlights looked fine on the screen, the histogram was indicating that the highlights were nowhere near clipping. The upshot of this could be that screen images that look fine to me might look as if they lack good highlights to you. Apologies if that's the case.

The first pic at the top of the post shows a tyre on a post in a field. I used to live in the country and I came across it whilst out with the dogs for a walk. I had the old Konica infra red black and white film in the Rollei at the time and that's what I think gives the image it's interest. The tyre looks like some early transmitting dish, helped by the "rays" flowing from it up to the sky.


The photograph above is another rural scene that appealed to me because of the strong side lighting striking the rooftops of the cottages and farm buildings. I think this must have been after a shower when the slates were still a little damp. This was probably taken with either a 135mm or 180mm Sekor lens on a Mamiya C330F. I really enjoyed using the Mamiya but it's a heavy beast and it would be too much bother for me nowadays.


Next up is a simple shot of a path heading to the beach near Kingsbarns in Fife. It was an early summer shot on a nice day with cheery poppies poking their heads through the wild grasses. It's another Rollei photograph from what I remember. The way I worked then was to use the Rollei 2.8F if out for a walk and the Mamiya TLR outfit if out in the car. 


This shot was inspired by an Eddie Ephraums' image, Mis Tor, in his Creative Elements book. It was the first book I'd read that showed that it wasn't necessary to have the perfect light before clicking the shutter. There's much that can be done to create a photograph provided some basic elements such as good composition are available. Here, below, is Eddie's selenium-toned shot that I quickly snapped off the page on my iPhone for comparison.


I drove past "my" tree most days going to work and it reminded me of Eddie's tree every time I saw it. Eventually I just had to leave a bit early with the Rollei and commit it to film. It's only a few miles from where I live now so I might pay it another visit when the weather is just right and have another go.

Well, that's the first batch of old negs scanned and it seems to have had the desired effect as I was out shooting yesterday and today and have a roll of Tmax hanging up to dry in the darkroom as I type. Perhaps this is a good time of year to see if the old advice of "out with the old and in with the new" bears fruit. Thanks to Phil and David for the suggestion. It might turn out to be fun. More old negs in the coming weeks. 

3 comments :

slackercruster said...

Good suggestions to rehash the old negs. If you want to break out of the sameness rut why not get back into street shooting. I've seen some of your street work and it was good.

Herman Sheephouse said...

There y'go Bruce . . I especially like the tyre picture, it's like the clouds have aligned into some sort of cosmic transmission. Great stuff and looking forward to more of the same - well done that man.
Keep on keepin' yer pecker up!

Robert Dungan said...

I haven't been in the mood to take photos too much of late, so, I have been printing some old negatives from my wife's family. Her sister had tossed in the trash and I quickly retrieved them. They go from the 1930's too mid 50's. A few of them are quite good and make good prints.