Street photography


Haiku (translation):
an ancient pond
a frog jumps in
the splash of water
Matsuo Basho, 1686

Anyone who has been following my blog for a while will know I like to write ‘short’ and have sometimes written so-called ‘English haiku’ following the format: three lines of 5,7,5 syllables or, more correctly, sounds. In fact recently I collected together my scribblings in this format and put them under a menu heading of ‘Haiku’

However, recently I have come to the conclusion, after reading hundreds of them from other writers/bloggers, that although they are often beautiful, sometimes moving, short poems, haiku they are not – for me. The same applies to tanka, which add another two ‘lines’ of seven syllables to a haiku (or rather, the haiku resulted from removing the last two ‘lines’ of tanka).

I have to assume that Japanese haiku are just that but as I don’t read Japanese I cannot make any judgement. I read translations of them but I’m certain they lose something. I know Romanian poetry, which I can read in the original, certainly does. I sometimes wonder whether I, as a native English speaker who speaks Romanian pretty well, could do better.

Few of the English ones I’ve read come close to a true haiku, in my opinion, but I haven’t read even one that I now consider to be a haiku – there’s an indefinable ‘something’ missing: Japanese culture perhaps? I certainly haven’t written one.

I find my little 5,7,5 poems easy to write when the moment grabs me, the same with poems that rhyme – haiku do not of course (most people I know say that it’s the rhyming they find difficult). I think I’ve become better over time with my ‘haiku’ attempts but I’m still a long way from being satisfied.

Despite these doubts, I will not stop writing them as I enjoy the discipline of writing to the 5,7,5 format and trying to get closer to a haiku; I think I’ve said before I always enjoyed writing headlines as a journalist and there are similarities. Also, the tanka, and so haiku, goes back 11 centuries and there is something satisfying for me to try to create something with this long a history. In the past one of these short poetic forms was often sent to a friend or family member who added to it and sent it back. It might go back and forth like this for years.

Capturing the ‘decisive moment’

Silhouettes of couple kissing and figure of person with umbrella jumping, with Eiffel Tower in the backgrounc

‘A decisive moment’ captured by Henri Cartier-Bresson

An essential characteristic of a true haiku is that it captures a brief moment of time, and as a keen photographer I cannot help but compare that with the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson, who said: “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.” Substitute ‘haiku’ for ‘photography’ and ‘words’ for ‘forms’ and you have, I believe, the essence of a haiku.

So, here’s a challenge: add two seven syllable lines to the following attempt at an ‘English haiku’ I’ve just written, to make a ‘tanka’, and put it in comments. I’ll attempt to respond to each one with another ‘haiku’.

bluetit … food in beak

pauses outside hole in wall

cat waits patiently

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The temperature has been 41degC (106degF) in the shade, rather more in the sun. The whole country has been starved of rain and the harvest is forecast to be half or less of what is normal; many smallholders will have close to no harvest at all. Prices of vegetables and fruit will rocket and a lot of Romanians will go hungry.

Many Romanians, including my family, have shut themselves inside and complained about the heat. But you know about mad dogs and Englishmen, no doubt. Coming from the appalling summer in England I was determined to get some real sun but I did, for once, wear a hat.

Rain in Iasi, Romania - street photography

I went into the town centre in bright sunshine. The sky darkened, lighting ripped it apart and, a few paces from shelter, the heavens opened and I immediately had a power shower. Within two seconds or less I was soaked. We might say it was bucketing down; the Romanians have a similar expression: “ploua cu galeata” –  ‘it’s raining with a bucket’ – and it was.

I sheltered in a hotel entrance and was quickly joined by several very wet Romanians. Every one complained about the rain.

Then we were joined by a gipsy boy, maybe 17 or 18.

“Decand a plouat, arata frumos” – “(how long) since it rained, it looks beautiful”, he said.

And it did.

Photo: Fuji Superia 200, expired film. Olympus XA (35mm, f.2.8 F-Zuiko). Long hand-held exposure. Probably f.5.6. Commercially developed and scanned in Iasi, Romania.

