I arrived at my hotel last week in the dark. It was late and I didn’t see much in the cab ride. All I knew as I stared out over the Sea of Marmara from my third floor balcony was that the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia were just 200 meters behind me. Waiting for me.
When you are this excited about a place and getting it through the lens, a 5am alarm is like sweet music. Really.
I remember coming upon the Eiffel Tower for the first time in a gorgeous indigo twilight. I was enraptured, just captivated, and feeling that this was somehow a very special moment in my life.
It happened again here in Istanbul. Just, wow. An indigo twilight with the last of the evening stars, the moon sinking into the sea, cloud cover just perfect – the colours soon to come to the Blue Mosque before me. I felt total awe, it was wonderful. And I was ready.
There is a lot of juggling, a lot of hustling and a lot of unreliability in the life of a photographer (or any artist/freelance creative). It’s intense. But at moments like this, I feel so completely alive, feeling new experiences run electricity lines through my life. I feel so lucky, as though this city were here just for me to explore.
I had a birthday recently. After so many I am pretty sure I am a grown-up. But that is not how I feel when I’m in awe of something. I feel like a child. A child completely oblivious to tasks, responsibility, habits,etc. I just want to wiggle and say woohoo! I like it. I like it! Luckily I also have discipline and the skills to be effective at what I do and still be in awe. It kind of reminds me of meditation: a free state of thinking and being. Letting go and going with the flow. This is my juice. This is my creative state. I shoot as a child sees.
Istanbul is a huge city. More like London than Paris. I must have walked close to 30 kilometers already (a lot of it to and from the kebab shop). I have found the iconic places and discovered quiet corners laced with mystery. The condition of the buildings varies from sparkling gold towers to dilapidated wooden ruins, all occupied. Definitely a city of contrasts.
The locals in Sultanahmet where I stayed for the first week are very joyful and glad to help with directions or to offer you tea. They do spend day in and day out with tourists, after all.
I am now in Beyoglu outside of the main tourist area and life is quite different Recently while reading Orhan Pamuk’s lovely book Istanbul: Memories of a City I came across the concept of huzun, which I found really intriguing:
“To feel this huzun is to see the scenes, evoke the memories, in which the city itself becomes the very illustration, the very essence of huzun. I am speaking of the evenings when the sun sets early; of fathers under streetlamps in the back streets returning home carrying plastic bags; of the old Bosphorus ferries moored to deserted stations in the middle of winter; of the children who play ball between the cars on cobblestoned streets; of teahouses packed to the rafters with unemployed men; of ship horns booming through the fog; of crowds rushing to catch ferries on winter evenings; of the city walls, ruins since the end of the Byzantine Empire; of the markets that empty in evenings;
“…of the seagulls perched on rusty barges caked with moss and mussels, unflinching under pelting rain; of crowds of men fishing on the sides of the Galata Bridge; of the busses packed with passengers; of the little children in the streets who try to sell the same packet of tissues to every passerby; of the underpasses in the most crowded intersections; of the overpasses in which every step is broken in a different way; of beautiful covered women timidly bargaining in street markets; of the view of the Golden Horn, looking towards Eyüp from the Galata Bridge; of the simit vendors on the pier who gaze at the view as they wait for customers; of everything being broken, worn out, past its prime; I speak of them all.” Orhan Pamuk
I like how Pamuk is painting a picture of the city with his words and I am seeing it in photograph after photograph. I feel I know what he is talking about now. He goes on to say that all happy cities resemble each other, where melancholic cities each have their own type of melancholy. Exploration isn’t just looking at the architecture and the people, it’s exploring the feeling and sense of a place. Being a photographer and someone who is always trying to find gems under the surface, I feel this concept very alluring. I think in my own way I am searching for this huzun in the people and the places here, I haven’t captured it to my liking yet but I don’t want to go too fast. I have time. I want to see it, and feel it, all.
I know I am in an exotic local so seeing interesting things feels a little easier, but I would still like to encourage you find something interesting to photograph in your life today. Sometimes I like to ask myself –
What will I see today that I’ve never noticed before?
I’d love to know what you think of my photos and what your experiences of Istanbul are. Send me an email or comment here. I love hearing from you guys!
PS: I really love this photo book on Istanbul by the photographer Ara Guler. His photos of the daily life in the city were taken from 1940’s to 1980’s and are an incredibly evocative and intriguing exploration. The photos are accompanied by commentaries by Orhan Pamuk, both of which are a great inspiration for me to push myself further with my work.
The Wonders of Exploring the World With Your Camera
“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller
A few evenings ago I left my office in Waterloo to head home to see my rambunctious kids and have dinner with my wife. The evening had an interesting feel to it, a misty, wintry fog hung in the air but around the edges there was a burning glow of spring light. It was an intriguing clash of seasons and so I diverted my journey to go explore the river and take some photos. I got a few nice shots but my brain was not playing ball, it felt disturbed. Running through my mind was a blog my wife and I had been working on for another website, all about the art of seeing. I kept looking at things and seeing the words clash in front of my eyes. Compositional rules started to play out in front of me, like a mad cartoon replaying over and over again on my eyeballs. It was almost too much.
I wanted to start with this because for me it’s so important to hold the ideas and suggestions that you are absorbing in your photography learning, very lightly. Too much thinking can make you, as I was, stilted and stiff. What I am always trying to encourage people to do with their photography is to loosen up, relax into themselves and their own creativity, enjoy the process. Nothing I have to offer is so weighty that it needs to be adhered to like dogma. It’s just small ideas, small prompts, small inspirations.
So, with that in mind I wanted to offer some thoughts and suggestions on finding your subject when you travel.
What are you looking for?
I am not a travel photographer or photojournalist, and so I am not looking for a comprehensive vision of a city for my dawn projects. The prep for that kind of photography is totally different. I am an artist, so I am looking to capture my vision of a place or of the city. Of course I want to photograph what makes a place iconic – there is a reason that the view of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero is well photographed: it’s awe inspiring! In those places I am looking for something different. A different light, a different angle, people…something that will be just mine.
Unless you have a very specific assignment or project you are working on, here are some questions to ask:
What kind of things am I interested in about this place?
What kind of things do I want to capture?
What drew me to this place?
Is there anything I hoping to find here?
And then, allow for that but not be too confined by the answers. You are on a journey, an adventure, you want to discover new things as well as making sure you get what you came for.
One insanely important thing to me when I plan my Cities at Dawn books is that I don’t want them to have a touristy feel – that I only captured the ‘surface’ of the city. I want them to be picked up by a local who then says – yes, this is my city! For instance, like how I photographed the water that is incessantly pumped out of the gutters in the morning in Paris. It’s not something you may notice but when you see a photo of it, you are reminded: of course! This is what it is to live in Paris, seeing these thin streams of water cleaning the streets. Looking not just for what is photogenic, but what it is to be there.
How much to prepare
I am a big fan of just going off and exploring and seeing what I can find. I don’t want to limit new discoveries by a pre-organised shot list. But sometimes arriving in a new place can be overwhelming and trying to get a grip on it can just be too much. So I like to get a bit of a sense of some fall back places that I want to photograph. I use Google Earth a lot, firstly to explore and then pin a bunch of interesting places onto a map.
The picture I am trying to paint here is one of balance. You need some organisation to keep you feeling sane and focused, but you need to also have a relaxed attitude so you are open to the new experiences that travel will present.
Start taking photos before you go
I like to start a new photo project when I am in the middle of something really good elsewhere. Perhaps it’s like that salesman maxim: the best time to make a sale is when you’ve just made a sale. Or (another one from my wife): how Ernest Hemingway would try to finish his writing for the day in the middle of a really good piece of writing so it was easy for him to get started the next day. If you are trying to start fresh every day then the blank page / empty memory card can feel overwhelming intimidating. But also when we are feeling creative, when we are in the flow we are more likely to have interesting ideas.
So, if I am not already working on a project back home I like to make sure I get one started before I leave. Or at the very least have a few photo walks to new places. Gets me in the mood.
Going beyond the exotic
The challenge with photographing in a new location, particularly one that is massively different from where you are from, is you can get completely distracted by what’s new to you (but not new to the world, we are no longer living in the age of exploration), and you end up taking tons of boring photos. What will give you the ability to create unique photographs of a location is how quickly you can get into the feel of the place and see it in a fresh, true and honest light.
I really enjoyed this podcast with photographer David du Chemin, who explains this issue really well – he talks about ways to combat your excitement in being in a new place so that you don’t just take all of the standard shots (look, elephants!) He suggests getting your intrigue at the exotic things you see out of the way quickly (more elephants! men with interesting headdresses!) so that you can then start seeing what’s really there, what’s really going. When you can see the place in an objective, fresh way you will find something unique to you.
To take great photos, first you must feel
I read this is a great interview with photographer Steve McCurry by travel photographer Oden Wagen recently and I love a couple of the points that McCurry makes. First:
“A picture of a guy in the street in New Guinea, with a bone through his nose is interesting to look at. But for it to be a really good photograph; it has to communicate something about what it is like to live with a bone through your nose. It is a question of the moment to reveal something interesting and profound about the human condition.”
Ansel Adams talks a lot about the feeling behind your photographs, and I think a lot of photographers forget that. Photographer Joey L (his surname doesn’t seem to appear on this site) in his tips for travelling as a photographer talks about not being a looky-loo and just snapping away, particularly in developing countries. Spending time connecting with your subject, travelling slowly, and most of all being human is the best way to get good portraits. (Joey L also has some great other travel tips, like make your fancy, expensive camera look old to limit possibility of theft).
