Film Lab Recommendation

I can recommend 'AG Photolab - https://www.onlandscape.co.uk'

I've chosen to write this post today, to help other film photographers. If you are having problems getting good processing done, then I can recommend AG Photolab here in the UK. I'm not doing this because I have any business or financial interest in AG Photolab, and they haven't asked me to write a review either. I am just doing this because I receive emails all the time asking me where i get my processing done, and I have been using this company now for around 5 years, so I feel I have sufficient experience with them to recommend them.

All my films have been processed by AG Photolab since 2014.

All my films have been processed by AG Photolab since 2014.

I often receive emails from film photographers asking me if I can recommend a processing lab for them. The short story is that good quality processing is becoming harder to come by. Film sales are up, but lab experience is down.

About 5 years ago, I began to notice that many labs weren't producing good results for me and it was becoming a lottery as to what would happen if I sent my films in. I had many films ruined by bad processing. 

This wasn't good enough and so I started to hunt around and ask people for advice. I'm glad I talked to Tim Parkin from On-Landscape magazine as he put me in touch with Matthew Wells company 'AG Photolab' in Birmingham.

I have been using AG Photolab now for around 5 years. The processing has been consistently perfect. No steaks, no strange artefacts in the processing. When I have contacted them about altering my order, or perhaps cutting the films into sections of 3 (for my film scanner tray) they have been very responsive also.

But it's the quality of the processing that has made me stick with them, that and also Matthew Wells (the owner) dedication towards analog film and processing. I've had may conversations with Matthew on the telephone where it's been very clear he is passionate about doing the best processing he can, and has helped me on many occasion with my enquiries.

I know that they can deal with your film processing from overseas if you choose to ship to them. But I would definitely say that if you do - you need to be patient. I find it takes around two weeks to get my films processed and delivered back to me. I take great comfort in this: they have repeatedly stated to me that the reason why it takes so long, is that they don't want to rush things and that they realise that the most important thing to make sure that they keep the quality high.

Should you choose to send film to AG Photolab, I should let you know that they are great at keeping you updated:

1) the first thing that happens is you receive an email from them saying that your films have been received.
2) another email when the films are now being processed
3) and another email when the films are being shipped
4) depending on the carrier you choose, you also get updates on the tracking and where your film is!

Everyone's experiences vary, but I have been recommending AG Photolab to those who ask because they've given me consistency to my processing. Matthew Wells has told me that they often use my transparencies as an example to show other customers because, as he says so himself 'you have a lot of negative space in your images, and that is where you can really see any errors in the processing'. 

AG Photolab - http://www.ag-photolab.co.uk

Hit Rate doesn't matter

A good friend of mine recently asked me how many good images I shoot on a roll of film.

I can fully appreciate that it's just very interesting to know how often a photographer reaches success with his images - it might give an indication to the skill of the photographer, but it might not.

In my own case, I shoot a lot. And I'm very selective about what gets published. 

Borax field, Bolivian Altiplano, © Bruce Percy 2017

Borax field, Bolivian Altiplano, © Bruce Percy 2017

I don't think we should focus too much on how successful we are. Simply because I believe that experimentation is an important ingredient in the creative process and by definition, experimentation means being open to trying different things without fear of failure.

Let's consider that experimentation actually means. If you are experimenting, it means you don't quite know what the outcome will be like. This means that it could be somewhere between two extreme possibilities: a success or a failure. There's too much emphasis on failure being a bad thing. I think failure is a positive thing because you have to find out what you don't want to figure out where you need to go.

Indeed, I find that when I look back at my rolls of films, each roll is a chronological record of me working a scene. Take the transparencies shown below. There are four strips from one roll all laid out from start to finish from left to right. You can see that as the shoot proceeded I went from sunset to twilight.

If we analyse what I was doing, I think the roll of film breaks down to two major compositions. The first composition is using the peak of a volcano as a black triangle on the ridge of a borax field (it's not snow - this was shot in Bolivia). You can see I try the volcano peak on the right side of the frame at different focal lengths (it's bigger in the first shot and smaller in the next two). I then settle for the volcano peak on the left side of the frame. 

The 2nd composition is really about the black hillside in the distance. Again you can see I place the black hill in the background on different sides of the frame.

There is a theme going on with both compositions: I'm using a stark black object to frame against the white borax - these images are exploiting the tonal difference between black volcanos and hills against white borax.

A roll of processed 120 Velvia film, showing you the chronological sequence that the images were shot in.

A roll of processed 120 Velvia film, showing you the chronological sequence that the images were shot in.

The other thing to notice is that I am doing small shifts in the image sequence - changing the foreground slightly or using a different focal length to make the small volcano bigger in the frame.

I like to explore a scene, and take different compositions with different focal lengths. On the surface it may seem as if I'm making the same photo again and again, but I'm really looking for a perfect scene and this is the most important point: I have given myself permission to experiment.

When it comes down to the final edit, I think there are perhaps two images in this roll of film that I will compete and be happy with. I don't view the others as wastage of film, or failures: everything I've shot contributes to the final result. Consider them prototypes, or whatever, they all contribute to where I finally end up.

So with that in mind, I think 'hit-rate' is rather unimportant.

Shoot when you feel you need to shoot, consider if you are changing anything in the composition each time you click the shutter rather than just endlessly repeating the same shot, think about what might make the image stronger or weaker if you change something.

Borax field, Bolivian Altiplano, © Bruce Percy 2017

Borax field, Bolivian Altiplano, © Bruce Percy 2017

I think I am always shooting variations on a theme. Once I find my main composition, I will take around four or even an entire roll of film working the scene, experimenting, because I can't be a good judge of what I've shot until I get home, I'd therefore like to try out as many possibilities as I can. And that means discarding the thought of how many successful images I've made. It's really quite irrelevant.

Keep on experimenting and being open to trying new things. By it's very definition, experimentation means you don't really know the outcome of what you're doing. To truly experiment you have to be open to failure, because if you aren't open to failure, then you aren't experimenting. If you aren't experimenting, then you aren't growing.

Reciprocity Chart for Fuji Velvia 50 RVP

It's been a while since I wrote about this, and I've had a few people contact me about it. It seems that my original posting had lost some of the charts for reciprocity with Fuji Velvia, so I'm re-posting it here.

One of my most favourite things to do with landscapes is to collapse many moments in time into one frame. In other words, do long exposures. It can be extremely useful at removing textural detail that I don't need in the photo, as in the example below:

Removing textural detail by use of Long exposure Fjallabak, Iceland Image © Bruce Percy 2017

Removing textural detail by use of Long exposure
Fjallabak, Iceland
Image © Bruce Percy 2017

By removing any small currents in the water, I've removed any possibility of the eye being distracted and therefore drawn to it. Similarly the long exposure has reduced the chance of the sky having anything of distraction in it either. So my eye is allowed to go straight to the headland. 

