Archive for April, 2010

Cardiff Bay in the Sun with a Panasonic GF1 and 20mm

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2010 by yammerman

 

At the weekend the forth coming reunion of the Airtight Garage brought the family of Williams’ to stay in our humble abode. Paul Williams and I had provided the main source of songs in that erstwhile bunch of no hopers and we thought it wise to run through our old chops and shake the dust of these ancient tunes. For me some of these songs have never left my fantasy set list so it was a real pleasure to have someone come and play bass on them. I have an idea I should perform solo before I shuffle off this mortal coil and this reunion may well help build confidence towards such a move. He brought an old  Hohner Rockwood bass that hissed like a dragon and crackled like a firework but after some emergency soldering it throbbed successfully through the weekend.  The addition of a drummer,guitar player and singer could well bring the house down or maybe leave jaws dropping and hands in pockets. Still an empty hall with more on stage than in the audience will be just like the good old days. Anyway its was great fun and augers well as we increase the size of the band and the rusting hulk becomes once more a sleek rock and roll macine…..only kidding.

Before we could be allowed an afternoon escape from our family responsibities we took the kids on an outing to Cardiff Bay west of the St David’s Hotel where there is a wetland area and Cardiff Yacht Club. This is the quieter part of the Bay where they have not built any burger natcho pizza establishments and is always a pleasant place for a stroll. I took the Panasonic GF1 out into the harsh midday sun and was thankful for my cheap viewfinder as the limitations of  using a screen became apparent.  With this kind of harsh light things are always a bit tricky to make interesting but the powers that be have built a rather odd stone edifice which stood in as a set.  In the evening I shot some more with the same camera on the thronging side of the Bay as we availed our selves of the Pizza facilties.   This kind of casual shooting with  digital is so easy to do why would anyone stick to film the whole time. The addiction for B&W I can’t seem to escape so I coverted them in Lightroom.

So here are the pictures, for the songs you have to come to Brighton in October.

The Summer of 1981 Revisited.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 15, 2010 by yammerman

It was 30 years ago in the summer of 1981 that I lost my job as a filing clerk at the Prudential; this was no doubt the first sign of the technological revolution that would sweep such jobs aside.  But back then it was the only gainful employment I and a number of fellow graduates could find in the wasteland that was Thatcher’s Britain.  To be fair, many of the others were actually seeking work where as I was always eager to avoid such a possibility.  I still harboured dreams of musical stardom despite being dumped out of the band for an inability to actually play.  It may well have been some form of suspended 9th chord that did for me and probably intimated that the punk era, that had given me even a prayer of performing, was now over.  Wiser heads than I were no doubt already unboxing synthesisers and doing funny things to their hair.  

It so happened that two other Brighton reprobates found themselves at a loose end that summer – one Paul Hazel and David Westmore.  It is too far in the distant past to remember how it started but I remember a couple of sessions we had that turned into a regular daily activity. I would wake and walk across Brighton from St Georges Mews and collecting David on the way to end up in Lansdowne Place, one of those streets near the seafront with impossibly tall buildings which contained an inordinate numbers of bedsits.  Here in Hazel’s room, with an Akai 40000D tape recorder and a Farfisa organ, we explored what turned out to be one of the many musical cul de sacs I have been down in my life.  

It was such a great thing for me to find two people who were so interested in learning their own chosen instruments (keyboards for Paul and bass for David) that they failed to notice me hogging the vocal duties.  Now I can barely sing these days even with every technological advantage I can afford but back then it must have been a racket.  But as always the one atribute that I can bring to these things is the words, something which most musicians regard as a tiresome inconvenience.  I recognised this gap in the market early on in the birth of punk and was lucky enough to discover I had modest talent for it.  Of course, I was as slapdash with this skill as I have been with most things in my life, so the quality was at times erratic.  

One of the good songs, and one that I continue to play, was “More Bubble Gum Joe”.  I now see that while it was my attempt to take a sledgehammer to the shallowness of modern life it is prophetic in its mood that the Brighton days were coming to an end and that we were all about to move on from those teenage dreams.   Of course, I’m still harbouring most of my teenage dreams to this day.

