To tag or not to tag?

So, today’s thought for the morning concerns the exciting subject of tagging or more correctly key-wording photographs. You know the thing, those little words that describe the image contents to make them easier to find later. Those little words that can easily be added when you download the files to the computer. Or as a bulk action after you’ve done that first edit and chucked a lot of the RAWs in the bin. Or even as a final step in post production, just before printing in my case.

Those key words that mean that when you want to find, say, all the images from Skye or all the images with mountains, or doors even, then all that is needed is a simple search in Lightroom (other digital management software is available). That’s the theory, and it works … assuming you bothered to tag your files with key words in the first place.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Screenshot 2018-02-19 11.50.49Over the weekend I put the finishing touches to the first draft of an audio visual sequence looking back at one aspect of 2017. I haven’t decided whether to use it for a club feedback session or put it straight on the blog so will keep it under wraps for now.  Whilst I was working on it I had an idea growing in the back of my head for a sequence involving a poem, that I’d written on Sunday, and images from Skye.

Some judicious pruning over the last year means there are “only” 9,000 images in my “processed” folder, all catalogued with Lightroom.  A keyword search for “Skye” yielded twenty or so.  Twenty? I’ve been five times, shot several thousand images and I’ve only kept twenty?  True, there are a lot of unprocessed RAW files which are not in the Lightroom catalogue but I’d figured on a couple of hundred processed files from which to chose the forty or so I expect to use in the new AV. A quick look at the results revealed that all had “Skye” in the file name and it was then that the penny dropped. None of them had key words.

Inspection suggests that I last did any serious key wording in 2013, and none of those are on the external drives I’m currently using. I can be anal at times about numbers but even I quailed at the thought of checking how many of the 9,000 actually have a meaningful keyword or two. I’ve simply got out of the habit. To be fair, the way I’ve been using images over the last year or so has been date-based rather than subject or location based.  I have to be careful not to submit the same image twice in competition for example and so tend to limit selections to a date range. Thus, for the 2017 Travelling Exhibition I only selected from images taken between July 2016 and June 2017.  This system works for what I’ve needed  up until now.

© Dave Whenham
Talisker Bay

To compound things, from this year  I have been filing images in folders based on the date of processing, this fits well with competition selection and means that I have more available to chose from as images taken In June 2017 for example but not processed until after that date would not have been considered previously. But, not for the first time, I digress.

There being nothing else to do I put Lightroom into slide view and eyeballed the 9,000 images putting all the Skye images I spotted into a temporary collection.  There were 217 which is closer to what I’d expected but probably still doesn’t account for all of them. I then loaded all 217 into Pictures to Exe and started to delete duplicates and pull the rest into a rough sequence based on location. If only they had the location in their key words, or even file name, then this would have been soooo much easier…

So the long and short of it is that I still haven’t finished culling the images, I have them in a rough location-based sequence although as I pressed “Close” last night I spotted a couple in the wrong place as the image dimmed on the laptop screen. All for the want of an extra couple of minutes at processing time.

My need to find specific images for audio visual use is likely to grow over the next few months as I start to learn the art of melding music, images and words. I can foresee many such frustrations to come so am thinking that the best thing I can do now is to set aside half an hour every day to retrospectively keyword my catalogue. I also need to start to keyword all new images immediately!

© Dave Whenham
Sligachan – November 2014

When I first started taking photographs seriously I was able to recall when I’d been to certain places and I even filed all my images in folders for specific shoots, thus there were folders labelled “June 1st 2012 Lake District” for example. I no longer use this system; since the start of 2014 I have preferred a single folder for each month and key words to narrow things down. It’s just that at some point between then and now (probably mid-2014 on yesterday’s experience) I stopped adding keywords.

So to answer the question at the top of the page, the answer is an emphatic “YES”.

Even if you cannot see a big need for your current way of working it doesn’t follow that you will never have a need to quickly identify certain images. If that day comes and you’ve heeded my advice you will smile smugly but if you’ve ignored my cautionary tale then don’t come running to me!

Feeling Blessed

No, don’t worry, I’m not going all sentimental nor am I likely to burst into tears any moment! Confined to the house again (don’t ask!) and amusing myself by digging around on a hard drive full of unprocessed images from 2014, 2015 and 2016. There’s lots of decent stuff I’ve not got around to processing – I’ve always enjoyed pressing the shutter or cable release more than sitting at the computer!

