This very adorable old man dog waits patiently for his mistress to get her shopping (probably some dog food) and take him home so he can kick back and relax for the rest of the day until he needed again to escort her to the local shops again.
On the train again, I pass by this junk yard when I’m on the slow train I love the old cars on the roof of what I assume to be a junk yard. I often entertain the fantasy of taking one of them home and fixing it up to be a fancy red racer. I doubt the reality would match the fantasy though, but it is fun to dream.
The NFT is one of my favorite places to hang out in the evening, there is always something going on. I was at the LLGFF hanging out in the downstairs bar. I had just been in to see a fantastic work in progress documentary on Alice Walker called Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth it is a deeply inspiring and heart warming film and I do hope that the will get the support it needs to get into mainstream distribution. You can find out more about the film here if you get a chance to see it I hope you do.
Anyway towards the end of the film the fire alarm when off and we all ended up out on the walk, the busker was out playing his saxophone and a couple of people took up as an impromptu audience, once again I’m glad I had a camera on my phone!
Another train station shot taken from a different train this time. I love to travel I really enjoy the journey from one place to another and all the moments in between. I get to catch bits of other people’s journeys and lives. It was a bit of a gloomy day this journey and I was drawn to take this shot the grey of the sky with the camera and the station sign. I find it thrilling to take photographs of the cameras that watch us in our day-to-day meanderings. In a way it feels quite connecting to photograph them almost like I’m saying hello to them.
I’ve been to Stratford Station a number of times now. I find it has a certain prison camp sort of feel to it I feel the urge to shoot it almost every time I pass through on the train. I would love to spend more time with my camera there but on the few occasions I have been in there with my Cannon I have been told by the guards that I am not allowed to take photos on the station platform. So while on the train (not on the platform) I could not help but get my phone out and take a shot through the window.
Dim Sum for my family is the equivalent of a Sunday pub lunch. We would all get dressed in our best and head out to Dad’s favorite China Town Restaurant. We would order enough dishes to full the table and eat till we burst. All my life Dim Sum has always been the way to celebrate special occasions.
Skull jacket I noticed the skull patch on this guys jacket as he walked past and I was compelled to capture it. So much so I speed walked to keep him in sight while I fumbled for my phone. Thank goodness for my current obsession with Instagram or I may have well let thus moment just pass by.
I have been putting off this post for the last few days, my mind full of things I need to do, I kept telling myself I just didn’t have anything to say. Then wandering through the shopping center buying ingredients for pizza I looked up and around at all the people in this place and thought about each and every one of them having their own perspective on the same scene I am looking at right now.
That brought me back to thinking about photography, I meet people fairly often who ask me how to take a better photograph. People who have been practising and teaching themselves to take photographs but for one reason or another feel unsatisfied with the results. So I thought maybe it would be useful to talk here about what photography means to me and how I approach it, talking about it also for me is of great benefit because I get to touch base with my purpose for doing it and remember what it does for me.
So where to start with photography?
There are lots of articles out there about the rules of photography and so I’m not really going to talk about the specifics here, but it is important to have some idea of the basics and here is why I think why.
In order to craft your image and continue to get results and improve, you need a framework of some form.
In the beginning you need that framework or structure to help you to train your eyes, mind and sense of aesthetics to focus on what you are seeing in front of you, right in the moment. In the day-to-day our eyes are capturing many images all at once and our brain takes all those bits of visual information and creates a composite for us to interact and relate to, at least this is the way I understand it. Part of being able to frame and compose an image is to recognize individual pieces of that larger composite and capture them with a camera.
To learn to really look at the whole scene and deconstruct it enough to find for yourself an image you want to capture. Then along with that what are you trying to communicate, what is its context in the larger frame and the story it is telling? Experimenting with these and other principles is how to grow and where the fun is. How to avoid camera shake without a tripod with poor light or use it to your advantage to communicate something about your subject, experimenting with different styles of photography what you enjoy shooting, what you don’t. How to see the lines in the image you are capturing or using focus to draw the eye in, these techniques all have some basic rules that help you to learn how to use them and give you general idea of what works so that you can train and develop your eye.
When I come across a technique I am interested in I will usually start with reading up on and looking at as many examples as I can (before I get too excited and have to go photograph something) Then with the knowledge I have as a guide and point of reference I can start to learn and then play with the technique. You have to play to really get what happens when you take a picture, when you take a picture with framing, composition or aperture in mind your directly interacting with your subject to create something you want to communicate.
