Reflections and photos in France – and Torbay

Cameras today are mini computers with a lens fitted; the software is amazing and something I have not yet got to grips with.  Making taking photographs easier has created another problem of being able to use very complicated systems to fully utilise what is on offer.  During our trip to France this month, I resolved to try to get to understand some of the sytems available.  The scene options I soon discarded as they seem to ruin an image and Photoshop can reproduce the effects anyway.  The exception is perhaps the black and white setting which gives a good photo.



I used a polarising filter which organises light and this is why the reflections are dramatic.  In addition I learnt how to use manual focus which gives better control over the shot.




This is fuzzy at the edge as I used an effect but you can see how clear the colours and reflections are due the polarising filter.




The left image below is looking upstream and you can see the fish-viewing windows on the left the right hand photo looks down stream so they are on  the right.  The clarity of colour can be seen.

A polarising filter also cuts out reflections on water but, fool that I am, I did not use it for the following shots.  Some of the carp are over 50 cm. long.

Though I think that not all reflections are bad, they can add an ethereal quality to the photos such as in the one below which is of a sunken dinghy outside of the kitchen window.  You can just see one of the ten carp investigating.

2017 sunken dinghy and carp at Epron

The telephoto lens is great fun and for the following shot I used it with manual focus. The spider was only about 5mm long and I was about three metres away.  It hangs around the balcony on one of the railings.


The railing he – or she – inhabits is to the right, out of shot.  It was our coffee break.


Writing this, looking at the images made me think of how it was 15 years ago.  One of my first A/Vs, Epron,   starts and finishes at our house a decade ago and you may care to watch it.  It is not too long  and it gives an idea of how it was after a couple of years renovation.  In the beginning there were no doors, roof or windows.  Just 200 year old stone walls.

Niort is a biggish town nearby.  It has a food market and some odd shops such as this Broccante.  It must have been 75 metres long altogether.  The proprietor sat reading at a table in the entrance and was taking no notice of what was going on.  It is near the river featured in the headline image.

2017 Bricante Niort

Reflections fascinate me and I spotted a good one in the glass front of the food market.
The colours and contrasts the slight confusion caused by the reflection intrigued me.

Niort Reflections

I then noticed the figure on the left so I zoomed in.  She was about 250 metres away but the camera telephoto coped very well.

2017 Meditation Niort



I like the vertical lines and the different blues.  Even though it was a long distance photo I was able to crop it and still have a reasonable and fascinating image.



2017 Niort Meditation crop 2

Even if the image is poor good old Photoshop can transform it as this profile shot, which I cropped from the main food hall image above, demonstrates.  I used an ink outline function.  Again it is the vertical lines and blues I find interesting.

Time came to leave and we made our way to Roscoff via Quimper where we stayed the night and what a lovely town it is.  Beautiful, gentle, creative and the hotel, Best Western Hotel Kregenn was fabulous, quiet, welcoming and we both had a good nights sleep.  Quimper is well worth a visit.








Here is a night shot taken with my ever-present iPhone










and here a day shot taken with a camera.





The street with a single woman walking down seemed an evocative shot; a slope, clean and no litter with the bollards at the end.  I like roof tops as well as reflections.  The roofs were taken from our hotel window.

We set off for Roscoff but first Valerie wanted to see Brest as it was such a strategic town in World War II.  We didn’t stop so there are no photographs.  We were amazed as to how many large factories there were along the coast.  Every thing seemed new.  We then headed towards Brignogan-Plage .  The tide was out but the beach looked so interesting with rocks, the boats and trees.  I tried out the panoramic setting; I am still amazed by this feature of modern cameras.

2107 Panoramic beach Brittany Brignogan-plage

We had a picnic of bread with goose rillet, cheese and tomatoes with tea made with water from our trusty Thermos.  It is not mentioned in Wikipedia but I believe it was invented in Enfield




The bench was too wet to sit on but was a lovely blue





2017 red boat and tree Brittany




and the red boat looked very pretty.




The wind was getting up as we set off for the ferry and I was not looking forward to crossing in the tail end of hurricane Ophelia.  I sailed a lot with my Dad, in the Thames Estuary, but was never a good sailor.  Fortunately I was OK  I suspect that the hardening of the bristles in my inner ear which causes my age related deafness, afforded me protection to this dreadful condition.

