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Drought declared in UK

Temperatures reached over 40C in July, the highest ever recorded in the UK, and much of the country hasn’t seen substantial rainfall since. Many parts of the country have officially declared drought status where restrictions on domestic water use will be enforced.

Picture : Parched tree, Kensington Gardens.

Lucca by night

I love peering into shop windows at night when walking in the city. Last weekend, I was at the Photolux Festival in Lucca, a medieval walled city in western Tuscany, Italy, home to Giacomo Puccini, who was born in 1858. I came across this wedding dressmaker’s store in one of the many narrow cobbled streets. The illuminated dresses in a darkened store caught my eye as I peered into the shop and took this picture. Captured for posterity, these dresses might one day be walking down the aisle in one of the many tens of churches to the delight of a wedding party.

This other photo (L) is more atmospheric and was obtained because I rushed. A mistake. Not remembering I had set the exposure compensation dial to underexpose earlier, I simply took this picture and accidentally caused a blur due to the slow shutter as it was a very dark scene. I was looking back at this image on my camera and about to hit the delete button, but on closer inspection, I think I rather like it.

Sands of Time, Goodbye 2021

Camber Sands is a stretch of fine sandy beach about 2 miles long on the south coast of East Sussex, the only beach with sand dunes along this coast. I love to photograph these grassy, undulating dunes in the dusk light of winter. The golden sand is so fine, like talc which is uniquely rare in England, as most of the beaches have coarse sand or pebbles.

Shooting self

This triptych is the result of an attempt at self-portraiture last weekend, with the Self-Portrait workshop ran jointly by Nadirah Zakariya and I, as part of the Exposure+ Photo series of workshops.

The workshop covered the historical aspects of the painted portrait from the Middle Ages through to the Renaissance era and I shared the premise that many master painters utilised photography to influence their great works. I presented how the purpose of portraiture has changed with the invention of the camera and the negative, allowing the masses to make low cost reproducible photographs. In the second half, Nadirah presented and shared the works of contemporary photographers who specialises in self portraits, before setting a task for each participant to shoot a set of home self-portraits to be presented the following week.

Shooting the self isn’t as straightforward as it appears, as there are perhaps more preparations to plan out than photographing another, since you are both the subject and the camera operator. Composition, framing and concept is mostly trial and error. As is focusing, and tripping the shutter – a manual affair for my old school set up. I learnt from the other participants that they used a wifi-controlled app on their phones to compose and shoot themselves – and there was I, darting back and forth from camera to pose, checking framing and focus constantly.

I wanted to make a series of tight head shots with my 90mm at the closest focus distance of 1m, shooting wide open, but obtaining pin point focus was a task in itself, since the DOF is so shallow. Overall I took over 50 shots, most were slightly out of focus or the framing was off. Perhaps I will use a 28mm next time.

Coming up with a concept may not be easy for most, including myself. Self-portraits aren’t my strong point. I seldom even take selfies, but this workshop task has opened up a new way of representation and self-expression that is worth a second look and can be quite liberating.

Incidentally, KLPA‘s theme this year is ‘Sense of Self’ in the Single Image category and is now open for entries.

Steven

Dream Boys & ballerinas

From my archives! Came across this folder on a CD titled ‘Halellujah Shoot, Dorchester Hotel 09.2004, E.Way’ E.Way is Eric Way, the renown South African designer who had been a close neighbour to my gallery/studio in London then. This was a fun shoot, backstage and catwalk at the London Dorchester.

Rita M, RIP

Last weekend I heard that Rita, a dear friend from a local church community whom I gotten to know over the years had passed away. You know how sometimes you meet someone, despite the age gap, you get acquainted, not in the sense of a close friend, but still, but a friend nonetheless. She’s always in church, at almost every mass, and she has been a firm volunteer in the parish, being responsible for producing the weekly newsletters and also a regular reader. She’s a cheeky so and so too, and so soft spoken, a very English lady from an era where respect and dedication is everything. From the way she dresses to her hair style, she would not be out of place in a 40’s British war time drama. She is also a very private woman.

There is another reason why I am writing this, partly as a dedication to Rita, but more so because I was in a slight fret a few days ago when Rita’s grand daughter rang and asked if I had the digital files of these portraits as she really liked them and wanted to make prints for the upcoming funeral service.

