Impulse buy > early adopter

Whilst often prone to impulse buys, I’m not usually an early adopter of technology, indeed the only example I could come up with in my entire adult life was the Canon 5D MkIII DSLR camera back in early 2012. Ten years later though I’ve repeated the phenomenon.

It’s only a few months since I upgraded my Mavic Pro camera drone with the DJI Air 2s and also added a lightweight Mini 2 drone to the mix. Two drones that nicely complement each other and if we are honest, together they meet all of my aerial photography needs admirably. So, why have I just taken delivery of the latest small drone, the Mini 3 Pro, from DJI?

Well partly the influence of other people on the drone fora I frequent to be sure. Partly fear of missing out. Partly because by chance I happened to have funds available at this time. But mainly because I need* it.

So, what do I think of it?

Fabulous in a word.

Seriously, I was very impressed with the way it handled straight out of the box. I couldn’t get out for a full flight yesterday but wanted to try it so I took it into my front yard (very tiny) and placed it in the middle of the yard which is only two to three feet from the wall of the house). It acquired the requisite number of satellites very quickly to enable me to take off and I was very impressed with how smoothly it responded to the sticks as it rose up through the gap twixt house and trees. It was rock solid and didn’t drift at all, a major consideration in such a tight space.

Flying is not my hobby, I‘m a photographer who also uses drones, so the most important factor will ultimately be image quality and that too looks promising. As anyone who’s followed my blog for a while will know I am predominantly a film photographer and I’m used to working with black and white film. Many of my drone images end up in mono too, so the response of the Mini 3 files to image manipulation will be important. I’ve yet to test the image making potential but will do soon I hope.

Unlike my other/past drones the Mini 3 Pro doesn’t rely on my phone for a screen but has one built into the remote controller. If I’m totally honest, whilst very excited by this option I did not find the Mini 3 controller with screen as comfortable to use as the one I usually use but that’s going to become easier with practice I’m certain; and to be fair I’ve only used it the once.

Forecast for next few days is strong, gusty winds and rain so it may be I can’t fly it properly until the end of the week or even early next week but first impressions are very positive. I will keep you updated!

In the meantime, I nipped back into my front yard just before bedtime to capture the sunset.

Images: DJI Mini 3 Pro

*need in this context means “want” if I’m really honest.

Streetlife – shapes and shadows

For many photographers “street photography” conjures up thoughts of candid imagery of strangers but it isn’t what springs to my mind. For me, making images on the street is more about the interesting juxtaposition of elements in the scene, contrasts between the old and new perhaps or patterns created by light and shade. So much so that I tend not to use the term “street” preferring to label my images as “urban”. It’s not that I don’t use people in my photographs from the streets but they are generally contextual elements rather than the main subject.

Figures add scale and context but are not the main subject

Where I am more in tune with “street” is in the use of black and white imagery for the vast majority of my street/urban photography. Typically, but not exclusively, black and white film. The choice of film stock can have a strong impact on the final image and one of my current favourites is Kodak XX although I’ve used many others with Ilford HP5+ my most-used film stock over the last few years. I also like Kodak Tri-X when I can get it at a decent price.

The “right” light is important – this scene needed harsh sunlight to accentuate the contrasts

My cameras of choice for my urban wanders are typically smaller and quieter; I’m thinking of the Fuji X100T or X-Pro1 for digital work or the Nikon L35 AF or the half-frame Olympus Pen EE3 for 35mm film photography. That said I regularly use my Horizon S3 Pro which is to discrete as chalk is to cheese! Recently I found myself in Llangollen with a less-than-inconspicuous Bronica SQ-A in my hand and was surprised that it didn’t attract that much attention. I guess that as a tourist destination it was less out of place perhaps.

Medium format film camera on the high street
I’ve walked passed many, many times but only photographed the butty shop this once
Some scenes work well as pairs – this was the Nikon L35 but I often use the Olympus EE3 for these

I rarely have a preconceived plan when I take my urban walks preferring to react to what I see. There are some locations I’m more familiar with of course and I can often tailor my walk to suit the conditions when visiting one of these. As I mentioned above I’m generally looking for contrasts. These can be architectural as in an old church against a modern glass and chrome office building. Whilst the interplay of light and shade is a perennial favourite the use of solitary figures walking into patches of light has become a bit of a cliché, but that’s no reason not to include them in your own portfolio.

Opposite ends of the same complex

I would argue that the most important tool for the street/urban photographer however is an open mind. Keep the gear simple and your mind unfettered of preconceived notions. An experienced photographer sees opportunities in even the most banal of locations and this comes from a combination of experience and keeping an open mind that is receptive to the visual stimuli that are all around us.

It’s not always the picturesque that attract my eye – Llangollen
Halifax town centre
Just shapes and light

A mini tale

As I type this, the consumer drone world is agog with the impending release of DJIs latest drone, the Mini 3 Pro. First impressions are that this tiny drone is a big leap forward; it’s certainly the hottest ticket in town, selling out four days before it’s due to ship on one well known online retailer and talk of buy now, deliver August. I however, bucked the trend and went for its predecessor the DJI Mini 2 and this weekend it had its maiden flight (excluding the flights I made in the house that is).

