Living in Utopia

On a recent rip into London I took a group of photographers round the Barbican. Not wanting to use the tube in these times of restrictions we limited ourselves to using the over ground train into Liverpool Street and walk from there.

From the Barbican we walked down to the Thames at St Paul’s Cathedral. My main area of interest for the day though was the Barbican area. I was intending taking just a film camera with me on this trip as I thought the Barbican with it’s grey drab concrete construction would prove ideal for black and white film.

As early as the late 1940s architects and town planners were looking at how people could live in high rise blocks and moved around the city on high level walkways. The idea wasn’t that they were so much concerned about pedestrians but more to do with keeping traffic flowing uninterrupted through the cities of tomorrow. As is often the case though that didn’t accord with human nature as people were more fond of following roads rather than being remote above where everything is happening,

The outcome of this is that London has some areas of remote and unlinked walkways. One area of extensive walkways though is the Barbican estate.

The gear used for this day was my trusty Olympus OM2n and 50mm f1.4 lens. I used a couple of rolls of Ilford HP5+ and developed it in Ilford ID11 diluted 1+3 for 20 minutes @20 degC.

Scanning of film was done using Plustek Opticfilm 8100 scanner and Silverfast software.

Geometric shapes caught on film

Geometric shapes can be defined as figure or area closed by a boundary which is created by combining the specific amount of curves, points, and lines.

Assignment

A group of friends who are members of the local photography club and also keen on old cameras decided last week that it was time to go out on a photo shoot. Keeping to the current Government guidelines we were limited to a total of 6 and we decided to have a visit to a local town called Harlow in Essex.

The town plans were drawn up in 1947 by Sir Frederick Gibberd and was designated a New Town built to provide housing to replace the loss of housing in London during the war.

We wanted to catch the setting sun going down and throwing some light shafts through the contemporary architecture in the town. A New Town is an ideal location for this style of photography due to the proliferation of contemporary architecture with it’s associated square blocks and straight lines.

Equipment used

I used my Olympus OM2n 35mm SLR with a 50mm f1.4 lens. I had a red filter fitted to the lens for all these shots to darken the blue of the sky and give contrast between the sky and the buildings. Film used was Ilford HP5+ rated at 400 asa. The film was processed in Ilford ID11 @20 deg c for 20 minutes.

I saw this zebra crossing and thought it would be an ideal location for some Street Photography, especially with the vertical lines of the building behind. All I need now, I thought, was for someone to walk into the picture. Imagine my surprise when at that moment over my shoulder I heard someone appologise for walking into my picture. It couldn’t have been better. Not only had I got my subject but they were wearing a black and white striped top too. Perfect!
A selfie in a black and white barbers shop!

A roll of Fomapan 400 with the Agfa Optima 1035 Sensor.

  • Camera: Agfa Optima 1035 Sensor.
  • Film: Fomapan 400. Rated at 400asa. Developed in Ilford IDL dilution 1+3 for 23 minutes @20 degC.
  • Film scanned using Plustek OpticFilm 8100 through Silverfast 8 software.
Agfa Optima 1035 Sensor

Why I chose this camera?

Having an interest in analogue photography I like to follow a YouTube channel called Analogue Insights (link at the end of this post). Recently, Max, who is the host of the site has done a review of the Afa Optima 1035. It seemed to be the ideal camera for some Street Photography and as a coincidence there was one on Ebay in mint condition which I purchased for £56.

The camera and it’s features.

The camera is built of metal and is very compact and takes 35mm film. It has zone focusing but if turned upside down it has the distance scale on the underside of the lens. Zone focusing is something I often use for Street Photography so that is fine. The viewfinder is very large and bright for such a small camera and it is equipped with a nice f2.8 40mm lens. The zone focusing settings are shown in the viewfinder which is handy. The exposure is fully automatic but there is an aperture setting on the lens. This though is only operational when using flash.

Zone focusing seen in the viewfinder.
The zone focusing on the top of the lens.

