I learn all kinds of stuff by listening to my kids talk to their friends. Some of it immediately, some of it takes me a while to unravel.
It’s snowboard season here in New England which means trips to and from the slopes with groups of high school age kids for me. They are very much into making videos of their exploits to get feedback on how they are doing with learning tricks but also to post on social media. ‘Doin’ it for the ‘gram’ was the phrase used in a rather derogatory tone.
That got me thinking about what I post on social media and why and what are my expectations. I am playing a game with my posts on Instagram, or at least I have some simple rules that I am following. Must be shot and edited on my phone. No wireless transfer of files from any of my ‘fancy’ cameras, no transfer of files from the phone onto my computer for editing. All has to be done on the phone. Also the apps that I use can’t be mobile versions of Lightroom or Photoshop.
This of course is less of an amazing feat now that the phone cameras are so incredibly capable and produce high-res files. It goes without saying that phones themselves are way more powerful computers than the first desktop computers I worked with but then I grew up with a single rotary dial phone in the house if you catch my drift.
The result is a set of photos that are in effect sketches or studies. I’m trying out composition ideas using the phone and quickly processing using filters and effects in a small number of apps – typically Snapseed and VSCO. I’m often accused of being heavy handed with the processing – probably true, certainly lacking the kind of finesse possible on a desktop. Are these the high impact, portfolio best images that will garner lots of ‘likes’ not at all. But that’s not the point.
I’m having fun playing and don’t mind letting people look over my shoulder see my sketchbook develop.
The answer for me is the same as if someone was looking and was listening. It’s about staying true to your values and having integrity.
About making the things that you want to make because those are the things that you need to make.
There’s freedom and opportunity in such a space. No constraints resulting from the expectations of others. No ties or obligations to what’s gone before preventing you from striking out in a new direction.
Certainly something to think about as we get going this week.
How about you? What you you do if no one was watching or so say if no one was listening?
I spent an afternoon over the weekend wandering around the local woods. Not hard to do in this part of Connecticut – everything seems to be in the Woods! It’s nice but I find it a little claustrophobic. Fortunately there are lots of ponds and lakes too which breaks up the walk nicely.
The ponds are now starting to catch the falling leaves. It will be snowing soon enough.
I have enjoyed Robert Adams’ writing about photography immensely. ‘Why People Photograph‘ and ‘Beauty in Photography‘ contain a series of short essays covering topics such as collectors, humor, teaching, money and dogs and discussions of Photographers such as Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Laura Gilpin, Judith Joy Ross, Susan Meiselas, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and Minor White. His recent book ‘Art Can Help‘ continues in a similar vein and is well worth picking up.
As a photographer however he’s someone that I feel I should like but his photographs just don’t move me. It was interesting then to come across the two videos below and listen to him talk about what he’s trying to achieve with his work.
Check out the videos below and tell me what you think.
I had a hearty dose of nostalgia when I first came across the work of Paul Hart. I grew up in the north east corner of South Yorkshire, close to the borders of East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. The mining village where I lived was surrounded by farm land and so biking out of the village in almost any direction I would see vistas such as the one above.
Paul Hart has published three books of his work – Truncated, Farmed and Drained. Farmed and Drained are the first two books in what will eventually be the Fenland trilogy. Francis Hodgson in the preface to Drained describes his work this way “Paul Hart is a photographer interested in the slow harvesting of hidden truth from the ordinary places that most of us pass by”.
His images have a special resonance with me. I wouldn’t have thought to stop and take photographs of what for me was the everyday but I wish that I had. The view from our upstairs window used to be across a farmers field, the canal and the river with an odd little house on the bank between the two. I have no idea if the house is still there because the housing estate that has sprung up on the fields obscures the view. Paul’s work reminds me that as photographers we have a duty to photograph our everyday as well as the spectacular scenes.
The Bio on Paul’s webpage tells us that he’s working with ‘cumbersome analogue equipment in and unfashionable area’. I’m personally glad that he is and hope he keeps at it.
Check out more about Paul here and listen to him describe his truncated series below.
