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fenfotos’s latest blog : black and white squares 6


Black and White Squares 6

25 Oct 2021 2:31PM  
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Unique : 45

This week our Sunday walk was through Milton village to Milton Country park.


I did not expect to be writing anything this week, as we had our granddaughter staying with us for the weekend. So, it was very much a case of snatching photos for this blog, as and when I could, in between pushing swings; saving fellow pedestrians from a five year old on a bike who thought she was in the Tour de France; and taking photographs for the the family album.

One problem I thought I might have, was switching my Panasonic TZ70 between the normal aperture priority, colour, four by three mode and ‘dynamic monochrome’ square image mode. In the event, this was not a problem – just a quick turn on the mode wheel did the trick.

What was more of a problem, was switching thinking. For instance, I routinely expose to the right as far as I dare. For this blog, using images straight out of the camera, exposure has to be balanced. Inattention to this, resulted in my first picture being far more high key than I would like. But to be fair, I would not have noticed this relief in the plaster, had I not been bending down to the granddaughter as it is only about three feet above the ground. The relief is on the exterior plaster work on the seventeenth century Queen Anne’s Lodge in Milton village.


This next image is a close up of the carving on a new wooden sculpture at the main entrance to the park. First impressions, are that the sculpture offers lots of opportunity for abstract close ups, which I will investigate on a less pressurised day.


If I was dissatisfied with the exposure of my first image, I was really happy with the tones in this third image of variegated ivy. I would have thought I had done well with this result if I had converted from a raw photograph.


Similarly, I have tried many times to photograph the dens which are now such a feature of our woodlands. They tend to be in various states of disrepair and always look interesting. But I have always found it difficult to get a good separation between the den and its background which is invariably cluttered. I think that that separation has been achieved rather well in this image, and as such it probably represents one of my best attempts at capturing this subject.


Finally, when I set out on Sunday, I thought that I could photograph some birds. Milton Country Park consists of disused gravel pits filled with water which support a fair population of birds. But the swans stayed resolutely in the middle of the pits, and buried their heads in the water. The ducks which normally come swimming up to investigate any ball I throw in for the dog to fetch, uncharacteristically scattered at the mere sight of the family pet. There was no sign of the herons, grebes and kingfishers. So, I tried taking pictures of gulls in flight. This was about the best.

The TZ70 is not the fastest camera for focusing, and by the time the AF had locked in, the bird had long since gone. I am amazed that the bird is as sharp as it is, but the camera probably focused on the clouds, which were a sufficient distance away to give the required depth of field.

Milton country park

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fenfotos’s latest blog : another grey day


Another Grey Day

17 Oct 2021 6:43PM  
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Unique : 255

Today was yet another grey day. Not quite so bad as last week, when the rain set in almost as soon as we set off on the walk, and I got no usable photographs at all. I did do a little better this week.


I am still without my Olympus. I am told that it may take a month to repair. So, once again, I am using my Panasonic TZ70, which has made today a real getting to know my equipment day.

I am often quite curious as to why designers make the decisions they do, when the logic of the decision is not at all obvious. For instance, the TZ70 has a ‘Dynamic Monochrome’ mode, which I use for this project. If I use this mode, I have no control over when the flash will fire. I fancied trying daylight flash in the gloom, so tried to set the camera so the flash always fired. This would potentially have made some interesting shots with a highly illuminated foreground against a dark background. I would have thought such a shot was dynamic. But I am denied any such control. Why? The same mode also seems to accentuate the contrast. To get a decent monochrome from a lot of the images I took today, I would definitely need to go back to the raw file and do the conversion myself.

On the plus side, the TZ70 has a tiny sensor ( I believe the crop factor is over 5), which gives great depth of field, which is ideal for macro work. My lead image of a teasel head is a fine example of this.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, given the prevailing lighting conditions, all my successful shots today were made keeping the camera very close to the subject.


This next shot is of some late flowering dandelions. It is the kind of situation that interests me – the different shapes and textures in the undergrowth. Here, the nettles contrast nicely with the grass, while the dandelions themselves provide focus. For someone like me, who is interested in natural history, this is a picture of ecology in action, as the three plants fight it out, each having its own strategy for hogging the light, inhibiting other competing plants, and dealing with marauding herbivores. I have thought of making a false colour image, such as NASA images of a distant planet. I haven’t yet tried though.


