I was really interested to read people’s ideas and philosophies on how they choose to shoot and why.
I, of course, have my passionate opinion, that manual is a essential to gain full creative control – but I also think you should shoot the exact way you feel comfortable and happy with. It doesn’t matter what and how you do it – as long as you do it!
As that was a popular post, I thought I’d share the latest two articles we’ve written for Digital Photography School:
Di and I are also going to share a couple of other things we have been enjoying this week, all fuel for our photography and creative practices, but not necessarily related to photography:
1. Iranian photographer Abbas died recently. Famous for photographing the Iranian revolution, he was a Magnum photographer, who spent much of his career documenting conflicts between religion and politics around the world. Gallery of his photos.
4. Meditative photos and videos from free diver Ocean Ramsey who dives with sharks.
5. The Defiant Ones: I love music and being a musician was something I was considering before I took the road into photography. I loved the recent Netflix series The Defiant Ones, documenting the careers of musician/producer Dr Dre and producer/record label owned Jimmy Iovine. Really fascinating to get into the minds of people who have achieved remarkable things with their creativity.
That’s it for today. Have a stupendous day.
And remember to take that camera out – don’t let it gather dust! It needs you to bring interesting ideas into the world.
Anthony and Diana
That’s me shooting in Venice a few years ago.
All the shots in today’s article are from my Venice at Dawn photo project. I love this city! I run a photo workshop there most years, check out my workshop pages for details.
Simple ideas for your photography: the power of silence
“Create, artist, do not talk” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
How are you all? I hope life is good and things are all well and happy in your household.
I am back in our little beach town in Spain after a 3 week trip to Italy – a wonderful time filled with great adventures and awesome people in Venice and Palermo.
I’m glad to be getting back to my simple life here: going kayaking with my son; continuing my photographic exploration of this beautiful part of Spain; renewing my energy and taking on new challenges with our business.
One thing I often see in my teaching is people struggling to be present. To allow themselves to be fully in the moment. I see people as they try very hard to capture the moment – but more often that not, they are not actually inhabiting the moment.
For me the magic of photography happens when you are fully present, fully awake to the aliveness all around you. Not lost in your thoughts, wondering where to go next or thinking about your aching feet.
If I were to give you one way to be more present and more engaged with your photography, it would be to start with being quiet, to start exploring silence.
Silence can be thought of as neutral energy. But I actually believe it is incredibly powerful, incredibly rich with possibility and helps us to start awakening creativity.
Being quiet, being silent, is an intensely nourishing experience.
Silence can take us inside of ourselves, unlocking our imaginations, thoughts and ideas.
Silence also allows us to truly be aware of what is outside of ourselves, without the chatter and distraction of what we are usually doing – reading, writing, talking etc.
It is a gateway to inhabiting the present moment.
“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” Francis Bacon
Not all silence is created equal
When you are quiet what often happens is that your thoughts become louder. Having a time of quiet can just lead to opening the door to a noisy cacophony of worries, distractions and remembering more things for your to-do lists.
But the trick is to get beyond that river of thoughts – and into the vast, nourishing beautiful silence behind it.
Your thoughts are never going to stop, but you can choose to ignore them, for a little while at least.
For me the easiest way is to just start paying attention to the world around me – looking at the light, the colours around me, the people, the trees.
Whatever is there in your surroundings can help you become present simply by observing.
And by nourishing that habit of paying attention to what is happening here and now in the world will bring you more into the present moment.
Putting down the technology
We have a lot of discussions about technology in our household. We have a 12 year old boy who, if we let him, would live on his computer. And I can relate. I love my technology a lot. I am a computer nerd (says Di; I don’t say that of course).
But I also think that technology can be too distracting, and eat up all of that ‘in-between’ time we used to have – the train ride to work, the time before bed, the hour at the park watching your child play – when we could be day-dreaming, wandering, looking or being creative.
I didn’t realise quite how much technology had weaved its way into my life until I had a month of almost no-technology last year in Cuba.
The internet in Cuba is extremely sparse. Most of the access I found involved sitting on the side of the road in the beautiful early morning sunshine, along with a bunch of people, sending emails, uploading photos and checking on business.
Even though it felt frustrating at times not being able to do anything quickly – uploading photos was painful – it was also intensely refreshing to be removed from the internet, and most of my technological activity. To be taken away from the steady drip of bad-news, of unnecessary emails, of the time-suck of social media.
Of course there are lots of great purposes of the internet – I couldn’t live the life I am now without it. I appreciate it. But I know it sometimes overtakes me – it distracts me from what I actually really want to do – which is be creative.
I think Cuba is beyond magical for many reasons – but the fact that I couldn’t do much work except take photos, made it a more intensely creative experience for me. There were no distractions to my creativity. That may be one of the reasons that my Cuba portfolio is the best work I’ve ever done on the streets of a city, I think.
So the simple ideas I am recommending today are:
Use the quiet and silence around you to bring you to presence
Be careful with technology and things that take you away from a present state of being
So with that I am finishing for today. I’m off for a long walk with my son.
“Good composition is merely the strongest way of seeing.” Edward Weston
Today I want to share a well-known composition technique that is both easy to understand and practise – and will create and easy to put into practise. The aim of negative space is to help define your subject, and create more impactful photos.
The aim of negative space is to place your subject on an unobtrusive background of space or colour.
This ‘negative space’ behind your subject, will help define the shape of your subject. It will make your subject stand out, or ‘pop’ out of the image.
Nice simple image that shows both negative and positive space clearly. Can you see how the sky makes the dark branch and bird really pop out of the image? There are no distractions, so you can very clearly see the shape of the branch and the bird.
In a sense it is what defines your subject within the frame of the photo. Without it your subject, if not obvious, can get lost in the sea of information and competing elements.
The concept of negative space has been used for hundreds of years in art and design to define and create impact for the subject. You could also consider it as a sort of breathing room around the subject.
Can you see how placing the man against the bright yellow background gives him definition and more impact? That swish of his cassock would be hard to see with a busier background. And you can see, too, that the background colour and texture is important. Unlike in the photo of the branch further above, where the subject is on white sky, it was important to have a contrasting colour in this photo. Can you see why?
(And it case it wasn’t obvious, positive space is the space your subject is filling.)
One very common thing I see when looking at people’s images is that they place really interesting subjects on busy backgrounds – especially when photographing people.
You can use shallow depth of field (Dof) as another technique to separate subjects from a background when things are complex and busy, but using negative space means a deeper depth of field is still an option for you.
It can be challenging to shoot people, especially out and about on the street or at an event, because you are working so much on capturing the person at ‘just the right moment’ that you forget what is behind them.
So I like this technique of negative space because it is an easy way to think:
– How can I find an opportunity to create space or a clean background around my subject?
– And what will complement this subject?
The photo above is an easy way to see the power of negative space. The plain background and the colours are very powerful, and they really help to define the shape of the subject.
This photo is not pure negative space because the sky has clouds. But it doesn’t have to be totally around the subject. As long as there is enough to create depth in your photo and impact with your subject.
I think negative space really helps with:
You can of course use depth of field (DoF) to separate your subject from the background, but it does give a different feel to the image than negative space would.
I look for more negative space when I’m shooting with lots of DoF. This brings about that separation I want between my subject and its background, very useful especially when using a wider lens.
Using the technique of negative space is a great way to create this depth in a photo.
This photo above has two elements of negative space – can you see them? And how I have used them to create negative space?
