Photography can be weird!

Isn’t it weird – taking photos I mean? Being on your own with a camera, and then maybe sitting on your own in front of a computer, wondering if it’s all going to come out OK.  

What about the photographs though?  Some of the images you take can be studied in advance, and oftentimes you are looking for the problems, even before they arrive, almost as a justification for them being ‘not good enough’.  You blame equipment, light, software – you are full of excuses.

Photographers need to sometimes empty themselves of preconceptions, and think of every new image as a potential passionate affair – something that you can throw yourself into with scant regard for anything, or anyone, else.

Focus on the part of the image that you like the most, shoot what you like the best.  You might not always know what the end result is going to be – things will develop, and that is as it should be – relish the challenge.

Don’t even think sometimes, just respond to what’s in front of you – look for the spirit of the scene.

Imagination can be harder than you think, but if you try too hard, then it might not come to you.  Sometimes, you feel you have been bold, imaginative, experimental. You’ve really tried to see and do things in different ways. It still didn’t work.  You’ve tried too hard.

So, look in the dark places, in the shadows – look where you normally don’t look, see what’s in there that you’ve not noticed before.

Photography isn’t always about what you put in, it’s about your ability to take things out – don’t be afraid to destroy your image in the edit process (you can always come back to the original) – take risks – and be brave enough to find out just how little you need.

You can get to the point in an edit where you can see it’s almost done – you see the end result, but sometimes continue to push on and on – till it’s over done – over processed – be aware of the point that can make or break the picture.

Now, look at what you have made – maybe it’s not all right, not all you hoped it would be – but don’t be too self critical – be proud that you got as far as you did…..

Keep being surprised.

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……

Better to Give than Receive?

As I sit in my little office – listening to some soothing jazz, I’m also looking at some of the art work hanging on the walls.

Here, in this little room, it’s all my own work crammed onto the walls, but elsewhere in the house, I have images belonging to other photographers – it’s either something that’s been gifted to me, or something I’ve bought.

Which got me thinking….. why don’t we hang more of our own work on walls at home in areas where visitors can see it?

Some time ago, a friend of mine got for me some simple black frames, with no backboard and no glass.  I’ve used them over and over.  It means that I can mount up an image, seal it into the frame – hang it on the wall – and then, when I’m tired of it, I can swap it out for something else.

Some images seem to last much longer than others – in other words, they seem to have a long shelf life.  

I’ve noticed that photographs by other people have hung in the same place for years – and I still stop and look at them as I pass.  Not every day granted, but often enough that I know I still like them.  Similarly with paintings – I have a small collection of original oils which I have never ‘gone off’…… so why do I change my own photographs so frequently?

Well, partly I think it’s to do with me being my own worse critic – I see the faults that maybe others may ignore….  

I used to do a lot of home decorating – wallpapering and what not….  When people came to visit – they’d say nice things about it, and it wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve said “well if you look up there in the top right hand corner – yes up there, in the shadow – you have to look carefully, the pattern doesn’t match…….  Sound familiar?  I’ve been in houses where the host/hostess has done exactly the same thing……

Why do we do it?  And the answer is…. Sadly, I have no idea…….. but often self critique is not harmful – and most times it’s actually beneficial, allowing us to learn from our own mistakes.

Which brings me to the next thought……

A couple of years ago now – after having read a book called ‘The Gift’ I offered a number of prints for free to the first people who asked for them.  I’d said they could choose from anything on my website, and I’d get it printed to no larger than A4 and post it out.  I did this for four months, and each time the offer went out, the number of people asking for prints exceeded the limit I’d set myself.

It was fascinating to me to see who was asking for them – and mostly it was people that I knew…. I asked one lady why she’d never asked me before for a print of something, and she said that she felt too embarrassed to even ask….

It was a great exercise to do though, and I loved being able to send something out in the post that I knew was going to be appreciated.  A couple of folks even sent me pictures of the print framed and hung on the wall…..

It’s interesting though to think that the images I make, that I like the best, are not the ones I’d give away unless they were specifically asked for.  This of course might be just because I like and enjoy making ‘odd things’, or experimenting with my photography.

I’d love to use my images as gifts, but I’m not certain who it would gratify more, me or the recipient.  I suppose it’s one of those things I shouldn’t worry about……….

After all, Vivian Maier never displayed her photos, instead placing all of her energies in to taking them.

In the end you have to love what you do, or give up and go home……..

Oh for an editor!

I see many posts online about the selection of an editor for photographs.

