Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Missing the warmth – shooting orthochromatic

I bought a roll of Ilford Ortho Plus film, oh, well over a year ago and it’s been sat in the fridge ever since. Until about four weeks ago that is, when I loaded it for an abortive trip where I forgot a vital piece of equipment. So, after we’d had all thge renovations and decorating done, I managed to get a day to go out and make some photographs. As is my luck, the weather was mostly less than ideal on the day – the dreary slab of overcast that tends to sap my enthusiasm. But it was a chance to go out, so I took it.

I decided to head out to Clumber Park, a National Trust property about 15 miles away, near the town of Worksop. It’s a place I’ve been many times, and somewhere I like to go to see some autumn colour. Alas though, I think I pretty much missed the best of the colour this year – or at least the days that would have highlighted it at it’s best. I packed the Yashicamat along with a somewhat ambitious five rolls of film (including the already loaded Ortho Plus). Unlike the previous time I’d taken out the Yashicamat with this roll of film loaded, this time I took my tripod!

Folly across the water

I wandered around the park for a few hours, eventually shooting the full roll of Ortho Plus and also a roll of HP5+ before heading home. I developed Ortho Plus the following day (the HP5+ roll is still sat waiting for me to get around to it) and noticed some very dense looking negatives. I’m not sure if this is normal or, perhaps more likely, due to the fact that my Massive Dev Chart app managed to reset part way through the development meaning I had to quickly try and get back on track on the fly. While I think I was still pretty close with the timings, I was probably at least 10-15 seconds out. Maybe this impacted the process.

I scanned the roll and was pretty disappointed with the results. Not only were the results dark and drab looking, there also seemed to be quite a lot of veil flare on a number of the frames. This might be because, despite remembering the tripod, I still forgot the lens hood for the camera. I’ve noticed similar flaring from the Yashicamat on other occasions, although it’s not consistent and I often get full rolls where it doesn’t appear at all (whether the lens hood is attached or not).

Someplace to sit

The other reason for my disappointment probably stems from my ignorance of using orthochromatic film. I think I got it muddled up and thought the trees in the shots would look quite lively. In actual fact, the film doesn’t register reds and other warm tones, reducing them to dark grays and blacks instead. This meant that, while the autumn colour wasn’t at its best, there was still enough of it present to make my photos look pretty sombre.

All-in-all it wasn’t what I’d hoped for but, as I say, it’s my ignorance at fault here. I’ll maybe try a roll of the film again at some point, I just don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to do so.

Bark

Yashica Mat 124G & Ilford Ortho Plus 80 . Ilfotec DD-X 1+4 10.5 mins @ 20°.

Taken on 6 November 2021

Film photography · Medium Format · Photography

Maybe not as magical as I’d have liked…

I thought I’d take the time today to post the picture I’ve entered for the “magical” theme in the photo contest I’m taking part in. It fits the theme, certainly, although in a rather literal way, but it’s probably not the picture I’d have hoped to get under different circumstances. As I said yesterday, I was up against the ticking clock with the deadline for entries on the 30 November. As I’ve not been in any sort of mood for doing any photography over the past two weeks, it was very much a last minute dash to get something in before closing.

I had though about going inside the shop and perhaps picking up some props to photograph at home as a still-life or something, but they were closed yesterday (it’s normally opened on Saturdays I believe, but there was a sign on the door apologising because they were having some new flooring fitted). So my only option was a shot of the shop from the outside. The weather was very gloomy due to the snowy and stormy conditions we’ve been having, so the light wasn’t great, but on the plus side, the billboard on the side of the shop fitted the theme perfectly too, so that little bit of synchronicity was welcomed.

All-in-all I could have done better in different circumstances, but it is what it is and certainly better than dropping out of the contest. I still want to win it for Stan! 🙂

Magick. Just magic

Yashica Mat 124G & Ilford HP5+ (@800asa). Ilfotec DD-X 1+4 10mins @ 20°.

Taken on 27 November 2021

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Finding some magic?

