Queen’s Quarter, Belfast

I’ve always had mixed feelings towards the Queen’s area in Belfast.  I grew up around this part of Belfast and it’s got an undoubted charm, but as a graduate of the University, studying there was nothing special – dull and uninspiring, even.  Maybe it’s an age thing but I’ve had much more productive learning through part time study and of course, through life experience.

Still, it’s one of the city’s nicest areas for a walk with the camera.  These were shot on a Canon T70 (underrated and not the slightest bit ugly) and Ilford HP5+, not too grainy and a pleasure to scan.

Welcome to Queens
Inside the Lanyon building
Along the quadrangle


Queen’s has Belfast’s leading Art House Cinema and while there’s always an eclectic mix of films on show, the seating is most uncomfortable and at my last visit, I surprisingly witnessed numerous Wittertainment Code Violations.

Elmwood Hall
Theological College for non-factual study…
The ever popular city bikes
But is it art..
Play School windows
Tree-lined University Road
Quadrangle archway

The Home of GAA

Croke Park, Dublin

For those born into a particular community in Northern Ireland, one tends to follow a certain ‘conditioning’ in what’s ‘ours’ and what’s ‘theirs’. If the community is the British facing one, then in my experience there’s a lot to miss out on during one’s formative years and beyond.

One large cultural gap in my life experience was that of the world of Gaelic sports – the GAA and its components of football, hurling and camogie. Thankfully that has been rectified and I enjoy going to a gaelic football or hurling game almost as much as going to a (proper) football match.  (‘Soccer’ is not a word I care for…)

A must-see on any visit to Dublin is a guided tour of Croke Park and the GAA museum.  The sport itself is dynamic, athletic and with an admirable amateur ethos at its core –  and a history and culture inextricably linked with the evolution of the Irish state.

I took a visit out of season with a roll of Tri-X loaded in that neglected design icon of the 1980s, the Canon T70.

Croke Park, Dublin
St Joseph’s Avenue, Dublin – arriving at Croke Park
Croke Park, Dublin
the other Gaelic sport
Croke Park, Dublin
Welcome to Croke Park

The GAA has a presence throughout Irish society where the sports are at the heart of community.  The role of the clubs can be seen throughout the ground and museum.

Croke Park, Dublin
the county clubs

Michael Cusack, the GAA founder – marked by statue and stand.

Croke Park, Dublin
Michael Cusack, founder of the GAA

Hill 16  – once named Hill 60 based on an Irish regiment of the British Army – renamed to reflect the legacy of 1916.   No  large stand at this end – it’s in a residential area after all.

Croke Park, Dublin
Hill 16

Croke Park holds over 82,000  It’s an Irish Nou Camp

Croke Park, Dublin
the Davin stand meets the Hogan stand
Croke Park, Dublin
The Iconic County Shirts – colour slide film may have been better

The museum itself is one of the best presented sports museums I’ve visited.

Croke Park, Dublin
Museum entrance
Croke Park, Dublin
GAA Museum
Croke Park, Dublin
from the Hall of Fame to Government.  Former Irish Prime Minister, Jack Lynch

Many stadia and clubs have tours and a museum although perhaps only Nou Camp in Barcelona  compares with Croke Park in having a historical context and cultural significance beyond the sport itself.

Croke Park, Dublin
Replica trophies for the selfies – Hogan stand
Croke Park, Dublin
that was Croke Park

The Ricoh KR-5: SLR Minimalism.

feel the love for the KR5

The resurgence in film photography, especially with younger photographers has led to a sharp increase in the price of old film cameras.   In 2008 I bought a mint Nikon L35AF for a measly £3 . With the ascendancy of DSLRs and Mirrorless systems, people couldn’t get rid of their film gear quickly enough.

10 years on and classic compacts, SLRs, rangefinders and medium format cameras go for premium prices, although only for certain cameras with a certain cachet.  Cameras like the Canon AE1, Olympus MjuII, Pentax 67, Mamiya 7, anything Contax or Leica all seem to be a costly camera of choice for the affluent young blogger or YouTuber.

I however grew up on a Praktica MTL3 and whatever cheap M42 lenses I could get, and even though I progressed to the heights of Praktica B mount and aperture priority exposure, I still have a fondness for a more budget approach to film photography.