© Dave Whenham
June 6th 2015 – and a beautiful day for a walk.

Take this first image. Behind me, less that 200 metres away is the mighty dam wall at Scammonden that is so wide it carries six lanes of the M62 motorway. Yet down here the motorway is but a murmur and the view is fabulous. Two-and-a-half years have past yet seeing this image on my screen instantly took me back to that afternoon. I can remember what gear I was carrying but not what I was wearing. I am blessed to live so close to such stunning countryside.

© Dave Whenham
Blue Tit

I am a very occasional wildlife photographer so any decent images are at least 50% luck if not more. Blue Tits are never still and for someone like myself grabbing a sharp image is a real challenge. This image from July 2016 then was a very welcome find on my hard drive. Amongst two dozen images, all slightly spoilt by motion blur, was one where I had nailed it. Okay, it’s not a rare species, indeed it may be dismissed as a “tit on a stick” but it again brings back memories of being sat in the bird viewing area with Amanda watching the birds feeding and getting annoyed at the grey squirrel who was spooking the more timid visitors. Sure enough, twenty blurred frames later is a sharp image of said squirrel!

© Dave Whenham
Cousins – inside and out

Of course, photographs of the family are always full of stories and memories. Ted is now three and Zac six … how time really does fly. As I get older it seems to get quicker too although I’m sure we all think that as we get older.

© Dave Whenham
Light and shadow – Dean Clough

Of course, as a photographer, photos also bring back memories of past cameras. The one above was taken with the diminutive, yet idiosyncratic Canon EOS M. I parted company with it eventually despite its undoubted image quality. It was one of a string of compacts I worked my way through before settling on the Fuji X100t as my pocketable go-anywhere camera. I have a very poor record with kit, having bought and sold so much over the years and lost a small fortune into the bargain too. But along the way I’ve used some fabulous kit and enjoyed it all, quirks and all!

© Dave Whenham
The beauty of small cameras is you are more likely to carry them with you.

So, just a few random images from the archives. I started the day feeling sorry for myself but seeing some of the images in my “to be actioned” folder has been a tonic and I know there are plenty more images inside me so lots to look forward to.

365-2018: 40-day update

Yes, really, 2018 is forty days old already. I have just taken my 103rd consecutive daily image and it is probably time to provide a brief update. This updates covers images 29 to 40 inclusive.

© Dave Whenham
365-2018-029. Dean Clough – where else?

Day 29, what can I say? Wife needs a lift to work so it would be rude not to take a camera too. Her office is in the attic space at the very top of the RH building. So strange that she is working in the very building that is the subject of one of my favourite photographs which itself was taken over eighty years ago.

© Dave Whenham
365-2018-030. Face-Off

Day 30 produced an image which provoked a lot of interest on Flickr. I had simply been thinking about Shirley’s observation that the “Blue Hour” is going to get earlier over the coming weeks and thought that I should try to get as many “in the bag” as I can whilst the timings are in my favour. I actually had this composition in mind for a foggy morning, and will still shoot it if the opportunity arises, but I like the contrast of the old North Bridge, a Victorian iron and stone bridge opened in 1871, with the rather utilitarian and much more modern flyover which is now the main route across the town centre. I often look for such contrasts between old and new and it is very rare that the more modern constructs are more elegant than the earlier work.  But what caught everyone’s attention was the two cars, apparently facing-off.  I composed the shot with them in mind but have to say that it was pure serendipity and I was extremely lucky that morning; a random car in the foreground wouldn’t add much yet these seem to make a big difference to the shot.

© Dave Whenham
365-2018-034. With Dean Clough mills BEHIND me.

Day 34 and my “Blue Hour quest continued. This time I opted top put the mills BEHIND me.   This is therefore taken from the other side of North Bridge and shows just how the flyover dominates the site. Whilst it is true that the concrete bulk of the flyover can make for some interestingly graphic urban image it still doesn’t take away the fact that the flyover in its setting is an eyesore. However, several people commented that it somehow looked rather beautiful in the pre-sunrise light. As one said person commented:

“There is perhaps some beauty to be seen in the scale and geometry of these things. What you are effectively demonstrating is that the darker it gets, the more beautiful they look!”

