Inside Thirlstane Arch | PT.II of II | 35:Chronicle

35mm, black & white, infrared, personal, photography

Overseeing? | Internal Dialogue.


Eddie Van Halen once answered (while being interviewed for a famous rock magazine in the 80s) a question as to his playing style, most specifically, his soloing techniques. As I recall, he explained that when he constructs solos – he likened it to “falling helplessly down a long staircase but landing on my feet”. The reason I mention this, is because though I imagined this post to just be another few images of what some might see as ‘just another rock’, I have ended up writing… stuff. A ramble, if you like. I just hope that by the end of it, I also land on mine; and though I have little sense of thought-structure right now, the top of the staircase is in full and daunting view and, I am left feeling as though my shoes are on the wrong way round, laces untied.

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IV | 35mm – 720nm Infrared.

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When it comes to a scene, where compositional possibilities are somewhat limited (either by subject, angle, light or, our own abilities) what would be the point in taking  just one or two frames and walking away? If a scene makes me buzz, I hang around – explore it, and keep shooting. Not for the sake of it, though. There’s nothing more tedious than going through the editing process later, and knowing that 75% of my frames are destined for the bin before I’ve even begun looking  at them. Spray and pray? Not my style, at all. So, purposeful engagement with a pleasing subject, loaded with potential compositional snaggery (I don’t believe this is actually a word but, it works for me) can often be beautifully rewarding. Impatience has no place here. Instead, time, exploration, looking, seeing and the changing of shooting techniques (and yes, different wavelengths too) – are all keys to finding a different view of what, on first appearance to the human eye, might have been quite – normal. Unremarkable, even. Like a rock, perhaps.

Without direction, by perhaps explaining just why, what or how I saw or appreciated any given composition, I prefer instead to not influence a pattern of thought in a viewer and allow elements to come to the fore – or not, for that person. As you are reading this too, for you. Should not the very initial dialogue between the image and the seer, be internal? Seeing is a very personal thing, isn’t it? Whether you might (or, not) see what I see, or saw – is of little consequence to me personally and though this probably sounds dismissive, arrogant, cold or selfish, even, this would be as far from the truth of it as the stars must be. The freedom to perceive is the right of one and, the only wish I have is that you’ll enjoy even some of my frames, in whatever ways you see them. When someone, anyone, says to me that something I have seen resonated with them also has to be the biggest compliments I can imagine, and yet, often, I will hear or read words suggesting that something that I didn’t see – did the same thing. And so I keep learning to ‘see’ more effectively. By listening, too, I learn to look. The reason I mention any of this comes from my own internal dialogues of late; the ones that ask me to answer questions – begging answers in explanation as to why I do this in this first place. 

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V | 35mm – VIS.

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Before I attempt to answer my own question(s) I must explain though, as the idea for this particular post seemed to be a natural sequel to my previous, my first few frames from Thirlstane, there were to be no paragraphs, no sentences, no stringing together of words – at all. I figured that all that I wanted to say was already written in PT.I. The introduction and the conclusion. Still, as others have also poignantly written, sometimes the words come when we least expected them to and, other times, we ache to write something, stare at a blank screen and poke our brains for what feels like mini-aeons, and – nothing comes out from the fingertips. Whatever the intention, the reality of creativity seems to seek itself out and, as a conduit for whatever is or isn’t inside us, we do or we just – don’t. I think it’s as simple as that.

Conscious creativity seems to me, the very hardest part of making images. I don’t know if I’m answering my own questions but the nearest I can get to concluding why I shoot, think and continue to explore photography is the simple knowledge that I do not believe I’ve made all that I can make. I haven’t seen my best photograph because I haven’t made it yet. I haven’t explored the full possibilities of what my own limitations will allow me to see and make, with light and shadow. Though I search, sometimes painfully consciously for creativity, it seems to me that when I just relax with it, don’t push myself to make anything happen, instead just capturing what I see, trusting what I do know and being relaxed with variables – even by accident and not even thinking about every single element, I find ridiculous amounts of enjoyment in seeing a moment; and then, feeling the camera in my hand, stealing it.

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VI | 35mm – VIS.

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Not for recognition, not for the struggle or competition, not for anything else except the pure enjoyment, the passion, the constant pre-excitation – for discoveries; and, being able to share it. What is a picture without anyone there to look inside it?  

Perhaps I’ve just landed? Only you know the answer to that one.

R.

[Frames V & VI: X100T | Frame IV: X100 720nm Conversion]
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Ricoh GR | You Can Call Me – ‘Jack’ | 35:Chronicle

black & white, close-up, colour, full-spectrum, Indoor, infrared, landscape, macro, nature, night / low-light, personal, photography, review, ruins, structures

Photographic ‘Mechano‘? | A Few More Nuts & Bolts.


Two very special cameras have made up the mainstay of my shooting arsenal over the past eight years; the Fujifilm X100 (the debut, the ‘S’ and, the ‘T’) and, the Ricoh GR (also, the GR II). The model numbers don’t really make much of a difference to me because it’s all about how they allow me to work when I’m making pictures. Furthermore, my joy of them has nothing to do with button layouts, menu-order, online reviews, or much else either. It’s really all about the ability to carry a portable, capable and an ever more familiar set-up that produces very workable digital negatives shot through focal-lengths that I prefer the most. Shooting with shorter focal lengths has been my passion for a good number of years now, ever since I made the decision to give up on larger systems and telephoto lenses. That decision itself came from a notion that being out of range didn’t make me a better photographer at all – it wasn’t brave and, I always felt like I was on the outside looking in, instead of immersed in the process. That’s why I ditched the longer lenses. Simple. I wanted to learn more about photography and could no longer find satisfaction from picking-off frames from a distance – no matter how attractive I found focal-plane-to-background separation. The change was swift and, sharp.

