Thursday, June 28, 2007

By the Seaside

By the Seaside #2, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This is probably my favourite thing from my time in Wales, if not my favourite thing so far this year.

I LOVE this shot.

For me this evokes holidays anywhere by the sea in Britain, the neat tablecloths, the HP Sauce ready to enhance a morning fried breakfast, the view over the beach parking to the sea... I like the reflection that hints at this establishment's prime location on the prom. I love the fact that the Adox film has given this a timeless feel.

It could be better of course - had I had the nerve, I'd have sneaked in and rotated the HP Sauce so the label showed, instead of the jarringly modern barcode, and perhaps I could have found the owner of the car in the reflection and asked them to move it.

By the Seaside #1, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Another, more straightforwardly evocative shot of the seaside here. The placement of flags is the result of an incredibly complex game that my son was playing with them. I could not explain how they ended up in the configuration they did, but I'm sure it all makes sense to eight year olds.

Shadow, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This is a detail of the Gate and gatepost at Brynifor Cottage, where we were staying (in Penbontrhydyfothau). I took lots of versions of this (or lots in terms of film shooting anyway, which equates to three frames). I liked this one best.

Gate, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Of course, midway through shooting the wall and gatepost, my daughter walked back to the house, which made for a far better shot in any case. This is simply scanned in, no pp has been done on it at all. I have to say, the CHS50 looks really good in this, and the other shots from the roll. The vignetting is that present on the original negative from the Vivitar lens.

Door, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Lastly (and correct chronologically too, for once) is this picture of a gently flaking door in Newport (Pembrokeshire). There'll be more from Newport over the next few days, as it's an astonishingly beautiful place.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Curve, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

We begin today's page of self justification with this, a shot taken of the (recently) disused car-park on Princess Street, just by the University's John Garside Building.

It's a pretty good location for the aspiring minimalist, with some interesting lines and texture, and I've been back a couple of times since.

The film in use here is expired Kodak T-Max 400, from a bulk roll that I wanted to test - the Electro had proved itself with an earlier roll of HP5+, and as I didn't want to carry another SLR that week, it got the 10 shot test roll. The film seems to be ok, and has pretty much the tone pallette I'd expected from T-Max.

Aberystwyth #1, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This shot is the last from a roll of HP5+, developed in DD-X...

Aberystwyth #2, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

...and this is Adox CHS50, in Rodinal. I prefer the tones of the latter, and it shows the figures and details up very well, although the HP5+ is nicely contrasty, as you'd expect. Both frames were shot with the Nikon FE and Vivitar 28-90 f/2.8-3.5 Series One, hence the vignetting in the corners, particularly extreme at 28mm in the first shot.

Aberaeron, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

One day I will take this view under blazing sun and a clear blue sky, I swear it. As it is, it shows the bridge and some of the colourful houses in the town, even if it does look (and undeservedly) a bit like the setting for a Morrisey song here.

Poppy, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Obviously, we trendy flickr types frown upon flower close ups[1], but I love the translucency of petals and foliage against the light, and wanted to try and capture some of that in this shot. The flower itself is in the garden of Brynifor Cottage, where we were staying in Ceredigion.

Both the last two pictures are Digital, shot with the D70 and Nikkor 18-70 AF-S G DX and Tamron 28-300 Xr Di LD Macro respectively, a veritable alphabet soup of lenses.


New York I love You

Theater District, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

An old shot to draw your attention to the work of Jason John Würm.

His New York photography takes you away from the sites you know, (unlike mine). There's some images I'm not sure of, but a fair number I like a lot, the aquarium shots in particular leap out at the viewer.

Starlite n' Bubba

Monday, June 25, 2007

Us Against the World

Us Against the World
Us Against the World, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

I thought I'd start today's page of context with this shot, chronologically after the others, but my favourite of today's uploads. It was taken using Adox CHS50, courtesy of Steve and developed in R09 (Rodinal old formula). It's wonderful stuff, very textural developed this way, and I've a powerful hankering to shoot more, and perhaps develop some in ID11.

The picture is of the beach at Aberystwyth, and shows my nippers messing about in the sea. What better way to while away the afternoon?

