Lost and Found

Well, not strictly lost but certainly forgotten about!

My least used camera body and my least used lens are the Fuji X-Pro1 and Samyang 85mm. I decided to give them both an outing this morning as I went in search of my 218th 365-2018 image.  After all the sunshine recently a dull, overcast day with a grey sky provided all the inspiration I needed to find a contrasty black & white and I was happy with the image I came back with (below).

© Dave Whenham

Whilst the memory card was in the reader I noticed there were other images on the card which had not been transferred to my computer. Most appeared to be just test shots as I no doubt fiddled with settings and tried ideas out. But there were some that had clearly been shot with intent.

© Dave Whenham

The composition bottom right (above) is one I’ve shot many times and is shown in context below. It is a favourite “insurance” shot for my 365 although hasn’t as yet made it into the collection itself. I suspect that most of these images were probably early morning “insurances” as I pass all three locations on the way to the paper shop for my wife’s papers.

© Dave Whenham

© Dave Whenham

Looking at these as I drop them into the page I’d be happy to use any of them within my 365 which suggests that even when shooting my “insurance shots” I am still thinking and paying attention to the composition etcetera. I’m clearly not simply happy-snapping so there is something to post, but instead I’m making sure that, however mundane, I have something I’d be happy to add to the series. This was something I said at the outset – I don’t just want to take 365 photographs but I want to make 365 images that I’m happy to have on my portfolio.

Finally, a gratuitous colour popping image – it was clearly what I had in mind when I snapped this otherwise very mundane scene!

© Dave Whenham

 

Soap Box time

Has it really been over a week since I posted to the blog?  Clearly my creative juices have been less forthcoming in this unaccustomed heat.  I suspect many will be confused as to why we are complaining about temperatures in the high 20s and low 30s but the reality for us in the UK is usually much cooler, much wetter and far less humid.  We are also a nation obsessed with the weather it seems to me at times.  My family will talk all through the main evening news but go silent for the weather forecast!

The high humidity and unusual heat have kept me at home far more than is normal. I am having to force myself out some days in order to shoot my 365 image somewhere other than within a fifteen feet radius of my house.  I’m still managing a good variety of images though and have found some interesting little compositions whilst out on errands but I’ve not had a good walk up on the moors for several months now.

© Dave Whenham

One thing I have been doing is looking at a lot of images via my computer screen.  I am General Secretary for the PPC, a postal and online photographic club, and we are in the midst of our annual competition at the moment and I’m sorting out the award winners along with those selected for our annual exhibition. That means up to 600 images have gone past my eyeballs in the last few weeks relating to the club alone.  Then there is social media, I’m not a big user but do dabble a little plus of course I visit Flickr pretty much daily.

What I’ve been noticing, especially amongst club competition entries (ours and other clubs) is a degree of homogeneity with members consciously or otherwise adopting a style or approach that they think will find favour with club judges.  Then there is the seemingly endless stream of social media posts which are also tending towards that feeling of “sameness”.  I don’t think I want to see another shot of someone’s silhouette as they sit atop a rocky outcrop apparently admiring a sunset.  The cynic in me doubts they are watching the sunset but are probably checking Instagram or Facebook (other social media outlets are available).

Of the billions of images posted online every week I would guess that the largest proportion are posted by people who would not class themselves as “photographers” per-se despite the oft-heard platitude that “everyone’s a photographer now.”  To me a photographer is either someone who earns their living from photography or an enthusiastic amateur for whom photography is more than a way of interacting socially. The definition of both could probably take up reams of A4 so I will leave it there, but to my mind snapping dozens of selfies every day does not  classify someone as a photographer by itself even though they will produce the occasional image with particular photographic merit.  

Perhaps we need a new term for this obsessive daily documentation (ODD?) of even the most mundane aspects of our life. Another square picture of an alcoholic drink anyone?

© Dave Whenham

Then there is the amount of effort required. It is said that if you give an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of typewriters one will eventually tap out an ode worthy of Shakespeare.  Using this analogy, if, as I’ve seen posited,  you have over 2 billion digital images posted every day (730 billion over a year is as near to infinity as makes no difference) then there are bound to be some good images amongst them. The key for me is intent and repeatability.  Perhaps intent and repeatability are key components of the definition of a “photographer” which I am carefully shying away from proposing?

