Category Archives: Leica

I’m still here…

Obviously, the periods between my posting on the blog have been getting longer and longer, but I have never gone nearly 4 months before. So maybe it’s time to pick this up again.

I have been prompted by two things really. Firstly, the retirement of a colleague recently who chastised me for not posting an update for a long time. He has a family member who has a similar condition to this and we have chatted about similar experiences. I hope he drops by and see this and is enjoying his life outside the office.

Secondly, through my contacts on the NCRI, I was approached this week by a big pharmaceutical company who were looking for some insight into drug and immuno therapy from a patient’s point of view. I pointed them to this blog and shared my experiences in a phone interview last Friday. The contact there is presenting to the great and the good of his organisation next week and I was happy to help him get a message across. They may have some exciting news to share with the world later, which will obviously be good!

I had my 6 month check-up with my consultant in June and I am pleased to say that things are still looking good from a health point of view. Next one will be in December and once again, there is no need for a CT scan this year. I’m now into my 8th year with this, 5 years post-maintenance.

Another birthday has also been and gone and I’m looking forward to a session with a local blacksmith next weekend. Ann bought me a Saturday morning’s experience there – I will be making a poker for the fire, apparently. Watch this space…

We have spent an excellent week on Islay with some good friends and it was a really good experience showing them around a place we know and love well. They hadn’t been out to a Scottish island before, and I suspect that they will be back soon. What’s not to like? We were very fortunate with the weather and the lack of midgies – if the former is bad and the later are out, it can be a bit miserable out there.

Here are a few photos from the week

Port-Charlotte-Rainbow

Sunset-over-Lochindaal

Lagavulin

Portnahaven

The new car is going extremely well and is a delight to drive and I am pleased to say that the satnav works perfectly. Which makes a nice change. I must go out and wash it shortly…

My task now is to find a suitable venue for everyone to meet for the Leica Forum Challenge in Rome in October. I have dinner for 40 sorted, but finding a suitable cafe in the centre of the city to meet at lunchtime is proving to be a challenge in itself.

Answers on a postcard please.

And, I promise that the next update will be before Christmas…

 

 

The aurora borealis then.

Yes, it really is all it’s cracked up to be. At least it was when we were lucky enough to see it.

As I said earlier in the week, we were incredibly lucky on Wednesday night when we stayed out until the early hours of Thursday, watching the aurora do its stuff. As I promised, here are some photographs from that experience.Twighlight
Stage-1

Stage-2

Starting off with an incredibly clear night, and a very subtle blue hour after sunset, the aurora began to show itself in the second photograph. Depending upon your eyesight and quality of the screen, you may be able to see the faint green mistiness in the middle of the photo.

Within about 10 minutes or so, it had grown in strength, so that it started to get brighter and more intense.

Campfire

Bear-right

Reflection

Eventually, as the night wore on, the show became even more amazing, as can be seen from the second three photographs.

Now, these were taken using a sensitive sensor setting on the camera and with 8 second exposures, so the camera can record a lot more than can be seen with the naked eye. In fact, it’s almost impossible to record on a camera, what you can see when you are there. The first two of the second batch are pretty close, though. The third one there has been fiddled with a bit, but it seems that the amount of light produced by the aurora can be huge. It was easy to see one’s way, after midnight, just by the light from the sky.

It is interesting to see, on some of the shots, just how far a satellite can travel in 8 seconds – several shots have bright lines, traced by the satellite, as the shot was taken.

For those of you that might care about these things, the camera was a Leica M240 and the lens was a Leica 24mm Elmarit-M ASPH. So, now you know.

If you ever get the chance to travel north during the winter months, I do hope that the gods are with you as they were, north of Tromsø, last Wednesday.

Some more from the Three Queens visit to Liverpool

Was really interesting to see these three arrive, turn and pay their respects to the home of Cunard on the 175th anniversary of the company. It’s a pity that the ships are now registered in the Bahamas and were made a long way from the UK, but that’s the way of the modern world.

