Monday, 31 March 2014

Roll on winter

It must be my naturally miserable nature but I prefer winter time for wandering around the beach and seafront. You'd think that on a warm sunny afternoon with hundreds of people about there'd be lots going on that might make for interesting pictures. To my eyes, if nobody else's, the masses all seem to be doing nothing of interest. Eating, sleeping, wandering aimlessly. My hat's off to those photographers who do find pictures among the thronging hordes. I find people engaged in some activity make for far better picture opportunities. In winter people at the beach are generally there to do something - collect coal, ride horses, kitesurf - rather than idly 'enjoy' themselves.

Again I've been forsaking the viewfinder for the low-level benefits of the rear screen. When my knees worked properly I could have stayed partially squatted to get the camera level with the horse's head. Now I don't have to. Another so-sop picture but the colours work nicely and I don't care if the highlights are blown. It's almost level!

Another low level shot was taken when the shapes of the bowls and the plates attracted me. A bit of a nothing picture but when the girl came into the frame it sort of made a picture. One which I like because, although far less interesting, reminds me of this one.

The day's take away point is: Give up trying to take pictures of people enjoying the seaside in the sun and stick to making pictures of 'stuff' and empty spaces.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Market day people

More thoughts on small cameras and making pictures with them. First up, I prefer to start out with 3:2 aspect ratio and only to crop from that if required (usually for portrait orientation), rather than start with 4:3 and crop. This probably goes back to the dawn of time when I started making pictures on 35mm film. I suspect it's also associated with looking at more pictures made in that format than any other over the years.

Although I don't hold to the mantra that big cameras put people off, but that it's the way you point them at people that does that, a small camera makes me less self conscious about pointing it at people.

Of course when you know someone it's easy to point a camera at them. And they come to expect it!

Small cameras are light enough to carry around in your hand for long periods - which is good. Using the screen on the back makes for a different framing strategy, I find. For the two shots above I used the viewfinder and they are quite formally arranged. The rear screen makes my pictures looser.

Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't. It is good for me in that I have always been uptight about framing shots. The fluid way of shooting at arm's length does me good even if the pictures don't always come off.

One point of note is that sunny days make the market tricky to photograph with the stalls being shaded and the street brightly lit. Another reason for me preferring rainy days for shooting around towns!

A really useful outcome of my trip to market town was finding one way to make pictures about parking that I like. Which means I might get to make some more and the 'project' might get off the ground. I just need to stay loose.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

More mono musings

I'm not sure if my recent thinking about black and white photography was prompted by the discussions over at The Online Photographer or not, but those have made be think about it more. Specifically the 'seeing pictures' in black and white thing. With another trip to the 'big city' of Preston planned I decided to set the compact to shoot raw and JPEG - but set to black and white. That would make teh screen and EVF show what the camera saw in monochrome but I'd have the colour version to compare the results to in the raw file. What occurred surprised me.

A rainy day in town always suits monochrome to my mind. And I like umbrellas. They make interesting shapes. I also took a walk through the underpass to Preston's loved-and-loathed bus station. The underpass is tiled in white with black grouting and there's not much in the way of colour to be seen. Ideal for both seeing and shooting in black and white. On the back of the camera I reckoned everything I'd shot worked okay without the colour. Even the street scenes and other random rubbish. It was a different story on the PC.

The picture above was the one that made me realise I had been seeing pictures in colour even though the camera was showing me them in black and white. Shown in all it's colourful glory I must have subconsciously picked up on the magenta lettering on the umbrella and connected it with the heart and the rest of the poster in the window plus the shop sign. There were too many similar examples for this to be a coincidence.

In the underpass there were one or two examples were I'd quite obviously seen the touches of colour which made the pictures. Not that they are great pictures, but they are pictures - I think.

It's strange, but I like shooting for a brief period like this. It makes you look and think faster than if you have all day to ponder over compositions. It might not be the optimal way to operate, but every now and then it can be good. It's certainly blown away the cobwebs and dispelled my recent despondency. For some reason I like this photograph of a photograph. I saw it and passed it by, then went back and made the picture. It's pretty clear that it was the colour that made me see the picture and the colour that makes it work. I really like the way it looks like two photographs composited - which it is, in a way.