I am always looking to show people how to compose images, to define elements in the world and build relationships between them with space. Looking for space around your subject is an excellent habit to develop.
It’s developing that sense of going beyond your subject and thinking of the whole frame (many people fall into the trap of putting all of their attention on their subject (I call it Subject fixation) so much they aren’t building their whole frame).
In the shots I took before I captured this frame, I didn’t have the man in shadow. It wasn’t working, but as soon as I moved towards this exposure the photo immediately worked. Having a strong silhouette against the soft pretty light and outline of the harbour in the background is great. But can you also see that the background doesn’t have to be totally ‘clean’ or empty to work? It just has to provide enough space and contrast to help the subject ‘pop’.
In photography (and life, lol!) we are always seeking balance, aren’t we? Sometimes you can have very, very intricate compositions that because they are balanced, have space where they need space, good balance between elements and a narrative that goes in one direction. They feel good to look at and are memorable.
Negative space is not about taking things away from a photo, or making it too clean, but recognising that the eye when looking at an image needs to be guided. The eye doesn’t want to be overloaded. You want the viewer to see your subject first (most of the time).
Placing your subject in negative space is an effective way to quickly draw the eye to it, especially when your subject is small or does not fill the frame.
You can also hit the opposite issue, placing subjects on backgrounds that are too plain, or too similar in colouring, so there is no contrast – and so the subject isn’t clear and defined enough. It doesn’t pop.
Here are some examples where negative space can be a good technique to use.
This was shot down on the Golden Horn in Istanbul. It was a beautifully misty morning and all my photos from that morning have an eerie black and white quality. Here the dark shapes of the birds are defined by the water. But also observe that the water isn’t totally flat. I don’t like to make things too clean. It’s those little oddities – the shapes, the chaos, the bursts of shape and colour – that really make photos interesting. Perfection is not a human quality, so it shouldn’t be expected in our art.
Sky is always a good negative space around your subject and probably what you will find easiest to use. I love that it gives a feeling of eeriness in this photo. A misty autumn morning in London – one of my favourite kinds.
Another one using sky to bring impact to your subject. I was bemused by this scene.
Reading or hearing information is only a little part of learning – the biggest part is being able to put the knowledge into practise. So now I want you to demonstrate what you have learnt.
Let’s do an excercise:
Where can you see negative space in these images – and what effect has it had on the subject?
What is the negative space contributing to this photo? Is it adding any messages to the photo?
I would love to know your thoughts on these photos – comment on my blog and I can let you know what I think!
Now – the last part of learning is – practise. If you are inspired by these ideas then I encourage you to immediately go out and get some practise! Then not only do you really embed that information, but you can then make it your own.
I’ve had a many cameras in my 36 plus years as a photographer. I started with a Pentax K1000 – a brilliant camera – then I moved on to my beautiful Hassleblad – and many Canon’s.
The cameras come and go, either from wear and tear or the demands of needing new technology. But in all my time my as photographer I’ve only had 3 tripods.
The first was a studio tripod I used in school for studio stuff. It was big, heavy and boring. The second tripod saw 3 or 4 cameras come and go. It was sturdy, light, made of aluminium and lasted 20 years.
Tripods allow you to take shots you couldn’t otherwise – 149 sec @ f/8 ISO400
I am currently on my 3rd tripod – although I still have the second as a backup. This one is bigger, lighter, more sturdy and made of carbon fibre.
The function of a tripod is of course the same, regardless of the material it’s made from – holding a camera very still for extended periods for time.
This is the longest exposure I’ve taken in a few years – 419sec @f/16 ISO200
But apart from their inherit functionality there is one other thing they have in common – they have changed the way I approach my photography.
Even when I’m not shooting at shutter speeds slower than 1 second (which is the essential time gauge of when you must have a tripod) I still carry my camera around on a tripod.
I find it comforting as it gives me so many options with my aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Having a tripod means I am prepared to shoot in any lighting condition – in low light inside a building, at night – I can be anywhere at any time.
15 sec @ f/11 ISO 100
And that is just the technical side. What it has done for my creative side is encourage me to slow down and really look at all aspects of my compositions with a very intentional mindset – micro movements with the tripod head became something I just do. One millimeter here another there.
So as I was shooting and getting better as a fine artist my tripod was always there with me making me think and move with greater attention to detail. Helping me make more perfect exposures, horizons and compositions.
I didn’t really need a tripod for this shot but it sure did help with composition. 1/400th @f/13 ISO400
Thank you tripod! I really do believe it has been the one piece of kit that shaped me, and not just my photography but my MIND as well. It set the pace of my journey.
Nowadays I only use my tripod primarily for long exposures but still find myself lugging it about even in full sun. I don’t even use it 80% of the time but I take it because I never like the feeling of maybe needing it.
I think my relationship with my tripod is a bit like Luke Skywalker and Yoda – it’s on my back as I trek and train, speaking words of knowledge and encouragement and when I’m having trouble it will always, if not reluctantly come to my rescue.
Making a timelapse is something I love doing and I never know when a good one will present itself – 1/125th @ f/8 ISO100
Some tips on buying a tripod
I get asked frequently about how to approach buying a tripod. There are 3 basic things you should consider when buying one. And these are VERY important since you will probably spend nearly the rest of your lives together.
In order of importance I consider:
A lot of people put weight as the first priority, but not me. My tripod needs to meet me on MY level not me on its! It’s nice to have a compact and light 3 legged companion, but not if you have to bend over to use it.
You will soon find that you are not the perfect match if you have to constantly bend yourself in half to look into the viewer finder or screen. You will find your relationship soon fades and there will come a day when you completely forget to take it out.
A good tripod is one, that fully extended, is perfectly aligned with your eyes.
15 sec @ f/11 ISO 100
Is important but it is the second consideration for me. Find one with a good height first that doesn’t weigh too much. If you don’t there will come a day when you look at it in the corner of the room and say “Ugh…!” If you do often say “ugh” then you probably have the wrong tripod and your relationship will never fully develop.
After height and weight the 3rd consideration most photographers will mention is sturdiness. Unless you plan to spend £20 on a Velbon, sturdiness is something that almost all tripod are good at and for general photography your average tripod is plenty sturdy.
So, instead my 3rd requirement is profile.
Being a travel photographer it is important that my tripod fits nicely on my bag and when it is stowed away I can forget it is even with me. It can be stowed in the centre of your bag or on the side. I prefer it in the centre, better balance and less fatigue over long treks.
Finding your perfect tripod is not an easy thing to do. It needs to be the perfect balance of height, weight and profile (or sturdiness…I won’t argue.) There are dozens of manufacturers and hundreds upon hundreds to choose from. Ranging in price from £30 to £2000 ($40-3,000) and up.
Making long exposures is a really fun way to enhance the feel of an image – 6 sec @ f/5.0 ISO200
My last – essential tip – visit a camera store!
Visit you local camera shop and try out the tripods – fully extend it, feel the weight and understand how you will carry it on and off you bag.
If you do this then you are guaranteed to have a long a mutually loving relationship for many decades to come. Good luck folks and may the 3-legged force be with you!
I’d love to know – do you use a tripod or are you planning to buy one?
Let me know – please comment below and let me know.
It’s a misty, damp day here in southern Spain. I’ve been out on the beach with my kids combing for interesting things. My daughter in particular loves finding things with me – we are always looking for the most interesting stones possible.
My son loves to drift off – walking and running and playing. It’s a beautiful sight to see the kids in this fresh air, away from the intensely urban life we were living before. It’s quite a gift.
