Voigtländer 15mm f4.5 Super wide-Heliar

Cosina Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide-Heliar lens mounted to a Sony A7r via a Voigtlander VM Adapter II. and Voigtlander L39 to M mount adapter.

I’ve been meaning to write a review of this lens for a long time – well over a year in fact – and it has proven difficult for a number of reasons which will become apparent as we proceed. In an ideal world all lenses would be wonderful for every possible use we put them to, and to be fair with modern lens their computer aided design makes this happen for the most part. Things get sketchy when we are dealing with older designs on modern digital cameras. High resolution digital imaging has placed a great deal of strain on lenses. With film only a few people had the time, ability, resources and inclination to examine the optical performance of lenses. This was largely the province of a few magazines (remember them?) and they would accompany a review with a couple of graphs which would reference the resolving capabilities with fine grains low ISO black and white films developed in special developers designed to minimise grain and maximise acutance. Now anyone can open up an image in Photoshop and zoom into 200% and see a lenses faults. This is why Canon, Nikon and independents such as Sigma are going through their catalogue of lenses and updating them, and this need for optical improvements explains why lenses are getting bigger, heavier and more expensive. Back to the matter at hand. The video below is the short version.

 

Cosina Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide-Heliar Lens.

The Voigtländer 15mm f4.5 Aspherical Super wide-Heliar to give its full name is really the antithesis of modern lens design. It is small, light, affordable and not heavily optically corrected. But having said that this is the lens that really put Cosina’s re-launch of the Voigtländer brand on the radar of photographers. I can remember when this lens first came out a friend of mine borrowed one and ran around madly shooting roll after roll of film with a silly look on his face enthusing about it wildly. Up until then the widest lens in Leica M mount was the Zeiss 15mm f8 Hologon of which only 225 were made and currently change hands for around the $10,000 USD for one in mint condition.

The Voigtländer 15mm f4.5 is now discontinued but can be obtained as new old stock for approximately $600 USD, or second-hand on Ebay for around the $400 USD mark at the time of writing.

 

Cosina Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide-Heliar lens showing the Leica L39 screw mount.

 

Cosina Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide-Heliar lens showing the Voigtlander L39 to M mount adapter.

 

Cosina Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide-Heliar lens showing the Voigtlander VM adapter II Sony E mount adapter.

 

Specifications

Mount – Leica thread or L39
Angle of view – 110º
Lens construction – 8 elements in 6 groups with one aspherical element
Number of aperture blades – 10
Aperture range f4.5 – f22 in half click stops
Minimum focusing distance – 29.85cm or 11.75 inches
Weight – 113g or 4oz
Diameter 49.6mm or 1.94 inches
Length – 30.7mm or 1.2 inches
Filter thread – N/A
Lens hood – built in tulip style
Rangefinder coupling – no

The lens is very well made – up to Cosina’s very high standards and it has, despite its diminutive size a solid feel and satisfying heft. The aperture ring is at the front of the lens, as is usual with rangefinder lenses, and turns nicely with satisfying half stop click indents. The focusing action is very smooth and has an approximate 100º throw. I found that I tended to use hyper focal distances to zone focus the lens in use as the short focal length means that the DOF is immense. The lens has a very clearly marked scale to make this easy. An aperture of f8 means that everything from 0.5m to infinity is in focus. Conversely lovers of shallow depth of field should really be looking elsewhere.

 

Test Results

Cosina Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide-Heliar lens mounted to a Sony A7r via a Voigtlander VM Adapter II.

 

Cosina Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide-Heliar lens mounted to a Sony A7r via a Voigtlander VM Adapter II.

