On Bournemouth Beach

Dorset

What a wonderful afternoon I spent on Bournemouth Beach on Friday. You have to love the British seaside out of season; gorgeous expanses of pristine sand (Bournemouth is a Blue Flag beach) and hardly a soul about. I set myself a challenge and went equipped with only my wide angled lens (16-35mm on full frame).

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It wasn’t the most spectacular of sunsets but gentle, beguiling, like the lapping waves. When I came to process these images, they seemed to demand a naturalistic approach.

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With the horizons more or less in the centre of the frame, these images break the rules. I think that composing with the horizon on a third often works well as the photographer thereby communicates clearly what he or she is most interested in, the foreground or the sky. However, here I found myself wanting to efface the photographer from the landscape. And, truth be told, I just couldn’t bring myself to crop out any of that view. Half is the new third?

Little figure, big world

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Camber Sands, East Sussex, England

A quick post today to thank two fellow bloggers for nominating me for awards. Thank you, Ann Jasmine at Not Yet Grounded and Rob at In My View for the nominations. I have decided not to participate in blog awards, being averse to anything resembling chain letters. It is reward enough for me that anyone reads my blog. I will, however, take the opportunity to mention some of the lovely blogs I have discovered during my first two months here on WordPress.

Visit The Goat that Wrote for amusing, well-written and well-illustrated tales with a globe trotting and hiking theme.

Tricia A. Mitchell has lived and/or travelled in some of the most fascinating places and she shares her experiences with an unflagging appreciation for all she encounters.

Modern Memory Keeping is a blog about photography packed full of inspiration, tips and beautiful images.

You can’t beat Helen’s Photomania Blog for sheer enthusiasm. I admire the way Helen explores her subjects from every angle, something I could do with learning from her.

Speaking of enthusiasm, Dust Tracks on the Web simply exudes the stuff. Janson generously shares his love of flora and fauna with super images and intelligent and informative text.

Enjoy!

Such heavenly grace

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My soul is an enchanted boat,
Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float
Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing.


Shelley, Prometheus Unbound (1820), II.v, l.39

The mute swan, although ubiquitous in Britain, is always a graceful sight and provides an elegant focal point for the lake-side photographer. According to legend, the mute swan is mute through life until the moment before its death when it emits a beautiful song. This is the origin of the expression, “swan song”.

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The silver Swan, who living had no note,
When Death approached, unlocked her silent throat.
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
Thus sang her first and last, and sang no more:
“Farewell, all joys! O Death, come close mine eyes!
“More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise.


Orlando Gibbons, “The Silver Swan”, The First Set of Madrigals and Motets of Five Parts (1612)

A landscape of black and white

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On the whole, I tend to favour colour photography but sometimes a scene suggests itself to me in black and white. When colour is gone, the outlines or structure of a landscape come to the fore.

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Black and white landscapes work best if contrast is strong, with at least some true blacks and whites, not just shades of grey.

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Converting an image taken on a bright summer’s day to black and white can add drama, if the subject seems to demand it.

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You can add a tint if you want a particular mood…

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or a different slant on a familiar scene.

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Do you ever shoot landscapes in black and white?

The images:
Storm approaching Birling Gap, East Sussex, England
Beach art, Lindisfarne, Northumberland, England
Wheat field, Surrey, England
Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland, England
The boathouse, Wey Navigation, England
Monument Valley, Utah, USA

The best camera

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“The best camera is the one that’s with you.” It’s such a well-known phrase that I couldn’t find anyone to attribute it to, although I did discover that Chase Jarvis has used it as the title of a book (and an app!) about iPhone photography. I didn’t know about that before I conceived the idea for today’s post! Undaunted by the discovery that I am following an already well-trodden path, I will carry on regardless (and then I will go and read Jarvis’s book!).
So, I was thinking yesterday about the first camera I ever owned, a little 110-cartridge film camera. Those of you of my age may remember the little cameras where the case folded back to become a handle? Several years later I moved on to a Minolta compact 35mm camera. I remember still how luxurious it felt by comparison. That little camera saw me through my backpacking years, surviving Egyptian sand, Chinese rain (boy did it rain!) and then every other tricky condition nature could throw at it during my round-the-world tramp. Then I got a proper job, ironically finally earning enough to be able to buy my first SLR just as my travels became limited to four weeks a year. I was seduced to the dark side, aka Canon, by the advert at Balham tube station for their new EOS 1000. A fairly nasty bit of plastic but what did I know? Luckily, the chap in the camera shop, a family-owned local store (remember them?), did know and he persuaded me to get the 600D. I still have it. It’s a great camera and did sterling work for many years. It is still in perfect working order, with a half-exposed film inside (must finish that!).
I was not convinced by digital. Didn’t want to try it. Not proper photography, I thought. Then my husband bought me a 400D for Christmas 2007 and I was hooked! I now use a 5Dii with assorted very nice lenses. But a recent injury has meant I can’t handle a heavy camera very much or often. Luckily, the iPhone 4 has a nifty little camera and it is always with me. So, at the moment, it is my best camera. I do firmly believe that photography is, or should be, composition, composition, composition. Having 21 megapixels at my disposal had made me lazy, able to rely on cropping to improve average composition. Now I will have to think a little more before I shoot and that can only be a good thing.
All of the pictures in today’s post were taken with my iPhone.

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The art of kindly vacancies

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This photograph, taken in my garden, demonstrates a style of composition that I often adopt. Particularly when shooting insects, I strive to create simple images, with a bold use of negative space, to show that the subject is small but its world is big. As a viewer of images, I enjoy compositions that are pared down to the minimal, devoid of distracting elements. They are such a direct communication between the photographer and the viewer. At the same tme, they give space for the imagination to become involved.
Once again I find myself calling on John Ruskin as authority:
“It is a great advantage to the picture that it need not present too much at once, and that what it does present may be so chosen and ordered as not only to be more easily seized, but to give the imagination rest, and, as it were, places to lie down and stretch its limbs in; kindly vacancies, beguiling it back into action, with pleasant and cautious sequence of incident; all jarring thoughts being excluded, all vain redundance denied, and all just and sweet transition permitted.” (Modern Painters, Vol III, Part IV, Ch. X)

I have put together a small gallery of images by other photographers, in many different genres, that all display this approach to composition, masters of the art of kindly vacancies. Click here if you’d like to see.