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I. | Sir Duncan Rice Library Building – University of Aberdeen.

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After a few years with the Fuji-X I wanted something a little smaller for my pocket, for those days we all hanker for at one time or another – when we can grab the shots without carrying the bag as well; not a replacement as such, but a complement to my existing camera(s). By that time, I was completely hooked on shorter focal-lengths, the immersive experience of making pictures with them and that was when I bit the proverbial bullet on a GR – a camera that has been in my bag or my pocket for almost six years, no matter what else I have been shooting alongside it. Now, you may think that this is going somewhere a little bit too romantic and, you might be right. You see, out of every piece of equipment I have ever shot with over the last twenty-plus years, Ricoh’s GXRs and GRs have been my absolute favourite to use. The GR however, (even for all of the APS-C variants of the GXR) – tops the lot. I have no issue with admitting that the GR is (digitally speaking) the best, most customisable, usable camera with which I have ever made pictures. But the oddity in all of this is that – it just got even better. I’m not talking of anything Ricoh has done to it or, for it. It’s simply that as well as my standard model, I now have another, converted to split-spectrum with an internal 450nm filter. This might not sound like a big deal (especially if you’re more a colour enthusiast or just not a fan of black and white photography) but bear with me, and you’ll see that it actually – is.

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II. | Kinclair Viaduct.

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My first foray into split-spectrum and true full-spectrum happened when I had received a converted A16 unit for my old GXR a few years ago and, with that one unit, I was able to reduce issues of low-light black and white photography and shoot any alternative wavelengths that I chose to – usually near-infrared around the 720nm mark. In truth, my main love for a split-spectrum converted camera lies in the ability for me to choose different IR wavelengths as my base, when shooting, though primarily, I stick to 720nm (give or take around 20-30nm) – as I have done for the last twelve or so years. But it’s lovely to have the latitude when it’s needed. If any of you browsed through my images of St.Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, late last year, you will notice, if you look, the clear benefits of shooting indoors with a split or full-spectrum converted camera as, such a set-up effectively doubles the shutter speed because the amount of wavelengths and subsequently, available light, is also doubled. For this kind of photography, black and white is really the only option (unless you’re into really funky colours and peculiar white-balance) and if you’re happy with this, you’d be even happier at the reduced (or complete absence of) camera / motion blur in your shots, not to mention the huge amounts of extra detail in the blacks and shadows.

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III. | St. Gile’s Cathedral – Edinburgh [Full Spectrum – Handheld].

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Now, a small admission. Originally, when I started drafting this post, my intention was to write some kind or report or, review, about my newest acquisition in the 450nm GR. But as that camera is only half of my story, I have decided to be more – general and, as my title suggests, I do consider the GR to be the most customisable camera I have ever had the pleasure of getting my hands on. The mere fact that I now have two of them, both set-up in completely different ways, for alternative shooting requirements, will bear this out. The fact that I have most of the accessories available for them, is also a factor in their importance in much of my work because, by and large, I don’t go in for huge amounts of add-ons for my gear and, prefer to keep weight down instead. But as weight is not really an issue with a camera so compact, I allowed myself to indulge in order to make them as useful as possible, to me. As well as both cameras, one standard and one converted, I also have three GH-3 filter adapters. On one, I have the IR 720nm filter, on another – a C-PL and on the third, a +10 close-up filter for a little extra macro. Having each filter mounted on separate adapters allows me to very quickly swap-out filters between cameras with just a click & twist. Obviously, the R72 filter adapter only gets exchanged with the +10 if I’m going to choose close-up work in IR or split-spectrum, but the C-PL can be swapped out for either of the other two, because as I have discovered, the standard GR set-up is also receptive to IR wavelengths with no hot-spotting, giving the shooting process a natural ND sequence. So, for long exposure IR imagery, the standard GR handles infrared rather well indeed. (I will do my best to show this as artistically as I am able, during the summer). With the addition of the GW-3 wide lens (which is pretty special, I must say) I can add a 21mm repertoire to each set-up at will, with custom functions set for (35mm) crop-mode and conversion-lens use, on each camera; not to mention the ability to set each of the unit’s three custom modes, for different set-ups. The fact that I love the GR’s output is the reason I shoot with it in the first place but, coupled with its mechano-like, Swiss Army-Knife tendencies – I really don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything for wide shooting, or – much else, for that matter.

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IV. | Bluebell.

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Of late, I have found myself preferring 4:3 output straight from the camera and have noted a benefit to this also, in post. The GR’s lens has a certain amount of natural light fall-off (vignetting) in the corners (especially when shooting at its native 28mm with front-mounted filters) and shooting at 4:3 reduces this somewhat unappealing effect by cropping out the far-lateral sides of the sensor. Added to the fact that 35mm is my preferred focal-length, this internal crop-mode when utilised alongside the 4:3 option, reduces fall-off further, while still providing me with a fairly respectable 9mp RAW file for processing, minus the rather noticeable fall-off. Again, many quick functions are simple and quick to set-up and I also have a ratio option on my adjust lever as well as 28/35mm crop on the effects button at the side of the camera. There’s not really a whole lot more that I can say of the 450nm converted camera, per se – it is what it is and as long as it’s raison d’etre is realised and understood, it’s an extremely useful tool for low-light, indoor photography where crushed blacks aren’t desired but organic detail is. For me – it’s there for IR in the main. But that’s just me. I still need my bag, of course – but even so it weighs next to nothing and, my bases are all covered.

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V. | Church Ruin [720nm Infrared].

