Leica CL: Bumping up the speed, piling on the ISO
Macfilos Weekender with Mike Evans
ISO 6400 in broad daylight, surely some mistake. No, it was an experiment and the subject is a little waterfall of impeccable pedigree and no little fame. I was out with the Leica CL in one of London's most charming locations, the grounds of Chiswick House. This innocent-looking cascade was constructed in 1736 by William Kent as part of his general redesign of Lord Burlington's classic gardens surrounding the delightful Palladian house. It is quite famous in itself, although to walk along the path and glance at it you might not be all that impressed — until you recognise the pedigree, that is.
On this occasion, however, I was particularly focused on the water. I love waterfalls and was fascinated by the capturing of the Plitvice Lace in Croatia in Kevin Armstrong's recent article for Macfilos. By comparison with this multiplicity of torrents, the Chiswick House cascade is a Lilliputian trickle. But it was flowing so fast and was so well defined as a continuous sheet of water that I was itching to slow it down, all the better to appreciate the beauty of the water.
So I dialled in 1/25,000s and set the aperture to the maximum f/2.8 (on the 18mm pancake Elmarit). The camera took care of the rest. Auto ISO was pre-set to a maximum of 6400 and, while I could have taken it higher, this was just sufficient to grab the above shot. I am impressed by the resulting image at 6400 — as well as by the way in which the faster shutter has almost managed to tame the torrent. The water really comes to life. It has created a wholly different picture to the 1/80s replica shot below.
Below is a general view of the surroundings of the 1736 cascade which looks out onto the man-made lake, forming a central feature of this historic garden. Kent's masterpiece covers 65 acres, from classical vistas to ponds, fountains and an 18th century wilderness. The gardens at Chiswick House were an attempt, largely successful, to imitate the Roman style, especially that of Hadrian's Villa Adriana at Tivoli, which in turn followed the gardens of ancient Greece. The little cascade, a symbolic grotto, was inspired by the upper cascade at the Villa Aldobrandini in Rome.
And below, for good measure, is Chiswick House itself — symmetry encapsulated. a glorious example of neo-Palladian architecture designed by Lord Burlington himself and completed in 1729. In 1758, following Burlington's death, it was ceded to George, 4th Duke of Devonshire whose main country seat was at Chatsworth in Derbyshire.
The road names of the suburb of Chiswick are greatly influenced by the Burlington and Devonshire associations — Burlington Lane, Devonshire Road, Duke's Avenue and, even, Edensor Road which can be traced back to the village of Edensor in Derbyshire. The Duke didn't appreciate seeing Edensor from the windows of his grand house at Chatsworth, so he had it moved — lock, stock and smithy — to the other side of the hill. Yet in Chiswick, Edensor Road remains, leading down to the river Thames from the grandeur of Chiswick House. Incidentally, Edensor is pronounced Ensor, just as Chiswick is pronounced Chisick. Go figure, as some might say.
All images taken with the Leica CL and 18mm f/2.8 Elmarit-TL.