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The difference

What one thing made the biggest difference to your photography?

For me it was a bit of critical feedback. Someone was looking at my images and said “pictures without people in are boring”. After the initial sting (the feeling of pride leaving the body), I realised it summarised what I liked most to take pictures of: people doing things. It was liberating. I didn’t have to take pictures of places to record that I’d been there. I didn’t have to take pictures of objects to show that I’d seen them. My loose definition of ‘people doing stuff’ could cover sport, family and friends. I still do the equivalent of landscape and wildlife photography when I’m diving, but I seem to be the only diver in my group who regularly photographs other divers.

I can’t think of any piece of equipment that has made a large difference. Any improvements have been incremental. There was never any feeling that this thing, whatever it was, had lifted the veil and changed my life. Saying that, there was a touch of that feeling when I bought my first camera. This was the first camera that was mine, as opposed to borrowing the family snapper. I could do with it what I wanted and because I paid for my own film and development, there was no guilt in shooting things that were “without merit”. That was a liberating step.

Once apon a time, this was the British Microsoft

I could say that getting an underwater camera made a big difference, but that too was incremental. I started with barely-capable splashproof kit and progressed to using an SLR in a flexible housing (a plastic bag). None of it was revelatory, as I gradually worked my way towards what I wanted to be able to do. If I could send my present setup back in time to beginner me, that would be a huge improvement. But what I use now didn’t exist then, and the path that led me from there to here taught me a lot along the way. And actually, I had to develop my diving skills as well. There would be no point giving my scuba-diving camera to my snorkelling protege, as it is meant to be used differently.

So it feels like my path from there to here in photography has been one of small steps and minor improvements. Except that here is a long way from there. I can look back and be amazed at the differences, but none of the steps felt large, or even planned. I am aware that I hosed the world with my camera when I first started. Everything felt new and I took pictures of things to see what they would look like in a picture, or to see if I could even get a picture. So along the way I have accumulated a vast record of boring pictures that capture an event as a bystander would see it, with no interpretation or art. The liberation for me was the comment I got as feedback, that freed me to ignore the things I didn’t feel engaged with.

It’s like books: I used to feel a duty to finish what I started. Then I found that there were lots of books in the world and I could neither read them all or be interested in them all. And some books were not well-written. This meant I could stop reading a book that didn’t engage me or at least teach me. (An aside – I keep a list of books I’d like to read so that I can raid bookshops and libraries with purpose and method. But serendipity needs to be in the mix too.)

So gaining a sense of what was valuable to me (or rather, having it pointed-out by helpful criticism) was the thing that made the biggest difference. What about you?


Second cheapest

So the idea is, if you are not sure what you need and faced with a long scale that stretches from cheap and cheerful to costly and complex, start with the second cheapest. The idea comes from Ronald Turnbull, and is his way of choosing mountaineering gear. For him, the enemies are weight and cost. The basis of the idea is to start with about the minimum and work up to what you need through actual experience.

I know I wrote previously about buying second-hand as a lower cost entry point. Ron’s is a slightly different strategy, of buying new but buying cheap. As film cameras age and fail, buying used is going to be increasingly risky. I know there are cameras that can be repaired and maintained, but they tend to be expensive and the skilled people who can repair them are also in short supply. The reason these cameras can be fixed at all is that they are expensive. People who buy a Leica or Rollei don’t want to throw them away if they break. People who break a Zenith tend to buy another one, even though they are eminently fixable.

If you look at digital kit there is an enormous range of functionality and features, with new models arriving like Russian taxis. If you know exactly what you need, the choice is easy. Otherwise, it’s confusing. So Ron’s Way might be the best: pick the one above the cheapest, use it and learn what it lacks. I know the old adage of buy cheap, buy twice, but there is no guarantee that buying expensive will deliver what you need. I could buy one of those mythical Leicas or Rolleis, and then find that what I really wanted was autofocus and the ability to use long lenses for bird photography. Or I could buy a top-range digital camera only to find it can’t take alternative lenses.

