Great Photographers – or otherwise

What makes a great photographer?

I was watching a video the other week, by American Photographer Ken Van Sickle, whose work, in my opinion is truly great.

His words in the interview were as follows

“If you were there when the Hindenburg caught fire, that would be a great photograph.  But you’re not a great photographer because you can’t repeat that in every day things. A great photographer is consistently able to make something in a style that is personal to themselves”

and I think we should take his words to heart.

I also read an article about how photographs can be popular, but not great – sometimes not even good.  I see this all the time on FB, less so on Flickr, and even less so on 500px – but as FB seems to be taking over the whole world, with even insurance companies now thinking to rely on what people post – I do wonder what their reaction would be to those who only post pictures – great pictures – with  no comments.

I was trying to explain last night – to a group of photographers, why my commercial images wouldn’t work on the competition circuit.  The images are not bad ones, they are pretty good in fact (I wouldn’t get the repeat business if they weren’t) – but they just would not be what the competition judge would want to see.


Here’s one from a job I did recently -it was in the papers…  It’s the Royal British Legion Parachute drop at Chatsworth Country Fair.  It told the story, in context – but out of context and in a competition, it would probably do not so well.  Does this make me a worse photographer?  No, of course not.  But if I pushed this onto social media – it’s very likely that it might get a few ‘likes’ but probably not a lot of attention.

The Green Woodpecker image that I put on FB last week, and on my last blog post, certainly generated a multitude of great comments, ‘likes’ and favourites.  Both images needed the same amount of skill, speed, and ‘getting the exposure right’ – but each received a different response.

So, what I’d say to you is – keep taking pictures, don’t let lack of ‘likes’ get you down – keep going, do what you like doing -take the images that YOU like and enjoy.

In the meantime, I’m on the downward spiral to retirement, and totally looking forward to it……

Keep shooting !

Green Woodpeckers and a Lens Review

A couple of months or so ago, I sold a lens, and bought a new one – the Canon 100-400 4.5, 5.6 MK2, which I intend to use with the 1.4 convertor.  This will give me 540mm at F8, and still allow full auto focus, on a full frame camera.  It replaced the Canon 70-300 which, although sharp and light, didn’t, in the end, give me the length I wanted, and I could not use it with extenders.

I’d used the new lens a couple of times, but not really in ‘anger’, as it were.  I discovered it was well balanced on the camera, ultra fast to focus, and had very little distortion or vignetting.

The other day, I was offered the chance to sit in a hide, to photograph green woodpeckers, and not knowing how far away these birds would be, I chose to take with me a 300mm 2.8 prime, with a x2 convertor, so 600mm at F5.6, and the 100-400 with the 1.4.

I ended up using the 100-400 mostly, as it was lighter, smaller, and easier to move in the lens space inside the hide.

Eager to compare the two lens performances, (and I should have taken two camera bodies with me) – I have to say there wasn’t much in it.

300mm 2.8 with no convertor / 1/200 sec, F7.1, -2/3 EV, ISO 250 on a tripod
100-400 no convertor, 1/500, F7.1, -2/3 EV, ISO 400, hand held


The 100-400 performed beautifully, and I was over the moon with the results.  The colleague I was with in the hide borrowed it, and in the end used it more than I did…. complete with extender, which I didn’t get to use.

There’s always next time.