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11 Things Photographers Can Do During The Coronavirus Outbreak

If you're self-isolating or are simply looking for something you can do when you can't go far, here are 11 things that can occupy a photographer's time.

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The Photography Show Cancelled

Bad news - the email telling me that the Photography Show, just down the road at the NEC, had been postponed.

 

 

Stuff to do when you can’t go far…

The Photography Show 2020 is postponed, and the chances are that a lot of ePz members will be going out a bit less over the next few months.

I have no desire to minimise the seriousness of the coronavirus and the effects it’s having on life for everyone, but it seems sensible to do something productive with our time if we don’t get out and about as much as usual, whether it’s because we need to self-isolate, or to avoid visiting older people so as to not spread infections. I realised that I might not be the only person with the odd empty space in the diary.

Anyway, I started wondering about Things To Do to avoid too many game shows on TV... Here is my list of suggestions for occupying a bit of time.

 

1. Try Something Out

2 Nine-shot focus stack, using a 105mm lens at f/5.6. Note that the foreground and background are sometimes very blurry, although at the same distance as one of the sharp areas of the tealight holders. I think the art of stacking is largely about controlling this.

Nine-shot focus stack, using a 105mm lens at f/5.6. Note that the foreground and background are sometimes very blurry, although at the same distance as one of the sharp areas of the tealight holders. I think the art of stacking is largely about controlling this.

 

Why not try one of those time-consuming, possibly-difficult techniques that you’ve been hearing about for ages? For instance, you’ve probably heard of focus stacking and squirrelled the idea away for a rainy day. Guess what? It’s raining now…

Very simply, focus stacking involves using your camera on a tripod, and taking a series of images of a subject, with the focus adjusted manually so that each has a different slice of the image sharp, and then combining them in software to form one single image that’s sharp from front to rear. It is, actually, as simple as that.

Photoshop includes a facility for doing this, and there’s specialist software around, too. Briefly, open all the images at once in PS, using File/Scripts/Load into Stack. Then, use Edit/Auto-Align followed by Edit/Auto Blend. This should give you a rather large file with interestingly sharp areas - and maybe some unexpected soft ones, too. The example here is my second ever attempt at focus stacking, and there’s clearly room for improvement.

Or you could try multiple exposures, long exposures to get movement or a new type of processing…

Anything like this is likely to need a bit of practice to get right: so it’s ideal for now. And then, when you actually need to use the technique, you’ll know that it works, and have a good idea of how you did it. There’s nothing worse than learning to do something when you actually have to make it work!

 

2. Enter A Competition

There are loads of online competitions for pictures, and not all of them have an entry fee. I’m told, by people who are more methodical than I am, that there are plenty of competitions if you look for them. A cereal manufacturer may run a photo competition - be one of the people who spot it and enter a good shot and you’re in with a real chance.

 

3 Look for competitions online, on cereal packets, and in the local paper. It’s always a lottery to some extent, which is why veteran camera club members play the judge and not the ball. This unusual portrait of model Black Beauty might do well – or it could tank completely.

Look for competitions online, on cereal packets, and in the local paper. It’s always a lottery to some extent, which is why veteran camera club members play the judge and not the ball. This unusual portrait of model Black Beauty might do well - or it could tank completely.

 

Look at all the photographic websites - there will be competitions pretty regularly, with prizes from a month’s free membership upwards. If you’re prepared to stump up an entry fee, prizes get bigger, but to my mind, many of the fees are excessive except for people who are pretty sure of being serious contenders. But I haven’t researched this in detail - I'm not much of a competitions person, usually.

Maybe the main point is that having a specific goal may give you a purpose and a reason to do things - even if, in the end, you don’t send the picture off with a fee.

 

3. Read A Book

Was it a Christmas present that you put aside for later, or something you picked up and never made progress with? Either way, most people have, I suspect got some photographic literature that they haven’t looked at properly - I know I have!

Look at all the images in a book (I have a copy of Ralph Gibson's 'Nude' - every new idea I’ve tried for years is already in there, superbly executed… There could be more heartening books to look through!), or read up on spherical aberration.

 

4 Two very different books – one showing how wide-ranging one photographer’s treatment of a single subject can be, and one detailing approaches to using light.

Two very different books - one showing how wide-ranging one photographer's treatment of a single subject can be, and one detailing approaches to using light.

