I guess I’ve been doing this long enough now to recognise trends and cycles. I consume enough media to distill & filter images into basic categories. If it’s a widely accepted truth that all stories are based on seven basic plots, then all the editorials I currently see are based on just one fucking story recorded on an endlessly looped 8-track. The one where a girl arrives at a photographer’s apartment, stands somewhere near a window and undresses. If the photographer is really good, they’ll have managed to live near an outdoor pool or in LA.Read More
There are two places that I’ve visited this year that crept up on me slowly, hit me hard and now have a strangle hold on my heart and my mind. Cape Town was the first, Iceland the second. Neither place grabbed my imagination immediately. My first Iceland post below bears that out…had it been a two day trip I would have enjoyed it, logged it and left it behind. The remainder of the trip was when it became clear you just can’t leave Iceland behind. It’s been six weeks now and I still think about it daily. Nostalgia isn’t healthy. It’s about time I finished this to lay it to rest, if only so I can post about South Africa.Read More
I can’t speak with absolute certainty, but I’m fairly sure that when your dentist takes her annual vacation she doesn’t pack her drill. That your favourite barista leaves their Gaggia behind. The Uber driver parks his Avensis at the airport. I can’t think of many other professions where leisure travel involves you choosing to take along your entire arsenal of work tools.
Photography is as much observation as it is light and composition, and the chance to observe and record unfamiliar horizons, cultures and architecture always outweighed sacrificing my entire hand luggage allowance to camera bodies, lenses, chargers and laptops. Memory cards, flashes, adaptors, filters. “Any electrical items in your hand luggage sir?” “Yeah, I’m a mobile fucking Currys”. I pity the busman queueing behind me at the security check. “Any electrical items in your hand luggage sir?” “No, just this bus”.
To lump together everything shot overseas into ‘travel photography’ in the first place is to overly simplify. Most photographers just take a break from their commercial work and kick back into travel mode - simple snapshots but with too many pixels - but lots also make a living from travelling - McCurry will single out the faces, Parr will look to the tourists themselves, Salgado will change your world, Adams chased light across landscapes and bloggers…blog. For most of us though it’s a holiday in the sense that there’s no client and therefore no pressure. Right? Wrong. There’s a new client. Everybody you ever met. Everybody-in-the-sodding-world. Instagram.
You’re a photographer, so chances are you have social media accounts. As much as you’d love your feeds to be simple personal accounts of artisan coffees carefully framed to appear like they’ve not been carefully framed, and behind-the-scenes shots of unfathomable lighting setting ups and huge crews, they’re probably not. Your streams are a part of your shop window and you’re achingly conscious of this even when you pretend not to be. Shit holiday photos are not an option. Going overseas is too big an opportunity to simply not shoot, but thanks to the wonders of geotagging you’re entering a worldwide photography competition every time you point your camera at a tagged location. And everywhere is tagged. Usually more than once. So you’re not even sure if it’s the Eiffel Tower at the top of the list, or the third one down 5,000 miles away that some fuckwit tagged from their dorm room in Connecticut.
So now you’re measuring yourself against the whole world. Think about it. Somebody will have been wherever you’re standing when the light was perfect. Somebody will have been stood there when lightning struck or Elvis happened to pass by holding hands with the Pope. Somebody was stood there before the eternal scaffolding went up. Somebody was there with better photoshop skills than you making the lines in the locals’ faces even deeper. Somebody actually lives where you’re stood and can take a different image every day of the year. And probably has. “The Drop Coffee 365 Project”. You? Well, you’re just there for 15 minutes before your partner moves you on to the next culturally significant boutique fromagerie that somebody cooler than you blogged from. It’s not a lonely planet. Everywhere is mapped out according to bloggers. There’s a perpetual circle of them spanning Europe from Iceland through Stockholm to Santorini, back across to Milan, Como, dipping down to Marrakech, up to Marbella. I know Santorini intimately without ever having been there. I know which hotels to book in every European capital without referring to Mr&Mrs Smith. I know because the same bloody lobbies are perpetually showing up on my feed. Nothing is waiting to be discovered because somebody discovered it for you and helpfully made sure you’ve already seen it from every angle. The Blue Lagoon provides free Wifi so you can check in and post to Instagram. There’s a blogger lane guaranteeing you jump the 30 minute queue to stop you blogging about the 30 minute queue (I made this up, but only because they probably haven’t thought of it yet).