The weather improved during the morning too.

Queen-Mary-II

Three-Queens-Pano

Three-Queens-and-Arrows

Sheep, snow, sun and Shutlingsloe

Had a great day out today. Foggy at home and on the motorway, but as I got higher into the Peak District and Derbyshire, I left it behind and the weather was superb.

Here’s a shot taken on the way home, just below the Cat and Fiddle road from Buxton to Macclesfield, one of the first to get closed each winter when the snow comes. All roads open today but still lying snow in the fields. Nice light too.

Has brought home the obvious fact that if you want to take photographs of nice places, you have to go out there and make an effort. I’m glad I did.

This looks like a sunny upland to me.

IMG_0014

And through the other side to the sunny uplands… (probably)

I have come to realise that part of my problem is my continued use of film. I have used film ever since I was a boy – it must be getting on for 40 years now (More like 45… Ed). I like the way that film records photographs.

I like having a strip of plastic in my hand that has that record, there for me to look at. I like the grain. I like the lack of grain. I enjoy processing the film myself, when I have the time (of which, I don’t have as much as I like).

But…

I have been increasingly frustrated by colour film. My favourite film of all time (a slide film made by Fuji, called Astia) went west a few years ago. Normal colour negative films are hit and miss and the processing (although do-able at home) is worse. Sometimes one processor will get it just right, on other occasions the negatives come back dirty or poorly processed. Slide processing is very expensive nowadays, as is the film.

Because of these factors, I have been less inclined to take my film camera, my Leica MP with me. It currently sits there with 25 shots taken from a roll (probably black and white Tri-X) and hasn’t been taken out for probably a month. The Nikon D700 isn’t a carry around camera and so only gets taken out when using the car. I have, however, continued to take photographs with my iPhone.

So…

(some of you may be able to see where this might be heading)

I bought a new camera – my first ever Leica digital M. My dealer had a really nice Leica M9 for sale, about 4 years old but with less than a thousand shots under its belt. But, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it. I asked him if he had any new ones in stock and I decided that the extra over cost was worth it, to avoid the worry of the failing sensor issue, if nothing else. I raided the piggy bank.

I didn’t think that a new camera was the answer – but now, I think that it might be. It is a pity, in a way, as I could have taken any of the shots below with my film camera. It’s just that I didn’t. And I wouldn’t have. Which is a bit odd.

I have to say that the M(240) has been a revelation in the two weeks that I have had it and I have really enjoyed using it. I have, once again, been bringing my bag to work and shooting at lunchtime. Last Sunday, we had a superb day in the Lakes and it gave me photographs that I have been quite pleased with. I am enjoying working out its foibles (the exposure bracketing had me foxed for a while, for example). It’s been a lot of fun.

I am fortunate to be able to go to San Francisco in a months’ time and I am looking forward to having become properly familiarised with it before letting it loose over there.

Now. To get on with the project…

Here are a few shots from the last couple of weeks IWMN Three-little-maids-and-a-swan Derwentwater-150201 Langdale Media-City The-Lowry-4

Losing one’s “mojo” – and how to find it again

Mojo

Defined by the OED as:

Magical power, voodoo, the art of casting spells; a charm or talisman used in casting such spells. More generally, esp. in recent use: a power, force, or influence of any kind

Well, I am not a shaman, I have no magical powers and I am rubbish at casting spells. But the “recent usage”, of “power” or “force”, is what I have been getting at when I have said that I have lost my photographic “mojo”. I have stopped enjoying taking photographs and I am at a bit of a loss as to what to do about it.

Those of you who have known me for a while will know that for many years, taking photographs has been a huge part of my life. After a lull while the children were growing up, when I basically took a lot of snaps as Dads do (and there’s nothing wrong with that), I got back into it in a much more serious way in maybe 2002. For several years thereafter, I was taking a lot of photographs, making the most of every opportunity and using a lot of film. I have lever-arch files full of negative and slide films on the shelves in front of me dating back to that time.

