Using a Ricoh GRD III and a Nikon DSLR to photograph streets, people, architecture and anything else that catches my eye.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Japan - 2005 to 2006 - Sony Cybershot W1

Japan....

Statement: I am NOT a train spotter.

One of the first things you notice on arrival in Japan is the transportation system.  It is amazing.  The high speed trains (bullet trains to the foreigner and 'shinkansen' to the Japanese) are out of this world. It is rather like travelling in an aircraft on rails, with clean and comfortable carriages, courteous train staff, and a timetable that is run to the nearest six seconds.  For a person who is used to the crumbling British train system, it was a breath of fresh air. Great Britain may have invented the railway nearly 200 years ago, but Japan (and many other countires) now do it so much better.  Japan infact have been travelling in high speed rail since 1964, and now are regularly commuting between major cities at around 300 kph. In UK we have been promised these kinds or railways for decades, and there are now plans for a 300 kph high speed rail route between London and Birmingham to be completed in 15 years time.  Meanwhile Japan is currently planning and soon constructing a new MAGLEV super train between Osaka and Tokyo (500 kilometers), which will travel at 500 kph! They expect it to be completed in 2045, which suggests real planning for the future.

Anyway...   enough geek talk...  here are a few pictures taken with Sony Cybershot W1, with some B&W post processing.



Japanese railways are not just about high speed trains; they also run hundreds of local and urban trains throughout the cities and towns, as well as small rural trains to the remotest of villages and farming communities. Even normal commuter trains are just as clean and punctual, providing a system which is affordable and well loved by the public.

Here are a couple of commuter train pictures:


Friday, 29 July 2011

Bottom of the lake, and the Sony Cybershot W1

On a perfect summer day in 2004, I decided to take my dog for a leisurely stroll around a local lake.  It was always a nice place to sit and relax, read a book, and generally get away from the house.  On this particular day I thought it would be a great idea to take some pictures of my local countryside and beautiful lake.  I am sure I must have taken some nice photographs, although I will never know how they turned out, as the camera has been laying at the bottom of the lake for seven years now.  Hanging on to a tree on the edge of the lake whilst reaching out over the water, just to get a certain shot, is NOT a good idea.  The little Sony P9 Cybershot slipped from my hand too easily, and plopped into the black water with the minimum of splash.    Gone!

South Weald Park, Brentwood.  The Lake


It is a strange feeling after an immediate act of stupidity.  Nothing quite comes close to it.  I looked around me to see if any members of public saw me drop the camera like an idiot, only to see my dog staring at me with a wagging tail.

Spot of advice...  ALWAYS USE A WRIST STRAP.

After reaching down into the water and fingering around in mud for ten minutes, as if the camera would work after retrieval; I gave up and wandered home.  Luckily I was insured for acts of stupidity, so the very next week I rushed out and purchased another camera.  My insurance was a ‘like for like’ policy, therefore I was pushed into buying another Sony Cybershot.  I spent a while in a local Sony Centre and found a rather nice little model which was essentially the latest Cybershot.  I was drawn to the slightly traditional shape and black styling of the Sony W1 model.  Constructed from a very solid black metal case, with a much larger screen on the back, this camera felt great in the hand.  Yet again, it was another ‘point and shoot’, but this model did have quite a bit of flexibility. There was a lens ring for an optional wide angle lens, which I later purchased.  The resolution was now up to 5.1MP, with a 256MB card.  This was a rugged little beast and proved to be a faithful quality camera, which went everywhere with me for the next four years. Even though I bought some larger cameras since the Sony W1, it served well as a second pocket camera.  I still like to take two cameras with me, as a DSLR is often not very convenient. Also, I think this was the camera which slowly started to spark my interest in Street Photography, as I spent a lot of time in Japan, where it is often actually difficult to keep people out of the frame.

