In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, some things do go on as normal. We are surrounded by a farm of some 700 dairy cattle, and as well as pasture, the farmer grows maize as winter feed. This week they have been muck spreading (yuk), treating the soil with lime, and now planting maize which they will harvest in the autumn. It’s beautiful to see the crops emerge, but as it grows to some 7ft high, it does create something of a ‘wall’ around our garden. Could be worse mind…
It’s only been three weeks since my last post, but how the world has changed in that time! We had not long returned from a vacation in Gran Canaria, and although the effects of Coronavirus were starting to be felt in the UK, our life hadn’t changed that much.
Roll forward three weeks and the whole country is pretty much in lockdown – hundreds already dead, pubs and restaurants closed, people working from home wherever possible, difficulties getting even basic shopping, and our fabulous NHS almost overwhelmed by the spread of the epidemic.
All plans for vacations and trips out are off the agenda for who knows how long, and we are pretty much restricted to home, other than for taking exercise. Even then we have to maintain a minimum 2m (6ft) from anyone who isn’t living with us, to avoid possible spread.
We are fortunate that we live in the country, so at least we can get out on our daily walks without fear of encountering too many other folks, and this is as far as my photography is going to go.
Beautiful Spring weather just now, so here’s a photo from our walk yesterday – not another soul in sight…
I’ve been a fan of Michael Kenna’s stark mono images for some time, and my recent trips to Gran Canaria yielded some images that suit this style of photography. To be fair, only a few of them were shot with mono in mind, and I’m pretty sure that composing and shooting for mono would yield better results, but it’s a start anyway! These are all digital images rather than film, and likewise, some were iPhone shots, so the image quality is limited. Expect to see more images from me in this style, although it’s pretty clear I will never be able to match the quality of Michael’s work!
Our 45th wedding anniversary celebrations included a weekend in London, staying in the rather swish Mondrian Hotel. It’s a pretty cool hotel, with great rooms, good restaurant and it’s own nightclub, but for me it’s killer attraction is a location on the South Bank next to Blackfriars Bridge.
You step straight out of the hotel to the riverside, and it’s just a short walk to the Millennium Bridge, Tate Modern, Globe Theatre and Borough Market. You can see St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, and iconic buildings like The Shard and the ‘Walkie Talkie’ Building. There are any number of talented street artists performing – always something to see.
It wasn’t at all a photo trip, as you can imagine, but I did manage a few quick photos with my trusty iPhone – I say trusty, but I’m still getting to learn all the features that this new model has. Most photos were taken using the Moment Camera app so I could capture in RAW, and I am currently processing them in Lightroom Mobile, with final tweaks like borders in Snapseed.
These photos were all taken during our afternoon walk on a cloudy but dry afternoon.
I absolutely love my Sony A7iii camera. It’s a fabulous camera to use, and with it’s full frame 24Mpx sensor, unrivalled dynamic range, and superb Zeiss and Sony lenses, it’s capable of the highest quality images. The downside though is that it’s a fair amount of kit to carry around, and needs to be used carefully to get the best out of it. Fine for a dedicated photo ‘expedition’ but overkill for casual photography – definitely not something to carry around all the time.
Enter my new iPhone XR – every iteration of mobile phones has a better camera built in, and the latest iPhones are no exception. A 12 Mpx camera is standard, and amazing processing power means that photos can be subsequently edited to alter the depth of field – something that defies the usual laws of photography. But how good is the camera for ‘everyday’ photos? – those situations where you wouldn’t realistically be carrying a ‘serious’ camera and lenses.
Today gave me the opportunity to check that out – a bright and cold start, with lots of great colours in the sky, and pretty much wall to wall sunshine for the rest of the day. Photo #1 was taken very early, and just a few yards from home, while photo #2 was taken an hour or so later when the sun was fully up. The rest of the photos were taken late morning – looking across at a local wood, and then near the local canal. All photos were taken in RAW format, using the Moment Camera App, and then processed in Snapseed on the phone to convert to mono or enhance the colour etc, and to add the border and frames.
A phone-camera is never going to be a match for a dedicated camera with a much larger sensor and inter-changeable lenses, especially for nature or sport photography, or in adverse lighting conditions, but for ‘casual’ shooting the results are pretty amazing. I’m confident that with my new phone I can take photos that I wouldn’t otherwise get, just because I wouldn’t have a bigger or better camera with me. I have a wide angle adapter lens on order which will help with landscape and architectural shots, and I may also get a telephoto adapter too – ideal for portraits.
Judge for yourself whether you think these are ‘worthwhile’ photos – I’m certainly happy with them.
Even though I’ve been retired for some time now, it’s not often I choose to go out taking photos all day – I’m not that keen on going out on a group trip, and other interests tend to take precedence, so its usually only a few hours at a time.
