Dare to be Different

I’ve been a self-employed travel and landscape photographer for 21 years now. Plus 5 years of doing it part time. One day, with a change of circumstances, no real plan and a deep breath, I left my job in the motor industry to become a photographer.

The first chapter to be added to my ‘Personal Guide to Success’, apart from moving to medium format, to gain the advantage of the bigger image size, was discovered from doing an online course with the Bureau of Freelance Photography. Their advice was, if you want to get ahead you have be different from the rest and in my circumstance, add words to your pictures. So, this started with a few words, a couple of sentences to accompany my submitted images. Basically a bit of a back story to the image as to why and how it was shot. This idea progressed to over a thousand words with each submission to magazines to form a short article, along with a few more pics to complete the package. This gave me the edge over others, as the editor had both words and pics to put in the magazine.

Next came the workshops. I had been shooting professionally now for over ten years and digital had just kicked in. Suddenly there were more photographers, both wanting to learn and competing to have their work published. I dabbled in the landscape workshop myself here and there. A few in the Yorkshire Dales, along the Yorkshire Coast, Peak District, but only one day affairs, as I never fancied organising the multi-day holidays. But I got bored. There were too many others doing the same thing as well, so I referred back to my ‘Personal Guide to Success’ mantra. Be different.

Tree, Brierley, South Yorkshire

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Beyond the Grave & into the Red

For my infrared project having the right subject to shoot was key. Infrared doesn’t work on every subject. Well, the actual process does, but the successful result is a bit more subjective. Some of the results I have seen published or on the web have often been a bit cliché, even if they work well within that cliché. So, I was looking for a subject that would suit the medium that perhaps hadn’t been done before, or was just less-photographed. In fact, this combination happened the other way around. I’d had the subject in mind for a while, but needed a technique to give it an edge. And so my Beyond the Grave idea was brought to fruition. I wanted to photograph cemeteries and the ‘Into the Red’ tag was the infrared medium I would capture them in.

The camera I used or should I say camera’s, were my Olympus EM1 and EP5. These are the camera’s I use for all my photography and they were actually ideal for this medium. The filter I used was a Hoya R72 Infrared filter. I purchased it in 67mm size, big enough for my standard zoom and I also purchased a couple of step-down rings so I could use it on other lenses too, if required.

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Brompton Cemetery, London.  Olympus E-P5, 10mm, ISO 800, Hoya R72.

This filter absorbs at least 10 stops of light, so it’s a bit like using a Big Stopper filter. This effectively means using the camera on a tripod, as the resulting exposures, even on the bright days, lasted several seconds. This was going to be one of a few downsides shooting with this filter rather than with a converted infrared camera, as I wouldn’t be able to get away with any handheld shooting. The other issue was movement. Subject blur from foliage, important for infrared, was not going to look very pleasing on the final result, so a lack of wind and therefore a calm day was preferred.

Now, as I say the OMD camera’s, especially the EM1 were ideal for shooting with this filter, as it avoids a third issue, composition. Because the filter is so dark, I would normally have to compose the scene without the filter in place, then once happy with my position, focus, screw the filter on and take the picture. If moved position again, I would normally have to take the filter off and repeat the process. Not so with the Olympus system. These cameras have a mode called Live Boost, which increases the intensity of the rear screen and electronic viewfinder view for when using strong filters such as this. This meant I could ‘see through’ the filter enough to compose and fine-tune the focus without forever taking the filter on and off. A godsend, I can tell you!

You can read more about infrared project shooting cemeteries in my eGuide ‘Beyond the Grave & into the Red’, available as part of an e6 Premium subscription. www.e6subscription.co.uk

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Lenses for Landscapes

Aside from the common 24/28mm wide angle, the 50mm lens is next up as a favourite for landscape photography . A distant scene will still make a good composition if you frame it correctly. You may not be able to get right up close to include a strong foreground feature and so this focal length will allow you to draw the scene in. Successful landscapes are all about composition and fitting the widest lens in your arsenal is not always the answer to successful pictures. Tight framing and knowing what is negative space or just distracting from the main scene, is as important to your technique.

Loch Leven, Highlands, Scotland

Loch Leven, Highlands, Scotland.  Canon 5D MKII, 50mm.

