Pancho's Photos

Stuff about photos. Mainly film, occasionally iPhone.

Nine Months In Fleetwood

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In March of 2012 I had my gallbladder removed after two years of suffering with gallstones, two years in which I also discovered I had a knack for film photography. In the final week of my recovery I was well enough to drive over to the coast near Fleetwood in the North West UK and have a long stroll with my cameras. The sun shone and it was a beautiful day, and probably one of the happiest days I’d had in the two years of suffering with gallstones. My pain was definitely at an end.

I returned to work a couple of days later and discovered staff had been asked to go on a three-month secondment to our office in Fleetwood. Not particularly enjoying my job in Bolton, I jumped at the chance. It seemed quite serendipitous, having only been there a couple of days before. Besides all of my career concerns I realised that it was a chance to start a new photography project.

My Tumblr blog, Nine Months In Fleetwood, are the result of that project. The three months got extended to six, then nine and finally another twelve on top of that. So what you see on the blog is the result of nine months of shooting nothing but black and white film on an old Zeiss Nettax camera I bought for £20 from a local collector. I didn’t manage every week, or even every month, as was originally my intention. Life got in the way as it so often does and so it seems I actually only shot ten rolls of film. Sometimes a roll would sit in the camera for weeks as I only shot a couple of frames before deciding there was nothing grabbing me that day. Other times I’d whizz through a roll of twelve frames like it was the easiest thing in the world. Every frame was a joy to shoot though, no matter how long it took to find the shot I wanted.

I’d like to think my photos show Fleetwood in a light not often seen by the rest of the world, or even it’s inhabitants. It’s a lovely little town, not without it’s problems but certainly with plenty of good points. Working so close to the sea everyday was, and is, a complete joy. To be so close to nature is an absolute pleasure and a world away from the sanitised, impersonal atmosphere of the purpose-built office complex that my Bolton-based job was in. Every photo I took is a reminder of how lucky I am to work in such a place.

I hope you like the photos. Next year I’m moving on to full colour panoramic shots. Hopefully you look forward to seeing them as much as I do.

See my Nine Months In Fleetwood photos

Lost Treasure

Not a particularly wordy post this one, but a few photos, none of which were taken by me. Every one of these photos was taken by someone I have never met (I presume), in a place I have never been to. They were on a roll of film in a second-hand camera that I bought. In the photography world it’s known as ‘Found Film’.

The last film I found was just photos of someone’s house. These, however, are quite different. Ayers Rock different (or Uluru to give it its proper name). Why the film was left in the camera I don’t know but I’m glad it was. Have a look and if you know who took them (unlikely, I know) tell them.

(In a strange footnote to this story, the film was found in a camera designed for underwater use. No danger of that in the Australian Outback!)

Trains

So this post is nothing to do with photography. I do however have a suitable photograph to illustrate it, taken on a train on the way home from the Film Photography Project meet-up in London this year. The train service was good, more or less on time – I think we were delayed by a breakdown on the line but not by much – and met our needs (it’s worth noting that the service was run by Virgin Trains, a company whom the government has decided not to work with anymore.)

The same cannot be said of the commuter trains to Manchester that my friends have to get on every morning. Frequently late and when they do arrive always too crowded, the daily commute gets my friends down. Their only voice is Twitter, getting as much anger out of 140 characters as possible. I finally cracked today and wrote to Northern Rail. I put it on their Facebook page so that everyone could see it. I copied it to my Facebook page so my friends could see it. And now I’m posting it here, so everyone can see it.

So first, a nice photo of a tired commuter, and then that post.

 

Hello Northern Rail Facebook person. No doubt you have to spend half of your day fending off complaints from angry commuters. I know this because I spend half of my morning reading angry tweets from friends who use your services.

And to be honest, it’s getting me down, seeing how fed up they all are. It must get you down too, knowing that there’s not much you can do about it. You’re probably even encouraged to be a little vague with your answers – you can hardly come out and say, “Look, all the money goes to the shareholders and we’re left with peanuts to run a massive rail system.”

So, I’m not going to complain as there are plenty of people who do it every morning between the hours of 6.30am and 10.30am – often people whose 20 minute journey has taken 2 hours. I’ll just ask a simple question instead:

Why do rush hour trains from Blackburn, Preston etc to Manchester (England’s true 2nd city) only ever seem to have two carriages?

