Some Polaroids

Thursday 22 July 2021 – London.

I went to the office today, the second to last day of work before I start my six-month career break. I didn’t need to go in, one of the positive things I can say about the government department I work for is that there has been no compulsion for us plebs to return to the office, and current thinking suggests there won’t be until at least September. Ironically, that’s what they said about this time last year and we know how that turned out. I had to return my laptop, clear a couple of personal items from my locker, and most importantly, see some workmates I’ve rarely seen in the flesh for quite some time.

To be honest, I am also sick of being at home, especially as it’s been 29/30 degrees most days and I’m working in the dark in the bedroom as I don’t want to let the morning sun in. I think Eleanor would say (if she was being polite) that I have been tetchy these last couple of days. Boredom, heat, electing to not go out because we don’t want to test positive before we have fly, have all made Phil a grumpy old man.

So yeah, getting out of the house was a good thing.

Work was fine, the journey in on the tube was as expected; a lot more people not wearing masks as they don’t have to, and they are selfish arseholes who couldn’t care less for anyone other than themselves

I packed the Polaroid in my bag before I left this morning. I don’t use it enough and have decided not to take it to New Zealand. I had an eight pack of film left so thought I would walk from Westminster to Liverpool St Station and take the overground train home, avoiding the Tube, and take some photos on the way.

Covid Memorial wall

I didn’t have much of a plan; walk Thames side to St Paul’s, take a photo of the cathedral and one of Tate Modern on the opposite side of the river, then see whatever happens.

tate modern

St Pauls 1

After walking up the stairs from the Thames to take the photo of St Pauls I was inspired to cross the river and walk to London Bridge and pay my respects to ‘Fairy Towers’m – my late friend Kev’s flat in London Bridge, where I lived from February 2013 to July 2014.

St Pauls 2

Wow, this place has changed in the last seven years. Where there were some garages in the estate where the flat was, there is now another small block. Kev told me they were building something here but it has all been finished and people are living there now. I think it is all much needed social housing, least I hope so.

20210722_161518

Kev’s flat was on the 12th floor and had such a great view, I very much appreciated living there for so long.

Fairy Towers

I walked past Guys Hospital and took a photo from the foot of the Shard.

The Shard

Then crossed over London Bridge, stopping to take a photo of Tower Bridge and the Thames.

Tower bridge

There are a lot more people around now, I was quite hot from walking in the sun and was going to stop for a last pub pint but everywhere was too busy. So I carried on going and bought a can at the beer shop near home. I drank it on my own in the garden, it was nice.

There is one week until we leave, so we have decided to not go anywhere unnecessary, except Tuesday when we have to go back into central London to get our pre-flight PCR Covid test.

Addendum….

We walked locally and I used the last of the Polaroid film up. Eleanor’s house in Walthamstow.

165 Howard Rd

The old mill house, now a cafe and gift shop for Walthamstow Wetlands.

Wetlands Pumphouse

Postman’s Park. Eleanor showed me this lovely little park after we had our PCR tests. It has a small memorial wall to people who died saving others, sadly the final plaque is from 1903. It has some lovely tributes to a range of people, young and old who were killed saving family members or strangers. There were a lot of drownings and fires in 19th century London.

Postmans Park

To return the favour I took Eleanor to St Dunstan-in-the-East as she hadn’t visited before and it is one of my new favourite old places in London. I took one final Polaroid.

St Dunstan-in-the-East

That is it for London and England for a while. We fly tomorrow (29 July), our PCR results came back negative this morning, so nothing left to do but wait for one more day.

Kingsdown and St Margarets Bay, Kent.

13 October 2019 – YHA Weekend, the south Kent Coast.

Our Walthamstow social group has been holding a weekend away for many years, well before I came on the scene. These are family affairs with 20 or 30 people or all ages attending. This is the fourth year that El and I have gone, and these weekends have appeared in past posts. The events are held in Youth Hostel Assocation (YHA) or similar properties, often in off-the-beaten-track locations. This year we were staying in a big old hostel building in Ringwould, just up the coast and slightly inland from Dover. I am guessing there was about 25 of us, including the ‘kids’, the youngest are all at university, so maybe kids is not quite right, maybe youf is more apt. Everyone was of drinking age, and there was a lot of drinking.

I have recently become a director of the residents association for the block where my flat is. The AGM was on Friday night so I worked from the flat during the day, attending the meeting in the early evening before joining El who had come down to join me after work.

The Saturday activity at the YHA weekender is a bike ride, as El doesn’t ride we didn’t rush up the coast from St Leonards to Ringwould. We eventually arranged to meet some other non-riders for lunch in a pub in the small coastal Kent village of Kingsdown.

