STILL LIFE 166 – THREE WORLDS

 

 


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Looking up on a frosty morning: fluffy clouds, our planet’s Moon, a jet.

The clouds are just starting to take on the first hues of the sunrise.  The Moon looks hard, pale, uncompromising.  And the aircraft arrows upwards between them, a tiny dot relentlessy pursued by a vast contrail.

Three worlds.

The Moon is another world and the clouds belong to our world, so that’s two accounted for.  But the Moon and the clouds are both Natural phenomena, produced by the same universal processes that have produced ourselves – thousands of millions of years before those processes produced ourselves, of course.  We are new kids on the block.

The Moon and the clouds are indifferent to our presence.  Were we not here, they would most certainly continue to exist.  But were they not here, our lives would be severely impacted, if not impossible.

And so to the aircraft.  This is the third world here.  It is the product of the natural resources of our world, which we have used to build a machine to take us at great speed across our world’s surface.  So far so good.  The problems come, of course, when it emerges that our world’s natural resources are not infinite, and that the lovely fluffy white contrail is not the healthiest thing around, both for ourselves and for our climate.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 206mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Stanton Drew; 6 Nov 2017.
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STILL LIFE 136 – QUEEN CHARLOTTE STREET 2

 

 


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Blues, and some browns too.

There is another image from this street here.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto the larger version to enlarge it still further.

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Capture NX2; central Bristol; 19 July 2016.
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ARCHIVE 305 – SUNRISE WITH THREE DUCKS (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 


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Three ducks and the sunrise over Tealham Moor, south of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 23 Nov 2012.

As with my pictures of crows aloft , the birds are dwarfed by the immensity of their element, yet quite at one with it.

Click onto the image to open another version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; conversion to mono and colour restoration in Silver Efex Pro 2.

UPDATE: Minimalism once more, and the slightly unreal look of colour restored to a black and white image.

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OUTLANDS 12 – NEAR WEST LITTLETON (MONO)

 

 


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Early in the day: above the byway, east of West Littleton; South Gloucestershire; 12 Apr 2017.

More context on this second visit to the extreme south of the Cotswold Hills, and more images, can be found here.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto the larger image to further enlarge it.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 206mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Neutral preset.
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STILL LIFE 99 – PARKED CAR REFLECTING ARCHITECTURE AND BLUE SKY

 

 

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Reflections in the bodywork of a parked car.  The blue sky can be seen left of centre, with distorted reflections of buildings around it.  The other reflections are from the car itself.

Technique: a first for this blog, in that although Lightroom has been used afterwards for final processing, this image was initially generated by the X-T2’s Raw Conversion facility.  In-camera, this facility allows Raw files to be edited in various ways – Push/Pull Processing, Film Simulation, Dynamic Range, Grain Effect, White Balance, Cropping, etc, etc – and then to be saved as jpegs while leaving the original Raw files intact.  In this case, the Raw file was given the look of Fuji’s Velvia film simulation, which (as users of Velvia film may remember), boosts colours and contrast.  Sitting down with the camera after a photo session, I find this a useful and creative way of looking through what the session has captured, as well as experimenting with the images to see what looks and crops may be eyecatching – and then saving those that appear useful.

I have a sneaking feeling that some photographic purists might consider this cheating, because I’m letting the camera do some of the processing work for me whereas I ought to be handling the whole of the processing myself in eg Lightroom.  Well, two thoughts about that.  First, I have always said – and it has always been a very core part of my photographic thinking – that all that matters in photography is the final image, irrespective of the way(s) in which it has been generated.  And second, if I generate something like this image, am I really going to expend lots of time and energy seeking to replicate it with Lightroom, when I already have something useable to hand?

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; jpeg with the Velvia film simulation generated from a Raw file in-camera; Lightroom; King Street, central Bristol; 7 Apr 2017.

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STILL LIFE 92 – SEASCAPE

 

 


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Study in blue – looking out to sea from Lizard Point, Cornwall; 19 Oct 2016.

Composition: a Minimalist image, take away the fluffy cloudlets and there’s really not much here, although it might still (just) work sans nuages.  But I like these little clouds – their shapes, fluffiness and colour – and the way they are at once separate from the dense, dark overcast – their relationship to this overcast is rather like that of little children skipping along beside their humourless, stolid, heavily pacing parents.  There is also that thin, linear break in the parental overcast just above these cloudlets – is it the trace of a smile? – perhaps their parents are not so humourless after all!

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto the larger version to enlarge it again.

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom.
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TALKING IMAGES 27 – HAVE BLURRED SKIES AND WATER BECOME A PHOTOGRAPHIC CLICHE?

