On a side note: there are loads of pictures when you scroll down, should you only care for those.
Where did my English come from?
Finding myself in a situation where I have to pass the Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE) to be able to teach my subjects in English, I decided it would be a good idea to at least spend some time in an English country to actually get to talk the language for a change.
I learned English for 5 years back in school, which ended 10 years ago, and haven’t attended another course ever since. However, I constantly improved on my English during the last decade because I started to abandon German in all things media when I was done with school.
That is, I do everything related to media in English, be it reading books, listening to audiobooks, watching tv shows or movies, browsing the internet or writing a blog, I even run my phone, the tablet and my computer in English.
After doing this for ten years I can claim for myself to have a pretty good understanding of the English language. I mean, who wouldn’t when you watch a dozen hours of tv shows or movies a week, read 10 to 20 books a year (either listening to audiobooks or actually reading them) and use your internet devices a lot?
Why did I decide to go to the UK then?
To master the CPE exam it isn’t enough to understand a language. While my reading and listening exams won’t be a problem and even the Use of English isn’t that hard (having heard/read most of the required phrasal verbs, collocations, etc. anyways) I still struggle with grammar, writing and speaking.
This should come as no surprise, after all I never really get to speak English in everyday life and only need it on vacation, writing on the internet also doesn’t really require good skills in writing and almost nobody cares for correct grammar anyways.
So this is why I went to the UK, to Bristol to be more specific. I attended an “intensive English” course at EC Bristol for four weeks, where I met amazing people, had great teachers and got to speak English a lot. (I even refused to talk German to other guys from Switzerland)
There was some photography too, I swear!
If you made it so far I guess you find yourself wondering why the heck I’m telling you this on my photography blog?
Well, I did bring my Canon and some lenses, my tripod, the remote and even my Fuji X100S (which usually is the only thing I bring along for travel).
Which lenses did I bring with the Canon and why?
the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L USM II
I wanted to continue my 100 strangers project but, despite the British people being so polite, couldn’t get myself to approach anyone. *sigh*
I did, however, take some nice pictures with this lens, including some portraits of my fellow students.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge
a portrait of a fellow student during sunset at the Glastonbury Tor. (Editing this image was quite the hassle, because I had to push shadows a LOT and the light was already quite weak at this late hour.)
the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
This lens isn’t my best friend. I’m not much of a landscape guy and when I travel (where I take quite a few landscape shots) I usually only bring the Fuji anyways. I bought this lens because I got it at a great price and because my Samyang 35mm f/1.4 isn’t wide enough for landscapes. The lens, however, suffers from a major lack of sharpness, especially in the corners, and it does not perform the way one would expect from an L-lens.
I did bring it along because I like taking pictures of bridges at night and because I wanted to add the Suspension bridge to my collection. I even brought my Feisol carbon tripod for this very purpose and was terribly disappointed when I found the Suspension Bridge was being renovated and one of the towers should be covered for the whole time I stayed in Bristol.
This picture was the only usable result of a three-hour-walk through heavy rain in the Leigh woods. The weather was perfect when we set off and I brought about 12kg of camera gear because I wanted to take loads of pictures (portraits in the woods during the golden hour, the bridge during sunset and in the blue hour, etc.). You can see the white cover on the left tower of the bridge further decreasing the overall quality of the image. Additionally, I spent half an hour removing dust specks from the clouds.
Here we have another night shot, one of my favourites from my stay in Bristol. It’s right next to the Suspension Bridge at the Observatory. This also was my first try at astrophotography and I deeply regretted not bringing my 35/1.4 or buying a Samyang 24/1.4 instead of the Canon 17-40/4L. Having to use f/4 at maximum iso isn’t a pleasure and knowing that my Samyang would’ve performed MUCH better with coma, aberrations and what not, I really missed it.
Another night shot from the city centre. In this one I managed to get some nice starbursts from the street lights and the light columns turned out pretty nicely. However, as you maybe can imagine, the white balance in this scenery was ridiculous!
What about Vintage Lenses?
After deciding to bring both the 85L as well as the 17-40L and my tripod it wasn’t much of a question whether to also bring some of the fifties. After all, they don’t really add any weight when your main camera-lens-combo already weighs in at 2,5kg.
But which ones should I bring?
Some specimen were quickly ruled out due to a simple property they share: radioactivity. It is strictly forbidden to bring anything radioactive onto a plane and I did not want to find out whether these lenses would be taken away from me at the airport.
So the Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f/1.8, the Asahi S-M-C Takumar 50mm f/1.4 and the Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 all could not be brought along. Good thing that I still had some more to choose from.
I decided not to bring the Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8 for the simple reason of its focusing mechanism still being very hard and therefore not much fun to use. (Waiting for the new arrivals before I send my vintage stuff off to be cleaned/refurbished/aligned, etc.)
The Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 Ai was ruled out for no specific reason and therefore I ended up bringing both the Helios 44(-1) 58mm f/2 “zebra” and the Voigtländer Color-Ultron 50mm f/1.8.
I did bring the Helios and used it for a lot of pictures despite the fact that I couldn’t focus the lens to infinity. (Read my impressions about the lens in this article.)
Although I did bring the Voigtländer, I didn’t take a single picture with this lens.
I really love the Voigtländer. It is an amazing lens and performed great in my comparison tests so far. (See my articles on Sharpness, Colours, Bokeh) If I had to choose one lens only at this point in time, it would be a close call between the Color-Ultron and the Pancolar.
So why did I not use it in the UK then?
The fucking AF confirm chip didn’t work! (Excuse the bad language.)
Before I left for the airport everything was fine and I brought all my cameras and lenses in the cabin luggage (easyjet doesn’t limit the weight even though I had like 12 kg in my Retrospective 30 shoulder bag).
After I had arrived and unpacked, I wanted to use the Voigtländer first because it’s small and works extremely well in all situations (Also it lacks the strong “characteristics” of the Helios and gives more neutral images).
So I mounted the lens to my Canon and there it was, Err01. The camera tells me to clean the lens contacts which were perfectly clean to begin with.
I tried everything, cleaning the contacts with alcohol, wiggling the lens fearing that the chip had been moved slightly. Nothing worked and the camera refused to take a picture. Stupid as I was, I did NOT think of just taking off the stupid chip and using the lens without focus confirmation and exif information, I just left it in the suitcase for four weeks (Taking it out every now and then to see if the situation had changed).
I will now remove the faulty chip and replace it with a separate one that I bought for the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 (they can be had for like 2-5 bucks on eBay). The new chip works but the challenge will be to align it correctly without damaging it.
So, unfortunately there are no pictures taken with the Voigtländer.. I could tear out my hair for not thinking of just removing the stupid chip!
After all these words I would like to share some more pictures from my stay in the UK, because as usual I took most of my images with the small Fuji X100S.
Here we visited Banksys Dismaland in Weston-Super-Mare
This was also in Weston-Super-Mare on another day
Some random shots in and around Bristol, because I really love the cloud formations you can observe day in and day out. Also the sun made for some nice scenes.
Lastly, some random stuff from day trips to the Elan Valley in Wales, Oxford, Bath and Glastonbury