The original version, of which I have no copy, was recorded on a two track.  This required a bounce for every new over dub – an idea so primitive in comparison to the computerised multi-track Cuebase 5 I now use – that I have to admire my old self for my skill at producing anything at all.  That old version, and I kid you not, had a rap section on the end which I did with Rowan Manby, who died tragically young.  But I always remember how much she laughed at this strange idea.  David came up with a bass line that Michael Jackson nicked for Billie Jean and Paul sprayed the whole thing with moody psychedelic keyboards.  In a word it was a triumph and we dutifully sent off a demo and I remember someone, while turning us down, said they really liked the way it was recorded.  Of such small victories is my musical life made.  

And so to the present day and below is a link to my latest version knocked up in two days this week.  My ability hasn’t improved much over the years but thankfully the gear has and, while it sounds like a machine created from badly fitting parts, I quite like it.  I’m particularly proud of my wah-wah solo.  When I do these things I feel my kinship is not with punk but with those kids in America in the late sixties creating mayhem in their garages.  If anyone was to put out a Nuggets or Pebbles of these years, surely they could give me the last track on the 12th volume.  

Follow this link to  More Bubblegum Joe 2010 style

Easter in London with a Panasonic GF-1 and 20mm

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2010 by yammerman

 

An Easter trip to London, travelling First Class for the first time in my life, was the opportunity to um and ah over which of the many cameras I have that I should take on such a trip.  In the end I settled on the Panasonic GF-1 with the 20mm f1.7 pancake lens and my M4P with the Voigtlander 28mm f3.5.   Maybe I’ll post the B&W film at some later date but don’t hold your breath as I ended up mostly just shooting with the GF-1 a wonderful small digital camera and perfect for this kind of weekend break.

 We stayed at great discount at the Andaz near Liverpool St Station.  It is a hotel trying to be as modern as it can be with no traditional reception but smart young folks in suits armed with laptops manning the foyer.  I feared that the City might be deserted over Easter and a bit of a wasteland for the weekend breaking tourist.   As it turned out, it has changed a fair bit since the years I was a computer engineer with plenty of places to eat drink and be merry.

 We had a wander when we arrived and I was reminded of how great it had been when London had been our home.   The buildings, the river, the stupendous amount of stuff going on and the anonymity of being in this huge city just makes it a great place to live or visit.  We for sworn off the ludicrously priced hotel breakfast for a Google discovered Sausage&Mash place that did breakfasts.  It turned out to be a master stroke; the food and the service were excellent and we ate there every morning.  The Italian running it greeted James like a long lost relative on our subsequent visits including free extra sausage.  They have 4 or 5 places around the east side of the city and good luck to them on that showing….excellent.

 We also ate at the ubiquitous Pizza Express, Giraffe, and Pizza on the Park (Pizza Express but with burgers).  All top grub with a child in tow and leaving the car at home meant the red wine could flow.

 I  had a stroll down Denmark St where I had bought my mongrel Telecaster back in the early 80’s and wished James had allowed me the time to find a  Gibson SG Classic, the guitar for which  I currently pine.  I escaped the family while they strolled Covent Garden – I visited the National Portrait Gallery and took in the recently deceased Irving Penn exhibition.  This is the first time I’ve been to such an exhibition since I built the darkroom and the viewing of actual prints is such a quantum leap from looking at these things in books that I had goose bumps.  Many of them had a beautiful contrast to them with perfect blacks and he certainly seems to have lacked current obsession with “detail in shadows” that I detect in modern advice on printing.   It made me long to shoot such portraits and print in this style.

 On the Sunday we did the tourist nightmare that is the Tower of London; a place after my last visit that I had vowed never to return.  But with James showing an interest in history it seemed churlish to refuse his desire to see the place where those Terrible Tudors had done some of their finest work.  Even on opening the crowds are daunting but this time we actually saw the crown jewels (look a bit naff to me) and enjoyed the White Tower with its collection of armour.  In the Bloody Tower it was good to see the vote on who killed those Princes was running against Henry VII and we added our own 20 or so against the ruthless bugger.  The chopping block I remember from my youth has been replaced by a sort of “artistic” memorial which I can’t say I entirely approved as it lacks the in your face brutality of an actual block.  Still you have to feel sorry for 16 years old Lady Jane Grey who if ever there was a “pawn in their game” it was she.  By the time we left, the crowds were queuing just to walk the walls.

