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.

Light Painting Talks

Just recently there seems to have been an increase in requests for us to do various demonstrations of light painting at camera clubs.

The latest of these was held at R B Camera Club near Nettleham, Lincolnshire.  We turned  up – to be received by a good number of enthusiastic photographers who were willing to stand out in the cold, and alternately work indoors.

We took the Spirojib with us, and the Pixelstick, and mixed in finger lights, torches, and lasers.

I’ve been given permission to post a few of the images taken that night by some of the members….. thank you so much Bryan Hurt, and Phil Blakelock of R B – good to see some creative use of the images too…….

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Bookings are coming in fairly quickly now……  so if your club would like a demonstration, and take some photos please get in touch.

Practice Makes Perfect?

I’ve been reading a lot this week about photography, and how we improve.  Practice is obviously the answer, but it is always?

When you go to a concert, you hear the singer, the pianist – you see paintings in a gallery, the prints on a wall.  To get this good, the artist must practice every day – to get out of form before a concert is unheard of (well maybe not always! but you get the idea)…  So when you look at images, you are seeing the end result of weeks, and maybe years of work, and practice.

I know it’s nearly impossible to get out and shoot every day, but what other ways are there to keep your finger on the button?  I think that talking about image making, talking about photography generally is practice – as is looking at other people’s work – visiting galleries – sharing images.  Even looking at images on Instagram, Facebook or even Google, is practice.  Every time you look at someone elses work, you are honing your own skills, mostly indirectly.

So, how do you practice with your camera ?  Well, there are a number of ways – you COULD just walk out the house and shoot anything and everything you see.  Is that practice, or just shooting for the sake of it?  Or, you could go on a workshop, and immerse yourself in the photographic life for a week, absorb, and create… that seems good to me… or you could set yourself a project!

A strategy is needed, and I think that the best way of learning, of moving on, is by ‘finishing’ things; and by finish, I mean print, or otherwise share your work with the wider world.  I prefer the former.  A book, a print to hang in your home, a set of images to a theme.  This makes it harder to do, but also offers a challenge to the photographer.

On the other hand, by sharing your images online, you leave yourself open to critique by others.  I’m intrigued by photographers (and I use the term loosely), who post images on Social Media, but who won’t accept that sometimes, not everyone will like them.  I like to ask people why they took an image, or why they processed it in the way they did.  The answers vary, but on ocassion, they take great offence that I had even the temerity to ask.  Why is this?

Back to projects.

As I said in a previous blog post, I used to be a one image producer.  I didn’t do projects, or even panels of three.  It was one shot, or nothing.  Since I became a member of the Linconshire Image Makers though, my whole ideal and attitude changed.  It’s taken months of talk, and work, (and nagging), but finally I’m seeing not only the results of the discipline, but I think my whole attitude to photography and art has seen a dynamic shift, and because I’m questioning my own work, I’m starting to question other people’s work too.

Within the group, it’s simple.  This is what we meet up for – we look at each others work, and work of the major photographers, and ask why this, why that, why this image, and not that one.  Outside the group, well, as I said, it’s not so easy.

I’m considering a Social Media blackout for a month or so – I need to get my head around where I want to go with my imagery, and I need to plan a strategy to get me through the winter, and maybe well into next year.  My website needs an overhaul (it’s long overdue), and I want to allow myself time to experiment more.  I’ve run through the multiple exposure sets, and I won’t stop doing these – they give me immense pleasure,  but I want to also run a set of images on a ‘what if’ basis….  What if I shot everything out of focus?  What if I did everything with a dutch tilt? (a type of camera shot where the camera is set at an angle), What if I photographed…………… (fill in the blank as you desire).  Maybe just 6 images – maybe a project of just one image, maybe 15 or 20.  What if I set myself a project to complete 100 prints in a twelve month period? (that might not happen)……. but what if it did….?

As someone said to me only today – “it’s only a photo”….. and when I questioned why denegrate it to “only a photo”…… I was met with silence….. and there the matter rested.

 

 

Lightwaves – Salford Quays – Humans Being Digital

On Friday – December 15th, four of us went to Salford Quays, to attend Lightwaves, on Salford Quays, hosted by Quays Culture.

We were able to meet with the Creative Director, Lucy Dusgate, and talk to her about this years show. (Image by Keith Balcombe)

We discussed the latest commission “I forgot to say”……

International novelist, University of Salford Chancellor and Scotland’s national poet, Jackie Kay has produced a brand new, large-scale commission neon word sign, which spans 15 metres in length across the Plaza outside The Lowry.  Jackie Kay was invited to choose a sentence that for her sums up this year.  The neon (LED) word art spells out ‘I Forgot To Say,’ with the latter, ‘To Say’, illuminating and increasing in intensity and colour when audiences leave their messages..…..  In response to the messages left, Jackie Kay will produce a brand new poem in early 2018.

