It all takes time!

I think that photography and writing are similar in many ways, in that both need to draw the reader / viewer into the artwork.

A little while ago, I went to a gallery in Manchester to see the Vogue 100 exhibition.  It was very busy, with a lot of people moving around to see the exhibits (which were stunning by the way!)…  I watched the people looking at the photographs there, and in a moment of interest, timed roughly how long on average they were viewed for.  Mostly it was for no more than a few seconds – but for some it was minutes.  Seats were placed for those who wished to ponder, but were mostly a waste of time, as people stood in front of them.

It crossed my mind that each of those images had taken a long time to make – from conception to publication could have been weeks, and here we were now, giving them the most cursory of glances.

Sometime later, with this in mind – I went to see a small exhibition at Cleethorpes library, put on by a friend of mine as part of his degree project.  I had seen some individual images earlier, and hadn’t been very excited by them.  However, seeing them all together, as a collective body of work, tied together by a theme, was enough to make me realise that not all photographs can stand in isolation – they need the rest of the work around them – much like a good novel does.  If the opening chapter doesn’t grab  your attention, you are unlikely to read the rest of the book, or if you do, you do with some small bias.  His body of work, I found extra-ordinary.  Images of paths wandering through trees, with sometimes no way out.  His work, called “Shul” can be found HERE.

Like the writer, the photographer has to have something to say – and it must be compelling enough to keep the viewer engaged.  The measure of success is based on how well the photographer would have you believe in his own world.  Minor White is quoted as advising us “to photograph not only WHAT it is, but what ELSE it is”.

After I had completed my Associateship panel in Bath last month – the judges all left the room to have some discussion…. in that time, a few people turned around to offer congratulations.  However, the first question I was asked, was “How long did it take you to complete the panel?”.  My instant answer was “6  months”, but when I thought about it afterwards I realised that although ‘these’ images had taken 6 months – the actual concept had taken much, much longer.  I had been flirting with multiple exposures for a number of years, and it was only in this year that the project had come together in the way it did.

I feel sure that writers are similar – plots and sub plots must mature in their minds before pen is even put to paper, and once they start, further ideas, will flow, and changes will be made as output increases.

Going back though to the time people spend looking at photographs.  I belong to a tiny group of photographers, who will critique each others images, and spend time looking at them.  Recently, we developed a scheme where we ‘borrow’ each other’s images, so we can spend time at home with them, and I have found that some images ‘grow’ on you with time – rather like music can.

My Associateship panel of 15 images was looked at in detail for about 15 minutes by five people – and I suspect that’s the longest anyone has looked at them, apart from me, and my mentor(s).

Which brings me to the whole point of this blog post – which is about time, and about text and titles.

When I judge photographic competitions (which I love doing), not only do I look at the image, I have to rely on the title the author has given it.  In providing a title, the things photographed can take on an entirely new context.  They can encourage me to view the image in a different way.  This is especially true when the theme of the competition is a complex one.

I’d like to challenge photographers out there, to write a short piece about one of their images – explain why they took it, and what story they are trying to tell. Just a few lines.  I’m totally convinced that photography generally can be improved once people slow down, and think about what they are trying to say with their images.

I’ll start, and it would be nice if anyone commenting on this blog could do the same.Oz 1
Taken recently in Western Australia – where the locals think nothing of driving hundreds of miles to get to the supermarket.  I wanted to show the long straight roads of the country, with nothing there – no traffic.  I wanted the viewer to feel the sense of isolation and remoteness for which WA is known.  It’s about feeling, as much as it is about the view.

Thoughts, as always are welcome.

 

 

I’m waiting to be discovered….

I’m getting older.  I’m 61 – and fortunately in reasonably good health.  I think I’m a reasonable photographer, maybe a tad better than average, but I’ve certainly not been discovered.

I have spent my photographic life producing work in complete obscurity – well near complete anyway.  The people who have seen my work are mostly clients, then camera club folks, then the people that I can bore on a semi-regular basis.

Though this might not be ideal, I am at least, on a par with probably 99% of the photographers that I know, and that is a comfort.  There must be billions of people who own cameras, and even more billions of photographs are uploaded to the internet every day.  Goodness knows how many get uploaded just to Facebook, without thinking of Flickr, or 500px, or any of the other social media channels.  So I suppose I’m in good company.

I don’t suppose for one minute that I’m ever going to be famous.  I suspect that the photographers that I know now, who are well known, in my circles are not going to be internationally famous either.  So why do we continue? – well, I think it’s because we like to have an audience of sorts, even if it’s of our own compatriots.

