Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Using Manual Focus Lenses on Sony Mirrorless cameras

It's horrible outside, windy and raining, so I've time to kill. Just the opportunity to write about my experience of using manual focus (MF) lenses on the Sony NEX 6. I guess that all of this is transferable to the a6000, and some to other Sony mirrorless cameras.

First of all, why use a manual focus lens?

In my case I have a collection of them most of which I acquired in film camera days, but, having found them to be superior in many instances to the kit lenses supplied by Sony, I have since bought additional manual focus lenses. The emergence of the Chinese company Rokinon/Samyang now means that you can buy a quality MF lens new that will fit directly onto your Sony camera.

Then there is the consideration of cost. Cheap secondhand manual focus lenses, even those made many years ago, often provide superior image quality to the Sony zooms.

I should add that I have tried using manual focus lenses on my Canon DSLRs, but not obtained satisfactory results, as their viewfinder screens are not designed for the purpose. Live view is better, but not convenient for many purposes. Enter the Sony NEX 6 with an excellent electronic viewfinder  (EVF) and we have a game changer. It brings back fond memories of focusing with an old Pentax film camera which had a large, bright, optical viewfinder, complete with focusing aids.

What are the snags?

If your manual focus lens was made to fit a Pentax, Canon or Nikon etc camera, you will need an adapter to fit it to your Sony camera. There is an incredible range of adapters available to suit most marques, but do check that one exists before you buy. I have found that adapters costing as little as £20 are perfectly acceptable for use.

As the name suggests, manual focus means just that, no autofocus. There are times when autofocus is a real benefit, for example when trying to photograph your young children or grandchildren, but most of the time you don't need it. Buildings don't move, while cars, trains boats and planes normally follow fixed trajectories and you can pre-focus to get a sharp shot. OK planes are a bit tricky! Using a lens wide enough to get interesting shots in the street, the depth of field is usually enough to see you through in most circumstances.

I have lost some shots due to not being able to focus rapidly enough, but I have also lost shots due to auto focusing systems missing the target completely!

Then there is the aperture. Automatic cameras focus with the aperture fully wide and then stop down to the required setting immediately before shooting. You do the same with manual glass, but you have to remember to stop down before you press the trigger.

You might miss lens stabilisation, although the new Sony full frame cameras have that built into the body. I'm hoping that, should it ever appear, the replacement for the NEX 7 will have that feature.

Finally not all old lenses are entirely happy with digital sensors, and this can result in the appearance of colour fringing due to chromatic aberration (CA), or ( I am told, never seen it) occasionally edge effects.  CA can very largely be dealt with by a single key press in a raw converter like Lightroom. Again cheap, and not so cheap,  modern lenses also produce CA but often software is used to reduce or eliminate the effect. I have a very nice copy of a Canon 24-105 L lens that revels in CA.

Lenses to avoid

You need to restrict your choice to those lenses that have a manual aperture ring - most modern lenses don't as the aperture is controlled from the camera.

Cheap plastic bodied consumer grade zooms from the film era are often pretty poor, even from the major players.

You can't go too far wrong with fixed focal length lenses badged by the original camera company e.g. Minolta et al, or lenses fitted as standard by some of those companies. e.g. Zeiss. Third party lenses are more problematic, there are no doubt some very good ones about, with Tamron and Sigma probably better than average, but we are getting into murky waters here.

Old lenses might have developed faults in use, sticky apertures, tight focusing, or be infected with internal fungus growth. You need to be vigilant and reject anything that isn't as it should be. Don't be put off by external condition, if the glass is clear and everything works properly, it could be a real bargain. Your'e not buying a collectible, rather something to use and earn its keep.

Camera Settings and Use

Firstly you have to tell your camera that a manual focus lens is fitted, as otherwise the lack of electronic contacts will have it assume that there is no lens at all and it will refuse to work. On the NEX 6 you need to tell the camera to "Release w/o lens", an option in the Setup menu. This does not affect the operation of your auto focus lenses in any way, so you might as well just leave it at that setting.