Follow what fascinates you
When Wagen asked McCurry the question of how you can create original work in this heavily photographed world, I thought it was a great response –
“In time, you start to develop your own way of seeing and then it’s your own personality coming through the camera. We are all unique individuals; we all have our personalities. We all have our own voice, and our own style. If you look at the photographers whose work we admire, they’ve found a particular place or a subject, dug deep into it, and carved out something that’ll become special.”
This makes me think of Irving Penn’s ethnographic studies of tribesmen and workers around the world and Sebastian Selgado’s work on the forgotten communities around the world in Genesis (great Ted talk by him here where he talks about the project.)
You know the pen in some form has been around for quite a long time and yet writers always seem to have something new to say. And think about fashion, I mean, jeez, how many different styles of trousers can you make? A lot it seems…
I particularly like the concept of ‘digging deep’. You know you don’t have to come back from a photo trip with 1,000 photos of everything. 200 photos of one or two subjects, where you have dug deep into a subject that has really caught your imagination will reap more fruit for you long term than lots of photos that you (or anyone else) are unlikely to look at again. Quality not quantity.
Go off the beaten track
In my work I have noticed that I am drawn to the juxtaposition in cities of beauty and grittiness. It was particularly obvious in Paris, such a beautiful city but with lots of stark contrasts – graffiti (which I like to photograph) and dog poo (which I do not). So I find it’s always worth while digging a little deeper into a city and finding alternative views on what you will find there. When I make it to Berlin I want to go on this night time, underground art tour. For several of my trips to Paris I stayed in the area dominated by north and west African communities in Barbes Rochechouart. It’s quite a rough area in the city that few tourists experience, let alone visit (this is an interesting perspective on the area) but I really liked exploring. It gave me a totally different perspective on the city, the country and its history (great North and West African markets, amazing food like tagine and kebabs in the cafes and restaurants). It reminded me a bit of Dalston in London (although the latter is fast being taken over by the hipsters, so it’s unlikely to stay like it is for long.)
This is where the practice of seeing is really powerful. And you need to push yourself on this one. What’s on the overpass up there? Is that an abandoned building? Where does that little alley go….? You have to work harder than the tourists, harder than the other photographers who are also wandering around, you have to be more relentless in your search. Don’t settle for a few nice shots, go for something no-one has ever seen before. And I am here to tell you that it’s possible.
Think about doing a project on people
The easiest way to get involved and to get to know a culture is to talk to people. Maybe you have an idea before you go, or you get one when you are there, but having a subject to focus on is a really awesome way to dig deep and develop your photography.
The whole journey is the trip
I think sometimes we can get a little anxious about achieving things in our grown-up lives and in our productiveness-obsessed culture. We think OK – I’m off to Rome. We pack our bags, get on a plane, get to the hotel – rush rush rush – we have breakfast, and then off we set to take our photos. But by then you’ve already missed so much. As soon as you’ve made your decision to go on a trip you’re on the journey. The thoughts of the place, the ideas you come up with on where to shoot, your investigation of the culture, that is all setting you on the path of your journey. Your vision of your world at home has already changed as you start to mentally prepare for what is coming. Today I am London, playing in the park with my kids, chatting to my neighbour, but deep in the recesses of my mind I am wandering through the streets of Istanbul listening to the voices as I get lost in the back streets. I won’t be there until the end of the month but I have already started my journey. And so I must always have my camera with me.
Every experience you have, everything you see becomes another filter on your camera. That’s how you change as a photographer.
Don’t take crazy amounts of photos
I know the temptation to always have camera in hand, or even to spend more time looking through your viewfinder than being in a place, or being in the moment, as they say. But that really limits your potential for great photos. Firstly, it’s like a barrier between you and the place, it’s much harder to fall into conversation with people, to notice things when your camera is out, right there. Have your camera available but not always stuck in front of your face.
Secondly, you can’t absorb the culture when you are just thinking of it as a series of photos, and having an understanding and a feeling for the place will be communicated through your photos. That will be what creates the power of the image and evokes feelings with the viewer. As Maya Angelou said:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Thirdly, and this is shocker: life isn’t just about photography! Enjoying yourself, relaxing, having a good time also need to be part of the trip (and if you really need an excuse then think the more relaxed you are, the better your mood, the better the photos.)
The photos in this blog post are from my Venice at Dawn project. I chose this selection because I like how they show the more unusual views of the city. The abandoned building I found whilst wandering along the eastern edge of the island, the brilliant little gas stations that appear on the shoreline, the main tourist drag eerily empty of people.
So there we go, some of my thoughts to get you in the mood for travelling with your photography. I have a bunch of photo workshops coming up that you are always welcome to join, in Istanbul,Rome,Venice, Paris and of course my wonderful home city of London.
If you have any questions about them, myself or Diana are always happy to answer.
And if you need any advice please do email me . I love hearing from you. Or comment on my blog 🙂
“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” Seneca
This month marks the beginning of a busy spring and summer where I’ll be taking several photo trips. My first stop is Istanbul for a month to work on my book of the city at dawn and to run a workshop at the end of April. Although I am dreading how much I will miss my kids (and my wife!), that sense of nervous excitement about setting off on one’s own for a long period of exploration is exciting.
I love finding beauty (in all of its forms) in the every-day. It’s quite poetic how interesting it is looking at people going about their lives, wherever you are.
I wanted to share how I get ready for a photo trip. I’ve got a lot to say so for this post I am concentrating on the preparation – both practical and mental prep – and then for the next post I’ll be looking at finding your subject when you are on the trip. But first…
Why traveling is good for your photography “Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares, and the slavery of Home, man feels once more happy.” Sir Richard Francis Burton
Sometimes I like to think of the dawn rising all over the world but in vastly different places – dawn light filtering through the trees of the Amazon, and bathing the fisherman heading into the docks in Venice, as well as gently bringing the dark alley ways and ancient streets of Istanbul into the light. That this very same dawn that is gently cloaking my little South West London street in wintry sunlight could also be taking me to such vastly different places, makes me feel excited.
I feel that travel creates space in your mind away from the stresses of the day to day. And that space will always exist there. It will always be part of you. And that’s what creativity needs – mental space. You can’t create anything new or special when you are cluttering up your mind wondering when you are going to fit in the weekly trip to the supermarket or endlessly running through your presentation for a new client.
I always feel a little different when I return from one of my trips. I’ve added another little well of inspiration for my mind to draw upon. I’ve created another filter from which my mind will adjust and work and see things. It helps me lead a richer life every day, especially when I return home.
Get into the travel mindset
Going away on your own or with others to take photos is an exhilarating experience. But it’s not always straight forward, and negotiating different cultures, not speaking the language, finding yourself in weird situations can be intimidating.
So for me one of the biggest part of getting ready for a trip is the mental preparation. Getting into the mood, thinking about what I am going for, getting fully into the creative experience, learning about the local culture so I can relax into the experience when it finally arrives.
Be nervous…but not too nervous
Whenever I start working for a new client, or start a new book or project, I am insanely nervous. The nerves go after a while, and then come back when I hit a stumbling block or two, but then disappear. A bit like waves, that’s how my wife is encouraging me to see it. The adrenalin in this situation works for me. It keeps me alert and aware of my surroundings, and it helps keep me motivated. But if you get too nervous or overwhelmed, that’s a danger, so if this sounds like it could happen to you have your little mental tool kit at the ready. In mine there is meditation and reading complex sci-fi or history books – those chill me out in no time.
Ditch your expectations “Travel like Ghandi, with simple clothes, open eyes and an uncluttered mind.” Rick Steves
You’ve taken the time out of your busy life, you’ve spent money on the trip – you want to have an incredible experience and come back with unbelievable photos – right?
But expectations are often a pathway to hell. It reminds me of how whenever I am really excited for my kids to get home so we can have a lovely evening together, as soon as they get through the door all hell breaks loose. But when I am not thinking about it, when I have no expectations of them, it seems we are more likely to have a wonderful, relaxing evening together.
As long as you go through the process of preparing yourself, then whatever you come back with, it will be worth the experience. Any time you take time out for yourself to be creative is fuel and nourishment for the future – so abandon your expectations and just get on with doing what you love.
Surround yourself with inspiring things
I don’t really do anything else that’s creative. This blog-writing is the extent of my non-photo creativity (and even then the thoughts and ideas are mine, ie. the skeleton, but most of the words have been plucked out by my wife Diana) but if you do, do it! And seek out inspiration from other sources. Whatever the medium, the objective of art is all the same in my opinion – the examination of life. We are standing and watching and seeing so that others who don’t do this can see the world more clearly.
So go to art galleries, pick up a book by your favourite author – try to add more inspiring stuff to your brain than the brain sapping stuff (the news, your tax return… you know what depletes you and what fills you up).
Read (and watch documentaries)
Knowing what inspires you is really important for any creative practise. It means you can go to that well of inspiration on a regular basis. Some photographers get really inspired looking at other photos, and I do, but only up to a point. What gets me most inspired when I start a new city for my book series is my love of history, so for my work in Istanbul I’ve been reading Orphan Pamuk’s brilliant book ‘Istanbul’. Here is an edited extract, which in itself explains much of the feeling of the city (‘For me it has always been a city of ruins and of end-of-empire melancholy.’ Pamuk writes.) I’ve also been reading the new edition of A History of the Arab Peoples as a way to get to know the region in a broader context.
