Sunday, 10 September 2017

Is the fat lady warming up?

I was surprised that after such a long lay-off without any poultry shows to attend that today's proved to be so infertile a field to plough. Admittedly I arrived late and missed the preparing and penning of the birds. More annoyingly I also missed the new health checks which Defra require before birds can enter the show venue. There wasn't a full house, but still a decent turn out considering the way the year has gone for poultry fanciers in the north west. Either there was nothing to photograph that I hadn't photographed before or I wasn't in the mood. I'm pretty sure there are still poultry pictures for the taking, but maybe not at the shows and auctions I've been going to.

The picture below might have been improved by a slightly lower viewpoint. If I had my twenty year old knees that would have been easy. But the ones I have now don't like it when I bend them to get a lower angle. I know it's unavoidable, but I also know I'm missing out on pictures. The flippy screen is some consolation. When I remember to use it...

In the end I reverted to trying to take close ups. The vast majority of which are now deleted. The cage bars spoil the pictures and the low light means there is no depth of field. I tried flash but the bars ruined the shots by casting shadows. The strange thing is that I found manual focusing more reliable than using the autofocus. I think that was down to the twitchy actions of the birds. Manual focusing was quicker and didn't rely on a focus point being in the right place.

That might be almost it for me and poultry shows. I shall return in November to get some pictures of the biosecurity checks, and if it's as big a show as usual it might prove more fruitful and rekindle my interest.

Part of my lack of enthusiasm today, I am sure, was down to a day of trudging around a muddy field yesterday at the Hodder Valley Show. Another of the small country shows which is still about livestock. I spent most of the changeable day around the sheep pens. This time I didn't resist the urge to photograph 'characters' although I did my best to photograph them at least looking at sheep!

Once more I continued the challenge of making complicated pictures. Two things I have started doing in pursuit of this is framing shots for longer and waiting for elements to fall into place, and breaking a habit of a lifetime and firing bursts of shots when it looks like something is going to make a picture. I don't rattle off tens of frames at the highest rate possible, but I will take four or five frames at a press of the shutter release. It seems to be getting me slightly better results than trying to time my single shots. It also worked to a degree with twitchy chickens when I could get sufficient depth of field today.

Framing continues to be one of my biggest faults. Often having the subject too low down in the frame, and sometimes to close to the centre or with wasted space to one side. Some of this is down to replying on the focus points in the viewfinder, even when I move the active one away from the centre.

What I think I'm trying to achieve are pictures within pictures. Two or three vignettes, scenes, within the bigger picture. It would be easy to do in a painting, far less so when you are watching for the world to arrange everything for you with no guarantee that it will. When you add unpredictable animals like sheep into the equation it gets harder still.

It's all well and good saying that simplifying your pictures makes them stronger, but that means cutting out irrelevancies. Something I still aim for, but I want to include  little details which add context. I've been looking at photography relating to the sheep world, and this applies equally to other subjects, zooming in and cropping out the surroundings makes the pictures less specific. One close up of a sheep and it's handler is the same as another. Sure I've taken them, but by looking at them you couldn't tell which show they were taken at.

Even when I am concentrating on a certain subject, my mind and eye is prone to wander and I'll take a silly shot.

Sheep continue to fascinate. Not only their relationship with the people who breed them, but as interesting subjects in their own right. There is plenty of scope for semi abstract pictures of sheep. I even converted some to black and white - which is what many mountain and hill breed almost are anyway. Although unpredictable, sheep don't fidget as much as chickens. That makes going for close ups, if not easy, easier.

Enough of this rambling. Here are some more sheepy pics.

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