Thursday, 15 September 2022

The end of a long hot summer and an apology.

First of all the apology. I've only just discovered that I had comments enabled on this blog, but not the notification for moderating them. That's why anyone who has commented hasn't had the comment posted or had an acknowledgement. All a bit irrelevant now as I think this may well be the last post I make here having run out of things to say that don't repeat myself. Anyway....

I've been to thirteen agricultural shows this summer, and failed to find another after getting terribly lost, with only one day of light rain and no muddy fields to get the car stuck in. In some ways the photographs have changed, mostly because I'm getting in closer than I used to. There is a more inclusive look to pictures taken up close with a 'standard' or moderately wide angle lens to those zoomed in from further away to give the same frame filling effect. As an example, the shot above was taken with a 28mm lens.

Even so it has proved increasingly difficult to find new pictures of the old subjects. One thing that has helped is getting a lower angle. Again, being at 'sheep's eye level' increases the connection between viewer and subject. Thsi has seen me using the flip out screen a lot more than in the past. Not only does this save my ageing knees, it also means I can get out of the way faster when sheep are heading my way!

Unfortunately my camera was slow to respond in liveview, and the focus point difficult to move around. I was missing a lot of potential shots. So I bit the bullet and upgraded to a camera with better performance in this department. For once an upgrade has made a difference to my success rate. So much so that I find I'm suing liveview at least half the time now, and not just for low down pictures, it's useful for other angles too.

Another thing that's changed for me is posting sheep pictures to Facebook. I'm still no fan of the platform, there's so much about it that annoys me, but it is the easiest way to let sheep people find the photos and get an idea what I'm up to. It's a way of giving something back to the unwitting participants in my pictures and also opens up more interaction with people at the shows. There are other side benefits such as the odd free entry to shows and the occasional picture sale too!

It is not without some downsides, or maybe diversions. There's no doubt that the sort of pictures which go down well on social media are different to the ones I take for myself. The boxes are pretty easy to tick, though, so it's not hard to take the crowd-pleasers while still looking for the Lumbypics.

One break from sheep photography was a day spent concentrating on cattle. I wasn't too sure how that would go when asked to go along, but having a fresh subject was good as everything was new to my eyes.

No matter what the subject the problem is always the same - looking for ways to frame pictures that, with a bit of luck, tell a story, or at least put the viewer 'there'.

As well as trying to get in close I've also been making an effort to take more 'messy' pictures. Ones in which there is a lot going on and/or make a sort of abstract composition. Sometimes they work, sometimes they almost work, mostly they fail!

It's that striving for the perfect picture (unobtainable) that keeps me interested when motivation starts to flag. Something else that has kept me interested is starting to dabble in video. The new camera is easier to use a video camera. I've only been practicing technique and getting to know how it works so far, but maybe I'll plan a short sheep video out sometime.

Sunday, 5 June 2022


For whatever reason the urge to write (about anything) deserted me. Neither could I be bothered posting pictures here for the sake of it - although I have been taking plenty and posting them on Twitter. I've had a few subjects come to mind which could have been written about if only my general lethargy hadn't got in the way.

This is all a part of the confusion I have about where I, and my photographs, fit in the wide photography world. I think I've mentioned before that I don't want to be taking photographs which appeal to other photographers. That's falling into a similar trap as chasing 'likes' on social media. Or in another sphere taking photographs to win a camera club competition or a jumped up camera club competition like the RPS distinctions!

To quote Ed Smith (which I may have done before); "When you play cricket to please other people you have lost the point of playing cricket" Or words to that effect.

First and foremost I want to take my kind of photographs. Being wildly arrogant and self-important for a moment I reckon I have a pretty damned good idea of what makes a good photograph for me. And how to go about it from a technical stand point.

On that last factor I have come to realise that I'm out of step with not just the RPS and it's love of technical perfection, but also with a lot of the hobbyist photography world. It seems that whenever I give advice to beginners on the photography forum I frequent I get shot down by the resident experts.

 If you want to stop your pictures being blurred, then 99% of the time you'll need to use a faster shutter speed. I've seen it so often with photos taken by anglers I know that are blurred through camera and subject movement because a camera's (or phone's) automatic settings have selected a slow shutter speed. If the option is available (not on my phone it's not) the solution is to use shutter priority to lock in a faster shutter speed. That's why I think telling beginners to use aperture priority (which all too often sets a slow speed) is bad advice. But when I suggest it I get flamed because the experts are obsessed with controlling depth of focus. 

For years my only camera was my Pentax ME, which was aperture priority only. Yet I used it as a shutter priority camera. When I turned the aperture ring on the lens I had no idea what it was set to because I was concerned with keeping the shutter speed displayed in the viewfinder high enough to stop camera shake! If you aren't using a tripod I think this is the best approach. Especially given how high you can let ISO go in modern cameras.

I guess it's because what I think makes a good photograph is what's in the picture - the facts. For example, to me a good portrait is primarily about gesture and expression, light and depth of focus are secondary. If the gesture and expression are saying nothing great light and creamy bokeh won't save it.

I don't fit in the art world of photography either. My photos aren't what's deemed acceptable but mostly I can't be doing with taking it as seriously as seems to be necessary. I certainly can't be arsed taking myself as seriously as some po-faced photographers do. They're far too earnest for me. Pomposity has to be punctured when I see it! When it comes to documentary photography I'm out on a limb there too because I don't have the drive to push my photos to get seen by anyone who could get them out to a wider audience.

So that leaves me floundering around in my own little world, occasionally venturing into the worlds of poultry fanciers, sheep breeders, and sheep dog trialers. Which is why I've taken to posting more pics on social media after avoiding it for ever. At least that way the people in the photos get to see them. Which I think is important. Whether they like my more 'off the wall' pictures I don't know. I'm certainly not trying to make the kind of pictures of the subjects which journalists or other professionals might take. Some of my framings are still 'odd' with chopped off heads and intruding limbs. Traditional subjects shot in a different way.

