Candid to Landscape - Photographic Redux No 1

candidly - my photographic background

In a nutshell - I began seriously to explore photography in 1973 and, fortunately for me, I was mentored by two superb medium format based photographers, who helped me understand all the basics of film, candid photography and darkroom processes. After three years or so of club competitions, like many people at the beginning of their careers, I got very busy with life, further education and finding a better job. My photography went on the back burner, but intermittent bouts of withdrawal symptoms subsequently led to episodes of renewed photographic efforts.

Here are some of the surviving images from those bouts of renewed interest:

 Feminine Study

Feminine Study

film finale - from granules to pixels

The 'Feminine Study' image above was originally shot in colour on a Nikon F90 film camera with a 100mm Nikkor manual focus lens under simple studio lighting at a Buckinghamshire Camera Club event. The beautiful model was a local girl who had not 'posed' before, but volunteered provided that we all donated at least one finished print towards her portfolio. I don't know how she had the patience to sit for so long, but I think the end result was worth the effort. A classic pose which worked well in the confined space with so little time to get the shot. Scanned and post processed in Photoshop.

 Beijing, Summer Palace

Beijing, Summer Palace

This silhouette was taken in the Summer Palace, Beijing in China, quite some time ago when I was on a breakneck tour of China, which included chugging 600 km down the Yangtze River before the major dam works flooded the valleys and villages along it's length. That was quite an experience.

It's one of the few images that survives one of those regrettable clear-outs of 'old stuff' that afterward you really wish you hadn't done. It was also shot on my Nikon F90 using colour film, probably Kodachrome. I found the negative by accident and scanned it in color, then turned it into a monochrome image, which I think better suites it.

There was a long gap between the club work I did in Thurrock in the 70s until I restarted local club photography in the mid 90s. Work triggered that, in that we needed to build a product imaging studio. In those days digital cameras had only just begun to be commercially available with the Sinar at £20,000 and later the $5,000 D1 in 1999, but getting involved in that project caused me to start shooting again. It was a while before Nikon's first decent digital cameras were any challenge to film, so like many, I stayed with film until the early models became more affordable and usable. For me, that was around April 2004, when I invested in my first personal Nikon DSLR, the 6mp D70.

 Escaping the Surf - St Ives, Cornwall

Escaping the Surf - St Ives, Cornwall

nikon D70 - my first digital love.

This shot was taken on my, then, brand new Nikon D70. Not the first digital camera I owned but the first serious digital SLR and lens system worth its salt. It comes from a set of images snatched on the beach at Saint Ives Cornwall in July 2004 with a 70-200mm telephoto lens hand-held at quite a distance. It is only part of the frame. Transformed into monochrome with the aid of Silver Efex Pro. Now I know better, but in those days it was the way everyone was working. Wouldn't dream of using that workflow today, but given the dynamic range of the camera's sensor it was the best available at the time at that price. This Cornwall trip reignited my interest in Landscape work, although I was later to return to Candid work with a vengeance.

 Headless Climber, St Agnes, North Cornwall

Headless Climber, St Agnes, North Cornwall

Where's his head?! Caught these chaps un-roping, having reached the summit of a steep headland climb near Saint Agnes in Cornwall's mining coastal area. Very dramatic views from this area. You can just see the derelict engine house on the hillside in the middle of the picture. This was shot on the Nikon D70 fitted with a Nikon 28mm to 80mm Zoom lens, set at f10.0, 1/400th sec, ISO 200, hand-held.

 Engine house, St Agnes, North Cornwall

Engine house, St Agnes, North Cornwall

gradual shift to landscape work

Millions of years ago, during the cooling of Cornwall's landmass, vertical fissures opened in the granite and boiling magma bubbled up through them from the earth's molten interior. These intrusions contained many minerals, and, as they crystallised, they formed seams of tin, copper, zinc, lead, iron with even a little silver. Those seams could not be mined horizontally, so numerous vertical shafts were necessary. Many engine houses were built to house the pumps needed to keep those mines dry and viable.

Inevitably, falling world prices for these minerals led to the eventual demise of the Cornish mines and so to the ruin of all these engine houses, which, despite the onslaught from Atlantic storms, still stand as sentinels on the Cornish cliff tops today. The image above was taken high up on the St Agnes cliffs, overlooking the North Cornish Atlantic coastline, using a Nikon D70, with a 28-80mm Nikon zoom lens set at f9, hand-held at 1/500th, ISO 200. One of the first images to mark my wholesale change to Landscape work in the subsequent years.

 High and Dry on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

High and Dry on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

No doubt the result of falling water levels or an extreme spring tide lifting her beyond retrievable, and much subsequent neglect. Taken on the Isle of Skye using my Nikon D70 DSLR, this time fitted with a 12-24mm Nikon zoom lens, shot at f10.0 at 1/400th at ISO 200, exposure compensation -1/3rd stop, saved as JPEG, so not yet using RAW files! The camera was mounted on a Gitzo tripod and the full frame image was transformed into monochrome with the aid of the now dreaded Silver Efex Pro and Photoshop CS5.

exploring the isle of skye, scotland

At this point my photography underwent a sea change. There is no doubt in my mind now that, if I had taken the step of joining mentored workshops earlier in my efforts, I would have developed my 'second wind' much faster and made far more progress than just bumbling away on my own.

The irony is that we spend a shedload of money on improving our equipment without giving our understanding of how best to deploy that gear a second thought, or, indeed, any thought to investing in the education necessary to progress our photographic goals.

So it was that the lights went on for me. In fact it was a trip to the Isle of Skye in Scotland that started my work on seriously progressive photographic projects. That first one was to capture those wonderful scenes on Skye I had seen in books, but to do it in monochrome only. Naturally, I upgraded my camera first!. Here are the curated images from that and a subsequent workshop on those beautiful islands.