Posts in Category: Life

What a year

What year 2020 has been. We’ve been locked down. Then released then locked down then…..reduced to tiers. Christmas day we have a ‘relaxaton’ for 24 hours, down from the orginal five days. With every chance of another lockdown in January.

Like many others our Christmas plans were thrown into turmoil. Dissapointing didn’t even cover it. Just to make sure Covid-19 appears to end the year with a mutated more transmissable variant.

Photography wise, even suffering lockdowns there was limited opportunity. Perhaps not travelling as far as we would normally, did we find a new respect for more local areas? You know, the stuff we passed every day without thinking about it. Is it now looked at differently? Not taken so much for granted?

We will take anything for granted in 2021?

 

The TMMA Christmas tree

The Tmma Christmas tree. Yes that is Garfield under the Angel, a TMMA household tradition.

 

Whatever rearranged Christmas plans you might have… heres to a merry Christmas and a better 2021…. Cheers

Out of lockdown reduced to tiers

On December 2nd England will come out of lockdown and be reduced to tiers. Essentially most of us will be in tier two, with the (broadly speaking) south east tip, middle and north east areas in tier three. Cornwall, The Isles of Scilly and Isle of Wight will be in Tier One. At least thats how it stands at the moment.

So has our second lockdown worked? Depends on how you look at it. We can go to the gym or the hairdresser but not mix with different households indoors. At the beginning of November half the country was in tier one, meaning we could mix indoors in homes or pubs and restaurants. Provided you kept to the rule of six.

So a bit of a mixed bag of results then. You can go shopping but you can’t see family members that you don’t live with. These new tiers will be reviewed every 14 days apparently. The (almost) good news is any restrictions will be relaxed to allow a  Christmas of sorts.

How does this relate to photography?

Currently you can take unlimited exercise. This could be interpreted as going for a walk…oh and i’ll take the camera just in case.

I dont know about you but I like to zone out when taking photographs. I forget about the everyday things and just focus on capturing an image (see what I did there 🙂 ).   Some might call this meditation photography. Seeing as its what I normally do I am not going to label it.

Cue visual break:

River Wear, County Durham

I managed to grab this during some recent exercise.

Mental health is important

In these trying times our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Spending more time indoors than usual could have an adverse effect. Comfort or boredom eating can be a real issue. I normally stay around a certain weight. This year I’ve put on 4 kilos that I just can’t shake. Fortunately at the moment it is not a problem but I’m keeping an eye on it.

Now if only we could ‘weigh’ our mental health as easily. For a lot of us it will not be easy to spot a detoriation in our mental well being. We might need to rely on those in the same household to point out if were getting moody, grumpy, short tempered  etc.

How do we cope?

Try doing something you may not have done before. Maybe get into reading, knitting, modelling (plastic aircraft kits, railways, ships, type of modelling), experiment with some new recipes, search the web for all that (intelligent) stuff you wanted to google but never had time.  This assumes you have shot macro of everything in your house already 🙂

If things do seem to be getting too much could I encourage you to seek outside help. There are plenty of organisations and charities that can offer advice on well being and possibly more practical help.

But were at the end of it now..aren’t we?

We are coming out of a lockdown into what for most of will be tougher restrictions. So I would say no we are not quite at the end. Personally I reckon round about spring might be a good target.  Talking of seasons as a photographer I have mixed feelings about winter. There can be some nice opportunities photographically speaking BUT I absolutely hate the short days and long dark evenings.

Lets look forward to getting out and about and enjoying some beautiful scenery again.

Stay safe everyone.

A couple of UK mental health resources that maybe useful:

www.mind.org.uk

Www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines

It Seemed to be getting better

It seemed to be getting better…then as we all start to get out and try to reboot the economy …. it got worse.

Perhaps unsurprisingly we relaxed a little bit too much and gave the dreaded COVID-19 a chance to resurge. You only have to look in the local supermarket to see a lack of social distancing.

