When photographers go beyond copying the achievements of others, or repeating their own accidental successes, they learn that they do not know where in the world they will find pictures.  Nobody does.  Each photograph that works is a revelation to its creator – Robert Adams.

If you have been through a creative lull, a complete lack of ideas, a slump, and no knowledge of when you will start to create again – welcome to my world.

Of course, feeling unwell doesn’t help (I’m half way through a bout of Covid), but I’m sure that the inspiration will return in due course.    The thing you have to remember is that ‘all things will pass’, as George Harrison once said.

One of the traits you have to have as a photographer is perseverance – and the willingness to accept that things will happen to your creative flair from time to time.  At some point though, something will happen that will re-ignite your fire again, and you’ll be off on a new tack or journey.

One image can be all it takes to start you off – after all, dropping into doom and gloom because you can’t think of what to do next won’t help. 

You could of course keep on repeating what you did before – especially if it was successful, and was readily accepted by judges, social media, and friends.  

Repetition though is a lack of creativity all on its own.  On judging a competition some time ago, the same image cropped up at least 5 times.  Same person, same pose, same lighting – the first time you see it, it’s great, unique, different, the second, there’s an air of ‘haven’t I seen this before’? – but by the 5th time, you’re bored with it…. Where was the input from the artist?, where was the creativity, originality and thought process from the photographer(s).

Find a project, and guide yourself through it, the excitement can come from working through problems, watching tutorials, getting ideas, and then applying them to your own work.

Speaking of projects – the book I promised myself is now complete, and I’ve got the first (and probably only) copy.  

I published it on Blurb, and it’s expensive, but it was a project I set myself, and completed – it took a number of years, but the question is – does that matter?  The answer is no, it’s just done…. And that’s it.  I have the pleasure of rereading my blogs, and pearls of wisdom(?) .. It was worth the effort…..

My photography is not truthful. The images I make are the ones that I like, that make me smile, that allow memories, that remind me of friends and family. Why should photography be more ‘real’ than a song on the radio. It is always up to the photographer to decide how factually accurate an image will be.

Someone asked me why I’d picked particular images to go into the book. “They’re my favourites” I said. “We were rather hoping from something more insightful” they said. “Hard luck then” I thought……

“If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it”. – Jay Maisel

I’ve been on a break

You may have noticed the lack of posts for the past couple of months….. every now and again I take a media break, and this was it. I’ve not posted much on Facebook, but did try to keep my Instagram account going.

You can find me here, if you want to….


We should all take breaks from time to time, it does us the world of good, especially if you have lots of other stuff going on in the background.

Take time to smell the roses – get out with your camera and take a few pictures, just for you, just for the heck of it…….

I’ll be back soon…… I’m starting to miss the interactivity, which is a good thing.

Three is the Number!

Three is the magic number – or so the song would have us believe. It’s one of only 9 single digits (discounting 0) – but is it a designers dream?  Does it drive photography, design and literature?

I ask myself sometimes why is two of anything boring, but three much more fun?

When people see two things written together, you can usually see a connection – for example solid and liquid, left and right, up and down. (See I used three examples there – so much more comfortable to read eh?)

Even if there isn’t an immediate connection we can find something that links them – Pride and Prejudice; Death in Venice; Heart of Darkness (three examples again)… so even if we can’t find a connection in the words, our brain fills in the relevant gaps.  Think big and small, one is dominant, and one isn’t.

You can always, ALWAYS, connect two dots with a straight line….. not so with three, not always.

Add another word and it becomes in English Language a Tricolon. 

(A series of three words, phrases or sentences that are parallel in structure, length and/or rhythm.)

It can be a good device for humour… for example “Three ……… walk into a bar”. Two elements get you going in one direction, but the third introduces something unexpected.

Think of these “Wine, Women and Song”, “Veni Vidi, Vici”, “Eat Drink and be Merry”.

With a tricolon you can set up a pattern and then break it… ‘Lies, damned lies, and statistics’ is a good example.  Two words send you in one direction, and the third breaks it.

Of course, that’s not always the case… in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, there’s the great question about ‘Life, the Universe, and Everything’.  You can’t stop half way through, there’s no meaning.  Two is company, three is a list….. (and the answer of course is always 42!)

And that’s the important bit, the ‘good, bad and ugly’ of it all, we’ll just have to ‘eat, drink and be merry’.

