Saturday, December 10, 2016

The street as a stage for photography

Stepping out on stage
I’ve often thought of the street as a stage. It’s a place where life happens in front of your eyes. People go about their business, communicate with each other and generally keep moving to their destinations.

The street is a place of transition. As a photographer you can set the scene, a blank stage and then wait for magic moments. That’s how I got this shot. The perfectly matching colours of his hat ribbon, the movement, the way things all align to create a colourful composition.

If you’re a street photographer you’ll understand the joy of seeing an image come together, like this, in a fraction of a second, as you stand there camera in hand.

Thanks for reading.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Powerful images are not necessarily perfect

I saw this long row of porters struggling under the weight of the heavy barrels on their backs. Every step seemed difficult. They were crossing a street next to the harbour in Istanbul. Each time a fellow porter would turn around and help the man behind him step up onto the pavement.

Instantly I saw it as symbolic, this human gesture. I was a long way off and ran flat out to get closer. The porters in the photo were the last two in the row. I knew that if I didn't stop and take the shot I would miss it. So out of breath I screeched to halt, still quite a long way away and zoomed to 200mm, pressing the shutter to capture the moment they gripped each other hands.

The picture is not perfect. I should have had more of the man foot and the pavement. But this is one of those examples where the emotion in the image is so powerful, it is not important. The image communicates something about the human condition.

It one of those rare shots that stays in people's minds. It been praised by art directors, curators, won awards, been in exhibitions and has taken on a life. I am proud of it.

It another example of what I have continued to do in my photography: see, anticipate and capture the decisive and expressive moment.

The photograph was taken in Istanbul in 1987, on 400 ISO black and white HP5 Ilford film and printed in my darkroom.

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Capturing the decisive moment

Two ladies pass on the street. Their hands, legs and expressions mirror each other. Both carry document folders, both are taking a step with their heel on the ground. They are unaware of each other.

It's a perfect Cartier-Bresson style decisive moment.

I believe that you make images, you don't take them. In photography, luck and serendipity always play their part. The unpredictability is what makes it so exciting. You never know exactly what you're going to get but you can plan and control a lot of elements that will help you make better images.

Walking down the street looking for a background that could work as a 'stage' or canvas, I saw this interesting blue wall. I set up and waited for something to happen. Minutes went by. I waited. People passed but nothing caught my eye. I waited.

Then I saw these two ladies approaching from opposite directions and I knew I had a potential image. The thing that struck me was how determined they both looked, striding purposefully along. They passed each other, perfectly framed by one of the blue panels. I took a single exposure. Everything had clicked into place.

Making a good image often comes down to creating the right circumstances, building a composition and anticipating the moment, when fortune smiles on the prepared photographer and the magic happens.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Photographs that last

Some images earn a permanent place in your portfolio. Let's take a look at one of my favourites.

In this image a couple react as a large wave crashes over the promenade. People often play this game with the waves. Sometimes with tragic consequences.

I shot this on a Hasselblad, on film, using an 80mm lens. So I was close to the action. One chance. One exposure. I pressed the shutter button and just had time to spin around to protect the camera with my body, as the spray engulfed us.

I had been waiting for a moment like this when all the elements would come together.

The spray blurs because of the speed of movement. It reveals the force of the wave. Both the man and woman have a foot off the ground, giving the image a sense of urgency and action. I love the way the dog's ear is flying up and this movement is echoed by the lady's urgent hand gesture.

That hand gesture is the essence of the image. It's an instant protective gesture, which says so much about the sense of immediate danger.

There's so much detail here. The reflections in the wet paving, the black dog with a catchlight in her eye. Layers and layers of rich detail all coming together to tell the story. I think that's what good photography is about.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Inspiration from Joe McNally

Joe McNally shares his photography story and offers insights into the challenges an editorial photographer faces. I hope you enjoy this video featuring one of my favourite photographers.


"Joe McNally is a 25-year contributor to National Geographic and a former staff photographer at LIFE. Working in 54 countries and all 50 states, he has photographed cover stories for virtually every significant magazine of our times. One of his best-known series of photographs is the Giant Polaroid Collection, known as “Faces of Ground Zero,” shot immediately after 9/11. He also photographed the first all-digital story in the history of National Geographic. This is Joe’s 11th year teaching at the Workshops. His web site is; his blog is"

I'll be back with more inspiration soon.

Comments welcome.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Inspiration from Jay Maisel

Jay Maisel has inspired and mentored many photographers. In this video he shares his story, how he started and more about how some of his famous images were created. He punctuates excellent advice and insight with dry humour. Like most great photographers, he follows a quest to find beauty in the world around us.

If you want to feel good and feel inspired watch this...

"Jay Maisel is known for color photography that uses light and gesture to create images for advertising, editorial, and corporate communications. His work also appears in books and in private and corporate collections. His honors include the American Society of Media Photographers’ Lifetime Achievement and Photographer of the Year awards, the International Center for Photography’s Infinity Award, and induction into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame. A graduate of Cooper Union and Yale University, Jay continues his education by teaching. This is his 16th year teaching at the Workshops. His web site is"

I'll be back with more inspiring videos soon.



Friday, August 05, 2016

Catching the photographer's eye

As photographers we are always looking. Then something catches our eye. Our brain tells us that there's something interesting.

This is the moment the photographer needs to pause and figure out what exactly it is that caught their attention. Here it was obvious. The hair, the lipstick, the colours and their personalities.

So I asked these young ladies and they kindly agreed to pose for a portrait.

Often photographers will take a picture without thinking about what the exact element is that got their attention. The result is a photo that's not close enough. As Robert Capa said, “If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough.” He meant that the reason for taking the picture has to fill the frame.

In this case it was colourful makeup, hair and style. I cropped in tight to emphasise these elements. Their expressions convey their different personalities. We have a moment here, in Jay Maisel's words, where "light, colour and gesture" come together in a single frame.

I think they really connect with the viewer and engage our attention. There's this odd asymmetrical balance between colourful hair on one lady and colourful lipstick on the other. It unifies two individuals and makes for a more powerful statement than a single portrait of either of them would have done.

Feedback welcome.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Photographic seeing is different

Seeking serendipity
It's true. Photographers see the world differently. It's hard to explain how we see things. The example above together with the explanation below may help to understand what goes on in my brain when making an image.

The wall with it's artwork set the stage. People passed by. I took several images. Then this guy paused for awhile with his tablet.

I thought it would be cool if I could link him, compositionally, to someone passing in the sunlight in the background. Then along came this lady. She shaded her eyes looking for someone up the street.

I waited and pressed the shutter, and every element came together in the frame. The woodwork forms frames within the frame. The tail shadows and alignment of feathers of the parrot echo the light and angle of the lady's leg. There's an interesting dynamic and angles around the man and the lady. They are together and yet separate. Even the butterfly painted on the wall behind the man's head creates a quirky detail.

An extremely precise and detailed composition in 1/400th of a second. Serendipity. Yes. But serendipity that I sought and worked hard to make happen.

You comments are most welcome and I hope you'll stick with me as I dust off my slightly neglected blog and start publishing more regularly again. Look back at previous articles. There's a wealth of content to discover here.

Many thanks,

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,