Simon Hawketts

The techniques I used to process a batch of old 35mm colour slides I discovered in my Dad’s shed.

This is a family holiday post with a few images from Bressingham gardens in Norfolk from our visit in April whilst on holiday in Suffolk.

We drove over to Bressingham near Diss on the first Monday of our holiday. It combines a steam railway with three different track layouts, a large garden centre, gardens and the Foggy Bottom gardens which I have already posted about. This post is simply to catch up on the last few pictures I want to record from our Spring holiday.

Bressingham gardens This is a family holiday post with a few images from Bressingham gardens in Norfolk from our visit in April whilst on holiday in Suffolk.

I’ve been a bit lax with my photography over the last few weeks because I’ve been busy with another hobby of mine which is playing the guitar. This came about because my daughter Emma decided that she would like to learn to play so we took a trip to the local music store to buy her a 3/4 size acoustic guitar.

Looking round the shop at the many different guitars I felt a real enthusiasm to get back into playing and almost bought a second hand Epiphone Les Paul standard which was quite a bargain. However I decided that if I wanted to get beck into it I should do some more research so I resisted the temptation and we left with just Emma’s guitar.

I have a reasonably good acoustic guitar (a Crafter fx550 eq) which I bought a few years ago (although I don’t often pick it up),  but I got rid of my cheap electric Les Paul copy many years before that, and gave my Carlsbro amplifier to a friend who plays in a band, so if I wanted to get back into electric guitar playing I would need to get both an amplifier and a guitar. So I spent several days over the last few weeks looking at the various models I might like to buy and narrowed my choice down to an Epiphone Les Paul or an Epiphone ES-339.

Once I’d narrowed the choice I paid another visit to the local shop to try both guitars out. I have to say that was a highly embarrassing event! On the morning I decided to go and try these guitars there was already someone there trying a few different models out and he had obviously been playing a long time and could really play well. Consider that I had hardly picked a guitar up for about 6 years and you can imagine how embarrassed and small I felt!

Anyway, when the floor was empty I picked up each of the guitars in turn and tried them with a few chords and riffs I could remember from the last time I played. The real difference I noticed between the two guitars I’d decided to try out was the weight. The Les Paul was quite a bit heavier than the ES-339, which I suppose since the 339 is a semi-acoustic is not completely surprising. I tried all the pickup settings with both an overdriven distorted sound and a clean sound and found that i liked the sound and feel of the ES-339 slightly better than the Les Paul.

Unfortunately the music store didn’t have the guitar in stock in a colour I liked so in the end I bought it from Gear4Music on-line and as it happens got a really good deal because they had a ‘VIP Sale’ event which made the guitar complete with bag only £280. The one I bought is in natural colour and having now had it for a couple of weeks I’m really pleased with the way it sounds and plays.

On the amplifier front I always think that valve amplifiers sound better than solid state amplifiers, so I bought myself a Beringer BC15 15W practice amp to plug into. This is certainly loud enough for me to relearn how to play!

So at the moment I’m relearning how to play and finding my way round the fretboard again. Once I get so I can at least play a few chords properly I’ll do a proper review of the guitar.

 

 

Buying a new Guitar I’ve been a bit lax with my photography over the last few weeks because I’ve been busy with another hobby of mine which is playing the guitar.

Today we took a trip to the National Trust property Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire.

It was a lovely day so we decided to visit Sudbury Hall since we were staying with Jan’s parents in Loughborough and it was only about 30 minutes drive away. As well as the hall itself, the National Childhood museum is also situated on the same site, so we thought there was a reasonable chance that James and Emma would also enjoy the trip. Obviously, it provided me with an opportunity to take photographs, so I was pleased to go.

I took along my Takumar standard lens kit with my Sony Nex 6 and captured amongst others the photos above during out trip.

Although the hall was an interesting visit, the National Childhood museum really made the trip worth while. There were a large number of toys from the 1960’s and onwards which I remember playing with and toys from the victorian age onwards which were really interesting to see. It’s a particularly rewarding visit for anyone with children, because it’s interesting to contrast todays toys with the toys their grandparents would have played with or coveted.

