Saturday, 24 October 2020

Spud season

Inspired my 'off piste' walk the other day I returned to take a look down a different lane. On my way to the parking spot I passed some sheep activity and after leaving my car ambled back for a look. The action was over by the time I got to sheep land but at least I got to photograph a few lambs. No substitute for attending the autumn sheep sales, but still...

Retracing my steps I went down the lane I had in mind to investigate. Amazingly I'd never been down it before and it was a different world. On the edge of the mosslands it is more wooded and winding. I came a cross an off gate post decoration and made a couple of pictures. They looked okay on the back of the camera but back home I realised I hadn't made as good a job of hiding background distractions as I thought I had. I'm sure there are plenty of people who would have cloned the offending dark blob out in Photoshop but that's not my way.

  I went back a couple of days later to make a better job of it.

A little further on the lane ends but the OS map shows a footpath continues on through a farmyard. On the first visit I didn't have time to go through as the circular route back to the car would have taken more time than I had spare. On the second visit I'd made allowance and braved the obstacle course of wagons, tractors and potatoes.

It's the sort of busy place where it would be prudent to ask permission to take photographs, but I did take one which has been in my mind for some years. The large wooden crates which potatoes get transported and stored in have always struck me as photographable. 

Through the yard there were trailers lined up, some with crates on. The kind of thing I could happily spend half an hour snapping away at. I know. I'm easily pleased.


At this time of year there are always potatoes to be seen lying on the roads having fallen from the wagons they are being hauled in. Getting pictures of them on a busy road with traffic zooming past is more of a risk than it's worth. So far I'll settle for this lonely and forlorn spud in the middle of a farm track.

The rest of the route covers ground I have walked a time or two before and doesn't offer me much in the  way of fresh subject matter. However I did get a picture of a turf field which I think is an improvement on previous attempts. It's minimalistic, which is the idea, but the wood provides a stop for the eye and there's a tree placed centrally which stands out from the rest, albeit subtly.

Later in the week I extended a late afternoon walk to catch the second post and passed some more potato harvesting. I was ill-equipped in the lens department so tried again the following day, but with little more success.

With the salad crops all but harvested there isn't much to see on the part of the moss I've been looking at over the summer and with autumn underway and winter approaching it'll be root crops which are the main focus of field work. Hence my seeking out potatoes to keep me interested.

Although concentrating on farming pictures at the moment I still keep an eye open for pictures which fit my other projects and themes, or which strike me as worth taking The light on this wall has caught my eye before but on this occasion I saw how it was striking the church spire. The church project is sort of still ongoing so I had a go at lining up the spire and the poles so they fell between the railings.

Not a project as such but patterns on tarmac still interest me.

Why people struggle to find things to photograph in their own locality baffles me. I can only imagine they have set ideas of what makes a picture worth taking. That mindset must come from somewhere. I guess it used to be the popular photographic press and now it's the multitude of Youtubers allpushing the same aesthetic. I look at a few, usually landscape or street, photography vloggers now and then. Within both genres the pictures are almost indistinguishable. And the advice sometimes garbage.

I watched a bit of one who had got viewers to send pictures for criticism. He then proceeded to 'edit' them. He meant 'process', obviously but it's a lost battle trying to change the new meaning of 'edit' in this digital age. On two pictures I watched him butcher he placed an element exactly on a third because it 'improved' the composition. One had been taken on an angle and that had to be straightened. I thought doing that actually messed the whole thing up. Then he was cloning things out and boosting contrast. A bit of a horror show. So bad I can't remember (don't want to) the vlogger's name!

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Scratching around in the same old hole

First the good news. Thanks to the social media PR skills of one of my poultry friends my book has covered its costs within a week of going on sale. With a handful of copies left from my initial tiny print run it's time to decided whether to get a lot more printed and make a proper job of promoting it more widely, or to leave it be. I hate making decisions. especially when they cost money!

In other publication news impatience got the better of me and I ordered 20 copies of my zine for the next Talk Photography zine swap at the end of this month.

It's turned out okay, with a couple of caveats. The trimming and stapling of the pages has messed up my careful design a little, and the paper isn't as heavy and glossy as I'd have liked. But it'll do. It is a zine after all. No pics of it yet as the zines are only revealed when they arrive through the post. The element of surprise is all part of the swapping experience. 

I have another zine all done and ready to print. I can't wait six months for the next swap so that one will probably be getting printed in a week or two once I've settled on paper stock to go for.

The meanygate/moss project is winding down. It may already have ground to a halt. Activity and change on the moss is minimal now that winter's approaching. I've had three wanders with next to nothing to show for my exertions. One time I came back without having taken a single shot.

There have been some additions since the last post on here. Time to knuckle down to some serious editing of what I've got.

As can be seen, there's been a lot of water about, which is partly responsible for the lack of work in the fields.