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The GR has mostly been heralded as the ideal street camera to have, and I will not argue this. But what has not been extolled, as far as I am able to discover for myself, is that it can do so much more than street-photography; decent macro (with or without external filter assistance), landscape, environmental, urban exploration, and even alternative wavelength, I don’t think there’s much this thing can’t do. I have probably harped on enough now about this camera but I so want anyone who is truly interested, to know just how much a little camera can do in hands attached to a mind that wants to truly explore photographic possibilities.

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VI. | Horse-Chestnut [Sticky] Bud.

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The GR III is soon to be released in the UK (note: this post was published in early March 2019) – and I know right now that I won’t be buying one at any time in the near future. The main reason that I keep my Fujis is because of their handling, their viewfinders and the lovely files that I get to make with them. Insosaying, (because its screen can be rather hard to see in sunlight) if the new GR had been designed and built with a finder (a la pop-up EFV on Sony’s RX100 MK3 and onwards) then I doubt that the X100/IR or the ‘T’ would get much handling. If the GR III is as good as it’s going to get, then I’m sorry Ricoh- you already got it bang-on with the first one – nuts, bolts, the lot. And I’m not moving. I mean, what would be the point?

R.
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2018 Photographic Review | 35:Chronicle

28mm, 35mm, 50mm, black & white, boats, close-up, colour, faux-colour, Indoor, infrared, landscape, macro, nature, personal, photography, review, skies, spring, structures, trees, waterscape

One Hundred to One.


Seeing as how this post happens to be my one hundredth, it’s actually ninety-nine into one . Since I began this blog back in March, I have also enjoyed the works and posts of so many of you and, if there could be more hours in a day, there would be many more besides, too, providing me with no less enjoyable learning, entertainment or, food for thought. I have also, over the last ten months, hoped to provide some interest in the field of photography, my own takes from various genres of our art-form which I feel so passionate about. Without the love for it, the desire to (hopefully) create something a little different on occasion or, the discipline to stay true, it’s all for nothing. Insosaying, I hope with all the passion that I have for various genres of photography, that my sincerity is not only intact but also, perhaps more importantly, unmistakably evident.

As this year now tick-tocks on to draw its last, making way for the next, I would like not only to thank you most sincerely for your input, your comments, clicks, follows and conversations, but to wish every one of you a very happy New Year for 2019. Your presence here is just as important as my own works, because without a reader, a word or a picture – would be pointless. Therefore, if you will forgive my indulgence, I would like to share with you all just some of my favourite frames from this inaugural year on 35:Chronicle.  I truly hope that you will enjoy them.

Wishing you all wonderful celebrations and, much happiness from the coming year.

Warmest regards,

Rob. 

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Snowdrops | 35mm.

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Telford Woz ‘Ere! | 720nm Faux-Colour Infrared | 35mm.

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Double-Masted | 720nm Infrared | 35mm.

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Bluebell | 35mm.

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Broom | 35mm.

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Milkbank House Ruins | 760nm Infrared | 28mm.

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Talla Reservoir | 760nm Infrared | 28mm.

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Talla’s Monitoring Station | 720nm Infrared | 50mm.

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How the Other Half Live | 720nm Infrared | 35mm.

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Sir Duncan Rice Library | University of Aberdeen | 28mm.

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Moonrise | 720nm Infrared | 85mm.

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Grandeur | 35mm.

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Happy New Year 2019, to You All!

R.


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Something to Believe | Glasgow | 35:Chronicle

black & white, personal, photography, structures

Reflective Practise | A Personal Narrative.


During a wander along the Clyde towards Glasgow Green, just past the Jamaica Bridge, I came across these two buildings. I stopped, of course. While the traffic buzzed past me and people nudged against my arm as if to criticise me for standing still, for not going with the flow like everyone else, I stood. Still. As I looked left then right, taking in each structure, silly questions entered my head, such as, I wonder if the city’s planning department sanctioned the building of one to complement the other, in some perverse way? Coming from a conservation area myself, local councils would seldom allow the building of one that didn’t in some way fit-in with the buildings nearby and then I wondered, was the glass building perhaps some kind of reminder? An existential nudge to passers-by?

Religion is not a part of my life and never has been, at least not since my infant school told me that I was C of E – I wasn’t; only, the son of C of E parents for, at five years of age I knew nothing of the concept of religion. Still, I have grown up always wanting to be not only aware of my limitations but, also of my potential. Like the implied good, reflecting back at me. As a result, I began to wonder again, as if to confirm my thoughts that, no matter how well we think we’re doing, we can always be better. Reflect and, project.

Now that, is something in which I can definitely believe.

R.

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I.

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II.

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Back-lit Orchids | 35:Chronicle

black & white, close-up, colour, Indoor, nature, personal, photography

Is Three Really a Crowd?


Okay – forgive me, please! This is my third post on-the-bounce of the same photographic subject. I promise, I really was not intending to rip the arse out of this, however, the host plant from my last two posts was happily perched on my living-room window-sill, soaking up some of that gorgeous, bright stuff this afternoon – and, I just couldn’t resist a few casual frames of this beautiful plant. (Oddly, I have made some frames in colour today, that I am actually pretty happy with. Who’d have thunk it?!)

I’ll probably not be able to post again until almost the middle of next week, therefore, I’ll leave you with this smidgen of sunshine and, wish you all a fabulous weekend! 

R.

I.

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II.

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III.

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[To view other posts in my recent series, please click the ‘orchid’ tag].

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‘Between Moments | PT.III | 35:Chronicle

35mm, black & white, personal, photography

A Protracted Hiatus, Perhaps?

It’s so very seldom that I should take such a long break from posting and, for this, to my regular readers and followers, I do apologise. In truth, in my silence, I have been giving much thought to future potential projects and, have also been working with some new equipment. I’m still feeling my way and, considering creative options, but my attention has not been as stagnant or motionless as my right foot might suggest. To all of you who read and enjoy my posts, I appreciate and thank you hugely for your patience with me. I hope to extend that, new things are  potentially (ahem!) afoot. 

