This Week In The Coronapocalypse | Donnington Castle

Donnington Castle was a comfortable fortified and decorated manor built in 1386 and owned by, amongst others, Thomas Chaucer, son of the poet. All until war broke out in 1642 between Charles I and Parliament. The Royalists seized and held the castle and built the fortifications that you now see as grass slopes, with cannon all around. Much was destroyed in the ensuing siege. This hardly counted because the real action took place in the neighbouring fields and villages where the Royalists lost in two Battles of Newbury. After their victory, Parliament voted to demolish what remained of the castle, leaving only the gatehouse, so you have to mentally reconstruct the body of the castle from the walls and small rooms that peep up from the grassy platform.

Donnington Castle / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford Pan F / Semi-Stand Developed in Rodinal 1+99 60 mins

Donnington Castle

Prior to this pandemic, thanks to Brexit and the ensuing culture war, Britain has been engulfed in political turmoil for three years. Each day seemed to bring a new political calamity, which was then promptly forgotten when the next one happened 24 hours later. Weeks felt like months, months felt like years. I really regret not keeping a simple note of events as they happened, just so I could look back and try and make some sense of it all.

So during this period I’ve decided to sum up the weekly events that have struck me the most, from the deadly serious to the absurdly ridiculous. If my tone seems flippant at times…well, we all have our own way of getting through this horror.

See all previous updates here

This week in The Coronapocalypse:

  • Senior Special Advisor Dominic Cummings admits breaking lockdown and driving 30 miles to a local beauty spot with his wife and child, explaining he was testing his eyesight to see if he was fit enough to further break lockdown by driving 260 miles to London. British public hears: ‘The dog ate my homework’
  • Cummings behaved ‘responsibly, legally and with integrity’ says Boris Johnson, refusing to sack him. British public hears: ‘Do as I do, not as I say’
  • Cummings press conference: “Don’t believe everything you hear on TV”, says man on TV
  • Cummings press conference: “It’s all the fault of Islington Media Types and the Metropolitan Elite’, says man who lives in Islington with wife who works in media, was educated at private school and then Oxford University, whose parent’s estate includes its own woods, and whose father-in-law is called Sir Humphry Wakefield and lives in an actual castle
  • #Cumgate does not got viral due to Twitter’s anti-porn filters
  • 1 12 18 40 47 60+ Tory MPs call for him to be sacked
  • Junior Minister resigns over PM’s refusal to sack Cummings
  • Meaning of Government Stay Alert slogan becomes clear: watch out for visually impaired drivers on Motorway
  • Cops: Don’t drive if you’re blind
  • Some non-essential shops to re-open 15 June, if they can comply with ‘covid security’ regulations
  • Ebola drug Remdesivir sanctioned for use on most severe pateints
  • UK supercar maker and Formula 1 team McLaren to cut 1200 jobs
  • UK starts Test & Trace phase. Those identified as being in contact with confirmed cases will be told to self-isolate for 14 days. Website crashes within minutes.
  • Accusations that Government brought forward Test & Trace phase too early in order to knock Cummings story from headlines
  • US passes grim milestone of 100,000 deaths
  • EasyJet to cut up to 4,500 jobs
  • UK now has highest coronavirus death rate as a proportion of population of any country in the world.
  • Police conclude Cummings broke the lockdown and potentially the law. Goverment spokesman: ‘Yeah, whatever, losers’
  • Government: From next week up to 6 people can meet in parks if they socially distance

Worldwide cases: 6,162,516 (previous week 5,407,378)
Worldwide deaths: 371,037(previous week 344,019 )
UK cases: 272,826 (previous week 257,154)
UK deaths: 38,376 (previous week 36,675)


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

Stand Development With Rodinal | A Guide Based On My Own Experience

There’s loads of information out there on stand development with Rodinal. But rather than just regurgitate what everyone else has written, I wanted to concentrate on my own personal experience. So whilst this is no way a detailed guide, it does have the benefit of being my first-hand experience.

Ella in the garden / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

stand development with rodinal - girl with hat

West Norwood Cemetery / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

What is Stand Development?

Stand development is the process where the film is left in a very dilute developing solution for an extended period of time, with little or no agitation. The theory is that the developer exhausts itself in areas which require greater development while remaining active in less-exposed areas. In other words, the highlights don’t burn out whilst the shadows develop a bit more detail. Not all developers are suitable for this, but I’ve been using this method successfully with Rodinal for many years.

Exmoor ponies in the rain on Hindhead Common / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Kodak Tri-X / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

Exmoor  ponies on Hindhead Common - Stand development with Rodinal

What’s The Process?