Day 35 was a Sunday and I opted for something closer to home but still within the Blue Hour.

© Dave Whenham

I’ve shot this view many times recently for the 63-2017 and 365-2018 Challenges but always from the spare bedroom window. This morning I decided to open the front door and walk a few yards down the road (to avoid parked cars) in order to capture the scene from street level. I only took three frames (I was still in my slippers and it was very cold) but came away more than happy.

Day 36 was a red-letter day.  I slipped the leash and drove up to the moors that morning when no one was looking. On the way I pass Ringstone Edge reservoir. Being fairly high up and open the water is rarely completely calm but even at 1/250th second it was very flat and still this morning. I opted for a minimalist approach.

© Dave Whenham
365-2018-036 – An alternative edit to the one I posted, this is the one I printed.

It was well-received on social media despite probably breaking every “rule” of photography. I saw this treatment in my mind as I was pulling over and rule-breaking or not it is one of my favourite shots from the last 103 days. It was a good start to the week and I’m pleased to report that I’ve manage to get out somewhere with the camera on four of the five days. Not too far from the car, I still need to be mindful of my chest, but just being outdoors, even for short periods, is a huge boost.

I have not posted the image from Day 37 here, although it is available on Flickr. After  escaping to the moors the previous day, Tuesday was a total anti-climax. Wall-to-wall grey all day and with what little light there was  fading so a sombre and slightly depressing scene I snapped an image to sum up Day 37 of the 365-2018 just as the afternoon was slipping away towards dusk. Even more disappointing as it was my 100th consecutive picture-of-the-day. So two anti-climaxes in one day!

© Dave Whenham

Day 38.  After a total grey-out on the Tuesday we awoke on the Wednesday morning to a clear blue sky and a frozen windscreen, inside and out. I got the domestics sorted first however and then late morning took a run up on to the moors. Despite on/off snow most of Tuesday there was actually less snow about than two days previously. However, what caught my eye was the black tarmac against the white snow and blue sky. A thin covering of ice in places made the road surface glisten in the bright sunshine. It was still minus 3 though! A black and white version of this, printed to A3, sits on my desk as I type ready to be mounted for a camera club competition. Two images in three days that I was very pleased with. Could I make it a hat-trick? Thursday, day 39, beckoned.

© Dave Whenham

Day 39. The hat-trick! Three images in one week, actually four days, which ticked lots of boxes and brought huge smiles to my grumpy old face.  I was also on the Calder & hobble Navigation, a walk I have sorely missed these last three months.  Footpath, canal, road and rail (and even a gas pipe in the distance). All modes of transport converge at Elland Wharf. There was also a footbridge here in days gone by but that sadly is no longer with us.

© Dave Whenham
365-2018-040. March Hill and March Haig reservoir.

Day 40 saw me back on the A640, this time driving further down the road towards Saddleworth. March Hill and March Haig Reservoir have been much photographed by me but until today not from this angle. Flints from the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods have been found all over Marsden Moor, with particularly important concentrations at March Hill.  I will go back to this spot when there is a chance of a decent sunrise as it should light up the flanks of March Hill.

Being a bit of a geek, I am keeping a spreadsheet with details of what I have been shooting and with what. It comes in really handy for these updates as I also keep a copy of my notes from that day in the spreadsheet.  What surprises me is that the D800E accounts for over 40% of the shots in my 365 Challenge year to date and if you add in the D7100 my Nikons account for nearly 50% of all the 365 images. The balance is comprised of my three Fujis with the X-T20 accounting for around a quarter of the Challenge images.

© Dave Whenham
Day 38 – why did I choose the colour version for the Challenge?

What does surprise me is that over 80% of the images has been presented in colour, even where a mono alternative was produced.  That is counter-intuitive as I would normally favour black and white mages over colour. It might be that I am conscious that I am sharing these with an online community (a Flickr 365 group) and that many people do not share my preference for mono.  Then again it might be subject matter, the Blue Hour lends itself to colour for example, but I have also produced some pleasing black & white versions of my daily pictures not least Day 38 (above) which as I’ve already said I was so pleased with I printed it at A3 for a UPP portfolio.

