Easy like Sunday morning

While I was wandering around Victoria Quays on Sunday morning, wondering where the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was, I spotted what looked like a nice composition of the wharf area. As I was about to take the picture, this chap (who was with his kids and, I think, also looking for the motorbikes) walked into the shot and I think has improved it by adding a bit of human interest.

The scene brought to mind the old Halifax cashcard advert from the 1980s – this one here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7nFru5iQg0

FILM - Easy like Sunday morning

Yashica Mat 124 G & Kodak Tri-X (Expired December 2006).

Taken on 24 September 2017

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Victoria Quays part #3

This is the third and (I think) final post regarding last Sunday’s walk around Victoria Quays in Sheffield. The first two parts can be found in the links below.

Part #1

Part #2

The main difference in the shots posted in this piece is that they were shot with a different camera – a Minolta Hi-Matic G2 – and on colour negative film – Agfa Vista Plus 200. I picked the camera up a few months back for £2 when I saw it in a box of compact cameras at a camera fayre. All the items in the box cost £2 each and I ended up with three of them: the Minolta, a Konica Pop, and an Olympus Superzoom 105G. I like to have a camera on me when going out even if not specifically to take photographs, and small compacts like this are ideal for the purpose. I’ve used a number of them over the past six months or so, usually just loading them with a roll of film and then chucking them in a coat pocket to be used in the event that something interesting turns up while I’m out and about.

I always use Agfa Vista Plus 200 as the first film through a newly acquired camera for the simple reason that it can be had for £1 a roll at Poundland (or at least it could, recent developments have revealed that Poundland are to stop stocking the film) and I’d rather that, if the camera turns out to be faulty, I waste a cheap roll of film than some more expensive Tri-X or Portra or something. That said, despite its low-cost, I do like the results the film gives, especially in bright, sunny conditions, and it has a slight magenta tone to it that I think looks nice.

The Minolta is quite a nice little camera. It’s pretty no frills, being a zone-focus camera with little manual control other than setting the focus distance via the lens barrel. It’s very similar to an Olympus Trip 35, but has the advantage of having the distance scale as well as the icons on top of the barrel (the Trip has the icons on the top only, and the distance scale beneath the barrel, which is a little awkward if you’ve not memorized them and can’t remember just how far away the head-and-shoulders icon represents). I also prefer the wind lever on the Minolta to the Trips’ thumb-wheel winder. It’s not as nice looking as the Trip 35 though, but it still has its own charm and it feels nice in the hand. The lens is a 38mm f/2.8 and is nice and sharp. Out of the 25 frames I got from the roll, none is out of focus, a testament to my skill in measuring distances (or perhaps that they were almost all shot in bright conditions and the narrower aperture would’ve covered my mistakes!). The camera’s aperture is set automatically but can be seen through the viewfinder on applying a half-press of the shutter button, giving an idea as to the results you will get from the shot. The camera takes a discontinued 1.35v mercury cell, but mine has a 1.5v inserted and I just compensated by setting the ASA dial two-thirds of a stop slower so that the camera thought I was shooting 125 ASA film rather than the 200 ASA roll that was inside, and the exposures are all pretty much spot on.

These shots were taken after finishing off the roll of Fomapan 200 in the Yashica Mat, and are mostly from the walk away from the canal basin and onto the beginning of the canal proper. I’ll not post every shot I took, but the ones here give a flavour of it and some indication of what this little camera can produce.

The first is of a boat used for cruises up and down the canal – I think they have discos and dining onboard sometimes. I’ve heard of people going on these events but have never done so myself.

FILM - I.B. Hardfeet

The next couple are of the Sheaf Quay building (I also posted a shot of this taken with the Yashica Mat 124 G in part #2).

FILM - Sheaf Quay in colour

FILM - Sheaf Quay in colour-2

Next is a random barge. The shot above was taken from the towpath just in front of this boats’ bows.

FILM - Barge

The next shot is still on Agfa Vista Plus 200, but converted to black & white in Lightroom. I think the contrasts of light and shade suit mono better than the colour original.

FILM - Chimneystack

Just beyond the chimney stack and under the next bridge, I took a couple of shots of other boats, one in the water (I like the wavy, geometric reflections of the building in this shot), and another up on the opposite bank of the canal.

FILM - Planet

FILM - Little Pud

I took a few more shots in this area before walking back to the canal basin and back to the car park. I had to wait for a short time while a man the manually operated swing bridge that joins the north and south parts of the quay. Just on the opposite bank is a bicycle used to advertise a local second-hand shop. Again, I took a similar shot (albeit of a different bike) with the Yashica Mat which can be seen in part #2.

