Respect the performer

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy photographing musicians playing. There are other forms of performance, though, and these can be as much fun and as much of a challenge to photograph.

Something that might not be immediately thought of as ‘performance’ is delivering a talk or lecture. And yet, to do this well requires similar skills to any musical or acting performance. Continue reading “Respect the performer”

The city by night

Some cities wake up when the sun goes down, whilst others go to sleep.

York leans toward the latter – a vibrant tourist trap by day, by night it becomes the haunt mostly of the ghost walkers. One could be forgiven for thinking that everyone who is out in York at night is either guiding or being led on a tour of the ghost stories of the city. Continue reading “The city by night”

Around town

I’ve mentioned before that I still like the discipline of shooting on film. It forces you to slow down and think about what you’re shooting, and there’s no preview, so you can’t indulging in ‘chimping – you have to trust yourself to have got the shot without checking.

I also still think that there’s a subtle difference in the look of film compared to digital (although that difference is diminishing as digital cameras improve).

Then there’s shooting on black and white film. Now, you have to ‘see’ in black and white – there’s no option to shoot in colour and try out various black and white looks in the comfort of Photoshop.

Here are some pictures taken around my home town, all shot in the knowledge that colour could not be a factor in the final image.

I should point out that I don’t view ‘chimping’ as a bad thing—it’s an advantage that digital gives us. However, it’s also not a bad thing to deny ourselves these advantages from time to time. It’s like having a calculator, but still being able to add up in your head.

On learning to look

Spotting the picturesque is not difficult: sunsets, landscapes etc. all tend to pretty much smack you in the eye and shout “Look at me! Take my photo!”

Other things, though, take a bit of effort. You have to learn how to look before you can see the pictures that are around you.

One exercise that I’ve found useful in training yourself to look is to go out for a walk, stop at regular intervals (two minutes, five minutes…) and look for a picture wherever you are. The timing part is important — it’s there to prevent you just stopping when you see something; by stopping on a strict schedule, you have to really look at whatever you’re presented with. Don’t move more than a couple of metres from the spot you stop on, but look around, open your eyes, see a picture. Take one photograph, then move on.

The first time you try this, you’ll probably be underwhelmed by the pictures you took. So look at them, look critically and ask if you could improve the picture by changing the angle or framing. Also, look at the sequence: does it tell a story of the area you walked through?

The pictures that I’ve included here are a record of just such a walk that I did a few days ago. I was anxious to try out my new camera, so I took it with me when I went out with the dog. For this exercise, rather than a set time between shots, I set myself the target of shooting a 24-exposure roll of film, without finishing it too soon before getting back.

None of the pictures here are going to win any awards, but that’s not the point; the point is to exercise the looking muscles. I think they do tell a story, though, when viewed as a sequence.


So take yourself out for a walk (it’s healthy, you know) armed with camera and timer, and train yourself to start really looking.

A Nikon FM3A 35mm film camera

I spoiled one, which is why there are only 23