The 5D is dead, long live the RX1r

I love my Canon 5D (mark 1). It is rugged, weather resistant(ish) and the full frame censor delivers superb results. Alongside a few trusty high quality lenses I have been a very happy man and have not really looked for a new camera body or system. Until recently that is.

Whilst I’ve been (and still am) happy with the quality of the pictures I’m taking with the full SLR system, I’ve been increasingly reluctant to want to haul it around. There is no getting away from the fact that it is pretty bulky and no lightweight. This was no biggie in the days when I only had myself to look after but these days I frequently have to accomodate the ‘stuff’ associated with one or two children that are in tow.

This has resulted in either grumbling about the inconvenience or leaving the camera behid altogether and relying on my iPhone for ‘snaps’ neither of which has been an ideal prospect. What I need is something small but without compromising any image quality, a requirement that seemed an impossible dream outside of owning a Leica, and who has the money for that?

RX1R
Over the years i’ve been keenly looking at a whole host of small agile looking cameras like the Olympus Pen or the Fuji x100 but whilst they ticked the box of ‘size’ I knew they would be less good than a full frame/L lens combo.

And then came along the Sony RX1 (or RX1R) – full frame, amazing lens and only a little bigger than a compact. It sounds amazing but there is no such thing as a free lunch and it has a few downsides to swallow. It seems the 35mm lens, though amazing,  is fixed and I have to ask if I can live with one lens forever? I also have to ask if I can accomodate the seemingly eye-watering cost of £2500.

Well, I’ve been using (and loving) a 35mm on the big beast and If I only had one focal length, this would be it. As for the cost, it would require that instead of new, I could get it a lot cheaper by buying second hand and to afford even that i’d have to sell ALL of my current glass. This is quite a wrench as these lenses have been with me a long time and we’ve taken great pictures together. Having said that, I can either have a lot of ace kit sitting around not being used or a new thing out all the time?

Taking the plunge
Lenses have been sold and new (second hand with minor scratches) camera has been purchased from the e of bay. I’ve only had it a few days but the RX1R is (nearly) everything that I could hope for:

  • Small – the body is like a compact, made a bit bigger by the protruding lens.
  • Superb image quality – Easily as good as my old set-up

Do I have any grumbles? Well it would be even better if the camera had some weather sealing and i may have to get used to the fact that there is no viewfinder. It feels like a compact but takes pictures an SLR would be proud of. So far, I’m very happy.

Here is a nice test picture of some mud for you!

Mud!

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One Photo a Day – Quarter 1

I’m approaching the first quarter of this years ‘one photo a day’ project and things are still going pretty well. I’ve got quite used to carrying my ‘big’ camera at all times again, although it is feeling huge and cumbersome against the modern crop of smaller good quality camera’s that are out at the moment.

Millenium Bridge

Wide angle, long exposure
Since I broke my ‘nifty fifty’ (50mm 1.8) in January I’ve only used my 17-40mm lens. This means that I can’t really help but do a lot of wide angle photography. As I have been shooting a lot at night (in these short days), I’ve had to be inventive about having a tripod to cope with the long exposure times.

Bank

I have a small, very packable, little tripod that has been really useful. I have more often, however, just used bits of street furniture to rest the camera on. Bollards, telephone exchange boxes, ledges, crossing signs and other flat items on the street have all come into play at some point. Obviously this means that I don’t always get the angle I’d prefer, but it does mean I can be fairly fast at taking a shot and getting on my way.

Portrait Project
This sub-project has gone fairly well so far in that I have now racked up 16 or so portraits, mainly work colleagues and a few family and friends. This is fine of course. I do subscribe to a group on Flickr called ‘100 strangers’ that encourages taking pictures of people that you don’t know and recounting the story as well as the picture. I am in awe of this and would like to find the courage to give it a go myself but I’ll have to see on that.

Elpie

Going forward
I’m looking forward to continuing the project into the summer, especially as I will be working in a new area of London that I hope will offer lots of new photographic opportunities. I might also be able to find a new crew of models for my portrait project maybe?

I am getting a modest windfall soon and one of the questions is whether to invest in a new lens. I’ve not had a new bit of glass for over six years (since I had children) and it would be lovely to treat myself. It would be also be wonderful excuse to take more pictures of course! I’m looking at various options by I currently covert a 35mm 1.4. My only consideration is that my camera body is quite old and if that goes kaput I’ll be left with a lot of lenses and no camera!

