Shooting in the Dark…

There comes a point in every photographers life, that skill and technique with the camera begin to take a back seat, in favour of artistic merit.  It’s a time when using the camera becomes so second nature, so instinctive that thought almost stops, and focus is entirely on the subject matter in front of the lens.

Time stands still, as we look at what is there.  The photographer knows intuitively that they need f16, and that at an ISO of 200 there will be a shutter speed of 1/60th, they have learned to read the light  – they will know they can hand hold this comfortably – but may choose to use a tripod.

Emotion is expressed over technical prowess, and the photographer slows down – there’s no rush any more.

I talk a lot about this in my ‘Odd Things’ presentation to camera clubs.  I talk about learning to use the camera in the dark.  

Try this exercise – pick up your camera, close your eyes.  Envisage the camera as being part of yourself. Change the f-stop, the ISO, the shutter speed.  Learn how many clicks it takes to move from 1/30th to 1/2000 second.  How many clicks from ISO 100 to 1600.  Imagine how changing each of these is going to affect the picture you take.  

Was it easy?

Learn how to use your bulb setting (if the camera has one) – and here’s a thing – why not look up exactly WHY it’s called Bulb….. (let me know when you know the answer – it’s more interesting than you might think)…

We need to understand the why and how of our cameras, whether they be phones or DSLR, and anything in between.  Whatever you shoot with, you need to know how it works.  

The thing about cameras, and how they feel in your hands, is important.  I remember buying my first DSLR – in the shop, I held a Nikon in one hand, and a Canon in the other.  Even then, I knew that there was not going to be much difference in how the images would look.  What was important to me then (and is still important to me now) is how it felt in my hands – the Canon won the day by the way……. It just ‘felt’ right.

I shoot Fuji nowadays – smaller and lighter than the Canon 1DX I used to have – it’s been 11 months since I sold it.  The Fuji, ‘feels’ right in my hands – it’s light, and the buttons / dials are easy to find and it was no time at all before I didn’t need to ‘remember’ which side the ISO was on, as opposed to the shutter speed dial.

Once mastered, you can think about composition without worrying about the camera.  You can look at how a scene looks, and think about how it feels.  Remember that some images are ‘about’ things, and some are ‘of’ things.  Some images ‘look’ like things, and some ‘feel’ like things.

Sometimes when I’m judging, I’ll say that I know how that scene felt, how cold it must have been, or how hot.  Sometimes I see images of animals, and so well taken that I know how that fur would have felt under my fingers.  Fruit smells, and and it can drift off the page of a print…..  abstracts can make me curious, and movement can give the thrill of speed….. 

It’s all up to you – the photographer, the creator of that image.

It’s December 1st as I write this, and Christmas is coming….. I hope I can capture the flavour of the month – with any luck I’ll see some snow this year.  We get very little in this part of the country.

So, felicitations of the season – keep shooting, and keep learning….. and think of all the things you love.

Winter in the Peak District

Did Leonardo worry about Mona?

It’s been a busy couple of weeks with trips up and down Lincolnshire, and Derbyshire and Nottingham – plus a two days out in South Manchester.  I’ve spoken to a lot of photographers who have been to my talks, and it’s surprising what topics come up.  The same things seem to get rehashed over and over, but sometimes something surprising crops up.

We were talking about photo comparisons, and how people put images on Facebook, or Instagram, or what have you…. And ask which image is best – the black and white or the colour….. and I know we’ve chatted about this before on here, but it’s worth reiterating at this point, that the best image is the one the photographer likes best.

Someone mused to me that maybe Leonardo DaVinci might have asked his compatriots which smile the Mona Lisa should have – big beaming, no smile at all – or should I go for the enigmatic one?

Interesting to think though – did he decide on his own, or did he ask someone?  I willing to believe that by this time in his career, he made his own mind up…..