This whole sense of it is its completeness, an end to a list, a finish.  We’ve said it all, or we’ve photographed it all, and in the end analysis, three, just works……. 

Thoughts for the Day

  1. Find freedom in your Photography
  2. Keep your photography happy
  3. Anyone can be an artist
  4. Everyone can make a picture to hang on the wall
  5. Make something that makes you happy
  6. Make something to give you a great day
  7. It’s not the finished photo that matters, it’s how you get there
  8. Everything is better when you go shoot
  9. All you have to do is grab your camera
  10. You can do it – let it flow
  11. It’s your world
  12. Relax, have fun
  13. We don’t make mistakes – we have happy accidents
  14. Make a fantastic image just for you
  15. Keep practicing
  16. It doesn’t take long to get better

Painting the Night

Last Autumn I ran a light painting night at a camera club in Lincolnshire. We all took lots of images, and during the course of the session I sadly dropped my Pixelstick tool smack on the hard tarmac of a car park. Bits of plastic and glass exploded around me, and the memory card I was using skated away. Needless to say, it just stopped working – I was a bit upset……..

The colleague and friend whom I was with took it home with him, and effected a temporary repair, and though I knew these things were not being manufactured any more, I was lucky to obtain a replacement from a chap down in Kent.

A friend of mine who lives in Surrey, collected it for me, and duly delivered it up here a few months later.

In the meantime – I realised that though I’d used this tool many times at camera clubs up and down the county, I couldn’t remember when I’d last used it just for me… so with the nights still getting dark fairly early, I decided that I’d get myself a new wireless trigger, and at the very least go and play in the garden.

What the tool is, is a set of 200 LED lights arranged in a long stick. You are able to programme the lights to play in a set order, so that when the stick is moved in front of the camera, they play very much in the same way you would print a picture – one line at a time. The camera sensor sees the pattern or picture that you programme into the machine via an SD card. It’s clever technology.

Sadly the company that made them, seems to have vanished. The website is still there, but it’s not been updated for years.

We have been practicing in the back garden now for a week or so. Previously of course work has been done in clubrooms, or (disastrously) in a car park. So here I am, back in the garden trying to renew my acquaintance with the Pixelstick.

Fingers crossed we can get out some more in the coming weeks. Creating images to use takes some time, as images have to be a certain orientation, size and converted to BMP. Not a long process, but finding the right things turns out to be a bit tricky.

Just need to find the right location now….

An Identity Crisis

There’s been a turning point in my photographic life – and I can’t pin down exactly when that happened, but at some point in the last two years, for me, lots of things changed – albeit slowly.

The pandemic that has swept the world has made for some terrible tragedy – but at the same time, people have changed for the better – their attitudes, endeavours and the way they work.  More camera clubs are having virtual meetings, which allows people to join in from their homes, and from a clubroom at the same time.

As a result of this, we have all been able to view more high quality imagery than ever before, and selfishly, I don’t want that to stop. I booked the most amazing speakers for my own club over the last two years, and frankly I’m going to miss that intense and consistent impact it has had on my work.  

I know I’ve got to let go to some extent, and be myself, but it absolutely does no harm to continue to study the work of others, and listen to their points of view, so I hope that our ability to share talks and presentations with other camera clubs does not end here, as we approach some kind of ‘normality’ again.

I realise that in the process of finding your own photographic voice, you have to have that ‘identity crisis’ –  something will happen, or you will see or hear something that will influence the way you think, and take you in a totally different direction – and that trip can help define both what you are doing now, and where you are going in the future.

I asked a couple of people what sort of things had changed their photographic direction, and both said that it was by looking at work from other, more accomplished, photographers.  They have seen work they would not have been able to experience previously, as often the work was from photographers they had not heard of before.

As we open our eyes to what is out there, and view the work of others, we see possibilities not thought of in our own minds.  It can help us decide what we are going to do as we move forward, or even refine what we are doing now.

My turning point wasn’t an actual point, it was more of a long smooth curve which I hope will continue – but I absolutely don’t want to go full circle and end up where I started.

The Mona Lisa Smile

It is a truth universally acknowledged that of the millions of images uploaded to the internet every day, an awful lot of them are rubbish.

We are drowning in a sea of photographs with no beacons to tell us where the safe havens are, and, to quote another photographer, there are no maps either to warn us of where dragons abide.

Over the last week or two, I ran an experiment. I put the same image into a number of different places and waited to see what would happen.  The result was mixed.