The camera is great for this kind of exercise. It's small and can be operated with one hand - I fire the shutter using my thumb! Mostly I used the rear screen for composing images, sometimes the viewfinder (generally with the lens zoomed out) and occasionally I shot from the hip. It handles well enough. However... The time it takes to write data to the card (even with the faster card I was using) meant a couple of missed shots. The delay between focusing and firing likewise. There's also a lag when switching from screen to EVF. Then there's the lens distortion, which is unfortunately worst at my preferred focal length.

The trip ended on a happy note. In these days of every middle-aged bloke with a beard and a camera being eyed with suspicion (or so the photo-forums would have it) it was amusing and encouraging for a chap to shout across the road for me to take his photograph! Pity I made a crap picture.

Take away points: I now see pictures in colour; there's a lot to photograph in towns and the bigger the town there more of it there is; rain is great for photography; rear screen composition isn't all that bad; small, light cameras are good fun.

There's a bit of a slideshow here.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

An experiment

So much for doing some serious photography today. I've entered another 'what's the point' phase through lack of direction and frustration. It was a struggle to motivate myself to set out at all. Although the wind was strong and the sun bright I hadn't intended heading to the kite surfing beach. But that was where I ended up - without a long lens. I did have a polariser with me, which I've been meaning to use more and see if it would remove the blue cast I seem to get at the seaside as I'd read somewhere on the web that it would do. That was the main reason I headed for the sands. It certainly seems to do as advertised.

When I had a cheap polariser it didn't surprise me that it would get stuck to the lens no matter how careful I was not to screw it on too tightly. Eventually I threw the thing away after I'd had to put the damned thing in a vice! I took the plunge and bought an expensive polariser. It's no different. Good job I bougt a couple of filter wrenches. Must start taking them with me.

Lacking a telephoto I took some photographs while a few kite surfers were getting set up. I'm always attracted to contre-jour shots and the colourfully translucent kites breaking the monochrome monotony. A bit of a sunburst and the heightened contrast in the sky from the polariser and things don't look like one of my usual pictures.

Shooting into the sun at the beach gives scope for making graphic images - using shadows as shapes as well as silhouetted figures.

Not having taken a zoom I had a short telephoto on the other body, sans filter, which gave a different look.

Despite making a few reasonable pictures I still headed for home in the slough of despond!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Small World

Almost immediately after watching Tom Wood on What Do Artists Do All Day? I ordered Photie Man and Men / Women which I'd been prevaricating over for some time. Once more I'm left wondering if the pictures have gained interest through the passage of time and their value as social documents isn't outweighing their merits as pictures. That's not to say there aren't some really good pictures in the books, there are, but perhaps there are just too many pictures. That can be a problem with books of a retrospective nature which are rarely concise.

The nostalgia conundrum also applies to another book which I read a review of recently which also harks back to the time the seventies turned into the eighties - the time I was a student in Liverpool. The same period when Tom Wood and Martin Parr were photographing Merseyside.

As the captions for the pictures in the Tom Wood books are at the back rather than accompanying the pictures it took me a while to realise that I have a photograph of one of people in Photie Man. Which made me think about the theory of six degrees of separation.

Here's my picture of Dick Young which was shot in black and white because digital hadn't been invented and I couldn't develop colour film!

This afternoon I made a trip to see the local photographic society's exhibition of its open competition prints. It was as dreary as ever. Nothing much has changed in over 30 years. The subjects are still the same (there's always a craggy old character with a beard, a swan or two and some yachts), all printed to a 'high standard' of blandness. Some say the internet is homogenising photography, it's nothing new it's been like that pretty much for ever. Just the values vary from sub-group to sub-group.

I reverted to the Fuji for my pocket camera, but got annoyed by its handling yet again. Not being able to remember how to change the settings I frequently mess with doesn't help. Grrr... I guess I'm wedded to the SLR functionality.

The parking theme progresses. Although I remain at a loss to understand why I frame my pictures the in the haphazard way I do. If the rain stays away tomorrow I might do some serious photography instead of my unfocused wandering around snapping.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

I give up

 Against my better judgement I've been using my 'fishing' camera for a walk-around camera recently. Like my other attempts at using small cameras this has been met with frustration. They can make good pictures. The trouble is that for supposedly easy to use cameras you (I) have to take more care operating them to do so than with a big, bulky DSLR.

