Writing exercise #9 – The Castle

She walked slowly up the drive in the quiet morning mist, the gravel crunching beneath her boot soles; loud no matter how much care she took in placing her foot down. Her breath was shallow and too hurried. She stopped and forced herself to relax, automatically doing the movements she’d practiced hundreds of times. Shoulders down and back, jaw and fists unclenched, feet relaxed, deep breath in through the nose… inhale… exhale…

She felt exposed and a little ridiculous standing here on the gravel, surrounded by beautifully kept gardens and exotic trees. She knew she was probably being watched, but she maintained her stillness anyway.

“Never be afraid to stop and think”, Master Shen had said. “Thinking again rarely got anyone killed. Rash actions often do.”

She didn’t think she was being rash here. All the same, she felt the need to hesitate, to pause her movement as though her trajectory at her original speed had been somehow wrong. She tried, without moving her head – or even her eyes – to decide where the watcher was located. Perhaps more than one. She knew they were seeing a skinny figure in a long, loose black coat, unbelted, over loose black trousers and boots. A broad-brimmed black hat above her white face and long brown hair. Hands held loosely by her sides, waiting. A crow, perhaps, from a distance, or a magpie for that flash of white. Or a woodpecker, she thought wryly, moving one hand to unbutton her coat so the red fabric of her jacket was visible.

Fully revealed, she continued moving towards the building, now stalking arrogantly as if she had been in the grounds of this castle many times before. As if she owned the part ruined, part expensively renovated construction before her.

She passed an ornamental fountain, its waters falling quietly into a large green-tinged marble basin. And then she was in front of the huge doors – no fortress portal this, but impressive nonetheless, with huge black studs in the paler wood. There was a massive black ring set into the centre of each door, but before she could even begin to reach out for one of them, the doors opened inwards, revealing a tall, thin, grey-haired man wearing clothing not entirely unlike hers, in colour at least.

“I’m expected”, she said, proffering the stiff white card of the invitation.

“You are indeed miss”, he said with something approaching a bow. “Welcome to the Castle.”

Yashica Y35 camera – first pics

A few days ago I finally received the Yashica Y35 camera I’d backed on Kickstarter more than a year ago.

This is a strange gadget that looks like a traditional film camera, into which you insert plastic “digifilm” cartridges to obtain different effects. The ones I ordered were as follows:

  • Black and white (of course!)
  • 200 ISO
  • 1600 ISO
  • 6×6
  • Yashica blue
  • In my fancy (a kind of 1970s colour effect, on which more below)

You could also order a fancy holder for your cartridges but they were rather pricey and in any case I have a couple of camera bags that these would normally fit in. However, I don’t have them with me at present, but I do have a spare (sealable!) plastic bag courtesy of an extremely rude woman at Southend Airport, so that’s what I’m carrying them in.

I gather the camera has had some pretty negative reviews, but other than a couple of slightly questionable choices in terms of design/build quality, it does exactly what I expected – it’s a cheapish, fun camera that makes you think differently about taking photos.

Given that my other cameras are a couple of Nikon 1 S1s and a 1982 Polaroid, I’m not exactly a typical gear head when it comes to camera equipment, so I think this fits pretty well with my photography style.

I took a couple of shots in the house (including the inevitable shadow selfie):

YASHICA - digiFilm in my fancy

YASHICA - digiFilm in my fancy

Then I went out on Friday to a nearby ruined castle and took a few test shots to try out the different “films”:

YASHICA - digiFilm in my fancyYASHICA - digiFilm in my fancyYASHICA - digiFilm in my fancyYASHICA - digiFilm in my fancyYASHICA - digiFilm in my fancyYASHICA - digiFilm in my fancyYASHICA - digiFilm YASHICA blueYASHICA - digiFilm 1600

All of these were taken with the “in my fancy” digifilm, except for the last two, which were taken with the “blue” and 1600 ISO cartridges.

I’m pretty happy with these, I have to say. Yes, I could have obtained the same effects by mucking about with stuff in Lightroom and/or Photoshop, but I don’t do post-processing as a rule – and in any case I’d much rather have random effects created by the camera.

I’m not sure how much use I’ll get from all of the digifilms, but so far I’d say that this is a camera I’m likely to use quite a lot. It’s a neat enough size to fit in my handbag and seems to react reasonably quickly. And I’m used to shooting with a prime lens on my main camera, so the lack of zoom isn’t an issue either (I’m guessing this is throwing some users). In fact until I sat down to write this post I hadn’t even noticed it didn’t have one!

In fact I’ve used it since on a visit to another ancient monument. But that’s another story…