Now we can only meet in groups of six or less (with certain exceptions). The devolved governments in the UK have slightly different rules so you have to keep track.

Local lockdowns are looming in greater numbers and once again the tourism and hospitality trades are holding their breath.

A lot of people are being affected by the consequences of this pandemic. The normality of a year ago seems a distant memory.

Wherever you might be reading this please think about your actions and can I encourage you to keep a check on family, friends and neighbours, both physically and mentally.

Stay safe.

Actually managed to get out

Actually managed to get out ….. for the first time in a while.

Due to the easing of Covid related restrictions we drove down to the beach and had some nice sea front exercise.

Despite pictures in the UK press, everybody was sensible and observed social distancing. They also appeared to be enjoying the weather and opportunity.

Fortunately we went out relatively early. It looked like it was going to get really busy.

Just being out really lifted our spirits. We are looking forward to being able to do this more often. It seems like Covid has dominated the first half of this year.

Lets try and make the most of what’s left in what promises to be a different normal.

Is the end in sight?

Is the end in sight? The end to lockdown that is. There are some quite confusing reports in the media regarding this, but there is also the implication that we (in the UK) could look at a potential relaxing of the rules.

I’m sure everyone would welcome less restrictions. What form that will take is anyone’s  guess at the moment.

[Cue visual break]

It will be nice to get out and about again. One thing we miss is popping out for a drive and hopefully taking some pictures as well. That comes a close second to seeing the kids. While grateful of the ability to FaceTime is not quite the same.

The new normal in whatever form it may take should allow for some photography. I will be a bit rusty though. There’s only so many macro shots you can take in the garden before you lose the will to press the shutter.

While we wait in anxious anticipation let’s be sensible when we get the chance to go out. The risks won’t have totally disappeared just lessened somewhat.

We are looking forward to enjoying a holiday in a few months. It was booked last year when Coronavirus wasn’t a word you heard. Little did any of us realise the far reaching effects it would have on so many people.

If you have a getaway your looking forward to I hope you still manage to enjoy it.

Whenever it may happen and whatever form it takes for now here’s to lifting the lockdown.

Stay safe.

GAS and Covid 19

GAS and Covid 19 make a dodgy combination. We are a few weeks into lockdown here in the UK with, at the time of writing, at least another three weeks before even thinking about lifting restrictions is on the table. (I’ve provided some images for visual breaks).

Thanks to the NHS and all the key workers

Now before I go any further here is  A BIG SHOUT OUT to the NHS workers and all the other front line staff and key workers for all their efforts. We finally get to realise that we need dustmen, drivers and shop workers. The efforts of Doctors, nurses and other emergency services, care and council workers do not go unnoticed. They were there all along. We just didn’t think about it, didn’t need to maybe? Well we do now. Thank you to fellow care workers, our brilliant NHS and everyone else keeping us going through this pandemic.

Back to GAS

Now back to GAS (Gear Aquisition Syndrome, in case you were wondering) during  lockdown. With the benefit of technology we can continue to shop on the internet to satisfy our cravings for consumerism. It is a lot easier to think about buying gear you don’t need when you have found that elusive pack of nine toilet rolls. You can go easy now. In more ways than one.

So for those of us privileged enough not to have to worry about having supplies in the house it suddenly gets mundane. We get bored after binge watching our favourite TV series. What do photographers do next? We think about all the indoor challenges we can photograph. At the same time those niggling thoughts of whether we have the right gear start to creep in.

Do we need that new lens? Is 24mp really enough to capture the abstract of the dining room mirror? Is that tripod we hardly use really any good? Do we need a new carbon fibre one? The list goes on. It might be a coping mechanism though. Whatever you use Im not knocking it. We all need a way through this. Some might buy stuff, some might have a drink or two, some might write an article on a blog. Some might do all of the aforementioned. 😉

Ullswater

Ullswater, Lake District, England

Bizzare or what?

