The bells wait to be loaded.
For some time I had been wanting to upgrade my compact stills camera, but my list of requirements had not been met by anything I could find on the market. I wanted these features:
In addition I thought it would be a good idea if it could shoot HD video.
In 2012 Canon finally released the camera of my dreams, the G15. It did all the above, except the AA batteries. However, I had come to reallise that the newer lithium-ion batteries had better capacity and spares were availble cheaply on line. Even better, it had an f1.8 lens making its low light performance very good. So I treated myself to a G15 as an early Christmas present.
For the type of photo-journalism needed in the St Mary's Bells project I thought it would be an excellent one-stop solution combining stills and video into one handy-sized camera.
Whitechapel bell foundry
The five new small bells for St Mary's had already been cast in October 2012 - before I became involved. I had a number of still photos taken by the bell ringers on their visit to Whitechapel Bell Foundry when they went to watch the casting.
It was evident that a video showing the process was wanted, but I needed some background material to help explain things. Armed with my new camera in February 2013 I went to Whitechapel to reconnoitre. I took some pictures in the shop and display area. The model display of bell casting was an excellent source of pictures (see below). The lady in the shop was most helpful and gave me dates when a full guided tour of the foundry could be taken. I left with a booklet about the process of bell founding.
Model showing bell founding
I scripted a short video about the foundry visit. Sadly, it was nearly all still images. So I searched on YouTube for some moving images and found a video of a bell being cast for Inverness Cathedral (watch it here [opens new window]). I emailed Robert Gordon who uploaded it and got his permission to use the clips in my video. A few other images in the public domain completed the assembly.
Although the events shown occurred before the bells went away, I released it on YouTube as Part Two of the story. It's three and a half minutes long. Because the stills are in better resolution and at least some of the video is too, I made this video the first in 720p high deifinition.
In March St Mary's received a call from White's Bell Hangers at Appleton in Oxfordshire to say that the new frames were assembled and the bells were fitted and ready for inspection.
The bells in their new frames
Michael Taylor views the frames
The bellringers view the frames
The bell ringers arranged to visit on the last Saturday of the month. Michael Taylor went over a few days earlier on the Wednesday and I joined him and his wife, Mary, for the outing. This was the first serious assignment for my new camera in video mode (left).
I found it was a pleasure to use. I could switch from still to video mode simply by pressing a different button. Being able to take both views of a scene meant that in editing I had a choice of format. All the video was shot in 720p mode - I thought that full 1080p would generate files that were too big. The stills were taken in 16x9 format so they didn't need to be cropped.
Several times during the visit one of White's staff rang a bell. When I played the video back I discovered that the sound was too loud for the camera and the audio was distorted. Another troublesome feature was a the automatic volume control which boosted the background noise from the ventilation fans till it was deafening. Fortunately I use most of the video clips 'mute' so it doesn't matter.
There was enough material to make a three minute video which I released in early April 2013. Here it is. It's called, rather unimaginatively, 'Viewing the Frames'
On the next page I'll talk about the new self-contained time-lapse camera.