A Review of My Talk

It was lovely to find a review of my ‘Odd Things’ talk on the Photocraft Website earlier today….. Wish I’d seen it sooner.

Have a look…….

https://www.photocraftcameraclub.co.uk/post/odd-things-a-talk-by-diane-seddon

Thank you Photocraft for your kind words……

Here’s an idea !

I’ve been reading about photography ideas – here’s one I like the sounds of, and intend to have a go with – I’ll publish the results in due course, and if I don’t, I’m pretty sure someone will remind me.

Why don’t you have a go at this too……

  1. Go for a walk WITHOUT your camera. Go back and make one photo of something you saw on the walk.
  2. Use negative space with ‘wild and reckless abandonment’ – make the main subject a very small part of the composition.
  3. Walk an area you normally drive through. Bring your camera, and make one photo of something you’ve not noticed before.
  4. Make a scenic photograph. Eliminate one element and retake. Repeat till there’s nothing left to take – see how many steps you can spread it out for.

So that’s one shot each for the first three, and a number of shots for the last……

Remember they don’t have to be masterpieces of artwork – just thoughtful things.

Now – there’s a bit of woodland I drive past all the time………..

Have fun with your photography…..

Woods in the winter

The Covid Zoom Inspiration

Sometime during March, my camera club closed down because of Covid19 – there was no big announcement, just a quiet closure, and a sudden end to the programme of events that were scheduled.

One member acquired a Zoom account for the benefit of maybe half a dozen people, so we could keep in touch.  It soon expanded though to include the whole of the club, and since then has gone from strength to strength.

What this blog post is about, is the results of that closure, and what happened afterwards.

We had a couple of meetings to see how it would go, and, when it became apparent that most of the membership were keen, it fell to a group of three to work out the programme that would ensue.  All the competitions had stopped, and there had been no club committee meetings, so we plodded on.

What happened was one of the best programmes of speakers I have ever had the privilege to watch – ranging from people with little experience, to solid professionals with years of speaking experience, based around the world.

The common denominator was the software called Zoom, which seemed to float to the top at the start of the Covid lockdown.  

I certainly had never heard of it before, and I gather a lot more people were in exactly the same situation.  At the start, there seemed to be glitches, and some security issues, but the company seemed to get on top of that pretty quickly, and ironed out the problems.  Pretty soon I saw that many businesses were using it as a conferencing tool, including our own government.

There is always (for some) a fear of new technology, but under these trying circumstances, I have been pleased to see people I would have considered to be wary of this sort of meeting – happily joining in after a training session.  Even some who said they were sure they wouldn’t like it, have been converted.  

Of course – it’s not for everyone, and if it’s not a place you would feel comfortable, then that is fine. (But you’re missing such a lot!)

However – the results of the talks, coming as quickly as they have (and still do) has been inspirational.  

Not just the club, but the Royal Photographic Society too, has put on a series of events and talks that simply could not be missed…. So what is the result so far….

Well, a cornucopia of ideas from an eclectic mix of photographers and artists.  

We started with Art Nude, and nudes in the landscape, reflecting professionalism, and images you would be happy to show your aged mother.  Not a genre I was planning on trying any time soon, but the photographs and the expertise was unmistakable.

From here we moved to stories, told by different images, and a whole talk and photographs based  entirely on a work of fiction.  Some stunning work by a master of wildlife photography, who showed us how he was able to attract birds into his garden, and gave us a tour round with excellent photography.

Based on this talk, the club ran a competition based on ‘birds’ – a fun competition with a very loose theme – images ranged from model kingfishers, to easter chicks in a nest of creme eggs.

So what have I learned?

Well, images can be produced that are interpretations, and not records of events, the subject comes first, and the images second.  Planning is key, and if you are creating your own photographs from a work of fiction, then the image must be moved by the story itself.

The differences in attitude and experience of the speakers shows me that creativity is not necessarily something we can just learn.  It can require a complete change of mindset, and is something that needs constant practice.

There will be many failures, but these are essential, as are the risks.  

For example – Edward Weston produced a startling black and white image of a green pepper – called ‘Pepper Number 30’.  What I hadn’t really thought about, was that there must have been at least 29 earlier versions, and who knows how many afterwards.  The point is that Weston thought that number 30 was THE image, and the one he was probably most satisfied with.

Photographers must learn (I feel it should be compulsory) to cultivate a willingness to experiment, and think about the question ‘what if I did this?’..

I also learned that watching these excellent people present their work – that what we saw was a carefully cultivated, curated collection of images – and not just a thrown together selection of work.  They all saw that there was no ‘one way’ of doing things – there was no wrong way, there was just a multitude of different ways.  Some would just work better than others.

The images were not ‘scripted’ – they were born out of imagination, inspiration, and creativity.  Even the loveliest landscapes that I saw of Mongolia, were thought through pieces, with the photographer even showing us one or two of his rejects, and explaining the thought process.

