Fake black and white, flat earth, weird times.

This post is going to be half photo geek and half waffle on social media, so those who are not so much into the geek part please stick around for the discussion at the end.

I have predominantly shot in colour since diving back into film photography. Firstly, colour photos are something that I was have always gravitated towards, I find it easier to frame and understand the light in colour. Secondly, when I started developing film at home I did so with colour film making it more cost-effective to shoot film as a hobby.

I have used black and white film, predominantly within the home, and pushed to 2 or 3 stops, mainly as a solution to shooting in lower light. Some of these shots made it into the “Living with Rohan” blog post recently.  I also shot a roll of film around Manchester last year, and I enjoyed taking that and was happy with the results, and recently photos of a friend’s band during rehearsal, so I do occasionally use proper black and white. Some examples are below, these are top row Iford Delta and last row HP5.

 

I have had a couple of rolls of Ilford XP2 in the fridge for a while after getting them super cheap from a camera shop that was unfortunately closing down. Xp2 is a black and white film which is developed in the same chemistry and process as colour film, which means I can develop it at home with my existing set up.

It a 400 speed film which I shot at 200 on the Mamiya 7. I knew where I wanted to go and shoot as I had walked around this part of Lancaster earlier in the week and spotted a couple of photos I though might work well in black and white.

The subject matter fascinated me,  the “flat earth” theories have been popping up on the internet for a while now, so seeing the graffiti on my walk caught my eye. I wonder what is driving this and other conspiracy theories at the moment? I get the impression there is a smallish part of the population that just have no trust in science or mainstream news. The concept that we have all been duped by the “Spherical earth” conspiracy is a hard one to get my head around. An enquiring mind is a good thing, and challenging the accepted norm has led to a lot of new discoveries in all fields of science. Flat earth theories though I fear do not fit into that category. Also the concept that the park bench is where we should be picking up our local news amuses me, but I guess in the current climate it could be argued it’s about as accurate as using Facebook.

 

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Water does not bend. XP2 Mamiya 7

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Earth is flat. XP2

 

Back to the photos themselves, whilst I like them, they may take a little of the deep contrast of other classic black and white film, I have another roll to use, and this time I will shoot it at box speed. I will continue to use Ilford hp5 indoors. I have just done a session with a local band where I have used hp5 pushed to 1600 on 35 and 120 film. These have gone off to Latent Image to develop, and excited to see the results.

The rest of the set from the roll of XP2 is below.

 

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So what black and white film would you suggest to try next. Any tips or resources for developing black and whte at home for me? Lastly, what’s the local news on your park benches?

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Cheap Chinese film, coffee and a contax lens.

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So I needed to go to Manchester to drop off a lens that needed repairing at Real Camera Co. At the same time I had a new camera and lens to try out, a Yashica Fx3 Super 2000 (what a great name) with a 50mm f1.7 Carl Zeiss lens. The Yashica body is pretty plasticky in build but I really wanted to get into the Contax Zeiss lens system and this seemed a good way to try it out.

I was lucky enough, while getting a coffee at the Hall in Lancaster to bump into the owner Ian. I know he often flits between Lancaster and Manchester in the day, and when prompted he kindly offered me a lift. The chat was good on the way down and the time passes quickly talking to Ian. First stop At The Real Camera Company in Manchester the Repair dropped off, I glanced upon the box of film labelled “Chinese Knock of Ultra Max”. Talking to the friendly member of staff he explained they thought they were buying Kodak UltraMax 400 but what  actaully they recieved  was a Chinese copy. Anyway undettered I purchased two rolls and off I went.

The sun was out, so Manchester’s northern quarter beckoned. I love wandering around Manchester when the sun is out, there are such lovely shadows and tones to capture. I finished the film in no time at all, and was soon having a delightful espresso in the Atkinson’s cafe at Mackie Mayor. Seriously if you are in the Norther Quarter get there, the coffee is a delight. You might even get to see some coffee being roasted while you are there. It’s also gets some great light in there mid morning too.

 

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First of the roll, delightful espresso.

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Table at Mackie Mayors

This was one of those golden few hours when time flew by the light was good, my head was clear, and there was nothing to stress or worry about. I have been back at work now for a few weeks on a part-time basis but also trying to keep my creativity and photography going. It is a testament to how much I feel I have changed in the last 6 months that I can see and enjoy the moments like this for what they are. Keeping myself “topped up” with good conversation, challenges and being social does help me on a day-to-day basis.

