Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Another year over……

It's the last day of 2013 and tomorrow it will be 2014.

Another year over….. a new one about to begin.


Inevitably it's at this time of year when we all reflect on what has happened in the past 12 months and start to look forward to what we might hope to do and achieve in the next 12 months. From a purely personal point of view 2013 will never be forgotten and I have already been mentioned the reasons why in an earlier entry called 'Three Crosses'.

On a happier note in September I realised a long held personal ambition and walked the South Downs Way with my nephew from Winchester to Eastbourne - a total of 100 miles. This was never intended to be a photographic expedition, but the camera came out on a regular basis so I was able to capture the beauty of this part of the world.

Seven Sisters
The Seven Sisters
The 'home' straight of The South Downs Way
I do not think that I have spent as much time developing my photography this year as perhaps I would have wished but I do believe my work has continued to improve. I certainly learnt some new techniques and skills when I spent a few days in the Lake District in the company of Paul Gallagher and many of the images made during this time have given me a great deal of pleasure.

Wastwater Rocks
Wastwater in The Lake District

If my Flickr stats are anything to go by I have certainly continued to take a good number of images and in the process I have endeavoured to take a more creative approach, a trend which I am sure will continue into 2014. Almost without exception all of my photographs this past year have been in monochrome. I expect this will also be the case next year, but who knows, colour may start to feature.

And so to 2014. In the last few weeks I have been giving some time and thought to what I would like to do phtographically in the next 365 days, so here goes!

1. More photographs and less 'GAS'! (Gear Addiction Syndrome - to the uninitiated)

I have to admit that I spend a lot of time reading reviews about the latest camera equipment, particularly cameras, their makers lenses and the pros and cons of one system over another. It's all very interesting and I have found that the internet is full of very opinionated people which makes for good reading. On the downside 'GAS' can be very expensive and as I have often said in the past, it is the photographer who makes the image, not the equipment.

A famous quote by Ansel Adams reads - "The most important component of the camera is twelve inches behind it." Enough said!

I am fortunate to have some excellent equipment so I shall be using what I have and try not to fantasise about what I don't have. It wastes time which could be better spent taking more photographs, improving my processing techniques or studying the work of more talented photographers. This research into other cameras and lenses has though helped me decide on my system of choice for the future which brings me on nicely to my second point.

2. It's time to ditch the Nikon gear

In the past year I have been using two camera systems but during this time I have found that only one system really works for me and the other frankly does not.

When I first became serious about photography I started using a Nikon APSC DSLR and various lenses, but since buying the Olympus OMD EM5 some 18 months ago, together with some truly excellent lenses for the Micro 4/3rds system, the Nikon gear has been gathering dust. So after much deliberation it's time to say good bye to Nikon.  All of the equipment has been packed away in their original boxes ready for sale. In its place I will be investing in the new Olympus OMD EM1, the first truly professional specified camera for Micro 4/3rds. I will probably also add a couple of prime lenses to my collection and keep the EM5 as a spare body. Luckily these two cameras share the same battery which is an advantage.

The Olympus OMD EM5, and Olympus 17mm f1.8
My system of choice for 2014

3. Work on a project

Since achieving my LRPS Distinction in December 2012 I have been saying to myself that I must start to concentrate on a specific genre of photography and quite probably a specific subject or theme. It did not happen in 2013 but I plan to change that in 2014. I believe this approach will both hone and enhance my skills and in time provide me with a portfolio which I might want to consider as an appropriate panel of work for an ARPS submission. This plan also leads me to my next point.

4. To publish a book

This sounds rather grand but in truth you can 'self publish' a photo book pretty easily these days using one of many online publishing companies. I have already considered two possible suppliers - Blurb and Bob Books. I have downloaded their software which is required to design the book. I shall compare these and others before making a final decision as to which to use, taking into consideration, possible book sizes, paper, quality of reproduction, the software itself and of course the cost. I may even decide on a couple to 'test runs' with both companies of the same series of images to see which I prefer.

5. And talking of publications

There are many photographic magazines and to date I have never submitted any work for publication, so this has to be on my wish list for 2014. If it were to happen then yes of course the publicity would be great  but my incentive is a very simple one - an acknowledgement that my work is considered good enough to appear in a magazine. Now that would be fun!

6. Visit more locations specifically to take photographs

I do find that being an enthusiastic amateur photographer requires both time and concentration. This can best be achieved when I am on my own as this gives me the chance to really think about what I am doing. Photography is also about expressing your feelings through a finished image. To accomplish this aim I believe you have to be able to recognise how you feel at the time of taking the shot - again, I can't see how this can happen if you are not alone. This sounds very selfish but I am sure other photographers, artists or authors would all say the same thing. All of which makes me think that to improve my photography not only do I need to devote more time but I also need to be in a place on my own without any distractions - just me, my camera and the subject in front of me. Where and when shall I go?  Well that I don't know but I am looking forward to coming up with some answers.

7. Take inspiration from other artists

This is not really an objective, but a recognition that there is so much to learn from other artists not just other photographers. Going to exhibitions or galleries, reading books or watching television programmes about other artists are all good sources of inspiration.

