Brookwood Cemetery

New girlfriend, work, travel, jazz gigs, breaking up with girlfriend, gym, travel, new girlfriend, politics, work, boxing, breaking up with girlfriend. These are just some of the trivialities over the last 12 months that have cut in to my available time for doing the more important things in life. Like wandering round old cemeteries.

Camera: Mamiya 645 Pro TL
Film: Ilford Delta 100
Process: Developed in D76 1+1

brookwood cemetery

At 500 acres, Brookwood was the largest cemetery in the world when it opened in 1854, and it’s still the UK’s largest today. I’m really lucky in that it’s just a short drive from me, but best of all is that its occupants give me just the right level of social interaction I’m looking for at the moment.

If I lived on the equator then I’d see the sun 90° overhead at noon. But in the UK, even at the height of summer it only reaches around 60°, and in winter doesn’t even make 20°. The cemetery’s filled with hundreds of very tall trees that the sun doesn’t have a hope of peaking over at this time of year. It’s a challenge to find areas where the sun can break through. But where it does, you get those long raking shadows I’m rather fond of.

Smack bang in the centre of the cemetery lies the Saint Edward Shrine Church. This and the buildings beyond belong to the Saint Edward Brotherhood, a small Orthodox Christian monastery that was formed in 1982 to care for the Church in which the sacred relics of Saint Edward the Martyr are enshrined. Edward was the eldest son of King Edgar the Peaceful, but was not his father’s acknowledged heir. On Edgar’s death in the year 975 the leadership of England was contested, with some supporting Edward’s claim to be king and others supporting his younger nephew Harry. Edward was eventually chosen as king, after which Harry went on to marry an American television actress, Lady Megan of Markle.

The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown.
~ William Cowper

I see a great deal of discussion online about people’s techniques for shooting film and the way in which they experiment. A lot of stuff is along the lines of “Yeah I know FP4 is rated at 125, but I’m shooting it at 71.5 iso and then dropping it in bucket of developer for a week that I made myself out of organic unicorn fur and lard.” It does sometimes seem that the experimentation is more important than actually creating pleasing pictures. And that’s absolutely fine of course, because we should all just be doing what we enjoy.

Most of my own experimentation these days is with darkroom printing, but that’s only because I still don’t know what I’m doing. But when it comes to developing film, I’ve spent many years whittling down the films and developers I use in order to produce consistent and predictable results. For example, with medium format it’s always FP4 and Tri-X stand developed in Rodinal. It consistently gives me results I‘m happy with. But with the recent renaissance in traditional photography that I don’t think many people saw coming, and with new emulsions coming to the market and old ones reborn, maybe now’s the time for me to be a bit more adventurous again.

I was rummaging through the film box in my fridge and found two rolls of Delta 100 that had just slipped past it expiry date. Developed with some D76 that really needed to be used up, and I’m happy with the results. Oh yeah, I’m really starting to mix things up a bit now. Crazy, eh?

Right, I’m off to round up a few unicorns.


Fifty One

November means my birthday, and as always my birthday means a trip to Herefordshire to spend it with my Mum. 51 this year. I never saw that coming…

Camera: Fujifilm X100T

Next door neighbour Barbara’s house

Hereford Cathedral


Recently….

Bits & pieces from the last month or so….

I’ve been telling myself for quite a while that I don’t need any more cameras. And surprisingly, for most of that time I’ve been listening to myself. But I have been thinking about the Voigtländer Vito series of cameras for some time, and when I came across this one in pristine condition for £25 I was tempted. Throw in a Voigtländer shoe-mounted rangefinder and an after-market instruction guide, plus the fact the seller claim to have film-tested it, and I was sold.

The Vito BL is a 35mm viewfinder camera with a 50mm f/3.5 lens. The serial number engraved on the lens barrel dates in to about 1958 (source). This is a solid piece of German engineering, and would have cost just over £30 when new bought new. That’s around about two weeks average wages back then, so a fair chunk of money. I was particuarly surpised but delighted to find that the uncoupled selenium meter is still working, although I haven’t tested it for accuracy yet. I probably won’t use it as top plate mounted meters can be a bit of a fiddle. But let’s see how it goes.