So onto the photos I guess using a film like this is akin to using expired film, part of the charm is in the random results and potential uniqueness . It was fun as a one-off to test the camera and lens combo but I am not sure I would repeat it. In reality the film is not that cheap as for 36 shots you need to get two rolls, and I can get Kodak Colour plus cheaper than that. It was though part of a lovely day, a novelty to use and there was the anticipation of seeing how the shots would come out. The results were inconsistent across the roll and the film really had a hard time with tungsten light and direct sunlight. Some of the whackier results are posted below. These are developed at home and scanned with the Plustek 8200i.

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Getting ready to roast coffee at the Mackie Mayor

 

I love the Contax Zeiss lens though, the 50mm seems a belter, sharp , renders lovely contrasty images, as the results of newer more kosher film has proven. I have just had a Zeiss 45mm pancake lens arrive from Japan, a roll of Kodak Ultramax is putting it through its paces as we speak.. Perhaps I will try my hand at a “system review” for another day, if there is interest.

Do you have any recommendations for old or different film that I should try?

Living with Rohan (RJW).

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Channeling a young Mick Jagger via David Bailey. 35mm.

I do not get the chance to take many portraits in my photography life. I am still fighting my anxiety over approaching people whilst out with my camera and beyond that I have struggled to find people to, for want of a better word, model for me. I have no real idea how to take portraits of people.

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Lost in his own thoughts. HP5 pushed to 1600

There is a one set of photos that I have taken that are very close to my heart and those are of Rohan. Rohan is my step-son and is a very special and unique boy. He has autism and a very rare genetic mutation called Kleefstra Syndrome. In simple terms this means that he has no verbal productive language and has profound and multiple learning disabilities. He is in many ways like any other teenager though, he eats us out of house and home, he loves his iPad and listening to music, and he is very particular about the clothes he wears, oh and he loves hats, he must have over 30 at least at home in his hat stand in his room. Hats and glasses. He loves hats and glasses.

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Hp5 pushed to 1600. Mr Ben meets Bono circa Achtung Baby.

Often he will wear numerous hats and glasses at the same time, this may be his way of expressing himself or he may just enjoy the sensory experience,  or sometimes, we think, it’s just to make you laugh.

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‘Watching a DVD” as many glasses as would stay put. 35mm Fuji Reala

Rohan goes to a special residential school and comes back to us at weekends at normal school holidays. I have known him for 8 years now and it would be fair to say he has brought an immeasurable amount of  joy and a few tears, I have learnt so much about myself and attitude to life  in that time.

More recently I have started taking snap shot portraits of him using whatever film camera is at hand or a Polaroid camera too. I try to take a Polaroid a day when he is at home.

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Scanned polaroid. Ready for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reboot.

Taking photos of him at home can be a challenge,  we do not get a huge amount of natural light at home, so often I end up  pushing HP5 black and white film to 1600 to get a decent shutter speed. Plus you can not get Rohan to “pose”, he is very much his own person.

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HP5 pushed to 1600.

So the photos tend to be of just life happening at that moment. He is growing up so very, very quickly (he is already taller than me at probably 6ft plus) and the photos track him turning into to young man. It’s also an attempt to try and document his experience.

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Tired and a little lost in the bath. Fuji Reala 35mm.

One of the biggest frustrations for Rohan comes from not be able to make himself understood or perhaps understand the world around him, and taking photos can help you reflect on his experience when he is not here. They also reflect times when he is lost in his own world or just waiting for his favourite people to come to see him. Having been away from work for a period I have spent more time with him in the last six months during the school holidays and its given me a a lot of joy to look after him. That is not to say it’s not hard or exhausting, it is.

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Sleepy head. Mamiya 7. Ektar 100

There is so much that the world could learn from Rohan. He never holds a grudge, he never directs his frustrations outwardly at anyone inparticular, he loves meeting new people (especially smiley ladies), he wakes up every day with a smile on his face and normally singing to himself. If more people lives life with the joy and outlook that Rohan displays the world would be a happier and more joyful place.

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Mr Independent. 35mm Fuji Reala.

I’ll keep taking photos for as long as Rohan will let me. In the meantime if anyone wants to volunteer to have their photo taken by me, then contact me on here, or via instagram.

For further information on Kleefstra Syndrome

https://www.kleefstrasyndrome.org/what-is-kleefstra-syndrome/

Glasgow – Fuji Industrial 400

 

shawlands_-9Recently I was fortunate enough to combine two of my passions, photography and coffee, with a trip to Glasgow to see my friend Will. Will is a real inspiration in the way he pursues his interests. He works five days a week in financial services, and runs a cafe 3 days a week in Shawlands.  Yes, in the word of the Beatles, that is 8 days a week, he has someone flying solo for him on Friday while he is otherwise employed. It’s not just any cafe but one delivering fantastic specialty coffee, brunch and wonderful sweet treats.

