Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Shambles, Settle

click photo to enlarge
Today's photograph shows a building in the centre of the small market town in Yorkshire where I was raised. It is called "The Shambles". Like the more well-known Shambles in York this name is said to derive from "shammels", the Saxon for shelves, ledges or benches. It is in the centre of the market place, a location where, in towns across Britain, you invariably find old and interesting buildings. This structure has steps at the left and right that lead down to a basement level with six shops, above that is the next level seen through the arches, where there are six more shops. Over these, reached by stone steps at the right side of the building are six, small, two-storey dwellings. The two lower floors date from the seventeenth century whilst the upper dwellings are Victorian. Over the years a couple of members of my family have lived in the Shambles.

This building, along with the former town hall of 1832, the Georgian column and drinking fountain, and the buildings that mark the periphery of the market place, all offer much of visual and historic interest to the visitor. However, like many market places across the land, it is converted (for six days of the week) into a car park that is crammed with vehicles. The exception is Tuesday - market day - when it is crammed with stalls and vehicles. Whilst one must be glad that the space continues to host a market, the permanent presence of cars really does lessen the appeal of the area. There is no respite, even at night, from the infernal combustion engine, as my smaller photograph shows. In Britain some enlightened towns that are trying to rescue these civic spaces from the car, but they are few and far between, and in Settle, below the limestone crag of Castleberg, buildings are closely packed and space is at a premium. So, to fully appreciate the town's market place it is necessary to mentally expunge the vehicles - not an easy task!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20mm (30mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Acer leaves and real colours

click photo to enlarge
The widespread use of photographic enhancement is starting becoming a problem. I don't frequent social media websites, but the images that I see associated with them frequently have an effect applied - bleached colours, heavy vignetting, "antiquing", heavily saturated colour, etc. Enthusiast websites such as Flickr, 500px and the rest all too often feature shots that have been heavily processed to the point where I'm often tempted to ask, "On which planet were these taken?"

Now, I'm aware that photography comes in many forms, and manipulated images have always featured in the craft. However, too often the manipulation is to achieve no other end than to make the image more eye-catching; in other words they are a substitute for vision and skill, and they frequently take the photograph into the realm of painting. Down the road of ever more effects, lies an escalation that ends in madness.

The other problem with the omni-presence of manipulation is that it makes us disparage reality and even forget what it looks like. Consequently it can make some examples of photographic reality look like examples of manipulation. Take today's photograph of fallen acer leaves. The colours on display have a similarity to shots that have received a washed-out magenta cast. But, there has be no such trickery involved. These are the colours the camera recorded and they are quite close to what my eye saw. The only effect I've added here is that old stalwart, vignetting, where I used it to accentuate the shadows that were naturally invading the scene. My armoury of effects, by and large, involves the digital equivalents of the wet process effects we used in pre-digital days, especially dodging, burning and vignetting. Am I old-fashioned? In this regard, probably.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm (150mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6 Shutter
Speed: 1/160 sec
ISO:720
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ivy, like rust, never sleeps

click photo to enlarge
A few weeks ago I was well into the third day of cutting an area of rampant ivy from a vertical-lap wooden fence when, instead of hitting the chisel with my wooden mallet, I hit my hand. The pain was excruciating and I thought I'd broken my index finger. However, an hour or so later, after ice-pack treatment, I began to think that bruising was the worst of it. And, after a few days that's what transpired. This patch of ivy had expanded over the years, despite me regularly and savagely chopping it back. Of course, ivy is like rust, it never sleeps, it is always colonising fresh ground. So, having had enough of it, and in agreement with my neighbour, we decided to be rid of it. It is now gone, though I'm sure some will appear from the ground in a fresh attempt to re-assert itself when spring comes around.

