Monday, 1 February 2021

New gear makes no difference

What a winter. Locked down and real winter weather. Some snow fell but didn't stick for long. The sub-zero temperatures have been another matter.

I can vaguely remember thinking the Benbo tripod design was a good one back in the 1980s but in those days it was out of my price range, and I didn't use the tripod I had anyway. Before Christmas I was checking a photographer out and found a video of him using Benbo tripods which got me thinking that the time might be right. Despite all the tales of woe I've read on forums that they are tricky to set up but a few instructional videos didn't look that way to me. Even so, knowing my antipathy towards tripods I managed to resist buying one, despite the fact that they are now comparatively affordable.

It must have been a combination of the lack of photographic productivity and a dull evening's web browsing that made me crack. I told myself it was a late birthday present to myself...

When the tripod arrived I found it was dead easy to set up. Easier than my Manfrotto. I screwed one of my spare tripod heads (which I have kept as they have little resale value) and after playing around indoors took it for a walk. I do have in mind a series of pictures which would benefit form being taken using a tripod. That was another excuse for the purchase.

The photo series is to shoot vertical landscapes including ditches in the foreground. My initial intention being to use a 35mm lens for all the pictures. That was what I took out with me on the tripod expedition. I only made one test shot and it decided me that 28mm might be better on a couple of counts. Whether this project within a project comes off is still up in the air...

One thing that was a bit annoying with the Benbo was the fixed hard plastic feet. They're great outdoors where the pointy bits will dig in to soft ground, but indoors they don't work so well. I thought that I might cut the points off and see if that improved thinsg. Or maybe remove the feet and replace when with plain rubber ones. I went in search of rubber feet and found a website selling nothing but plastic and rubber ferrules for chairs, tables, walking sticks and such like. Noticing that they had some large ferrules I measured the Benbo feet and took a chance that I might be able to push the largest size over the spikey feet. When the ferrules arrived that was indeed the case. Indoors the tripod is much improved. Outdoors it remains to be tested.

With the deadline for the thirds zine swap looming (it's three months away but that's looming in my world) I have been scratching my head for a plan. The ones I've had so far have yet to come to fruition. Then I had a flash of inspiration. Put two ideas together. With a dry day in the offing I headed for my chosen location and set to work.

The results were promising and a play around putting them into a zine format went quite well too. The only negative being that the light on the day I took the photos was a bit bland. Normally that wouldn't bother me but for the zine concept I think a sunnier day would have worked better. As I know exactly what photos I want for this it should be easy to go back and get them. Of course the sun has yet to shine... That might not be a bad thing as the project might work even better when the leaves start to appear on the hedgerows and trees. 

Still being stuck for a fresh project to get my teeth into it's been a case of going back to the moss hoping to find something's changed. I don't know why but I can usually find something different to make a picture of from the greenhouses I sometimes walk past. Not that they meet with widespread adulation.

The lack of sunshine has meant that frost and ice lingers into the afternoon. I added to my selection of detail shots with this one of some frosty but cracked ground.

When I saw this 'flow' of straw which I'm guessing was deposited as the field drained it cried out to be recorded. However I don't think the picture succeeds in getting across how the chopped straw has formed the flow. Certainly not at this small size. Maybe larger it would. Or if I'd had a wider lens to exaggerate the effect. Or if the light had been different.  Or?

At least fields are drying, in some places because of pumping. I wanted to make a picture of this bright red pump in a way that was more than a picture of a bright red pump. I tried to do that by including the fallen branch/tree over which the blue pipe lay as I felt it echoed the black pipe. The pipes, trunk and bottom of the ditch lead the eye in a circle towards the pump, which already stands out as the brightest object in the frame. That's the way I read it at any rate.

Elsewhere I tried to make a picture of some machinery in a field which included a 'bog oak' laid on teh side of the track.

I almost found myself wishing I wasn't so dead set on avoiding wide angle lenses at times. Would have a few more millimetres improved things?

That's been about my lot. This afternoon the sun made a rare appearance and there was hope of a sunset to drag me out into the cold. I had a letter to post so walked along the main road before contemplating heading to the fields. The warm light of the low sun cast a soft shadow on a rendered wall. I'm amassing a collection of similar pictures which might make a series at some point.


The light didn't last. By the time the sun was low enough to be considered setting it was behind yet another bank of greyness. I'm not crying out for bright sunshine to get on with any of my plans, all I want is some relief from the relentless dullness. Maybe when the sky lightens I'll start feeling a bit more positive about making photographs, which in turn should get my coming up with more and better ideas. Buying a new tripod certainly hasn't done that.

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