Will really shows what you can achieve if you really want to and out the effort in. The an has so much energy it’s unreal.

While I was there I took a long walk from Shawlands down to Glasgow city centre, with my newly acquired Contax G2 camera. This jaunt got dubbed the “murder walk” as it seemed to encompass a list of places I had last heard of on Taggart (those too young to remember this go and visit youtube). The weather was good, if cold, the sun was out, and as always it’s exciting to see new places, architecture, and meet new people and catch up with mates. Glasgow has a great vibe to it and energy, whenever I go to these coffee events with Will, the people are so friendly. It’s one of my favourite places to go.

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The Contax has a fantastic Zeiss lens on it, mine is a 35mm F2, it’s brilliantly sharp, and renders colours wonderfully. Added to that I was shooting Fuji Industrial 400, a film I acquired from  Parallax Photographic Coop  https://parallaxphotographic.coop . Even though this was a 400 ISO film I shot it at 200. This I did after reading a blog post on metering for colour film.

http://www.johnnypatience.com/metering-for-film/

Recently I felt that some of my photos had lacked details in the shadows and been a little under exposed. I am unsure if this is something I will do for all fits at the moment but I am happy with the way these photos turned out.

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Fuji Industrial is a fantastic film, lovely colours, quite muted, seems to accentuate the reds, holds up in the shadows well and has a slight magenta feel to it even after colour correcting my scans. I really like it as a film.

I was drawn to my usual subjects, the play light and shadows, lonely post industrial streets and half-arsed street photography. Home-developed and scanned, I like the way the over exposure and the cold morning light play in these photos.

I seemed to have subconsciously developed a fixation on lamp posts while In Scotland.

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Fun times were had, my mood has been good, an evening was spent at the launch of the Scottish Independent Coffee guide at a new cafe in the city centre under The Arches, run by the great guys at Thompson. I met and chatted to new people, thanks to Charlotte for putting up with my inane small talk and photography chatter.

If you are ever in Glasgow, then I highly recommend taking a train one stop to Shawlands to visit All Started Here, Will’s cafe. You will get the best coffee and Cinnamon buns in the city. Don’t just take my word for it, it’s official.

http://cupsof5.com/2017/12/10/the-glasgow-coffee-power-rankings-december-17/

If you want to found out more about how Will took a hobby and passion and turned it in to a business then read here.

https://allstartedhere.wordpress.com

https://www.instagram.com/allstartedherecoffee/

Till next time people. Stay caffeinated.

 

 

Manchester, Medium Format Photography and Mental Health.

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Lomo 400. This guy appeared out of nowhere while I was lining this up. I wish I had explored some different framings while he ws there.

It’s been a bit longer than I would have liked between posts, but I have had good days and bad. Mostly good, but then when the not so good hit me, my work ethic and motivation takes a hit.

To keep myself creative, get some exercise and stay sane, I decided to go to Manchester last week for a walk around with my camera(s). The weather forecast was good, I managed to get up reasonably early and get a seat on the train. Armed with my Mamiya 7 film camera, I headed got off at Oxford Road. The air was clean, crisp and cold, the sun was out.  For the next hour or so I shot a roll of medium format film off, pushing myself to take the best photos I could. This camera only shoots 10 photos per roll, so you really have to question yourself, if you want to take the photo or not. Even when you develop and scan at home, the cost can rack up pretty quick. In return when you do nail a good photo, the detail you get from this camera and the big negatives are fantastic.

I digress though, sometimes these walks can be lonely affairs and sometimes this can be good for self-refection, and sometimes it can be a real struggle to control your inner voices. This day became the latter. From somewhere, and I don’t know where, I my inner voice and dialogue started to veer off, the next thing I knew, I was in a spiral of self-doubt, low mood,my  inner critic shouting hard to be heard. Having had a run of good days, and probably the longest run of good days in a while, this drop in mood, seemed to become too real too quick. Thoughts swirled around my head, ” is this how I will always feel now”, “nothing I do seems to be of any real value or worth”. On it carried, the photos became less frequent, the walking pace slower. Then I just stopped, The dialogue changed, I don’t want to be scared of how I feel, I am lucky, I am alive. I want to make the most of this time.

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Took ages trying to get the exposure right on this frame. I am not sure i captured the frozen reflection as well as I hoped.