And so should we…. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we need to stop worrying about what other people think.  I know that we want to feel ‘accepted’, but we also need to be brave, and experiment – don’t let rules get in the way of your photographic life, and your vision.  Nothing these days is completely original, we are all standing on the shoulders of giants.  To copy is to learn.

Decide what you love, and copy what you love.  Don’t be afraid, blend your ideas.

When asked which picture is your favourite….. the answer has to be “the one I will take tomorrow”..  because when you spend too much time trying to please everyone, in the end you will please no-one, not even yourself.


Today though, is cold and wet, the clouds are scudding by, and it’s a bit too cold for me out there. The dogs are damp and the sound of snoring (albeit gentle) comes from behind me. The girl dog snores, the other silent till a dreaming rabbit goes past……. We’re back from breakfast out with friends, and I think of things that I love..

Of course, breakfast with friends, clouds in the sky, dreaming dogs – twitching in their sleep – comfy beds, hot tea, chocolate straight from the fridge, improving weather and bike rides…… and the possibility of some photographs to come…….

Bring it on…………

Bird Photography

It’s been a while since I got out and sat in a bird hide – but finally I’ve been able to manage a half day – well actually not even a full half day – really just a few hours.

Bluetit-1Having said that – it was frustrating to travel down to my favourite hide, as the Christmas traffic was terrible.   Arriving though was a great relief, and the pools and hides were as fantastic as I remember them – it seems a long time, but in reality it’s only been about 2 months.  The birds were co-operative, and it was good to watch as well as photograph them.

I was most impressed by the Great Spotted Woodpecker, a youngster turned up a couple of times whilst I was there, and didn’t even immediately fly off when I came out of the hide.  He was full of confidence, and so handsome.

DSED8263There are around 140,000 breeding pairs of woodpeckers in the UK, though I don’t see them very often, and this one was a delight.

The cold of the day, and the knowledge that I had an appointment in the evening, and ‘work’ to do eventually made me leave, though reluctantly.  Hoping to return between Christmas and the New Year.  Already I can’t wait….

Snow is falling

A trip into the Peak District this week showed just how cold it’s been.  No real snow where I live, but a mere few miles, and a touch of elevation, and the temperature has dropped like a stone.

First Snows
First Snows

It’s been good to get out though, after so much work on this month – and though this post is brief…. it’s made me remember why I love photography so much.  It’s the getting out and doing it.  I could never be an ‘armchair photographer’, one of those who say, “I’d love to get a shot like that” – well the answer to that is, you can….. you just have to get off your backside, and get out and shoot it….  Enjoy the weather………

Higger Tor

Peak District Magic

I live on the borders of the Peak District – and have done for many years – but it seems that only in the last 3 or 4 of those years, have I actually started to look around more.  Why is it that you don’t look on your own doorstep so much, but feel you have to travel to another County, or even another Country to get those spectacular images.

The Peak District has been photographed to death, to the point where I reckon there are tripod holes in the ‘best’ places.  Having said that, it’s not been photographed by ME, and so I’ve been making every effort to get out there and shoot, and this at stupid times of day, but when the light is at its best.

So – one morning towards the end of July – we arose from bed at 2.45 in the morning – having seen what looked like a reasonable weather forecast – it had been cool overnight, but dry, and the morning was set fair….   mist was intermittent as we headed off – and by the time we arrived at Calver, and Curbar village, the fog was really thick – we started the climb to Curbar Edge, and climbed out of the cloud inversion – what we saw was incredible…

I have never seen such a sight in the Peaks for a long time – Sometimes you have to forget the images, and just enjoy the view… Once we turned around though, we saw what was happening on Froggat Edge


The sun was just starting to come up – sunrise scheduled for 5.10am, with a hint of pink in the sky, it was just amazing.

The last shot for this blog is one I took of my better half, with the dog, shooting into the sun along the back of the edge…. a truly amazing morning.


I’m still working on the new blog layout – not had much time this month, but I’ll battle on… keep watching.