Saturday, 27 February 2010


Is this about a fence or the land beyond?

And a cliché for good luck.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

New toy

Back in the old days I seemed to manage well enough with a 28 and a 50 on my old Pentax ME - with a 2x teleconveerter to take the 50 to 100. All that lot would go in the pockets of my combat jacket. Fancy modern zooms are great, but they're bulky, heavy and slow. I know that with digital you can up the ISO, but it's not the same as using a grainy high ISO B+W film.

I always liked shooting hand-held and wide open at 2.8 or better for some reason. Probably because of what now appears to be called 'bokeh' but was just a blurred background in the dark ages. Or more likely laziness.

The cheap and cheerful 35/1.8 Nikkor looked like a throwback lens that might suit me. It's a rubbish photo, but it's got the look I like. Now to find a 105 that does the same.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Pet hates

Overdone HDR images and black and whites with bits of colour. Why?

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Beaten again

A day that started snowy brightened enough to tempt me out around three. By the time I was on my way the sky turned overcast. At least I got to try out the new bag and tripod, which just happens to fit in to the bag's shoulder strap and the whole lot carries well.

Seeing some colour in the sky as I left the pit I'd been walking round I headed west in the hope of a majestic sunset. While I waited for it I put the tripod into action. I would have preferred to have been slightly more to the left to make the receding telegraph poles more of a feature, but there was an unsightly white thing in the field to the right - which I hid behind the old notice board.

The sunset was a let-down - pretty much as I expected the way my luck's been running.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Five legs good

More sunshine and back to the wood to try the tripod out in earnest. One thing is for sure it demands a different mindset to shooting handheld. The whole process is slowed down, mentally and practically, but with a flexible tripod not by too much. It is changed though. The biggest drawback is trying to respond when the light is changing quickly. The trade off for smaller apertures and a steady platform.

The other night I was reading some photo website that suggested the addition of a UV filter for lens protection was all a big con by the trade and their actual benefit was nil. Having managed to let my camera slide lens first into leaf-mould before I'd tightened the tripod's centre column while setting it low to photograph snowdrops, I reckon it's money well spent. No harm was done, but it easily could have been.

The dappled light in the wood made it difficult for the camera to get a satisfactory exposure and yet again I found myself forcing it to underexpose. All part of the re-learning curve, and so much easier to achieve with a DSLR than a compact or bridge camera.

Two more locations were searched one without much satisfaction the other in fickle light - but both with inspiration for the future.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Hand-held v Tripod

As soon as the rain abates I hope to put the new tripod to good use. A dry run comparison between hand-held (with image stabilisation on) and tripod mounted provided conclusive evidence that the pod will prove to be a good investment.

f5.6 - 1/80th

f16 - 1/8th

With some sharpening

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Woodland wandering

It's decades since I last went into the local wood. These days it's well trodden, less overgrown, but much the same. The sun broke through late in the day after snow and sleet. It was setting fast though. The wide angle was the right choice for the claustrophobic environment but once more I was thwarted by the lack of a tripod - which should be rectified later this week.

Walking back home with the light really fading I messed around with the flash values for some fill-in at the pavilion. I'm not not a fan of flash this seems to have worked reasonably well in highlighting the metallic surfaces. Although I prefer being in the countryside with it's natural forms and colours I find making photographs from the hard edges of the built environment much easier.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Hampered by the light

The play of light on the sand dunes as I drove through them the other day got me thinking about pointing a camera at them. Only thing was when I got there the sun went into hiding. Given the uniformity of colour and tone of marram grass and sand in the soft light there wasn't much in the way of the contrast to give shape to things. Even the clouds failed to make themselves moody and magnificent.

Undeterred I battled manfully and think I managed to find something moderately worthwhile.

Of course, the moment I returned to the car the clouds moved on and the shadows returned - although I rather overcooked the use of the wide angle lens in my enthusiasm.

Friday, 12 February 2010

If you think you're in close...