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No Raw Neglect? | 35mm f1.8.

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Three Little Steps | 35:Chronicle

black & white, colour, personal, photography

… To the Light.


I. | Twist & Open.

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II. | Open & Lean Out.

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III. | Lean Out & – Breathe.

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Fading Casual Silence | 35:Chronicle

black & white, nature, personal, photography, waterscape

An Intermission.


These frames were, honestly, an afterthought. I didn’t come here to make any but it would have been utterly ridiculous of me not to. Sometimes, I just want to sit for a while and, look out. Think. Reflect. Figure it all out. Breathe. Even moments like these don’t require a dozen or more frames to preserve them in memory. On this grey and moody afternoon, I clambered across the rocks and looked out over the Solway. There was not a single person in sight anywhere around me – a real rarity. On this day, I was truly alone – whether usually a choice or not, on this day, it was what I needed. A tonic for the soul, as someone (far wiser than their own self-belief would have ever allowed them to admit) once said to me; and so, despite endless potential futures – all of them floating before me, directionless, like infinitesimally fine droplets of moisture carried almost weightlessly in the air, I was, for once, completely happy with that.

If this moment could be summed-up as a single, beautifully simple equation (where I=me & R=the rocks) it would be this:

(I+R) = 1.

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I. | 28mm.

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II. | 28mm.

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‘Between Moments | PT.II | 35:Chronicle

50mm, black & white, close-up, colour, macro, nature, personal, photography

(A Little More) Backyard Buffoonery.


Okay, nothing serious here – just a few frames I managed to snick from a mess-around this afternoon in the garden, with various Ricoh set-ups. 

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Waiting for the Bumble (that Never Showed) | GXR & 50mm (EFoV).

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An Unfolding Gladiolus | GXR & 50mm (EFoV).

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(For a Four-Legged Friend) Sweet William | GXR A16 & Hoya +10.

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Gladiolus | GXR A16 & Hoya +10.

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Thank you for visiting. If you would like updates, please click Follow. All Images & Posts © 35:Chronicle (2018, 2019) except where specified. No Copying or Redistribution of any kind is permitted without prior consent from the author, unless links to original work is clearly provided. 35chronicle@gmx.com 
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Closer Still(s) | PT.XI | 35:Chronicle

50mm, black & white, colour, macro, nature, personal, photography

Taking a Chill-Pill.


Heck, I can’t always take photography too seriously; without doubt it is and has been one of my biggest passions throughout the past twenty (plus) years of my life and, I dare say, by those who know me personally, I am known for it. But there’s another side to the seriousness of getting the image and that is, to simply get the camera out and just have a little fun with it – and to not worry or be so seriously preoccupied with perfect composition or, focus or, whatever else we look for. The truth told, I love to shoot freestyle, freehand, free-lensed and, I don’t do it anywhere nearly as often as I would like, and, I have been photographically rather lazy lately. I could make excuses about the weather or some-such, but I’d be spouting bollocks so, I’m not going to place a blame. I guess sometimes, we just need a little break from the – constant thinking? I don’t know if I am making any sense here but I promise, I’m not writing for the sake of it. 

For me, the real enjoyments of photography come from many aspects. It’s so engaging when you would want it to be, so technical in thought and deliverance at other times and yet, so passive and relaxing on occasion, too. Depending on any given genre, expectations, deadlines, or presenting difficulties, all are true. If you are yourself an enthusiast, you will know this already. But at the heart of every image is me, you, and how we see. I love to look; and see; and interpret; and steal a frame. What I don’t love – is to always feel like I’m overthinking because then, at some uncertain, invisible point of effort, a line gets crossed and, I don’t always enjoy it so much – especially when that line is completely bulldozed. Indeed, on such occasions, I can take a whole load of shit and know that I have before I have even depressed the shutter. Yet I do it anyway – like shutter-finger Tourette’s  Syndrome (hereafter referred to as SFTS). Damn, I hate it when I do that because not least, I know I’m just going to spend more time at home, after upload, deleting the crud. 

Most often, I find that when I’m making shots for the fun of it, with no actual goal in mind, when I don’t care so much about focus, or content – I tend to make images that I like, nevertheless. In opposition, as we all have – I have put so much effort and thought into a particular shoot or subject and come away with so much utter crap, it could make me cringe at the knowledge that my own brain decided that that capture was a good idea. Really? 

With all of this preamble out of the way, I decided, with plenty of time to kill today and, though the weather was not playing ball (I was hoping to get a little more of a tan on my chrome-dome – uh… no!) – to faff around with my favourite body & prime combo and, make a few frames; just to see what I might come away with. No, given the images I have posted here, you’d be forgiven and absolved for thinking that I have actually been yapping on for the sake of it, because technically these images are not fabulous, or varied. They are indeed unimaginative, poorly composed, a tad soft, but do you know what? Today, I don’t care. Today, I made some photographs; and I like ’em! Moreover, I hope you will too. Yes, I shot close without a tripod – I was chilling

By the way, the first image in this post is great in colour, because it really looks to me like a camouflage-act and, it may have been, in the mind of the Hoverfly. I wasn’t going to post it in colour because I really do prefer the mono-shot (moreover because I have genuine dislike for the colour orange for some barmy reason that I can’t explain) – but I caved in, and have included it at the end of this post. You’ll see what I mean when you get there, if, that is, you haven’t nodded-off already. Okay – time to wake up. It’s picture time!) Thanks so much for reading and I hope you have a great week ahead. 

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Montbretia & Hoverfly | 50mm – Handheld.

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Montbretia | 50mm – Handheld.

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Camouflage? | 50mm – Handheld.

