Woods, weather and a fox..

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.

I think I was spotted…..

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.

This is the way, and how it should always be……..

A Friday – early July

It’s been an odd week. Hot, humid and not very brilliant for taking photographs, and I am not even inclined to sit in front of a computer editing ‘stuff’.

It’s also been a busy few weeks in terms of talks and judging that I have been asked to do, so actually more computer sitting has been involved – my office seems to get really warm in the evenings but it has been great to either listen to other speakers, or join in and speak myself.

I’ll add a caveat at this point. I really hate listening to myself, so talks that I’ve done, that have been recorded, I tend not to want to hear again – but when it came to a talk last week with Sally Sallett, and Glenys Garnett, and both said they were happy for it to be recorded – I gave in, and had my bit recorded too.

Funnily, although I’m happy to talk photography any time anyone asks me, ad nauseam, this time I was nervous – I’d practiced – I’d sorted out what I was doing, I had everything set up, and ready to roll, and still I felt acutely that what I was about to present wasn’t going to be as good as the other two ladies I was with….. don’t ask me why, I have no idea.

Anyway – to cut a long story short – talk time came, it went, and it was utterly, ridiculously brilliant. Glenys and Sally were consummate professionals, and I think my bit was better than I thought it would be…. The feedback from the attendees was completely positive, and the great thing is that I’ve been sent images that people have created following on from the talk- and they have all been really good.

It’s truly wonderful when you show people how to do things, and they go away, apply those techniques – and then the images they produce are testament to not only how they have been taught, but more importantly, how they reacted to the ideas they were given. To see images that are well produced is a thrill beyond words.

Many years ago, at my first camera club (which will remain unnamed) I asked a photographer how they had done something (no idea even what it was now) – but I remember his reply so clearly. He said “if I tell you, then you’ll know” and he walked away, it was so frustrating and in equal measure, disappointing.

From my point of view, there are no secrets in photography. As an artist, and photography is an art form I believe, you should create what pleases you, but it shouldn’t be a secret how you did it.

So, get out there and create what makes you happy – feel free to experiment, to use colour boldly. Add grain to images if you want to, there’s no rule that says images should be noise free. Make dramatic black and whites, be abstract. Play with your camera, and your software. Make your own dreams come true.

Enjoy your art life.. and remember that photography isn’t a sport – there are no rules, only guidelines.

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………

A switch from Canon in favour of Fuji !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch this space.

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

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It’s finished!

For the last year, I’ve been working on a project about the Lincolnshire Meridian.

Here’s the story – last October (gosh a year ago now), I completed my ARPS with a project on Fine Art, and the Lincolnshire Landscape.  I’d also been a member of a project orientated group (Lincolnshire Image Makers) and quite separately, another group of four, who decided that we would each make a new project which we could then present as a talk to be used at camera clubs, and elsewhere.

Some of you may understand the feeling of relief after completing something challenging like the ARPS – but after the results were in, and I’d passed, there was a certain feeling of ‘what shall I do now?’.

My project was to take the Meridian line through the county, and record interesting facts and pictures, and hopefully learn a bit on the way.  I didn’t think it would take so long.

12 months later, and the job is pretty much done.  It involved innumerable trips out – lots of research, and a trip to Greenwich to complete the section on John Harrison (Clockmaker, and calculator of Longitude) and his clocks.

There’s still one bit to get – Barrow (up near the Humber Bridge) is having a statue of Harrison made and installed in their market place.  I was hoping to get this to complete the project, but as of the time of writing, it’s not taken place.  The statue is being made – they seem to have all the funding in place, but it’s not been installed.

My first booking to give the talk is on September 30th – at my home camera club Cleethorpes – and I hope that they’ll give me a friendly reception as I bumble my way through a first reading.

I’m sort of excited and nervous at the same time.

Three days after that – I’m to give it again, at another club – further afield.  I’m not naming names in case it all goes AWOL !

Anyway – the Meridian project is done, apart from a few tweaks now, and it’s a relief.

I’m not entirely sure what the next project will be yet, but we have plans to do a joint one about either the Lincolnshire coastline, or the Fitties, or something else.

In the meantime, I need to sort something just for me again.

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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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Positive Thinking

I joined, a little while back, a group on Facebook that talks about Fuji, their cameras, and lens.  I was hoping to find here a positivity about the work produced by the photographers.  I did find some of this, but I also found a lot of people commenting on the x-trans sensor, and how it created ‘worm’ like artifacts when you examined the pictures at around 300%.  They went on to say that you needed some extra software to sit in between Lightroom and the camera RAW files, to make this problem go away……. or at least be reduced.