Just two. At rush hour. Meaning the passengers are crammed in like sardines in a situation which is almost certainly breaking all safety rules. Why on earth just two?

My friends are getting more and more fed up and I’m getting more and more fed up of seeing them that way. They don’t deserve it. Neither do you deserve having to put up with moans all day long. So do please let us all know.

And have a nice day. It’s not your fault. And besides, you’re probably also stuck on that two carriage train every morning. If that’s the case, my friends are the ones frantically tweeting through the tears. Go and say hello. Give them a smile. But for God’s sake don’t tell them who you work for.

Money isn’t everything – praise is.

Last year my neighbour gave me a camera that she didn’t use anymore. It was nothing special, a Canon Sure Shot Z70w. Catchy name. Anyway, I took it over to Glasson Docks near Lancaster and pointed it at various canal barges, boats, animals and signs about dog poo.

Easily the best dog poo sign I’ve ever seen.

I was quite pleased with the camera. It was fully automatic which meant I didn’t have to think much and it has quite a wide lens. It was almost like receiving a Lomography LC-Wide for free. One of the photos I took was of a barge called Jilly’s Dream. It formed part of a set that I put on Flickr. Below is the photo and the caption that I used for it in the Flickr set.

You see lots of barges with the word ‘dream’ on them, or something implying that the owner has worked long and hard for this. I hope they’re happy. I think I would be.

Today I visited Flickr and noticed that someone had commented on the photo, almost a year after I posted it. Here’s what they said:

Hi, speaking as the owner I can assure you I am extremely happy! Lovely photo!

That brief comment made my day today. I had spent a large part of the afternoon scanning some fairly disappointing holiday shots and uploading products to my store at yourindies. I still haven’t sold a single photo on the site yet and whilst I feel it’s still worthwhile having my prints available for sale, it can sometimes feel like I’m doing it for nothing. However, taking the time to get my photos out there, whether it be a site like Flickr or a store like yourindies, means that eventually someone will see something they like. They may pay for it or they may just leave a comment. And you know, sometimes I think a small amount of praise is worth much more than a couple of sales.

The owner of Jilly’s Dream is extremely happy, and today so am I.

The Zen Photographer

This is the second post on this blog that responds to a conversation on Twitter. Great for short, informal messages or linking people in on stuff, Twitter is less good for expanding on theories, for having ‘proper’ conversations, so I turn to this blog in an attempt to put an idea across that didn’t come across that well in 140 characters.

The point I’ll be expanding on is this; The end product is the least important part of photography. For me at least.

Let me explain. I used to be a musician. I still am really, but a couple of years ago I was a prolific songwriter, constantly writing, recording, mixing etc. It meant many hours sat in my studio. Sunny days went by without me even noticing as I programmed drum parts, worked out solos, rhythm parts, basslines and vocal harmonies. My girlfriend suffered bravely. She’d often ask if I wanted to go for a walk in the lovely countryside near our house.

“What’s the point?” I’d ask. I didn’t see what good walking to point A and then back home again would do. Besides, I had a snare drum to EQ.

Shot on a Kiev 6C. I'm not sure what the lens is...

Then something changed. I got a camera (A Lomography Diana Mini to be precise) and it changed my life. All of a sudden I had a reason to get out into the open, to go and take photos and breath some fresh air. And I realised that I loved it. I loved it even more than music and before long, I stopped writing songs or even feeling the urge to write songs. All I wanted to do was take photographs, loads of them, constantly, with as many different cameras as I could lay my hands on. It just felt natural and so invigorating. I fell in love with the outdoors when for almost all of my life I was a ‘bedroom boy’, sitting indoors reading books and playing my bass.

I’ve been a photography fan for 2 years now and I’ve had time to think about what I love about it. And it’s this; I love the process. Some people love cameras, some love the maths behind photography, or the chemistry. Some people talk about lenses on Twitter all day long. Others about printing and different developing fluids. I can wake up in the morning and check my Twitter feed and it’s full of people talking endlessly about a lens they’ve spotted on eBay or a certain way of mixing a fluid and processing a film. And these are people I know and like. I’m afraid to say though, that I just scroll right past the conversations. I’m just not interested. I’m happy to still follow these people, but just not interested in that particular conversation.

Winter Hill, Bolton shot on a Lomography La Sardina. But that's not important.