 

 

Sometime last year, and I can’t now recall exactly when, this was the question asked by an opinion poll in the magazine Amateur Photographer (AP).  10% or 20% of the respondents to this poll (and I can’t recall the exact figure) thought the answer to be “yes”, and I agreed with them. It took no soul-searching on my part to come up with this answer but, then, I’m the first to acknowledge that my views (on many things, as it happens) may not be mainstream, and so there it was.

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Photo credit: Pixabay

QUOTE FROM JEREMY WALKER

However, in the 18 Feb 2017 issue of AP, the respected landscape photographer Jeremy Walker, talking about taking parties of clients on photographic explorations of the wilds of Iceland, wrote the following:

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Basically there are shots to be had, but there’s a danger of getting overloaded with blurry long exposures.  It seems to be what people want to go and do.

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ARTICLE BY DOUG CHINNERY

And now has come this.  Other than AP, which I subscribe to and regularly devour, I don’t usually read photographic magazines.  I’ve tried some of them, but in reality they’re really not up there with AP‘s quality, and they simply don’t shake my tree.  However, recently, I have bought a couple of issues of Outdoor Photography magazine and, despite it going on a bit to much about landscapes – well, outdoors, it would, wouldn’t it? – there have been some real nuggets in it.  And, coming from the same stable as the B+W Photography magazine I have praised extensively on this blog, it is very well produced and has some wonderful photography.

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Anyway, going through the issue 215 of Outdoor Photography, I came upon a long article by the photographer Doug Chinnery, entitled Understanding Exposure.  Well, I had a fairly good idea what this might be about and, the first pages were just as expected – working with a tripod in Manual exposure mode, using Neutral Density Graduated filters, paying strict attention to the histogram, etc etc.  OK, no question at all, this is one way of doing things – and one on my most deeply felt convictions about photography is that there are no rights and no wrongs.  There are simply the ways in which  I – or you – do things.  We are all different, each one of us.  And whether we do things one way or another, and whether we use this bit of kit or that bit of kit, or this post-capture process or that post-capture process – Canon, Nikon, Holga, film, digital, wet plate, pinhole, you name it – we are all photographers, and that’s all there is to it.  And the only real question is whether the resulting images look good – first to ourselves and, someway second, to others too.  That’s all there is – and never let anyone tell you to the contrary.

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Enough preaching!  Anyway, I read on through Doug Chinnery’s article, and came to a piece on the limitations of light meters, and the exhortation always to use Matrix or Evaluative metering – and then, under the heading ANOTHER PATH, I was hit by a bombshell!  Never one to do things by halves, I’m quoting here the first three paragraphs, verbatim (and I’m putting the whole of it in red font, as I think it such an important piece of thinking – especially the first paragraph) :

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While making beautiful, technically crafted photographs is absolutely fine, some find that they can convey little in the way of soul, story or emotion.  The images will tend to have full detail in the shadows, and the highlights will be bright but not ‘blown’.  They can be seen as simply beautiful images of locations, enhanced by fine compositions and good light.

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For many of us, though, our creativity begins to search for ways to inject to inject something more into our images.  Using our understanding of exposure and being willing to stray from convention will allow us to explore this need.

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Once we realise that no one is hanging histograms on gallery walls, we can free ourselves from some of the constraints some would place upon us as to what a “correct” exposure is.  I would suggest that a correct exposure is simply one that realises our personal creative vision for an image.  It bears no relation to what a light meter or histogram is telling us.  Convention tells us shadows have to show detail, and highlights must not be blown, in the same way we are told images must be sharp or comply with certain compositional rules.  Once we accept that this is not necessarily the case, the creative fun can begin.

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And he goes on to say that this thinking has had profound results.  For a start, his tripod is now largely a thing of the past in his landscape photography – which must mean, not so many blurred shots of clouds of water, although the article does include an absolutely beautiful, 2.5 second, handheld image of rolling hills.  Gone too is the need for front to back sharpness.  And he is now using aperture priority exposure automation with – wait for it! – a mirrorless camera system!!!  Wow, I can’t believe I’m reading this stuff!  I don’t know what to say – well, that’s not true, I do know what to say – WAY TO GO, MAN, WAY TO GO!!!!!

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And while revelling in all this euphoria around making creative exposures, an important point to make >>> using a camera with an electronic viewfinder (EVF) (or using any camera’s LCD screen, comes to that) lets us see the results of such creativity at once, rather than having the guess the effects of such changes when using an optical viewfinder.  I’ve found the large, bright EVFs on the Fujifilm X-T1 and X-T2 cameras superb.

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CONCLUSIONS

Well, as always, my first conclusion is that photography has no rights or wrongs, and that no one has the right to tell photographers how to take pictures.  For me that’s a very fundamental given, and I am certainly not going to tell anyone that they shouldn’t blur their images’ skies and waters.  If that’s your thing, do it.