Of course, the most popular ones are produced by Adobe, but there are plenty of others around that don’t require a monthly subscription. I suspect that for some people it’s hard to choose which one will be right for them.

I suppose it was much easier in darkroom days, when you needed the same equipment – though having said that, I bet there were long discussions around tables about which enlarger is the best, and which chemicals were going to be suitable for which sort of film.

Thing is though, that nearly every image produced will need some editing – even if it’s just to tweak the sharpening, or a bit of a crop. How many of us take an image, download it to the computer, and sit back and say “that’s it – there’s nothing to do with that – it’s perfect as it is”?

We know that photographs don’t always tell the truth, yet it seems to me that people outside the photography world always think they do…

Even as far back as 2006, Reuters dropped a Lebanese freelance photographer after it emerged that he had doctored a picture of the aftermath of an Israeli air strike on Beirut.

The news agency told photographer Adnan Hajj that it will no longer use his services after the photograph was revealed as fake by bloggers.

It showed thick black smoke rising above buildings in the Lebanese capital after an Israeli air raid in the war with the Shia Islamic group, Hizbullah.

Reuters said it “withdrew the doctored image and replaced it with the unaltered photograph after several news blogs said it had been manipulated using Photoshop software to show more smoke”.

The agency said it had “strict standards of accuracy that bar the manipulation of images” so that viewers and readers were not misled.

“The photographer has denied deliberately attempting to manipulate the image, saying that he was trying to remove dust marks and that he made mistakes due to the bad lighting conditions he was working under.”


Until people realise that photography can be both truthful, and untruthful, it becomes a reflection of the photographer him or herself.

I suspect I knew from the minute I opened photoshop for the first time, that there was plenty of opportunity to ‘edit’ images to suit myself…. and I was aware when taking images for an agency, that nothing should be changed in the photograph. We were allowed to crop out extraneous items, but the reality could not be changed…… we were only allowed to choose what went in – and what was left out of a frame.

So, here we are in lockdown 3 – maybe I’ll start with an edit of some old images, and I’ll try to make them into something that they never were – because after all, I’m not reporting any more……

Prestidigitation and the Camera

The secret to performing magic tricks is all in the hands – or at least, that’s what is suggested by the etymologies of prestidigitation and its two synonyms.  The French word preste (from Italian presto) means “quick” or “nimble,” and the Latin word digitus means “finger.” Put them together and-presto!-you’ve got prestidigitation. 

Photography can be construed as magic when the quickness of the camera and software will deceive the eye – suddenly – and ‘pfft’ – the first part is all over in 1/1000 sec.  Too slow, and your audience will see how it was done – too quick, and they won’t have time to appreciate it….

Are you seeing closely?  

Get it right, and your viewer will wonder how it was made – get it wrong, and it’s blazingly obvious, and you get called out….. are you cheating?

The clock ticks, time moves on – you press that shutter, and that second, that fraction of a second is recorded, inevitably, and can never be repeated.  The time changes, the light changes, we change.  

Tick tick, click click, we shoot – we repeat.

We sometimes see that it’s wrong, and still repeat what we do – repeating the mistakes won’t make them right and frequently we just don’t learn.

Tick tick – time’s running out people……

The studio, the landscape, the animal, it’s your theatre, and the audience is your observer.

The judges – don’t forget that all your viewers are judges – but only you can decide which of these you are going to take notice of.

There’s still that burning question – is it any good?

How did ‘that’ person get ‘that’ exhibition?

Is it art, or is it about having the nerve to keep telling the world that you are better than everyone else?

It’s magic – it’s all an illusion made from smoke and mirrors – self delusion?  Maybe…… or true art?

There’s a deception and change of reality whenever an image is framed in the viewfinder – the thing is changed as soon as that shutter button is pressed – it’s up to you whether you keep it or share it….

Magic can be about turning a horse into a zebra, creating a building that can fly, making people from the past live the present.

It’s also about self belief and worth – sticking to your guns and having no doubt that what you make is good.

Are we about winning, or being happy?  Are we seeing closely?

Well, what a year that was…

It’s been a horrid year in lots of ways, and I bet a lot of us will be glad to see the back of it.. I’ve tried to see the bright side, but sometimes it does get you down, and I worry very much about what 2021 will bring – at least in the first half of the year. Fingers crossed the vaccine will work, and that more will be on the way soon…..

The weather has turned a bit more wintery recently, and so getting out and about has been a bit more difficult – however, there have been some good days this month, and the colder weather has brought waders to our beaches.