But, to define photography as an activity that “everyone” now does every day does perhaps demean somewhat the efforts of those for whom photography is more than just part of the routine whether they are paid for it or not.  The sheer number of images produced every day and the homogeneous tendencies amongst them might imply that the democratisation of photography has killed creativity and by definition suggest that original photographic artistic vision is moribund.  I however don’t think it is. I think it is still alive and well but unless you know where to look it is buried under an absolute avalanche of online imagery.  As John Krupp* commented in the context of a body of creative work rather than a single “lucky shot”:

“… I’m reminded that creativity and original thinking is alive and well, and has little to do with format. But coming up with that dozen+ takes real work, and the internet does not like to pay for real work.”

I saw recently a very high profile filmmaker lament the passing of the print.  His thesis appears to be that we used to print work and look at it whereas now we shoot with our smartphones and never look at it again after that initial moment of taking it.  I wonder if he acknowledges that we had no other option but to print if we wanted to view our photographs?  However, I think his thesis is flawed not least because I’ve yet to see anyone produce empirical evidence to support these claims – for the past or the present.  But were prints really viewed that assiduously?  Or did we get the packet back from the chemist, flick through them and then consign them to the back of a drawer still in the chemists envelope?  I doubt that habits have changed that much even if the technology has. What has changed I suspect, and changed more dramatically than many of us could have conceived, is the number of images being created every day. To complete the analogy these are then  consigned to that virtual drawer but in volumes we could not have conceived of twenty years ago

© Dave Whenham

One from my “365”, so a mundane, every day digital image perhaps – but this has been printed and exhibited thus avoiding the back of my digital drawer

Good, creative and innovative photography is still about, we just have to work harder to find it and in this internet age no one seems to want to put the effort in and so search engine algorithms churn out references to similar looking images that it thinks people might like to see – perhaps homogeneity is being driven more by search engine algorithms which in turn influences how individuals interact with the camera they always have with them?

 

 

* http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2018/07/not-the-same.html

Musings – 365

Today is Day 204 of my 365-2018 project and the 267th since I started creating an image a day and posting it to Flickr.  I’ve noted before that the 63-2017 set me up nicely and indeed as I sit here this afternoon pondering which of this morning’s images to use for 365-2018-204 I’ve realised that it has indeed become “just” a part of my daily life.

© Dave Whenham

365-2018-198.

I did try a picture a day project a few years back and whilst I did manage to take a picture a day it was a struggle, many of the images were of mundane things, snapped just to get an image, any image. I photographed the suitcase in the boot of my car at 11pm one night with my phone. So what am I doing differently in 2018?

Well, first off is state of mind I think. I am relaxed about the project and despite publicly proclaiming the project by joining a Flickr 365 Group I have not put myself under any pressure to “perform”.  At the start of the project it was my first, waking thought – I woke up thinking about getting my picture of the day. Until I captured that day’s image it was in the back of my mind constantly. Now though, whilst I am still mindful of the project I am less consciously thinking about it and if I do think about it then it is only in the context of deciding what I may want to photograph.

On those days when I don’t expect to go out anywhere I’ve taken to making  an image early doors; having an image as a form of insurance removes the pressure at a stroke and I don’t think I’ve fallen back on this insurance more than once or twice in the last nine months.

I take a lot more notice of what’s under my feet as it were. I’ve always made photographs in the back yard especially when the flowers are blooming and insects are buzzing. But just recently I’ve “seen” rather than just “looked” and have found interest in the otherwise mundane. This conscious act of freeing my mind has extended beyond the borders of my back yard though and I “see” so much more around me now, especially in the localities with which I am most familiar. In this sense I am a better photographer than I was last year.

© Dave Whenham

365-2018-203. How many times have I walked past this and not “seen” it?

Whereas in the past photography was a specific activity that I planned in advance I now find that photography is just something that I include in my daily routine. I often take my wife to work at 7am and rather than turning around and coming straight home I have taken to spending ten or fifteen minutes taking photographs before going home. I don’t miss the fifteen minutes in the context of my daily chores and I exercise my photographic muscles in the process. Some days I drive in, noting the light and by the time I drop the wife off I know exactly what I am going to photograph and from which vantage point. I created a very pleasing series of blue-hour images in this way none of which would have been taken in the past when photography was a specific something that I did. I now photograph as part of my routine daily functions such as breathing, eating and sneezing.

On days when I have chores at home I regularly take a short walk early afternoon, partly to stretch my legs and get some fresh air but mainly to give me the opportunity to look for images. I always carry a camera and whilst I may not come back with that day’s image every time it has proven a very fruitful activity and greatly increased my knowledge of my local patch and it’s possibilities.

