Tried and Tested Thursday: My Birthday on Top of The Mountain – Olympus XA2 with Kodak Ektar (Expired)

For today’s Tried and Tested Thursday, I will be talking about shooting an expired Kodak Ektar on an Olympus XA2.

Today is my birthday and to celebrate, this post is a Throwback of my trip to Mount Rigi in Switzerland. Last year, I posted about my experience going to the mountain, providing photos from my phone. Today’s entry will be photos from my film camera.

The Hills (and a lot more) of Mount Rigi as I head down

Last September I went on a 12 day solo trip to Switzerland, starting from Zurich through to Lucerne and ending in Geneva. I did spend the day in Lugano, sadly it wasn’t enough time to explore the city.

I did bring my Olympus XA2, which I had only for a few weeks at this point. Also I brought along ten rolls of Kodak Ektar – all expired in August 2019, originally purchased a year before from AllPhotosLtd. This gave me the chance to test drive the camera properly while away, since I was confident using it and knowing my way around the settings and functions.

For my day trip I only took one roll with me, I did manage to shoot most of the exposures during my time high up in the mountain. Although, I did take a quick stop at Weggis to take a few photos of Lake Lucerne before going back to take the next boat enroute to Vitznau.

From Vitznau, I took the funicular all the way up to Rigi Kulm. I was even using my camera for my journey up, capturing the views despite feeling so anxious of panicking. Thankfully the ride wasn’t too long and I arrived at the highest peak before I knew it!

Of course, being at the top had its advantages from a photographer’s perspective; endless mountains that go for miles, plus surrounding scenery. The Olympus XA2 had the landscape mode that enabled it to shoot wide angle shots, which was a huge plus as well as on how lightweight the camera was to carry.

You’re never short of a lake in Switzerland; on the left hand side there is Lake Zug

The film itself was Kodak Ektar that had expired a year prior. The quality from expired colour film can differ depending on what condition it has been kept in, in some cases there could be little or no colour shift.

The Lookouters: Ektar works its colourful magic here

After processing the expired Ektar, I was happy with the results. In fact, I was satisfied with them overall. Despite the film’s expiry, the colour quality was still the same as if it was in date – the saturation was there, as well as the bold and smooth tones. Both the greens and blues stood out the most in every shot.

A Picture Perfect Postcard from Rigi
Not only Funiculars have Fun: There are trains that go up and down the Rigi as well

The scans from Mount Rigi are certainly worth printing out in the near future. They have so much potential, as much as I have repeated my desire to go back to the darkroom and start printing in colour again.

XXXXX’s as Fences (or barriers): Over on the other side is Lake Zug

I believe these shots can go above and beyond, perhaps produce a zine or a photobook.

I am so pleased with the overall outcome. Probably my best work I had scanned of 2020. There is no need for any improvements or further tweaks or changes, they are simply the chef’s kiss over and over!!

The Little House on Mount Rigi: One of the most liked uploads on my Instagram. At the time of writing, there are currently over 130 likes

Take care and stay safe

Story Time Sunday: Sagrada Familia Finally

For today’s Story Time Sunday, I will be sharing my trip to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.

For a long time I had wanted to visit the Sagrada Familia, since I was a teenager doing textiles for GCSE and learning about the famous basilica in Catalonia. I was absolutely fascinated by its design and architecture.

It took nearly ten years for that to come into reality, which happened in April 2016 (while travelling around Spain) when I finally achieved my dream to finally go inside!!

So what is the Sagrada Familia? What’s the history behind it, and most importantly who was the man with the plan?

Antoni Gaudí was a Catalan architect, known for his modern architectural style of work – most are located in Barcelona. He was well known for his individuality and creativity twists, also for his use of ceramics, stained glass and carpentry.

Seven of Gaudí’s famous buildings were selected as UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, some including Park Güell, Casa Mila and Sagrada Familia.

Construction of Sagrada Familia began in 1882, which is still unfinished as of 2021, plus during my two visits to Barcelona in 2011 and 2016 with cranes still visible. It is expected to be completed by 2026, delayed yet again due to the ongoing pandemic. It will also mark one hundred years since Gaudí’s death in 1926, aged 73 after being hit by a streetcar in Barcelona. He is buried in the crypt inside Sagrada Familia.

I don’t exactly remember what day I went, but I had gone past it a few times during my four day stay and prior to going inside. I even photographed the outside a couple days before my visit.

To access the Sagrada Familia, I had to purchase the tickets from the tourist information centre (or tourist office). I had to choose a time slot when I wanted to go in. This was probably done to regulate on how many people could go inside at a time. I did come a little earlier than scheduled on the actual day, so to pass some time I had a hot chocolate at the Costa Coffee directly opposite. I was actually shocked to see a Costa in Spain!!

