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He experimented with using out-of-date film and even film that had been damaged by being stored at too high temperature.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!

London Photo walk – Jan 2020

Royal Victoria Dock and The Southbank

A walk with members of Bishops Stortford Camera Club.

As we were planning on starting our walk just before lunchtime we started with some of us meeting at a local establishment where we had a brunch to set us up for the day. Following this we caught the train into Liverpool Street.

The group arriving at Liverpool Street.

Following on from this we caught the Cental Line tube to Bank then on to the Docklands Light Railway to end up at Royal Victoria DLR station where we met up with another two of our group who had caught a different train down to London.

On the tube.
Changing trains at Westferry.
The group photographing around Royal Victoria Docks.
The old dock cranes alongside Royal Victoria Docks.

We had to go over the high level walkway across the dock to continue our walk along the south side back to where the Emirates cable car. Some of our group didn’t particularly like heights but we all seemed to manage OK. The lift up to the walkway wasn’t operating so it was a bit of a climb up the steps.

Good advice!
The ruins of the old Millennium Mills building from the elevated walkway.

Once we were on the south side of the docks we walked back toward the western end where we could get on to the Emirates cable car. Before getting on the cable car we found a nice cafe for some refreshments.

There is some interesting architecture on the western end of Royal Victoria Docks.

For those that didn’t fancy the high level crossing to Greenwich on the cable car thay went back to the tube to connect with the rest of us at London Bridge.

Into the cable car and ready to set off.

We went into a couple of cars so we didn’t feel too squashed up!

The first group disappear into the distant gloom!
Greenwich Peninsular and the O2 in the distance.
The sloping cable at the end.

When you get to the end the cable does drop at quite an alarming rate. At this point I was hoping the maintenance people had screwed up tightly the car connections onto the cable !

Walking to Greenwich station to catch the tube to London Bridge.
Didn’t quite know what these things are meant to be?
Reflecting on our photography!
North Greenwich tube.
Movement on the escalator.

Arriving at London Bridge we met up wit those who had decided to forgo the cable car to then proceed along the Southbank taking in the Thames as night fell.

Dusk along Queen’s Walk on the Southbank.
I managed to get a few photos for my series ‘Through a Window’.

We finished the photography in the area in Lambeth called Roupell Street Conservation area, an area of Victorian Terraces which have been used for filming for quite a few TV series.

Victorian terraces along Theed Street in the Conservation area.

We finished the walk around 6pm and we searched out a pub in Roupell that I’d found out about called the King’s Head. It has a Thai restaurant at the back which turned out to be very good and an ideal way to end the day before we set off home.

St Peters Church, Little Hanningfield.

From evidence in the north wall, the parish church of St Peter’s originated in the late 12th or early 13th century. The windows and glass reflect the history of the church and its time.

HISTORY: The nave is late C11 or very early C12 in origin. The chancel is of uncertain medieval date, but may be late C12 or early C13. The nave was lengthened to the west and possibly widened to the south in the C15, when the bell turret was also built. The south porch is also of this date, and the nave roof may be contemporary. The chancel was party rebuilt in 1850, and the church was further restored in 1883-4 by Frederic Chancellor (1825-1918), a well known church architect who worked widely in Essex and was mayor of Chelmsford seven times from 1888.

A stroll through Thaxted.

Thaxted located in Essex was recorded in the Domesday Book as a well-established and prosperous community by the end of the Saxon period. A market was granted to the town in 1205.

12 members of our U3A Strollers group had a very interesting walk though The village last Tuesday.

Linda giving a talk on the origins and history of the Guildhall.

Thaxted.

There was a rapid expansion in the town in the 14th C as from the 13th century it had become a centre for a cutlery industry. A large number of the population were employed in the cutlery trade. Quite why Thaxted was chosen is not known, although it is known that cheap rents were charged by the landowners. The industry appears to have died out by the sixteenth century.

We started the walk at the Margaret Street free car park and walked through the small garden to cross the road to Thaxted church.

Thaxted church from Town Street.
Thaxted church. The earliest record of a church was in 981, this being replaced with money from cutlery in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Thaxted church

The building began in 1340 and it was completed in 1510. There is much ancient stained glass in the church. The oldest is a picture of a knight in the South Transept and dated about 1341. It is reputed to be Edmund, Earl of March, who owned a part of the Manor at that time. The chancel and Becket chapel east windows date from 1900 and are by C.E.Kempe, a noted Victorian glazier.

Interior of Thaxted church.

Thaxted’s most famous (or infamous) vicar was ‘Red’ Conrad Noel, who served from 1910-1942. Noel was controversial for his leftist views, and controversy seemed to follow his every action. He once hung a socialist red flag beside a Sinn Fein banner and the Cross of St George inside the church, thus launching a ‘Battle of the Flags’, which eventually resulted in the church authorities ordering the flags removed. Noel also purchased The Chantry almshouse for the church, and helped found the Thaxted Morris Men.

Interior of Thaxted church.
The 1714 built Almshouses with the John Webb windmill in the distance.

John Webb’s windmill

We then walked down the lane next to the church to the windmill.

John Webb’s Mill or Lowe’s Mill was built in 1804 for John Webb, a local farmer and landowner. The windmill was constructed to satisfy the demand for flour locally and in London. It was constructed using local materials, with timber from two local farms and the bricks were made at a nearby location in the Chelmer Valley.

The mill was worked by millers named Lowe or John Webb, thus gaining its names. The mill was last worked commercially in 1910 and was disused for over twenty years until the Thaxted Civic Trust carried out essential repairs and made the structure waterproof.

Thaxted windmill.
The view looking south, across farmland, from the windmill.

From the windmill we walked down Fishmarket Street and down to the Guildhall.

This timber-framed building was probably more accurately a Moot Hall, or civic meeting place, and not a guild hall. However, it has been known as the Guildhall for centuries. Built around 1450, it was for a long time thought that it housed a Cutlers Guild, as cutlers were the most prosperous merchants in Thaxted. However, there no evidence that such a guild existed, though it seems likely that wealthy cutlery merchants contributed to its building.

Gustav Holst

In 1917 Gustav Holst and his family moved into Thaxted to live in “The Steps” now called “The Manse” in Town Street. A blue plaque is beside the front door. In those days it was a quiet place to work. Holst wrote several pieces specially for Thaxted including “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day.”

Looking back down Town Street toward the Guildhall.
The Bullring.

From here we walked back up Town street to the area where we started which called the Bullring as it’s where the farmers used to bring their cattle on market day. Continuing up Newbiggen Street there were some old cottages of some interest. Many of the cottages here have examples of Essex pargetting, believed to have been introduced to England in the sixteenth century by Henry VIII who imported Italian plasterers to decorate Nonsuch Palace. The craft was referred to as ‘stucco’ in Italy, but became known as ‘pargeting’ in England. Initially, patterns were stamped or scratched into the surface of wet plaster, but the most skilled pargeters came to create their own designs which they then modelled directly onto the wall using their fingers and a spatula to create designs in high relief.

Returning back along Newbiggen Street with a view of the windmill in the distance over the top of the houses we returned to the car park and the end of our walk.