Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Photographing the past

click photo to enlarge
A few days in London, and particularly an evening spent in Greenwich, had me thinking about an issue that I've dwelt on before - how many urban locations are still to be found where you can experience something (if only a little) of what our cities were like a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago? The specific prompt for this rumination was Turnpin Lane, near the market, at dusk. The hurly-burly of the shoppers and stallholders was filling the air with the sounds and smells of people and food. Nearby the spicy tang of mulled wine being poured for my companions wafted by, and down the lane a shopper strode off into the night, carrier bag in hand, his well-wrapped body a silhouette against the glow from a street light and shop windows. Perhaps it was the narrowness of the lane, the hanging signs, the bow and sash windows and Victorian buildings, or maybe the shiny cobbles and drain, but the the scene looked quite Dickensian. So, I quickly pointed my pocket camera (the LX3) before the figure had departed and captured this image.

Many years ago I lived in Kingston upon Hull. At that time - the 1970s and early 1980s - the old High Street hadn't received its big "makeover". It still had wooden "setts" paving the roadway, empty warehouses, small pubs, merchants' houses and an air of time having passed it by. Vistas such as the one above were plentiful, and the sinuous curves of the street as it paralleled the nearby River Hull gave many opportunities for interesting compositions. The Lincolnshire town of Stamford has small corners and sections of streets that, if you airbrush away the cars and TV aerials, look much as they did one hundred or two hundred years ago. Fortunately many towns and cities have civic societies and enlightened planning authorities that give what protection legislation and public opinion can to such places. But, not everywhere is so lucky. Then it is up to concerned individuals to do what they can to preserve and protect these streetscapes that give us a glimpse into our past.

My shot was taken at 800 ISO, a level that pushes the boundaries of what a small sensor camera can reasonably achieve. Nonetheless, I was quite pleased with with its handling of this difficult scene, and can readily accept the noise that appears in a few places.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 7.9mm (37mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.4
Shutter Speed: 1/13
ISO: 800
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On