London Sights (Extra Event) – 25 February 2017 – Organised by Carol & Lester Hicks

Report compiled by Peter Flower

Southern Rail were, almost, on their best behaviour on the day in question, so we had few problems in reaching our London destination. The following comments are contributed by Lester Hicks -

London Glassblowing & Art Gallery

Being a Saturday, and with private classes in progress, photography in the glassblowing area was not allowed. However, even if it had been it would not have been particularly photogenic, because the students were only making small learning pieces. The repeated use of the furnaces for large multi-coloured creations, which creates more photographic opportunities as large heavy hot objects are wielded and shaped, would not have been available. (To see this try calling in on a weekday). However the main opportunity is always to photograph the shapes and colours of the finished glass art on display, and there was no shortage of photographic potential there.

Some images from the gallery are shown below, followed by some of the photographers in action on the visit!.

© Photographs by Peter Flower, Jill Flower and Stephen Hewes

 

 © Photographs by Stephen Hewes (1), Peter Flower (2 & 3)

Tower Bridge

Colin, Carol and Lester went in to the Tower Bridge exhibition, not having visited it before.

They started in the engine house under the south access road, where the original mechanisms for raising and lowering the bridge have been beautifully restored. Steam was previously used to drive large hydraulic rams to store potential energy in large elevated water tanks, making pressure available to work the bridge bascules on demand. (They are now operated electrically). The Tour then took them across the bridge to the north tower where a lift carries visitors up to the high level walkways joining the two towers. These are now glassed in and heated! Clearly it gets very cold up there in winter. There are fine views upstream and downstream, with useful opening hatches in the glazing for clear photography. Unfortunately the very dull weather was not helpful on this occasion. The walkway floors have glass panels for viewing passing traffic on the bridge deck below (or passing boats and ships if the bridge is open - sadly it wasn't this time). The west walkway also has mirrors in the ceiling above the glass panels, allowing visitors some interesting selfie opportunities. Both walkways have images and information about famous bridges around the world, and the north and south towers also contain exhibits on the building of Tower Bridge and life along the River Thames, as well as revealing the internal structure of the bridge. Adult entry is £9.00, and the senior concession rate at £6.30 is particularly good value.

Colin Hodsdon added his own comments on the visit -

I spent time snapping the exquisite pieces of glass produced by their experts. Because there was a training course running in the glassblowing area we were asked not to take any photos of the students or of what they were doing. The technique of photographing the pieces of glass avoiding the reflected light was virtually impossible, but nevertheless the colours and shapes of the glass were stunning, and a great record of the artistic achievements of their skills. After coffee myself Carol and Lester toured Tower Bridge with the new exciting feature of the 42m-high glass floor walkway between the two towers with views of the city. We also toured the Victorian engine rooms with access via the South Tower. The dim lighting was quite a challenge but the machinery was very well preserved and quite colourful. One thing they don't tell you is that the glass floor has some sort of metal grid running through it as a safety measure, which meant any photos of the bridge and water below were very hazy due to the mesh in the glass. There were information videos running in the towers and guides to help visitors with any questions. After lunch, I re-joined the main group walking alongside the Thames past City Hall which was closed to the public, back to London Bridge, photographing people, buildings and anything else of interest, including children running through the fountains as the water erupted up from the ground.

© Peter Flower – Fountain Fun, Stephen Hewes - Old Operating Theatre and Caffe Nero)

Stephen Hewes commented - Many thanks to Carol and Lester for organising the event – a most enjoyable day! I thoroughly enjoyed ‘going wide-angle’ (reference to trying out a new very wide-angle lens) for a change, and also found more glass at the operating theatre, and so managed to finish the day on the same theme as I'd started the day.

