THE ANTHROPOCENE – THIS IS NOT A POST ON PHOTOGRAPHY!!!

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I’m a geologist, have been for 55 years or more, first as a boyhood amateur and later professionally.  And although I’ve not pursued the subject actively for 30 years, its always been with me, colouring my thoughts and opinions – and influencing the way in which I look at landscape.

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Colouring my opinions?  Well, the Earth is around 4,500 million years old – that’s 4,500,000,000 years, which is certainly a big number.  And especially so when compared to the less than 7 million years that our ancestors have been around.  And even more so when compared to the 65 years that I’ve been around – so that, to my geological eyes, our lives are but the blink of an eyelid in “the grand scheme of things”.

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But geologically young and briefly living as we may be, our presence is having a profound effect on this planet, and this has led to the coining of a new name for the part of Earth’s history that you and I are living in, that is going on right now – the Anthropocene.

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Earth’s history is divided up into a number of periods, of which the one that you’ll certainly have heard is the Jurassic, as in the famous Park.  That was around 200-145 million years back.  Our imaginations have also been stirred by the Pleistocene, with its vast numbers of large mammals – sabre-toothed cats, mammoths, woolly rhinoceros – and Neanderthal Man, whose DNA we still carry – an epoch lasting for most of the past two million years.

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But the Anthropocene is something rather different – it is the period in Earth’s history when the activities of us humans have had significant effects on our planet’s ecosystems – effects that can be detected in the geological record – in the rocks.  The term was first used at the turn of the Millenium (this is not breaking news!) –  but what truly fascinates me about it are the various opinions as to when we began to significantly affect our planet – to a geologically detectable extent.  Here are some of the suggestions:

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  • the appearance of extensive farming, 8,000 years ago

  • the start of rice production, 6,500 years ago

  • the colonisation of North America by Old World settlers, starting in 1610

  • the Industrial Revolution, starting in 1760

  • the advent of the atomic bomb

  • the start of the great period of economic growth and technological development after World War Two.

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Which of these events, I wonder, started us irrevocably on the road that we are on now?  Or was it none of the above, but rather, as portrayed in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, was it when we first started using our intelligence to make tools that included, of course, those darker implements, weapons? 

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I have a dreadfully fascinating book, A History of the World in 100 Weapons (ISBN 978 1 84908 520 5) – a history of the 100 weapons which have most changed world history.  And the first weapon to be considered is the Stone Age flint axe, to which the introduction reads: “The specific origin of humankind’s first weapons are lost in time.  At some point in prehistory, human beings picked up sticks or rocks with violent intent, and smashed them into other people, awakening a world of dark possibilities.  Thus, unfortunately, were the beginnings of the technological evolution that would eventually lead to Stealth fighters and GPS-guided bombs.”.

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Before I go, I must apologise to you all for dumping this geology and history piece into the middle of a photography blog – but I’ve nowhere else to put it!  And maybe its of interest.  It has certainly made me think about current events – “Our Now” – in a rather different way.  And if you’d like a little more info on the Anthropocene  – you can find it here, and also here .

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IT IS THE BIRTHDAY OF DYLAN THOMAS

 

 

Dylan Thomas

 

The great Welsh poet Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on 27 October 1914 and died, controversially some would say, at the age of 39 in New York.  Today would have been his 100th birthday. (Picture credit: The Guardian).

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Poetry is in the main a foreign land to me.  I try and I try but rarely enjoy it, and Dylan’s offerings are little different: to me, heavy and difficult to appreciate.

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HOWEVER, his play for voices – Under Milk Wood – is one of the gems of my life, something without which my existence would have been considerably the poorer; a simply vast pleasure and  inspiration.  I bought my first copy while at university in Swansea in the 1960s, and have never let those words be far from me ever since. 

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You’d like an example?  In this one small book there are far, far too many to choose from, but here are the play’s opening words, spoken in a low, soft voice, and taking the listener into the small, fictional town around which the play is set, Llareggub – “Bugger All”, spelt backwards:

“To begin at the beginning:  It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea.”.

That get to you at all?  It completely flattens me.

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So, its his birthday and I want to celebrate him – and in doing so, here are some things to pass on.  Last night (Saturday 26 Oct), on BBC4 at 7pm, there was an excellent rendering of Under Milk Wood from across the world by an all Welsh cast – worth seeing.  Here’s a really excellent and comprehensive BBC link to their recent Thomas output, including this programme.

