A 40’s weekend

After recently changing jobs, I am now a fully subscribed member of the Monday to Friday brigade once more, so with my weekends free, it means being able to attend more of the classic car and steam rallies that I have enjoyed in the past.

Yesterday was the first of these events, the annual forties weekend at Buckfastleigh steam railway.
After a usual pit stop for breakfast and a brew, my arrival was about half an hour before the official opening of the 40’s event in an adjacent field but a good opportunity to make a round of the station as the crew get the trains ready for a busy day.

Through the station speakers, the unmistakable big band sound of Glen Miller is played, and a local Lindy Hop group rehearse their moves for their multiple performances throughout the day.

Today will be a real test of my resolve with my one focal length challenge, I would normally have a wide angle lens in my armoury for an event such as this but today, I will need to wear my creative head and get on with it.
I am expecting to take a lot more photos today, so I have made the decision to shoot JPEG, with the classic chrome film simulation, to help avoid spending too much time at the computer later in the day.
If I get my act together, a couple of minor adjustments, with a crop and the odd straighten will suffice in terms of editing.

The event field is well populated with a good number of Jeeps and transport vehicles, also this year a Russian tank, which has plenty of attention paid to it.

The owners of the various vehicles are very generous with their time, happy to relate what work they have done to restore their vehicles, their enthusiasm is contagious and I am happy to talk at length with them to get the history.

Events like this also provide an opportunity to meet with fellow photographers, where a myriad of cameras are at work, it is always a pleasure to chat and exchange ideas and to discuss how and why we choose the gear we have.

A big thank you, to all those who were kind enough to spare me the time to take a photo, it is these images that help tell the story of the day.

Reservoir walk at Fernworthy

Sunday morning wakes to cloudy skies and a cool summer breeze, a promising start for a reservoir walk on Dartmoor.

Fernworthy is situated just a few miles from the Dartmoor town of Chagford, the reservoir covers 76 acres of land and holds about 380 million gallons of water.
The footpath around the reservoir was today’s route, a mixture of forest, meadow and of course the breathtaking Dartmoor scenery.

Armed with my usual X100F, a tripod and some filters, the conditions were good for some long exposure shots across the reservoir, to accentuate both cloud and water movement.
I have always enjoyed long exposure landscape photography, there is a discipline I enjoy in setting up the shot in a deliberate fashion, working out the exposure required with a 10-stop filter and deciding upon the composition of the shot.

Today, with its overcast skies was a perfect opportunity for some monochrome shots, for these I will shoot a JPEG and RAW image, seeing the scene in black and white through the viewfinder helps to visualise the final shot.

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There is a single tree along this path that I had been wanting to capture with a long exposure and while I did take the image, I will wait for another day when the leaves will remain still for the shot I would like.

With the tripod put back in its case and the various filters packed neatly away, it was time for some of the close up shots I like to take when I am around woods or moor, just one of the benefits of the 35mm focal length is its versatility.

Where the footpath comes away from the waters edge and into meadow, the ground is a carpet of summer flora, pinks, yellows and whites, a cacophony of colour to please the senses.

Once again, Dartmoor delivers with another display of its natural beauty, this is why it will always be my place away from the madding crowd.

Early starts

 

One of the things I enjoy most about photography this time of year, is the early mornings.
I admit to certain reservations when an alarm is set for around 3:30am at this time of year but that is soon replaced by a feeling of pleasure as I will be one of one of the few fortunate people that will watch the day awaken.

Sunrises have been very few and far between this summer so far but it’s about more than a sunrise for me, it is listening to an avian chorus as they welcome the new day, that feeling of having that space and time all to yourself.

Yesterday morning was an early start, I was meeting a friend who enjoys fly fishing, he asked me some time ago if I would like to go along one morning, a chance I will seldom refuse, so at 4am with his car packed with his fishing gear and my camera bag, we watched the last of the darkness fade as we headed to one of my favourite places on Dartmoor, Fingle bridge.

Fingle Bridge takes its name from Fingle Brook, a minor tributary that flows into the River Teign, while Lucas was on the search for Sea trout and Brown trout, I was looking forward to a gentle stroll along the river bank to take a few shots.

 

I was duty bound to bring a couple of ND filters for some long exposures but the grey skies and shade from the trees along with the built in 3 stop ND filter on the X100F were enough to produce the effect I wanted, 10 second exposures are more than adequate for the fast flowing water here.

