Last Autumn I ran a light painting night at a camera club in Lincolnshire. We all took lots of images, and during the course of the session I sadly dropped my Pixelstick tool smack on the hard tarmac of a car park. Bits of plastic and glass exploded around me, and the memory card I was using skated away. Needless to say, it just stopped working – I was a bit upset……..
The colleague and friend whom I was with took it home with him, and effected a temporary repair, and though I knew these things were not being manufactured any more, I was lucky to obtain a replacement from a chap down in Kent.
A friend of mine who lives in Surrey, collected it for me, and duly delivered it up here a few months later.
In the meantime – I realised that though I’d used this tool many times at camera clubs up and down the county, I couldn’t remember when I’d last used it just for me… so with the nights still getting dark fairly early, I decided that I’d get myself a new wireless trigger, and at the very least go and play in the garden.
What the tool is, is a set of 200 LED lights arranged in a long stick. You are able to programme the lights to play in a set order, so that when the stick is moved in front of the camera, they play very much in the same way you would print a picture – one line at a time. The camera sensor sees the pattern or picture that you programme into the machine via an SD card. It’s clever technology.
Sadly the company that made them, seems to have vanished. The website is still there, but it’s not been updated for years.
We have been practicing in the back garden now for a week or so. Previously of course work has been done in clubrooms, or (disastrously) in a car park. So here I am, back in the garden trying to renew my acquaintance with the Pixelstick.
Fingers crossed we can get out some more in the coming weeks. Creating images to use takes some time, as images have to be a certain orientation, size and converted to BMP. Not a long process, but finding the right things turns out to be a bit tricky.
I may be wrong (and I usually am), but I reckon there are a huge number of people out there, who have never known life without the internet, or ‘smart’ (and I use the word advisedly) phones.
I remember, for example, when the news was only on a few times a day, and most information needed to be looked up in a real live book – with pages and everything…… some of us even had a set of encyclopaedias in the house…..
Now though, we have a 24 hour rolling news, which repeats itself every hour or so, with them looking frantically for new things to talk about all the time. No matter how trivial or banal.
Photography is going the same way. “Quick quick” they yell, get that image sorted NOW! Don’t wait and see how it works, just post it for the most ‘likes’….
Don’t hold anything back…
Oftentimes, I go out (and this mostly when I’m on my own), and I can spend a long time just looking, and this before I even get the camera out of the bag, never mind press the shutter button.
Whilst I was out at the beach the other day – I stood staring at the sky, the dunes, and the sea – the smell of salt air was all around, and the wind was lifting my hair. Clouds scudded across the sky, and I waited, breathed, and watched. Gulls wheeled about, and redshank skittered around the water as the tide receded.
Next to me, a lady wandered up. “What are you doing?” she asked…. “Nothing”, I said, “just watching”.
“Why?” she asked “Are you not taking any photographs?”. “I will, eventually” I said, and she wandered off, obviously confused, back to the car, after taking one quick shot with her phone.
Taking photographs, making music, writing – you have to be ‘in the zone’, and it may take time to get there. Once in though, it’s a delight – time goes past, and fast, and before you know it – it’s time to walk home for tea…..
I see this a lot, with folks not taking the time to really look, smell, taste, experience the when of where they are. They miss the sounds, and sensations beyond the narrow view of a car window. They can be in a place of amazing beauty without actually really being there. When we don’t pay attention to our surroundings, we may as well not go in the first place.
Autumn is well and truly underway now – the leaves are turning, and it’s time to get out and look at this new season. Who knows what the coming weeks will bring…..
It’s Sunday, and it’s cold and wet, and already I’ve had one soaking whilst walking the dogs – but now I’m home and showered, and thinking about the week just past.
I met a friend I hadn’t seen for years yesterday, and we spent a couple of hours just walking about the promenade, and drinking tea. It was one of those weird meetings really, when you find that over the years, you’ve changed – and they’ve changed. I sat and watched as she uncomfortably snapped in half the wooden stirrers that came with the tea.
“What’s the problem?” I said, “Why are you so nervous?”.
“I was worried that we couldn’t connect any more” she said
Later, we both relax, and then the flow of chatter doesn’t stop. Turns out that we haven’t changed that much really – we just didn’t know quite how to get started again. Once into the flow, and it was like we hadn’t been apart.