Design philosophy

The camera was one of a series of cameras produced by Agfa through to the late 1970s and the simplistic design philosophy has as it’s roots in that of post war German industrial design. The design is a reflection of the design principles by such great designers as Dieter Rams who was instrumental in the design of the sleek and understated household goods for Braun in that era. “Good design is as little design as possible.” These few words encapsulate the philosophy of Rams. The British-American designer Jony Ive, Chief designer for Apple until 2019 once said of Rams that his work is “beyond improvement.”

This camera was designed by another German design studio. In 1967 Norbert Schlagheck and Herbert Schultes formed the design partnership Schlagheck Schultes Design GmbH and took on work of designing products for AGFA Gevaert AG. The design partnership was located in Munich and they were Influenced by Dieter Rams and his 10 Principles of Good Design. They were responsible for delivering designs for several classic cameras, along with other products. The design for AGFA provided a new and more modern direction for the camera-maker with the large red sensor shutter release being instrumental in the catch phrase for the product of ‘The other red dot camera’. This being a reference to the logo on Leica cameras. Not quite up to the standard of manufacture of Leica of course.

The results of my first trip out with the camera.

I recently was able to visit the National Trust property of Anglesey Abbey. Having just received the camera through the post I thought I’d load up with a roll of Fomapan 400 black and white film and try it out. It was an overcast day so not too much contrast but the white statuary in the grounds set against a dark background of foliage proved to be ideal for a test and I’m quite pleased with the results. The camera was a joy to use and handled very well. Manual focusing was very easy with the 400 ASA film providing small enough apertures to get some depth of field.

My next test of the camera will be to take it out on a trip doing some Street Photography.

Legacy glass on digital Part 1.

Carl Zeiss Jena 29mm f2.8 Lens.

I do like the quality and feel of the old legacy lenses created for the old film cameras. To my mind they are built to a higher standard than the modern lenses made for the consumer market.

I recently saw a Carl Zeiss Jena 29mm lens advertised on ebay and was tempted and was surprised that no one else bid on it. So, I got myself a nice lens of good condition for £31.

There is a lot written about the company of Zeiss Jena and the fact that it was situated in the Eastern part of Germany after the second world war. The company Zeiss originated in Jena but after the war the Americans moved most of the staff and manufacturing to Oberkochen in the West of Germany. Optics were continued to be manufactured in the original factory in Jena and in some cases using the original technicians who chose to stay. Some would say that the quality of the Jena lenses doesn’t match that of the ones produced in Oberkochen but I think there is an element of snobbery in that statement. It may be that the quality control was a bit more relaxed at the Jena works but if you get a good example they are certainly good lenses.

Carl Zeiss Jena 29mm f2.8.

You are, of course, stuck with manual focus when using these lenses on a digital camera but that doesn’t bother me at all. I often use manual focus with my digital lenses. On a Micro Four Thirds camera the focal length for this lens is 58mm which is a good focal length for Street Photography. The lens also has a close focus distance of 0.25m which is better than my Leica 25mm digital lens. I also like the way these old lenses have all the distance scales etc etched on the lens. It’s very handy for when you’re doing zone focusing, again, not something easy to do on a lens with no distance markings.

The lens fitting is the 42mm screw fit so I had to purchase a new adaptor for my micro four thirds cameras (Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Lumix GX8).

K & F Concept M42 – M4/3 adaptor

I chose the K & F Concept adaptor as I had purchased others in the past and some had been problematic and fitted the Lumix camera but not the Olympus. The one I chose was the Pro version which is a couple of pounds more expensive but was of excellent build quality and finish. It fitted both cameras very accurately without any play.

K & F Concept M42 – M4/3 adaptor

The lens and the adaptor look very good mounted on my Olympus OM-D.

Olympus OM-D M1 fitted with K & F Concept adaptor and Carl Zeiss Jena 29mm f2.8 lens.
Olympus OM-D M1 fitted with K & F Concept adaptor and Carl Zeiss Jena 29mm f2.8 lens.

