Not Just About Taking Photographs...

Some people may think that taking photographs is all a photographer does. Well, for some it may be, but I have always tried and liked to embrace a fuller picture.

This summer I have attended various art auctions, camera fairs and exhibitions. I find it very rewarding to immerse myself in the ‘art’ world. I do this all through the year, but some things just seem to work better in the summer.

I recently attended an art auction where a painting that was estimated as selling for £12000 ended up selling for £18750. In it’s own way it was exciting as the two remaining bidders got into what looked to us like a bidding war. One was a suave older gentleman in a navy blazer, with a cravat and cream trousers. This was topped off with a panama hat. The other bidder was a lot younger and looked like a punk rocker from the 1970’s. I am convinced they knew each other, so there could be an interesting back story to this assumption.

When I am in London I try to include a visit to The Photographer’s Gallery. In 2012 it moved to a new site which is far more suitable for what it has become. It has always been a good place to view some work, but also to treat myself to a coffee and a piece of cake. If you have camera equipment with you it is often easy to end talking to your neighbours and discuss anything ‘photographical’ (I know this is not really a word). If you have a film camera, it is even easier, as many people find that subject interesting. Business cards can be exchanged and friends can be made.

The camera fairs are a great chance to step back a few decades or more, and look at the equipment that I would have loved to own, but maybe could not afford or justify. Beautiful older cameras can be picked up for a fraction of what they originally cost, and sometimes in excellent condition. If you want to create a display, you can collect non working items for a very reasonable price.

This is a world with a past, present and future, and to many they are all valuable in their own way.

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017

I believe that sometimes one needs to go out and get inspired or promote conversation by visiting galleries or exhibitions. This week I went to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London.

There were things there that I loved, liked and disliked at the same time, and others that left me unsure as to what I thought.

The BBC broadcasts a television programme each year a few months ahead of the exhibition, and this often serves to get me excited about going.

It was an interesting and thought provoking day. I look forward to next year.

Inspirational Film - A Month in the Country

There are many things that influence me creatively, and it has always interested me how some of these go back many years.

When I first started taking pictures, most were landscapes. It was a subject that surrounded me, was easy to get too as I was too young to drive and was rewarding. As I got older, I started to watch more television and films, which were also an influence.

One such film was a based on a book by J L Carr, called ‘A Month in the Country’. It was released in 1987, but I saw it on video a little after that. The film was very influential for me and had an impact on the way I shot my photographs for quite a while afterwards. The influence is still there today, but diluted.

It did not seem to be available for a while, and in recent years I think the British Film Institute bought the rights. I have purchased the dual disc version with the Blu-Ray disc.

There are only a handful of scenes that influenced me as above, but to see them again was a very enjoyable experience. The use of a slight haze on the tent in the field, the picnic scene in the church yard and the scene with the rabbit in the woods immediately come to mind. They are a small part of the film but I found them heavily influential. If I had not seen the film recently, I would probably have told you that there were far more scenes like these. In fact, I think just the countryside in summer was featured enough to be as influential on it’s own as well.

Beware the Judderman

"Beware the Judderman, my dear, when the moon is fat...
Sharp of tongue and spindle-limbed he is, and cunning,
With sweetened talk of schnapps and Metz, and the deliciousness of judders.
But schnapps, though sweet, has teeth, my love, and sharpened ones at that.
Beware the Judderman, my dear, when the moon is fat…"

Inspiration for photographs or other visual creations can come from many places, and the wonderful thing about that for me is that you never know when it will happen. It can be something big, small, viewed from a certain angle, subtle or in your face.

For the last few months, I have not been able to get this idea out of my head. It comes from around the year 2000 and a television advert for a now discontinued drink called Metz. I have always felt that this advert had a very eastern European fairy tale feel, and I think some inspiration for the character most have come from the Jack Frost sprite. That in turn has sparked my brain to think along the fairy tale theme, but not too obviously so. Maybe something with a modern twist...

You can see what I believe is the longer or longest version of the original advert here:

We are heading into winter now, so my thinking cap is on. The ideas, whether practical or not, make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

My Minolta XD - Restoration Complete

Sometimes things sit in the back of your mind in a mental to do list and every now and then they appear in front of your mind’s eye with such a vengeance that they cannot be ignored. I am tempted to throw in a bit of glamour at this point and say it is like a sign or apparition from a superior being, but I know that would be perceived as being over dramatic. I have no idea where it came from, but this is what made me decide to get this restoration completed sooner rather than later.

I have mentioned before that I still shoot film alongside digital. Nostalgia is a powerful part of this attachment, but I also like the fact that it slows the picture taking process down, This is especially true when using manual focus. That gives me a sense of engagement that is not always there with my digital camera.

The camera you see here is my beloved Minolta XD (sold as the XD7 in Europe and an XD11 in the USA). I have owned this for many years, and I am so grateful that I did not sell it when digital came along. It has just been expertly serviced by the Camera Repair Workshop, who are Minolta specialists. I have used them before so I know their work is first class. I replaced the original leatherette with an embossed real leather as the original had shrunk. It is a form of pimping, but I think it adds positively to the finish.

There are numerous reasons why I kept this camera over any others. The features and positive aspects are well documented on the internet, so I will not include them here. For me, there are two other reasons why this camera stayed with me. It is made of metal and therefore very solid, and it is easy to maintain or repair. There are electronics inside, but they are simple and durable.

Over the last few years I have consolidated my film equipment into the things that I use and have a desire to keep, which can be for any number of reasons. I made a rule that I cannot buy anything new unless it has been funded by another piece of equipment. I also feel that this is not dead money as it can be with digital. Film camera technology does not progress much now, so you can keep a film camera for decades and not feel like you are missing out on the latest version as you can with digital cameras. Film technology does evolve, but that is a good thing as that is camera food.

My 35mm SLR line up is as follows - the XD camera body, a 35-70 f3.5 zoom, a 50mm f1.4 and a 90mm f2.5 prime lens. I also sourced an auto winder and replaced the leatherette with real leather. I did not spend a lot of money on any of these items, and peanuts compared to digital equivalents. Of course 35mm is also full frame, which has advantages. I am pleased to see that the majority of these carefully chosen items are rising in value at the moment, and I suspect that they will still be desirable or collectable in the future. As more digital cameras get body sensor stabilisation this will probably also help to sustain interest.

Some people say film is not dead – this is still very true for me.

A Treasure Trove of Cameras

For many people around the world, there are several online auction sites that they can usually find the camera or lens that they are looking for.

However, in part of Hong Kong there is a rather special area with a  few shops that sell cameras. Forget the new, latest gear that can be found on the main streets, although they do sell that as well.

This place is a treasure trove of all brands, and usually they are in excellent condition.

Welcome to Champagne Court, just off Kimberley Road in Kowloon...

Werner Herzog - Instiller of Enthusiasm

Picture from
A few weeks ago I was watching YouTube while contemplating my bowl of corn flakes.

I really dislike the adverts that plague YouTube, but I enjoyed ths one. It featured the director Werner Herzog talking about the Masterclass project. He is not just a director, but that was the role he was performing when I first got to know about him.

We are in a creative world, and it is always nice to see passionate people who are still committed to what they believe in after so many years. I have always like him, and this advert portrayed a warmth and obvious love of his work that I found empowering.

This may have just been for the camera, but it sits very well with the other good impressions that I have of him over the years. Interestingly, it made me want to go out and take pictures that day, which I had not planned to do.

So this is my little online thank you to Werner for keeping the passion alive...