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.

Istanbul Day 1 and 2

Day 1 – March 5th

Each year on my birthday month I tend to go somewhere for a short city break. This year I chose Istanbul in Turkey. It seemed like too good an offer to pass over with 6 nights including flights and transfers from the airport for a little over £400.

The journey from Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, 30 miles South-East of Istanbul, to our hotel in Istanbul took around 1 1/2 hours including our driver getting into a scrap at a busy junction with a yellow cab driver. The timely arrival of a policeman on a motorbike broke up the two characters rolling around on a bonnet of the yellow cab throwing punches at each other. Fortunately the policeman didn’t arrest the cabbies and cart them off so we could continue our journey.

Eminonu where the boats depart along the Bosphorous

With all it’s mix of cultures and the changes throughout the ages to it’s architecture I thought it would be an interesting place to visit, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The area known as the Hippodrome, once a gigantic stadium which stood at the heart of the Byzantine city of Constantinople. It is now an elongated garden and an area where people can promenade.

Istanbul wasn’t at that time showing any cases of the virus but we were scanned at the airport when we arrived by a thermal camera which should show anyone with a temperature.

Across the Hippodrome with the German Fountain. Built to commemorate the visit of the German Emperor Wilhelm II visit.

Formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople and with over 15 million inhabitants, the city stands in a position between Europe and Asia. The city is split by the Bosphorous Strait which connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. As the only sea route between the oil-rich Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the Bosphorus is one of the busiest waterways in the world.

Strolling up the street from the Hipodrome to our hotel at the end of the day.

We had a small but very comfortable hotel, The Hotel Perula, just a few minutes walk up a street from the Hipodrome and ideally located for all the tourist attractions.

Located in the Hippodrome is the Egyptian Obelisk which was built in 1500 BC and stood outside Luxor. It was brought to Constantinople by the Emperor Constantine.

We spent the rest of the first day on a short walk around the Hippodrome and the surroundings to get our bearings.

Day 2 – March 6th.

we decided to visit firstly the underground water reservoir called the Basilica Cistern followed by the two local mosques. The Basilica Cistern dates from the reign of Justinian in the 6th century. It consists of a vast underground cavern used to store the water which runs down from the nearby mountains in the vast underground where the roof is held up by 336 columns, each over 8 metres tall.

The inside of the Basilica Cistern.

Following our visit to the Cistern we firstly visited the Haghia Sophia mosque, then Suleymaniye, commonly known as the Blue Mosque.

There were plenty of people posing for shots with the Haghia Sophia in the background.
A selfie on the run!
Another view of the German Fountain.
One of the many cats in Istanbul.
Roasted chestnuts and sweetcorn.
Haghia Sophia mosque.

After wandering round the Hippodrome we vsited the Haghia Sophia mosque. The security here at the entrance is very stringent and I had my mini tripod taken from me. I should have had it in my bag rather than attached to the camera.

Interior of Haghia Sophia.
Interior of Haghia Sophia.
Interior of Haghia Sophia.
Interior of Haghia Sophia

The interior of Haghia Sophia was a little disappointing as they are obviously doing some serious refurbishment and there is a lot of scaffolding up but then at over 1,400 years old I guess it’s not surprising.

Our second visit was to Suleymaniye mosque, commonly known as the Blue Mosque.

A view of the blue mosque from the Hippodrome.
Interior of the blue mosque.

Built between 1609 and 1616 the blue mosque is known as such because of it’s blue iznik tiling on the interior. As the Haghia Sophia, this mosque is a little disappointing as it has quite a lot of restoration going on. I think I still managed to get some good shots using my fisheye lens.

Interior of the blue mosque. The amount of scaffolding on the right hand side and the rectangular covering of the columns is a little disappointing.

The Streets of Istanbul

Istanbul March 2020 – Beyoglu.

I am in the process of doing the Magnum The Art of Street Photography course. I thought when I started that I would be able go through it quite quickly but it has proved a bit more difficult than I thought. Winter in the UK meant that there weren’t many events happening and then just when I thought I could visit some events in London the corona virus outbreak put paid to that.

Episode 6 is about photographing people, which is one of the difficulties you have to get over if you want to do Street Photography, and not everyone is comfortable with taking candid shots of people. Peter van Agtmael however was correct in his assesment as to why we want to photograph people, in that their expressions and gestures are infinite and interesting.

I couldn’t complete the two assignments exactly. One being to take Street Portraits set by Peter van Agtmael and the other set by Carolyn Drake which is to get to know your subjects of portraits. That we would require me to probably spend more time getting to know the subjects than I was prepared to do on a limited time visit.

Location

On a 7 day city break though I could address some of the issues of getting close to the subjects and making photographs of people doing real things and putting them in place in that rectangle we call the viewfinder. Istanbul being a busy, multi-cultural city proved to be an ideal location.

Obviously the old fellas seat down by the Bazaar.