I mounted the lens to my Lumix GX8 and went out for an afternoon photographing in a small town called Saffron Walden in Essex. These are some of the results. All jpgs straight out of the camera with no post processing:

Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire.

Built in 1650, Wimpole Hall is a neo-classical building and is Grade I listed. The estate itself is Grade I listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
Owned by the Chicheley family for 250 years the house passed through a number of familys before passing into ownership by The National Trust.
As the National Trust are now opening up access to their properties we were able to book a visit there a few days ago.
I took it as an opportunity to do some photography using one of my 35mm SLR film cameras.

Camera: Olympus OM2n 35mm SLR

Lenses: 35mm f2.8 Zuiko. 50mm f1.4 Zuiko. 135mm f2.8 Zuiko.

Filter: Hoya Orange (G) filter.

Film: Ilford FP4 rated at 125asa. Developed in Ilford ID11 diluted1+1 for 11 minutes @20degC.

Scanned to digital using a Plustek 8100 scanner.

Wimpole Hall.
Wimpole Hall.
Wimpole Hall.
Wimpole Hall.
Wimpole Hall. The rear of the house.
Wimpole Hall. The rear of the house.
Wimpole Hall. Walking across the parkland at the rear of the house toward the Folly.

The park was “naturalised” by Capability Brown. The North Park is particularly attractive with its belts of woodland, gentle rolling hills with individual trees and clumps of trees. The central feature of the North Park is the Gothic Tower known as The Folly and the restored lakes in the valley below.

The folly is designed to resemble the ruins of a medieval castle. It was built on the grounds of Wimpole Hall in the mid-1770s

The bridge known as the Chinese Bridge.

Single-arch timber bridges were often called ‘Chinese’ in the eighteenth century, probably because they were reminiscent of the bridges shown on Chinese porcelain, lacquer, silk and wallpaper. It was designed by Lancelot Brown and was rebuilt in the mid 20th century.

The lake.
Norfolk Horn sheep.

Wimpole Farm is one of the UK’s largest rare breed centres and they play a key role in conserving rare and traditional breeds of livestock.

The Folly.
Detail of The Folly.
The lake.

Walk – Wareside – 3.25 miles.

A very pleasant walk from The Chequers pub in Wareside and along the River Ash. This route follows in part along the old Buntingford branch line which went from St Margarets to Buntingford. Opened in 1859 and closed in 1964.

The walk starts at the Chequers pub in Wareside. If it’s not busy you can park up in the village hall car park beside the pub. Leaving the car park you walk down and turn right beside the pub along the B 1004. Just after this you turn right up the lane signposted to Babbs Green.

Start of the route in Wareside. Turn right just after the cottage on the right.
Looking back at the start at The Chequers pub.

After a few yards up this lane you have to decide whether to turn left up the narrow path immediately to the right of the Bourne Cottage. Alternatively you can continue up the lane to the next set of crossroads where you turn left. Ths time we walked up the lane to the crossroads. Immediately opposite is the old Wesleyan Church, now turned into houses. This property has some history for me as it was purchased by an uncle of mine in the mid sixties after attendance to the services had dropped to an all time low. It was converted by him to houses and remained in the family for some time.

Wesleyan Church (former), Wareside now Wesleyan House.

After turning left at the crossroads you continue up the narrow road and eventually the footpath mentioned earlier and the road join. At the small triangular green turn right and continue up the road until you arrive at Morley Pond. Morley Pond Cottages have another connection with my family as it’s where my grandmother once lived. It’s a pity I couldn’t get a photo but there was a number of vans parked out in the drive obscuring the cottage. At this point continue straight up next to and left of the cottages along a rough surfaced lane. This lane continues on between hedges. In due course the lane drops downhilll and comes out near a couple of farms. Continue on bearing left along the farm drive with Newhole Farm on your left.

Newhole Farm.

The view looking North East just after Newhole Farm.

The road continues on until you get to the B1004 where you cross over and continue on down another farm track. Continue down this track toward Watersplace Farm. Just before the farm turn left to follow track down the right hand side of the field toward the river Ash.

