something fish(eye)y going on

Please forgive the title of this post – if it’s any consolation it hurts when I read it as well.

As well as a mountain of 120 slide film, I also just got back a roll of 35mm Ilford XP2 black and white film which I had put in my Lomo Fisheye 2 about 6 months ago. Results were less than impressive – in my (albeit brief) experience the fisheye image format really only works at all in a limited number of circumstances and even less when using black and white film.

First, 36 exposures is too many for a single roll of film as you can’t know whether the speed rating of the film is appropriate for all the conditions you’ll be shooting in. In this case, XP2 at 400iso simply wasn’t sensitive enough for most of the pictures I took, as I appear to have shot half the roll indoors. For indoor work I was using my Nikon SB600 flash in the hotshoe, but they are all still underexposed. ISO800 with flash might work.

Out of 36 exposures, at least 10 are simply blank. User error I fear. Of the rest, only a handful are even remotely interesting, and even that is probably stretching the definition of interesting a bit.

Nonetheless I’ll press on and share them here anyway, because quite frankly, I can. Click on each of these to make them all big and that.

Lomo Fisheye black and white Lomo Fisheye black and white Lomo Fisheye black and white

Lomo Fisheye black and white Lomo Fisheye black and white

So what’s next for the fisheye? Dunno to be honest. I’m not really getting the level of enjoyment out of it that I am the Holga and I’ve been spoiled by the lovely big 120 film images so find the tiddly 35mm negatives a bit underwhelming all round. I’ll whack a 24 exposure roll of colour film in it next and see what transpires.

The end

Venice through a plastic lens, Holga-rific

Today I finally completed scanning, rotating, cropping and resizing my Holga 120 scans from my recent trip to Venice. Scan, crop, rotate, repeat – how exciting! Through some apparently odd quirk of my current aesthetic sensibilities, I appear to be happier with these than with most of the ones I got from my Nikon D200.

One of the philosophies of shooting with a Holga is that you should “shoot from the hip”. I embraced this when I was in Venice by doing exactly that, with mixed results. It’s fairly obvious which of these I fired off without even composing at all with the viewfinder, and which of them I took a bit more time over.

I love the colour and saturation that these have, much more than the digital images of the same subjects. Some of that is due I think to the fact it’s shot with film, although some of it may be down to my scanner as well. I also like the dreamlike quality you can get with a Holga. This is a clever way of pretending that your out of focus image is supposed to look like that. For these Venetian scenes it works pretty well.

All of these were shot on 5 year out of date Fuji Provia 400. Because the Holga doesn’t offer much control over exposure with just two aperture settings available, all have had only slight tweaks to levels to correct any under/over exposure. Enjoy!

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

Holga - Venice through a plastic lens

So where does this leave me with the Holga? I still have 20 odd rolls of film to shoot, although I suspect the rolls of Velvia 50ISO aren’t much use to me. I think I now need to start being more adventurous, because as I become more adept at getting shots that are in focus, I think I lose some of the qualities that a Holga brings to an image. Next time I use it I plan to go crazy!

The end

a holga lot of scanning

On Saturday I received my processed films back from Peak Imaging. These were the first rolls of 120 E6 slide film I’ve actually had processed properly, and it was really great to see the image in your hands without needing to scan it and convert if from a negative.

Problem was though, with 5 rolls of 12 exposures, I had a lot of scanning to do. It took me all day Sunday to scan in the slides, and I was happy enough with a few of them. Most of the shots were taken in Venice which I’ll post up seperately once I’ve sorted out the ones I like.

I am apparently unable to go more than 5 minutes without taking a photograph of Wilf, so it’s no surprise to see this one, taken a few weeks back when I forced him into a T-shirt to pose for pictures. This was shot on Fuji Provia 400 in my studio

Wilf do bad things - Holga style
Holga 120cfn
Wilf do bad things
Fuji Velvia 50

This next picture was taken in my back garden when my cherry tree was in full bloom, and we had a rare day of blue sky. I wanted to see how the exposure would come out when set to “sunny mode” and shot on 400iso film. I struggle to see how you could ever go below 100iso film even on a very sunny day, which renders my 5 rolls of 50iso Fuji Velvia a bit worthless.

Holga 120cfn
Cherry Blossom
Fuji Velvia 50
More lessons learnt, I feel like I’ve got the hang of the Holga a bit now!

The end

His Dark Materials

For my birthday way back in 2006, my buddy Tuan bought us tickets to see a stage adaptation of Philip Pullman’s "His Dark Materials" trilogy. Although purchased in October 2006 the play wasn’t actually on until April 2008 – last Saturday in fact.

