Obliquepanic phototgraphs

Hasselblad woes

As rather an impulse buy I thought I would re-enter the medium format world that I remember vividly from my teens. Working with film seemed so familiar and natural. After looking at a bewildering variety of Hasselblads on Ebay I thought I would go up to the Camera Museum in Bloomsbury and look in the flesh. Or rather, I was passing by on the way back from a meeting and dropped in for a coffee in their nice, always quiet coffee shop then could not resist venturing into the little cupboard that is their shop. I went back on Saturday, after killing time in the London Review of Books and dished out on a Hasselblad of mixed vintage. As below:

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This is a tricky camera to use. First, even with the modern bright screen it is not easy to focus and composing with horizontal horizons is also difficult. I had the fantasy that anything I took with this camera would be a masterpiece. Sweetly they gave me four free rolls of film and I was quick to get the first roll developed. I wanted to check that the camera worked properly for one thing. The body dated from the 1980s but the back – where the film lives – was much older, possibly from the 1960s.
Here’s two of the 12 frames I took, developed by Rapid Eye in Leonard Street just around the corner from here and scanned by them.

There is obvious light leak apparent in the first picture. And there is more on other pictures – though none apparent on the picture of two friends. A search on Google reveals that these leaks are not unusual on aged Hasselblads. Some say that they routinely replace the light seals whenever they buy a film back. So sadly I will be returning to the Camera Museum to get a repair – under their useful six month warranty. this might not have been so easy had I bought on Ebay – mind you it seems cheap and easy to fit these yourself – as someone at Rapid eye told me. Annoying all the same. You wonder why the camera shop did not do this routinely.
Here’s a nice and short video of someone trying out the same camera – and also walked some of the same route that I took by the Thames. There is even my bridge Southwark in all its green glory in the background. His pictures are so much more interesting than mine.

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Nikkor 14-24mm out and about

In the post below I talk about trying this lens just out of the box. Here I take it out to the streets of a rainy afternoon in Cambridge.

tiny street in Cambridge

Benet Street Cambridge

Demolition of University Arms Hotel Cambridge

Finally back at home in the kitchen:

Daffodils in Cambridge Kitchen

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Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8

Lens lust and curiosity has led me to buy this wide angle with consistently good, or should I say ‘glow in the dark’ reviews. Of the so called holy trinity of Nikon lenses this seems one of the more exciting. I bought it with my brief trip to New York in June in mind where I think it will come into its own. So just excitedly out of the box I made a few tentative investigations and comparisons.

First, here’s the pleasing perspective of my favourite lens, the 35mm f1.4. In my view this takes some beating (obviously not this picture of the corner of my study) and if I really did only have to have one lens it would be this one.

35mm f1.4

Here’s the lovely new lens at 24 mm, so much more in the shot but no longer a natural perspective. What the lens is doing starts to become more noticeable than what is in the photograph – which is my hesitation about these ultra wide angle lenses: all the shots (can) look the same.

24mm

Now at its wider end of 14mm.

14mm

Even more of the above. Because it is designed to keep straight things straight, the perspective is stretched toward the edges – in typical real estate photo style.

And finally as a comparison, here’s my old-school 16mm fisheye, with a 180 degree view and corrected with fisheye-hemi Photoshop plug in and some other tweaks. I have to say I am impressed with this combination – fisheye plus plugin which handles the distortion so nicely – and it manages to squeeze more in. But I just wouldn’t take this lens out on the streets and having to take all its images through Photoshop is a little tedious in terms of workflow.

16mm fisheye

All reviewers say the 14-24 is huge and heavy. Alongside the 35mm I don’t think it is that bad.

two lenses

 

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Using the Nikon D810

The D810’s first outing, some three days after its arrival, was the darkness of the Lexington upstairs for their anniversary party. The incredible and on-the-verge-of-the-bigtime band Sweat were playing and the D810 insisted on coming along. For me it was a lesson – and the lesson was get to know you camera well before taking it out, especially to a dark and crowded gig. I learned another lesson too, which I will go into later. Having some foresight I was equipped with a Compact flash card that the camera needs, along with a faithful old SD card, enough for a couple of hundred photos, easily taken on a continuous setting. A little while into the gig I thought of changing the ISO (don’t ask me why) so pressed one of the so easy to use buttons on the top left of the camera and hurriedly twiddled a dial on the right. Not that long after and only about half way through the gig, the camera stopped taking pictures telling me that the storage was full. I realised later that night when moving the images to the computer that I had changed the quality from RAW to TIFF (A weird format for photography anyway) instead of changing the ISO. Image file sizes went from the already huge 78MB to 110MB before everything ground to a halt. Just viewing these images took an age (I have a new D810 workflow even with RAW: open Lightroom, put card in card reader, press Import, go out shopping, forget about photography, come home, suddenly remember, enjoy images now living on the computer screen.)

