#258 – Blog Recommendations

They’re nearly all listed in my blogroll, but here’s an overview of some blogs that I subscribe to:

Münchow’s Creative Photo Blog some really interesting posts on here on photography related creativity, a difficult topic to write about as I’ve found out!

alanclogwyn.wordpress.com Quarryscapes – Alan Clogwyn / Richard Alan Jones photoblog of the North Wales Quarries, a subject I find fascinating and one I’ve photographed myself. He’s also very enthusiastic about film, something I’m getting back into.

andybeelfrps.co.uk – monochrome photography of a very high standard. Instructive and inspirational, especially if, like me, you’re into your black and white.

therailwaymuddler.blogspot.com – some interesting posts and photographs on transport, history, industry and other stuff

geotopoi.wordpress.com – Graham Stephens photographs of his wanderings around, North Wales, Scotland and beyond. Some great photographs of some fascinating locations and interesting finds. Plenty of quarries, but lots of other stuff as well.

stevemccurry.wordpress.com – one of my all time favourite photographers, and he doesn’t even take pictures of the things I do. I’ve spent hours just looking at images on here, it’s superb.

martincreese.blogspot.com– well known railway photographer and charter organiser posts some excellent write ups of his charters and other railway photography.

http://artprofilesworld.wordpress.com – the work of some brilliant creative minds showcased here – not just photography, but art of all kinds. Several posts a day, and some of the stuff is mind boggling!

#241 – A (slight) change of direction?

Photography is a fairly solitary pursuit, so a recent photo charter I attended brought me into contact with a load of other photographers. I was intrigued to see the variety of equipment people were using. As well as a few high end pro level DSLR’s such as Nikon D700’s and Canon 5d Mk2’s, the majority were using (for lack of a better expression) entry level and mid range DSLR’s. However, there were a few people using film SLR’s, and two using medium format film camera’s. Now I also had a film camera and used it to take a dozen or so shots to finish off a film, but I wouldn’t want to shoot the entire day on film. Why not? Other than the obvious inability to instantly check my results, the poor and changing light made the ability to change the ISO a godsend. And yet, photographers made do with this for years, although the ability to change backs on some medium format cameras does give the ability to change ISO. And the lack of continuous shooting and limited number of exposures per roll demands more thought as to when to press the button, rather than just clatter away and select the best shot afterwards in post processing.

My Nikon F100 – looks like a D700, handles like a D700, isn’t a D700.

Although digital photography is here and won’t go away, there are not only people who haven’t and won’t move over from film, but also people who’ve used digital and either use both or have jacked in digital completely. Going onto film photography forums and flickr groups is a bit deceiving as you get the impression that there’s loads of people using film, when in reality, there isn’t, it’s just that they all go on the forums. OK, so I can’t prove that last statement, but it’s a phenomena you see in any minority community that thinks they are bigger than they actually are because they don’t see beyond the community.

All this pondering brought me round to thinking about using my own film cameras more. I’ve done a bit of medium format before, I even have a Mamiya 645 somewhere that yields nice results but I can’t get used to the lack of a meter and the upside down view in the waist level viewfinder. And although I run a few films through my Nikon F100 a year, it’s very much in support of my digital camera. So how about giving the digital a rest for a while and using more film? The downsides are the expense and the wait to get the film back. And there’s the argument that if you’re going to scan it anyway, you might as well just use digital. And yet, I always find myself thinking a bit more when using film – you’re paying for each shot you take, so might as well make them count. It’s just that digital is so convenient! But there is a question that’s nagging away in my head – am I using the awesome technology of my DSLR as a crutch to support me, or as an aid to improve my photography? There’s a subtle distinction to be drawn there.

With film, there’s something satisfying about getting a packet full of photographs and negatives that you haven’t seen before and seeing how well they came out that I sometimes miss. I think my challenge for myself this year is to shoot 15 rolls of film, just to see if this is a passing whimsy that I need to get out of my system, or something I need to get into more. While I think I’m competent enough a photographer to be able to take a half decent picture on any camera, it’ll be interesting to see how I get round the limitations of film and older camera technology.