Is it bizzare that we actually look to increase our collection of gear when we know its not going to go outside for any meaningful use for at least three weeks? Yeah… I think it is to a certain extent. Although you could say there is a nice sense of anticipation.

In some respects we can, via online shopping, keep a little bit of our decimated economy going. I like to keep an eye on certain online stores and on the face of it they still seem to be doing not too bad. Unfortunately the bricks and mortar stores that were in trouble before the Covid lockdown hit are either struggling or really struggling. Some names have gone under Kath Kidson and Laura Ashley amongst them.

We have friends in the leisure and tourism sector. We hope they can weather out this storm. All the areas that rely on tourism are going to hope for an end to lockdown sooner rather than later. To all our friends in the care sector we trust you will also cope and come out stronger.

Whitehaven Harbour, Cumbria

Whitehaven Harbour, Cumbria

Hows it going to look post lockdown?

It is difficult to see how things will go back to how they were. Everbody in all walks of life are/will be affected to varying degrees. Tourism, retail and manufacturing are going to be feeling the consequences for a long time to come. They wont be the only ones. Hospitality and eating out could change in ways we can only imagine at the moment.

What about all that gear we bought when we couldn’t get out? We will keep it, sell it part exchange it? Guess we will find out.

Hopefully we will at least start on the post lockdown journey soon. We can escape the confines of our houses and take some photographs. Maybe just get some food from a take away, (pie and chips anyone?) enjoy it on a beach and contribute to local economies and local tourism.

When we do, lets not take it for granted, lets be grateful for what we have. Take in the beauty of these British Isles and realise that it is all a bit more fragile than we thought.

Stay safe.

 

Printing

Printing is something that is becoming rarer these days. Most images languish on a hard drive or get buried somewhere in a smartphone album. When we cant find anything else to do we might look through them. Like when waiting at the doctor or dentist, you get the idea.

Now it took us a while but we eventually got around to printing some images taken on our cruise late last year. We did have to buy a printer first though. A joint decision came to the conclusion that for what we wanted to do a relatively cheap Canon printer would suffice and save us a few bob over some commercial printing. We are only talking a couple dozen smallish prints here.

The printer model we have has a nifty little wireless print feature. I thought that would come in handy to do some direct printing from the PC. Thing is…. it turned out the wife had carefully put all the images into an album…on her ipad.

This actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We ended up doing the printing wirelessly via the ipad straight to the printer. It was impressive how easy it was. So within minutes we had all the images printed. I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again – technology is great when it works 🙂

The next step involved putting the prints into an album. This actually took me back in time quicker than Dr Who in the Tardis. I’ve got to admit that it has been a while since we did any printing for an album.

We have vowed to do some more printing of any further adventures we have… it’s a lot more fun looking through prints then flicking through them on a screen. I suppose we humans are a lot more tactile than we like to think.

When was the last time you did some printing?

Minimalism and photography

I decided to revisit my minimalism and photography post I did a couple of years ago:

Minimalism and photography. Do they go together? When people think of minimalism they tend to think of having to sort out their stuff and get rid of it. If you follow The Minimalists you will get a much better idea of the concept.

Everybody has their own interpretation of something they read and what they take away from it. At the moment part of my take on minimalism is:

Remove things that don’t add value to your life.

Adopt a conscious consumerism approach, buy what you need not what you want.

Think about using what you have before making a purchase.

Think about how much freedom you will have worrying about less stuff.

Whilst I am slowly reducing the amount of clutter I have, I’m not blindly throwing things out. There is a fine line though. The ‘keep it just in case’ pile is getting smaller in the house. Unfortunately the same pile in the garage is a more difficult task for me to tackle. I don’t know why DIY orientated stuff is harder to make a decision about. I’ve only just got rid of a steamer that hasn’t been used in about eight years. When I stop and think about it now, I can’t reason why I’ve kept it so long. The same goes for an old metal tool box with a collection of oversized spanners in it. A throw back to the days of DIY maintenance on the car.  Which I also haven’t done for years. Even the wife thinks of it as a family ’heirloom’.

