Things are different now

Those of you who know me well, or even not so well, might know that I had to reformat the hard drive on my main computer. Wiped everything off, and started again…. why this radical thing? Well, the boot up time (which should be around the 20 second or so mark), had got longer and longer, and the computer was taking anything up to 4 minutes to be in a useable state.

I spent ages on the phone with Apple, and in the first instance just re-installed the operating system. It helped, but not a lot – and in the end I bit the bullet, backed it all up (again), and hit the delete button.

Wiping the data was the easy part – I’d even remembered to ‘switch off’ Adobe, so they didn’t think I was trying a reinstall on a third machine. Anyway – it went pretty well. The ‘delete’ didn’t take long, but grief……… getting back all my software….. well, let’s say, I might have said a few rude words.

I ‘thought’ I’d made a note of all the stuff I had, down to plug-in software, actions and brushes. Some I had made, and some I had downloaded (acquired) years ago (it’s amazing what you find when you look hard).

The really frustrating part is that on my old machine, I am still running an older version of On1 software. Version 9 – upgraded sometime ago to version 10.

My new Mac had originally accepted this software, copied over direct from the old one last year. With a clean install of the OS though, I couldn’t find a download from On1. An email to them though helped, and they sent me the correct link, but I found that this older version is now incompatible with ‘Big Sur’ – and On1 have no intention of updating their product (that for them is out of date) so I can use it.

A bit of thought, and I decide that I can probably live without it. I’m certainly not paying for it again – or at least another upgrade…

One or two other bits also don’t work any more – and I decide that the issue is that since getting a MAC back in 2007, I’ve just used the migration tool, to copy one drive onto another. A close inspection of the library showed me rubbish going back to my first machine, but I’ve no idea why On1 worked before the new install….. anyway……

Roll forward 10 days and it’s all finished. Boot up time is back to around the 20 second mark. I’ve got all my Adobe stuff back on, and even the Google free NIk Collection worked albeit in a haphazard way. In a moment of enthusiasm, I upgraded that to the DXO Nik Collection 4. Well, it was on sale at a discount – I didn’t realise they only released this new version this month (June 2021).

The end result is great – well worth the hard work. The moral of the story is to maybe not use the migration tool again going forward.

Anyway, I am back up and running, that’s the important thing. Let’s get some images made now.

Fields near Red Hill Nature Reserve

It’s Thursday

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…..

It’s so Frustrating

In January 2019 (literally just before Covid hit us hard), I bought a new computer…. totally jet propelled, and knocked spots off my old one.

I decided to keep the old one, use it as a second screen for the new one…. turns out good job I did.

Thing is, that I started to use MAC computers back in 2007, and each time I replaced it, I used the migration tool to just copy everything across, and it worked. The ‘new’ machine carried it all, and did it faster, and usually more efficiently. What I discover now, is that you can’t do that for ever.

My latest machine, over the next 12 months got slower and slower – grinding it’s way to life each time I turned it on. Boot up times ran to 5 minutes or more sometimes, and no amount of messing would help. I bought extra software to see if there was malware or anything of that sort on there – but no….. and still the upsets, the unexpected quitting of programmes, and sometimes a refusal to even shut down.

A long talk with the Apple help desk a month or so ago helped enormously. I reinstalled the whole operating system, whilst leaving everything else untouched. It did help, but the boot up time was still far too long.

Exploring the library deep in the system, and I found lots of rubbish – including some dating back to my first MAC – 2007. Not good.

The decision was made that I had to reformat and start again. I knew that I could not do a system restore from Time Machine, as that would just put back all the dross I wanted to get rid of…. so last week, I backed up everything I needed, and did it.

Have to say that the system ran really well. Boot up into safe mode, and you have the option to format the hard drive…. and having done that, you are offered the option to install ‘Big Sur’ from scratch. So, a couple of hours later, and I have an ‘as new’ machine. Great…..

