I’ve pinched the title for todays post from a photographer-friend of mine to describe the latest twist in my photographic journey. Perhaps twist isn’t the right phrase, just adding another branch might be a better way of describing it.
I’m a landscape photographer primarily and so the recent brutal weather, at a time when the doc isn’t happy for me to be out in it, has been very frustrating. It’s brought home that I need an alternative outlet for my creativity for those times when the outdoors is closed to me.
There is also the 365 to consider. Taking a picture a day has been challenging but, touch wood, I’ve kept the variety of images fresh even if I have had to reuse some locations several times. I have used a variety of cameras – DSLR, mirrorless, compact, drone and even a phone. I have used lenses from 23mm to 300mm and shot at all times of the night and day. I do still have some ideas for the coming weeks but unless I can regain full mobility I will be struggling come the Summer.
Then, the light bulb moment.
The image of the day for 4th March (below) was, as you can see, heavily manipulated. I started with lovely early morning misty light and transformed the original shot by use of textures, blending modes and layer masks in Photoshop. This naturally, or at least naturally enough for me, led me to researching the subject online, purchasing an on-demand course, producing the images in my Floral Dance blog post and ultimately on the Definitely Dreaming website from where I stole the title to this piece.
As I mention in Floral Dance it’s a while since I seriously played with floral photography, indeed I discovered that it was way back in 2008! That’s pretty much right at the beginning of my digital photography journey. Back then my floral images were very clean and literal but as you will have seen in the Floral Dance my current approach is dramatically different.
Embracing the blur refers primarily to Janet’s love for the Lensbaby optics, of which she has a good sized collection I believe. These quirky lenses were not new to me but I last used one in 2016 and hadn’t really kept up to date with developments in the Lensbaby world. So, of course that meant another diversion around the internet which ended up on the Wex website, where else, and the purchase of not one, but two Lensbaby optics along with the Composer Pro II which is needed to mount these optics onto the camera.
They won’t arrive until the end of the week so I’ve plenty of time to read and research further, and of course look at some of the fascinating Lensbaby imagery online. I will blog my progress of course but if you notice a flurry of blurry images then at least you will know why!
Forewarned is forearmed!
UPDATE: delivery brought forward – due today, three days ahead of schedule!
Finally, my health has turned a corner and I’m starting to become more active and even leaving the house for purposes other than medical appointments! My wife has diagnosed pneumonia but my doctor is more circumspect and I’m going for more X-Rays and blood tests shortly! Which makes it more frustrating that the weather is foul but at least I have been playing with water over the last few days – blog post to follow.
However, in between the showers there have been some opportunities to get out locally albeit for short trips only.
I’m working on a 365 project for 2018, update due soon, and the discipline is helping get through this period of enforced incarceration. The 63-2017 project helped too as I’ve blogged about several times previously. Todays 365 image was taken down at Dean Clough and is the fourth in the 365-2018 series to feature the end of Bowling Mill immortalised in 1937 by Bill Brandt. My fascination with this location, and particularly the few square metres that these images have been taken from, stems as I’ve said before from Bill Brandt’s The Snicket. Today’s offering (below) is the same scene but from a POV that may not have been accessible to Brandt as I am stood where the railway line once ran.
A medical appointment took me to Huddersfield town centre on Tuesday so of course the X100t went with me. I’m instinctively drawn to the streets behind the main shops which often have a griminess that is at total odds with the bright, chrome and neon adorned frontages. One of the images made it into my 365-2018 project and another is shown above. A gritty, harsh monochrome conversion gave the scene the feel to complement the look.
So, here’s to getting out and about again fully and of course to getting some light with which to work. I have ideas for audio-visual using Pictures to Exe, for a new video diary/blog and of course to play with some more time-lapse sequences. For the first time ever I feel I have the kit that I need, that works for me and most importantly the kit that I want. It’s the same gear as last year essentially, what changes is the mindset of course. To be honest, after the last seven weeks I’d be happy with an Instamatic so long as I was out of the house!
