Every Picture Tells a Story

The world of digital photography is so easy and convenient. Point your camera and shoot. Upload to social media or your cloud storage and there it is. If your picture isn’t quite right you can lighten or darken it, straighten it, crop it, even delete it if you want and start again.

Things weren’t so easy in the film age. I used to be a pretty enthusiastic amateur photographer and I used to like taking pictures of, well anything really. I’ve tried my hand at portraits, still life and pretty much everything.

When I was a schoolboy my parents got me an Instamatic 126 camera for Christmas. Bit of a mistake on their part as they had to shell out for film and developing too, which must have been painful for them when they saw my first efforts at photography, and probably more so when the fruits of my ‘experimental’ pictures came back from the chemist.

In the 1980’s I had an Olympus OM10 then moved up to an OM2SP. The SP stood for spot programming where instead of accepting the average reading the camera’s light meter gave you, you could choose a particular spot in the image and take your light settings from that. Very useful in a picture with light and dark elements for instance.

I also used to have quite a few long lenses which I used at race circuits, particularly Oulton Park where I spent many a weekend watching and photographing racing cars. I must have looked really professional clicking on my wide-angle lens in the paddock and then switching to my 200mm long lens back on the circuit.

The big difference with photography today is that back then in the film era, you took your shot and then sent the film for developing and and printing and sometimes the results were good, but then sometimes they weren’t. To the developer though there was no difference between a bad shot and a brilliant one, they both cost the same!

Today you can shoot as many pictures as your memory card will hold, free of charge, no developing charges and as for printing, why bother? Just upload to your favourite social media page. If you take a bad picture you can edit it with imaging software. If the picture is too bad, delete it and shoot more. In fact the best way to take a great picture today is to take multiple exposures just like a professional, shoot a shed load of pictures and just delete the bad ones!

Four of my Favourite Pictures.

It’s hard to choose favourite pictures because I have so many of them, anyway, here are four chosen pretty much at random.

Bob the Dog.

I took this picture years ago with our old dog Bob with my Kodak Instamatic. We had such a lot of fun with that dog as children, me and my brother. He went everywhere with us. We took him on coach trips where he was always sick and my brother, my dad and I would deny ownership of him, all looking fixedly through the windows whilst my Mum apologised to everyone and cleaned up the mess.

Ayrton Senna Hockenheim 1988

Here’s a picture taken with my Olympus at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in 1988. Senna was one of the great drivers of the day. Today he is revered as a legend of the sport but I think it’s fair to say that back in the day he really wasn’t that popular. I remember him being soundly booed at Silverstone in 1989 or 1990 but his talent was unquestionable.

The Greek island of Kalymnos

This is one of my favourite pictures and I did have it blown up and framed once but I must have lost it during various house moves. It was taken on holiday on the Greek Island of Kalymnos. I remember flying to some other island and having to take a ferry over to Kalymnos. The ferry though had to wait 2 hours for a delayed flight from London (those bloody southerners) and when we reached the island it was dark. Our apartment was up the side of a steep hill, right at the top and the rep told me lights would come on by a sensor when we got to the steps. After jumping up and down wildly for 10 minutes the lights did come on and I asked the rep to wait till we got to the top and found the keys. He assured me the keys were there but then drove off. Just at that moment the lights went out and stranded us in a deep velvety blackness. More jumping about and waving and the lights came on so we climbed the steps and finally bumbled into our apartment. Inside I opened the door to the patio and in the darkness of the all-enveloping night, I could sense something over the way. It was not until we awoke in the morning that we were finally able to take in the magnificent view.

Blackpool, Lancashire

This last picture was taken in Blackpool during a drive through of the Blackpool Illuminations. It’s a lovely colourful snap which captures the atmosphere of the lights. I took the picture with my GoPro camera but I have a confession to make. I was trying making a video of the lights and when I set up the camera I didn’t have my reading glasses with me and couldn’t quite make out the tiny menu and accidentally set the camera up to take stills instead of video. The resulting pictures were actually a surprise!


Floating in Space is a novel set in Manchester 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

 

 

Cameras Then, and Cameras Now . .

I still have my old camera bag, well, camera case actually. I have often wondered just how much money I would make if I sold it on eBay. Would I be impressed I wonder of the value of my once expensive film cameras? Or would I be disappointed to find these great cameras are now comparatively worthless?

I was always rather proud of my aluminium camera case. It made me feel like someone who was serious about cameras and who knew something about photography. There was my Olympus OM10 complete with the manual adapter which transformed the camera from an amateur’s automatic device to a professional tool. The OM10 cost a lot of money as I remember and so did the bits and pieces that went with it. A wide angle lens which always delivered some super sharp shots. Then there was my 200mm telephoto lens, my medium 80 to 150 zoom and my 3 times converter that made my 200mm lens into a 600mm although it struggled in that configuration for light so large apertures and slow shutter speeds were the norm.