Note from Stephen Hewes about Extra Events

A quick note to let you know, thanks to Jill, we have a new Flickr site to cover the extra events

https://www.flickr.com/groups/reigatepsextra/

You should find you can post up to 6 images a day directly, without invitation. Ten of us had a very enjoyable trip to the London Bridge area last Saturday organised by Carol and Lester. Participants are encouraged to share their best pics on this new Flickr group. We'll look to get the images already saved to the dropbox transferred, but going forwards it'll be easier if people have their own Flickr account from which to share onto this new group. No cost involved, just ask myself or Jill if you need any help. We obviously encourage everyone to take a look at our images, perhaps give is a few days to give people a chance to post – and perhaps a bit longer for Jill with her Ilford 120 film!

Nikon confirmation of future strategy

Techman

In Newsletter 91 I reported on Nikon's decision to drop introduction of the potential DL series models. In the first public statement since that time Nikon has stated to the Japanese press that it will be focusing chiefly on 'mid-to-high end SLR cameras and lenses and mirrorless cameras that can make the most of their strengths.' Technical reasons as well as future sales potential were quoted as principal reasons for this decision. However, it is likely that the failure in popularity of the current 1 series cameras was also a major influence. The Nikon 1 series has not seen introduction of a new camera body in almost two years or a new lens in almost three years. The series started with the Nikon 1 J1 and (unfortunately named, due to its connotations from WW2 !!) of the V1 in September 2011. Nikon had plenty of time to develop the series (11 models in all) which featured some outstanding technical features, but appeared not to promote them with any great enthusiasm. Like Canon, the company seemed to be afraid of introducing any models into the range that might affect sales of their mainstream DSLR models. As it is Nikon is largely reliant on the 14 DSLR models currently listed on its web site for the majority of its sales. Make no mistake, the range contains a number of models that receive excellent ratings in media tests, but it is disappointing that the company did not have the courage to back these up with some more compact models like those coming from the likes of Fujifilm and Sony.

Comment

Peter Flower

In June 2015 Jill and I took part in the Photo24 London event which is sponsored by Nikon. Members of staff from Photography News and Nikon are present both at the opening introduction meeting and at various meeting points throughout the 24 hours. As you might expect, the Nikon staff are equipped with Nikon cameras. In previous years these had been DSLRs, but it was noticeable on this event that most appeared to have Series 1 models. There were also 7 prizes of Nikon 1 J5 cameras with 10-30mm zoom lenses for best image taken at each meet-up location.

Samsung

Techman

Although this company entered the digital camera market in 2002 with a wide range of compact models it wasn't until 2006 that it produced its first interchangeable model. This used the Pentax KAF lens mount because at the time Samsung had a partnership with that company. Over the years other models of the mirrorless SLR-style and compact body style were introduced, ending with the flagship NX1 in September 2014 and NX500 in February 2015. This was part of a strategy to move up-market, away from the compact models that were under threat from ever increasing sales of smartphones. Unfortunately, although these models received high praise in test results the name of 'Samsung' failed to gain recognition from serious photographers. In Newsletter 61 I reported on a project in the USA referred to as Samsung's 'Ditch' Day. This was a special event in Times Square, New York, at which it persuaded hundreds of existing DSLR users to ditch their cameras in favour of a brand-new Samsung NX30 camera. A similar event was held at Seattle in October 2015 when Samsung gave attendees the opportunity to swap an old DSLR for a new Samsung NX500. These were just two of many 'Ditch' Day events run over time in various US cities. Despite these, and the quality of its products, it seemed impossible to raise the profile of the company as a serious camera maker. The end came surprisingly quickly. In Newsletter 76 (December 2015) I reported that the NX1 would no longer be sold in the UK and Germany (and possibly other European markets). As a result of poor sales the company which produced class-leading electronic components and huge numbers of smartphones decided to cease camera production.

Instead, it has continued to concentrate on developing advanced new components that will be a feature of its own (and possibly other maker's) cameras that fit into smartphones. The latest is an application processor for mobile devices, the Exynos 9 Series 8895. This incorporates a processor based on 10 nanometre, rather than 14 nanometre technology, allowing for up to 27% higher performance while reducing power consumption by 40%. Bearing in mind the constant quest for mobile devices to provide longer performance from batteries, this is an obvious attraction. But perhaps the most interesting feature for us are the impressive imaging, video and machine vision features. The Exynos 8895 supports recording and playback of 4K video content at 120 frames per second. The integrated Image Signal Processor (ISP) also supports 28 megapixel still image resolution on front and rear cameras. Anyone who has seen the abysmal quality of the enlarged images from many smartphones, especially 'selfies' taken with the rear camera, will appreciate what a potential improvement this new Samsung component will provide. It is currently in volume production and likely to appear in new models in the near future. Yet another nail in the coffin of the conventional compact camera.