Not the second-cheapest, but it was second-hand.

Sure, you could do the logical thing and make a list of what you need and compare it with camera specifications, but is your list going to be based on experience or desire? I could wish for a 500mm lens, but I can’t think when I might ever use it. But I did learn from using a digital SLR that I needed better high ISO ability and to be able to use my wide angle lenses without cropping. I confess that I also didn’t buy the original camera new: I waited until a new model was announced and the price of the old one dropped like a rock. It has done, and still does, great service. I have used most of the features it offers. It went on sale in 2006 and was superseded in 2008, so mine is around 14 years old. I don’t care what the shutter count is and I’m not scouting for a spare one as a backup. If it breaks, the new camera is a total replacement that can do everything the old one did plus more.

Already obsolete when I bought it.

So perhaps we add the Duck Dodge to Ron’s Way? Buy a good model when it gets replaced and the price drops. But if you are not sure what you want yet, try Ron’s Way – buy the second cheapest.

The passing of a trouper

RIP the Ricoh XR-2. This was my first proper SLR camera and has soldiered on through everything that was ever asked of it. It’s been used underwater, in the rain and for everything and it just kept going. The light seals perished but were easily replaced.

And then I developed a film that was blank. A quick check found that the shutter was firing at a single speed, as there was no difference between 1/1000 and 1 second. The other obvious thing was that although the shutter blades were moving, there was no gap between them. Fresh batteries made no difference.

The shutter is a Copal Square and is electronically timed. So it looks like the electronics have died. I know that shutters have a life expectancy, and knowing how much I have used this camera over the years I guess I’ve just found it.

Forty years of hard service. Not bad for a consumer camera.

Am I going to replace it? No, I have more than enough cameras. I did have a Ricoh KR-10 for a while, but that was a bit too odd ergonomically. So if I’m not replacing it with another Ricoh I can just use one of the many other cameras I have, such as a perfectly serviceable Cosina.

On the other hand, it’s worth checking it over before throwing it away. It appears to be firing at the manual speed only. I understand that the shutter blades are held and released by a couple of solenoids. If they weren’t working or were covered in muck it could explain what the shutter is doing. What’s the harm in looking? Actually, quite a lot. I’m not the most gifted at fiddly repairs, or even repairs. I might be better sending this and some other casualties of time and hard use to one of the people who is still repairing cameras. That’s if they have any use as parts.

So what I actually did is take it, plus some other knackered SLR bodies and a lens, to the Photo Show in Birmingham. I donated them all to the Camera Rescue people. With luck they will either live to work again or donate components so that other cameras can have a longer life.

How did you learn?

What got me thinking was hearing a photographer described as ‘self taught’. That has surely got to be the majority of us, don’t you think? Even when I started taking pictures, I knew there were college courses that included photography. But I was on the science track. Schools then streamed pupils in subject groups, and I was better at science than art.

I could probably have done an arts or photography course after secondary school, but I was always going to be a better technologist than artist. Besides, teaching myself photography was part of the fun. I read every book on photography in the library. With my pal, who had a camera and knew how to use it, we read every magazine we could find (or afford) and critiqued every Photography Year Book. We also took pictures of anything and everything.

This was back in the days of Real Cameras which used film. It meant that the feedback cycle of comparing the results with the subject and one’s intentions was quite long. Digital photography has made the cycle much shorter – you can shoot, chimp and adjust immediately. This has got to be a better way of learning. Using film also introduces more variables. I might have got perfect focus, but then I messed up the development or printing. It was the reason why I would habitually take two shots of a subject in case I broke one of them. But film and chemicals seemed to be cheap and were certainly easy to obtain: Boots sold an own-brand mono film and every half-decent camera shop had bottles of Aculux. So we followed the percussive learning route – running into every wall until we found the way.

We were young in those days. Bless.

