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……

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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An Unknown Photographer

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If you don’t know, or haven’t seen this photograph before, you should have done – it was taken May 6th 1937, and depicts the crash of the Hindenburg, killing 30 people.  It was also the cover of a Led Zeppelin album.

Who caught this photograph?  It was a photographer I’m sure you will all have heard of……. Sam Shere.

Sam Shere was a photojournalist, born in 1901, best known for his 1937 photograph of the explosion of the Hindenburg dirigible balloon as it returned from a transatlantic crossing. He said of the photo: “I had two shots in my big Speed Graphic [his camera] but I didn’t even have time to get it up to my eye. I literally ‘shot’ from the hip–it was over so fast there was nothing else to do.”

Shere worked for International News Photo, part of the William Randolph Hearst publishing empire, and covered stories as diverse as the Duke of Windsor, who had abdicated as king of England, to the invasion of Sicily in World War II. His photographs also appeared in LIFE magazine and The New York Times. He was awarded the Editor and Publisher Award for best news picture for 1937 for his famous photo of the Hindenburg disaster.  He died in 1985.

His work has been offered at auction multiple times, with realised prices ranging from $5,371 USD to $8,972 USD, depending on the size and medium of the artwork. Since 2010 the record price for this artist at auction is $8,972 USD for Explosion of the Hindenburg, sold at Grisebach in 2010.

And this folks, is all I can find out about him.  He was famous for one picture – the picture being way more famous than the photographer who took it.

I looked up other references to Sam Shere – there are of course other images taken by him that you can find online (including some underwater cycling shots!), but every page referenced back to this one image – and the reprints of it (which by the way are incredibly expensive).

I’m sure there are other photographers around, that we have never heard of, but who have produced remarkable images.  I’m also pretty sure that I’d rather have one image that everyone knows, but forget who I am, rather than lots of images that drift around in the ether with no-one caring about either the image, or the author.

In the meantime, do look up Sam – and have a look at the underwater table tennis fashion shoot, by clicking this link…….

Enjoy,….

 

 

Ice Hockey..

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to an Ice Hockey match……  something I’ve only done once before – but this time I was given access to the team tunnel, and the ice.  An amazing experience.  The game was fast, the light was poor, the ISO I was shooting at was incredibly high – so a lot of the images had noise.   I had blurred pictures, over exposed pictures, underexposed pictures, and was generally not a happy bunny.

So, I sat and thought about what I was seeing.

The players faces as they waited their turn on the ice.  The concentration, and the shouting of the team manager taking players off, and putting new ones on the ice was constant.

I moved more slowly, more deliberately, and almost forgot about the frantic movements out on the rink.  I started to enjoy what was presented right in front of me.

I realised that you have to change your attitude to fit what’s going on around you, and not the other way around.

I took a LOT of pictures, and afterwards decided that they would all look better in monochrome.  It somehow fitted the scene better, and in addition disposed of the pretty awful colour cast caused by the lights.

One thing I’ve learned is, that if you are given the opportunity to shoot something new – do it – if you never even use the photographs again, it doesn’t matter – you had the experience.  If you don’t, you will end up kicking yourself for the lost opportunity.  Do not let fear get the better of you, and never ever worry about not getting that ‘winning’ image.  It’s about the learning, the experience, and the test.  Go for it.

The Photographic Idea

In November of 2017, a new photographic group was formed – Lincolnshire Image Makers –

It is a group of 11 photographers who meet monthly to discuss all things photographic.

At the core of the group is the view that the most important part of image-making is that photographers should have something to say. Camera skills, composition, editing and software skills, etc all have their essential place, but photography is not primarily a technical activity – it is about ideas.

Interesting photographers are interested photographers – they photograph with a purpose. Photography is linked to abiding interests – perhaps natural history and wildlife; or the production of fine art images; or aspects of the natural or man-made landscape; studio or environmental portraiture; macro-photography; documentary, travel or street photography; or ‘digital’ art – all feature in the work of the group. Often, we are telling stories with a theme; always we are saying’ ‘look, this is interesting or funny or beautiful.’

