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.

Sunday, 16 August 2015


It's a while since I posted anything on here, which is not because I haven't taken any photos, I have taken lots, but because I haven't had much to say about them. But since writing over on 'that photography forum' the other day that I'm coming to think there are two sorts of photographer - instinctive/reactive ones and planners/controllers - it sort of fits in with what I have been doing with my cameras.

Most of the time I've been using my compact. Not because it slips in a pocket, but because it's flexible to use and the results are perfectly good enough for the use they have been put to - blogging. With a bit of care they are good enough to print to at least A4 too.

There's the nub. I take photographs when something presents itself to me as a likely subject. To some people that's plain wrong. They have to have an idea of what to photograph before they pick up a camera, while having a camera to hand is what makes me  think about taking pictures. For the planners that camera choice is important, for me anything available will have to suffice.

It's the same with projects. I had this 'big project' in mind. Made a few pictures then sat at the computer and wrote introductory notes and plotted out how to present it in book form. I even got as far as making some dummy page layouts. It was all there in my head how the finished thing would look. All that remained was to gather some information and take the photos to fit the blank spaces in the layout. That was when I lost interest and shelved the project. Probably for good.

It seems to me that no matter how strongly someone might advise you to work in a particular way your have to find strategies for making photographs or developing projects that work for you. There's no single right way. My main strategy is the haphazard one of having a lot of ideas lodged in my brain and taking photos to suit them when they crop up on my aimless wanderings. Sometimes I'll get it in my head to go and do something specific. A case in point was a return to the marsh.

Trying to make pictures about a flat, open space is quite difficult. The wide views never really capture any of the spirit of the place. I suppose I could wait for a dramatic skyscape and take the easy way out. But that's not my style. The approach I seem top have adopted is to make pictures of details where land and water interact. Some as single images, some as pairs or more of pictures.

I'm still not sure if this is the best solution, but it's the one I'm running with at the moment. There's every chance it'll prove to be yet another dead-end!

At the other end of the scale the Autoflora project has, I'm pretty certain, been put to bed. The end result being a simple set of four pictures. I couldn't see any need to explore the concept any further by looking at other ways in which plants and cars cross paths. The pictures of overgrown car parks and tracks seems to be based on a different idea altogether.

Making diptychs, grids and strips of pictures has become a bit of a habit for me. Or has it become a style? I do like the way they can say more than a single picture, yet don't need to go over the top like some typology projects do. A whole book of pictures of different examples of one kind of thing can be tedious. Not to mention a bit pointless. It's an easy path to take though, which is probably why it's popular among a certain section of photographers. Ones who like planning things and knowing what they'll be doing next. What I'll be photographing next remains a mystery.