Focusing on 50

I have not set myself any long term photographic projects for this year but over the last few weeks I have been giving myself a mixture of small challenges on my days out.
One of my recent ideas, was to turn off the EVF of my X100F and compose all photos in the optical viewfinder and expose with the camera’s meter reading, not allowing myself the option to view the images on the screen once I had taken them, until I got back home.
At first, it was hard to resist the temptation to ‘chimp’ but as the day went on, it became second nature.

Today, as I began to pack my camera bag, I decided on a one camera, one lens day, the camera, my Fuji XE2, the lens, a recently acquired Fuji 35mm f2 (52mm equivalent in full frame terms).
An early browse of train timetables and a decision was made to head to Plymouth for some street photography for a few hours.

Arriving in Plymouth just before 10am, the skies were a characterless grey wash of bland nothingness, at least my chosen focal length would allow for tighter crops in my subjects today.

I would normally head straight towards Plymouth Hoe, grab a few shots of the Sir Francis Drake statue and Smeaton’s tower, this morning I would head for the main shopping areas first, then work my way towards the Hoe and Barbican area.

Conscious of the fact that my last visit to Plymouth was not that long ago, I plan a route to avoid my normally well trodden path, attempting to find more varied shots, something different for the archive, while making mental notes for potential shots on brighter days in the future.

Once again, I find a level of satisfaction in using just one lens, at no point today have I wished for a wider focal length, instead, really enjoying working the image with what I have.

I break my normal routine of finding a cafe for a cup of tea and to browse my days work, I will wait until I am on the train back home, there are just a few shots I want to try and get on the way to the train station….

 

New technology, old methods

As technology in digital cameras becomes ever more advanced, the inquisitive part of me looks forward to reading about the latest features in new cameras, yet my inner luddite  feels that the technological roundabout is going too fast and I want to get off.

Since acquiring my first digital camera, I fully appreciated the way that settings could be changed on the fly, I embraced the way that I could experiment with composition more, as I was no longer restricted to a maximum of 12, 24 or 36 exposures per roll of film, I could also see my image in an instant, rather than having to wait for my last roll  to come from the developers via the post.

Modern cameras all have state of the art video capabilities, they allow us to see how our images will look within the viewfinder, perfect for the fast paced society we live in today, where we want everything yesterday, each new camera boasts faster autofocus but it is too easy to become reliant on the tech and forget the art of photography.

My enjoyment of ‘old school’ photography has perhaps been rekindled by the ability to use manual focus vintage lenses on mirrorless cameras, a reminder of when most SLR cameras only came with a 50mm lens and we were perfectly happy.

It was with this ‘old school’ mindset that I decided to set myself a challenge on yesterday’s outing to Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth.
Since my X100f has both an electronic and optical viewfinder, I set the camera to OVF only and switched the rear LCD screen option to viewfinder only, relying only upon the camera’s meter reading for exposure ( a bit like the original X100).

For the first few shots, I had to resist the urge to look at the rear screen but soon got into a ‘wait and see it later’ frame of mind, it was then that I began to realise how much more care I was taking in each shot, if I wanted each one to count, I had to be more patient.

Back at the car, while enjoying a hot cup of tea, I took the opportunity to look at the images I had taken, it was almost like opening that package of developed photos for the first time, it was a pleasantly rewarding exercise that I will continue with on future shoots.

Finding the fifty

The first few weeks of 2020 have been reasonably productive ones so far, I have finally commenced the long overdue task of cataloguing my images and have begun the process of looking at downsizing my collection of vintage lenses and other camera gear.

I have come to the realization that I do not require five camera bags, three 35mm 2.8 lenses, four 50mm lenses from f1.4 to f2.8 respectively, as well as a 55mm and 58mm lenses, as well as three tripods and other related accessories.

It is one of the fifties that forms today’s musing, specifically the Super Takumar 50mm 1.4, a lens I had picked up in a charity shop for a good price, a lens that had become firm favourite with the bright 1.4 aperture, a lens that in all honesty I thought I had carelessly lost.

It was while I was going through one of my lesser used camera bags in this morning’s sort-athon that the elusive lens made its appearance.
If you have ever picked up an LP or CD that you have not heard for ages, it is like hearing it for the first time again, finding this favourite lens was just that same feeling, of course, I had to go out and use it didn’t I?


