2017: photography reboot

Happy New Year!

The proposed 365v2 idea was abandoned, in hindsight a sensible decision given the volume of “real” work that it was necessary to get through in the last quarter of 2016.

However, still feel the urge to resurrect my interest in photography, and have the need of a driver to move me forward with that, so a “52 weeks” project for 2017 seems to be perfect.  There’s a lovely Flickr group (here) that focusses on exactly this, and it well stocked with enthusiastic, supportive members.  Week number one (“The Letter O”) is done (entry here), looking forward to moving on to “Broken” in week two, and “Zippers” in week three.

Alongside the weekly challenges, I’m looking at expanding my portraiture skills this year, and given the time of year am starting that off by investigating night portraits.  Looking forward to putting these ideas into practice over the next couple of weeks.

There needs to be a better work-life balance established this year, and I’m looking forward to using photography as a means to drive that forward.

View my photos at bighugelabs.com

365 v2 : Time to start again?

it is almost two years since I started my 365 project: a snap decision inspired by a stay at a beautiful country house hotel.

We return to Swinton Park in the next few days.  My photography has stalled over the last year, with  work consuming increasing amounts of time.  My love of photography, and beautiful, engaging photographs, remains undimmed, which made me wonder whether to user the coinciding anniversary and hotel return to restart.

My inclination is yes, but to work towards some goals for the year:

  • people skills: develop my portrait skills, including lighting, posing and engagement with my subject
  • develop my understanding of shaping light, and what lighting techniques to use in different circumstances
  • take myself to some new places (physically, in the main anyway)
  • engage with new people via photography
  • document a big year
  • End up with some images that I’m proud of

There’ll undoubtedly be frustrating, awkward days where inspiration and opportunity are minimal, but also times when new experiences are driven by the desire to find that day’s image.

Having thought about this further, excited about getting started again.

 

View my photos at bighugelabs.com

Great blog post for the Kaiser Film Leader Retriever

It’s been some time since my last post, and this isn’t going to be a long one.

However, it could be useful for anyone who, like me, shoots 35mm film to develop at home and who isn’t great at judging when to stop rewinding the film back on to the spool in the camera.

I’ve had a number of frustrating experiences where I’ve shot a roll of film, been all ready to develop it… and couldn’t retrieve the leader from the cassette.  I eventually found the following blog post, which clarifies the way that the Kaiser Film Retriever is best used: How to use the Kaiser Film Retriever

The key elements seem to be:

  • winding the film anticlockwise after the retriever’s been inserted so that the leader flicks over the retriever, and then…
  • winding the film clockwise until resistance is encountered to push the leader between the two pieces of flexible plastic

The retriever’s smaller second tongue can then be inserted, catching the sprockets of the leader, and then retracted to extract the film.  I find that it can sometimes help to gently turn the spool clockwise whilst sliding the lever to retract the smaller tongue.

Hope this link and the additional information’s of assistance to a frustrated film extractor at some point.

View my photos at bighugelabs.com

2014: what did we do?

It’s the final day of 2014, and several weeks since my last post.  It’s a beautiful crisp frosty day, with weak winter sun that’s slowly turning the grass from a steely grey-white to a glistening green.  The Christmas tree lights are still twinkling, the radio’s on, and we’re both enjoying the seventh work-free day of the festive period.

We're not the only ones to indulge at Christmas!

What’s been achieved in 2014?  Some quickly brainstormed bullets include:

  • January – surviving the rewiring of the entire house in January
  • Feb – <er, doesn’t appear that much was achieved in February!>
  • March – meeting Andrew Scriven for a photography workshop in St James Park, London, along with a visit to the Bailey’s Stardust exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (also, for Mr G, being part of a very small audience at The Globe, London, watching a concert by John Williams and friends).
  • April – photographed my first strongman competition, and climbed Buckden Pike for the first time in over twenty years
  • May – photographed a powerlifting workshop presented by Andy Boulton
  • June – attended a production of War Horse at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford, and Newark Antiques Fair
  • July – first Gosney family gathering at our new home
  • August – my photographs of local flooding make the front page of our local paper, and we photograph the Pontefract Cycle Grand Prix event
  • September – I make a snap decision to embark on a 365 photo project, and we have the honour of beginning to look after Portia
  • October – attended a RPS Distinction Advisory Day, and have the pleasure of listening to the assessment of prospective panels by RPS assessors including Joe Cornish, and attended a RSC performance of Henry IV Part II at The Lowry Theatre, Salford.
  • November – finally collected two photography books from The Little Black Gallery, South Kensington, London, after up to 18 months of storage.  Captured the image of a robin at Fairburn Ings that would be used for our first non-commercial Christmas cards
  • December – distilled 5 images on a theme of flowers from the year’s photography and used them to create cards for Christmas presents

