Monday, 3 May 2010

Why does it always rain on me?

The grey brooding skies of yesterday have turned into big, fat cold raindrops. There was wild talk of getting up at dawn to capture the emerging sun but after us all schlepping to Brancaster Staithe last night to photograph the golden glow of the setting sun, the sky unhappily turned from murky white to black without bothering to reveal the sunset to us at all. So the thought of getting up at five to experience another whiteout didn't seem attractive.  And frankly the sun hasn't bothered to put its hat on today so I'm glad of the extra hours in bed and a terribly civilized breakfast instead.   
We're off pointing our cameras at more picturesque mills but it's so incredibly cold, I didn't think to pack gloves and manipulating the freezing tripods is not filling us with joy.  Tom shows us some pano stitching but my attempt fails as my frozen fingers choose some bizarre setting which makes the images look like I took them wearing infra-red night.  Tom suggests when the weather is grey and unpromising we should revert to black and white to aim for texture and contrast.  I'm too much of a fair weather photographer to want to fling myself on the sodden ground, foresightful mackintosh square or not, so I fire off a few and retreat back to shelter of the van.
We decamp to a café adjoining a large camping, leisure shop and I go off in search of gloves, preferably fingerless ones.  I can't find any but settle for some peculiar leopard print leg-warmers to fashion some sort of emergency arms and hand cosies. Everyone might laugh but my fingers are starting to turn less blue. Tom stitches the panoramic shots he took earlier, I don’t bother with mine – I’ll try again on a sunnier day.
After a fine pub lunch at Southwold we wrap up again and venture down to the beach. Perhaps the famously vibrant beach huts can inspire us even through the gloom. I'm actually pretty happy with some of my shots, (one even gets a 'honourable mention' on Tom Mackie's 2010 workshop photo competition). Perhaps a cold, bleak beach on a rain spattered day is the perfect opportunity for inspiration. Though I still think I work better when I'm not shivering, and my camera agrees!  

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Tiptoe through the bluebells

When I signed up for Tom Mackie's "Norfolk Broads & Coast" weekend course I was so lured by the thoughts of strolling through the cascading spring bluebells, capturing the last vestiges of the oranges and pinks of the setting sun and getting the ubiquitous windmill shot but I didn't consider the quintessential English seaside weather.  To be fair when I received the list of "what to take" I did baulk at the waterproof trousers and hiking boots.  But in a moment of sensibility I procured some all-weather black hiking boots and a shiny rain hat (as an umbrella seems very impractical whilst wielding a camera, tripod, neutral destiny filters et al).  I refused to don waterproofs as such so my usual rain Mac would have to suffice and I'd have to hope that as this is a little holiday with our cameras not an endurance survival weekend we would have a plan B for utterly inclement weather.  I'm pretty sure my camera wouldn't enjoy feeling the full force of a rain storm and neither would its wrangler!
When I met my fellow photographers I realized only one of us was using a manual camera for the very first time or had not come armed with enormous rucksacks containing every camera body, lens and photographic gizmo they possessed. Though my compact and bijoux camera bag was packed to the hilt but everything of mine seem dolls' house dinky in compared to all that macho glass. Though I had found room for a handy portion of a groundsheet should I need to place myself or equipment on moist or muddy grass. I was inspired to seem so organized by firstly some advice I'd read in one of Tom Mackie's book (though he suggested bin bags!) and secondly my absolute favourite quote from A Room with a View. "Observe my foresight. I never venture forth without my mackintosh squares. At any time, one may have to sit on damp ground or cold marble." uttered by the inimitable Eleanor Lavish but only in the film not actually in E. M. Forster's book.

The first day we were able to grab a few shots of Herringfleet wind pump reflected in a handy dyke on the borders of Norfolk and Suffolk.
Getting the perfect shot, with the elegant leading lines of the dyke and the mill reflected in mirror-still water was thwarted by a stiff breeze and then the cows who were most interested in our project started to hydrate themselves right in our viewfinders.
The scraps of blue sky are diminishing but we've set sights on shooting bluebells. The cloudiness might help us here, the direct sunlight would wash out the delicate lilac blue flowers.  It seems that the bluebell wood as the mill this morning are on the local photographers' beauty hotspots list as there are clusters of them everywhere. The place is awash with tripods, bulging rucksacks and long lenses - the type I'd expect to see if we shooting big game. Tom showed us a trick with glycerine and an eye dropper to give our bluebells that dewy look.  I'm just pleased that my little Leica that everyone is rather sneering at can produce a little bokeh. And I've learnt that my new tripod's central column can turn upside-down. Who knew?