Most people who grew up before the age of the selfie will have some memory of family group portraits taken using the self-timer function on somebody’s camera. Most film cameras had a prominent lever or an obvious button somewhere, to trigger a clockwork mechanism or an electronic delay. The camera would be positioned on a chair or table, while the group arranged itself, leaving space for the photographer whose job it was to frame the image, set the timer, and run to take up position and say “cheese”. Timers always took longer than you imagined, and you never quite knew when they would stop. The photographer, trying to avoid becoming a blur in the photograph, would arrive in the group flustered, yet by the time the shutter clicked, everyone’s smile would have been held a little bit too long. This photograph was taken with an Ondu pinhole camera on the beach at Low Newton in Northumberland. There is no timer on the camera, but the twelve second exposure gave me time to open the shutter, run to join my three friends, hold still for five or six seconds, then run back to close the shutter again. I like the effect long exposures create of being there, but not there; this is a record not of a moment, but of time passing, visibly.
This winter has been one of the longest, and most miserable I can remember. What has been especially strange is the way the wintry weather continued even when the light was clearly indicating Spring. This was taken in March at Fox How, near Ambleside, in the Lake District.
I don't need much from a camera. Most of the features on a modern digital camera are not needed for the kind of slow photography I enjoy. I could live without auto exposure, autofocus, even an LCD screen. I hardly ever shoot video, and I tend to take one image at a time, so I have no real need for 10 frames per second. But there are two things I really like about modern digital cameras. The first is image stabilisation, to counteract my shaky hands, and the second is weather sealing. Not many cameras have good weather sealing, even quite expensive ones, but being able to take your gear out in the rain, and not worry about it, is worth any number of other headline features; a camera you have to keep in your bag during a rain shower is no good half the time in Northern Britain. The image above is of the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe. It's a wet and blowy sort of place, and this was a particularly wet and blowy Sunday afternoon. I was absolutely soaked through by the time I was finished, but the camera was fine.
For quite a few years now I have been collaborating on an occasional basis with poet Rebecca Goss, on a web-based project we called the Jupiter Project. It is so-called because we both liked the idea of pictures taken with a Soviet-era 50mm lens called the "Jupiter 8". The actual lens in question was made in 1968, and is roughly the same age as me. We've recently added a couple of new poem/picture combinations, Tall Grasses and The Horses. Although the lens offered me some variety (and two effective focal lengths) when used on film and Olympus digital cameras, and has a look all of its own, we both realised that the lens was less interesting than the ideas we had been exploring. I'm not going to say too much about it just yet, but I thought I would note here that we've started working on a more wide ranging, and hopefully more coherent, project that might just appear in print. I'll have more news soon.