At Christmas I was fortunate to have been given three books which I know will inspire me in the future. I was given two 'self published' books by the Welsh photographer Chris Tancock, one called Beating the Bounds, the other named Wildwood. He calls himself a 'rural documentary photographer' not a landscape photographer. If you look at his images on his website I think you will understand why.


Another person who's work I greatly admire is Norman Ackroyd CBE RA. As a landscape artist and printmaker he captures the meeting of the land and the sea in atmospheric aquatint. His book 'A Line Above the Water' is a wonderful collection of his work coupled with evocative poems by Douglas Dunn.


I can now draw this post to a close. My summary of the year was short but complete and my ambitions for 2014 have been listed. In twelve months time I will know whether or not the wish list was too long, I doubt it is too short!

And finally my favourite image from 2013 is -

Buttermere in The Lake District

May I wish everyone who reads my blog a very happy, peaceful and healthy New Year.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Pool abstracts at Playa Blanca

Pool abstract
Pool steps abstract 

In my last two entries I took a different approach to my photography by abstracting detail and observing how light and shade could aid the composition. In this entry I have included a third element, which is water, and how reflected light can add another dimension to an abstract image.

Poolside abstract

Ripples in the pool - abstract
Ripples in the pool abstract 

Pool steps abstract
Steps in the pool abstract 
All these images, including those in the last two entries are definitely a departure for me from my usual style. A new experimental approach, challenging the way I see my surroundings and breaking out of my 'comfort zone'. I believe this practice is an essential part of the photographic learning process. Not to be confined by subject matter or a certain style of photography. Trying new things, whilst enjoying and benefiting from the experience. I believe these fresh ideas can be adapted and moulded to new work, so that lessons learned in the past can be applied to images still to be taken. That's the theory, and I am excited to see how my photography develops in practice in the months ahead.

The previous entries in this short series are:

Playing with the light at Playa Blanca
A fan of shadows at Playa Blanca

Sunday, 22 December 2013

A fan of shadows at Playa Blanca

Fan shadow
A 'fan of shadows'

My last entry was about 'playing with the light' at Playa Blanca in Lanzarote. Strong light not only brings contrast to an image but very often shadows as well; so this post concentrates on the shadows and how they can be used to either enhance or be a fundamental part of the composition.

Shadow abstract
The sun lounger cast an interesting shadow - a fish or shark perhaps?

Shadows through the opening
Shadows through an opening in the wall

Chair shadow
The shadow of a chair cast on a tiled floor

Gate shadow
A shadow of  gate

Rake shadow
Shadow of a rake

A fan of shadows
Another shot of the 'fan of shadows'

These may not be great images but the combination of light and shade, particularly in monochrome, have a certain something about them. They would in my opinion not work in colour. This series of pictures are all about texture, shape, form and how the shadows are absolutley key to the composition.  If nothing else taking and processing these images all help train the eye to see. After the all camera is simply a tool to record the shot. It's the person looking through the viewfinder and pressing the shutter who is the true creator.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Playing with the light at Playa Blanca

Abstract wall

Back in November we visited Playa Blanca in Lanzarote, one of The Canary Islands for some winter sun and warmer temperatures. We only had one day of rain, the rest of the time we relaxed under clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid to high twenties.

The light was very special particularly at the beginning and end of each day, and having never visited this part of the world before, it was an opportunity for me to try an alternative approach to my photography. Still working in black and white I looked for details in the buildings around where we were staying. Observing the way the light fell on the textured wall surfaces and the shadows that were cast. Simplifying the image through abstraction and including some geometric shapes to enhance the composition. The white walls often worked as giant reflectors projecting light in areas where you would least expect it to be.

Here are a selection of images all of which were taken within a five minute walk of the villa we had rented for the week.



Hole in a wall

Wall abstract 3

Staircase abstract

Chimney abstract

Wall abstract 2

Wall abstract

Staircase abstract 2

For me these images capture the feel and essence of the resort, the wonderful light as it played on the textured and buildings, but more importantly it was a lesson in observation and I greatly enjoyed the experience.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Exhibition success

Solitary shell - looking towards Rum
Solitary Shell
Taken on the Isle of Eigg looking out towards the Isle of Rum on the West Coast of Scotland

My local camera club is currently staging it's annual open photography exhibition, which closes this coming Sunday. I entered a number of images some weeks ago and two of the eight I submitted are on display.

'Solitary Shell' - was given a Judges Award in the Members Section whilst 'Too Young to Smoke' was selected for the National Category. There are a number of these event staged around the country during the course of the year but as this was the first time I had entered a National Exhibition, I was very pleased to have had one of my photographs accepted.

Here is one of the images on display.

20131129-HCC exhibition.jpg

and finally here is the image which was accepted for the 'Open' section.

Too young to smoke
Too Young to Smoke
Taken at the Goodwood Revival Meeting in 2012

Saturday, 16 November 2013

100 miles along the South Downs Way and the 100th Blog Entry!

Firle Beacon
Firle Beacon, The South Downs

When I typed the words for my last entry 'Less is more' I realised two things. Firstly that it was time to conclude this series of entires about my walk along the South Downs Way and secondly that whatever the subject of the next entry, it would be the 100th post since I started this blog back in June 2012.

