Mango Bikes, shot to film. by Simeon Smith

The lovely guys at Mango Bikes sent me a one of their new single speeds, called The Gus. It's an absolute delight to ride. 

Here's a film I made about it, with my mate Rhys.

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New Video: Andy Hunter - Transition by Simeon Smith

If you follow my blog you probably know how much I work with Andy on the Presence App, a mindfulness / meditation / prayer app for apple and android. 

Here's a video I worked on for the app that has now been released on YouTube. It's probably the most proud I've been of a piece of visual work I've done, and it's a real privilege to be able to set Andy's music to my images.

Have a watch! 

The geeky bit, because I know so many of you love my quirky gear; this was shot using the following cameras and lenses.

  • Pentax Q7  with a 1960s Yashica "D" mount 1.9, 13mm cine lens. 
  • Lomography Lomokino 35mm film video camera.
  • 1980's Lomo 135BC Compact camera with clockwork autoadvance. 
  • Canon 5D mIII, 14mm 1.4

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From The Hip by Simeon Smith

Lomography started it all. 

I blame Maria.

She introduced me to this weird world of film cameras via the plastic fantastic cameras of Lomography. 


If you’ve never heard of the company, they try to portray themselves more as a movement than a business, and do this via their “10 Golden Rules”, one of which is “shoot from the hip”. 

Shooting from the hip is supposed to be about surprising yourself. About not being sure what’ll come out. About guessing. About speed. About stealth. 


I think it’s something that all kids do, if given a camera. Take a photo without looking through the viewfinder. Most beginners do it too, just playing around, trying things out. But if you’re a beginner or a kid with a camera, you’re not going to be any more or less surprised by shooting from the hip than by trying to compose the shot properly. Especially if you’re using a plastic toy camera. 

The people that really need to shoot from the hip are people that have been taking photos every day for the last few years. We’re the ones that have been repeating the same, boring composition ideas time after time. We’re the ones that “know how” to take a photo, but have forgotten how to make art. We’re the ones that could do with surprising ourselves. 


So the other day I was meeting Howard for lunch. We had veggie burritos at Bynmill Coffee House near my office. On the walk there, and the walk back I shot from the hip. Exclusively. No looking. 

Are these great photos? Well, no, not really. 

But are they different to what I’d usually do? Sure. Did they get me out of my comfort zone? YES. Were they a challenge to select and edit? Definitely. 


Give it a go. Shoot from the hip.

The Greatest Lenses You've Never Heard Of: D-Mount Cine Lenses by Simeon Smith

The photos in this post were chosen as they show off the qualities of the lenses, not because of their artistic merit, so... back off, okay?!

In 1932, Kodak introduced Standard 8mm cine film. It was really just re-perforated 16mm film, and had a few quirks, the most notable was that midway through shooting you’d flip the reel around to shoot on the other side of the film. It was a smart way of doubling the economy of shooting 16mm, which was out of the reach of most amateurs. 

This film was slow, with ISO 10-25 being the most popular, like most film in the 30’s, but that meant it had decent grain and a lot of definition could be captured across those tiny 8mm frames. The low ISO meant that the lenses would need to open wide to let as much light in as possible, but that was quite easy as the lenses were so small.

These fast and tiny lenses were called “D mount”, but were pretty useless on 35mm cameras, as the image they produce is so tiny. 


Shift forward eighty-something years and digital camera sensors come in all shapes and sizes. D mount adaptors exist for most digital mirrorless cameras, but they’re particularly useful on the Pentax Q7, which has a sensor size of roughly… 8mm. (Older Pentax Q cameras have a smaller sensor, so some cropping will occur… and, well, they’re not as good). 


As these lenses have been pretty redundant for the past few decades, most of them are crazy cheap. I bought 3 different ones to try out and had change from £20, for the lot. I was then gifted a 4th.

With a (rather dirty) L39 lens for scale. 

With a (rather dirty) L39 lens for scale. 

What did I get? (focal lengths are obviously a LOT shorter) 

-Yashica 13mm, f1.4 standard prime lens. 

-Wirgin 1 1/2” Telephoto, f1.9.

-Kern Palliar 5mm, wide angle, f1.9

-Taylor, Taylor and Hobson, 13mm, f2.5 standard prime (tiny!)


What should you look out for? 

Wide apertures is where it’s at for these lenses. I have a 13mm (50mm standard frame equivalent) 1.4, and a 1.9 telephoto. Given how small the glass in these lenses is often their construction is pretty simple, and that gives you some amazing swirly bokeh similar to antique portrait lenses. Disregard the brands you know. The only brand I’ve heard of from the lenses I have is Yashica, and “known” brands like canon seem to drive up the price. Quite a lot of these lenses don’t have a manual focus ring, I’m supposing because focus was originally on the cameras they were intended for. It’s not necessarily a problem as they’ll probably focus to infinity screwed fully into digital adaptor, and you can focus closer by unscrewing them slightly. 


What should I use these lenses for?

Seriously? Everything. The swirly bokeh works amazingly well for portraits, and most of these lenses close to f22, meaning they’re perfect for sun flares in the autumn and spring, and for that weird “almost pinhole” look. They were also designed for video, so excel at moving image. 


Now I’ve bought a small collection, I’m ready for the rest of you to give these great lenses a try and drive the market prices up! 

Block by Simeon Smith

Sometimes I take photos. 

And sometimes I do not. 

Last time I went to London I shot an entire roll of film in my walk from the underground to the conference I was attending and during my lunch break. 

Today I went to London and didn’t take a single photo. 

Maybe there weren’t great subjects. Maybe the rain put me off from taking the lens cap off my camera. Maybe I was focussed on the meeting I was there to attend, and in a different frame of mind. Maybe I took the wrong camera. 

Or maybe I just didn’t take any photos. 

I loathe the term “block”. Writer’s block. Artist’s block. Photographer’s block. As if we’re machines that have jammed. Printers churning out content until we overheat or run out of paper. 

I especially find it unhelpful, because then you focus on what might be causing you to not be inspired to write, create, make photographs. 

Instead I prefer to relax a little more in my skin. Enjoy being. Take the scenic route. And yes, enjoy not making art. 

I used to be more hungry, but then I realised that not all of the greats are crazy prolific. 

As a photographer people will only remember a few of my images. Maybe not even that. 

How many Picassos can you remember right now? Guernica, the blue guitarist dude, the squiggle of a dove, the lady with the big eye… And yet this is an artist that changed how we look at the world. 

So maybe it’s okay that sometime I take photos. 

And sometimes I do not.