Sunday, 27 December 2015

Wetter still

Yesterday I'd had a roam in the rain that assaulted Lancashire. There was minor flooding in the village, which was nothing compared to that which occurred not too far away. That still meant that some poor souls had pumps running to keep the water from entering their properties. The big problem here is that the water can't get away. Ditches are higher than I've ever seen them, and when brimful all water can do is back up.


My intention today had been to head for WWT's Martin Mere reserve for an hour or two but on my way there was even more water about than last week. It looked even more like the original Martin Mere was returning. I stopped off and made a few snaps from the roadside. Lacking in time and waterproof footwear I couldn't get any closer to make a better stab at invoking the spirit of the old mere. I think I know how to achieve what I have in mind now. But unless I can get my arse into gear to try out my ideas while the water is still lying I'll not get to find out.


Pressing on I got to the reserve as the light was starting to fail. Unlike just about everyone else who goes to nature reserves my interest lies less in the wildlife than the place and the people. I have an in-built dislike of looking at birds and animal through glass, be that a camera lens, a pair of binoculars or, worst of all, a hide window. It was therefore no surprise when I spotted a kingfisher close to a hide with my naked eye that the hide-dwellers hadn't seen because they were gazing at herds of wildfowl in the distance.


I'd just missed feeding time for the hordes of squabbling swans, geese and shellduck in front of one of the hides. It might as well be a circus as a nature reserve. There were people set up with the obligatory 'big white lens' set ups rattling off fast bursts of exposures attempting, no doubt, to get super-sharp, ultra-detailed photos of the birds. I had a 'long' lens with me (a 70-200) and I didn't bother setting up for rapid fire. In fact I dropped the shutter speed right down and tried a different approach when I noticed that shellduck would occasionally fly towards the hide.



Not an original idea. But a more interesting exercise for me than aiming for detailed record shots. I like the element of chance this kind of technique brings. You can never be sure what you're going to get. There's a lot more misses than hits, but that's no problem with digital. Maybe there's something to explore in this. But probably not much!



Sunday, 20 December 2015

Return of the Mere

Rumours are flying around that changes to the pumping regime will see pumps closed that drain the low lying land of west Lancashire. Whether thee rumours are what is actually going to happen remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, it wouldn't take much for the mere to return. Recent prolonged rain in the area didn't result in catastrophic floods as it did further north, but land that was once permanently under water before the drains were dug is looking rather wet at the moment. One drain system being higher than I've seen it. On one side of the road the drain was almost brimful while the ditch on the other side was at a normal level. Something odd is going on.

This drain was so high that downstream it had over-topped the bank and the field, marshy at the best of times, was now a small lake giving an indication of what would occur were the pumps to be switched off for good. Not being aware of the situation before setting out I wasn't prepared to take 'landscape' photographs, so  did my usual hand-held thing. The weather is set to turn wet again, so maybe I'll be able to have another try with more suitable gear?

These are some of my attempts to suggest a landscape threatened by water. The flippy screen was useful for keeping me from having to kneel down and get soaking knees!






Wet places certainly attract me, but I still can't get a real handle on how to photograph them. As good an excuse as there is to keep trying, I suppose! I'm sure that if I could devote a few weeks to doing nothing but photograph such places it would come together much more rapidly. But that's not likely to happen.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Daniel Meadows


Monday, 23 November 2015

A narrower view

Continuing my attempts to love that 85mm lens I set out once more on Saturday armed with that on one body and my wide zoom on the other. It goes without saying that the wide lens got used most. I had no clear plan on where to head but the sandplant beckoned. I'd seen more activity there in passing earlier in the week so thought there might have been changes made. There had. I'd hazard a guess that the reclamation will be over soon.