Because what I like about photography has nothing to do with photography really. I love it because it gives me an excuse to get outdoors and to see things through the viewfinder of my camera. It focuses my eye and helps me see the world in more detail, it helps me appreciate my surroundings more. There’s nothing better than a good long walk on the moors where I live, or a stroll on the coast on a windy day. I stroll along, looking through the viewfinder, clicking the shutter and winding on. And ultimately, that’s it for me. Whether I get some good shots or not isn’t really important (although it’s obviously very pleasing). The point is to just get out there and do it. Enjoy yourself and appreciate your place in the world. You’ve not got long here and to spend ages trying to get that perfect shot seems like such a waste when there’s so much stuff to see.

Kiss On My List

This post is a challenge. The town I live in is bidding to be awarded city status this year. It does it quite often and so far has failed to win. Our local newspaper printed a list, a ‘fifty reasons why Bolton is great’ list. On that list it celebrated the fact that Bolton has very zealous traffic wardens and that some of its roundabouts have appeared on a calendar dedicated to roundabouts (I knew this already because I was one of the people who suggested to the makers that they visit Bolton, during a phone call to them in my capacity as a bookstore employee).

Anyway, I ridiculed that list for having such reasons and was criticised for moaning about Bolton, which I wasn’t. I was merely pointing out that it was a bit of a rubbish list. So, I’ve decided to do my own list. It’ll be very personal because I can set my own parameters. This is more to show people that I do in fact like living in Bolton, despite my reaction to the list. I’m not sure it’ll have fifty on it but I’ll try.

What does this have to do with photography? Well, gives me an excuse to post some photos of Bolton doesn’t it? ;-)

  • Le Mans Crescent – a wonderful bit of architecture, this elegant crescent is one of my favourite ‘streets’ in the town centre. Should be used more for street markets, etc.
  • The Town Hall – designed by the architect of Leeds Town Hall, in my opinion this is the better version. But I would say that!

  • The Man & Scythe – very old (but not as old as people would claim, it’s only the cellars that are really old), this is a good, old-fashioned pub, full of nooks and crannys, corners and crooked floors. Should be a talking only pub though, it’s got that kind of vibe. Music tends to ruin it.
  • The Dog & Partridge – the heartbeat of Bolton’s music scene. If you want live, original music you come here. If you want great alternative DJ’s, you come here (if you want metal nip up the road to The Alma but that’s not for me…).
  • The swathe of coniferous trees at the bottom of Scout Road – I know, I know, what a strange one. But I love it. Everytime I near it I have to pull over and take a photograph. It’s so moody and dramatic. Like brutalist architecture but in nature.

  • The Pigeon Tower – Lord Leverhulme, rich industrialist and philanthropist built this tower for his wife to sew in (what was wrong with the living room?). It’s closed to the public (something to do with a fire) but it’s still a striking landmark when you’re out walking.
  • Rivington Pike – not as good as the Winter Hill transmitter mast but still pretty cool. Avoid it on Bank Holidays though, it’s like a homing beacon for drunks.
  • The Blue Lagoon – a reservoir in Belmont, this is a lovely spot for a quiet walk. Sometimes it’s almost empty and you can see what was at the bottom, sometimes it’s full and ducks are loving it. I like it in both states.
  • Doffcocker Lodge – to walk around this lodge on a sunny Winter’s morning is bliss. The light is dramatic and it has one of my favourite signs in Bolton.

  • Manchester – What?! Well, one of the great things about Bolton is that it’s not far from Manchester. About 15 minutes in the car from my house, about 30 – 45 minutes via bus and train. And Manchester is a great city.
  • The coast – likewise, we’re only about 45 minutes from the Irish Sea. Blackpool, Fleetwood, Morecambe – it’s photographer’s heaven.
  • The Lake District – and again, we’re only about an hour away from the Lake District which surely boast the finest scenery in England. Cameras, walking boots and a map is all you need up there. And some cash for real ale.
  • I’m drying up now, I must admit.
  • This is where the Bolton News writer started talking about zealous traffic wardens.
  • Ah, thought of another!
  • Bolton Wanderers FC – they’re not having a great season but the town does have a rich football heritage and their stadium in Horwich looks great, especially from the motorway.