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And yesterday the play opened in The States on Broadway, on the same stage that it was first performed on, just after Dylan’s death in 1953 – any of you Easterners into this stuff?  The BBC link has footage of Jimmy Carter talking about his love of Dylan’s work.

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A good biography is Dylan Thomas A New Life (ISBN 0 75381 787 x), and I’m currently reading a book by his wife, Caitlin, someone I have always found fascinating – My life with Dylan Thomas: double drink story (ISBN 978-1-84408-518-7).

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So, remembering genius.

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WARNING: LETTING PRINTER MANUFACTURERS “UPGRADE” YOUR PRINTER SOFTWARE

 

 

Fairly recently I bought a Hewlett-Packard Deskjet 2544 printer and its been giving me good service.  It was not expensive and, as seems to be the norm these days, the cost of its inks look like exceeding the cost of the actual machine quite soon.

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However I keep receiving messages from HP asking me if I want to upgrade my printer software but, being quite happy with the printer as it is, I always cancel them.

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Now it appears that I may have unwittingly been doing the right thing – and here I quote from a letter printed by Amateur Photographer magazine in their 5 July 2014 issue: “Another point: never permit your friendly printer company to ‘upgrade’ your software (usually in the background so that you never know).  Class it as ‘junk’ and let it be automatically binned.  The ‘upgrade’ only tells your printer how to recognise and combat the latest compatible cartridges. “. 

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In other words, the printer company don’t want you using any third party inks, those budget inks that may well be cheaper than those of the printer company.  AP have published this letter and not contradicted its contents, so I imagine that they do not disbelieve it..

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Can anyone provide any further input on this issue?   Does anyone know if these suppositions are in fact correct?

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Adrian

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SIMPLE TIPS FOR BETTER PHOTOS 6: KNOW YOURSELF – ARE YOU A LEFT- OR RIGHT-BRAINED PHOTOGRAPHER?

 

This is the sixth in a series of posts, aimed at novice photographers,  that discuss simple ways to enhance images.  The other five posts are here: ONE   TWO   THREE   FOUR   FIVE.   THREE might be the most worthwhile.

People are often characterised as being left- or right-brained, depending on their characters – put broadly, those dominated by the left side of their brain are logical, rational and strategic, while the right-brainers are curious about things, and creative and intuitive.  Wikipedia doesn’t agree with this characterisation, but let’s look at it – if for no other reason than it may help you to further know yourself as a photographer – and appreciating your photographic / visual traits more fully has to be a good thing.

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The stimulus for my considering this subject is an article in Amateur Photographer magazine (20 July 2013) by Ogden Chesnutt – a real name?  Who knows?  Whatever, he sees right-brained photographers as those thirsting for creativity, whereas left-brainers, while also enjoying visual beauty, get a bigger high from the science, technicalities and achievement involved in the capturing of a “beautiful moment”.

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Ogden thinks that left-brainers are drawn to the process, and value precision and accuracy.  They are looking to record moments in time asd they actually appeared to the observers’ eyes.  Whereas right-brainers see beauty in all things – all things can be beautiful, its just a question of how we see them.

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And he then makes an intriguing statement: “Neither (i.e. neither left- nor right-brained photographers) are wrong, but only right-brainers are right.”.  By which he means that the things that left-brainers consider worthy of photography are correct, but that left-brainers are missing out on all of those other things – everything in our surroundings – that right-brainers consider beautiful, i.e. worthy of photography too.

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Well, which am I?  Despite having spent my working life in science and analysis, which are certainly left-brained things, I’m definitely right-brained when it comes to photography, right in there with the Everything Can Be Beautiful Brigade.  And this is a contradiction that friends find strange – I recall one saying something like “If someone had shown me your photographs and asked me who I thought had taken them, you’d have been the last person I would have thought of.”.

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And so, which are you?  For example, which would you more like to photograph – the moment that an athlete wins a race (the picture of Roger Bannister becoming the first person to run a mile in under 4 minutes comes to mind), or a portrait of the same athlete sidelit by soft window light, possibly not wall-to-wall sharp, but gazing candidly into your lens?