On the lookout for something to get my photographic teeth into I've been driving out locally to walk different areas of the flatlands. With my usual impeccable bad timing I happened across a group of detectorists just as they were packing up to leave one sunny weekend. If it hadn't been for all this Covid-19 distancing I might have engaged with them a bit more than I did. I was surprised that they had found musket balls in the field.

There might be a project to be had connected to the playing fields some day. The goalposts often draw my eye, as they have done for a long time, and often seem to make better black and white pictures than colour ones.

But I think a playing field project ought to be about the people who use it. Which brings us back to distancing.

With that idea kicked into touch I thought I'd revisit my after dark walks and see if they could be developed any further. The first one was pretty much a failure. So much so it's put me off the idea. It might just be that the weather was bland. My previous nocturnal walks have been in mist or light rain. Mist diffuses any light and rain makes for reflections on tarmac. Both can make for interesting pictures. I did start to get something going with security lights and cars behind hedges. And again, subjects which work well in black and white. Not least because noise isn't a distraction in monochromatic night time pictures.

Whenever I'm scratching around I tend to revisit places. The neglected barn is one such place. Other than the loss of some more corrugated sheeting not much had changed since my last visit. Although I don't know if the toy car was a new arrival or something recently uncovered. I tried to make a picture of it, this one using the pop-up flash on my camera.

In desperation today I went for a walk somewhere new, as far as looking for photographs goes. Still local, but a little different in character. If I'd not been so daft as to take just a 50mm lens and taken a standard zoom instead I think I might have come back with more food for thought. The light was flat, which doesn't bother me, but there was some subject potential which might have benefited from sunlight. Not these two though.

Nor this one. Which might have sparked an idea to follow up. This black and white trend is getting worrying!

All these pictures devoid of people is getting depressing. It's no wonder lots of photographers are making Covid-portraits of people wearing masks. A bit of an easy option if you're an urbanite. Out in the countryside masks are thin on the ground. That's another easy option...

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Changing season

The Indian Summer has certainly come to an end now. Daylight hours are shortening, there's a chill in the air first and last thing, the quality of light is changing too. It's strange but while the angle of the sun reflects that which it has in spring autumn light seems to be different. More melancholy somehow. That's probably all in my mind though. However I have been moved to photograph the visual effects of weather recently.

A passing rainstorm worked better in black and white as I was able to manipulate the contrast more easily than in the original colour file. Maybe that's more about my lack of my processing skills though.

Misty mornings have been a source of motivation to me ever since I started taking photographs. Unfortunately I'm not great at getting out of bed early and I often find the mist burning off by the time I'm somewhere there are pictures to be made. This has happened to me twice of late. I should have got in the car to reduce my walking time. So all I've come back with have been snaps, with the possible exception of the second picture here which has a look of that time when the sun is just about to break through, and a reasonable composition in keeping with my other fieldscapes.

Failing in the mornings I tried evening walks. This was when I really noticed the nights drawing in. No longer is it possible to set off at seven and have plenty of time to make pictures in daylight. Leaving home at six has seen me making my way home in fading dusk. That's not without its opportunities, even for hand-held shots thanks to the miracles of current digital image making technology. In fact, when I get the right conditions, I hope to get out after dark and continue a project I kicked off last winter.

One of my habits, good or bad I'm not sure, is photographing the same thing over and over. What it is about this greenhouse door I find fascinating is anyone's guess. It does change, not just in terms of being open or closed, or partially open, and what is inside the greenhouse, but the light alters how I look at it.

I've been making some 4x5 crops of a few of the pictures along with some of other greenouses. There may be a series in the making.

I'd been doing quite well at keeping my book buying to a minimum this year but once I started with that Meadows book temptation was to be found everywhere. It's just too easy to make a couple of mouse clicks and end up skint!

However, I have wanted a copy of Paul Graham's first book, A1, for some time. The secondhand prices were far too steep for me. A few years back I bought his retrospective type book which had a lot of the pictures from A1 in it. That was as close as I could get at the time. When a reissue was announced I was sorely tempted to preorder. Something stopped me. Once the book was a reality, however, I caved in. My copy arrived last week.

 Looking at photographs is great. Listening to photographers talking about their work is too. So is reading what they have to say. Sometimes. There is always the chance that they'll get carried away with themselves. So it was with a little trepidation I ordered How I Make Photographs by Joel Meyerowitz. He's not my favourite photographer, but I've heard him say interesting things so I took a chance.

The book is tied up with the Masters of Photography on-line classes, although it does stand alone. I won't be signing up for the classes as I'm a cheapskate. £15 for the book was worthwhile. There are plenty of Meyerowitz's photos in the book which he discusses. In places it gets a bit airy-fairy for my sensibilities but there is enough in the book to have made it a worthwhile buy. As it is really just 20 short 'lessons' it's something which can be dipped into every now and then when in need of a prod to get motivated. I've noted down a few quotes as reminders. One I think a lot of would-be photographers could take heed of is; "Almost everything is photographable. All you have to have is the interest and the appetite."