This image is also all about differing textures. This field was just a mass of hawkweed (I think). Now late in the season, there are just a few flowers left among the grey feathery seed heads.


When I first set out, I intended to photograph fungi. But it wasn’t until nearly the end of the walk that I found any. I liked this one with a strong contrast in both lightness and texture to the surrounding ivy.


My final image if of an inkcap toadstool. Taking this picture made me really miss the fully articulated screen of my Olympus. Not being able (or willing) to lie down on the boggy ground, this image was made with quite a lot of guess work. This is also a nice illustration of the depth of field with the TZ70, sharpness extends for inches beyond the fungus.

Overall, I feel this has been my most successful foray yet.

Dof depth of field
Teasel Head

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fenfotos’s latest blog : a grey day in autumn


A Grey Day in Autumn

3 Oct 2021 7:17PM  
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Unique : 77

Back on home soil, my walk today was around Quy Fen. Right from the start, things did not look promising. It was a dull day, beneath an undifferentiated grey sky. If it were not for this blog, quite frankly, I would have left my camera at home.

I start off with probably the shot of the day of some ivy. The maturing ivy flower heads provide a nice contrast against the dark foliage.


However, it was a day that tested my self imposed constraints of square, black and white images straight out of camera to breaking point. This picture of umbellifer (?hemlock) seed heads against the grey sky is acceptable, but would definitely be improved with more contrast.


Much more substantial post processing is required to make the most of this image of an ivy flower head.


As this version of the same image shows, this is undoubtedly a colour photograph. This version was produced with a minimal conversion from the raw file, and without the use of any local controls.


In general, I think the lack of colour is going to make it very difficult to produce good straight out of camera images during autumn. Autumn is the season of colour in the countryside – with the woods and hedgerows full of reds, oranges and yellows in the berries and the leaves. Of course, without filters (I don’t have any) or post processing, reds tend to show with the same tonality as the greens, and berries in particular just disappear.

For these maple keys, the monochrome is almost unreadable, whereas the colour version is quite clear.



I started this blog to test my ability to produce good monochrome images straight out of camera in a square format. In two cases, I have had to resort to colour images to produce an acceptable result. In one of these cases – the maple keys – it would take far more processing of the black and white image than I am capable of, to create a create an acceptable result. I know a bad workman always blames his tools, and maybe, I’m a bad workman. But equally, a SOOC image is only ever going to be as good as the subject in front of the camera. A photograph still has plenty of tools available, but for a black and white image, if there is little or not difference in tonality across the image, then the photograph is always going to be poor without further processing.

One other point of interest is the difference between handling of raw files between cameras. My Olympus E-M5 has unfortunately developed a fault, and I am waiting to find someone to repair it. So I have used my Panasonic TZ70 today. With both cameras set to monochrome, an image ratio of 1:1, and to save both JPG and RAW, both give me a black and white and a colour image. However, the raw file from the Olympus has the native 4:3 aspect ratio, whereas the Panasonic, the raw file has the square ratio of the JPG.


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fenfotos’s latest blog : southwold harbour


Southwold Harbour

27 Sep 2021 6:22PM  
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Unique : 44

This week I am on holiday in Suffolk, so my Sunday morning walk with the dog was a circular walk around Southwold Common and Southwold Harbour. Still keeping to square format black and white images with no post processing.


The walk started by the twin water towers on Southwold Common, a landmark that, during the day at least, is as visible as its lighthouse. The older , and smaller of the two towers was built in 1866, and is a grade II listed building. The larger tower was constructed in 1937, and has nearly four times the capacity of the one it replaced.


Continuing the walk, we arrived at the beach at the southern end of the beach huts. The highly coloured, much photographed, and very expensive huts for which Southwold is famous, are all nearer the main town to the north. The last six huts, of which Edward III is one, are smaller and far less flamboyant. I just thought Edward III looked dapper, and lost nothing in monochrome, as the paint was blue and white.


This next photograph is my way of saying that I am a responsible dog owner, and our dog leaves nothing but footprints.


Walking on we came to Southwold Harbour. The harbour is in trouble and in need of major investment for repair and maintenance. This crane is part of major works at the entrance to the harbour. I think of all the photographs I have taken so far, this is the most comfortable fit to the square format so far.

