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
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
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.
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