Welcome to One Camera One Len’s Photographers Spotlight Series, where we discover other photographers who you may find extremely interesting. They share their love for photography, their stories and a selection of their images. This is a regular feature, see the end of the article for details.
I’m Mike Winson, and I’m a retired broadcast engineer, the wrong side of 70, and among other pastimes, I have a keen interest in photography, so at Mark’s request, here’s a few notes on my photographic journey of nearly 50 years.
I wouldn’t say that my photography is up to professional or club standard, but I’ve never wanted to do it for a living, and I’m not keen on the camera club type of collective, so as long as I like the photos and enjoy the experience of getting out and taking them, I’m happy.
We always had a camera in the family – a 1930s Ensign Pocket 20 when I was young (which I still have, and which still works), so I have many family photos taken with it to look back on, usually involving various seaside beaches, knotted handkerchiefs, and the unbroken rule of “always keep the sun behind you”. I was rarely allowed to touch the camera though – not surprising, as my early attempts usually resulted in chopped-off heads, and there were only eight shots per roll of film, and that had to last us the whole week in Skegness, Scarborough or whichever seaside resort we were holidaying.
My first “proper” camera was a Russian Zenit E f/2 SLR, which I bought to document a coast-to-coast trip across the US with three friends in 1972. I spent time reading photography books and magazines, learning the mysteries and language of photography – aperture, shutter speed, ISO (or ASA as it was at the time), depth of field, circles of confusion, chromatic aberration, composition rules, etc, so had a reasonable understanding when we set off on our three week adventure. Disappointment followed, however, when all eight 36-exposure rolls of Agfa CT18 slide film came back with a purple cast on every image, and it would be nearly 40 years before I would see them in their true colours, with the benefit of scanning and digital correction.
I also had an interest in electronics, and the need to make my own printed circuit boards got me into photolithography. I didn’t get very far with 35mm negatives of my circuit board designs, so I acquired a vintage Thornton Pickard plate camera, which I used with high-contrast lith film to produce my circuit board masters. Strangely, I never took any proper photos with that camera, probably because my limited processing equipment didn’t lend itself to large format. It would have been interesting in retrospect, but sadly I dismantled the camera with the intention of restoring it to its former glory, and left the box of bits in the loft of the farmhouse in Elgin, so never got back into large format photography. The experience did get me into the chemistry of photography though, and for a while I developed and printed my own black & white photographs in a makeshift darkroom in my parents’ loft.
The years passed, house ownership, marriage and family took over, and my photography stagnated somewhat. I had a series of different 35mm cameras over the years but, like the old Ensign, I was mainly taking photos on family outings and holidays. In 2000, I bought my first digital camera, a Nikon E950. This revived my interest in photography, and I was back developing my own photos again, but this time on a computer screen rather than with chemicals and dishes. The cost of digital memory meant that I was back to the Ensign days of only eight photos on a Compact Flash card though!
Many arguments have been had regarding computer processing of digital images, and the term “Photoshop” is often used in a derogatory manner. I’m firmly of the opinion that, just as in the days of developing and printing film, the creative process doesn’t end when you press the shutter button, in fact many of the techniques used in digital processing are taken from the darkroom, even in the names of the processes (e.g. crop, dodge, burn, filter, etc). That’s a whole different blog entry though…
A series of digital cameras followed, and I settled on Canon as my preferred brand. My current camera is a Canon EOS 700D, which I bought just before a safari holiday in Kenya in 2016.
In 2017, my wife spotted a Facebook post from one of her friends, which mentioned a group of photographers and walkers from the Port Talbot area, and she persuaded me to go to one of their walks. I’m not a particularly sociable person at the best of times, but I agreed to go (I think she wanted me out from under her feet!) and my involvement with Great Photography Walks Neath Port Talbot (GPWNPT) began. I think it was only the second or third walk that the group had undertaken, so numbers were low – about eight, I think – but I’ve rarely missed a meeting since, and the group has grown to an online membership of nearly 800, with a regular attendance at walks of between 15-20. Through the group, I’ve really revitalised my photography interest and knowledge, and it has once again been my main hobby for the last three years.
Apart from within the group’s Facebook pages, I don’t share my photographs in any forum, so don’t have a webpage or other online presence, but here are just a handful of my favourite images from my collection of thousands.
Thanks for reading, and to Mark for letting me hi-jack his blog!
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