So while looking on the EBay for a 28mm lens to go with a battered but working Pentax K1000 rescued from impending landfill, I managed to obtain for the princely sum of a tenner:

  • A mint Ricoh KR-5 with 50mm  f2 Riconar lens
  • A Sirius 28mm lens
  • A Sirius 135mm lens
  • An olive green Miranda bag
  • A wee sync cable
  • A blower brush (essential for negative scanning)
    I don’t think I’ve ever felt as pleased with myself.

The KR5 it should be said is a basic beginners camera of the most utilitarian order. But my god it’s beautiful.  A solid mix of metal body and plastic casing  – the name and model is cut into the plastic, none of your sticker nonsense here – it has a solid, unfussy design.

It’s jet black – front, back and top with minimal controls.  You get a shutter dial, film speed dial, lever advance and shutter release button (threaded for cable release).  A self-timer on the front and that’s your lot.   Even the shutter speed dial keeps it basic.  No wide range of speeds either..

Complex state of the Art controls

A modest fastest speed of 1/500th is complemented by a slowest of 1/8th with B the only setting below this. So any milky water shots, you’re on B and counting.  In reality of course if you’re street shooting or doing a photo-walk, this is going to cover most situations unless you’re using Ilford Delta 3200 on a bright summer day.  Equally in the studio under flash – sync of 1/60th, lens at f8 and set the lights accordingly.

Exposure is measured through a simple CdS exposure meter powered by two G13/SR44 batteries.  A useful feature is that the meter only works when the lever is half-cocked to show the red dot as seen above.  Unlike the Pentax K1000 whose meter is always on and needs a lens cap on to stop battery drain, the exposure is only read when the lever is in this position.

Simplicity is extended through to the viewfinder screen.

Ricoh viewfinder
Underexposed Rhein and bridge

It’s big, bright and has a needle that moves up and down.  No LED’s or even +/-  indicators.  When it’s in the middle you’re good to go.  Even the focussing circle in the centre is unfussy and is clear to see when you’re in focus.

And that’s the KR-5.  Next step is to load film and shoot.


Kentmere 100 using studio flash.  50mm lens
Drummer, Grafton Street. Dublin
Grafton Street, Dublin.  Tri-X 400.  135mm lens
dublin larkin
O’Connell Street, Dublin.  Tri-X 400.  28mm lens
Kaiserswerth, Germany.  Kentmere 400.  50mm lens

And that’s the Ricoh KR-5 in all its wonderful simplicity.  You may ask what’s the difference between it and any of the numerous other manual SLR’s of the 1970’s and 80’s and there’s undoubtedly more sophisticated, desirable cameras out there, cameras with greater versatility and even ones with more than 7 shutter speeds.

It’s strength is in the simplicity of use and its limited options and functionality which puts the onus on the photographer.  It combines Eastern Bloc utilitarianism with a bit of Japanese reliability and sleeker design.  It’s not too heavy, the shutter’s not too loud and the solid black look and stripped back functionality make it the Johnny Cash of cameras.

And you can pick them up for next to nothing.

O Fortuna 2.

Inside the Espirit Arena – after the ticketing and bratwurst purchases – every seat seems to have a perfect view of the pitch.  And no-one seemed mind a visitor shooting with an old film camera.

km400de1_001 fd1
The civilised German approach to bottled beer in the stadium
km400de1_014 fd8
Sky Bundesliga
km400de1_009 fd3
km400de1_011 fd2

km400de1_017 fd buk
when they come, they come together…

Ricoh KR-5
Kentmere 400

O Fortuna. Part 1

Fortuna Dusseldorf
Toni Turek.  Fortuna’s most famous player – and goalkeeper in the 1954 Miracle of Bern West Germany world cup winning team

When travelling it’s always a pleasure to check out a local football club.  On a visit to Düsseldorf, the grandly named Fortuna Düsseldorf were playing the lowly 1. FC Heidenheim 1846.  Or  Düsseldorfer Turn- und Sportverein Fortuna 1895 to give the home side their full unedited title.  (The book Tor! by Uli Hesse explains the background to the glorious naming conventions of German football).

As to the match itself, it was a cracking 2-2 draw ending up with a mass brawl between both teams,  coaches and substitutes –  and a referee who clearly lost control and the general ability to referee a football match.

From a photographic point of view however, armed with a 1970’s Ricoh KR-5 and a few prime lenses, it was going to be some documentary shots to give a flavour of the matchday experience.

Fortuna Dusseldorf
Industrial estate setting

The Espirit Arena is a big multi-function trade fair venue (Messe) and sports arena in an anonymous looking industrial estate.  It does however hold over 54,000 and the Rolling Stones have played here.  For a 2nd tier yoyo club, it’s an impressive home stadium.