Photography is expensive, it can be demanding, we push ourselves to make the best images we can, and sometimes we are rewarded with applause from our friends, or maybe a competition win or two, and this is where there is potential for it all to go wrong.  We win something – we achieve a qualification, therefore we are good, and so we should, maybe, be fighting off the adulation from our doors….  NOPE – that didn’t happen either.

Success in competition or accreditation is satisfying.  Success in the outside world is rare, and is for the few, but I’m not suicidal yet…..

Fame in the real world is not just about skill, craftsmanship and the ability to produce brilliant images (I see that every time I look at images on 500px), it’s also about chance, luck, and being in the right place at the right time.

Why for example is Ansel Adams (my hero by the way) so famous..?  Well I looked it up on Google – and here’s the theory.. He was born in 1902 in San Francisco, California. He rose to prominence as a photographer of the American West, particularly Yosemite National Park, using his work to promote conservation of wilderness areas – and there we might have it – Conservation of Wilderness areas.   He was there, producing images of the wilderness at the time conservation became a big issue in the 1970’s which is when he rose to prominence. His work fitted the situation exactly, and his hard work over previous decades was given credence because he lived and worked there, and because he had a huge catalogue of work already complete.

I’ve been to Yosemite, wondered at the majesty of Half Dome – decided to stand on the bridge that Ansel Adams stood on and get ‘that’ picture of the sunset.  Me with the 40 odd other people jostling for position, on what amounted to a small bridge.  No – you need to live your own creative life, and not try to live it through the eyes of a hero…

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We have no control over who likes our work and who doesn’t – we have more control over who sees our work, but we can’t make them buy it.  (It’s great when someone does though) – we cannot have any idea what will happen to our work in the future, and we have no idea if anything we have produced will influence future generations.

All we can say for certain is that our work will still be visible after we have gone, the internet will see to that, and I personally have no idea if my work will  influence anyone in years to come.  Enjoy it whilst you can…… you do not know what tomorrow may bring.

 

 

Trending Now

One of the greatest traps in photography I find is defined by current trends.  In some cases, this can be very useful, for example in team building, or sports, but when it follows the herd it can be very difficult.

For example – a few years ago, when I was a member of a camera club in the Manchester area – there was a swathe of photographs hit the circuit – they were basically what I called ‘big head’ shots.  It was usually a photo of a person, in say a victorian costume, maybe wearing a top hat – he would dominate the image, in the foreground, and in the background would cleverly be put, say a steam engine, or a scene from the Black Country Museum.  This was original, and creative, but then everyone started doing it – and after a while it became – oh just another ‘big head’ shot – lets move on…….

Since my attitute to photography has changed (and really that is in the last 18 months), so has my work.  Art making is not quite the same as photography as a hobby.  A hobby is, by definition a diversion, a pass-time.  Art making is more of a struggle and a passion.  Rewards do come, but usually at a price.  I am finding my photography now even more of an addiction than I did before, as I search to change and improve my photographic style without the restrictions imposed on me by photographic clubs and competitions.

Not that I’d never enter competitions again – I will – I enjoy the challenge, and the ability to see other people’s work.  In fact, this is one of the reasons that I love to judge at camera clubs around the county.  I see what others are doing – I see the trends, and the ideas flow – well they do sometimes………

Even my relationship with my camera has changed.  From the Canon 1DX, and a full range of red band, beige, lens – I have moved almost entirely to the Fuji System.  I no longer think about ‘gear’ as the be all and end all of photography (although I admit better gear does help – but it’s not the camera that takes the picture, it’s the photographer)….  The camera is a tool – the oven doesn’t make good cakes, as the camera doesn’t take great pictures.

I’m watching the rush – the rush to take the next picture, then get it online for the ‘thumbs up’, ‘thumbs down’ vote from the Facebook clans, who are constantly chasing after the latest ‘trend’.

When was the last time you spent time on your own, with a camera?  I’ve concluded that I don’t do quite as well when I’m out with friends. I am interested then in what they are doing, the conversation and the pleasure of being with them.  I’m more interested in this, than in making a meaningful photograph.  So, I need to slow down even more and aim for a more creative frame of mind, and maybe spend a bit more time on my own.

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To Like or Not to Like, that is the question..

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Every now and again someone will ask me “where did you take that picture?”  It’s usually easy for me to tell them,  as I can remember most locations.  However, sometimes I’m asked “WHY did you take that picture?”

The image above generated this second question.  It was taken on the beach, close to West Kirby, and the chap had been wind surfing.  The dog had been bounding around on the beach, and this was the greeting the owner got when he sat down.  I was just taken by the moment shared between man and dog.

