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:

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.

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.

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.

London City, Rooftop Garden and City Hall photography walk.

MAY. 10, 2019

Starting off at Liverpool Street Station in bright sunlight.

This was a walk planned to visit the recently opened rooftop garden at No 120 Fenchurch Street, London with members of Bishops Stortford Camera Club.

I had been notified of this new venue by a blog called ‘Look up London’ back in February but thought I’d wait until the weather improved. The day before the planned outing almost proved me wrong with storms and torrential rain However, I’m not put off easily by a bit of good old British inclement weather so went ahead with the trip anyway.

I love the way that in London you often get the contrasts of architectural styles.You have the stonework of St Andrew Undershaft Church here contrasting with the steel and glass of the Willis Towers building, then Lloyds

Just as we arrived at No 120 it started to rain but we did manage to get some lunch at Pret in Fen Court. Under cover and with everyone walking through with umbrellas up it proved to be a good opportunity for some street photography. I’d set a couple of assignments for the group, one of them being ‘Gestures in Street Photography’ so this proved to be an ideal time to get some shots.

Diane trying to blend i with the surroundings!
The colour is red!

After a while we did manage to get to the 15th floor and take some photographs before another black cloud came over and it rained again.

The gang minus two. Martin and Hazel and disappeared.

After around 20 minutes we decided to get some refreshment in the pub across the road and wait for the rain to stop.

One drink later we continued on down to London Bridge. Along the way we went into St Olave’s Church, founded in the 11th century it is one of the few medieval churches that survived the Great Fire of London.

The interior of St Olave's

Walking down Old Billingsgate Walk we went along the footpath on the north shore of the Thames and just before London Bridge there is a very good spot to photograph the Shard across the river with a triangular piece of art work in the foreground.

Looking up toward London Bridge.
Looking down toward Tower Bridge.

Crossing London Bridge we went for coffee before proceeding along the southbank to the area surrounding City Hall. There are great views across the river and back to the Shard as well as City Hall itself.

City Hall on the Southbank.
Back across the Thames from City Hall.
I often think this looks like a modern version of a Roman amphitheatre.

On past Tower Bridge is an area known as Shad Thames, one of the Victorian era’s largest warehouse complexes. Here were tea, coffee, dried fruit and spice warehouses which are now apartments. It was known as the ‘larder of London’ and you can still see the overhead gantries which connected the warehouses today.

Shad Thames.
Shad Thames.

Turning back on ourselves we then went over Tower Bridge to end our walk at The Minories pub which is built in one of the old railway tunnels. You can sit having a drink whilst listening to the rumble of the trains going overhead.

A Reflection on Street Photography

 JUNE. 21, 2019

Cambridge - Partying at the Trinity Ball.

So, what is street photography? To the novice photographer trying out this genre it may seem just being in the street and taking photos. The more you get into this fascinating area of photography though, the more you realise how difficult it can be to take photos that elevate your work above just a street view.

Street Photography doesn’t even need to be in the street but can be in other locations such as industrial sites and things such as a ferry as shown in the photo below taken on the car deck of a ferry.

Ferry Car deck 3.

People in the street

One of the first questions one has is, should there be people in the shot? There are differing opinions on this but I think just taking the street is more of a ‘street scene’ rather than ‘Street Photography’ and to be street photography requires a person, or people to be in the shot. This adds another element to the shot and often requires you to arrive at a suitable location but then have to wait for a suitable person to walk into the shot.

One of the difficult aspects of Street Photography with people is getting over photographing people candidly which can often get some negative response from the subject. You can, of course, ask permission but I feel you’ve lost the spontaneity of the moment as soon as someone knows they are being photographed and then start to pose.

It's good to place people within the environment even when doing a close-up.

Gesture.

But is photographing people just walking along the street enough? I think not if you want to take your photography to another level. You can improve by looking for people doing something special or out of the ordinary. By catching a gesture, whether it’s a hand gesture, a turn of the head, or maybe just a look out of the frame that makes you wonder, what is going on?. It can also mean the position of the legs which indicate movement or that people are running at full stride to indicate some urgency in their journey.

Gesture can also be just a glance.
A gesture can be more pronounced and obvious.

Figure to Ground

In art classes they teach something called ‘Figure to Ground’. Its how to make your main subject or figure stand out by putting a light subject against a dark background, or vice versa. In photography it’s more difficult to achieve as we don’t have the option of creating our own backgrounds. We have to go out and find a suitable background to work with.

The best way of achieving this impact of contrast is to find a suitable spot where the sunlight is shining across a building with a shadow in the background. The shaft of sunlight illuminates the subject which is in contrast against the dark shadow background.

Exposure.

To get good results though means having to fool the camera’s light meter into seeing only that part of the photo that is important to you, being the area of the highlight. The camera’s light meter will try to just expose the whole view as varying shades of grey and the image will lack punch. You can achieve a good exposure by setting the camera to spot metering or using the exposure compensation adjustment on your camera. It can, in some cases, mean underexposing for up to 3 stops. You should then end up with a well exposed highlight area with dense dramatic shadow areas.

Colour.

Areas of contrasting colour can also be used to emphasise the main subject. Sometimes just pushing up the saturation and clarity of the photo can make a photo pop.

Taking photos through restaurant windows can be quite effective too. The colour saturation and vibrancy can be raised to give a better effect.

Selective focus.

How much should we blur the background using a larger aperture? I think it’s important to set the subject in the environment. If you completely blur the background then there is no indication of where it is.

The most important thing though is to get out there and practice. Be patient, learn from your mistakes and don’t expect to come home with lots of perfect shots.

Street Photography in Stone Town.

7th to 9th November saw us fly into Stone Town on Zanzibar. The weather proved to be very changeable and when it rains there it’s worth finding some shelter.

Sheltering from the rain in Stone Town

It was a good opportunity though to stand in one spot and work the photographic opportunities.

And the lady continued making her pancakes.
The kids found it exciting though!

The rain finally ceased and we moved on.