Thursday 30 October 2008

Old railway line

A country track along what used to be the route of a railway line until the Doctor Beeching cuts of 1963. The cuts, implemented by the Beeching report called 'The Reshaping of British Railways', are still a hot topic of debate to this day.

By the end of the 1960's, over 6000 route miles of railway had been cut throughout the UK rail network. Ironically, a small number of these closed railway lines are being considered for reactivation due to current transport and environmental considerations. Sadly though, this line has more than likely seen its last train.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Sunday 26 October 2008

Changing armour

Tank driving day out - Weybourne, Norfolk, UK

It wasn't that long ago that the main enemy of a photographer was dust. Getting dust on the wet developing film could seriously jeopardise image quality and the move to modern digital technology hasn't changed that fact. Dust just shows up as black dots on the photograph, rather than white, when debris gets on the digital sensor. If that isn't bad enough, now we have to watch out on our computers for viruses, ad-ware, rootkits, etc etc.

After ten months. I've finally managed to get a stable and fast wireless Internet connection installed in the house. It's great, but the need for keeping my computer protection up-to-date has increased drastically, now that the computer is constantly connected to the net. I've just swapped from one Internet security system to another after finding a few 'nasties' residing on my computer. Not a nice feeling especially when you consider how much we rely on computers these days.

Anyway, now i feel slightly safer with my new security system up and running. If the computer was wrecked or incapacitated by a virus.... well it would be a disaster. Maybe i should get a separate backup drive for all my images to go onto. Hmmm....

Thursday 23 October 2008

Reporters De Guerre

Of all the photographers i admire, the one i would have most liked to have had a drink, and a chat with, is Larry Burrows. Just an hour with the man would have been great, but sadly he died in February 1971, just over a year before i was born: one of 135 photographers killed during the Vietnam war.

This short extract of video gives an important insight into Larry Burrows the photographer, but it also shows us some of the man behind the lens. The film was part of a documentary called 'Reporters De Guerre' by Patrick Chauvel. Especially interesting is Larry's take on the whole Yankee Papa 13 story, which is widely regarded as one of the best photojournalism pieces of the Vietnam war.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Time and Light

11.50am in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK - 18th October 2008

Time and light. The two factors involved in exposure, both of which can create and destroy an image. Place a photograph in bright light and it will slowly fade to nothing. The paradox of photography has always been that light can give and take away in equal measure.

I often forget how important photographs are to people. They are, in many cases, irreplaceable and priceless items. A connection to a time, place or person long gone. The older we get, the more we seem to cling onto them for comfort. Our memories are converted into a flat piece of photographic paper to be retained for future reference.

I once did a photo restoration job for an old lady whose only image of her mother was fading due to the photograph's age. The old Edwardian photograph was in it's final phase of fading and cracking due to the strain of nearly a hundred years of handling. I can still remember the look of happiness/relieve on her face. What is an image worth? More than we often care to realise!

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Lichfield retrospective

A retrospective exhibition of the late Patrick Lichfield's photographic work is currently on at Nunnington hall near Helmsley in North Yorkshire.

Nunnington Hall has exhibited various photographic works in the past, in the wonderful surroundings of a picturesque Yorkshire manor house. It's a superb exhibition by a one of Britain's best photographers and comes highly recommended. Click on the poster image for more details.

Sunday 12 October 2008

Tube city

On the Tube en route to Kensington High Street

This is the final image from this week's London series of images. It features, of course, the best mode of transport for looking around the city - The London Underground or 'The Tube' as it is affectionately known.

Its not the easiest transport system to understand. We got a number of things wrong during our stay but that was part of the fun. Quite simply it is just the easiest and most affordable way to see London but it's more than a transport network. The Underground has become as much part of London's identity as the other landmarks of the city have - even though other cities around the world operate a similar type of underground system. Just like the red London bus and the hackney carriage taxi, the Tube has become an integral part of the London experience.

I've been pleased with the photographs produced during the trip and i hope to have another journey down to the capital soon. Although this is the last image for this week's series, more will appear over the month on the blog. A gallery of images can also be viewed on my MySpace page at

Saturday 11 October 2008

Finding Chinatown

Ancient Chinese emperor desert, Dragon Beard Candy demonstration, Chinatown, London

Finding Chinatown wasn't that straightforward but it was well worth the effort just to experience the place. Even the bin men, driving the dustcart along the street and taking away the rubbish, took on an exotic tone.

We had searched for, well nearly an hour i would imagine, to find this small part of London that is so colourfully Chinese. It wasn't marked on a map from what we could see, so it was the usual case of asking for directions. The signposts for Chinatown seem to be either a bit contradictory or just vague but finally, after a bit of luck and a few directions, we went along a street and... bingo !

