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From the Archive: Mist, Music and Memories

By |2019-06-26T11:08:12+01:00June 25th, 2019|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , |

For this month’s From the Archive post, we head back to Norfolk in 2009 where the weather was almost as surprising as the news.

Mist, Music and Memories

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death and the memories came flooding back. Where I was and what I was doing all come back to me with it all beginning the news of Jackson’s death. I’m not really a fan but as a child of the eighties, Michael’s music was a big part of my childhood and teenage years.

In June 2009 I was in Norfolk on a rather lovely farm campsite. After a very sticky morning run through the humid air, I remembered a tweet I’d seen before going to bed saying Jackson had been hurt and was in the hospital. It was when I checked the next morning that I found out via Twitter that Michael Jackson had died.

I was relatively new to Twitter in 2009 so that was the first time that social media had informed me of a major news story before the more traditional channels.

New Nokia

The tweet had been viewed on my first smartphone – The Nokia 5800. The phone itself was great with decent features for the time and a Carl Zeiss lens on the camera. Not so great was the Symbian operating system that must count as one of the worst operating systems I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter. Smart it was not. It wasn’t that intuitive either.

Nevertheless, the 3.2 Megapixels camera was pretty good and provided a good introduction to smartphone photography. Sadly there wasn’t much in the way of photography apps for Symbian though. I’d have to wait for the iPhone to get my hands on some good photography apps.

[Video] Boats moored at high tide – Blakeney, Norfolk 2009

Weather Cycle

Probably the most memorable aspect from ten years ago was the weather. Norfolk has a very diverse range of weather but the changes followed the same pattern for around ten days. You had absolutely no need to listen to a forecast. The fog coming in and out reminded me of the classic 1978 John Carpenter film ‘The Fog’ where a ghostly fog would roll in from the sea.

The mornings would start off very humid and misty with the sea fret remaining in place until late afternoon. On an evening a storm would arrive that would clear the air and then the cycle would start again with mist arriving back for the morning again. You could almost set your watch to it.

Blakeney Pic

The image at the top of the post was taken in the late evening at Blakeney after a storm had cleared away the mist. The light and moody cloud in the background give an indication that the mist was starting to build up again. The humidity would build overnight and by the morning you felt like you could cut the air with a knife.

Blakeney is a charming village on the north Norfolk coastline that is incredibly popular with tourists. The car park is usually always pretty busy but Blakeney provides plenty of space to unwind. A walk along by the river Glaven always helps to recharge the batteries.

The eerie sea fret at Cromer Pier, Norfolk 2009

Ten Years On

A decade on and the images show their technological age – though not as much as the video does. No High definition. The camera sensor was only 3.2 megapixels and in low light, the results weren’t great. In good light, though the camera produced good results.

The Carl Zeiss lens was superb though and something I missed when I moved onto the iPhone in 2012. The Zeiss lens was as sharp as a tack and it let enough light in to photograph most scenes. Twinned with a good camera sensor I think it would have been a formidable combination.

Back in 2009, I was just starting to use social media. I’d started using Twitter in January of that year and was feeling my way. It was exciting. Ten years later and my social media has grown to include Instagram. Now though I have periods of abstention to avoid burnout.

In 2015 the Norfolk 2009 images were added to Instagram as a way of archiving these early mobile images. The images can be viewed HERE

From the Archive: Final Frames

By |2018-09-28T16:45:02+01:00September 28th, 2018|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , |

This image is one of the final frames shot during a project documenting the Territorial Army – renamed the Army Reserve in 2014 . I was just about to get a lift back to the Squadron’s HQ when i saw this scene of an AK assault rifle hung on the back of an army truck. Two or three frames were quickly shot, a few words exchanged with some of the soldiers and i was back in an Army Land Rover heading back to the HQ.

Over twenty years later, the image remains a favourite. For me, it sums up the subtle blend of military and civilian life in the Territorial Army.  The dented stainless steel Boots flask placed next to an assault rifle seems slightly out of place. It’s an object more likely to be taken to a picnic or to the work place than the battlefield. Ironically, after photographing helicopters flying overhead, troops dashing around and engaging insurgents hidden in the trees, it’s the peaceful tone of the still life image that appeals to me most.

In the years since the image was shot, the Territorial army faced an uncertain future only to find a new lease of life in the post 9/11 world. T.A soldiers served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and are increasingly taking on a bigger role with the British Army as consecutive UK governments attempt to ‘balance’ already financially strained defence budgets. Rather than reduce the army reserve, it now looks as though the plan is to expand the reservist numbers and their role within the Army.

Revisiting the image for this post, i came across a rather nice 16×12 print of the image made by my own hand in a darkroom many years ago. It’s now hanging on a wall in my house. The Territorial army project might be over twenty years old, but it remains a benchmark for my work as a photographer. It’s certainly a project i’d really like to revisit again.

The photography project Territorial Army can be found at https://www.richardflintphoto.com/portfolio/territorial-army/

From the Archive: The Climbing Photographer

By |2018-08-17T22:03:38+01:00August 17th, 2018|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , , |

A man climbing on a gate and fence to photograph two highland cows  at Trossachs Wollen Mill, Kilmahog near Callander in Perthshire, Scotland

After the rather serious tone of last month’s archive post, i thought this month would have a little photo humour from 2013. The photograph, shot using an iPhone 3GS, is of an over keen photographer trying to get a clear shot of Hamish the Highland Bull. His discarded walking stick rests against the fence.