There are three viable settings on the control dial for use with MF lenses: -

A - Aperture priority, you set the aperture and the camera selects the shutter speed
S - Shutter speed priority, I'll come back to that.
M - Manual, you set both the aperture and the shutter speed.

Then there is the ISO setting on the rear control wheel

I try to shoot at the lowest ISO that will give me a fast enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake.

There is an Auto ISO setting, which will choose a value to enable a shutter speed of 1/60 th second or faster. Unfortunately 1/60 th is not fast enough for many situations, while it's over generous for others. A better system would enable users to select the minimum shutter speed associated with auto ISO, but read below for more on that.

(Edit - Apparently the Sony a6300  has the ability to select the minimum shutter speed to use with Auto ISO, a very welcome improvement, how about a software upgrade Mr Sony? - Pigs might fly)

Depending upon the circumstance I therefore either use Auto ISO or I set the ISO myself.

Most of the time I use Aperture priority, and keep a weather eye on the shutter speed that the camera has selected, adjusting the ISO if necessary. I probably use this setting for 90% of my shots.

Interestingly Auto ISO enables a greater number of possible choices than the dial provides.

When I want to freeze the action, or, conversely force auto ISO to allow a slower speed,  I will occasionally select Shutter speed priority. Auto ISO then performs in a more reasonable fashion, selecting an ISO to enable that shutter speed. The problem with this selection is that it can lead to overexposure, as occasionally you need a faster shutter speed than the one that you have selected, even at the base ISO of 100.  I therefore don't leave this as my default setting.

I normally only employ the Manual setting either when using an external flash, or when I take Panoramas and need a guaranteed uniformity of exposure.

I find that the exposure provided with manual focus lenses tends to be rather less than the optimum, you normally get a usable shot, but it's often beneficial to dial in a half stop or more of over exposure. The (exposed) histogram is your friend, adjust the exposure and take another shot if necessary. Lenses vary in this regard, you have got to learn by experience, while, of course a white cat against a white wall will fool all metering systems, and you occasionally have to make quite radical adjustments.

Perfectionists might use an incident light exposure meter and set the camera accordingly, but life is too short, take a few shots, look at the histogram and adjust if necessary.


The NEX 6 has a very good electronic view finder, enabling a 5x and almost 10x magnified view. This, coupled with full aperture focusing, generally allows a very precise focus to be obtained. The viewfinder on the a6000 does not have as many pixels, and I've not had the chance to try it, so I can't comment on that.

An alternative is the contrast detection system that the camera provides, when sharp edges show up in colour. There are three levels of contrast detection available for selection on the NEX6 and my camera is permanently set at the lowest level. Despite this, it occasionally picks out a false positive, so I much prefer to rely upon the magnified viewfinder image.

As a pensioner, my eyes are not getting any younger, but I find that the range of dioptre correction on the viewfinder eyepiece is more than sufficient for my purposes, allowing me to focus without glasses.

Do be aware that many adapters do not provide a sufficiently accurate register to allow you to use the distance scale on the lens, most providing focus beyond infinity. I guess that this is in order to enable rather slacker manufacturing tolerances and so hold the cost down. I do have some cheap Pentax bayonet adapters that provide a sufficiently accurate alignment for the shorter focal lengths - and this is very convenient, shooting a distant object you just wind the lens up to infinity on the scale  and fire away - but even they go slightly past infinity with the longer telephotos. You need to test your gear!

Using Unstabilised Lenses

Modern lenses generally have some kind of anti shake mechanism built in, while older manual focus lenses do not. I was taught to shoot at at least 1 over the effective focal length in order to have a decent chance of getting a sharp result, e.g. a 100 mm lens would require a minimum of 1/100 th second. Of course the angle of view is reduced by the crop frame Sony, effectively increasing the focal length by 1.5x, so you need to fire at 1/150 for a 100 mm lens etc. Always check to see what speed the camera is coming up with, and, if necessary,  use Shutter speed priority along with Auto ISO to ensure that you have a realistic chance of avoiding camera shake.