There's a huge compositional nod here to the work of an artist called Pippa Darbyshire, whose paintings of the Somme estuary I saw a few years ago. She composes with layers of colour and tone in these pictures, forming horizontal layers that ascend the canvas. I'm conscious quite often of attempting something similar with certain scenes. My being based in Manchester and its suburbs also means that the novelty of having a visible horizon for once has something to do with the desire to make it a major compositional element too.

The feeling I wanted to evoke was something of the awe I feel at times of parental responsibility - there are times when the world seems to be an awfully large place, and my children terribly small.

Pony Express
Pony Express, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

The second, and last film shot for today is this one, of my daughter at the amusements in New Quay (Cei Newydd).
Sometimes, you might almost think she doesn't like having her picture taken.

This shot is HP5+ developed in Ilfotec DD-X, a great combination, in my view. Looking at this now, it's evident that a colour film (or digital) would have been way better for this, but moments pass, and sometimes it's more important to get something than to wait for something perfect.

Groynes #1
Groynes #1, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Groynes #2
Groynes #2, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

These two digital shots both show the beach at Aberaeron. I can't help feeling that there are better shots than these in the textures of the pebbles and metal here, and I shot variants on the same theme last year too, and I'm sure I'll still be looking for the perfect take on this many years hence.

Harbour, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Last, and possibly least is this view of the harbour at Aberaeron. I liked the strong verticals of the poles marking the harbour entrance, and the dramatic sky over the sea.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Ranmore, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

I thought I'd start today's page of context with this shot, of "Ranmore" on Church Street (Heol-Y-Eglwys?) in New Quay (Cei Newydd).

In my minds eye, this is owned by an avuncular retired couple, who perhaps moved here from further inland in Wales to be near the sea. They keep a tidy house, sweep the yard, and perhaps frown slightly at the noise of the tourists on their way back to holiday homes and B&Bs in the town from the harbour and beach.

I found the frontage redolent of seaside towns all over Britain, under an (for the week we were in Ceredigion at least) uncharacteristically overcast sky.

It turns out that it's actually holiday accomodation, by the way, and you can find out more about it here.

Naughty Flowers

My second holiday snap today is this, "Naughty Flowers" - perhaps more characteristic of modern Britain than the first, I suppose. I liked the flowers against the predominantly white background, and the lines of the lower wall and wire leading to the camera.

From memory, I've a feeling that the wall is at the side of the Hotel Penwig, again in New Quay/Cei Newydd, a splendid place to sit with a pint of Rev. James and watch the world go by.


The last of today's holiday snaps is the first on Velvia 50, and, I think, the first Velvia shot I've ever taken. This is at Llangrannog beach, and the solitary flip flop against the stones stood out as an obvious subject for a colour photograph. My scanner seems to have trouble getting colour balance right with slide film, and the picture seems to me to have a pink tinge when viewed on this monitor, which I may try and correct at some point.

Unlike my last roll of E6, I got these processed and mounted, and the magic of a box of mounted slides captivates as much as it did on the first roll I saw. That little box of clear, saturated images is a wondrous thing, and I recommend to any film shooter that they do at least one roll of E6 to process and mount at some time, nothing beats it.


These last two shots are chronologically prior to the ones above, taken in Manchester on my first roll of bulk rolled HP5+ to go through a camera (the Nikon FE, in this case). The shot above is a detail of a lock gate on (I think) the Bridgewater Canal in Manchester, just near the bridge that leads to Barbolli Square.

Buy Less, Live More (Again)

This shot is another instance of the "Buy Less, Live More" stencil, rather clearer this time, and taken between the Canal towpath and Whitowrth Street West. The bricks aren't the grimy Manchester brick we're used to, but new glossy bricks on the walls of the new buildings on Whitworth Street West.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The White Suit

I had meant to supply some context for these pictures earlier on, but have been a bit torn between that and processing the huge amount of stuff I have in the bag on my return from Wales.

These pictures are part of a small project I'm hoping to shoot on an ongoing basis. The idea is to take portraits of people whose job, or chosen sport means that they wear white (I have an email on its way to the local cricket club even now). The idea is from a thread in the UK film group (of which I'm a member) inviting people to take pictures of people in white suits to illustrate the group name (The Man in the White Suit).

