OUTLANDS 17 – FIELD NEAR WEST LITTLETON

 

 

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Ploughed field beside the track running northeast from West Littleton, 12 April 2017.

A wide angle lens, pointed down at the ground in front of me and, seeing more than the human eye is capable of, giving me detail right out to the horizon.

Context about this second Outlands trip can be found here, and there are other images here: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16.

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

Technique: X-T1 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 15mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom.
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ARCHIVE 313 – TRACK, TADHAM MOOR (MONO)

 

 


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Track heading south across Tadham Moor, Somerset Levels; 29 Aug 2009.

I bought my first digital camera early in 2009 and, with what’s left of my mind, have been thinking that I made a total and immediate switch to digital, with my film gear and remaining films becoming at once obsolete (my last, unused films are in fact still in the fridge).

However, some images that I’ve found this morning, including this one, show that this was not the case – and I know why.  Because while digital colour pictures were fine, I just couldn’t get digital black and white to be anything other than bland, characterless and antiseptic.

Bland?  Yes, bland, and for two reasons.  First of course, I wasn’t yet aware of the editing software – most notably Silver Efex Pro –  that would solve these problems.

But second, I’d also had a thing for using fast black and white films – Fuji Neopan 1600 is the one here, but also Agfa Scala Black and White Slides – and then having them commercially push-processed.  Push-processing involves uprating a film’s speed during development so that, for example, if I’d exposed a 400 ISO film at 400 ISO, I would ask the processing lab to develop it as if I’d exposed it at 1600 ISO – and this sort of processing gave wonderful contrast and grain – its made the images really atmospheric, moody and gutsy.  (I push-processed colour slides too, most notably Fuji Provia 400X, and loved the results).

And so, when I found digital black and white to really not be doing the business, I returned for awhile to slamming away with push-processed mono film in my Nikon F6 – and this photo is an example of that.  I mean, just look at the grain in those clouds – was I photographing in a blizzard???  And the whole thing looks old – this is definitely not antiseptic newness.

But there is an irony here – and the joke is on me.  Because when I’d managed to get digital black and white doing what I wanted, via various editing programs, and then thought that I should use those programs on scanned versions of my push-processed film images >>> failure was everywhere in the air!

Because although these pushed films look good as they are, they simply do not contain the vast wealth of image data found in a full colour, digital Raw file – full colour, digital Raws are really by far the best jumping off points when converting images to black and white.

Technique: F6 with 12-24 Sigma lens at 12mm;  Fuji Neopan 1600 black and white film, push processed 2 stops to 6400 ISO, to achieve a grainy effect.  The extreme wideangle lens (12mm focal length = 122 degrees angle of view) captures detail from almost beneath my feet to the far distance.

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STILL LIFE 142 – STAIRWAY

 

 


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Outdoor stairway, with a roof to protect it from the elements but still in need of some tlc.  Also an abstract design, more or less bisected by the diagonal from the upper right corner to the lower left.  Strong horizontals on the right are abruptly truncated by a (grimy!) wall with some angular, zigzag patterning on the left.  Further up these steps, on a landing, were rough sleepers.

Did I wish these stairs sparkling, clean and conforming to the “Modern Sterile” look?  Not at all, to me they show more character, more reality, like this – and all the more so for being surrounded by the shopping centre’s gleaming and pristine retail temples.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Broadmead shopping centre, central Bristol; 7 July 2017.

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ARCHIVE 312 – FAMILY NEAR AKALA (MONO)

 

 


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Members of a farming family, near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.

I like this picture because everyone is looking in different directions, which to me gives a very “real” air to the picture, i.e. they are not all posing for the camera.  The mother is posing for the camera but I think that her pose is one of the most placid, serene, genuine and friendly that I’ve seen – she is feeling absolutely at ease with both me and my camera, and is simply looking very calmly straight into the lens.  She gives the impression of being very self-possessed.

The young man on the left is smiling – and his smile, his averted eyes and the splayed fingers and thumb of his pale hand against his darker face add to this shot.  Finally, the young child (a girl?), sitting on her mother’s lap, is certainly unposed – with her attention attracted elsewhere – but staring somewhere different to her older brother.

Using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro, I’ve darkened the top of the picture, down to the top of the young man’s head, to help ensure that the viewer’s attention is concentrated onto these three people.

Technique: OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO; Silver Efex Pro.

UPDATE: this remains one of my very favourite pictures, along with the one in the Archive 310 postI only wish that I’d taken more pictures like this while in Kenya.  And what of Kenya after their general election?  Well, the current president has been re-elected and international observers think the election valid, but the opposition hotly dispute it.  Who knows what will happen now – and whether, for example, it will affect any of the six people shown in this and the 310 post?  Assuming they have survived, they will be 38 years older now, and living in a more modern Kenya than the one I knew.  And so to the eternal problem.  Others may vie for power, there may be violence, disease and destabilisation on a national scale, but whatever happens it is hard to see the lot of these six people improving significantly, while there must always be the threat that the chaos and aggression resulting from the ambitions of others will impinge upon them.