 

Years ago Clint Eastwood made a film called “The “Good, The Bad, The Ugly” (a movie which had the coolest theme tune ever, actually that is an exaggeration as everyone knows Shaft had the coolest, but it’s a close run thing) well this lens is all three. Good, bad and ugly. The good comes when you use the lens as intended on a film rangefinder body. The bad when you mount it on a digital m4/3s body and the ugly when you put in from of the A7r’s 36Mp sensor. This lens is one of the worst I’ve ever had on a digital camera – the worst was a $20 25 mm f/8 Holga lens in m4/3s mount which I tried using on my Olympus EP2 several years ago, but that is, as they say, another story. My friend who I mentioned earlier abused Kodak Tri-X by pushing it, developing in Rodinal and then lith printed the results. He wouldn’t have noticed what I’m about to describe. So this is how it was on the Sony A7r.Right from the get go there is obvious barrel distortion. Wide open there is considerable vignetting which has a very obvious magenta cast. No matter how far you stop down this does not go away (kind of like Mormon missionaries on your doorstep). Wide open the centre sharpness is quite good and remains so until f22 when diffraction rears its ugly head. The corners are smeared and out of focus, things improve a little by f11 but they never get to the level of sharpness of the centre of the lens. Chromatic aberration is also present throughout the aperture range. Flare for such a wide lens is remarkably well controlled and lovers of sunstars should be happy as the 10 aperture blades produce nice results.

 

With film the light-sensitive silver halide crystals don’t care at which angle light hits them.

The reasons for this are that Voigtländer 15mm was designed for use with film and the silver halide crystals in the film emulsion did not care at what angle lights hits them to provide the necessary reaction to form the latent image. But with a digital sensor it is a whole different ball game because the sensor is no longer just a gelatine substrate coated with an emulsion containing silver halide crystals it is a complex sandwich of filters, lenses and electronic componentry as the schematics  show. For best performance the light needs to enter micro lenses at 90º, when the incidence of the light is severely off perpendicular then not all of it reaches the pixel at the bottom of its well this can cause vignetting, smearing with loss of detail, and severe colour fringing. This is what stopped Leica initially developing a digital range finder. Kodak developed a special sensor with offset micro lenses for Leica to help overcome this along with in camera software correction the digital M became a reality.

For light to hit the pixel in its well it needs to travel as near to perpendicular to the sensor plane as possible.

In Use

For stills photography the 15mm f4.5 could be a consideration if you don’t have the current fixation of razor sharpness corner to corner i.e. if the hero of your shot is central to the frame and you don’t mind loss of sharpness at the edges. Working in monochrome would help get rid of the magenta cast of the edges as well. Have said that the magenta cast and vignetting are removable in post, the accompanying video shows how this can be done in Lightroom. In the gallery of example pictures below I’ve left the magenta cast in some of the photos so you can see what it looks like. If you’d like to see the photos larger they can be seen here.

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Video is another matter. Ideally this lens should be perfect for vlogging on a Sony A7 but the smearing, colour cast and vignetting make it quite unsuitable. Also it has no filter threads so it is impossible to use a variable neutral density filter which further adds to its unsuitability.

Conclusion

 

 

To be completely fair we are demonstrating uses for this lens that it was never designed for. With film and optical/chemical printing it is an amazing lens at very cheap price. When looking at it from a digital imaging point of view, whether stills or video, it really can’t be recommended unless you already own it and are prepared to put up with its short comings. If you are looking for an ultra wide the are better options available such as the Laowa 15mm f/2 Zero-D Lens.

A Gnome Among the Gumtrees*

I’m always pleasantly surprised by the things I find while pootling along the back roads of Western Australia. Last weekend was a case in point. I was driving along the bucolic Ferguson Valley in the south-west of the state when I came across something that just expressed a sense of spontaneous anarchistic fun. That something was Gnomesville. We’ve all seen garden gnomes haven’t we? You know those kitsch garden ornaments usually made out of plaster and sometimes out of cement that can be found in gardens all over the world. Usually they are seen singly, occasionally in twos or threes. Sometimes you come across a garden that has maybe a couple of dozen and that is regarded as a bit OTT. So imagine a place with thousands of gnomes. That’s right thousands. The exact number is not known, but some reckon the figure could be as high as 5000. They are not in a garden, it’s not some commercial tourist attraction. Gnomesville is found on the verge by a roundabout in a very rural setting.