The left turn at Watersplace Farm.

Follow the hedge to your right and then at the end of the hedge turn back on yourself round the hedge and walk back with the river on your left until you reach the bridge.

Crossing the bridge over the River Ash.

Cross the bridge and continue straight across the field ahead of you to the gate.

Looking back toward the bridge over the River Ash,

After going through the gate turn left and follow the track of the old railway.

Looking right as we walk along the old railway track.
The River Ash.
Gate latch detail.
Part of the old railway road bridge. This is close by where the old Mardocks station was which served Wareside.
Inquisitive cows.

Just before the old railway road bridge turn right to descend down to another bridge that crosses the river. The turn left through a gate to walk along fields on the right hand side of the river. You go through another gate and field and then the path turns left over the river and returns across allotments back to the village.

The Memory of Trees.

Some trees are thousands of years old. I’ve often thought that wouldn’t it be great if we could tap into the memory of what a tree had experienced whilst it sat there all those years.

There is a 4,800 year-old Bristlecone Pine which grows high in the White Mountains of eastern California. Named after the Biblical figure that lived for 969 years, the Methuselah Tree grows in the Methuselah Grove, which is in Inyo National Forest’s “Forest of Ancients,” where it is surrounded by other ancient trees. The exact location of the tree, though, is kept secret to protect it against vandalism.

Edmund Schulman and Tom Harlan took samples from the tree in 1957 and they discovered it was 4,789 years old. It is estimated that the tree germinated in 2832 BCE, making Methuselah one of the oldest known living trees and non-clonal organism in the entire world. A germination date of 2832 BCE makes Methuselah older even than the Egyptian Pyramids. What a memories that tree would hold!

A recent photography club challenge had the subject of trees and combined with not being able to travel far during restrictions because of the virus gave me the incentive to study some trees on my local walk.

Old trees which had been felled and reduced to just stumps gave some interesting graphic shapes.

This image of a tree reminds me of Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream.
Gnarled and fissured trees have interesting textures.
I spotted this old tree stump on a hilltop on a recent walk and loved the sculptured effect it gave off.
A more close up shot of the tree sculpture above.
Groups of trees can prove an interesting composition.

Stapleford Walk – Along the River Beane – 3.2 miles.

A very nice 3.2 mile walk starting at St Mary the Virgin church in Stapleford near Hertford.

You can start by parking along the road next to the school in Stapleford. Then walk down the road toward the River Beane and on the way visit the mid 12th century church of St Mary the Virgin.

The church is of flint rubble, cement render with stone dressings, stock brick buttresses and with an interesting weatherboarded tower.

The front of the church.
The view of the back of the church.

Walking through to the back of the church, the walk can be accessed by continuing to the back right hand corner of the graveyard and through a gate to continue alongside the River Beane and along a stretch of The Hertfordshire Way (Start). The path is a gravel path with easy walking. There are a couple of benches along the path where one can stop and take a rest.

The walk continues along the path by the river and at one point there is a wood on your left (Foxleys Wood). At this point the path goes slightly uphill to the left of the wood until you arrive at a gate and a barn on your right (point A). At this point, turn sharp left down the farm drive.

(Point A) After this gate turn left down the farm drive.

The walk continues along this surfaced farm drive past the wood which is now on your left. After some time the farm drive arrives at the road (Point B). Continue straight across the road onto another surfaced foot path.

The continuation of the footpath and South End Farm Cottage.

Continue on along this farm drive which eventually starts going slightly downhill toward the river again. If you wish to take a slightly shorter route you can turn left at Point C just after South End Farm which will take you downhill to rejoin the return leg of the walk at Point E.

The drive drops down toward the river.

At this point (point D) turn left through the gate shown and continue up the field track over the hill toward the wall and the gate through and continue along the path alongside the river. The path continues alongside the river and you end up at the road where you parked.

The lovely path alongside the River Beane on the return leg.

My daily lockdown walk with my OM2n.

Perry Green and Henry Moore.