In a couple of weeks time I’m doing two talks over three days, and they’ll be ‘in person’. I’m not sure that I haven’t forgotten how to do it. Pretty sure I’ll muddle through though, very much like meeting that friend we haven’t seen for a long time.
She gave me a kiss on the cheek as we parted, with promises to ‘do this again very soon’…… I really hope we do.
The problem is thinking you know enough to think you’re right, but not knowing enough to know that you’re wrong………
What does success look like to you? Sometimes creativity is easy, and sometimes it’s not. I walk through the days trying to get past photographers block, and trying too hard just makes it worse.
Today is a good day, I’m feeling creative and inspired to get out and take some pictures, not for anyone else, but for me, and me alone. Today I’m past the block and on a roll. How long will it last? Who knows, and frankly I’m not worried, it’s about today.
One of the things I’ve learned in the past 18 months or so of Covid, is that I can shoot what I want – not for a camera club, or exhibition, or competition – and there’s been a huge sense of freedom in that. I realised that it was OK to put down the camera, and walk away for a week or two, to change my subjects and outlook – to get off the club treadmill which I hadn’t even realised I was on. To take a good break from social media.
I found that I am not ‘required’ to be a landscape photographer, or wildlife, or portrait, or creative for that matter – I took time to explore genres, to find out where I fit in with myself, and I’ve come out somewhat surprised.
I explored, went for walks, read art and photography books, remembered that the cameras we all have today (including those on our phones) are much better than the equipment photographers were using well into the 1990’s. We are blessed with great cameras, lens, and software, and yet I still hear complaints about ‘gear’. Hey guys, this lens at F1.4 is soooo much better than the same focal length at F2…
Photography is for ‘me’ now, not someone else (I did all that when working full time), and if that sounds selfish – so be it. It’s about feeding my own soul, and I’ve stopped worrying about what other people think of my work.
Online, I see images, one in colour, and one in black and white. The photographer is asking which is better, I can’t decide, help me choose. Is this the death knell of creativity – why are they letting other people choose for them? Asking random strangers on the internet to vet your work is always going to be an issue. About half the people asked liked the colour, and all the rest the mono….. so who was right…. one, the other, both?
Stand up for yourself, be brave and experimental, don’t let the ‘rules’ get in the way of your own vision. Remember that nothing these days is original.
When I was younger I was a musician. I played in orchestra, military band, dance band, jazz band, and theatre pit. I loved it. I played other people’s work as I was learning and after, I was very good at sight reading, better at key transposition, and eventually improvisation. I learnt the way most do though, I copied others, I read the scores for opera, and symphony, I learnt by rote. I learnt scales and harmony. I learnt how to use and maintain my instrument.
As photographers we do the same thing – we copy, we learn the rules, and play scales, we learn how to use and maintain our gear, we eventually learn to deviate (or improvise) from the theme, we learn to read the light, to transpose our thoughts and eventually create our own self worth.
Don’t be scared – remember that by trying to please everyone, you ultimately please no-one, and average is born.
Stay away from internet negativity, and don’t worry about what other people think – find your own voice and stick with it……
It’s Wednesday again, and it’s raining, and it’s September – plus it’s cold, and for the first time in what seems like months, I’ve headed for the jumper drawer and donned something warmer than usual… The weather people said something about an Indian summer, but so far, it’s not happened.
The last couple of weeks though have been fruitful, and I use the term how it should be used…. Blackberry picking (or bramble picking as they say in Lincolnshire). The berries have benefitted from the long sunny days we had, and then been swollen in full fruitfulness with the onset of the rain….. and whilst picking them, amongst the nettles that seem to enjoy the mix, I got stung, and pricked with the thorns…. and it was so worth it.
The woods are looking good too, with hints of autumn in there, and as I said in my last post, I’m looking forward to the golden colours which I feel sure will happen very soon.
I’m busy looking up places to visit when the schools go back, places that hopefully will have few people in them, so that I can enjoy the solitude, and take my time to get more photographs… the internet research has been ‘fruitful’ too.
So now I’m sitting here in the warm, dogs at my feet. One snoring, and one constantly nutting me for attention. I pause to give a scratch, loving the feel of warm dry fur under my fingers.