When I spent several months in Paris my wife and I loved Parisians, in which author Graham Robb tells a series of ‘stories’ about impactful historical events of the city in a very fun and absorbing way. We really enjoyed Francesco’s Venice, a documentary series on the history of the city by Venetian architect and writer, Francesco da Mosto. You get the picture…
Find people to meet
I love being on my own, and am quite happy to wander for days and weeks on my own. But I know that the easiest way to get under the skin of a new place is to meet local people. So into every trip I do I build a few immediate ways I can get to know people.Airbnb is a great resource for places to stay with local people. In Rome my wife stayed at this awesome apartment which included the owners doing a free tour of the city at night. She got some insider tips on the city, great company and a lovely apartment. In the same trip my wife had dinner with an Australian woman she had met at a cafe in Soho who lived in Rome, they fell into conversation and six months later they were having a great meal at a very local restaurant in the city.
I also ask around in my friends’/work circle if anyone has any friends in the city I’m going to. I’ve found people are usually happy to share connections and everyone I’ve met through my circle has been wonderfully accommodating. People are usually proud of their home and love to show visitors around.
There are also photo clubs in most cities or perhaps you’re a member of an organisation with international links. But perhaps the easiest way to meet people is just to be there. If you missed it my last blog was on how to photograph strangers, which is often how I meet locals.
Know where the rough parts are
As I’ve said I am a fan of wandering, and I do feel more relaxed than most, I’d say, wandering the streets at weird hours. My wife is the opposite and takes precaution to strange levels. Probably somewhere between the two of us is the approach most normal people should take.
I’ve had a couple of altercations, and both were down to my lack of preparation. The first time I came to London was in 2000. I was wandering out at dawn and wandered straight into King Cross, which was a lot rougher then, and I almost got stabbed by some crazy homeless guy on crack. I felt like a total naive lost tourist.
In Barbes, in Paris, I was in the local African market and started to photograph some people who were involved in some not very legal selling of bags and things. I immediately got several people surrounding me and shouting at me very aggressively.‘It’s illegal to photograph us! Stop it!’ So I did.
So wherever I go I do a little research and ask around – Anywhere I shouldn’t be going? Any time I shouldn’t be going? Anyone I shouldn’t try and photograph? Just to have that in your little bag of knowledge is reassuring and lets you wander with more confidence. Get yourself acquainted with the culture. Learn the norms.
And lastly, a few quick practical tips:
Get to know your camera: even if you are going on a photo workshop or tour getting familiar with your kit allows you to hit the ground running. Ideally you want to use your time with your instructor learning things you can’t easily glean from your camera manual. (** I know lots of people hate reading camera manuals, and I get it. So just do what you can. Or just play around with your kit. Go out and shoot and see what you get stuck on and what you don’t**)
Pack light: take the bare essentials of what you need. Take what you need but be ruthless.
Portable hard drives are essential
Plus: a plastic bag for your camera in case it rains, a hat or visor for when you are walking/shooting against the sun (not for style), a torch if you are doing any very early or very late shooting, spare camera batteries. I am always with my tripod
Insure your kit! Vital.
Prepared to be surprised
All of the photos on this post are from my Paris at Dawn book. I am kinda in love with that book, partly because I think it’s some of my best work I’ve done recently, but also because I was blown away by Paris once I had thrown off my preconceptions about it being a pretty, dainty, uniform…a little bit of a boring city, which is what I had seen on my weekend trips there with my wife (I like a little bit of grit as many of you will know). Once I really explored the city, and really looked at the life in the city my whole perception changed. Humans have an amazing capacity to do weird, interesting and crazy stuff with their lives. Which leads into the next weeks blog post on finding your subject…
If you have any questions please feel free to email me, I love hearing from you.
And I’d love to hear how you prepare for a photo trip, do comment if you have any tips to share.
Finding the confidence to make brilliant portraits out on the street
About ten years ago, on one of my dawn escapades, I came across a homeless man who was asleep in an alley. He had covered himself in magazines and newspaper to keep warm. Lying on his chest was a magazine-spread of a lady’s buxom breasts. It was a perfect photo.
But I was struck by anxiety – was this crossing my internal ethical line? He was asleep, not participating in the photo. Was I using his misfortune and the naked lady who was keeping him warm, to make fun of him? I battled internally for a few minutes and then I walked away.
I still think about that photo and wonder if I made the right choice. Sometimes I think I should have taken it, but most of the time I know I was right not to. And the reason I start this post with that story is that I think that it’s really important to consider your ethical line when you are taking photos of strangers.
The world is your oyster when you are a photographer, and you have the right (often enshrined in each country’s law, not in Hungary though!) to take photos (although usage is a different matter. See the P.S. below).
Considering the people you photograph and their right to be represented fairly is essential, in my view.
Last year my family and I were at an exhibition in an empty car park in London. My kids were having a great time running up and down a ramp. Suddenly a man appeared and started taking lots of photos of my daughter.
My wife approached him and asked him what it was for. He said “ohhhhh, I am a new photographer, it’s just for my website.” Even though she is married to a photographer my wife was really nervous about approaching him. I eventually went over to talk to him and told him it was definitely not cool to photograph someone’s child without asking them first and, secondly, to be so vague about usage.
You should always give your subjects the courtesy of knowing where the photos will be and what for if they ask – particularly if you’re photographing children.
So once you have your ethical code in order, I would like say that photographing strangers is awesomely fun! Not only can you get great photos but you can also meet some really cool people. It’s a brilliant way to penetrate a new culture and get under the skin of a new place. And for the most part, people like to be ‘seen’, to be noticed and that’s a point to focus on.
Be friendly, polite and hopefully relaxed, you will rarely encounter someone who doesn’t respond in kind. And for those that don’t want to be photographed – just smile, apologise and be on your way. Don’t try to force the issue, or wait until they aren’t noticing.
Everyone has their own style My style is more environmental portraits. I am not a ‘street photographer’, although I occasionally delve into that territory. Street photography is a candid genre, focusing on capturing moments of life – not creating or pre-visualising a shot but seeing and capturing what’s happening out there on the street right now (the street photographers collective In-Public have a good explanation)
My style is to take portraits on the street, which fall into three categories, which I am going to explore here:
Portraits I ‘find’ and ask permission to photograph
Another (yes, another!) amazing thing about shooting at dawn is the fact that when you encounter people they are usually really friendly (and drunk) and want to know what you are doing wandering the dawn streets with a camera.
The photo, above, was a very typical experience for me. Two inebriated young men fell into conversation with me and wanted me to take their photo. They decided to climb this tree (it was completely their idea not mine) and I got this shot, one of my favourites from my London book.
Now I know many people don’t feel safe wandering around alone at dawn – I totally get it. I probably feel more confident alone because I spent the early part of my career living in Los Angeles. The city not only has horrid crime statistics (America’s great gun culture), but feels really hostile because everyone is in their car, not engaging with each other and making themselves feel even more paranoid and frightened of each other.
When I moved to Europe it was like a great big sigh of relief. Walking around on actual streets does a lot to combat people’s fear of strangers. That’s not to say I haven’t had any dodgy encounters (I love that English word, dodgy).
But of the hundreds and hundreds of mornings I’ve been out, I can only remember two, and it was intimidation not actual violence, so fingers crossed, it stays like that. The upshot being, take out a friend or two (or five!) if you feel a bit strange wandering at dawn (or join me on my workshops!)
I do a lot of these posed portraitson the street (my entire Belly Project is exactly that – over 100 bellies of strangers). You would be amazed by how many people will pose for a photo (even people who aren’t drunk). Amazed!
There are people who are just perfectly happy to be photographed, and those who are down right exhibitionists and hams in front of the camera (both my son and my wife are of the ham variety), but there are only a small, very small proportion of people who hate being photographed. And that’s OK. So – remember that the maths is in your favour.
If you are new to photographing strangers I would start with this type of photography. You need to work up the nerve to ask the person but once you have their permission, you won’t have that fear of them noticing you and smashing your camera (that’s a fear by the way, very rarely a reality even for hardcore street photographers). So you get to relax and then work on composing your shot.
I usually smile at someone I want to photograph If they seem welcoming I will approach them, tell them what I am doing and ask if I can photograph them. I try to say something about why I want to photograph them – “You look like you have an awesome belly! I love your hair!”
Although it’s hard not be scared, I think it’s important to seem fairly confident so that people trust you. Taking things slowly, being relaxed, not rushing – are all ways to imbue your approach with confidence.
I came across the above scene in Paris and was mesmerised. I was super quick (you are not setting up a tripod for this kind of shot). Now, what would have happened if the man had turned and seen me? I would have smiled and gestured ‘OK?’
If he wasn’t happy I would have apologised and walked away. That simple. At the very worse you can always show them the photo and delete it if they are truly unhappy (although this was shot on my still amazing Hasselblad on film, I presume most folks in this modern age are, you know, shooting digital :))
So if you are scared of doing anonymous portraits like this, or street photography, think what’s the worse that can happen? And then work out what you would do if that were to happen.
Elliott Erwitt is an endless source of inspiration for me. I love what he says:
“It’s about reacting to what you see, hopefully without preconception. You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organising them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy.”
Portraits I ‘find’ and ask permission to photograph
I often come across a ready made amazing shot with people in it. But I know that if I just snapped they could notice, and it would be weird. Can you imagine me coming across these two lovers lying on this empty bridge and chatting, then putting up my tripod and taking a photo? Weird! So of course I just asked them.
