Birding

Eurasian Blue Tit
Eurasian Blue Tit visiting my bird feeder.

For some years now I’ve been actively trying to encourage more wildlife into my garden. I recently bought a new bird feeder as the old one was rather too narrow for the feed mix I wanted to use. The feed would get stuck in the tube and not fall down to the feeding positions.

Having hung up the new feeder and seen birds start to get used to it being there I thought I’d try to nab some photos.

I set up my EOS 6D with my 70-300mm lens on a tripod in the garden and aimed it at the bird feeder. I’ve had a radio remote shutter release for some years now. It needed a little repair and fresh batteries before I could start using it again. The radio antenna needed a spot of soldering.

With the repaired radio remote shutter release I could have the camera out in the garden and sit myself in the kitchen, watching for feathery action through the window. This gave a double advantage. Firstly I wouldn’t be sat out near the camera scaring the birds away and secondly, I would be sat right by the radiator in the nice warm kitchen with a big mug of tea and a vape. An important consideration during February in the UK.

Robin on bird feeder.
Robin perched on my bird feeder.

About 10 minutes after I’d been outside to set the camera up, birds started to visit the feeder again. I sat watching and firing the shutter whilst I drank my tea. Once the tea was all gone I went to retrieve the camera to see what I had.

The two shots I’m sharing here were the best from the session. The light wasn’t great so I had to crank the ISO up to 640 to get a reasonable shutter speed, enough to stop most of the blur from a moving small bird (they’re alarmingly fast critters).

I did feel that the sound of the shutter activating in “rapid fire” mode was scaring the birds away. I do have mirrorless cameras which I could set to use an electronic shutter so I’ll give that a go soon. In electronic shutter mode there would be no shutter noise. I did have to buy a wireless remote for my Fuji camera’s as the Fuji remote app for my phone, whilst pretty good, doesn’t support continuous shooting. Single shot only. The new Fuji compatible wireless remote has arrived so hopefully I can give that a try soon.

I’ll see what I can do with my X-Pro2 when I get a chance. It’s good to have a little project like this I can be working on in the back garden. In these days of “Lockdown 3” it’s one place I can go outdoors to as often as I like.

Stella’s Slides – Instagram

Dorfstrasse, Grindelwald, Switzerland. 1958.

Following on from my previous post about digitising the slide collection of my late aunt, Stella, I have decided to create an Instagram account to help me share the photos.

I do have a couple of other Instagram accounts but I’ve never been a big user of the platform. I guess that is about to change and I’m sure I’ll soon learn my way around it much better than I currently do.

My plan is to post a photo from Stella’s slide collection each day. I’ve already digitised enough to keep me going for about three years. There will be some photos of close family I will likely not share, although I’m perfectly happy to post “embarrassing” photos of myself, as long as there aren’t other family members in frame.

The idea was sort of “stolen” after I posted a link to my original post on a Twitter thread about somebody recovering thousands of slides from a tip in Lerwick, Shetland. I got some nice replies to my post but I spotted somebody suggesting this idea to Chris Cope, the author of the original post.

Twitter thread I spotted and replied to.

I’ve only started today so there is a grand total of one image posted so far but the collection will quickly grow. I’ve started out with the photo used at the top of this post of Dorfstrasse the “main street” in Grindelwald, Switzerland from 1958.

I will likely choose photos at random as I go so it’s going to be rather eclectic.

Sliding Through Time

The Photographer
The Photographer – by Stella R. Tweed, Switzerland 1958.

Photography has always been a big part of my life, it’s an interest I inherited from my dad and my aunt, Stella. They had both been very keen photographers throughout their lives. My dad worked in the photographic trade and my aunt was a school teacher. They were both frequently exhibited around Leicester and were members of various Leicester photographic societies. They used to create their own black and white photographic prints in a dark room they created at home in the 1950s and also shot colour slides.

Sadly my aunt passed away in 2020 at the age of 95. Over the years we would frequently discuss photography and show each other our photos. I was aware of my aunt’s collection of 35mm slides but didn’t really get to see many of them beyond an occasional slide show back in the 1970s following her return from a holiday. I also had no idea just how very large the collection was.

When we discussed her slides Stella would typically say, “I should just throw them all out really, nobody is going to be interested in seeing them”. To which I would respond quite firmly that I would love to see them so please don’t throw them away.

