Sunday, 17 January 2021

Bath time

Yet another week of dire weather keeping me indoors most of the time. One dry morning I took the opportunity to park in my accountant's car park and have a wander down a rough lane in search of sheep. I found sheep but they weren't up for having their photos taken. This lane is the kind of place I like looking at but, as with so many places I like being and looking, it's somewhere I find difficult to photograph.

But give me an object and I'll snap away. Unusually for this area the fields are mostly used for grazing, at least on one side of the track. Stock needs watering and old baths have long been used as water troughs for cattle and horses. for some reason a couple of baths down this track had been put in the hedges. Kind of surreal. So they had to be photographed. That then got me to thinking there might be a project to be had photographing other baths in the countryside. The idea didn't last long, but you never know, it might take over from Lost Balls Found when I finish that one off.

With nothing else to do that day I went out again in the late afternoon. I swithered about going for too long which meant that I was a bit late to get any really decent pictures of some ditch clearing work on the moss edge.

After the thaw and rain three days later I woke to frost and fog. I couldn't face walking far in that so I drove round my most frequently tramped mossland route hoping to see something worth making a picture of. I pretty much failed so stopped and took a boring picture.

Feeling as though the moss is probably best left alone as the returns are diminishing I still couldn't think of anywhere or anything else to photograph so it was back there again this afternoon. To my surprise I saw a few things which I either hadn't thought of photographing before or things which had appeared since my last wander around the route I took.

The patterns made by the trailing pumpkin stems (or whatever they are called) struck me as otherworldly.

One of the flooded field wasn't as wet as it had been for weeks. This was partly due to a drainage channel having been dug to the nearby ditch. I made two pictures of this channel. One as an abstract, the other in vertical orientation to show the scene in full - and explain what was going on.

The vertical shot has given me the idea to make more pictures in that orientation of the mossland landscape. Something else I'll probably forget about...

I seem to have a thing about diesel pumps. Although I've photographed this one before it hasn't had a leak before.

The print making has got started. How long it will last is another matter. However, the albums work well. I've populated one with a set of prints from my short canal project. It took a bit of messing about to work out the layout for the first page but now I have a template it'll be easy to make variations on the theme.

Using 270gsm paper I have 23 sheets in the album and reckon a couple more will fit with ease. 

Going forward I intend to add a clear coversheet for the front page to protect what is visible through the hard cover. The snap-in page loading has also given me ideas for including other material along with the photo prints, and maybe also to use double sided photo paper.

Recently I've added a couple more books to my library. Photo Work was recommended on The Online Photographer. It was reasonably priced and the concept appealed to me. Forty photographers answering the same questions about the way they approach project based photography.

It's a book to dip in to, or read in bursts, rather than from cover to cover in one go. This is because it's a little repetitive. I'd have liked it more if the photographers hadn't been mainly American, and had been ones whose work was familiar to me. One I'll dip into again.

The other book is the third edition of one of my favourites, Paul Hill's Approaching Photography.  This is a significant update and worth having even if you have an earlier edition.

Monday, 11 January 2021

Problems, problems...

Buy cheap buy twice. I've never believed that always applies. On the other hand there really is no such thing as a free lunch. When I was thinking of making a website to showcase my wonderful photographs I was overjoyed to find my business site's host provided a free software install to do that which integrated with Lightroom to make uploading sequenced galleries easy. It worked just great until a week or so ago. Now when I log in to the admin page everything is black.

The host says it's not a problem with that side of things, so it was time to contact the software people. Alas their contact pages throw up a 'page not found' alert. Try Twitter. Their Twitter account has seen no activity for two years. I await, without bated breath, a reply to my direct message seeking advice. On the plus side my website is still live and functioning. I just can't update it.

This is annoying because I've made a small selection of wintry pics taken locally which work quite well together. Here are a few.


After the run of night-time sub zero temperatures winter has reverted to form. Heavy cloud cover, low light levels and the inevitable rain. This inspired me to have another bash at scanning my old fishing photos. A tedious task which soon lost its appeal. Then I found a photo album I'd intended to start using to put prints of pictures from a project in. That got me thinking that I really should do what I've threatened myself to do for ages - make more prints.