I remembered my ivy (and my finger) recently when I was photographing this corner of the churchyard at Long Sutton, Lincolnshire. You might think this is a neglected acre or two of God's ground. Nothing could be further from the truth. The churchyard is well-maintained and its fine collection of seventeenth century, Georgian and later tombs are well displayed all year round. But, by way of contrast a few edges are left in a semi-wild state, and was one of these patches that drew my photographer's eye. I liked the the contrast of the deep shade, the ivy-covered gravestones and the prominent uncovered cross, with the sunlit, orderly graveyard beyond. As we went on our way, I thought about the volunteers who must periodically control the ivy to prevent it completely smothering the trees and the gravestones, leaving them undifferentiated mounds of shiny leaves. I didn't envy them their task.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 40mm (60mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8 Shutter
Speed: 1/60 sec
ISO:1100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mist on Giggleswick Scar

click photo to enlarge
The all-enfolding mists of autumn are viewed by many as an unwelcome intrusion after the brightness and warmth of summer. But, to poets such as Keats, and to many photographers they are a pleasing change that transforms familiar landscapes and offers a melancholy note that is rarely to be found in the warmer months.

We recently spent several days in the Yorkshire Dales, the area of my upbringing. Rain was quite frequent, as it often is in such parts, but not in quanitities or at times that prevented us having a long walk each day. One of our rambles took us on to the limestone upland known as Giggleswick Scar, an area of cliffs, scree, caves, short sheep-cropped grass, rowan trees, bracken - all the attributes of what geographers call a karst landscape. A thick mist accompanied our walk to the summit of the Scar but shortly afterwards it started to clear from the high ground leaving the grey blanket in the valleys below. Today's photograph shows rowans and hawthorns silhouetted against the mist in the Ribble valley with the summits and clouds beyond. When the mist started to dissipate it was quite difficult to distinguish between the hills and the clouds, but by the time of my photograph this was more easily done.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 95mm (142mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/400 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Motion blur river

click photo to enlarge
Elsewhere in this blog I've described myself as primarily an "incidental photographer"; that is to say I most often  take photographs when I'm out and about doing something else. I can be enjoying a walk, shopping for the week's groceries, visiting friends or relatives, enjoying my garden, taking in an exhibition at a local gallery or viewing an historic or recent building, to name but a few activities where I use my camera. And, because I prefer to travel light, I'm often without the range of accessories required to secure the photograph that I'm looking for.

Today's shot is an example of this. Ideally I'd have used a tripod and a neutral density filter. But, being in the countryside with only a dslr plus one lens, I had to do my usual work-around for a motion blur of this turbulent water i.e. Manual mode, low ISO and a very small aperture to produce the required low shutter speed for this fast moving torrent. It took a couple of shots to get the right exposure. However, eventually I got the amount of blur that I wanted in this shot of dappled light and rich colours on the River Ribble at Langcliffe, North Yorkshire, when it was in full flow after heavy rain.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Manual Priority
Focal Length: 85mm (127mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f20
Shutter Speed: 1/10 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Monday, October 13, 2014

Reflecting on walnut trees

click photo to enlarge
Over the past few weeks the same incident has replayed several times. A grey squirrel has hopped across the lawn with a large walnut in its mouth. It has stopped, dug at the grass with its front feet, decided the spot was no use, and then moved on to repeat this action until a suitable spot is found. There it buries the walnut. Do they ever find them again? I suppose so, but I never see it happen. Do we have a forest of sapling walnuts sprouting from the lawn in spring? No - so I guess they are retrieved and eaten by the squirrels at some point in the winter.

I never noticed walnut trees until I moved to Lincolnshire. They probably existed where I lived in the other parts of England, but not until I moved to this county in the East Midlands did I see them in sufficient numbers that I became aware of the trees. The village where I live has several. A couple are in a small playground/park where they provide amusement and collecting opportunities for the local children. Another one is in a field that is visible from the front of my house.

This tree is slowly succumbing to age and the weather. Last year, during particularly windy weather, a large bough fell off. This year the top branches were completely free of leaf. It can't have many more years left. The field in which it is located was once pasture and I imagine that the sheep and cattle found its shade welcome in high summer. For thirty years or more, however, it has been used for vegetable and cereal growing and as far as the farmer is concerned it has become an obstacle around which agricultural machinery and vehicles must be carefully guided. I posted a photograph of it on the blog two years ago when it was looking very fine against a dark and threatening October sky. The other day it was the tree's shape in the mist, augmented by a gathering of rooks in its topmost branches, that caught my eye.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 37.1mm (100mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/160 sec
ISO:125
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Autumn cherry leaves

click photo to enlarge
Apparently the intensity of colour of some autumn leaves is affected by the weather that prevails before and during the time that chlorophyl production in them begins to decline. A spell of warm, sunny weather with cool but not freezing nights results in the leaves producing sugars during the day that are retained by the closing of veins prompted by the lower temperatures.The accumulated sugar combined with the colder nights triggers the production of the anthocyanin pigments that produce the reds, oranges and purples in leaves. Yellow leaves are produced by carotenoids that are always present and not weather-dependant (which must account for why the lime trees' leaves are a fine show every year).