But the harbour has problems above and beyond the immediate need for repair. This is low lying ground and one pessimistic councillor has suggested that the whole area will be a flood plain within fifty years due to rising sea levels. Such a thought brought home to me what climate change will mean, and how soon it will start affecting places I know.


One of the features of Southwold Harbour are the black fishermens’ huts. Many of the huts, like this one, have their boats drawn up in their front gardens.


My final image is a close up of one well weathered hut which is gift for any black and white photograph with it many textured and lines.

All in all, very different subject matter to the trees, fields, and rivers that I normally walk around on a Sunday. Interesting, and perhaps, better suited to black and white photography.

Black and white

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fenfotos’s latest blog : squares week 2


Squares Week 2

19 Sep 2021 7:18PM  
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Unique : 77

I think I must have had quite a lot of beginner’s luck last week, because, this Sunday, I really struggled with the challenge I have set myself: square, black and white images, straight out of camera. Producing images straight out of camera is rather cruelly exposing my lack of expertise, and how much I rely on post processing to create good images. So despite taking more images, I still only finished with six that I am in the least bit confident of making public.


The pick for me was this flower. I don’t know what it is and cannot find it in any of my books of wild flowers, so I suspect it may be an escapee. Its a subject that fits the square format well, and the only post processing I would normally do is lose the additional white flowers on the left hand side.

It is strange using a square format. If I come across a subject that is clearly upright, I still rotate the camera, which with a square frame makes no difference at all! This has meant that at times, I simply could not get a good composition without cropping, which for the purposes of this blog I have renounced. But, by and large, I have found I have been using my feet far more often and getting a much tighter crop in camera than I would have done in the past.


Unfortunately, I could not get any closer to these cow parsley seed heads, because of a ditch and bramble bushes. Ideally, I would have done some gardening and got rid of the second seed head in the background. Alternatively, of course, I could have removed it in Photoshop. That is a pity, because I like the basic image.


Without post processing, I have way of mitigating extreme contrast. The swan swimming down the river could certainly do with attention to the shadows and highlights.


I find shooting monochrome is a great help in getting a good composition – it brings out the fundamental architecture of an image, which can be obscured by colours. Also in taking photographs in a green English countryside, the whole image is defined by luminosity and not colour, like this picture of bryony. A lot of the bryony I spotted was a necklace of red berries weaving through the hawthorn hedges, but without filters (which I haven’t got) they come out almost exactly the same shade of grey as the surrounding leaves and were completely lost.


The wood I walked through is on National Trust land, and has proved a prime location for den making. This particular one is one of the larger ones, and stands out well against the backlit foliage of the trees. Again, post processing, I would have cloned out the long horizontal branch.


Finally is this beech nut, which almost certainly would be better in colour. As a monochrome image, it needs work doing on the tonality. I would also clone out the bright spot in the top right, and work on the clarity and texture of the nut itself.


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fenfotos’s latest blog : black and white squares


Black and White Squares

12 Sep 2021 2:14PM  
Views : 158
Unique : 150

I have set myself a challenge: to take photographs on our Sunday morning dog walk and post them on this blog straight out of camera. I have a sort of half idea that I would like to use a film camera, but I not sure how good any of my photographs would be without RawTherapee and Photoshop. So this posting SOOC could quickly prove to be a bad idea. We’ll see.

One of things I am aware of is that almost all the images I post are cropped, and often radically – which points to sloppy composition and/or not getting close enough. So for this mornings walk, I set the aspect ratio on my camera to square. And to add to the challenge, to take monochrome images as well. So with monochrome square images, I am well out of my comfort zone.

So here are the most promising six images from this morning:

Starting off with a pretty view alongside the lode.


Then came across this comma sitting on some brambles. I have never taken a monochrome image of a butterfly before. I am quite pleased with this, and may well see what I can do with further processing. Certainly one of my favourites from this morning.


Mayweed growing on a field margin. Nice and dramatic.


Equally dramatic is this meadowsweet on the bankside. Probably another image I will process further.


For years, I have been taking images in a series I think of as ‘touched by light’, which is really about sunlight playing in the woods and in the undergrowth.


And finally a view into the woods. This one probably should be in colour as the light area on the ground are actually light brown beech leaves that have fallen off.


Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read this. I would ask one favour. If you feel that the images I am showing are not to the standard you would expect on this site, and my publishing SOOC photos can be categorised as ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’, please let me know, so I can save myself any further embarassment.


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