Sony

Techman

Not quite in the same league as the camera capability as the Samsung, but now available is the improved sensor technology in the newest Sony smartphones. On 27 February Sony announced two new high-end Android smartphones, the Xperia XZ Premium and the Xperia XZs, which both use a 19 megapixel 1/2.3 image sensor that is based on Sony's recently announced 3-layer stack technology for smartphones. The camera, which Sony calls Motion Eye, also features a 25mm equivalent lens, F2.0 aperture, laser-assisted AF and an RGBC-IR sensor for natural colour rendering. In video mode it can record 4K footage and comes with Sony's very efficient SteadyShot 5-axis digital stabilization. Sony also says it has improved the panorama mode which is now capable of capturing higher resolution images. Thanks to the 3-layer sensor's fast readout times the camera's highlight feature is a 960 fps slow motion video mode that can record 720p footage. The new sensor technology also reduces the rolling shutter effect in both still images and video. There is on-sensor phase detection and laser-assisted AF. The front camera has a 13 megapixel 1/3.06” sensor and 22mm equivalent focal length. The large screen features what is claimed to be the first 4K HDR display in a phone.

Sony 3-layer stack technology

This image shows the difference between the old and new sensors. There is a constant battle to improve read-out speeds from sensors, which often involves shorter signal transmission distances.

Saturday Natter – Denbies Vineyard – 4 March 2017

Report by Peter Flower

This was a well-attended meeting. Because there were no round tables available we found ourselves gradually extending a single row of tables as more members joined us. The result was that it was difficult to keep in touch with all the conversations that took place, but I have been helped by others who have supplied me with added comments. Quite a few of us had brought cameras along, for various reasons, so I concentrate my comments on this subject. I continued to experiment with the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens fitted to my Panasonic GX8 camera, together with some comparison shots taken with the Samsung Galaxy and the old Canon A640. Readers of the previous Saturday Natter report will recall the shots that I took with Stephen's Pentax K-1 and Sigma 70mm f/2.8 lens at full aperture. These showed the benefit of wide apertures to isolate the subject. It is an unfortunate fact that the increased popularity of zoom lenses has led to less of us using wide aperture prime lenses. It was not unusual in the days of film cameras to use lenses with an aperture of at least f/2, f/1.8 or f/1.4. I was interested to see how the Canon lens (equivalent to 100mm on the Panasonic) would perform in comparison. The composite image below shows the extremely shallow depth of field. Carol's hand has gone well out of focus in the left-hand shot, requiring refocus to render her camera sharp, and leaving the background soft.

© Photographs Peter Flower

The effects can also be seen in the following two photographs that I took of Pete and Stephen. The first, taken with the same camera/lens combination (effective 100mm at f/1.4 is compared with the image taken with the Samsung Galaxy camera (which has a much smaller sensor) at an effective length of 92mm at f/3.9. The difference in depth of field and background isolation is evident.

© Photographs Peter Flower

Similar lack of differential focus can be seen in the following set of images, the first two taken by Lester Hicks of Mike Weekes, Stephen and John at the far end of the tables (taken with his Panasonic TZ70) and a distant view of a someone else that I took with the Samsung Galaxy at an effective focal length of 216mm.

