Things are different now

Those of you who know me well, or even not so well, might know that I had to reformat the hard drive on my main computer. Wiped everything off, and started again…. why this radical thing? Well, the boot up time (which should be around the 20 second or so mark), had got longer and longer, and the computer was taking anything up to 4 minutes to be in a useable state.

I spent ages on the phone with Apple, and in the first instance just re-installed the operating system. It helped, but not a lot – and in the end I bit the bullet, backed it all up (again), and hit the delete button.

Wiping the data was the easy part – I’d even remembered to ‘switch off’ Adobe, so they didn’t think I was trying a reinstall on a third machine. Anyway – it went pretty well. The ‘delete’ didn’t take long, but grief……… getting back all my software….. well, let’s say, I might have said a few rude words.

I ‘thought’ I’d made a note of all the stuff I had, down to plug-in software, actions and brushes. Some I had made, and some I had downloaded (acquired) years ago (it’s amazing what you find when you look hard).

The really frustrating part is that on my old machine, I am still running an older version of On1 software. Version 9 – upgraded sometime ago to version 10.

My new Mac had originally accepted this software, copied over direct from the old one last year. With a clean install of the OS though, I couldn’t find a download from On1. An email to them though helped, and they sent me the correct link, but I found that this older version is now incompatible with ‘Big Sur’ – and On1 have no intention of updating their product (that for them is out of date) so I can use it.

A bit of thought, and I decide that I can probably live without it. I’m certainly not paying for it again – or at least another upgrade…

One or two other bits also don’t work any more – and I decide that the issue is that since getting a MAC back in 2007, I’ve just used the migration tool, to copy one drive onto another. A close inspection of the library showed me rubbish going back to my first machine, but I’ve no idea why On1 worked before the new install….. anyway……

Roll forward 10 days and it’s all finished. Boot up time is back to around the 20 second mark. I’ve got all my Adobe stuff back on, and even the Google free NIk Collection worked albeit in a haphazard way. In a moment of enthusiasm, I upgraded that to the DXO Nik Collection 4. Well, it was on sale at a discount – I didn’t realise they only released this new version this month (June 2021).

The end result is great – well worth the hard work. The moral of the story is to maybe not use the migration tool again going forward.

Anyway, I am back up and running, that’s the important thing. Let’s get some images made now.

Fields near Red Hill Nature Reserve

Thoughts about Photoshop

Over the last year or so, some of you have been taking in my pearls of wisdom (or not, as the case may be).

I have used the phrase ‘good artists borrow, great artists steal’ many times, but have you stopped to think what exactly it is that I’m on about…..

It’s about finding inspiration in the work of others – using that as a starting point for original creative output.

Artists sometimes decontextualise, remix, substitute, or otherwise recreate existing work in order to make something new.

For example – there are a number of photographers who are taking images from Google Earth, and rehashing them into something different – but what makes this sort of thing ‘stealing’?

It’s that instead of borrowing something, and making a weak imitation, which might just serve to remind people of the superior original, it has been changed by you, with your own new ideas.

Then, when you’ve transformed it – your audience may look at both works and say that yours explores that idea in a new and different way – you then own that new idea – you’ve stolen it.

Modern writers steal Shakespeare’s plots. The Lion King is a version of Hamlet, and West Side Story a version of Romeo and Juliet – these adaptations though transformed the original idea and became iconic, and famous in their own right.

There is a difference between inspiration and imitation, but also between inspiration and straightforward copy. It’s not copying when you replicate how the great masters used colour, or composition in their paintings in order to improve your own work.

How did the great painters and artists train their students? – they gave them things to copy…. I’ve seen it on the Antiques Road Show – the expert doesn’t always know if it was the master or the student, if the piece is not signed. Hence the importance of provenance.

Steal ideas if you must – but then go away and make that idea and concept your very own…. you never know, someone might just steal that idea and move it on some more…. be flattered if they do.

Film V Digital

A comparative review…..

