Looking out to sea

Looking out to sea seems to be an enduring calling to many people when visiting the coast, certainly in the UK, but also, I suspect, around the globe. Every seaside resort I’ve ever visited has benches and shelters along the promenade, along harbour walls, and atop cliffs and promontories, for the purpose of providing somewhere to rest while looking at the ocean beyond. Coin-operated telescopes provide the means of a close-up inspection, should something interesting be present on the water. There are car-parks designed in a such a way as to provide access to the view without leaving the comfort of the vehicle (and in the UK, given our tendency to inclement weather, this is perhaps wise).

I remember as a child visiting the beach with my grandparents in the rain. We would just sit in the car, eat sandwiches, drink pop or hot drinks from a thermos-flask, and watch the tide come in or retreat. If the weather was favourable, we’d get to venture onto the sand with our granddad, while grandma remained in the car, often with the aim of building a sandcastle that we could then subsequently watch be destroyed by the incoming waves while we sat back in the car. The castle fallen, and night beginning to fall, we’d return to the caravan for cocoa and bed.

There’s definitely a draw to looking at the sea, even on a calm day. Something about being at the edge of the world and imagining what might lie beyond some distant horizon (usually Denmark in our case, given the east coast of England was generally our destination of choice). Often times it’s older people who seem to do this the most. Perhaps the sea offers a glimpse of something else, something poignant, something nostalgic. Or maybe they just need a sit down more than the young.

FILM - Together

Olympus 35RC & Eastman Double-X.

Taken on 13 September 2019

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Ice cream

The ice cream stand on Mablethorpe promenade. It has a satisfyingly wide range of choices, including those oyster-shell wafers filled with soft-serve that always look really nice, but which I’ve never once had in my entire time on this Earth. I did buy an ice cream, a 99, but it was from another shop.

Also in shot is a ubiquitous seaside sight – the giant ice cream cone! 🙂

Anyway, the lady in the photo’s stripey top has come out nicely on the Double-X. Although the blacks look pretty deep, there’s still detail in there when you look closely.

Sadly, this was the last of my Secret Santa supply of this film, so I’ll need to buy some more.

FILM - Ice Cream Stand

Olympus 35RC & Eastman Double-X.

Taken on 13 September 2019

Coastwatch

A quick post today as I have to go out. Here’re a couple of photos of the Coastwatch building on Mablethorpe’s north shore.

Not to be mistaken with Ghostwatch. 🙂

FILM - Coastwatch

FILM - Coastal breeze

Olympus 35RC & Eastman Double-X.

Taken on 13 September 2019

Seaside steps

FILM - Beach steps

This is the view looking north from the Lincolnshire seaside resort of Mablethorpe. There is a small promentory at this point on the shore above the outfall from The Cut, a drain that takes water from the surrounding low-lying countryside – mostly agricultural land – and this section of steps leading down to the beach is at the easternmost point.

The steps form part of an extensive system of coastal defenses that were built and strengthened following the devastating North Sea Flood that occurred in 1953. This winter storm hit on the night of Saturday 31 January and, coupled with a high spring tide, resulted in a storm surge of over 5 metres above the average sea level in some areas. Large areas of low-lying coastal land were deluged in the countries bordering the North Sea, particularly The Netherlands, where 1,836 deaths were recorded. Although loss of life was less severe in England and Scotland, there was still a tragic loss of 336 people. The flood waters reached as far as 2 miles inland in places and forced the evacuation of over 30,000 people from their homes.

The photograph below shows the outfall where The Cut enters the North Sea. This area is submerged at high tide.

FILM - At low tide

Olympus 35RC & Eastman Double-X.

Taken on 13 September 2019

Further Holga misadventures

Following my initial, less than fully-successful, outing with the Holga, and then the second, much more fruitful attempt, I decided to take the camera with me on a trip to Mablethorpe, my childhood seaside haunt on the Lincolnshire coast.

It was Friday 13th. Take it as you will…

As well as the Holga, I also took a 35mm rangefinder and my Zeiss folder (which had half-a-roll of Ektar still inside). I took several rolls of film on the trip – three rolls of expired Tri-X, and a roll of expired Pro 400H for the Holga. A roll of Portra 400 each for the Zeiss and my 35RC, plus a couple of rolls of B&W also for the 35RC. I figured it’s better to bring back unused film from a trip than to run out while there, so I was good to go on that front.

Where I wasn’t so good was the Holga itself. It would seem that, probably when placing it in my bag and completely unnoticed by myself, that I inadvertently knocked the shutter setting into bulb mode.