Anyway, once I got inside I was so amazed; it was absolutely beautiful and breathtaking, it felt so surreal due to the modern touches and detail. Gaudí allegedly said: “My client is not in a hurry,” possibly referring to God, also remarking on the long construction process. No wonder and not surprisingly, Gaudí probably had his focus on this project for so long. He had wanted the outcome to come out the way he had envisioned, but sadly only a small percentage was from completion when he died.

I spent some time walking through the basilica, carrying my heavy Canon DSLR and admiring my surroundings slowly – from the colourful stained glass windows to the perfectly carved ceiling. I couldn’t simply leave Barcelona without stopping by Sagrada Familia – that would be impossible, but I finally did it after all these years.

The Shot that has a thousand stories, probably one that I am most proud of

I would like to return again soon, since it was worth the four days, but this time I will be taking my film camera and some colour film!!

I would highly recommend anyone, who is planning on visiting Barcelona, to make sure you go to Sagrada Familia. It’s something to add onto the travel itinerary and worth the experience.

Take care and stay safe

Tried and Tested Thursday: Celebrating My Birthday in Switzerland!!

For today’s Tried and Tested Thursday is going to be a little different, as I will be discussing celebrating my birthday recently abroad at the very last minute. Slightly related to photography in a way, as I brought along a film camera and ten expired rolls of Kodak Ektar (yet to be processed). Although I did use my Samsung phone as my digital camera. It was my holiday abroad of 2020. I was initially meant to go to Malta earlier in the year, however was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Mount Rigi, also known as ‘Queen of The Mountains’

Before I continue, I must mention that it’s my dad’s birthday today! It was my brother’s last week on the 24th September. So all of our birthdays are quite close apart by a week.

For my birthday I went on a 12 day solo trip to Switzerland; starting from Zurich, Lugano, for the day; Lucerne (where I spent my actual birthday) and finally ending in Geneva. It had been three years since I was in Switzerland, and the last time I was there it was pouring heavily in Lucerne!

I turned 29 on the 16th September while I was in Lucerne, I was already there for two days. My plan was to spend the big day in Mount Rigi, then treat myself to a nice meal in the evening.

Luckily my hostel sold tickets for the boat plus funicular ride to Mount Rigi at a discounted price. Certainly worth the money and definitely the experience. I do believe I can use the ticket again until 2023, so might be worth keeping just in case I would like to revisit Lucerne in the near future!

My birthday adventure started nice and early from the boat stop, directly opposite the main train station. For Mount Rigi, I had to get off at Vitznau to take the funicular all the way to Rigi Kulm. Before I did that, I made a quick stop at Weggis to take a few snaps on both my phone and film camera. The last time I was there, the weather was absolutely miserable and there was nothing much to do while it was wet, apart from taking a few shots on my film camera.

Lake Lucerne from Weggis

Walked around for a bit until the next boat arrived for Vitznau, which it did and it was packed! Thankfully everyone was wearing their face masks however social distancing was a hit and miss while on board.

Finally arrived at Vitznau! I have to admit, I was a little nervous before I went on the funicular train despite being on one a few days prior in Zurich, enroute to Uetliberg, not as high as Mount Rigi but still had stunning views from the top.

There were a few stops before reaching Rigi Kulm, which took less than an hour to get to. The funicular wasn’t too fast when going up. From the train window, there were views of other surrounding mountains from afar, not forgetting Lake Lucerne. I was no longer nervous, I was probably excited and anticipating heading up to the top.

The last stop was Rigi Kulm, the highest peak. When I stepped out the funicular, I was absolutely speechless and amazed. I did make it in one piece! I immediately went to the actual high point and took photos, including a few selfies. The views were stunning – the mountains from afar as well as the surrounding lakes Zug and Lauerz, even Lake Ageri from a distance as well.

I made the most of my time in Mount Rigi, even attempting to hike down all the way back to Vitznau. I had initially followed the ‘flower trail’, however I decided to do a detour. I had no hiking experience nor any suitable equipment but I did somehow make it as far to the station stop, Romiti-Felsentor, where I waited for the funicular heading towards Vitznau. From there I took the boat back to Lucerne. It had been an incredibly long day, but I did have a good time and was worth it!

Later that evening, I went to a vegan Thai restaurant called Cha Cha Thai, where I had a tofu green curry. It was so delicious! The flavours kicked in, both the coconut and peppers. I regret not having the coconut tiramisu for dessert, as I could imagine it would have been nice!! I did buy two sugary Berliners from Coop at the train station as an evening sweet treat afterwards.

