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……..

Photography is NOT an art……

Photography is not an art. Neither is painting, nor sculpture, literature or music. They are only different media for the individual to express his aesthetic feelings…. You do not have to be a painter or a sculptor to be an artist. You may be a shoemaker. You may be creative as such. And, if so, you are a greater artist than the majority of the painters whose work is shown in the galleries of today.

-Alfred Stieglitz-

Stieglitz was an American photographer and modern art promoter who was instrumental over his 50-year career in making photography an accepted art form – but I suspect we fail sometimes in our thinking of what art really is.

There have been a number of discussions on various forums over time, which usually seem to devolve into factions – some who believe one thing, and those another. The consensus on one forum though was that photography cannot, and never will be art…. I ask why not?

Which brings me nicely to the Brotherhood of the Linked Ring….. If you have been to my talk on the beginnings of creative photography, you will know that I talk about Henry Peach Robinson (Founder of the Birmingham Photographic Society). The Brotherhood was founded in 1892 and the idea behind it was “a means of bringing together those who are interested in the development of the highest form of Art of which Photography is capable.” Alfred Stieglitz was also a member.

In November 1893, Robinson created the Photographic Salon,  an annual exhibit event in England whose aim was to “exhibit images in which there is distinct evidence of personal feeling and execution.” As a result, interest grew in processes such as gum bi-chromate, oil pigment and transfer, and supported the trend in producing images not for reproduction, but works of high value, as well as creating interest in surface texture, papers, and colour of print. (Thanks Wikipedia)

There is much at stake these days, as photographers critique one another by saying that images have been ‘photoshopped’. All art involves manipulation of material in one way or another, to the pleasure and discretion of the ‘artist’. It is impossible to put together all aspects of photography, and not call any of them art.

Some images are a straightforward representation of the ‘thing’ the photographer was stood in front of – but the vast majority, have something of the creator in them.

At the dawn of the photographic age, photographs were seen as a projection, with no input from the operator, but as usual, the more adventurous amongst them started to experiment, and create things that were impossible in the ‘real’ world.

Take a look at the work of Peach Robinson – some of his images were the result of many different photographs, stacked together, much in the same way that we would use photoshop layers today. The skill of these masters I feel are remarkable given the level of technology that was at their disposal compared to what we have today.

At one talk I gave on ‘composites with negatives’ – a person said at the end, they didn’t know that composites could be done pre photoshop. I find this a sad state of affairs, that someone with a hobby, in which they profess great interest has never looked at the work produced by past masters of the subject, and the skills that they have in turn, passed down to us.

In short, we need to create our own work. Deal with images as we see fit, and use our artistic skills in any way we want. Images can be artistic, aesthetic and creative – they can even represent what was just in front of the camera if that’s what the photographer wants to do.

Let’s not choose to produce what everyone else does – lets get away from the ‘tripod holes’ at the usual places and create our own images, in our own way.

Begone to the nay-sayers………

I’m on my August break from social media – though I have had a quick look once or twice, and I think I’ve made a couple of comments, but not put anything on my own page apart from a link to this blog.

It’s funny though, the less I look at it, the less I’m inclined to – I think the addiction is starting to fade.

The image below is of windows at St Boltophs Church, Saltfleet – in camera multiple exposure, but edited in Photoshop !

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…

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.

Oh for an editor!

I see many posts online about the selection of an editor for photographs.

Of course, the most popular ones are produced by Adobe, but there are plenty of others around that don’t require a monthly subscription. I suspect that for some people it’s hard to choose which one will be right for them.

I suppose it was much easier in darkroom days, when you needed the same equipment – though having said that, I bet there were long discussions around tables about which enlarger is the best, and which chemicals were going to be suitable for which sort of film.

Thing is though, that nearly every image produced will need some editing – even if it’s just to tweak the sharpening, or a bit of a crop. How many of us take an image, download it to the computer, and sit back and say “that’s it – there’s nothing to do with that – it’s perfect as it is”?

We know that photographs don’t always tell the truth, yet it seems to me that people outside the photography world always think they do…

Even as far back as 2006, Reuters dropped a Lebanese freelance photographer after it emerged that he had doctored a picture of the aftermath of an Israeli air strike on Beirut.

The news agency told photographer Adnan Hajj that it will no longer use his services after the photograph was revealed as fake by bloggers.

It showed thick black smoke rising above buildings in the Lebanese capital after an Israeli air raid in the war with the Shia Islamic group, Hizbullah.

Reuters said it “withdrew the doctored image and replaced it with the unaltered photograph after several news blogs said it had been manipulated using Photoshop software to show more smoke”.

The agency said it had “strict standards of accuracy that bar the manipulation of images” so that viewers and readers were not misled.

“The photographer has denied deliberately attempting to manipulate the image, saying that he was trying to remove dust marks and that he made mistakes due to the bad lighting conditions he was working under.”


Until people realise that photography can be both truthful, and untruthful, it becomes a reflection of the photographer him or herself.

I suspect I knew from the minute I opened photoshop for the first time, that there was plenty of opportunity to ‘edit’ images to suit myself…. and I was aware when taking images for an agency, that nothing should be changed in the photograph. We were allowed to crop out extraneous items, but the reality could not be changed…… we were only allowed to choose what went in – and what was left out of a frame.

