Do you observe when you glance? Lewis and Harris Pt-1

Tim Tucker 2

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This is reproduced from my blog page, really just my observations and me defining my photography, it's not here to tell you how to define your's. The B&W are all shot with my Linhof Technika IV on 5"x4" FP4, the digital with my D600.


Digital photography has offered some great advances over film. Against 35mm it’s resolution, control of colour and abilities in low light are simply off the scale. The trouble with digital cameras is that the automation has become so advanced that we think that we are controlling the camera whereas more often than not we’re only influencing the layers of programming.

They have become so good at capturing an instant, just pointing it and pressing the button, that it is how we use them. When we take an image we point our cameras at it and press the button, allowing the programming to define how the information should be captured. We don’t even question that it’s correct but often comment against images that don’t show the full ability of the camera to capture detail, capture the optimum image as it’s been programmed to do. The trend amongst many is then to manipulate the image for digital wow and maximum likes on social media.

We don’t seem to observe and understand the subject, we glance and produce wow photographs. And with this comes a disconnect, yes we produce images that arrest the eye when we glance but they don’t convey an understanding of the subject. The beauty in a desolate and inhospitable landscape is lost when we extract maximum detail and colour from the raw file. Photographs have a trend now to conform to a universally correct idea of how a digital photograph should look. And I’ve also noticed on photo forums a tendency to believe that it’s the settings we choose on the camera and the way we manipulate the image that produces it’s emotional impact rather than the subject and our understanding of it. May photos on forums demonstrate this, an understanding of how a camera works rather than an understanding of the subject and how we respond to it.

One of the reasons I still use film and a large format camera is because I take different photos with it than I do with a digital. Yes, with a hybrid process I could easily add digital wow, but what would be the point? If the aim is to end up with the same image I shoot on digital then why bother with film? The whole point of doing it is to produce a different image. When removed from digital’s ability to transform a subject into what it isn’t you have to rely on an understanding of what it actually is. It forces you to observe rather than just glance.

I exposed 12 plates when recently on Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebridies, 6 shots two exposures of each. I will show them all on this blog in two posts, they are complete and not a cull of the best so don’t expect them to be good! I used digital to capture the colours and moments as the light changed, something it does so well. On film I tried to capture more of a reflection of how I understood the islands and what makes them unique.


img107_sRGB_ss.jpg

Harbour and Creels, Abandoned, South Harris

I passed this spot on both the first and last days I was on the islands. On the first day I was looking for pretty shots, on the last I had a greater understanding of the islands and the experience of the first storm of the season. The Hebrides is littered with abandoned, disused. Not in a lament to the loss of tradition and a way of life, but willingly and quickly abandoned in the search for a little comfort and respite. With the land clearances the islanders were forced off the fertile machair of the west coast and onto the rocky and infertile land of the east by landowners who saw more profit in the mass grazing of sheep than the rental of small crofts. They took up fishing to make a living, a living that was all but destroyed by the 1970’s by domestic and foreign trawlers over-fishing the Minch which took all the fish and scoured the seabed. The harbour is much as it was in the late 1800’s. The creels recently abandoned now only ensnaring the grass that grows so readily through them and shows in it a memory of the recent storm. I find far more truth in it than a thousand neatly stacked creels on a concrete quay.


_DSC3899_sRGB_ss.jpg

After Sunset, Luskentyre, Harris

This is what digital does so well, a moment of light that changed by the second, a chance discovery and capture. It would’ve been impossible to capture on large format film just as I would’ve found it impossible to capture the creels with digital. The way I use the cameras and therefore the shots I take with them will always be completely different, something I don’t wish to change.


img110_sRGB_ss.jpg

Fishermen’s Bothy 1, Lewis

Many are enchanted by the islands in their summer glory, many wish to live in such idyll. A few even move there is search of it, fewer still survive their first winter. But the truth was always visible, the beautiful beaches were not formed from endless days of balmy sunshine but by the frequent pounding of winter storms. The way the islands change and transform in the light is not driven by consistency in the weather, the countless lochans and peaty heather moors are not the result of the occasional rainy day. Perhaps our photography also fails to see it.