I was lucky in many ways that I was technical. I could develop my own film, I knew how things like dilution and temperature worked, and I (eventually) understood the camera’s settings. So gradually, over several years, my outcomes came closer to my intentions.

I will confess though, that my pal and I were rather taken with the legends of our revered photojournalists. We watched a documentary about Don McCullin in which he made a throw-away remark about changing film while lying in cover. So we practiced loading our cameras without looking or in the dark. One of the magazines told us we should be able to change the camera settings without looking, so we practiced. It was a harmless bit of fan-boy homage, but we did actually learn to handle our cameras with more confidence and less fear.

We were messing about when I noticed the shape of his shadow. It took a fair bit of processing to get the result I wanted from the picture I took.

Do I still think this kind of apprenticeship is necessary? No. The purpose of photography is the results, not the methods. I chose to learn the methods because I wanted to get more control over my results. My digital cameras now allow me to get the results directly within the camera and allow me to check immediately that I’m getting what I wanted. Do you still need to understand the exposure triangle? Totally. But getting immediate feedback makes it easier. It’s also changed in that ISO is now something you can vary with every shot, rather than being fixed for the length of the film you are using.

Would my photography have benefited from an input of art history or informed criticism? Absolutely, but I found my way into these later. So what’s my point? I am entirely self taught. I claim no merit from it: it’s just the way it worked out. For me the journey has been part of the pleasure. I guess that is the technologist in me: I want to understand how things work so that I can use them better. When I started taking pictures I did have to know how my camera and film worked in order to get the results I wanted. If I was starting now I would have a lot more automation and a much quicker learning cycle, so I would probably let the camera handle the settings while I concentrated on the results.

I also have a bad feeling about what a photography course could contain. I know what a proper college syllabus covers, as I’ve looked at them to see if I should do some proper study in photography. These courses are good. My reservations are for the shorter informal sessions given by amateurs. My fear is that these are more about how to control and use a camera than how to see things in a way that makes good pictures. If this is the way you might learn photography you would be better off looking at good photographs and paintings and thinking about why they are good.

So I followed the self-taught route, driven by a desire to make pictures and learning what I could in a haphazard fashion. The alternative route of formal learning teaches you more, better and quicker and leaves no gaps in your understanding. Self taught needn’t be less skilled, just as formally trained needn’t be more artistic. I think the route to avoid though is learning how to use a camera in the hope it will improve your pictures. Nobody cares what shutter speed you used, but using the right one can get the result you wanted. And the right shutter speed comes from your intention, not from the manual.

But to get back to the original point, I wonder how many photographers didn’t take an arts course or learn photography through formal education? Or perhaps it’s more strongly streamed than I realise. Perhaps people who want to take photographs usually follow the artistic education route and do learn by formal methods, while people like me fall into photography because they like it and learn by any method they can? But I’m a sample of one. How did you learn photography?

Praktica LTL

The first thing you notice about this and most Prakticas is the design, or ergonomics. The camera has a square-edged body and the shutter button is on the front rather than the top. Many cameras look like the outside shape is moulded around the internal components. This Praktica looks like a box that was made to hold the working parts. It’s at the brutalist architecture end of camera design. It’s reminiscent of the Argus rangefinder, although the Argus was probably made that way for ease of assembly.

This, and many of the other Praktica models, use a vertically-run, metal-bladed shutter that seems to be reliable and long-lasting. It has the usual suspects of speeds, spanning 1s to 1/1000. Unlike its Russian cousins you can safely change the speed without winding-on first

This was very much the thinking person’s cheap camera. There were lots of different models, so pay attention. Be aware too that Praktica used electrical contacts between the lens and body before they moved to a bayonet fitting. If you have an electric-type camera I believe you will need an electric lens to be able to take advantage of open-aperture metering. My version, the LTL, uses plain and simple stop-down metering and has no electrical contacts.

The bonus features in this model were a visible indicator in the viewfinder that the shutter is not cocked, plus a lock for the shutter button. Heady stuff, but mine lacks the shutter lock.

