One of my most successful shots of 2020 was also one of the easiest I made during that year. Living by the sea on the south coast of Spain is very peaceful and beautiful, but being on the edge of the sea also brings tempestuous weather. Like most southern European houses, mine has roll-down steel shutters.
On the morning of November 26th I was woken up by my shutters rattling in the frame; just another day on the coast I thought. The shutters were down in the living room overlooking the sea (I had put them down due to the storm warning the previous day) so I pulled them up and was greeted by a dark sky and rolling sea only illuminated by multiple lightning strikes.
My heart jumped! Camera! Camera I need a….Oh, here it is, all setup already from the still life I was shooting the day before. (Zero effort before coffee is always a good thing in my book.)
So here I am still in my pyjamas going onto the balcony with my camera and tripod. It was still 30 minutes before blue hour, leaving astronomical twilight (when the sun is 12 degrees below horizon) and coming into nautical twilight (when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon).
It wasn’t easy framing with barely any light, so I mostly just filled the frame with sky and put it on a timer to take continuous shots. I set the aperture at f/6.3 for 10 seconds as a test shot. This is what I got:
This is NOT sunlight but light from the lightning!
10sec @f/6.3 ISO640
When shooting lightning you don’t want to use small apertures. Why? Because apertures control the INTENSITY of light. And you want the lightning to be intense yes? If you shoot, say at, F/16 then you get thinner, weaker looking lightning. Apertures between 2.8- 8 work best.
This image is actually f/10. But still too skinny and dull.
Once my camera was on the tripod with the 50mm I attached the remote release that I use mostly for timelapses, and set the exposure time for 13 seconds @ f/6.3. Then I went to go make coffee.
After about 3 minutes of exposing, I reviewed (chimped) the images to see what I’d caught. There were loads of good lightning strikes! I made another 2 minutes of exposures adjusting as I went along.
50mm 20sec@ f/5.6 ISO50
The 50mm was working well but as I was shooting the lightning strikes kept getting closer. I mean really close, right overhead – if I had been on the open beach I would have left, that close! But since I was safe on my balcony undercover on the side of a building, I felt secure in my now cold pyjamas… So I switched to a 17mm to achieve more coverage and distort the angle-up perspective a bit.
Now that I could see better I reframed to include the top of a tree and the horizon for added perspective. I think without the tree the size and magnitude of the lighting is lost. Now it was just a matter of luck and patience.
2.5sec @f/6.3 ISO50
At this point in time it was blue hour and the sun had just started to warm up the Eastern sky, which you can see in the final shot. I started the remote again with 2.5 second exposures. I was sipping my coffee transfixed by how awesome nature is when bang! A strike so close and so bright.
I was looking right at the space it happened and it burned itself into my retina as I heard my camera shutter go click and I thought: ” Yeah, I got that!” – followed by the instant rumble of deep thunder. Amazing I tell you!
Soon after, the storm moved away and the sunrise came up and I was done.
I reviewed the camera images again and there it was – the perfect strike right on top of me. And I hadn’t even finished my whole cup of coffee yet. A second cup of coffee later and I was sitting at my computer uploading.
A few people have asked me how I processed this image so I will start by showing you the out-of-camera file:
Doesn’t appear so colourful, in fact, it looks rather flat and dull. But don’t judge a file until you have a good look at the histogram. What do you see here?:
Low contrast, yes, to be expected by looking at the file itself. But what I want you to notice are the colour channels of yellow and blue.
That is a lot of yellow towards the darker tones and a lot of blue towards the lighter tones. What this tells me is that I can push these channels and really make the image colourful without making it seem over-processed and fake. I am taking the inherent qualities and enhancing them with saturation and contrast.
And when I do I get a histogram that looks like this:
After processing histogram
I have spread all the tones out, increasing contrast. I also upped the vibrance and saturation which you can see in the colour channels.
This is my best processing result but not my first. When I first worked on this image I was into my 2nd cup of coffee the same morning, still hadn’t eaten and was “over-excited”, and when I am “over-excited” I tend to push sliders too far to the right, especially Clarity and sometimes Dehaze (ouch!).
This is what that looks like:
For me this did not reflect my personal experience as it feels too dark and brooding when it was actually highly energetic and intense. This feeling is also mostly due to over using the Dehaze slider. It is a cool look but later I felt I wanted it to be more natural.
I could shoot lighting everyday for the rest of my life and still love it. I love zooming in at 200% and looking super close at lightning. It is awe-inspiring for me. And so, so beautiful. I did 263 frames over 45 minutes. Maybe 30 with strikes!
I now have weather apps that forewarn me of lightning in my area so next time I will be ready to go…as long as I can stay safely on my balcony drinking coffee 8).
A couple of the last strikes of the morning. It was amazing how the colour dramatically cooled at sunrise. Strange, strange weather but I live for it.
I’d love to know what you think of this, or if you have questions ask them here on my blog and I’ll answer them.
“London goes beyond any boundary or convention. It contains every wish or word ever spoken, every action or gesture ever made, every harsh or noble statement ever expressed. It is illimitable. It is Infinite London.” Peter Ackroyd, London
I spent almost twenty years shooting London, in particular at the dawn hours for my two books about the city. This city is for me one of the most inspiring and interesting to photograph, even (maybe especially!) because of the challenges of steely grey skies, abundant drizzly weather and the short daylight hours through the winter. Seeking out good light in London is an adventure in itself, you appreciate it so much when it comes.
The biggest challenge most photographers face when shooting London is creating interesting and unusual shots of the landscape and buildings. Most photographers who are famous for shooting London are known for their street life work. This city is hard to get a handle on.
But what’s special about London is the the landscape and the buildings. They are not just a backdrop for portraits. They can be the subject. And what will help you capture this aspect of the city is being up at dawn – shooting these incredible buildings and cityscapes when no-one one is around. You’ll catch a purer experience of the city.
Here is what I what I want to cover in this post:
Outline the basics of how to technically capture dawn
Give you ideas on some of my favourite places to shoot in the city (the city is way to big for me to tell you all in one post)
Tell you how I captured some of my favourite shots of London
What is fundamentally interesting about shooting London at dawn is that contrast of the urban environment, the overwhelming imprint of human beings on its streets and the ethereal, floating, piercing beauty of mother nature’s light at dawn.
Even the most busy tourist sites, where hundreds and thousands of people swarm to see the stunning views, are empty at dawn. And dawn is time away from distraction when you are connecting with your subject, alone.
Incidentally, Monet believed that most people are blind to their environment. They don’t notice what lies before them, so habitually are we locked into the habit of our minds. But he believed that the light of dawn and sunset actually coloured reality, making it easier for people to see the wonder of the world around them. And that was why he spent so much time painting in the twilight hours. So if Monet believed in the power of dawn, then so can you 🙂
Dawn can be wondrous at any time of the year, but spring, summer and early autumn are my favourites. The transience of the light makes dawn special. And you know that within an hour or two that it will be gone and the feeling of life returning to normal will have invaded the landscape.
“Just before dawn I have the world all to myself.” Terri Guillemets
Note – from here, I have chosen photos of details of London that are interesting to me. I haven’t got any more sweeping views because, quite frankly, they aren’t that difficult to take. Instead I want to look at how you can tell the story of a city by picking out details and smaller scenes.
And I love London’s abundant oddities, like the law that says it’s illegal to die in the Palace of Westminster. I mean how crazy is that?
So here are some ideas, tips and techniques on shooting this great city.
The sheer joy of it
I don’t know why being up when the sun rises is so powerful – but it is. It feels like you are at the beginning of something really special. It is a truly magical feeling seeing the rebirth of the day. As I wander through empty streets I feel I could be wandering through a forest, or a vast expanse of green, or even along the sea shore. There is that sense of freedom for myself – away from the distractions of people.
“Have you ever seen the dawn? Not a dawn groggy with lack of sleep or hectic with mindless obligations and you about to rush off on an early adventure or business, but full of deep silence and absolute clarity of perception? A dawning which you truly observe, degree by degree. It is the most amazing moment of birth. And more than anything it can spur you to action. Have a burning day.” Vera Nazarian
Now for the technical bit….
Every photo that I have taken for my dawn books, before sunrise, was exposed at -1.5 stops. As the sun rises this exposure gets closer to 0 as the light increases. Why, you may ask? Well, I will give you a quick lesson on the camera meter. The camera meter is an averaging system. It looks at all the tones in an image frame and averages it all to a middle grey. From now on and forever think of the 0 exposure as a bland middle grey.
For example, say you had a black wall that filled your frame. If you were to expose that wall at the meter’s 0 setting – like the image below – your black wall image would not be black but middle grey. Same for a white wall. If you made the exposure at the 0 setting your white wall image would come out middle grey. You would have two photos looking exactly the same. Your meter is telling you that the black wall is way too dark and the white wall is way too bright, so here is the proper exposure. Stupid thing doesn’t know anything. You have to know and interpret the information.
The correct exposure for the black wall is at -2 stops (darker) and for the white wall +2 stops (brighter). Dawn being darker than a middle grey needs to be underexposed to retain the deep shadows and rich colours that are inherent for that specific time. NOTE: This is something about auto-modes that people need to understand. If you are on an auto-mode (shutter or aperture priority, etc) your base exposure will ALWAYS be on the 0 exposure, unless you move it with exposure compensation.
