What’s the problem here?

Part of my problem right now is that this all appears to be directionless and haphazard and without any sense of focus or narrative. Or even theme.

It’s all very well calling it ‘ordinary’ or whatever (now there’s a name that’s aleardy taken), but if it’s just a load of ‘pretty’ photographs with no narrative or explanation or coherence, then what’s the point?

Who’s it aimed at? Why am I doing it?

I’ve asked this of myself many times over the past ten years or so. It’s now got to the point where I’m more concerned with how this all looks rather than what the content is. A big red flag.

I used to not care of course.

Hang on a minute. Most of the people I respect and take inspiration from in the fields of artistic expression (casting my net wide here) never gave a shit / a fuck about what anyone thought. In fact that was largely the point. I wanted to not gove a shit/ a fuck. But I had to come to terms with my upbringing. Not straight-laced, but where what people thought was very important. Rejecting and rebelling against that has been a perrenial challenge, to say the least, since I was about ten.

That’s only half the issue though – the real one is the lack of narrative / theme.

COUM. Schmuck.

It’s Genesis P-Orridge. Schmuck magazine. 1974. COUM.

I went all the way to Bexhill-on-Sea at the weekend for the Bridget Riley The Curve Paintings 1961-2014 exhibition at the De La Warr Pavillion. That exhibition was so good that we (Emily, Sue and I) actually went to it twice on Saturday and Sunday (it was a small exhibition that hugely benefitted from being free and open-access). It was the Guardian’s review that took me to the exhibition.

It just so happened that upstairs there was another exhibition entitled ‘Towards an alternative history of graphic design Schmuck, POP, bRIAN, Assembling‘ (you can read the Guardian’s review). Not sure what I was expecting but as soon as I started looking and reading, I started expecting to see mention of the (notorious?) COUM Organisation. In the context of these magazines though, they were just another ‘underground’ voice / agitator. And the picture of Gen? Well, he’s recognisable anywhere.


First impressions of the X100T (in Verona)

Just back from a three day trip to Verona with my new X100T that I’d only had for two days when I arrived.

I only have one job right now... Get to Verona and shot some stuff. #x100t #street

I’d spent those two precious days reading the manual – invaluable – to discover some very cool stuff (I always read camera manuals because they now do so much that there is always some weird stuff hidden in obscure menus / the fab stuff that you’d never learn about..). Like the fact that auto-ISO can be set up so that (when in aperture priority mode) the shutter speed drops below a certain value (in my case it’s set at 1/60) the ISO is increased incrementally as the shutter speed goes down, up to a preset maximum ISO. Genius. This maybe how all auto-ISO features work, but it was news to me and as a result of reading the manual.


Having read much about the film simulation, I set it up for RAW+JPG with the Jpegs set on the much raved about Classic Chrome. This was despite the fact that before Classic Chrome came in with the T, Velvia was the go to mode…


I normally work in aperture priority mode and it was a breeze using the exposure compensation dial – through experience more than anything – to capture amazing shots. Blown highlights are a thing of the past!


I used slow flash a few times (I normally avoid flash – in fact I have avoided the obscene harshness of flash these past 30+ years). But it was a revelation (I’d read that it was good). The images are natural and non-flashy / red-eyery.

Classic Chrome? Sooooo creamy and dreamy! Whilst on my travels I exported some Classic Chrome Jpegs to my iPad and did the merest hint of tweaking in Snapseed (to fix some of my exposure compensation overzealousness) and the results are simply stunning. Straight OOTC with the X100T is amazing.


WiFi? Faultless and effortless. It’s well-designed enough to enable the rapid transfer of images to an iPad / iPhone for upload to Facebook / Instagram which went down very well with my fellow travellers (and me). And I’ve used it a lot. In fact I’ve decided that my Instagram photos are only going to come from the X100T simply because it’s so quick and easy.




It’s small, light, unobtrusive, and easy to use when carrying an umbrella in the rain with a shoulder bag.

It’s just right for, of course, carrying everywhere (why I got it) – even to breakfast.