Then there's the lack of a top screen to give me the info I like to have to hand - shutter speed, aperture and ISO. I know it's all there on the big screen or in the electronic viewfinder - but I don't see it. Those screens are for composing pictures with. Mentally I block all the letters, icons and numbers out. As a result I end up shooting with crap settings and getting crap pictures.

Today's unplanned wander round Preston market was a case in point. I was sure I'd dialled the aperture back to f2 - which would ghave given me a fast enough shutter speed to combat wobbly hand syndrome when shooting single handed using the rear screen. I normally prefer using a viewfinder, but there's something about using a compact which makes me want to poke the camera into corners to get angles of view I couldn't by using the viewfinder. It also allows you to take photographs of people unaware the camera is actually aimed at them. Sometimes! So, I ended up with a load of slightly blurred pictures.

The market isn't what it used to be, at least not today. Maybe on a Saturday it has more traditional stalls, but Thursday is more of a car boot sale. Lots of interesting junk to look at, and strange juxtapositions of objects though. At the time I wasn't sure what caught my eye about the taps in the picture below. Processing it I realised that it was the echo of the arches in the background. That's why I cropped the top of the frame to a 3:2 aspect ratio. Useful as the 4:3 ratio is for some things (portrait oriented for example, and certain landscape subjects) I feel stuck in the old 35mm format, particularly for this kind of stuff. The B+W conversions are mostly to compensate for the blurriness. A grungy 'street photography' look where technical flaws become positives!

For some reason I've been pondering recently if the internet is debasing 'street photography'. Just like landscapes streets are available to anyone. I think this is why they are popular subjects among hobbyist photographers. As such common subjects, themes, compositions, and treatments in these genres get repeated. For many it's enough to photograph Corfe Castle or Durdle Door. It doesn't matter that they do so in exactly the same way everyone else has done before them. They've pretty much has teh compopsition handed them on a plate. With street photography people and things move, that's why good street photographs work - they've frozen a number of elements in a never to be repeated arrangement. That's more opf a challenge. As a result it's become enough to take photographs on the street and give them the 'look' of the 'iconic' street images. Shoot in black and white, use a lens no longer than 50mm and you're half way there.

By that score these pictures are 'internet street'. There are millions of such uninteresting pictures on the internet. Flickr is full of them, people have blogs with nothing but them filling their posts. Some even run workshops teaching others how to produce even more of them. I'm sure the interest in street photography has been driven by the web. It looks easy. It is just pictures of people in the street. Except, when done well, it's not.

I've been thinking about black and white these last few days too. I think it should be outlawed. Sure, colour can get in the way of some pictures. It can, perhaps surprisingly, make pictures look too ordinary. One of the strengths of great photographs is often their ability to render the everyday truly extraordinary. Colour can make it mundane. But just because colour adds an extra difficulty to picture making it can also be crucial. This shot is okay in an 'internet street' sort of way as a monochrome image. But it was colour that made me take it in the first place.

The stress on the subject matter shifts when it's shown in colour. In black and white the eye is drawn to the woman, in colour there's a tension between the attraction to a human face and the brightly coloured soft fabric flower. The picture works differently.

The most interesting stall by far was the one selling (and buying) second hand film cameras and other gear. Luckily for me I was short of cash or I might have come home with another camera to put one roll of film through and abandon. That Nikon was tempting!

Given the assortment of junk on show there was a lot that could be done with colour and shapes. Santa Claus and the Twin Towers? There has to be a deeper meaning there! This picture needs colour.

Prior to visiting the market I had tried to make a 'serious' picture of what the Americans would call 'a vacant lot' as part of my loose Spaces series.I spent some time framing different views and taking care over the camera settings. I got a couple of frames which looked okay on the back of the camera.

On the PC it was different story. The limitations of the camera, which I was aware of, were all too obvious. Distortion and colour fringing. Easily corrected in Lightroom, but annoying. I especially despise correcting lens distortion as it buggers up critically composed pictures by chopping bits off at the edge.

As a fishing camera, and for casual shooting, the compact is fine. I expect limitations. It's not the camera that's the problem. It's me. My habit of seeing 'serious' pictures when I'm just messing about snapshooting and don't have the right gear with me. Rather than leave the picture untaken - which, I suspect, is the correct approach - I waste  time doing what I can with what I have available and then regret it when I get home. perhaps I ought to get one of those new fangled phone camera thingies to remove the temptation rather than continue the futile search for my perfect go-anywhere-do-everything camera? Whatever the case I've got to give up trying to do stuff which the cameras aren't intended to do.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Bang goes another idea

Typical. I get an idea (see last picture of previous post) and someone else has had the same idea... I guess it's a case of people who are visually inquisitive see, and are attracted by, similar things.

