diary

This is sporadically updated, and we are always worried about tempting fate by planning too far ahead. But if you're interested, here it is. Otherwise click here to return to home page.

LAST UPDATE 21 November 2005

November 21:

The film backlog from the China trip is incredible. We're processing it as follows:

HP5 Plus and Tri-X -- 6 minutes in DD-X 1+4 @ 22 degrees C. For 35mm we use 2-reel Kindermann tanks and Hewes reels; for 120, Jobo tanks because you can get two films on one reel and process it (by inversion, 10 se/min, as with the Kindermanns) in 485 ml of dev.

Delta 3200 -- 9 minutes in DD-X 1+4 @ 22 degrees C, in the CPE-2 with multi-reel tanks

Why 22 degrees? Because it happened to work very well. No doubt times could be adjusted to give as good results at 20 or 24.

E6 -- Jobo CPE-2 and Fotospeed chemistry, because Fotospeed makes 1200ml and this lets us process 5 35mm reels at a time in 570ml

C41 -- Jobo CPE-2 and Tetenal chemistry, four films at a time in 485 ml (1-litre kits)

All mono negs are sleeved in Print File sleeves, the best there are, and printed on Ilford Multigrade Warmtone.

If we can get enough of this processed we're hoping to go down to the Pyrenees in a week or so but there's no sense in exposing film faster than we can process it. A nice situation to be in but it shows that even dream scenarios have their drawbacks!

November 17:

China came and went. A fascinating place with lots to photograph: look for more pictures in forthcoming modules and a Gallery update, the latter within the month with any luck. If there's an easier place in the world to take street pictures, or photograph people, we've yet to find it. There are lots of (very heavily restored) historical sights: usually, recently restored to repair the damage done by the communists themselves, especially during the Cultural Revolution. And there's no doubt about the incredible economic progress they are making.

 

We shot over 4,000 pictures in under 3 weeks, using our Alpas plus Leicas (MP and M4P) for Roger and Vogtlanders (T and R2) for Frances. We also put a couple of rolls of HP5 through an old Nikon F with 200/3 Vivitar Series 1 and orange filter, a combination we first fell in love with in Slovenia in 2000.

 

The most interesting thing, though, was seeing that the Chinese communists are in fact just another dynasty, with different emperors and mandarins. There's still the vast (and fast-growing) divide between rich and poor; the rulers are still viciously authoritarian, while the ruled are still unbelievably passive and submissive.

 

Mao in a shop window.

The old bandit is everywhere, including on the currency. This is in the 'hutong' (lanes) district of Beijing, the most colourful part of the city but not actually very old: something like 80 per cent of Beijing has been rebuilt since the communists came to power, and the whole city is one big building site. Roger shot this on Ilford HP5 Plus using his Alpa 12 WA with 38/4.5 Zeiss Biogon and 44x66mm back. Printed on Ilford Multigrade Warmtone.

In such a milieu, anyone with any drive and originality is extremely well placed, because the rulers will leave them alone as long as they don't rock the political boat and the ruled will buy whatever they can afford. The percentage of entrepreneurs is tiny, but with a 1.4 billion population it doesn't need to be very great: 0.01 per cent of 1,400,000,000 is 140,000. Our host Fred Zhou, importer of Alpa, Linhof, Gilde, Roundshot, Bergger and more, is a superb example of the Chinese entrepreneur and (from what we could see) an excellent employer.

Since getting back we've been playing catch-up (it's true what they say about French taxes); processing and printing pictures (though fortunately we had a lot of the E6 and C41 done in Peking -- very well and very cheaply); and working on new modules for the web-site: look for a free module called 'How Many Cameras Do You Need?' in the next week or two, to be followed early in December with a paid module called 'Decisive Moments' .

 

We expect (barring mishap) to be in Florida for the Photo Marketing Association show in February 2006 and we may go down to the Pyrenees in early December to take some snow scenes on medium and large format: Fred wants MF and LF pictures in a book for the Chinese market, preferably shot with the cameras he imports, and as we shot mainly 35mm in China, we need to exercise our Alpas and Linhofs more.