I had a lot of fun on Sunday hosting my webinar on the photo challenge – Finding Beauty in the Mundane. There were lots of interesting entries which I discussed.
I love looking at peoples photos and giving my feedback – it’s really fun.
I was out walking and shooting this morning. I got up around 5.30am and after drinking coffee I headed straight out.
It was cold and dark as I closed the door — the smell of the sea air permeating the air, and I breathed in deeply. It’s a beautiful thing to experience, and I always, always feel grateful that I have got up and out the house.
The coast here is a series of bays, with big cliffs and rock formations jutting out into the sea. It’s up to those places, with their boulders of primeval rock, and looking down onto the undulating blue-green waves, that I love to walk.
Sometimes I just sit and look out across the vast velvet blanket of water, smelling the earthy pine of the trees that plant themselves precipitously close to the edges of the cliffs.
I walked through the empty beach-side streets, and walked up and up to get to the wide sweeping views, across the bays below and to the towns far, far beyond mine. I was waiting for the sunrise, for that slow melodic dawning of light, which seems to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
Being in this moment, of morning, of feeling the energy of the night turning into day, I feel ready for the day. It’s something I love to do, as a daily practise almost, as I so enjoy sharing my experiences as a photography teacher and artist.
I often wonder if I should be getting up so early. It means that I sacrifice the end of my day, wilting like a flower around 9pm, and am only really good for light activities like reading.
But I know, too, that this rhythm of being here at the day’s beginning and the rhythm it forges within me of being creative is what I am really here on this earth for.
Being creative is a commitment we make to living a deeper life. It’s not just the odd hours or moments when we do photography. Being creative permeates everything we do; it makes everything more invigorating and feel more connected.
Have a wonderful day — wherever you are doing and wherever you are, if you liked this piece please clap for it (one or 50 times!) We would be most grateful.
Anthony and Diana
“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” Vincent Van Gogh
7 Things Pablo Picasso Can Teach Us About Photography
As I am always looking to improve my photography by learning, part of the process is seeking inspiration from others who create. I don’t, though, confine myself to just learning from other photographers.
I cast my net for ideas wide, and look to artists, writers, musicians – whoever it is that will inspire me with new ways of seeing and fresh ideas.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in Spain lately, close to Pablo Picasso’s birthplace. After visiting museums to see his work, and reading more about his creations, I found myself pondering over some of the ideas he talked about in relation to creating art.
Some of his ideas are fantastically inspiring and I’d like to share them with you today – and show you how they can help develop your photography.
Let’s get started because, as Picasso said:
“Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.”
“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” Pablo Picasso
Wherever you are, you are absorbing the energy and emotions from everything around you. If you are in the right mental state, of being open and receptive, it can help generate wonderful ideas.
Being peaceful and quiet – really looking at things, not necessarily in a super-focused way, but just allowing your attention to drift – is very helpful for your creativity.
In fact, I encourage everyone to do as much of this type of ‘open awareness’ as it generates ideas for your creativity.
I read on the Siyli website about open awareness in relation to meditation (which I think also applies to photography). Open Awareness – “is your ability to maintain your presence of mind while allowing different stimuli to pass through your awareness – and it’s incredibly useful…When you cultivate open awareness, you open the doors to tremendous insight.”
This helps pull us away from our usual barrage of thoughts (and things to do) and allows us to connect to the world around us, and draw ideas from it.
I also like this from Picasso:
“A piece of space-dust falls on your head once every day… With every breath, we inhale a bit of the story of our universe, our planet’s past and future, the smells and stories of the world around us, even the seeds of life.”
So go find the stories!
“If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes.” Pablo Picasso
The mind is a busy place. It always seems to have a lot to sort out, think about and organise. But the busy mind is the worst state to be in when you are taking photos.
Learning to see is about learning to ignore that busy, analytical mind and become present, learning to observe the world around you. It’s getting in touch with the present moment.
I would also add – use your heart, your guts, to guide you. This is where our instinct lives. It’s where we get our ideas about photography without consciously knowing.
Intuition is that knowingness, in a way where you are led by ideas and interests, and not by your logical, analytical mind.
It also connects with what Picasso said:
“My hand tells me what I’m thinking.”
Your eyes, your instinct, can lead you in your photography. (Your busy mind will mostly lead you astray :))
“If I paint a wild horse, you might not see the horse… but surely you will see the wildness!” Pablo Picasso
We often think, especially as photographers, that we are photographing what we see. Of course we must ‘see’. I talk about it endlessly because the ability to see and notice things in your environment is the number one thing most people are missing in their photography.
But we are also photographing something that has generated a feeling in us. Something that has probed and provoked our interest.
We see, we feel and then we create. And what you end up creating can be anything! It can look like anything, feel like anything – the photograph, your art, is yours to make your very own.
“To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing.” Pablo Picasso
This is the same for any creative medium. If you don’t know where to start – don’t worry! Just begin – and that’s often when ideas start to flow.
If I am busy with work and family life, it can sometimes take me a while to really get into the creative flow when I am out shooting.
Instead of waiting, though, for inspiration – as Picasso said at the beginning of this article – I just get going, and wait for the ideas to find me when I am in the perfect place to do something about them – with my camera in hand!
“The more technique you have the less you have to worry about it. The more technique there is the less there is.” Pablo Picasso
This quote sums up so much for me about why learning technique makes things easier when we are out creating.
When you know your kit, you aren’t interrupted when you are in the creative flow. Instead of battling with your camera, you can get totally absorbed in that beautiful location, that interesting subject or that absorbing light – and create some incredible images.
You become so at ease with your tools that your creativity just takes over.
Even if you don’t feel like you’re particularly technical or confident with technique, I have seen hundreds of people on my workshops learn that with practice and focus, you can grasp anything.
“I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso
At the moment I like to think of not knowing how to do something as something to celebrate. It’s an opportunity to exercise my (always ageing) mind; it’s an opportunity to learn and see something in a different way.
Keep yourself young and your mind agile by learning new things!
“He can who thinks he can, and he can’t who thinks he can’t. This is an inexorable, indisputable law.” Pablo Picasso
I totally, totally agree. I didn’t think I could be a world-travelling photographer, teaching photography online and selling my work internationally. That seemed impossible to me ten years ago. But now, here I am!
If I can do what I thought impossible, then so can you.
“In art intentions are not sufficient and, as we say in Spanish, love must be proved by deeds and not by reasons. What one does is what counts and not what one had the intention of doing.” Pablo Picasso
There is never a better time to do something than – now. Picasso said so – so get started, OK?
Enjoy this exploration into Picasso’s ideas, and I hope that it’s a little nudge to do something cool with your photography in the week ahead.
I wrote recently about how to shoot on manual and received some very interesting responses. Thank you all for your commenting and support. I am still amazed at how difficult I found it trying to explain and encourage people to shoot with manual. I think I’ve distilled it most by saying : It’s all about the craft man!
Anyway, I wanted to respond to all your comments with a Story of Manual.
I’m walking in the woods. There are sights, sounds and smells and I’m making an effort to totally absorb it all. I am very much present.
All is good. The sun is high. The light is hard and strong filtering down through the high pines. I know I want fine detail and good depth of field for the images I’m about to make. Contrast and latitude come to mind.
I set my exposure in camera and in memory – giving aperture priority though I watch my minimum shutter speed. ISO was chosen before walking into the woods… I make images. Through the trees I see a clearing in full sun. I think +4-5 stops of light. I see potential shots just moments in the future by observing the light through the trees.