 I then visited another place I’d hoped to avoid, The London Dungeon, which is a great thing for a 10 year old but, oh my, the agony of queuing even with priority tickets.  The “Beaster Bunny” was added as a holiday extra and you have to feel for the people who work there knocking out those tired lines hour after hour to every nationality on the planet.

 All in all it was a great trip and gave me the chance to dabble in a bit of “street” photograpy something which by nature I’m not moved to do very much.  The GF-1 is perfect for it being so small and discreet.  This is in contrast to the battalions of digital SLRs I saw being carried by every Tom, Dick and Harriet we passed.  In London you see everything on a grand scale including the modern obsession with gadgets.  I’m as guilty as the next person but it is an extraordinary thing to see when confronted by it on this scale.

 It was a trip that made me very nostalgic for a city I once knew like the back of my hand due to the jobs I had and I missed a lot when we first moved away.  Still a great city for me and I could easily be tempted by those bright lights again as it has a great buzz.

 Here below is a set I constructed from the images I snapped.  I then converted them to black and white and did some cropping and tweaking in Lightroom.

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Dog Shit in Trees or Cosmeston with a D300 and 18mm Lens

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2010 by yammerman

 

The Easter holidays are upon us but all week we have had our noses pressed to the glass while the rain and a wind from the Russian Steppes swirls around the house. Spring has had its foot slammed in the door just when it thought it had been invited back to the party. Today though, the nip in the wind had abated slightly and I dragged my recalcitrant charge for a circuit of Cosmeston Lake. It is the site of a former lime stone quarry that has been turned into a wetland and walking area. They stopped pumping and the big hole filled with water from the natural springs. It’s a fair sized lake now and while pleasant enough to walk around is not exactly abundant with my kind of photographic delights.

 Still not to be beaten I took the Nikon D300 and my Nikon 18mm f2.8 a lens Ken Rockwell hasn’t much good to say about but I like the fact it gives me a 28mm prime on a digital body plus it always seems very sharp to my eyes.  On film I always use primes but on digital I tend use zooms; this is not rational. So at times I kick against the habit and treat digital with the same reverence as film and go out with one focal length. There is no doubt deep inside me a feeling that digital is fast food and film is fine dining. “Torn between tradition and new values” will be my epitaph either that or “he was a lazy sod”. I know I can rely on my friends and family to make the right choice.

 Though windy it was a pleasant enough stroll and I photographed while discussing the relative merits of various Marvel Super Heros.  The X Men are just not the same as when I was a lad as there seems to be hundreds of the buggers these days.  I am informed by my son that Angel had his wings cut off by his father and I wonder if the boy is trying to tell me something. 

 As I expected, the focal length restriction and the rather ordinary subject matter rendered the walk tough going for a photographer who finds nature a tad dull at times. There certainly is no ivy shortage to report; in these parts I could have taken shots of every variation known to man. Give me a ruined city and a pile of rubbish any day over some Ansel Adams style landscape.  I just wish I could be there for that post apocalypse photo shoot when the crumbling edifice of civilisation will be available in all its glory.

 One thing I did notice was what I thought was a plastic bag that had been snagged in the tree branches. You see these everywhere, we had one in our tree at the front for years before it disintegrated and moved on. I’ve always had in mind to do a plastic in trees project so when I saw this bag I decided to try and get a shot. It was at this point I realised that unlike most of these “bags in trees” this one was not empty and the only thing that it could contain was dog shit.  I imagine it was carefully collected by the owner and then hurled into the trees. I saw at least two more of these exact same bags and came to suspect it was the same person. No doubt nature was verdant with greenery when they were furtively dispatched but with winter the charming decorations are revealed in all their glory. Oh curse you dog owners and your mountain of dog shit.

 Anyway below is a selection  of  the images including the first in a new project “dog shit in trees”

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