I severely under-estimated how long it would take to drive from the flat, thinking it was going to be an hour or so. It took close to two hours, and not just because of bad traffic, it was a lot further than I expected. Apparently maps would have me this, lesson learned. I was very tempted to stop on the way and take some photos; it was quite gloomy out, lots of drizzle and low cloud. It would have been a great day to visit Dungeness, a place I had just finished reading a book about. However, we had committed to meeting friends for lunch, so I carried on. I finally conceded we were going to be very late so we rang out friends and found their deadline had changed so they could not wait for us any longer than they had. I then stopped and took this photo of the pylons half shrouded in cloud, my favourite of the photos I have taken on the Polaroid. These cameras are made for a ghostly bleak environment.

Even though our friends had left we chose to visit Kingsdown regardless, it is very close to where we are staying and had a pub that looked like a nice spot for lunch. The Zetland Arms was mentioned in another book I had recently finished reading and as it was right on the beach I thought it might make for some good photo opportunities. It did. It was also a great pub, with a very good pint of red ale, a friendly vibe, and a difficult to choose from excellent menu. We both had fish chowder and it was delicious.

I immediately liked Kingsdown, it is a small village nestled in a narrow strip between the sea and the cliffs, and it will not exist when the sea level rises. Off the main road the ‘streets’ are pebble, like the beach. The line between the beach, the roads and gardens is a blurred, marked by fences and chains. After heavy rain the ‘road’ was full of luckily, not deep puddles.  Its permanence seems quite temporary.

Kingsdown sits between the northern end of the white cliffs of Dover and Walmer/Deal. It is not on any tourist trail, maybe with the exception of the Zetland Arms and its great view and menu. Camera and Polaroid.

After lunch we took a very quick walk around, and I took some pictures on both the Polaroid and the digital cameras. I really like this place, and I love this stretch of coast for its not quite barrenness, it’s almost isolation and it’s almost bleakness.

After our late lunch and the brief photographic stroll we drove the six minutes to the YHA and let ourselves in, everyone else was still out. Once settled I had a glass of wine; the less said about the evening the better! Sunday morning was slow, very slow.

Once packed up we all drove to St Margarets in Cliffe, another village one Kent coast. Just south of Kingsdown, between there and Dover. The weather continued to be poor, not cold, but windy, damp and miserable. I have been here before, a couple of years ago when El and I did a week long tour of the south coast; trying to find the perfect location for me to buy a flat. Not that we were looking at St Margaret’s Bay, there is nothing here, but it does have a view of some white cliffs, which is what we were came here for back then, as now.

We had a brief walk, and stare at the sea, I took a couple more photos before we got in the car and I drove us back to Walthamstow.

Unpacking the car at home I managed to drop the Polaroid again, this time it was in \ bag, and juggling for house keys while carrying too many things I dropped the bag. The camera did not recover this time, and no longer works 😦

I was very angry and upset with myself, this was a gift from El, something I had wanted for a while and I had broken it inside five weeks. I was lucky that El was more forgiving. Thank you lovely xx

I have now bought a replacement, the same model and of similar vintage, thankfully they are reasonably common on eBay. I hope it works as well and as magically as the one El bought me.

The Polaroid.

24 September 2019 – London and St Leonards.

In May I attended a photography workshop in the North Yorkshire Dales where we primarily used Polaroid and Instax cameras to make images. I had a lot of fun that day and have wanted an instant camera ever since. It was my birthday last week and that want became a reality as El picked me one up from ebay. A Polaroid Impulse AF. My first ever instant camera.  A plastic  work  of art.

First made in 1988, this is a proper vintage Polaroid camera, and it certainly looks it. I am not sure when this one was made, but you can buy them new from Polaroid Originals, a company started in 2017 by the Impossible Project. I don’t think this one is terribly new. The Impossible Project is Dutch company founded in 2008 when Polaroid announced they were no longer going to make the film they were so famous for. Impossible Project bought one of the manufacturing plants and continued to make the film, before restarting the brand and releasing new cameras.

I was surprised to find the camera had a film in it with some shots left. I had to test it out immediately, so snapped a photo of El sitting on the couch. She was a bit quizzical about the whole thing.

Coinciding with the arrival of the new camera and my birthday, and not directly related, was the separate arrivals of my sister and my daughter. My sister is over from New Zealand for work and has a week with us before returning home; my daughter is here after working in Croatia and is on the way to a three month Yoga teaching job in Sri Lanka. It was lovely to have two family members visit at the same time, though my daughter did have to sleep on the floor in the back room!

Saturday afternoon the three of us went for a three hour loop walk including a section along the River Lea from Tottenham Hale to Walthamstow Marshes. A loop El and I have done on a few occasions. I wanted to show my sister a little bit more of Walthamstow. I took the Polaroid with me.

I love this section of the Lea; Tottenham to Stratford is a lovely walk with a nice variety of things to see. River boats, water birds, families walking, cyclists and fisherman, old cranes, trees and the river. I was pleased to see that this, the second photo I took with the Polaroid, and the first in daylight, came out OK. There was some artifacting which was fine, I like that in a Polaroid.