I have a friend (just the one) – who shoots film almost exclusively.  He says that you can’t get the same quality of image from digital that you can from a film camera.  He insists he’s right – won’t hear a word said against film (and I’m not going to here either).

The thing about this, is that the production of an image, has nothing to do with the medium on which it is taken. It’s a mechanical thing, whichever way you look at it.

There was a time, when I bought, shot, developed and printed from film.  There’s a time now when  I buy cards, shoot, process and print digital images – and the difference is?  I can do it in the daylight, instead of sitting in (what was at the time) a stuffy little built in wardrobe, with the smell of chemicals wafting on the air.

When I did my photography courses at college – one of the first things we did, was go straight back to the lab, and process a film – ahh, you say – nostalgia….. nope – same old darkness (in a larger room to be sure) but with the same chemical smell that lingers long after you get home.

‘But”, my friend argues “we did it all ourselves, all the famous photographers of our time did”… well sorry to disillusion you…… but most of them had assistants, even if they oversaw the whole process.

Think this way as well.  We didn’t make the film, as much as we didn’t make the memory card.  We didn’t make the lens for the camera, or the electronics that are in there today.  Someone somewhere along the line helped us to make that photograph.  If we digital shooters produce a JPG, then the camera has done some editing in advance – if we shoot RAW, then we end up with the equivalent of a negative, to edit as we wish.  I suspect it’s no coincidence that Lightroom has a ‘Develop’ module, or a library for that matter.

What I notice is that my friend does not print his own images, nor does he process his own film, and yet argues that his image making process, is  more ‘pure’ than mine,

As photographers, and creators of images, I don’t think it matters if we leave some things to our virtual assistants – get our images printed elsewhere for example – it is entirely our choice, but if we leave the film to be processed into prints at the time we send it off -then we are leaving the final edit to the chemistry lab operators.

In the end though, it’s our creative vision, and the print, (if we choose to go that far) is our end product.

Put a film print and a digital print side by side, and most times I would defy you to tell which was which !

Feel free to argue the point – I’d be interested…….. 

On being a Judge……..

I’ve been reading a lot of comments on social media recently about judges generally.  What they say, what they do – what they ‘might’ be thinking…

It got ‘me’ thinking.. what can we do to keep camera club members happy – and after much debate, inward thinking, and maybe 5 seconds later – the answer came – and it’s ‘nothing’….. there is nothing we can do.  Whatever a judge does or says, it’s going to upset / offend someone.  Even if it’s just the person who didn’t win that night.

I’ve written before about emotional ties to photographs – YOU, the photographer know exactly what went into the shot – you know what you did, what your thoughts were – you know the story behind it.  The judge doesn’t know any of that.. they come at it cold from the freezing wastes of wherever to see an image on which they have to pass some comments.

The comments they DO pass are usually the technical ones, about white balance, blown out areas, composition etc…. and the rest can be more personal ones, like how the image actually resonates with them.

I’ve been known to make some assumptions about how a picture was made, but usually qualify it with something like ‘but I don’t know for sure, this is only my idea’ – to try and get myself out of the hole I’m probably digging myself into.

However, we also judge emotionally – though I read somewhere today that judges apparently shouldn’t do that.  It’s hard not to…..  I’m pretty sure that if a picture came up of a hunter smiling over a dead giraffe – I’d find it really hard not to say something about how I didn’t approve of wildlife hunting…. and I’m pretty sure a lot of you would too.

So, why would that remark be OK (maybe) and not others about creating photographs.

The judge is a human being – with human ideologies, and personal feelings.  I’m pretty sure these will come out in the course of talking about photographs whether they mean to or not.

A camera club competition is not the end of the world – it’s supposed to be a hobby for most of us – not life and death, and your career certainly isn’t going to fail or collapse because one judge somewhere didn’t like your image, or incorrectly interpreted it.

There is normally no-one out there at a club anxiously waiting to reward your genius, because photography is art for which most of the general public have no interest, apart from maybe likes and loves on social media.  Which in my mind and observations has become more of an anti social media.

