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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An Unknown Photographer

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If you don’t know, or haven’t seen this photograph before, you should have done – it was taken May 6th 1937, and depicts the crash of the Hindenburg, killing 30 people.  It was also the cover of a Led Zeppelin album.

Who caught this photograph?  It was a photographer I’m sure you will all have heard of……. Sam Shere.

Sam Shere was a photojournalist, born in 1901, best known for his 1937 photograph of the explosion of the Hindenburg dirigible balloon as it returned from a transatlantic crossing. He said of the photo: “I had two shots in my big Speed Graphic [his camera] but I didn’t even have time to get it up to my eye. I literally ‘shot’ from the hip–it was over so fast there was nothing else to do.”

Shere worked for International News Photo, part of the William Randolph Hearst publishing empire, and covered stories as diverse as the Duke of Windsor, who had abdicated as king of England, to the invasion of Sicily in World War II. His photographs also appeared in LIFE magazine and The New York Times. He was awarded the Editor and Publisher Award for best news picture for 1937 for his famous photo of the Hindenburg disaster.  He died in 1985.

His work has been offered at auction multiple times, with realised prices ranging from $5,371 USD to $8,972 USD, depending on the size and medium of the artwork. Since 2010 the record price for this artist at auction is $8,972 USD for Explosion of the Hindenburg, sold at Grisebach in 2010.

And this folks, is all I can find out about him.  He was famous for one picture – the picture being way more famous than the photographer who took it.

I looked up other references to Sam Shere – there are of course other images taken by him that you can find online (including some underwater cycling shots!), but every page referenced back to this one image – and the reprints of it (which by the way are incredibly expensive).

I’m sure there are other photographers around, that we have never heard of, but who have produced remarkable images.  I’m also pretty sure that I’d rather have one image that everyone knows, but forget who I am, rather than lots of images that drift around in the ether with no-one caring about either the image, or the author.

In the meantime, do look up Sam – and have a look at the underwater table tennis fashion shoot, by clicking this link…….

Enjoy,….

 

 

The Golden Bullet

This week, over the Christmas break, I’ve been able to sit down and read ..  and something I noticed, in fact have been noticing for a long time, is the number of articles that offer photographers the Golden Bullet which will make them more successful – make their business take off – improve their photography – and all at the touch of a button.  The right camera body, the right lens, or the right software….  and not many of these articles ever talk about the right attitude, or the right skill sets.

Here’s a few headlines from this week:-

“Hack your Smartphone and become a better photographer” – really ???

” Five weather sealed lens that will improve your photography” – please explain this one to me..  It might let you get out in bad weather, but just how does it improve your photography?

“Why natural light is best for portraits” – absolutely……

“Why flash is best for portraits” – absolutely (but if you are a new starter, this could be a bit confusing..)

“Lightroom / Photoshop presets to take your photography to the next level” – yes, bolt on that preset or that filter – you don’t need to learn how it all works….

“5 of our favourite lens for environmental portraiture” – 5?  Can’t we use just the one?

“Secrets of sports photography” (insert any genre at this point) – because after all it’s good to know a secret isn’t it?

I read one or two articles about building a business, and working on accounts, and keeping clients, but mostly they’re about getting new cameras, lens, computers, and software.

It’s such a shame that photographers can get sucked into GAS (gear aquisition syndrome), so much that everything sensible seems to leave their heads.

With a constant bombardment from your favourite camera brand telling us what’s new – or what’s coming soon, it’s so easy to get sucked into this strange new disease..  This obsession we have with getting the ‘next best thing’ in camera tech leads to a vicious cycle and will continue to distract us from our art if we don’t find out what it is we really need to focus on.

Education is a photographers most powerful tool when it comes to progressing, and being successful.  Sure, improved gear can be a great help – but there’s nothing to beat a good course on accountancy and business management – not as exciting to be sure, but an absolute essential if you want your business to succeed.

We all love our toys though, and it’s great to have the ‘latest’ thing, and if you can afford it feel free to indulge.  For those of us though who max out the credit card just to be able to say “I bought this”,  you should probably reconsider things.

BUY BOOKS – NOT GEAR

Having gear can make it easier to capture the type of image you want, but won’t make you a better photographer.  Buy books, look at pictures, attend gallery exhibitions, listen to podcasts.