So it is rather fitting that this post should mark the conclusion of a 100 mile long distance walk alongside the fact that this is the 100th entry. When I started the walk I had a definite goal in sight. Quite simply to complete the walk in the planned period of time. The same cannot be said for this blog. What started as a whim, has turned into a regular and most enjoyable hobby. On average I post about five times a month, mainly at weekends, simply because this is when I can find the time to sit down, write the words and select the appropriate photographs having processed them beforehand.

This blog has proved to be a journal of my photography. The places or events I have been to and the images I have taken. Sometimes I will express my thoughts or write about the cameras, lenses and equipment I have used. But one thing is for sure - nothing is planned too far in advance. All the posts are a spontaneous reaction to an event, a particular photograph or series of images, or thoughts that have entered my mind which I have wanted to record and share with others - Sharing does of course assume that there are other readers, not just my wife and close family!

So back to the main reason for this 100th post. A photographic conclusion to a great experience. I shall never forget walking with my nephew Ian down the steep slope from Beachy Head and into Eastbourne, to be greeted by my family and his father. This varied selection of images were all taken on the walk and will always remind me of wonderful time enjoying the beauty of the South Downs.

Gates and posts
Gates and Posts

Gathering Storm (2).jpg
Gathering Storm. Near Birling Gap

Downland mist
Downland Mist. Near Cocking

Towards East Meon
Towards east Meon

Windswept tree
Windswept Tree. Near Ditchling Beacon

The Seven Sisters
The Seven Sisters. Looking west from above Birling Gap

The finishing post after 100 miles.
Ian on the right and me on the left.

The other entries about our walk along the South Downs Way are as follows:-

And so to the future - Another long distance walk perhaps? That I don't know, but I will be starting work on my 101st entry very soon.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Less is more when capturing the South Downs

Downland fence
Downland fence

It is hard to believe that two months have passed since I completed my walk along the South Downs Way and here I am still writing about the experience and the photographic lessons I learnt.

I guess that if you mention the South Downs to a bystander they will conjure up in their minds a wide expansive view of the Sussex Weald and Downland. Large vistas which are truly beautiful but incredibly difficult to capture in a photograph. It is perhaps one of the reasons so called 'holiday snaps' never quite do justice to the scene we witnessed. We are tempted to try and include everything we see in one photo and whilst it may be a good record of what we saw, it often fails as a photograph. It might lack a good composition, any form of focal point to draw the eye, be poorly lit or quite simply not truly capture the feelings that the photographer felt at the time.

I can't deny that some of the images I took fell into the 'large vista' category but I was also mindful to look closer and try and simplify the landscape through careful composition, concentrating on just two or three key elements and in so doing try and capture the essence of the South Downs and not just the grand view.

So this entry includes a selection of images all taken from the South Downs Way, where less is hopefully more.

Field of curves
Field of curves

The straw bale
Straw bale

Lone cow
Lone cow

Downland field
Downland field

No shelter
No shelter

Dead tree
Dead tree

Gateway to the sky
Gateway to the sky

Twisted tree
Twisted Chanctonbury tree

Do these photographs capture something about the South Downs? 
Do they capture the feelings I experienced when I first saw and composed the image in the viewfinder? Do they do justice to the beauty of the area and its countryside? 

So many questions and of course I have my own answers and anyone viewing these images will have their own opinions. In the end they are the view I chose to take, my interpretation and my treatment. They give me pleasure and I hope others might just feel the same way.

Thank you for reading my 'blog' and do leave a comment if you have anything you would like to say.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Windmills on the Way

Jill Windmill
Windmill 'Jill' at Clayton

The South Downs is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but in addition to the glorious rolling downland landscape it is enhanced by man made structures, in particular the windmills which shine like beacons when the sun lights up their sails and the 'smock' or mill itself.

Walking the South Downs Way provides a great opportunity to see these charming buildings from near and far. At the top of this page is an image of one of a pair of windmills at Clayton to the north of Brighton. This one is fondly called 'Jill' and there are no prizes for guessing the other one is called 'Jack'. Of the two 'Jill' is the one that stands out and is very visible from a distance. Its white smock and four sails is in stark contrast to 'Jack', which is painted black and has no sails. The next two images were taken from West Hill to the east of Pyecombe.

Windmill Jill
'Jill' in the distance

Distant windmill
Afternoon light on 'Jill' 

The other windmill which regularly appears in the landscape is Ashcombe Mill at Kingston, near Lewes in East Sussex. Like 'Jill' it has a white smock and currently only has two sails. Originally built in 1828 it was destroyed by a gale in 1916. Since 2009 work started to rebuild this windmill and when completed will have six sails. The two images below show Ashcombe Mill in its downland setting.

Towards Ashcombe Mill
Ashcombe Mill in the far distance, surrounded by the downland landscape

Ashcombe Mill
Ashcombe Mill at Kingston near Lewes

One day I will return and visit Ashcombe Mill itself, when the restoration is complete and the windmill has been returned to its former glory.