Author when 8 years old
The author at the age of 8 (going on 9) snapped in the grounds of Sudbury Hall, summer 1976. By Stella R. Tweed.

I did mention on occasions that I might be able to scan them and pop them onto a DVD for her to look at more easily but it never happened. I should have asked her permission to get started on this project years ago but the conversations never drifted in that direction.

It was only after Stella died that I found myself in possession of thousands of 35mm slides and I knew that I wanted to see them, to digitise them, to make them easier to view. Yes, I do have a slide projector and a screen but it’s quite a bother to set it up and the photographs still remain trapped on the transparency.

With this quantity of slides, I knew it wasn’t going to be realistic to scan them all. I do have an Epson flatbed scanner which I bought because it also had the facility to scan negatives and slides. This is fine for small quantities but it takes quite a long time. Four slides can be mounted for scanning at a time and then it takes ages to actually scan them. To scan a batch of four slides at 9600 dpi takes just over 11 minutes. At 4800 dpi the same scan takes a little over 5 minutes. The quality at 4800 dpi might be acceptable and it would probably be fine if I could stack up a set of maybe 50 to 100 slides and leave it going. But having to return to the scanner to reload and start again every 5 to 10 minutes would be painful for so many slides.

Leicester's Dairy Princess
Leicester’s Dairy Princess, by Stella R. Tweed. Lord Mayor’s Show parade, Leicester 1961. Taken at the corner of Granby Street and Belvoir street.

My old friend Phil had spoken to me about his slide digitisation projects before. He had thousands to work on, many of which he saved from being thrown into a skip. Phil had been re-photographing the slides in order to digitise them.

At first, I was sceptical about this method. Surely a scanner would give superior results? However, he showed me some of his results and I was suitably impressed.

The key advantage to this method is speed. It takes a few seconds to give each slide a careful dusting, pop it in front of the lens and photograph it.

I decided that this would be the method I would try. It would at least mean that I could see what was in the collection far more quickly than by scanning. If I wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the re-photographing method I could then go back and use the scanner for specific, targeted slides if I wanted to. I had used this method a few years ago on some old 2.25 inch square negatives that my grandfather had taken back in the 1920s and 1930s (yes, photography really did run in my genes). With these I had placed the negatives onto a lightbox and photographed them before returning to key photographs using the scanner when desired.

Kenilworth Drive, Oadby.
Kenilworth Drive, Oadby Industrial Estate, 1968. By Stella R. Tweed. The cars look way older somehow. Flyer on postbox reads “Remember to use your postal code”.

After a few conversations with Phil and a little anxiety over getting it all to “fit together”, the following was the kit I ended up producing to perform the task.

Setup for slide capture
EOS 7D set up to photograph the slides using Nikon ES-1 adapter. (Click image to view larger).
  • Canon EOS 7D : an old APS-C DSLR with which I was happy to clock up a few thousand extra shutter activations.
  • Nikon ES-1 slide adapter : I ordered this at a very reasonable price (less than £30) from an eBay seller based in Japan. Buying options closer to home were about three times the price or more. It was intended for use with a 60mm Nikon macro lens on a 35mm sensor (“full frame” – although I dislike the term) body. As I don’t have a Nikon DSLR I needed to think about the lens I would use alongside this. It did seem like the best way I could find to hold a slide in position in front of the camera. This device is just a short length of barrel with a slot to feed slides into at the far end. A diffuser screen comes fitted to provide even lighting behind the slide. It contains no optics.
  • Canon EF-S 35mm macro lens : I bought this second hand from MPB. A 35mm lens on a Canon cropped sensor body has an equivalent focal length of 56mm (35 x 1.6) which is very close to the intended 60mm focal length of the Nikon ES-1 slide adapter. Being slightly “shorter” I could expect a small blank border around each frame I shot – easily cropped out in post. This was the most considerable financial outlay of the project but I convinced myself the lens would be useful for other things. I particularly like the integral LED ring light around the front element of the lens, although this is of no use to me for this project.
  • Lens hood : this is the lens hood supplied with the EF-S 35mm macro lens. Unusually for a lens hood it has a filter thread. This proves useful below.
  • 49mm to 52mm step up ring : this is used to convert the 49mm thread provided on the lens hood to a 52mm thread as required by the Nikon ES-1.
  • Aputure AL-M9 LED light : This one was recommended to me by Phil, it’s what he uses. It provides a good, bright and even light to illuminate the slides from behind. It has an integral battery and can be charged via USB.
  • Macro rail : I started work without this but it was a bit of a pain having to set up the LED light in the optimal position each time. The macro rail is mounted to a tripod and holds the camera at one end and the light source at the other. Everything can be kept on the macro rail and ready to shoot slides, even if I want to use the tripod for something else.
  • Remote release : not labelled on the photo above but I use a cable release for each shot to avoid vibrations.

