Canon and the Helios 44-2 58mm

It was a Sunday after a night celebrating a friend’s birthday with a “couple” of drinks. Which meant I was a tad on the tired side. Not hungover of course. Let’s just say that I needed to move my booty and air my mind.

As those of you who know me might have guessed already that meant making sure I was fit to drive. I was fit to drive. Grabbed my Canon 6D Mark ii and stuck on the Helios 44-2 58 mm F 2,0 lens.

At 58 mm we are leaving the standard focal lengths and heading off into portrait lens territory. How bold of me! Especially as I would be using it on the streets of Nantes. It’s a M42 screw mount lens and therefore needs an adapter in order to work on my modern DSLR. Manual focussing and without focus peaking and with my bad eyes is not easy unless yon use the flippy outy screen and zoom in,which meant that even I could get some in-focus images.

The Helios is a Russian lens from the Soviet era and the build quality could be described as slightly solid. When I first bought it I had placed it on my dining room table. It fell off the table onto the tiled floor and damaged a tile… But you dear reader are sensible and don’t do that kind of sh*t so you’ll be fine.

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the bokeh that this lens gives out. If you like creamy bokeh goodness with a bit of a swirl then you won’t be disappointed. Try and spot it as you look through the photos. The bokeh whores amongst you will not be left wanting.

Paris!

Yesterday I went to Paris with my ten going on thirty year old daughter. It was on a whim almost. Just the same about about that song about a sleeping lion, where the desire to burst into song was just a whim away, a whim away, a whim away,a whim away, a whim away, a whim away, a whim awaaaaaaaaaay…

By rights I should have been in the UK. I had lieu days to take and had organised myself a little get away to Hull! I know Dear reader, but it’s home, I had plane tickets booked, hotel booked, rides about photography that I could do. But when I booked all that, little did I know that ultimately, it was not to be. Thanks Covid 19!! I still managed to get all my money back though.

My boss came along to see me and asked that despite things being cancelled, was j still going to go on leave, I thought about it for one second, and said, why not! So I was going to have some time on my hands.

That first day was spent in Nantes taking photographs and avoiding the shops to buy a new lens for my XT2. Consolation retail therapy is great but it has a tendency to cost money. So I went and did what I usually do and walk around taking photographs. That was Day 1. I will probably write another article about that later, but there are things about yesterday that won’t wait. Or I will forget and it’s worth not forgetting.

Sooooooooo…. I love Paris. I love the different quarters, and how they all have a really different vibe. I wanted to just roam the streets imagining myself as a Henri Cartier Bresson. Hey I’m allowed to dream!

My daughter also loves Paris and has been on at me to go there for ages. My wife starts getting heart palpitations at the mere idea of me, daughter and Paris, when mention I. The same phrase. So a couple of day before I asked Kate if she was up for it? Surprisingly she was! And what shocked me more was when my wife thought it was a good idea too!!! And who said miracles don’t happen.

I asked what she wanted to see while we were there and she said the Louvre and the Tour Eiffel. I had a moment of lucidity and thought, get the tickets online first fool! So I did!

Friday morning, armed with two cameras, all the printouts for the tickets, and ID, my son drove us to the station in Nantes for the 2hr15min TGV for Paris. I was worried about the inevitable, Daddy, I’m bored, but it never came. Connect 4 on my phone helped. I have taught my daughter about everything I know about this game so she’s a formidable opponent.

We arrived in Montparnasse, and I knew which metro to get on and how to get to our destination. As a thank you to Killian we got home a little Moleskin notebook for drawing in. We found Mark’s And Spencer’s food shop and noted where we would get our evening meal from. I live my daughter but she is notoriously difficult when it come to food.

There’s a detail that I haven’t mentioned yet. Kate is on crutches and I have a walking stick. Thank you arthritis. In the metro there are numerous stairs. She was great getting over all the obstacles.

We arrive at the Louvre via the Carousel du Louvre which looks nothing like a carousel but more like an inverted pyramid. Obviously trying to confuse American tourists.