Emma told me that while she was looking at a large victorian dolls house with elaborately decorated rooms, that a small boy asked her which room had the TV in. She told him that in victorian houses they didn’t have TV and he looked at her aghast and went to confirm this with his parents!

The most interesting parts of the visit and ones I wound recommend to others attending the property were

  • the opportunity for children to experience being a chimney sweep
  • the victorian school room (although not if you are worried about being picked on and made to look a fool, I found it quite patronising and embarrassing)
  • the various toy exhibitions

 

Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire Today we took a trip to the National Trust property Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire. It was a lovely day so we decided to visit Sudbury Hall since we were staying with Jan’s parents in Loughborough and it was only about 30 minutes drive away.

This is a photography post with a difference – the pictures were all taken 15 years ago in November 1999 on a work social club weekend in Paris.

I’ve been sorting through some old 35mm negatives and pictures and I found these pictures of Paris. As well as the negatives and prints I also have a CD with the scanned images on, which was a common addition in the late 1990’s – film was very much better quality than digital at the time but it was becoming convenient to view pictures on computers. The pictures shown here are the scanned images which have been post processed in Lightroom 5 to slightly correct the exposure, increase the contrast and also slightly boost the clarity. Since these are jpeg files I didn’t go too far with post processing.

I remember the trip well – it was a little white before the turn of the century and the trip had been organized by the Marconi Sports and Social club as a weekend visit. Because family could also be included as well as Jan and I we took along my Mother and Father and my Sister (this was before we had any children). We crossed on the ferry overnight on Friday and had a coach trip into Paris on the Saturday morning. We spent the day looking around Paris, spent the night in a motel and then went to Versailles on the Sunday morning. There was another coach trip back to the ferry and a Sunday afternoon sail back to the UK.

The photographs here were taken with two cameras I believe. I used a Canon EOS300 35mm camera with a 28 to 80mm zoom, and Janice used a Pentax 35mm compact camera. I know I still have the Canon and I believe the Pentax is also in a cupboard somewhere around.

Paris holiday in 1999 This is a photography post with a difference - the pictures were all taken 15 years ago in November 1999 on a work social club weekend in Paris.

Dragonflies have alway been a problem for me to photograph, so I am particularly pleased that I managed to get quite close to a small golden dragonfly today when I had my specialist macro lens fitted to my Sony Nex 6.

I’m not sure of the species, but I found this dragonfly sitting on the end of a stick which was acting as a stake for a small tree. Normally if I find a dragonfly sitting anywhere it will be gone as soon as I can collect my camera, and it would definitely fly off as soon as I got close. This particular creature however not only sat still whilst I got my camera, but it very kindly sat on the end of the stick in the bright, hot sunshine whilst I took several pictures of it. It even sat patiently whilst I took about 15 pictures with the lens set to maximum aperture (because the K mount to NEX adapter I use had the aperture actuation ring set to ignore the aperture of the lens)!

Fortunately I spotted the problem with the aperture and managed to get a series of pictures with the lens reset to f/8, which sharpened up the image nicely. I took several pictures from a distance away and then gradually got closer and closer to try to get some nice portraits. Although these images are not the best macro pictures I’ve ever taken, I’m quite pleased because of the subject matter.

Macro photography – Small golden dragonfly Dragonflies have alway been a problem for me to photograph, so I am particularly pleased that I managed to get quite close to a small golden dragonfly today when I had my specialist macro lens fitted to my Sony Nex 6.

This is a family holiday post with a few pictures from the new Woburn Forest Centre Parcs site where we went for a short break. I’ll update the post with more pictures as I get them processed. All these pictures were taken with my Takumar prime lens set and processed in Lightroom using my normal post-processing workflow from the raw files.

Centre Parcs – Woburn forest This is a family holiday post with a few pictures from the new Woburn Forest Centre Parcs site where we went for a short break.

It’s been a hot day here today and I’ve been out with my macro lens trying to get some interesting insect pictures.