Books are expensive yes, especially good quality photo books – but compare that to the price of a new lens.  Every time I go to a talk by a photographer that I admire – I buy the book they are selling at the end.  It’s not often I’ve been disappointed, and I’ve had some brilliantly creative images put in front of me that I can stare at for as long as I want without the computer being switched on.  Sometimes, there’s little or no text, just pictures.  It’s brilliant, and inspiring.

If you are serious about taking your photography to the next level – buy books.  Buy lots of books, buy tutorial books.

Again I reiterate that having good equipment will help you create the images you seek, but it won’t make you a better photographer.

I hope that you’ve all had a happy and relaxing Christmas, and that the New Year will bring all you wish for – be it gear, or books, or both…….  enjoy……

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Easy Photography?

I was stood in a shop the other day, looking at the pictures they had for sale in there. Some were paintings, some craft, and some photography. The photographs were pleasing images of the Lincolnshire wolds – woodlands, landscapes, and also beach scenes.

A lady stood next to me, humphed slightly, and announced in fairly loud tones, that the photographs were easy – anyone could take them with a decent mobile phone, and she didn’t see quite why they were even for sale, never mind at the price asked.

Part of me wanted to get involved in a conversation, but in the end, she walked away, and I continued to stand and stare, and wondered why people think photography is so simple.

Part of the issue is the preponderance of images that are available on the internet, and on Facebook – mostly, I see very poor ones (I’ve talked about this before) – but mainly it’s the idea, or assumption that the creation of a good photograph is easy, and takes little or no skill to create, but merely the good luck to be in the right place at the right time. It is generally assumed that the glass and body of the camera has all the cleverness built in, and it is thought that actual talent is not needed to make an image the way it is. They think that anyone who can see, with or without glasses, can make the same picture.

The assumption is that photographs can be made without the interference of vision, craft, dedication, repetition or talent of the photographer.

People think that because they own a camera, they are photographers. It’s surely the same principle of – “I bought a new oven, therefore I am a chef”. I see it all the time, the new camera owners who instantly think they can make money from their ‘art’. They don’t need to learn all the nuances of photography – they can put the camera on the green square – full auto, and wonderful pictures will spill out – which they can then overprocess (because they don’t know when to stop, and after all, a great coloured filter will really enhance that shot)….

Do they really think that Ansel Adams got great images of Yosemite every time he got his camera out? Do they really think that Edward Weston’s Pepper number 30 came first time….. no – the clue is in the title…. Pepper number 30 – which means that there were at least 29 others that came before that… and who knows how many afterwards. It just means that Weston thought that number 30 was the best for publishing at that time.

So when I see images on line with wails from photographers who say, “I shot this and no-one has commented… but when I do something different people do” ….. then I say – there might be a reason. Maybe your talent doesn’t lie in that direction, and maybe you go back to what you are good at. Or maybe the shot, though competent, has no soul.

A portrait of a model sat on a wall, can be just that, a person sat on a wall. There’s no story, no soul, no romance….. NO INTENT.

I’ve always found that planned shoots, with a visualised end are successful. The times when I wander out with no idea what to do, usually result in a lot of deleted images (but hey, I had the day out and enjoyed company maybe, or just the good weather).

Ansel Adams reckoned that your first 10,000 pictures are just practice, and you get better after that….. so I’d better get the camera out again……

Enjoy your shooting

 

Please be Gentle – It’s my First Time

Please be Gentle – It’s my First Time

I’ve not blogged in an age – we moved house, I started to rebuild contacts in a new area, I neglected all sorts of things in an effort to re-establish my life in a new county – and when I look back, all these things are excuses for not concentrating on blogging, or on so many other things I needed to do.

What’s prompted me back into writing again, is the constant stream of excuses that photographers are coming up with these days, to explain their below standard work, which they are sharing on Social Media on an almost daily basis.  It’s driving me nuts……

That’s not to say of course that there are many excellent photographers out there, sharing some truly inspirational work.  The trouble is, there are so many more ‘photographers’ (and I use the quote marks intentionally) who feel the need to share a lot of sub-standard images, and who feel that people should be praising them for their trouble.

