Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Itchy finger

I'm desperate to get out and take some photos but the weather and events are conspiring against me at the moment, so it's been more 'wildlife' photography in the garden. Yet again the 18-200 produced the goods with a dozy critter. GIMP did the rest.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Up close

I thought my 770SW was good for close ups. Having just tried out the D90 with the 18-200mm on it to take some night time flash shots of a snail I think I have to eat my words.

Camera set to f11 with a bit of kitchen roll over the flash and the results were far from shabby. Maybe not super, but better than the 770SW manages.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Walking the dog

Yet again a sunny morning failed to last all day. A couple of chances were taken before breakfast before the frost melted completely.

Then to the river under greying skies. Walking up river I acquired a furry companion who turned out to be my best chance of a photo. Alas she got bored and chewed the stick to bits before I got a really good shot.

On my walk I pondered whether composition can be taught or if it is innate. I'm fairly sure it can be learned, by a process of osmosis from looking at photographs, paintings, anything framed that 'works'. But only rules of thumb can be taught, which if adhered to rigidly result in rigidly dull pictures. If every photo had the subject exactly one third from one side and/or the top or bottom it would be terribly dull. Contrarily a subject placed smack bang in the centre of the frame can work at times. Rules of thumb are made to be ignored.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Glorious mud

At the end of the afternoon trying to photograph birds I was distracted by mud. A long zoom wasn't ideal, but it forced a particular way of looking.

Friday, 19 March 2010

More birds

Now this one I do think is a bit more than a picture of a bird - or two birds, even.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Always have the camera to hand

I'd been shooting birds (digitally!) again today and had packed up to do some work. The long lens was still attached when I heard a helicopter approaching. The air ambulance was coming in to land at the rugby club. I dashed outside and tried to get it in the frame and in focus. Somehow I'd switched the autofocus off and failed. But what lands has to take off again.

When I heard the engines running again I had a second go. One shot out of four was half decent, and I'm happy with the lens's performance. It's just a photo of a helicopter, but good practice handholding the lens. An aeronautical photographer would have used as lower shutter speed to blur the blades more, but I had the camera set to freeze flighty birds.

Some of the bird photos were okay too. Quite addictive this bird photography lark - in an achieving an aim sort of way.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Two minds

Focus is important in more ways than one. I was in two minds as to go try to get some shots of birds with my long lens (to prove I can do it 'in the field') or go take some photos. In the end I fell between two stools and failed in both aims. There are some marsh pools I'd like to see the sunset reflected in, but an uninspiring sunset and barbed wire made it difficult. The barbed wire can be surmounted. The sun is beyond my control. The light got interesting for a while and I almost made something of it. Then it went uniform and beat me again.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Serves me right...

...for saying that photographs I take of birds are more than photographs of birds!

Although I do think this one is about symmetry, or mirroring, or something - as well as being of two greenfinches.

One thing's for sure, well two things actually, taking photos of birds means you always know what the subject will be and the judgement of success is pretty clear.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Don't categorise me

Recently I joined a Nikon forum. The technical advice is fine - if a bit anal at times. I don't give a toss about lens sharpness and stuff like that. Nor do I think the most expensive lenses make better photographs. But the main thing that bugs me is the way photos have to be posted in set categories. It's limiting. The same applies to photo comps that set a theme. Why?

Shooting to a theme puts blinkers on the lens. The temptation is to look for shots that fit the remit. A poor way to go about things in my view (pun intended) unless you're being paid to do that. My aim is to take photographs. If they happen to be of a landscape or a bird then that's what they are of, but first and foremost I think of them as photographs - which means they might well be about something other than the subject. But then again, all that is often in the mind of the beholder. One might see a sunset where another sees a social comment...

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Feeling lost

Out on the mere fishing today. I almost packed the SLR but didn't. As the sun set an opportunity arose. All I had to hand was the S3-IS and this was the best I could muster.

The window of opportunity was only open for around five minutes. Is it worth trying again tomorrow with the SLR? I doubt it.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

A theme develops

It's odd how certain places can keep drawing you back. I first photographed the seawall and it's surroundings over 30 years ago I guess, and I found myself there again today. The sea defences have been strengthened but the place still feels the same. I like the way it's deserted in winter too.


...and now.

If I was that way inclined it could become a project. But if it did there'd be danger of getting precious about the photos and thinking about them too much. Better to let the photos decide for themseleves than go looking for predetermined shots.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Everyone loves a teasel shot

Up early on a frosty morn and back to the quarry hoping the light might be good. It sure was sunny and the sky blue but the rim of the quarry was shading too much of the place. It's a shame that somewhere that is being reclaimed by nature is obviously invaded by people who are happy to leave litter. Anywhere flat was a tip and the windward margins of the pool full of bottles and, for some reason, shoes. Two more lost balls were among the flotsam and duly added to my collection.