The meter takes a mercury battery, but you can also use an air-zinc one. Or you can just treat it as a meterless camera and forget the battery.

The other thing you will notice using the camera is the way it winds on. What I’m used to with other screw-mount cameras is the feeling of gears moving. They feel like you are winding-up a clock. The Praktica has a sort of clunk to the action – like a switch is being set. It’s hard to describe, but you will know it if you try say a Pentax and a Praktica. It may be down to Praktica’s method of holding the end of the film (see peeve below).

Mine came with a typical Praktica lens, the Domiplan 50mm f2.8. This is a basic triplet design with a reputation of being soft wide open but sharpening up a bit when stopped down. The Tessars are better lenses if you find a camera with one on. Or fit any number of sharp M42 lenses. I’m using a Yashinon on mine, with Pentax 35mm and 85mm lenses rattling in the bag.

But it’s a standard screw-mount camera. Get one of the models that does not use the electrical contacts and it will take a huge range of lenses. I’m pretty sure the electric ones will work too, but the meter probably won’t work without the matching lens.

The one feature I really don’t like though is their design of film take-up spool. Praktica switched from the usual slot in a tube to a clever piece of wire. I struggle to get the wire type to engage the film. I can do it, but it’s a slow film load as I wind-on the first blank bit of the film while watching for the rewind crank to revolve. I’m sure there is a knack to it, that I lack.

The shiny wires either side of the take-up spool are my nemesis

In use, the camera works as you’d expect. The shutter speeds seem accurate, which is a tribute to their design. The meter works if you get the battery voltage right. The negative frames are evenly spaced, so the mechanical bits are working ok. The rest is down to the lens, so the pictures are as sharp as the lens I fit.

Respect is due though. They made a lot of cameras and seem to have built them well. Mine must be at least 47 years old and still works reliably. I’d much rather use a Praktica than a Zenit.

Treasure hunt

I’ve discovered a great way to enjoy my photography, and it wasn’t even my idea. To be fair, most of the ideas in the world aren’t mine either. But back to the point, I joined a photography club a while ago. One of the things they run is a monthly session on a Saturday lasting three hours. Each session is on a type of photography: architecture, portraits, monochrome and so on. After a bit of chat on what the particular thing is, how to get the effect, what to look for, the challenge is on. We have a treasure hunt.

The point of the hunt is not the theory but the practice. We have 45 minutes to produce examples of the brief and bring them back. And therein lies the joy. No faff, no explanations, just results. Better still, results that you share and explain. Each person puts two or three of their pictures onto a laptop and we project them for everyone to see and discuss.

Now, 45 minutes is not long when you are looking for good architectural pictures or monochrome shots. Obviously we know what the subject will be, so it’s possible to prepare. The last two times I had worked out where I was going, that had likely subjects. My little trot round some photogenic sites took me to some places that I’d driven past but never walked. What I had missed was old warehouses and industrial property in shabby decay, trees breaking free of paving, odd alleys and pubs left standing as the single building in a demolished row. Sounds delightful, but it’s the history of this town and of a country where we stopped making things.

I also took a few minutes to experiment. I put a flashgun on the camera and covered it with a blue filter. Then I photographed one of the members in monchrome. The plan was that the blue light would give an ortho effect on his face while leaving the background normal. It kind of worked, in that it did make his skin look darker and more rugged with more prominent veins. It needs more practice though.

The projection of the results is not just a slide show. The person working the laptop loads the pictures into an editing program, so we can all propose changes and see the results immediately. It’s not the sort of fine-tuning you could spend hours doing to one of your own pictures. This is quick and dirty guerrilla pimping. A bit of cropping, play with the exposure, darken or lighten a few areas. Then put the original and the edit side by side. It’s usually the author who suggests the first edits, as they had something in mind when they took the picture. But then someone else will chip-in with a “what if you…” and we get to play.

