ROB DURSTON PHOTOGRAPHY

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Mark Kneeshaw – Photographer & jack of all trades

Live today from Mr. Kneeshaw’s kitchen, a great friend and a guy who can pretty much get anything done. We talk about a couple of horror projects he has done lately, sewers, barking dogs and chat about old times before we head out to dinner in Toronto.


Shooting Polaroid/Fuji instant for the negative

Olivia in the Top Field

Olivia in the Top Field

So as most of my regular readers know I love and still shoot a fair bit of film. Most of my personal work would be on 4×5 or 120 roll film in the Holga. Being born in the sixties, I grew up on film, learned on it, processed it, printed it and manipulated it. I’ve seen many of my favourite films disappear into the ether as digital became more and more prominent in photographer’s lives.
One film or the idea of it, has always captured my imagination and spurred my creativity; instant negatives.
Back in the 80’s when I first became aware of Polaroid t55 in school, the idea of a magical instant negative, that I didn’t have to process was a godsend for rushed class projects in school. Think about all the time saved by not cleaning film holders, loading film, unloading film and then the long journey of processing. Even running the film through the quickest process you could, you’d still be looking at around 10 minutes in the dark, then another 5-10 attempting to dry it as fast as you can (obviously not even thinking you’d have an archival negative after this).
I’ll never forget seeing a fellow student, pull the Polaroid apart, showing the print on one side then telling me there was a perfectly usable negative on the other side.
Wha wha whaaaat?
From that point on I fell in love with the look of black and whites, printed from Polaroid negatives. They were contrasty and more often than not had some sort of imperfection in the emulsion, roller marks or some other characteristic that just gave the image more life and a more crafted feeling. Not long after that I bought my first full frame Polaroid camera, the Polaroid 195. The 195 was the last of the line of folding Polaroid instant cameras that had adjustable shutter speeds and apertures. I ended up traveling a fair bit and only ever bringing the 195 with me, of course just shooting the t55 equivalent for 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 pack film, t665.

Lonely stop sign somewhere in rural California

Lonely stop sign somewhere in rural California

Amarilylsis lit with window light in my home in California.

Amarilylsis lit with window light in my home in California.

Type 665 or t665 was very similar to t55, its bigger brother though it came in pack form only, not sheets. That meant that you have to process the film before you take another exposure. With t55 shot in a 4×5 large format camera, you can flip the processing lever back to “L” for load and pull the exposed film sleeve/envelope out of the holder without processing it. This feature is handy if you want to process the film in a more controllable situation; closer to a proper fixing(for the positive) and clearing(for the negative) areas. While out on locations I used to shoot off a few frames of t665 and just leave the negs to bake in the sun in the production vans. When I would get back to the hotel, I’d clear the negs under normal tap water and usually hang it to dry on the trouser hangers in the hotel room closet.

Two surfers waiting on the beach in Carpinteria, CA.

Two surfers waiting on the beach in Carpinteria, CA.

Each negative would be unique; some might be in the sun while drying, some were in shade, some would be solarized and others would look normal. I just always left it to chance.

Pétanque balls lying in the garden in the south of France

Pétanque balls lying in the garden in the south of France

Okay, back to the present now.
I ordered a couple of packs of FP100c from Calumet a couple of months ago and finally got around to shooting some of it. Olivia and I went off to the back fields of the farm and with a wide open vista I took some photos of her with just available light.

Gorgeous Olivia in the Top Field

Gorgeous Olivia in the Top Field (excuse the collapsing bellows)

The important part of it all are the negatives though. Below I show step by step how to preserve them from the original “throw away” portion of the film.

I will post up the scans from the negs, once I make some neg carriers for the scanner.

Red dress, blue sky

Red dress, blue sky


Some black & whites from around the #furrycabin

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably seen the furrycabin hashtag. It how I usually distinguish images from around our personal lives with our animals. We live in a little cabin on the side of an old orchard, here in Northern Ireland. We have a few animals here at any one time; we also run an animal rescue between Olivia and I.

We have a few permanents and quite a few available for re homing. Even when I working I like to get out as often as possible and walk the fields with a few of them at a time. Sometimes they are all up for a walk and then some early mornings, its like anyone, they want to sleep in.

This was one of those mornings. I found these images, jumbled into Lightroom between other projects. it was an early morning snowfall, one of the few this season and only Frankie Legs, the lurcher puppy was up for the walk this day. It was an especially quiet morning with hardly any traffic on the nearby road and all the other animals still snoozing away.
If you would like to see more of the animals available for re homing, please visit us at Lucystrust.


What does little Stevie see when he closes his eyes?

Steve the Amazing

Steve the Amazing, on location in Northern Ireland

Steve the Amazing, on location in Northern Ireland


White Horse

Some of you might follow me on Facebook and might have seen some recent images I posted of a few of our horses, Molly and Apache.

Before & After

Before & After

I’ve been asked by a few followers to show my workflow on achieving the look and feel of them, so I’m going to dissect one of them.
Here we have the untouched image.

Unretouched colour image

Unretouched colour image

Just sort of a foggy, dreary overcast sort of feeling; flat light and low contrast.