Pay attention to the light.
I think of photography as more than just taking a camera pointing it and pushing the button. When I was first starting out I heard the term ‘painting with light’ used to describe the art of photography and it always stuck with me. It is very much about being aware of how the light is in the place you are photographing. In some places (a studio for example) you will have a very direct and fine control over the properties of the light around you, but there are many other times where you will have no control at all. This doesn’t mean you can’t take a good photo, you may have to tweak it in post production to get exactly what you want but if you are paying attention to the quality of light around you, you can get some really stunning shots.
Light isn’t just for making things brighter, it has temperature and texture. Light can be soft or harsh it can make your images cold or warm and you can work with that too. Some tones you will be by instinct more comfortable with, while others will make an image unsettling, experiment with it. Take a series of photographs with the same subject at different angles, zoom in and out, notice how the light in relation to you and your subject changes the tone of the image. Take photographs at different times of day and see how the quality of the light changes and how it affects what you’re photographing.
Value your perspective.
As I mentioned before I think that part of the art pf photography is being able to find the images in that sea of visual information coming at you, that have some kind of power or resonance for you and capturing it. Sometimes you will have just a few moments to catch it before it disappears forever or you may have days or even weeks to try time and time again to get that composition right. What is most important for this image to be what you want it to be is your vision. It can sometimes be intimidating and disheartening to look out and around at the thousands of images being produced of stunning quality. If you live in a dirty part of town and don’t have much by way of mountains or sunny beaches you may wonder if anyone will pay attention to your photographs. Well they might not it’s true, but that is not a good reason to stop taking photographs.
This is the second but by no means lesser part of what I believe about photography, it’s a real privilege to have the chance to capture moments in time, never to be repeated again. To be able to create something out of that single unique moment that speaks to people in some way, is an amazing thing to be able to do. Part of creating that, is you and how you see the world, how you unpick all that visual information and create a single image, to communicate to other people with. Learn techniques by studying other people’s images that work but don’t aspire to be like anyone but yourself.
It’s what you see and how you frame it that makes it special, this may sound a bit fluffy but I have from experience found that when I have got into that trap of trying to create photographs like other photographers to be more marketable or to get more attention, I don’t. It’s not because they are bad images but, they don’t inspire me or others looking at them. It’s when I trust my vision and what I have to see in each moment and that it’s worth sharing, that is when something special happens.
Well here I am again, standing at the end of one year, peering into the birth of a new one ahead and wondering what is in store for me. This year has been a roller coaster of a journey, I’ve chosen the uncertainty of freelancing and doing what I am passionate about over the stability of a well paying regular job that I had no interest in, but I could pay my bills and not worry about money. It’s not as easy a choice as you’d think. It’s not easy because I was brought up to believe, like many people, that having a job and paying the bills is what makes us a valuable member of society and anything other than that is not acceptable. So to walk away from that apparent certainty and into the world of not knowing where your next customer is coming from, having to justify how much I charge and having to chase people to pay me on time over and over has been really stressful.
I’ve learned a lot though. I’ve learned to appreciate the support that other people give me and I’ve learned to recognize that I have something valuable to contribute and that even though people may not take me up on what is on offer that does not mean that what I am doing is not the right thing to do. It has been a journey this year, it has taught me about integrity about what it is to be true to myself and what I believe in. I’ve been challenged and had to get creative about what I want to do and how I go about doing it. Everyday I ask myself , is this really the right thing, should I be doing this at all or should I go back to what I am ‘supposed’ to be doing? So here is what I’ve come up with and maybe putting it down for you to read will be helpful too, at least I hope it is.
If you believe in something more than this world, that we all have some sort of spiritual something within us call it a soul if you like. Then part of what we are here in this life for is to explore and develop that part of us in a physical world context, then how do we do that? Can I develop myself by watching reality TV or allowing myself to be distracted by things that take me away from being alive and in the moment. Do I avoid the things that make me feel uncomfortable and only pursue that which makes me feel good or do I allow myself to be with it all? I want to be with every moment of my life as fully as I can be, it doesn’t mean I don’t switch off or shut down I’m human, not perfect after all, but I can take a moment each time I notice I am not in the now and ask myself is that why I am here?