Here are some of the nearly 300 images I was able to take.

Sweat at the lexington

Sweat at the Lexington

sweat_339_January

sweat_334_January

Sweat at the Lexington London

Sweat at the Lexington London

These were taken with a 70-200mm lens, from my lurking in the shadows to the side of the stage positions. But other photographers are far more up front, and obviously not using such long lenses. And what they produce is in a way more engaging than my images. Kiera Cullinane’s pictures of the band playing the next night at another venue are here: http://artrockermagazine.com/live-review-sweat-london/ (and for some of the same person’s work on film see this: https://www.facebook.com/keira.anee/media_set?set=a.10153893883122425.1073742834.666837424&type=3) So the other lesson is that its worth setting inhibitions aside and getting up close to the band.

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New camera

I couldn’t sleep last night because I knew that this morning I would have to climb on my motorbike and ride through the freezing morning (my bike flashes a low temperature warning on the dash – ‘are you sure you’d sooner not be in bed?’ to the FedEx office up in Huntingdon to collect the parcel that was waiting there for me.

Inside it was the Nikon D810 that I have been on the verge of ordering since November. My shop of choice is Hdew Cameras who (really do) ‘provide professional cameras at an affordable price’. So this was picked up for a price that it is still possible to pay for the camera that I am replacing it with. I could have paid £2350 at Jessops.

Very first impressions: it is not noticeably bigger or heavier than the simpler D610; (see here)

Nikons D610 and 810
it really does focus more quickly in tricky situations; it is far more comfortable to hold at least with my hands; the buttons and other controls are so much simpler to use and all seem to have a useful function. However, after only half a dozen like for like comparisons I see very little difference between the photographs taken by the two cameras, in fact RAW images from the D610 seem a little more vivid and sharper.

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Humble postures

The National Geographic website has a feature on their photographers’ favourite cameras. I expected the usual fast, smart, highly weather sealed, rather macho Canons and Nikons but I did not expect the wide range of old-fashioned kit that you imagine would be a real liability in the field. My favourite is Rena Effendi’s Rolleiflex. This is what she says (I hope they don’t mind me quoting the article):

“Working with a Rollei pushes me to be a slower photographer, thus making the whole process more meditative. It’s the kind of camera with which I cannot run or capture moments in a fast and furious manner. But these limitations are what I love. As a result, I linger on the scene and spend more time observing and understanding my surroundings rather than taking pictures continuously.

“Rolleiflex is a very quiet machine, almost silent, and very often I find myself whispering and tiptoeing with it around people and places. As I look down at the screen to compose my frame, I’m hunched over in a kind of prayer pose and my face is pressed against the magnifying glass. This ‘humble’ gesture of taking pictures with a Rollei makes me feel less threatening to the people I photograph, less “in your face,” less direct, less aggressive.

Rolleiflex camera

Rena Effendi’s website is here.

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Too many lenses

The trouble with highly consumerised activities like taking photographs is that the pleasure of acquisition (of kit) is always nudging into the party, even threatening to claim centre stage like a drunken guest. People write about lens acquisition syndrome and similar troubles which somehow legitimises it. So my latest Ebay weakness is starting to make me feel queasy. A photography site set up a poll recently asking readers if they could only use one focal length lens (on a 35mm format camera is the assumption) what would it be? The most popular choice was the mildly wide angle 35mm lens – my choice too – which comforted me about my sense of doubt over buying a second of such lenses, this time an old school D lens f2.0 on the pretext that my current favourite, the Nikkor f1.4 lens, is too big to carry with the camera unobtrusively under a jacket. So the little D lens has just arrived, looking a little tatty, uncleaned and without lens cap and promised hood – not a good start. On the net, some say this is a peach of a lens, very sharp etc while the odd voice has said not. There’s a review here. I’ve taken this comparison of the sizes of these lenses and another from there (Cameralabs).

comparing size

I’ve yet to use it properly or try to hide it, attached to camera, on the street under my coat but my first shots of my trusty bookcase show it is noticeably inferior to the f1.4 and only becomes really sharp at f8.

