Technological Failures…..

A few years ago, doing some work in Manchester Cathedral, I had my camera on a tripod, with a wide angle lens attached – I was behind the main altar, with one tripod leg on the top step, and the other two on the step below.  It was a long exposure, and I was using a wired trigger, attached to the camera.  

I took the photograph, and then stepped back, forgetting that I was one step up – as I fell backwards, my arms flailed out sideways, and I didn’t let go of the trigger.  

I watched, as in slow motion, the camera, atop the tripod slowly fell over to my left.  The crash as it all hit the marble flooring resounded round an otherwise quiet and peaceful place….  The camera hit the floor, and the lens sheared off it – one part staying attached to the body, the other rolling across the floor and under a nearby table…. The door covering the memory card came off completely – the main body cracked, and all sorts of interesting electronics came into view, that I had no idea existed, never mind wanted to see.

So distraught was I, that I sat and tried to put the two halves of the lens back together.  Utter madness with hindsight.  

I managed to fit the card door back on – reinserted the battery, and put a different lens on – amazingly – the camera actually worked, though non of the buttons would do anything.  

I took a few more shots out of curiosity more than anything and left….

On the way home I dropped the lot into Calumet photographic, and they sent the lot off to Canon for repair or disposal, whichever.  Amazingly, after a few weeks, it was all returned to me in full working order.

Then, only a month or so ago, I had a major email catastrophe – self inflicted of course – I was sending my laptop off to have a new battery fitted, and so deleted all of the emails on there – forgetting completely that it was synced to the server. It wiped everything clean, and when I turned on my main machine, I watched in horror as all the emails fell off the screen. Operator error………

Why am I telling you this? ……. well, it reminds me that as photographers we are totally reliant on technology.  We remember to take with us spares of all sorts of things that we think might fail when we are out and about.  Always I have spare batteries, memory cards, and at least one other lens (just in case).    After all, if our technology fails in the field, we are bereft, there is nothing we can do – I don’t know anyone who can repair a digital camera, or computer outside a specialist shop. 

I even know someone who carries a spare tripod in the car….. just in case a leg fails on the one he uses most.

A friend I go out with sometimes, was upset the other week that he’d got to the venue only to discover that there was no card in the camera…..  I was able to assist – I had a spare… well what a shock….. 

Found Imagery

I was looking at a photo competition the other day – and the more ‘interesting’ categories that were there – and amongst the more obvious ones of portraiture, environmental etc, there were two that struck me as unusual.  One was ‘appropriation’, and the other was ‘found imagery’.

I did a search as to what ‘found imagery’ was, and was led to this article which referred to “Unfortunate Views of Google Street View” 

Do click on the link (it’s safe) and have a read.  The photographer is using Google street view, and photographing what he sees on his computer screen. The German photographer Michael Wolf received an honorable mention for a set of images taken in this way in this year’s World Press Photo Contest.

Is this photojournalism though?  I’d question it.

I used to be an agency photographer, and was not allowed to change anything in an image – it had to reflect exactly what was happening at the time, so I’m not sure that a photograph of a photograph qualifies.

Britain’s Got Talent, Manchester

Then there is ‘appropriation’ art…. the term seems to have come into use specifically in relation to certain American artists in the 1980s.  For example Sherrie Levine reproduced as her own work other works of art, including paintings by Claude Monet. Her aim was to create a new situation, and therefore a new meaning or set of meanings, for a familiar image.

Take a look at this link researching into ‘appropriation’

Incorporating Photography into Art History, Starting with August Sander

On Being too Easily Pleased

When I lived over in Cheshire, in fact about 16 miles out of Manchester, I was not too far from Lyme Park.  A National Trust estate famed mostly for the house, and the large herds of red and fallow deer that roam free on the estate – as well as its starring role in Pride and Prejudice.

There’s a tree – I’m not sure what kind, (maybe a Maple?) but it’s a great shape.  Every time I went over there, I photographed it.  From all angles, and at all times of day – sunrise, sunset, bad weather, good weather.  Different cameras, different light, different viewpoints.

While in the midst of shooting this tree (again) during the Red Deer rut, a cyclist stopped next to me.  He gets off his bike, looks at all the gear I have spread around (I was shooting deer really don’t forget), gets out his little pocket camera – takes one shot, and rides away – with me staring after him,

I watch him go, and I think that I’ve been looking at, and shooting this tree over the years.  He’s taken one shot, and I think he’s probably happy with it.  I wonder if he’s happier with that one photo, than I’ve been after 2 years of messing…….  I’d love to know.