What I like about this is that we all take different pictures. It’s enlightening to see what other people can see. When we did an architecture theme, the pictures ranged from old to modern, from whole to detail. There were also some pictures that pushed the accepted definition. If architecture is the built environment, then is a railway line architecture?

Wierd, I know. View through a fence.

I’m also eager to get home afterwards. I drop my picture files onto the computer and do some quick edits to capture both what I saw and also what other people saw in them. Now, I don’t know what your hit rate is when you go out with a camera – how many keepers you get. I can go out for the day, take two pictures and be bored with one and hate the other. But the hit rate from a treasure hunt is higher. I think the focus of a deadline and a theme makes me try harder. Subjects I would have previously have looked at and bookmarked for a later day become things I look at with concentration to decide if it fits the brief and could give me a good picture. So, like I said above, I spend 45 minutes doing an intense burst of photography with no interruptions. There is no “that’s interesting but I’m busy right now”; the reason I am here is to take pictures.

So I highly recommend a treasure hunt. It definitely works best with other people, as the sharing and discussion of pictures is really what it’s about. The theme and the deadline are just the method for obtaining a set of pictures to discuss. Having to shoot quickly to a theme is also an excellent way of pushing yourself to try something new.

Fed 5b

I didn’t want another rangefinder, but it was like pulling a thorn from a bear’s paw and having it follow you home as a friend (or to eat your dog).

I was mooching the Disabled Photographers stand at the Photo Show. Just out of curiosity you understand, and in case they had any wide-angle lenses. Right on the end of the bench was a grubby and battered Fed. The leatherette was scarred and torn. So of course I picked it up. The nameplate on the front was skewed and viewfinder was fuzzy and out of focus. But this is a Fed, so it can be easily adjusted to compensate for the variations in manufacture. The nameplate on the front, that contains the front windows for the viewfinder and rangefinder, is held on by a spring. It comes off to allow access to the rangefinder adjusters. So I pushed it straight again. The viewfinder itself has a diopter adjustment, so I twisted the eyepiece until it was sharp. I looked through it at a ceiling light and poked the arm in the lens throat. The double images came together with no vertical misalignment. Hmm, this thing might actually work.

Came without a lens, but I had a spare. The nameplate moves sideways and unclips to reveal the rangefinder adjusters.

The big test though was the shutter. Peggy of CameraGoCamera is clever enough to fix a knackered shutter, but not me. I’ve come to accept that I’m not good with anything more delicate than power tools. But the shutter curtains looked good – the fabric looked smooth and there seemed to be no holes when I held the camera up to the light. So I tried all the speeds (winding-on before changing speed, as one must). They looked and sounded about right.

Surprisingly clean inside

The Fed 5b has a better film winding arrangement than some other cameras, like a Zorki. The Fed has a drum with slots for the film leader, where some other cameras have a take-up spool that falls out when you open the camera. My Zorki has the escaping spool, as does my Fed 2. I think in the past I have used the spool from inside a 35mm film cassette as a replacement.

Fed 5 take-up spool
Zorki take-up spool making a bid for freedom

So of course I bought it.

With a better look at home I could see that the film counter was broken – there were no numbers visible through the window. Then I noticed that the window was in the wrong position. Someone had twisted it 90 degrees out of line. So I slacked the grub screw, turned it back and locked it. The film numbers appeared and incremented as the camera was fired and wound-on. Wow! This thing might work.

The window was next to the shutter button

Next is a torch test of the shutter curtains. No point putting film in it if the shutter is more net curtain than blackout blind. It passed – no obvious pinholes.

The Fed 5 was the last iteration of the line, produced from 1975 to 1990. This one, the 5b, was a cheaper version that lacked the uncoupled light meter of the 5. One less thing to break. The body is basically a box with rounded corners. Not as intricate as my Fed 2 or as steampunk as the Argus C3, but functional. It’s noticeably taller than the Fed 2. That’s not a bad thing for handling – I have big hands and the Fed 5 fits into my whole hand whereas I carry the Fed 2 using two fingers and a thumb (which is why it gained a raised grip on the front of the body). There are no strap lugs though, so it will be a bag carry.