 

Gnomesville by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Welcome to Gnomesville. A small gathering of the inhabitants. Western Australia. Sony A7r with Olympus OM Zuiko 35mm f2 lens. Exposure: 1/60th sec, f8 at ISO 320.

 

The whole thing is absolutely bonkers. So how did it start? Well there is the legend of Gnomesville which is as follows:

“A long, long time ago, a Gnome was travelling on an Australian country road. It was at night and far from anywhere. All around was leafy and green. A pleasant place.

By and by, he came to a fork in the road. He followed the road, which seemed to go around and around.

Now, being a little person, he could not see over the curb. If he did, the story would have ended here.

He walked all night with the feeling he was going nowhere. Roads branched off every so often.
By the morning, he was exhausted. Then it was clear. He had come across a ROUNDABOUT—a circular intersection in the middle of (almost) nowhere.

This was something he had never seen as a country traveller.

But it was a nice place and reminded him of home. There was a bubbling brook and shady trees.
So he stayed a while. And another while. Other Gnomes passed and visited, and many stayed. Word passed around.

Gnomes from far and wide left their gardens and came to visit. But they stayed. This was something new for the mostly solitary Gnomes. There was something irresistible about the place. It was as if the ROUNDABOUT was casting a spell.

But that is another story…

So Gnomesville was born.”

© Gnomesville, Peter Terren.

 

Gnomesville by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Peak hour in Gnomesville. Western Australia. Sony A7r with Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS. Exposure: 1/200th sec, f4 at ISO 200.

 

For people who need the real actual true story well Kevin and Vicki Campbell were a local couple who played a large part in the creation of Gnomesville. The local shire had annexed some land from a neighbour to create a T junction at the bottom of a hill. The local residents weren’t too keen as they felt that it would be unsafe. So after a public meeting and some toing and froing it was decided that a roundabout would be built instead. Not long after a gnome appeared in a hollow tree by the roundabout. It was in fact the very spot where Vicki used to leave her bicycle when she caught the school bus as a child. It was the start of a gnome sit in protest. Soon there were twenty gnomes all showing solidarity. And so Gnomesville was born. I prefer the legend. Now people come from quite literally all over the world to leave a gnome. When I was there a young couple with their son had come all the way from Malaysia to leave a gnome. There are Dutch gnomes, gnomes from Japan, even from Finland. Gnomesville is a very cosmopolitan place.

 

Gnomesville by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Gnomesville attracts gnomes from all over the world. This is the Japanese contingent. Gnomesville, Western Australia. Sony A7r with Cosina Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide-Heliar lens. Exposure: 1/60th sec, f8 at ISO 400.

 

So if you are in the vicinity of Bunbury and are kicking your heels wondering what to do take a drive out to the Ferguson Valley and enjoy the sights of Gnomesville. You could even stop off and buy a gnome to leave there.

 

Gnomesville by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Warning – gnomes crossing. Gnomesville, Western Australia. Sony A7r with Olympus OM Zuiko 35mm f2.0 lens. Exposure: 1/160th sec, f2.8 at ISO 200.

 

*apologies to Wally Johnson and Bob Brown for corrupting the title to their all time Aussie favourite song “Home Among The Gum Trees”

If you are not an Aussie and you are left somewhat puzzled by the lyrics then an explanation can be found at http://alldownunder.com/australian-music-songs/home-among-the-gum-trees.htm

M To N

 

The Sony NEX mount was made for sad old gits like me. “Hold on Paul…” I can hear you say “do you mean that Sony engineered a whole camera line specifically for you?”. No! There was a happy accident that had some unforeseen benefits. I’ll explain. This is going to be a bit beardy and nerdy.

