Sunday, 15 October 2017

Must try harder

I had a brainwave today. I thought I'd cracked it to find a way to kick start a new project. So off I went armed with the 'right' gear. Then it all fell apart. The fitful sunshine buggered off and the I got distracted. Ho hum. Back to square one again.

Sheep might be domesticated but they retain the strong flight response of wild prey animals. They're good at spotting people (or predators) from far off. Their initial reaction is usually to stare at you while they have a wee. Then they either walk away pretending to be disinterested in you or carry on grazing. But if you step inside their circle of approachability they're off like a shot. I wonder if carrying a bucket of ewe nuts might make a difference?

Anyway I tried to take some sheepscape pictures but neither sheep nor light would play ball and I lost interest as I had driven past something I wanted to get some shots of on my way to the fell.

I knew the Moorcock Inn had closed a few years ago and was under threat of demolition for redevelopment as housing. I wasn't aware of how far gone it was. Despite the overcast sky I had to take the opportunity for some documentary pictures, even though others would have done so already. With it being in a semi-demolished state and having suffered a fair bit of vandalism and fire damage I didn't venture inside. I'm not an Urbex kinda guy anyway.

That done I went off to do some research. Which didn't take long. Mainly because I decided it was a waste of time as the project idea was rubbish. I found some more sheep but couldn't get too enthused by them. For some reason I converted this picture into black and white as a vague homage to Fay Godwin. I don't really like digital black and white. I can never get it to look the way I want, but this works better as monochrome than it does in colour. Too much green grass in colour and the sheep don't contrast enough. Not a fantastic picture, but a useful 'sketch' to remind me of a direction to take in the future. I like the way the receding sheep give a sense of depth to the picture.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

A grand day out

Wallace and Gromit have a lot to answer for when it comes to cheese. I heard that Wensleydale was in the doldrums until that pair started singing its praises. I think it's treacherous on the part of Prestonian Nick Park to promote such a Yorkshire cheese. The inferior dairy product even has its own visitor centre.

There are 'professional Yorkhiremen' and the whole county takes it's (supposed) reputation too seriously if you ask me. Still, it's better than going darn sarf. At least you can get a decent mug of tea over t'border.

The reason for my afternoon out was to pay a visit to the (expensive) Dales Countryside Museum to see an exhibition of photos of sheep farming folk. It being the culmination of a year long project documenting sheep people in the Dales. The problem with the internet and exhibitions can be that you have seen nearly all the pictures on-line before you get to the show. And this was the case today.

While I am among those who think that photographs should be printed I'm not usually in the camp that sets a high store on 'fine prints'. In this instance I was a little surprised to see the prints from film looked much like the images do on a screen, but the colour pictures (which I am assuming were made digitally) looked worse as prints.  Perhaps this was the result of different printing methods. The two formats were certainly presented differently. With more gravitas given to the pictures made on film.

There is more to the exhibition than the photographs. There are texts to accompany them and audio of interviews with the farmers, plus artwork of variable quality and some other stuff from earlier documentary work on the dales.  Overall, worth a visit if you're in the area.

After leaving the museum I went for a wander round the town and out. As is always the case when I go anywhere 'scenic' the skies are grey. When there's a waterfall in town you have to slow the shutter down...

And you can't visit the dales without taking at least one photograph of stone walls and buildings

Not to mention an 'iconic' barn. Hmm. Road markings and litter. I must have started to get bored of the scenery.

After the ventures into postcardland I regained my senses and found some more interesting things to photograph.

I can't resist a bin on wheels.

 Or a pile of furniture. Undoubtedly my favourite landscape picture of the day.

None of which has got me any further forward with finding a new direction. Hey ho.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The old standbys

It's October and time to start thinking about the beach project again. Although overcast it was warm and the beach populated by inevitable walkers, with and without dogs. Apart from three metal detectorists there wasn't much going on. As usual there always seems to be unusual things taking place when there aren't as many people around. I spent most of my time taking rather pointless photographs of junk on the beach before making the place look deserted by hiding a dog walker, and their dog, behind the boat angling club's mobile cabin.

I'd photographed a couple of balls as I walked down to the shore and passed by a few on the sands. It was literally as I got back to my car that I spotted another ball hiding by the side of the footpath. It's number 418.

On my way south I'd noticed a bigger than usual pile of sand at the sandplant so called in on my way home to have a poke around. there has been a lot of ground cleared since my last visit. So much so that it's difficult to remember  what it looked like where it meets the saltmarsh. The well trodden path around the old perimeter being the best clue.

Something I like doing at the sandplant is making pictures which mimic the tropes of what is called landscape photography. One favourite is the mountain reflected in a reedy lochan or tarn. A boulder or tree stump for foreground interest is often included for effect. I made do with a heap of sand instead of a mountain and some rubble in place of the boulders.