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365-2018-196

The picture above of the former Elland Town Hall building and its Grade II listed telephone boxes is a case in point. Wandering that way the previous day I realised that if I returned on a bright sunny morning with blue skies and bringing with me the fisheye lens I could make a very pleasing image contrasting the brickwork warmed by the morning sun from behind me with the bright blue sky.  The fisheye would be needed to get it all in and by leaving enough space around the subject I could correct the lens distortion. Sure enough, the following morning dawned with ideal conditions so I timed my daily walk to include this location whilst the sun was still in the optimum position. My daily image, taken within an hour of rising with no stress, no hassle and as it happens fitted in simply by knowing what I wanted to do and making a small detour when going to the Post Office. The 365 is genuinely part of my daily life it seems.

So much of what is needed for a successful 365 seems to come down to your state of mind I feel and how you approach or think about things:

  • I carry a camera all the time – even when walking down for the papers;
  • I look AND see, noting what might make a good image and under what circumstances – greedily storing away opportunities for the future;
  • I do not rely on photography “trips” – every time I leave the house is a photographic opportunity – it’s a state of mind;
  • I make opportunities out of my daily routines;
  • I no longer worry about what other people might think of my images – I photograph anything that takes my eye, that moves or amuses me – if others like it then that is a bonus;
  • Train yourself to look beyond the obvious – floral portraits have been a staple of my back yard photography in the past but there are also shapes, shadows and the play of light on the steps if I look and see;
  • Don’t Panic! If you are really concerned about capturing that day’s image then try to take a photograph before breakfast – it’s amazing how that frees you from worrying and sometimes it turns out to be better than you’d anticipated;
  • Embrace the location, the weather, the light – cameras work in the rain and the dark – in fact dark, rainy nights in town can make some great images – just get out there;
  • Sounds counter-intuitive but stop thinking about the daily image – free your mind from the worry and your creativity can come to the surface – sounds a bit “New Age” thinking but it does work – trust me.

We talk about muscle memory a lot in photography. Consolidating a specific motor task, in our case changing ISO, adjusting the exposure compensation or whatever, into memory through repetition builds this so-called muscle memory. It is important, so the thinking goes, because it enables us to deal with the technical aspects of photography on auto-pilot freeing the mind to think about aesthetics and creativity.  I am starting to think that beyond the technical aspects there is still an element of creative muscle building going on. Taking images, with a purpose, every day is exercising all our photographic muscles and with repetition and practice comes competency and a greater ability to “see”. To misquote a rather hackneyed phrase ” the more I practice the more I see”.

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365-2018-123

So, my five penn’orth on the subject of the photographic 365 based admittedly on just 267 days experience.  And before anyone thinks I’m implying this is easy – I am not. It can still be hard work but by approaching it with the correct mind set and incorporating it into part of your daily routine, rather than a standalone activity, it is possible to ease the burden and more importantly really enjoy the process whilst expanding your skills and competency at the same time. Win-win.

Single-shot verticals (drone)

A bit of an obscure title I know – that’s what happens whilst you type “out loud” I guess as you fumble for the right words.

The Mavic Pro’s gimbal gets a fair bit of stick for being so exposed – but it means that it can shoot natively in a vertical format which means “portrait” images using the whole sensor rather than cropping from a “landscape” or horizontal image.  I was just coming to the end of my mornings flying (battery was at 20% and I’d already used both spares) when I remembered this facility so I took a couple of test shots. It’s a facility I’ve not used before and indeed rarely seen mentioned. I wished I’d thought of it when shooting the long exposures of the lock gates a few weeks back.

© Dave Whenham

Shot from above the flood plain at Woodside Lock.  Apart from lifting the shadows slightly this is basically as-shot

I could see this being useful if shooting waterfalls or any image with a “tall” subject, for example a lighthouse. I shot a lot of panoramas today and with hindsight could have switched to portrait mode for some of those too as this would have given extra height (and is more like the way I shoot panoramas with a stills camera too).**

So, despite over 16 hours flight time I am still happily learning!

© Dave Whenham

Four hundred feet up – spot the pilot!

**POSTSCRIPT

I took the Mavic out the following morning, set to Portrait Mode, selected the Panorama 180 mode – and the camera swung back to horizontal for the sequence before returning to portrait mode at the end of the sequence. Seems I’ve not missed a trick with my panoramas!

 

A Cautionary Tale

If tales of bad luck compounded by stupidity upset you then look away now.

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I no longer have the original – but at least I have the low-res version of Sunday mornings “365” image

I had an external hard drive fail last week. Annoying but not the end of the world as it was included in my Time Machine backup routine so in theory it just needed time to restore the files to another drive.

I could have waited until the replacement drive arrived and simply restored everything to the new drive but I needed one of the files urgently for a camera club entry, the deadline for which was the following day. So, I decided to temporarily restore the files to an existing external drive. The only drive with enough space was the same one that the Time Machine backups sat on but as it was only for 48 hours I went ahead. 

