Photo Workshops and Photo Talks….

A photography workshop is something that everyone should attend at least once – and more than once is better if you can afford it.  It is, after all, a place where every attendee is interested in photography, and this is great for discussion, practice and experience.

The knowledge you can gather from a good workshop can be invaluable.

I’ve been fortunate to hear some wonderful speakers, who frankly deserved more exposure than they were getting, and conversely, I’ve sat through some awful presentations by accomplished photographers.

Based on my own experiences though, I’d suggest that people attend talks, and lectures – no matter how obscure the subject matter may be.  You never know what you’ll learn.

So, reasons to attend lectures and workshops:-

1. The Speaker – Don’t always base your attendance on who it is – look at their work, and use that as a start point.  Don’t forget that good photographers don’t always make good speakers (and vice versa).

2. To see the work of other attendees, if it is a workshop where you bring images yourself.  It’s always good to see other peoples work – and this is why I enjoy travelling to different places and clubs so much – I get to look at what everyone else is doing.

3. Pick up new techniques – ideas about how to use software – discover new software.  Talk about how cameras have developed….

4. See different styles and approaches that are different to yours.

We are creatures of habit, and sometimes we get so tied up in our own visions, that we fail to see what else is going on around us.  It’s good to see someone elses work that makes us feel inadequate, because, who knows, it may open the door to something new and creative for you.

5. Getting past the cliche shots.  How many images of the jetty at Derwent have you seen?  How many Taj Mahals at sunrise? How many red buses in a black and white shot of London.

I’m not saying these shots are bad, or even poor – they are just done to death.  Once you stop imitating it’s easier to find your own vision.  The critical feedback that can come your way in a workshop or seminar, the resulting introspection, and the worry that follows, are all important.

6. Learning about the past.  All photographers should at least be aware of who has preceeded them.  Comments such as “I’ve never heard of Cartier Bresson”, or worse…. “Ansel who”? are a travesty.

7. Stopping imitating – Once you have copied other people’s work, (that you have been inspired by) you should start creating your own.

8. That photo workshop has been really useful to you, so now you can go off and create something new and fresh.

After all, and don’t forget this, everyone else at that workshop took the same images you did.

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Webinars !!!

At least three months ago (probably longer), I did a talk for the RPS East Midlands Group on my completion of the Associateship Distinction.  I did this in conjunction with a few other folks, who talked about Licentiate, and Fellowship.  We did it in Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre, and it went very well..  I do hope the RPS can run more events locally like this one…

Fast forward a little, and two of us (members of the Facebook, She Clicks group) were asked to repeat the talk as a Webinar.

Must confess to having got a bit excited about this, as did my co-presenter Lynn, who said she had to be bullied a bit to join in (not sure I had to bully much though!) ….. anyway………

Time passes – we start to put a talk together, and decide jointly that for most of it we would hide behind a slide show – not realising THEN, that even with the slide show running, we would still be in frame – albeit a small on in the corner of the screen.

This was revealed to us, during the rehearsal that we had with organiser Angela Nicholson, where we also had to figure out the software that was needed.

The Webinar was scheduled for December 4th, and I was away on holiday the week before – not getting back into the UK till late on the 2nd.  Spent the 3rd updating what we were going to say, and then met early on the 4th to rehearse again and run through the talk – trying to remember not to talk over each other, and more importantly not to wave our arms around whilst speaking (must confess to being a bit of an arm waver…..)

What was disconcerting I found, was that although we could see Angela – we knew that no-one else could, so we sat looking into a camera, and apparently talked to ourselves for just about an hour…..  it was a really odd feeling – In the back of my mind, I knew there were people there watching – but I’m used to seeing my ‘audience’, and hearing their mumbles…….

To cut a long story short – it seemed to go well – the feedback was positive, and although there are a few things I’d have changed (like probably smile a bit more – I think I might have looked a bit glum sometimes),  and try not to be so hesitant over words – ie, practice more….   There were lots of questions at the end, and more on the Facebook page afterwards – which was great.

