Saturday, February 27, 2016

Among drifts of snowdrops

DSC08915 (1300x848)LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
          But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
          Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
          Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
          Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
          The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
          Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
          Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
          Shall soon behold this border thickly set
          With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
          On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
          Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
          Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
          And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

Wordsworth, 1819

DSC08912 (867x1300)As winter recedes, the woodlands briefly fill with flakes and puddles of white galanthus blossoms tucked in clusters beneath trees and flowing across hollows.  These snowdrops are (for me) the first sign of spring in England, preceding the daffodils and bluebells (there is a sequence for these things).  Various parks and stately homes cultivate displays for viewing in February, and so we were off to one of the largest: Welford Park in Newbury.

DSC08926 (1300x866)The owners claim that these are historic, medicinal blossoms, planted by Norman monks when the acreage was a monastery.  The Georgian house was constructed 400 years ago, remarkable to think about, and has passed through the family to the present day.

And, more recently, the lawns have hosted the Great British Bakeoff.  Twice.

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However, today was about the snowdrops.  It really was good, the flowers thickly carpeting the forests and fields.

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Also good was the snowdrop tearoom, cakes echoing Mary Berry.

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DSC09035 (1300x862)And, with my sailing-themed coffee cup cracked, the shop was an opportunity to find a seasonal alternative.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Street photography

DSC08777 (1300x860)Photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents

I’ve begun to try small attempts to incorporate people into my photographs, putting life into my landscapes and cityscapes.  While not yet ready (nor inclined) towards portraiture, I am trying to be more aware of the people and moments that tell a story, convey an irony, or capture a feeling.


This is a favorite of mine.  The two were sitting across from us on the subway and he was such am iconic Dad: carrying her stuff, intent on her interests.  She was sharing only with him, a moment that wouldn’t be possible for them in a few more years.

I posted to Instagram, and got valid questions back about whether this was a moral and legal shot to share.  No, I didn’t have permission, they didn’t know, but at the same time, it was public space, non-commercial, anonymous, and wholly complimentary.  This would seem to put me on the right side of things, but its always something that I keep in mind.

And, where possible, I do ask permission (even if it gives a less spontaneous shot)

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The On Taking Pictures podcast had a good discussion last week about whether good Street Photography is luck or skill.  Where a studio photographer might work to get lighting, arrangement, balance and focus just perfect to capture the mood and composition they want, street photographers take lots of shots of juxtaposed objects hoping for a good one.  It is, they observed, more observation than control.

I would disagree: while there are times when I am lucky enough to turn and catch a good composition, other times I have to visualize what I want, set it up, and wait for it.

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And even then, it still may not come…there’s a nice element of unpredictability in stalking and recognizing the right moment when it comes.

SteveShootsStreetThe final question they asked was whether street photography is best rendered in black and white.  Certainly a catalogue of good pictures is predominantly backlit, high-contrast, monochrome shots.  But I normally shoot in colour, and there’s more to rendering a shot in black and white than simply turning off the saturation.

The rules for how to compose and process a black and white picture are different, and worth learning.  I do pay more attention to juxtaposing tones, to getting patches of clean white and clean black, and to getting contrast right.

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Reflections and straight lines also help, but I’m still learning.  ‘And Im still playing with the difference between  flat and sharp (left and right, above).

Finally, I still seek out the creative people doing amazing things (two by Jon Wilkening, then two by Sebastiao Salgado):

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