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Two people walking on embankment (Pic: Stephen Dowling)

It has been a tale of two summers in London. This year, the mercury has rarely troubled the high-20s (we’re talking Celsius, American readers) and raincoats have earned their keep. In Southern Europe, forest fires have brought misery and devastation as temperatures have soared past 45C.

Last July, however, couldn’t have been more different.

The English capital simmered and sweated in the same oppressive heat that I felt on a trip to northern Italy at the beginning of the month. Amid it – possibly not the best idea we’ve had – Rob from London Camera Project and I decided to host a film photowalk in North London, from Walthamstow to the wetlands that had recently been set up by the London Wildlife Trust.

Rob and I regularly run walks through Meetup, and the walks can pull in as many as 30 people, who all get rolls of Kosmo Foto film to shoot with. This day however – perhaps because of the heat – we had no more than half a dozen. Perhaps the rest of the analogue crowd were seeking their photo ops somewhere under the shade, or flicking through the eBay listings back home in front of a fan.

I caught this pair of ice cream enjoyers on the embankment above one of the reservoirs, and snapped it on one of a pair of Russian cameras I’d bought with me that day, the KMZ Zenit-B. The B is essentially a Zenit-E with the selenium light meter stripped out – a solid and sturdy brick of a camera with few frills, rugged good looks and the superb Helios-44 lens. As long as you have a light meter handy – or are a dab hand with the Sunny 16 rule – it’s pretty much just as easy to use as the stoic old Zenit-E.

And as you can see, Sunny 16 worked just fine this day. There’s the barest whiff of cloud in a wide expanse of blue sky – always a cause for celebration in these rainy isles.

These old Zenits get a bad rap from some who encounter tired old examples at flea markets and perhaps wonder if the Soviet nuclear deterrent was really up to much after all. But the B (and the humble E) are perfectly decent SLRs, especially with Helios-44 58mm lens attached. There’s a reason why these lens are being snapped up by digital photographers and videographers, they’re fantastic and full of character when shot wide open.

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Stephen Dowling
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