Last Autumn I ran a light painting night at a camera club in Lincolnshire. We all took lots of images, and during the course of the session I sadly dropped my Pixelstick tool smack on the hard tarmac of a car park. Bits of plastic and glass exploded around me, and the memory card I was using skated away. Needless to say, it just stopped working – I was a bit upset……..
The colleague and friend whom I was with took it home with him, and effected a temporary repair, and though I knew these things were not being manufactured any more, I was lucky to obtain a replacement from a chap down in Kent.
A friend of mine who lives in Surrey, collected it for me, and duly delivered it up here a few months later.
In the meantime – I realised that though I’d used this tool many times at camera clubs up and down the county, I couldn’t remember when I’d last used it just for me… so with the nights still getting dark fairly early, I decided that I’d get myself a new wireless trigger, and at the very least go and play in the garden.
What the tool is, is a set of 200 LED lights arranged in a long stick. You are able to programme the lights to play in a set order, so that when the stick is moved in front of the camera, they play very much in the same way you would print a picture – one line at a time. The camera sensor sees the pattern or picture that you programme into the machine via an SD card. It’s clever technology.
Sadly the company that made them, seems to have vanished. The website is still there, but it’s not been updated for years.
We have been practicing in the back garden now for a week or so. Previously of course work has been done in clubrooms, or (disastrously) in a car park. So here I am, back in the garden trying to renew my acquaintance with the Pixelstick.
Fingers crossed we can get out some more in the coming weeks. Creating images to use takes some time, as images have to be a certain orientation, size and converted to BMP. Not a long process, but finding the right things turns out to be a bit tricky.
There comes a point in every photographers life, that skill and technique with the camera begin to take a back seat, in favour of artistic merit. It’s a time when using the camera becomes so second nature, so instinctive that thought almost stops, and focus is entirely on the subject matter in front of the lens.
Time stands still, as we look at what is there. The photographer knows intuitively that they need f16, and that at an ISO of 200 there will be a shutter speed of 1/60th, they have learned to read the light – they will know they can hand hold this comfortably – but may choose to use a tripod.
Emotion is expressed over technical prowess, and the photographer slows down – there’s no rush any more.
I talk a lot about this in my ‘Odd Things’ presentation to camera clubs. I talk about learning to use the camera in the dark.
Try this exercise – pick up your camera, close your eyes. Envisage the camera as being part of yourself. Change the f-stop, the ISO, the shutter speed. Learn how many clicks it takes to move from 1/30th to 1/2000 second. How many clicks from ISO 100 to 1600. Imagine how changing each of these is going to affect the picture you take.
Was it easy?
Learn how to use your bulb setting (if the camera has one) – and here’s a thing – why not look up exactly WHY it’s called Bulb….. (let me know when you know the answer – it’s more interesting than you might think)…
We need to understand the why and how of our cameras, whether they be phones or DSLR, and anything in between. Whatever you shoot with, you need to know how it works.
The thing about cameras, and how they feel in your hands, is important. I remember buying my first DSLR – in the shop, I held a Nikon in one hand, and a Canon in the other. Even then, I knew that there was not going to be much difference in how the images would look. What was important to me then (and is still important to me now) is how it felt in my hands – the Canon won the day by the way……. It just ‘felt’ right.
I shoot Fuji nowadays – smaller and lighter than the Canon 1DX I used to have – it’s been 11 months since I sold it. The Fuji, ‘feels’ right in my hands – it’s light, and the buttons / dials are easy to find and it was no time at all before I didn’t need to ‘remember’ which side the ISO was on, as opposed to the shutter speed dial.
Once mastered, you can think about composition without worrying about the camera. You can look at how a scene looks, and think about how it feels. Remember that some images are ‘about’ things, and some are ‘of’ things. Some images ‘look’ like things, and some ‘feel’ like things.
Sometimes when I’m judging, I’ll say that I know how that scene felt, how cold it must have been, or how hot. Sometimes I see images of animals, and so well taken that I know how that fur would have felt under my fingers. Fruit smells, and and it can drift off the page of a print….. abstracts can make me curious, and movement can give the thrill of speed…..
It’s all up to you – the photographer, the creator of that image.
It’s December 1st as I write this, and Christmas is coming….. I hope I can capture the flavour of the month – with any luck I’ll see some snow this year. We get very little in this part of the country.
So, felicitations of the season – keep shooting, and keep learning….. and think of all the things you love.
I may be wrong (and I usually am), but I reckon there are a huge number of people out there, who have never known life without the internet, or ‘smart’ (and I use the word advisedly) phones.
I remember, for example, when the news was only on a few times a day, and most information needed to be looked up in a real live book – with pages and everything…… some of us even had a set of encyclopaedias in the house…..