Sony Cybershot W1


During this period though, my main interest in photography was architecture. My employment is heavily connected with architectural design, which got me involved in some very interesting building projects in London.  In addition to taking many pictures of work which I was involved in, I also enjoyed walking around London photographing old and new architecture, and the surrounding city streets.  My trips to Japan also served as great places for city centre architecture and street scenes. Japan has an incredible mix of old and new; beautifully confusing and sometimes quite surreal. The Sony W1 proved to be a very trustworthy camera, even after dropping it on the floor on several occasions.   I still own it, and it collects dust in a drawer, but it still takes reasonable pictures.

I have looked through all the images taken with the W1 whilst in Japan.  They were all colour images at the time, but I have done some black & white post processing on a selection of them. In the next posts I shall display these with a few notes.  

So far, all my blog posts have been chronolgical in order, with the idea of eventually reaching my present day photography. From then on I will be able to ramble on in any old order, with new images as and when I take them.  So just a few cameras to go then!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Street shot from my Old Sony Cybershot

Ten years and six cameras ago, when I was starting to take photos with my Sony P9, I had never heard of Street Photography. I did, however, enjoy taking photos in and around London's busy streets and markets.  The results were not always great...  not exactly street photography as a deliberate task or art form; but some of those surviving images are worth a re-evaluation.  Since I have learned to apply post processing to images, I can sometimes bring an old image back into contention.

I enjoy shooting black and white nowadays.  This is because I am learning to appreciate the virtues of good black and white photography. The power of stunning monochrome images taken by professionals is clear.  The use of strong contrast and definition in 'good' black and white photography is not always easy to create.  Before I had ever used any image processing software, I tried the basic B&W setting in the Sony P9.  These images were always bland and flat, and probably forced me to shoot colour for a very long time.

Black and white is not always appropriate, and sometimes a street shot needs colour. Artistic grafitti, for example, lends itself to colour.  B&W is a 'leveller' for the image. It will blend all those messy distractions in the back ground, and concentrate on the people and other scenes. I also have become fond of 1:1 square format cropping together with a slight darkened vignette to bring out the image.

So here is a shot from London's China Town, taken in 2003 using that old Sony Cybershot P9.  The original shot was colour with a portrait format.  I have cropped in closer, and squared it up.  The original image had some scruffy digital noise, which when processed in B&W, has a 'grain' which I find far more acceptable.  Nowadays, I shoot at ISO400 anyway because as well as allowing faster shutter speeds in daytime, it gives quite a nice 'artistic grain' after B&W post processing.  This is an old shot, but I have saved it from the delete monster.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Sony Cybershot P9 - Rome 2003

I thought this would be a good chance to actually show some photos that I have taken, instead of just pictures of cameras I have owned. I have not been able to find any images taken with the early Fuji Finepix from 1998. In those days the idea of storing and archiving did not occur to me. I do however, have quite a few images taken with the Sony Cybershot P9. They have been stored on CDs and various hard drives over the years, and they do provide memories of people and places of that time.

I have studied and been taught quite a bit about photography over recent years, and when I look at my earlier images from this period, I can only see flaws. I have been very critical of myself, and re-evaluating older images is good practice. It is interesting that at the time I thought these images were excellent. Well... some of them are passable maybe.

So, back in 2002, with my cool new Sony Cybershot in my hand, I visited Rome for a long weekend break with my then partner. This was the first chance that I had in a long time to actually get some decent photos from a holiday. The last time I had photos of myself on a holiday was when I was making sand-castles at the seaside, taken on my father's Kodak.

Rome is an amazing city, full of history and style. It is a great place for photography. I took well over a hundred photos in Rome, but I am posting just a handful of passable images.



There are several photographic errors which all these images have in common. These are things that I didn't think about at the time because I had not yet been shown a thing or two about basic photography.

The main subjects are nearly all positioned in the center of the image. This is quite typical for the everyday happy snapper... See something, get it in the middle of the frame, and click. I now understand the 'rule of thirds', which I try to apply to this kind of photography. Take a look at this wikipedia page for a good summary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds

Another silly error is that every photo is taken at ISO 400. Even in the brightest Italian mid-day sun, I have digital noise all over these shots. The cybershot came with quite a lot of settings, with which I experimented quite often. Unfortunately, I didn't always change them back afterwards.