 

Great Wall

 

Much of the Great Wall is falling down, which is no surprise: the more accessible parts have been treated as a quarry for the last 400 years or so. But it's still a surprise if you've only seen pictures of the over-restored touristy bits. We walked for over an hour before sunrise to get to this bit a few minutes before the sun came up. Frances used her Alpa 12 S/WA with 35/5.6 Rodenstock Apo Grandagon with deep yellow Tiffen filter to shoot this on Ilford HP5 Plus, processed in DDX and printed on Ilford Multigrade Warmtone.

October Update

So much for going to China in mid-September... After only three weeks we got our French Permis de Sejour, thanks to the extremely helpful Mairie (Town Hall) in Moncontour, then we had to wait (and wait) for our Chinese visas: on our second trip to Paris we arrived at the Chinese Consulate as they opened at 0930 and left with the visas at 1532.

Anyway, we leave here for Paris on Monday 9th; fly to China on Tuesday 10th; and arrive in China on Wednesday 11th. We fly home on October 30 and hope to be back in our own beds by October 31.

The cameras and lenses we're taking are:

Roger -- Leica MP, Leica M4-P, 35/1.4 Summiluz, 75/2 Summicron, 90/4 Makro-Elmar with close-focusing adapter, Alpa 12 WA with 38/4.5 Zeiss Biogon and 44x66mm back.

Frances -- Voigtlander Bessa-R2, Bessa-T, 21/4, 28/1.9, 50/2,5 and 90/3,5 Voigtlander glass, Alpa 12 S/WA with 35/5.6 Rodenstock Apo-Grandagon and 6x9cm back.

We've also stuck an old Nikon F with 200/3 Vivitar Series 1 in the checked baggage. If we lose it, we lose it. Then there's the Rollei 35MF for snapshots, in a pocket.

We'd take more Alpa lenses but we're right up against it because of the sheer volume of film we're carrying, over 100 rolls, as follows:

B+W film: Ilford HP5 Plus (35mm and 120), Ilford Delta 3200 (35mm and 120), Ilford XP2 Super (35mm only), Kodak Tri-X 400 (35mm and 4 rolls of 120)

Colour slide film: Kodak Elite Chrome EBX (35mm), Kodak EPP and Fuji Velvia 100F (120)

Colour neg: a few rolls of Agfa 400 and Konica up to 1600 (35mm only)

Meters are Pentax spot, Gossen Variosix F and (as back-up) Gossen Sixtomat F. Tripods, Velbon Maxi 343 (a tough fight between that and the Slik Snapman, as the two are almost identical in weight -- the Slik is probably a little more stable but the Velbon is even smaller when folded) and a 1960s MPP woodie with a Novoflex head; the ensemble will take a light 5x4 and weighs under 3 lb, 2.3 kg. Both tripods are fitted with Ideesign Q-Top quick-release heads.

Roger will be carrying Billingham bags (a backpack and a tiny over-the-shoulder bag) while Frances will be carrying a LowePro Slingshot 'despatch rider' or 'bandoleer' style bag.

We hope to post pics from the trip in the second half of November.

August Update

Recent events well illustrate why we are always hesitant to make any comments about our future plans. Quite apart from the usual superstitious fears about plans in general, let alone communicating them to other people, things just go wrong sometimes. In particular, we were hoping to go to China in mid-September, but we've run into bureaucratic cross-purposes between French and Chinese bureaucrats. Before they will give us a visa, the Chinese want a copy of a form that the French say isn't necessary -- so we may not be able to go. Maybe not until next spring; maybe not ever.

We did however have a great time in Eastern Europe in June/July: Germany-Austria-Hungary-Romania-Hungary again (briefly)-Slovakia-Czech Republic-Germany-home. That was 7200km (call it 4500 miles) in 31 days in our 1972 Land Rover, and close to 90 rolls of film plus almost a gigabyte of digital images. Since then, apart from processing this film and doing our usual magazine stuff, we have been working on updating this site -- look for new modules, both free and paid, plus a general re-vamp -- and on uploading pictures to fotolibra.com, a picture library where you can see about 100 of our pictures.

