photo project

writing on water

Water calligraphy

I subscribe to an excellent online photography magazine called On Landscape Each issue they publish four sets of four photos on a theme, from four different photographer/subscribers, and a little while ago I sent my four off with fingers firmly crossed.  I didn’t hear anything for weeks, and guessed that they hadn’t been accepted – disappointing, but the standard is high and I wasn’t totally sure that I met it.  However, next thing I knew, I got an email from the magazine saying they’d been published!

It’s the first time I’ve tried to do anything like this.  Posting photos on my blog or on Flickr feels safe, as basically people who don’t like them will usually just go somewhere else.  I’m not terribly good at handling rejection, even on the minor level of not being accepted by a magazine, so it took a bit of courage for me to put these images out there.  I’m so glad I did.  It’s given me a real confidence boost and has encouraged me to try again elsewhere.

It was surprisingly difficult to get the entry together.  First of all, I had to choose what I thought were the best shots out of over a hundred similar ones. Not being great at decision making, that was tough enough, but the hardest part of it was making sure that they all held together and looked like a set.  This meant that they all had to be taken from roughly the same focal length – it would have looked strange to have some very close-up and some at a distance – and they all had to have the same sorts of tones and processing, which was the really difficult bit.  In the end I had to re-do them all so that they worked as a coherent set.

I now feel like trying again in other places – I figure that having had one success will sweeten the blow if I don’t get anywhere with subsequent ones. I’m feeling braver. I’ve now entered the same set of four, plus an additional two, into a book project/competition called Seeing in Sixes which is running under the auspices of Lenswork Magazine.  The photographers who’re chosen will have their images printed in a six-page spread in the resulting book.  I’ve included the additional two images here – the first four are the original choices for On Landscape, and the last two are the extra ones that make up the six for Seeing in Sixes. Wish me luck.

Water calligraphy, ripples and reflections on water

Water calligraphy, ripples and reflections on water

Water calligraphy, ripples and reflections on water

Water calligraphy, ripples and reflections on water

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52 trees – week thirty-five

Poppy field, Balderton

This is the first image I’ve posted that’s been taken with my new Sony a6000 – I finally got it about two weeks ago, and have been getting used to it since then.  I knew my old camera inside-out and could adjust settings without even looking or stopping to think, so it feels like going backwards a little.  In fact, I deleted all the pictures I took on my first outing with it, as it was more a case of getting used to it than trying to do anything artistic.  But I’m getting there, and the camera itself is brilliant.

It’s so much smaller and lighter than my previous one, while at the same time having far greater low-light capability, a lot more pixels to play with, and extra options I haven’t even investigated yet.  As my old camera is so old that it’s worth nothing now, I’m going to keep the body and use it as a dedicated Lensbaby camera, meaning that I can simply grab it and know it’s all ready to go instead of the faff of changing lenses and altering settings.

One of my problems with the new camera at the moment is that the version of Elements I’ve got won’t recognise and process the RAW files.  Normally this isn’t an issue and you just download a little bit of software to update it, but my version of Elements is so old that it’s not supported any more.  This means that until I buy a newer version, which I’ll have to do soon, I can only work with the jpeg files.  It’s surprising how frustrating this is, as I know I can get much better results working with RAW.

The viewfinder of the a6000 is beautifully bright and clear – that is, until you’re in a poppy field in very bright light and your photo sensitive glasses have significantly darkened (next time I change my glasses I’m going clear)…………..it was almost impossible to see anything – couldn’t see which settings I was changing or what they were doing, couldn’t see what was in the frame, couldn’t see the resulting image on the LCD screen, and felt as if I were shooting blind.  The results were surprisingly acceptable, considering.

This was my desperate attempt at the weekend to find something for my tree post this week, as I’ve failed to produce anything new the last couple of weeks and have relied on my backlog from the New Forest.  This field is a couple of miles up the road, and last year the poppies were so spectacular that cars were continually nipping into the nearby layby so that their occupants could stop to take a proper look.  This year, not so much, but there are still plenty of poppies. This image is really more about the poppies than the tree, but it does need the tree – try blocking out the tree with your fingers and you’ll see it loses something. The two images below are more what I had in mind, as the tree is more important in the frame, and I wanted to get across the idea of the poppies being sheltered by it.  However, the first has an unwelcome smudge of lens flare, and the second isn’t the best composed, so I opted for the less interesting but undoubtedly cheerful image at the top of the post.

Poppy field and tree, Balderton, Notts

Poppy tree 999

 

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52 trees – week thirty-four

Little tree, New Forest

Another image from the New Forest this week.  I saw this little tree growing in a clearing, surrounded by the other bigger trees who almost looked like they were protecting and taking care of it.  I liked the ferns that surrounded it, too – they appear to be leaning towards the tree ever so slightly, and the tree echoes their shapes.  It looks to me like it’s dancing with its friends while the adults look tolerantly on.