Using long exposures in this way can remove distractions and allow (in this case) areas of the picture to become 'wallpaper' - regions where your eye just floats over the surface. 'Wallpaper' is an integral component of most photographs: there are always going to be areas of the picture where you wish for the viewers eye to float freely without getting trapped or stuck.

By smoothening any textural details out of these regions of the frame, I can also allow the viewer to see the gradual tonal shifts that underpin the area. For instance, if you look at the water, the tones get darker as we move towards the bottom of the frame and the eye enjoys seeing smooth gradual shifts.

Similarly with the sky I've adopted the same approach, which is perhaps a point on its own: if you have clouds, do you need them? Often I'm wishing for skies with either complete cloud cover (for softer light all-round), or to reduce textural detail in the frame. I will deliberately go to certain places at certain times of the year because the skies are clear of clouds (Bolivia for instance) otherwise there is perhaps too much information or 'things' for the viewers eye to get stuck at. We're back to talking about tones and form. Too much form and we have too much distraction. So I'll often use a long shutter speed to smoothen out the clouds in the sky.

If you're a film shooter - which there is a good chance you might be in 2017, since I've begun to notice over the past few years that around 2 people in every group of 6 is a hybrid shooter (film and digital), then doing long exposures require the need to calculate reciprocity.

Just in case you don't know what reciprocity is, I'll explain. When shooting film, most folk think that the relationship between the shutter and aperture remain constant. They don't. As you get down to longer exposures, film loses it's sensitivity; and the relationship between the shutter speed and aperture begin to drift apart. Typically once you get past 4 seconds with Velvia. Which means that if you rely on your meter, you're going to underexpose your images. So you need to compensate.

I didn't use a long shutter speed here. It was a very calm evening and the only possible textural distraction would have been in the reflections of the mountains. I felt using a long shutter speed was a case of diminishing returns: not required. So rather than use long shutter speeds all the time to smoothen things down, get used to 'reading' your landscapes - watch them to see how dynamic they are.

I didn't use a long shutter speed here. It was a very calm evening and the only possible textural distraction would have been in the reflections of the mountains. I felt using a long shutter speed was a case of diminishing returns: not required. So rather than use long shutter speeds all the time to smoothen things down, get used to 'reading' your landscapes - watch them to see how dynamic they are.

It's very easy to get into the realm of long shutter speeds if you are shooting in low light or with some ND filters applied. With Velvia, if your meter tells you the exposure should be 4 seconds and beyond, then reciprocity needs to be applied.

Here is a table of corrected values:

4s becomes 5s
8s becomes 12s
16s becomes 28s
30s becomes 1 minutes 6s
1 minute becomes 2 minutes 30 seconds
2 minutes becomes 4 minutes, 50 seconds

And you shouldn't need to go beyond that, as the contrast will get too high and the colours too funky.

Either write them down, or better - remember them. I used to have them on a little laminated card for the first few years of shooting, but the corrections have now been memorised. That's one of the beauties of staying with a single film type for most of my photography career. The less variables I have to my 'process' the more second-nature things become.

Working out exposure for transparency film

 I was asked if I'd write a blog entry about how I work out my exposures. Bear in mind this is just my own take on it, and although it works for me, there are many other ways of doing this. So I'm not suggesting this is the only way, or the correct way, but it works for me. Also, before I begin, please know that I am 100% a film shooter. This is how I work out my exposures for Fuji Velvia film only (it's the only transparency film stock I use).

Velvia 50 transparences on my light table.

Velvia 50 transparences on my light table.

So here goes. Before I discuss exposures, let's do a bit of ground work and cover some basics. Here we go:

  • When you add 1 stop of exposure, you double the amount of light hitting the sensor / film.
  • When you subtract 1 stop of exposure, you half the amount of light hitting the sensor / film.
  • Therefore, exposure is a case of doubling or halving values.
  • Ansel Adams had the zone system (10 zones) which mapped to 10 stops.
  • With Velvia transparency film, the latitude of the film is only maybe around 3 to 5 stops. In those 3 or 5 stops you get 10 zones. So the way I work it out, is I assume that Velvia has a latitude of 3 stops, and that means I roughly allocate three zones of Ansel's system to one stop. I've never found that adding +3 stops to make snow white has every worked for me. It's always a case of adding +1 stop only.

I've constructed a simplified diagram below of a landscape. In it, we have the ground (I've chosen to use this as my  exposure point (18% mid grey) and therefore it has zero stop difference. Everything else in the diagram has it's difference in stops detailed - in comparison to the ground. In effect, the ground is our 'reference' point for everything else in the scene. This is pretty much what I do most of the time - assume my ground wants to be exposed at 18% grey, and work out where everything else is in relation to that, and also how much grad I will require to ensure the sky does not blow out.

About metering - 18% Grey

With metering, you should also know that the reading you get, is what it takes to make whatever you measured mid-grey (18%). Meter a white door and the reading you get is what it will take to turn that white door mid-grey. Meter a black door, and the meter will tell you what it takes to turn that black door mid-grey. So whatever you point the meter at - it's telling what exposure you need to turn the subject mid-grey, and you need to apply a degree of compensation to it to make it turn out how you think it looks.

For example, if I want a white door to be white, I will apply +1 stop exposure compensation (with Velvia, that's sort of like zone 8 in Ansel's terms). To turn the black door black, I will need to underexpose by -1 stop (turning zone 5 into zone 2).

Spot Metering a Scene

In the following illustration, I've broken down a scene into it's exposure components by stops.

Scene as is, before doing anything.

Scene as is, before doing anything.

In it, I have:

Ground, used to set the exposure so there is zero stops difference here.
Sky +3 stops brighter than the ground
Clouds +2 stops brighter then the ground
Black rocks -2 stops darker than the ground.

Grading the Sky to similar luminance as ground

I've worked out that I want the clouds to appear the same tone as the ground, so I'm going to grad the whole sky by -2 stops, therefore reducing the clouds to the same luminance as the ground, and also reducing everything in the sky by 2:

After applying a 2-stop grad

After applying a 2-stop grad

In the above diagram I have graded the sky by 2 stops. The white areas of the sky are still at +1 compared to the ground and that is fine with me, as I know Velvia can handle this. 

Where to set the mid-tone?

But what you should be asking yourself is whether setting the exposure for the scene on the ground values is correct. Depending on the luminance of the ground, I may wish to apply some exposure compensation to render the ground the way I perceive it.

