Sunday, 23 April 2017

Scratch that idea

Yet again something seemed like a good idea at the time. That field photograph got me thinking that I might be able to make a series of pictures in a similar vein as a bit of a project. The subject matter is close to hand, which is always a benefit. This weekend I gave it a try. even though the sun was shining and I had an idea when to be there Saturday evening saw me mistiming it to retake the picture so it wouldn't need cropping. Still feeling confident I went in search of others, even if it would only be for future reference.

As things worked out I took quite a few photographs, even using that hated tripod. I often find, however, that when I feel like things are going well and I'm taking plenty of pictures when I get home and look at them they're rubbish. Really rubbish. Rubbish to the extent of not being able to work out why I took them at all! However, a couple of the pictures were OK. The two I didn't work hard at taking.

Feeling like things were getting somewhere I went as far as checking t'internet to see which direction the sun would be casting shadows at various times to enable me to photograph locations I'd sussed out after the light faded. Today I went looking for these places. And once more what seemed successful while I was taking the pictures proved not to be. Even less so than Saturday. It does seem to be the case that the harder I try the worse things turn out. It's that 'being in the zone' thing. In the zone you don't feel like you're doing anything special yet the results are better than average and often some are really good.

In an attempt to do this landscape thing 'properly', not only did I take and use the tripod I also used a polarising filter. Just a shame I didn't manage to put the tripod down in front of anything that worked. Too much thinking about what I'm trying to get across about the land being a worked environment, not enough looking.

 The simpler pictures are working better.

Then I got sidetracked and wondered if odd details might actually make the point better than wider scenes.

On a technical note I have a workaround for the lack of 5:4 cropping with the 'real' camera. It allows raw files to be cropped to jpegs of that ratio in-camera. Which means I can check if I have got my framing within limits. Quite handy, but not as seamless as the toy camera's cropping. Except that doesn't do 5:4 at all.

After all this I think I'm going to have to let this project simmer before doing anything else with it. I don't think landscapes are really my thing. I prefer pictures with people in them. Preferable people doing something. Or failing that pictures of chickens. When I went for a wander this evening and saw a hen looking as glum as I feel about my photography at the moment I took some snaps of her.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

So much for that plan

I got it right about Monday not turning out the way I hoped. I still can't get a handle on how to do what I have in mind. So I ended up wandering around aimlessly. What did happen was that the toy camera and the real one got used and the real one came out on top. Sort of. The toy still did what I bought it to do well though. So that not-quite-a-project-yet is bubbling under.

Something did occur to me after downloading the files on to the PC, though. I had taken a couple more photographs which could slot into a series that I seem to have developed. Walls. I've taken quite a lot of pictures of walls over the years, but last weekend they were all that I could find to get me interested.  I say walls, but they often have windows and doors in them too.

It's one of those subjects, however, that could easily become tedious. It's also a style of photography that is pretty commonplace these days, and much as I like it I am thinking it's a bit of a cop out - both for me and for others taking simialr photos. Maybe it's best to shoot walls as and when one takes my fancy and collate them somewhere down the line? It looks like an evening to be spent going through my Lightroom catalogue keywording all my wall pictures. Deep joy!

Having given up yet again I drove past a countryside view which I thought had potential, but the lens I had with me wasn't what I'd have chosen for it so I carried on. Later I decided to go back for a look with a different lens and a tripod - of all things. The light had changed but was sort of good, just from the wrong angle as I couldn't keep my shadow out of the frame. I took some snaps hand-held as reminders. Back on the computer I cropped one to make it look more like the way I'd envisaged it. I might not have the brazenness it takes to do bold street photography, but I certainly don't have the patience and planning to do landscapes of any sort. It was the horizontal bands and repetition of motifs that I liked about the scene. And the fact that it's a working landscape rather than a romanticised one. The elevated viewpoint helped too, in the way that C├ęzanne tilted horizontal planes in his paintings.

Wandering back from the Post Office yesterday (with the toy camera) I took a sort of wall picture. I do like flattening things on the picture plane to reduce any sense of depth. The combination of a long focal length lens and the greater depth of field a small sensor gives enhance the flattening effect.