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I have presented another photographer’s picture at the top of this post.  There’s no question but that its very beautiful.  Its gorgeous, calm, a work of art.  But I have totally lost count of the number of photographs of jetties going out into waters that have the consistency of (in this case, bluish) milk that I’ve seen over the years, and I have only to go to poster shops to see still more.

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In a way, I see parallels here with my full frame fisheye lens.  By which I mean that fisheyes can produce excellent images, but there is not the slightest doubt – in my mind at least –  that they are not something to be used frequently because, unless used with a vast creativity that I’m not sure I possess, their effects can quickly become formulaic and, in short, a cliché. 

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Basically, I’m hoping for more originality and diversity of approach.

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What do you think?

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SOMERSET LEVELS 288 – CLOUDS AT SUNRISE

 

 

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Skyscape above Tadham Moor: 27 Jan 2017, at sunrise.

Technique: simplicity of content, with a theme purely from the Natural world – drifting clouds of water vapour lit by Our Star as it inches up above the horizon.  A Minimal image is some respects, although it does in fact contain quite a lot of intricate detail.  But to me quite a dynamic composition, with my eyes instantly drawn to that single cloud at upper left, and then rushing on towards the top right corner, only to be dragged down clockwise through the rest of the clouds to end up, in- or outside the image at bottom left.  That single cloud is at the intersection of the top and left thirds, a visual strongpoint – more on thirds here.  An alternative view would have our eyes entering the frame at bottom left, to whirl up around the frame’s peripheral clouds in an anticlockwise direction, and so back out to the single cloud which is on the intersecting thirds.  Westerners’ eyes tend to look at images from left to right (the same direction we write in) and top to bottom – there is more on this here.

There are other images from this bitterly cold morning here (with context), here, here and here.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 84mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom.
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STILL LIFE 80 – SUNRISE AT THE RAILWAY STATION

 

 

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The first of sunrise’s colours, and a street light, above the main road at Temple Meads railway station, Bristol.

And as I raised the camera for a second shot – the light went out!  As the Rolling Stones so rightly put it, You can’t always get what you want

But a stroke of luck too – that little cloud head, toppling over to the right, just to the right of the light’s vertical support.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom; 3 Feb 2017.
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BIRDS 90 – JACKDAWS OVER TADHAM MOOR

 

 

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Standing out on the Somerset Levels, before sunrise.  Enjoying the (freezing!) moment, the stillness and quiet; a camera inert, itself freezing, around my neck.

All at once the silence was cut by harsh, garrulous calls – “TJACK! … TJACK!” – and, looking up, a small, dark and nebulous mass, shaped like a misty lozenge, was powering towards me high above that flat landscape.  To an ex-birder like me, the calls proclaimed the callers, Jackdaws, small black crows with white eyes, flying out from their roost at first light to feed.  They would have spent the night as a flock, perched safely up in tall trees, occasionally shuffling, occasionally calling, enduring the sub-zero temperatures of the long January night.  Some, of course, may not have made it through that ice box of a night, some may have succumbed to the deeply penetrating cold, and toppled silently from their perches, to lie frozen through now on the rock hard ground below.  But the rest, now, at dawn and with the sun about to rise, had left their roost and set off across country, to an area where they could find food to replenish the ravages of that stark darkness.

The camera, the Fuji X-T2, with its much trumpeted reputation for speed, was around my neck, switched off and with the telezoom at minimum.  Having appeared from nowhere, the flock was almost over me in an instant, there was barely time to do anything – in one movement my forefinger switched the camera on, got onto the shutter button and for the briefest instant held it half down for focus, and then fired off two frames – managing 1/350 at f4.5 and 25,600 ISO in the poor light.

And here is the result, which can be viewed in three ways.

First, and most trivially, it serves as a crude test of the X-T2’s start up and autofocus times.  The birds are more or less sharp, with some blurring of their flailing wing tips – and that’s good enough for me – I want the moment, not technical perfection.

Then second and far more valuably, this is an instantaneous picture of the Natural World, of relatively small, warm blooded creatures that have weathered many hours of darkness and sub-zero temperatures, relying on their feathers and whatever fat reserves they may have to ward off the biting, sub-zero temperatures.  Now they are out over that flat landscape, hungry, needing food to survive, and powering towards somewhere that, yesterday at least, there was food.  What can I say?  The Natural World never ceases to interest and excite me.

And finally, thinking more abstractly, this image shows a variety of bird shapes, silhouettes, set against a grainy blue background.  Perhaps it might serve as a pattern for a table cloth, curtains or an arty blouse, such is our world.

There is a much closer image of a Jackdaw here.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 84mm (equiv); 25,600 ISO; 1/350, f4.5; crop shows just over a third of the total image area; 27 Jan 2017.

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