I’m now 15 days into the 63-2017 project and have created a Flickr album to house the growing collection of images in the 63-2017 series at https://flic.kr/s/aHskr3ELaY
With a lot of domestic and club responsibilities this week I can honestly say that without the focus of the picture-a-day challenge the cameras may well have stayed in the bag this week. Instead, I have awoken each day with the thought in my head that I need to find my image. I am determined not to snap the garden at 11pm or grab a quick shot of baby eating tea just to fulfil the brief. It’s very satisfying therefore to note that most of this weeks images were pre-planned to a greater or lesser extent.
63-2017-9 is a case in point. I had this in mind from the start of the day and kept a close eye on the light as tea time drew near knowing I wanted a little bit of the blue hour to complement the orangey tinges to the night time streets.
63-2017-10 was the result of checking the weather apps the night before. It is shot from 190 feet above Marsden Moor as the sun rises and was a pre-planned image which saw me setting the alarm for an early start to drive to the moors. I was not expecting any frost based on the forecast but there was just a hint of the white stuff which reflected the first rays of the day. With the temperature down to 1°C and a bit of a breeze I soon lost all feeling in my ungloved fingers. Once the drone got above 200 feet (ie more than 1500 feet above sea-level at this location) the wind turbulence was too high for successful photography so with real pain in my finger tips I was probably grateful to bring the drone home and land it just a couple of feet from the car.
63-2017-11 – the River Calder from Elland Bridge is a favourite spot for images that I have visited countless times over the years. It involves a short but steep ascent of Got Hill one of the oldest streets in the town which is mostly cobbled and therefore lethal on wet autumn days with decaying leaves added to the mix.
I had originally intended taking a shot over the weir looking in the opposite direction but in the event decided to leave that shot for another day and to make a mental note to take a small tripod and neutral density filter with me to slow the shutter speed down. I also decided on the square composition to use so that is another 63-2017 image opportunity stored away for the right conditions. Despite having shot in these locations many many times in recent years it’s amazing what opportunities are still available with some thought.
63-2017-12 “A Warm Reception?” The windows were glowing warmly but the heavy front door was firmly shut and the sign says visitors must have a prior appointment. Number 12 in my 63/2017 series is one where I simply went for a wander to see what I could see and is the first in this series where the title came first and the image was made second. It’s a simple image but perhaps it tells us something about our society whereby a reception can look both warm and yet uninviting at the same time. I won’t ponder too much in case it gets pretentious!
63-2017-13 This is quite simply an homage to one of my favourite photographers although when he was here in 1937 he was shooting the scene in B&W. I’ve written about this part of Halifax dozens of times over the years and it was inevitable that I’d be drawn to create another image for the 63-2017 project. I have a different composition in mind that calls for some snow so we will see if 365-2018 provides the opportunity.
63-2017-14 was something I’d had in the back of my mind for a while. Amanda and I always observe the two-minutes silence on the 11th November and also on Remembrance Sunday when the two do not coincide. We also stand to watch the parade pass our front door on their way to the war memorial for the laying of wreathes and poppies before marching back to the church for the Sunday service. I have often wanted to create a photograph from the event but wanted something other than the usual images with poppies or veterans with rows of medals gleaming in the autumn sun. Inspiration came when I saw Amanda looking out of the bedroom window as they marched past on their way to the memorial and thus when they returned I was at said window watching and hoping that I would get a large enough gap in the procession to highlight some long shadows. This was the result and hopefully it is a poignant image especially on Remembrance Sunday and particularly when linked to its title of “The past casts long shadows”.
63-2017-15 So to number 15 in the series, todays image as I type this. I set off this morning with an image in mind but this was not it. A slight misunderstanding over timings meant I was not able to get to my chosen location after dropping my wife at work so I decided to make the best of the situation and shoot at the planned time but in a totally different location.
The biggest part of the challenge for me is not necessarily to take an image a day, although that will be tough I suspect, but to find something new to photograph every day when I am unavoidably confined to the house and therefore my shooting opportunities of necessity will be restricted to Elland. There are a few indoor projects on the cards for the winter months and on those days it will be easier but I don’t want to post an image of a water splash for seven consecutive days now do I?