I can go into much more detail about this in another post. Just remember, if your tones are predominantly dark your exposure will most likely need to be darker. Inversely, if your tones are mostly bright, or at least brighter than middle grey your exposure will need to be brighter. Counterintuitive, yes? Essential, absolutely!
For most shooting situations that 0 exposure is going to work fine. But not for dawn!
I think crowds and busyness make people act a bit un-human, and so when there are less people around, people are definitely friendlier (and often they’ve been up all night and still on that all-night high of happiness). There is a sense of camaraderie.
When you do happen upon people at dawn it’s much easier to really see them. What they are occupied with? Who they are? They can be very interested in what you are doing photographing at such a crazy hour. Often they want to be a part of it (I’ve had loads of people want to be in my photos over the years. I think that may be a great blog post!) Here are a few of the people I have seen:
What do you think this guy is feeling? I sense tiredness and resignation. Other people have seen humour, that his face is turned in the direction of the gorilla’s behind. I like that people see different things in this photo. And I love the little pops of colour of blue, yellow and red in the sea of grey and brown. There is a lot of muted colour (and grey!) in London. So looking out for strong colours is a great way to provide interest points and contrast.
When I first came to London my good friend Nick, who was a black cab driver, drove me around. One fantastic thing I discovered through him were various all-night places to buy tea, like the Blackheath Tea Hut below (someone even made a documentary about it) and Cabman’s shelters – cafes in little green huts dotted around the London streets for cabbies.
I love this photo of the tea hut, situated in the middle of a vast stretch of green, Blackheath, and edging the A2. An odd place for an all-night cafe, but it was always busy with workers, late-night partiers and other random night folk when I visited.
But apart from the memory, I love the colours. Even though the heath looked scrawny and dusty, I managed to position the red and green colours of the hut against the deep blue of the morning sky. I love simple bold colours and contrast! It doesn’t even matter that the people aren’t all in focus, which is sort of unusual for me. It’s the feeling you get when you look at the people that makes it.
When in doubt, wander
The photo below was the very first one that I took in London for my book. I was walking around at 5am, fresh off the boat from LA and I was freaking out. I didn’t know London at all. My only previous visit had been for two weeks over Christmas with Diana, which was mainly spent in pubs and at parties.
I had been commissioned to do a book about London and once I had actually arrived it seemed like the most daunting task in the world. How could I do this (unknown-to-me) city justice? What I have learnt over the years, though, is I always freak out at the beginning of a project – my wife says she can predict it down to the minute. The first step is to just get my ass out of bed and wander.
So I was walking around feeling excited about new discoveries and suddenly I turned a corner and saw this scene in front of me and I thought, wow. Yes that’s it, I can do this. This is so London to me. Pubs! History! A jumble of mismatched low buildings.
I then walked up to St Paul’s and took this one, below, which is almost the same view but in the opposite direction (always remember – don’t just take the photo of the iconic view or building, look behind you, go inside, look for a different angle).
I love this photo even though it doesn’t have great light; you can feel the grimness of the city, and in spite of the greyness of the scene the scene works. (Can I just repeat – I know this repetition is probably deafening – but can I encourage you to always, always, always consider the light before you take your photo. You don’t have to have great light, as this photo shows, but you do need to be completely in tune with the light and you want to try and respond to what the light is doing, and if necessary adjust accordingly).
This photo would not have worked without the little orange lights. So, again, when you have an abundance of grey or quite similar colours, look for some pops of colour or light that will allow the scene to be what it is but adds some depth or points of interest.
I love photographing at the Thames Barrier. It’s an otherworldly spot in the very far east of London. It’s a wonderful view way down the river and I think it’s the only place in London I’ve seen the sun rise just as it comes up on to the horizon.
Tip – I use the Photographer’s Ephemeris app to tell me where the sun will rise so I can get in position in time. The light changes very quickly and so I want to be exactly in the right spot.
The photo below is of the canal in Hackney. (You can walk for six miles along these canals.) Those houses are very London – all squashed together (or that’s how they seem to me; I’m from the land of ranch styles homes). It’s this closeness that struck me and the blandness of the light that said to me I’m no longer home! Very English. Very London.
The Square Mile as ‘the city’ is nicknamed is fantastic for the mix of old and new buildings – and represents that constant changing nature of the city. This is probably one of my favourite shots as it mixes shiny, reflective new buildings (love those to photograph) and an old house and church. And then a lush tree at the top.
This photo may not be my most well composed or technically amazing, but it does something that photos should do – which is to capture and communicate the essence of my subject. It tells a story about London, and that’s what I’m here for.
There is also many stories of the area on the blog Spitalfields Life, which also has a small publishing arm. I loved Bob Mizer’s book of photographs of London in the 70’s and 80’s. Very different look to the city then.
Along the Southbank there’s a lot of Brutalist architecture (which has become a bit of a fetish I think for some photographers. It looks to me like big slabs of concrete, one-colour Lego put together by a symmetry obsessed child. Here are some interesting buildings in the Brutalist style). Below is my image of the now demolished Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle.
Here you can see that I have some very muted colours to play with but then some rich sunlight appeared, and because beautiful light makes everything look interesting, you can see that it makes these subtle browns, yellows and greens look sumptuous.
This photo below personifies that urban/dawn contrast very well. We have beautiful light penetrating and illuminating the dense London graffiti (which is Leake Street by the way, a legal graffiti tunnel started by Banksy and a place I like to go pretty often. Mostly the graffiti is your standard words and tags, but sometimes some really cool pieces of art pop up.)
“London is a roost for every bird.” Benjamin Disraeli
Walking along the Southbank from Waterloo to Tower Bridge is a favourite, but usually I veer off into the side streets. Just one or two blocks south of the river you’ve got a hodgepodge of buildings and architecture that create all kinds of interesting opportunities for light to bounce, reflect and refract from.
Just north of the river is this hidden view of the Shard. I love this photo because it’s a view that very few people spot. I was walking along Upper Ground and caught this through a gap in the buildings. You would miss it if you were in a car and maybe even a bicycle. It’s a very small gap.
London will always keep you on your toes. Its views aren’t organised in the way that those in Paris are; nothing feels ordered about London. It’s almost like a treasure hunt where you are walking miles and miles to spot things in little gaps, down side streets or on top of buildings.
Battersea Power station is a great structure; shame it’s surrounded by some pretty boring landscape. The photo below uses natural framing. It’s a fairly simple technique where you use an internal frame within the photo – either something natural or manmade – which works nicely when you have a strong subject that you want to draw the eye to. It also creates a pleasing layer and additional element. Make sure what you choose as your natural frame is distinct and doesn’t blend in with the subject or background.
A touch of the west and the north
If I’m honest, south and east London are my favourite places to shoot. There is tonnes of history in both areas, and many more contrasting buildings than in the west. Although West London suffers from ‘same-ness’ (sorry), I do live there because it’s a fabulous place to bring up kids, very green and the river is awesome.
The photo above is of Richmond. If you head directly up Richmond Hill from here there is such an awesome view stretching across the river and out to the west, one that Turner painted. Then you can head into Richmond Park, a great little stretch of wildness (well, manicured in my opinion, but wild for a city.)
Other good green spots
My preference is for shooting places like Hampstead Heath and Richmond Park in winter or autumn when the leaves are not so thick and allow for a bit more depth to the photo.
Can you see in this photo the leading line that is taking the viewer on a journey through the photo? I love leading lines, they are one of the few compositional techniques that I still avidly use.
Now, photographing dawn is a challenge
It’s a big challenge to get up before dawn, I ain’t gonna lie! Sometimes I am awake at 3 or 4am to start out. And it can be cold – even on a hot day. And it’s dark, and hard to get around. There are so many things that make it inconvenient when you sit down and analyse it. But didn’t Nietzsche say that the hardest things in life are often the most satisfying?
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep. ~Rumi
But…it is exhilarating. And not many people do it. So go for it!
So that’s it for me. I would love to know how you would photograph London. Please comment on my blog below -I love hearing from you.
Have an amazing week. I’m heading off to the Redwoods now!
I love looking in detail at another photographer’s work, because to immerse yourself in the space of someone else’s creativity and seeing what their ideas spark in you, what excites you, what makes you sit up and think – wow, that’s really cool – that’s all great fuel for your own photography.
My subject today is Henri Cartier-Bresson. Born in 1908 he was initially drawn to painting before discovering photography at the age of 24 (and the Leica camera!). After a spectacular career he started to move away from photography at the age of 60 and spent the rest of his long life focused more on drawing and painting.
Although I can’t ever imagine giving up on photography I really admire it when people take big leaps in their creativity like this. I mean he was a world famous photographer, he could have coasted on that for the next thirty years, but instead he was drawn back to his first love.
I aim to be that fearless with my decisions in life. To just go for what moves me, and not what makes most practical sense.
What I love about Cartier-Bresson’s photography is his steadied and almost scientific approach to composition – he had a great feel for shape and form and putting that together into compelling compositions.
In this article I am using my own photos that I think draw from is style and influence.
He is very much known for his street photography which, as a genre, I often find comes across in a cold, slightly sterile feeling. But I think Cartier-Bresson’s photographs, and his street photography, have a real warmth combined with a concern for humanity.
So here are some things Henri Cartier-Bresson can teach you about photography.
You know what all good photographers have? Patience. You know what almost every person who comes on my workshops needs more of? Patience.
