Tag Archives: photography

Isle of Grain

The Hoo Peninsula is a sparsely-populated collection of mudflats and farmland, situated between the Thames and Medway estuaries. It’s a strange landscape, home to wildlife and bird sanctuaries as well as a string of power stations and oil and gas storage facilities. Right at the end, you come to the Isle of Grain.

I’d like to be charitable about Grain. It has a couple of pubs, a primary school, a fire station, supermarket, a church with an oddly stubby tower, and some sea views. Otherwise, it’s 1960s and 1970s housing estate with a socking great power station next door. I’m not entirely sure why people want to live in Grain. It has to be a self-sufficient community, since it’s nearly an hour to get to Chatham and Rochester. Perhaps the community grew up to service the numerous power stations strung along the north shore of the Medway.

I have been to Grain before. A couple of times on business, and a couple of times to see what was there. Despite various attempts at getting things moving out there, the latest being Thamesport, an earlier one being Port Victoria, the place remains a curious mix of industry and bleak landscape.

Having done some of the Saxon Shore Way closer to the Medway Towns—Hoo St Werburgh and Upnor, chiefly—I decided it was time to venture to the end of the peninsula to see what it was like. I think the journey was worth taking, and I took the opportunity to reconnoitre other likely locations to visit.

Fun and Games

As I noted yesterday, we’re currently enjoying an indian summer here in the UK. While I find myself at something of a loose end, I dug out the box of old plate cameras Best Beloved had acquired some 20 years ago.

The original intention was to use them for model photography. The cameras came with various back plates, mainly intended for quarter plate film, I think, but with adaptor units so you could run a 120 film through them. I do have the results of the tests done years ago, but sadly one of the films was damaged by light leakage during the developing process.

This is proper old skool photography. And I’m going to run the 120 films that have been cluttering up our fridge since the 1990s through the machines today.


First up is a Zeiss Ikon Trona 210/5 from the early 1930s. The rangefinder sight has lost its mirror, so I will be aiming blind. As it’s a sunny day, I am hoping to not worry too much about focus as the aperture will probably be quite tiny. The Zeiss is the only camera actually designed to take the film size, though the final image will be one-and-a-half frames of the normal square 120 format. This may mean there will be overlapped exposures where I haven’t wound the film on far enough. All part of the fun.


Next we have a beast of a camera, which is a Soho reflex. From what I can find out it was made some time between 1910 and 1930. It’s a half-plate box camera, but has been modified to take a 120 film back. Again, winding on the film to avoid double-exposures will be very much hit and miss. Out of a 12-frame 120 film, I will probably get three or four exposures, if I am lucky.


The Soho, at least, I can focus using the mirror to reflect what the lens sees up to the glass screen, but sadly the shutter mechanism does not function properly. This means I will be attempting to make exposures by covering and uncovering the lens, rather in the manner of the Victorian pioneers. Which will, if nothing else, be a hoot. I also have problems because it doesn’t have the original lens, and the one it is fitted with is so worn you can’t quite make out the ƒ-stops. Trial and error—what fun!

The next issue I must face is whether I can find a good local photo lab that can process the exposed film. I don’t really want to post it off anywhere, because I am impatient. Any pointers to labs in Kent I may be able to use will be gratefully received.

(I know I could process the stuff myself. While I’d love to, it’s rather too much faff at the moment.)


Avro Vulcan


I’ve been doing to some scanning.

I’ve had a scanner that could perform transparency and negative scans for a while, but it had been a bit limited (35mm uncut strips only, no slides, etc). Doing any quantity of scans was always a bit of a chore, frankly.

About a year ago I purchased a better scanner, with pro level features. It was loaned to a small company I was involved in, and when they sadly went bust I got the machine back. Just recently a friend upgraded their Mac and I was essentially given their old G4 Mac mini. Ideal for a scanner station, where all it has to do is drive the scanner and run the software.

So I’ve been doing some scanning.

To familiarise myself with the kit and software I have begun the task of scanning a whole bunch of negatives I had selected a while ago. There’s stuff in there from a model railway show where I was “official” photographer, random stuff shot on black and white negative film, and some colour slides from the other half, dating back over four decades. All good stuff to learn how the scanner works, as I intend to try and drum up some business for it.

