A Year of Lockdown

Back in March 2020, I started a gallery on my website to which I periodically added images I had taken during each of the three lockdowns.

The first images were reworks of some old photographs taken as early as 2011, and 2012, and it was rewarding to see how up to date software dealt with them, which encouraged me to keep looking at what I had – not only on older hard drives, but on some CD’s too.

It was a bit disappointing to find that some of the CD’s were no longer readable, despite my best efforts, but no matter – there was still lots to look at.

As the weather improved (we did have a lovely Spring last year), and daily exercise became a thing of habit – at least I was able to get some new images made. Cycling became more regular too, till I damaged my ankle at the end of March, but by then macro images came to the fore, and the re-introduction of the moth trap.

With the end of our first full year of Covid on the horizon, I’ve decided to close down that gallery, and start anew.

Here’s the link to the 2020/21 images

I have been kept busy all year with Zoom – lots of talks, and judging in places all over the UK, Ireland and Scotland, with the occasional foray abroad. New friends have been made, and I hope we will continue to keep in contact long after Covid has passed.

An invitation down to Cheltenham next year, and proposed trips to the Isle of Wight are just two of the things we have in mind, both prompted by zoom meetings.

Although I admit to being a bit ‘zoomed out’ sometimes, it’s been great to see new people and superb images, with more scheduled in for the rest of this year, and into the Spring of 2022.

Our camera club has had fewer competitions (in fact I think only 3 in the last year), with one about to run next week – and this was something that would never have happened before. It’s a 4 way between us (Cleethorpes), Niton (Isle of Wight), Otley and Kidderminster.

I find that I really don’t miss competitions – I gave up pretty much on the BPE circuit after I achieved level 3 – and totally gave up on FIAP after I achieved my A. Recently FIAP made a number of rule changes that a lot of people disagreed with, and it did seem to become more like a money making exercise than anything else. They also stopped any print submissions. Subsequently they have retracted these changes, but it looks more like a deferral to 2022.

The images I make these days are purely personal – and I only send images out to competition if it’s something I am interested in.

In the meantime, I need to settle down and sort out what I want to achieve in the next 12 months. I want to fly the drone more now I have completed the Certificate of Competency, and certainly get the camera overheated with imagery.

So, as the anniversary of lockdown one approaches – I wish you all a happy and healthy 2021 – and once you are offered your jab – please take it – make us all safe.

The leaves will soon be back on all the trees, and I’m looking forward to a happier, healthier spring…..

Take care and stay safe.

Better to Give than Receive?

As I sit in my little office – listening to some soothing jazz, I’m also looking at some of the art work hanging on the walls.

Here, in this little room, it’s all my own work crammed onto the walls, but elsewhere in the house, I have images belonging to other photographers – it’s either something that’s been gifted to me, or something I’ve bought.

Which got me thinking….. why don’t we hang more of our own work on walls at home in areas where visitors can see it?

Some time ago, a friend of mine got for me some simple black frames, with no backboard and no glass.  I’ve used them over and over.  It means that I can mount up an image, seal it into the frame – hang it on the wall – and then, when I’m tired of it, I can swap it out for something else.

Some images seem to last much longer than others – in other words, they seem to have a long shelf life.  

I’ve noticed that photographs by other people have hung in the same place for years – and I still stop and look at them as I pass.  Not every day granted, but often enough that I know I still like them.  Similarly with paintings – I have a small collection of original oils which I have never ‘gone off’…… so why do I change my own photographs so frequently?

Well, partly I think it’s to do with me being my own worse critic – I see the faults that maybe others may ignore….  

I used to do a lot of home decorating – wallpapering and what not….  When people came to visit – they’d say nice things about it, and it wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve said “well if you look up there in the top right hand corner – yes up there, in the shadow – you have to look carefully, the pattern doesn’t match…….  Sound familiar?  I’ve been in houses where the host/hostess has done exactly the same thing……

Why do we do it?  And the answer is…. Sadly, I have no idea…….. but often self critique is not harmful – and most times it’s actually beneficial, allowing us to learn from our own mistakes.