You have to accept that if you want to be a great photographer (or even almost-great. Or anywhere above average) you need the ability to not rush the moment.
You need to enter into the moment that you are in, be totally present and to let it just run as it sees fit. To observe the world around you with no expectation, to drift through the place you are in, and to completely resist the temptation to keep moving on.
“One minute of patience, ten years of peace.” Greek proverb
If there is one thing I would like you to take away from this post that will make your photography instantly better, it is to take twice the amount of time looking than you usually do.
To fight your mind and your body in the urge to keep moving on.
When you find a scene that interests you, stay put.
Explore it, probe it, wait for things to happen. And in general, walk twice as slowly, stay out taking photos for twice as long.
But as Joyce Meyer says – “Patience is not just about waiting for something… it’s about how you wait, or your attitude while waiting.”
Be patient in your patience 🙂
2) Find the perfect expression of your subject
Cartier-Bresson is most famous for coming up with the term the decisive moment. The term actually came from the English title of his book. The book opens with the quote from Cardinal de Retz, who wrote in the 17th century:
“There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment and the masterpiece of good ruling is to know and seize this moment.”
“The decisive moment refers to capturing an event that is ephemeral and spontaneous, where the image represents the essence of the event itself.”
When they talk about the decisive moment it could come across as being that you wait for that perfect moment, then you take a photo, then you move on.
But actually Cartier-Bresson worked the scene like most of the rest of us, taking lots of photos. And from this he would pick a photo that most accurately captured the essence of the situation – that gave the viewer the most information and feeling about the subject.
3) Use your intuition
“Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.” Cartier-Bresson
This to me again speaks of shutting off your chatty, worky, to-do mind and trying to just enter into the moment. There is a lot that we intuit that we probably don’t acknowledge, so occupied are we at listening to our endless thoughts.
I feel like it’s like you need to get out of your mind and into your body – and see what it is noticing about where you are at, ignoring that busy mind of yours.
“Photography is not documentary, but intuition, a poetic experience. It’s drowning yourself, dissolving yourself, and then sniff, sniff, sniff – being sensitive to coincidence. You can’t go looking for it; you can’t want it, or you won’t get it. First you must lose yourself. Then it happens.” Cartier-Bresson
I like that, you must lose yourself. It’s exactly what I feel when I am in the ‘zone’ or the ‘creative flow state’. I am losing track of space and time, and just completely immersed in my subject. It doesn’t happen every time I shoot, but I know that when it happens I am getting something very special.
4) The beauty of shape and form
Cartier-Bresson was very into lines, shapes, organising and balancing the geometry of the world.
“In order to “give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry– it is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. One must always take photographs with the greatest respect for the subject and for oneself.” Cartier-Bresson
5) Take the time to reveal your subject
“The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt.” Cartier-Bresson
This for me perfectly captures what you need to be doing when taking someone’s photo. And this isn’t easy! Taking a portrait for me is about your subject revealing something about themselves or their experience.
It could be through their movement, the expression within their eyes or face – but it has to tell you something about the person or the situation they are in.
Almost everyone (with the exception of young children) have a veneer that they present to the world, and this veneer will harden when you put a camera up in front of them.
People are programmed to want to project a certain image – but that image is boring to photograph most of the time.
So what this comes down to again is time. Spending time with your subject or watching your subject so that they start to relax and reveal something about themselves.
You want them to go from feeling consciously looked at, to feeling unconsciously looked at. Because that veneer is hard to maintain, and people will forget about a camera after a while.
So, in order to get to that point where people are losing their guard and starting to reveal something interesting about themselves you need to push through the discomfort you are likely to experience whilst waiting.
It’s weirdly self conscious pointing a camera at someone you aren’t acquainted with for long periods of time. So again, be patient with yourself and move through the discomfort.
It could be that you are just clicking away, having the subject get used to you. Gradually they will.
Or talk to them – or watch them if you are shooting them unawares. Wait for those fluttering changes in their face, their eyes. See what they do with their hands, where their eyes turn when their preoccupations come back to occupy their minds.
But then sometimes it’s more interesting to see not what I think of people, or my view – but what they think of themselves and of the world.
6) Don’t be nostalgic about your photos
“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.” Cartier-Bresson
I think a lot of us photographers worry that we aren’t ever going to take a truly original photo. When I visit to new cities I certainly worry about that. I mean there are photographers everywhere! (This writer worked out that “Every two minutes, humans take more photos than ever existed in total 150 years ago.”)
I think there is a little bit of nostalgia in wanting to take photos. Life is such a flowing, never stopping act, that to take a photo and halt that process of always changing, always moving on, is to gain a small window of time to stop and reflect. To have an opportunity to stop and breathe.
Photography is a weird dichotomy of being completely present and living in a very rich connected way, and this constant reflecting back on the past. On past moments that you have captured.
But Cartier-Bresson was someone who constantly pushed forward and gave very little thought to his earlier photos.
“The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box.”
I hope you are inspired to explore his work more. A good place to start is the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, set up with his wife Martine Franck (a great photographer in her own right), and his daughter. And as he was one of the co-founders of Magnum.
And, as always, we love hearing what you think, so if you’ve got some thoughts on Cartier-Bresson please comment below. And please share with anyone who you think would enjoy this post, it means a lot, thanks!
Tripod as Zen Master – Using a tripod regularly in my photography has created a huge impact on my photos – not just technically but in how I shoot. It has slowed me down and given me the opportunity to become even more connected with my environment.
My most controversial photography article – ever – Even with my regular smartphone use I am still a massive fan of shooting on manual. No computer makes better creative choices than us. Hands down. Until that changes, this is what I discuss in an article I wrote for Digital Photography School which people loved or hated!
(It’s really all about) Developing the artistic mindset
“There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.” Ernst Haas
This is where I start with people in my workshops and courses – your mindset! Because we are what we shoot!
Photography starts with preparing yourself and how to connect with your creative energy, becoming present and connected to your environment and bringing your imagination into your photography.
Here are some great ideas to help you:
You are an artist (even if you don’t think you are) – So many people say to me – I’m not a creative person! Well, you are. Every single human being is creative. It is how our brains are made. All that happens to our creativity is that it atrophies from under-use.
What kind of photographer are you? – We are all on our path, our own journey as creative people. So there will never be a one-size-fits-all learning journey. That’s why I personalise everything I teach, so that it connects to who you are as a photographer, as a human being and what excites you creatively the most.
Fear is prevalent in almost everybody’s photography practise. It’s a normal reaction to new experiences and new learning situations. I am not immune to it either. Here are two articles about how I deal with fear – How fear holds us back from being better photographers and
Creativity and Age – There is such a misconception about aging and being creative. I say – let’s get more creative as we get older, not less. Use our incredible life experiences to blossom in our photography.
(Not the normal) Composition techniques
Photography is all about what you leave out – Photography is a process of construction AND reduction. In this article we talk about how to bring this idea into your photos so that you are able to consciously construct your composition.
Capturing the feeling of light – George Eastman summed it up for me when he said – “Light makes photography. 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.”
5 advanced composition techniques – I love to teach all of the core compositional techniques like leading lines, as they have helped my photography tremendously. But here are some more unusual techniques that are super-helpful to create better compositions.
My ultimate guide to travel photography – Immediately I am going to say I am not a traditional travel photographer, but really a photographer who happens to travel a lot. But what I have to share is fascinating and it’s a lot of in-depth teaching in this guide.
In keeping myself motivated as a photographer, I love to look for inspiration from all across the creative spectrum. I like to take the advice of my favourite photographer Ernst Haas in this, when he recommended to: “refine your senses through the great masters of music, painting, and poetry. In short, try indirect inspirations, and everything will come by itself.”
What John Berger can teach us about photography – I photographed the writer John Berger before he died a few years ago and he inspired me so much with his love of photography and art. He has a wealth of excellent ideas for us photographers.
Some pure and beautiful photography inspiration
Here are a couple of videos I made about my love of travelling, shooting and light!
Today I want to bring you some very relevant and useful pieces of creative wisdom from the late, great writer Henry Miller.
In these days of 24 hour news, in these days of stress about the planet and politics, of uprisings and obstructions, of frustrations and injustices.
(And that’s before we’ve even thought about our own lives.)
It is important to not lose our minds to stress and overwhelm.
Photography, creativity, art can help.
I use my photography to revive my spirit as much as I use it to learn and notice and create.
I use my photography to show me what’s possible in the world, not what isn’t.
And I use my photography to guide me towards all that is beautiful and fascinating – to help my mind remember that the world isn’t just challenging.
I use photography to bring me exhilarating experiences so that I can remain connected to the good in the world.
Recently I was reading about the writer Henry Miller, and it struck me that some of his ideas were so relevant in our journey as photographers.
He wasn’t writing about photography – but about what it is to be human, a writer and a creative person.
But some of his ideas are so powerful that I think they will help you see your photography in a whole new way.
Let’s get started…
All the following quotes are from Henry Miller.
“Strange as it may seem today to say, the aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.
In this state of god-like awareness one sings; in this realm the world exists as a poem. No why or wherefore, no direction, no goal, no striving, no evolving.”
This is everything we need as photographers – being in a state of awareness. Not lost at sea in our minds, but here. Living. Paying attention to this life that we’ve been given.
And we can take that awareness to incredible heights. We can drink madly on the beauty of the world, we can deeply relish the gift of life.
With our photography we can set our minds (and our lives free) as we have no end point to focus on. No goal to reach. Nothing to achieve.