For context, this little drone fits in the palm of my hand, weighs less than 250g with a battery and yet is still a fully-featured and competent piece of kit. All the images here come from this diminutive flying camera.

Rooftop view
I don’t often photograph the sunset
Near Bradford
Elland looking towards Greetland and Halifax
From (above) my front yard
Early morning Banbury
It’s a Banbury morning
Elland Sunset

I started writing this post in mid-May and since then the Mini 3 Pro has started to appear in the hands of hobbyists (as opposed to online influencers) and whilst they are largely positive there’s quite a few notes of caution echoing around the online forums. Having flown the Mini 2 for the last few weeks, having previously used bigger drones like the Mavic Pro or Air 2s, I’m quite taken with the form. I can deploy it very quickly but more importantly it’s sub-250g mass means there are more places I can legally fly.

The two sunset images above are a case in point. From rising from my seat and taking the drone out of its bag to returning to my armchair with images captured was no more than ten minutes.

Will I buy the Mini 3 Pro? Probably. Photographically it’s a decent improvement on my Mini 2 and from a flying point of view it’s has some worthwhile enhancements too. I sold my Mavic Pro this week, after five years service I’ve upgraded my bigger drone to the Air 2s, and felt a slight pang as I posted it off. I learnt to fly with the Pro and have some fabulous images to show for its five years with me.

So there we have it. An update on my drone photography. You can expect some film-based posts shortly as I’ve just put the first 2022 roll of film through the Horizon S3 Pro; probably my favourite 35mm film camera ever.

Airdata UAV|Drone Safety Verified Badge

Droning On … eZine now available!

I’ve written previously about both my interest in drone photography and in producing zines. Well, it’s been five years in the making, but I’ve finally got round to combining the two.

“Droning On” is now available exclusively from my Ko-Fi shop at:

DRONING ON

Packed with over fifty images this zine charts my first five years of drone photography. I started with a Mavic Pro, which provides the majority of the images in this eZine, and recently upgraded to the Air 2s. But to find out more you will first need to visit my shop 😇.

Checking the gutters!

Yes, you read that right … I’ve just checked our gutters on instructions from my wife. This time however I didn’t borrow my son-in-laws ladders but did it the smart way – with a drone. My little Mini 2 to be precise. Whilst aloft it would have felt a little rude to ignore the opportunity for a few unique views of the street.

Checking the gutters at the back of the house (honest)
Jepson Lane – front of house
Back yard – Albert Street
Jepson Lane and Albert Street
Albert Street from our chimney

In an Instant

I posted recently about the Spring Polaroid Week and commented that I wouldn’t be contributing for various reasons. However, the act of blogging about ‘roid week motivated me to get the Instax Wide 300 camera off the shelf and to make a few images with it.

My collection of shadow images

Now, whilst I did make these images during the week I was insufficiently organised to get any of them posted to the Flickr group that I joined specifically for this purpose. Rather than leave them on the table unused though I have shared them here.

I’m a fan of the Instax Monochrome film too

There are two Instax Wide films – colour and monochrome. I like both although the colour, contrary to the norm, is cheaper to buy so tends to be my first choice. The monochrome does what it says, it produces monochrome prints. Not strictly black and white but definitely monochrome; to my eyes they have a blue/grey hue (see first image) but that’s easily cured if desired (above). For context, I do have mild colour blindness – one of the reasons I mainly use black and white film.

I’ve been sat here this morning wondering what it is about instant images that appeals so much. I’ve not come up with anything erudite however I do think the clue is in the title. It’s instant. It is the nearest a film photographer gets to the instant gratification of the digital worker. It is also very easy to share around with others and in the moment as it were. From capture to consumption – instantly.

So, having missed the boat for the Spring edition I am keeping my eyes open for the Autumn date. In the meantime I had a look back through my more recent instant images – the only proper way to do so was of course to get the box down from the shelf and tip them on the bed!

Instax Wide 300

Zero Image 5×4 Pinhole with Graflock Back, Instax Wide film
Intrepid 5×4 camera, Graflock back and Instax wide film

These first three are all Instax Wide film but with three very different cameras. As well as my Instax cameras (I own a mini and a square, the Wide belongs to my grandson) I also have a LomoGraflok back which enables the use of Instax Wide film with one of my 5×4 cameras.

The next couple I guess help answer the question “why?”, the ability of an instant camera to capture then immediately share the fun moments in life. Be they fun selfies with the grandkids or double exposure selfies, they capture spontaneous moments wonderfully.

Instax Square
Instax Mini – selfies and double exposures

The oldest instant camera in my small collection is a Polaroid SX-70 Sonar. A rather temperamental old warrior that has a charm all of its own although doesn’t always want to play ball.

Polaroid SX-70 and some slightly out of date film
Polaroid SX-70: same day, same location, same pack of film but different results

So, there you have it. A romp back through the (physical) archive of instant photographs covering the last 18-20 months. Looking through the box I kept the duds as well as the successes – hoping perhaps that they will become fashionable one day?

