It sounds like the start of a Christmas song …. instead of 12 days of Christmas, we seem to have had best part of 12 months of Covid…. So what I did this week, was go through every image I’ve taken in the last year, and separated them out into months….
I’m going to publish one or two images from each month that (for me) stand out, for one reason or another… and whilst I doubt I can make a song, at least I can review the year…
I’ll start this December 1st and publish one post every day for 12 days … and hopefully I’ll have taken a few shots in that month for day 12…..
So here we go….
January – this wasn’t such a bad month, there was talk of a virus but it seemed distant, and not causing us too much trouble.. we went about our lives in much the normal way, and I was getting out as usual with friends to have a walk, take some photographs, have some lunch… This day in January, we pottered over to Woodhall Spa to have a walk down the old rail line, now a nature walking trail… it was a good day – cold, bright and sunny…. I had a newish wide angle lens to play with.
This is the January view, down the once rail track towards Woodhall Spa – down here are a number of sculptures – set well apart, that you ‘discover’ as you walk… a great, unworried day – with us not knowing what was yet to come…..
On the first month of Covid we went to Woodhall Spa………
Sometimes you just see things, and have to take a photo – and sometimes you take something out with you to shoot – just in case – and get something unexpected.
This week, on the last sunny and warm day (I suspect) of summer, I headed out to the local woods with a glass ball in my camera bag.
I spent some time looking at the woodland, and playing around with light and shade….. then remembered I’d got the ball with me….. I jammed it in between a couple of tree branches and was delighted that I could see a view of the wood through it… of course, it’s a lens, and everything was upside down – so I’ve reversed the image…..
The woodland is small, no more than a few hectares, yet I find myself returning again and again. Last winter was when I first discovered it, and I played around with the lines of trees against the stark winter sky – in the summer, the canopy is so thick there’s little light getting through to the ground.
I’m looking forward to seeing it in the autumn.
Always go back to places you’ve visited before, it will be different every time, and there will always be something new to see.
In this small woodland, maintained by the woodland trust – work goes on all year round, and views I saw a few months ago, are just not there any more – but there are new ones to investigate.
Keep going back, keep looking…..
It’s not over till you quit, because you never know where the next picture will come from.
Following on from my last post – I’m a bit excited.
Regular readers will remember that at the start of 2019 I started a journey down the Meridian Line from Yorkshire (Sand Le Mere) to the bottom of the county of Lincolnshire.
I ended with a trip to Greenwich, with some good friends.
The photographs themselves took 12 months to take and edit; and then another 7 months to organise them and write the text.
I self published using Blurb books, and have made both a hardback, and a soft-back.
I am really pleased with the end result – and in fact the statue on the front cover of the book (John Harrison of Longitude fame) was only installed at Barrow On Humber in March of this year. It was one of the images I had to wait to get before I could finish the book.
So, it’s done – and what next?
Well, Covid has put a stop to a lot of travel, but I am starting to get out and about a bit more – with other photographers too – though we go out in separate cars.
I’ve got a couple of ideas for projects going forward – which I’ll talk about when it’s more formalised in my head.
I’ve also got lots of people to thank who helped me get this book done – the naggers, the drivers, the pushers. The folk who have stood behind me when I got despondent and said “It’ll be OK”.
So – thank you to my other half for letting me travel at all hours, leaving him to dog-sit. Thank you to all the members of Lincolnshire Image Makers who encouraged me to keep going.
And to Mike Bennett, Keith Balcombe and George Lill for coming out with me – keeping me on the straight and narrow, and generally shoving me in the right direction.
I’ve not done a long photowalk for ages, and today seemed to be the day for it.
I cycle a lot, and earlier in the week, a friend and I tried to get along the old Louth to Grimsby rail line – closed by Beecham in the 1960’s – it started OK and we got a fair way down the track, but didn’t make it to the far end as the undergrowth looked too deep.
Today, I had this really good idea to approach it from the other end, and on foot – so armed with camera, and trusty dog companion – we set off.
It started OK
The track was a bit overgrown, but manageable, and dog was having a good time – lots of new stuff to sniff, and rabbits to look at – we even saw some roe deer.
Moving on towards the next village though, saw the track get more and more overgrown – the nettles got taller, and the brambles more treacherous with their trip hazards. Dog started to get a bit miffed, and complained about treading on spiky things. He was only mollified by getting a few blackberries to chomp on as we went along.
The grass got deeper and deeper, and I decided that no person had walked that way in years…. it was pretty obvious why….. It was a wonderful wildlife corridor though, with lots of butterflies. (Should have had a macro lens with me – hey ho).