At least (I hope) nobody else can photograph the view from my bedroom window! It's an unremarkable view, but I can see something different in it most days, and nights.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

When in doubt

Whenever I'm really, really stuck and down about photography I head for the seaside. A warm and sunny Sunday afternoon saw the beach quite popular. Once more I missed out on the fun. The horse riders were all packing up. I'd also missed the sea anglers launching their boats and couldn't be bothered hanging around until they came back in on the tide. One of these days I'll go to the beach earlier in the day instead of leaving until the day is almost over. Maybe. The strange thing is I actually prefer the beach when there aren't many people around.

I tried to make a suggestion of the boat anglers in their absence by photographing the tracks of their vehicles and trailers. It might read more easily at a larger size. The repetition of shapes at the near edge of the gully appealed to my eye. Not much of a pictire but it might work in combination with others. Or it might not.

I was struck by the way people flock together like waders on the tide edge. Either side of the group below there was empty sand. What appealed was the matchstick figures making a frieze-like image. Hence the panoramic crop. To really make this sort of picture work it should be made with a high resolution lens and printed large I feel.

As can be seen, the sun decided to hide by the time I reached the sea and made my way back to the car. Typical.

Monday was a day of fishing and playing with the compact camera. The limitations are a minor frustration. What really bugs me with all the small sensor cameras I've used is the magenta/purple cast to the images. Not just fringing round high contrast edges but over the whole picture. One thing that small cameras do for me is encourage experimentation. This usually leads me to push them beyond their capabilites. The pictures can work okay as web images though.

This afternoon saw more bright sunshine and another trip to the seaside. I really should have put my hand in my pocket to park closer to the action instead of walking in. I made more pictures than I'd intended, and almost all were absolute rubbish. The best of the rest were pretty dire too. Sometimes it feels like a complete waste of time. In fact there was nothing worth posting except for one which reminded me of an idea I thought about pursuing a while back.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Pumping it up

Once more the benefit of snapping anything interesting and revisiting places paid off. Just over 12 months ago I took three photos of a bit of a makeshift pumping solution. At the time the drainage theme was floating around in my head with not much form to it, but the idea was there to make pictures relating to it in case they came in handy at some future date.

I hadn't been back there for some time until today when I chanced upon a fancy new pump being installed and made my usual half-arsed attempt at documenting the process. A mid-range zoom would have been useful - but all I had were two fixed focal length lenses. At least I had two bodies with me.

Only this morning I'd made the decision to make more pictures of people doing stuff instead of taking the easy option of photographing 'stuff'. This is far more challenging. Not only do you have to find people doing things you have to engage with them while trying to make pictures which are more than just snapshots. It's far from simple. I think I managed one or two pictures which contain information which explains the situation. The one below shows the forklift up to its front axle - illustrating the sodden nature of the earth requiring drainage.

Like most blokes they installed the pump and fired it up without consulting the manual. Eventually looking at it when no water was going through!

A few more here.

The concept of trying to make individual photographs which aspire to the condition of 'art' seems to be becoming less interesting to me than the idea of sequences or collections of images which tell a story in some way. Where the Lost Balls fit in this I don't know!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Higher ground

At the moment I'm in one of those periods of doubt. I want to make photographs, I know what I want to make them of, but I wonder why I should bother. Nonetheless I set off this afternoon to look at the end of a drain where it passes through (under?) the floodbank which keeps the sea at bay. What the floodbank does, photographically speaking, is quite literally provide a different point of view and a new perspective. An unusual one in this flat landscape.Before I got to the drain I came across a field which was in the process of being drained. Having set out to travel light with a mid-range zoom and a camera I was a bit scuppered for making any worthwhile images of a subject which fits well in the theme of drainage!

Pictures of the modern drainage of fields illustrate how unnatural farmland is, despite it's acceptance as bucolically timeless in the eyes of the general public. Fields are fields and crops grow in them. In fact they are industrialised and managed. It's just that this is all hidden underground. Maybe the picture above makes this point in a subtle way which requires the photograph to be read before it can be understood rather better than the one below which spells things out more literally.

