Friday was overcast so I cycled down to Thamesmead. A place of limited colour (other than grey) on the sunniest day, it has an atmosphere of its own: remote from London, poor, famed for bad social housing and (more recently) remarkable levels of fraud.
From a photographic viewpoint, Thamesmead has things to offer. The architecture is predominantly stark and colourless but full of texture. Run-down shops, evangelical churches, forlorn paths and numerous water features abound. For the first time visitor, Thamesmead can be an edgy, dispiriting experience. I’d advise photographers to be as inconspicuous as possible: dress down and don’t linger, especially in and around the estates.
To the shoot, then. I focused on compositional lines and texture and on using the sky to complement the bleak forms of the buildings. Add a dash of documentary to the mix, given the history and notoriety of the place.
Gordon and I met on Grain recently to take advantage of some excellent skies and to take the delightful air of north Kent. If you’ve been following this blog, you already know I’ve spent a lot of time there recently.
I brought the Yashicamat, my tripod and a few rolls of Provia 100F for the trip. Determined to improve my metering skills after mistakes last time out, we visited some familiar spots before heading to Grain beach for dusk.
Determining the right exposure for slide film is a skill I’m working on – it’s alien coming from digital photography, and I think experience and ‘feel’ is going to be as important as reading numbers off the meter. Looking at the tiff scans and processed films from this trip, the exposure is variable: sometimes over, sometimes under, sometimes about right. I’m hoping consistency will come with practice.
In the gallery below, I’ve used Lightroom’s ‘B&W Creative – Creamtone’ preset on three images as an experiment. Lightroom 3 has several new presets which I’ll be trying out in due course. Next time out, I’ll be using Provia 400 for the first time.
I’ve just had some Provia back from the lab – a new gallery will appear soon.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the summer cycling on the Isle of Grain in north Kent. Last weekend, I packed the Yashicamat and tripod to shoot film and shake off the rust – this was my first trip for a while. It’s been very, very dry this year and the landscape is yellow turning white in places. The wheat and onion fields are being harvested, everything’s pale and waiting for rain.
Schoolboy error no.1 – after finishing the film, I realised that I’d been using my meter on reflective, not incidental, mode all day. Damn, that meant everything was likely to be over-exposed. There was nothing to do but send the film for processing and pray something useful would return. I used the Darkroom in Cheltenham for the first time – the website’s a bit creaky but their service is speedy: I had the film and scans back within 3 days. As I feared, the photos were overexposed by about 2 stops but I let Lightroom work its magic and they came out tolerably (N.B. I got medium-res jpegs from the lab this time, not tiffs, so exposure recovery was limited). In an odd way, the overexposure suits the parched landscape well.
Here are a few examples, with a link to the full gallery below:
Last week I needed fresh air, exercise and photography practice. So I packed my panniers with tripod and digital camera then caught an early train east to the Isle of Grain, Kent. Grain’s a good place to get away from London: quiet, nice to cycle around, big skies.
On the way to the train station, this wall made me stop and look, so I reached for the camera:
Now to Grain itself. The early light from 6am to around 7.30am was really nice, then cloud cover gradually spread and sunnier spells were limited, unfortunately. So I kept moving on the bike and stopped whenever the light improved.
This is a view N from Northward Hill, one of Grain’s highest points:
(NB. I haven’t straightened this yet or removed the barrel distortion, as you’ll have noticed…)
I was trying to use the diagonal sweep from the foreground scrub, through the blossoming trees and ground lines, into the distance. Colour is muted and the sky is not very striking, though the compositional balance between land and sky seems right. Worth trying again in more dramatic light and/or weather, perhaps.
Here’s a view W from the same place:
Some colour is introduced by the oil seed rape field and the Portakabins. The cloud shadow in the middle distance adds something but the flat sky again limits interest, I think. It was time to move on, so I cycled E/NE to the town of Grain itself on the eastern shore.
View from the coastal path – grey enough for you?
The light and weather were very flat at this point so I thought I’d take some monochromatic photos. I trundled along the path and tried to capture the texture and lines of the concrete itself:
I like the diagonals drawing the eye towards the water, the muted palette and the contrast of the rippling water below; I’m going to try printing this.
On the theme of concrete, texture and weathering, here are two shots a little further up the path, taken from Grain beach:
I prefer the first (portrait) shot as I think it’s better composed, with the seashells at bottom and the cloudy sky up top; it is also a printing candidate.
Next time I’m going to Grain, I’ll bring the Yashica – it’d be interesting to compare how medium format film captures the last few subjects.
So, the accessories arrived a few days ago. Here’s the Gossen Lunasix F light meter I purchased from eBay:
Gossen have thoughtfully archived their old manuals as pdfs on their website so I was able to get this with ease. I’ve never used a light meter before but it seems quite straightforward in practice.
Here is my Yashica Mat itself:
and here’s everything cased up:
The manual is obviously dated but it’s concisely put together. The slide film (or ‘E6’ for short) is Fujifilm Provia 100F which I’m using as a control group to begin with. I’ll be trying and comparing colour negative film later on, if the money doesn’t run out.
First time out
Monday’s weather was tepid spring: the odd sunny spell but mostly overcast, warm in the sun but otherwise cool. Nonetheless, I was determined to take the TLR out for a trial run so I headed to some local woodland with camera, tripod and meter.
I spent forty minutes walking the woods, looking for shots and analyzing the light. Then it was time for action. Tripod out, TLR out of case, meter out – whoops, the cases are on the ground – and so on. I then composed the shot using the viewfinder on the Yashica Mat which pops up from the top:
It’s large, fairly bright and has grid lines (great for me, I’m usually 1/1.5 degrees lopsided). The viewfinder image is laterally reversed which is weird when you start moving the camera or tripod – it’ll take a while to master. There’s a magnifying glass you can pop down for precise focusing. I found myself really taking time to get the composition right, metering the scene several times (I have not put the Zone System into practice yet – all in good time).
It’s not digital – I took four photographs in around two hours. Ok, it was my first time so everything took longer than it should. Still, when you have the cost of film and processing in the back of your mind, you do your best before you press the shutter. There’s also an element of “Hmm, is that idea really worth setting up for?”.
When I finish the roll, I’ll have it developed straight away to verify the exposures and make sure everything is working as it should. I’m noting shutter speed and aperture for each shot as I go. I’ll have some results to share before too long.