The Maunsell Sea Forts: Photography

The Maunsell Forts were small fortified towers built in the Thames and Mersey estuaries during the Second World War. They were named after their designer, Guy Maunsell. The Thames forts shot down 22 planes, 30 flying bombs and were instrumental in the loss of one U-boat which was scuttled after coming under fire from Tongue Sands tower.

A couple of weeks ago I spent three hours on a converted tug boat visiting the Maunsell Forts at Red Sands in the Thames Estuary. The anti-aircraft guns are long gone, and the forts are in a state of slow decline without the funding to restore them and too expensive to demolish. The MOD have little interest in preserving them; the forts are maintained by volunteers and by donations from the public. I shot a few rolls of B&W medium format film (Ilford and Kodak) on my Mamiya 645, and a roll of AFGA E6 35mm which I shot through a LCA and cross processed. A selection of shots are below.

More information on these amazing structures, and how you can help preserve them, can be found here: www.project-redsand.com.

The full set of photographs I took can be found on my Flickr feed here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/owen23/.

Maunsell Sea Forts

Maunsell Sea Forts

Maunsell Sea Forts

Maunsell Sea Forts

Maunsell Sea Forts

Maunsell Sea Forts

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Eastbourne: 14 mile circular walk

A couple of weeks ago we did a 14 mile circular walk around Eastbourne. The highlight was possibly the pub lunch and pints of Beachy Head ale we had at the Tiger Inn, situated right on the village green at East Dean, very nice.

As with all our walks I took along a camera – this time it was my Holga, with some out of date slide film I got cross processed. As with all my pics on this blog there is no digital correction, what you see is what I shot. Here are the pics:

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Nishika N8000: lenticular camera

I recently picked up a 1980’s Nishika N8000 Lenticular camera. It’s a bit of a beast, very eighties, and although it might look sophisticated it’s really just a big plastic box.

lenticular or stereoscopic photography is the creation of 2d images that appear to have motion. The camera takes four images simultaneously, the creation of the lenticular print would take these four images and layer them in such a way that by changing the direction the eye looks at the image, the image would appear to move, or be animated. Please check out wikipedia for a much better explanation of the history and techniques of lenticular or stereoscopic photography.

Another 21st century use for old lenticular cameras is to make animated gif’s from the multiple images – by animated between the images the overall image parallaxes in a rather agreeable fashion. Below are animated gif’s taken with my first film shot through my Nishika, all photos taken around Brighton.

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The South Downs Links

Twice towards the back end of last year myself and 20three co-collaborator Graham cycled parts of the South Downs link. The first attempt we abandoned at Christs Hospital after a ham, eggs, chips & beer lunch. The second attempt we were a bit more determined, we caught an early train from Brighton to Guilford and cycled back to Brighton (via Shoreham by Sea), this time not stopping for a pub lunch, the ride taking us about three hours or so.

The South Downs link runs along part of the Steyning railway line, discontinued since the 1960’s. As the route is along a disused railway line there a several ‘ghost’ railway stations along the route, pictures below.

There is a PDF guide for the links, detailed, with maps, download it here.

The first set of photos below are taken with a LC-A, cross processed. The second set, taken on our second trip, are all taken on my iphone 4.

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Next set taken on a iphone 4. And filter free.

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Kevin Meredith: Toy Cameras, Creative Photos: High-end Results from 40 Plastic Cameras

I would think that most designers with an eye on the lo-fi will be familiar with the aesthetic of toy cameras. As an arty type with an interest in lo-fi technology and photography I have a couple of toy cameras myself, so when the opportunity came about to review Kevin Meredith’s book on toy cameras – Toy Cameras, Creative Photos: High-end Results from 40 Plastic Cameras (Amazon UK) I was keen to get my hands on it and see what other plastic fantastic cameras are out there.

So what is a toy camera? As Kevin Meredith states in his introduction, it might be a better to ask: “what is a serious camera?”

The answer to that question is simpler, a serious camera is one that has been designed to capture a scene with as much accuracy as possible. The resulting images, while technically perfect, can seem a bit lifeless to some people. Toy cameras are ideal for photographers who don’t want to capture a polished version of the world.

The books setup and approach is straightforward – 40 toy cameras and examples of photographs taken by those cameras. How the book is structured is also simple – Each camera gets a page with an image of, and a few paragraphs about, the camera in question and then several spreads of photography will follow, the photographs illustrating the cameras foibles and quirks. With many images the film type and other details such as the processing technique are given.

The text is informative and succinct. With each camera a little background or description is given, Meredith giving his opinion on the cameras practicality, drawbacks and quirks; for each camera information is given on lens type, aperture, shutter speed, film type, ISO and similar and variant models. The photography throughout the book is excellent – as well as the photography of the author, Meredith has also roped in a load of contributors all who have supplied quality photography.

I was initially surprised at the inclusion of digital cameras, but by Meredith’s own definition a toy camera can be digital and including them supports the inherent inclusiveness of toy cameras. The random ‘happy accidents’ of light leak and vignetting also add to this inclusiveness – no matter what your proficiency in photography the same random results will happen. This is were the divide happens – to embrace such lo-fi photography you have to accept and embrace these random quirks – control freaks should stick to their high-end SLR’s.

The book ends on brief but informative sections on film formats, processing, and toy camera basics: Film speed, shutter speed and aperture.

I don’t  have any real criticisms of this book, It is a simple proposition executed well. I would have preferred to have seen larger images of the cameras but that probably says more about me fetishizing cameras than anything else. I did find that the graphical elements of the book –  furniture and colour – is a little derivative. It looks like a Lomography product. Lomography is the commercial trademark of Lomographische AG, an Austrian company set up in the early nineties whose name is taken from the former Russian manufacturer LOMO PLC, and their camera the LOMO LC-A, which Lomographische AG distribute around Europe. Lomographische AG have very cleverly promoted and nurtured a large worldwide community whose interests are cheap plastic cameras, soviet imports and processing techniques such as cross processing and redscale. The design throughout Toy Cameras, Creative Photos… echo the Lomography branding used throughout their publications and marketing material. Of course there is nothing wrong with this, in fact from a marketing perspective it is probably the right approach as Lomography is such a recognisable entity and has such a large community. I guess I feel that there has been a missed opportunity for this book to have an identity of it’s own, and break the hegemony Lomographische AG have over lo-fi/toy camera culture. This is a minor gripe though and overall the important bits – the photography and text – are given plenty of space to breath.

For a newcomer to lo-fi photography and toy cameras this book will be a great introduction. To someone like me who has already got the lo-fi camera bug it is still a great buy. There are cameras featured in this book that I never knew existed, the action sampler cameras really stoked my imagination, I can see myself trawling ebay for an Oktomat sometime soon. The Ikimono looks cute too.

This book also works well as a reference book or a source of inspiration – there really is some great photography featured and anyone with an interest in photography, be it lo-fi, digital or film will appreciate the qualities of the images.

This review also appears on The Designer’s Review of Books.

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Dark Chamber: Pinhole photography exhibition

My photographer friend Nhung Dang has pinhole photography featured in the exhibition: Dark Chamber. (Dimbola Lodge opening on the 1st April 2011) Outsider extraordinaire Billy Childish also has work featured.

Dark Chamber

From the site:

Dark Chamber is a new exhibition of pinhole photography which opens at Dimbola Lodge on 1st April 2011. The exhibition brings together a selection of photographs by Billy Childish, Nhung Dang, Wolf Howard and Dave Wise.

Selecting pinholes made over the past decade Dark Chamber aims to reveal something of the daily lives, travels and interests of the respective photographers.

Find out more here.

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