In recent years, however, in relative terms, I haven’t taken many photographs at all. A friend of mine asked me last week when I stopped, and I had to think pretty hard. I linked it to being diagnosed with the cancer, but I’m not sure if that isn’t too convenient a “hook”. I will need to do some analysis to see when I slowed down and eventually came to an almost complete stop. It might have been around that time, or it might have been a little later; I will see.

After all, it’s not as if I am not fortunate enough to get away several times a year to new and interesting places. Last year we went to Sorrento, Cornwall, France and Istanbul. One would have thought that those locations would have offered a wealth of opportunities, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case.

This year, the diary currently has four trips too, including trips to San Francisco and Vienna, plus return visits to Skye and the Somme. Therein lies one of the problems – “return visits”. On a return visit anywhere, I tend to try to take the same photographs as I did the first time, especially if I have been pleased with them. That isn’t good.

Could it be related to the diagnosis? Quite possibly. Cancer does funny things to you, even when you are in remission. It changes the way you think about life (as this blog is a painfully long witness) and in many cases, it can lead to depressive thoughts. I have tried very hard to stay positive throughout this whole experience and for 99.9% of the time, with the support of family and friends, I have managed to do so. Maybe, my lack of photography is sitting in that 0.1%?

Having a further think, I am wondering if it is related to the “anti-photography” movement on the streets, these days. S44 of the Terrorism Bill had the effect of giving any jumped-up, fluorescent jacketed security guard the idea that he could prevent anyone from taking photos on the streets. Many policemen were of a similar opinion, unfortunately. No doubt, recent events in Paris and elsewhere will bring this nonsense back to the fore. While I was never and could never be a “street photographer”, I used to enjoy wandering around cities taking photographs. I can’t remember the last time I did so.

Or maybe it’s something else? I don’t know.

So, how does one get the “mojo” back?

A project.

What I need is a project.

In the past, I have enjoyed going to classic car rallies. There are many photographs on my website taken at rallies in the NW as well as, a couple of times, at the Goodwood Revival. Not only do they offer the opportunity to photograph some interesting cars, be they Ferraris (will be lots of Ferraris at Goodwood this year!), Maseratis, Jaguars and all the rest, the people associated with them tend to be interesting characters too.

So, this year, I am going to make a concerted effort to attend as many as I can. Lots of “stately homes” around here hold them in the spring and early summer, there is one in Lytham St Annes and smaller ones all over the place.

“A project” is a very good idea and one that I will embrace.

A new camera…

Much more controversial, of course. A new camera does not a new photographer make.

But, for years I have been toying with the idea of buying a digital Leica M, to accompany my film M, and maybe this year is the year to do so. I have had my Nikon D700 for a few years now, and enjoy using that too, so maybe it’s time to upgrade that instead (I can’t afford both). But, I have long been frustrated with colour film work, notably since taking slides, my favourite form of film, became so expensive. A roll of film now costs about £10 and processing is about the same. This means that every time the shutter is clicked, you are spending about 50p. That soon adds up and is a major consideration.

Colour negative film is cheaper to buy, at around £5-6 per roll, and can still be processed cheaply. However, you are reliant on others doing it properly and with my last roll being ruined (shots of the Millau Bridge in October, unfortunately), this is becoming more of a worry, especially as film use continues to decline. I could process either film myself, of course, but my volume of film taking means that the chemicals are very expensive in small quantities. A bit of a chicken and egg thing really.

So, if I want to continue to shoot colour, with an M, I might need to grit my teeth and bite the bullet , both at the same time.

Let’s see what the spring brings.

I’m not a very good tourist really.

Been back at work a couple of weeks now. As always, the holiday is a now distant memory but I have been going through photographs this evening, partly to see what is worth sharing or printing and partly to find an entry for the Challenge. Entries have to be with the organiser (me) by the end of tomorrow, so I have found the best of a bad bunch to include.

