Thursday, 30 April 2015

Nikon FM3A - first impressions

Well my new toy arrived - a Nikon FM3A.  I put a film through it yesterday to check all the major functions and it all seems good.  It will be interesting to compare results from it and the Leica over the next while.  A proper comparison will require the darkroom, of course, but at first look the scans look very good.  Here's a couple for your amusement.

This first shot is of the Dog-Hound-Thing.  We went for a bit of a stroll over the sand dunes.  Mind you, it's always difficult to get him to stop moving, but he's getting better in his old age - just.

This was captured using a Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 lens - supposedly one of their sharpest.  It's an old lens, manual focus of course and a bit of a beast size- and weight-wise.  But it looks like the snaps are very sharp and have a nice tone to them.  FP4+ on favourite combination.

I opened the lens up to its maximum aperture (f/2.8) to see what the out-of-focus background would look like and was pleasantly surprised - it's very nice, to my eyes anyway:

Out-of-focus rendering

The camera feels very good in the hands - a solid piece of engineering, with a 'rugged, copper-aluminium alloy' body (according to the blurb).  Viewfinder is very bright - on a par with the Leica, I would say, which is very surprising, considering the Leica is one of the very brightest around.  Of course the Leica is a rangefinder and therefore has no prism to absorb the light, so Nikon have done a great job there - it's much brighter than that of the OM-1 that Missy uses.  The OM-1 was considered the best in its day - but of course the FM3A is 30 years newer.

More shots to come tomorrow.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

This photography thing...

This photography thing is very addictive.  I've been wondering how come I've re-kindled my interest in it, after a lay-off for a few years during which time I had a career of sorts as an academic.  Actually looking through The Archives there weren't many years when I didn't take any photographs at all - although for a few years they were mostly family and postcard-type snaps...not the Fine Art stuff you see nowadays on this blog (Ed: Ah come on now...).   When my career was in full flow there wasn't really a lot of time left to have a hobby.  The old Academic Life does tend to fill any spare time you might have, what with reading papers, writing research proposals, keeping abreast of other work in your chosen field, supervising PhD students, writing up your own research for publication ... you get my drift - it isn't a 9 to 5 kind of job.  Not that I'm complaining - I lived for and loved my work.  But since I took early retirement a few years ago I haven't given it a second thought.  Like most people who retire, I decided I wasn't for looking back and I haven't.  So now I potter about, look after myself a bit better, take more care of my family and home.

Anyway, as I was saying, the current level of interest in photography is, well, interesting.  Pre-Internet days you had your local clubs, where you could go along once a month or so, listen to a guest speaker, perhaps show some of your prints and enter competitions.  Photographic clubs are still around of course, but applications like Facebook have I believe re-kindled a lot of people's interest in photography.  There are numerous FB groups catering for whatever kind of photography you have an interest in - sport, nature, landscape, candid, film, name it, there's bound to be a group for it.  One of the groups I belong to - Traditional Film Photography - has more than 10,000 members worldwide.  So there's an instant (large!) audience to show your latest masterpiece to.  The downside is that too many people upload very mediocre photographs.  And of course too many other people say how brilliant those mediocre photographs are, and so it goes on.  But in between the dross there are people who know what they are doing and on balance it's still worthwhile being in the group...for now anyway.

Many photographers (like moi) have their own blog where again they store their finest work (!) in one easily accessible online place.  Of course you need to either do digital or have a scanner for film but for us film users this is a lot better than having all your prints&slides stored in a box in the attic, where if you feel like it you might dig a few out over Christmas to 'show the family'.

Anyway, just to interrupt my musings for a moment, here's a couple of photographs for you.  They were taken during one of my many stays in hospital when I was a teenager - just as my ankylosing spondylitis was getting started on me.  I can date this almost exactly to 1976, in Coleraine hospital.  From memory both these lassies were nurses, but one had the tables turned on her and became a patient for a while.  Check out the well starched uniform on her, they don't do it like nowadays.

Nurses in Coleraine Hospital, c1976
I must have been very bored - but clearly I had a camera with me.  I rather like this next one - not bad for a spotty youth methinks and of course Kodachrome did a great job with the colours, as usual.