© Photographs Lester Hicks & Peter Flower

Lester reports that John Fisher and he spent time talking to Christine Holmes about the features on her Panasonic Lumix FZ200 bridge camera. In particular they looked for the digital macro function and John discussed the best aspect ratio to use when sending files to be printed by Photobox. It was decided 3:2 would work better than 4:3 with Photobox's automated cropping. John had brought along the Nikon D5500 camera which he recently acquired in place of the Panasonic TZ100. When I asked him about this decision he said that he had found the TZ100 too small for his liking, and was more familiar with the handling and control functions of the D5500 that were similar to his existing Nikon kit. Talking of the TZ100, both Carol Hicks and Colin Hodsdon have this model. Carol had recently bought an instruction manual (by Alexander S White, from the USA) which was proving much easier to understand than the down-loadable version from Panasonic. Everyone that I have spoken to has expressed disappointment with the Panasonic documentation. The problem is that there are so many menu functions available that the writers seem to find it impossible to set out the instructions in a way that the user finds logical. On another point, Colin said that he was generally happy with his TZ100 but found the control buttons difficult to activate. This is probably a consequence of the attempt to minimise reliance on menu-based control whilst keeping control buttons within the smaller dimensions of such compact cameras. Lester also reported that they discussed the previous Saturday's visit to Tower Bridge and agreed it was good value. (A report on this event appears elsewhere)

On the other side of the table from myself, Mick Higgs and Paul Renaut spent some time in discussion with Irek Burakowski about focus settings and other control functions on his Panasonic GX7 camera. Mick Higgs is best known for his animal and wildlife photographs but is currently trying to take more landscape pictures. He explained that this involved a different strategy in the choice of focus method chosen, and that this had been the basis of his discussions with Irek. My photographs show the activity as this end of the table.

© Photographs Peter Flower

Meanwhile, in the other direction Anthea Post was experimenting with Polaroid brand close-up filters on her Panasonic FZ200 bridge camera.

© Photograph Peter Flower

Additional Comments

I mentioned John Fisher's Nikon D5500 camera. Discussing this after the event, John told me that he had a 35mm f/1.8 lens plus an already owned 85mm f/1.8 lens which he intended to pair with this camera. (This being an APS-C sensor camera the equivalent focal lengths are about 52mm and 127mm respectively) In subsequent research on this camera I was amazed at how light it is. This combination appears to be a very sensible choice. The camera obviously lacks the capabilities of the professional Nikon range which would be essential for (say) sports photography, but the 24 megapixel sensor, light weight and fully articulated screen make it attractive for general photography. The addition of the quality large aperture lenses should enable the capture of excellent images. Coincidentally, the latest copy of Amateur Photographer featured an article on this camera which had been used on a trip to south-east Asia.

Monthly Theme Competition

PF

Announcement of the winner of the 'Coffee' theme was made at the Saturday Natter meeting. The winner was Carol Hicks. Her image is shown below. How the winner was chosen by Stephen Hewes is a complex story. I will let him explain in his own words -

'Well the results are in, and it was all very close. Carol, Colin and I all had images with 3 stars. I then looked at the other images, and both Carol and I had 3, 2 and 1 star images, so I flipped a metaphorical coin and Carol came up trumps, so I'll ask Carol to pick this month's theme.'

Simples !!

© Carol Hicks - 'Hot coffee on a cold walk'

Having won this month's competition Carol has chosen the next theme. She thought that the subject should be as topical as possible, so chose ‘Signs of Spring’

Meeting – 6 March 2017

Peter Flower

This was scheduled to feature a talk by Helene Rogers on the subject of photojournalism. Unfortunately news was received at short notice, via Grahame Singleton who was holidaying on the other side of the 'pond', that she would be unable to attend. Other plans needed to be made. A CD that Mike Weekes obtained containing images from PAGB could not be loaded so it was decided to take a (free!) early tea break and go home to watch the first of a new short series of programmes on BBC 4. Entitled ' Britain In Focus: A Photographic History' this was presented by Eamonn McCabe. Eamonn is a vastly experienced photographer with many credits to his name, including numerous awards for his photojournalism and winning Picture Editor of the year a record six times during his time as Picture Editor of The Guardian. He made an excellent presenter for the programme that illustrated the early years of photography.

Judging by the first programme the series is worth watching. Recommended for recording or following on catch-up.

