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……..

Well, what a year that was…

It’s been a horrid year in lots of ways, and I bet a lot of us will be glad to see the back of it.. I’ve tried to see the bright side, but sometimes it does get you down, and I worry very much about what 2021 will bring – at least in the first half of the year. Fingers crossed the vaccine will work, and that more will be on the way soon…..

The weather has turned a bit more wintery recently, and so getting out and about has been a bit more difficult – however, there have been some good days this month, and the colder weather has brought waders to our beaches.

Twice this week, I’ve been able to nip to the coast, and see what’s about as the tide recedes.

Dunlin


The problem, if you will, with this time of year, is that not only does it get dark early, but the light changes fast. It started off dark grey, I was focussed on the Dunlin. I kept shooting for quite some time, varying ISO and shutter speeds, and any other factors that I could. The penny slowly dropped that the light had changed completely, the sky was blue, the light was stronger, and warmer, and things were picking up …

Redshank

It looked like summer through the viewfinder……..

Bar-Tailed Godwit

The blues became incredibly intense, to the point that it didn’t seem realistic.

And, as suddenly as it came – it went……

Dunlin

It got a little later in the day – people were thinning out – fewer dogs on the beach, and just one chap with a metal detector. He was up and down the beach – moving the birds on in front of him….. waiting to be moved was a Little Egret, it hung on, and hung on, and suddenly was off, in a flurry of water and wings

Little Egret

I was just thinking to call it a day, when I spotted an Oystercatcher on the shore – there was a group of 4, and each time I got close, they either ran up the shoreline, or flew away – this time, one remained behind – and puttered around in the water…..

Oystercatcher

What made this attractive to me now, was the light, and the colour on the water…..

Fashion photographer Barbara Bordnick once said “we walk by wonders every day and don’t see them. We only stop at what shouts the loudest”.

I feel it is a photographers duty to stop and see things that don’t shout out. Everything has some beauty, even the simplest of things. We just need to learn to see them, and take time to collect the images. It’s at this time – we stop saying “but, there’s nothing here to shoot”.

I think this will be the last blog post of the year…… so I want to wish you all the Merriest Christmas you can have – take care of yourselves. Maintain that social distancing – it’s the best thing we can do for each other –

Keep shooting – stay safe…..

See you in the new year… may 2021 be a better one…..

Twelve Months of Covid – January 2020

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………

How Long ?

How long do we spend looking at the work we have created….. it’s complete, it’s printed, and maybe even mounted.. but how long do we look at it after that?  Do we ever go back, and think, “I could have done that better” – and then actually done that…. Or do we move on and start something new and fresh, and more exciting?

I ask, because last year I went to an exhibition to see reproductions of paintings by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel.   It was wonderful – a ticketed event – for free – with time to browse…. Trouble was, there were so many people wanting to see the event, that it was crowded and somewhat time restricted as folks flowed in and out all the time.

I think we were spending no more than a minute or so with each panel – though the ticket said you could stay as long as you wanted.

Minor White used to say that you should spend at least 30 minutes with a photograph – stare at it, embed yourself in it, search your emotional response to it – a bit different from my experience in Hull last year.

Watching people at a photographic exhibition the same year, I came to the conclusion that people were spending, on average around 10 seconds per image.  Some obviously for longer and some for less…. And I’m as guilty as the next person for not allowing myself time to really ‘look’ – I think sometimes it’s because I’m with someone else, who may not be as interested as I am, and so I rush through – trying to please the person I’m with, by not dawdling around.  

How long, is the right amount of time to spend?  I have no idea, but probably somewhere between 10 seconds and 30 minutes….. maybe.  The one thing I do know is that we don’t spend enough time looking…..

During this rather unusual year of pandemic – there have been many online exhibitions of art that we could see – including a tour round the Louvre…. I wonder how many people did this, and really looked… 

Let me know if you did…….

Film V Digital

A comparative review…..

I have a friend (just the one) – who shoots film almost exclusively.  He says that you can’t get the same quality of image from digital that you can from a film camera.  He insists he’s right – won’t hear a word said against film (and I’m not going to here either).

The thing about this, is that the production of an image, has nothing to do with the medium on which it is taken. It’s a mechanical thing, whichever way you look at it.

There was a time, when I bought, shot, developed and printed from film.  There’s a time now when  I buy cards, shoot, process and print digital images – and the difference is?  I can do it in the daylight, instead of sitting in (what was at the time) a stuffy little built in wardrobe, with the smell of chemicals wafting on the air.

When I did my photography courses at college – one of the first things we did, was go straight back to the lab, and process a film – ahh, you say – nostalgia….. nope – same old darkness (in a larger room to be sure) but with the same chemical smell that lingers long after you get home.

‘But”, my friend argues “we did it all ourselves, all the famous photographers of our time did”… well sorry to disillusion you…… but most of them had assistants, even if they oversaw the whole process.

Think this way as well.  We didn’t make the film, as much as we didn’t make the memory card.  We didn’t make the lens for the camera, or the electronics that are in there today.  Someone somewhere along the line helped us to make that photograph.  If we digital shooters produce a JPG, then the camera has done some editing in advance – if we shoot RAW, then we end up with the equivalent of a negative, to edit as we wish.  I suspect it’s no coincidence that Lightroom has a ‘Develop’ module, or a library for that matter.

What I notice is that my friend does not print his own images, nor does he process his own film, and yet argues that his image making process, is  more ‘pure’ than mine,

As photographers, and creators of images, I don’t think it matters if we leave some things to our virtual assistants – get our images printed elsewhere for example – it is entirely our choice, but if we leave the film to be processed into prints at the time we send it off -then we are leaving the final edit to the chemistry lab operators.

