A few weeks ago I wrote about doing wet photography again. I’m now two films in, and it’s as good as I remember it. My films aren’t working out perfectly. I’m making mistakes. A lot of them. Bad metering. Bad film handling. Bad dropping-the-film-out-of-the-Patterson-tank-during-the-developing-process. Bad walking-into-the-still-wet-film-leaving-lint-everywhere.
But, it doesn’t matter. I’m finding it incredibly relaxing. Incredibly fulfilling. And that’s exactly what I need, and exactly what I was hoping for. The last time I developed a film by hand was in year 10, and all the smells bring me right back to those hallways. Those buildings. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
If you’re a Fediversian, you can find me on my PixelFed instance. If you’re not, you should consider getting a Mastodon account at the very friendly aus.social, from where you can follow me here (@firstname.lastname@example.org), my Mastodon account (@TechnicalKO@aus.social), and my PixelFed instance (@KO@photos.karloskar.org). The other good place to find my photographs (other than right here!), is at Flickr.
I will do a post on my workflow, and general setup, once I’ve streamlined it a bit more.
It’s no secret that I like technology, and I do, if I’m going to be absolutely honest with myself (and what better a place for that than in a place where about 56.1% of the world’s population can read it), think that I’m quite good at it. Quite good at software, and also quite good at hardware. Last week I repaired a motherboard on a motion controller, and it booted right up after many hours with a soldering iron and replacing components.
But I’m also tired. Maybe verging on exhausted.
Tired of “instant”. I’m tired of the process of taking a photograph is see, snap, review (probably redo these three steps a few times), then post, hashtag. After that it’s largely forgotten, with the exception of collecting notifications from bots.
This ties in with me dumping my Fitbit. Dumping Facebook. Dumping Instagram.
So, what is my plan?
My plan is to go analogue for photographs. Not exclusively, but significantly more than I have in the last…20 years.
I bought my first digital SLR in 200…and…5…I think. Since then I’ve been chasing crisper, less noise, and faster. Better lenses. Better/bigger sensors. The last camera I bought was a Canon 5D, and I have used that camera extensively. But the trap of reviewing, even on the back of that crappy LCD on the back, gets me nearly every time. I don’t sit back and trust that I have done the right thing, trusted my gut and taken a passable photograph.
So, now – to the plan. The plan is to not only start shooting film again, but I’m going to develop my own film, too. At this stage I’ll develop to film and probably scan the shots I want to do something with, but there’s nothing (except space in the laundry) that will prevent me from getting an enlarger, paper,some trays, some more chemicals, and printing my own.
I asked my old photography teacher from high school if he had any developing tanks left, and not only did he have a Patterson tank, he also had a Minolta XG-1 with lenses and a flash that he wasn’t using any more. So I now own that, and I’m very pleased.
I’ve bought some film, and have taken a few pictures. But I don’t know if they’re any good until I develop them, and today I organised the equipment I need for that, beyond the tank. I ordered the developer, stop bath, and fixer from B&H in New York (for about $40 less than it would cost to buy locally – including shipping from the US). I ordered a couple of volumetric flasks for mixing chemicals, and some storage bottles. And a portable darkroom bag for loading the film onto the spools and into the Patterson tanks.
This is a follow on from my recent post about what I’m planning and hoping to achieve in 2019, in broad categories of Fitness, Weight and Food, and Creativity.
I forgot one category, and it’s an important one: Acts of Kindness.
The easiest thing for me (it ranks very highly on the Should-I-Do-It scale – 75 if I do a special trip, 100 if I do it while I’m in town anyway) is to donate plasma. I feel great after. I feel great for having done something for someone else. And it’s easy.
It does take a bit longer than a standard blood donation around 90 minutes from walking in the door to walking back out, but it doesn’t leave you feeling depleted because you get all (or most) of your red blood cells back. Plasma donations are fascinating, too, because you’re hooked up to a machine that centrifuges out a bunch of yellow liquid from your body and returns a deep crimson stream of blood.
If you have any questions about it, please ask below in the comments section. If you want to a donation-buddy for your first go, get in touch.
I’ll try a few other acts of kindness this year, too, but will let them come and go as they please rather than forcing them.
I recently read the book Crazy Busy by Dr. Hallowell. It’s a book that focuses primarily on disconnecting from technology to spend more time with yourself and those around you. It raised some very valid points about taking time back for yourself. Taking time to think. Taking time to be creating. Taking time to play.
The main thing that I took away from it, however, was a system for whether you should bother doing something or not. I have been using this system for the last few months since reading the book, and it works.