Now, every photographer worth his/her salt would know about workflow and the archiving process. I was certain I knew exactly where these files were stored. These were taken in June 2008 in Cafe Rouge in Kensington. I even remembered that!

Over the years, I have invested in external hard drives as back ups, and these were before Google Drive and cloud services. From about 2000 onwards, the commercial fashion and wedding shoots were burned to CDs, and I have them readily available still. Some were put on Iomega ZIP drives (remember them?). Around 2006 I got a Seagate GoFlex 2TB SATA shared network drive which was accessible via WIFI and used that as my main back up device and also home to the Time Machine back ups for my iMac. Then about 2011 I began to use Google Drive and DropBox as backups and smaller external plug in drives for portability.

Not really knowing where Rita’s files were exactly, I spent several days shifting through all my current drives, using keywords, algorithms etc but no luck. All I found were website thumbnail files which were about 800 px in height which is totally useless for print. I categorise my shoots files into folders named under year and month, but none of these folders contained the files.

I knew they had to be in the now defunct Seagate network drive but upon plugging in, the app failed to register. Shiite. The drive was making all the right clicks and whirrs but it’s been several years since I accessed it. After a quick search on the internet I found out that the Go Flex system is now no longer working and supported and the only way to get to the drive was to take it apart and somehow connect it directly to the laptop. So, another hour on YouTube self-learning about drive recovery, SATA, PATA, IDE, converters, and adapters I finally ordered one of these [https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B078GZG4ST] . China – Geeks Love You. Amazon Prime 24 hour delivery is amazing. I literally clicked BUY last night and this evening, I got the adapter.

This isn’t the end.

Upon connecting the naked drive with this gadget into my Macbook, the drive popped up instantly on the desktop. However, the drive folder is err.. empty! Nada, although inspecting the drive properties showed it has over 400GB used. How strange. I couldn’t understand why the files weren’t showing up. Until closer inspection brought up the words Windows NTFS on the drive. I am not really clued up about compatible drive formats between Mac and Windows OS but I knew I had to connect it to a Windows machine somehow. Luckily, I have an ageing Windows laptop which I quickly powered up and got it hooked up to the drive and voila! All my backup files showed up.

I finally managed to locate the Rita folder with all the CRW files shot on my Canon 5D with a 35mm f2 and 50mm f1.4 lens and I can sleep easy tonight. There is a lesson to be learnt here, but for now, I can’t think what it is. Goodbye, Rita.

Back in time : Kuala Lumpur

It’s Sunday and where I live it’s now Tier 2 of the latest Covid-designated level of restrictions. Tier 1 being Medium risk, 2 meaning High and Tier 3 is the absolutely no mingling stay home, pub-closing variety. Anyway the scientists (who listen to scientists anymore, I wonder) say all these tiers are confusing and pointless, since the virus cannot read and they fly around in the boundary-less air with the wind, and they will come and infect you whether you are drinking in the pub, exercising in the gym or do sweaty yoga unless you are in Westminster and your name is Dominic or so they say.

But I digress. Here are some pictures of KL central, from way back, yes in 2008, when I was hoping to be a successful ‘street’ photographer (don’t we all) since almost every photowalk that has ever been organised that I recall always starts in Petaling Street and teaches street photography.

Has it changed? I wonder where these people are today, their faces frozen in time. Do you recognise them, it would surely be interesting to know. Apologies for the garish oversaturated colours, but like sepia and spot colouring, it was in trend back then. I’m more into muted tones now.

Elizabeth’s garden /1

My neighbour Elizabeth is an elderly spinster who has been very ill ever since I moved in next door to her last year. She is bedridden and does not go out, and she gets visits from carers several times a day to feed and care for her. Since February this year, she deteriorated and I understand she is now staying in a local care home.

Her garden is completely overgrown but there grows some beautiful wild weed, roses, blackberries and shady trees.

Winter into Spring

Discovering that all the local trees have sprouted their leaves and blooming with flowers since we entered the lockdown in early March, I took a walk along the towpaths of the River Wey about 15 minutes away.

On a small private island, there is a public park with many mature trees, some are in full bloom, like this one, a hawthorn. Simply magical, shady and fragrant.