I dug out some paper and made a start printing them on 5z7 paper. I set up a template in Lightroom to put a border round the pictures and print the date. Smashing. hastily I went on-line and ordered more paper and two albums in the same size.

Ten minutes later, looking at the A4 prints in the album I came top the conclusion that the image area was too small on the 5x7s, but A4 was a bit big. What to do? Get the guillotine out and chop an A4 sheet down to 8x10. With some fiddling that gave me an image area that Goldilocks would have liked. Not too big, not too small. Just right. Luckily the paper and album people were happy to change my order and my goodies are due to arrive tomorrow. I already have plenty of ink. All that remains now is for me to be disciplined enough to make prints on a regular basis to populate the albums. That might be a challenge too far!

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Cold snaps

At long last the rain stopped. Sort of. Despite sub-zero temperatures arriving the precipitation which fell round here was either hail or rain. Which made for slippy road and pavement surfaces. Gradually the showers became less frequent and I got out and about looking for changed scenes. With some success.

The first frost was followed by a warmer couple of days and I went to the canal to photograph bridge 5A from above. It was less interesting than I'd remembered from doing similar some years back. But I added a couple of pictures to the canal project - which may or may not be on hold, or even done with.

With the icy mornings making it treacherous to walk the few yards to the field I have been delaying my ventures out. This has meant missing out on the chances for frost covered scenes. But I can live with that. One afternoon I did find myself being enveloped by a rising mist towards dusk. Better still I was close to some things which would make for foreground interest. That's if you find diesel pumps and tractor tracks interesting.

Or farm trailers with small birds perching on them.

Another frosty wander gave me a chance to make a compare and contrast picture of the carrot harvester which I'd photographed one warmer and sunny afternoon.

Apart from that it has been a case of photographing the frozen land and remaining crops.

In other news the zine I was planning fizzled out. When I made a PDF to preview it the pictures didn't work together. They were more successful as a grid. It was either start again with a different selection of pictures or scrap the idea. I scrapped it. I'll try to rework things with a different approach sometime. Maybe not even in print form. A slideshow might be the way forward seeing as a large grid is an unwieldy thing to make/display.

The freezing night-time temperatures are supposed to go away this week. I might manage an early walk or two. Or not...

Thursday, 24 December 2020

One project wrapped up

Much to my surprise I got the bug to complete my look at all teh bridges and locks on the canal. I had to contend with the weather and light again. either bright and in my face or deadly dull and wet. But I pressed on and got it done. There's still some mileage in a canal project if I can find a way 'in' and get motivated. Here is a Flickr slideshow of the locks and bridges in numerical order, which is not the order I photographed them.

Locks and Bridges

It was an interesting exercise in a number of ways. Planning it out, looking for pictures and evaluating the not-so new lens. I'm glad it is only a short canal as I'm pretty sure I'd have got bored if it had been much longer and wandered off, metaphorically, to photograph something else. It also got me out of the rut of walking the same routes around the moss and seeing the same old stuff. A change being as good as a rest.

Not often did I feel the lens limiting. When I did I reached for the wide zoom. Or on one occasion when I put the wrong lens on my second body a standard zoom. As I suspected, 24mm is usually plenty wide enough when I need wider than 35mm. I think the cull has been decided. Although why I keep hanging on to my collection of single focal length lenses has more to do with clinging to an idea than a practical choice. The idea of doing it 1970s style with two focal lengths on the bodies and two more in the bag is a romantic dream. One (almost) superzoom is an easier option!
I've tried to progress the on/off night time project without any success. I thought Christmas lights might make it worthwhile venturing out after dark, but they didn't. Or I failed to make anything of them. The best pic I managed was of a dog poo bin.

With the canal pictures boxed off and no great ideas how to take that subject any further, until the days lengthen, it was back to the moss and meanygates. Not much had changed along my usual route, but sprouts were being cut one dismal afternoon. No doubt heading towards Christmas lunch tables.


A sunny but cold Christmas Eve tempted me and a few other people outside. Having managed to get out fairly early I set off for a slightly longer trudge not expecting to see much new in the area I've not visited for some time. How wrong I was. There is a serve yourself produce stall which wasn't there before. I guess the increased pedestrian traffic from locked-down folk who don't usually go walking about the meanygates prompted this to spring up. It's not the first I've seen appear locally this year.