At wide open, this lens offers some pleasing bokeh, stopped down, it has adequate sharpness across the frame and at 50mm is a versatile focal length.

It was fun just to use this one focal length today, if I had a choice of only two focal ranges to shoot, I would go with 35mm and 50mm all day long.

Am I over G.A.S ?

By mid December last year, I was two weeks away from completing my one camera project, shooting with my Fuji X100F exclusively for my personal photography.
I was looking forward to rediscovering my vintage lens collection and a newly acquired 16mm F2 Fuji lens to use on my XE-2.

My 100F was given a well earned break during January, but just recently, I am finding once more that it is the sole camera I am choosing to take on my days out.
I really like the 16mm wide angle lens, I also like the ‘character’ of my Helios and pentacon vintage lenses, but I think the key word here is ‘like’, because with the  100F, I WANT to take photos.

My camera bag too, has become more basic, where I may have carried a couple of filters and a small tripod, I am beginning to care less about long exposure photography, after all, how many smokey water shots does one need,besides which, carrying extra gear ‘just in case’ is losing its appeal.

All the above appear to be pointing to the fact that my G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome) is finally on the ebb, the final nail in the coffin, just this week, with the announcement of the shiny, new X100V, a camera called by one ambassador for the fuji brand as ‘refined’.

Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that I would love to buy the new model, but a modicum of sense has crept into my thought process and simply asked, ‘Do I NEED it’, the answer is quite simply, no.
Fujifilm got a lot right with the ‘F’, enough to make this once serial camera changer happy to continue shooting with what I have.

 

 

 

First February foray

One of my favourite local walking routes, is one that goes from Exeter to Topsham, following the ‘estuary trail’.

There is a choice of routes, one of which is to follow, a popular walking and cycle route,or my preferred route where the path follows the shoreline but where the timing needs to be right for this one, as parts of the path become submerged at high tide.
As it happens, the water was just starting to lap the path edge as I was passing, clearly I spent too long taking photos on the way.

Today is one of those perfect walking days, a keen wind, yet mild, overcast skies but the prospect of sunshine later in the morning.
As I reach the estuary path , it is surrounded either side by reeds, offering a natural wind break, they sway like a pendulum as the wind whispers through their midst.
It is here that I get my favourite photo of the day, just as the sun is about to emerge from below the clouds, sunrays appear like torch light into the skies, the reeds in silhouette as I shoot into the light

sunrise

The path passes a boatyard to my left, the loud buzz of a sander on the hull of a boat, sounding like a bee on steroids as the boat is being prepared for its new coat of paint.

The sounds and smells from the boatyard evoke memories of me helping my dad on his boat during the winter months when I was a boy, I always got to clean or sand in preparation, rarely to paint, from what I remember.

By the time I reach Topsham, I have done around four miles, time for some refreshment.
Thankfully Topsham is one of those towns that have resisted the clutches of the chain brand stores, instead, offering a good selection of independently owned restaurants, cafe’s and other retail outlets.

It is from one such cafe, I take a window seat and watch the world go by, the nearby church bells chime, announcing the wedding taking place later that morning, my box office seat is perfect to see the wedding guests arrive in their finery.
It was just a few moments earlier that I had seen the groom being directed into a series of poses by the wedding photographer, keen to have the estuary back drop as his composition.

From Topsham, I have arranged to meet a friend and head to Exmouth for a few more photos, Exmouth is one of those seaside towns that seems perennially busy throughout the year.
With the car parked, a walk towards the waterside once again, where windsurfers are fighting against the wind in their pursuit of speedy forward motion.
The wind changes direction suddenly, snatching the sail from the surfers grip. Splash!

With the tide just reaching the ebb, I can take a favoured route along the shoreline to the sea front, here the beach is a perfect shelter for more boats undergoing the winter restoration work, while one or two have been left neglected.

I leave the beach for now and walk along the concrete footpath, beside which a large development of residences have been built, striking in their vivid hues of Yellows, blues, reds and oranges, wooden decked balconies overlook the estuary. Watching the sun set from here must be worth the substantial asking price alone.

Typical of so many seaside towns, the familiar smell of fish and chips hangs in the air, mostly from the hardy souls choosing to eat their lunch sat on the sea wall, the more prudent finding one of the many shelters away from both wind and opportunist gulls.

