Sep 142013

Three photographs this time.

Getting ready for a week in London next month and I happened be looking at some pictures from a trip in November, 2000.

These are panoramics shot with a Horizon 202 — a Russian film camera with a swing lens.  The film is loaded over a curved film “plane” inside, and when you press the shutter button, the lens rotates in a 120 degree arc.  I wish they made a digital camera that did something like this.

The workflow was similar to shooting with film cameras at that time:  Develop the negatives; cut them into strips and scan them (the Horizon frame is 24 x 60mm instead of the normal 24 x 36mm), remove the dust spots in PhotoShop, then adjust as per normal practice (noise, curves, color balance, brightness/contrast, sharpening, etc.).  Typically I would shoot Fuji Press (ISO 800) film and used a snap in neutral density filter when outside.  This also allowed me to shoot interior scenes — without the ND filter.

I went back and touched up the photos following a little bit before posting them here.

Inside a London Eye Capsule

A typical dreary end-of-November day, but still a nice flight.  The kid was aware that something was happening, because he could see the lens moving.

In a London Eye capsule -- flying over the Thames (click to enlarge)

In a London Eye capsule — flying over the Thames (click to enlarge)

Iconic London Buses

In the Transport Museum, arranged the “old” way.  At that time, the museum was set up to exhibit.  In this area, you could see five buses arrayed in a fan.  Now the museum is set up for activities.  I guess that’s better for kids, but not as good for history buffs.  The gift store, however, remains one of the better ones, and being at Covent Garden, is easy to find and may be on your itinerary anyway.

London Buses.  (click to enlarge)

London Buses (click to enlarge)

The London Eye from Underneath

A view from under the support legs of the Eye.  The two legs cantilever out over the Thames, so when you look straight down from your capsule, you’re over the water.

Underneath the Eye (click to enlarge)

Underneath the Eye (click to enlarge)

I plan on visiting both of these sites…No idea what those pictures will be like.


The London Eye
The London Transport Museum
Wikipedia: Horizon Camera

Jul 052010

Speakers’ Corner, London

A man trying to make a point, and a cyclist flashing by.  A bit metaphoric perhaps?

Speakers’ Corner is a London institution.  Every Sunday, in the north-east corner of Hyde Park near the Marble Arch, folks (guys mostly) attempt to persuade both the passersby and the intentional “attendees”.  As an institution, Speakers’ Corner is protected by a series of codes and case law.  It is virtually woven into the fabric of British political ethos.

Over the years from the mid-nineteenth century through the early twentieth, the topics of discussion were often political.  Intense debate from the likes of Lenin, Marx, and George Orwell.  And from time-to-time political or social topics do still manage to surface on a Sunday afternoon.

But today, most of the speakers are religious.  Religious discussion is fine, but when you get someone who is prepared to spend a couple of hours on a footstool or stepladder, dialogue is not their intent.  Most religious speakers are not looking for consensus or compromise.  They are looking for people who are in total – or near total – agreement.  And they are boring.  And that’s a shame.

Looking at Speakers’ Corner in the context of this century, it would be easy to believe that it has lost some of its “magic” — a bit past its prime.  But from another point of view, Speakers’ Corner is an institution where perhaps the greatest value lies in its potential.  Suffering countless boring religious zealots year in and year out, Speakers’ Corner is prepared to flower at a moment’s notice – a social and political safety valve.

I guess I can suffer the zealots.  They’re keeping the lights on.

Apr 292010

Lunch — Marble Arch

Lunch at the Pret A Manger, Marble Arch, London

Hmmm.  Another food shot.

This is from the Fall of 2002.   Shot with a Cosina/Voigtlander Bessa rangefinder camera using chromogenic black and white film.  I forget which lens I was using — likely a 15mm.

Sitting there, munching my lunch, and watching the world pass by…

Feb 282010

What Got Me Started On…

Well, maybe “started” is too strong a word.

Stepney Green Tube Station

But over the past decade or so, one the things I’ve been trying to balance is the inherent accuracy offered through photography against a desire mute a viewer’s natural inclination to spend time searching for details…Details that satisfy curiosity, but which don’t really inform.

I was on some kind of quest in London during a visit in 2001 and ended up at Stepney Green.  It was the middle of the day and the station was much quieter than those closer to the city center.  The station was fairly dim, and I ended making the shot at 1/5th of a second, using a 15mm lens on a Voightlander Bessa rangefinder body.

The station environment is rendered with a fair amount of detail, though the lighting forces some shadows.  You see all you need to see of the departing train.  And people are in various states of blur.  Between distance, blur, and lighting, you’re not going to be able to tell what brand of shoes they are wearing — but that’s just fine.

This is another of those shots that I wasn’t sure was going to work out.  But it helped point my thinking towards different ways of representing people pictorially.

Feb 052010

Looking Down, London Eye

The pods on the London Eye give you the opportunity to look in all directions.

On this chilly, drizzly early December day in 2008 I decided to look down as well as around.  Some of the people there on the South Bank seem to be clustered for a reason, but if I knew once, it escapes me now.

Shooting inside one of those pods does present challenges.  The polished windows make reflections stand out unless you back away (in which case you get a lot of the pod’s interior in your shot), or get the lens right up to the glass.

Dec 132009

So I wanted to just smack the guy…


…No — not the kid in the picture.  I wanted to smack my “brother” photographer.

I like this picture, but it was a challenge.  It was quite dark.  I was shooting a Leica M6 with a 15mm lens at a very slow shutter speed — ISO 800 film.  This installation was “The Weather Project”, by Olafur Eliasson, in the “Turbine Hall” of London’s Tate Modern Museum from 16 October 2003 until 21 March 2004.  I made several shots, and all the scans take a lot of work.  The best rendering of this image was something I did in a printing class — printing as in ink on paper — but that’s another topic.

I was on the floor, discretely using a monopod and contorting myself as I tried to get the right perspective.  Then this dude comes over near me, sets up his tripod, and the next thing you know the docent is telling us both that we “can’t do that”.  Grrrr.  So I’m going to be doing contortions — combined with slow shutter speeds, that’s asking for problems.

I’m sorry, but do people really think you can plop a tripod down in any museum without permission?  Monopods, on the other hand, seem to be OK in many places.  The Victoria and Albert had no problem.  Most of the Smithsonian museums allow monopods.  And you should always ask when you visit a museum for the first time.

So that’s why I wanted to smack the guy.

The little boy and the woman, on the other hand, hopefully had a wonderful day.  It sure looked like it from where I was crouching.

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