Camera, landscape, Nature, Photography

The Severn Way

Shrewsbury is a small town, and you’re never too far from the countryside, but I didn’t realise just  how close. Follow a narrow track from the town’s large Frankwell car park, past the cricket ground, and you are in fields, and following the Severn Way.

Your path leads you through meadows along the river Severn, past black cows blithely chewing, through gates, past allotments,  along the ends of gardens, up stone steps that seemingly go the wrong way, past the back of the garden where Charles Darwin grew up,  through green tunnels barely wider than your shoulders, along the snaking and winding river, all with the faint rumble of traffic only 2 or 3 fields away.

The path peters out after a few miles, and it’s possible to return to your start point in a fraction of the time, as the road goes in a more-or-less straight line. Or, do as I did and retrace your steps. Things look different going the other direction, anyway.

 

All photos taken with Lomo LC-A

Camera, landscape, Photography, Shropshire, Stone, trees

Expired Film, Lomo LC-A

Quantum Leap Sculpture
Quantum Leap Sculpture

I’ve discovered that some of my rolls of film are waaayy past their use-by date, sometimes by ten years or so.  So now my project this year is to use all the really old films before they’re unusable. They are mostly B&W, although there is some colour slide film.

The roll of Agfa APX100 here should have been used by November 2010.

Some film forums advise shooting expired black and white film as if it were half the advertised speed to compensate for the changed film chemistry.  I recently shot some seriously expired Fuji Neopan and found them to be too dark, so this makes sense.   As it turns out these shots mostly came out too bright! Luckily film is fairly forgiving.

The main problem was half of the film being blank – the batteries were failing, so about every other shot the camera’s shutter didn’t open (I didn’t discover this until I got the developed negatives back).  Some of the shots look a little soft, that’s a ‘feature’ of the lens on the Lomo LC-A.

Here then are a few shots of Shrewsbury.

Camera, Photography

Keep The Light Out!

One of the drawbacks to collecting old film cameras – apart from expense of film processing, and the risks of buying old things – is that the light seals disintegrate in a really unpleasant way. The light seals are the foam strips around the film door and hinge to keep stray beams of light from buggering up your lovely photographs. After 30 years or so, the foam turns into a nasty sticky, staining, black gunk.

DSC_0273
Hinge light seals

Not all cameras need light seals, depending on how the camera was made, but most do. Some older cameras, made before plastics and foam were common, use wool as a light seals. I’m replacing these defunct seals with embroidery yarn, as it’s cheaper than foam, and a little easier to work with.

Cleaning this mess up is a time-consuming job. I’ve just cleaned up the light seals on my new (for me) Yashica 72-E, and it’s taken me hours. My prefered tools are:

  • lighter fluid (great multi-purpose solvent. some people use isopropyl alcohol)
  • toothpicks  (the wood is unlikely to damage the paintwork on your camera)
  • cotton buds (for wiping away gunk. watch for stray fibres in the camera)
  • kitchen towel (to catch the gunk before it stains carpet, furniture, etc)
  • sharp knife (for when toothpicks just aren’t enough)
Cleaning out the old seals makes quite a mess
Cleaning out the old seals – this mess is just from removing the hinge seals

To replace the seals I use 1mm foam (bought in a sheet from eBay) for the hinge area, and 4-ply black embroidery yarn (for the narrow slots where the door edges sit). The foam is self-adhesive, and there was enough sticky residue left in the door slots to stick the yarn in place.

So now, I’ve loaded the Yashica with some black and white film, and I’m ready to start shooting.  Only when I get the developed film back will I know whether I’ve done this job properly. If so, I’ll post results here.

Yashica 72-E half-frame camera
Yashica 72-E
Camera, creativity, Photography, Voigtlander

Voigtländer Perkeo

Yes, I’ve bought another ‘new’ old camera. A Voigtländer Perkeo.

I’ve been after one of these for a few years, but the prices on eBay are either too high, or the camera for sale doesn’t look in very good condition. Here I was extremely lucky: the camera is in perfect working order* and I got it for a song, and I managed to snaffle it before anyone else saw it.

£20 plus £2.80 postage – it’s a steal!

