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Photo of the Month February 2022 – Wave Watchers

Posted on 18th June 2022 by Admin under Photo of the Month, Photograph
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Wave Watchers

In February 2022, three severe storms hit the UK in quick succession.  During the course of one week, Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin reached our shores.  An unprecedented occurrence.  For the last of these, on 21 February, I was on the south coast at Shoreham-by-Sea.  I expected to see some big waves and the conditions did not disappoint. They provided the opportunity to vreate my photo fo the month.

Camera Gear

While I do not normally write about equipment, occasionally an explanation can help.  I had two identical bodies with APS-C crop sensors and image stabilisation (IBIS). On one I had mounted a standard range “kit” lens (full frame equvialent 28-85 mm) and the other had a long telephoto zoom (150-600 mm).  Why two bodies?  Changing lenses while out and about can be fiddly and would not have been ideal in the windy conditions I knew I would experience.  It meant I would be carrying some additional gear but with one camera in my hand and the other in a backpack, the extra weight would not be too burdensome.

Getting the Shot

Keeping the camera with the large zoom lens steady in a storm blowing at 50 mph was not easy, the gusts simultaneously tugging the camera in several directions.  I was shooting at longer focal lengths, so made sure to keep the shutter speed high.  Doubtless, IBIS was frequently making its contribution as well to obtaining a sharp image.  The exposure in this shot was 1/1700 @f/9, ISO 200, the shutter speed high enough to counter any camera movement.  Despite the weather’s storm classification, there was no rain, just wind and light levels were good.

By using a longer focal length, just over 300 mm full frame equivalent, I was able to stand back from the subject for an unusual viewpoint. The telephoto lens has compressed perspective and the scene has several layers to give an impression of depth. Nearest are the couple on the beach, with the incoming waves ahead of them.

Other Photos From the Day

Another shot that benefited from the long lens was of this seagull skimming the waves. There were a few of the birds enjoying the conditions. Tracking them with a long lens being blown hither and thither was not straightforward. This is a substantial crop of the original as I was not zooming in too closely.

Skimming the Waves

There were some surfers also taking advantage of the waves.  They were in the entrance to the harbour.making it possible to get alongside them by standing on the harbour wall. I was close enough that I could use my standard zoom and get a different viewpoint to the usual surfing shots. Nor did I have to zoom in fully to show the surfers and their surroundings. One person was using a foilboard that rises out of the water. Something I had not seen before. Possibly it had a motor as I saw him riding it out to sea as well. That definitely looked weird.

With the trip planned well before the forecasters predicted Storm Franklin, its appearance added unexpected interest to the day.

Photo of the Month January 2022 – Mizpah II

Posted on 24th May 2022 by Admin under Photo of the Month
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For the past few years, I have attempted a project to take and publish a photo each week.  With one exception, the endeavour has foundered and the cause is always the same.  I reach a week where none of the shots excites me greatly.  While I ponder and dither about what to post, another seven days slip by.  Before long, there is a backlog and I lose interest when I do not resolve the initial dilemma.

In truth, photography is not a pursuit that adheres to a schedule.  For someone who mainly derives images by observing the world, opportunity and chance are significant factors.  One of the pleasures of photography is when everything comes together unexpectedly.  It does not happen frequently which makes those occasions all the more special.  Many of my favourite shots have occurred in that way, but realistically I cannot expect such situations to occur more or less on demand.

This blog has also suffered from neglect, so perhaps now is the time to correct the omission with a series of articles featuring one photo taken each month.  That, surely, must be easier to accomplish without compromising too much?  Over the next few months, we shall see.  Although I am commencing with an image taken in January 2022, I have waited over four months to publish it here.  That does mean that I at least have the advantage of a dry run without any commitment to establish the project’s feasibility.

This Month’s Photo

Mizpah II fishing boat at Hythe

As much as anything, this boat’s name intrigued me.  “Mizpah” is a Hebrew word that translates loosely as “May God watch over you”.  When I was researching on Google, I discovered that this is just one of several small fishing boats that have the same name.  Perhaps it is not surprising, given the circumstances.