With this set-up I can probably shoot at a rate of a slide every minute or faster. I give each slide a quick dusting over with a soft brush before inserting it into the ES-1, check alignment and then shoot. I shoot in aperture priority at f8 (often a sweet spot for lack of distortion) and capture as raw files.

Lewis Carroll memorial, Llandudno, 1970 by Stella R. Tweed.

The post-processing can take rather longer but I would still have to perform this step even if I’d used a scanner to digitise the images. The photos are imported from the memory card to a dedicated Adobe Lightroom catalog to keep them separate from my other photographs. I apply the “camera faithful” colour preset, straighten the image (it’s very easy to have a slight tilt without noticing during shooting) and crop away the aforementioned small blank border. I often do try a quick “auto” processing in Lightroom – sometimes it gets things just how I want them, other times it looks a bit overprocessed and artificial. With or without the use of “auto” I fiddle a little with the basic exposure settings. Finally, I try to remove as many traces of dust and damage as I can and as sympathetically as I can. Even with using a soft brush some stubborn specks of dust remain, as is only to be expected given the age of these slides – more than 60 years old in some cases.

I’m keywording each slide as best I can. Sometimes this is just from a label Stella stuck onto the box containing the slide, other times I can add tags for places and people where known. Each box of slides is added to a Lightroom collection. Approximate dates can sometimes be gleaned from a month and year stamp on the slide mount added by the processing lab.

Each box can vary quite a bit in the number of slides contained. Some of these boxes are the standard issue slide boxes which the processor provided when the slides were returned after processing. Others are slide cassettes, ready to load into a projector and yet others are very large wooden or metal cases containing multiple films. For example, the box of slides from a holiday in Switzerland (1958) contained 150 photos (see photo of photographer with glass plate camera at the head of this post).

King Street, Robin Hood’s Bay, 1973 by Stella R. Tweed.

The quality and colour rendition varies quite a bit depending upon the film stock used. Kodak stock has proved the most impressive so far with little degradation of the emulsion and really great colour rendition. Not quite so good have been Ilford, AGFA and Perutz film stock. Some slides are still in mounts supplied when processed, others have clearly been mounted at home. Often there can be significant dust and damage to be found around the perimeter of the image so sometimes I crop a little more than would be strictly necessary simply to remove the border if I won’t be losing any significant detail.

At the point of writing this post I have photographed and processed around 830 slides over a period of about two months. This is barely scratching the surface of the collection. It will be a long term project and I’m sure I’ll return to write about interesting finds as I work my way through them.

My main regret is that I didn’t start work on this many years earlier. I have been able to give my dad a DVD containing copies of the slides from his holiday to Switzerland with his sister in 1958 and he thoroughly enjoyed seeing the photos. A couple of lengthy and enjoyable conversations were had on the phone after he’d viewed them. It would have been lovely to be able to do the same for Stella and discuss the photos with her.

It has also been interesting to perform a bit of detective work when I’m ploughing my way through the slides. I have used Google Maps and Google Streetview to find the exact locations of some of the photos -even down to a photo of my dad stood by a signpost along a mountain trail in Switzerland. On Streetview I have found the same spot, with a modern replacement of the signpost. I managed to identify the location of some of the photos in a box from North Wales, 1972 as the village of Llangian by looking at the sign on a shop front. Streetview shows the phone box opposite the shop is still there but the sign post for a bus stop clearly shown in the photo from 1972 now seems to be without its sign and in use to hold a laundry line trailing out from the adjacent garden. The post box was set into the wall of the house when Stella took her photo nearly fifty years ago, now it’s mounted on a post.

Llangian village, North Wales.
Scene in the village of Llangian, North Wales 1975, by Stella R. Tweed.

