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.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

The struggle continues

As Lockdown 2 kicks in the frustration regarding attending events to take photographs grows stronger. This is compounded by being busy with work limiting  my free time during the decreasing hours of usable daylight as we head for the midwinter solstice. That's why I've been out and about after dark again. This time reverting to the 28mm view having found anything shorter restricting. It needs a bit more weather thought to make the kind of pictures I have in mind, even though everything looks different under artificial light in black and white.

When I have managed to get out during daylight hours it's been to head to different flat farming land, still within five miles or fewer of home. First off was a walk around the old marsh, hopping to see sheep if I'm honest, but settling for veg and other random stuff. The prime aim of the walk was to get acquainted with a new-to-me lens which I'm hoping will wean me off the 28-300.


Saturday was another sunny morning of work which I managed to get boxed off before lunch and headed out hoping there'd be some misty on the mere. There was. not much though and facing away from the sun you'd have been hard pressed to spot it. Lots of water still on some of the fields though. So more sodden land pictures added to the files.



Today work was taking longer  so by two I gave up and went to look for the sheep I'd found close to home on the moss. They were well out of camera range... There were a couple of unexpected beef cattle grazing another patch of land close by but not in a position which could have made a picture. I thought of retracing my steps as there didn't appear to be anything changed along the usual circuit, but I carried on regardless and stumbled upon some onions. The pictures I made could come in handy should this meanygate/moss project ever come to anything.

The same might apply to this picture of crates which I made because the arrangement of shapes took my fancy.

As can be seen, it is a struggle at the moment to come up with anything. There might be something to be found from visiting the mere and the marsh. Perhaps this isn't the best time of year for that though. The night time pictures are looking most likely to lead something which can be pulled together. It might be a case of keeping on bashing away at it until it begins to take shape.

As for the 'new' lens. It's too early to tell. So far I'm not missing the extra reach at the long end of the 28-300 or the wider angle at 28mm. And I am liking the much reduced curvature of the horizon at all focal lengths. More playing around with it still required. Which is as good an excuse as any to pop out for an hour now and then.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Zines, zines, zines

 It's easy, they're cheap (affordable), and I'm a sucker! With photobooks reaching the prices where they are, for me, in the luxury purchase category zines are becoming my preferred manner of acquiring collections of photographs. Recently there's been a few appear which fit my rough collecting requirements. British rural subjects.

The first two (or six...) arrived the other week and are different in character. Village Lockdown is a response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis as experienced in an Anglesy village, and so extremely contemporary. Agri[Culture] is a set of five zines, one being an introduction to a long term project by four photographers whose work appears in the other four zines. Country Show arrived a few days ago and represents a selection from another long term project by Paul Russell.

I've mentioned before that I'm not one for collecting series of publications or complete oeuvres of work. That's why Village Lockdown is the only one of ADM Publishing's Collated Observation series, it's number 02, that I've ordered. So far. This doesn't mean that others don't interest me, they just don't fit my current buying/collecting strategy. Such as it is!

In some way this one is half way to being a book rather than a zine. It's the same format as my poultry publication, which is more book than zine, but slimmer of page count. I'll be honest, I bought it primarily for the picture of a sheep framed by a goal post on a playing field. That there was another sheep photo elsewhere was a nice bonus. The photographic style is what I'd class as 'contemporary documentary'. A mix of empty scenes and portraits with hints of surrealism and strangeness.

Agri[Culture] is from the Wideyed Collective and has a different feel to it. As you'd expect from photographs made by different people the pictures cover a range of approaches. There's a definite concept to the whole production which has the feeling of being made as art containing more than photographs by the Wideyed Collective - Lucy Carolan, Richard Glynn, Louise Taylor, Nat Wilkins. There are facsimile pages from show programmes, old photographs and reproductions of visitor book pages from exhibitions of the Agri[Culture] pictures.

Paul Russell's project is one that I have been aware of for some time. The zine is pretty straightforward collection of photographs from the project. Stylistically I'd put the pictures in the surreal/humorous street photography arena.

Having this lot arrive in a short space of time raised a number of issues for me, ones which I often exercise my limited reasoning upon. How do we go about photographing 'the rural'? Who are the photographs for? And who the hell are zines for?

The last two questions are the ones are, I think, answered differently by the three publications. Wideyed have put their pictures on display at rural shows, they have engaged with the people likely to be in and to see the pictures. That must, therefore, be their intended primary audience. The other two are maybe aimed more at a photographically aware audience - if my reading of the styles used in the pictures are any guide. But what about the zines? Where they are promoted determines who is going to be come aware of and buy them.

