The one you have with you

london-at-night

Many of my phone-photographer friends and work colleagues think I’m just a little bit eccentric for nearly always having an ‘old fashioned’ camera with me on most days.  At my age I think it’s probably OK and possibly compulsory to be eccentric so not a problem…..

Here’s a grab shot from my journey home the other night.  We were walking across Waterloo Bridge when I looked East and saw this scene (actually I saw it a few minutes earlier when the moon was rising behind St Paul’s Cathedral but this was the best of my images).  I wasn’t the only one there by any means… there were several tripods around and lots of what can only have been professional kit (the kind of lenses you normally only see around football pitches or on safari….which come with the kind of prices you make sure are paid by somebody else).  And of course I wasn’t in the slightest bit envious given the camera I normally carry is a fixed wide-angle lens Fuji X100S (OK, maybe a little).  I gave it a bit of extra reach with the TCL convertor which gets it all the way to a standard 50mm field of view in 35mm terms, leant against the railings and gave it my best shot….

I really enjoyed spending about 10 minutes here, trying to get the best composition I could (there’s almost no crop here, it’s pretty much the whole image) and making sure it was as sharp as I could get it.  After a bit of experimentation, I ended up using a low ISO (400) to keep the noise down, a faster aperture than I’d originally planned (f2.8) and an exposure time of 1/4 second.  I’m quite pleased with the end result.

The guy next to me with the kind of lens that comes in its own suitcase got a superb image of the cross on the top of St Paul’s silhouetted against the moon, and was busy sending that to some agency across the Interweb.  But I captured one of my favourite views of London – the city lit up by the river – which I never tire from.  I’ve no doubt I’ll be taking future photographs of this view too, using whatever camera that’s with me at the time – after all as the saying goes, it’s the best one I’ll have.

Hooray – a project!

Been spending rather a lot of spare time decorating recently – I need to get my spare room finished before the Christmas break and family visits.  So, combined with life in general, time for photography has been rare.

Thank goodness for daughters!

x1002863-edit

Especially when they have started to study for a graphic design degree, and especially when they have just attended a photography class, and especially when they have a project and thought it would be nice if dad came along too.

x1002871-edit

These photographs were all taken around Paddington (above) and Paternoster Square (below), and feature various functional architecture designed by Knight Architects and by Thomas Heatherwick. The photo above is of his ‘rolling bridge’ across Paddington Basin, and is preceded by a photo of the Knight Architects’ Fan Bridge just around the corner.  For further details of these amazing pieces of design see the following links:

Fan Bridge video

Rolling Bridge video

Nearby was the HQ of a well known British department store with Heatherwick designed vents.  Sadly as soon as I took a photo of those, a security guard popped out and asked me to delete them from my memory card because of the ‘Data Protection Act’.  Absolutely bonkers and clearly nothing to do with data protection at all, but we had too much to do to spend ages arguing with him; besides, he didn’t ask my daughter to delete the photos she’d taken and he hadn’t noticed.

At this time of the year it gets dark quickly, so the light had mostly gone by the time we got to our final destination – the Paternoster Vents (also known as Angel’s Wings) close to St Paul’s Cathedral.

x1002875-edit-edit-edit

I could have spent a long time here but I was running late for a colleague’s leaving-do from work so grabbed a few quick shots before heading off as it was beer o’clock.  I’ll be back though – it’s walking distance from the hospital where I work and with time and patience I think there are some great images to be made here.

x1002882-edit-edit-edit

This little set was also a nice ‘one camera one lens’ project – I was using a Fuji X100S so it only has one focal length and I had to zoom with my feet accordingly.  It’s a lovely camera to use in the city.

Hopefully there’ll be more daughter-inspired projects to come…including some involving film as she has a darkroom at her University and I have my Yashica TL Electro and a load of film from Poundland that needs to be used.  Watch this space.

Cheers,

Jon

I hate Mondays

In my previous post I mentioned the gentrification of Brixton and the way in which many local traders are being evicted from their long-standing shops around the railway arches. Despite a campaign with much local support, the evictions by Network Rail, with support from Lambeth Council, have continued.  Not so long ago, the arch below contained a fishmongers that had been trading for decades.  There are only four family owned businesses left in these arches, and they’re taking Network Rail to court; I only hope they win otherwise another bit of local London history will have disappeared as the place becomes an identikit row of coffee shops, estate agents and mobile phone dealers like so much of the rest of the UK.

_1000060-edit

Still, no time for hanging around – I needed to get to work.  In the end that involved some hanging around after all; I couldn’t get on to the tube!  See below.  This is why I should cycle to work more often…..

_1000063-edit-edit

Perhaps the week will get better – although as my boiler broke today so there’s no heating or hot water, I might just write this one off!  Just love cold showers at this time of year.  In desperation, it’s getting close to whisky o’clock (in the interest of keeping warm).

(for those interested, both photos from D Lux typ 109 and processed using SilverEfex Pro).

