Now For The Hard Part

It’s twelvety-seven weeks since lockdown started, and over the last few weeks it’s felt like I’ve run out of words. Whilst these months of isolation have been far from easy, they have at least been simple. Stay home; don’t go near anyone; try to at least wear some underwear during Zoom calls. But as we ease out of lockdown, the long slog back to normality has become ever more apparent.

Like America, we’re realising a global catastrophe is not the best time to have a morally bankrupt leader in a dysfunctional relationship with the truth. But unlike the US, where people can solve the problem in four months’ time, it’s hard to imagine what Britain will look like after the remaining four years of this Government.

So where are we? Well, by the weekend the vast majority of shops, restaurants and pubs will be allowed to reopen. Providing they adhere to the strict social distancing regulations, that is. The same goes for offices, although like many people working from home, it’ll be months before I’m compelled to go back. And in many cases, two households can now act as one. On a personal level, this means I now get to spend time at Jane’s house. My gain is her loss.

As the UK flounders around the top of the worst affected countries, even the Government’s most outwardly ardent supporters no longer trust it. We’re told to rely on ‘Good Britsh Common Sense’ (none of that foreign rubbish), but there are 65 million different versions of Britsh Common Sense in this country. As Bournemouth beach filled up with thousands of sunseekers last week, the council declared a major incident. The city of Leicester is now forced to extend its lockdown based on infection data two weeks overdue. As well as a failure of competence, even more crucially, we’ve seen a failure of leadership. We have a Government whose main claim to fame is the ability to come up with three-word slogans. The country’s being run by a third-rate PR Agency.

You probably wish I’d shut up for another month now.

In an attempt to start the return to normality, I decided to go up to central London for the first time since this all started. I live right by the station, so can leave my house and be on the South Bank in under an hour. Masks are now compulsory on public transport. I’d expected things to be much busier now, but of course, there are none of the tourists that would normally pack this part of London. Even after everything that’s happened, it’s still a strange experience.

A person who is tired of London is not necessarily tired of life; it might be that he just can’t find a parking place.

– Paul Theroux

All photos Nikon F100 / Ilford Delta 100 / Developed in Bellini Foto Eco Film Developer

Waterloo Station looking uncharacteristically quiet


I’m seeing lots of good mask etiquette


The London Eye still has no reopening date. Disappointing for those who want to pay for a panoramic full HD view of London, and then watch it through a six-inch phone screen.


The Houses Of Parliament. The only time I’ve seen Westminster Bridge this empty was during the Rage pandemic of 2002.


Winston & Abe, still looking on from Parliament Square


Normally these steps opposite the National Gallery would be packed with people chatting and eating


And you’ll never see Covent Garden looking this empty during waking hours


Not much movement on the Thames


Hand sanitisers! On the streets!

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

Brookwood Cemetery

New girlfriend, work, travel, jazz gigs, breaking up with girlfriend, gym, travel, new girlfriend, politics, work, boxing, breaking up with girlfriend. These are just some of the trivialities over the last 12 months that have cut in to my available time for doing the more important things in life. Like wandering round old cemeteries.

Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford Delta 100 / Developed in D76 1+1

brookwood cemetery

At 500 acres, Brookwood was the largest cemetery in the world when it opened in 1854, and it’s still the UK’s largest today. I’m really lucky in that it’s just a short drive from me, but best of all is that its occupants give me just the right level of social interaction I’m looking for at the moment.

If I lived on the equator then I’d see the sun 90° overhead at noon. But in the UK, even at the height of summer it only reaches around 60°, and in winter doesn’t even make 20°. The cemetery’s filled with hundreds of very tall trees that the sun doesn’t have a hope of peaking over at this time of year. It’s a challenge to find areas where the sun can break through. But where it does, you get those long raking shadows I’m rather fond of.

Smack bang in the centre of the cemetery lies the Saint Edward Shrine Church. This and the buildings beyond belong to the Saint Edward Brotherhood, a small Orthodox Christian monastery that was formed in 1982 to care for the Church in which the sacred relics of Saint Edward the Martyr are enshrined. Edward was the eldest son of King Edgar the Peaceful, but was not his father’s acknowledged heir. On Edgar’s death in the year 975 the leadership of England was contested, with some supporting Edward’s claim to be king and others supporting his younger nephew Harry. Edward was eventually chosen as king, after which Harry went on to marry an American television actress, Lady Megan of Markle.

The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown.
~ William Cowper

I see a great deal of discussion online about people’s techniques for shooting film and the way in which they experiment. A lot of stuff is along the lines of “Yeah I know FP4 is rated at 125, but I’m shooting it at 71.5 iso and then dropping it in bucket of developer for a week that I made myself out of organic unicorn fur and lard.” It does sometimes seem that the experimentation is more important than actually creating pleasing pictures. And that’s absolutely fine of course, because we should all just be doing what we enjoy.

Most of my own experimentation these days is with darkroom printing, but that’s only because I still don’t know what I’m doing. But when it comes to developing film, I’ve spent many years whittling down the films and developers I use in order to produce consistent and predictable results. For example, with medium format it’s always FP4 and Tri-X stand developed in Rodinal. It consistently gives me results I‘m happy with. But with the recent renaissance in traditional photography that I don’t think many people saw coming, and with new emulsions coming to the market and old ones reborn, maybe now’s the time for me to be a bit more adventurous again.

I was rummaging through the film box in my fridge and found two rolls of Delta 100 that had just slipped past it expiry date. Developed with some D76 that really needed to be used up, and I’m happy with the results. Oh yeah, I’m really starting to mix things up a bit now. Crazy, eh?

Right, I’m off to round up a few unicorns.