...get in closer.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

All about choices

Photography is essentially a medium of selection. You choose where to point the camera, how to frame the shot and then pick which of any alternatives you've made is 'the one'. There usually is only one.

One way of approaching this is to make as many selections as possible while in front of the subject and then pare them down later. The odd thing is that 'the one' is frequently the first, or last, exposure made. In the first instance it is a case of the picture you have envisaged has manifested itself, immediately and fully formed, through the subconscious. Subsequent attempts are searches for an improvement against the odds. In the latter case the picture hasn't been formed in the mind's eye and has to be worked at to be brought to a conclusion. Frequently this leads nowhere, or to a less than satisfying conclusion.

The ability to shoot an almost limitless number of options to a memory card is both a boon and a curse. It can ensure that the one good shot is made, but it can make finding it more difficult. Hiding the wood in the trees. Does it also make the lazy substitute shutter operations for seeing?

With the weather continuing chilly there is the benefit of clear skies and bright sunshine. Frost and ice brings with it the temptation to succumb to cliché. It's hard to resist because it the clichés are so appealing. So I gave in.

Trying to see something different I eliminated the obvious subject matter of the feathery seed heads and shot the stems of the phragmites. If there's an influence it's probably abstract expressionism. But maybe that's just me being pretentious.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Down with nature reserves

This may turn out to be a rant. I visited a local nature reserve which I hadn't been back to since I was on Job Creation there some 24 years ago. Much was still the same, but it seemed far less wild and far more sanitised. The paths are now wheelchair friendly, which I suppose is a good thing but detracts from the feeling of being 'in' the natural world. There are fences round some parts of the place. Areas designated for particular wildlife. Despite the birds, and any unseen mammals, being free to come and go as they please it all felt a bit like a zoo.

There weren't many photos to be found. The light was quite appealing, but not really strong enough for hand held close-ups. I must get a tripod sorted out, even if it will hamper my modus operandi. It would make shots like this have a greater depth of focus though.

On my way there I'd stopped off a few hundred yards from home to photograph something I'd spotted earlier and ended up finding the two best shots of the day by chance. The photo I thought I was going to find wasn't there, nor (to any real satisfaction) were the ones I thought might be found out on the moss, the flat dark peaty-soiled area outside the village. One, of some maize left at the edge of a black tilled field, was particularly elusive. To get the composition I'd have needed a ladder. Far easier for a painter who can move things around at will without the restrictions a lens and viewfinder frame impose.

Out until dusk on the marsh where I chatted briefly about cameras and barbel with a birder hoping to capture a barn owl in pixels.

All that driving and walking and my favourite shot of the day came from a spot I can see from the back bedroom window!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Some pre-SLR digitals

The trouble with non-SLRs like the Canon S3-IS, for me, is that while controls are available to do more than point and shoot, they aren't intuitively available and the LCD eye-level viewfinder is tiny. Even so, given a bit of luck, I have made some half decent images with my S3-IS. It's a great fishing camera though.

Here's a selection.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Camera mags

I bought a camera magazine the other day. The first for thirty years, at a guess. I bought it as much to check the adverts as anything, which proved to be a waste of time as there were very few from retailers - I suppose the internet is where most now ply their wares.

Apart from the fact the magazine was about digital photography and not film it could easily have been one from the eighties. The advice on techniques to make better photos, and the resulting images, being as stale as ever. Clichés abound. But I suppose features telling people that the only way to really improve is by learning, and the best way to learn is to take lots of photos. Then again, if you don't 'have an eye' for a photograph you're going to be buggered from the start. But articles about using the latest technology keeps the masses buying more equipment, which keeps the manufacturers happy to keep buying ad space.

An all singing all dancing digital SLR won't make you take better photos, it just makes turning them into prints faster and simpler. Within minutes of returning home from a snapping session you can have a glossy A4 print in your hand. Unless you're the kind of sad sack who wants to spend hours fiddling with your RAW files in some expensive software package...

The magazine is in the recycling bag.