We started off looking at Greek sculpture. I’m not talking about the paper mache stuff in the local Kebab joint, but the real McCoy. Then I told her how old the statues were. Then it began to sink in. She had studied Greek mythology at school so it was like being amongst old friends for her. Very old friends.

We went on to see the Roman contribution to the world of art. I was amazed by the details in the statues and thinking how lifelike they were. I’m also amazed by the intricacy of the carving. The hair, the eyes. You could imagine them coming to life and going out for a beer and how denarii doesn’t go very far these days…

What I haven’t told you about is the huge number of stairs then you need to go up and down…. get ready for this. By the end of the day we had done nearly 16000 paces and 127 floors according to my watch. We must have been mad. We saw the paintings and Kate was amazed by how detailed they were and how you couldn’t even see the brush stroke. I was taken aback by the colours and pigments.

One of the things you have to do is to see the Mona Lisa. When I was a child the painting was on a wall and there were a huge amount of people infront of it so it was night on impossible to take a photo. Just that was then. This is now. Now there is a line that meanders around like at Disney, and people can get quite close and take their photo. As you go around the line you admire other pictures on the walls. As we were doing the whole cripple thing, on of the Museum staff came and asked Kate if she would like to go right to the front and get a better view. Damn right she did. For the hoipoloi, they get within about 5 meters of the statue, but with the cripple card we were less than tree metres away! I actually felt really guilty about it, but I’m not throwing away my shot, as Hamilton said and I got my photograph!

DSCF1881

Happy as a pig in shit!!!
We then had lunch in the museum cafe  overlooking the rest of the Louvr and the Jardin des Tuilleries, and tearful for my daughter’s ankles I though I would have to give it a miss. Shame really because she would have loved it.  But it was not to be this time. 

We continued with our visit looking for the iconic works that you only get to see in books, or on the old 100 franc banknote.  We finished by the ancient Egyptians and the mummies.  We all need our mummies after all. We had also discovered the lifts. What a Godsend they were too. We saw the Victoire  de Samothrace, Milo’s Venus, that really big painting of Louis XIV looking so butch.  Kate asked me why was he wearing tights, and I told her because it made him look good in heels. 

We saw the painting of Napolean being all regal and placing a crown on the head of his bride.    When saw Marianne au naturel as she mounted the barricades with the Tricolore, we saw the Radeau de la Meduse, and she was of course médusée Papa!  French joke…

Saying it was all amazing is like completing for the Understatement of the year 2020.  She was the right age, and who knows what it will all lead to in her mind.  I was a good father that day.  This is what she said,  “the Louvre made her feel so young compared to the works of art.” 

We eventually found the exit and by the time she got there she was almost in tears because of her sore ankles. I made it my duty to find a chemist’s and get some painkillers. So we did…

You can’t go to Paris and not have a drink in a Parisian Café. So we did. The waiter was actually very pleasant and completely broke thevsterotype of the pissed off and impatient French waiter that tells you off for not being quick enough ordering…

Sitting down for a while really helped too. We felt rested and the two doped up cripples were ready for the next treat. The Eiffel Tower. It looks like Blackpool’s tower except it has Parisian Class. And the weather is generally better too. We took a taxi. I didn’t want to put her through the steps in the metro again. Our man dropped us off on the Champs de Mars, and we scouted around trying to find the entrance. It’s amazing to think that this towering feat of engineering was destined to be temporary and has yet become an emblem of Paris. It’s also slightly massive! Thanks to Covid we couldn’t go right to the top, but still managed to get up to the second level. The panoramas are amazing and I showed her all the sights that we could see.

We took another taxi to the Rue de Rivoli to go and see WH Smith’s. Now for those of you who live in the UK you can’t imagine how it feels going into a bookshop where it feels like home except it still has Parisian chic.

The final Taxi took is back to the Station and we descended on Marks and Sparks like hunger on the world. Our goodie bags were getting heavier and heavier, but my appetite helped lighten the load.

My son came to pick us up and was lovely about it.

It was her dream fulfilled and I know the memories of that day will stay with her for the rest of her life.

Honfleur, Daytime

I’ve been trying to “find myself” lately as far as photography goes. Different editing techniques instead of always doing black and white. Maybe it’s time to get back to basics for at least one article. You’ve seen Honfleur in colour and at night in my last article. However, I did take my camera out during the day! Yes, that can happen sometimes.

