TMP

Landscape photography with a difference!

I have just had enough!

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I don’t really understand the concept of irony, but, if I did this may just be ironic. When I first became hooked on cameras, or rather just one in particular, I just liked taking photos. I was never really into film per se. I never understood the mechanics or technique. I was a happy snapper.

Some years later another interest, oops, sorry, obsession took over and photography quietly slipped into the background and out of my consciousness. The winds of change blew through my life once again and one obsession merged into another - computers. My morning routine was happily started by the Microsoft Windows start-up sound. I started a business. Then, by chance, by pure chance, in the tail end years of the 1990’s, I bought a digital camera, the Casio QV-10. I was doubly hooked. Computers AND Cameras!

The digital photography bug, which is really an extension of the computers, gadgets and software bug, ran it’s course. Software, photoshop, filters, plug-ins and cameras beyond count. All bought with the promise that my photography would improve and perpetuated by the self delusion that it would. It never did. Why? Because I was crap. I pinned my hope on, and swallowed the sales line of, “if you buy this (insert camera/lens/software here) your pictures would win every competition going". I switched from digital to film to digital to film to digital. Going from 0.3 mega pixels and ending up with 20.

There comes a point when you get sick of software, photoshop, filters and plug-ins controlling your “photography”. You get sick of in-camera micro-processors, in-camera software and a whole host of software technicians and engineers standing behind the scenes all waiting to pounce with another upgrade. Cameras which can shoot RAW at 12 fps for 50 frames and that can also shoot HD video. You know how much crap HD video I see in my job? A company announces a new camera model, then another new one, and another new one and yet another. A bewildering plethora of choice. You study all the specs, read all the reviews not realising you are well and truly hooked into a replenishment cycle. The cycle of which means a camera being “antiquated” in ever decreasing circles, spiralling down. Ten years, five years, eighteen months, 12 months, eight months, six months. That’s what it feels like! After almost 20 years you have done everything digitally you can. The bug dies.

You get sick of software and technology controlling your image. You get sick of seeing enhanced, photoshop manipulated landscapes. You get sick of Photoshop skills being as important if not more so than the actual act of using the camera. You become sick of the fake, the faux and the fraud.

Software isn’t photography. Filters aren’t photography. Plug-ins aren’t photography. Photoshop isn’t photography. These things produce the fake, the fraud and the faux.

You get sick of dicks uttering completely crass words along the lines of “You can do in Photoshop what you can do in the darkroom”. Completely failing to mention you can do a thousand times more in photoshop. In the darkroom you are limited by chemistry, physics, time and skill. There are no such limits in photoshop. You get tired of dicks justifying their own lack of skill and resorting to photoshop by uttering such immortal lines as "I'll fix it in photoshop later" or “the dead old guys faked it, so can I”. Sure they did! They were highly skilled artisans who developed their skills over a number of years. Today, you “rent” your software, download a “tute” and go click, click, click, clone, clone, heal, layer, adjustment layer, click, click, clone etc. DONE! If you can’t see the difference between the two then go into the darkroom and do there what you do in photoshop. Dick!

You’ve heard it all, done it all and your images still don’t look like (famous photographer’s name here).

Why?

Two reasons…

1) I am crap and you're crap. No amount of buying anything is going to solve that one.

2) My resources are limited. My time, my health, my money. I can’t afford to go to those locations you see in the magazines with the equipment I need and at the time I need.

So, I give up right!

Almost did.

When I was iPhone photographing my kit to put on the bay of e, I picked up my 1958 Leica M2. I knew then I couldn’t sell it. What a classic camera! It kept the photography desire alive. Then came a plan. Why not spend a year photographing with the Leica. No computers, no electronics, no meter. Perhaps for this digitally jaded photographer this may be just the tonic.

Have I the courage to do it!

To sum this post in a sentence would be to say that I am sick of the control of software and technology has on my photography seeing this as a solution to my photographic ills instead of concentrating on real photography. More on the later.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot. The irony. Nope I have difficulty with that one. It’s as clear as a mauve hippo.

The Lake District, late April 2015

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It has been almost three months since I last posted on my blog. What has happened? I don’t know! I’m still struggling with motivation. I still have 12 rolls of film that are in need of developing. Photographically I have not actually done much since my last post. Motivation gone. From about mid-March I set about preparing for my Lake District trip.

If you are in the UK, did you love the ‘Summer’ we had in the early weeks of April. Glorious or what! Of course! The weather broke as soon as I set off for the Lake District on the 24th. Still, I consoled myself with the thought that as beautiful as it is clear blue skies makes for boring landscapes photography. Yeah, I know, pretty, but that big blue expanse needs some of that white fluffy stuff in it. Big bright blue clear skies especially doesn’t make for thrilling black and white pictures. Besides, being on a mountain in great weather is physically very hard. You de-hydrate like nobody's business and the risk of Sun stroke increases dramatically. You’ll be very surprised that at even 1000m you catch the Sun very, very quickly. Soon, dehydration and Sunstroke can become serious problems. This means you have to carry much more fluid, Sun screen and clothing which increases the physical effort of climbing the mountain. I need not have worried!

