I love it when a plan comes together.

Introduction

This is a story of how, over many years, a number of elements have come together to help me realise an idea, and of how my obsession with collecting pieces of media that inspire or intrigue me (writing, music, films etc) has paid off.  I rarely offer a preview of current projects, but I’m making an exception here because I am so excited that it was only recently I managed to track down the final piece of the jigsaw for this work.

The Prose

The story starts back in October 2002. In his first book, “First Light” Joe Cornish included an extract from “This American Earth “, by Nancy Newhall.  The piece resonated with me immediately as it so perfectly encapsulated the lot of the landscape photographer, and I added it to my library for future reference.

The Idea.

Skip forward 12 years and a time-lapse film called “Passing Through “was brought to my attention.  Produced by Ólafur Haraldsson the photography was brilliant and the music well-suited, but it was the narration which intrigued me.  Ólafur had taken a portion of a speech by the physicist Nikola Tesla and interpreted it in music and images.  It occurred to me that I could do the same with my time-lapse films and “This American Earth”, but although I had a couple of attempts at putting the two together I could never get it to work.

The narration on “Passing through” was notable for another reason; the voice of Frank Stubbs. His voice brought a depth and timbre perfectly suited to the piece, and the light and shade Frank imparted on the words raised the prose to a whole different level.  Again, “Passing Through” was added to my library.

Skip forward again to 2020, and for my 60th birthday my partner had arranged for me to realise one of my ambitions, namely to have one of my films shown on the big screen in a proper cinema.  It was a fantastic night, with family and friends making the evening one to remember.  Within the film shown that night was an AV sequence featuring “This American Earth”, for which I did the narration.

The Voice

However, even as the film was being shown, I couldn’t help but think that my voice was not nearly good enough to do justice to Nancy Newhall’s prose.  In addition, as I had recently been invited to present my time-lapse work to the Royal Photographic Society, I needed to do something special. It was as I was driving home from the Everyman Cinema that night that Frank Stubbs’ name popped into my head.

It took a little time, a lot of web searches, and a speculative email, before I was able to contact Frank. His enthusiasm for the project was immediate and eventually we met up at Inch Studios in Manchester, where Frank and Kier (the sound engineer) worked their magic.

The Result.

The sequence is out of context here and I still have some photography to do for it. However, for the time being, I’ve put it together using existing work to provide an idea of its look and feel. If you have a moment to view the sequence then I suggest you use headphones, as this is the best way of realising the quality of Frank’s voice.

So, all the key elements are in place, and a story that started in 2002 with a piece of prose is now complete. My thanks to both Frank Stubbs and Kier Stewart.

Leading by example

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A while ago I posted an article which suggested that “…..what we need is one ( a blog) in which a photographer discusses the attributes of a successful image.  After publishing the post a few fellow snappers suggested that I act on my own suggestion, so in the spirit of leading by example, here goes !

This image was taken in the autumn of 2019, whilst on a photographic weekend to the Lake District with a group from my local camera club.  I should point out that I find it difficult to function as a photographer when I’m in the company of others. For me landscape photography has always been a solitary pursuit, and I rarely produce anything worthwhile when I’m part of a group. So, in that respect, this image is a rarity.

After a leisurely breakfast I headed out with my good friend Anthony and my partner Heather (a none-photographer) to spend the day at Tarn Hows, but fairly soon after setting out we came across this scene.  I pulled the car over to the side of the road, and Anthony and I walked back to explorer it further.  There were quite a few trees of various sizes and species, and although the mist was rapidly burning off, I took a few moments to take in the scene and see what it was ‘saying’ to me (if anything).  This is my normal routine; I spend some time making some principle decisions about the finished image before the camera comes out.

As landscape photographers we are advised to start with the wide view then to narrow it down, excluding elements as we go until we have just what we want.  I have always found this approach to be fundamentally flawed.  I prefer to start with what I first see; that idea that made me do a double take; the colour, shape, tone, or texture that stopped me in my tracks, then work outwards until I have my composition. That way the subject  remains strong in the frame, and, most importantly, stays strong whilst I bring in the other supporting elements, allowing me to accept or reject their influence. I start with a principle element and add to it rather than work towards a vague idea.

