Di and I have lived in Andalusia for over a year now and it has completely and totally captured our imaginations.
Little did we know that when we set off on our travels almost two years ago we would end up finding a base in southern Spain, and falling in love with the wild and beautiful landscape, the culture and history of the area – and, of course, the incredible light.
Andalucia is probably the most exotic and renowned region of Spain. Lying in the very south, just a few hundred miles from Africa, it weaves together influences from its Moorish rule (8th – 15th centuries) with a deeply traditional Spanish culture.
The warm climate produces an abundance of food that you see in the little traditional farms, as you journey through orange-scented walks, almond and olive groves along the undulating hills.
Now when I travel it is to Spain I yearn to return, and it is where we are building a home.
One of the reasons that this area has captivated me so completely is the diversity of its landscape and its intensely beautiful nature.
I have spent months photographing the sea, wandering through the hills and the tiny white-washed villages. I have photographed the vistas of spring blossoms, the tinge of autumnal colours and the vividly coloured sunrises.
Of course, anything that inspires me so much I want to share in both my photography and on our workshops – and so Di and I have spent several months crafting the latest addition to our workshop collection.
The workshop brings in my favourite parts of the region, those I know and love.
On our workshop we will journey from the vibrant old town of Malaga to deep into Las Alpujarras which are a collection of villages in the lower slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
We will photograph my favourite spots on the rugged coast and the deliciously coloured sea. And a trip to this region would not be complete without capturing the Moorish architecture and the majestic palace of the Alhambra in Granada, which for me is best captured at twilight.
This will be a diverse trip, capturing some of the many facets of life here – all within an hour or two’s drive of each other.
Di and I have handpicked some wonderful accommodation for you to stay in, where you will get a warm welcome and enjoy a fantastic stay.
Of course we will also be eating some of the best local food around, catching some of the local music in our favourite bars, eating delicious tapas in the lively street market in Malaga and enjoying the famous wines of the region.
We will have a driver to take us to the array of places I want to show you, and Diana will be joining us for some of the key parts of the workshop too.
Italy is known for its delicious food. I know this to be true because I have travelled all over the country and eaten food that is embedded in my ‘best food memory bank’.
(All of my family has this memory bank, including my kids; we love food.)
Fifteen years ago I had some unbelievable sea-bass ravioli in Trieste that I can still recall the divine taste of.
Also in my list of memories is homemade wild boar pasta in a castle in Tuscany, delicious lamb on the Amalfi coast, tasty bites of cicchetti with my family in Venice, gelato in Rome… the list is literally endless.
I was therefore very excited to discover the array and quality of street food in Palermo. The arancini alone makes my stomach hungry just thinking about it.
If you love food, you’ll love Palermo!
Palermo is (perhaps) the most conquered city in the world….
It is often said that Palermo has been the most conquered city because of its key position in the Mediterranean.
This means that the city is a fascinating mix of cultures and history. As you wander the city you can see the influences of the Greek, Byzantine, Arab and Norman conquests.
“Sicily is the pearl of this century…Since old times, travellers from the most far away country…boast of its merits, praise its territory, rave about its extraordinary beauty, and highlight its strengths…because it brings together the best aspects from every other country.” Al-Idrisi Arab geographer, The Book of Roger, 1138 – 54
I love to photograph places that are mixes of things. That’s why London is so awesome – ancient next to modern – and Palermo has a similar feel. So many influences.
Being an island of warmth and sunshine, so much of life is lived out on the streets. Every where you go life is being discussed, celebrated and enjoyed.
I love to walk around listening to the beautiful Italian spoken all around me, watching friends enjoying the cafe culture, wandering through the pretty streets and people watching. The feeling of Palermo is just so vibrant.
It’s therefore an excellent place for street photography. We had a lot of fun photographing people here last year.
I’ll admit, I am not a big architecture nut. I feel a little like the famous Turkish photographer, Ara Güle
“When I’m taking a picture of Aya Sofia, what counts is the person passing by who stands for life.”
I do love a beautiful building, but it’s rare for me to photograph a building on its own. For me it’s about so many other things – the light, the people or life around it.
Palermo has this great mix – beautiful architecture, interesting street life and of course that gorgeous Mediterranean light.
With good street food often comes fabulous street markets.
Italian markets are some of the most sumptuous looking I’ve seen. The fresh, colourful produce overflowing in baskets and boxes, is mouth-watering.
Now, if you want to get a feeling of the vibe of Palermo, this is a cool 2 minute video we found:
So those are my little delights of Palermo. Does this make you want to zip over to the Sicilian capital?
And if you want to join me in Palermo in a few weeks, two last minute places are now available.
Have a great day everyone,
Springtime in Palermo! Come discover this magical city of contrast and chaos. This workshop focuses on Sicily’s capital and the beautiful surrounding areas. We will photograph the mystery and charm of Palermo, as well as venturing out to capture the landscape and villages around the city.
“Ask yourself what is really important. Have the wisdom and the courage to build your life around your answer.” Lee Jampolsky
Today I want to share some of my thoughts as well as some cool quotes I’ve collected that capture why Havana and the country of Cuba is one of my favourite places to photograph.
For me Cuba ignites one of the principles that guides me so much now, especially as I get older and move away from accumulating things.
I work instead to have experiences that will deepen my connection to life. That will speak to my soul, and make me feel more alive.
The energy of Havana, the beauty of the country, help me drink in all that life has to offer us. To live in the moment, to celebrate what life is. And that makes me want to create!
As soon as you land in Havana you find incredible things to photograph. The colours of the buildings, the architecture, the light – which in January is beautiful all day – combined with the friendliness of the people, mean you’ll probably be snapping photos in the taxi from the airport.
So here are 19 reasons why I think Cuba will blow your creative mind. Some are thoughts from others who know and love Cuba, and some are my thoughts.
