Black and White

I shot my first ever roll of black and white film in 2018, using the Minolta camera I had purchased. I love black and white images, although I do recognise the observation made by many that we see our world in colour, so why strip that way in a photograph?

I think my fondness for BW stems from studying some of the greatest photos in history, which are very often in black and white. Removing the colour allows one to get the detail of the shot.

At the same time, I find black and white digital can be jarring and almost too vivid. With my XE-3, I find I can creates reasonably pleasing BW images, using the Acros film emulation and adding some subtle grain, but digital never looks as pleasing as film to my eye.

Until recently, that roll of film was the only one I had exposed. As of today, I have two more completed films read and will try to develop at least one of them at home. Another first for me.

This image, from my first roll, is far from technically perfect. The pole in the background is testament to may lazy composition and the focus at a large aperture is just slightly off. But, I love it. I love Carolin’s expression, the hat and the scarf. In my defence, where composition is concerned, I have to be quick with getting the image, before she becomes self-conscious and there is no question of ‘staging’ the image.

 Carolin, Waratah Bay, 2018

Lake Mapourika

For two weeks last September, we travelled through the South Island of New Zealand in a camper van. It was a superb family holiday, in a wonderful part of the world.

Carolin and I had visited NZ many years ago and it remains a mystery to us why it took so long for us to get back there. I had forgotten many things in the intervening years, including how vast the distances between large towns are and how sparsely populated the South Island is. Compared to living in Australia, NZ has a sense of home about it, in terms of the cooler, wetter climate and vegetation.

We spent some of our nights in Department of Conservation campsites, which were basic in terms of facilities, but usually stunning in terms of scenery. One of my favourites was on the shores of Lake Mapourika, near Franz-Josef Glacier.

Lake Mapourika

Commitment

I cannot really explain why this blog has not become a more regular fixture. It is tempting to blame it on being time poor, being preoccupied with other tasks or things of that nature. In reality, I cannot really blame those factors. I have quite a bit of down time, during which I could compose a post, and I have more than enough images I could share.

The truth of it is, perhaps, that in aiming for quality posts I do not actually sit down and write any posts. The process of selecting an image and composing a post seems to take too long, compared to putting it on Flickr with an abbreviated comment.

Perhaps, automatically posting each Flickr choice here, with the comment reproduced, might help me to form the habit. I will try that, whilst also dipping into the seven months of Flickr Posts that I have not transferred to here.

 

Contentment and Achievement

This is far from my finest photograph and I am not really a fan of ‘selfies’, but this photo means a huge amount. I took it on Saturday when I played a small part in a charity stair climb featuring 600 firefighters, 25kgs of kit each and 28 floors at the Crown Hotel in Melbourne.

The aim was to raise funds for support programs dealing with mental health issues in the emergency services and to raise awareness of the importance of dealing with such issues and supporting each other.

Having been an extended member of the firefighting family all my life, through my grandfather, father and uncles, and more recently an active firefighter myself, I was delighted to take part in this event and show that we are serious about supporting colleagues who may be struggling, as well as hoping for support and understanding should we ever require it.

I managed to complete the climb in 6 min 27 seconds, which was pretty reasonable for a first go and an above average time. Not bad for an old bloke who up until a month ago dodged the stairs whenever possible.

I was also proud to raise $3365 towards the cause thanks to the generosity of family, friends and colleagues.

Please, whatever job you do, look out for your colleagues and be the support and the friend to those who are experiencing hard times.

Firefighter Stair Climb

The Black Dog Institute

Lifeline

Emergency Services Foundation

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Winter

It’s well and truly winter here in Victoria. Whilst the days can reach pleasant double figure temperatures and be sunny, the nights are certainly cooler and there was frost on my car this morning down here in Gippsland where I am working for the weekend.

I have a backlog of photographs to work through, many taken during Mum’s recent visit from the UK. We had a wonderful time together and whilst I took quite a few images, I did not take the time to go through them while she was here. That will come over the next week or so perhaps.