In this case the principle idea is not the mist or the tree, but rather their relationship.  The tree presents certainty, a familiar and comforting shape, whilst the mist offers mystery, intrigue, uncertainty, and carries a certain threat.  Neither does the viewer have any idea as to the extent of the mist.  So the key question was how much space should each occupy in the frame?  The tree is a strong, recognisable object, so it’s always going to carry a presence out of all proportion to its size with in the frame.  I simply went with my instinct.

Not having any kind of constraint (border, vignette etc) and allowing the mist to bleed out of the frame has allowed me to suggest that the mist is infinite, and the lighting on the day suggested a light and airy atmosphere.  The simplicity of the composition. suggested monochrome.  I didn’t want the tree to ‘float’ in mid-air, so I print in a small area around the tree’s base.  That evening it was interesting to compare my effort with Anthony’s. He had decided to use more than one tree in his compositions, and this led to a totally different ‘feel’ in his images.

You may have noticed that I haven’t provided any technical details for this image.  Well, that’s because I never make a note of them and can’t remember them.  I know I could look at the image file data, but, firstly, that’s not the principle reason for this post, and secondly I can’t be bothered typing them out !

Stay Safe.  Be well.

The Church Of AGW.

Over the last few months, the subject of ‘climate change’ has once again come to the fore and the number of unsolicited posts on social media asking me to ‘like’ or ‘share’ them has increased accordingly. These posts either put forward the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) position or denigrate those who do not agree, or do both, and with the BBC, Channel 4 and the Guardian newspaper in the vanguard, mainstream and social media, politicians, bureaucrats and environmentalists are once again in full flow, peddling their message that AGW, driven by human emissions of CO2, is destroying the planet.

Over 160 years after Foote we’re still not very good at measuring the planet’s temperature, and the margins of error used are so large as to make any definitive figure meaningless. However, what primitive measurements we can make indicate that the planet is warming. But then it has been warming for fifteen thousand years. The last ice age came to an end when something triggered the current interglacial period and, despite variations and even some reversals in the rate, the trend in temperatures has been up ever since.

The main problem with the AGW argument is that neither the scientific nor the empirical data support the hypothesis. There isn’t any evidence that CO2 has been a driver of climate in the past, and there isn’t any evidence that it is driving the climate now, despite a concerted effort over the last 40 years by the world’s scientists, and with a budget running into trillions of dollars to find any. I have yet to find a published and pier-reviewed scientific paper which demonstrates the mechanism by which CO2 drives the climate.

People tell me that definitive proof is not needed; that there is a huge amount of circumstantial evidence, and that the science is ‘settled’. Science is never settled. Science doesn’t care about circumstantial evidence, majorities, reputations, probabilities, consensus or even Swedish schoolgirls. Science is the search for truth and it’s the very essence of science that it continuously asks questions of the current paradigms and theories, and that we adhere to the scientific method which has served us so well since Pythagoras.

“Good picture. What camera did you use?”

“To make our photographs come alive it may be necessary to prevent ourselves from being invested by the complex knowledge of photography and our love for technique. Instead, we may be better off by concentrating on our love for the subject matter and on the feelings we hope to reveal”

Per Volquartz. Photographer.

I rarely buy photographic magazines.  Maybe once a year for a holiday read is about it.  As a member of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) I receive their magazine every month as well as the RPS visual art group magazine, and whilst I have issues with some of the content as ‘photography’ the work published is usually superb.

Part of my abstention from the main-stream photography press is due to the fact that they are obsessed with equipment (which keeps advertisers happy) and with technique (which, I suppose, keeps readers happy).  Lots of ‘how ‘and little ‘why’ is the norm, which is to say that there’s little discussion or critique of the aesthetic and creative attributes of an image.  This if fine if you want to buy a new piece of kit, need to understand ND filters, or are looking for a promising location, but useless if you want to understand why a particular image works so well.