Bear in mind that when taking a reading, you are asking the meter to tell you what exposure setting to use to turn the subject 18% grey. I've found that the following ground conditions require different amounts of compensation:

  • Sand (+1 exposure compensation)

Although it looks grey in colour or may appear mid-grey, Sand is actually brighter than 18% grey so if I meter sand and want it to come out the way I see it, I have to apply +1 stop exposure compensation.

  • Grass ( 0 exposure compensation)

Grass is 18% grey, so metering it gives me the correct value to render it the way I see it.

  • Stones (+1 exposure compensation to -1 exposure compensation)

Stones vary in luminance. Black stones need to be rendered at -1 exposure compensation while most 'mid-grey' stones require +1. We tend to perceive brighter objects as less bright. So a stone that is brighter than 18% grey is often perceived as 18% mid grey when it's not.

So to set the exposure on my scene, I really need to consider the luminance values of the ground, and I will often use grass as a correct reference point, but if there isn't any available, I know that sand will require +1 exposure compensation.

Applying +1 exposure compensation. Everything is transposed +1 stop

Applying +1 exposure compensation. Everything is transposed +1 stop

In the above diagram I've applied +1 exposure compensation, which means the entire scene has been brightened. This means that the ground is +1 over 18% grey, and the black rocks in the foreground are now -1 stop below 18% grey. The sky is +2 stops over mid-grey which is fine as i know Velvia has enough latitude to record this.

Re-balancing the scene - applying different graduation

However, I'm now thinking that since I have:

  1. Applied a 2 stop grad
  2. Applied +1 exposure compensation

The grad is not as effective as I would like it to be. Pushing the exposure +1 has reduced the strength of the grad from 2 stops to 1, from where we started. So I'm going to take out the 2 stop grad and replace it with a 3 stop grad:

Replacing the 2 stop grad for a 3 stop grad.

Replacing the 2 stop grad for a 3 stop grad.

So I've left the ground exposure untouched. It is still at +1 exposure compensation, but i have brought the luminance of the sky down by a further stop so it is now -3 from its original position. But bear in mind although it is graded 3 stops, I have applied exposure compensation to the entire scene of +1 which means the grad is only really reducing by 2 stops (-3 stops +1  = -2 stops).

Before and After

So let's now compare what we started with, and where we needed up. In the two diagrams below, I do just that:

Initial scene with exposure set to the ground.

Initial scene with exposure set to the ground.

Final exposure with 3 stop grad applied and +1 exposure compensation applied to whole scene.

Final exposure with 3 stop grad applied and +1 exposure compensation applied to whole scene.

A word about histograms and exposure

Before we begin to look at the difference between the initial exposure and the final one, we must first consider how the human eye sees tones.

In a nutshell: we perceive every tone out there as a mid tone. To test this out, if you point your camera at the ground so it fils the entire area of the image and take a shot, the ground should look correctly exposed. The histogram will show you an exposure right in the middle, which suggests we perceive the ground as an 18% tone. Now do the same for the sky - point the camera completely up into the sky and take a picture. It too will look correct even though the histogram is in the middle and the sky is now 18% grey.

We perceive everything more or less as sitting in the middle of the tonal range. In fact, human vision is incapable of seeing true luminosity and we tend to compress the higher tones so we see the same thing.

When I am making exposures, I am attempting to move the ground towards the mid-tones of the histogram and I am trying to move the sky towards the mid-tones of the histogram too.

This is very important and I would read this again:

"When I am making exposures, I am attempting to move the ground towards the mid-tones of the histogram and I am trying to move the sky towards the mid-tones of the histogram too."

If we look at the scene after I've applied my 3 stop grad and added +1 exposure compensation, this is exactly what I've done: I've lifted the tones in the ground by +1 stop and reduced the sky tones by -2 stops. This can be seen in the following histograms:

Original exposure with no grad or exposure compensation applied. Ground is underexposed, Sky is overexposed.

Original exposure with no grad or exposure compensation applied. Ground is underexposed, Sky is overexposed.

After applying a 3 stop grad and adding +1 exposure compensation, I've brought the ground and sky tones towards the middle.

After applying a 3 stop grad and adding +1 exposure compensation, I've brought the ground and sky tones towards the middle.

The histogram on the right is what we should be aiming for. This is for a few reasons:

1) The ground has been moved towards the mid tones
2) The sky has been moved towards the mid tones
3) The scene is now 'balanced' and looks like what we see with our own eyes

But also, here are a few important things to consider that you get with your histogram on the right, which you lose with the histogram on the left:

1) You open up the shadow detail. There's more tonal information in the shadows
2) You open up the highlight detail. There's more room for the brighter tones to stretch out across the histogram.

When you don't do this, and end up with a histogram as you see on the left (I call it a double humper), you get the following problems:

1) You lose shadow detail because all your lower tones are squashed into the bottom left of the histogram and quantisation occurs - many tones become compressed into one single tone. You lose tonal detail and no amount of correction later on is going to recover that for you.
2) You lose highlight detail because all your higher tones are squashed into the top right side of the histogram.
3) You have to do more drastic editing when you return home and scan the films.

So when someone says 'I've got it all in the histogram', this may be OK for digital capture (well, it's not really), but for film it's not ideal at all. You still go home with an underexposed ground and an overexposed sky. Trying to recover shadow detail in film is a nightmare (and almost impossible with transparency film) and likewise turning down the overexposed sky brings out funky crossover effects and often I find the grain in the film becomes very evident due to drastic curves adjustments.

You need to balance the exposure in-camera. Even if you are a digital shooter this is still what you have to do and I don't subscribe to the idea that digital cameras have 12 stops of dynamic range so grads aren't required. They are still required for all the  reasons pointed out above.

To finish up

Working out exposures in the field for film using a spot meter may sound complicated, but it really isn't. It's just a case of practicing.

I love spot metering my scenes. I also love not seeing what I'm getting. Using film means I have to construct the image in my mind's eye. What I like about this approach, is that it has taught me to really think about what tones are present in the scene. Through practice, I now know that black rocks are hard to record, and that I really need to lift the tones in the ground up towards the mid-tone or above it, and reduce the sky down towards the mid. This is not simply because the dynamic range of my film is limited (it's is a concern, but not the main reason). The reason is that in order for the scene to be truly balanced the way my eye sees it, I need to move everything towards the middle of the histogram. That means reducing dynamic range and shifting the ground to the right and the sky to the left.

The simplified version

Ok, that was quite long, and perhaps quite difficult to take in. So here's a simplified version:

  1. Meter the foreground and then meter the sky and work out how many stops difference there is and apply a grad for those number of stops.
  2. If the foreground is brighter than 18% grey, apply +1 exposure compensation

Or....

