Being Quiet

I’ve stolen this title from a podcast that I listen to, where the talk was about being digitally quiet as well as physically quiet.

This came from the fact that, (for reasons that are unimportant) I put Facebook back onto my mobile phone as a temporary measure.  I’d deleted the app over 12 months ago, but every now and again wished it had been there – and yesterday I put it back on for one day – and I wish in some ways I hadn’t.

We went to the Festival of the Air in Cleethorpes and I’d had this idea that I could post to FB a video of the kite flying – which was incredible by the way…..

What I found was that I got to looking at other things rather than just posting the video, and a couple of photos. It became a huge distraction, as I became more bothered about the upload, than I was about what was going on around me.  In the end I uploaded a photo or two – and the video, and then deleted the app again – it was just too much for me to deal with, AND absorb what was going on around me.

Once again, I noticed the number of people (this time including me for a while) who were watching the parade, the kites and all the other attractions through the small screen of their phones – almost like it was a sin to watch the real thing with their own eyes.

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I don’t think I take enough time really to stop and look.  There’s too much digital noise going on, and sometimes I feel I’m being dragged into directions I don’t want to go.

I’m an advocate of playing around though – I think that it’s essential to take time off from the serious bit of photography.  So this weekend – apart from the Facebook distraction – I decided to play with the images – I took them just because it was interesting to me, and not because they were truly ‘artistic’ in any way.

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I call it photographic doodling. It’s a great way of limbering up the artistic juices (of which I’ve been sadly lacking for weeks and weeks) – It’s the process of playing around, and not the result.  It’s been good to just mess about, and see what comes out.

Facebook has been removed from my phone, and I hope will never, ever, get put back on again, I need the peace and quiet after all….

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The Guilt Complex

I’ve noticed – since I stopped working full time – (and so am not taking photographs because I have to) – that I work through peaks and troughs of creativity.  I seem to be really creative for a while, and then for whatever reason, it just drops off, and i have no idea what to do next.

I also found, that the more I worried about it, the worse it went (a bit like insomnia!).  Sometimes it’s just because life has got in the way, and I don’t have the time to photograph.  Other demands, and other things have to be done before I can have time to pick up a camera.  It doesn’t matter why I can’t do it, I still get feelings of guilt that  I’m not – even if the other thing I’m doing gives me pleasure.

I mentioned this to a friend a little while ago, and to my relief discovered that she had the same thing happen to her – and then when you open up the discussion – you realise that nearly everyone who makes or creates art of any kind has the same fallow times.

One photographer I know, gave up the camera for a good period of time, and concentrated instead on painting – she created some incredible artwork, and invited me to her house to have a go.  We paint poured (I’ll post an image when it’s dry, and she’s back off holiday) – and it was so incredibly relaxing. We sat in her summer house, listening to the birds, and crafted abstract images by pouring paint onto a canvas.

So totally different from photography, and much less instant, as the canvas will take days to dry completely, and will then need to be treated again to bring the shine back.

In between times, I realise that my camera sensor is filthy, and I need to deal with that before I do anything else.

So, till the inspiration comes back, I’ll relax, go with the flow, and try to do something totally different, and try to finish the words for my Meridian talk….

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Who Cares?

I do quite a bit of judging these days, and so I see both good and bad work presented to me for some critique, and opinion.

I also do personal critique sessions, and try to help photographers with individual images they are trying to make, or panels they are trying to put together – and sometimes a photographer might be insistent that one image or another is the one they want to use or put into a group of other images – and the reason is that they have an emotional tie to that image – whether it’s a good one or not.

It’s not always what the photographer wants to hear…. that an image won’t fit – or isn’t that good….. Reasons for inclusion are numerous, but usually on the grounds that it was a difficult image to produce, or acquire, or expensive to get.  My response these days is pretty much on the grounds of ‘who cares?’ – though maybe not quite so blunt.

My story is that many years ago, I photographed red squirrels in Liverpool.  Not only had I not seen one before but it was around the time that squirrel pox had decimated the population somewhat – so the photos I did get were few and far between.  I did get some, and the one I was most proud of, was a fat squirrel sat in in front of, and partly obscured by, the woodland undergrowth.