 

Try one of Michael Freeman’s excellent technical books so that you really understand exposure, or try a classic like Susan Sontag's 'On Photography'. There’s a world of fascinating background to what you do with your camera.

As a last resort, have a look through your camera manual - I’ll be you’ll find one or two facilities in there that you didn’t realise you have and want to play with!

 

4. Shoot A Still Life

If you don’t often (or don’t ever) take still life pictures, spend a couple of hours making one now.

Look round the house for a variety of small and unusual bits and bobs, and see if you can arrange them to make an interesting image. Writing this article has pushed me to take a picture I’ve been planning for months - all the excess medicines and devices that I have following a successful prostate resection operation last summer.

 

5 Assorted left-overs from treatment of an enlarged prostate. I’ve seen more elegant still life images – as I write, the current edition of Black and White has an image of carefully-arranged pill boxes, shot as part of a project in which the photographer was coming to terms with her mother’s death. But this expresses the slightly-haphazard way that some of these devices were provided!

Assorted left-overs from the treatment of an enlarged prostate. I’ve seen more elegant still life images – as I write, the current edition of Black and White has an image of carefully-arranged pillboxes, shot as part of a project in which the photographer was coming to terms with her mother’s death. But this expresses the slightly-haphazard way that some of these devices were provided!

 

I’ve been holding onto them with the idea of consigning them to their fate only after I’ve taken a picture. I’ve got syringes in their sharps container, drainage bags, single-use catheters and tablets… Almost none of them can be used by others in our safety-conscious world, even though most are in sealed packing and all are in date. Having taken the picture, I can now get rid of most of them…

 

5. Restore An Old Picture

‘Some pictures have survived the years quite well, as these professional sepia-toned images of my parents have done (these prints are from around 1951). Many will have been stored less carefully, and may have been folded and scratched. Repairs in Photoshop and other editing software take patience, but are often easier than you may think…’

‘Some pictures have survived the years quite well, as these professional sepia-toned images of my parents have done (these prints are from around 1951). Many will have been stored less carefully and may have been folded and scratched. Repairs in Photoshop and other editing software take patience, but are often easier than you may think…’

 

Have you got some of those old family shots that are a bit creased and faded?

Why not invest a little time scanning them and using digital editing techniques to produce a new version for printing and posting on social media? I won’t go into how to dodge, burn, spot heal or clone here, but you’ll find plenty of guidance on the web.

Quite apart from the way that it will make friends and relatives happy, you may find out things that you didn’t know about the past. It’s interesting to look at older cars and fashions: even older cameras!

 

6. Research A Favourite Photographer

6 Pick one of those photographers who people talk about, and find out more. If you like books and can afford it, buy something by or about them – and don’t neglect places like National Trust secondhand bookshops. Occasionally, you’ll find a real classic among the Jilly Coopers and the 50 copies of Shades of Grey.

Pick one of those photographers who people talk about, and find out more. If you like books and can afford it, buy something by or about them – and don’t neglect places like National Trust secondhand bookshops. Occasionally, you’ll find a real classic among the Jilly Coopers and the 50 copies of Shades of Grey.

 

Actually, it doesn’t have to be a favourite: just note one or two of the names that other people mention in their posts and comments, or in conversation. There are some photographers who are so well known that we don’t bother looking at their work because we ‘know’ what it looks like: and there are others who are elusive because they didn’t become so famous that they were documented, and have had a lower profile since the advent of the internet…

For one of my personal heroes, try looking up David Penprase, and possibly track down a secondhand copy of one of his books… He was the inspiration for my use of potter’s clay as body makeup, and thus for my self-portrait (see below).

This can be a five-minute exercise, or it might become a years-long obsession if you find (for instance) a little-known photographer who worked in a limited area and didn’t seek publicity and become fascinated.

 

7. Clean Your Camera And Lenses. And That Camera Bag!

Tenba Skyline Bag Collection

 

I’m noticing, as I go, that there are quite a few things on the list that I really ought to do. Not only wipe off the front elements of my lenses with appropriate microfiber cloths, or soft cotton and a suitable cleaner (I have to admit to using original Listerine and a soft cotton handkerchief quite a lot over the last 40 years: please let me know if there’s a really good reason why this is a stupid idea!), but also attacking nooks and crannies on camera bodies with a slightly moist Q-tip, and emptying out my camera bag so that I can vacuum the dust from the bottom. Maybe there’s a film lurking down there?

