paddington

18 or Over.

Ok, I know. It’s half way through January. But i’ve been busy. Busy picking photos.

But dammit, it’s not easy to choose your best shots of the last year. I don’t mean that to sound conceited, but it’s just I took a shedload of photos last year and it takes a lot of legwork to prune them down. Oh boo hoo.

Anyway, last time around, I just went for 17 shots which I loved from the previous year, but frankly that was tortuous, so this year I’ve plumped for a collection of shots that I really like (note: subjective) wrapped up in the 3 different categories where my photography seems to inhabit: Street, Corporate & Events and Travel.

Enough yadda, hope you enjoy. Here’s the 2018 chart rundown…

Street life.

2018 was a busy street year. Whenever I got the chance, I’d get up into London - hopefully with decent light - and see what I could get. Prime spots were Soho and surrounding areas, the Tate Modern and perhaps slightly oddly, the new area around Kings Cross.



Corporate shindigs & happening Events.

From brand launches for pharma companies, to 1940’s Days to Will Young, 2018 was the year of the event. Had loads of fun out there - for clients new and old - capturing chefs cooking, beers being drunk and rugs being cut.


Big days out - travels with the family.

Got around last year. Maybe not as far or wide as the year before (actually, I went to Australia so I couldn’t have gone any further really…), but from Devon to The Isle of Wight with Brighton, France and Belgium in-between it was a year of fun for travel snaps with and without the rest of the brood.

Life begins at 40 - The Voigtlander 40mm f1.2 mid term test.

As anyone who's been reading this blog (all two of you..) on a semi-casual basis will know, I've been slowly slipping my toes into the world of manual focus lenses.

Firstly, it was a fun Olympus 50mm f1.8 with a converter, then I roadtested a lovely 35/50mm combo from Zeiss which were really nice too, but to be blunt I still needed something 'extra' - a lens to fit into my already pretty cracking Sony and Zeiss Batis AF line up that nothing else would.

Well, it finally arrived in the form of the Voigtlander 40mm f1.2. I'd been eyeing this one for a while being interested in both the in-between focal length - a bit less wide than the 35mm standard and nudging towards the supposed 50mm sweet spot - plus the really wide aperture which can see in the dark like a rabbit on turbo carrots.

What really pushed me over the edge was the excellent review by Chad Wadsworth which basically made me do the photography equivalent of the Fry 'Take my money!' meme.

So, late May - after a back order wait - it arrived. Initial signs weren't great as Voigtländer have some work to do with the rather cheapo packaging, but once inside I knew I had something with a bit of class. Unlike a lot of the usual suspects nowadays, the 40mm is weighty without being heavy and has no truck with your cheapo plastics - this is one piece of quality metal.

The Voigtlander 40mm f1.2

The Voigtlander 40mm f1.2

Now usually I'd get a lens on the Sony, get snapping and pop an early review up touts suite, but something about the 40mm told me to wait and get to know it. Glad I did, because in the couple of months since it's arrival i've been learning how to use it properly - e.g learn my distances, find the sweetspots, forget about the focusing and the get 'in the moment'

Because this isn't just your usual lens. As pointed out elsewhere, whilst the headline is the light gobbling f1.2 aperture, I haven't really used that setting too much apart from when light was low or at night - i've been mostly living between 1.4 and 3.4. To comment on the f1.2 in normal light - well, you get that dreamy look everyone goes mad for but you have to be bang on with your focusing at that aperture in normal conditions.

But no, the real star here is the 'analogue' nature of the output. An example of this was when switching between this lens and my Sony 55mm f1.8. Now, the Sony's a great lens no doubt, but it's super sharp - like sushi chef sharp - and while that's awesome, it's a very 'digital' look and the Voigtländer wins for creamy, old school vibes as a counter point - which means I can get two different looks at different focal lengths.

Analogue vibes.

Analogue vibes.

Now, when I say 'review' at the top of this post, what i'm really meaning is 'what real photos look like in the real world' - there's load of reviewers out there who do clever things and check for levels of chromatic aberration etc but my angle and acid test is very much - 'is this a great lens for everyday use and does it take a photograph that I love that I couldn't take with another lens?'

And the answer is simply, yes. Because after a bedding in period where i've run the 40mm through heatwave sunshine in the Loire to a chilly night on Exmouth beach front i'm now getting images back that look amazing, anologue and most importantly - real.