The bunds have been stripped back to what looks like their final extent. The big gap in one where the plant used to leave the site for the beach has been completely filled and levelled off. The higher level of the main area has also been levelled with posts in place to mark something or other off. The whole place is looking barren. What was a micro-habitat (albeit an artificial one) in the large salt marsh looks set to become just more saltmarsh. As if there isn't enough of it being added year by year to the south. But that's by the by. The wide angle came in useful for 'getting it all in' as above, but it's also good for getting in close, and for forcing perspective to exagerate scale.

The piles of sand provide landscapes in miniature. Look at them closely and there are all manner of geological parallels to be seen. The recent heavy rains had turned loose sand into a deep sludge over firmer ground which in places had run and formed magma-like layers.


While reviewing the results from this trip to the sandplant I think I know the reason that 85 is popular. The images it makes can be quite seductive in the way it produces its out of focus areas. Indeed, that seems to me to be what most people do with it - make out of focus things that look nice with something in focus in the near distance. Most of them don't use a stick as the focal point! More here.


Sunday afternoon, while sunny, provided a pretty fruitless hour or two elsewhere. I'd gone in search of a starling murmuration which I had photographed at the start of the month with mixed results. I'm not sure if I left too early or whether the birds were roosting elsewhere, but I came away empty handed.

The other time, unlike the usual scenario where you see the swirling masses of birds from afar, I was actually right underneath them. That made for a different perspective and an approach had to be arrived at on the hoof. Or should that be on the wing? Having a 'super-zoom' lens on the camera at least gave me a few extra options.




One thing the mist did provide was a wintry atmosphere to the pictures. The close proximity of the birds also, I think, made for a few pictures which convey the sheer numbers of individual birds present in a way in which a 'swirling mass' picture doesn't. Using the lens at a long focal length to compress space also stresses the density of the numbers of birds. Faced without the opportunity to make the expected pictures you have to try to pull something out of the hat. I even tried shooting their reflections in the pond I was stood by.


Sunday, 15 November 2015

The way we see

It's a funny old game this photography lark. Or maybe I should say the camera gearhead game is a funny one. I know I shouldn't get involved in discussing gear on internet forums, worse still offering my advice, because I seem to have a completely different set of values to everyone else when it comes to choosing my equipment. Lenses in particular.

My order of requirements for a lens goes something like: focal length, size/weight, aperture, price, sharpness. Focal length is the priority because that defines how the pictures frame and look. I'd rather have a small, light lens that isn't quite as fast as a big heavy lens. never having used a lens that hasn't been sharp enough I put cost above that in terms of importance. Everyone else's seems to go for: sharpness, aperture (as fast as possible), focal length, size/weight, price.

Someone was wondering which lens they ought to get as a 'walkabout'. The big heavy pro spec 24-70 or something smaller/lighter or maybe with a bigger zoom range. I proffered my suggestion of the 28-300 and got shot down by someone who said it was far inferior in sharpness to the 24-70. Not that he had both to make the comparison because he was self-confessedly very picky about image quality and wouldn't touch it with a barge pole. There's a word for people like him. I've used both lenses and can't see a hole lot of difference between them. Where the 'crap' lens really wins is at anything over 70mm! For a walkabout lens a wide zoom range is more useful to my way of thinking. But then there are a lot of digital age photographers who are happy to 'crop to 'zoom'. Needless to say the guy who had asked for advice had really made his mind up in advance because he went for the big heavy lens saying that image quaity really mattered to him. I feel like an outsider at times!

What prompted this mini-rant (which I think I've had before...) was a lens that is very popular among Nikon users. The 85mm f1.8. It's popular because it's compact, sharp, has good 'bokeh' and is very reasonably priced. I bought mine as I thought it would go perfectly with my 28mm and 50mm lenses to complete my 'dream team'. The trouble is that, for me, it's neither fish nor fowl. Sure it's everything it's praised for being. Trouble is that it doesn't focus very close and I find it is either too short or too long. Usually too short. Maybe if I took a lot of portraits of people it would be useful, but I don't. So it isn't.

