Sunday, 31 March 2013

Looking at Books

Looking at Ravilious

I know; it’s been more than two weeks since the last post. Two weeks that have been cold, grey, busy, tiring and stressful. Two weeks of painful aching muscles, two weeks when the only visual interest was to catch up on some books and look at the work of artists that I admire, mainly on nights I could not sleep. I have been looking at the English landscape work of David Hockney, Paul Nash and Eric Ravilious over the past fortnight, dreaming of warmer, brighter days. Days of thinking about, writing about, and making pictures. Not long now…

Looking at Hockney

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Seven Years Ago

St Catherine's Hill Boardwalk, 2006 © Graham Dew
St Catherine's Hill Boardwalk, 2006

It’s either too cold at the weekend, still not light enough in the evening, or I’m not feeling well enough to go out and take new photos. So I started to wonder what pictures I had taken in late winter in previous years. Since switching over to digital eight years ago all of my pictures now carry accurate timestamps that have been diligently recorded by my cameras. It is easy to flip back and see what I was taking pictures of during the month of March in previous years. This picture was taken seven years ago in 2006, and is of the boardwalk that protects the heavily used path up St. Catherine’s Hill to the south of Winchester.

Times change and so do approaches so making pictures. Although I had by then been using colour film and then colour digital pictures since the start of the millennium, old habits die hard and I still had a tendency to process images in a monochrome based style. This picture, a cropped image from my Fujifilm F810, was stripped back to a black and white image, tonally adjusted and then re-coloured, a technique I used quite a bit then. These days I like to do as much as I can in-camera, and use only the ‘gentle’ image editing in Lightroom rather pixel bashing that tends to happen in Photoshop. Perhaps I should return and re-shoot the scene and see how much my photography has changed over the intervening years.

In fact, it is easy to see a lot of changes just by looking at the images in the monthly folders in which they are stored. Back then I was just looking, hoping to find interesting single images. I was working without a plan, and had a scattergun approach to taking pictures. Time, with a young family, was perhaps even more restricted then than it is now. But today I have a much clearer idea of what subjects I want to shoot and the photographic techniques I want to employ, so I can make good use of my time and opportunities.

The biggest difference though is in the pictures of the family; we all look so much older. It’s hard to look at the pictures of my children without a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye; they look so small and so sweet. They are all very lovely now I’m pleased to say, but they are no longer little.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Dog Days of Winter

Late February sees the dog days of winter; days of flat, dreary, cold greyness and last week was no exception. A time for getting on with work and chores; tidying up and preparing for brighter warmer times. Even as I type this post on the morning train the early March sunshine is up and it won’t be long before we get the first signs of spring.

Very Early Rhubarb, 2013 © Graham Dew
Very Early Rhubarb, 2013
We headed over to our allotment this weekend to continue with preparations for our first season growing our own produce. As ever I took the camera along, and as the light was so flat, I took my new flashgun and lighting kit along. The new flash is a Metz 52 AF-1, and it is a very impressive bit of kit, with lots of power and many useful features. But the most useful feature and the reason that I bought it, is that it has a facility called high speed synchronisation. This means that I can use fill-in flash even at high shutter speeds above the normal 1/125 or 1/250 second X-sync limit imposed by most cameras and flashes. So now I can use a small amount of flash to energise an image even when using large apertures and hence high shutter speeds. The new flash extends my range of options, giving me more creative control over my pictures, rather than forcing me to use small apertures and undesired large depth of field.

Shed Foliage, 2013 © Graham Dew
Shed Foliage, 2013
Both the shots of the rhubarb and the leaf where taken this way, using the flash off-camera with a small softbox and a half strength orange gel to give suitable modelling and warmth to the light. I’ve been using fill-in flash for quite a long time now, and admire the work of people like Roy Mehta and Andy Hughes who are masters of this technique. If painters can choose what colours they want to use in their paintings, then I see no problem in employing a judicious splash of light to add colour and life to my photos.