In An Instant: Lockdown Edition: Welcome To….

Welcome to….

….the local hand car wash, as it happens.

When these guys started up about six or seven years ago, they started sending out flyers proclaiming to be ‘The Best Hand Job In Town’. They soon stopped that once they realised they were attracting the wrong kind of customers.

The Best Hand Job In Town / Chertsey Car Wash / Polaroid SX-70 Sonar / Polaroid Originals SX-70 Color Film

Chertsey Car Wash

I took this photo on my exercise stroll this morning. The car wash is just by my apartment, and in the old days at weekends when I’d wake up a bit later and the traffic was light, I could hear the gentle sloshing of the water from their hoses. It’s a surprisingly comforting sound. Of course, now it’s silent, abandoned, and its absence just adds to that dislocating sense of 28 Days Later desolation. The streets are empty, with just an occasional car, and if you do pass a pedestrian coming the other way, both of you give each other a wide berth. This is the new normal. I can’t help wondering if future generations will wonder how it become traditional to sing Happy Birthday whilst washing your hands.

See all of my Polaroid SX-70 photography here

In An Instant: Lockdown Edition: Mysterious Watson

Watson doesn’t seem to be letting the Coronapocalypse cut into his preening time….

Watson The Cat / Polaroid SX-70 Sonar / Polaroid Originals SX-70 Color Film

The year is 1974. The world’s tallest building is on fire, and a bunch of ageing character actors and Hollywood royalty are trapped on the top floor. That nice young man who played Dr Kildaire turns out to be a bit of a dick. Fred Astaire falls in love with a woman with a pussy. Paul Newman plays the devilishly handsome architect and Steve McQueen plays the devilishly handsome fire chief. O.J. Simpson plays O.J. Simpson.

Time is running out and there’s just one last shot: blow the tanks on the roof and let the million tonnes of water they contain douse the fire. People are frantically trying to find some way to secure themselves against the deluge. Everything goes quiet whilst the clock ticks down. People anxiously wait. Close-ups of sweaty, nervous faces. Who will be swept away and who will survive?

Three….

Two…

One….

Boom!

Spoiler: the cat lives.

Yes, I know that’s the plot of The Towering Inferno {trailer}.

No, I know it’s not exactly a contemporary reference.

But that’s just kind of how it feels.

Covid-19 deaths in the UK are around 450 as I write. Current modelling shows that we’re two weeks behind but on exactly the same trajectory as the disaster that’s happening in Italy.

The whole of the UK is on lockdown. Whilst it’s not as extensive as some other Europen countries (unfortunately), Government orders are to stay home apart from essential shopping, exercising alone, and going to work for key workers. This will be reviewed in three weeks, but I think anyone who’s been paying attention knows that it’ll be months rather than weeks before we escape house arrest.

I’ve already been working from home for the last two weeks. I’m trying to get into a daily routine of work and exercise. I live alone, and even as an introvert, I suspect that months on end with no face to face social interaction will send me totally tonto. Jane, her girls, and the dogs are hunkered down in their place 30 miles away. I don’t know when I’ll see them again.

On the plus side, there’s no one around to see me turning in to Tom Hanks from Castaway. Every cloud….

Self-Isolating At Brookwood Cemetery With Film Ferrania P30

I’ve been expecting the zombie apocalypse ever since I first saw Dawn Of The Dead on a hookey VHS tape around 1980. I went on to watch all of Geroge Romero’s zombie documentaries, as well as training videos such as 28 Days Later and World War Z. I’m not entirely convinced that Life After Beth was based on fact though.

What I’m saying is that if anyone is prepared, it’s me. I know all the rules. Shoot them in the head; always look in the back seat of the car; you’re at your most vulnerable in the bathroom etc etc. So it turns out to be more than a little annoying that come the apocalypse, there’s no actual zombies. The Coronapocalypse just sounds like something you wake up with after a heavy night on the beer. I assumed at this stage I’d be failing to light a fire with twigs, and trying to remember how you harvest fresh water with a plastic bag. The reality is more mundane. Like many others, I’m scraping around for dried pasta and toilet paper, and wondering if I’ll be able to pay my mortgage in the coming months.

One thing I am prepared for is social distancing. As an introvert, this is something I’ve been practising all my life. And although going to a place where there are thousands of people who aren’t in the best of health might seem like the opposite of government advice, it’s probably OK if it’s a cemetery.

I’ve been keen to try out the latest version of Film Ferrania P30 for a while. I thought I’d read that the contrast is a little more tamed than the alpha version. Well, I’m not seeing it, guys. Turn away now if you’re sensitive to scenes of a highly contrasting nature.

When I first held the negatives up to the light, my heart sank. They were incredibly thin. I assumed I’d screwed up the developing. But then I noticed that actually some of them were fine, which seemed strange. So I asked Google, and Google answered by telling me I’m a twit. I’d used an orange filter to darken the skies in some shots, and because of P30’s lack of sensitivity to red light, you need to compensate by the relative filter factor. I’d underexposed them. But given everything that’s happening, I think this is what people often describe as a first world problem.

Stay safe everyone.

Nikon F100 / Film Ferrania P30 / Developed in Kodak HC-100 1+63 for 12 minutes

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Film Ferrania P30

Azerbaijan Roll Out Part One: Fast Train To Ganja

By the end of 1993 I was 27, flat broke, jobless, and had no idea what to do next. I’d spent the year in Zurich, mainly because of a girl – most things back then were due to girls – but I came back to London sadder, wiser, and possibly harder-hearted than before I’d left.

I don’t really recall what led me to apply for a job at the airport. But I was living just a few miles from Heathrow, so it made good sense. I remember having this clunky old manual typewriter,* and I started to crank out application letters to all the airlines.