By now this may start to be familiar in photographic terms. How many flashguns, lenses, bags, filters, brackets [insert anything else you can think of] do you have lying around? How many of these items are kept ‘just in case’?

So that bit of text in italics above is an excerpt from the original post. How am I doing on the minimalism and photography front? Not too bad at all. How about minimalism in general?  Could be better is the answer.

Now let me point out the other half is in no way a minimalist. I am still trying to do the conscious consumerism thing. That for me is working a lot better. In the past  I would have been a lot more impulsive on my purchases, Now its more a question of ‘well it still works so I’m good for now’.

Of course that will only work for so long…. But I am a lot more mindful of the things I buy. There’s that conscious consumerism thing.

In terms of my photography gear I am already reasonably minimal. I have a ‘standard zoom’,  and a ‘medium zoom’ as my everyday carry in a small bag set up. That covers wide angle to telephoto (24-300ish mm in full frame equilavent).

On top of that I only own another two lenses (a 35mm 1.8 DX and a 85mm Macro lens). As much as I try I just don’t like the results from anything wider than 18mm on DX. I have gone through a couple of 10-20mm lenses but I never end up keeping them.

I do go back and forth on the macro lens as well. I currently have one and will hang on to it for the time being.

My better half currently has my old D3200 (you forget how small they are) with a 18-55 and 55-200. Despite my best efforts though she doesn’t tend to use them much preferring her phone instead.

Nikon 1 V1

I Like my V1 but not enough to replace it.

I’ve also got My Nikon V1 and a couple of lenses. I do like using it but I’ve come to the conclusion that if any of It breaks it will not be replaced. I stopped spending money on that system a while back.

What I do seem to have is a draw full of chargers, cables and other stuff of dubious usefulness. I need to sort that lot out sometime.

If you are fortunate enough to have a few lenses for a challenge try going out with just one or two. Or maybe have a look at the metadata in Lightroom to see which you use the most. You might surprise yourself which focal lengths you shoot at.

So how do you cope when your partner doesn’t share your minimalism ideas? Well like most things in life you have to pick your battles 🙂

I have to admit I’m not a full blown minimalist but starting to think about what I keep and what I buy is a step in the right direction.

If your curious about minimalism pop over and pay Joshua and Ryan a visit at theminimalists.com. You never know it may change your life 😉

( Other minimalist advisors are available).

Just for the sake of it

Have you ever done anything just for the sake of it?

At this time of year photography opportunities are limited. Either by weather or poor light. This tends to make me spend a bit more time at a keyboard and screen.

That leads onto me looking at the design of the TMMA website. Anybody that uses WordPress to publish a site will tell you its relatively easy to use and you have a lot of choice. The first part of that sentence is great. The second part can be a curse.

The choice comes in the form of all the different themes available to you and that you can easily swap between. Now themes can be very personal in terms of what you like and dislike. Fonts colours and styling all adding up to decisions you have to make.

As an example I prefer a dark on light easy readable font. I also don’t like huge dark areas in terms of website design. Hence the design of this website 🙂 Now I appreciate this may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Light on dark could be more trendy, as could a more complicated style. A personal pet peeve is having to click on too many options to get to where you want. Hopefully I’ve avoided that here.

Not sure where the curse is?

I end up on these dark, rainy  evenings looking at the various themes available on WordPress and trying them out. From the wife’s point of view it keeps me quiet. But invariably after experimenting with three or four templates, I end up going back to more or less what I had.

The choice can be the curse. The same could be said for the range of equipment at our fingertips too. Will that new mega body give us a tangible improvement in our photography? For the most part no. Not unless it does something you need to do that your current body can’t.