As you will have seen, the holiday was pretty busy – not relaxing at all, really. It’s rare to have a relaxing holiday since we always try to do too much. Far too much.

I have this thing about it probably being the last time I will ever pass that way again, so have to cram as much into the visit as possible. Alternatively, a thing about seeing as much as possible on a first visit to a place (particularly on foreign jaunts) so that on a return visit a more relaxing time can be had. Only, it never works out that way. We never go back – there is always somewhere else to see, where you haven’t been before – and the whole charade starts again. No half measures of just taking a part of a place in.

I’m not a very good tourist really.

So, on reflection, what were the highlights of this holiday?

It WAS nice to go back to Bordeaux and visit Leoville Barton again. Organising it for first thing on a Monday morning, when staying 60 odd miles away on the other side of the city was a huge schoolboy error, but we got there in time and had a fantastic tour courtesy of the charming Alexandra. Our timing couldn’t have been better – the first grapes had been brought in from the vines on the Saturday and we were the first people to taste the grape juice from 2014, just starting its fermentation in the oak vessels. What a privilege.

vessels Juice

A couple of days later, while having a tour of the Chateau where we were staying (Chateau de Mole), I asked the owner about Petrus, the world’s “best” red wine. It’s only about 10 miles away from there. Apparently, until fairly recently, the property at Petrus was little more than an old farmhouse and some outbuildings. Only in the last few years has the owner built a “chateau” of any size or quality. It’s a bit of a shame, really.

PetrusAs with many luxury goods, it’s the handmade and traditional methods that cost the money. Doing it properly all through the process. Plus the rarity, small production and quality of the vines and terroir of course. It’s a bit like paying £160k for a Ferrari 458, when a Jaguar for £100k will go just as fast, be as exciting to drive and so on. But what it won’t have is a handmade body or engine. It’s a bit like buying a Leica…

Moving away from Bordeaux and the region, after making a mistake with a hotel in Ambialet, we came across the bridge. The Millau Viaduct.

An earlier post on that day actually has some of the better photographs of it, taken with the iPhone, but I still cannot get over how amazing coming across it through the fog was. A sight never to be forgotten.

Millau-Viaduct

Skipping past several days, I just need to write about Monaco / Monte Carlo.

What a weird place. I described driving into the principality from the autoroute as feeling like walking into a Bond Street jewellers. They know you can’t afford anything there; you know you can’t afford anything there. But they still let you in, just to have a look around, and it’s fine so long as you know your place, and leave.

We found that Monte Carlo had policemen on every other corner. Apparently, they have monitored CCTV on every street and microphones in every lift. No local police (all brought in from France) and the locals are not allowed in the casinos.

Walking the grand prix circuit was interesting and makes you appreciate the skill and sheer lunacy of the drivers.

Cannes was nice and we had a very good lunch with an old friend who lives there and Nice the next day was the sort of city that you could live in. If you were lucky enough to have to live on the south coast of France. A really brilliant market.

And to wrap the fortnight off, a trip to Istanbul.

We met some really nice people, in the hotel, restaurants and new friends at the Challenge.

People rave about the city and it does have some stunning architecture. But I never felt comfortable there, particularly outside of the tourist areas. The streets were absolutely packed with people. It was claustrophobic, especially around the spice market and the streets leading back up the hill.

Still, if you want to see the Blue Mosque, or the Aya Sophya, you have to go there. I’m not sure about this chandelier though…

SophyaThis is a failing on my part and one that I freely acknowledge. My lack of engagement with the city will be reflected in the Challenge entry and without a doubt, the scoring.

I’m not a very good tourist really.

Oh, and Asda cocked up the processing of my films…

Pompeii Farm

Having had to stop painting the back of the house due to the rain, I have been playing around with some shots from earlier this year. I have stumbled across a setting on my scanner that seems to deliver decent scans from Kodak Portra 160 colour print film.

Initially, I liked this in colour, but having played with it for half an hour this afternoon, I actually prefer it in black and white.