Which brings me to the next thought……

A couple of years ago now – after having read a book called ‘The Gift’ I offered a number of prints for free to the first people who asked for them.  I’d said they could choose from anything on my website, and I’d get it printed to no larger than A4 and post it out.  I did this for four months, and each time the offer went out, the number of people asking for prints exceeded the limit I’d set myself.

It was fascinating to me to see who was asking for them – and mostly it was people that I knew…. I asked one lady why she’d never asked me before for a print of something, and she said that she felt too embarrassed to even ask….

It was a great exercise to do though, and I loved being able to send something out in the post that I knew was going to be appreciated.  A couple of folks even sent me pictures of the print framed and hung on the wall…..

It’s interesting though to think that the images I make, that I like the best, are not the ones I’d give away unless they were specifically asked for.  This of course might be just because I like and enjoy making ‘odd things’, or experimenting with my photography.

I’d love to use my images as gifts, but I’m not certain who it would gratify more, me or the recipient.  I suppose it’s one of those things I shouldn’t worry about……….

After all, Vivian Maier never displayed her photos, instead placing all of her energies in to taking them.

In the end you have to love what you do, or give up and go home……..

I’ve Never Flown A Drone Before!

A few weeks ago, a friend told me that another friend was selling his drone, did I fancy getting one? I wasn’t sure……….

We decided in the end that we would buy it between us and give it a go.

What did we know about drones? – absolutely nothing…….

However, once it arrived, we found it easy to set up, and get running.  The cables were a bit fiddly till you could sort out where they went, but once the batteries were charged, it can be put it into ‘idot’ mode, which makes for an easier start.

The basics are easy – left control, up and down and rotate, and the right for forwards, backwards, sideways – but getting the knack of using both levers at the same time was a bit more complex.   You also have to take into account that the camera lens can be moved up and down through 90 degrees. Lots of permutations here.

Fotherby Top

The first lot of video was shaky to say the least.  Stop start, and too quick rotation meant viewing made your head spin, and getting up the nerve to go to the maximum legal height of 400ft was a bit hairy.

The Boring Bit

To legally use a drone in the UK, over the weight of 250g, it must be registered.  It can all be done online and there are two parts to this.  

  1. Anyone responsible for a drone needs to register as an operator.  This is currently £9 annually.
  2. Anyone flying a drone must take, and pass an online education package. This is free, and renewable every three years.
  3. If you want to fly commercially, a whole raft of other requirements are in place.

So, registration complete, test passed (first time – though in fairness it’s not difficult) – and away we go.

What’s hard?

Thinking in three dimensions is not easy for me – yet …. For a start, the thing is moving, and it’s far away from you usually.  Taking stills is not too bad as it will hover and the gimbal helps keeps the image steady, plus you can see what the camera sees on your mobile phone app.   Video though, for me, is a whole new skill.

So, I’ve got the footage (bad though it may be) and I’ve got some photographs.  Processing them is easy – the drone shoots its own version of RAW – in this case DNG files, which I can deal with in Photoshop and Lightroom.  The video footage though – well Lightroom can’t handle it – Photoshop is limited, so what else have I got?  

I use a MAC, and the free software that comes with that is iMovie – and it actually works pretty well.  I’ve got a fairly powerful computer that can handle video, but bear in mind that the files can be huge.  I shot in 4K (which is the best quality this drone can handle), and after 40 minutes flying the other day, I came back with 30Gb of footage, which when downloaded and edited made for a bit of a wait whilst the files were exported afterwards.

I’ve also been learning a bit more about how YouTube works. The finished files are a bit too big for me to keep locally, and there’s free space so far on the web, which I can link to. Something else for me to learn….

The other interesting thing I found is that you can take a still image from the video footage, and the quality isn’t bad. (See Below)

Cleethorpes Beach

So how am I doing?  Well, it’s been an experience for sure – and some of the images I can already see potential for.

I was initially a bit disappointed with the quality of the stills. The camera is 12Mp but really does need good light to get the best from it. The sensor of course is tiny – but you can work the files to what I consider an acceptable standard – they can be noisy but software can sort most of that. It’s a bit like flying a medium quality mobile phone. (Though I know that some of the newer drones have much better cameras).

