Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The award for newcomer of the year goes to....

Melbourne photographic NOTY trophy in all its glory

While I am sure most of us do photography for the pleasure of it, to get recognition once in a while is also appreciated.

So I am very please to announce that I am now Melbourne Photographic society's new photographer of the year (or NOTY as it is termed). Since this is probably my first award since I got 3rd place for Karate when I was about 20, it is needless to say I am very pleased and honoured. (I won my previous trophy with the clever ruse of putting my face in front of my opponents fists , so getting them disqualified. Fortunately winning this one came a lot easier ),

This trophy is given to the photographer who has been with the society for less than 3 years and is based on the 10 best scores in society competitions. It also can only be awarded once.

I must admit that my entry to competition was more to help improve my photos, than gain any reward and certainly my early results meant that any idea of winning anything could not be further from my mind.

However now I have received the award, I must admit I cannot help being a little pleased with myself, if for no other reason as it stands as a marker for how much my photography has improved over the last year.

Certainly in early competitions I wondered why I was entering, since I often took the results and criticism personally. At one point I decided I would not enter again, but I did and it resulted in improving my photo's.

It also gives me renewed confidence for next season.

I cannot win this trophy again, but there is the photographer of the year trophy (or POTY). This however will require another leap in the quality of my photos. This year I was about 5th in the overall scores, and to improve on that, a quantum leap in improved quality will be required. I am under no illusions that this will be challenging. Nor will it happen overnight, so I will have to be patient and take the good with the bad.

But still, if nothing else I can approach my hobby with renewed confidence and vigor and if nothing happens, I will still always be the winner of the NOTY

Sunday, 17 May 2015

a year remembered

I haven't been able to do many photography related activities recently, including writing this blog. As result I have a backlog of images to sift through with the somewhat vain hope that I can unearth some gems from the rough. Plus I have a number of new projects just waiting for the point I can spend some quality time on them (also note to self, also see more of family).

A consequence of this. is that I have only recently noticed that it has been one year since I started this blog.

Now this is a big thing for me, since my track record on these sort of things is not stellar. I remember getting a diary when I was 12 at Christmas (life was simpler then), and deciding I was going to keep a day to day log of my activities. I think I got to about January the 2nd, before I gave up. The entries up to that point had not been literary masterpieces with passages such as "had dinner" or "went to bed".

I now wish that I had the discipline and ability to record my life in more detail (although when you are 12, writing a page of prose is not something you could ever imagine you would do as a  pleasurable activity).

However I took two lessons from this failure

First blogs, like diaries, take considerable time and effort. Secondly the biggest challenge is finding something that you find interesting and you consider worth writing about. With blogs, there is the additional complication that it has to be something you others might also find interesting.

Over the years I have started a number of blogs, with limited success, but this one has so far proved the most fertile and long lasting.

When I started this blog, it's purpose was for me to record my progress in photography. It was a personal journey, but one I was happy to share if it helped anyone else along the way. Since that point there has been 69 posts and almost 3000 views. Now some of these are probably just accidental, but I do like to think on my darker days that someone may of get some joy out of it, even if it was just to pass away 5 minutes on a dull day. My primary intention of course was to help me remember my journey. Helping anyone else on the way is just a bonus.

As with all anniversaries, this calls for a bit of self-reflection. So how has the year gone photographically speaking?

Well, this is probably the 1st year that I have taken my photography seriously.  A lot of my journey has been traveled and measured against my local photographic society who have provided many of the challenges, plus many of the incentives. If anything the social side of joining a club, being together with people of the same interests has been as important as the photography itself.

The big question for me however, is has my photography improved over the last year?

I think the answer has to be yes to that. At the start, I possible had a slightly over-inflated[slightly? - Ed] opinion of my abilities as a photographer. As I entered competitions, I had a rude awakening and had to re-evaluate my talent. However in recent months I have had some good results, showing that if at least I have not completed my journey, at least I am a part way down the road.

However I have a feeling that this is a sort of 90-10  situation, where 90% of the work takes 10% of the effort and the final 10% takes 90% of the work. The easy fruit has perhaps been picked. Moving to the next level will require as much effort again, if not more.

Also the progression has been incremental. I sort imagined that I would wake up and have a road to Damascus type moment, when all would come clear. Instead it has been a year of slow learning and trying to reinforce any lessons learned.

So what about the year ahead. Well, like I said earlier, I have two projects which are in their early stages, and as I do them, hopefully I will document them on this blog.