“But why Andrew? Why? Don’t you already have enough cameras?” I hear you cry. Well, a number of reasons:

  • It shoots medium format film**
  • It’s really quite small (Perkeo means ‘pigmy’) when folded up
  • It has a case (and the case is in really good condition)
  • It’s more sturdy than some of my other folding cameras
  • It has a better viewfinder than some of my folding cameras***
  • It has double-exposure prevention
  • I like to shoot square photos sometimes
  • I wanted one

This afternoon – it’s my day off, even though it is a Tuesday – I went the long way to the supermarket, a route taking me along the river Severn. I took the Perkeo, loaded with Fomapan 100 Black & White film, and reader, I shot it all****.

I took photos of Tudor-era buildings, a dragon, and a couple of bridges.

The film went in the post to get processed late afternoon, so assuming the shots come out ok, I’ll be posting them here within a week.

Original Voigtländer Perkeo Invoice from 1955

Original Voigtländer Perkeo Invoice from 1955 (I’ve blurred identifying information)

There is a small hatch inside the case lid, where I found this: the original invoice. I’ve blurred the name and address, but the writing’s so bad that probably wasn’t necessary*****.

£13 in 1955 had the purchasing power of about £325 in today’s money.

*It looks hardly used, except for some paint worn from the front edge and some chrome missing from the accessory shoe on the top

**120 (medium) film shoots negatives 6cm across, they capture an enormous amount of detail. It’s cheaper to shoot 35mm, but it’s nice to shoot some 120 as a treat.

***I have 3 cameras from late 30’s/early 40’s and the viewfinder is merely a frame to look through, no glass in it at all!

****The Perkeo takes twelve 6cm by 6cm shots, easy to take all 12 in a short space of time.

*****There is still a photography-related business at this address, called ‘Snappy Snaps’

culture, history, language, Photography, Time, Uncategorized

Time, part 1: midnight

ungraspable timeTime is a foreigner to me.

A dark-eyed beauty who blinks seductively, hypnotically, then slips away before I can grasp it or hold onto it, leaving just the sense of Time having been and gone in a teasing, faintly mocking, clocking, tick-tocking encounter.

No wonder I’m so often just a little late (versus the precise alignment of metal lines on a disc of numbers, or liquid crystals in a set of tiny square window frames set under a glass top): I’m forever only getting the gist of Time’s language, not the detail.

Time is a foreign language to me.

I fail to understand it, no matter how loudly or slowly it continues to repeat its incessant, strident labelling of my days and nights. I have tried. I have watched Time passing, tried to feel its pulse, tried to assimilate the system by which my culture (European, for now) insists it should be measured. And I have failed. Because I cannot grasp it or sense it in any useful way, when utilising this abstract conceptualisation of time.

Time is an abstraction to me.

Abstract concepts of Time are a very Western thing. This First World determination to parcel up and delineate something as ancient and infinite as Time has been a kind of control freakery bordering on hysteria. Or arrogance. …As bad as climbing mountains “because they are there”, “conquering” them, with a view to making of the word ‘summit’ a verb (about a human climber) rather than a noun (about an upcrop of this glorious planet)… but that’s another blog, so I’d best not deviate. Not for a bit, anyway. (note the unspecific time indicator, there, and don’t even get me started on the use of ‘summit’ as a noun indicating a clutch of over-privileged, dangerously empowered Stale Pale Males taking private jets to a golf-course-sized monoculture of well-irrigated lawn with attendant 7-star facilities in the middle of a salty atoll or parched desert… breathe, Daisy, breathe!)

Time is a dark wonder to me.

Many simpler cultures (usually in a tribal or pristine state, unsullied by our greedy ‘modern’ handprints that start as a wave and turn into a slap) see time in a totally reversed way to the First World countries. They will tell you that the future is behind you, not in front of you. This took me a while to grasp, but once I did, I was amazed – and delighted – at how this concept of Time made total sense.

Time harnessed

Imagine being on a train, one of those old-fashioned ones which hurtled startled Victorians across ‘new’ (to them) continents at a speed almost suffocating (to them). Imagine you’re sat at the back of the train, looking out through that little  windowed door on the end which has a railing and steps, and that you’re watching the landscape flinging itself into your field of vision, coming from behind you and to your sides, and then receding away in front of you. Well, that view is Time to many so-called ‘primitive’ peoples: Time is invisible, unknowable when it is the future; but visible (though disappearing fast) when it is in the present; and invisible (though able to be remembered) when it is in the past. If I’ve confused you, just remember that to say that you are travelling backwards through Time, not forwards, is merely a matter of differing social semantics: Time cannot be defined in relation to your physical location.

