Momento Mori

Memento Mori (Latin: ‘remember that you must die’) is an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death. It is sometimes associated with photographs of the deceased and those photographs are often the subject of heated discussions. 

My mother’s death was not unexpected. We knew that sooner or later we would have to face her passing and attend her commemoration service. She had wanted to be cremated and with that in mind my brother arranged that we would hold a small service for her at the care home where she had lived out her last days. There is no way of knowing in advance how many would attend, and we did not expect too many to be there. Actually 3 people were to be commemorated on the day, and we were glad to be able to commemorate them too on this day and incorporate them into our service. Too many of the aged occupants in homes pass on without family or friends close by to remember them. 

The service was led by Kathleen Johnston, a non denominational pastor who ministers to the aged and who understands the process and grief. To me the most touching part of the service was when 6 of the nurses sang for us, the first piece being an emotional African song followed by the Lord’s Prayer. I felt very touched by this. It reached deep down into my emotions and I battled to hold back the tears.

A strange thing had happened to us on the afternoon before: we were sitting on the patio discussing the service when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a white feather drifting down from the ceiling. Many years ago somebody told me that white is the colour of angels, and  a white feather is seen as an angel feather, and is a sign of protection and faith. Seeing a white feather could be a direct communication from the angel to pass a message from your deceased loved ones that, they are well and safe in heaven. Believe what you like but I felt that we had both been given a sign that only the physical remained and mum was somewhere else. Incidentally, the patio is roofed and there were no drafts that could have moved the feather. 

The small box of ashes was part of the service and when we were done I carried it when we drove home and we placed it in my brothers house. The ashes were interred at Christ Church Mayfair on 28/10/2019 as she wished way back in 1981.

Both of us feel that a huge weight has been lifted from us and mum is at peace, 

Which brings me back to Memento Mori and photographs of the deceased. My brother had a viewing of her and he took a photograph which I looked at.  The important thing is to remember context; I would not be able to have that viewing, and this was the closest I would get. I did not feel that it was “weird” or “creepy” which are the words that are often brandished when these images come to light. Often they were the only reminder of those that had passed on and were part of the grieving process. Unfortunately they have now fallen victim to the internet and it’s hordes of tombstone tourists and those who embrace death as part pf social networking. That photo which my brother took will not appear anywhere on the internet, it is too personal, and having been given this unique piece of Memento Mori I have a better insight into the meaning of these images of Death. Just imagine yourself as being one of the parents of a young child that passed on.

That small feather that came from nowhere was equally important to us and we both derived much comfort from it and at that moment we both needed comfort and re-assurance. The reader can interpret it in as many ways as they like, but in the context of events around that service it was just what was needed.

DRW © 2019. Created 19/10/2019

Scanning the Slides

When I was still photographing ships in the pre-digital days I was shooting with slide film. There were many advantages to it at the time. The large images displayed on a screen were amazing to see and much better than the standard small prints that were the result of shooting with film. Pricewise it was slightly cheaper to shoot and process 36 slides than it was to develop and print 36 prints. And of course the prints were only as good as the operator of the printing machine. When the digital era arrived I really wanted to convert my slides into a digital format and the first results that I still have is a contact sheet that a friend of mine made on a professional film scanner at his work in 1999. Unfortunately the resulting images, while excellent copies were only 640×480 in size.

A few years later I bought a “Genius” flatbed scanner that could scan slides, and the results were mixed. Because many of the images had vast expanses of blue water in them I could not get a semi decent outcome because the scanner lamp had a slight blue tinge to it and rendered the images less than perfect. The scanner wasn’t faulty either because I even sat with a technician from the company and we were just not able to get a perfect result, or one as good as the contact sheet above. 

I never gave up though and at one point I bought a high end Epson scanner and it could scan slides and negatives but the interface tended to be somewhat iffy. The end result was much better and in some case I had a lot of success with the scanner, so much so that 90% of the ship and cruise images on my blogs were created with that scanner. I did not scan everything though, some images just came out badly and and others I skipped because there was too much to do. 

The scanner did produce some amazing results from negatives, and while I did not even tackle them as a project I really should have, although I never used an SLR for prints.

The images above are both scanned from the 1986 negatives. 