That same evening, starting just after midnight, there was another programme on BBC4 which would be of interest to photographers. Entitled 'The Man Who Shot Tutankhamun' this detailed the photography of Harry Burton, the ingenious photographer who recorded the excavation of the boy king's tomb. If you missed this I can recommend viewing on the BBC iPlayer service.

Get Creative – 13 March 2017 – Organised by Jill Flower

Report by Peter Flower

The objective of this fun competition was to modify one or more of the four images that Jill had supplied, using Photoshop or other post-processing applications. The competition had its origins in the days of film and conventional, or perhaps I should say unconventional (!), darkroom techniques. I remember in particular black and white images of Reigate High Street and one in which the image had been twisted in such a way that the street appeared to be pouring down one of the drains at the side of the road. The darkroom technique to achieve this effect is quite mind-boggling. These days, with the ability to use special application filters and moving individual elements around, it is much easier to manipulate each picture or to combine them. Indeed, there were several instances of elements from different photographs being combined into the final image.

These are the four images that Jill supplied. The pigeon with sticks of dynamite strapped to its back came from a roof-top bar/cafe not a million miles away from the famous Peckham Springs (of Fools and Horses fame) During the showing of images Les Dyson pointed out that the pigeon could not possibly fly anywhere because the strings tying the dynamite wrapped around its wings. Perhaps this was some fiendish plot. Being attacked by an exploding pigeon from the air might seem far-fetched, but who would expect one to creep up on you at floor level! (Currently watching old episodes of 'Allo, 'Allo! onYesterday featuring exploding Christmas puddings I apologise for letting my mind run riot). The image of 'Alice through the looking glass' came from the Guildford castle grounds gardens. The other two images were of Birling Gap and a view looking out from the Shard.

© Photographs by Jill Flower

The creative images were initially shown, with comments made by the authors. The variety of images produced was entertaining.

Then they were shown twice again so that the members of the audience could choose their two favourite images and mark them on a score sheet. After the tea break Jill was able to announce the winners.

The winning picture, by a convincing margin, came from Paul Renaut. The title, plus the image, raised a laugh from the audience. This was a worthy winner, and is another image which will remain in my mind. Joint second were another image from Paul and one of Les Dyson's, with my Polaroid-like picture taking third place.

The top four images are shown below -

© Photographs – Winner, Paul Renaut (Oh Shit!), Joint “2nd, Paul Renaut (Let's Face It) & Les Dyson (Looking At Life On Another Planet), 3rd, Peter Flower (Birling Gap – Polaroid-style)

The coincidence of a pigeon featuring in the Get Creative competition and an item that featured such a bird from a long time ago presented me with an opportune link to the following news item that I picked up from the web.

Michel Pigeon cam

Peter Flower

One of the unusual items shown at the recent CP+ Camera & Photo Imaging Show in Japan appeared in a small camera museum exhibit. From the late 1800s and into the next century various different methods had been tried to obtain aerial photographs. These had included cameras in balloons and suspended from kites. The use of aerial photography was also an attractive proposition for surveillance during the war years. Pigeons had been used for carrying messages and it was thought that they might also be used to carry light cameras aloft. There were obvious problems of timing the taking of photographs and winding on film to allow a series of images to be taken. It seems that no practical method was found until the development of a pigeon camera developed by the Swiss clockmaker Christian Adrian Michel (1912–1980). Michel was assigned to the Swiss Army's carrier pigeons service in 1931, and in 1933 he began work on adapting Neubronner's panoramic camera to 16 mm film, and improving it with a mechanism to control the delay before the first exposure and to transport the film between exposures. His camera, patented in 1937, weighed only 70 grams (2.5 oz), and may have been one of the first to have a timer operated by clockwork. The camera is constructed like a watch: indeed world-renowned Swiss watch making expertise went into it. The specific camera B 995 shown below has embossed on the top plate the Swiss cross with "PAT.", referring to the Swiss patent. It is thought to date from 1937. Only a very few examples of this camera are known.

Michel B 995 camera - Image courtesy of Novacon Display at CP+ - Image courtesy of DP Review

PS. I was thinking of getting a drone so that I could get my GoPro airborne but perhaps a borrowed pigeon would be cheaper!