Here’s my version of “That Tree”….

Lyme Park Tree

Art or Content

Show a person who likes dogs, a picture of a dog, and they may love it – even if it’s not technically perfect, because it’s a picture they can understand, and relate to. Show them one of a subject they are not interested in, and no matter how artistic it is, they won’t necessarily like it.

It’s Christmas eve, and I was sitting here reviewing images taken over the last 12 months, and thinking how fortunate I’ve been to be able to work with some amazing people – both models and photographers.

Meeting new people, models, photographers, studio owners is always a good thing.  The more people you interact with, the more ideas you can get, and the better images you can produce.

I’ve been blessed with two particularly good shoots in the last months – both have been quite artistic, and well received in the competitions that I’ve been entering.

I did think that I might print some images off and give them as gifts, but I’m not altogether sure that friends would enjoy them in the same way that I do.

I think that as photographers – we are very much emotionally involved in our images, and that the general public often appreciate the content much more than the creativity that goes into the art we make.

Show a person who likes dogs, a picture of a dog, and they may love it – even if it’s not technically perfect, because it’s a picture they can understand, and relate to.  Show them one of a subject they are not interested in, and no matter how artistic it is, they won’t necessarily like it.

Pictures are appreciated by people more when it actually pertains to their life.  Other people’s photography generally appeals to photographers simply because we ARE photographers..  A month or two back, I went to hear a photographer speak, and although it wasn’t a genre of photography I was particularly interested in, I admired the images – so much so, that at the end of the talk, I bought his book.  Each picture is exquisite, but I’d never go out and shoot that subject; but that didn’t stop me admiring the composition, textures and story that each image told.

There is a particular image that I’ve used in a number of competitions this year – an abstract – it did the rounds locally, in camera club battles – it scored highly every time – not getting less than an 18 out of 20 – and mostly getting 20.

Thinking that I’d got a winner on my hands, I entered it into a national competition – waiting eagerly for the results, I was astounded to find that it scored the lowest mark I had ever had in a National.  So what did I do?  Well, I still loved the picture, and when the print was returned to me, I mounted it, framed it, and hung it on the wall;  …….. and here it is…….

dv7b4136

It’s a bit ‘marmite’ I understand that…..  but none the less…..

I doubt I’d offer it as a gift to anyone, but it does look great on my wall – or at least I think so.

And on that note, I’d like to wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas, and an amazing, and artful 2017 – let’s make images to be proud of……….

The Photography Experiment

It was a new year resolution this year that I would try to push the boundaries of my photography.  I decided that experimentation both in camera, and in Photoshop would be my goal; not necessarily to achieve competition worthy images, but to push my knowledge, and see just what can be done – especially in camera.

In the first instance I looked on u-Tube, and sought out photographers who were doing ‘different’ things with their equipment, and two particularly caught my eye.

A photographer called David Johnson – (Maxblack Photos) and another Dr Reinhold Adscheid of Germany and  I was intrigued by their work, and set out to have a go.

IMG_5932Firstly I stated looking a multiple exposures.  I know that you can do this in newer cameras now – but mine does not have that facility – and so I had to look for ways of achieving the same effect in Photoshop.

So far, I have learned how to use some of the blending modes in CS6 – and found that using the ‘soft light’ or hard light blends give the best effects.  The multiple images are brought into Photoshop in Layers, and blended.  You may need to tweak the ‘levels’ on each layer, as the more layers there are, the darker overall the image gets.  Playing around with the different blend modes can yeield some unexpected, and clever results.  The shot above of one tram on Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester was taken on my compact camera – a Canon G12, and blended in CS6, then taken into on-one perfect photo suite.

IMG_6065This second tram shot – taken near the Bridgewater Hall, on a bright sunny day was blended in CS6 using the hard light blend mode.

I’m also looking to experiment with camera movement, and zooming whilst taking a long exposure shot, and to do more image blending.

That’s for another post.

How has it been so long

It’s been over two months since my last blog post, and we have been so busy over Christmas and New Year.  So much going on, and so little time to blog.

Late last year I spent some time trying to capture the red Squirrels at Formby – when I set off, the light was superb, and for the first 40 minutes there it was gorgeous – then the clouds rolled in, and it just went dark.  The squirrels were elusive – maybe due to the weather – they have recovered well from their last attack of squirrel pox…

DSED8414After this, and into January, a trip to Martin Mere – but again the weather was dull.  The goldfinches performed though, with their ongoing squabbles over food.DSED0431Late January, and February brought a raft of dinner engagements, with presentations.