Another reason for my abstention is that, in this digital world, there are so many more ways of finding the information and inspiration I’m looking for.  However, the problem here is that the new wave of bloggers, vloggers etc are simply aping the hard copy magazines.  Equipment and technique are still paramount to the point of banality.  Why anybody would want to make a 10 minute video about un-boxing a new camera, or why anyone would watch it, is beyond my understanding.

Last weekend I spent time looking at some landscape vloggers work on Youtube.  I watched eight vlogs by six different ‘landscape photographers’ (inverted commas intentional), and errors, mistakes, poor technique, and resulting images (when displayed) which were, quite frankly, rubbish were in abundance.  One vlogger was disappointed when he found himself on the wrong side of a valley at sunset!  Wrong place at the wrong time; difficult for a ‘landscape photographer’ to get it more wrong then that.          

There are many facets to landscape photography which are not apparent in the finished images.  An understanding of weather patterns, tides, the movement of the sun, the variations in water levels in lakes and rivers, timing of seasonal events, to name a few, are crucial.  Research is also important, as an understanding of the background of a landscape feature can  (and maybe should) have an influence on how you photograph it. Studying the work of other photographers and artists is crucial, and viewing as much work by as many different photographers and artists as possible provides a good foundation to your own work.

‘Landscape photography’ is not about photography; it’s about the landscape.  You can teach someone the basics of photography in a few hours, but an understanding of the landscape can’t be taught.  It has to acquired through experience, and that takes time.  Only when you have developed some empathy with the landscape can you  start to explore your response to it through your images.  My best images often come towards the end of a visit, as if my photography head needs time to tune in to a particular landscape.

A few years ago I hosted a one day workshop in Snowdonia, and those photographers who made the effort to meet me 2 hours before sunrise were rewarded with spectacular lighting.  To this day, whenever I visit their club, they still talk about that morning. It was no accident that I took them to that spot at that time.  True, the light was even better than I anticipated, but we were in the right place at the right time, which was a product of not only my experience and knowledge of the area, but of the efforts by everyone to get out of bed at silly o’clock.

Rather than being able to recite the attributes of the latest piece of kit, which will be replaced in a few months anyway, we should concentrate on the emotional, aesthetic and creative ‘why’ in our images. To understand why the photographer was compelled to make the image, and why, for example, the compositional decisions were made.  What does the photographer ‘see’ in the landscape and how does it affect their response and the resulting composition.

Maybe what we need is a vlog which describes, in real time, the photographer’s thought processes in building a particular composition, or one in which a photographer discusses the attributes of a successful image. Any takers?

Remaining Mobile.

Over the last few years Parkinson’s Disease has made it increasingly difficult for me to carry my photographic equipment any distance.  I was diagnosed in 2011 and as recently as 2015 I was carrying a 20 kg rucksack all day over all kinds of terrain, but then I started loosing coordination in my left arm and the difficulty was not so much carrying the rucksack as getting it on in the first place!

So I started casting an eye about for some means of carrying my gear, and eventually I bought the Monowalker.  Designed for moving over rough ground, it is hitched to a harness a little like Scott’s method of man-hauling sleds!  I used it without the harness (like a posh wheelbarrow) and it worked very well, although kissing gates and stiles presented a problem as I had to unload and reload it either side.   However, towards the end of 2017 I was starting to have difficulty pushing or pulling it, and a new solution was needed.

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The Monowalker loaded up for a night time trip.

I looked at some electric trolleys, mainly designed for fishing, but these had various drawbacks.  They were generally big, heavy, and even secondhand ones were expensive.  More importantly they would be difficult to modify them for carrying my camera gear.  Then I hit upon the idea of converting an electric golf trolley.  This was far more promising as they were light, folded up for transportation and had a good range.  The big plus was that they would be easier to modify.  After looking at many different kinds I eventually bought a secondhand ‘GoKart’ trolley off eBay for £50, and set about modifying it.