Making my way to the clearing my fingers adjusting exposure that -4-5 stops, without looking once at the camera, just mentally counting clicks. I don’t have to be spot on. I want it close so I don’t have correct by 12 clicks when a potential shot arrives. Just 2-3 clicks max. That is enough to get the base exposure set.
I know it’s best to have my exposure set for the light not for the subject. I know if I set it for the subject then it is most likely going to come too late…I need it set BEFORE the shot comes WHATEVER it may be.
I get to the clearing, my exposure already set. Or at least very very close. On the opposite edge of the field I spot Bigfoot standing in the dappled light of a slanted sun through leaves. He smiles at me. Shutter speed I think! Again the fingers move in a reciprocal fashion simultaneously towards a faster shutter speed exposure as I raise the camera – a re-prioritization in an instant. I see an EV of -2/3rds. Close enough. Click.Click.Adjust.Click.Click. I think “tone” mood” “key” – what am I feeling right NOW. I’ll make adjustments quickly and instinctively. Click. Over exposure seems appropriate to capture full shadow detail( don’t want someone telling me my Bigfoot was just a tree due to terrible shadow detail!)
I walk off the field into the open shade of a mountainside. Again I know this is a +4-5 stop change from the previous base exposure I was using. ISO comes to mind. I change my exposure for soft open shade light. I choose a nice balanced exposure not really prioritizing shutter or aperture as I am not sure what I will find ahead of me yet. I can get a good base exposure as long as the light remains the same. I will not think of exposure again for awhile I know.
My eyes are keyed into slight changes of the light – heavier shade or dark recesses, brighter dappling of light, these will need small adjustments, or not – Adjustments of less than ⅓ to 1 stop of exposure are made on a per image basis and not for “correctness”, but for tone, key and mood.
Across the field and out of the woods I come upon a sea. The sun is now low just a few degrees from the horizon. The cirrus clouds are plentiful for golden hour and there are few low clouds on the horizon. Conditions are good for colour and dynamic light. A wide lens goes on and aperture again takes priority. The tripod comes out. Now things have really slowed down. I know I will be in this spot for awhile making a photo every few minutes, but mostly just watching it all happen and feeling most alive! Shutter times get longer as the light leaves. As dark approaches aperture is widened. The stars come out and ISO increases.
I like who I am when I’m being creative, that’s the basic fact. I love taking photos, just like I love having a long walk through the hills near me in Spain. I have to remember that these things bring me joy. And who doesn’t want a life of maximum joy?
So I am going to ask more of myself creatively this coming month. And I want to offer up a challenge to help you if, like me, you are in need of a little push.
I invite you to find and photograph the beauty in the mundane.
Firstly – because it’s easy to take amazing shots of amazingly beautiful places. Although we can always do something fresh, or unique or interesting with our subjects, you’re bound to get something awesome with, for example, a great location and a great sky.
But to create something beautiful, or find beauty in the mundane? That’s a skill that is fantastic to have, and worth developing, because it will help your photography as a whole.
If you can make the most ordinary object look interesting, think how much more you can bring to compelling subjects or scenes?
As many of you know, learning to see, or learning to see in a deeper way, is the journey that every photographer should be on. But that can feel like an overwhelming task. This challenge will help.
Mundane is defined in the dictionary as the everyday, ordinary, or banal. So it could be things you see everyday and have lost interest in – I particularly like street signs, peeling posters, weird things I find on the floor. Ask yourself, how can I make this interesting to me?
It could just be a boring object or scene or subject. Ask yourself, what elements could I bring it to make this come alive? Interesting light, a person walking past, a different angle or maybe the way I organise the elements of the scene?
It could even be, and I am obviously stretching the definition here, photographing the slightly depressing or the ugly in a beautiful way. Finding beauty in objects or places considered ugly is a great challenge!
“The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” Henry Miller
In this challenge I encourage you to do two things:
Use outside elements to bring beauty to mundane subjects/scenes (like waiting for interesting light, rain, a person etc. to come along)
Work to bring out the innate beauty in mundane subjects – and here we are really looking, and probing our subject. Looking at its textures, its colour, what elements it’s made up of
How this can help you:
If you’re a beginner or feeling a bit stuck this challenge will give you something to focus on to get started, as well as an access point on learning how to see
If you’re more advanced it can push you into not just going for the easy shot, but working with harder elements to create interesting photographs
And I like this challenge because it is helping us acknowledge and draw out the beauty that exists in our lives every-day and every-where.
So just dive on in, or below you’ll find some tips and examples
to help you get on your way.
Breaking down the elements
Looking for interesting elements is a great way to start that process of learning to see – so instead of trying to photograph a scene as a whole, find an interesting element and then build your photo from there.
When you see a sign like this in a scene you are usually looking at it as part of a whole scene, and it’s not very interesting when it’s part of a whole. But when you remove it from what it’s connected to it becomes fascinating.
As photographers, light is our gift from the gods. Interesting light can make anything – literally anything – wonderful to look at. I also like how you can use hard light to create shadows that contrast something hard, ugly or rough. Like here.
Or here, in a much softer way, you have this broken down house bathed in soft blue dawn light, making the textures look and feel quite sensual. The photo wouldn’t be interesting at all without this light.
This photo below is one I shot in Hong Kong. I found some matresses in the street – could anything be more mundane than that? The light was wonderful, which I think makes the shot.
Here are some more photos that are made interesting by light (and because I am obsessed by light I have thousands of these)
This photo below sort of personifies the whole idea for me about bringing out the beauty in the mundane. The light of course makes this photo, the way it’s filtered through something and is falling over the wall. But then you have this wetness and moss which creates really interesting textures. You can feel it. I do have a love of photographing quite ugly things and so I really quite love this photo.
Would your photo be more interesting if you moved your feet? It sounds simple, but most people I teach don’t move very much.. And don’t just move closer or to the side, move higher and lower. Climb that roof! Go down that stairwell! As Diane Arbus said – photography is a kind of licence to explore people and situations. Use that licence!
Photographing things I find on the street is a huge passion of mine.
In this photo above, the interestingness again comes from removing elements from their context. If the floor wasn’t mostly wet it wouldn’t be as interesting, and the bright red contrasted against the deep grey – plus I like muddy footprints – all add something.
Doesn’t this just take on a different feeling when it’s not attached to a whole scene?
I am always on the lookout for things that are out of place – like interesting signs or words in places they aren’t usually:
Here you have both light and leading lines. I love using structure and organisation in my photos.
I hope you enjoyed those ideas. Share your thoughts and comments below – do you like to photograph mundane subjects? Has it helped your photography?
I hope you are all having a great week and life is good. Di and I sometimes write for Digital Photography School, a fantastic photo website that runs tons of articles about different aspects of photography.
Last month I wrote an article for them that has turned out to be the most controversial article I’ve ever written. What was the subject, you may ask?
“Through this photographic eye you will be able to look out on a new light-world, a world for the most part uncharted and unexplored, a world that lies waiting to be discovered and revealed.” Edward Weston
Yesterday in Spain
Last weekend we arrived in southern Spain. We have settled in a little town on the beach for a while. Travelling with my family has turned out to be nothing like what I thought it would be.
I thought that at this point we’d be running through the jungles of Costa Rica or something like that. But my kids have strongly requested that we stay in Europe to be with some other travelling families – and this little area is a total hub for families who are travelling and worldschooling as we are doing.
