For my entire photographic life (mostly) I’ve shot RAW files. Certainly when shooting for someone else I’ve always done it – I get more data, more colour, more of pretty much everything, which allowed a degree of laxity when it comes to the edit….
Lately (having just got a new camera a couple of months ago) I decided to try just shooting the JPG files. “It doesn’t matter if the files don’t turn out well”, I thought – let’s just play with the film simulation presets built in.
Turns out, it was a heap more fun than I ever thought it would be.
“Yes yes, I know I can alter the simulations in post, if I shoot RAW”… but that’s not the point. The point is, that it’s ‘FUN’, and I think sometimes we get bogged down so much in the intricacies of photography, that we forget it’s a hobby that we are supposed to be actually having a good time with.
Let’s try not to let the ‘rules’ get in the way…. Sometimes we have to follow them, we have to do what the competition organisers dictate – most times though we don’t…. and that’s when the real fun starts…..
At least that’s what I think….. Frankly, you can’t tell that the picture below is a JPG can you? No…… I thought not….
I’ve recently been reading an article on photography and creativity, and what we do with it. It mentioned a photographer called Stewart Harvey, and his brother who created the original ‘burning man’. In the article Stewart talked about motivations in his photography.
He discusses photographic projects, and how long they can take.
“It took a long time before I (Stewart Harvey) could get out of my own way as a photographer..” This phrase hit me on so many levels, because we tend to think that photography is all about us.. he goes on to say….
“We’re trying to put together an image that we can put in front of people so they can say ‘bravo’ – but until you get past that point, until you realise that photography is about something or someone else, do you start to get into the realm of doing photography that someone else is going to care about, because in the long run, the only person that ever cared about the photography of you and me was us, and in order for other people to care, your photography has to be about something that’s relevant – and relevancy isn’t just the world of art”.
Taking this analogy a bit further, I spent some time considering the things I say when I judge photographic competitions, and what other judges say in turn.
We need to consider what makes a person ‘get’ your photograph and makes them love it. Honestly it’s not the photograph itself, that’s just a part. It’s actually the state of mind of the judge / viewer at the time.
I often say at the end of an evening that the winning picture is honestly a good one, from my point of view – the truth is that on a different evening, or a different time of day, or a different mood, a different picture might come out on top.
Only a couple of nights ago, I listened to a highly respected judge who had been looking at the pictures entered for a few days in advance. They had been marked early, but a comment was made half way through “I’ve marked these, but frankly I’m changing the marks as I work through this evening.”
Were the winning images the ‘bravo’ photographs, or did they send a message to the judge who had to offer comments and scores on the night? I ask this even though one of the comments was “the photographer was very brave to enter this one….”
Whenever someone says something about one of your pictures, and you don’t like it – then that’s a shame, but frankly, it’s not the end of the world.
You should be able to take it on the nose, and deal with it, because photography and art is so personal and subjective. Opinions differ and we should all be prepared to be ‘wrong’.
To say that you ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ something though, isn’t criticism, it’s an opinion, and not critique.
If I take a photo, and like it, it really won’t follow that anyone else will. They may neither appreciate nor understand it at all.
The images I take are sometimes very personal, and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to understand my motivation in taking them at all. This though is a good thing. I’ve done my best with something that interests me, and if someone else doesn’t like it, then that’s the way life is, and I have to live with that.
Remember that just because a person doesn’t like your photograph, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. What you can’t do is let them influence you into doing something that ‘they’ like but you do not. Take suggestions on board yes, have a go at new things, change your image if you must, or if you think it really will help, but don’t change just ‘because’ they said so.
You really don’t have to worry about what other folk think – just enjoy your own work……
I chanced upon this picture when I was walking the beach one day. I can’t even remember quite where it was now. Once I’d seen it though, I just had to get the image before it was lost forever.
The average person would walk on probably, take no notice of what could be considered a bit of rubbish. However, the one who stops and takes notice could be the one who sees things where others would say there is nothing to photograph. They walk on unknowing what they have missed.
It is our job as photographers to see what others don’t, we must learn to be aware of what is around us, and stop saying there is nothing to shoot.
Winter is just starting to fade a little. We’ve had snow, ice and blisteringly cold winds. After several weeks of cold weather, we are starting to see the season gradually change. Already I have seen the first snowdrops pushing their heads above ground.
This is now, this is living, this is the earth showing that there is survival after weeks of intense cold, and it makes me feel better for it.