One group gave it hundreds of ‘likes’, but there was not a single positive or negative comment about it.

Another location generated a bit more discussion, but not about the image, it was about how I’d achieved a technique, and then busily compared it with other photographers doing the same sort of thing.  Partly useful yes, but not terrifically helpful if I’d been looking for genuine critique.

The point I’m making here is that oftentimes, you don’t get real image feedback from social media, because mostly you don’t know who the people are who are ‘helping’ you.   So the good folks who ask questions such as “which is best, the colour or the black and white?”,  frequently don’t get a satisfactory answer at all.

There’s no harm asking for opinion, provided you ask the right people.  So who are you going to ask – who is going to tell you the truth about your pictures?  Who is going to be brave enough to tell you, to your face, that what you have made is truly terrible?  

I think that as image makers, what we really need to know is this…..what is it about this image that really works, or alternatively doesn’t work, and what can be done to make it better?

What should our response be when someone tells us our work is bad?  This is a delicate thing and massively depends on who is telling us, because the work may truly be bad, at which point you should listen to what they have to say.  On the other hand, the image may really be good, but it just doesn’t appeal to that individual or their aesthetic. 

Another issue is that you might be told what they would do to make it better, which in turn, could turn it into their work, and not yours. Discovering what others do, or don’t like can help you to expand your own creativity.

All of this, of course, has to be tempered with an understanding of who is giving the feedback.  You, listening to it, have to decide if you trust and respect the person offering it to you.  

So to the people asking whether the colour or black and white is the better one, think of this….. did Leonardo ask which smile he should put on the Mona Lisa?  Did he ask hundreds of total strangers what they thought of his painting?  Probably not – he relied on his own self worth, and it was more likely that ultimately it was his students who asked him how he created that smile. 

Cheating the Cheaters

I’ve not really written before about photographic cheats, so this is a first for me. 

Before I start – let’s think about the definition of cheat…..

  1. To act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage
  2. To avoid (something undesirable) by luck or skill

Whether we talk about misleading images, or manipulative ‘photoshopping’ – all we need to think is “does this photograph meet the criteria set down” in a competition.

One of the most famous photographic hoaxes, is a series of images known as the Cottingley Fairies – and I’m sure most of you will have heard of these, and even seen the images.

The images were taken in 1917 by Elsie Wright, and Frances Griffiths, who were, at the time, mere children.

The photographs show them with the fairies, and for decades they were accepted as being perfectly genuine.  They even fooled Arthur Conan Doyle.

They were first published in 1920 in Strand Magazine,  and a newspaper article at the time said the following:-

“The developed negative showed the figures in the woods, and Sir A. Conan Doyle is enthusiastic over this vindication of the spirit world”……… “The original pictures are now being studied by professional photographers to see if they could have been faked”.

The cousins were both still alive in the 1980s, and finally Elsie confessed to the hoax, probably with some relief, in 1983. What had undoubtedly started out as a cleverly stage-managed bit of fun, suggested by Frances, had got seriously out of hand. The cousins themselves were astonished at how readily people of the calibre of Conan-Doyle had accepted the images

We might think that prestigious competitions such as the Wildlife Photographer of the Year would be safe from the cheaters….. but no……. You may remember the image of the wolf leaping over a closed gate by Jose Louis Rodriguez.  The photographer here did not manipulate the image (much as the Cottingley Fairies were not manipulated), it was a straight photograph. Rodriguez ‘wild’ wolf was actually a tame one, used to jumping over things, and was identified by other Spanish photographers.

You may also remember the controversy over the ‘stuffed’ anteater at a more recent Wildlife competition.

But what makes people cheat in the first place?  

It may be to gain benefit, or notoriety, or just because they think they can get away with it.  I’m sure in the case of the wildlife images it was for fame and fortune, but the only people they cheat are themselves.

At the other end of the scale are those who cheat because they can, and because they genuinely believe that they are doing nothing wrong.  For example, on Facebook at the moment there is a group running where a topic is set once a week, for the 52 weeks of the year.  Each participant must take an image that week on that theme.  You are not supposed to check your archives for past work that ‘might fit’.  The thing is, that who would know if you did find something that fitted and posted that – the answer is no-one.  Is there any satisfaction in that though?

Cheaters have convinced themselves that their actions are acceptable, and you won’t be able to convince them otherwise…. After all ‘it was only a bit of fun’….