Memento Mori

I found this dead juvenile Blue Tit in the garden. Barely fledged and either just out of the nest or nearly so, it was lying on the lawn where it had been dropped. Maybe a magpie got it and was scared off before it could eat it or something. I don’t know. It looked so perfect and poignant that I wanted to photograph it.

In my studio I have a kind of deliberately neglected window sill, behind a tatty curtain that came with the house, which I will replace someday ( yeah right ). This window sill is the repository for all sorts of odd stuff picked up from the garden or just accumulated. Shells, leaf skeletons, acanthus seeds, a dead hornet, small bits of blue and white pottery, fossil shells, a red rear light lens from a Morris Minor and even a few bullets from the battle of Omdurman in the Sudan that a friend gave me years ago. That sort of thing, all overlain by a drift of cobwebs.

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I laid the small corpse down on that window sill and took some shots of it, influenced by a book of John Blakemore photographs that I got recently probably, and just because it felt right.

Then I noticed that one of the larger shell fossils was shaped just right to take the dead bird. So I took some shots of it lying in state on it’s fossil shell.

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Technical stuff – I have a 49mm to 46mm reducer on my X100 which allows me to use my Nikon WC-E68 wide angle adaptor (as I mentioned in a previous post). It also allows me to use a x1 and x3 macro attachment, though not at the same time as the wide angle thingy obviously. . .

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I used the x1 and x3 together for these shots with the X100 set to macro mode. The depth of focus was pretty shallow, but the results were sharp enough when I got the distance right.

Processed in ‘Raw file converter ex powered by silkypix’. Which I have only just discovered and is brilliant once you get the hang of it. I wish it was compatible with non Fuji cameras too.

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Cat Show

After my trip to Crufts, I realised that I enjoyed taking shots at public events. Places where a camera is less of an intrusion, or at least feels like less of an intrusion. So I wandered up to a local cat show at the Wood Green Animal Shelter up in Godmanchester. It was a bit tricky to frame stuff up as the layout was rather rigid, with the cats all in cages and the cages all in serried ranks. The people were a degree less eccentric than the dog show crowd, so less fun there. The cats were beautiful however. I didn’t want to just take snaps of pretty moggies though, so I tried to get a flavour of the event as best I could. I didn’t spend anything like long enough there but here’s what I got. . .

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Feline Eye contact no 1. The cat’s single eye sums it all up. Amazing how expressive a single eye can be. Or at least, how expressive the viewer makes it. How the cat actually feels is only to be guessed at, but to human eyes it looks well pissed off.

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Feline eye contact 2.
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Feline eye contact no 3.- of the embroidered kind.

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Competition

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These bald cats are so odd, like some kind of embryonic creature. Poor bloody things, why do we do this to cats?

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The judging happened on little trolley type tables that the judges wheeled round. The reserves of patience these cats have is amazing, compared to most cats I have known.

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I liked how she seemed to be peering out from behind a palisade of chairs. .

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Yeah well, I thought it was funny.

cheers,

Jon x

Chaotic Trees

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I’ve been pointing my camera at bits of tangled undergrowth and mad strips of hedgerow for a few years now. Most people don’t get it. But then most people don’t get a lot of things. It’s not compulsory 🙂 But if you were wondering why I bother, read on. . .

I am evidently finding something that fascinates me enough to keep exploring the subject, but what that something is, isn’t easy to define. However, I’ll give it a try.

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I love the way the seeming linear madness resolves itself into a kind of crazed but beautiful compositional whole when photographed. I like the feeling of arrested movement, like a frozen explosion, or like a wave caught at the moment of breaking. I like the complexity of the overlapping lines, never allowing the eye to rest. I like the way the viewer isn’t allowed to relax into resolving the image into some kind of familiar woodland scene, although what is in the image is familiar, just unregarded. I like the negation of depth and the emphasis on pattern. I like the sheer tangled vitality of it all. . .

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The act of framing, the act of choosing what should be framed and from where, turns what others might regard as an unstructured mess into a statement about nature, about beauty about photography and about me.

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I don’t want to find something beautiful and photograph it. I want the photograph to be the thing of beauty.

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Hope that helps 😉 Not that you were fretting about it or anything.

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All photos taken with a Fuji X100 with a Nikon WC-E86 wide angle adaptor.

Just started up a Tumblr

Which sounds odd. .  ‘A tumblr’ as if a tumblr was a specific thing rather than a type of blog or blogging platform. Still, it has it’s own sort of feel, something a bit more throwaway and loose than a ‘proper’ blog. Somewhere between a flickr page and a pinterest board (which I haven’t explored yet. . . do I need to? I dunno)

Any road up, here it is –

http://jonathanburgessallen.tumblr.com

I’m going to put an old illustration, a digital pattern/artwork and a photograph up every day and see if I get any likes or follows or whatever. It does seem quite a hassle free process so I’m enjoying it in a quiet way. There does seem to be quite a lot of good stuff on Tumblr. It’s easier to find it than on WordPress or Blogger I reckon.

Here’s a pic from my tumblr, which, by the way is called ‘lessisless’ which isn’t necessarily true but I had to call it something.