Here’s a comparison – taken from a screen shot on Lightroom. First the centre:

35mm comparison centres

And the edge, without any correction

35mm comparison edges

The f1.4 is on the right and is clearly much sharper (even at these slightly unmatched apertures). Lets see how it is in ordinary use.

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Three and a half tables: exhibition at the Slade UCL, London

When I enter the room of the three and a half tables I have to move in to a space where I understand that this matters. But the three and a bit tables and the objects resting on them and fixed to them, some in ways that defy gravity, are playing a dangerous game with me. They are a careful study in casualness, a kind of zero-hours presentation. They are playing a game of bluff. Refusing the space on the every-ready walls, they are saying: we are a bit ugly, you can even see how crudely we are fixed together, with nuts and poorly measured bolts and strips of old ply. Or we are pots but not the work of any practiced potter who might hide our structure under smoothing fingers, we even are falling to pieces, like bandages around a dead limb that has long ago rotted away, about to crumble into hollowed dust. We are where we fell. That’s a dangerous game.

DSC_6559DSC_6582

This exhibition is best viewed by someone who is either two foot six or eleven feet tall. There are some paintings cunningly hidden under the tables. You take the trouble to get down there and you are met by someone making a face at you. It’s a kind of reward though, and the view makes more sense, and in any case it is quite comfortable down there. Or you can climb up a dizzying ladder and get an overview of this population of zombie pieces black and white on an abandoned board and assorted flotsam and jetsam, sheets of pages torn from a notebook and curled with paint like a swatch of colours.

DSC_6448
DSC_6474It is a grey day when I visit but occasionally, like Scotland, the sun comes out for a few moments and everything is beautiful. The sun shines perpendicular to a line of whitish pots and throws their shadows onto a yellow table. The shadows sharpen, then blur, then fade. You can suddenly, for a few tantalising moments, see right through the fabric of a painting.

DSC_6437The table tops have semi-circles removed that match the circumference of two floor to ceiling columns though their connection is by resemblance not always by contiguity. Upon them are a countless number of brittle clay towers very nearly white and very nearly black. Circle on circle of thin clay ribbons are stacked high, bulging, leaning, pregnant, toppling, bent, dilapidated. Some are already broken and we can see their insides. Some are giving a helping hand to the paintings, holding them to the table stopping them sliding off or being blown away by a sudden breeze. Others are more standoffish, just keeping company with others like them. Some have even found their mischievous way into a couple of shoes which someone has abandoned here. DSC_6480

There are five objects that you would call paintings. Three are stretched and easily recognisable and two others are more ambiguous, one resembles a hastily painted totem pole screwed to a cut-out of ply, propped up from behind by a slim slither of the same wood leaning down to the floor. The other ambiguous assemblage echoes the narrow design on the former but sneaks its way up one of the twenty-six Ikea table legs then hides flat under two dark ceramics and even matches the cut out semi circle in the table. Two of the others remind me of 1970s album covers of heads, in purple and grey with repeating noses, nightmarish repeating eyes, or hiding under the table like a small child does under blue hair and possibly a black eye – or is it an innocent eyebrow? Then, back on the table tops, there are vandalised furniture catalogues. They make interesting reading.

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More photographs at https://www.flickr.com/photos/obliquepanic/albums/72157656834587809/with/20389675969/

Artists’ websites: http://www.evepeasnall.co.uk/ and http://rendle-short.com

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Weddings and Funerals

The only thing that is worse, in my view, than wedding photography is wedding videography. Wedding videos can take corniness and cheesiness to exponential levels. Funeral photography is far more interesting. And the challenge is to record people at the event in a far more unintrusive way. Interestingly people cry at both and I’ve wondered if its possible, by looking just at photographs to tell which is which. I think it is.
wedding 2

wedding 1

downcast2

downcast

 

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