Now you will notice that this photo is in Paris. I don’t speak French. So if there is a language barrier (I admit I do just break into English), I just point to my camera and smile. Again you would be astounded by how most people are perfectly happy to be photographed if you are warm and friendly.
Even in such an intimate moment as this. I sent the couple in this photo a copy and they were both very appreciative.
Now a few other thoughts / ideas / tips:
Attitude is everything. Being friendly, open, polite and relaxed is the best thing to focus on when you are out taking photos.
Don’t hide your camera. I know quite a few street photographers who advocate hiding your camera (and many who suggest otherwise – but that just feels really creepy to me). Be honest. Be human.
Have a few lines prepared. Sounds strange, but have a few lines prepared for people you’ll talk to, like: “Do you mind if I take your photo? I’m working on a photo project about fur coats.” Then when you are out and about you’ll be less likely to stumble over your words.
Have a purpose: If I could sum up my purpose as a photographer I think it is ‘beauty in the every day’. I think my purpose is to show people the incredible beauty of what’s right here on our doorstep which I hope will lead you to feeling more connected to this wonderful world, and loving it more.
I have always been fascinated by light, I’m a bit of a loner, I love empty/quiet places and I love nature. So that’s what you see when you look at my work. My passions and my personality shining through.
That’s when you know you have really got somewhere as a photographer, when people can look at your work and see your personality.
I recently came across the photographer Ruddy Roye and I love his work. He calls himself a ‘Humanist/Activist Photographer’ and has found fame by shooting what he is most passionate about: people who are usually ‘unseen’ (he has an amazingInstagram account).
In this great interview on Longreads he said he thought about something that Eugene Smith said, and that propelled him to focus his photography in a different way:
“You know, there are enough photographers photographing the pretty things, and not enough photographing the things that aren’t as pretty.”
He then decided that “I want to introduce white America to people who they might never have met, and I want them to fall in love too.”
In the interview he also talks about how he engages with his subjects. He’ll often chat to them and get to know them before he shoots them. Sometimes he finds a subject and ends up not photographing them, just chatting. Just being human.
And that’s something we photographers sometimes forget. Humans love connecting, so just be human.
When you have a purpose photographing strangers on the street is much easier. It’s easier to talk to people, to communicate to them why you want to photograph them.
It doesn’t have to be something really epic like Roye, it can simply be that you find people interesting, you want to show people your vision of the world, that you care about people being seen in an engaging, interesting, compelling way.
And this is where ethics comes in again. I think people can feel your purpose, they can sense if you are a genuine person and you have their best interests at heart (unlike the rather misguided photographer who was shooting my daughter).
Deciding on your purpose before you go out helps set you up for when you start shooting.
All of this advice is rubbish though…if you don’t practice, practice, practice. By doing it over and over you will find your style, what you are comfortable with, how you like to photograph strangers, what attracts you and what doesn’t.
I promise it gets easier and easier every time you do it. There are endless opportunities out there for you so just try, fail, try and fail, try and end up with something really special and completely unique that you created.
Be polite and friendly
Remember most people like being noticed for their uniqueness – and will welcome you photographing them
If someone isn’t happy to be snapped, just apologise and walk away
A smile and a relaxed attitude will take you far
Remember your humanity
Have a purpose
And after all that…STOP thinking. Once you have thought all of these things through, and done some mental preparation, then just forget it all and get on with it. And again I use this Picasso quote “To draw, you must close your eyes and sing”.
Anthony and Diana
PS a note about usage and permission
In most countries you only need people’s permission if you are going to sell the photos or use them for commercial gain. Photos for art and editorial usage usually don’t require individuals’ permission (but there are exceptions – like Hungary! Where it’s now illegal to photograph anyone without their permission).
There are exceptions, particularly for children, so always check out the law in the country you’re in. I have yet to find a website that covers all countries – here is one for the UK to get you started, and remember laws change all of the time
Plus, when you are travelling it’s important to be aware of cultural sensitivities before you blaze out there, camera in hand. There is a tonne of info out there on the web. Load up on knowledge and that will also help you feel confident as you go out to shoot.
How fear holds us back from being better photographers
‘We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure. It is a powerful obstacle to growth. It assures the progressive narrowing of the personality and prevents exploration and experimentation.’ John W Gardener
A few years ago I was shooting at dawn in East London for one of my books. I walked past a butcher and thought – awesome! Capturing people up at dawn can be really hard as they are either not around or it can be difficult to find people doing interesting things.
The scene was great. I liked the blue early morning light on the buildings contrasting with the yellow tungsten inside. It really was a perfect combination of elements. I lifted my camera, shot this, but I obviously wasn’t happy with it because the positioning is all wrong.
Then I saw that the butcher had spotted me. Guess what I did? I carried on walking! I had been totally overtaken by the fear and just left the scene.
To be honest it sort of surprised me how fearful I was. I have a lot of years under my belt of photographing strangers. It just shows you, though, that fear is not something you overcome and then that’s it, it’s gone. It can come back at any time. And of course, we professionals are not immune.
But you know what? That’s OK. For me the best way is to accept that fear is a bit like clouds in the sky or rain in London – it comes and then it goes. The worse thing for me to do is let it stop me from taking the shot – or in this case, going back and getting the shot.
Fear is an interesting concept (I like to think of it as a concept because the more I emotionally distance myself from it, the less it’s likely to eat me whole). A little fear and a little anxiety can be great drivers for creating work.
Fear can keep you motivated and alert and save you from the most dreaded of all creativity killers – inertia. But too much, and it’s a real threat to your creativity. And it’s too much fear that I see most often on my workshops.
It’s good to note though that it’s totally natural to feel fear when you are creating.
“We’ve evolved to distrust creative ideas: except in a crisis, there’s little survival benefit to trying something new.” Oliver Burkeman
As creative people though we are always striving to be better at what we do, trying to create original and beautiful things with our photography.
I believe that fear in its many forms is the main barrier to improving your photography. It’s not just the thing that will stop you from photographing strangers – it will also stop you pushing yourself further with your creativity. It will stop you from envisioning what is possible to do with your photography – and then getting on with it.
I see fear all the time with my students, and often they are surprised when I tell them that most people can experience fear when they are taking photos. They are not unique or alone in this. With my students I see fear come up in the form of:
Not staying at a scene long enough
Self-consciousness when shooting around people. So instead of being in the moment, connecting to your environment and composing your image, half of your mind is distracted with what people might be thinking or what is happening outside the moment of the photo
Not shooting what you really want to photograph because it scares you too much
Not shooting that intriguing stranger
Not getting started! I see this a lot. Worrying about doing it just right, so people don’t even get themselves out the door. (Perfectionism is just another form of fear.)
I agree with Oliver Burkeman (again) in that:
“The real question, then, is not whether creativity provokes fear, but what to do when it does. Far too many authorities urge you to conquer it… but as with any emotion, launching an all-out attack on fear is counterproductive. That just puts it centre stage, and risks reinforcing the notion that creativity must – and should – be one endless, bare-chested struggle.”
So what I encourage in the dealing with fear is:
Be patient with yourself. Fear is just a feeling. Don’t react to it. Let it come up and eventually it with leave you. Probably the worse thing you can do is start adding lots of thoughts and judgements about your fear. Thoughts are like adding fuel to the fire. Let the fire just burn itself out.
Accept that it’s part of being creative. Putting yourself out there in terms of showing your work, being out there in the world with your camera, doing something outside of your day to day life is going to provoke feels of discomfort. And really, if you are feeling discomfort you are on the right path – it shows you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone, you are onto to something new and different.
I also like this idea about overcoming fear by distracting your mind and creating habits:
“There’s nothing wrong with fear; the only mistake is to let it stop you in your tracks. A basketball player comes to the free-throw line, touches his socks, his shorts, receives the ball, bounces it exactly three times, and then he is ready to rise and shoot, exactly as he’s done a hundred times a day in practice. By making the start of the sequence automatic, they replace doubt and fear with comfort and routine.” Twyla Tharp
Accept it is impossible to totally quieten the mind – thoughts just keep coming in whether you want them to or not (I love what the meditation teacher Jack Kornfield says – that the mind has no shame, it “secretes thoughts the way the mouth secretes saliva.”). So the only choice you have is to ignore your mind, the thoughts, and pay attention to being completely present.
Don’t think ahead
Don’t wonder where you are going
Listen to the sounds around you
Look for the light
Spend three times longer looking than you usually would. Stop yourself from moving
Imagine yourself just drifting, like a small child looking around with fresh eyes, catching the things that interest and being totally absorbed until you are ready to shift the interest to the next thing
Try and look at the whole scene
Don’t think about taking photos, think only about looking and seeing
If in doubt, stay still
And perhaps most importantly….have fun! (remember how much you love photography?)
When I am really struggling with fear I like to remember what Seth Godin advises about starting small:
“What we need to do is say, “What’s the smallest, tiniest thing that I can master and what’s the scariest thing I can do in front of the smallest number of people that can teach me how to dance with the fear?”
Once we get good at that, we just realize that it’s not fatal. And it’s to intellectually realize – we’ve lived something that wasn’t fatal. And that idea is what’s so key — because then you can do it a little bit more.”
Photography for me is not a list of technical skills or camera gear to acquire. It’s not exotic locales or hip people to photograph – photography is a state of mind. The more you work on removing what is cluttering up your vision, the more you’ll see searingly original, interesting photos that make people go – wow!