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The ‘GoKart’ golf trolley before modification.

First I needed some method of securing my camera equipment, including the time-lapse motion rail.  The first idea used four lengths of Unistrut fixed across the frame, but this added too much weight and was probably a bit of  over-design on my part.  After a little more consideration I designed and fabricated a timber bed with a toe board and a cut out for the battery.  This was fixed to the frame using ‘U’ bolts and has lashing eyes fitted for securing the equipment.  It is also split so the trolley can still be folded.  Initial trials of this went well, but revealed that the trolley was going to need bigger wheels if it was going to traverse rough ground.

I bought a pair of 20 inch bicycle wheels with disc-brake hubs, but in order to get these to fit I was going to need to replace the existing trolley drive shaft wheel hubs.  I designed new ones using Autodesk Fusion 360 and the resulting models were used by a friend (Daniel) to fabricate the hubs from aluminium.

 

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The new hub design. The grey part is the drive shaft spigot, the blue part is the wheel hub adaptor.

The new hubs were in two parts. The first, the drive shaft spigot, was designed to replace the originals, and fitted the hexagonal socket in the trolley’s drive shaft.  Once screwed in place the spigot end was left projecting onto which the second piece would slide.

The second piece, the wheel hub adaptor, was bolted to the wheel via the disc brake fixing hub, and would slide over the trolley’s drive shaft spigot.  It was then secured using a large spring pin.  This arrangement meant I could remove the wheels for transportation and storage.

My principle concern was that the change of driving ratio due to the bigger wheels would mean the trolley would go too fast.  (I had visions of me chasing it for miles along some Scottish beach!!!)  I couldn’t do anything about the gearing as the gearbox is an integral part of the drive train.  All I could do was hope that the slowest speed was slow enough !!

However, my fears have proved groundless.  For its first trial I took it down to New Brighton beach so I could do some time-lapse work. It all went fine and when it started to struggle in the softer sand I just fed a little more power to the wheels. I’ll have to be careful how I load it up as the balance point is over the wheels but it works a treat.  There are a couple of minor changes to make and I’m sure it will continue to be improved.

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The finished item.

I have a long-term time-lapse project planned and the trolley is key to getting my gear to where it is required. This will test it’s abilities (as well as mine!) but for the time being I’m still mobile!

Time lapse Diaries Part 2

I did promise to report back on the first attempt at a dusk ’till dawn time lapse. Everything went ok except for two minor hiccups. The first, least serious, was that the cable from the battery wasn’t long enough to get me into exactly the right spot. Easily solved; buy a longer cable.

The second was a little more difficult to diagnose. Around 2:00 am the camera started failing to trigger, resuming normal operations around 3:00 am. This resulted in about 160 dropped frames in the middle of the sequence. I can only assume that the camera power connection was faulty. I will make all the connections more robust in time for the next attempt .

In the meantime the result can be seen here:- http://www.stevelewis.photography/fb-current.html

Don’t forget to turn up the sound!

The Timelapse Diaries

Introduction.

For the past few years I have been interested in the genre of timelapse photography.  Of particular interest are those timelapse films which capture the transition from day to night or night to day.  These are commonly called ‘holy grail’ films, the term having originated in the days of celluloid film when they were an extraordinarily difficult thing to get right.  However, modern digital equipment and post-processing makes the whole process more accessible and over the last few years I have become reasonably adept at producing them.

Many holy grail films only feature the transition through sunset or sunrise, but I began to wonder about making a holy grail film featuring a sunset and sunrise in the same continuous film, which would also capture the beautiful night sky, so I decided to make it my project for the summer.

There were two main challenges which had to be overcome.  Firstly I would have to find a suitable location and secondly I would have to provide power to the camera (Nikon D600), the pan and tilt unit (Emotimo Spectrum ST4) and other equipment for the duration.

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Emotimo Spectrum ST4 with Nikon D600

Location.

