Sunday, 28 April 2013


Pretty soon (like this week) I'm going to have to upgrade my computer. The hard drive is pretty near full. In fact I've been deleting redundant files for over a month in order to keep the thing going. As the remaining space gets less and less I have found it has made me take fewer pictures. I've become less profligate. I do more in-camera deleting. It's been a bit like using film.

Something else that has been like using a film camera is the G2 with it's flippy screen. Having got fed up of the view switching between screen and viewfinder, sometimes inadvertently, because of the 'eye sensor' I switched the damned thing off and turned the screen to face inwards. This leaves the viewfinder in operation all the time - or at least until the screen is flipped open. The result is that more often than not I take a shot and don't bother checking the screen to make sure I got it right.

Now and then I blow it, but mostly it means I take more care in the first place. Screens are great for checking for flaws in repeatable shots, but they can become a crutch. More thinking and less chimping is demanded.

While weeding out dross from my photos I've realised that among the recurring themes are hedges and walls. Sometimes, and most interestingly, shots which reveal hints of things on the other side. This is something else I'll no doubt be making a conscious effort to photograph in the future.

What has made me begin trying square crops, either at the taking stage with the variable aspect ratio of the G2, or later I really can't define. It's a notoriously difficult aspect ratio to compose within. The safest option being to place a subject dead centre with leading lines from the corner - as with the shell on the right.

I had deliberately framed the shot so the word sat at the bottom of a portrait oriented frame. However that left too much 'nothing' at the top. The solution was to get rid of the 'nothing'.

Down at the beach the last couple of evenings there hasn't been much going on. Despite strong wind the kite surfers weren't in much evidence, those who were around were heading home when I arrived on Friday. The tides are big at the moment so the sea goes a long way out. By the time I reached the incoming tide the few bait diggers out there were heading home too.

What I did pay close attention to while on the beach was the colour of the wet and water covered sand. It actually is as blue tinted as appears in my photographs. Maybe it's the colour of the sand - which isn't golden unless bone dry, and the beach is quite mud like in places below the high water mark - maybe it's the light.

A friend of mine has recently bought a set of 'landscape' filters. I guess they have their uses. What I can't be doing with is all the fiddling about. I tend very much to react to things spontaneously. The clouds were moving and changing quickly the other day. How I could have got a tripod set up and slotted in the correct filters before they had shifted to capture the frame below is beyond me. I'm not suggesting it's a fantastic picture by any means. However it's pleasant enough. The colours are harmonious,. the clouds have form and dynamism, and there's a sense of space.

This wide angle perspective is one we've come to accept, even expect, in landscape photography. It's undeniably dramatic. I'm not so sure it matches the way we see the wider view though. It might match our perception though, as we don't tend to concentrate our vision in one place when taking in a scene. As a way of picturing the world I think it is somewhat overdone.

On a technical note the picture above was made using a lens which my camera shop manager reckons is unpopular and pretty pointless. I find it useful, and practical. More and more I'm coming round to the opinion that if you want to make better photographs you don't need technically better gear you need gear which gets out of the way when you use it. Using my DSLRs has become instinctive now. I don't care that they only have 12 mega pixels when I could 'upgrade' to two or even three times that.

Nor do I care that my pointless lens isn't high on the performance charts. It does it's job by covering a particular range, making (more than) sharp enough prints with nice colours. This last thing is neglected by the measurement geeks. Handling, practicality and above all image aesthetics are what matter for me in selecting equipment for successful picture making. Get that right and you can concentrate of seeing pictures. That really is the most taxing part of photography.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Spring sunshine

The way light shines through recently opened translucent leaves is one of those sights which equates with spring. The pale yellow-greens as evocative of the season as golden hues are of autumn. The way to capture this is to shoot into the light. Which is always tricky trying to strike a balance for the exposure. The light meter never gets it right on its own.

My first efforts were pretty stereotypical. There were so many leaves in the wood that it was difficult to know which to choose as subjects. I had wanted to make pictures that were almost all leaves, bright points scattered across the frame. there still has to be some background to provide a sense of place and context. Still bare branches worked to an extent. I made one picture that pleased me compositionally, looking good on the camera's screen but not on the computer's.