Being brought up with unstabilised lenses this does not bother me, and I use the techniques learned with film cameras to get sharp results. For example if you are shooting with a telephoto try to find a wall, post, or doorway etc to lean against, while you might also employ the delayed time setting on the camera so that you don't vibrate it while the shutter is released. Don't snatch at the shutter button, squeeze it gently. I rarely use a tripod, but for long telephotos you need to, while, a monopod is better than nothing.

It is relatively difficult to get sharp images with a handheld unstabilised telephoto lens, I generally take a few shots in order to increase my chances of a success.

Of course if you are considerably more affluent than me, you might just shell out for a Sony a6500, which comes with in body stabilisation.

Practice Makes Perfect

You can't reasonably expect to fit a manual focus lens and immediately start taking super sharp, perfectly exposed, photos, there's so much to remember and to do. Take heart, and persevere, with practice you will become a very slick and skillful manual focus operator!

Personal Favourites

I'm not, I hope, a "fanboy" having used a range of photo gear over time, including Rollei, Bronica, Canon, Pentax, Sony and Olympus, so I don't have any axes to grind or want to get into Canikon warfare.

The NEX is a wonderfully compact and light camera, and I see no sense in hanging large and heavy lenses onto it. I therefore tend to use a collection of Pentax and Olympus lenses that were notable in their day for their compact dimensions. Old rangefinder camera lenses would also be a worth a look, although many are out of my price range.

I have experimented with some old Canon FT lenses, but don't see any significant difference in their performance over the Pentax or Olympus glass of the same period, while they are more bulky and require a more complex adapter. If I had an arsenal of FT glass I would probably use it, but I'm more than content with my other gear.

The bargains have to be those lenses that were fitted as standard to film cameras during that era, and the popular additional lenses that most people bought to enhance their range of shooting opportunities, i.e. those lenses that were mass produced by the leading marques.

The "Standard Lens" would normally have been a 50 mm at around f1.8 (Pentax f1.7) and you can buy these very cheaply. There are also f1,4 variants that command higher prices, but they are larger and heavier and not necessarily any better at say f8 where most of your shooting is going to happen.

A 50 mm lens on a NEX 6 or a6000 is equivalent to a 75 mm lens on a full frame camera, it makes a good portrait lens, but I also find it a generally useful focal length out and about.

The next choice of our film era photographer might have been a 28 mm, at f2.8 or f3.5. There's loads of these about and they are not expensive. 28 mm was harder to get right than a 50 in days gone by, so you will probably see some distortion and CA, but nothing that would break the deal.

A 28 becomes a 42 on a Sony NEX, which is a very useful general purpose focal length. It's my fitment of choice as I leave the house.

The next buy for many photographers in the past would have been a 135mm lens, but this is becoming 202 mm on the NEX, and not abundantly useful.

Both Pentax and Olympus made 75-150 f4 zooms however and they provide a more practical solution. They're both sharp, but the Olympus design lacks contrast and I prefer the Pentax. A 2x zoom at this focal length range was not too much of a challenge at that period, so the lens is more than OK. I bought a Pentax 75-150 new for around £75 many years ago, but, much more recently, picked up a pristine example for less than £20.

Very wide is much more of a problem. Wider tends to be harder to get right, and I would be tempted to steer you in the direction of a new Samyang/Rokinon lens rather than an antique. Voigtländer (Cosina) make some very nice lenses, but you need deep pockets to be able to afford them.

Last edit 28-01-2017

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Adjustment Layers in Photoshop

I use adjustment layers for most of my shots, I can't imagine being without them.

My workflow is as follows. I shoot in raw; title, keyword and adjust/develop in Lightroom; then transfer to Photoshop as a 16 bit TIFF for further work. The final image is stored as an 8 bit JPG. I don't normally keep TIFFs, which are very large files, but I do retain the original raw files.

What is an adjustment layer? My way of thinking about it, which may or may not be the whole story or even correct, is that an adjustment layer is analogous to placing a filter over the camera lens. The filter can change the contrast or colouration etc of the image, but can't change the basic content.

You can't therefore clone bits out of your image on an adjustment layer, you must return to the background layer for that purpose.