*A manual typewriter was bit like a computer, except you couldn’t access the Internet, install apps, swipe right, or delete anything you’d written.

After many rejections, I was eventually asked in for an interview, and on January 17th 1994 I turned up in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 for my first day.

Over the next six or seven years I had numerous operational jobs including Check-in Agent, Pushback Driver, Load Controller, Aircraft Dispatcher and Traffic Coordinator. But in 2000 things took another significant turn and I got a job in the DCS department.

Departure Control Systems are the IT applications that airlines use for check-in and aircraft weight and balance, and feed all the other airport and airline systems. It was a good move for me.

In 2005 I moved away from the airline to one of the key suppliers of these systems. These days, when an airline wants to move from their old (inferior) system to our new (vastly improved) system, I’m the guy who project manages the implementation.

A typical project takes anywhere from nine months to three or four years. I’ve been working on this one for 12 months so far, and now it’s time to go live.

We normally go live with a very small airport initially. That way we can catch all the problems and keep any impact to a minimum. The wonderfully named Ganja in the west of Azerbaijan seemed like a good choice for the pilot airport.

I left London with my colleague Monika late at night, and arrived in Azerbaijan’s capital city Baku early the next morning. There’s not even a daily flight to Ganja, so we ending up tearing through Baku in a perilously traumatic cab ride to the station. From there it was four hours on the train to Ganja.

The days of taking film on work trips are over for me. I don’t want to subject it to multiple x-ray scans, and you can’t rely on everywhere allowing a hand search. These were all JPEGS shot on my Fujifilm X100F using its fantastic built-in Acros film simulation. No post-processing required!

All photos Fujifilm X100F

Baku Train Station

I could have taken loads of pictures as we sped across the country, but they all would have looked like these next three photos. There’s not a lot out there, but I do get a closer view of those mountains on the way back.

Ganja Azerbaijan

Ganja Azerbaijan

Ganja Azerbaijan

I don’t blame Monika for flaking out. We’d been awake for over 24 hours at this point.

Ganja Azerbaijan

And we arrive in Ganja. The official language of Azerbaijan is – unsurprisingly – Azerbaijani, a form of Turkish. But as a former Soviet state many of the older guys speak Russian. Which means I can say hello, goodbye, thank you and yes. Not entirely useful when getting a cab. Everyone does seem to understand the word vodka though.

Ganja Azerbaijan

Ganja Azerbaijan

The view from my hotel room

Ganja Azerbaijan

Ganja Azerbaijan

Ganja Azerbaijan

I’m not convinced they have a word for diet in Azerbaijan. Or vegetarian. The food blends regional influences from Iran, Turkey and the Mediterranean. Dishes tend to be meat-based, especially lamb and chicken. This is all washed down with lashings of vodka, which these guys can put away as if it’s water. I don’t have the same superpower, which I found out the hard way on my previous trip. The second half of the evening was a blank and I woke up next morning on the floor of my hotel room. Top Tip: Don’t go out drinking with an Azerbaijani. It won’t turn out well. And even if you do have a good time, you won’t remember it.

Ganja Azerbaijan

Ganja Azerbaijan

Ganja Azerbaijan

And here we are; Ganja International Airport, with the first flight on the new system being to Moscow’s Vnukovo airport.

We just had just 30 minutes to take a look round the city, so I can’t tell you much about it. But like Baku, it has a very laid back atmosphere.

Ganja Azerbaijan

And flying back to Baku, over those wonderful snow-capped mountains. Now it’s time for things to get serious…

Ganja Azerbaijan

The Exmoor Ponies of Hindhead Common

Gibbet Hill stands smack in the middle between Portsmouth and London. It’s the second-highest hill in the county of Surrey, and the last thing you need if you’re building a road between these two important cities. But a road was needed, and the first one went right over the top. Not great for horse-drawn carriages, and a bit of a notorious ambush point for highwayman and brigands. So in 1826 a new road was built, and this one swept around the hill and along the rim of The Devil’s Punchbowl, a large natural amphitheatre and beauty spot.

I first heard the name Devil’s Punchbowl years ago, through listening to traffic reports on the radio. As the only single-lane section of the A3, it was an infamous blackspot and the blight of commuters. Something had to be done, and in 2011 the Hindhead Tunnel was opened. This 1.14 mile engineering masterpiece bored straight through the hill. Great news for commuters. But even better news for conservationists, as it allowed the old road above to be reclaimed by nature.

The old A3 ran right through Devil’s Punchbowl and Hindhead Common, splitting them apart. Now however, no such barrier exists. Grazing of the heathland by commoners ceased around the mid-1900s, and this allowed the spread of birch and bracken over the heather. But this invasion is now being reversed by a programme of active reclamation. Exmoor ponies graze the common, helping to restore and maintain these areas, and if you’re lucky you might just spot them. I’ve been lucky. And although they’re wild, they’re also friendly and rather curious. Of course, it helps if you have a couple of carrots to hand.

Exmoor Ponies Hindhead Common / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X / Semi-stand developed in Rodinal 1+99 for 60 mins

Exmoor Ponies Hindhead Common

Exmoor Ponies Hindhead Common

Exmoor Ponies Hindhead Common

Exmoor Ponies Hindhead Common

Exmoor Ponies Hindhead Common

Note: Output on Short Stories is hardly prolific at the best of times. This website is where I keep the photos of things that I’m up to and things I like to document. But sometimes I’m just not up to much. Or if I am, they might not be the sort of things I should be photographing and sharing. But it’s going to be even quieter round here for the next month or so. As my latest work project reaches its peak, I’ll be embarking on a longer than usual period of travelling. But I will be taking a camera. And I may even get the chance to use it.

Click here for my tutorial on stand development with Rodinal