Architecture, Interiors, Technology

Architecture with the Zeiss 35mm PC-D

There are plenty of people who would suggest that you can’t shoot architecture with a 35mm and you need a 24mm or wider.  I used to be in that camp too some extent but I have found that with a shift lens on a full frame body you can do a lot with a 35mm lens. It helps that I’m beginning to ‘see’ in 35mm for the first time in years thanks to starting my Little Chef project with the Zeiss 35/2.8 on a Sony A7r – partly because it’s a retro sort of field of view, typical of the compacts available in the chain’s 1980s heyday, and partly because it’s still my favourite lens for the system in terms of overall ‘feel’.

As well as having this very special lens I’m also lucky enough to live in a vibrant city with some amazing architecture and architectural events. So, when this year’s serpentine pavilion coincided with the launch of the V&A Museum’s new entrance I decided to challenge myself to shoot them both exclusively with the Zeiss PC-Distagon on a relatively new-to-me Canon full frame body.

This session was also the first time I’ve really shot architecture with intent for some time and I enjoyed both the lens and the challenge, though it’s slightly flawed. Having a very short throw between ∞ and 3m is bonkers in a lens that will be primarily used for critical shooting of buildings. Other than that the lens certainly wasn’t a limitation, easily matching the 50 Megapixel sensor of the Eos 5Ds when it was properly focussed and held steady – the latter being key as resolution increases. In all honesty I would place the Zeiss ahead of the Canon 35/2 IS for sharpness but perhaps that is to be expected as the Zeiss lens is designed for critical sharpness and low distortion where the Canon is more of a street shooter. The other issue is that when the PC-Distagon flares it’s not the nicest flare I’ve ever seen – one image in the Serpentine set shows this very clearly.

Architecturally both buildings are superb, although I do think that there is a lack of seating space in this years Serpentine Pavilion as the structure itself doesn’t have the perching places that some of the others have, so it’s not as enjoyable on a busy, sunny day as some of the earlier ones.

First gallery is of the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter, by Amanda Levete Architects and the second Gallery is of the Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Diébédo Francis Kéré…

Gallery One – V&A Exhibition Road Quarter & Entrance.

Gallery Two – 2017 Serpentine Pavilion

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Gear, Photography, Review

Half frame fun!

A couple of years back I stumbled on a fun little camera at a car boot, a Konica Eye complete with it’s funky logo which i couldn’t resist. It turned out to be a half frame camera, which was something I’d never tried before so I thought, why not give it a shot. I put a couple of rolls through it but on the second one most of the exposures were ruined because I’d accidentally set the camera to ‘B’ and overexposed everything. This put me off the camera but the idea of getting pairs of images side by side and seeing what the contrasts are remained kind of seductive.

More recently while poking around on eBay I came across a £10 half frame SLR – A modified Yashica FX-3 Super 2000. These Yashicas were popular choices to be modified as ‘Mugshot Cameras’ for police use. I’ve read a bit about ‘mugshot’ cameras since buying it my FX-3 fits quite a bit of what is out there with the following mods;

  • Shutter Speed Fixed to 1/125
  • Mask in the film chamber – this appears to be glued in place and is quite thin, it has therefore bent a little in use.
  • The viewfinder is also masked.
  • The wind on has been re-geared to suit the half frame use.

So, the main down sides of the camera are the fixed shutter speed and the lack of metering, which would be understandable in a fixed studio situation. The positives are as below;

  • The lens is not fixed to the body, which is a huge relief.
  • Even better, the aperture on the mounted lens actuates so I have some exposure control.
  • The self timer mechanism is in place and working – not something I care about but a nice to have.
  • Everything works properly, though the wind on is a bit wobbly, and the cosmetic condition is decent.

The included ML 50/2 was in very good shape and free from fungus – dabbling in the Contax/Yashica system for a few years now I’ve tossed a couple of mouldy ones. All in all a worthwhile £10 . So what was it like in use?
I downloaded a Sunny 16 app to my iPhone and went out to try it. Everything worked well and the cheap Yashica 50/2 on the front proved a very decent performer. Check out the images below…

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Projects

Who’s the Daddy?

What seemed to me a fairly curious sighting on my tour around the UK’s Little Chef sites; Adverts over the Urinals for a company’s paternity tests in the Male WCs in a motorway services. In my mind it links with the trend for sex shops in former little chef sites along the A1 and in some other locations. However, this is apparently big business as, in the increasingly litigious society we live in in the UK, Paternity is liable to matter a great deal in the context of divorce and child support. The website offers a handy set of standardised options including – ‘Children (2) and Alleged father’ or ‘Child and Alleged Fathers (2)’ with a 4 day turnaround or a premium 2 day service. In case you were wondering, yes there is a DadCheckGold, but that’s only suitable for Professionals.

Delving a bit further this seems to be quite a large scale industry now. For example a competitor brand who supply tests for the ‘Jeremy Kyle Show’ have a £4.99 DNA testing kit on sale at Home Bargains, which you send off with a £99 payment to get your results back.

One last couple of stats, while around 4% of children will have a father they don’t expect but about half of of the tests prove that the expected father is not the genetic parent.