They’re content, fed, and sleepy….. which reminds me that it’s lunchtime……
The camera club gets back to ‘live’ meetings next week, and I’m looking forward to seeing people that I’ve not seen in the ‘flesh’ for many months. It’s a hybrid, so for those who don’t feel they can’t meet people yet, there will be zoom… internet has been installed, with an ultra sophisticated air conditioning system – all done whilst we were out…. There’s even been a full deep clean of the building to help us start off again…. (Thank you to all those folks who have worked so hard to make the room as safe as it can be…. you know who you are..)
Today though, I manage not only a haircut, but a longer walk out, to see if I could see the fox again…. It’s late in the day, but I spot him (or her), and this time I don’t have the dogs, but I do have a longer lens on the camera…..
The nettles are long on the edge of the field, but the grass is short now it’s been cut, and still green. The weeds are hiding the mesh fence, so it all looks much more natural….. I’ve steadied the lens on the gate, and I wait for him to look back at me. One quick glance and he’s gone – (is this a true foxtrot I wonder….).
It’s been a long while since I’ve seen fox out in the daylight – I did see another one some weeks ago running across a ploughed field… much darker in colour than this, blending in nicely with the ruts…
There’s been a weekend away too – to visit a friend on the opposite coast – heading for Liverpool was a treat…… and the weather was perfect.
I’ll end with things that I love:-
Friendship, fellowship and shared meals. Snoring dogs, fox in a field, and managing to get a picture I like. Lamb Tagine (that I’ve just learned how to make), and cups of hot tea…..
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.
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.
It’s Wednesday again already and it’s hot and humid and close. Yesterday we had a huge downpour and I had to run about in bare feet trying to get the washing in. Of course I’d done all the bedding, so it was all big stuff, but the raindrops were bigger.
A neighbour has a digger in his garden today, and just watching it somehow makes me feel even hotter, it’s really been one of those mornings…..
Everything sounded awful, everyone is niggly, the news makes it sound like the world is coming to an end and none of the staff in the local supermarket are wearing masks, even though all the shoppers are.
It’s only shopping, I remind myself, it’s all going to be OK….
Later, I’m at the computer, with a breeze finally coming in through the window and I’m looking at pictures I took with the drone over the last weekend.
We had a friend over to stay, and it was weird having someone who is not a household member in the house – but it did allow us (if we need to be allowed) to have impromptu drinks in the afternoon – sat around a table in the garden for hours and hours chatting about everything, and nothing…
The ridiculously early start on Sunday morning (getting up at 3am) was invigorating. Cool air, gorgeous coloured skies, sand underfoot, and a gentle sea. An amazing number of people about in fact. Kids who hadn’t been home all night – still dressed in skimpy clothing for evening, (asking why I had a helicopter with me!), and other folk who had been for an early morning swim, jog, walk, saunter, bike ride or workout.
Two ladies with a little girl sat on the steps looking out to sea, told me that they had driven for over an hour to get there to watch the sun come up. The youngster having a great time paddling and digging in the soft sand. She didn’t care what time it was (there was a breakfast treat to look forward to). A teenager too, sitting in the car refusing to move. Hair tugging, absorbed in her phone, missing the dawn of a new day.
There they all are in the photo below, right at the bottom, near the middle….. you’ll have to look closely….
Which reminds me of things that I love.
Friends who come to visit, sunrise, early mornings, colours in the sky, drone flying, watching the tide go out, small dogs in coloured jackets, out of the blue text messages, people saying ‘thank you’, and overhearing bits of conversation, like these two walking past me on my way back to the car…. “if it wasn’t for the books” he said, “she’d never be working in that library”… and there the matter rested as they strolled away……
Today is the same as yesterday and the day before – we’ve not quite unlocked fully, but apparently we will do next week. Maybe I’ll be able to bin the hazmat suit finally, (it was too big for me anyway) and open another bottle of wine, but keep the mask… which actually makes it a bit harder to drink – never mind.
I wonder what my daughter will tell her kids about the last year or so. Maybe she’ll make it sound like it was fun….. It’s been a bit like being stuck in an ever repeating sitcom….. without the laughs, or maybe there were a few laughs….….. moving on…….
I’m pretty sure I’ve spent a lot of time overeating during the pandemic, maybe a bit of over… well over everything really.
I have also apparently lost the concept of time. Can’t remember when I last wore a watch. It’s like we’ve been trapped in an online life, and infinite loop of despair, with no memory of a time before – and suddenly it looks like it’s going to end, and it’s actually a bit scary !
