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Locks Ajar: A trip to two favourite spots with old Hektor in tow

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After seven weeks of lockdown in England, we’ve taken the first faltering steps back to normality. It’s just a small step for the moment. For me, though, it means I’m no longer confined to walking distance of home. I can get in the car and visit places again.

Trouble is, nothing much is yet open. But simply to jump in the car and drive out of London was an adventure after so many weeks cooped up at home and in the immediate neighbourhood.

Sanitised bubble

Right from the start, I have never perceived much a risk in driving – it’s the next best thing to floating around in a sanitised bubble. On the other hand, the problems start when you get out of the car. But that’s where common sense comes in.

There can now be few people who are not aware of the need for social distancing, frequent hand washing (to one chorus of Happy Birthday) and the importance of masks if they must use public transport. It’s not too difficult to remember and it all makes a big difference.

Still, whatever government slogans are promoted, there’s no substitution for good old common sense – something which many people seem to lack these days if the media is to be believed. After the fright of lockdown, it is clear some people are expecting the government to tell them when to brush their teeth in the safest way possible. In reality, despite the worries of the politicians and journalists, I think the general public in this country is pretty sensible and well aware of what has to be done.

Invigorating

My first drive was a short hop of 12 miles to the RAC’s country club, Woodcote Park, which reopened for golf and walking yesterday. The clubhouse itself was shuttered, and no drinks or snacks were in evidence. But the walks over the Epsom Downs are invigorating and impressive.

From the far end of the grounds, I was able to look down on the famous Epsom racecourse. It was a simple trip, no real objective, but it was definitely a change from walking near home, pretty as that is. I’ve walked a groove in most of the home paths in the past seven weeks.

From Woodcote Park, it is only a short drive to another of my regular haunts – Brooklands at Weybridge. Sadly, the museum grounds remain shuttered and it could be another couple of months before this type of attraction is allowed to reopen.

Since writing the valedictory article, the day before the museum closed in the middle of March, I’ve been more or less out of circulation. And this is one of the outings I’ve missed most during the lockdown. Normally, I can be found there once or twice every fortnight and I admit withdrawal symptoms have been painful. I was severely in need of a new injection, even from afar.

River view

With this in mind, I couldn’t resist parking up and taking a peek over the River Wey towards the old clubhouse and the pre-war race fettling sheds. I was reminded that the river isn’t always a good neighbour. It has a habit of flooding and minor incursions are frequent. A few years ago the entire museum was engulfed and was closed for many months. Sadly, some famous old cars and motorcycles – including our friend Don Morley’s Brough Superior, were badly damaged and had to be painstakingly restored or written off.

With the sun shining obligingly, and the Jaguar I-Pace humming along, I felt more optimistic today than I have done in the past couple of months. I was impressed by the way everyone I encountered on today’s outing was adhering to social distancing. Even on the country paths at Woodcote Park, the occasional walker coming in the opposite direction would make an extravagant loop in the interests of distance signalling.

I even made a stop at the Cobham service area on the M25 motorway, taking the opportunity to top up the car’s battery. Arrangements were sensible, with just a few take-away facilities open and strategically distanced tables and chairs arranged outside. For the summer, this is a liveable sort of situation and we’ll get used to it.

Normal service to be resumed

There is obviously a long way to go on the road back to normal service. And there’s always the danger than a resurgence of the virus could force us all back to home confinement. But I’m feeling optimistic and hoping that we are on a gradual road to recovery. It’s surprising how just a little slack goes a long way to improving the public mood.

This week’s relaxations have also improved my phojo. Apart from a few desultory attempts, I haven’t done much photography since March. Indeed, 2020 is looking like it could be a real fallow period and I really must pull my socks up.

On today’s preliminary outing, I took out the Sony RX100 and the Leica SL2 with that old dog, the 135mm f/4.5 Hektor (named after Max Berek’s dog) which had I dusted down while working on David Askham’s excellent review of its successor, the 135mm f/4 Elmar-M which was published yesterday.

Despite this old lens being something of a fading star in the Leica firmament, it’s fun, cheap and produces what is euphemistically called “the classic look”. See what you think.

Things are looking up at Macfilos. I, for one, am on a roll.

Read more about Brooklands here on Macfilos.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for sharing you enjoyment, Mike – it’s infectious even a country away! It was good to share what the Hector can do, and the images you drew out of it are vey agreeable. My experience in lockdown Denmark has been less constrained because there are easy escape routes into the country from where I live, and even the village streets are different under different skies. I have developed in partnership with my (very impressive) Leica D-Lux 7 a style of photography which I call “Just seeing”. Not sure there’s an article there – especially as with nothing to do, I am SO busy!