As I mentioned the other day, I needed to get a photograph that met the “magical” theme for the film photography contest that I’ve been taking part in this year. So today, I went out and made a few pictures that I hope will allow me to enter something suitable. They’re a pretty literal take on the theme, but I’ve not had the time or (mostly) the inclination over the past couple of weeks to do anything else. Anyway, I hopefully have three photos to choose from – I’ll try and get them developed tomorrow in order to meet the deadline on Tuesday.

The weather has so far been pretty awful this weekend. The UK is being battered by storm Arwen, which has brought strong winds, cold temperatures, and lots of rain and snow. Some parts of the country have been reporting gusts of up to 100mph and, sadly, there have been some deaths as a result of the conditions. We woke this morning to lower winds than we had overnight, but with a coating of slushy snow. Had it not been for my need to get a photo for the competition I’d have been very likely to have stayed tucked up in the house where it is nice and warm.

At the last minute I decided that I’d wear my hiking boots while out. My wife and son were heading into town, so I got a lift from them and was dropped off at the location for my picture-taking. As soon as I left the car my feet were submerged in inches of cold, waterlogged slush. Had I worn my trainers then my feet would have been soaked and frozen within a matter of minutes I think, so I was grateful for my boots. This was my first trip out with a camera since we lost Stan a couple of weeks ago and, if I’m honest, my mind wasn’t fully on the task. Nontheless, I still shot 11 of the 12 frames of medium format film in the camera, and will use the final frame tomorrow – possibly a portrait of my dad if the weather isn’t too bad and he visits in the morning. If my dad doesn’t visit, then I might photogrph my backup prop for the photo contest instead – a £2.99 Harry Potter eraser that I bought from Blackwell’s bookshop. I think most of the photos on the roll will be quite mundane, although one is of a big flock of pigeons perched atop tram power cables which I’m quite interested to see.

My son (who came into town with us) was supposed to have had his second Covid vaccination this morning but we received a message saying the appointment had been cancelled – presumably due to the bad weather – so we’ve had to re-book that for a couple of weeks time.

Another photo of Stan to close off the blog. This was his idea of helping me get on with work by trying to fall asleep in my arms. Love him.

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Getting a boost(er)

In somewhat timely fashion, a day after a new coronavirus variant has been reported, I had my vaccine booster today. At this stage there is no information available at to whether the existing vaccines will be effective against this new mutation and they may only offer reduced protection due to the changes present in the variant. This is worrying stuff. We’ve had several months now here in the UK where things have felt pretty much back to normal in many regards, and I would be disappointed if we were to require restrictions, or even lockdowns, to be re-introduced. Disappointed, but not surprised. Also not against them.

Where we’ve had previous spikes in infections the general concensus amongst the scientific and medical communities has been that we need to act early to prevent serious disruption and increases in infections and deaths. Unfortunately, it has always felt like our government have waitied until the last moment to to take necessary action, meaning that things have escalated much more than they might have done had we done something sooner.

I would like to see mandatory mask use back in force. For the majority of people this is an inconvenience, but not a particular hardship. If it helps reduce infections then I think it should be reintroduced. It’s a quick and easy thing to do and far less impactful than having to close businesses, schools, and prevent gatherings. The last thing people will want are the same restrictions we had last winter, where people were prevented from visiting loved ones over the Christmas period, and then being in lockdown for months. Mask wearing would be a prudent measure to take while we get a better understanding of how the new variant reacts to immunity (whether from vaccines or from the antibodies previously recovered).

This is the first post in a couple of weeks where I’ve not really spoken about Stan or how I’m feeling. I’m not ready to stop posting pictures of him on here just yet though. Miss you little fella.

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Magic needed urgently

I’ve spoken on this blog before about the film photography competition that I take part in. It’s run on a photography forum I’m a member of and is a friendly contest, with no prize other then the pleasant feeling of being the winner. I’ve not won the contest before, although I’ve finished up near the top on a number of occasions. This year, with two months still to go, I’m currently in the lead and have a reasonably good chance of prevailing if I make and enter good photos. My problem at the moment is that I don’t have an entry for November yet, and there are only five days left to do so.