So after having my annual look around at website themes, I’m back to where I started. There might be a tiny tweak here or there but for now it largely appears the same.

So have you ever done anything just for the sake of it?

Life gets in the way

Life gets in the way….. of all sorts of things. But just recently it’s got in the way of my ability to take photos. Now don’t get me wrong, I consider myself extremely fortunate and this is in a photographic context. Ive done a lot less photography in the last couple of months than I would of liked. There are two reasons for that. 1. The weather and more importantly 2. My disabled son.

Normally he’s not too much trouble and to be fair it hasn’t been his fault. He has a happy innocent outlook on life. He has also been blessed with a gift of making people smile wherever he goes.

We’ve been trying to arrange a supported living placement for him. Unfortunately it fell through at the last minute and we had to revise our plans. As did those who were trying to help us. As any carer or parent of someone with a disability will tell you, at times it can be incredibly frustrating. Not to be too negative, it is also very rewarding and you get to meet some amazing people along the way.

Due to all the commotion I didn’t really feel in the right frame of mind to go out and take photos. The December weather didn’t help much either.

Anyway… things now look like there back on track, thankfully. Hopefully my son can start the next exciting chapter in his life. Meeting new people and having new experiences.

Yes life gets in the way sometimes. But if it didn’t would we feel the same when we have the ability to go out on adventures, hikes or drives and take some photos? Would we still appreciate the scenes before us, even if it is raining? Perhaps not.

Photography for me is not just a hobby. It’s a chance to see different places, maybe meet some new people. Forget about the world for a while when your in the zone. It’s a therapy.

Whatever you are doing and wherever you are may you have a happy Christmas and good light for 2019.

 

You never know what you’ll come across

You never know what you’ll come across as a visit to the local coastal town proves.

It was a gloomy overcast December day and I thought I’d take my son out for a drive and maybe find something interesting to photograph.

After having lunch out we had a walk down the seaside promenade. Apart from a large contingent of gulls there was a small fishing boat out in the estuary.

Then my son got excited:

Boat emerging from port

He saw this ship coming out of port. We watched as it cleared the harbour walls and then headed down the estuary. I’m not sure what it was about this particular ship but he stood there and watched until we lost sight of it. Although it wasn’t huge it did dwarf the little fishing boat that was busy a few hundred metres away.

Now when I see a ship or a plane I wonder where it’s come from and where its going. I’m a bit weird like that, as my wife will testify. Well, she will probably just say I’m weird full stop. 😀.

But my son just enjoyed the moment of watching. 

Sometimes as photographers I think that’s something we forget: to stop and look at the moment. Take a photograph by all means but also enjoy that sunset, landscape, night sky, whatever it maybe.

Because you never know what you’ll come across….

 

Whats the difference between a boat and a ship? Apparently a ship can carry a boat, but a boat can’t carry a ship. 

Why are submarines called boats? That’s a conversation that needs alcohol and snacks 😀

It’s a balancing act

It’s a balancing act these days. My new found interest in Astrophotography has resulted in a new found interest in the weather.

Keeping an eye out for clear nights is now something I do more often. The balancing bit comes in with fitting the odd clear night around family commitments.

According to the weather forecast we are looking at cloud and or rain for the next week or so. Oh well.

Talking of balancing acts, we photographers quite often have to manage compromise. How much we spend on a piece of gear versus  have much we will use it is a common one. For hobbyists it’s harder than professionals. Why? Because a pro will look at it as a tool. Does it add value to what I do? How quick will the payback be? For the rest of us it’s more a case of want than need.

How much have you got?

Another compromise amateurs make is what gear to actually take with them on a shoot. Too much gear can lead to analysis paralysis. You have some FOMO (fear of missing out) by leaving something behind. So you end up lugging a suitcase of stuff around – just in case. Chances are you will only use one or two lenses on that hike or day out. The rest is extra weight.

OK. What do you do?

