Autumnal Thoughts

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…..

Nothing is Original

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.

Nettleton Woods

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.

Running in the Sea

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…… 

Nettleton Woods

Blackberry (Rambles)…

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….. 

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 !

Shooting in the Round

Results from the Camversation Talk

After the talk with Sally and Glenys the other week, it’s been wonderful to see so many images that have been created by the people who came to the talk (and some from people who didn’t get there live, but have watched the recording.)

I’m now inordinately glad that I said yes to having my bit recorded.  No-one pushed me to say yes, but I’m so pleased that I did. 

The shots taken ‘in the round’ give of course, anything from a 180 degree to 360 degree of combined images which takes pictures to a whole new level.

These are things that have been photographed a million times before, but sometimes not in the way you expected.  Multi shot images create a whole new way of ‘seeing’ things, and the results are usually completely unexpected.

The thing is, that by changing the ‘where’ and the ‘how’, a whole new look and meaning can make themselves visible to you – it can be a revelation.

Dave Balcombe sent me the image below of the Market Cross in Wymondham, he said that he only used 13 individual shots, and didn’t follow any strict rules.   The only critique that I offered (at his request) was to reduce the number of text references to a ‘certain’ bank, that repeated throughout the final picture.  Other than that, the image was lovely.  

He tells me that this is his first attempt at this style of photography and was inspired by my talk though he has seen this style before and admired my RPS A panel, he tells me he will try again, now he has the idea.

With his kind permission – I show it here:- he says that this is not too far from where he lives and so will be able to return easily and shoot it again.

Market Cross, Wymondham by Dave Balcombe – used with his permission

What do we see?  Windows that have their own worlds inside, the patterns of the stonework in the foreground, the balance of the trees either side of the cross.  The whole image is transformed into almost a kaleidoscope of shapes, rather than a single cohesive one – and yet it works.  You can see exactly what the image is about – it’s a totally different take on a subject that I would think has been taken a million times before. 

Dave was open to seeing this, he didn’t look past it, he stayed sensitive to what was literally right in front of him.  

Thing is, he tried something different – and it worked……. remember that as you go about your daily photo life……

So next time you go out and shoot something that everyone else has photographed, make it your own. Find a new point of view, or choose a different time of day, or combine images, or all three. The more you look, the more shots you take, the luckier you will get – but whatever else you do…….

MAKE IT YOUR OWN

‘Freedom Day’, Maybe….

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……..

Cleethorpes Country Park

Keep shooting, and taking the pills as necessary – normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

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……….

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……