Leica M6TTL 0.58 | Summicron 50/2 | Ilford Delta 3200

Today’s shot is from my last trip to England. I really love the composition–it’s one of my favorite shots I took while over there this year. The converging lines, different angles, and slight tilt to the frame all contribute to a sense of something being not quite right. The hand on the left being cut off from the person also make the viewer seems slightly uneasy. The pigeon in the center of the frame, seemingly the subject, is doing nothing of interest, but is the key to the composition of the entire shot. The more I look at this, the more I like it.

I also have to say that I really like the look of this Ilford Delta 3200 (though I exposed it at 1600) a lot. It isn’t nearly as muddy an soft as some people said it would be, but part of that has to do with exposing it in decent light. Most of the time this fast film gets used in light so low that it makes the film look worse than it ought to…if that makes sense.

Just a quick post today, since blogging has been tough lately. I have been ridiculously busy with work, and living in a hotel room on my own has meant that I’ve spent a lot of time away from the computer, traveling around the East Coast area when I can. I’ve been to Washington, DC, twice now, and took a day trip to Gettysburg, PA, just this past weekend. I plan to get out to Baltimore, DC, and hopefully New York City, Philadelphia, and the Atlantic Coast. Additionally, I’m hoping to get to see some more Civil War battlefields as well–there are a lot in this area–since I enjoyed Gettysburg so much. I’m going to head out this weekend and see a few more if I can.

I’ve been in the DC-area now for a month almost. I didn’t bring any digital cameras along, and I don’t have the means to process or scan film while I’m here; that means that I won’t have any new shots to show until this summer. I’ll be back home at the end of May, so there won’t be anything new to show until June sometime. I know that seems a long way away, but I really prefer to let my work sit for a while before looking at it anyway. In fact, this enforced break might actually be good for me in the long run.

I’m not as obsessive about leaving film untouched after exposing it as Gerry Winogrand, who famously would let film sit for a year or more before processing it, and left hundreds of rolls behind after he died suddenly at an early age. I like to leave shots for a few months, as I have said before. It allows me to get a distance from my images so that I can more objectively view them.

England 12/13: Football

“Craven Cottage” – London, England

Recently, I returned from my (now annual) trip to England with my father to watch football. ¬†Over the past 6 years, this has become sort of a tradition, and I figured I’d make a blog post about one of the biggest reasons for the trips: football.

As regular readers know, my father and I have something in common in terms of the clubs we support–the borough of Fulham. ¬†My father supports Fulham FC, and I have been supporting Chelsea FC. ¬†Over the past year my loyalties have been wavering, however. ¬†The outrageous ticket prices charged at Stamford Bridge, as well as some decisions taken by the club, have turned me off a bit. ¬†The atmosphere at Craven Cottage is excellent, prices are reasonable, and the club is run with some semblance of a long-term strategy rather than the whims of a billionaire. ¬†As Simon Kuper (the author of the book Soccernomics) explains very well, clubs are no longer community-based clubs; they have virtually no connections to the local area, and we are not supporters, but rather consumers. ¬†As a consumer, I can choose to follow or unfollow any team I wish (and the author argues that this is even more the case with Americans, who have been trained to not have strong allegiances in the same way many Europeans have a history of supporting clubs).

“Away Supporters” – West Bromwich, England

Back to the matches we saw this year. ¬†As always, a Fulham-heavy schedule beckoned. This year we saw two games at Craven Cottage, one road game at the Hawthorns, and we went to Stamford Bridge to see the European champions take on the league-worst Queen’s Park Rangers. ¬†Last year, we saw an amazing string of results for the Cottagers–at home and away–and this year’s team couldn’t match it. ¬†The squad is weaker than last year’s iteration, and the games we saw bore that out.

The games were no less enjoyable. ¬†The atmosphere was as good as ever, and traveling with the away fans on the team coach was a really good experience too. ¬†Both of us agreed that this was the way we’d travel to future away games as well. ¬†It’s easy, fast, and affordable. ¬†If anyone else is interested in traveling that way, I can recommend it–at least with Fulham.

“Laugh” – West Bromwich, England

For the second year in a row we saw a series of successive games with Fulham. ¬†Last year we both enjoyed seeing several games in a row–this gave us a better view into the first eleven, the squad rotation, team tactics, etc. ¬†After doing it this way last year, we opted to do it again and were both glad to have done so.

