Editorial

Peter Flower

As we near the end of the formal programme for 2017/2018 it is appropriate to reflect on events over this past year. No doubt our chairman, Mike Weekes, will be giving a full review at the Annual General Meeting so I will just mention a few highlights that occur. There have been quite a few new people joining us and, even more importantly, actively taking part in events. They have also been winning awards in some of the competitions, so existing members need to up their game! Due to things like the monthly Saturday Natters, and a range of special events mainly organised by Stephen Hewes, there is a growing social atmosphere. It has been a challenging year for Paul Renaut, organiser of the events programme, due to the no-show at short notice by a number of speakers or judges. However, in addition to planning an excellent programme of events he has been able to overcome these difficulties. The acquisition of a new projector has proved to be a great success, overcoming the poor quality of images experienced from the old one and gaining praise from a number of speakers.

Regarding the content of this Newsletter, there is quite an emphasis on the Chatham Challenge. John Fisher, organiser of this year's event, discussed it at the Saturday Natter. I have posted a reminder of this forthcoming event and another article that takes a brief look back at its history.

Looking back - Chatham Challenge

Peter Flower

© Peter Flower

At the time of the Society's 75th Anniversary in 2013 a number of special events were organised and a booklet was produced to commemorate the event. Included was a page of historical information gathered by Lester Hicks, referring back to the archive of documentation that he and Carol were holding at that time. One of the items mentioned was the Chatham Challenge competition of 1993, the first ever, which replaced the annual summer outing. The first outing was to the Chatham Dockyard, hence the name of the competition. That name has applied to this annual event ever since irrespective of the venue. The formula for the competition, devised by the late Alan Ainsworth, has remained the same ever since then. The challenge is to produce images of twelve subjects (of a general description, rather than specific items) which must be photographed on the day. The list of twelve subjects is issued at the venue. Judging is done by the organiser, and the winner has the honour of organising the following year's event as well as holding the inscribed glass trophy which Alan Ainsworth donated.

The record of subsequent events, which have spanned no less than 25 years, is somewhat sketchy. However, a few that I have found details of are mentioned in the following comments. Of course, all the earlier years involved the production of colour slides.

I am uncertain about the exact date but I ran the competition in the summer of 2000 which visited the London South Bank area. At the planning stage it had been hoped that members would be able to cross the Millennium Bridge which opened officially on 10 June. Unfortunately the bridge, becoming known as the 'Wobbly Bridge', had been closed within days.

In 2001 the venue was Hever Castle. I don't have information about the organiser, but the competition was won by Carol Hicks. Being the winner she organised the 2002 event which visited Cambridge.

On 14 July 2007 Don Morley organised the event when we visited the Bluebell Railway. The competition was won by Bob Boden. This event was notable for being the last one to use colour slides. All subsequent events used digital cameras.

On 6 July 2008 Bob Boden organised the visit to Brooklands Motor Museum. I remember that this was the first event to use digital images in the competition as I was using a newly-acquired Fuji camera for this.

12 June 2010 – visit to Amberley Museum (organiser?)

In 2013 we revisited the Bluebell Railway. (Don Morley organiser?)

On 4 May 2014 Jill Flower organised the trip to Colombia Road Flower Market, Brick Lane and Spittalfields.

In 2015 José Vaskez organised the event that took us to the King's Cross area of London, and the winner of that event, Mark Thomas, arranged the visit to Nymans Gardens in July 2016.

The latest event, in 2017, was organised by Mick Higgs, involving a visit to the South Park Estate. The winner, John Fisher, is currently planning the next event, scheduled for 8 July.

Over the years we have visited a variety of venues, sometimes more than once. From memory I can recall Guildford (for a meeting of narrow-boats), Weald & Downland Living Museum, Brighton, and return visits to Chatham Dockyard.

Note: Can any member supply details of other Chatham Challenge events? It would be nice to be able to fill in the gaps in the records. Please contact me if you can supply more information.