  1. Work out the difference in stops between ground and sky and apply a grad for the difference.
  2. Make  two exposures. One with no exposure compensation and a second one with +1 exposure compensation applied.
  3. Go home and study the films.

Kodachrome Rumour

I'm always interested in just how viable it is to bring back older products. Last year we saw the Moog Minimoog synthesiser resurrected. It's something i never thought would happen, and it seems that some of the film companies are now starting to realise there is still value in their older discontinued product lines.

It's being rumoured on a few websites lately that the CEO of Kodak was quoted as saying:

"We get asked all the time by filmmakers and photographers alike, ‘are you gonna bring back some of these iconic film stocks like Kodachrome [and] Ektachrome,'” says Overman. “I will say, we are investigating Kodachrome, looking at what it would take to bring that back […] Ektachrome is a lot easier and faster to bring back to market […] but people love Kodak’s heritage products and I feel, personally, that we have a responsibility to deliver on that love."

It's a big 'if' right now, so don't read this as 'they will bring it back'. For me, it's simply inspiring to know that the film companies are looking back at their older products and realising they still have a lot to offer if resurrected.

Kodak Brings Back a Classic with EKTACHROME Film

Film is not dead. I've known this for a while because I looked into it a while back. Today is nice news to hear that Kodak is re-introducing Ektachrome film and is manufacturing it in their Rochester plant.

Since 2009, film sales have been on the rise. Indeed, it is not unusual for me to find maybe 1 or 2 people per workshop who is what I would call a 'hybrid' photographer or 'flexitographer'. Someone who now plays with analog mediums as well as digital.

This is a massive turn around from the usual question I got asked about 10 years ago of 'have you gone digital yet'. The way I see it is that we have certain behavioural patterns to embracing new things and I'd like to draw comparisons to music listening mediums.

Each time something new comes out, there used to be a terrific rush to adopt it. Bring in the new and throw out the old. Back in the 80's we had this notion that one format had to replace all others. Cassette tape and vinyl records were promptly abandoned by many for CD. Roll forward to the present time, and we are now living in a multi-format society where it's more a case of lifestyle choice whether you listen to your music digitally or via vinyl. In fact, we live in an interesting time where CD is now mostly obsolete and yet vinyl is alive and well (albeit selling in very very small quantities compared to other digital mediums).

So with regards to music listening, we've gone past the honeymoon period of embracing digital and abandoning analog listening mediums and now enjoy both.

The same can be said for photography. We have gone past the question of 'have you gone digital yet?' to perhaps asking questions such as - what else is out there that I can play with? And the answer is that many photographers are now enjoying working with other mediums such as traditional black and white printing, black and white film, colodian wet plate process, palladium printing, and of course digital capture.

It's an interesting time to be a photographer, because we have all these mediums at our disposal and it's heartening to know that many of us are experimenting and playing with them.

In Kodak's case with Ektachrome, I feel this rebirth of the film is more to do with the requirements and needs of the motion movie industry to have film for a few reasons: firstly, there is the need to archive. Digital is not the most safest way to do this and the more secure way is to have hard-copy. Always. So there is a desperate need from the motion picture houses to have film stock available so they can archive and keep their films for posterity. Secondly there is still a demand from certain film directors to shoot on film. There has been an active campaign for film to stay around.

From my own perspective, I think film is here to stay. But there is a problem with keeping it here. Currently with vinyl album production, most of it is being done on old pressing plant machines. The infrastructure to keep vinyl albums alive is based on dedicated people maintaining these older presses. Similarly, I think the biggest challenge to keep film production going is to maintain the lines and processing plants that make them. Re-tooling when things break down is problematic for large-scale existing plants, but surprisingly, it is not a problem for some of the newer films that are coming from cottage industry businesses.

Anyway, the upshot is that any 'scaremongering' about film being end of line product is simply that now. Film still has a future now that things have settled down a lot and we as creative people have more options at our disposal. It's a good time to be a photographer.

Light Table

Over the past five or six years, I've noticed a resurgence in analog photography. There is usually one or two participants on my workshops who now have a traditional black and white darkroom at home, or are a colour film shooter. Some are pin-hole shooters but most of them are hybrid photographers. They have digital and film and like to experiment with all the mediums now.

An A2 in size LED 'light pad' used as a photography light table.

An A2 in size LED 'light pad' used as a photography light table.

This I feel, is greatly refreshing to note. For a long while, I was always being asked 'have you gone digital yet?' and this question seems to have abated over the past while because we've gotten over that uncomfortable period when everyone feels they need to throw out the old for the new. It is no longer an either / or situation and we are now living in a period where photographers are embracing multiple formats, multiple systems and along with that, different mediums such as palladium printing, traditional black and white as well as C41 and E6 processing.

For a while, it was becoming harder to find things like a good light table. I have a beautiful one at home by Gepe. It has the same colour temperature as my monitor and daylight viewing booth, but I wanted a larger area - something around A2 to help me do an 'overall' review of images I've shot. I like to be able to see the bigger picture, to understand what kinds of images I've made on a shoot and how I think they may be edited together into some cohesive final portfolio.

I bought this A2 light pad, as it's called. It was pretty inexpensive for what it is (£70). It's great for helping me spread out several sheets of transparency roll films for review! I just love looking at transparencies on a light table - the scene comes alive for me but most importantly, it allows me to reconnect. I find my imagination is awakened and I can step back into the scenes I was photographing.

The downside about using an LED light table though, is that its colour temperature is far too 'cool'. Images can appear more blue or cold than they really are. The other issue, which is the most important one for me is that when I return back to my monitor the colour temperature shift is noticeable. My monitor appears to look rather yellow in comparison. It's not really. It's just that the LED is far too cold. 

So I bought a Cinegel #3409: Roscosun 1/4 CTO A2 sized colour correction gel filter to help reduce the coldness of the LED light table. It's exactly what I needed to bring my 'lighted' into line with the colour temperature of my monitor and daylight viewing booths.

 

Pitting your ego against the climate

Murray Fredericks reminds me of myself far too much. Whilst watching his 28 minute movie about photographing lake Eyre in Australia, I saw not only a landscape that is very close to what I have experienced on the salt flats of the Bolivian Alitplano, but also a photographer obsessed by the same thoughts that I often have during my trips to remote places.

Murray-Friedricks

 

I love large vast expanses of 'nothingness'.  I'm enthralled by the Salar de Uyuni salt flat of the Bolivian Altiplano in the same way that Murray is captivated by lake Eyre. You should definitely watch this movie. His images are absolutely worth waiting for the very end of the movie for.

I saw so many parallels with my own experiences whilst watching this movie.