The first commercial 35m film camera was produced – the Tourist Multiple. made by Herbert & Huesgen of New York

Just over 100 years ago, or to be precise in 1909, the film (or movie depending upon where you are from) industry standardised on a film format of 1.37 inches in width with four perforations per frame. The decision was economic, it meant that cinemas didn’t have to have different sized film projectors. In 1913 the first commercial 35m film camera was produced – the Tourist Multiple. made by Herbert & Huesgen of New York. Unfortunately this achievement is largely forgotten because the story of Oskar Barnack inventing 35mm film for stills and the Leica camera has become the accepted history, but that is FAKE NEWS as a certain orange haired buffoon is apt to say. Not long after these small format cameras as they were then known took two distinct evolutionary paths the rangefinder (which was the first) as pioneered by Leica and the Single Lens Reflex as pioneered by K. Nüchterlein’s when the Kine Exakta launched in 1936.

The first Single Lens Reflex was the Kine Exakta launched in 1936.

 

Looking through a rangefinder viewfinder. Illustration p.31 London, B et al Photography, 7th Edition, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2002.
How range finder focusing works. Illustration from p.31 London, B et al Photography, 7th Edition, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2002.

Rangefinder cameras initially were very popular. The technology was available and relatively simple and the cameras and lenses were very compact. The photographer looks through a window on the camera and sees an image with a fainter duplicate from a rotating prism over laid. The photographer adjusts the rangefinder until the two images match up exactly, then the image is in focus. This system was called the split image rangefinder and had been developed to sight artillery pieces and was well understood at the time. The disadvantage is of course that the photographer is not seeing what the lens sees, only an approximation which can lead to inaccurate framing due to parallax errors. Interchangeable lenses were facilitated by having a screw mount and Leica adopted as their standard the L39 or LTM (Leica Thread Mount) which is 39mm in diameter with a Whitworth thread of 0.977 pitch and a flange distance of 28.8mm. Other manufacturers made variations on a theme i.e. the Canon M39 (aka J Mount) and the FED 39 which all share the same diameter but the thread pitch and flange distances are different. By the 1950’s photographers were looking for a faster way of changing lenses and so short throw bayonet mounts were developed. In 1954 Leica introduced the M mount and this is characterised by it having an external diameter of 44mm, a bayonet consisting of four claws and a flange distance of 27.8mm.

With the advent of digital imaging camera designers were suddenly allowed to consider alternative designs where there were no moving parts. It was hoped that eliminating the mirror and using an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) and taking a direct readout off of the sensor would allow cheaper and easier manufacture. The autofocus system would be more accurate because the readings could be taken directly off of the sensor and the use of electronics allowed more accuracy than mechanical linkages. With no flappy mirror to interfere with things the flange distance could be reduced along with it’s radius. So the Sony NEX mount has a flange distance of 18mm and a diameter 41.6mm which means that just about any lens can be mounted to a NEX body via an adapter and as long as it has an imaging circle big enough so that an image can be projected on the sensor. The NEX mount covers both so-called full frame format (35 x 24mm) and the APSC format (24 x 16mm). This is the happy accident because I’m sure that when Sony adopted this standard they didn’t realise that it would allow legions of photographers all over the world to mount legacy lenses (lenses made for cameras that are no longer produced) to be mounted to the new Sony mirrorless cameras. Now I am the first to admit dear reader that as a photographer I have been promiscuous. I have not stayed faithful to one brand or lens mount which means that I have a fair few lenses sitting in a shoe box that I no longer have camera bodies for. Now I’ve already talked about mounting my old Olympus OM Zuiko lenses on my Sony A7r here. This and a few subsequent posts are going to be about using L39 and M mount lenses.

The Fotodiox DLX Stretch is a clever M mount to NEX adapter that has a built in adjustable extension tube to allow a degree of close focusing with any M Mount lens.

