Twelve days into the new year, and I’m in trouble already….

Do you find that sometimes people take photography far too seriously?  I’m not talking about professionals, who just have to be more serious than us – but about people who don’t seem to ‘get’ the idea that you can relax and play with your cameras and images.

For example…. I took this image just before Christmas

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A friend and myself went to the local woods to shoot some macro – and he had with him a portable smoke machine – well, we had a rare old time, messing about, crawling in the undergrowth – letting the smoke off, and watching the way the breeze seemed to change direction between every shot we took.

We must have taken a lot of images – and were caught by the woodland warden / conservationist, who thought it was funny to see two aged photographers grovelling about in the undergrowth.  He asked what we were doing, and was interested in the effects we were trying to get.  He liked the images too.

Anyway – I posted this image on a social media site, and was heavily criticised by another photographer for putting artificial smoke (read fog) into the image.  At first I was accused of putting the ‘fog’ in during post production.  When I said that we used a smoke machine – I was told that it wasn’t natural, and we shouldn’t have done it.  I tried to explain that it wasn’t toxic – that there was no harm being done, and we were just having fun……  The same poster said and I quote “there’s no fun crawling around getting dirty, and you shouldn’t be using a smoke machine in a public place…..”

So that told me off then…..

I don’t think I approach photography as something trite, but I do enjoy trying new things.  I think the challenge for the commenter here is to find the balance between being stuffy and dour, and letting go to enjoy the hobby.

 

 

A switch from Canon in favour of Fuji !

Earlier today, I said a fond farewell to my Canon 1DX, the full range of lens that I owned, the flashguns, the battery  packs, and brackets, the releases and triggers……

The first DSLR camera I ever bought back in early 2000 was a Canon 350D – I quickly outgrew it, asking it to do far more than it was capable of.  Later, when I was studying photography at college – they lent me a Canon 5D – the first time I’d experienced a full frame camera… it was fabulous, and when my course finished I bought one.  Later as I started work as an agency photographer, and was shooting events, and the odd wedding – I upgraded again to a 1D MK4 – loved this so much, I bought a second one – one for me, and one for work…. later, traded the older one in for the DX – which I said then was probably the best camera I had ever owned.

Fast forward to two years ago… and I wanted a more lightweight camera for holidays – the DX was a bit too big and heavy for holiday use, and I plumped for the Fuji X-T2 – and what a revelation – lightweight, massive files – great colour rendition, and a fabulous retro feel that reminded me of my days shooting film.

One year later – I traded it in for the X-T3, bought another lens but still kept hold of the Canon DX.

Something inside me kept saying I should sell all my Canon gear, but somehow I couldn’t bear to part with it.  Then, last summer, I spent a couple of days on the Farne Islands… I took the Canon, the 100-400 lens, a shorter lens, and a tripod, and off I went…. Three days later – with a bad back, aching legs, and sore arms – I decided that it had to go… and I held off till today……

I don’t know quite why I held on to it for so long, though I think it was nostalgia as much as anything…. but inside I knew that the Fuji was performing as well as, and in some circumstances, better than the Canon DX.

The good news is that Canon glass, really does hold its value – and I was pleasantly surprised at the overall value of the camera body too….

So, I’m now Fuji all the way, and I’m looking forward to the new year, with a new start.  I’ve just got hold of the Fuji 80mm macro – at 2.8 it’s fast glass, and sharp as a tack.  I’m waiting on another lens (more on that when it arrives), and I have enough store credit with the local camera shop now – to upgrade to an X-T4 as and when it launches later in the year, or maybe buy a second body – I haven’t decided yet.

I have to highly recommend Fuji though – for their fairly regular firmware updates, which add spec. to the cameras as they go.  I don’t think I had a firmware update for the Canon ever……

So there we are, the lightweight mirrorless camera does it for me – My bag is lighter, the glass is excellent, and the body is neat.  The image quality is superb (dare I say better than the DX?) – I love the colours and the sharpness of the lens……. and finally I can probably ditch the really heavy manfrotto tripod and use a more lightweight one….. I can decide that later…. a heavy tripod can be useful.

I think that I’ve made the right decision, and I’m also pleased that I waited, and kept both systems running in tandem for a while.  I was able to compare and contrast rather than just rushing to dump all the Canon gear, and maybe have been disappointed.