Oxygen, anyone?

But I digress.  The think about this photography thing is, when the bug bites, it really bites.  Loads of partners of photographers are, I'm sure, driven mad by the antics of their other half.  Well, not so much their antics as their insatiable desire to acquire cameras and lenses, even when they already have enough to last several lifetimes.  In this regard I think film photographers are worse than digital ones - for two reasons.  Firstly, there are a lot of old film cameras around and most are very affordable nowadays, since their owners have gone over to the digital dark side.  Secondly, there is such a variation of kit around - different camera/lens combinations have individual characteristics with the various films available and it's all just so much fun to play with.

This was all a very roundabout way of saying I've just purchased (yet) another camera.  Now my good wife did raise her eyebrows at this, saying as the last one I bought was a very expensive and very beautiful Leica, which I love to bits.  But of course one single camera can never cover all bases...  The Leica is a rangefinder and therefore is best suited to wide-angle or very short telephoto lenses.  I had an urge to get an SLR again, which is capable of taking much longer telephoto lenses and so after a bit (lot!) of research I settled on a Nikon FM3A.  I'm not keen on all-electronic cameras, since on these older film cameras when the electronics fail they are not repairable, and so end up being an expensive paperweight.  Hence the M6, which is the last of the all-manual Leicas. Now the FM3A is not entirely manual - you can choose between shooting in full manual mode or electronic mode.  So if/when the electronics fail at some point (hopefully a long way away) in the future, the body should still be usable in manual mode.   It was a close thing between the all manual FM2 and the FM3A, but the FM3A is a newer camera and so when I found an FM3A at a very decent price with a 12-month guarantee from a reputable company I pulled the trigger. It's winging its way to me as I type...I'm excited!

Hopefully I'll get a test film through the Nikon tomorrow and be able to show you the results soon!   

Of course what I really lust after is a Hasselblad...but that's another story.  

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Road race time again

I've posted before about the annual motorbike road race around these parts - the North West 200, where mad men (and women) hurtle around Portstewart-Coleraine-Portrush roads at speeds up to (and just over) 200mph.  Completely nuts.   I haven't really had the camera/lens setup to take any photographs in recent years and to be honest it's not as easy as it was when I was a lad.  In those days you could stand more or less at the side of the road and get really close to the action.  Nowadays that's not allowed - spectators are being pushed further and further back - for obvious reasons (Risk Assessments, Health and Safety, Public Liability Insurance to name but a few).  Really the organisers want everyone seated in tiered stands and not sticking their head (and camera) through a gap in the hedge.  Completely understandable - if two bikes touch at high speed then no-one nearby is safe.   I was talking to one of the Head Marshalls of the course last year and he recalled an accident at another road race a few years ago when two bikes touched.  One of the bikes somersaulted into the air and crashed up in a tree.  Unfortunately the same tree that a man had climbed to get a better view, thinking he'd be safe up there.  He wasn't - poor man was fatally injured.  So while the major risk is for the riders, there is also a risk for the spectators.

Of course in my day (Ed: eh?) the term Health and Safety hadn't been invented.  Here's a few shots - in colour this time, my favourite Kodachrome - from The Archives.  1979 was the year.

First off we have the local lad, our very own Joey Dunlop, one of the famous (around these parts anyway) Armoy Armada.  Road racing was in Joey's blood and there'll be a few more posts about him on this blog in the future.  Joey was killed riding in Estonia at the age of 48.  Now, remember it's 1979...notice the huge crowds in the background - and the cows aren't very impressed either.  Why is it all the greats wore yellow helmets?  Ayrton Senna, Joey Dunlop, Lewis Hamilton...there must be a story there somewhere.

Joey Dunlop
Next we have another local lad and Grand Prix racer - Tom Herron.  Tom was tragically killed on the last lap of the last race of the NW200 in 1979, so this is probably one of the last ever photographs of him.  One thing that always amazes me is the complete lack of protection for the riders in those days - not even a straw bale in sight along this stretch of road...just concrete walls and metal lamp posts.  Any wonder there were so many fatalities.  When I see this photograph it's hard to think about Tommy Herron the man who lost his life later this very day.  I suppose when your time is up it's better to be wearing #1.