Im fortunate in that I don’t have a huge amount of gear. I balance my photography needs with the needs of the family. (Plus the wife keeps an eye on the spending😀).

I’ve got less than half a dozen lenses for my Nikon DX body. I can usually leave a couple of lenses at home without too much anxiety. If I’m really unsure I might leave them hidden away in the car.

My CX kit is a different kettle of fish. I can cover (the FF equivalent of ) 28 – 300mm in three pocketable lenses with not much weight. Whenever I’m out I always carry a spare battery for whatever body I have. In reality I very rarely use it though. Theres that FOMO again.

More often than not my balancing act is do I take the DX or CX kit. If I’m going out for potential wildlife shots I.e. birds, dragonfly’s etc, I’ll take the DX kit with a CX body and FT-1 adapter. More urban adventures and I’ll take the CX gear.  Hiking it could be either. Or a combination. In some ways I’m glad I don’t have more.

In choosing the right gear your balancing what you think you’ll shoot against what you’ll actually shoot. A planned day out for photography can make that choice easier, but  how many times have you grabbed a camera bag to go out ‘somewhere’ because the sun is shining? Or your just going out anyway. I have to admit I do that all the time.

Sometimes I get some reasonable shots, others the gear just stays in the bag and I enjoy a day in the sunshine.

Whatever your up to may you achieve a suitable balance.

It’s bananas I tell ya!

It’s bananas…. Here in the UK, Tesco managed to get them themselves some free publicity on the BBC news website over bananas.

Apparently their inner city stores (due to increased rents) are now charging by the banana rather than weight. Effectively this means the price of said bananas has increased from between 10 and 15p to 25p each according to the article.

bananas

Are we more worried about bananas?

Now let’s put that in some photographic context:

A Nikon D850 body only was less than £3000 in May of this year. It is currently between £3249 and £3499. There is a similar price range for the Canon 5Dmkiv. A Nikon D7200 is now £150 more than in May. (Source camerapricebuster.co.uk, today’s date).

I’ve written before that camera prices have been nudging up slowly without anyone really noticing.

The new mirrorless offerings from Canon and Nikon are starting around the £2k bracket. With what appears to be at first sight an accompanying bump upwards in lens prices.

I’m not sure I could bring myself to spend the larger sums of money now being asked for the current mirrorless cameras AND the lenses. No matter how good they are, you are going to need deep pockets.

Hopefully prices of used gear will remain sensible.

It’s interesting how the price of bananas gets people riled up, but the £2k+ prices of new cameras just seems to be accepted.

The mirrorless offerings still seem evolutionary rather than revolutionary. They only took the mirror box out and that took Nikon 19 years.

I’m still thinking this won’t be enough to encourage ‘new’ people to jump onto the band wagon and give a much needed increase to sales.

From what I’ve seen so far, camera manufacturers are still largely ignoring the kind of workflow improvements needed to attract the smartphone buyers.

Eventually the big camera companies may cotton on and stop the ‘ we need to release a new product that’s good but won’t cannibalise our current models’ syndrome.

Until then will photographers quietly put up with increasing prices for not a lot more?

Cos if we do ….it’s bananas I tell ya 😀

 

 

 

 

New pictures added to Eyes Down Gallery

There’s some new pictures added to the Eyes Down gallery here.

Here is an example:

 

My son Andrew takes all the images in the Eyes Down gallery.  He has Down Syndrome and some communication difficulties but enjoys going out and taking pictures with his father. He is also has a gift to make people smile.

It’s fascinating to see what Andrew finds interesting. He liked the ducks on the water above, sometimes he takes pictures of paths other times its signs.

Eyes Down gallery now open

Taking the shot

I’ve added a new gallery to the website and called it Eyes Down.

This gallery contains photos taken by son. Andrew is 21 years old has Down Syndrome and likes taking photos.

The images he creates mean something to him.

It’s both interesting and illuminating to have this small insight into his world.

You can find the Eyes Down gallery here.