Thoughts about Photoshop

Over the last year or so, some of you have been taking in my pearls of wisdom (or not, as the case may be).

I have used the phrase ‘good artists borrow, great artists steal’ many times, but have you stopped to think what exactly it is that I’m on about…..

It’s about finding inspiration in the work of others – using that as a starting point for original creative output.

Artists sometimes decontextualise, remix, substitute, or otherwise recreate existing work in order to make something new.

For example – there are a number of photographers who are taking images from Google Earth, and rehashing them into something different – but what makes this sort of thing ‘stealing’?

It’s that instead of borrowing something, and making a weak imitation, which might just serve to remind people of the superior original, it has been changed by you, with your own new ideas.

Then, when you’ve transformed it – your audience may look at both works and say that yours explores that idea in a new and different way – you then own that new idea – you’ve stolen it.

Modern writers steal Shakespeare’s plots. The Lion King is a version of Hamlet, and West Side Story a version of Romeo and Juliet – these adaptations though transformed the original idea and became iconic, and famous in their own right.

There is a difference between inspiration and imitation, but also between inspiration and straightforward copy. It’s not copying when you replicate how the great masters used colour, or composition in their paintings in order to improve your own work.

How did the great painters and artists train their students? – they gave them things to copy…. I’ve seen it on the Antiques Road Show – the expert doesn’t always know if it was the master or the student, if the piece is not signed. Hence the importance of provenance.

Steal ideas if you must – but then go away and make that idea and concept your very own…. you never know, someone might just steal that idea and move it on some more…. be flattered if they do.

Oldies but Goodies

For as long as Lightroom has been in existence, I’ve used it…. I’ve organised and sorted all my images using this system which has been so efficient for me.  I can find anything fairly quickly, because the catalogue system is so good, and also because I understand my own file naming system.

Looking back though at what’s in there (there’s a lot of rubbish by the way), and I do start to wonder why I keep as much as I do.  

I think I operated under the wild assumption that I would (one day) go back and revisit all those images, and edit them over again as software developed, and my skills improved.

But here we are – some 20 odd years later and I’m looking at some of the things I kept, that I thought were ‘good’ at that time.    I think I can honestly say that most of the images are of no interest to me any more.  My style, and ideas have changed, and there’s little that I did then that I like now.

The other week, I had a more radical idea.  What if I removed from Lightroom, and indeed from my immediate hard drive everything I’d not looked at in the last twenty years, and started again.  Keeping only recent ‘lockdown’ work and textures I’d made.  

I couldn’t do it….. but in the end I compromised.

I’m older now, and hopefully a bit wiser.  The person who made those images 20+ years ago doesn’t exist any more.  I was a beginner with a Sony 3mp camera, with a 1 inch screen on the back.

So, the compromise was that I’ve backed up all those old images to an external drive – they include all my college work, and some family photos that honestly I can’t take again. That drive will be stored away with other hard drives, and hopefully I’ll take a look at it every now and again.

For now though, it’s time to look at what is left…. And I discovered some portraits that I took in 2011.  My editing wasn’t that good at the time, so I’ve been able to go back to the original RAW files, taken with a Canon 5D, and work them up again.

I realise now that there’s no way I could have visualised those images, the way I do today.  I think that then I was just ‘taking’ photographs, and maybe today I’m ‘making’ them.

As an aside, I was reading a book the other day, and the discussion was about the ‘perfect’ photograph, and the question was ‘what makes a photograph perfect?’  The answers were varied, and here’s a selection of them.

  1. One that is sharp and in Focus.
  2. One which gives the viewer a perfect experience, with no question about the content
  3. One which survives over 100 years and still gives the viewer the same experience
  4. One which is artistic and impressionistic
  5. One which adheres to the rule of thirds
  6. One which tells a story

All of these, or some of these.  Maybe you think non of these…. 

The thing that makes photography so fascinating for me, is that all the above can be ‘perfect’.  The photographer can be both objective, and artistic at the same time, and that’s probably why I love it so much.

I reckon I’ll keep looking back at the old stuff for a while longer.  

Scarlot Rose – 2011

A Year of Lockdown

Back in March 2020, I started a gallery on my website to which I periodically added images I had taken during each of the three lockdowns.

The first images were reworks of some old photographs taken as early as 2011, and 2012, and it was rewarding to see how up to date software dealt with them, which encouraged me to keep looking at what I had – not only on older hard drives, but on some CD’s too.

It was a bit disappointing to find that some of the CD’s were no longer readable, despite my best efforts, but no matter – there was still lots to look at.

As the weather improved (we did have a lovely Spring last year), and daily exercise became a thing of habit – at least I was able to get some new images made. Cycling became more regular too, till I damaged my ankle at the end of March, but by then macro images came to the fore, and the re-introduction of the moth trap.

With the end of our first full year of Covid on the horizon, I’ve decided to close down that gallery, and start anew.

Here’s the link to the 2020/21 images

I have been kept busy all year with Zoom – lots of talks, and judging in places all over the UK, Ireland and Scotland, with the occasional foray abroad. New friends have been made, and I hope we will continue to keep in contact long after Covid has passed.

An invitation down to Cheltenham next year, and proposed trips to the Isle of Wight are just two of the things we have in mind, both prompted by zoom meetings.

Although I admit to being a bit ‘zoomed out’ sometimes, it’s been great to see new people and superb images, with more scheduled in for the rest of this year, and into the Spring of 2022.

Our camera club has had fewer competitions (in fact I think only 3 in the last year), with one about to run next week – and this was something that would never have happened before. It’s a 4 way between us (Cleethorpes), Niton (Isle of Wight), Otley and Kidderminster.

I find that I really don’t miss competitions – I gave up pretty much on the BPE circuit after I achieved level 3 – and totally gave up on FIAP after I achieved my A. Recently FIAP made a number of rule changes that a lot of people disagreed with, and it did seem to become more like a money making exercise than anything else. They also stopped any print submissions. Subsequently they have retracted these changes, but it looks more like a deferral to 2022.

The images I make these days are purely personal – and I only send images out to competition if it’s something I am interested in.

In the meantime, I need to settle down and sort out what I want to achieve in the next 12 months. I want to fly the drone more now I have completed the Certificate of Competency, and certainly get the camera overheated with imagery.

So, as the anniversary of lockdown one approaches – I wish you all a happy and healthy 2021 – and once you are offered your jab – please take it – make us all safe.

The leaves will soon be back on all the trees, and I’m looking forward to a happier, healthier spring…..

Take care and stay safe.

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……..

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?

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.