Each specialist image maker held true to their passions and convictions, and to a large extent didn’t worry too much about how others reacted to them.  There is therefore a true correlation between creation and passion.

The other thing they do is make time for their art.  It’s not created in between sandwiches on a Wednesday afternoon.  They have spent time and effort looking at other people’s work, and at art.  They have attended exhibitions, judged competitions, made work for sale, and importantly, made work for themselves.

So looking back at what I have seen so far – travel, people, factual, experimental, wildlife, landscape, nudes and totally different uses of camera and drones – my mind is racing with ideas.

I look at the programme to come, and see more projects, the Vikings, more wildlife, sports, astrophotography, underwater, street, work with textures, and composite photography.

Lots of things I’ve never tried, not thought about particularly either, but we all need to open our eyes and minds to different mindsets.

Lockdown has been an absolute pain in a lot of ways – there’s been a lot of agony and grief, but there has also been an abundance of creative imagery – some fantastically beautiful and poignant work, reflecting how photographers have responded to being left to their own devices.

Is there still going to be a place for the ‘traditional’ camera club after this?  I’d say yes, because you can’t beat the personal interactions that you get when you meet up.  Will they be different? I hope so – I hope that more photographers will be willing to experiment, and break the rules.

Is there going to be a place for Zoom, or equivalent? – again, I think yes.  How else can you have a presenter from the other side of the world, or even Europe?  Speakers from the deep south of the UK, or the north of Scotland.  

One thing I do hope, is that clubs continue to have these brilliant speakers – so that we can see the amazing work that might be totally different to our own……

I look forward to hearing your comments, and seeing you let yourselves go….

Do What You Want… When You Want…How You Want..

In one of the talks that I give I discuss in a bit of detail my thoughts on how, as photographers, we can be trained to not be individual. We all need to know the rules and then know when to break them. For example the rule of thirds, and the exposure triangle.

So, when you do produce something, you would really like people to like it, but that’s not always going to happen, and then you have to grow a thick skin – because if you don’t, you are going to get upset, and, maybe, go on to produce work that hits the middle ground, where perhaps there will be nothing new or exciting. It’s safe, but boring. If we continue to produce work that everybody agrees with, then it won’t be as creative or imaginative as it could be.

I do think that photographers should produce exactly what they want to in their art work, and then they will know that what they have made is truly theirs. The world will just accept it, or it won’t.

I’ve said this before, but when I was working for clients, I had to produce work that was exactly what they wanted, and how they wanted it, in the time scale that they wanted. Since retirement, I’ve been able to contradict all those things, and I produce what I want, how I want, when I want.

If people don’t like what I (or you) do, then it has to be OK, because it’s really not necessary that they do. The artists responsibility here is to keep producing work that suits them and which allows them the freedom to breathe.

Image making should not be about winning a popularity contest, but rather it should be about being a personal creation.

Photographers love photography, which means we love the production of images, which in turn means we love art itself – and if we don’t love art, then we should. We should pursue the study of painting, sculpture, needlework and every other kind of art. Looking outwards from our specific hobby can only increase our awareness of light, shape and form.

We all have a variety of music that we love, films, and paintings, so why should photography be any different. Look for the ‘different’ and enjoy…..


We are still somewhat in lockdown – and it’s a good time to experiment with new ideas, and even genres.

As an aside, I did get the portable bird hide out again – sadly at the end of the lovely weather – and for the last few days it’s blown a gale, and poured down with rain. The benefit was that the wet earth brought out the ‘bugs’ for the starlings, and I got natural food rather than the dried mealworm I normally see them with.


So, as we work our way out of lockdown – do take care, enjoy your image-making, and stay safe……

Keep the Faith ! It’s not all bad news…

I was just starting to settle down into a lock-in routine – had just sorted out where my groceries were coming from, and begun an exercise routine, when I fell off my bike.  

I’d been to the shops, got some food in, and in an attempt to avoid some pedestrians, I hit a low curb going onto a cycle track, and as the bike went over, I got my ankle trapped under the pedal.  I was 5 miles from home, and no-one could help me. Lots of people ended up standing around me (6 feet away) asking if I was OK….  I wasn’t – (or didn’t think I was) but I said I was fine, and would sit ‘here’ for a bit and then just cycle home.

I did cycle home – I’ve no idea how – convinced I’d broken / fractured something.  Was too scared to go to A+E (thought they would have better things to do than mess with me) – but anyway, after 72 hours or so, the swelling was going down, I was getting around on crutches (for that read trekking poles) – and after a week, the bruising was making my entire foot look black……

So, three weeks on, and I’m back on my bike, and can walk about a mile – slowly… it’s been a bit of a trial.

What’s this got to do with photography?  Well, confined as I was completely to barracks, I had to find something arty to do….. 