After a night in a noisy hotel room in Torbay we went to hear our friend Jennifer Johnson read at the Torbay Poetry Festival.  This is one of the first such festivals in England and is a well known event on the poetry scene held in the Livermead Cliff Hotel with a wonderful view over the bay.  I like to hear Jennifer read.  Her poems have an honest, well observed quality and are sensitive and heartfelt.

Jenny Torbay

As I was listening I spotted yet an another interesting reflection with commere and organiser Patricia Oxley and one of the audience so out came the iPhone again.

Reflections Torbay

A final look at the fish at Epron.  As the wall of the house is the bank of the leat, we can watch them from our kitchen window.  As the leat or millstream, is surrounded by private land the fish are safe from fishermen so it is a form of sanctuary.  This year there were ten large carp and myriads of little fishes about 10cm long.  It is lovely to watch them, both a beautiful and calming experience.  Here is a short clip of a couple of meandering carp.





Enfield Poem-a-Thon at the Dugdale, Enfield, October 1st 2017

Enfield has  long  nurtured poets starting with Henry VIII.  On October 1st this year 53 poets came together to voice their poems in 8 minutes slots between 10am and 7pm.  It was  the brainchild of Enfield poet Maggie Butt

Poet Maggie Butt

and organised by her and fellow poet Cheryl Moskowitz

Poet Cheryl

Not only was it  an exciting and vigorous day it finished on time!  An impressive feat of organisation; formidable.  It was held in the Dugdale Art Centre and a large part of the success of the project was due to the help and support given by both management and staff.  The readings took place in the toy and games museum and in one of the photos you can see “scrabble” which was, for a long time,made in Enfield.  The Centre is a good venue for poetry and  Enfield Poets , who are poets in residence at the Dugdale, meet in one of the rooms on the first floor.

Getting ready





Getting ready to start.








The aim was to raise money for Enfield Refugee Welcome  to enable a refugee family settle in Enfield.  The original target of £4,500 – enough to settle one family – was quickly reached and the second target of £9,000 was then over taken and I am sure more than £15,000 will be raised.  The money was channelled through the Just Giving web site which will be open until December 2017.

Here is the list of poets in the running order:

Poem-a-thon Programme

and a few of the poets: Valerie Darville, Danielle Hope, Mario Petrucci and George Szirtes.

The whole event was filmed by Ken Sabbarton, a marathon in itself.  Nine hours of video would be too much so here is the video clip of my session.  I fluffed the last verse of When There Were Gods.  If you want to read the poem please click here.

Ode to Argentic Images – well, almost an ode!


A photograph, like a poem, can capture the moment, the essence of a person or place and take it straight to our soul bypassing the intellect.  A poem will go through many drafts and some say is never finished but with digital photography an image such as the one above can be printed or disseminated across the internet within minutes of it being taken although, after spotting the opportunity for a shot, I waited some 10 to 15 minutes before the bird spoke to me.  I used to take photos of the members of the Halliwick Penguins Swimming club, my late wife was a member and with my Nikon F fitted with telephoto lens a polarising and blue filter using a 1500 asa Fuji film, I could take great portraits with the correct colour balance and no unsightly reflections from the water.  Everyone would forget I was there as I wandered around the other side of the pool.  Nowadays I would use Photoshop instead of filters.

The image below I took with a telephoto lens on my Panasonic hybrid camera.  Again I had to be patient and wait.

Damsel Fly A4

Sometimes I have had to just point and click as the opportunity was fleeting.  One such occasion was in St Maixent L’Ecole in France when we came across some Eastern European dancers during the annual music festival.  How I managed to capture the dance in action I don’t know.  It was several years ago.  I used Photoshop to change the image and add the poem I wrote to capture the moment.

Dancer from Eastern Europe

The Daguerreotype was the first publicly available photograph and was used between 1840 to late 1850s.  A polished silver-plated copper plate was coated with a light sensitive colloid and exposed whilst still wet.  This could be tens of minutes.  The image was developed by exposing it to fumed mercury, a dangerous process indeed. The image appeared positive or negative depending on the angle of view.  The finished image was very delicate and had to be kept between glass plates.  Unfortunately I have yet to acquire a daguerreotype.

The Ambrotype , introduced in the mid 1850s, replaced the Daguerreotype.  A wet solution of Silver nitrate was applied to a glass plate which was exposed in the camera.  The exposure time was less and the image was developed and fixed in a much safer way and a black lacquer painted over it.  When viewed through the glass it looked like a positive and was the right way round, as the side with the image was at the back under the black lacquer.  A Daguerreotype is a mirror image.

