Lade Braes, St Andrews

Despite having lived in St Andrews for almost 4 years now, I had never walked along the Lade Braes, a lovely path that follows the old walls of the town out along the route of the ‘lade’ (an artificial stream) that was cut to ensure a freshwater supply to the cathedral.

This first one was probably my favorite of the bunch, but at the time I wasn’t expecting it to be anything special.

Rewinding back to the beginning of the walk here. I dropped the colour from most of these after I scanned them, but for some reason I left this one with the tint it ended up with after the scan.

I took the dSLR with the 100mm macro as it had just rained (& still was a bit) & I was hoping to get some clichéd close-ups of droplets on leaves, but with most of the walk in the shade of the trees, the sun behind the rainclouds & the fact the 100mm macro is only an f4, I couldn’t really get anything without cranking up the ISO into noisy territory.

Luckily I grabbed the Canonet as an afterthought as I was heading out the door & was glad I did as even though I still had to shoot most things with a very slow shutter, the combination of f1.7 & not focusing on subjects less than 30cm away meant I at least came back with some usable snaps.

I had it loaded with Tri-X & with a yellow filter screwed on. Of course the filter wasn’t of much use with no blue sky about & I think it actually caused the washed-out almost IR look to the foliage, but at least it didn’t completely ruin the shots. A lot of them would’ve looked better if I wasn’t forced to shoot wide open because of how dim it was, but hey – at least I got something.

This might’ve come out nicer with a longer shutter (& no ugly sandbag wall in the background), but even managing to get it this slow handheld was a feat!

Likewise with this. I might go back at some point with a tripod, cable release & a set of NDs or something.

Really need to start taking more attention to my framing. Even with more DOF this would still look bad with the end of the branch jutting out at the bottom.

Not really the sort of subject I wanted to shoot at f1.7.

This came out better than expected though. The almost IR like quality to the foliage helps it I think. But then I am biased.

Wanted to finish the roll before I started retracing my steps on the way back. Time for bench shots.

Just look at how this is perfectly framed so the angle of the bench draws the viewer’s eye… straight off the edge of the photograph in the opposite direction to the rest of the image >.< It takes some skill to be able to frame a shot so badly after actually stopping to consider the framing.

Snapsh!ts – FED-2

Just some snaps from when I first got my FED-2 rangefinder (a type C2 if I identified it correctly) with a 52mm Industar (Индустар) 26M, which is both sharp & has a surprisingly large number of aperture blades for a ‘standard’ prime.

I think these were all on Ilford FP4 which I’ve had in the fridge for years after seeing it cheap in Boots & buying it all up. I was impressed how sharp this one came out, it probably would’ve come out even better if I had a better scanner.

The lens is coated, but it doesn’t handle flare reduction quite as well as modern Japanese coatings…

125 speed film inside with a f2.8 is just about doable, it seems.

Morocco Trip – Essaouira

The final destination of our Moroccan adventure was the lovely coastal city of Essaouira. We left the Atlas Mountains early in the morning after our one (very cold) night in the (well-hidden) Ait Souka guesthouse & headed back to Marrakech where we took the CTM bus all the way West to the coast.

Essaouira, which is still referred to in some places by it’s Portuguese name ‘Mogador’, was the exact opposite of Marrakech. Whilst Marrakech was busy, polluted & a hunting ground for the locals to exploit unwary tourists, Essaouira was calm, had lovely clean sea air & the markets were genuinely lovely to walk around. Whereas we didn’t buy anything from the pushy, rude shopkeepers in Marrakech, we came away with all sorts of things from their counterparts in Essaouira; tea (& a teapot!), spices, jewelery (after a lengthy haggling session where I walked out at least twice & eventually paid less than a 1/3rd of the asking price) & even a tajine (which just about fitted in my hand luggage). Ironically this wasn’t the shop we bought drums from.

Much cleaner than Marrakech as well!

However whilst Essaouira was a lovely place to walk around, it didn’t boast much else to do – in Marrakech we were spoiled for choice with museums, galleries, gardens & palaces, but Essaouira only has the one museum, albeit a very nice one. We stayed two nights & by the morning of the third day some of the shopkeepers were beginning to recognise us as we walked by!

One thing Essaouira had plenty of though, was fish. Neither of us eat meat but we do eat fish, so after 4 nights in Marrakech & the Atlas with not a single piece of fish to be found & living off of vegetable tajine & vegetable cous-cous every night, the abundance of wonderfully fresh fish was very welcome. In the main square there are a number of open-air grills, each with a huge display of fish from the harbor less than 250m around the corner. You take a tray, pile whatever fish you want onto it, pay for how much it weighs & a few minutes later it comes back from the grill. Even though the locals here were much friendlier than in Marrakech, a lot of these photos were still hipshots.

My hipshot technique still needs work…

But sometimes they come out okay.

All of the woodwork (doors, windowframes, etc.) is a beautiful blue, something to do with a blue dye they used to extract from crustaceans that lived on the rocks off the shore.

The expired Velvia came out red in the shadows again.

