OK, K1000

I was over the moon to be able to pick up a Pentax K1000 from my local camera shop a few months ago. Manufactured between 1976 and 1997 (unbelievably) it’s a wonderful, solid workhorse of a camera. I put that to the test recently when I was poking around a ruined castle and managed to slip down a flight of moss-covered wooden stairs, scattering everything I was carrying to the four winds. Although I lost some skin and some pride, the K1000 was perfectly fine, which was great – broken bones mend, broken lenses don’t.

The K1000 was known as the go-to camera for students: it’s fully manual, but simple. You have control over everything, but there’s not enough to get you bogged down or confused. It’s quickly becoming my favourite 35mm SLR. The only electronic thing on it is the light meter, which displays as a needle swinging between – and + in the viewfinder. It uses one watch battery, fortunately of a type you can still buy.

Predictably, that one bit of tech on the camera was the only thing that played up. I loaded it up with ISO 400 Kentmere B&W film and all was well for the first few shots. Then I began to notice the meter was giving daft readings (this happened before I fell down the stairs with it, in case you’re wondering).

I popped back in to the camera store and explained the problem.

‘I’ve got a 400 speed film loaded,’ I said, ‘and a shutter speed of 500 but when I go out on a bright, sunny day, the needle barely moves out of the minuses. Even if I point it straight at the sky, I have to step it down to f.2 before it moves towards “correctly exposed”, that can’t be right.’

The shop owner took the camera and fiddled with the settings. ‘Looks like it’s reading a few stops out,’ he said – the master of understatement.

So now my poor K1000 is sitting in a room somewhere being recalibrated. I can’t wait to shoot with it again. In the meantime, here are some photos I did manage to grab with it, using a combination of the sunny 16 rule and good old guesswork.


Somebody thought it would be funny to put a Christmas tree in a phonebox. Perhaps there’s some deep message I’m missing.


The ever-photogenic Wrest Park


The gatehouse to the keep at Dover Castle


The port of Dover

Kentmere 400, developed in Ilfosol 3


Misty Memories Part Two

After finding a handful of old negatives hiding among the junk in my mum’s house, it was great to find some more – even if neither I nor my scanner knew what format they were.

After gently persuading my scanner that the ‘custom’ setting does actually mean ‘custom’ and not ‘best guess’, I managed to scan them in all. I’m guessing that they’re from the late 1960s or early 1970s and not exactly pristine after 50 or so years of not being stored in the best of conditions. I tweaked the colour cast and contrast a little in Lightroom, but I didn’t fancy spending the rest of my life playing with the heal tool, so I’ve left the scratches along.


This is my mum and dad having a picnic out of the back of a Mini. It looks like my mum has a wedding ring on, and they were married in 1967. Judging by the other locations in the photos, this might even have been their honeymoon. After the last ten years, with my dad’s death and my mum’s dementia, this photo of a young couple with their future ahead of them makes me quite sad.


I don’t know who this couple are. I think the man, apart from being a poster child for the 1950s, might have been my dad’s best friend – they were best man at each other’s weddings. In that case, the woman behind the camera would have been (I hope!) his wife.


A windmill. Through painstaking research (guesswork) I identified it as Bembridge Windmill on the Isle of Wight – the island’s last remaining windmill. I know that my parents honeymooned around there, back when they couldn’t afford to go abroad.


I don’t know where this is. The sign above the fountain is too blurred to read.


This is my mum posing at the wheel of the Cormorant at Blackgang Chine. Blackgang Chine is the oldest amusement park in the UK (a chine is a coastal ravine) built in 1843 to take advantage of the Victorian belief in the health benefits of breathing in sea air. The Cormorant was a steamship that ran aground near the chine in thick fog in December 1886 while carrying a cargo of cotton bales. An attempt by a tug to pull her back into deeper waters failed and, to add insult to injury, she was rammed in the night by another floundering ship. Thanks to the quick action of locals, neither cargo nor lives were lost. The ship was dismantled and, I believe, the wheel still remains in Blackgang to this day.


