Do you read the manual?

Well? Do you? Chances are that like me you probably don’t, at least not until something goes wrong. I do read a lot of “how-to” articles however in both print and digital media and something I see regularly, and no doubt it’s in the manual too, is that you should cover the eyepiece of the camera when shooting long exposures. Not that I usually bother but every now and then I do get all conscientious and do as recommended.  Until last week though I’d never experienced any problems with this somewhat cavalier approach.

© Dave Whenham
Top – without eyepiece covered
Below – eyepiece covered

Trying some long exposures on a very slow moving river in Scotland last week I set the camera on a tripod with a very bright sun above and behind me filtering through the trees. With a polariser fitted to cut glare on the water and a ten-stop neutral density filter for good measure I dialled in a five minute exposure, fired the shutter and wandered away to explore some bracket fungus growing a few yards away.  When I checked the image back on the LCD screen to make sure I’d estimated the exposure time correctly I was surprised to see a magenta cast. A few minutes head scratching followed after which I decided to repeat the exposure but this time closing down the eyepiece blind on my Nikon.

Wow! As the two RAW files above show the oft-repeated advice to cover the eyepiece lest stray light upset the exposure is after all more than scare mongering. Given the right circumstances it does make a difference showing that it does make sense to follow the advice provided in the camera manual or by other users even when it seems that it is a bit over the top. To keep things in perspective though this is the first time it has happened to me since taking up digital photography and whilst it isn’t an issue when handholding as your head blocks the viewfinder I do take a large proportion of my images from a tripod and unless it is a short exposure when I do stand behind the camera I am prone to wandering around or even sitting down when using long exposure times.

© Dave Whenham
Goodie Water – the final image made using the bottom of the two RAW files.

The 12-Portrait Challenge

© Dave Whenham LRPSI strongly believe that to stay fresh as a photographer it is important to continuously learn and more importantly to challenge yourself. It is far too easy to get into your comfort zone and slide into doing the same things that you did the month before and never really progressing. It is from this belief that the 12-Portrait Challenge was born. I am challenging myself to create 12 series of images from 12 different portrait challenges and the subject matter is down to chance.

To start things off I posted on my Facebook page:

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.44.07 In the first hour I had two, very different responses both of which will challenge me both in terms of the subject matter and the techniques needed. No big clues yet but one is definitely an outdoor pursuit whilst the other isn’t traditionally seen that way – but with a bit of creative thinking I’m working on some ideas to take it outdoors.

A date is already in the diary for one of these and I have two weeks to scout locations and work out my initial shot list – oh and identify any gaps in my skills! From a quick call today it is clear that there will be plenty of creative input from the subject too and I for one am very excited about the shoot. Fingers crossed the weather holds, watch this space!

Dave Whenham LRPS

Dave Whenham LRPS

The Royal Photographic Society Distinctions are recognised as the most prestigious in the photographic world and it has been an ambition of mine to achieve recognition through the society’s distinctions scheme. So, I am delighted to announce that just this week the RPS conferred their Licentiateship and that from the next reprint my business cards will read Dave Whenham LRPS.

For me the LRPS is not only recognition that I can produce images of a high standard but confirmation of the professional approach I take to my photography regardless of the final audience.

The image your wall deserves

© Dave Whenham
Spurn Sunrise – available at Fine Art America

Landscape photography is a source of great enjoyment for me. It is my escape from the daily grind, my opportunity to hone my skills away from the frenetic activity of photographing young children about their daily business. It is my photographic passion in many ways.  So I am therefore delighted to be able to offer some of my best landscapes online via Fine Art America.

Go on … find that image that your wall deserves 🙂

I shall be adding to the portfolio regularly and don’t forget any image on my website can be available – just drop me a note!