The photographs we make are mostly looked at by only a select few.  A small group create, promote, exhibit and may decide the success of an image, but social media opens it up to the world.  Once you exhibit your images, either here or in a camera club, you are, by default, opening it up to criticism.

Whether you like the critique or not, is up to you – but in the end it’s only the analysis of one person, on one night – and on the next outing, it might be loved…..

In spite of my ill-concealed conceit about such things (and the list grows longer the older I get) – the end result is that I reach a rather languid acceptance rather than a passionate objection.

Keep taking your photographs, stick them into competitions but please don’t judge bash – if if you feel you must – then get up there yourself and do it…..  You’ll find it’s harder than you think.

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Twelve days into the new year, and I’m in trouble already….

Do you find that sometimes people take photography far too seriously?  I’m not talking about professionals, who just have to be more serious than us – but about people who don’t seem to ‘get’ the idea that you can relax and play with your cameras and images.

For example…. I took this image just before Christmas

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A friend and myself went to the local woods to shoot some macro – and he had with him a portable smoke machine – well, we had a rare old time, messing about, crawling in the undergrowth – letting the smoke off, and watching the way the breeze seemed to change direction between every shot we took.

We must have taken a lot of images – and were caught by the woodland warden / conservationist, who thought it was funny to see two aged photographers grovelling about in the undergrowth.  He asked what we were doing, and was interested in the effects we were trying to get.  He liked the images too.

Anyway – I posted this image on a social media site, and was heavily criticised by another photographer for putting artificial smoke (read fog) into the image.  At first I was accused of putting the ‘fog’ in during post production.  When I said that we used a smoke machine – I was told that it wasn’t natural, and we shouldn’t have done it.  I tried to explain that it wasn’t toxic – that there was no harm being done, and we were just having fun……  The same poster said and I quote “there’s no fun crawling around getting dirty, and you shouldn’t be using a smoke machine in a public place…..”

So that told me off then…..

I don’t think I approach photography as something trite, but I do enjoy trying new things.  I think the challenge for the commenter here is to find the balance between being stuffy and dour, and letting go to enjoy the hobby.

 

 

Sunrise / Sunset / Image Theft ???

I’m a bit quick off the mark with the blog posts at the moment, but I follow another blog with a link I thought was worth sharing.

It also begs a question, and I’d be interested in getting opinions.

The link is at the bottom of the page, but before you look, read on…..  This ‘artist’, has culled from Flickr thousands of sunrise, and sunset images – she’s also taken them from other sites, some still show partial watermarks.

She has cropped each image down to what looks like postcard size, so that they only show the sun rising, or setting.  These images have then been curated together to form massive murals of red and other colours, and to be honest, they look quite stunning.

My question is about using other peoples work to create your own – as I notice that her work is copyright to the artist….

Here’s the question……  Is it right that she has curated, and used all these images from Flickr, and other sources, to create a work of art of her own, and to make a profit from it?

I know (as I do use Flickr) that you can set a creative commons licence to images on there, which would allow both private and commercial use.  However, I also know that a lot of people who post on there, use the generic copyright, which does not allow use by anyone else.  Plus, I also see on some of this ladies work, the partial copyright signs that she is cropping.  Shutterstock, and Bigstock are just two of the agencies that I immediately recognise.

Have a read of the page, and please do tell me what you think.

http://www.penelopeumbrico.net/index.php/project/suns/

Here’s a quote from her website:-

Copyrighted Suns / Screengrabs questions the claim of ownership of an image of something that is essentially un-possess-able. I cropped the suns from images of sunsets on stock photography websites that had a ‘watermark’ running through them. I used the descriptive tags of each of the stock images as the titles of each of my cropped ‘watermarked’ suns. The words summarize the collective narratives we weave around it’s setting, and also indicate how much a fragment I am using from each image.

Is not a landscape, un-possess-able (as she puts it), or an image of the stars, or aurora, and does this mean she can use any image she wants – is the fact that the image is cropped make it acceptable to use it?  Does the fact that she adds tags to each of the stock images make it right?

