Old Photo’s Revisited..

Whilst pixel counts keep going up the general quality of most digital still images seems to have leveled off, especially when printed. I was looking through some old files and found this picture of two swans preparing a nest and remembered how pleased I was with the quality of the image and the finished print from my old Epson R1800 at A4, it was as good as any lab prints I had previously received using film.

I took this one about ten years ago and in view of the increase in camera quality I think its’ fair to say that this is a pretty good Image. We could expect that the general quality of an image should have substantially increased by now, but has it ? I think not, and the reason for that is obvious to me, ‘Digital Cameras’ have got much better but your average snapper has not..

Sadly many of the images I see today weather from recent mid range cameras or high end camera phones are really not that much better as far as stills go, or at least it seems not to show.  I can tell you that the picture above was taken with a Fuji Camera with an APC sensor with 3 Megapixels and it’s as good as it needs to be for all but publishing.

The truth is that we don’t need more than about six Mega pixels to get a really good print up to A3 even with an APC sensor, and because of this fact now would be a very good time for the semi professional photographer to buy that high end SLR they could never afford or justify spending the money on, rather than the latest incarnation of your favorite brand.

Ok I should confess at this point that I have been as much a sucker for new gear as the next photographer and if I had so much available income as to afford myself anything I wanted I would probably be tempted to buy it, even though the ageing gear I own works just fine.

Who knows where pixel counts will be in another ten years or so, at this rate resolutions will be of the charts, but whatever happens I have come to realize that unless you need to fill a billboard with an Image and have it look ‘pin sharp’ you don’t need more than around six to eight MP for a very good image. When my own gear eventually gives up the ghost I will not be looking to buy the very latest that money can buy but some of the readily available used high end equipment that many people are getting rid of because it’s no longer the latest model.

Although it’s fair to say I have spent serious money on equipment in the past, I’m grateful I don’t need to do it quite so often now. Revisiting my old photo prints has reminded me that the My Canon 50D & Canon G9 are more than up to the job of capturing excellent pictures & that It’s my technique that needs to Improve.. After all, Good Photography is all about the Individual behind the lens, and not much else.. & Don’t be a Gear fanatic, be a Photographer…!

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Jewels By The Sea

Whilst walking with my wife and dog along the sea front at Hunstanton I came across a small community of wooden houses squeezed between a caravan park and the sea wall, some available as Holiday Homes and some of them looking permanently occupied. As we strolled down the sparsely occupied seafront I was Immediately reminded of those English beach side holidays reminiscent of my childhood. Here was a little piece of heaven, a necklace of tiny dwellings winding it’s way around the coastline of the Wash, bathed in sunlight their windows and colored surfaces sparkling under a rising sun.
I took out my trusty compact to take a few shots but it’s little zoom lens did the scene no justice and with a shrug of the shoulders and a tiny Hummph I told myself to come back at the same time tommorow and try again with my SLR and the new 24mm lens I’d bought before the trip.
It was late afternoon of the first of seven days we had to relax and soak up the tranquil atmosphere and salt air that wafted gently along the seafront, bending the grasses and clipping the tops off the incoming waves, it seemed the perfect place to spend a quiet week with my two best friends, we just needed the weather to hold and all would be Tickety Boo.
After an hour of walking we arrived back at the caravan I hired for the week, and sat outside on it’s raised deck with a drink and allowed what was left of the day to gently slip away under a lovely orange Sun until it sank below the horizon.
I was feeling more than happy with my choice the location of which was unique to the UK, Hunstanton is famouse for, A – Not having it’s Victorian Pier anymore, (it was washed away in a storm or something) and B – it’s Red Stripped Cliffs holding up the towns promenade, which was also being washed away by erosion and now had an ugly concrete wall along part of its base to prevent it from falling into the sea.
With the light fading and my stomach sending distress messages to my legs I decided we ought to eat, so I jumped into the car and drove all the way round the corner to the local fish and chip shop for what I hoped would be an wholly enjoyable supper that almost became a ‘heart attack’.
I was in luck, the shop was empty and I walked briskly to the counter for service.  ” Hi Fella” they say that around here; apparently, What can I get you.!  Errrrrrrrrr, I stopped myself from pointing out the obvious, I was too hungry for the ensuing banter and asked for; “fish and chips twice please” then waited for the, “OK but I heard you the first time”. Joke.
There you Go, That’s ten quid please ! Oh Right I said then took out the money and nailed it to the counter. And then I had one of those moments were you freeze and talk to your inner self, WTF I it didn’t cost much more than that in fuel to drive the 240 miles from Manchester, Bloody hell..!  and then a moment later I was alright again. Just to rub salt & vinegar into the wound each portion came in it’s own cardboard box with the name of the establishment emblazened on the front, ‘The Happy Pirate Chippy’ and then I was upset again.
On the up side they were very tasty, on the down side I didn’t get enough to completely satisfy my hunger so I grumbled to my wife in the hope I might receive counciling in the form of an alcoholic drink, I got fizzy pop and biscquit, but went to bed satisfied.
On the second day (and for the rest of the week) we set off for what was to become our daily routine, a light breakfast then a walk west along the southern section of the shoreline along the sea defense wall with miles of sand laden holiday shacks. Most were simple structures made of wood, some of red brick, no doubt replacements for their crumbling ancestors eroded by the harsh environment and insects.
All were different and built way back before construction regulations or building inspectors had been invented, and I liked that very much. Each one had it’s own persona built with love care and attention but not necessarily from a plan. They were all different colours, from Black to White muted Green to pale Pink and everything in between. Some were painted as if with preservation in mind rather than good looks, sporting colours the likes of tha which you might find in a child’s brush cleaning jar, colours made up from rusty pots of paint a certain man might have lying around the house or in his shed at the bottom of the garden, those were the lids no longer fit properly no longer air tight with a thick skin on top.
Anyway I liked them so much I spent the rest of our short vacation taking pictures of them best I could from a disadvantaged position behind the sea wall, when the light was at it’s best.
Everything was going well up to the point when an angry individual appeared on his veranda and delivered a message I was neither expecting nor impressed with, but being the proper English gentleman I like to think I am, I apologized, and he promptly told me to “F**k Off” and to stop sticking my camera were it’s not wanted.
My wife’s contribution to the moment was to ask me.. Upsetting the Natives are We ! and I replied “He’s just a Miserable Bastard” and continued with the mission. I took lots of pictures that week and we had an unexpectedly fine time. With my cameras fully loaded and ready to shoot, I was a happy chappy, both my wife and the dog were happy too relaxing in the sunshine with their feet up when we weren’t out on walkies. Happy Days..!