So, after all these months of booking speakers for the camera club, we find we are slowly struggling though the sludge to the end. I’ve got another three I think before the end of July, and then we’re having a whole month off…. Wonder if I’ll miss it, and wonder what will happen next.
At the moment though, I don’t fancy sitting in a small club room with folks breathing over each other.. I’m distrustful, I know……
At least the inspiration that has come from other photographers and artists has kept me going, especially in the last few weeks, and the last two speakers to come are both experimental, and artistic at the same time. So that’s all good then.
Plus for the first time I really felt that I’ve had my fill and monies worth of the RPS – from being a far flung organisation somewhere on the edge of the galaxy, they came full circle and put on loads of events (albeit online) that were brilliant… fingers crossed all that will continue….
Of course there’s been the online zoom social meetings, (and a party, that was interesting) as well as the photo meetings…. and I’ve learned a lot of useful stuff…… like how to plait wheat, and make basic corn dollies….. yes really, and I’ve got two hung in the downstairs toilet to prove it.
Soon be time to go outside again, maskless, in the garden, and then the dogs will need a walk. I tried to take my camera once on a dog walk – didn’t do very well – I spent more time watching them leap around like the demented animals that they are, than taking photographs, oh and avoiding other people who also seem to think they should walk their dogs too, who might just want to TALK to me.
This weekend though, we have guests… it’ll be a bit strange having other people in the house, overnight, who doesn’t normally live with us. They take photos though, so it’ll be OK.
What’s the point of this? Well I just thought I’d put it out there that I’m still experimenting, and playing – we adults, we don’t play enough do we? In my talks, I advocate playtime, but for some grown ups it’s a hard thing to do. I’ve a couple of friends who are avid gamers, but not photographers… I like playing with software and cameras, and pushing boundaries where I can.
Trouble is, we can get too fixated on the so called rules …. I keep saying, ‘there are no rules’, this isn’t a sport, it’s supposed to be fun (unless of course you’re doing it for a living). I used to do it for a living…… and what I did, well, no editing was allowed….
I got fired once, from a company I didn’t work for – I was out there taking photographs of a building for a business (who will remain nameless).. security (who hadn’t been told I’d be there), thought I was a member of staff sneaking out early…. I got hauled into the office and was actually officially reprimanded, till someone from HR came along and realised I wasn’t actually an employee. This was a good rule…. ‘Keep your staff in line’. The other rule they had was that all staff had to wear shoes, not boots, not even in winter – I digress.
I’ve actually forgotten the purpose of this post now… so I reckon I’ll stop…… Here’s a photo for good measure that I took on our first club outing in 18 months…… I might have slipped – waved the camera round a bit, or maybe it was the gin….. who knows……..
Keep shooting, and taking the pills as necessary – normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
Yesterday, whilst driving, I came across a field of flax. If it’s a common crop, I’ve not noticed it much before, but this one was stunning. In amongst the pale blue flax flowers, are poppies. The red and blue, against the paler blue sky, it’s beautiful. I’ve only got my mobile, but I do my best – and make a note of where it is, to go back tomorrow and take my camera….. but now, writing this – it IS tomorrow, and it’s raining.
It’s Thursday and it’s the middle of June. It’s been so hot and dry lately, but today marched in the way it intended to go on. Wet, and dull.
I’m out with the dogs, getting wet, and then even wetter, as, in a moment of madness, I decide to take the long route through an uncut field. The grass is long, very long, and wet, and suddenly I’m soaking from the bottom of my coat, to the top of my wellies, and I don’t care.
The heat of the last few days has been partly washed away, and it’s quiet. I walk through the morning like I’m the only one alive, and look at the crops in the field, the horses standing, bored in their field, and then watch the dogs, running round, glad to be alive, demented in their morning excitement that it’s cool enough to run, and that the grass is long enough for them to roll in.
They’re both covered in grass seed when I get home – towelling them off makes me warm – warmer even than when I was walking, and whilst I’m drying them off, I think of things that I love…..
The smell from a happy wet dog, the way they push up against you, trusting. Long grass, wet cool days after hot dry ones,. Cups of hot tea, the sound of people talking in the distance, catching snippets of conversation.
Two cyclists went by whilst I was out, shouting across the two feet or so that separated them, “it’s the distance that’s the problem” one shouts, “nah” says the other “it’s the fact that he’s got two left feet”, and I’m left, wondering…..