  • Mathers photography shop – Manchester, as far as I know, does not have a photography store that still sells new film AND developing materials. There are stores that sell film but I’ve still not found one that sells chemicals. This makes Mathers a shop I treasure.
  • Booths Music – and speaking of independent shops, here’s another one. I hardly go in these days but I’m still glad it exists. There aren’t many indies left in Bolton Town centre anymore, but it’s nice there are at least a few (Four Seasons, Ye Olde Pastie Shop etc.)
  • Smithills Hall – a fine old building about five minutes walk from my house. Very old, very lovely and a decent little tour through the rooms. Not to be confused with Smithills Coaching House which sells extremely average pub grub in massively uneatable portions.
  • The Tap – a pub full of fine ale, a lot of it brewed in Bolton. If only it was bigger and had more seats…
  • Winter Hill – many people would say Rivington Pike is the gem on this edge of the West Pennine Moors but I say it’s Winter Hill and its transmitter. A huge communications mast at the top of one of the largest hills in Lancashire, this is pure drama when you reach the top. Great views and a huge, totemic structure. Love it!
  • Barrow Bridge – a lovely place with houses that are the envy of most Boltoners. Formerly an industrial village, it’s now another Bolton Bank Holiday target. Don’t forget the main part of Barrow Bridge too, most people just walk along by the stream.
  • Moss Bank Park  – specifically Animal World. A great place for kids to visit and see peacocks, rabbits, and other furry creatures, this place was nearly closed down by the council. An outpouring of public protest managed to keep it open. Well done Bolton!

Right, as far as I know, I think I’m done. I’ll admit it’s tough to do fifty, although the paper did have a few duplications (i.e. naming Sir Ian McKellern as a great ‘Bolton’ actor and then elsewhere naming more Bolton actors – a list of people from Bolton would have made it easy to reach fifty), and a few ridiculous ones like the aforementioned traffic warden point. I hope this shows that I do have a lot of respect for what is great about Bolton. Overall it’s a great town with a lot of good points (mostly involving nature) but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its bad points. Unemployment, empty stores, the usual ailments of a modern town. Sadly, I also feel it has a council that is lacking in vision, although I appreciate that this is in part down to the fact that it’s such a big town and when it comes to a choice between welfare of its citizens or an exciting, modern building then they’ve got to go with the welfare. Nevertheless, I do wish sometimes that the council was a bit braver and had a better understanding of what it’s all about. If there’s one criticism I’d lay at Bolton’s door above all, I’d say that it doesn’t really know what it is. The thing is, I’m damned if I know!

 

Kino, Kino, Kino

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to test a new product from Lomography, the LomoKino Smart Phone Holder. The accessory was pretty much ready for release but Lomography wanted feedback, and more importantly, films shot with the accessory so they could have something to put on their website!

I’ve reviewed the holder on the Film Photography Project (I’ll post a link when it’s published) so I won’t go into too much detail here, suffice to say that I think it’s a great way of converting your 35mm Kino films into a digital format. Instead, I’d like to talk about the LomoKino itself.

I bought mine on the day of release. I’d been looking forward to it from the day Lomography started dropping hints and was sure I’d love it. For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s a 35mm movie camera, almost definitely the only one for the home market. A handle on the side of the camera winds the film past the shutter, which exposes the film as it goes past. For a standard 36 exposure film you can get 144 frames (often a little more) of what is basically stop-motion video. It’s how all ‘analogue’ movies are made, albeit the ones you see in the cinema are much more advanced. Whereas they may be around 25 frames per second, the LomoKino shoots at roughly 4 frames per second. Very old-school indeed.

It’s that old school quality that gives the camera its charm. Watching a video playback you’re reminded of old Keystone Cops movies and older, that jerky motion providing an evocative feel that you simply wouldn’t get using a modern video camera without an app to provide that effect. I love it.

However, it’s not without its flaws. My first Kino broke after just one use. Fortunately, a quick email to Lomography resulted in a replacement camera and some film to replace what was in the camera when I discovered it was faulty. Top marks for service then! Alas, I still have the occasional struggle with the camera. At one point I had a roll of Lomography Redscale film in there. I set the shot up (my girlfriend walking into the distance on the beach) and started rolling. After a while I was surprised that the film hadn’t run out. I soon realised that the camera was just winding and winding without film going past. I had no choice but to open the back up, thus exposing the film, to see what the problem was. Torn sprocket holes! As the film gets wound on, it turns the sprocket gears round which in turn fire the shutter. Sadly, the film had torn and so it wasn’t winding on properly anymore. One wasted film!