The next lesser error involves white balance. Now for some reason I used to set it to the 'cloudy' setting all the time, whatever the weather. I liked that 'warm' colour tone, even though it wasn't completely faithful. So for a long time, all my images were a little 'golden'. I now set white balance to 'auto' even on a DSLR, as it seems to get it right most times; and then it is very easy to correct the white balance in most software like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom.

Finally, my general composition has improved since these early images. I do spend more time framing a shot carefully, so that peoples' heads don't appear in corners etc. With cityscapes and landscapes, it is always worth thinking about the shot. Take time and wait for the fat kid in the bright red tee shirt to walk on by; or make sure that car isn't spoiling the overall picture.

Old photos should always be kept, and revisited. For happy memories as well as encouragement of improvement. I will some day look back at the images I take today with similar critique.

Is that a Canon I see in my ex-partners hands? I am sure I teased her about carrying a 35mm film SLR around with her all day. Funny how things change. She went out and bought a small Canon digital camera after that trip, and now I use a DSLR!

Here are a final few from Rome:



In this post, I have used image thumbnails, which are clickable, to open up the larger version of the image. I have looked at the various blogger 'gadgets' but have not been able to find something simple to give me this effect. Most of the gadgets, while extremely clever, seem to take over the whole blogger template. I wanted to write about photography while showing a few small groups of images, in the thumbnail fashion, which still fitted in with my simple template design.

In the end, I descided to use HTML to achieve this. I knew absolutely nothing about HTML, but with a little googling research I discovered a few good knowledge recourses. After a few hours of cutting and pasting, and quite a lot of trial and error, I now understand just enough HTML to use simple thumbnail galleries.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Music Centers, Separates, and Sony


When I was in my late teens, I had a slightly unhealthy obsession about hi-fi.  During the late 1970s, the highest peak in the world of consumer electronics was Hi-Fi.  Television hadn’t yet found its true status.  Computers only existed behind the closed doors of company offices or in science labs.  Cameras were still mostly mechanical.  This was the analogue world of transistorized circuits, vinyl records, magnetic audio tape, cathode ray tubes, and light sensitive photographic film.  During these years, a young man with some money to spend, could enter the world of ‘high fidelity audio’.  He could step out of his parents' world of  ‘record players' and ‘radiograms', and live in the new age of the ‘music center’


 

The music center was a combination of all three points on the audio triangle; radio, vinyl records and cassette tape.  It is difficult for young people today to imagine how great these machines were when they first appeared.  The loud speakers were separated on long wires.  The sound quality was great.  There was even the ability to record directly from radio or vinyl records, which lead to the first great wave of music piracy, with everyone taping friends' records.  These machines were made by the leading Japanese companies of the time.  Sanyo, Hitachi, National Panasonic, JVC, Technics...  and of course, Sony. Music centers were the cutting edge of music entertainment.  These great slabs of ‘wood-effect’ plastic and perspex, were the ultimate new icon in every modern household, with their many buttons, flickering lights, bouncing VU meters, and ‘stroboscopic’ turn-table speed control.

 
Then, within just a few years, after noticing how common the music center had become, any aspirational young man not happy with his parents finally owning a music center, would move on to the next stage in their ‘high fidelity’ journey.   ‘Hi-Fi Separates’.  Once again, those same Japanese manufacturers, together with a few ‘specialist’ British companies, were manufacturing more and more of these incredible ‘silver boxes’.  Now this was the real deal.  This equipment was serious.  You really needed some ‘knowledge’ to operate these systems.  This knowledge could be attained through the growing number of specialist magazine publications which were becoming available to the general public. We all bought 'What Hi Fi' at some point.  It was often a good idea to buy many magazines for research before even thinking about entering a ‘hi-fi shop’.  At least one year's worth of magazines would pile up in the corner of the bedroom, brimming with all those alluring pictures and jargon peppered advertisments. Unless you knew something about ‘power amplifiers’, ‘pre amplifiers’, ‘tuners’, ‘receivers’, ‘cassette decks’, ‘record decks’, ‘graphic equalizers’ and ‘loud speakers’, then entering a hi-fi shop could, at the very least,  reduce you to the target of smug amusement by the shop staff.  