FILM - Emmaus

The final shot of the day was taken as I walked through the car-park back to my car. I liked the way the sunlight was falling on the space between the alternating decks of the car park and so grabbed the shot below. Again, I think this works better in black and white.

FILM - Between levels

All-in-all, the little Minolta is a nice camera. I’m pleased with the results and will likely use it again at some point. I don’t think it really offers anything the Olympus Trip 35 doesn’t also provide, but it’s enjoyable to use. Certainly well worth the £2 I paid for it!

Victoria Quays part #2

Part #1 of this trip to Victoria Quays can be found here.

Following on from my last post, this documents the next section of the outing (and presents the remaining seven shots taken with the Yashica Mat 124 G).

After walking around the wharf buildings, I ventured to the area surrounding the canal basin. This is the terminus of the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal and a mooring point for a number of narrow-boats and other small vessels, including a few used for commercial use (canal trips and the like). The canal was opened in 1819 and links the centre of Sheffield to the point at which the River Don (which also runs through the city) becomes navigable at Tinsley. It’s a relatively short canal, being approximately four miles in length. The canal’s route takes it through the heart of the city’s industrialised east-end which was formerly the site for a large number of steel foundries and associated works. While Sheffield still retains a notable steel industry, it’s vastly diminished from its heyday, and where once large steel-mills stood, there are now retail parks, shopping malls, sports facilities and modern industrial parks. I didn’t venture more than a couple of hundred yards from the canal basin on the day though.

The fist shot of this batch was taken next to the Straddle Wharf building (seen in the last blog post), and was of a small cabin-cruiser type vessel (I know very little about boats, so please forgive my ignorance, and excuse any errors I might make in my descriptions). The boat had some nice reflections on its hull from the sunlit ripple on the water that were being stirred by an occasional breeze, and stood overshadowed by the new Hilton hotel building to the rear.  A little cruelly, I thought to myself that it looked like Sheffield’s cut-rate answer to Monaco, and took the shot.

FILM - Just like Monaco...

There were narrow-boats moored along the water’s edge where I walked and so I took a couple of shots of those, one taken head on (I like this shot, but the floating carrier bag in the water maybe isn’t the best thing to have included int he shot, eh?), the other with faded but attractive Chinese characters on its side.

FILM - Floating

FILM - Barges with character(s)

Further along the canal is a hand-operated swing-bridge which has some wooden “buffers” set into the water to prevent collisions from any approaching vessels. Atop one of these wooden structures were a couple of ducks having an afternoon nap.

FILM - Let sleeping ducks lie

There were a couple of similarly sleepy ducks sat on the edge of the towpath close-by too. I tried to take their picture, but one of them woke up with a quiet, but slightly alarmed quack as I got in close to focus. I would still have gotten the shot, but then a couple walked past talking loudly and scuffing their feet on the floor and the awakened duck made a bolt for the safety of the water. Despite the other duck remaining, the moment was lost.

The next shot looks up the towpath. The iron bridge to the rear of the shot (behind the chimney stack) formerly carried the railway lines into and through Victoria Station. The station and line were closed in 1970 following the Beeching Axe.

FILM - Towpath

Just visible in the shot above is the subject of the next shot, the Sheaf Quay or Sheaf Works building, a former cutlery works built in 1823 but now home to telemarketing firms.

FILM - Sheaf Quay

The final shot of the roll was taken back near the swing-bridge and is of one of a number of bicycles used to advertise a local second-hand store. The shot has been cropped due to a mark on the negative (akin to a staple hole – this is the second time this has occurred with a roll of Fomapan 200. It has never happened with other film stocks, so I’m wondering what the cause might be?). The 6×4.5 crop still works ok I think, but the “No Fishing” sign on the wall in the upper left of the frame has been lost as a result.

FILM - Emmaus Second Hand Superstore

So, there’s the last of this particular roll of 120 film. Fomapan is pretty cheap in comparison with Ilford and Kodak stocks, but I’m not unhappy with the way it looks. I have found that it tends to have scratches on some frames though and a number of small black speckle marks, plus the issue I’ve had with the strange holes in the last frames of both rolls I’ve shot so far. I’ll certainly be likely to use it again in future (I have a roll left still, so there will definitely be at least one more outing for it).

I still have a lot of shots taken on the same trip but using my Minolta Hi-Matic G2, so those will appear on here before too long. They’re in colour too, so that will make a change for the blog!