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SIMPLE TIPS FOR BETTER PHOTOS 5 – DON’T RUSH YOURSELF, COME BACK TO THINGS WITH A FRESH MIND – AND COLLECT DATA

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This is the fifth in a series of posts, aimed at novice photographers, that discuss simple ways to enhance images.  The other four posts are here: ONE   TWO   THREE   FOUR   .  THREE might be the most worthwhile in a fundamental sense.

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DON’T RUSH YOURSELF!

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There’s no getting away from the facts – I enjoy creating images and I enjoy posting them onto my blog.  There’s the simply vast creative potential that digital photography brings – the potential to realise our visions! –  and then there’s the ability to send images out around the world at the touch of a button, to find out what like (and unlike) minds think of them.  Never has photography had it so good!

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But a real downer that has often happened to me is as follows.  I’ve been out with a camera since early in the morning, taken a stack of shots, got home and got them onto my computer, sat down full of anticipation and enthusiasm, looking forward to posting something from the day’s shoot – only to grind to a dead and dispirited, creative halt.

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As often happens, my wife got it right first time, with the simple “Maybe you’re tired”.  And I thought yes, maybe so, but that didn’t really make an impact.

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But reading Amateur Photographer magazine (22 March 2014 edition), something about this issue appeared, that really has hit home.  In an interesting interview, Jonathan Chritchley ( www.jonathanchritchley.net ), a well known photographer of the sea and many associated things, talked about his journey into photography and, three pages in, revealed the fact that, after going out on a salty shoot, he downloads the resulting images >>> and then forgets about them for several weeks!

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So that when he eventually returns to them, he is rejuvenated and fresh, and he has “a clear head”.  He talks of looking at these several weeks old images, almost as if they had been taken by someone else.

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As soon as I read this, I realised that, in most cases, its what I’ve been unconsciously doing all along.  I have posted the odd (and sometimes very odd …) shot directly after coming in from a shoot, but in most cases I’m going back to images captured long before – often very long before – and looking at them in a new light.

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So my messages here – following good sense from both my wife and Jonathan Chritchley – are to give yourself time, not to feel that you must rush things – and this goes both for processing your images, and for getting them out to the world.  And also to return to your images sometime – maybe a long time – after capture, when you may well see them in a new light and have new ideas about them.

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FOCUSING A THIRD OF THE WAY IN FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE SHOT

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And in the same interview, Jonathan Chritchley, spoke of something that I learned years ago, and largely do as a matter of routine now – focusing one third of the way into images, to maximise the depth of field.  This is obviously not something that works with every subject, but it is something to think about if you have depth in your composition – here is a link discussing this technique.

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DON’T FEEL THAT YOU MUST ALWAYS FINALISE YOUR IMAGES AT CAPTURE – COLLECT DATA!

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It has to be said that I’m a firm devotee of getting as much right at image capture as I can, and here I’m talking mostly about the technical sides of things – most importantly, focusing (or lack thereof), minimising camera movement (assuming I want to), and exposure, because I know that if I mess any of those things up, my image may be ruined or, at best, retrievable only after much hard work on my PC.

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I also like to have some sort of composition at capture too, the way I see what’s in front of me, how I’m hoping to present it, to display it.  And this done in the full knowledge of course of the vast and easily applied benefits that digital photography has brought to image cropping.  The ability to change an image’s format from the 35mm rectangle, to square, or letterbox-shaped, for example, and the ability to exclude unwanted things from the frame, either via cropping or erasing.

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But there also arise the occasions, of course, when looking at the contents of a shot, I decide to produce an image – or IMAGES NB – that are quite different to what I initially had in mind.  Ideas which will at once be met with howls of protest from those with more puritanical views that see no worth in a image unless it is pre-visualised pre-capture, and who insist that I must, pre-capture, already know whether I’m intending to present the image in black and white or colour.

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Well, if you want to go down that route that’s your choice and, as I always say, we are all different, not least in our visual and photographic preferences.  But I see no worth in those purist approaches, and I stick 100% with my mantra which is, “If an image looks good then it is good” – end of story!  It matters not at all whether the final image reflects my initial plans for it, I am simply happy to have produced something that I like.

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And this leads to something mentioned in Amateur Photographer magazine recently, where a budding photographer had an epiphany – a moment of true revelation – on being told that he shouldn’t see his photography as necessarily demanding that he create perfect pictures at capture but, rather, that he should see it as COLLECTING DATA – taking pictures of things that appeal to him, and then looking at them on his computer, to decide how he should frame and crop them, to decide their final appearance and qualities.

