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New year

The changing of the year is upon us. 2023 looms. It feels odd even thinking it – I remember at school working out how old I would be in 2000. Both the year and my years seemed impossible numbers. And yet I can remember sitting at work as midnight approached and the year clicked over to 2000. I had a letter of resignation in my pocket. I was responsible for the computer systems, and if the Millennium Bug did bite, it was my fault. But the work worked and I continued to work. And now it will be 2023.

What shall I do with my new year then?

I have an opportunity to do some more diving in warm water with smiley fish. The shed is now a useable space, so I have somewhere I can set up my lightbox and film scanner. I have a box of film I can shoot. I have a C41 developer kit. The world is, if not my oyster, my whelk.

Make the best of it, as we all end up as pavement

Anyway, enough wittering. We have two days left of ’22. Time to make some plans. See you next year.



Hurrah! Another year and still here. Have I done anything good or memorable photographically? I loved diving in the Red Sea. I enjoyed treasure hunts to make pictures on a given subject. I met some heroes and saw some interesting stuff at the NEC show. I sold a load of unused cameras. I bought a very good camera. I did some things I’ve never done before.

Have I had a good year? Yes, both in photography and in real life. I’ve been retired from full-time work for a year now and don’t miss it a bit. There does come a time when it’s good to go, if you can. I’ve adjusted to much less money but much more time more easily than I thought. I did wonder if I would miss the status and excitement of my work, particularly as I’ve taken a little part-time job as a complete minion. Not a bit, though. These days, when stuff breaks, it’s not my problem. And as Douglas Adams said, that confers invisibility. It’s not that I don’t care, just that I don’t have to. I really don’t mean to be smug, though. I’m grateful.

But Christmas looms and family and friends are visiting. I hope you too can enjoy the season and other people.

Time for a knees-up


Oh, and a PS. Who said wishes never start to come true? And from Pentax too – I’m delighted.

More cheers.

Flipping pictures

Not as a pejorative, but actually turning the picture upside-down. Have you ever tried it?

Some work better than others. Reflections in water can be good. In fact they were my first attempts. We’ve all done the picture of something reflected in still water to give the mirror-image effect. But if you crop the picture to only the reflection you get a wavy version of reality. This may not be ‘true’ but it does cause you to think about what you are looking at. It may actually be more true to reality, as well.

I don’t do this often, but I do like the effect. We had a session at the photo club where we each submitted a few pictures and all had a go at editing each others. We then compared and discussed the results. One picture I had a go at was a beach scene with a long sweeping area of water reflecting the sky and some distant people. I admit to cropping it to the reflection and inverting it. The reflection was fairly smooth, so it took a while for anyone to see what I had done. They didn’t like it, of course.

I also put one of my ‘reflective’ pictures into a competition. Again, the judge didn’t like it because they couldn’t see what it was. At least it was sharp, though.

Also, if you shoot more abstract pictures, they can be any way up that looks best.

Removing the normal visual clues leaves the shapes and tones, which is what attracted me in the first place.

So, enjoy. Just as there is no right way to take a photograph, there is no right way up. Take a look at the odd-looking shot here to see another example.

Foul weather

Why did the chicken go out in the rain?

Ok, get your breath back. Do you ever take pictures in bad weather? And not just moist, but bracing?

Some of the late-model film SLRs had pretty good weather sealing, as do quite a few dSLRs. I still can’t bring myself to just let a camera get wet though. Not unless it was meant to.

Other than accidents, my first attempt to use a camera in heavy rain was at a car rally. This is where recognisable road cars hurtle round gravel tracks through forests. Great fun for anyone who likes to combine pebble-dashing with deafness and the chance of being run over. The event started well, and then it rained. I was using an old film SLR. I did my best to shelter the camera inside my jacket between sessions as the cars came through, but taking pictures meant holding the camera to my eye. It got pretty wet. The camera and lens went in the airing cupboard for a week when I got home and seemed to recover.

Lombard Rally

What I lacked at the time (besides sense and a mortgage) was any means of keeping the rain off the camera. I have since invested, ooh, pounds, in a rain cover. It’s basically a camera condom. You could do the same with a bin bag and some tape. The key thing, I have learned, is to put a filter on the lens. This means you can use a microfiber cloth to wipe the rain droplets off without worrying about scratching the lens itself. A deep lens hood is also good. To shelter it better when I’m using the camera I wear a wide-brimmed hat – basically a hands-free umbrella.

The other option I have is to use a compact camera that is either meant to be waterproof or can be put in a housing. The microfiber cloth is again your friend to keep the lens clear. I did pick up a tip from Maria Munn to wipe the lens port with bit of (ocean-friendly) detergent, to stop water beading-up on the glass. Another good reason to use a clear filter on the lens, if you don’t have a housing for the camera. If it was really pouring down I would definitely use a waterproof camera. This means using a compact, which could restrict the lens options or quality. I’m lucky in that my main underwater camera is a Canon G9, so it’s as capable as my older dSLR.