Tom Herron, 1979

The 1979 race day was a tragic one - known afterwards as 'Black Saturday' since there were a number of fatalities that day. A major crash occurred on the Cromore Road - the course was altered soon after, which removed this long straight section.  The Brother and I were standing close by at the time  - we often moved along the back roads between races just to get a different vantage point.  I wonder what these riders were thinking as they passed the scene..."Thank flip that's not me", I suspect.

Fatal crash at Cromore Road, 1979
Maybe this year I'll dust the camera off and get out and about on Race Day - in about 3 weeks time.  Stay tuned...

Friday, 24 April 2015

On film

Even the casual reader of this blog will know by now that I am a film user.   Of course when I was a callow youth there was only film.  Ilford B&W films were a favourite - and still are.  The brother and I had our darkroom which our dad built for us - he was handy with the old woodwork, he was. After a few years 'perfecting' black and white processing and printing we both felt the urge to experiment with colour processing.  I took quite a few colour films and developed them - not very successfully I seem to remember.  Printing in the darkroom was a whole other game entirely - no safelight allowed, everything had to be done in total darkness.  And then the temperature was so much more critical than B&W.

Both the brother and I took colour slides as well - Kodachrome was the #1 film of choice, since Kodak did the processing and sent you back the slides in their iconic little yellow box.  Ektachrome was another Kodak product but was purchased without processing included, so you had the option of doing it yourself.  Then Cibachrome came along which allowed you to make colour prints from your slides - The Brother was a big Cibachrome user, me less so.

I came across this snap the other day - I think to be fair it was The Brother's.  Both him and I worked in photographic stores (different ones) during our teenage years and at some point he must have pointed his camera (loaded with Kodachrome) at a shelf and this was captured for posterity:

Film, c1979
What a sexy photograph, don't you agree?  Look at the names - Ilford, Agfa, Kodak, Fuji, Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Fujicolor, FP4, PanF...fantastic. And the different formats - 135 (35mm), 120, 127.  Thing is, in those days we never thought there would be anything other than film.  But as you all know the world has (by and large) gone digital and now people lust after CF cards in the same we did for film - or maybe not.  Kodak stopped manufacturing Kodachrome in 2009 and stopped processing in 2010.  Ilford are still around and manufacture PanF, FP4+ and HP5+ (as well as other faster films), although these are different films to those available in the 70s.  You can still buy Kodak and Fujicolor print film.  In fact Fuji still sell Velvia, a superb colour slide film, though it ain't cheap at nearly £20 for a 36 exposure film, processed and mounted.

I can't see myself going back to processing my own colour film but I can maybe - just maybe - see myself using colour slide film again.  There is something very special about the colour you get from slide film - as I hope to show here once I get some more scanning done.

Thursday, 23 April 2015


Delving through some old slides I came across a couple of mother as she was in the 1970s.

Mother, sometime in the late 1970s
She has a rather quizzical look about her in this shot - wonder what she was thinking?  Probably something along the lines of 'I wish he would stop taking pictures of me'.  Lovely tonal range in this one, methinks - and just look at that background!  Nowadays people who know would be cooing over the 'creamy bokeh' or some such nonsense.  In those days no-one knew what bokeh was - but we did understand depth of field.

For some strange reason most of our shots from that era seemed to be in the winter time - no foliage on the trees, as you can see.  It all adds to the grim memories of that time, when times were hard, etc etc (a la Monty Python).

Mother sporting some winter fashion
Another example of using depth of field to isolate the subject - but check out the head-gear!  And a decent winter coat as well - now that was 1970s style alright.