What’s taken the time, is not just reinstalling all the software, but making it run like it did before. In Photoshop, finding all the actions I’d added over the years, then fonts, then sorting the layout. Similar with Lightroom.

Then adding back the catalogue for Lightroom, and making sure all my re-added images could be found.

Then of course there is the extra software I collected over the years. I had a copy of NIK effects – when Google gave it away for free. For some reason, pre-format of machine – it worked perfectly – on the new system not at all…. but this was not the only problem.

On1 gave me real issues. The copy I had was version 9.5, with an upgrade later to version 10. I couldn’t find the download for such an old copy. On1 gave me a link, for me to discover it wouldn’t work with Big Sur, and they said they had no intention of updating such ‘old’ software…. so that ends that then. I’m not buying it again. Thinking it through though, I hardly used it anyway… and it actually still works on the other computer, so all isn’t lost.

Everything else loaded in fine, the plugins I’d bought, or otherwise acquired, all work fine.

Was it worth three days work – yes it was – Firstly, it made me reconsider what I actually wanted from software, what did I REALLY need, and what could be effectively forgotten about. Secondly, the machine boots up nicely in just under 20 seconds…….

All I need to do now is reorder the panels in Photoshop to my liking, check that everything works in Lightroom (no reason that it won’t), and get to play with the new version of NIK effects purchased yesterday.

Back to making images again….. can’t wait now…

Thoughts about Photoshop

Over the last year or so, some of you have been taking in my pearls of wisdom (or not, as the case may be).

I have used the phrase ‘good artists borrow, great artists steal’ many times, but have you stopped to think what exactly it is that I’m on about…..

It’s about finding inspiration in the work of others – using that as a starting point for original creative output.

Artists sometimes decontextualise, remix, substitute, or otherwise recreate existing work in order to make something new.

For example – there are a number of photographers who are taking images from Google Earth, and rehashing them into something different – but what makes this sort of thing ‘stealing’?

It’s that instead of borrowing something, and making a weak imitation, which might just serve to remind people of the superior original, it has been changed by you, with your own new ideas.

Then, when you’ve transformed it – your audience may look at both works and say that yours explores that idea in a new and different way – you then own that new idea – you’ve stolen it.

Modern writers steal Shakespeare’s plots. The Lion King is a version of Hamlet, and West Side Story a version of Romeo and Juliet – these adaptations though transformed the original idea and became iconic, and famous in their own right.

There is a difference between inspiration and imitation, but also between inspiration and straightforward copy. It’s not copying when you replicate how the great masters used colour, or composition in their paintings in order to improve your own work.

How did the great painters and artists train their students? – they gave them things to copy…. I’ve seen it on the Antiques Road Show – the expert doesn’t always know if it was the master or the student, if the piece is not signed. Hence the importance of provenance.

Steal ideas if you must – but then go away and make that idea and concept your very own…. you never know, someone might just steal that idea and move it on some more…. be flattered if they do.

Oldies but Goodies

For as long as Lightroom has been in existence, I’ve used it…. I’ve organised and sorted all my images using this system which has been so efficient for me.  I can find anything fairly quickly, because the catalogue system is so good, and also because I understand my own file naming system.

Looking back though at what’s in there (there’s a lot of rubbish by the way), and I do start to wonder why I keep as much as I do.  

I think I operated under the wild assumption that I would (one day) go back and revisit all those images, and edit them over again as software developed, and my skills improved.

But here we are – some 20 odd years later and I’m looking at some of the things I kept, that I thought were ‘good’ at that time.    I think I can honestly say that most of the images are of no interest to me any more.  My style, and ideas have changed, and there’s little that I did then that I like now.

The other week, I had a more radical idea.  What if I removed from Lightroom, and indeed from my immediate hard drive everything I’d not looked at in the last twenty years, and started again.  Keeping only recent ‘lockdown’ work and textures I’d made.  

I couldn’t do it….. but in the end I compromised.

I’m older now, and hopefully a bit wiser.  The person who made those images 20+ years ago doesn’t exist any more.  I was a beginner with a Sony 3mp camera, with a 1 inch screen on the back.

