Until July 2017, documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say! Meanwhile . . . I've now moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire. Click on the link below to collect the new URL. Don't forget to follow there!

Saturday, 1 April 2017


Alexanders flower. (Smyrnium olusatrum)
My camera is irreparable so they've sent me a new one. And it's not just a new camera it's a different model. My old camera is not only bust but extinct.

The first camera I ever used (the first proper camera) was a Canon. I'd hit on the idea that I'd like to hold a photographic exhibition about life in a factory so I phoned an arts organisation and asked if I could borrow a camera. They were very enthusiastic and lent me a good one. They were very trusting. And I was very . . . very . .  ambitious would you say?

I couldn't afford to do a course in how to develop the film or print in black and white so I agreed with a friend that she'd take the course and show me what she'd learned. The plan worked. While a large group of students beavered away in the teaching lab. I caught up with their last week's lessons in the little lab. next door. Even better, the teacher found out what I was doing and while the large class worked through their latest exercise he'd come through to see how I was getting on. And he'd stop awhile to talk about photography until he reckoned they'd had enough time to complete their task.

Next I had to work out how to take good pictures of people while they were at work. Wandering around a factory floor would already be distracting and using a flash would compound the problem. So a friend's daughter (who happened to be a professional landscape photographer) showed me how to up-rate the film (now we're all digital there's no particular reason to explain what this means - except I could take crisp pictures in a low light even when people were moving) . . . she then got the film developed at a professional developers and helped me evening after evening after evening to print my pictures huge enough to display. Then I had my exhibition.

Talk about a grand beginning!

After that, I had to save to buy my own cameras and the challenge has been that I can't decide on a subject and style then buy a camera to match - I have to have to adapt what I photograph according to what the kind of camera I can afford to buy can do. (And where I live, of course.) Which is why I landed up taking pictures of leaves instead of factories. I suppose my addiction is to seeing and as long as I'm seeing something interesting it doesn't matter too much what it is. That isn't exactly, exactly true but it's near enough.

Alexanders leave with Alexanders Rust. (Smyrnium olusatrum with Pucinnia smyrnii)
And being of modest means, I've always had to put a lot of work into researching before purchasing. Now I was being sent 'an unknown' so a stage was missing - and I didn't like it. Something emotional had gone adrift. An email gave a tracking code so I followed the progress of the parcel from Watford to Barking. (Barking?!) And from Barking to Southampton. (Southampton!?) And eventually, having had its own little holiday wandering around the south of England, it arrived. It should have been a moment of joy but I couldn't bring myself to open the box. It sat there and sat there until in the end I pulled back the tape and took out the camera and fiddled around with it a bit . . . then ranted crossly around the house because, I reckoned, it was rubbish. I didn't like it. It was almost unbearable. It was this or nothing - and I didn't like the 'this'.

As forbearing readers will know, my glasses broke around the same time as my camera.
Opticians appointment.
I waltzed in.
Any problems with my eyes?
No. Just that I needed new glasses.
But there was no significant change in the prescription.
I have the beginning of cataracts.
"Oh?" I said airily, treating this as a matter of general interest rather than immediate concern, not yet registering the reason I can't see properly isn't because I need new glasses but that my vision is itself already a bit blurred. I asked how long it takes for cataracts to get really bad. Eight years? said the optician. Or twenty? Can't tell. But however long it takes there's nothing that can be done about it. Just one of those things everyone knows but no-one understands.

The next thing I did was to buy a really good cup of coffee and a specially delicious caramel shortbread with real chocolate on top. (Whoever invented cooking chocolate was a fool.)

Alexanders stem. Alexanders leave with Alexanders Rust. (Smyrnium olusatrum)
And now I'm falling in love with my camera . . . and getting obsessed with focus. Knowing what a picture really looks like is a bit awkward with a laptop. The angle of the screen, the brightness, whether it's my laptop or yours . .  so many variables. So now I angle my head from side to side and wonder what the picture really looks like. I don't want to exaggerate . . . but I can't really tell . . . if I look at the screen sideways from the right . .  is that how you will see the veins in the leaves best too? Just about? Or from the left? And the patches missing? I'd been thinking I had mild-migraine vision. Who wouldn't have a migraine if their phone, their glasses and their camera all broke at once? But I suppose it isn't a migraine. My eyes are simply getting fed up with bright lights.