We were even told that we looked professional……

Having done it once, I think I’d be happy to do it again, especially with the knowledge that I have now.  We all have to do things for a first time, and it can be nerve wracking…. I remember the first time I had to stand up and talk to an audience.  It was a good few years ago, but I had had the benefit of a public speaking course.  What I remembered was one thing……….

“Always remember that the folks down there looking at you, are probably thinking that they are glad it’s you, and not them…. so just look confident – get on with it, and they’ll appreciate everything you say”

Plus, the benefit is they can’t answer you back on a Webinar – well not till you’ve finished anyway….

So yes, I’d do it again, and having chatted to Lynn afterwards, I think she would too……

Here’s my ARPS Fine Art Panel that got me through, first time, and with flying colours….

ARPS Version 3

 

Photographic Skills

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about what we, as photographers, need to be doing to enhance our skill-sets.

We all need to be able to work the controls on our cameras, even in the dark, it should be second nature to change an ISO, or an F stop, or a shutter speed without even having to think how to do it – and the only way to achieve this is to practice.

We also need to know how to ‘see’ a photograph before we even press the shutter button, and it’s these skills that can separate the terrific, from the merely competent.

With the advent of new digital cameras, it’s actually quite hard to make a really bad exposure.  Even harder these days to achieve an out of focus image.  Cameras are very clever these days, and have built in exposure settings, and shake reduction in either the camera body, or lens.

However, on top of all these things, I think that photographers need another set of skills outside that of just ‘taking’ an image.

1. Computer Literacy – software is the mainstay of the post image taking process.  We need to be able to email images, to resize them, to compress them, and send them to storage sites such as Dropbox.  To do that, we need to be able to type, and express ourselves in a clear and concise manner.

2. We need to be able to competently edit, and select images.  These days, we don’t go out and shoot a roll or two of film.  We go out and come back sometimes with hundreds, maybe thousands, of images.  We need to be able to select which are the best ones, and the ones that our ‘client’ will like, and not just ones that are our own personal favourites.  We need to be clear that the sharpest images, are not always the best ones compositionally, and conversely the best composed ones, won’t always be the sharpest – we need to be able to make that distinction and choose wisely.

3. We need to be aware of art history, and photographic history.  If you are asked who your favourite photographer is – it’s not just going to be the chap down the  road who takes amazing bird photographs – he might be the one impressing you at the moment, but who in history influences the images you take?    Art and photography are inching closer and closer together, and soon, you will have a hard job telling the difference.

Melbourne Photographer Bill Gekas photographs his daughter in the style of all the old Masters.  Take a look here

https://www.boredpanda.com/5-year-old-daughter-classic-paintings-bill-gekas/

Google for photographic images of ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Vermeer, and see what others are up to.

you need to understand art now, to understand photography.

4. The art of conversation – There are times when you need permission to shoot.  Either a person, or a place.  The need for access can sometimes be smoothed over by a polite conversation with owners, or guardians.  After photographers have trespassed on land, you can’t blame the owners for being angry at finding ‘yet another’ on their property.  Go in first, ask the questions – I think you’ll be surprised how forthcoming people will be, just for asking.

5. And lastly – filing and organisation – there is no point in having the worlds greatest image if you can’t find it on  your hard drive.  So, keep your drives tidy, split your images into sections or groups, back them up externally, and don’t rely on your website either – if your provider goes out of business – you could be left high and dry with no images.

If you use Lightroom, avail yourself of the catalogue and make sure your images are correctly sorted, tagged, and keyworded.  Sure, it might take you a week (or more) of hard work, if you’ve not started yet, but in the long run I think you’ll be pleased you did.

For example – I sold an image at a craft fair 5 years ago – it was mounted but not framed.  The client decided to have it reframed, and the picture framer damaged the print.  He contacted me, and asked if I could supply a new one, so that he didn’t have to tell his client; and because I’d got a good catalogue, I was able, within an hour, to send him a file, so he could get it printed again.  Job done.