Apparently I am not totally in charge 🙂 Maybe I’m not in charge at all.
(Worldschooling sounds pretty cool, but it’s just the term for educating your kids while you travel.)
And you’ll probably relate to this: if the kids are happy (and my wife) then I’m happy.
It’s nice to have sunshine and sea air, and I’m looking forward to exploring the beautiful mountain towns and photographing the sea, and whatever cool wonders I can find.
Today I have some good tips and a challenge focused on one of my favourite things to photograph – reflections!
Reflections are everywhere – in bodies of water, on shiny surfaces, in windows. Once you cast your eyes around, they will be everywhere.
Reflections are intriguing to me – they can bring all kinds of interesting feelings and elements into your images; like abstraction, intrigue, mystery and beautiful patterns. Let’s get to it!
Reflections on water
“I love to watch the movement of light on water, and I love to play in rivers and lakes, swimming or canoeing. I am fascinated by people who work with water – fishermen, boatmen – and by a way of life that is dominated by water.” Berlie Doherty
Water changes everything that’s reflected in it and it influences everything that it comes into contact with. And to be surrounded by mist and sea air when taking photos is reviving.
Sometimes reflections can be very straight forward. Still water will be like a mirror and reflect back what is around you in detail.
Tip: I like to find to good clear patch with minimum amounts of things floating in the water in order to enhance the mirror effect. If there is algae or just bits bobbing on the water it can distract attention and that is not what I want. I want all eyes on what I see!
When using compositional tools and techniques like this you have to make them your own. They are a starting point. Then you add your own elements, play around with them, see what else you can do with them.
Here’s one of my ‘morning in the city’ reflections, in Paris.
This is a common type of shot for me, because most major cities – old ones at least – have a river or are set by the ocean. So you’ll see such city scenes reappearing in my work.
Tip: Take advantage of low ambient and use artificial lighting to create depth in your reflections.
What’s wonderful is that at dawn on many rivers you get the opportunity to shoot the water in its stillness, and consequently you get very clear, very sharp reflections.
Now this shot in Venice, below, is a more subtle reflection – the light of pre-dawn and the lovely atmospheric street lamps in this gorgeous city. But to give it a little more dimension, a little more intrigue, look at the reflections. They create a wonderful symmetry.
Can you see how that very still water is like a mirror? How the small reflections give dimension and depth to the image?
I think the very still water immediately gives a sense of quiet and the peace at dawn.
Of course it doesn’t just have to be rivers or sea; rain on roads and surfaces is also very cool.
I also like to use water in a more abstract sense, using its movement and the elements around it to appear more playful.
What does this photo below look like to you? (Lots of bit and bobs on the water on this one!) For me, the water has given this steely, immovable structure a very fun sense of movement. Only water could do that!
The elements here are simple. The colour of the tower is so cold, but in the water it looks joyful almost, surrounded by that deep ocean of blue. It’s a dancing smoke stack!
Now, one of my favourite things to do with calmly rippling water is to use it to capture reflected light off colourful surroundings. It’s become an ongoing project for me – not an original idea but I feel I’m doing some very beautiful stuff. It will be a stunning printed portfolio eventually.
Here are some of my recent favourites:
It’s all about using the water ripples to play with the surrounding colours and create its own shapes and textures.
Have what you want reflected to be 180 degrees from where you will be taking the shot. This puts the colours on the water.
Try different levels and angles.
The fun part for me is just looking and looking while moving around until an image strikes me. Boom!
These types of photos usually end up looking like abstract paintings which, I feel, is a true compliment for a photo.
Tip: Use your post-processing skills to play with saturation and contrast to really give them some punch. A bit of clarity is nice too.
Now in this one below, I have used the strong block colours of a nearby building:
You’ll notice the droplets too – I timed the water drop ripples, which was a really great idea. It adds a lot to the photo by breaking up the greater pattern.
In the photograph below we can see light reflected water in a more straightforward way by making it part of a scene:
Can you see here how the pink light really reveals the textures of the water? It’s incredible to see that.
How else would the character and feeling of the water be revealed if not in the reflection?
Remember water is always acting as a dynamic mirror and is in touch with everything around it. It is like it is visually conscious or something. It’s alive!
Now let’s jump over to some other types of reflections.
Reflections in glass
This is a pretty standard reflection. What do you think?
Better with the person?
That adds a little humour to the image, I think. I camped out for 30 minutes waiting for and timing shots, ending up with around 20 interesting ones.
Walking around cities you will find plenty of opportunities to spy some potential shots in panes of glass.
I think they are most interesting when they are at eye level and not up above me, but maybe you feel differently??
Then we have some really clean reflections:
The above photo has very simple, clean elements. A near perfect mirror effect with the added bonus of wavy lines. Woop!
Another one that is all about reflections and shapes. This kind of shot works much better with loads of stormy clouds and dynamic weather. Blue sky just kills this image.
Now for some more abstraction:
I grabbed this shot one morning. It’s a shop window with some kind of window dressing (always makes me think of Mars) and I caught a portrait.
Tip: I had to quickly use manual focus because I didn’t trust my camera not to focus on the window instead of my subject. I really like it due to its abstract nature and that it was not an easy shot to notice.
“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.” Picasso
This shot above seems so eerie to me. You aren’t quite sure what it is, until you look much closer.
These abstract images don’t need to make sense, but the elements are somehow working together. There should be some sense, some clarity, to what you are photographing. You don’t want it to be a giant mess.
Reflections to create symmetry
This shot above – a very, very old one of mine – is a typical reflection shot, one where you are shooting the subject straight on and therefore the reflection makes a symmetrical pattern in the water.
Above is a very classic reflection shot. Using water on the street ,would you believe.
The water creates a symmetry with a building that is already dense with patterns. Now, if that band of colourful chairs wasn’t there – and how convenient that they laid them out in first yellow, then purple – this would be a very boring shot.
Don’t you think?
Symmetry and patterns are awesome – but I often like it when there is another element within the images that brings some imperfection, something else, into the image. Makes it all the more human!
And I think we humans like a little imperfection in our world 🙂
Below I am using a very strong, singular element that already has some cool repetitive elements – the lights, the arches – and using the reflection to add more repetition, and therefore more patterns.
I came at this shot above at an angle, not shooting it straight on. I picked my position carefully, usually trying out a few different angles, but this was pretty awesome because it gives a strong line, some pleasing patterns – and it’s not an obvious shot.
Reflections of Light
Light can be reflected onto all kinds of different surfaces. Look at these two – both lights reflected onto a wet pavement. Great effect.
So even when you don’t have a super reflective surface you can still find reflections. In this case – reflected light…and it’s full of colour!
I have featured some of my favourite ways to photograph reflections, but there are many other ways we can use reflections in our images – and I’d love to see yours.
So I am setting another photo challenge for this! And it was awesome seeing so many people’s images in the last challenge. (Plus there is a cool prize for my favourite image.)
At the end of the challenge period I am going to be doing a live webinar all about my favourite images that you submit – plus giving a whole bunch of tips and techniques.
“Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best.” Henry Van Dyke
Greetings from Tuscany! I hope you have all been having a fine holiday season. Mine was filled with delicious food, roaring fires and long walks in the forests and olive groves of the castle grounds we are staying in.
It’s been pretty epic.
We arrived in Italy with no warm weather clothes. Nada. We had been planning to go from Morocco further towards the Equator, not away from it. But forces greater than me (my English children) insisted on an ‘authentic cold Christmas’.