For example, Murray notices that after a short while the exotic nature of his landscape tends to subside. This is something I've experienced and I tend to find I can only truly understand a place I've been to, once I'm back home. It seems that being home gives me a reference point, one where I can consider and notice the contrasts to where I have just been.

He also notices in his movie just how the smallest of noises like the sound of brushing his teeth seem to be amplified.  This also goes for his thoughts. He finds that it's all too easy to get stuck in some mad part of his brain and before he know it, he's digging himself into a downward spiral. I know this, because big empty spaces do this to you - they act as a massive reflective board that just bounces all the stuff that's going in in your mind right back at you.

You can't go somewhere where there is nothing to occupy your mind if you have issues. Issues just get amplified. I was speaking to a good friend of mine who lives in the Lofoten Islands and I was telling her about an american photographer that I know, who would love to move there. She said to me 'it's not for everyone, all this space and silence tend to amplify any issues that you have'. It seems that going somewhere with a lot of space doesn't give you a chance to run away from your problems - it just gives them a platform for them to stare right at you.

Murray also notices memories that surface - of people he hasn't known for years. I found this to be the case also. During my very first photographic outing to Iceland back in 2004, I spent a month in a tent, often for days on my own. I found this time to be extremely cathartic for me - it was a time in my life where I'd never had the luxury to have so much time to consider and reflect with no distractions. I felt I had a bit of a mental clear-out. I found my mind returning to thoughts of old school friends that I had lost touch with decades ago. It was surprising for me to find myself thinking about people I'd thought I'd forgotten about, and events that I didn't know I still had memories of. I considered later that these thoughts are always present, but they get buried under the noise of everyday life.

But the biggest message of this movie is this: you can't force things to go your way.

Murray says at one point that he wishes the landscape would cooperate with what he want's to get out of it and realises that all he's doing is pitting his ego against the climate.

So often I feel that as photographers, most of us turn up somewhere and try to 'will it' to be something that it's not and when it doesn't live up to our expectations, we become discouraged.

Photography is not about forcing things. Nor is it about deciding what it should be and discarding it if it doesn't conform to our wishes.

Photography is really the act of submission. It's about seeing the beauty in what's there and working with what you're given. You'll have more chance of capturing something if you're open to whatever comes your way, rather than hoping for something specific.

This is a really great short-film. I'll be watching it again and again, just for the philosophical observations. But if that's not for you, then watch it at least for the very stunning wondrous photographs towards the end.

The Benefits of seeing Upside Down

A few months ago, I re-entered the world of the view camera. It was a decision based on a few things.

Firstly, I'd been finding that I needed perspective control over some of the landscapes I've started to shoot over the past year. Buildings, and tall features in nature were causing me issues where I felt that the subjects began to lean backwards or converge together. Using a camera (or lens) with perspective control would alleviate that issue.

Upside down, and right way up

However, one of the challenges of using a view camera is that of composing upside down. I've found that rather than it being a hindrance, it has been beneficial in teaching me to notice things in the frame that I wouldn't ordinarily see at the point of capture.

One aspect of the human visual system, is that once we learn what an object looks like, we tend to keep it for reference point later on. This happens with everything that we see in our daily encounters. For example, when learning to read, once we know what some particular words look like, we no longer actually 'read' them (in my mind, this is tantamount to not seeing them). We simply scan past them. Take this sentence for example. Try counting the number of 'F's in it (please count it once):

FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS.

How many 'F's did you count? Most folks tend to count three. There are actually six. The reason why you probably got somewhere around three, is because your mind has learned to 'scan' words such as 'OF' - you don't actually read them. Instead, your brain passes over them because it learned many moons ago that it's really laborious to read words like this all the time.

Another example to consider is that of a room you know so well. Once the ornaments and furniture have been in place for a while, you tend to pass over them with your eye. But if someone comes in and re-arranges something, or changes something, you'll more than likely pick up on the change when you enter the room. Rather than having to 'see' everything, as if for the first time, each time you enter the room (which would be really exhausting on your visual system), your eye tends to pass over familiar objects.

Now, photography is really the art of being able to enjoy the subtleties and nuances of familiar objects. Like taking a still-life art class, where we are asked to look at a vase of flowers and draw it, the act of making pictures is really about noticing the details of things we take for granted.

In terms of photographic composition, when we see a objects we are familiar with, such as trees and mountains, we tend to pass over them quickly. This leads to issues where we don't notice compositional errors in our pictures until we are home staring at them on our screens.

But what if the image is turned upside down? Do you still pass over the tree in the frame below, or is your mind thrown into a state of trying to work out what the object is?

Upside Down & right way up (again)

 

Turning an image upside down breaks our ability to pass over items within the frame easily. In an attempt to understand what we are seeing, we pay more attention to the shapes and tones of the items within the frame. Looking at the two examples on this page, I would like to suggest that when you see the upside down image, this is exactly what is happening in your brain. But when you look at the image the right-way-up, you're now back to scanning familiar objects such as trees, mountains, sky, etc.

So turning an image upside down allows us to abstract the composition down into form and tone.

I guess you may be asking - well how can I use this, if I don't have a view camera like Bruce's? I'll let you into a secret - I don't just use this feature with my view-camera - I also use it when I'm editing images at home in Photoshop. It's hugely beneficial to rotate my images 180 degrees - because it allows me to notice flaws in the composition, or to see things that I wouldn't notice otherwise. The interesting thing about this is that once you correct the things you're not consciously aware of, the compositions tend to become much more relaxed and easier for your brain to take in.

So if your camera has the facility to turn your preview image upside down - it might be worth using it from time to time. Set up your composition and then flip the image 180 degrees to look at the frame and see if anything you didn't notice before pops out at you. Additionally, it's worth doing the same exercise with an image once back home and behind your computer screen.

Turning your images 180 degrees is a bit like having a workout for your visual-muscle. Perhaps it's something you might like to consider whilst out in the field, or at the very least, once back home and editing your work.

Colour as a Unifying Theme

Over the years, as my own photographic 'style' has been changing, I've had the good fortune to be in a position where I spend a lot of time 'noticing' the changes. This is perhaps one of the benefits of being a photographic workshop leader. In order to convey a message, and illustrate things, I've had to look at my own work and get to know myself a bit better as a result.

 

I wrote a nice little e-book about 'self-awareness' a while back, because I think that in order to grow as an artist, we need to become more aware of how we react to our environment. we need to get to know our moods and responses, as this will allow us to understand ourselves better.

One aspect of making good photographs, that I think is seldom discussed, is that of using colour as a theme. We are often very absorbed by the idea of composition in terms of form only, that I believe we spend very little time considering how colour may affect our style. Or more importantly, how colour can be utilised as a theme to bring a body of work together - and make it stronger than the sum of its parts.