You’ve already had the witticisms about Normandy and the like, so this article is somewhat shorter. It’s about exhibiting some black and white photography of a very pretty little town in Normandy without the distraction of colour. They were taken whilst walking from where I had parked the car, to the house that we had rented for the week. They were taken whilst meandering through the streets, getting lost, trying to see what the place looked like in daylight. They were taken whilst I just let my mind wander off and just take in the beauty of the place. Quite typical for me really, and probably the best way to photograph a town.

The photographs were taken over a period of three days using both the Canon 6D Mark II, with the 16-35mm lens, and the Fujifilm X100F.

Honfleur at night

Honfleur is one of those pretty places that you see on postcards from Normandy. It is the birthplace of Erik Satie, the musician, composer, and a slighty, ever so slightly, eccentric, which is how my mother describes me. I think it’s a nice way of calling me a wierdo!

So Honfleur… Full of Parisians and people from just outside Paris that don’t have enough money to be able to afford Deauville. But also full of art lovers thanks to the many painters that have their galleries, and those channelling Eugène Boudin (joke available in French, contact me for details) and those wanting some Monet, Monet, Monet! (the Dad joke strikes again!) And let’s not forget those messing up their cholesterol levels with Camembert and Crême Fraîche d’Isingy, and those ruining their livers on Calva, and Pommeau. Cider is available for the lightweights like me.

On our first night, Killian, my ever dutiful son, needed to get out of the house and stretch his legs, so I tagged along with him. We went out with the two cameras (X100F for me, and Canon 6D for him) to do some night time photography, and headed off to the old harbour. We vowed to keep away from all the bars and ice cream places and actually managed it! Such restraint!

Here are my photos from that trip out:

Humber Street

In 1987, my father bought me my first SLR. Notice the D is missing. So, I did say SLR and not DSLR. It was a Praktica MTL3 and it is now retired (polite way of saying Kaput) and sitting on a shelf in my son’s room. It took film. And the first roll of film that I shot with it was down Humber Street

In 1987, Humber Street was the fruit market of Hull, and I’m not making an unpolitically correct joke about sensitive men looking to do sensitive things with other sensitive men. No. That would be wrong and very un-enlightened of me. No, they did that in other places dotted around the city.

I used to shoot my film, get it developed at a place on Newland Ave, where I got the camera, and the guy would present me with a contact sheet and critique my photos. For those of you who were born after this analogical age, a contact sheet is where you lay out the negatives on a sheet of photographic paper, and expose the paper, and develop it, and get a whole load of thumbnail images that you can look at and decide which were worth printing. Yes, just like the thumbnails you get on the gallery on your phone, except it might have taken a little longer…

There was one image that pleased me immensely of a cat sitting quietly on a box of fruit wondering what the hell I was up to. That was then.

Skip forward a few years, just a few mind you, because I’m not an old git yet. No sonny Jim, I’m just a git! The area came into it’s own in 2017 when Hull was declared City Of Culture. People were proud of their city again and there were whisperers whispering, “Come to ‘Ull, it’s not shite anymore!”

The ‘gentrification’ of the area started with bars, and even Art Galleries! Then of course came the Humber Street Sesh, showing some amazing local musical talent. This year’s Street Sesh was last night, so you’ve missed it!

At the bottom is the Minerva. Minerva is of course the wise old owl in Greek mythology. It is also a pub which always has such a special place in people’s hearts. They do good food and good beer, and good gin, so the wife was more than happy.

The two nights before these photos, I had met up with and old friend from my school days who was kind enough not to mention all the silly shit that I used to get up to in my youth. The next night was a school reunion with people I hadn’t seen since 1985 and 1988 for the lads. Tales were told that I will not repeat here including stories about a pogo stick, and how I once said “merde” to my French teacher and left the room throwing my French books into the bin on the way out. They told my French wife, “Well he always was a bit European….”

Well now, you’ve kept reading up to now so I suppose I should tell you about these photos. They were taken on the Sunday night when I needed some “me” time to deal with the overwhelming overload of nostalgia. I was out with the Canon 6D Mark II, and the 16-35mm lens. Hope you like them.

