Taken with a Huawei P20 Pro smartphone.
Following some of my labours over the summer, I’m happy to present a new print for sale, Monmouth View.
It’s taken on Ilford Delta 100 5x4 film and has been scanned for printing on fine art inkjet paper. I chose Hahnemuhle Photo Rag for its beautiful matt cotton surface, and I think it suits the wide but subtle tonality of the image.
The image size is 19 x 24 cm, but I’ve printed it on a larger sheet of paper which has been hand-trimmed. The generous paper shape hints at a larger mount / frame arrangement, although naturally the buyer can choose. Some people like to have a mount that shows off the paper, and this print size allows for that.
If you enjoyed my post on the zone system you may be interested in this. I’ve written a longer version for the Intrepid Camera Company, which includes some practical exercises. You can click on the Tweet above, or the button below.
Happy to report that I’ve been featured on the Large Format Photography Podcast with Andrew Bartram and Simon Forster (as mentioned in my previous post).
A lot of the programme was dedicated to the zone system, with Andrew and I doing our best to improve Simon’s grasp of it. If you’re struggling to work out what the zone system is all about, our musings just might help, as they did for Simon who is still finding his way. Other topics included my large format work, darkroom printing, the idea of fine prints, travel, and the Hypersensitive Photographer’s Podcast.
Do browse the previous episodes, they feature many excellent and interesting photographers. Please click the image above for a link.
Here’s something I’ve been working on recently: a 10x8 portrait of my Dad, Ian Pickup. It’s a contact print on fibre based warmtone paper. I’ve been steadily working away at 10x8, especially on trialling development times to complement my zone system practice in 5x4. The large format adventure is continuing, if slowly, due to the ever present demands of teaching and full-time work.
I have been busy in other ways too. On Tuesday this week I recorded for the Large Format Photography Podcast with Simon Forster and Andrew Bartram. It was great to chat with Simon and Andrew, about the zone system, my work and website, amongst other photography topics. If all is well and Simon and Andrew broadcast the session I’ll share a link in a future post. If you read my zone system post and wanted to know more, our conversation could be a good place to start. I’d also recommend checking out their other podcasts - they have some great guests and there’s lots to learn from other people’s work and experiences in large format. I’ve not got the podcast ‘bug’ in the way other people have, but it certainly is a medium on the up. I enjoyed dipping in and out of podcasts in my downtime.
The Intrepid Camera company is now selling a kit that converts their 5x4 camera into an enlarger. In their own words:
The Intrepid Enlarger is the ultimate DIY photography tool, converting your 4x5 camera into a darkroom enlarger to make prints from your 4x5, 120, and 35mm negatives. It’s so compact and lightweight it could fit in a coat pocket, use it in your bathroom, darkroom or anywhere you can squeeze into and make dark.
The light source fits to the back of the Intrepid 4x5 (or most other 4x5 cameras) and attaches using the Graflok clips. This plugs into the timer so you can control exposure times which plugs into the mains. Then by mounting the camera to a tripod or copy stand you have yourself a fully functioning darkroom enlarger. It’s that simple!
You can order yours by clicking on the button below. They are currently quoting a lead time of eight weeks.
The zone system is a method of controlling tone in black and white film photography. It enables the user / photographer to have confidence that tones visualised when the shutter is pressed will be the tones seen in a final print. It involves undertaking careful film exposure and development testing (linked to an individual’s equipment and working habits) and removes the doubts of ‘hope it will come out’ photography.Read More
I’d like to propose a counter-term that points us in another direction: image quality. Not, as the Oxford English Dictionary has it, ‘the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind’, or even ‘the degree of excellence of something’. No, I mean it in another sense of the same word: ‘a distinctive attribute or characteristic possessed by someone or something.’Read More
I often find myself writing about the pleasures of the printed image, and here is a great case in point. Large format camera manufacture Intrepid, no stranger to the pages of this blog, have produced a beautiful little zine. The publication celebrates the work of thirteen photographers who use Intrepids (either 5x4 or 10x8). It is a diverse collection of images that bump up against each other, creating interesting juxtapositions of photographers’ diverse visions.
