We’ve a lot to worry about…

Us photographers have a lot to worry about.  Life is so full of risks, that I’m grateful for any and all warnings that come from camera manufacturers….

As some of you know, I recently sold all my Canon gear, and switched over to the Fuji system.  I bought, over a year ago now, a Fuji X-T3, and I’ve only just got around to reading the manual – I should have read this first and been prepared…..

It says – and I quote here from the book….

“Do not use this product near water.  For example a bath tub, wash bowl, kitchen sink, or laundry tub, in a wet basement, or swimming pool and the like.”

Good job I read this bit then – as I was about to dunk it in the washing machine for a good soak…..

Separately it tells me not to use it in the shower…. (drat)

Continued use of the camera when it is emitting smoke, or any unusual odour, can be hazardous…..    SMOKE?????

Do not take pictures whilst you are in motion…….you may fall down (yes it really does say this..)

Do not touch the camera during a thunderstorm.. (no lightning pictures for me then)..

It tells me not to use the camera if I happen to find myself wandering around an area where there are flammable objects, or explosive gasses – I guess this isn’t somewhere I would normally find myself.

Funnily it also tells me to keep hot shoes out of the reach of small children…… though I wonder why kids would be wanting their shoes to be hot in the first place…. hey ho!

Lastly there is the imminent danger of being injured by the memory card…..

When a memory card is being removed, the card could come out of the slot quickly.  Use your finger to hold it.  Injury could result to those struck by the ejected card.

I’ve a vision of a card being forcibly ejected, shooting across the room, and decapitating a colleague……

Still, it’s good to know……..

 

 

Margaret Bourke-White, and the weight of a camera…..

Margaret Bourke-White – June 14, 1904 – August 27, 1971 was an American photographer.  She is best known as the first foreign photographer permitted to take pictures of Soviet industry and was the first American female war photojournalist.

She was also the first woman to be allowed to work in combat zones during World War 2.  In 1941, she traveled to the Soviet Union just as Germany broke its pact of non-aggression.  She was the only foreign photographer in Moscow when German forces invaded.  Taking refuge in the US Embassy, she then captured the ensuing firestorms on camera.

And what a camera!  In a book she wrote after the war, she described what she took with her.  Five custom built Speed Graphic cameras, all of her film, and everything she needed to process the film, and print, which she did – using the bath in her room.

In total, she had over 600pounds of camera equipment including portable lighting.

As she wrote in Portrait of Myself: “People often ask me, ‘What’s the best camera?’ That is like asking, ‘What is the best surgeon’s tool?’ Different cameras fill different needs. I have always had a special affection for the larger-than-miniature cameras.”

I mention this because I think we – as photographers in this upcoming new decade – need to appreciate how much easier it is for us, than it was for her.

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Light, and the Edit

Last night, I went out and was able to take some photographs of Tawny Owls.  Sat there, in the dark, unable to speak for fear of scaring them away, low whispers and pitch black in the hide, staring at the pole on which we hoped they’d land – before moving across the area where a couple of flash guns were set up, to land on the target.

I’d envisaged what I wanted – the subtle background of trees in the dusk – the owl in flight moving across the glade on silent wings – me with the remote clutched in my hot hands – staring at that first pole, as the light fell, and fell – a tiny light illuminating the top of that first pole so I’d be able to make out the owl as she landed. The strain of the eye – was that a landed owl, or was I imagining things?

The picture was in my mind – but the reality was twofold.

  1. The owl landed on the second pole straight away – took the bait and cleared off.
  2. The owl went straight for the food and didn’t land on anything.
  3. (OK, threefold then), the owl landed on the first pole, flew to the second as planned, but did it not in a straight line, but in a curve, and so was too small in the frame.

It’s so frustrating – nature at its very best, I love it.

Then the conversation later about how to tackle the low light, the bird, and the background.  One point of view was to keep everything as dark as possible, as tawny owls hunt at night (unlike barn owls which I see fairly frequently in daylight hours). On the other hand, they do hunt at dusk, so some background would be inevitable.

Shooting with flash (and that’s the only way to illuminate the bird), means the background is black anyway.  So what’s the answer.  Maybe a second light on the background permanently, so as to illuminate both things at the same time……… or

Two images, one of the background with a longer exposure, but still dim, and the second of the bird, in flight, or stationary on its post.

