365 Challenge - the first couple of weeks

Somehow the past two weeks have zoomed by and I appear to be in the thick of my 365 Challenge.

As I said in my last journal entry, my 365 Challenge has two rules: it’s all to be in monochrome and there has to be someone in shot that is important to the composition.

I’ll be honest: I’m finding it a bit trickier than I thought. Some days more than others.
This is for a couple of reasons….

Firstly, my rule of getting someone in shot. That in itself isn’t an issue, but getting someone in there which is important to the composition and isn’t just incidental makes things hard at times. There have been a couple of days when I’ve become very aware of not many people around, although a wander round town at lunchtime always seems to give a couple of photo opportunities. Added to that, weekends have been tricky - working in town means weekdays aren’t such a problem. But there’s less people on the weekends near where I live.

Secondly, sometimes finding the time to get some shots is harder than I thought. I usually shoot quite a lot but some days I don’t get anything. Now I’ve set myself a challenge I have to get something! But I don’t want it to be anything - I want good shots (even though I’m well aware that not every day of the year is going to bring something fantastic). And this past week has been hectic at work so I’ve often not had the time to get out with my camera.

However, I am finding that it is changing my approach to my photography already. I’m finding that I’m shooting with more sense of purpose and also noticing possibilities for a shot more than before. I’ve taken to hanging around in a spot for something to happen to make a shot work (see the puddle shot below) or scouting out a location (the guy on the rooftop - I walked round that building several times for a good angle), as well as my usual opportunistic shots.

The Flickr link to the 365 Challenge is here

These are some faves from the last couple of weeks….

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Bath Carnival 2018

This weekend saw the return of the annual Bath Carnival. And I was excited to be asked by the organisers to be one of the official photographers. The carnival is always great fun and brings the whole of the city centre together in a mass of noise and colour.

With the weather being gorgeous at the moment, Sydney Gardens was heaving for the day long party and the streets were full of smiling people watching the procession. It's a fantastic atmosphere.

Usually for events that I'm photographing for myself I'll have a mix of colour and monochrome shots. But working to a brief this year, I knew that I'd be doing them all in colour. I'd planned on some shots for my personal use being in monochrome but then decided against it when editing. The day was so colourful I decided for a change to just go with that carnival atmosphere.

I love the challenge of events like this. I find it quite an adrenaline rush being in the thick of it, trying to create good shots and capturing the essence of what is going on.

To make life more interesting for myself, I was shooting a lot of it with my 135mm manual telephoto lens; so not only was I trying to shoot stuff quickly but I was also not having the safety net of auto focus. However, this only added to the enjoyment! If I wasn't shooting with that then I was going to the other extreme - using a wide angle lens to get in really close to the action; you definitely feel a part of what's going on when you've got a thunderous drumming band getting pretty close to your face (note to self - definitely need a nice wide angle prime!)

The Carnival is non profit and does workshops with many groups to bring the whole thing together. You can donate to keep it running at their Localgiving page.

Here are a few choice shots. There are quite a few more over on Flickr.

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Geeky stuff!
I used my Olympus OMD EM10ii with these lenses...
Olympus Zuiko 135mm f3.5.
Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42 f35-5.6ii.
Panasonic Lumix 25mm f1.7.
 

Helios 44-2

The latest addition to my lenses is something I've wanted for a while - a Helios 44-2 f2.

It is thought to be one of the most mass produced lenses ever, which is what makes them relatively easy to find... and also cheap! Manufacturing began in 1958 in various factories - the one I have is a 1973 model made by KMZ. Like many Russian lenses, it is a copy of something more expensive, in this case the Zeiss Biotar.

It is a 58mm lens, which makes it 116mm on my Micro Four Thirds Olympus. So, longer than I'd usually use but I'm finding I'm adapting quite well to various focal lengths of the different vintage lenses I'm playing with at the moment.

One of the most well known attributes of this lens is the swirly bokeh. Shot wide open and with a favourable background at the right distance, it has a very unique look. It's pin sharp in the centre and then the swirls get more drastic the further out you go.  I've seen portrait shots with a background of foliage work very well with this. You can see the swirls starting to appear in the shot of the Coke can below.

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Having said all that, with a different kind of background the bokeh has no swirls and is ultra creamy!

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There were several variations of the Helios made. The 44-2 supposedly makes more swirliness than some of the later models. But it also has a pre-set aperture ring, which is something I've not used before. Basically, there are two aperture rings - the first one has clicked stops on it as usual and you can set that at what you want your smallest f stop to be. So, if you want a range of f2 - f5.6, you set the aperture ring to f5.6. The second aperture ring is then clickless and will allow you to do whatever you want between f2 and f5.6. I thought it would be a bit odd to use but after a while I just forgot about it; although there were some times when I noticed the aperture wasn't where I thought it would be... more practice is needed!

It is also very good for focussing with. Some manual lenses are a bit tricky to get it nailed precisely. But this is very quick in bringing into focus. And it focusses very close too - I can almost shoot macro!

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I bought the Helios from Wycameras in Leeds who I highly recommend and was delivered just in time for me to have a week away in Cornwall. So I'll be having a really good chance to put it through its paces.

A big new addition to my lenses...

A couple of months ago I bought myself a 135mm Zuiko lens (see previous post). And since then I've been using it quite a bit - particularly on my OM10, although I need to scan the images from those once I buy a new scanner (more on that in future posts).