As I write, I listen to the wind in the trees outside the window, I see the blue sky and a few scudding clouds. Horses stroll around the field, chewing on hay put out a few days ago. The trees are still bare, but life is still out there, and the fresh (but still cold) air holds a promise of Spring. All else is quiet, (apart from the breathing of my old dog), and I appreciate the companionship. I enjoy the day (a Tuesday as it happens), and remember that people have to sit in an office, or shop or factory whilst I’m here experiencing this…..
Where I will end up, I don’t know, and really try not to worry about it. My goal is to live life as long as I can, as healthily as I can, and to enjoy my photography.
People say to me that they wish they could witness, or photograph a dawn, or a sunset – and to those able enough to get out – then go and do it. Turn off the television, turn off your computer and do it. Set your alarm for morning, get your camera and go out – NOW. If you want to know what the wind feels like on your face, just go stand outside – even if only for a little while.
Turn off your ‘smart’ phone, and take in the silence – not agonise over the ‘pings’..
I’ve been for a walk in the woods, just me and the dogs. The temperature is cold, the sparrows are infesting the hedgerows, and everything smelt great. I left my phone at home!
In January 2019 (literally just before Covid hit us hard), I bought a new computer…. totally jet propelled, and knocked spots off my old one.
I decided to keep the old one, use it as a second screen for the new one…. turns out good job I did.
Thing is, that I started to use MAC computers back in 2007, and each time I replaced it, I used the migration tool to just copy everything across, and it worked. The ‘new’ machine carried it all, and did it faster, and usually more efficiently. What I discover now, is that you can’t do that for ever.
My latest machine, over the next 12 months got slower and slower – grinding it’s way to life each time I turned it on. Boot up times ran to 5 minutes or more sometimes, and no amount of messing would help. I bought extra software to see if there was malware or anything of that sort on there – but no….. and still the upsets, the unexpected quitting of programmes, and sometimes a refusal to even shut down.
A long talk with the Apple help desk a month or so ago helped enormously. I reinstalled the whole operating system, whilst leaving everything else untouched. It did help, but the boot up time was still far too long.
Exploring the library deep in the system, and I found lots of rubbish – including some dating back to my first MAC – 2007. Not good.
The decision was made that I had to reformat and start again. I knew that I could not do a system restore from Time Machine, as that would just put back all the dross I wanted to get rid of…. so last week, I backed up everything I needed, and did it.
Have to say that the system ran really well. Boot up into safe mode, and you have the option to format the hard drive…. and having done that, you are offered the option to install ‘Big Sur’ from scratch. So, a couple of hours later, and I have an ‘as new’ machine. Great…..
What’s taken the time, is not just reinstalling all the software, but making it run like it did before. In Photoshop, finding all the actions I’d added over the years, then fonts, then sorting the layout. Similar with Lightroom.
Then adding back the catalogue for Lightroom, and making sure all my re-added images could be found.
Then of course there is the extra software I collected over the years. I had a copy of NIK effects – when Google gave it away for free. For some reason, pre-format of machine – it worked perfectly – on the new system not at all…. but this was not the only problem.
On1 gave me real issues. The copy I had was version 9.5, with an upgrade later to version 10. I couldn’t find the download for such an old copy. On1 gave me a link, for me to discover it wouldn’t work with Big Sur, and they said they had no intention of updating such ‘old’ software…. so that ends that then. I’m not buying it again. Thinking it through though, I hardly used it anyway… and it actually still works on the other computer, so all isn’t lost.
Everything else loaded in fine, the plugins I’d bought, or otherwise acquired, all work fine.
Was it worth three days work – yes it was – Firstly, it made me reconsider what I actually wanted from software, what did I REALLY need, and what could be effectively forgotten about. Secondly, the machine boots up nicely in just under 20 seconds…….
All I need to do now is reorder the panels in Photoshop to my liking, check that everything works in Lightroom (no reason that it won’t), and get to play with the new version of NIK effects purchased yesterday.
Well, before I get into this more deeply, I’m going to recite a short story I sometimes tell when I do my talks….. it goes like this…
When I first started in digital photography, I was using a Canon 350D, I thought it was great, and I even had two lens…. A 17-55 F4 I think it was, and a small 60mm macro. Excitedly, I joined a local camera club too. I’d done my research (I thought) and looked at what was around, and chose the one nearest to my home – only a 10 minute or so drive away.
That first night – eager to learn new things – I turned up, camera in hand – to realise that no-one took cameras to a camera club !! OK, lesson learned….. but they had a competition on that first night – I forget what the theme was, but suspect there was one……. Anyway – there was obviously a winner at the end, and whatever it was (I honestly can’t remember it now) – I was impressed by it – the photographer had done something I must have thought was miraculous in photoshop or some such thing.