This photo was taken at the Trossachs Wollen Mill in Kilmahog near Callander, Perthshire during a trip up to the Highlands of Scotland in September 2013. The rather adventurous photographer was part of a coach tour and had decided that a bit of elevation was needed to get a good shot of Hamish the Highland bull. It took him a few, rather unsteady attempts, to finally get himself in place but he eventually got his photos. The advantages of climbing up didn’t actually appear that great to me.

The town of Callander is worth mentioning. The small Scottish town is on the eastern gateway to the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and on the edge of the Highlands. Callander is often referred to as ‘the gateway to the Highlands’. As such it’s a popular town, busy with tourists either visiting Callander or making their way to the Highlands. I stayed overnight in 2014 and had an enjoyable but brief explore down by the River Teith. After Callander, you start the atmospheric climb up into the mountains of the Highlands.

A group of people looking at a Highland cow at Trossachs Wollen Mill, Kilmahog near Callander in Perthshire, Scotland
Not Hamish! A Highland cow with fans – Trossach Wollen Mill at Kilmahog, Scotland

A mile up the road from Callander,  the Trossachs Wollen Mill provides another welcome rest stop oasis for the weary traveller. Whether heading to or coming back from the Highlands, it’s used by coach tours, cars and bikers alike. It’s perfectly placed as a stop to stretch the legs, get some food and plan the next part of your journey. The Woollon Mill features a very busy restaurant and excellent gift shop packed full of Scottish souvenirs. The headline act, however, has to be the very popular, hairy and iconic highland cattle.

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Hamish the Highland cow

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Hamish the Highland bull was undoubtedly the star and most likely, the most photographed bull on the planet! He’d even pose for you! Seeing coach tours of people trying to photograph the superstar bull was funny, if slightly surreal experience. The lengths that people would go to always surprised me – the climbing photographer being a good example! When you think about it, there must be thousands of photographs of Hamish all over the world!

Sadly Hamish died in 2014 at the very grand age of almost 23. He was, apparently, the oldest bull in the UK and the second oldest in the world. The average lifespan is around 14 years. The Trossachs Wollen Mill’s other Highland cattle, Honey and Hamish Dubh, a black Highland Bull, carry on the good work.

From the Archive: Walking the Dog

By |2018-07-19T11:27:36+01:00July 17th, 2018|Categories: The Test Strip Photoblog|Tags: , , , , , , |

A couple walking their dog on the beach near Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk, UK

This is an image from 2016 but only just been recently added to the Norfolk gallery. Just viewing this photograph puts me back in a year that i’d rather forget, though that feeling is starting to fade with the passage of time.

Nearly two years ago, I ended up going on an unplanned trip to Norfolk for a week. My mother, who’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer just a few months before, had wanted one last final family holiday even though her own health was failing at a terrifying pace. We all needed a break after the months of bad news stacked on bad news. No silver lining had appeared. No miracle was going to occur. Emotionally we were all exhausted. Burnt out.

With hindsight we should have made the decision to holiday a lot earlier, but the chemotherapy and other hospital visits had made the possibility of getting away impossible. With the chemotherapy cancelled due to my mother’s weak health, the opportunity arose to take that holiday at the end of September 2016. Very quickly we made the decision to go to Norfolk and, as it happened, we made it just in the nick of time. Within a week or two of our return my mother would be incapable of travelling anywhere.

The ‘holiday’ took place in September 2016 and went better than I could have imagined. The change of scene did us all good even though my mother didn’t have the physical strength to get about that much. Norfolk had been an old family holiday favourite so it was a friendly and familiar place. Best of all, the travel distances involved were not huge. It was an escape, if only just a partial one, that enabled us all to relax us a little bit.

Sand blowing over the beach near Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk

I’d visited the beach near Burnham Overy Staithe on numerous occasions and taken one or two good images there including the photo of the man walking along the beach (carrying his boots) in a thick sea fret. Happy memories. To get there you have to walk along a winding path, probably about a couple of miles from the harbour car park at Burnham Overy Staithe. On a calm late summer evening, it’s a great way to enjoy the view, listen to the sounds of the Norfolk coast and soak up some fresh sea air. Peace. Bliss. Escape.

A strong but warm wind blew across the beach which seemed to blow all the worries away. The strong wind didn’t deter other visitors from enjoying the beach and it was those people that i concentrated the camera on. Photography is a great therapy. It can provide a purpose and an mental distraction just when you most need it. The instinctive mental process of looking for photos blocked out any other thoughts. I see a shot. One couple were particularly enjoying the vast expanse of space, their dog energetically chasing a thrown bright red ball again and again across the sand.

Chasing the red ball - a dog runs after a thrown red ball on a beach near Burnham Overy Staither, Norfolk, UK
Chasing the red ball – Norfolk Beach

The wind was incredibly strong and did cause some problems keeping the camera steady, but the light was bright so i did have a wide variety of shutter speeds to choose from. One thing i did want to capture was the movement of the fast moving sand so i tended to keep the shutter speed as low as i dare – around 1/80s @ f/22 for the top dog walking image, moving up to 1/250s @ f/11 for the lower red ball image.

The dog walkers were among the last pictures taken on the beach before i walked the couple of miles back to the car park.

The camera was a Nikon D3 using a 80-200mm Nikon f2.8 lens.

More images from the Norfolk project can be found HERE