Cheers,

Jon

The weekend draws to a close…

… and it’s a shame that when the Autumn light is looking good, I’ve come down with some kind of minor lurgy; not man-flu but enough to make me do rather little this weekend.  My partner did advise me to wrap up and go out if the sun came out though, so I did as she instructed this afternoon and went out for an hour around our local park – a few images below.  It wasn’t the most marvellous of golden lights, but it was nice to get out for a bit and I enjoyed trying to get a few images along the way.

_1000053-edit

_1000055-edit-edit

So it’s back to business as usual tomorrow, with the walk to the tube on the way to work – pictures of that below too.  Actually the walk to the tube is an interesting 20-25 minute stroll through side streets to Brixton (where all three pictures were taken), which has ‘come up in the world’ in a way that probably appeals very much to the increasingly wealthy south London middle class, but perhaps rather less to the Brixton locals who are being priced out of their homes and shops as the whole place becomes gentrified.  There’s a lot of interesting graffiti currently as local shop owners in the railway arches protest about being evicted from their units by the landlord (Network Rail) – more information for those interested here: savebrixtonarches.com.

l1000022
Ridiculously quiet – it’s not normally like this in the morning!  That’s Fridays for you….

l1000020

l1000019

I’m feeling guilty about the delays between posts on this blog so I must do better!  One help might be that I’ve re-started using my little Leica D Lux again (clone of the Panasonic LX100) which is small enough to stash in the corner of my work bag but good enough to take images of surprisingly high quality.  I’ve been swayed by Fuji JPEGs recently, but the D Lux is so much smaller and the image quality very good if you’re prepared to process from raw (the JPEGs lose too much detail even if the noise reduction is turned down all the way).  I’m enjoying using it, so there may be more blog posts to come in the near future.

Have a good week….

Jon

Ridiculous Hipster part ii…. the results are in….

First film-2

My last post was about my EBay bargain of the century – a Yashica TL Electro 35mm SLR bought for the princely sum of £3:90 plus £2 postage.  This post follows a bit of TLC in the form of new light seals (helped along by a nice glass of wine and some decent music as recommended by Jon Goodman who supplied the kit), and the first roll of film – Agfa Vista which is available from Poundland for, you guessed it, £1.  I understand it’s actually a rebranded Fujifilm but no problems with that – in fact it struck me after doing the processing that the colours aren’t dissimilar to the slightly muted “Classic Chrome” profile I get from my Fuji digital cameras.

First film-3

The first thing that pleased me was the whole experience of using film in a completely manual camera – I had to slow down and think; no bad thing.  And most of the exposures came out well – the exposure meter is obviously doing a decent job, because I adjusted the exposure value up or down pretty much exactly as I would have done with a modern camera and got the results I wanted.  I guess that may also be partly down to print film being much more forgiving than digital on that front.

First film-8

I’ve never processed a C41 film before so this was also something of a first for me.  I bought a Rollei Digibase kit that is good for about 10 rolls of film, spent a little while last Friday evening mixing all the chemicals up, and about half an hour on Saturday morning remembering how to load a film spiral and home-developing my first ever roll of colour film.  I’m not sure I got it quite right – the colours were a little muted and needed a bit of a boost after scanning into Lightroom, which I think may be either to do with temperature or developing time, but I’ve got another 9 rolls of film and hopefully practise will make perfect.

First film-6

And on the subject of scanning, I could probably do with a better one really.  I’ve got an Epson V370 and I reckon I can easily get a decent 7″x 5″ from it, and probably a perfectly usable 10″x 8″.  Not sure I’d go much higher though – I’d need to use digital interpolation (OnOne Perfect Resize aka Genuine Fractals) even to get the best 7″x 5″ I think.  That said, my scans were easily as good as anything I got from high street film processors when I paid for the service from them – and probably better than some.

First film-7
Some poor technique on this one – drying marks on the negative in the lower LH corner.  I know better for next time.

So the bottom line is that I really enjoyed some ‘old school’ photography and particularly enjoyed doing the film processing at home – it all felt like a bit more of an achievement than sending off to a lab.  And for that matter more of an achievement than shooting and reshooting on digital until you get the image you wanted in the first place.  I’m not sure I’d trust either myself or my ancient film camera for an important once-in-a-lifetime project.  But I am looking forward to taking it out for a bit of ‘Sunday driving’ every now and again.

First film-4

Finally for those interested, the lens used for these is a beautiful old Pentax Super Takumar 55mm/1.8 M42 lens.  It’s in stunning condition and I intend using it as a portrait lens on my Fuji digital cameras too – it’ll be great for that.  The build quality of this £25 EBay special puts nearly all modern lenses to shame unless you’re prepared to spend megabucks, and I think the image quality is none too shabby either.

Cheers,

Jon

Done it all before….

In common with many, one of my favourite parts of London for a quick wander is the South Bank, especially the section between Waterloo and Tower Bridge.  The regeneration of this area has been spectacular over the c30 years that I’ve lived in London, and it’s become a vibrant and busy hub where the locals meet, leaving nearby Covent Garden for the tourists.

