Saturday, 28 November 2009


One way, Manila, November 2009

Paul Butzi picked up on the series of posts Gordon McGregor made on artistic influences. Some good insights into someone's process, especially the sub-conscious parts.

Since the first post, I've thought long and hard about this. Do I have influences? Can I identify them?

I came to the conclusion that there is no work that has had that sort of impact on me. I've been taking photographs since before I ever looked at art in any meaningful way and yet there are still subjects from the very first photographs I took that continue in my current work. I also have similar likes in art as in the subjects I photograph.

Influence is more of an on-going process for me. I form new ideas and experiments from further work I see. I get inspiration from many sources, and that list grows as I study more of others work. But I can't really claim that anything has a direct and lasting influence in the way Gordon was approaching the idea. That's probably why my photography is all over the place in terms of subject and style.

Equipment choices

Just a musing on seeing a couple taking photos of each other in the restaurant this evening. Also trying out a new Gorrilapod. Long exposures, timer stuff etc etc. Besides the point.

I often wonder, seeing people snapping away, why did they pick that camera? What causes people to make the choices they do? (I suppose it's not just cameras, either.)

A new photography source

I've linked articles and photographs before but now the UK's Daily Telegraph has formed a new photography section - Telephoto. It is a collection of articles and photo-essays, focusing on art and documentary photography. Already it's looking good and covering some subjects a little less popular in the field. Worth checking out.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Learning methods

Jeepney, Manila, November 2009

Paul Butzi has an interesting post about his fuzzy method of working. This put me back in mind of something I've been observing on people's learning styles.

Part of my day job involves teaching, coaching and advising people in my area of expertise. I am constantly amazed at how many people want "the answer" or "the rules" to a given problem, when there often isn't a single way to approach it, or method is problem-specific. I think the demand for photographic rules of composition or exposure is something along the same lines.

Like Paul, I'm something of a fuzzy learner. I like to have some guiding principles and play around with them, put them together in new ways, discovering what works and what doesn't. Eliminate the useless, and fill the gap with another trial. It's what I like to think of as a "Lego brick" method: a pile of bricks can be put to any use, once the rules for combining are figured out. This is the way I encourage others to work, too. A few guiding principles and lots of scope for personal "figuring it out" and creative thought. I'm not sure if my teaching method goes down well all the time.

And so it seems with photography. People want rules: for exposure, for composition, for subject etc. I think it is why "how to" books sell so well. An approach that is alien to me (I don't own a single "how to" book on photography subjects).

Maybe the human brain has two modes of learning: inclusion - do the things that are known to work, the rest might kill you - and exclusion - do anything as long as it's not proven to kill you. The safe at home mode and the explorer mode. In photography there is much more scope for exploration - it's not an inherently dangerous thing - but it might take effort to trick that caveman brain into believing it.

Monday, 16 November 2009

I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more...

Indeed, far from it.

Home for a month, Manila, November 2009

This is a post of explanation and introduction.

First the explanation - the reason I've not posted in a while is that I'm in the process of moving: job, country, house. I've just taken up a new job in Manila, Philippines - one week in and just getting adjusted. Things will remain slow around here for a while until I get moved into my new house early in the New Year.

Palms and steel, Manila, November 2009

Now some introduction to my initial thoughts on this place. First off, it's proving a little hard to get to grips with the place, largely because I'm a bit restricted in location. Living in a hotel in the middle of a commercial district, next door to the office, does restrict ones view of the World. Strictly speaking this is not Manila, but Muntilupa City in the south of the Metro Manila region but that's a nuance lost on most outside of the country. I won't actually be properly moved in until the New Year, awaiting the shipment of my stuff from the Netherlands.

Weather is interesting - it's nearly the coolest part of the year, yet is 30degC most days. Not seen any of the rain that goes with this time of year, either. Which makes for a strange build up to Christmas - more of that in due course.

Photographically, I'm struggling as to how to respond to the new environs. Normally I get to a new place and can snap away, but then most new places I've visited have had some element of familiarity. This place has none of that. And the weather doesn't encourage the long wlaks I might otherwise take, camera in hand. So for now it's just bits and pieces.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Inspiration, motivation

Candle mass, Lisbon, October 2009

I'm sure we all face it: the constant grapple to understand what promotes good photo making and why it might go away. I've spent several months in a lean patch: few photographs, few opportunities.

Lisbon was a sudden high-spot. had the clear opportunity and put it to good use. It was possibly my most successful city trip, photographically speaking. And that had me thinking a little more as to why that might be.

Up front, I'll admit that I don't buy into all that pseudo-spiritual stuff about Muse and inner voices. If that's your thing, fine but it's not for me. I'm way too rational for that sort of carry on. I do find, though, that I need three things to be productive: motivation - the desire to take pictures, Opportunity - a location that in which I want to do so, and a camera in my hand that I want to use. I had thought practice was a criterion but the Lisbon trip put paid to that idea, I just hadn't any practice in a while.

therefore those three elements create the inspiration to snap away. And I had 2 particularly good bits of equipment with me to help - I'm finding the 40D really nails a lot of the pictures I wnat to take. Exposure and colour are good and I don't need to bracket everything is sight or tweak settings all the time. And the LX3 with the updated firmware is a pleasure to use, which is a first in a pocket camera for me.

Visiting a new place always creates both motivation and opportunity.

I also find the three elements have positive feedback - a good location generates motivation. the right camera does too. Motivation has me seeing more opportunities. And it can work in reverse.

Coming to this realisation I think will help me in future, especially in explaining (and preventing demotivation from) lean spells.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

More from Lisbon

Under 25th April, Lisbon, October 2009

A very interesting bridge.