More photos taken but next to no progress made. I need an idea I want to get across, a point I want to make, before I can find a subject. There are two options open. Shoot my way out of the deadlock until I find what I want to say, or take a break.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Adventures in Toyland

The thing with new toys is they take time to get used to. You often have to give up trying to make them play like your old toys and find new ways of setting them up. That has meant quite a bit of messing about and taking rubbish photos. But every now and then something pops up and despite the unfamiliarities of the gear it turns out OK.

For some reason colour pictures which are almost monochromatic are often appealing. When they include light and texture they can be even better. The picture above also alerted me to a use for a feature which I thought I didn't like. When shooting raw with the aspect ratio set to anything other than the native one the screen displays the picture at the set ratio. But when it's reviewed the image includes the bits which looked to have been cropped out, but with them greyed over. However, when loaded into Lightroom the picture appears as it did when taken. Here's the useful bit. When you click on the cropping tool in LR the missing bits reappear! Somehow the camera must tell the computer to automatically crop from the entire file. It also embeds a lens profile which means there is no real need to correct any distortion the lens has.  Fiendish.

Now this is only a benefit for me because I always have the camera set to shoot in either 3:2 or 1:1 aspect ratio. In the shot above that meant there were extra pixels above and below the frame I had made. But I had made it with the signs on the fencingcut off slightly. By sliding the image down a tad I was able to correct my mistake without having to alter the aspect ratio of the final picture. This feature can also be used to correct wonky horizons without losing as many pixels as would be the case from a 3:2 sensor.

Now there are some photographers out there who think you have to use every pixel you've paid for. But as I bought the toy camera in order to shoot square pictures I allowed for that in advance. And 12mp is plenty for me no matter what. So by shooting what amounts to a 16mp 3:2 sensor I can correct minor mistakes with no loss of resolution.

Having discovered this helpful foible I put it to good use once more when I fell into my bad habit of framing people too low. I couldn't rescue as much of the clasped hands as I would have liked, but I certainly balanced the frame better.

With all the fancy tricks for focusing and the silent shutter I thought I'd try some street photography. Every time I try shooting from the hip I wonder why I bother. Although I like the off-kilter angles the method produces, all too often the compositions fall flat. Then again, sometimes you include something unexpected like the message on the board below.

Ordinarily I always have my cameras set to take one photograph per press of the shutter. Today I thought I'd try using the silent burst mode to see if that made a difference. The one decent picture I got doing that was the first frame in a burst! I'll be going back to one at a time again! It's not perfect, but I like the strangeness of this picture. 

Today's wanderings have convinced me to go back to photographing the things I usually do in the way I usually do. Which may well mean putting the toy away. Or at least saving it for when I need to use it's special features - the silent shutter, the flippy screen or the square format. As it takes up next to no room it'll be no hardship to cart it around with me just in case.

One thing's for sure. I compose pictures much better with my eye to a viewfinder. And for an electronic one the new toy has a pretty good viewfinder.

Looking on the positive side, I might have made some progress on settling on a new project. If only by eliminating one idea! I think I have also managed to accept a lesson I had learned long ago. That I give up too quickly. I spend plenty of time at the poultry shows and auctions, but on local 'projects' I tend to run out of steam after a couple of hours. Some of this is because I often make a late start after getting work out of the way. There's rain forecast tomorrow. I'm going to try to use that as a day of work and make Monday a day of photography. It probably won't turn out that way though...

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Flatfish time again

Having a natural break from a project sees me floundering again. I have three ideas, one of which I'm playing around with, but I can't find a good way 'in' to any of them yet. When I get free time I still get drawn back to the bloody beach. Today, however, put an end to that on a sunny weekend. The road was chock-a-block  and no fun at all. As a result it's been a week of unconnected pictures. Which I don't find very satisfying.

Things got so frustrating that I set up a 'studio' in my garage and set about photographing some of the objects I've picked up off the beach over the last few years. I was going to get clever with the lighting but found that the strip lights and window light gave an effect which I preferred. I might have another go to correct the things I don't like.

Firstly I'd light the background (a wrinkled old sheet), secondly I'd make sure the 'horizon' fell in the same place in each frame, thirdly I'd manage the depth of field better to keep the background equally out of focus in each frame.

Naturally enough I made a grid of twelve of the pictures.