I left Lucerne on Friday 18th, heading to Geneva where I would be staying until the following Monday, then back home to London.

I was so happy that I was able to celebrate my birthday abroad! It was something I wanted to do for a while, with Switzerland being the perfect place for it. I would certainly go on another solo trip for my birthday again, possibly back to Switzerland or somewhere else like the USA, Spain, Italy or Portugal. With what has been happening for the last few months, the future is uncertain but I do have hope that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. There will be a solution in the works.

Take care and stay safe

Solo Travel 2015: A Weekend in Milan

My third stop in Milan was short. Literally very short, just a weekend stint. It gave me the chance to relax and recharge before heading to my final destination to Venice on Monday.

The only way I could shoot Duomo was tilt my head up to avoid getting people in my photo

I have to be honest, Milan didn’t impress me much. I found it somehow overrated and underwhelming, although there were a few nice parts, the city itself didn’t ‘wow’ me.

I spent most of my time wandering around Piazza del Duomo where the Milan Cathedral and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II are both located. Even that got boring quickly, however I had my camera to take candid shots of random passersby.

90 percent of people here were taking selfies

Milan does live up to its reputation as being the ‘fashion capital of the world’, with its famous fashion week hosted there twice a year, plus a variety of famous designer brands based in the city, such as Armani, Missoni, Valentino and Versace.

Almost everyone and anyone at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest shopping centres, were fashion forward. It was like a never ending catwalk in the centre of Milan; almost everyone was dressed to impress. The Galleria has endless designer shops, restaurants, boutiques and even a luxurious hotel (since has closed).

The roof of the Galleria is absolutely amazing. I have to admit, I did really admire the Italian style architecture
A bar right outside the Galleria

The Piazza was the centre of the selfie obsessed tourists, many taking shots of themselves in front of the Cathedral. There were even some people selling selfie sticks left, right and centre for a couple of Euros. It was hard to get through crowds of people who possibly wanted a quick snap or a few! I went through a nearby park for some peace and quiet, which I can’t remember the name of but I know it is a reasonable walking distance. I think it is near a castle or a fort; it escapes me what it was.

Throughout my trip, I was in touch with Ivan, whom I met on the train from Zurich. He told me about Expo Milan (or Expo 2015), a world fair that was happening in the city with its theme based around ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy For Life’. I did see it advertised around Milan. The event began from May and ended in October 2015. Sadly, I didn’t go as my time was limited. I think Ivan went and asked if I wanted to come along.

Originally shot in colour. I had cropped it focusing on the four religious sisters, who were passing through the Piazza

Milan ended on an indifferent note. I don’t know if I would go back again in the future or not. I met a few people who shared similar experiences; not being overly impressed or found it boring. Had I explored more, maybe my opinion might have changed. Who knows…

The final stop of my solo trip was Venice, a two hour train ride heading towards Trieste close to the Slovenian border.

My trip would slowly come to a close the same week. I would return back to London life after spending ten days abroad discovering and exploring parts unknown. It would soon be back to normality on home turf.

Take care and stay safe

Solo Travel 2015: Zurich to Milan – A Country Crossing

Saturday morning arrived, I departed from Switzerland to Italy. My first Italian stop was Milan, only for a couple of days until I went to my last stop in Venice.

I arrived at the main station early and because of my Interrail pass, I could take any train at any time. I decided to take the 11am one going straight to Milan, which was a four hour journey.

As I was looking for a seat in the second class carriage, while dragging my suitcase and heavy backpack, I bumped into (not literally) an Italian man who was also looking for a seat. We were like, ‘we’ll settle here’. We sat opposite each other throughout the whole journey, just talking about travelling, Switzerland, Italy and the fact his name is Ivan (unusual for an Italian name) and his surname is Ferrari. He stated he didn’t own the namesake car, however he knew someone with the same surname who did.

He told me that he spent some time in Zurich and was heading back home. I believed he stopped at Como S. Giovanni station, although he lived somewhere in the Ferrara Province along the coast. Thankfully our interesting conservations didn’t stop there, we have been in touch through Facebook Messenger ever since.

A big lake that I don’t know the name of, however it is far away from Zurich

During the train journey, I was admiring the lovely scenic views; the mountains, the lakes and beautiful landscapes. I took out my camera to shoot some shots, trying to avoid getting reflections or lens flare in my photos. This was the starting point of capturing scenic journeys on transport, train or bus (odd occasion on the plane), especially if they go through interesting places. Not only did I admire the Swiss scenery, but also the architecture heading towards the Ticino region – the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, where the buildings were Italian style mainly Neoclassical and Villa inspired.