I got the shot of the fishing boat at Hythe on the Kent coast which I was visiting for the day.  At first, the weather was not too promising with overcast and dull conditions typical of a January day in the depth of a British winter.  As the day went on, the cloud started to lift during the late afternoon.  By the time the sun was setting, the sky was clear and the light golden.  As can be seen, I took the shot as sunlight started to appear between the cloud and the horizon.  The sky acts as a frame to hold the eye on the subject, an effect that I would not have seen had I shot later on.

Royal Military Canal

Hythe has a long history.  It is a “Cinque Port”, one of five ports along Britain’s south coast that were formerly responsible for providing boats in the country’s service.  This could be for defence, conveying armies or fighting sea battles.  Effectively, it was an early navy before the establishment of a formal military division.  In exchange, the state granted privileges and liberties to the towns to manage their own affairs.  Gradually, those rights were reduced and nowadays the town has no special jurisdiction that sets it apart from the rest of the country.  Even the harbour no longer exists, having long silted up.  A fate it had in common with others along the south coast.

Another feature of Hythe is the Royal Military Canal, the constructiuon of which dates to the Napoleonic War.  It formed an artificial barrier across Romney Marsh, a flat area of land that would otherwise be difficult to defend against an invading force.  It stretches for 28 miles to Cliff End in East Sussex with Hythe at its eastern end.  Although dating from the early 19th century, it served a similar purpose during World War II when German forces posed a threat similar to that from the French over a hundred years previously.

This shot shows the canal and gives a good indication of weather conditions during the earlier part of the day.

A Walk in the Street

Posted on 1st December 2020 by Admin under Comment, Location, Photograph, Shot of the Week, Street photography
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Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose

Sung by Mary Hopkin, 1968

Prologue

Way back when in the days of, oh, around a year ago, no one outside of Wuhan in China had heard of Covid-19.  We were free and could venture where we liked.  It was at the end of 2019 when I joined Amateur Photographer magazine on a street walk in London.  Ostensibly, the event was run in conjunction with Zeiss as a promotion for its Batis 40 mm lenses.  Except Zeiss never showed up, although Ed Norton who is one of the company’s ambassadors was there as scheduled.

This lack of participation left the Amateur Photographer representatives in a quandary.  They had a gathering of photographers all with the expectation of using a Zeiss lens but no lenses.  Somehow, they managed to find enough for everyone in a variety of focal lengths from across the Batis range.  By the time it was my turn to choose, the only choices were at either end of the Zeiss offerings, 18 mm or 135 mm.

I opted for the former, partly on the basis that its wide-angle would be more testing.  Partly on the basis that it would present more opportunities to vary compositions.  With a telephoto lens I would be mainly constrained to getting in close, with the distinct possibility that would not always be possible.  On a crowded street, there would often be the chance of someone obstructing my view.

Normally, I try to avoid talking about camera gear on the basis it is the resulting images which are more important.  Much of that is due to there not really being such a thing as inadequate equipment these days.  Sure, some of it is better than others with price generally being a good indicator of quality, but worthwhile results can be obtained with practically anything.  Has there ever been a better time to be a photographer?  The Zeiss lens I had on my camera is expensive and it showed.  It is a cracking performer, both for the amount of detail it can record and the way it renders.  And using it on the street is indeed a challenge.

Adding to those difficulties was the weather.  Britain was in the midst of its wettest winter for years and there had already been extensive flooding across the country.  The rain that was in the forecast for the afternoon duly arrived shortly after we set and was as heavy as predicted.  Would I normally go out to take photographs in such conditions?  You bet I wouldn’t.  I was struggling.  The cold and damp conditions, combined with an extreme focal length, were not conducive to photography.

Amateur Photographer produced a short video of the event which gives an idea of the weather conditions. I think I make a brief appearance at the 38 second mark.

The Shot

What never ceases to surprise is the way circumstances can change in an instant.  With exposures usually being a fraction of a second, photography is about the moment.  At the foot of the steps leading up to Waterloo Bridge from London’s South Bank, I looked up and saw a figure at the top.  Had I got there an instant later, they would have been gone.  As it was, the figure was in the perfect position, their umbrella just above the railing against the sky. I was speaking to another participant at the time and barely paused as I took the shot.  The shot was an immediate reaction and instinctive. I suspect that he did not register what I had done.