Until now, my visits to Fingle Bridge had been saved until mid October, waiting to capture the hues of autumn as nature prepares for the colder months of winter, for this visit, the scene was of lush green leaves and just the sound of the gentle breeze whispering through the foliage and the sound of water flowing over rock, a perfect combination for an early Sunday morning.

As the hours ticked by, it was apparent the day had truly woken, dogs were getting their first walk of the day, my camera bag was subject to much canine curiosity, then aloofness as they discovered it was not full of treats as they had hoped.

I arrived back home just after 11am, I had already been up for over 7 hours, it was time for a well earned cup of tea, a bacon butty and a browse through my mornings efforts.

New tricks

When I was at school, I did reasonably well at the subjects I enjoyed, while playing the class clown in those I found a little less interesting, I respond better to real life examples than text book scenarios.

Trigonometry is the prime example, the text book always asked for the angles of a shadow when a ladder was against a wall, for me, this was the mathematical equivalent of pushing a disliked food item around a plate with a fork, then, computers made an appearance into schools and I quickly became a fan of programming during lunch time computer club and as I became better at the concept of programming, I wanted to do more.
I wanted to write my name in a circle, I found that I needed trig for this and the subject became easy, I had found a real example for maths required, I COULD do this!

It is this flaw in my mindset that prevents me from taking to new ideas straight away, but I get there eventually.

More relevant to my interest in photography, I had never really embraced mobile phone photography, I had a ‘proper’ camera, why would I need to use the mobile phone?
Again my own reluctance is key, I have only had a smartphone in the last couple of years, a phone was for texting and calling, a PC was for emails and my camera was for photography.
Slowly but surely, my inner dinosaur has evolved and I am at the deep end in the modern tech pool, enjoying my new education in social media and mobile apps.

It was watching a photography video that I was introduced to Hipstamatic, an IPhone app that produces vintage photo effects with a use of simulated lenses and ‘films’, I bought the app and a few add ons, I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun this could be, something different from my usual idea that all photos have to be pin sharp to be worthy of publishing.

With a number of different editing apps installed on my tablet, I am embracing the mobility this gives me, I do not always want to sit at a desktop editing images, the fact that any photo I take on my phone will be ready for editing in an instant is so handy. this dog, has learned some new tricks.

 

Six months of 35mm

I do not normally set myself any new years resolutions, I know that by the end of January, the promise to eat no more sweets and biscuits will have been broken but I did think I could achieve something relevant to photography.

My GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) had taken a hold, it was time reduce the amount of gear and challenge my photographic ability and not my bank account.

By the first week in January, I had made the first of many social media posts declaring my intentions, there, it was out, I was committed, I was to spend the next 12 months shooting only 35mm.

The camera I had chosen is the Fujifilm X100F, a rangefinder style camera that has style in abundance and can be carried around all day with no issues.
With a much lighter camera bag and no worries about which lenses to pack for any given shoot, as long as I have a couple of spare batteries charged I am good to go at an instant.

I have discussed in previous blogs how I feel that I am at my creative best with prime focal lengths but since embarking upon this challenge, I have become more open minded with my photography ethos, I will explain.

Until this year, I had always shot RAW images exclusively, it’s the law, everyone says you have to….
Hands up, I will admit to being one of those who would sneer at the thought of anyone shooting JPEG’s, even with my previous Fuji cameras (xpro-1 xe-1), I had never thought to even try.
I may be late to the JPEG party but at least I have now arrived, with the many film simulations offered within the camera’s custom settings, I am happy to experiment with various set ups, a part of my previous fuji cameras I had missed out on through my own stubbornness.

I liked the analogy given by Fuji ambassador Kevin Mullins, wedding and documentary photographer, when he says ‘do you not trust your camera to produce good images?’

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I still shoot RAW for paid assignments but for my personal use, I am having fun trying new recipes, some have been good, others consigned to digital dustbin.
I find myself using the aspect ratio settings more as well for the Jpegs, deciding to shoot 1:1 images for an entire shoot can be fun.

The biggest and most enjoyable part of the project, is that I am using a camera long enough to get to know its quirks and foibles.
Many of my fellow 100F users have such things as a touch screen or tilting screen on their wish list, I have one, please can we remove the drive option from the D-pad and allow it to become a custom button or menu item, I am frequently going from single shot to other shooting modes because of where my thumb rests on the camera, other than that, I simply love using this little beaut of a camera.