What’s interesting, is that the next person to look at this shot might say that it doesn’t do anything for them.  They may not like the composition, or the colours, or the expression….

This is the point – there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way – it’s all to do with how the viewer has been educated by books, art, and photography.  It’s about how they have been ‘judged’ in the past on their own work.  It is also to do with how much influence an individual has had in their photographic journey.

If you are constantly told that the photographic rules have to be followed, and that deviation means it’s wrong – then it’s possible that the photographer will not be as creative.

You need to know the basic rules, yes, but you also need to be aware that it is OK to break them when YOU want to.

Your own views will be constantly changing, provided you are open to change. And the truth of the matter is that you have only one person to please that really matters……. YOURSELF.

 

Never Go Back !

I was on my way to a job a couple of years ago – fairly locally.  I had a deadline to be with the client to photograph a presentation, and didn’t really have time to stop on the way.

Driving past, I saw this boat – moored up, and I thought, that’s great – I’ll go back an shoot it on the way home, or maybe another day.

The voices in my head, that I’ve talked about before, and said you should listen to – shouted at me “do it now”.  I did, I stopped the car, got out, and took this one image.

When I was finished – I drove home the same way, back to see the boat again.  There was no boat any more.  It had gone.  No longer any photo for me to take.

So, I reiterate….. “Never Go Back”… shoot it now.  When and if you do go back it won’t be the same.  It can never be exactly the same.  The weather will change, the light will change.  The thing you want to shoot may not be there any  more.  It might be better, or worse, but never the same.

I always tell people to keep going back to the same location – over and over – to see it in different lights, moods, and seasons.  You will have a different attitude, and a different mood.  You will try different viewpoints.

Always though, shoot first, and ask questions later……

Enjoy your photography…..

 

Harness Racing at Pikehall

Last week, a few of us met up for some social photography at Pikehall in Derbyshire – we decided that we would go and watch the Harness Racing, as none of us had ever been before.  It’s about 30 miles from where we are based, and so with lunch packed away, we intrepid explorers set off on a gloriously sunshiny Sunday….

Racing started at 2pm, and there were 9 races in total.  But, we thought, what is harness racing exactly.. the answer came from the Harness Racing Association

http://www.bhrc.org.uk/racing/the-sport/about-harness-racing/

There are various opinions as to how Harness Racing began – folk racing their horses and traps home from church, trotting horses under saddle carrying the post all over the country and being raced by their owners etc.

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Racing is thought to have begun in the mid 1700′s, the earliest recorded race being on Newmarket Heath on 29th August 1750. The Earl of March and the Earl of Eglintowne bet 1,000 guineas that four horses could pull a four wheeled chaise carrying one person 19 miles in an under an hour. A century and a half later, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales drove a trotter on the old Lanark racecourse in Scotland.

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Many ‘match’ races used to take place between two horses, and also betting on horses trotting a set distance inside a certain time, some of the more notable recorded ones being:- In 1800 Phenomena, a brown mare 14.3hh, trotted 17 miles on the road in 56 minutes, when she was 12 years old. Some questioned the accuracy of the timing so she repeated the feat in three minutes less! She also trotted 19 miles in an hour, and at the age of 23, she still trotted 9 miles in 28.5 minutes. Creeping Sally was only 14 hands and blind, but she was backed to cover 50 miles of public road within 5 hours, trotting in harness. Her blindness probably proved an advantage that day, as there was a thick fog at Shoreditch and for all of the 25 miles out on the Harlow road. She turned round and headed back to London in 16 minutes under the stipulated time, with no signs of distress.

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In 1839, two horses which were driven in tandem trotting 45 miles of road in 2 hours 55.5 minutes, were Tommy and Gustavus, a 24 year old. Both horses had won individual match races. By driving this pair backwards and forwards over a measured five mile stretch of road between Hampton and Sunbury, Mr Burke of Hereford won £100 for completing inside 3 hours. Lady was a trotting mare from Birmingham born in 1828 by Mr Richard Taylor from the noted horse Matchless out of Cheshire Cheese Lass. She was less than 15 hands but her first match was won against a 16hh horse, between Litchfield and Burton on 23/11/1832. She won easily passing him at the distance of 5 miles after giving him a mile start. On 13/5/1834 she trotted 17 miles in 55 minutes, carrying 12 stone.

