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Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

Winter is a dormant time at the allotment. The vibrant hues of summer are long forgotten, seemingly lost forever to wet beds of mud. Even the weeds are sleeping.

I visited today in the aftermath of this week’s gale to check for damage. The newly reskinned polytunnel emerged unscathed but, as expected, the netting protecting our winter greens had to be re-anchored to stave off the attentions of pigeons that can decimate an unprotected crop in hours.

There was nothing to keep me any longer. That’s how it is at this time of year.

A damp sun

A damp sun

With this lull in proceedings it’s a good time to look back at my photos from the past year and remember that nature is going to do it all again this year, however unlikely that might feel right now…

The season starts with seeding. I have learnt that plants really want to grow. You just have to provide favourable conditions to help them along.

Small beginnings

Small beginnings

Planting means groundwork, which inevitably means digging and weeding in the cold. Frequent visits from our friendly robin genuinely make the work easier.

A symbiotic relationship

A symbiotic relationship

New shoots soon emerge, just in case we doubted they would

Return of the rhubarb

Return of the rhubarb

And as the plants wake up do does the wildlife

Pollinators hold the key to everything

Pollinators hold the key to everything

There comes a growth spurt during which everything shoots up and the brown turns into green turns into vivid colours

Sunflowers love the sun

Sunflowers love the sun

This rewarding time in the allotment demands a lot of effort in return. Beds have to be tended, plants regularly watered and pests tackled.

Cheap unbranded lager is perfect for slug traps

Cheap unbranded lager is perfect for slug traps

As the sun grows in strength the polytunnel becomes a delightful hot house of growth. It’s around this time that our seasonal “housekeeper” Jeremy takes up residence. He is tasked with keeping down the slug and caterpillar population, although I suspect he just drinks the lager.

Jeremy

Jeremy

Everything flowers. The bees are in paradise and the even the most unlikely plant puts on a show. I never knew how attractive a flowering potato could be.

Exotic beauty of the globe artichoke

Exotic beauty of the globe artichoke

Amidst the regular plot maintenance there are always construction projects to tackle. The long awaited garden shed edges closer to fruition. Perhaps by next year…

Hiding from other jobs

Hiding from other jobs

Forgotten muscles ache to remind you they are still there. Marathon weekend sessions leave their mark upon you.

A rude awakening for these office hands

A rude awakening for these office hands

But there are no regrets. You reap what you sow and harvest time brings rich rewards.

Payback

Payback

At the start of every year I convince myself that this year will be less hectic – there will be time to slow down and take everything in. Instead we find ourselves hurriedly throwing late crops into a bed as natures cycle threatens to run away from us.

The things you miss if you don’t take time out

The things you miss if you don’t take time out

Before we know it the days are beginning to shrink. Autumn brings with it a different selection of crops.

Fractal food

Fractal food

As the leaves begin to fall and the sun sits lower in the sky the allotment takes on a different feel. This a great time to get the camera out and capture the autumn light.

A change of season

A change of season

The plants you want to grow lose their impetus, yet it seems that the weeds always have one more spurt left in them.

Hanging on in there

Hanging on in there

The sun sets on a season of plenty and those colours fade away.

A final splash of colour

A final splash of colour

Autumn heads towards winter and like the morning after a party there is a lot of clearing up to do. Spent crops are cut down and composted. Cane structures are dismantled. Beds are covered for protection over winter.

If you can't compost  it you burn it

If you can’t compost it you burn it

Winter crops have been netted off and need minimal maintenance. The polytunnel may have extended the season for a modest range of salad leaves, radishes and carrots but it too eventually succumbs to the gloom and cold.

And here I am in January wading through mud with no bees, shoots or humans in sight. It might not seem like it right now but it’s all going to start again soon.

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Some years ago a brief flirtation with golf ended with the realisation that I simply didn’t have the time or motivation to become good enough at the game to make it anything other than a source of frustration. Putting that realisation aside along with my clubs it did plant a seed in my mind – that maybe once in a round of 18 holes I could hit a shot as perfectly as any professional, and I could do so on the same greens they play on using the same equipment if I so chose. In that way at least it has to be said that golf is a true meritocracy.

And so it is with photography. From its infancy photography progressed from science to profession and then with the advent of the box camera it gradually became accessible to hobbyists (or hobbits if you prefer my spell checker). Even so up until relatively recently you still needed to be reasonably well off to afford the kit that would enable you to compete technically with a professional photographer, but now all of that has changed.

