Kiev 60 with Zeiss Jena Flektogon 50mm f/4.0 lens
5 frames with...

5 Frames on Greenwich Beach with a Kiev 60, 50mm Flektogon and 30mm Macro tube, on Ektachrome 100 – By Michael Elliott

June 27, 2021

I recently took a wander along the riverside beach at low tide from Enderby’s Wharf to Morden Wharf, surveying the textures, colours and variety of items that are either washed up (for instance, wood, moss, brick), or more permanent, discarded items (such as cabling, metal, netting, tyres). I have wanted to do a series of macro photographs along the riverside for ages, because there are always so many wonderful things to capture, and one day the weather and tide made it perfect to go out there and do it.

The area around Enderby’s Wharf, on the Greenwich Peninsula, is currently being heavily redeveloped, from industrial brownfield to residential. In the mid-2010s, the Alcatel factory just to the north of Mauritius Road,  where the cabling for the world’s first undersea telegraph cable was manufactured, as well as the first Transatlantic cable, was cut back by approximately 50% of its former size, and given over to several riverfront and inland housing developments. This site has a lovely pictorial history of the factory, and its development and subsequent demise and redevelopment.

Along the riverside are numerous artefacts – both big and small – that have their roots in this industry. One of these is a wealth of old cabling:

A macro photograph of cabling

Remnants of cabling from the old Alcatel factory on the Greenwich Peninsula

This was ideal for the lens and macro tube combination I was using: the wide angle and relatively short minimum focusing distance (50cm!) of the Flektogon plus the 30mm macro tube meant I could get right up in to the cabling itself, while keeping a wide angle of view, and achieve the razor thin depth of field that almost makes the cable stand out of the page at you. The Ektachrome 100 film renders the colours beautifully neutrally.

In a similar vein, you can find rather a lot of discarded netting, permanently caught up on the rocks:

Macro photograph of netting on rocks

Netting that has been caught up on the “beach” on the Greenwich Peninsula

I love the beautiful contrast the red netting adds to the browns and greens in the foreground.

Moving along from there, you walk under some of the old piers and jetties that, while unsafe to walk on now, and with no budget to renovate them, have been converted into habitats for the native wildlife and plantlife, rather than being demolished. While the tops of the piers and jetties tend to get a lot of attention, the pillars on which they stand are also a haven of mosses, lichens and other assorted plantlife:

Moss-covered jetty support pillar

The disused jetties around the peninsula – rather than be demolished – have been preserved to serve as habitats and reserves for wildlife and plantlife alike.

You can also, if you look carefully enough, find pieces of wood that have been broken asunder and where almost sculptural shards have been left exposed:

A macro photograph of sculptural wood

A piece of wood has been torn asunder and shards left on one end have formed into a rather pleasing sculptural form.

And the final image in the selection is another mossy one, this time a plank of wood that has been completely taken over by its residents!

A macro photograph of a plank of wood that has been covered in moss

The texture of the mosses and lichens that grow on the abandoned wood and assorted manmade detritus that wash up on the beach is just gorgeous.

The walk, while quite a short one, is tough, because of the shifting, rocky ground, and typically damp mosses that make it difficult to find grip, as well as having to perform acrobatics while navigating under the piers and jetties, but entirely worth it, as it’s a little haven of colour, texture and variety! Lugging the Kiev 60 around with me certainly gave me some exercise, though at least it was only the little 50mm Flektogon on there and not the great, hulking 180mm Sonnar!

Overall I love the Kiev 60 as a camera, in spite of all its faults. Having worked out the niggles with the wonky frame spacing (a home made “leader extension” kit in my camera bag – pre-cut 10cm lengths of paper and a roll of tape mean I regularly now get 13 frames on a roll of 120 instead of 12!), and flocked the mirror box properly (so as long as I use lens hoods, no more lens flare or irritating reflections), it really has been quite the delightful piece of kit. Given that the camera, plus 50mm, 80mm and 180mm Zeiss lenses, strap, case, filters and hoods came in at around the £750 mark, I think it’s a true bargain!

Thank you for reading!

You can find more of my work on my website (including the rest of this series), or follow me on Facebook or Instagram, and you can purchase a selection of my work on my store on Society6!

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  • Reply
    DeeDee Yelverton
    June 27, 2021 at 2:19 pm

    Very nice photos and post! Thanks for sharing them, Michael. I also really enjoyed your Lumière photos on your website.