I have to ask myself at this point, why would you examine your images at 300%? , or even more in some cases – so, in an attempt to make things right in my head, I too examined my Fuji images carefully at 300, and 400% to see what all the fuss was about – and yes, if you look, especially at higher ISO, you can see the artifacts which do indeed look like ‘worms’.

What does this mean for me?

Well, the answer actually is nothing… I have successfully processed all my images with Lightroom, and mostly nothing else, at every ISO from 200 – through to 12,800, and been pretty happy with the results.

I put this image up as an example – and was immediately told that ‘worms’ would not show up in this type of image – I would see it more in shots of trees…..

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So, off I went to look for images that had foliage in….

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Zooming in to 300% made the image look a tad odd, but then I looked at images taken with my Canon 1DX at 300%, and they looked a bit odd too.

What’s the answer? – well for me, the answer is to do nothing at all… We have to accept that if an image is good enough at 100%, then it’s going to be good enough.

I have printed images from the Fuji X-T3 at 30″ x 20″ with no discernable lack of quality.  I enter competitions on a fairly regular basis both nationally, and internationally with a reasonable amount of success.  The images that fail, are not failing because of ‘worms’, they fail simply because they can’t compete with the other photographs that have been entered on that day.

The positive aspects of photography have been shown on many levels – I find it not only theraputic, but companionable, and so to the nay sayers within the Fuji community, I say this – “Forget what images look like at 400%, get out and shoot – enjoy your photography, and accept the camera for what it is.  Learn your post processing, and your photographs will blossom”.

Enjoy the Spring sunshine which has hit the UK these last few days… get some good shots taken, and forget about the Lumbricus in your files…..

Where East Meets West – Part 10 – “Just Jane”

The Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre is the Lincolnshire Memorial to Bomber Command, and is based at RAF East Kirby – which sits directly on the meridian.

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I visited, with a friend a few weeks ago, and was fascincated by what you can find there.

It is of course the home of ‘Just Jane’, a Lancaster Bomber being lovingly restored by volunteers.  More about her later….

Entering the site through the NAAFI – we treated ourselves to tea and bacon sandwiches, which were very good.

We visited the briefing huts, ready to brief the 57 and 630 squadron crews detailed to attack Berlin.  The large map at the end of the hut shows the route to and from the targets, and turning points.  There is also a meterological report showing ice levels.  I’m sure this room would have been full of anxious pilots, as their time for departure drew near.

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Next door, is the billet hut.  This was home to the air and ground crews on the station.  The beds are  made up and covered with uniforms.  The shelves contain personal things from home, and items belonging to the men who did not make it back.

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The Memorial chapel holds a roll of honour, naming all 848 crew who gave their lives.  It is a place for quiet contemplation, and I didn’t feel that taking photographs in there was the right thing to do.

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The control tower, also known as the Watch Tower, was where the aircraft were directed from.  The sound of morse code fills the air in here.

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Inside the main hangar, is the Lancaster ‘Just Jane’.  It’s a huge aircraft, and we timed it just right – there was a talk going on, and afterwards we were allowed to wander under the wings, and examine the Lancaster close up.  Jane does do taxi runs down the airfield from time to time, but as yet cannot fly.  During the talk it was explained to us the enormous cost of having each section checked and x-rayed before it could be re-attached to the aircraft.  It’s an immense job, but one that is being carried out slowly and methodically.

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Further down the hangar is the incredible ‘Bouncing Bomb’, and the full story of the Dambusters Raid.  I was able to stand in a virtual cockpit of a Lancaster, and view the run down the Derbyshire reservoirs, and over Ladybower.  I’ve been to Ladybower and the dams many times over the years, so it was fascinating to see them from a totally different perspective.

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Finally, there is a complete explanation of what all the bomb signs mean on the side of the aircraft.  I was quite surprised at the ice-cream decal….

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All in all, this is a fascinating place to visit.  Sadly, on the day we went, the weather was cold, and wet – but a repeat visit is planned.

Next time, we are hoping to move a little further South – towards Spalding.

 

Garden Birds

This is just a short piece to talk about the setting up of a garden bird hide at my home.

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I had recently been to a hide out in the Lincolnshire Wolds, and having examined the set up there, decided that I’d have a go at home.  It’s taken a bit of sorting out, but the results are starting to come in.

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It took a while for the birds to decide that they ‘liked’ where I’d put the new feeder, and that they trusted the perches I was putting out for them.

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So far, I’ve had the usual suspects creeping in – Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Coal Tit, Starlings – and the usual crop of Wood Pigeons.  Collard Dove is around but not had them on the table yet.  I’ve seen other finches and I’d love it for Woodpeckers to arrive.  Most years I get a cuckoo in the garden – and it would be amazing to get a shot of one of those.

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Fingers crossed.

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All images were taken with the Fuji X-T3 and the 100-400 lens.  The latter two with a 1.4 extender @f8