It’s simple, really. Bear in mind this is all about what I do and what consistently works for me. Other opinions are available.

  • You mix up a solution of Rodinal and water in the proportion 1+99. So to create a working solution of 500ml, that’s 5ml of developer and 495ml of water.
  • Temperature – some people say that the temperature of the solution is irrelevant. But because I strive for consistency and predictability, I always go for 20℃.
  • Pour the solution into the film tank, and agitate well for 30 seconds. I then give the tank several good whacks with a wooden spoon on the top and sides, to ensure any air bubbles are dispelled.
  • You can then leave everything to develop for 60 minutes. After the first 30 minutes, I give the tank one very gentle turn upside down and back (don’t forget to whack afterward), before leaving for the remaining 30 minutes. Technically, this is called semi-stand development. I’ve tried leaving for the whole 60 minutes, and I’ve noticed you can get some strange ‘halo’ effects on the edges of subjects. Apparently some people like this, but it’s not for me, hence the gentle turn mid-way
  • After the 60 minutes are up you pour out the developer. I never bother with a stop bath because the dilution of the developer is so low, and in any case it’s exhausted by this stage. Just give the tank a good rinse out under the tap.
  • Fix and rinse in the normal way.
  • Whilst you’re waiting for the negatives to dry, kick back and listen to some fantastic music.

William / Yashica Mat with Rolleinar No. 2 Close-up lens / Kodak Tri-X / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

When To Use Stand Development

When the forums on Flickr where a lot more active than they are now, I used to marvel at the things people did with their films. It’d start off with someone saying “Yeah I always shoot at 80% of box speed and then underexpose by 1/3 of a stop” and then escalate to “Well I drop my film in a bucket of peanut butter and then develop in a homemade concoction made from Irn Bru and lard. It seemed to become a bit of a dick-swinging exercise in the end. (And yes, it did mainly seem to be men).

I don’t mind the odd bit of experimentation here and there, but the pictures I’ve shot are important to me. What I’m really looking for is consistency and the ability to be able to predict my results. So when I find something that works, I tend to stick with it.

What I’ve found is that stand development works best for me with medium format films. I don’t know why this is, but I don’t get the same results with 35mm. It can be done with 35mm, and indeed I’ve had some success with HC-110 instead of Rodinal. But to me, the look is inferior to developing in the normal way.

Similarly, through a process of trial and error, I’ve found I get the best results with traditional grain, rather than T-grain (i.e. Tmax and Delta) films. So FP4, Tri-X, and Fomapan (and therefore Kosmo) in 120 I always stand develop. Those have now become my go-to medium format films.

Snow Hill, Windsor Great Park/ Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

snow hill windsor great park - stand devlopment with rodinal

What Are The Advantages of Stand Development With Rodinal?

  • Longevity – Rodinal lasts for years. Quite literally. Even though it may change colour and consistency, it never seems to lose its efficacy. I’ve previously had a bottle for over 5 years with no problems. There are even reports out there of people successfully using bottles that have been kicking around for decades.
  • Economy – Currently a 500ml bottle of Rodinal is £13.98 at AG Photographic. If you were developing in the conventional way, you’d dilute Rodinal at a ratio of 1+24 or 1+49. For stand development I use 1+99. To develop a roll of 120 film you need 500ml of liquid, so that works out at 5ml of Rodinal and 495ml of water. That’s 100 rolls of film per 500ml bottle, working out at about 14p each. Pretty cool, right?

Queen tribute band, Windsor Races/ Yashica Mat/ Kodak Tri-X/ Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

Queen Tribute Band - Stand development with rodinal

  • Grain / Tonality – Rodinal is renowned for its distinctively high level of grain. Many people love this, but I find using this method the grain is more restrained, which I prefer. I also love the tonality I get from this method. But that’s very much a personal opinion.
  • Exposure – Old cameras don’t always have accurate shutters. I’ve found that stand development seems to compensate for small exposure errors.
  • ISO Agnostic – You can (and I often do) develop films of different ISOs in the same tank for the same amount of time.
  • It’s easy! Sure it takes longer, but you’re not hunched over the sink having to agitate every 60 seconds for ten minutes. Instead, just sit down and marvel at how much better life used to be in the ’70s when we were growing up. Or not.