I think not – there is something I find intrinsically uncomfortable with this type of art ‘theft’ – if indeed it is theft….

Your thoughts will be much appreciated.

 

The Golden Bullet

This week, over the Christmas break, I’ve been able to sit down and read ..  and something I noticed, in fact have been noticing for a long time, is the number of articles that offer photographers the Golden Bullet which will make them more successful – make their business take off – improve their photography – and all at the touch of a button.  The right camera body, the right lens, or the right software….  and not many of these articles ever talk about the right attitude, or the right skill sets.

Here’s a few headlines from this week:-

“Hack your Smartphone and become a better photographer” – really ???

” Five weather sealed lens that will improve your photography” – please explain this one to me..  It might let you get out in bad weather, but just how does it improve your photography?

“Why natural light is best for portraits” – absolutely……

“Why flash is best for portraits” – absolutely (but if you are a new starter, this could be a bit confusing..)

“Lightroom / Photoshop presets to take your photography to the next level” – yes, bolt on that preset or that filter – you don’t need to learn how it all works….

“5 of our favourite lens for environmental portraiture” – 5?  Can’t we use just the one?

“Secrets of sports photography” (insert any genre at this point) – because after all it’s good to know a secret isn’t it?

I read one or two articles about building a business, and working on accounts, and keeping clients, but mostly they’re about getting new cameras, lens, computers, and software.

It’s such a shame that photographers can get sucked into GAS (gear aquisition syndrome), so much that everything sensible seems to leave their heads.

With a constant bombardment from your favourite camera brand telling us what’s new – or what’s coming soon, it’s so easy to get sucked into this strange new disease..  This obsession we have with getting the ‘next best thing’ in camera tech leads to a vicious cycle and will continue to distract us from our art if we don’t find out what it is we really need to focus on.

Education is a photographers most powerful tool when it comes to progressing, and being successful.  Sure, improved gear can be a great help – but there’s nothing to beat a good course on accountancy and business management – not as exciting to be sure, but an absolute essential if you want your business to succeed.

We all love our toys though, and it’s great to have the ‘latest’ thing, and if you can afford it feel free to indulge.  For those of us though who max out the credit card just to be able to say “I bought this”,  you should probably reconsider things.

BUY BOOKS – NOT GEAR

Having gear can make it easier to capture the type of image you want, but won’t make you a better photographer.  Buy books, look at pictures, attend gallery exhibitions, listen to podcasts.

Books are expensive yes, especially good quality photo books – but compare that to the price of a new lens.  Every time I go to a talk by a photographer that I admire – I buy the book they are selling at the end.  It’s not often I’ve been disappointed, and I’ve had some brilliantly creative images put in front of me that I can stare at for as long as I want without the computer being switched on.  Sometimes, there’s little or no text, just pictures.  It’s brilliant, and inspiring.

If you are serious about taking your photography to the next level – buy books.  Buy lots of books, buy tutorial books.

Again I reiterate that having good equipment will help you create the images you seek, but it won’t make you a better photographer.

I hope that you’ve all had a happy and relaxing Christmas, and that the New Year will bring all you wish for – be it gear, or books, or both…….  enjoy……

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“Contemporary” Art / Photography

This might turn out to be a bit of a rant, but I’m going to try and restrain myself …….

When is Contemporary photography art?  And when does a well taken image denegrate into “just a photo”?

This question has been nagging at me for a couple of weeks now – since an exchange with a photographer online led them to deleting some comments that had been passed on an image.  I’d been able to read it all before it was taken down, but it hit hard at the art side of imagemaking, so please bear with me.

Photography is becoming an ‘easy’ target.  It’s easy for everyone to engage in – and that’s a good thing.  The hard part, I feel, is that something of a disaster is happening around us.  Cameras have become (and I quote here from another blog I read) “optical machine guns, mowing down everyone and everything with carefree abandon”.