Let me just back-track a couple of months to when I last climbed a mountain. I had with me my Fujifilm Fixepix S5 Pro and 17-70mm lens. Clawing my up this particular Welsh mountain reminded me of a few years previous when I was going over Crib Goch on Snowdon and thinking “why on Earth am I carrying all this heavy gear?” upon reaching home I decided to sell my beloved S5 , it is just too big and heavy and very cumbersome when it is going in and out of your rucksack when trying to catch the fleeting light of intermittent Welsh weather. You’re faffing about with all the camera stuff and so focussed on watching the weather and light that the enjoyment of the climb just disappears into a cloud of frustration. So, the wonderful S5 was sold. I risked purchasing the Samsung NX300 and a 16-50mm power zoom lens. The NX300 is an amazingly small and light mirrorless camera that I can hide under my Gore-Tex jacket in inclement weather. It also means that I don’t feel the weight and I can have the camera ready for action much, much quicker. It’s ready to shoot at a moments notice. No more faffing about with getting the rucksack off, opening rucksack, getting camera out… etc. etc. etc.

On the gear list was my new iPhone 6 Plus. The Rolleiflex 2.8C, the Yashica Mat 124G and a small Canon MC (Micro Compact) 35mm film camera with its very sharp 35mm f/2.8 lens. Together with a handful of 35mm and 120 roll film I was all set. The untried NX300 and iPhone 6 Plus were concerning unknown factors. But I thought “what the Hell” and took the risk. I was going to the Lake District for the Fell walking and good pictures are a bonus not the object.

The day before I set off, as I have mentioned, the weather changed. From that wonderful glorious Sun the forecast for my Lake District week was overcast, some Sunny intervals and heavy rain showers. Great!

The first Fell walk was Pike O’Blisco and Crinkle Crags. Seven miles in the gloom and amazingly much to my surprise, it started to snow. SNOW! It’s almost May and there’s SNOW! I had the NX300 tucked safely under the Gore-Tex and the Rolleiflex in the rucksack. Too heavy! That was the last time I took the Rolleiflex over a mountain.

The following day was an early start, glorious Sun and a long trip to Sca Fell via the amazing Lord’s Rake (google it). I decided to get to Wasdale Head via  Wrynose Pass and Hardnott Pass which is an adventure in its own right. The approach to the Sca Fell summit is straight forward. Up Lingmell and summit Lingmell, cut across and below Pikes Crag and Pulpit Rock of Sca Fell Pikes. From there a light scramble up to Mickledore which is the sharp narrow col between Sca Fell Pike and Sca Fell before scrambling down to begin the accent of Lord’s Rake and then on to the summit. A round trip of just over seven miles. For this trip I had the NX300 around my neck and under the protection of the Gore-Tex performance shell. In the pocket I had the Canon MC loaded with HP5+ film. I minimise everything in the rucksack and travelled as light as possible. What a relief that was! Much more enjoyable as well. No more digging around in the rucksack. Cameras at hand and ready to go into action in a few seconds. It was just wonderful to travel so light. The Sca Fell trip proved to be the pattern for the rest of my stay. I did shoot with both the Rolleiflex and the Yashica 124G when not on a mountain.

During the week I managed to do the Fairfield Horseshore, the Helvellyn ridge plus a couple of smaller fells. A total of 14 Wainwrights and a little over 37 miles in six days. Phew! I am still knackered!

Altogether I shot 721 ‘frames’ on the NX300, 183 on the iPhone 6 Plus, 3 rolls of HP5+ in 35mm and 4 rolls of HP5+ in 120 format. At some time I will actually develop those films.

What about the iPhone, well, I am going to deal with that in a separate post. …and the NX300? I am very surprised at how good this practically weightless mirrorless camera is! I am very pleased with the results, certainly not competition winners by any means, but I am pleased. Out of the 700 odd (yeah! I got a little carried away - that’s what digital does to you) I have culled them to this selection. I hope you think they are OK.

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SAM 7269

SAM 7421

SAM 7525

SAM 7639

SAM 7652

SAM 7653

SAM 7654

SAM 7669

SAM 7672

SAM 7836

SAM 7875

SAM 7877

SAM 7893 Pano

SAM 7921

Living in the UK does have advantages!

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Not many granted, but there are advantages. The British are obsessed with the weather! Why! Because you can’t plan anything. You plan a canoeing trip down the river Wye. You arrive - it’s RAINING! You invite friends over for a BBQ, they duly arrive - in the RAIN. You think “Oh! This coming Saturday I think I’ll pop off to Pen y Fan, after all,  the forecast is good!”. You arise on that Saturday morning, open the curtains - its RAINING! And so on… Why people actually want to come here and “live”, well, I just don’t know. Is the money worth it? However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There is a metaphorical silver lining to that cloud. So, come to Bank Holiday just gone and guess what! It’s RAINING! The Diving plumber is doing a mini-deluge act. To cut a long, tedious, overcast story short. I decided to trawl through unprocessed RAW files on my external HDD to see if there were any I fancied re-processing. I found a quite a number, all of them four to seven years old.  They were “passed-over” the first time mainly because of my lack of ability in processing them. In the intervening years my technique (if you can actually call it that) has improved and so has the processing software. I am not going to tell you want it is as I paid enough for it and the thought of promoting the software for free just appals me. Anyway, tucked away safe in my Arc with the deluge hammering against the window, I processed away! Here are two of the results...

The picture above is of the grand Snowdon horseshoe as I was rushing to the Bunkhouse one Friday evening. The Sunset was amazing and when I passed Llyn Gwynant further down the valley, the calmness of the Llyn was incredible, here is where I made the main exposures as the Sunset had deepened in intensity.

The second picture is one of the waterfalls on avon Mellte near Ystradfellte.  Truly a beautiful little gorge. I must go there again.