PEOPLE 300 – PEOPLE FROM MY PAST 3 (MONO)

 

 


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Self portrait, aged about 19, retouching a print made in the university darkroom – what a poser! – dark framed glasses a la Manfred Mann (remember them?), and student beard derived from the fact that I could never for the life of me see the purpose in shaving off my facial hair each day –  and so on the day that I left school in 1968 I started growing the beard that I’ve had all my life .

It was my first time living away from home – well, at 18 I effectively left home – and I was lively and (naturally) immature, so much so that my landlord and landlady very nearly threw me out.  There were five of us in these lodgings, which were on the sea front and very cold in the winter.  Our sole source of heating, in the whole house, was a double-barred electric fire in the ground floor lounge – but there were two floors of bedrooms above that and, boy, were we cold!  So one exceptionally cold evening we actually summoned up the courage to switch on both bars of the electric fire – only to come down the following morning to find that the fire’s second bar had been taken out!  Ah, there’ll always be a welcome in the hillside – I wonder if that song gives anyone a clue as to where I spent (six of the nine years of) my university days ….

And it was here too, in the university’s bookshop, that I bought my first copy of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, a book that I have never fallen out of love with.  Very, very little poetry gets to me, and Dylan’s is far, far above my head.  I even have a recording of him reading some of his poems and that’s even worse, all far too heavy for me.  But Under Milk Wood is something else, a pure delight I would say, vast enjoyment combined with vast inspiration and admiration: in some way, something that – for better or for worse – has helped make me who I am.

This is a digital photograph of a black and white print, made with the D700.  The original photo was taken with an Ilford Sportsman 35mm film camera mounted on a  tripod.  I started printing black and white photos in the darkroom at school and did more at university, before going over almost entirely to colour slides when I got my first SLR, a Praktica LTL, in the 1970s.  The subject of the photo being retouched is another student, with whom I shared the bed and breakfast accommodation.

 

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PEOPLE 296 – PEOPLE FROM MY PAST 1 (MONO)

 

 

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I’ve been posting pictures of people since I started this blog.  I’d have liked to have posted more from this genre, but opportunities for such photography have never been plentiful.  Now, as a subset of this genre, I’m going to post images of people – myself included – from my own past.  Some of these images have been posted here before, some are new.  This idea has been stimulated by the rediscovery of pictures I sent to my mother from far off places, and also by the rediscovery of some old photograph albums.  I hope you will enjoy these pictures.

And so to the first image, above.  Years ago – my passport tells me 1975/6 – I was working on geology in the mountains of the Sultanate of Oman, which is in the southeast of the Arabian peninsula.  Don (above, right) and myself would drive our (absolutely wonderful) long-wheelbase Land Rover inland from the Batinah coast and deep into the mountains, and then camp there while we worked on the rocks.  That was all that our little expeditions consisted of – him, me, the vehicle and a small tent each.  We had no radio, no means of contact with the outside world at all – but we were young, and didn’t think or worry about such things …

So there was no convivial club or bar to retire to in the evenings, and the only at all civilised and comfortable seating was in the front of the Land Rover – and so here are the two of us, with our Tilley lamp blazing away, passing a restful evening reading and writing up notes in the front seat of what we called “the van”, while outside the stony desert that had scorched us during the day became, under crystal clear skies, very much colder.  And yes, crystal clear skies every night, with no light pollution at all, and the Milky Way blazing out magnificently above.  We were both naturalists (and photographers too, as it happens) and so we both had binoculars, and we bought a little book on astronomy with binoculars: the things visible through the bins in these crystal clear heavens were impressive – and such interests gave us welcome diversion.

A story from our first journey into the mountains sticks in my mind.  Don and I were both well qualified for our task (the product of British universities, don’t ya know!!!), and so we had all the gear and everything was planned – except that, on our first expedition, we forgot to pack any matches.  So, there we were in the back of beyond, with the prospect of either existing on uncooked food, or of doing something about it.  We were carrying lots of spare petrol, some of which powered the Optimus stoves that we used for cooking.  So, on the first night, we sparked the Land Rover’s battery onto the Optimus, there was a flash as the petrol went up – and we had hot food and drink.

But it was clear that repeatedly treating the battery in this way might not be wise for various reasons, so we had to think again.  The next day, we met another vehicle and paid them quite a steep price for all the matches they were carrying.  Fine, and we thought no more of the encounter.  But several days later we met the same vehicle again – and were astounded to find that, on reaching the coast, the occupants had spent all of our money on yet more matches, and had brought them back inland in the hope of meeting us again to pass them on.

The point here is that, in deserts like this, getting into trouble, maybe even from some small mechanical failure on the vehicle, can result in getting into a very deep trouble indeed, and so everyone looks out for everyone else.  Wherever we stumbled upon (usually tiny) habitations we were always invited in for coffee and dates and, in these mountains, we never experienced any problems with theft or security.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it yet further.