See all the photos.

One Photo a Day 2014 – 1 Month In

Well, I seem to have cleared the first month of daily photography without too much difficulty and to my own surprise it has given me a new lease of (photographic) life.

Charing Cross Road

I’m really glad that I’ve chosen to stick to black and white photography. At first glance it seems to be quite a constraint but I’ve actually found it very liberating. I’ve also found that because I know it will be monochrome it naturally means I look for shots that suit the medium. In the past I’ve often shot for colour and as an afterthought switched it to b & w.

My two mini-projects have been to photograph streets, usually on a long exposure and to attempt to get as many portraits as I can and so far I am pleased with both.

Luke

As in previous years I’ve also found myself looking at other peoples work on Flickr a lot more which I really enjoy.

I’m still not sure that I’ll keep this up for the whole year but I’ll certainly keep going for now!

See all of the photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonwebber/

One Photo a Day 2014 – Starting Out

Having completed ‘one photo a day’ (365) projects in 2008 and 2011 I know what a commitment it is and to be honest I never thought that I would be doing one again. So what has brought me back?

Firstly, I’ve been scrambling around for a personal project to get my teeth into for the year but nothing was really tempting me. The second thing was that during the latter part of last year I started to take one or two pictures a week around the City of London and in black and white. I was quite pleased with the results and got some very nice comments and it made me think that this could be a style and theme for the year.

Whilst I was very proud of finishing the last two projects they seemed more about stamina than photography and in particular the results were quite a mish-mash of styles and a mix of monochrome and colour. I’ve heard of other ‘project 365’ people who have put all of their pictures in a photo book but this is something that hasn’t tempted me as my photos haven’t hung together as a collection.

The idea this year (I hope) is to move on from my previous attempts and create a collection of photographs that have a theme and have a consistent style. The one hard rule for 2014 then is to have every photo in black and white. Less hard and fast is that I intend to take a lot of urban street pictures and, where possible, portraits.

I’m determined not to put myself under too much pressure so my thoughts at this point is just to go as far as I can, even if this is just a month or two. Let’s see after that.

See the full set of daily photos.

Project 365 – 2011 – Finished

In 2008 I completed my first ‘One photo a day’ for a year project. I found it quite a struggle and it almost drove me a little crazy at times. When I was finished I felt very burnt out for photography and it took me quite a while to get my mojo back. I tried fairly hard to get good, arty shots each day and possibly got a bit frustrated and upset if I didn’t get what I was after. When I finished, dazed as I was, I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment.

For this years project I went into it with a whole different attitude. This time I told myself that it would be more of a photo journal rather than an art project and I gave myself full licence to take ‘cop-out’ shots where necessary. With work and kids there are enough stresses in my life so I also said that if it got a bit much that I would just give it up. The fact that I’d already notched up one before helped here.

How did it go?

With all those pre-conditions I actually found it fairly easy this time, I certainly can’t remember a time that I felt pressured or in a tizzy about it. I more or less took my Canon 5D around with me everywhere, despite it’s bulk. It was therefore fairly straightforward to get a shot somewhere in the day. Equipment-wise this year, I had a better camera in the 5D rather than my old 20D but no macro lens as I’d sold it to get my iPhone. I remember relying on the macro quite a bit in 2008 to get those shots indoors at night. In a way I’m glad it wasn’t an option this time as I took more pictures of scenes rather than objects which suited the photo journal approach better.

The big issue this year was not so much taking the pictures, it was uploading them to Flickr. It’s interesting to note that since i’ve had a smartphone where I can take a picture, edit it if necessary and upload it within seconds or minutes it now seems an imposition if it takes longer. The knock-on effect of this has been that I now resent having to take out my memory card, plug it into the card reader and input the photos into Lightroom before editing and uploading. At first I would upload my photo each day but by the end I was doing it every 5-6 days.

Projects within the project

I had two main mini-projects to help me along during the year. The first was to document my cycle route to work which for a while was giving me 1 or 2 pictures a week. The other was an (overly) ambitious project called ’52 Portraits’. The idea was for me to take one portrait a week for the whole year. I loved the idea of this but I think i should have planned it a whole lot better as I kind of ran out of people willing to have their picture taken after about 20 weeks. Still as long as it lasted it gave me another day each week that I could include in the overall 365 project. Despite neither of these mini-projects quite coming off I’m glad I had a go as they gave me a bit of focus early on. They are also topics that i can easily pick up later if I want to.