These are probably two of the best shots of Mother from that era.  Nowadays she won't let a camera point anywhere near her direction, so shots are hard to come by - although I did manage to get one when she wasn't looking, which you can see (again) here.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Me on Kodachrome

So after the glamour of the French Riviera it's back to the good old North East Liberties for our content.  Regular readers (Ed: eh?) will know that my interest in photography started when I was a teenager and developed from there (if you pardon the pun).  Both The Brother and I were prolific shooters of film back in the 1970s (well, there was only film in those days of course) and pointed our various cameras at anyone and anything that moved (and quite a lot of things that didn't).  As well as having boxes of prints dating from that era on my shelf there is also a whole dose of slides kicking around.  I finally got round to opening a box or two and scanning them.

It has been a real delight looking at photographs taken with the legendary Kodachrome - a film so good Paul Simon wrote a song about it!  Kodachome films were purchased with the development costs included - once finished, you sent if off to Kodak and a week or two later a little yellow box dropped through your letter box with 24 or 36 slides in their little plastic mounts.

The way Kodachrome captures colours is just beautiful - it's a shame that Kodak discontinued production of it in December 2010 - less than 5 years ago!   But since we read all the time that there is a growing interest in film again perhaps Kodak, or a spin-off, will resurrect this fabulous emulsion.

Now I know I've said that I don't do colour - and that's true, I don't.  But I did, back in my youth.  And speaking of youth, here's me back then, so to speak:

Me, on Kodachrome c1978
As you can see I'm full loaded here, with both a 35mm and a 6x6 twin lens reflex camera.  The 35mm is my lovely little OM-1, with a 200mm f/4 Zuiko lens attached.  The TLR I'm not so sure about - I think it's borrowed (I don't remember ever buying one) and could well be a Yashica 124G.  This shot is taken down our road, where I still live today - I returned to live in the North East Liberties where I grew up after many long years in the wilderness (aka England).  So this is a shot just crying out for a 'then and now' treatment - sadly the 'now' won't be on Kodachrome but it still might prove an interesting shot all the same.  It's on my 'to-do' list...

Aren't the colours just so real?  I mean, what else can give you luscious greens like that?  And so much depth - it almost looks 3D.

Notice that I'm not mentioning the flares - d'oh!  Ah well, it was the 1970s and as I'm reliably informed by some-one 'in the know', flares are back.  

The Olympus OM-1 was (and still is) a pretty little camera - it was quite revolutionary when it arrived on the scene in the early 1970s.  Up to then the market was dominated by Nikon and Canon (no change there, then) but Olympus shook their tree with the OM-1.  It was so much smaller&lighter than anything that Canon or Nikon had and had a really bright viewfinder.  And it was a proper system camera, with lenses from 21mm to 600mm, motor drives, flashguns and all the accessories.  Many professionals adopted it as their preferred camera - people like Don McCullin and David Bailey.  You can still buy one today, although they are aging now and usually need a good service. The best thing about them is that they are purely manual cameras - no electronics, just need a battery for the light meter (if you need it, that is - the camera works perfectly well with or without a functioning meter).   Of course in those days the battery was a little mercury affair, which are no longer available, but this isn't a huge problem to fix.

I can remember saving hard to buy one - it cost around £170 in 1976 (if memory serves me correctly), which apparently equates to a figure of around £1200 today.  Blimey!  That's a heck of a lot of birthday and Christmas savings - probably about 11 years' worth.  Soon afterwards I got a Saturday job in the photographic department of a local chemists which came in very handy - I worked every Friday afternoon, all day Saturday and every holiday until I left school and so had good money to feed my photography habit.

Here's another photograph from that era.

Yours truly, sometime in the late 1970s

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Le wrap-up

Well we're nearly at the end of our week in Antibes but here are a few shots that just didn't fit into the other posts this week.

Un Cafe, Antibes
Now doesn't this just scream La Dolce Vita to you - or whatever the French equivalent is.  What a lovely little place for your morning espresso and croissant, or whatever gets your motor going.   Just sit back, chill and do a little people-watching.  Just relaxes you thinking about it, doesn't it.

Not so long ago you would have seen lots of little old Renault 4s, or Citroen 2CVs darting about the cities of France - not the 2CVs really darted, more like wheezed and lurched, but you get my drift.  In this part of the world, having such a warm climate, cars seemed to last forever.  We didn't see very many old cars this time around, so when we came across one I had to snap it up, for posterity, like.  As you do.