Technique: Don had a (now) classic Olympus OM-1 camera and several lenses, and I used a Practica SLR; we shot colour slides – maybe Agfa CT18 I think.  Here one of us must have set the camera up in the back of the vehicle, and then reached over to press the delayed action.  Such simple things provided welcome diversion and relaxation.

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ARCHIVE 329 – LOOKING DOWN INTO A GR1v (MONO)

 

 


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Going home on the bus after work:  12 May 2010.

This was taken with a classic film camera, a Ricoh GR1v.  I cradled this fantastic little machine in my lap, looking down into its 28mm lens and hoping that it would automatically find focus on my face – so how many other people do you know who take photos of themselves on public transport?  Without being arrested???  Oh, I forgot, this is The Age Of The Camera Phone – maybe people are doing this all the time.

My intent (and grumpy???) expression derives from concentrating very hard on trying to ensure that the auto focus was locking on.

This Ricoh is a beautiful little camera  but, sadly, its no longer in my possession – there is a picture of it on the “My photography” page in this blog.  Staff in a well known camera shop started salivating over it as soon as I showed it to them, and it became part of a large part-exchange deal that enabled me to own the latest piece of Nikon DSLR wizardry.

I hadn’t actually owned this Ricoh for a long time but it was beautifully made and a joy to use.  I was sad to part with it but, since I’m never going to shoot a frame of film again, why keep it?  I have however held onto the Olympus OM SLRs and (the few) lenses I used in Kenya as these really are of great sentimental value.  The camera bodies are mouldy now after years in the tropics but that in no way reduces their meaning and value in my eyes.  And, every so often, when I need a camera fix, I wind on the OM-1 and fire it, just to hear the wonderfully soft click of its shutter – what a great camera! (its also illustrated in “My photography”).

If you have a thing for pain or the bizarre, you can click onto this image to see an enlarged version in a separate window.

Technique: Ricoh GR1v with Ilford HP5+ black and white film push processed to 3200 ISO; commercially scanned; conversion to mono and copper toning in Silver Efex Pro 2, using the Film Noir 1 preset as a jumping off point. 

UPDATE: And so, having posted many pictures of other people going to work (for which, search on “work” in my tags), here is one of myself in said scenario >>> although actually I was on the bus going home from work, and so sh***ed out as we Brits have a way of quaintly putting it >>> although still with the energy and sheer eccentricity to take a selfie – I must have been mad … thank goodness …

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ARCHIVE 317 – SELF-PORTRAIT WITH BLUE LORRY (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 


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Self-portrait with blue lorry, near Peacock Farm, Westhay Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 24 Jul 2012.

I’m sitting very upright in the driving seat of my car, using a wideangle zoom to record both the scene in the rear view mirror, and the road ahead as seen through the windscreen.  Back home, I’ve converted the shot to mono using Capture NX2, but retained original colour – and added some brightness too – for the scene in the mirror.

The rows of small dots above the mirror are a device to help prevent dazzle when looking up at the mirror.

Click onto the image to open a (slightly) larger version in a separate window.

Technique: D700 with 16-35 Nikkor lens at 24mm; 800 ISO; manipulated with Capture NX2.

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TALKING IMAGES 33 – HAPPINESS

 

 


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Here’s something I’d like to share with you before I have to rush out to lunch. I saw it on the TV news this morning.

A study was made of a group of people, who were each given a sum of money – not a vast amount of money, say £30 UK – and who were told to spend it in a way that would make them happy.

And when the people were questioned about their happiness levels afterwards, those that professed to be happiest were those who had used the money to buy themselves more free time, eg by hiring people to do jobs/chores for them, and NOT those who had spent the money on acquiring (yet more!) material possessions.

I find this fascinating and also very instructive.  I expect we knew this already, after all didn’t the Beatles sing “money can’t buy me love!”?  And of course those of us who live in “developed” countries often have what are termed “busy modern lifestyles” – which means that although we may be comfortable/well off in terms of money, we suffer from time poverty.  There are usually too many things to do in the day, there is usually not enough time to do them in, and we get stressed trying to balance everything out.

I’m a great searcher for the simple life, and being retired helps this quest no end.  There are those who, when they retire, just keep going because they can’t bear to slow down.  Well, that’s fine, each to their own, we are all most certainly different.  But I value the extra leisure time, I like slowing down and – to be quite honest with you – I don’t pay others to perform chores for me, I can’t afford to, but I have simply become extremely selective about which chores I think actually necessary,  as opposed to those which can wait until tomorrow, the day that never comes.

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ARCHIVE 303 – MAN IN A HOTEL ROOM (MONO)

 

 


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Selfie in a hotel room, during my recent few days in the Midlands; 28 Apr 2014.

Someone with a camera, a mirror, and time on his hands.  As I relaxed in my hotel room, there was this large mirror out in front of me, and light pouring in from a narrow window to my right.  I asked myself, “Who’s that old man?”.  And I liked the lighting, the table lamp and the absence of anything else.  And so, the camera, the lamp and me.