“Don’t come here with a long list of questions. Just arrive with an open mind and prepare for a long, slow seduction.” Lonely Planet
“In Cuba and specifically in Havana there’s a sort of energy that turns every situation into something unexpected.” Fernando Perez
“Havana still looks like you want it to look. Or maybe just how I want it to look. What was once one of the wealthiest cities in Latin America, left to the elements, left to collapse, was frozen gloriously in time. In fits and starts Cuba is changing.” Anthony Bourdain
“No one could have invented Havana. It’s too audacious, too contradictory, and – despite 50 years of withering neglect – too damned beautiful.” Lonely Planet
“However you feel about the government, however you feel about the last 55 years, there aren’t any places in the world that look like this. I mean, it’s utterly enchanting.” Anthony Bourdain
I love the fantastic, inventive street art that you might find on a crumbling colonial building, in a square filled with football-playing kids or outside a bar that is vibrating with the unmistakable beat of Cuban music.
“As an American, Cuba is one of those places that’s forbidden…and magical.” Rebecca Whistle
“Havana seduces the visitor with her good looks, her steamy weather, chrome-festooned American cars, zesty cocktails, pretty buildings, heart-stopping Afro-Cuban beats and hip-swivelling, story-telling, garrulous locals. With her bedrock layered with Spanish empire treasure, slave-fuelled sugar wealth and a heavy top coating of communism, Havana is simply one of the world’s most exciting, confusing and compelling capitals.” Time Out
“Every day above earth is a good day.” From The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, written in Cuba
“The beautiful Cuban capital is finally coming in from the cold … a wave of optimism and creativity is unleashed.”Lydia Bell
The complexity….Cuba is not an easy place, this is definitely not Disney World! It’s not straightforward and easy to understand. It has its own logic, its own life. And part of what makes it a magical place is because you are thrown into the unknown.
Delicious fruits &veggies….I had some of the best fruit and vegetables I’ve ever eaten, in Cuba, which surprised me no end! There are daily markets where people bring the foods they grow in municipal gardens or from the local farms.
“Artists and photographers with international acclaim (stellar painters such as Roberto Diago, Yoan Capote, Kcho and Roberto Fabelo) are like rock stars in Cuba, where successful creativity is still ahead of entrepreneurship in the bank balance stakes.” The Guardian
Local Artists….I loved meeting local artists, musicians and creatives as they are changing the perceptions of their country, and produce fabulous art.
“Havana is an enchanting and captivating city, with the twists and turns of its compelling history and rich culture laid bare in the surprising diversity of its architecture and kaleidoscope of citizens.” Rough Guides
“Cubans are incredibly resourceful…they use everything until its last breath.”
The music…. is wonderful. It sounds clichéd but it’s true that there is live music and dancing everywhere, out on the streets, in the dark rum-filled bars and spilling out of clubs. The music scene is infectious.
The Paladares – the local restaurants in people’s houses. One of the best meals we had on our last workshop was a simply cooked roast chicken with an array of fresh salad that was made for us by our friend Carmen in her home. Very cool experience.
“Havana is one of the great cities of the world, sublimely tawdry yet stubbornly graceful, like tarnished chrome – a city, as a young Winston Churchill once wrote, where ‘anything might happen.’ ” Jonathan Miles
I hope those were some tantalising ideas for you.
If you’re planning a trip to Cuba, or would like to join us on a photo workshop. I want to tell you – Cuba is the photographic adventure of a lifetime!
It’s everything you’ve heard, and then some.
My next next photography adventure will be running this coming January 2020.
On this workshop I will:
Help you overcome any fear of photographing strangers (and there are tonnes of amazing street photography opportunities in Havana at all times of the day.)
Use my friends and local contacts to immediately make you feel welcome and looked after.
I help you avoid the obvious – and dive into the local, the intriguing and the most interesting and exciting places within the city.
Show you the great iconic views as well as areas off the beaten path, and into the back streets of the city.
We will shoot both the dawn and the evening blue hours. And take our shooting into the night. Havana is the best low light city I have ever been to.
Most of all I want to help you develop your personal vision of Havana – to create photos that you will be proud of.
I only take small groups so that I can give you lots of personalised teaching. I want to make sure you come back with a stunning portfolio that will be enchanting for your friends and family.
My team and I will also help you smoothly journey through the country, as Cuba can be a challenging place as a traveller.
And some of these are the same challenges the Cuban people face everyday of their lives – a lack of infrastructure, spotty public transport, bad internet (not so bad when you can find it!)
Bring your camera and your spirit to Cuba!
What I promise for this workshop is that having filled your time with such beauty, adventure and creation, you return completely refreshed and energised for your life. With new ideas and new ways of thinking. And a beautiful portfolio to boot!
Have an awesome day and, of course, any questions just let me know.
Anthony and Diana
Photographing the unique beauty of Cuba: January 20th – 27th 2020
Workshop fee: £3,567 GBP
Approximately – $4,479 US / 4,037 Euros.
Please check with your bank or your payment provider for today’s exchange rates.
Join me for a trip to the mesmerising, complex and beautiful tropical city of Havana for the photography adventure of a lifetime.
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.
Shot at 1/13th @f/4.5 ISO 640 40mm(17-40mm) Canon 5D mkIII
Today I want to do something very cool and fun. I am going to dissect how I took an image from both a technical and narrative standpoint.
So you see the image above, it’s one my and Di’s favourites, taken in Hackney Wick, East London a couple of years ago.
It’s a super popular image of mine, one of my limited edition prints. One of the people who bought me this image told me a crazy story about this location. I’ve included the story below.
But first, let’s start with the technical:
Look at the image and what do you see? Honestly I think I used the wrong reciprocating exposure. I had a tripod with me which I didn’t use!
Now – what could I have done better? What would have given this image greater clarity, contrast and detail?