Saturday Natter – Denbies Vineyard – 5 May 2018

Peter Flower

Just five of us were present at this meeting, no doubt due to the fact that many members might be away over the bank holiday weekend. However, the fact that we were such a small group enabled all of us to be involved in the range of topics that were discussed. John Fisher talked about his preparations for the Chatham Challenge event which he has scheduled for 8 July. (further details are in the 'Action This Day' notification) St James's Park in London has been chosen as this year's venue.

We then talked about camera equipment. There has been a lot of discussion in recent times about the advantages of mirror-less cameras, including less weight and smaller body sizes. Indeed, many of the society members have been purchasing this sort of camera as a second one to carry around, or even as a total replacement for their original DSLRs. This discussion was broadened out into the topic of additional benefits when it came to lenses. When thinking in terms of equivalent focal lengths these give a substantial size and weight saving over DSLR full-frame lenses.

We also added the topic of prime lenses. Since the widespread availability of zoom lenses the chances are that the lenses most often used would be of this type. When zoom lenses were first introduced there was often justified criticism that image quality did not match that of the primes. As time went by these reservations lessened and the convenience of carrying a single lens with variable focal lengths became more popular, overcoming the inconvenience of having to change prime lenses whilst out and about. The downside was the weight disadvantage and the fact that maximum apertures were reduced. In some instances, with high ISO settings available on newer cameras, this was not a problem. The one exception to this being the loss of differential focus available with the potentially larger apertures of prime lenses. The following discussions brought up an interesting point about the relative size of cameras.

John Fisher has been a Nikon full-frame DSLR user for many years but, as reported previously in Newsletter 99, he had acquired a Panasonic TZ100 to take as a travel camera on a holiday visit to South America, as a supplement to his normal bulky Nikon DSLR. Sadly, his experience was that he did not adapt well to the unfamiliar modes of operation and was disappointed with the quality of photographs produced. As a result he had disposed of it and bought a small Nikon D5500 DSLR. After the Saturday Natter I emailed John for details of his currently preferred kit. I got this response -

I love my D5500 for many reasons but as it is a 1.5x crop sensor, I wanted to get a really wide lens. Normally I use Nikon 35mm f/1.8 prime and Nikon 85mm f/1.8 (both originally for use with his full-frame camera) - both outstanding lenses. In the end, for my wide lens, as a compromise on quality, size, weight etc, I bought my first non-Nikon lens in recent times. I went for a Sigma 10 to 20mm f/3.5. The prime was just too large. I absolutely love it and have had more fun with my photography using it than I have had for along time.”

Nikon D5500 camera and Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 lens (not to scale)

A subsequent check revealed just how light and compact his D5500 combined with the Sigma lens is. In terms of weight the Nikon is slightly heavier than an Olympus (M4/3) E-M10 camera (420g v 390g) but lighter than, for example, other APS-C cameras like the Fujifilm X-T2 (507g), and Sony a6500 (453g). Combined with the Sigma, weighing 465g, the result is a compact and reasonably light kit to carry around. No wonder that John is so happy! Additionally, this camera with its lightweight yet robust monocoque structure illustrates the fact that a compact DSLR can compete on portability.

Looking back - Camera Comparisons

Peter Flower

Subsequent to the discussions at the Saturday Natter, where we considered the great differences between current camera sizes, I thought that it would be interesting to widen this into comparisons with just a few examples of film and digital cameras. When you think about the amount of space taken up with 35mm film canisters and for winding the film onto a similar-sized spool it is all too easy to think that the digital equivalents should be smaller. As the following image shows, with just a few cameras compared, the answers can be unexpected.

