These days, weather permitting, I’m usually found out and about with a camera made of wood and metal making quite long exposures of a vernacular landscape.
My last outing with the camera that was an early morning coincidence of sunrise and low tide revealed the presence of Alcedo Atthis right under my feet. I have taken to recording my time on site with a small stereo recorder with a view to creating a backing track for hopefully, a solo exhibition of ‘Estuarine Mud’. I had just fired the shutter from my second sheet of film when I heard that mistakable call sign of a Kingfisher. Then there it was hovering over the outfall area of the major sluice into Cattawade Creek. A marvellous start to any day, shooting large format film of a mudscape and have a cherry on the top.
Now, part of the reason for this series is that most of us do not see what is there before us and making images at dead low water presents a different arrangement of boats based upon the wind direction of the falling tide. That is like nature playing a joker for me. By the very nature of the detailed large format study I am making, especially shooting at 1 second F45 fast moving things are not on my radar, but Kingfishers are an obsession with me so now I have two reasons to visit this site and weather conditions won’t stop me capturing a Kingfisher where I would not drag out the wood and metal jobby.
I’m always re-training myself based on what I shoot with and I know this contemporary malarkey is not about kit but one does have to know how to use one’s tools for the job in hand. I use long lenses for these birds and it is different when I am cruising the Norfolk Broads in a boat where I can get close, very close to them compared to being land-bound and relying on the reach of the lens and my skills. These lenses are difficult to manage for such a small subject at quite long distances. In this case I am talking about between 75-200 feet so I have been experimenting with using back button focus to see if I can capture better images at these distances. The image above is one such result from a handful shot on Saturday 2nd September.
So far the experiment has been quite good. Whether that is luck or not I do not know. I shall try different lens/body combinations and also different VR/shutter speed combinations. Above all though it is about knowing what it is I want to capture and knowing how it will behave, in terms of the Kingfisher, before I venture forth and dare to press the shutter. Often as not I will stand, squat, crouch for a while observing the scene just as I do for large format work before I decide to make an image. It does mean devoting time to watching and waiting though but then, photography is all about time.
When I first got into large format photography back in November 2011, I had an abiding memory of my old man using Granddad’s mahogany and brass view camera complete with half-plate glass negatives.
The shutter was buggered and used to be a wind up cloth thing that clamped on the front of the lens so the old man used to stop down and just us a lens cap to control the speed.
I never forgot the wonderment I experienced when that came out of the loft to get used. It had a bespoke wooden tripod but that went awol in a house move and the camera must have been thrown away as I never saw it when he pooped his clogs and the house was cleared.
My first 5×4 was bought from the ex-lead guitarist for Shakin Stevens 1972-74. What a lineage? I then went on to acquire a metal field camera and have made some outstanding images on both. However, during my formative years at university the camera to aspire to was and is an Ebony complete with asymmetric rear movements.
This is an interesting concept in that purists for landscape work tend to make all movements on the from standard but as I have discovered, those movements do make the image circle an ellipse whereas an asymmetric rear standard retains the circle but alters perspective.
Well, I fell for it and got hold of an Ebony and this is the first image from the camera in my hands. The old boy making these in Japan ceased production last June as he was getting a tad tired. Who can blame him as he QC’d every camera himself!
Using the rear asymmetric adjustments does make for quicker focusing from front to back.
I was shocked recently when I revisited the source, as in River, of my Edgelands series. All manner of rubble bunds are strewn around the place and the site with my old rusty tin hut has reptile fences all around it.
Something is going on. The reptile fences are to keep creepy things in but the rubble is to keep unwanted people and vehicles out.
This morning I was shooting large and medium format film and both formats have the bunds in the foreground. I moved the tripod to the edge of the bund for this shot which is not far off the position I used back in 2014.
Is anyone doing anything in the group?
The Easter 2017 weekend is upon us. Yesterday I went out to Felixstowe to get a bag of chips for my birthday lunch. Normally we go to Aldeburgh but the the alignment of feast days, mine and that movable feast based on the moon, clashed. There would have been a queue a mile long waiting for chips in Aldeburgh and did not have the heart for waiting in line and throngs of people to contend with so it was Felixstowe, a very hot and sunny Felixstowe when out of the Easter Northerly wind.
I never tire of seeing ships in a harbour. Maybe it is down to to my early days in Liverpool and the magic of seeing ship’s bows seemingly protruding almost to the edge of the Dock Road and the Maritime Museum that got it into my blood. Anyway as with all my Docklands photographs, no two images from the same spot are ever the same. Yesterday, seemingly there were nothing but MSC vessels alongside. Steely eyed people see this image will not the green of a another behemoth on the deep water terminal though.
I have never witnessed the presence of so many MSC vessels in port at the same time.
Has anyone else seen this phenomenon?
Yesterday, the vanguard of this eclectic shutter of photographers met in a cottage surrounded by armed men with dogs whilst we stuffed envelopes full of Contemporary Photography into many hundreds of envelopes. Such is the secrecy surrounding the workflow to get these august tomes out to paying members not!
No, indeed we were surrounded like the OK Corral by men and guns blasting birds out of the sky that had been grown specifically for the privileged few. Although I had my gear with me that would have enabled me to make some interesting images of this rural industry I knuckled down instead to the task of getting these envelopes stuffed.
