Forgotten Film

A very long time ago, I bought a Lubitel 166B. I wanted to experiment with both TLRs and medium-format photography, and I already had a (small) collection of Soviet and Eastern Bloc cameras. It’s not got the style or sophistication of a Rolleiflex, but it’s still a beautiful object and is a joy to use.

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The first time I ever shot on this camera was the first time I went to Cambridgeshire to see Katie’s parents. I was mostly just playing around for fun, but here and there I tried to do some ‘serious’ photography. I had the film lying around for a while, because uni and work had caught up with me and I had never managed to get it into the darkroom, but recently I re-discovered it and sent it to a lab to be developed and scanned.

Peterhouse College, 02
Peterhouse College, #02

Whether the light-leaks are due to the camera or the fact that the film had been lying around for so long, I don’t know, but most of the images have at least one splotch of white on them, and some even more than that. This one, of the ceiling in the entrance-way to Peterhouse College, Cambridge, is missing a lot of detail, but that doesn’t stop the pattern from being striking, and I think gives the image character.

Some others have come out a little bit better. This is Peterhouse again, this time from the outside. The image has some fading but I think this works in its favour. The beautiful contrast between the intricate pattern on the roof and the texture of the columns, accentuated by the grain of Ilford FP4+, gives the image an almost painterly quality.

Peterhouse College, 01
Peterhouse College, #01

The same goes for this image of a church door in Huntingdon. You can see the beautiful grain on the door, contrasted with the decoration and the stonework above. These images have been edited in Lightroom, of course, but not much.

Church Door
Church Door Study

I’m quite pleased with these images, although I probably shouldn’t leave it a year before getting them developed next time. If I had the time and money I think I’d work more with film. I enjoy the feeling of working with a mechanical camera, especially something like the Lubitel, and I do love the quality and character that you get from film that you really can’t achieve with digital. However, like many, I am limited by material reality, so for now, I’ll have to say goodbye to my archaic Soviet TLR.

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The Importance of Presentation

A while ago I received a copy of Forms of Japan, a collection of photographs from Japan by British photographer Michael Kenna. Kenna is one of my favourite photographers, not least because of his meditative approach to photography, and this is very apparent when looking through the pages of this book. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the contents of the book, but I do want to talk about its presentation.

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Upon opening the cover, itself holding a misty forest scene which does a perfect job of setting the mood for the rest of this book, you am greeted by the first chapter, aptly named First. In this chapter, Yvonne Meyer-Lohr, who collaborated with Kenna to produce Forms of Japan, talks about the influence of Japanese Zen on Kenna and his photography. From here on, the book is split into five main other chapters, each dealing with a specific subject studied in Kenna’s photographs.

  • Sea – Forms of Isolation
  • Land – Forms of Strength
  • Trees – Forms of Transformation
  • Sprit – Forms of Entireness
  • Sky – Forms of Elusiveness

These chapters lead you through the book, tackling each of Kenna’s forms in its entirety before moving on to the next. Each chapter begins with a beautiful header, and a preface written by Meyer-Lohr, before showing a series of beautiful photographs which capture, as Kenna always does, a beauty that transcends that of the landscape itself.

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The images are uninterrupted, save for haiku which perfectly reflect the images they accompany. These haiku, coupled with the calming, meditative nature of Kenna’s images themselves, give the entire book a contemplative atmosphere, and make browsing the pages an absolute joy. This book makes it obvious that the haiku is the perfect written form to compliment Kenna’s photography.

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The sizing of images varies throughout the book, but fits every image individually. Some images take up full pages, sometimes more, and create an impact as soon as a page is turned, rushing up to strike you in the face, leaving you staring at the photograph slightly dazed. Others take up a quarter of a page, leaving plenty of negative space on the paper, and forcing you to interrogate the page to really understand the images. Often a row of images are presented on a spread, fitting a particular form, like these piers, the horizon in each image at the same height to give a sense of continuity.