To print or not to print …

© Dave Whenham LRPS
Not a masterpiece – but a memory that is in danger of fading too quickly

Over the last few weeks I have seen many posts and news items concerning the fate of today’s photography. It seems that we are taking more photographs than ever before yet as most of these are snapped on smart phones and uploaded to social media sites we have the paradox that this could well be the least documented period of time a hundred years down the road. You see, all those digits, those ones and zeroes, will become lost in the ether. Stored on technology that the average man in the street can no longer access or simply lost when the user got bored and closed their social media account. When one of the big-wigs at Google is a leading voice on the subject you know there is a problem brewing. Put simply, the problem is that we are simply not printing enough.

Or, the majority are not printing at all.

So in the future the box of family snaps and, in my case, old slides, tucked away at the back of the cupboard is an endangered species. I have a large suitcase, yes, a large suitcase, overflowing with pictures taken by myself and my father over the years. These go back to the 1950s and when my own children were younger they loved rifling through the case looking for pictures of Dad in his shorts pulling a wooden cart around the garden, aged two. The early colour snap of me in “that red jumper again Dad” caused much mirth. The girls simply couldn’t envisage that in 1959 I only owned one, perhaps two, jumpers. Many are small 2.5″ x 2.5″ contact prints, most are black and white and many are slightly dog-eared, but they will remain viewable long after my latest modern digital storage device has found its place in landfill heaven.

I see this a lot with portrait work where increasingly I am asked for digital files and the “Facebook-ready” set is shared with obvious pride and pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the technology is fabulous and I enjoy seeing people enjoy my work and the pleasure they get from sharing it. I just worry that we are not doing enough to preserve these precious memories for future generations.  But there is no getting away from the fact that print and canvas sales are on the wane. As a professional I prefer to take control of the printing process myself. Whether I print them myself or outsource the job I can ensure the highest quality particularly when it comes to producing faithful colours and a print that will last a lifetime.

I am looking at the packages I offer at the moment and am tempted to provide an option to have the set delivered as a packet of 9″x6″ prints.  To make it a cost-effective option I would need to outsource the printing but I would at least be making my own small contribution to the large suitcases of the future.

Photography as representation

The images here are important. I don’t mean artistically, although I like them, nor do I mean that what they portray is particularly important. They are important because of what they represent.

© Dave Whenham
Pinfold Lane

Last year I was unfortunate enough to need a heart op – nothing too serious, “just routine” said my surgeon – but that leads to a different story. By the end of 2014 I was less fit than I have been at anytime in my adult life.  So at the start of the year I resolved to walk for at least twenty minutes every day in January.  I managed it, just, but a walk around the block which took me thirty minutes on 1st January was taking me around twenty minutes at the end of the month. It is now the 18th February and so far I have continued my daily walk, in all weathers.

So what about this picture? Well it represents the fact that yesterday I walked to the top of Dewsbury Road, something I would not have even contemplated thinking about six weeks ago let alone completing it twice on consecutive days as I’ve just done. So the significance of this image for me is that it represents my climb up the hill and then along Pinfold Lane just to see what was up there.

© Dave Whenham
View from Dewsbury Road
© Dave Whenham
Whitwell Green Lane

© Dave Whenham

New year – and a special offer

In 2014 I dipped my toes in the water as it were by entering a couple of the Guild of Photographers monthly competitions.  To quote the competition details:

The entries are then assessed by a full Panel of highly experienced Judges who grade them in accordance with international judging criteria, and the higher scoring images are awarded a Bronze, Silver, Gold or even a Platinum Bar.

I only entered six images but was delighted to achieve one Gold, a Silver and four Bronze awards!

As a start-of-year special I am offering single A4 framed prints (without the Guild logo) for £30 each including postage and packing or £100 for the full set of four. This offer will run for a limited time only and only the four images below are included in the offer. Prints will be supplied in a simple, black frame.

© Dave Whenham
Gold – Arctic Tern
Silver - Misty Mentieth
Silver – Misty Mentieth
© Dave Whenham
Bronze – Chiaroscuro Skye
© Dave Whenham
Bronze – Arctic Tern

This offer is not available on the website so please use the form below to let me know your requirements and I will let you know how to make payment and of course obtain your postal address!