Proudly I put it into a local club competition, and it did very badly.  Not knowing protocol – I complained to the judge at the end – and I said to him ” Do you know how hard it was to get that picture?”  and his response was “Not my problem – it’s up to you to get a clear image with a diffused background” – I was taken aback, and said that it was nearly impossible to get that sort of background…. to which he replied “so go try harder then”………

Now – I understand what he meant – it wasn’t the judges problem, it was mine…. No one who views a piece of artwork or photography cares how long it took, how difficult it was to get, or  how much it cost.  No-one cares that you stood in an icy river for three weeks, or that you paid a fortune to a photographic  holiday company.

The pain and suffering that a photographer or artist goes through is irrelevant from a viewer’s point of view.  We always think it’s important, when we are the ones who  have suffered so much, or paid for a shoot.  It’s the painful truth though – If it’s a bad image, then no amount of pain and suffering or expense will make it into a better one.

If you want accolades and praise all the time, then photography or art isn’t for you.  Take the rough with the smooth, and accept that not everyone is going to like what you produce, and sometimes the reason they don’t like it, is just because it really isn’t good enough!

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Found Imagery

I was looking at a photo competition the other day – and the more ‘interesting’ categories that were there – and amongst the more obvious ones of portraiture, environmental etc, there were two that struck me as unusual.  One was ‘appropriation’, and the other was ‘found imagery’.

I did a search as to what ‘found imagery’ was, and was led to this article which referred to “Unfortunate Views of Google Street View” 

Do click on the link (it’s safe) and have a read.  The photographer is using Google street view, and photographing what he sees on his computer screen. The German photographer Michael Wolf received an honorable mention for a set of images taken in this way in this year’s World Press Photo Contest.

Is this photojournalism though?  I’d question it.

I used to be an agency photographer, and was not allowed to change anything in an image – it had to reflect exactly what was happening at the time, so I’m not sure that a photograph of a photograph qualifies.

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Then there is ‘appropriation’ art…. the term seems to have come into use specifically in relation to certain American artists in the 1980s.  For example Sherrie Levine reproduced as her own work other works of art, including paintings by Claude Monet. Her aim was to create a new situation, and therefore a new meaning or set of meanings, for a familiar image.

Take a look at this link researching into ‘appropriation’

Incorporating Photography into Art History, Starting with August Sander

The Golden Ratio

What is the Golden Ratio?  Putting it as simply as we can, the Golden Ratio (also known as the Golden Section, Golden Mean, Divine Proportion or Greek letter Phi) exists when a line is divided into two parts and the longer part (a) divided by the smaller part (b) is equal to the sum of (a) + (b) divided by (a), which both equal 1.618.  Whew !!!

The Greeks discovered that there was a ratio of length to height that they considered to be aesthetically pleasing. This is the 1.618 : 1, and this makes a print that is roughly 13 x 8.   What’s magical about this?  Well, it has unusual mathematical properties, which the Greeks claimed were divinely inspired, and therefore the best…. and this particular rectangle is the basic shape of all Greek architecture – including the Parthenon.

If you take the Golden Rectangle, and cut off a square, the shape that is left, is also a Golden Rectangle.  Cut off another square, and you are again left with the Golden Rectangle… ad infinitum.  If you do this repeatedly, you will end up with a spiral of rectangles, and if you then draw a line through these, you will end up with a perfect logarithmic spiral.

The Golden mean was studied at length by the mathematician Fibonacci, who discovered the set of numbers called the Fibonacci sequence. The series of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, … The next number is found by adding up the two before it.

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As a photographer we need to understand the simplicity of this, and how it can affect our images.  What makes something look ‘good’ without you always being aware of the why…..

In my last post, I showed a portrait, and I’ll show this again with the Golden Triangle superimposed on top.

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There is some magic in the Golden Mean – it’s worthy of study, if you are so inclined, and fascinated by such things (as I am)…

You can find these crop overlays by the way, in Lightroom.  Click on the crop tool, and then repeatedly press the ‘O’ key and different crop layouts will cycle round.  From the 1/3 grid, to the Golden Spiral, and through to the Golden Rectangle…..

Enjoy…..

Honesty and Critique

I’ve spent a bit of time these last weeks, reviewing another photographers portfolio of work.  The task of looking at work, both for me, and the photographer, is that we both have to be honest about what we are looking at.