Also in the case is my Olympus OM2SP complete with spot programme technology. As you may probably know, a modern camera tends to average out the light that comes into the lens giving a slightly false reading or at least an overall reading which when shooting scenes with dark and bright elements can cause confusion. The spot meter in the OM2SP means the user can choose a single spot from which to take a light reading and set the camera accordingly so that the point of interest would always be perfectly lit.

To assist further on the quest for the perfect picture my case also had a wide variety of filters. A small number of screw on filters which screwed directly onto the front of the lens and another set, my Cokin filters which were square filters that slotted into a holder which screwed onto the front of the lens.

My old 1980’s camera case

There was more also. My cable release, vital for those late night long exposures. Long exposures, now I think of it, were photographs I used to love taking. One of my favourites was shooting someone in the dark, whirling a sparkler or a torch round and round while the shutter was open then I’d fire a hand held flash to freeze the person and then close the shutter. I’m not even sure you could do that on a modern digital camera but anyway it was a fun picture to take.

Also in the case is my motor wind, a vital addition for capturing the fast action of the cars at my nearest race track, Oulton Park in Cheshire. If you look at the outside of the case still adorned with motor sport stickers from the 1980’s, you can see how much I was into car racing back then.

My current SLR camera bag

Fast forward to the present day and there is not much in my SLR camera bag. My Nikon D100 and zoom lens, a medium zoom, a spare battery and a lens cloth and that is about it. Filters are available today but it’s probably just easier to add a filter with image editing software after you have downloaded your snaps to your laptop.

My video case has a little more to it. It contains quite a few cameras, my three action cameras and batteries and my Canon G7X. Also in there is my trusty Panasonic mobile phone sized video camera. Most of the other gear consists of things like mini tripods and devices for attaching the cameras to something, bike handlebars, car doors and so on. I have a fairly new gadget I’ve only used once so far, you can see it in the lower centre of my video case, it’s a device like the professional steadicam, a weighted handle that absorbs movement when you are moving to give a smoother camera pan.

My video camera bag.

Oh and plenty of cables, charging cables, connecting cables and well all sorts of various cables. Now I come to think of it, I’ve probably got cables I don’t even need.

I do love my old Olympus but to be fair, I love my modern cameras more. Even so, I wonder if it’s worth putting one last roll of film through my Olympus before eBay beckons?


Floating in Space is a novel set in Manchester 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

Cameras, Cards and Motorhomes.

My holiday in France this year was pretty different to the one I’m used to. No French villa, no poolside sunbed. Although I did manage to get through four books from my holiday book bag ( I have to admit I only finished three of them) I didn’t do much writing at all.

It’s not quite so easy writing in the hot confines of a motorhome. No cool kitchen or dining room like in our last rented villa. A motorhome too is about movement, about travelling. It’s about spending one or two nights in one location and then hitting the road, looking for that next location and then the next. I enjoyed it all, don’t get me wrong but the lazy relaxing holiday is probably the one for me.

A big disappointment on this holiday was also the reliability of my GoPro Hero camera. I’ve got 2 action cameras; one is a cheap imitation of a GoPro camera. It works fine but sometimes in the heat of the moment, especially when driving, it’s easy to stay too long on the power button and click into another mode like a still picture mode or a time lapse mode. The GoPro hero is great in this regard as it can be set for instant shooting. Once set up all you do is press the top button, the camera begins recording and beeps to acknowledge that (3 beeps). When you are done, click the same button once again and the camera beeps again (5 beeps) and you know recording has shut off.

I had not used either camera for a while but made sure they were both fully powered up and even had a long lead to connect the GoPro to the cigarette lighter socket and a new memory card. Everything seemed outwardly OK but the files from days 2 and 3, when later downloaded to my laptop would not play. What is even more annoying is that on day 3 as we drove down (up actually) into the Jura and the French Alps we were engulfed in a huge snowstorm which would have made great video. Alas none of those recordings were usable nor were the next day’s video with some spectacular views as we headed towards the south of France.

All of this brought back memories of the film era and so many disappointments of photographs that I knew were going to be amazing but after a visit to the photo lab were found to be too bright or too dark or blurred or, in one sad episode, completely blank. On that last occasion I remember going to pick up my prints and finding that the bill was rather cheap. ‘Is that right?’ I asked. ‘Oh yes’ said the rather smug girl at the till and I did wonder why my prints were not on the counter in front of me while I pulled some notes from my wallet. As soon as she had my money she handed over the prints wallet with the news that my film was blank and must have somehow been exposed. Nothing to do with them of course. A heated debate followed. The manager appeared and declared it ‘obvious’ that the film was exposed when removed from the camera incorrectly. I felt on the contrary that it was ‘obvious’ the photo lab had cocked up. Either way, I found somewhere else to do my developing and printing after that.

A GoPro Hero similar to mine.

Getting back to my video cameras, I did notice when downloading the footage that the date on my GoPro Hero had somehow reverted to 1899 instead of 2019 so that may have been the root of the problem. I updated it and later bought another new memory card and I did manage to record some more video but nothing as spectacular as the video that I should have had. Some other mistakes on my part led to me using up the memory card prematurely because I had left the GoPro running too long on a couple of occasions. In fact in one instance I have a good 30 minute sequence of the corner of a lay-by when we stopped for a brew and a sandwich. The latest video I had looked forward to producing may now be condemned to a fate similar to the latest Woody Allen film: Never to be released!