“So who in their right mind would want to do this?” Well you’re probably right to want to do this would be a sign of mental infirmity to some, but for many people (myself included) auto everything cameras are a bit boring and modern lenses while being technically very good can be a bit characterless. While Leica lenses are wallet puckeringly expensive there are plenty of more affordable alternatives made by Minolta (now absorbed by Sony), Konica (initially taken over by Minolta and then swallowed up by Sony), Ricoh, Voigtländer, Rollei (both of these as part of Cosina’s licensing of their names) Zeiss and those produced in Russia such as Zorki and Fed. These lenses are beautifully made with metal barrels and mounts, buttery smooth focusing, and exquisite clicking aperture rings. I’ve got a Canon L macro lens, and while it produces wonderful images the plastic body is somewhat underwhelming considering the price Canon charge for it and it’s not something I’d pick up for the tactile experience and as for the whole joy of ownership – well let’s not talk about it. These older lenses just feel so satisfying in the hand that makes you want to do some serious lens fondling. They just engender a joy of ownership that plastic can’t. I told you there are mental health issues with this.

SLRs have a big flippy flappy mirror between the lens and the film/sensor. Illustration p.38 Parish, S; Photograph Australia With Steve Parish, Steve Parish Publishing, Brisbane, 2003.

Another reason why rangefinder lenses are attractive is that there are fewer optical design compromises. SLRs have a big flippy flappy mirror between the lens and the film/sensor. This meant making wide-angle lenses next to impossible because the rear lens element would foul the mirror. In 1950 Pierre Angénieux invented the retrofocus lens which is a kind of “reverse” telephoto design where the lens elements closest to the film plane have a negative effect making the image smaller. The downsides are more glass elements means more air to glass surfaces which means more refraction which means more potential chromatic aberration and distortion. More glass means more weight. Here’s an interesting fact – a cubic centimetre of glass is heavier than a cubic centimetre of concrete. Range finders are mirrorless cameras so there isn’t a restrictive mirror flapping about, this has the net effect that your 28mm lens can be a true 28mm lens without a whole bunch of extra glass causing problems. It also means that rangefinder lenses are much smaller than their SLR counterparts.

The retro focus lens design invented by Pierre Angenieux.

However, it is not all unicorns at the bottom of the garden. Rangefinder lenses were designed for use with film and the silver halide crystals in the film emulsion did not care at what angle lights hits them to provide the necessary reaction to form the latent image. But with a digital sensor it is a whole different ball game because the sensor is no longer just a gelatine substrate coated with an emulsion containing silver halide crystals it is a complex sandwich of filters, lenses and electronic componentry as the schematic from whatdigitalcamera shows. For best performance the light needs to enter micro lenses at 90º, when the incidence of the light is severely off perpendicular then not all of it reaches the pixel at the bottom of its well this can cause vignetting, smearing with loss of detail, and severe colour fringing. This is what stopped Leica initially developing a digital range finder. Kodak developed a special sensor with offset micro lenses for Leica M8 to help overcome this along with in camera software correction the digital M became a reality.

The many layers that make up film emulsion. The silver halide crystals respond to light hitting them at any angle. Illustration from London, B et al; Photography, 7th Edition, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2002.

 

Anatomy of a sensor. A – Colour filter array
. B – Low-pass filter / Anti-aliasing filter
. C – Infrared filter (hot mirror). D – Circuitry
. E – Pixel
. F – Microlenses. G – Black pixels

. For light to hit the pixel in its well it needs to travel as near to perpendicular to the sensor plane as possible. Illustration from http://www.whatdigitalcamera.com/technical-guides/technology-guides/sensors-explained-11457

 

Why not buy a digital M and be done with it? There is no way I could afford a digital Leica as I’m not a “Trustafarian”, and also and perhaps more importantly, my lenses are not made by Leica they are the much cheaper Voigtländers so I’m not going to drop nearly $10K AUD just to use them again. But as I had a Sony A7r for experimenting with my collection of Olympus OM Zuiko lenses I thought I’d just buy a M to N adapter. Because the Sony NEX mount is a much shorter flange distance than a conventional DSLR its sensor does have micro lenses to cope with the native wide angles. However, the fly in the ointment is that just having them alone does not fix the problems with M mount lenses because there is no in camera correction via firmware. So straight away the situation is more complex than using old SLR lenses. The answer is obviously to fix the problems in post. Users of Lightroom can rejoice as there are profiles for Voigtländers lenses in the developing module. They are easy to use but given that they are somewhat generic they sometimes don’t fix the problem entirely requiring a little extra fiddling about. If you are really keen then you can build your own profiles using Cornerfix.