Ambrotype from about 1860




Tintype hand tinted



The image quality is excellent and sometimes hand tinted as in this image where blue flowers, I believe, have been added to the woman’s hair



Pressed resin case for the Ambrotype




Often the Ambrotype was kept in a small mass-produced, pressed resin case and America supplied most I think.   This means that the images must have been a standard size.





Then came the Tintype introduced in 1860 and used up to the 1930s though I saw a reference to the process not dying out until the early 1950s. An steel sheet is painted with a glossy black lacquer and coated with a solution of silver nitrate and exposed in the camera whilst still  wet.  There was also a dry process with the light sensitive salt held in a thin film of gelatine.  The image was developed and fixed using potassium cyanide, deadly, deadly, but later with thiosulphate or “hypo”.  The image is a negative and a mirror image so left is right and right left.  The black lacquer causes the image to appear as a positive.   It is a robust medium and so many have survived.

Tintypes are perhaps the beginning of what became snapshot photography aimed at ordinary, every-day people and I find them extremely interesting  and have several; they are inexpensive and a valuable social record.  It is absolutely fascinating wondering who they are, why are they having the picture taken.  What was their relationship with each other, what is the story?

Tintype Edwardian




Here an Edwardian couple, seeking a souvenir of their holiday or day out,  posing in a Studio in Ramsgate.



An image could be produced in minutes and were popular in fairgrounds.  The instant photo booth is not new!  Here is one from the USA sent to me by the artist husband of a family friend.

Tintype USA family




It is damaged and a bit crumpled but I like the serious family group and the magnificent beard.  I imagine it being a treasured procession  to be taken out on special occasions or perhaps displayed on a rough log mantle piece; a family heirloom in fact.




The following image is faint and probably means it was taken using the wet process.  Which would have produced a thin film.

Tin type perhaps Edit

It looks a happy group, unusually all are smiling and I love the joy shining out.  It is a mystery as I cannot decide what is nationality of the sitters nor why it has been cut in to the shape it is.

Some Tinplate cameras had up to 12 lenses so could take 12 images at a time.  Here is a photo of one with 4 lenses.


One use for the multi lens cameras is that tiny tintypes, sometimes called “gems” can be produced and these could be incorporated into visiting cards, Carte de Visite.  Below are the front and back of such a card.  On the back is written  an address in Bristol.  I can’t read the rest.  Printed on the card is “9 portraits for 7 1/2” about 15 pence. I suppose this means that the camera had 9 lenses.


Tintype 1920s



When I first saw this I thought “Ah!” 1950s but, on enlarging the photograph I took, I could see that the shoes of the girls in the foreground are pure 1920s.  Another souvenir from beside the sea taken  perhaps by a journeyman photographer.



One of the great functions of my iPhone and Panasonic cameras is that of the panoramic photo.  I have yet to explore it fully but it is great fun.  The image below is of the shrimp fishing structures in Angoulins just south of La Rochelle on the West Coast of France.

Shrimp fishing Angoulins

It was one of the first panoramic photos I took and I was using my iPhone 5.  I am amazed at the detail. Even when printed out 1 metre wide it looked good.

A panoramic camera must have been used for our school photos but I do not have any prints of these.  There is one of me at Pre-medical school in University College London, I wanted to become a psychiatrist but needed to qualify as a doctor first.  I was there for a year after working for one year as an operating theatre technician in a local hospital.  I soon realised that my memory was just not good enough to continue my studies.

UCH Medical school 1962 or 3152 larger

What a year!  Andrew Huxley was professor of physiology – my favourite subject – and he was awarded a Nobel prize for his work on the giant squid neuron.  Boy, was there cheering and hollering as he walked across the quadrangle; it was one of the occasions I will never forget.  If you want to find me, follow the left hand corner of the masonry wall down and I am in the third row up, slightly right of centre.

A panoramic camera was an early development.  Kodak introduced the Panoram No 1 in 1900 just a few years after the development of the first roll film.  I am trying to find one but they are too costly at present so here is a photo of one I captured from the web.

Kodak Panoram No 1

There is no shutter the lens is cocked by pulling to the left or right and it swings in a 120 degree arc projecting the light onto the film held against a curve.  Using 120 film 4 images could be produced.  I found 5 prints produced by the Panoram on a postcard stall and they fascinated me and for £1 were  a bargain!  Here is a couple of them.

Kodak Panoram 1 146

Kodak Panoram 1 145

The poem mentions old postcards from the First World War but they are for another blog; this has gone on long enough.