I think I prefer my detail of the lower slopes of the 'scree'.

It is almost a crime to include people in landscape photography but I can never understand why. I had taken a few shots of the plants growing in the puddle when a birdwatcher pushed his bike through the frame. To me that makes a more interesting picture. Not that it is all that interesting, but it's better than the frames without him!

I was glad he'd gone because his bike had been leaning against a sculpture-like pile of debris in the area I wanted to photograph. Piles of junk like this are difficult to make look right in photographs because much of their appeal is their three dimensionality.

As a continuing documentation of a gradually disappearing landscape feature these pictures have some merit, and as a body of work might eventually become more interesting in that context than they are individually. However, they're not as interesting to me as pictures of people doing things. Either to look at or to take. I need to get my finger out and sort out another people project.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

What's it all about, Alfie?

Every so often on the photography forum someone will post a 'thinking of giving up' thread. The reasons are always dissatisfaction with their results or a lack of inspiration. Being unhappy with your photography is par for the course if you are at all critical of your work.Critical not in the dismissive sense but the critical appreciation sense. Unless you think there is room for improvement you're probably not trying very hard. But that doesn't mean you can't still think your work has some merit. Progress isn't linear, it goes in fits and starts. That's just the way things are. Lacking inspiration is also part and parcel of the creative process. That, too, progresses jerkily.

I don't worry about either of these factors. When my photography is good I think it's pretty good. Although I don't believe in inspiration (in the coming from above sense) but I still get stuck for ideas. Usually making more photos does the trick. When one project is ending knowing where to go next is always tricky and there can be many blind alleys before you find one worth continuing down. I don't have too many problems in this respect. Sometimes it's the opposite and I have too many ideas.

What does get me thinking about jacking it in is the futility of it. I'm well aware that people do creative things because they get something out of it on a personal level. It keeps the brain working, it's educational. Stuff like that. But, and I think it's a big but, music, literature, photography all produce something which can be heard, read or looked at by other people. Unless that happens it all seems a bit pointless to me. (Rather like this readerless blog!) That is where I really get blocked and start thinking of giving up.

One of my pointless ideas is to do something about sheep. But pictures of sheep are boring. There has to be more to it.

Wandering up a bleak and boggy moor some ideas began to emerge. A way to make the pictures tell a story in an obtuse way. Pictures about sense of place.

Pictures about the harshness of being an upland sheep.

It's strange how climbing a hill can get a head filled with ideas clattering against each other. On the technical side it also decided me that the 'toy' camera and its lenses can sod right off. Every one of the pictures I took with it got deleted when I was back home, while most I took with my larger sensor compact were kept. One is posted here. I shall also endeavour to give my superzoom lens a rest for a while. Sometimes the gear does have an impact on the pictures.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The more you do the harder it gets

That's not the way it's supposed to be.But when you are trying to find new ways of showing things photographing the same type of event over and over sees the opportunities diminish. Part of the trouble is that when something is new to the eyes everything looks unusual. As time goes by repetition sets in. That's the way I'm getting with sheep shows in particular, and agricultural shows in general.

The main difficulties with sheep shows is accessibility. Photographing from outside the show lines distances you, and restricts viewpoints. There's only so much that can be done and the use of a moderate to wide angle lens is pretty much out of the question.

Having arrived late to today's show, through not getting up early enough and traffic, I missed most of the sheep judging anyway. The rest of the show wasn't of much interest to me. The poultry tent was laid out in such a way that photography was all but impossible unless you were on the inside - literally and metaphorically.

I ended up mostly watching people taking photographs and photographing them doing it. Amateurs and professionals.

I wondered why there was a pack of press photographers roaming around the sheep pens clearly clueless about how to photograph sheep. The regular sheep photographers had it nailed.. Then it became clear why the guys with three cameras and southern accents were here. Some old git had turned up with his entourage.

As a people watcher it was fun watching the blokes with earphones and pistol-shaped bulges under their jackets trying to look like country folk. And failing. I don't know if it's a crime to photograph  them. But I did anyway. In case it is a crime I'll not post the photos here!

Despite being an enjoyable day it wasn't very productive. In fact all it did was make me wonder if there's any point trying to photograph these events. Looking at other people's pictures from them I really haven't mined any new seams. There's only one more show I can get to this year. If the weather's fine I'll make a final effort and get there early and see if I can get inspired. If it rains I'll simply stay home....

Still there's a very small gallery from today here. I've also made a page of links to all my show galleries here.

Oh yeah. One of the pictures I submitted to the BLPA has been short-listed. The one I entered as an afterthought and don't think much of. Ain't that the way of the world?