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Archive for July, 2013

Mead vs Mead on Fermentation Avenue

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Before anybody fillets our backsides for this post just remember it’s our opinion. You’re perfectly entitled to enjoy something we’d spit on the ground or swallow with polite grimaces. If you’re looking for a wine-wince then great. But we’ve got other obsessions with mead and the tongue is our compass.

And, to be honest, one of the resounding issues with educating the market about mead in the modern context is anybody can pretty much put anything made with honey into a shiny bottle and sell it at the market labeled “mead” or “honey wine”. Good mead. Bad mead. And that confuses the market for mead as first tasters draw assumptions based on their exposure. In the long run, I’m not sure people flogging bad or mediocre mead are doing the mead category a great service. It just makes educating that market a little more difficult.

A bad mead often tastes like fusel alcohol. Boozy to the throat and nostrils. And you may or may not like that boozy taste in alcoholic drinks, but to us it’s not good mead. Fusel alcohol is the mark of a mistake – ambient temperatures above 22 Celcius during fermentation.

A bad mead can also inhabit a flavour spectrum from sulpher through to an unnatural bitter. These flavours usually relate to poor nitrogen or low PH through the fermentation process. Unhealthy yeast makes for unhealthy tastes and aromas.

Infected mead caused through low hygiene practices can also be an issue. If it smells like a toilet then you probably have shit in your glass. Re-read the label, perhaps it’s just an exotic recipe. Judgement call on that one.

However, we do embrace a certain latitude of wild yeast contribution to add complexity to our melomels and cysers. The result can be a risk worth embracing. So don’t mix wild yeast up in your head with a bad sanitation regime. Some people appear to get that confused.

And then there’s plain old not-so-memorable disappointing mead. One of life’s never-ending tragedies in the glass.

Sometimes we taste a mead and it’s like somebody handed over a bottle of watered down raw honey. Lacking character and soul. It disappoints because mead has such a profound potential to play exotic notes, while that particular mazer has chosen to play a single safe key with the honey. Some people love simple notes. We don’t. So it’s a matter of personal taste.

Another contentious issue is whether a cloudy mead can be a good mead. And we’re from the school of it depends on the cloudy mead. There are plenty of examples where traditional cloudy meads are a cultural landmark and one can hardly fault the recipe or taste of a nation. The cloudiness of spice is good. The cloudiness of sediment from the dead yeast inside a fermentation tank is not good. Crystal clear mead is nice, but it’s not the final criteria.

Reduce/Avoid Risk of Dust on Film Negatives

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

One of the major killers of a good film image can be the accumulation of dust and lint – pet hair, jumper lint, dandruff. I’ve spent endless hours clone stamping film scans to remove this garbage but the easiest and most efficient cure is to avoid dust (almost) entirely. So I thought it worth sharing my no-dust film processing/scanning regime.

I rarely get any dust at all now (maybe 1-to-3 spots on a 120 film negative). Often my film negatives scan without any dust. I have a pretty tight process.

My film negatives are loaded onto a spool for a Paterson Developing Tank so the first part of the regime is to always have a lint free dark bag. Bare arms only. The bag is kept in a sealed plastic lunch box until required. The tank, as it gets assembled, is blown free of any dust or lint by using a Giotto air blower. And I wear cotton or linen; not wool.

With the tank loaded the next step is the developing process in our bathroom. I never process in that bathroom on a breezy day. So, if it’s a reasonable day I turn the hot water on in the shower to build an intense steam. I turn the water off after a few minutes and walk away until the steam has dissipated.

Then the bathroom gets a good wet-dust with a handy kitchen sponge. Start with the windows, sills, tops and faces of doors; anywhere you would hit dust it needs to be removed. Keep the sponge clean by holding it under warm tap water to de-lint the surface. Then mop the floor. Why? Because every piece of dust that fell out of the air with the steam process fell and attached itself somewhere.

At this point the film processing can commence. When the film has had two minutes at the end in wetting agent – film goes into a drying cabinet. My drying cabinet is made with fencing wire covered by a wedding dress dust cover. It cost $10 to build. The drying cabinet is carried to the loungeroom.

The next day it’s time to scan those film negatives. And I can tell you my office is a small non-commercial meadery combined with a general office space. It’s an old bedroom with carpet and the carboys of mead are covered in blankets. All potential nightmares for the dust regime.

I get a damp tea towel and wipe the computer monitors, the computer, keyboard, mouse, modem, speakers and around the entire top of the desk. Be meticulous. Then I hit any open horizontal surface with that damp-dusting until all the obvious villains are captured.

Finally, the trick is to vacuum the office and the chair as best as can be achieved without disturbing anything else in that office.

And voila, film is removed from the cabinet one small section at a time for scanning. It’s loaded into the holder on top of a fresh piece of typing paper. And I rarely see any dust. Often never.

Yes, it’s a bit of effort. But that’s a lot easier than spending the next day clone stamping all that dust and lint away. And lint-free negatives look finer than lint-laden negatives.

Contacts Documentary Series (Volumes 1-3)

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

This is a list of links to episodes of an interesting photography documentary series that I enjoyed a while ago – Contacts Volumes 1-3. It covers photojournalism, contemporary and conceptual photography as well known photographers discuss their contact sheets. It reveals a lot about how they think and work.

The Great Tradition of Photojournalism

  1. Contacts Vol 1: Henri Cartier-Bresson – 11 mins
  2. Contacts Vol 1: Edouard Boubat – 14 mins
  3. Contacts Vol 1: Josef Koudelka – 12 mins
  4. Contacts Vol 1: William Klein – 14 mins
  5. Contacts Vol 1: Don McCullin – 13 mins
  6. Contacts Vol 1: Helmut Newton – 12 mins
  7. Contacts Vol 1: Marc Riboud – 12 mins
  8. Contacts Vol 1: Leonard Freed – 12 mins
  9. Contacts Vol 1: Elliott Erwitt – 12 mins
  10. Contacts Vol 1: Robert Doisneau – 14 mins
  11. Contacts Vol 1: Raymond Depardon – 12 mins
  12. Contacts Vol 1: Mario Giacomelli – 13 mins

The Renewal of Contemporary Photography

  1. Contacts Vol 2: Araki – 13 mins
  2. Contacts Vol 2: Sophie Calle – 12 mins
  3. Contacts Vol 2: Duane Michals – 13 mins
  4. Contacts Vol 2: Nan Goldin – 12 mins
  5. Contacts Vol 2: Lewis Baltz – 13 mins
  6. Contacts Vol 2: Jeff Wall – 14 mins
  7. Contacts Vol 2: Andreas Gursky – 13 mins
  8. Contacts Vol 2: Hiroshi Sugimoto – 13 mins
  9. Contacts Vol 2: Thomas Ruff – 12 mins
  10. Contacts Vol 2: Sarah Moon – 12 mins
  11. Contacts Vol 2: Jean-Marc Bustamante – 13 mins

Read the rest of this entry »

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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