Which brings me to a comment I saw reported about some photos submitted for review for an RPS 'panel'. They were deemed to be 'record shots'. Aren't all photographs 'record shots'? Can't a 'record shot' also be a good picture? What a crock of the proverbial!

I want my photographs to be records, and I want them to work as pictures. That's what keeps me taking more pictures. Striving to make pictures which work as pictures and which provide a record of what was happening. It's bloody difficult though. But if it was easy it really would be pointless!

Some more random pictures from the last few months. Kicking off with a phone snap, now I have a phone with a reasonable camera in it.




Tuesday, 4 January 2022

In the bleak midwinter

I've never been one for making plans, so no New Year resolutions for me! It's a case of carry on doing what I do and hoping something interesting shows up. not that much did during December. Dog trials were either non existent or the weather was rubbish. This coming weekend is looking equally grim in that department. It's been a case of local wanders in search of something to photograph in order to keep my eye in.

That's pretty much what I'm doing when I go for a wander. Try to make sense of what I see within the frame. If what I come home with can add to any project it's a bonus. maybe one day there will be enough to choose from to make a collection of local pictures that stands up on its own merits?

As usual my 'landscapes' always contain some element of human intervention. A rare misty morning dragged me out to the moss. While I was out there the mist was just a bit too much and wasn't for burning off. As soon as I got close to home, however... I don't know if I'm just unlucky with atmospheric conditions or I don't have the patience to wait for them to change!

There have been a few sunny afternoons to tempt me out but they rarely seem to provide me with much. When I wait for them to turn into glorious sunsets they usually do the opposite and clouds form on the horizon and it all goes to pot.

One sunny afternoon I was driving around looking for inspiration and failing to find it when I did what I often do when that happens. Go somewhere I have been lots of times before. In this case I wanted somewhere out of the wind and went to have a look at the sheep barn. It's in an even worse state now than my last visit.

Being a bit featureless it's a difficult structure to photograph, and the dark to light contrast of inside and out makes exposures tricky. It's a challenge, which is possibly why I keep going back.

Something made me think about why few hobbyist/amateur photographers do documentary type of work. It's not something that gets seen much on a photography forum I belong to. Most people take single images which fit one of the popular genres - wildlife, macro, landscape etc.

As I've always thought that wherever you live can be documented photographically it would be the obvious thing for people who take photos in their spare time to do. No need to travel hundreds of miles in the hope of the right weather conditions for a location, for example. Either pick your days, or hours, and pop out. Although given my track record of doing that maybe I'm being optimistic? That said, as with fishing, if you 'pop out' often enough you'll get lucky once in a while.

Then it dawned on me. The reason more people don't adopt a documentary approach is that it does actually take a lot of time. Not everyone can drop everything, any day of the week, and go take photographs for a few hours. I expect people with more ordered lives than mine find it easier to plan ahead to set a day aside for their photography. Even so that could still work for documenting the place you live. But all to often I see people say that where they live is boring to photograph, and familiarity breeds contempt. Maybe I just have a different way of looking at the world? I do think anything can become a subject for a photograph. It only needs putting into a context.

There also has to be a deal of commitment to carry on in the face of failure, a high degree of perseverance, to engage in documentary. Not qualities I'd ever associated myself with until someone on the forum said they admired my perseverance. I've always thought of it more as being a lack of fresh ideas. I stick with something because I can't come up with a better alternative, so my projects carry on!

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

I'm sick of photography for photography's sake

Like most in this digital age I spend too much time looking at photographs on-line. Either website galleries or YouTube videos. The more I look at 'photographers' pictures the less they interest me. As a comment I saw on Lensculture when doing this put it about photobooks; "Most photobooks these days seem to be made in the category: art for art’s sake. It unfortunately leads very often to much ado about nothing." That's how I feel about a lot of the photographs I see - from all areas of phtotography. be that the 'serious' art world or dedicated amateurs. They all seem to be making photographs which fit the ideas of their area as to what makes a good photograph. I've done it myself.

Back in the real world I tried to find a sheep dog trial on Sunday. It was supposedly signposted but I couldn't find the signs! The day wasn't as bright as I'd hoped, so it might have been a wasted trip in any case. As I climbed into the hills I climbed into cloud too, but that gave me hope that I might find something to suit my idea of landscape to show what the moors are like in that kind of weather. I'd hatched a Plan B by looking on Google maps and set off for a walk, intending to reach a broken down building. I didn't manage to get that far before the cloud lifted, which didn't matter because no sooner had I stepped on to the moorland track than I saw Lonks. I spent my time photographing them.

I left it a fraction too late to grab a shot of a raddled tup. He'd stood in a perfect pose looking at me as I approached, but as soon as I raised the camera to my eye he started to wander off.


 That's what sheep tend to do. Maybe I need to get a longer lens for sheep photography?


Although sheep 'portraits' are well and good as the cloud lifted I tried to get some pictures which said more about their place in the landscape, and the place of farming in it.

The juxtaposition of the rural, yet worked, landscape and the urban, industrial areas not too far away is something I am always trying to encapsulate in photographs.

Then there are sheepscapes, where the sheep are the subject but they are small in the frame.

All the while I try to make photographs which work as individual photographs, but which will also form a body of work which can be accompanied by text. That's very much the way I'm thinking about photography these days. But not in the 'photograph as illustration' way, the pictures and the text should have equal weight - either could stand alone, but work together to say more. That's sort of what I'm hoping to achieve if I ever get round to putting a set of pictures together on this sheepy theme.