OK, well the downside to this is that I can’t use a composite image in a nature competition.  The rules generally say I can’t do this, so back to plan A.

The reality of things like this, is you have to take an image to please yourself, and not for the competition. If you like it, then that’s all there is to it – but in the meantime – here’s a couple of owl images that I like, and you can work out for yourselves how I did it…..

 

There’s Too Much Noise

I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s too much going on around me, and it’s distracting me from my photography.

Not the camera – but the rest of it – the internet (in particular Facebook), the computer generally, the radio, the television – it’s all getting to be too much.

I know I’m not taking enough time over my photographs – I feel rushed…. complete this, edit that, mount up this one… and I know I’ve talked about this before – and still done nothing about it.  Well from this minute forward I will – I promise.

I’m trying to be on a Facebook hiatus.  I do check in to look at what’s going on from time to time, but nowhere near as often as I did.  I’ve turned off the TV (other than Wimbledon) and I’m listening to podcasts only in the evenings.

I think that the more I can turn off technology, the more I should be able to concentrate on my photography – and do you know, it’s starting to work for me.

I’ve found more time for my edits, and am now looking at some photographs I took about 2 weeks ago and appreciating what I can do with them.

The plan is to go back to images I took ages ago, and re-edit them. I think that because of the rush to produce I’ve not always done my best, so I want to start again, and get some prints done, and keep up with the blog too.

Last weekend, was Armed Forces Day in Cleethorpes – I was away (on family business) for part of it, but did manage to join a couple of other photographers on the Sunday afternoon.  We shot some aircraft displays, and I purposely took far fewer images than I would normally do – and the results were much better.  The other plus side was that I actually watched most of the displays – something I would normally miss, as I’d be hidden behind the camera frantically trying to track a Eurofighter as it shot across the sky.

Here’s a couple from last weekend then, a fast one, and a slow one…….  the rest of the edits will just have to wait!

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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Take a photo – Make a photo ?

Is clicking the shutter really enough ?  Do we spend too much time post processing ?   Should we be ‘pure’ in our art.  What comes in the lens, comes out in the print….

I’d say NO.  Clicking the shutter for me, is only the beginning of the process.

Whilst digitally enhancing images has become far easier, it’s nothing new.  The practice has existed since photography began. There was an exhibition in New York in 2012 which examined this whole thing.  Click HERE for the link.  The exhibition featured images created in the period 1840 – 1990.  Look again at the first date…… 1840 !!!  The photographs were altered using a variety of techniques including multiple exposures, combination printing (images used from more than one negative), painting, and retouching.   Nothing new really here, apart from the speed – it was much slower then to get the same results as nowadays.

untitledUnknown Artist, American School
Man on Rooftop with Eleven Men in Formation on His Shoulders
ca. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Collection of George Eastman House
Photo Courtesy: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The earliest example I could find was this one…. a two headed man – created in 1855 !

untitled

So why is manipulation such a huge problem for some people?

My all time hero – Ansel Adams was one of the greatest landscape photographers of all time.  He was probably one of the perfectionists.  His images were printed, edited, printed, edited, and printed again.  His ‘zone’ system is complex, and, for his time, revolutionary.  Google him – look at his images before and after editing.  One of his most famous pictures – Moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico’ – is a perfect example of his post processing skills.

So, next time the ‘purists’ start shouting about images coming straight out of the camera, because that’s how it should be done, just remind them that although sometimes it’s done that way – most times it’s not.  That old adage that ‘the camera never lies’ is bunkum.  It lies most of the time.

The reality is that the people who make the cameras in Japan, or where-ever are the people who are ultimately telling you what your image will look like – especially if you are shooting in JPEG.  They decide the colours, the saturation, the sharpness. You decide on the crop.

The ultimate decision of course is the photographers  own.  There is no right and wrong way to process (or not) your own images.  There is also no need to preach about perfect out of camera images – nor is there a need for people to stop manipulating images just as much as they would like.

There’s space for all of us…….

No go out and MAKE some photographs…………

untitledMaurice Guibert (French, 1856–1913)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, Albi 1864–1901 Saint-André-du-Bois)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Artist and Model
1892
Gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Henry P. Mcllhenny, 1982-14-2