May 16, 2022

From darkness to Light

Cloister steps towards the Chapel

I always enjoy trying out different cameras and so when I got the chance to use a Leica film camera recently, I was very excited. The Leica M-A is a beautifully simple camera, with no electronics whatsoever, not even a light meter. The combination of manual focusing and manual metering compels you to slow down and consider every photo carefully before pressing the shutter release. I found the process to be wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable and I soon realised I was paying more attention to exposure than I had ever done before.

Consider the scene above. A ‘normal’ camera, would meter the scene and work out an average based on the whole range of tones from white to black. I chose to meter though on the lightest part of the stone to the right of the archway – and thankfully am pleased with the result.

I like the way the steps draw us from the darkness to the light, an image of hope and encouragement that reminds me that ‘there’s a light at the end of the tunnel’…

Photo notes: Leica M-A, Zeiss Biogon 35mm f/2, Ilford HP5 Plus @400 ISO, developed in Rodinal.

April 17, 2022

Easter Sunday

As the snow melts the Crocuses appear.

As our week in Austria wore on, the warm weather caused the snow to melt quickly. Near our hotel was a field covered in Crocuses that were lying hidden beneath the snow, waiting for their moment to come. It was a beautiful sight and full of the joy of Spring. It reminded me too of the Resurrection of Jesus that we celebrate today above all days; new Life from the darkness of death, new Hope. Salvation. Christ is risen. Hallelujah!

Photo notes: Zeiss Ikon ZM, Zeiss C Biogon 2.8/35mm, Ilford HP5 Plus @400 ISO, developed in Rodinal.

April 15, 2022

Good Friday

A Crucifix in Ehrwald, Austria.

Last week we were on the school ski trip, based in the pretty little town of Ehrwald in Austria. Walking through the snow late one afternoon we noticed a large Crucifix beside the road and I went over to have a closer look. The stark, snow covered trees behind seemed to provide a suitably harsh backdrop and together with the icy wind and falling snow, they served to create a deeper impression and a greater appreciation for all that Christ accomplished for us upon the Cross on that first Good Friday…

Photo notes: Zeiss Ikon ZM, Zeiss C Biogon 2.8/35mm, Ilford HP5 Plus @400 ISO, developed in Rodinal.

March 15, 2022

Love

… is patient

… is kind

… does not envy

… does not boast

… is not proud

… does not dishonour others

… is not self-seeking

… is not easily angered

… keeps no record of wrongs

… does not delight in evil

… rejoices with the truth

… always protects

… always trusts

… always hopes

… always perseveres

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Photo notes: At the Forty Foot, Dublin. Nikon FM2n, 50mm, Kodak Portra 400

March 8, 2022

Lines

Lines of Communication

We had almost got used to the absence of vapour trails in the sky but towards the end of last year I remember beginning to notice them again. Life was slowly beginning to return to normal, people were flying once more and connecting with each other in reality, as opposed to virtually. The photo tries to capture that: Telephone lines and contrails; connections are being made…

Photo notes: Zeiss Ikon ZM, Zeiss C Biogon 2.8/35mm, Ilford XP2 Super @400 ISO.

February 6, 2022

Painting in silver…

When I first saw the painting at the top of this post, it was of a familiar building but from an angle I had never seen before. The idea came to me to try to recreate it with a photograph. I had to wait some time until the school holidays, when there would be no cars parked out in front. When the day came I got the tripod out of the cupboard, along with the Nikon FM2N and 50mm f/1.8 lens, set to f/8, with Ilford Delta 100 film with a yellow filter over the lens.

I am quite pleased with the photo, it is detailed, sharp and with a good range of tones. I would have liked to see more detail in the clouds (the yellow filter was supposed to do that), but it’s not too big a deal.

Which would I rather have hanging up on the wall? Without doubt it would be the painting. I love the colour, depth and texture as well as the beautifully expressive brush strokes. The photograph looks clinical and, well, too photographic in comparison. It’s all in the eye of the beholder of course, but in a comparison between a painting and a photograph, in this example at least, the painting wins.

June 20, 2021

Learning to See

I’ve started reading “Beholding Paradise – The Photographs of Thomas Merton”. I’ve looked at a number of great photography books and I’ve read some wonderful books on prayer and the spiritual life, but this book combines the two in a way that, for me, is transformative. I’ve always connected faith to photography because as a Christian, faith is, well, connected to everything, but Merton is helping me think this through on a deeper level. These are some initial thoughts after perusing a few pages…

So often it seems that everything happens so fast, too fast. We rush from one moment to the next in the same way we flick through social media posts on our phones, always thinking about the next thing, the next thing, the next thing…

One of the things I appreciate about photography and making photographs in particular is that it forces you to slow down and to become more aware of your surroundings than you might do otherwise. Things like the quality of light, shadows, reflections, textures and many otherwise unnoticed little details all take on a greater significance. God’s handiwork, in places and objects and the image of Christ in people starts to become more evident and we increasingly realise that, wonderfully, He has left His signature everywhere and His image in everyone.