Now though, we have a 24 hour rolling news, which repeats itself every hour or so, with them looking frantically for new things to talk about all the time. No matter how trivial or banal.
Photography is going the same way. “Quick quick” they yell, get that image sorted NOW! Don’t wait and see how it works, just post it for the most ‘likes’….
Don’t hold anything back…
Oftentimes, I go out (and this mostly when I’m on my own), and I can spend a long time just looking, and this before I even get the camera out of the bag, never mind press the shutter button.
Whilst I was out at the beach the other day – I stood staring at the sky, the dunes, and the sea – the smell of salt air was all around, and the wind was lifting my hair. Clouds scudded across the sky, and I waited, breathed, and watched. Gulls wheeled about, and redshank skittered around the water as the tide receded.
Next to me, a lady wandered up. “What are you doing?” she asked…. “Nothing”, I said, “just watching”.
“Why?” she asked “Are you not taking any photographs?”. “I will, eventually” I said, and she wandered off, obviously confused, back to the car, after taking one quick shot with her phone.
Taking photographs, making music, writing – you have to be ‘in the zone’, and it may take time to get there. Once in though, it’s a delight – time goes past, and fast, and before you know it – it’s time to walk home for tea…..
I see this a lot, with folks not taking the time to really look, smell, taste, experience the when of where they are. They miss the sounds, and sensations beyond the narrow view of a car window. They can be in a place of amazing beauty without actually really being there. When we don’t pay attention to our surroundings, we may as well not go in the first place.
Autumn is well and truly underway now – the leaves are turning, and it’s time to get out and look at this new season. Who knows what the coming weeks will bring…..
Forget your equipment and unleash your inner child. Take out your oldest camera – digital or otherwise, even if you know that it will shoot out of focus. Don’t be obsessed with sharpness and perfection (we can all get hung up on that one).
Set your camera on auto, and just shoot. Point and push.
Rediscover the joy of taking photos. Use your feet as your zoom, take all the ‘stuff’ out of your bag – go for a weightless walk. Rely on yourself and not technology. Use only one lens.
The more you relax about images, the better you will be. Choose to restrict yourself at least once a week, and just play out.
Remember what it was like when you first held a camera? – how exciting it was to go digital – to see the image you were taking on the screen as soon as you’d pressed the button. Where did that magic go?
Well, it’s still there, you just have to look for it a bit…..
Take away the stress, and go for a walk and have a good time……….
Then after that – get your ‘best’ camera out, and really appreciate what you have in your hand……
It’s Wednesday again, and it’s raining, and it’s September – plus it’s cold, and for the first time in what seems like months, I’ve headed for the jumper drawer and donned something warmer than usual… The weather people said something about an Indian summer, but so far, it’s not happened.
The last couple of weeks though have been fruitful, and I use the term how it should be used…. Blackberry picking (or bramble picking as they say in Lincolnshire). The berries have benefitted from the long sunny days we had, and then been swollen in full fruitfulness with the onset of the rain….. and whilst picking them, amongst the nettles that seem to enjoy the mix, I got stung, and pricked with the thorns…. and it was so worth it.
The woods are looking good too, with hints of autumn in there, and as I said in my last post, I’m looking forward to the golden colours which I feel sure will happen very soon.
I’m busy looking up places to visit when the schools go back, places that hopefully will have few people in them, so that I can enjoy the solitude, and take my time to get more photographs… the internet research has been ‘fruitful’ too.
So now I’m sitting here in the warm, dogs at my feet. One snoring, and one constantly nutting me for attention. I pause to give a scratch, loving the feel of warm dry fur under my fingers.
They’re content, fed, and sleepy….. which reminds me that it’s lunchtime……
The camera club gets back to ‘live’ meetings next week, and I’m looking forward to seeing people that I’ve not seen in the ‘flesh’ for many months. It’s a hybrid, so for those who don’t feel they can’t meet people yet, there will be zoom… internet has been installed, with an ultra sophisticated air conditioning system – all done whilst we were out…. There’s even been a full deep clean of the building to help us start off again…. (Thank you to all those folks who have worked so hard to make the room as safe as it can be…. you know who you are..)
Today though, I manage not only a haircut, but a longer walk out, to see if I could see the fox again…. It’s late in the day, but I spot him (or her), and this time I don’t have the dogs, but I do have a longer lens on the camera…..
The nettles are long on the edge of the field, but the grass is short now it’s been cut, and still green. The weeds are hiding the mesh fence, so it all looks much more natural….. I’ve steadied the lens on the gate, and I wait for him to look back at me. One quick glance and he’s gone – (is this a true foxtrot I wonder….).
It’s been a long while since I’ve seen fox out in the daylight – I did see another one some weeks ago running across a ploughed field… much darker in colour than this, blending in nicely with the ruts…
There’s been a weekend away too – to visit a friend on the opposite coast – heading for Liverpool was a treat…… and the weather was perfect.