Never the less, with a little study, one could attain enough knowledge to confidently walk around a reputable store and test out the equipment. If one was persistent enough, there was always the possibility of an invitation by a member of staff to listen to the quality of a combination of different manufacturers’ amps and decks, within the secret ‘inner sanctum’ at the back of the shop: ‘The sound proof listening room’.

Eventually, decisions were made, money was spent, and cardboard boxes were delivered or carried home, and finally set up in bedrooms.  Complete inward satisfaction was finally attained after listening to a Pink Floyd album with a little help from Akai, Hitachi, JVC, Yamaha, Technics, Wharfdale,  and of course…  Sony.

Enough of my fond recollections of the frightening and wonderful world of eighties hi-fi.  One of the outcomes of the new generation of consumer electronics was the development of new formats and technology for the masses by all these amazing Japanese companies.  Most of them became household names, replacing the familiar old brands.  They knew their market well, and priced themselves at different levels within that market. Sanyo sold well to the lower end, Teac and Technics etc positioned themselves between the middle and the top; leaving the ultra specialist high-fidelity to those eccentric European manufacturers like Bang & Olufsen and Quad.  One manufacturer; probably the Japanese grandfather of consumer electronics, became the leading expert in combining quality, style and innovation.  That company was of course, Sony. 

What has all this got to do with photography in particular?  

I had a fondness for Sony in the 80s and 90s.  Of course there was better equipment out there, and indeed I have owned many different brands over the years, but I had gained a kind of 'brand trust’ for Sony.  When it came to replacing my outmoded Fuji DX8 digital camera, I immediately looked into the cool designs of Sony’s CYBERSHOT cameras.  They were still point and shoot cameras, but they had come a long way by 2002.  My Sony Cybershot P9 had an incredible 4 mega pixels, real optical zoom, a staggering 128MB memory card, and lots of on-screen menu controlled photographic adjustments.  There were also different 'shooting modes’ for ‘landscapes’, ‘portraits’, ‘sports’ etc.  The biggest thing for me though was the unique design and shape of the body.  It looked amazingly cool and stylish.  It was still an automatic point and shoot, but the printed photographs were pretty good.


I think that this was about the time when the consumer film-camera disappeared from the shops, and the world became digital at last.  35mm film was finally pushed to enthusiast use only.
 
Sometime in 2004, whilst taking pictures by the edge of a lake, I leaned out just a little too far and accidently dropped that Sony Cybershot into a lake.  Doh!   

So what camera did I replace it with?

 

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Early Adopters and Laggards - and my Fuji

My last posts were an attempt for me to remember all the old cameras that I have owned. Most of them were quite average cameras, popular at the time, and nothing very special.  I am a very average camera user, and not some avid collector of obscure gems from the twentieth century.  My interest in photography, which started from a childhood hobby full of potential, faded gradually over the next decades to one of complete apathy.  It wasn’t until the mid nineties when the little Canon Ixus ignited a small spark of interest again.

Interestingly, mentioning the Ixus again, this leads on to my typical approach to ‘latest technology’. Some people have to have the latest stuff, don’t they?  I am not talking about geeks, of which I am a proud one; I am talking about the people who are quite happy to throw money at a ‘new format’ ‘new device’ ‘new idea’.  They may have spent £800 on a CD player in 1984;  £6000 on a Windows 3.1 laptop computer in 1990;  £2000 on a flat screen TV in 2003.   I believe the term for such people is ‘Early Adopter’;   I am NOT such a person.  In fact, I am what is known as a ‘laggard’.

I found an interesting little article on the web about early adopters, from which I quote:

·         the first 2.5% of the adopters are the "innovators"
·         the next 13.5% of the adopters are the "early adopters"
·         the next 34% of the adopters are the "early majority"
·         the next 34% of the adopters are the "late majority"
·         the last 16% of the adopters are the "laggards”

Taken from www.zonalatina.com/Zldata99.htm  This page specifically discusses demographics of people and technology.  Somewhat heavy reading though.