I went out this afternoon to try and get into using it. But I had a new toy in my pocket and ended up taking the majority of photographs with that. You see the compact in my pocket has the equivalent of a 28mm lens. Now some people say that is too wide for a general purpose lens. I don't find it so. During my two delves into the murky world of mirrorless cameras I almost always had a lens with that angle of view attached and didn't find it too wide at all. I like the perspective that 28mm gives. You can get in close to things and get stuff in the background out of focus enough to be undistracting yet readable . Or you can take in a wider scene with more in relatively sharp focus.

Looking at some Tony Ray-Jones pictures when I got home I realised that he must have had some influence on me as he made pictures in which there was a lot going on. And all of it in reasonable focus. In fact when I look at quite a lot of older pictures in the street and documentary modes I see that this is a common trait. yet today, even in journalistic pictures, subject isolation through depth of field has become a common feature. This device, like all devices, has its place, but it cuts out information. And I think photographs are all about supplying visual information.

New toys have to be played with. At the end of the pier I had a play with motion blur when I spotted the roulette wheel in the 'penny arcade'. While I was messing about a young lad popped into the frame and peered at the wheel. A little bit of luck turned a technical exercise into a picture.


Why the new toy? I'd used my fishing compact round town a few weeks back and found it more useful and more fun than using a DSLR.The only down side being the 'compact camera look' the files have. Just too much depth of field and an artificial sharpness that I don't mind in my fishing photos, but don't care for in the pictures I take as pictures. It also has that annoying 4:3 aspect ratio which is fine in a vertical orientation, but drives me nuts in horizontal.

I did quite like the Fuji X-E2 with the 18mm lens attached. It had the 28mm angle of view and the 3:2 aspect ratio, but the colours and look of the pics didn't please me so I got rid. I like the colours from my fishing camera which is a Nikon, like my DSLRs. Ever since it came out I'd fancied the Coolpix A, but at damn near a grand on launch it was too rich for me as a 'pocket' camera. Not proving to have been a marketing success, and the silver body less popular than the black, it seemed too good to miss now Amazon are selling them off for less than I paid for my fishing compact. Down in price to less than a third of the launch price!

After just two days with the camera it's too early to say if I'll take to it. There are the usual compact camera handling foibles - like no viewfinder and slowish focusing - but the files can't be faulted. 3:2 ratio, APS size too, ISO 3200 perfectly acceptable for my needs, colours that match those from my DSLRs, a lens that's easily sharp enough. It will enable me to integrate photographs from both compact and DSLR in the same sets without jarring (to my eyes) like the Fuji did. Did I mention that the 28mm field of view suits me?

More from 'playtime' here.


Saturday, 7 November 2015

Cluck cluck

Yes, it's show time again! November is the big open show of the year at the local poultry fancier's club. Apparently people travel the length and breadth of the country to get there. And I thought anglers were mad.

There's a problem with going to an event time after time in that you either run out of ideas for pictures or start repeating yourself. On the other hand there is also the chance, admittedly slim, that you'll get so bored of taking the same old pictures that you'll get all wacky and start trying off the wall ideas. They don't always work...


This time I decided to stop until people were packing up to see if any new opportunities would arise. Once the presentations were over it was bedlam in the show shack. People everywhere carting large crates of fowl around. Hardly any room to move, let alone swing a camera. Still, chickens are endlessly inquisitive and entertaining. All you need is good timing.


I had hoped the end of the show might be a time to get a few shots of people with their fowl, but all they want to do is get away. I'd tried a few people/chicken shots earlier but the backgrounds are always cluttered, with insufficient room for a wide aperture to work it's blurry magic, making framing shots tricky. The light is too low to keep the ISO down, too. I guess flash might be the answer, but it goes against my nature to use it.

Once more I was using my fast zoom. The results can be okay, but for some reason I tended to stop it down a bit too much and buggered up a few shots through too high ISO. Okay at screen size but I'm not sure how well they'd print. Not as badly buggered as one would-have-been-good shot that looked like it had been taken in thick fog. I hadn't realised the shack was so warm and the lens misted up as soon as it came in from the cold. My specs doing the same should have given me a clue...