The photo I chose to head this post is significant. Stella had recounted the story of encountering “an old boy” using a glass plate camera atop the mountains during one of her holidays in Switzerland. She was amazed that this elderly man could carry a big camera, all the heavy glass plates, tripod etc up the steep mountain paths. She said it was quite enough to have to carry her own small 35mm camera up there and regarded this feat as quite some mark of dedication to the art. She never mentioned in these conversations that she had taken a photograph of this man and yet, here he was, slide number 145 in that box of 150. From the sequence it seems that Stella and my dad had encountered him on the way back down from a visit to The Jungfrau. I was delighted to find this photo as it confirmed the story Stella had told me so many times over the years. I just wish I could have presented her with a DVD of her photos in the same way I shared them with my dad. We would have had hours of interesting conversation and I would know more details about the photos I’m discovering.

Naturally, I dedicate this post in loving memory of my aunt, Stella. She was the closest thing I had to a mother figure since my mum died when I was six years old. Teacher, historian, artist, photographer, traveller, gardener, wonderful cook, lover of animals and a staunch believer in women’s rights who retained a sharp and curious mind to the very end. Thank you for everything you did for me and for encouraging and nurturing my interests.

I’m Back

A robin feeding.
A robin taking seed from a feeder at Medbourne, Leicestershire.

It has been nearly three years since my last update. There are lots of reasons for my absence which I won’t go into here. However, I’m back to wanting to be creative again and share my experiences so here I am.

Of course, I’ve still been taking photographs in the time since I last posted, it’s an important part of who I am. The Covid pandemic has certainly reduced my photographic opportunities over the last year but my camera has been with me on the all too rare occasions I’ve been able to get out. I’ve barely been outside of Leicestershire for a year now. There was one day trip to the Peak District in the summer of 2020, a short walk along the path up Kinder Scout next to the Grinds Brook with my daughter. I look forward to when such things are possible once again.

The photo I’ve selected for this post was shot on my last “proper” walkabout before England entered “Lockdown 3” at the start of January 2021. My daughter and I had been taking short trips into the local countryside when Covid restrictions permitted. One of our favourite places to visit is Medbourne in the south-eastern part of the county. It’s a lovely village with a stream running through it, a medieval packhorse bridge and a ford crossing the stream near the church. On this particular day, we spotted a robin hopping from bush to bird feeder and back again in a garden area down near The Nevill Arms pub.

Shot using my Canon 6D and 70-300ml lens.

I’ll be back with another post describing a project I have been able to work on from home, hopefully in the next few days.

Rick With A Silent P

Rick and Warren.
Rick and Warren. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 90mm f2. 1/125 at f2, ISO 6400.

I’m very aware that it has been a couple of months since I posted anything here. Yes, it has been a busy couple of months and thankfully some of that has been photography busy.

This photo of Rick and Warren was taken during the interval at a charity gig I recently attended at The Donkey on Welford Road, Leicester. I was there to support the good cause of the night and also to support my friends on stage : Bellatones.

I still have loads of photos to work my way through from that night which was over a week ago now but this one stood out from the pack for me when I was browsing through to see what I had captured that night.

The vast majority of my photos were of the musicians on stage, that was what I had intended to shoot after all. But at the interval I got chatting outside with Warren (the landlord at The Donkey) and Rick and his good lady, Caroline. It was Caroline who told me that it was “Rick with a silent P” so I do hope he doesn’t mind me using that as the title of this post.

We had a bit of friendly banter during which time Rick, Warren and Caroline got talking about my photography and I snapped one of Rick and Warren together at their request.

It can often be tricky to judge the technical qualities of a photo from the tiny screen on the back of a camera but this one looked pretty good and after showing it to the subjects I ended up being persuaded to take quite a few more of Rick, Warren, Caroline and various of their friends.

It was dark out there.

I had been shooting the acts on stage at ISO 3200 but for these shots I was nabbing outside the venue I had to crank it up a notch to ISO 6400. I’ve always been wary of shooting at high ISO with any camera I’ve owned but I tend to think that it’s better to get something that may have some noise but is free of camera shake so these days I tend to just go with the flow and pump up that ISO as necessary.

And I was not disappointed.

Shot at 1/125, f2 on the X-Pro2 with the excellent Fujinon 90mm lens at ISO 6400. I was even able to focus using auto-focus without any trouble. The only lighting was provided by a string of light bulbs set along the top of the wall about 10 to 15 feet to my left as I shot.

