Posted on Leave a comment

Compact or mobile phone?

Shades Of London blog pic
f/3.5 Shutter speed 1/370 ISO64

A belated happy new year to you!

With my old mobile phone on its last legs (it was worth a princely £4 if I was to trade it in) I recently spent a while thinking about the options for a new one.

The sales guy in the shop told me about the amazing photos that the Huawei P20 Pro took. But I wondered if I’d be better off getting a cheaper phone and putting the savings towards a compact camera. I’d then be able to have something on me all the time when I’ve left my DSLR at home.

I’ve found the older I get the less decisive I am. I’ve decided to move country in less time than it now takes me to buy a continental quilt off the internet. There are too many choices and too many reviews. And now I had two decisions to make. What mobile phone to get and what would be the best compact camera, should I go down that route? Nightmare.

After about six days of reading reviews and getting deeper and deeper into a brain maze, I decided to go for the P20 Pro. I’ve taken a few shots with it and on first glance, they do look pretty good. The files are a hefty size so there’s a lot of information in there it would seem, but do they stand up to scrutiny against even a modest compact camera?

Nikon Coolpix captured by Huawei P20 Pro
Trusty old compact, captured here with Huawei P20 Pro.

I’ll do a bit more shooting and address that in a later post. Thinking about it led me to dig out some of my earliest photos, taken with my Nikon Coolpix 5200. I bought it around 2005/2006 and it had a whopping 5.1 megapixels. The Huawei P20 Pro boasts 40 megapixels and Leica lenses.

I was a wee bit sceptical about the picture phone but the photos do look very impressive on screen.

Nikon Coolpix close up
P20 Pro on Night setting (during the day) captures amazing detail. It’s an HDR effect so not something I’d use in my regular photography.

For printing out, the sunglasses picture with my wee point-and-shoot was able to be blown up to a decent A3 print (and around 90cm on a canvas) and still look very good. It’ll be interesting to see if the P20 Pro can do the same.

I still like this photo, shot in Camden Town in 2006. It was one of the ones, amid a sea of throwaway pictures, that gave me a bit of a buzz at the beginning.

I’d noticed the bus with the eye on it approaching. I’d already clocked the sunglasses in the days before and had asked the vendor if he’d be okay with me taking a picture. Sometimes you need a bit of luck too, and this time it was just a case of waiting for the bus to arrive and for the eye on the advert to be reflected in the glasses.

I’d had a couple of bits of advice at the time as I started off. ‘Fill the frame’ was one of them, so I maybe had that in mind here.

There was no manual set up on that camera, but it still records the ISO, f-stop and shutter speed from the programme settings, as above.

I’ll be back soon with some observations about how the P20 Pro is shaping up.

Posted on Leave a comment

Ice Cold in Airdrie

Ice Cold in Airdrie
Golden Silvery (f/13, 1/125, ISO100)

It’s looking like we could be in for a bit of snow this weekend, after a danger to life warning was issued. This comes amid grim forecasts of an Arctic blast that could give us our snowiest winter for 70 years.

When I moved back to Scotland, in 2009, winter hit early. The Big Freeze, as they called it, was the worst winter in over 30 years and seemed to go on for months. However, the next winter was apparently the worst since records began. Cheers, Scotland!

Airdrie and Coatbridge in 2009 whiteout
Airdrie and Coatbridge 2009 whiteout (f/9, 1/125, ISO200)

At the time I was staying in Airdrie, which is pretty high up. This meant that when the snow cleared in Glasgow, or even in Coatbridge about a mile away downhill, our scheme still looked like Stalingrad. The temperature dipped to about -15 and the icicles dangling from the gutters would surely be a wee bit stabby if they fell on you.

I was stricken with double pneumonia, or bird flu, or a cold at least. But, with the trees and the hedges in the back garden sparkling with a rare hoar frost, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. So, I chucked on a few layers and crunched through the snow for the woods, up by Airdrie golf course.

Frozen pipes
Early 2010… but next winter would be colder (f/3.2, 1/125, ISO200)

There was no wind and it was eerily quiet, with only the odd dog walker around for company.

The trees looked amazing. I didn’t have winter photography gloves, so I had to remove my regular ones for each photo in order to quickly try to take the shot. Pretty quickly my hands were freezing, to the point where I couldn’t use my fingers properly anymore. I had a metal tripod too, but that was being used more as a stick to help me keep my feet. I used it for a couple of shots and it was like an ice conductor straight into the veins.

‘Blue with the Cold’ and ‘Golden Silvery’, taken with half an hour and probably 50 yards between them, were the last two pictures of the day. That was me done. I knew I had to get up the road. I was dreaming of getting my feet into a basin of hot water, a memory from my old days as a paperboy in winter.

Blue with the Cold
Blue with the Cold (f/6.3, 1/80, ISO100)

I decided that rather than go back the way I came, I’d take a shortcut across the burn, which would have been frozen solid anyway. The only problem was getting back up the other side of the valley. I’m not sure all the extra layers were helping by this point as they had probably trebled my weight. Plus, I had my camera on my back. Remember Weebles wobbles but they don’t fall down? This one did, a number of times.

These days, someone would have caught the whole shambles on a smartphone.  Maybe, the last of the dogwalkers, the pair of them rolling about in the snow laughing at me. But the deafening silence reminded it was just me, with only my breathing and muttered swearing intruding on the scene.

I knew could have followed the burn but it was getting dark by this point. My hands and feet were like lead and that basin of hot water was calling out to me.

After another few comedy attempts, I finally managed to scramble up the hill with the aid of the tripod. I’d lost my sunglasses in one of the slides back down. This was a big hill, massive… we’re talking at least 15-20ft high.

It wasn’t quite Touching The Void levels of endurance, but people have been known to drown in a puddle of water so I was glad to be on my way. The hoar frost was nice though and  I never saw Airdrie look so stunning. If you get any this weekend, grab your camera and get out there.

I will be adding more prints and products all the time. You can also follow on Instagram or Twitter for updates.
Posted on 1 Comment

First post

Photo of Glasgow pothole and The Scream

Hi there

This is my first blog post and I’m not sure exactly what direction it will go in over time. What I’m thinking is that while I have some photos for sale here, I have a whole load more that aren’t for sale for various reasons, but I might still like to post them. It could be a street shot, a news photo or whatever.

I thought maybe giving a bit of background to images would help too, perhaps even just a couple of paragraphs.

So, for instance, I see this bunch of potholes I pass almost every day on my bike or walking into Glasgow. Sometimes it makes me think of some unfortunate whose last words were, ‘I wish the ground would open up and swallow me’. Other times it makes me think of The Scream by Edvard Munch. Maybe it depends on whether it’s the start of the day or just after last orders…

When I started taking photos, I didn’t have much of a clue about the relationship between the f-stop, shutter speed and the ISO. And even after a couple of years of owning a DSLR, I still was pretty much in the dark. I thought it was all a bit technical and would rather just go out with the camera and take pictures.

I might post about some of that, or composition, or just a memory about something surrounding the image. Part of the reason is that it might help me find my way back into writing. I have a novel sitting waiting to be edited, for one thing.

In fact, one of the reasons I got into photography in the first place was to help with my writing. I was heading off on a holiday to Senegal and bought small point-and-shoot. I thought if I captured some of the sights and sounds (I underestimated the size of memory card I might need to record video) I might write about the experiences later.

It turned out I got more and more into photography, but I did eventually start writing again. I find that it can be handy that, if one creative outlet isn’t doing it at a particular moment, then