Nothing is Original

The problem is thinking you know enough to think you’re right, but not knowing enough to know that you’re wrong………

What does success look like to you?  Sometimes creativity is easy, and sometimes it’s not. I walk through the days trying to get past photographers block, and trying too hard just makes it worse.

Today is a good day, I’m feeling creative and inspired to get out and take some pictures, not for anyone else, but for me, and me alone.  Today I’m past the block and on a roll. How long will it last?  Who knows, and frankly I’m not worried, it’s about today.

Nettleton Woods

One of the things I’ve learned in the past 18 months or so of Covid, is that I can shoot what I want – not for a camera club, or exhibition, or competition – and there’s been a huge sense of freedom in that.  I realised that it was OK to put down the camera, and walk away for a week or two, to change my subjects and outlook – to get off the club treadmill which I hadn’t even realised I was on. To take a good break from social media.

I found that I am not ‘required’ to be a landscape photographer, or wildlife, or portrait, or creative for that matter – I took time to explore genres, to find out where I fit in with myself, and I’ve come out somewhat surprised.

I explored, went for walks, read art and photography books, remembered that the cameras we all have today (including those on our phones) are much better than the equipment photographers were using well into the 1990’s.  We are blessed with great cameras, lens, and software, and yet I still hear complaints about ‘gear’.  Hey guys, this lens at F1.4 is soooo much better than the same focal length at F2…

Photography is for ‘me’ now, not someone else (I did all that when working full time), and if that sounds selfish – so be it. It’s about feeding my own soul, and I’ve stopped worrying about what other people think of my work.

Running in the Sea

Online, I see images, one in colour, and one in black and white.  The photographer is asking which is better, I can’t decide, help me choose.  Is this the death knell of creativity – why are they letting other people choose for them?   Asking random strangers on the internet to vet your work is always going to be an issue.  About half the people asked liked the colour, and all the rest the mono….. so who was right…. one, the other, both?

Stand up for yourself, be brave and experimental, don’t let the ‘rules’ get in the way of your own vision.  Remember that nothing these days is original.

When I was younger I was a musician. I played in orchestra, military band, dance band, jazz band, and theatre pit.  I loved it.  I played other people’s work as I was learning and after, I was very good at sight reading, better at key transposition, and eventually improvisation.   I learnt the way most do though, I copied others, I read the scores for opera, and symphony, I learnt by rote.  I learnt scales and harmony. I learnt how to use and maintain my instrument.

As photographers we do the same thing – we copy, we learn the rules, and play scales, we learn how to use and maintain our gear, we eventually learn to deviate (or improvise) from the theme, we learn to read the light, to transpose our thoughts and eventually create our own self worth.

Don’t be scared – remember that by trying to please everyone, you ultimately please no-one, and average is born.

Stay away from internet negativity, and don’t worry about what other people think – find your own voice and stick with it…… 

Nettleton Woods

Excellence and its Benefits

It’s been a miserable year, with all the stresses of a pandemic, and the worries that ensue. I think I coped pretty well till the second major lockdown, but during that, I’ve got pretty fed up with the restrictions. Life has to go on, and I know that the restrictions are needed. Hopefully by next spring, we will start to see light and Christmas 2021 should be verging on ‘normal’ whatever that turns out to be – the ‘new normal’…. anyway…..

We are plugged into a news cycle all the time – between the internet, TV, radio and podcasts – all the newspapers, magazines, we are somewhat bombarded by all the bad news of the world.

I’m finding that all the news stifles my creative juices, and it’s been hard sometimes to make myself go out and make images… When I’m feeling all tense, sad, argumentative (nothing new there I suppose on the argumentative front!), and generally under the weather – I feel angry at something I have absolutely no control over – and that makes me scared.

What’s the solution?

For me, it’s friends, family and a good support group….. after that, it’s music, books, and good quality television.

I find that if I can get out for a walk with the dogs, alone, or with a friend, I come home feeling much better. A walk with a friend and my camera, some images to process, and play with on a wet day cheers me up immensely.