    • Reply
      Michael Elliott
      June 27, 2021 at 5:53 pm

      Thank you Dee Dee! I’ve been having so much fun with this camera and the macro tubes – I can highly recommend it. You see a whole new world with it!

  • Reply
    Sacha Cloutier
    June 27, 2021 at 4:32 pm

    Great pics and wonderful series. I too have a Kiev, the older 6c, and I absolutely love it as well. They are great deals and the Russian lenses will surprise you as well.

    • Reply
      Michael Elliott
      June 27, 2021 at 5:55 pm

      Thanks Sacha! Yep – once you get past the little foibles of the system, there’s no denying it’s a pleasure to use. I haven’t had a chance to use much of the Russian glass, as my copy came with the Zeiss 80mm Biometar, and so I invested in an all-Zeiss kit, apart from a Mir 38B 65mm lens that I still haven’t used.

      • Reply
        Sacha Cloutier
        June 28, 2021 at 3:53 am

        I have the MIR 38B 65mm as well and really enjoy it. Mine came with the 90mm Vega lens, for cheap and then I picked up the MIR on eBay.

  • Reply
    Peter Roberts
    June 27, 2021 at 6:38 pm

    Wonderful images. I’ve always loved the colour rendition of Eastern European glass.
    A great take on an area I find fascinating both photographically and historically.

    • Reply
      Michael Elliott
      June 27, 2021 at 7:05 pm

      Thank you Peter, that’s very kind of you to say!

      The Zeiss lenses are truly fantastic. They may not render quite as sharply as modern glass but they have a character that is distinct and loveable.

      And yes, the area is hugely interesting!

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    June 28, 2021 at 2:21 am

    Quite a unique kit. You’ve figured out how to tame that Russian beast!
    Nice macro pics. I never think of close-up photos with medium format. I like the green jetty shot.

    • Reply
      Michael Elliott
      June 28, 2021 at 9:00 am

      Thank you! Yes it isn’t the most evident use of a medium format system but the macro tubes were so cheap – especially in comparison to macro lenses for other systems (£35 for 3 different extensions, 15/30/60mm I think) that it would have been rude not to!

      I tend to use the Kiev for portraits of my little one and experimental shots like this macro series and the Lumière series on my site, since I’ve worked out how to eke out 13 shots per roll on it so it compares very favourably in pure economic terms to my Fuji GL690 at 8 frames. That one I use for more traditional landscape, pictorial and street photography.

      Both systems have beautiful glass and neither is ridiculously expensive, although the Kiev edges out the Fuji purely because the Fuji’s lenses are far more expensive (while the body can be found relatively cheaply if you know where to look…).

  • Reply
    Bob Janes
    June 28, 2021 at 10:00 am

    Lovely set of pictures!
    Although it is quite correct to refer to this stretch as a beach (there are old pictures from the 1930s of children playing on the sand in front of the Naval College while parents sit in deck-chairs), there is also a fair amount of sticky mud along that stretch to go with the sand and shingle – anyone doing the same walk might benefit from wearing wellies..
    Also quite good for flotsam and jetsam is the east side of the same peninsular, just upriver from Greenwich yacht club.

    • Reply
      Michael Elliott
      June 28, 2021 at 10:11 am

      Thank you Bob!

      Yes, I do refer to Greenwich Beach often rather tongue-in-cheek, for precisely that reason. I certainly found myself in some “sticky” situations in my rather impractical trainers! Still, I didn’t slip on any rocks, or break the camera or lens, so I count that as a win.

      I’ll keep in mind the other side! It’s a little harder to access if I recall correctly?

      • Reply
        Bob Janes
        June 28, 2021 at 10:56 am

        Slightly easier. The riverside walk is closer in level there – you do have to squeeze through a gap in the rail from memory. There has been a makeshift sculpture there for a number of years (well I am guessing that no-one has moved it away since I was last there…) made out of flotsam and jetsam.

        • Reply
          Michael Elliott
          June 28, 2021 at 10:58 am

          Ah right! I’ll go take a recce when I get the chance and the stars align and it’s a nice day and the tide is out!

          • Bob Janes
            June 28, 2021 at 1:32 pm

            I took a look there this morning – the gaps in the fence are there, but the easiest way onto the beach that side is to walk down the slipway of the yacht club…

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