I’m always talking about taking a risk, and experimenting with photography, and this is a whole new way of seeing the world.  It’s going to take practice, and although I’m thinking of buying another one (that’s all mine)….. I’m going to wait till I really get to grips with my half of a drone……..  

For those of you who know all this already, I’m sorry to ramble on, but it’s an exciting time.

Fingers crossed I can keep up with this, and hopefully get to make some video that is actually worth watching….. till then… fingers crossed.


As the DJI website says – “Let’s Fly”

Being Quiet

I’ve stolen this title from a podcast that I listen to, where the talk was about being digitally quiet as well as physically quiet.

This came from the fact that, (for reasons that are unimportant) I put Facebook back onto my mobile phone as a temporary measure.  I’d deleted the app over 12 months ago, but every now and again wished it had been there – and yesterday I put it back on for one day – and I wish in some ways I hadn’t.

We went to the Festival of the Air in Cleethorpes and I’d had this idea that I could post to FB a video of the kite flying – which was incredible by the way…..

What I found was that I got to looking at other things rather than just posting the video, and a couple of photos. It became a huge distraction, as I became more bothered about the upload, than I was about what was going on around me.  In the end I uploaded a photo or two – and the video, and then deleted the app again – it was just too much for me to deal with, AND absorb what was going on around me.

Once again, I noticed the number of people (this time including me for a while) who were watching the parade, the kites and all the other attractions through the small screen of their phones – almost like it was a sin to watch the real thing with their own eyes.

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I don’t think I take enough time really to stop and look.  There’s too much digital noise going on, and sometimes I feel I’m being dragged into directions I don’t want to go.

I’m an advocate of playing around though – I think that it’s essential to take time off from the serious bit of photography.  So this weekend – apart from the Facebook distraction – I decided to play with the images – I took them just because it was interesting to me, and not because they were truly ‘artistic’ in any way.

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I call it photographic doodling. It’s a great way of limbering up the artistic juices (of which I’ve been sadly lacking for weeks and weeks) – It’s the process of playing around, and not the result.  It’s been good to just mess about, and see what comes out.

Facebook has been removed from my phone, and I hope will never, ever, get put back on again, I need the peace and quiet after all….

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There’s Too Much Noise

I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s too much going on around me, and it’s distracting me from my photography.

Not the camera – but the rest of it – the internet (in particular Facebook), the computer generally, the radio, the television – it’s all getting to be too much.

I know I’m not taking enough time over my photographs – I feel rushed…. complete this, edit that, mount up this one… and I know I’ve talked about this before – and still done nothing about it.  Well from this minute forward I will – I promise.

I’m trying to be on a Facebook hiatus.  I do check in to look at what’s going on from time to time, but nowhere near as often as I did.  I’ve turned off the TV (other than Wimbledon) and I’m listening to podcasts only in the evenings.

I think that the more I can turn off technology, the more I should be able to concentrate on my photography – and do you know, it’s starting to work for me.

I’ve found more time for my edits, and am now looking at some photographs I took about 2 weeks ago and appreciating what I can do with them.

The plan is to go back to images I took ages ago, and re-edit them. I think that because of the rush to produce I’ve not always done my best, so I want to start again, and get some prints done, and keep up with the blog too.

Last weekend, was Armed Forces Day in Cleethorpes – I was away (on family business) for part of it, but did manage to join a couple of other photographers on the Sunday afternoon.  We shot some aircraft displays, and I purposely took far fewer images than I would normally do – and the results were much better.  The other plus side was that I actually watched most of the displays – something I would normally miss, as I’d be hidden behind the camera frantically trying to track a Eurofighter as it shot across the sky.

Here’s a couple from last weekend then, a fast one, and a slow one…….  the rest of the edits will just have to wait!

Honesty and Critique – Part 2

The other day, I photographed a very simple image of a Starfish on a beach local to me – what fascinated me about the image was the amount of detail I could see when I zoomed in on the shot, and I wasn’t even using a macro lens.  The Starfish itself wasn’t something I had ever taken a photo of before, and I was quite pleased with the depth of information the camera gave to me.