The location needed a number of key attributes.  First, there had to be an uninterrupted view to the horizon.  Secondly, as the film features the night sky it would be preferable if the location was in a dark sky area of the UK.  Thirdly, it needed to have decent vehicle access as I need to get the equipment as close to the location as possible.  Finally, it would be preferable if the location was a lake or a body of water as reflections always make a film more interesting.

Based on my local knowledge and experience, and after a few reconnaissance trips I chose Llyn Conwy.  The source of the river of the same name, it sits on a plateau of peatland bog known as the Mignient high above Blaenau Ffestiniog.  Sitting at the highest point meant that there aren’t any hills or mountains overshadowing it, and the horizon is only just above the water level. It also had a small carpark at the southern end.

Astronomical Calculations.

Now I had my location I needed to work out how I was going to power the equipment, and in order to do this I needed some information concerning timings.  Consulting my favourite photographic app (Photo Pills) gave me the relevant information.

On midsummer’s eve (21st June) at Llyn Conwy sunset is at 9:45 PM and sunrise is at 4:45 AM.  Allowing an extra hour at each end of the sequence for run-in and run-out this meant that the equipment would have to run for 9 hours.  The compass bearing for sunset is 314° and the sunrise is 47°, giving an angle of 93° through which the camera was going to have to turn.  I could have the camera remain static and rely on the angle of view of the lens to cover the 93°, but the 14 mm lens on my full frame Nikon has an angle of view of 114°, leaving only 10° of angle at either edge of the frame, which I thought was too close for comfort.

The Power Conundrum.

Having sorted a location and the astronomical stuff the next problem to address was how I was going to power the equipment continuously for 9 hours.  I needed to power four pieces of equipment.  First there was my Nikon D600 DSLR, secondly there was my Emotimo Spectrum ST4 pan and tilt unit, thirdly there was a Samsung tablet which controls the cameras exposure settings, and finally I was going to need to power the lens heater.  After much experimentation I finally settled on running a 10 metre cable from the 12 volt leisure battery in my motorhome to the equipment location.  The cable is fairly large so that the voltage drop along a 10 m length is minimal, and is fitted with an inline fuse.   

Although the ST4 could run directly off a 12 Volt supply the camera required an 8 Volt supply.  The solution to this was provided by a small voltage and current step-down power supply.  This reduced the 12 volt to the required 8 volt and the amperage to the required 2 Amp hour max.  This in turn was plugged into a dummy battery pack DC coupler which replaced the standard battery in the camera.  I cobbled together a small box to house the power supply.

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Voltage regulator and DC dummy battery pack

So now I had a solution.  The camera, lens heater and the ST4 would be powered from 12 Volt supply from the leisure battery, and the tablet computer to control exposure would be powered from a 20 amp portable battery bank.  This only really needed to run for the two hours around sunset and sunrise when exposure changes are needed.  It could be switched off and recharged during the night when the exposure didn’t change.

The Timelapse Hypothesis.

Having got the equipment side of things sorted out I decided to carry out a full-scale test at home.  However before I could do any kind of test I needed to sort out the actual timelapse timings, so here we go.

9 hours total at a 24 second interval = 1350 frames. Say 1400.

So 1 hour = 155 frames

Starting at 20:45 (an hour before sunset);

Static time :- 200 frames = 1 hour 17minutes.  Takes us to 22:02

Moving time :- 1000 frames = 6 hours 27 minutes.  Takes us to 04:29

Static time :- 200 frames = 1 hour 17minutes.  Takes us to 05:46 (an hour after sunrise).

This means the camera will be static during sunset and sunrise.   I’ve also allowed for a 150 frame ramp at either end so the camera eases into and out of motion.  Simples!!

The Pudding Proof.

I ran the cable from the 12 volt leisure battery into the house and connected everything up. I started the sequence at 20:45 and left it to run.  Checking the images the following morning I found the last one had a time stamp of 04:15.   This equals 7 1/2 hours running time.

