Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tealair stroll

My fav Tolsta View taken with Paxette - before the snow!

The moon is at its fullest, the tides are massive and so, today at low tide - or just before, Eve and I took off for a stroll down North Tolsta's cemetery road towards Traigh Mhor [Big Beach]. In between snow showers and bright sunshine, we took off to Tealair, a little bay only accessible at low tides. Here there are some fine caves at the bottom of sheer cliffs.
What a fantastic place and what a strange day. The wind was very keen and twas a good that we were both wrapped up well. The snow came over from the north in heavy flurries, foam from the sea was being blown all over the place.
I had taken a tiny and old camera with me - a Braun Paxette 1 - with a lens scratched it produces images with loads of flare and they look rather like images from a hundred years ago. The snap is of Eve on the way home just below cemetery road.
Toots did not come with us!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Do you want a dog?"

Ben; I'm a terrier not a terrorist
The Crofter and Clocks [right]

Clocks asks me this on a regular basis. He asks Eve and The Crofter and no doubt anyone else he comes across whilst strolling with his beloved Ben down the village to feed the Highland Cows he looks after. Ben, the terrier, has a mind of his own and cannot be given to anyone.
Fine characters both and I love to see them both.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Meditation and Regression


Look, the Grinneas nan Eilean is coming up and I have not got anything outrageous to show. Basically, the Grinneas is an art show at An Lanntair art centre in Stornoway where everyone can put 'art' pieces in for display and sale. There's usually some great proper artists showing like Willie Fulton and then you get people like me. And I don't do 'art', I do stuff.
However, I do make images and I do often use cameras but, I'm often tempted to 'do' something different. Different from the endless beach shots, standing stones and over saturated coloured images that frequent the photos in this show. Last year, one of my photographs, properly printed on Silver Gelatin but taken with a pinhole camera using very old film made it into the 'art'/painting section. :-). I also made an image entitled 'midge in formaldehyde' but now I think of it, that didn't pass muster - apart from the title so didn't put that one in.

Anyway, this year, I have been inspired. I'm working on some images because I found some old enlarging paper that has a lovely texture and used as a neg in-camera [an old folder in this case] then enlarged onto more paper makes some great results. I think so anyway and that's what counts. So, these are the first two - and there will be more .
I might even have another go at Midge in Formaldehyde too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Prostrate with dismal

Oh please! Someone tell me the point of this little trip down to the beach. One suspects it's more like " I have a 4x4 and can't be arsed to walk!". It wasn't for taking a boat down since there were no trailor tyre tracks. And I suspect the last boat to come onto this beach was when Sammy the Seal misled the Stornoway Canoe Club and brought them here to show them the delights of the obsolete pier. I wonder; has the pier ever been used other than to fish or fall off of?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To Wŏnssu for the day

From Ullapool - today [Saturday actually]
Wŏnssu - from the archives.

With the weather having been so good in the forecast for the weekend, my partner Eve suggested a little trippette to the mainland was in order. So, armed with a camera, lightmeter, some sandwiches and a map we boarded the ferry at some unearthly hour of the morning in Stornoway. The sea was so calm crossing the notoriously rough Minch that we could have been on the Serpentine. The sun rose and a bright day dawned.

The point of this crossing was to make a stroll around the environs of Ullapool, a pretty little village nestling – as villages do – on the north bank of Loch Broom. Having said that, Ullapool was not always in Loch Broom. Apparently, the whole Ullapool area was previously located in the Orkneys. The warrior inhabitants of Wŏnssu State Collective as it was called at that time had a desire for independence from the other Orkney islands but rather than fighting it out, the two parties sat down over a bottle of Highland Park [and or Vodka – the records a re a little unclear on this] and played a game of cards to decide which sides ideas would prevail. The Wŏnssunians lost. This resulted in the other island’s men, getting into their long-boats – some 200 of them -and literally towing Wŏnssu away from Orkney and down towards the Minch. At this point there was no final destination but the Western Isles were rejected since they didn’t fancy crossing that particular piece of sea.

In the end Loch Broom loomed out of the mist and they proceeded down the loch and wedged Wŏnssu up against the Staffa peninsula. Still, to this day, if you look carefully you can see where the rocks have a faunal discontinuity indicating the differences in their original locations.
And to this day, there is still a totalitarian influence in the village, now re-named Ullapool after a particularly lovely part of North Korea. At the back of the village there is a Soviet style hotel – now sadly un-used but hopefully soon to be renovated by the Russians. Further towards the harbour is a neo-North Korean style block in the Jong-il McMansion mode, housing a fine Gallery/café and below an outdoor equipment shop.

Anyway, we had a lovely walk over the hills, fine coffee in a harbour side bistro and a nice sandwich in the gallery café.

Then we went home.

Wŏnssu is a lovely place and well worth an hour or two of your time to have a look round.

Friday, January 22, 2010

We have friends

Yes, yes its not North Tolsta in the snap. It's not even Scotland. But these are friends - English/Polish/Metropolisian friends or something. And they don't always look like this - as they're often found chasing Sir Chris Hoy [or more probably Princess Victoria Pendleton ]around the Manchester Velodrome - or, in the case of the chap in the middle [Superman 1] doing a mean Elvis impersonation in Krakow.

