Monday, August 28, 2006

Technical perfection

I wonder if there is such a thing as the technically perfect image ie what you get if you follow all the 'rules' of photography.

For me photographic technique is about being able to control the technology so that when you press the shutter you get what you visualise.

Focus, exposure, contrast, colour - all of these things affect the mood of an image, so if you want to create a strong mood, by definition, you have to push one or more of these aspects beyond the everyday norm of what you would see in a straight forward snapshot.

Ansel Adams, the acknowledged master of technique, used filters, exposure, development, chemicals and darkroom manipulation to create dramatic images. Had you stood next to him when he made his images you would not have been able to guess how his interpretation would render the final print.

An image is technically perfect if it communicates what you want it to communicate to the viewer.

Paul Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Bouncing back

Been more or less out of action this week with computer problems.

Well the machine is rebuilt from scratch and working better than ever, plus I've added another 300 GB of space, which no doubt will be filled very quickly.

If you shoot a lot of images my advice is to back everything up on DVD straight away. Don't let it accumulate.

More soon.

Paul Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 20, 2006


There's a whole world to discover in the textures etched into the bark of this old tree.

For me one of the joys of photography is discovering and exploring things like this. It's pure visual delight.

Paul Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 17, 2006

3 Ps for landscape photographers

A lot of landscape photography is about having patience and being properly prepared. You have to be pretty lucky to just drive out to a spot and catch it at its best.

Many of the world's top landscape photographers produce their most stunning work in landscapes that they visit frequently. Often the best shot comes after several visits to the same spot. Joe Cornish's book First Light provides some examples of how a subsequent visit to the same place under different lighting conditions, or at a different times of the year can provide stunning images, albeit that the first attempt is quite successful.

Landscape photographers need to not only look at the scene in front of their eyes, but also to look and assess the potential in the landscape. They have to think about what it would look like at different times in the year, different times of day and where the shadows will fall.

It helps to make notes and modern GPS tools provide a convenient way of marking a spot to return to at a later date. You could compile a list of landscape spots matched against ideal lighting conditions. Armed with your database you could then make a well informed decision as to where you stand the best chance of shooting that stunning landscape that is waiting for you just a short drive away.

And if at first you don't succeed then patience and persistence will pay off . Return another day or wait for the light. It may be pouring with rain but that 30 second dramatic break in the cloud may be all that is required to lift the landscape from gloom to the sublime.

So there you have it a professional approach to landscape photography. The qualities of a landscape photographer are patience, persistance and preperation - my three Ps.

Cheers for now,


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The little Flemish chapel

As promised here's picture of the little chapel where I took the earlier blog's colour shot.

Landscape is the art of seeing the possible.

Paul Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Environmental portraiture

One of my favourite types of photography is environmental portraiture.

Here in a small chapel on the road to Meetkerke, my wife Magda, contemplates her family history which is intimately tied to West Flanders.

She has a story to tell about nearly every village in this area and knows the roads like the back of her hand.

This particular chapel stands like an island in the middle of an intersection between two small country lanes. I'll upload a picture of the outside soon.

One of the reasons I like environmental portraiture is because you get to share and learn about people lives and history. It's often a fascinating journey.

Paul Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The thrill

Pretty happy with this because it shows that feeling of joy, the thrill of going higher and higher till you think you're going to fly over the rooftops. Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 11, 2006

Establishing rapport with your subject

Good portraits are usually the result of collaboration between the photographer and the subject. It's vital to establish a rapport. So here are a few tricks of the trade which can come in handy - in non-photographic situations as well.

Firstly, when you shoot a portrait you should have everything prepared. Nothing breaks down a relationship faster between subject and photographer than fiddling around with lighting and camera settings - unless you can do it while keeping up a healthy banter. Actually the fatal error here is ignoring your sitter.

When you photograph somebody they should feel like they're the most important person in the world. Being in front of the lens doesn't come naturally to most people. Lots of experienced models I know still feel vulnerable in front of the lens, until you put them at ease.

So there we already have two important principles. Don't ignore your sitter and do everything you can to put them at ease.

How do you build rapport quickly? Well I'm not a psychologist so what I say here is based on experience rather than scientific theory. If I can then I try to find out something about the person I'm going to photograph, what their interests are, what they're passionate about. Then I think of a few intelligent questions to ask them. It helps to have a sense of humour and a tasteful joke up your sleeve too.

Once you get someone talking about their interests, listen carefully. I am a sponge for information and take an interest in most things. Being a good photographer is knowing a lot more than just about cameras, lenses and lighting.

Now here's a golden tip. Pick up on the last phrase your sitter says, repeat it and turn it into a question or a statement. This will help you lead the conversation on smoothly. For example the sitter explains how they love sailing their yacht and ends the description by saying, "... and we sailed into the harbour under full spinnaker." You would then say, "Under full spinnaker? I didn't think they allowed yachts to come in under spinnaker." Then pause and your sitter will naturally feel inclined to explain their point ... keeping the conversation moving.

Just remember. It's all about them, not about you. If they want to know something then they'll ask. The trick is then to give a concise, appropriate answer and steer the conversation back to them. For heavens sake don't go on about all your achievements, or even worse about all the problems you may have. The last thing your subject wants to hear about are your problems and difficulties.

So there you go. A non-photographic photography blog. But I hope you found it useful anyway. As I always say there's a lot more to photography and getting the shot than just the photographic part.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Photography is personal

At last I’m back and normal service on my blog will resume. While in Belgium I met with several other photographers and was delighted to hear first-hand how much my blog is appreciated. Wish I could meet all of you dear readers. A big thanks to everyone.

I now have over 1,000 regular readers a month and the number is growing all the time.

On my travels I was thinking about why we take photographs and what they mean to us. My wife Magda and I chatted about it and as we looked back at the thousands of images we’ve made during the last two weeks we again realised what a fantastic diary they form.

Photography captures fragments of reality which make up the rich tapestry of our lives. There are no other art forms, except film and video which preserve these fleeting moments and still photography is all the more powerful because we can examine every detail of that split second at our leisure as it is registered on film or in pixels.

To me all of the images I make are personal, including the commercial ones, because they record a split second of my life as I saw it and experienced it through the lens. Photography is what I saw with my eye, what the camera registers and the product of my creative vision as I choose to interpret the raw visual material using software or in the darkroom. The finished print is my vision forever linked to that moment in time when I chose to push the shutter release.
If you think about it photography is a really intimate way of sharing your life with the world.