Impressed, and probably a little nervous to approach a photographer of such skill, I tremulously asked how they had done it…. The answer….. well, somewhat disappointing really – he said “if I told you how I’d done it – then you would know”….. and then he walked away……
That off the cuff comment stayed with me over the years, and as I slowly improved, changed clubs, moved house and so forth, the remark still stayed with me……. In fairness, over time I met any number of photographers who were more than generous with their time and explanations and help generally. Folks who mentored me through my LRPS, and my ARPS, and other things too – not just photography, but the ability to make spreadsheets for my AFIAP…. In the end far too many to mention individually, (But if you are reading this, you will know who you are)…
Why am I telling you this?
Well, at some point, I decided that if I ever reached those giddy heights where someone asked me how I did something – I’d tell them – I’d spell it out in words of not more than one syllable if necessary….. and somehow, some way – here I am, doing talks for clubs on how to be more creative in their photographic art life. There are no secrets in photography.
What I talk about ad nauseam is the need for the photographer to forget the camera – and learn to use it instinctively. There’s a real reason to not be thinking about buttons and dials – there’s a need to create without the camera being a hinderance.
The ability to assess ISO, Fstop and shutter speed for instance, is critical – it is this sort of thing together with a sense of imagination and creativity that goes towards the finished product.
One of the subjects that comes up most, is my ARPS panel – made up of multiple images in each finished shot. Up to 70 in one case, and as few as 20 in another.
Even though I finished this panel nearly two years ago now, they seem to be as fresh (to me anyway) now, as they were when I made them.
Most times when I talk about these, I go into some detail about how I made them, and I’m always flattered when people ask me for the formulae….. and in essence, there really isn’t any right or wrong way to make these, it’s just practice and working with enormous files in photoshop. Also, the need to accept that some subjects just don’t work, and others do – quite unexpectedly – sometimes. Others just ‘flow’.
Where does inspiration come from though? – well in my case it started with a painting, by James McNeill Whistler – it’s called ‘Sea and Rain’ and I really loved the softness of the whole image, and the fact that the figure on the beach is nearly translucent. This combined with images created by a Canadian Photographer, and the Catalan Pep Ventosa set me off on a trail lasting over 18 months. Practicing with different subjects, and refining how the entire process worked.
Most flattering though is when a photographer takes the bull by the horns – uses the techniques I have ‘taught’ them, and produces something special.
Such an image came in from Roy Goulden of Freeland Camera Club – we emailed back and forth for some time – with me suggesting different ways of dealing with this technique, and finally, he nailed it. He has very kindly allowed me to use his image in this blog post.
Burnham On Sea by Roy Goulden – Freeland Camera club
I take an intense delight in seeing people collect ideas, run with them, and make them their own – and, it’s even better if their results turn out to be better than my own…..
Why do photographers keep ‘secrets’? I have no idea, other than it might give them a sense of superiority….
Ultimately – whatever it is that inspires you, whether another photographer, painter, or any creative, it has to motivate you to ‘do’ something. Look around for ideas, look at other peoples work – ask how they did it if necessary, and then use that inspiration to make something uniquely your own.
Following on from my last post – I’m a bit excited.
Regular readers will remember that at the start of 2019 I started a journey down the Meridian Line from Yorkshire (Sand Le Mere) to the bottom of the county of Lincolnshire.
I ended with a trip to Greenwich, with some good friends.
The photographs themselves took 12 months to take and edit; and then another 7 months to organise them and write the text.
I self published using Blurb books, and have made both a hardback, and a soft-back.
I am really pleased with the end result – and in fact the statue on the front cover of the book (John Harrison of Longitude fame) was only installed at Barrow On Humber in March of this year. It was one of the images I had to wait to get before I could finish the book.
So, it’s done – and what next?
Well, Covid has put a stop to a lot of travel, but I am starting to get out and about a bit more – with other photographers too – though we go out in separate cars.
I’ve got a couple of ideas for projects going forward – which I’ll talk about when it’s more formalised in my head.
I’ve also got lots of people to thank who helped me get this book done – the naggers, the drivers, the pushers. The folk who have stood behind me when I got despondent and said “It’ll be OK”.
So – thank you to my other half for letting me travel at all hours, leaving him to dog-sit. Thank you to all the members of Lincolnshire Image Makers who encouraged me to keep going.
And to Mike Bennett, Keith Balcombe and George Lill for coming out with me – keeping me on the straight and narrow, and generally shoving me in the right direction.