After losing Stan, my mind has been far away from photography over the past couple of weeks and, if I’m honest, it’s still not really there yet now, but I don’t want to drop out of the contest at this stage. It doesn’t matter at all if I do or don’t, but it would still feel nice to win, or even just complete the course. And if I’m sucessful and manage to win, it can be for Stan.

So I now need to find a photograph that meets the theme of “magical” in the next few days – including getting it developed and scanned. I have an idea of something I can do, although I’m not sure how good it is – it feels a little obvious – but it might be a case of needs must. I could use a photo I’ve taken throughout the year and try to finagle it to fit the theme – this is allowed in the rules – but I’m not sure anything I have comes close to being a good fit anyway. Whatever I decide though, I need to get on with it.

My emotional state is continuing to improve day-by-day, and there’s now more of an underlying sadness to how I feel, rather than the pain that was so prevalent at first. I fully expect it to flare back up again from time-to-time – grief is like that, it never really goes away, you just learn to live around it, but for now I’m feeling a little better than I did.

Stan never liked riding in the car when we had to take him to the vets, but he would always hop in the car when he saw the doors open – usually when we were unloading shopping. He once got locked in the boot for a couple of hours when he’d jumped in without being spotted one time. These are the memories that I will treasure (although I wouldn’t ever condone shutting cats in cars!).

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Moving at different speeds

My wife asked this morning about when we were going to put Stan’s casket containing his ashes with those of our other cats. As I’ve mentioned before, these are sat on a shelf in the garage. This might seem undignified and a little uncaring, but it’s just the place we’ve put them when our grief has diminished over time. We know exactly where they are, they are the markers of the cats, but they aren’t the cats themselves (even if they contain their earthly remains). The cats live on in our hearts and minds. I know some people keep them indoors on a shelf or somewhere, but after a while, in our case at least, this would start to feel like something of a shrine given we now have caskets for six cats.

I’m not ready to put him in the garage just yet though. And I think that last sentence gives a clue why. I’m referring to his casket as him. I know it isn’t him, but part of me still feels that there is some sort of emotional connection there beyond a simple reminder and and marker. I’m much more sentimental than my wife, and it take me time to move forward in thsese situations. I thinks she sometimes thinks I’m making it worse for myself being this way, but it’s the way I am and I have to do these things in the way that feels true to me.

Each day continues to be a little easier than the one before though, as I knew it would, but there’s still a deep sense of sadness and loss hanging over me.

I’m typing this up having just returned from a trip to the cinema to see Ghostbusters Afterlife. I enjoyed the film a and it was a proper sequel to the original movies from the 80s, and much better I think than the attempted reboot that came out a few years ago. Perhaps there’s some nostalgia points boosting it for me given it’s not far off forty years since I saw the original with a bunch of kids from school at the long-since-closed Gaumont in Sheffield’s Barker’s Pool. Whether it’s this nostalgia, Hollywood heart-string pulling, or my present emotional state – or probably a mixture of all three – I don’t know, but I found the film quite moving at it’s conclusion. There are also, in these Marvel Cinematic Universe days, a couple of extra scenes during and at the end of the credits. Most people had left before the mid-credits scene, and I was the only person remaining in the auditorium for the scene at the very end.

Here’s Stan on a folding chair on the patio back in the summer. My wife had been sat there, but Stan soon took up residence when she moved.

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Feeling lonely

One of the things that has come from the grief of losing Stan has been a sense of loneliness. This isn’t necessarily a new feeling – it’s something I’ve felt before – but Stan’s loss has resulted in it resurfacing. I think most people probably think of loneliness as affecting those who are physically alone with no, or limited, contact with others, and that is certainly a major reason for the emtion. Old people are often the ones we think of as being most affected, particularly when they lose their spouse or other long term companions and friends, including their pets. It is to be expected in these cases and there are lots of charities and good caused that seek to help in these situations.

Sometimes though , there doesn’t seem to be a clear reason for loneliness, and there can be the awfule sensation of being alone, even when surrounded by others, sometimes even your family and close friends. I don’t know if this is a common sensation, but it’s one that I feel from time-to-time, a sense of being lonely in a crowd. It’s a very sad feeling to have.