I was carrying the camera, among other things, in a cotton tote bag slung over my shoulder. Putting the camera away I completely missed the opening of the bag and the bag flew past the opening of the bag, crashing on to the path on the edge of the river bank. My first reaction was ‘crap, it’s going to fall in the river’, but luckily it didn’t. My second thought was hoping it was all OK. When I picked it up two images came out at the same time, not a good sign. The both looked like this abstract image, which I actually quite like. Having a weird abstract image as the last from a broken camera was not going to be any sort of comfort, and I was not looking forward to telling El I broke the gift she had just bought me. This is the first she will know about this….

Not much further along the river are these lovely old crane booms. This was a good opportunity to test if the camera was OK after its fall. Clicking the shutter release, another two frames came out. One looking pretty good, there was some striping, which is not too bad. I actually really like this to be honest.

The second frame was just the striping. I was hoping this was not going to be it for the camera. Gupl!

20 minutes further on, at the bridge crossing the Lea to the Walthamstow side, I took a photo of my sister and daughter and thankfully it came out very nicely and there was no wasted, damaged frame with it. Phew. It all seems to be OK. This was the final image from the film that was left in the camera. I have no idea how old the film  was,nor  how  long  it  had  been  in  the  camera.

The camera has three exposure settings, I am guessing a -1 stop, neutral and +1 stop. The first film I shot on neutral and it was a bit under exposed in my mind.

The next day, Sunday, El, my sister and I visited relatives on both sides of my family. An aunt and uncle on my father’s side and the same on my mother, with added extra uncle, a cousin and their children. After a very large lunch we headed off down to St Leonards. I wanted to show my sister my flat, and a little bit of the area I (occasionally) live in. We arrived late afternoon, still full from lunch, once settled we went for a short walk along the sea front.

There was a very typical, colourful, cloud strewn sunset. I set the camera at what I thought was +1 stop to let a bit more light in for the sunset, however after playing with the -1 setting the following day, I must have had this around the wrong way. I took these two images one after the other, it was a little cool so there was a not enough time for them to process fully before I realised that they were going to be so dark. I do really like them though. These are the first two shots from a new film, so I am A) very happy that a camera bought from ebay is very good, and B) the fall yesterday did not damage it!

I had also brought the digital camera with me, just in case.

The following morning El and I too Sarah on a longer walk around St Leonards and Hastings, taking a walk up Hastings Pier. Walking to the end of the pier is not something I have done before.

I also took a photo on the digital camera, back over the St Leonards sea front, fast becoming one of my favourite views.

I love the walk from St Leonards to Hastings, under a mile, but the sea air, the sound of the waves on the stony beach, the fact it is not deserted but also not crowded. It is just a nice walk in any weather.

At The Stade I took a quick detour down amongst the old tractors and bulldozers used to haul fishing boats up and down the beach. They were a nice subject to experiment with the Polaroid, though mostly came out over exposed. The sun was quite bright and I was pretty much shooting directly into it. I am happy the way these turned out, and experimentation is always fun.

I was quite surprised at how busy the old town was on a Monday, and most of the shops were open, given this was the end of September, verging into autumn, this is a good sign for the state of Hastings at the moment. My sister liked it as well, thankfully. Picking up a bottle of wine we went back to the flat for a pre-dinner drink before heading down to Farmyard in St Leonards for a very nice meal. There are a number of really nice eating and drinking establishments around, Farmyard, possibly being my pick of the bunch at the moment. London prices though!

I am still learning the art of scanning, the second film were scanned better than the first. The images have all been through Lightroom, but I have not done much too them, bit of sharpening and tone adjustments, so they are very close the original. I am happy enough with the camera that I have bought another three 8-packs and hope to get out with it next weekend.

A most excellent birthday present. xx

I am now experimenting with some leaf photos, a bit of still life for the winter.

Photosketch. Part Two, the instant film photos.

May 6 2019 – near Settle, North Yorkshire.

Photosketch Part Two.

Yesterday’s post was all about the Photosketch day, what it was about and how the day went. This one will, hopefully, be much less verbose. 

The objective of this, the second of two walks, was to experiment with instant film cameras; both Polaroid and Fujifilm Instax in a variety of Yorkshire Dales environments. I have never used an instant camera, and I don’t recall any of my friends having them back when they were more common. Everyone else on the walk had used them, and some brought their own along for the session.

When Polaroid stopped making the film in 2008 there was an outcry from the millions of fans around the world, with many buying bulk and hoarding. In 2010 the Impossible Project started manufacturing film for the Polaroid and the world took a long sigh of relief, and things carried on as normal. Fujifilm has been making their Instax cameras for almost as long, and never ceased production like Polaroid. The Instax films are smaller and a more traditional photo shape than the good old, almost square, Polaroid.