We have a project on the go at the moment – to record in about 15 images – the British Summer, and I look forward with anticipation to see what sort of things the group comes up with.

Two things have come from my membership of this group.  Firstly, I was finally inspired (Pushed) into putting together a panel for my Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society.  The images for this are now put together, and the panel is ready for submission and a final assessment in October.  Whether I pass or not – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process, and making the pictures.  I think that for me, the part of actually making prints, and mounting them was the best.  To actually hold a finished product in my hand, and be pleased with it, was a triumph.

Secondly – working with projects.  It’s much better than I ever thought it would be.  I’ve always worked on single images (probably as a result of my job, and camera club mentality).

I’ve also learned that it is as easy to make a photograph without content, as it is to write a sentence that doesn’t say anything.  Both are common, and both are useless.

What and why you photograph is influenced by the ideas which precede it.  I know that with my Associateship panel, I’ve been influenced by 19th century impressionist painters, though I didn’t really realise that at the time.  I looked back through work I had produced over the preceding years, and realised that I had been slowly working towards a style without knowing.  The ideas came after photographing, but before printing.

I go out with friends and we say, what are we going to shoot today?  The response could be “anything” – but in fact it’s never really true, or we wouldn’t be out seeking something.  We could have just aimlessly shot at home.  So we must have had an idea -and in fact we usually do – at least we have a venue in mind.

I think that it’s not “what do I photograph”, but what is my idea…..  it is the idea that lies at the heart of a project, or series of images.  A good photograph has to ‘say’ something.  Otherwise everyone would be masters of the craft.

In order to use a camera to say something, you must first have something to say, or the resulting photographs can be meaningless and powerless.

I read on Facebook of someone bewailing the fact that people were not commenting on his images, but only stating banal “wonderful”, “wow”, but no real imput.  My comment was asking him what he intended for the image to ‘say’.  It was of a pretty girl sat on a bench….. a competent image, but it said to me, nothing more than a girl on a bench.  I don’t think the photographer was thinking of anything deeper than that.  A pretty photo – but with no soul…… no heart….. no story……  I wasn’t even left wondering ‘why’ she was there…..

It’s very hard to put a finger exactly on what makes one image of a girl on a bench, better than another, but images have to express something because it is non-verbal.  Images without passion are just pictures.  In an interview David Hurn (Magnum Photographer) said “…basically in photography there’s just two controls. One is where you stand and one is when you press the button. So if you stand in the right place, and you press the button at the right time, you’re gonna be alright.”

Take a look at this video of David – talking about his photography in the 1960’s

 

Cleethorpes Armed Forces Day 2018

North East Lincolnshire Council’s Armed Forces Day 2018 (AFD18) was held at Cleethorpes as part of a full weekend of celebration of the important works done by our Armed Forces, Reservists, Veterans and their families, with the ‘build-up’ which started on Friday 29th June 2018.

The aim is to promote and ensure full engagement with both the armed forces family across the region.

I was lucky to get an “access all areas” pass with two other photographer friends.  We have between us produced over 100 images of the weekend for the organisers.

It was incredibly well organised, and added to that, the weather was perfect – hot, and sunny for the full weekend.  The crowds who came had a wonderful time, and it was fantastic to see the beaches so crowded.  I’m sure all the traders did great business. Here are just a few images from the day…

Lightwaves – Salford Quays – Humans Being Digital

On Friday – December 15th, four of us went to Salford Quays, to attend Lightwaves, on Salford Quays, hosted by Quays Culture.

We were able to meet with the Creative Director, Lucy Dusgate, and talk to her about this years show. (Image by Keith Balcombe)

We discussed the latest commission “I forgot to say”……

International novelist, University of Salford Chancellor and Scotland’s national poet, Jackie Kay has produced a brand new, large-scale commission neon word sign, which spans 15 metres in length across the Plaza outside The Lowry.  Jackie Kay was invited to choose a sentence that for her sums up this year.  The neon (LED) word art spells out ‘I Forgot To Say,’ with the latter, ‘To Say’, illuminating and increasing in intensity and colour when audiences leave their messages..…..  In response to the messages left, Jackie Kay will produce a brand new poem in early 2018.