The comment passed to me, on line, read as follows:-   “This could have been taken on a mobile phone, and been just as good”.  I was a tad miffed…. as with the file I had, I could have printed it up to probably A1 size, which I certainly could not have done off a mobile, but then the commenter didn’t know that.

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Zoomed in detail…

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The thing is, he knew scant little about what I had used to get this shot:- and therein lies the problem …… sometimes……

The other night, I visited a camera club and we talked,  in detail, about images, and what sort of shots would do well in competitions.  Members had brought along sets of DPI’s for comment, and we worked through them for the whole evening.  The intent from me was to make people think, and talk about photographs, in a constructive way, but also to acknowledge that some were not ‘keepers’ in the competition arena.

it was quite hard to get people to talk initially – There is a reluctance from some people to comment on an image – even in a ‘safe’ environment.  I think they may feel awkward, or not qualified to pass an opinion.

I’d love it if camera clubs ran critique sessions more regularly – to help members see what the common faults are.  Examples might be as simple as the main subject being out of focus, or aircraft in the air with ‘frozen’ propellers.  Small parts of trees, or other organic / inorganic things impinging on the edges of images, lamp posts growing out of heads, blown out areas – or simply a confusing image, where the focus of attention is lost.

Photographers have an invested interest in their work, I appreciate that, and they can carry a lot of emotional baggage.  Images mean a lot to them, and time and effort has been taken to get what is now being put in front of club and judge.  I try to explain that this effort and emotion doesn’t always show in an image to an independent third party, who has no idea of the mud they trudged through, or the agonies and pain to get THAT shot.   The photographic idea can be as brilliant as can be – but if not executed properly will fail, no matter how much the photographer loves it.  In the end, it’s the photograph that is shown, with no history that the observer sees.

A gentleman was at great pains to explain to me exactly how he got his shot – but in the end the difficulty level doesn’t gain extra points.  As one judge said to me, some years ago – “difficulty level ? – that isn’t my problem”.  At the time I was quite put out, but with hindsight (which is a marvellous thing), he was absolutely correct.

In the end it goes back to what I said in my previous blog post – you need to trust the people you ask about images – but sometimes listen to what other people say too – listen, and don’t just ignore the comment – for all you know, at that moment, they might be right, even if you don’t realise it for a long time afterwards!


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It’s about the Light (and the weather)

How often do you hear the phrase “I only shoot in the golden hour”, or alternately “I won’t shoot in the middle of the day”?

I’m constantly surprised by these remarks, because, if you think about it, it only leaves a few scant hours to shoot in the Winter, and it must knock at least 12 hours off your Summer schedule too.

Life goes on, and light goes on, even during the day – and at mid-day too.

I grant you that good light is great, and when it happens, and you are there – the images, you just know, are going to be amazing. The caveat is, that this great light, has to have something great on which to fall.  No subject equates to no picture.

This week, (early in February) the weather in the UK has been pretty grim.  The folks down South seem to have had the worst of it, but up here in the micro climate that is the East Coast of Lincolnshire – we didn’t get a lot of weather as such.  What we did get was a blast of freezing fog, grey sky, sleet, and as I type a smattering of snow.  ( And even as I finish that sentence – the snow stops and the sun comes out)……..

However, I digress – I had to go out – I had an appointment that I was not able to change, or postpone, I had to go.  The roads were icy (I’m three miles from the nearest main gritted road), the fog was thick and patchy, and if I hadn’t had to get out, I’d have stayed in and watched the fog!

So, when I did get the car out, I thought I’d take the camera….. just in case.  turns out it was a good thing I did.

Appointment finished about 10am, and the fog was still freezing – the car said -5 but I thought I’d head out to the coast.

First impressions were not thrilling, and the cold air took my breath away.

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None the less, I enjoyed the lead lines fading away into the distance.

It was heading up to 11am by the time I arrived at my next location – which I swung into on impulse.  It’s the Country park, which is usually chock full of dog walkers and joggers.  The paths were OK, but the car park itself was lethal.

The hoar frost made everything look much more beautiful, and the low light gave everything an air of peace.