All the jobs I’d been putting off had to be done – reorganise my Lightroom Catalogue, sort out all the rubbish from my computer, and take a second look at images I’d previously consigned to the ‘I’m really not sure what to do with this one’ filing system.

I also broke open the moth trap – it needed a good clean, but we had a few days of still, warm nights with a few insects to catch.  

The image below is of an ‘Early Thorn’ moth – no bigger than my little finger nail, but beautiful.  It flew off about 10 seconds after I’d taken this photograph.

Early Thorn

I’d also promised myself at the start of the lockdown that I’d work my way through some photoshop tutorials…. Didn’t do it.  However, with time to spare, and no way out, I sat down and watched some stuff on Scott Kelby, some on YouTube, and read some books.  Streaming tutorials through to the television set was a boon, and after nearly 3 weeks, I think I’ve learned some new tricks, which I’m pretty eager to try out.

The RPS East Midlands Group is running some excellent Zoom talks, so I’m booked in for those too.  

So what have I learned, apart from how to bandage an ankle?  Well, I’ve started taking notice of 3D rendering, which I think is going to be useful – and I’ve been looking back at images I took in 2011 at Chester Zoo.  Compositing images together has turned out to be something I really enjoy doing, and I’m getting better at it.  Using textures in images too is working for me, and I’m looking forward to being able to enter competitions again once this ‘virus’ starts to abate… Hopefully I’ll have a selection of new work I can use.

This image is made up of five separate photographs.  The elephants themselves, at the zoo, the crane, separately at the zoo, the rock – Brimham, the background ‘mountain’ is in Buxton, and the water from a different elephant picture.  There is of course as an extra, the textured background.

Drinking Ele V2

I’ve read a good selection of books – some photographic, some not – and realised more the benefits of Amazon Prime.  They have some pretty good free books for my Kindle, including the odd photography one.

I’ve done a bit of online judging, and have been booked to do some ‘Zoom’ judging, and a couple of talks over the next few weeks.  

So, as the ankle gets better, and a more ‘normal’ life resumes (will it ever be fully normal again?) – I’m looking forward to some more photography.  The redundant church down the road has been crying out for some photo attention for a long time – I need to get that done – and also take a second look at the things I see when I’m out on a dog walk.  The moth trap will get used some more once the winds drop later in the week, and I’m thinking a bit of light painting, once I can walk a bit further.    

A95T6471-Edit

I’ve had the ‘trail cam’ out in the garden too, and done some badger spotting – deer also come into the garden, as well as the odd fox.

Don’t be bored, don’t think you can’t use your camera because you can’t get out – there’s lots to see and shoot out there even if you only have a tiny garden.

Try and enjoy your isolation time – it will be something to look back on in years to come.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay at home, protect our NHS.

To Take or Not to Take? That is the Question……

To take or not to take a photograph can be a moral question, as well as an ethical one.  Should we take it, or do we just ‘want’ to take it because it’s ‘there’.

I think the majority of us would not take a picture of a person, if they specifically asked us not to.  But can we over-ride this?

Whilst I’ve been creatively, non-creative, I’ve been reading a lot of books (I suspect the purchase of books of all sorts of genres, only comes second to what I spend on photography generally)… and one of the books I was looking at was “Another America: A Testimonial to the Amish, by Robert Weingarten – look him up – you can see some images online.  In fact here’s a link to some audio, and a video.  Three minutes if you can spare it….

https://www.eastman.org/another-america-testimonial-amish-robert-weingarten

He spent four years quietly photographing a group of people who most definitely did NOT want to be photographed – on his own admission, with a long lens.

Was this a genuine desire on his part to share this ‘unknown’ America – or was it a personal need to record something that maybe should have been left private?

Does the fact that the Amish live in ‘plain view’ give people the right to photograph them, or are they nothing more than fair game.

I relate this to a series of images taken by a photographer of homeless people on the street – and wonder if the same thing applies.  Some of the folk here could not object to the images being taken, because they didn’t know it had happened – is this right?  Especially when the photographer stands to make a profit out of the sales, or enters them into national / international competitions – with no formal release or agreement – and I’m not talking about traditional street photography here – as that’s a whole other can of worms…

One photographer justified the taking of homeless people pictures, by purchasing for the person, a coffee, or a meal – which is very laudable – but in the long run, is it ethical to swap a permanent image for a transient dinner?

Does the fact that these people are different from so called ‘normal’ society make the images act as a help for us to understand them, or could they be called (sometimes) nothing more than sneaky?

Weingarten’s images are all monochrome, and are quiet, peaceful scenes, and he says he treated the Amish with respect, though given that he met with some resistance, I’m not sure this was always the case.