The other option, so often done, is to isolate a leaf, or a few leaves together, against a less cluttered background. Nice enough, but not exactly original.

The evening was slipping by and I'd come to the conclusion that the sun needed to be higher in the sky to illuminate the leaves. I made my way back through the wood. I was almost at the bridge over the bordering ditch when I looked back and through a clearing in the canopy created by a fallen tree I saw an interesting cloud pattern. Initially I made shots framing the clouds with the bare branches of the trees. A couple of them are nice enough. At some point I spotted a few leaves on these branches and began to frame shots to include them. Conventionally at first.

The sky was changing quite quickly despite the wind being light so I was continually moving position to keep the cloud forms in sight. That caused me to make some less conventional compositions.

Considering I had only taken a camera along to accompany my birdwatching walk I felt like I had made some interesting pictures. They may not be technically perfect, but they have provided food for thought. No doubt if I set out to make more pictures in the same vein there will be an uninteresting sky to thwart me!

For the last of the evening light I headed to the canal in search of spring migrants, a few of which had arrived. I also added a couple pf shots to my growing collection of deliberately boring, deserted, canalside building pictures. The play of light on such subjects can make them slightly less boring. In time they might come together to make a coherent set.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Changeable weather

After the early rain yesterday it faired up towards evening so I hit the beach without much idea of what to do other than play around with the G2. I also carted along a real camera with one lens, an 85mm. Looking out the water's edge I saw some activity and wandered out to see what was going on. It turned out there was group practising their kayaking skills in preparation for a charity crossing of the English Channel.

I didn't have much time before they were launched and out of range, so I amused myself making use of the flippy screen to avoid having to kneel down in the water!

A bright low sun made it pretty much impossible to avoid blowing the highlights with either camera. I like shooting against the light, but it's difficult to decide on a workable exposure.

Trying to time the shots was proving tricky. I hadn't realised how much earlier I had to predict movement with the mirrorless camera compared to using a DSLR. The answer was to set the camera to burst mode and fire in advance. The quality of the out of focus areas is quite pleasing from the kit lens.

When it comes to taking landscapes the small camera has the advantage over a DSLR of greater depth of field. It also gives pleasing colours.

While pictures from both cameras were producing coolish looking pictures using auto white balance those from the DSLR were appreciably cooler. It must be a Nikon thing. Countered against that the Panasonic makes blues brighter and almost every file needs the saturation of the blue channel reducing or blue items stand out.

Making beachscapes on this featureless coastline relies entirely on the light and the sky. I made the frame above because I liked the symmetry of the water and the darker clouds created.  The two shots below highlighted the benefits of the 4:3 ratio for making pictures in portrait orientation, although neither is particularly good and both are a little hackneyed.

The tide was racing in, as it does over the flat sands. I kept my eyes on the filling gully between me and the dunes, but a family with their dogs left it late enough to have to wade knee-deep through it. The beach isn't as flat as it looks.

The clouds coming in off teh sea made for a colourful sunset, but by now the kayakers had returned and I was faced with either having them well exposed or silhouetted. Keeping the sun out of the frame was crucial. Unfortunately the best angles made that impossible.

 As the only wide angle lens I had with me was on the small camera it gave me an opportunity to see how it performed for this sort of stuff. Again the shutter lag was a bit of a problem, but other than that the focusing was fast and accurate enough. In less challenging light conditions I'm sure it would be well up to the task.

The two shots here pleased me. The second shot benefits from the depth of field the sensor gives at wider apertures than a DSLR provides. I guess that's the trade off against the limited dynamic range.

The camera will serve nicely as a second camera when I know what I'll be doing with the main camera, but mostly I like a wider lens on my second body. Alas, the only available options for m4/3 cost more than I've spent on the camera and two lenses. A pity because there are reasonably priced options for longer zooms.