Anyway, the Vulcan is one of my favourite images—and aircraft. Shot on the old Olympus OM10 on Ilford HP5 ISO400 neg film, the plane was displaying at a Duxford air show in the Autumn of 1988. There’s another shot in the Flickr stream where the plane is almost directly overhead, silhouetted against some patchy clouds. I had forgotten I even took that shot.

Anyway, I guess I should plug the business. Please visit the Imagic Design web site and find out what I can do in the way of design and stuff.

St Mary’s Island, Chatham


A warm evening, with a nearly full moon playing hide-and-seek with the clouds. I’ve never ventured out into St Mary’s Island before. The area is a housing estate and marina, built on what was once part of the Royal Navy Dockyard at Chatham. I had hoped to be able to get down to the riverside, but it was all fenced off and boarded up for new development. This view across the marina by the swing bridge, though, was more appealing, especially with the moon in the sky. This image is probably the best of the set I took.

Some days…


Best Beloved and I went out to a local transport rally on Saturday. The sun was out, it was a glorious early September day. I had high hopes of some good photography.

Sadly, the cars were lined up on display with the sun directly behind them. There wasn’t a lot I could do, so I defaulted to my usual “make pictures from details”. Even that was difficult under the circumstances.

The photo here, of a 1967 Ford Corsair 1500GT convertible, shows the problem. I was photographing straight into the sun. Even a circular polarising filter did nothing to help, so I guess the fact I managed to get any usable image at all speaks volumes about modern camera technology!


A 1939 Standard Flying 9, in pretty much unrestored condition, but still much cherished. Again, the sun directly ahead of me. 

Perhaps, if we visit the show next year, and the weather is similar, we might visit earlier in the day. With the cars packed quite closely together, though, I expect shadows in all the wrong places. I think I’ll hope for a bright but overcast day!

Dawn at Hoo St Werburgh – a set on Flickr

(For those on i-Devices, see the set here.)

Once again, I got up stupidly early. I was hoping to hit the Hoo Marina in a Dawn Raid that coincided with a high tide and sunrise, which were both due around 0530hrs BST.

As I parked the car, with about half an hour to spare, I began to walk down the footpath to the river. Those of us who generally never surface before the sun rises often don’t realise how bright it can be in that hour before dawn, when the sky is clear. I adopted a brisk pace to ensure I reached my selected vantage point in plenty of time to set things up. I felt good. I felt alive for the first time in a long time. It was great to be out in the fresh air, just me, the sky and the local wildlife.

Sadly, my chosen location perhaps wasn’t the best in hindsight. While it still afforded some good shots across the Medway, the early August sun peeps over the horizon between the power stations on the north bank. I was hoping for more reflections in my shots.

After getting a sequence as the sun appeared and rose into the sky, I quickly collected everything and shifted position further upstream, where there would be more water in front of me.

The wind, coming offshore, was preventing me from getting the mirror calmness I’ve seen at this location before around slack tide. Still, the rising sun, glittering off the wavelets, was worth capturing.

Once I had had my fill of the rising sun, and noting that clouds were looming from the landward side, I wandered back to the car, stopping to switch the camera to black and white mode for shots across the boat graveyard and into the fields. The “golden hour” seemed to have passed remarkably quickly, probably not helped by the increasing clouds.

It was well worth the effort, I think. Oddly, I feel I have exhausted most of the opportunities at this location. Then again, I haven’t visited on a cold, frosty morning. I think I need to plan a trip for the winter. At least the sun rises later in the day then!

Dungeness, Kent – a set on Flickr

I spent an hour or two on an exploratory photographic visit to Dungeness on Friday evening. The location is not very far from where I’m currently working in Folkestone, but it’s a world away in many ways.

For those not blessed with a Flash-enabled browser or wish to visit with an i-device, you can visit the Flickr set on this link.

I do plan to visit Dungeness and surrounding areas again. Potentially, a full day there will bear all kinds of interesting images. Having made the exploratory trip, I have a better idea of what to expect.