Maybe, if I were to buy a new camera (as I have been thinking about…) it should be a Monochrom. Maybe…

Image

The best from Malham today

I was about to throw this film in the bin. I take so few photographs these days that it would appear that the developer that I had as stock was probably a bit on the “2013” side and therefore not up to the job. I should have made fresh – I know, I know…

Anyway, the negatives came out very thin. (Pan F+ in HC110(B) cut 50/50 with water and developed for 8 minutes, if anyone is interested and even knows what that means)

But, sometimes you get luckier than others. I am a very lucky man in so many ways and today is a lucky day.

 

Malham Cove, North Yorks National Park, about 09:30 today

I really like the idea of these two lovers, standing on the edge of a considerable cliff, holding hands, contemplating the future…

Image

The two trees can be seen on this shot, taken from the bottom of the cliff. It’s a long way down. And up…

Malham-Cliff

Shirley, Cologne, Seal and wedding preparations

The presentation to the Shirley Photographic Society went very well indeed. As I was driving down the M6 from Blackpool, I was thinking that it could go one of two ways – fortunately, it seems to have gone the right way.

They were generous hosts and a nice bunch of people and I spoke for nearly an hour and a half on a selection of my photographs. They were very complimentary during tea afterwards and they offered me a fee, which I asked to be sent to the Lymphoma Association on my behalf. I have no idea what the fee was, but it will have been gratefully received by the Association.

Unfortunately, the M6 was closed due to an accident in the Stafford area on the way home, so I had to double back and come the long way round via Telford and Wrexham. Still, it was a good evening.

I have also been to Germany this month to the Photokina photography fair. I was invited to attend the private Leica launch party as a guest of the owner of the Leica Forum and happily accepted. I used Eurostar and the DBahn train service to get to Cologne via Brussels with the view to taking in some of the scenery between the Channel and Cologne. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to see as it is extremely flat, but the train service was very good and got me to the city at just the right time for the event.

A couple of new cameras were launched, to pretty much universal approval, especially the new “M” model, which looks particularly interesting and, for Leica, at a very good price. Saving up already…

The party was finished with a concert from Seal, a great friend of the Leica owner, Dr Kaufmann. Very good he was too.



The highlight of the evening, though, was an interview with Nick Ut, the photographer who took probably the most iconic photograph of the Vietnam War, that of Kim Phúc, the nine year old girl running naked from the napalm attack.


The rest of Photokina that I managed to see, was vast. It took around 20 minutes to walk from one end of the Halls to the other. Some are on two levels and every camera, film, lens and accessory company in the world seemed to be there, from the global giants such as Canon and Nikon, to small Chinese firms selling replacement lens hoods. No wonder that the hotels were all full and the city was buzzing.

The wedding is now only two months away, so this weekend, some serious shopping was necessary. Two decent pairs of shoes, two suits, two new shirts and a tie later, Ed and I are ready. The girls finished their shopping too, and that seemed to go pretty smoothly too, considering… That’s good to have that out of the way, and, from our point of view, it doesn’t leave much to be organised. Mustn’t forget to sort out some taxis.

Now it’s only three weeks until Copenhagen. I have downloaded some information about the Kulturnatten which is an annal event on the 12th October and, while I can’t see myself dancing the night away until dawn, I can see a late night in store. It’s going to be very interesting. I have wanted to visit the city for years, so this is the perfect reason to go. For the competition shots, I’m probably going to try out some of the high silver black and white film I picked up in Germany this week, but I must try some out first. Next weekend…

Health-wise, I am learning that “watch and wait” isn’t so bad. This coming week is the week when I would have been going in for a top-up, so it’s from next week that I am really exploring uncharted waters. I have the next check-up at the end of October, and I am sure that everything will be fine then.

I did think that I had had a night-sweat earlier in the week. I woke up convinced that it was happening, but I am pretty sure it was only a dream. Will have to watch for this though, as I suspect that my symptoms will be the same when they return.

That said, there’s lots of good things to look forward to!