Using two similar but different cameras can be a bit confusing. Especially when one is a recent acquisition and one of the controls works the opposite way. Something that I really did notice was the difference between the viewfinders. Both have their advantages. The DSLR's is bright and clear, but the electronic viewfinder changes brightness as exposure compensation or white balance changes are applied. WYSIWYG. It started to seem odd to be looking through the optical viewfinder of the Nikon and nothing altered when I increased the exposure!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

It's not just me

Seems like I'm not the only one who has issues with the viewfinder of the X10, Paul Russell admits to fewer keepers owing to messed up composition than with a DSLR.

Thinking about my recent local pictures I was glad I'd tagged a load of old files a few weeks back making it easy to pull up most of the pictures I already had from the village. These fell into two sorts; scenes and abstractions. Abstractions in the sense of tight but recognisable framings, which seems to be how I see things in general. The big picture and details.

There was one I found which I think I had overlooked earlier, but which now feels like it works because of it's cutting off of elements at the edge of the frame. It isn't always necessary to include all of an object in a picture in order to suggest its whole. Our minds extend the picture outside the confines of it's frame.

I was struck by the paradox that the broad scenes are more specific - and understood differently by those who know the places depicted, while the picked out details might be understood similarly by anyone because they don't refer specifically to a location. Then again, the context within which the pictures are viewed, and the way they are presented also affects the way they are perceived.

Rained off today I fiddled with the presentation of the quarry pictures. I think with some success. Leaving them alone for a couple of weeks certainly made things clearer. There might be more to do. So more thinking space is required.

Looking at other people's photographs often gives me encouragement that what I'm doing isn't complete random nonsense. Reading what photographers have to say about their ways of working can do the same. There is a school of thought which dictates that simply wandering around shooting stuff is stupid and will not result in good work. This is not a view I hold to, so it was encouraging to read William Eggleston saying that he just goes out and shoots without really having a project in mind, just having camera along wherever he goes. I must have read this before but it only resonated with me yesterday. 

Friday, 19 April 2013

New looking

It's a funny thing how a change of camera can change your way of looking. With an hour to spare yesterday afternoon I took the new one for a walk to see if some ideas it had given me could be worked on. Certainly the light helped but for the first time I have begun to see pictures where I live, and get ideas for more. I'm even growing to like, if not prefer, the 4:3 format.

Originally I had thought of using the small camera as a sketchbook and to return with a  'proper' camera to make finished pictures. However, I thought I'd make an A3 print (of the first picture here, as it happens) because at small screen sizes it looks to be very contrasty as if there is nothing in the shadows. What a revelation. The print is fine by my (admittedly uncritical) standards. But then the X10 has made nice prints too. I think the new toy makes slightly nicer ones.

This evening I made a point of shooting the same thing with both small cameras. What surprised me most was not any difference in 'image quality' but in the colours. Those from the Panasonic seemed more natural, 'smoother' too, than those from the Fuji.

The shot above is a fine example of Sod's Law at work. I saw the way the light was catching these three bottles in three stages of emptiness (which must be symbolic of something or a metaphor at the very least) and couldn't resist trying to make a picture. The first was a wider shot and reasonable - although better cropped, the second was more tightly framed but the sun was in the wrong place and burned out the lip of one bottle. This third and final frame got the composition right. It works uncropped but I like it like this too. Typically the first two frames are pin sharp. The sell by information printed on the bottles can be seen clearly at 100%. I can't fault the kit lens on the sharpness front. This frame on the other hand is slightly out of focus. It's OK at web size, but inspected closely it's rough as a bear's behind and no amount of fiddling will save it. Story of my life...

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Repetition, repetition, repetition

The book I've just finished reading is The Ongoing Moment by Geoff Dyer, a sort of history of photography. I think (it's a fairly dense tome to get to grips with) the thesis is that photographers are repeatedly photographing the same things, and have been doing since the camera was invented. Dyer concentrates on a handful of these things - hats, people's backs,overcoats (seen from any angle but often the rear), benches, doors... A photograph by Kertész of a man wearing a hat and an overcoat photographed from behind while looking at a broken bench sends him into raptures! You get the idea.