Something, somehow, led us to an unbelievable Christmas in a castle.
On landing in Rome we made mad dashes around the shops, scooping up the warmest clothes we could find – before jumping on a train to take us on a rambling journey north.
We arrived at The Creators Castle at night. The air was fresh and cold, the smell of trees and earthiness, the scent of woodsmoke and the black, black sky with glittering stars greeted us.
It was with much excitement that I awoke the next day, before dawn, to start my photography exploration. I know if I hadn’t got my camera and that desire to capture images, I probably would have stayed in my nice warm bed. Who wouldn’t?
But that itch to get some great images and explore got me out – and I am so grateful I discovered the landscape during that first frosty morning with fog rolling over the valleys and a beautiful pink sunrise.
Of course, I have to give credit to my kids. I would never have willingly thought – Europe in winter! Given that we can go anywhere right now my internal homing device says – stay warm Tony! Stay warm!
Sometimes we all need a little push into a different direction to find something incredible. And of course, like the multitude of photographers before me, I am finding Tuscany a dream to photograph.
Answers on a postcard please – where in Italy isn’t beautiful? I need to know! I have only found fascinating places in Italy so far – this year alone Venice, Naples, the gorgeous towns and villages of the Amalfi coast, Rome and now Tuscany have met my camera’s gaze while I stand behind it in total awe.
This is the time of year when I always feel the desire to reflect. To draw lessons from things I want to improve (and there are always things you want to improve if you’re a creative person and you run a business.)
But before I jump into that world of critiquing, I want to do some celebrating. I don’t want my work and teaching to always be about – what can be better?
I want it, for now, to be – what have we done really brilliantly this year?
I want us all to think about what we have photographed this year, what we have done really well, what we are proud of and what we love about our photography?
A celebration of our photography and our creative spirit
I often get so caught up in taking images and working with them, that I get hooked on what’s next and forget to look at what I’ve done.
I think it means that we are so bent on looking at what is wrong with our images and what we could do better that we often don’t fully appreciate the amazing work that we have done.
It’s definitely not about chasing perfectionism. Yes, we can all improve. But we are thinking about the journey, right? Creativity is a journey.
Our photography is telling us stories about our lives, it’s inspiring the people around us with the focus that we have on our creative habit.
One of the most important parts of any journey is to recognise one’s gifts, talents and effort. Because if you can start the year with a spring in your step, a feeling of I’ve got some photos I’m really proud of! then I think you start with a way more positive, excited and motivated attitude to propel you into doing even more awesome creative things next year.
Plus it’s just so boring to continuously think about what could be better, what can we find that is beautiful and amazing now?
So, before we go any further, I hear a few of you shouting at the back – but my photos weren’t amazing! I didn’t do anything brilliantly!
To which I reply – you need to let go of the desire for perfection, and embrace the concept of imperfection. After all:
“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” Salvador Dalí
The gift of imperfection
“Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.” Robert H. Schuller
So many photographers, artists, writers talk about how their best, finest work is anything but perfect. We are not aiming to be perfect, we are aiming to reflect our stories, our selves, our feelings and our thoughts about the world.
We want to show people what we think is important and interesting to us.
We want to share our adventures and ideas with our friends, the people we love, our communities and tribes that we form, the world at large maybe.
The serenity, the fun and the excitement behind the image is just as important as the execution.
The joy that we share when we show our work and people connect to it.
The joy that we have looking at other people’s work and seeing the things they are passionate about.
It’s connecting to the communities of people who share our passions and who elevate and grow our passions.
Being a creative person, always ready for the new thrill of making something new.
Creativity is as much about what we give to others when we are in the process of making. Whether it’s because what we end up with is interesting or beautiful, or maybe it’s about inspiring people.
I encourage you to do something with your images – print them and hang them in your home, exhibit them, create an online gallery, make a book. But really do something with what you have already done.
It’s been a fine day here in the mountains of Morocco. The sun is so warm during the day, and then the sun sets and an intense chill pervades.
Standing on our terrace and looking up over the mountains at the clear, clear sky to watch the stars is a magical experience.
There is always the smell of woodsmoke here in the evenings. As you walk through the streets, the low lights create beautiful shadows on the colourful walls. I feel like I am miles away from everything and everyone.
We’ll be heading on to our next stop in about 10 days, so will be enjoying the walks in the hills, good food and excellent photography while we can.
We have promised the children a Christmassy location and the possibility of a Father Christmas visit. These are small compromises, we know, for the sacrifice of taking them away from their beloved grandmother and extended family at their favourite time of year.
Today I want to ask you one important question.
What one thing could I help you with in your photography?
What are you grappling to get to grips with? What knowledge do you need that would make a big difference in your photography right now?
Di and I are planning our next set of articles and posts and we would love to help you with your photo issues.
We want to be insanely useful – so please, offload your photo difficulties and struggles onto us and we will try to help you with them!
I hope you are having a great day. We are in the mesmerising city of Fes in Morocco. Today we wandered around the ‘new city’ (established in the fourteenth century, as opposed to the ‘old city’ where we are staying which dates back to 808.)
During the day the sun is rich yellow and warm, with long shadows which are wonderful for photography. In the evening the cold creeps in, but we are still able to sit on the terrace of our riad drinking sweet mint tea and listening to the sounds of the city.
The smells of roasting meats and sweet spices waft through the cool air, a spread out with little jewel-like little lights below.
We’ve met a lot of friendly people, explored some of the maze of the thousands of streets in the Medina and eaten some incredible food (Sweetly spiced Moroccan chicken in crunchy filo pastry, soft smoky lamb and fig Tagine, sharp and sweet fresh mint lemonade.)
And of course the photography has been amazing. I have lots more photos to show you from our adventure here, keep an eye on our Facebook page, where I post most days.
As always I’d love to know what you think, comment below.
Have a wonderful day,
Anthony and Diana
Video: How I travel as an artist – Hong Kong at Night
I hope you are all having a good weekend and you are doing interesting things with your photography. Today we are heading off to Fes in Morocco. We’ll be in the country for several weeks travelling around, exploring, meeting people, taking photos and writing. We would love to share our stories with you along the way.
Photography is my passion, and it really helps connect and reveal the world around me. I hope it offers doses of inspiration to you, whether that is seeing the world around you in a new way, to explore new places or to delve into the process of creating even more.
I was incredibly inspired by Hong Kong (I’ve just added a gallery to my site of photos) and I’ve made a 2 minute film all about Hong Kong at Night. It’s a follow up to my first How I travel like an artist I made a few months ago.
Music is another passion of mine. What I love most about editing video is the soundtrack and timing of imagery and how an intital idea can evolve into an artistic concept. That is also part of the journey for me. If you have some headphones I highly recommend wearing them. I hope you enjoy it.
I would love to know what you think of this little film. Please comment below. It is so amazing hearing from you all.
Plus if you have any must-see tips for our Morocco adventure please post them on my blog too.
I am really fired up at the moment. I had an amazing trip to the Amalfi Coast earlier this month; that place is out of this world beautiful. On Tuesday I went out for a very fun photo walk with my Light Monkeys group – plus I am pitching for a cool new art project and life just seems so awesome in so many ways. It’s even getting a bit warm here in London, lol!
I want to share some of that fired up, inspired energy with you.
Let us begin with the genius that was John Lennon.
You probably know that I love getting inspiration from all kinds of places. Recently I have been thinking about, and listening to, a lot of John Lennon. I have loved his music for years and years – since I was a teenager really. He is one of the few musicians whose words I actually listen to – usually I am one of those people who get absorbed by the rhythm and gheetars!