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And of course this approach encompasses the possibility that NONE of the images will be any good, such that you have to go out and try again, but this is not about the end of the world – it is all about gaining valuable photographic experience.

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And this approach does benefit from cameras with larger sensors, since they provide larger cropping potential – there’s simply more detail in the file to play with.

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FULL FRAME DIGITAL CAMERAS

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And finally, talking about cameras with larger sensors – and acknowledging that money is obviously a factor, although costs are coming down –  I would urge anyone reasonably serious about their photography to use a full frame digital camera, i.e. one with a sensor the same size as a frame of 35mm film – for two reasons.  First, obviously, the larger sensor captures more information, and so makes its files more amenable to the cropping techniques discussed above.

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But second, there is a rather less obvious point – that full frame sensors allow lenses to display their true, 35mm characteristics – in particular, depth of field (DOF) characteristics.  Because the smaller the sensor, the larger the DOF, which is great if you want everything in focus, e.g in some abstracts – but hell if you are looking for subtle differential focusing, e.g. only a child’s eyes sharp in an otherwise soft portrait.

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And of course smaller sensors cause focal length magnification – which is great if you’re looking to extend the reach of your telephoto, but not so great if you glory in the vast fields of view of wide angle lenses.  Let’s take Nikon’s DX format cameras, which have a focal length magnification factor of 1.5 . If you use a 24mm wide angle on a DX camera, it becomes (1.5 x 24) = a 36mm lens, substantially less wide angle.  But if you want to extend the reach of your 400mm telephoto, you can do it – (1.5 x 400) = 600mm!  It is of course possible to buy lenses made for this DX format, to give, for example, wider fields of view – but there still remains the fact that you’re ending up with a smaller image file. 

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A HUGE “THANK YOU!” TO LEANNE COLE!!!

USE YOUR PC’s F11 KEY TO VIEW THIS PAGE FULLSCREEN

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I want to say a huge “thank you” to Leanne Cole, both for showcasing Fatman Photos on her blog, and for the good things she says about my photography – this has given me a real lift, and certainly reinforced my motivation.  THANK YOU, LEANNE!!!

Leanne’s post can be found here.

And for those newly following my blog, well, thank you, and, for better or for worse, this is me …

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Three views of me, in mirrors for sale outside a seaside gift shop in Mevagissey, Cornwall; 24 Oct 2012.  Landmarks?  Well, my cap, which is actually a designer piece (tho not bought with any knowledge of that), and which I’m told makes look like either a train driver or a Japanese soldier.  And then the lens that I’m wedded to – the 70-300.  And lastly, left of center, my trademark paunch, without which I’d have to change my name – actually I do have to lose weight but that’s another thing!  D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 70mm; 1600 ISO.
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SIMPLE TIPS FOR BETTER PHOTOS 4 – A CASE STUDY, AND SOME GENERAL ADVICE

USE YOUR PC’s F11 KEY TO VIEW THIS PAGE FULLSCREEN

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I’ve recently written some posts on simple ways to improve photographs.  These posts are aimed at those relatively new to photography, and the ones published so far can be found via these links – ONE, TWO, THREE.  Someone contacted me about improving their pictures, and I suggested that she send me a photo, saying what she thought about it and what she had been trying to achieve.  That photo is above here and an idea of mine is some way below here.  OK then, things to think about.

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THIS MAY BE EXACTLY WHAT WAS INTENDED

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Reiterating what may be becoming my mantra, I want to start by saying that we are all different.  You and I may share some visual tastes but we equally well we may not.  Keeping that essential concept firmly in mind, there is the possibility that this image is exactly what was intended, and that it is exactly what the photographer likes – and in this case there is nothing more to be said. 

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Because the photographer’s tastes matter, YOUR tastes matter and, to my mind, telling someone that their visual tastes are somehow “wrong” is on a par with telling them they believe in the “wrong” religion, or that your religion is “better” than theirs’  – its an unthinkable thing to do!

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So here is a sunny landscape with a road and power lines taking our eyes deeply into the composition, and leading us to a retreating mass of pylons, which escort our gaze to the horizon.  And there are tower blocks, and lots of beautiful green grass.  Aside from liking this image, maybe the photographer wanted a record of how the place looked, and this shot does that exactly.