This is a relatively satisfying list, especially when viewed in the context of being secondary to our extensive professional commitments, but some targets to aim for in 2015 may be:

  • develop my understanding and use of film, including a focus on street photography starting in local cities
  • increasing the quality and frequency of people photography (phrased in a deliberately-loose sense)
  • enhance knowledge of lighting techniques
  • complete my 365 project

I guess that a final bullet should be

  • post regular, interesting, insightful blog entries.  That may be one bullet too far, but one can only aim high!

Happy New Year’s Eve, and Happy New Year when it dawns tomorrow.  Let’s hope that it is productive and peaceful.

View my photos at bighugelabs.com

Better late than never

It’s rather later in the week than usual for the blog post, but having returned from a weekend in London there’s now time to sit down and make sure that the weekly updates continue.

For some of the week 365-related inspiration was rather lacking, I even descended to the car keys featuring on Monday, but both Portia and London provided more fertile photographic ground later in the week, indeed Portia became popular once again:

Portia's morning run (061 / 365)

 

In London, a visit to The Little Black Gallery to pick up some long-stored books was followed by a walk through Hyde Park to our hotel:

Sam, Hyde Park, London

It’s a shame we didn’t have longer to wander around London, although that downside was tempered by finding a very nice pub to eat, drink and be merry in before going on to the Royal Albert Hall for the evening.

A busy week, and a tiring week (exacerbated by a burglar alarm failure at 0130 on Saturday morning).  A day’s holiday tomorrow, one we’re very much looking forward to.

View my photos at bighugelabs.com

Running behind….

Well, I’m not sure “running behind” is an appropriate phrase: there’s not been any running, although this week has seen me returning to the gym in an attempt to balance increased carb intake with resistance work.  We shall see how that pans out and impacts blood sugar levels.

However, the “running behind” more relates to it now being Saturday, one or two days behind my nominal posting days.

I’ve been continuing my reading of Syl Arena’s “Lighting for Digital Photography”, and decided to press Mrs G into having her portrait taken last Saturday evening after we’d returned from York.  Moderate success, but I think what it most taught me was not to try to put new techniques into practice whilst tired and on an empty stomach.  More thought is also required with regards to the aim of the photography, rather than “take your portrait whilst trying out these new techniques”, otherwise problems that could be thought through in advance cause annoyance and demotivation.

Portia had a big adventure in our bedroom on Thursday morning, which lead to my first diptych upload to Flickr:

Portia vs Sleeve (053 / 365)

Unfortunately when she clambered too far off the ground the camera had to go down to ensure she didn’t have a sudden, dramatic landing.

It’s the one year anniversary of us moving house today.  Time to celebrate.

Happy weekend, and happy photographing.

View my photos at bighugelabs.com

Halloween – and a ghostly, chilly week

It seems to have been the week that autumn’s gentle advance out of summer accelerated, and suddenly it feels far closer to winter.  The first frost meant a rather abrupt awakening when wandering outside first thing in a morning to feed the birds, and the sun’s arc visibly lower from my office window.

It’s the week of Halloween and Bonfire Night (aka Guy Fawkes’ Night): the former doesn’t usually excite me greatly, and has previously focused on attempting to minimise the knocks on the door.  However, our move towards the end of a cul-de-sac resulted in zero knockings, and the “event” of Halloween provided an opportunity to put another tick in the 365 box.

Inspired by the November 2014 issue of Digital SLR Photography, this was the result:

Ghostly Goings On (040 / 365)

(with thanks to Mrs G for being the willing model).

Was pretty happy with the way that turned out.  Perhaps a white “ghost” rather than a black “ghoul” would have been more contrasty against the background, but still think it works well and was a satisfactory result for a Halloween image.  Went down relatively well on Flickr too, making Explore.

The second chilly, outdoor event was last night, Bonfire Night.  Mrs G is a big fan of fireworks, me less so, but we had some sparklers, burnt some wood and leaves in our incinerator, and lit our only “proper” firework:

Firework (045 / 365)

Unfortunately, only having one firework meant that I didn’t get a second go at this, and in hindsight I would have been better taking several exposures, each with an increased exposure time.  As it was, I took a single exposure of 13 seconds, which I think overdid it somewhat, but Lightroom enabled me to get something reasonable out of it.

