Thursday, 30 January 2020


It often happens that when I'm bored I decide to write some drivel that nobody will read. So here's some drivel that nobody will read.

And here's a picture I forgot to post last time. Sheep photographed through hessian. I had to focus manually, which is why I like lenses which don't require a swicth to do when in autofocus mode and why back button focusing is advantageous. I'm not sure if it works as a picture or if it just looks like a mistake!

Sunday wasn't quite as awful as the weather people said it was going to be. At least not first thing. Which was why I went to the dog trial forgetting that whatever the weather is like at home it's worse on the bleak moors. It was cold and wet. The rain was dripping off the hood of my new jacket and running down my spectacles. It was getting in the eye piece of the camera. Half the time I was guessing what I was photographing. I lasted a couple of hours, some of it spent sheltering in the livestock trailer. It was also pretty gloomy and the slow zoom I'd taken was a bad choice.

I'm always looking out for pictures when I have a camera in my hand, even pictures which have nothing to do with the subject I'm supposed to be photographing. People silhouetted on the slope of a hill could become a theme.

During an idle evening I trawled Google maps for well known UK landscape photography destinations. Some I knew would be easy to find from Streetview having driven past them over the years, others proved to be a surprise. That bloody Scottish mountain I had always imagined to require a bit of a hike up a valley. How wrong I was!

Back in the real world, sort of, I have been looking around for a short project to put into a zine for a challenge I've got involved in on TalkPhotography. Lurking in the projects section I've found there are a few others who do daft things like this. Not many among the thousands of forum members, but a few. Initially I thought I might take more nocturnal pictures and compile them but I lost interest. Today I took a stroll along the reedbed walk at Martin Mere and, as I have done before stated messing about photographing the reeds. This time using slow shutter speeds and moving the camera and stuff.

I got quite enthused by this as a project idea and thought that some 'studio' pictures of the seed heads might work in to it. I gathered a few stems and started thinking how to approach this aspect of the project. I couldn't wait to get home and make a start. However, after uploading the initial pictures and realising they looked better on the back of the camera I ditched the idea altogether. I'm not sure why.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Back to basics

Bad weather makes for good photographs. So the saying goes. When the mist came down the other afternoon I downed tools and rushed out with one camera and the 35mm lens. In the wood (again) I realised that a longer lens works better for that kind of misty scene, particularly when the mist is wispy. Never mind. Walking back through down the farm track the mist closed in a bit.

As I thought about making my evening meal the mist got thicker and the street lights came on. With nothing better to do I went back out again to see if I could make any nocturnal pictures. The floodlights on the rugby pitch make interesting light when it isn't misty. When there is mist in the air the effect is enhanced. As most of the pictures I was seeing involved silhouettes the monochrome conversion seemed justifiable. As it did for the daylight mist scenes which were about shape and tone rather than colour.

Encouraged by my results I couldn't wait to get back out the following evening when I saw the mist come down early. Alas it thinned again soon after, but I ventured out nonetheless, still armed with my minimalist gear.

 At less than an hour for each walk I came back with some decent pictures. This made me revisit older night time shots and begin to think about a project. What became apparent was the better pictures involved silhouettes or 'bad' weather rain soaked streets or mist. As always, if there is a person in the frame the picture becomes more engaging regardless of how well it is composed!

With ideas for this project floating around in my head I was somehow enthused to get to today's show and sale of sheep up north. However, arriving rather early I was turned off the idea and very nearly came straight back home. Instead I dropped off a repair job and took a detour back to the mart. On my return things were livening up. I picked up where I left off in the dark - with just the one camera and the same lens. That didn't last as I found myself cramped for space. Although being restricted in how you can frame shots can lead to thinking harder.

It was time to go back to the old ways and use my three trusted focal lengths - 28mm, 50mm and 100mm. It worked. I ended up ditching the 100mm after a while. It might be a bit old school to use just a 28mm and a 50mm, but there is something about both the simplicity of the approach and the look of the pictures which 'works' for me.

I even did a Martin Parr pastiche...

After my initial lack of enthusiasm I managed to get enough pictures to make a gallery - here.

