Monthly Archives: December 2011

Done, Dusted, Depleted

College has just been put to bed. At least for 2011. Strictly speaking, the penultimate semester of my 3-year-BA in Photographic Media is not yet over. There is a Semiotics exam to get through on the luckiest day of January 2012 (it’s the 13th, wouldn’t you know it…) and only then can we drag the cloak of oblivion over this semester. Which, in fairness, has actually been one of the most interesting and satisfying semesters in my course so far. 
Maybe now is the time for a little look-back on the whole course, as we are approaching the last day of the year. The Diploma year (i.e. year 1 of the BA) has still not been topped – it was just an amazing experience to go back to third level education, to start immersing oneself in a subject that one loves – AND to meet all these wonderful people who share that same interest. We spent the first semester entirely working with film – learning how to process and print in the dark room, back to the roots. I have been sold on film, since then. Semester two we moved on to digital and we learned the basics of studio lighting, everything to equip us for a career as a professional photographer (including unloved Photoshop…) I did not know then, that I was going to be in it for the whole hog. I pushed myself and found myself more ambitious than I had ever been before – I wanted that distinction. And I got it *ggg*.
The second year – well, I would love to ignore that whole year, if I could. Let’s call it the “days of wilderness” where we worked mostly digital, learnt to shoot photo essays, were pushed by our knowledgable but extremely derogatory demanding lecturer and had to produce far too much stuff to really have time to concentrate on anything properly. The upshot was that most of us did rather badly. My personal low point: a measly 57% on the Media History exam. Did I study history in my former life??? (Yes, I did…)
And now we are half-way through year three. We had to choose between two electives year and I chose Large Format photography over Action. I reckoned that this was my chance to learn about and to actually use a view camera. And I have not been disappointed. The results are not in, yet, but even if they should be below expectation, I have learnt so much here, it was worth it anyway. LF has brought me right back to the basics – appreciating the moment, taking time to plan and to set-up, to review and only then to release the shutter. Time-consuming. And still no guarantee, as my favourite image of this semester clearly shows – it has been “fecked” by the light. 
But yet, I love this photo, I love the sharp focus on the old lighthouse and the fall off and I love the streak of light on the tranny: It reminds me that this is a once-off, a truly original colour positive, I will never be able to recreate that, it documents a moment in my life even though I am not in it…
So here is to 2011 – another year that cemented my love for photography. Can it get better? I hope it will in 2012. See you all next year 😉

Happy Christmas, Everyone!

It’s the day before the big day. Well, for us of the German persuasion it is the big day tomorrow, with the main present exchange happening on the 24th of December. I have travelled back to the Fazerland to celebrate with my Teutonic family. 
The camera is at the ready – to capture happy children and bewildered grown-ups while unwrapping presents, stuffing their faces with food, rolling going on digestive walks every once in a while and meeting relatives. Will these images ever see the light of day again? I have noticed that my collected Christmas pictures 2007 – 2011 have only once left the digital realm, when I produced a Christmas photo album, in 2008. 
I have the slight little hope that my course in large format photography will already have left a mark on me  in the sense that I am less trigger-happy these days and limit myself to fewer photos than before. Maybe there is the first resolution for 2012: To edit ruthlessly but to print generously. Because photos that only exist virtually are as good bad as unseen photos. 
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas – if you have any hopes, dreams and wishes, I hope they will come true for you.
Lots of love,
S. xxx


You would think that with an exhibition happening there’s much to talk about in my blog. And there is. But there was also the need for a break and a breather. So please excuse the one week silence, which I intend to make up for this week.
My penultimate semester is over and it ended with a splash: Last Thursday was my college’s annual Christmas exhibition which is organised for third year  students and acts as a dress rehearsal for the big final show which is going to happen in June 2012. Participation in the Christmas show was obligatory – it is part of the mark for one of my courses in college.
It was again a majorly interesting and enjoyable experience to take part in a group exhibition. Without sounding blasé about it, I am becoming an old hand at it, too. This is the fourth self-organised group show that I have participated in, with Farmleigh’s Cowshed Theatre in 2010, La Catedral in May 2011 and Filmbase in June 2011. And yet there was a bit more pressure here than in other shows because we were being graded on our participation here.
I arrived early(ish) on Thursday morning to get the hanging of my images over and done with. I had chosen and printed six images of my lighthouse series from the Large Format class. They had been framed in wooden frames, as a nod to antique large format cameras which would have been made from dark wood back then. The difficulty of my particular edit was, that I insisted on including my favourite image, which was landscape format, while all other images are portrait orientation. With the help of my lecturer, photographer Michael Durand, I actually decided to axe one more of the chosen six and in the end had five images on display. Here is a rare picture of the photographer with her work…
More interesting than that picture of awkwardness is the little timelapse I filmed of the actual hanging. Three hours of exact measuring, wobbling on a step ladder and millimetre-moving of frames. All condensed into 17 seconds of time-lapse. And yet, this is more telling of an exhibition set-up than any essay I could write about it…
The exhibition itself was fun – lots of people there, and best of all: lots of my non-college friends showing up to have a look at what we produced and lending me/us support that way. Whether I sell something or not – that is what makes an exhibition worth while for me! So with this experience under my belt, I am beginning to look forward to the big one next summer.

