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Thursday, May 18

So I dusted off the D700...

Don't worry. This isn't the beginning of the end. Nor, though, is it likely to be the end of the beginning. I had great fun doing some colour with the DSLR and am even learning to like a tripod since switching to a ball head on the recommendation of Phil Rogers. So I'll probably be repeating the process from time to time.

We've got workmen in the house just now doing the bathroom and after being forced to listen for hour after hour to non-stop 1980s music on Absolute Radio (more accurately, it should be called Absolute Bollocks), I was desperate to get out so took the first opportunity to disappear for an hour to a derelict transport office that I visit whenever I get the urge for some "grotography".

I knew there were some interesting, faded colours in the old transport office and the goal was to try to capture them with as little intervention at the "post processing" stage as possible. Another way of looking at it was pretending that I had colour print film in the camera.

The pictures posted here are fairly unmolested. A few are completely untouched bar a little sharpening. Others have had their levels tweaked and I cured the barrel distortion from the wide end of a Nikkor 28-105mm zoom on another couple.

At the taking stage, I was a little concerned as the colours on the LCD screen looked brighter and sharper than I was seeing with the old Mk. 1 eyeball. However, when I opened the files up in Lightroom they were more like what I remembered they should be.

The office isn't very big. There's a convenience room/toilet that's about 10x12 ft and what must have been a social area of sorts for the drivers with a sink and worktop and fridge that measures around 15x20 ft. It's within an old stone quarry that fell out of use in the 1980s (it's a pity Adam Ant, Boy George and the like from Absolute Radio hadn't suffered the same fate) and is slowly becoming more exposed to the elements.

The transport office in question.

The convenience area has a hole in the roof and debris is just beginning to fall through onto the floor. Many window panes are broken as well and once the wind and rain starts getting in it's only a matter of time before it becomes so far gone that there's nothing much left worth photographing.

Some of the pics here might look a little familiar to regular readers as I've taken similar shots over the years. I was determined to come away with something more original, though, and looked hard to find attractive colours and interesting shapes.

My favourite is the shot of the backlit wardrobe doors (below). I was using the D700's self timer in lieu of a cable release and had to hang around for the sun to put in an appearance. When it was shining, it cast nice shadows onto the floor beneath the wardrobe doors but it was coming and going from behind some clouds and trees. My first couple of attempts resulted in the sun disappearing before the shutter had time to fire but it came together on the third shot.

I also took the same shot on a Contax 137 MA fitted with the 50mm f1.4
Planar and Tmax 100 but I think this is one of those occasions when the
colour version will be nicer.

The camera was stopped down to f11 for most of the photographs which, at 400 ISO, was giving me shutter speeds of around 5-10s. The office is surrounded by trees and not a lot of light reaches it. All the scenes here were as I found them - even the photograph of a square yard of floor covered with all sorts of stuff including old make-up tubes, a hairbrush, toys, etc. I can offer no explanation as to how they ended up on the floor of a transport office.

Overall, I'm quite happy with the look of these photographs. From now on, I think I'll take the D700 with the Nikkor zoom with me on photographic excursions to see what the results are like on dull, misty days. I still have difficulty in thinking of digital files as serious photographs, however, and given the choice would rather have shot the transport office pics on my Rollei SL66. It might be worth a roll or two of 120 just to see how medium format would handle this subject.


Herman Sheephouse said...

You should get the workies tuned to Planet Rock - they might play '80's stuff (along with all the rest) but at least it'll have balls!

As for the photos, well they do have a muted colour to them and they're a good record of the place as it is, but I still reckon you could convey the atmosphere more in B&W with the Rollei. Why not try it again with your Standard - that's the beauty of those old Zeiss lenses you can shoot as wide as you like and it's tack sharp where you want it to be and lush gorgeousness where you don't.
I know focusing is a pain with the Standard, but maybe, if you are using a tripod, use the old barcode and torch method - prop the barcode (off a film box if you like) at your point of focus and use a torch to highlight it whilst you focus on it . . remember to remove before taking the photograph and Bob's yer Auntie . . It's amazing how a barcode snaps in and out of focus, and it does work - an old tip from Roger and Frances Hick's Medium and Large Format Photography book.

This place should be a work in progress though Bruce - I'd love to photograph it myself . .

And dammit, you beat me to getting 'Grotography" out there even though you came up with it!

DavidM said...

It does look as if someone actually lived there – a nightwatchman, perhaps. Presumably you've found nothing like a bedroom?
You're doing a grand job with the colour. Might be worth keeping it up. I remember the red scales from previous posts.
It might even convert into a darkroom and studio. Now there's a thought...

Kodachromeguy said...

Great scenes! Your abandoned transport office is a classic urban decay subject. Black and white film will show it in a photojournalist grittiness that suits the subject perfectly. But a digital camera is so convenient because you do not need to worry about reciprocity or color shifts for long exposures. Place the camera on a support like a shelf, set the timer, press go, and let it absorb as many photons as it wants. The results are usually excellent. And often color shows unusual details of old cans, fabrics, or furniture. I usually take my small Fuji X-E1 camera with me on outings like this, although typically I prefer the results from the Rolleiflex.

Kodachromeguy said...

I missed the Kelvinator refrigerator when I looked at your photographers before. Kelvinator was an old-line home appliance maker whose name is based on Baron Kelvin, the absolute zero guy. Kelvinator merged with Nash Motors in the USA and was later merged into American Motors Corporation when AMC took over Nash. In the 1950s and 1960s, the chairman of AMC was George Romney, the father of Mitt Romney and governor of Michigan. George Romney ran for president in 1968 against Richard Nixon. It was a fascinating photograph.....

Bruce Robbins said...

Interesting stuff. Wonder what a fridge maker and a car manufacturer felt they had in common.