The play is in two parts, first was at 14:00 and the second at 19:00 with a couple of hours break in between (or pub and pints time as I named it). Total running time is somewhere near to five hours, which is fairly extreme but understandable given the length of the three books.

We set off down the motorway towards the West End of London bright and early on Saturday. When we hit Reading after about 100 miles of driving, I get Tuan to check what Theatre in the West End we are heading for. He replies;

“Theatre Royal, Bath.”


At the next junction we turn around and head the 80 odd miles back to Bath, tails between our legs but thankful we didn’t make it all the way to London.

The performance itself was I believe an amateur group, and was made up entirely of children and young adults, with the oldest cast member something like 21 years old.

Overall the performance was engaging, and highly professional. One issue for me was that some of the younger actors appeared to think that the quality of their acting acting was directly linked to how loud they said their lines. As such some of the players delivered every line at what seemed to be full volume, and maximum attack. This coupled with some slight over amplification of the voices resulted in me occasionally flinching in expectation of hearing damage.

If you haven’t read the books the following will mean nothing to you.

It’s difficult to really buy into a young man of approximately twenty years playing the part of Lord Azrael, but once you look past that (and the other ludicrously young cast members) it’s not so bad.

I wondered how they would represent the characters of the daemons – the answer is with someone wearing silk pyjamas and a mask. I struggled with this throughout if I’m quite honest, as I did with the sets which were effectively non-existant. But I’m being unfair – it’s a huge undertaking, and the overall result is commendable. With the sheer quantity of storytelling that takes place, set design was always going to be difficult, as was getting across the daemons in all their complexity.

The end

that’s amore (pizza pie not included)

Venice. Where do I start?

With some pictures since I know reading what some boring twat has to say can be… well… boring. Whilst in Venice I developed an inexplicable obsession with panoramic photographs. Click on any of these to big-ify them.

A Panorama from Venice

A Panorama from Venice

A Panorama from Venice

A Panorama from Venice

I have mixed feelings about these panoramic photos but I’m all about the sharing.

Venice is an easy city to photograph. Quite simply, everywhere you turn, there is a feast for the eyes, architecture, canals, bridges; it’s easy to get overloaded. However, Venice is a very difficult city to photograph well. What I mean by this is that it’s very hard to take a photograph that captures the atmosphere and the emotion that triggered the urge to take the photo in the first place.

I’ve found myself rejecting 19 out of 20 photos I took whilst I was there, as I simply don’t get any particular emotional response from them. I’ll share the ones I did like, as I walk you through our time in Venice.

We finally arrived at around 22:30 in the evening, desipte easyjet’s efforts to stop us going with yet another delayed flight. Our transport options were limited, so one Water Taxi ride later we are dropped off on the Grand Canal, right outside our hotel door, stepping from the boat onto a jetty seen here on the left here about half way along;

The Grand Canal Venice, by night

It’s too late to do much but have a drink in the hotel bar. One or two people warned me that Venice is expensive. I struggle to understand how they can say this – Venice isn’t expensive – it’s absurd. Expect to pay upwards of £7 for a 330cl bottle of beer. It makes the West End of London look positively thrifty. After a couple of drinks we head off to bed.

The next day arrives and we have our first opportunity to experience Venice proper. We head off on foot for the Basilica di San Marco – everyone says this is a must, so we’re keen to get it in on the first day. On the way we can immediately see why everyone makes such a fuss about Venice. Around every corner, there is a sight you wont see anywhere else in the world: Houses with their front door on a canal or accessed over tiny little picturesque bridges. Down a small back alley and suddenly you are in a grand square with an even grander Church overlooking it – around the next corner you enter a dark alley and wonder if you’ve hit a dead end, only to find yourself stood on a small but beautiful bridge over a canal with brightly coloured houses all around you.