The Voigtlander M to Nex adapter allows users of M mount lenses from Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander to mount their lenses on Mirrorless cameras from Sony

Well now we’ve got that out of the way lets talk about adapters. At their most basic an adapter is just a tube with a male bayonet mount at one end and a female at the other. For the sake of brevity I’ll limit this to just dumb adapters i.e. you’re not trying to get auto focus and stabilisation to work. There are a huge range of prices for essentially the same thing. I’ve paid as little as $15 including postage from China to as much as $200. So what do you get for your money? Not a lot. I got a Voigtländers VM II Adapter – Leica M Lenses to Sony E Mount for $200 AUD from an Australian seller. It looked nicely made but it had a serious flaw, there was no spring in the lens release button which means that your lens could fall off as it wasn’t secured. I don’t know if that is typical but I had no luck with trying to exchange it with the seller so I was kind off put off spending a lot of money. The next adapter I bought was from a Chinese seller on eBay and it cost a grand total of $15 AUD and it worked fine. A little agrarian in the looks department but it did the job nicely. Then I noticed that Voigtländer made a close focus adapter which took my fancy. Generally rangefinder lenses only focus down to 1 metre and I like to use wide angles closer than that for dramatic effect and it also meant that my 75mm was suitable for tight portraits. So my interest was definitely piqued, but my wallet was a little bit shy about coughing up $389 AUD after my experience with the other one. Then I discovered the Fotodiox DLX Stretch for $170 AUD from B&H Photo and for half the price of the Voigtländer coupled with B&H’s excellent customer service I was in like Flynn.

The Fotodiox DLX Stretch is a clever M mount to NEX adapter that has a built in adjustable extension tube to allow a degree of close focusing with any M Mount lens.

When the DLX Stretch arrived in its plain brown wrapper I quickly reassured the significant other that it wasn’t anything X rated (“No luv I said photographic accessory not pornographic accessory!”) and got down to playing with it. Basically what it is is an adapter with its own built in variable extension ring. The extension is achieved via a helicoid with a long throw. The amount of extension is not great about 2-3mm but that is enough to reduce the minimum focusing on my Voigtländer 35mm f2.5 Color Skopar from 70cm to 30cm. As my Voigtländer 15mm f4.5 Super-Wide Heliar and Voigtländer 75mm f2.5 Color Heliar are both L39 screw fitting I promptly ordered two L39 to Leica M adapters so I could use them with the Fotodiox DLX Stretch and the results were just as impressive. For the 75mm the minimum focus is 100cm and is then reduced to 65cm, and for the 15mm the minimum focus was reduced from 30cm to 12cm.

The Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide Heliar normally has a minimum focusing distance of 30cm but when used with the Fotodiox DLX Stretch at full extension the minimum focusing distance becomes 12cm.

In terms of construction the DLX Stretch is reassuringly weighty (unlike the cheap Chinese adapters which feel so light that they may be made from a lacquered toilet roll tube). Both the male and female mounts are chrome plated brass. The aluminium body is anodised a natty orange colour that matches the orange lens mount trim on Sony A7 series cameras. The ring that moves the helicoid is knurled and has a prominent finger tab and has a nice smooth action although saying that it is difficult to use while videoing without creating camera shake. There is no wiggle or play with the extension and the unit attaches to cameras and lens snuggly with evidence of any play or light leaks. To further install confidence in the product Fotodiox warranty the adapter for 24 months.

The Cosina Voigtländer 35mm f2.5 Color Skopar mounted to a Sony A7r via a Fotodiox DLX Stretch M to E lens adapter.

 

A photo of bowl of curry laksa taken with the Voigtlander 35mm f2.5 Color Skopar lens on a Sony A7r at the lenses normal minimum focusing distance of 70 cm.