Just before she arrived, I had the first roll of film from the Nikon FE developed. I was overly optimistic using Provia slide film as my test roll and underexposed pretty much every image. The next trick will be to see whether tending towards over-exposure improves things, or the use of a different film in it leads to different results. In the first instant I’ll go for a usual negative film and aim a little more over and see how we go.

20/04/2020: Post-edit: I have a habit of pruning out my Flickr collection from time to time, as my tastes change. I deleted one of the two images here (and some that featured in other posts). Given that I host the photos on this page, on Flickr, it adversely impacts each post. A signal to change my work flow.

First film with the Nikon FE

Busy times

The last couple of weeks have certainly been busy. I had a stint at work from Mon – Thurs, then left early to catch a plane with Carolin up to Cairns, to attend the Annual Scientific Meeting of the College of Intensive Care Medicine. The ASM dinner on Saturday night was also my graduation as a Consultant. We both had a superb weekend, including a bit of sightseeing on Sunday afternoon. I took the Fujifilm with us and finally reached the conclusion that any apparent deficiencies rested entirely with the photographer, not the camera and I cast aside my desire to purchase one of the Canon full-frame cameras.

Rainforest, South of Cairns
This image was taken with the Fujifilm, with a little attention to the dynamic range in Lightroom. I hope to get it printed to go on the wall at home as I am over the moon with it. The rainforest around Cairns is quite beautiful.

We flew home Monday and continued packing up the house ahead of completion of our purchase on Tuesday. We are now in our new home and are over the moon to finally be owner-occupiers again. The rest of the week was taken up with packing and moving, as well as a two day echocardiography course for me and a night shift on Friday.Somehow, we have got it all done and are very happy in the new house. My fire brigade transfer is going through, so I am currently inactive awaiting permission to start turning out with the new brigade.

Australian Railway History Society Museum, Newport, Victoria.

I have fond memories of steam locomotives from my childhood. As I wrote on a previous blog many years ago, I firmly believe the success of Thomas the Tank Engine and the persistent allure of steam rests in the fact that a small child could easily believe the engine is alive and breathing, as it stands puffing at the station.

Whilst never a particular train-spotter, I do maintain an interest in the history of railways. They played a key role in so many aspects of industrial history throughout the world, reaching out like runners to propagate civilisation in previous rural areas such as “Metroland” in the UK and the western United States.

As a youngster, various North West London model engineering societies maintained small tracks and working, small scale, ride-on steam locomotives. They operated on different Sundays and a trip to either the Ickenham, Harlington or Eastcote ‘Sunday’ trains, was a special treat. My first ride on a full-sized, heritage steam-hauled train was at the West Somerset Railway in Minehead, with Granddad and Lisa.

When my children were little, I took them on various steam excursions in the UK, such as the Mid-Norfolk Railway, the Bure Valley Railway, Swanage Railway and similar. In Australia, we have had several trips on Puffing Billy. Somehow though, I managed to overlook the presence of a fine railway museum here in Melbourne which does not have live steam, but does have a fascinating array of steam locomotives and rolling stock from Victorian Railways over the years.

The museum is in Newport, near North Williamstown Station. It is not far from the Newport works that once built locomotives for Victorian Railways. Entry is inexpensive and there is great access around the exhibits and into locomotive cabs. A program is underway to get more of the locos under cover as some are showing signs of exposure to the elements day-in, day-out.

I enjoy museums, but whenever I visit ‘industrial’ type museums, I am struck with a degree of melancholy when I contemplate the massive industries and skill base that once existed, either in Australia or the UK, which has been lost with the passing of time. We still require manufacturing and once had the ability. Nowadays, so much is lost, as is the political will to invest in and support it. Standing in a beautifully restored sleeper carriage from the “Overlander” steam-hauled Melbourne to Adelaide service, I could only wonder at its opulence and the attention to detail. This was from a time when governments of any persuasion seemed to understand that governments were required to take the financial hit of providing some infrastructure in order to advance the country. The Victorian Railway network was quite something in its prime, but now it is almost a boutique service outside of Melbourne and many V-line rail services are actually buses.

