Alien Experiments in Dunorlan

Sometimes, if the weather is nice, I head out to Dunorlan determined to take the most beautiful conventional shots I can, but on a cloudy day like today, I am just as likely to go freaky with a comedy camera or, as today, two.

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The black and white shots today are with an infrared camera- this sees the light which is invisible to us and misses what we see. It works even better in harsh sunlight, but I thought it worth a try.

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The psychedelic colour pictures are with a lens that I have modded myself- turning around one of the bits of glass at the back of the lens to stop it from focusing properly and to bring out its inner Monet. Although probably without his taste!

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I’m not sure yet whether these have worked- I’ll probably look at them in horror in a few months, but for now, here they are.

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Waking up again in Dunorlan

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Each summer, as I return back to Tunbridge Wells after a visit to some amazing place, I have to re-start my photography a bit. Often this starts in that most familiar of places-Dunorlan Park.

This summer, I have just been to the Norwegian Fjords (hint hint- you can check out the first part of my adventures in my other blog at this link)

How can Dunorlan compete with this?

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Well for me a big part of what makes the park work for me photographically is about my own attitude. When I go to a worldwide location for the first time, I often tend to take my least risky or original shots as everything is new to me.

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Back home, the opposite happens. When I go back yet again to Dunorlan, I have no choice but to try something new. It is why when I look over the past of this blog I see so many failed experiments, but also all of the pictures where I have moved my technique on. Most of what I have actually learned about photography has happened in this town.

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The pictures that follow probably mix failed experiments with successes. they are all taken with my favourite old Russian lens, the Helios 44-2 which creates those lovely painterly blurred backgrounds. I have messed with it even more by putting it on a tilt shift adapter- a strange contraption which allows me to bend it from side to side on the camera so that it focuses on just a strip of what is in front of it- you can see the effect most clearly in the first picture below of the bench.

I’m not entirely sure whether it all works- I normally only decide these things after a few weeks when I look back at my shots, but I’m glad I tried.

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Is Tonbridge nicer than Tunbridge Wells?

SDIM0834Occasionally, my wife, who works there, tries to persuade me that Tonbridge is actually a nicer town!

Sometimes I lower myself to getting into a debate about this, before deciding wisely that she is actually subconsciously comparing her workplace with Crawley, where she grew up.

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On one of the few sunny mornings recently she persuaded me once and for all to resolve the debate by going to take some pictures in the area around the castle so that readers of this blog could decide.

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I don’t think many of you will wrestle with this question, but I’ll admit it does look quite nice when I use my particularly blurred old lens.

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But then I hit the terrifying urban decay of the riverside:

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As you can imagine, I went into full photographic retreat, first by taking some increasingly blurred close ups of wildlife and then scuttling home in shock.

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Scotney and its blurred flowers

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I’ve been meaning to blog from Scotney for ages. Of all the local castles, I think it was always my favourite, probably because it seems so unbelievable. Did anyone really dream that this fairytale concoction could be a proper defensive structure? Of course what we see now is a ruin and I have no idea whether it once looked as kickass as Bodiam.

Typically, I would be able to answer this if I ever read a guide book rather than preferring these days just to explore with my camera.

Scotney proves perfect with the new old Russian lens I used before in the cemetery and in Bedgebury. Once again, what I love is the strange blurs (or bokeh) that I can create in my close ups of flowers.

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One of the strangest things for me at Scotney over the last few years has been to see it grow. Until a few years ago, the big house at the top was inhabited and out of bounds, but when the last owner died, she gifted this too to the National Trust:

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Nevertheless, it is always the old castle with its moat and gardens that draws me back:

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New old lens in Bedgebury

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I blogged a couple of weeks ago about the fun of using ancient lenses on a modern camera. This week I went back to Bedgebury with the same approach, but potentially an even stranger old lens- the Helios 58mm 44-2. This is another cold war Eastern European lens, this time from Russia and it was made as a cut price copy of a Zeiss lens. It can now be had for about £20 online.

Like a Zeiss, it has lovely bokeh (blurred backgrounds):

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What is particularly distinctive with this lens, though is what happens when your blurred background is made of foliage. The swirly effect it creates was probably the result of the cheapness of the lens, but it can be quite appealing:

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I also like what it does to wider shots like these of the trees- there is a really painted quality to these images:

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In this one, I shot through the steamed up window of the cafe to make things even more surreal:

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Finally in this one, I have maybe pushed the developing slightly too much, but my colour blind eyes liked the effect:

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