I join the many in returning to the beach, pristine sand uncovered by the receding tide, solitary shells left high and dry, abandoned to their fate.
The cafes by the shoreline are doing a brisk trade today, as the hour ticks to 1pm, it is hungry ‘O clock.
Ticket number 27 raises his hand as his number is called, this moments winner of culinary bingo, he receives his reward for his patience, fish and chips for him, a burger each for the rest of the family.

I enjoy these winter beach walks, taking time to talk to other people, or simply to walk in my own little space, taking in the day.

My ‘step’ app tells me I have reached seven miles today, my longest walk so far this year, a gentle run in, but hoping for some much longer walks during the coming months.

 

50 shades of meh

Finally the last days of January are approaching, it feels like 233rd day of the month, two hundred and thirty of them having consisted of a combination of grey skies, rain and constant meteorological melancholy (or …..meh).

It is these constant grey days that make me crave for a ‘proper’ winter, crisp bright days when we wake to lawns iced with frost, and the serene stillness of a classic winter’s morning, where we wear more layers than a Mille-feuille as we set forth into the great outdoors.

I have attempted over the last few weeks to use the weather to my advantage and begin the process of cataloguing and sorting through many of my photos, my migration from lightroom to Capture one has given me the incentive to at least be a little more efficient in that regard, I have also began to build or replicate a number presets or styles with the new software to make my workflow a little easier when I want a certain look to an image.

This however, does not replace the enjoyment of being outdoors actually taking photos, so even on the dreariest of days, I will get into town to get my photographic ‘fix’.
Days such as these are when I decide to keep a monochrome theme, setting the camera so that the viewfinder is also monochrome, that way, I can see the way the image is exposed and alter as needed.

I always remember as a child, the Giles’ cartoon books, he had this way depicting wet days in his drawings with such drama and contrast, this is how I like to process my images when I do street photography, to try and pick out the mood and atmosphere.


The lack of any character in the sky makes me look for tighter compositions. close ups of the mundane that can end up looking more interesting because of the different angle, reflections from windows or using shutter speeds just fast enough to give the perception of movement.

With less people on the high street at this time of year, it keeps the mind active in looking for opportunities, pictures I may not have considered on brighter, more sunny days.

Above, is a selection of images taken from a trip into Exeter city centre, taken from a few of my favorite vantage points around the high street and vicinity.

First shoot of the year

With Christmas fading to just a memory, slowly but surely life will return to some sort of normality, from that between Christmas and new year twilight world where all days feel like a weekend and we lose all track of time.

Today was to be the my first shoot of 2020, the first time in a year when I could use a variety of focal lengths after last years self imposed challenge.
In my bag today, would be a fuji XE-2  bought recently for a good price online, and my Xe-1 that I have had for a number of years.
Paired with the xe2, I have a used 16mm f2 Fuji lens, along with the 18-55mm ‘Kit’ lens on the Xe1.

Lyme Regis would be today’s destination, another seaside town that I enjoy visiting whenever I can.

The morning has started with a pall of grey cloud, but these clouds do at least have structure and character, not the washed out grey we have had so much over the last few weeks.

My first shots with the 16mm lens are test shots, it is the first time I have used this lens in anger, the field of view is somewhat wider than that I have been used to, but it does not take too long to get used to.

The 16mm lend will be used a lot more today than the 18-55mm, it seemed strange using a zoom lens, as I have always preferred to use primes.
A walk along the shoreline will not be possible today, the tide well up, showing only a few small patches of shingle, the wind is also blowing pretty well today, giving some nice waves as they crash suddenly into the waiting rocks.

The footpath to the main town centre and beach has some pleasing curves and texture, a couple of monochrome shots with the wide angle lens are taken, the results look pleasing, only time will tell.

My walk as usual, takes me to the Cobb wall, today it is doing it’s job as it prevents waves crashing over the wall to where many of us are walking, those walking on top of the wall for a better view are having several near misses from the waves as they attempt to capture them on their mobile phones.

As the clouds slowly depart, they make way for blue skies and sunshine, a rather pleasant January day, it has to be said.

With a number of the kiosks open for business, the aroma of eau de fish and chips is in the air, the kind of smell that wakes an appetite.

The first trip of the new year has been very welcome, a chance to walk off the festive excesses and to enjoy a few hours out with the camera, for me a good way to spend a few hours.