Also, it’s quite a steep learning curve. Without a light meter, exposing the film is pretty much guesswork. This, however, can only improve the more you shoot with it. Some people may also complain that it’s a very quick way to ‘waste’ film. My argument would be that the more people use this camera, the more film sales will increase and that’s exactly what we need right now! Also, many people just won’t like the image at all. Each frame is a thin strip and the picture is fairly dreamy: don’t expect pin-sharp focus with this camera! And finally, many will hate having to scan each individual frame into the computer and then piecing everything together in a package like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker (like the above clip was), but that’s why the aforementioned Smart Phone Holder was invented. If you’re planning on buying a Kino, make sure you get the full package with the Kinoscope and the Smart Phone Holder.

So, overall, what do I think? Well, it’s a love/hate relationship. If I had to sum it up I’d say it was flawed genius. Genius in that Lomography have had the balls to come up with such a product, flawed in that it’s far from perfect. Ultimately though, I do enjoy using it and since I got the Smart Phone Holder (I got to keep the test item!) it’s made things much easier.  Now all I have to do is come up with some storyboards and do something proper with it!

And Speaking Of Mistakes…

I got a Holga 135 last week, from the new Lomography store in Manchester. I own two Holga 120GN’s and absolutely love them. Indeed, the 120GN is my favourite camera of all time. Cheap and plastic but easy to use and capable of giving you wonderful photographs (providing you point it in the right place…)

So, I was excited to try out the 35mm version of this amazing camera. I shot half a roll of black and white on the way to work last Tuesday and the other half on a trip to the seaside. That’s currently drying in the bathroom, having just been processed. However, I also shot a roll of colour film at the seaside and got it processed as soon as we got back to Bolton.

I got the negatives home, cut them into strips and put them into my negative holder. Holding them up to the light from my monitor, they looked good. However, seeing them close-up and scanned revealed a different story. Bulb mode! Almost the whole roll was shot in Bulb mode, which resulted in a load of blurry, over-exposed, ultra-grainy shots. I’d checked it wasn’t on Bulb but it obviously was when I started shooting. I only realised the mistake because towards the end of the roll I deliberately started shooting in Bulb mode, then switched back, and you can see where I’ve switched back to Normal mode.

Anyway, the point of this post is two-fold. One, to remind you to always check the settings of your camera before you take a shot, and two, to demonstrate that shooting in Bulb mode can actually be quite lovely. I’m fascinated with the dreamlike fuzziness it gives a photo, like a remembered moment in the distant past. It also refers back to my post about making mistakes and embracing them and learning from them rather than just discarding them without a thought. Because to be honest, some of the following shots would probably have been pretty boring if ‘d taken them properly.

Funland and Pi

Cafe Inside

Grindhouse Pier

Mud

Best Of The Year

It didn’t take me long to pick my favourite photo of 2011. As soon as I decided I was going to select one this image popped into my head straight away. It’s not technically perfect by any means (I’m sure there’s an accidental double-exposure on it) and like most of my photos it was taken on a ‘toy’ camera.

It’s of John Fedele (on the left) and Michael Raso (on the right) in a curry house on the Earl’s Court Road in London. They’d flown over from New Jersey to attend the Film Photography Project UK Meet, an event I organised with help from Linda Scott at Lomography UK (and some good input from FPP listener Donkerdave, to give him his Flickr handle).

This was their first night in town. Becky and I met up with them and we went for a curry, which Mike kindly paid for. After the meal we moved on to the pub and had a couple of drinks before we returned to our respective hotels, me giddy with excitement.

Becky and I went home at the end of the weekend with nothing but good things to say, not only about Mike and John, but about the help and generosity shown by the people at Lomography and also the enthusiasm and friendliness of the fellow photographers and FPP listeners. It was without doubt the best weekend I had last year.

For those reasons, this photo was an easy shoe-in. Cheers guys!

Is That It?

Ladies and gentlemen, my final photo of 2011!

Not my favourite photo of the year by far, but still, it’s better than nothing. It was a really dull, wet day and we needed to nip to the shops for some basil. I realised I still had six shots left on my Holga so I took it along.

I’d almost given up on seeing something even vaguely interesting for the last frame on the film until I saw this sign. They don’t sell tuna by the way.

I’ll see if I can post my favourite shot from 2011 later.

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