Saturday, 5 January 2013

2013...Bring it on

This post was originally intended to be the last post of 2012. But for one reason or another (Family, Booze, travelling, Kids, Hangovers etc.) it didn’t happen. I thought I would take a look back at some of the things I have learned over the last Year.

Get it off the Camera
Probably the most important technique (to me) that I have developed is “Off Camera Flash”.

 I found myself seeing more and more images on flickr,500px and other sites which were lit beautifully and in a way that I hadn’t even seen before. So I did some digging around and the same name repeatedly came up…. David Hobby, AKA “The Strobist”. After looking at his fantastic blog (There’s a link on the right of my blog), I felt that actually, it wasn’t as hard as I thought to use off camera lighting, so I bought a couple of speedlights and stands, and haven’t looked back.

 The skills and techniques I have developed, have stirred a creativeness that I didn’t think I had and have pushed me into a new way of thinking about my shots.


I first started my photography journey in the world of film. So I was already clued up on exposure, aperture, perspective, and Depth Of Field. However, I wasn't really that aware of how effectively DOF could be used in an image. I was the “That looks good, I’ll photograph it” kind of guy. That’s ok for quick shots, if you don't give a sh ….monkeys about what's in the background, or focus fall off. It took me a while to see how effective DOF could be in totally changing the way a photo looks and feels, so now it’s a technique that I am always aware of, and often utilise to get the image I want.

Both of the shots above would be much less effective if I hadn't deliberately thought about DOF.

It’s all in your head!

I was never the most creative child. Beyond making guns and swords from sticks and rustling up the odd mud pie, I never really turned my hand to anything creative. I enjoyed art at School, but never took it any further when I went to college. When I started out in photography I used to shoot what was there. I then progressed to shooting what was there, but trying to make it look good. I have now arrived at Creating what I think should be in a photo, then making it happen, then If need be editing it to make it look how I envisaged it. Now don’t get me wrong, I still like my wildlife, and my landscapes, and event photography.
But the last year has stirred in me a creative side that I didn’t know I had. Ideas that come from nowhere, and some of them are the most random thoughts ever, and are more often than not totally irrelevant to what I’m doing at the time. 
I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this and many of them are the same as me. Days, or even weeks can go buy with nothing floating through my head other than when the next coffee might arrive and what I should have for lunch. But then a concept for a photo floats in, and its usually followed by several more in the space of a day or two. I don’t really understand where they come from. But I like it. And I think that once the brain realises that you are physically and technically able to do something, the subconscious begins to mull over possible uses for these skills.

M mode is NOT king.

I come across a lot of Die-hard users who believe that if you don’t use your camera on full manual then you clearly don’t know what you’re doing. This is quite simply Bullsh....not true. I use manual a lot, because using off camera flash(Strobes) means that you get total control of exposure the strobes and of the ambient light. I use full manual when I’m out and about and I’m composing a specific shot for the same reason. But for the rest of the time, Its aperture priority mode all the way. When I’m out with the telephoto zoom on, and I’m after wildlife shots or if I’m shooting an event, I’d much rather get the shot, even if its not quite right than miss it whilst I’m messing around with the settings. Anyone who tells you that they use M for everything is probably talking crap. Try capturing a moving animal like a horse at full gallop, against a varying background, in and out of sunshine and shade, which is only going to be visible for 15 seconds, when you’ve just been set to expose a bird in shaded undergrowth. If you can do that in full manual mode without missing the shot then you should probably be chopped up and studied by scientists.
Well that’s the end of my first, ranty, wandering blog post this year. Feel free to comment, tell me I’m talking bollo rubbish, or indeed criticise any of my images.


  1. I'm a cut my teeth on an all manual camera with handheld lightmeter type of guy. These days the camera is normally on AP because I want control over DoF for most of my shooting.

    1. I dont have much experience with that system. My first SLR was a Practika B100 that had a built in exposure meter. My gripe is with the current class of DSLR users who still insist that if you haven't set your camrea to 'M' then pulled the knob off then you're not a "Proper" photographer.

  2. It's been great seeing you progress through your photographic journey Pete.

    Watching you wade through a Project 365, (not the easiest of things to do!), seeing new ideas coming to the fore and experiencing your photography prowess increase day by day has been a pleasure. 2013 will be a great year, you did so well with 2012!

    As for 'M' modes, 'A' or even 'Auto' it should be a case of whatever gives you the results you desire. My old Mamiya gave you no choice, it was 'M' all the way! But even then I used to load ISO400 film, (still fine for medium format), or even chromogenic film such as Ilford's XP2, that way I made one exposure reading or sometimes 'guestimated' so that I could do the important thing...capture shots!
    You've already gained the experience to know that strobist work kinda works better with 'M' and you use 'A' all the way for everything else...the important word there is 'experience'.
    Best not to be angry over the typical, "I'll think you'll find...", sort of 'advice' that abounds today. I simply smile and nod my head a lot so that they feel better, then when I turn away I roll my eyes upwards and tut. Works better ;-)

    All the best mate, carry on doing what you're doing, enjoying it all and becoming better for the experience.