Revolution! Michael Collins

Walk around any of the main Dublin tourist areas and you’ll see 1916.  The major exhibitions/tours at the National Museum and Kilmainham, the GPO and its exhibition, murals and pubs with photos covering their frontages and prominent places named after the leaders – eg Pearse, Connolly and Heuston stations to name a few.  Over recent decades and particularly around the centenary in 2016, the Easter Rising has been elevated to the pivotal event in Irish history leading to independence and the establishment of the Republic.  Less visible, however is the legacy of the War of Independence from 1919-21 and the subsequent civil war between Pro and Anti treaty forces.

Central to this was Michael Collins – holder of various government posts in the revolutionary republic but effectively the mastermind in the guerrilla war against the British and signatory to the treaty establishing the Free State. He is probably the leading figure in modern Irish history yet perhaps due to the treaty and it’s aftermath and his assassination by anti-treaty forces, his presence around the capital city is a bit muted.

Bust of Michael Collins
Michael Collins. (Canon T50/Kentmere 400)

There’s no statue or memorial other than this less than flattering bust in Merrion Square alongside Oscar Wilde and Bernardo O’Higgins.

The old British Army barracks was renamed Collins Barracks in 1922 and now houses a main site of the National Museum, but there’s little of his presence at the site other than his name.

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Collins Barracks, National Museum.   (Olympus OM20/Kodak Tri-X)

There is, however a memorial to his chief of staff and future Fine Gael leader, Richard Mulcahy.

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Richard Mulcahy bust, Collin Barracks.  (Olympus OM20/Tri-X)

Ironically, the most prominent site relating to Michael Collins is his grave at the Glasnevin Cemetery just outside the city centre. Vying for the centre of attention among the great and good (and ordinary) of Irish history, Collins’ grave is one of the most visited and tended-to at Glasnevin.

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Michael Collins grave – English script
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Michael Collins grave – Irish script


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Michael Collins grave and headstone, Glasnevin

(all shot on Olympus OM20 and Ilford HP5)
As Ireland prepares for its next round of centenary commemorations, perhaps Michael Collins will be able to find centre stage in the country’s capital.

Suitable for Students. The K1000

The Pentax K1000 is always declared to be the camera to learn photography.  But is it any different from any other manual camera?

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I never owned a K1000 in the analogue days, I was a Praktica user – a fully manual MTL3, a selection of Pentacon primes and a telephoto zoom from Boots.  Yet even then, it was the K1000 if you were serious about learning photography – Zenits and Prakticas were only for those on a budget.

With a rejuvenated interested in film and a mission to acquire cheap stuff from eBay, I still wasn’t tempted by the K1000 due to the often inflated prices compared to similar spec’d cameras from the likes of Chinon and Ricoh.  Then I was given a well used K1000 about to be binned as it didn’t work.  Well it did – the mirror was sticking up  – a squirt of 3-in-one down the wee rod under the baseplate sorted that and I was the finally the owner of a Pentax K1000.

First things first – it doesn’t have the “Asahi” mark above the Pentax on the prism, so it’s obviously one of the later Chinese models – not as good, apparently.  And the lens is an A series f2, again I could’ve done better.  Would it, however,  be the Praktica killer?

Well, it does look nice and doesn’t have the weight of the Praktica and less of a recoil when you press the button.  The lens was pretty sharp across the apertures and the viewfinder clear and uncluttered.

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nicely under-elaborate

There’s a simple + or – for the meter reading. And here is the first niggle with the K1000. The meter is always on through the lens. If you don’t have a lens cap, the battery is going to drain quickly. So I have a lens cap.

And the next .. thing.  The shutter wind lever sits fairly neat with the shutter selector so changing shutter speed isn’t as freely done as it could be.

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Compared to the Ricoh KR5 and it’s lever-resting position for both metering and selecting shutter (albeit with a smal range of speeds) these quirks would surely affect the K1000’s legendary status?

Anyway – would it work with a roll of film.  With a roll of Kentmere 400 loaded, I took a walk around Dublin.