Which would you rather drive?
Ah...such character in the old cars compared to that new Japanese thing behind it, n'est-ce pas?  The observant among you (eh?) will have clocked a certain Missy in the background, ambling along quite content with the world, OM-1 slung casually over her back.  Oh to be young again...

Nice pant job

This homage to the 1960s was spotted near the March Provençale and belonged to an artist type - not that you can tell...much!  You will of course have noticed that it's pointing the wrong way, according to the sign.  But then those artists chaps and chapettes just don't do rules, do they?  And quite right too...

Well that brings to an end the great French adventure of Easter 2015.  Hope you enjoyed it - we did!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Le Musée Picasso

Apparently the great man himself came to live in the town in the 1940s and was so enamored with the place he gave it a few paintings, ceramics and etchings (oh er, missus, come up and see my etchings, nudge nudge wink wink) he had lying around.  He lived in the Chateau Grimaldi (apparently built on top of the ancient Greek city of Antipolis) for only about 6 months, but his donations allowed the first museum dedicated to the artist to be established and today that building is known as Le Musée Picasso.

So on Easter Sunday we ambled through La Vieille Ville and queued up to be cultured.  And cultured we were, although it was very hot inside and with no suggested route through the little rooms it quickly became a bit of a free-for-all.  I would hate to be there in July, where the heat would make it unbearable - unless they have air-con.  No matter, we got to see some good stuff which sparked off some interesting conversations with Missy, although I was disappointed not to see more of his line drawings.  The power of his line drawings are inversely proportional to their simplicity, I always think.

Obviously we have no photographs of the inside of the museum, but its setting - right on the edge of the Med - is such that I snapped away as we walked around it.  As luck would have it we actually had some clouds that day which FP4 was able to capture quick nicely...

Looking towards Nice&Monaco

Just beside Le Musée is the cathedral, a lovely old building.

Antibes Cathedral

Now this is one of those rare occasions where the patina of the walls would have benefited from a...wait for it...colour film.  But since I don't do colour you'll have to imagine it - all lovely and weathered and red - reminded me somewhat of Venice.  Still, I like it the way it is here too - the light was very good that day, with strong shadows but yet some interesting clouds adding something to the sky.

Near the museum we came across this little old pump - in Rue Brûlée no less (geddit?).

A pump

Well we are almost at the end of our week in Antibes - might just have another couple of snaps to show you tomorrow and then we'll get back to The Liberties.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Le Street Photography

So continuing yesterday's theme on candid photography in Cannes here's a few more for your amusement.

Somewhere along the Rue d'Antibes, Cannes
Not quite sure the gentleman here would be too happy with this particular capture of him.  On the other hand, he just might be!

Vampires live in Cannes
Got a nice reflection of the street in the shop window here (purely intentional, naturellement) but as you can see the gentleman has no reflection!  Proof if ever proof was needed that vampires do walk among us - well, in Cannes anyway.

Shoppers in Cannes, 2015

Avec le pooch
Of course the French still loves their dogs, particularly the smaller ones.  We saw loads in Antibes and this one in Cannes.  Clearly it has spotted something interesting across the street - probably another canine and from the position of its tail it looks like it's ready to make war, as usual.

So a couple of observations on the old street photography thing.  I'm currently a one-lens man, which happens to have a focal length of 35mm.  This would be considered a wide angle ('normal' field of view translating more or less to a focal length of 50mm for a 35mm camera, if that's not too confusing!).  A focal length of 35mm is a little on the wide side for street photography, methinks.  If I was going to take up this genre in any serious way I'd probably want a 50mm.  I never really thought that street photography was my cup of tea, though I must admit I did thoroughly enjoy that afternoon in Cannes and am mildly pleased with the results.  It remains to be seen how people back in the North East Liberties would react when they have a wee camera pointed at them - I'm inclined to try it and see how it goes.  Hopefully I'll live to tell the tale. 

