Bertie News | Episode 02: Eleven Weeks Old

Q: Are there advantages when your girlfriend goes on holiday without you?
A: Duh Yeah! You get to look after the puppy for a whole week

And much of that week was spent chasing him round the garden with a Polaroid, trying to get him to stay still.

Bertie the working cocker spaniel puppy at 11 weeks old / Polaroid SX-70 Sonar / Polaroid Originals Color SX-70 Film

Working Cocker Spaniel Puppy Polaroid

The Impossible Project – now called Polaroid Originals – has had remarkable success since its inception in 2008. When Polaroid announced they would stop making film, the IP founders had a Victor Kiam-esque moment and bought the company. Well, some of the machinery at least.

And as much as I’ve admired them over the years, I’ve avoided resurrecting my own Polaroid SX-70. The early formulations of the film were quite flakey, and the price continues to be expensive; roundabout £17 ($21) for 8 shots. (NB I can’t quite believe 17 quid currently only buys 21 bucks).

Nevertheless, recently lamenting the loss of my Polaroid Land Camera has made me reconsider. The latest iteration of the film seems stable, and all things considered I can afford the odd pack here and there.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say when I’ve shot all eight frames. That could be a little while yet though because, at over two quid a pop, I’m a little bit selective about when I press that shutter button.


Check out all episodes of Bertie News here

Delta 100 & The Team Meeting In The Park

Experimenting with different films, chemicals, and developing techniques is great fun. And over the years I’ve probably tried most things. But I’ve come to appreciate consistency and the ability to predict the results I’ll get. These days I’ve whittled down the films I use to just a handful. The flip side of this is that I can’t always remember why I might have rejected one film in favour of another. So I thought it was time I let Ilford Delta 100 have another crack at the whip.

As the so-called Saharan Bubble heat wave drifted across Europe this week, France recorded it highest ever temperature of 45.8℃. In England we generally prefer to be a little more understated, but the temperature did top out at 34℃ on Saturday. And as things heated up on Friday, we took our team meeting out of the office and into the park.

It’s not particularly sensible to make any judgement based on one roll of film shot under one set of conditions. That’s not going to stop me though. These photos clearly have a different look than the photos I shot last week of Brompton Cemetery on Kodak Tmax 100. Both films are incredibly fine-grained, but Delta 100 doesn’t have the biting sharpness and contrast of Tmax 100. Delta has a more traditional look, by which I think I mean more old-fashioned. But I like it, and I’ll be keeping a few rolls in the fridge from now on.

There are changes happening in my country and others at the moment. Attitudes that I thought were history are now resurfacing. I work for a company that has offices in over 190 different countries. Looking at these photos of my colleagues and friends, I’m very happy that I’m surrounded by people who speak Italian, French, Tamil, Spanish, Punjabi, and Portuguese, amongst others. There are 500 people in my office, representing 36 different nationalities. I feel very proud that all of these intelligent and highly educated people have chosen to come and work in London.

Nikon F100 / Ilford Delta 100 / Developed in D76 1+1

Ilford Delta 100

Ilford Delta 100

Ilford Delta 100

Ilford Delta 100

Ilford Delta 100

Ilford Delta 100

Ilford Delta 100

Ilford Delta 100

Put It To The People March

On Saturday, supporters of The People’s Vote joined the Put It To The People March in Central London. Over one million people (and their dogs) joined what was arguably the largest demonstration in British history. The vast majority were not the usual political activists. Many of them had never been on a march before. They were just good-natured everyday people, concerned about the future of our country as it faces the biggest crisis any of us has known.

There’s a lot of things you can fake in 2019. Photographs, obviously. We hear a lot about fake news. Some people claim you can fake an online petition. But what you can’t fake is a crowd of one million people.

All photos Nikon F90X with Nikkor 35mm f/2 AF-D lens / Kodak Tri-X / Developed in D76 1+1

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

put it to the people march

Brookwood Military Cemetery & The Omen

When the Jews return to Zion
And a comet rips the sky
And the Holy Roman Empire rises,
Then you and I must die.
From the eternal sea he rises,
Creating armies on either shore,
Turning man against his brother
‘Til man exists no more.

Question: What do 1960s anthropomorphic pop group The Banana Splits and the Antichrist have in common?

Answer: They were both directed by filmmaker Richard Donner.