Being in a state of awareness is enough.
“For the artist there is nothing but the present, the eternal here and now, the expanding infinite moment which is flame and song.”
Isn’t this beautiful? To think that within the present moment, within our attention, there lives every element that we need for our photography, for our creative spirit to be nourished.
“[The artist] opens himself to all influences — everything nourishes him. Everything is gravy to him, including what he does not understand — particularly what he does not understand.”
There is fodder for our photos everywhere we go, everything we are and everything we do.
Be open, notice, look, see and be curious.
Look at light on your walk to the shop. Examine the textures of the food as you are putting things away in your kitchen. Notice the nighttime sounds in the world outside as you lay in bed waiting for sleep.
It’s not just an image based world we need to notice as photographers – fine tune all of your senses.
“One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.”
Our day to day contains so many rich opportunities for photography that we just don’t see.
Always challenge yourself to see more.
“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”
I love this, and use this idea all the time in my photography – to pay close attention to not just the obviously interesting – but to all of the things that we often ignore – the textures of walls, the lines of rubbish by the river, the mossy graffitied walls. Reality comes in different scales, from the micro to the grand.
Include everything in your curiosity.
“Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind.
Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.”
The world is full of the full spectrum of experience. We can as photographers, as artists, use it all.
Every single moment holds something for us if we decide to choose to see the world as a series of ‘golden moments.’
“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience”
To learn is to experience that discomfort of not knowing. To have a new experience you first have to step into the unknown. Discomfort is part and parcel of growth.
“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”
I don’t wake up every day inspired. Far from it. We don’t all have to be bundles of enthusiasm and excitement for life in order to create.
This is when I use my awareness to discover things that will pull me out of whatever mood I find myself in. I look for inspiration, I awaken my passions and curiosity by noticing the beauty of the rain, not just the inconvenience of it. Or the strange beauty of a steely grey sky, not the bleakness it creates.
“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognise them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own power, our own criterion of truth and beauty.
Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things.
We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”
If you are moved by art, photography, music – anything creative, then you have the soul of an artist.
We can all be artists. It’s just that simple.
I think there is this idea that only certain people can be artists, that we have to be born that way (and stay that way) and if we aren’t artistic now, then we won’t be ever.
I have worked with hundreds of people who have said they aren’t creative, and so I know, and you can therefore trust me on this, that every single person on this planet is creative.
Everyone has the capability to dig into that inner creative spirit, that well of creative ideas.
It’s not something that is only gifted to people who are professional artists.
If we want to connect with our inner artist – we can. The only thing we have to do is believe that we can.
“No matter what you touch and you wish to know about, you end up in a sea of mystery.
You see there’s no beginning or end, you can go back as far as you want, forward as far as you want, but you never got to it, it’s like the essence, it’s that right, it remains.
This is the greatest damn thing about the universe. That we can know so much, recognise so much, dissect, do everything, and we can’t grasp it.”
I love that photography is a place in our lives where things don’t have to make sense. That we can use it to explore the mysteries of the universe.
Exploring the mystery of the world is the most exciting part of my life.
“It is the creative nature of man which has refused to let him lapse back into that unconscious unity with life which characterises the animal world from which he made his escape.”
Sometimes all the things going on in the world – and our lives – can make us want to retreat into that animal like unconscious. I know I feel that way sometimes – but look at this wondrous mind, our perception and then gifts we have been given.
Let us use them.
Let us use them to connect ourselves to the world, and to share beauty, wonder and curiosity with the world.
So – there are 11 ideas, that are overlapping in many ways, but so relevant I think to our journeys.
I hope you enjoyed them – and would love to hear what you thought – let us know in the comments!
I don’t like to have complicated goals in my life. But I do like to have a vision for my life that I follow each year.
Last year I was focused on expanding my skills, starting a brand new photo project and getting more feedback on my artwork. Did I achieve that? I did mostly, but not in the way that I thought I would.
I like the unexpected elements of life, and when new opportunities for creative growth appear, I have learnt to embrace them.
My favourite selfie of the year!
I also learnt some tremendous new skills – not the ones I actually intended to learn, but ones that will massively help my journey as an artist.
Normally around New Year I like to pick out my favourite images of the year and show these. But 2018 was such an unusual year for us, with projects dominating my focus rather than singular images, that I am choosing the things, rather than the photos, that have made the biggest impact to me photographically.
Three things I am most proud of creating in 2018:
New Photo Project: Sea Meditations
I have never lived by the sea before. Something pretty profound seems to shift in me being so close to water all the time. We fall asleep at night hearing the waves – which sound sometimes gentle and calming, and at other times roaring with energy.
Full moon at night
I have loved witnessing the daily change in the sea, its changing colours, feeling, textures and energy. Of course, everything I love I want to photograph. So over the year I have been photographing the sea for a new project.
This is such a different project to ones I’ve worked on in the past couple of decades. It also reflects where I am at in my life. I am in a more reflective, meditative state of mind right now. I love connecting my energy to the natural world all around me here – and this project truly reflects that.
New Photo course: The Art of The Image
I’m not going to lie – creating this course kicked my butt! It was a steep learning journey that took me two years to work up the courage to attempt. And, of course, I wanted The Art of The Image to be magnificent.
I knew I wanted to create something that would be creatively unique – and would take people on a deeper artistic journey with their photography. I knew that it would take all of my attention, my passion and my skills.
And you know what – I think I have done a good job. Well, that’s what I am being told by the students on the course (Phew!)
I have to say I am extremely proud of this course. I rose to the challenge – even when it felt like an impossible task. And I created something that people have benefited from. Pretty grateful for that experience.
3. New home: Southern Spain
Di and I never intended to come to Spain. It wasn’t on our list of must-go-to places. But life – and our children – had other plans for us, and it involved this gorgeous little area of Spain.
This place has opened up so many avenues of inspiration for me photographically. Of course, it’s beautiful to be by the sea, and it’s super relaxing. But the area is intensely rich for photographic opportunities.
From little mountain villages that make you feel like you are back in the 1950’s, to the gorgeous seascapes, to the buzzy city and hip street art of Malaga, to the pine-scented walks through the forests and vast landscapes to capture, to the beauty of the Moorish architecture of Granada made more mesmerizing by the rich orange sunsets.
There are so many opportunities for compelling photographs, and every time I am out exploring I am blown away by the possibilities – which will lead me later into telling you about the new workshop we have created in Andalucia.
But first, a question for you:
What did you create in 2018 that you are proud of?
It could be one thing, or three like me. Or more.
It could be one solo photo or a project or something you’ve learnt or mastered.
It doesn’t matter what it is. What is important is the time to reflect on what we have done with our time (not always thinking about what we haven’t done).
Now let’s move onto this year ahead: What will you create in 2019?
This has to be my favourite photo of my daughter this year
We now have a fresh clear run where we can create whatever we want. Yes, whatever we want.
We can dream and imagine and create anything. So:
Who will you photograph?
What will you photograph?
Where will you go?
What will you learn? Perhaps you’ll start shooting on manual? Or learn more about HDR? Or work to improve your composition.
Maybe it’s time to take a class at your local college, join a photo club, buy a book, watch videos.
What will be the outcomes for your photography? Perhaps you’ll make a book of your images? You’ll start a project? You’ll take portraits of your family, or print your work for your wall. Maybe you’ll start a blog?
This is such a good time to ruminate on what your photographic vision can be for 2019.
Even if it’s just saying – once a month I’ll take an afternoon to go explore my area and take photos. Or I’ll photograph the everyday life of my dog.
Here are the things I want to create in 2019:
Finish my Sea Meditation project and have it exhibited
Last year I met two people who have become part of my art team. They are challenging my vision of my work, bringing new ideas flooding into my photography and helping me take it to exciting new places.
This year is the year then that I will bring my new work into the world. With the help of my new team I have some exciting plans – and I will commit time and energy into making it happen.
I haven’t had an exhibition in a couple of years now and I have to say I miss it. (It’s so exhilarating to see your work out there in the world, being looked at and experienced by strangers.)
Create a library of inspiring courses for people
Creating my first online recorded course, which is where most of my personal learning came in, has been thrilling. It is now my intention to focus on building a fantastic library of online courses – so that you can access my teachings easily and affordably wherever you are in the world.
Aside from getting good reviews (aren’t we all a little susceptible to praise?) one of the most joyful things for me about creating The Art of The Image is seeing the progress people are making. As the lessons go on and people post their images, I can see that they are making brilliant leaps in their photography.
That is so inspiring to see. To know that I created something that is helping people (again, love the praise!) but also for people to see the possibility of making such significant progress with their photography when they make a commitment to learn and practice.
And it’s not just me saying: take my course. You should choose the way to work that works best for you – for example, if you prefer to learn through books. (My favourite photo website for technical advice has just updated their book Understanding your Camera, which I thoroughly recommend.)
Support Di’s launch of her book – The Everyday Art of Living a Creative Life
The person I turn to when I am in need of inspiration is Di. She is like a fountain of inspiring energy – and in our circle, she is the person many people turn to seek clarity and new ideas on their work and projects. So I am going to create the environment for her to book to excel.
So much of our work – my work – is driven by or inspired by Di’s ideas. So I want to make sure that this book comes into the world and she can share her ideas on a wider scale. Because she is my wife, I can be shameless and say you’ll definitely love her book.