It was the usual culprits, escapees from ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ plus the master of automotive photography – Chris Myhill – very much younger than us but very adept at sliding in these booklets. It must have been the years of sliding in 10×8 film into double dark slides. You never know when skills can be re-used.
It was good to Chris along apart from speeding up the process, we were able to talk through our group and individual projects and potential exhibitions in the early Summer/late Spring of 2018. Having professional photographers in this group brings a whole lifetime of experience to bear.
As with the television series the conversation rambled around all sorts of topics from Melania reminding me of Lady Penelope and musing on where Ralph got his ideas from to whether the outfit was made of neoprene or indeed Kevlar to old buffers in railway stations and rusting Capris.
There is no holding us back when we get going. Great Granddad also gave us a lesson in the roots of certain common words. As an eclectic a conversation that anyone could wish for to while away a bitterly cold morning. There was plenty of wildlife on view also, with Muntjac, hares and strutting pheasants trotting their way in the opposite direction to the stands.
When I got in, I uploaded my iPhone edit of my old buffers.
Old buffers by Tom Owens
Yesterday, Kevin Marrable and I climbed onto the roof of the James Hehir building in blisteringly bright sunny conditions. We moaned somewhat as it was just too bright and contrasty so we sat down and woofed our packed lunches waiting for the light to fade. Luckily given the pasting that the rest of the country was getting, wispy damp cloudy stuff lightened our spirits and we were off.
I had taken my Toyo 45A up for the first time and fired off 6 sheets of FP4 whilst waiting for the light to dampen down a tad. I’m looking forward to getting them in the tank and developed.
From all the visits we have had to this lofty vantage point, this was by far the best. It is I suppose a bit like growing up. I went up there with two cameras, one 5×4 field camera with B&W and a digital SLR with a prime short telephoto with the prime(sic) objective of making some waterfront panoramic images.
Tests on camera looked good. They always do don’t they? I was less than pleased with myself once I got to processing as I was a degree off vertical despite levelled heads and tripod with countless bubbles. I’ll have to sort this anomaly for next time.
Anyway here is one daylight shot with that warm late winter afternoon glow. I love making work in the winter.
The Wet Dock and Town December 22nd 2016
We ought to have been on a rooftop today making more work for our long running series but as with November, the weather has stuffed us so we will attempt to scale the summit tomorrow and make the best of a longer day.
Such is the way with things, with being stuffed by the weather thatis, that I finally got around to getting some stashed C41 developed and out popped one from the un-pimped Trip35 taken on our day out to see Eggleston’ds portraits. This shot though has more of a Shore feel about it.
A flash Harry sort of image
Wednesday saw the announcement from bath HQ of the finalists for this exhibition.
Sadly I never made it with my image that got shortlisted.
From the series Edgelands
This is part of an extension of my Edgelands series where I am making images of ‘agri-dustrial’ buildings in our East Anglian landscape. Conveniently, they occur in Edgelands areas. This site is Muntons of Stowmarket. Muntons very kindly gave me access to their site to make images over a 3 month period.
Late and decapitated plus flesh-less racing pigeon
I’m slowly recovering from a marathon session with two fellow group photographers conducted yesterday in blazing sun and stiff breezes.
One week short of an anniversary, we ascended the rooftop of University of Suffolk’s James Hehir building to make a record of the events of the day and also to mark the passage of time and space associated with Ipswich Waterfront developments.
At one point yesterday morning I thought we might have been scuppered through a breakdown in lines of communication but that hiccup got resolved and soon we were hauling our precious gear up the north face of the building using ropes as we have done before. Once at base camp, we realised as ever with a shutter of photographers that the light was not how we wanted it and the wind, where was that on the forecast?
We were not in too much of a hurry to get going as waiting for the light gives plenty of time to see things. We happened upon a feathered carcass that had rings on both legs but no head and no meat left on the breast bones. A racing pigeon whose game was up so to speak but it travelled a considerable distance back and forth on the roof during the day as winds gusted to near on 25 knots.
Twilight last year was the kindest hour having had dullish weather all day. Here we were in 27 degrees and WSW winds of 17-25 knots and less activity around the dock on account of it not being a Maritime Festival – they are now to be held every other year. Twilight we hoped and yearned for but not a cloud in the sky.
That said, there were other things to make images from.
Shadows became friendly things to capture from on high as we waited for twilight and fireworks.
Sunset was 20:34 and pyros set for 21:00 – far too early but they got delayed for 15 minutes then someone lit the blue touch paper – still too light in my opinion but hey ho – mustn’t grumble.
Red fireworks and smoke
The other intrepid photographers were Peter Ellis and Kevin Marrable. Look out for their posts.
In the meantime, check out my site for galleries of associated images.
Many, many thanks to all the visitors who thronged through the gallery doors on Sunday to see our small selection of images from the never ending documentary project exploring the never ending changes of the docklands of the Orwell.
Special thanks to wives and partners for sourcing and making refreshments. The cakes were very highly regarded in comments made on social media channels.
The BH Monday was an even busier day.
One of the photographers in the group will be in attendance each day the event is on. We will all be there on the 19th June for the closing view.
The gallery is open between 11:00 and 16:00 Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week.