I don't need much from a camera. Most of the features on a modern digital camera are not needed for the kind of slow photography I enjoy. I could live without auto exposure, autofocus, even an LCD screen. I hardly ever shoot video, and I tend to take one image at a time, so I have no real need for 10 frames per second. But there are two things I really like about modern digital cameras. The first is image stabilisation, to counteract my shaky hands, and the second is weather sealing. Not many cameras have good weather sealing, even quite expensive ones, but being able to take your gear out in the rain, and not worry about it, is worth any number of other headline features; a camera you have to keep in your bag during a rain shower is no good half the time in Northern Britain. The image above is of the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe. It's a wet and blowy sort of place, and this was a particularly wet and blowy Sunday afternoon. I was absolutely soaked through by the time I was finished, but the camera was fine.
Working from home, as I have for the past 20 years, you have to keep yourself moving. Most days I try to walk at least a brisk couple of miles, going straight out of the front door, but sometimes, if I have to take the car on some errand or other, I park up and walk from there. Back in October, I found myself near the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, on the Rufford Branch, which heads off north towards the River Douglas and the Ribble estuary, leaving the main canal to wend its way through Lancashire and Yorkshire to Leeds, 100 or so miles away. The combination of industrial architecture, and nature makes canals special. Out here in rural Lancashire, the waterway is a corridor of loose vegetation, a place for birds, and animals, cut through largely flat, intensive farmland. Here the bridges and lock gates seem like interlopers on a natural landscape, but of course the canal itself is a built environment, a remnant of the Industrial Revolution. This section was built in 1781. The Rufford Branch is still navigable, but on this bright morning I saw no boats, only the winter's first geese, and an occasional flash of fish. I used two different Kodak films, TMax 400, and Portra 400, and my favourite camera, the YashicaMat 124G, which takes square images.
On Tuesday October 24th, at the Open Eye gallery in Liverpool I'm going to be in conversation with poet Rebecca Goss about our ongoing collaboration, discussing the relationship between images and words, and what we've learned working together to produce a collection of poems and images. This project began several years ago as the Jupiter Project, but is has since developed into something more wide ranging and (we think) more interesting. This event is part of the gallery's Poetry and Photography series, and we'll be showing some of our new work, and talking about our process.
This is just for fun, but one of these images was taken with a Sigma SD Quattro H digital camera, and the other with a Yashica MAT 124G, using Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100 ASA film. The slight variations in angle of view are to do with the way the different cameras sit on the tripod, and I think the light changed a little between taking the pictures. I used the digital camera to expose for the silvery fallen log in both cases. They are obviously quite different, but then they have different lenses, different, and differently sized imaging sensors, and were built almost 40 years apart. I'm having a hard time deciding which one I prefer: the one contrasty and hard, the other velvety and soft. They were taken in Rydal Woods, in the Lake District, early one morning. Click to see them larger.