Fed 2 to the left, Fed 5 to the right

The real test will be the rangefinder calibration. Setting the infinity point is easy, but you sometimes also need to adjust the close point. This means turning the cam on the end of the arm that rests on the back of the lens. It’s doable, but delicate. But I can’t wait, so I loaded a part-used film. I often tell my wife she has the patience of dynamite (with the expected result), but in this case it’s me.

The developed film showed consistent exposure, so the shutter is probably OK. The negatives were well spaced, so the mechanicals are probably OK. Infinity focus was good, but close focus was way off. So I’m going to have to twist the cam on the end of the rangefinder ‘finger’. The lens was focusing beyond a close object, so it wasn’t far enough out. The camera thinks the lens is further out on its focusing thread than it is. So I think I have to twist the cam to protrude further out. This will push the arm back in a bit, so the lens will have to be racked out a bit further. Luckily the whole back of the camera comes off to load, so it should be relatively easy to put a focusing screen over the actual film gate, lock the shutter open on B and then experiment.

To be continued…


Is there a valid distinction between high and low quality photography? I have heard pictures described as low quality, where the meaning was poor technical or image quality. But there are also pictures held up as icons of photography that would be classed as low technical quality. Think of Capa’s D Day pictures, for example.

Poor quality development

Technical quality I can understand. If a lens isn’t sharp or causes colour fringes, it’s not a good lens. If a camera is unreliable, it’s low quality. My Diana camera is low quality. It was made of thin, fragile and poorly-fitting components. I can’t be sure of its results. But it was made to be sold cheaply and still turn a profit, so it is as good as it needed to be. But I have also owned what looked like an expensive wristwatch that had fragile and unreliable working parts. So this had the appearance of quality while turning a larger profit. There are probably a lot of film-based point and shoot cameras that fall into the latter category: they appear to have good features but turned out to be fragile and giving poor results. Our family camera was like this when I was young. The pictures were always off: poorly framed, exposed or focused. I think my mum believed the marketing, that she only had to press the button and Kodak would do the rest. On the other hand the pictures are perfect, because they are the only existing record. So in emotional terms, quality doesn’t matter. But it’s nice to have better pictures if you can get them.

But aside from the technical quality of the camera and the resulting negative or image file, I wonder what other aspect of quality exists? There is good design, of course. Two things can do the same job, but one of them uses materials well or is easier to use. The Olympus Trip was a brilliant design. It simplified the operating controls, blocked being used in low light and had a sharp lens. Perfect for its job.

Poor quality in design

So what’s a poor quality photograph then? Is it one where the technical quality of the image is not overridden by the value of the subject matter? Or where the subject of the picture was not the low-definition rendering, so we feel it should be sharper or better exposed? Do we all agree that Ansel Adam’s landscapes are high quality? They are generally sharp and show a full range of tones. What about Ernst Haas then? His pictures were blurred.

The risk is of going down the rabbit hole on a Zen mission to define quality (although Pirsig sought to balance the romantic and mechanistic viewpoints, of which perhaps more anon.) But to get to the point, perhaps quality is fitness for purpose. So good quality means it does the job expected and is reliable. This would mean that a poor quality photograph is one where the subject matter and the image rendering are at odds. Adams’ sharp depictions of nature fit together well, and so do Haas’ blurred images of motion. A good quality camera or lens would do what you expected, and do it accurately and repeatably. A poor quality camera would be unreliable in operation or results.

This was taken with a poor quality camera

If that’s right, then that explains what a poor quality photograph is: it’s one where the results are worse than they should have been and where that difference was not intended (which excuses the Lomo crowd). Except that you rarely know the intentions of the photographer, which leaves it all open to argument. Rabbit hole, here I come!


If you become good at something, or well-known for something, what should you do next?

