I love the wildness of Esha Ness.

I don't think I've ever arrived at Esha Ness, and not immediately gone "wow".  Sometimes at the car-door ripping strength of the wind and always at the sheer grandeur of the volcanic landscape.

If you stand at the Esha Ness Lighthouse - it's a little lighthouse, it can afford to be little since it's on top of a 200 ft cliff - and look out to sea, you feel like you are on the edge of the world.

If you look North, aside from the little bump that is Muckle Oss and Little Oss, there's nothing else in that direction, until you start going down the far side of the world

If you look West there's nothing until you hit the southern tip of Greenland.

Carry On Blipping

I was interested to find a paper this week from blippers Fotomatikus and EveF about Blipfoto and it's place in everyday routines, and it made me think about why I blip on a daily basis.  It was particularly interesting coming just at the point when I had decided to sign up for life membership of Blipfoto.

Most Viewed Image
My photo-a-day habit predates my membership of Blipfoto by several years.  In October 2004 Joe Tree had the bright idea of setting up a website to record (and share) a daily photo – this became Blipfoto. I had a similar idea a few weeks later when I bought my first digital camera in November 2004.  My solution was to set up a blog where I could share my pictures for a year starting on 1st January 2005.  In fact I got impatient for the project to begin so started on 24th December 2004 by talking a photo from my office window at the Open University in Milton Keynes. I subsequently added a few scanned film and digital images from earlier in 2004.  My online photo-a-day project lasted as I had intended until 31st December 2005, and at that point I stopped taking and posting a photograph each day, but I didn't stop taking pictures. Having got into the photo-a-day habit I just kept going, and I have just kept going.  In 2010 friend and blipper CathrynG encouraged me to join Blipfoto, and on 28th July 2010 I shared my first blip (and 2043 photo-of-the-day).  As of yesterday, I've managed a continuous run of 3382 images since 24th December 2004.

So why blip? I'm using this as short-hand for taking and sharing a picture each day.

The Stuff of Dreams
My initial idea was to become a better photographer, and more critically become more observant about photographic opportunities around me.  Always having a camera to hand becomes second nature, occasionally that means just my phone, but more often it means I make sure that I've got a ‘real’ camera somewhere in a pocket or bag or the boot of the car.  The requirement to take a photo each day means that there is a sense of worry until you’ve got one image for the day.  The need to find a ‘decent’ photo each day also ensures I get away from my desk for at least a few minutes, and when life is busy that's probably no bad thing.  This doesn't mean that there aren't days when emergency blips are needed.  I have a recurring dream of seeing a clock tick round to mid-night and struggling to take a picture before the second hand reaches the top of the dial (it’s always an analog clock in the dream). I guess there are worse recurring dreams.

Aside from becoming a better (or at least more observant) photographer, there are two other reasons for blipping.

The first one is personal. Over the years the images, and in some cases the commentary, become a rich personal diary.  If I'm asked about a particular day I will more often than not refer to the image from that day to jog my memory.  The image may well tell me where in the world I was and what I was doing, but more than that the mood of the image (or words) may remind me what sort of day I was having.  I've never been successful at keeping going with a traditional diary (although I do keep a travel journal when I'm away from Oxford), but an image-based journal seems to work for me.

Most 'Favourited' Image
The final reason for keeping going is social.

Blip provides a platform for sharing pictures with other people. The one image a day model keeps the playing field level.  On platforms like flickr or twitter, which have no restrictions, quiet voices get flooded out. Yes, I have unfollowed people on twitter just because they tweeted too much, drowning out the other voices in the stream.

Within my Blip community there are a number of people whose images I look forward to seeing each day.  Some live in interesting places, others have interesting lives and others are just good photographers.  A few manage to score on all three counts.  There are people I follow on Blipfoto who I've never met, but who I feel I know well, and I definitely appreciate the interaction, feedback and discussion from those who look at my photograph each day.  And if someone I follow stops blipping without warning, I do worry about why.

I have no plans to give up blipping. If you’re passing, do drop in and see what I’m doing.

Size Matters II

A theme seems to be emerging in my recent blog posts and conversations - it's all about size.

I blogged about moving to bigger prints for exhibitions (which is a good thing), I waxed lyrical about how modest my camera bag was, at least in comparison to Samuel Bourne's (again a good thing) and most recently I got into a conversation with a fellow photographer about big lenses.

In that conversation I found I kept coming back to the weight of kit that was involved.  I did, at one time, have a 400 mm lens but kept leaving it behind because I didn't really want the extra weight that the camera represented or the big tripod that it demanded. Time after time I've found that I want to limit myself to kit that can be hand-held, and that doesn't require weeks of extra gym work before I can move it.

Nikon D700
If I flip open my camera bag today I'll find four cameras. They've all got Nikon badges and they've all got different sized sensors.  At the one end there is a D700 (full frame - 36mm,12MP sensor, well over 1 kg in weight), then a D200 (10MP, 24mm sensor and about 900g), then a V1 with a 10MP (13mm) sensor (but less than 400g) and finally an AW100 (for when the going gets really wet) with a 16MP 6mm sensor but well under 200g.  And the AW100 weight includes the lens, all the others need glass added.

So how would I rank the cameras, by weight or sensor size (which also reflects price)? By pixel count? Or by convenience, on the basis that the best camera is the one you have with you at the critical moment. Or perhaps we get into more esoteric measures like auto-focus or shutter response times. Is there anything more frustrating that pressing the shutter only to find that the event you want to capture has passed in the time it took the camera to respond?

My default behaviour so far, which perhaps reflects the financial investment, is that for serious photography I reach for one of the big cameras.  The big camera and big lens is part of the uniform; big camera, he's a real photographer.  Almost all the pictures I've taken for exhibitions or sales have been taken on the D700 or D200.  The AW100 is for fun, wet photography on zodiacs or on windswept beaches. The V1 is for trips or outings when photography is incidental.

I think it's time to give the V1 a chance to compete.

If I look back through my daily pictures on Blipfoto, I see that since I acquired the V1 in late 2012, almost exactly half of my daily pictures have been taken on that camera. I first looked at the V1 when it came out in 2011, and decided that it was too expensive and didn't have a good enough range of lenses.  A while later Nikon slashed the price just when I was looking for a compact-size camera that could take RAW images and I joined in, but have really just been using the V1 as a compact with the bundled 10-30 mm lens.  There was a period of time when I thought the signs coming out of Nikon were that the 1 series was an experiment that wasn't going well. At that time further investment in the few 1 series lenses that existed didn't seem like a good move.

Nikon V1
More recently however there have been additions to both the cameras and lenses in the range, including an all-weather camera and lens set, and also a couple of much better (for which read expensive) lenses. And there is much speculation about improved cameras and lenses to match in the near future.

So what’s the conclusion?  I was right that bigger prints are better. It’s certainly true that having camera kit that doesn't need a team of porters to move it is better, but what about the camera and sensor?

The physicist in me says that bigger pixels should be better, i.e. the image quality should be better on a big 12MP sensor than on a small 12 MP sensor, but that an experiment to see what this means in actual use would be a good idea. The wimp in me says that a lighter camera would be better.  The photographer in me says I need to get out and take pictures rather than think about sensor sizes.

So when I next head out to make pictures, I'm planning to concentrate on using the V1. I’ll be interested see the results.