Don Morley – Images from the past

Peter Flower

Whilst watching the news Don noted that Ray Davies of the Kinks had been knighted by the Prince of Wales for services to British music. He contacted me with his recollections of a past event in which he photographed the Kinks at the beginning of their career. I said that I would publish his account, but at the same time asked him if he had photographs relating to another celebrity, John Surtees, who had died on the 10 March. John Surtees has the unique record of winning World Championships in both motorcycling and Formula 1 motor racing. As was to be expected, Don was able to supply images from his extensive archive.

Don takes up the story – The Ray Davies story brought back many memories of my role as Assistant Chief Photographer of United Newspapers back in the 1960's. They were media giants owning hundreds of newspapers plus Wembley Stadium and Associated-Rediffusion (who had the ITV and ITN Television Franchises for much of the UK back in those days). They also owned several of the great film studious of the era, so I used to spend much of my time doing film stills or photographing Top of the pops, following such events as the Beatles tours etc etc, plus we also had a weekly magazine called 'Top Stars' which used to sell as many as they could print.

Anyway I still have some such negatives which have never ever been printed, but unfortunately most are in mid to large format and hence too big for my 35mm scanner. As I no longer have a darkroom either I thought I would never do anything with them, that is until Tony Peacock recently gave me a bellows set which will fit my Canon EOS camera. This is rigged up to a old Pentax lens with which I decided to have a play at copying or rephotographing some of these old larger format negatives, starting with the attached circa 1964 shot of Ray Davies and the Kinks.

© Don Morley

The story of the picture is that I went with them to EMI's very swish offices in Wardour Street to sign there first ever record label contract. We were shown into this office by a very formal secretary and told to wait patiently for the very busy executive who was going to come along and sign them up. Trouble was he kept them waiting for what seemed like forever, but Ray and the boys discovered they could ring out on EMI's telephones so they made several calls to America etc. Far cry from a knighthood!

John Surtees – As mentioned in my introduction, John retains the distinction of being the only World champion on both two and four wheels. Not surprisingly, Don would have encountered him many times, especially during his coverage of the Isle of Man TT races. In 1958, 1959 and 1960 John won 32 out of 39 races and became the first man to win the Senior TT at the Isle of Man TT three years in succession. In 1960, at the age of 26, he switched to car racing full-time, and in 1964 he won the World Championship with Ferrari.

Sending the following photographs, Don said that John was a personal friend, and that he even did his wedding photographs, at Reigate registry office. The monochrome images obviously date back to the early motorcycling days. The colour action shot is of John in his Ferrari and there is a more recent shot, one that Don took the time he visited him at home. He is sitting on his World Championship winning 500cc four cylinder MV Agusta.

© Don Morley – Photographs of John Surtees – On Norton in 1950s, 1957 TT, Formula 1 winning Ferrari, on 500cc MV Agusta

Canon EOS 30th Anniversary

Peter Flower

In March 1987 Canon announced the first of their new range of cameras and lenses under the EOS banner. This was a bold step in that they were introducing cameras that required their loyal band of followers to abandon their legacy FD range of lenses, reliant on mechanical control connection with the camera body, in favour of new ones that used electronic signalling. EOS stood for Electro Operating System (and coincidentally the name of the Greek goddess of the dawn!). It was a revolutionary step that introduced the concept of camera body, lens and flash guns 'talking' to one another. This enabled control and feed-back, without any compromise, that was capable of progressive development to the level of sophistication that we enjoy today. In comparison, Nikon adopted a more cautious transition plan that enabled the retention of older lenses, but with some degree of compatibility problems with newer designs.

That leap of faith in 1987 proved to be well-judged and is marked by the success of the range which, since that time, has recorded sales of more than 80 million SLRs and 120 million EF lenses.

Image from Canon Camera Museum web site

And finally . . . . . . . . .

PF

Follow-up to a previous item – another 'Oh Shit!' moment for some photographer!

Acknowledgement to AcidCow web site