I’ll end with things that I love:-
Friendship, fellowship and shared meals. Snoring dogs, fox in a field, and managing to get a picture I like. Lamb Tagine (that I’ve just learned how to make), and cups of hot tea…..
I woke up early today – and stood looking out of the window at the field that was cut only yesterday – the farmer must have thought the rain wouldn’t come, but it has, and it’s that fine drizzle the soaks you through without you even noticing it’s happening. The trees are starting to drop their leaves, and though it doesn’t seem five minutes since I was sweltering in the heat, today, I’m wearing a thicker jumper.
There is a whiff of autumn in the air, and I can’t wait really for the leaves to start to turn a golden hue so I can catch the new season as it happens.
The dog walk today took longer than usual, as there are so many fresh smells left over from the night before – a dog fox trotted across the field in front of us, and nose dived into the cut grass after a vole. We had to watch. The dogs fascinated, but unable (fortunately) to get in the field. The fox, red and confident, possibly knowing it was safe from us, seemed to linger, munching on whatever it had caught.
Earlier this week, I went for a walk in the woods with a friend of mine – we admired the tipi tents of wooden branches that were scattered about, and wondered if these had been used at all, or if they were just practice ‘things’ – who knows…… actually, let me know if you do …..
I continue to play with ICM (Intentional camera movement) because although lots of folks are playing with this – I never have. What I really enjoy here is the fact that even if I continued to stand in exactly the same place taking pictures, using exactly the same technique, they would all come out completely different.
There’s been talk recently on a forum I lurk on about photographers intent. I’m sure that all photographers have an intent each time they press the shutter, or create something in photoshop later; and I know that some leave it to the viewer to determine their own impressions.
I hope that with some of my more abstract work I’ve managed to convey some motivation by use of visual elements, and hopefully careful composition.
I’ll continue to play, to study, contemplate and enjoy many genres and styles of photography. As far as I’m concerned, the more the better. I shall seek inspiration in the works of others, and hopefully I can inspire others with my own work.
The other day, a friend and myself headed out – passports in hand – into the depths of South Yorkshire. We were heading for Kilnwick Percy Hall, home of the Madhyamaka Kadampa Meditation Centre. It’s not far from the Yorkshire Wolds Way, and has roughly 50 acres of gardens, woodlands, lake and parkland to explore.
It was incredibly hot. Too hot really for a comfortable walk, but the cafe is accessible, and serves great food and ice cream.
Lynn and I walked round the walled garden, then on to St Helen’s church – and from there along the lakeside under the dappled shade of trees.
It was good to spend time looking, with no pressure to produce anything.
Sometimes I find that being out with another photographer, or group, can make me feel like I have to come back with ‘something’ – the need to ‘get that shot’ – this trip was nothing like that. I made very few pictures, and spent a lot of time in the quiet of the surroundings just ‘looking’. I felt no real need to socialise either (even though we spent the entire day together), and so, the few images I did make I think are better than the usual.
National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson is famously quoted as saying “If you want to make more interesting pictures, stand in front of more interesting stuff”.. I think I spent time looking for what I thought was ‘interesting stuff’. It makes a difference.
My advice to photographers generally now is this: create for yourself, and not for others (when you can), and many books I have read state the same. The second piece of advice is: Slow down. We rush too much, we rush to upload all the images we took on a day. Take time to sleep on it, think about what you have achieved and if it means you format the card, and save nothing – well, there’s no shame in that.
I’m reading a book by photographer Guy Tal, and here’s a quote from his book that particularly resonated with me…
The greatest conquest is the conquest of fear The greatest courage is the courage to start over
So maybe format that card, and start over…..
With thanks to Lynn Haith for driving, putting up with my avid ice cream eating, and getting us both home safe……
It’s Wednesday again already and it’s hot and humid and close. Yesterday we had a huge downpour and I had to run about in bare feet trying to get the washing in. Of course I’d done all the bedding, so it was all big stuff, but the raindrops were bigger.
A neighbour has a digger in his garden today, and just watching it somehow makes me feel even hotter, it’s really been one of those mornings…..
Everything sounded awful, everyone is niggly, the news makes it sound like the world is coming to an end and none of the staff in the local supermarket are wearing masks, even though all the shoppers are.
It’s only shopping, I remind myself, it’s all going to be OK….
Later, I’m at the computer, with a breeze finally coming in through the window and I’m looking at pictures I took with the drone over the last weekend.
