street photography

C-41 in Cambridge

After gaining some experience in using my (new to me) medium format camera (Yashica Mat 124G Yashica) with black and white film, I took the plunge and purchased some C-41 colour negative film.  Reading around, Kodak Portra and Fujicolor Pro 400H were described as more naturally toned film (compared to maybe Kodak Ektar), so I went for this.  I will be doing a brief comparison between these films in a future post, in case you are only wanting to pick up one type.

I wanted to test the films and the camera out in a range of conditions - luckily Cambridge didn't disappoint, with strong sunshine, deep shadows, reflections, high dynamic range and colourful tourists.

 

For reference, although these films were rated at ISO 400, I had seen the best results when they are shot a stop lower at 100, so this is what I did.

The Yashica is a TLR camera, so the viewing lens sits above the taking lens.  Therefore, it was pretty easy to get obstacles in the frame, as you can see above!  These images have only been cropped from the scan to tidy the margins.

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I am still new to metering, so at times I might have got it a little wrong, especially as I'm already technically over-exposing the film.  However, even when over-exposed, the films stood up really well.  Colour and clarity were maintained, and I still got pleasing shots.  Overlooking the Mathematical bridge in Cambridge is always a great spot, as there is a punting station behind where I was stood here meaning the river is always busy with plenty to shoot.

Shooting with a shallow depth of field was really satisfying with the ground glass viewfinder of the Yashica (although when using it my niece always thinks I am taking a picture of the floor...!).  I was really impressed with how much detail this 400 speed film records, so much so that I'm even more excited to take some 160 film to Paris and see how that performs (it is supposed to be some of the sharpest film available).   Cambridge is brilliant for street photography and interest shots - some of these are almost look like they're from the university prospectus, students and bikes everywhere!

One of the major advantages of using a TLR with a waist-level viewfinder is the discretion. People just don't look at you, so you're able to capture people going about their business.  I managed to get pretty close to these preachers who were having a tough time converting a skeptical heckler to their cause.  Perhaps a university town like Cambridge, with a strong science tradition, is not the best place to start up an argument about the existence of God...Again, the film performed really well.  Yes, if you zoom in to these massive files you will spot a bit of softening, you will spot some facial features that aren't razor sharp.  But, if you were to print these I'm not sure you would notice those slight imperfections.  At this point, I was becoming seriously impressed with this combination of Yashica and colour film.

Shooting directly towards the sun (bottom right image) shows how well these films cope with retaining detail in very bright conditions.  I would hazard a guess that if this was a digital file, the highlights would be completely blown, or you would have had to sacrifice shadow detail and general IQ to keep the highlights.  Clouds seem to look 3D on the negative, there is so much detail in the sky with these films.  Again, I would love to see this on a 160 film for even more sharpness and detail.

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I did encounter a couple of problems during the day however, number one being focus. This shot I just got completely wrong in terms of focus.  I seem to be focused on the branches on the right hand side, not my intention!  Sometimes in shadow it is difficult to get focus bang on with the Yashica's screen, as it can be a little dark. It does work perfectly in bright sunshine, so this wouldn't be a problem all the time.

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Problem number 2 was actually with the developing.  On one of the rolls (both rolls were developed in the same tank) I ended up with what look like chemical spots on some of the frames (but not all).  This was a little weird, and a little frustrating as it does take a loooong time to correct these marks in Lightroom.  You can see some of the spots on the image above.  I think it was probably due to me not tapping the tank enough after each agitation, so I will pay close attention to this next time I develop some rolls.

So, that's all for now.  You have probably already noticed some differences between the images in terms of colouring, and you might also have noticed I did not say which images came from which roll.  I will post a brief comparison between the two films shortly, and I'll talk through what I think my preference is (it's a tough call...).

Cornwall's fishing heritage

Being surrounded by cool seas, Britain has a long history of being an excellent fishing country.  Some of the most popular seafood and fish live off our coast, and this has led to some counties being dominated by the fishing industry.  Cornwall has one of the lowest populations per square km, and many of the settlements are by the coast.  So, pretty much any coastal town you visit will have a fishing industry of some kind.  This makes for some great subjects to photograph, particularly if you're into street or documentary photography. Falmouth harbour

Falmouth is one of the bigger towns in south-west Cornwall, and it had a pretty nice vibrant feel.  There's a relatively new university, and when we visited there was a food festival on just outside the National Maritime Museum.  Being busy and full of people cooking up a storm (I was sorely tempted by the barbequed meat stand!), it was a great place to practice street photography.  This is a hard one to get right, as you don't want to come across as a creepy stalker, but you still want to capture the atmosphere of the place.

Falmouth food festival

Besides Falmouth, there are the smaller fishing towns like Padstow and Penzance.  Padstow has sometimes been called "Padstein", after chef Rick Stein's empire in the town (I think he has 4 different properties, all within a couple of square miles), and it is uncomfortably crowded in the summer.

Padstow harbour

There's less visible fishing going on in Padstow, but it seems that every child was walking around with their crabbing bucket and line.  Because of this, I mostly kept the Fuji in the bag, as sadly the culture in our country now means more and more that people are both wary and suspicious of anyone with a camera around their children.  It's a shame.

Penzance sailing club

Penzance sailing

Penzance's fishing industry is much more visible, with a huge dry dock seemingly (and hopefully) going through some restoration, and a whole host of loading bays for the fish market.  But, because of this industry and the lack of money going into it from the big supermarkets, Penzance had a pretty sad feel about it.  Run-down, tired, derelict in parts, but still retaining some charm in other parts.  Strangely, you don't see many fishermen around despite this, and I was a little disappointed there weren't more opportunities for some candid portraits.

Mullion cove harbour

Some of the best examples of the fishing heritage in Cornwall was found in Mullion cove on the Lizard.  A lovely, sleepy cove on the west coast of the Peninsula, with tens of crab pots and small fishing vessels just waiting on the water's edge ready for the next run.

Knots on the pot

Mullion cove crab pots

I'm often drawn to objects like crab pots, they produce great contrast with the bright floats and ropes against the dark skeleton of the pot itself.  They would be ideal for people with macro lenses, or if some fishermen were around for some environmental portraits with them.  Even without, they make for interesting subjects which reflect the heritage of this beautiful county.

Le Tour en Cambridge!

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The Tour de France had its Grand Depart this past week in the UK. The third stage left from Cambridge, my home city and luckily my place of work closed for the day! So I got into town early and pitched up outside the Fitzwilliam Museum. This is the photo story of the day, enjoy! [All images captured with a Nikon D90 and either a Nikon 50 mm f/1.8 or Tokina 11-16 mm f/2.8 lens]

People arrived early in Cambridge to grab the best vantage spots.

A few lucky cyclists were allowed to cycle part of the course a few hours before the race came through.

The caravan is a tour favourite - the cars of the sponsors speed through a couple of hours before the cyclists, chucking out freebies (sort of) towards the spectators.

The French sent over everything with the tour - their own police escort included!

The crowds slowly built up throughout the morning. Every cyclist that came through got a big cheer!

Crowds

Anticipation

And finally...it was time for the tour to come by. So many photomotos accompanied the peloton.

Hours of waiting for around 30 seconds of seeing the tour. But completely worth it - the atmosphere was amazing. The cyclists looked like they were really enjoying seeing all of us by the road to send them on their way.

Team Sky in particular got the biggest cheers of the day, being our home team.

A huge fleet of support cars followed the peloton through. All of them trying to keep close to the cyclists led to a few close calls...

Some vehicles were lagging behind.

And then it was all over. Time for everyone to make their way home.