Yesterday was therefore a little unusual. I got up early, and could see some nice colours in the early morning sky, so popped out, literally through the front door and across into the field opposite, for a few pre-sunrise photos using the trusty Sony A7iii. Compositionally this spot is limited, but I do like the way the track recedes towards the trees.
After a few jobs around the house we went out for a bike ride, and noticed that there was a mini food festival on in town, so nipped back afterwards to see what was worth photographing. I’m not a great one for street photography – I think it can be quite intrusive, and I’m so so bored with the ‘person looking at their phone’ shots which seem to make up most street photo shots I see on-line. Nevertheless it was chance to try my new (to me) ‘travel camera’ – a Sony A6300. Although it’s much smaller than the A7 series, it works in much the same way, and usefully I can use my A7 lenses on it, so it will make a good backup should anything go awry with the beast. I quite like mono for street photos, so it was a chance to see how that worked out.
Back home after an hour or so, and chance to do some cooking and other bits and pieces (usual Saturday stuff…) but I could see the sunset promised to be decent, so late afternoon headed off to one of my favourite spots – The Roaches and Ramshaw Rocks, which are the closest part of the Peak District to us.
The sun was already low in the sky when I got there, so decided to go to Ramshaw Rocks as its only a couple of minutes walk from the nearest parking – the decent spots at The Roaches all involve a good 20 mins walk and I was afraid I would miss the best light if I attempted that.
Anyway, Ramshaw was fairly quiet – just one other serious photographer there, standing on one of the outcrops, and I got a couple of decent shots with him in the frame – a human adds a nice sense of scale to landscapes. Then just a few minutes to take some shots of the rocks and the last of the heather as the light faded, before heading home. It’s almost an hour each way to get there, but well worth it for the scenery at this relatively little known spot.
Home in time for a late dinner, and a well deserved glass of wine, before editing the photos from my 3 photo sessions of the day!
Popped along last week to the 1940s Festival held in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. For two days over the weekend, the town embraced the look, sounds and even the smells of the 1940s, with many different displays, and hundreds of people dressed in period clothes. There were displays of wartime foods and rations, fighting vehicles including armoured cars and jeeps, and of course soldiers, sailors and airmen from Germany, France, Canada and the UK. There was street dancing to ‘Glenn Miller’ style bands, a battle re-enactment and even a ball on the Saturday night (not that I stayed for that!)
There were some excellent photo opportunities, and it was great to meet up with friends and customers of Cambrian Photography, where our walk around the town started. I could only spare a couple of hours there, and concentrated more on the characters around than the static displays. It was pretty much my first outing with a new 50-140mm f2.8 lens on my Fujifilm X-T1 – an excellent combination for street portraits, and I particularly welcomed the ability to separate the subjects from the surroundings by using the lens wide open.
Mono seems to suit the occasion, although there are a few colour shots too. Mono shots are JPG images converted using Nik Silver Efex, while colour shots are largely straight out of camera.
All photographers have their favourite cameras, and to be fair, their allegiance will often change over time. Sometimes its a dissatisfaction or a bad experience with a particular model; sometimes its a case of ‘the grass is greener on the other side’. But sometimes, a camera comes along which, for a particular use, is a real game changer. After years of shooting with Nikon cameras, I switched to Fuji – not because I was unhappy with the Nikons, far from it, but because my poor old back was no longer up to carrying a full size DSLR and its lenses. The Fuji X cameras work for me in pretty much every way, and are about half the size and weight. Maybe if I was shooting sport, I would have stuck with the Nikons for their AF capability, but for my uses, Fuji cameras work perfectly.
Encouraged by attending a couple of excellent workshops and photo walks with Matt Hart of Fujiholics, I have been doing much more ‘street’ photography. For me this means candid photos, mostly of people going about their daily business, and generally in mono. The key here is that whatever camera I use has to be discreet – no good toting a full-on DSLR with zoom lens – you are not going to melt into the scenery with one of those! It needs first and foremost to deliver exceptional image quality, but must have decent AF, be small, and certainly as quiet as possible so as not to draw attention to yourself.
Shooting at street markets in France is a case in point – French people, in my experience, are not at all keen on candid photos. Whether its a national sense of privacy, or because some of the traders at the markets are working ‘on the black’, I don’t know, but be prepared for some hostility if you are seen overtly photographing them!
So enter my current weapon of choice, and probably the best camera I have ever used for ‘street’, the mirrorless Fuji X-T10 paired with the new 35mm f2 lens. Image quality from the camera is excellent – on a par with the larger Fuji X-T1, but in a surprisingly small package – quite the smallest SLR style camera I have used. The focussing of the new 35mm lens is so much faster than the ‘old’ f1.4 lens, and its a fair bit smaller too as well as bitingly sharp. The whole camera/lens package weighs just 550gms and is so discreet its not true.