The struggle still between recording what goes on and making interesting pictures which aren't in teh usually accepted 'good photograph' style or are livestock photography clich├ęs. My photographic life would be so much simpler if I didn't want to be doing something 'different' all the time!

For the time being keeping away from zooms and sticking to the handful of focal lengths I have is a way of forcing myself out of a box. I do much prefer repositioning myself to get the framing I want to taking the easy option of twisting a zoom ring. It feels more like taking photographs did in 'the old days'. I'm not sure if the pictures are any better than when I use a zoom though.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

A flip-through test

Video isn't my strong point so this was a spur of the moment experiment before it got dark enough to go and take some photographs for a new project. Next time I'll get the lighting and focus sorted better.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Faffing about - again

Gradually the daylight hours are increasing. As this is most noticeable at the end of the day it means a greater chance to snatch a bit of time in the afternoon. A bit of sunshine also helps. And that was what came together on Friday. My intention was to go to the beach again, but when I got there it was deserted. Not surprising considering the strong, cold wind that was blowing.

Plan B was to wander into the dunes to see if I could spot the Red Poll cattle doing the winter conservation grazing. They were not in sight as I passed through the gate but I hadn't gone far when one came towards me through a dip in the path. More followed. They were on a mission to visit the water trough and mineral lick bucket. I let them go on their way and carried on. More of the herd were in sight, munching merrily away. I tried to get some scene setting pictrues but they didn't amount to much so I headed to the pen by the gate where the trough is.

Having gone armed with the do-it-all lens I was able to get some close ups as well as wider shots. While it isn't a lens to impress the shallow depth of field fiends or the critical sharpness at 100% nerds it does a good enough job for me. The low sun made for a warnmth to the light but I'm not sure if a slightly cooler white balance might be more accurate.

With the sun sinking lower I went back for another look at the cattle still grazing to see if I could get some atmospheric backlit shots. The animals wouldn't wander anywhere nice and always seemed to manage to hide behind at least one stem of grass.

After an hour of cow pestering the light was falling below the dunes and I headed home. The forecast was for more sunshine on Saturday and I had ideas. Ideas which came to nothing as it there had been a frost on high ground and the wind chill was unbearable. While I did venture out of the car the best sheep pictures I got were taken through an open window!

Another frosty morning didn't encourage me to venture out early today. It was only when a mist descended that I thought it might be worth taking the tripod to the wood. On the way there I crossed the playing field and remembered pictures taken there in similar conditions long, long ago. Maybe that's why I converted one to black and white?

The wood wasn't misty enough, and the mist soon began to lift. It really wasn't worth the effort. I must try harder to stick to my resolution of not trying to 'do landscape' photography.

Or if I do do landscape photography do it my way. Frozen puddles and maize stalks. That's more like it.

Back home in next to no time I dropped my tripod on the concrete outside my back door and smashed the locking levers off the geared head. Bloody tripods. I hates 'em! After lunch I was in two minds about going out again to the marsh. When I did eventually make my mind up I forgot the camera. What made me return and pick it up then set off again I dunno. A combination of boredom and sunshine I think.

This was a half-hearted attempt to add to the sheep files. It's always hit and miss. Nothing of great significance was achieved but maybe something that will come in useful.

By the end of the month there may be less of a temptation to pop out on these pointless afternoon jaunts for the last hour of daylight as there'll be more time to spend fishing after lunch. If I don't get myself into a juicy project soon the camera gear will have to be drastically thinned out. taking pointless pictures is like catching small fish all the time when you are after big ones. Dispiriting and a bit boring.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

A short project

Nothing stays the same for long in the countryside, farmed or not there are seasonal changes almost every day if you look for them. That's why carrying a camera when walking familiar routes can still turn up something new. That was the case when I found the ditches at the far end of my local wood had been recently dredged. How I managed to get the horizon wonky I don't know. It has my usual lean to it! It's another one for the 'Waterlogged' files.

Although I am trying to avoid aimless trips out with a camera frustration with work got the better of me on Friday and I had to escape. As it was I stumbled across the first lambs of the year looking to be a week or two old. Not for the first time walking up to the field gate fooled them into thinking I was the bringer of food. Cute, but nothing more.