Equipment

I used my Panasonic Lumix GX8 with either a 25mm f1.4 (50mm equiv) or my 17mm f1.8 (34mm equiv) lenses. The fully articulated screen on the GX8 proved useful for some low level portrait format shots where people were unaware that I was photographing them, especially as I had turned it to ‘quiet’ mode. I also had my 7.5mm fisheye lens but that is for another blog post on the subject of mosque interiors.

Although some areas of Istanbul were a bit quiet, the quayside at Eminonu which is the gateway to the Golden Horn, a flooded river valley which flows south west into the Bosphorous, was a great place for people and Street Photography.

Two girls enjoying a selfie on the quayside.
A family on the quayside. This is where the articulated screen and the silent mode come in handy as people just think you’re looking down at the photos in your camera.

The other area was a walk down from Taksim Square along Istikal Cadessi in an area known as Beyoglu which is a pedestrianised street of modern shops and embassy buildings along where the funicular runs. It is a great place for close-up photography as it’s so busy you hardly get noticed.

The Taksim funicular.
The many cats were also a feature of Istanbul.
Knife sharpener.
The street drops down to the Galata Tower.

Istanbul is a great place for Street Photography and a place I would like to return to. The people are very friendly and don’t mind being photographed and there are some great characters in the bazaars, maybe a subject of another blog!

Through a window – After Saul Leiter

Born in the 1930s Saul Leiter began by training as a Rabbi. He then followed this with a career as a Painter to be followed by a career as a Photographer.

His main body of work was in black and white which was the norm in those days. He was a very humble character who never sought fame but carried out his career in fashion and journalism whilst later on, in the early sixties, doing a personal body of work in colour.

He experimented with using out-of-date film and even film that had been damaged by being stored at too high temperature. The idea being to see how it would alter the colour balance of the results. He never sought fame and it is only in recent years that his early colour work has been recognised for what it is.

My own experience in following the Street Photography genre has been to follow the early photographers like Henri cartier Bresson and Brassai and their ilke and using black and white.

Early evening and monochrome.

Having seen Leiter’s work with colour though it’s got me to appreciate how the extra dimension of colour can be used to enhance the results. I particulary like Leiter’s photographs where he uses windows, often dripping with condensation, to frame his photos and enhance with reflections and colour to give a layered effect.

I like the colour in this one but haven’t got that dripping with condensation atmospheric look.

I’ve recently been doing a series called ‘Through a window’ trying emulate the style of Saul Leiter. Not always easy to get the condensation effect without being somewhere where it is very cold. However the layered effect can still be achieved with the glass of the window to give the reflections of inside/outside.

Still not got the condensation dripping down the window, but I do like the multi – layered effect of these types of shots.

Most of my attempts at emulating this style have been using the digital camera which is handy when photographing late afternoon with the dying light. I did though try to get really retro and use colour film. Very difficult to do with only 200 asa film in dying light. It certainly makes you appreciate the skill Leiter used.

A recent attempt using 200 asa colour film.

One of the problems is that I live in a small town so subject matter is a bit scarce. I’ll have to get myself into London late afternoon for a wander round.

Look out for part II as I’m going to persevere with this. I’ve even got some 400 asa film on the way and will try that with my SLR with its f1.4 prime lens.

The ‘V’ word.

I need help! I know, I know, a good friend said to me “don’t start getting interested in those little gem of cameras manufactured by the West German company Voigtlander. But did I listen?, NO!


Anyway, I thought I was fighting it but didn’t realise how fast the addiction takes hold of you. I just clicked on the ebay app and ‘Damn’ it was still set for the search for the ‘V’ word, and there they were, a pair of Voigtlander Bs.


As we all know, it’s better to get a pair of something, right! think of a pair of Purdey shotguns, or a pair of shoes, well maybe that’s not a good example.
Anyway there they were on the page staring back at me and they didn’t need bidding on as they were ‘Buy now’. That dreaded term ‘Buy now’ as if you can’t resist. But, I did resist for a couple of days, I think in the hope that someone else would ‘Buy now’ and leave me free to a normal life without the ‘V’ (see I can’t even say the full word, in case the affliction takes hold).
So, eventually I did buy the pair of Vito Bs which I didn’t think were overpriced as the seller said they both worked and one had a very nice brown leather case with it.

The Vito B has an unusual film load as part of the base of the camera hinges open to then allow the back to swing open. It is held in place with a very nice little catch which is typical German engineering and very detailed.


The next stage is to put film through them so we’re all set to go for a photography outing which has been put on hold for the stormy weather to pass as I don’t think these little jobies will stand getting a soaking.

A blast from the past – The Yashica-24 TLR

At age 20 I had a healthy interest in photography but not a very healthy bank balance. I had been shooting for a while with a 35mm SLR, a Russian made Zenith fitted with an f2 Helios lens. I did however have a desire to obtain a twin lens reflex camera to try out the bigger negative size.

The Yashica-24

I can’t remember exactly how or where I got it from but I did acquire a Yashica-24, probably because that camera was somewhat cheaper than the more desirable Rolleiflex. After around 20 years and 4 house moves later the camera resurfaced in the loft during some buidling work to convert the loft. I decided I wasn’t going to use the camera anymore as we were all digital now and no one is going to use film again, right? So, I gave it to a friend of mine who had a bit of a camera museum at home and he could display it on one of his shelves.