Adjustment layers are cleverer than filters however, as you can optionally mask off some of the filter effect so that it only affects a section of the image. Using a so called layer mask, you can choose the sections that you want the adjustment layer to influence. Further, you can return at any time to the mask to change it, using the brush and eraser tools to extend or reduce its active area (use the Channels window and select your active layer mask).

You don't have to have hard edges to your mask selection either, and most of my work is carried out using graduated masks, so that transitions don't stand out in the final version.

It can take a significant amount of time to construct a layer mask to suit your purposes, particularly if you are working at pixel level. Fortunately it is possible to re-select and re-use the mask, or, usefully, an inverse of the mask, later in the process. I recently learned that you can also copy a mask between layers.

The other great thing about adjustment layers is that, unlike a camera filter, they can be removed or made dormant at any time after the shot has been taken. So you can play with the image to your heart's content but then undo any wrong moves at a single key press. This means that you can experiment in a non destructive manner, always able to backtrack without changing the basic image.

You can use as many adjustment layers as you wish, but I rarely get beyond 5.

Why not do this in Lightroom? Well you can't, at least not with my knowledge/edition! True there are various graduated filter effects available, but with Photoshop you can accurately choose the exact area of an image that you wish to work on, working to the nearest pixel if need be.

Here's an example of how I have used two simple levels adjustment layers, sky and foreground, to enhance the appearance of an image. I hope that the differences are not too profound, in my view the best editing leaves a viewer believing that the image accurately represents the scene.

This is the image after developing in Lightroom

This one has had a few additional tweaks in Photoshop.

Ok, so how do you do it?

Easy, to obtain an adjustment layer select Layer, New Adjustment Layer, followed by the layer type that you want, e.g. Levels. At this stage you can give it a name.

It is useful to have the Layers window open in PS, when your new layer should appear above the background layer. There is a little eye symbol to the left of each layer and that determines its visibility, click to remove the eye and the layer is switched off. Another click and it is restored. Right click on the layer and you have the option to delete.

Layer Masks - again easy. Click on the background layer in your layer palette and then select a section of the image using any of the selection tools. You can optionally refine your selection, e.g. Select, Refine  Edge. Now open a new adjustment layer. Rather than covering the entire image its scope of influence will be restricted to your selection. 

How do you see the area affected? Open the Channels window and ensure that the little eye symbol is selected on the layer mask. The area of the image that is not affected will appear masked in red and your area of interest will not be masked.

How do you change the mask? Use the brush and eraser tools to extend or reduce it.


If you do a lot or work on a layer mask, you might want to use it for another layer. No problem, you can copy a layer mask between layers.

Last edit 8-11-16

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Rokinon/Samyang 12 mm f2 wide angle lens

I had been procrastinating over whether or not to buy this lens for a long while and eventually took the plunge after a more than usually lucrative sale of a photograph. My initial impression was very favourable, it's a manual focus lens, beautifully constructed, and it focuses readily using the EVF on the NEX 6.  Images have plenty of bite being contrasty and sharp in the centre, but not quite so hot at the edges.

It does focus beyond infinity, so you do need to check the focus in your viewfinder rather than rely on the scale.

I'm still not 100% convinced that the lens is quite right and have been carrying out a few tests to see what it is capable of. Here's a few results (click for enlarged views) : -

1) The traditional brick wall text. This is a series of 100% crops from a rather uninteresting brick wall shot.

There's a bit of distortion, but for an 18mm equivalent lens, it's not bad. The right hand side is not quite as sharp as the left, and there is a fall off from the centre at both f2 and f8. The centre is impressive at f2!

2) A challenging side lit scenic shot

The river at Durham

Two sections from the above view. That on the left shows flare occurring due to  the strong sidelight, sun just out of shot. The right hand sample is from the top right corner of the frame and is creditably sharp ( I wish that my Sigma 19mm f2.8 was as good at the edges!).

3) Chromatic Aberration - Always going to be a problem with a lens as wide as this one, but most instances largely fixable in Lightroom.  Extreme cases might need additional cloning work in Photoshop. 