The gentleman pictured above, and his colleague (directly below) represent the first two portraits in the series.

Ian Morris Butchers, Heald Green

These were taken as they were setting up for the day, and are the only pictures I took of them. Although they were very pleasant, and happy to help me out with the project, I was a little self conscious and didn't want to take too much of their time.

The two shots above crystalised the parameters of the project for me - the rules I've set myself are;

1) All portraits will be taken only with the consent of the person in them (no stealth portraiture)

2) No directed portraits (i.e. I don't stand on the other side of the counter saying "Do this"), but rather let people decide how they want to be shown themselves.

Fishmonger, Aberaeron

The reactions have been interesting - the Aberaeron fishmonger above (I constantly forget to ask people's names, I'm afraid) took the request entirely in his stride, only seeming surprised when I offered to send a print!

Owain's Butchers, Aberaeron

The gentleman pictured above gave permission, but told me he wouldn't do anything photogenic (I disagree with his definition, as I like this photograph a lot). I thought he seemed slightly uneasy at being the centre of attention, and so composed with him to the side, and with the focus on the shop sign at the back to try and convey some of that.

So far, the experience has been a very pleasant one for me (and I hope for the people I've met and spoken to, all of whom have been splendid). I owe a large debt of gratitude to everyone who's agreed to take part, and to those who've heard me out as I asked for their picture.

For anyone who's interested, so far no butcher or fishmonger has said no - both chefs I've asked have refused (politely). And it seems bakers no longer wear white.

I should also add that If you'd like to take part, or know someone who would, you (or they) need to wear white as a requirement of your work or sport, and be working/playing your sport fairly locally to Manchester City Centre or Stockport. You can contact me via Flickrmail, or at the email address on this blog.

I can't promise you fame and riches, but I will print a 7x5 for you of every shot I take of you, and won't take up a lot of your time taking the portrait.

Mushroom Detail #2

Mushroom Detail #2, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the roll of PanF that these mushroom shots represent the last hurrah of.

The tonality lacks the assertive contrast of HP5+ and Adox CHS50 (which is lovely in its own way) but I'd argue that it has its place, particularly in portraiture;


Where the combination of wide aperture and PanF's tones produce a really pleasing result.

Mushroom Detail #1

My new favourite developer, Ilfotec DD-X seems to like the film too, if I'm any judge.


If any one's wondering about the titles of the "woody" pics (or indeed this post), they're detail shots of a large carved mushroom that Mrs. Monkey bought from the Market on the Fringe in Llangollen some time ago. It makes a nice lens testing target, I think, and hopefully there's something to enjoy in the texture for the viewer.

The last shot is one that I walked past once, and couldn't get out of my mind. I'm glad I returned to commit it to film, rather than consigning it to the list of if onlys that some days seems far to long.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


Signs, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This assemblage of trackside stuff (sorry, I don't know the correct terminology) caught my eye on the way out of the workshops, and I thought it worthy of a photo.

I like the tones, and the shapes very much, and although the colours were nicely rusty, I think the B&W treatment via Ilford HP5+ suits it (good job too, as this is the only shot I took). This shot also marks a return to metered exposure, as it was taken after the shot of 6880's cab (below).

6880, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This shot shows the cab of 6880, Betton Grange. This is an unusual project, as so far as I understand, this loco never existed. None of the Great Western "Grange" class locomotives escaped the cutters torch. So the 6880 society is building this Grange class engine as a new build - you can find more information here. (Note that their website is undergoing some work, so not all linked content exists - their "About Us" page, which I've linked to here, does though).

Pro Patria
Pro Patria, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Sometimes, it's nice to be reminded of a simple thing's virtue - this was shot with the 50mm f/1.8 AF-N. Not bad for £60 worth of second hand lens.

Llangollen seems to be popular with riders of scooters and motorcycles alike, and this patriotically decorated Lambretta caught my eye.

Museum, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Lastly, here's something from along the canal towpath, another view of the Llangollen Motor Museum's fuel tank, advertising their presence to the traveller.