Twice this week, I’ve been able to nip to the coast, and see what’s about as the tide recedes.

Dunlin


The problem, if you will, with this time of year, is that not only does it get dark early, but the light changes fast. It started off dark grey, I was focussed on the Dunlin. I kept shooting for quite some time, varying ISO and shutter speeds, and any other factors that I could. The penny slowly dropped that the light had changed completely, the sky was blue, the light was stronger, and warmer, and things were picking up …

Redshank

It looked like summer through the viewfinder……..

Bar-Tailed Godwit

The blues became incredibly intense, to the point that it didn’t seem realistic.

And, as suddenly as it came – it went……

Dunlin

It got a little later in the day – people were thinning out – fewer dogs on the beach, and just one chap with a metal detector. He was up and down the beach – moving the birds on in front of him….. waiting to be moved was a Little Egret, it hung on, and hung on, and suddenly was off, in a flurry of water and wings

Little Egret

I was just thinking to call it a day, when I spotted an Oystercatcher on the shore – there was a group of 4, and each time I got close, they either ran up the shoreline, or flew away – this time, one remained behind – and puttered around in the water…..

Oystercatcher

What made this attractive to me now, was the light, and the colour on the water…..

Fashion photographer Barbara Bordnick once said “we walk by wonders every day and don’t see them. We only stop at what shouts the loudest”.

I feel it is a photographers duty to stop and see things that don’t shout out. Everything has some beauty, even the simplest of things. We just need to learn to see them, and take time to collect the images. It’s at this time – we stop saying “but, there’s nothing here to shoot”.

I think this will be the last blog post of the year…… so I want to wish you all the Merriest Christmas you can have – take care of yourselves. Maintain that social distancing – it’s the best thing we can do for each other –

Keep shooting – stay safe…..

See you in the new year… may 2021 be a better one…..

Twelve Months of Covid – January 2020

It sounds like the start of a Christmas song …. instead of 12 days of Christmas, we seem to have had best part of 12 months of Covid…. So what I did this week, was go through every image I’ve taken in the last year, and separated them out into months….

I’m going to publish one or two images from each month that (for me) stand out, for one reason or another… and whilst I doubt I can make a song, at least I can review the year…

I’ll start this December 1st and publish one post every day for 12 days … and hopefully I’ll have taken a few shots in that month for day 12…..

So here we go….

January – this wasn’t such a bad month, there was talk of a virus but it seemed distant, and not causing us too much trouble.. we went about our lives in much the normal way, and I was getting out as usual with friends to have a walk, take some photographs, have some lunch… This day in January, we pottered over to Woodhall Spa to have a walk down the old rail line, now a nature walking trail… it was a good day – cold, bright and sunny…. I had a newish wide angle lens to play with.


This is the January view, down the once rail track towards Woodhall Spa – down here are a number of sculptures – set well apart, that you ‘discover’ as you walk… a great, unworried day – with us not knowing what was yet to come…..

On the first month of Covid we went to Woodhall Spa………

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.

How Long ?

How long do we spend looking at the work we have created….. it’s complete, it’s printed, and maybe even mounted.. but how long do we look at it after that?  Do we ever go back, and think, “I could have done that better” – and then actually done that…. Or do we move on and start something new and fresh, and more exciting?

I ask, because last year I went to an exhibition to see reproductions of paintings by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel.   It was wonderful – a ticketed event – for free – with time to browse…. Trouble was, there were so many people wanting to see the event, that it was crowded and somewhat time restricted as folks flowed in and out all the time.

I think we were spending no more than a minute or so with each panel – though the ticket said you could stay as long as you wanted.

Minor White used to say that you should spend at least 30 minutes with a photograph – stare at it, embed yourself in it, search your emotional response to it – a bit different from my experience in Hull last year.

Watching people at a photographic exhibition the same year, I came to the conclusion that people were spending, on average around 10 seconds per image.  Some obviously for longer and some for less…. And I’m as guilty as the next person for not allowing myself time to really ‘look’ – I think sometimes it’s because I’m with someone else, who may not be as interested as I am, and so I rush through – trying to please the person I’m with, by not dawdling around.  

How long, is the right amount of time to spend?  I have no idea, but probably somewhere between 10 seconds and 30 minutes….. maybe.  The one thing I do know is that we don’t spend enough time looking…..

During this rather unusual year of pandemic – there have been many online exhibitions of art that we could see – including a tour round the Louvre…. I wonder how many people did this, and really looked… 

Let me know if you did…….