So, as I say, I am a laggard.   I was late on endorsing the CD, the MP3, DVD and the flat screen TV.  I still don’t have Blue-ray, and I probably never will.   I feel that the speed of technological change in the consumer market is so great that it is a waste of time to buy into everything.  Each format lasts less and less time before it is replaced by something only slightly better.  I certainly will not be rushing out to by a 3D television, and wear glasses like Buddy Holly, in order to watch a few Disney Pixar 3D cartoons.  I am sure that 3D will have its day, but not in the current form. Unfortunately, this means I spend my life ten years behind everyone else.

I am improving in my middle age.  I have nearly one thousand CDs stored on my computer, which are transmitted to my hi-fi speakers wirelessly!  Nice and simple.  Sounds wonderful too.
So maybe I have moved from ‘laggard’ to ‘late majority’.

My ‘laggard’ status does NOT however apply to computers and cameras.  I have owned home computers in various forms since 1981.  (Geek Alert)  I also purchased my first digital camera in 1998.  Last century!  Surely that makes me an early adopter. The camera was a nice little model from Fuji.  The FUJI DX-8.  Digital cameras had been around for a while, although they had quite high price tags for the average consumer.  It was around 1997 when the prices had dropped enough to tempt more people.  In 1997 you could see them appear in the Agos catalogue!

Specialist digital cameras have been around for several decades. Take a look at  this site for a well researched historical database of digital cameras (geek warning) http://www.digicamhistory.com

The FUJI DX-8 was a simple point and shoot camera with zoom capability and a built in flash.  When I first took some pictures, transferred them to my computer and watched those images appear on my screen, I was absolutely amazed. It felt like a jump into the future. That glowing feeling of technological power soon evaporated though, when I tried to create prints on my 1990’s inkjet printer.  I soon realized that the camera’s maximum resolution of 640 x 480 would not allow too many large prints for the family album.  The camera came with a 4MB memory card.  4 MB !  I remember buying a 32 MB card, and thinking how massive that was.  It was not as easy as it is today to drop the memory card into a shop, and have a nice set of prints in only 1 hour.  Photographs received from postal printing services were a little disappointing. That 0.3 Mega Pixel resolution sounds pitiful now.

The limitations of the little Fuji did not stop my continuous playing with the camera.  It created a whole new way of using photos.  E-mailing pictures was a novelty then.  Also, incredible new software packages were being released which allowed genuine manipulation of digital images. I don’t think anyone realized how big Adobe Photoshop would become over the next two decades.




Friday, 15 July 2011

Cameras that never worked

During the ten years in which I didn't own a working camera, I used to frequent boot sales on a regular basis.  This is when boot sales were the latest thing in England.  On a Sunday morning, we would drive over to a local boot sale and spend around two hours wandering around, looking for interesting things to waste money on.  I guess this is where I realised my fondness for old junk and yesteryear's unwanted bric-a-brac. At this time, I was also listening to 1950's rock'n'roll, driving around in 1950's cars, and watching 1950's B-movies. (This was the eighties). 

During these many boot sale mornings, after hunting through old cardboard boxes of others peoples unwanted junk, I picked up quite a few old cameras. These were very cheap, often less than one pound each.  I would bring them home and place them on shelves around my house; together with old toy robots and matchbox cars.  I just thought they were interesting to look at, and sometimes proved useful conversation pieces.

I have NEVER tried to take a picture with any of them. 

I had no idea of their worth, although often kidded myself into believeing they had some rare value.  There was no internet in those days, so no way of checking such things.  I have since found out that they are virtually worthless, due to the fact that there are so many of them knocking around.  The following pictures are the only cameras I have left.
 