The issue of privacy in street photography rears its head from time to time and different countries have different takes on it.  In most countries the general rule is that if you are in a public space then you are fair game for a photographer, provided the photographer is not defaming you in any way.  In fact, it is generally OK to take photographs of people who are on private land, provided you yourself are standing in a public space and haven't gone out of your way to take the snap (e.g., climbed a tree). France, I have just found out, has quite strict privacy laws which together with some conflicting court judgments have questioned the legality of street photography in that country.  Ooops!  Hopefully Interpol won't be alerted to my minor transgressions.  Maybe I should stick to taking photographs of cows and trees...

If you have an spare moment or two you might care to click here for an article by the NY Times on the subject of privacy with regard to street photography in France.  It actually makes for very interesting reading - as do the comments.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Walkabout in Cannes

The public transport system in the Cote d'Azur is second to none.  Any journey on the local buses (which run along the coast from Menton/Monaco, through Nice/Antibes to Cannes) costs 1.50.  Now although this is a 50% increase from the last time we were there a couple of years ago it is still such good value.  So one day we hopped on the 200 bus from Antibes and alighted in Cannes, just by La Croissette.  That's the main drag with all the strange-looking trees and the fairground rides - here it is:

Missy, on La Croisette, Cannes 2015

Now you may have noticed the snap above contains a rare appearance of Missy - she's looking very glam - well she is in the playground of the rich and famous.  Hope you noticed her gorgeous black OM-1 what she got for her birthday last year...yes, that's correct, she does film too.  Well, she has a digital phone thing as well for lesser snaps but she's actually very good with the OM-1, manual metering and manual focus and all.  Way to go!

In this next one she's wearing a fountain on her head.  Amateruish composition, wouldn't you agree?

Here here she is at the end of our day in Cannes, waiting for the bus back to Antibes.  What a glum looking wee bunny she is here.  But we were all tired and it was very hot and none of us was feeling very rich or famous at that point in time, so that's OK.

La Croisette, Cannes

But it's amazing how an ice-cream can revive the senses and in no time at all she was back to her happy little self...

Just before or just after un glace

But I digress.  Cannes.  Having walked around it for the best part of a day I wouldn't give you tuppence for it.  Give me Portstewart any day.  The Little One was feeling a little peckish just after we arrived so we stopped at a restaurant, sitting down in the sun ready to enjoy a little verre de vin rose, to put us in the mood.  Well the mood was quickly dampened by the garcon who looked non-plussed at our order of un pizza, salad vert, eau mineral (sans gas) and deux verre de vin.  "Un pizza, pour trois personnes?  My boss will not be very happy with that".  Now the thing is it was early for lunch and there weren't many sitting in the place, so I couldn't see the problem.  Sure if it was packed I could understand his boss wanting to maximise the revenue but there were lots of empty seats and we were paying customers.  Put us right off Cannes that did, in spite of the garcon returning to reluctantly accept our order.  We tipped accordingly, of course.

But I digress again!  The whole point of today's post was to show you  the results of my very first attempt at the 'photojournalism' style of photography, as made famous by Henri Cartier-Bresson.  Now he has a lot to answer for, does HC-B, since just about everyone with a camera or a phone nowadays fancies themselves as a street photographer.  I've never really felt the need to scratch that particular itch - until now, that is.  Or to be more precise, until that day in Cannes.   And the thing is, I know the reason why.  You see my good wife and The Little One decided that Cannes was just the place to do some serious shopping, along the famous Rue d'Antibes.  So in and out of this shop and that shop they went as they gave vent to their passion for fashion.  Being a bloke, shopping holds little fascination for me, so I hung about on the street outside as one does.  And since I was holding an unobtrusive little German rangefinder, I thought I'd try my hand at some street photography in Cannes and so here you go:

Rue d'Antibes, Cannes 2015

Now it can be quite daunting taking photographs in the street, especially if like me you aren't used to it.  I decided since I was clearly a tourist most people wouldn't look twice at me.  I leaned against a suitable wall and pretty much kept the camera to my eye the whole time and didn't move, waiting for what I thought might be an interesting subject come into shot.  In my favour the shutter release is very quiet on mirrorless cameras and with the general hustle and bustle on the busy street I thought it unlikely that people would notice.  The other thing I decided that helps is not taking the camera down from the eye after taking the shot - this way it looks like you are composing your picture and haven't actually taken the shot and you aren't tempted to catch anyone's eye which could invite comment (or worse).  I was conscious at times of people looking at me a little suspiciously (or so I thought) but I countered that by pretending to look down the street, as if I was oblivious to their very existence.   I think I got away with it...