To the eye, the small sapling stood out clearly and even looked spotlit by the sun.  However, when I saw the picture onscreen the little tree merged too much into the background and didn’t clearly take centre stage, which was how I wanted to show it.  What to do?  First of all I softened the image slightly using the Orton technique which, applied subtly, made the greens richer and emphasised the contrast in dark and shade a bit more.  Then I added a vignette to the corners to darken them and thus make the brightly lit tree stand out.  I think it’s worked.

It’s been another very busy week. I had an Airbnb guest staying all week, then friends staying Friday night, then relatives arriving Saturday morning and staying over as well, so there’s been an awful lot of laundry, bed-making, cleaning, and food shopping going on, as well as serious attempts to conquer the garden before it becomes completely impossible to get up the path that runs through it.  I also had a day at Patchings Art Fair where I managed to catch the last ten minutes of Valda Bailey giving a talk, and on Saturday we went to Southwell Folk Festival, of which more in a later post.

While all this was going on, I was trying to put together an entry for Seeing in Sixes – a competition/book project asking for submissions of six themed images, with the successful entrants having their images published in a book.  The deadline for entries is the day this post appears, and as this is another very busy week I’m not sure if I’ll get it done in time.  I also have a backlog of pictures and blog posts in the queue, some of which I’ve even started to write but have never got back to since then.  These things seem to operate like the life equivalent of chilled butter – it’s impossible to spread them nice and evenly around and instead they form into awkward clumps where there’s either too much or too little.  I guess that’s just the way it goes.

52 trees – week thirty-three

Evening sunlight; tree reflection in stream

Cheating slightly again this week, as this photo was taken while I was away in the New Forest a couple of weeks ago.  It’s been an unusually busy week, so I’ve had no chance to get out and about.  Among other things, I had a photography job to do for the Newark Town Hall Museum which I was rather dreading – quite rightly, as it turned out.  I had to photograph forty-five, mostly glass-fronted, prints and drawings, in a storeroom with a mixture of lighting sources and hardly any space to move or set anything up.

The problem, of course, was reflections in the glass, and it took an hour and a half just to find a set-up that minimised the reflections.  I would have much preferred to scan them, as that works brilliantly, but most of them were too big to fit the scanner.  In the end, the pictures were hung, one at a time, on a metal grid that divided one part of the room from another, my tripod was wedged into the space between that and a metal shelving unit behind, so tightly that the legs wouldn’t fully expand.  I had to drape the metal shelving with a large navy-blue fleece throw to prevent reflections coming from it and there wasn’t room for me to get behind the camera so I had to use the LCD screen to shoot, peering into it from the side.

Every image is going to need serious straightening out in post-processing, but it was impossible to frame accurately in that situation so I just left a wide margin around the edges so that I have some leeway to crop and straighten  I can honestly say I never want to have to work in those sorts of conditions again!  However, I did get the shots and there’s only the tiniest bit of reflected light showing in one or two of them.

I felt rather fraught when I got home, and was cursing the whole reflection problem, but reflections are normally something I like very much and the kind found in the image above calms me down rather than winds me up – evening light on the little stream just down the road from our holiday barn.

 

52 trees – week thirty-two

Fern shadow on fallen tree

This week’s post sneaked up on me – the bank holiday weekend was leading me to think it was Monday, not Tuesday, and that I had another day left, and I’ve also been trying to get a longer piece written for posting later in the week and had got a bit distracted by that.

So, last minute and not much to say about this one – just that this wonderful fern shadow on a fallen tree trunk caught my eye as we walked past.  The bright sunlight was unpromisingly harsh for most shots, but worked beautifully for this one, just proving the point that, whatever the lighting, there’s always something it suits.

 

52 trees – week thirty-one

Sunlight in the New Forest, with ICM

Back from the New Forest, and I certainly do have a lot of pictures of trees.  Unfortunately there aren’t many that excite me, or give me that little glow inside that you get when you produce something you really like.  It’s proved a point to me – that my work is much, much better when I concentrate on a small, familiar area and keep going back to it.  I want to write some more about that, but will save it up for a later, more in-depth, post.

Photography or not, we had a wonderfully relaxing time just walking through the beautiful, lush, green place that is the New Forest.  I’d never been ‘properly’ there before, only having driven through it a number of times on the way further west.  However when you pass through on the A31, it crosses open areas of moorland and I always used to wonder where the trees were.

I’ve learned since then that when the word ‘forest’ was introduced into the English language it originally meant ‘wild land set aside for hunting’ and there was no requirement for trees to be present, so the Forest includes some areas of heath and moorland, too.  There are plenty of trees, though, and one of the things that struck me was the way in which the Forest manages to absorb large numbers of people without losing its essential nature or feeling of wildness – we walked for hours on some days and barely saw another person.