Showing CA top right corner

After treatment in Lightroom

In this instance the one click solution did not provide a sufficient cure, but a touch on the defringe slider took care of the situation.

LR 6.4 includes Rokinon lens profiles but they don't appear to correct CA. They do make a pretty good job of fixing distortion and vignetting however.

A bit of fun, the interior of the Scottish National Gallery, an HDR rendering courtesy of LR.

Conclusion - pros and cons, but pretty good overall!

For guidance on using manual focus lenses on the Sony look here

Sony NEX 6 Rokinon 12 mm f2

Last edit 30-1-16

Durham Lumiere 2015

I went on the last day of operation, on Sunday evening. Unfortunately the Whale exhibit had been shut down due to high water levels in the river, but the rain did hold off for most of the time. On previous occasions I have taken a tripod, but, knowing the density of the crowds, this time I decided against it.

Click photos for larger views.

Sony NEX 6 various lenses.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Perspective Correction Part 2

In an earlier epistle I listed a number of methods for shooting tall buildings and reducing or eliminating converging verticals. I listed the technique of stacking several images but noted that I had not tried this method.

Well I have now given it a go and have been reasonably impressed with the outcome, see for yourself below.

This is the Emerson Chambers building in Newcastle upon Tyne, situated at the head of Grey Street and currently occupied by Waterstones bookshop. 

I used a Sony NEX 6 camera fitted with the standard Sony 16-50 zoom lens at about 28mm focal length ( 42 mm equivalent full frame). The combined photo used 5 shots, starting at the base working upwards with a healthy overlap between them. 

The images were developed in Lightroom, with the only adjustment being a standard lens profile correction.

The developed images were transferred to Photoshop (CS4) as 16 bit TIFF files, and two different methods of combining them were tried.

1) The easiest way to do this is to use the File Automate Photomerge command, selecting all of the currently open images. This did a job. The main building was not too bad but there was some weird colouration in the sky while the buildings to the rear right were well distorted.

2) The next method is a tad more complex, but produced a better result.

I selected and copied all of the images over to the base layer (the bottom of the building) so as to obtain a layer stack of images. I then selected all of the layers and used the Layer Align command, followed by the Merge Layer command.

The resulting image was a great improvement on that produced by method 1, but there was still some distortion of the buildings to the rear right, and  a little chromatic aberration along a couple of edges. 

Some Photoshop skulduggery was able to sort all that out to produce a final photo that is 6616 x 4628 pixels in size. Printing at 300 dots per inch would result in  finished dimensions of about 22 x 15.5 ", but the quality of the original and, taking into account a sensible viewing distance, would allow a much larger reproduction were it required.

Edit - I've played around with this technique rather more now and have found that the degree of perspective correction appears to be related to the geometry of the base level shot. If your camera is completely level as you take the first shot, the software tries to mimic that geometry as it adds the layers above. While this may sound a good thing, an image without any trace of convergence of the verticals looks a tad strange, while the top layer has to be contorted rather more than might be considered comfortable in order to comply. I guess that I'm still in the experimental stage, but I am beginning to prefer a base level shot that is just off the horizontal, so that the resulting image has some degree of natural perspective after assembling all of the layers.

I've also tried the automatic panorama feature in Lightroom 6 (Right click, Photomerge), which is surely the quickest software fix for this problem, but I have not been as impressed with the results as with those that I have achieved using my venerable copy of Photoshop.

Last edit 25-2-2016

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Wildflower seeds September

Rose hips

Rosebay Willowherb

Rosebay Willowherb

Creeping Thistle

I went for a walk this morning - beautiful sunshine here in the North east - and the seeds of wildflowers caught my eye. Rosebay Willowherb and Creeping Thistle are both a complete nuisance in the garden, but, in a more natural environment, they do look rather nice!

Sony Nex 6 Pentax 35mm lens

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Managing Perspective

If you point your lens upwards, to capture all of a tall building for example, the resulting image will have sides sloping inwards looking towards a vanishing point in the sky. This subject was recently discussed on the Alamy (stock photography) web site where various "solutions" were considered. Perspective is a natural thing, railway lines appear to converge in the distance etc, but our mind knows that buildings should be vertical, and wants them to look that way, or almost that way.

