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…………