Like any good reviews, I have also set myself some improvement goals as a  photographer, namely
  • Stop taking to take "nice" photos' and instead to take ones that have a improved narrative.
  • Improve my black and white photo's. B&W images are the purest form of photography, since you cannot hide the flaws in composition etc by saying "look at the bright colours". 
  • Take fewer insurance photos. Taking a lot of images in itself is not a problem, but most are there just because I lack the confidence to know that I have got the image I want. I take many images of the same thing with different aperture, focal lengths and exposure settings. This is because I don't have the skill and confidence to execute the image I want. I want to learn how to better imagine, plan and finally take that photo, so I get the result without 100 other images of the same thing.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has helped me this year, with advice, a shoulder to cry on and tea and encouragement. It's been greatly appreciated. Also thanks to all of you who has visited the blog over the last year. The fact I am not shouting into the wind has given me loads of incentives to carry on.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Get on your bike.

I got a new piece of photography kit recently

Well, I not exactly new since it has been sitting around in my shed for years. It's just recently I have come to appreciate how useful it is for photography.

Here it is...

No it's not some sort of re-configurable tripod, it's a bike. In fact quite an old bike, one I have used on and off(mainly off) for about 20 years.

So what has this got to do with photography?

Well, as I set out in my personal philosophy, I am a great believer that you don't have to travel the world to take great photos.

There are considerable advantages in taking photos in your local area. I find that as you get more into photography you start seeing potential photographs everywhere you go. However often you have to wait for the right light or just for the time to take it. Travel to an exotic destination and you have much less time to find the right location and wait for the right light.. Go, say to Venice, and the whole week maybe consist of continual drizzle. Stay at home and you will get another chance, 365 days a year.

However one of the big issues of local photography is transport.

Yes you can walk, but that limits you to about 5 miles from your home. However if you are time constrained, this can take 2 -3 hours, meaning you are more likely to do a mile or so on a good day.The plus however, is that by walking you get to a better appreciation of your local  environment..

Alternatively you can drive, which get's you further, but there are some problems with that.

Firstly, how many times have you been driving when you see a great scene in a perfect light?

It happens to me all the time(of course normally when I'm not carrying my camera.). However since you are in a car, you can't just stop and hop out. You need to pull over, find a safe parking spot, lock the car, and then often trek back to where you saw the shot. By then the light may of already been lost. (I'm thinking of creating some bumper stickers that say "Warning: Photographer on-board, may stop suddenly for sunsets")

The second problem is you will not believe how much you you miss when your driving. If you drive sensibly(as you should), then your eyes should be on the road, not scanning the horizon for that perfect sunset. Even at 30 m.p.h it is amazing how fast the landscape whizzes by before you have chance to take it in. Just think about today's journey to work.  How much can you remember of it?

The bike is the perfect compromise for this. On a bike you can easily do 12-15 miles in an hour. At the same time you are not cocooned in a air-conditioned glass shell, so you are more attuned to your environment. Stopping is as easy as pulling over, resting your bike against the wall and you are good to go

I discovered this recently when I was persuaded to do a charity bike ride, and thought it would be a good idea to do some training. The first time I went light, without my camera and cursed continually as I saw loads of great photos. At the same time I found myself finding new local spots I hadn't even realized existed. I found two lakes, which I had been driving past for years, a new route to the river and a place where the sunsets play over water. Even if I did not take any photo's at the time, they are know noted, someday to return.These are places I would never of found in a car.

A rapeseed at sunset

M&S distribution center

Of course there are downsides. Weather is a much bigger factor when you are on a bike. On a calm, summer day there is nothing nicer. Add some rain and wind, and the the desire to go out quickly diminishes.

Another issue is the equipment you can carry. Tripods are out, unless it's very light. Also since you are going under your own steam, weighing yourself down with lenses and camera bodies can be a problem.

One of the biggest problems, is the time to get the camera ready to use.

One thing I have noticed on a bike is that because it is fast and relatively quiet, you can easily catch the local birdlife unaware. However when you stop to take a picture, by the time you have got the camera out, the bird has caught on and flown off. Often I pass a local Buzzard sitting on a fence, but as soon as I stop, they go. Unfortunately you cannot really ride with a camera strapped round your neck.

But these are minor issues. The big plus is that you get to take great photo's of your local area. The bonus is you are getting fitter at the same time. A classic win-win.