Saturday, 14 July 2018

Another hot Saturday

I'm not going to complain about the sun and the heat ebcause that might well be like doing a rain dance. The heat does make carting useless camera gear around a chore though. Once more, and for the final time, I tried the Fuji at an agricultural show. The focusing speed of the camera is agricultural. No, glacial might be more apt. For static subjects the camera's great, but even a slow focussing zoom on a 'real' camera beats it hands down. I know I'm slow on the uptake. On the other hand, carting a litre bottle of water around was worth the extra weight.

Although I had intended to concentrate on the sheep pens it just so happened that the poultry show was right by them, unlike in previous years. I couldn't resist. Even though I didn't spend much time in the marquee I did come away with a couple or three new ideas.

Because of the heat the organisers of the poultry section removed the front of the marquee to allow some breeze in. This allowed me to take the shot below.

Inside the marquee I played around with the patterns of light and shade from the stripes on the marquee's sides.

White on white is a tricky subject.

Even round the sheep pens I couldn't avoid poultry when one exhibit made a dash for freedom!

And so to the sheep and another disappointing turnout with booked pens empty. There were plenty of Texels and Beltex, but I'm more interested in native breeds. That didn't stop me photographing a Charollais tup having his make up done, or Beltex having its chin tickled.

Not to mention the classic Swaledale head-grip.

Other than that it was a case of looking for 'atmosphere' pictures. Sometimes I'm not sure if these are just snapshots. I do try to make them a little more than that, but I get the feeling I don't try hard enough.

 My more graphic pictures seem to work better as a 'different' look at sheep shows.

Having a 'good camera' does get me in over my head at times when people ask me to photograph their prize winner. So it was today. Except it wasn't one prize winner, it was two. I did at least manage to ensure I had the sun behind me, and remembered to get down to sheep level. I think I've got away with it. Of course my favourite of the shots is one where things aren't going to plan.

Next weekend I have another 'job'. This time it's my feathered friends. I shall probably mess it up completely because I'm intending to take my 'professional' lenses - and maybe the dreaded flashgun. More bloody weight to cart around. However, there will be sheep.

Here are a couple of half-arsed 'portraits'. I really ought to improve this side of my photography. Mind you, high noon sun and hats rarely make for great portraits.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

New angles

Another baking hot Saturday traipsing round a show field. One lesson I've learned (belatedly) is to arrive early so as to avoid the parking queues. It also means there are a few photo opportunities as people get livestock penned. I was still a bit late for the sheep arriving, and the poultry tent provided only more on the same old themes.

The only really different pictures were of people holding four day old chicks. Ever so cute. The chicks that is. The feathery ones...

I chose to miss out on the poultry judging and concentrate round the sheep pens today in an effort to make some actual pictures. The bright sun really does make it a struggle with harsh shadows. On the plus side it means ISO values and shutter speeds remain high. Not that those things bother me much.

Things started out pretty much as I left them. Looking for the unusual positions people get in when handling sheep, and trying for a tooth examination picture.

After shooting a load of 'same old' frames I decided to suffer the pain of kneeling down to get a lower viewpoint. If the sun hadn't been so bright I could have used my flip-down screen to save the worn out joints. Excusing the unintentional pun, but things started looking up when I got down low. Not only does it make the world look different, it also gets rid of a lot of the background clutter. Particularly when there is a solid blue sky. On a more normal grey sky day this wouldn't work so well owing to exposure differences. But today it was fine. Even if it did show up the muck on my camera's sensor. I started out pretty straight on, then got more experimental.

Capturing the humour of little moments isn't my strong point. I still try. At one stage the judge was discussing the finer points of a Blue Faced Leicester's ears with the sheep's owner.

I have no explanation for a cow wearing a hat...

An unexpected bonus, which either wasn't on the show's schedule or if it was I had missed it, was a demonstration of sheep shearing. Which got under way after a false start when the generator packed up. Again I put my knees through it and the pictures, which not great, did benefit from the change of viewpoint. It also allowed people standing behind me to get a better view. I don't want to be one of the inconsiderate photographers who 'have to be' at the front all the time.



Close ups and other 'vignettes' of these events are something I'm always on the look out as they help build the picture. Trying to get a frame which shows how the clippers peel the fleece away is tricky when you are part of an audience.

I should have waited until all the sheep had been shorn after the second demonstration, but by half past twelve I was roasted and ready for home. It felt like I'd been on my feet all day and I was metaphorically on my knees! So a half-clipped flock had to suffice.

Street photographers like to play around with pictures of pictures and real things or people. In that vein I was quite pleased with, once more on my knees, this picture of Kerry Hill sheep.