I was listening to a podcast on photography a few months ago, and a book was mentioned that had nothing to do with image making – it was about a detective called Harry Bosch – my ears pricked up because the detectives’ real name was Hieronymus Bosch – named after the great Dutch Painter who lived in the year 1500. I’d heard of him because of a different podcast where there had been discussion about one of his major works called ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ – now, if you’ve not heard of this, then I suggest you give it a look – especially if you like things that are a little off the wall….. anyway, I digress……

I searched online to find the book that had been mentioned, and enjoyed it very much – later I found that there was a TV series too – called ‘Bosch’ which I started to watch, and can’t get enough of……

Harry Bosch enjoys Jazz – (bear with me here), and I spent some time trying to find out what he was listening to in his home. I found a website that had a list of the music, and someone made up a playlist.

With the benefit of Amazon Prime, I was able to get a list of jazz personalities that I’d never heard of, and now have a great list of superb music that I’ve not listened to before.

The upshot is that if I listen to excellent music, read excellent books, and watch excellent programming – talk to excellent friends, and get out for walks and some exercise generally, I WILL feel better – and the more I do it, the better I feel.

So now I’m listening to the Red Garland Trio, Miles Davis, Ry Cooder, Lucinda Williams, Artie Shaw, and Boz Scaggs…. to name but a few……

Listening to things like this (or whatever your predilection for music), reading or watching can lift the spirits, and suddenly today I felt like doing something creative.

When we surround ourselves with excellence, it can promote the same in ourselves.

Shooting at the Speed of Light

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Speed of Light Salford: 21-23 March

NVA’s Speed of Light brought The Quays, Greater Manchester’s waterfront to life from Thu 21 – Sat 23 March 2013 from 8-9pm each night.

A centrepiece of the Edinburgh International Festival and recently staged in the docklands of Yokohama in Japan , the night-time work used light, intentional movement and sound to change the way we see and feel about a chosen environment.

Hundreds of runners in specially commissioned LED light suits created beautiful, choreographed patterns of light flowing through streets, over bridges and around public spaces and buildings. Free and non-ticketed for the the watching audience, it was seen as a piece of abstract art on the quays.

I was able to photograph the dress rehearsal for this fantastic event from above the crowds – some of the patterns made by the runners were seen at their best from this vantage point.

Many thanks to the organisers NVA and to Peel Holdings for allowing the photography to take place.

To see the full set of images CLICK HERE

Lytham Proms 2012

Over the last weekend, I was able to shoot the Lytham Proms, held each year on Lytham Green, just outside Blackpool.  It was a fantastic experience to be able to shoot such giants as Alfie Boe, Olly Murs and Diana Vickers, as well as the Lytham Community Choir.

The weather on Saturday night was mixed, but even as the rain hurled down, the voice of Alfie Boe made you forget the water running down the back of your neck.

You can just about make out the rain to the bottom left of the shot.  Despite all that, the sun shone, and though I’ve not got a photo of it, there was a wonderful rainbow, that arced from the sea, over the Lytham Windmill, and onwards.  Alfie remarked that it was a great light show, that had been set up..

Next night was Olly Murs, and the whole demographic of the evening changed.  Lots of  young people, all screaming their heads off for Olly.  He was a true professional, with so much energy – and lots of time for his young fans.

The full set of images can be found by clicking HERE

Key 103 Live 2012

Last night saw the Key 103 Live event at the MEN Arena in Manchester – it was great that I could be part of this event, and gain access to the pit area of the arena to get images of the artists on stage.  Much hard work, very hot, and VERY loud.  Me armed with ear defenders that I used to use when going clay pigeon shooting – made me look pretty silly, but I came away with my hearing intact.  It’s exhausting work, but more than worthwhile – many thanks to the MEN Arena Staff, and the guys and girls from Key 103, for making this such a great event.  It was run with military precision – well done.

Images here of Alexandra Burke, Will Young, Alyssia Reid, One Direction, Talo Cruz, and Tulisa – the rest of the images can be found by clicking HERE