Much play is made on the symbolism of these tropes. Symbolism is something I am wary of. It's subjective and dependent upon the viewer. There is no guarantee that what the viewer of a picture reads into it is what the maker of the picture intended them to read. However, the fact that certain things have been, and continue to be, photographed repeatedly by diverse photographers over the generations hints that there is something about them which speaks universally - at least to members of the same culture. This appears to be irrespective of them being aware of preceding photographs.

For this enlightenment the book has given me solace. I can ignore Sontag's assertion that everything has been photographed and stop worrying about repeating what has been photographed before. Such repetition only becomes cliché when the manner in which the photographs are made is also repeated. I can now think of my photographs of doors, petrol (gas) stations, benches and people's backs as being part of a long tradition of such pictures, and not dumb parodies. Well, I can kid myself!

Although The Ongoing Moment concentrates on the works of a selection of influential American photographers of the early 20th century, who perhaps have been too influential, it did make me look at their pictures in a different way. I got the impression that Dyer's readings of them is far more concerned with content than with form - hence his references to symbolism. This is a way of looking at, and making, pictures that I tend to neglect. My reaction to pictures is more instinctive. Form influences gut reactions more than content because it can be taken in at a glance.

Winogrand claimed that he photographed things to find out what they looked like photographed. I think I photograph things to work out why I photographed them. I can only divine that by looking at the photograph, not at that which was photographed. This might partly explain why I rephotograph things. Sometimes knowingly, with or without reference to earlier pictures, and sometimes unconsciously.

The yard I took a picture of with my old digital camera the other week caught my eye again when I took the 'new' camera out on Monday. The two pictures are similar in the way the light falls, but differ in composition. The earlier picture is primarily about shadows and blocks of colour and tone forming an abstraction.

While the viewpoint is almost exactly the same as the perspective reveals, the later picture has the same concerns an extent, but much more about the red door, the blue sky and the three dimensional space of the yard. The green pipe was unnoticed at the time of making both pictures, yet has become a small but important element in each.

I am fairly sure that I have a taken a third, even earlier, picture of this same yard but it has either been deleted or mislaid. Without doubt it is the bright red door that attracts my eye. What it symbolises is anyone's guess. And a guess is what it must be.

Returning to consciously try and improve a picture is another matter. Far more a technical exercise. I tried this yesterday at the entrance to the beach. The aspect ratio of the camera made for a different picture. The viewpoint was closer to what I wanted, but still there is wasted space bottom left. Maybe another try when they've finished work on the public conveniences is in order.

Returning to rephotograph played a part in my photographs at the quarry, and might continue to if I carry on with them. Some show the same scene at different times, others from different points or angle of view. Perhaps these are attempts to make a static, two dimensional, time-freezing medium picture a four dimensional world?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


There is a growing consensus on the photo-sites I check that digital cameras have got to the stage where how they handle is pretty much the deciding factor when choosing one for 'general' shooting. Having splashed the cash, and got a remote release thrown into the bargain, on the used G2 I have been giving it a try out in earnest today. The manual revealed how simple the exposure compensation control is - push the thumb wheel in then rotate it, push again to lock the setting. With the electronic viewfinder the changes are there to be seen as you make the compensation.

The viewfinder isn't quite like using one in an SLR, but at least it's accurate and uncluttered. With the sun shining yet again it was light and shade that caught my eye when looking for pictures during a walk to the village and back.

While the files are very good they are no match for those from a full frame DSLR. Pulling detail out of shadows is best done in moderation, and there is a lack of tonal gradation which can result in blown highlights, but the sensor is small. The colours are pleasant, exposure good and the auto white balance seems to work okay. Best of all the camera is light and small, and easy to work with almost without thinking. My thumb has yet to learn where the buttons are for moving the focus point around, but with the back-button locking focus when pressed it's quicker to focus and recompose.

This evening  I hit the beach and the flip out screen proved its worth for another addition to my lost ball collection. A collection which has developed a sub-set of Beach Balls!