    • Thank you, John, I’m glad you are enjoying lockdown so far. If you can spare a moment to knock some words and photos out, then I’d be very glad to run it. We need as many contributions as we can get!

  2. Just getting out again without feeling guilty of breaking some unwritten code is just so nice. However I have noticed that some are now just plain old flouting the social distancing stuff, and don’t seem to give a fig for others. This is my biggest worry that those of us who play by the rules, are let down by those that don’t.

    From my world – if you know what I mean – there is no end to this, we are still anticipating a bigger spike of cases. So I suspect this will go on longer for now, and the light at the end of the tunnel is a little further away.

    Enjoy your new found freedoms, and lets see what gems we can find. 🙂

  3. First available in 1933 and ceased production in 1960 … the Hektor’s production run rivalled that of the 50/3.5 Elmar. According to the Leica Pocket Book 8th Edition, in 1938 the Leica lens brochure described the Hector as having, “particularly high resolving power, an excellent colour correction and extremely sharp reproduction of the finest structural details” … well they would say that … however, in the early 1970s pioneering high speed flash photographer Stephen Dalton used a modified 135 Hektor on his Leica SL film camera to photograph insects and birds in flight and his superb images have been extensively published. One of Stephen Dalton’s most popular books, ‘The Secret Life of an Oakwood’ really does prove the Hector’s capabilities and it’s well worth a look. I also recall he used the Hektor with a Nikon SLR and high speed flash for photographing swallows in flight. Don’t underestimate the 135 Hector!

    • To be honest, Dunk, I am quite impressed with the Hektor. And having had my appetite whetted, I delved further into the Macfilos junk box and discovered two more 13.5cm lenses, including a dilapidated (both optically and cosmetically) 1940 Hektor. I think it must have been on the Eastern Front, judging by the condition.

      However, the one that intrigues me is a 13.5cm f/4.5 Elmar which would have been made in the mid 1930s early 1930s. It’s coupled It’s NOT coupled (Don Morley put me on to that) but I can find only a fragment of the number – 4699 – which doesn’t tally with the tables. I plan to try this out, although I understand it was a relatively poor performer. Watch this space, I’m on it!

      • i generally don’t use telephotos, but I have an early 1931 or 32 black paint and nickel 135mm f4.5 Elmar which I bought out of curiosity. It is standardised with a ‘0’ above an arrow pointing down. It is uncoupled with probably means it was intended for a standardised I Model C. It won’t work with a rangefinder, but it should work with an EVF camera using focus peaking. It has no serial number, but some symbols are scratched inside the mount and can be seen when the lens head is unscrewed. The lens heads of some Elmars are usable with bellows and/or Visoflex attachments for close up work

        I have never actually used the lens, but it looks very well.

        William

        • This sounds identical to the 13.5cm Elmar that I have. It has the number 4699 engraved inside the head unit and David Askham suggested this could refer to the camera it was intended to complement. However, 4699 would be a 1927 Model I which doesn’t look likely. Any views?

          • I think it was a factory option to modify older camera models to a later standard. It should not have been too difficult to remove the fixed lens and replace with a screw thread to accept one of the new interchangeable lenses. That is how your old Elmar might have acquired it’s serial number. It is purely guesswork on my part, but a determined researcher could request help from Leica.

  4. On the back of your photos Mike, I think I’m going to enjoy my Hektor when it gets here!

    One of the things I enjoy about reading Macfilos is the inspiration it gives me to try things that are slightly outside the norm.

    • Glad to hear it, Steve. Do let us know how you get on with the Hektar and send some pictures. They will be dramatically different to the English landscapes you saw in today’s article.

      I tend to follow my nose. Something sparks my interest, such as David’s article, and I then start researching and delving. If this proves interesting to a wider readership I am happy. The good thing is that this is a non-profit site (or, should I say, a no-income site) so it really doesn’t matter what we write about. Tomorrow we are off to Croatia with a Leica X Vario.

  5. Mike, this looks like a teriific photo lens, great micro contrast and a dense rendering. Wish I owned a camera on which I could mount that lens although I admit I almost never venture past 50mm.
    Thanks for sharing and stay safe
    Jean

    • In fairness, Jean, I did some quick-and-dirty PP in Lightroom. The original RAW files were uninspiring but I wanted to show what is possible with an old lens like this. For the price, it’s a nice option to have.

    • Dunk. I’ve done a little article on that for tomorrow. I noticed there is an Exc+++ Hektor for £90 which looks like a good buy. I checked this when I was pricing the Hektor for the article. Thanks for bringing this up.

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