Iv’e included a few photographs in the hope that they might add a little interest and flavour to my ramblings, I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them… : )

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Winter Hill

This was shot from ‘Rivington Pike’ on a summers day looking across the West Pennine Moors (Bolton UK) and there should be no mystery about how it got it’s name. Most of the time it’s pleasant enough but when the weather turns bad, it’s a place to keep away from. Not withstanding the obvious fact that someone has placed a collection of ironmongery on it’s summit or that you will find more people up there on summers day than you might find down at the local supermarket, It’s a rather wonderful place to visit for a walk and to take in the views of the surrounding Towns and Villages, to which I have been apart of and attached to for most of my life.
If it looks kind of flat here it’s because I used a long lens and cropped the image to fit the header, but it does go up and down quite a lot, so be prepared if you feel inclined to visit.
There are two ancient Tyth’e Barnes down in the Valley of Rivington affording rest and refreshments, you can start and finish your walk at either one of three car parks and It’s Free. Use the link at the bottom if you want to find out more, it will take you to another of my sites where you will find a short article on the history of the area and how it became free land.
Iv’e taken lots of pictures of this area during my life and never got tired of it, I go there at least three or four times every year, sometimes even in winter it gets really cold but somehow it doesn’t seem to matter that much as I always feel a sense of belonging, and that warms me up from the inside.The picture below was taken at pretty much the same time as the one above using the same lens, and it’s clear to see that both the weather and light conditions can be dramatic and change very quickly.