For hobbyists the micro four thirds system seems to be perfect the perfect balance of image quality, flexibility and compactness. You'd think that would all bring the added benefit of low price. But at entry level there's not much to choose between it and entry level APS senosr DSLRs. If size and weight is a major concern the smaller sensor cameras obviously win out. But once you start looking for better handling (as per a pro DSLR with external controls) both the size and price leap up to match the DSLR kit. The same goes for the better, faster, lenses. You spend almost as much, save a little weight, but lose out on sensor size.

If I want to go out and make photographs I'll use the DSLRs, but if I want to have a camera with me while out and about I want something small light and cheap that is good enough. The X10 was it - apart from the blasted viewfinder. The G2 might be it.

It certainly proved more than adequate as a fishing camera yesterday. I'd forgotten how useful a flip out screen is for self portraits. I was also pleased at how fish were rendered. The X10 made them look less 'fishy' somehow. Not so smooth and shiny. There are times when cutting the weight down in the fishing rucksack matters, so if nothing else the G2 has found a place in there.

Enough of the gear talk. On my walk this morning I took a photo that raised an old issue which has cropped up in a book I'm reading. So my next post might be a little more interesting.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Spot the difference

For once the weather forecast proved reasonably accurate and the rain did abate after lunch. There was intermittent sunshine too. This meant a drive out to the quarry to play with the potential new toy. A few warmer days and some rain made the place look different in subtle ways. Although I had decided to call it a day I might continue visiting the place to make more pictures as the seasons change. It was also much noisier than it has been all winter. Birds were singing their heads off, including a number of chiffchaffs.

Despite not having a manual for the camera I had managed to set it up in a way that I could just about manage. The only thing that bugs me is making exposure compensations. As far as I can work out it needs two or more button presses. I'm sure that with practice it would become second nature, but both the dial on the X10 and the press-button-spin-dial method on my DSLRs are dead simple. Other than that the camera was easy to use. One feature that I found really useful for low level shots using the flip out screen was the focus point can be chosen simply by touching the screen. Focusing is a lot faster than on the X10 and there's a very usable back-button for focusing when using the electronic viewfinder. All in all it's very nearly a mini DSLR as far as handling goes.

In the interests of pixel peeping I took some shots of primroses using three cameras. Most definitely the stage has come when for most purposes pretty much any camera will do these days, and making the choice boils down to handling.

Of course there are differences in image rendering caused by the qualities of the lenses, and depth of field differences caused by sensor size. Depending on your needs smaller sensors can be beneficial in this respect, or not! Peeping the pixels on the PC there is a noticeable increase in noise on reaching ISO 400, by no means awful just noticeable. Having made an A4 print from an ISO 1600 file containing fine detail I'm more than happy with the output.The only bad thing I've noticed so far about the files is a tendency for blues to become vivid when altering tones and exposure. Pale blue-grey hills turn dark navy. Easily rectified, but annoying.

I guess I'm easily swayed. At the price it's going for, and given that the controls are better than on the newer model, I'll likely be the owner of a micro four thirds camera tomorrow. I can quite understand now why a lot of hobbyists have ditched their DSLR systems in favour of the smaller, lighter gear. What holds me back is mostly the 'look' of pictures made with the larger sensor, and the ease of handling of the cameras. But for a 'knockabout' camera the G2 seems to be closer to that handling than the X10. The X10 feels more like a real camera, it's files are great and the physical controls easy to use. But that damned viewfinder bugs the hell out of me. The EVF on the Panasonic isn't perfect, but what you see is what you get (no matter which aspect ratio you select) and the rear screen isn't partly obscured by 'information' when using that to frame shots. No doubt I'll find niggles in time, but with the flippy-outy screen it should make a good fishing camera for travelling light!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Strike while the iron is hot

Yet again I left going out too late when the sun was shining, and then made things worse by imagining the sun would continue to shine. There was lots going on at the beach when I parked up, but having stuff to do in town I thought I'd get that out of the way first.

There are some brightly painted portacabins and fencing on the prom where there is restoration work going on. I had an attempt at making pictures of them a while back but got nowhere. Today I got somewhere, but maybe not quite where I wanted.