The big star of this year was the new addition Dimitar Berbatov. ¬†By any standard of measure, he has been Fulham’s central player this season, and it showed on the field. ¬†He is pure class, although also incredibly frustrating for fans. ¬†It’s not hard to see sometimes how previous clubs’ fans might have tired of him, however. ¬†He can be aloof and can wear on the fans’ patience at times. He gets easily frustrated with his teammates–sadly, it’s often easy to see why.

“Closing Time” – London, England

Another year, and another great set of matches.  The final tally was:

26 Dec 12: Fulham 1-1 Southampton

29 Dec 12: Fulham 1-2 Swansea City

01 Jan 13: West Brom 1-2 Fulham

02 Jan 13: Chelsea 0-1 QPR

Next year, we can only hope that the trip and the matches are as good as they were this year. ¬†One thing is for sure–the company never disappoints.

England 12/13: Introduction

English Style  -  London, England

English Style – London, England

Talking about a trip isn’t always easy. Too much and it comes off like you’re bragging; too little and it can seem like you didn’t have any fun. Much like a photograph, a trip needs time to settle in the memory–if you try to go over it too soon, emotions can overwhelm the objective view of it. Likewise, if you wait too long, details become murky and memory can change and warp the reality of events.

With that introduction, I’m going to try to recap my recent trip to England as best I can. Being that this is a blog about photography, that was the focus while I was there and will be the focus of this post, too.

(And no, this was not my first rodeo: my father and I have previously been to England in 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2011. This trip was the 2012 edition.)

I spent the time planning my trip to England the same way I plan for every trip: by going over various possible combinations of cameras, lenses, and films that I could bring with. My thought process on this is generally to think about a variety of factors:

  • Where am I going? And as a follow-on from that, what will I be doing? Have I been there before, and what kinds of activities am I planning? If I’ve been somewhere a lot–like England, for example–I’m more prone to take risks and limit my gear in order to challenge myself. If the place is new to me, then I tend to stick to focal lengths to cover a standard range. Activities matter, since gear choices will be impacted based on whether I’ll be cliff-diving in Belize, hiking in the mountains of Colorado, or meandering the streets of Tokyo. This is pretty¬†self-explanatory, but it’s worth stressing.
  • What will the weather be like? This will help to determine how much time I will spend outside shooting. For example, my trip to Portugal in March was a lot different than my trip to England in January. Then again, I went to Alaska in August, when it’s light almost 20 hours a day, or more; had I gone there this month there would have been almost no light at all. What time of year is it? This will alter the amount and quality of light, which is kind of a follow-on from the previous point.
  • What cameras am I enjoying at the moment, and which ones haven’t I used in a while? I go through periods when I use a certain camera almost all the time, and others will sit unused. Sometimes this indicates a sea change in my interests or style of shooting (as has happened recently), but more often it just means that I have too many cameras and I need to use the ones I like more.
  • When it comes to film: what kind of film do I have laying around, what’s expiring soon (or has already expired), what kind of film speed do I need, and will I be working in color or black and white? I have, in the past, brought a variety of color and black and white, but I have learned that I prefer one or the other; this provides a more consistent visual thread when I return and look at my images. Film speed will be impacted by the weather and light I expect to encounter, and color vs. black and white might be termed an arbitrary choice, but it’s also stylistic and helps to inform the kind of photographs I will make when I finally start my trip.

Saint Paul’s

Those are some of the things that need to be considered before traveling. There may be more, but that is what I came up with for the time being.

Early on, I decided to make the trip all black and white. Why, you ask? Well, having been to England a few times, I wanted to make this set of images different. One way to do that was by eliminating color, although I also wanted to challenge myself to avoid color since in reviewing my recent work I came to the conclusion that much of my color work was not as strong as my monochrome work. The other way I decided to challenge myself was to make the photographs all film. Initially I was tempted to bring along my Hasselblad as my secondary camera, but it was too large to be a backup camera (I always travel light), and so I left it at home.

I decided to take my Leica M6TTL 0.58x as my primary camera, and brought along my 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH and the Summicron-M 50mm f/2 as my lenses. As it was all black and white, I brought along Ilford Delta 3200 (20 rolls) and Kodak 400TX (30 rolls) as my films (I know, you’re thinking that’s overkill for an 11-day trip, but since it’s damn near impossible to find film anymore, I didn’t want to run out). At the last minute my wife convinced me to bring along my Fuji X100 as a backup camera, lest anything happen to the M6 that would prevent me from making images (loss, theft, damage, etc). I was hesitant as I wanted to make this an all-analog trip, but against my better judgement I brought it along. Boy, was I glad I did.