You can find information about this poem by clicking HERE

Planning for these events, starts at least 18 months in advance, and the build can take up to six months.  The exhibits have to be weather proof, and be able to withstand winds up to 45mph, as it can be pretty windy on the Quays.

Lucy, who works part time for Quays Culture, has a lot of support from both full, and part time staff – one of whom deals just with all the administration.

We asked Lucy about the selection of artists to display their work on the Quays.  She explained that she keeps an eye on the artistic processes, and when she sees work that she thinks will fit, she will approach the artist directly.  She is also aware of upcoming emerging UK talent, and will encourage those to apply to have their work displayed.

This year, the Danish artist Tom Dekyzere is displaying some of his work.  You can find more information about Tom by clicking HERE

His installation on the Quays, a dynamic waterside sculpture will translate soundwaves from beneath the River Irwell into lightwaves.

Tom Dekyvere explores the deeper layers of reality and mind. Just as the alchemists of former times probing for unexpected connections, in search of the boundaries between nature and technology, between man and robot, between dead and living matter.

With over 400,000 people attending the Quays last winter – Lucy hopes that this will be exceeded this year.

The other section of the display is entitled “Humans Being Digital”, an exhibition which ends in February 2018.  Thom Kubli brings his piece Black Hole Horizon – which illustrates sound in the form of bubbles.


This is what Thom’s website has to say about the installation

“What kind of relations exists between oscillating air, black holes and soap bubbles? What effect does the sound of horns have on the human psyche and why is it present in various creation myths? What impact does gravity have on our collective consciousness? Where do spectacle and contemplation meet?

The installation Black Hole Horizon is a cosmological experimental setup, a meditation about a spectacular machine that transforms sound into three-dimensional objects and that keeps the space in steady transformation.

The nucleus of Black Hole Horizon is the development of an instrument that is operated by compressed air and that resembles a ship’s horn. With the sounding of each tone, a huge soap bubble emerges from the horn. It grows while the tone sounds, peels off the horn, lingers through the exhibition space and finally bursts at an erratic position within the room.”

Heart, Brain and Lungs by Pascal Haudressy are screen-based pieces that encourage you to think about your own bodies…


Finally, Nye Thompson uses CCTV footage to create a curious environment that asks questions about technology and privacy, contributing a sense of anxiety to an exhibition of many emotions.

humansbeingdigital artists: U_Joo and Limhee Young; Max Dovey; Thom Kubli; Nye Thompson; Thomson and Craighead; Mary Maggic; Mango Chijo Tree and The Jayder; Pascal Haudressy; Libby Heaney and Felix Luque Sanchez.

If you get a chance to visit, entry is free.

Lightwaves ends on December 17th, and Humans Being Digital Ends February 2018.

 

The Pixelstick

I think that unless you have not had anything to do with lightpainting – you will have heard of the Pixelstick.

In case you haven’t, the Pixelstick received over 6 times it’s kickstarter funding goal in 2013.  I got hold of one in early 2015, and though I’ve taken it out to various camera clubs, and demonstrated just what can be done with it, I have to confess, that I’ve not used it myself really very much in anger.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the Pixelstick is an array of 200 addressable RGB LEDs. This means each LED can produce almost any colour, and each one can be instructed to flash on and off at a particular speed and colour sequence. With the right set of instructions, the LEDs can be used to mimic the pixels of a bitmapped image, so as the Pixelstick is moved through space, the LEDs effectively ‘draw’ the bitmap in midair and can be captured during a long exposure photograph.  It works a bit like an ink jet printer.  As you see a print coming out, one line of ink at a time, so the Pixelstick works in much the same way, but with light.  BMP files are saved to an SD card which sits in the control panel, and allows you to replay any image saved on there in the correct format.

The camera stays still, and as you move the lights along in front of the sensor, the colours are captured line by line, making up an image, or pattern.

The website is HERE if you want more information…….

DS2_1995

It’s possible to add more than one image to overlay another, making up complex pictures.

There’s a group of lightpainters who really don’t like this kind of equipment – they much prefer to have all their lightpainting done with different techniques and self made equipment.

Personally though, I have not got the time, inclination, know-how, to  make some of the things they use – and so I use this rather wonderful Pixelstick instead.

DV7B1152Combine it with people, and you can make amazing silhouettes – and portraiture works well too, as you can make what ever kind of background you like.

Add a touch of inventiveness, and you can make anything you like.  I’ll be exploring this kit in more detail over the coming months.

DV7B8122

In the meantime, I leave you with the GIF I created earlier today – don’t look at it for too long, or your eyes will most definitely go crazy……..

Test3Happy Easter…….