Although it is hot, almost as soon as I got to Priors wood (where I usually go to get insect pictures) the sun went in and the light levels dropped quite a lot. Although that didn’t make it in anyway impossible to take pictures, it meant about 3 stops less light, so most of these were taken at a higher ISO or with less depth of field than I would have ideally liked.

All of these pictures have been processed in Lightroom using my normal post processing techniques.

Butterflies and other insects It’s been a hot day here today and I’ve been out with my macro lens trying to get some interesting insect pictures.

This is a review of my Takumar 135mm f/3.5 M42 mount lens on my Sony Nex 6 camera.

Description

This lens is an M42 mount lens made in about  1973. It has an aperture range of f/3.5 to f/22 and a closest focusing distance of about 1.5 meters, or 5 feet. The aperture ring is controlled by a small pin protruding from the bottom of the mount, and there is an Auto/Manual switch fitted to disable the pin and make the aperture controllable by the aperture ring. I bought my copy from eBay for £26 and I paid another £3.50 for an original Takumar screw on lens hood to match it. The takumar len range was produced by Pentax for their M42 spotmatic slr range before they moved to the K mount bayonet fitting when they changed to using the Pentax name. They have the reputation of being exceptional lenses, and some examples, like the 50mm f/1.4 carry pretty high price tags.

Usability

Compared to a modern telephoto lens this is a nice lens to carry and use because it is lightweight. Obviously it doesn’t have some of the features of a modern lens such as an autofocus motor or image stabilisation, but personally I find manual focus with focus peaking faster and more reliable than autofocus and image stabilisation, although nice, adds considerably to the cost.

On my Nex the lens is quite long with the adapter, lens and hood fitted. The focus ring on my example is perhaps slightly too well damped; It certainly wouldn’t slip out of focus, which is nice, but it can take quite an effort to move it and it would be difficult to rapidly change focus. This could be completely down to my example of course, but all the other takumar lenses I have are also on the well damped side so I suspect this is typical. The actual adjustment range is good, taking about 3/4 of a turn from infinity to closest focus point and the machined grip is easy to grasp with a gloved hand. The aperture adjustment is a click-stop ring with half stop click from f/3.5 to f/16 then a full stop to f/22. The aperture auto/manual switch is positioned at the top of the lens to make it easy to operate, but on a modern digital camera like the nex the lens is left in manual mode because there is no pin actuation machanism to stop the lens down as the picture is taken. If I use the lens on my spotmatic however it is easy to set it to manual from the normal auto setting.

Bokeh

The background bokeh on this lens will not have the perfect circles of a lens with more aperture blades (this lens has 6 blades) but being a telephoto focal length means it will be pretty easy to get background de-focus effects. These are often used to good effect in portraits to isolate the subject, so I’ve included a few samples below of a couple of concrete bears which sit in our garden taken at different apertures. These images are all straight from Lightroom with no post processing other than the white balance.

Definition

I have found the definition of the lens to be very good – certainly exceeding the quality I would expect of a modern kit lens. I think some of the sample pictures below show this.

Macro use

With the lens fitted to the camera using an Nex to M42 adaptor it is not very effective as a macro lens because the close focusing distance is too far away. However the addition of a short extension tube can make a world of difference and turn the lens into a pretty effective macro tool. The shots in the gallery below were all taken with this lens and a 10+17mm extension combination at a variety of apertures and although they don’t have huge levels of magnification, they are still well defined close up shots, if not true macro.

Video

Whilst I was out taking the pictures for this post I also took a short video clip which may be useful to some people who like to use manual lenses for video work.

Some other sample shots taken with this lens.

These are all shots taken with the takumar 135mm f/3.5 over the course of the last few days whilst I’ve been preparing this post. They have all been post processed in Lightroom to try to show the lens off to its best.

All in all I think this is an excellent quality lens which is well worth the price I paid for it and a useful addition to my Takumar family.

Takumar 135mm f/3.5 on Nex This is a review of my Takumar 135mm f/3.5 M42 mount lens on my Sony Nex 6 camera.