A FEW DIRTY PICTURES or How I Became A Luddite

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.

Full circle.

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!

About J.D.Hughes

Disclaimer: The profile photo above was taken when I was (briefly) young and cool. Writer, director and recovered ne'er do well. Simply delightful, but quite unhinged supernatural thrillers, NORTHMAN & AND SOON THE SONG on Amazon and several short stories, all of which contain The Meaning of Life. Or one of them. New novel to be published mid 2020, but on current performance might be posthumously... Likes dogs and probably was one in a past life.
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20 Responses to A FEW DIRTY PICTURES or How I Became A Luddite

  1. K. S. Bowers says:

    I knew you were a talented writer and now I see you’re a talented photographer as well. These pictures are absolutely breathtaking. A very beautifully written and stunningly visual post. Love it.


  2. J.D.Hughes says:

    You are too kind, KS! It’s just a pity you’re already married to Sexy 🙂 My wife says I’m not allowed to say that…


  3. Terry Tyler says:

    Bloody excellent photos, JD. I can’t believe it – the ‘dirty pictures’ thing actually made me click on the link. Shit, and I thought I was better than that..
    No, but seriously, folks, one has to click on to it – it’s like my blog post with the title ‘Free Sex And Money Here’ – yes, it has twice as many hits as some other posts. It’s about this very thing…
    Your holiday snaps are rather delightful, fo’sho! Love the nuclear explosion in the rural English field, and the portugese chipped paint – that WAS the blue one, right? Now, I must curtail this joyful meander and get back to my returned RTs; I’ve got about 200 to do so you only get one this morning. I’ll make it this one! 🙂


    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Don’t beat yourself up, Terry, we’re all no better! I’m particularly prone to “How To Make £10,000 in 10 minutes”, when I know it’s a scam and will involve me posting money to Nigeria.

      200?!! You’re taking this way too seriously!


  4. Terry Tyler says:

    Make that over 200 some days… I get about 300 per day, I gotta do these muthas back cos it seems rude not to. I just remember when I was first on Twitter and promoting my first book with my 100 followers…


  5. J.D.Hughes says:

    I agree, it’s only polite. I’ve yet to get that many RTs in a day and maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea timewise. Bad enough as it is, but I shouldn’t complain.


  6. Gina Lawless says:

    The camera story was the most romantic story I’ve read in years, JD. Your relationship with it and the process tears at my heart strings. Beautiful photos. Absolutely!


  7. J.D.Hughes says:

    I once fell in love with a Linhof studio camera, but the cultural differences were too great – she was German and aristocratic – so the relationship was never consummated. She’s an old lady now and occasionally I see her across the crowded atrium of a vintage camera show, but we never speak.

    Many thanks for you comments, Gina and welcome to my blog!


  8. Great photos, and an even better title! Anything with the word “Luddite” in it captures my attention.


  9. Just heard on the news that Derbyshire’s speed cameras are going digital. I’m sure their pictures aren’t as good as yours.

    Cheers, JR


  10. J.D.Hughes says:

    Thanks, John. Sadly, they were sufficient to cause a trip to a rehab centre for speeders a few months ago, to be lectured on the evils of being 4 mph above the speed limit. My excuse that I was being pursued by a rhinoceros didn’t sway them. Even though, as you are aware, Derbyshire is plagued with them 🙂


  11. Lisa says:

    Wow! Stunning pictures and a great write-up on your obscene love for cameras! It was almost pornographic but very funny. Can i get big prints of the pictures? I like the texture ones and the one in Anstruther harbour that’s so beautiful. I’ll have to go there now.

    Looking forward to the release of your novel next month. Any chance of a few sample chapters? Won’t make any dfference, I’ll still buy it ‘cos im just a saddo fan 🙂


    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Thanks, Lisa – I trust your novel’s going well?

      Send me an email if you want a print of any of the photos and I’ll see what I can do. I like the Anstruther one, too. As for the novel, I’m hoping to post the first chapter in the next few days, for the wonderful folks kind enough to follow my blog. That’s definitely you!


  12. sandysview says:

    Nice pictures. I use a 7 year old Canon 20D I got in a 2nd hand shop. I met an old guy once in a farm shop who was bemoaning modern tech and how he couldnt do photography any more because he didnt know all the new fangled stuff worked. I showed him my camera and he was amazed to find it the same as a film camera, except without film. I have no idea how to use Photoshop. I just have photoshop elements and I just use the ‘fix’ thing or the crop thing if I over or under expose something I wish I had got getter because I still dont know how my camera works properly. A film camera was the same though. I didn’t know how that worked either! Good post, you write well, it was nice to stumple across your site. Good luck with it all. cheers


    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Thanks for your comments, Sandy – welcome to my blog.

      As you say, modern digital cameras are the same in terms of controls and much easier to use. It’s brilliant that so many people now have access to taking photos that are sharp, well exposed and with correct colour, but being someone who used to enjoy the process of film cameras, it’s all a little too easy. In that sense, I’m a Luddite, but it was the tactility I missed, so I went back to film. I still use the D200 for everyday stuff, but my first love is my ancient Nikon F and the ‘Blad. I also have a huge MPP monorail studio camera using 5″x4″ film sheets, for landscapes – it’s wonderful!

      The 20D is a good camera, you should get some fine pix from it, but it might pay you to delve into Elements a little more. It’s not CS5, but has lots of great features for improving a shot. I like your candour when you say you don’t know how it works – I have to confess I never got to the bottom of the D200 either! 🙂


  13. Wow. I love your photos, J.D! Popped over from Twitter to have a nosey and so glad I did. I love photography but the difference is I’m snap happy whereas you have actual talent!! 🙂


    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Thanks a lot for your comments. I took a look at your blog and your pictures of Lochs Linhe and Tay are beautiful and not snaps at all! I hope you continue to enjoy Scotland – the photo opportunities are limitless. I liked your driftwood art, too 🙂


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