One image, the photographer kept telling me, was really hard to get – the subject matter was hard to find, and even harder to get a good solid photo of.  When I looked at it, it was a messy construction and clearly not that good.  The photographer though had invested a lot of time and emotion in the image, and would not let it go.  He was convinced it was good, and nothing I was going to say would change that point of view, but the fact is that the image is going to be perceived by others on an entirely different level from that of the photographer.

Which takes me on to the question of feedback about your work.  What kind of feedback do you REALLY want? and importantly, what is your response to that feedback?

If you really respect the person who is looking at your images – it can be upsetting to hear that they don’t like it.  After all, you want them to like what you have produced, that’s why you show it.

So, what should your response be, when someone you know and trust, doesn’t like your work.  It’s hard, because maybe the work is bad, and maybe you just need to be told that. Maybe you need to listen to their advice and go away and change something, or even forget that image, and replace it with a new one.

You should remember though, that maybe the person looking at your work just doesn’t like the subject matter.  Though in fairness, they should tell you that right from the start.  I would hope that the good critique maker, should be able to look past the personal likes and dislikes and see the image for what it is.

So it’s up to the photographer to ask the right questions at this point, and so you need to ask the reviewer what it is they don’t like about the image.  This is then hard, as the reviewer might tell you what they would do to make the image better, and that then might make it more their work, than yours.  So you have to be careful.

If I show my work to someone I trust, and say that it is to inspire calm, and they say it looks like a battle is about to break out – then I think I can safely say I missed the mark on that one – and if this happens consistently then maybe I’d need to rethink my entire strategy or portfolio.

When I judge competitions – I try hard not to say whether I like it or not – at least not at first – what I try to do is work out how an image makes me feel.  Sometimes I will say of a picture (let’s assume of an animal or bird for arguments sake), that by looking at it, I know how it would feel if I could run my fingers through the fur, or feathers, or grass, or whatever.  Then I might say what emotion it gives – peace, excitement, confusion and so on.

The title of the piece helps direct too.  An image can be confusing till I know what it’s called – then a combination of title and subject matter can bring together a unity of purpose.

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It’s a Giveaway!!

I have, recently been reading a book called “The Gift”, by Lewis Hyde.  It’s an old publication (one bought for 1p from Amazon, but the postage was £2!)…   It’s about gift giving, and the arts.  Hyde promotes the art of ‘gift giving’, and the responses that can come from that gift.

I’ve also been reading, co-incidentally, another book called “Single Exposures”, and the author of this book refers to the first, and promotes the idea of giving away a number of prints, to both friends, and strangers alike, and to see what happens.

Now, I appreciate that this seems to fly in the face of the commercial world, but as I’m no longer officially working, and retirement has set in rather comfortably, I’m thinking that I will give this a shot – and see what happens.

So, for the next three months, I’m going to give away 5 prints to the first five people that ask for them.  I’ll get them printed up for you, and posted out if necessary.

All you have to do, is have a look round my website www.dseddonphoto.co.uk, and pick your image.  If I don’t know you personally, you will have to send me your address, but you can use the contact page on the website to send it to me, and note the image you have picked.  Each image has a number which appears in the top right hand corner as you scroll over.  Just tell me the gallery name, and the image you want.

The print will be no larger than A4 – and sometimes smaller, depending on the individual picture.  The watermark will not be shown.

I’ll turn it around as soon as possible, and it will wing its way to you.

There is nothing else you need to do, and there is no requirement for you to reciprocate if you don’t want to.

I would encourage other photographers to maybe join in, and lets try to set in motion a flurry of ‘real’ prints to spread around.

I don’t think we hang enough of our own work on the walls, but there seems to be a tendency to hang other people’s……

I look forward to hearing from you, and I’ll report back later as to how it’s going……  Fingers crossed.

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Sunrise / Sunset / Image Theft ???

I’m a bit quick off the mark with the blog posts at the moment, but I follow another blog with a link I thought was worth sharing.

It also begs a question, and I’d be interested in getting opinions.

The link is at the bottom of the page, but before you look, read on…..  This ‘artist’, has culled from Flickr thousands of sunrise, and sunset images – she’s also taken them from other sites, some still show partial watermarks.