Would this photo have been any better if I’d used my so called “full frame” EOS-6D? I doubt it. I don’t like the term “full frame”. If you mean 35mm sensor then say 35mm sensor. “Full frame” is meaningless – what is full? 2.25 inch square is bigger than a 35mm frame size so how can 35mm be “full”? How about 4×5 inch sheet film? How about 8×10 inch? That makes 135 film (35mm) look tiny. Where do you stop? (I tend to agree with Zak Arias’ point of view on this as expressed wonderfully here).

The best camera is the one you have with you – whether it has a 35mm sensor, an APS-C sensor, Micro Four Thirds or a phone’s camera. You just have to get out there and shoot with it.

Suffering From (Long) Exposure

Old John
Old John, Bradgate Park, Leicestershire. 30 seconds at f16, ISO 200. Fujinon 35mm f2.

This morning the sun was shining and as I ate my breakfast it looked like a great day to get out and take some photos. However I was suffering from my usual problem – not knowing where to go.

I had just about made up my mind to head into town and wander around aimlessly for a while when I got an SMS from my sister and during the exchange of messages she suggested I head out to Old John, a very well known Leicestershire landmark situated in Bradgate Park.

By the time I actually got in the car the clouds had blanketed just about all of the sky. But this was fine, I had my tripod and my 10 stop ND filter with me (Cokin Nuances) so I decided during the drive that I would try taking some long exposures.

Old John
Old John, Bradgate Park, Leicestershire. One of a handful of shots I took that weren’t long exposures today. 1/35 at f11, ISO 200, Fujinon 10-24mm.

As I set up my tripod for the first time I was soon regretting not having thought to bring gloves with me. It wasn’t long before I was fumbling with the controls of the camera and shoving my hands in my pockets did little to remedy this.

I stayed around the vicinity of the Old John tower for a couple of hours getting steadily more refrigerated before deciding that I’d done enough and that what I really needed was a huge mug of tea.

As I sat processing my photos in Lightroom and sipping my tea at home, I discovered that the sensors of both my X-Pro2 and my XT-1 really could do with a very thorough clean. Dust spots show up way more at smaller apertures and I tend to use smaller apertures when I’m shooting long exposures.

It’s maybe the one downside of interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras that I can think of – more sensor dust. There’s no mirror so there’s nothing to stop dust falling right onto your sensor. I had given both bodies a good dust out using a rocket blower before heading out. Maybe it’s time I dug out the swabs I bought but have never used?

This is the reason I have used my X100T for most of my Fujifilm based long exposure work in the past. The X100 range are mirrorless but the lens is fixed so there’s no lens swapping opportunity for dust to get inside. But sometimes you just want to shoot some long exposures at different focal lengths so it’s time to suck up the dust.

Old John
A bit closer up. 28 seconds at f11, ISO 200. Fujinon 18mm f2.

Old John
The “handle” of the “tankard”. 28 seconds at f11, ISO 200. Fujinon 18mm f2.

Am I Just Pixel Peeping?

Micklegate
Micklegate, York.

Just over a year ago I wrote about using a then new piece of software called Iridient X-Transformer which dramatically improved my results when processing photos from my Fujifilm X System cameras.

Back in January 2017 Iridient X-Transformer was in beta testing but the results were impressive enough for me to purchase the software right away.

Since then I have been using X-Transformer on a photo by photo basis where I think it will be of most benefit to the image.

I’m now beginning to think that I should just run all my Fuji photos through X-Transformer regardless. Why? Have a look at the screen shot below. This is one small section of a photo I took in York back in November, looking along Micklegate from Micklegate Bar. It’s not a great photo, I didn’t bother to process it at the time and I’m just using it as an example here. Click on it to see it at 100% or I doubt you’ll be able to see what I’m talking about and particularly look at the lettering on the red “shop to let” sign, but also at the brickwork and the little Christmas tree.

compare
Small section of a photo viewed in Lightroom’s compare loupe. Click to see at full size.

Which looks better / sharper / clearer / better defined to you? The image on the left or the image on the right?

To my eyes the version on the left is the clear (and clearer!) winner. No surprise then that the version on the left is the .dng file processed through X-Transformer whereas the version on the right is the default .raf imported by Lightroom.