I think Stan’s loss has brought this to the surface for me because, as I’ve already said in recent posts, he was a largely constant companion. He wasn’t with me 24/7 or anything, but working from home he would generally appear throughout the day, looking for attantion, getting into some sort of mischief, and definitely making a play for some of his treats whenever I ventured into the kitchen. While he did these things with other members of our household, it was usually me who was there most of the time, and I think he imprinted himself on me as a result. And now those little shared moments between the two of us are just mine. I can tell others about them, but the other member of that experience is no longer here. It’s not like I would reminisce with him or anything, but there was still that sense of shared experiences.

As a result of feeling lonely I feel that I’m reaching out for contact more than I would do normally. While these blog posts about how I’m feeling are acting as therapy by getting it out there, I’m also hoping that it touches others in some way, both because maybe it might resonate and be helpful to someone else somewhere, but also because I’m putting down little markers that I’m here, showing that I’m alive I suppose. I’ve been much more active on one of the forums I frequent online, posting in topics that I might normally have not paid much attention to, and I’m listening to the radio while I work (a big benefit of working from home!) – well, perhaps not listening fully – I still have to work and the amount of focus I can put on doing that or paying attention to what is being broadcast is limited by my multi-tasking abilities – but having the sound of conversation and that sense of life in the room is quite nice. It’s a bit annoying having to keep muting it whenever I need to go on a call but, you know, there are worse things. For now it’s good to have that sound around the place.

Here’s Stan doing one of his favourite things (it so often seemed), which consisted pulling himself around the bottom of the sofa using his claws for grip. He would generally get a bit of a telling off for this, although there was never any noticeable evidence of damage. Oh to be able to rub his belly right now. x

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Day by day

I’ve noticed, over the past few days, noticeable signs that I’m starting to feel a little bit more like normal. I’m not close to being back to my usual self yet (and I will always be forever changed now anyway), but the movement is in that direction, which I am glad about. As I’ve said a number of times over the past few days, that raises it’s own set of guilty feelings where I feel bad because I’m feeling a bit better, like it means I don’t care enough. I guess that this is normal too.

I still feel pretty bad when I wake in the morning. I feel like I want to go back to sleep because when I’m asleep I’m not grieving, at least not conciously so. When I wake up though I’m soon hit by the fact that it’s another day without Stan being there. The thought of going downstairs is painful because now, instead of opening the door to the utility room and being greeted by his little back arching up to be stroked before being fed, he’s not there. In fact, none of his things are in there any more. And it’s the same at nighttime – that same loss of routine. I miss saying goodnight to him, knowing he was safe before I went upstairs to bed. It’s affecting me a little less each day, but it’s going to take time before I reach whatever the new equillibrium will be.

While I’ve spent quite a lot of time this week reading articles on pet-loss grief, one thing has occured to me about how the type of animal you have lost can have quite a profound effect on how it affects your life. I misss my interactions with Stan, the daily routines, doing the things I enjoyed, and the things he enjoyed, seeing him in the places he liked to sit and sleep. One of the things I’d not really considered before is how the loss of some animals can bring with them a whole other set of losses. Dog owners talk about how they suddenly lose all the interactions they would have when out walking their pet, and there must be other examples with other animals too, perhaps not seeing the other people at the stables where your horse or pony was kept for instance, or purchasing the food for an exotic pet from a specialist store. These don’t diminish how I’ve been affected by the loss of Stan, but in some ways, the independent nature of cats can mean that these other relationships and interactions are reduced in some cases.

Here’s Stan sat atop a cushion on the sofa at the back of the living room. He would often choose to sit here if I was sat reading a book or something. I miss the way he would follow me around the house very much indeed.

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Holding on to things

After writing yesterday’s blog post, I had a shower and then went downstairs. My wife was sat on the sofa with Stan’s casket on her lap. She asked if Id like to sit and hold him, which I did, and I immediately broke into floods of tears once more. While the casket contains Stan’s ashes, it also feels like a real connection to him as he was. It can never be the same, of course, but that sense of it being him is still there.

