Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Getting burned out

There are times when I get quite frustrated with my photography. And with what I have access to photograph. Which becomes a reason for the frustration with the photography.

It's really not enough to enjoy being somewhere to make pictures of it. When I get a free afternoon and the sun shines I head north east. It takes me the best part of an hour to get where I'm going. Most of the time there's nothing there to photograph except the place itself. Which I find ultimately pointless. Landscape photographs come very low down on my hierarchy of suitable subjects. Even landscape photographs taken by people who are good at landscape photography usually leave me cold. They hae nothing to hold my attention or make me think anything beyond "That's nice/atmospheric." There's no story to them.

Taking a walk down a river I tried making some pictures, but they were nothing beyond records of what it looked like.

Admittedly, a bald sky doesn't make for a great landscape picture, hence including some overhanging branches. But still... Then again, no matter how 'nice' the quality of light might be it's not really enough of a subject in itself beyond the 'that's nice' reaction.

These sort of pictures are fine as illustrations to accompany a text, in something like a guide book for example. Taken with more care to light and atmospheric conditions they might even look 'nice' printed and framed. They'd be nothing more than decoration even so.

Yet I keep on returning because I like being there and keep hoping that one day something might click.

There's always a chance of stumbling across something interesting happening. Making pictures of it is another matter. When you aren't expecting to see an event unfolding there's a strong possibility of having the wrong lens attached, and a greater chance of not being able to get in the optimal place. So it was when I had to stop to let a flock of sheep be driven towards me and over a bridge.

A longer lens would have improved the picture of the dog lying down - to make the sheep appear closer. The best viewpoint, I think, would have been on the left, by the wall on the other side of the stream. Not least because of the position of the sun. But there you go. An opportunity missed.

When the sheep had spread out in their fresh pasture I had a go at a sheepscape.

 At least my sheepscapes have sheep in them, not to mention electricity poles. The only way landscapes, of any sort, can work for me is as a collection with a theme, and certainly without 'prettyfying' things.

Sunday saw the end of the brief sunny spell and Monday was looking damp right up to the last minute. That was handy because the final agricultural show of my summer was to be held on the Monday. I wasn't all that bothered about going as it's a long trek but with nothing else to look forward to I put work to one side and set off.

With no great interest I thought I might try to keep away from the sheep pens, and even stick to using a 35mm lens. Neither plan lasted long and I soon had the superzoom out to photograph sheep.

As to be expected it was more repetition, although I did drag myself away from the small showing of Lonks to record some other breeds. One new sight for me was a Cheviot having baby powder rubbed into it's face.

A rarity was me taking a picture of someone smiling.

 Not so rare, a picture of a photographer photographing sheep.

As well as at least two 'gentlemen of the press' there were quite a few other people with fancy cameras, including two I've met before at Yorkshire shows. Once again this has got me questioning why I bother and considering calling it a day on this subject. That sense of doubt didn't really kick in until I got home and started reviewing my 300 plus rubbish photographs. Finding decent pictures which aren't like everyone else's and yet which still tell the story is hard. Maybe I set my sights too high when it comes to judging my pictures? Or maybe it' just that I'm crap?

I try to avoid the obvious pictures most of the time, but occasionally I give in to the temptation. One thing using the superzoom does is make me think about backgrounds. With a fast lens it's too easy to make a background less distracting by opening up the aperture. It makes pictures look 'professional' and sharper. It also takes context away, which reduces the story telling aspect. I still try to make backgrounds count, and make pictures which are complex rather than people (or sheep) in isolation.

When I do go for simple compositions I usually use the longer end of the zoom range to crop out backgrounds. A longer focal length, used close, blurs backgrounds even with a smallish aperture. There's more than one way to shear a sheep! If I can incorporate a happy accident due to timing so much the better.

I did wander round the rest of the show in an attempt to find something to spark my interest, but only the sheep dog trial appealed to me. The rabbit and cavie tent might have been worth a look during teh judging. Perhaps a bit too similar to poultry judging to keep me interested?

The sheep dogs weren't all that engrossing. Something else that might have been better seen earlier in the day when the sun wasn't quite so in my face. Then again the sheep were a stroppy lot.

 The people watching were more interesting, although it's always a case of seeing them from behind.

 Five hours trudging around with a camera bag over my shoulder did my bad foot no good at all. So it was no wonder that the tractor shuttle left as I arrived at its departure point. I couldn't be bothered waiting for the next one to turn up and set off back to the car park. Even if I continue to photograph at agricultural shows I'll not be visiting this one again unless I get paid. Enjoyable though it is the journey is  too much of a trek.

Poultry shows have lost interest for me, sheep dog trials are going the same way and I'm undecided about sheep shows and sales. The trouble is I can't think of anything different to photograph. Well, I do have one idea...

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