And with typical German efficiency, getting to the ground and around the stadium couldn’t be easier.

Fortuna Dusseldorf
Fortuna Station (ESPIRIT Arena / Messe Nord)

The regular train service connects the city centre and the stadium with a loop to get the train heading back out again while the next train comes in.

Fortuna Dusseldorf
End of the line – train heads straight back out again

Unlike many city centre stadia, there’s plenty of space when crowds start to arrive – ticketing and queing is all very efficient.

Fortuna Dusseldorf
Pick your seat
Fortuna Dusseldorf
Then buy the ticket

Of course, being in Germany the onsite food and drink is top quality and decently priced.

Fortuna Dusseldorf
My Club, My Stadium, My Sausage.

The last pre-match task – the Club Shop. For a hat.

Fortuna Dusseldorf
Fortuna Fan Shop

Kit:   The robust and utilitarian Ricoh KR5, 50mm f2 lens and a roll of Kentmere 400

Contains Flash Photography

Every so often it’s good to do a studio shoot using a few flash heads.  I’ve nothing grand – a cobbled collection of eBay-sourced Interfit units with cheap backdrops and stands. It’s a basic setup with a soft-box facing the sitter and two units at 45 degrees on to the white cloth, then using a black backdrop with a soft-box and brolly two-light arrangement.

Lighting setup
the budget setup..

To make things interesting, the session with my good friend and singer/songwriter/guitarist Thomas, was to be captured on full-frame digital ( Canon 6D) and on 35mm black and white film (Kentmere 100) using mid 70’s basic manual camera, the Ricoh KR-5.  Without a flash meter, the plan was to get a setting on the 6D that looked ok, then set something similar on the Ricoh.  So 1/125 at f8 – then play about with the lights.

First up – some low key against the black backdrop,

softbox, brolly fill and 85mm lens
single light with soft-box

Then a white backdrop with the softbox straight on.

key – no guitar
and with guitar

Next up was a repeat of this lighting with the Ricoh. It’s a very basic but solidly built mechanical SLR. And it did ok

tones ok  – but scanning a bit off round the face
look forward to the darkroom print…
getting there…
35mm close up glory

As is often the case, scanning a low key image is a bit tricky  – the real test will be darkroom print – but the high keys portraits on the Ricoh were near the mark with the full frame Canon digital.

So a quick photo shoot to compare digital and 35mm black and white film.  Next will be to compare negative scanning with a darkroom print scan as well as an indepth look at using the Ricoh.

Indiana Wants Me

I’ve had the good fortune to visit the US on 3 separate occasions in recent years – and most of that time has been spent in Indiana.
These were working visits – it’s one of the more unlikely holiday destinations if you’re heading across the Atlantic but it has a quiet charm and warm feeling that makes me want to return.


The city of Indianapolis is a smart place with an accessible downtown area, the speedway and is home to my weekly dose of NFL.

P6273270View from Monument Circle
Capitol Building
Monument Circle

Upstate (Downstate..?)

I spent quite a while at two of the state’s Universities – Ball State and Taylor – and travelled around some unheralded places.

Headin down south. Upland, IN
A poor man’s Stephen Shore. Muncie, IN
The Middle. Surrounded by corn
another photogenic gas station (petrol as we call it..)
The big sky around Matthews Restaurant, Matthews, IN
Welcome to Matthews
Old trucks and primary colours. OK, ‘colors…’
Grain Truck, Matthews

Gas City – the smallest ‘city’ I’ve ever been to, but home to Friday speedway. Noise, fumes and fried food.

The home of motor racing
Gas city Speedway
Gas City bunting

One of the most striking visual features I noticed was the signage. Sometimes grander than the actual place, sometimes unintentionaly funny but something we’ve lost over here.

The King of Pizza
It was closed, but I would’ve had a good time here
Free panties on Friday night, Fort Wayne, IN

Baseball. If ever a sport is more enjoyable watching live rather than on TV, it’s baseball. This was my first experience at Fort Wayne.

Parkview Field, Home of the Tin Caps
Uncontroversial kneeling

I hope to go back to Indiana next time I visit the US. It’s an unassuming place with warm, friendly people, incredibly photogenic and seems to exude a laid back form of conservatism. Sometimes, though you have to be immodest, especially if you are the best damn sports bar.

Simply the best. Blu 49