Saturday, 2 November 2019

Demotivation - with a twist

Having become stuck with my long term projects, going over the same old ground, I decided to back off on them despite having nothing to replace them with. As a sort of last hurrah I managed to drag myself out of bed at silly o'clock on Friday to get to the sheep dog auction in time to catch dogs having their microchips scanned.It was dark, cold, and poring with rain when I left home. I really wished I was still tucked up under the cosy duvet. At least there wasn't much traffic on the roads.

After a quick look round I started looking for photographs. This time I had left the temptation of a focal length longer than 100mm at home. That way I wouldn't get side-tracked by the dogs running on the field or sniping pictures of 'characters'. With my rainy day standard zoom I would be forced to get in close. This worked well for the scanning. Although I didn't get any really strong pictures I did manage a few which showed the green light of confirmation a-glow. Not all the dogs are keen on big sticks being waved around them!

With the main purpose of the mission accomplished I wandered up to have a chat with the chap taking the sheep off the field and see what picture opportunities there might be from a vantage point I'd not sought out in previous visits. This was where a longer lens would have been useful, but I settled for some dog pics.

For one I even used the camera's crop mode. 10 megapixels is plenty for most of my uses.

Back among the crowd I was struggling a bit. I was trying to carry on with the 'chaotic' theme from the poultry auction but was finding it difficult to find a position where I could get faces in shot. I even tried my 20mm lens for a while.

The wide end of the zoom was usually wide enough, though. Although the physical size of the lens, especially with the lens hood attached, annoys me. I'm sure that with a less bulky lens I would fare better in cramped situations simply because the chances of bashing someone with the lens is reduced! I have noticed that using a relatively wide angle lens up close to people tends to go unnoticed. I reckon because they imagine you are photographing something furter away than a couple of feet.

Partly because I'd hit the four hour wall when I run out of steam, and also because I wanted to get home in time to receive a delivery from the postman, I left well before the sale was over. Looking through the pictures in the evening I kept 'seeing' loads I should have stuck around to make. Armchair photography is always easy!

Saturday morning saw me just as reluctant to make an effort to photograph poultry as I had been to photograph sheep dogs. At least I wouldn't have far to go. Despite knowing that some of the best chances for making pictures occur as people arrive I didn't get there in time for it. I had an excuse. A lame excuse, but an excuse.

The next best chance for pictures is during the judging, and I'm fortunate that despite the sign I am allowed to enter!

This time there was something a bit different to see. One of the judges has a platform which attaches to the pens to stand birds on. Finding an angle was the only real challenge aside from usual technical limitation of the strip lights.

I've got enough pictures of poultry in pens, but every now and then there's something a bit unusual. I'd never had bantams down as climbers before!

I must be learning, at long last, to persevere when I see a potential picture. The bird below had all too briefly turned to face me smack bang in the centre of its pen, surrounded by rosettes and prize cards. Of course I missed theat shot because chickens don't stay still for long. On that subject the 1/100th maximum shutter speed the strip lights impose makes it really difficult to freeze chicken motion. I just hoped the bird would repeat it's position for me, framed the shot and waited. You can feel a bit of a fool standing in front of a chicken with a camera pressed to your face not taking pictures fro a few minutes. After some near misses it turned and looked at me. Not dead central, but that's OK. It's also almost in focus.

As judging progresses a silence falls in the village hall as the results are read out and show catalogues marked.

With all the judging done bar the selection of overall winner and runner up it's back to the show to feed and water the birds, and check on who's won what.

There's also the photographs of the winners to be taken. I've managed to wriggle out of that task. Which is a relief!

Listening to an interview with Daniel Meadows on the A Small Voice podcast it struck a chord when he said that he'd spent a lot of his life wishing that he'd taken pictures like Cartier-Bresson or Diane Arbus or Bill Brandt and that it took him a long while to learn that he’d actually taken pictures like Daniel Meadows.

Looking at pictures taken by people who win competitions or set up in business as photographers a couple of years after picking up a camera can be a bit dispiriting. How come they're getting recognised when your own stuff is languishing unloved by the great unwashed? When I look critically at these pictures and compare them to mine it becomes fairly clear. They've learned their photography by looking at different sorts of pictures to the ones I've looked at. They are influenced by pictures that win competitions or are taken by people doing work for hire. My influences have always been in other spheres - documentary, reportage, art. And I've never been interested in any photography which demands technical perfection or the mastery of lighting techniques. That's trained monkey territory to my mind.

Aesthetically, my pictures are rarely 'bright' or contrasty and colourful. The depth of field is rarely shallow unless I'm forced into using it because the light is gloomy. The people in my pictures are hardly ever posed, and very rarely smiling. It's not that I can't take those sorts of pictures. It's that I don't want to - most of the time.

All the above also relates to my 'landscape' pictures. I don't seek out the picturesque. When I try to I fail to make pictures. But give me an agricultural landscape I get closer. I guess I do have a style. It's just not a populist one!

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