Friday, November 19, 2021

In praise of pottering

I had heard of 'pottering'; I thought it was something usually done in a garden. I may have even engaged in a little pottering without realising it. But the true nature of pottering had eluded me until this year. Now, I am a converted potterer and, like all converts, I am feeling a little evangelical about it.

Watching things grow, an intrinsic feature of pottering.

I am still working on a definition of pottering. The dictionary says that pottering is "to move around without hurrying, and in a relaxed and pleasant way." I find that a little unsatisfactory; when I am doing that, I believe that I am "wandering" - something different from "pottering" (though related). What pottering and wandering do have in common is a lack of deadlines and only vague goals. Pottering, it seems to me, is about getting things done, while wandering is about going places - both in a relaxed manner.

So pottering, in my book, is about unhurried, leisurely, work without any demanding deadlines. I can potter in the garden, potter at my lathe, potter with my cameras or potter around in the office. Pottering is discovering the joy of doing something for its own sake. Pottering can be work, but pottering is never a job. My current working definition of pottering: "work at a whim." This seems to be getting close to the whole point of pottering - doing what you want, when you want.

Here's the thing though; by deliberately engaging in pottering these last few months, more things seem to be getting done than by any previous use of goal setting, or to-do lists. Perhaps this sounds a little counterintuitive, but I do seem to be achieving more, simply by doing what I feel like doing at any point in time. It's an idea worth pondering (now there's another related word). Pottering, wandering and pondering - PWP - a more relaxed philosophy for life.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Mea Culpa

So, I build a pinhole camera out of a broken Ensign Selfix. Then, to test it, I load a film I had never shot in a pinhole camera before (long exposures). Once I had taken all the shots, I decided to develop the film myself (for the first time in about 50 years) and to try developing it in coffee (yes, that really is a thing). Of course, what I should have realised, is that I would have no way to tell whether any problems were the camera, the film, my ancient developing skills, or the coffee? One variable at a time, Einstein, one variable at a time.

And so it was that I found myself standing in the bathroom, staring at a wet strip of 120 film, comprising eight, very dark (almost black) frames, wondering what on earth had gone wrong.

Fortunately, Son of Ep, the scanner, was able to see more in those dark negatives than I could, though it was all pretty close to the scanner's own noise floor. Nevertheless, there was enough to see that the camera didn't have any light leaks and that the image was as sharp as a pinhole camera is allowed to be. The film also hadn't been fogged by my clumsy blind transfer to the development tank in an ancient dark-bag.

What I did find, was a combination of over-exposure and over-development of the film. Well, at least the coffee works - just a lot better than I had envisaged! And, to prove the point, here is our local observatory excavated from the dark matter of a black (pin) hole:

Pinhole camera, yellow filter, Ilford Delta 400, 15 mins in Caffenol (much too long).