Lessons learned, or rather re-learned: get low, get close, but don't ignore the wider view.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Trials and tribulations

When there are people fighting moorland fires a few miles from your home as the crow flies it seems trivial to be thinking about how to improve your photography. And trying to make 'good pictures' of the fires seems even more ridiculous. But on Thursday I took a drive out to see for myself what the Winter Hill fire looked like from afar. Pictorially the balloon made the same point visually as I tried to  make above about the ridiculousness of what we do for fun when compared with things that are important.

Still, there's nothing most of us can do about the fires so life might a well carry on. One thing's for sure, the hot weather that has allowed the moors to burn isn't much fun for sheep. On my way to a sheep dog trial today I had to pull over and grab a shot or two of a flock lying in the shade of a large tree. As is all too often the case I didn't take as much care as I should have done and it's a bit soft as a large image. Story of my photographic life that is...

The venue was the same as last week, which meant that (in theory) I should have been well prepared for what to expect. I arrived a bit later this time as I knew the sun would have been in my face early on. I also had a better idea of where to get a good view of the penning. So much for preplanning. I still made a lot more bad pictures than I should have done.

Looking at last week's haul of pictures I thought that a series of rear views of handlers at the post might have some mileage. So I tried that tack. Trouble is everyone stands in a different place to the post! It's still something I might persevere with.

 As I'm trying to give a broad impression of the trials I'm steering clear of doing the obvious and photographing dogs in action. Although I'm sure those are the sort of pictures that would be marketable to the owners of the dogs. It continues to be pictures of people and their animals which interest me most. And vignettes of trialing.

Not forgetting the penning dance.

Or the mishaps.

It's a challenging subject all right, but with a lot of down time when the dogs and sheep are out of range. Time enough to have a short wander and photograph other things. And convert the results into 'arty' black and whites!

The handlers were having atough time and the general consensus (excuse?) was that the dogs were having trouble hearing the commands. I have my excuses for getting a load of rubbish shots. I'm not used to shooting action and my camera settings are wrong. Unfortunately that doesn't explain my cock-ups on static subjects. I'll blame the heat for messing up my thinking. The dogs certainly didn't like the heat any more than I did!

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Anything sheepish

Walking home the long way, via the canal, the other day I spied some sacks of wool. The aftermath of a clipping.As is usually the case I had a camera with me. The day had dawned wet, lightly, and there was some dampness evident on the wool when up close. I'm sure that in the hands of someone with more technical ability and imagination than me some effective abstracty pictures could have been made of the wool in close-up. I preferred the deadpan documentary style efforts I made when I returned an hour later with a different camera and lens.

Yesterday afternoon I found myself with some spare time and went to the marsh to try out a different lens/camera combination to see if it might suffice for photographing sheep dog trials. It didn't work out as I'd hoped. It was okay on static subjects but if they were moving at any sort of pace it was (how can I put it?) not exactly okay.

After seeing an off-the-lead spaniel set some sheep running I took this picture.

And so to another sheep dog trials. A combination of light, topography and general ineptitude saw me not taking all that many photographs, and getting the expected low quantity of worthwhile pictures as a result. I just couldn't get things right, technically or aesthetically. It's probably time to stop trying to take sheep dog trial photographs, and take photographs of sheep dog trials. I saw one potential picture, tried one snap and walked on. I should have set myself up to get the picture I had in my mind's eye.

Something else occurred to me. Long lenses are great for throwing the background out of focus even at fairly small apertures. But I don't really like the 'look' of the pictures. Not where people are involved. There are times when the compression they lend to pictures can be useful, but I much prefer a more 'natural' looking perspective.

The first two below are my attempts at utilising compression to make distant things appear larger in relation to nearer things. Think Father Ted and the near and far away cows! The third makes use of the shallow depth of field. Just enough to keep some information in the background while still giving some separation to the sheep. The image amused me, so I shot it!

In 'sheep dog picture' mode I carried on trying to make pictures of the penning dance.

The restriction on vantage points leads to few opportunities to get faces in the action pictures. I try to grab any chances I get.

From an outsider's point of view I actually prefer watching the dogs gathering the sheep as a flock to return them to the release pen rather than the trialling action. In cricketing terms the trials are smash and run T20 cricket, the gathers are long form test Cricket. And when it comes to cricket I enjoy the latter much more!

Where are all these photographs heading? As usual I haven't a clue!

My new website is still under development, but so far is going well. I can now put galleries on there straight from Lightroom, which saves a lot of messing about.  Here's today's gallery.