Out on the fens

Thursday July 8, 2004

It has been too windy for safe cycling today. Great storms are playing summer games all over the island, most of them missing us just here. Even so we’ve had our share of rain and more than our share of wind. The balance in this area is just right for me, no damage done, just a welcome break in the weather. Invigorating. Helping me get back to reality from the strange, artificial world of computer worries.

I took a detour out on to the fens, pulled the car over and sat with the window down, listening to and feeling the wind. It’d be a grand thing to be able to photograph wind. Photographing light is relatively easy, though it does take a bit of practice. All you can do with the wind is to photograph objects it has touched or is touching. Mind you, that’s exhilarating enough.

I’m still putting the pencam through its paces, pushing it to the limits, seeing what it can do. Used as a family snapshot camera it’s on a par with early colour compacts, using cheap colour film and cheap laboratory processing. There’s little colour depth in most circumstances and what there is tends to evaporate under even the slightest intervention from Photoshop, yielding results whose faded colours are reminiscent of old photographs in forgotten albums. I’m finding that a major challenge.

I have discovered that it is a wonderful camera for black and white work, better or at least easier than the Nikon. All you need do is remove the colour information and the result is a robust, slightly grainy black and white image. A slight tweak top and bottom of the characteristic curve and you’re close to a good, grainy black and white; not as we used to get from the best quality black and white films and plates for studio work, but much like the dynamism that came from developing Ilford HP4 in ID11, or Kodak Tri-X in D76, back in the old Metol days.

When I was a student I used to beg materials from the professional photographers in my home town, and would be given expired films and papers, and chemicals that had sat in the back of the cupboard for too long. The results were seldom repeatable and many of them, technically, were a long way off to the side of what was deemed acceptable back then. So I was forced to make the subject and my view of it speak loud, shout, even, to distract the viewer’s attention away from technical imperfections.

The pencam is taking me back to that, and I’m having great fun and no little satisfaction of it. We are more tolerant of failures in quality now, and more receptive, at last, to the thought that the idea is more important than the medium.

Back home, and back to my poor, sickly computer, and things are getting worse. I installed and ran a piece of clean-up software and now the mysterious happenings are becoming more and more mysterious and, increasingly, the system refuses me access to standard software and function.

With a good deal of reluctance I am coming rapidly to the conclusion that I am going to have to re-format and re-install. Relatively straight-forward, except for the eighteen months worth of updates I’ve had from Microsoft and Norton. The re-install could take a bit of time.

If I go quiet for a couple of days you’ll know what I’m about. I’ll send an email to my notify list using webmail from Graham’s computer if I get the chance.

Hey ho. I’d much rather be out on the fens…

Stickford, Jul,'04
Out on the fens
pencam photo



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