I've noticed in my own work, over the past couple of years, that the colour palette of a location figures largely in influencing what I choose to shoot. I think this all began in 2011 when I first visited the black volcanic beaches of Iceland. In venturing here, I discovered that I could shoot monochromatic scenes with colour film, but also, that the final work had more unity because the colours and tones present in the work were similar.

 

Certainly, being presented with the reduced monochromatic colour palette of black sand and white ice, should have spelled out for me the direction where the work might go. But I'm not so convinced that most of us observe colour in this way, during the making of images on location (back to my point about developing a sense of self-awareness).

My impressions of the trip just after getting home, was that it had been a complete failure. My head had been so full of the cold that I came home thinking I'd gotten nothing out of the trip. The epiphany happened once I got my films back from the lab. It was only upon viewing the processed transparencies that I saw unity in the reduced colour palette. I saw a way forward and I consciously decided to run with it.

I think there's an opportunity in every place we go to make photographs, to notice colour as a potential theme to the work. This is also true whilst editing the work afterwards. it should be possible to notice that perhaps a handful of the images go together more strongly than others - all because they have a similar colour 'feel' to them.

Utilising colour in this way, is now pretty much at the heart of my photography.

I tend to hone right in on those particular images that have a strong colour aesthetic. I will look through the entire shoot to see if I have others that fall in-line with this mood, or usually, it comes about naturally as I build up a body of work. Some of the images relate to each other more, because there is a strong colour relationship between them.

I will even, after collecting many completed images, distill them down to those that have a strong colour relationship, because it has become a 'signature' - a unifying theme to the whole portfolio.

I don't expect others to be as literal with colour as I am. But I do feel that being more aware of colour relationships as a unifying theme that goes right through a body of work is beneficial.

Composition of an image does not just end at where we place objects within the frame, object placement is only really one dimension. Colour adds an additional dimension.

Just like black and white photographers will often tone a collection of images so that they have a similar feel, colour photographers should consider utilising the same approach in their work. If it brings forward a direction in which one wishes to explore further, then that's a good thing.

Working on some new images

  Just a short post today. I'm entrenched in my home studio, busy working on a massive backlog of images from the Bolivian altiplano and the Chilean Atacama desert.

 

I thought it would be fun to share with you an image of my beautiful Gepe light-table. I love working with transparencies, and laying them out in a collection like this.

I can 'see' the portfolio coming together a little more clearly when I do this. I'll sometimes pick out the best images from my sheets of Velvia 50 to scan, before I go back and have a bit more of a detailed review of what else is there. It really depends on how i'm feeling. Other times, I'll work systematically through each sheet of film one at a time, until I've garnered all the good stuff. On average, there tends to be around 2 images a sheet (10 shots) that I like, and want to scan.

I  love how transparencies have the colours already 'programmed' into them. Velvia is a highly saturated film, so I tend to work the opposite way to most Raw shooters - rather than adding in the colour, I tend to scan and then decide which colours (if any) require desaturating.

If you click on the image above, you'll see a higher resolution one.

For those of you who have never shot film, or transparencies, you're missing out on one of the most satisfying parts of creating images: that of laying out your transparencies on a light table. There's something about the tactile aspect that I think lends some kind of emotional investment to the work.

As for viewing the images on the light-table, the colours just glow - this alone can provide ample inspiration for the editing stage, and I'll often find myself feeling very excited as a result.

From left to right: Salar de Uyuni, Sol de mañana geyser basin, Pescado Island, Sol de mañana geyser basin, Flamingos at Laguna Colorada, Atacama Chile, Little Italy stone desert Bolivia.

-8 EV Exposure Meter

I've been thinking of doing some night photography in Venice later this year. From what I hear from a few clients of mine who have either lived there or know the place well - it's almost impossible to shoot Venice during the day because of all the tourists. Night time is best. My trusty Sekonic 758DR light meter is hopeless at metering in the later stages of twilight.

Gossen Profisix

So this week I managed to find a Profisix SBC exposure meter on eBay. I've been looking for one (very casually) for a few years. I first saw one on my very first workshop in Scotland. A Danish client showed me it take a meter reading towards the edge of twilight and night. I was impressed to see his meter tell him an exposure reading of 15minutes. Reading up on the light meter, I found out that it reads down to -8 EV. That's quite an achievement considering that my Sekonic light meter only reads down to about -1 EV - if that. I often find my Sekonic fails to read anything at all once we get in to the later stages of twilight, when most digital cameras seem to be able to read into what feels like absolute darkness.

Of course, moving to a digital system for this kind of thing would be highly advantageous. If the exposure is wrong, we just check the histogram and apply exposure compensation in degrees of 1 stop increments. Think of it this way - adding some arbitrary number of seconds (say 10) onto a 60 second exposure makes very little difference (it's only a 1/6th increment). So it's best to apply method to your madness, and increase the exposure by a stop at a time (double the exposure time) until the histogram is showing you a better distribution of tones.

But I've been using film for around 25 years now. I don't intend to stop, because I love the look of the medium. I also love the surprise element of what I'm getting. There's a mystery to what is being captured on my film: with no preview screen, I have to 'preview' in my minds-eye. I've said for a very long time that I find this a very satisfying way to work: my imagination is given a bit of  a work out, and I feel this really has, over the years, helped me keep a strong sense of visualisation.

Now, I just need to go and book those flights to Venice.

 

Film Streaks Mystery

For the past five years, I've occasionally notice vertical banding in some of my Velvia films.

Please click on the image for better detail.

Here is what I have tried to do to eliminate the issue:

a) I've tried different labs for processing, and still get the same results.

This has led me to believe that it is either x-ray damage, film manufacturing damage, or the camera is at fault (possible light leaks or unevenness of film in the back of the camera), or filters in front of the lens?

b) I get the streaking problem with my Mamiya 7II camera, and also my Hasselblad, so I feel that rules out the actual camera body. Which baffles me, because it appears to be on the same area of the frame!

c) My lab has looked at the films and states that it's not x-ray, because it would also be evident on the dark parts of the film and it is usually a wavy streak going across the film anyway. So that rules out x-rays. I've never had any issue with x-rays ever. I've had some film in my bags over multiple trips and multiple x-rays and never seen any fogging or streaks like this.

d) This has led me to think it might be manufacturing issues with the batch of Velvia I have. I have looked at all my images since I returned from Cappadocia, and around 10% of them are damaged. I looked at my film stock and determined that I have a small batch of film left from around 3 years ago - when Fujifilm kindly sent me a lot.