Not only is Lennon’s music amazing – Tomorrow Never Knows , In My Life, Jealous Guy,Woman are all awesome songs – but I really liked his philosophy on life. His later ideas feel very similar to my own, so I’ve picked 7 thoughts of his and I am putting them with some photos I took in Naples and along the Amalfi Coast last week.
I hope you find it a little espresso-shot of inspiration!
All the quotes below are from John Lennon.
“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”
I am a big fan of a bit of mooching around, daydreaming, getting lost. It’s often at those times when we have our best ideas. And it seems many great scientists have been the same way! See Darwin Was a Slacker, and You Should Be Too.
2. “Creativity is a gift. It doesn’t come through if the air is cluttered.”
I harp on about this all the time – you can’t be in the zone, the flow, when you are preoccupied with your to-do list. Here is a 2 min film from the amazing Jason Silva on Finding Your Creative Flow State that will help.
3. “Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.”
I photograph a lot of street art and what always strikes me about street art is how it feels like a very generous act. It’s such a temporary medium but it’s a creation – sometimes of epic quality and skill – that might be removed within hours or days.
Art for me is to be shared and taken on in the eyes and hearts and minds of anyone who enjoys it. Creating with this idea of letting out into the world, and not possessing it, for me is very inspiring.
4. “When you do something noble and beautiful and nobody noticed, do not be sad. For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle and yet most of the audience still sleeps.”
Don’t create for anyone but yourself!!! When you are thinking about creating with an audience in mind, in my experience it’s never as good as when you are just doing it because you love it and just have that itch to create.
Please yourself, not your audience.
5. “My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.”
6. “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.
We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
This is everything I feel about life right now. No need to add my thoughts, perhaps except to say that meditation really helps me with my whole creativity / free mind / openness. And Lennon meditated too! Great article on Brainpickings about just that.
7. “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”
I’m ending on Lennon’s very famous quote, because this is what I like to say to remind myself to (as they say in Shawshank Redemption) “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
Bang – there we go. Hope that short-ish post was fun.
Please let us know what you thought of this post by commenting here on our blog. Sharing it with friends is also very helpful!
If you want to join me on an Italian Photography adventure – take a look at:
Venice for me is an incredible place to photograph, because not only do you have this wonderfully surreal city, set in the lagoons, with its ancient crumbling beauty – but the light is stunning. How the marine layer affects the sunrise is awesome to photograph (see my 2 min film on light & Venice here)
I get incredible reviews from this workshop – which I have run for several years now. Join me and I’ll show you all of my favourite places to shoot the city, how to escape the crowds, how to create a stunning portfolio – as well as getting your tech and creative photo skills well exercised. You will learn tonnes!
“Tony knew exactly where to go to get the best interaction of light and scenery and gave impromptu tutorials on capturing light and shadows, framing the scene, relevant shutter speed etc during our walks. This was an ideal environment to keep the adrenaline flowing and encourage the “Eureka moments”. Breakfast stops, group lunches and the final feedback session oiled the wheels. A thoroughly enjoyable, unforgettable experience.”
Anthony and Diana
5 interesting things (to feed your creative spirit)
Today I’d like to offer up some things I’ve been enjoying this week. I particularly search out creative ideas, projects or people when I am feeling too busy, or perhaps overwhelmed. I need to be reminded of all the amazing, fun, interesting and beautiful things being created in the wild world. It tears me out of my must-do, must-do mind, and instead of just reacting to life, I start thinking more about creating.
Here are 5 things I am enjoying this week:
Film: Loving Vincent –You might have heard of this film that is made entirely with hand-painted pictures, done in the style of Vincent van Gogh. It took over 60,000 paintings to create this film, a fictional account of a man retracing van Gogh’s last steps.
It’s a mesmerising film. I love the hand-crafted nature of it, because for me what is often so wonderful about things that are hand made is the imperfections. I don’t tend to like anything that looks too perfect, and shiny. I like the human oddities.
2. Sage advice: via Austin Kleon. Every morning Leonardo da Vinci woke up and made a list of what he wanted to learn. What an amazing way to start the day. Replacing What shall I do today? With What shall I learn? I think that certainly creates a more interesting day.
3. Quote: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”Vincent van Gogh– I loved this. It cuts to the heart of feelings of overwhelm and a desire for perfectionism that can strike any creative or entrepreneurial endeavour. (We were entertained to read that a tiny grasshopper has been found in one of Van Gogh’s painting.)
5. Photography talk: Stephen Wilkes’s TED talk about the creation of his ‘day to night’ photographs, which blend 100 photos taken from a single spot taken over the period of a day. It’s pretty cool concept and show the ‘best moments’ and contrasts of a location at different points in the day’s journey.
I hope there was some interesting things in there for you! Please let me know what you are seeing/listening to/enjoying and getting your creative kicks from this week. Comment below.
This is a photo from my workshop last week. The busyness of a city like Hong Kong gives you so many opportunities to play with long exposures.
Good day to you,
I hope life is really super good, and that you are happy, nourished, enjoying life in all the many places that you live.
Today’s post is inspired a little by Vangelis, the composer who scored films such as Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire. He composes quite spacey, evocative music – melodies that seem to often grab you by the emotions (see Conquest of Paradise, although I love his more sedate, laid-back music like Blade Runner Blues).
I read an interview with Vangelis in which he was asked:
Many of your fans might have expected a synthetic, ‘Beaubourg’-style score for Blade Runner, rather than the rich and emotional tapestry of themes that you came up with. How concerned were you with disassociating the Blade Runner score from the bombast of Star Wars and the ‘artificial’ style of many previous sci-fi themes?
Vangelis – In order to answer your question I need a special talent that some people have to talk about their work endlessly, something I find very difficult and boring to do. So, I will just say that I did what I felt like doing at the moment I did it.
Awesomely funny! But as well as making me laugh – it made me think that really this last point is the essence of creating and photography.
Creating anything happens in a moment by moment basis – and it is dominated by the choices you make and how you feel.
Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field – Peter Adams
What is happening in the moment that you take the photo?
You may think by that I mean what’s happening outside of you. But what I really mean is what is happening inside of you?
Now – the biggest problem I’ve seen for most photographers is actually – they are not in the present moment.
Most photographers are being distracted by the place they are in, the thoughts running through their head about things in the future, thoughts about their camera and things like ‘am I doing this right?’
But what we need to be aiming for is being totally and fully present in the moment. Totally there in the place, totally connected to what we are doing. Almost pretending there is no past or future, because, actually, is there? All we have for sure is now.
So when you have anchored yourself in this magical present moment you want to figure out how you feel.
How do you feel about this place that you are in? Alone? Excited? Exhilerated? Nervous? Unsure?
Because all of those feelings will translate into your photos.
A very common emotion in photography is nerves, especially when photographing people and street photography.
Nerves lead to people ‘holding back’ and not truly jumping in and embracing the moment.
And I can see when people are holding themselves back, I can see it in their photos. When they are not giving the experience everything they want to give.
To fully embrace the experience, the moment you are in. Surrendering to what is happening now, and pulling yourself away from anything else that will distract you.
You will see in my photos of Hong Kong how I felt about the city. What my dominating emotions were.
Life is fleeting. We get obsessed with the little things – the day to day when we are running around so don’t forget to fully embrace the times when you get to do all of this wonderful creating. Don’t forget to fully embrace the moment.