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BUT HERE IS WHAT THE PHOTOGRAPHER THINKS

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But, from our correspondence, it appears that this is not what the photographer wished to convey.  Or, rather, it is – but a common and fatal mistake has been made.  The photographer has seen something visually attractive – the pylons (and maybe the road too), and photographed it – forgetting that there are many other visual items in the frame besides those which caught her eye.  Oh I’ve been there, I’ve done that! >>> and I bet that you have too!

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So, two ways forward, of which the better is to use your screen or viewfinder to exclude unwanted items from the image when you capture it, so as to fill the frame with your subject – i.e. what you perceive as visually attractive.

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Remember – what YOU see as visually attractive could be anything – this whole landscape, or the road and pylons, or only a single pylon, or the tower block, etc., etc.

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The second option, made easy by digital, is to crop the image on your PC, to exclude the unwanted bits – and here is an example cropped to somewhere near MY tastes.

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SUBJECTIVITY RAISES ITS GLORIOUS HEAD ONCE MORE

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I’m going to attempt this – but remember that this is ME, MY thoughts and preferences – YOU may not agree with them at all!

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OK,  if the subject here really is the power lines, are the other things in the shot required – the grass, the bushes, the tower blocks?  Because if not, then they should be excluded from the frame or made less conspicuous – see the first of these articles.

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Next, the road is an excellent lead in line, it takes our eyes to the pylons, and then they take our eyes on into the distance.  But maybe it would have been better to have got closer to the pylons so that they occupy more of the frame.  In her email, the photographer talks about the power lines, but I think the stark pylons more impressive, so I’m going to concentrate on them.

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Here is an attempt.  Its in mono, to simplify it, because we’re looking at those stark pylons, and the wonderful, lead-ins produced by the power lines, and by the road, with its central yellow lines.  All colour distraction has disappeared – the grass and so on is black.  This is no longer a record shot, an image that faithfully shows us what the place looks like – this is now getting towards more of an impression that I have in my mind.

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If I were going to re-take this photo, I’d get closer to the pylons (remember the photographer Robert Capa’s advice – “if your photos aren’t good enough, you weren’t close enough”), and use the telephoto end of my camera’s zoom to pack them in, closer together.

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Any thoughts, anyone???  (For a start, I think I should have darkened the sky!)

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 GENERAL THOUGHTS

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If you’re intent on improving your photography, then its worth getting some sort of computer that has a reasonably large screen, since trying to edit on small screens is more difficult.  And if you’re really up for it, get a computer with a powerful graphics card, and plenty of oomph!  Oomph?  What do I know about IT???

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And get some kind of image editing software – something like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop Elements, but there are many others – because such programmes really do enhance your creativity.  Many cameras contain image editing functions, but I’d always always ALWAYS!!! rather download my shots to a computer, and work on them there. 

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I sometimes read of people considering image editing software expensive, and begrudging spending any money on it.  Well I certainly do NOT agree with such sentiments – such programmes can do so much for your photography that not investing in one (or more) of them is a very, very false economy.  And I think I’m right in saying that one or two of these programmes can be obtained for free. 

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What do I use?  My base programme is Nikon’s Capture NX2, and then programmes in The Nik Collection,  a collection of software originally created by Nik Software, and now owned by Google.  The Nik programme I use most is Silver Efex Pro 2, a must for any black and white enthusiast; and also Color Efex Pro 4 – ditto for the colour world.

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And always shoot RAW files, as they have more creative potential, i.e. you can process them more radically and thoroughly than is possible with jpegs.

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RAB C NESBITT IS BACK!!! (this post has nothing to do with photography)

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I am a huge and utterly unrepentant fan of Rab C Nesbitt, who featured in numerous BBC comedy series years ago.  Who is he?  Well, a rougher than rough, totally workshy, drunk from Govan in Glasgow – and something of a philosopher too.  His dress code?  Dirty, torn, old suit above a grimy string vest, and a dirty headband below unkempt hair.

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His words?  All of the characters in the series speak broad Glaswegian, and many people that I know, including some family (OMG, that’s a bit close to the bone … almost shameful, really), can’t understand a word they’re saying – but for me that only adds to the programme’s allure.  And my having worked in Scotland years ago probably helps things too.  I often found myself between trains in Glasgow’s Queen Street station in the middle of the night, and loved the atmosphere – especially on the night I was carrying a set of Red Deer antlers …

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Well, the good news is that – maybe only for a couple of Christmas programmes – he’s back >>> and I totally, 100%, urgently urge you to see them on Catch Up TV (BBC iPlayer – www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer  ; look under Comedy), while you still can.  They were broadcast on BBC2 last Thursday evening – 2nd of January – and so will be available on the iPlayer until late afternoon or so next Thursday.