You guessed it – a lower ISO. ISO 640 is not bad at all with my Canon 5D mk III, but ISO 100 would have been a better choice for increased quality.
That said, this was near the first exposure I made here at Hackney Wick at 5:45 am so that is my excuse – I was practically sleepwalking!
A better exposure combination, as I look back, would have been ISO 100 with an f/11 aperture at a shutter speed of whatever worked for a -1.5EV.
I say “whatever shutter speed” because I had a tripod and time (long exposures) were not a limiting factor in making my exposure calculation.
One second or one minute makes no difference with a good tripod setup. By -1.5EV, I mean an Exposure Value of -1.5 stops from a “0” or middle exposure.
Why -1.5EV? Every exposure I make before the sun rises is at -1 to -1.5EV. I do this to embrace the ambiance of the light.
This is why it’s so important to know how a light meter works. All the tones in this image are below or near the middle zone so an underexposure keeps it looking dark and realistic instead of what a 0EV exposure would do which is wash out the mood by overexposing.
So – to create the atmosphere and ambiance of light you are seeing – you need to know how to ensure your light meter won’t over or underexpose. (More about that here)
If you have no idea what the above means and do not understand how light meters work than that is your homework for today. It is really important to viscerally grasp the exposure scale.
I think this shows, doesn’t it, that you can get things a little wrong – but still create a great image.
We don’t need to worry about being perfect, we just need to focus on showing up to take the shot. To go to places that inspire us and to give it a go!
Often in the progress to manual we miss shots or get things a little wrong. But it’s OK! If you don’t make the leap you won’t create unique images like this.
Now we’ve picked apart the technical execution – let’s look at the narrative in the image.
The first thing I think when I think of narrative is feeling. A two-dimensional image does not move or interact in any way physical with you so it must translate a feeling to be interesting. That feeling is the start of the narrative or story.
I have a story that I learned about this place, which I will share, but first, it’s the story that I created in my mind that counts. Because that is why I chose to aim my camera at this particular scene.
This image speaks to me of abandonment and serenity, of beauty and balance of coarseness and decay. These are all things I love to photograph. In my imagination, I look at this abandoned building and I think of parties in dark places and zombies.
I imagine creepy realities inside and the feeling of escape on the outside. That is just me – I love reading and watching films about dystopian futures so that is what comes to my mind. Not very deep or profound but fun for me.
I am sure your interpretation will be vastly different than mine and others and I would expect that. So what does this image speak to you of?
(It reminds a quote I used recently, that sums up our subjectivity so brilliantly, from the photographer Brassai “Everything passes through your imagination. What you produce at the end is very different from the reality you started with.”)
So here’s a true story. The building in the photo is an old pub in East London. Someone saw this photo online and sent it to his friend who used to live in the pub as a child in the 1980’s.
The friend calls me and asks if the image was for sale. He told me that his father was the last pub landlord before they were evicted and it was shut down.
He was a child of a mixed-race marriage, things were tough for his family…and mom. East London was rough for him, and his family stood out. He was bullied. Mom left. Dad descended. Things just got harder.
As a young boy, when his life was crashing down around him, in this very location, he made a promise to himself that NOTHING would ever bring him to that edge again. He is now a VP of a fortune 500 company.
To him, this picture is the visual representation of that promise. I love that he chose my photo, and not just any photo of this old building. It’s beautifully framed, hanging in his home as a reminder of where he came and as a reminder of how grateful he is for all the love he now has in his life.
To me, it shows how powerful images can be in our lives. How they provoke, remind, encourage and create all kinds of stories, fantasies and ideas in our minds.
It was amazing listening to his story, knowing just one of the stories of the people who lived in this place. The world is full of stories like this, and often as photographers, we can only guess at them, we can only see the smallest of signs about life lived all around us.
This is one of the reasons I love to photograph London, why after almost 18 continuous years of living in the city and exploring, it has never stopped inspiring me. You can feel the history, the stories, the weight of human imprint everywhere. The jumble of old against new, the beauty and the decay – it’s an incredibly unique city.
That’s it for now. I’d love to know what you think about this photo and my analysis. Did the technical breakdown make sense to you? What did the image say to you? How do you create stories in your images? Let me know below.
This is a photo from my workshop last week. The busyness of a city like Hong Kong gives you so many opportunities to play with long exposures.
Good day to you,
I hope life is really super good, and that you are happy, nourished, enjoying life in all the many places that you live.
Today’s post is inspired a little by Vangelis, the composer who scored films such as Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire. He composes quite spacey, evocative music – melodies that seem to often grab you by the emotions (see Conquest of Paradise, although I love his more sedate, laid-back music like Blade Runner Blues).
I read an interview with Vangelis in which he was asked:
Many of your fans might have expected a synthetic, ‘Beaubourg’-style score for Blade Runner, rather than the rich and emotional tapestry of themes that you came up with. How concerned were you with disassociating the Blade Runner score from the bombast of Star Wars and the ‘artificial’ style of many previous sci-fi themes?
Vangelis – In order to answer your question I need a special talent that some people have to talk about their work endlessly, something I find very difficult and boring to do. So, I will just say that I did what I felt like doing at the moment I did it.
Awesomely funny! But as well as making me laugh – it made me think that really this last point is the essence of creating and photography.
Creating anything happens in a moment by moment basis – and it is dominated by the choices you make and how you feel.
Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field – Peter Adams
What is happening in the moment that you take the photo?
You may think by that I mean what’s happening outside of you. But what I really mean is what is happening inside of you?
Now – the biggest problem I’ve seen for most photographers is actually – they are not in the present moment.
Most photographers are being distracted by the place they are in, the thoughts running through their head about things in the future, thoughts about their camera and things like ‘am I doing this right?’