I was originally planning to run all of my Fuji photos through X-Transformer as I stated in that original blog post but then I noticed how much more disk space the .dng file took up compared with the .raf file. In the case of the example shown the .raf file is 24.4MB, the .dng is 66.7MB. This photo was shot using my X-Pro2 and I use a (losslessly) compressed raw format so the .dng version is always going to be much larger as that compression is removed during the process of converting to .dng.

I am now thinking that it would better to accept the greater file size and just process everything I shoot on a Fuji camera (99% of my photography) through X-Transformer. I likely wouldn’t have used it to process this photo as I wouldn’t have viewed it as containing lots of intricate details – just a normal (and rather dull and uninteresting) street scene.

The difference is clear so I think it’s time for another change to my workflow. Process everything through X-Transformer before importing into Lightroom and I might as well stop using that compressed Fuji raw format on my X-Pro2 as there will be no benefit if converting to .dng anyway. Yes, the photos will take up more space but that might be a good incentive for me to be more ruthless with my “pruning” during the editing process.

I dont think this is “pixel peeping”. I think that Lightroom’s de-mosaicing of Fuji raw images is substandard and I’m not getting the full benefit of the image quality my Fuji cameras are capable of providing.

Adobe should be doing way better than this. I pay a subscription to use Lightroom, it’s not “cheap”. X-Transformer currently costs just £23.75 and is produced by a small, independent software developer. I do wish they produced their full Iridient Developer package for Windows, I’d be highly likely to switch from Lightroom.

I have considered and tried using Capture One and again the results are way better than Lightroom but at the moment I would rather not spend hundreds of pounds on new software and I don’t know how many hours learning to use it. I know Lightroom pretty well and get along with it fine, if I pre-process my photos with X-Transformer I can then just carry on as normal with Lightroom. I just wish to heck that Adobe would do something about its treatment of Fuji files. Good job Iridient are there to step in where Adobe fall short.

Trim Time

Trim Time
Trim Time, Northampton Street, Leicester.

There were a few more photos I wanted to share from my amble around town on Sunday.

The first, above, was taken on Northampton Street looking towards Granby Street. The clock from which the photo gets its title belongs to the barber shop that my dad used to drag me into when I was a lad, not quite literally but it would be true to say that I didn’t like getting my hair cut. As I got older I kept going to the same place. It used to be “Shilton’s” and I did ask the obvious question about thirty years ago but no, no relation to the one time Leicester City and England goal keeper. I liked the conflict of the word “trim” with the state of the clock and the building at the end of the street which also looks rather the worse for wear.

Curve.
Curve Theatre, Rutland Street, Leicester.

I’ve only been inside The Curve twice in my life to date. Once to see “Of Mice And Men” and again to see “The Importance of Being Earnest”. I should check their schedules more frequently than I do but I’m often put off by the number of musicals they put on here. I’m “not a fan” of musicals. I love music. I love drama. The musical just seems like the lowest form of both to me. Anyway, I was passing by during my quest for street art and thought I’d snap a photo. The building to the right with the dome above the entrance and the tower block looming behind is called Alexandra House and features some rather elaborate carvings, particularly around the entrance.

Exchange Buildings.
Exchange Buildings, Rutland Street, Leicester.

Built in 1888, I don’t know anything of the history of these buildings. They are now shops and offices but the name makes me think of financial institutions. I like Victorian architecture and this is a fine example right next door to the Curve Theatre. Something tells me that the theatre might not look so grand after it has stood for 130 years.

The Black Boy.
The Black Boy, Albion Street, Leicester.

The Black Boy stands (just!) on the corner of Albion Street and Chatham Street. I’ve never been inside, my memories of the place go back to the 1970s when I was a lad and my dad worked at the other end of Albion Street (more of which later). Sometimes my sister and I would be driven out by  our aunt to collect my dad from work on a Saturday evening and we would park up along Albion Street to wait for him to leave work. The Black Boy would be lit up at the end of the road with people heading in there after work or just starting their Saturday night out on the tiles. I know somebody had been wanting to demolish the place to make way for yet more student flats but I think the planning application was turned down. Quite what will happen to this lovely old building I can’t guess. It would be great to see it restored to its former glory and used as a pub once again, but in the current economic climate and with pubs closing down in droves I sadly doubt very much that will happen.

Young's Camera Corner.
Young’s Cameras. “Camera Corner” – Belvoir Street and Albion Street Leicester.

