Another one bites the dust

Tuesday August 24, 2004

The day started out bright and sunny, more than strong enough and long enough to top up my seratonin levels, and then gave itself over to grey skies and heavy rain once more. I managed to get mobile and to take my stroll before the rain clouds rolled in, and stood for a while at one of my customary resting points along the lane, looking out towards the west from whence comes most of our rain. There are broad streaks of new growth in the fields now, looking as if someone has taken a piece of sap green chalk and rubbed it over the rough, dry surface. It takes an amazing amount of rain to get the earth wetted and the autumn growth started.

Rain we’ve had a’plenty, though, and the landscape is showing signs that it’s ready to burst into autumn growth. There are a few instances here and there of water laying in sheet in the fields but I’ve yet to see any evidence of flooding on the roads or in the towns and villages through which I pass. The road drains here were flushed out not too long ago, and the drainage system out on the fens seems more than able to cope with the rain we’ve had and a lot more. The River Witham, some miles away, is swollen but still well within bounds. We’ve had record rain falls, so I’m encouraged to think that we have chosen a good spot in which to live.

I had a brief landscape photography session just before the rain started, seeking to convey the feel of the freshly irrigated fields under looming skies. The new Fuji camera performs excellently, more than well enough for my needs. To my delight the shutter operates as fast and responsively as any SLR I’ve ever known, allowing me to catch the precise moment when the light is right. The results have a richness of detail in the shadows, sufficient for the making of the kind of pictures I enjoy.

Sadly, the day my autumn landscape photography seems to have started up also saw the demise of the Ilford Photographic Company, which went into receivership today. I couldn’t begin to count the many happy days I’ve spent over the years working with Ilford film and paper. Somewhere in one of my boxes is a large file stuffed with black and white negatives, almost all of them shot on Ilford HP3 or FP3 roll film. I’m grateful for the memories. And I hope that the people in the Ilford plants who lose their jobs will fare well in spite of it.

The fact is that Ilford completely failed to move into the digital age. It may be that they were waiting to see how it would all turn out. Well, they waited too long, and now the penalty is to be paid.

It remains to be seen if Kodak, which maintains production plants and an extensive distribution system in the UK, has moved fast enough or with enough commitment to survive the switch away from traditional film, paper and chemicals. They are currently running an extensive advertising campaign on TV, trying to persuade us that we should trot the cards from our digital cameras along to a Kodak shop where we can have prints made of our pictures. I’m sorry, but that’s a pathetically ill conceived approach. People who want prints on paper can run them off at minimal cost on just about any photo-quality printer, using inexpensive inks and papers. Most of the people I know send their snaps to friends and family over the wires, attached to their email. Or burn them on to silver disks to show grandma on her brand new DVD player. Like their cameras, Kodak charge a premium amount in the UK for their printing services and the sums simply don’t add up. They are trying to adapt, though, and I hope they don’t go to the wall along with Ilford. While Ilford provided extensive support for photography in the UK, Kodak were not far behind, and it’d be a darn shame if both companies disappeared from the UK.

It does look as though our old film cameras are at the point where they will cease to be functioning machines and will turn over to become ornaments only, of interest to the curious. Certainly, I experience no more than a slight wistfulness when I pull the Nikon FM2 down from the shelf, and I haven’t seen my Pentax kit since we moved. I have no urge to get the film rolling, and I can see no possible future in which film photography will be part of my life once more. It may be time to pack the old cameras up in airtight boxes along with a couple of bags of silica gel, to wait safely against the possibility of some future resurgence of interest in old fashioned wet photography.

 

Stickford, Aug 24,'04
 
Rain on the way

 

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