But what we need to be aiming for is being totally and fully present in the moment. Totally there in the place, totally connected to what we are doing. Almost pretending there is no past or future, because, actually, is there? All we have for sure is now.
So when you have anchored yourself in this magical present moment you want to figure out how you feel.
How do you feel about this place that you are in? Alone? Excited? Exhilerated? Nervous? Unsure?
Because all of those feelings will translate into your photos.
A very common emotion in photography is nerves, especially when photographing people and street photography.
Nerves lead to people ‘holding back’ and not truly jumping in and embracing the moment.
And I can see when people are holding themselves back, I can see it in their photos. When they are not giving the experience everything they want to give.
To fully embrace the experience, the moment you are in. Surrendering to what is happening now, and pulling yourself away from anything else that will distract you.
You will see in my photos of Hong Kong how I felt about the city. What my dominating emotions were.
Life is fleeting. We get obsessed with the little things – the day to day when we are running around so don’t forget to fully embrace the times when you get to do all of this wonderful creating. Don’t forget to fully embrace the moment.
So those are some thoughts about photography and the essentialness of being ‘in the moment’. I hope you enjoyed them (as well as some of my new photos of Hong Kong).
That’s it for now. Any thoughts, questions or queries – just comment below.
Have an amazing day!
Anthony and Diana
19 Photos to Show You Why Your Camera Doesn’t Matter
Today I wanted to have a little fun and make this suggestion – your camera is nothing without you. It’s an inert machine that requires your vision, your inspiration, your excitement and energy to create interesting photos.
So to illustrate this today I want to send you some photos I took in the last few weeks with my smartphone camera.
I want to show you that:
1) It doesn’t matter what camera you have – good photos can always be created.
2) Regardless of where, and with what you are shooting, take time to pause and compose your shot! In fact taking photos in the day-to-day way with your phone camera is an awesome way to practise composition. A little practise every day will do wonders!
So let’s see what I came up with with my smartphone camera in these past few weeks….
How many of the photos in this post are about light?
Light doing interesting things is everywhere. You just need to look out for it….
What do you think? Am I right – or do you totally disagree? I’d love to know!! Let me know in the comments below. It’s amazing hearing what you think.
Have a great day,
Anthony and Diana
PS – here is the 19th shot, taken by Di, on the subject of how difficult it is to take a nap when there is a 5 year old around 🙂
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
Thank you to everyone who replied to my last post on our plans to be location independent. We’ll be travelling now for at least the next year – in part to run workshops in our favourite places around the world, and in part to see new places and create new projects.
Di and I have been blown away by your emails – so, so many of them – it just means so much to us to hear your kind and encouraging words. It makes all that we do feel so worth it! We will reply personally to everyone this week, thank you, thank you 🙂
Lots of people have asked where we’ll be going and what we’ll be doing. So that’s what I’m going to talk about today. We are most certainly going to be taking our time in each place we go – a month in Sri Lanka, 6 weeks in Kerala, 5 weeks, 5 or 6 weeks in Mexico, a month in Cuba etc.
For me it’s not about jumping from place to place. What Di and I always want to do is stay somewhere and really absorb the atmosphere and life of each spot we’ve chosen. That’s what feeds us creatively.
This is how I get my very best photos – I take my time really getting to know an area and all the best places to shoot (and when you join me on one of my workshops I make it easy for you by taking you to all the cool spots I’ve found :))
When I go somewhere new I always look at the photos people are taking of a place, and I make a little list of spots that look interesting – but really to me it’s all about wandering, getting lost and figuring out how to photograph the place when I’m there.
We were in Paris for about 6 months, spread over a few different trips, for my book, and that was awesome. My kids got to know the city, we tried all of the well-reviewed patisseries to find the best chocolate eclairs; we got the feel and vibe of the city into our beings.
One of my very favourite things about travel is this –
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” Bill Bryson
The feeling of being in the unknown, of being surrounded by the unfamiliar – makes me feel so alive. Just the process of having breakfast in a brand new place is an exciting and curious-making experience.
Di and I have been working for several months now on creating some amazing new workshops and I’m finally ready to share what we have planned. We are so excited about these!
All of my workshops take different approaches to creating images which are completely appropriate for their subject.
This workshop is all about stimulating your senses with a host of different subjects and the spirit of adventure. Although I will still take the no-rushing approach – that’s a non-negotiable for me – we will be taking in multiple subjects, in three different areas – with an exciting exploration of misty mountains, rural village life, backwater lagoons, city street life, the Arabian sea, lots of intense colour and verdant nature all around us.
This workshop will provide inspiration aplenty – giving you the chance to explore and play with your photography and subjects. Great fun and tonnes of adventure. Info & booking here.
This workshop is all about removing unnecessary stimulation and planting ourselves deep into the incredible tranquility of a remote part of Southern Mexico. Bacalar is on a vast blue lagoon of ‘7 colours’, with white sand that edges onto the jungle. We’ll be staying in a small eco-resort on a stretch of nature between the lagoon and the jungle.
Here we will work on creating a portfolio of stunning images (which I’ll then have professionally printed for you), using simple subjects of deep colours, textures, nature, water, Mayan ruins and the vibrant natural life that is all around us.
This workshop is all about going deep with your creativity and using the beauty of the environment to create unique images. Info & booking here.
I am offering early bird prices on both of these workshops at the moment.
So my calendar for the next 12 months looks like this:
London at Dawn, August 5th & 6th – this will be my last workshop in London for at least a year, maybe longer! I won’t be running many of these going forward – just the occasional one when I am in London.
Arles photo retreat, Aug 21-25th – I held my first photo retreat here last year and it was amazing. Arles is an incredible city in the south of France – home to the world famous photography festival. This is for you if you want to immerse yourself in getting to grips and really developing your technical and creative skills. Although we will be doing lots of shooting, I’ll be offering more advanced teachings on technique.
