Tuesday, 27 May 2014

I never do that!

I've not done much photography of late owing to staying home resting a poorly foot. A few snaps have been made while in town but nothing of any great seriousness. Yesterday, however I thought the foot was improving so I went or a drive around my usual haunts, but with nothing in mind. The world was too green, even though the sun had decided to hide. It seems I'm not alone in disliking green landscapes, Edward Burtinsky feels the same; "When I look at green trees on a sunny day, I don’t know how to make an interesting picture of that. We’re familiar with that already. Instead, I like the transparency that comes when leaves are off and you can look deeper into the landscape—you can look through the landscape. "

What did catch my eye, as so often is the case, was farm machinery in a recently planted field. Scarecrows. Not old clothes stuffed with straw but the modern equivalent. Windmills, artificial birds, paddles and gas powered noise makers. I think it was the red painted trailers against the green that attracted my attention. Having gone out with just the one, wide, zoom lens I struggled to make anything of them knowing a longer lens would be better suited to compressing the space to bring the machines closer together and so I drove on. Not that I saw anything else worth stopping for.

Back home I got a nagging urge to go back and do it properly. Which I often get but never follow through. For some reason this time I did. As luck had it the sun came out again after tea, and by the time I returned to the roadside field it was in a better position too. I spent some time making some frames from various angles. I quite liked what I ended up with, although there are the inevitable niggles in even the best of the shots.

As is to be expected I started out with a straightforward approach.

Then began to work around the subject in a variety of ways, playing with scale, focus and pattern to try and make pictures. When people ask how to improve their creativity that's the straightforward answer - play around with your subject. Try all sorts. Some won't work, others will. The only way I can get ideas is by doing. Plotting things out in advance is too rigid for me. I prefer to improvise.

Because I didn't want to trample into the field I found the zoom to be a boon for once. It always surprises me how wide 70mm can feel out in the landscape, and at 200mm the lens allows details to be drawn out as well as bringing things closer together - which can emphasise patterns like the rows of plants. Why people seem to be obsessed with wide angles for making landscape pictures continues to confound me.

Although it's never become a project as such I have been photographing similar views of farm machinery for some time now, with the vague title of 'Farming Today' (after the Radio 4 programme of the same name). I don't know if the pictures are landscape, or documentary. Given my dislike of categorisation by 'genre' I don't care either, they're just pictures as far as I'm concerned. I think a couple of the ones above work quite well as individual pictures, while others might work better in a specific context or as part of a broader group or collection. Keep on taking such photographs and eventually there might be enough of them to make them a project.

Monday, 12 May 2014

From the archives

Every so often, usually when bored, I browse through by photofiles. Every so often something will pop up which looks okay that had been neglected, more often I wonder why the hell I'd bothered pressing the shutter release. Occasionally something appears which I'd completely forgotten about. The picture of the little river and the willow were two from a walk I didn't remember making. Same subjects as last week, different approaches three and a half years apart.

More interestingly were two minimalistic shots I found. It used to be almost my way default of making pictures. I'm not sure if I've abandoned it because it seems too decorative or because of the pictures I've taken to looking at which I have been unconsciously influenced by.

They all seem to be different in style and approach to the one below which I took the other evening.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Back down the river

In the face of the overwhelming evidence that I can't take a decent pastoral landscape photograph to save my life I ventured forth armed with tripod, filters and wide angle lens for a walk along the little river. Once more I stopped at the same places and tried to make pictures of the same things. I really should know better. All that green does my head in for one thing. It makes everything turn to mush in my eyes. Maybe I ought to wait for bright sunshiny days instead of the overcast ones I prefer? The farmers' fords always draw me because they are signs of human manipulation of the land. The work site of unknown purpose also made me stop. Combining the two in one picture gives it some sort of meaning even if the composition is flawed.

One of the filters I took with me actually got used. As much as an experiment as anything. The effect a polariser has on the appearance, or disappearance, of water is quite dramatic. Which is the more truthful representation is open to discussion. I like the way the polarised shot shows the tracks on the riverbed though.

Continuing to flounder I tried some plant close-ups. I was trying to use the willow boughs in the background as a compositional device. As usual I made a few attempts and gave up. It seemed futile to keep trying to work the subject when at best it would end up as yet another nice photograph of a plant.

After that I started fish watching when I saw a chub rise to take something off the surface.I'd seen a few surface dimples earlier but this was my cue to look for more fish. The photography got sidelined for a while.

The remains of the ancient willow are a bit of a camera magnet. Being as far as it is from the river I imagine that the river has changed course over the tree's lifetime. Actually there are two trees, both old and decapitated, but by finding the correct viewpoint the less photogenic one can be hidden behind the star of the show. Today was as much an exercise in testing my upgraded wide angle zoom as a serious attempt at making pictures. Well, that's my excuse!

This is certainly the best effort I've made of shooting the tree, but something more interesting as a sky would have lifted it. Ideally, for my taste, the sky would be grey with visible clouds rather than plain old grey. I like the subtlety of grey clouds against a grey sky - if that makes sense. A stormy sky would have been okay too - if a bit cheesy. The black and white treatment was done mostly to get rid of that bloomn' green!

Having conceded defeat I slung the tripod over my shoulder and retraced my footsteps.  Nearing the road where I had parked the patch runs alongside some twee wisteria clad cottages. very picturesque on a sunny day, no doubt. My pessimistic eye was draw to the fallen petals on the deceased conifer hedge. for once the greenery worked in my favour. I was struck by the contrast of fresh leaves and flowers above the faded and brown petals on the bare hedge. It's a picture of contrasts; fresh/decaying, bright/dark, dense/open.The clipped hedge providing a neat dividing line in what is compositionally a colour field. I'm not big into metaphors in my photographs, but I'm sure there's one to be found in this one.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Street Photography

Maybe not fitting the usual definition of street photography! My obsession with tarmac and road markings continues as part of the developing parking project which seems to be coalescing, at least in my head. In this instance the head-on, symmetrical, approach seems appropriate to the subject. The more pictures I make the more I see ways to bring the various elements together visually.

As usual my mind wandered while wandering round seeking out parking related viewpoints. The 'big city' has a lot more to look at compared to the smaller market and seaside towns I visit more frequently. It's also the place where I first photographed road markings back in 1978. I think what fascinates me about tarmac and road markings are the textures and abstract shapes which the camera frame makes by isolating sections - which also takes away part of their meaning as instructional devices to road users.

There's also a Pop Art influence in the use of found mass produced imagery. (I'm sure some visual artist somewhere must have used the Highway Code as source material.) The ubiquity of road markings and parking signage is certainly of interest to me - things we see every day and ignore other than to do what they tell us to, failing to see the small variations in the apparently standardised markings which are what interest me.