I'm pretty happy with this first shot above.  Check out those heels of the lady in the front and the placement of her feet - awesome!  A nice contrast to the younger woman behind who is wearing trainers.

More street scenes to follow tomorrow...

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Imperfection and old things

I like imperfection and I like old things - things that tell a story.  Things that are easy to walk past and ignore, but when you actually take the time to stop and look, you begin to see something in them.  Very philosophical, I know, but being a sentient being as well as discerning reader I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.  I think that's one of the things I love about being a photographer (if that's what I am) - you learn to look closely at things.  And sometimes you get a result that you are reasonably pleased with. The good thing about France is that you do find things that are old - things that in other parts of the world would have been torn down long ago and replaced with something altogether less interesting.  Anyway, as I dawdled around Antibes with me photographer's head on I snapped away at anything that vaguely took my attention, and here are a few shots for your amusement.

Doorway somewhere in La Veille Ville, Antibes 
Just look at those beautiful wood textures - what a wonderfully solid-looking door.  You'd have trouble trying to break that down I reckon.  Wonder what lies behind it?  We'll never know...

Number 7
Now there is a door ripe for replacing - let's hope they don't anytime soon!  I guess part of the reason they get away with doors like this in Antibes is that they don't have Atlantic gales battering them like we do here in the North East Liberties.  I reckon that door has been around a year or two...  Actually there's a vaguely amusing story about this photograph.  I was lining up the shot, about to press the shutter release when the door opened and a young woman came out.  I nearly jumped out of my skin and so did she - she clearly wasn't expecting some middle-aged bloke pointing a camera at her as she exited her house.  If I'd been feeling braver I would have taken the shot with her in it, but it would have been a bit obvious and so I desisted.  We had a bit of a laugh and off she went and I was left in peace to snap the door as you see it above.   

Little Oven Street
Isn't this such a cute little ginnel?  Rue de Petit Four, so I'm guessing at some point in time there was a bakery or cookery place at the end of it.   The light just fell nicely to illuminate the little courtyard at the end, so I snapped it up on FP4+ quickly.  I can see Rue de Petit Four being printed in the darkroom.

Wooden shutters
Sometimes you see something and just know it will look great in B&W and that was the case with the shot above.  I'd love to take this on a large format camera just to see the detail in those textured walls and the 'distressed' wood, but all I had with me was my little 35mm rangefinder, so that's all you're getting for now.  You do have to think in B&W when you look at a subject and of course the more you shoot in B&W the better you become at it.  B&W photography is all about tonality and contrast and some shots which work really well in B&W would just look painfully dull in colour.  Here's a scan of a print, for example, which works well in B&W but probably wouldn't in colour:

Driftwood, River Bann 2014

Ansel Adams, who became famous for his landscapes of Yellowstone National Park, recommended the use of a viewing filter to help visualise the scene for B&W.  These don't convert the image in front of you to B&W, rather they show the tonality in the scene.  I haven't got one of these and I imagine they could be very handy in some situations, such as landscapes where you tend to shoot slowly.  For walking about town I think they would be more a hindrance than an asset.

Prepare yourselves for a day trip to Cannes tomorrow...playground of the rich and famous!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015


You know you're in France when a crescendo of noise erupts down a narrow street and you turn to see a young lad on a scooter doing a speed inversely proportional to the decibel levels.  It's annoying (especially to someone with hyperacusis like yours truly here), but infinitely preferable to getting mugged/abused by a load of feral yobs like you might encounter in other places of the world.   There are a lot of scooters around see them lurking in alleys, all innocent-like.  Here are some I encountered while they were resting...