Jumping forward another 28 years and the present time and after retirement saw me rekindle my interest in some serious photography, I also started to get interested once again in the old film cameras. In the present climate of interest once again in film I thought it would be good to see if my friend still had the old Yashica, and there it was, still sitting on his shelf. As he had two examples of the same camera I asked if I could reclaim it, which he was happy to do.

Imagine my surprise though at finding it still had a film in it. My friend hadn’t used it so it must be one of mine from at least 25 years ago. I had started to develop my own film again and imagine the excitement of processing this old film to see what the images contained?

One of the images from the camera. There is some edge deterioration.

Some of the film had deteriorated around the edges but it still had some of the images which showed a steam train which had visited our location station those years ago. It’s amazing that there is anything still there at all.

I must soon get to take it out to see how it is still working.

Decaying France

One thing I love about France is that they seem to be quite happy about just allowing buildings to weather and decay. All these photos taken in aix en Provence in January 2020.

Rather than spending money on repairing facades and making everything look new they allow the fabric of their buildings to atain a certain aged quality which I find very interesting.

I often say to people I’m with to look up about the shop fronts and study the faces above. That is where the history of the building is.

A few days in Provence. Day 1

Day 1 Friday

Up at 5 this morning. Taxi booked for 06:30. A chilly morning. Caught the 06.49 from Bishops Stortford to Tottenham Hale.

Bloody silly ticket doesn’t work. This happens so much these days with the automatic barriers. I got told off by a rail man for just using my body weight to force through one of the barriers.

07:40 and sitting in St Pancras station at a Pret having coffee. Still got nearly 2 hours before we depart.

St Pancras International

12:40 and just arriving in Paris. Reading the news it seems the French rail workers are on strike in some areas. Just hoping it doesn’t affect our journey through Paris to Gare de Lyon for our onward journey.

Paris Gare du nord.
Paris gare du nord

Disembarked Eurostar and found our way to line D metro in the direction of Melun. It would seem that the strikes have hit this line as there is a 44 minute wait for the next train.

Line D metro direction sud

We eventually get to gare du Lyon after a 7 minute metro ride. Our tickets still don’t let us out through the barriers. I’m wondering if we should have validated them somewhere. Haven’t seen a machine though. Liz panicked us by looking at the out of date information which had us departing at 14:19 which only gave us a couple of minutes. Panic over though when we looked at the actual tickets which show we still have an hour and half before we depart.

Waiting in Hall A for our departure.

It turns out that was the wrong location. We had to go upstairs to Hall 2 for the departure.

Hall 2 at gare de Lyon waiting for the TGV train.

19:30 and we’ve arrived at the Best Western Galice. We tried looking for the bus stop at the station but could only see a bus to the airport and not one for the Aix old town in the dark. It had been a long day and we decided to splash out €40 on a cab to the hotel.

That’s it. Were settled in. Time for a beer or two!

Next stage on from ‘Another film camera’

The Voigtlander Vito C

So, after spending all my pocket money in one hit (£15) over Christmas at an antiques centre I was eager to see the results of said film camera. I wanted to see if all was working with the little Voigtlander Vito C so on a trip around St Albans I put a roll of Ilford HP5+ through the little camera.

Here are some of the results. Developed in Ilford Ilfotec DDX:

St Albans cathedral.
I tried some interiors too which was pushing the boundaries of the 400 ASA film and the f2.8 lens.

All appears well with the shutter speeds and I was pleased with the results. The Vito C doesn’t have a rangefinder. You can try to estimate distance to the subject but that can be a bit hit and miss and is OK when using the large depth of field that a small aperture can give you. It’s a bit more difficult at f2.8 though.

Another excuse to purchase another gadget? Of course. I thought I’d keep to quality West German engineering of the same era as the Voigtlander and bid on a couple of rangefinders on Ebay.

I ended up winning two bids and was the then the proud owner of two rangefinders. One for £2.20 and the other for £19. The £19 Watameter one was the better of the two. It was made in West Germany somewhere around the 1940s to 50s. It’s a split image rangefinder with the scale in feet also visible through the eyepiece.

The eyepiece end of the rangefinder. You look through the left hand aperture and turn the right hand wheel until the split image aligns. The distance scale is also visible in the viewfinder.
The object lens of the Watameter.

The little rangefinder looks good mounted on the flash shoe of the Voigtlander. I don’t think it’ll be very good in low light conditions though. I’ll have to wait and see.

The Voigtlander with the Watameter mounted on the flash shoe.
The rangefinder even came in a leather case which doesn’t look out of place alongside the Voigtlander case.
Had to drag out the old Weston Master V for the exposure too!

So, what’s next for the Voigtlander? having just read an article over on the Emulsive web site about pushing EI of Ilford HP5+ to 3200 I’ve decided to load it up with this film and try doing some night shots around the town at this uprated film speed. It could be tricky but I like a challenge. Who knows, I might even attempt some Street photography with this setup!