That was the 45th photograph out of 365.  Quite daunting that there’s still 320 more to go, but going to the effort of trying to take something out of any day that’s got a specific significance seems to be working relatively well.  December’s loaded with them too, so just need to be prepared.

It’s not quite the weekend, but happy photographing!

View my photos at bighugelabs.com

Well, an interesting week…

Another week has passed, and one of the more surprising from a photographic perspective.

I was sitting in my office working on Saturday morning, when Portia decided that she’d get out of her nest. The sun was steaming in through the window, so taking advantage of her sitting still in natural light, I grabbed the Canon and 100mm macro lens and grabbed some images of her. It seemed wrong not to choose one for the day’s photograph, which generated a little interest on Flickr immediately after posting.

Portia (034 / 365)

We visited The Lowry theatre on Saturday evening to see Henry IV Pt 2 (excellent), and so it was a late night. When we got up the next morning, I found my phone had been inundated with updates from Flickr, and Portia had entered that day’s Explored list of “interesting” images. It’d been 18 months since one of my images had reached this top 500 “interesting” list so I was delighted, whilst keeping in mind that a cute image on a Sunday morning was probably a statistical good bet, and that it didn’t really have an impact on whether it was a “good” photograph.

Monday was difficult and draining, and was one of my less inspired days. In the end a still life of the eggs that I’d be scrambling for breakfast the following day, lit at approx 45 degrees by my led panel, was the choice.

Give us each day our daily egg(s) (036 / 365)

I was determined to be a little more creative on Tuesday, and had noticed the potential at Pontefract train station when I picked Mrs G up the previous day. Camera bag and tripod were slung into the car, and I set up on the platform ready to capture the motion of the train and passengers disembarking. I didn’t manage the latter, I realised later that the shutter speed was just too long and the passengers understandably too quickly moving for them to be exposed even as a “ghost” image, but what I did capture felt relatively dynamic.

The Journey Home (037 / 365)

On Wednesday, I woke to find that this photograph had also been selected for Explore, and further investigation showed that Monday evening’s eggs had also. One photograph eighteen months ago, then three in the space of four days.

I wanted to create some domestic cheer yesterday, so popped down to our local florists for a bouquet. My first thought was to grab a shot of the florist wrapping the flowers, which she was fine with but in my nervousness about explaining that I wasn’t buying the flowers simply to take her photo, I managed to make a mess of the shot. Second choice were the flowers themselves when I got home.

Bouquet (038 / 365)

This morning I find that they also have been Explored. Four images in a week, three days in a row. Once again, I’m at the point of reminding myself that this doesn’t necessarily reflect on image quality, although it’s very uplifting to have ten thousand views of an image rather than, er, ten.

Mrs G also pointed out to me that Brewdog are running a photo competition which closes next week. I have an idea, and took the first shots for it this lunchtime, needing to work on some further images later today, then the plan for today’s 365 photograph is a dusk / evening photograph somewhere in Pontefract. I doubt this will be as popular as photos of Portia and flowers. Tomorrow’s Halloween, and I’ve a plan for that too, which I’m looking forward to seeing come to life, so to speak.

Finally, I’ve just noticed that I’ve kept up my weekly blog post for over two months. Whilst I decided to do it, therefore expected myself to keep to that, I’m happy that it’s become such a habit.

Happy photographing!

View my photos at bighugelabs.com

Butterfingers!

We’ve whisked around to another Friday. Busy, busy working week, including a dash to and from London to deliver a workshop on Dynamics AX administration. Optimistically, I imagined that before and after my client visit would be perfect time for capturing some of the atmosphere in London. Sadly this didn’t quite work out: a hastily-snapped shot on Mrs G’s Fuji X20 (the Canon being too awkward to carry to London in my laptop bag) to fulfill the requirements for the day’s photo was about all I managed. After a few hours delivering info on AX, the most important thing seemed to be the train home, rather than wandering around central London with a camera and the knowledge that I was storing up a more crowded return journey for myself.