All photos shot with Mamiya 645 Pro TL on Ilford FP4. Developed in Rodinal 1+99 for 60 minutes

Donner would go on to have great success with action blockbusters such as Superman (1978) and Lethal Weapon (1987). However, back in the early 70s he was known as a safe pair of hands with a solid body of TV work under his belt. He started his career in the late 1950s, gaining a reputation as a reliable TV director. Get Smart and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. were a couple of the shows he worked on. Possibly most memorable, at least to those of us that grew up watching (reruns of) The Twilight Zone, was Nightmare At 20,000 Feet (watch). William Shatner, flying home after recovering from a mental breakdown, is the only person on the flight who can see a terrifying creature on the wing. Fearing the monster will bring the plane down, and realising everyone else thinks he’s crazy, he starts to wonder if he’s having a relapse. Air travel definitely hasn’t got any less stressful in the intervening years.

Although Donner directed a few features in his early career, it was the release of The Omen in 1976 that, in his own words, changed his life. David Seltzer was approached to write the screenplay in 1973. The Exorcist had been a huge commercial hit that year, and other studios were looking for their own supernatural horror to be The Next Big Thing. But although The Omen purported to be based on biblical prophecy, you’ll struggle to find verses like the one at the top of the page in the Bible. Seltzer made them all up.

American diplomat Robert Thorn is in Rome where his wife Katherine gives birth to a boy. Tragically, unknown to Katherine, the boy dies shortly afterwards. The hospital chaplain comes up with a cunning plan for Thorn to secretly adopt an orphan whose mother died giving birth to him. Thorn’s up for it, but thinks it’s best not to mention it to his wife. They name the child – insert thunder roll and lightning strike here – Damien. Thorn is later appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and moves to London with Katherine and Damien. After a series of grisly events, Thorn comes to believe his son is the Antichrist. Something I’m sure most parents can sympathise with.

There were a number of notable actors up for the part of Robert Thorn. William Holden turned it down, saying he didn’t want to be in a film about the Devil. Ironically, he went on to play Thorn’s brother in the 1978 sequel. Charlton Heston didn’t want to spend the winter in Europe. Roy Schneider was in the frame at one point, as was Dick Van Dyke. Van Dyke didn’t accept, undoubtedly fearing reprisals due to his appalling cockney accent in Mary Poppins. However, I was pleased to note his apology in 2017. Presumably there’s now an amnesty and it’s safe for him to set foot in London once again. Charles Bronson was another contender, although that would have made it a very different movie. “Charles Bronson would have made it a joke”, reflected screenwriter David Seltzer in 2014. No, what was needed was someone serious. An actor with gravitas and dignity, someone that could make this admittedly far-fetched script believable.

Gregory Peck wasn’t initially that keen. He didn’t like the idea of a horror film. Besides, he was battling his own demons at that point. His eldest son, Jonathan, was found dead in his home earlier that year, in what authorities believed was a suicide. But his friends, and particularly his agent, were worried about him and keen to get him working again. Donner pitched it to him as more a kind of suspense picture than a horror. There are no explicitly supernatural events in the movie. Everything that happens could just as easily be the result of tragic coincidence and religious mania. Thorn, driven mad by the horrific deaths of people around him, is convinced by some religious nutters that his adopted son is the Antichrist. We’ve all been there.

Peck loved it, and filming began in England in October 1975.

brookwood military cemetery the omen

brookwood military cemetery the omen

brookwood military cemetery the omen

brookwood military cemetery the omen

There are some striking scenes in the movie. David Warner’s character getting a permanent cure for headaches, for one (watch). But like all the best movies, it’s the final scenes that’s are some of the most memorable.

In the penultimate scene, Thorn is confronted by armed police as he attempts to kill Damien on a church altar with a set of sacrificial knives. He raises the dagger, plagued with self-doubt, unclear if he’s looking at an innocent child or the Devil.

“Please Daddy, no”, pleads the boy.

“Stop, or I’ll fire”, yells the cop.

With final resolve, Thorn grits his teeth. He plunges the dagger down. A shot rings out. The bullet leaves the gun barrel in slow motion. Fade to black.

brookwood military cemetery the omen

brookwood military cemetery the omen

brookwood military cemetery the omen

The final scene was shot in Brookwood Military Cemetery, but the initial version is not what made it to the final cut.

The US president is presiding over a burial ceremony with three coffins. One each for Robert, Damien, and Katherine. When Alan Ladd Jnr, President of Twentieth Century Fox, saw the footage he asked if there was any to do it and keep the boy alive. No problem, said Donner. This required a pickup 1 shot that was filmed on the green at Shepperton Studios. In this final shot we see just two coffins. The camera pulls away from the backs of the President and his wife, revealing Damien standing between them. He turns to look directly to camera, before smiling and creating one of the creepiest moments in cinema history. Good call, Mr Ladd.