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cheers

Jon x

Crufts

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It was a horrible drive up the A14/M6 in fog that didn’t lift all day, but once I got to the NEC, I knew it was worth the effort. Crufts didn’t let me down. It was fascinating. I wandered around, people watching and dog watching with my camera pretty much glued to my eye.

It was Toy and Utility Day and in every aisle, driven, determined, steely eyed , set jawed women in clothes you probably only see at dog shows and weddings grimly brushed, blow dried and primped small, placidly accepting dogs of the small, fluffy or hairy kind. Driven, determined, steely eyed, set jawed gay and straight, but I would tentatively say mostly gay men did likewise. Husbands, partners and various family members hovered, or sat, idling on their mobiles.

Visitors and exhibitors milled around, exchanging Dog Talk and show gossip, every now and then pausing to do the arms length squint that camera and phone makers force us to do since viewfinders fell out of favour. (My camera has a viewfinder thank God).

In their respective aisle Bulldogs lay slumped in their cages, half asleep, pendulous jowls spreading like melting candle wax as the poor overbred creatures snorted and snored, oblivious to the permanently tragic gaze of pop-eyed Pugs and forlorn French Bulldogs. In other aisles Pomeranians yapped, Yorkies yelped, Italian Greyhounds quivered  in anorexic paroxisms while dandylion headed Bischon Frises sat looking slightly self conscious as one of the living, breathing exercises in surreal topiary that constitutes a Standard Poodle, perched on its special grooming table nearby, got it’s quiff sorted. It’s a dog’s life.

Partly owing to the dullest of dull foggy days outside, not much daylight permeated the vast hanger like halls. the artificial lights were OK but for photographic purposes it was tricky. I really didn’t want to use flash as I felt it would be intrusive and off putting for the dog groomers, not to mention the dogs. So I had to up the ISO on my X100 to uncomfortable levels (the higher you go the lower the light you can operate in but the more noisy/grainy the result) hence the only average technical quality of these shots.

Still, technical quality aside, I think you get an idea of what it’s like wandering the halls at the NEC when Crufts is on. I am going for a sort of cumulative documentary effect, but from the veiwpoint of an amused/bemused outside observer, enjoying the absurdity of the event without judging it too hard.

p.s. – I dunno if it was by choice because of the lurid green flooring, but I have never seen so many people wearing orange. Unless I just gravitated towards them when picking photographic subjects. . .

All shots taken with an Fuji X100 with a Nikon WC-E68 wide angle adaptor at ISO 6400 trying to keep at f5.6 or above and the shutter speed above 1/30. So motion blur and underexposure was a constant worry. Oh well, next time it might be sunny outside. . .

Fuji x100 wide angle

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Fishermens’ huts at Southwold

I really like my x100. In fact, since I flogged my Nikon D90 and a few lenses to pay for a second hand X100 a year and a bit ago, if not longer, I have hardly ever felt the need for anything else. Maybe once or twice, when stuck at the back of a crowd, I might have wished for a zoom lens, but that’s about it. The trouble is, that when the idea of going just a bit wider gets mentioned, I can’t helping thinking it would be a nice option.

A 35mm equiv lens is a great focal distance for all sorts of situations, but I have to admit to the niggling desire for something a touch wider sometimes. It doesn’t help that I am used to my little Ricoh GX200 (my other favourite camera, but for different reasons) and it’s wide angle to short-tele zoom lens. I found that the distance I chose to stand from my subject was automatically right for a 28 or 24mm lens. I kept having to take two steps back to get the framing right with my x100. I’m more at ease with it now, and I can guess better, but it made me realise that I am comfortable with a 24/28mm equiv lens and enjoy the slight distortions and the ability to fit a lot in the frame that it brings.

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Fishermens’ boats and tractors at Southwold

So I did some research into what was available. Obviously, the fuji add on 28mm equiv made especially for the x100 would be first choice, but for around £250 they can keep it. That left a few options made for earlier cameras of other makes. Others have posted at length about this so I won’t go into tedious detail. Suffice it to say I hit ebay and tried a dead cheapie from the far east. I wasn’t very impressed. I tried a huge minolta, which was soft at the edges and just too bleedin big. I tried a raynox, which was the same only smaller, and eventually hit on the nikon WC-E68. This was still a touch soft at the edges but better than all the others, imho. I find it perfectly usable.

My X100 with the Nikon WC-E68

My X100 with the Nikon WC-E68

So really I am just endorsing the Nikon as a reasonably priced (I paid around £50 I think on ebay) alternative to the fuji wide adaptor. You need a 49-52 step down ring. (The x100 is 49mm and the nikon fits 52mm) I fitted it on top of the uv filter/lens protector as that way I have less fiddling about to do when I want to remove the nikon and I couldn’t see any difference in the quality of test shots with and without the filter. The only issue is that as the lens is very convex, there is no lens cap available. I use a soft lens bag with an elastic band round it to protect it when not in use. Not high tech I know, but it protects it OK from casual scratches etc. Knocks and bangs would be a different matter, but then I try not to bash my camera about 😉

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Fishermens’ boatyard and tractor at Southwold

I’ve been trying to keep it on my camera for an extended period, to give it a good run and see if I like what I can do with it. So far I am pleased. For the type of shots I like it works fine. And the whole shebang still fits in my jacket pocket, just.

All shots taken with the WC-E68 in place