View from a bridge in Venice
For all of it’s beauty though, Venice is a city in decay. Facades crumble away wherever you turn and for every building under construction, or more accurately renovation, hundreds more lie neglected. It can’t escape notice that every single piece of architecture is simliar – all thoroughly beautiful but all trapped in the past with no-where to go. At best, it will be maintained as it currently is, but you only have to walk for two minutes to know this doesn’t seem realistic. Your heart sees the rustic charm – your head wonders how deep the apparently superficial decay really goes.Venice houses show their age

Venice houses show their age

What do I know though? Venice has survived for hundreds of years, and will no doubt continue to do so. Graffiti is rife everywhere; It seems the residents of the city need a voice, and that voice is expressed in the form of incomprehensible graffiti – at least for a non Italian speaker. Although it’s pretty easy to understand the sentiment here:

Venice Graffiti

Around another corner and suddenly we’re at the Ponte de Rialto – one of only three bridges over the grand canal, and easily the most famous. We would later on in the holiday stop at this very spot for a delicious seafood lunch:

Ponte de Rialto,  Venice

We cross the bridge, and take in some of the shops selling typical Venetian tourist fare – Murano glass and ornate masks dominate. Holiday spending fever grips and you start to think one of these would make a good present for someone back home. Sanity prevails as we ask ourselves two questions – who and why?

Venetian Masks

A Venetian Mask

Finally after about an hour of walking we arrive at St Mark’s square, and the Basilica di San Marco. This is without doubt the busiest tourist spot I’ve ever visited. Literally hordes of people swarming all over the place mean taking a photo without 100 japanese tourists or schoolchildren in it is impossible.

Unless you want photos of random tourists, you are stuck taking detail shots. I took loads, and rejected them all except this one, which I find oddly appealing.

Lion at the Basilica San Marco

Once we’ve hit St Mark’s square, and toured the Basilica (which sadly doesn’t allow photography, but is an incredible place), we simply strike out in one direction and see where it takes us. I fire off a huge number of photographs, and my beautiful wife remains patient throughout.

Bridge Scene,  Venice

Mooring posts,  Venice Grand Canal

Bridge Scene,  Venice

For our first evening meal, we decide to eat on the grand canal, but it’s a total washout both literally (due to the pouring rain) and figuratively, due to the average food and service and more absurd Venice pricing.

Day two dawns and it’s raining – we eat breakfast and as luck would have it, by the time we head out it’s stopped raining. This would not remain the case as it rained on and off all day, and we got quite simply drenched to the bone.

St Mark’s square acts like a magnet as foot traffic all seems to flow in that direction – we find ourselves there again in one of the dry periods we are able to stop for a drink. This is what a 12.50 euro bottle of Guiness looks like, backed with the Palazzo Ducale.

12.5 euro for a bottle of Guiness!

The rain finally lets up and we enjoy an evening walking around a drying city. I proceed to take a bunch of long exposure photos whilst Abby stands patiently by waiting for me.

The Grand Canal Venice, by night

The Grand Canal Venice, by night

The Grand Canal Venice, by night

For the rest of the holiday it’s more of the same, which is nothing to complain about. On the last day, the weather holds and is warm, we eat our most delicious meal within inches of the Grand Canal resisting the temptation to dip our feet in.

We walk for miles, taking in as much of the city as we can, and stopping for a few cheesy photos on the way.

On the Ponte di Rialto, Venice

A bridge, Venice

Eventually though we run out of time, so another Water Taxi takes us back to the airport.

Leaving Venice, James Bond style

At the airport we experience the most dreadful check in experience imaginable, waiting almost 4 hours to get checked in. Since we’re stood in a queue for half this time, it’s worse still than our 5 hours at Bristol Airport but with the blessed relief being that the flight isn’t canceled this time.

My final thoughts on Venice – it’s well worth a trip, but expect to spend a fortune. A meal for two with a couple of drinks will probably set you back 100 euro. Drinks vary between 5 and 15 euro each.

But when the dust settles it’s totally worth it making memories that will last a lifetime.

The end

doggy style

I continue to avoid sorting through several hundred photos of Venice, this time by going out for a walk with Wilf the dog and two of his friends Baggins and George.

I’ve written here before about Wilf’s neurotic character traits. He’s been examined and observed by a number of vets and dog psychology experts who have diagnosed his excessive obsessive tail chasing as various things such as epilepsy, and come up with various ways to cure him – none of which have worked. Fortunately with some recent work his tail chasing seems to be getting better, which is promising.

He’s also been diagnosed as exhibiting “extreme fear” when taken on a walk, which results in him not wanting to get out of the car, or leave the house unless it’s to get in a car. All this leaves Wilf as a bundle of pure energy (typical of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed) who gets little or no exercise.

When the opportunity to walk him with other dogs arises, it’s always worth a try – he seems less fearful when other dogs are around to take the lead (pardon the pun).

Here’s a rare photo of Wilf enjoying the great outdoors:

Wilf on the move

After the walk, we take Baggins and George back to my studio and attempt to get them to sit still for five minutes so I can photograph them. Once again I had issues with the optical triggers on the Vivitar flashes – you would think I would have learned by now and given up.