The other good feature of a truly waterproof camera is that it’s also proof against dust and sand. Although, when I did go out on a windswept beach to photograph seals, I had to use a conventional SLR to be able to use my long lenses.

Something you are going to need in the wet is a dry bag to keep your stuff in. I’ve already described my favourite make. Just remember to dry your hands before you open the bag, or there’s no point to it. For places where it’s not raining but you can’t put a bag down – wind-blown sand, for example – I have a clever Lowepro Slingshot rucksack. It has a single shoulder strap and can be slid round to rest horizontally across your belly. The top side of the bag unzips, so you get a shelf to swap lenses on. It’s also pretty good in crowded places that you can put the bag in front of you and avoid battering people.

Cold weather can also be a problem. If the batteries get cold, the camera can fade away. Manual cameras can also drag the shutter or even stop as their lubricants get stiffer. I have seen, but never used, a dummy battery pack with an extension lead. This puts the actual battery inside your jacket but does mean that the camera is tethered to you. For manual cameras I have seen, but again not used, a heat-pack taped to the camera back. One of my old Pentax film cameras has a sleepy shutter when it gets cold. Now that I know about it I use a different camera when it’s icy.

Italian Alps
Sneaking across the border

I have used a manual film SLR in a blizzard, but it was kept inside a down jacket and briefly removed to grab some shots. Not ideal, as I really didn’t want to slip and fall with it on my chest. It was the only way to keep it warm(ish) and dry(ish) though.

The thing to watch out for in the cold though, is coming indoors again. Your cold camera, lenses, cards and film will all get condensation forming on them. Put the whole lot into one or more plastic bags, seal them shut and let the kit warm up in the bags. The condensation will form on the outside of the bag rather than the kit. You should also take care if you are going out into the cold several times. What you don’t want is to come in, get a bit of condensation in or on the camera, and then go out again and have it freeze. You may be better leaving the camera (in a poly bag) in the cold and bringing just the batteries, cards etc into the warm.

I’ve rarely had the pleasure of taking photographs in hot places. I did, when much younger, spend a couple of weeks back-packing in the Middle East. Shade temperatures got up to around 45C. I admit to taking no special precautions for my camera other than not leaving it out in the sun. This last summer in the UK got to 40 degrees, so I’ll probably get the chance to try cooking a camera again.

The actual border

Have fun, but take care.

A sketch pad

This idea came from Grant Scott and Neale James, and it’s to treat your camera as a sketch pad rather than every shot being a finished and polished masterpiece. This means that photos become captured ideas for future development or (the shame!) simply a record of who you were with and where you were.

This is easy with digital but was harder and more expensive when I used film exclusively. With the marginal cost of a digital picture being effectively zero, why not grab pictures of things that are interesting or have possibility? It can also be an informal record of where you were or what you were doing. If your camera can also capture the location of a picture, you have the easiest method for grabbing something interesting and then finding your way back to the place at a better time or in better light.

This field gets grazing light in the morning

I think this also fits with the idea of journaling. This is keeping a written (and doodled) record of your thoughts and ideas. Ade of the Sunny 16 podcast is doing this. Even I do it. I carry a little notebook that fits in my pocket and one of those little space pens. I’ve also got my favourite little snapshot camera that isn’t much bigger than the notebook. This goes in the pocket or the bag and is part of the leaving the house checklist (keys, wallet, phone, poo bags for dog, camera). The notebook captures stuff for later – ideas, plans, books to read, films to see, even ideas for pictures. The little camera grabs things as they happen – sunrise, newts on the path, details of cameras to use in this blog. The notebook jottings get reviewed and either moved to a collection (books to read), turned into something useful (ideas to try) or deleted (jobs done). Same with the camera – the pictures get moved to the filing system so that I can find them again or deleted if they were a temporary record.

Yes, the notebook is covered with duct tape. Because, well, duct tape.

The benefits are in peace of mind. I forget less, like ideas or references. I remember more, like things that caught my attention. There is another benefit in having the recording tools with you. It’s less stressful than seeing something and having nothing to save it on or with. Turning these things into a habit means that I’ve always got them with me, so I use them.

I was curious about the way the houses appeared to stack

An aside – I’ve also got a notebook for the house. It has a plan with measurements of every room, how much paint or wallpaper it took and the names of the paint. It gets updated when we move and is most excellent for decorating, redecorating or choosing furniture that fits </smug>.

I know a mobile phone can do these tricks, challenging the need to carry a separate notebook or camera. I do find though that the pictures on my phone rarely make the jump to my main picture files so I lose track of what I’ve got. I also find it easier to make notes on paper than in a phone, because I doodle shapes with the words. Or maybe I’m a dinosaur and still can’t work my own TV. Taking written notes does mean though that I can use Easy Script shorthand for speed, compactness and a basic level of privacy.

I need to go back and get a better look

Anyhow, it’s the idea I recommend, not the method. Capturing notes, thoughts and pictures as they arise so that you can reflect on them later is useful. It also breaks the psychological bond that everything you do must be at least good, if not perfect. Unfinished means still flexible and capable of development.

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