Thursday, 24 December 2020

One project wrapped up

Much to my surprise I got the bug to complete my look at all teh bridges and locks on the canal. I had to contend with the weather and light again. either bright and in my face or deadly dull and wet. But I pressed on and got it done. There's still some mileage in a canal project if I can find a way 'in' and get motivated. Here is a Flickr slideshow of the locks and bridges in numerical order, which is not the order I photographed them.

Locks and Bridges

It was an interesting exercise in a number of ways. Planning it out, looking for pictures and evaluating the not-so new lens. I'm glad it is only a short canal as I'm pretty sure I'd have got bored if it had been much longer and wandered off, metaphorically, to photograph something else. It also got me out of the rut of walking the same routes around the moss and seeing the same old stuff. A change being as good as a rest.

Not often did I feel the lens limiting. When I did I reached for the wide zoom. Or on one occasion when I put the wrong lens on my second body a standard zoom. As I suspected, 24mm is usually plenty wide enough when I need wider than 35mm. I think the cull has been decided. Although why I keep hanging on to my collection of single focal length lenses has more to do with clinging to an idea than a practical choice. The idea of doing it 1970s style with two focal lengths on the bodies and two more in the bag is a romantic dream. One (almost) superzoom is an easier option!
I've tried to progress the on/off night time project without any success. I thought Christmas lights might make it worthwhile venturing out after dark, but they didn't. Or I failed to make anything of them. The best pic I managed was of a dog poo bin.

With the canal pictures boxed off and no great ideas how to take that subject any further, until the days lengthen, it was back to the moss and meanygates. Not much had changed along my usual route, but sprouts were being cut one dismal afternoon. No doubt heading towards Christmas lunch tables.


A sunny but cold Christmas Eve tempted me and a few other people outside. Having managed to get out fairly early I set off for a slightly longer trudge not expecting to see much new in the area I've not visited for some time. How wrong I was. There is a serve yourself produce stall which wasn't there before. I guess the increased pedestrian traffic from locked-down folk who don't usually go walking about the meanygates prompted this to spring up. It's not the first I've seen appear locally this year.

I'd seen some machinery loitering in a field for some weeks but took that as a sign its work was done, so hadn't bothered taking a look at it. That was the case but thanks to the sodden land there were still remnants of the carrot crop to make it clear what had been harvested. A few more pictures got added to the files.

While poking about the carrot field I saw some bright red figures approaching in the distance. As they got closer I left the carrots and headed in the walkers' direction. It was a cheery surpise to find Mrs Claus and two of her elves taking a stroll. I guess Santa had set off on his journey and their work was done for another year!

This may be a short post, both in words and pictures (although there are fifty odd in the slideshow) I feel like I've achieved quite a bit lately. Maybe not taken any great pictures or advanced my photography, but getting the canal mini-project done felt good.
The editing of meanygate pictures has gone quite well and I'm now at the zine designing stage. More of a selection and sequencing stage, I suppose. I've got a cover and title sorted for the geometric crop pictures and have done a first draft selection which revealed some shortcomings in my first edit of pictures. I'll need to go take some out and bring some more back in to get the feel to the zine I'm after. Provisional cover below.

Monday, 14 December 2020

Locks and bridges

Seeing Bill Robertson tweeting pictures of bridges on the northern reaches of the Lancaster Canal gave me the prod I needed to start on a long considered look at my local cut. Although I've taken plenty of photographs along it's length over the years I've never made a concerted effort to document it. On Saturday afternoon I paid a short afternoon visit to the last lock to see if I could find a way in to start a project. It would be a handy, as in nearby, alternative to the moss seeing as there won't be much more to photograph there for a month or two. Besides, having an alternative might revitalise me for a return to the flatlands.

The day had turned misty by the time I got out, which didn't bother me. Winter can be pretty miserable so no need to make shiny happy pictures. How to approach the subject? As always it's the choice between scenic or formal/geometric/abstract for me. But always fairly prosaic.