I would have liked to get closer but the lack of a longer lens prevented that from where I was, and I couldn't get physically closer because of a couple of fences and a ditch! I've yet to find out why the ditches in this area run a rust brown. It makes for colourful and perplexing images though.

Whenever I look at my photographs of the landscape they never look like the ones I see in photo magazines or on photography forums or blogs. Even when I carefully compose a picture, as in the one above (believe it or not!) I choose views which fall outside the widely accepted formulae for making landscape pictures. I think it's because I'm as much interested in what is in the picture as how it is constructed.

Just the other day I saw a picture of a sandy cove with some people enjoying the sunshine and the sea  posted on a forum. It looked a bit of an obvious view but nice enough. I felt the people gave it some scale and their footprints showed how they had got where they were. Someone took it upon themselves to edit out the people to improve the shot. This is what I find so wrong with the aesthetic which populist photography follows. It's an aesthetic of idealised romanticism that doesn't want to say anything or try to make any point other than 'this is pretty'. So here's a picture of some soil and some water.

I've been taking my new compact around town with me recently and liking the way it handles. More importantly I like the way the pictures it makes look.

I still find annoying frustrations with the whole compact camera thing, though. The different native aspect ratios of compacts and DSLRs is one such. You can switch this compact to shoot in 3:2 aspect ratio - but only in JPEG. Why? One of my DSLRs can be set to shoot in 5:4 aspect ratio in both JPEG and raw, but not in 4:3. When using both systems to work on one project means there has to be some guesswork involved if trying to compose for future cropping. At least with the micro four thirds Panasonic I had it would shoot raw in 3:2. This must be a simple firmware issue. And quite why the thing has to be sluggish to respond is another bafflement. Ho hum.

That aside the only other niggles I have are, I guess, connected to the lens quality and the size of the sensor. There's a lack of dynamic range and a strong tendency for purple fringing, plus quite a bit of distortion which was evident in the railings above. Aside from the dynamic range, which I overcome by deliberately underexposing to preserve highlight detail, the fringing and distortion can be easily corrected. A3 prints look good enough after a bit of tweaking to me.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Watch it while you can

Another episode in the BBC seemingly periodical series on what artists do all day features Tom Wood in Ireland. A fascinating insight into his way of working, and some great 'photies' too - if you like that sort of thing. Although a contemporary and friend of Martin Parr, and a photographer of not dissimilar subject matter, his career could hardly be more different!

As this is supposed to be a blog about photography here's two from today's trip to a nature reserve. Like Mr Wood I tend to have too many balls in the air at once. The drainage thing is still in the back of my mind, I even made a couple of pictures that might work in to it, but I've got the nature reserve thing nagging at me now. There might be a format developing here. The two pictures below were deliberately taken to work as a pair. Whether I can make a cohesive set of pairs of pictures in this vein remains to be seen.

While I was wandering around today I got to thinking about how you can try to make individual pictures that are not just of something specific but also about a bigger idea, or you can take a lot of pictures of things which when put together become, in total, about the big idea. This just demonstrates that there is no one thing that photography can be defined as. It can be put to many uses. Which is one of it's great fascinations and attractions. Particularly to someone with a grasshopper mind like me who has never been able to work in any one style, genre, or mode in anything I do for any prolonged period. Most artists settle into one groove, and many amateur photographers seem to be in search of a personal style as if that is the apogee of success. It takes something like genius to pull off changing, or varying, styles and remaining consistent and not coming across as a dilettante. Only a handful manage it. Picasso? Neil Young?

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Getting my eye in, and messing up

Strange how using one focal length gets you seeing with the same viewpoint. The other day I took a zoom out for a wander with nothing much in mind and found many shots were made with it around the 50-60mm mark. Unfortunately I've been getting my timing wrong this week. Not just being in the right place at the wrong time, which is normal for me, but timing shots badly.

It's not often I get to the shrimp track when there are shrimpers around. One day this week I did. With the tide still well out I got plenty of warning that the tractor was coming is and got myself in a position where I thought I might make a reasonable picture. I got the framing pretty much how I wanted it with some churned up muddy sand bottom left and the patch of the tractor predictable on the right. As it passed through the deeper patch of water I knew there'd be some spray to suggest movement. Even the seagull took off when I wanted it too.