8th May 2020 – My target for today was to go for my daily walk in the morning, expose a roll of black and white film on the walk. Get home and process the film, scan the negs and write this blog post.

I first met a problem with the scanning and had to do it again. I think it may have been a problem with using the dust and scratch removal on the Plustek scanner. They came out a bit blotchy so had to re-scan them all. Second thing I hadn’t factored in was that yesterday was a celebration in remembrance of V.E. day so had to go out for a social distancing street party later in the day and consume vast quantities of beer. All not conducive to finishing the post.

Anyway, continued today. Negs scanned and all OK. Edited in a format to post and ready to go.

The walk; A stroll of about 2.5 miles in the Hertforshire countryside near the village of Perry Green.

The equipment;

  • Olympus OM2n 35mm film camera.
  • Olympus 35-105 f3.5 Zuiko lens.
  • Olympus 200mm f4.0 Zuiko lens.
  • Fomapan 200 film developed in Ilford ID11 1+3 dilution @20degC. for 13 minutes.
  • Negs scanned using a Plustek Opticfilm 8100 film scanner with Silverfast 8 plus software.
  • Minimal post processing. Nik Silver Efex to add 35% sepia toning and black border.

The walk takes you from the church in Perry Green and past and round the Henry Moore Foundation grounds.

Past the farm buildings including what looks like an old WW11 Nissen hut.
Some interesting textures on the old buildings.
The Nissen hut!
Interesting mix of textures!
I like the verticality of the farm buildings against the randomness of the plants!
A good mix of elements!
Details of gates and rusting railings!
Further along the walk we pass one of the Henry Moore sculptures. Large Figure in a Shelter.
Detail of Large Figure in a Shelter.
And more Moore across the road! Three Piece Reclining Figure: Draped.
Double Oval.
The modern Visitor Centre to the Henry Moore Foundation.

We do a right just after the entrance to Henry Moore Gardens and follow a footpath which takes us round the other edge of the gardens.

Doing another right at the end of the gardens takes us along the end of the gardens and through the fields past more Moore sculptures.

Henry Moore sculpture. Large Upright Internal/External Form.

Another right turn takes us back along the field behind the Henry Moore Gardens and views of some more sculptures.

Henry Moore; Large Reclining Figure.
Sheep figure a lot in Henry Moore’s artwork and there are many in the surrounding fields.

The life of a Street photographer during lockdown.

Another day of restricting ourselves of travel. Another walk locally.

We are able thankfully to walk in areas of open space at the edge of our estate and keep ourselves away from others. This walk through the tracks and lanes of the countryside has become my new ‘Street’.

Around the turn of the 15th Century, Thorley Manor acquired one of its most illustrious Lords, Sir Richard Whittington. As the legendary Dick Whittington, three times Lord Mayor of London, he made most of his fortune lending money in the City of London. His name, however, now lives on at Richard Whittington School and on Whittington Way. Popular folk lore likes to adopt the successive cats that frequent the church as the local descendant of Dick’s famous cat!

Our walk starts at the local church of St. James the Great, Thorley Church.

Originating in the 13th Century the church gained it’s most prominent feature, in the 15th century. The the church tower, built in the Perpendicular style. The evidence that church towers were still thought of as defensive locations is shown by the ornamental battlements and the extra heigh provided by successive storeys. Thorley’s design of tower with a thin eight sided spire or spike rising direct from the tower is a church feature peculiar to Hertfordshire.

The use of the top of the tower as a vantage point has a modern significance. It was used in the Second World War as a look-out place to watch for the night-flying Lysander aircraft returning to Sawbridgeworth airfield at Allen’s Green less than two miles away.

Moving on down into the valley our ‘Street’ takes us past some old barns, now used by industry.

Down into the valley with the weather closing in!
Down the valley and looking back to the church and the industrial buildings.

On over a small bridge over a stream to follow the valley floor.

The little bridge over the stream.
There’s still some late blossom.
Through a stile!

Back across the fields to the church and home again.