I would be lying if I said this resulted instant happiness, but it did level me off to point where I could find my way back. As always I talk these things through with my counsellor, and he quite rightly pointed out, that there will be good days and bad, and that I wasn’t going mad. Lastly to recognise that I am to some degree responsible for controlling that inner critic, and making a choice, and the fact I had been able to confront my spiralling pattern of negative thoughts was a break through.

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I just loved the red and the shadows here. I would have loved to have gotten someone walking round the corner but after 10 minutes I lost patience and moves on.

Back to Manchester though, there were some good and weird things that happened that day.  A man at the wash basin in the gents toilets spotted my camera and we had a 5 minute conversation that made me smile (about cameras honestly). I took a photo near the station where someone in the distance confronted me about taking the photo. Explaining to them the concept of film and that I couldn’t delete or show them the photo was 10 minutes of my life I will never get back.

 

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Again having a walked silhouette closer to the light would have taken this to another level.

On developing the roll of film, I was pleasantly surprised, I think it is one of my strongest rolls to date, the best are scattered on this post, but feel free to comment on the photos as all constructive feedback is helpful. I still want to push myself with having a more human element to the scenes that I capture. To achieve this I need to be braver in having a subject in my photos, but I also need to have more patience and wait around at a scene until that person passes by or the shadows and light hit where I want or the person gets closer in my field of view. These are concerns for another day and another walk and another roll of film. There are some more photos to come from this walk taken on my Canon A1 but these are still to be developed, as I took them on Fuji Reala, a film stock that I have not developed or used before.

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I wanted to get the shadow of the guy longer and closer, but the router he was walking was talking him into the dark.

So I can’t promise not to leave it so long between posts next time, but I will try my hardest to be more prolific.

For those who have their own struggles, try to reach out where you can. “Talk and do”, to say it is simple and to make it happen is so much harder. Keeping your creativity, your health, and human contact topped up can help so much when the hard times can come.

To those that have made it to then end of this post, what techniques do you have for dealing with your inner critic?  What makes you happy creatively? What challenges in your art do you have this year?

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There was a guy here in the doorway smoking a cigarette but he saw me and nipped back inside. Booo!

 

You trip me up.

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Manchester  January 2018 – Fuji Industrial 400 – Home Dev and Scan.

Or Adventures with my old long forgotten Olympus Trip

Whilst back at my parents last year, I enquired as to if my father had disposed of his old film cameras. Unsurprisingly, he still had them, but to my surprise though he still had my old Olympus Trip, which must now be close to 40 years old. I brought it home only to find that it didn’t seem to be working properly, whatever the light, it just wouldn’t fire. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out, so on the shelf it went with the rest of the cameras.

About three months later, and for an unfathomable reason, I picked it up again and tried to get the shutter to fire. Low and behold it did. Risen from the dead, my zombie Olympus trip rides again. If you didn’t know the Olympus trip runs on a selenium cell, powered by light. It would appear after years of being in a draw it simply gave up, no light, no life. Back on the shelf in the light again, it resurrected itself.

So I took this camera out a few times, put through one colour and one black and white film. So what follows are a few photos and words on what it is like to use this camera. A review this won’t be, there are plenty of really good reviews on YouTube.

So its small, it’s light, the shutter is really, really quiet and it’s really simple to use. It essentially a point an shoot with some basic focusing required on the users part. If you don’t have enough light for a shot it simply doesn’t fire (a little red flag comes up in the view finder). Focusing is done by selecting one of the four symbols ( these correspond to a focus distance on the underneath of the focusing ring) . The view finder works on a  rangefinder principle, so you’re not strictly looking through the lens, but rather an approximation, but its bright and easy to frame.

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When I was using the camera it was pretty liberating. I didn’t have to think about settings, just try to judge the distance I was from the object. 95% of my photos are urban scenes so the lens was set at infinity ( the mountain position ). I did after a little while forget about this and as a consequence forget to change the dial, so a couple of photos came out blurry.

The maximum film speed you can use is 400  and its widest aperture on the lens is f2.8. I would not be using this in low light, but stick in some 400 speed film and take it out on sunny days,  it will do you proud. The lens is pretty sharp and is a 40mm focal length, so kinda human eye type field of view. The camera frees you up just to go out and click away, which is no bad thing. It easily fits in a coat pocket too.

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Lancaster December 2017 – Hp5 – Lab FilmDev

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Somewhere in Lancashire Dec 2017 – Hp5 – Lab FilmDev

It handled some high contrast scenes pretty well too.