June 11, 2021

A return to film and film cameras

I’ve got back into making photographs with film. Last year I saw an old Canon film camera for sale, an EOS-1V; it was such a good price! The EOS-1V was Canon’s last professional film camera: it’s big, solid, heavy and loud, but a joy to use. It has a large, bright viewfinder along with fast and accurate autofocus, a comfortable grip and excellent metering. A bonus is that all my Canon lenses work on it perfectly, though I find myself using just the 50mm lens most of the time.

The price of film has more than doubled since I last bought any (in 2011) and a number of my favourite films are either no longer available, such as Fuji Reala 100 or just too expensive, like Velvia 50. With cost being such a factor it means that each photo is worth taking time over and so framing, composition and exposure are given more thought than they might have had otherwise – a point I may develop further in a future post.

Below is a gallery of some photos made with the 1V over the last year. The black and white film is Ilford XP2 Super 400 and the colour film is Kodak Portra 400. I photographed the negatives with a macro lens (more on that another time).

June 8, 2021

Welcome back…

Five years have gone by. Just like that. I mean to start writing here again; we’ll see how it goes. It feels like meeting an old friend…

May 13, 2016

Meditation: Jesus calms the storm

 

 

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Glendalough, Co. Wicklow (April 2016)

As part of our school’s “Mental Health Week”, I did a meditation in the morning Chapel Service. It’s based on the wonderful account written in Mark 4:35-41.

 

It’s been a really long and tiring day, a day where so many thousands of people were surrounding Jesus. It was wonderful to see Him heal so many of them, and in between to teach such beautiful parables. But everyone is really tired. Jesus knows this and he calls out: “Come on let’s go down to the beach, let’s get into the boat and cross over to the other side of the Lake”. As he leads, you walk along with the group behind him … he walks down the hill towards the shore, the dustiness of the bare earth turns to sandy gravel, which crunches beneath your feet. You notice the sun getting low in the sky, casting an orange glow across the water. As you walk along the shoreline, the cool water washes against your sore feet. Peter is there by the boat, holding onto the rope, as one by one, the disciples get in … and now you get in. As you put a hand down on the side of the boat you notice the smoothness of the well-worn wood under your palm. Jesus climbs in just behind you. Peter casts off the rope and the boat drifts away from the shore. Peter skillfully spins the boat around and you head out into the deeper water. In the gathering gloom you can just about make out a few dim lights and some smoke from fires far away along the shore. But ahead is just too dark to see.

Everyone is settled into the boat, there’s not much conversation as you and the others are just so tired. As night falls, you notice the breeze getting stronger and the boat starting to rock a little as you continue to head towards the centre of the lake… You drift into a daydream remembering the faces of all the people who came to Jesus today. There’s just something about Him…

Suddenly, shockingly, things become scary. The waves are huge and the boat is being swamped. Peter, James and John are desperately trying to tie up the sail as it flaps about uncontrollably. Before anyone has realised what is happening you are suddenly in the middle of a violent, lethal storm. The water is filling the boat and you join in with the others trying to bail, but it’s no use. The wind is so loud but you just about hear Peter shouting to hold on tight to the ropes around the edge of the boat. But even as he shouts you see the fear in the eyes of this experienced fisherman. But it’s not just Peter, everyone is terrified. No one has ever seen a storm like this before, there is something primeval, something supernatural about its ferocity. Suddenly you remember Jesus, you don’t know why you didn’t think of Him before. You look about and you can’t believe what you are seeing. Everyone is terrified and thinks they are about to be thrown into the chaos of the deep and there is Jesus, asleep! His head resting on a cushion with a serenity that seems totally misplaced. Stunned, you shout out from the depths of your being, “Jesus, Jesus, wake up, don’t you care about us, we’re going to drown!” The others look at you and then at Jesus, you think maybe You said too much, but this is serious. Jesus slowly wakes up and looks around him and he seems surprised by our fear. He stands up in a way that he seems to hardly notice the boat rocking violently about. He looks at you and says in a voice that although quiet, can be heard easily and says “Why are you afraid, when are you going to get some faith?” Then he looks about at the others too, none of us can look Him in the eye, we all know that we doubted Him. Then in a way that seems so normal, so natural he shouts out, his voice has a power, a resonance that is at once the most beautiful and most terrifying voice you have ever heard. “Peace, … Be still!”… Like someone closing a door the wind immediately stops. The waves take a few moments longer, but soon you notice a peace and tranquility that would have seemed impossible just a few moments before.

You become aware that this is more than just a physical stillness, it is a peace that is beyond the natural. It is not just the water and the air that are now still. You feel a deep-down stillness within yourself also… As Jesus looks at you, you know that His peace will remain, so that no matter what will ever happen in your life, no matter what storms lie ahead, you will always be able to remember that peace you feel inside right now, the day that Jesus calmed the storm. In the very depth of your being, you know that His peace will carry you through anything because you now know that Jesus will always, always be there … Amen.