Sunday, 24 May 2015

Same old same old

I could have started this post with the first paragraph of the previous one. Time to get into some concentrated photography has been hard to find. There was a poultry show, a junior and egg event, which wasn't as busy as the usual shows. The lack of occupied cages got me one extra shot for the files.

The chap who is usually there to take pictures of the winning birds was absent, apparently he doesn't bother with the junior show. I almost got roped into doing the honours but someone else had a camera with them. A shame that the young fanciers won't have carefully lit pictures of their winning entries.

Daft as it sounds, and in a typical justification of extravagant expenditure, part of my plan to reduce my camera gear inventory has been another purchase which I tried out for the first time at the poultry show. It proved it's usefulness too. Every camera ought to have a flippy screen of some sort. They really do make it easier to get a different perspective on things - often without drawing attention to yourself. More poultry pics here.

Since then I've used the screen at the sandplant, which has changed dramatically since my last visit, to put the camera above my head. Future uses for the screen are sticking the camera on a monopod or pole to raise it higher still. Although given the ability to use a smartphone to view the screen's output and fire the shutter a flippy screen might not be necessary for that! More (slightly repetitive) sandplant pics here.

While the poultry visit fell back on my usual two fixed focal length lenses (28mm and 50mm) the sandplant saw me giving my cheapo wide zoom a work out along with the 85mm. These two make a useful combination. Sometimes a longer zoom would be handy, but as a weight saving venture it's good enough. As ever I remain convinced that there's no need to cover every focal length in order to make useful pictures. Just look for the pictures that suit whatever focal lengths you have with you. That way you don't even notice that you are 'missing' shots. Besides with a gazillion pixels available a bit of a crop still provides a usable file if pressed.

I also gave the wide zoom a whirl at the tackle shop. Given it's slow and variable aperture I wasn't too hopeful. But not only is that multitude of tiny dots excellent for rendering detail, it somehow manages to work in fairly low light at high ISOs (3200 below). Yet to be used in anger, I see a different approach to the tackle shop project - that flippy screen might be useful too!

The low light capabilities of modern cameras is lessening the need for fast aperture zoom lenses unless you want to use wide apertures for subject isolation. The two 'cheapo' zooms I have are plenty good enough for me (manufacturers might be making better lenses to work with higher resolution sensors), and subject isolation can be achieved by standing further away and using a longer focal length. All this means that it's possible to have a full frame set up that weighs next to nothing. As soon as I can offload some gear I'll be able to get my entire kit into one small shoulder bag.

It's a lot easier to write about gear than making pictures, particularly when it's a struggle to get out and do the latter. At least I can fit in some time for my local projects on my way to and from the Post Office. The church continues to be a challenge. Making pictures that seem to accidentally include the church is harder than I imagined it would be. Certainly without making different versions of the same picture.

Home Range is a more local version of Sandgrounding (which has reached it's 500th post) and has been added to recently. It has a more considered approach to subject matter and framing than Sandgrounding, although quite what either of these series are about I can't honestly say! I am clear what the 'big project' is about, and have made some preliminary progress on it in the limited time I've had available. As soon as work eases up I'll get some more done. Having clarity as to what a project is about helps provide an end to it. Open ended projects simply blunder on and on, never getting finished. Then again, if you have a date set as a conclusion point it can mean that you don't get all the pictures you'd like. At least with the sandplant I think a natural end will come when the restoration work is completed.

The worrying thing with long term projects is that when you come to review what you've got early pictures often look different to later ones. Your vision and aims change with time. What seemed like a good idea at the time might not fit in with later ideas.On the positive side some pictures which might have seemed pointless can, when set next to later views of the same scene, provide a useful comparison of change. There's more to project work than taking good pictures. Which make it interesting.

Friday, 8 May 2015

All work

It's not for lack of motivation that I've been neither writing here or taking photographs but an unseasonable amount of work (and a bit of fishing, which is sort of work for me)  that's been occupying my time. In fact I've got a few things I'd like to be doing photographically.