What I found was that when I was going out to shoot, I was automatically picking up the Fuji, and the Canon was getting left in the cupboard more and more – so in the end – why keep it at all?

Watch this space.

And, if you have any comments or thoughts on a system change, I’d love to hear from you – what are your experiences?

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Margaret Bourke-White, and the weight of a camera…..

Margaret Bourke-White – June 14, 1904 – August 27, 1971 was an American photographer.  She is best known as the first foreign photographer permitted to take pictures of Soviet industry and was the first American female war photojournalist.

She was also the first woman to be allowed to work in combat zones during World War 2.  In 1941, she traveled to the Soviet Union just as Germany broke its pact of non-aggression.  She was the only foreign photographer in Moscow when German forces invaded.  Taking refuge in the US Embassy, she then captured the ensuing firestorms on camera.

And what a camera!  In a book she wrote after the war, she described what she took with her.  Five custom built Speed Graphic cameras, all of her film, and everything she needed to process the film, and print, which she did – using the bath in her room.

In total, she had over 600pounds of camera equipment including portable lighting.

As she wrote in Portrait of Myself: “People often ask me, ‘What’s the best camera?’ That is like asking, ‘What is the best surgeon’s tool?’ Different cameras fill different needs. I have always had a special affection for the larger-than-miniature cameras.”

I mention this because I think we – as photographers in this upcoming new decade – need to appreciate how much easier it is for us, than it was for her.

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Take Advice

Sometimes when you’re shooting – you might find that someone comes up and asks what you are doing…… it’s always tempting to give the sarcastic answer – after all I’m stood there with a tripod and a camera on top – what do they think I might be doing?

Anyway – whilst I was in Bath last year, someone stopped and said to me “it’s nicer down there”….   I think that I might have ignored the advice, but something inside me said I should at least go and look. I suspect I’m not as clever as I used to think I was, but I decided to go …..

I went – it was better, I stayed quite a while, enjoying the scene, and thinking what I could do with it later…

Later….. when I was showing the photograph to a friend who was with me at the time – he said “I didn’t see that”.

Let yourself be helped.  Your pictures will still be your pictures – there is no way they can be changed just because someone suggested another point of view, or venue.  The person stood right next to you will probably have a different picture anyway….

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Webinars !!!

At least three months ago (probably longer), I did a talk for the RPS East Midlands Group on my completion of the Associateship Distinction.  I did this in conjunction with a few other folks, who talked about Licentiate, and Fellowship.  We did it in Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre, and it went very well..  I do hope the RPS can run more events locally like this one…

Fast forward a little, and two of us (members of the Facebook, She Clicks group) were asked to repeat the talk as a Webinar.

Must confess to having got a bit excited about this, as did my co-presenter Lynn, who said she had to be bullied a bit to join in (not sure I had to bully much though!) ….. anyway………

Time passes – we start to put a talk together, and decide jointly that for most of it we would hide behind a slide show – not realising THEN, that even with the slide show running, we would still be in frame – albeit a small on in the corner of the screen.

This was revealed to us, during the rehearsal that we had with organiser Angela Nicholson, where we also had to figure out the software that was needed.

The Webinar was scheduled for December 4th, and I was away on holiday the week before – not getting back into the UK till late on the 2nd.  Spent the 3rd updating what we were going to say, and then met early on the 4th to rehearse again and run through the talk – trying to remember not to talk over each other, and more importantly not to wave our arms around whilst speaking (must confess to being a bit of an arm waver…..)

What was disconcerting I found, was that although we could see Angela – we knew that no-one else could, so we sat looking into a camera, and apparently talked to ourselves for just about an hour…..  it was a really odd feeling – In the back of my mind, I knew there were people there watching – but I’m used to seeing my ‘audience’, and hearing their mumbles…….

To cut a long story short – it seemed to go well – the feedback was positive, and although there are a few things I’d have changed (like probably smile a bit more – I think I might have looked a bit glum sometimes),  and try not to be so hesitant over words – ie, practice more….   There were lots of questions at the end, and more on the Facebook page afterwards – which was great.

