The old Microcord twin lens reflex from Kingston on Thames sits buried on the shelf, encased in it's dark brown oxidised leather case, covered in what now seems a lifetime of dust. It's my family photographic heirloom, along with the ubiquitous box Kodak Duaflex from London, Finetta "Super" of Germany, a beautiful Ashi Pentax Spotmatic ES released in 1972, used to record life in general as a youth, along with many early motorcycle enduro and Desert Rally adventures. A lifetime on film, still to be scanned. The OM-10 was a gift from a friend, and my weather beaten F801 and F90X Nikon film cameras were used to record the growth to manhood of three sons. These cameras are all classics... or relics, a little like their user.
It took me quite some time to embrace the concept and benefits of digital capture, digital anything in fact, but the wheels are moving, and I am now beginning to get the hang of things, with time not such a precious comodity and limiting factor as in the days of recent past.
Still cannot bring myself to be extravagant with the frame count, old school I know, but often I just prefer to turn the LCD review off, and disipline the capture process as I always did when film was my only option.
Writing this brings a broad smile and the recollection of walking along the paved shoreline of Lake Maggiore Stresa - in northern Italy some years back. It was late afternoon, and I looked out over the stone balustrade to a very graceful, low slung, almost horizontal tree branch in silhouette, framing the Isle of "Isola Bella".
If I returned very early the next morning, the many lights illuminating Isola Bella would still be glowing in the early fog, gently highlighted by the first rays of daylight coming from a better perspective.
It was a brisk 2km walk with a heavy pack, through the cool pre dawn dark lanes and pathways to reach my chosen vantage point. To then find I hadn't put a new roll of Provia in my pack, and the frame counter on the old Nikon poised on 35!... caused me to utter a few expletives, as I seem to recall.
At best I had three shots. I did not have the time to go back for more film, and we were leaving Stresa for Bologna by train early the following day. I thought about the exposure settings for a bit, then fired two frames via cable release. Anticipating what I had, I stood upright and turned to see an old local gentleman watching on. It was then that I noticed this magnificent derelict mansion overlooking my vantage point and the lake. The now vine covered building exuded character and history, but had lay vacant for many many years, the cost of a classic restoration then, possibly beyond the purse of the owners.
I repositioned the tripod in the hope there was one more round in the breech, and there was. From only three frames, two of my most treasured photographs were captured.
A conscious decision was made, not to move into the world of digital until I could, with a sensor that measured the same dimensions as my old Provia and Velvia transparencies - so it has taken quite a while.
A narrative within my image capture is something I am growing to understand, and yet aesthetic appeal of composition within my field of view, and the solitude of the time and place is generally all that I need to inspire me to make the image.
When I revisit the images in a gallery past, I remember, albeit, if only for a brief time, the moment of each frame capture, the ambient conditions, the particular surroundings and all that drew me to seeing that image:-
The cool pre dawn mornings in the back streets of Bologna.
The daybreak ferry on Como Lake - in the rain, heading north from Moltrasio to Lenno, in the hope of a break in the weather.
The climb along a Stronian granite ridgeline in the mist - or just a sheep trail skirting a peat bog, in an ever evolving landscape that is Scotland.
On a cobbled back road in the Cote de Beaune, I stumbled upon Puligney Montrachet Chardonnay grapes at bud burst, from the Domain Jacques Prieur, with just enough time before sunset to get a shot, then fondly remembering the '82 Domain Leflaive consumed at Le Tour d 'Argent on the Quai de la Tournelle in '89.
Negotiating forever wet and slippery rocks, in blustery cold conditions beyond the waterwheel at Cape Leeuwin, or Mt Wellington, Tasmania, backpack heavy with gear.
All now seem, so worth the effort.
The more recent photographs have all been captured with early Leica, Nikon or Fuji camera bodies, but now the Nikon D810, Pentax 645Z and just a couple of prime lenses weight my shoulders in the backpack. The exquisite Nikkor AF-S 24mm f1.4G ED, Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art series prime, and most recently, the Zeiss 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar T ZF.2 + Pentax 55mm along with a well crafted Lee filter system, some B+W filters and Schneider Grads.
Zeiss lenses - On my bucket list for some time now, has been the ownership of one or two of those buttery smooth, optically fine German Zeiss lenses. It has now become a reality, but not only mounted to the front of my old Nikon as once imagined.. those extraordinary lenses that reside behind ones cornea, that normally focus so crisp and clear, have in my case, become less flexible with years, and so.. On the 27th April 2012, interocular lens surgery performed by Dr Marc Wei, precisely placed a new Zeiss Tri Toric Lens into my right eye capsule, the left eye surgery followed in early May, and I now see a world of natural colours with clarity once again.
I do hope you enjoy viewing these images, as I have certainly enjoyed capturing them.