As those of you who read my 1 July post will know, my recent attempt (first for a few decades) at ‘street photography’ ended in disaster but, inspired by 

http://lustandrum.wordpress.com

I’m determined to use an imminent trip to Romania (which I know to be a photographer’s dream for almost any genre) to have another go. What is more, away from distractions of work and other things in the UK, I’m aiming to wander further down the path of ‘picture haiku’, trying to create haiku and picture at the same time. I’ll aim to post regularly from Romania though I won’t have the opportunity to develop film so I’ll be using the Lumix for that.

I was excited to receive seven B&W 35mm cassettes in the post yesterday morning. If I could have found my reloadable cassettes (buried in the mounds from a house move a year ago) I’d have loaded up from an unopened 50m reel of Agfa APX. As it is, I bought two rolls of Rollei Retro 400S, which I believe is an equivalent, and five rolls of Kodak 400 Tmax.

For the ‘street photography’ the B&W will go in my Bessa-T, most often fitted with a 35mm Voigtlander Color Skopar. I wish I had a longer lens for some ‘studied’ portraits – there are some wonderful character faces in Romania. (But see below for why I’ve inserted the picture above).

Persuaded by Marie in Sweden to take some of my discontinued Astia

http://shimmeringgrains.com/2012/07/07/softly-whispering-with-fuji-astia-rap-100f/

I’m asking myself whether I can carry another film camera for colour. It needs to be as small and light as possible but the Bessa is my only working rangefinder so it’ll have to be an SLR. I’m wishing I’d kept my long gone Olympus OM. But the Contax 139 isn’t so big. If I take that I’m tempted to pack a Zeiss 50mm Planar, either the 1.7 or 1.4, and the Yashica 55mm f2.8 macro and an extension to give me 1:1 (in fact a bit more as I don’t have a 27mm tube, I have a 32mm one).

I’ll be taking the Lumix GF1 anyway and, with 4/3 to C/Y adapter, can use the Zeiss and the Yashica on that, though it will usually have the Pani 14-42 zoom on for snap shots.

Having gone through all that, I just took a break from writing this to look for the Yashica right-angle finder in case I do take the SLR and macro lens. And I came across the Olympus XA, not used for two years as it seemed to have jammed. I knew it had a film inside which had come adrift from a reloadable cassette so, seeing the dark bag also, decided to take the naked film out.

Wonder! The XA is now working. (You may deduce that I sometimes write in ‘real time’, as I did while doing the post on fast food – now a page under the ‘Food’ menu).

Complete rethink. B&W in the XA; with its discrete small size and 35mm Zuiko lens it’s just the job for ‘street photography’. The light seals seem a bit sticky but, with one week to go till I leave, there’s time to renew them.

Now, shall I forget the macro and just take the Bessa, adding one of the only longer rangefinder lenses I have which will work on the Bessa, a Russian 50mm f2 Jupiter or a 52mm f2.8 Fed? The collapsible Industar lenses (which look like the Leitz) will not go to infinity. I can put a cheap C41 film through with the Jupiter and three Feds I have, developed locally in 1 hr, and see how they are. I’ll do the same with the XA to try to ensure it really is working now.

It’s tempting to leave the heavier stuff at home; we’re off to Cornwall in Lofty, the VW camper, for the rest of August when we get back on the 12th. He won’t mind the extra weight and the beach might offer some good macro opportunities.I might change my mind about it all before I leave next Saturday. Any suggestions gratefully received.

A day of ‘street photography’ debate (with myself only!)

Good intentions to write a blog a day died last week when work and other things took over. So Saturday, due to go to a village gala and subsequent barbecue at friends who live in the village, it seemed a good idea to take up the WordPress weekly photo challenge and attempt some ‘street photography’. Despite declaring a big interest in things photographic I’ve so far written almost nothing about it. Our contribution to the barbecue would give me an opportunity to talk about food.

So, what camera to take? Seemed clear to me I should take film, black and white film at that. Looking at all the street photography through links on the challenge post it was clear that, for me, that black and white provided the most powerful images and those on film appealed most to me.

