Mrs H and I spent the first half of September on holiday in Northumberland, exploring the beautiful coastline around Berwick-upon-Tweed. It was strange to be offline so much of the time! We had a very relaxing time, and I came back with enough photos to keep my Desktop Wallpaper project in business for the next 12 months. As I have been finding, the challenge now is figuring out how to publish it all … just because I already have enough photos doesn’t mean I’ve stopped using my camera since we got back!
Whilst we were gone, I’d queued up plenty of wallpapers and Merthyr Road articles for my readers, mostly a mixture of Summer Holiday 2009 shots and more railway stations … but also the first of the shots I’d taken with my latest favourite lens. Having already picked up a 24mm f/2.8 and 35mm f/1.8 lens to go with the 50mm f/1.4 lens, I’d finally completed my lens collection by getting a second-hand 80-200mm f/2.8 lens from eBay. It was less than a third of the cost of a brand-new 70-200mm lens, optically close enough for my needs, and oh yes, did I mention it was an f/2.8 lens?
I’ve fallen in love with this lens, and now do most of my photography at f/2.8 aperture. I got into fast glass to solve my problem of needing to shoot in low light, but now I love the creative freedom it offers … the ability to use depth of field to make my photo’s subject stand out. It really suits my enforced switch from landscape to more urban photography, and it has encouraged me to move further away from the photo journalistic attempts of the Merthyr Road project and more towards trying to make images that stand without narrative. Sadly, I’ve a long way to go before I achieve that, but at least I know without doubt that my kit is not the problem when I can’t pull it off.
September also saw the start of a new and so far occasional photography project: 25×9. Whilst on holiday, we’d ended up stumbling across a photography exhibition just outside Jedburgh. I can’t remember who the photographer was, sadly. Every single shot was just stunning, and part of his exhibition included prints taken by a Hasselblad XPAN camera. They were a wide-aspect chemical camera that fell foul of improvements to environmental legislation. I’d seen pictures taken by them in Amateur Photographer in the past, but seeing them up close and on the wall got me thinking. With no practical internet access, I started playing about with the photos I’d taken on holiday, trying to emulate the XPAN’s expansive feel, and ended up settling on a cropping ratio of 25×9.
October was, from my perspective, dominated by two main events: the PHPNW10 conference, and the first Wales Blog Awards.
Unsure about my knee injury, I hadn’t submitted any talks to PHPNW10 at all, and for the second year running was attending as a normal punter. I’d been very impressed by Rob Allen’s conference photography over the years, and decided that PHPNW10 would be where I took the plunge and gave it a go myself. I came away having learned two things: the Nikon D3s is the body to go for if you’re serious about trying to take decent photos in dark conference rooms, and that shooting people is something I need a lot more practice at. Oh, and the 35mm lens might be the cheapest I own, but it’s a surprisingly good walkabout portrait lens if you’re trying to take candids.
The Wales Blog Awards were a different beast altogether. Every blog that was nominated (I nominated my own blog; I don’t think anyone else nominated it) made the published long-list, and then … it got a bit weird. From my perspective, I’m afraid I didn’t understand the choices for most of the short-lists across the various categories. Looking through the short-listed blogs, I couldn’t see how they met the published awards criteria, which I’m sorry to say meant that the Wales Blog Awards lost all credibility to me at that point. (From conversations I’ve had since with other regulars on the Cardiff bloggers scene, I was in good company with my conclusions). I couldn’t tell you who won; the awards ceremony was held in private, and if the awards were announced on Twitter afterwards, I’m afraid that I missed the announcement completely.
I’ve held my tongue until now, but looking back for this review, I wish I’d spoken out at the time. I also think that, next year, the Wales blogging community should run the awards ourselves. I’m confident that, between us, we can run a much more credible and objective selection process than we saw happen this year.
Sadly, October saw the end of regular Merthyr Road articles. I still have a substantial archive of photos dating back several years to publish and blog about, but things have been so hectic at work since returning from holiday that something had to give. I’ve also come to realise that my mobility issues are compromising my original aims for the project, and I missed the long walks, the follow-up research and the longer publishing process of yesteryear. I plan on eventually working through my current archive to get it all published in time, but I don’t think I’ll be doing many more Merthyr Road photo shoots going forward.
To end on a positive note, I hit 300,000 views on Flickr towards the end of October.