That brings me now to pre-paid Euro cards. Heading to France my wallet had a hefty chunk of cash Euros but just to supplement that I had a post office card which you can top up with a currency of your choice, in this case Euros. My biggest expenditure on the trip, apart from food and drink was fuel and we tended to always make for the supermarket fuel pumps which, as in the UK, are usually much cheaper than Texaco or Esso or all the other brand names. Each time though my Euro card was declined and I was forced to use my credit card and pay whatever arbitrary exchange rate was available that day.

Strangely enough, those same stores were willing to accept my Euro card in payment for food and groceries. Many petrol stations in France though are automated ones; perhaps that was the issue.

On the positive side though, one great advantage of a motorhome is simply this: As you motor down the Autoroute following the sun, you begin to feel the pangs of hunger and the need for a good old British cuppa. After a while a lovely layby or country aire surrounded by trees and birdsong appears. You stop, crank up the gas, gently fry the sausages on the stove while the tea brews and now, miles from anywhere, you can relax with a cup of English tea in one hand and an English sausage butty in the other. Wonderful!


Floating in Space is a novel set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

Adventures with a Camera

Instamatic

My old Kodak Instamatic

I have always been a photographer. My first camera was either a birthday or Christmas present and it was a Kodak Instamatic 126. I still have the camera somewhere. From my point of view that was a wonderful present; from my parents perspective, perhaps not, because back then in the late sixties cameras needed film and film had to be developed and printed which was fairly costly, especially if you had a child that liked taking pictures and also, whose first attempts were not so good. These days if you take some dud pictures with a digital camera- delete them! It’s no big deal. Back then it was expensive!

I remember getting a major verbal lashing from my Mum when we had gone to Boots to collect my photographs. I was using colour film and Mum had to shell out for my pictures of my action man in various poses in the back garden! (Action man? Hey, I was 12!)

Bob the Dog.

Bob the Dog.

Here’s one of my favourite pictures, it’s our old dog Bob. You can read more about Bob in this previous post but he was a lovely dog, part Manchester terrier and part something else. My brother and I, well the whole family really, had a lot of fun with him and one day I caught him sitting in the sun in the back garden, slipped a pair of sunglasses on him and there he is, saved for as long as that black and white snap will last.

imageZenith TTL

I was in my twenties before I got my next camera. I bought it from a work colleague who was upgrading and the camera came with a huge 200mm lens, some filters and other bits and pieces. As you can see by this next picture I became really hooked on photography and starting buying camera magazines and books and really learning how to use a camera. I enjoyed taking special effects shots such as double exposures and hand firing the flash in darkened rooms with the camera shutter open. Also I used to take a lot of still life shots such as this one of my camera kit and books.

Olympus OM10Olympus OM10

As I gained more confidence I naturally wanted to upgrade. The camera I chose was an Olympus OM10. As time went on I gradually accrued quite a collection of lenses and filters. In the 1980s I was really keen on motor sport and I spent a lot of Sunday afternoons at Oulton Park racing circuit in Cheshire. Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix is not so photographer friendly with high fences and the spectators kept back from the track in the interests of safety. Hockenheim, the venue for this weekends German Grand Prix was a circuit I visited in 1988 and I took some great pictures there.

Prost

Alain Prost, McLaren Honda 1988

I had a motorwind and a zoom lens and I took some great shots of cars out on the circuit as well as some with my wide-angle lens in the paddock. (Not the paddock at Hockenheim I might add, even in 1988 it was far too expensive for me but Oulton Park’s paddock used to be pretty easily accessible, and fairly cheap.) Later, I bought an Olympus OM2SP, a little more sophisticated than the OM10 but still pretty easy to use.

Nikon DSLRDigital

I started the digital era with a canon powershot camera and then a Fuji that I picked up second-hand. My first and so far only digital DSLR is a Nikon D100. It’s still a fairly old-fashioned camera; it has the old style flashcard. I bought it on e-bay and I’m really happy with it. I do so love the digital camera age. With digital you can shoot like a professional, bracket your shots and take those extra frames to make sure you have captured your shot perfectly. No need to hold back or worry about running out of film, no need to worry about developing and printing costs. Cover yourself by taking shot after shot and just delete the unwanted ones. Even if they are not quite right, once the image is on your laptop or pc you can re-size, brighten, sharpen, add or take away colour. I’m so glad I have kept all my older, slightly poorer shots because now I can scan them and sort them out with my ten-year old version of photoshop or even with free editing sites like picmonkey. You can even take some of your pictures and convert them to a gif at sites like http://gifmaker.me/

As a blogger, photographs brighten up my blog posts and pull the reader in. On Twitter and Facebook, posts with images pull in 94% more views than posts without a relevant image. That’s a pretty staggering statistic so get out your camera today, even if it’s just your smartphone camera, and get snapping!


If you liked this post, why not try my book, Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information or here to go straight to my amazon page.