This was okay, but like a dolt I'd set focus on the foreground when making pictures with the tractor a distant speck and forgot to shift it to the tractor when it got closer making it a bit soft. I'd also neglected to shift out of single shot mode so I couldn't rattle off a number of shots in quick succession. The next frame I managed was the one below.

The tractor is large and better positioned, more side on, but there is less impression of motion - and the seagull is now below and just touching the horizon. Bah! I made an abstract of tyre tracks to cheer myself up. I even got them reasonably sharp.

Today I set out with a purpose in mind. To try to make some photographs about how nature reserves don't actually put people in touch with nature but distance them from it. A big idea to put into pictures. One that I realise I've been working towards for some time, and which needs more than a couple of hours to get to grips with. Anyway, I took two bodies one with the 50mm and one with the 28mm. These two lenses seem to cover the way I see things, and being fixed focal lengths they make me think more about framing as I've mentioned many times before. I also stuck the telephoto zoom in the bag in case I headed for the seaside later.

Needless to say I got sidetracked as I wandered around the outside of the reserve. The ditches and drain got me thinking about the drainage project. The frame below manages to combine a drain and an irrigation pipe, bringing the to themes of the project together. I could have made a better effort of the framing, although I did make a better fist of a picture in portrait orientation, but without the drain in the shot.

I've photographed this gate and sign a few times before. This is the first time I've made a picture of it though. Good photographs can work because of the compositional structure or because of their content and/or concept. Better photographs blend the two. I think this photograph manages to work as a composition and as an idea.

When someone shows what they think is a good picture the failed attempts are, as here, usually kept hidden. I think that's why Henri Cartier-Bresson said that contact sheets should never be shown. By only showing the best shots the mystique of the photographer as a magician able to pluck perfect photographs from the world around them at the click of a shutter is maintained. Show the contact sheets and that myth dissolves. Just take a look at H C-B's contact sheets... But the failures are like a painters sketches. Important to the process, and revealing to the outside observer.

I am tickled by the irony that wildlife frequently chooses to ignore nature reserves. Even preferring to feed across the road from them like the geese in the picture below. At a larger size the geese in the field are much more visible. If the name of the reserve had been visible on the sign that would have made the picture really work.

This problem of scale of display is increasingly problematic for photography, I think. As screens get smaller and become the default way for people to view photographs the benefits of cameras which can resolve a lot of detail become redundant. This may well influence the way people make photographs. I guess that for the majority of people who take photographs these days, with compact and phone cameras, this is probably already the case. Or maybe people will expect to be able to click on a photograph and see it at 100%. This option is frowned upon by photographers wanting to keep their files to themselves so they can sell prints, but who still want to display their work on the web. Quite where photographic display will go in the future is hard to say. There may be a split between photography for the web and gallery display. Massive prints are becoming the norm in the gallery and art world. It's a bit elitist to my way of thinking for the most democratic image making medium.

When I, inevitably, got to the beach it was closed to cars. Like everyone else I had to find somewhere to park and then walk. By now I had the zoom on one camera, and being idle it stayed on. My bad timing struck again and a couple of horses were being readied for going back in their trailer. I almost made a decent picture. I keep on trying to make pictures which bring more than one subject into the frame. This one drew together horse riding and dog walking. Alas the timing was off. So it's just a snap and not a picture. Timing shots is a learned skill. The more you try the better you get. The difficulty is finding the time to try as often as is required. I'll have to keep on making the failures.

One picture that didn't fail quite so badly was this contre-jour shot. Maybe I should have got a bit lower, but my knees aren't keen on that option! Yet again it reads more clearly larger. The tyre tracks lead the eye up and left from bottom right where they meet the matchstick figure walking to the right, taking the eye to the right along the dark band until it meets the pole and bounces back. While the light and texture work to create an atmosphere the figures could be more interesting. That's he benefit Lowry had over a photographer - he could put his matchstick men anywhere in the frame.

It's funny how, no matter how many projects and ideas I keep coming up with, I always seem to end up back at the beach. Perhaps I ought to face up to it and stick to making beach pictures and give up my pretensions of making pictures with messages? Of course, all photographs have an agenda of some sort  (are 'propaganda', as Martin Parr put it) even my beach pictures are loaded; why else would they often involve large areas of negative space and small, distant figures?