On Tuesday December 10th I went to the British Library in London to receive the 2019 Michael Marks Award for illustration of a poetry pamphlet. I’ve written a bit more about this over on my photography website chrisroutledge.pictures, but the short version is that this was for the photographs in Carousel, my collaboration with poet Rebecca Goss, published by Guillemot Press.
Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales, at 1085 metres, and probably the busiest mountain in the British Isles. For a century or more now there has been a refreshment hut at the summit, recently upgraded to something akin to a motorway service station, only busier, and full of exhausted, soaking wet people covered in mud. There is a gift shop, but unless you are taking the train, you will need to think about the weight of whatever memorabilia you take home. These two boys had obviously done it the hard way.
When you visit a zoo or a wildlife park it is often difficult to take pictures of the animals. If you’re not careful all you get is a picture of the cage with the animal somewhere hidden in the background. But with a little planning it is possible to get rid of the fencing at least enough so you can see the animal and perhaps crop a decent picture from your shot. The picture above was taken through a fence at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre at Martin Mere in West Lancashire. The blurred green lines are the fence and are actually in front of the bird. Had the bird been further back from the fence it would have disappeared almost completely, as in the picture below where all you can see is a slight lack of definition in the lower quarter of the image–that’s the fence.
This works best if you use a DSLR camera, but many compact cameras give you some control over how the picture is taken and you can get good results. There are three key things you need to think about.
First, if your camera doesn’t have manual focus, make sure the autofocus is fixed on the animal itself and not the bars of the cage. You’ll have to keep trying to get a fix on your subject, especially if the holes in the wire are small. Get in as close to the fence as you can. Switch off the flash so it doesn’t reflect off the bars.
Second, make the depth of field as shallow as possible so that everything in front of the animal and everything behind is out of focus. You can do this by opening the aperture as wide as possible. If your camera gives you some manual control turn the dial to ‘A’ or ‘Av’ (Aperture Priority) and make the f-number as small as you can.
Third, use the longest zoom you can lay your hands on; these were taken with a 300mm equivalent zoom lens with the aperture at f5.6. As I said above, this will work best on a DSLR, but I’ve had success in the past even with a Canon compact camera.
There are only a few places in Britain where you can see red squirrels in the wild. Most have been driven out by the larger American grey squirrel. I snapped this one last weekend at Whinfell Forest near Penrith, Cumbria. I’m pleased it worked out so well shooting handheld in low light with a long-ish lens. Click the picture to make it bigger.
Line this one up with the Walker Evans’s dustbowl images and Armstrong on the moon. We see a lot of images these days, but the great ones are just as great. This one by Janis Krums, taken on his iPhone.
I was at the launch of Stories from the City last night at the Redwood Expresso café on Clarence Street–and what a great bunch of people I met there. This morning I’ve been reading the book itself and among the great writing in there is a piece by copywriter Michael Sellars celebrating Liverpool’s rough edges and making a plea that ‘the pattern is not licked off the plate’ in the city’s enthusiasm for renewal. The piece struck me because it gives the example of the Futurist Cinema (built in 1912), a Liverpool landmark that is ‘not pretty but beautiful’. It’s one of my favourite buildings; a case for preservation if ever there was one, but how lovely it looks in its glorious decay.