Feeling mostly dissatisfied with the shots I’d taken so far, I experimented with some intentional camera movement and this seemed to capture for me more of the feeling of the place.  In the image above I held the camera still for a short moment before moving it, and that gave a little bit of definition to the leaves and a kind of painterly look.  I can’t say I’m totally happy with it, but it does bring back for me – quite vividly – the memory of how wonderful it was to walk in the sheltering half-light of the trees, with sudden dazzling shafts of sunlight illuminating the forest floor.  If I could have picked even part of the forest up and taken it back home with me, I’d be a very happy bunny indeed.  I suppose, in a sense, that’s what photographers do.

52 trees – week thirty

Spring blossom on car

I didn’t think I was going to get anything posted for this week – I hurt my back quite badly several days ago, and haven’t been able to get out.  I can walk reasonably freely now although it’s still a bit achey, and planned to do a little photo walk in the sunshine and find something for this week’s tree post.  Sod’s law meant that I managed to pick the wettest day we’ve had in a long time, so the options were a bit limited.

I really wanted to do something all pretty and soft and spring-like, and experimented with some intentional camera movement.  However, it just looked like I’d got the focussing wrong –  sometimes these things don’t work out the way you hope.  So – I’ve stuck to my recent car theme, and here’s one with the trees reflected in the rainy windscreen and the pink petals of the blossom scattered all over the bonnet like confetti.

I’m unsure if there’ll be a tree post next week or not – I’m going on holiday and may decide to take a blog break for a week.  However, I’m going to the New Forest, so I might not be able to resist…….

52 trees – week twenty-nine

Tree reflected in car windowA strange one this week, and one that I have to admit I’m not sure about – is it too ambiguous, too messy, too unformed?  But there’s something about the way the tree branches seem to drape themselves over what could be boulders but are actually seats inside the car that I find interesting, and I keep coming back to it to have another look.  Does it have something, or am I fooling myself?  That’s always a tricky one to answer.

I may be getting a little hooked on ‘tree in car window’ reflections right now, and have been taking rather a lot of them.  The more I look, the more I see, and of course they’re everywhere.  It’s the multi-layered, ‘double exposure’ effect that appeals to me, where you see both the reflection of what’s outside the car and also through the window to what’s inside it.  I tend to like images that are either very simple and minimalist or very complicated – complicated in the sense of creating ambiguity and mystery and with that idea of different layers in the image.  This one definitely falls into the second camp.

I have another, similar, image that’s easier to ‘read’ and had intended to use that one for this week’s post, but sometimes it’s good to be a little controversial.  However, just in case you really hate the one above, here’s the other one below.

Tree reflected in car window

52 trees – week twenty-eight

Shadow patterns, Newark Library, NottsNewark Library is housed in a modern building largely made up of glass and surrounded by trees.  The glass is tinted to stop excess heat and glare, but there are also blinds high up on the glass walls to help give shade from the heat in summer.  I often do some shifts there, and I’d noticed that on sunny days the trees outside cast their shadows on these blinds, and I’d just as often felt the urge to photograph them.

I don’t take my camera to work as I don’t want to risk leaving it in the lockers, and I’d been meaning for some time to make a visit there specially to take some shots, but sod’s law had seen to it that my free time and the right weather hadn’t coincided.  However it had to happen sooner or later, and this week I finally got the opportunity.

I also got some strange looks from people wondering what I was doing.  As I’m sure lots of you know, this is an occupational hazard when you’re into photography, particularly the kind of photography where you’re using your own vision and awareness to see things that other people miss.  I’ve got used to the embarrassment factor now, and mostly feel sad that people miss so many of these visual pleasures.  I always did notice things that others didn’t, but photography took that ability and expanded it tenfold.  This has been one of its greatest gifts to me, and I can’t imagine life without it now.

I couldn’t decide which of several shots to post, so I thought I’d include a couple of other favourites as well.

Tree shadows on blinds, Newark Library, Notts

Tree shadows on blinds, Newark Library, Notts

 

52 trees – week twenty-seven

Tree shadowNot a very big tree this week, but it counts, I think. I liked the way the shadow of the picket fence leads you to the tree, and how the electrical cable on the right somehow works to balance the whole thing out.

Life feels very full at the moment – I haven’t been out much with my camera, and what pictures I have been taking all seem to be of water reflections (which I’m rather obsessed with right now).  However, it looks like the busyness is beginning to slow down a little, so I’m hopeful that this week will see me with a little time to play.

And play is what I need right now.  I have all sorts of things I’d like to try photographically, including a technique usually referred to as ‘in the round’.  It involves taking a series of pictures while moving 360 degrees round the subject, then combining these afterwards to give a very painterly, impressionist effect.  If you want to see some examples, or read a bit more about it, there’s a great article on Stephen D’Agostino’s site.  I’m pretty sure it’s a lot harder than it looks, but if I have any success with it I’ll be putting the results on here.

I’d also like to do more with Intentional Camera Movement, experiment with pinhole, and spend some time with my Lensbaby, among other things.  It won’t all happen, of course, but perhaps some of it will.  Finally there’s some spring colour around, and that wonderful haze of green that appears just before the trees come fully into leaf.  It’s all so much more inspiring than the grey days we’ve had for so long, and I’m longing to get out there.