Four solutions were proposed: -

1) Using perspective correction tools incorporated within image processing software, Lightroom, Photoshop etc. They work but there is some degradation of the image at the sides. This is my normal approach.

2) Using a shift lens - very expensive. Perhaps only for very wealthy amateurs or those pros who regularly get commissions to shoot architecture. Probably better than (1) above but still some potential degradation problems due to using a  lens very near to the edge of its image circle.

3) Shoot a rising stack of images and combine as a vertical panorama using the tools within Photoshop. Not tried this, but it sounds very interesting.

4) There are some third party software solutions which will take a completed image and attempt to improve the perpective. One such program is ShiftN and it's freeware. Intrigued I decided to give it a go and here is one result.

Without correction

With correction

This is using the automatic fix provided by the software - I've not yet dabbled with the various adjustments that are available.

The photo shows Appalachian dance group Step This Way performing at Durham County Cricket Club's Chester-le-Street ground.

I've now used this software on a number of photos, and the results vary from very impressive to distinctly weird. It's not a one stop shop solution, although, in fairness I've not experimented with the adjustments that are available. It's certainly worth having in your toolbox and you can decide in each case whether or not its application is appropriate.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Problems with Sigma 19mm f2.8 lens

I have the earlier version of the Sigma 19mm f2.8 E fit lens for Sony. It's the only auto focus lens that I regularly use and, for the price ( I paid about £100), it does a good enough job.

Experience in long term use has thrown up a few problems.

The first is annoying rather than optically limiting. This is a budget lens and it feels it, the lens hood and rear cap are not a tight fit and irritatingly fall off. I've tried wedging a piece of loo paper between the hood and lens but that's not a good solution. I've thought of super-gluing the hood into place, but one day I might want to sell the lens and that would never do.

Very occasionally the lens fails to respond to the helm, it won't focus. Removing and replacing it has to date cured this issue, but long term, who knows? Maybe the contacts just need cleaning?

Occasionally the auto focus fails to hit the target. I've noticed this in particular when shooting a panorama, when three of the shots are sharp and one slightly out, but bad enough to be unusable. I don't know if this is a fault of the lens, or the camera, or the combination! This is the only auto focus lens that I use frequently, and maybe it's my technique at fault, but with centre point focus there's not much to get wrong. I guess that this confirms my view, that for static subjects, you can't beat manual focus.

But that brings me to another issue, I find this lens difficult to manually focus. I did think that this may be due to the relatively short  focal length compared to my older heritage glass, but I also possess a 12mm Rokinon, and that is better than the Sigma 19 mm in this respect. The image just doesn't seem to shout "in focus" as I look through the EVF in magnified view.

Then there is the business of the aperture setting. I normally use non Sony manual focus lenses that have an aperture ring. The Sigma, following normal convention for modern auto focus lenses, does not. I don't have too much of a problem with this, but what I do object to is the tendency of the camera lens combination to default to wide open, i.e. f2.8, when first attached. I've lost shots due to this in the past. I can't say that I have carried out any systematic tests, and I'm not sure if this is actually the default setting or just some random fault, but it occurs frequently enough to give me grief. I've used auto focus Sigma lenses on Canon cameras and I can't say that I've noticed this happening with that combination.

If I use my elderly 50mm f1.8 Zuiko lens, or even my old Pentax 75-150 f4 zoom, I know that, provided I get the focus right, the resulting image will be sharp from corner to corner. It's a comforting thought, I like it that way. The Sigma 19 mm falls some way short of this ideal. It normally provides crisp detail in the centre of the image, but the edges are another story. OK edge detail is rarely critical, and maybe it's the nerd in me, but this irks me.

Recently I took some shots inside an old factory that was side lit via large windows. The Sigma lens couldn't handle the strong side light, whereas my ancient Pentax 28mm f3,5 K glass was not fazed at all. OK we are comparing a 19 mm and a 28 mm lens here and the problem is probably more severe for the wider lens. Here are a couple of images to demonstrate the problem.

