Voigtlander Bessa L
5 frames with...

5 Frames of North London Locked Down with a Voigtlander Bessa L- By Michael Scott

May 10, 2020

In these quite extraordinary times of Covid – 19, it is a challenge to all photographers to capture images of what is probably going to be the most significant event of this generation. The UK, like so many other affected countries, is in lockdown. Citizens are supposed to be out only for essential shopping and one form of short daily exercise. I decided there was no prohibition on carrying a camera when taking a walk. So, I picked up my Voigtlander Bessa L and attached the excellent Voigtlander 25mm Snapshot lens and viewfinder, loaded with Kentmere 400 (rated at 200 ISO) and set off on my daily walk to the local park in North London where I live.

The Bessa L is and always has been something of a curate’s egg. With its Leica screw mounting, no built in viewfinder, and through the lens light meter, it always seemed to combine the oddest of functions into a camera. It was manufactured by Cosina and has a mechanical shutter with runs from 1 – 2000th second. It’s very light and even with the bulbous viewfinder and lens attached, it seems to fit into a jacket pocket.

In common with a number of Japanese cameras of that era, the back of the Voigtlander Bessa L was given a rubberised coating. This has deteriorated over the years into a sticky mess so I covered mine with black gaffer tape. It’s not pretty but at least it stops my hands from being covered in black rubberised gunge. The light meter is centre average and works very well, with LEDs on the top plate to show when the exposure is set correctly. Cleverly, the LEDs are easily viewed even when one’s eye is up against the external viewfinder.

As for the walk, I hope the pictures tell the story.  This part of North London, which would never be normally quiet, is eerily so right now. Shops and cafes are shuttered up, park amenities are closed, footpaths are closed off and there’s even social distancing guidance on the park footpath.

I’d be tempted to do a similar exercise further into central London, but then I’d be breaking the government guidance so, for the present, these images will have to be my reminder of London locked down.

By the way, the Kentmere was processed in Kodak HC-110, ‘H’ for 10 minutes at 20°C.

Covid-19 Voigtlander Bessa L North London

Empty pitch Covid-19 Voigtlander Bessa L North London

Footway Closed North London during Covid-19 lockdown

Covid-19 Voigtlander Bessa L North London

Hope you enjoyed my shots from the Voigtlander Bessa L. It would be great to see other images of lockdown where you live.

More of my Covid-19 images can be found at www.michaelscottfoto.com. Thanks for reading and I hope you and your loved ones keep safe and well.

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  • Reply
    May 10, 2020 at 10:31 am

    Interesting post. I love these old cameras and it’s good to see them being used.

  • Reply
    May 10, 2020 at 12:41 pm

    Hi Michael, i back onto the Parkland Walk so F’Park is in my neck of the woods as well and as im self isolating and haven’t been out for 6 weeks it’s good to see what the outside world near me look like at the moment. GRIM!! I had a Bessa L a while ago but try as I might I couldn’t feel at one with it. I recently got a Leica R5 and stuck a tamron 28mm via an adaptor on it. My thing is local street photography so itching to go out to shoot a few frames but cant take a risk. Glad you manage to keep going and pressing that button. Cheers.

    • Reply
      May 10, 2020 at 12:49 pm

      Thanks! I wrote an earlier post on my R5 here – an underrated SLR I reckon. Hope you stay well and will be back shooting film in the not too distant future.

  • Reply
    May 10, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    Great use of the wide angle lens. Your pictures are very interesting and they describe what we experience. Congrats !

  • Reply
    William Hawkins
    May 10, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    I had 2 Bessas and both their backs did the same! Absolutely loved the 21mm and finder though. Sharpest lens I have ever had.
    Happy lockdown – enjoy the shooting!

  • Reply
    Khürt Louis Williams
    May 11, 2020 at 12:01 am

    We are in different countries but somehow under shelter-in-place it all seems familiar. Spaces made for people but deprived of my them. Here’s a link to some images from the streets of Princeton from mid March, a few weeks into it.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2020 at 3:23 am

    I miss Stroud Green – grew up there and learnt a lot of taking pictures and shooting video all round there. Lovely pics and you made me feel all nostalgic!

  • Reply
    May 11, 2020 at 9:05 am

    Nice Images. I use the 15mm with my Bessa but I am thinking about getting the 25 sometime. You can rub of the sticky rubber with alcohol. Did this with my Bessa L and Nikon F80. It’s a bit plasticky afterwards but way nicer to touch then befor and looks like new.

    • Reply
      May 11, 2020 at 9:15 am

      Thanks Christian, the 25mm is definitely a sharp lens too. I tried rubbing off the rubber coating with alcohol but in the end the tape gave a bit of textured grip which I preferred.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2020 at 11:09 am

    Very interesting images – I tried the same in Munich, Germany, but I found it hard to get impressive lockdown photos, just because lockdown in Germany wasn’t so strict. It was always allowed to leave home, to go to work, ride your car… Also the hundreds of construction sites in Munich went on working. Streets were never that empty and now they are crowded again – even the traffic jams are back ! My few frames are not yet developed.

  • Reply
    John Bennett
    May 13, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    Nice photos! I used “Goof Off,” a product sold here in the States, on my Bessa L.
    It took a few passes, but the gummy black gunk is gone, and the camera is as good as new.

  • Reply
    Dan J Castelli
    May 19, 2020 at 12:36 am

    Hi Mike,
    Just to let you know I enjoyed your post & the photos. I remember this style of Bessa when it came out…sorta like a one step forward, two steps back camera design. Doesn’t the 25mm have pre-set indents for focus? It’s the camera/lens choice you worked with that makes such a delightful narrative. My favorite shot is the “Footway Closed.” Here in the US (Connecticut) our lock-down requirements are kind of loose, so I’m not seeing the dramatic scenes of empty space. I want to take the train down to NYC to shoot the empty space, but both my wife & daughter would do dangerous things to me if I ventured out and returned…

    • Reply
      May 19, 2020 at 8:51 am

      Hi Dan, appreciate your kind words! Yes, the 25mm does have very convenient click stops/indents for ease of use so much so that, combined with the depth of field, I can use this lens almost instinctively to set the right click stop for the shot I want to take. As I wrote, I would love to have seen the West End or City of London in lockdown, but the series of photographs I took, some shown here and others on my website, will be a reminder to me of how my ‘home’ area looked at this most strange time. Hope you and yours stay well!

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