The image above is from Ellie Davies ‘Stars’ portfolio created by combining images of the forests of southern England with Hubble telescope images. For many forests are magical fairytale places for others, myself included, they are dark and scary places. Yet I find the Stars series of images compelling, they draw me in, make me want to step forward and cause me to look closer.
I have been thinking about how a single theme can be developed and extended – Ellie’s projects are a great case study. Silent, Deep and Dark serves as an entry point, both literally and figuratively, into the forests. This body of work explores the forest boundaries – the edge between outside and inside, light and dark. From here Ellie begins to interact with the forest, weaving patterns with wool, highlighting pathways with paint, powder, wool and paper, building structures that are reminiscent of barnacles or anemones, incorporating stars and most recently suggesting the presence of people by the introduction of fires.
Watch and listen to Ellie describe here work below and find out more about here.
I am generally happy to remain ignorant of the latest bells and whistles that the camera manufacturers have added in order to sell another piece of gear that no-one really needs. However, of late my head has bean turned by lots of new doodads. The latest in this parade of head turners is the updated version of Canon’s 100-400mm lens. I had the original ‘dust pump’ version of this lens which I eventually retired because it never saw much action and following it’s use I ended up spending a while cleaning the sensor on the body that it was used on. Having said that, there was a certain novelty factor to the way that the lens extended to change focal length. For the weight and number of times I used the lens I decided to leave it on my desk at home and make do with my very much lighter 70-200mm lens.
There are times however when the extra reach can allow you to make the photograph that you have in mind. The image above is a case in point. I’d tried with my 70-200, it really wasn’t working, click on the image below to see what I mean.
While getting closer was certainly an option I had an opportunity to use the new 100-400 lens and made the image below using the same settings as I had with my 70-200mm.
Immediately noticeable on the LCD screen on the camera was that the image made using the 100-400 was sharper than that made with the 70-200 even though all the camera settings and lens settings were the same. This in inevitably led me to wonder what if I dumped the 70-200 and replaced it with the 100-400 lens. That way I’d have a nice sharp lens capable of the extra reach when I need it. My only concern is the weight – a chunky albs. We’ll see how I get on!
We’ve been having an odd winter here in New England – lots of snow over a very short period of time. We’ve had about 80 inches (or ~ 2 m) of snow in the last 20 days with more coming down as I write this. During the last storm I made the misguided decision to head out to photograph in the nearby woods. Misguided because the visibility was poor and the snow plows were not managing to keep up with the snow which made driving interesting. Once at the woods the snow was quite deep even on the normally well trodden paths which made for slow going.
Increasingly I will explore ideas with my iPhone before pursuing them further with my DSLR. A couple of the images from my iPhone are above, I was at least thigh deep in the snow in this part of the woods. As I maneuvered my tripod around in the deep snow I heard a funny creaking noise. At first I thought that was the wind blowing the trees, but there wasn’t any wind. Then I thought it must be someone else out and about, but I could see anyone. Very weird. I picked my tripod up out of the snow to get it into a better position and and two of the tree legs came up, the third stayed in the snow. It had come detached where it joined the metal frame. That was pretty much the end of my photography for the day.
I’m not sure if you can tell from the images above but the carbon fiber leg where it joined the frame had delaminated and was soft. It was also crinkled which explained why the tripod leg did not fully close – there was always just a tiny fraction of leg extended. The metal also looks like it is badly corroded. While I may send this old tripod back to Gitzo I’m not holding my breath that they would be able to help me out.
I do have a new tripod that I’ve been using as a travel tripod – a Really Right Stuff 24L. I may now supplement this with the 34L, a beefier version of the 24L. The 24L to me seems a bit weedy, the lower sections of the legs are particularly thin and make me wonder how solid the tripod can really be. I guess time will tell.
I’m traveling again this week which is unfortunate on a number of levels. I’ve been pursuing a winter tress project over the last couple of years and have been looking forward to extending that project this winter. Unfortunately we’ve had very little snow so far this winter. It looks like that is about to change in spectacular fashion when Juno passes through the area later today and tomorrow.