Which was when problem two surfaced.

The failed drive had two partitions – one for all my processed still photographs and the other held all my video files including raw footage, music and other digital assets, completed videos and works in progress.  Upon entering the Time Machine I found that only the still photographs had been backed up, something had clearly gone wrong when I configured the system and I had not previously realised. I was gutted but at least I had the three years worth of still photographs. Two and a half hours later they were safely restored to the SeagateMedia drive along with my Time Machine back ups. 

Upon checking my amazon account I noted that the failed drive was over seven years old – all drives fail eventually and this had done better than most.  I tried various data recovery software packages but none of the half dozen I tried were able to access the files that I knew to be on the drive so I concluded it was a case for a data recovery expert. Until that is, the moment I found out the likely cost!

However, I was fortunate and found another copy of the video file I needed urgently on my laptop so I was able to meet the camera club deadline. With three years worth of stills photographs recovered and the entry deadline met I was as happy as I could be under the circumstances.  The loss of the other work was disappointing but as I get older I tend to dwell less on the disappointments and cherish the successes more. Indeed, some rooting around on a drive that I rarely plug in unearthed a folder with a few of the lost videos so all in all things could have been a lot worse.

And then they were.

The new drive arrived – a 2018 version of the SeagateMedia external drive that I already use and that has proved very reliable.  It needs to be formatted for use with a Mac, a simple enough task that takes a matter of minutes. I plugged it in, opened the Disk Utility, clicked on the SeagateMedia drive, selected Erase and click! One freshly prepared drive with a full 4GB of space awaiting my attentions. It’s one of the things I like about this particular drive, it says 4GB on the box and that’s what you get, not 3.8 nor 3.9 but a full 4GB. 

You’re ahead of me I suspect, especially if you’ve been paying attention. The clue is in the words SeagateMedia …

I had erased and reformatted the original SeagateMedia drive which held my Time Machine backups along with the recently recovered image files.

It’s almost cathartic to say it out loud.

As I type this I have yet another piece of recovery software running, this time scanning the drive I reformatted in error. It is over two hours into the initial scan  and it is already suggesting that it will be able to restore over a terabyte  of assorted files so things look positive – although it is also suggesting it will take another eight hours to complete the scan! I suspect that when its finished it will ask me to cough up the money for the “Pro” version to actually download the files but even at £90 that will be considerably less than the data recovery experts wanted – and coincidentally fractionally more than the price of the replacement drive.

It’s been a frustrating and expensive weekend.

 

UPDATE:  Yes, I did need to shell out the £90 to enable me to actually download the files. The software claims to have “recovered” almost 10TB of files … from a 4TB drive. On looking at the folders it has created there are around 1TB in a folder called “labelled” and around 9TB in one called “reconstructed”.  I’ve been through the “labelled” folder and saved over 10,000 files to a fresh drive taking around 630GB of space on the drive. I can already see that many are duplicated but it’s a relief to know that at least some of my work has been recovered.  Most of the files have unintelligible file names although some appear to have a file name that included the information from the EXIF data.  It will take weeks to sort them all out but I shall take my time!  I’m currently recovering the image (TIFF) files from the “reconstructed” folder although the first of these has not opened so I’m not holding my breath on this part of the process.

BONUS: On looking at the recovered files I have also recovered some of the raw video footage that was missing from the original recovery from Time Machine. I am guessing that these were in old back-up files that had been deleted earlier in the year.  The “reconstructed” folder claims to have video files too so I’m recovering those too although given that the reconstructed TIFF files appear to be corrupted I’m not expecting much from these.

300 Up!

Yes, this is the 300th  post on this blog which has to be some sort of milestone for me. The first post was on 17/8/2014 but then I waited until 19th December before making any further posts. To “celebrate” I’ve looked back and picked out five favourite moments from the last four years. I could have picked out far more, and these are not necessarily my favourites, but for what they are worth, and in no particular order …

Developing Tanks are Go!

Sadly, my darkroom adventure didn’t last too long due to domestic requirements. Fleeting as it was though I enjoyed my return to the analogue days and still harbour the hope of reinstalling a darkroom again in the future.

© Dave Whenham

Zac – two years ago perhaps? Canon A1 35mm film camera. Scan from warm tone darkroom print

Time Passages

Universally panned by the folk at my camera club, this remains one of my favourite images partly because of the effort, not to say discomfort, involved in getting the image in the first place.

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Not a Universal Favourite

 

An Afternoon at 23mm

The Fuji X100 series are fabulous, pocketable, carry-everywhere cameras and I particularly enjoyed a day in the centre of Leeds armed with nothing more than a camera with a fixed lens and a few filters in my pocket.

