Fisheye in the Park, West Sussex

Tree in the Park, August 2020

It has been a bleak spring day today, with driving wind and rain. So I thought I would post something from last summer instead.

I go through phases with photography, sometimes for months I will just use digital cameras – and then I will change over and just use film cameras for a while. In August, I was mostly using film. On this occasion, I was running a roll of film through a Lomo Fisheye2 camera. People talk about cameras being light-tight boxes – and this really is one, with a fixed 1/100 th speed shutter and a fisheye lens on the front. Unfortunately, I managed some how to use the roll of film twice, so lots of my images were double exposures! But this one isn’t. And I quite like it. If you look at the film, you can see the rectangle of film and then the circle of the image in the middle of it. I can’t decide if the strange colours at the side of the frame are because of exposure or because of the plastic fantastic lens.

To look at the camera, you might wonder if it was intended for underwater work, with its translucent lens cap and strange styling – but it isn’t!

I think I will try again with another roll of film – I think it would be fun to go to the beach and take pictures in the waves (obviously keeping the camera dry). Beacause of the fixed exposure 1/100th of a second, I would suggest sticking with 400ISO film – I really like Kodak Ultramax.

At ZSL London Zoo, London

As I’m writing this, in the UK we have just entered our third official lockdown, so I thought I would write about a visit I made to ZSL London Zoo early last year, just before our first lockdown.

ZSL London Zoo is located on the edge of Regent’s Park, which while in central London, isn’t very close to any tube stations, which I think is why it isn’t as popular as it could be. It manage to be small and sprawling, with a mixture of large and small enclosures spread across the site.

For this visit, I took my Nikon S2 and an Olympus Mju II (both film cameras)- for this post, I thought I would write a little about the Mju II and share a few observations about it. First of all, as you can see, the weather was rather overcast, so both cameras were loaded with Kodak Ultramax, which is a 400 ISO colour negative film.

Penguin Pool, ZSL London Zoo, February 2020

At the Penguin Pool

I used the Mju II to take some photos of the Penguin Pool, because it has a 35mm F2.8, which was wide enough to capture some of the interior – the 50mm lens on the Nikon would only allow me to take pictures of details.

The Penguin Pool might be the most important surviving Modernist building in the UK. I enjoyed looking around it – it is wonderful collection of sweeping curves constructed from reinforced concrete. I wonder if they ever filmed “Poirot” there? There is very little Modernist architecture in the UK, I suspect because flat roofs and the fairly primative concrete technology of the time made for unsatisfactory buildings. It was designed by Tecton, an architectural practice which comprised many of the leading Modernist architects working in the UK (noteably Bertold Lubetkin and Denys Lansdun). It opened in 1934.

In this case, in 2004, the zoo decided that although it looked great, the enclosure wasn’t a very natural environment, so they moved the penguins to the “Penguin Beach” enclosure. Looking at the space (photographs of when it was in use), I can see that it was fabulous for displaying the penguins – shuffling up the helical ramps and hopping up and down the steps – it made for a very hard environment to live in.

Penguin Pool, ZSL London Zool, February 2020

This is a humbolt penguin in their “newer” residence.

Humboldt Penguin, ZSL London Zoo, February 2020

Looking at these photos, can I say any more about the Mju II?

Well, I think the lens is quite good – all the photos are sharp to the corners. In the penguin photo, I can see that the corners are a little darker than the centre of the frame, so I think close to wide open, it vignettes a bit. I tried to focus on the penguin’s head, but missed and got its neck instead. Or perhaps I was just too close to the subject – I remember holding my hand over the glass.

I liked the size of the camera. Lots of cameras are “almost” pocketable, but with its lozenge shape, it easily slipped in and out of my pocket all day. After staring at the back of so many digital cameras, I was pleased this one had a viewfinder to look through – I wished it was a bit bigger though. And the exposures seem – spot on.

Evening Sky, Horsham

Evening Sky, Horsham, West Sussex August 2020

Time passes. This photo is from a test roll I did on a (new to me) camera. I think it was mid-evening when I took it and as you can see, the Sun is setting. As I’m writing this, it is a similar time of day – but it is completely dark outside (and has been for a couple of hours). I am almost 50 years old, I know the science, but the seasons still amaze me.

I love the delicate range of colours and the whispy white clouds. So it is a “shapes” photo rather than a “things” photo.

I remember as I was walking around the park, I was thinking, that if we could get everything back to normal by the end of the year – then all the inconvienience would have been worth it. But – things aren’t back to normal!

Morning Sun, West Sussex

Morning Sun, West Sussex August 2020

How has your life changed in the last few months?

One of the things I like about life now, are my early morning walks on the parkland near where I live. When I was working, my morning was dominated by my need to get to work – which was always some way away from where I lived. And I’m sure lots of people who lived miles away would have rushing to get to work near where I lived.

Anyway, a pleasure of the last 6 months has been the change from spring into summer. It has got light earlier and earlier and, obviously, warmer too.

A challenge of this photo is the change from the original to this form – for some reason, the shadows looked “richer” if that makes sense. I still like the effect of the light on the grass and the gravel.

Inka, Somerset

Inka, nr. Bath, Somerset August 2020

They say, “Don’t work with animals or children”. But as you can see, some animals make good subjects. I like that he has given me good eye contact – I think I did something to get his attention (shameless preformer that I am). People make all sorts of claims for their portraits, but I think I have shown what Inka is like at least some of the time. I think I will use this as an illustration for a lens review I am working on for my YouTube channel: It is sharp and can help achieve a narrow depth of focus by his face.

Tree, Vietnam

Tree, Reunification Palace, HCMC, Vietnam 2014

I didn’t visit the Reunification Palace while I lived in Ho Chi Minh City, only seeing it when I returned to the country on a flying visit.

The building has a rather theatrical quality, which makes me think of a film set. The gardens, but contrast, are cool, dark and rather inviting, with lots of shade to hide from the sun in. Unusually for me, I took lots of pictures of the trees which all looked unique and characterful. I liked this one best. It has a monumental quality.

Leaves, Shanghai

Leaves, People’s Park, Shanghai 2011

Another leaf photo!

I’m not sure the species of tree this is – perhaps maple (it has a 5 finger leaf), but I remember thinking how beautiful it looked. On anything but the calmest of days, closeups are hard to photograph because of subject movement.

I took this photo in People’s Park which is one of the most famous attractions in Shanghai (it was built on the former Shanghai Racecourse – the idea of a racecourse in a downtown area of a city seems extraordinary to me).

Take My Picture, Athens

Take My Picture, Athens, Georgia, USA 2000

Most of the time, people don’t want you to take their picture – or would rather you didn’t- but sometimes they do.

As I remember it, I had gone to Athens to watch a Georgia Bulldogs football game (I think it was against Ole Miss) and when I took this picture, I was trying to sniff out some tickets. Anyway, I was wandering around downtown Athens (which looked very nice) when this guy shouted,”Hey! Take my picture!”. So I did. And I quite like it.

For the technically curious, I was using a Holga camera (a lo-fi camera) and Tri-X.