Anyway, after about 45 minutes of trudging, we got to a point where we just couldn’t go any further – the trees / bushes / nettles etc were so close together it was just impassable, unless you were a rabbit.
After a brief rest in a field – we set off back the way we had come – dog happier now we were going back.
We stopped to have a drink, and watched some harvesting going on, and then turned our noses to home.
Much easier walking now – till we got to a stile that is a set of steps over a wall – Dog refused… so we had to go back – another return trip.
Anyway – job done – walk complete – both of us exhausted. Hard walking – but I was determined to get the camera out for a bout of fresh air……. Some mobile phone pics got taken too, as I needed the rucksack to carry everything the dog wanted to bring…..
It’s a bit frustrating this photo walk business…….
I’ve been reading about photography ideas – here’s one I like the sounds of, and intend to have a go with – I’ll publish the results in due course, and if I don’t, I’m pretty sure someone will remind me.
Why don’t you have a go at this too……
Go for a walk WITHOUT your camera. Go back and make one photo of something you saw on the walk.
Use negative space with ‘wild and reckless abandonment’ – make the main subject a very small part of the composition.
Walk an area you normally drive through. Bring your camera, and make one photo of something you’ve not noticed before.
Make a scenic photograph. Eliminate one element and retake. Repeat till there’s nothing left to take – see how many steps you can spread it out for.
So that’s one shot each for the first three, and a number of shots for the last……
Remember they don’t have to be masterpieces of artwork – just thoughtful things.
Now – there’s a bit of woodland I drive past all the time………..
Sometime during March, my camera club closed down because of Covid19 – there was no big announcement, just a quiet closure, and a sudden end to the programme of events that were scheduled.
One member acquired a Zoom account for the benefit of maybe half a dozen people, so we could keep in touch. It soon expanded though to include the whole of the club, and since then has gone from strength to strength.
What this blog post is about, is the results of that closure, and what happened afterwards.
We had a couple of meetings to see how it would go, and, when it became apparent that most of the membership were keen, it fell to a group of three to work out the programme that would ensue. All the competitions had stopped, and there had been no club committee meetings, so we plodded on.
What happened was one of the best programmes of speakers I have ever had the privilege to watch – ranging from people with little experience, to solid professionals with years of speaking experience, based around the world.
The common denominator was the software called Zoom, which seemed to float to the top at the start of the Covid lockdown.
I certainly had never heard of it before, and I gather a lot more people were in exactly the same situation. At the start, there seemed to be glitches, and some security issues, but the company seemed to get on top of that pretty quickly, and ironed out the problems. Pretty soon I saw that many businesses were using it as a conferencing tool, including our own government.
There is always (for some) a fear of new technology, but under these trying circumstances, I have been pleased to see people I would have considered to be wary of this sort of meeting – happily joining in after a training session. Even some who said they were sure they wouldn’t like it, have been converted.
Of course – it’s not for everyone, and if it’s not a place you would feel comfortable, then that is fine. (But you’re missing such a lot!)
However – the results of the talks, coming as quickly as they have (and still do) has been inspirational.
Not just the club, but the Royal Photographic Society too, has put on a series of events and talks that simply could not be missed…. So what is the result so far….
Well, a cornucopia of ideas from an eclectic mix of photographers and artists.
We started with Art Nude, and nudes in the landscape, reflecting professionalism, and images you would be happy to show your aged mother. Not a genre I was planning on trying any time soon, but the photographs and the expertise was unmistakable.
From here we moved to stories, told by different images, and a whole talk and photographs based entirely on a work of fiction. Some stunning work by a master of wildlife photography, who showed us how he was able to attract birds into his garden, and gave us a tour round with excellent photography.
Based on this talk, the club ran a competition based on ‘birds’ – a fun competition with a very loose theme – images ranged from model kingfishers, to easter chicks in a nest of creme eggs.
So what have I learned?
Well, images can be produced that are interpretations, and not records of events, the subject comes first, and the images second. Planning is key, and if you are creating your own photographs from a work of fiction, then the image must be moved by the story itself.
The differences in attitude and experience of the speakers shows me that creativity is not necessarily something we can just learn. It can require a complete change of mindset, and is something that needs constant practice.
There will be many failures, but these are essential, as are the risks.
For example – Edward Weston produced a startling black and white image of a green pepper – called ‘Pepper Number 30’. What I hadn’t really thought about, was that there must have been at least 29 earlier versions, and who knows how many afterwards. The point is that Weston thought that number 30 was THE image, and the one he was probably most satisfied with.
Photographers must learn (I feel it should be compulsory) to cultivate a willingness to experiment, and think about the question ‘what if I did this?’..