An umbrella in the rain on Waterloo Bridge
Amateur Photographer magazine described this as a “moody black and white shot”

There is nothing new in photography.  However innovative the idea might seem, invariably someone has done it before, probably decades ago.  So I cannot claim that the shot of someone at the top of some stairs is startling in its originality, though I might request some additional credit for the subject holding an umbrella.

What I can say is that the factors which were working against me turned in my favour during that brief moment.  The image is a crop, but not especially so and the extra space in the image allowed me to correct the converging verticals.  The shot might not have been possible with even a modestly longer focal length.  It definitely would not have happened if I had elected the safety of the telephoto lens at the outset.  And would the shot have worked so well without the subject holding an umbrella?  It was not the easiest photo to process and I had several false starts before I had a result I was happy with.

The rest of the afternoon was not so productive.  An hour or so later, Nigel Atherton who the editor of Amateur Photographer, turned up with a Batis 40 mm lens. By dint of liaising with suppliers and couriers, he had managed to procure a few more since we had set out.  I made the swap as that was what I had wanted to try all along.  By then, it was dark and still raining heavily. I struggled in the conditions.  The best I managed was another photographic meme, a street musician in Covent Garden.  The walk ended at Park Cameras just off Oxford Street, by when I glad that it was all over.  A mince pie accompanied by a steaming hot cup of coffee were a welcome reward.

Street musician Covent Garden
Street musician at Covent Garden. I exposed for the poster and, as shot, the busker was not visible in the shadows. It is the sort of shot which demonstrates the flexibility of Raw files.

Postscript

Some weeks later, Amateur Photographer ran a feature about the event and selected my steps shot for inclusion in the article.  Which lens got the credit for the photo?  The Batis 40 of course.  Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors.  But, it is the image which matters – not the gear used.

Shot of the Week 2019/16 – Micheldever Wood

Posted on 10th June 2019 by Admin under Comment, Landscape, Location, Photograph, Shot of the Week
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This avenue of trees is from Micheldever Wood in Hampshire, a spot about which I have heard much.  Unusually, it is the first photo I took at the location.  Typically, the initial press of the shutter results in something which is OK but, in reality, is the start of exploring the scene.  More creative ideas follow on from the obvious viewpoint.  I suspect that applies to most photographers.  As soon as I saw this scene, though, I knew instantly that it had potential. It is close to car park and is remarkable for the number of tall trees growing straight in an orderly manner across a large are.  Woods are seldom so organised and it can be a challenge to find a coherent composition.

An avenue of trees at Micheldever Wood

About Micheldever Wood

The wood is renowned for its bluebells, for which I had gone in search en route to the South Coast.  In my heart, I knew that I was both too early and too late.  Too early, as I did not expect the flowers to be fully out.  Too late, since I did not get there until mid morning, long after the best light had gone.  That did not matter as my suspicions about the state of the flowers proved correct.  A local photographer who I met while walking around and knew the woods well, estimated that they were around 30% in bloom.  My venture was more of a foray to investigate options for another time.

Bluebells are tricky flowers to photograph.  They like shade and come out just as the leaves on the trees are forming.  Once the canopy is fully in place, it blocks most of the light and the resulting photographs frequently lack drama.  As spring progresses, other plants grow up around them and makes it difficult to find an area which is a solid patch of purple.  In reality, there is just a brief period of a few days each year when they are at their best.

Writing this blog at some remove from the time of shooting, I know that the bluebells largely eluded me this year. As will become apparent in subsequent posts, I was nowhere near a bluebell wood when they reached their prime.

Shot of the Week 2019/15 – Stride

Posted on 3rd June 2019 by Admin under APOY, Comment, competition, Location, Photograph, Shot of the Week, Street photography
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When I decided to write blog articles to accompany my weekly photo, I did not fully comprehend what a commitment it would be.  While the project is proceeding well, the opposite is definitely not true when it comes to publishing the images.  And a lot can happen during the extended intervening period when I do not post.  “Stride”, my eventual shot for the week did not start out as my initial selection.  Then everything changed.  I entered it into the first round of Amateur Photographer magazine’s 2019 Amateur Photographer of the Year competition.  The topic was “Mad About Mono” and the magazine has just published the result.  To my surprise and delight, “Stride” was selected as one of top 30.  It appears in the issue dated 8 June 2019.