Hong Kong, October 2017– Only 2 places left. Here we’ll be photographing the plethora of shiny high rises, epic urban landscapes, intense street markets surrounded by rising mountains in this sub-tropical climate. This will be an amazing city adventure – shooting dawn from Victoria Peak, the intense colour and light of the sub-tropical climate, mixed with the brash loud lights of high commerce. I can’t wait for this.
Havana, March 2018 – Cuba could not be more inspiring to me as a photographer. Complex, vibrant and awash with incredible subjects. When I came back from my last Cuban trip, I was positively enlivened with excitement from the experiences I had and images I took (some of my best I think!) Why not join me for another great adventure in Cuba.
I would love to see you in any of these awesome places. They are all very different, but will prove intensely amazing – promise!
And I’ve got some cool thank you gifts too – for everyone booking this week. You get all these!! How cool is that? I love giving gifts.
Elliott Erwitt’s book ‘Personal Best’– one of my favourite photographers and a collection of his best photos! I love giving away my favourite photo books as a way to inspire!
Free year-long membership to my Online Light Monkeys group – (which I’ll still be running whilst travelling). An awesome group where you get free monthly classes, enter the challenges and get feedback on your work.
Free 1-2-1 online session with me – this can be taken at any time over the next 12 months. We can discuss anything you’d like – camera skills, composition techniques, critiquing your images, Lightroom etc.
A package of goodies of my work – my books & some lovely images/cards from my dawn projects. Little bit like a lucky dip!
If you have any questions – big or small – please just email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment below 🙂
We can also arrange a time to chat over Skype. Sometimes that is easier than email. Especially if you want me to look at your images. Drop Di a line and she’ll book in a call for us.
See you again super soon!
Have a great day,
Free online photo feedback session with me this Sunday
I hope life is good for you and you are doing some cool things with your photography. I’m doing well, enjoying this good summer in London and getting ready for a working trip to the south of France next week. Lots of fun.
A very quick and short one for you today. I’ve been really getting into all the online opportunities for teaching, it’s so cool! And I thought it would be awesome to host an online photo feedback webinar for you guys.
And it’s totally free!
Send me up to three images before the webinar and I’ll select one photo per participant to give feedback on, and people in the group can obviously chime in with their thoughts too. And if you want to just log on and listen without submitting your photos that also fine too.
It’ll last about an hour I think. It’ll be really fun, a nice casual session and you’ll get my tips and feedback on your images. It won’t be scary or harsh! Plus you’ll pick up a bunch of tips from my feedback from other people’s images too.
I’m going to do it this Sunday at 6pm GMT and I’d love you to join me.
To join me:
1) Register for the webinar – by emailing email@example.com.
2) Send me up to three photos – sized at 1200 pixels on longest length to me at firstname.lastname@example.org before midnight Saturday (GMT) so I can look at them before the session and choose a varied selection.
3) Attend the webinar on Sunday! You just need the internet to log into the webinar via a special link you will be sent after you register, and you will need to download Zoom. It’s extremely simple so don’t worry- you’ll get it.
Drop Diana or I a line with any questions (email@example.com).
Have a great day and look forward to talking to some of you on Sunday!
Greetings from Istanbul. I am here with my family working on my next book, and continuing to explore this enchanting city. Highly highly recommended. And now for something I was nervous to reveal…
Last year CNN asked to publish some photos from my project on the Homeless World Cup. It’s an amazing feeling to have someone call you up and not just pay you to do some work, but pay you to publish your personal work. It feels so validating.But…
CNN wanted to see everything I had taken, so I sent it all to them. Of course I had already done a mental edit, I had a pretty good idea of the images they would pick. Why? Because I had worked so hard on this project, going to Mexico City and Poznan to photograph the games over two years. I knew the project, and my photos, inside and out.
But when CNN replied, they asked for fourteen almost completely different images from the ones I had in my head. What the heck was going on?
But you know what, once I had time to go back and look, and look again, and the images they had chosen, I was able to see beauty of these other photos. They weren’t my favourites, but together they told an impressive story.
And it made me realise something extremely valuable – I am often not the best person to edit my work. In fact very few photographers are. I am constantly coming across stories about famous photographers who ignored images on their contact sheets for months, years even, before realising that they had an amazing image on their hands. Trent Parke ignored one of his most iconic images for a decade! Jonas Bendiksen for many months. You know why photographers can’t always be trusted to recognise their best images?
Because we are too emotionally involved with our photos (and ourselves). We see our work through the ever-changing filter of how we are feeling – about our images, ourselves, our lives, what was going on the day we took that shot. Sometimes we look at our images and feel a surge of excitement, and at other times we plunge into the depths and think – my photos are awful!
And that’s OK. Every photographer, every artist, every person who is creating, is in the throes of the mysteries of creativity and isn’t always able to be objective about their work. Get a fresh eye to look through your work – to give feedback, provide ideas, suggest new ways of developing, to prod you sometimes out of your comfort zone and into new ways to thinking and seeing. These are essential if you want to keep improving your photography. And unfortunately it can’t just be your other half or your mum who does this (hearing ‘that’s so great! I love your photos’, isn’t objective feedback :)). It has to be someone who loves photography and who can see your photos for what they are.
For me photography is only a solitary pursuit part of the time. And the more I continue on this journey the more I see how integral other people’s feedback, ideas, suggestions and comments are to one’s growth as a photographer. Even to this day, after twenty years, I rely on other people. I have a small team that I consult with. They help me edit, help me discover images I’d left out or discourage me from images I have an attachment to but don’t quite work and who I talk through new project ideas with. They help me keep the flow of inspiration fresh and my eyes clear.