Now this may sound like a failure but a few factors meant it was actually ok.  The first is that, on location, for the first hour and the last hour the battery will be getting some charge from the roof solar panel.  So the battery-only running time is actually around 7 to 8 hours. Secondly I can adjust the motor settings on the ST4 so it uses less power, and I can turn off some settings on the camera as well.  Finally I can run the engine for a short period a couple of times during the night to top off the battery, but this means fitting a second voltage/current regulator to protect the equipment from any surges.

So the power diagram looks like this;

timelapse diagram

So we’re now good to go.  However as I write this it’s still 4 weeks to the shortest night and it may take a few weeks for the right conditions to come about but I’ll report back and post the results here. Watch this space!!

Beyond the ‘Rules’ by Stephen Lewis A.R.P.S.

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Impressions of Punakiaki.  New Zealand.

My local photographic society had a competition recently the theme of which was “Impressions”.  There are, of course, many different interpretations of this but many entrants, myself included, chose to enter images made in the impressionist style. Unfortunately, the judge had a very different interpretation of what constitutes ‘impressionist’, insisting that an image should have a focal point; that the lack of a focal point meant his eyes could not come to rest within the frame, and that a focal point was one of the golden rules of composition.

I’m not one for rules. They are made for obedience by fools and the guidance of wise men, and whilst it’s good to have an understanding of and be able to use the so-called rules of composition, it doesn’t mean they have to be utilised in every image.  However, once you have them in your skills set you often find yourself using them subconsciously, and they are good when you’re starting out in photography as they form a solid structure on which to base your images. However, as you progress and your ability grows you realise that other factors play an important role in composition.

This was first brought home to me when I started using a large format camera, where the image on the glass screen is both upside down and laterally reversed.  It takes a little getting used to but eventually your brain stops trying to make sense of the image on the screen and this allows you to see the underlying structure of the image. This is not just the compositional elements within the frame e.g. a building or a person or a car or a rock, but also how the colours, tones, shapes, highlights and shadows interact with one another. You stop seeing the individual elements for what they are and are better able to perceive how they interact with one another.

The image above is one of my favourites, and one of my most popular, but the only compositional ‘rule’ apparent in the image is that it is broadly split into three, which was done subconsciously rather than deliberately, as it just felt right.  Otherwise, the image doesn’t have any compositional structure to its elements as such and actually breaks a few of the rules.  However, other factors are at work in the composition contributing to the overall look and feel of the image.

First there is the contrasting textures and shapes within the sand and water.  The vertical patterns in the bottom of the frame contrast with the random marled effect in the shallow water and the strong linear shapes of the deeper water through the middle.  Then there is the slash of warmth in an otherwise cool colour pallet to provide a contrast in the colour tones.  Warm tones advance and cool tones recede so the warm light has an effect on the colour balance within the frame disproportionate to its size.

So this image (which was not entered in the competition, but is being used as an example) does not have a focal point, or lead in lines, has a dark line running through the centre, and has bright areas running out of the frame, but they don’t matter.  It’s all about the contrasts; contrasts in shapes, textures and colours, and it is the way these elements are balanced within frame and add up to something greater than the sum of their parts, rather than any of the composition rules, which create an impression of Punakiaki.

A Memory Jogger? by Stephen Lewis A.R.P.S.

My maternal grandfather, Adrian Allen (Bob to his friends), was not only a fine watchmaker but also a fine musician. He played a mean jazz guitar, and his main claim to fame was that he played the opening night of the cavern club in Liverpool. The band he played in was called the Ralph Watmough band, and although I’ve been able to find out a little bit about them from the Internet the pickings of been a bit thin.

So I am posting this image here in the hope that somebody out there can tell me something about it. It was taken we think around 1955, and shows a group of session musicians, including my grandfather front and centre with the guitar. This is not the Ralph Watmough band, but some of the musicians in this photograph may have played in that band.

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Now I appreciate that the Liverpool jazz scene in the 1950s is a fairly specialised or specialist subject and that many of the people involved around that time will now be getting on a little bit, but if you happen across this webpage and can tell me anything about the photograph or the people in it (including my grandfather)  I’d be grateful.