My first two shots included a plant (palm?). I liked the way the natural form contrasted, but also mimicked, the regular pattern of the painted steel. The hint of yellow in the leaves also worked with the red and green paint.

Yet again I think that a viewpoint midway between the two might have worked more successfully. The trouble is that my knees only have two settings these days - standing and kneeling...

Then I tried a more abstract composition using just the metalwork. But that seems less interesting.

I called in at the camera emporium to pick up some paper and as they were quiet had a look at a micro four thirds camera. The electronic viewfinder was pretty good, and the focusing surprisingly fast. Then the manageress showed me an older secondhand model they had in stock. While I was trying to get the hang of it the battery died. Never one to miss the opportunity of a sale she offered to put it on charge and if I could return in an hour I could have another go. Not wanting to walk to the beach and then back into town and back again to the car on the seafront I hung around in town for the hour. During which time the rain arrived.

To shelter from the weather and  keep myself amused I spent a few minutes trying to make some shots of bunting blowing around in one of the arcades using a slow shutter speed to blur the flags. The natural light was dull and the bunting not as colourful as it could have been. The lamp adds a little to the picture as do the beams and ironwork.

With the time killed I went back to look at the camera. I have to say that these things are compact and lightweight. The range of external controls are reasonable, but not quite as simple as on a DSLR, or even the X10. No doubt with a bit of consultation of the manual they can be set up to work the way you want them to. Although the price was very much right I was undecided.

Did I mention what a good saleswoman the manageress is? She said I could take the camera away to try out and to play with some files then drop it back on Monday... As it wasn't set up, and the rain was still falling, I made my way back to the beach. The crowds had deserted the sand, driven off by the incoming tide and the rain. Even the donkeys were sheltering when I got there. I should have gone straight to the beach while the sun was out. The forecast for tomorrow is a reverse of today. Rain first, sun later. I'll believe it when I see it.

Monday, 8 April 2013

The drawer of unloved cameras

The drawer of unloved cameras is the digital equivalent of my cupboard-shelf of unloved cameras, which is home to old film cameras - which has recently received another which I was given by a friend. Watching the Saul Leiter film last night I saw him using a selection of small digital cameras. I'd also been pixel-peeping at files from a micro 4/3 camera and thinking how acceptable they were for casual use after talking over with a friend how if I was starting out as a hobbyist wildlife photographer taking shots for my personal pleasure and to share on the web I'd probably opt for that system.

Although I like the output from my X10 I haven't bonded with using it, thanks to the viewfinder not matching exactly what the sensor sees. Hence the drawer was slid open and my 2006 vintage bridge camera taken out. Batteries loaded and a walk to the Post Office and back was called for.

The camera's 6.3 mega pixels have been used to fill at least one double page spread in a fishing magazine. The Canon S3IS was quite a popular camera among angling writers. That was in the days before I ever bothered processing my JPEGs. I was interested to see what I could make of the files these days. Compared to those from more up to date cameras they required considerable tweaking to satisfy me. The small sensor probably accounts for the lack of dynamic range and the easily blown highlights. It certainly accounts for the smeary detail. Even so, given bright light as I had this morning, the files are perfectly acceptable for web use

The next step was to make a print. This showed up the limitations rather more. However, with careful processing and viewed at a sensible distance an A4 print didn't look too bad. I'm sure that 5x7 prints would be fine. In fact I know they would because I've printed out a few photographs of fish at this size in the past. For family snaps a camera like this seems perfectly adequate. It's modern equivalent would be even better.

What surprised me most in all this was that, apart from the camera's controls (I set it to programme mode rather than try to fiddle with anything) and the focus point being fixed, I found it easier to make the pictures I wanted than with the X10. Simply because of the viewfinder. It might be a horribly tiny and grainy electronic viewfinder, but it shows you exactly what the camera sees. Although the powered zoom was a nightmare to use coming from manually controlled zooms the overall experience was enjoyable. All I'm after is marrying a camera I'm comfortable using with adequate output.