The lovely thing about living up here on Lewis is that its so easy to make friends and good lovely nice people friends too. Take yesterday, I took a few moments out of my suffering with this hangover from Christmas flu to pop up to Bac and Carolyn in the Pharmacy to pick up my prescription. Now, it's lovely going to The Bac Pharmacy because the staff are really friendly and even listen politely when I whinge - as I do. Having said that, sporty Paul had not arrived back from running to Ness and back [I think] so the prescription wasn't ready. Not to worry as Back stores is nearby where I can purchase a dark chocolate bar to up my blood sugar levels a tad. As it happens in there I meet Donald-four-tractors from North Tolsta. Lovely chap who, for the last two years has help bring the peats in with one of his collection of MF/Ford tractors. And the nice thing is no-one seems to mind if you hang around passing the time of day in the shop, chewing over the latest news to filter out from The Grazings Committee onto which The Crofter is now been elected [the first English on-comer in the whole history of the world of North Tolsta to have such an honour bestowed upon him]. Now that's the sort of high-powered life I lead now.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Time hangs

I'm getting myself better - hopefully. What with countless lemon and honey hot drinks and a visit to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription, I'm staying close to the fire to keep warm.
Amusing myself by looking at some negs I took the other day with a Fujica SLR loaned to me by the great Coelyns - the negs exposed on a local beach - I forget which one - a few weeks ago before the snow came. Probably.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Under the weather - redux

Apologies for the lack of recent postings but the old flu that laid me low over Yuletide has come back to haunt me leaving me with a hacking cough, sore throat and shouting at Lord Wiesmier - my stuffed rabbit friend - when he won't get up and get me a cup of hot lemon and honey!
As it happens, I hear The Crofter, who was also laid low at xmas is having similar issues at the moment leaving Pig and Piggy somewhat worried. Again.

Needless to say I have not seen the inside of the darkroom for a few days or hardly handled a camera.

Another snap from the post Yuletide period. A ram. In snow.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I know there already a lot of stuff on the internet about Haiti, but it does seem to be a terrible situation and they require our thoughts and efforts to help them - ASAP.
I recommend Medecins sans Frontier as this is an organisation who are there on the ground already doing great work. Many apologies, but can I urge you all to support Haiti in anyway possible.

Snap; Which seems so pathetic in the bigger scheme of things. Another from the Snow walk.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Me 'Ed's in tickets"

Such was the cry of the finance person at my old workplace many years ago when I worked for a sane lot. This finance person was prone to such lovely sayings and translated from Manc. it meant "I can't do two things at once" sort of thing. Tickets for an event at the Manchester Velodrome being the thing she was doing - apart from kippering her lungs that is - and the thing I was asking about being the other. Why am I saying this? Answers on a postcard please because it has slipped my mind at present.
In the meantime while I await the plethora of postcards to pop onto the doormat by nice postman, I talk about something else.
Ok, it has come to me.
Oh, gone again.
Flippin heck, getting older is just a pain, but so much a pain as the trouble I seem to be having with the water hereabouts. Last year the local water company covered the road with mud just outside the village, dug up more of the moor and built a rather natty water treatment plant. This building fits in nicely with the new houses being built round here in that it totally lacks any character or interesting shape and is generally grey. Ever since they built that the water quality has been terrible and its effecting my negs. A lot. I already use a Paterson type filter in the water hose but I'm either going to have to get a proper water filter or else only use bought ionised water. Every neg I get out if the developer/fix - even with the new temperature gauge seems to be coated in the remnants of The Crofters duck's breakfast - or something rather similar. This makes the negs very difficult to print in the darkroom without spending the majority of my days spotting the faults out.

Snap of the day; Kowa /HP5/LC29 neg scan with spots removed. From the beginning of the snow walk at the weekend.

Singing in the shower

After another sleepless night plotting and fretting about work issues, issues that are causing my head to teeter on the edge of falling off and my little bod to commence falling apart, I awake to the most wonderful thing I have heard on the radio for quite a while.
On the Radio4 Today programme - yes, I am THAT sort of person - Mr Robert Wyatt formerly of Soft Machine and music of true wonderfulness fame now sees the result of his request to listeners to send in mp3s of their choirs around the UK. Now there is an interactive map of all things, with loads of brilliant choirs to listen to. Go over and take a look/listen, its well worth a hour of your time. And mine. Good old BBC - worth every penny of the licence fee. Only we don't pay for one. We have no TV in case you were just about to make a phone call!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I so wish I could sing. I dream about such things - when I am not worrying about work. Anyway, my sister sings in a choir in Somerset - my mother does too sometimes but I've only heard the lovely Laxey Women's choir up here and I could never sing as well as that! Ah well, its back to singing in the shower - only we just have a bath and that doesn't feel the same at all.

