Saturday, 28 December 2019

Round and round

As it's not New Year quite yet I have been ignoring my resolution and photographing the same old stuff in the same old places. Wet fields and a sheep dog trial.

I guess it's the old story of hoping to get a picture or two which are improvements on, or different to, pictures already in the files. Slim pickings so far.

It was a cold and miserable day at the trial and I was almost on autopilot. After a longish shower the standard zoom stopped auto-focussing. I went back to my car to change lenses in the dry and discern if it was the lens or the camera that was goosed. It was the lens which wasn't working. That meant I was stuck with 35mm on that body. Actually it makes a good companion for the 70-200mm.

As ever I found the people more interesting subjects than the dogs in action. My hierarchy of subject matter has people doing something at the top and landscapes devoid of people, animals or signs of human activity way down at the bottom.

The trouble is that when I have lots of spare time and nowhere to photograph people it's the landscape that is always available. Today I fought my battle with the landscape and ended up doing what I've done before with my quarry pictures - find a vertical, or near vertical, surface and photograph it head on to emphasise the two dimensionality. I had no tripod and had to up the ISO. However, this did ensure a shutter speed which froze the dripping water. The question now is whether to wander further down this avenue, or make more of a concerted effort to photograph people.

Monday, 23 December 2019

Stop it!

With the time for making resolutions fast approaching one I must try to keep is to stop going to the same old places hoping to find pictures and returning with meaningless photographs. Sometimes they fit into a pre-existing theme, but mostly they don't add much to anything.Almost inevitably they are sort of landscapey pictures which don't have anything to say.

Maybe one day I'll have enough pictures of crops in various states in the flat landscape round here to make a body of work. Whether they'll have anything to say is uncertain.

The same goes for my ongoing Waterlogged pictures. One wet, rutted field looks much like another, as does each overflowing ditch.

At least these pictures have a semblance of a story behind them. They're about how the land is showing it's watery roots - if not originally under water it was marshy and the struggle to keep it dry is never-ending.

While I keep returning to moor and hill country I don't have anything to way about it. All I can do is show how it looks to me. Which isn't enough. Not even when the weather conditions make for 'atmospheric' shots.

That is probably why I stopped the car and walked back to take a photograph of a cement works. At least it's showing how industry fits in a rural landscape.

An hour wandering round town posed the same problems. Despite having the Dog Town project in mind I failed to make any pictures worth adding to the 'keeper' pile. So it was mostly pointless crap. As much fun as taking photographs is I'm finding it less and less satisfying unless the pictures have a point or purpose. I think the picture below has a point, but (on it's own) not much purpose. A new year and new directions? Hmm...

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Rain, hail, rain, snow, rain...

I'm sure I saw an old bloke building a large wooden boat surrounded by pairs of animals when driving around the other day. It certainly feels as if it's been raining for forty days and nights. With the land unable to soak up any more water it has at least allowed me to get out and add to my half-baked 'Waterlogged' project.

One late afternoon I went for my usual circular walk when the rain had stopped, only to get caught out in a hail shower, driven by a stinging bitter wind. No wonder there was no cricket practice in progress...

Another apparent let up in the rain yesterday saw me take a detour from an intended shopping trip to look at the marsh. Crossing the river I'd seen that the level was high with a combination of tide and run-off. When the tide is this high the area looks totally different to when the sheep are grazing the marsh. The character completely changes.

The wind was so strong I had to brace myself against it's force and use a high shutter speed to get anything like a sharp photograph. Walking along the top of the flood bank was nigh on impossible. I was glad I'd given the sheep dog trial up in the hills a miss. When the hail blew in I dropped down the leeward side of the bank where progress was more bearable and it felt an overcoat warmer.

Sunday was, unbelievable, predicted to be dry - even sunny - so it was no surprise to wake up to rain! Eventually that cleared away and I pondered going out for some more aimless snapping. After prevaricating for too long, as usual, I set off in two minds as to where to go. One strange visual effect of clear sky after snow is that distant hills appear to be closer than normal. All around me it was snowless but afar the higher ground was white. So that was the direction I headed. First stop being to photograph the Bowland fells from Jeffrey Hill, a view I've taken in before. The scene was almost perfect with the valley below almost snow-free but the near distance and fells beyond snowy. All I needed was some sunshine. That was where the plan fell apart. I really do dislike the way landscape photography is so dependent on what the sun does. All I got were a couple of snaps before the fell tops were shrouded in cloud and the sun behind more of the same.

Oh well. There were plenty of sheep around and maybe I could grab a sheepscape with a snowy backdrop. Almost.
The next plan was to head up the Forest proper. There's a bridge that is worth a look every time I drive over it, but it never seems to live up to its promise for me. Again there wasn't quite enough light in the right places.

What the bridhge does do, if the sheep play ball, is give me a drone's eye view.

Mostly the sheep were not moving. Saving energy, and chewing their cud. Exposing for snow scenes can be tricky. A little overexposure usually does the trick, but there are situations where even I have to get a bit technical. My first shot of the sheep with the farm sign on the bridge resulted in an illegible sign. Underexposed. I brought my favourite flash into use. The one that pops up on the camera! Automatically it's set (I think...) to provided balanced fill. Whatever the actual case it worked. Not a great picture, but one that might come in handy for something one day. Or not!