We had a friend over to stay, and it was weird having someone who is not a household member in the house – but it did allow us (if we need to be allowed) to have impromptu drinks in the afternoon – sat around a table in the garden for hours and hours chatting about everything, and nothing…
The ridiculously early start on Sunday morning (getting up at 3am) was invigorating. Cool air, gorgeous coloured skies, sand underfoot, and a gentle sea. An amazing number of people about in fact. Kids who hadn’t been home all night – still dressed in skimpy clothing for evening, (asking why I had a helicopter with me!), and other folk who had been for an early morning swim, jog, walk, saunter, bike ride or workout.
Two ladies with a little girl sat on the steps looking out to sea, told me that they had driven for over an hour to get there to watch the sun come up. The youngster having a great time paddling and digging in the soft sand. She didn’t care what time it was (there was a breakfast treat to look forward to). A teenager too, sitting in the car refusing to move. Hair tugging, absorbed in her phone, missing the dawn of a new day.
There they all are in the photo below, right at the bottom, near the middle….. you’ll have to look closely….
Which reminds me of things that I love.
Friends who come to visit, sunrise, early mornings, colours in the sky, drone flying, watching the tide go out, small dogs in coloured jackets, out of the blue text messages, people saying ‘thank you’, and overhearing bits of conversation, like these two walking past me on my way back to the car…. “if it wasn’t for the books” he said, “she’d never be working in that library”… and there the matter rested as they strolled away……
Today is the same as yesterday and the day before – we’ve not quite unlocked fully, but apparently we will do next week. Maybe I’ll be able to bin the hazmat suit finally, (it was too big for me anyway) and open another bottle of wine, but keep the mask… which actually makes it a bit harder to drink – never mind.
I wonder what my daughter will tell her kids about the last year or so. Maybe she’ll make it sound like it was fun….. It’s been a bit like being stuck in an ever repeating sitcom….. without the laughs, or maybe there were a few laughs….….. moving on…….
I’m pretty sure I’ve spent a lot of time overeating during the pandemic, maybe a bit of over… well over everything really.
I have also apparently lost the concept of time. Can’t remember when I last wore a watch. It’s like we’ve been trapped in an online life, and infinite loop of despair, with no memory of a time before – and suddenly it looks like it’s going to end, and it’s actually a bit scary !
So, after all these months of booking speakers for the camera club, we find we are slowly struggling though the sludge to the end. I’ve got another three I think before the end of July, and then we’re having a whole month off…. Wonder if I’ll miss it, and wonder what will happen next.
At the moment though, I don’t fancy sitting in a small club room with folks breathing over each other.. I’m distrustful, I know……
At least the inspiration that has come from other photographers and artists has kept me going, especially in the last few weeks, and the last two speakers to come are both experimental, and artistic at the same time. So that’s all good then.
Plus for the first time I really felt that I’ve had my fill and monies worth of the RPS – from being a far flung organisation somewhere on the edge of the galaxy, they came full circle and put on loads of events (albeit online) that were brilliant… fingers crossed all that will continue….
Of course there’s been the online zoom social meetings, (and a party, that was interesting) as well as the photo meetings…. and I’ve learned a lot of useful stuff…… like how to plait wheat, and make basic corn dollies….. yes really, and I’ve got two hung in the downstairs toilet to prove it.
Soon be time to go outside again, maskless, in the garden, and then the dogs will need a walk. I tried to take my camera once on a dog walk – didn’t do very well – I spent more time watching them leap around like the demented animals that they are, than taking photographs, oh and avoiding other people who also seem to think they should walk their dogs too, who might just want to TALK to me.
This weekend though, we have guests… it’ll be a bit strange having other people in the house, overnight, who doesn’t normally live with us. They take photos though, so it’ll be OK.
What’s the point of this? Well I just thought I’d put it out there that I’m still experimenting, and playing – we adults, we don’t play enough do we? In my talks, I advocate playtime, but for some grown ups it’s a hard thing to do. I’ve a couple of friends who are avid gamers, but not photographers… I like playing with software and cameras, and pushing boundaries where I can.
Trouble is, we can get too fixated on the so called rules …. I keep saying, ‘there are no rules’, this isn’t a sport, it’s supposed to be fun (unless of course you’re doing it for a living). I used to do it for a living…… and what I did, well, no editing was allowed….
I got fired once, from a company I didn’t work for – I was out there taking photographs of a building for a business (who will remain nameless).. security (who hadn’t been told I’d be there), thought I was a member of staff sneaking out early…. I got hauled into the office and was actually officially reprimanded, till someone from HR came along and realised I wasn’t actually an employee. This was a good rule…. ‘Keep your staff in line’. The other rule they had was that all staff had to wear shoes, not boots, not even in winter – I digress.
I’ve actually forgotten the purpose of this post now… so I reckon I’ll stop…… Here’s a photo for good measure that I took on our first club outing in 18 months…… I might have slipped – waved the camera round a bit, or maybe it was the gin….. who knows……..
Keep shooting, and taking the pills as necessary – normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.