I don't know why it should be that I feel happier using two bodies with fixed focal length lenses on them instead of one body with a zoom that covers both lengths and more. But I do prefer using my feet to alter my framing over turning a zoom ring. Maybe it's because it makes you think more about framing shots? Or maybe I'm kidding myself?

Obligatory gallery here.


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Autumn

Continuing to be frustrated by my inability to take the kinds of pictures I'd like to I've been buggering about taking pictures of autumnal leaves. A terribly clich├ęd subject that is difficult to do anything new with. All the usual tropes get trotted out at this time of year. The single leaf, leaves floating on water, symbolic and metaphorical leaves. Usually perfect leaves - just golden or brown.

I've actually been struggling with this subject since late September. Making use of those few fleeting minutes when the sun is low in the sky to backlight leaves in the local wood. It's one of those frustrating things. The window of opportunity is small. The sun sets remarkably quickly once it reaches the right angle, and by the time I've worked through the crap ideas and started to get some better ones it has sunk too low. Then the following day it's either overcast or I can't get out in time.


Quite what I'm aiming for I don't really know. It's getting late in the year now and there are far fewer leaves around to work with. I guess the photos will have to get put aside with nothing to be done with them. But it kept the little grey cells active.



As the weeks wore on I got more experimental and pushed my uptight boundaries to get me out of my comfort zone.


I even broke out the flash gun to see what that might produce.


Distractions naturally occurred and my usual geometric style came back into play. Organising blocks and straight lines within a frame is where I'm most comfortable.


There was one other leaf picture I've taken recently which really doesn't fall into any of the usual autumnal pigeon holes...


Sunday, 11 October 2015

Still floundering

My lack of direction continues to afflict me. My most creative picture taking seems to be occurring while I'm fishing. Messing about with my compact while the fish aren't biting. Or at least in terms of single images that's the case. Being by the water for twenty four hours lets you see many changes in light and atmosphere, and so provides many chances to make pictures.

The trouble is that I would prefer to be making bodies of work. Something Alec Soth said seemed pretty apposite to my situation:  Everyone can take great pictures. What’s hard is taking a collection of great pictures and making them work together. It’s like language: everyone can speak but putting the words together is the real challenge.”

Words can be brought together in a number of ways. You can make lengthy prose works of fact or fiction, you can make haikus, and many variations in between.

I'm particularly taken with making grids at the moment. A sort of poetic approach, I suppose. One such which I made very quickly, again using my compact camera, came to me as I walked past a hedge which contained a variety of fruiting shrubs in close proximity.

I worked quickly, trying to remain instinctive, and arranged five pictures together. A lame attempt to convey an aspect of autumn. Individually the pictures are nothing special, but together I think they make a bit more sense.

There seems to be something about the compact camera that gives me ideas. I think it's the flexibility of it's screen that helps,and it's light weight that allows it to be held in positions which would be awkward to use a larger camera with a viewfinder. It's not without its drawbacks. I tried it for some pictures of a woman untying her dog outside a shop in town. The little dog was pleased to see her on her return and was running around and jumping up. The lag between pressing the shutter release and the exposure being made ensured I missed every picture I saw. I also got tutted at by a woman walking by. So I followed her and took a photo of the back of her head. Well it reminded me of a William Eggleston photograph. Somewhat tenuously, perhaps.



Wandering round town taking random shots of random people might pass for street photography these days. It's not all that difficult, not even to make a set of similar looking images. I could have spent a few hours taking pictures of people carrying shopping bags. But it could have been a bit like collecting those footballer cards. Which is what these '100 Strangers' projects that have become popular seem like to me. The first person to do it had an idea. Now there's a Flickr group for them.