My dad in the stocks. I have a vague memory of these from being taken to the Isle of Wight as a child; I think these are also at Blackgang Chine. Before it was an amusement park, the area was a nice secluded base for smugglers so it wouldn’t be strange to find an object of punishment on display.

I’ve never seen any of these pictures before – this was a long time before I was born – so I’m really glad to have found these negatives. Let’s keep making memories.

Lost in the Loft

It seems like it’s been years since I started clearing out my mother’s house – it doesn’t help that I live so far away and can’t get down there very often. But, at last, it’s all finished and the decorators are in making it ready for renting.

Rummaging around in the loft one last time yielded a final photographic find. This is the Olympus 700XB which, according to Olympus, was released around 1999 and provided a wide range of features at a great price. The XB, from what I can gather, stands for the Xtra Big viewfinder: one of its listed features. And yes, it has a pretty big viewfinder – actually quite treat when you’re used to peering down some of the pinholes that pass for viewfinders in vintage cameras.


As with the Zenit I found in the loft, I have no idea how long this camera has been up there. I had two fears when I found it: firstly, the batteries would have leaked inside it; secondly, it would be APS. Thankfully, neither of these were founded. Despite having an expiry date of 2002 the batteries were fine. When I opened the camera’s cover, the lens extended and the zoom worked – both of which sounded like a piece of military hardware deploying. This is not a stealth camera, it has the nosiest motor I’ve ever heard. Even without having a mirror, the shutter sounds like a robot firing a shotgun.

Looking through the window on the camera’s back, I was in luck again. There was a film inside, and the frame counter read 8. Again, I have no idea what’s on the film or what state it’s in, but I shall finish it and get it developed and see. Here’s hoping!

Tucked inside a book, I also found two more strips of old negatives in addition to the 120 ones I’d found before. These ones haven’t fared that well over the years, either, but I’m a bit stumped as to what format they are. My scanner is, too – it keeps throwing a tantrum and cutting off the edges.


For comparison, I’ve put a 120 negative at the bottom. They’re too large to be 35mm, they’re square and they don’t have any sprocket holes. If anybody can enlighten me, please drop me a comment: I’d love to know!

The Graves in the Woods

Ludlow has a beautiful parish church dedicated to St. Laurence, which is apparently the largest in the country. Further down in the town, though, lies another church – this one dedicated to St. Leonard.

This church, sadly no longer in use and housing a printing company, stands on the site of an old Carmelite friary. Both this friary and the nearby Augustinian one were closed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538. The site was left undeveloped until 1824 when it became the town cemetery, replacing the overflowing medieval graveyard at St. Laurence’s. St. Leonard’s was built as a cemetery chapel. Nearly 10,000 burials took place there over the next one hundred years until the town ran out of space again and the cemetery was closed in 1915. Some 1,400 headstones are recorded.


The cemetery has been designated as a local nature reserve and the older part has been allowed to grow wild. Crumbling Victorian gravestones are entwined with ivy and jut randomly from the middle of bushes and shrubs.



There are mown paths through the undergrowth and it’s a surreal journey walking through the overhanging branches and leaning gravestones, especially when the path opens up to small clearings like these small war graves.


It’s a humbling place to walk, but a very peaceful one. I sometimes wonder if all graveyards should be like this.

Lovely Ludlow

Ludlow is a beautiful old market town in Shropshire, England. Founded sometime in the 12th century, Ludlow became a Marcher Town: one of the string of towns on the Welsh/English border. As the border was so turbulent, the English Marcher Lords had powers that greatly outstripped any other Lord in the land: they could basically do whatever they liked without recourse to the King.

Ludlow is also home to one of the earliest Norman castles built in England, which King Henry VII used as the base for the Council of Wales, effectively making the town into the Welsh capital. A thriving market town, and a prosperous route for cloth traders coming in and out of Wales, Ludlow thrived until the end of the 17th century when the cloth trade declined and the Council of Wales was abolished.