If you believe there is nothing but this life, that we are just biological machines that will be nothing after our clock has stopped ticking. Then would it not logically be a better use of our limited time to explore the world, it’s wonders and ourselves as fully as we can. Each moment is unrepeatable and every moment passed is one closer to our end, do I really want to spend this finite time resenting and belittling other people. Could I not be using each moment to see what it’s like to be who I really am in the world and what I can do. We seem to spend so much time avoiding our lives, avoiding other people or pretending to have a connection or purpose with something when we just think that is what is expected of us. How much of life do we give away to the perceived expectation of others at the expense of our true expression or purpose because we don’t want to disappoint or be seen as foolish or soft or silly or uncool.
My year ahead is filled with uncertainty and I have no idea what will happen, I’m ok with that. I’m willing to put myself out in the world and every time I notice my defenses coming up to keep me from being seen by other people as stupid or uncool I’ll be willing to remember that the most courageous and powerful thing I can do is be who I really am even in the face of expectation. I am not ashamed of wanting more for myself and the world than money and stuff. I am willing to believe that we can do better, reach higher and make choices that not only benefit us but those around us and those who come after us. I’m willing to start today.
I like many people I think spend a lot of time putting things off for another day. This year I had put off getting in touch with many of the people I love because I have been ‘too busy’ trying to get my new working for myself status off the ground. Today being Christmas I decided to give them all a call and wish them a festive holiday day with their families and friends. As I phoned round each person and left messages on their voicemail thinking they are probably enjoying the delights of an over indulgent Christmas dinner I began to think to myself about my own family who live far away.
I haven’t spent a Christmas with my own family for a good few years now and this year I missed them more than usual. It got me thinking about the run up to Christmas all the frenzied buying and worrying about the new year. News stories covered in gloom and cynical witticisms, it didn’t really leave me or many of us I suppose with much time to really think about what it is we are supposed to be celebrating. Bombarded by panicking shopkeepers who need the biggest shop of the year to stay afloat and employers who want to get as much done as possible before all the work stops for christmas where is the time to breathe and reflect on what we have to be grateful for. In amongst all the rushing around trying to find just the right brand of toy or game for the kids where do we have the chance to just take in the moments that we have with our families these ever fleeting moments. Time, the ting we seem to have less and less of not just in our lives but also in our daily routines.
More and more we are expected to commit more to our jobs our studies, our online interactions. It is easy to forget that the real moments of significance, the truly powerful moments in our lives are the ones where we engage with each other in person. It takes courage and strength of character to drop our bullshit and be honest real human beings with each other, to stand up and say this is me warts and all and I’m ok to be here with you just as you are. So my Christmas wish for you is that today you can forget about the perfect Christmas and just be here today in that house, room, flat with the people you have chosen to be with. Let them make you laugh, let them drive you crazy, let them piss you off and still be there and love them anyway cause you’ll never get to do this Christmas again.
A first hello. My first post for The Graveyard and Me, project exploring the the relationship between place and photographer over time. What is revealed in not just the place but the photographer also.
Today, I took a trip back in time with myself to when I first started taking photographs. I have been asking myself a lot about what photography is and means to me. I have been looking out at the enormous wealth of talent out there on the internet and wondering if I have a place there. If I could or even should put my work up here too and more and more I am getting back in touch with the things that first started me on the road to wanting taking pictures to be part of what I do in life.
I took a walk out this morning to a graveyard and walked around remembering myself at 15 when I first got hold of a 35mm camera. I don’t know why I chose that setting to begin with, maybe because it was quiet and people would not get in the way of my lens. I started thinking back to being a younger child and going out to the graveyard with my grandmother for All Souls, every year we would bundle up in the car and tend the graves of our families, bring them fresh flowers, tidy up and maybe leave a bit of something they liked to drink. As a child it marked for me these places as somewhere special to reach out and connect with those we love and who had loved us, not so much as scary gruesome places for a good horror scene.
So as I walked around I began to look again at what was really here in this place, I started to notice the words. Places that had been tended and others not. The stillness, the quiet and sadness.
It’s been quite a while since I have posted up here, mainly because I have been absorbed into the world of Google+ where there seems to have been an explosion in the photography community. It is buzzing in there and the quality of the work is astounding, I often found myself looking at the work of other folks the way you sometimes do and asking myself, how the hell do I compete with that!?