This focal length is very easy to work with, as it offers the same field of view as we see with our eyes and so it should feel very natural to compose with. If you need to compress the elements within the scene slightly, then this focal length will allow this too. Sometimes the landscape isn’t perfectly placed for you and there can be too much distance between the foreground rock and tree in the mid-ground. A 24 mm will only exaggerate this and spoil the harmony of the composition, A 50mm however, will compress the scene slightly and make the two elements appear closer together than they actually are, allowing for a tighter view.

You can read more about the ideal focal lengths for landscape photography in my eGuide ‘Lenses for Landscapes‘, available as part of an e6 subscription or to purchase separately. www.e6subscription.co.uk

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What’s in my camera bag?

I’ve recently sold all my Canon full-frame camera gear and so now I only shoot with one system, Micro Four-Thirds. This is the first time in a long while that this has been the case. When shooting with medium format, I also had 35mm kit. When I switched to digital, I also used a Fuji 617 panoramic camera. For the last few years, I’ve been using both digital full-frame and M43, so it’s quite a change to have just one system now. However, it does consist of both a zoom and prime lens set-up, to suit different shooting situations, so I’m still sort of keeping that multi-combination aspect even now! Continue reading

The Ultimate Landscape Camera

Landscapes are one of the most popular subjects for photography and having the right tools for the job, makes the experience and time spent of capturing the beauty of our world even more enjoyable. Having the right camera therefore, comes down to having the right features and specifications to match this subject, the shooting conditions and ultimately the final results. So, what is the ultimate landscape camera? In the days of film, it would perhaps have been a 4×5 large format camera, such as an Ebony or Linhof. Ultimate size for ultimate quality. With the advent of digital, the choice is even greater. No longer do you need to shoot with a medium format camera. Both Nikon and Canon have top end SLR’s, seemingly ideal for the job and if Canon’s new 5Ds isn’t the ultimate landscape camera, then what is? Continue reading

It’s all in a Quote – part 4

The fourth and final part of this feature on well-known photography quotes…

“A good photograph is knowing where to stand”– Ansel Adams (Landscape photographer)

Another thought provoking quote from Adams and this one points at the art of composition. Having a great subject and light for that matter too, is no good if you don’t know how to use it within the frame of the picture to maximum effect. Even with a glorious landscape view in front of you, standing in the right place to capture it, can be the difference between a good picture and an amazing one. A landscape image should be divided into foreground, midground and background and each is used to take the viewer on a ‘journey’ through the image. Continue reading

It’s all in a Quote – part 3

More famous quotes…

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it”. – Ansel Adams (Influential American landscape photographer)

This quotes echoes the words of Arnold Newman and highlights that it is the photographer that is important, not the camera. A top-end camera can give you first class results, but without a creative operator, its a mere complex machine in the wrong hands. The camera is merely a tool. It captures the subjects you point it at, but as it can’t see those subjects for you, it can’t pick and chose the light, the composition or what to include or exclude in the frame. It can’t act on emotion and it doesn’t see, hear or smell. Continue reading

It’s all in a Quote- part 2

Some more famous quotes to inspire your photography…

“If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it”. – Jay Maisel (American photographer famous for his images of Miles Davis and Marylin Monroe)

A warm, comfy bed is a place we all enjoy and leaving one on a cold, winters morning to head out into the landscape, is one of life’s hardest tasks. In photography, you can only take an image if you make the effort to get out there. It’s no good seeing an inspiring sunrise from the bedroom window and whilst on some days the weather doesn’t turn out as forecast, the experience and potential for images while being out there, will enrich your photography. Continue reading

It’s all in a Quote- part 1

A quote can be a very powerful thing. Some of the most inspiring words have come from quotes made by high profile and influential people, who in a few words sum up their work, their life, ambitions or philosophy on life. Photography has been blessed with some remarkable and very talented individuals who have perfected their craft in their own field. And just like great leaders or activists, who have dedicated their life to a cause, these photographers have left some profound words in a quote that summarise their life, works and what they have spent their entire career they to achieve. Their quotes can often be thought provoking and to many, can give the inspiration they desire to capture the images they seek from their photography. Continue reading

10 things they never teach you about being a professional photographer

This is an old blog post of mine, which I have relisted, as It still has a lot of relevance for today.

Learning the craft of photography is one thing, knowing the finer points of the business is another and these skills away from the camera itself are often the key to success. To make a career in this volatile business, takes time, skill and dedication. However, no school or college ever teaches you the life lessons you need to survive as a professional photographer. There are certain facts that every budding photographer needs to know when embarking on a career, yet sadly no one ever tells you. Until now. Continue reading