#194 – The Myth Of Manual Mode

A recent discussion on Talk Photography got me thinking about camera technique, something I don’t tend to give much thought to. Someone had asked why they should use manual mode, and the consensus seemed to be, quite refreshingly, use it when you need to, but don’t use it slavishly. Great advice, although some people still insist that they’re a better photographer because of it. Good for them, personally it’s something I use maybe 10% of the time in my photography. Sure, in some situations it’s essential – panoramas, studio phtoography and wherever you need absolute control of the settings. For everything else though, I personally use Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Program (no scene modes on my current camera, not that I ever used them on my old camera).

While there is some merit in using manual for people learning photography, it’s a bit like learning to drive a car – you do everything by the book, then once it’s all internalised, you can do a lot without giving it conscious thought.

Where speed is required, manual mode falls down (although street photographers still use it, often with their camera pre-set though), especially on modern cameras where the shutter and aperture settings are not as visible as on old cameras, and either require looking though the viewfinder or on a screen to set up, rather than twisting an aperture lens on the lens or a dial on top. To me, letting the camera take partial or full control of exposure allows me to concentrate on composition, which is something you can’t adjust in post processing, whereas exposure can be tweaked using levels and curves.

Bottom line is this – no-one has ever asked me what mode I used to take a photograph, or complimented me on not allowing the camera to make exposure decisions. No-one cares. They’re bothered about what the photo looks like, not the finer points of technique!

#193 – Moo Cards: a portfolio in your pocket!

Not being a professional photographer, I’ve had no real need for business cards – the only ones in my wallet are for my real job, and that’s got nowt to do with taking pictures.

However, when I heard about Moo and their double-sided cards that you could put anything on, my attention was grabbed. They’re a doddle to make – you go to their website, select a template, or use a blank one if you like, enter your text or upload a design of your own (they only have a limited number of fonts), then upload your photographs or designs for the reverse side, and then place your order (minimum of 50).

I think I uploaded 13 different images, so I’ve got 3 or 4 of each, but what this allows me to do is carry with me a portfolio of images in my pocket, along with my contact details and websites url’s. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to articulate verbally what you take pictures of, it’s far easier if you have pictures to hand to show people, and then give then a card and ask them to check out your website. Anyway, time to go and practice my 2 minute ‘elevator speech’ for the next time I’m asked by someone what I’m doing with my camera……..

#191 – Published (again) in Amateur Photographer Magazine

May has been a good month, and the third bit of good news was today when I picked up Amateur Photographer (Saturday 4th June Edition) to see my pictures had been printed in Reader Spotlight, and had been chosen for ‘Editors Choice’! I don’t always buy the magazine, but if I’m out and about I’ll pick it up – good job I did as they didn’t tell me in advance this time round.

But that’s a minor quibble – here’s the article:

#127 – A close shave!!!!!

A nice afternoon out in Liverpool, or so we thought…….

Half way through the tour, we were going over the large speed bump in Duke Street, when BANG, we’re thrown all over the DUKW as it jolts side to side, and the driver brings it to a halt.

Thankfully, no-one was thrown from the vehicle (easily done as there are no windows, and the plastic ones were originally rolled up prior to the accident), but four people sustained injuries on board, including my wife, and were taken by ambulance to hospital. Nothing serious, just a half inch cut on her eyebrow.

Not entirely what happened, and whether losing the wheel was cause or effect. Looked like a mechnical failure on the suspension to me, but someone was saying a bearing had failed.

Can’t fault the tour company so far, the tour guide was quick to give first aid to the unconscious lady, and they made sure that everyone could get home and that.

#106 – The Coolest Car In The World

Not something I’d normally post, but I saw this, the ‘Milles Pattes’ (Millipede)  in the Michelin Museum in Clermont Ferrand, and realised that it was the coolest car ever built. Citroen DS’s are ace, but by ingeniously making one 50% wider, giving it two engines, ELEVEN wheels (there’s a truck wheel in the centre of the car), they created my ultimate car!