What has this ‘freedom’ done to photographers? – well I think it’s made some of them lazy.  (I’m talking generally here, and not relating to those who curate their images, and I’ll come back to that later).  Point and push, slap on a filter, push it onto Instagram, or Facebook, and call it Contemporary Art.  Far too many photographers seem unwilling, or unable to learn – they are told on a daily basis how good they are, what incredible photographers they are – they live in a thumbs up, thumbs down world – where no-one challenges, and when they are challenged they delete the posts.  They’ve already had lots of ‘likes’ so that’s that.  It’s the difference between rhymes on greetings cards, and Milton, to treat them the same is just insulting to both.

The audience says it’s good, so the artist abandons exporation, and repeats what worked before – it requires a strong will to deviate from the norm, and explore into the unknown.  The artist has a choice now, carry on doing what they were doing, or see what’s happening, and change their view, make real art that has come from the photographer, not from the filter.

I gave a talk a little while ago at a camera club – I offered a half dozen of my images round, and asked them to critique them.  I’m thick skinned, and said that if they hated them, or loved them, that was fine, but I’d be asking them how they arrived at that conclusion.  What was it about the images that made them like or dislike?  It was a hard exercise for them.  They couldn’t just ‘thumbs up’, or ‘thumbs down’.  The comments afterwards were that they overall liked the images, (thumbs up) but the discussion in the end wasn’t about the image itself, they were more interested in how I made it in the first place – which wasn’t really what I really hoped for.

And this is what we’re getting sucked into.  It’s less about the end result (which is easy – like or not) and more about, how did the author achieved it, and what camera they used, if indeed it gets that far.

Now, I’m not against asking – I do it myself (I did it this morning in fact), but I ask after I’ve considered the image, and decided on its merits, (well, I’d like to think so anyway).

Too many people don’t edit, in the way that I understand editing.  Composition is something of an anathema to (mostly  younger) photographers.  They want to make something new and fresh – which is great – till we realise that their idea of new and fresh, is the filter I referred to earlier, and which more mature photographers have seen before ad nauseum.

Really ‘good’ photographs are never the product of laziness.  If the photographer puts in enough effort, and thought, then their images should be worthy of more than a quick look (thumbs up). It should not rely on a quick filter trick, which requires no real effort, or thought.

I am still of the opinion that if you put your ‘art’ on Facebook, Instagram, or any social media platform, you are saying to the world “look at my images”, and as a result you must be prepared for people to question your motives, and your artwork, and not get upset when someone comes along who doesn’t like what you have done.  You can’t please all the people all the time…..

Most photographers feel that their images aren’t good enough – that’s the whole challenge, frustration, and joy of photography.  We are all our worst critics, and that generally, is what drives us to improve.  I’ve said before in my blog that it’s OK to fail, it’s OK to take bad pictures, and it’s OK to apply unexplainable filters. What’s not OK, is a failure to learn, to develop, to fail to explore and engage with others who may not like your work for a reason.

And nearly lasty (and you may be pleased I’m getting to the end of what has in fact turned out to be a rant), curation.  Photographers who share EVERYTHING…. Maybe they think the world wants to know what they had for dinner, or see the 25 variations on the same picture.  Photography is like going to a restaurant – they serve you the best meals, offer a menu of choice – the menu says, this is the best this place has to offer, you choose.  They don’t show you the failures, the repetitive dishes.  They hide their junk, they paint the front of the restaurant to attract you in.   They draw attention to the good bits, and let that define them as a business.  They don’t ask you to choose between identical dishes, one colour and one black and white.  Nor do they ask you what colour plates to use.  They define their style.

So to those photographers who keep asking what colour camera they should buy (and yes it’s happening more and more), and which image looks best (colour or black and white) – I say make your own minds up….. be brave, sort yourselves out, but for goodness sake stop showing us your bad bits, stop thinking you’re amazing, and produce something that isn’t a shallow nothing with no story.  Tell a lie often enough, and it becomes the truth.

Finally, a message to the people who think that they want to make Contemporary Images and ‘not just a photo’, please think of something more creative to say……  The photo IS the image.

Than you for bearing with me.