Thursday, 30 January 2014

Using a Mamiya 7 Camera with Polarising Filter in a Snow Blizzard.

The Mamiya 7 is a rangefinder camera, which means it is not possible to look through the lens, so normal polarising filters are difficult to use. Fortunately Mamiya make a special filter that gets around the problem. The bad news is that it costs £230 new in the UK. I bought a secondhand one for £90, including shipping, from Ffordes Photographic of Beauly and it looked like new and even had the piece of tissue on top of the glass that would be the first thing to be thrown away on first use so I don't think it had been used at all!

I actually bought it to take some photographs from the viewing gallery of a building where the only way to take photos was through glass. This proved to be only a partial success, there were just too many reflections. As it was a new toy I included it in my kit bag for our current photo trip to the USA.

It fits to the lens so that it can be pulled up vertically. Once in this position you look through the filter as you rotate the front element. When you see the effect you are after you push it straight down in front of the lens. It is reasonably easy to use but means that the front of lens is open to the elements while you are adjusting the filter.

There are 2 filter thread sizes for Mamiya 7 lenses but one filter fits both as it comes with an adaptor ring built in for both the 67mm and 58mm lenses. The adaptor ring takes some getting used to and is a nightmare to use with thick gloves in a blizzard! I ended up taking my gloves off when switching between lenses and suffered a bit of frost nip to my right index finger as a result.

So how was it to use? In the city it was easy once I worked out how the adaptor ring fitted to each lens. In the Colorado Rocky Mountains on a cold windy day after fresh snow it made taking pictures very difficult. In fact I was using it between -15° and -20°C with winds gusting 25mph blowing powder snow around while standing on the frozen lake covered in about 15 inches of fresh snow while wearing snowshoes.

First of all as you raise the filter vertically the front of the lens is exposed to the weather. In my case that meant I was getting snow on the front of the lens and the back and front of the filter. Not good and I did a lot of lens/filter cleaning during the 30 minute shoot! It was also difficult to rotate the front element of the filter to see the effect in the cold conditions.

One thing I hadn't expected was that it wasn't possible to look through the raised filter with a second viewfinder attached to the hotshoe on the top plate of the camera. The 43mm filter needs this or you don't know what you are taking photos of. This viewfinder usually stays fixed to my camera as I use the 43mm lens so much but the fixing was difficult to undo in the cold as my fingers were pretty numb by this stage (I left the polarised shots until after I had done the orange filtered shots).

I used the 43mm and 65mm lenses, the foreground is more prominent with the 43mm but the mountains are more of a feature in the 65mm shots. The orange filter darkens blue sky well but also darkens green, sometimes too much, so I was hoping the polarising filter would darken just the blue sky and leave the greens alone.

In the end I managed 3 rolls of Ilford FP4 120, that's 30 exposures. One roll with the 65mm lens and orange filter, one roll with the 43mm lens and orange filter and one roll with both lenses and the polarising filter.

Finally a bit of detail about the location. I was after a shot I had tried for on 7 previous occasions. It was from the surface of a frozen lake called Red Rock Lake in the Brainard Lake area of the Colorado Rockies (about 20 miles west of Boulder). At the end of the lake are dense conifers with Mount Audubon and Paiute Peak in the background. I also wanted good foreground interest, frosted trees and blue sky above the peaks, so not much to ask for!

My wife Jan sheltered in the trees out of the worst of the storm during most of the time I was taking photographs, but did take some colour shots to give you an idea of the situation and conditions.

All photos copyright Jan Butcher

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Colorado Skiing and Hiking

Another 3 days skiing and 2 days walking without my camera gear, but with visits to 3 breweries all in great weather, has helped look after my aching back!

After Keystone on Tuesday we skied Breckenridge on Wednesday and Thursday. Really nice snow on most of the slopes.

Friday we skied Arapahoe Basin but after a couple of runs it was obvious that the edges of my skis needed sharpening to cope with the icy conditions. $15 and a coffee later I had sharp skis and go faster waxing. Really enjoyed the rest of the day. I did see one shot I would have taken on my Mamiya 7 camera if I had been carrying it, a panorama of a mountain range with 2 layers of horizontal clouds above. Took it on my phone but not the same!

Saturday was a rest day as our hosts prepared for their Burns Night dinner party. That went jolly well and we enjoyed chatting with their friends, many of whom have become our friends too over the years.

Sunday we walked around the Boulder Foothills to the Southern Sun pub, part of the Mountain Sun Brewery. The Java Porter was on jolly good form as usual.

Today, Monday 27th, it snowed all day so we walked to the north of Boulder around Mount Sanitas to the Upslope Brewery and a good Stout. Passed a 4x4 car in a ditch beside a sign saying Dead End, seemed quite apt somehow.