In the end though, it’s our creative vision, and the print, (if we choose to go that far) is our end product.

Put a film print and a digital print side by side, and most times I would defy you to tell which was which !

Feel free to argue the point – I’d be interested…….. 

I’ve just finished what I started…

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.

It’s done…………….

NEXT……………………

Photowalks

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…….

Keep the Faith ! It’s not all bad news…

I was just starting to settle down into a lock-in routine – had just sorted out where my groceries were coming from, and begun an exercise routine, when I fell off my bike.  

I’d been to the shops, got some food in, and in an attempt to avoid some pedestrians, I hit a low curb going onto a cycle track, and as the bike went over, I got my ankle trapped under the pedal.  I was 5 miles from home, and no-one could help me. Lots of people ended up standing around me (6 feet away) asking if I was OK….  I wasn’t – (or didn’t think I was) but I said I was fine, and would sit ‘here’ for a bit and then just cycle home.

I did cycle home – I’ve no idea how – convinced I’d broken / fractured something.  Was too scared to go to A+E (thought they would have better things to do than mess with me) – but anyway, after 72 hours or so, the swelling was going down, I was getting around on crutches (for that read trekking poles) – and after a week, the bruising was making my entire foot look black……

So, three weeks on, and I’m back on my bike, and can walk about a mile – slowly… it’s been a bit of a trial.

What’s this got to do with photography?  Well, confined as I was completely to barracks, I had to find something arty to do….. 

All the jobs I’d been putting off had to be done – reorganise my Lightroom Catalogue, sort out all the rubbish from my computer, and take a second look at images I’d previously consigned to the ‘I’m really not sure what to do with this one’ filing system.

I also broke open the moth trap – it needed a good clean, but we had a few days of still, warm nights with a few insects to catch.  

The image below is of an ‘Early Thorn’ moth – no bigger than my little finger nail, but beautiful.  It flew off about 10 seconds after I’d taken this photograph.

Early Thorn

I’d also promised myself at the start of the lockdown that I’d work my way through some photoshop tutorials…. Didn’t do it.  However, with time to spare, and no way out, I sat down and watched some stuff on Scott Kelby, some on YouTube, and read some books.  Streaming tutorials through to the television set was a boon, and after nearly 3 weeks, I think I’ve learned some new tricks, which I’m pretty eager to try out.

The RPS East Midlands Group is running some excellent Zoom talks, so I’m booked in for those too.  

So what have I learned, apart from how to bandage an ankle?  Well, I’ve started taking notice of 3D rendering, which I think is going to be useful – and I’ve been looking back at images I took in 2011 at Chester Zoo.  Compositing images together has turned out to be something I really enjoy doing, and I’m getting better at it.  Using textures in images too is working for me, and I’m looking forward to being able to enter competitions again once this ‘virus’ starts to abate… Hopefully I’ll have a selection of new work I can use.

This image is made up of five separate photographs.  The elephants themselves, at the zoo, the crane, separately at the zoo, the rock – Brimham, the background ‘mountain’ is in Buxton, and the water from a different elephant picture.  There is of course as an extra, the textured background.

Drinking Ele V2

I’ve read a good selection of books – some photographic, some not – and realised more the benefits of Amazon Prime.  They have some pretty good free books for my Kindle, including the odd photography one.

I’ve done a bit of online judging, and have been booked to do some ‘Zoom’ judging, and a couple of talks over the next few weeks.  

So, as the ankle gets better, and a more ‘normal’ life resumes (will it ever be fully normal again?) – I’m looking forward to some more photography.  The redundant church down the road has been crying out for some photo attention for a long time – I need to get that done – and also take a second look at the things I see when I’m out on a dog walk.  The moth trap will get used some more once the winds drop later in the week, and I’m thinking a bit of light painting, once I can walk a bit further.    

A95T6471-Edit

I’ve had the ‘trail cam’ out in the garden too, and done some badger spotting – deer also come into the garden, as well as the odd fox.

Don’t be bored, don’t think you can’t use your camera because you can’t get out – there’s lots to see and shoot out there even if you only have a tiny garden.

Try and enjoy your isolation time – it will be something to look back on in years to come.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay at home, protect our NHS.

We’ve a lot to worry about…

Us photographers have a lot to worry about.  Life is so full of risks, that I’m grateful for any and all warnings that come from camera manufacturers….

As some of you know, I recently sold all my Canon gear, and switched over to the Fuji system.  I bought, over a year ago now, a Fuji X-T3, and I’ve only just got around to reading the manual – I should have read this first and been prepared…..

It says – and I quote here from the book….

“Do not use this product near water.  For example a bath tub, wash bowl, kitchen sink, or laundry tub, in a wet basement, or swimming pool and the like.”

Good job I read this bit then – as I was about to dunk it in the washing machine for a good soak…..

Separately it tells me not to use it in the shower…. (drat)

Continued use of the camera when it is emitting smoke, or any unusual odour, can be hazardous…..    SMOKE?????

Do not take pictures whilst you are in motion…….you may fall down (yes it really does say this..)

Do not touch the camera during a thunderstorm.. (no lightning pictures for me then)..

It tells me not to use the camera if I happen to find myself wandering around an area where there are flammable objects, or explosive gasses – I guess this isn’t somewhere I would normally find myself.

Funnily it also tells me to keep hot shoes out of the reach of small children…… though I wonder why kids would be wanting their shoes to be hot in the first place…. hey ho!

Lastly there is the imminent danger of being injured by the memory card…..

When a memory card is being removed, the card could come out of the slot quickly.  Use your finger to hold it.  Injury could result to those struck by the ejected card.

I’ve a vision of a card being forcibly ejected, shooting across the room, and decapitating a colleague……

Still, it’s good to know……..