A Sense of Place – eZine now available

I’ve finally got my act together and uploaded the next eZine to my Ko-Fi shop. Entitled A Sense of Place it explores my “happy places” down by the waters edge. With a mix of digital and film images it’s a celebration of some locations that are really inspirational to me.

Link below – or click the picture!

If you are interested in knowing more the link is HERE. Thank you for looking!

Polaroid Week 2022

This is Polaroid Week, an annual celebration of instant photography. I’ve had all sorts of instant cameras over the years but these days just a couple of Instax cameras adorn my shelf. However, there is a vibrant online community and I do enjoy seeing what is posted. From straightforward images of everyday life to fabulous fantasy creations the instant film community is thriving.

Out of date film is a lottery
But instant photography can be very rewarding
An instant twist on an iconic scene
One camera that I owned and used for a while is the Lomo’ Instant

I have however gone through occasional phases of using instant film as well as a fair number of different cameras and formats. I have blogged about it too of course on several occasions. My Perfectly Imperfect series springs to mind in this context too.

Priceless! Harry and the pepper plant he grew

So, whilst Instant photography isn’t something I do that often, it is priceless for capturing and sharing little moments. Harry is very proud of the pepper he grew from seed … this morning we took his picture with an Instax Wide and he’s proudly carried it to school to show his teachers. Priceless!

ps – the print behind mine is one he took himself

Lomography camera – Instax film
Double exposure: Instax Mini 90, Neo Classic.

So, to those of you celebrating Polaroid Week 2022, good luck, have fun and I’m with you in spirit!


the zipper at dusk
Finally, a link to the online ‘roid week album on Flickr

World Pinhole Photography Day 2022

This was my third World Pinhole Photography Day (WPPD) and as in previous years I had definite plans for the day. In 2020 a global pandemic confined me to the backyard; I compensated for the disappointment by using one of my last rolls of original Acros. In 2021 I planned to use two pinhole cameras at a coastal location but travel restrictions confined me to the local area. On both occasions I still produced results I was happy to submit which eased the blow a little.

The marina

2022 was to be different. My plans revolved around a favourite location locally and so I felt very confident. The weather was forecast to be favourable and I had cameras readied, film holders loaded and everything was set for a pinhole Trichrome-fest on the Sunday. I was planning on using 35mm, 120 and 5×4; my most ambitious Trichrome project yet. However, I failed to anticipate the demands of family life and totally didn’t see the curved ball which relegated me to chauffeur and my WPPD plans to the bin.

Brighouse, upper lock

BUT. Where there’s a WPPD there’s a way and I found myself with a short window whilst in Brighouse to disappear for a short period. Allowing for walking to/from the location I had around 30 minutes to play with the ONDU 6×6 that I’d managed to slip into the car. I had loaded it with a roll of TMax 100 and a mini tripod completed the set up. I decided to head for a weir on the river that I’d seen images of but never photographed myself. I spent fifteen minutes trying to find the way down to it but failed miserably. To fail to prepare etc although in my defence this wasn’t what I’d planned for! I decided to cut my losses and walk back to the adjacent canal.

Brighouse, upper lock

I chose a part of the canal that I was familiar with to start my brief “shoot” and from there walked down a very short way to a lock that I’d not photographed before. Fifteen minutes probably stretched to twenty five but I still got back to the car on time and with a roll of exposed TMax in my pocket I was pleased that I’d managed something for WPPD 2022.

Footbridge over Calder & Hebble Navigation

The following morning I loaded the roll into a tank, made up 600ml of Rodinal (at 1+50) and set to one of my favourite parts of working with film. I find developing film therapeutic and a good way to switch off. It wasn’t long before a roll of properly exposed negatives were hanging to dry and I eagerly anticipated looking at them properly on the light box later.

Footbridge and walker

The first two frames (bracketed as it was a low-contrast, dimly lit scene) failed to Wow! me but it was good to see them in the right ballpark for exposure; it boded well for the rest of the roll. Frames three and four were both views of the marina with the only difference being the addition of a yellow/green filter for the fourth. I left the filter on for the rest of the roll as I felt, rightly it transpired, that the sky would benefit from its presence.

Lock keepers gate

I “scanned” the roll using a Fuji mirrorless camera and, unusually for me, processed them on my computer using Photoshop. My usual approach is to upload the “scans” to my iPad and use Snapseed but this is WPPD so deserved a more consistent approach. I made very similar adjustments to each image, made easier by a consistently exposed negative, and finished each with a gentle selenium tone in Silver Efex Pro.

From the roll of twelve I shortlisted seven from which to select my WPPD 2022 submission. All of them are presented in this post and as only one of them can be submitted I will make my choice after I’ve cogitated for a few days at least.

Bridge and mill flats

So, in conclusion, WPPD 2022 followed the tradition of not going entirely to plan but it was still a success in my eyes. It may not have been what I intended but I’ve managed some very pleasing images and I am definitely not disappointed as I was in 2020.

Here’s to WPPD2023!

#WPPD2022