Did I go on for too long?

Nantes, the Green Line!

Le Voyage à Nantes is an art festival that happens every year in Nantes. They give out maps with the green line that travels all the way through the city and if you don’t have a map, you can just follow the green line on the ground. Yes. I shit you not. They have painted a green line that you can follow all around the city. Did the creator have a cocaine problem but wanted to be eco-friendly? That’s not what really bothers me. What really bothers me is that the whole line is 12km long! If that’s not intense then I don’t know what is!!!

Not wanting to be selfish, and sharing is caring and all that, I decided to bring along Killian. He needs to get out more and get some vitamin D. I also needed a minder. He’s always good for that kind of thing.

We started by the most important thing of the day. Food. Luckily it was lunchtime so I felt slightly less guilty about eating in public. Right, the first stop is usually the Sugar Blue Café. I really like the food. It’s actually healthy, but not only healthy, it looks good, but not only looks good, but tastes good, but not only tastes good, but they have cheesecake. Yes. Cheesecake. I’m so weak. But it goes so well with the cup of tea…

Of course we had to walk a bit just to feel even less guilty about the Cheesecake. Did somebody say Cheesecake? I ended up at Place Graslin. Needed coffee. Kiki had a beer. It was a bit warm after all. About 36°C… I told him about the day I was there with Kate and that it was just as warm and how she ended up getting soaked to the skin in the fountain, and how I was getting all panicky because I didn’t have a towel for her or a change of clothes.

We had to decide how to follow the line. We were sitting on the terrace of Le Molière and thought we’d be intelligent. Bad idea, but we managed to get the map up on our phones. The line passes right by the café, and you can either go left, or right. We tried, rock, paper, scissors, which is generally foolproof especially when it comes down to who is going to pay for the beers. But in the end we went for the more conventional, “oh f**k it!”

So having “f**ked it,” we eplored the Cours Cambronne, named after a famous Napoleonic General, who decided that he didn’t want to surrender to the British at Waterloo… Ah well! Silly billy!!

He became major of the Imperial Guard in 1814, and accompanied Napoléon into exile to the island of Elba, where he was a military commander. He then returned with Napoléon to France on 1 March 1815 for the Hundred Days, capturing the fortress of Sisteron (5 March), and was made a Count by Napoléon when they arrived at Paris. Cambronne was seriously wounded at the Battle of Waterloo and was taken prisoner by the British.

The exact circumstances of his surrender to the British are disputed. At the battle’s conclusion, Cambronne was commanding the last of the Old Guard when General Colville called on him to surrender. According to a journalist named Rougement, Cambronne replied: “La garde meurt et ne se rend pas !” (“The Guard dies and does not surrender!”). These words were often repeated and put on the base of a statue of Cambronne in Nantes after his death.

Other sources reported that Colville insisted and ultimately Cambronne replied with one word: “Merde!” (literally, “Shit!”, figuratively, “Go to hell!”) This version of the reply became famous in its own right, becoming known as le mot de Cambronne (“the word of Cambronne”) and repeated in Victor Hugo’s account of Waterloo in his novel Les Misérables and in Edmond Rostand’s play L’Aiglon. The name Cambronne was later used as a polite euphemism (“What a load of old Cambronne!”) and sometimes even as a verb, “cambronniser“.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Cambronne

We said goodbye to the little girl and allowed here to get back on her pedestal. Or was she trying to get down?

We found the line again, and then saw a dotted line… Interesting… An alternative? Well, what the heck. We followed it and discovered traces of Nantes more artisanal past, traces of joiners, cobblers, plumbers, bookbinders, and industrial tribunals. I love seeing these little bits of history still fighting to leave their mark on the town. A town or city has to be in tune with its past and it’s own story. People leave their mark on a place. The question is how will leave our mark, and what will that mark be?

For the photo geeks out there. The tools today were the Canon 6D Mark II and the 16-35mm lens.

Credit must also go to Magalie and her article about the Voyage à Nantes who inspired me to write this article, and get off my fat arse and try and get myself some culture!