So, the day progressed nicely. The weather was lovely – bright and sunny (but not too hot) and with photogenic whisps of high altitude clouds adding interest to the sky – and I soon got to taking some photographs (in fact I stopped at a couple of places during the journey when I saw some photogenic scenes). In all I shot three rolls through the Holga – the Pro 400H and two rolls of expired Tri-X, two through the 35RC (Portra 400 and Eastman Double-X) and the remaining Ektar and the Portra 400 in the Zeiss. Quite a busy day, all told, and very enjoyable. I was happy that I’d found a bunch of nice photos and looked forward to seeing the results.

I sent the colour rolls off for processing on Saturday, and took the B&W to my local lab today and got the results back this lunchtime. Eager to see the results, I held the negatives up to the window and was quickly dismayed to see that they were very thick – a clear sign of overexposure. Although difficult to tell without a loupe, it was also apparent that some were blurry – even moreso than I would expect from my Holga (which is pretty sharp in the centre). Picking up the camera I examined the shutter control and, with a sinking heart (and a deal of profanity!) saw the cause. All three rolls through the camera had been shot on bulb mode.

I felt pretty down about it and, for a moment, was tempted to just throw the lot in the bin. Instead, I decided to try scanning them to see how bad they looked. The truth is, they were pretty bad – almost white from overexposure and soft across the whole frame from camera-shake. Again, I was tempted to not waste my time and give it all up as a bad job.

But I didn’t.

Partly because of the cost of film and processing, but mostly because I didn’t want to lose all my photos from the Holga, I carried on. As I progressed I found that some images, while still blurrier than normal, were not as bad as I first thought (I had either been particularly quick on the shutter release, or posess a hitherto unknown robot-like ability to stand rigidly still). I was able to recover lots of detail during scanning; did some processing in Lightroom to punch up the contrast, which helped; and then – although this is not something I would normally do with film photos – decided to run them through Nik Silver FX. The result was contrasty, moody and grainy images that I felt I could live with (luckily, it’s a look I like). I’ve yet to receive the Pro 400H shots, which will be similarly afflicted – It might be that they end up being converted to B&W if any are worthwhile.

So, without further ado, here are some of the images I rescued. As with my other Holga misadventure, these aren’t what I’d envisaged, but they’re also much better than I initially feared. I think that they were worth saving.

I guess there might be a moral about not giving up in here somewhere. Again, take it as you will.

FILM - Footpath through the dunes

FILM - To the beach

FILM - Looking out to sea

FILM - Beach fence

FILM - Camera obscura

FILM - Looking east

Holga 120N & Kodak Tri-X (expired).

Taken on 13 September 2019

Holga (mis)adventures

A couple of weeks ago I bought myself a Holga.

Well, to be accurate, I bought myself two Holgas.

The first one had to be sent back because a part was missing – one of the catches that holds that back on the camera and acts as an attachment for the strap. Given that I planned on taping all the seams anyway, I suppose I could have managed ok without it, but it wasn’t as described in the listing and so I got a refund. This one was a 120GN model – a step up from the basic version in that it has a glass (wow!) lens.

The second version arrived complete will all expected parts, plus a roll of expired Fuji Pro 400H, and a couple of batteries “for the flash”. Given that the model I bought doesn’t have a biult-in flash (and didn’t come with a seperate flash), these will find an alternate use somewhere around the house. The second camera is the plain old 120N version, with the plastic lens.

I think I might write a review of the camera in a future post – its relative dearth of features should make it quite a straightforward prospect – in which I’ll cover my reasons for wanting such a basic piece of equipment. But for this post though, I’ll just cover my first outing with the camera. Things didn’t quite go to plan…

I’ve been very busy at work recently and the only chance I had to give it a test run was during a lunchtime. Obviously I could have been patient and waited until the weekend, but, well, I didn’t. I loaded the camera at home (a process both simple and tricky at the same time due to the camera’s design) and headed into the garden to take an initial test shot – this was intended to see if the camera had any light leaks, although I’d need to wait for the roll to be developed to see the result. After this, I taped up all the seams just to be on the safe side. This test shot had an extra benefit of making me realise I’d got the camera on the bulb setting (it has ALL the features!), so saved me ruining the whole roll with camera shake. After that I headed for a local footpath that traverses a small wood and a railway line.

As it was overcast, I set the camera’s “high-tech” aperture switch to the cloudy setting and started making photographs, being careful to be as accurate as possible with the basic zone-focusing system, and carefully lifting and replacing the piece of black electrical tape that I’d placed over the red film-counter window as I wound on to each new frame.

