Monday, March 2, 2009

The band

Well what a busy weekend, spent Saturday with friends and Sunday morning out walking, so far so good, but then spent Sunday afternoon clearing out a blocked drain, not the best of jobs.
Also on Saturday I posted the next part of the photography course along with an image that I promised to go into greater detail about here, so are we sitting comfortably?
Many years ago while working at our local theme park I was approached by a band, made up from some of the professional musician that worked there, to photograph their first gig. Being quite young and new to photography, I was only in my second year at night school, I said yes, without really knowing what I had let myself in for. My only mistake was that I under estimated the amount of light I would have to play with, but seeing that you need light to take pictures this was one hell of a problem. I had been to gigs before and had always thought that there was lots of light, but as soon as the band came on stage I knew I was in trouble, my light meter in the camera just did not move, not even when I turn the shutter speed right down!
Now I was shooting black and white film, rated at ISO 400 and knew I could change the rated speed if I compensated for it during development, so I stated to up rate the film knowing that I could possibly increase the speed up to ISO1600, but that proved not to be fast enough. ISO 32000 was nearly right but I had to go to ISO64000 before I could risk taking any shots, 4 times faster than the film should work at and still only 30th of a second shutter speed, technically too slow to stop camera shake. Now this was a freebie shoot, but I had said to the band that they just had to keep me supplied with drink during the gig and I was drinking neat vodka. When I’m nervous I drink more and boy was I nervous, but true to their word my glass was never empty for long and as the night went on the happier I became, until the gig ended and they pored me into a car for the ride home.
Once delivered safely to my door I felt so excited by the night’s events that I decided to develop the film right away. Now film is very fragile and needs controlled conditions to be developed, a constant temperature of 20° for the chemicals and an exact time for the film to be soaked in them based on its speed rating. For a film used at its designed speed this is a simple matter of reading the box and following the instructions. But this was not the case here, the film had been pushed well past the intended norm, in fact it was off the chart and the processor (me) was drunk as a skunk. I worked out that instead of the normal 3 minutes it was more like 23 minutes, but I knew that if I increase the temperature of the chemicals they needed less time and I wanted to go to bed, so using some very shaky maths, done in my head as I was too drunk to find a pen, I developed the film in near boiling chemicals for around 4 minutes and left the film to dry as I went to bed.
4 hours later at around 6 o’clock, I awoke and decided that I had to print some of the shots, the spare room was set up as a dark room and in no time at all I had a set of prints that I was happy with and I was late for work. So draping the soaking wet prints all over the car, I drove the 10 miles to work with the windows open to dry the prints, enabling me to present the finish work to the band the moment they arrived.
I could never do that now, for a start I need more sleep and less drink and digital while great only lets you do so much before giving up. The photos from the gig display all the signs of their abused up bringing, masses of grain and harsh contrast, but it looks great with the subject matter.

Now playing: David Essex - A Winter's Tale
via FoxyTunes

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Suburbia said...

That does look like David Essesx ! Great pic :)

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Any sort of photography in low light is difficult, especially when the subject is moving or in a different light to you- and that's with digital! I appreciate a shot where all the settings have been chosen by the photographer and not the camera and the appreciation is tripled when it's shot on film. (Oh and when it comes with a good story like this!)

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