Back to Basics by Stephen Lewis A.R.P.S.

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It’s been a while since I last posted here. (A few other projects and ill health have kept me away).  However, a recent decision about my photography has got the old blogging juices flowing again.

For the last few years I’ve been concentrating on two photographic genres, namely time-lapse and infrared monochrome.  I have done little in the way of traditional landscape photography, and I’ve struggled to conjure up any enthusiasm for it.  I’ve been giving some thought as to why this may be and I think I have the answer.

I have a perfectly decent Nikon D800 which is capable of fantastic results, especially when used in conjunction with Nikon’s tilt and shift lenses.  The DSLR has allowed me to experiment with all kinds of new ideas and to make images which would have probably been impossible with a film camera.  However, I just don’t enjoy using it for landscape work.  It’s fine for my macro work and my watch photography, but when out in the landscape it provides an unsatisfactory experience.

I still enjoy the process of finding a landscape image. The search for a decent subject, the contemplation of light, tone, texture, colour, highlights, and shadows, and the challenge of bringing it all together in a coherent composition.  What I’ve stopped enjoying is the actual process of making the image; of using the camera.  The realisation I’ve come to is that this is largely due to the camera not allowing any kind of real engagement with the subject.

Any camera is just a tool of the craft, and should never get in the way of or interfere with the creative process.  If you’re busy thinking about the camera, which button to press, which wheel to turn, which menu item to select, then you’re not really concentrating on your subject. You’re not engaging with it in any meaningful way.  The technical side has superseded the creative process.

This lack of engagement became evident when I started sorting through my images in preparation for a book to be published later this year.  Up until 2013 I was producing strong, coherent images on a regular basis, but since then I’ve made far fewer.  The quality is still there but whereas I used to produce between 25 and 50 decent images every year, since 2013 I’ve produced maybe 50 in total.  Now, I’m a ruthless editor of my work, and very hard on myself when it comes to the quality, so either I’m editing more out i.e. throwing more away, or I’m just not making as many images as I used to.  Either way it boils down to drop-off in production which I’ve put down to a lack of enthusiasm in turn brought about by the unsatisfactory experience of using a DSLR out in the landscape.  So what’s the solution?

I wrote here in 2016 about coming to terms with selling my large format equipment and how I missed using it out in the field, particularly the sense of engagement it provided.  Since then I’ve constantly found myself checking out websites and retailers to see what’s out there but I’ve always resisted the temptation, mainly due to concerns around the film processing (cost, quality, et cetera).  However, recently these concerns have abated somewhat, and I find myself back in the position I was in in 1997 when I started looking at large format for the first time.

So, I’m going to do now what I did then. I’m going to invest (or should that be reinvest) in a small, lightweight large format system. A lightweight field camera, one lens, a couple of film holders, and some Ilford monochrome film.  My venerable Sekonic spot meter is still working and I’m sure I can find my original dark cloth.  For the time being I will have the film processed by commercial lab, but hopefully at some point in the future I would like to recommission my JoBo CPE2 processing system.  (To fund all this I’m going to sell my Nikon tilt and shift lenses,  so if anybody out there is interested please get in touch).

Buying my first large format system was one of the most significant points in my photographic career. I now realise that selling it was a low point from which I’ve not fully recovered. To quote one of my photographic heroes, Joe Cornish;

“There is a proper sense of occasion and significance setting up a big camera on a tripod.  I liken it the process to a painter setting up a canvas on an easel, and working with paints and brushes, en plein air (as the impressionists described it).  The process itself, with its laborious workflow, reinforces a sense of respect for photography and for the landscape.  This in turn helps me make pictures that I feel do justice to the subject.  It is impossible to snap, to take, to point and shoot and walk away”

I feel better already!  So, is it to be 5 x 4 or the wonders of 10 x 8?  I’ve always fancied a 10 x 8………

arran