Duff lens in Dunorlan

Out in my usual spots in Dunorlan last weekend and realised when I got there that my favourite old Zeiss lens had a stuck aperture- basically means that you can only focus on one thing at a time.

So some distant shots with no foreground…

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and some close ups with blurred backgrounds…

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Wrong lens around town

My mantra on this blog has been “always take my camera with me everywhere I go,” but in my eagerness to pick it up when going out, I don’t always pay attention to what is on the front of it.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I set out to go walking on the common with a close up portrait lens (a 1980s Zeiss Planar 85mm f1.4 for the gear-heads amongst you.)

I actually like the challenge of seeing the world through an unfamiliar view, but after struggling for a bit taking in the wide views of the trees…

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…I changed tack and headed down to the pantiles where I enjoyed the blurred backgrounds this lens gives me.

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Then a quick stroll past the shops at the bottom of town:

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And then best of all for a coffee:

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Better when you can’t see it all?

Frustrated that I didn’t get any good pictures of our brief blizzard, I’m going to switch my attention to my real favourite weather feature, mist.

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I’ve written before about my mixed feelings about Bedgebury. I love woodland when it feels ancient and mysterious, but there are bits of the Pinetum that seem more like they have been freshly flat-packed out of Ikea.

What a difference a bit of mist makes, though:

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Those who study photographic composition talk of mist as an example of what is called aerial perspective. This is anything like smoke, haze or mist that covers over things in an image making it harder to see parts of it. We like to look a it because it makes a flat image look more 3d- closer things have less aerial perspective than those far away. It also creates shape patterns which are unpredictable and therefore mysterious.

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Lecture over, here are some more pictures.

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Same Old Park, New Old Lens

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I’ve blogged before about how little difference it makes what camera we use to take our pictures, but I have until now ignored the other side of the equation- how much difference a lens can make.

Fortunately for me, a great lens does not have to cost too much. Many recent cameras, with cheap adapters, can use pretty well any lens ever made and this opens up to us all of the ancient lenses in junk shops and on ebay. All of the pictures from this page, for example are taken with a Zeiss 35mm which was ridiculously cheap online.

The German Zeiss company are legendary in photography for making high quality (and expensive) lenses. After the war, when Germany was split in two, there were two versions of Zeiss and this lens was produced by the East German one- they sold the lenses to the west at prices that undercut their West German former colleagues in order to bring in Western Currency.

It has to be focused manually, which today may seem like a chore, but again with the latest cameras, is easy and gets to be fun. The point is that the pictures it takes, don’t look like those from modern lenses:

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What I particularly like about this lens is what happens when I get nearer to things- it is a great lens for close ups:

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What you start to notice with pictures like this is that the areas in focus are not the only bits that make a picture work- the blurred background is equally important. The Japanese call this blurring Bokeh and this lens is seen by fans as a Bokeh king:

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I sometimes take pictures with this lens that are just blur, I love the bokeh so much:

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There are some photographers incidentally who call what you see above “Bokeh Balls”

Normally, though, I step back slightly and enjoy the contrast between a small area that is sharp and the bokeh behind as with this reed by the side of the lake:

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It is the kind of lens which pushes you to see the world in a different way, which is what photography is all about for me. Even after a walk in the park it doesn’t stop as I put the cap from a bottle down on a table in the cafe:

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