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[There’s a photographer in India called Rajeev Virmani – he makes some beautiful environmental flora photographs and I have to say, he has nowhere near enough followers for the work he puts in and puts out here on WP. Please, if you like the genre, do take a look at his images. He has an intimate and opportunistic approach that may well appeal to many. I don’t know him but I do love so many of his images. If you have a little time, you may enjoy a peek!]


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Barefoot in Bucharest? | 35:Chronicle

28mm, colour, personal, photography

Where Friends Once Met.


There is a cafe in Bucharest, the owners of which have a beautiful take on one forgetful aspect of their imbibing clientele. I know it is all too easy, on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, to kick-back with friends, lose the footwear and, just chill. A few drinks and a great time, feet, bare on the warm concrete underneath and, afterwards, a happy wander in any direction – maybe home; who knows? I wonder how long it might take for such a person to realise that they’re still barefooted? Nonetheless, those shoes found under tables, when unclaimed, are pinned to the walls outside. A reminder of those who have visited, or perhaps, just a novel way of keeping the floors clear? I don’t know – but it makes me smile every single time I see this photograph because it reminds me, of wonderful times. It’s from my archives, but I came across it again today and, simply couldn’t resist sharing. Have a great weekend! 

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Replay | Wall-Mounted Quality Goo… | 28mm

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Gear Talk: The Ricoh GXR | 35:Chronicle

28mm, 50mm, black & white, colour, infrared, landscape, nature, personal, photography, review, skies, structures, trees, waterscape

Why Your Gear is Important.


I suppose in a way, having spent so long shooting with it (certainly when compared to other systems that have taken space in my bag over the years) I do feel especially attached to my Ricohs. What follows is my account of what I firmly believe to be one of the most usable, tank-like, versatile, enjoyable, ugly and yet most rewarding cameras ever made, not so much a review or a user-guide (we’ve had nine years of those already) but a personal reflection about why I still shoot with it. Whether any of this is relevant, or, of interest to you or not – well, that’s for you to decide, but I think that in some way, this could be written about most of us, with few changes of context. 

[From the off, I just want to get something out there before I get into the meat of this thing – I have shot plenty of crap on every camera or system I have ever owned. The longer I do this, the less crap I produce. With that said, it’s more about you than your camera but – your choices do matter.]

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Gestation | GXR A12 33mm / 50mm FoV.

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Birth | GXR w/A12 33mm Macro.

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Concept versus Reality:

On the 10th November 2009, Ricoh (before they became Pentax-Ricoh) released a number of unique ideas, in an unusual form. The ideas were thus:

  • A camera body doesn’t have to contain a sensor.
  • A camera body only needs to house the controls, battery, card, the screen and, a pop-up flash.
  • A lens doesn’t have to mount from the front of the camera body – it can slide from the side.
  • A lens can also house a uniquely matched sensor behind it, making each new lens-unit unique.
  • Serious photographers (outside of the East Asian markets) would catch-on.

With respect to points 1-4, Ricoh were right. On point 5, however, they were hoping for a little too much. Sadly, I believe, this was a real shame. A massive shame for Ricoh and, also for many photographers and enthusiasts who either just didn’t get the idea, or, even worse, never even got to learn of its existence and hence, its capabilities as a bona-fide camera-system.

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Frankenstein’s Monster? | GXR w/A12 18.5mm [28mm FoV].

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The idea was dubbed ‘GXR’ – and I am one who was fortunate enough to have availed my camera-bag with one back in late 2010. As I recall, on first release, the GXR was hideously expensive. Around £400 for a body alone and just shy of £600 a-piece for the two APS-C lens units (the A12 50mm / 28mm units) – left a lot of people stumped, scratching their heads and justifying their not investing in this new system simply (and rightly) because for the kind of money Ricoh was asking, it was far cheaper to look at other systems of similar capability or, further invest in currently owned systems. For the most part of 2010, I was in the same camp and, reading the continuous streams of negative reviews, forum-comments and discussions at the time did nothing to persuade me to bite Ricoh’s new, if slightly oddly-conceived bullet. But in late 2010, prices began to fall, and, how they fell. Ricoh marketing has always been a total disaster in the West, so I guess this was always going to happen, but for a new system to plummet so harshly in such a short space of time after release was almost unheard of. By the end of 2010, the two APS-C lens units that were released on launch of the GXR could be had for as little as £300 each and stockists couldn’t do enough to offload them to the consumer. Suddenly, there started to be a little more interest. Internet posts (or rather the increasing number of more positive reviews and images from the GXR) bore this out and, bore it out solidly. However, the GXR was still not catching-on like many other popular system-cameras, especially here in the West. I began to wonder – why are ‘popular’ cameras so popular? What aspects of the product are people attracted to? It can’t all be just marketing, surely? I think – possibly, that the answers are pretty obvious. 

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There is Always a Limit | GXR A12 28mm [FoV].

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Want, versus Need.

As consumers, photographers, enthusiasts (we’re all of these) – we’re attracted to new ideas (so long as we understand them and they appear to have the abilities that might work more in our favour) and, how we do all love new equipment. We’re attracted to system-functionality too, and, the prospect of (over)expansion, the idea that we have the ‘next great-thing’, that people may even envy us for using our chosen system. We want to show it off, wear it like a badge, but why, I don’t know; to extract the best we can from it, show off our images and even find ourselves professing that we now shoot with the ‘one size fits all’ equipment and we’ll never trade-in again. (Oh, the fibs we tell our spouses – and, ourselves.) It’s tosh, but it’s a truth, too. Ask any system-fan. What we also love, are looks. How our camera looks to us has taken on a ridiculous and unfathomable importance – perhaps for the image that we want to create of ourselves and, display. At this point (and I get it, because for a long while, I was of the same mind, too) I now know that such perceptions are ridiculous. I know this, because I shoot the GXR still – as it approaches nine years since release. There has been a veritable myriad of newer, shinier, faster, more button/dial-tastic systems on the market since from a number of manufacturers (the usual big-named suspects) with much more money invested in effective marketing than Ricoh ever has. However, I always felt that, though the GXR was, aesthetically speaking, a rather unattractive camera-system, the idea of it was incredible and extremely clever (or, brave) of Ricoh; and so eight years ago, because quickly dropping prices gave me the opportunity to, I bought into it. To this day, I shoot with it and (perhaps in part because it’s still going strong and new GXR modules and system-parts are like hens’-teeth nowadays) I appreciate it more and more. I enjoy it so much that I still expand my GXR systems from time to time. But almost eight years of image making with this thing has given me an insight into what the process of photography, is all about.