It’s a common mistake first starting out (I made it many times) to see the work of other photographers and spend large portions of time trying to emulate them. Though it is flattering and often you learn a great deal from exploring someone else’s workflow it is important to keep your perspective through the lens. Photography is much more than just pointing a camera and taking a photo. Yes there are guidelines for composition and exposure and it definitely does help to know the effects of apature, exposure and shutter speed. There is also something else something that really speaks out and calls to the people looking at your work and it’s you.
Photography is the world through your eyes, your stories and experiences and those of the people you meet, it’s your humanity and perspective that draws in the observer and that really makes an impact. I’m often asked or hear people talking about what is the best camera and in my opinion the best camera is the camera you have.
The downside to rain is that I won’t take my camera out. I keep intending to get myself something more portable and less likely to break my heart if it gets hurt but I haven’t got round to that yet. So for me rainy and not so weather friendly days are time to stay inside and get a little creative.
Earlier on this week inspired by the sight of kids throwing sticks into the trees to get conkers I wandered around the park picking up bits and pieces to photograph indoors. I really enjoy the challenge of trying to get the perfect shot on the fly with live action but there is something really fun and exciting about constructing an image in a controlled environment. This is where I really get a chance to get to know my camera and all that it can do. Often when I am out in low light places where I am catching everything live and usually without a flash. I will for the most part just go with the best medium I can capture at the time and know that post shoot processing will require a bit more time. In a controlled setting though it’s about getting it all in the shot and keeping any tweaking to a minimum.
Here I made a put together a little mini studio with some books and card and using the natural light coming through my window then reflected using a mirror to focus on parts of the image played with apature to explore depth of field. I love autumn colours the rich are a real joy to capture and my little pompom bunnies just hanging around in my room finally found something to do. I expect I will be using them again, later on coming across some stop frame software I decided to make a short (very short) animation with them.
I had a lovely day out by the seaside in Whitstable, I’ve not been there before so I will be making time to go back and explore the area. You can find some of the photos I took there on my Flickr site here.
This is one of my earliest portraits and still today one of my favorites, there is a lot of story behind this image for me and every time I look at this image it reminds me of the warmth and admiration I have for this woman. When I first began working on photographing people it was uncomfortable for me I would often find myself apologizing for the intrusion of my camera on their lives and space. It wasn’t until this image that I really got what portraits were for me.
Instinctively when I began to photograph people I tried to make myself invisible, what I wanted to capture was not their camera face or mask but the expression of their faces without the tension often visible when people know they are being captured on film. I was like a thief stealing moments from them, it helped that when I started I was photographing people performing who had been instructed to ignore the camera. This didn’t however translate very well outside of that environment. When I tried to photograph people outside of that space in the same way it was often uncomfortable for both them and me. I would hover around trying to be unobtrusive taking images of them when they weren’t expecting it which would often end in me giving up because I felt their discomfort or they would ask me not to shoot them. The images I produced as a result of those encounters were often tense and closed and lacked the quality I was looking for. Over time I became more and more reluctant to photograph people and honed my skills on things which didn’t care if I was there or not like buildings or flowers.
Then in the early 90’s while I was experimenting in my home with camera techniques that required me to shoot someone moving. I managed to cajole my flat mate to help me out by walking from one end of the room to the other. As a general rule she didn’t like being photographed but something in our interaction changed the way she behaved in front of the camera and I went for it and just asked her to sit on a stool and let me take her portrait. The image here is my favorite of the series and the only one I have left sadly. Looking back at that interaction I realized that what I had with her which I hadn’t had before was a connection to her as a person and not just a subject I was photographing. In the time we spent playing about trying to get a sense of movement in the images before, she and I had built a trust, we were interacting with each other and as a result of that interaction the camera and I were no longer intruders, but participants.
I took that lesson back out into the world to see if it would translate to other people, instead of attempting sneak attacks with my camera I came out from behind the lens. I took the time to talk and connect with the people I was photographing, learned about what they were doing, how they were feeling, what things they were going for at the time. I found that more and more the images I captured of the people I connected with had that open relaxed quality I was looking for, they were willing to allow me to see them and not hide behind a camera face. Now when I go to take portraits it is about getting to know the person in front of the lens and what they are going for, trying to get a sense of who they are and getting that to shine through in their image. Capturing for them what they want to show the world.