Watch the final scene with Donner’s commentary here.

brookwood military cemetery the omen

brookwood military cemetery the omen

Here is wisdom, let him that hath understanding, count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man and his number is 666.

– Revelation 13:18

1. A pick-up is a small, relatively minor shot filmed or recorded after the fact to augment footage already shot. When entire scenes are redone, it is referred to as a re-shoot. Both types of shots usually occur after continuity, logic, or quality issues are identified during the film editing process. In other words, such shots occur months after the sets have been struck, the costumes and props have been stored, and all the cast and most of the crew have moved on to other projects. If the issues had been identified during principal photography, the director would simply have asked for another take.

That Was The Month That Was: September 2018

Time for September’s round-up of photographic odds and ends…

It’s been an extraordinary summer, and I wasn’t surprised to hear that this has officially been England’s hottest since records began in 1910. That’s troubling for those of us that believe global warming is a reality. The human race is on the road to extinction, and the planet will soon become uninhabitable for all life. Except perhaps for a few mindless creatures, such as cockroaches and Nicotine Fromage. On the other hand, I’ve had some cracking weekends this year, so it’s swings and roundabouts really.

It’s probably been obvious from previous photos that there have been dogs in my life this summer. That’s made me very happy. And they love it when we take them to the pond. Even Daisy, who’s 15 and a bit unsteady on her legs, still enjoys a bit of a paddle.

Pentax KM / Kosmo Foto Mono / Semi-Stand developed in HC-100 1:160 for 45 mins

It’s not entirely accurate to say this is only the second roll of Kosmo Foto Mono that I’ve shot. It’s a re-badged rather than a new film, and as the website says, it’s an “existing emulsion made by a European film producer”. That might be all the clue you need to tell you where it comes from, but if you look at the development chart you’ll see that Arisata chemicals are predominately mentioned. And Arista film is also known to be repackaged from a well-known East European manufacturer….

Kosmo Foto Mono doesn’t quite have the biting sharpness and fine grain of something like Tmax 100, but that probably contributes to its somewhat vintage look. These shots were taken in the South Downs, where Coco The Cocker and Daisy The Springer live.

I’ve read that having dogs can have a positive effect on your health and well-being, and increase your longevity. I totally buy this and always feel incredibly happy and relaxed when I spend time with these guys. Apparently being married can have a similar effect, although that’s something I wouldn’t know. Nevertheless, it’s probably just a case of life just feeling like it’s going on longer. (I’m joking; I’m not quite that cynical. Yet.)

I live in Chertsey, right by the River Thames, which is great to cycle alongside. Upstream is Hampton Court and central London, but I usually head the other way, towards Windsor.

I finished up this roll as I walked back home one sunny afternoon. This was another opportunity for me to try out the Miranda 24mm Lens on the Pentax KM.

My Five Favourite Facts About Chertsey:

  • Chertsey was destroyed by Martian fighting machines in the afternoon of 8 June 1902. According to HG Wells’s novel War Of The Worlds, that is.
  • The One And Only 1990s teenage heartthrob Chesney Hawkes lives here. Please try to contain your indifference.
  • Chertsey has a spooky abandoned orphanage. I dodged the razor wire and surveillance cameras to make a surreptitious visit back in 2015.
  • Chertsey is home to The Great Cockcrow Railway. This is a miniature railway with over 30 steam – yes, steam – locomotives. These operate in exactly the same way as the full sized, pre-war steam engines they’re modelled on. The drivers stoke up the hot coals on these eighth-scale locos.
  • Charles Dickens visited Chertsey whilst writing Oliver Twist. He evidently thought so highly of the town that he used it as the location for where Oliver is forced by Bill Sykes to take part in an attempted burglary.

After my successful experiments stand developing 35mm film in HDC-110, I thought I’d try some medium format. FP4 is my go-to medium speed film in 120, and I usually stand develop it in Rodinal. HC-110 gives similarly pleasing results.

Mamiya 645 pro TL / Ilford FP4 / Semi-Stand developed in HC-100 1:160 for 45 mins

Finally, if there’s one thing that being on the internet for 25 years has taught me, you can never have enough cute dog pictures. Cheers, Coco.

Nikon F90X / Kodak Tmax 400 / Developed in D76 1+1