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I could talk for hours about this book, but it would be far better for you to read it yourself, because no matter how many words I type, I could not do it justice. The design and layout of this book – from the organisation of the chapters, down to the fonts chosen for section headers – go hand in hand with Kenna’s photographic study of Japan – a country rich in history, culture, and beauty.

Printing Images

I mainly shoot on a Canon 100D, so sadly I don’t get the chance to print my images myself in a darkroom. For me though, the print is still the final form of most of my images. I print my digital shots through Loxley Colour, and so far I am incredibly happy with their services. Being the poor student that I am, I don’t get the chance to send off for prints very often, so I only have a handful of prints at the moment. Yesterday, four prints from my series University of York in Fog came, along with a print of the church in Heslington that I shot last week.

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These are all printed on Hahnemühle Torchon paper, which (although you can barely see it in the images) has a beautifully rough texture. I find that the small format of the fog images, printed at 5×5″, really draws you into the frame. This is why, to me, the print is the final form of an image. When you have a digital file on a computer, it’s flat, and really you have little control over the size it is viewed at. When you print an image you make it concrete – you give a final verdict on how the image will look. The size and texture of the paper need to be considered when printing just as shutter speed and aperture must be considered when shooting.

An Early Morning in Skipton

This morning I got up at 5:30am, which is an impressive feat in itself, to take a look around Skipton before the sun rose. This normally lively market town is vastly different at 6:30am.

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Coach at Skipton Bus Station

Wandering through the bus station I came to this coach to London, waiting all by itself. With the harsh light of the streetlamps and the 30-second exposure that this picture was taken at, the ground has an ethereal glow. After this shot I walked through the bus station and down the canal, where a group of swans took a great interest in me, presumably because they thought my camera bag had food in it – as much as I would have liked it to, it did not.

I came to Belmont Bridge, one of many bridges in Skipton crossing the Leeds-Liverpool canal. Graffiti covered the underside of the bridge, and the light reflecting off the canal danced across the concrete structure above me.

Under Belmont Bridge
Under Belmont Bridge

After the bridge, I wandered towards town, hoping to get a shot of the church as the sun rose. On the way there I got this shot of Canal Street, with the road stretching away into the night.

Canal Street at Night
Canal Street at Night

Unfortunately the sunrise was nothing special, and I didn’t really get any shots of the church that were worth keeping. Seeing as I’m back in York on Saturday, I probably won’t get another chance until Easter.

Water and Abstraction

In this post, one of the images I took was of a waterfall in my local woods captured on a long exposure. One thing that I really liked about this picture was the way in which the flow of the water over a 2-second exposure produced these slightly abstract lines and cloud-like shapes. Today I went into the woods to try to explore this idea a bit further.

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Rocks and Water #1

This image was captured at the base of a waterfall in the woods, over a 1.6-second exposure. The force of the water crashing down from above can be seen on the rock in the center of the frame, with the waterfall to the right forming a wall of water. The spray from the waterfall at the bottom has become cloud-like, blanketing everything below.

Rock and Water #2
Rocks and Water #2

This is my favourite of the two images, taken on a 6-second exposure. The way the rock in the foreground is in sharp focus, while the water around it is blurred, really makes it stand out. I used a polarizing filter to make the water appear almost black, which I think makes it look almost like a painting.

I find both of these images interesting, although I prefer the second, and I want to pursue this concept of abstraction through long-exposure further. I would be interested to know what you think!

Ribblehead Viaduct

Today I wanted to catch the Ribblehead Viaduct at sunset. The weather was looking good as I set off into the Dales, but by the time I reached the small pub by the side of the valley the sky was covered in dense cloud. I waited in the cold for an hour in the hope that it would clear, but it didn’t. Not wanting to waste an hour-long drive, I decided to try and use the overcast weather to my advantage.

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Ribblehead Viaduct

The viaduct towering over me made a powerful line cutting straight through the centre of the image, forming a dramatic contrast in the clouds above. A bit of work in Lightroom (with a diagonally-placed gradual filter and some dehaze) brought out the shape in the clouds.