I took this rig out this weekend to shoot the lively Saturday market in Revel in the Haute-Garonne in France. Using the LCD screen tilted at 90deg I could shoot pretty much at waist level, and with the electronic shutter activated, the camera was virtually silent. Of the 50-60 photos I took, only this one guy realised I had taken a photo! AF was set to zone focussing, ISO was auto 3200 max, and the aperture either f5.6 or f8. I would say that focus was spot on for 90% + of the shots I took, exceptional given that I was mostly shooting from the waist and there was little opportunity to refocus or recompose each shot. Generally I use the RAW images from the camera and convert them using Silver Efex Pro, but with so may to process this time around, these are from the in-camera mono JPG images. A little bit of cropping in some cases, and the clarity and contrast pushed a little in Lightroom, but pretty much as the camera produced them. I’m very happy with these photos.
I have to say I am really enjoying this setup for street photos – all the required quality and performance is there, and its in such a neat unobtrusive package. The lens is newly introduced, so still around the £300 mark, but the X-T10 body can be had for about £450, and there is presently then a £50 cash back offer from Fuji which makes it extremely good value for money for a camera, which to my mind, beats anything else out there.
Here are my favourite photos from the day.
A tip: if you plan to go to Revel for the market, do get there quite early – it was in full flow at 1030-1100am, and by noon was thinning out.
While street photography isn’t really my genre, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to go on the free #Streetlife ‘photo walk’ in Liverpool sponsored by FujiFilm and Clifton Cameras, and lead by Matt Hart. I’ve a lot of time for Matt’s work, and never really explored Liverpool, so far too good an opportunity to miss.
A bright sunny early autumn day saw close to 100 photographers of all ages turn up at the Albert Dock, sporting everything from Fuji CSC cameras, big Canikon DSLRs, right down to just iPhones and iPads. After a brief intro by Matt, we all set out along the waterfront, but quickly split up into smaller groups as we roughly followed the preset circular route, taking in highlights like Bold Street, the ‘bombed out church’ (St Lukes) and the beautiful Georgian Quarter. We didn’t stay too long around Lime Street Station as there was a political demonstration going on that could have turned nasty, so headed on past the Central Library, the shops of Liverpool One, and back to the waterfront area – in total a very enjoyable 4 miles or so, over 6 hours. All in all a great day out, and I have a good number of photos I’m happy with – mostly ‘characters’ but also some cameo shots of some of the buildings and sights in a fine city.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that I will be back to Liverpool again soon!
EDIT – all photos taken with the remarkable 90mm f2 Fuji XF lens and X-T1 camera.
After a long wait, and quite a lot of work, my first ever solo photo exhibition is now up and running (runs to 9th May 2015). Details at http://www.nigelyoung.co.uk/exhibition
OK, so it’s not a big venue in New York, London or Paris, but it’s a start – it’s at our local Community Arts Centre here in Market Drayton, Shropshire, UK. They have a gallery area that local artists and photographers can book for a 3-week exclusive exhibition. Its completely free of charge, and the space available – 2 long walls, will take around 30-35 decent sized photographs. The audience is obviously friends and family, and of course the mainly local residents who use the facilities like the cinema, and education, fitness and leisure classes. I don’t claim to be a great photographer – years of practice does NOT make perfect, but an exhibition is something I’ve always wanted to do, and this opportunity was a no-brainer
Yesterday was pretty hectic – getting all the mounted prints hung level, labeled, and the supporting promo material setup, so I didn’t really get chance to appraise how it looked.
Today, however, I went back to the venue (with a relative who was keen to see my pix) and it was a really emotional experience – I guess we look at our individual images time and time again on the computer, but there is nothing, believe me, that compares with seeing a set of 30 good-sized prints of just one’s own work up on the wall!
Although I’ve been taking photos for a long time (the oldest image on show dates back to 1974!), I’ve always favoured landscapes with maybe a few architecture/urban images included, and don’t often take photos of people. I did include some street/people photos in the exhibition, mainly to add some variety. What really struck me today was how compelling the ‘people’ photos are compared to landscapes and urban scenes – I constantly found myself drawn back to the photos of people, rather than landscapes.
So now I find myself more confused than ever – I was planning to ‘rationalise’ my photo interests to landscapes, and maybe some building/urban scenes, but am now questioning whether people photos are the way to go (for me…) I don’t feel a particular affinity for photographing people, and don’t even feel I’ve got a flair for it, but if I get satisfaction looking at the results, isn’t that enough?
I’m really interested to know whether fellow photographers struggle to define what ‘kind’ of photographer they think they are?
Here are a few of my favourite photos from the exhibition…
EDIT: Festival Drayton Centre have extended the exhibition until 30th May 2015 – yippee!