Half the images, exactly, where urban images taken in the morning, an unsurprising result when you consider how many Blue Hour images I shot.  A total of 65% of all the images so far this year have been taken in an urban environment.  Location has also been dictated by lack of mobility and a lot of the pictures have been taken around 7:20am whilst taking the wife to work. Three landscapes this week though, my first in 2018, are a better reflection of my usual habits. It will be interesting to see how these figures change as the year progresses.

© Dave Whenham
Dowry Reservoir. Naturally there are many images that do not make the 365-2018 “cut”, this one from Day 40.

Having said that I am surprised at how many images were created with the Nikon D800E I am also pleased in many ways. It is my most expensive piece of kit and during 2017 it was the least likely camera for me to pick up. The Fuji X100t lived in my coat pocket for most of the year and accounted for a third of my 63-2017 images whilst the diminutive Fuji X-T20 account for 25%; between them they accounted for almost 60% of all the 63-2017 images. The fact that I seem to be favouring the my more “serious” gear despite limited mobility seems somehow to suggest I am taking the exercise seriously.

I do know that I am giving it lots of thought, and as Maxwell said recently:

“365 starts as a challenge, becomes a habit and evolves into a way of life..”

He’s not wrong!

Holga 120 Panoramic Camera

Last week I found a roll of 120 Ilford Delta 400 in the back of a drawer that had lain there for goodness only knows how long. Nothing on the label told me what camera it had been through (I have four that take 120 roll film) nor what was actually on the film. I’ve only recently packed away the darkroom and with it the film processing tools as well so it was sent off to Ag Photographic for processing.

On its return it was clearly the test roll I had put through a Holga Panoramic camera early last year and totally forgotten about in the meantime. Four strips of film, around 6cm x 12cm, each containing one image. I popped the first on to the small light box I still hang on to and it was immediately clear that they were all horribly over-exposed, a fact that I’d already been able to see just by glancing at them in their protective sheet. I wasn’t particularly surprised, the “controls” on the Holga 120 Panoramic are rudimentary to say the least and this was the first roll through the camera.

Undaunted I popped the first on to the scanner (a rather outdated Epson Perfection V550 that I have had since at least 2013) and fired up the interface. It took quite a lot of tweaking to get detail appearing and it took around fifteen minutes to scan the first negative. I scanned at 3200dpi (the scanner has an optical max of 6400) and saved the resultant scan as a 16-bit grayscale TIFF file.

© Dave Whenham
The shot here does have a certain atmosphere or charm I guess.

Why did I buy such a camera in the first place? Tempted by the hype in one online review on the Lomography website perhaps?

“One could argue that its 90mm ‘OPTICAL LENS’ is a piece of crap. I would argue that the fancier competitors (e.g. Linhof, Horseman etc…) produce cold, sad, perfect panoramic shots you wouldn’t even consider hanging in your toilet. Or maybe I’m just frustrated I can’t afford one of these monsters… Anyhow, the usual soft focus and vignette produced by the dirt-cheap lens give the warmth and dreaminess we all love in lomographs”

Well, as you can see the 90mm lens is definitely soft and the promised soft focus and vignetting is there for all to see.

© Dave Whenham
Soft & really? Or just crap?
© Dave Whenham
Can you see any sharps spots?

Well, I paid over my pennies as you can see and I took the camera for a wander down Gog Hill (above) to the Elland Bridge (first picture) and shot the allotted four frames. Then promptly forgot about it! I was probably waiting to process it with another 120 roll film but got diverted and started playing with the 35mm film SLRs instead.

© Dave Whenham
All images Holga 120 Panoramic with Ilford Delta 400 roll film.

What do I think now? Well, the images are everything I thought they would be so no disappointments there, but they probably don’t sit with the type of work I’m doing right now. They have taken a fair bit of work to look half decent, and I’ve not tried printing them yet. But the fact that they don’t “sit well” with my current work is perhaps irrelevant. We all experiment at times, or at least we should experiment, and these have produced images with the characteristic Holga charm. Charm is highly subjective of course and one mans charming image is another’s out-of-focus, soft piece of crap I guess.

Yesterday I was ready to ditch the Holga, even offering it to anyone who wanted it amongst my Flickr friends. But this morning, having processed the other three negatives I’m a little less inclined to ditch the experiment altogether. I won’t be rushing off to put another roll through the plastic-fantastic but it will live to see another film at some point I think.