Meet Baggins:


Baggins is the Brother of Bailey and Simba, who I photographed a couple of years ago – back before Wilf had developed the worst of his current psychological traits.

And this is George, who lives with Baggins:


Two dogs at once is difficult in the extreme – I hoped to get a photo of them together but all my efforts were in vain. Sit still you buggers!!!

When I do eventually process and post my pictures from Venice, you’ll see I’ve developed an apparent obsession with panoramic photos. This seems to have continued after my return, with this one resulting from the walkies with the doggies.

Oilseed panoramic view

Click on it for a larger version, go on, you know you want to.

The end

Honda S2000

I’m back from holidays and slogging through several hundred photos trying to obtain some sort of order from it all, so decided I’d take a break and share a picture I took before I left. My buddy Sami is selling his car, and wanted some nice pictures of it before it was gone. I couldn’t promise they’d be nice, but I said I would give it a go. I’d planned this shoot in detail using my new notebook approach and was only missing a location.

Cue an hours frenized driving around looking for somewhere interesting. It did highlight the issue that planning a shoot is all very well but if you don’t know where you are going to do it in the first place, it’s all a bit pointless.

Anyway, onto the results. I had terrible problems with the optical triggers for my Vivitars – they simply wouldn’t work reliably. Or to put it more bluntly, they were utter utter shite. One flash would constantly fire on it’s own, whilst the other only fired one time out of every five or six attempts. Clearly the optical triggers need to go, they are are no good outside of a studio. In spite of this I got the static shot I wanted. I’m not totally happy with it, but equipment failings are the main cause of this unhappiness.

Honda S2000 GT

The only other image I wanted to get was a car to car tracking shot – this worked less well for two key reasons;

1.) I had to push to ISO 800 to get the shutter time I wanted – this caused a lot of noise which I hate.
2.) The boot of my Ignis is not a nice place to be whilst driving over bumpy ground. I was too busy concentrating on not falling out to be able to give enough attention to the shots I was taking. I’ll share the picture here if only to illustrate my points.

Honda S2000 GT

Despite these problems, I’m confident my new approach to shooting cars is really helping to improve the results I’m getting. on to the next car which will depend on which of my friends I can convince to stand around for an hour whilst I mess around taking photos!

The end

more like sleazyjet.

When the bartender at the airport bar says “are you still here?”  You know something has gone badly wrong with your holiday…

As I write this, I should be walking the streets of historic Venice, lapping up the culture, the sights, the architecture (and the booze).

Instead I’m sat in my dingy office at home bemoaning the state of the world. It goes something like this;

We arrive at Bristol International Airport full of that optimistic buzz you always get when you are about to go on holiday. We line up with all the other various folks either skipping and twittering, happy that they are off to sunnier and more relaxing climes – or trudging and dragging a case knowing they are going home.

Our turn at the check-in and the sloping foreheaded drone behind the counter cheerfully informs us our flight is delayed 3 hours. I refrain from speaking my mind at this point. It can’t be the weather, because when we arrived it looked like this;

Bristol Airport,  situation normal.

5 hours pass in a haze of bad bad takeaway food, and ludicrously expensive beer and wine. For a time the weather turns towards the worrying – snowstorms hit.

Bristol Airport,  Snow storm!

But departs as quickly as it arrives. Finally we are called to our gate for boarding. Where we wait.

And wait….

And are told to wait just 15 minutes more for an announcement.

It’s hard not to notice the conspicuous arrival of airport police at the gate, just a short moment prior to the announcement. Expecting trouble are we?

So there it is, the squawking tannoy voice informs us that the flight has been canceled, because easyjet can’t find a crew for the plane. Did you look down the back of the sofa for one? Did you not realise the plane would need a crew before you called us to the gate, after making us wait FIVE HOURS? You total, total arseholes.

“Please proceed to the easyjet helpdesk for more information, and a brain aneurysm bought on through pure distilled airport rage.”

Airport rage is (thankfully) unique in that it’s on the whole utterly impotent, and pointless. The monosyllabic and infuriatingly un-apologetic cretin behind the counter doesn’t care about you – and can’t help you by virtue of being at the bottom of both the easyjet food ladder, and apparently also the gene pool.

So we find ourselves at home, and having been refunded for our entire holiday without any undue fuss or hassle, and without me needing to “express myself” on the phone to the queasyjet helpliner. We’ve re-booked and actually saved money on the re-booking. These are small, but welcome mercies.

Now I’m off to unpack my suitcase.

The end