Most Amish today will not pose for a photograph. Considering it a violation of the Second Commandment, which prohibits the making of “graven images,” the Amish believe any physical representation of themselves (whether a photograph, a painting, or film) promotes individualism and vanity, taking away from the values of community and humility by which they govern their lives. Occasionally, Amish people did have their photos taken, as you can see with the couple in this image who likely went to a studio for their portrait in 1875. But by the time photography became popular in America in the mid-19th century and photographers and researchers armed with cameras began appearing in Amish communities, most Amish objected to appearing in or posing for photographs entirely.

Amish-Photography-1

Do we have the right to photograph anyone, and everyone without their permission – and sometimes, do we have the right to publish those images, even if they have said no?

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.

_DSF6079-Edit

 

What do you need to see in a photo?

I printed some images off last week, of birds – with textured backgrounds – and when the prints came (my printer has died and I still have no idea what new one to get, but I digress) – I was somewhat dissatisfied with them.

There was some lack of detail in the shadow areas, that I was sure was there in the digital image – but then I got to wondering how much detail did I really need?

A friend of mine looked at the image in question – this one below.. and said he didn’t think there was enough detail in the feathers on the right hand side of the bird.

DSED9524-Edit

He went on “it’s got a good feel to it, I like the colours and the setting with the background rocks, but it’s the bird”

I asked how much detail he wanted.. “you can see it’s a Jackdaw can’t you?”

“Yes” he said…

“Well how much more detail do you want then?”

How much detail do we ‘really’ want in a photo?  Sometimes I think we look for too much.  When I’ve judged National Competitions, we generally get no more than about 5 seconds to make a judgement.  Does the image have impact?  It’s not till the end, when we have all the top scorers, that there is a bit more time to look at detail, but even then, time is short.

I’m pretty sure we worry too much about our image making.  Are we crafting for ourselves, or for some judge.

I must confess to making images for myself, and if someone else happens to like them, then that’s a bonus.

A talk I went to earlier this year – was by a lady – whose photography is of the highest quality – and she was saying that she was editing her images to make them fit the requirements of a judge.  In her eyes she was changing them from something ‘she’ wanted – to something that fitted a rule.

I’m not saying this is wrong, but at least there was a recognition of changes that have to be made to suit an occasion.

I think it’s a shame that we do this, but I suppose it’s (as they say) ‘horses for courses’.

What I did appreciate was the fact that she was keeping the original images – -which she had crafted for herself, and appreciated that she would have to alter them if she wanted them to win a competition, or help her achieve an award.

I think that as photographers we love not just the image taking – but the process that happens afterwards, and we also have a certain love of art generally. I’m sure that this is important in the creation of our photographs.

I’m also certain also that a love of art – outside photography is a useful and beneficial thing, especially when we turn our photographic eyes out into the world.

 

Who Cares?

I do quite a bit of judging these days, and so I see both good and bad work presented to me for some critique, and opinion.

I also do personal critique sessions, and try to help photographers with individual images they are trying to make, or panels they are trying to put together – and sometimes a photographer might be insistent that one image or another is the one they want to use or put into a group of other images – and the reason is that they have an emotional tie to that image – whether it’s a good one or not.

It’s not always what the photographer wants to hear…. that an image won’t fit – or isn’t that good….. Reasons for inclusion are numerous, but usually on the grounds that it was a difficult image to produce, or acquire, or expensive to get.  My response these days is pretty much on the grounds of ‘who cares?’ – though maybe not quite so blunt.

My story is that many years ago, I photographed red squirrels in Liverpool.  Not only had I not seen one before but it was around the time that squirrel pox had decimated the population somewhat – so the photos I did get were few and far between.  I did get some, and the one I was most proud of, was a fat squirrel sat in in front of, and partly obscured by, the woodland undergrowth.

Proudly I put it into a local club competition, and it did very badly.  Not knowing protocol – I complained to the judge at the end – and I said to him ” Do you know how hard it was to get that picture?”  and his response was “Not my problem – it’s up to you to get a clear image with a diffused background” – I was taken aback, and said that it was nearly impossible to get that sort of background…. to which he replied “so go try harder then”………

Now – I understand what he meant – it wasn’t the judges problem, it was mine…. No one who views a piece of artwork or photography cares how long it took, how difficult it was to get, or  how much it cost.  No-one cares that you stood in an icy river for three weeks, or that you paid a fortune to a photographic  holiday company.

The pain and suffering that a photographer or artist goes through is irrelevant from a viewer’s point of view.  We always think it’s important, when we are the ones who  have suffered so much, or paid for a shoot.  It’s the painful truth though – If it’s a bad image, then no amount of pain and suffering or expense will make it into a better one.

If you want accolades and praise all the time, then photography or art isn’t for you.  Take the rough with the smooth, and accept that not everyone is going to like what you produce, and sometimes the reason they don’t like it, is just because it really isn’t good enough!

_DSP5608-Edit