A man walks in front of a dramatically painted wall, his stride matching the pattern behind him
Stride

Here is what Amateur Photographer had to say:

“A wall like that cries out to be photographed and Michael has made the most of it by waiting for someone to walk past.  This image wouldn’t have worked in colour.”

I took the shot during a photo walk with the Royal Photographic Society London Region.  Despite Amateur Photographer’s assertion to the contrary, I am not aware that any other participants used the wall as a backdrop.  That is the potential issue with such events.  Great fun, socially, but with the inherent chance of someone copying a shot or having the same idea themselves.  Naturally, that is even worse if their result turns out to be better. Although I would say all kudos to anyone who can make an image work, however obtained.

Three Shell Scam

This is my actual favourite from the day.  We started by wandering across Westminster Bridge, which was full of people.  To my astonishment, I saw a number of gangs operating the three shell scam.  It is a con as those betting cannot win.  Rather than leaving the ball inside the upturned cup, the dealer hides it in their hand.  Whichever cup the punter chooses, it will be empty.  A conjuring trick, rather than an outcome based on luck.

On street gambling is illegal in the UK, so it was definitely a shock to see it happening so blatantly just yards from the Houses of Parliament.  Apparently, it has been going on for some time, so must be lucrative.  There were a lot of foreign visitors and such activity in a prominent place does not make for a good impression.

A gang tries to con tourists by enticing thjem to place a bet they cannot win
Three Shell Scam

The Story Behind the Shot

Obtaining a photograph was tricky.  I was fortunate to discover this gang who had stationed themselves at the south side of the bridge where there was some space.  Westminster Bridge was too crowded to have a clear shot of any of the others.  Not to mention that I was wary of hassle from any of their members.  (I learnt later a friend who was on the walk had been discouraged from taking a photo.)  Aside from the person manipulating the shells, each gang had at least one “minder” acting as a lookout.  There were also people pretending to bet, yet did not seem the least bit excited when handed what looked like a £50 note. 

Unlike “Stride”, this image has more of a story which is not necessarily obvious unless the viewer knows what to look for.  Clearly, the most significant figure is the man bending down and manoeuvring the cups.  The individual on the right looking at me suspiciously is a lookout, with the three people in the foreground being the potential “marks”.  I cannot be certain, but the woman on the left wearing a headscarf might be one of the gang.  If so, she will have stood to one side in the hope that the onlookers will place a bet.

There are two other aspects of the image which I enjoy.  The monochrome rendering has some lovely rich tones.  And that sign in the background encouraging redemption is the icing on the cake.  Sometimes, we just get lucky with our photography.  To have it happen twice in a day is good fortune indeed. Especially given that shooting on the street can be so unpredictable when it comes to finding opportunities.

Shot of the Week 2019/14 – Desiccated Tulip

Posted on 8th May 2019 by Admin under Comment, Photograph, Shot of the Week
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At the start of this photo-a-week project, I set myself an objective.  No flowers.  Unless absolutely unavoidable. So, for the third time, I am presenting an image of what else, ….. a flower.  It is another in my series of desiccated tulips, a subject which I have been doing quite a lot of late.  Far more than I have included in this series.  There was even a week when my tulip images were far and away better than anything else I did.  Yet, out of sheer obstinacy and contrariness, I excluded the whole lot of them.  The best of those shots, incidentally, went on to do reasonably well in a recent competition against other local photographers.

A tulip which is past its prime?  Not this one.
Desiccated Tulip

Photographing a tulip

The recipe is simple.  Buy a bunch of flowers and enjoy them for a week or so.  Instead of throwing them out when they start to fade, hang on to them.  They are nowhere near their photogenic prime.  Only when they are bent and falling apart, having had an unpleasant odour for a couple of weeks or more, are they almost ready for their first moment in front of the camera.

Maybe you think I am exaggerating?  My wife will tell you differently.  A really good tulip or other flower can mature like a fine wine.  Except you can only drink the wine once.  The tulip can be photographed on many more occasions before it needs to go anywhere near the compost heap.

At the British Museum

While at the British Museum, I had a few minutes to try out a new lens, a Fuji 10-24 f/4zoom. This shot is of a honeypot location, the Great Court, which has been the subject of countless photographs. Considerately, the architect provided a high up viewing point for the purpose. Indeed, I had to wait my turn while someone else took their own photograph and others queued up behind.