Some of grumpytyke's film cameras

A lovely Exa with Tessar, a Super Ikonta also with Tessar, a Mamiya Press Super 23, Voigtlander Bessa-T with 35mm Color Skopar, Contax AX and Olympus XA. A few of my ‘little’ collection.

Which camera? The Olympus XA – pocketable, light, the ideal 35mm lens, excellent viewfinder, very unobtrusive. Unfortunately the shutter on mine is playing up so it had to be discounted, and the Minox 35EL with similar attributes is ‘in bits’ while I try to find a similar problem.

For me all the SLRs were ‘out’ – generally too bulky, too noisy, too intrusive.

So it had to be one of the rangefinders (though a Leica M4 exists, till now, only on my wish list). What film did I have?

Well I have a shelf-full of 120 B&W film but the Super Ikonta folder or Mamiya Super 23 are clearly not the tools for this job. I could find only four 35mm – a 36 exposure FP4 cassette, at 125 not really fast enough; a 20 exp Delta 400 – not as many exposures as I wanted; a couple of hundred exposures of XP2 in a bulk loader but couldn’t find any empty cassettes, and almost 50 metres of APX 400 in an unopened pack, which would have been my preferred choice but, again, no cassettes and even if I found some changing the film in the bulk-loader would be a helluva hassle.

So, maybe this time I have to settle for digital; the Lumix GF1 set to B&W, zoom set to 17.5mm (so 35mm equivalent) manual exposure and focus set to hyperfocal distance, provides some of the necessary attributes. I’d be more convinced if it had a conventional viewfinder.

However. I still wanted to go with film so chose the Bessa-T with optical viewfinder in the hotshoe, taking the Delta 400 with the FP4 as back-up (maybe it can be ‘pushed’?).

I took the GF1 as a back-up.

All to no avail. We arrived at the village as the heavens opened; it rained like a power shower for an hour so we sat in the VW camper till we could make it to the barbecue – no parking there so a long walk. Then it rained again so no barbecue – almost everything was cooked in the oven/grill inside.

So no ‘street photography’, at least not in time for this week’s challenge.

Barbecue food, Romanian ‘mici’

One brave soul, my Romanian wife, was determined to have the ‘mici’ she’d made taste authentic so braved the rain and got just enough cover to cook them on the charcoal. As always, these ‘simple’ Romanian barbecue delicacies went down a bomb (as they did when she made them for our Jubilee ‘Big Lunch’ a couple of weeks ago).

Simple? Minced meat mixed with a variety of flavourings – onion, garlic, thyme, coriander, cumin, black pepper and, of course, salt. Traditionally the mince is a mixture of lamb and beef, but my wife won’t eat lamb so she makes it with beef and pork – 60/40% seems to work well. Apart from the unusual spice mix, what makes the ‘mici’ special is they are mixed (hands of course) with some sparkling mineral water (or sodium bicarbonate mixed with ‘juice’ from the meat) which makes them more ‘airy’.

They are rolled into small sausage shapes (keeping hands wet to prevent the mixture sticking) and, when cooked, eaten with slices from a French stick and ‘French’ mustard. Cold beer, gassy continental type, is obligatory (I took the little bottles of French Brasserie Blonde from Aldi – cheap and ideal if you’re driving – low alcohol).

Not surprisingly, few if any Romanians mix up the spices themselves nowadays, they buy a packet. We do the same; we bring a few packets back on each visit or the family post them to us.

Bankers, lawyers and Dickens

Can’t resist a little politics. Did anyone else notice that the politicians in the ‘save the Euro’ discussions seemed more intent on saving, or not losing, face than coming up with any real solutions?

Banking? The latest banking scandal, fixing interest rates, incredibly seems yet again to be greeted with surprise by so many. Dickens was ranting about the financial ‘institutions’ of that day around a century and a half ago and I’ve been saying for about the past 50 years that little has changed.

Of course he was right about the legal professions too and much remains the same.

By any moral standard both remain corrupt.