Away from the locks canals can be fairly boring, as in lacking variation, until a bridge is arrived at. My initial idea was to document locks and bridges. So that was how I started to formulate a plan.

Plans and me don't go together well. I can make them, no problem. That was what I did. Found a map of the canal and worked out where to go to photograph each lock and bridge. Saturday dawned sunny but I had work to do. When I got to the cut I discovered what I already knew. Mornings are probably the best time to take photos along most of the canal as it runs north-south and the towpath is mostly on the east side. At this time of year the sun would be shining along the canal after noon. With it also being low in the sky as we near the solstice that limited my options. It did provide some benefits though, as in highlighting texture and providing silhouette opportunities.

At the time I felt like I'd made a lot of good pictures. Looking at them on the screen told a different story. Mostly dreck. There ended the project! Not because the pictures were rubbish but because it was relying on following a plan. If I am going to start a canal project it's going to have to take a different line of attack.

In terms of pictures taken the above is about my lot for the week. A couple of good technical things have come out of this last week's dismal efforts though. One day I deliberately took a different lens along with me to accompany the 35-150 which I thought was a bit 'cool'. I took a couple of photos using the same settings on the other lens and the zoom and inspected them on the computer. In a 'blind' test the zoom actually looked to have made a slightly warmer picture. 

The other thing is that I took both that zoom and my wide zoom on my Saturday ramble. For photographing the locks and bridges the wide zoom was useful. I suspected it might be because on the Friday 35mm had proved a bit limiting. The reason being that space at the locks is often cramped where the best vantage points are. Plans to chop in the wide zoom are on hold for now.

Sunday was a dismal day of rain. Once work was done I was at a loose end. Twidling my thumbs I decided to grasp the nettle that is my meanygate project and sort through 3,000 pictures to try and put some sort of order to at least some of them. This I managed by selecting out the more geometric fieldscapes. After two or three passes through the initial selection I now have it whittled down to 108. I've put them into 'contact sheets' and am letting them brew for a while before having another go at editing them down to, probably, a zine format.

While going through the files I realised that there are more pictures of fieldwork that I'd imagined. Editing those down will be the next task. Depending how both edits go I'll either make two zines or one zine of the geometric pictures and a larger book of a combined edit. I must say that a grid presentation of the geometric pictures could work well. Trouble is that grids are difficult to present at a meaningful scale as some of these pictures need to be viewed at A4 or larger to see the important finer detail.

Monday, 7 December 2020


A lack of free time at the right time continues. If it's not waiting for parcels to arrive or be collected it's weather keeping me indoors. When I do get out there's usually only an hour or two of day light left. I've had to revert to getting my photo-fix when visiting the post office or even the pillar box!

That said I have still managed a few longer walks round the moss. Not with great expectations. I have recorded some recent changes. The drier weather has seen tractors able to get on the land in places.


The same view a day later.


 The Zwartbles continued to be friendly and I was looking forward to getting some more pictures of them after a second close encounter. Two days later they'd gone...


Not to worry. They were only a distraction and were unlikely to provide me with a body of work, or even add to my sheep folders which I would prefer to be about native breeds rather than immigrants.

While some land is drying, slowly, other places are continuing to hold water. there have been efforts made to clear it in a few fields.

Feeling like I needed a change of scenery I went in search of leeks. No matter how I try I can't get to grips with making pictures of leeks. That doesn't stop me getting drawn back to them time and again.




 As the week ended temperatures dropped and there was enough of a frost one morning to solidify the standing water. When the sun started to break through I headed out and a light mist began to rise. Once more it wasn't enough to make for really dramatic pictures, and there is little out on the moss to make for foreground interest in any case, but there was a chance for a hint of the atmosphere created.

Also a chance to get some icy pictures. Quite why I'm not sure.