Used at its widest setting, the lens performed reasonably well. As a consequence of the wide-angle of view, there was some distortion which I corrected in post processing. The edges are a bit soft, although I think that, for what I paid, the lens is a decent performer. The more so since it incorporates image stabilisation. It is difficult to design wide-angle lenses, a zoom only adding to the problems encountered. Fuji’s significantly more expensive, and bigger, 8-16 f/2.8 lens doubtless yields better results. Given the compromises of size, weight and cost, I am content to to stick with what I have.

The classic Great Court shot, taken from the usual high viewpoint.
The Great Court at the British Museum

Shot of the Week 2019/13 – Goldfinch

Posted on 7th May 2019 by Admin under Equipment, Location, Nature, Photograph, Shot of the Week
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I will not describe it as a mistake, rather a miscalculation when I started my shot of the week project at the beginning of the year. After four months, it remains on track, despite appearances to the contrary.  Where I erred was in underestimating the time required to produce a blog article to accompany every photograph.  It is quite a commitment.  For a while, all was well.  Then I started to be a week or so late which morphed into two weeks.  I nearly caught up, before life got extremely busy.  There was time to take photographs, but not enough to process and write about them. So today, already a week into May, I present my image for the week ending 31 March.

Goldfinch on a teasel
Goldfinch

The shot, Goldfinch, is my favourite from a day spent at Millers Wood which is run by a bird photography enthusiast, John Stanton. A few years ago, he purchased a tract of woodland and is gradually restoring it to create a haven for wildlife. As part of the work he has undertaken, John has set up a number of hides and photogenic settings, which he hires out. While I mainly saw a variety of birds, there was a field vole which occasionally scampered about. I am certain that there are plenty of other animals there as well.

It requires a long telephoto lens, but there are photographic opportunities aplenty. Most of my shots were taken on a Fuji 100-400 lens zoomed out to its maximum length and mounted on a X-H1.  That is equivalent to 600 mm on a full frame camera. Even then, some cropping is often necessary. Fortunately, with 24 MP to play with, there is sufficient scope to be able to produce an image for a good size print. For the goldfinch image, I wanted to include some context and zoomed out to around 300 mm.

To bait or not to bait?

The largest birds I saw at Millers Wood were woodpeckers but most are much smaller.  They are also completely wild and tend not to stay in one place for long.  A hide is a necessity, but that alone is insufficient.  In order to attract the birds, John places food in concealed positions which entices them to settle a few feet away.

While the practice of baiting might be anathema to some, it does ensure that there is plenty to see.  The objective was to obtain pictures, after all.  In my view, the method of achieving that goal is secondary.  Sure, I ended up with shots of birds eating food that did not look natural; a minor consideration when there was so much going on.  Besides, I doubt that many shots of smaller birds have ever been achieved without some form of baiting.

To my mind, the difference comes down to the distinction between taking a photograph and making it. Unwittingly, maybe, but the birds were acting as models and receiving their reward in a currency they could appreciate. Namely, nourishment.

Some other images from Millers Wood

Not a goldfinch, but a robin taking flight
Leaving
Empty twig where a bird had just been sitting
Gone, bird, gone. There was definitely a bird on the twig a split second before …..

Inevitably, birds will take flight before the shutter can be pressed. They can be astonishingly quick, there one moment and gone the next. It all happens in a fraction of a second. I certainly had a goodly number of frames where the bird was absent. Occasionally, especially when shooting a burst, it is possible to catch the bird at the moment of departure. The first image is the best of what I describe as a “leaving” shot. I find the robin’s assymetrical action intriguing, captured at a brief instant with only one wing extended and one foot in the air.

Coal tit
Here’s looking at you
Woodpecker
Here’s looking at you II

Sometimes the birds appear to be looking directly at the camera. On my previous visit to Millers Wood, I had been hoping to get a shot of a woodpecker. John seemed very confident that would happen, offering a refund if none appeared. Needless to say, his money was safe. The birds are ubiquitous although I have yet to see a green one, which seem to be less common.

