When it comes to walking, if I had to make a choice between an overcast summer’s day and a bright but chilly winter’s day, I’d chose light over warmth every time. As for the dogs, I don’t think they really care.
This was a five or six-mile walk that took us across Pound Common and other parts of the South Downs. I took my Nikon F100 with me. It’s pretty much become my standard 35mm camera these days. That’s partly because of the Nikkor 35mm AF-D lens I use. It’s super-sharp and contrasty and has a close focus under ten inches. And 35mm is a great all-round focal length. A little bit wider than standard to get a bit more stuff in, but not so wide that it makes shots of people look like they’re being sucked into the vortex.
I’m in search of the perfect 35mm 100 ISO film at the moment. Tmax 100 has been my go-to slow film for many years, but I thought I’d remind myself what some of the others can do. Ilford FP4 is certainly not as fine-grained as Tmax, but it’s no slouch either. I’ve also gone back to using HC-110 as a developer as there’s still half a bottle under the sink that I’ve had for ages. I’ve been mainly using it for the occasional stand developing of medium format film, but it’s a good all-rounder. It also seems to have an incredible shelf-life; I’ve had this bottle opened for at least six or seven years. I decanted it into glass wine bottle and I use a Vacu Vin to extract the air. The perfect gift for the film photographer and boozer in your life.
As all Sunday walks should, this one ended up in the pub. Unfortunately, I’m doing Dry January at the moment, and although this isn’t as bad as I thought it might be, I’m definitely looking forward to Off Your Face February.
West Sussex including Pound Common / Nikon F100 / Ilford FP4 / Developed in Kodak HC-110 1+31
OK, so it probably looks like Bertie and Coco spend most of their time loafing about. But the truth is, this is the best chance I’ve got of a getting something in focus. I’ve got a stack of photos that consist of little more than a blurred tail leaving the scene.
I’ve been shooting a few rolls of HP5 lately, after years of mainly using Kodak 400 speed films. The contrast is a bit more subdued, and as such I had some good results on New Year’s Eve pushing it a couple of stops.
These ones didn’t come out too bad either. I think Bertie was rather pleased with his tonality, but Coco just rolled over on her back and wanted her tummy tickled. I sometimes feel she’s not taking it seriously.
Bertie (with added Coco) the working cocker spaniel puppy at 7 months / Nikon F100 / Ilford HP5 / Developed in HC-110 1+31
The last time I push processed a roll of film was about ten years ago. A friend asked me to take some pictures at his 50th birthday party. Things didn’t work out so well and I only ended up with a couple of frames I was happy with. We don’t talk about it now.
But time heals, and I reckoned it was time to give it another go. I’ve recently started to reacquaint myself with Ilford HP5. It’s less contrasty than my usual Tri-X and Tmax 400, so I thought it’d be a good candidate for pushing.
I decided to go for two stop push and shot at EI 1600. Microphen is a great developer for pushing, and I coupled that with a carefully restrained agitation routine in order to control the grain and contrast. Thirty seconds agitation initially, and then one gentle inversion every thirty seconds. For the final third of development, I reduced the inversions to one a minute. This is a well-known technique to reduce the grain, and it seems to have worked well, with a really pleasing level of grain and tonality. Inevitably, some of the blacks are a bit crushed and lacking detail, but I don’t think it matters for these type of shots. They’re not fine art landscapes and I’m not Ansel Adams.
Anyway, this was my New Year’s Eve: friends, kids, dogs, beer and games. I’d like to have plenty more of all those things in 2020, with the possible exception of beer. Although I say that every year.
Nikon F100 / Ilford HP5 shot @ 1600 / Push Processing HP5, Developed in Microphen stock for 11 minutes
When my father died in 1985, the remnants of my family fractured and three years later I left home. I found myself living in the northern county of West Yorkshire, a place very different from my hometown of Cambridge. It was there that I spent one of the loneliest years of my life. I lived in a small terraced house in the Sandal district of Wakefield, and slept in a small room that backed on to the railway line. Thirty years later, I can still remember the feeling of lying in the dark, listening to the trains speeding down to London and wishing I was on one of them. Eventually I was.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.
Whilst I went north, unbeknown to me my mother went west. Hereford is a small cathedral city that lies about 16 miles east of the border with Wales. To me, it feels remote and isolated, but that’s only because I’ve spent so many years living in and around London. For my mother, she’s managed to create a happy life there over the last three decades. It was, however, many years before I was able to visit her there.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.
My blood family now only really comprises my mother, my niece, and myself. Over the last five or six years we’ve spent Christmas together in Hereford. For the three of us, it’s sort of become traditional.
A tradition doesn’t necessarily have to be something that’s been going on for generations. I think you can make your own traditions. What’s more important is how long you want it to continue, rather than how long it’s been going on. My mother is 86 now, but I’m hoping for many more Christmases together.
Two weeks ago it was my birthday weekend. This weekend it was Jane’s turn. Here’s what happened:
All photos Fujifilm X100T
1: Curry and playing games with friends. I’m officially the world’s worst Uno player, although it doesn’t help when everyone gangs up on you. But hey, I take it in good humour. Bastards.
4: Sunday afternoon in the pub with friends, for the sole purpose of showing the kids how not to behave. Children’s education is so important.
5: Lots of walking with the dogs.
Coco’s recovering from an operation, so she’s wearing a très chic little French number she just threw on. This is far more fashionable than the usual cone of shame. Is cultural appropriation OK when it’s dogs doing it?