Such a simple tip for producing arresting images is to change your angle of view. Most photographers seem to see the world from 5’5″ and pretty straight on.
To help explain this side of my work I’ll take a typical days shoot and describe how I process the images from downloading to saving as final ‘print ready’ photographs. Back in the autumn I was at Ogmore Estuary when I came across three Grey Phalaropes. I stayed with them for about four hours and took 701 JPEGS. They’re a fairly obliging bird and continued to ply a predictive route up and down the river all afternoon. As the session wore on it gave me more and more opportunities to try something different as I was confident I had secured some fairly decent ‘stock’ images.
I’m frequently asked which file format I shoot in, particularly when I talk to groups or societies and have a good number of mounted A3 prints for them to look at. There is often surprise when I reveal that the majority of the work is shot in high JPEG. RAW obviously has more information, often as much as ten times that of a JPEG. It has a greater latitude with regard to exposure and more control over the basic settings that are available to the photographer; such as colour balance, contrast, sharpening, saturation and hue – but all of this doesn’t necessarily make it the obvious and only choice. There are advantages and disadvantages in shooting in both. Once you have some understanding of what is involved with each it becomes a matter of personal preference and pragmatism, often related to the type of work you are involved in.
Just come across a quirky little download, but a bit of fun. It recreates your images in a Polaroid style and the images develop on screen. You’d get a little frustrated if you were doing loads, but it does put a real time factor back into the process and the effect isn’t bad at all. But what was originally seen as an instantaneous process becomes one were you now have to wait, all be it for a bit of fun. – thats computers for you! It’s a free download from www.poladroid.net available for PC amd mac
There is a lot written about the rules of thirds on the Internet as an aid to photographic composition, much of it giving sound advice with regard to applying the rule, its origins and the fact that it must not be seen as the ‘holy grail’ for the creation of fine images.
The idea that beauty only resides in the natural world has to be contested. It is fair to say that I find most inspiration from the landscape and natural history, but at times I have been moved by urban and industrial environments.
It’s hard not to look on with astonishment and wonder at the city scape that is New York. At night it is simply beautiful, and despite my misgivings about what it represents and stands for its raw impact cannot fail to have an effect.
I have recently been preparing a couple of logs that I had found around the ponds, for feeding. I chiseled out about an inch deep trench in the log at three separate places, so that I could stuff food into the crevices in such a way that they would not be visible when birds landed on them.
It’s not a good moment when you arrive at a photographic job without a camera! I managed to blag my way out of it – another story – but your legs go weak and you are just hoping your in some kind of bad, really bad, dream. I was working as a very young medical photographer at the time and the department had ten ‘primed’ and ready to go camera bags so you could respond to any incident or request instantly. The bags were placed in reception and you would rush out picking one up on your way.
It’s a sobering thought when you realise that some of your photographs are moving into the realm of becoming historical. It’s inevitable, I know, when you have been taking photographs for over 30 years but somehow you always see your own images as being contemporary.
I am often asked if there is any occasion when I have felt under pressure when taking photographs of birds. On the whole I am fairly sanguine over what you get and what you miss, it’s part of the deal with this sort of photography, but there is a particular moment that comes to mind when I felt if I didn’t manage to secure a decent shot from this then I might as well give up.
I am currently reading Mark Cocker’s beautifully written book ‘Crow Country’ in which he goes in search of the Rooks and Jackdaws that he first encounters in the Yare Valley in Norfolk. There is a small paragraph towards the beginning of chapter six that should be read and digested by anyone who wants to look a little harder to find the extraordinary in the everyday. Although he is concerned with nature watching what he says can be applied to all aspects of looking.
‘… every time you pin a label on a living creature it reaffirms a sense of mastery over it. The naming of the thing gives you the wonderfully reassuring illusion that you know it. You don’t. Sometimes all you have is a single datum. The name. In a bizarre way, the process of recognition can actually be a barrier rather than a doorway to genuine appreciation’
So often, on returning from a holiday or expedition, people are heard to say, ‘ These pictures don’t do justice to the experience!’ Don’t be in this position again!
Over the years photography has been a great way to tell a story. Its zenith occurred during the rise of the picture magazines like Life and Picture Post and of course all moving images are in reality a vast sequence of stills! A narrative suggests that the event photographed will have a beginning, a middle and an end. The time scale that this occurs within does not matter at all. The narrative can occur over a few seconds, minutes, hours or days.