Wednesday, 30 June 2010


There is another thing that some photographers are good at: Anticipation.

Knowing that something is going to happen and preparing yourself to catch it with your camera. Of course this is not always the way but for the thinking photographer there are loads of things that can be anticipated: the weather, the light, the season, things that are scheduled or as in the case of these pictures, things that naturally follow on from one another...

This is 'Mist' my son's cat, personally I believe him to be solar powered since he spends so much of his time recharging himself in sunny places.

He is very friendly and loves human contact but after a while he will get a little feisty. Then, if you persist he will do his utmost to disembowel your hand.

Without the knowledge of this sequence of predictable events it would be difficult to catch these moments. I don't profess to have taken great pictures but they illustrate a point...

Part of being a better photographer is planning, planning what you need to take with you to ensure that you are able to get the pictures you want. Planning not just the equipment and materials but also the ideas - and I don't mean that you have to know exactly what you are going to come home with but that you should have an idea of what you hope to achieve.

And finally - if you want to photograph a cat like Mist - Take plenty of Elastoplast.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

My Pylon Challenge

There are all sorts of reasons to do photography, it can be a record of something that has happened or a place you have been, it can show how something is done, or how it shouldn't be done. Often it is a way of capturing the essence of a person or a thing, either in isolation, or more editorially in an appropriate environment. Photography can also be an end in its own right - art? Well I wouldn't always say so but sometimes...

I really enjoy taking pictures, I like the way that the photographic process translates the ideas I have in my head into a 2 dimensional representation. My experience helps me to exploit the medium so that the pictures I take do not look like simple records but look instead like photographs. A good friend of mine has recently taken some very interesting landscapes which contain, as a fairly major feature, electricity pylons. I really like the pictures (and hope that I will be able to show some in my Gallery soon) and in a spirit of 'homage' I though I would shoot a few pylons myself. It is absolutely clear to me that your choice of subject matter is not the important thing in photography. The important thing is the way you approach the subject.

A pylon is not a beautiful thing, it is very utilitarian and usually placed in a location that would be vastly enhanced by its removal. However they do have a strange graphic interest and can, if photographed with a little imagination make very interesting pictures. These two pictures were taken using a Holga 35BC (Black Corner) camera - which I think does justice to the subject pretty well. The pylon was in a field just along the road from my house, a field inhabited by 2 young horses who seemed to have a keen interest in photography and kept nudging me while I tried to get the framing just how I wanted it.

There are some more of this set (including a couple featuring the horses) in the gallery on

I don't have a 'thing' about pylons, I have a thing about photography, setting yourself a challenge can take you to places you might not otherwise go, to photograph things you might otherwise ignore. Whatever your challenge it is also likely to throw up additional problems that you had not envisaged - in my case a pair of inquisitive horses - it is resolving these problems and coming home with the picture 'in the can' that makes photography such a wonderful thing to be involved in.

(As usual, the pictures here are 'as shot' I have used Photoshop to adjust the contrast, as I would have in the darkroom in the past, and added a little sharpening to make the pictures work at this size on screen. The vignetting is a feature of the camera and has not been altered. Shot on Lucky SHD100 135-36 and developed in Rodinal)

Monday, 14 June 2010

A Pic Up the Backside

I try not to repeat myself too much in my blog but the post this morning brought me two unsolicited pieces of mail that made me so mad I couldn't resist.

Along the lines of my blog "Fauxlaroid" a few weeks back regarding the enduring charm of the format of a polaroid print, the post contained two examples that show how badly the format can be misused.

The first is for a curry by phone service based not far from where I live, 'Dial-a-Curry' offer the opportunity to 'supercharge your tastebuds' - a great pity then that the designer of their leaflet should have had so little taste... Maybe he had had a few too many Cobra Beers! The 6 'fauxlaroids' seem to have several different formats, in some the chemical pouch is bigger than others and on one seems not to be square. Given that there is such a wide precedent for this use of images I really think that designers could do better...

However, the next one really takes the biscuit! This is a page out of the Aylesbury Vale and County Times, a free info magazine distributed to residents of Aylesbury Vale. In this issue there is a touching piece about a group of young people with special needs being taken on a trip to Finland - to an outdoor activity centre. The piece is wonderfully upbeat about the achievements of the participants. Shame about the achievement of the designer then - The pictures used to illustrate the article are a montage of three photos taken during the stay - overlaid on a scan of the back of an SX70 print! Where the black square would be! Not even centered! Oh dear, I think the designer has given himself a pic up the backside...

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Slow Photography

I cannot claim to have thought of this first because a quick 'Google' comes up with other mentions but I did arrive at this idea independently... What we need is a 'Slow Photography' movement.

To be pedantic, the 'Slow Food' movement, which prompted this idea, derives its name from the fast food industry and photography doesn't have a 'fast' - what it does have though is an 'unthinking'...

QED - we need a 'Thinking Photography' movement.

What I am getting at is to do with having more involvement in the results of your photography, right from the start, from when you choose your camera, your film (or ISO speed - because this goes for digital photography too) and the focal length of lens before you take a picture, choosing an aperture and speed during the picture taking and deciding how best to process and present the pictures you have taken.

The more you do this the easier it becomes and the more instinctive. It does not necessarily mean that taking pictures takes a long time, but each time you stop to think about what your photographic choices are you significantly increase the chances of getting the picture that you thought you would.

Of course 'slow photography' means other things too, these pictures were all taken with pinhole cameras, the first two with a 6x12 Zero Image camera, a beautiful wooden camera with brass fittings from a range available from my website the other two were taken with a Holga 6x12 Wide Pinhole, a less beautiful but still very effective camera; also available from Minutefilm. Pinhole photography slows you down in several ways:

It takes time to calculate the exposure

The exposures take time...

You have to carry a tripod and set the camera up carefully

Framing takes longer because you don't have a viewfinder


However, the difficulties that the process throws up are precisely what make pinhole photography such fun (that and the eerie look of all that depth of field). There is another thing though, pinhole photography highlights an important photographic truth, which is that with photography you do not capture an instant on film, you capture a period. Manipulating the period is one of the most powerful choices available for anyone engaged in 'Thinking Photography'