I’m a member of a few Facebook groups – and I’ve actually left a good number – trusting that the few I stuck with would be more ‘constructive’.  Some of these groups encourage members to post images for constructive critique, and this is where the whole thing starts to fall apart.

“Please be gentle, I’m only just starting with photography / photoshop / Lightroom / Elements – don’t be harsh”

I’m more than happy to give constructive critique to those who really want it – Telling people their images are good, when they are good, and offering (I hope) constructive feedback  to those whose images are not so good, but have potential.

However, if you are new, and just starting out, is it not even more important that you get honest feedback about your images?   If people constantly tell you that what you are producing is good – then of course you will keep on doing it – in exactly the same way, and you will continue to make the same mistakes, and I find that the poorer the image, the less likely people are to accept any criticism of it.

I also see poor advice being given, and explanations for poor technique being blamed on equipment.  A prime example happened today.  I was reading a post where someone had put an image up for review – there was so much noise in the image that you could barely make out what it was.  The image was scaled up to 200%, the ISO had been set at 6400 and the exposure time was just 1/200 of a second.  The usual explanations were offered.  The high ISO, and the darkness of the image – the upscaling, all contributed to the rather messy image.  

Later in the discussion – someone chipped in with and offered the explanation that it wasn’t the photographer who was to blame at all.  It would be a combination of a faulty SD card, and the fact that the Battery was nearing depletion that caused the ‘grain’ on the image.  A number of people tried to explain that a low battery would not cause this effect, but the photographer was relieved that it wasn’t anything they had done.  It was a ‘gear’ problem and so they could fix this by always taking with them a spare battery……..

I’m sorry, but this sort of thing is worse than useless.  Taking the easy way out, is not always an option.  Sometimes you just have to learn how to use your camera, and understand what the settings do, and how you can work with them, when the light is against you.

Understanding your camera, and it’s limitations are key to making better images.  All photographers need to know and understand the relationship between F/stop, shutter speed and ISO.  Adding in white balance, focus, composition and using a tripod where necessary.  There is a host of information on the net, and asking a question on a Facebook forum does not mean you are going to get good answers.  Check out the ones you do get – make sure the information is accurate.

You can’t work on the principle of “It was on Facebook, so it must be right”

So before you post images on the net, asking for critique ask yourselves these questions

Do I REALLY want other peoples opinion?

Do I really?…… because there are some images that we just feel are ‘right’ for us.  It won’t really matter what other people think, because they are personal to you.  It might not be a technically perfect image, but it captured that moment, which means so much to you.  But don’t forget, other people don’t know your circumstances, or your family, or your pets.  To them it’s just an underexposed image.

2. Is the opinion really about what you have posted

Opinions can be hi-jacked by other things happening in the same thread.  Some posters will ask questions that others will answer, and in the end the whole thing is not about your image any more, it’s about something different.  So be careful when you read the comments – it may not even be you they are talking about.

3. Are the comments actually helpful

Does “wow”, “amazing”, “beautiful work”, “incredible”, actually mean anything to you?  Or would you prefer comments such as “the composition works well”, “superb lead lines”, “nice and sharp”.  Even negative ones “the shadows are too dark”,  “you have some blown out highlights there”, “love the shot, but I see a couple of hot spots on the models face”.   Some of these things can be fixed in post production, and because you are so close to your images, you don’t see them sometimes.  It’s good and helpful to have them pointed out to you later on.

Hearing feedback about general things in your image can help you later on.  Ask yourself – can you take what’s being said, and apply it, to other images. If you can’t, I don’t think you should be asking for critique in the first place.   Is there a lesson to be learned in the feedback you are getting.

I encourage my students to take time looking at other people’s work.  Not just photographers, but artists and painters.  Ask yourself “why” is this person’s work so good – how does this compare to what I am producing.  Visit art galleries and photographic exhibitions and try to work out what is good about some of the images you see.

In summary then, if you are new to photography, photoshop, lightroom, whatever – then doesn’t it make more sense that people are absolutely truthful about your work?  There are ways of offering constructive critique without being rude or disrespectful.  If people ask for critique, then we should give it truthfully, and honestly, and expect it to be treated as such.  If we continually praise poor workmanship, then this will become the norm, and we will start to forget what truly great images look like.