And the classic Essaouira shot, as seen in the Lonely Planet guidebook…

Lovely to walk around in the evening as well, though as with Marrakech everywhere closed pretty early.

The cat wouldn’t move out of the frame, so I included it. There were cats everywhere in Essaouira.

One final pot of tea :)

After our two nights in Essaouira we headed back to Marrakech for one last night, but any photos from then will be in the Marrakech post.

Morocco Trip – Atlas Mountains

It’s been a (long) while since I posted photos from Marrakech so I thought I would add a few from the rest of our Moroccan trip.

Our second destination after Marrakech was the Atlas Mountains, in particular a little village called Imlil (which is where the road coming from the East essentially stops). We planned just a single night at a guesthouse in the neighboring village of Ait Souka, as there isn’t really much to do in the mountains except marvel at the scenery, unless you’re an avid mountaineer. We set out from Marrakech a little after midday, expecting to arrive in Imlil before half-past one, find the guesthouse & then spend the rest of the day walking around the mountains. Unfortunately we booked the only guesthouse in the Atlas that had absolutely no signage on its exterior, nor on the road, so we wasted about 3 hours walking back & forth through the villages asking everybody we could find where we might find the elusive place.

By the time we eventually found it (just before we were about to give up & pay for a room elsewhere) there wasn’t much daylight left & it seems that (expired) Velvia doesn’t always play well in low-light (see the red tinge to the shadows?). Luckily we had already been walking around for 3 hours…

After dinner (at the one & only restaurant in Imlil) we started walking up the nearest peak, but the daylight didn’t last long. This was about as high as we got & with no artificial lighting even 1600 film at f1.7 didn’t stand much of a chance.

One good thing about nightfall in the mountains though, particularly when the clouds moved out the way, is how clear the stars & the Milky Way were. Of course I didn’t have a tripod & a cable release with me, but I thought it was worth an exposure or two just on the off-chance I could get anything – luckily the Pentax MV’s light meter can get confused by extremely long exposures & lock open, so even without a cable release I was able to lie the camera on its back on the little wooden table, set f1.7 & infinity & do an exposure for a few minutes. Not too shabby considering…

I’ll do another post for our third destination, Essaouria, in a bit.

Olympus µ[mju:]-II Snapsh!ts

I’ve added Snapsh!ts as a new category so I can post random quick photos that aren’t particularly good, but will hopefully mean that I start posting more regularly.

A few months ago I decided to get a small 35mm camera that I could leave in my jacket pocket & have with me at all times. Whilst I’m still firmly in my rangefinder fad, I have to make the conscious decision to take one when I go out, as they’re all too big for any of my pockets.

I wanted an Olympus XA, a tiny clam-shell camera that somehow crams in a true rangefinder mechanism, but they sell for a lot secondhand so after some research I settled for an Olympus µ[mju:]-II instead.

The mju series was essentially the successor to the XA series & whilst some of them have soft slow zoom lenses, the basic mju II has a fast & sharp 35mm f2.8. The clam-shell design (the front slides open/close) is just what I wanted as you don’t have to worry about a lens cap coming off when the camera is bouncing around in your pocket & it also makes the camera sleeker & easier to slide in & out of a pocket. It has some other nice features like weather sealing, spot metering & plenty of control over the flash.

Due to a mix up with the post I ended up getting two; a black one in fair condition & a ‘champagne’ one in near mint condition. All of these photos were taken on the black one, but then I dropped it (!) & although everything seems to still work the sliding cover barely hangs on now so I don’t want to use it again until I can fix it – if the cover comes off in my pocket the tiny ball-bearing will go missing. Good thing I’ve got two!

The black one seems to have some sort of issue on the right side of some frames. Initially I thought it was a sticky shutter, but I don’t know whether the mju’s shutter actually moves horizontally or whether it’s a leaf job – a mark like this could only be due to the shutter if it does actually move horizontally. If I was a hipsterish lomographer I would argue that it makes the photos better…

I’ve taken photos of this alleyway umpteen times but they never look any good. One day I’ll actually stop to think long enough about composition & get a decent exposure.

All of these were shot on expired cheap colour negative (think Kodak Gold & the free AGFA that Jessops used to give out when you paid for D&P) so a lot of the colours are off, but I think it actually looks good in some of them, like this one where the blues are far more saturated than they should be. Maybe I do have closet lomographer tendencies…

Again with the light leak/stuck shutter/whatever.

And again. I put five rolls through the black one during the last fortnight of my 4th year at St Andrews, so most of them have my friends in – if you know me/them then you can find most of them on facebook.

Went to St Andrews castle for the first time in my 4 years living in the town…

A different sort of light leak on the right this time! Variety!

The f2.8 lens actually handles indoor shots quite well, but the focus sometimes has to be coaxed to the bit you actually want sharp.

The light leak is cunningly disguised as a cloud here.

These were all scanned on my Epson Perfection V200, so they’re not the best, but for snapsh!ts it’s fine. If I start shooting (a lot) more film I might upgrade to a better scanner at some point.