I've decided to use the newest batch of Velvia I bought just before Christmas, for the next while to see if this eliminates the issue. But in the meantime, I would like to hear from you if you have had similar results with your films, particularly with Fuji Velvia.

So film is too expensive huh?

I'm sure this will fuel the fires of those that think nothing better discussing the merits of Digital vs Film.

Personally, I made my mind up a few years ago which medium works well for my style of photography. We pay our money, we make our choices and I respect anyone else's decision to go with whatever medium, be it digital or film.

But I'd like to talk about the false assumption that Film is expensive to shoot. I hear from a lot of people that they're interested in moving to film, but the cost of buying the stock and processing it is cost-prohibitive for them. Add in the fact that you need to buy a decent film scanner, and the speed at which you can turn around your images - and it rapidly becomes a no-no for most.

I think there are really two arguments to this. One is, I'm a bit worried about it costing me money and the other is 'I'm not committed enough to try film out'. Both are completely separate arguments.

I don't think film is expensive, if you consider that buying a new DSLR every two to three years is a reality for a lot of people. I think it comes down to the fact that people like buying cameras, like buying the latest equipment. This has nothing to do with creating art.

If you want to get into film, then buying a film camera at the moment couldn't be cheaper. Buying a decent film scanner will be a little harder as there are few to choose from and most keep good second hand prices on eBay. But I reckon if you stick with that cheap Medium Format outfit and a sub 1K film scanner for more than 3 years, you'll be just as cheap as buying a new DSLR, and you get the chance to try different film stocks with their respective look and feel properties. You may even find that you love shooting Medium format, Large Format, and wonder why you never made the jump in the first place. You may discover that this has opened up a new creative path for you.

On the other hand, you may be happy buying the latest digital SLR every couple of years - which is fine. Just consider that the argument about film being expensive is a moot point. If you really wanted to try film out, there'd be no stopping you.

Mamiya 7 - Good & Ugly

I get a lot of e-mails regarding the Mamiya 7 camera, which I use extensively for my travel and landscape shots. I feel that many people assume that having the same camera as me is going to make their images better, which I misleading. But for those that are intrigued by the camera and want to know what I think about it, I'm going to give you the low down here and now.

mamiya_7iibig

Q. Why did I choose this camera over other Medium Format systems?

A. Because first and foremost, I wanted something with maximum resolution and lightest weight. I do a lot of traveling and it's important that the camera is light and that the lenses are light too. Try out many other MF systems and you'll soon see why the Mamiya is great for compactness and light lenses.

Q. What is the resolution like?

A. It's a rangefinder system, so the lens designs were not compromised by having to 'work around' there being a mirror in the way. The wide angles in particular extend right into the camera body and are a few mm close up to the film plane. The distortion in these lenses is almost non existent. Point the camera down and the horizon is at the top of the frame - straight as an arrow. No barrel distortion.

Q. Are the lenses fast?

A. No. This is the real downside - depending on what you are shooting. With maximum apertures of f4.5, they are a few stops slower than other MF systems. This is because Mamiya couldn't guarantee precise focussing with a rangefinder MF system. For instance, a standard lens in MF land is 80mm or 90mm. Now think about the DOF (depth of field) you have on a 90mm lens in 35mm land.... it's not that deep is it? If your focussing is slightly off, chances are that at f2 you're going to notice it. So the best compromise is to make the lenses slower. So that's the downside. Slow lenses, but on the bright side, because they are slow lenses, they're not that bulky / heavy / big. A plus point. Ideal for travel.

Q. What is a Rangefinder anyway?

A. A rangefinder is a system where you do not look through the lens. You actually view through a side window an 'approximation' of what you will get. The problem with this is that focus is achieved by overlapping two paralax images onto the same spot... this requires some mechanical calibration so that when the images are overlapped correctly, the lens is actually in focus.

Q. So why use this system if it doesn't allow you to see through the lens then?

A. Because it makes the system more compact (no mirror in the way), you also get to see the scene at the point of exposure (no mirror flipping out of the way for a moment obscuring your view) and the system is also very, very quiet (no mirror to make a big slapping noise). The Mamiya 7 System has the shutters placed inside the lenses, making the shutter tiny - and therefore less prone to vibration. So images are often sharper than systems with large shutters that are 6x7 in size!

Q. What are the other limitations of the Mamiya 7?

A. Close focussing is terrible, due to limitations gaining accurate focus with a rangefinder system. No decent telephoto support either - the biggest telephoto you can get for it is a 210mm lens - at f8 !!!! and it's not even coupled to the rangefiner - so you have to guess the focus point.... bit of a silly lens unless you intend to use the camera for landscape work.

Q. So what do I like about the camera?

A. I keep coming back to the camera time and time again. I swear at it, curse it while I'm using it, feel I'm missing shots with it, but each time I get the films back and look at those sharp 6x7 transparencies on my light table... I instantly forgive it its weaknesses.

A. I also actually like composing the shot through the rangefinder window. Because it is an approximation of what is there, I have to 'visualise' more in my head what I am wanting to create - no bad thing.

A. I tend to use it in manual mode all the time for landscape work. I have a Sekonic L-608 light meter which I use for zone system metering, so I can determine where and if I should use a grad filter. So I tend to slow down with the camera and think more about composition.

A. I also love the 6x7 aspect ratio.

A. I also love how quiet the camera is when out shooting street scenes. Even though it's big, it doesn't attract as much attention as a small SLR does.

A. I also find placing the grads on the camera to be a non-issue. I compose, I check how much area the sky is using - if it's using a 1/3rd of the scene, then that's how far down I put the grad. Because the grad is so close to the front element, it's diffused anyway. I only use the hard grads. The soft grads are no use to MF or 35mm shooters because the lenses are small. For Large Format, the soft grads are worth holding onto.

A. I find the camera great for the landscape work I do. I have my process with this camera nailed down now, and am comfortable with it. I can take it anywhere with me and its been up the side of glaciers in Patagonia, on an ice field for a week (it uses small batteries), and its been completely soaked in New Zealand and it still worked the next day once all the water evaporated off all the lens elements.

Q. What don't I like about the camera?

A. No close focussing.

A. No decent telephoto support

A. Slow lenses

A. To change lens, I have to pull a curtain over the film via a dial underneath. Can't take any pictures until the curtain is released and I *always* forget to release it once I've changed lenses.

A. It's poorly made, bits keep falling of the camera.

But I keep coming back to it. But be warned : it's not for everyone.