© Photograph - Peter Flower

From the left of the line-up the cameras are - Panasonic TZ90 with fixed Leica Vario-Elmar F/3.3-6.4 4.3-129mm ASPH lens (equiv. 24-720mm); Ricoh GR1s 35mm film camera with fixed 28mm f/2.8 lens; Kodak Retina 35mm folding camera with fixed Kodak Ektar 50mm f/3.5 lens (Type 126 dating from 1937-1941); Olympus OMD EM10 Mk. 2 fitted with Olympus M Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8 lens (equivalent to 50mm in full-frame terms); Canon A-1 35mm SLR fitted with Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens.

What is quite amazing is the minuscule size of the Ricoh. The body is so slim that it is difficult to imagine this having space for its 35mm film. It should be added that this camera produced images of superb quality. The Kodak Retina is much heavier and robust, but when folded is only a few millimetres larger in dimension than the Ricoh. The Canon SLR is obviously much more bulky than the other two 35mm cameras, largely due to the mirror-box, but also the fitment of the f/1.4 50mm lens. Sitting alongside is the Panasonic with its f1.8 lens showing the advantages of the smaller (micro 4/3) sensor and mirrorless design. What is perhaps most intriguing is the relatively bulky size of the TZ90. It does have a an extensive zoom range on the lens, but only a tiny sensor.

As a final thought on the subject of smaller camera and prime lenses I took the following photograph which graphically illustrates the advantages of prime lenses on smaller cameras, in this case for micro four thirds models such as Olympus and Panasonic.

© Peter Flower

Three prime lenses in one hand - Olympus 25mm f/1.8 lens (50mm), Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens (90mm) and Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 lens (28mm). The figures in brackets refer to the equivalent focal length.

'Be There or Be Square' Quiz – Correction

Editor

We take great pride in the quality of our journalism. Although this Newsletter is not a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) we aim to correct any errors as promptly as possible.

It was pointed out by Pete Welch that we were in error in stating that 'The Big C' team was the only one with three members. In fact the 'No Brians', consisting of himself, Phil Johns and Stephen Renouf was also a three-man team. Also, that if the same criteria of adding a fourth virtual member had been applied this would have resulted in them winning with an adjusted score of 114.6 !! We apologise for this error.

Saturday Natter – April Newsletter report

PF

After publication it was noticed that in the photographs by Lester Hicks, showing a sort of shoot-out between Stephen Renouf and Mark Thomas, the latter still had his lens cap on! This is equivalent to having a gun's safety catch on, so Mark was doubly handicapped!

Nikon Mirrorless Camera in 2019

Techman

30 April 2018 - In an interview with Japanese TV-channel NHK a Nikon manager has confirmed that the company's new mirrorless camera system will be on the market by spring 2019. This is the first news of an approximate launch date after Nikon officially confirmed it was developing a new system back in July 2017.

Unfortunately, additional details are still scarce. According to the latest rumours the new lens mount will be called the Z-mount and come with an external diameter of 49mm and a flange focal distance of 16mm. In view of the public statement, given by the Nikon Director of Development, that any new Nikon mirrorless system would have to be full-frame there is every reason to assume the new cameras will indeed feature a full-frame sensor, putting Nikon in direct competition with Sony's A7/A9 series of mirrorless full-frame cameras.

Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 camera

Techman

Fujifilm has announced the Instax Square SQ6, an analog instant film camera that resembles the old Instagram logo. The SQ6 takes Fujifilm's Instax Square film which gives a 62 x 62mm (2.4 x 2.4") images on 86 x 72mm film. It features a 66mm lens that gives a roughly 32mm equivalent field of view. The SQ6 joins the SQ10 Digital/Instax hybrid model to become the second camera to shoot using square-format film.

It is due for release in the US and Canada on 25 May. The price will be $129.95 in the US.

At the time of writing there is no news of availability or price in the UK, but full details of the camera and its features can be seen at the following link -

https://www.fujifilm.eu/uk/products/instax

Newhaven Fort visit (Special Event) – 28 April 2018 – organised by Stephen Hewes

Peter Flower

Stephen had arranged for a group of members to have special access to tunnels not normally open to the public, in addition to visiting the general fort area and exhibitions. The fort has an interesting history, based as it is on the cliff site overlooking Seaford Bay which dates back as far as the Iron Age. In more recent times the fort has undergone a series of developments. The first gun was sent to Newhaven in 1548 following a raid on Seaford by the French. Over the next three hundred years the gun defences were updated, especially at times of crisis such as the Spanish Armada and the Napoleonic Wars. All too often, however, the defences fell into disrepair.