So those are some thoughts about photography and the essentialness of being ‘in the moment’. I hope you enjoyed them (as well as some of my new photos of Hong Kong).
That’s it for now. Any thoughts, questions or queries – just comment below.
I hope you are all having a great week. Today I got an email from someone that started in the same way that many many emails to me start.
“I have been so rubbish, I haven’t picked up my camera in months!”
And it really struck me because it was so self-judgemental. I should be taking photos, I haven’t, so I’m being a rubbish person.
That is no way to treat your creativity!
And to be honest – why is it so important that you take photos all the time if it’s so difficult for you? If you can only manage to fit in once every few months then so what?
Being judgemental about ourselves – in any way – actually leads us to do the things that we love even less (I believe).
If you are saying – I should take more photos – I think it creates such a bad feeling inside of us, such a sense of judgement and thoughts of I’m not good enough – that we end up doing the exact opposite and taking no photos at all.
This shows the amazing light here in Hong Kong. The sun is behind my subjects and the light is being reflected off onto a green wall. I stood here for about 20 minutes just shooting people in this amazing light.
Same light. I think I prefer this photo to the one above – what do you think?
“If we demand perfection from ourselves we are not living in the real world…The inherent problem in the relationship between the ideal & the real is that the ideal judges the real as unacceptable and brings down condemnation and wrath on the real. This sets up an adversarial relationship between the two and like all adversaries, they move further and further apart.” Henry Cloud
So instead of telling ourselves that we should take photos – why not just wait until we are inspired and feeling good? Make it a time of fun and celebration! Enjoy it as and when it fits into your life.
Di is writing a book at the moment – very very slowly. She works with me on our business, we are ‘world schooling’ our two kids and she also is writing her book. When she started out she created a ridiculous schedule for herself that was impossible to maintain without creating stress. And we definitely didn’t start this world-travelling-working adventure so she could be all stressed out!
I love this shot! The light! Amazing! What do you think?
So she decided to pull back a bit, and lower her expectations. The top priority for both of us now with our creativity is to enjoy it! To allow it to bring us the intense incredible pleasure that making things with our very own hands and minds creates.
“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.” Neil Gaiman
Being creative makes us both feel amazing, and in total awe of this planet. Being around other creative people makes us feel amazing too. Of course we’ve got lots of work to do too, but we’ve decided not to force our creativity. We have decided to just let it flow when it feels good.
And you know what? The more allowing, the less judgemental we are about our creativity and stopping all that negativity – the more we actually create. Because it makes us feel good in all ways! It’s no longer a should.
Of course right now I am in super insane inspiration mode because Hong Kong is INCREDIBLE. As you hopefully can see from my photos from this past week .
It still feels a little raw to show my photos straight away like this – before I’ve had the chance to mull them over – but I am not giving into my fear! I am putting them out there to see what you think, to get feedback and to show you how I work putting together a project.
Now help me here solve a marital dispute. Di thinks there is nothing special about this picture below – it’s just a load of poles, and some buildings! Said she.
Whereas I think it has a deeper narrative about the relationship of progress and environmental impact.
Now who is right?! Is there a deeper narrative or not!?
I would LOVE to know what you think of this batch 🙂 Please comment below. It’s always great to hear from you.
So exciting, because Palermo is another truly photogenic city. We’ll photograph the city at first light and as the sun settles at the end of the day. We’ll photograph the people, capture the atmosphere and the city so rich in history. I will lead numerous photo walks, feedback sessions and critiquing.
Have an amazing week! Thanks for reading – and please share with anyone you know who loves photography. It’s so helpful!
Anthony and Diana
This is a real cow. I had to queue up to get my photo taken with it. Cows are just wandering around on Landau Island, and being a sacred animal here, lots of people wanted their photo with it.
“… a fine way to capture a piece of the magic of a unique city. The drama, the charm and the beauty of Hong Kong is all here-just as is its breathless energy.” Nury Vittachi, Hong Kong: The City of Dreams
A few nights ago I walked up the long trail to the top of Victoria Peak. It was hot, muggy, and the air was very thick and heavy. I was walking with my heavy camera bag because I didn’t want to wait in the long queue for the tram.
I got to the top and was rewarded with one of the most spectacular views of any city I’ve ever been too. A glimmering, shimmery, colourful, buzzing city, laid out before me, bursting with intense energy and colour.
I had truly arrived in Hong Kong.
At the moment I am really getting into a lot of sunset / blue hour / night shooting here. If there was any city meant for night shooting, it’s Hong Kong.
So I want to show you some of the ideas I am playing with – and of course I’d love to hear what you think.
Showing work in progress can sometimes feel a little uncomfortable – when it’s not totally finished; when I am still mulling over photos that I am not always certain about; photos that maybe need a re-edit, or I’ll reshoot or need some more time to think over.
But I think there is so much value in seeing projects develop, and seeing the processes that people go through when they are putting a project together.
Amazing light, right!?
Hong Kong is amazing – if you haven’t been it’s everything you think it will be – times a thousand.
It’s overwhelming: gazillions of people everywhere, in very densely packed streets and blinding high rises. The air is thick and heavy and hot.
The colours are just WOW! I love it.
I am in a photographer’s paradise – if you like shooting cities of course. Di saw my first photos and said – this is so you’re kind of city!
Hong Kong is currently undergoing massive construction on the waterfront
This photo below is my favourite photo from the past week (I think…) It makes me think a little bit of that amazing film In the Mood for Love – which I suppose Hong Kong, with its tropical air and intense colours just lends itself to a cinematic feeling.
That moody dark blue sky, the shallow depth, a bit of thirds…yummy!
Blue hour here is so stunning because of the dramatic weather and how colourful the city lights are. It’s really stimulating! And as it starts to cool off my energy goes up. It’s a great combo to shoot with.
The density of artificial colour, mixed with all the rigid and repetitive shapes, is mesmerising.
I like finding little moments of quiet in cities, too.
Lots of simple contrasts….
Tropical trees & monolithic modern buildings: I’m totally obsessed with the trees here. I love anything that gives contrast to these giant monolithic buildings.
Wow, what colours! Makes me think of awesome 1980’s design.
“Give Hong Kong to an Artist. He can use it. It can be poetised.” Baris Gencel
I like this quote because even though Hong Kong is a hard city to ‘get to grips with’, I recommend you inhabit the wandering, poetic spirit because such modernity can of course be made into poetry and art.
Also, it’s too easy to get overwhelmed by big cities – and we always want to banish overwhelm in our creativity. You just have to accept that you’ll never fully capture such a changing, moving city in totality – so just inhabit the spirit of the observer, the poet and drift to what interests you and follow the light.
Every city has an edginess – and I always seem to be drawn to them.
I love to explore the gritty edges of cities. The places where things are ugly, stark, perhaps a bit brutalist. I am drawn to making something interesting with them.
I’m not driven to being super philosophical in my photography – I could say I like show the dark side of the human impact on the planet, but I leave that interpretation up to others to figure out.
So that’s it for now!
I’ve got some great street photography to share with you next time. Hong Kong is incredible for street photography!
But for now, I am going to carry on shooting and getting ready for my workshop that starts next week. I can’t wait. It’s so much fun shooting with other people in a place like this. The intensity! The colours! The buildings! The people! The exploration! (and the food). All awesome to share.
I’d love to know what you think of my photos – please comment below – its so great hearing what you think!
Have a wonderful day,
Anthony (with word-support and help from the awesome lady that is Diana)