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From the Archive: The Colwyn Bay Print

By |2019-03-19T15:27:06+00:00March 19th, 2019|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , , |

the seawall at Colwyn Bay, North Wales. In the background is the pier that was demolished in early 2019
Colwyn Bay, North Wales, July 1991

Background

North Wales has an important place in my photography history. It was where I purchased my first camera and also where I started taking my first pictures. A few years later, North Wales would also play a role in my quest to get a black and white print I was happy with. The image and subsequent print of the seafront at Colwyn Bay became an important technical milestone moment. I was finally starting to see my improving technical skills as a photographer and darkroom printer.

The image dates back to the summer of 1991. It was a fun and exciting time with plenty of photography experimentation. At the time I was a keen amateur photographer about to head away to art college. Nearly thirty years later it could be argued that, like most photographers, I’m still
trying to perfect my photography skills. The perfect image and print still appear to elude me, although I do think I get pretty close at times.

The image above, a photograph of a print I made in 1992, was the first strong indication that I was heading in the right direction. It was taken along the seafront at Colwyn Bay in North Wales in July 1991, but not printed until the following year. An interesting side note is that the pier seen in the background was demolished in 2018 after years of disuse. Originally built in 1900, the pier had been rebuilt twice due to fire. By the 1980s, however, the condition of the structure had started to seriously deteriorate. A new pier is due to open on the same site in 2020.

Camera and Film

The image was shot using my trusty old Pentax Program A with a 35-70mm Miranda zoom set at the 35mm wide-angle setting. The film used was TMAX 400 rated at ISO800 and developed in either Kodak’s D-76 or Patterson’s FX-26 Universal developer. I suspect it was probably D-76 by that time but cannot be totally sure as my darkroom notes from that period have been lost. At the time I was experimenting with a variety of different film developers trying to find a favourite. In late 1991, I finally came across Kodak’s TMAX developer that I’ve used ever since.

The Print

The technical aspects of the print itself have sadly been lost to the mists of time. It was definitely printed in the darkroom of the art college in 1992 but after that, the details get a little fuzzy. The photographic paper was either Ilford Multigrade resin coated paper OR Jessops’ own brand multigrade paper. I used both types of photographic paper during my college years. The Ilford paper was better quality but the Jessops paper was cheaper and produced good quality prints too.

Since 1992, the print has hung on a wall somewhere in the house as a fond reminder of those exciting early photo making years.

Creating Galleries with Block Gallery

By |2019-03-07T23:32:44+00:00March 7th, 2019|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , |

At the end of 2018, the new Gutenberg block editor for WordPress was added replacing the classic editor. The block editor provides extra functionality for creating posts and pages with built-in options and additional functions that can be added via plugins. For this post, I’ll be looking at one of the new Gutenberg photo gallery block plugins called Block Gallery.

Block gallery is described as ‘The most advanced suite of gallery blocks for the Gutenberg block editor. Create stunning masonry, carousel and stacked galleries in seconds, with the brilliantly intuitive interface. Block Gallery is absolutely the best collection of native editor gallery blocks in the world.’

Currently, Block gallery offers three gallery options with more in the works. Adding a block gallery to a post or page is very straightforward and changing the gallery size and style is as easy as a mouse click. Custom styling options make it easy to alter the gallery to suit. A Pro version of the Block Gallery plugin is going to be released at a later date with even more gallery styles.

Each gallery has a panel of custom settings to alter background colours, add rounded corners and more. The carousel gallery, for example, has options for autoplay (one second to ten-second intervals available), arrow and dot navigation, column sizes and carousel height. Dragging and flicking can also be enabled on the carousel gallery for mobile devices and desktops.

  • A82 road going through Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland

Above is the masonry gallery layout option. Gutter sizes can be altered using a slider in the settings

Above is the stacked gallery layout option with rounded corners enabled

Block Gallery adds some much-needed variation to Gutenberg’s photo gallery layouts for posts and pages in WordPress. Its intuitive interface provides a fast and simple way to add a collection of images to post/page without the fuss of having to use code. Just drop a block into the article, add the photos and alter the gallery settings to suit.