After taking my 12th – and final, or so I thought – shot, I lifted the tape and started to wind the film onto the takeup spool.

Then the number 13 appeared in the window.

Oh! That’s not right, is it!” I muttered to myself (there may have been some profanity involved), quickly realising something was amiss. It took little more that a second or two for me to realise that I’d clearly not RTFM properly and had the little slider on the film-counter window at the wrong setting. You see, the camera has a couple of masks that can be fitted inside the body – one to allow 6×6 square images, the other for 6×4.5 rectangular images – and the counter window slider allows you to see the relevant set of frame numbers on the film backing paper. I’d had the slider on the “16” setting, thus revealing the window beside the “12”, thinking that was correct. Alas, it was not.

So I moved the slider to the correct position and got another couple of frames from the roll. This offered little consolation for my realisation that the rest of the roll was going to be one huge image of overlapping frames.

However, this is a Holga, and if nothing else, I figured there might be some sort of happy accident amongst the mistakes, so I dropped the film in for processing, explaining my fears, and they told me they’d return the film uncut, instead of in a sleeve as normally happens. So a couple of days later I became the proud owner of a fully uncut roll of processed 120 negative.

Upon looking at the negatives in the light, I became aware that there was a synchronicity between some of the images that might be interesting, plus several more that might still work ok with some selective cropping. Today’s post therefore features all the final images from the roll (except the blurry initial test shot of the rhododendron in my garden – it’s out of focus, but shows no sign of light leaks. I still don’t trust it though).

One small note – the roll of Tri-X I shot is from a faulty batch that I have in which the text from the backing paper bleeds through onto the final images. I’d normally do my best to Photoshop out these defects but, for my Holga photos, think it’s probably ok to leave them as-is and probably adds to the look.

Here’s the first shot (I’ll attempt to put them in order), and one I chose to leave as an overlapping image. They’re a close enough match in composition for it to work quite well (although the righmost part would probably work well on its own too):

FILM - Holga (mis)adventures #2

The second shot is another one I left overlapping. I think this one works the best of the three “double exposures”. Again, it’s far from seamless, but I think it still looks quite nice:

FILM - Holga (mis)adventures #4

After taking my photos of the railway bridge, I took a picture of this footpath sign (it looks like some work to re-route the path is underway). There are traces of overlap at either side, but I don’t think they detract too badly in the crop:

FILM - Holga (mis)adventures #5

Shot number four is the final one that I left fully overlapped. This one works quite well too I think – there’s a very obvious join, but the rightmost trees add a sense of depth to the image. Believe it or not, this actually got into Flickr Explore the other day!:

FILM - Holga (mis)adventures #3

The following images are all crops in which I#ve removed the double-exposure parts completely, or where varying degrees of overlap can still be seen. Some work better than others (and some would have benefitted from the full 6×6 frame and all the Holga’s vignetting and focus fall-off that this would have added). My favourite of these is the wooden telephone-pole picture.

FILM - Holga (mis)adventures #6

FILM - Holga (mis)adventures #9

FILM - Holga (mis)adventures #8

FILM - Holga (mis)adventures #7

FILM - Holga (mis)adventures #10

After the image above, I realised that I’d mis-wound the film, so the last two are full 6×6 images. One of them (the wall) is a pretty uninteresting, and the other (the telephone-pole) is a bit out of focus because I mis-set the dial.

FILM - Holga (mis)adventures #11

FILM - Holga (mis)adventures #1

All things considered, I’m pretty happy with these. While the double-exposures were unintended and I’d have preferred for them not to have happened, there are some interesting (to me, at least) results in there and, given that this was a test roll anyway, it gave me confidence about the sort of results I might achieve with this camera. The dark and contrasty look of the Tr-X is also a contributing factor to my liking them.

I’ve no intention of giving up my other cameras with their good, sharp lenses, wide range of functionality, and ability to function without being taped shut(!), but there’s a charm to the lo-fi images that the Holga produces that I definitely like. I’ve shot four more rolls through it since this one!

Anyway, what do you think? Do they work, or am I just attempting to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear?

All photographs: Holga 120N & Kodak Tri-X (expired).

All taken on 5 September 2019

Coup-de-Ville

I can’t hear the name Coup-de-Ville without thinking of John Carpenter’s band. It’s a pretty cheesy number but awesome all the same – just like the movie from which it’s taken.

FILM - Coupe De Ville

Nikon F80, Nikkor 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 & Eastman Double-X.

Taken on 17 August 2019