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Pope Merch – Francis was in town
pope queue
queueing for the Pope-bound Luas
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others weren’t so bothered about the papal visit
Dublin bikes
dublin bikes.  Dublin
Dublin Arlington Hotel
Arlington Hotel – the Celtic Nights show is great craic here

 

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Barrels.  Probably Guinness

 

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Oysters no doubt served here.

So a quick photo walk with the K1000.  And the verdict?  It’s perfectly fine.  The design quirks aside it’s nice to use, looks and feels well and  – well that’s about it for me.  It’s a competent performer, I certainly don’t dislike it and would definitely use it again.  Is it the student camera?  It certainly fits the bill but you’re going to get much better value buying other less celebrated names and at 30/40 years old, reliability is hit and miss with any make.  I’m not going to sell the Prakticas just yet.

Not Overly Complicated: The Canon T50

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Welcome to the 1980s

I never intended to buy a Canon T50. I had rescued a T70 body from impending landfill, and after a clean and new set of batteries, it seemed to work. Needing a lens, the typical eBay rate for a 50mm f1.8 was around £30-£40 quid. So as is often the case, I ended up buying one attached to camera for a tenner. In this case the camera was the T50.

While the AE-1 and AE-1 Program had wowed the market since the mid-70’s (and continues to do so as a regular hipster choice – and at hipster prices), 1983 saw the release of a new Canon entry in the beginners market.  Gone was the sleek-lined black and chrome look the AE1/AV1 shared with it’s competitors in the Olympus OM and Pentax M ranges, and its simple, classic engraved logo .  Instead we were given the future of camera design.  It was big and chunky, plastic, noisy and a more flashy screen-printed logo.  Welcome to the Eighties.

The T range is considered to be a bit of an ugly aberration in the Canon SLR series – a short lived 1980s mistake between the classic A series and the EOS range of cameras which evolved into the DSLRs of today.   In a non-revisionist opinion however (as a young Praktica user in 1983 I seriously wanted one of these..) I have to say the T50 is not the ugly duckling of popular opinion but a beautiful design classic of the era.

It’s certainly a bit on the minimalist side.

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The new logo

It has a big black shutter button, a function selector wheel, film rewind lever, a hotshoe and a big black thumb grip.

When I say function selector though, it’s more of an on-off button.  The T50 is (almost) a fully automatic  point and shoot camera.  ‘L’ is off and ‘PROGRAM’ is on.  BC checks the battery and ‘SELF’ is the 10 second self timer, which operates in ‘PROGRAM’ mode.

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the various functions..

And PROGRAM is a glorious unknown.  There is no indication of aperture or shutter speed other than the sound of the mirror slap giving you an idea of duration.  You do have a viewfinder warning where the ‘P’ indicating PROGRAM mode flashes when you’re going to get camera shake.  Or need a flash.

The other manual intervention is setting film speed.  There’s a dial in the usual place.

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manual intervention – film speed

There is a slight opportunity for manual control. The A setting on the lens is for fully auto operation. But when you move this to an aperture setting, the camera responds with a shutter speed of 1/60th. No metering indication other than an ‘M’ for manual in the viewfinder, so you’re on Sunny 16 for this.

And that’s as complicated as the T50 gets.  It takes AA batteries (thank you Canon), has a remote control socket (don’t have a remote control) and takes a dedicated flash (included in my £10 bundle).    The other thing about the T50 in addition to its opinion-dividing looks is the audio.  Its built-in auto winder is one noisy fecker – no Leica street photography stealth with this camera, it’ll definitely attract the attention.  Especially if you keep the shutter button pressed where it’ll go off on a 1.4fps continuous burst.

Using it is a blast.  Stick in a roll of film, compose and focus the nicely sharp Canon 50mm 1.8 and press the button. I used  Kentmere 400 to ensure decent shutter speeds in what was overcast weather.  I was pleased with the results.

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Menu includes drink
oneills
O’Neill’s, Dublin
Hairy Lemon Dublin
The Hairy Lemon, Dublin
el campello statue
Sculpty thing, El Campello, Spain
but is it art
but is it Art?  Dublin
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Three trees on a beach.  Costa Blanca, Spain
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Bernardo O’Higgins, Liberator of Chile.  His Da was from Sligo

And that’s the Canon T50.  A big beautiful point and shoot with a Canon FD lens.  It’ll wind on for you but you need to manually rewind.  It has manual control but only at 1/60th and no metering.  You can get it for the fraction of the price of an AE-1 or AV-1.  But don’t use late at night – you might wake the neighbours.