I arrived at Milan Centrale a little after 3pm. My hostel was literally around the corner and was easy to find. I was ready to relax and unwind during my short time in the city.

This was my first time ever crossing the border to another country, as well as doing an open jaw flight. It wouldn’t be the last time I would be doing city stops or leaving from another place, or going through different countries. It was an enjoyable experience many times over.

I am quite proud of myself that I managed to accomplish this on my own, looking back in retrospect. I never thought I would ever do this in my lifetime.

Take care and stay safe

Solo Travel 2015: Friday Night in Zurich

It was my last night in Zurich before I departed for Milan the next morning. I went out and about in the evening in the city centre near the main station.

Lake Zurich from the port

I remember that night being so peaceful, close to being quiet. I wanted to capture Zurich’s nightlife on camera as well as experience it first hand. I shot mainly candids of people walking about and shop fronts, almost in the same vein as the street photography I did back in London with the Canon DSLR.

The evening sky went from a dark pastel gradient to pitch black within a short space of time. Thankfully I wasn’t out for too long as I had to get my stuff packed and get up early the following day.

I enjoyed my brief stay in the city. I think I did quite a lot during the three days I was there, apart from exploring Old Town and going to Lake Zurich, although I did see some part of it from the port.

I loved going through Zurich’s main station, where it had a cool water feature with illuminating lights. The station was probably Switzerland’s answer to London’s Kings Cross or Euston Station. It was very spacious with many platforms; trains going to other places in the country, also across borders to Italy, Germany, France and Austria.

The good news is that I’m travelling to Switzerland next month, where I will be spending my birthday mostly in the mountains. I will be starting from Zurich, then through to Lucerne and ending in Geneva. I only booked everything ‘last minute’ just Sunday gone (at the time of writing and typing this).

A rickshaw whizzing through the city centre

It has been three years since I was last in Switzerland, and Zurich was the last place I had been to (via Germany).

I’m beyond excited. I am counting down the days.

Take care and stay safe

Solo Travel 2015: Kunsthaus and A Wander

Note: I apologise for the severe delays. I decided to put a halt on the Solo Travel series for a bit as I had heavy work commitments last week. So for now, I will be posting as much as I can before this month ends. Thank you and apologies again

My next stop was Zurich, which was around two hours away by train from Geneva. I remember that day well; it was over 30 celsius and was very hot. I had to drag my suitcase up the stairs at the station near to my hostel. My stay in Zurich was only for three days until I went across the border to Italy.

During my stay, I went museum and gallery hopping. I probably went to at least three or four museums/galleries in one day, but my most memorable one (and possibly favourite) was the Kunsthaus Zurich. It has a collection of art from all over the world, including Swiss artists, most notably Alberto Giacometti, who is well known for his sculptures. It was the first time seeing his work at a gallery. A couple years later, the Tate Modern in London would have a Giacometti exhibition of his work that was rarely seen in public for many years; from sculptures, prints to paintings.

I did some wandering and exploring around Zurich in between museum stops. I took trams to various places, even walked to few such as the city centre.

I did my usual candid shots in the city of everyday life, like I did in Geneva and even in Italy. I tried to obscure people’s faces by shooting from behind with some successful and some not, nevertheless I was satisfied with them. I was able to do some wonders during the editing process on Photoshop with some subtle changes and tweaks.

Sadly I missed the chance to go around Old Town, which happens to be very close to the main station. It would have been great for street candids and shots especially during the day, and also capture the classic Swiss architecture such as the churches and old buildings.

I would eventually return back to Switzerland some months later in May 2016, and yes I would eventually go through Zurich’s Old Town at last and finally see the lake during the day!

Take care and stay safe

Solo Travel 2015: Lake Geneva

I went on a boat ride around Lake Geneva, but only in the Geneva district. It is quite a big lake that stretches across the Vaud Canton, and even to some part of France.

It was a small boat with myself and a family with two adult daughters, with the captain running the boat.

I took a lot of photos within the hour of the boat ride, mainly of the lake, yachts and houses by the lakeside. Mountains were visible in the background despite it being far in distance.

It was fascinating to actually see clear blue water, especially on a lovely summer’s day when the sky is also blue without a cloud in sight.

We went near the Jet d’Eau fountain. I took the chance by zooming close to the fountain on my DSLR; capturing the detail of the water coming out. It was beautiful from afar with the Geneva skyline and reflection in the lake.

The trip ended on a high. It was great to have experienced something different, despite not going far and wide. Thankfully it wasn’t too expensive and didn’t have to shell out on much for the ride. I would definitely do it again.