However, if it were someone taking pictures of 100 cat owners, or 100 mobility scooter riders, I could see some point to such a project. This typology approach does give you a sense of the differences between a group of superficially similar people. It's not a fresh idea (Keith Arnatt's 'Walking the Dog' series is a favourite of mine) but there are many sub-groups of people for which such a project could be done.

Unfortunately I lack the people skills to get a project like that off the ground. Besides, it would be rather planned - which would be the kiss of death for me anyway.As it is I blunder along with vague projects in mind. Making random pictures to slot into folders on my computer to be sorted into some sort of order at some stage.

There's one of these vague themes I've been making pictures of for some years now. The other day I had a burst of inspiration and made some more. Back home I made a grid from nine of them and had a light-bulb moment. I thought I'd found my way in to get the project into shape. The following day I went out certain I could make nine more pictures for a second grid about another aspect of the theme. I was happy with the shots as I took them, and when I looked at them on the computer. The problem was that arranged as a grid, as I had planned them, they looked leaden, forced, obvious. It just didn't work. It's back to the random shooting of pictures when they present themselves for me.

With that in mind I have added poultry to my ever-growing list of themes (and corresponding Lightroom folders). And to contradict what I have just written about planning not working I took some pictures of a sign I drive past on a regular basis. Today I pulled over and got the camera out. A couple of chickens even got themselves in the frame for an added bonus. Quite where this theme will lead is anyone's guess. Most likely down another blind alley!



Monday, 21 September 2015

Feathers

Still lacking direction I keep on snapping away in the knowledge that eventually something will click. Looking at the pictures I've made over the last few weeks there does seem to be a feathery connection. One a work party on a local fishery one of the other members brought his goshawk along for some fresh air. I'd taken a few shots of it a few weeks earlier but didn't have a long enough lens and it wasn't in the best of positions. This time I had a longer lens (one the nerds would scoff at, of course) and enough time to get some decent poses. With good technique - as in concentrating on what I was doing instead of snapping hastily - the results were pleasantly detailed, and I managed to get a soft background to isolate the bird without recourse to wide apertures.


A few days later I was at the animal sanctuary again, this time for the Fun Day. The sun shone most of the time, which made life easier, and the creatures were under control, which also helped matters. Something that I found odd was that whenever I pointed my lens at a bird that was being held the handler would stretch their arm out so I couldn't get them in the shot.

I imagine that most amateur snappers are intent on getting close up shots of the birds with the same kind of background as I found for the goshawk. What I was after was the relationship between bird and human. More interesting to me. This was something that cropped up in a conversation with someone at the poultry show I attended last week.

The chap had been to the national show where a news photographer was taking photos of people with their fowl. His focus was on interesting looking people, whereas the chap I was talking to (a poultry fancier) was interested in photographing the birds. I guess this is a case of knowing your audience. On the back of this conversation I bought a couple of back issues of Fancy Fowl magazine. Sure enough there were more pictures of fowl than folk!

As I strolled around the sanctuary I was once more struck by how difficult it is to take interesting pictures in these situations. I'm sure that the more you attend this sort of event the easier it gets. It wasn't so much a reticence to point the camera at strangers as getting an eye for a shot. The sort of stuff I see on forums was easy enough. simple record shots of something interesting, but actual pictures are far harder to see. I was trying to get something interesting in the foregroud while having more, slightly out of focus but readable, stuff going on in the background. Timing things so they all fall together is really difficult. More Fun Day pics here.


A week later it was the poultry show. I'm trying to build a collection of photos that cover a wide range of aspects of the shows, rather than just pictures of birds. With the autumn sun shining it was easy to get a wide view of the show building and the cars parked around it to set the scene.



The lighting inside the show building is always a challenge. I was trying out a zoom lens for convenience, unsure if it would be fast enough. It seemed to cope well, and the closer focusing distance at the long end than a similar fixed length lens came in useful for trying to take a set of pictures of chicken legs, and other close ups. One of the trickiest things to overcome is the cycling of the fluorescent tubes, which makes using a fast shutter speed difficult as the white balance alters through the cycle. A fast shutter speed can be a big help with twicthy chickens!