There were six different camera models to choose from, some quite old, and most not being used in a long time. Though all had been cleaned, there were still a lot of artifacting and strange marks from the rollers. I loved them.

I started with one of the Polaroid cameras. I liked it, so simple. Point it. Press the button. Wait a few seconds for the photos to emerge, then stick the photo in a pocket to develop somewhere warm. There is nothing fancy with these plastic cameras, no focusing, no setting aperture or ISO, fixing shutter speeds. Nothing. just point, then click.

For my first image I wanted to test the tonal range of the camera to see what it could actually do with contrasting light. I am still reflecting on Robert Macfarlane’s new book ‘Underland’ as it has challanged me to think more about my environment, and think a little about what is below my feet.  Not that I was moving in to an underground system, I just took a photo of a hole in one of the dry stone walls. I am assuming this was to allow small beasts out of a paddock, it is too small for a sheep and a farm dog would just jump over. I cannot think of any other reason for it to exist. It was a view into a place I had never been, and one that was not accessible. OK, it was just another field, but hey, I wanted to create some sort of drama!

The photo did require me to lie down on the damp stony ground, and get up quite close to the wall. Point. Click. Done. New experience.

It was cold and windy up on the hill. I was advised by those wiser than me in the ways of instant film to stick the print under my jacket and into my armpit as the chemicals on the paper require warmth to do their magic. It would happen, but it would take some time. And here is the first image.

I was quite pleased. I love the light leakage at the top and bottom, though I really like the roller flashing a lot more.. They do add to the image. It is all slightly out of focus, but that does not bother me at all.

My second attempt was out in the open, with quite even light. I had no idea what this digger was doing up in this field. It was in good condition, so didn’t appear to have been here for long, but there were no tracks or other sign as to how it got there. I am wondering if it is used to bury carcasses ?

I was pleasantly surprised to find that even though this was taken only a few minutes after the first one the light artifacts and leakage were slightly different. There was no predicting what was going to come out of this camera, and I really liked that.

As we were walking up the field to enter into the next section of the walk the heavens just opened and dumped a whole load of very cold rain on us, it was very brief, but quite heavy. I snapped this image of Steve taking a photo on his phone as the clouds sat just over his head. I have no idea what the bright thing in the bottom corner is…

I like that these images, just look old, and slightly degraded; the loss of focus and the the flat light as a result of time and poor technology. Not that they were taken an hour ago.

At the highest point of the walk there was a collection of rocks overlooking a low bluff. I was working my around the edges and saw this small entrance point. I have no idea if it was short or long, it was small, it made me wonder what was there. Was it an entrance into the underland, to the below/ Who knows.  I took a photo, triggering the flash this time. Different artifacts.

By the time we reached the next area to explore I had used up the film in the Polaroid and it was time to swap to an Instax. The camera I was given was a lot newer than the Polaroid and had significantly less noise and light leakage, but I could not work out how to turn the flash off, it just refused to not fire. It had one more function than the Polaroid, light or dark. Otherwise it functioned the same. Point. Click.

My first play with this camera was in a small section of pine forest.  I literally crawled in to the very dense low-hanging trees for the first couple of shots. Before I knew about the always-on flash, I was trying to capture the very low foilage, the very high moss and tree litter, and the thin gap of light working its way in between. I just got a lot of very bright flash.

Similar to one of the photos I took with the Polaroid I ended up with this strange thing in the foreground, in this case, right across it. No idea what it is, nor why it is there. it did ruin it for me, and it was the worst photo of the day. Things got better once I was not close to anything.

I really like the colour palette in the Instax, it has the yellows and grey that I really like, and the green is quite muted. If only they made a version bigger than 2.5 inches.

Crossing the wall we started down a gradual slope back towards our start point at Fleur’s house. The light was just wonderful as we walked and I took a number of photos on both the instant and the normal camera as we walked.

We stopped for a while at these two trees, native trees are so rare in the dalesl it was an interesting place to take some photos. This is, I think, my favourite of the Instanx photos.

Somehow I managed to accidently take two photos (It is now three months later and I am typing this in the pub, and I have no recall as to what button I was trying to press). However, I like both photos. They break so many rules of photography; the horizon is not straight, nothing is in focus and there is what looks like hair on the lens; and I rarely take photos of people, so a personal ‘rule’ also broken. Fleur and Rachel.

That was the last of the images I took over the course of the day. I very much enjoyed working with this group of people, and with the instant cameras. Back at Fleur’s place we had a very enjoyable session reviewing the range of images we all took. No-one took the same thing, we all have a different eye and different ideas. The important lesson I learned from the people and the day was they are all valid. 

The next Photosketch is in the Peak District on the 8th September. I recommend it. Check it out here.