Still feeling ambivalent about the sheep dog scene I waited for the day to brighten before deciding a visit to a trial was a better option than wasting  Saturday doing anything else. The rain held off and the light was almost reasonable. It was another case of not really 'feeling it' but finding a few half decent pictures on my return home from a reduced count compared to earlier sessions. I was that demotivated I set my tripod up and shot some video for a change! The full, but slimmed down, gallery can be seen here.

A week previously I went for a longish walk, taking a camera but going for the sake of the exercise and fresh air. On my travels I passed two neglected ponds which made me think of a couple others I know. So the following day I took the tripod and went to look at those with the intention of photographing all four. I've tried photographing these ponds (the latter two) before but with no real idea behind the pictures.

With the day being overcast it was just how I like things. There would be no harsh shadows or stark contrasts. The first pond was quite open and I made a few pictures from a couple of vantage points. Not that I was too enamoured of them.

The second pond was much more overgrown. The field side being entirely surrounded by willow scrub. On the road side there was an opening. I made most of my pictures from that gap.

My intention to visit the other ponds was thwarted by rain arriving. It wasn't until today that I was able to go for a look. Again the big problem was finding a clear view.

The final pond has no clear view from the path so that was a struggle. Deciding on framing the shots was a big problem with all four ponds as it depends on what I was trying to show. That still isn't clear in my head. It never is with 'landscape' pictures. At least that's the project done now. maybe I'll learn the lesson that 'landscape' isn't my thing and stop trying it.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Resolution time

How long it'll last is anybody's guess, but I'm going to try to stick to my resolution to only take a camera out when I have something firmly in mind to photograph. Excepting taking one with me when I'm going in to town or walking around locally as in both cases I have little projects trundling along when I do that. To kick 2020 off I had two plans in mind. One was a bit half-baked involving tripods and macro lenses. The sort of stuff I don't really like. Thankfully that got ditched before I got anywhere close to the location I was heading for. However there was somewhere I'd stumbled across on the interwebs which I almost went to the other day, but didn't. It involved a route which would take me past a couple of places I have stopped off at for aimless wandering. Could I resist the temptation?

Sort of. I pulled over at a lay-by to have a bite to eat. When I got out of the car to stretch my legs I spotted some Lonks. Maybe a chance for a sheepscape. When I approached them on the public footpath through their field the lambs (or are they hoggs now?) approached me. They must have thought I was a bringer of food! It gave me an opportunity for some sheepy portraits. When three stopped and posed it was impossible to resist the near symmetry.

With Lonks photographed and food eaten it was on the road again. The usual stopping off points were packed with people. That's what New Year's day and sunshine do. This was a blessing in disguise as it meant I wasn't tempted to join the throng and I carried on to my intended target. Which turned out to be deserted. Of course by the time I got there the sun had disappeared. For photographing the outside of the church this was not ideal, although bright sunshine wouldn't have been any better.

Inside it was another matter. Diffuse light was just right for photographing stained glass windows. After taking a series of shots I wasn't satisfied with the results using available light. The windows were fine, but they were outlined in blackness. I turned to the lighting gurus' hated option. The pop-up flash of my camera. I'm no lighting expert but I knew enough to knock the flash power back a bit. One stop, in fact. This did the trick.

Ideally I'd have used a tripod to enable me to drop the ISO and decrease the aperture so as to get greater depth of focus for when I came top correct the verticals in Lightroom. I'd also have taken more care over framing to allow for the cropping which vertical correction entails. I might even have bracketed shots to allow some exposure blending in post. But for a first, down and dirty, attempt at this sort of thing I was quite pleased. I made a grid of the pairs of windows.

After I'd done my processing I thought I'd google 'how to photograph stained-glass windows'. The pages the search threw up showed examples which were worse than mine. None recommended the use of flash. I'll take Frank Sinatra's advice if I do this again!

Leaving the church I thought I'd try to set the scene of its location. This wasn't easy and the grey sky didn't help much either. I got some record shots which I may try to improve on at some point.

I guess this adventure counts as sticking to my first photographic resolution. The second one will be harder to adhere to as it means going way out of my comfort zone. If (big if) I manage to even partially maintain my resolve it should make a real difference to my photographic output. Breath not to be held...