Time rolls on of course and things change. The presence of two early electric locomotives from the 1920s struck me as interesting, given the march towards electric propulsion of everything in this day and age. Railways were obviously early users of electric infrastructure and I wonder if we can learn something from them in other areas of transportation?

I enjoyed the opportunity to take some photographs as I went around, with both the Fujifilm and the Nikon film camera. As I left I thought once again that I really must get on the Indian Pacific sometime, as one of the planet’s epic train journeys.

A link to the Museum: The Australian Railway Historical Society Museum

A Wikipedia article about the Spirit of Progress: The Spirit of Progress

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This goods wagon was built in 1890.
A trip to the excellent railway museum at Newport
Locomotives at the museum were built close to its present location, in Newport, but also in Ballarat, the UK and the United States.

A trip to the excellent railway museum at Newport

Heavy Harry
Only one H Class Locomotive was ever completed, H220 “Heavy Harry”. This colossal locomotive was the largest Australian produced steam locomotive ever. It was intended to pull the Overlander to Adelaide, but required upgrades to bridges along the route never occured and it eventually morphed into a goods locomotive, hauling freight between Melbourne and Albury. It did pull occasional passenger services, including “The Spirit of Progress:.

 

A trip to the excellent railway museum at Newport
My inner five-year-old…. pretending to be an engine driver

A trip to the excellent railway museum at NewportA trip to the excellent railway museum at Newport

The Dining Car from the Spirit of Progress
The dining car from the Spirit of Progress, a premier express that ran from Melbourne to Albury, where a gauge change was necessary in order to continue on to Sydney. I once had a patient who had driven the Spirit, both in the steam days and then the diesel.

A trip to the excellent railway museum at NewportA trip to the excellent railway museum at Newport

As the sun sets

(Edit 20/4/2020): Another image that fell victim to my Flickr cleanout…..

Carolin, Joshua and I went down to Canadian Bay a few weeks ago and watched the sunset over Port Phillip Bay.

The sun is setting on our time living Mount Eliza, Victoria, after 8 1/2 years renting in the same place. The children have lived here over half their lives and they were still quite little when we moved in, after a year in Frankston South. Although it was not our house, it has been a lovely home and our landlords have been superb.

We are not moving far from here, but we are excited at the next step, in our own home, in a beautiful village. Exciting times.

Continuing the saga of my indecision around cameras, I have started to experiment with some camera profiles that I bought online. They attempt to replicate the colour science of other cameras. This image, taken with my Fujifilm, has a colour profile of a Canon EOS 1DS mk3. Allegedly. I wouldn’t know how to test it, but I just see it as a palette of options to help me try to recreate the images as I saw it on the day.

I’ll leave you with my favourite sunset quote:

“I lay awake all night wondering where the sun had gone, then it dawned on me”.

Film photography, digital photography and general camera thoughts

I do struggle to commit to this blog on any kind of regular basis, despite a great enthusiasm for the idea. Perhaps it is the ongoing battle to decide whether I have anything interesting to say…..

Looking at my saved drafts, I obviously intended to create a series of posts about our efforts to rejuvenate the garden of the rental property we are in. We had considerable success with native plantings in the bed area of the garden, but the lawn is an ongoing battle. We will have to pass that on to the next tenants because we have finally purchased our own house here in Australia and will be moving on soon. We are excited about this new chapter in our lives and the beautiful house we will be living in. There will be a few projects there, including hopefully water tanks and solar, as well as a recreation room downstairs.

Many other things have changed for us since the last post. I am now an active, operational volunteer firefighter and a Consultant in Critical Care Medicine in my day job as well as an aeromedical retrieval physician.