Think of the activity you need/want/should do. Not a “pay your bills” activity. Something like “go visit a relative”. First of all, assign a value from 1 to 5 for the amount of effort it will take, where the least amount of effort is a 5 and the most amount of effort is a 1. Then assign a value from 1 to 5 for how good it will make you feel. Either while you’re doing it, or aftwards having done it. 1 is that you’ll feel bad, and 5 is that you’ll feel great. Many warm and fuzzy moments. Then assign a value between 1 and 5 for the impact it will have on things other than you. Will it make your relative very happy if you go? Will it save a bag of kittens from inevitable doom? 1 is that it won’t make a difference to anyone or anything, and 5 that it’ll make a huge difference to someone.
Multiply these numbers together, and you’ll end up with a number between 1 and 125, and here’s the trick. You now need to set yourself a threshold for doing things. My threshold is quite low, I think, only needing a to be over 15 for me to think I should do it. And I should definitely do it if it scores higher than 25. Obviously these aren’t hard and fast rules, so keep it loose and go with the flow.
If something is moderately hard work, like a 2 on that inverted scale, and I’ll probably feel pretty good afterwards, so a 2 for that too, but the impact for those around me (say the person I visit) is really great, and scores a 5, then I should probably do that activity because it scores a 20. If it was easier to do, and scored a 3 for effort, then it’s suddenly a 30 and I should definitely do it.
Was writing this post difficult? No – 5 out of 5. Do I feel good now that I”m finished because I’ve done something creative? Definitely – 3. Will it help someone? Maybe – 2. It scores 30/125.
I really like numbers. I like graphs. I like plots. I like tables. I like SQL queries. It was pretty predictable that I’d like having a Fitbit on my wrist. No surprise that I’d find myself poring over the graphs in the app, checking my resting heart-rate (56-58 bpm when I’ve not had any red wine for a couple of days, 61-63 bpm when I have, FYI), my active hours, how many steps I’ve done and when, and probably because I can be a bit* competitive at times, how my steps stack up against my Fitbit friends steps.
But – what did I have the Fitbit for? I had it to help me keep track of my exercise (check) and improve my fitness levels. It just didn’t help improve my fitness. It didn’t push me to do more steps. It didn’t motivate me to run. It didn’t really help me improve at all. So it’s gone.
When I stopped wearing it, I felt quite a bit of relief, which I didn’t expect. I thought I’d miss it. Miss having those graphs, and tables of information to sift through. But instead, I felt liberated. When I go for a walk, I’m going because I want to. Because it feels nice. Because it’s good for me. Not so that I can compete against other people, who most likely aren’t competing back. To be completely honest, there have been a couple of times I’ve gone for a walk and thought that it’d be nice to have the steps recorded because it would have added a decent chunk to my tally, but then I quickly realise that it’s not important. It’s important that I’m moving – it’s not important that I’m winning.
Anxiety levels: slightly lower than they were before. Plan: figure out what to get rid of next.
I’ve ridden quite a bit in the last year. Last October I rode more than 600 km as part of the Great Cycle Challenge (which I will probably do again this year). I rode over 4,500 km in 2018. I climbed more than 41,000 metres. 263 hours in the saddle.
This isn’t a lot for some people, and that’s exactly what I want to write about: Challenging People.
I don’t mean people who are difficult to deal with. I mean people who challenge you to do more/better/faster/longer. I’m surrounded by people who climb hills faster, descend faster, ride further, ride longer. To the extent where when I’ve been for a 90 km ride, or been for a ride where I’ve climbed 1,000 metres, and I tell people about it (which I do like doing because it’s a good source of praise), I don’t really feel like I’ve done anything special. The achievement, something which many would consider to be big (or even impossible), has been completely normalised/trivialised.
I don’t think this is a bad thing – it’s helping me push myself to ride further and faster.
This all came to me when I was listening to a podcast by Adam Spencer (I was riding up the Patrick Joncker Veloway at the time). He was interviewing an ultra-marathoner, Michael Hull, who fell into being an ultra-marathoner partly by accident/serendipity, because he was surrounded by endurance athletes in his teens, and it was the norm. The details might be a bit fuzzy beacuse it’s a long time since I listened to the podcast, but I think it went something like that. There’s a link to the podcast at the bottom of the page.
I didn’t surround myself with challenging people intentionally. It just happened, and I’m really glad it did. I’ve challenged myself significantly in the last 12 months, both mentally and physically, and I don’t think I would have had I not had these challenging people in my life.
Now – this has covered the adjective definition of challenging, but there’s also the verb definition. I hope that I’m also challenging people when I talk about what I’ve done. I’m hoping that while I’m telling people about my achievements (and getting a bunch of praise for it), it’s also pushing someone to try something new. Try to ride further than normal. Up a steeper hill than normal.
I think if everyone had challenging people in their life, and spent time challenging people, we’d all achieve more. And achieving feels good.