The original image does not contain a lot of detail anyway, but I’ve reduced that further by taking it into mono, and using the SEP2 preset named below, which has a strong pale vignette.  The faint, dark structure forming a right angle is part of the mirror’s large frame.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: D700 with 24-120 Nikkor lens at 120mm; 6400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Antique Plate II preset, and adding a tone.

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ARCHIVE 286 – SELF-PORTRAIT WITH ROAD CHIPPINGS AND DEAD LEAVES

 

 


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Self-portrait with road chippings and dead leaves, along Swanshard Lane, north of Polsham, on the Somerset Levels; 24 Jul 2012.

Along Swanshard Lane, approaching Fenny Castle House, there is a large layby regularly used by the local council’s road maintenance department for the storage of bulk quantities of chippings and other road materials.  As I passed by yesterday the sun was slanting over the great mounds of debris, interesting shadows and textures were all around and the whole affair looked good for something wideangle.

Here my shadow falls on a mound of chippings rising up in front of me, some minor heaps produce an interesting line of shadows which my shadow intersects, and there are some richly coloured dead leaves around too.  The slopes of the mound were not vertical, but they appear so in the photo – to me they appear to be rising up almost vertically in front of me and I like this effect.

This is a prime candidate for conversion to mono, but I think the bright colours of the dead leaves add something living and organic.  I tried converting the shot to mono and then restoring the leaves’ colour, but the image looks better in straight colour.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: D700 with 16-35 Nikkor lens at 16mm; 320 ISO; manipulated with Capture NX2.

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PEOPLE 248 – SELFIE AFTER AN UNEXPECTED LUNCH (MONO)

 

 

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Relaxing in a warm armchair after a good and unexpected lunch in a local pub, which lifted the spirits – and lengthened the waistlines – on a frosty and dispiriting day; 3 Jan 2017.

Some of Life’s good happenings, at least, can be the result of spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment decisions.

Canon G11 PowerShot at 41mm (equiv); handheld, using this (long discontinued) camera’s wonderful, fully articulated screen; 3200 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Full Dynamic Smooth preset and adding a tone.
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ARCHIVE 259 – THE G11 AND ME (MONO)

 

 

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The G11 and me, reflected in a shop window in Park Row, Bristol; 6 Apr 2013.

I’ve spoken quite a bit about the excellence of the G11 PowerShot and my opinion has never for a second wavered.  Two things make it so good.

First, it is small, rugged, handy and does the job. 

And two, it has a most outstandingly useful, fully articulated (ie vari-angle) LCD screen – I just can’t believe the usefulness of this screen, I’m deeply in love with it and I wonder how the hell I managed without it! 

We photographers are no strangers to seeing camera companies getting it wrong, and the omission of this screen from ensuing models is simply crazy – it simply defies belief. 

However, if you come across a G11 for sale (they’ll all be “pre-owned” by now) >>> do give it serious thought, and especially so if you’re at all into taking photos at inconvenient angles, or you like abstracts >>> or even if looking at yourself and taking self-portraits via the screen is your thing.  I can’t recommend this camera too highly.

Canon G11 PowerShot at 30.5mm (140mm equiv); 400 ISO; converted to mono and toned with Silver Efex Pro 2, starting from the Warm Tone Paper preset.

UPDATE: I don’t use the G11 so much these days – but I usually take it along on visits to pubs – there’s no getting away from the fact that, even though it is now so “out of date” in terms of digital camera technology,  it remains a compact and handy camera.  And, well, if it does the job, it does the job.  Why “upgrade” to a more highly specified camera, when I already have something that does the job???

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ARCHIVE 254 – SELFIE ON A BRIDGE

 

 

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Selfie on a footbridge, Lynmouth, Devon; 24 Sept 2009.

The striking shadow and backdrop were too good to miss, and I angled the camera so that, instead of being horizontal, the footbridge’s shadow cuts a powerful, stark diagonal right across the photo, more or less from top left to bottom right. The background, a dry overspill channel, is quite rugged and textured, and also variously green – this shot also works in black and white.

Click onto the image to open a (slightly) larger version in a separate window.

F6 with 24-120 Nikkor lens; Fuji Provia 400X colour slide rated at 800 ISO.

UPDATE: its almost unreal to see that this photo was originally taken as a colour slide/transparency – taken on 35mm FILM!!!   And I was having the film push processed, which means that although the film was rated at 400 ISO, I asked the company who were going to develop it to treat it as if it had a speed of 800 ISO.  The firm were (and still are, I think) based in Cheltenham in the UK, and sending the exposed film to them – and receiving back the developed colour slides in a neat plastic box – all took place via the UK postal system. 

Provia 400X was a wonderful film, excellent colours, fine grain, and I had no hesitation in having it push processed up to 3200 ISO or even higher on occasion.  Had digital photography not come onto the scene, I would certainly still be using 400X (or its descendants) now.

And film?  Well its only 7 years since this photo was taken, but all that seems such a long time ago.  Would I ever go back to using film?  Definitely not, absolutely certainly not.  The creative advantages provided by digital photography simply cannot be ignored.

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