Time is out of my control.

That ‘travelling in reverse’ is one pretty important distinction, though. Humans should not think they can ever have a hope of seeing the future or controlling it, is what that ‘primitive’ view seems to suggest. Seeing Time in this way is a useful means of sweeping away the natural arrogance of assumed control, and to relax about the stressful impossibility of ever arriving ‘on time’: on whose time, exactly? And do people really have nothing better to do than fume, if the person for whom they wait is ten minutes ‘late’ in relation to their measuring of The Time? Could they not reverse their perception, and see that ten minutes as a gift? A precious little longer to engage in the present, to wonder at the Here and Now, to (gasp!) daydream and ‘do nothing’ but look. “Time to stand and stare…”

Time is a cruel enslavement.segments

And who decided, and why, that the best way to divide up each terrestrial spin was into 24 chunks (why not 25? or 10? or 3?) , then 60 minutes (which weren’t even measurable with any certainty until relatively recently in human history), then seconds and micro-seconds  and milli-seconds and nano- and and and… oh spare me, will we never break our thirst for self-flagellating in this way?  It is like a tyranny of technology: if we measure in those tiny segments, we have to live at that pace. No wonder life has become so dizzyingly frenetic in the ‘modernised’ world.

 

Time is, was, and always will be.

I sense midnight at my heels, creeping around my feet to scuttle off into shadowy depths ahead of me. I feel rather than hear it ‘strike’. Hurtling backwards into my future on that train, there are obscuring swirling smuts and steam all around. I realise that Time is indeed breathing down my neck. How appropriate, then, that we to attempt to locate and  pin down Time using the word ‘tense’.

midnight supermoon

 

All photographs (& effects) by Daisy. No reproduction without permission, please.

 

 

 

Camera, Nature, Photography, Shropshire, Stone

Stiperstones Film (Finally)

I finally finished the films I shot up the Stiperstones just before Christmas, and just got the developed negatives back. It didn’t take too long to scan them in, as there are only 8 shots per roll when you shoot with 120 film.

The 1st roll was the slowest film I’ve ever shot with – Ilford PanF 50 – and I think that’s why the roll didn’t come out so well – the shutter speed was so slow that the slight wobble of me trying to hold it steady in a strong (and freezing cold) wind created the slight blur, and lost me a lot of detail, and so I only got  a few usable photos.  I’m annoyed, because the most blurry photo (which I’ve included below) would have made the best shot otherwise. Grrr. Next time with this film I’m using a tripod.

Luckily, the 2nd film came out mostly ok. There are a couple of shots I took around town just to finish off the film, I’ll post them separately, in case I confuse anyone and give them the impression there is a river up there on the top of the Shropshire hills.

 

In case this sort of thing interests you, the camera was a 1946 Voigtlander Bessa and the films I used were Ilford PanF 50 and Fomapan 100.

landscape, Nature, Photography, Shropshire, Stone, Voigtlander

Stiperstones

On the weekend before Christmas, I went with friends for a walk up the Stiperstones, a hill in south Shropshire.  The summit ridge runs for 8km, and features several jagged quartzite rock outcrops, which make for dramatic photographs (I hope).

It was a bright, sunny day, but once we got onto the hills it was surprisingly cold*. It always seems bleak up Stiperstones, for some reason.  It’s 20 years since I last went there, and it was bleak then, too.  I was juggling 2 cameras with increasingly numb fingers**, not easy when one is a 1946 VoigtlanderBessa , with some fiddly adjustments necessary just to get the device to open.

One of the rocky outcrops is known as the Devil’s Chair, one of several bits of folklore attached to the area. Apparently the Devil dropped a load of rocks he was carrying in his apron (!) and just left them there, although he does use the rocks as a chair to address evil spirits, witches and the like on the longest night of the year.

In another story, the ghost of Wild Edric rides the hills whenever England is threatened with invasion.  He was last spotted in 1853 before the Crimean war, although I don’t think we were threatened with invasion at that time.  Wild Edric is also said to haunt the Stretton Hills as an enormous black dog with fiery eyes. Of course he does.

*It was late December, that should have given me a clue. At least it didn’tr rain.

**I was in a rush and forgot my gloves. That’s not happening again.