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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another lockdown day walk; 3.5 miles around a village called Wareside.
I do like to have a bit of a plan so for today I thought I’d go for some details within the countryside. I took my Lumix GX8 camera with the Leica f1.4 lens so that I could get some bokeh in the background. I also took an old film camera lens, a Zuiko 35-105mm lens and an adaptor for the Lumix for some more distant shots.
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.
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.
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.
Another right turn takes us back along the field behind the Henry Moore Gardens and views of some more sculptures.
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.
On over a small bridge over a stream to follow the valley floor.
Back across the fields to the church and home again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Following our visit to the Cistern we firstly visited the Haghia Sophia mosque, then Suleymaniye, commonly known as the Blue 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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.