You can find information about this poem by clicking HERE

Planning for these events, starts at least 18 months in advance, and the build can take up to six months.  The exhibits have to be weather proof, and be able to withstand winds up to 45mph, as it can be pretty windy on the Quays.

Lucy, who works part time for Quays Culture, has a lot of support from both full, and part time staff – one of whom deals just with all the administration.

We asked Lucy about the selection of artists to display their work on the Quays.  She explained that she keeps an eye on the artistic processes, and when she sees work that she thinks will fit, she will approach the artist directly.  She is also aware of upcoming emerging UK talent, and will encourage those to apply to have their work displayed.

This year, the Danish artist Tom Dekyzere is displaying some of his work.  You can find more information about Tom by clicking HERE

His installation on the Quays, a dynamic waterside sculpture will translate soundwaves from beneath the River Irwell into lightwaves.

Tom Dekyvere explores the deeper layers of reality and mind. Just as the alchemists of former times probing for unexpected connections, in search of the boundaries between nature and technology, between man and robot, between dead and living matter.

With over 400,000 people attending the Quays last winter – Lucy hopes that this will be exceeded this year.

The other section of the display is entitled “Humans Being Digital”, an exhibition which ends in February 2018.  Thom Kubli brings his piece Black Hole Horizon – which illustrates sound in the form of bubbles.


This is what Thom’s website has to say about the installation

“What kind of relations exists between oscillating air, black holes and soap bubbles? What effect does the sound of horns have on the human psyche and why is it present in various creation myths? What impact does gravity have on our collective consciousness? Where do spectacle and contemplation meet?

The installation Black Hole Horizon is a cosmological experimental setup, a meditation about a spectacular machine that transforms sound into three-dimensional objects and that keeps the space in steady transformation.

The nucleus of Black Hole Horizon is the development of an instrument that is operated by compressed air and that resembles a ship’s horn. With the sounding of each tone, a huge soap bubble emerges from the horn. It grows while the tone sounds, peels off the horn, lingers through the exhibition space and finally bursts at an erratic position within the room.”

Heart, Brain and Lungs by Pascal Haudressy are screen-based pieces that encourage you to think about your own bodies…


Finally, Nye Thompson uses CCTV footage to create a curious environment that asks questions about technology and privacy, contributing a sense of anxiety to an exhibition of many emotions.

humansbeingdigital artists: U_Joo and Limhee Young; Max Dovey; Thom Kubli; Nye Thompson; Thomson and Craighead; Mary Maggic; Mango Chijo Tree and The Jayder; Pascal Haudressy; Libby Heaney and Felix Luque Sanchez.

If you get a chance to visit, entry is free.

Lightwaves ends on December 17th, and Humans Being Digital Ends February 2018.

 

Please be Gentle – It’s my First Time

Please be Gentle – It’s my First Time

I’ve not blogged in an age – we moved house, I started to rebuild contacts in a new area, I neglected all sorts of things in an effort to re-establish my life in a new county – and when I look back, all these things are excuses for not concentrating on blogging, or on so many other things I needed to do.

What’s prompted me back into writing again, is the constant stream of excuses that photographers are coming up with these days, to explain their below standard work, which they are sharing on Social Media on an almost daily basis.  It’s driving me nuts……

That’s not to say of course that there are many excellent photographers out there, sharing some truly inspirational work.  The trouble is, there are so many more ‘photographers’ (and I use the quote marks intentionally) who feel the need to share a lot of sub-standard images, and who feel that people should be praising them for their trouble.

I’m a member of a few Facebook groups – and I’ve actually left a good number – trusting that the few I stuck with would be more ‘constructive’.  Some of these groups encourage members to post images for constructive critique, and this is where the whole thing starts to fall apart.

