Saturday, May 07, 2016

Go create

As I look through our photos each one brings back a treasured memory. We capture so much of our lives in images. When I look through my archives long forgotten moments come back to life. They truly are a diary of our lives.

Risky business. Memories of being under sail on a great ship in the North Sea.

Some of these images are photographically not the greatest pictures on earth. Not every click is a masterpiece. Each image has a personal value and then there are images which have something more, the power to communicate an idea and emotionally engage an audience.

One of the greatest lessons I have learnt over the years is to take pictures for myself first.  Every image I make is personal work. Some images are taken just to capture a memory, just for me.

These days everyone's a photographer. People share their photographs on the internet and many people call themselves amateur photographers. In other words they are interested in photography as a hobby and want to learn to take better pictures. They upload their images and receive ‘likes’. Sadly rather than making images for themselves they often fall into the trap of slavishly trying to make images that will please their audience, often copying the work of a popular photographer in the hope of gaining more approval ratings. I suspect that because their work does not come from their own vision, is not a personal expression, they get sucked into a black hole of chasing more and more praise.

Perhaps the definition of an artist is someone driven to create for themselves, driven to express what they see and feel about their life experiences. An age old debate of course. The medium, whether photography, painting, sculpture, music… is just the language of expression the artist chooses.

Sometimes it's not good to analyse too much. Just go with the flow and listen to your inner voice. Go create.

Till soon,

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Video interview with Tom Stoddart

An insightful video interview with Tom Stoddart, one of the world’s most respected photojournalists.

Tom talks about his work, how he became a photojournalist and how he uses photography to tell the story.

Please watch in HD.


Film by Neale James
Photography by Tom Stoddart
Music licensing by Audio Jungle and Triple Scoop
Further information:

Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

Till soon,

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Beauty of black and white

Black and white photography is powerful. Pick up a book and look at the grainy, high contrast images shot on Kodak Tri-X 400 film by masters like Cartier Bresson, Don McCullen and SebastiĆ£o Salgado, they've lost nothing of their impact.

Today's super high resolution, fantastic colour, high dynamic range digital cameras enable faithful, ultra-real reproduction of the world. This way of rendering reality in exquisite detail does not however add emotion, a sense of the moment and gesture to an image.

The gritty black and white images created by the masters abstract reality, distilling it into the essential ingredients that connect with us through the history of photography. They represent a way we have learned to read history. We subconsciously attribute a sense of authenticity to these images.

This is why a photographer like Salgado insists his prints, although shot on the best DSLRs available look like the were photographed on film. He is conscious of his aesthetic voice and the weight of history and authenticity behind that look. 

I learned photography using film, developing and printing in the darkroom. Having explored the joys of the highest quality that digital can bring I am now again ready to experiment and embrace the aesthetic of black and white and explore that visual essence that the traditional look of film brings to an image.

Hope you enjoy the latest images.

Have a wonderful New Year.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

National Geographic photographer tells it like it is

One of my favourite National Geographic photographers, William Albert Allard, tells it like it is in this video. Watch and learn.

Till soon,

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The gift

He was sitting in a wheelchair next to the yacht basin in Oostende. With his peaked cap, pipe in hand and white beard he looked quite nautical. 

After a brief chat I asked if he would mind me making a portrait. A nod of agreement. 

I shot a few frames and he stared out from behind his glasses with a look that tells his story. 

It's such a gift when people open up to us photographers and give their time and their faces to share with the world.

Till soon,

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A photographic moment

We walked into the cafe at Salts Mill and immediately I spotted this gentleman reading his paper. It felt like an electric current had been switched on in my blood. Light, colour and gesture, the three key elements of a good image, all resonated together. When these elements come together they are a serendipitous gift to the alert photographer.
Man reading paper
With a tingling feeling running from the back of my neck to the tips of my fingers I carefully chose a seat at an adjoining table, hoping that he would continue to read his paper and not change his body position. I quickly composed the shot and pressed the shutter. If I had approached him before taking the shot I am sure this unselfconscious moment would have been lost.

See how the colours of his pocket handkerchief, his shirt, t-shirt and hat are echoed in the environment around him. The light is lovely, etching him out of the background.  His relaxed natural pose fills the frame with dynamic angles. A man reading his paper.

Salts Mill houses one of the largest collections of David Hockney paintings in the world and a series of his portraits hang in the cafeteria. One of them is of a man sitting in a chair, different pose but a similar dynamic. I'd like to think that if Mr Hockney saw this image it would make him smile too.

Till soon,

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Why are there so many bad photographers?

Browsing social photography websites like Flickr and 500px is a frustrating experience. Overall the quality of photography is horrible.

Home truths. Straight from the horse's mouth
Nobody dares say anything negative. Often votes and comments are motivated by a desire for reciprocation rather than because the viewer actually likes the image. Many people spend less than a second viewing an image. It's so easy to click the fave icon on a page of thumbnails.

People that receive a lot of votes/likes/favs are either good photographers or just good at playing the social game.

This has all been said before and I really am not bothered by the social side. The thing that bothers me is the lack of interest, effort and passion for their images among so many photographers.

Do they not see that when they push the saturation slider out near the maximum that the colours look awful, unnatural and garish?

Do they not see that when they over-sharpen or over-use the clarity tool that the images develop spots and artifacts that make it look horrible?

The list goes on, with cartoonish HDR and many more aberrations caused by filters and effects.

Sadly, under all the manipulation there's often a good image. But no, the photographer just could not resist adding a sun flare filter and putting some awful frame around the image. Why? Is reality not good enough?

Here are some truths to take away:

  • A poor composition can't be fixed with a filter.
  • An unsharp image will never be properly sharp, no matter how much sharpening you apply.
  • Without real interest, care and passion for your images they will never be good. 
  • Software will never make you a better photographer, one who engages and connects with their subject and produces beautiful work that stands up to serious scrutiny from people who know what good photography should look like.
  • Likes and favs are not a measure of photographic skill.
I'm not claiming to be the world's greatest photographer but I certainly know what good photography looks like, and it's really scarce.

What do I want to achieve? I'd like photographers out there to take a long, hard and honest look at the images they produce and aim to be better without trying to rely on tricks and gimmicks. 

My strongest plea is to those photographers who do make good compositions, to not add all sorts of filters and to go easy on the sliders in Photoshop, Lightroom etc. Camera manufacturers spend millions on research to make cameras that produce an excellent quality jpeg right out of the camera. Usually you have to do very little these days to get a decent quality image. 

Focus on taking great pictures, not on trying to produce them after you've pushed the shutter.

Thanks for your time.