 

The same bowl of Laksa with the same camera and lens but this time the Fotodiox DLX Stretch is extended to give a minimum focusing distance of 30 cm.

Overall I can see some photographers scoffing at the concept saying they have no need. Myself I like it very much and am using it a lot especially with the Voigtländer 15mm f4.5 Super-Wide Heliar.

Slow Train Comming*

Slow Train Coming
Railway rolling stock carrying ballast for track repairs at the York rail yard in Western Australia. Sony A7r with a Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide – Heliar lens mounted via a Fotodiox DLX Stretch Leica M to Sony E mount adapter. Exposure: 1/400th sec, f16 ISO 800.

 

* Easy musical reference this week – it is of course the title track off of Bob Dylan’s first album produced during his Christian phase – Slow Train Coming. It marked a couple of departures for his Bobness. Firstly The use of Mark Knopfler and Pick Withers, from Dire Straits, on lead guitar and drums respectively to add a more polished sound. Secondly the use of Jerry Wexler,who originally coined the term “Rhythm and Blues” and was famous for producing Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, to produce a bigger funkier sound. Although the song was used as the Title Track for his first Christian album the song actually predates the album and was used by Dylan as a sound check. The song has no Biblical references and is more a rant by Dylan over the direction the USA was taking. Many critics at the time  found it to be racist and jingoistic but some forty years later many are saying that it was prophetic and showed the gradual moral, economic and political decline of the country.

“I Like Driving…

…in my car”*

Willys Knight
Willys Knight
York Motor Show. Avon Terrace, York, Western Australia.

Last weekend was the York Motor Show, it has been held every year since 2004 and usually draws a big turn out of cars and visitors. This means that a walk down Avon Terrace  can be a hazardous matter as the pedestrian is blinded by the sun glistening off of the duco and the gleaming chrome trim. Unfortunately this years event was marred by the weather – it was a cloudy grey day with occasional drizzle. Drizzle is a weather form I don’t really associate with Western Australia, it’s more a dank dour dreary weather form for the UK, or Tasmania. Western Australia is all about big blue skies with occasional heavy rain storms in winter. Anyway I digress – 18 months in Tasmania has meant that I think and talk about meteorological conditions far more than I should. So despite the fickleness of the weather those who did turn up were very enthusiastic and had a good time.

Sunbeam Rapier
Sunbeam Rapier

Although my late father worked for many years in the car industry selling luxury cars such as Jensen, BMW and Mercedes , I must confess that I have virtually zero interest in them. What I do enjoy is the spectacle of events such as these and the photo opportunities they present. I enjoyed a fun couple of hours walking up and down taking photos and talking to people. At events like this people are only too happy to talk about their pride and joy and photographing it is a form of showing how you appreciate their efforts. It’s almost rude not to take a photo. Photographically speaking shooting events like these is akin to shooting fish in a barrel. I used one body, a 15mm ultra wide-angle, a 35mm moderate wide-angle and a 75mm short telephoto. The two wide-angles seeing the most action. A couple of spare batteries (not needed despite over 300 shots taken) and a large empty memory card completed the kit. Travelling light means that walking up and down is an enjoyable experience.

York Motor Show 2016
The members of Dunrooten Racing study the form of the competition. York Motor Show 2016. Avon Terrace, York, Western Australia.
Bugatti On Avon Terrace
Bugatti On Avon Terrace
Stutz 8
Stutz 8

Todays musical reference was a single by British group Madness.  The band burst on to music scene in 1976 as part of the ska revival channeling such influences as Prince Buster and their first hit in 1979 directly referenced him and their later track Al Capone was another reference. By the time “I Like Driving In My Car” came out in 1982 the band had abandoned their Jamaican inspired groove and had become more mainstream pop occasionally breaking out into quirky songs such as this one.

“My love is wider…

…wider than Victoria Lake”*

 

York Mill
As you drive into York on the Great Southern Highway standing tall on your left is the historic York Flour Mill built in 1892, home to The York Mill.