 

8. The Titchmarsh Tendency

Outside my own comfort zone, there are options for using that long lens that you normally use for air shows, sport, or motor racing. Instead, sit down by the window (or in the garden if the weather’s OK) and set the lens up on a tripod pointing at somewhere the birds might settle It may be a bird feeder or a branch: but it might also be the roof of next door’s shed or telegraph wire.

The point of it is that you may not have to go very far to find photographic subjects that will stretch your abilities… And in the spirit of make do and mend, it’s all good.

If you have problems, post a shot in the Critique Gallery here at ePHOTOzine, and ask for help – there will be plenty of people ready to weigh in to provide answers to your queries. However, there’s one member of the Critique Team who you should take with a pinch of salt on this subject, me - as the picture shows!

 

7 Unidentified bird in the garden. Remember, this really isn’t my field! Olympus OM-D EM-1 with 75-300 at full stretch, and raised ISO despite the sunshine!

Unidentified bird in the garden. Remember, this really isn’t my field! Olympus OM-D EM-1 with 75-300mm at full stretch, and raised ISO despite the sunshine!

 

Alternatively, it’s the time of year when plants are really getting going, and there’s something new to look at and photograph every day in even a small garden.

 

9. Organise Your Files

My wife will laugh at this, then throw something at me: I am not quite the world's tidiest person in any way.

But… Now is the time to do some sorting out, in order to save time later, when we can all swarm around the town centres shaking hands and hugging.

 

8 Now that I’m not using film every single week, I’ve got sloppy with filing negatives. There’s a bit of a task here for me…

Now that I'm not using film every single week, I've got sloppy with filing negatives. There's a bit of a task here for me…

 

If you’ve been meaning to back up your files, do it now. Update some software, or even file away those negatives that are still lying on the desk from a month ago when you scanned them.

They call it housekeeping, they tell me. And I promise to do some of my own organising while there’s less to do out and about.

 

10. Write An Article

A few months ago, one of the members I watch on here started posting amazing closeup images, all shot with a variety of unlikely lenses. I’m sure that a few of you will be familiar with the lovely results that Cyril Hobbins, aka hobbo, has posted.

And to my utter delight, I found that he’s written an article for ePz describing how he adapted the lenses and showing what they look like. To see it, and divert yourself from every day for a little while longer, look HERE. If you thought that closeups require massively expensive lenses, think again! I particularly enjoyed looking at the pictures of the lenses and mounts - we tend to think of photographic equipment as having to be all neat, tidy, and machined to a mirror finish, and it may be a revelation to you that what matters is that the setup works.

And if you’ve done something that’s a bit unusual, tell us all about how to do it - contact Nikita at ePHOTOzine and she’ll be able to tell you if the idea has legs.

 

11. Shoot A Selfie

By which I don’t mean a standard picture with a mobile held aloft for the mandatory bulging forehead. Do something thoughtful and different, something that actually expresses something about you. In other words, a considered and expressive portrait.

 

9 Self-portrait in the garden – shot with an Alpha 900 and infrared trigger. The mess all over me is potter’s clay, mixed to give a nice gloopy consistency in an old food mixer. Hint: don’t use an old-style Kenwood chef! The mixer needs to have a lid on it unless you want to redecorate your kitchen.

Self-portrait in the garden - shot with an Alpha 900 and infrared trigger. The mess all over me is potter's clay, mixed to give a nice gloopy consistency in an old food mixer. Hint: don’t use an old-style Kenwood chef! The mixer needs to have a lid on it unless you want to redecorate your kitchen.

 

There are lots of hurdles to jump: unless you have a control icon on your mobile ‘phone or a cable release of some sort, this can be hard work, as can composition and focusing.

My selfie was the result of having used potter’s clay as body makeup for models for nearly two decades - after a shoot, I had rather a lot left over, so decided that I should be prepared to wear the same stuff as I ask models to wear. If you try this, remember to do it in warm weather (otherwise, the water evaporating from the clay will chill you), and avoid putting it in your ears (I was still getting clay out of my left ear four weeks later!).

