Friday, 23 February 2018

Pastures new

In the spirit of research I went for a look at a sheepdog auction today. Not being sure what to expect I packed light with the Fuji and its two 'lenses'. This proved to be both good and bad. I'd been in two minds about making an early start to beat the rush hour traffic or setting off late. I knew parking might be difficult if I took the latter option but not the extent of the difficulty!

I don' think I've seen so many 4x4s in one place before. I saw number plates from Belgium and Finland, and heard accents from all of the home nations. Even at my age there are surprises to be had about what goes on in this country. The divide between the urban culture which the media promote as that of the nation and rural culture is a large one.

It took me a while to ease myself into taking photographs. I wanted to get a feel for the place and the event first. One of the early shots, among many which were quickly deleted, provided the crop below. Another happy accident which I find I like despite all it's technical and compositional 'flaws'.

Once in the mood it was a case of trying to find the sort of pictures I like making which tell part of the story and require careful perusal to see all that is going on. This is the challenge which fascinates me at the moment. I found some pictures by a well knows street photographer taken at country shows the other night. They were the regular fare of tightly cropped or uncluttered pictures. Good, but sort of what are expected.  Not that I''m saying my photos are better. Most of the time I miss the target.

Trying to time the release of the shutter so that three elements make visual senses at once is nigh on impossible for me. I wanted the auctioneer in the young dog ring to be making a visually interesting gesture, the young dog to be in the frame running round the penned sheep, and also the sheep and dog being exhibited at work on the field behind. I'm not 100% sure but I think a DSLR would have made that easier. There was a definite shutter lag with the Fuji, even when pre-focussed on where I expected the young dog to appear. I ended up putting the camera in burst mode and trying to predict when it would come round the pen. The chap consulting the catalogue was a nice framing bonus. If I had nailed this shot I'd have been overjoyed. Close but no cigar this time.

There were lots of dogs about,and lots of people. Sniping character shots with a long lens would have been a doddle. They always lack that all important context to me. Whether a small, silent camera really is an advantage when working close to people is still something I'm unconvinced about. I do think having a small lens on a big camera helps. Maybe that just helps my self-consciousness though? Probably the biggest help is having an air of purposefulness about you, and not looking shifty!

Another thing that frustrated me was having to keep swapping 'lenses'. It wasn't that I missed having the crutch of a zoom lens. Using just two focal lengths works well enough for me. Two cameras is the (expensive) answer...

Overall my haul of pictures was pretty thin. To be expected on an exploratory visit for someone as slow to learn as me. However, learning the limitations of a camera is valuable. I also learned something about setting the thing up. Reviewing pictures on the back screen I was convinced they were all over exposed, even though the histogram (something I never usually look at) was telling me otherwise. There was also a strange icon on the screen when shooting. I had no idea what it was.Lacking the manual a deep dive into the menu was called for. It turned out that switching off the automatic brightness control for the back screen made the pictures look perfectly exposed!

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