I like wide-angle lenses, I use them a lot, but funnily enough mostly in the 24-35mm range (35mm full frame sensor speak that is). Occasionally I’d pull oy a 20mm, but as I said only very occasionally. The above shot was taken with a 24mm lens, it’s OK but a little cramped. I couldn’t back up any more as I was against the fence so I threw caution to the wind and chucked a 15mm lens on the front of the camera – and we’re talking full frame sensor here.

 

York Mill
York Mill again this time Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide-Heliar lens.

It’s amazing how much difference 9mm can make. Same viewpoint but this time with the camera in the landscape orientation. It sets the building in its context and thus makes it more appealing. I also like how the whole building is acting as a giant reflector for the setting sun. This will be the picture that is used for the end product, however, the one I like the most takes advantage of the enormous depth of field that such a short focal length provides.

 

York Mill
What a lot of depth of field – from 30cm to infinity at f16.

 

*  Today’s title comes from a couple of lines from the lyrics of “Is It A Crime” by Sade the über cool and totally smooth chanteuse of the 1980’s.

Quirky Quairading

Quairading Railway Station
Aboriginal art at Quairading Railway Station, Western Australia. Sony A7r with Olympus OM Zuiko 24mm f2.8 lens. Exposure 1/4000 f8 ISO 400.

 

Situated 166 Km (or 103 miles for the imperially minded) east of Perth is the small Wheatbelt town of Quairading. If you can’t pronounce it you’re not a local! Really it is just a blip on the map, one of countless small Australian country towns. Gazetted in 1907 the town was built around the rail terminus. Typical of many Wheatbelt towns is the CBH grain handling facility built near the station to ship the crop out at harvest time. The railway line has since closed and the grain moved by road. For many towns this would possibly be the last straw, but Quairading carries on. As you drive into town you are met

 

Quairading CBH Grain Bins
The land around Quairading was cleared for farming and in 1932 two grain elevators were built and wheat from the district was transported via rail. The railway shut in 2013 and now the grain travels by road. Canon EOS 550d with Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 OS EX lens. Exposure: 1/100, f8, at ISO 400.

 

by members of the grain family – cartoon characters based on grains of wheat created by local artist Lyn Whyte. Some of the businesses in the town centre shut down long ago but their buildings have been repurposed. The old bank is now someone’s home and has been called the Brass Razoo Bank, which is Australian slang for having no money and is kind of appropriate.

 

Wesley Wheat
Wesley Wheat a member of the Grain Family. He and his siblings Basil Barley, Ollie Oat and Lucy Lupin are the concept of local artist Lyn Whyte, the family can be seen in quite a few locations around the Quairading district.

 

One of the old shops has a huge street frontage and this now houses a collection of cars straight out of the 1970’s. Just a few doors down is the antique/collectables shop whose contents spill out onto the pavement. The items displayed are often arranged in odd juxtapositions which often cause passers-by to do a double take to see what is going on.

 

Flowers of Quairading
Flowers of Quairading. A street side shop display from the antique shop in Quairading. Sony A7r with Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide – Heliar. Exposure: 1/5000 sec, f16 at ISO 6400.

 

The Car Dealership From The 1970's.
The Car Dealership From The 1970’s. Sony A7r with Olympus OM Zuiko 24mm f2.8 lens. Exposure: 1/200 sec, f16, ISO 1600.

 

Mercedes Truck
An old Mercedes truck sits in a paddock slowly rusting. Quairading, Western Australia. Sony A7r with Voigtlander 75mm f2.5 Color-Heliar lens. Exposure: 1/4000, f2.5 at ISO 400.

 

100 Years of ANZAC
The Anzac memorial in Quairading. Western Australia. Sony A7r with Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide – Heliar lens. Exposure: 1/250 sec, f16 at ISO 1600.

 

The real highlight is the people – friendly, upbeat and generous. My partner walked into the local tourist office cum art centre cum civic museum and walked out with a free pumpkin. What more could you want?