Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat or What!

They found me!

Autumn Colours

Golf course by Tim Irving
The Golf Course - Tim Irving
Autumn drives me mad! It's a glorious time for rich hot colours on cool damp days. But I'm never entirely happy with my autumn photographs, I never have been. Yesterday my dog walk took me on a path that borders a small golf course. On my side of the path it's like walking through a deciduous forest. The light is filtered by the canopy and the floor is covered with ferns and mosses. There's an old hawthorn hedge that keeps the walkers and golfers apart, so from my side of the hedge the view of the course is restricted.

As I walked around the path I could see the odd glimpse of the trees on the course and with each glimpse I was tempted to get the camera out. But the longer I looked the more obvious it becomes that I already have a similar photo from last year that I'm not entirely happy with, in fact I've got hundreds of these photos going back many years, and I don't need any more, they don't make me happy.

Then I came to a gap in the hedge which opened up to the view above. A few inches from me is a branch of a tree, it's very dark and covered in moss (you can't see it). I focused on the tree, then I turned the camera to the view above and took the picture.

I shall keep this picture, it's not bad, but I would killed to have had a golfer in the scene.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Agfa Rondinax Developing Tank

Agfa Rondinax
This box contains the love of my life, an Agfa Rondinax. The Agfa Rondinax is an extraordinary gadget that allows me to develop film anywhere and anytime. I could for instance, develop my films as I smoke a pipe, while on a family camping holiday like the man below. Now I have a Agfa Rondinax, the world is my oyster.

I bought mine off Ebay, it arrived today, in new condition, I'll be developing a film later.
Agfa Rondinax in use
But I'm getting ahead of myself here and I should explain how this device will make my life easier. Film needs to be developed in total darkness and this is done in a tank. But first you have to load the tank with your film, in the dark. Since I was 14 years old I've used a standard developing tank to develop my films. This is a light proof cylinder containing a spiral. You go somewhere dark, remove the lid of the tank and take out the spiral. Then you remove the film from its cassette, or spool, trim the end with scissors and thread the film (which feels like it's several miles long in the dark), onto the spiral. Finally, screw the lid on tight before turning the light on. The rest of the process you do in the light.

The ritual of loading film in the dark, is comical and uncomfortable. My own technique involves doing it under the bed covers while kneeling next to the bed. You want to to be under and out as quickly as possible, it gets hot down there. Usually everything goes smoothly, but sometimes there's a hiccup. A common problem is when the spiral is damp from a perevious session or, having damp, sweaty hands. The slightest damp and the film sticks and won't load smoothly. On a hot day hiccups can keep me in the kneeling position for longer than I'd like.

Here's where the Agfa Rondinax comes into its own. I can now do the loading in the glorious light! No more kneeling. I put the film in the machine, wind a knob and it loads the film onto a spiral, automatically. It even has a thermometer built in so I can keep an eye on the temperature of the chemicals, bliss.  This machine is not new, it's been around for over fifty years, so you may be wondering (like I am), why it's taken me all these years to get one. The answer is money, for many years I couldn't afford one. But now I can, and I'm very happy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Zoo

Swimming to the Sky - Tim Irving
You have to practice your craft. Preferably daily with set hours. If not every day, then two or three days a week. As a painter you'll waste reams of paper, as a photographer you will produce thousands of worthless photographs, not to mention the time and effort spent.   

I've had an idea for several months that I should photograph a flamingo. I've done several drawings, played with colours and I know it will work, but I just can't find the right location. Today's zoo was no exception. After a long drive I find good flamingos, insanely peachy pink, but in the worst setting possible. Never mind, I console myself with a sea lion.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Joy of a Cheap Lens

Clacton Pier. Photograph by Tim Irving
Clacton Pier - Tim Irving
This photo is from a roll of film I've had in a camera for what seems like years. The camera is a 1946 Ensign Ful-Vue that I loaded at the start of the summer, and finished 2 weeks ago. I like this photo! In a world where fast auto focus and HD is becoming normal, a dodgy lens can make refreshing change.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Other Cycling Photograph

Cyclist. Photograph by Tim Irving
Tour of Britain - Tim Irving
Here's the other photograph from the Tour of Britain Cycle Race. It's not bad considering my fumbles. October and November are good months for cycling as many clubs around the country are holding hill climbs. Hill climbs make it easy for a photographer, because as the cyclists struggle to reach the top they almost come to a standstill, in fact some do come to a standstill and end up walking. They're easy pickings for the predatory photographer, I can even take my time fumbling and still get the shot. There's a nice audio slide show featuring a hill climb here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Take Inspiration

When an artist sells a picture, it's a red letter day. It justifies the time and effort spent creating, it's confirmation that someone likes, or even loves what you're doing and it inspires you to carry on. But when your art isn't selling, or worse, isn't being seen, making art can be difficult. Unless you're particularly strong willed you need someone (other than a partner, relative or friend), to validate your efforts and give encouragement.

I could do with a little encouragement myself at the moment. My problem is time, of which I have plenty, but not enough in one block. I need two sessions of 8 hours each to work on 2 projects. But I feel guilty leaving the dog alone for more than 5 hours. Before you ask, no I can't take him with me and I can't leave him in the car. I could leave him in the garden, in his kennel, which is very comfortable but I'd be worried that he'd escape. Until I think of a solution I have to busy myself around the house.

Of course my problem is trivial even laughable compared to the suffering and insecurity experienced by artists. Art history is littered with artists who didn't sell a thing, and at times like this, when I need perspective they are a great inspiration to me.
George Catlin - Shon-ka-ki-he-ga, Horse Chief, Grand Pawnee Head Chief (oil on canvas, 1832)
I'm looking at an old postcard. It's from the Smithsonian, it's of a Native American called Shon-ka-ki-he-ga. The original was painted in 1832 by George Catlin. George has the distinction of being even  less successful in his lifetime than Van Gogh, who at least sold a few of his paintings to his brother Theo.