It’s nothing new and it is something I’ve been casually thinking about for a while. So when we booked our last trip away to Iceland, I made a change. To travel to the most incredibly photogenic landscape imaginable I decided to leave the DSLR at home and just take a point and shoot. I looked at mirrorless systems, got seduced by the various retro-modern Fuji and Olympus offerings, turned my nose up at Panasonic and Samsung (they make phones and TVs) toyed with investing in the latest Sony Alpha (okay, so they make phones and TVs too) then took a step back - mirrorless interchangeable meant that before long I’d build up a whole new kitbag of lenses, bodies and accessories and be back to hauling another full system around with me. So I narrowed it down to the Fuji X100t or the new Fuji X70. Fixed prime lenses. All day battery life. Pocketable. Small RAWs and decent jpegs. Jpegs that you can transfer easily and painlessly to your phone and edit from the comfort of the Yale campus Eiffel Tower. Back to basics. I bought the X70 and reclaimed my onboard flight allowance. My pre-holiday packing checklist halved in size. I sailed through security. I took more varied photos than I ever do with the DSLR. And the images were different - looser, more personal. Having one focal length makes you think about what you’re shooting more but also lends a coherence to the images. And because they’re quicker to download and sift through* I actually bothered to make an edit - so many of my holidays are sat untouched in folders because the thought of going through 100 near-identical frames of some vaguely photogenic mountain became a chore. The video on the X70 sucks, but then I had a GoPro and a drone with me for video. I’m not totally letting go. If I can sacrifice the DSLR and not miss it in Iceland, I’m pretty sure I can do it anywhere.
So, for the time being at least, the DSLR will only fly when I’m shooting for clients overseas. No compact, no mirrorless system (with the possible exception of the Sony) will ever give you the quality and options that a great SLR with a judicious lens selection will. Unless it’s for a social media campaign. But then they’ll probably just hire a blogger anyway.
Over the next blogs I’ll post my last few getaways. Clear down those gigabytes of mountains (or mountains of gigabytes). Give me some memories to look back on. I’ll start with Iceland and the Fuji. By the time I’ve finished, I’ll probably have something from Santorini.
*In theory…but not quite in practise. At least not in Lightroom which seems to have a major case of the crawls with Fuji files.
Adding effective image credits to your photographs on social media
It's 22˚C outside. Sticky city hot. But no sun because this is, after all, Manchester. I have a coffee (always), a new table to work at and 30 minutes downtime to put some thoughts down.
As my blog posts often do, this relates to test shoots and is less relevant for commercial work. It's about the currency of credit rather than that of Her Majesty.
Basically, we all test for three main reasons. Creative itches, speculative pitches and maintaining social visibility. The first is easily satisfied. The latter is easily frustrated. So here's a handy cut-out-and-keep* guide to how to do the small things that keep everybody happy and feeling warm inside. Because believe me - nothing creates quietly festering resentment in somebody like giving a day to creating something beautiful and then being socially erased from the end result. Rarely will the person actually say anything incase they come across as a diva. They'll just remember it next time you ask them…
If you read any previous posts you already know my thoughts on providing work to commercial entities for free, and on submissions. I came across a beautiful example this week of how both these areas can collide in a car crash of exploitation.Read More
It feels like I can't do a simple test today without somebody involved asking where it's going to be submitted. Or "Can we submit?". Or stating "I only test if it's for submission".
Yeah. We'll submit to 125. Or Purple. Maybe Vogue. Love. Wonderland. They're doing a feature on local designers shot in provincial towns this month. Perfect.Read More
It was Mark Twain who said (or didn't say, depending on which internet source Google takes you to) "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated" - but, for the moment, Front magazine's current issue is sadly their last. After 16 years and 191 issues the alternative lads mag has ceased to be. It's not the first lad's mag to hit hard times recently. The original lad's mag - Loaded - has gone through two resurrections in the last year. Front itself has had six different owners/publishers over its lifetime. It may yet rise again. But probably not.Read More
The following post might be achingly obvious to anyone who's walked an 'artistic' road through life. I'm a little lacking in the Fine Art History stakes. I know Van Gogh hacked an ear off and that a Picasso is a French car for people that don't like driving. And that's about it
I'm rarely completely satisfied with my own images. Most photographers I know feel the same about their own shots. Other people's frames are infinitely more enjoyable than your own.Read More