img111_sRGB_ss.jpg

Fishermen’s Bothy 2, Lewis

I shot two slightly different scenes here. It was a dark gloomy light with drizzle changing to rain on the moors of Lewis looking towards the hills of North Harris. I wanted this view of the islands, one that showed it’s more desolate and remote side, one that resides not in it’s size but it’s nature because I still find some beauty in it.
 
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terri

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Lovely work! #1 is exceptional. Excellent details. I would love to hear about your development process with the plates.
 
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Tim Tucker 2

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Lovely work! #1 is exceptional. Excellent details. I would love to hear about your development process with the plates.

Thank you for the comment.

It's as much the light and exposure as the development. Development is via a daylight tank with HC110, FP4 standard time is 8 mins for scanning, 9 for a little more density and 11 for negs with a flatter tonal range, (1+31 dilution). The secret is much a Ansel Adams preached, though I'm inclined to a looser application rather than exact precision. The aim is to produce a full range of densities in the neg at as close to the optimum speed and development as you can. I generally rate FP4 at 80ASA and make sure I have enough shadow detail without losing the blacks, as soon as you do this, (overexposure) you add a minimum density that reduces the overall density possible on the neg, then adjust development to the highlights.

Exposure is determined with a spot meter that I use primarily to determine the DR and separation between important tones, if it's not present in the subject I find it rarely worth making the exposure, flat negatives are horrible to work with.

While I set the camera up for the first shot the weather was broken clouds, and though the scene in sunlight gave ample separation and contrast I much preferred the image in diffused light but that didn't quite give the contrast or separation between highlight and shadow. The sunlight and hard shadows was just too *postcardy* and fine weather-ish. So I waited for the sort of *half-sunlight* you get at the edge of the clouds where the sunlight is still diffused but only hindered by thin cloud. If you look at the image in it's full posted resolution you can just about see this on the rope in the middle foreground. The negative retains much more detail in the shadows but I would've printed this down to get the tonal range in the local contrast which together with the fine detail and gradations possible with large format give it it's distinctive look. The trick is not to loose that when you digitalise the image, it's so easy to subject it to the same process as a digital shot and make it look just like a digital shot.

The lenses help as they are not restricted by a lens mount so don't have many of the limitations that hinder FF lens design. As well as full tilt, shift, swivel they suffer far less distortion and are generally sharper across the whole frame. The first image was shot with a 150mm and the second two with a 240mm to maintain the compression of the background which would've appeared far too distant with the standard wide angle approach to dof.

The other two show the difference of less local contrast in that with a grey day it was much lower overall with far less DR. Those negs got the full 11 mins but the subject was the global contrast between the light off the water and the foreground rather than the contrasts with in the foreground, the landscape just fading into a series of light greys.
 

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This is reproduced from my blog page, really just my observa
Number two for me...

tions and me defining my photography, it's not here to tell you how to define your's. The B&W are all shot with my Linhof Technika IV on 5"x4" FP4, the digital with my D600.



Digital photography has offered some great advances over film. Against 35mm it’s resolution, control of colour and abilities in low light are simply off the scale. The trouble with digital cameras is that the automation has become so advanced that we think that we are controlling the camera whereas more often than not we’re only influencing the layers of programming.

They have become so good at capturing an instant, just pointing it and pressing the button, that it is how we use them. When we take an image we point our cameras at it and press the button, allowing the programming to define how the information should be captured. We don’t even question that it’s correct but often comment against images that don’t show the full ability of the camera to capture detail, capture the optimum image as it’s been programmed to do. The trend amongst many is then to manipulate the image for digital wow and maximum likes on social media.