 

Summing Up

10 A little sunshine, new leaves, and backlight. More time and thought could bag you a real winner of a shot: this was taken on a 10-minute foray into the garden.

A little sunshine, new leaves, and backlight. More time and thought could bag you a real winner of a shot: this was taken on a 10-minute foray into the garden.

 

I’m writing this in a very definitely British context. We have a lot of people crowded into a small land area by comparison with many countries - and we also have an advanced public medical system. We are very lucky indeed, and this is weighing heavily on everybody here.

All across the world, people will be facing the same unknowns, the same risks. My hope is that we will all manage to face the problems calmly and logically, and - in the face of clear and present danger, that we will keep ourselves occupied when we are at home, as well as doing what we can for the communities we live in, for our friends and neighbours.

 

About Author: John Duder 

John Duder has been an amateur photographer for fifty years, which surprises him, as he still reckons he’s 17.

Over the last two years, he’s been writing articles for ePHOTOzine, as well as being a member of the Critique Team. He also runs lighting workshops and provides one-to-one photographic tuition.

He remains addicted to cameras, lenses, and film.

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Comments


dudler Plus
17 1.3k 1714 England
18 Mar 2020 10:39AM
My camera bag's still waiting for attention with the Dyson, but I've got a new book (well - new secondhand) about a photographer I know nothing about, Miles Aldridge.

Please post any ideas that you have that will expand the list, and any experiences, tips or tweaks. We're al working things out as we go at the moment, and the more we pool our knowledge, the better!
alfpics Plus
18 374 4 England
18 Mar 2020 10:53AM
Love the last one John!
mrswoolybill Plus
13 2.3k 2274 United Kingdom
18 Mar 2020 11:47AM
Thanks for this John, I've passed the link on to members of both our U3A's Photography groups.
dudler Plus
17 1.3k 1714 England
18 Mar 2020 11:57AM
When I started writing this, it seemed a bit remote and airy-fairy. On Monday, suddenly, it started to be horribly relevant.

I'm sure that you, Moira, will understand the reference when I say that we're at the phoney war stage. It's not real yet: all remote, coming to us through the news, except for a very unfortunate few who are living through a nightmare.

It is a war, though, and I think that Ephotozine and social media are going ot be part of the way htat we keep morale up. The sacrifices most of us will make, at least for now, are a bit like giving something up for Lent - going without things we have got used to. But I know my local G.P.s are battening down the hatches for a protracted campaign, and they wil lbe viewing it with deep concern, because it will mean that they don't have much time off for a while.
Canonshots 10 203 13 United Kingdom
18 Mar 2020 1:08PM
Her's a suggestion. Go through the images on your computer and get rid of all the ones you should have deleted years ago but never did. You'll be surprised how much space you can get back.
mistere Plus
7 6 4 England
18 Mar 2020 1:23PM
A good idea, nicely done John. There are lots of very creative and imaginative folk on EPZ, the community here is
very helpful and supportive. I'm sure the contacts and friendships that people have made will be very valuable over the
next few months. Sharing ideas and working on projects together could help relieve the feeling of isolation that some
may experience. And, as you point out, its a good opportunity to get lots of those 'little jobs' done.
If it hasn't been done yet, perhaps someone (who knows how to) could start a thread in the forums, we could all share
ideas and offer advice if it's requested. Every cloud etc...
Batten down the hatches, stay safe and look after each other.
Dave.
kaybee 16 7.4k 26 Scotland
18 Mar 2020 1:54PM
A very sensible list.

The only thing I would say about No11 is - you need to see about the bags under your eyes.
dudler Plus
17 1.3k 1714 England
18 Mar 2020 2:14PM
I believe in large bags - you can fit more in, Roy...