In writing or music the answer might be ‘do more of it’. This is the curse of the three-book or four-album deal. You become indentured to the publisher to make more copies of the same thing. But you can also become your own victim by repeating a successful formula, even despite the likelihood of diminishing returns.

As a photographer you might develop a particular look or style. If it gains approval, the temptation is to prolong that style to maintain the approval. If you were a professional the drive might be stronger, as that style might be what you are hired for. But tastes change – what about informal family group portraits shot against plain white backgrounds, for example? And what about your own creative growth? Do you want to be limited to wide-angle landscapes with a rock in the foreground?

There are artists who are recognised as having changed their work over time. Think of David Bowie as an obvious example, but you could also look at Sparks, Neil Young, Tom Waits or Alan Moore. Indeed, Alan Moore is explicit in his descriptions of the writing process, that as soon as you recognise yourself repeating a style you should stop using it and develop something else. His advice is to pick something you find difficult and try that. This is the way to grow, not from comfort and safety but from restraint and risk. If you don’t make yourself do something different, when are you likely to do anything different? Or as Kahneman, Sibony and Sunstei said, “We do not go through life imagining alternative ways of seeing what we see”. You could rephrase this as “nobody ever set out to prove themselves wrong”.

This is different to being in a creative hole. In a hole you are stuck and don’t know what to do next. Instead, here you are riding high, master of your craft and technique, but taking the conscious decision to break away and do something else. This is getting out at the top of your game, before your style becomes your handcuffs. It also hopefully avoids the diminishing returns of repeating what was a successful formula.

Bored already

I did write previously on developing a style, where I wondered if I had one. There must be something, as I’ve had one of my pictures identified as mine even though it was anonymous. So perhaps I now need to break away from what was recognisable and try something else?

I’ve mentioned Alan Moore above, and he has something to say about having a recognisable style. If I may steal quote from his book Writing for comics: “if your ambition is to be a creator, then know that creativity is an ongoing and progressive phenomenon and that stasis and stagnation is sure death to it”.

Taking that as the aim, what could I do with my own cliches?

  • Simplicity – try more complex pictures or containing more elements
  • Block or simple shapes – work through the full list of compositional elements
  • Black and white – shoot colour instead
  • Shoot some landscapes (which I currently avoid)
  • Shoot some street photography
  • Try shooting video rather than stills

I’ve had some words to say on most of these: I like simplicity; shoot a lot of mono; avoid landscapes and street photography. So now is my opportunity to stop doing what is comfortable and see what I can do in a less familiar genre.

Not that I’m presuming to have anything like a consistent style or to suffer with artistic angst. But it doesn’t harm to challenge yourself out of your comfort zone. I might even (one day) find what it is I’m good at or enjoy more than taking pictures of things that go fast or swim.

PS – I had a go at what I proposed. I went out and wandered around some landscape and did a bit of architectural photography. Not as bad as I’d thought. I may never take either of them up as my default, but having seen my first results I now want to improve. Give me a hand and we’ll shift this paradigm.

Selby riviera

What colour is that?

This came about during a walk near fields of ripe barley. I, as you would, asked my partner what colour the barley was. I challenged the first response of ‘wheaty’ and we got to describing what we could see, which seemed to be cream with a hint of pink. Then I realised I could bring the power of digital photography to bear, so I took a picture of the field.

When I got back I loaded the image into Photoshop and blurred it to even-out the range of tones. I then sampled the colour and looked at the RGB coordinates. There is a useful website at e-paint that takes RGB values and finds the best matching paint. Of the easily-available ranges, Johnstone’s had a colour that was a good match.

There is also a website that will give you the RGB values of a named colour. I used this to find the values for British Racing Green to use as a colour tone in a mono picture.


I couldn’t leave it there though, could I? One of our lads was looking at a new flat but really liked the colour in one he had seen on an online estate agent’s website. So we found the picture, sampled the colour and found the paint. Simples.

Interior decorating through the power of photography.

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