From November 2019 to January 2020, P and I holidayed in Tahiti. When COVID locked down England a couple of months later, the experience of our trip was quickly effaced and replaced by the anxieties of the day.
Since then, viewing the pictures that I had taken in Tahiti reminded me of COVID instead of the joy of visiting these beautiful places. But now we have reached the point of normalcy where I can appreciate them again.
I developed a third roll of Ferrania Solaris 100 today, and the pictures are meh, consistent with the previous twoexperiments.
Also, the grain in these pictures, and in the ones from previous posts, could be either because the film is old or because of over-development. The second reason is more likely, given this is the 11th roll with this batch of chemicals and the development time has been increased from 3 minutes 30 seconds to 3 minutes 45 seconds.
I have to say that using the camera was not as bad as expected, perhaps because with the camera fixed on a tripod, I did not have to fiddle its controls, thus avoiding spoilt exposures from accidental changes of settings. But the experience remained underwhelming, mainly due to the small viewfinder, which makes the exposure meter difficult to read.
In retrospect, I think that I needed to be convinced of the FG-20’s shortcomings one last time before putting it away for good, given my particular fondness for its looks and its size.
The pictures from the roll are not great. I was impatient and did not allow the temperature of the chemicals to stabilise before starting the development process. I am also conscious of over-agitating the film tank and potentially causing the negative to be overly developed by doing so. The final images are more grainy than they ought to be from ISO 100 film.
Some people say that the grain gives these photos the “film look”. But a well-exposed negative actually produces very clean images – such as the one below, shot on ISO 400 film.
Several factors must be considered in judging the quality of final pictures: age of the film, age of the development chemicals, accuracy of the exposure, development process, scanning process, and editing. Given my inconsistent results from consistent use of expired film, I think it is right to blame my amateurish development process for any quality shortfall.
I fancied doing some BASIC programming yesterday and wrote a prime sieve in PC-BASIC. It can list primes up to about 10,000 at a decent speed but struggles with larger numbers because of memory and data type limitations in BASIC. Here is a screenshot showing the program and its output.
Besides BASIC, other old computer tech has occupied my time lately. I run a VM with Red Hat Linux 4.2, which I first used in 1997, and code in C and C++ inside the VM. I also switched from the feature-rich GNOME desktop environment to the rudimentary Fvwm window manager.
My explanation for this trend is that I am rediscovering computers as a hobby, now that my new job does not require me to learn about them as an occupational necessity. I can enjoy using old operating systems and programming languages that I could not explore to sufficient depth as I speed-learnt to my present level. Take programming for example— I barely spent time coding in BASIC once I was comfortable with it and instead quickly moved on to Pascal, Clipper, Visual Basic, Java, and so on.
I suppose I am in a similar situation with my photography. From lusting for the latest digital cameras, I now take more pleasure from the slow and intentional motions involved in operating old film cameras.
Either it is that, or it is simply nostalgia showing my age.
 Clipper is the first language that I used for serious programming. I did my project for GCE O-Level Computer Studies with Clipper.
This evening I developed a roll of expired Ferrania Solaris 100 film, which I bought on eBay. It was ideal for testing because it had only 12 frames, which I could expose within a single day. In contrast, it usually takes months for me to finish a roll of 36 frames. The flowers that my mother and I planted came in as handy photo subjects, as did the fruit bowl.
These results are decent for a film expired in 2008 and developed with one-year-old chemicals. Conventional wisdom says that I should err on the side of overexposure when shooting film, which I did when the light-meter gave me values that I could not set on the Minolta X300 camera — for example, choosing 1/8-second shutter speed on the camera when the meter gives a 1/10-second reading — but I find the photos are too overexposed.
The same problem is present in some of the photos below, from another roll developed a couple of weeks ago. My Sekonic lightmeter is accurate, as tested with a Nikon DSLR, so I now worry that there might be a bit of shutter drag on this camera.
My mother loves gardening. So, during the week she was with us, she never stopped saying that we needed to plant flowers. But we are hopeless gardeners. Once, P put vegetable seeds in a pot, watered them with concentrated grow food, and declared the project a failure. As for me, I am disgusted by wet dirt.
Still, my mother convinced me to do some garden work. Under her supervision, I cut off branches from the solitary Christmas tree that we allowed to grow into a giant problem. She even made me commit the sin of operating a chainsaw from the top of a stepladder. Somehow, I regained my senses and rejected further requests to work at greater heights. But after the effort, I had to admit my pleasure at downgrading the Christmas tree problem to “future concern”.
Then, for two days we watched herpull out weeds as a substitute for tending flowers. It was such a sorry sight that we finally relented and went shopping for flower plants. Back home, I forked my good lawn to prepare a flower bed. The next morning, she was up very early to start her gardening. When she had planted all the flowers, she did the same with the lucky vegetable seedlings that had survived P’s experiment.
She has now gone to my sister’s, leaving me with instructions for looking after the plants until she returns. Seeing how much she enjoyed tending the modest flower bed, I feel a huge responsibility and do not want to disappoint. So, it has now become an after-work habit for me to stick my finger into wet dirt to check for moisture, to water plants, and to pull out weeds with my bare hands.
I am typing this in Bordeaux, after spending a few hours refurbishing laptops handed back to me by my sister-in-law before she leaves France. She and P are shopping on Rue Sainte-Catherine.
On my last trip to Bordeaux, I was ill — apparently from an unusual consumption of Bordeaux’s fine wines — and spent the last two days in bed. As this trip ends, it seems that I am unfortunate once more: this time, I have a sprained ankle. Somehow, between climbing into bed, after returning from a meal at Alfama, and waking up, I injured myself. I can’t think how this is even possible. The ankle is not swollen, but it is very sensitive to touch and cannot bear weight. Which is why I am cleaning laptops indoors when the weather outside is so inviting.
I hope that I am well enough to visit Jardin Public and Le Lac for photography tomorrow. But, it does not look good, with the pain still felt this late in the day. Never mind the worry of lugging our suitcases on the tram to the airport, I just wish for the chance to enjoy our last day in Bordeaux.
The sky looked right for the pictures I had planned for Saint Georges cemetery. I was anxious about going there by myself, because the location is supposedly dangerous. But I have been around Cassis and have driven by the cemetery enough times to know that it is mostly exaggeration.
Still I wanted to not hang around too long. I got out of the car, found the spots to match my visualisations, measured the light, retrieved the camera from the boot, set the camera exposure, set the camera on the tripod, focused, and pressed the trigger button. The pictures came out exactly as I expected.
I then drove to Les Salines to check out the evening atmosphere in the garden. The sky was even more dramatic, and I could not let the opportunity pass. The last picture, from there, was not planned, so… meh.
Bain Boeuf beach has had a nice upgrade. The ground leading to the sea has been terraced into multiple levels, each dotted with benches and shady plants. Vehicle access is now restricted to two parking areas, and there is also a public toilet that seems to be well kept.
The water still isn’t the best for swimming, but the new amenities make the place great for picnics.