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STILL LIFE 141 – LOOKING AT CHAIRS 1

 

I enjoy looking at things, and seeing how light falls on them.  A lot of my photography these days consists of looking for beautiful light, and then thinking what to do with it.  I quite often photograph cars for just this reason: they can have beautiful lines, and their metal and glass bodies are eminently reflective; when stationary they are still life subjects sensu stricto – but they can also be rewarding when in motion.

To me, chairs can be rather like cars in some respects, beyond the bald fact that we use both of them for sitting on or in.  Chairs can be objects of beauty and, beyond being thrown around in bar room brawls, they mostly stay still while light flows over them, so that it is possible to really look at how they interact with it – and of course, unlike cars, it is often easy to move chairs around, to examine new light/shadow effects.

And so to a brief series of chair pictures, some from my archives, others from my propensity for peering around with a camera while I’m sitting in various eateries, waiting to immerse my snout in their delicious delights.  Many of the resulting images tend towards the Minimal, and some the abstract.

These may not be the most exciting series of images in creation. They will most probably have a distinctly calm and tranquil air, which may be a welcome distraction from today’s rushed and frenetic world.  I hope you will enjoy them.

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In Rosemarino, an Italian restaurant in Clifton, Bristol; 7 April 2017.

What I like about this picture: the massive, dark chair back, with a thin rim of backlighting around the top; the backlighting also catching the underside of the curved element; and the faint browns glowing on the left upright.  The background is diffuse, but with subtle variations that add to things.  This picture could be presented in black and white, but I value the subtle touches of colour.

There is another picture from Rosemarino here.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Classic Chrome film simulation.
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ARCHIVE 311 – NILE CROCODILE (MONO)

 

 


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Nile Crocodile at Samburu Lodge, in the Samburu National Reserve of northern Kenya; December 1977.

This may look like a photo that demanded much courage and stealth in the African night, but in fact these large reptiles live in the Ewaso Ng’iro River right beside Samburu Lodge, and regularly come ashore to eat food put out by the lodge’s staff.

Yes I was using a 50mm lens and this menacing creature was very close by – but what my photo doesn’t show is a low wall between us, behind which I was quite safe!

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

Technique: OM-2 with 50mm Zuiko lens and flash; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO; converted to mono in Silver Efex Pro 2, using the Yellow 2 preset as a jumping off point.

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STILL LIFE 140 – LOVE

 

 


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Looking for love?  Well its here. 

The wide lens takes us into the image –  on the left, the orange letters stream in over our shoulder.  The walls and patterned floor are black, the door white, and the orange tones on the left are minutely mirrored below the door knob.  On the floor, cigarette butts (though I much prefer the Brit, dog ends).

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

Technique: X-T2 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 17mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Classic Chrome film simulation; Park Street, central Bristol; 4 Aug 2017.
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BRISTOL 123 – STEPS OFF BALDWIN STREET (MONO)

 

 


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Steps from Baldwin Street up towards St Nicholas Street.

And the effects of tilting a very wide lens slightly upwards – yes there’s a wide field of view, but see how the metal post at upper right is tilting drunkenly outwards, while less obviously the same is true of the wall at upper left.  Purists can probably correct such effects with software but I imagine this would reduce the overall area of view, and I’m happy to go with the effect as it is.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 15mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Film Noir 2 preset; Bristol; 4 Aug 2017.
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STILL LIFE 139 – CAR AFTER RAIN SHOWER

 

 


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I’m married to my 55-200 Fujinon telezoom, which mirrors the 70-300mm of my very, very favourite, full-frame Nikon lens.  I also have the 10-24 Fujinon lens that is a 15-36 full-frame equivalent, but I’ve just not been able to get into using it much – and I’ve read of others finding the results of wide angle lenses tending to be formulaic in exactly the same way.

So last Friday, having no real other photographic targets in mind, I took the 10-24 into the city again – and did get a little more into it, especially when using it close-in.  And its smaller than the 55-200 and really quite handy.  But I wish it was a little longer at the upper focal length end, say up to 50mm or 75mm equivalent.  As I’ve said before, my 24-120 full frame Nikon zoom really is an extremely useful and flexible lens, the lens I’ll always take if I’m unsure what sorts of images are going to appear.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 36mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Victoria Street, central Bristol; 4 Aug 2017.
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PEOPLE 287 – WAITING FOR A BUS (MONO)

 

 


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Conversation at a bus stop.

A busy picture, lots of detail, lots to look at – Let’s go ANYWHERE!  Two people caught in conversation – friends?  – chance acquaintances? – the start of a lifelong thing? – trivialities to pass the time until the bus arrives?

And two other women.  The one passing by on the left has a tumbling mane.  The other, sitting in the shelter, looks unhappy about something – and its either him or me!

There is another black and white picture of people waiting at a bus stop here.

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

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Fine Art High Key preset; Broad Quay, Bristol city centre; 14 July 2016.
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