So again with the questions – what are you going to create in 2019?
Where will your photography take you?
I would love to know – let us below.
Now for some exciting news – Di and I have developed a brand new workshop focused around our new home.
This workshop is going to take in the best of the area of Andalusia where we live (sea, mountains, whitewashed villages, Granada, street photography in Malaga…) but it also is going to be a creative retreat where I teach you many of the advanced composition and technical skills I use every day in my photography.
We’ll be shooting lots of different locations, using many genres of photography. Every day I’ll be teaching you new skills to make the best of each location.
Some of the subjects will be quiet and meditative and beautiful (shooting the sea, walking through forests, exploring the dappled light, capturing the landscapes and mountains).
Some will be more intense and busy – capturing the street art and urban life of Malaga, creating interesting photos of the Moorish architecture of Granada, exploring mountain village life and finding portraits.
We’ll do night shooting, dawn shoots, we’ll go out at dusk for the rich, beautiful light of Southern Spain.
Each day we will be doing feedback and sharing sessions so you can see how other people approached the same subject, generating within you new ideas and ways of seeing.
At the end of the workshop, you will have an incredible portfolio of images, five of which I will have professionally printed for you and shipped to your home.
Early bird price – £1,477 (Includes tuition & transport within Andalucia) Regular price – £1,847
The aim of this workshop is to develop your personal artistic vision and style. To delve into your inner artist.
I will provide you with a multitude of subjects that will challenge you to learn and develop new skills, to see that anything can be your subject when approached with the mindset of an artist (the gas stations on the highway, the sunset on the ocean, the church in the warm sunset of Granada.)
I will be giving a very diverse selection of subjects which will challenge you.
We’ll be shooting for several hours a day, with the rest of the time spent learning new techniques, developing your creative vision for your photography and reviewing your images.
We will be photographing:
Street photography, urban architecture and the street art of Malaga
Beautiful seascapes, nature and beauty of the Costa Tropical (where I live!)
The industrial outskirts of Granada – juxtaposing the abandoned theme parks and vast architectural warehouses with the magnificence of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (the area reminds me of Ernst Haas’ New Mexico work)
Grandeur, history, windy streets and the Moorish architecture of Granada at sunset
Exploring the lost village of El Acebuchal
Capturing the pretty Spanish mountain villages around Granada
Creating compelling landscapes around of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada
During the workshop, you’ll be processing your images with me giving you lessons, tips and techniques so you fully get to grips with processing and where it can take you artistically.
You will leave the workshop with at least 5 finished images which I will have printed at my favourite London printer, and shipped to you after the workshop ends (how much fun will that package be to open?)
This intensive workshop will help you dive deep into your creative self and develop a stronger, more unique photographic vision.
From beginners to experienced photographers – you can all benefit from this intensive, fun and challenging workshop where we can all share knowledge, feedback and experiences.
Some of the highlights of this workshop are:
You’ll learn how to tell stories with your images
You’ll learn how to develop a personal creative vision of your photography
I’ll fill in the gaps of your technical knowledge – giving presentations as well as plentiful demonstrations as we are out shooting
We’ll do in-depth processing so you can make your images the very best
We’ll use the multitude of subjects around us to discover new aspects to your photography
You’ll learn professional lessons on creating images in a variety of genres
You will leave with many new skills – plus a new portfolio of images
The workshop will use our village of La Herradura, which is by the sea, as our base (we are an hour east of Malaga) from which we will explore and take many trips.
We’ll be using my beachfront apartment for our teaching sessions, critiquing and processing.
There are a number of places to stay in our beach town – from great little hotels & B&B’s, to airbnb apartments. More details are on our workshop page.
A lot of people ask me – how do I know if my photos are any good? And will I ever get any better?
Before I started teaching my workshops, I would have said no, probably not.
I honestly wondered whether amateur photographers could get any better.
I was carrying around this idea that the ability to ‘see’ interesting photos was a natural ability, a natural inclination almost, and if you didn’t have it, you couldn’t be taught it.
If you can’t ‘see’ good images, then you’ll never get anywhere.
I talked to my wife about it and she responded:“Can’t you just teach people how to see then? You taught me how to see.”
And that stopped me in my tracks.
You see, Ihadtaught my wife to ‘see’. When we met she was the most intensely dreamy person who lived totally in her head.
But now, after spending time together, she’ll often point out interesting light to me! She notices her surroundings, colours and textures in a really compelling way.
She also edits my work, my books and projects, pulling selections together for press, for this blog and to send to our print buyers.
She has developed an amazing eye, by being inadvertently taught by me.
“You’re right”,I joked.“If you can do it, anyone can!”
After which she threw a pillow at my head.
I realised then that as a teacher my job was not only to show you how to see, but to demonstrate techniques so you can develop these skills of ‘seeing’ great photos – for yourself.
I don’t want to replicate my photo style in hundreds of people.
I want you to find out what is unique and special about you, your passions – to help you develop what is unique and special about your photography.
That is what is exciting to me, revealing the artist that is innately within you, that is within all of us.
And when it comes directly from you, the culmination of your experience, your life and passions, your unique way of seeing the world – that is artistry.
Which is why everything about my workshops is about showing you how you can be the very best photographer you can be.
Not by copying my style – but with us working together and finding the most effective way to express who you are.
Of course I have all the technical knowledge to pass on, to make it as easy as possible for you to feel confident and at ease with your camera.
Because I know you can be great. I know that everyone has inside of them the potential to be an artist, to tell stories, to be able to express themselves confidently with their camera.
And I know a lot of people have doubts about themselves. You might think you have reached the limit of your skill.
You wonder – are you even any good?
But what has drawn you to photography is the fact that you are a visual person.
That you are not prepared to let life drift past, you want to stop it, examine it, see it, capture it.
To find interesting ways to show the world what isfascinating.
We have been in Morocco for over a month now. I have been having an incredible time, I am honored to be staying in this beautiful town and sharing the daily life of the community.
Getting to know the local shopkeepers, going out each morning to buy Moroccan pancakes and churros from a couple who make them in their tiny home shop.
Seeing the wonder and awe in my city-raised-kids’ faces when we encounter goats eating fig leaves on the streets, or wandering sheep on our walks in the hills surrounding the town.
Seeing how the local women help my wife when she’s buying food at the market, the kids on our street who have embraced my kids and the men that I talk to in bad Spanish as I wander around looking at the beautiful light falling on flower pots, clotheslines or on the wonderfully textured buildings.
This is why I love to stay in places for weeks at a time. Tofeela place, toknowit. So that I can translate that into my photos.
Exploring the backstreets of Chefchaouen at night, where the old lamplights create beautiful shadows on the blue and greenwashed walls of the old buildings, smelling the scent of woodsmoke in the fresh mountain air.
Morocco has been a mesmerising adventure.
Anthony and Diana
This was me out at dawn a few days ago. That’s the little street we are staying on. It’s so pretty.
I think there is this weird idea floating around that creativity is a young person’s game, particularly certain genres of creativity (photography and music for sure). That somehow you are at your peak creatively in your twenties and thirties, and then it’s downhill from then on. I think that’s insane.
Some of us can find the courage for creativity when we are young, and for others it takes years or decades to turn onto this path. Some find creativity but not their voice when they are young, and age brings a settling into themselves and an ability to reveal something unique.
For me as a photographer, I could certainly say that I had a good eye when I was young, that came quite naturally. But it took me many years to find my voice and my style. And longer still to find a place for that in the world.
I would like to say with certainty that the ability to be creative increases as we become older and wiser. It should, given the experiences we build up, but it’s not automatic.
Age can actually bring about the reverse effect, and make us more fearful and less creative. More aware of the passing of time, more aware of what we haven’t achieved (that we thought we should have), more aware of the things we do badly.
“No, that is the great fallacy: the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful.” Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
I think sometimes it takes effort and focus not to grow ‘too careful’. To remind ourselves that at any point we can create new ideas, new skills, new ways of living and creating.
Age is never something to hold us back. If you don’t do it now, then when? When you are younger? We are all able to bring something new to this world, that will create bursts of recognition and connection with someone else.
Let age bring us the ability to be free instead.
“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty.
Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths.
We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.” Henry Miller
It just takes courage, even if that courage comes and goes, as it does with most of us. I suppose it’s a little bit like a wave that you ride.
There are many great artists and writers who came to their practise later in life, and still had stunning success. And we can use that to spur us on. But recognition from others shouldn’t be the driver. That’s not the true gift of creativity.
Louise Bourgeois made her greatest work after the age of 80. When she was 84, and an interviewer asked whether she could have made one of her recent works earlier in her career, she replied, “Absolutely not.” When he asked why, she explained, “I was not sophisticated enough.”‘- from The Huffinton Post.
Creativity doesn’t have to have any purpose. It doesn’t have to go anywhere. Of course, if you want it to there is so much to do – the opportunities available to us artists are, I believe, the 21st century’s best gift. (I will write more about that another day)
Creativity is a release from all that ties us to a life that’s lived in habit. It’s a reminder to pay attention to what matters most.
It’s like bursts of interestingness, jolting us awake and out of our ‘to-do list’ and our crazy minds that push us into the future instead of allowing us to live in the present.
And it’s not just about giving yourself something to do when you retire or as a replacement for your job, it’s about weaving into your life a sense of exploration, a way to enhance your life every day. It doesn’t matter what age you come to it (15, 45, 85) because at each point in life you have something to reveal, something to explore.