In much the same way that I was inspired to do this challenge, a few of my fellow photographers have expressed an interest in doing  a self imposed project themselves, it is good to think we can share ideas in our own development and  creativity.

I am always eager to read about other peoples challenges, I am already thinking about what I will do next year.

Different views

I am often asked what I enjoy most about photography, a simple enough question but with a little consideration there are actually several things that feed my desire to keep going out with the camera.

Going to a new destination is always an enjoyable experience, I spend a few hours looking online, to see what the attractions of that particular destination may be, writing down a few of the ones I would like to photograph myself, saving the ones I did not get as an excuse to visit again another day.
Of course, I will play the tourist and get a couple of the usual photos but I also like to have my own take on a popular photo, a different view.

Going to a place regularly is seen for me, as an opportunity to explore beyond the usual images, a composition that seemed mundane one one day can be seen as photo worthy on another, mindset and weather often the key.

Another facet of photography I find valuable, are the ‘non camera’ days, where I read about or watch videos on the people that have helped to inspire me, keeping my own creativity alive, which leads me to probably my most enjoyable part of my photo forays… experimenting.

Experimenting is perhaps using a vintage lens found in a charity shop, using a 50mm lens wide open for an entire trip, getting to know my camera inside out.
Some of my favourite images are the more obscure shots, perhaps a section of barbed wire framed with the said 50mm lens, a single flower head backlit with the early sun.

Finding that different view, the more unique angle probably stems from my enjoyment of using prime lenses, I have always had a 35mm and 50mm lens in my armoury, zooms are great but make me lazy, using my feet to find a shot helps to find that ideal angle.

The fact that I have been using a fixed lens (35mm ) camera as a project this year is also nurturing my enthusiasm, some say they would find this restricting, I have found it liberating, no feeling of thinking I should change lenses, just get out and find what I can.

The above images are a few of my personal favourites over the last 18 months , many taken with a vintage nifty fifty but most taken during my one camera project this year.

Photography and me…

I started my journey in photography in much the same way as many others have, a camera with some unused film and the innate inquisitiveness of a teenager, topped with an ever growing love of gadgets.

I would like to have been able to have the talent for art that my elder sister had but I lacked 2 main ingredients, patience and ability, so developed the creativity I enjoyed with computer programming and ray tracing software, where I could render 3d scenes with various light and shadow combinations.

A mixture of work and dabbling with other hobbies, meant I did not get fully into photography until about 10 years ago, where by joining various groups and forums, I have learned so much and found a  number of ways to enjoy my hobby.

I like to shoot in natural light, I rarely use flash, perhaps if I did more portrait work, that would change but this goes back to my fascination with light, especially low light situations, where knowing the camera you are using is a must.
My learning curve here came from visiting National trust buildings, where flash photography is not allowed, so use of natural light with fast aperture lenses is a distinct advantage.

Prime lenses are my favourite type of lens to use, I like the image quality that comes from a single focal length lens, alongside the way they make you think.

Setting challenges and projects for myself is something I have only done fairly recently but is something I intend to carry on doing as long as the ideas continue, those following my ramblings will know I am using just one focal length for my own photography this year, 35mm is a great way to see the world!

When in town, I have begun setting myself timed challenges to get as many different shots as possible and yes, I keep to my self governed limits.

 


The shots above were a 10 minute challenge, set in Exeter city centre while waiting for a lunch meeting with friends.
Discovering new places is always an enjoyable part of photography, I will look at the popular tourist shots and landmarks for the first day, then try to find my own take on the same shots, then find some new ones of my own.

One of my biggest rules for my own photography, is that there should be no rules, do not be afraid to try something different, shoot for pleasure, not to some pre defined mantra that may not work for your own style.

I very often shoot JPEG only on my personal shoots, either to be able to post on to social media more quickly, or just because I like what the camera produces.

I have recently decided to get away from subscription only editing suites, I am now experimenting more in terms of colour and look of my images, something I had become lazy with, since I had developed a number of preset looks and become stuck in a ritual of habit.

With a wealth of resources on social media channels, inspiration is never far away, so on those days where the weather makes a decision for me, I will watch videos on editing techniques or watch my favourite photographers at work, inspiring me to my next challenge.