A few years ago I decided to create a group that would help all of the amazing photographers that I was meeting through my workshops in the same way. And so I created the Light Monkey’s Photo Collective. Each year I offer a group of passionate amateur photographers the chance to be part of a group that meets regularly for walks, talks, feedback sessions and hosts online challenges. The group is there to motivate, inspire and inform.
“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” — Albert Einstein
It’s for people who want to connect with others who love photography – and in the process be encouraged, inspired and motivated by the group and having regular events to attend. It’s not a formal education program, but you will learn a ton.
The group has been an absolutely incredible, surpassing my ideas of what it could be. We’ve been on evening walks through Little Venice, explored the docks at dawn and had fantastic sessions looking at each other’s work in my studio in Waterloo.
Maybe you are looking for a trigger of inspiration, you are stuck in a creative or technical rut; you are looking for ways to be more motivated; you want to know what people think of your images (and maybe where to go next), you want to find new ways to bring a regular photo practice into your life; being part of a group excites you; you just love photography and want to share it – ideas like this? Then Light Monkeys is for you.
And I am really excited that I am now opening up a limited number of new places for the 2016 group.
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard
How will this help my photography?
We are all busy people. We all have a lot on our plate. Even professional photographers like me find it hard to carve out time for working on personal work. Life, family, work – always gets in the way. But I know that if I don’t carve out time to dedicate to my photography, to wander and imagine, to explore and adventure, toplay – then my life doesn’t feel as full or as deeply connected.
Photography not only makes me feel more alive, it makes the rest of my life a more heightened, interesting and rich experience.
Life is, after all, an amazing adventure. And every day I make sure I do something that acknowledges that.
Membership is designed to be flexible.
You don’t have to come to every meeting. The idea is that every month there is always something happening so that if time allows you have something to get involved in.
We have photo walks, studio meet ups or review sessions. We get together to take photos, explore technical issues, look at programs like Lightroom plus we’ll review and critique each other’s work.
This is one of the most exciting, interesting and fun groups I have ever been involved in. The people are great, the sessions are fun and next year’s program is going to be the best yet.
The year long membership includes:
Monthly photo walk or in-studio sessions
Three dawn walks just for Light Monkeys
A one-to-one session with me to discuss your images, any issues or developments you want to make or a project you are working on
Opportunity to attend any one of my London workshops throughout the year for free (and in addition where there is a last minute space, I will offer these spaces to Light Monkeys, also for free)
Monthly online photo challenge, set by one of the members
Online community for support – to share your images, ask questions and share knowledge
Who is this for?
This group is for people who have attended one of my workshops and want to do something more. This is for anyone who is passionate about photography, regardless of their skills and abilities. We’ve got people who have just graduated from camera phones to a DSLR and people who have been photographing for years. The thing that unites us all is we love taking photos and we love sharing our experiences with other photographers.
There is a very limited number of new places available. We are offering an early-bird price of £345 until Oct 31st for the year long membership program. If there are spaces still available, the price will then become the regular price of £445. Full details and schedule here.
Imagine a year from now how much you could have done with your photography. Imagine, the photos taken, the feeling of accomplishment and nourished creativity. Imagine the connections you’ll have made and the adventures you’ll have been on. There is no way you will not love this experience.
“Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.” Ken Robinson
Of course you can do all this yourself, set up a group with some photo loving friends. But what I am doing with Light Monkeys is taking all of the organisational headache out of it. I am bringing together a group of super motivated passionate people, so you don’t have people drifting off after a few months. I am creating events and situations where you will be abundantly inspired. And to be honest – there is me! A seasoned professional, who lives and breathes photography, to help you. I am on hand to answer your questions and give you insights into photography. I want to make this as easy for you as possible to create an abundance of fun, adventure and photography in your life. All you need to do is show up, with your camera.
Questions / queries….?
Get in touch. I am working in Istanbul at the moment on my new book but I am on email and checking in every day.
Not in or near London?
For those of you who want to get more involved in your photography but can’t come to my group – or want something shorter or more focused – I have just launched a limited series of Private Skype Sessions. I will have one to two sessions available per month and these can be used to review your images, get detailed feedback from me, and for personalised help with the development of your photos. I can also answer tech questions! See here for more details.
As always – please send feedback, questions or thoughts to me. I read every email and I’ll respond! Or comment on my blog.
“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller
A few evenings ago I left my office in Waterloo to head home to see my rambunctious kids and have dinner with my wife. The evening had an interesting feel to it, a misty, wintry fog hung in the air but around the edges there was a burning glow of spring light. It was an intriguing clash of seasons and so I diverted my journey to go explore the river and take some photos. I got a few nice shots but my brain was not playing ball, it felt disturbed. Running through my mind was a blog my wife and I had been working on for another website, all about the art of seeing. I kept looking at things and seeing the words clash in front of my eyes. Compositional rules started to play out in front of me, like a mad cartoon replaying over and over again on my eyeballs. It was almost too much.
I wanted to start with this because for me it’s so important to hold the ideas and suggestions that you are absorbing in your photography learning, very lightly. Too much thinking can make you, as I was, stilted and stiff. What I am always trying to encourage people to do with their photography is to loosen up, relax into themselves and their own creativity, enjoy the process. Nothing I have to offer is so weighty that it needs to be adhered to like dogma. It’s just small ideas, small prompts, small inspirations.
So, with that in mind I wanted to offer some thoughts and suggestions on finding your subject when you travel.
What are you looking for?
I am not a travel photographer or photojournalist, and so I am not looking for a comprehensive vision of a city for my dawn projects. The prep for that kind of photography is totally different. I am an artist, so I am looking to capture my vision of a place or of the city. Of course I want to photograph what makes a place iconic – there is a reason that the view of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero is well photographed: it’s awe inspiring! In those places I am looking for something different. A different light, a different angle, people…something that will be just mine.
Unless you have a very specific assignment or project you are working on, here are some questions to ask:
What kind of things am I interested in about this place?