Despite all this there were rabbits to be seen, and birds of various sorts - notably jackdaws perching on the cliffs. In amongst the vegetation were teasels, backlit for a perfect cliché photo. But who cares?

There wasn't much else that inspired me apart from a couple of attempts at photos without subjects, and one missed opportunity that would have benefited from the use of the tripod, but which didn't look worth the time and effort through the viewfinder or on the review screen. Which goes to show that you should never make your mind up until you are back in civilisation. Another lesson learned the hard way.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Always try something

What is simpler than raising the viewfinder to your eye and looking through it? The physical frame makes the composition easier to envisage than the one in your mind's eye. There's no need to press the shutter button every time. Now and then looking through the viewfinder will reveal something that had been hidden in the clutter of all over view.

This shot is no silk purse, but neither is it the sow's ear that the uncropped frame was. It is a picture that raises questions. And it's a picture that I doubt would exist had the camera been in a bag at the time I rounded a corner.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Ill-formed thoughts on terminology

Once upon a time people took photographs, then photographs were made, now they appear to be captured. Taking and capturing both imply the removal of the image from the place it was found. In Sontag's world photography is aggressive and that would fit the act of stealing something's image. But the thing that the image is made from remains - unless it was a moment of action in which case it is gone forever, and even then the captured image is more a memory made manifest than a moment itself.

But are photographic images made? In that they didn't exist before the shutter release was pressed and light fell on film or sensor, then yes. Photographs are made. By cameras, not photographers. Photography is not aggressive. Outside of a studio it is entirely passive. All the photographer does is select where to point the camera. Physics (and, when using film, chemistry) does the rest.

Finding the correct terminology for the creation of a photograph is as difficult as finding the best description of a photograph. To call a photograph an image is ambiguous. 'Image quality' can refer to measurable technical aspects of the data which a photograph consists of, or to aesthetic aspects of it which are subjective. To talk of digitally viewed images as photographs denies the things that are physical prints - objects that have more resonances than screen pixels.

Currently I consider that I find photographs. Where photograph implies, concurrently, picture and image. Far from satisfactory...

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Tales of the unexpected

Being able to work in both colour and B+W with one camera, using the same 'film stock' is possibly the most liberating aspect of shooting digitally. I spent an age leaning on a wall trying to frame a shot of a distant reservoir and the landscape beyond to give a sense of height and space. Then I turned away, looked back (as I often do because it changes the perspective) took one shot of the wall and walked away. Reviewing the picture I turned it to monochrome. Liking what I saw I went back and tried to improve it. I failed. The grab shot was the best of the bunch. It often doesn't pay to overthink.

Elsewhere I was leaning on my car looking around and noticed overhead wires with bird scarers on them. The orangey red of the discs and the blue of the sky being complimentary colours there was something working there but not enough. Looking again a plane had entered my line of sight. Two quick snaps and that was it. One worked better than the other but still needed cropping from the left to make the wire enter from the side of the frame rather than the top so as to balance out the other wire's entry and exit points.

Great photos? Maybe not. Maybe they'll become tiresome. For now they're okay.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

One shot isn't art, but a series is

It's always surprised me how many footballs find their way into rivers. Over the last few days I've seen a few lost balls - not just footballs. So I've photographed them. Here's a couple. I wonder how many I'll end up photographing? Probably no more now it's in my mind! But the rule from now on is only one exposure of the ball and no cropping of the image.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


It's rare to see the sea at Southport so I thought I'd try to hit the seafront for high tide. As it turned out I was a bit late and it was on the ebb. With a bright haze and no wind it was difficult to discern where sea ended and sky began. I tried to make the most of this and mage some minimalist images before a breeze picked up and shattered the illusion.

Another idea I had in mind was to catch people walking in front of the sea wall. Although this failed I did manage one shot that I like for the light and touches of colour. If I had got the horizon level to start with it would have been much better as the correction messed up the composition by a gnat's whisker. 90% right is better than 80%. C'est la vie.


What exactly does a polarising filter do?



Monday, 1 March 2010

Compacts and macro

The Olympus 770SW proves itself generally useless for scenic shots but okay for pictures of people for some reason. Where it does excel is for taking close-ups. Without trying too hard at all it produces cracking images like this full frame crop. I think I hang on to it for that alone.