    Italian made Comet                         English made Ensign E29                Ensign SELFIX 16-20


Maybe I should one day try and take some pictures with these...  but I probably never will.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Other Cameras

Since my last post I have been racking my brains trying to remember where that old Praktica SLR went. I have realised that I made an amazingly stupid decision. It must have been the early 1980s when I sold that camera to a school mate, probably for about five quid. I wanted the latest thing, not an old manual camera that looked like it was from a museum. In the 1980's everything was becoming automatic, electronic, smaller, sleeker and sophisticated. So I saved my pocket money, and eventually bought a Minolta compact 35mm camera. I think it was quite expensive actually (around £120 new). These new machines were amazing... Just pop the roll inside, close the door, press the button and the film would automatically load! They automatically advanced after each shot. It had a built in flash. This felt like 'the future'. Amazing stuff. It had a little red light which did something. You could even imprint the date and time onto the photos. Then after the roll was finished... buzz buzz went the automatic rewind! Amazing.

Here is a picture of someone else's Minolta, from a web search. Although this was the exact model I had.




So I left the world of SLR cameras, and sleepwalked into the land of consumer compact practicality. Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, and my hind sight tells me that I wish I had saved and bought a Nikon, Pentax or Canon SLR. I did however enjoy the Minolta, and my photos were better.


Of course, if I had any interest in 'photography', it disappeared with my new Minolta. This was also at the age where 'hobbies' are forgotten, and 'other interests' take over. Music, girls, going out, drinking, clubbing, driving etc... These are the things that became important. Even the poor old Minolta eventually got left somewhere, never to be replaced. I think I went ten years without a camera. The lack of photos from this part of my life is evident when I look through old albums and boxes of memories. Nothing.


Around the mid 1990s, I bought a new Canon pocket camera for my then partner. It was a lovely little quality camera, which I still believe to be a major influence on the style of many of today's pocket cameras. This was the Canon IXUS II. It really was one of the first times that a pocket camera looked totally desirable. The little rectangular case of satin polished stainless steel was a pleasure just to hold. It was still a 35mm roll film camera, but was now in the latest APS format (advanced photo system). It had some great features including nice wide landscape ability.  Although not a new feature for the time, I was still amazed by the zoom control. I found myself using the camera quite a lot, and wished I had bought it for myself. I felt a twinge of interest in photography again after such a long time. I still think the Ixus is a beautiful camera, and holds up well after fifteen years. That little camera is gone from me now... R.I.P. little Ixus.


Canon-Ixus-II.jpg

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Moving Subjects

Welcome to Moving Subjects.

Moving Subjects is primarily about photography. More acurately, my interest in photography; which will include some of my work, together with my general ramblings on all things photography.

This is my first attempt at blogging; so I will try to keep things simple to start with. My mind has the ability to wander off subject, and this often causes problems with my interests in photography. For example; one week I am crazy about landscapes, the next week I am shooting architecture. I am hoping that by recording my work in a blog, I will begin to understand and control my direction.

I have been interested in photography for many years. I remember one of my best birthday presents as a child was a Kodak Instamatic pocket camera. I think that anyone, who is forty or older, would have used one of these at some time in their life. They were cheap and totally idiot proof.  The kodak 127 films were fully enclosed plastic cartidges, which you just had to pop in the back of the camera, and then shoot away. Click click click...  post the film off to the developers....  and a few days later you could sit down with your family and look at all the somewhat blurry and sometimes overexposed pictures of family and holiday camps.  Do you remember those flash cubes???



When I was a teenager, I studied photography in school. It didn't lead to any qualifications, and was organised by a few sixth formers for any lads who showed an interest. Our school had a little dark room with an ancient enlarger and racks of chemicals. The print paper was all free, but only black and white. I can recall many fun hours messing around in the dark room, although I am not really sure if I actually produced many good photos! I did however manage to get my hands on a simple SLR. It was a PRAKTICA 'something or other', a tatty old East German camera. I used to take photos and ask 'bigger boys' to develop them for me. I learned about photography the old fashioned way. Lots of trial and error... lots of twiddling... lots of exposed films... but a gradual understanding of how it all worked.

I have no idea where that old camera went... or any of my masterpieces... that is a shame.