London 16 June 2016-9
Views from the National Theatre towards Charing Cross

One of the problems for photography, however, is that it’s all been done before – there are only so many photographs that you want to take of the view of St Paul’s from the Tate Modern end of the Millenium Bridge, and the same is true of many of the other well-known landmarks.

London 16 June 2016-10
“Festival of Neighbourhood” mural on the side of the South Bank Centre.  Rather apt image given some of the depressing happenings in the world currently

One option is to concentrate much more on street photography and candid shots of people.  Another is to look harder and see if there’s a way of photographing the familiar sites but with a twist.  So that’s what I tried to do yesterday evening, and I’m happy with a few of the results.  This was also a ‘one camera one lens’ session, using the Fuji 27mm pancake lens on my X Pro-1.  The more I use my Fuji’s the more impressed I am with the image quality, and the X Pro is a great deal of fun as long as you’re not in a hurry – it’s one of those cameras that encourages you to slow down.  Which is probably a good thing.

London 16 June 2016-11
Another mural on the side of the South Bank Centre.  The guy below was having a very lengthy animated phone conversation
London 16 June 2016-3
One of those images you get when you turn your back to the classic scene.  Most people look towards St Paul’s Cathedral from here, using the bridge as a very handy leading line towards the cathedral.  I’ve tried that shot to death so here’s my attempt at something different – the Tate Modern viewed through the structure of the Millenium Bridge
London 16 June 2016
An example of what happens when you just get a few steps off the beaten path… one of London’s many green spaces but blink and you’d miss it
London 16 June 2016-2
Always worth looking down little alleyways
London 16 June 2016-5
Blackfriars Bridge, and its station covered with solar panels.  Must be useful on a day like this!
London 16 June 2016-6
Gabriel’s Wharf – another shot taken in the ‘wrong’ direction.  If I’d turned the other way I’d have had a classic view of the City and the Oxo Tower…..
London 16 June 2016-7
…. so I tried to get a slightly different image of that view, by getting down to the beach and then wandering under the pier to see how it would work as a frame.  I think this is one of my stronger images from the afternoon
London 16 June 2016-8
…and here’s the other one.  Classic view of the City and the Oxo Tower, with a twist.  After this picture I decided my job was done for the day – time to go home

Ridiculous old hipster

XPRO4270

Always dangerous to look at EBay on a Sunday…. I’d been wondering about a bit of film photography for a while but wasn’t prepared to spend a fortune on kit.  When I found a Yashica body in what looked like pretty good condition for the princely sum of less than a tenner incl P&P, I decided to push the button….

XPRO4271
Bugger – nobody told me they didn’t put LCDs on these things

The seller wasn’t sure if the light meter worked (after tracking down some modern replacements for the mercury cells that aren’t legal anymore, I can confirm it does, which is a bonus) but given the camera is totally mechanical I decided to take the risk.

It reminds me very much of the Pentax Spotmatic I learnt on years ago, given to me by my father when he upgraded, but the prices of those are really quite high when they’re in good condition, whereas the Yashica goes for virtually nothing – same price as a Zenit or Practica but I think it has a little more upmarket appeal!

It does need some new light seals though, and I was really pleased to find out that Jon Goodman in Texas (who used to market “Interslice” kits on EBay) sells those if you contact him direct, so a kit is on its way and will be put to good use one rainy evening (of which we are having plenty in our particularly awful British summer this year).

XPRO4272
Just love being able to see every setting at a glance, and without having to power the camera on!

Of course the camera by itself is of little use, so then I had to shop for lenses too!  I think it’s most likely going to be put to use for some urban/street photography so I found a couple of cheap M42 mount lenses to go with it – an Optomax 35/2.8 of which I have few expectations other than it’ll probably be better than I expect, and a Pentax Super Takumar 55/1.8 which I’m really looking forward to using.  The latter is also going to be put to work on my Fuji digital kit as it’ll be a great portrait lens (esp given the slight yellowing of its elements/coatings).  Bargain too – it’s in almost mint condition and cost £25.  Which is more than the Optomax….

XPRO4306
Loving the build quality of this little Pentax gem of a lens.  The 55mm length works well for me on “full frame” and crop sensors too, so it’ll be put to good use

So, kit sorted for about the same price as a spare OEM battery for a modern digital camera.  Then one of the sellers told me where to get cheap film….

….so off to Poundland I went, and sure enough I came back with five lots of Agfa 24 exp 200ASA film for a fiver.  It’s rebranded Fuji film as far as I  understand, and I’m sure performs pretty acceptably for that price.  My intention is to process the film at home, as that should be half of the fun, and then scan in the negatives for final processing on the computer (I don’t have a darkroom and don’t want to set one up).  That way I can keep the costs down as low as possible too (processing at home costs about a quarter of the price they charge at my local Snappy Snaps).  I’ve never processed C41 before, so I suspect I have a bit of a learning curve.  Possibly a topic for another post at some point, but in the meantime, here’s another final pic of my hipster-accessory:

XPRO4269