Young’s Cameras was where my dad worked for most of his working life and stands at the corner of Belvoir Street and Albion Street, the opposite end of Albion Street to the Black Boy pub above. Young’s had started off as a chemist’s store in the late 18th Century and sadly closed down back in 2010. Eight years later the shop still stands empty, a sad testament to the “centre of gravity” in Leicester having shifted hugely towards the Highcross Shopping Centre across town and the fate of many bricks and mortar retailers as online shopping took trade away. As a kid back in the 70s I would occasionally have the treat of going into work with my dad when school was closed for some reason. I was trusted to be down in the basement alone, surrounded by heaven knows how many thousands of pounds worth of stock and deadly chemicals. The then owner, Mr Young himself, was a kindly man who I remember with great fondness. He would often come down into the basement to bring me a cake from the shop around the corner, a photo book I could have or maybe there was a little “job” I could do to “help out” (and keep me amused and out of mischief). I’m sure it wouldn’t be allowed today.

All photos taken with my Fujifilm X100T.

Bring The Paint

Two Faced
Two Faced, Midland Street, Leicester. I couldn’t get to the other side of the fence so I made use of it in this composition. I did consider focussing “through” the fence but felt that being able to see it enhanced the grungy, urban feel.

Today I took a stroll around Leicester with my X100T for two or three hours. The light was flat and dull so I decided that I would go in search of some colour in the form of street art.

I walk by a few eye catching examples on my way home from work each night so I knew which part of town I was aiming for – the “Cultural Quarter” near the Phoenix Arts Centre and The Curve Theatre. However I decided to park up near Victoria Park which is probably a mile or so away from my target area. That way I could wander down New Walk (a Georgian pedestrian path and much favoured location for the offices of solicitors and financial advisors) and nab photos of anything else that took my fancy on the way (and also I knew that particular car park is free to use on Sundays).

New Walk.
New Walk archway.

When daylight hours start to get a bit longer I can see myself walking in and out from home but that would add another couple of hours onto the round trip. The light was gloomy enough as it was today without the sun setting on me whilst I was out.

Along New Walk I had to pass New Walk Museum which currently has an Anne Frank exhibition running so I decided on the spur of the moment to pop inside and take a look (very well worth the visit). Last year they installed a new curved stairway leading up to the first floor of the museum so I stopped to grab a quick snap of that. Believe it or not even looking over the side to take this photo triggered my height issues so I didn’t really explore many angles.

Stairs
New Walk Museum staircase.

I then continued on to Leicester’s Cultural Quarter and I wasn’t disappointed by the street art to be found. I knew of a few pieces already but there was more hidden away within car parks and around corners I wouldn’t have thought to turn unless I was specifically searching. A few of my favourites are to be found below along with the photo which I used at the top of this post. Many of these works (if not all) were painted in May of 2017 during a “Bring The Paint” festival.

LCB
LCB – this is the site of the old Leicester City Bus / Leicester City Transport depot on Rutland Street. I think this portrait is stunning.

Crime
“All you see is crime in the city”, Midland Street opposite Phoenix Arts. I used the fence to create an “imprisoned” feel and it was the best angle I could find anyway due to some parked trucks.

Street art
Old lady trimming the crust of a pie. Colton Street. I was sadly very limited here as the gates were locked and although there might be other ways through to the yard where this painting is located I couldn’t find them.

Bring the paint.
Bring the paint! The name of the festival which produced all this art. Corner of Southampton Street and Morledge Street.

Boogie.
Boogie! Less colourful than some but I loved the look anyway. Within car park at corner of Southampton Street and Morledge Street.

Tiger.
A Leicester Tiger… Maybe…? Within car park at corner of Southampton Street and Morledge Street.

Hole
View through a hole in the fence into a car park which had been extensively painted (including the two previous images which were on a wall out of shot to the right inside). Southampton Street,

Caged Bird.
Caged Bird, St. George Street, opposite what was the Leicester Mercury building. I walk by here every night on my way home from work so this one I knew about. Beyond the fence is a car park which I could have walked into but I decided to use the fence in my composition rather than shoot around it or over it.

Sound House.
Sound House, Southampton Street. A music venue I walk by every night on my way home but despite my following of the local music scene around Leicester, I’ve never been inside. I seem to remember that this building was also painted up like this during the “Bring The Paint” festival last year. I love the look – the tsunami pattern seems appropriate for somewhere where (sound) waves are generated.