The Q menu is so easy to use and to customise. Once I’d set it up the camera with a few global custom setups, it was fantastic – mainly to change the auto ISO thing to a higher ISO. In actual fact though, why would you not have the intelligent auto ISO thing set up for 200-3200 (1/60) as standard? It’s going to cover you for most situations right? Maybe with a slower shutter speed? Maybe set a default of 200-3200 (1/30)? That’s 95% of all shooting situations covered.

I used it invariably with the optical viewfinder without that really, really annoying zoomed-in-digital-corner thing (probably useful if you manual focus which I haven’t tried yet).

Ultimately what I love about this little machine is that the way that it *is* (it’s form-factor; its layout), is impacting how I take photographs. It’s the simple way that the aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation controls are placed; the clever Q menu; the extraordinary viewfinder… It just takes me back to how I took photos in the 1980s with my OM-1. Tactile. Sensual. Engaging. Connected. Intelligent. Thoughtful. Desirable. Inspirational.



Dead roses. It’s about the texture.

We get a lot of flowers in this house (mostly given – thank you!). Ok, it’s (just) quite a few. And most of them are garden flowers in beautiful little posies. Guilt trip over.

Whenever we get flowers though, I photograph them with devout enthusiasm. They are of course intensely, iconically and beautifully photogenic. And a cliche.

These dead roses came from Rebecca and while they ‘lasted’ (a very loaded term), they remained beautiful, as you see here, for a very long time afterwards. They didn’t arrive as dead roses of course.

Lasted. What does that mean? It usually means the amount of time before they are dumped to the compost bin, here though it’s as long as they hang out in the kitchen – we’re very slow to get rid simply because they remain a positive decoration.

Yellow roses

Yellow roses

Dynamic range without HDR – it’s more natural

After far too long, I’ve started properly compensating for the way that digital works in order to get much better dynamic range, and also to have everything in the image correctly exposed – it’s amazing what a difference it makes! I’m now fully acknowledging the simple film vs. digital truth: that for film we used to expose for the shadows, and for digital we expose for the highlights. I’ve always done this to a degree with digital – in fact my old 5D was permanently set to underexpose – but only by 1/3rd of a stop.

Underexpose to get dynamic range

With my Olympus OM-D EM-1, I’m regularly underexposing by 0.7, 1.0… 2.0 stops – and all by using the histogram and looking at the image after shooting on the camera’s screen. It’s all very obvious really when you see the red “IT’S  OVEREXPOSED YOU DUMMY” sky flashing at you.

I’ve been doing it more simply because it’s easier to do on the EM-1 when you can configure a wheel control to do it. I’m looking forward to the X100T arriving knowing that there’s a DEDICATED control for it.

Why +/- 3 stops?

And you have to ask yourself, why would camera makers offer the ability, via a dedicated control, to under- and overexpose by +/- 3 stops if it wasn’t frequently necessary to do so?

Anyway, onto the shot below. It’s taken from my kitchen… through the dining / seating area… to the windows and out to the garden.

It’s not necessarily a great photo – I took it to illustrate a point (and to be able to show my grandchildren how old-fashioned our kitchen was in 2015… in “the olden days”). And the point is that it’s relatively easy to get a very wide dynamic range by exposing for the highlights and ‘developing for the shadows’. The exact opposite of what we used to do in 35mm-land. and all without any “HDR trickery”.


If you look at the EXIF data for the shot on Flickr, you can see that it was underexposed by 5 (!) stops: “Exposure Bias -5 EV” and then amongst other trickery in Lightroom, it got +5 stops of exposure compensation. That’s quite a dynamic range! Yes, I know that image quality has suffered somewhat but at least it’s not an ‘HDR image’ (urggggh!), but it works.

It looks unnatural of course because our brains are saying… Hang on a minute – that’s my job… to compensate for the dynamic range discrepancy that photography can’t capture which is why so many photographs are rubbish because you expect them to be as your eye saw that scene…

Have a go and let me know what you think!

Kitchen diner with good dynamic range