It’s amazing what one can learn by looking and questioning, even in the most banal of locations.

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Art, Books, Review

Book : Mark Power – DTLFTSOTE

A few weeks back I started to follow Mark Power on Instagram. I already had ‘The Shipping Forecast’ his brilliant 1996 book of black and white photographs. (I was lucky enough to pick this up in Oxfam for a couple of quid). At the time I started following he was posting a series of images which struck accord with me. As it turns out they were from his recent project “Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment.”   A series from a number of road trips the photographer had undertaken with a poet Daniel Cockrill.

Looking  at the stream I felt the images were indeed a reflection of the direction of travel that the country has been on as pointed out on the purchase page on the Mark Power website.

Intrigued by the images and the description I decided to buy the book, which only seems to be available from the bookstore on his website. First impressions are good, it arrives with a wrapper and the style is a bit like a Moleskine type notebook  – befitting the fact the book is a collaboration with a writer. The book also has an embossed cover and a wrapper which when you fold it out and flip it over reveals a Concréte Poem in the style of a map.

So far so good, then. On opening the book the positives continued, I think the poems are on point and reflect the work well. Some of the presentation of those poems is very clever and relates back to the photographic work. I particularly enjoyed the sequence around a couple of smokers outside a bar called Smokie Mo’s where graphic the language of the signboards is employed for the writing, inviting the reader to consider how the words and images have been created together on Power and Cockrill’s trips.

So, I really enjoyed the book and in general the images and the words are both strong and they do have a clear relationship and, of course, those are key to any book of this kind. I am, however a little ambivalent about the design of the book; while it works in the example above, probably because of the clear relationship between the graphics and the images, I’d have preferred a less fold-outs and whatnot. That said I have returned to the book a several of times in the couple of weeks I have had it.

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Uncategorised

Austria

At the end of July I travelled to Slovenia with my wife, who is working on a photo/video project around her father’s escape from post-war Yugoslavia. We walked from just north of Ljubljana to just over the Austrian border over three days, in honour of the walk that he made. We were joined by Tina’s sisters and some of her Slovene relatives. I’d like to post a few images from that walk, at some point in the next few days.

We spent a couple of nights in Austria after and these a a couple of the quirkiest shots from those days before we went back to Ljubljana to catch our flight home…

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Art, Projects

Sunset Over England 

Another shot from my Little Chef road-trip. This in a Lay-by come trick stop on The A1. The flag is planted into a wooden picnic bench which has Been swallowed by the undergrowth, it’s next to an abandoned transport cafe made from a transportable cabin; pictured below.

Incidentally, the flag pic was shot with the C/Y fir Zeiss 135/2.8, which is one of my least favoured contax lenses.

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Architecture, Art, Projects

Little Chef Road Trip Pt II

As per my last post, I’m expanding on the Little Chef thing. Also, I’d really appreciate feed back and thoughts on this post, and the project it is about.

Little chef is a bit of an institution in the UK, as a Kid I loved the bright red roadside diners an always looked out for them, even if we didn’t stop at them. The pair at Balhaldie on the A9 are a major landmark for me.

A couple of years back I noticed that the last Little Chef restaurant on the routes I travel most often these days closed down – this was at Lamberhurst on the A21 between Tunbridge Wells and Hastings. There were another coupe of closed which re-opened as Starbucks, near Eastbourne on the A27 and A22. This got me thinking about change and corporate influence.

I then wondered if there might be something in looking at the re-use of of Little chefs and if it actually might show something about the UK now. A bit of research about former little chefs turned up a number have become Adult Shops, successful because their roadside locations allow anonymity to  customers. This seemed kind of interesting given the child friendly history/nostalgia around the brand.

So, instead of big corporates, A lot of these roadside establishments which were marginal at best are being taken up by lower end uses, which are more varied and interesting, Though there are some exceptions. With these half baked notions in mind and a tank full of petrol I set out over a couple of days last weekend to get out there and gather some images.

Initially I travelled North on the A1, as this is the prime hunting ground for the Sex shops, but also travelled East into Essex and will be making more trips and adding more images over the next few weeks to see if there is a valid body of work here, I suspect there is but I think the scope and the message are still poorly defined.

Also I’ve been under a couple of influences – I’m following Mark Power on Instagram and after seeing his ‘Destroying the laboratory for the sake of the experiment’ and coming into contact with Paul Graham’s A1: Great North Road series the idea of a road trip chimed as a logical way to survey the nation (Graham’s Little Chef from the series isn’t on his site). At the same time I hope it works slightly differently and but without slipping into an Ed Ruscha/26 gasoline Stations territory or Becher style cataloging. On that basis I hope to use the landscapes around the existing and former sites in an attempt to broaden the scope.

 

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Art, Photography, Projects

Little Chef Roadtrip Pt I

I have been doing quite a bit of driving over the las vouple of days. I’ve taken a couple of hundred shots, almost exclusively with my A7r and FE 35/2.8. More on that to come once the files are processed. In the meantime, here is an iPhone food shot.

I stopped at the ‘Heston’ style Markam Moor and enjoyed a surprisingly good Haloumi-Burger…


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