I enter the third week of the 63-2017 Challenge in a good frame of mind and already have tomorrows image in the back of my mind. It won’t be long though until 365-2018 starts and I suspect that will be an even bigger challenge – or opportunity if you prefer.
I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve applied to join a 365 group from 1st January and over the last weekend I had a good look at their Flickr groups. An impressive collection of images but more than that a testament to their doggedness and determination – I realised that some of them have been doing this for up to ten years solid! I’m not sure if that’s determination or insanity but I’m impressed nevertheless.
I have (or had!) 63 days in which to think about the challenge and contemplate my own impending insanity. The image I posted in my last blog post (left) was labelled 63-2017-1 which was my shorthand for 63-days in 2017 image number 1.
I’ve decided to start the daily posting habit now, with sixty three days left in 2017, to enable me to work out the pitfalls and hopefully establish a routine to set me up well for the 365-2018.
As yet I’ve not been posting these daily although I think that’s the next logical step in the process. But what haveI learnt in these first eight days? It might be easier to think about it by posting the first set of images and jotting down my thoughts alongside each.
63-2017-1: this image (above) was taken on the day I decided to embark on this project. It was taken with the Fuji X100t which is normally to be found in my coat pocket or a small shoulder bag. It reflects an all too familiar scene on the high streets of small towns such as Elland. For Sale and To Let boards adorn many once thriving businesses. There are no more banks and we have just the one butcher now. A handful of cars can often be seen in the short-term parking bays but you don’t see many people wandering the hight street these days. A sad sight but sadly one that is becoming more common. It is almost certain that there will be more images from Elland town centre in the coming months.
63-2017-2: this image (above) was pre-planned from very early in the day. Knowing that we were going to be eating at this local restaurant for the first time that evening I thought it would be the perfect image for the day. I didn’t actually leave the house that day until the evening but first thing that morning I put the Fuji X100t in the pocket of the jacket I’d be wearing to make sure I wasn’t going to be relying on my iPhone. Pre-planned since breakfast this was a good second image in the series and good discipline too.
63-2017-3: November did not start too well as I left the house for the day without my camera! I had left it on my desk the night before intending to download the image from that evening and then got distracted. I had decided that today’s image should be one of Zac, one of two live-in grandsons, on a trip to the garden centre. The Fuji would have been ideal but at least I did still have my iPhone however which was just as well. They say the best camera is the one you have with you and I had to be content with that homily for image number three in the series.
63-2017-4: Thursdays are going to be a challenge, particularly in bad weather. I have four grandsons. Two live with me, one spends the weekend here and the other spends every Thursday here. So I woke up on Thursday knowing that my image would of necessity involve Ted unless I opted for a night time shot. However, as capturing semi-candid images of Ted is a regular photographic activity for me I thought it appropriate to get one in during the first week.
This was taken with the Fuji X-T20 at f4, ISO 3200 and handheld at 1/10th of a second. It is a little soft and there are definite signs of camera shake but it’s still an engaging portrait. Shooting into the sun coming through the window I opened up by two stops compared to the metered reading; I wonder if I should have opted for a faster shutter speed and brought the exposure up in post? Still, a reasonable outcome and a pre-planned one too. The challenge for 2018-365, as if that weren’t challenging enough, will be to find different images for Thursdays that don’t necessarily involve Ted.
I did actually take a second image (see below) for the 63-2017-4 slot which is actually a far better image in my view and also ties in nicely with 63-2017-1. However, it was taken with my iPhone and as I want to limit the amount of times I fall back on this device I opted for the image above as the “official” Day 4 image.
63-2017-5: I had no firm plan for Friday but kept the Fuji X-T20 by my side throughout the day as I pottered about doing household chores. It was the last day of half-term and Jakob had arrived that morning, slightly earlier than usual for his weekend stay. When his Dad took him outside to wash the cars I saw the opportunity and captured this abstract of Jakob (above) cleaning my car. I deliberately framed it with the view to a square crop eliminating all recognisably car elements. This was an image that would not have happened if I’d not been thinking “image a day” as I’d have simply thanked Jakob but not bothered to capture a record.