What kind of things do I want to capture?
What drew me to this place?
Is there anything I hoping to find here?
And then, allow for that but not be too confined by the answers. You are on a journey, an adventure, you want to discover new things as well as making sure you get what you came for.
One insanely important thing to me when I plan my Cities at Dawn books is that I don’t want them to have a touristy feel – that I only captured the ‘surface’ of the city. I want them to be picked up by a local who then says – yes, this is my city! For instance, like how I photographed the water that is incessantly pumped out of the gutters in the morning in Paris. It’s not something you may notice but when you see a photo of it, you are reminded: of course! This is what it is to live in Paris, seeing these thin streams of water cleaning the streets. Looking not just for what is photogenic, but what it is to be there.
How much to prepare
I am a big fan of just going off and exploring and seeing what I can find. I don’t want to limit new discoveries by a pre-organised shot list. But sometimes arriving in a new place can be overwhelming and trying to get a grip on it can just be too much. So I like to get a bit of a sense of some fall back places that I want to photograph. I use Google Earth a lot, firstly to explore and then pin a bunch of interesting places onto a map.
The picture I am trying to paint here is one of balance. You need some organisation to keep you feeling sane and focused, but you need to also have a relaxed attitude so you are open to the new experiences that travel will present.
Start taking photos before you go
I like to start a new photo project when I am in the middle of something really good elsewhere. Perhaps it’s like that salesman maxim: the best time to make a sale is when you’ve just made a sale. Or (another one from my wife): how Ernest Hemingway would try to finish his writing for the day in the middle of a really good piece of writing so it was easy for him to get started the next day. If you are trying to start fresh every day then the blank page / empty memory card can feel overwhelming intimidating. But also when we are feeling creative, when we are in the flow we are more likely to have interesting ideas.
So, if I am not already working on a project back home I like to make sure I get one started before I leave. Or at the very least have a few photo walks to new places. Gets me in the mood.
Going beyond the exotic
The challenge with photographing in a new location, particularly one that is massively different from where you are from, is you can get completely distracted by what’s new to you (but not new to the world, we are no longer living in the age of exploration), and you end up taking tons of boring photos. What will give you the ability to create unique photographs of a location is how quickly you can get into the feel of the place and see it in a fresh, true and honest light.
I really enjoyed this podcast with photographer David du Chemin, who explains this issue really well – he talks about ways to combat your excitement in being in a new place so that you don’t just take all of the standard shots (look, elephants!) He suggests getting your intrigue at the exotic things you see out of the way quickly (more elephants! men with interesting headdresses!) so that you can then start seeing what’s really there, what’s really going. When you can see the place in an objective, fresh way you will find something unique to you.
To take great photos, first you must feel
I read this is a great interview with photographer Steve McCurry by travel photographer Oden Wagen recently and I love a couple of the points that McCurry makes. First:
“A picture of a guy in the street in New Guinea, with a bone through his nose is interesting to look at. But for it to be a really good photograph; it has to communicate something about what it is like to live with a bone through your nose. It is a question of the moment to reveal something interesting and profound about the human condition.”
Ansel Adams talks a lot about the feeling behind your photographs, and I think a lot of photographers forget that. Photographer Joey L (his surname doesn’t seem to appear on this site) in his tips for travelling as a photographer talks about not being a looky-loo and just snapping away, particularly in developing countries. Spending time connecting with your subject, travelling slowly, and most of all being human is the best way to get good portraits. (Joey L also has some great other travel tips, like make your fancy, expensive camera look old to limit possibility of theft).
Follow what fascinates you
When Wagen asked McCurry the question of how you can create original work in this heavily photographed world, I thought it was a great response –
“In time, you start to develop your own way of seeing and then it’s your own personality coming through the camera. We are all unique individuals; we all have our personalities. We all have our own voice, and our own style. If you look at the photographers whose work we admire, they’ve found a particular place or a subject, dug deep into it, and carved out something that’ll become special.”
This makes me think of Irving Penn’s ethnographic studies of tribesmen and workers around the world and Sebastian Selgado’s work on the forgotten communities around the world in Genesis (great Ted talk by him here where he talks about the project.)
You know the pen in some form has been around for quite a long time and yet writers always seem to have something new to say. And think about fashion, I mean, jeez, how many different styles of trousers can you make? A lot it seems…
I particularly like the concept of ‘digging deep’. You know you don’t have to come back from a photo trip with 1,000 photos of everything. 200 photos of one or two subjects, where you have dug deep into a subject that has really caught your imagination will reap more fruit for you long term than lots of photos that you (or anyone else) are unlikely to look at again. Quality not quantity.
Go off the beaten track
In my work I have noticed that I am drawn to the juxtaposition in cities of beauty and grittiness. It was particularly obvious in Paris, such a beautiful city but with lots of stark contrasts – graffiti (which I like to photograph) and dog poo (which I do not). So I find it’s always worth while digging a little deeper into a city and finding alternative views on what you will find there. When I make it to Berlin I want to go on this night time, underground art tour. For several of my trips to Paris I stayed in the area dominated by north and west African communities in Barbes Rochechouart. It’s quite a rough area in the city that few tourists experience, let alone visit (this is an interesting perspective on the area) but I really liked exploring. It gave me a totally different perspective on the city, the country and its history (great North and West African markets, amazing food like tagine and kebabs in the cafes and restaurants). It reminded me a bit of Dalston in London (although the latter is fast being taken over by the hipsters, so it’s unlikely to stay like it is for long.)
This is where the practice of seeing is really powerful. And you need to push yourself on this one. What’s on the overpass up there? Is that an abandoned building? Where does that little alley go….? You have to work harder than the tourists, harder than the other photographers who are also wandering around, you have to be more relentless in your search. Don’t settle for a few nice shots, go for something no-one has ever seen before. And I am here to tell you that it’s possible.