In 1759 the first permanent gun battery was built. And in 1855, following a visit from the Duke of Wellington, more guns were installed and a new battery was built. This was at a time when the harbour was being extended, the railway had arrived, there was a new steamer service to France and the town and harbour were taking on greater national significance.

Construction of Newhaven Fort was started in 1862 and took ten years and six million bricks to complete. There were several novel design features; the first mass use of concrete in a military fortification, a new type of drawbridge and the fact that it was built into the contours of the land, rather than being built above ground like a traditional fort or castle. The significance of this was mentioned by the guide who took us around. Although there are conventional walls on the landward side the gun emplacements towards the sea have the advantage of being embedded into the slope and not easily visible from approaching ships.

Further developments took place in the run-up to the First World War and subsequently prior to the outbreak of war in 1939. The Coastal Artillery was disbanded in 1956 all the guns at Newhaven were taken away and scrapped. Following this the fort fell into disrepair, was scheduled for redevelopment as a leisure centre, and in 1979 it was declared an ancient monument. In 1988 Lewes District Council took over and opened Newhaven Fort as a military tourist attraction and in May 2015 management of the Fort was taken on by Wave Leisure Trust Ltd. The result is that improvements to the site are ongoing, as was obvious when we commenced our guided tour into the underground tunnels and staircases leading to the gun emplacements and magazines. There was no lighting in these which meant that we needed torches to guide us. It also meant that any photographs had to be lit using these. (Electronic flash on-camera would have destroyed any atmosphere in the photographs) Although at least one of our members was carrying a tripod it was not really practical to try to use this in the cramped conditions into which we were crammed as we followed the guide. Nevertheless we did manage to produce some decent images, although it has to be said that these were not terribly exciting. Despite the problems photographically, this was an interesting part of our visit. The history of the various different stages of development in the past was explained by our guide as well as the prospects for future reinstatement of some of it the fort's features.

Below are some of the photographs taken on the day, chosen at random.

© 1 & 2 - Anthea Post  3 & 4 - Peter Flower

© 1 & 2 - Stephen Hewes 3 & 4 - Jill Flower

After the guided tour we were able to visit the Tea Room for refreshments and free to wander around the various exhibit rooms. These contain all sorts of military equipment and memorabilia from different arms of the forces, also from the eras of the various conflict years. Whilst visiting one of these I saw our guide demonstrating the finer points of a Bren gun to a young lad who was absolutely fascinated. This was just one example of the way in which the staff and the displays teach more than just the history of this particular fort but give some insight into the conflicts that have affected our land over hundreds of years.

Note: As a result of this visit I learnt an important lesson. One of the problems with the majority of modern cameras is that operation relies so much on the use of function buttons rather than physical switches or rotating dials. The Main menu system or Quick menu selection plus many other specific functions require a tiny button to be pressed. How to locate these in the almost total dark of an underground tunnel? Obviously I need more practice, or a head torch!

Observations on a Visual Journey – Andy Hooker FRPS – 9 April 2018

Report by Peter Flower

Andy explained that his interest in photography dated back well over 45 years when he learnt to develop his own B&W films and produce prints at University. Like so many of us he experienced the magical moments watching an image materialise before his eyes in a developing tray. Many of the images shown during his talk dated back to that era although now, of course, he has made the transition to digital photography.

