“You must have a really good camera!”

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Every now and then, when someone has been nice about one of my pictures, they follow straight on with the phrase at the top. I don’t get too irritated by this, but I do occasionally remember the comment I saw from another photographer that this was a bit like following a really delicious meal at a dinner party by saying “You must have a really nice oven.”

For what it is worth, I decided a few years ago not to have any costly camera gear- I don’t even have an SLR at the moment. Expensive stuff tends also to be really heavy and the most important thing for me is to be able to have my camera with me wherever I go. When I do spend money on equipment, it is more likely to go on lenses or on quirky gear such as the infrared filter that allowed me to take the shots on this page:

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More important than my camera is what I do with the pictures. This is partly to do with the effort I make to get the shot right when I am taking them, which I outlined in some earlier posts starting here.

More controversially I also use Photoshop pretty extensively.

There was a time when I saw Photoshop as cheating and did everything that I could to get the picture ‘right’ in the camera. More recently I have realised that this amazing programme allows me to be even more creative in the pictures I make. This is particularly true in black and white where ‘cheating’ with pictures goes back long before the invention of the computer. Ansel Adams, for example, said that 80% of his art was in the dark room developing of his pictures and spent the last years of his life taking no new shots but instead endlessly re-developing the pictures of his youth.

In my case with today’s pictures I have little choice as the original infrared shots that come from the camera look like this:

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Once I have converted them to black and white, I do digitally exactly what Ansel Adams liked to do in his developing. What I am mainly doing in today’s shots is working on the contrast in the photo. I decide which part of the picture I want people to focus on the most and increase the contrast of this part and make it brighter. In the case of the picture of Trinity below, this was the area around the clock face:

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At the same time I try to lead the viewer’s eyes into the photo by darkening other areas particularly at the edges of the picture itself or elements within it:

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I also attempt to bring out the texture of the buildings by darkening or lightening individual parts of the brickwork- in this part I am working almost like a painter on the original image:

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I may try to darken the sky:

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I love cheating like this:

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Back to the Common

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Since I started this blog, I’ve been trying to challenge myself to visit the same spots repeatedly and see them in new ways each time. After my recent visits to the Rocks and the Common, I went back this time with the self imposed goal of photographing everything at a distance- no clambering over rocks this time or close ups of trees.

Pointless, I know, but it gets me thinking visually:

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A Walk on the Common.

My rocks pictures from the weekend reminded me of how beautiful the rest of the common is as well. Strangely, whenever we think of going for a weekend walk, we seem to find ourselves getting into a car and driving out of town, when we have such wonderful scenes as this on our doorstep:

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Looking through my old pictures, which are as good a record as any of my ramblings, I haven’t been walking on the common since I took these infrared pictures two years ago:

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I clearly need to go back:

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Those Alien Rocks

599091_10151550111129468_2138736570_nThe Rocks are one of my favourite features of this town- when I was growing up, I assumed that in the same way that every town has a park and a shopping centre, I could expect to find a set of rocks in any town I visited.

Now I am older and know how unlikely they are- I love these alien incursions into our town all the more, particularly in the way they contrast with the gentility of the rest of the town.

At the same time, I struggle to photograph them to my satisfaction. Infrared seems best to bring out their strangeness…

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But in colour…

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Or black and white…

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Hardest of all is to create a composition that stops them from overpowering everything around them and gives enough of a sense of their context:

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The Joy of Fog

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Those of you have been reading for a bit will know that I love fog. If taking pictures is often more about what you leave out than what you choose to include, this particular weather allows you to isolate within your composition and stir up some real mystery.

Indeed I posted just a few days ago from a foggy Tonbridge morning.

That weather stayed all day, allowing me to visit a couple of favourite locations.

My beloved rock house above:

And the tree in Nevill Park:

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Haysden Park in the fog

A bit of a change of view, slightly out of town in Haysden Park in Tonbridge this morning:

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For those few of you who might be interested in the processing I do with these- I converted the original images into black and white twice- once normally and once overexposed. I then combined the two pictures together in various ways to create the sorts of blended gradients in shade:

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The last one is actually a three minute long exposure, although to be honest, I can barely tell the difference this time:

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