The snap; another from our great snow walk up Bowglass last Saturday.
BTW; update on yesterday; I have now managed to scrounge a good thermometer from Toots Wilson so its all go on the film developing front. Once I have sorted work out.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Snap from a recent walk with Eve up the Bowglass path

I must take this chance to apologise the terrible state of my snaps on this and The Crofter blog of late. In the main I put it down to the decline and then demise of my developing thermometer. I have been having problems keeping the developer at the correct temp these last few weeks. Seeing we have been having less than balmy conditions here of late and, the darkroom central heating [ portable heater in the centre of the darkroom ] being about as effecient as The Muirneag ferry on a breezy night in the Minch, it couldn't surely have an issue with over-warm developer one would think. But since the negs were about as perfectly developed as David Cameron's marriage tax policies, and dense in the extreme [do I sense a theme here? ], I figured it must be too hot a developer or the wrong developer, the wrong amount of developer, too much agitation or too long developing.
Look, I may be old but I did read the times for developing correctly, my stopwatch is still working despite a trip into water from time to time. I have only 3 developers and each had been giving me issues. Similarly, the liquid measuring implement had not changed proportions since last year and I generally agitate the developing tank about the same for everything I use - except of course for when I don't. Obviously.
However, on close inspection of the thermometer I had been looking at for the last few years, I notice the alchohol in it seemed to have had argument with itself with part of it deciding to stay up in the high notes and the majority of it returning to base. Now, it didn't take me long to work out that something like this may have an effect on the correct temp to the tune of around 5C. Doh!

Later in the day while passing through the shop in town I meet Mr & Mrs Windy. Mr Windy is not only a fellow film fotographer but also a lab manager so I figured this might be the man to ask for advice. " Heat the thermometer up slowly till the two parts merge then cool it down again" came the informed reply. I tried this and at the first attempt had merged 99% of the alcohol.
Brilliant, I thought. Do it again and all will be sorted. I think I might have overdone it a tad because the whole thing exploded. ARGH!!!!!!

Mr Windy has left the island for a few days.!!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I'm not one for 4x4 cars and the like. But I make an exception for Alec who has been driving me safely and expertly round the place as we go from place to place doing our little job in the dark. And since its been a tad chilly of late with the roads hereabouts extremely icy, I have been grateful for the relative security of Alec's Freelander - as I'm told it is.
Here's a snap at 9pm or thereabouts in Stornoway in the falling snow with a job on the other side of the island to do. Alec looking raring to go as usual.
Guessed exposure on Kiev rangefinder camera. Legacy400 film rated at 1600. Rodinal stand development because I broke my thermometer!

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Blast furnace

Actually, we don't really have one but yesterday I came down to the Raeburn roaring away for no apparent reason and the oven hot. I mean really hot. Hot enough for me to wonder about getting too close in case there was terminal melt-down or something. Since the air tempertature up here is a tad chilly at the moment I basked in the heat of the Warming Room, cooked porridge on the stove in about 10 secs flat then spent the next hour cleaning off the burnt bits from the saucepan. Ah well.
At the other end of the day, after I had carried a full inspection of my work kit, cleaning and polishing all the bits and logging all the important details I settled down into the Summer Parlour to light the stove there and enjoy a quiet evening with my Eve. Only the flippin chimney must have got cold so the room just filled with smoke. It just did not want to go up the chimney. I was wondering if the crow sat atop the chimney pot was frantically flapping its wings and pushing the smoke down again so I'd heat the thing up more. I think it was a crow anyway. It might have been a seagull - a sooty one.
Anyway, I had to get the stove hot to get the smoke to go up the chimney - and that was a strain since the air was now still, the chimney for this fire is at the other end of or little house from the Raeburn and it didn't want to 'go' as it were. I'm told it's the air pressure as well as the way the air is going - oh, or the phases of the moon and the state of the economy. so it had little chance. However, it did get nice and hot in the end - just as it was time for bed. Life eh?

The snap I carefully selected to show you sheep. White ones. Not proper Hebridean ones but ones that are the most popular type hereabouts. And a fishing boat in the bay - possibly fishing although I'm reliably told they shouldn't be as it is banned there at the moment. Perhaps they were just having a rest!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Ah Ha!

Look, I'm been doing 'things' and what have you. Work has been interfering with life rather more than I would like and someone there is giving me grief I could do without! Otherwise all is fine and we have been 'enjoying' the best weather in the UK - again. Yes we had some snow and yes it is flippin cold but at least we can get along some roads and look out over The blue Minchy to see the snow-capped mountains on the mainland [from my bed I get a great view]. But the darkroom is dangerously cold and I have not been inclined to venture in there more than the time it takes to wrap a blanket over my slot developing tank so the water in the water-jacket does not freeze. Even sat here in the Summer Parlour its a tad chilly after the warmth of our Warming Room where I just had the loveliest of dinners with my dear Eve.
Now, here's a nice snap wot I did the other day with the old Kodak Retinette 1a. Them's sheep and in the background are some big white ugly duck-like creatures called swans. Obviously, seeing the swans belong to Mrs Queenie, I have them out of focus so she doesn't see them and come up and tell the villagers off or something.