Although we were shown a great variety of images many of them originated from time spent in the mountains. He climbed his first 4000er when he was fifteen and has been climbing in the Alps intermittently ever since. Sometimes with members of his family, or with a guide, or climbing solo. As he explained, his climbs were made under all sorts of weather conditions, sometimes involving overnight camping at height and necessitating the use of crampons or skis. These were obviously not necessarily the gentle mountain walks with access via cable cars that most of us enjoy! He climbs for pleasure, for the experience and sense of achievement, and for the stunning scenery. The awards, photographically, are obvious from the sample images shown in the following collages.

© Andy Hooker - Two images of the Matterhorn under different lighting conditions

© Andy Hooker - Guided Parties

As can be seen from the first image, looking at the condition of the snow formation in the background, this is a place to pass as quickly as possible!

© Andy Hooker

The first image shows the effect of the wind at the summit, causing a dangerous overhang which had to be avoided. Andy talked about skiing down lengthy glaciers. A close view revealed the channels in the glacier and these fascinating patterns.

A significant aspect of Andy's photography is the thought process that he applies. Over the years he has developed techniques that were influenced by the work of other well-known photographers. This goes beyond observing their most influential images to a recognition of their ways of thinking in order to make their images meaningful rather than just records of events in front of them. He illustrated this point by displaying quotes from a number of influential photographers such as Annie Leibovitz and Cartier-Bresson.

It is difficult to encapsulate Andy's thought processes into this brief article so I fall back on some quotes from his web sites. One of these comes from a site that he calls LensScapes - “LensScapes is the combination of the two words – ‘Lens’ and ‘Scapes’. Together those two words describe simply what all pictorial photographers do. We look through a Lens (a complex array of glass elements that focus light) at a Scape (which the dictionary defines as ‘a pictorial representation of a specified type of view’), and we photograph what we see…. pictorially. The majority of images that I take are exactly that – Lens-Scapes. I couldn’t come up with anything else that explained it better.”

A methodical approach is evident in some of the example images that he showed. A visit to a beach will often be preceded by a check on the tide timetables. This enables him to be there at low tide, when the beach is much more exposed and there is the possibility of recording the patterns in the sand left by the receding tide.

© Andy Hooker - Many readers will recognise Birling Gap, but taken from the opposite direction to that of the many cliché images taken towards the Seven Sisters. The monochrome image is an example of the contrasty images that Andy enjoys.

Sometimes less preplanned are the strolls around modern architectural buildings. Andy admitted that they often took place whilst his wife (who was in the audience!) went shopping. He explores the patterns of the structure and the reflections from other buildings that appear in the windows. These are just three of the many examples that he showed.

© Andy Hooker

Visits to the countryside also presented photo opportunities. These are just two contrasting samples.

 © Andy Hooker - A variation on the theme of the bluebell wood, made artistic and different by the blurring of the bluebells. A rusted metal face profile sculpture, enhanced by the quality of the light.

Perhaps one of the best pieces of advice was to always carry a camera. To quote Andy “. . and if that keen observational eye is alert then I will, unexpectedly, find something worth capturing. And that is why I try to carry a camera (preferably a compact) in my pocket – just for those unexpected moments.” In addition he advocated a check before going out to ensure that batteries were charged and that the camera settings were as required. (It was all too easy to leave them set from a previous occasion that had required unusual settings for some reason) Having said this he did admit, with a smile, that on one occasion he had carefully prepared his camera bag with chosen lenses for the day out, only to discover that he had forgotten to include the camera!

The three very different images that follow illustrate the importance of having a camera ready to capture that special moment.

© Andy Hooker - Unexpected encounter with a chamois, altocumulus lenticularis cloud formation, Trompe L'oeil

Representing the full value of Andy's talk in this brief report has not been easy. There was a far greater variety of images and subjects than could be adequately covered. For me, this was illustrated by the difficulty that I had in suggesting a representative selection of images to accompany the text. My initial run-through, referring to my notes and viewing Andy's web sites, resulted in far too long a list. The fact is that of the variety of photographs shown many were so memorable.

This was the final formal talk in the society's current season. Andy's excellent talk ensured that it finished on a high note.