I've been looking at our ornamental cherry trees recently, wondering if they would produce a good show of colour, particularly some of the fiery reds and oranges that make the garden come alive. The recent weather and the information above suggests they will. However, that weather is about to change with rain, wind and storms coming in from the west. With that in mind I decided to take matters into my own hands and make the best of the leaves as they are now. The low sun enhanced the hues of several that were on the ground, allowing me to achieve my aim of a photograph of contrasts and colour.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon 5D Mk2
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm macro
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/80 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Classical busts and wash drawings

click photo to enlarge
I was talking with a farmer a while ago and during the course of the conversation I observed that I knew more about medieval ploughing than I did about the modern methods. It was only when I reflected on that conversation some time later that I realised there are quite a few things from the past that I know about in some detail, but when it comes to the modern equivalent I am rather less well informed.

One such example that came to mind recently is the training of architects. It was this Georgian classical bust on the stairwell of the Maister House in Hull that prompted the thought. The work is one of two pieces on brackets that flank a large statue of "Ceres" by John Cheere. The smaller works may be his too. However, I didn't check their provenance because the lighting of this bust, when I reviewed my photograph on the camera screen, immediately made me think of the ink wash and watercolour drawings of the architectural students of the Ecole des Beaux Arts. More particularly I thought of "An Antique Relief" by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, painted c.1886 when he was a student at the Glasgow School of Art. The ability to draw well and render accurately used to be part of the training of architects. It was need not just to sketch basic ideas, to depict their vision before it was constructed, but also to communicate large and small details to the builders so they could turn ideas into reality. I imagine drawing must play a part still in architectural training but technology in the form of the computer probably figures just as large.

So, to make the bust look more like an eighteenth or nineteenth century architect's ink wash I converted my photograph to black and white and slightly increased the contrast.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm (52mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec
ISO:6400
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Sunday, October 05, 2014

WYSIATI

click photo to enlarge
I've always liked the acronym, WYSIWYG (wizeewig). It originated in web design, particularly with the kind of web editors that behave more like desktop publishing programmes as opposed to the original and more basic html editors. It describes the fact that as you build the page the appearance and position of objects appear as they will in the finished article, rather than as lines of code as is the case with non-WYSIWYG editors. Like many good linguistic ideas it has taken on a life of its own and can now be found applied in areas far beyond computing and web design.

I'd like to see WYSIATI assume a similar widespread use. This acronym is usually attributed to Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize winner in Economics who uses the term in his 2011 book, "Thinking Fast and Slow". He applied it to overconfidence in understanding around the concepts of "known knowns", "known unknowns" etc. Was it used much, or at all, before then? I don't know, but I can claim to have used it on November 14th 2010 in a blog post about the artist Ai Weiwei's display of ceramic sunflower seeds at Tate Modern. It's something that comes to mind when I look at quite a lot of contemporary art because a great deal of it is so devoid of depth, meaning and resonance. With such work what you see is all there is, and what you take away from it is nothing but a lament about another wasted opportunity.

I had this feeling recently when I surveyed some of the art on display around the town of King's Lynn. It was the result of a collaboration between the Norfolk town and the Maison de la Culture d'Amiens in Northern France. I applaud such partnerships and projects: I just wish that they produced a better outcome than the offerings I saw the other day. That includes the example in today's photograph. Apparently, the piece entitled "Rock Around the Fleet" that is located in the old dock basin of the Purfleet River, "is a series of floating buoys with metal designs suggesting seabirds, which evoke a feeling of movement and animation reminiscent of the past." Yes, really!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 18mm (27mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec
ISO:100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Friday, October 03, 2014

Rusty buoys

click photo to enlarge
I've posted a few photographs of buoys on this blog. The first, as long ago as 2006, reflected on the spelling of the word. The second, in 2008, pondered the colours of these nautical markers. In 2009 I produced a shot of buoys that I especially like for the light, with accompanying text about simplifying compositions. 2010 found me in King's Lynn, a good place for photographing buoys and waxing lyrical about bright colours. In 2011 a black and white photograph of buoys accompanied a piece about alternative voting and the folly of our electorates rejection of it. And, the same year "Foul buoys" was the title of a piece where I noted my discovery of why the word "FOUL" was written on yellow buoys.