Camera: Nikon F90X
Film: Kodak Tmax 400
Process: Developed in D76 1+1



The Empire Music Hall Theatre, Kingston Upon Thames. Opened in 1910, it’s now a Wetherspoons pub. I guess that’s what they call progress…. 🙁

Kingston
Camera: Fujifilm X100T


Obama Burgers!!

Olympus 35 RC, 1970s pint-sized pocket rangefinder. I got mine from Trip Man, £100 including new seals and skin, and guranteed for 6 months. You can get them cheaper if you’re prepared to play Ebay roulette.

The RC takes the now defunct PX625 1.35V mercury batteries. There are several possibilities here. One is to use the Weincell Zinc Air replacement, which has the advantage of matching the original 1.35 voltage. The downside is they are a bit expensive and have a fairly short life. There are other PX625 replacements available, but they tend to have a voltage of around 1.55V and so require you to compensate by adjusting the ISO. In the end I decided to splash out and spend £30 on the MR-9 adaptor from The Small Battery Company. This allows you to use the cheap and readily available silver oxide cell (SR-43 or silver 386) and adjusts the output to the correct 1.35v. It’s important to remember to always use a silver oxide battery as alkaline batteries tend to give inconsistent results.

Geraldine and me at the Pitcher & Piano, Richmond

Piccadilly, London
Camera: Fujifilm X100T

A quick Autumn day trip to Oxford with Lynn
Camera: Fujifilm X100T

DSCF9403

This film’s been kicking around in the FE for a few months. I really need to use this camera more; it’s fantastic.

Camera: Nikon FE
Film: Kodak Tmax 400
Process: Developed in D76 1+1

Always good when I manage to sneak myself in the picture

Head in the clouds

You can never have too much camera porn

A new Anouar Braham album is always something to look forward to….

And finally…always end on a positive


Put Up Or Shut Up: Olympus XA2

I don’t have a particularly large collection of cameras. In fact, if I’m being pedantic, I don’t really consider I have a collection of cameras at all; they were all bought to be used and not to be put on a shelf. Nevertheless, as I’ve settled in to the five or six I use regularly, on the shelf is exactly where the remainder now spend much of their time. Of course, if it wasn’t for trying all of these cameras I wouldn’t have been able to find the ones I really love to use, but that aside, it’s time for those slackers to put up or shut up. So here’s the plan: I’m going to bung each of these cameras in turn into my bag or pocket, and carry it round with me on a daily basis until I’ve shot a roll or two. I don’t plan to use any of these as my main camera during that time, or to use them solely to capture specific events. Just to be there to shoot some everyday snaps. I also don’t intend to review them as the internet already has enough fantastic camera reviewers that do a better job than I ever could. I’ll just say the things that I like and dislike about each camera; what I love and what drives me nuts. And most importantly, whether it’s a keeper or not.

First up: Olympus XA2.

This tiny 35mm compact came to me about six years ago in a little bundle of cameras from a friend who worked in a charity store. In exchange for a donation, I got this and a couple of 1990s plastic monstrosities. The others I secretly donated to another charity store rather than appear ungrateful, but the XA2 came complete in its box with manual and flash. I don’t think I’ve ever used it. It has fully automatic exposure, a three zone focus selector, and a f/3.5 35mm lens. And that’s it. There’s no exposure lock, but potentially you can gain some control of exposure by altering the ISO setting, which ranges from 25 to 800. But why would you? I don’t think you buy this sort of camera if you are going to faff around. It’s a compact, carry everywhere, point and shoot kind of thing. And I carried it everywhere for a month or so.

OK, so here we go.For the first roll of film I used Kodak Tmax 400…

One word to describe the London skyline these days? Cranes.

x

c

That’s the South African flag flapping in the wind, atop South Africa House. I queued for several hours in 2013 with the woman formerly known as my girlfriend to sign the book of condolence for Nelson Mandela. Somewhere our names and words remain inscribed next to each other.