She has cropped each image down to what looks like postcard size, so that they only show the sun rising, or setting.  These images have then been curated together to form massive murals of red and other colours, and to be honest, they look quite stunning.

My question is about using other peoples work to create your own – as I notice that her work is copyright to the artist….

Here’s the question……  Is it right that she has curated, and used all these images from Flickr, and other sources, to create a work of art of her own, and to make a profit from it?

I know (as I do use Flickr) that you can set a creative commons licence to images on there, which would allow both private and commercial use.  However, I also know that a lot of people who post on there, use the generic copyright, which does not allow use by anyone else.  Plus, I also see on some of this ladies work, the partial copyright signs that she is cropping.  Shutterstock, and Bigstock are just two of the agencies that I immediately recognise.

Have a read of the page, and please do tell me what you think.

http://www.penelopeumbrico.net/index.php/project/suns/

Here’s a quote from her website:-

Copyrighted Suns / Screengrabs questions the claim of ownership of an image of something that is essentially un-possess-able. I cropped the suns from images of sunsets on stock photography websites that had a ‘watermark’ running through them. I used the descriptive tags of each of the stock images as the titles of each of my cropped ‘watermarked’ suns. The words summarize the collective narratives we weave around it’s setting, and also indicate how much a fragment I am using from each image.

Is not a landscape, un-possess-able (as she puts it), or an image of the stars, or aurora, and does this mean she can use any image she wants – is the fact that the image is cropped make it acceptable to use it?  Does the fact that she adds tags to each of the stock images make it right?

I think not – there is something I find intrinsically uncomfortable with this type of art ‘theft’ – if indeed it is theft….

Your thoughts will be much appreciated.

 

Fast Photography?

I feel the need to slow down, but it’s hard to do…….

Most times I go out to shoot, I come home, and am looking at what I’ve taken within hours. I’m starting to think (a strain for me I know), that I should try and slow things down.

When I’m actually out shooting these days, I’m one of the slowest – I’m conscious that I’m the last to finish, and sometimes people are left waiting for me.  It’s a style, and I see other photographers who can jump out of the car and get cracking straight away – and if I try to do this, I come back with images that are only fit for the digital trash.

I was talking to a friend the other week, who said that he didn’t look at anything he’d taken for at least a week.  He would download to his computer, and back up – but then leave them to ‘develop’ and come back to them later.

With hindsight (which is a wonderful thing) I can see how this works.

I’ve been looking back at images I took months ago, and have just left them to stew on the computer.  This long cooking time, can make for a better image – so rather than just delete stuff – I’m trying to hang onto it for at least two months before I make a decision.  The obvious operator errors can go straight away, but sometimes it’s good to come back to something in a different frame of mind.

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This image for example.

I took this in March of 2017, when out with some friends on an exploration of the Lincolnshire Coast.  I’d forgotten all about it, and rediscovered it, and re-processed it over the last day or two.  I think it’s something I might have easily thrown away, but with hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t.  I think it’s a peaceful shot, calm and Autumnal.  (The image by the way is the ‘Soundtower’, part of an art installation called ‘Structures on the Edge’, and can be found at Chapel Six Marshes.)

It’s always worth archiving images you are not sure about, and come back to them later.

And in the meantime, I’m going to make a serious effort to not process images as soon as I’ve taken them.  I’ll try and let them stew for a while, and look at them again, in the ‘cold light of day’ as it were.

I think that there’s a difference between just getting a ‘shot’, and experiencing the ‘getting of that shot’.  This is what I’m sometimes missing.

Do you find that you get the best images when you are chasing the shot, or when you spend time contemplating what is to come – can you anticipate when the moment is to come?

I think I learnt to ‘rush’ when I was working as an agency photographer.  I would have to wait for the event to happen, but then it was a frantic rush to get the shots, and then they had to be sent off to the agency as soon as I could.  If I was late, then another photographer would have already sent images to another agency, and I would have lost the moment.  Speed was of the essence.

Now though, I don’t need to do that any more, but it’s still ingrained in me – so I rush with post processing, like I need to get images out in a deadline.

I need to STOP, and smell the roses……

I need to make the observation come first, the photography second, and the processing slow and easy.  I shall try and adjust my approach for the future.

And now, I’m out to shoot…. hopefully I can resist the image to edit what I take today…..

Enjoy your photography.

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