Pretty in Pink?

© Dave Whenham
Pretty in pink?

Working with another artist, particularly from a different discipline is a useful way to develop and broaden ones artistic skills. In 2013 I embarked on several such collaborations. One has resulted in the book In the Studio and another is shown here.

This was produced as part of a collaborative project with Denise Taylor, a poetry student at the OCA, who produced a series of poems based on a set of my photographs. My processing of this original (infrared) image was inspired by my “take” on the image which was a rather psychedelic, fantasy world – candy floss boats on a marshmallow shore vision. Very much a Beatles-LSD-esque piece of imagery borne out of reading far too much fantasy and sci-fi in my impressionable teenage years no doubt.

Denise’s response however (see below) has an environmental resonance, a nice twist and something that Fay Godwin (one of my photographic heroes) was passionate about and is starting to creep into my more recent non-IR work. It has that apparent simplicity that belies a very clever construction and I really like her interpretation.

Geiger counting by Denise Taylor

Here is a boat without any oars
And a river of rippling ink.
Here acid water laps alkaline shores,
And poison is pretty
So pretty in pink.
You’ll find no safe harbour
No berth and no jetty,
This place is no Eden
despite what you think.
We buried our waste in the
deep silent silos,
And poison looks pretty,
So pretty in pink.

Poem © Denise Taylor 2013

The role of chance – a real world example

© Dave Whenham
The ramp appears to have been added just for the exhibition

When I was studying I once sat and considered the role of chance in photography and concluded that chance plays a useful role in photography for all sorts of reasons. One thing I did not consider though was the chance of accidentally and unknowingly changing a camera setting and getting home to find all your lovingly crafted interiors have been shot at ISO 12,800. My initial reaction when this happened to me recently  was disappointment (emotion), my second reaction was to wonder how it could have happened and what I might need to do to prevent a recurrence (pragmatic and problem-solving) but my third was to wonder whether or not I could make something of the golf-ball sized digital noise or grain as I prefer to think of it (artistic opportunism).

The third response is perhaps a result of many different things, knowledge (I’m aware of the potential provided by film grain for example), experience (too many times in the past had I deleted my ‘mistakes’ without proper thought), artistic sensibilities (I recognised that the subject was still inherently interesting) and opportunism (here was a chance to use the ‘grain’ to enhance the atmosphere of the images).

© Dave Whenham
Textures and light

The camera in question was newly purchased, this was our first outing together,  and as I have never owned a camera with a touch-sensitive rear screen before I had not appreciated the potential for inadvertently changing settings.  It was also the first time I had purchased a camera with no viewfinder and I found it very disorientating framing and composing images. Probably very intuitive to the iPhone generation but not to me. It was also strange not  having all the shooting information in front of my eye.  It is second nature to keep an eye on shutter speeds when shooting in AV mode for example, and a shutter speed of 1/2500th second indoors would have alerted me to something amiss with the camera settings.  The new toy does not display this information when composing for example, it is available as a seperate display however so I will need to get into the habit of skipping to this screen regularly in future. Some serious learning took place on this first trip as can be imagined!

© Dave Whenham

I rarely bother sharing processing details in my blog but as the processing is an important part of the overall aesthetic of this set and therefore may be of interest to the photographers amongst you  here in note form is the workflow adopted.
RAW Conversion in ACR – increased Clarity by between 20 and 40 and added a Strong Contrast Curve, both of these emphasise the textures in the image file
Mono conversion in Silver Efex Pro – High Structure preset, tweaked brightness and mid-tone structure to taste and added a vignette. This combination helps produce the effect I wanted
Final touches in Photoshop – local dodging and burning as required before saving without sharpening

© Dave Whenham
Are we being watched?

© Dave Whenham

© Dave Whenham

© Dave Whenham

Full set on Flickr at