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By changing the white balance on the camera from sunny to cloudy, it warmed the pictures up a little but still allowed for that feeling of cold.

Moving around the lake to the jetty I found that by shooting low – (this means sitting in the frosty grass by the way), I was able to get my favourite shot of the day.

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A tweak or two in photoshop, add a vignette, and I’m done.  It’s lunchtime.  The light is directly overhead, it would be harsh but for the fog (now lifting) – it’s revealed the textures in the icy water and in the wooden stumps.  There’s no cloud, so I’ve not shown much of the sky.

All in all, I’m glad of the appointment – I’m glad I shot in the worst part of the day – chose the wrong weather, got cold, and wet.  It was worth it.

Get out in the ‘weather’, whatever it may be.  You just don’t know what will be revealed.

Where East Meets West – Part 2

If you trace the Prime Meridian from the North Pole, heading South, the first landfall you will make is on the East Coast of England.  Here, a 306-mile (493-kilometer) footpath is marked off following the Meridian line as closely as possible. Dubbed the Greenwich Meridian Trail, the long-distance walk follows the invisible geographic marker from the English Channel in Sussex northward to the east Yorkshire coast at Sand le Mere, and Patrington.

From the South it comes up through the outskirts of Boston, and up through the Lincolnshire Wolds.  Then on to Cleethorpes, and after that, with the Humber Estuary in the way, to Spurn Point, and Patrington – ending at Sand Le Mere.

Sadly the marker for the end of the walk at Sand Le Mere, has been washed into the sea following the coastal erosion, and although it survived the initial fall, it has now vanished from the beach.  Hence my first blog post showed the 0 marker on the main road.   Sadly, I suppose the route is getting slightly shorter, year on year, following the problems on the Yorkshire coast.

Another boring fact is that Louth is the largest Town north of London that the Meridian actually passes through properly.  There are some that have the line just outside the town perimeters, like Holbeach and Boston.

Once the line goes into East Yorkshire it quickly leaves the County (like many other things) just near Holderness, and from there it is entirely over water all the way to the Pole.

And for those who like facts and figures, it only passes through 8 countries en route.

They are, in order North to South, England, France, Spain, Algeria, Mali, Togo, Burkina Faso and Ghana  – so maybe I’ll visit all of them…

Anyway….. to conclude this post, here’s the Meridian in Cleethorpes, where my journey really starts…  I’ll revisit on a less wet day with a few better images.

The Prime Meridian – Where East Meets West – Part 1

For some time, I’ve been thinking about a project for myself for 2019. I’d dithered with the Meridian Line, and tracing it across Lincolnshire, and a few weeks ago decided that I’d give it a go.

I’m allowing 12 months to complete the project – and the intention is to take as many interesting photographs as I can, as near to zero degrees as it is possible to get between Cleethorpes and roughly as far south as Boston.

I’ve already got OS maps for most of the county, but finally decided that I’d go further North to where the Meridian Line first makes landfall in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

So last week, a friend and I headed north, to Withernsea, and Patrington. Once the line leaves Yorkshire of course there is a small matter of the Humber Estuary getting in the way, so the next time I go out, the set of images will be from Cleethorpes.

It was a beautiful day, and after we had found the zero degrees signs we wandered along the coast road looking at the cliff collapse near the Caravan Park just outside Withernsea. The houses there are now perilously close to the edge, and the caravan park too. There was a road once, that must have traversed the cliff top, with views out to sea. It’s all gone.  The house in the background of the photo below is about 50 yards from the cliff edge, but its back garden fence is practically on the edge…..

After that, we headed South back to Withernsea itself for some lunch, and then further south again to Sunk Island (because we liked the name) – here we found Stone Creek, and by this time the sun was starting to go down.

This was just our first outing, and I’ll write more about the Meridian itself in future blog posts.

What I’m hoping long term, is that having something to work towards will help in an exploration of the County – I find it’s always good to have an excuse to go out with the camera.. this might turn out to be one of the best if this day was anything to go by.  It’s also good to have a project.

In the meantime, have a lovely Christmas – and a happy and peaceful New Year.

Thanks for taking time to read, and follow this blog – it’s been a good photographic year……

Best Wishes……