However, I knew that for a telephoto I'd still need even longer for the occasional use at race circuits. So I started looking at 200mm lenses - mainly Zuiko, and also some Vivitars. I wanted as fast as possible which is f3.5 or f4. And after casually watching things on eBay and looking at various secondhand sites, I discovered a 200mm f3.5 Mitsuki lens.

Mitsuki? Never heard of them. But it was £15. And nobody else on eBay seemed interested in it. So I did a bit of research. And it appears that it was a rather obscure lens from the late 1970s which was made using the (at that time) state of the art computer system at Tokina. So really... it was made by Tokina. And even more interesting (if you're a geek like me) is that it came out of the Tokina factory at the same time Tokina were making lenses for Vivitar. Which is a good thing!

So, I got it for £15. And I've taken it out and about a bit.
And here are some tests I did with it.
 

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I think it was quite a bargain. Wide open it does have some fringing - on high contrast areas there was a bit of purple but I soon managed to clean it up. And in the last photo you can see a bit of green fringing. But stopping down sorts it out too.

Quite heavy though!
And long. Very long. Even longer with the retractable hood out.
To be honest, it's so long it looks a bit silly on my Olympus.

But hey.... it was only £15 and should work nicely for shots of Fernando Alonso heading in to Stowe corner in August!

Using a telephoto lens

Telephoto lenses. Not something I usually use.
However, I have recently acquired an old Olympus Zuiko 135mm f3.5 lens - which makes it a 270mm lens on my Olympus EM10ii, due to it being a Micro Four Thirds camera.

How did I come to buy a focal length of lens which I wouldn't usually touch?

Well, a good friend of mine has asked me to be the photographer at her wedding. And straight away my first thought was lenses. Handily, my brother (https://www.worsfold.photos/) has just started shooting on a Sony and offered me his MFT kit to use, including the 17mm f1.7 and 45mm f1.8. Both great lenses which will add to my kit and should cover me.

I then got thinking about lenses with a bit more length to capture people mingling without shoving a camera too closely in their faces. I have my long zoom which I usually only get out for when I head to Silverstone (see earlier post from the Bath Carnival). But it's not the fastest of lenses and it spends most of the time sitting around doing nothing. I'll probably use it for the wedding though, just because it gives me options and I can autofocus with it to capture important things quickly.

I then started thinking about lenses for my visits to motorsport venues and whether I really need a zoom? I very rarely use zooms, preferring to use my feet. And I do get a bit annoyed with cheaper zooms and their variable aperture. If I'm fully wide with a lens at f4, I want to be able to zoom and it stays at f4. And unless I'm willing to pay vast amounts of cash for something I rarely use then I've got to put up with that. Or have I?

I looked at the exif info from various races I've been to and could see that I only really use a couple of different focal lengths with a zoom. At last year's World Endurance Championship race at Silverstone I was pretty much at 200mm most of the time, with a few shots in the 130-150mm focal length. So I got to thinking, why don't I just carry a couple of prime lenses of those focal lengths? They're going to be faster than the zoom. And I reckon the quality will be a bit better. I don't need autofocus - the cars are too fast for it to keep up.

So I went shopping. And after doing some research, the first prime telephoto I have got is the Zuiko. It's a good lens - very small for something of this focal length. It's lightweight and very quick to focus with. It also has a nifty lens hood built in.

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I took it out for a wander around town on my lunch break and although it gets some nice shots, I'm finding it a bit odd for my normal kind of photography. I'm used to seeing something and pretty much knowing what I get in shot because of the focal lengths I use. With this, I'm much closer to the subject; so the photo I see in my head I'm not getting and I have to step back a bit.

It also feels a bit odd taking photos of strangers with it. Whereas usually I'm up fairly close, now I'm further away. Which feels a bit sneaky to me. It doesn't feel like I'm involved as much and gives a distance which I'm not 100% comfortable. I'm not sure if that is obvious from the photos or whether I'm reading too much into it.

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I think it deserves a bit more experimenting with though. I quite like the idea of being able to get other foreground elements in to frame a subject. So maybe I just need to rethink how I work with it.

Jupiter 8

Bloody hell, it's been a long time since I've posted anything in my journal. I blame it on life getting incredibly hectic with the arrival of my Mini-me, Robyn in December.

Anyhooo.... I've been interested in various old lenses for quite a while and what effect they would have on my photography. And this seemed like the perfect time to try some out. Trying to save a bit of cash at the moment because of the aforementioned little 'un, I can't really go splashing out on some of the lenses I'd like. So I got myself a nice old Jupiter 8.

For those that don't know, the Jupiter 8 was one of the standard lenses that came with the Russian Zorki rangefinder cameras. During World War Two, the Zeiss factory in Jena were making their Sonnar lenses in a Leica thread mount. These Zeiss lenses were excellent. And when the Russians invaded Germany, they took over the factory. They took the designs and made various copies of the lenses in the Krasnagorsk (KMZ) factory to go with the Zorki cameras (which were themselves Leica copies).

The Jupiter 8 is a 50mm f2 lens. And it's rather nice. Mine is from (I think) 1968. A chrome one, rather than a black one (the chrome ones are supposedly better, the black ones from 1970 onwards became a bit inconsistent with quality apparently).

The aperture ring has no stops, which takes some getting used to.

The focus ring is quite fast and loose which means you have to be very precise (this might just be my model, of course). On my Olympus EM10ii it becomes the equivalent of a 100mm lens which is longer than I'd usually use.

But overall it's quite fun to have on the camera. And it's making me think a bit. And it gives a slightly different look, I think. A bit 'older'.

Now to try it with a Zorki and a roll of film....

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