Around town

I’ve mentioned before that I still like the discipline of shooting on film. It forces you to slow down and think about what you’re shooting, and there’s no preview, so you can’t indulging in ‘chimping – you have to trust yourself to have got the shot without checking.

I also still think that there’s a subtle difference in the look of film compared to digital (although that difference is diminishing as digital cameras improve).

Then there’s shooting on black and white film. Now, you have to ‘see’ in black and white – there’s no option to shoot in colour and try out various black and white looks in the comfort of Photoshop.

Here are some pictures taken around my home town, all shot in the knowledge that colour could not be a factor in the final image.

I should point out that I don’t view ‘chimping’ as a bad thing—it’s an advantage that digital gives us. However, it’s also not a bad thing to deny ourselves these advantages from time to time. It’s like having a calculator, but still being able to add up in your head.

On learning to look

Spotting the picturesque is not difficult: sunsets, landscapes etc. all tend to pretty much smack you in the eye and shout “Look at me! Take my photo!”

Other things, though, take a bit of effort. You have to learn how to look before you can see the pictures that are around you.

One exercise that I’ve found useful in training yourself to look is to go out for a walk, stop at regular intervals (two minutes, five minutes…) and look for a picture wherever you are. The timing part is important — it’s there to prevent you just stopping when you see something; by stopping on a strict schedule, you have to really look at whatever you’re presented with. Don’t move more than a couple of metres from the spot you stop on, but look around, open your eyes, see a picture. Take one photograph, then move on.

The first time you try this, you’ll probably be underwhelmed by the pictures you took. So look at them, look critically and ask if you could improve the picture by changing the angle or framing. Also, look at the sequence: does it tell a story of the area you walked through?

The pictures that I’ve included here are a record of just such a walk that I did a few days ago. I was anxious to try out my new camera, so I took it with me when I went out with the dog. For this exercise, rather than a set time between shots, I set myself the target of shooting a 24-exposure roll of film, without finishing it too soon before getting back.

None of the pictures here are going to win any awards, but that’s not the point; the point is to exercise the looking muscles. I think they do tell a story, though, when viewed as a sequence.


So take yourself out for a walk (it’s healthy, you know) armed with camera and timer, and train yourself to start really looking.

A Nikon FM3A 35mm film camera

I spoiled one, which is why there are only 23

Island of calm

A few days ago, I took a trip to Pomona Island in Manchester (well Stretford, really) with some photographer friends. The trip was in the nature of a recce of the area for a project that we may do in the near future.

Nestled between the Bridgewater and Manchester Ship canals, Pomona has been, in its time, a leisure area and an industrial site, but now is an urban wasteland. It is a fascinating area for nature lovers, since few people visit, despite quite easy access, so there is little disturbance. One of the first things we saw when we arrived was a small bird of prey (I have no idea what) hovering, searching for its next meal.

As someone who studied a biological science, I am endlessly fascinated with the way nature will always intrude on mankind’s best efforts. And when we leave for any length of time—so that there is no hoeing, spraying, cleaning—the process is faster and more dramatic.

The owners, Peel Group (who seem to own an unhealthily large proportion of land around here), want to build flats on it. There are others who would like it made into an inner-city recreation area, like it once was, and still others would like it to be a nature reserve. I just have to bring back the memory of that kite(?) to know which alternative I’d prefer.

Anyway, here’s a gallery that shows the ‘battle’ between nature and mankind’s attempts to tame it.

Auld Reekie

I was looking through my picture archive when I came across some that I took in Edinburgh a few years ago. I did a bit of reprocessing with some more up-to-date tools to improve the look a bit and thought I’d share them here.

It was a bit damp out there

Some pictures taken during a heavy rain shower:

I was particularly pleased with two images that show the falling raindrops. This is quite rare when photographing rain: the drops often fail to register because they are either too small or moving too fast. Usually, you have to rely on splashes, umbrellas and cowering people to suggest the conditions, as you can see in the other pictures (it was raining heavily in all but the first one).

Massive props, by the way, to the Altrincham choir who performed through the downpour without missing a beat and never losing their smiles.

For those interested in these things:

Olympus OM-D; Zuiko 17mm f/1.8; Zuiko 45mm f/1.8