I am honoured to be the first photographer in the publication. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how others have deployed their cameras, and was struck by just how flexible and wide-ranging a tool a large format camera can be. To point to but some examples: Andrea Koesters presents rich and colourful landscapes, Alex Kryszkiewicz contemplative black and white spaces, Alan Brock scenes of blissful untouched nature; while James Rogers and Pierre Lansac show off their considerable skills in photographing people. The little red sign in Erik Babinski’s rooftop view is a delicious visual punctuation mark.
I can therefore wholeheartedly recommend this little zine (which is a steal at the current price of £7), whether you are looking for inspiration or just trying to wrap your head around what large format photography is about. It is a fine calling card for the medium, and of course Intrepid’s cameras. You can purchase your copy by clicking on the link below.
Announcing my forthcoming mini-publication / zine, Trees and Woodlands.
This will ship in the new year, for a limited time period, as a gift to anyone who buys one of my prints. As the subtitle suggests, it contains eleven of my tree photographs, all shot on film. Additionally, there is a short introductory essay, technical notes for each shot (film type and so on), and a ‘hints and tips’ section on making effective woodland images. In hand, it feels like a slim magazine with good quality reproductions.
From today, the zine is also available in my shop as a modestly priced digital download. I recognise that not everyone may be in the market for a print, so it’s a good, economical way of making my zine more accessible.
I asked the question and the Twitter photography community answered.
I have already published ‘part one’ of this gallery (see the post here). Such was the quantity and quality of answers that I felt compelled to make a ‘part two’, and here it is.
I hope you enjoy these images as much as I did.
The question is at once fertile and mischievous. Fertile because of the questions that it raises; mischievous because answering it is hopeless bordering on folly. As a black and white photographer, I know, to a point, why I like black and white film. I can begin to point to concrete things: grain, tonality, the gravitas of analogue, the philosophical frisson of the image imprint in silver. I can even come up with an image, or maybe two …. or of course more. Choosing but one is difficult.
So when I asked this question on Twitter recently, I sat back and watched the responses with pleasure. So many different, nay radically different, responses. I reminded myself that the photographers were trying to answer the question in just one image: this was ‘it’ for them, an essence, a core approach or love in a sea of possibilities.
Looking at the work, those other questions of which I write soon follow. Is it a black and white film portrait, or the person that is the object of the image maker’s interest? Is it that still life object rendered in film that seduces or is it still life on film more generally? Is it those streets / hills / trees on film or something more abstract again? Do we as viewers identify with black and white film first, or the genres of landscape, street, portraiture (and so on), and then film? Do we simply identify with the image because of its formal strengths, or because the making of it has some kind of significance (like the camera it was made on), or are there autobiographical factors (it was a happy time, a memory)? What role does the film stock play? Doubtless the answers are multi-faceted. All from that seemingly simple question.
Delighted by the response on Twitter, I decided to offer a home to the images. In fact, there are so many that I will be publishing a ‘part two’ in about a week’s time. I started out almost systematically trying to include all the responses to my original post, but the task became simply too big. So please find my humble attempt at a gallery below. It is doubtless coloured by my own eye, and has certainly been limited by the practicalities of contacting folks for image permissions and of putting it all together. Apologies if I’ve left you out, it is more by accident than design.
For simplicity, I have left the Twitter name to stand for the photographer’s name, especially where a proper name is legible from that. I’ve included proper names where it made sense to do so, and some photographers gave me more information (which I’ve added). Some people requested links to their sites (these are next to the names). If I have your name wrong, please get in touch and I’ll change it. The names of photographers published herein are also an assertion that the copyright of the image belongs to them.
I hope you enjoy seeing the images together like this (I certainly have), and please do look out for the gallery part two.
I asked this question on Twitter the other day and the response has been overwhelming.
So many interesting images were posted by way of reply, and I’ve begun to think they really deserve a home. I’m therefore going to create a gallery blog post, with a little modest commentary (like I did for #Treephotogallery).