You’ll never guess what I found when I got to England. It rained. Every…single…day.

I know, I know. You’re thinking to yourself: dude, it’s the winter in England. Of course it rained every day.¬†And I hear that, I really do. But over the past 4 years it has hardly rained at all that I can remember, and the weather ahead of the trip was optimistic that there might be some rain, but not much. Well, the forecast kept changing and not only did it rain each day, but it was really dark and gloomy too. Despite bringing ISO 3200 film along with ISO 400 film, the rain kept us inside a lot, and the film camera didn’t get near as much use as I’d hoped (as it turns out, that may have been strangely fortunate).

The X100 didn’t disappoint. Then again, it never does. I ended up using it quite a bit, especially since it fits in a coat pocket, meaning that I didn’t have to carry a bag on the days that we went to see football matches. In the past, I have had trouble with bringing camera bags into football stadia, though it varies greatly from stadium to stadium, and even then it varies (seemingly) depending on who is working gate security. Bottom line, there is no consistency in it–so better safe than sorry. Having the X100 at the matches was good, though, as it allowed me to get in a few quick snaps while also not being tempted to take too many and miss the main event…the match!

Idol – London, England

**Since this is just my blog, I treat this forum as pretty casual and the work I show here isn’t necessarily my best–that includes this post. I wanted to include a few shots from the trip to break up the monotony of reading everything I’m spewing onto the page, but the ones I’ve included are ones that I have already labelled as “rejects”. In other words, they didn’t make the final cut of images I consider the best from the trip. As always, I’m in the process of making a book to cover the trip, and the best images will be going into that. Once the book is finished I will be posting more of the best shots for you all to see here, but the editing process isn’t done. I’m also still waiting on some film to come back.**

We managed to catch four matches whilst in jolly old England:

  1. 26 Dec 2012: Fulham 1-1 Southampton
  2. 29 Dec 2012: Fulham 1-2 Swansea
  3. 01 Jan 2013: West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Fulham
  4. 02 Jan 2013: Chelsea 0-1 QPR

All in all, the matches were entertaining. Last year was better, purely in terms of results (for Fulham), but being a lower-mid-table side, Fulham won’t always get good results against decent clubs; that’s what made last year’s win at home to Arsenal and draw on the road to Chelsea so special. To top that off, this year the squad is a little weaker than it was last year.

The football on the field was one thing; off the field it was another. We took the Fulham club coach to West Bromwich on New Year’s Day for the match, which we found affordable, comfortable, and convenient. In fact, traveling to away games in the future just got a lot easier! The Chelsea match was a hard one. Not only was the product on the field awful (Demba Ba has recently been brought in in an attempt to rectify that to an extent) but it cost us¬†¬£75 (~$121.50) per ticket¬†(!) to sit through that miserable spectacle that was presented to us. We both decided that those prices are too much, and we won’t be paying that again. Last year we paid¬†¬£55 apiece to sit in the away end with the Fulham supporters, and even that felt extravagant.I’m not sure I would go back to Stamford Bridge at all anymore, and I certainly wouldn’t go at those prices. It’s easy to support Chelsea from across the Atlantic, as games are more readily available online or on TV; if I lived in England I certainly wouldn’t support them and I’d be behind Fulham %110. This says something about Americans as consumers, I think, as we have been trained not for loyalty to sporting franchises (the very term franchises exposes them for what they are; insistence on calling them clubs in England is disingenuous and disguises them as a public good, when in fact they are businesses run for profit, and often owned by billionaires, many of them foreign) but rather as consumers. This transaction feels more honest–I attend a game in the States, and if the product you present to me (the team) isn’t any good, then I simply won’t go. Or the team will lower prices to get me in the door; when the team is successful, I expect to pay more. The constant raising of prices in England is starting to feel a bit like extortion, and we both felt it–the Chelsea match may just have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Framed – London, England

Aside from football, there were a good many photography exhibitions we managed to take in. The inclement weather helped to keep us indoors. Some of the exhibits are the usual ones we see every year (Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize,¬†Veolia Environnement¬†Wildlife¬†Photographer of the Year) and others were new. All of them were solid, and none really disappointed. If you’re in London and have a chance to see either, I’d recommend doing so. They have both been consistently excellent for the past few years.

This post seems to be long enough already, so I will cut it short here. As I said above, there will be more posts coming about this trip to England at some point, so I’ll leave something to be said about those when I get around to posting them!