A field vole, looking increedibly cute
Field Vole

Having mentioned the field vole sighting earlier, I could hardly conclude without showing a shot of it. Overall, it was a very productive day and I am especially pleased with my goldfinch image.

Shot of the Week 2019/12 – Family Group

Posted on 9th April 2019 by Admin under Comment, Location, Photograph, Shot of the Week, Street photography
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In my last post, I commented on one of the issues which arises when deciding which photograph to publish for the week.  In that instance, I had three candidates and for the sake of variety opted for the one which it would not be possible to repeat.  This time, the problem is different in that I have a number of shots which could make the grade.  It was a good week, both photographically speaking and otherwise.  One benefit of creating a blog article each week is that it allows the possibility of featuring alternative shots.

Family Group

I took this while on a photo walk with one of my camera clubs in and around the City of London.  Usually I treat these affairs purely as social events and any reasonable images are a bonus.  Sometimes they do prove to be very productive and this was one such occasion.

A family group on a day out
Family Group

Other Photo Walk Images

There are many churches within the City of London and many are still in use. These days, they are dwarfed by the skyscrapers which have appeared during the past few years.

Church spire dwarfed by the surrounding buildings
God and Mammon

The walk ended just off Brick Lane where there is a wall frequented by graffiti artists.  They proved to be very friendly and did not mind having their picture taken.  I enjoyed chatting with them as they worked.  If I can find the time, the shots I took that afternoon would make a blog post on their own.  For a while, this was going to be my shot of the week mainly because I enjoyed the experience of photographing them.  In the end, though, “Family Group” proved just too strong an image to ignore.

Graffiti artist in action
Graffiti Artist

The Nomadic gardens is a community area next to the graffiti wall.  There is some graffiti there as well.  Unlike the wall, where the artists habitually paint over each other’s work, the art on display is more permanent. I suspect, though, that it still changes over time. The main wall at one end of the gardens proved very popular with lots of people taking photographs.

Photography at the Nomdic gardens with a graffitio wall as a bacdfrop
Photo Shoot

A candid shot in the Nomadic gardens.

A couple at the Nomadic gardens
The Two of Us

I could not resist this shot while walking around Brick Lane. The dogs seemed quite content with their lot.

Dogs in coats
Dogged

Wisley

The Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Wisley looked amazing. Probably the best I have ever seen it. The reason was that many of the trees were in blossom. Apparently, a mild winter which did not have too many cold snaps allowed the blossom to flourish. Not just at Wisley either, as the trees in my locality have also been putting on a good show this spring.

Bee on blossom at RNS Wisley

Tate Britain

I also went to see the Don McCullin exhibition which is currently on at Tate Britain. While he does shoot in colour, all the main images were monochrome. He is an amazing photographer although his many depictions of humanity’s worst aspects are difficult to look at. It does not pay to exercise one’s imagination too much about what was happening. Nor do I really comprehend how he was so frequently drawn to war situations.

Towards the end of the show there are some of his landscapes which are invariably bleak, although one does show some crepuscular rays. Which marks it out as an exception in his body of work. A ray of sunshine in a Don McCullin photograph.

Shot of the Week 2019/11 – Red Queen

Posted on 27th March 2019 by Admin under Comment, Equipment, Event, Photograph, Shot of the Week, Technique
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Options

When going through the week’s images looking for “the one”, I had a number of options.  I could have shown the latest in the series of flower images I have been making in the past few weeks.  They are good, to my eye at least, but would repeat what I have done previously during the project.  I also have some family shots which are personal and not for sharing.  Eventually, the choice came down to some shots of herons in flight taken at a local park and the one here, “Red Queen”.  The decision made simply because this is a set-up which will not be repeated.  The park I can visit at any time and maybe get some better light than I experienced previously.  When doing a project such as this, variety as much as quality can be the ultimate arbiter.

The Image

This shot was taken on the Fuji stand at The Photography Show held at the NEC in Birmingham.  For the past few years, Fuji has always had something to photograph.  This time there was an “Alice In Wonderland” theme.  Initially we only had the Mad Hatter, who was suitably eccentric both in dress and manner.  Later on, the Red Queen* joined him.  Not exactly the harridan Lewis Carroll depicted in his book.  While the setting was picturesque and handed to onlookers on a plate, photography was not necessarily straightforward.

