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Ihagee, Exakta Varex IIa, 35mm SLR camera. Photograph gallery.

Westland Wessex helicopter out to grass at Lasham

All things considered the Exakta has proved very pleasant to use and looks very handsome into the bargain.

The first test roll through the Varex was a 24 exp. 200ASA film tested over a variety of subjects and returned a full 24 frames of good negatives. This was most gratifying as one shutter curtain had been made from scratch during the restoration, as well as a broken spring being replaced by one wound from spring wire. At right we have a sadly rotting Westland Wessex helicopter out to grass at Lasham in Hampshire in an outdoor museum. A fate that many retired airframes find themselves in, without the resources or money to take care of them, they slowly decay.

rotting helicopter

A study of textures in the same rotting helicopter.

Below at left is a brick kiln discovered on the banks of the River Beaulieu during a cycle ride. This is of the Beehive Downdraught type and would have been used for smaller production runs.

On the subject of kilns, my talented neighbour has one in her garden shed, which she uses to fire her delightful sculptures, including this wonderful Leopard, from a series of stylized big cats she is currently doing, below right.

Beehive Downdraught type

wonderful Leopard

North coast       of Jersey

Part of the fabulous North coast of Jersey, a British island off the coast of France. Much of the seashore here betrays its igneous origins, though there has been no volcanic activity in this neck of Europe for a very long time. The lichens are fabulous and abundant, a clear sign of the clean air, and almost every rock surface is coated in them, as in these sulphur yellow coloured examples here.

North coast       of Jersey

The next bay around from above, in the distance is the coast of France, barely 13 miles away, this was the last frame from the roll, and is slightly cropped as it overlapped the penultimate frame, due to the sprockets tearing out, a fault hardly attributable to the camera.

After a while sitting dormant on the shelf, the Exakta was sent to Uzbekistan is April 2015, below are a samples of the two rolls of film that went through it.

Kyrgyz Girl

Blue Uzbek Tiles

Far left, Kyrgyz children waiting to perform near Ala Too square in Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan.

At left. A study of tiles on one of the many fabulous Uzbek monuments in Samarkand. Although heavily restored, they remain true to their original appearance and look spectacular in the sun. Back in the days of the Silk Road these buildings would have been awe inspiring. Owing to the salt content of the soils, leaching up into the buildings the tiles need to be fairly regularly maintained or replaced, One tour guide suggesting the life of the lower courses of tiles being about 12 years.

Tylla Kiri Madrassah

The blue tiles seen in context, at part of the Registan complex in Samarkand, at left.

Wild Poppies crowd the verges and field boundaries and in any sunny quiet spot across the region in late April into May, sometimes as isolated clusters but also spectacular vibrant seas of red, backlit by the sun their fabulously bright and delicate petals sway and call to photographers as sirens to sailors.

There go a couple more frames of precious film...

Uzbek Poppy

Uzbek Poppies

Tilla-kari Madrassah dome interior

Detail of the interior dome decoration of the Tilla-kari Madrassah, Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The light was extremely poor, so the Varex was placed on the floor for stability and the image made using the self timed release and long exposure facility, who'd ever have thought it would get to be used!

Much of the city of Samarkand was destroyed by the Monguls but the complex of mausoleums at Shah-I Zindah, some of which date back to 1330, were retained, see below. Although it had fallen into decay and collapse a concerted effort to restore the site has been underway since 2000.

mausoleums at Shah-I Zindah

Shah-I Zindah

Bukhara Poppies


Bukhara Carpet Shop

Brasswork in Bukhara

Ceramins in Bukhara

Bukhara is my favourite Uzbek city, dominated by the 12th Century Kaylon Minaret attached to the Po-i-Kaylamd Mosque. This structure has remained standing despite 800 years of earthquakes, Ghengis Khan (who spared it the fate he meted out to much of Bukhara) and some pretty accurate bombing by the Russian Air Force in 1920. Bukhara was part of Persia in ancient times deriving its wealth from the Silk Road passing through it and rewards being explored on foot. Again the various historic sites are largely restored, and most of the Maddrasahs are little more than gift shops these days selling locally produced textiles and goods, but the artisans are there to be seen at their work. A little up the page are yet more poppies adding their delightful colour at the Po-i-Kaylamd Mosque. Whilst the Kaylan Minaret competes with a blue tiled dome from the same Mosque.

Then we have a collection of textiles, hand engraved brass work and ceramics laid out in the various stores around the town.


The Ark Fortress, Bukhara

A restored section of the Ark Fortress wall in Bukhara. Now I don't mind a bit of restoration, but like my cameras, I prefer a bit patina - I like to see evidence of the people who built it originally, this, for me, has gone a bit too far.


Partly restored Ark Fortess walls, Bukhara

At left is a section of the Ark Fortress wall only partly rebuilt and it shows well the state the site had deteriorated to. But still, it bears its scars well and remain impressive.

Chor Minor is a delightful tiny Maddrasah

Chor Minor is a delightful tiny Maddrasah hiding in the back streets of Bukhara. Although at least one of its minarets have fallen down in the past it has been sensitively repaired. One of it's special features are inscriptions from four religions around each minaret, a sign of its creator's enlightened mind. Madrassahs were schools of learning often put up by wealthy benefactors.

The Uzbeks remain peaceably enlightened, stressing that the different religions in Uzbekistan live in harmony, not merely tolerance, I applaud this viewpoint.

Taken on my last day, a dawn walk finally gave me a view of Chor Minor in the weak morning sun before dashing to catch the train back to Tashkent and home.

mini red Tulips

Chorvoq Suv Ombori reservoir 50 miles NE from Tashent, Uzbekistan. These red miniature Tulips grow wild on the local hillside meadows and are picked and sold by the local children.

The Varex performed better than my digital camera with these saturated reds, both here and the many pictures of poppies I took. In fact the Varex out performed it's modern counterpart in many respects, except convenience. Being restricted to a 50mm standard lens, the shots were much more considered too.

Below left, modern Uzbek horsemen.

Uzbek Horsemen

Wild Yellow Uzbek Tulips

Wild Yellow Uzbek Tulips

Kyrgyz Yurt Kit

Above right and far left, wild yellow Tulips growing during the spring of 2015, in the mountains South of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

The traditional Yurt tents of the Kyrgyz nomadic people are still made to this day, though principally as tourist accommodation. This Yurt has just been delivered to new owners and awaits assembly. Traditionally they were covered with felt made from matted animal fur, but these days a plastic skin covers the whole Yurt to protect it.

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