So, the compromise was that I’ve backed up all those old images to an external drive – they include all my college work, and some family photos that honestly I can’t take again. That drive will be stored away with other hard drives, and hopefully I’ll take a look at it every now and again.

For now though, it’s time to look at what is left…. And I discovered some portraits that I took in 2011.  My editing wasn’t that good at the time, so I’ve been able to go back to the original RAW files, taken with a Canon 5D, and work them up again.

I realise now that there’s no way I could have visualised those images, the way I do today.  I think that then I was just ‘taking’ photographs, and maybe today I’m ‘making’ them.

As an aside, I was reading a book the other day, and the discussion was about the ‘perfect’ photograph, and the question was ‘what makes a photograph perfect?’  The answers were varied, and here’s a selection of them.

  1. One that is sharp and in Focus.
  2. One which gives the viewer a perfect experience, with no question about the content
  3. One which survives over 100 years and still gives the viewer the same experience
  4. One which is artistic and impressionistic
  5. One which adheres to the rule of thirds
  6. One which tells a story

All of these, or some of these.  Maybe you think non of these…. 

The thing that makes photography so fascinating for me, is that all the above can be ‘perfect’.  The photographer can be both objective, and artistic at the same time, and that’s probably why I love it so much.

I reckon I’ll keep looking back at the old stuff for a while longer.  

Scarlot Rose – 2011

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….. 

The Competition Dilemma

It’s difficult isn’t it. The decision to enter a competition or not, and then when you do decide, there are all the rules and regulations to consider.

I used to be an avid competition enterer (if there’s even such a word) – I was very competitive, and spent a lot of time (and money) with the BPE (British Photographic Exhibitions) and FIAP – I probably shouldn’t even contemplate how much money really… but I’m not any more.

The ones I do enter these days are ones that I’ve either been bullied into by friends, OR because I decided it was something that actually interested me.

What I did enjoy though, was the catalogues, and CD’s that thumped through the letter box, usually a few weeks later – it’s good to see what other people are doing in the UK and around the world, but I can still look at these online.

There is a cost though, and I think what started to jade me to begin with was that I won some international award or other, and there was a certificate. The email was full of congratulations, and then said that my document was attached to the mail, and I could print it out myself.  To be honest, that was a bit disappointing.  I know that postage is expensive, but then so was my entry, mine and the thousands of others that had also paid.  Medals of course are posted out, and I have a nice collection of them on my bookcase.

A few weeks ago FIAP changed a number of their rules for achieving distinctions – and it vastly increased the number of international acceptances you had to get to move from one award to another.  There were also rule changes about how many images from a previous distinction you could carry forward from one to another – in the event, it looked like I was going to lose nearly 100 of them.  I felt I couldn’t afford to lose them all, and start again almost from scratch.  

It seemed at first that FIAP also felt this way, and the rules were rescinded, but only till 2022. Maybe I’ll leave well alone then….. 

There’s been a lot of discussion too about what you can and can’t do in competitions organised by clubs and Federations.  It can be confusing, and frustrating both for organiser and entrant.  For example, a discussion about the use of brushes in Photoshop.  Apparently the ones that come as standard in the programme are OK to use, but downloaded ones from elsewhere are not.  The ones you make yourself are OK, but I wonder about the ones that come included in plug-ins in other software.   I understand that the work produced should be that of the photographer, but even shooting in JPG from the camera has some alterations made by the manufacturer.

Software that materially changes your image – I’m not sure about – Topaz, for example does things to your images that would be difficult (impossible?) in photoshop, so should this be allowed; and what about other things like ‘Flood’ for example that makes reflections and puddles, and water.  I know from watching tutorials on YouTube, that photographers entering international competitions use this, but is it really acceptable?  From some of the comments I have read, I would say that ostensibly is it not.