GWPE

Planning and Volume

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about shoots – planning, and creativity.  I had in mind a certain character that I wanted to portray, and spent some considerable time finding the right person for the shoot.  Once I’d found that person, I had to decide on what I wanted them to wear, how I wanted them to act and so on.  Finally, I had to find the right place to shoot.

All of this took months of preparation, and I think that in the end it all worked out, and I ended up with a handful of photographs that I am pleased with.

During the shoot itself – I spent more time setting up lighting, than I did actually taking pictures – and I see that as part of the creative process.

In this world of rush, rush, rush – I see photographers who have a massive output of imagery, some of which leaves a lot to be desired, as though thought fell out of the window, in the hurry to make pictures – pictures of anything, with no planning, and no imagination.

I see instagram, and Facebook pages full of mediocre work, in an overwhelming volume, with no sense of organisation and heavy, often poor, editing – almost as though the urgency to produce an image immediately after a shoot is in preference to waiting a while and being selective in what is published.

There are two kinds of  photographer – those who think, and those who don’t.

Those who do, tend to be slower, more thoughful, and use locations and also models in a more respectful way.  They plan, reconnoitre, judge safety and legality – get paperwork in order, use the right people, at the right time – and edit afterwards slowly and images appear sometimes weeks after the shoot.

I watch groups of photographers pile out of cars, rush to the same spot, and start shooting – the odd person will walk around, take in the view, inspect what’s there – and then take some images.  Rushing the planning makes for a poor result in general.

Ignorance shows mostly in comments passed …  by ‘photographers’ (and I use the word in inverted commas intentionally), who don’t know the history of photography, or how the process began.   Ask one who their favourite photographer is,  and I’d expect to hear names like Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier Bresson, Mann Ray, Annie Leibovitz, Dorothea Lange, or Robert Capa – to name but a few who inspire me, but I bet I wouldn’t.

We’ve all made the same mistakes at the start, but we need to grow up – and stop being disparaging of those who want to take it slow and get it right.

Let’s do the right thing – the input and planning is far more important than the output – get the first right, and the other will follow as a matter of course.

Enjoy your image making.

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The Conversion Continues

After my purchase recently of the Fuji X-T2 – I bought a new lens this last week – the 16-55 F2.8. My first zoom.  It’s stunning.

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I had a studio shoot, and although I took along my Canon Camera, it wasn’t long before I switched over to the lightweight Fuji.

It performed beautifully, with only one menu item that had to be changed.  Shooting in manual mode, with studio lights being fired from a trigger on top of the camera, I had to turn the preview exp/WB in Manual Mode off.  This is under Tools, and Screen set up.   Other than that – it was good to go right out of the box. (Thanks to Richard Egan for giving me that information).

With the camera’s 24M pixel count, the image sizes are much larger than I’m used to – 6000×4000, leaves plenty of room to crop if you need to with no loss of image quality.

The viewfinder is different too. Mirrorless means electronic, but there’s no lag to notice, and I found I quickly got used to the look. 325 focus points means no searching for the right place to lock on to, and it’s easy to move the focus point around with the control stick.

I’ve never had a tilting display either – the Canon DSLR’s that I own don’t have it – The X-T2 display rotates up, down and pulls out sideways too for ease of use, and has a great resolution of 1.04 million dots.

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I did the firmware update this week.  This allowed more options on ISO, and a very pleasing addition was the ability to record information onto files.  Useful when I have to remember how to spell names, and refer back to locations.  It’s something I used a lot with the Canon DX.

So far, I have not used their 4K video, but I’m looking forward to giving it a go.

There’s another firmware update scheduled for May!  Two inside 3 months – I think Canon had one update over a 4 year period.  Maybe they think they’ve nothing to prove, and nothing to improve on.