Am I a better photographer?

My own self assessment is that I’m a much more rounded photographer this time around than I was in 2008 and the equipment that I’m using is a lot better. On the other hand I think I’ve also become a lot more accepting of snapshots and less worried about ‘arty’ shots than i was. In a sense my photography has come full circle. I’ve gone through being irritated by people being in my pictures and the desire to get the perfect framing and exposure. I’m a lot more interested these days in just recording what I’m seeing. I certainly take a lot more pictures of the family than I used to. I therefore wouldn’t say that I’ve got much better technically but I have got a lot more comfortable in my picture taking.

2014?

I completed my first 365 (actually 366) in 2008 and this one in 2011 which makes me due another one in 2014? As I rely on taking so many of these pictures on my way to work I don’t think i could face doing it again till I work (or live) somewhere else. I have no immediate plans to move by then but you never know what will be happening?

Summary

A less stressful and angst ridden project this time but also slightly less fulfilling one somehow. That said, I’m glad I did it and would consider doing it again one day. Not in 2012 though.

Walking across Greater London – Part 2

The Project

Very simply, this was attempt to walk across the whole of Greater London, east to west, at it’s widest points. I reckoned that this would take 3 days with each leg being approximately 13-15 miles. In Part 1 I walked from the farmlands of the eastern edge of the London Borough of Havering to Barking. In this leg I was hoping to get from Barking to somewhere west of Hyde Park.

 

Newham

Despite having lived in Barking for about 2 years I’d almost never been anywhere apart from the train station, the supermarket and my house. It was therefore a bit of a revelation to finally go down Barking High Street and find a few pleasant looking buildings and a church. I didn’t linger though and made my way to the London Road and was soon over Barking Creek and the A406 (North Circular) and into East Ham.

Barking

For this bit of my walk I decided to keep off of the main road and walk through the suburban streets. This meant that I got to see street after street of slightly down at heel terrace housing, broken by the odd newsagent, internet/mobile shop and (in)convenience store. In this way I passed East Ham, Upton park and Plaistow, the latter having quite a nice station building.

Plaistow

I then headed south-west getting nearly as far as canning town, where I wasn’t paying attention and actually walked well out of my way. I headed past Star Park and on into an industrial estate with some scary looking ‘Private Property’, ‘No entry’ signs. I’m normally someone who takes notice of these kind of signs but I also knew that the alternative way round would be miles so I decided to just go for it. As this was a Sunday, no-one was there and I didn’t get stopped. I’d picked this route as I wanted to see what the view was like over the River Lea/Limehouse Cut. As it turned out a bit dingy. I then found myself at the A12 which I hoped to find a pedestrian crossing at Bromley-by-Bow. I did find a crossing but it meant going up to the flyover and down again to use a tunnel and then up the flyover on the other side and down again. Phew. I was now in Tower Hamlets.

Bromly-by-bow

East End

My route through the old East End was quite meandering and on the whole I was quite surprised by the mix of housing. There are clearly quite poor areas but these are next to a number of new builds and trendy looking houses. This was most marked when I was in Stepney Green and On one side of the road was a series of grand georgian town houses and on the other is a dog eared looking council block. Very odd.

Stepney Green

The Mile End Road again had a mix of amazing old buildings and skuzzy looking mobile phone shops. I decided to get off the main road at Whitechapel and go by the back-streets until I got to Brick Lane. Here, of course, I came into the trendy, vintage clothe wearing set. I was very hungry by now as I’d been holding out to have a salt beef bagel at one of the brick lane bagel shops. It was delicious.

Whitechapel

From the top of Brick lane I made my way over to the Boundary Road Estate which was built at the end of the 19th century and is one of the first pieces of social housing. It was built on the site of the notorious slum ‘The Old Nichol’. I have to say that it still looks very nice!

Old Nichol Street

City of London

I walked past St Leonard’s church and across Shoreditch High Street and I was in the city. Again I decided to explore the back streets rather than the main thoroughfares, this time along Rivington Street. Crossing Great Eastern street I made my second navigation error of the day and went south on Paul Street and it was quite a while before I realised that I was not travelling east. I discovered my mistake and turned the right way into Finsbury Square. From there I skirted the Barbican and then up Whitecross Street (no market today) and on to Old Street. From here is was going to be a straight line for a while.