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HEALTH CHECK: the content is wonderful >>> but its also certainly raw, indecent, crude, profane, blue and a tremendous affront to civilised sensibilities, with a vast, vast absence of good taste – so don’t say I didn’t warn you!!!!!!

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There are two programmes.  At 10pm (well after British TV’s decency watershed!!!) on Thursday 2nd Jan, there was a 45 minute, new episode.  I’m not a great fan of remakes of long past TV shows, but despite that this is worth a look. 

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But better I think is the programme that followed, at 10.45pm on that Thursday – “John Sergeant Meets Rab C Nesbitt” – in which the veteran and very well respected TV reporter and commentator, John Sergeant, interviews Rab.  John does it very well, and the programme contains many Rab gems from long ago.

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Both programmes had me laughing deeply and guffawing, in a way that modern “comedy” rarely does.

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I urge you to take a look at them while they’re still available – I’m hoping that this presages a new Rab presence on TV.  Meanwhile, I’m going on to www.play.com to see if I can get any of the old series on dvd.

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ENJOY – BUT DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU!  (I can hear the reactions now …. “and we thought Adrian was such a nice young man … and … clean cut … and … and  … he told us that … most days …  he prays ….”)

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Adrian

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SIMPLE TIPS FOR BETTER PHOTOS – 3 – LEARNING TO SAY “WHY…..”

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This advice, aimed a those relatively new to photography, comes in two parts.  Two earlier “tips” pieces are here and here.

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PART ONE – YOUR VISUAL EXPERIENCE, AND VISUAL AWARENESS

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If you want to improve your photography, it is important to enhance your experience of the visual world as much as possible.  By which I mean that you should expose your mind to as many images as you can get your eyes on – and by no means should these images only be photographs!  Pencil sketches, charcoal, crayon, watercolours, oil paintings, graffiti, children’s scrawls, old masters, advertising – they are all equally useful and you should look at these too.

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Because every time that we see a new image – no matter what the medium it has been produced in – we are adding to our visual experience, we are making ourselves that much more Visually Aware – as Roger Hicks, writing in Amateur Photographer magazine put it, we are adding to the visual libraries in our minds.

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One of the joys and great benefits of blogging is that it provides almost endless opportunities to see other peoples’ images, and this is the reason I trawl through the photography section of WordPress’s Freshly Pressed most days – to see what people are producing.  If I like an image I find there, I press the “Like” button, and this not only registers my preference with the image’s author, but it also causes the image to appear as a thumbnail near the bottom of my blog’s sidebar – where it (hopefully!) gives the images further exposure, while giving others new ideas.

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I mention these “Liked” posts near the top of the sidebar (over on the right of my blog), and give the date there on which I’ve last updated them.  If you scroll down the sidebar you’ll come to IMAGES I’VE LIKED RECENTLY, and the pictures appear there.

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PART TWO – ARTICULATING YOUR OPINIONS ….. BEING ABLE TO SAY ”  WHY ….. “

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So, drowning yourself daily in pictures, where do you go from there?  Well, the second bit is not quite so easy, but it is something that puts you on the road to knowing your visual preferences, and thence to creating images that suit those preferences.

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Because, let’s make this clear from the outset, I am talking here about YOU – YOUR visual preferences – NOT those preferences that anyone else, say a competition judge (oh, shudder …!) says you should have.  We are all different, we all like different things, and thank heavens that’s the case >>> so this is a journey of exploration for YOU, a journey to find out what YOU like.  What you like may of course change over time, there is no guarantee that it’ll be fixed, but the point is, this is about YOU …. YOU ….. YOU …..

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So, how to start?  Simple.  Look at an image, its probably best to start with a photograph, and simply ask yourself whether you like it or not.  And whichever is the case, ask yourself WHY.  The point is that here – at the start of a very long and fascinating road – you are going to start putting your preferences into WORDS.