Ideally I'd like an electronic viewfinder on the X10 as it's such a likeable camera that, now I shoot JPEGs, gives me files that are malleable and make for nice enough prints. Unfortunately that's not going to happen any time soon. One option would be one of the X10's bigger brothers, but they are out of my casual-shooting price range. Same goes for a Sony NEX - nice as the one I handled was. Having sold some surplus camera gear could take a punt on a used micro 4/3 body and zoom and feel no financial pain. The trouble is I think I might just be looking for a new toy. However it could turn out to be a toy that helps me make more pictures... It's all too easy to find justifications for new toys!

Saturday, 6 April 2013


With the quarry photographs done I find myself somewhat directionless. A drive round the flatlands today saw the fields being transformed, now they are dry enough for the farmers to get their machinery onto the land, into their strange spring garb.

Every year they are cloaked in polythene or fleece either dug into the soil or held down by weighted plastic bags. From afar the polythene can shimmer like the surface of a lake, while the fleece can resemble snow when the air is still or ripple like water in a wind.

Being slow to work out how to make what I see match what the camera sees I have been trying to photographed these surreal fields for the last three springs.

With no wind and a clear sky today I made some pictures which I think are more successful than my earlier efforts.

The first picture was an attempt at making a traditionally bucolic landscape composition, with the incongruity of the rippled white surface peppered with black bags. A self-conscious effort at subverting a genre, I suppose. The second shot is more about the ripples and repeating patterns of the bags, while being a 'straight documentary' composition.

The following two pictures were made earlier in the day. Again the portrait orientated one is a more formal composition with a zig-zag of lines and a sky that sort of mimics the surface of the sheeting, the other being more abstract, and I think more successful in showing the extent of the land covered.

These pictures, and others I have taken of farming related scenes, seem to fall in with what I'm coming to think is my main preocupations for photographic subjects - the way man impacts on the natural world and how nature encroaches on the man-made environment. It could all too easily be assumed that this arises from some deep dislike of what mankind has done to the world, but I don't think it is. I just find it interesting that, in the UK at least, there is no such thing as a natural environment yet no matter what is done to alter it flora and fauna find ways to adapt.

In a way my interest in people using the beach and dunes for pleasure, and for profit, is part of this preoccupation. With the sun shining on the warmest day for a long time there were a few people enjoying the beach this evening. I snatched a couple of shots of a horsey person before wandering into the dunes to photograph something I had tried to picture a couple of years ago.

Of the two frames this was the best. It's one of those 'nearly' shots though. The pink boots and child's jacket are nice, as is the spread of figures over the frame. There's even a catch-light in the horse's eye,and the contrail leads to the horse's head. Where it falls down worst of all is the horse's handler's head being obscured by the leading rein - not to mention her face being turned away, although that is less troublesome as the implied gaze is towards the two riders. There are also two annoying niggles; the car by the horse's tail and the figure cutting into its neck. The flare to the bottom left and the central horizon. I can live with. Hey ho.

My venture into the dunes was not too productive. I had left it too late and the angle of light was wrong. On my way back I took a couple of pictures of the entrance to the beach, trying to include all the relevant elements to set the scene. I'm not sure if the topography of the dunes prevented me getting a high enough vantage point between the two places I shot from or whether I just messed up. The perfect shot would have been made from between the two. I might go back and try again sometime.

What is interesting about the two frames (which I only picked up on when processing them as they replaced each other on the screen as I clicked through the images) is that I have placed the telegraph pole in almost exactly the same place in both, and it's damned close to a vertical 'rule of thirds' line. I didn't do this consciously. I was concentrating on trying to get all the buildings framed and eliminating wasted space.

On the way home I snapped another interaction of technology with the environment. Albeit the far from natural environment of the sandplant. Even the inclusion of a silhouetted figure on a trail bike in a simple 'landscape' picture like this makes it hold the attention much longer than mere bricks and rubble - no matter how appealing or evocative the light.

Despite making some pictures which have given me plenty to think about I still feel in need of something substantial to concentrate on. Perhaps I need a break from the viewfinder for a while to recharge my psychological batteries.