Stand Up To Racism, March & Rally, London, 18 March 2017 / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

World Zombie Day, London 2014 / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

stand developed with rodinal

Stand Up To Racism, March & Rally, London, 18 March 2017 / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

Lonely diner, London / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

Walton Bridge / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

stand developed with rodinal

West Norwood Cemetery / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

stand development with rodinal

Brookwood Cemetery / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

Hampton Court / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

Middle-aged ladies sunbathing, Margate / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

My Mum in her living room / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

stand development with rodinal

London/ Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

Stools in the office / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

Kurdish protester, Trafalgar Square / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

kurdish protester

James, Windsor / Yashica Mat / Ilford FP4+ / Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

Quick fix by Big Ben / Yashica Mat 124G / Ilford FP4+ / Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

Scooter enthusiasts, Hampton Court / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes

Hey! Too much time on your hands? Why not check out my other guides:

Brexit Time Capsule

As I write this, it’s 1000 days since the UK voted to leave the European Union. And it seems fitting that I was wandering round a cemetery whilst considering those things I’d bury in my Brexit time capsule. You know how this goes. You gather the things that are important to you, and wrap them up carefully. Then you bury them in the ground, the hope being that some future generation will discover them, and marvel at the way we once lived.

We’ve come along way in the last few years. In 2015, front page news was a picture of then-Labour Party leader eating a bacon sandwich. By 2016, the country was on fire. Here are four things I’m going to miss and fear are gone forever:

Polite discussion on the internet

OK, this one’s not exactly new. Failing to tell someone you disagree with that you hope they die of cancer was made illegal by an Act of Parliament sometime around 1998. Nevertheless, things have got exponentially worse in the last few years. So I’m shoving this one in the Brexit time capsule.

All photos Brookwood Cemetery / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4 / Stand developed in Kodak HC-110 1+160 for 45 minutes

Brexit time capsule

Brexit time capsule

Brexit time capsule


They say that satire is dead. Not true. It’s just that we no longer have the need for satirists. Politicians and public figures are now self-satirising. They’ve cut out the middleman. Take Member of Parliament Jacob Ress-Mogg, for example. Here’s a man whose idea of kicking back at the weekend is to wear a top hat and speak Latin. Who happily admits that even though he has six children, he’s never changed a nappy. Who since convincing the public to leave the EU has made seven million pounds by investing in funds in….er… the EU. Yet this multi-millionaire has managed to convince a significant number of people that it’s everyone else who’s the elite.

Or how about Brexit minister Stephen Barclay? He presented the government’s case for an extension to Article 50 in the Commons last week, saying it was for the good of the country. Then promptly went through the division lobby and voted against the amendment himself. But not to fear, this week he’s being sent to Brussels to argue for an extension.

So sorry satirists, you need not apply. Into the Brexit time capsule you go.

Brexit time capsule

Brookwood Cemetery

Brookwood Cemetery

Shame / Honesty

These two go hand in hand. Because once politicians and pundits dispensed with shame, they realised they could lie without consequence. In days gone by, a person in a position of authority would have had to resign if they knowingly told the public a bare-faced lie. These days they can stand up and say the exact opposite of what they said before, without any recourse whatsoever. You can even show them the video of them saying it and they decry it as fake news. The truth has evaporated into steam.

We used to say that everyone was entitled to their own opinion. Now it seems that everyone is entitled to their own facts. And that’s whats truly terrifying; that the people believe the lies, in spite of all the evidence. I had to go back to my copy of 1984 and check exactly how Orwell defined Doublethink:

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

I think they call it cognitive dissonance these days.

Brookwood Cemetery

Brookwood Cemetery

Brookwood Cemetery

Brookwood Cemetery


You’ve probably come to some opinion on my political views from reading this. And you may well consider me either a hero or a monster, depending on how you perceive they align with you’re own. But in fact the only point I’m making is for people to be nicer to each other.

It’s possible to not be responsible for voting in the most shameful government in my lifetime, without being a supporter of the most incompetent opposition I’ve ever known. It’s possible to have views on our current political situation without being on one extreme on the other. Yet everything appears to be binary these days; black or white. You’re either a leaver or a remainer. A communist or a conservative. A traitor or a patriot. A libtard or a fascist. But there are very fine people on both sides. Well, OK, not always. And those people with sticky-out rather than sticky-in belly buttons are kinda weird, no?

Brexit time capsule

Brexit time capsule

Brexit time capsule

Brexit time capsule

I’m of an age that grew up without the Internet, and yet was quite an early adopter in my early twenties. I remember being very pleased when I had my first email address, before realising I didn’t actually know anyone I could email. That optimistic sense of a Brave New World seems almost laughable to be me now.

We used to say that a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on. These days, a hateful ideology can travel to the moon and back whilst common decency is still lolling around in its gingham nightshirt. I’m not hopeful for the future.

Sorry. I probably should have ended on a song.

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.