Photographers are people who are likely to buy zines and books of photographs. But are other people? people who might connect with the photographs, or who might be enlightened by seeing them. I don't think it's enough to make photographs which only photographers are interested in seeing. There needs to be a way to get the pictures out to a wider public, or at least give them back to the kind of people who appear in them. So far my poultry book has been bought by poultry fanciers, and I'm pleased to say one copy is now in the archive of a poultry club. That alone has made the exercise worthwhile for me.

The rest of my zines, save those destined for swaps (which falls into the other photographer audience) and ones given away, remain unloved by anyone. Some of that is due to my inability to get motivated to promote them, some to the fact I only got a few of them printed. A few I've done just one or two copies for myself. I have to admit that giving zines away to people who appear in them feels right to me.

So what of my latest zine?

This one is a combination of shots from two loose projects which I realised could work together to make my point more strongly, with a touch of humour to lighten the cynicism. I suspect it's appeal, if any, will be to photographers or other 'creatives' as it's more conceptual than most of my other zines. Click here for a flip-through. At some point I'll put it up for sale at a bargain price. Not that I expect to sell any...

Making this zine was as much an experiment in design, I used full bleed on all pages, as it was a chance to try to make a point using pictures and words. Another zine I've made for an impending swap also combined pictures from two projects and was a chance to try some other design elements. This will be revealed when my zines have been received by my fellow swappers.

Getting out and about with a camera has been tricky of late. Short days, work commitments and foul weather have all limited my opportunities to look for anything. The moss is quiet due to the season and the state of the sodden land. This has driven me to go looking elsewhere.

A week ago the wind dropped and the sun shone so I went for a long wander round a nearby village and through the potato yard from the opposite direction to my first visit.

I'd been meaning to take some photographs of the closed down animal feed supplier's for sometime and that day the light was just right.

Leaving the village there was a light shower but after that the rain held off. I covered a lot of new ground and found some things worth taking photographs of. Whether they'll prove useful for anything remains to be seen. 

When I eventually got to the potato yard it was deserted, which was handy. However the sun was low and bright making life difficult with those harsh shadows landscape photographers seem to love. Give me a bright overcast any day.

One day I might get round to starting on my 'Leek & Potato' project...

Feeling very frustrated at only having taken product shots I braved a damp evening early last week to see if I could get anywhere with my village after dark pictures. The moon was waxing near full and there was a stiff breeze blowing clouds across the sky. I was forced into stratospheric ISO values and the accompanying noise, but as that's already part and parcel of the existing pictures it didn't bother me.

The intention has always been for these pictures to be displayed small and in black and white. A couple of the pictures worked quite well. Better than the ones I took on a previous nocturnal walk when the tarmac was dry and the moon minimal. F\or once it really is all about the light. For in teh dark there are no pictures without light somewhere in the frame. One thing I learned is that 35mm isn't quite wide enough. I'll be back on the 28mm in future.

Friday saw me dropping my car off for its annual service, which gave me time for a long walk to the post office. I took a camera along with me and saw one picture which I like. Definitely a candidate for my ongoing, maybe a zine sometime, Home Range project.

My car had to be kept in overnight and it was late afternoon by the time I got it back on Saturday. I took it, and a camera, for a spin in the vague hope of seeing something to photograph before the month ended. It felt like a wild goose chase until a lost ball saved the day. Number 490. ten more and I can give up!

Not far away as I battled against a strong wind walking back to the car I almost grabbed a good sheep picture. Alas I failed to alter the aperture which I'd stopped right down to both underexpose the sky and create a starburst trying to photograph than ugly tern sculpture again. It's poorly timed and there's a lot of noisy shadow recovery. Typically it was the best starburst of the lot too. Then the clouds covered the sun and I had lost another chance. Hey ho.

November has kicked off with another wander somewhere different for me between outbreaks of rain. I parked up in the same place as for the feed merchant photos, but took a different route to photograph something else which I wanted to record. A former petrol station turned car wash and café, destined to become housing by the looks of things. I made eight of the photographs into a grid.

That's the state of play as a second lockdown approaches. At least this time there is no time limit being applied to our outdoor exercising, and a short degree of travelling for the purpose seems to be allowed. I'm still floundering around as I search for a project to keep me interested. I probably should knuckle down to organising a couple of older projects into zine or book form when work quietens down and the rain falls. But new projects are much more fun!