If you replied with an image, I’d like your permission to include it in the post. Please send me a direct message on Twitter signalling your permission, or use the contact form on this website. If you have not yet submitted an image and want to, either reply to the original post or get in touch directly. Don’t forget to signal your permission for publication too.
The small print:
Participants agree to publication on this website, and therefore license me, without charge, free and unhindered use of their image. The copyright will of course remain with the photographer. I may not be able to use all images due to space (and time). If your work is not selected, please note this is not a verdict on your work. Naturally, my own eye and preferences will also be at work.
I’ve been doing some experiments exposing Ilford HP5 Plus at 3200 for the grain. Here’s a trio for your perusal. You can see they are of flowers, shot on 35mm and close-up using an extension tube. The tendency towards abstraction, and areas of simple tone, emphasises the grain I think.
Harman Direct Positive Paper is traditional fibre based paper with a special ability. When exposed to the light -- in a camera or pinhole camera -- it forms a positive image. This behaviour is precisely the opposite to that of standard darkroom paper, and is a boon for anyone seeking to make direct prints without the need for a negative, paper or otherwise.
I acquired a pack in 5x4” size last week and set about putting it through its paces. I worked in close proximity to the darkroom, which, as it turned out, was a sound decision. Moving from a still life setup to the darkroom and back again made getting a measure of the paper, of how it exposes, relatively easy. I made and corrected mistakes and began to see a glimpse of the delightful tonality the paper has to offer.
Paper is much slower than film and this paper is no different, being approximately ISO 1-3. This makes for relatively long exposures in all but the brightest conditions. Pinhole photographers will be familiar with this way of working (pinholes being very small apertures in themselves resulting in long exposures), but anyone wishing to use the paper in a conventional large format (or other) camera will have to weigh up the extra exposure time against their pictorial intentions. Sharp portraits, for instance, could well be a challenge for the sitter.
I resolved to test the paper in my trusty Intrepid Field Camera. My 150mm lens allows for relatively close focussing, albeit with significant bellows extension. The Intrepid was up to the task, and I was able to make the kind of floral composition I had in mind. The paper is luxuriously thick, as a baryta darkroom paper usually is, but this does provide a challenge to squeeze it into a film holder. At first I thought it might be a little too large in area, and so I trimmed the edges. This didn’t solve the issue, so the paper thickness certainly was to blame. Nevertheless it can be inserted with a little effort. Film holders are designed to hold film after all!
After some initial mistakes I began to make some pleasing images. An error I did make was to use window light. This surely added to the quality of light in the images, but as the winter day darkened I began to chase exposure changes and so made some errors. It didn’t help that sky also brightened intermittently.
The image shown above is a good representative sample of what the paper can do. I see a paper capable of subtle shifts in tonality that retains excellent detail. The paper is said to produce images of generous contrast, but I wouldn’t discount it for a wide and subtle tonal range. There is something exciting about making a one-off, original image in this manner. For sure, this may be precisely the reason some won’t like it, but if you enjoy alternative processes I wager you will.
I have waited some time to get hold of a box of this excellent product. Hopefully my getting hold of it means that it is becoming more available than it has been. If you’ve had your eye on it and haven’t so far been able to get any, now might be the time to look again. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
One of the pleasures of 10x8: taking one’s time.
And so I have been. Taking my time. Going slowly. Slow photography. 10x8 style.
This process invites contemplation; room for visualisation before action. So today I invite you to join me as I contemplate this negative, a neg I haven’t even contact-printed yet.
I exposed for a ‘pale’ image punctuated by the dark line of the traversing diagonal branch. I envisage that the rich foliage will offer a large range of tones, even at a lighter register. As ever, questions present themselves: will this be the case? Does the composition quite work? (The bank of foliage in the foreground is perhaps too large.) Will the darker diagonal look too incongruous against the lighter tones? Is there a greater tonal range than I envisage?
Here I feel at home with 10x8: a little work here, a little work there. It fits in with my schedule and my tendency to ponder. Perhaps before too long I’ll be sharing this piece in a more finished form.