Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Undue influence?

There's a minor internet storm going on about a prize-winning photograph which was apparently 'inspired' by another. Same location, same aspect ratio, similar composition. To my mind that's not being inspired. Inspiration is wishing to go out and make something which has similar properties to an image that moves you. Or maybe even aping an image unconsciously. We have all seen so many photographs now that unconscious influences are inevitable.

Sometimes we see something that reminds us of a previously viewed photograph. The similarities may be subtle. Maybe we register them, maybe not. The photograph we make may be made with the remembered image in mind or it may not.

During my last visit to the sandplant I made a picture which I was aware reminded me of a famous, and in its own way now controversial picture.

It is by no means a replication of the Roger Fenton photograph(s). Nonetheless I was conscious of the bank to the right and the debris strewn across a rough surface when I framed the shot. Unfortunately I failed to frame things so the eye was kept from wandering out of the left hand edge of the frame.

Monday, 29 October 2012


I stopped by the sandplant again today. This time deliberately using the X10 to change the way I would see things. This certainly worked but not in the way I'd imagined. My intention had been to take mostly close ups, particularly of plants, and to try some panoramas. The panoramas didn't pan out as well as one I took last time.

While using the screen to frame low level shots usually works well it proved difficult in the bright sunlight. The screen was often useless at low level, and not much better at eye level. Despite this frustration I had to drag myself away as I kept finding new things to photograph.
While I am having no trouble finding photographs I am struggling to come to terms with is the direction to take with them. It is tempting to take the gritty black and white line to point up the industrial dereliction. Then again colourful close ups of plants thriving in the desolation would suggest another viewpoint. As always with photography there is a tendency to prettify everything. More so when the sun shines or the light is dramatic. Although objectivity is impossible I'm striving to be as neutral as possible while still showing how I experience the place.

If the photographs ever get to a point where they are to be gathered together in a coherent selection then it will all come down to the final edit. There's no doubt that I like the place the way it is. How it offends common sensibilities with it's neglected dereliction while proving nature can take care of itself without being managed. Perhaps I should eschew objectivity.

See gallery larger.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Blot on the landscape

Perception is all. For normal people Southport's sandplant is an eyesore in need of 'development'. To me it's a shining example of how the natural world recolonises a man-made landscape. Since the plant was demolished the wildlife has moved in. There are rabbits living there and their predators visit. Plants are taking over and these draw in birds.

Of course it attracts humans too. Motorbikes tear round it at times, travellers have stopped there, dogs are walked and allowed to run free, people fly model aircraft and race model cars, birdwatchers use the bunds as vantage points to scope across the saltmarsh, vandals spray graffitti, and I wander round it with a camera as do other locals.

Most times I just pass through, but today I spent some time with a bit of a plan in mind. The initial idea was to concentrate on the recolonisation, and the way people use the place (if there were any people about). Then I got sidetracked by the forms of the place itself and the light. As a result the pictures split themselves into two. Colour and monochrome almost paralleling the two themes, although there is some crossover between the two sets below.

I intend looking back through my older photographs of the plant to see if I can make a larger coherent collection, and to return with other ideas in mind to further explore the place.

See gallery larger.

See gallery larger.

Monday, 8 October 2012


Because photographs flatten everything they allow one to play around with representation in an ambiguous way.

For example, the reading of the picture above alters when the information is provided that the sky is reflected in water.

The Lost Balls Found series continues apace. I have now clocked up 112 balls.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Sunshine for a change

As I like photographing the banal I can always find subjects. No matter how often I walk the same route to the Post Office I see something different every time. Plants grow and die. Light changes. The chance of low autumn sunshine seemed to increase the vibrancy of colours and make me notice shadows. So I snapped some. Mostly using a wide aperture because it was the colours and play of light that was interesting rather than the details.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Classical landscapes

When I was messing around trying to get to grips with the fisheye lens the other day I got to thinking again about how the distortion it creates both has uses and is only distortion if you think literally.

The photograph below is one of those nearly shots I'm so good at taking. The sky was too bright to make it easy to get a uniform exposure and I had a fair bit of fiddling to do on the computer. What immediately struck me about the picture was the way the trees curved to create a frame in a way that reminded me of classical landscape paintings. I was thinking of Claude Lorrain for some reason which Google disabused me of - although I did find an example or two of his work that had a leaning tree on one side of the picture.

What Google did throw up was this landscape by Hendrik Frans Van Lint. I find it hard to imagine that trees would lean so conveniently as framing devices in nature. Trees always lean with the prevailing wind. Painters can move and reshape objects to suit their compositional ideas. So why shouldn't the photographer use the optical features of a lens to do likewise?

Note also the use of shade in the foreground of the painting as part of the frame (easily applied in Lightroom with a graduated filter!), and how this also helps enhance the aerial perspective.