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And rest assured that this does NOT have to be long or sophisticated, not something up there alongside Matthew Collings pontificating about art or Mark Kermode reviewing a new film.  It can be ultimately simple: “Its too dark and sombre!”, or “I don’t like posed portraits”, or “The blues and yellows here go very well together”.  Because in each of these examples you have given a reason, you have translated your feelings into words that you and others can comprehend – YOU ARE ON YOUR WAY.

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And from those simple beginnings, you may start to notice other things.  For example, “I like this because the many lines in this picture all lead in towards that darling little girl”; or “do you know, having only a part of that person’s face in the frame really intrigues me!”; or “this photo’s not in focus but I don’t think that matters at all!” – and so on.

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It doesn’t matter what you say, it doesn’t have to be technical or “sophisticated” >>> but its YOU, putting YOUR thoughts into words.

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WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?  Because it is helping you to know yourself and, in particular, to become aware of your visual tastes >>> so that when you next point a camera at anything, you will have that little bit more of an inkling as to why you like or dislike it >>> you will be more consciously on your way to developing that holy grail of photography, Your Personal Visual Style.

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Two more things to mention here.

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THE DIRE CURSE OF THE GREAT GOD INDIFFERENCE!

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You show your photos to someone else and hope for a positive response.  You’d much rather have them say something positive, than utter negatives.  But there is a third possibility that is far worse than a negative – and that is INDIFFERENCE!

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Its uncomfortable having someone saying negative things about your work >>> but at least its input, something to be thought about and worked upon maybe – unless you consider the person making the points an utter clod of course.  Because at least your attempts have made an impact, albeit a negative one.

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But when someone is completely unmoved by your efforts, when someone looks at them with the complete indifference that, for example, the thinking classes reserve for party politics, now THAT really hurts!

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THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF COMPETITIVE PHOTOGRAPHY

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To my mind, photography can never be in competitive, simply because it is far, far too subjective.  Remember, as I said above, we are all different, and we are talking about YOU … YOU … YOU … not anybody else.  If you’re lucky, you’ll create images that you like.  If you’re luckier still, you’ll create images that others like too – and that really gives a buzz!

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But, because of the medium’s subjectivity, it really is not realistic for a judge or panel of judges to compare images – their preferences may not be anywhere near your’s – and its YOU who matter.  I have read of people tailoring their photography to what they think will please competition judges, and that really is a very, very sad state of affairs.

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My view?  I’m not at all concerned with winning prizes or competitions, in my view these things have no connection with photography at all.

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For me, photography is something that I can amalgamate with creative vision, to produce images that show how I see and feel the world around me.

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Adrian

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SIMPLE TIPS FOR BETTER PHOTOS – 2

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I recently posted a piece containing five simple bits of advice for obtaining better pictures – and asked for any other ideas on this topic.  That first post is here – and two  more ideas have emerged.

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IMAGE “SHAPE” – THE CONSTRAINTS ARE GONE!

There was a time, prior to digital, when most photographs were produced in conventional proportions.  Square is the simplest example.  And then there were various rectangular shapes, for example the 3×2 ratio, which would result in 6 by 4 inch prints, and so on.

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But Andy Luck (http://lensscaper.wordpress.com) makes the very valid points that there is nothing sacrosanct about these ratios and that, rather than adhering mindlessly to them, we should instead tailor image shape to the requirements of each image’s composition.  I think Andy is exactly right.

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In my earlier post, I’d talked about excluding from the frame anything that doesn’t support or have a bearing on the subject – and, as Andy also points out, use of non-standard frame ratios can help in this significantly.

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OK, maybe your image requires a square or 3×2 ratio frame – then go for it!  But there are for example “letterbox” formats, very long and thin, and there is no reason at all why you shouldn’t use them.  You’ll find some in this blog, and here are some examples.
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If you print such images on standard sized paper, the final product will have blank, white areas – but these are easily removed with a guillotine.

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KEEP ON SHOOTING!

These days, rather than frenetically rushing about looking for pictures, I tend to let them come more to me. But when something with photographic interest and potential does appear, I take lots of pictures of it, often from various angles and orientations. And the shot I like best is very rarely the first one I took of whatever it was, it is often quite some way down the line.

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So if you think you’ve captured the “perfect” shot of something, my advice is not at all to bet on it, but to go on trying new angles and so – the message is – KEEP ON SHOOTING!!! You can always delete unwanted versions later – but the later shots may just contain your dream!

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Adrian

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