Thursday, May 31, 2007

More Context

They Shall Not Cross, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

The shot above is taken from Carrog Station, looking down the track towards Berwyn, and beyond there Llangollen itself.

A little while after this was taken, Foxcote Manor arrived, and I comprehensively muffed the picture I was going to take of it, which irked me no end.

Cylinder, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

This shot is another from the shed, and shows 5532's cylinders - I'm not sure it's a particularly good shot (although personally, I do like all the lines and tones). I took it largely so I could write that the cylinder linings were recently replaced. These have to fit so tightly that the volunteers freeze them with liquid nitrogen (so the metal contracts) before inserting them (these guys are hardcore). I believe the linings are quite hard to remove after that ;).

Signs, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Lastly, I want to share this with you - a detail of 80072, owned by the Llangollen Standard Four Trust. You can read this engine's history here. I'm not sure what the calculations on the side are, but I thought they made for an arresting image.

The volunteers hope that 80072 will be restored and in steam in 2008.

As ever, you can see larger versions of the pictures, and development information by clicking the pictures themselves.

These were taken on the shareholders open day for 5532, (see this post) my thanks once again to the volunteers of the Llangollen Railway Society, and to my Dad for inviting me to the open day.

More Parr

The Best Side, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Those of you who read the Magnum Blog have probably seen this already, but Martin Parr has a piece on there musing on our need to be photographed.

"These days, people photograph one another so prolifically and with such enthusiasm that I often wonder whether they actually look at any of the things they are visiting."

The photos illustrating the article are far better than those illustrating mine too.

How's it Look?

How's it Look?, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Some Context

The Notice
The Notice

There is something of a story behind this set of shots, so rather than write it in the descriptions on flickr, I thought I'd offer it here. I have an uneasy relationship with context in photography (which I'll hopefully expand on at some point on these very pages) and won't force you to see the shots with back story if you don't want to.

Some time ago, my Father purchased shares issued by the Llangollen Great Western Railway Group in the resoration of a steam locomotive.


This very locomotive, in fact, No. 5532. It's currently in the process of restoration, and one of the things the Railway Society does from time to time is hold an open day for shareholders to see the progress so far. These are guided by the volunteers carrying out the work. Dad was kind enough to invite me along to this one, and I had the chance to take some pictures as we were shown the engine and workshop.

The workshop itself was tremendously impressive, as was the dedication and hard work put in by the volunteers.

The light was less so, with my meter indicating speeds of between 1/15s and (rarely) 1/125s, this with my Vivitar Series One lens wide open at f/2.8! (I'd chosen to use a zoom because some places in the workshop are dangerous, so the old prime + shoeleather zoom technique would have been inadvisable).

I put my faith in the exposure latitude of HP5+ and shot at a constant 1/125s to try and ensure sharpness. In development, I gave the film a one stop push to 800 in Ilfotec DD-X, hoping it wouldn't affect the stuff shot on meter for 400ISO too badly, and would lift the underexposed shots sufficiently to make them usable. It seems to have worked out pretty well.

The Workshop
The Workshop

In closing, I should thank my Dad for inviting me along, the volunteers at Llangollen for their hard work and perhaps Ilford for HP5+ :)

Larger versions of the shots, and development information can be found by clicking the images.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Weekly Competition - Year Two, Week 38

The Gate, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

One of the things I try to do when I have film processed in time, or a suitable digital shot to hand, is enter the DVD Forums' weekly photography competition. One of the great things about this is the motivation it gives to pick up the camera and go out looking for things to photograph, although with 3 or 4 films still to scan, that motivation doesn't seem to be lacking here at the moment.

This week's entry is the shot above, "The Gate". Over the week that this picture has been voted on, I've warmed to it somewhat. I submitted this because I'd not processed the roll of HP5+ with the shots I had in mind as my first choices on it, my Elitechrome 100 was still at the lab and this was the strongest digital contender.

Whilst the shot has some elements usually to be found in the stuff I shoot (the idea of a landscape, but with things that are not conventionally beautiful in it, and the use of a wide angle to accentuate perspective), when I decided to submit it, this picture was very much a second choice. Perhaps with that in mind, I gave it a bit of a clichéd treatment, with a moody B&W conversion, and even a frame (something I never, ever do).

At the time, and probably blinded by the fact that my first choices were still undeveloped), I saw it as a rather predictable, crowd pleasing picture, although it did end up garnering a third place.

I have to confess that I still don't like it as much as "Pegs or "Path" (or for that matter, other entries that have sunk without trace in the voting, which probably says as much about my eye for a shot as anything else) but I don't actually dislike it anymore.

The picture was taken in Carrog on the other side of the Carrog Bridge. Walking back from the viewpoint you see in the shot, there's a large field that's ideal for sitting by the river and letting the world go by.

My children and neices spent a happy hour skimming stones instead though.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

At the Grange

At the Grange, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

I'm slowly working my way through various film and digital shots I've taken in April. Of the ones recently flickrated, this caught my eye.

I can't help thinking that there's something fundamentally British about the way the benches are positioned, so that different groups of people aren't tempted to overcome their natural reserve and converse with each other...

There'll be more from Biddulph Grange at some point, as I found it a very inspiring location.

At the Grange

Sunday, May 6, 2007


Mothers' Day, originally uploaded by John the Monkey.

One of the themes I'm fascinated by in photography is the idea that one can impart knowledge without showing the obvious representations of the idea being communicated.

I took this shot in March, and it's of a simple planter that my daughter made for my wife. They have always been close, but my wife's illness last year seems to have cemented the bond between them in a new way, and invariably the bulk of Katie's creative output is dedicated to her mother.

If this shot conveys anything, I hope it's something of that bond between mother and daughter.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Martin Parr Interview

26th July 2006, taken with Nikon D70, Nikkor 18-70mm

I first encountered Martin Parr through a comment Guy made on this picture, and I've tried self-conciously to incorporate part of his aesthetic to my work with varying degrees of success.

I'd like to point you in the direction of this superb interview/discussion with Martin Parr, which I happened across at Jeorg Colberg's Conscientious (who had in turn found it at What's the Jackanory, who also have a couple of good pieces about the show referred to in the discussion). The file is 44mb, and runs for about 1hr 16minutes - it's well worth listening to the entire thing, as Parr is a very engaging speaker indeed, and seems to have a good handle on the issues around citizen journalism and the democratisation of photography in general.

The photo above, by the way, was taken as part of last year's DVD Forums photograph a day project. My work from it is in the set here. It all looks a bit lightweight, compared to the 365 people, but it felt like a tough month at the time :) I can't help thinking that this July is not far away at all....

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Breakfast of Champions

Another shot from the Vivitar 35ES rangefinder.

It doesn't look half bad here, tbh.

Maybe it's time for a truce.