A portrait of the Red Queen.  Or should it be the Queen of Hearts?

Firstly, there was the light which consisted of the standard illumination in the hall.  Flat and even, great for looking at everything on display at the show, just not much of it.  I wanted a high shutter speed to counteract subject movement and a reasonably wide aperture.  That meant my shots were all at ISO 3200 and f/2.8.  Then there was lens choice.  I had only taken a couple to the show, both from Fuji.  I had made my selection to keep the weight down on a day when I did not expect many shots.

There was the 18-55 for versatility plus the 56 f/1.2.  I chose the latter for its speed and ability to isolate subjects from the background.  That was the one which ended up on the camera.  The problem was that it was just a fraction too long and it was not always easy to get everything into the frame.  Then there were the models who were left to do their own thing.  With so many people wanting shots, direction was not a practical option.  As so often happens with photography, chance played its part in the final result.

Hatter and Red Queen

A shot of the Hatter and Queen together.

The "Mad" Hatter and Red Queen together.

* Queen Confusion

Lewis Carroll wrote two books featuring Alice as the heroine. The first was “Alice In Wonderland” with “Alice Through the Looking Glass” as its sequel. Each book has a character who is a queen, but the two are very different in personality. Alice In Wonderland has the Queen of Hearts to whom the desctiption of termagant could apply. The Red Queen appears in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Although formal, she does not share the other’s anger and is not unkindly.

In common culture, the two queens have become conflated into one. The setting for my shot is almost certainly the Hatter’s** Tea Party from Alice In Wonderland. Yet the queen is dressed in red and without any emblems suggesting she could be the Queen of Hearts. Moreover, she is holding a flamingo. That, too, is a reference to the first book when the Queen and Alice play a game of croquet using flamingos instead of mallets. Given I had to opt for one or the other when titling the image, Red Queen seemed more apt due to the model’s costume.

Wikipedia has more about the two queens and how they are often mistaken for each other at this link.

** Yes, a footnote to a footnote. Lewis Carroll simply called his character the Hatter. The “Mad” epithet did not feature although it was a term routinely applied to those who made hats. The primary cause was almost certainly neurological damage due to the use of mercury in the felting process. Again, Wikipedia has additional information.

Shot of the Week 2019/10 – Pairings

Posted on 26th March 2019 by Admin under Comment, Location, Photograph, Shot of the Week, Street photography
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This shot, Pairings, was taken at the conclusion of a street photography walk.  It was a circular tour, going from King’s Cross in London to Camden Market and back.  This is a well known location which I have never previously managed to find.  It is a subway which I had heard described as being a link between King’s Cross and Paddington railway stations.  In reality, it is one of the entrances to King’s Cross.  I had been looking, just not in the right place.

Figures in the subway at King's Cross station in the image "Pairings"
Pairings

The usual shot here is to have an otherwise empty corridor with a small figure at the far end to provide a focal point.  On a busy Saturday afternoon, that was never going to happen.  This was about as quiet as it got and as close to the “ideal” composition that I saw while I was there.

Pairings Flipped

I am a few weeks behind with my shot of the week posts, but that is no bad thing. When I first saw this image, I thought that the empty area on the right would be better if filled with the main subjects. The smaller, but equally important figures in the background, seemed to leave an empty space. While creating this post, I realised that the image as shot image is in reality the stronger. The “empty” space acts a lead in to the subsidiary figures while the main subjects drag the eye back. Being on the right is the weaker position.

Pairings - the flipped version of the original image
Pairings – better flipped?

Purists might argue that flipping images goes against the spirit of photography.  Unlike other art forms, ours is a realistic medium in as much as it captures light which was there at the time.  That does not mean that we should always remain faithful to the original capture.  Besides, there is no such thing as straight image.  Whether film or digital, the image requires some processing afterwards capture and decisions made about presentation.  Even supposedly unmanipulated images on slide or instant film are not immune. The way they render will have been determined in advance and with slide film the photographer will choose one which suits the subject.

Very, very occasionally, I do reverse images. In most instances, though, I invariably prefer the original composition. It was how I saw the scene and what made me take the shot. The reason that I do not do it more often has nothing to do with the sanctity of the photograph. That is a poor motivation. It is only the final result which matters.