Jenny Brown

Who was Jenny Brown? We have been walking in the area known as ‘Jenny Brown’s Point’ ever since we moved to Lancashire, 25 years ago. I was never able to discover anything on Google about her, but the area itself is fascinating and the light can be very beautiful. There is a lot of industrial archeology to be discovered, but much of it is gradually being destroyed by the action of tides and storms. I think a railway track may have existed on the stone platform that juts out into the bay in the image below. It may have been used to load boats with limestone from a nearby quarry. Another hundred years and I doubt it will still be there.

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Flickr redux

After emptying out my Flickr account in the summer I have now spent some weeks choosing the images I wanted to re-post, re-processing them in Lightroom, uploading them to Flickr, adding titles, tags, groups and descriptions, and I have finally reached the end of that process. Boy, am I relieved. And yet I still wonder why I did it, as when I started this blog I envisaged concentrating my efforts here, and even possibly deleting my Flickr and Instagram accounts and just making life simpler by keeping a blog.

In the end, it was the realisation that nobody, or at least a vanishingly small number of people, read this blog. My most viewed image on Flickr (shown below) has only 254 views, but this blog in total has had only 170 views and most of them have been me I think. Although the idea of posting to this blog and then syndicating everything out to Flickr, Instagram, Twitter etc. seemed like a good idea I can’t seem to wrap my head around how that might work. It probably would if I was a professional photographer, but I don’t think my Twitter followers are interested in my pictures, and I have decided to just use Instagram for my iPhone images.

I am also interested in waiting to see how the new owners of Flickr (Smugmug) develop the platform, and I have to admit I have an emotional attachment to remaining a user because I have used it since the early days. Also, writing a blog is hard work, and it seems to be a medium best suited for writing whilst Flickr is the pre-eminent platform for displaying images, in my opinion. Anyway, it’s time for me to spend less effort on sharing images than going out and taking more photographs!

Crummock Water

Starting over

For a few weeks now I have been re-populating my Flickr account. I wanted to see if the images I chose to share years ago were still the ones I would choose to share today. I also realised that my skills, such as they are, in post-processing had improved a little and that perhaps I could do those pictures more justice.

It has been a bit of a slog to be honest, and I still have a few years worth of images to sift through and process. But I think it has been worth it, for me at least. Here is an image of the Langdale Pikes that I had processed with Silver Efex Pro in the past but this time I used a fairly basic monochrome conversion in Lightroom, and I really like it.

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Good enough?

So it’s Black Friday and I’m looking at the deals at my local camera shop. Having an attack of G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) will be familiar to anyone who loves cameras, and though I don’t ‘need’ another camera, I can’t help imagining how a new camera would make me a happier and better photographer.

Last weekend though I was out for a short walk and had left my camera at home. I was walking with a friend I hadn’t seen for a while and I wanted to focus on him and catching up on each other. It was a beautiful day, and we were in a beautiful place, so I couldn’t resist taking a few images with my iPhone (6S plus), and it didn’t get in the way of our conversation. Just raise the phone and snap.

Back home I looked at the images and wondered if I missed anything by not having my camera. In good conditions the quality of the JPGs is really rather good, and I gather the newer phones are even better. See what you think:

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California trip

Having returned from a recent trip to California to attend a family wedding I was able to reflect on the changes I had seen in the 10 years since we had last visited the golden state. During that visit Barak Obama was campaigning hard for the presidency that he would eventually win a few months later. I remember meeting some campaigners on the street and sharing their optimism and hope for the future of this great nation. Now there is a very different president in office, and I met family and friends who were very down-hearted and fearful of what was happening to their country, but I also met people who thought Donald Trump was the best thing since sliced-bread. The strange thing to me was that the most vociferous supporters of Trump that I met were Mexican-Americans, many of them second or third generation immigrants. It goes to show that you can’t assume what political leanings a person may have based on their ethnicity or race.

These are some of my favourite images that I took on our trip. The area in Los Angeles in which we stayed was very pleasant, and near a great beach.