Creativity is a way to discover who you are underneath of all of the layers that you’ve built up in the noise and distraction of your everyday life.
Creativity is about finding a freedom within your life that is unrelated to achievement or productivity. It’s your mind being released from daily patterns to wander over the vast plains and mystery of life, in way that is completely unique to you. It is about enriching your life, bringing you a deep sense of joy.
But it’s not a freedom whose path comes in a blissful and easy way; it’s not a straightforward process. It can feel uncomfortable, painful even. It can confront you with what you’re hopeless at or ill at ease with.
It can involve vast swathes of boredom, and it certainly isn’t always a joyful thing for me. But it has added a deep, rich layer to my life that makes it feel more fulfilling. It’s the place I go to often to work things out.
“What’s thrilling to me about what’s called technique, I hate to call it that because it sounds like something up your sleeve, but what moves me about it is that it comes from some mysterious deep place. I mean it can have something to do with the paper and the developer and all that stuff, but it comes mostly from some very deep choices that somebody has made, that take a long time, and keep haunting them.” Diane Arbus
Your creativity is waiting to be revealed right now, and that’s what I want you to remind you of.
“…Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.” Anne Lamott
In my younger years I was really caught up with the prestige of commercial photography – getting cool, flashy clients – until I realised that I wasn’t a flashy commercial photographer.
My personality just isn’t suited to that hustling vibe. I like going off and wandering around on my own. I am drawn to my own little adventures and making my own projects, that’s how my creativity works best and that’s how I’ve created my life around.
With age we can release the addictive powers of expectation (if we chose to). You can unmoor yourself from the ferocity of expectation. You can free yourself from how you perceive your life should be, and instead find what is fascinating in what your life actually is.
It takes bravery to step out of the manner in which most of us live and try to look at things in a different way. To look at the morning sunshine and ponder it. To be reminded of the fleeting nature of life and to still look, search, explore and do what makes you truly excited and truly happy. Being creative takes bravery, for sure, but the rewards are beyond measure. It’s never too late.
Couple of interesting other things, age related:
This amazing photo project on older people who’ve taken up things like ballet when they were 80 and now at 94 dance professionally is really cool.
I like this theory that your creativity actually starts to decline from the age of five because you don’t get to use your creative skills so much when you start school: “The scary coda to this story is that by the age of twelve, our creative output has declined to about 2% of our potential, and it generally stays there for the rest of our lives.” So if that’s true then we should be at the same creative level at 20 that we are at at 95! Awesome!
Photographer André Kertész found recognition late in life, but I love that he continued throughout his life to work at what he truly believed in, what interested him and thrilled him. He stayed true to the craft and I love his work, his was amazing a composition.
I would love to hear about what you think. Are you getting more creative? Please let me comment here, or send me an email – I read and love to read them all!
And thanks to Diana, for her extensive help and writing on this week’s blog.
I was really interested to read people’s ideas and philosophies on how they choose to shoot and why.
I, of course, have my passionate opinion, that manual is a essential to gain full creative control – but I also think you should shoot the exact way you feel comfortable and happy with. It doesn’t matter what and how you do it – as long as you do it!
As that was a popular post, I thought I’d share the latest two articles we’ve written for Digital Photography School:
Di and I are also going to share a couple of other things we have been enjoying this week, all fuel for our photography and creative practices, but not necessarily related to photography:
1. Iranian photographer Abbas died recently. Famous for photographing the Iranian revolution, he was a Magnum photographer, who spent much of his career documenting conflicts between religion and politics around the world. Gallery of his photos.
4. Meditative photos and videos from free diver Ocean Ramsey who dives with sharks.
5. The Defiant Ones: I love music and being a musician was something I was considering before I took the road into photography. I loved the recent Netflix series The Defiant Ones, documenting the careers of musician/producer Dr Dre and producer/record label owned Jimmy Iovine. Really fascinating to get into the minds of people who have achieved remarkable things with their creativity.
That’s it for today. Have a stupendous day.
And remember to take that camera out – don’t let it gather dust! It needs you to bring interesting ideas into the world.
Anthony and Diana
That’s me shooting in Venice a few years ago.
All the shots in today’s article are from my Venice at Dawn photo project. I love this city! I run a photo workshop there most years, check out my workshop pages for details.
Simple ideas for your photography: the power of silence
“Create, artist, do not talk” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
How are you all? I hope life is good and things are all well and happy in your household.
I am back in our little beach town in Spain after a 3 week trip to Italy – a wonderful time filled with great adventures and awesome people in Venice and Palermo.
I’m glad to be getting back to my simple life here: going kayaking with my son; continuing my photographic exploration of this beautiful part of Spain; renewing my energy and taking on new challenges with our business.
One thing I often see in my teaching is people struggling to be present. To allow themselves to be fully in the moment. I see people as they try very hard to capture the moment – but more often that not, they are not actually inhabiting the moment.
For me the magic of photography happens when you are fully present, fully awake to the aliveness all around you. Not lost in your thoughts, wondering where to go next or thinking about your aching feet.
If I were to give you one way to be more present and more engaged with your photography, it would be to start with being quiet, to start exploring silence.
Silence can be thought of as neutral energy. But I actually believe it is incredibly powerful, incredibly rich with possibility and helps us to start awakening creativity.
Being quiet, being silent, is an intensely nourishing experience.
Silence can take us inside of ourselves, unlocking our imaginations, thoughts and ideas.
Silence also allows us to truly be aware of what is outside of ourselves, without the chatter and distraction of what we are usually doing – reading, writing, talking etc.
It is a gateway to inhabiting the present moment.
“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” Francis Bacon
Not all silence is created equal
When you are quiet what often happens is that your thoughts become louder. Having a time of quiet can just lead to opening the door to a noisy cacophony of worries, distractions and remembering more things for your to-do lists.
But the trick is to get beyond that river of thoughts – and into the vast, nourishing beautiful silence behind it.
Your thoughts are never going to stop, but you can choose to ignore them, for a little while at least.
For me the easiest way is to just start paying attention to the world around me – looking at the light, the colours around me, the people, the trees.
Whatever is there in your surroundings can help you become present simply by observing.
And by nourishing that habit of paying attention to what is happening here and now in the world will bring you more into the present moment.
Putting down the technology
We have a lot of discussions about technology in our household. We have a 12 year old boy who, if we let him, would live on his computer. And I can relate. I love my technology a lot. I am a computer nerd (says Di; I don’t say that of course).
But I also think that technology can be too distracting, and eat up all of that ‘in-between’ time we used to have – the train ride to work, the time before bed, the hour at the park watching your child play – when we could be day-dreaming, wandering, looking or being creative.
I didn’t realise quite how much technology had weaved its way into my life until I had a month of almost no-technology last year in Cuba.
The internet in Cuba is extremely sparse. Most of the access I found involved sitting on the side of the road in the beautiful early morning sunshine, along with a bunch of people, sending emails, uploading photos and checking on business.
Even though it felt frustrating at times not being able to do anything quickly – uploading photos was painful – it was also intensely refreshing to be removed from the internet, and most of my technological activity. To be taken away from the steady drip of bad-news, of unnecessary emails, of the time-suck of social media.
Of course there are lots of great purposes of the internet – I couldn’t live the life I am now without it. I appreciate it. But I know it sometimes overtakes me – it distracts me from what I actually really want to do – which is be creative.
I think Cuba is beyond magical for many reasons – but the fact that I couldn’t do much work except take photos, made it a more intensely creative experience for me. There were no distractions to my creativity. That may be one of the reasons that my Cuba portfolio is the best work I’ve ever done on the streets of a city, I think.
So the simple ideas I am recommending today are:
Use the quiet and silence around you to bring you to presence
Be careful with technology and things that take you away from a present state of being
So with that I am finishing for today. I’m off for a long walk with my son.
Have a great day, and happy photographing,
Anthony and the magic-word woman Diana
7 Things Pablo Picasso Can Teach Us About Photography
As I am always looking to improve my photography by learning, part of the process is seeking inspiration from others who create. I don’t, though, confine myself to just learning from other photographers.
I cast my net for ideas wide, and look to artists, writers, musicians – whoever it is that will inspire me with new ways of seeing and fresh ideas.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in Spain lately, close to Pablo Picasso’s birthplace. After visiting museums to see his work, and reading more about his creations, I found myself pondering over some of the ideas he talked about in relation to creating art.
Some of his ideas are fantastically inspiring and I’d like to share them with you today – and show you how they can help develop your photography.
Let’s get started because, as Picasso said:
“Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.”
“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” Pablo Picasso
Wherever you are, you are absorbing the energy and emotions from everything around you. If you are in the right mental state, of being open and receptive, it can help generate wonderful ideas.
Being peaceful and quiet – really looking at things, not necessarily in a super-focused way, but just allowing your attention to drift – is very helpful for your creativity.
In fact, I encourage everyone to do as much of this type of ‘open awareness’ as it generates ideas for your creativity.
I read on the Siyli website about open awareness in relation to meditation (which I think also applies to photography). Open Awareness – “is your ability to maintain your presence of mind while allowing different stimuli to pass through your awareness – and it’s incredibly useful…When you cultivate open awareness, you open the doors to tremendous insight.”
This helps pull us away from our usual barrage of thoughts (and things to do) and allows us to connect to the world around us, and draw ideas from it.