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IMG_Wint hill mast 2

Curious Pigeons

I suppose the very nature of a Photographer is to be Nose’y, or should I say enquiring. Whatever the case it was an issue not lost on two pigeons I snapped at the ‘Martin Mere’ wildfowl sanctuary ten years ago. My wife calls them ‘Flying Rats’ Vermin and a few other names I won’t recount here, but I like them !
Their plumage has a vibrance of colour you wont find in the earth bound kind, and make great subjects for anyone starting in Wildlife Photography. Apart from being plentiful and well adjusted to the presence of human activity, they can be strikingly beautiful, as can be seen here.
Perfectly positioned on top of an old gate post they sat patiently and peered down my long lens as if to say ‘We’re watching you buddy’ until I pressed the shutter, whereupon they promptly flew off, very obliging if you ask me.
In the film business they say ‘Never work with Children or Animals’ and while there’s merit in that statement I can tell you that they are not equally matched in their propensity to: f**k things up ! give me a treacherous landscape and a heard of wild beasts to photograph any day of the week before a room full of noisy kids and vomit, and I’m a Happy man.
They say that Landscape photography is the most popular form of photography followed closely by Wildlife and I can understand why, it’s pleasant. Unlike Street Photography which sometimes comes with abuse / damaged gear and the ever present possibility that you could receive a punch in the chops, interesting work but dangerous. Judging by the fact that I am able write this blog you should by now be aware of my photographic bias, Iv’e been abused numerous time, especially by my wife (she tells me to Go Away) but I have never had my eyes pecked out or been bitten by an animal, Never !

C Bradley…

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The Performer

I took this on a day out to Cromer, one of a number of shots of its pier from various positions I took that day.
It’s not the best picture I ever took, in fact it’s a grab shot I paid little attention to until I got home and looked again. It was supposed to be a candid shot of holiday makers around the pier, one of those shots photographers take to soak up the atmosphere and connect with the subject matter.
Even the keenest eyes can miss something that has the potential to ruin a picture, like the lamp post that sticks out the top of someones head or a crisp bag in the foreground of a meticulously arranged landscape that just blows in as you press the shutter. In this shot an old lady with her dog and baggage somehow included themselves in the frame without me noticing but rather than spoil the shot she made it, her short performance for the camera has created something of interest and worth. I have no idea who she is or how she got there, she couldn’t be any more obvious holding out her arms and waiting for the shutter, and I missed it.
My attention as remember was on the gentleman on the left with the plastic bag, his jaunty gate and grey beard like that of an old sea dog looked to me like the kind of sympathetic element all good seaside pictures should have, and I pressed the button. Although this not a great image it is an interesting one as It leaves me wondering who she was and how she placed herself so perfectly in the frame. I couldn’t have placed her better if she had asked to be in it. Whoever she is I am happy she included herself as she makes this picture something I never expected it to be. A ‘Happy Accident’ for me and an opportunity for her to be recorded for posterity, Thank You Old Lady..!

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The Girl In Red

There’s a very common misconception that professional photographers are lumbered with. Firstly the myth that they take great pictures all the time with hardly any effort, and secondly they get paid loads of money for enjoying themselves. I remember my tutor saying to the class “If anyone here wants to learn about photography so they can ‘have fun’ ‘make Money’ and ‘become famous’ they should leave right Now”. Pointing out that through the day she was a full time photo journalist and at night a tutor working up to nine o’clock and beyond at least twice a week to make ends meet. Unsociable hours on projects she didn’t want for not much money, was mostly what the job was about.

Her advice to us all was deflating, and for some students decisive, as after only a matter of weeks class numbers began to fall and continued to fall to half it’s original number by the end of year, I stayed but never became a full time Pro, she was spot on with her advice, and a very good teacher, to boot, helpful and kind to a fault.

Although I did not make it my profession I did learn enough about Photography in those two years to know what a good image was and how to make one, how to accept failure with grace and success with modesty and the understanding that these are the traits of the dedicated and passionate Photographer.

The image attached to this blog is not the first I have taken of the Dovecote at Rivington (Lancashire UK) and probably wont be the last, but it is to date my favourite. The combination of Composition / Colour / Content & Sharpness have together served to create atmosphere and appeal. Had any one of these elements been missing it would have been a much less successful shot for me.

I use Canon Photo Pro for post processing, not that I do much aside from the usual Sharpening / Contrast thing, I try to keep them as close as possible to what came out of the camera. Although I have Photoshop 6, I don’t do heavy manipulation It’s not my bag & I’m no good at it. With this shot I was lucky (we all need a bit of that now and again ) when someone in the red coat walked into the scene as I was walking toward them and created an image of the tower I had not seen before. I had no idea how long they would stay sat on that rock, I just opened up my tripod and took a couple of shots, it was one of those moments that felt like it was set up by the gods to please me, and it did, my first shot of the day turned out to be the best.

I love it when a never to be repeated scene unfolds in front me as if by magic, the rush I get as I try to capture the image before it disintegrates is what it’s all about for me, and the best reason why a photographer needs to know their camera and equipment. If it’s not second nature you will probably miss the shots you wish you hadn’t. One good shot in a session is all I ask for, I move quietly and keep my attention focused until something opens up, then I Shoot..