By now the clouds were congealing and the sky turning that shade of grey which hints at more snow. Time to have a look up the Trough before it gets hopeless. There was nothing worth stopping up there for, less snow than I'd imagined there would be and no sheep within camera range. Home beckoned.

However, as I headed up the valley I was surprised to see the lying snow getting thicker. Maybe there'd be something to shoot if I could find a parking spot. Luckily I found a layby which was clear. There were sheep by the road too. It's a funny thing, but when  there's snow on the ground sheep assume that anyone who looks over their gate is bringing them food. Under other conditions they look at you, then walk away. when there's snow they come running towards you!

There were a few views which looked promising for landscape shots. My ineptitude with this genre (which I really ought to dismiss from my mind) meant that I failed to make anything of the possibilities. Still, the colours were pleasing in a Bruegelesque way.

Coming back over the big fell I would have stopped in one of the pull-ins if it hadn't been obscured by snow. There was no way I was going to chance driving off the road into unknown territory. As I came over the top and descended into the river valley day became premature night and the rain started again. It's been like this since late September and it's starting to make me irritable.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Weather or not

After missing the first dry and sunny weekend for ages and being without a car until Tuesday my photographic exploits have been restricted to anywhere within walking distance. Which usually means going down by the canal. Usually this proves fruitless but now and then something crops up which makes a picture.

By the time I had no work commitments the week's weather was taking a downturn. Frustration was kicking in. No sooner had I got in the car than it would start raining. Still lacking any fresh ideas it was a short sheep hunt.
Gradually the forecast was improving. The weekend might be dry. I was perking up. Meanwhile I'd been looking at black and white photographs, in books and my own, and thinking how much easier they are to make than ones in colour. I set the Fuji to black and white and took it for a walk as the light faded and before the chippy opened on Friday evening. The rain had stopped but the road and pavements were still wet. It was almost like stepping back in time to when I only had one camera, one lens and black and white film.

At high ISOs the Fuji files have a filmic look in monochrome. Although this was a very short experiment I almost made a decent grid of nine pictures. It could become a mini-project for the times I'm really stuck.

Saturday dawned dry as predicted. After visiting the Post Office and topping up the petrol tank off I went in search of sheepdogs. I hadn't gone far when the windscreen wipers were required. The closer I got to the sheep dogs the heavier the rain got. When the distant hill views disappeared in the low cloud I almost gave up and turned round. But I carried on with a new plan in mind. I drove past the trial field still contemplating Plan B. However as I turned off the main road the rain started to ease up and I spun the car round. It would do no harm to go and have a look at teh trial even if it was only from the road before I set off for home. Out of the car it was not too bad. A thin wind but only a light drizzle. I'd give it an hour by the release pen.

Even though I'm sure most people would think of photographing the dog on sheep action at a trial I find the release pen area more interesting. Even when it's raining the people have to stay out in the weather, whereas down at the judge's end they take shelter in their vehicles. Then there are the sheep and a dog or two, and stuff happens close by. At the other end of the field it's all long lenses to photograph the action. Up with the sheep eevn 24mm can be too long at times.

I also find the rounding up of sheep to refill the release pen more visually appealing. And I like watching dogs do real sheep work rather than performing for a judge. I don't know why.

After an hour or so I walked up to the other end of the field where it was a bit tricky to get a good angle on the action. The rain had let up and I managed one or two pictures of people and dogs out of their vehicles. I'm always on the lookout for something off-the-wall too.

Later on the rain returned and was starting to set in heavier. Time to leave. I took the low route back to the car and in doing so I found the spot I should have been in all along for the penning. It was getting that wet I was constantly having to dry my specs, so I gave it a couple of runs and left. Had the low cloud/mist lifted I'm not sure what the backdrop would have looked like from that viewpoint. More pics here.

Sunday started a bit miserable then picked up. The downside being the strong, chilling wind. I'd been hoping to get to a weekend-only exhibition of photographs at Astley Hall last week when the car fiasco scuppered my plan. With no work to do until Monday it seemed a good opportunity to get out and maybe take some photos while I was out. As the exhibition was of black and white pictures I stuck the Fuji (still set to mono) in my bag.

The exhibition was worth the visit. Well made prints of well thought out pictures of industrial heritage by Andy Marland (who's exhibition in the bookshop I visited a few years back) presented in a nice space. There are still two weekends left to see the show.

Knowing that the camera was set this way seemed to make me see pictures which would work well in monochrome. Such pictures are quite easy to see as I look for graphic shapes. The little Fuji is going to survive my New Year gear purge, purely because it works well as a fixed lens black and white camera.

I'm gradually overcoming my resistance to black and white - for some purposes. When it comes to documentary pictures I really do think it has to be colour all the way though.

However, some pictures, even when graphic in nature, need to be in colour.

This is not the first picture I have taken of fire extinguishers in an art gallery. Do I feel a project coming on?