Moody Monochrome

Much is written about “Tasmanian Gothic” – a dark soberness that has its roots in the landscape and the colonial history. Personally I’m not a fan as I feel it colours much of modern-day Tasmania and restricts progress. But, there is no doubt that the weather and the landscape do particularly suit black and white or monochrome photography.

Beached
Wooden tender beached at Pirates Bay, Tasmania. Canon EOS 5D with Canon EF20mm f/2.8 USM lens. Exposure: 1/30 s at f/16.0 ISO 100

When I worked with film I loved the whole process for black and white photography. Picking a film and developer combination, then choosing a paper and then finally whether to tone the image or not. The whole process was magical and working in the darkroom, whether it was a commandeered bathroom or a purpose-built one was like a going back to the womb to create something wonderful. Admittedly an awful lot of the time I seemed to turn out a lot of dross, but it was an enjoyable process. To misquote  Kilgore’s eulogy in the Coppola classic film Apocalypse Now “I love the smell of fixer in the morning,”.

Kite Surfing #3
Kite surfing off Park Beach in Tasmania. Olympus E-M10 and OLYMPUS M.75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II lens. Exposure: 1/1600 s at f/6.3 ISO 200.

I would love to work with black and white film again – but living with a rainwater tank for our supply and with a septic tank for waste water management means that I cannot develop film at home and there are no labs in Tasmania that develop the film. So for now it is the digital option, which is not as magical and mystical as the darkroom, is in its own way just as satisfying. No longer following the Zone System laid down by St Ansel, I now expose to the right (ETTR) to get the maximum amount of tonal information in my RAW file and then process in Lightroom. The final black and white conversion is done in NikSoft’s Silver Efx Pro 2, which is always done the same way and mimics what I used to get with Ilford Delta 400 developed in Rodinol and then printed on Ilford FB Warmtone Multigrade paper. My Canon Pixma Pro9000 does a fantastic job of monochrome printing on Harman Gloss Baryta Warmtone. I’ve done two exhibitions using this combination and been delighted with the results.

Murdunna Moorings
Yachts moored on King George Bay Murdunna, Tasmania. Canon EOS 5D with Canon EF28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens. Exposure: 1/640 s at f/11.0 ISO 800.

Thankfully working digitally means that we can work in both colour and black and white at once, just making the decision of which way to go at the time of processing. It is a great time to be a photographer.

As always clicking on an image will take you through to my online gallery.

New Year’s Day*

New Years Day 2015
Sitting in the car waiting for the rain to stop.

Sitting in the car this morning waiting for the rain stop I was thinking about it being New Year and what sort of resolution or revolution I could implement for 2015. Fittingly the radio station I was tuned into played “New Year’s Day” by U2 and then “All I Wanna Do” by Cheryl Crow**.  I have reached something of  a crossroads*** as a photographer (doing well so far first paragraph and already three song titles referenced) – the choices are do I still remain committed to printing and showing my work that way or do I just output for the web and e-books?

New Years Day 2015
The rain finally slows down enough so I can head out onto the dog exercise area on Okine’s Beach, Dodge’s Ferry.

For me as a photographer and writer I want my ideas and images to be seen by as many people as possible and along with the process of creating that really floats my boat. If I just rely on exhibitions at best all I got was maybe a couple of hundred people look at the work. That’s a lot of effort and expense for for just so few hits (to use the web parlance). Having said that I really enjoy making prints – it was after all how I started in photography disappearing into the bathroom at night to process film and print. I found the process terribly exciting and rather magical. Fast forward a bit and an assignment that took me to Russia to shoot a bag full of Tri-X and when I got back home I processed the film and printed the proofs for the client. Later I got to see photos printed really big used at the launch of a human rights campaign. It was then that I realised the power of photography and the impact of a large print. I was hooked. Some twelve years later I got my first computer and started to play about with digital photography, desktop publishing and the internet. The world had shifted on its axis and now nearly twenty years later I’m doing stuff and reaching a what to me is a large very diverse audience. WordPress sent me an email the other day that gave a breakdown of the visitors to this blog, basically where they’re from and how they got here. While the majority of the readers are from the USA, England and Australia I get a surprising number from Russia, Central Asia, and the Latin American countries. The downside is that digital has made me a very lazy photographer and I’m loosing touch with what I’d call the craft of photography and I find that rather sad. I’ll explain that. It is sad because over the thirty years I’ve been pressing the shutter button I’ve accumulated an awful amount of knowledge – reciprocity failure, the Scheimpflug principle, push processing etc etc – and that hard-won knowledge is not being used anymore.

New Years Day 2015
Washed up tree trunk. Okines Beach, Tasmania.

I’ve got no easy answers. Maybe I’ll continue with being both. Perhaps for most of the week I’ll be a modern all digital content creator, and then for a day or so get back to the craft and keep in touch with my roots. I could even shoot a roll or two of film (I found a container full of unexposed film in the freezer and an ever larger container of exposed film). The photos accompanying today’s post are really nothing to do with today’s subject and were made in an “old skool” way. Well old school circa 2005 and that is positively ancient in digital terms. They were made with my Canon EOS5d – the original 5d – and a canon 50mm f1.8 MkII (the  plastic one not the original metal mount one). I have an embarrassingly large inventory of Canon bodies and lenses that sit around unused now I’ve gone to m4/3s.  So my feelings of guilt compelled me to get a camera out of the cupboard and shoot some black and white photos just for the heck of it.

 

* New Year’s Day by U2. Another memorable concert at the Portsmouth Guildhall from the days when Bono was not considered an annoying twat.

 

U2 – NEW YEAR’S DAY – OFFICIAL VIDEO from Noisefield on Vimeo.

 

** Sheryl Crow is an artist I’ve really got into, but an old friend of mine got the album when it first came out and every time I went round to her house she have this playing full-bore while she danced and sang along so I always associate it with her and that particular summer.

 

 

*** I first became aware of Elmore James after watching The Blues Brothers, and while I prefer the album “The Sky Is Crying” this track is an all time classic and has been covered by loads of people, but the original is still the best.