Enjoyment.

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Approaching Light | GXR A12 28mm [FoV].

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How the GXR Helped Me to See [the] Light.

Now, this bit is really quite personal, but seeing as how there are many who get themselves into far, far worse positions and never climb out of them, I can write this. Since 2000, when I first began to shoot with digital cameras (after a number of years cutting my teeth with film) I have, like most of you, owned a lot of camera equipment and systems. If I listed it all here (what I can remember anyway) I would easily run into another half-hour of typing, so I’m not going to. Suffice to say that I have used full systems by Pentax, Canon, Leica, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Sigma, in vast numbers of body / lens configurations, not to mention a whole slew of ‘capable’ compacts for those days when I couldn’t be buggered to carry the big-rigs around with me. Like many of you again, I have spent way more than a small fortune (of my own money, I might add) on the stuff and, lost again through falling / plummeting re-sale values. It used to truly hurt if I thought about the numbers too much.

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The Crows | GXR A12 50mm [FoV].

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When at first I encountered a certain auction site on the then still fast-evolving internet, I was of the impression that it was rather handy to have a site where one could sell unwanted items and use the proceeds to buy something more desired, all in the same place. It was a new idea then and crikey didn’t it catch on? The web too, was as now, awash with endless images, information, reviews about every commercial product known to man and that made choice difficult. It also meant that whatever we had – we would always find something better very soon after our last big purchase. Given too that digital cameras largely become almost obsolete (tech-wise, I mean) very soon after release, because of newer technology or ‘features’ – it meant that many of us were like mice on a wheel. It’s knackering, in more ways than one. But my, how the negative margins widened over just a few unmonitored years, without my even realising it (until years later, when I inquisitively took a look at my statistical history, you know, just out of curiosity, then, I started to think about that dream car that I could have had, if only…). No matter. Eight years ago, I did just that. I looked at the numbers, shat myself copiously, realised that a done-deal was just that, shrugged my shoulders and decided, no more. At the same time, I also made myself think about and realise that what I wanted from a system was, to make pictures. Pictures that I was happy with and as part of a process that I actually enjoyed – and enjoyment was missing for me. This was after all, the only reason I was doing any of this at all. That said, I stopped chasing a ridiculous dream (of finding my ‘Holy Grail’ camera, so to speak) pulled myself out of the rut I’d got myself into and, got a little bit logical. I then did my research.

As so many of us have come to realise over the years of carrying around cameras, lenses, bags, tripods, all sorts of superfluous crap, that (we hoped) would make us look purposeful, experienced or whatever we wanted others to see of us as we go about our shooting, it comes to each of us that as enthusiasts or hobbyists, it’s a real pain in the backside carting so much weight about for hours and hours, especially when most of the stuff we were lugging around wasn’t even being used. So much so that it tarnishes the enjoyment of what could have been a fabulous trip, event, day or week, for the sake of a few photographs (a large portion of which would inevitably get uploaded, viewed on the big screen, grunted at and swiftly deleted). I mean, what’s the point? That’s when you realise it’s time to downsize and just shoot with what you have. All you need is a camera and a lens and, perhaps a spare battery. Invest wisely – and keep your investment. Learn you’re tools to the smallest detail and keep your rig to a minimum. Ah, salvation! If you have done the same, you know exactly as to what I’m referring. It’s a great feeling isn’t it? By the time I downsized, I sold off two DX Nikon bodies, a FF Nikon, around 5 pretty expensive Nikon lenses, flash units and studio lighting gear with a ton of ‘freebie’ extras thrown in to nudge each sale along. When all was sold, I probably realised no more than 65-70% of their collective resale value but it was more than enough to start over with a smaller but capable system. I’d done a shed-load of reading up on the GXR reviews and comments from all speculative and user angles and, I decided (with some reserve and trepidation) that this may be the right camera for me, for the image qualities that I hoped to see and, for the way that I shoot. I had the body and both A12 units at my door within a week of making my decision. (It was around this time that Fujifilm had announced the development of the X100. Alongside copious GXR reviews, I was avidly devouring anything I could find about Fuji’s new, ground-breaking offering too. All these answers to my prayers coming at once!) Anyway, I embraced the GXR almost instantly.

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Cherry Blossom | A12 50mm Macro.

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It has always had a charm, physically not that good-looking but extremely well laid-out, rugged and solidly built, a menu system that a photographer would instantly be at home with, a weight and finish that instils confidence and best of all – few pointless bells and whistles that other manufacturers call ‘features’. In other words, it has what counts to make pictures and doesn’t handle like a child’s portable computer-game with a lens on the front of it, like so many cameras do.