63-2017-6: The first Saturday of the challenge and I had planned to take the drone out on to Marsden Moor for a flight and to capture that days image from the air. In the event I was on child-minding duties at short notice so decided to make it an I-Phone day and to try to find an image that captured both Autumn and child-minding. Just because one is using a phone doesn’t mean that composition, thought and camera craft need all go out of the proverbial window.
63-2017-7: I knew exactly what image I wanted today from the moment I looked out of the bedroom window and saw the crisp blue sky. I’d seen the potential yesterday and knew the conditions were right. It was the second thing I did that day, immediately after enjoying my morning mug of black coffee. I wanted to show a truly autumnal image without heading into the woods or countryside. Mission accomplished!
63-2017-8: And so we come to this morning. I went to bed last night fully intending to get up early today. With the chance of frost, low lying mist and bright sunshine it would be an ideal opportunity for some bright, misty images. It was indeed as forecast which makes the fact that I slept through my alarm double galling. I cannot remember the last time I slept through the alarm and when I crawled out of bed at 8:30am I could see that the day had indeed started as forecast but was rapidly clearing into a bright, sunny morning with a clear blue sky. My first instinct was to say “sod it” and forget about photography but just as quickly the thought came into my head that I might still get something worthwhile for Day 8. Which was why twenty minutes later I was pulling the car over at the roadside to grab a quick image of Bower’s Mill in Barkisland. Built in the 18th century this was a water-powered fulling mill although it was later converted for other processes: corn mill, worsted mill, woollen mill. The 5-storey mill has since been converted for use by small businesses. I captured my image with a Nikon D7100 and a 300mm lens to compress the scene and accentuate the contrast between the still frosty mill and surrounding buildings in the valley with the sunlit houses on the valley side.
So there we have it. An eclectic mix from the last eight days. At least three of these images (Day 2, Day 5 and Day 8) would not have been taken without the thought of the daily challenge to spur me on. A couple would not have happened had I not had my iPhone with me and whilst I am going to try to limit the amount of images I capture with that device I did find that knowing the images were part of my daily challenge did make me think more creatively; Day 6 is a good example of this.
I last posted on the 26th September, a day before leaving for a few days in the Lakes. A lack of wifi at the place we stayed kept me from my blog and then the arrival of grandson number four and the wedding of daughter number three continued to keep me AWOL until this morning. I have some images to share, some footage for a blog post or two and some thoughts to share too. But not just yet!
One benefit of a lack of wifi is that I got some reading done and as my birthday also fell within this two week window there were some new things to read too; no doubt some of what I read will influence some of my ramblings in the coming weeks. A couple of new gadgets found there way into my possession as well so the inner child in me was also catered for.
I did post a few images to Facebook, Instagram and even Twitter over the two weeks and once again the benefits of the Fuji’s in-built wifi and Snapseed on my iPad were well appreciated. I’ve just looked at the RAW files from the last couple of weeks and whilst there won’t be an avalanche of new material there are some nice images that I’m looking forward to processing properly over the coming week or three.
So, I leave you with a few images from the last fortnight and the promise of more posts to come. I’m away for a few days in Anglesey next week, a place I’ve never visited so I am looking forward to that immensely.
Looking through my images from the first half of 2017 I realised that I produce a lot of square compositions across a wide range of genres. So what better way to practice using some of the techniques I’ve learnt this week than by producing a four minute slideshow with which to showcase them.
I have decided to use my Vimeo account purely for my Pictures to Exe experiments and to use YouTube for my other videos and video diaries. Quite a few AV producers that I follow use Vimeo so I’m hoping that by being there I may see a little more “traffic” to my own PTE offerings. I can be found at https://vimeo.com/user10575556.
I am currently working hard at understanding the audio-editing capabilities of PTE as the next stage in my development as I see it is fitting the transitions between slides to the flow of the music. There are a few “good” examples in my current PTE offerings but I could do a LOT better I’m sure.
The revised version of Buckstones Edge (above) features some refinements in terms of presentation and don’t miss the end credit shot with a drone and produced in Final Cut Pro – melding the two disciplines already 🙂
For the Piece Hall slideshow I opted for a faster pace compared to my earlier offerings. It worked in parts but in places there was simply too much movement. I produced a re-worked version to see for myself how small changes could make a difference and was pleasantly surprised. Another thing on my to-do list is to find out how to make these reworked versions available online without cluttering my Vimeo account with various versions.
