In focus Friday - Enthusiasts

07 April 2018

SIG: Documentary

Rounding out our recent introductions we head up to our East Midlands region to join Howard Fisher for a day out on the trains. 

Hi, Howard, Can you give us a little background about the shot?

Until January 2018 I was a member of the Volunteer Support Team at the Great Central Railway in Loughborough, not too far from my home in Nottinghamshire. As a working member I had special access to the trains and started a project to document the people who worked on or visited the railway. My interest was people rather than the locomotives. There are many photographers who are much better at the locos than I am, especially those who buy line side passes. This shot caught my eye because of the light streaming through the platform canopy at Loughborough and the group of enthusiasts chatting before boarding the waiting train through the open door.

What was your plan for the day?

To go out and find subjects that interested me. No specific plan other than to use my working pass to travel up and down the line visiting the four stations and their associated railway yards seeking subjects.

What’s your routine just before heading out with your camera? 

I always check that I have spare batteries and cards. I decide which of my lenses I am likely to need and give them a clean. I always promise myself that I will take out only exactly what I will need but inevitably take more than I ever use on a particular day – it’s the ‘just in case I might need it’ syndrome. I do the same for my wife’s equipment when we are going out together though she is much more disciplined than me and will often only use the one lens throughout the day!

While you’re out what makes you press the shutter release?  

Anything that catches my eye. I’m a bit of a butterfly in that I flit from one thing to another. I like to have at least two or three projects on the go at the same time so that if I cannot find a subject to suit my intended project for the day, I might find something for one of my others.

Where can we find more of your work?  

I keep promising myself that I will develop a web site. I have a presence on Flickr but don’t use it much and also I have a Facebook page which is more for connecting with family and friends than displaying my images.

What do you think photographers don’t do but should? 

Forget about equipment and concentrate on making images. I run a U3A Photography group as well as have membership of a group whose purpose is to hold three monochrome exhibitions a year, and our local Photographic Society. People who know this often ask for advice about what camera to buy, and my answer is always to think about whether they need a new camera or would a better quality lens serve them better. All the upper range cameras do is to extend the image making possibilities under less than perfect conditions and if someone isn’t likely to photograph in those conditions why spend the money? (I’m a Yorkshire man and fit the stereotype of meanness!). 

What essential piece of advice would give your novice self?

Go out and shoot more photographs. Mind you I started photography when I was 14 years old in the 1950s using film and so learned to be careful in making sure technique was sound because of the expense of film, both mono and transparency. Nevertheless, I should have planned better and shot more within the budgetary constraints of initially only spending money, then salary but affected by house buying and raising a family. Things are easier now due to digital but that ought not to be a licence to bang away indiscriminately with making images, it is still best to get things right in camera to make post-processing simpler and quicker.

Which camera has been your all time favourite and why? 

I have owned many cameras over my photographic life, starting with an Agfa Silette (which I still have) then through Zenit, Praktica, Canon, Nikon, Leica, Rollei and Mamiya. All of which have given me pleasure. However, I can say without a doubt that my current Fuji XT-2 is the best of the lot for my needs. It, together with the excellent Fuji lenses, allows me to photograph what I want and in the way I want. Like all cameras it has more functions than I will ever use but the way it is set up to my preference allows me to photograph without needing to think about which button or menu item I need to select. I can use it instinctively. I cannot see any reason that I would want to change it in the foreseeable future.

What’s the best purchase you’ve made for less than £100?

This is a difficult question because I tend not to buy much these days as I have all I need. If pushed I would suggest the spare batteries for the camera (essential) and the Peak Design strap (link) which makes carrying the camera pleasant and not tiring even on a full day’s photography. Also a soft release button which screws into the shutter release of the XT-2 and cost less than £2.50 for three off eBay.
 Thanks, Howard. I hope you enjoy leading our East Anglia sub-group. 

If you’d like to reach out to Howard or any of the other sub-group leads you can send an email to the addresses below. 

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