(C) Dave Whenham

Harsh light, strong contrasts and processing to match

Pre-flight Nerves

Not my best drone imagery but the first!

© Dave Whenham

West Vale from the air

 

63-2017 Week 4

December 2017 saw me coming towards the end of the 63 daily images challenge that was the prequel to this years 365. It wasn’t the first time I’d tried to take a picture a day but it was the first time I’d got anywhere near success so I was in buoyant mood.

© Dave Whenham

63-2017-27

 

365 – Update June 2018

I’ve just posted daily image 159 for the 2018 365-Challenge, which is my 222nd consecutive daily image since I started the image-a-day in October 2017. It is a few months since I reflected upon the project – indeed, its become so much a part of my every day that in some ways I no longer give it quite as much thought as I used to; it is indeed becoming part of my daily routine.

Dave Whenham

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Beyond wondering if I could stick at it, one of the things I was interested in from the start was whether I would fall back upon my Fuji X100t or iPhone as my main camera of choice.  I am fortunate enough to own several cameras and it seemed to me that taking a picture a day but still leaving the bulk of my kit unused was missing the point in some way.  Whilst at the start of the process I was having to consciously make the effort to move out of my comfort zone of X100t in pocket when I left the house I am now finding that on the whole I am using the full range of cameras with a couple of notable exceptions.

There was a particularly prolific period of around six weeks in March/April when, temporarily freed from the tyrannies of pneumonia, I went out every day and I took several thousand images. Looking back, if I excluded the drone shots, all but around thirty of these were shot with one of my Fuji cameras.  They are smaller, lighter and generally more convenient as I’ve commented before which was especially useful whilst still recovering.  Noticing this, I made a conscious effort for a few days to use other cameras and so when I decided to  go and visit the bluebells  I deliberately chose the Nikon D800E.  I have to confess I almost popped the Fuji bag into the car as well but was strong and went out with just the Nikon.  I’ve not noticed any particular leanings since then and indeed apart from that instance my two key cameras (Fuji X-T20 and Nikon D800E) have largely shared the daily honours and between them account for 60% of my daily images year to date. Unsurprisingly, the X100t is in third spot whilst the drone, which I have actually used more than any camera other than the  XT20, is in the number four position with 15 365 appearances.  This is largely because I don’t want to overwhelm the 365 with drone imagery and also partly because a lot of my drone images have being trying out ideas and testing filters etcetera so fodder for my blog rather than the 365.

What is very pleasing is that I have only relied on the iPhone for 3 images. I am also very pleased to report that I have not as yet needed to resort to taking a picture of my lunch or coffee to fulfil the daily picture requirement. Many days I will take an image early on as a form of insurance but only once have I got to the end of the day and had to fall back on this for my 365. I am striving to make a meaningful image every day; something of which  I am proud and happy to share rather than just a snap of something random for the sake of posting an image. Incidentally, around 85% of my daily images are also posted on the same day.

© Dave Whenham

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Had the Challenge been to simply post one image a day regardless of when it was taken I do believe the split of subjects would be different. Looking at my Flickr photo-stream I have in the past had a general bias towards landscape, particularly mono.  However, with the demands of the 365 this has changed and urban images now account for around a half of my recent postings and indeed 52% of my 365 images. That floral imagery is as prevalent as landscape (16% each in the 365)  is not something I would have anticipated even given I do enjoy floral photography.

The good news in all this though is that I am a lot happier with my current urban work than with previous work in this genre. I am using my eyes more and seeing compositions that I would have missed in the past; 365-2018-142 is I think a case in point.

© Dave Whenham

365-2018-142

True North (above):  I’ve explored this location numerous times in the past and there are quite a few 365 images from the Dean Clough area. I think this is the first time though that I have pre-visualised to the extent that I knew I would want the telephoto lens though. The Fuji Velvia preset provided the proverbial icing.  The colour/mono split has also taken me by surprise. 121 colour versus 38 mono images means that 76% of the 365 collection are in colour, something I did not see coming.

So, some interesting facts and figures (for my Inner Geek) but the most interesting thing I’ve noticed is how I no longer stress over the daily image. True, it’s one of the first things I think about when I get up in the morning but it’s in there amongst many other things that I need to get sorted that day. It’s definitely not a chore but it is something I need to tick of the to-do list each day in the same way I tick-off sweeping the hall or putting the washing on.

Finally, a couple of mosaics showing the April and May uploads. Clicking on each should take you to the corresponding album on Flickr!


© Dave Whenham
© Dave Whenham