I chose to use my 'toy' camera for this as it gives more depth of field than a DSLR. I'm not sure that was a wise choice. The fold down screen helped, but my DSLR has one of those. Being able to select different aspect ratios is one of the things I like about toy cameras. The square format was what I wanted for these pics and it's much easier to frame things right when the picture on the screen is already cropped than trying to guess.

After some discussion on Talk Photography about these pics I am going to collect more bottles. I have a few more than the two in the grid already.

Another benefit of toy cameras is for shooting in black and white. The viewfinder looks like a tiny black and white telly! I still prefer to use colour, but I am getting an irrational urge to do a short project in black and white. Sometimes it seems appropriate for certain images. But I'm not sure I could sustain it for a prolonged period.

Some pictures are almost monochrome when processed in colour.

It comes down to tools for the job. The toy camera has one really useful function for taking candid photographs. A truly silent mode. The only sound is that of the aperture blades closing and opening. With the screen flipped down and the camera at waist level it's surprising how close you can get with a wide angle lens! There's always a price to pay with anything, it seems. The price with the electronic shutter is that under fluorescent light it gives horizontal bands on the pictures.

Shooting at waist level gives a different look to the world, no matter what is being photographed. And I'm quite struck with the novelty of the square format at the moment. I just can't find a project to use them for. As soon as I go back to a real camera, however, that big, clear viewfinder and the subtlety of the tonal gradations in the files makes me wonder why I bother with anything else. No doubt my ideal camera will be made when I'm to decrepit to use the thing.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Give it a rest?

The line of least resistance is always the easiest one to take, and going to the beach has become a habit. Even when I head that way fully intending to go elsewhere I spot something that makes me think it's worth one more visit. Seeing the lifeguard's hut in place on the sea wall on Saturday was too much temptation to resist. It'll be there all summer so I should have stuck to my guns. That said I did get to update my picture of their vehicle near the pier, and get a decent shot of the warning notice when the tide had come in. Nothing fresh and interesting though.

The original idea had been to go round town and see if I could get inspiration for a new project. All that happened was I indulged my urge to photograph traffic cones. When I am faced with bright sunshine it always strikes me the pictures I take always look like someone else had taken them. This shot of cones has the added bonuses of a bike and a pigeon. What more could I want in a photograph?

As it turned out I did what I usually do in town and photographed boring stuff. Then I went to the art gallery to depress myself looking round the annual open exhibition of dull and duller paintings and photographs.  Strange how the subconscious works though. When I reviewed my pics from the wandering I had a bit of a red and white thing going on and paired a couple of pictures up that I htought worked together. Someone once said that if you are going to include words in a photograph then you should intend them to be read.
I ended up back at the pier, which I always think should be a source of photographs but just doesn't get me interested. I gave up.

Sunday and I was determined to give the pier a serious look. I didn't get that far. The sandplant was bristling with twitchers, so I pulled in for a look around. It proved less interesting than I'd hoped. However, although no more work had been done to it things had changed. At least it looked like some rubbish had been dumped in it. Photographing there with blue skies and sunshine made a change, but I didn't stop long.

In the car park I saw a pick up with an empty trailer on the back. I guessed someone was out beyond the marsh on a quad. Like a fool I put my boots on and went for a look. It's a long walk, and slippy towards the end of the track. Searching my archive when I got home it surprised me how much mud has accumulated in less than five years. Where that was hardcore by the posts which mark the end of the track is now very muddy indeed.



There was indeed a quad out on the shore. Showing a vehicle going through water helps convey movement. Otherwise it can look very static. A quad is a very good idea for going far out on the shore. I was knackered when I got back to the car and couldn't face doing any more walking, so called it a day.

All that sunshine over the weekend and nothing achieved. I still can't settle on a project. The ideas I have seem like they'd make for decent photographs, but they don't have much to say or aren't the sort of subjects I want to learn more about. The beach people project keeps me interested because I have a bee in my bonnet about the beach belonging to the people and not to its self appointed custodians. Poultry keeping keeps me interested because I'm always learning something new about chicken husbandry and the fancy.

One thing's for sure. I'm going to have to drag myself away from the seaside or I'll end up fiddling about at the edges of the beach project. Time to trawl my archive and see if anything grabs my attention.