I also like this from Picasso:
“A piece of space-dust falls on your head once every day… With every breath, we inhale a bit of the story of our universe, our planet’s past and future, the smells and stories of the world around us, even the seeds of life.”
So go find the stories!
“If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes.” Pablo Picasso
The mind is a busy place. It always seems to have a lot to sort out, think about and organise. But the busy mind is the worst state to be in when you are taking photos.
Learning to see is about learning to ignore that busy, analytical mind and become present, learning to observe the world around you. It’s getting in touch with the present moment.
I would also add – use your heart, your guts, to guide you. This is where our instinct lives. It’s where we get our ideas about photography without consciously knowing.
Intuition is that knowingness, in a way where you are led by ideas and interests, and not by your logical, analytical mind.
It also connects with what Picasso said:
“My hand tells me what I’m thinking.”
Your eyes, your instinct, can lead you in your photography. (Your busy mind will mostly lead you astray :))
“If I paint a wild horse, you might not see the horse… but surely you will see the wildness!” Pablo Picasso
We often think, especially as photographers, that we are photographing what we see. Of course we must ‘see’. I talk about it endlessly because the ability to see and notice things in your environment is the number one thing most people are missing in their photography.
But we are also photographing something that has generated a feeling in us. Something that has probed and provoked our interest.
We see, we feel and then we create. And what you end up creating can be anything! It can look like anything, feel like anything – the photograph, your art, is yours to make your very own.
“To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing.” Pablo Picasso
This is the same for any creative medium. If you don’t know where to start – don’t worry! Just begin – and that’s often when ideas start to flow.
If I am busy with work and family life, it can sometimes take me a while to really get into the creative flow when I am out shooting.
Instead of waiting, though, for inspiration – as Picasso said at the beginning of this article – I just get going, and wait for the ideas to find me when I am in the perfect place to do something about them – with my camera in hand!
“The more technique you have the less you have to worry about it. The more technique there is the less there is.” Pablo Picasso
This quote sums up so much for me about why learning technique makes things easier when we are out creating.
When you know your kit, you aren’t interrupted when you are in the creative flow. Instead of battling with your camera, you can get totally absorbed in that beautiful location, that interesting subject or that absorbing light – and create some incredible images.
You become so at ease with your tools that your creativity just takes over.
Even if you don’t feel like you’re particularly technical or confident with technique, I have seen hundreds of people on my workshops learn that with practice and focus, you can grasp anything.
“I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso
At the moment I like to think of not knowing how to do something as something to celebrate. It’s an opportunity to exercise my (always ageing) mind; it’s an opportunity to learn and see something in a different way.
Keep yourself young and your mind agile by learning new things!
“He can who thinks he can, and he can’t who thinks he can’t. This is an inexorable, indisputable law.” Pablo Picasso
I totally, totally agree. I didn’t think I could be a world-travelling photographer, teaching photography online and selling my work internationally. That seemed impossible to me ten years ago. But now, here I am!
If I can do what I thought impossible, then so can you.
“In art intentions are not sufficient and, as we say in Spanish, love must be proved by deeds and not by reasons. What one does is what counts and not what one had the intention of doing.” Pablo Picasso
There is never a better time to do something than – now. Picasso said so – so get started, OK?
Enjoy this exploration into Picasso’s ideas, and I hope that it’s a little nudge to do something cool with your photography in the week ahead.
I wrote recently about how to shoot on manual and received some very interesting responses. Thank you all for your commenting and support. I am still amazed at how difficult I found it trying to explain and encourage people to shoot with manual. I think I’ve distilled it most by saying : It’s all about the craft man!
Anyway, I wanted to respond to all your comments with a Story of Manual.
I’m walking in the woods. There are sights, sounds and smells and I’m making an effort to totally absorb it all. I am very much present.
All is good. The sun is high. The light is hard and strong filtering down through the high pines. I know I want fine detail and good depth of field for the images I’m about to make. Contrast and latitude come to mind.
I set my exposure in camera and in memory – giving aperture priority though I watch my minimum shutter speed. ISO was chosen before walking into the woods… I make images. Through the trees I see a clearing in full sun. I think +4-5 stops of light. I see potential shots just moments in the future by observing the light through the trees.
Making my way to the clearing my fingers adjusting exposure that -4-5 stops, without looking once at the camera, just mentally counting clicks. I don’t have to be spot on. I want it close so I don’t have correct by 12 clicks when a potential shot arrives. Just 2-3 clicks max. That is enough to get the base exposure set.
I know it’s best to have my exposure set for the light not for the subject. I know if I set it for the subject then it is most likely going to come too late…I need it set BEFORE the shot comes WHATEVER it may be.
I get to the clearing, my exposure already set. Or at least very very close. On the opposite edge of the field I spot Bigfoot standing in the dappled light of a slanted sun through leaves. He smiles at me. Shutter speed I think! Again the fingers move in a reciprocal fashion simultaneously towards a faster shutter speed exposure as I raise the camera – a re-prioritization in an instant. I see an EV of -2/3rds. Close enough. Click.Click.Adjust.Click.Click. I think “tone” mood” “key” – what am I feeling right NOW. I’ll make adjustments quickly and instinctively. Click. Over exposure seems appropriate to capture full shadow detail( don’t want someone telling me my Bigfoot was just a tree due to terrible shadow detail!)
I walk off the field into the open shade of a mountainside. Again I know this is a +4-5 stop change from the previous base exposure I was using. ISO comes to mind. I change my exposure for soft open shade light. I choose a nice balanced exposure not really prioritizing shutter or aperture as I am not sure what I will find ahead of me yet. I can get a good base exposure as long as the light remains the same. I will not think of exposure again for awhile I know.
My eyes are keyed into slight changes of the light – heavier shade or dark recesses, brighter dappling of light, these will need small adjustments, or not – Adjustments of less than ⅓ to 1 stop of exposure are made on a per image basis and not for “correctness”, but for tone, key and mood.
Across the field and out of the woods I come upon a sea. The sun is now low just a few degrees from the horizon. The cirrus clouds are plentiful for golden hour and there are few low clouds on the horizon. Conditions are good for colour and dynamic light. A wide lens goes on and aperture again takes priority. The tripod comes out. Now things have really slowed down. I know I will be in this spot for awhile making a photo every few minutes, but mostly just watching it all happen and feeling most alive! Shutter times get longer as the light leaves. As dark approaches aperture is widened. The stars come out and ISO increases.
I like who I am when I’m being creative, that’s the basic fact. I love taking photos, just like I love having a long walk through the hills near me in Spain. I have to remember that these things bring me joy. And who doesn’t want a life of maximum joy?
So I am going to ask more of myself creatively this coming month. And I want to offer up a challenge to help you if, like me, you are in need of a little push.
I invite you to find and photograph the beauty in the mundane.
Firstly – because it’s easy to take amazing shots of amazingly beautiful places. Although we can always do something fresh, or unique or interesting with our subjects, you’re bound to get something awesome with, for example, a great location and a great sky.
But to create something beautiful, or find beauty in the mundane? That’s a skill that is fantastic to have, and worth developing, because it will help your photography as a whole.
If you can make the most ordinary object look interesting, think how much more you can bring to compelling subjects or scenes?
As many of you know, learning to see, or learning to see in a deeper way, is the journey that every photographer should be on. But that can feel like an overwhelming task. This challenge will help.
Mundane is defined in the dictionary as the everyday, ordinary, or banal. So it could be things you see everyday and have lost interest in – I particularly like street signs, peeling posters, weird things I find on the floor. Ask yourself, how can I make this interesting to me?
It could just be a boring object or scene or subject. Ask yourself, what elements could I bring it to make this come alive? Interesting light, a person walking past, a different angle or maybe the way I organise the elements of the scene?
It could even be, and I am obviously stretching the definition here, photographing the slightly depressing or the ugly in a beautiful way. Finding beauty in objects or places considered ugly is a great challenge!
“The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” Henry Miller
In this challenge I encourage you to do two things:
Use outside elements to bring beauty to mundane subjects/scenes (like waiting for interesting light, rain, a person etc. to come along)
Work to bring out the innate beauty in mundane subjects – and here we are really looking, and probing our subject. Looking at its textures, its colour, what elements it’s made up of
How this can help you:
If you’re a beginner or feeling a bit stuck this challenge will give you something to focus on to get started, as well as an access point on learning how to see
If you’re more advanced it can push you into not just going for the easy shot, but working with harder elements to create interesting photographs
And I like this challenge because it is helping us acknowledge and draw out the beauty that exists in our lives every-day and every-where.
So just dive on in, or below you’ll find some tips and examples
to help you get on your way.
Breaking down the elements
Looking for interesting elements is a great way to start that process of learning to see – so instead of trying to photograph a scene as a whole, find an interesting element and then build your photo from there.
When you see a sign like this in a scene you are usually looking at it as part of a whole scene, and it’s not very interesting when it’s part of a whole. But when you remove it from what it’s connected to it becomes fascinating.
As photographers, light is our gift from the gods. Interesting light can make anything – literally anything – wonderful to look at. I also like how you can use hard light to create shadows that contrast something hard, ugly or rough. Like here.
Or here, in a much softer way, you have this broken down house bathed in soft blue dawn light, making the textures look and feel quite sensual. The photo wouldn’t be interesting at all without this light.
This photo below is one I shot in Hong Kong. I found some matresses in the street – could anything be more mundane than that? The light was wonderful, which I think makes the shot.