Gaucho

As part of my romance with the Contax 645 system, I now have multiple film backs for it, which is a really nice way to go if you want to shoot different types of film. This is the nub for me. What I love about film is the different characteristics that each type produces. Velvia is supersaturated, unrealistic in colour providing vibrant landscapes, Portra has great skin tones and then of course there are a myraid of black and white films to choose from... each with their own look and feel.

gaucho, Torres del Paine, Chile This was shot on Kodak Tri-X 400 and scanned on my Nikon 9000 ED film scanner with ICE turned off. What this means is that I had to go around spotting all the dust and dirt on the negative after scanning. It was a pleasure to do it. Perhaps I'm too old school.

While I was on my workshop in Torres del Paine national park, Chile, I like to take the participants along to see some real working Gauchos in the park. There are a few locations where it's possible to do this.

Anyway, I shot many images on Portra but also tried out Tri-X. You might argue that I could have shot this on colour film and then desaturated it in Photoshop to make it into a Black and White. You'd be correct, but desaturated colour films don't have the same grain properties that Tri-X has. For me, grain is part of the artistic look and feel of a picture. I've tried all those software emulators with digital, but have to say that it still looks digital. If you want the film look, go shoot some film.

Quality Control

I've just finished editing my images from the Bolivian altiplano and here is a contact sheet of the final 40 images I'm happy with. I was thinking today about how I love the entire creative process: you start with nothing and even trying to visualise what you may come home with is often nowhere close to what you end up with. There's that element of the unknown about the creative process that is intriguing.

contact

But there are some factors which can heavily influence the outcome of a body of work. I don't have a 'formula' as such and tend to like just 'going with the flow' and seeing where my editing will take me. But here is a rough outline of what happens for me:

1. I get home with a massive pile of films processed. I don't look at all of the sheets in one sitting because I'll be overloaded with the need to work on too many images.

2. I'm patient. Good work is not rushed and rome wasn't built in a day. So I just consider that each image takes time to be born correctly, and if there are golden nuggets in the pile of transparencies I have, then I will find them : at the right time, when I'm in the right mood to approach them correctly.

3. Sometimes I'm not sure how to approach an image, how to edit and this can be when I'm tired, done too much editing, or I'm simply not feeling inspired enough. Taking a break, heading outside for a walk, a cycle, or doing something else with my life completely seperated from my photography is the only way of approaching my images with a fresh and keen eye.

4. I work on a sheet at a time. I don't peek to see what else I have. I take each contact sheet on it's own merit and work on the best images from that sheet. This allows me to find images that I'd easily forget about if I found something better underneath.

5. I ruthlessly throw images away. For instance, on a contact sheet all the shots of the same location may be excellent, but there may be one or two that stand above the rest. Those are the two images I will work on. The others are stored away, but not used. If an image is not working, and I've tried a few things, given it some space, etc, then it will be discarded. If there is a glaring problem with focus for instance, then it is discarded. If the composition just isn't working, and no amount of cropping helps - then it's discarded. Sometimes I have a nice image, but something causes it to be discarded because it's simply too much effort to get it right. Good images should not take a long time to edit. They should just come together smoothly.

6. Quality Control. Ok, so I have say 40 rolls of film, each with 10 images on them - that's 400 images. I'll edit it down to around 80 images. Those that are really standing out mixed with those that are nice. Some may stay because I want to show an aspect of a location that is not already covered by the proposed final portfolio. But I will keep editing down, until I have a smaller number of images. If you want to be a good photographer, you have to be objective about your work and maintain a certain level of quality. Only release what you are truly happy with (unless you suffer from very high expectations in which case you are in trouble).

7. Be kind to your mistakes, try to see the images as someone else would. Some flaws are acceptible, and if the image still conveys a spirit or 'feeling' that you like, even though it's slightly blurred due to camera shake - then it's an image that still works. Images should be read on face value. Pixel peeping is not a productive activity. See the wood, not the trees.

8. Live with the images for a while. You get a sense of distance from the whole process and can then be more objective about your work.

I've taken around three weeks to produce 40 images. To some digital shooters, this is not a way forward, but for me : it IS the way forward. Good images, ones that I can live with and feel close too, can only be born correctly if I am receptive and nurtiring with what I do.

El Arbol de Piedra

On the Bolivian Altiplano, I photographed El Arbol de Piedra (the stone tree) around 6am. el-arbol-de-piedra

I had to retreat to the 4WD and sit in the warmth because my hands had gone so cold that they had become unresponsive. I couldn't operate my camera. It was a stunning revelation because I wasn't aware of it being cold. I'm not sure if this was because I was suffering slight altitude sickness problems anyway, but at the time I thought it was just that temperatures at higher altitudes just 'felt different' from the cold I know so well in a Scottish winter.

I dug out the contact sheet of film yesterday and this was the one that really stood out. It was shot a little bit earler than the rest and the light was just a bit more magical. Wish I'd laid off on the polariser though, but all the same, I'm happy with this shot.

Dali was apparently inspired by this very location and now that I've been there, I can exactly see how.

I shot this with a Mamiya 7 and I can't remember if it was wide angle (50mm) or standard (80mm). But I do remember not using a Grad filter because I found that the landscapes in Bolivia seemed to have the same luminance as the skies did. I don't know why that should be.

Just one of the many strange things I found different about shooting this landscape, compared to any other I've done so far.

Berber Portrait & thoughts on Film

This is one of my favourite shots from the films I got back from Morocco. Situated in the north part of Marrakech, he was actually sleeping in a big metal wheel barrow when I came across him. The streets are filled with smells, sounds, activity - sensory overload. So I think I was drawn to him because he was stationary. Anyway, he was one of the most willing participants I had. Sometimes a photo just falls into place, other times it takes a while to get it right. This one just fell into my lap. morocco031.jpg

I've finished editing the Portra Morocco shots. I just need some time now to put them up on my site. They are similar to my Cuba and Cambodia shots. I just feel so much more happy about them compared to my previous Morocco shots. The colours are right this time, I've got a lot more portraits too. First time I went to Morocco I came home with a few sparse portraits because I hadn't learned what it took to get them. The culture is difficult, people don't respond to tourists like they do in Cambodia (warm, welcoming) or Cuba (discreet, proud). The Moroccan is a distant person, privacy is valued much more, highly religious, general culture make for very difficult photo taking and I'm not going to do candid shots because it's so easy to offend someone.

Anyway, regarding film, my first shock was how grainy it is. After using digital for a few years now, it took a bit of adjustment to going back to looking at grainy film. But conversely, I had to do very little to the images - the colours were there, and that 'texture' or '3D' look or 'glow'. Conversely, digital is flat, you have to work at bringing the colours out, and when doing that, it really screws with skin tones.

It's hard to describe, and I guess I shouldn't need to. If you need me to describe the different look and feel that each medium has - then you can't see it.