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.


Sunday, July 05, 2015

An artist's passion

Technique can be learnt but there are two other vital ingredients in an artist's makeup that you're born with, one of which is easily lost along long hard road of life.
Flemish artist Willem Vermandere
Creativity is something we all have in us. Some people are born more creative than others. There's a range but how creative we actually are depends on the third ingredient and that's passion.

Without passion there is no drive, no new work, we become stale, copying our past successes with nothing fresh to show.

I'm fortunate enough to know two living artists with real passion; Willem Vermandere and Magda Indigo. Both are absolutely driven to create new work every minute of every day. Naturally they do the things we all do, going to a restaurant, shopping and so on but all the time you know that what they really want to be doing is creating new work. They have a grand obsession in their lives.

On the other side of coin you have artists who get off to flying start, producing new and exciting things and then somewhere along the way they lose their passion. They live off past successes and end up producing poor copies of what originally made them great.

So do you have a passion for your art, your photography, or are you coasting along?

Passion is the difference between 'it's good enough' complacency and striving for new brilliance that pushes the boundaries.

Till soon,

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Photographic memories

A classic view of Brugge at night. Millions of photos have been taken from where I stood, but I still think this image has something special. During the day Bruges is filled with tourists and nearly every one of them has a camera of some description.

The trick is to find a different way to photograph a place. I'm not saying nobody has shot this scene at night but it is certainly a more rare and special view. The dramatic lighting makes it stand out and a good image is all about special light.

I'm happy with the result and it will always bring back a fond memory of standing there with my wife in one of my favourite cities in the world.

Sometimes we photograph to sell to clients, other times for our own artistic endevours and always to preserve those precious memories. Our photographs have become our diaries.

Till soon,

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Selfie obsessed

A tourist poses for a self portrait using his selfie-stick.  His selfie will probably be posted straight to a social media site; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any number of others with a caption along the lines, "Look how much fun I'm having in Bruges."

In 2015 we noticed lots of people doing the selfie-on-a-stick thing  in Brugge. When people pose for these selfies their smiles often look forced. Or they pull weird expressions. They appear oblivious to the world around them, all attention focused on the small smartphone screen.

Getting creative with a high viewpoint.

And some people do it the old fashioned way, holding their smartphones.

Three young ladies get ready to pose for a group selfie in Brugge.

Are people becoming selfie-obsessed? Is it a good or a bad thing, or doesn't it matter? I remember when most of us would stop a friendly looking passer-by and ask them if they would mind taking a picture of us. Usually there was a bit of banter. Now most people seem to be into the DIY approach.

So what do you think?

Till soon,