I don't delete images, on principle, just as I don't throw away my negatives. Backing up might be more of a Thing for me... There are some things that won't ever see the light of day, though!
mac Plus
19 8 Scotland
18 Mar 2020 3:58PM
Interesting John, with some ideas worth following. Many years ago (well maybe 25!) I found I had masses of colour slides. I invested in a slide scanner and converted them to digital images.
After finding myself with a few thousand images and no index I bought Photoshop Album which allowed you to make folders or "Tags" using Photoshops phraseology, and name it "Places" You can then add sub-categories say "Holiday 2019" This opens down the side icons with these names. Import your images and then select an image or all of them for your Holiday 2019, then drag across the icon for this category and drop it on the images that fits. You can drop as many tags you want on any image by subdividing again with say "sea views" "family pictures" (sub-divide with actual names) etc. By clicking on any category it will show all the images with that tag attached. You can select as many categories as you like and it will only produce images that fits your selections. A great way to find photos. As images build-up you can fine tune by dividing "sea views" into "Scotland" then "Location", "Sunsets", "With Boats" etc, etc.
It also has the ability to produce a file that contains all your images and indexes to a CD or free-standing hard-drive in case of computer failure.
Unfortunately this program is not available now but there must be equivalent ones on the go.
After I had a hard-drive failure earlier this year my back-up had not been kept up to date so it is a project now to keep me going! A lesson there!!
It would be interesting to know how other people keep track of their images.
Ian
18 Mar 2020 5:00PM
Ha Mac plus, had a very similar experience but this was with a raid array I had backed up all my photos to it religiously and had close on half a million images on it. I am an inveterate keeper of images and shoot and keep in both raw and jpeg along with scanned tiff and scanned raw files. over time out of the 4 drives 2 failed at different times and the system merrily rebuilt the lost data when a new drive was fitted, all automatically and without fuss. My confidence in the system blossomed and i kept fewer hard backups on CD or DVD. Anyway came home one day to find the entire RAID drive inaccessible. Never figured out why it failed all the discs became unreadable at the same time. It was a Synergy unit and I will never trust that brand again. I have since replaced it with one from Asus which seems to be working fine with Seagate Ironwolf drives. I manged to recover from other storage about 40% of my lost images. I still back up to the RAID array, but I also rent off site backup online, which was relatively cheap and is very unlikely to be lost as they back up and restore almost continuously.
In reply to your question about asset management, I use Zoner Photo Studio X. Available as a free trial, and even if you do not subscribe, the asset management continues to work. Tagging and location data can be added manually along with notes either as part of the JPEG file or in sidecar files. The program is quite well featured for editing but the tagging although indexing does not seem to work - this does not matter as the tags can be found by almost any program, and it is a subscription program. means you pay and pay for the same old same old.
taggart Plus
16 47 14 United States
18 Mar 2020 8:57PM
Interesting ideas here---Thanks!
19 Mar 2020 12:57AM
Go out walking in the woods....take a camera, there are photos everywhere.....we do not need to only find beautiful landscapes in famous spectacular scenes and places....we see the world in rectangles....things other people do not see. We do not need to be trapped in our homes.

Peter
Fenfotos 4 21 United Kingdom
19 Mar 2020 7:31PM
Interesting reading.

Having (rashly) agreed to give a talk on garden photography to a local gardening club, I had already started on the long haul of cataloging my images. Enforced inactivity has left me with no excuses.

I am finding two things are coming out of this 'stop and look at what you've done before doing anything else':
firstly:the uncomfortable feeling that maybe my photography hasn't improved at all in 10 years; and,
secondly, and more positively, I've had a number of good interesting ideas that I have never really followed up after the first couple of sessions. So,I'm making a bucket list of all these ideas I want to follow up, and the places I'd like to return to.

Tooma Plus
4 2.1k 3 Scotland
19 Mar 2020 9:23PM
A really good article, John. Sharing it on Twittie. I bought a handbook/manual for my Affinity Photo software with the intention of diligently working my way through it - really getting to grips with all the tools and techniques - becoming accomplished in its use, and producing wonderful images to share on ePZ; that was 5/6 months ago, and to date I have barely looked at it. Dohh. Yes, I am trying to shame myself into some work - reading a book - this book for me - is a fine idea.
Thanks. Smile
Thanks John. Sensitivity and good advice. Im thinking of offering after service to locals of tidying up damaged pics. For me I should organise those directories on my hard drives. If theres time.....
Autocorrect! A free service
philtaylorphoto 19 334 2
27 Jun 2020 12:12AM
I would add, study a book by a photographer you don't like! I used to be a fan of McCullin, but in recent years I've started to like Martin Parr. Something different can challenge you to take a different direction.
dudler Plus
17 1.3k 1714 England
27 Jun 2020 11:03AM
That's a really good idea, Phil. Broadening our experience matters to our development. 'If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.'

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