Ultimately the conversion so far, to Fuji has been a seamless one.  All I need now is a long lens….. and I’m set to go……

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Oh, and if anyone is interested.  I’ve got a Canon 1D MK4 body for sale……..  Message me on here if you are interested, or see my Facebook page for more information and a price.

Thank you for reading…… more on this topic to follow

 

CPAGB Distinction Award

April 27th this year has been in my diary for a long time, as it was the day that my images were judged by a panel to see if I could be awarded the Certificate from the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain.

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The Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB) is an organisation that co-ordinates specific activities for photographic clubs in England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland. It does this through 15 geographical regions known as Federations.

It also offers other services such as Recorded Lectures to clubs and its own photographic Distinctions (known as awards for photographic merit) direct to qualifying club members.

The C award – is the first of three offered by the PAGB, and involves the entry of 10 images – each of which are judged to a maximum of 30 marks.  Each image has to achieve over 20 marks in order for a pass to be achieved.  So a minimum of 200 marks is needed.

My application was successful after many hours of work, and with assistance from a mentor.

Further Information and Reference
The PAGB www.thepagb.org.uk
L&CPU www.lcpuonline.org.uk
FIAP www.fiap.net 

The Photography Experiment

It was a new year resolution this year that I would try to push the boundaries of my photography.  I decided that experimentation both in camera, and in Photoshop would be my goal; not necessarily to achieve competition worthy images, but to push my knowledge, and see just what can be done – especially in camera.

In the first instance I looked on u-Tube, and sought out photographers who were doing ‘different’ things with their equipment, and two particularly caught my eye.

A photographer called David Johnson – (Maxblack Photos) and another Dr Reinhold Adscheid of Germany and  I was intrigued by their work, and set out to have a go.

IMG_5932Firstly I stated looking a multiple exposures.  I know that you can do this in newer cameras now – but mine does not have that facility – and so I had to look for ways of achieving the same effect in Photoshop.

So far, I have learned how to use some of the blending modes in CS6 – and found that using the ‘soft light’ or hard light blends give the best effects.  The multiple images are brought into Photoshop in Layers, and blended.  You may need to tweak the ‘levels’ on each layer, as the more layers there are, the darker overall the image gets.  Playing around with the different blend modes can yeield some unexpected, and clever results.  The shot above of one tram on Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester was taken on my compact camera – a Canon G12, and blended in CS6, then taken into on-one perfect photo suite.

IMG_6065This second tram shot – taken near the Bridgewater Hall, on a bright sunny day was blended in CS6 using the hard light blend mode.

I’m also looking to experiment with camera movement, and zooming whilst taking a long exposure shot, and to do more image blending.

That’s for another post.

The ‘Technology’ Wars

Thinking about buying a new camera?  Maybe getting a new one for Christmas?  A simple question, but one that assumes you know what you are doing.  Plus it assumes that you are not simply upgrading, for the sake of it.  How many times do people change their gear, because getting a ‘better’ camera will give you better images….

I’m using the Canon 1D MK4, bought in 2010 – but I see a LOT of people now who are more than happy with their mobile phones, or tablets for their images.  Does this mean the death of the DSLR?  I’d like to think not, but it is true that some newspapers have removed all their photography staff, and given the journalists an iphone or other ‘smart’ gadget.  Maybe the ethos of ‘better images’ is starting to vanish, and we are experiencing a new boom of quantity over quality.  The sheer amount of visual images on the internet now, through flickr, facebook, and so on, means that you are seeing far more poor quality images than ever before;  and the sad thing is that the more poor quality things you see, the more you get used to seeing them, and the more you accept that as a standard.

That’s not to say there aren’t the great photographers out there – they are there, and they are putting an enormous amount of energy and skill into producing some outstanding images. I use Google+ and Flickr to share pictures I have made, and they are great places to experiment, and see what sort of reaction there is to new stuff that I produce.  In the end analysis though, it’s still social sharing, and maybe it’s not as real as showing them in the ‘real’ world.  What is the value of strangers ‘liking’ an image if they are not prepared to explain what it is they like?