I was beginning to seriously enjoy this new freedom of not only having a much smaller system to carry with me, but also, the restrictions that shooting only two primes inevitably brings and, with that, a more thoughtful approach to shooting; more imagination and with that, more possibilities of ‘seeing’ in focal-lengths that I had deprived myself of for years, most notably, 28. I was never a wide shooter. I’m not sure I am now but I am certainly used to and happy with it when I’m photographing. Less is definitely more. The layout and customisability of the GXR also won me over quickly. Any relevant review will give you the skinny in this department so I’m not going to, but I am going to mention now, briefly, the image characteristics of the GXR with the A12 units. To do this, I am going to compare if I can, in words, the images from the GXR to those from a much newer, faster camera, which, until recently, I also owned and shot with for over two years – Fujifilm’s X-T1.

The X-T1’s files can be superb – but as I found out, only for certain subjects. But what I saw when I looked at the best shots I’d taken with it were either (squeaky) clean, crisp, faultless images or, utter mush. So, when I say – can be, I do mean that. As a RAW shooter I found skin-tones of jpegs from the X-T1 very ‘waxy’ or ‘plastic’ looking often, which is another reason I shoot RAW, because this character only appears in the X’s jpegs. Still, properly focused and exposed foliage would present as horrible mush even in the RAWs. But this isn’t an X review or a bashing either. What I saw besides crispness and cleanness in the Fuji’s files were images with a lack of lens character. It was all just a bit too perfect which, is a testament to how well Fuji build their lenses and, a sadness at the generic appearance to digital images from most modern camera systems now judging only personally from what I’ve shot with over many years. I also blame the countless reviewers who verbally pray for ever more image perfection from the manufacturers. When I wanted perfect reproduction under conditions at which I knew that it would excel, I would reach for the X-T1 every time. When I want character though, I always reach for the GXR. As such, my GXR was still my main system, and now, it is my only system. (I shoot a GR alongside it or, if I am not wanting to cart any bags at all, the GR fills in nicely all on its own). It produces images with a certain filmic quality, sharp but not bitingly so, a grain that pleases as it increases with film speed (ISO / ASA) right up to 1600 (which is as high as I shoot with any camera) but there’s a warmth to the GXR files that relates not to tone or colour or balance – but a certain something I have never been able to put my finger on. But it’s there. There’s no ‘Ricoh’ look (besides, I think the sensors in the A12 units were made by SONY) – it’s just a quality that speaks to me when I see it. A quality that I love. As for the lenses, the A12s are painfully slow by modern standards and very noisy, especially the 50/2.5 Macro, but as one who doesn’t rush when I shoot, that’s perfectly fine with me. The corners and edges can sometimes be a little soft but I really don’t care; I try to concentrate around the centre of the frame anyway. There is no image-stabilisation, in-lens or otherwise, and actually, I like that. It makes me think harder about what it is that I’m doing. Simple. No excuses or concessions for poor technique, either.

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On the Rocks | GXR w/A16 [24-85mm FoV] at 24mm.

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As well as the two A12 units, Ricoh also developed and released the A12 Mount, onto which M mount lenses can be fixed and I have used this too with a few different lenses. It’s a fabulous piece of kit to use but in the interests of keeping my gear to a minimum, I don’t use or even have the mount any more. I do hanker for it every now and then because the image qualities attainable with various legacy glass are wide and wonderful. The two small-sensor units though (the S10 and the P10) are largely useless to me, certainly as far as IQ, anyway. The larger sensor units are what makes this camera an absolute must in my bag. Even the A16 24-85mm is a bit of a corker when it comes to IQ and set-up ability.

The set-up I’m using now is similar to a few years ago when I was using two of the three Sigma DP Merrills. Namely, the DP2M & DP3M. The GXR at that time was consigned to a drawer while I evaluated the Merrills and, whilst I loved the concept of taking two small fixed prime lens cameras and nothing else, I couldn’t get on with the DP2M focal-length. I don’t know why by I didn’t gel with it at all. The DP3M on the other hand, I loved from the start, but the limitations of shooting at a maximum of ISO 200 hampered me some, 400 at an absolute push (and then I’d have to have been desperate for the frame) therefore, I traded them. Currently, in my main bag I carry only a GR and two GXRs. I’m in the process of re-working my bag though, so at some point, I’ll fill in on new additions and / or subtractions. As brilliant as the GR is (it’s made a huge amount of frames over the past few months, mainly using the internal 35mm crop-mode at the expense of a few MPs) I still prefer the GXR with the A12s. Like the GR, it is possible to set-up the custom settings (MY1,2,3) for different MF distances and apertures making zone-focusing and freelensing an absolute breeze. No need for snap focus either – instant shooting with no lens shift at all. Monochromes from the Ricohs are adjustable and consistently wonderful too. Just to get this out there as well, the GXR has a really neat trick when it comes to Auto ISO. On no other camera have I seen this: go into the menu and set the Auto ISO to 1600 (with whatever change-over shutter-speed you like). Now, instead of the camera auto-bumping up the ISO in the usual increments (100 to 200, 200 to 250, or 640 to 800, for example) it actually increases the ISO in increments of 1. Yes, you read that correctly. It will only bump the ISO by as much as needed to maintain your fastest possible shutter-speed (and best possible IQ) and as a result, you may, as I have, find that the GXR shoots at ISOs of for example, 201, 387, 1004, 1234; any number you can think of, really. So, whilst the GXR doesn’t have the IQ of more modern systems (which I am largely glad about) – it does make the very most of what it has for the benefit of the one behind the camera. This is probably my most favourite feature of the GXR. I do wish that it was a feature of the GR but sadly – it isn’t. Nonetheless, the feature itself comes across as a real ‘cock-a-snook’ to any and all other camera companies. It really bloody works.

That Ricoh had continued to develop the GXR instead of abandoning it is another wish that I have always harboured. The fact that they didn’t only makes it more special but how I wish they would pick up the baton again. Yes, it has a kind of cult status – but even that will die as time moves forward. But I’ll still be shooting with mine until it dies on me. It may not look like much, but when I wanted a camera that was aimed at photographers, the GXR delivered and, still delivers for me.