Once more I tried to make some pictures with interest throughout the frame. I know the mantra is to simplify and not have distractions in the background, but that makes for boring photographs. Small, apparently insignificant, details can be surprising. Timing is everything. The shot below was the third of a short burst. It almost worked out. Mostly though there are bits in each frame that work, and if they were all combied in one shot would work really well. Just keep on trying, I guess.


Something I'm going to try and do more of are pictures of people with their birds. That photographer at the national show was doing the right thing. Pictures of people are more interesting than pictures of birds. And pictures of people interacting with birds are more interesting still. I could resort to the use of flash I suppose, but it's a pain to lug about. Maybe next time.

While the regular photographer was otherwise engaged the chap I'd been talking to was using the 'studio', so I had a go from the sideline.

The lighting set up is just right for what it's designed for. The regular photographer uses on camera flash for fill, and with patience over the posing he gets consistent results for people who want to look at the birds from a fancier's point of view. From my point of view the birds might as well be made of pottery as the pictures are all the same.

Although the bird on its own is a (slightly) technically better photograph than the one of it with its owner, I much prefer the latter as a picture. There's something going on in it that anyone can relate to. Whenever someone says that photography is 'all about light' I want to scream. If the subject isn't of interest the 'best' lighting in the world is wasted.

Could birds and people become a project? I suppose it could, but once more as soon as I find myself making mental notes on how to plan it out I find myself losing interest. It's that distinct lack of a work ethic in my make up. Doing anything to a plan feels like work. And I can't abide work!

More poultry show photos here.


Saturday, 5 September 2015

Out of step

Every time I recommend a lens to someone on a forum I get slated by the resident experts. The lens is always a dog. Soft as can be or terribly slow. It's as if being small and lightweight, or having a really useful zoom range, is irrelevant when choosing lenses. I suppose if you have the strength to carry around every lens you own in a big bag, along with a flash gun, tripod and a full set of filters, then a small useful lens isn't worth having. But if you prefer to take a camera almost everywhere without wearing yourself out light and useful trumps heavy and sharp. The funny thing is that the useful lenses I have are plenty sharp enough. Well, they are for me.

I have a sneaking suspicion that those who only use the 'best' lenses have to justify the money they've spent on them by imagining that the difference between useful (cheaper) lenses is immense. When it really isn't. There might well be a difference, but whether is is noticeable in real life I doubt very much.

Having been told that one of my favourite lenses was a real dog I thought I'd better reappraise it. I took some photos with it in order to zoom in on some fine detail. Strangely it looked perfectly fine to me - even zoomed in to 100%!


I wonder how many times I've taken photographs of that sculpture thing? There's something about it that I'm sure will make a good picture, but I've never quite managed it. That's a feature of my photography, shooting the same subject over and over.

There are some greenhouses I walk past every time I go along the canal. I've photographed them time and again too. I think I made a decent picture of them recently, at the second attempt. Some poppies had sprung up in front of them and were in flower. One dull day I tried using the camera's pop-up flash, but the sky was grey. A few days later the sun was shining, the sky blue and something seemed to click. I don't pretend it's a great picture, but as part of my ever growing collection of pictures from the village it makes a kind of sense.


Lo and behold, it was taken with a 'less than optimal' zoom lens. I'd better not mention the UV filter on the front or the Image Quality Police will have me banged up!

I find myself increasingly disinclined to bother posting on 'that' forum'. All that ever seems to matter is image quality. Be that sharpness, creaminess of bokeh, or perfect lighting. There's so little interest in making pictures. Don't get me started on the state of street photography. Any old crap passes muster there. And what's this fascination for going to events and taking tightly (but often badly) framed shots of 'characters'? Oh dear, I'm ranting!

