I took a walk this evening at about 9pm as it began to get dark, around a famliar loop of mine near to the Gorse Hill nature reserve in West Lancashire. I don’t often go for my walk late in the evening as this was but I like seeing familiar things in unfamiliar light. It was a black and white kind of evening, so fans of colour pictures look away now. For those of you who care about such things, these were taken with an Olympus E-PL2 and a Jupiter 8 lens.
Poet Rebecca Goss and I have just added a new poem and photograph to our slow-burning collaboration, The Jupiter Project. We’re adding something new roughly every three weeks to a month and this one, which is called ‘To Cartwheel’, is a cheeky little number. As you can see from the picture above, the project is beginning to be something.
The Kathleen and May is a wooden three-masted schooner built in 1900 and restored to her current immaculate condition in 2000 by owner Steve Clarke. She is currently moored in the Canning Half-Tide Dock in Liverpool where she is used for school visits to the Merseyside Maritime Museum, corporate events, and, next weekend, as the setting for some of the reading for the Moby-Dick marathon, and events in the Moby Dick on the Mersey festival. If you go on board, please leave a donation for her upkeep.
During her working life Kathleen and May was one of many similar ships that sailed around the coasts of Britain carrying cargoes such as coal and grain. It is surprising to learn that sail was still in use on commercial cargo vessels into the 1950s, and that ships like the Kathleen and May were not finally replaced until the 1960s. The parallel with the end of steam on the railways is an obvious one, but somehow commercial sail seems even more distant. Kathleen and May is the last remaining example of her type.
Last week I wandered around the deck taking pictures and was lucky enough to be allowed to climb into the rigging to take some pictures from above. In the next few months I’m hoping to set up some events on board through my job in Continuing Education at the University of Liverpool.
I’ve set up a Flickr group for pictures of the Kathleen and May. Feel free to add to it.
Over the past year or so I’ve been collaborating with poet Rebecca Goss on a project bringing together poetry and photography. We’ve been sending each other work and responding to what we receive back. It’s been a fascinating and challenging experience. We plan to continue releasing a poem and an image every few weeks and eventually to produce a book. The twist, from my point of view, is that I restricted myself to using only the Jupiter 8 lens that came with the Zorki-4 rangefinder I started using last year. We’re calling it The Jupiter Project.
The Lake District walk from Skelwith Bridge to Elterwater is an easy two miles (at most) on level ground and good paths. For that reason it is popular with families, and people who can’t manage a climb, or just don’t want to. Last weekend we had a sniffly, cold-ridden child with us, so rather than do something more strenuous it made sense to shuttle between the Britannia Inn at Elterwater–great chicken pie with suet pastry, and a well-kept pint of Coniston Brewery’s Bluebird Bitter–and the waterfall at Skelwith Bridge. The leaves were just beginning to turn, and the lake and river were smooth and reflective. This is a popular short walk, especially on a sunny day like this, but it rewards with some of the best low-level scenery in the Lakes.
Yesterday I had to go next door to finish off cutting our shared hedge, but I was distracted, as usual, by an opportunity to take pictures. I finished the hedge, but not before I had spent an hour lying down in the grass, getting wet and risking being stung by wasps, photographing these butterflies. They let me go very close, but I suspect they were probably a bit drunk. As far as I can work out, the butterflies here are the Red Admiral, the Comma, and the Speckled Wood, but I’m no better on butterflies than varieties of apple.
I took a walk around the Albert Dock area of Liverpool a couple of weeks ago, with my trusty Zorki 4 camera. The Albert Dock was rescued from the wrecking ball in the 1980s, but there has been a lot of development there recently too, especially around the Pier Head, from where the ferry sails. I’m hoping to make use of these images in a more concrete way in the future, but I’m enjoying the colours these old Jupiter 8 lenses seem to produce, and having fun getting to grips with a fully manual camera.
Update March 2013: I’ve been collaborating with the poet Rebecca Goss on a project using the Zorki-4 and the Jupiter-8 lens. We’ve called it the Jupiter Project.
A couple of weeks ago I bought a Zorki-4 camera on ebay, because I wanted to see what it was like to use a rangefinder, and I don’t have the money to experiment with Leicas. I think I have been lucky with my purchase. This particular camera was made in 1968, the year I was born, but as the pictures below show, there isn’t much wrong with it. Even the slow shutter speeds seem reasonably accurate. The Jupiter-8 lens is in good shape too, but more on that later.
Zorkis were made in Moscow, starting with the Zorki-1, in 1948. The Zorki-1 was a copy of the Leica II rangefinder, from the early 1930s, and indeed if you are thinking of buying one of those, check carefully that it didn’t start out life as a Zorki. They look almost identical even before they have been modified, and you’re better off with a working Zorki-1 than a fake Leica. The Zorki-4s were made from 1956 to 1973, and were the best selling of the Zorki range. This one was made for export, and probably arrived in Britain when it was new.
Of course I am old enough to have used film cameras when there was no alternative, but what little I know about photography has mostly been learned with digital cameras. In fact if it hadn’t been for digital, I doubt I would ever have felt excitable enough about a camera to buy one of these, because I wouldn’t have spent enough time taking pictures. The Zorki has no electronics, and gives no assistance, not even a passive light meter. That was quite scary at first. The problem shifted from “How do I get this light into the camera in the way I want it?” to “How much light is there? Now what?” I downloaded a couple of light meter apps to my phone, and have also used another camera just for metering, but mostly I have used the “sunny sixteen” rule, made a guess, and worked it out for myself. The distance range on the lens, and the rangefinder way of focussing is very easy. The Zorki is a revelation.
The Jupiter-8 lens that came with this camera is a little stiff, but not in a problematic way. It’s clean and tidy, and seems to be free of scratches. One thing that has shocked me a little though is how variable it is. With modern lenses there is some slight variation in sharpness, depending on how wide the aperture is set, but for middle of the road snappers like me that doesn’t make much difference. This lens though is radically different with the aperture wide open from the way it is “stopped down”. I was pleased to get the shot below, largely because I was finding out whether the slow shutter speeds were working (they seem to be). But since it was taken indoors, the lens was wide open. Even allowing for a tiny bit of camera shake, you can see how soft the image below (taken at 1/40 second at f2) is. Not in a bad way, necessarily–maybe in a way you could use–but soft nonetheless.
Compare it with some of the outdoor shots in the slideshow below to see how sharp it can be at small apertures. A huge range.
PS. This camera and lens cost less than a fast SD card.