The latest discussion is about whether to include, or exclude EXIF information in the files sent out to judges before a competition is run.  There seems to be a fear that a judge will scrutinise this, and maybe somehow penalise an entrant, especially if the name of the photographer appears.  Yet, in the same breath we know that some EXIF data can be changed – and from my point of view, what does it matter if I know what camera / mobile phone / tablet has been used to take the image?  It’s about the end result surely, and not how, or what it was taken with.

Yes, I agree that sometimes it can be helpful to see where a mistake has been made (example shooting at 1/8000sec at ISO 12,800).  Maybe it’s something that can be discussed during the feedback.  On the other hand, and judges don’t know, the photographer might have chosen these settings for a particular reason, or to achieve a specific effect.

The truth is, that we don’t know by looking at a photograph and the EXIF how much experience the photographer really has.  

An example might be the production of a fantastic portrait, from a studio shoot – where the photographer pushing the button has had no input at all into the lighting, posing and creating of that set up.  

Conversely, the photographer may have employed the model, set up studio lighting him or her self, and worked on the image using minimal tools in photoshop, it may have even been a remote shoot…..

We just can’t tell that from one image and that EXIF.

Of course a sensible judge, on seeing the name of the entrant (if it appears in the EXIF) should ignore it – not be influenced by it.  In the same way that the back of prints should not be scrutinised when judging them.

Where does this leave us?

Well, if your proclivity is to enter competitions, and you get pleasure from them, or you think you can learn something from your judge then that’s great.  Remember though, there’s no feedback from BPE or FIAP, just a score.

I’m just finding these days, that I can get excellent feedback from the folks around me that I trust.  Photographers who know what they’re doing, who will give you truthful feedback about your images.   I get more pleasure now from an honest critique than I do getting 20 marks with no reasoning.

Finally, I’d say that I’m not competition bashing at all – I love judging, and without competitions I couldn’t do it – The enjoyment I have in seeing work from across the UK and (in the age of zoom) the world, cannot be  denied.

I just wish we could be a bit more relaxed about it. It’s our hobby, and our art after all……….

Photography can be weird!

Isn’t it weird – taking photos I mean? Being on your own with a camera, and then maybe sitting on your own in front of a computer, wondering if it’s all going to come out OK.  

What about the photographs though?  Some of the images you take can be studied in advance, and oftentimes you are looking for the problems, even before they arrive, almost as a justification for them being ‘not good enough’.  You blame equipment, light, software – you are full of excuses.

Photographers need to sometimes empty themselves of preconceptions, and think of every new image as a potential passionate affair – something that you can throw yourself into with scant regard for anything, or anyone, else.

Focus on the part of the image that you like the most, shoot what you like the best.  You might not always know what the end result is going to be – things will develop, and that is as it should be – relish the challenge.

Don’t even think sometimes, just respond to what’s in front of you – look for the spirit of the scene.

Imagination can be harder than you think, but if you try too hard, then it might not come to you.  Sometimes, you feel you have been bold, imaginative, experimental. You’ve really tried to see and do things in different ways. It still didn’t work.  You’ve tried too hard.

So, look in the dark places, in the shadows – look where you normally don’t look, see what’s in there that you’ve not noticed before.

Photography isn’t always about what you put in, it’s about your ability to take things out – don’t be afraid to destroy your image in the edit process (you can always come back to the original) – take risks – and be brave enough to find out just how little you need.

You can get to the point in an edit where you can see it’s almost done – you see the end result, but sometimes continue to push on and on – till it’s over done – over processed – be aware of the point that can make or break the picture.

Now, look at what you have made – maybe it’s not all right, not all you hoped it would be – but don’t be too self critical – be proud that you got as far as you did…..

Keep being surprised.

A Review of My Talk

It was lovely to find a review of my ‘Odd Things’ talk on the Photocraft Website earlier today….. Wish I’d seen it sooner.

Have a look…….

https://www.photocraftcameraclub.co.uk/post/odd-things-a-talk-by-diane-seddon

Thank you Photocraft for your kind words……