I really do like having all this colour around. British streets are often so drab and dull when compared to the colourful scenes to be found elsewhere in Europe. A bit of colour like this really can give a place a lift and put a smile on your face. Well, it puts one on my face anyway.

Following this I started to head back to where I was parked and as I approached the car park I remembered that I had long intended to take a look at Evington Footway, a Victorian pedestrian pathway near to where I was parked. It’s dingy and feels rather like it would be a prime place to get mugged to be quite honest, although I spotted some CCTV cameras and maybe it would feel better on a bright sunny day. The thing is I like dark, narrow alleys, aesthetically speaking and of course those are the very places where Nefarious Acts take place. I have to say that as I walked down this footpath and met people coming the other way I felt that people might be expecting trouble from me rather than vice versa, being the rather large chap that I am.

Evington Footway.
Evington Footway.

Evington Footway.
Evington Footway.

To sum up I had a good afternoon photo walk without having to go far from home. The experience was enhanced by “travelling light”. The Fujifilm X100T is simply my favourite camera ever. Small, light, discrete and very capable. I’ve used it on several city breaks because I don’t have to bother lugging around several lenses. A 35mm equivalent prime f2 lens is ideal for city / street work and it can be simply stuffed into a general purpose shoulder bag or even a coat pocket when not in use. I also enjoy using Fuji’s hybrid viewfinders, switching from optical to electronic and back again depending upon the circumstances. I love getting a live exposure preview right in the viewfinder including whichever film simulation mode I have selected. Today I had this set to black and white with a red filter as I knew that anything other than the street art I would most likely be shooing in black and white anyway due to the general lack of light. Even though I was only shooting in raw mode (so full colour capture) the camera still honours the black and white “film” selection in the viewfinder which can be helpful.

Busy Going Nowhere

Coffee Yard.
Coffee Yard at night. York, November 2017. Fujifilm X-Pro2, Fujinon 18mm f2.

Following my previous post here I realised that I hadn’t posted anything since September and that towards the end of the post I said that I needed to get out and shoot more.

It’s not that I haven’t been getting out to shoot at all, more that I’ve not been particularly excited by my results. Much of the time it’s the same old places that I’ve visited how many times before and I’m finding nothing new to see, not feeling inspired.

Also maybe I just need to blog about my photography more, even if I’m not doing anything fantastic.

moby-dick-1

I’ve been a paying member of Flickr for a very long time now and I barely use it these days. Every now and again I realise that I’ve not uploaded any photos there for a while so I add a few but I increasingly wonder why. I find it’s rare that I obtain any kind of useful feedback there. Maybe it would be better to put extra effort into my blogging instead? As a case in point I recently once again had a photo featured in “Explore” and the views and favourites went ballistic on that photo for a couple of days. I really don’t know why. It was one of my regular shots of my favourite angel at Welford Road Cemetery. I’ve taken an awful lot of very similar shots and I would also say an awful lot of much better shots, so why this one? It really wasn’t anything special (below).

WelfordRd-23122017-1

I did enjoy a few days in York during November and in particular was drawn to shooting the narrow lanes and alleys after dark. I felt these scenes were quite striking when the cobbles were wet, reflecting more light into the street. I think I need to do more night time street photography.

yorknov17-87

I also spent quite a bit of time messing around with long exposures during the autumn but I’ve yet to shoot anything that I’m particularly pleased with. I think I still have a lot to learn about which scenes make the most compelling long exposures.

lunar-1

After not shooting with my Canon kit for a good 18 months  to two years I have tried to take it out and about with me recently. On the whole I found it a reminder of why I’d not really used it for so long. Yes, it’s bigger and heavier than my Fuji kit but there are other aspects which make me prefer shooting with the Fuji bodies. Shooting with a DSLR again I found that I really missed the “live preview” of the Fuji viewfinder. Yes, I know I could pop the DSLR into “live view” but I generally don’t like composing a photo on the screen (sometimes I will use that method if the camera is on a tripod, but never hand held). Having a live view of the final exposure is something I’ve got very used to and I think it’s particularly useful when shooting under more tricky lighting conditions.

And that is about where I am with my photography as we head into 2018. I want to play more with long exposures and I want to spend more time shooting with a single body and lens. During my recent trip to York the Fujinon 18mm was pretty well a permanent feature on my X-Pro2 and I think I enjoyed myself all the more as I wasn’t always thinking about which lens to use.

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