The rise of the Pentax SLR

Let me introduce you to Ned, AKA Teddy Shorts.

Teddy Shorts is one of my three fine brothers, and he is amazing.

There are only one and a half years’ age difference between me and Ned, so we have a lot of growing-up memories in common including Smokey and the Bandit; India Jones; our respective pet Gerbils (Jeremy Shaver and Eddie); LEGO; camping holidays; The DANDY and The BEANO comics; and playing Roland in Time on our 1980s Amstrad PC.

Ned has many interests in life amongst which perfecting his chilli con carne recipe and taking beautiful photos rank highly. These are the Dorset Nagas that he has nurtured from seed to lend his cooking extra spiciness.

The photo was taken using the Pentax SLR which he has very kindly lent me so that I can learn the way of the digital SLR in coming months. I used to have a manual SLR when I was 18; the very same old film camera which my Mum was given for her eighteeneth birthday. It was a PRAKTIKA and I loved exploring the behaviours of light with its shutter speeds and apertures, and the act of crafting photos with it and setting up all the parameters before taking a shot. But in recent years, I abandoned this approach in favour of the far quicker point-and-shoot method. This was a good strategy for a while and I cannot fault the portability or ease of use of the point and shoot camera.

However, light waves and sound waves and seeing and listening are very subtle phenomena. What I have loved so much about bringing the Audio Technica microphone into my sonic practice, is how using that microphone extends and enhances the act of hearing. When I was recording some pigeons the other day with that microphone, I noticed that the microphone was not only documenting the cooing sound as I hear it, but also picking up on some details in the sound which I hadn’t noticed before. In other words, recording the pigeon with my device made me listen differently.

Using the Audio Technica/FOSTEX FR-2LE set up is more cumbersome and time-consuming than using the portable, handheld EDIROL is. But I often feel that I can do a far better job of capturing sounds as I hear them with this kit than I can with the EDIROL. To explain; Because of its cardioid pick-up pattern, I can focus in on a particular sound with the Audio Technica; I can get very close to it; I can concentrate my listening into a distinct area and I can foreground something from the soundscape in a very deliberate way. This is what the ear does; it can select a single sound from many sounds and focus in on it. The ear can allow background chatter to drop to a vague wash in order to listen in on a single conversation, and so it is with the Audio Technica mic.

I have noticed that using SLRs and specific lenses – where you have more control over the parameters, the area of focus, the depth of field, etc. – do a similar job of helping you to show in your photography which specific thing you want to capture when you take your photo.


The onboard microphones inside the EDIROL will get a great general picture of a sound; they will record a general wash of what is going on and it will be perfectly acceptable. But they will not pluck the one sound of a motorbike engine from amidst the thrum of many engines when you are honing in on such a sound, and they will not show in crystalline detail, the way that a pigeon’s coo resonates inside it’s chest.

Likewise, the Pentax Optio has taken many great pictures for me over the years; general pictures with good clarity, and an excellent documentary quality. But it cannot hone in on the extremely specific details of things that I see, unlike my eyes which do notice specifics, such as how delicate the edges of Wisteria petals are, and how gritty and rugged the surfaces of old bricks appear.

Over the years I have banged on and on here about my love of the sounds of the blackbirds, but it wasn’t until Ned lent me his old SLR that I have been able to capture and show you which bird that is.

…so I had a very happy time on Friday wandering around Chichester with Ned, his Pentax SLR, and a big sack o’ lenses. I insisted on dragging him to the inauspicious-looking WOOLSTAPLERS ROAD, so-named in recognition of the successful wool-grading business which operated there for a couple of hundred years. One Ebenezer Prior and his sons ran a wool-grading establishment in Chichester for a very long time, and fleeces from all along the South East Coast of the UK were taken there for grading and sorting. Now all that testifies to this once-great-enterprise is the Woolstapler’s Carpark where one of the buildings once stood, and the name of the road.

You will all be pleased to learn that Chichester is possessed of excellent bricks.

This next one is for Kate, who as we all know, is the queen of the OWLS.

I am not sure what he was doing there, but this big iron owl was sitting on a wall in the same street as this wonderful clock.

Once I got home on Friday, I couldn’t resist taking further photos of brickwork, but this brickwork is knitted.

Joey also could not escape my inquiring lens, although he was moving too fast for me to get him in focus!

So THANK YOU Teddy Shorts for this amazing lend. I am really excited to have a new way of seeing/photographing! And now I’ll be getting back to those brickwork swatches…

I hope you all are having the most wonderful Bank Holiday Weekend!

2 Responses to The rise of the Pentax SLR

  1. Mark says:

    Beautiful photo of Ned and I *love* the one of the blackbird xxx

  2. Kate says:

    OH MY! Tasty macro AHOY! I am sure you are enjoying the camera tremendously – the lines so crisp! The colours so true! The blackbird’s eye so beady! The fuzzy-wuzzy depth of field so pleasing! I have spotted similar owls on the roofs of warehouses and factories – they are used, scarecrow-style, to ward off pigeons, I think. Perhaps the inhabitants of that house have a pigeon problem.

    Bring on the knitted brickwork!

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