Last thought for you – if you are struggling with fear, and not sure if you want to overcome it, then I like to remember this:
“Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished?
Yes; work never begun.” Christina Rossetti
I hope you enjoyed today’s post and please if you have any thoughts or ideas please do comment – I love hearing your feedback.
The morning after I sent out a blog post earlier this month about reviewing your work I woke up in a cold sweat. Something was deeply, deeply wrong….
I crept downstairs and turned on my computer. In a few seconds (my laptop opens at lightening fast speed, something I am very proud of) I realised my fear was valid. I looked through the photos I had picked for my ‘best of year’ selection and they were all random shots, devoid of a theme, a subject, a purpose, a mission.
They were just a…. bunch of images. And it struck me that I didn’t come anywhere close to completing a project last year, and that was completely frightening.
In this age of camera phones and photography obsession it is no longer enough to produce a few lovely images and then think – OK I’m done, I’m a great photographer! One of my favourite contemporary photographers, Jonas Bendiksen, who produced the incredible photo book Satellites, said that the future of photography will lie not in the beautiful individual photos (I mean who doesn’t have a bunch of those) but in the stories that photographs can tell.
And this applies to both amateurs and professionals. Think about your audience, what do they want to see? A few unrelated but lovely shots of a beach or some great street photography, or do they want to be drawn in by you and a story that you have seen and are telling with your work? Think too about what you want to see when it comes to photography. A selection of images, or a story?
And it is in that that I failed last year. OK – to give myself some credit I have been working on my Venice at Dawnbook – but not enough! Life, business, my funny children – they distracted me!
Over this past week my mind has become a hot bed of intense thinking and just a little anxiety (which isn’t always a bad thing when it comes to being creative. Here’s Kierkegaard on why anxiety powers creativity rather than hinders it, from the beautiful beautiful website Brainpickings.)
My question to myself has been – what story do I want to tell this year with my photography? And….. I think I’ve come up with something….It’s too soon to share my subject, but I wanted to share the process I went through with the hope that it might help you think about what story you want to tell with your photography this year.
I love taking photos of cities, and people in cities. I do have some other subjects. A few years ago I exhibited my project on trees, called Arboreal Dreams. So the first question I always ask is:
What do you want to photography – people or things? Instantly I thought of people. I have done a hell of a lot of cities of late. Even though I do love to photograph the people I find awake in cities at dawn, they are few and far between.
I also decided on people because my last portrait project, The Homeless World Cup, was incredibly fun to do and when I exhibited it last year I got tonnes of great feedback (not that I am taking photos just for the praise mind you :))
What subjects/news items/themes in life are obsessing you at the moment? Well, the subject I have chosen is nothing to do with photography, but everything to do with some techy subject I love. Perhaps you wouldn’t know to look at me, but I am a total tech nerd (my wife likes to say I look way cooler than I actually am. I completely disagree).
Be passionate It’s incredibly important to be passionate about the project you are shooting – otherwise you risk getting distracted, losing interest, having a complete crisis of confidence mid way through the project and you won’t finish it. EVERY project I do I have a crisis of confidence midway through.
Every, single, one. Heck I even had a crisis of confidence before I started my Paris at Dawn book – how can I photograph the most visited city in the world, and therefore the most photographed, in an original, inspiring way? Was the the big anxiety I faced. Turns out Paris at Dawn is now my favourite of the dawn projects.
Passion for your subject will keep you going when you think – my work is terrible! I hate my photos! Why have I spent so much time on this rubbish! Passion will help you get to the end so that you can settle, look back over the work and think – oh, this is quite good actually.
Is it easy to photograph? One of the downsides of photographing Cities at Dawn is the mere fact that they are so far away (now that I’ve done two books on London!) Hence my limited progress on my Venice book this year. I will keep going on that, and my other city books, but I realised I need something closer to home to work on when I can’t travel – because that keeps the creative juices flowing.
That doesn’t mean your project can’t be abroad – just make sure you are able to commit the time you need to it, and maybe have some smaller projects that are closer to home to keep you motivated throughout the year.
I have used this quote already on a blog of late but it seems negligent not to bring it up again at such an apt time – “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou
And let’s be realistic – will I have the time to shoot this?
One of my favourite of my recent projects has been The Belly Project:
Talk about subjects being everywhere!
What are you hoping to achieve with this project? Fame, glory, world-wide recognition? (OK, maybe that’s just me?) Is this part of a wider life goal, or is this a story you just want to share with the world? Is this solely for my family and friends, or myself? It’s good to clarify.
If it’s a story you want to share with the world – the good news is there are so many ways now to get your photos out there. Yes it’s a crowded space, but never before has a photographer not affiliated with a news magazine, publisher or gallery been able to have the possibility to show their work to the millions.
This is in itself a massive subject – and if people are interested in what we have done to get my work out there then let me know. I would be more than happy to put together a post on websites, news media etc. if that’s something you want to know about.
How many final images? This sounds like a strange question to ask yourself before you’ve even started but it helps to give you some structure to the project. It’s not set in stone either – even if you think 30 images and come out with 10, you should regularly assess where you are at, have you told the story already? Perhaps you’re taking too many photos and not managing to distil the story into a smaller amount and that should help you focus your work.
For my Homeless World Cup project I have about 20 images I am really happy with that, a great amount for that kind of project. For my books – 90 images is around preferable, but that is a 1-2 year intense project, so I would suggest you focus on between 10-20.
Get started The world is littered with unrealised ideas! Don’t let yours add to the heap! Even if you don’t feel ready, or inspired I always think (or my wife does and she tells me so when I am dithering hopelessly) better just to get started and change things if it’s not right than wait for perfect conditions.
“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.” — Edward de Bono
Things may change This is normal! Allow for your project to develop as you get to know your subject better and the way you are responding. Have plenty of time to let the work ‘settle’ so you can reassess, evaluate and respond to changes.
On a new page on our site of inspiring interviews with iconic photographers, Annie Leibovitz talks in detail about her book ‘Women’. It’s a really interesting to hear how she overcame her initial fear of the project and how it developed as she started to shoot the project.
Some other questions to ask yourself:
How would you like it to be viewed – prints, online, a book, something more abstract?
What technical abilities will I need?
Is my gear enough?
Who will help me edit?
Now once you’ve done all that thinking, planning, assessing…forget it! You’ve laid the foundations, you’ve done the sensible part, now is the time to get going, and as Picasso said:
“To draw, you must close your eyes and sing.”
I’d love to hear about your photo projects for the year and how you’ve created them. Please do comment, I love hearing from you all!
“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” Ansel Adams
I am not crazy about January (is anyone? Well my son is, he loves grey days as much as I love sunshine. He’s even written a little book of ‘Grey day activities that don’t involve watching TV’’ to help other people enjoy them too). So in the absence of having my son’s enthusiasm for this weather, what I like to do to start the year is review my work from the previous year, as this gives me a nice jolt of joy and helps propel me on to a good creative path for the next year.
Why is this a good idea? You’ll find new favourite images
It’s funny how you can have a perception of what you have accomplished, but then you sit down, go through everything anew and really look at your images and this gives you a whole new perspective on your year.
You never know – you will could discover a great photo that you missed the first time round. For example, I missed this image when I was putting together my Paris book. I was flipping through my images one day and said casually to my wife – do you like this? And she went crazy – she both loved it and wanted to shoot me for not showing them to her before and maybe missing the chance of them being in my book. I was saved from her wrath just in time.
Magnum photographer Trent Parke talked about ignoring this image for ten years in the interview I posted last month because he remembered the light was bad that day so ignored the shot.
When he found it again ten years later he saw the power of the image (here is the interview again for anyone who missed it – it’s probably one of the most inspiring talks I’ve heard on photography in years).
It’s important for your development as a photographer
In order to keep improving it’s important to take a cold, hard look at your work. I find doing my yearly review both a joyous experience – I always find photos I’d previously ignored which I now love – but also a little heartbreaking. Photos I ‘remember’ to be brilliant turn out to not be so much. But in an effort to improve your images you have to take a cold, hard look at what you need to work on improving, as well as celebrating how far you’ve come. Perhaps you’ll look at your work and be a little disappointed because you don’t have a lot of great images. Well, that’s just inspiration for committing to your photography more in the following year, right?
Do a review session with a friend
A photographer’s agent I know once told me that photographers are often the worst editors of their own work because they have too much emotion attached to their images. They often think about things like: the circumstances in which they took the photo, how they were feeling or how much they liked the subject – instead of just the image.
Apparently I am also guilty of this.
So, it really, really helps to go through your work with a photo-loving friend or friends. Heck, get a little group together, a few beers and make an evening of it. You will be amazed by what images you skip over that others love, and then they become your favourites, and likewise images you think are absolute killers and they aren’t.
(BTW I have introduced regular group feedback sessions into my Light Monkeys group if you are looking for something more structured.)
Some questions to ask yourself about your images
Is there a running theme?
How has my photography changed in a year?
Are there any new subjects I am passionate about?
Have I been using my full imagination?
It helps you to prepare your photography for the coming year
Getting into a ritual of a yearly review is an excellent habit because you are giving yourself time to let your work settle. You will have lost some of that excitement that maybe is attached to the work – like the holiday you were on when you took it, or the beautiful sunshine you encountered.
It will help you formulate some desires for your work in the coming year and set some little goals for yourself.