We've also spent a lot of time tracking down and trying to cure dirt on our films. It turned out that some was coming through the water supply -- Paterson filters cured that -- and part from our very old drying cabinet, which we have now spent several hours cleaning to (we hope) good effect. Fortunately the Digital ICE feature on the Konica Minolta Scan Dimage 5400-II can 'lose' dirt on the colour materials but it's a lot of tedious spotting in mono.

May 1: The embargo came off the 75/2 Summicron today, so here's an early picture shot with it. More will appear in my review in Shutterbug and Frances's review will appear in Black and White in the UK.

At the end of December we booked our tickets for the UK and USA. We'll be in Southern California in early February; driving across the country (stopping in Selma, Alabama) in the middle of the month; going to the Photo Marketing Association Convention (trade show) in Orlando, Florida; flying back to the UK; then spendin a couple of days in Birmingham at Focus on Imaging, the premier UK trade show for the photographic trade, at the end of the month before driving home to France in early March.

It's all a bit more hectic than we would like but we can't stay >longer because our travel insurance only covers a maximum trip of 31 days outside France.

On that trip we'll probably be shooting only 35mm, simply because we have too much else to do, but we also have a Fotoman 6x17cm camera for review so we'll probably be using that intensively in March.

December/early January were filled with a continuation of the work on the web site, especially the Photo School, which should go live in March or April with at least 19 articles, 11 free and 8 paid for. This is the equivalent of a good-sized book: there are between 70,000 and 80,000 words and over 250 pictures, and our photo books normally consist of 50-70,000 words and 160-250 pictures.

Depending on whether Leica wants us there, we may be at the Rencontres in Arles in early July, doing print critiques on the Leica stand as we have for the last two years. Depending on our other commitments -- the ones we are still too superstitious to mention in case they don't come off -- we would like to return to Eastern Europe and to Malta some time this year.

We are also seriously considering workshops in Malta in early 2006 or early 2007. Click here for a link to a separate page about this.

September 2004 -- We intend to be in Cologne for photokina

Mayday 2004 -- We'd like to be somewhere in Central or Eastern Europe (Hungary or Poland) for the accession of the new countries to the EU. We're keenly pro-Europe. The EU is far from perfect but it's better than world wars.

Late February 2004 -- We hope to be in the UK for Focus.

January 2004 -- Motorcycle Touring in Europe went live.

December 2003/January 2004 -- Working on this web-site and on a proposal for a new book on black and white.

October-December 2003 -- Working at home in France on Motorcycle Touring in Europe and on the usual magazine articles, etc.

September/October 2003 -- 3000 mile motorcycle tour (in 300 hours!) for Motorcycle Touring in Europe. Visited Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg as well as France.

June 2003 -- Frances's mother Marion died at the age of 91 in Selma, Alabama; we spent two weeks with her just before she died.

April 2003 -- Publication of Rangefinder

March 2003 -- Moved to our current house in France

January 2003 -- Agreed to buy our current house in France. Tour of Spain and Portugal

October 2002 to January 2003 -- Shuttling to and fro between England and France moving house in our Land Rover (see below).

September 2002 -- Sold house in England. Homeless for 6 months (until March 2003), staying with friends in England and in a borrowed house in France, while looking for a house in France.

January 2002 -- Bought our 1972 SWB Land Rover Series III station wagon, the first in 20 years. Roger had a 1963 SWB IIA when we met but Frances was afraid of it.

Most of 2001 -- Fixing up the house in England with a view to selling it in 2003.

February 2001 -- PMA in Florida. Frances had almost no hair as a result of the chemotherapy.

October 2000 -- Photokina. Frances was just recovering from the surgery and was waiting to start chemotherapy.

July 2000 -- Learned that Frances had breast cancer. The subsequent operation, chemotherapy and radiation treatment (ending in February 2002) seem to have been 100 per cent successful but this led to a reappraisal of what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives -- which were effectively put on 'hold' for almost two years.

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© 2005 Roger W. Hicks