A big colourful Chinese sign announced that we had finally found it. The colours, sounds and smells also made it clear just where we were. It was busy too. People walked along taking in these sights and sounds, stopping ever now and again to view cooking demonstrations like this one. Dragon Beard Candy certainly sounds an interesting dish.

Friday 10 October 2008

Victoria and Albert

Trajan's column at the V&A museum, London

The Victoria and Albert museum was huge. To look around it properly would take a least! The museum houses a vast collection of artifacts that include jewellery, metal ware, furniture and photography.

The photography section was smaller than i expected but the images were well worth a visit. My particular favourite exhibited photograph was by Chris Killip but another that got my attention was Robert Polidori’s 'Auditorium in School #5' image. It's a very chilling photograph of a abandoned school auditorium taken from a series made in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Ukraine. Abandoned in 1986 because of the radioactive fallout, the school hall has decayed, faded and taken on a rather haunted look; part of a horrific monument to a nuclear disaster that took place over twenty years ago.

The image above was taken in the Cast court of the V&A where huge casts of Trajan's Column dominated the vast room. An awesome sight. It's not surprising that we never got to see a fraction of what's on offer at the Victoria and Albert museum. A return trip is definitely required.

Thursday 9 October 2008

Pencil fence

Along the Bayswater road, opposite Hyde Park

A good map is essential when wandering around London. One street leads onto another and before you know it you're lost. Fortunately we never got lost on our trip... but there were a few times when we didn't know exactly where we were. :-) On one such occasion we ended up finding this Pencil fence.

I love this fencing/billboard type of thing along Bayswater Road in central London. It's a novel idea to make it look like a line of pencils. I'm not sure if its an advert (it could be) or a piece of outdoor art, maybe it's both, but i love the idea anyway. You have to admit that it looks far better than a boring old wooden fence.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Bent and twisted

Juggler entertains the passers by at Covent Garden

Dodging people on the streets of London could be made into an Olympic sport. It reminded me of the asteroid field scene in the film The Empire strikes back ; you had to dodge and weave, in, out and around the asteroid field of people moving along the street. Covent Garden was one of the busiest areas and there, to entertain the crowds, were people like this juggler.

The diversity of talent around Covent Garden was astounding but the creativity was especially impressive on the market stalls. Many of the stalls sold hand crafted items like jewellery, some of which were made from ordinary cutlery, bent and twisted to form beautifully ornate bracelets.

More images from the London trip will be posted every day this week.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Fighting the light II

Man waiting at the bar of a West End pub

Here's another image taken during the London weekend trip. Sometimes images happen because of an event or circumstance. In this case, it was Sophie answering her mobile phone that gave me the opportunity to take a couple of images, while i waited for her return.

This was another of those images taken quickly in less than perfect lighting conditions. Like the underground image posted previously, the light in this image comes from the bright lights above the bar. Some natural light is present but it was nearly dusk outside so the window light was subdued. The light was harsh and typical of most bar and pub environments.

I took two images. This one caught to mood of the pub. The shutter speed was slow, around 1/8th sec, so i rested the camera on the table to keep it steady. The viewfinder prism of the Nikon F3 was removed so i could use it like a waist level viewfinder. Any quick movement by the man would have ruined the shot. Fortunately he didn't move from that stance for a couple of seconds.

Monday 6 October 2008

Fighting the light

Fighting the light - London Underground escalators

My decision to take the Nikon F3 was a good one. It worked out really well and the fast Nikkor 35mm lens was very useful indeed. The extra few f-stops of speed that the lens possessed made it slightly easier to shoot in the low light of the London underground.

Human eyes have a great ability to even out light emissions. Cameras sadly don't and this makes the harsh lighting from the flourescent strips, located throughout areas of the tube, a challenge when it comes to getting photographs.

The image above was taken at 60th/sec, F2.0 on Ilford FP4. 125 ISO film isn't the best choice for that type of environment but i managed to get away with it. It was just the film in the camera at that time. Thank goodness for fast lenses!

Sunday 5 October 2008

Weekend away

Shoppers at Norwich Market - June 2008

By the time that you have read this post i should be back from a weekend in London. At the time of writing I'm finishing the final stages of packing an overnight bag and have come (finally!!) to a decision not to take the digital SLR camera with me.

I'm taking a Nikon F3, a Nikkor 35mm lens and a few rolls of film. I don't know if I'll regret taking just a film camera with me but after a bit of thought it seems to make more sense. The F3 is light, compact and easy to carry. Digital does have the big bonus of not having to carry film; get a large capacity memory card and you can snap away till the cows come home. However, the problem with my digital camera is its big, heavy and attracts attention. So it's staying at home.

The forecasted weather has played a part in the decision too. The weekend looks overcast and wet, so the image taking possibilities may be limited. That said, it will be interesting to see 'what i can see' even with the rain. Stay tuned for some London images this week.