From the late 18th century onwards, Ludlow’s fortunes picked up again: inns sprung up to provide rest and refreshment along the coaching routes and tourists began to be drawn to the now ruined castle. In modern times, Ludlow has become a market town once again and hosts a number of highly acclaimed restaurants which serve local meat and produce (Shropshire meat is said to be some of the country’s finest – although I wouldn’t know as I’m vegetarian!)

I visited on a lovely sunny day. The market was in full force, but the array of fruit and bread and sweet things had attracted the attention of the local wasps, so I didn’t hang around.


Some of the gorgeous medieval and Tudor buildings that line Ludlow’s streets


Ludlow castle still stands, grim and ruined, overlooking the town


Shoppers explore the twists and turns of ancient Ludlow


Ludlow also has a spectacular, although now redundant church: St. Laurence’s. The graveyard is quite amazing: hopefully the subject of a future post!

For Every Season…

It’s raining outside again. I think our allocated two weeks of British sunshine have finally come to a close. It feels strange, going into autumn, because it doesn’t really feel like we’ve had any of the other seasons yet – and now the nights are getting earlier and darker again. I’m not ready for another winter!

The last film I took out of my XA3 had a few months’ worth of shooting on it: not that you can tell by looking at the landscapes!


Believe it or not, this was early spring. It was frosty, which killed off most of the new leaves that had been brave enough to show their faces.


I think this was taken around Easter (April this year). It had warmed up a bit, but nothing was really growing.


This is from around the same time. An April woodland should be full of new growth.


Finally, some sun! This would have been around May. Most of the trees are still bare.


Flowers appeared, and I discovered that the closing focusing plane of the XA3 doesn’t focus as closely as I thought!


This was a sunset just before summer was supposed to begin.

As I’m writing, the leaves on the trees outside have already turned gold. Starbucks is selling pumpkin-flavoured lattes and I even saw a chocolate reindeer in a shop the other day. I don’t know where this year’s gone: it feels like it didn’t ever really start. Maybe that’s the effect of climate change, or maybe I’m just getting old…

Kodak Colorplus 200 (expired) on Olympus XA3

Hats off to New Towns

I was talking to a friend about a course I was about to go on.

‘Where is it?’ she asked.

‘Hatfield,’ I showed her the letter with its intricate list of directions. For some reason, the people who send these things out never see to understand that everybody has a SatNav now.

‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I used to live in Hatfield.’

‘I’ve never been.’

‘You’re not missing anything,’ she said.

English people tend to be quite self-deprecating about the places where they live, as if civic pride is some ghastly disorder that only affects foreigners and idiots (and we tend to lump these two categories together a lot too – sorry). Poor old Hatfield, though, seemed to have quite the reputation as a place you don’t go unless you need to.

There’s been a village in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, since Saxon times. In the 1930s, with the presence of British Aerospace and de Havilland, Hatfield became a centre for making aircraft, the industry being the largest local employer. According to Wiki, they made Mosquito fighters there during WWII and afterwards began manufacturing commercial aircraft such as the Comet, the world’s first production jet airliner.

Like many English industrial towns, Hatfield suffered when the industry packed up and moved. British Aerospace relocated in the early 1990s, leaving a huge amount of land and buildings behind that nobody really seems to know what to do with.

Hatfield was named as a ‘New Town’ after the Second World War;  part of the government’s ambitious plan to strategically build towns to house people from London whose homes had been decimated by Nazi bombing raids. These towns, including nearby Welwyn Garden City, were designed to be oases of calm, purposefully planned and self-contained with sweeping streets and plenty of open spaces contrasting with the dark, cramped Victorian slums of inner London. They were to be a bold expression of the future after the horrors of the war. In reality, this meant letting the architects loose with their new favourite toy: concrete.