I also learned that watching these excellent people present their work – that what we saw was a carefully cultivated, curated collection of images – and not just a thrown together selection of work. They all saw that there was no ‘one way’ of doing things – there was no wrong way, there was just a multitude of different ways. Some would just work better than others.
The images were not ‘scripted’ – they were born out of imagination, inspiration, and creativity. Even the loveliest landscapes that I saw of Mongolia, were thought through pieces, with the photographer even showing us one or two of his rejects, and explaining the thought process.
Each specialist image maker held true to their passions and convictions, and to a large extent didn’t worry too much about how others reacted to them. There is therefore a true correlation between creation and passion.
The other thing they do is make time for their art. It’s not created in between sandwiches on a Wednesday afternoon. They have spent time and effort looking at other people’s work, and at art. They have attended exhibitions, judged competitions, made work for sale, and importantly, made work for themselves.
So looking back at what I have seen so far – travel, people, factual, experimental, wildlife, landscape, nudes and totally different uses of camera and drones – my mind is racing with ideas.
I look at the programme to come, and see more projects, the Vikings, more wildlife, sports, astrophotography, underwater, street, work with textures, and composite photography.
Lots of things I’ve never tried, not thought about particularly either, but we all need to open our eyes and minds to different mindsets.
Lockdown has been an absolute pain in a lot of ways – there’s been a lot of agony and grief, but there has also been an abundance of creative imagery – some fantastically beautiful and poignant work, reflecting how photographers have responded to being left to their own devices.
Is there still going to be a place for the ‘traditional’ camera club after this? I’d say yes, because you can’t beat the personal interactions that you get when you meet up. Will they be different? I hope so – I hope that more photographers will be willing to experiment, and break the rules.
Is there going to be a place for Zoom, or equivalent? – again, I think yes. How else can you have a presenter from the other side of the world, or even Europe? Speakers from the deep south of the UK, or the north of Scotland.
One thing I do hope, is that clubs continue to have these brilliant speakers – so that we can see the amazing work that might be totally different to our own……
I look forward to hearing your comments, and seeing you let yourselves go….
I’ve not done a blog post this month since March 1st – and this is mostly due to the fact that the pandemic that started in China in December and which has overtaken most of the world sent me into a state of panic, that is only now starting to abate – as I realise that there is absolutely nothing I can do about it, only weather the storm as best I can.
The media hasn’t helped – with a constant bombardment of bad news, and 24 hour coverage.
So, what to do ? Restrict the amount of news coverage, release myself from the bombardment of social media, and listen to a lot more music – classical piano, is what’s playing in the background even as I type.I’m also trying to hone my photoshop skills some more.I’ve books, and magazines that I bought ages ago with the intention of working through some things, but never got around to.Well, now I have no excuse…..
Back to the music, and I’ve just listened to a piece that has been beautifully played.I’ve rewound it, and sat with my eyes shut, and just absorbed the flow – this has put me in mind of how we can relearn to look at photographs.
We can have them in the background, and see them, but not ‘notice’ them, or we can absorb them – much like we can a piece of music.
I used to play in an orchestra, (I played clarinet), and sitting ‘inside’ the music was magical.To hear the different sections rehearse individually was fascinating – sometimes it didn’t sound like the final piece at all, but the conductor bringing it all together made the final sound.The study of the score showed how it all worked.
I find that photography is very much like this – we produce the first image, and then in conjunction with software, we hone it to a final version – which other folks can then either quickly look at, or hopefully, absorb.
There are photographs in my home that hang on the walls that I will enjoy looking at – and will spend time with, and there are others that are there for decoration only.Seeing some images is not the same as spending time really looking at them.
Minor White said that you should spend at least 30 minutes looking at a photograph – not saying anything, just looking and absorbing – and that’s the same with a piece of music.Having it running in the background is not the same as really listening to it. Minor died in 1976, leaving many images for us to absorb. Mostly black and white closeups, arranged in sequence so the viewer had to look carefully, and slowly. Go look at his work, the lighting is beautiful, and a lot of the images are very simple, but need to be looked at carefully.
Especially good are the images of his friend Tom Murphy, taken in 1948 – beautifully lit, Tom is muscular and naked – and though White struggled throughout his life with his homosexuality, he was able to still to produce images like these.
In these strange times of lockdown, maybe we should take more time to really look at our photography, and really listen to the music.Listen to the sounds of nature too, and allow ourselves the unaccustomed luxury of being able to ‘look’.
So, what’s next – and what do the next weeks have on offer for the photographer?Restrictions yes, but maybe opportunities too.
I might just break out the macro lens I bought and hardly used….. and get to grips with photoshop !
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?
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.