Left click to see an enlarged view. Compare the two.

Pentax 28mm f3.5 K

Sigma 19mm F2.8 Sony E fit

I continue to use the Sigma lens, it retains its place in my kit, but I could not use the shot above.

I've taken loads of photos with the Sigma, and other than some focusing or depth of field issues ( I much prefer manual focus as I know exactly where the point of focus is) I generally get commercially acceptable results. This lowered contrast or flare problem  has only come to light in this one situation to date, but it's a definite limitation.

Remember that I have the early version of this lens, if you buy new today you will be getting a different and, hopefully, better product.

Sony NEX 6

Edited 10-01-2017

Cragside early May 2015

Cragside is my favourite National Trust property, the Rothbury based estate and house developed by the Victorian industrialist Lord Armstrong. We normally try to get to Cragside at the end of May or the beginning of June when the azaleas and rhododendrons are at their best, but this year we are off on our hols at the end of May, so we decided to take an earlier visit.

There were a few small azaleas in bloom, but nothing like the show that you can expect later in the year, however a surprise bonus was the display of tulips in the formal garden next to the glasshouses.

Inside the house we noticed the William Morris designed ceramic tiles

and the Four Seasons stained glass at either side of the fireplace.

The panels were originally back lit by daylight, but further building construction cut off that source of light. They are therefore illuminated electrically, not quite as evenly as would have originally been the case.

Sony NEX 6 Various manual focus lenses.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Roker seafront

My wife and I love to walk or cycle along the north east coast and we recently visited Roker in Sunderland

Sparkling sea, you can see a multitude of colours in the original large file, I guess some kind of rainbow effect. I never tire of seeing the sun sparkle on the sea.

They have recently installed a new surface on the pier, so you now see a white arc above the blue sea. You might be able to spot the group of surfers waiting for waves next to the pier.

Environmental improvements include pieces of driftwood and plantings of bulbs etc.

A closer view of a surfer riding the wave that builds up alongside the pier.

Sony NEX 6 Various manual focus lenses.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

South Hylton to Fatfield

I used to cycle this way daily when I worked in Sunderland, but today I took the Metro from Sunderland to South Hylton and walked the rest of the way.

 The trip started badly as I encountered this heap of stripped cable just off the track. The person concerned had carefully bound the different rolls of cable with tape, but then dumped the lot, showing a complete disregard and disrespect for the area and countryside. He probably stole the cable in the first place.

Never fear the sun was still shining as I walked down towards the river Wear from the old Sunderland to Durham railway track above.

But then came the rain and wind, fortunately there was some shelter along by the riverside. Entering Coxgreen  I noticed this old sign for Coxgreen railway station, closed in the 1960s.  I have to confess that I have cycled this way many hundreds of times, but never previously noticed it! The ring on the top says Durham County Council.

Crossing the river using Coxgreen footbridge and walking along the north bank I came across this attractive wreath attached to a tree. Presumably a memorial, but there was no message.

 Turning up towards the James Steel park, I saw that the owner of the end terraced property has nicely tidied up this piece of land adjacent to their house. There are numerous bird feeders, and in the short time I stood and watched I spotted chaffinch, blue tits, robins and bullfinch. 

Finally the pond in the James Steel park, with dogwood glowing red on the opposite bank. There was a swan on the water, but he was too shy to pose for the camera.

Sony NEX 6 Pentax 28mm f3.5 K and Zuiko 50mm f1.8 (couple on track)

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Warkworth to Amble, Northumberland

We drove north to Amble, under grey skies most of the way. The weather forecast did not lie however, it was cold but bright in this part of Northumberland. Our walk went from Amble to Warkworth and return, along the course of the river Coquet.

I had forgotten the wealth of wildbirds that you see in this part of the world. There were eider duck in the harbour, a heron fishing along the river bank, the cry of a curlew, and oystercatchers above.

Carol spotted a seal catching a fish in the river.

Warkworth Castle

The river Coquet, with a mirror smooth surface

Last of the winter sun for the day at Amble marina

Sony NEX 6 Pentax 28 f3.5 K and 35mm f2 lenses