_J9F1106All in all it’s been a busy quarter – with more to come.

I love my job !

The ‘Technology’ Wars

Thinking about buying a new camera?  Maybe getting a new one for Christmas?  A simple question, but one that assumes you know what you are doing.  Plus it assumes that you are not simply upgrading, for the sake of it.  How many times do people change their gear, because getting a ‘better’ camera will give you better images….

I’m using the Canon 1D MK4, bought in 2010 – but I see a LOT of people now who are more than happy with their mobile phones, or tablets for their images.  Does this mean the death of the DSLR?  I’d like to think not, but it is true that some newspapers have removed all their photography staff, and given the journalists an iphone or other ‘smart’ gadget.  Maybe the ethos of ‘better images’ is starting to vanish, and we are experiencing a new boom of quantity over quality.  The sheer amount of visual images on the internet now, through flickr, facebook, and so on, means that you are seeing far more poor quality images than ever before;  and the sad thing is that the more poor quality things you see, the more you get used to seeing them, and the more you accept that as a standard.

That’s not to say there aren’t the great photographers out there – they are there, and they are putting an enormous amount of energy and skill into producing some outstanding images. I use Google+ and Flickr to share pictures I have made, and they are great places to experiment, and see what sort of reaction there is to new stuff that I produce.  In the end analysis though, it’s still social sharing, and maybe it’s not as real as showing them in the ‘real’ world.  What is the value of strangers ‘liking’ an image if they are not prepared to explain what it is they like?

Has the ease with which images are captured actually devalued their credibility?  Have images become worth so much less since the advent of the mobile phone?

I ask myself this more often these days.  For example – at a dinner I was shooting the other month, a chap came up to me and asked why I thought I needed such a big camera – he himself had his ipad mini – and was more than happy to show me his ‘brilliant’ pictures that he had taken with it.  I’m not saying his images were bad, but he what he really wanted to show me was that I didn’t need the gear I had.  Somehow though I think that if a ‘professional’ photographer turned up at his wedding with an ipad, he might be just a little underwhelmed !

The whole value of images is reducing almost on a daily basis – I get asked to work for free all the time “for exposure”, and that I should be grateful to be asked, because, after all, they could have done it with their compacts, or phones.  (Try asking the plumber to come along for free – see how he or she reacts to that one…..)  On the other hand, with the better cameras, and powerful software, why shouldn’t they try it for themselves.

My own thoughts are that photographers have to move with the times.  I’ll confess to having taken images with my ipad, during a conference where the lens I had with me would not fit the whole lecture hall in.  My fault I admit, for not having the right lens with me.  The ipad image though was quite acceptable, and the client didn’t even bat an eyelid.  I just added that one shot in with all the others, knowing that the images were only going to be used on line.  The problems arise when a print is required and you can’t get the image quality.

I would say though that just because there are more people out there taking photographs, doesn’t mean that there are more ‘good’ photographers.  I think there are about the same number of people producing good images as there were before – it’s just that they are somewhat overwhelmed by all the other ‘stuff’.

It’ll be interesting to see in the next year or so, where we go with the new DSLR type video cameras, from which you can capture one frame as a still.  Why worry about taking individual images – video the whole event and pick your shot.

Next year’s technology could be worth looking at…..

 

 

Water Fools – Salford Quays – Manchester

The French outdoor theatre company ILOTOPE put on a spectacular event this weekend at Salford Quays.  I was down there to shoot the dress rehearsal which, although brilliantly done, did not have the fireworks going.

Water Fools, Salford Quays-11It did feature though, a floating car, with a caravan, a huge floating bed, and lots of other magic.  At 9.30 prompt a car arrived, dropping a man off on a platform in the middle of the water.

Water Fools, Salford Quays-14The story is rooted in the fanatical, as a surreal world explodes out of a man’s head, transporting him from the rigmarole of his everyday existence to a landscape populated with mythical creatures and inexplicable magic, while all spectacularly taking place on the water’s surface. Caravans, prams and penny-farthings will feature, defying all logic, bringing an impossibly innovative piece of entertainment to Salford Quays.

Water Fools, Salford Quays-48Choreographed by French artist Bruno Schnebelin the routine had chain breath-taking visuals, punctuated by pyrotechnics, with engrossing theatre while fellow countryman Phil Spectrum composed an original score to make the show spectacular in all aspects.

Water Fools, Salford Quays-40The rest of the images from this shoot can be seen HERE