Ueno Park, that’s where I’ve been

what did you do there? I took photos

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Kaneiji Temple, Ueno Park

Ueno Park is a large green space in central Tokyo and a great place for a walk around the city with the camera. There’s temples, museum, a zoo, entertainment – including Taiko drumming blogged here, flea markets and plenty of people. It’s also beside a large shopping area, the Ameyoko Shopping Street so you can easily fill a day here. And like Tokyo there’s any number of JR and metro stations in the area to get here.

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Another Kimono photo
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Ameyoko shopping
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Oul lads, Ameyoko
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Blind among the flowers
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Oul lad in the park
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Strange cabbage-like plants, Ueno Park
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Flea Market bargains
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Seller of weird shit, Ueno Park

All shot on the Nikon F60 and Kentmere 400 or Kodak Tri-X

Tokyo: Shinjuku and Ginza

It’s busy…acros_tokyo_shinjuku_shopping

Compared to Northern Ireland, Tokyo is an assault on the senses – the crowds, the skyline, the neon – and I love it. Another major difference is the abundance of camera stores and the availability of second hand kit and film. I stocked up on Fuji Acros 35mm – at about 60% of the UK price. (as news arrives of its imminent disappearance..)

Shinjuku and Ginza are districts that don’t seem to stop and are probably most like the image many people have of Tokyo before visiting.  There’s the architecture…

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Curvy Tokyo
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braided Tokyo

The taxis are classy looking 80’s styled Toyotas. They are however bloody expensive, so it was exterior shots only.

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Tokyo Taxis, Ginza

There are many eating options – local as well as global burgers

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stand up for the sushi, Shinjuku

And claw grabbing is a local pastime..

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restocking the minions

Of course, at some point Godzilla was going to make an appearance

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Cinema and Godzilla, Shinjuku

Kit was Fuji Acros 100 and the ever reliable Nikon F60.

Tokyo: Taiko

Taiko is traditional Japanese ensemble drumming – a full-on percussion experience with visuals to match.  These were shot in Ueno Park, Tokyo on a Sunday afternoon but there are all sorts of shows, classes and competitions to go and watch and take part in Taiko.

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A wee hand held drum
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Traditionally a male dominated art – not any longer.
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A  chū-daiko. 

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Calm before the storm

These shots were taken on Kentmere 400 film – cheap and cheerful but very grainy on scanning (they do sit nice and flat though..).

It does however do a much nicer darkroom print.

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very ungrainy darkroom print – Ilford Multigrade RC Matt

And of course, when in Tokyo – give it a go yourself.

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Me and Taiko teacher Oskar.  He’s the one on the right…

Kit: Nikon F60 with Kentmere 400.
Me and Oskar shot on a Huawei phone

Tokyo: Street Portraits

Candid street portraits are one thing – asking to take a picture is another.  And there’s no harm in asking, especially if the subject is willing or doing something to attract attention.

The Noodle King
The Noodle King.  Shinjuku, Tokyo

Or if you’ve just had the third consecutive lunch in his restaurant.  The Shinjuku district of Tokyo is coming down with cafes and restaurants – many at inflated tourist prices.  There are however plenty of cheap noodle bars – often without any English menus or signage.  This particular place had a vending machine to select from a picture which then printed out a ticket.  You give the ticket to the guy in the photo and he’s cooks up some noodles.  No need to speak – just some positive body language, a smile and a thumbs-up.  After the third day, I asked to take the photo.  He obliged.

Free Gag.  Gag is innocent
Free Gag.  Gag is innocent

Then there are those who are on public display.  The guy above hangs around Shibuya station with his signs.  Other than that I’ve no idea what he’s about, but he likes his photo taken.

The girl below was intent on selling me a t shirt.  I resisted.  I’m a bit old for Mickey Mouse which she seemed to eventually agree.

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she sells T shirts by Shibuya

All above shot on the Nikon F60 and Fuji Acros 100.  Having an old film camera also seems to help with street portraits