It's 'street', man. Well, it's a man in a street!
All this is by way of saying that I'm stuck. I've got ideas that I can't seem to organise, or find the time to carry out. The Big Project I was planning did just what I thought it would do. Fizzled out. The reason was too much planning. I got as far as making some dummy pages for a book, starting to write an introduction to the project, even making a list of subjects and how to photograph them. That was where I went wrong. Doing all that used up my creative urges. I'd done all the thinking. All the interesting stuff. What I should have done was jump straight in taking photographs. There was another aspect that put me off. It was all getting a bit journalistic. A bit regimented too. I prefer restrained chaos where I'm never sure what might happen next. That element of chance that might lead to success or dismal failure. But which is always thought provoking.

This goes against the grain for some people. At the moment I'm struggling to read The Creative Life in Photography by Brooks Jensen who stresses the need to visualise the finished project in as much detail as possible because that creates a strong compulsion to complete the work so you can hold it in your hands. Visualising the finished work in all it's detail has precisely the opposite effect on me. I knew exactly what my Big Project would look like, so there was no need to actually make it. The planning, organising, layout design was interesting and challenging. Taking the pictures to slot into the gaps in the design would have been boring. I had a shooting list that would have become a case of ticking off items as they were done.

Back to wandering around aimlessly snapping away for me. The funny thing is that somewhere in my disorganised mind I'm sure there is a master plan guiding me and one day all these random images will coalesce into a Great Big Project. All I have to do is hang on long enough to find out what that is!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Chicken attack

Never work with children or animals - especially chickens! Mostly chickens are fine if twitchy subjects, but they are inquisitive. I suspect this one could see itself in the front element of my lens, which was why it poked its head inside the hood to try and have a peck.


I was doing a favour photographing, or trying to photograph, fur and feather for a friend's daughter who runs and animal sanctuary. The brief was a bit vague. As in 'take some pictures of the animals' vague. The weather wasn't kind. The flat light wasn't too much of a concern as bright sunshine would have made for harsh shadows and tricky exposures with white feathers and fur. It was the rain that was off-putting.

My hat is off to anyone who makes their living taking photos to order. And an additional round of applause if they photograph animals for a living. I'm sure pets in a studio are problematic, but farm animals in pens and paddocks simply will not take any direction!

Trying to get decent pictures of horses when all they want to do is eat grass is frustrating. At least you can but a rope on a horse and while it may not drink, it can be lead. Goats, on the other hand, just stare at you. Or sneak up from behind...


One thing I was glad of taking along was the longer zoom. Even for the horses it proved worthwhile and got twice the use of the 24-70 I'd imagined would suffice. It's drawback being with the smaller animals and aviary birds. It wouldn't focus close enough.

To my way of thinking, and looking, the best pictures of domesticated animals, unless one is doing something interesting,  are ones where they are interacting with each other or with people. Even the frame above with the horse on a rope is more engaging than the ones I have of a horse on its own. The individual horse pictures without a person in them that 'work' best are the ones where there are other horses in the background. Of course these sort of pictures are limited in their usefulness in terms of graphic design. Which is why it's good to have a clear idea of how the pictures will be used.
Do you need to leave space around the subject to allow for text to be overlaid? Can you frame tight? Stuff like that helps you know what to aim for. It's no surprise that if I hadn't have a brief of sorts the pictures would have been a bit different. I did get a bit creative, in an editorial sort of way, by photographing one of the rescue hedeghogs next to an ornamental one. The sort of cheesy picture you'd see in a local free newspaper. A pity about the background, but sometimes you're stuck with what you're presented with.


This little venture proved to me that I was never cut out for the life as a professional photographer. Apart from the sloppy technique that would let me down at crucial moments, I really don't like having to make 'other people's photographs'. Occasionally I let go and took some photos for myself, like the donkey's ears. What I'd have been happier doing would have been photographing the place and the staff at work as well as the creatures. Making pictures in a more documentary style, I suppose.