Readers are recommended to view the full range of Andy's work at the following links (but refer to notes below) -

www.lensscapes-photography.co.uk/

flickr site -

https://www.flickr.com/photos/lensscaper/

17 May 2018 - After publication of the article I received the following comments from Andy -

The two sites you mention in the article are both woefully out of date. The LensScapes Photography site has not been properly updated for several years nor has my Flickr page. If you get an opportunity perhaps you could mention an amendment for those who might wish to have a wider view of my work. I post images to the Wordpress blog at least once a week and that almost always features current work and has a vast archive of over 800 Posts – all searchable and categorised - dating back nearly six years.

https://lensscaper.wordpress.com/

Enter this date in your diary now!

Chatham Challenge 2018 – 8 July – organised by John Fisher

© Peter Flower - John Fisher showing how it's done!

Fuller details will be made available nearer the time, but this is just a taster of the venue to be visited this year, which is St James's Park in London. This is 57-acre park in the City of Westminster. The park is bounded by Buckingham Palace to the west, the Mall to the north, Horse Guards to the east, and Birdcage Walk to the south.

The park has a small lake, St James's Park Lake, with two islands, West Island, and Duck Island, named for the lake's collection of waterfowl. A resident colony of pelicans has been a feature of the park since pelicans were donated by a Russian ambassador in 1664 to Charles II. While most of the time the wings are clipped, there is a pelican who can be seen flying to the London Zoo in hopes of another meal. The Blue Bridge across the lake affords a view west towards Buckingham Palace framed by trees. Looking east the view includes the Swire Fountain to the north of Duck Island and, past the lake, the grounds of Horse Guards Parade, with Horse Guards, the Old War Office and Whitehall Court behind. To the south of Duck Island is the Tiffany Fountain on Pelican Rock, and past the lake is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with the London Eye, the Shell Tower, and the Shard behind. This should give plenty of photographic opportunities.

It is hoped that newer members may be encouraged to take part. It is a fun event. The challenge is to produce images of twelve subjects which must be photographed at the venue on the day. The subjects tend to be abstract rather than specific. For example they might include items like 'Red', 'Action', 'Through the window' or 'Wildlife'. It is up to the individual to interpret each one in their own way to produce an interesting image.

For the benefit of anyone who has not taken part in this event before I append some information on previous events. The reports from past Newsletters contain details of the last four Chatham Challenges together with some representative photographs submitted by competitors. The Newsletter number is enclosed in brackets.

2014 (66); 2015 (72 & 76); 2016 (84 & 88); 2017 (95 & 102)

Reminder - Purchase of items from Amazon – On the Home page of the society web site you will find an item Amazon Link. (At the bottom of the list on the right-hand side). If you intend purchasing any item from Amazon it will benefit the society if you use this link to access the Amazon ordering system. The actual order process is not different in any way, but the fact that the access is made via our web site results in a small commission being credited to us.

Panasonic FT7 camera

Techman

Panasonic has announced the Lumix FT7 which is the first waterproof/rugged compact camera to have an electronic viewfinder. The viewfinder is 0.2" in size and has a resolution equivalent to 1.17 million dots and a magnification of 0.45x equivalent. It is not possible to use the EVF if you have a scuba mask on, but for shooting in bright light on land it could come in handy. There's also a 3" non-touch LCD available for composing and reviewing photos.

The TS7 has a 20.4 megapixel 1/2.3" BSI CMOS sensor and an f/3.3-5.9, 28-128mm equivalent lens. It can go 31m/102ft underwater, can take a fall from 2m/6.6ft and can withstand 100kg / 220lb of crushing force. It's also freeze-proof to -10C / +14F. There is a 49-point contrast-detect AF system. Full details of this model are available on the Panasonic web site.

The Lumix FT7 price will be £399 RRP, and will be available in three colours – orange, blue and black. It is expected to go on sale from July.

And finally . . . . . . . . .

The hazards of getting your coffee 'fix' !!