I'm not going to use it for sports, or when I need a long lens at a gig or an event, but for getting proper almost cinematic quality output it's the closest to the 'Leica look' that i'll ever be able to afford - it's probably best for your lifestyle and travel photography types although at a push it might do the business at a wedding gig.

I've also grown to love the 40mm length very quickly, and i'm now of the mind that this is the nearest you get to what your eye 'sees' over and above the much touted 50mm and somehow it just gets it 'right' - and when you do a bit of research you find that in film world Tarantino, Wes Anderson and Francis Ford Coppola would probably agree.

Issues? Not many. Throw is a little long and i get oddly annoyed at the lens cap not pinging into place easily, but these are minor quibbles.

A lens you can give a fig about.

A lens you can give a fig about.

So, it's with a mixture of happiness and relief that i give the Voigtländer 40mm f1.2 a big old thumbs up. Below are a selection of shots taken over the last few months at home and away to give you an idea of the sort of real life images you'll get out of the camera. There's obviously been a certain amount of post production magic attached, but to be honest the more i've got to use the lens the less post work i've done on the images coming out of it - much less than other lenses.

The only thing left to say about the Voigtländer is that when picking my lenses for a session out and about now it's the first in my camera bag, and to extend that pun for no other purposes than finding a title, it really does mean that life begins at 40.

 

Berkshire and beyond.

Various shots taken around Cookham, Wargrave and some more from Dorney Court, Ham House and Greys Court.

The Loire.

Shots taken in the Loire including Chambord, Blois and Clos Luce.

London.

Shots taken in Paddington, Kensington and Soho.

Devon.

Shots taken Sidmouth, Exmouth, Budleigh Salterton and A La Ronde National Trust.

 


Final note - I paid for the Voitglander out of my own hard earned and i'm not affliated in any way.

Two Pauls and a Phil.

Did you hear the news? The famous Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow.

That means according to Groundhog Day lore, that spring is going to take a bit longer to arrive. It certainly felt like that in chilly London town yesterday where the urbanites clung to scarfs, hats, coffee and cigarettes to get them through to 5.30 and the weekend.

The Groundhog Day theme ran through to some of my locations for shooting too, as I revisited bits of Soho and Chinatown.

The axe-drooling spot of Denmark Street is still undergoing it's 'transformation' due to Cross Rail, and every time I visit the number of guitar shops shuttering is increasing. However, I was pleased to see that a new excellent looking place called Sixty Sixty Sounds had opened, and on a less rushed day, I'll be in for a proper visit.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Back to where I began at St. Pauls Station.

I'd wanted to get up on the roof of One New Change opposite the catherdral for a while having heard of its amazing view, and yep, it's got it all with a vista encompassing most of the main London landmarks. It was slightly marred by an over-zealous security guard asking me why I'd taken a picture looking back upon the building, telling me there was a 'security issue' and only 'outward looking views' were permitted.

Right.

I gave him my best Paddington hard-stare and with a whisk of my imaginary cape flounced out of the (admittedly interesting) building.

Another spot I'd not visited in years was The British Museum. I don't go for a proper walk around - that's for another family day - but I did pop in to get some shots in the packed Great Court. It was packed yesterday with school trips and - due to the assumably weak pound - thousands of Japanese tourists.

These very same tourists seem to be following me around all day in semi-comedic circumstances, as by the time I'd wandered to Covent Garden they were all there enjoying a pidgeon interrupted lunch. How did I know it was the same group? Well, I'm not sure if it's the Paddington Effect but they were all dressed in a uniform which included a swish Duffle coat.

Following on from Chinatown, I ambled around Soho for a bit where I inadvertently caught a shot of 60's DJ Paul Gambaccini walking through the market.

Finally, my second battery gave out just as I got my favourite shot of the day of the lady in front of Paddington (...him again...), so with cold-tipped fingers, I headed off on the tube and home to await 6 more weeks of winter.

Thanks Phil.


Tech Corner:
Mostly the 85mm Batis yesterday with the odd bit of 25mm for wide architectural shots. Something else I tried was using the A7r ii's 16.9 option to frame in a more cinematic fashion, which is ace as you can do this on-shoot then as you're shooting RAW go back and fiddle with the full frame shot later. Magic!