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The main foundation sire of American Harness Racing stock was a grey English thoroughbred called Messenger, and he was exported to America in 1788. His career as a stallion lasted 20 years, and today nearly all of America’s Standardbreds can be traced directly back to one of Messenger’s great grandsons, Hambletonian. The name Standardbred derives from the early American trotters who were required to reach a set standard of 2 minutes 30 seconds for a mile, in order to gain breed recognition. As far back as 1800, many top class American Standardbreds have stopped in Britain on their way to Australia, and British breeders have benefited from them resting here.

(info taken from the BHRA Website) – All images by Diane Seddon LRPS CPAGB

See the full set of images here http://www.oaktreephotography.co.uk/pikehall

CPAGB Distinction Award

April 27th this year has been in my diary for a long time, as it was the day that my images were judged by a panel to see if I could be awarded the Certificate from the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain.

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The Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB) is an organisation that co-ordinates specific activities for photographic clubs in England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland. It does this through 15 geographical regions known as Federations.

It also offers other services such as Recorded Lectures to clubs and its own photographic Distinctions (known as awards for photographic merit) direct to qualifying club members.

The C award – is the first of three offered by the PAGB, and involves the entry of 10 images – each of which are judged to a maximum of 30 marks.  Each image has to achieve over 20 marks in order for a pass to be achieved.  So a minimum of 200 marks is needed.

My application was successful after many hours of work, and with assistance from a mentor.

Further Information and Reference
The PAGB www.thepagb.org.uk
L&CPU www.lcpuonline.org.uk
FIAP www.fiap.net 

The Photography Experiment

It was a new year resolution this year that I would try to push the boundaries of my photography.  I decided that experimentation both in camera, and in Photoshop would be my goal; not necessarily to achieve competition worthy images, but to push my knowledge, and see just what can be done – especially in camera.

In the first instance I looked on u-Tube, and sought out photographers who were doing ‘different’ things with their equipment, and two particularly caught my eye.

A photographer called David Johnson – (Maxblack Photos) and another Dr Reinhold Adscheid of Germany and  I was intrigued by their work, and set out to have a go.

IMG_5932Firstly I stated looking a multiple exposures.  I know that you can do this in newer cameras now – but mine does not have that facility – and so I had to look for ways of achieving the same effect in Photoshop.

So far, I have learned how to use some of the blending modes in CS6 – and found that using the ‘soft light’ or hard light blends give the best effects.  The multiple images are brought into Photoshop in Layers, and blended.  You may need to tweak the ‘levels’ on each layer, as the more layers there are, the darker overall the image gets.  Playing around with the different blend modes can yeield some unexpected, and clever results.  The shot above of one tram on Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester was taken on my compact camera – a Canon G12, and blended in CS6, then taken into on-one perfect photo suite.

IMG_6065This second tram shot – taken near the Bridgewater Hall, on a bright sunny day was blended in CS6 using the hard light blend mode.

I’m also looking to experiment with camera movement, and zooming whilst taking a long exposure shot, and to do more image blending.

That’s for another post.

The BUPA Great Manchester Run – 2012

Sunday May 20th – dawned bright, with a touch of cloud – an excellent day for the runners in the BUPA Great Manchester 10K run.  With world class competitors, as well as the 40,000 other runners, it was set to be a brilliant day.

We had started our photography on the Friday before, with an opportunity to shoot some of the main competitors – including Haile Gebrselassie, Sanya Richards-Ross, Holly Bleasdale, Andy Turner, Mara Yamauchi, and Patrick Makau Musyoki.  The track was still being built along Deansgate, but the runners threw themselves into the spirit of the games, and of the construction…

Haile and Patrick really got into the spirit of the games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On race day itself Haile Gebrselassie showed with a fifth victory achieved in a pulsating 2012 World leading time, of 27 minutes 39 seconds.  The 39-year-old eased alongside a vintage pack of world class rivals which included Patrick Makau the Kenyan who took away his world marathon record in Berlin last autumn, plus his own fellow Ethiopian’s Tsegay Kebede and Ayele Abshero before stretching the pace. Haile took the lead early, and never faltered..

The start of the Men’s Elite Race – BUPA 10K – Manchester

Gebrselassie’s dominant run where he passed through the half distance in 13:31

Haile takes an early lead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haile later said that for once the Manchester weather was good to him….. what a race..

Haile in a clear lead at 6K

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 10K race was followed by the Poweraid games, for which more images will follow, in another post.

It was great to be in the lead truck, in front of the mens race throughout the whole 10K, and though it was a bit of a rough ride, the images were worth it… well done Haile… and congratulations Manchester.

Many thanks to the organisers, who did such a good job on the day.