For me Photography is Like Hunting, it often requires Knowledge, Stealth, Patience & the ability to fit into a scene without disturbing the natives, something I am very conscious of having been told to ‘fuck off’ more than once. In fact some folk get so exited they lose control a little and I find myself having to apologize and beating a hasty retreat. Picture a man on the veranda of a small beach house hurling abuse at me for poking my camera where it’s not wanted and your about halfway to how nasty things can get, but that’s another tale.

I only give names to some of my pictures so as to find them quickly,  but if had to give a name to this one it would have to have something to do with that ‘Red Coat’…

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Photography – Experts & Critics

As a photographer I’m always on the lookout for another unique photo opportunity, sadly they don’t come along too often, at least not the kind that causes a sharp intake of breath and my heart to skip a beat. The process of observing is a very different one for every photographer, certain things that may catch my eye might well be missed by another whose interests or mindset are receptive to different things. All I know is when it happens it’s like it came out of nowhere and feels as if it’s been presented to me alone for my attention for a limited period of time, for me to do something meaningful with.

I tend to look for things in isolation and try to present them in such a way as to grab the attention of the viewer, then release them slowly for closer inspection of the setting and the context so the image reveals it’s story in an orderly and easily understood manner. Although it’s something I find natural to do, I rarely consider my work completely successful, and feel that it always falls short.

Photography was once a mystical process of chemicals and paper that revealed a World of hidden places and alternate realms both fascinating and intriguing to the viewer, and although it’s still possible to peek into a Nether World through the lens of a camera, the advent of camera phones and cheap compacts, appears to have made it much less likely than it used to be. Now it seems such snapshot takers understand little of what hides beyond the lens, and I have to wonder. Why.?

Is it that the experience of the dedicated photographer is better or different to that of the snap shot taker or the accidental image maker, those vernacular photographers that simply capture rather than compose.? Does an accidental image convey anything less than one designed or created, does it have less to offer than the artists impression, just another image without meaning along with all the other millions uploaded to the internet each day into the world of ‘Forgetable Photography’.

For me it’s more a case that the casual phone photographer has never understood what photography really is, rather than a case of having forgotten and on that basis they should be forgiven for believing themselves for being Photographers in the true sense of the word when they are clearly Not.

I don’t like to say this, but I’ll say it anyway… There is a difference and a very Big One at that. I don’t mean to diminish the efforts of budding young photographers by belittling their efforts or marginalizing people using phone cameras to take pictures of their lunch, it’s all valid in it’s own way, but it,s also enough that they exist and nothing more, for if we cannot not distinguish between the snapshot and created images of interest and importance, real photography would not exist. The distance between the casually represented and the intellectual creation is not just different as some would like us to believe, it is as far apart as the doodle from a Rembrandt, and to say that vernacular or accidental photography is as good as any is an overstatement of monumental proportions. A Camera is just a Camera and while it holds a unrivaled place in the world of expression, it is Not a Photographer Nor an Artist.

There’s a fanciful view that many holders of phone cameras now have, that it’s the camera that does the work and that they now have in their possession the secrets of photography, once only available to a privileged few that call themselves professionals, and they now own and control the World through the medium of photography and the internet. Comfortable as they may be with this misconception most of them are producing images that are at best inferior that may never see the light of day by anyone on screen or in print of any kind, even by themselves. Proof enough that as photographs they are significant only in that they produce something that exists, and nothing else.

If it were possible for someone to produce a photograph of worth or value without making any effort, would it not be fair to say that anyone owning a paintbrush and canvas could call themselves an, ‘Artist’ or someone with Pen & Paper an Author. Photography is by it’s very nature at least a craft or as some prefer to consider it, ‘Art’. I am of the opinion that it can be both and I rest my case on the matter there.

Digital photography may have made it easy for anyone to take an acceptable picture, but from the evidence it’s clear that out of the staggering number of pointless images made everyday, that Cameras are nothing more than recorders of objects and events and Photography is very much something else, something beyond the obvious, above the mediocre, something that brings together Objects, Moments & Mood in a way no other medium can, and I for one am glad that it’s still Alive and Kicking, perhaps not shared or fully understood by the complying masses but none the less in my view still unique and just as Important now as the day the very first picture was taken.

Of course only a ‘True Photographer’ would know this, which is why everyone else and his dog out there, in La La Land, pointing their cameras are not just self appointed critics, but self appointed experts on ‘What Photography Really Is’.

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