I tried to add to my collection of church pictures during a sunny period. The trouble is that when I make a conscious effort to take pictures for the series they look forced. The one that didn't look that way was messed up by my laziness - and the lies that a camera's rear screen tells. When looking at the whole frame the small screen size gives a greater apparent depth of field than a larger screen or print does. That meant my wide aperture shot looked okay at the time I took it, but not okay back home. No problem, the light would be the same the following day. Which it was. This time I messed up by going out a couple of hours later - and the previously raking light that had shown texture on a wall was hitting it straight on and flattening the features. Since then either the sun hasn't shone or I've been otherwise engaged.

On a whim one evening I took the fisheye to the woods to try and get some bluebell pictures. The wood doesn't have vast carpets of these spring flowers which usually attract photographers of a certain bent at this time of year, just odd scraggy clumps of feral looking, rather than wild, plants.

I hedged my bets and took a standard zoom with me too. Which worked okay. None of my efforts were really satisfying though. I'm not cut out for this sort of thing. I seem to need hard edges to make pictures I like.

Hard edges can be found anywhere in the built environment. I even find them at home when the light plays on the walls. Why people have to travel far and wide to be inspired to take photos has always baffled me. Fair enough f there's something specific you want to record, but if you're primairly interested in making pictures anywhere will do.

This one even works in black and white. One day I might gather some of the photographs I've taken round the house together to see what they look like.

Parochiality is part of my Sandgrounding 'project', an eclectic collection of photographs of things that have caught my eye in Southport which may or may not come to an end when it hits the 500th post in the not too distant future. What a lot of the pictures have in common is a focus on the banal and a lack of composition. This approach appeals to me greatly as I become less and less interested in 'good photographs', which is why one of the latest additions to my groaning bookshelves has become a current favourite. An unpretentious gathering of pictures of things, dull or humorous, seen around Britain by The Caravan Gallery in their book extra{ordinary}. Some of the pictures will make camera geeks freak out, but I think a picture of an Afghan hound in a shell suit is worth including even if it does look like it was taken with a very poor compact camera made a decade ago!

One of the benefits of having a number of loose projects on the go, or at least in the back of my mind, is that I can grab shots to use in them at any time. Although sometimes it is much better to go out with the intention of making pictures for a specific project. My biggest problem is that my mind works in peculiar ways and keeps on finding new things to make series of pictures of or about. The latest one is a narrowing down of my pictures of mobility scooters. Quite why I started taking these photographs is a mystery. I think it had something to do with Southport being overrun by the things. Recently I've begun to notice how frequently their owners park them outside pubs. The idea of being drunk in charge of a mobility scooter appeals to my sense of humour!

On a technical note I've discovered that putting a faster SD card in my compact camera has speeded it up when shooting raw. It used to lock up for quite a time while each file was being written, making it useless for reacting quickly. Now I find it far more useful. So the camera has become my choice for wandering round town when I have nothing specific in mind. Another breakthrough has been to keep the shutter speed up by using the widest aperture. Although that is pretty fast, in combination with the small sensor depth of field remains large enough for street shooting, and using face detection either detects faces or the closest object. All in all it makes grabbing shots quickly practical and effective. The camera also goes in a jacket pocket. This camera has also become my favourite for my fishing blog. Not least because of the flippy screen that makes low level shots a cinch. When I'm not catching anything (all too often the case these days) I bugger about with the camera. For blogging purposes I'm finding the 9:16 ratio useful. That's my excuse for the B&W 'street' shot being in that aspect ratio as I'd left the camera stuck in that mode, and in jpeg...

Where the camera falls down is dynamic range and shadow detail. Even crop sensor DSLR photos seem to be 'richer' to my eyes. You can't have everything in a camera - yet...

Back on the project front I have a 'big idea' that I might just get under way and even complete. Budding authors are often advised to write about what they know. So I'm thinking hard about photographing what I know. I've done some ground work, begun writing a plan (!!!!) and shot a few trial photographs. I think it might work. Part of the plan involves me leaving my comfort zone. Which is kind of worrying, but kind of exciting too. I'm keeping everything under wraps for the time being until I have gathered my thoughts about it more fully. In the meantime I'm sure I'll stumble across a few more mobility scooters, catch a glimpse of the church, and photograph a few more lost balls. So many daft ideas, too much real work to stop me carrying them out!