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Lancaster December 2017 – Hp5 – Lab FilmDev

At the moment the camera is back on the shelf (I have too many cameras), but it will no doubt come out for another adventure, more likely when the summer comes and we get some decent light. If you can judge your distances well and don’t need to capture any fast moving things then it’s not bad as a discrete street/urban photography camera. Plus it doesn’t need any batteries so you will never be left hunting for a shop to get a battery fix. It felt good to use the first camera I ever had, and next time I am home I will dig out the old photos I took with it. I must have some kind of affinity for Olympus cameras as I have three others of varying types, told you I had too many cameras.

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Manchester – 2018 – Fuji Industrial 400 – Home Dev and Scan

So good people of the internet, what was your first camera? Do you still have it? Does it still work? Has reading this given you teary nostalgic memories and you are surfing eBay for your first love? Let me know in the comments below.

Aspiration In Art ( Part 2 )

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Nottingham 2017 – Mamiya 7 – Porta 160

Nottingahm 2017 – Mamiya 7 – Porta 160

Part 1 talked about inspiration. What and who inspires me take photos. The next question is why, and by why I mean what, if anything, do I want to achieve with my photography. Fame? Fortune? Unlikely in the photography game nowadays unless you wanna put your face all over YouTube or you are Brooklyn Beckham. The kind of photos I love to take aren’t ever going to pay the rent either. But that’s all ok, really it is; but if you want to buy one of my photos as a print though, don’t let any of that stop you, please!

What keeps me taking photos? I want to improve, but how does one judge that? You should love the work you produce, but I am only human and that little nagging voice has always been there, ” Is this shit? Will anyone else like it?”  “Should I care if anyone else likes it?” These are themes for Part 3 though “Approval”, so I will try to stay away from these questions for now.

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Nottingham 2017 – Mamiya 7 – Porta 400

So I don’t aspire to fame or fortune, but I wouldn’t turn it down if offered.  When I look through a camera though I do aspire to try to make sense of the world around me, capture a sense of what I have felt or am feeling. Someone once told me, in a nice way, that there is real sense of melancholy and loneliness in some of my photos. Perhaps there is, conveying an emotion, making someone feel something when they look at a photo, is the most basic thing you can hope to illicit.  Photography though can be a lonely pastime, I spend countless hours wandering around the back streets of places, for better or worse it gives me time to think, or listen to that inner voice.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am always sad when I am taking photos (when the blues strike me, and strike me hard I can’t get out the house to take photos) but perhaps that sadness still sits inside me somewhere when I carry my camera. I feel a little more complete and a little happier when I think I have captured something of beauty. Then that cycle starts all over again when I get the negatives back, but that’s another post also.

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Barrow In Furness – 2017- Mamiya 7 – Lomo 400

 

What else do I hope to achieve.  To capture and represent some of the real world around me. Social media seems littered with “aspirational”, travel, fashion, food bloggers, Each photo of a trip, a meal or an outfit perfectly presented, making it seem simply for people just to live their dreams, and guilty if you are not. Around me I see beauty, decay, poverty, opportunity, an alternate reality to that of social media. To try to capture these moments, these habitats, preserve them as they are, is enough for me. Some of these towns and cities are changing for the better, some their very reasons for coming into being no longer exists (see Norther British seaside towns)  some I suspect won’t be here in 10 years time, unless new life and meaning is breathed into them. How people meet the challenge of the modern world in these Northern towns and cities will shape the future of this island, but I digress. Helping to shed some light on the environments where this is happening, is what I want to aspire to. I need to get over my fear or talking, and taking photos of people who I meet this year to really achieve this. At the moment I am documenting streets, buildings, environments that I see. There is still space there to capture more emotion from the people that inhabit them.

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Sheffield – 2017 – Mamiya 7 – Portra 160

 

One piece of work over Christmas that I found  that really encapsulates what can be achieved, is “The Glasgow Project” by Mark Neville, which I read about in the “Fancy Photos” by Mark. What a wonderful piece of social documentation, to live and work in a community and to deliver a project for them. That’s something to really aspire to. If you wish to find out more about Mark’s work then please visit here.

http://www.markneville.com

I really recommend looking at his work.

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Mark Neville – Taken from Fancy Photos

http://www.markneville.com

So til next time. There may be a intermission until we move to part 3, as I have been out and about with my first camera, the resurrected Olympus Trip, and there are some photos and experiences I would like to share from those excursions.

Anyway whatever your artistic endeavour, what do you aspire to with your work? I’d love to know in the comments below.