We were even told that we looked professional……

Having done it once, I think I’d be happy to do it again, especially with the knowledge that I have now.  We all have to do things for a first time, and it can be nerve wracking…. I remember the first time I had to stand up and talk to an audience.  It was a good few years ago, but I had had the benefit of a public speaking course.  What I remembered was one thing……….

“Always remember that the folks down there looking at you, are probably thinking that they are glad it’s you, and not them…. so just look confident – get on with it, and they’ll appreciate everything you say”

Plus, the benefit is they can’t answer you back on a Webinar – well not till you’ve finished anyway….

So yes, I’d do it again, and having chatted to Lynn afterwards, I think she would too……

Here’s my ARPS Fine Art Panel that got me through, first time, and with flying colours….

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What do you need to see in a photo?

I printed some images off last week, of birds – with textured backgrounds – and when the prints came (my printer has died and I still have no idea what new one to get, but I digress) – I was somewhat dissatisfied with them.

There was some lack of detail in the shadow areas, that I was sure was there in the digital image – but then I got to wondering how much detail did I really need?

A friend of mine looked at the image in question – this one below.. and said he didn’t think there was enough detail in the feathers on the right hand side of the bird.

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He went on “it’s got a good feel to it, I like the colours and the setting with the background rocks, but it’s the bird”

I asked how much detail he wanted.. “you can see it’s a Jackdaw can’t you?”

“Yes” he said…

“Well how much more detail do you want then?”

How much detail do we ‘really’ want in a photo?  Sometimes I think we look for too much.  When I’ve judged National Competitions, we generally get no more than about 5 seconds to make a judgement.  Does the image have impact?  It’s not till the end, when we have all the top scorers, that there is a bit more time to look at detail, but even then, time is short.

I’m pretty sure we worry too much about our image making.  Are we crafting for ourselves, or for some judge.

I must confess to making images for myself, and if someone else happens to like them, then that’s a bonus.

A talk I went to earlier this year – was by a lady – whose photography is of the highest quality – and she was saying that she was editing her images to make them fit the requirements of a judge.  In her eyes she was changing them from something ‘she’ wanted – to something that fitted a rule.

I’m not saying this is wrong, but at least there was a recognition of changes that have to be made to suit an occasion.

I think it’s a shame that we do this, but I suppose it’s (as they say) ‘horses for courses’.

What I did appreciate was the fact that she was keeping the original images – -which she had crafted for herself, and appreciated that she would have to alter them if she wanted them to win a competition, or help her achieve an award.

I think that as photographers we love not just the image taking – but the process that happens afterwards, and we also have a certain love of art generally. I’m sure that this is important in the creation of our photographs.

I’m also certain also that a love of art – outside photography is a useful and beneficial thing, especially when we turn our photographic eyes out into the world.

 

I said I’d never mention Brexit in a post!

I’ve been in a bit of a mood lately.  I’ve also been in a bit of a creative hiatus.

The only reasons I could think of was that I was just going through a phase, and also that there’s so much bad news about lately.  We are plugged into 24 hour news bulletins – it’s there all the time – TV, Radio, Internet, magazines, newspapers etc.  I’m bombarded with news everywhere I look – it’s practically inescapable – and this issue of Brexit in the UK is driving many of us to the brink of despair.

I’m pretty sure then that all this bad news can deflate our sensibilities unless we do something positive to combat it.

My ‘recovery’ began a week or two ago, when I started to look at more of the work that is appearing on a Facebook Group called ‘She Clicks’,  (www.sheclicks.net) – a group for female photographers.  Then I attended a Royal Photographic Society Event in Nottingham, where the speaker was Magnum Photographer Ian Berry.

I conclude that a further aid to my ‘recovery’ is to surround myself with excellence.

I must look at excellent photography, listen to good music, and watch artistic and creative films (for which Netflix has an abundance if you look carefully) – for example, the other day I watched an old black and white film called ‘Laura’.  I knew the music, but not the story – and it reminded me of family times in my younger days where we would listen to music together.

Moods change, and with it, creativity changes too.  I’m currently looking through some of my photography books, reading about editing, and discovering again things I want to try. the mojo (I’m pleased to say) is slowly coming back.

I actually want to get out now, and take some images, make some art….. it’s been a long time coming, but at least I now have an idea for the cure……

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Autumn is here – let’s go catch some colour……