Has the ease with which images are captured actually devalued their credibility?  Have images become worth so much less since the advent of the mobile phone?

I ask myself this more often these days.  For example – at a dinner I was shooting the other month, a chap came up to me and asked why I thought I needed such a big camera – he himself had his ipad mini – and was more than happy to show me his ‘brilliant’ pictures that he had taken with it.  I’m not saying his images were bad, but he what he really wanted to show me was that I didn’t need the gear I had.  Somehow though I think that if a ‘professional’ photographer turned up at his wedding with an ipad, he might be just a little underwhelmed !

The whole value of images is reducing almost on a daily basis – I get asked to work for free all the time “for exposure”, and that I should be grateful to be asked, because, after all, they could have done it with their compacts, or phones.  (Try asking the plumber to come along for free – see how he or she reacts to that one…..)  On the other hand, with the better cameras, and powerful software, why shouldn’t they try it for themselves.

My own thoughts are that photographers have to move with the times.  I’ll confess to having taken images with my ipad, during a conference where the lens I had with me would not fit the whole lecture hall in.  My fault I admit, for not having the right lens with me.  The ipad image though was quite acceptable, and the client didn’t even bat an eyelid.  I just added that one shot in with all the others, knowing that the images were only going to be used on line.  The problems arise when a print is required and you can’t get the image quality.

I would say though that just because there are more people out there taking photographs, doesn’t mean that there are more ‘good’ photographers.  I think there are about the same number of people producing good images as there were before – it’s just that they are somewhat overwhelmed by all the other ‘stuff’.

It’ll be interesting to see in the next year or so, where we go with the new DSLR type video cameras, from which you can capture one frame as a still.  Why worry about taking individual images – video the whole event and pick your shot.

Next year’s technology could be worth looking at…..

 

 

The Damselfly

In my last post I talked about Dragonflies, and in this one, I want to talk about their smaller counterparts, the Damselfly, but first the differences between the two..

Dragonflies have eyes that touch, or nearly touch at the top of the head, they are stocky, and have different sized wing pairs.  When they perch, the wings are held open.

Damselflies have eyes that are clearly separated, one on each side of the head, they are long and slender, and have evenly sized wings, which are held close when they perch, as can be seen in the image below.

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Blue Tailed Damselfly Perching

Damselflies are carnivorous insects that live and breed near a wide variety of freshwater habitats. They lay their eggs in water, and the immature damselflies spend the first several months or years as aquatic predators. These immature damselflies, called nymphs, have external gills that allow them to extract oxygen from the water. After undergoing metamorphosis, new adult damselflies fly away from the water for a brief period of several days to several weeks, after which they return to breed. Both adult and immature damselflies are predators whose diet consists primarily of insects. (Corbet, 1999; Silsby, 2001)

Damselfly eating an aphid
Damselfly eating an aphid

The mating behaviour of the damselfly is quite unique.  Males have two sets of genitalia.  To mate, the male must grasp the female behind the head, and curl his abdomen into a circle.  In this position the male and female are said to be ‘in tandem’ – if the female is receptive, she will curl her abdomen forward to join the tip of her abdomen with the male’s second set of genitilia, sperm is then transferred from one to another.  This position, called ‘the wheel’.  After mating, the female will lay eggs usually below the water line, often guarded by the male

Mating Damselfly
Mating Damselfly

The average Damselfly, probably only lives between 3 to 4 weeks as an adult, but the damselfly nymphs can spend months in this early stage, depending on food source, temperatures and so on.

Damselfly do need a minimum temperature at which to fly – in the early mornings, they can be seen spreading their wings to dry out the morning dew, and warm up.

Damselfly in morning dew
Damselfly in morning dew

Damselfly and Dragonfly populations are good indicators of environmental quality and population levels are a good indicator of the health of the area.

They are the most ancient of insects, with evidence of them being found as fossils some millions of years ago.