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.
A friend on Facebook posted a meme depicting this year 2023 as an ominous fog enveloping a wooden rope suspension bridge, of which we can only see the first few uninviting joists. Even if that is an unfortunate reflection of my own mood, I wish good health and happiness to everyone.
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The office closed on 23rd December, and I spent the rest of 2022 recovering from working long hours in the last week. As my one-month sabbatical starts, I want to realise photo ideas, to visit places, to see friends and relatives, and to take care of personal business. Things go slow in Mauritius, so if we don’t manage our time carefully, I might not be able to do everything.
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This blog seems to have taken a photography theme, and I’ll run with it for now—
Over the last week, I played with my brother-in-law’s Canon EOS 40D DSLR camera. It was an interesting discovery. Compared to my Nikon D200, the Canon seems to do more through soft controls and menus, which forces me to take my eyes off the viewfinder. For example, on the Nikon, I can change ISO setting by pressing the ISO button and rotating a wheel until the correct ISO shows in the finder; on the Canon, I have to press the ISO button, then look at the screen to select the correct value. Similarly, to set the timer on the Canon, I have to press the drive button, then look at the screen again to choose the timer option; on the Nikon, I only have to rotate the function wheel to the timer function.
Of course, this opinion is based on my first experience with a Canon camera – and an old model at that. But, overall, it was nice to use a different camera. My nephew, who is all about fashion when he isn’t absorbed in TikTok or Fortnite, wanted some photos. His request was a good opportunity to test the Canon.
I took these photos while we toured the western and southern parts of the island last Saturday. I avoided using the Nikon D300, because it was in the way too much to be fun. Instead, I leaned on my old Windows Phone. (I believe it is Saint-Felix beach in the first three pictures. But let me know if I’m wrong.)
The next day, our rented car was returned to us after its engine was fixed. We drove to the local beach in the evening, and I got to indulge in some proper photography.
Before heading home, my nephew and I had fun doing some light-painting. He was a good sport, running back and forth as my assistant to help me get these photos.
My father passed away, just one month short of his 96th birthday, which would have been three days ago. We were shocked by how quickly his health deteriorated in the weeks leading to his death, then we became hopelessly hopeful when he had a fleeting reprieve. We thought that he would regain his strength and live to be a centenarian as everyone expected of him. Alas, the illness was unforgiving.
As a late child, born when my father was in his fifties, I grew up with the sense that he was old. And as I became conscious of our own finitude, I started to cherish every moment, however brief, that I spent with him. Now, happy memories of those times help me to overcome the sadness.
I curated these photos taken by me of my father. I feel a sense of urgency in them, as if I was trying to cheat fate of time that was never going to be enough for a son and his father.
Regardless of their questionable compositions, these pictures are rather good for being shot on expired film. They result from following the development instructions to the letter. Three and a half minutes in the developer chemical at exactly 38°C, as confirmed by three calibrated thermometers. Vigorous inversion instead of twirl agitation. And most importantly, no fingerprints on the film. The bleach, fix, and stabiliser stages were just as carefully performed.
My photography still sucks, though.
But now that I am confident with development, I can take time to improve on the elements of making good photos, namely composing and finding good light. I think a film camera is the right tool for learning, primarily because the limited number of shots per film roll encourages slowing down and paying attention.
But the Nikon FG-20 is not suitable for this purpose. Although it’s cute, it’s prone to mishandling: its shutter speed wheel can easily be knocked to the wrong setting by accident (and I suspect that caused the bad exposures from a few posts ago). Also its viewfinder isn’t as clear and informative as that of the Nikon FM2 or of the Minolta X300. Perhaps this realisation of a camera’s limitations is an encouraging sign of improvement.
The results of my film development are still hit and miss.
Here are samples from yet another roll that was started in 2018 and finished just this month.
I set the camera to ISO 400 for the Agfa Vista 200 film. This mistake not only caused the pictures to come out dark but also revealed what I thought to be light leaks when I increased the exposure in Gimp. Comments in online film photography forums, however, suggest that they could also be caused by under- or over- development, too high or too low developer temperatures, too little or too much agitation… In other words, any thing that I did during development might have been wrong.
Still, I spent an hour yesterday evening to replace the light seals on the Nikon FM2. This simple maintenance job eliminates one possible source of future problems. My next adjustments are to pay more attention to the temperatures of chemicals and to twirl – yes, this is jargon – the right amount when agitating the contents of the development tank.
I make it sound like I am completely unaware, but I actually know what went wrong. It’s just easier to ascribe this failture to randomness. The truth is—
I am quite sure that the camera did not let light in. But the film was loaded in 2018, was expired, and is not known for quality. I mishandled it in the changing bag, touching it with my fingers many times. And the chemicals were poured into the tank when they were at 40°C instead of the prescribed 38°C. In other words, I screwed up. And those are mistakes that could be avoided with more care and patience.
To end this post, let’s look at the mobile phone version of that last picture from the series above. Why bother with film photography when the digital image can be made so conveniently and gives such quality? Film is just more fun.
I developed the film with the Bellini Foto C-41 kit yesterday and scanned the negatives as soon as they were dry. The process was a little stressful, because I had to maintain the chemicals at a precise 38⁰C whilst keeping time and agitating the development tank the correct amount for each stage. But at least, the good pictures below (from 2018) tell me that the development was successful and is not the cause of the bad ones.
As I said, the FG-20 held an unfinished roll of film from around 2018. In addition, it was a film that expired in 2005. Its age is a factor in the poor quality of the pictures, but I am mostly at fault for not setting the correct exposure on the camera when taking the shots.
I finally visited the park that opened near my house in 2020 amidst COVID lockdown. It is a former golf course that has been rehabilitated as a green area. I carried a Nikon FG-20 camera with an unfinished roll of film on my walk and took pictures of the trees and wild grass that have grown all over.
Back at home, I pulled out old negatives that I had never bothered to scan until now. Going through the photos, I feel my interest in film photography being rekindled.
I don’t have pictures of the park because I am still waiting for delivery of new chemicals to develop the film. In the meantime, here are photos from over a decade ago that I scanned just today.