Next week I’ll be talking about this creative goals setting (goals in the loosest possible sense) and how to get a personal project started. Although I am a-keep-thing-in-my-head-kind of guy, and not one for lots of structure around my personal projects, I do like to set a few markers for the year, have a sense of how much time I want to commit to my work every week/month and have an idea of what I will be focusing on shooting wise. But more of that next week.
And finally….share your favourite photos with the world (or at least your loved ones) – it’s an obligation
I think a lot of creative people get nervous about sharing their work with the world. Not only are you putting yourself out there to be judged (scary!) but it also feels rather uncomfortable to self-promote. But I am here to say that not only is it great to show people the work you’ve done because you have something unique to express that only you can say, it also inspires others to be creative. And as many of you know, I believe that creativity is an essential tool for living a good life. Whether your creativity takes the form of cooking, art or reading – it’s something that takes you away from life’s ‘grind’ and helps you enjoy life in a deeper, more meaningful, more connected way.
So do the world a favour – show people your work and inspire others!
I really like Austin Kelon’s talk (based on his book by the same name) called Show your Work. It gives a plethora of reasons why you need to be showing the world your creations.
My top shots
So in my yearly review I picked out some of my images that I really loved from 2014 (with the help of my wife, and it only involved one creative altercation :)) I would love to know what you think of my selections!
And…I’d love to see your best photos from 2014 – either post them to my Facebook page or email me directly and I’ll send you my feedback.
Looking forward to a great year for us all.
Happy shooting in 2015!
Included in my favourite shots are some photos from my Venice project. I stayed on the Eastern side of the city this year and discovered some amazing new places to shoot – abandoned buildings, a lush park and a fortress like entrance that must have been useful for ancient times.
Of course my adopted home city always wins my heart! This was a little ‘snap shot’ I took one morning, and is totally unprocessed. I never get bored of shooting this view. London always offers up something new for me.
And now to Paris, a city I learnt to love over many months, once I had got underneath it’s ‘pretty’ surface…
If I was to sum up what I like to photograph (and I should, we all should, not in a prescriptive way but just as a way to get to know our photography better) it’s probably this – urban landscapes, workers, humorous portraits (though strangely I don’t photograph to be funny) and street details. I love finding ugly, dirty, weird things on the street and making them look interesting or inviting. A quirk of mine I suppose…
“The moment you take the leap of understanding to realize you are not photographing a subject but are photographing light is when you have control over the medium.” Daryl Benson
A couple of weeks ago I was talking about ‘Making Light Your Subject’. Light is obviously a vast subject for us and I wanted to add some more ideas to inspire you, and to encourage you to keep up your photography over the holidays. The first, of pre-visualisation, is not so much related to light but is an essential practise that you should all be getting into, as it will help you maximise the creative opportunities that light brings.
Pre-visualise the final photo
One of my favourite photographers, Ray Metzker, died this past October. Metzker’s work is not abstract or hard to digest. His photographs look simple and beautiful, but that does not reflect the vision and skill it took accomplish such loveliness. Metzker was a master at pre-visualizing the final image.
The above image is a great example of what can be accomplished with some good pre-viz (as I will now call it). Picture yourself standing where Metzker was when he created his image. Would the shadows be so dark and textureless (no detail)? Would the whites be so bright? That contrast is not natural. The contrast was something that Metzer wanted to reproduce because that is how he wanted the final image to look like and so he created that in the darkroom. If you can understand this concept of pre-viz then you are on the way to better photography. By understanding how Metzkerinterpreted the light and how he wanted it to be represented in his photographs, you are shown how a master “sees”.
Wait for the perfect light
Patience is an essential skill in photography. I am an advocate of the shoot less, shoot slowly school of photography. Waiting for all of the elements to be in place, really feeling and seeing your composition before you press the shutter requires commitment and focus. Work hard on developing it. I think landscape photographer Charlie Waite personifies this concept. I love his work. In particular I love how he will find an interesting landscape and will wait for the perfect light to appear, before taking the photo. Sometimes even the landscape isn’t that interesting, but the light is special and that is what makes the photo mesmerising.
I often think of that rare fulfilling joy, when I am in the presence of some wonderful alignment of events. Where the light, the colour, the shapes and the balance all interlock so beautifully that I feel truly overwhelmed by the wonder of it. Charlie Waite
Maybe you find a landscape or scene you want to photograph but the light isn’t right that day, or even the next. Persevere – go in the morning, go in the evening, wait until the rich colour of autumnal light arrives – whatever it takes. I like to keep a list (mostly in my head, I am not that organised) of places I am waiting to photograph. And there are places I photograph again and again throughout the year. Creating an epic photo is worth the wait (by the way Ansel Adams thought that “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” I would even say 2 or 3 and you are doing incredibly well). Think quality not quantity.
Become intimate with your light
I recently came across this interview with Magnum photographer Trent Parke. I intensely encourage you all to look at this as it’s probably the most inspiring interview about photography I have seen in years. He talks about how his work is focused on his home city of Adelaide, how he has worked over years and years to become familiar and intimate with the light in the city. He knows which part of the city to shoot at which time of day because of this knowledge he has created of the city – and he has used the city and its hard light as inspiration for his incredible work. I love how he is using what is on his doorstep to create this kind of amazing work.
I hope you all have a great holiday season. I am looking forward to a good break with my family, and being in London whilst it quietens down. I’ll be going on many walks with my son, who has become a pretty awesome little photographer recently, through the empty streets and looking for something special. Apart from the fact that he’s a little trigger-happy, my son is great at getting into that zone of really looking – because in fact all children can see the world for what it is. As Picasso said ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.’
“Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”
– George Eastman
If I could give you all one tip – and only one tip ever again – it would be to commit yourself to noticing light. Why? Because light is photography’s most interesting, engaging and diverse subject. It can bring texture to a boring flat landscape; it can bring humour and humility to a photo; it can make our heart sing when it illuminates a tree with golden light on an otherwise grey day. Learn to notice light, then learn to capture it and you are leaps and bounds ahead of most photographers (and I include many professionals there too.)
I believe that creating singular goals for yourself in photography really helps to train your eye. In college we had to do things like go out and photograph blue balls. They were exacting and difficult tasks, but they elevated my ability to see in an extraordinary way. And it’s those types exercises I’d like to encourage you to do to help you train your eye and help you take more interesting photos.
In all of my photo workshops I am try to get everyone to slow down. Many people I meet approach taking photos as they do other parts of their lives – in a sort of ‘getting things done’ sort of mode. Which, as I bang on incessantly about, is the opposite mind-state to how you need to be when taking photos (perhaps with the exception of war or event photography :))
Light is a huge subject when it comes to talking about photography. There is a lot of technical teaching that you can learn in order to capture the light the way you want it, but what I wanted to do here was provoke your thoughts and give you a few ideas on the different types of light you can look for.
Look at the colour of the light
I am not much of a black and white photographer. I’ve done a little in my earlier life but colour is what really excites me. Probably my favourite photographer is Ernst Haas, someone who I think should be a lot more famous than he is. His work, particularly his colour work, is incredible: he looked at the colour of light, and worked to capture that in his work. So not just the beautiful shafts of light, or the sky, but he used its colour as part of his composition. When you can see the colour of the light it seems to add another dimension so you can also get a sense of its texture. It gives you a feeling of being ‘there’ in the photo.
So as well as looking for light sources and for beautiful light, try to think how the colour of that light can assist the composition.
I think this photo of mine, below, shows the colour of light idea well too. Without the warm yellow colour of the light this photo would be semi- dull. Nice clouds – sure! But the yellow light really makes the photo pop.
One benefit to having such short days (yes, there are benefits!) is the more opportunities you have to see the interplay between the natural light and the artificial at twilight. When 4.30/5 pm hits, you have some brilliant opportunities to capture the fading blue light of the day and the arrival of artificial light. There is a huge amount to play with – go out and take a look.
Of course there will be a lot of competition for your eye: the glowing lights of shop windows, the luminous glow of buses, street lamps, the twinkerly, over-the-top Christmas lights – but that will be part of the fun. Look for the contrasts between natural light and artificial, and ask yourself some questions: what’s interesting here about these contrasts and interplay? What story are you telling? What feelings are you creating in this photo?
Along with lines and reflections, I think shadows are one of photographers favourite things. There is so much to play with when it comes to shadows, so many emotions we can create.
They can create a powerful opportunity to show a lack of light, to show contrast, and often to show humour too. Noticing where there is a lack of light can be just as significant as where there is good light.
I will talk in my next post about the importance of pre-visualising your final photo when you are shooting, and one photographer I would like to talk about is Ray Metzker. Much of his work’s power was the created in the dark room, but it was no accident. He will have pre-visualised his photos as he was composing and capturing the shot. Metzer used shadows to incredible effect in his work.
You also couldn’t talk about shadows without mentioning Bill Brandt – master of the shadow that looks so simple, so easy, so opulent almost and yet is the result of some incredible planning, focus and vision. Very inspiring.
(There are some rather funny/silly colour shadow photos too here)
I am going to carry on with this subject next week as I have more ideas for you. I really hope you enjoy my thoughts – and I would love to hear your thoughts/feedback/ideas. What do you love to do with light in your photography? Please do comment below.
“The question is not what you look at but what you see.”
Henry David Thoreau
When we are confronted with a beautiful scene our first reaction is to take a photo. “Done – can’t wait to show my friends. Let’s get lunch.” This is what I would call the obvious photo. A snapshot.