Think about doing a project on people
The easiest way to get involved and to get to know a culture is to talk to people. Maybe you have an idea before you go, or you get one when you are there, but having a subject to focus on is a really awesome way to dig deep and develop your photography.
The whole journey is the trip
I think sometimes we can get a little anxious about achieving things in our grown-up lives and in our productiveness-obsessed culture. We think OK – I’m off to Rome. We pack our bags, get on a plane, get to the hotel – rush rush rush – we have breakfast, and then off we set to take our photos. But by then you’ve already missed so much. As soon as you’ve made your decision to go on a trip you’re on the journey. The thoughts of the place, the ideas you come up with on where to shoot, your investigation of the culture, that is all setting you on the path of your journey. Your vision of your world at home has already changed as you start to mentally prepare for what is coming. Today I am London, playing in the park with my kids, chatting to my neighbour, but deep in the recesses of my mind I am wandering through the streets of Istanbul listening to the voices as I get lost in the back streets. I won’t be there until the end of the month but I have already started my journey. And so I must always have my camera with me.
Every experience you have, everything you see becomes another filter on your camera. That’s how you change as a photographer.
Don’t take crazy amounts of photos
I know the temptation to always have camera in hand, or even to spend more time looking through your viewfinder than being in a place, or being in the moment, as they say. But that really limits your potential for great photos. Firstly, it’s like a barrier between you and the place, it’s much harder to fall into conversation with people, to notice things when your camera is out, right there. Have your camera available but not always stuck in front of your face.
Secondly, you can’t absorb the culture when you are just thinking of it as a series of photos, and having an understanding and a feeling for the place will be communicated through your photos. That will be what creates the power of the image and evokes feelings with the viewer. As Maya Angelou said:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Thirdly, and this is shocker: life isn’t just about photography! Enjoying yourself, relaxing, having a good time also need to be part of the trip (and if you really need an excuse then think the more relaxed you are, the better your mood, the better the photos.)
The photos in this blog post are from my Venice at Dawn project. I chose this selection because I like how they show the more unusual views of the city. The abandoned building I found whilst wandering along the eastern edge of the island, the brilliant little gas stations that appear on the shoreline, the main tourist drag eerily empty of people.
So there we go, some of my thoughts to get you in the mood for travelling with your photography. I have a bunch of photo workshops coming up that you are always welcome to join, in Istanbul,Rome,Venice, Paris and of course my wonderful home city of London.
If you have any questions about them, myself or Diana are always happy to answer.
And if you need any advice please do email me . I love hearing from you. Or comment on my blog 🙂
How 'mini-seeing' projects can help your photography.
I was out with one of my dawn workshops a few weeks back teaching and chatting and demonstrating and I found myself alone for a moment; everyone had found something to shoot, so there I was with just my camera and the rising sun in a small park next to a church. I had been here before. Many times. A shimmer a few yards away caught my eye and disappeared as I got closer. I realized I had seen the reflected light from a snail trail. I found it again as I got closer and took a shot. Then I found another nearby. Got that one too. Then another. Twenty minutes later I look up and everyone had gone. I’m sure they were with Nick.
Finding those snail trails is what I consider to be mini-seeing project. Think of them as a little portfolio you can grow over weeks, months or years even. I’ve done peoples bellies, weeds in cracks, street arrows (a la my favourite photographer Ernst Haas). I have a colleague who likes to shoot abandoned couches and can see them around corners (must have something to do with smell.). Doors, windows, mean dogs and fluffy cats are also under his purrrview… The point is to search for them! And in searching you will learn to “See”.
One way to understand what Seeing is is to view the world around you in a way that is totally unnecessary to your survival. To use your eyes in a creative manner and not for catching the bus, not stepping off the cliff, avoiding the speeding courier or generally staying alive. And it takes practice – not the survival part(you’ve learned that already or you wouldn’t be reading this) but the “seeing” part. Mini-projects can be that practice.
When you purposefully increase your concern for something then your brain will reward you by growing that part of it that helps you to “see” creatively. Once it’s in your range of concern you will notice that it’s been all around you already, only now you’re noticing it. Ever had a friend who bought a new car and now you see that car all the time! Something like that.
So choose something. Start looking for it. Put effort into finding it…and a little more effort and compose a great shot!
When I found the group again(I knew where were headed to the bagel shop) I showed them my new mini-project of my snail trails. They thought they were pretty cool, so did I, not because they were great shots or anything, but because you could only find them in a tiny angle of reflection at a certain time of day.
I am fascinated by Leake Street, off Lower Marsh in Waterloo. You can stroll through everyday and see some new work or someone in the process of painting over another’s. I met a guy, in the midst of creating is art, from Australia who came over here to paint and a guy from France who came and was just finishing his. They were both beautiful and creative.
Lately though the artists have been far and few and mostly what is displayed now is gang tagging(definitely not art!). Makes me wonder about graffiti culture. I asked the Australian if he minded that is labours are soon defiled and gone. His answer was levelled and honest, simply “Nah”.
Hello and Happy New Year!
I hope you are all getting on well with 2012. Beginnings can be hard but remember 2012 will be 2013 in no time so lets make the most of it. As Steve Jobs said “Soon you will be dead.”
A lot has changed in photographic technology since 2002 when London at Dawn was first published. I was thinking that the new updated book should reflect those changes. Digital photography is awesome. I love the kit, the quickness and the low cost of shooting. Great stuff! I was thinking of adding images made with High Dynamic Range(HDR), like the one above, to my upcoming re-release of London at Dawn, due out in June of this year(I still shoot mostly on film). What do you think? Should I or not?
I promise more feel good photos (even cemeteries can be feel good!) to come this year, so clear those puppy pics off your desktop and make room for great London images. They will inspire you to have a good day when your out in the hustle and bustle!