Urban & Architecture Photography

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Break free from the tyranny of perfect sharpness and learn to love vintage lenses: the Auto Chinon 35mm 2.8

I am starting to really enjoy trying out these vintage lenses on the Fujifilm X-T2.  The ability to easily pick up a lot of vintage lenses very cheaply means I can experiment with various focal lengths without forking out a fortune each time I want a new lens.  I managed to pick up the Auto Chinon 35mm 2.8 for about £20, so even if I tried the lens and hated it I could easily sell it on again with minimal loss.  Hopefully.

Abstract photography Science Centre Glasgow.jpg

I actually bought the lens on eBay a few months but just never got round to using it until recently.  It is a pretty decent copy with no obvious marks on the lens elements.  As expected the Chinon is a wee bit heavier than my modern Fujifilm primes but no real issue.  The aperture ring is nice and clicky so it was simple to select whatever aperture I needed.  The focus ring is also very smooth and worked well.

What I love about using vintage lenses is that they free me from the tyranny of perfect sharpness – certainly with cheaper lenses like this I will not achieve that anyway – but I find this means I am more willing to experiment with composition, textures, blur and abstraction.  I have also found myself shooting far more black and white photography (as I am sure you will be able to tell from the sample photos).

Textures on gravestone at Necropolis.jpg

I have only taken this lens out to use on two occasions but what struck me immediately was how awkward it felt using the 35mm focal length.  Most of my photography is taken at 23mm or below so 35mm just felt a bit off.  It took me at least 30 minutes before I felt I was ‘seeing’ properly with the lens.  This another reason I like trying out these lens as I can take myself out of my comfort zone by using focal lengths that I do not normally use.

The Auto Chinon is a nice lens.  For me, it worked especially well as a black and white lens.  The tonal range seemed pretty good to my eyes although it did lack contrast.  It also seemed to work very well in conjunction with Acros film simulations on the X-T2.  Colours were not particularly vibrant, although to be perfectly honest on both occasions the weather was dull and overcast meaning there was a dearth of colour available anyway.  At a price of around £20 the Auto Chinon 35mm 2.8 is a lens that is definitely worth seeking out.

Glasgow Science Centre exterior.jpg

If you any questions or comments regarding this lens please comment below.

For more information about the Auto Chinon 35mm 2.8 click here.

Can a photographer ever truly relax while on a family holiday?

Having just returned from a family trip to New York I now find myself in the midst of a marathon culling process.  With over 800 shots to work through it is slow work and at the moment the thought of ever returning to New York is something that has been placed in the furthest recesses of my tiny brain. To be honest, with so many images to sort through I pretty much feel as if I am still there.

Looking up at the The One World Trade Centre

Family holidays can be a difficult balancing for any photography enthusiast.  The problem is that my wife (yes, she does usually come up with these things!) has a terrible habit of arranging fantastic holidays in locations that are amazing for photography – could any photographer with a love for the urban environment really resist the allure of New York?

Switching off the photography brain completely and just enjoy the time together as a family is very difficult.  There is always something to shoot and it can be very difficult to watch these opportunities slide by.  I mean, I don’t know if I will ever be in the place again so how could I repel the need to photograph it?   

In the build up to our trip I genuinely wrestled with the idea going camera free and relying solely on my smartphone.  It was only around a week before we departed that I relented and decided to take along my Fujifilm x-t2 with a couple of prime lenses (the 23mm f2 and 50mm f2).

It should come as no surprise that I am delighted to have caved in and took my camera.  Even this kit was limiting for me so I can only imagine how frustrated I would have been with only a phone to work with.  Nonetheless, I still managed to take over 800 photographs so I guess the gear I had worked well enough!

What is your experience of family holidays as a photographer?  Can you manage to completely switch off or, like me, do you find yourself ‘photography brain’ constantly on?

Book review: Atlas of Brutalist Architecture (Phaidon)

Shortly after I purchased and reviewed the excellent This Brutal World (review here) I was made aware of an all-encompassing brutalist tome being constructed by the same publisher. Now available, Atlas of Brutalist Architecture (AoBA) is a colossus of a book.  In size, weight, scope, and content, the AoBA is an ode to brutalist architecture.  A lovingly crafted book by the Phaidon editorial team that is suitable for anyone who has affection for the often ostracized architectural style.

College Life Insurance Company Of America Headquarters, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, 1972. Picture credit: Courtesy of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates

College Life Insurance Company Of America Headquarters, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, 1972. Picture credit: Courtesy of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates

The book is arranged into nine different continental regions meaning if, for instance, your interest lies in Eastern European brutalism, you can easily navigate to the appropriate section.  By organising the book in this way the editors have shown how deeply the brutalist movement took root across the globe. 

The photography is excellent throughout and includes over 1000 gorgeous duotone photographs of 878 buildings from 102 countries.  The AoBA provides the reader with page after page of beautifully shot images, all of which come with accompanying explanatory text.  There is also a nice introduction providing an overview discussing the past, present, and future of the subject.

Rozzol Melara, Carlo Celli, Trieste, Italy, 1982. Picture credit: Roberto Conte

Rozzol Melara, Carlo Celli, Trieste, Italy, 1982. Picture credit: Roberto Conte

This is hardly a book you are going speed through in one sitting, rather the AoBA is book you can (and no doubt will) return to on numerous occasions for your architectural hit. Any volume of this size will always benefit from repeat viewing. 

At £100 this is an expensive book.  I am sure it will be available at a lower price by researching different sellers online but such a hefty price tag may dissuade certain buyers, especially those who are new in their appreciation to brutalist architecture.  That being said, I doubt anyone would need to purchase any other book on the subject.  Everything is here.

Stamp House, Charles Wright Architects, Cape Tribulation, Queensland, Australia, 2013. Picture credit: Patrick Bingham-Hall

Stamp House, Charles Wright Architects, Cape Tribulation, Queensland, Australia, 2013. Picture credit: Patrick Bingham-Hall

If you love big, bold, brutalist architecture then this big, bold, brutalist book is a must. The photography is excellent and effectively displays the breadth of architectural styles found within the brutalist movement.  Brutalist architecture can be imposing, industrial, delicate, ornate, and beautiful, and it is all here in this single book.

More information about the Atlas of Brutalist Architecture and more images can be found here

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DETAILS: Title: Atlas of Brutalist Architecture. Author: Phaidon Editors. Format: Hardback. Size: 340mm x 240mm (13 3/8 x 9 1/2 in). Pages: 560pp. Illustrations: 1000 illustrations. ISBN: 9780714875668. Publisher: Phaidon

Glasgow in Bits: the small things that make up the big city
Glasgow in Bits back street of the city

Glasgow in Bits is an on-going project where I document the often neglected aspects of architecture in and around Glasgow.  Derelict buildings, small architectural details, textures, shapes, graffiti and Glasgow’s unloved back streets will all be included.  The photographs will be varied in style and scope but will highlight the little details scattered around the city the come together to create the city as a whole.