This continual photographing of the land and 'stuff' is getting me down a bit. I've even watched a few landscape Youtubers recently, admittedly for entertainment rather than education, and all that has done has made me question the taking of photographs without people in them. 

My intention might not be to make standalone 'frameable' pictures of the land, but even though I am trying to show how it changes and is changed the pictures themselves don't engage me much. The one which comes closest of the recent lot is the one with the tractor in.

And there's the nub of it. Even the sheep around the mineral bucket is engaging in that there is stuff happening. Not only is it a picture of something, it's also about something - and there's depth to it with foreground sheep and the more distant ones clearly walking towards them. There's action. The sheep are quite graphic, the red bucket also works in the way Constable included a splash of red in many of his landscape paintings to add vibrancy, life. But the main reason I find it more engaging is that there are creatures in it.

In my hierarchy of subjects people interacting with each other or with animals is at the top. People on their own come next, closely followed by animals interacting and then animals on their own. Things and landscapes are somewhere below all those. This is why I'm tiring of looking at the sort of pictures I have liked for a while, the deadpan pictures of places. I've made enough of them myself, but they are starting to merge into one another. That's why my most satisfying picture for some time is the snap I grabbed of one of the mossland farmers when he stopped for a natter. It might not be the best picture I've ever taken, but it was a real boost to take it. The sooner social distancing can be kicked into touch the better!


The new lens continues to be my mainstay as I work out if I can live with it. The focal length range hasn't limited me so far. In fact the more I use it the less I find myself wanting anything wider. Although I have taken to carrying my fancy compact with me just in case I need the 28mm angle of view. So far that has only been on a couple of occasions. It's still had me wondering if a 24-120 might have been a more versatile choice than the 35-150. The colour rendition of the 35-150 is still nagging at me. However, when the sun shines it seems to do a better job. Maybe on these cooler, duller days I should go back to a Nikon lens to see if that makes any difference to the colours. Most likely nobody else would notice the colours.There's also the possibility it's all in my imagination anyway!

The short daylight hours not only restrict my time outdoors, they make me spend to much time reading or listening to nonsense on t'internet. One subject which has got me thinking is focal length choices. There are a couple of people (influencers?) who have an aversion to the 35mm angle of view. One even railed against it, and anything wider, in a blog post. While I suspected a tongue in a cheek I thought his reasoning was a bit off. He did make one valid point in that wide angle lenses are becoming the de facto recommendation for street photography. This is all well and good in the right hands, but as the disgruntled blogger said, they can result in messy pictures with too much distraction in them.

Now I don't have a problem with pictures that contain more than one point of interest. In fact I like them. They are not easy to make well though. Which is why it's worth trying to rise to the challenge. I wonder if the reason some people prefer longer lenses is a reluctance to get close to their subjects and maybe an inability to take in a scene as a whole. It's much easier to use a longer (50mm or more) lens to isolate a subject from a scene than to make the subject a part of the scene. I reckon it makes for 'one liner' pictures too. I prefer shaggy dog stories!

Out in the countryside, however, I find longer focal lengths easier to use as there can be way too much space for wide angles lenses. This might be why the 35-150 interested me with my foray into landscapery? I'm sure that when I'm able to get back to the marts and shows I'll be digging out the 28mm or 24-70mm again, getting in closer and putting subjects in context. Which is what it's all about for me.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Two steps back

At least the rain did a bit of a disappearing act this week, which made a change. I still didn't manage to find much time to get out and about. When I did it was doing the same old rounds and finding little had changed.

The egg signs do change and there was sad news to record.

Like most of the pictures I've taken of late it is nothing more than a record of things. The same applied to a chance to photograph some sheep up close. I managed to fool the Zwartbles into thinking they'd get some food when I stood by their field gate. As always when there is a gate or ditch in the way viewpoints are limited and you end up with photos of sheep but not pictures. Certainly none worth posting in a blog that's supposedly about photography.