Whitecross Street

Old Street turned into Clerkenwell Road, then Theobald’s Street in a long stream of shops, pubs, café’s and houses. I was getting a bit tired by now but had a goal in my head to get a certain distance in the bag.

Arcade

I turned into Oxford Street, a place that I’ve been down many times. This time, for the first time I looked up at the buildings (like a tourist) rather than the shops and was surprised about how many cool old buildings there were.

Oxford Street

I turned off Oxford Street about half way along and walked on Wigmore Street that runs parallel. This eventually led to the eastern end of Hyde Park where I had a nice walk in the afternoon sunshine.

Hyde Park

I finished my day at Queensway tube station at the north western corner of Hyde Park having walked 14 miles. A pretty tiring day!

View all the photos from the day.

Walking across Greater London – Part 1

The Project

The idea is fairly simple, to walk from East to West across Greater London at it’s widest points. Apart from the challenge of crossing the Capital on foot, for me it is also a chance to go to a few places where I’ve formerly lived.

The Plan

After having a play with the ‘directions’ bit of Google maps, it looked like a walk across London could be done fairly comfortably in three days, with legs of around 13/14 miles. I grew up in the Borough of Hillingdon so it seemed fitting that I should end my walk there. This therefore meant starting at the easternmost boundary of the London Borough of Havering. Actually finding the boundary of Havering was harder than I thought, but I eventually nailed it down to being outside of the M25 and seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

I was keen to start my walk from outside of London which meant that I’d get the Train to West Horndon and walk west.

The Walk

I walked out of West Horndon station to immediately find that, as I’d suspected, there was no pavement on the road towards London. This was a pain, and a tiny bit dangerous, but there was no other alternative so I steeled myself and got going. I found myself on a country road called St Mary’s Lane and I would be on it for quite a while, at least until Upminster. Whilst the Road had no pavement, there was usually some kind of verge and I was able to avoid any of the traffic.

Welcome to the London Borough of Havering
Welcome to the London Borough of Havering

The views for the first few miles were all farms, fields and the occasional glimpse of the train line. After walking for around 35 minutes and very much in the middle of nowhere, the sign I’d been looking for hove into view – Welcome to The Borough of Havering. This was it, the start of the journey proper and the moment was only slightly ruined by the sound of many dogs barking and yelping at the house next to the sign. A mile or two further on the next big milestone appeared, the M25. Crossing underneath the motorway, I found that I was still surrounded by countryside and when I eventually rolled into Cranham it was a bit of a belief. Civilisation and pavements were very welcome!

Upminster Windmill
Upminster Windmill

A little further up the road I came into Upminster and reckoned it was time for a short break and popped into a coffee shop for an espresso and a glass of water. I did feel a bit self conscious as it was a muggy day and I was a bit sweaty. I got over it and was soon on the way again. Upminster looked nice and suburban but the highlight was a cool looking Windmill.

Rush Green
Rush Green

Before I started I wondered how tempted I’d be about meandering about but as it turned out I mostly just kept to the main road through Upminster Bridge and then Hornchurch. I was then lured slightly off the beaten track by a short walk through Hornchurch Park. My memory of this part of my journey is of a sea of fairly bland suburban housing.

It was then on through the unremarkable Rush Green and then I was over the border into the Borough Of Dagenham and Redbridge. The town hall at least looked pretty cool.

Becontree Estate
Becontree Estate

One of the specific places I’d wanted to visit was the Becontree Estate. When it was built after the First World War it was the largest municipal housing estate in Europe. It has some 27,000 houses and over 100,000 residents but yet no ‘town centre’ as such. I found walking through it a strange experience as there were many properties well looked after and clearly loved right next to a place with a fridge in the garden and completely unkempt. There is an ominous uniformity to the style that goes on and on, in my case for nearly an hour.

The street in Barking that I used to live in
The street in Barking that I used to live in

At the end of the Becontree I entered Mayesbrook park and came out into the much more middle class looking Upney. From here it was was short walk to Barking where I chalked up my next special point, the street where I lived for two years. It was slightly weird to come back here but also nice to leave. This is Barking after all. At Barking station, I called it a day on Leg 1 and headed home.

Next time……it’ll be my journey from Barking to hopefully Kensington.

See all the photos from the trip.

Barking Station
Barking Station