Working from home, as I have for the past 20 years, you have to keep yourself moving. Most days I try to walk at least a brisk couple of miles, going straight out of the front door, but sometimes, if I have to take the car on some errand or other, I park up and walk from there. Back in October, I found myself near the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, on the Rufford Branch, which heads off north towards the River Douglas and the Ribble estuary, leaving the main canal to wend its way through Lancashire and Yorkshire to Leeds, 100 or so miles away. The combination of industrial architecture, and nature makes canals special. Out here in rural Lancashire, the waterway is a corridor of loose vegetation, a place for birds, and animals, cut through largely flat, intensive farmland. Here the bridges and lock gates seem like interlopers on a natural landscape, but of course the canal itself is a built environment, a remnant of the Industrial Revolution. This section was built in 1781. The Rufford Branch is still navigable, but on this bright morning I saw no boats, only the winter's first geese, and an occasional flash of fish. I used two different Kodak films, TMax 400, and Portra 400, and my favourite camera, the YashicaMat 124G, which takes square images.
This is just for fun, but one of these images was taken with a Sigma SD Quattro H digital camera, and the other with a Yashica MAT 124G, using Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100 ASA film. The slight variations in angle of view are to do with the way the different cameras sit on the tripod, and I think the light changed a little between taking the pictures. I used the digital camera to expose for the silvery fallen log in both cases. They are obviously quite different, but then they have different lenses, different, and differently sized imaging sensors, and were built almost 40 years apart. I'm having a hard time deciding which one I prefer: the one contrasty and hard, the other velvety and soft. They were taken in Rydal Woods, in the Lake District, early one morning. Click to see them larger.
This photograph of a seed head was taken in September or early October 2015, just as the leaves were beginning to fall from the trees. I make no apologies for posting it just as the leaves are about to start appearing again.
Last week I posted the following picture to Twitter, saying that it was the last frame of my last roll of Fuji Reala film, and that the thought of that made me sad. I liked Reala for the way it handled blues and greens. While it was good for portraits I found it worked very well for landscapes and woodland pictures. Reala tended to give things a slightly cold blue-ish tint which made it perfect for scenes like this, where Kodak Portra is a little too warm. I have to look for a Reala replacement now.
I don't profess to have used enough film to develop a real understanding of how one or another of them works, or what might be possible with them, but what I have found is that the limitation of having to use the film that is in the camera, or in your pocket, rather than choosing a setting on the spur of the moment, is actually helpful. It makes you slow down and make decisions consciously, often hours or, if travelling, days before you take a shot. I like the discipline imposed by these limitations.
So I'm sad about Reala. My return to film is quite recent, so I never got to know it well, but I was enjoying having a range of film around, picking out a roll according to my mood, or the weather, or where I might be going. It felt a bit like choosing wine or beer according to the occasion. There are still plenty of different films around, and companies like Lomography are actually making quirky new ones, but I had work for Reala to do, and now it's gone.
This image was taken in February, when the earth was still cold and covered with last summer's remains.