However, before we got into this working week there was the interest and enjoyment of a RPS Distinction Advisory day in Nottingham last weekend. Roger Force, Richard Walton and Joe Cornish assessed prospective applicants’ panels for both LRPS and APRS distinctions and provided fascinating, frank appraisal and insight, delivered in a humane and kind manner if it wasn’t universally positive. It was an absolute pleasure to sit and listen to Fellows of the RPS with such an obvious affinity for and level of expertise in their subject. Inspirational, if tinged with realisation of the levels of nerves that I’d experience if I was being advised in such a public forum.

Mrs G was particularly taken with one of the images displayed in a LRPS panel, and took the opportunity during the lunch break to approach the photographer and explain how much she enjoyed seeing his work. He happily let her look through his mounted images, and she asked him to consider whether he’d like to sell her a print of the one that initially caught her eye. I hear from her this morning that he has been kind enough to provide a copy of the image to her, a very generous gesture given both the amount of effort required to produce images of such a standard, and her clear and genuine indication that she’d be more than happy to pay for it.

Canon 50mm f/1.4 (033 / 265)

The week took an irritating and expensive turn yesterday, all because I attempted to tidy up. Bringing my camera and the 50mm lens that was on the kitchen table next to it upstairs to my office, I managed to drop the lens on the floor from a height of around three feet. Initially I felt confident that there’d be no negative effects, but mounted it on the camera to confirm all was operational. Unfortunately, I soon realised that the focus mechanism was jammed, and neither AF nor MF functioned. A quick google suggested this as a common issue with this lens, a Canon 50mm f/1.4, if dropped on its front element. Happily, a call this morning to Dale Photographic in Leeds, an excellent independent camera shop with very informed and helpful staff and great stock, and a chat with their in-house camera repairer, reassured me that this common issue would most likely be repairable at a cost of around £95. Not ideal, but not terminal, and I think I’ll take the opportunity to have a sensor clean and general spruce of the 5d done at the same time. Looks like next week’s 365 images will be shot on the 500d, with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 replacing the 50mm Canon.

View my photos at bighugelabs.com

Carpe Diem – in a photographic sense

It’s been a beautiful last couple of autumn days here, which has made my attempts this week to “carpe diem”, in a photographic sense, all the more relevant (if not always successful).

I’ve had a slight change of mental approach to the 365 project, in that I’ve attempted to make the images reflect the day, rather than be just an image that I could have attempted to capture on any of the 365 days available. The challenge here, for me at least, is that the day may not reveal what most represents it until relatively late, and I prefer to have a clearer vision in mind what I’ll photograph. However, there can be advantages, as days with events already penciled in can be relied upon to provide some inspiration, such as our visit to a RPS distinction advisory day on Sunday. Other events, such as me breaking off the key in our combi boiler, have provided unexpected inspiration:

Melt (023 / 365)

Our visit to the Advisory Day on Sunday is simply out of interest and as spectators, rather than a more active involvement. I’m sure that it will be a source of long term inspiration though, and interesting to see the standards by which two of the RPS’ distinction levels (LRPS and ARPS) are measured.

Further inspiration, from a technique rather than subject perspective, has been provided by Syl Arena’s book “Lighting for Digital Photography”: this had long been on my Amazon wishlist, until I noticed that a marketplace seller had an “good condition” copy for under £5. That seemed too good to miss, and having sat on my office windowsill in a pile of photography books for a couple of weeks, it’s now come out for me to dip in to. Impressed with the first couple of chapters, the first on describing light being more relevant and interesting than the second on equivalent exposures. A little more reading over the next few days and it might be time to try balancing some flash with natural light, or perhaps persuading Mrs G to model?

This weekend will be busy, work tomorrow and the RPS event on Sunday, but I’m hoping for a wander around Pontefract town center on Saturday morning. Before starting the 365 project, I enjoyed wandering around the town with my M6, appreciating the lack of weight, the beautiful handling, and the unobtrusive appearance. The 365 project has made me concentrate more on shooting digitally, and whilst the 5d is a fantastic camera it doesn’t have the strengths of the M6. It’s a quandary that can be balanced at a weekend by shooting, developing and scanning on the same day, or by using Mrs G’s Fuji X20. Sadly this lacks both the emotional pull and the fines of the M6, and the technical excellence of the Canon along with its selection lenses. Perhaps the M6 should be used for a series of images documenting Pontefract market and the surrounding town center activity, the digital cameras routinely used for 365 images, and the two cross over when it’s convenient to go from shooting to scanning on the same day. What is certain is that the Leica has spent too much time sitting on my desk and not enough time with its strap around my neck.

Happy photographing!

View my photos at bighugelabs.com