Beside the Picasso Museum, Antibes Old Town

Looks like the owner of this one just jumps out of his (or her) bedroom window, leaps on his (or her) scooter and pip-pips off to wherever he (or she) is going.  Very PC I am, in case you hadn't noticed...
Nice framing in that shot, methinks.  I did contemplate moving that traffic cone out of the way, which somewhat attracts the attention away from the subject in the centre of the shot.  There is always a debate in photographic circles about whether to remove objects that encroach in a shot - litter is the classic example.  Some people insist that the photograph should be a true record of 'what was there, then'.  Although I have a lot of sympathy with that view, I'm not in that camp - sometimes I might move something out of the way, but most times I don't.  If it's possible then I might move myself to take something I don't like out of shot.  I didn't do either here - moving closer to the scooter would have ruined the natural frame of the archway and I left the cone in the shot.  Was I right?  Let me know by leaving a comment below!

Two for the price of one in this one
The old town of Antibes is rather quaint and just right for an amble about - reasonably level ground, lots of little shops to admire and a good smattering of cafes and eateries when the legs start to give out and a small libation beckons (which it did often, I have to admit - but I was on holiday).  The daily Marche Provencale is lovely just to walk through early in the morning - huge bowls of olives of all varieties, spices galore, cheeses, flowers and vegetables.  The meat counter was also impressive, but the Little One wasn't amused by the heap of skinned lapins on sale - it probably made her think of her own lop-eared hoppity thing back home.  Understandable.  I think it's something to do with having the whole carcass on show, rather than just a cut of meat as you would normally get for the bigger animals.  I mean, if there was a whole skinned cow on show I'm not sure how many people would still be inclined to have that steak for dinner.  Similarly for a horse (well this is France we're talking about, right?).   A joint of beef, or just a steak - well that doesn't look like an animal, does it?  I mean we all know it comes from an animal, but we don't have to acknowledge that when just buying a piece of it.  Strangely most people have no issue with buying and cooking a whole chicken, or a fish - maybe it's different for smaller creatures.  OK I'm going to stop talking about this now, you'll be glad to hear - but I reserve the right to come back to this issue at a later date.  I might even tell you about the project I once had with a local abattoir, which was most interesting...

Not a touristy street, Antibes Old Town
Now this last shot is much more interesting than those in yesterday's posts, don't you think?  I like places to be real, me.

Monday, 13 April 2015

The French Riveria

The French Riveria - you don't hear that term so much nowadays.  Well we are just back from a week there - in Antibes, to be precise.  A lovely wee place it is too - just right for ambling round, taking the air and sitting outside sipping un verre de vin rose, which seems to be the done thing.  A good time of year to go it was too - good weather, not too hot and not too many visitors.

Of course I snapped away when we were there, so for the next few days be prepared to see some different snaps than usual - no cows, no fields and no hedges.

To begin with, let's get a couple of picture postcard shots out of the way, to set the scene as it were. So to continue the theme from the last post, here are some wee boats, Antibes style this time:

Boats in Port Vauban, April 2015
Came out quite nice with HP5 in DD-X methinks.  I'm not a great one for boats (can barely get by on dry land, even on a good day, what with my Ankylosing Spondylitis and all), but for the boat lover there was quite a collection in Antibes, with quite a few 'super-yachts' berthed there.  Strangely enough we didn't see any boats like the ones in Rathlin Island I posted snaps of recently.  Also, hardly a boat moved the whole week we were there - even though it was Easter weekend and lovely weather.  I got the impression that they stay put 8 months of the year and then probably all hell breaks loose in the summer, when the Med must be like Portstewart Prom on a Sunday evening.  Must be an expensive hobby.  Ah well, whatever floats your boat, so to speak.  I preferred the ones I spied in Rathlin Island anyway, so take that Antibes.

Here's the view from our apartment on one of the rare days there were white fluffy things in the sky...

View from our balcony, towards Fort Carre, Antibes

Personally a bit of blue sky is OK, but I'd hate to wake up every morning to see nothing interesting in the sky.  OK so those are the boring shots out of the way.  Hopefully the next exciting installment will see something more interesting (but clearly that's a matter of opinion).