It Is Good To Practise

A week or so back,  I needed a walk. I needed to get outside, into the autumnal sunshine for some fresh air.  I grabbed my camera and decided I’d snap whatever caught my eye. 

A few months ago, when showing someone one of my shots, I got the response that every photographer hates… “Wow, you must have an amazing camera!”  Really? Would you say to a chef who had cooked you a wonderful meal, “Wow! You must have an amazing oven!”

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Where I Step Right Outside My Comfort Zone - Faces of Fleet #1

Sometimes it is good to do something a little bit different. It stretches the creative muscles and can give you a new way of seeing the world. I am a big fan of the Humans of New York project, where photographer Brandon Stanton set out to take street portraits of 10,000 people living and working in New York. He chats to each person and gets their story before taking their photograph. The results are gorgeous, human, joyful, touching and a reminder of reality. 

I will admit it straight off, I am not a natural portrait photographer, but I had been itching for a while to document my home town in some way. This seemed like a good way of capturing the people who live in the area. I mulled this over for several weeks. The idea excited me, but the thought of walking up to complete strangers and being able to make enough of a connection that they would let me take their portrait terrified the living daylights of me. I am not sure what happened, but one Wednesday afternoon, shortly after lunch I was overcome by a strange sense of recklessness/courage and headed out armed with my Fuji XT1. It takes about 15 minutes to walk to the town centre from Fennell Towers and by the time I had reached the high street my bravado and ebbed somewhat. I then spent the next 45 minutes walking up and down trying to muster enough courage to speak to someone.  

Finally I found Faces #1 and #2 sat on a bench outside M&S. They looked friendly, and kind, so I reasoned, even if they said no, they weren't likely to punch me in the face. They didn't say no! They looked slightly shocked that I had asked, but were up for it. They were lovely, and gave me much needed confidence to go ahead and ask other people. I don't know who you are, but thank you!

Face #1

Face #1

Face #2

Face #2

Emboldened, I headed off to find more friendly looking residents of Fleet. Next I chatted to Face #3, a lovely lady who sells jewellery in the shopping centre. She hand makes and mends all sorts of beautiful things. The lighting was shocking*, but I took a portrait to add to the collection. After that it was time to go home, and I was almost back at the gates of Fennell Towers when I met Face #4. This lady was delivering building materials to a house, and was driving one of those big trucks with a crane on the back**. She was rocking a powerful "This Girl Can" vibe, and I desperately wanted to take her photo. I hesitated a little bit as she was working, but decided to ask anyway. We had a little chat, I took the shot and then she went on her way. 

Faces of Fleet 3.jpg
Faces of Fleet 4.jpg

I got home feeling pretty good. I had overcome my major fear of taking street portraits, and as an added bonus I had had some lovely conversations with people I would never have met otherwise. Some people said no, fewer than I would have thought, and that was nice it it's own way too. People had the choice, and even when they declined they were nice about it and we had a chat anyway. All in all it was a great experience. I am going to continue to take street portraits, and add them to the gallery on this site. I hope to build up a collection of portraits which represent Fleet and the people that live here. 

* Note to self, lighting in shopping centres is horrible...

** It probably has a proper name, does anyone know?

Where I Have A Photography Day Out With A Chum

Last week, I had a lovely photography day out with my chum, Kate Vaisey. I met Kate on a photography course, and as it turns out, she lives but a mere stones throw from Fennell Towers. Kate has a great photographic eye, as well as being an all round good egg, so I knew it would be a good day. We decided that we would head off to RHS Wisley, armed with our cameras, spare batteries and memory cards*. I had my Fuji XT-1 with the 35mm f2 lens, my favourite combination, whilst Kate was shooting on her Canon 650D. 

Wisley is a wonderful place to take photographs, well, if you like flowers and trees that is. If you like to shoot rock bands you are likely to be disappointed. We didn't have a plan, we just wandered around and shot what took our fancy. Given how hot it was, we headed for shaded areas and practised controlling the light to get different effects. The light was very harsh, and so contrast was the order of the day.  I would like to be able to tell you definitvely what this plant is,  it is possibly a lily, not sure, but I do like how sculptural it looks with the very harsh highlights and very low shadow. 

Lily bud, Fuji XT-1, 35mm f4, 1/280s

Lily bud, Fuji XT-1, 35mm f4, 1/280s

Having spent a good half an hour shooting the shrubbery we braved the heat and headed out towards the grassy meadow areas. It. Was. Roasting. But what sort of photographers would  we be if we didn't suffer for our art? Risking severe sunburn, we practised long exposures on Kate's camera and yet more light control. 

Grasses, Fuji XT-1, 35mm f2.2, 1/4000s

Grasses, Fuji XT-1, 35mm f2.2, 1/4000s

Poppy, Fuji XT-1, 35mm, f2, 1/4000s

Poppy, Fuji XT-1, 35mm, f2, 1/4000s

I'm pleased with the shots I got, particularly the lily bud, and Kate got some stunners, particularly this one, using my 10 stop ND filter. It was also nice to have another photographer to work with and to bounce ideas off. It helps when there are two of you, as you feel less of an idiot as you contort yourself into an odd position on the ground in order to try and get a winning shot of a rhododendron.  

Has anyone else been out to Wisley to photograph the plants there?

 

*We managed to choose one of the hottest days of the year, so fortunately, K was also armed with sunblock.

Where I Talk to a Cow and Nearly Fall in a Ditch

First published on Fennell Books on 22nd January, 2017.

It was pretty chilly here at Fennell Towers this week, it has been as low as -6C, which for the South East is darn nippy. Despite the cold, it has been sunny, with beautiful blue skies, so with several layers on, plus some gloves and a bobble hat* I went for my daily walk in the woods. It. Was. Freezing.  I am nothing if not intrepid, and so I pressed on, camera in (cold, gloved) hand. 

There was a low hanging mist still and I got this nice general shot of the woods with the sun breaking through the trees. 

In the woods are a herd of highland cows which graze and keep everything under control. They were close by, so took a photo of this handsome chap. When I walk in the woods during the day, I don’t often see anyone else, and so tend to assume that I am on my own. Imagine dear reader, if you will, there I am, taking some photos of the cow. As a photographer you want to make your model feel relaxed and I was chatting to the cow, only to realise that six feet away was a couple, looking at me like I had gone mad. I brazened it out with a cheery “good morning!” and went on my way.

Having got a good distance and some trees between me and the couple who now thought I was potty, I came across a ditch with some frozen water in it. The water had made some lovely patterns. I took this shot, balanced precariously on the side of the ditch, not entirely sure the ground was solid. Can you imagine what those people would have thought if they had rounded a corner and seen me sprawled in a ditch having been talking to the cow minutes earlier? I am sure they would have assumed I had been on the orange squash…

After the ditch shot I decided to head home, as my fingers were turning blue. On my way I saw this toy rabbit tied to a lamppost. I have titled this shot “Lost Bunny”. I considered calling it “Lost Bunny Tied To Lamppost”, but decided that was too much, it is always better to give the viewer somewhere to go with their own interpretation, don’t you think? :) 

*A bobble hat is an essential piece of photography equipment