This ornate building is along The Mall, the road that leads up to Buckingham Palace. I’m not sure what goes on here.

These were taken on the pro-Europe march back in September.

111

As I was crossing over Westminster Bridge there seemed to be some kind of crazy boat race going on. No idea what that was about.

2017-100-034

I can’t be sure what nationality this woman is, but odds-on she’s Chinese. This is something I’ve seen more and more in London over the last few years. Pre-wedding photo shoots are very popular amongst the Chinese middle classes these days. It’s not only Chinese students who are studying here, but people come to London specifically to have their photos taken in front of famous London landmarks. In this case it was St. Paul’s Cathedral. There’s a big market in London for this now, and companies are springing up that don’t just take the photographs, they also do the hair and makeup, and even provide the wedding clothes.

Having lunch with friends in Paternoster Square. People are not normally as excited as this to see me

This bronze sculpture by Elisabeth Frink has been in the square since 1975.

This ones a temporary installation for Blood Cancer Awareness Month: 104 giant names to represent the 104 people diagnosed with blood cancer each day in the UK.

Eating bananas is serious business

The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square

The Elizabeth Tower is currently undergoing four years of refurbishment. That also means four years of silence from the bongs of Big Ben in order to protect the hearing of the workers. Cue howls of ‘PC gone mad’ & ‘Nanny State’ from a tabloid press frothing at the mouth.
‘We never worried about these kind of things when I was a lad and it never did me no harm’, claimed Barry Gobshite, a retired construction worker I may have just made up. When asked if he thought that people today were just namby-pamby snowflakes, he responded ‘Can you speak up a bit?’

Foreground building: Since the last five years we’ve been gradually outgrowing our Heathrow office, to the point where we’ve had to rent the ground floor of an adjacent building to fit everyone in. With the lease being up for renewal in 2018, the company spent quite a bit of effort looking round for a suitable building capable of housing everyone.

Background building: In the end it was decided just to build a bigger brand new building next door. As you do. The outside is now pretty much complete and we’re expected to move in Q1 2018.

I had to change the film at this point, and as I knew I’d be travelling to somewhere sunny in the next few days, I dropped in a roll of Tmax 100. The new building looks deceptively small in this shot.

That sunny place is Nice on the French Riviera, where we have a couple of campuses. This was taken after arriving at Nice Côte d’Azur Airport.

When visiting the offices in Nice I normally book one of the usual corporate identikit hotels like the Holiday Inn, but a little bit of googling found the wondeful Villa Azur for not much more money right on the beach. Those are actually chairs on the sun terrace.

A couple of miles inland to our Belair offices

These pictures don’t at all do justice to how wonderful the views of the Alps and the sea are from the grounds

When it comes to compacts, as far as I’m concerned the Olympus Trip is the one that every other camera is going to be compared unfavourably to. That said, the XA2 has a pretty sharp and contrasty lens, and the exposure meter was spot on in every shot. The one thing that did drive me mad was the hair trigger response of the shutter button. You only have to look at it out the corner of your eye and it goes off. I have more than one snap of my feet.

The main point of this exercise is to either find a hidden gem or to reclaim some shelf space. The XA2 doesn’t do anything that my Trip doesn’t do slightly better. It really should go. But its small, by far the smallest camera I own. And it came complete in the box with the and flash and everything. And parting with a decent camera is not as easy as I thought it might be.

Verdict? Keeper. Relectuantly. Damn.


The People’s March for Europe

These photos were taken on a pro-European march a few weeks back. I should probably write a bit more about it, but since legislation was introduced in the late 1990s to make civil discussion about politics on the internet illegal, I’ve found it’s best just to keep quiet.

London, Sep 09 2017
Camera: Nikon F90x
Film: Kodak Tmax 400
Process:Developed in D76 1+1

3