…and boy did it pour down. It rained so hard that the drops actually bounced.
I was in a rebellious frame of mind this week. I had downed tools on my latest book project as it turned out I’d received no royalty payments for two years. Not unusual I’m afraid, publishers are notoriously tight at best and blatant rip off merchants at worst. My father was not a politically correct man and one of his favourite jokes was:
“How do get a drink out of a Scotsman?
Stick two fingers down his throat!”
Well it wouldn’t work with my publisher. They are just impervious. The accountant usually has a number of excuses as to why he has not made any payments. The usual one is that his father had just died. Not a word of bullshit he had his father die four times over a six month period. Well the statements have been coming in, but no payments had hit my bank account for two years. So as William Shakespeare had King Lear say “Thou art a boil, a plague sore, an embossed carbuncle” .
I was right royally hacked off and emailed them to say I’m not finishing the current book until I’ve been paid and then I felt the need to go out and do something for me instead of working. So I went to Wireless Hill to photograph orchids in the pouring rain. Make that torrential rain. I’d have stayed drier if I’d have jumped fully clothed into a swimming pool. Anyway despite all that I got four photos I was happy with.
The old Canon EOS6d with 100mm f2.8L Macro IS lens performed admirably in the wet and I’m always astounded by the quality of the files it produces, Many would argue that it is not a professional camera due to it having a very basic AF system, poor dynamic range, not properly weather sealed and only having one card slot, but man alive if you can’t produce professional quality work with it then you really need to get some help.
* Today’s musical reference is the song “The Sky Is Crying” written and originally performed by Elmore James in 1959. It was an impromptu song inspired by a downpour of rain. Since then it has become a blues staple with a plethora of artists recording it over the years. My favourite version is still the Elmore James one, but I also like the version by Stevie Ray Vaughan. The video I’ve embedded below features and all star line up of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King and BB King.
Sitting in the car this morning waiting for the rain stop I was thinking about it being New Year and what sort of resolution or revolution I could implement for 2015. Fittingly the radio station I was tuned into played “New Year’s Day” by U2 and then “All I Wanna Do” by Cheryl Crow**. I have reached something of a crossroads*** as a photographer (doing well so far first paragraph and already three song titles referenced) – the choices are do I still remain committed to printing and showing my work that way or do I just output for the web and e-books?
For me as a photographer and writer I want my ideas and images to be seen by as many people as possible and along with the process of creating that really floats my boat. If I just rely on exhibitions at best all I got was maybe a couple of hundred people look at the work. That’s a lot of effort and expense for for just so few hits (to use the web parlance). Having said that I really enjoy making prints – it was after all how I started in photography disappearing into the bathroom at night to process film and print. I found the process terribly exciting and rather magical. Fast forward a bit and an assignment that took me to Russia to shoot a bag full of Tri-X and when I got back home I processed the film and printed the proofs for the client. Later I got to see photos printed really big used at the launch of a human rights campaign. It was then that I realised the power of photography and the impact of a large print. I was hooked. Some twelve years later I got my first computer and started to play about with digital photography, desktop publishing and the internet. The world had shifted on its axis and now nearly twenty years later I’m doing stuff and reaching a what to me is a large very diverse audience. WordPress sent me an email the other day that gave a breakdown of the visitors to this blog, basically where they’re from and how they got here. While the majority of the readers are from the USA, England and Australia I get a surprising number from Russia, Central Asia, and the Latin American countries. The downside is that digital has made me a very lazy photographer and I’m loosing touch with what I’d call the craft of photography and I find that rather sad. I’ll explain that. It is sad because over the thirty years I’ve been pressing the shutter button I’ve accumulated an awful amount of knowledge – reciprocity failure, the Scheimpflug principle, push processing etc etc – and that hard-won knowledge is not being used anymore.
I’ve got no easy answers. Maybe I’ll continue with being both. Perhaps for most of the week I’ll be a modern all digital content creator, and then for a day or so get back to the craft and keep in touch with my roots. I could even shoot a roll or two of film (I found a container full of unexposed film in the freezer and an ever larger container of exposed film). The photos accompanying today’s post are really nothing to do with today’s subject and were made in an “old skool” way. Well old school circa 2005 and that is positively ancient in digital terms. They were made with my Canon EOS5d – the original 5d – and a canon 50mm f1.8 MkII (the plastic one not the original metal mount one). I have an embarrassingly large inventory of Canon bodies and lenses that sit around unused now I’ve gone to m4/3s. So my feelings of guilt compelled me to get a camera out of the cupboard and shoot some black and white photos just for the heck of it.
* New Year’s Day by U2. Another memorable concert at the Portsmouth Guildhall from the days when Bono was not considered an annoying twat.
** Sheryl Crow is an artist I’ve really got into, but an old friend of mine got the album when it first came out and every time I went round to her house she have this playing full-bore while she danced and sang along so I always associate it with her and that particular summer.
*** I first became aware of Elmore James after watching The Blues Brothers, and while I prefer the album “The Sky Is Crying” this track is an all time classic and has been covered by loads of people, but the original is still the best.