I'd seen some machinery loitering in a field for some weeks but took that as a sign its work was done, so hadn't bothered taking a look at it. That was the case but thanks to the sodden land there were still remnants of the carrot crop to make it clear what had been harvested. A few more pictures got added to the files.

While poking about the carrot field I saw some bright red figures approaching in the distance. As they got closer I left the carrots and headed in the walkers' direction. It was a cheery surpise to find Mrs Claus and two of her elves taking a stroll. I guess Santa had set off on his journey and their work was done for another year!

This may be a short post, both in words and pictures (although there are fifty odd in the slideshow) I feel like I've achieved quite a bit lately. Maybe not taken any great pictures or advanced my photography, but getting the canal mini-project done felt good.
The editing of meanygate pictures has gone quite well and I'm now at the zine designing stage. More of a selection and sequencing stage, I suppose. I've got a cover and title sorted for the geometric crop pictures and have done a first draft selection which revealed some shortcomings in my first edit of pictures. I'll need to go take some out and bring some more back in to get the feel to the zine I'm after. Provisional cover below.

Monday, 14 December 2020

Locks and bridges

Seeing Bill Robertson tweeting pictures of bridges on the northern reaches of the Lancaster Canal gave me the prod I needed to start on a long considered look at my local cut. Although I've taken plenty of photographs along it's length over the years I've never made a concerted effort to document it. On Saturday afternoon I paid a short afternoon visit to the last lock to see if I could find a way in to start a project. It would be a handy, as in nearby, alternative to the moss seeing as there won't be much more to photograph there for a month or two. Besides, having an alternative might revitalise me for a return to the flatlands.

The day had turned misty by the time I got out, which didn't bother me. Winter can be pretty miserable so no need to make shiny happy pictures. How to approach the subject? As always it's the choice between scenic or formal/geometric/abstract for me. But always fairly prosaic.

Away from the locks canals can be fairly boring, as in lacking variation, until a bridge is arrived at. My initial idea was to document locks and bridges. So that was how I started to formulate a plan.

Plans and me don't go together well. I can make them, no problem. That was what I did. Found a map of the canal and worked out where to go to photograph each lock and bridge. Saturday dawned sunny but I had work to do. When I got to the cut I discovered what I already knew. Mornings are probably the best time to take photos along most of the canal as it runs north-south and the towpath is mostly on the east side. At this time of year the sun would be shining along the canal after noon. With it also being low in the sky as we near the solstice that limited my options. It did provide some benefits though, as in highlighting texture and providing silhouette opportunities.

At the time I felt like I'd made a lot of good pictures. Looking at them on the screen told a different story. Mostly dreck. There ended the project! Not because the pictures were rubbish but because it was relying on following a plan. If I am going to start a canal project it's going to have to take a different line of attack.

In terms of pictures taken the above is about my lot for the week. A couple of good technical things have come out of this last week's dismal efforts though. One day I deliberately took a different lens along with me to accompany the 35-150 which I thought was a bit 'cool'. I took a couple of photos using the same settings on the other lens and the zoom and inspected them on the computer. In a 'blind' test the zoom actually looked to have made a slightly warmer picture. 

The other thing is that I took both that zoom and my wide zoom on my Saturday ramble. For photographing the locks and bridges the wide zoom was useful. I suspected it might be because on the Friday 35mm had proved a bit limiting. The reason being that space at the locks is often cramped where the best vantage points are. Plans to chop in the wide zoom are on hold for now.

Sunday was a dismal day of rain. Once work was done I was at a loose end. Twidling my thumbs I decided to grasp the nettle that is my meanygate project and sort through 3,000 pictures to try and put some sort of order to at least some of them. This I managed by selecting out the more geometric fieldscapes. After two or three passes through the initial selection I now have it whittled down to 108. I've put them into 'contact sheets' and am letting them brew for a while before having another go at editing them down to, probably, a zine format.

While going through the files I realised that there are more pictures of fieldwork that I'd imagined. Editing those down will be the next task. Depending how both edits go I'll either make two zines or one zine of the geometric pictures and a larger book of a combined edit. I must say that a grid presentation of the geometric pictures could work well. Trouble is that grids are difficult to present at a meaningful scale as some of these pictures need to be viewed at A4 or larger to see the important finer detail.