Aw, come on, you didn’t think I would show you rude pictures, did you?
However, some of the pictures you will find on this page are dirty. But only in the sense that they were produced by me with a digital camera: a Nikon D200.
Being a curmudgeonly old fart, I swore I would never forsake the magic of film for the easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy world of the pixel. And I betrayed my first love.
All those hours spent in a darkroom, hands wet with developer, caressing the hell out of a piece of Ilford or Kodak bromide glossy paper, followed by the moment of ecstasy as an image slowly and mysteriously revealed itself in the orange light… all betrayed.
It was surprisingly casual. A trip to the Camera Show in at the National Exhibition Centre in 2007, found me ogling a Nikon – beautiful, black, rubbery, lots of moggiepoxels and easy to use. With trembling hands and desperate to part with my wad of dosh, I paid and we were finally alone in the car park.
What followed is too harrowing to relate to a mixed audience, but suffice it to say that I was unfaithful to my trusty old Nikon ‘F’ 35mm film camera in an instant and indulged in wild cavortings: photographing passing cars, clouds and naked Yorkshire Terriers with wild abandon… that camera of easy virtue gripped, oh so innocently, in my perspiring hands.
I was lost.
For the next week, she, sorry, it, was never out of my hands. I delved into its plumbing with an enthusiasm last seen at the age of fifteen, when I acquired my first proper camera – a Halina 35x from Boots The Chemist in Doncaster, Yorkshire.
Eight thousand clicks of the shutter later and several terabytes of hard drive occupied by shots of everything that has ever existed in the world, I fell out of love.
I bought an old Hasselblad 6x6cm film camera from eBay. I’d become weary of the limitations of digital. With film one could keep on enlarging to the size of a house if necessary and all that would increase would be grain size – lovely, soft round clumps of silver halide grain. Enlarge a digital photo beyond its limits and what do you get? Horrible, hard, angular pixels without a shred of romance or mystery in them.
Once more I smelt that peculiar odour of sodium thiosulphate fixative or ‘hypo’, no doubt carcinogenic, but fixing a moment in time and evoking, once again, memories of a partially and happily misspent youth. Again and again I plunged blank paper into developer and watched – still fascinated after a lifetime and many thousands of prints – as first the ghost and then the body of an image appeared, as if by magic.
It got me thinking.
It’s usually a bad thing to start thinking. I try to avoid it because in the past it’s always got me into trouble. Best to feign ignorance – or in my case just be ignorant – then the clever people can do the clever talking and I can choose to ignore it.
Anyway, my primitive thought processes chugged along.
Eventually I came to a conclusion.
Digital photography is a wonderful way to take photographs. It enables anyone to take competent photographs to a high technical standard.
But, for me, it lacks soul.
It’s probably my age. Old fashioned monochrome film photography is ridiculously complicated, lengthy and probably dangerous to health, but I love it. I love the rituals: loading a film, making sure that the exposure is right and not taking a zillion pix to get one good one, but taking a couple and trusting your brain and not a computer, to get it right. Unloading film in the dark and using only the feel of the film to wind it onto the development spool – the sheer tactility of the experience. Then, timing the development to achieve exactly the right contrast range and sliding that same negative film into the enlarger and printing the negative image onto paper to create an invisible, latent positive image.
And the coup-de-grace. The captured moment swimming into view exactly as you saw it in reality, but rendered down into a trillion shades of grey from white to black. 50 Shades? You ain’t lived.
It’s an almost supernatural experience. Yes, I know the science and it’s not… but it is.
Compare that to uploading pictures to a computer. Easy. Yes. But for me the thrill is lacking. Photoshop is a brilliant program, but mechanical unless you have several years to learn its intricacies, or are very young. Think of all the pictures you’ve seen with naff FX ladled onto them in bucketloads. One can only take so many canvas effect pictures.
I should say that there are some brilliant Photoshoppers out there and Deviant Art is where they are all hiding. They are all 12-years-old (okay, not all).
Ultimately, it’s about perception. Yours might be that the arrival of digital photography and Photoshop has released the artist in everyone, in a similar way that the advent of the Kindle has with writing.
I won’t disagree. It may have. I don’t have any proof either way. The jury is still out on the contribution the Kindle has made to writing; although there can be no doubt that it has emancipated the creative impulses of many thousands of aspiring authors, me included.
What I will do is show you some photos I took at various times. Some are dirty and digital, some are not. I wonder if you can tell the difference? If there is a difference.
One of these is a boat in Albufeira, Portugal and the other was shot in a railway depot in Derbyshire. Neither boat nor railway car are in use. Really?
All three are of St Andrew’s beach, Fife, Scotland – remember ‘Chariots of Fire?’ Bet you’re humming the Vangelis tune now…
The left one is in Anstruther Harbour, Fife, Scotland, at sunset; the right, near Castleton, is in the High Peak, Derbyshire, England, early on a frosty morning.
The first two are of the same landscape, somewhere in the Peak District of Derbyshire. The third one is in Padley Wood, Derbyshire. I have one with a 5″ water sprite sitting on the foreground rock, but have misplaced it. I also have a picture of Bigfoot wearing a bikini, in Tesco… similarly and mysteriously misplaced.
If you want to use any of the photos, please contact me via the blog before doing so. Thanks!
All rights reserved, Copyright J.D. Hughes 2012
ps: My new novel is (finally) close to publishing and I hope to post the opening chapter on this blog very soon. Publication is in November. The people who follow my ramblings will get first look… which may not be a good thing from your point of view of course, but it gives me a chance to thank you all for your comments and encouragement, despite my tardiness in posting new content regularly. Thank you!