Overall, while this isn’t the best shot, and certainly not what I was hoping for from today, I think I managed to somewhat salvage a two-hour round trip. What do you think?

Sunset on Chapel Hill

Sometimes revision and exam stress can get too much and you feel like you just need to get out and do literally anything else. I decided to take a break and revisit a walk I used to do a lot before I left for uni. The route takes you through Skipton Woods past the castle, up the back of Chapel Hill, and then back down into the town centre.

The first shot that I had in mind was a waterfall by the castle. This was mostly spontaneous, and I only spent about five minutes here, with a family whose child seemed very curious about the guy with a large tripod stood on the path.

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Waterfall in Winter

I used my new polarizer to reduce the reflection of the wet stone, and I think that this accentuates the contrast between the white streaks of water and the dark stone surface. Overall I am happy with this shot, and I feel that it takes a waterfall and turns it into a natural sculpture.

The second shot was a tree I found standing by itself on the top of Chapel Hill.

Tree on Chapel Hill
Tree on Chapel Hill

By the time I got onto the hill the sun was setting, and this shot of the lone tree against the glow of the sky was definitely inspired by some of the work of Michael Kenna. Of all of the pictures I took on the walk, this is my favourite.

Walking past the tree revealed a breathtaking landscape silhouetted against the setting sun.

Sunset from Chapel Hill 1
Sunset from Chapel Hill 1
Sunset from Chapel Hill 2
Sunset from Chapel Hill 2

I definitely prefer the second of these two shots, with the gradient between orange and blue in the sky and the soft, fluffy clouds. Overall these are four pictures I am very happy with, and skipping revision to go for a walk was definitely worth it, even if it maybe wasn’t the best idea!

If you have any thoughts on any of these do feel free to leave feedback – I would love to know what you think!

-Jay

Tree at Hooton Levitt (Colour)

On a whim I decided to try processing Tree at Hooton Levitt (see this post) for colour, bringing out the golden glow of the setting sun reflecting off the sky, and making the silhouette of the tree in the foreground stand out. While I still like the black and white original, I’d be interested to see what other people think to this version, and whether anyone has a preference either way!

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Tree at Hooton Levitt (Colour)

 

Boxing Day – Trees and Pylons

I hope everyone enjoyed Christmas – I know I certainly did! I haven’t touched a Computer Science textbook in three days and I am feeling infinitely more relaxed for it. Today I want to share some pictures I’ve taken by the village of Hooton Levitt, which is near where I’ve been staying over Christmas.

The first of these was more opportunistic than anything. Walking across the fields I came to a lone tree right in the middle of a field, silhouetted against the beautiful glow of the setting sun.

Tree at Hooton Levitt.jpg
Tree at Hooton Levitt

The beautiful, bare branches really make this composition, and the glow of the sun in the sky only adds to the drama introduced by the contrast between sky and ground. Originally I had intended to take three exposures and combine it into a HDR image, but I feel it works far better with the tree silhouetted against the setting sun.

The second image is one I had been thinking about since a walk I took along the same route on Christmas Day. There were several electricity pylons standing tall against a flat landscape, and I thought that a shot taken from the base of one of these pylons could create a powerful image. Below are the notes I made that night.

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However today I decided to take a different approach. I came across three pylons forming a line stretching into the distance, only reinforced by the cables draped between them.

Pylons at Hooton Levitt.jpg
Pylons at Hooton Levitt

I feel that this gives the image a sense of continuity, with these three figures standing tall over the flat fields. You can just about see a fourth pylon in the distance, mostly hidden under the horizon, and while I would have preferred a shot containing only three, I think I would have struggled to remove this fourth pylon in Lightroom or Photoshop without making it obvious.

Overall, I prefer the tree to the three pylons, because of the impact the large, solitary tree has placed in the center of the frame. As always, I would love to hear what you think of these two images, and I hope you have enjoyed reading about my creative process. Thanks for reading!

-Jay