What do I mean by the ‘obvious’? Well, in photographic terms (mine) the ‘obvious’ is what is seen and taken as a snapshot by 95% of the population (or 100% of tourists!) It is what is right in front of you, not what is behind, above, below, beneath and all around you. It is usually very beautiful and worth a snap, but like most things that are beautiful, it may have many parts and aspects that make it so.
Most of my work is shot in cities, where people with camera phones and other photographers are in abundance. Cities create a good tension because I am always aware that every view or building that I photograph has not only been copiously photographed, but is probably being photographed at the very second I am pushing the shutter button. It reminds me to push myself further, to see something new, to find a different photographic path.
So what can we do to obtain that special shot that no one else will? Here are a few super simple tips I like to use:
1. Deconstruct the scene
My favourite thing to do is to de-construct a beautiful scene and make it my own. A simple example is a landscape, say with a vast range of smoky mist-capped mountains beyond a winding river valley (Ansel Adams comes to mind). Really nice you say. Indeed it is. Who wouldn’t want that photo – it’s what we are there for, right?
Now stop. Look again ‘inside’ the scene: see that tree with light playing just on the top half and the way the light reflecting from the water illuminates the shadowed side of the tree opening up the dark. If I captured just that small part of the scene wouldn’t that also be a good photo? Maybe even better?
The only difference between the two photos is you. You make it yours by seeing it. And your vision is like no one else’s. You have made something special because you are ‘seeing’, and you saw when everyone else was enraptured by the obvious. Most people won’t see that tree or the light play on it. Most people are not aware that there is more to the scene for whatever reason; time, interest, mood, etc. As a good photographer you cannot help but to ‘see’ that piece of the obvious and make it yours.
2. Look in the opposite direction
Here’s another way. One late sunny afternoon I found myself on Westminster Bridge with twenty other photographers and we are all taking the photo (below) because well, the light was awesome.
I then started to look around as the light was fading. To my left, I saw this ice cream kiosk and behind me St Thomas’ Hospital in that epic light, but it had a different quality as it fell on the buildings and the people scattering in different directions.
I thought to myself how beautiful the hospital looked as the sun faded. And I loved how the light inside the ice cream kiosk began to get brighter relative to the daylight, like it was glowing. Which is a better photo? It all comes down to personal taste, but for me the better photo is the one only I saw.
3. Look for the photographers
Although Venice is one of the top touristy cities, I was really surprised (or am I, having spent many years dodging them?) that tourists seem to confine themselves to a few well worn routes. Venice still has a quite serenity. But what happens if you want to shoot St Mark’s Square, for example? My dawn advantage was, for once, limited. It was the one place where photographers were already up and shooting. One morning I shot the square with the most spectacular sunrise I had ever seen. A few Venetian Carnevale characters emerged, posing in front of the canal, bathed in pink light. In front of them was a scrum of photographers, snapping away like paparazzi. I didn’t want to miss this incredible light, and looking around I realised the best photo for me was of the photographers photographing. The less obvious.
(By the way, I went back to St Marks Square after a night’s rain and got a lovely shot. Rain puts photographers off in a big way!)
4. Shoot the third thing
I came across this quote about writing a few years ago and it struck me as a concept that could also apply to photography. Victoria Coren wrote about advice she had received from her father, the late writer Alan Coren:
“Don’t write the first thought that comes into your head, because that is what everyone will write. And don’t write the second thought that comes into your head, because that is what the clever people will write. When you hit on a third thought, pick up the pen. That one is just yours.”
5. Don’t be afraid not to shoot
Sometimes I go out with the intention of shooting, particularly for my dawn projects, and never take any photos. I took my family to Paris for several months to shoot my book Paris at Dawn and each morning I’d arrive home with warm fresh croissants. The first thing my wife would say was, not thank you for the croissants (!) but how many shots did you get? I think she was computing it all in her head, like hours worked = shots taken = % of project finished. I would often say none, didn’t even take out my camera, and her face would fall. Over time she realised what was going on. I did get all the photographs in the end. Some mornings there would be 3 rolls of film, sometimes none, and sometimes just a couple of shots.
Unless you are on assignment there is no pressure to shoot. I think telling yourself you will only shoot something that really inspires you is a great discipline and makes you work harder to find something unique and original. Getting you beyond ‘the obvious’.
“I am not interested in shooting new things – I am interested to see things new.” Ernst Haas
Over the past few months I’ve been interviewing a number of people who’ve come on my workshops to find out how I can keep making them better and better. One thing that has really struck me is how so many people said that photography has improved their enjoyment of their lives because it helps them see and experience the world in a deeper and richer way. It’s what many photographers call ‘The art of seeing’ or what I like to call ‘The way of seeing’.
One very kind gent (thanks Dan!) pointed me to the Dorethea Lange quote “A camera teaches you how to see without a camera” (which I have stupidly missed my whole life) but that sums up my whole philosophy – and so many of yours too – of photography.
Learning how to ‘see’ this world as it really is – to notice that beautiful light breaking through the clouds on a grey day, the deep opulence of a autumnal tree, the intensely muted colours of a broken building in decay – has not only helped me take better photos but it helps me enjoy the world around me and be more connected to this incredible place we live in. And so I was delighted to connect with so many of you and see how enriching it is for you too.
But like everything worth having (a healthy body, a calm state of mind, a happy marriage…) to keep reaping the benefits you have to keep to stay committed to keeping it in you life.. The ‘way of seeing’ is something you have to inhabit on a regular basis – that curious, mindful, watchful almost meditative state in order to connect with your surroundings. And the more you do it, the more you get to ‘see’ those incredible photos. No-one is going to be capturing incredible photos as they rush to catch a train, or full up in thinking about their to-do list.
I know it’s really hard in this world that we live in – rushing too and fro. It’s at odds for sure with how we live our lives and our crazy, high tech stressy world.
One thing that I also learnt from my interviews is how many of you felt like workshops acted as a reminder to keep developing your way of seeing, to pick up your camera, to continue on your creative journey, to remember this very special thing that you’ve chosen to do that makes you feel so happy and …so alive. And I wondered if there was another way I could help…
So what I’d like to do is pick up on these themes with my blog posts – and over the next few months I’d like them to act as a catalyst – to perhaps remind you to pick up your camera; offer my tips on continuing to develop the way of seeing and tell you some stories about things that I’ve seen, photos I’ve taken that have served as massive injections of inspiration for me. I hope with these ideas you can pick up some tips and ideas that will help your photography. I would really like to find ways to encourage you to keep taking photos, keep pushing yourself to see more and reap the incredible benefits that a creative practise like photography will bring to your life.
Would love to know what you think.
All the best,
Venice – Parco delle Rimembranze(Park of Remembrance)
Parco delle Rimembranze is a little jewel of a park located on the east side of Venice in the Castello district. It is not far from San Marcos square and all the tourists, but you wouldn’t realize that sitting on a bench overlooking the sea with the sound of children playing nearby. There is so much to see and do in Venice that is not on a beaten path. You just have a want to see it! When I come to the park I’m amazed at how beautiful and peaceful it is at almost any time of day. There are no crowds, no noise, and no stress. This is the place the locals come to breath-in what little green spaces Venice has to offer.
One reason the park may not be so popular to tourists are the statues that reside in it.
My five favourite unusual spots to photograph Paris
When I was picking my next city to shoot at dawn after London I was super resistant to Paris. I had been to Paris on a few weekends with my wife since I arrived in London from LA in 2000. To me it was a pretty, dinky little city that was good for eating but not for a photo book. Not like the sprawling, ever changing, diverse city of London that I had fallen in love. After all Paris all looks the same, right? The architecture is so uniform, the prettiness so precise – what could I find there that was would help me create something unique? Well it turns out that I was wrong that it was all made up of chocolate box type views. There is plenty of edge to Paris, you just have to wander off the beaten track. Here are some of my favourite finds:
I discover a city by wandering. Getting totally lost and looking around. I might check out a place on google maps before I leave, but once I am on the road I don’t want to miss anything by staring at my phone, I want to really see what’s there. That’s how I came across this awesome disused railway line hanging over the streets of eastern Paris. Over grown with fruit trees and bushes it was an amazing find. Apart from the lingering memory of taking a bunch of mini-plums home to my family and my 6 month old daughter swallowing one whole (she was fine, only her parents were traumatised, especially me as I had to investigate her expulsions for the next several months searching for the plum stone) . Apart from that – I love the photos I got there.
I am a total sucker for reflections. Reflections and lines and interesting shape formations. So you can imagine my joy at discovering this insanely mirrored, glassed construction on the western edge of Paris.
I know graffiti isn’t a place, but I wanted to add it because – firstly it’s everywhere, and secondly it’s a reminder to me that you can shoot the same view, the same building, the same sunrise as millions of others – but if you can find a different angle, if you can see the view in a different way you have the chance to capture something unique. I also love how you can hold the two very different sides of Paris together in the same photo – the beauty and grit. Paris has an amazing street art cultureand given it’s constantly changing it’s also a great way to capture something unique and ‘off the moment’.
My love of reflections rears itself again here and it’s because of the canals that runs through Paris. This is a great, new-ish hip area of Paris – nice bars, galleries, trendy young folk hanging out on the banks of the canal – so it’s worth an evening visit. At dawn it’s got some great glassy, still water and interestingly shaped bridges. I particularly love this reflection shot.
