It is one of life’s coincidences that, in the week that my good friend Bob Machin should mount a “stupid dull crap meaningless” tirade against a picture by Sara Ramos featured in the Guardian’s best shot series, I was sorting through some test shots I took using a Canon 50mm 1.4 LTM that fitted his description well. I bought this lens a couple of weeks ago from Vintage & Classic Cameras as a cheaper alternative to the Leica 50mm Summilux which is way out of my price range. To test it one Sunday, I decided to suggest a family walk; I believe another pet hate of Bob’s, but he has so many it is sometimes difficult to keep track. Naturally the suggestion was met with indifference by the rest of the family, no doubt feeling they would rather enjoy the silence in my absence as the Sunday afternoon guitar practice would cease during my sojourn. I set out on the same imaginary dog walk that I have done for many a month now, armed with my Leica M3 and the Canon 50mm. I go down the hill to the seafront and perambulate on one of the finest aspects of Penarth, its wonderful pier. I’ve taken hundreds of pictures of this pier and some I like and some I hate, but it often affords a good place to just fire off some test shots and complete a roll of film. There was a Penarth Pier photo competition last year which, due to indolence, I failed to enter. I have to say that when I saw the dramatic nature of the winner – lighting striking the pier in darkness – it was probably as well I didn’t make the effort. Hats off to the guy, but the idea of setting off in a storm, in the dark, on the off chance of capturing something like that, as those closest to me will attest, is simply not in my laidback, naturally lazy nature. A slow Sunday afternoon stroll taking pictures of things that don’t move, or as Bob so succinctly put it “stupid dull crap meaningless pictures”, now that’s right up my street.
I shot two rolls on Fuji Reala 100 of which I have a ton because I found it very cheap. It has a rather naturalistic look, which I’ve yet to decide upon, but its slowness engenders clarity. The decline of film means Tesco no longer process, so Davis Colour did me 72 5×7’s of which 60 constituted what could loosely be called landscapes. Now these are the ones that for me are the true crap, because you look through them and wonder what on earth it was that you saw through the view finder that made you press the shutter. I guess it’s just not my thing because the ones that please me are always the more abstract odd ones that nearly don’t work but at least are not a dull travesty of life’s reality. So I’ve selected my favourites and they are to be found below.
What can I say about the lens? It’s well made and certainly sharp. It has good colour rendition at least with the Reala. It balances well on the M3 and gives me that extra stop for those low light moments. I’m not a big tester of stuff in the technical way that some people are; if it feels comfortable, and I like the photos, then I don’t need much more info than that. I have shot some black and white photos that I processed last night so I’ll post them up when the mood strikes.
I should also mention Paul Williams who has set up a little competition on his blog, inspired by Bob’s words, and which can be found here. I’ve already entered one of these from below, with a small explanation of my thoughts. I started writing it with my tongue in my cheek, only to discover that I found some merit in my own pretentiousness. The years I’ve spent being taught by the graduates of Newport School of Art, Media and Design are paying off, either that or I’ve been indoctrinated. It is certainly true that while I don’t think the actual pictures I take have changed so much, the way I think about them has changed enormously. Teaching, the internet and practice have meant I can really nail those stupid dull meaningless pictures these days and, who knows, maybe even I have an exhibition in me.