Paparazzi stalking Queen Victoria circa 1870

Paparazzi stalking Queen Victoria circa 1870

The digital photography revolution has brought quality entry level equipment within reach of the masses while the increasingly media rich social and technical landscape we occupy has resulted in an exponential upsurge of people actively taking and sharing photos – many of whom would not necessarily think of themselves as photography enthusiasts. Which leads me back to the golf analogy – now anybody can pick up a camera, point it at something and (potentially) capture a picture of “professional” quality. Better still you can take photographs at almost any time or place and the results are almost instant so if you mess up the shot you just make adjustments and take it again. No penalty, no stigma and no need to dress like a clown.

Tees of a clown

Tees of a clown

(thanks to the highly enjoyable Disseminated Thought)

A number of my amateur photography friends regularly produce and share fantastic pictures composed and executed to a very high quality and I have certainly seen inferior work from people who sell their services as professionals. There are of course be a great many more people who like to take pictures but, regardless of kit, really aren’t very good at it. That includes me, and I really don’t like it.

A much-abused companion. I once dropped it off the OXO tower

A much-abused companion. I once dropped it off the OXO tower

In the pre-digital days of photography I would InterRail for a month with my modest Olympus OM10 35mm and a decidedly generous 3 pack of 36 shot colour films (yes – colour vs B&W was still a choice!). That meant I could about take 3 photos per day and it would be weeks before they came back from the developers and I knew how they would come out. Looking back now I realise that despite my general lack of skills and experience I did at least recognise the need to think carefully about when to take a precious photo and as such some rudimentary evaluation of picture composition was going on in my head. Now the temptation is to snap away like some gattling gun in the knowledge that I have no limit on image quantity, only to later discover that I have dozens of equally ill-thought out snaps.

Athens 1990 - Now you need instagram to get this faded effect

Athens 1990 – Now you need instagram to get this faded effect

For more embarrassment (and hair) I’ve scanned libraries of InterRail photos from 1990, 1991 and 1992 as a personal reminder of how photography used to be.

Fast forward 20 years and I’m swept up by the month-long Format 11 international photography festival here in my home town of Derby. It’s fun, friendly and helpfully accessible so I become a regular face at Derby’s Quad and other venues across the city. The underlying theme of the 2011 festival was Street Photography and under the tutelage of luminaries such as Bruce Gilden and Brian Griffin swathes of people prowled the streets on the lookout for people or situations worthy of capture. I gave it a go and – well, it was hard. Here’s the problem – if you hang around wielding a camera in Derby pedestrians politely stop and stay out of shot until you are done, ignorant of the fact that they were meant to be the subject.

Taking Street  Photography too literally

Taking Street Photography too literally

Since Format 11 I have only headed out with Street Photography in mind on a couple of occasions and found it hard work, until I became a regular visitor to Edinburgh which by comparison is like shooting fish in a barrel. The city has one of the most architecturally distinctive centres in Britain and attracts millions of tourists to any number of festivals across the year. In other words you have a target rich environment in which you can point a camera without arousing so much as the blink of an eye.

Auld reekie

Auld reekie

I don’t think I had realised quite how high profile this event was until I attended a Format 11 talk on Photography For The Internet and discovered myself in a room seemingly full of professional photographers with a variety of international accents. The presentation was engaging but as it went on the subject matter became more technical as was to be expected given the fact a room full of “serious” photographers had travelled from afar to be here. That’s one of the stand-out characteristics of Derby’s Format Festival – it caters for a wide spectrum of people; career photographers, amateurs, occasional snappers and people who just like to look at pictures. The event also reaches out to so many local people through the number of different venues used.

Format 13 kicks off this week with an opening ceremony and I’m looking forward to that and then the month of events that follow. With such a diverse range of activities I know there’s going to be inspiration and entertainment along the way. As ever there’s an overwhelming selection of exhibitions, talks and workshops. My pen is already circling the likes of Pictures From The Real World (David Moore), Notes Home & Blind Boys – based on the festival programme notes at least. Of course, a picture says a thousand words.

A picture of Derby?

A picture of Derby?

However, there’s one workshop I’m still waiting for, and maybe it’s something you just can’t be taught? I want a course that teaches “how to see a picture” prior to activating the shutter. I envy those with a natural ability to view a real life scene, confidently “see” the picture and then capture it, having retained and accentuated the characteristics that bring it to life. Format 15, are you listening?

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