Large Splodges


One of the difficult things about writing a blog post is finding something that links the various images together in a coherent fashion. Some people just post random photographs - I do it myself from time-to-time - and say a bit about each one. If I can, though, I like to have some sort of theme that inks the pics.

Since my photography - or at least what I was doing before the lockdown - was fairly random with no projects in mind, the last few rolls I've developed have largely followed a similar pattern. The photos on this page have a poor excuse for a theme that I think I'll call, "large splodges of dark shadow". Sadly, there are times when it doesn't get any more cerebral than that.

These pics were all taken on the F90X with either the 28-105 Nikkor or the 70-210 Nikkor with Delta 400 in the camera rated at an EI of 800. They were developed in Microphen stock and there's plenty of shadow detail even though I've chosen not to show it all.

I took a few versions of the shot at the top of the page, some showing more of the surrounding trees, further up the embankment and into the neighbouring fields. It was after I'd taken maybe half-a-dozen pics that I realised the image had to be a graphic one if it was to be anything other than a pleasant photograph of the countryside, with ducks.

So I racked the tele zoom out to its full length, closed the aperture down a couple and took another. I also opened it up again just to make sure I had good shadow detail in the banks either side of the drainage ditch in case I had a change of mind. It's maybe worth pointing out that because I had the camera set at 800 ISO I still had a good shutter speed for the 210mm focal length even though the aperture was about f16 and I was tripod-less.

The biggest thing to watch out for at the shooting stage was the positioning of the ducks' beaks. I don't know if you've ever noticed before but ducks facing directly away from the camera look like clods of dirt or something equally amorphous. It's only when they turn their heads sideways that you go, "Oooh. Ducks!" The way the pic appears at the top of the page is the way I envisaged it before pressing the shutter so I'm quite chuffed with it.

Inspection Cover

I'm not sure what to make of "Inspection Cover" as it has some competing elements going on that tend to pull me all over the place. There's the highlight on the cover, the contrast of the dark railings against the bright sea and, way in the distance, a couple of hills on the other side of the Forth Estuary.

When I was lining this shot up I didn't actually notice the hills at first. When I saw them through the viewfinder I thought fair enough, they'll not do much harm - but maybe they do. I don't know about you but my eyeballs keep jumping from the cover to the left hill, over to the right hill and back to the cover via the railings. At least the Government will be pleased to hear that you can give your eyeballs a good bit of exercise without leaving your home.

Chimney Tops

Not a lot to say really about this pic. I'd been wandering the foreshore at Cellardyke, a wee fishing village on the East Neuk on Scotland's east coast and largely striking out, to be honest. It was one of those days when nothing I saw was noteworthy enough to make me want to click the shutter. The pic above was marginal in that respect. It didn't set my socks on fire but I thought it was interesting enough to record anyway.

Again, there's plenty of shadow detail and I could have made the shadow on the stairs lighter but the strong dark shape helps the composition in my opinion. The chimney tops of the old fishermen's cottages poking out at the top at least give you something to look at once you've finished that tiring trip up the steps.

I don't want to go on and on about this but, once more, it was great having 800 ISO at my disposal so that I could get plenty of depth of field in the shot, the wall on the left being only a couple of feet away.

Cellardyke Harbour

And, finally, here's a shot of the harbour entrance at Cellardyke with one of our hills in the background again. In the same fashion as the Ducks shot, I saw this one pretty much as it appears here with two strong, dark shapes framing the subject. When I looked at the neg, I could see the light catching a grille or gate against the right-hand inner edge of the wall so I brought that out a little in processing.

It was also taken handheld and well stopped-down at the 210mm end of the Nikkor zoom - have I mentioned how handy 800 ISO can be? All of the pics are scans from the negatives that I footered with in Photoshop. They were all relatively straightforward, really. It's difficult for me to tell an awful lot from the scans, however, about the sharpness of the Nikkor lenses or the grain that Microphen reveals at 800 ISO.

A couple of prints would give me the answer but, at a time when we're all stuck indoors, it's bloody annoying not having my darkroom up and running so that I can do something slightly more constructive than scanning negs, watching TV or tickling the dogs' feet while they're asleep. It's maybe just as well that Cath has managed to find me some odd-jobs to do...


  1. I like these Bruce - the Microphen has really given them a graphic edge, and they'll look good as prints. There's a nice silvery quality to the skies too, that will print wonderfully. Good to see you back in the saddle, albeit riding side-saddle ';0)

  2. It’s this leather bloody mini skirt, Phil. Can’t get my leg over at all. Either that or my thighs are just too chunky now.

  3. Thanks for the post Bruce. Good point about the duck's beaks. It's interesting how such an apparently tiny feature can make all the difference!

  4. All good stuff. As well as bing about black splurges, there's a kind of developing theme about symmetry and near-symmetry. Your ducks' beaks are in good company. Saint Ansel (a dedicated member of the Church of the Tripod) had the same problem with a horse. I can find the reference if you like.

  5. You're right, David - never noticed the symmetry. Wonder what a psychiatrist would make of dark shapes and symmetry. Looking for some balance in these dark times?

  6. AA's pre-emptive plagiarism of your duck picture is Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada, from Lone Pine, California, 1944. He had to compromise with a single horse instead of two ducks, but he seems to have made a fist of it.
    And he's copied your big areas of black. Spooky, eh?
    Perhaps you have more in common than you think.