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To share or not to share

Being an amateur photographer gives me an enormous amount of freedom in deciding how, or if, I want to share my images. Having just read an article by professional photographer Bruce Percy entitled Should Photography Be A Private Endeavour I must confess his conclusion really hit home for me, as I have been struggling to find a level of sharing that I feel comfortable with. The conclusion he reaches is that “We do photography for no other reason, than we do it for ourselves”. This is something I know deep down ought to be reason enough, but I have doubts about my ability to enjoy my hobby if I don’t share my images.

Let’s see if I can break this down. I am old enough to have enjoyed 35mm film photography for a couple of decades before I got my first digital camera, a 2MP Fujifilm point and shoot. During the years I shot film I was usually the only person to see the results of my labour. I may have put some of the photographs into photo albums and bored my friends and family with them, but largely they just went into storage boxes and were viewed only occasionally, and in recent years not at all. I don’t remember this being an impediment or discouragement to going out and taking pictures – it was the cost of film and processing that did that – so I was capable back then at least of enjoying photography just for the sake of it.

Roll on nearly forty years later and I have multiple ways of sharing, and believe me I have tried many: blogs, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and now Instagram. But I have never felt more unhappy about my photography.

Why this is so is, partly, a bit of a mystery to me. Who doesn’t want to get that little buzz that comes from a ‘like’ or a ‘fave’ from friend or stranger? Is there anything wrong with that? Well perhaps there is. My motivations have changed and I feel it whenever I raise the camera to my eye and think – how will this look on Instagram? It has changed how I look at the world, and I now tend to dismiss the kind of quiet images that I secretly love to see and produce. I love black and white photography, but I know that on sharing sites I get fewer likes for most of them than I do for the colour images.

So I have decided to only use Instagram in the way that the designers first envisaged – hosting images taken with my smartphone. I’ll keep it for fun and creativity, as I actually find using the smartphone quite liberating. For my ‘serious’ photography I am going to try what Bruce Percy suggests – keeping it back for myself. I’ll do this on a private Flickr account and if I want to share a few images I’ll do it here or make them public on Flickr. I will not worry myself about sharing potentially hundreds of images I like that I have taken in the last ten years. It may not work as a way forward but I will give it a try to see if the desire to produce personal work for myself is enough to sustain my photography.

Mountain scene, with haze.
San Bernardino Mountains, 2008.

 

A new toy

I have always striven for simplicity in everything I do, and that includes photography. So owning a Fujifilm X-T1 with two prime lenses – the 23mm f/2 and the 35mm f/2 – felt like owning one lens too many. I decided I was prepared to sacrifice flexibility for simplicity and chose the Fujifilm X100F compact camera with its fixed 23mm f/2 lens and smaller form factor. I have also been experimenting a bit with street photography – something I feel very self-conscious about whilst doing it – and I thought the X100F might help to make me feel more confident and less visible.

Having owned the very first iteration of the X100, back in 2012, I knew what to expect in terms of look and feel, but the performance has come on in leaps and bounds. I will almost certainly have regrets about selling off my X-T1 and those two primes, but I’m looking forward to not having to decide which lens to use.

Here is an image from my first walk around town with my new toy. It’s a straight out of camera JPEG using the Acros film simulation. It will take me a while to work out what settings to use for the JPEGs, but I also capture images in RAW so as to have the best of both worlds.

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Lancaster, 2018

 

Hello world!

I think it is traditional to start a new blog with a declaration of intent. The trouble is I have been here before, with many blogs and Web sites began with the best of intentions and then allowed to languish owing to lack of inspiration or deleted in frustration. So if I say that this blog may touch on many things but principally photography then you can take that with a large pinch of salt, but I hope this time it will be different.

Recently I deleted my Facebook account, not so much because of disgust at the selling of my data (which no-one could be surprised was happening), but rather my disgust at myself for spending so much time looking at other people’s curated lives. That was followed by a re-setting of my Twitter account, although I keep it active I no longer follow anyone. That may change if I find I have something to say here.

That leaves the two social media accounts I feel most reluctant to delete, and to which I do in fact post regularly – Flickr and Instagram. This blog could in theory act as a central hub where I can syndicate the content to other platforms. I have been reading a bit about the principles of the IndieWeb, in particular through the lens of Chris Aldrich, and the benefits of doing it yourself through the experience of Dan Cohen. I don’t aim to emulate them just yet (I’m not terribly technically minded), but I get the importance of owning my own data, and I like the idea of having my own little space on the Web.