Tomorrow is forecast to be a good blue sky day after the few inches of fresh know today. We are planning to snowshoe to Red Rock Lake to try and get a shot I have failed to get in 7 previous visits, because conditions weren't quite right. Our hosts, Rob and Annie, are very patient with me but are hoping tomorrow is the day!

Fingers crossed for a great day!

Here are a few phone photos from the last few days.

A-Basin Clouds
Montezuma Bowl A-Basin
Quiet Slopes at Breckenridge
Dead End Car, Boulder

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Keystone Skiing

We skied Keystone in Colorado today. First time we had put skis on in 2 years but it soon came back.

I decided to have the day off from photography and left the camera behind. I already have shots of Keystone and the last fresh snow was 10 days ago and that often makes the difference. Suspect will do the same tomorrow when we ski Breckenridge but snow is forecast for Thursday.

Keystone way really quiet. Huge expanses of groomed slopes with no one on them.

I took a few shots on my Galaxy S3 phone, can't break the photography habit completely!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Finding our Snow Legs in Colorado

We have moved on from San Francisco and we are now with good friends Rob and Annie in Boulder in Colorado.

Saturday was a travel day. Sunday we had a leisurely walk to the J Wells Brewery and a jolly nice stout.

Today we went snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park, a bit south of Estes Park. It was good to stretch the legs with the 9 mile walk but it would have been better if we had a view rather than just trees.

Not as cold as we expect in January, the rivers are still flowing but some nice snow shapes for photos. Not a lot of sunshine in the trees though, just a peep show every now and then.

We ended the day in Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons followed by the Mountain Sun Brewery in Boulder for a couple of Java Porters, my favourite porter!

Tomorrow we go skiing at Keystone and at Breckenridge later in the week.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

San Francisco Photos Day 3

We thought we would try looking at San Francisco from a different angle so we took the ferry across to Sausolito. It takes about 30 minutes. It was sunny and warm again but not clear like the last 2 days. The smog had come in to obscure the longer views so no view back across the bay to San Francisco.

I took a few shots from the ferry before we moved too far and a few around Sausolito. We had a bit over 3 hours in the town. Also tried the Boont Amber Ale in the bar which went down very well.

Took a few building shots around the financial district too. Forgot to take photos on my phone for this post until the building shots.

Friday, 17 January 2014

San Francisco Day 2 Photos

Another day of photography in San Francisco with blue skies and temperatures over 20°C. They're having a tough winter over here!

Today I took shots of the Bay Bridge, Transamerica Pyramid, Yerba Buena and a few others.

Now we're in the Thirsty Bear pub for a burger and a stout or two.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

San Francisco Photography

We are in San Francisco on a photo trip. Clear blue skies and 19°C yesterday, also clear views which was good. That's warmer than Derbyshire in the summer!

Took quite a few shots, all on Ilford FP4, around Fisherman's Wharf and along to the Golden Gate Bridge.

As usual I forgot to take much on my phone to illustrate this post but here are a couple, edited in Snapseed. Sea Lions at Pier 39 and the bridge from one of the many marinas.

On Saturday we fly to Denver for a few weeks with friends in Boulder, skiing and snowshoeing.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

New Images of Manchester

In amongst the new images of London are 3 new images of Manchester. They are all shown here and are on the main website.
Beetham Tower / Hilton Hotel

Castlefield Merchants Bridge Reflections

New Images of London

Not wanting to be idle over the break we decided to go down to London just after Christmas to take photos!

Fortunately we had reasonable weather, except for some light rain as we arrived. I mainly concentrated on shots I hadn't already taken, like the Royal Opera House and Hungerford Bridge. Here are a few examples. More on the website.

I will be taking more this Friday 10th January. We have an offer to take photos from the Shard so keeping fingers crossed it's clear, forecast so far looks good. I will do some more around the base of it too.
Shard Framed

Young Dancer Sculpture and Royal Opera House
London Eye and Hungerford Bridge

Friday, 3 January 2014

New Images of Bruges

I added 22 new images of Bruges to my web site before Christmas. A mix of daytime and quite a few taken at night. Here is a selection. Follow this link to the Bruges page on my web site.

All available as fine art darkroom prints in various sizes.

Canal from Rozenhoedkai at Night
Church Reflections in Dijver Canal at Night
Canal at Night from Blinde Ezelstraat Bridge
Grote Markt and Belltower at Night
Taken the night before Wigan Athletic arrived for their UEFA cup game and transformed the square with their flags and banners!
Canal from Rozenhoedkai
Grote Markt Panorama
Boat on Canal near Jan Van Eyck Square
 Jerusalem Church and Lamp
Bonne Chiere Windmill