Having scrapped the garden series of posts, my last post talks about Samuel and I exploring film photography. Samuel’s interest is more in the line of video these days, leaving me exploring my photography. I have continued to explore analogue photography and am in awe of the medium and the challenges and thought behind it. I have even purchased developing equipment with a view to developing my own black and white film at some point over winter.

As I said at the end of the last post, film had given me my mojo back. I now spend more time on photography, but take fewer photographs. I look in more detail at what is before me as I contemplate how to photograph it. I am more in tune with colours and seeing what is there. I use digital far more than I use film, but I have also significantly reduced my iPhone camera use.

Sitting at my desk here, I have before me four cameras. It seems excessive, but it has been an evolution. The first is my Canon EOS600D. I have barely used it since October, when I purchased a Fujifilm XE-3. My history of Canon goes back to early 2006 when I purchased a 350D, with an 18 – 55mm kit lens and a 70 – 210mm telephoto zoom. This camera lasted me the best part of ten years and some of the images I took with it are the most important to me that I have ever taken. There are tens of thousands, so it is hard to pick a favourite. Here are two.

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Caister Beach, 2007
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Caister Beach, 2007

There are some important lessons from these images. I had not had the Canon very long. My photographic journey was still in its infancy. I had some understanding of ISO, shutter speed, aperture etc., but little experience. I had no real understanding of RAW photography, other than a vague notion that it was highly detailed and would allow greater editing flexibility. My composition skills were still random, rather than considered. I shot these images in RAW and JPEG. Last year, having learnt more about post-processing in the intervening period, I ‘developed’ them. The lessons are that sometimes the image is right without all the preparation. The image is made by the moment and the subject as much as the photographer. Expensive equipment is not necessarily essential.

Sadly, the 600D has never quite lived up to the 350. In theory, it should be just a more advanced version, but there is something lacking in sharpness and atmosphere from the photographs. Perhaps it is just me, because Samuel manages to get some amazing images at different times from it. I suspect that is his superior artistic talent.

I spent quite a period of time last year researching cameras and systems as I felt it was time for an upgrade. I was very keen to get a full frame digital camera, but similarly I wanted to move to a more practical and portable high-quality camera as the size of my Canon had become a barrier to taking it with me on various excursions. As if to prove that too much choice can become a hindrance, I did all this research and then made the wrong decision for me. I must emphasise “for me”. Your mileage may vary and there is no doubt that the Fujifilm XE-3 that I opted for is an excellent camera.

It has many qualities. It is a nice, compact size. Battery life is good. The control system on top and the aperture ring on the lens is all I really need as the only settings I tend to access are ISO, aperture and now exposure compensation. Shutter speed is on auto. It fits in my pocket and I certainly have it with me much more than I ever had the 600D. Mirrorless facilitates more certainty about the eventual exposure.

But…. it is APS-C and although there is good objective evidence that the crop sensor/full frame debate is a bit meaningless, I still have full frame envy. The electronic viewfinder is pretty good but not quite the same as an optical viewfinder. This is something I need to just accept as I think mirrorless is the future. It has focus zoom which can be useful, although invariably gets activated by mistake just when I am checking another aspect of composition. I occasionally use the screen on the back which is excellent, but fixed.

I have taken quite a number of images with it that I am extremely happy with, but sadly there are also many that are just not quite right. Whilst I am usually quick to blame myself, I have come to the conclusion that something about either the sensor or the software and algorithms that Fujifilm use are just not to my taste. Pages have been written online about the difference between the Fujifilm sensor and other manufacturers, but I do not begin to understand any of it. For me it simply seems as though the images are in some way too vivid, too saturated or somehow CGId. This is a particular issue in bright light conditions with blue skies. A bit of work in Lightroom can help, but overall I am frustrated. Is it enough for me to sell it? No, probably not. As an entry level Fujifilm, it is unlikely to attract much value and I have an adaptor that allows me to use my Minolta lenses on it. With these lenses, I can often create images that I am much more satisfied with, than when I use the 18 or 27mm Fujifilm lenses. So, if I do make a further purchase, I will keep the body and shoot only with Minolta lenses on it.