In 2010 I bought a dedicated slide/negative scanner that had just come onto the market and frankly it was a waste of time and money. Surely there were other ways to convert slides to digital? 

Since the advent of the digital camera (and high end cell phone camera too) there are other possible ways to scan slides and when I was in South Africa I did some experimenting. The end results were interesting although some images were a disaster due to focusing issues. My “rig” looked something like this:  

I have a small battery powered pocket slide viewer that I bought in the USA, and it formed the display part of my machine.

I also have a cut down enlarger head stand that enables me to get up close and personal with a document (or slide viewer) parallel to my camera.

And of course my digital camera forms the last part of it all and I initially set the camera on the “Macro” setting and set this up in a dark room with the only illumination coming from the viewer screen. The reality is that I was taking a very close up shot of a displayed slide. 

The output.

It was mixed. Some images came out so well, while others were lousy. The focusing being the biggest issue and that may have been a problem with camera shake or me misfocusing or in some cases the slide is slightly bowed.  I am still sorting the 1331 images that I photographed, so cannot comment on whether this was a success or not. The biggest problem I had was not being able to see the output on a monitor after I did it and now that I am back in the UK I cannot redo the images as the slides are in South Africa. I do however feel that the theory is sound, and I would have liked to have seen what a cell phone camera does under the same conditions, alas I did not have a way to mount one with me so could not try it out. 

I am not done yet and will reserve my verdict till after I have sorted and culled. But it is worth considering as an option if ever slides need digitising. 

To be continued.

DRW © 2019 – 2020. Created 21/03/2019

Photo Essay: Tanks in the wild

When I got my new camera last year I needed to test drive (test fire?) it, and I grabbed some of my tank collection and headed out into the wild. Some of the results were really great. 

World War One battlefields were incredibly muddy and the early rhomboid shaped tanks battled with the terrain. They were more psychological weapons than anything else.

The real live example I photographed in Bovington Tank Museum in 2013. This is called a “Heavy Tank Mk V “Male””. It had a crew of 8 with a top speed of 7.4 kph. This particular vehicle took part in the battle of Amiens in August 1918, and was about as good as this particular style of tank was. It was armed with 2×6 pound (57mm) guns and 2 MG’s. 

I do have a soft spot for the M3 Stuart (aka “Honey”) this little one got somewhat off the beaten track and is waiting for nightfall so that it can move out. It did not want to meet up with the Tiger that  was hiding in the garden. This green Tiger one I picked up in Hong Kong in 2011. It is motorised in spite of it’s small size. 

and this Matilda was also en route to somewhere, although it really was more in use in the Western Desert as opposed to the local mud patch next to the river.

It may not have been the greatest tank around but they were good looking.  They even have one at Bovington.

You have to be very careful on some days that you do not bump into a T55 MBT hiding in the undergrowth. If this one looks familiar it is because it is. This model features the T55 that was in the James Bond movie: Golden Eye.

or even a T34 for that matter, although she may be quite handy against that Tiger I mentioned a bit earlier.

Of course some tracked vehicles try to outdo others, and this PzH 2000 (Panzerhaubitze 2000) 155mm self-propelled howitzer  would probably have a field day shelling Cheltenham or maybe Gloucester.

Fortunately it did not have any ammunition, and at that small scale the shell would have stung quite badly.

Since I took these pics in February last year, my tank collection has grown considerably, and at some point I will take them outside again, I now have 3 Tigers and that could prove to be quite an uneven battle for the Honey. Unfortunately since taking these images I have not been able to find my T55 so I expect it has gone to the big tank graveyard in the sky. On the other hand, I was able to take some more pics of more of my tank collection.

That M4A3 Sherman was just itching to slug it out with a Tiger, and I am going to put my money on the Tiger.

My M2 Grant MK1 also got an airing today, although it tried to avoid bumping into anything larger that it was.

What they didn’t know was that there were 3 Tigers heading in their direction.

The grey Tiger is radio controlled and it even has a recoil action when you “fire” the gun. When things dry out a bit I am going to take it out and try it on this muddy terrain.

This Leopard 1 also got an airing. But there was trouble looming behind it. I seem to think it is a T55, but it is unfortunately not marked.

Until next time when battle will recommence.

Update 04/04/2017:

Cats seem to understand tanks, especially homemade ones.

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 05/02/2017