Looking back July was an interesting month. I completed the June video diary during the first week of the month having pre-prepared some of it at the end of June. I’m getting quicker with Final Cut Pro (FCP) and more adventurous with the edits. I’m also thinking more about what video I am going to need particularly B-roll type clips. Both skills that came in very handy during July. The main area to work on though is audio and I am working on that.
During the second and third weeks I managed five separate outings with my cameras (and drone) which resulted in five video diaries and a handful of very pleasing still images. Pleasing because on none of those days did I get good light. It’s all about the light! I also grabbed my first aerial abstracts which was an unexpected bonus and the fulfilment of one of my photographic-wish-list items. The conditions, strong winds and frequent rain, haven’t leant themselves to aerial photography; at least not in the hands of a newbie like myself.
In the last week of the month I added a sixth trip, although I spent most of it sat in the car drinking coffee. I did get the shot I went for however (see below), albeit not in the light I had hoped for, and the video from that trip is currently sat in FCP awaiting the voiceover which I need to redo as I wasn’t happy with the original voiceover I recorded.
One of the “features” of July was the totally inaccurate daily weather forecasts. I planned my trips in such a way as to be out when the conditions were due to be best for my needs and to be at home doing the domestic chores during the less appealing weather. In the end I managed exactly the opposite on all six occasions.
Whilst I did capture some nice still photographs with both of the Fujis and of course with the drone my main focus during July was videos. Skills such as shooting video footage, experimenting with using the iPhone to record voiceovers whilst on the spot and of course practicing with FCP all received plenty of attention during the month. I ended the month pleased with what I had achieved and satisfied that for the first time in many months I had made the most of those opportunities that had presented themselves. It was good getting out again with a camera and a tripod, not forgetting my flask, and I hope that August will be as productive.
There is no video diary for July as I mentioned previously. Given the number of videos I posted it seems superfluous and I’d only be reusing the same footage.
Of course on the final day of the month I installed Parallels software on my iMac and started playing with Pictures to Exe, but that’s for the August update!
In a previous post I discussed a recce shoot at Ringstone Edge reservoir. Earlier this week when driving back from Buckstones Edge (post to follow, hopefully next week) I noticed a band of cloud ahead and realised it would form the backdrop for a shot to be taken just beyond Ringstone where I’d previously parked. It wasn’t a “miss-it-and-you’ll-always-regret-it” type of shot but would be a useful marker in the sand as it were. It was also quite pleasant to see something in the sky behind the reservoir instead of wall-to-wall grey as I’d had on the recce.
A fourth video diary – who’d of thought it? So, what did I get up to in June?
Well, photographically the first half of June was a wash out, sometimes literally. A two-week half term which added to my usual grand children duties severely limited free time and the time that was available was blighted by grey skies, wall to wall grey cloud and heavy rain. I did get a few opportunities which I grasped but the photographic highlight of the month was always likely to be a few days in Cornwall at the end of the month.
One big win at the beginning of the month though was the May Video Diary which was great fun to put together and hopefully maintained the ongoing development in this area. The sheer volume of helpful material on the net is amazing, there’s some dross too but for me the biggest challenge is finding what I need when quite often I’m ignorant of the correct terminology or even that I need something – both of which would make searching more fruitful. I am a very experienced photographer but very much a newbie videographer and video editor.
I’m not sure that this update marks a step forward in production values, at best it is marking time I feel, but it’s probably still worth sharing (and braving any negative comments) as it is only by trying things and then reflecting on them that we learn and improve. What is immediately apparent is that I shot nowhere near enough video footage for the diary. I have ended up using more of the iPhone footage from the garden centre and the YSP for example than was warranted. The more interesting footage, shot with the Fuji X-T20 in Newquay was far too little for the diary and I did not shoot video at most of the places we went to over our weekend in Cornwall. A missed opportunity and I put this out therefore as a cautionary tale for others.