Here are some more photos that are made interesting by light (and because I am obsessed by light I have thousands of these)
This photo below sort of personifies the whole idea for me about bringing out the beauty in the mundane. The light of course makes this photo, the way it’s filtered through something and is falling over the wall. But then you have this wetness and moss which creates really interesting textures. You can feel it. I do have a love of photographing quite ugly things and so I really quite love this photo.
Would your photo be more interesting if you moved your feet? It sounds simple, but most people I teach don’t move very much.. And don’t just move closer or to the side, move higher and lower. Climb that roof! Go down that stairwell! As Diane Arbus said – photography is a kind of licence to explore people and situations. Use that licence!
Photographing things I find on the street is a huge passion of mine.
In this photo above, the interestingness again comes from removing elements from their context. If the floor wasn’t mostly wet it wouldn’t be as interesting, and the bright red contrasted against the deep grey – plus I like muddy footprints – all add something.
Doesn’t this just take on a different feeling when it’s not attached to a whole scene?
I am always on the lookout for things that are out of place – like interesting signs or words in places they aren’t usually:
Here you have both light and leading lines. I love using structure and organisation in my photos.
I hope you enjoyed those ideas. Share your thoughts and comments below – do you like to photograph mundane subjects? Has it helped your photography?
It’s been a fine day here in the mountains of Morocco. The sun is so warm during the day, and then the sun sets and an intense chill pervades.
Standing on our terrace and looking up over the mountains at the clear, clear sky to watch the stars is a magical experience.
There is always the smell of woodsmoke here in the evenings. As you walk through the streets, the low lights create beautiful shadows on the colourful walls. I feel like I am miles away from everything and everyone.
We’ll be heading on to our next stop in about 10 days, so will be enjoying the walks in the hills, good food and excellent photography while we can.
We have promised the children a Christmassy location and the possibility of a Father Christmas visit. These are small compromises, we know, for the sacrifice of taking them away from their beloved grandmother and extended family at their favourite time of year.
Today I want to ask you one important question.
What one thing could I help you with in your photography?
What are you grappling to get to grips with? What knowledge do you need that would make a big difference in your photography right now?
Di and I are planning our next set of articles and posts and we would love to help you with your photo issues.
We want to be insanely useful – so please, offload your photo difficulties and struggles onto us and we will try to help you with them!
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” William Arthur Ward
It’s a warm day here in Chefchaouen, an incredibly beautiful town in the mountains of Morocco. I am in photo heaven, this place is possibly the most interesting and beautiful place I’ve ever been. And that is really saying something as I spend a lot of time in ridiculously beautiful places!
Today’s photos are from our last few days here.
We were out at the market this morning, buying vegetables and fruits from local farmers, freshly baked bread from the little hole-in-the-wall bakeries and for lunch an intensely spiced roast chicken from a busy cafe.
I had set out our lunch on the terrace of our house when my son said: “This is our Thanksgiving lunch!”
And I had no idea that today was indeed Thanksgiving! Partly it’s because I am surrounded by my English family, and haven’t lived in the US for almost 20 years so I usually forget. But also it’s that we are away, in this sunshiny warm town, far from any reminders.
But I was glad to remember, because to be honest I am always trying to remember to be thankful. To actively say – thank you for this incredible life and all of the beautiful things that I have.
I know that the more thankful I am, even for the difficult stuff, the happier and more fruitful my life is.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey
And so today I want to say thank you to you. Each and every member of this photo loving community.
You probably don’t realise how incredibly amazing it is to have so many people follow and engage in my work. To see my photos, comment and shares, to come on my workshops, send me emails, ask me questions and listen to my talks.
Every time I get an email from someone, or meet a new face on a workshop or just see how many people open and read my emails – I think WOW, Tony! People like what you’re doing! You’re so super lucky, man!
It feels like a very long way from where I started, a shy, not at all confident photographer trying to find my way in a very extroverted, hustle-driven photo industry.
To be able to do what I love doing, in a way that is so natural to me, is incredible. No other way to describe it. Incredible.
I would not be able to do anything that I’m doing if it wasn’t for you all, supporting me, motivating me and cheering me (us!) on. And I hope that I am creating something interesting and valuable for you.
I’m going to leave it at that today. This evening we are off to walk into the hills to a Spanish mosque that has an incredible view across the town and valleys and I’ll photograph the sunset.
Again – thank you – and if there is anything I can help you with, please don’t hesitate to comment below.
I am really fired up at the moment. I had an amazing trip to the Amalfi Coast earlier this month; that place is out of this world beautiful. On Tuesday I went out for a very fun photo walk with my Light Monkeys group – plus I am pitching for a cool new art project and life just seems so awesome in so many ways. It’s even getting a bit warm here in London, lol!
I want to share some of that fired up, inspired energy with you.
Let us begin with the genius that was John Lennon.
You probably know that I love getting inspiration from all kinds of places. Recently I have been thinking about, and listening to, a lot of John Lennon. I have loved his music for years and years – since I was a teenager really. He is one of the few musicians whose words I actually listen to – usually I am one of those people who get absorbed by the rhythm and gheetars!
Not only is Lennon’s music amazing – Tomorrow Never Knows , In My Life, Jealous Guy,Woman are all awesome songs – but I really liked his philosophy on life. His later ideas feel very similar to my own, so I’ve picked 7 thoughts of his and I am putting them with some photos I took in Naples and along the Amalfi Coast last week.
I hope you find it a little espresso-shot of inspiration!
All the quotes below are from John Lennon.
“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”
I am a big fan of a bit of mooching around, daydreaming, getting lost. It’s often at those times when we have our best ideas. And it seems many great scientists have been the same way! See Darwin Was a Slacker, and You Should Be Too.
2. “Creativity is a gift. It doesn’t come through if the air is cluttered.”
I harp on about this all the time – you can’t be in the zone, the flow, when you are preoccupied with your to-do list. Here is a 2 min film from the amazing Jason Silva on Finding Your Creative Flow State that will help.
3. “Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.”
I photograph a lot of street art and what always strikes me about street art is how it feels like a very generous act. It’s such a temporary medium but it’s a creation – sometimes of epic quality and skill – that might be removed within hours or days.
Art for me is to be shared and taken on in the eyes and hearts and minds of anyone who enjoys it. Creating with this idea of letting out into the world, and not possessing it, for me is very inspiring.
4. “When you do something noble and beautiful and nobody noticed, do not be sad. For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle and yet most of the audience still sleeps.”
Don’t create for anyone but yourself!!! When you are thinking about creating with an audience in mind, in my experience it’s never as good as when you are just doing it because you love it and just have that itch to create.
Please yourself, not your audience.
5. “My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.”
6. “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.
We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
This is everything I feel about life right now. No need to add my thoughts, perhaps except to say that meditation really helps me with my whole creativity / free mind / openness. And Lennon meditated too! Great article on Brainpickings about just that.
7. “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”
I’m ending on Lennon’s very famous quote, because this is what I like to say to remind myself to (as they say in Shawshank Redemption) “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
Bang – there we go. Hope that short-ish post was fun.
Please let us know what you thought of this post by commenting here on our blog. Sharing it with friends is also very helpful!
If you want to join me on an Italian Photography adventure – take a look at:
Venice for me is an incredible place to photograph, because not only do you have this wonderfully surreal city, set in the lagoons, with its ancient crumbling beauty – but the light is stunning. How the marine layer affects the sunrise is awesome to photograph (see my 2 min film on light & Venice here)
I get incredible reviews from this workshop – which I have run for several years now. Join me and I’ll show you all of my favourite places to shoot the city, how to escape the crowds, how to create a stunning portfolio – as well as getting your tech and creative photo skills well exercised. You will learn tonnes!
“Tony knew exactly where to go to get the best interaction of light and scenery and gave impromptu tutorials on capturing light and shadows, framing the scene, relevant shutter speed etc during our walks. This was an ideal environment to keep the adrenaline flowing and encourage the “Eureka moments”. Breakfast stops, group lunches and the final feedback session oiled the wheels. A thoroughly enjoyable, unforgettable experience.”
If you do a bit of research on where to take cool photos in Hong Kong you are bound to find images of Montane Mansion estate. It’s an Instagram favourite. Regardless of that fact, I needed to see it for myself – like a tourist!
I found that there is the one great view looking up and to find something else as good takes a bit of work, but just getting that straight up view has a bit hard on the neck (for the first time in my professional life I was jealous of screens that swivel on cameras).
So to do something a little different I visited in the early morning. Which do you prefer? Morning or night!?
Montane mansion estate Hong Kong
Night at Montane Mansions
Morning at Montane Mansions
A different approach
Outside the Estate in Quarry Bay
Sliver of light on a bus
Very exciting photo on the road
This was down the road from the Estate in Quarry Bay
Victoria’s Peak is the must shoot place for any photographer visiting Hong Kong, actually, anyone must visit! It is a stunning view; sublime and warm. You get a real sense of the place and it’s structure from this view. One of a kind for sure. Below are two videos I made before and after shooting on the Peak. Below the video are the images I made from the adventure.
This is the view on the way up to Victoria Peak
This is the view on the way up to Victoria Peak
This is the view on the way up to Victoria Peak
100mm captured something different
On the walk down several hours later. Totally worth it!
I was hoping these would come out better - there was not enough ambient light for my tastes