Victoria Quays part #1

Saturday was tied up this weekend with various jobs to be done, so I had little time for any photography, but Sunday dawned with bright weather that looked like it might have promise, should I decide to take advantage. However, despite a desire to make use of the available time to take photos, I was also feeling lazy, with a conflicting need to just sit on my backside watching TV and reading books. And, for a while, this secondary need prevailed as, after my dad’s usual Sunday morning visit, the cloud cover had thickened considerably, draining much of the contrast from the world outside. Now, I don’t mind dull or inclement weather where photography is concerned – in fact it can be a positive boon in some cases – but I wasn’t really feeling it at the time and so the pull of the settee won out.

After dinner (I’m from Yorkshire, so “dinner” is actually the midday meal around these parts, and what others would call “dinner” is actually “tea” – not the drink, the evening meal) the weather had perked up again, the clouds had thinned back to large puffs of cumulus, and the light was bright. Not exactly golden-hour stuff, but suitable enough to jump in the car and head out for an hour of two. I’d already planned on a destination in the event of going out, and so off I went to Sheffield’s canal basin and wharf, now known as Victoria Quays (presumably because they lie just below the site of the former Victoria Station and adjacent Royal Victoria Hotel.

I took a couple of cameras with me – the Yashica Mat 124 G, and a Minolta Hi-Matic G2 that I’ve been chucking in my pocket when I go out, and I’ll split the results over a few blog posts as I get round to uploading the photos (12 frames from the Yashica, and 24 from the Minolta – although not all the Minolta shots were from Sunday).

I parked the car in the multi-storey adjacent to the canal basin. The last time I parked here I made the mistake of trying to use the lift / stairwell to get to ground level, only to discover the lifts to be out of service, all other doors locked, and the entire area stinking like something from hell that had been slowly baking in the heat radiating through the glass windows. This time, for the sake of my nose, I parked on a lower floor and just walked down the ramps..

The exit near where I was parked opened onto the north quay, a pleasant, cobbled area with benches looking out onto the canal basin and backed onto shops built into stone arches. Most of the shops appear to be disused at present, although there is a cafe that was making the most of the passing trade, and a number of people were sat outside with coffees and ice-creams. It’s a shame that more of the shops are not in use, but I think that the conversion of a lot of the surrounding buildings to residential units has perhaps not taken off as much as the developers hoped, and so there is not enough passing footfall at present. It’s a shame as it’s a nice enough place, but it’s a little off the beaten track from the town centre.

I decided to look around the wharf area first, and it’s the shots that I took there that will be shown in this post. The canal basin shots will come in another post, and then maybe a couple more containing the Hi-Matic shots.

The first shot I took was of the Straddle Wharf building itself. I’d have liked to have gotten more of the building in shot, but the fixed focal length of the lens, and lack of other vantage points meant this was the best I could get. I’ve cropped the shot slightly to remove a bit of sky at top-right, and I like the skewed symmetry that now results between the light and dark sections of the shot.

FILM - Canal wharf, Sheffield

The next shot was taken a few metres from the first, this time looking in the opposite direction towards Merchant’s Crescent, a terrace of houses originally inhabited ny coal merchants, but not re-developed into residential units. Again, this is cropped (to 6:4.5 ratio this time), partly to remove a small wedge of a building that encroached from the left of the image, and also because I didn’t feel the large expanse of mostly clear sky added anything to the top of the frame. I don’t mind negative space, but it wasn’t doing anything for me here. Sadly, I think the crop is now a little too tight at the left of the frame, but there was nothing much I could do with it apart from removing large chunks of stuff with Photoshop. Lesson for self – pay better attention to the viewfinder next time, eh?!

FILM - Merchant's Crescent

Walking past Merchant’s Crescent brings you to the front of the Grain Warehouse, where the next two shots were taken. The first is of a ninety-year-old weighbridge. I liked the way that the sun was casting the manufacturer’s mark into relief. I’d have preferred a shallower depth of field for this shot but the brightness of the sun meant I could only open up to f/8 before the combination of the Yashica’s 1/500sec maximum shutter speed and the Fomapan 200 film would have resulted in overexposure (what was I saying about dull weather before..?). The second, is the front of the Grain Warehouse itself. This is another building that is currently in the process of some renovation, but it thankfully retains signs of its former purpose. Again, the sunlight provided plenty of contrast in this shot, and a smaller aperture was no disadvantage here.

FILM - To weigh 20 tons

FILM - Hoist

The final shot of this post was taken just around the corner from the last two and is a door and window in the Grain Warehouse. I don’t think I would have considered the shot had it not been for the shovel and length of rebar resting against the wall beside the door, which adds interest. The door has a plate beside it reading “The White House”, but I have no idea why – the building is neither white, nor a house. This is definitely my favourite shot of this batch though.

FILM - The White House. Staff only

And that’s it. I’ll post about the remaining seven shots from this roll in a day or three’s time. Bye for now!