At the moment he follows us around the house in his casket – in my office while I’m working, in the living room when we are downstairs, and then on my bedside table overnight. I’m gaining comfort from this but I know that it will not be something we do for the long term. Either I will grow around my grief and not feel the need for that physical connection, or I will need to stop myself from doing it as it will make it more difficult to move forward with my life. I’ve tried to think back to the loss of our previous cats, but cannot remember if I treat their caskets in the same way – they definitely stayed in the living room for quite some time, but I don’t know if we moved them around the house with us in the way we are doing with Stan’s.

Again, this comes down partially to that increased sence of spirituality that I sense at times like these. I want there to be some follow on after our lives come to an end, and dearly hope to be reunited with loved ones again. And it’s this sense that there is something more that can make it more difficult to move forward. A sense of guilt (again) that if we start to move forward that the one we have lost will know and somehow be saddened by that. I think that this is just part of the healing process – my mind knitting itself back together – and that if our loved ones are looking on at how we are coping, they will absolutely know how much we loved them and that we wish so much that they were still with us, happy and well.

My wife and I went out for our lunch today to a garden centre not too far from where we live (we’d take our sons but they have little interest in such trips if they can avoid them). We had sandwiches, shared some chips, and got a couple of pieces of cake to take home with us to eat later (the boys already have a chocolate cake in the house – we don’t exclude them from treats!). While we were in the restaurant we noticed that it was dog-friendly, and a number of people had their dogs with them. I thought it would be difficult to see other people with their pets, but I’m glad to see them happy with their animals. It’s a nice thing to see.

Here’s Stan on my office chair. The chequered bit is my shirt, the white bit my ass. He would sometimes squeeze into the gap between me and the chair back, occasionally twisting his head around for a stroke or a chin-tickle, making me quite uncomfortable but very happy to have him there. I wish so much he was here doing it now.

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What if?

My blog – described in it’s title as a “film photography” blog – continues to be my place for self-therapy. I think that it may continue this way for a while yet, because it helps.

As I’m typing this it’s almost exactly a week since we lost Stan. A week ago he was sat on a towel atop a cardboard box full of stuff I need to put on eBay that is in the corner of my office next to the radiator. I’m not sure if passing this sad one-week anniversary will make any difference to how I feel, or if I want it to. Over the last few days, if I am honest with myself, I have felt a little better as time moves forward. And as soon as I realise this I then feel guilty – the judgemental part of my mind telling me that I should be ashamed of myself for daring to feel even a tiny bit better than I did. I want to feel better and to not suffer from the pain of grief, and I am feeling a little bit better. But this then feels like a betrayal.

But as the one-week anniversary creeps up (and I dislike the word anniversary in this context. An anniversary feels like it should be a celebration of something nice, not a reminder of a tragedy) I think back to last Saturday night and the “what if?” questions play across my mind over and over again. What if I’d done this? What if If done that? What if the weather had been different? What if I’d stayed upstairs in my office with him? What if things had been different? It seems a futile exercise to do this, to punish myself by considering options that are now forever out of reach and yet it is so easy to do.

The strange thing about my grief is that, while I want it to ease, I also don’t want it to because if feels like letting go. But what I need to remind myself of is that it is natural and necessary to let go of the memories of the loss itself. This is not the same as letting go of the memories of Stan. My memories of Stan are the things to hold onto and to cherish for the rest of my life. The happiness he brought me, and my love for him. These are the things that will remain strong and bright long after the pain of his loss has lessened. I know what I need to do, and how things will move forward, but as ever with so many things we “know”, they can be a lot easier said than done sometimes.

Stan’s things have now been put safely away. While he isn’t here to use them any more, perhaps one day they will be used by another cat, just as some of his things belonged to the cats that were part of our family before him. This is another part of moving forward that has caused pain though. Stan’s bed is amongst these things and, even though we have washed it, each time I walked into the room where it was sat until today I would hold it in my hands and place my face against it. It’s soft and squishy texture reminded me of him and of cuddling his soft, furry body. Now I can’t do this any more. I think it might be for the best, but it still makes me sad.

I’ll finish the blog with another photo of Stan…

Stan peeping out from behind the curtains in my son’s room. He’s either dazzled by the sun here, or was thinking about having a nap.