Murphy’s Law

It is the usual story. Until yesterday all was swell and easy. At exactly 11.02 pm I printed out the last two iTunes jewel case covers. Then today I was getting ready to do a couple of test prints for some majorly important (…) photographic projects. And what happens? Yes, you have guessed it, Murphy’s law struck again. It is precisely when you urgently need to print an airline ticket/a photograph/a college submission that you either a) run out of paper, b) run out of ink or c) receive this lovely little flashy message:
“The waste ink absorber is full. You need to replace it.”
Flash, flash, flash. As if to tease me. A search on the internet yields a plethora of frustrated messaging board conversations along the lines of “You can’t replace that yourself”, “Just clean the tubes that the ink runs through”, “Buy yourself a new one” and “Printers are only meant to last for two years. You need to replace them when the ink absorber is full.” Ahhh. So, similar to the Beemer that needs replacing as soon as the ashtrays are overflowing? I decide to give it a rest and return later.
Several hours later. I have suitably calmed down and am willing to give it another try. Better research the procedure of cleaning the ink absorber. I must have typed in a vaguely different search query, because this time Miss Google offers me a different array of useless recommendations. But, heck, when desperate, you will clutch at any straw. And so I decide to go for the most ridiculous looking recommendation. I might as well, before I f*ck the thing out! So I follow the instructions religiously:
1. Turn off printer
2. Hold down Resume button and press Power button.
3. Keep holding down Power button and let Resume button go.
4. Press Resume button 2 times then let BOTH buttons go.
5. Green lights will flash and then stop blinking.
6. When green lights are solid, press the Resume button 4 times.
7. Press the Power button and the printer should turn off, if not,
    press the Power button once more.
Probably not a coincidence that this recommendation has seven steps! Seven! 7! Magic number, you see. Just for good measure I put on a little bit more mascara for a slightly more witchy look, light the incense stick and get a few spider legs and toad warts for good measure. Shit, I haven’t got any suitable soundtrack. A little humming will have to do. You never know.
I do as has been spoken to me by the great God of technological wisdom. The green light has flashed a last time. With shaking fingers I place some waste paper in the appropriate paper tray. I softly hum a kind of generic *ommm*; whatever is there to decide if this is to be or not to be, might be swayed by the timbre of my Pagan trance voice.
Click – clock -swish – swish – swish.
It worked. The printer prints again. I am converted. Take me as your latest disciple, oh great omniscient God of all things printer-y. I will never swear at my IP2000 again or doubt your existence. Printer Mumbo Jumbo rocks!

Christmas Photography Exhibition

Anyone local reading this? Well, here is a date for you:
Yes, it is that time of year again. The final year students of the BA in Photographic Media are showing current work in their annual Christmas show. The show acts as a dress rehearsal for the final show that will be on in June 2012. 
As with any group show, you can expect to see a huge variety of different styles, themes and even modes of presentation in this exhibition. From projects involving large format photography to fast ‘n’ edgy action photography, there’s bound to be something in there that will inspire, interest and captivate you. Or maybe it’ll totally put you off and enrage you – but you are guaranteed a few emotional responses to the work that has been created by my classmates and moi.
All welcome!
Griffith College Dublin
Conference Building
South Circular Road

Presbyopia Here I Come

Usually, I am the first to admit that I do not like to get my fingers dirty. But not when it comes to get hands-on with developing. Or so I found when I went back to the darkroom again, last weekend. It had been a while and recently I have only had a number of sessions in the processing chamber. Now it was time to get a few prints onto paper. And as the last time that I printed anything was Christmas 2009, I was indeed worried that I might have lost my touch – two years down the line.
But it all came back to me in a flash. With my large format negatives in tow, I had the LF darkroom all to myself, while the plebs… eh… sorry… the first years were packed in the large darkroom. Initially I had only planned to take a few contact prints of the negatives for my college work book. But with the LF enlarger all at my disposal, I decided to enlarge some images, too.
Scan of a LF contact print
 Luckily I had been given some 30x50cm photopaper a while ago, so I had material to experiment with. Printing LF negs is an absolute joy! As the negative is so large, it is obviously much easier to focus the image on paper. No faffing around with that annoying focus finder – the bare eye will do nicely. At least it did for me- presbyopia here I come!
I will admit that I had to familiarise myself with the developing times again. And I was very taken aback when one of the first years kept playing around with his iPhone right beside the various baths, using it to count down the various immersion times. “Stay away from me with you shiny phone”, I kept thinking. (Only to find out later that he was using a darkroom app with red light which was specifically made for darkroom timing *doh*. Do I feel I have been taken over by modern times? Nooooo. But I am tempted to get this yoke myself…)
Ah, how nice it was to get the fingers into the chemicals again. I still love the magical moment, when the image appears while the paper is agitated in the developer. I love the suspense of it and I like the slow pace. So I carry the whiff of developer on my fingertips with pride!

Panic Stations

Sometimes you think you have it all planned – and then the weather hits you. And particularly so in Ireland. I had been due out at the lighthouse for a second shoot this week as the first batch were just not enough. Monday came – and lashed with rain. Tuesday passed without the car. By Tuesday evening I was in a right panic.
But hey, the Cambo was sitting in its box in the hall and one floor below me was a studio with lights. All that was missing was a light meter. But heck, I decided to work out exposure by shooting a digital testshot and adjusting the lights according to what I saw on the screen.
And what to shoot? This had to be close-up – a nice challenge, what with working out bellows extensions and extra stops. So down I went, arranging my little brass temples on a table, popping up the view camera and shooting away.
Digital testshot
Considering that this was my first time shooting close-ups with a view camera, it went quite well. I had to apply the grey matter a good bit to work out my bellows extensions. (M+1)²… image over object… twice focal length… infinity focus… Yes, the lingo is mine now, too. Five long hours I slaved away in the studio, but I got six images in the bag and so I was :-).
The negatives were processed yesterday by yours truly. Note to ADOX: It would really help if you had a section on your website somewhere that gives the processing times for your wonderful film!!! As it was, I had to basically fumble my way through it, basing developing and fixing times on approximates. Not good! But the results are ok, the negatives are not destroyed. They look a bit too dark to me, however. But that can only be determined, once I take a contact print of the negs, hopefully over the weekend. Phew.