 

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My favourite image with the Fujifilm XE-3 and the 18mm lens.
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This is an example of a frustrating image, in full light. I just cannot put my finger on what I don’t like, but the foliage in the trees is a pixelated mess for a start.
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The Fujifilm comes alive when combined with the Minolta lenses. This was taken with the 50mm lens, giving an 80mm equivalent.
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A portrait of Caro with the Minolta 50mm f1.4 on the Fujifilm XE-3

The next camera along is a Minolta XG-M. It is currently loaded with an AGFA ISO100 black and white film. I have temporarily lent both Minolta lenses to a friend to use on his XT20, so the film is on 16 exposures. 20 to go. I have now shot a number of films with this camera, most recently some Kodak E100 slide film, a medium that I had never shot before. Sadly, the prism of the Minolta stuck up two-thirds of the way through that film and in pursuit of fixing it, I had to sacrifice the last 12, unexposed images. I was blown away by the clarity of the images that came from that E100 slide film. There is a high chance I may never shoot another colour emulsion after I use up the ones I have in my drawer. Whether that eventuates will depend upon the results with Fujifilm Provia and some Kodak Ektar 100 colour negative film.

I use a 50mm MD Rokkor lens and a 28mm MD Rokkor lens on the Minolta and I love both of them.

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Our garden, last winter. Kodak T-Max ISO100 black and white film
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Country Fire Authority Scania Medium Pumper. Kodak T-Max ISO 100 film. I love the silky effect to this image.
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Beach path, Waratah Bay, Victoria, Australia. Kodak T-Max ISO100
Mt Buffalo Chalet - Kodak E100
Mt Buffalo Chalet. Kodak E100 slide film
Mermaid Pools (1) - Kodak E100
Mermaid Pools, Mt Beauty. Kodak E100 slide film.
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The lake at Mt Beauty. Kodak E100 slide film. Minolta MD Rokkor 28mm lens.

The final camera on the desk is a Nikon FE with a 50mm lens. It currently has a roll of Fujifilm Provia loaded. This is the first film I am exposing with the Nikon, so no images to share just yet.

Of course, there is another camera in my pocket, the iPhone 8 Plus. Whilst I was regularly able to get images I quite liked with my 6 Plus (see the photograph of MFB Station 2 in this post), I rarely am with my 8 Plus. In fairness, the images don’t look too bad on the iPad or iPhone, but as soon as I look at them on my 5K 28″ iMac, they appear so artificial and digital they are unpleasant. That has dramatically reduced any desire to take photographs with it.

So, I suspect in the coming few months there will be another camera purchase in pursuit of a suitable replacement for my much-missed EOS350D. I love Canon colour. I think the Nikon Z6 is probably a better entry level full frame mirrorless than the Canon R. The Canon RP may be enough for me, given how much I liked the entry level 350D. I spend far too much time trawling Flickr trying to evaluate those cameras, but that’s no guarantee I will like my results. Tricky.

The Playing Field

Here is a film I made earlier this year. Whilst visiting family, I took my teenage son to the park he used to visit as a youngster. He wanted to have a play on the climbing frames he remembered so well.

It was a spring day, the sun was shining, but still low in the sky given the time of year. The light it cast across the park was quite special.

I had recently downloaded Filmic on to my iPhone 6 Plus and so, quite spontaneously, Joshua and I decided to shoot a bunch of scenes for a film. We lacked a particular concept, but as I filmed and then edited, thoroughly enjoying the control that Filmic offers, a short movie emerged that we think shows the wistful nostalgia of a teenage boy enjoying the climbing frame, the park and the trees, but knowing that a time of great change is approaching.

We hope you enjoy the movie and look forward to any comments you might have.

 

The Playing Field from Mark Savage on Vimeo.