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Candlelight | A12 Mount w/Voigtlander Nokton 40mm 1.4 Classic SC

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Not long after the GXR and the A12s were released, Steve Huff made a comment about it on his site saying something like “If a camera can make good images now, it will still make good images in years to come, no matter what new tech arrives in the future.” I subscribe to the very same thought and, after years of keeping up with modern camera-tech – I have stopped because I just want my camera to make pictures. Pictures that I am happy with, from a system that I enjoy using, that actually inspires me to shoot and, can work the way that I do. It’s not quick, it’s not quiet, it’s not pretty, however – it’s a perfect fit for my hands, works the way I want it to, it’s built like a brick shit-house and, consistently produces the goods.

Not bad, for an ugly ol’ thing… 

 

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A Bridge too Far? (Not Likely!) | 35:Chronicle

35mm, black & white, landscape, personal, photography, spring, structures, trees

Kinclair Viaduct | Pinmore.


When I say that I consider my 35 to be the lens for life, I mean exactly this. For all aspects of life. I suppose that the same could be said of any pass-time or endeavour whereby the passage of time and (or) memories are recorded and, here, with my one prime, again, I have both. It’s wide enough to see and record the periphery of the life in front of us, yet narrow enough to preserve the little details there too; I honestly don’t know where I would be without my thirty-fives. 

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I. | The House Under the Bridge.

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II. | Nine of Eleven.

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These images are from the second time I ever saw this structure; I drove a round-trip of over 200 miles specifically to photograph it. I had the itch, and just one free day to go and so, whatever the weather was to be, I would capture it. That is why, during mid-morning, I packed a waterproof jacket, my camera gear, some lunch, a flask of coffee and an extra pack of cigarettes, and set off to Pinwherry and, just north, to Pinmore.

The first time I ever saw this structure I was heading home on a gorgeous late afternoon. The sight of it took me completely by surprise  and, passing under this incredible viaduct, (eleven arches in all) I scanned frantically for a place to park whilst conscious of the BMW behind me, the driver doing their best to attempt to ‘push’ me along and around the ever present s-bends. Failure to find a suitable stopping point was inevitable and all that I could do was to marvel at the enormity of the thing as it vanished steadily, behind me in my side-mirrors. I vowed that I would go back.

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III. | Ten of Eleven.
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IV. | From the South.

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On my return, I noted a few things to myself. One, there is only one space at the roadside anywhere near here, big enough to park the car off the road and, good luck finding it empty if I should return; two, in spring and summer, the trees are so thick and tall as to almost hide this structure from the roadside, probably until late autumn (so I shall head back then, too or perhaps even during winter); three, from ground-level it is so difficult to appreciate just how majestic and huge this viaduct is and so, I shall need to find higher-ground when I return to Pinmore, which I will. From closer distances, the stonework can be better appreciated, for certain, and, though the light was occasionally tricky, I still, on review, enjoy the vantage-point. Even though I did have to quickly jump into the roadside scrub to avoid being mowed down, I didn’t feel rushed – just a little, half-there. Higher vantage points were scarce however, and, that’s really where I wanted to be, despite the fact that it is an amazing feeling to even stand beneath one of these high arches. 

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V. | From the North.

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Land-Escapery | PT.I | 35:Chronicle

35mm, black & white, landscape, nature, personal, photography, trees

Snapped.


It took me a lot of years to find my way into making landscape photographs. The main reason for my late arrival to the genre was purely one of my own perceived inadequacy at being able to capture any two images that didn’t look the bleedin’ same. Perceived or not – I found it extremely difficult to produce images that were either pleasing to me or, worthy of showing to anyone at all, ever. However, someone once told me that we always want what we can’t have and, maybe because I had so much difficulty with capturing landscapes, I tried even harder to do so.

The first few years was a struggle, much like when I decided (rather foolhardily, many years ago), to take up golf – and I actually did end-up snapping my driver in acceptance of the futility of it all).  I don’t really know what happened in my head (we’re back on photography now – forget the golf-thing) but there came a point where it started to make some sense and I have enjoyed the genre ever since. Though I’m far from where I want to be, creatively, I enjoy it now, more than ever, which is good because I really don’t fancy trying to snap any of my cameras in ‘alf!

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Distant Mist.

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Home.

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Home w/Double-Rainbow.

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A Little Bit of Delicate | 35:Chronicle

35mm, black & white, close-up, colour, nature, personal, photography, spring

[…and a Smidgen of Rustic]


Okay, so I have been completely lazy here. With little by way of an agenda today, I spent my time titivating the garden and enjoying a little more sunshine, while we’re fortunate enough to have some. (Good weather for six days straight has to be some kind of a record in the UK but, I’m loving it). As the afternoon wound down, I followed suit soon after and, took another appreciative look around this little corner of my world. I never tire of its rusticness, the ever present multi-layered birdsongs, the sound of the brook just past the front of the house and from the outskirts of my garden on two sides, there’s plenty of attractive woodland with, among many others, tall pines audibly filtering the occasional breeze and straining the sunlight. I decided to grab my camera, to take a short stroll and, make a few frames before the light dipped for the day. 

There’s no real artistic merit here – just a small handful of hand-held grab-shots, still, it’s a lot less predictable than, ‘Dear Diary, Today, I did next to bugger all except to sit on my arse!‘. Besides, simply capturing life is exactly what I’m loving about sticking with one focal-length and just – going with it. It’s a lot more liberating than I’d ever imagined it would be, in more ways than one. 

(And, no – I’m not a Walton, but, on days like today – there sure is no place like home!)

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I. Beneath Filtered Rays.

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II. The Loner.

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III. Almost in the Shade.

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IV. Potted…

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