“Please be gentle, I’m only just starting with photography / photoshop / Lightroom / Elements – don’t be harsh”

I’m more than happy to give constructive critique to those who really want it – Telling people their images are good, when they are good, and offering (I hope) constructive feedback  to those whose images are not so good, but have potential.

However, if you are new, and just starting out, is it not even more important that you get honest feedback about your images?   If people constantly tell you that what you are producing is good – then of course you will keep on doing it – in exactly the same way, and you will continue to make the same mistakes, and I find that the poorer the image, the less likely people are to accept any criticism of it.

I also see poor advice being given, and explanations for poor technique being blamed on equipment.  A prime example happened today.  I was reading a post where someone had put an image up for review – there was so much noise in the image that you could barely make out what it was.  The image was scaled up to 200%, the ISO had been set at 6400 and the exposure time was just 1/200 of a second.  The usual explanations were offered.  The high ISO, and the darkness of the image – the upscaling, all contributed to the rather messy image.  

Later in the discussion – someone chipped in with and offered the explanation that it wasn’t the photographer who was to blame at all.  It would be a combination of a faulty SD card, and the fact that the Battery was nearing depletion that caused the ‘grain’ on the image.  A number of people tried to explain that a low battery would not cause this effect, but the photographer was relieved that it wasn’t anything they had done.  It was a ‘gear’ problem and so they could fix this by always taking with them a spare battery……..

I’m sorry, but this sort of thing is worse than useless.  Taking the easy way out, is not always an option.  Sometimes you just have to learn how to use your camera, and understand what the settings do, and how you can work with them, when the light is against you.

Understanding your camera, and it’s limitations are key to making better images.  All photographers need to know and understand the relationship between F/stop, shutter speed and ISO.  Adding in white balance, focus, composition and using a tripod where necessary.  There is a host of information on the net, and asking a question on a Facebook forum does not mean you are going to get good answers.  Check out the ones you do get – make sure the information is accurate.

You can’t work on the principle of “It was on Facebook, so it must be right”

So before you post images on the net, asking for critique ask yourselves these questions

Do I REALLY want other peoples opinion?

Do I really?…… because there are some images that we just feel are ‘right’ for us.  It won’t really matter what other people think, because they are personal to you.  It might not be a technically perfect image, but it captured that moment, which means so much to you.  But don’t forget, other people don’t know your circumstances, or your family, or your pets.  To them it’s just an underexposed image.

2. Is the opinion really about what you have posted

Opinions can be hi-jacked by other things happening in the same thread.  Some posters will ask questions that others will answer, and in the end the whole thing is not about your image any more, it’s about something different.  So be careful when you read the comments – it may not even be you they are talking about.

3. Are the comments actually helpful

Does “wow”, “amazing”, “beautiful work”, “incredible”, actually mean anything to you?  Or would you prefer comments such as “the composition works well”, “superb lead lines”, “nice and sharp”.  Even negative ones “the shadows are too dark”,  “you have some blown out highlights there”, “love the shot, but I see a couple of hot spots on the models face”.   Some of these things can be fixed in post production, and because you are so close to your images, you don’t see them sometimes.  It’s good and helpful to have them pointed out to you later on.

Hearing feedback about general things in your image can help you later on.  Ask yourself – can you take what’s being said, and apply it, to other images. If you can’t, I don’t think you should be asking for critique in the first place.   Is there a lesson to be learned in the feedback you are getting.

I encourage my students to take time looking at other people’s work.  Not just photographers, but artists and painters.  Ask yourself “why” is this person’s work so good – how does this compare to what I am producing.  Visit art galleries and photographic exhibitions and try to work out what is good about some of the images you see.

In summary then, if you are new to photography, photoshop, lightroom, whatever – then doesn’t it make more sense that people are absolutely truthful about your work?  There are ways of offering constructive critique without being rude or disrespectful.  If people ask for critique, then we should give it truthfully, and honestly, and expect it to be treated as such.  If we continually praise poor workmanship, then this will become the norm, and we will start to forget what truly great images look like.