On the moss all there has been to see is the standing water. Which is slowly receding. I've made a few pictures which might come in useful if I ever get down to rounding them all up and putting them in some sort of order.

This implement has caught my eye many a time. The play of light over it made for a slightly better picture than most I've made of it.

Tired of the moss and lack of farming subject matter in general I went back to walking along the canal. There's not much there that I haven't taken photographs of before. Still, sometimes a change of lens makes you see things differently. Not all that differently perhaps.

Having to poke a lens through a metal security fence rather limits your compositional options. I managed to make this one work out pretty much the way I hoped it would. Although taken by the canalside it might find its way into the moss/veggie project.

In desperation I've been adding a few pictures to what I was thinking of as my 'Home Range' project but which might now become my 'Walking Distance' project. The random sightings of 'stuff' I see as I wander around the parish.

The church included.

A couple of times I have gone out late in the afternoon looking for sunsets. A sure sign of desperation. When they don't look like materialising I give up early. Wander off and see them develop when I'm too far away from where I hoped to photograph them to go back. I don't have the patience required to wait for the perfect light for landscape photographs. Which is probably a good thing. It means I sometimes stumble on more interesting pictures.

Sprouts, beef cattle and chicken sheds. All gloriously back lit. Much better than yet another sunset picture in the traditional style to my mind!

Another of my perennial subjects is that of privacy and security. I took advantage of the low angle of the setting sun to lift this picture a little.

Then back to more water lying on the fields.

All in all pretty grim. The new lens is growing on me, but despite my initial enthusiasm at getting rid of the blue hue I find myself still struggling with it, and despite my best intentions finding the 35mm end just a little too long. However, I prefer it that way to having the permanent temptation of 24mm. I certainly don't feel I'm missing the 150-300mm range though. Which is definitely a good thing.

All I have to do now is learn to love the 85mm focal length - at the third attempt. If I was sensible I'd stick with a 24 to something or other and get on with it. But I do like using two cameras with two fixed focal lengths at time. More so when in a restricted space such as an auction mart though. Out in the wild a zoom is more practical. especially when you have obstacles between you and the subject. When I'll get the chance to go to an auction mart remains to be seen. Poultry sales have been hit by a double whammy of virus restrictions. Covid-19 for the humans and avian influenza for the birds. Trying times all round.


Friday, 20 November 2020

Time and timing

The lack of daylight hours and bouts of miserable winter rain continue to frustrate me. Although I keep trying to find somewhere fresh to go or something different to make photographs of I keep returning to my well trodden routes. Because they are convenient, I think. A soft option for someone averse to decision making!
Nothing much has changed around the route but every so often I happen across something going on. Another example of potatoes being dug the hard way being one such event.

The flooded fields remain flooded and no attempts seem to be being made to drain them. Making pictures which show nothing happening isn't easy.

A few times I have been lured out late by the sky on days I had no intention of taking a camera out. I always seem to end up taking pointless pictures when I go looking for light or weather effects. They're sort of nice to look at but don't say much about anything.

Having seen the sky looking interesting as I walked out to the moss the inevitable happened. It stopped looking interesting as soon as I got where I wanted to photograph it from. I was going to do a circuit to return home as dusk approached but got distracted by a rare call on my mobile, during which I decided to take the shorter way back by retracing my steps. 

I was still holding my phone to my ear when I saw a potential picture forming as a tractor, lights on fore and aft, was coming towards the road. Low light and one hand on the camera didn't make it easy to take a decent picture. Had I not been handicapped I would have got closer and changed my angle to catch the tractor and trailer as they turned onto the road itself. Bad timing in one respect, but had the phone not rung I'd not have had any chance as I'd have been half a mile away.
I walked on only to hear a second tractor coming along behind me when I'd put the phone back in my pocket but was already tramping through the muddy field. More bad timing.