My family and I stayed in Barbès-Rochechouart for several months whilst I was shooting Paris at Dawn. It’s an intense, densely packed area, rough around the edges with great north and west africans shops and markets – as well as few dodgy characters hanging around the street corners. What was interesting to me about this was how the architecture was the same here as every other part of Paris; dainty, impractical balconies, pretty uniform buildings, but instead of gourmet cheese shops & charcuteries it was shops selling big boxes of fresh mint & coriander (a wonderful place to walk past in the morning) or tiny shops stuffed with harissa and saffron. It was not like the manicured Paris I had seen so often on my touristy trips here.
And a few unusual foodie tips…..
My family and I love to walk around the back of Gare du Nord to ‘Little Sri-Lanka’ for some amazing cheap curries & melt in your mouth parathas. This was our favourite place . We were also blown away by the shouldn’t-work-in-a-million-years-but do crazy pizzas at Pink Flamingo. Chicken Tagine, Paella, Cuban pork with fried plantain are some of the most amazing pizza sensations I’ve ever had – and I LOVE pizza.
Lastly the really awesome Le Comptoir Généralis a social entreprise, super hip spot that has good drinks, great atmosphere and African street food plus hosts events like a weekly farmers markets, African fashion fairs, kids story-telling & disco sessions and blues nights. Social entreprise is a pretty new and unusual concept in France so it’s well worth taking a look.
What are your favourite places to photography Paris? I’d love to know 🙂
One of my favourite ways to compose is with the leading lines technique. This may be because the world is just chock full of lines and so it just can’t be helped – but I like to think it’s because it makes me feel that my photo is going to take you somewhere. Sometimes the destination is not so important, it’s the journey that counts. So, be it a road, or a dotted line, or the sweep of an arc, a line will take you places.
Think of lines as a tool to help you tell a story in your photograph. When you find your subject ask yourself – are there any ways that a narrative can be created by enhancing it with lines? Usually when I find something I want to shoot I will move around it looking for angles and lines and a secondary element to support it. Where I stop to take the photo all depends on what I am trying to say. Diagonal lines, horizontal lines, vertical lines all convey different feelings.
Horizontal for peace and calm, verticals for strength and structure, diagonals for energy and movement. If you have a strong subject there is no need to worry that lines will overpower it. Lines are strongest in a supporting role but rarely have the power to take over an image.
I’ve put a few examples below of the different types of lines I like to use.
One of the things I mention on my workshops to help photographers in how they see the world and bring efficiency to their work is my Mini-Project idea. This is an exercise in tuning your attention to very specific things. A Mini-Project is just what it says on the tin; a small well focused self-assigned photography project to help you enhance how you engage with the world around you in a more visual way. Have you ever had a friend buy a new car – and your world is suddenly filled with that particular model of car – surprise! – the world has not suddenly created 1000’s of beige Pintos, it’s just you paying attention to something that has been brought to your attention. Simple.
So how do you start a mini project: find something that interests you and photograph it constantly. It can be anything, a car, a shape, old gum on the pavement, whatever, but keep at it until you have 50-100 plus images of “it”, they don’t have to be brilliant images(though you should make the effort!). You will start to dream about it and daydream about it, whatever “it” is. Then appreciate the work you have done and find something else to shoot and do another 50 images. This is a visual exercise and it’s good to change things up once in awhile – you wouldn’t go to the gym everyday and just do one thing. The part of your brain that drives your craving for photography will physically get bigger(cant promise this but it makes sense).
My last mini project was snails trails. Sounds boring, maybe, but wow it really tuned me into how snails move and how that slimy trail is best seen when I’m on my knees and my camera inches from the ground ( it happens to be the best incident angle for the highly specular “snail trail”!). Not easy. Brown Pintos would have been easier. Be sure to have fun!
Our lives are so full and busy that it’s rare to have the chance to stop and really see what’s there before our very eyes. The beauty, the peace, the inspiration. Of course it’s wonderful to go off on exotic adventures to far flung places, to remove yourself from the routine of life (we travel there, they travel to us, we look at other peoples stuff as they look at ours) But inspiration and freedom are actually right here in on our doorsteps – you just have to learn to see it.
One thing that photography has taught me, probably the greatest thing, is to stop and notice. In the midst of the chaos of my life – the freelance whirlwind of juggling clients and family and life – I am still reminded through my photographic training to pause. A few nights ago it was hanging out my window with my son watching the far away full moan glow yellow, this morning on the train watching intense deep green of the trees as they get gently soaked in a summer rain. Those are the moments when I feel completely alive.
It is this ‘art of seeing’ that I think makes such a profound impact on people who come on my photo workshops. Of course I teach the technical side – because without that you can’t capture the interesting moments of life. Technical knowledge gives you creative freedom. But learning to see, learning to notice what is right there, waiting to be noticed, waiting to be captured, is a training that transforms your photography and if you’re like me, your life too.
I have only four more London at Dawn workshops left this year with only the last few places now available. I am also thrilled that we started to bring in some of my other favourite cities that I’ve been photographing over the past few years – Paris and Venice. I hope you can join me for one of these photo adventures. I love to share my experiences with people as passionate about photography as I am.
How 'mini-seeing' projects can help your photography.
I was out with one of my dawn workshops a few weeks back teaching and chatting and demonstrating and I found myself alone for a moment; everyone had found something to shoot, so there I was with just my camera and the rising sun in a small park next to a church. I had been here before. Many times. A shimmer a few yards away caught my eye and disappeared as I got closer. I realized I had seen the reflected light from a snail trail. I found it again as I got closer and took a shot. Then I found another nearby. Got that one too. Then another. Twenty minutes later I look up and everyone had gone. I’m sure they were with Nick.
Finding those snail trails is what I consider to be mini-seeing project. Think of them as a little portfolio you can grow over weeks, months or years even. I’ve done peoples bellies, weeds in cracks, street arrows (a la my favourite photographer Ernst Haas). I have a colleague who likes to shoot abandoned couches and can see them around corners (must have something to do with smell.). Doors, windows, mean dogs and fluffy cats are also under his purrrview… The point is to search for them! And in searching you will learn to “See”.
One way to understand what Seeing is is to view the world around you in a way that is totally unnecessary to your survival. To use your eyes in a creative manner and not for catching the bus, not stepping off the cliff, avoiding the speeding courier or generally staying alive. And it takes practice – not the survival part(you’ve learned that already or you wouldn’t be reading this) but the “seeing” part. Mini-projects can be that practice.
When you purposefully increase your concern for something then your brain will reward you by growing that part of it that helps you to “see” creatively. Once it’s in your range of concern you will notice that it’s been all around you already, only now you’re noticing it. Ever had a friend who bought a new car and now you see that car all the time! Something like that.
So choose something. Start looking for it. Put effort into finding it…and a little more effort and compose a great shot!
When I found the group again(I knew where were headed to the bagel shop) I showed them my new mini-project of my snail trails. They thought they were pretty cool, so did I, not because they were great shots or anything, but because you could only find them in a tiny angle of reflection at a certain time of day.
The workshops have been going very successfully the past couple weeks. Nick and I have been having a great time taking enthusiastic photographers out at dawn. We have a route that takes us into the deep dark City, we have done it many times in the past year, but last week, to my amazement, I made an image I never saw before, even though I had been there a dozen times or more. And what really surprises me is the fact that, in my opinion(which is not much when it comes to my own images!) it’s one of the best I’ve taken in the area. Should I be surprised that I saw something new when all I do is “see” all the time? I’m always on …been this way since I can remember.I think all photographers can relate. Those of you who can’t – that’s what it is to be a photographer. Beauty in all its forms is our inspiration.
There are many elements that are basic to a good photograph; composition, timing, colour, blah blah blah(googleit). But mostly it’s about nice light – especially when its fleeting, a moment gone, never to return, never quite the same again.
I was shooting at Tower Hill yesterday at dawn, not a great morning, but lots of potential (wisewords: patience is a quality and attribute for all photographers). I stood there looking across the river at the Shard (hard to look at anything else really, it makes South London look like a toy landscape) rubbing sleep of my face when, bingo, the pre-dawn twilight illumed the southern sky with rainbow pinks and reds and blues (is pink in the rainbow, googleit!) that lasted two minutes then back to basic grey. Worth the wait.
Anyway, that’s not the photo I’m posting today. Todays photo is of a book in my bedroom…, the light on the book reflected off a mirror from the light streaming through nebulous curtains from a setting sun…it only lasted twenty seconds.
Two good things to report this week. Firstly, my next London at Dawn
workshop is June 18th and 19th. It’s going to be a small group
wandering the dawn and early morning London streets creating amazing
images. It’ll be a huge dose of information and inspiration! (The workshops have been huge fun and the feedback from the participants is just what an ego needs…once in awhile anyway. Moving on.)
Joining me as usual is Nick Mortimore, Black Cabbie & tour guide who will show the hidden secrets of our city. We’ll be hitting St Paul’s, Postman’s
Park, Millennium Bridge, the Gherkin and finishing up with breakfast a
Spitalfields Market and that’s just the first morning! We’d love for you
to join us – and please tell your friends!
Last week I was in California, my home state, and had a fantastic time
going out with my nine-year old nephew and his dad for some Dawn
shooting. They were awesome, especially the kid – didn’t yawn once, dad and me… plenty. Aidan rocks!
This is the first photo from the morning near the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s an HDR(high dynamic range) image and so much fun to do.