So, here we are in lockdown 3 – maybe I’ll start with an edit of some old images, and I’ll try to make them into something that they never were – because after all, I’m not reporting any more……

Film V Digital

A comparative review…..

I have a friend (just the one) – who shoots film almost exclusively.  He says that you can’t get the same quality of image from digital that you can from a film camera.  He insists he’s right – won’t hear a word said against film (and I’m not going to here either).

The thing about this, is that the production of an image, has nothing to do with the medium on which it is taken. It’s a mechanical thing, whichever way you look at it.

There was a time, when I bought, shot, developed and printed from film.  There’s a time now when  I buy cards, shoot, process and print digital images – and the difference is?  I can do it in the daylight, instead of sitting in (what was at the time) a stuffy little built in wardrobe, with the smell of chemicals wafting on the air.

When I did my photography courses at college – one of the first things we did, was go straight back to the lab, and process a film – ahh, you say – nostalgia….. nope – same old darkness (in a larger room to be sure) but with the same chemical smell that lingers long after you get home.

‘But”, my friend argues “we did it all ourselves, all the famous photographers of our time did”… well sorry to disillusion you…… but most of them had assistants, even if they oversaw the whole process.

Think this way as well.  We didn’t make the film, as much as we didn’t make the memory card.  We didn’t make the lens for the camera, or the electronics that are in there today.  Someone somewhere along the line helped us to make that photograph.  If we digital shooters produce a JPG, then the camera has done some editing in advance – if we shoot RAW, then we end up with the equivalent of a negative, to edit as we wish.  I suspect it’s no coincidence that Lightroom has a ‘Develop’ module, or a library for that matter.

What I notice is that my friend does not print his own images, nor does he process his own film, and yet argues that his image making process, is  more ‘pure’ than mine,

As photographers, and creators of images, I don’t think it matters if we leave some things to our virtual assistants – get our images printed elsewhere for example – it is entirely our choice, but if we leave the film to be processed into prints at the time we send it off -then we are leaving the final edit to the chemistry lab operators.

In the end though, it’s our creative vision, and the print, (if we choose to go that far) is our end product.

Put a film print and a digital print side by side, and most times I would defy you to tell which was which !

Feel free to argue the point – I’d be interested…….. 

Here’s an idea !

I’ve been reading about photography ideas – here’s one I like the sounds of, and intend to have a go with – I’ll publish the results in due course, and if I don’t, I’m pretty sure someone will remind me.

Why don’t you have a go at this too……

  1. Go for a walk WITHOUT your camera. Go back and make one photo of something you saw on the walk.
  2. Use negative space with ‘wild and reckless abandonment’ – make the main subject a very small part of the composition.
  3. Walk an area you normally drive through. Bring your camera, and make one photo of something you’ve not noticed before.
  4. Make a scenic photograph. Eliminate one element and retake. Repeat till there’s nothing left to take – see how many steps you can spread it out for.

So that’s one shot each for the first three, and a number of shots for the last……

Remember they don’t have to be masterpieces of artwork – just thoughtful things.

Now – there’s a bit of woodland I drive past all the time………..

Have fun with your photography…..

Woods in the winter

Paper

Until fairly recently I didn’t print a lot.  Most of my work was created digitally, and rendered digitally.  Then I realised that I needed prints for competitions I was entering, talks I was giving, and more recently for qualifications I was working towards.

I rediscovered my love of paper…  I remember when I was at school, my fascination with reams of paper – the different textures and colours – and different shades of white.  Later, when studying photography at college, we were encouraged to print on different paper types – since then though, I’d almost forgotten about the exercise we did – and it was whilst looking for something else in a cupboard, that I came across the project – with all the different papers.

The images I made for my ARPS, were all printed on Hahnemühle Photo Rag, and they were lovely (if I may say so myself…….).

Since then, I’ve used a variety of papers, and find myself using high gloss less and less.  I really like the lustres, and satin mat for certain images.

Paper is sensual.  The texture, the colour, the weave.  In fact it’s a bit confusing to decide which to choose, and which will work best with each image.

My printer, which has been on its last legs for some time, finally ran out of one of the ink colours, and the way it is designed means that I can’t even print a text document in black (even though there’s plenty of that)… so I think that it will have to go to the great printer heaven at the tip.

I’ve been unable to make photographic prints at home for a long while because the fault in the printer heads meant that everything came out with a green cast – which looks pretty unpleasant – so everything has been outsourced to One Vision Imaging since last October, and it was whilst using them that I tried a number of different papers.

I kept using my old printer for documents, and drafts of things, but now it sits on my desk like an out of work dinosaur.

It’s going to take me a while to sort this out, but hopefully, when I do, it’ll be a smaller printer (everything used to be A3+).  The last set of prints I made were 12 x 8 (a ratio I like a lot), and I’m convinced that for the most part this is big enough.

When I’m judging at clubs – I try to find time to say that sometimes bigger means more margin for error.  With smaller prints, it’s harder to find some of  the mistakes.

For the moment though, it is outsourced printing, till I can get a new printer.