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Photography and me

Late summer 2022 ・ Bath, Cardiff

A very long time ago, while I was at sixth form college, I took a GCSE in photography. I loved it. I learned how to develop film, taking out a roll from my camera in the pitch dark, all by feel, and winding the film onto a reel. I learned about aperture and shutter speeds, using an old Nikon SLR that my dad gave me. I learned how to expose photo paper and burn in and dodge areas to make them darker and lighter.

I took a few rolls of film on a First World War battlefields trip and created a highly original piece of coursework featuring a lot of graves. Then I went to a local cemetery and took some more pictures of graves and made a piece of coursework which included the lyrics of the Smiths song, Cemetery Gates. I doubt I was aware of its pointed message about making original art.

My coursework, a series of photographs of gravestones and statuary.
Mercifully, the name of the project and the Smiths lyrics appear to have fallen off.

I left another piece of coursework until the late afternoon before the day we were to go into the dark room, thus ending up with a lot of very muddy pictures that I managed to turn into a piece called Contrast (because, like, my photographs had none). Still, though, I got an A. I don’t think the teacher liked me much but I think I was fairly good at the technical side, generally able to get nice contrasty prints, even if my creative imagination was distinctly lacking.

A sad looking angel.
A sad looking angel. Hmm.

I haven’t done any olde worlde photography since, but I still own a proper digital camera. For the past several years I’ve used Micro Four Thirds cameras, a format that’s small but full-featured and which take Nice Pictures With Little Fuss.

For me, fuss as it relates to cameras is about being heavy and bulky – the kind of camera I can’t really face carrying around all day. It’s said that the best camera is the one you have with you, which is meant to mean that the quality of your camera isn’t as important as the opportunity to take a shot. But really it means that if you don’t have your actual-best camera with you, you’ll forever regret the fact you failed to be able to take actual-best photos.

Anyway, I recently bought myself an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, which takes wonderfully clean pictures and does all of the things modern proper cameras do, including being waterproof. It’s light and small and I have been accruing a set of lenses. My faves are two wide-aperture “prime” lenses, which means that they’re set at a single carefully chosen focal length, so you can’t zoom in and out, but you can take shots in low light with nice short depth of field.

Both lenses ask me to think carefully about framing and composition while shooting because I can’t bodge a shot into being OK by zooming, and taking my camera out and about is encouraging me to look more closely at the world around me.

So I’ve been taking pictures and, encouraged by fellow photog-chum Andy Kelly I’ve been posting them on Glass, a relatively new photo-sharing site that focuses on the pictures rather than social media stuff. Here are some recent shots I’m quite happy with.

› more photos

I struggle with the idea of taking black and white photographs, and yet I love them.

Hotch potch
An assortment of photos that I took over 2023, mostly around Bath.

We took young Roddy to visit his mum, Maple, and sister, Scout.

Kelston Roundhill
A circular patch of trees at the very top of the highest hill for miles around.

Stockholm trip
Stockholm looked beautiful under frost, brief sun, and long darkness.