It's interesting how a little bit of information changes the way one sees the world - literally.

Once I'd digested the caramel shortbread . .  and resisted the temptation to go back for more the next day . .  I began thinking about what that 'eight years' or 'twenty years' will bring. If my sight will slowly but inevitably go fuzzy, what do I want most to see? What do I most want to do with my camera? Which is more important - the line of the horizon or a grain of pollen? It's too easy to say 'everything' or 'both' because I'm a bit of a specialist. I like to know where my focus lies. (Focus. Ha!) And I want to get the most out of my camera while there's a point in having one. So how I set it up . . . and how I use it . . . becomes a bit philosophical. I'm struggling a bit. I'm asking myself what right do I have to see? Not everyone can. Not everyone has a camera.

The thing about this new camera (now I've stopped running up and down saying it's rubbish - which it isn't) is that it's easier to set the focus in odd places . . . and although I haven't (yet?) managed to get it to take pictures of pollen or anything with specially impressive close-up detail, it's easier now to play with depth of field as well as centre of interest. So I pottered out this afternoon and messed around with random pictures of Alexanders. One can get used to everything in the end. I think. No. I don't think that. Not everything. But I'm getting used to my camera and already it's my friend.


Caroline Gill said...

I'm pretty much in the same boat as you regards cataracts... but further down the line. However, my vision is fine for much of what I want to see (often with glasses...) most of the time. So glad you have a camera - perfect time of year to be out and about with it, and the leaves on our willow are breaking out almost as we watch.

Marie Smith said...

Your journey to surgery for cataracts may be a long road. I never considered how cataracts would affect photography. This aging business is all about adaptation to changing conditions and some adaptations are easier than others. Eyesight is a tough one for sure!

WILLIE........! =^..^= said...

You've got to see the funny side....
Well..I've never read so much about a camera..Ever! :).
And..it ALL went over the top of my head, as do most
things technical...Weeeeeeee! Click! :).

I have a Brownie 127...Remember! No film in it..but it
looks good around my neck, and great as a conversations
piece! HeHe! And, l still have the case..It belong to
my Mum originally..So, it must be a hundred years old! :0).

Never mind Lucy...Seems ALL your photos look great, no matter
what you use to take them...And..l love the seaside ones the
most! "Oh! l do like to be beside the...."
"Willie! not now". "Sorry". :0).

sue catmint said...

I agree with Willie, Lucy, all your photos are fabulous. But this post does make me think about how hard it is to continually adjust to change and the unpredictability of life. Of course without change, how boring it would be! I have had one cataract removed and another one slowly growing. My eyesight changed and I can't see through the viewfinder without my glasses, but I've got used to it now. Enjoy your new camera-friend!

Countryside Tales said...

What a thought-provoking post. My eyes need glasses these days but I've got used to that. They also don't like bright light (natural but especially artificial). My own feeling is that we're an adaptable species and we make adjustments in time to new ways of doing things. My new camera has limitations where the old one didn't, but also capacity the old one didn't have. I'm just about used to it after two years :o) but I was Quite Grumpy about it for a while. I also have two tiny Alexander seedlings I sowed last autumn and am nurturing as food plants....

liz said...

After its saunter around the south of England, it appears the camera has landed in good hands. Your pictures are fabulous. An interesting discourse on how we see things. (At one point my cataracts were so bad, I couldn't read road signs with my glasses on!. Then I had surgery.)

Gardens at Waters East said...

Aah yes, the onward march of the years on each of us. We do learn to adapt - just like the plants and animals - or survival ends. I don't want that yet! jajajaja. Enjoy the new camera and in time - you will love what you can do with it and what it does for you. Jack

sue catmint said...

your photos are excellent, Lucy, and I am pleased you have made friends with your new camera. Sometimes the camera picks up things up we wouldn't see otherwise. It is interesting how what we see evolves over time, as we change our minds. Maybe our sharper observation skills can compensate for our failing eyesight?

Pat Tillett said...

I really enjoyed this post. Great photos and interesting words.
Have you ever had those factory photos scanned? Maybe posted?
It would be interesting to see those photos...