Today's photograph is buoys once again, and from King's Lynn too, though this time only a detail. What was it about this detail that attracted me? Well, the battered yellow paint and brown rust, the result of prolonged exposure to salt water was sufficient draw. However, it was the position of the two heavy metal loops that made me take the shot. And the way the steel cable was threaded through them to keep them fixed to the quayside. It reminded me vaguely of the ying yang symbol; two similar and complementary forms interlocking, or at least related one to the other. I hoped that a tight composition would emphasise that feature and deliver enough interest to make the photograph work. I think it does.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 60mm (90mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8 Shutter
Speed: 1/100 sec
ISO:180
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Axes and wood

click photo to enlarge
I'm not, in general, someone who likes familiar slang, particularly that which applies to a line of work, an interest or a hobby. Hearing someone describe a BMW as a "Beamer" irritates me in much the same way as hearing the likes of Jamie Oliver use the terms "slosh" (for pour) or "chuck" for sprinkle does. I've never liked the way some enthusiast photographers refer to lenses as "glass" (surely they are so much more than that). And as for rock musicians calling an electric guitar an "axe": well, that irks me just as much as the modern habit of calling a university a "uni". All these examples seem, to my mind to conflate a certain laziness with an overly chummy and "insider" familiarity that is often designed, in some small way, to erect fences to outsiders.

It was the term "axe", meaning an electric guitar that came to mind when I came to write this piece about a new guitar that I recently bought. I presume that "axe" derives from the shape of the guitar, or perhaps the sharp sound - who knows or cares? However, since it was the wood of this particular guitar that I was going to describe "axe" seemed to have some sort of connection. Many musical instruments have interesting and beautiful shapes that derive, in the main from the way they work - form really does, usually, follow function. However, many are enhanced during construction by the use of wood, application of paint, inlays and so on, and none more so than electric guitars. Moreover, though the sound is what you most want from such an instrument, appearance is also a factor when you come to buy one.

The example in today's photograph doesn't have the usual paint job, sunburst staining or varnished finish. Instead it has a burred (burled in US-English) poplar top that I find unusual and attractive. This is mounted on mahogany and the instrument is completed with a maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard. With a veritable forest of timber having fallen under the axe to produce it I must make sure I keep it a long time and get the most from it

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon 5D Mk2
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 105mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/13 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Autumn dead heads

click photo to enlarge
The pattern of life slowly emerges as you age. From early punctuations, such as birthdays, holidays and Christmas, more are added with each passing year - a new school year, new college terms, a new house, your children's birthdays followed all too rapidly it seems by their departure as adults, then, in later life, the passing, with ever greater frequency, of people that you know.

As a background to the milestones of our human lives there are the constantly changing seasons. You are taught about these as a child, and you understand them at a literal level. However, it's not until you have more than a few decades under your belt that their rhythm becomes an integral part of your life. At least that's how it's been with me. When I was a child I felt the seasons. As a youth, a young man, particularly when work became one of my main focuses, I lost that proper feeling for the different times of year. Since I stopped paid work that has returned and assumed its rightful place as one of the pleasures of my life. I've said elsewhere in this blog that I relish every season's differences and am daily thankful that I live at a geographical latitude that has clearly differentiated seasons.

I gave thanks again the other day as I went about one of my early autumn jobs - collecting in a bucket the fallen crab apples and the cast-off begonia blooms. I was drawn to the faded beauty of dead heads a couple of years ago and posted a picture then. I noticed it again when I piled so many begonia flowers on top of the crab apples that I completely hid them from view. The natural vignette provided by the shadow of the rim of the bucket made the yellows, oranges and reds radiate one final, passing glow, and I recorded it in this photograph.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 122mm (183mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6 Shutter
Speed: 1/200 sec
ISO:140
Exposure Compensation: 0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On