Friday, June 29, 2007

Chapter Thirteen

New buildings are shooting up in Leeds, UK, like blades of grass during a hot humid summer. I shot this architectural detail, attracted to the abstract graphic qualities in the shapes.

Talking of building things, my dear friend and fellow photographer/writer, David Toyne has built a magnificent website which I can highly recommend for a visit. David has interviewed some of the leading lights in photography and his articles are interesting and informative.

There's lots to discover on this beautifully constructed site and while you're there you can even do some shopping. Before you ask. I don't get commission.

David and I have collaborated on projects in the past, sounds grand, but basically we've picked each others brains from time to time, as we each have different strengths. We're all set for future collaborations too and David is syndicating some of my writing for his site.

So what are you waiting for. Click here and start discovering...


Monday, June 25, 2007


Minerals trapped in the rocks glow in the faint light penetrating the shadowy depths of a mine in Cornwall. The hot damp conditions must have been hell for the tin miners who worked these areas.

We're so lucky to not have to endure such harsh and dangerous conditions in our modern lifestyles in the UK. Around the world others are far less fortunate.


RAW conversion software

I've noticed that my earlier articles on RAW processing software have received numerous visits, so it seems a good moment to update you with the latest news.

Previously I did a comparison between RAW converters, Capture One, Nikon Capture, Raw Shooter 2006 and later added an article about Canon's own software, DPP. That was back in 2006 and things move on at an incredible speed, so here's the latest.

After trying Adobe Lightroom for a few months, and loving it, I've now settled on Adobe Camera Raw as my preferred software. Lightroom is very pretty, has superb workflow and enables you to process thousands of images very quickly.

However, I prefer CS3 because of the way it seamlessly and effortlessly integrates Adobe Bridge, Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop. I love the new Adobe Bridge in CS3. The only downside is the cost (especially if you happen to live in Europe). If you've got the time and inclination it's cheaper to get a flight to New York and buy CS3 there than to buy it off the shelf in the UK.

Having said that and all hype aside, CS3 rocks; well for now anyway. No doubt in a few months I'll have to update this article again with the next great thing. I do think though that the workflow from Adobe Bridge through ACR to Photoshop is superb and you can't really ask for more.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Wimbledon fever

Annual Wimbledon fever is hitting the world. I've just completed a commission to photograph Wimbledon which is in the midst of a massive construction programme.

This is a shot of court 2 as it is not seen generally by the public, empty and waiting. Even standing silent there's an atmosphere of gladiatorial expectation that hangs over the place.

I think the wide angle distortion adds to the dynamism in the image, so I didn't 'correct' it.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Are you being creative?

My last article on creativity went down so well that it's given me inspiration to write another. I thought it might be handy to take a look at some of the attitudes and psychology that underlie creativity.

Some people are naturally creative while others have to work at it but we can all be more creative.

To be creative you've got to let your imagination work. Don't judge things and apply reason and rationale to everything. Just think, what if we did...? The driver here is curiosity and the wish to challenge the norm, challenge assumptions and opinions. You shouldn't make it hard work either. Enjoy the freedom. Be optimistic in your outlook. Any problem becomes a challenge rather than something negative.

Creativity can be stimulated by actively seeking out problems and then getting your creative juices to flow so you can solve them and remember there is often more than one solution. The true creative doesn't just stop at the first answer. Try a different angle and see where that leads. Above all don't give up. Persevere and work hard.

So next time when you're taking a landscape or a portrait, don't do the same type of shot you've become comfortable with, the safe option. Use the mindset I've described above. Challenge the conventions and challenge that safe niche you've created for yourself. You only grow by stretching your creative abilities.

And finally don't let the people with a negative attitude and the dogmatic rule book followers, who have no imagination, drag you down to their level. However you do need to have an open mind because ironically the boundary between genius and total crap is a lot thinner than you may think. But I think it is better to fail spectacularly than to not try at all. The edge is the place to be. Fear of change and the new is the enemy.

I sincerely hope you found this article inspirational. Please feel free to comment or drop me an email.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

To sit and stare

She sat on the cliffs hugging her knees and looking out to sea, deep in thought.

It made me think of all the times I've just sat and stared out to sea thinking, sometimes happy and sometimes sad. That's life. We all need time to sit and stare.

Till soon,

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Overcoming creative block and self doubt

Every photographer, for that matter every creative, I've ever met comes to a point when they're not happy with the work they're producing. The pendulum between creative highs and dry spells swings continuously. For some the cycle is long and the bouts are quite mild for others the feeling of doubt about their work can be a crushing experience which returns all to frequently.

It's actually quite healthy to have these periods of doubt because it can often be the beginning of something new and interesting which takes you further than you thought possible.

Creatives in the commercial world have to always perform and although they may agree looking back that they've had a few patches where their work was less good, they always seem to bounce back. A very few creative geniuses deliver such high quality work that their poorest attempts still surpass the rest of us. But I have never heard of anyone, from tortured soul of Van Gogh to the supreme showman and genius, Salvador Dali, that didn't have their bad days.

OK, so you probably have them too. How do you get past your creative block and self doubt? That feeling when you look at what you've been producing lately and you've got to admit to yourself that it's not as good as it should be.

For me the solution is simple. Keep on working. It can be a painful process but what you've got to do is unlock the potential in your ideas or come up with new ones.

One thing is for sure. Having no ideas and doing nothing, sitting back and suffering from inertia will leave you stuck in a place you do not want to be. Any ideas, even if they are bad ones, will lead you somewhere new. A bad idea can lead to a good idea.

Simple dos and don'ts to overcome creative block and self doubt

Don't go and look at other great photographers' work. You'll just feel more crap and if you do find an idea to steel then all you're doing is being a second-hander. To be successful you have to come up with a fresh and creative take on things by yourself.

Don't sit and write lists of ideas. All you're doing is intellectual foreplay and pussyfooting around the problem. You're not dealing with it head on.

Don't give up and sit sulking in the corner. Sooner or later you're going to have to come out. You're just prolonging the pain.

Don't compare your work to other peoples'. Everyone is unique. All the great photographers have their own voice. You have to find your own creative voice.

Don't choose the company of doubters and negative people. They will just pull you down.

Do pick up your camera and start taking pictures of anything and everything. One idea will lead to another.

Do think creatively and set yourself a challenge and an achievable target. A good way to get going is to pick a totally off-the-wall starting point. For example set yourself the challenge of taking 10 pictures while kneeling on your front lawn with a lens on your camera that you rarely use. The idea here is set parameters and points of departure. By limiting your freedom in movement and equipment you force yourself to become more creative.

Do challenge conventions and the norm. Challenge everything you've learnt. Great creatives all have one thing in common. They break the rules in interesting ways. If you follow the rule book you'll be safe, mundane and ordinary - just one of the crowd.

Do think in terms of opposites, conflicts and interesting juxtapositions. But remember successful images rely on fine visual balance and the most satisfying results are a harmony created out of often disparate elements.

Do realise and remember that all creatives feel the same as you do from time to time and some of the most successful are driven foreward by tremendous self doubt. Turn the negative feelings into positive self motivation.

Do surround yourself with people that believe in you and want you to succeed. This kind of support makes a world of difference.

I hope these strategies will help you next time the black dog of creative despair falls into step by your side and you doubt your work. Above all, just pick up that camera and take some shots. Remember a bad idea can lead to a good idea. Having no ideas and putting in no effort leads to nothing.

Just go and do it. If you've found this article useful please let me know.