We don’t seem to observe and understand the subject, we glance and produce wow photographs. And with this comes a disconnect, yes we produce images that arrest the eye when we glance but they don’t convey an understanding of the subject. The beauty in a desolate and inhospitable landscape is lost when we extract maximum detail and colour from the raw file. Photographs have a trend now to conform to a universally correct idea of how a digital photograph should look. And I’ve also noticed on photo forums a tendency to believe that it’s the settings we choose on the camera and the way we manipulate the image that produces it’s emotional impact rather than the subject and our understanding of it. May photos on forums demonstrate this, an understanding of how a camera works rather than an understanding of the subject and how we respond to it.

One of the reasons I still use film and a large format camera is because I take different photos with it than I do with a digital. Yes, with a hybrid process I could easily add digital wow, but what would be the point? If the aim is to end up with the same image I shoot on digital then why bother with film? The whole point of doing it is to produce a different image. When removed from digital’s ability to transform a subject into what it isn’t you have to rely on an understanding of what it actually is. It forces you to observe rather than just glance.

I exposed 12 plates when recently on Harris and Lewis in the Outer Hebridies, 6 shots two exposures of each. I will show them all on this blog in two posts, they are complete and not a cull of the best so don’t expect them to be good! I used digital to capture the colours and moments as the light changed, something it does so well. On film I tried to capture more of a reflection of how I understood the islands and what makes them unique.


View attachment 164749
Harbour and Creels, Abandoned, South Harris

I passed this spot on both the first and last days I was on the islands. On the first day I was looking for pretty shots, on the last I had a greater understanding of the islands and the experience of the first storm of the season. The Hebrides is littered with abandoned, disused. Not in a lament to the loss of tradition and a way of life, but willingly and quickly abandoned in the search for a little comfort and respite. With the land clearances the islanders were forced off the fertile machair of the west coast and onto the rocky and infertile land of the east by landowners who saw more profit in the mass grazing of sheep than the rental of small crofts. They took up fishing to make a living, a living that was all but destroyed by the 1970’s by domestic and foreign trawlers over-fishing the Minch which took all the fish and scoured the seabed. The harbour is much as it was in the late 1800’s. The creels recently abandoned now only ensnaring the grass that grows so readily through them and shows in it a memory of the recent storm. I find far more truth in it than a thousand neatly stacked creels on a concrete quay.


View attachment 164748
After Sunset, Luskentyre, Harris

This is what digital does so well, a moment of light that changed by the second, a chance discovery and capture. It would’ve been impossible to capture on large format film just as I would’ve found it impossible to capture the creels with digital. The way I use the cameras and therefore the shots I take with them will always be completely different, something I don’t wish to change.


View attachment 164750
Fishermen’s Bothy 1, Lewis

Many are enchanted by the islands in their summer glory, many wish to live in such idyll. A few even move there is search of it, fewer still survive their first winter. But the truth was always visible, the beautiful beaches were not formed from endless days of balmy sunshine but by the frequent pounding of winter storms. The way the islands change and transform in the light is not driven by consistency in the weather, the countless lochans and peaty heather moors are not the result of the occasional rainy day. Perhaps our photography also fails to see it.


View attachment 164751
Fishermen’s Bothy 2, Lewis

I shot two slightly different scenes here. It was a dark gloomy light with drizzle changing to rain on the moors of Lewis looking towards the hills of North Harris. I wanted this view of the islands, one that showed it’s more desolate and remote side, one that resides not in it’s size but it’s nature because I still find some beauty in it.
 

Aijay

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Exceptional photography. I like your creativity. The Harbour and Creels, Abandoned, South Harris gives that island feeling you crave for.
 

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Wonderful images and I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative. Gave me some things to think about. I hope one day to achieve that level of maturity with my photography. Thank you for sharing.
 
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Tim Tucker 2

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Thank you for the comments, appreciated.

Pt2 with the other three shots coming shortly which will represent all the views I took with the Linhof that week.
 

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