Then with a few global corrections and b&w conversion in Lightroom.

basic global corrections and b&w conversion in Lightroom

basic global corrections and b&w conversion in Lightroom

The boost in contrast along with the black and white conversion and some heavy vignetting, really begin to draw your eye in towards Molly. Her muscles and facial features start to stand out dramatically.

Now when I take it into Photoshop,

2nd stage retouching Photoshop adjustment layers and masks

2nd stage retouching
Photoshop adjustment layers and masks

I can selectively darken and lighten area using adjustment layers and layer masks. I boost the contrast some more while still keeping the highlights from totally losing it. I’m not too worried about the shadows blocking up because this was a very low contrast predominantly light image to begin with. At this point I’m quite happy with the image and it stands on its own fine.
Although if I wanted to play with it some more I could.

If I wanted to give this the feeling of an old Polaroid T55 negative that I might have taken on location then solarized it during processing, it might look something like this.

3rd stage retouchingCropping and Photoshop T55 solarizing effect[

3rd stage retouching
Cropping and Photoshop T55 solarizing effect[


Now in Photoshop I crop it down roughly to a 4×5 negative size. I then layer it with another image from a set of images I use specifically for this purpose. Then by using different layer blending modes I choose the desired effect. At this point I add a layer mask and continue to paint in or out with a Wacom, different sections of the layered image to further the effect.

I hope you enjoy the images and keeping shooting.

Please feel free to comment.


Film vs. Digital . . . . good bye digital. . .

Well, I’m going back to film.

I’ve had enough of digital.

We had a good run together.

But it’s over.

I’m going back to tried and true film; both medium format and 5×4 or 4×5 depending on where you are.

I’ve run the tests and I can’t see any advantage anymore to digital beside speed and I don’t want to be know as a “speedy” photographer. As well, I feel both photographers and the creatives that work with them have become lazy, very lazy. Gone are the days when you might shoot 40 or 50 rolls of 120 in a day. Now it’s not uncommon for clients to be looking at thousands of images from a multiple day shoot.

Remember Polaroids? You would shot a couple maybe per set up to show the client and creatives, then they would let you play with it from there; cover that off and then let your own creativity go and paint your own scene. Now they want to see almost every frame you shoot, just so you don’t veer too far from “their” original brief. Hold on though, isn’t that why we were hired in the first place because we are creatives ourselves and bring something of our own to the table? Has digital given them and us too much information? Are we processing all these visuals and coming up with better ideas on the fly? NO, we’re looking at the backs of cameras so we know we have covered off the needed and the client doesn’t give us shit. That doesn’t really breed creativity in my books. Well now they get to see just the Polaroids with me.

So I’ve got myself a decent little 5×4 hand holdable camera and a 6×7 medium format and I will be using this from now on. All my digital equipment is going up for sale. I’m covering off most of my usual focal lengths in medium format and just a couple on the larger sheet film. Film is just giving that warmer glow; that internal glow and feeling that digital lacks. It becomes a smoothness, both leading from the transition in tones to the actual grain. The grain on film is long imitated but never replicated. And the tones just act smoother when going from the burnt out highlights to those deep endless black shadows that always prove to be the bane of digital photographers.

Here is a 6×7 image.

As you can see, the tones moving from the highlights, down down down into the deep shadows on the right hold their own. The colour is accurate without being cartoon like. The contrast is pleasing without being so crunchy that you start to block up in the shadows and blow the highlights to the moon. You can feel the texture in the flaking paint on the walls. The skin tone is bang on.

I just don’t see the use for digital anymore.

Please feel free to comment.

btw 😉 😉

wink wink


Calotype

I have been asked recently to submit to about a dozen different photo competitions and exhibitions. The only thing is that since my last show two years ago, I haven’t really worked on any personal projects for myself.

Recently I’ve taken up going backwards in time. I’m ditching the digital and capturing images like we used to in the olden days, on silver based emulsions. Below are a couple of test images I created using the calotype method. It involves exposing photographic paper instead of film to create a paper negative. From that you can scan the image into Photoshop and play with it from there.

These images though are a little different. They are actually the positive prints right from the camera. The silver media is a positive print paper; very smooth and very very contrasty. By using a couple of different techniques I’m able to better control the contrast and lower it to a more natural feeling of a true black and white image. More experimenting to come and hopefully I’ll have something I feel is worthy of a new exhibition.


The Kernvale Eight

The Family

The Family

Olivia and I with our permanent eight dogs. I’m holding Richard, then from left to right it’s Bonzo, Ernie, Polo, Sophie, Betty (eating Olivia’s right hand), Flo, and Suuki. We’re sitting on the old field roller under a blossoming apple tree in our front yard/field/orchard. It doesn’t get to be a finer afternoon than this.


Draining the Batteries

I had to drain the batteries on some of my portable flash gear so that I could give them a proper charge. So instead of just hooking them up and firing them off into space I figured I would shoot some quick images around the homestead.


Looking Way Back

This is an image from one of my many road trips across the south west. This was the landing gear of one of the warbirds at the Pima museum outside Tuscon. if you are ever anywhere near it, its worth a check out.

Baring the weather for art