George Catlin was inspired to paint the Native Americans by the introduction of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forced mass migration on the native people and in effect was genocide. George travelled west several times, no mean feat in those days, to paint the people and the landscapes he saw being destroyed.

Trying to support himself and his wife he took his paintings around the country in a touring show, but never covered his costs. He failed to persuade the Smithsonian to buy his collection and he tried and failed to get the government to sponsor his work. He died bankrupt and disheartened. His debts were paid by a Philadelphia industrialist who acquired the entire collection of 600 meaningful portraits, which he donated to the Smithsonian.

In a rather uncanny coincidence, while writing this piece I've just sold a photograph.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


The Window Cleaner. Photograph by Tim Irving
The Window Cleaner - Photograph by Tim Irving

Yesterday I was taking photographs of some of the most extreme examples of military hardware. The items I'm interested in cost many millions, sometimes billions of dollars to produce and maintain. This type of equipment can't be sold off at the end of it's useful life to an army surplus store, it's must either be scrapped or mothballed.

Housed in an enormous structure of biblical proportions, this is a long range bomber that once carried nuclear weapons. Bathed in artificial blue lights, I found it very beautiful in form and texture. I don't know what it's made of, it feels soft, smooth, and sensuous to the touch. Being alone, inside a building of this scale with this object whose form is perfect, I experienced the same feelings I used to feel (when they weren't so crowded), visiting art galleries or cathedrals. I'd recommend it.

Pratt and Whitney Turbine Engine. Photograph by Tim Irving
Plumbing - Photograph by Tim Irving
How about this for a piece of art. The photograph above is a detail of a Pratt and Whitney turbine engine, one of two used to propel a Blackbird SR-71 spy plane. It is fabulous, every part of the engine is hand made with the great skill, using rare and precious metals. Flying this aeroplane costs $50,000 an hour.

The day was very exciting and uplifting, I was on an emotional high but in need of refreshment. It crossed my mind that the very intelligent people who look after all this stuff probably make a good cup of tea, and with all the technology at their disposal, you can be certain that any cake baked on the premises would be perfect. 
Call that a scone?
But I was wrong! The cakes were dry and the tea bland.

Monday, October 4, 2010

14 days of Photography

The assistant. Photograph by Tim Irving
My Assistant - Photograph by Tim Irving
I've just looked at my diary and the next two weeks are totally blank. I didn't actually need my diary to tell me this news, I already knew, but it makes a good start to this post.

I'm house sitting for a dog, a cat, and myself. My wife Lyn is visiting South East Asia and I'm home alone with a list of reminders, top of the list is "No home improvements". This suits me because when things go wrong with an improvement, when it becomes the opposite of improvement, I like to have someone to share the responsibility with.

An empty diary doesn't mean I have nothing to do, far from it. I have regular chores, packing photographs and taking photographs of the cameras I sell. In fact an empty diary is my cue to take more photographs with the hope that one or two may be sellers. 

So I busy myself in the belief that no effort goes un-rewarded. Today I'm considering the practicalities of getting some photographs that I want, and making a list of how and where they can be made over the next 14 days. A small sample of the subjects on my list includes:

Ice Skating
The London skyline from south of the river
A portrait of a monkey

There's more than 20 subjects and each one will need research and planning. Getting information to organise a photograph is ridiculously difficult and I can spend hours on the telephone. Then there's the weather to consider, rain today, fine tomorrow, rain Wednesday etc. I'll keep you posted.


The photograph above of my assistant, is from a 127 camera loaded with 35mm film. I have a few very nice 127 cameras that I wanted to use, and although you can still buy 127 film it's more fun to roll your own. Rolling film on to old spools is a little like making your own Yorkshire Puddings, in that it's not difficult to do, but the explanation can be tedious. If anyone is interested in rolling film, let me know and I'll write the instructions fir you.

The lens on the 127 camera isn't of the highest quality, plus the film isn't held flat in the camera, and this combination creates a lovely soft focus, as you can see above. I think it looks similar to a pinhole image, but it's a lot easier to use than a pinhole camera. I've just loaded the camera again for my adventures over the next 14 days.

Back soon.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Home Improvements

This past week has been difficult as I've tried to lay a floor and install a new toilet and hand basin in one go. From the start things didn't go to plan. I removed the old toilet, laid the new floor and fitted the new toilet on the new floor only to find that the new toilet leaked. That toilet has been re-fitted 3 times to date and it's still leaking. The manufacturers have sent me a new fixing kit, which is different from the original, maybe this is the magic bullet.

The floor looks good! Protected by plastic and towels.

The hand basin hasn't been a doddle. The pipe work is totally different to the old basin and I now understand that pipes come in many different diameters, fittings and materials. I've spent hours in depressing hardware stores trying to work out the correct pipes. After several wasted journeys, I now buy the same pipe in different diameteres just to cut down on the mileage. The basin is now fitted but both taps have a slight leak. I'll try and fix them tomorrow.

I believe this whole epispode is natural justice, karma. For years I've harshly judged other peoples efforts at decorating and home improvements, now I'm getting my come-uppance.

Of course things could be worse and I haven't quite stopped judging others, yet. I found this apartment for rent while looking for ideas and inspiration. According to the ad, this is "a recently renovated apartment". I'm not mocking it, I'm just amazed at the plumbing in that bathroom, there's even a washing machine in there.

The decoration of the apartment is a little too playful for my taste. But if art can be voyerism this apartment works very well. If this apartment had been installed at the Whitechapel Gallery last week it would have made the whole experience more rewarding.


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