Take care and stay safe

Solo Travel 2015: Around and About in Geneva

Note: Advance apologies for the delay. This was initially meant to be posted yesterday, but it didn’t. I will be posting the last part of my Geneva stay tomorrow in the morning

Normally whenever I am on holiday, I would explore around my temporary surroundings, such as the city centre, streets or the neighbourhood. Sometimes I would go by foot or take the local public transport, when possible. I often try to go around by foot, since this would give me the chance to see everything. During my few days in Geneva, I probably went on the tram through town at least twice.

While in Geneva, I stayed at a hostel near the city centre and not too far off from the Old Town. I was lucky that most of the places were walking distance, from restaurants to famous landmarks, such as the famous Jet D’Eau water fountain.

I didn’t realise how diverse Switzerland was prior to going. There was a strong mix of cultures from various backgrounds, mainly Asian, Arab and African. I had some knowledge of the country, apart from being known for its neutrality, luxury watches, renowned chocolate, banking, lakes, scenic mountains and the multiple languages spoken across certain parts.

My experience of my time in Geneva was a good one, although I wish I had explored other places within the canton such as Lausanne and Montreux but unfortunately my time was limited. There will always be a next time once it is safe enough to travel freely with no restrictions, but who knows what the future holds.

Take care and stay safe

Solo Travel 2015: Fly In and First Night

Five years ago, I completed my Fine Art degree at university. I submitted my work May 2015, and would anxiously await for the results a couple months later, as well as receive my certificate through the post.

To celebrate my four long years of hard work at university, I decided to book myself a ten day solo trip to both Switzerland and Italy. I had travelled to Italy a year prior, where I went to Rome for a few days with my childhood friend. I had never been to Switzerland before and was considering going for some time.

This solo trip was a first for me: travelling alone for a long period of time; going from one country to another by train, plus experiencing something completely different, such as being out of my comfort zone.

During my trip I kept a diary, detailing mainly my travels and thoughts, with a couple of rants. I also brought along my Canon EOS 500D camera, which I took with me everywhere. It was a big, bulky and heavy DSLR camera. I had bought in February 2011 after saving up; four years at this point. It had been through more SD cards than I had Sunday roasts. It was absolutely reliable and was my weapon of choice when it came to shooting a variety of photographic styles and genres. I took a spare lens, my trusty 50mm 1.8 Canon lens (also known as the ‘Nifty Fifty’), which I use to this day on my film SLR, despite the autofocus no longer working properly.

After my whirlwind adventure, I eventually returned back to London and wasted no time uploading my photos onto my hard drive, which there were at least over a thousand shots. I had used the Jpeg+RAW mode on the DSLR; I had used this for a few times and mainly edited the RAW files onto PS5 or Photoshop Elements.

I also had my Samsung S5 Mini phone as a second camera, where I would post photos from there onto my Instagram account throughout the duration of my travels.

But what happened to the thousands of travel uploads from the camera? Nothing much. Absolutely nothing. No edits, no Flickr uploads or showing to friends or family. However I did edit one photo from the upload, only to submit towards a gallery show some years back. Spoiler alert: didn’t get through, and it is also my Macbook wallpaper to this day.

Occasionally I would be looking through my past digital photography work. I don’t do it as much since I am more focused on film photography. Around a year ago, I decided to sell my Canon SLR. It had no use for me anymore, with it was just stuck in the cupboard. Sadly, I didn’t get much for it, just £45 which I would spend on film processing.

To mark the fifth anniversary of my solo trip, I am going to share my photographic journey through Geneva, Zurich, Milan and Venice which I will be posting everyday until Thursday 20th August. To note: they were edited on Photoshop to enhance lighting and crop; only a subtle edit. Some posts may come in photo essay form rather than long blog entries.

To start off the series, my week began on Monday 3rd August 2015. I flew out from London City Airport (opposite my old uni) to Geneva in the afternoon. I had the window seat, camera on tow and ready to take as many photos of the fluffy clouds in the sky. I was lucky enough to capture a few interesting shots throughout the flight, including this one when another plane was flying from a distance. One of my personal favourites.

I love looking out the window whenever I am on the plane, although I haven’t had much luck with seating for the last few years.

Once I arrived at my hostel, I wasted no time by going out to try fondue (as recommended by the hostel guide), a famous Swiss dish consisting of melted cheese served in a pot over a portable heated stove. Eaten by dipping the bread into the pot of cheese with long folks. I think I paid around thirty Swiss Francs for it, since it was the cheapest fondue on the whole menu! The restaurant where I had it was walking distance and not hard to find, just go through a few backstreets.

Soon afterwards, I called it a night and headed back to my hostel. I went to bed early and prepped for the next day.

Take care and stay safe