Next time out I made an earlier start and went looking for the Zwartbles. This time my luck was in. I saw a four by four towing a small sheep trailer coming my way and guessed where it was headed. It passed me just before the sheep field and pulled over. The trailer already opened when I got close so I only managed to grab three or four shots of the Zwarts being released to join their flockmates. Now I know why the mineral bucket was placed where it was. To act as a gate stop.

A couple of days later the sun shone again and, after much indecision I headed out to the far end of the moss and the strange lane. I had nothing in mind to photograph and expected to find nothing really. Perhaps I was looking for sheep now I know they are run in these fenced fields. There were none but I thought I'd have a go at one of my un-picturesque landscape pictures. On the second exposure serendipity kicked in and a kestrel appeared (unseen until I processed the file) in a position which makes it look as if it has been added in manually.

A short distance further on I spotted a rusting wagon in an overgrown field. It must have been there on my previous walks down the lane but this was the first time I noticed it. Perhaps there were fewer leaves on the hedges and trees this time. I only took two frames. One with the out of focus leaves in the foreground and one with. I prefer the one with as it gives more of a sense of the wagon being hidden and neglected..


My next walk was a long one to the Post Office in the next village and then back along a section of lane I haven't walked before, although I have driven down it many times. Even so walking makes things look different to driving. Your viewpoint is altered and you have more time to look around.

I didn't stop very often before I reached the footpath I was going to cut across on to the moss. Only one frame made a decent picture. yet another 'slap it in the middle' picture of mine. This time a caravan in front of a greenhouse. Had the sun been shining brightly I probably wouldn't have bothered. For two reasons. It would have been behind the caravan and the colours wouldn't have been so muted and harmonious.

The same possibly goes for these pallets serving as a barrier to block an opening in a shed wall. I just liked the shapes and pastel colours.
Down the footpath, which is a farm track, I got in close to some (I'm told) kale and made a few pictures. This low level viewpoint gave one plant an heroic look. The framing of it by the adjacent rows of kale also reminded me of the multitude photographs of the tree at Sycamore Gap!
Nearing home I made yet another picture of some maize stubble in a flooded section of field. One of my better attempts I think.
The next day I left it late to go out and saw a dramatic sunset forming. However I'd found a field of stubble beet had been stocked with sheep and I first went to look at them. Skittish animals and a ditch in the way wasn't conducive to catching them munching away, and some crates stacked in the field behind, with the sun in my eyes, made for unsatisfactory pictures. So I went to get some space and photograph the sky. Pretty. But pretty pointless.

A day of rain followed keeping me indoors.  British weather is nothing but variable. The day after was still and sunny. I managed to get leave home in the early afternoon, hoping to see some work going on in the fields. There was nothing happening, so I was reduced to photographing an unsual cloud formation. What struck me was the way the clouds formed rows mimicking the rows of vegetables, and the blue of the sky was a match for that of the trailers and crates. Maybe a little more than a meaningless picture of some clouds, after all.
Most of these pictures have been taken with my 'new' lens. I'm happy with the restricted zoom range. That has forced me to take pictures more like I want to. I'm not fretting over the ones I miss through lacking the longer end of my 28-300mm 'crutch'. Sometimes the lack of a wider wide end does frustrate, but it does mean I avoid they look of 24mm or wider. To compensate I've started taking a second camera to cover 28mm - maybe with a 20mm for extreme emergencies...

What had been making me doubt the wisdom of this lens choice was the colours it was producing. Different lens manufactures do produce lenses with different colour reproduction. This one was bluer than what I'm used to. Especially so in gloomy light. Even with the white balance tweaked I couldn't get it right. That was until a post on Talk Photograph to a YouTube processing tutorial gave me a clue as to how to solve the problem. I doubt it would have occurred to me unprompted. I haven't used the technique in the video, but selecting a different camera profile (in camera or in Lightroom) has got the colours matching my other lenses. Whenever my usual profile doesn't give me the look I prefer I now know how to switch it so it does. All I have to do now is decide if I can let The Crutch go. I think I can.