Walking through any of the New Towns today feels like stepping into a Soviet utopia. The geometric networks of wide roads edged with neat blocks of houses, all focused on a central shopping area providing everything you could need, has more of the air of a Moscow suburb than semi-rural East England.

Needless to say, concrete does not age well. These towns look tired now, their cutting-edge designs now embarrassingly dated; extra developments crammed into their once open spaces; their all-in-one shopping districts half empty or home to pound shops and cheap markets.

My XA-3 came with me as I walked through Hatfield. The local council have started what they euphemistically call ‘redevelopment’ here – which usually means tearing everything down and starting again – but in these days of austerity and post-recession budget cuts, there’s still a long way to go.


A tower block on the edge of town


This old chip van was parked behind the market square. I don’t know if it still moves


Emerging from one of the maze of subways which bypass the town’s roads

Olympus XA3 on Kodak Colorplus 200 (expired)

Misty Memories

British Bank Holidays (public holidays) have a reputation for always been miserable and dark and wet. I can’t imagine why. Yesterday, on August Bank Holiday Monday, it only rained until 4 pm and I only needed to put a jumper on after lunch.

The Bank Holiday Washout was a good chance to go through the last few things that I’d salvaged from my mother’s house before I got the house clearance people in to take everything else away. It’s a brutal experience, seeing all the remnants of someone’s life gathered up and dumped.

Up in the loft was an old hat box full of letters, written when my mother was in her late teens before she married my father. Under all those letters were three badly scuffed 120 negatives, so I popped them on the scanner. They’re pretty scuffed, as you’d expect after 50 years or so of being pushed around the bottom of a box, but through all the scratches and blemishes they offer a glimpse back to a once hugely popular British tradition, the caravan park holiday.


I have no idea who these people are


Two blurry figures


The fashion of the times. I’m guessing mid-60s

I really wish I knew what camera these were taken on!

The Devil’s in the … Boot

In the sleepy little Bedfordshire town of North Marston is a very interesting little church. Or, I should say, is a church with a very interesting story.

The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is, apart from having a rather Catholic name for an Anglican church, a typically English country church. Dating back to the 12th century, it was remodelled and repaired in the 15th and 19th centuries; the two great periods of English church-building fervour.

It is the story of one of its rectors that makes this church noticeable. Sir John Schorne became the rector of North Marston in 1290 where he was much liked as a kind and pious man. Two miraculous stories surround John Shorne. It is said that one day, while out walking during a terrible drought, he struck the ground with his staff and a well sprung up on the spot, providing much needed relief for the suffering village. The other story, sadly, has retained fewer details. Legend has it that Shorne managed to conjure up the devil and trap him in a boot, thus ensuring peace for the village. English folklore loves a good story about outwitting the devil but, unfortunately, the how, where and why of Shorne’s devil-catching antics are lost to us.

Shorne was revered after his death (still at North Marston) in 1314 and became known locally as ‘Saint John Shorne’. Although he was never officially canonised by the Pope, a cult sprung up around him. His well became a centre of pilgrimage, the waters were said to cure gout, and a shrine was erected in the parish church. A will dated 1508 leaves instructions for the deceased’s body to be buried before Shorne’s image, so the cult seems to have been well established at the time. So popular was Shorne, that in 1478 the Pope gave permission for Shorne’s relics to be translated to the chapel at Windsor Castle at the request of Edward IV.

The well, as with many holy sites across England, did not fare well through the Reformation and prevailing anti-Catholic sentiment across the kingdom. A sign at the well attests to it having fallen into disrepair by the 1800s and, after a local woman slipped in and drowned, it was sealed up.

In 2004. the well was reopened and restored with a brand new pump house and trough. In a nice touch, beside the trough is a metal boot. As you pump water into the trough, a little red devil gradually pops out of the boot to say hello. Incidentally, this is thought to be the origin of the Jack-in-the-Box (which I always thought were sinister enough to begin with!)

IMG_0125Sir John’s legend at the well


The waters are said to never freeze


The devil, captive in the boot, peeks out