If you’re a photographer using WordPress then it’s a must-have plugin. I’m certainly excited by the potential to expand the plugin’s options and will certainly consider purchasing the Pro version when it’s released. The free version though is perfect to test out the plugin on your website at no cost. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

The Block Gallery plugin can be found in the WordPress Plugin Directory HERE

Check out the website at https://wpblockgallery.com

From the Archive: Veil of Mist

By |2018-11-28T15:02:31+00:00November 28th, 2018|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , , |

Not so much a black Friday as a grey Saturday for today’s image.

This photo was taken on a misty, rainy and grey Saturday at Eilean Donan Castle in the Highlands of Scotland. Not exactly the usual sort for weather for good photography.  But that was my first atmospheric visit to the iconic Scottish castle back in 2012. The dark weather seemed to add some magic to the occasion.

I was staying in Dornie so was able to walk down to the castle that evening. The rain had follow the car up through most of the Highlands and kept up throughout the evening. Walking down to Eilean Donan castle, there was nobody around apart from a couple of wet and tired backpackers looking for a campsite. Sadly i wasn’t able to help them.

The image was taken on an iPhone with a little bit of tweaking in Snapseed to add some contrast.

The whole Eilean Donan experience really starts at Glen Shiel, some eight or nine miles from Dornie. The mountains tower above the road as the road heads towards Dornie and the castle. The A87 route itself follows an old military road built by General Wade in the early part of the 18th century to create better access to the Highlands for the Army to maintain order.

 The A87 road, surely one of the best roads in Britain, had wound its way alongside Loch Duich with a veil of rainy mist gradually falling back. As the car travelled around a bend, the castle suddenly appeared through the mist. It was a timeless moment that felt like a scene from a movie. A perfect introduction enhanced by the poor but atmospheric weather. Just a shame i didn’t have a dash cam!


Eilean Donan featured in BBC TV identity slot from 1997 -2002

Eilean Donan ranks among my favourite places. It has a tranquillity about it along with a rich history – although the castle is not quite as old as it first appears. Over the years the iconic castle has been in a number of films including James Bond – The World is Not Enough and, one of my favourite films, Highlander. It was probably the castle’s scenes in Highlander that made me want to visit Eilean Donan. For a number of years the castle also featured in a BBC TV identity slot from 1997 -2002.

From the Archive: Final Frames

By |2018-09-28T16:45:02+00:00September 28th, 2018|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , |

This image is one of the final frames shot during a project documenting the Territorial Army – renamed the Army Reserve in 2014 . I was just about to get a lift back to the Squadron’s HQ when i saw this scene of an AK assault rifle hung on the back of an army truck. Two or three frames were quickly shot, a few words exchanged with some of the soldiers and i was back in an Army Land Rover heading back to the HQ.

Over twenty years later, the image remains a favourite. For me, it sums up the subtle blend of military and civilian life in the Territorial Army.  The dented stainless steel Boots flask placed next to an assault rifle seems slightly out of place. It’s an object more likely to be taken to a picnic or to the work place than the battlefield. Ironically, after photographing helicopters flying overhead, troops dashing around and engaging insurgents hidden in the trees, it’s the peaceful tone of the still life image that appeals to me most.

In the years since the image was shot, the Territorial army faced an uncertain future only to find a new lease of life in the post 9/11 world. T.A soldiers served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and are increasingly taking on a bigger role with the British Army as consecutive UK governments attempt to ‘balance’ already financially strained defence budgets. Rather than reduce the army reserve, it now looks as though the plan is to expand the reservist numbers and their role within the Army.

Revisiting the image for this post, i came across a rather nice 16×12 print of the image made by my own hand in a darkroom many years ago. It’s now hanging on a wall in my house. The Territorial army project might be over twenty years old, but it remains a benchmark for my work as a photographer. It’s certainly a project i’d really like to revisit again.

The photography project Territorial Army can be found at https://www.richardflintphoto.com/portfolio/territorial-army/

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