Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 Round-Up

This is the year I fell in love with photography. Last year I had the initial flutters but this year I went head over heels. It's amazing to think how much I have accumulated in terms of knowledge and equipment (and how much I have spent)! I started out the year with my compact Olympus but when it got to my birthday, with the help of some very generous family and friends I upgraded to my first SLR. Then I was lost forever to a camera geek world of lens', filters and f-stops. I now have 5 lens', and other bits and bobs, and whilst I don't think I am necessarily taking better technical photographs, I feel as though there are many more creative opportunities available to me through having more flexible technical equipment.

In terms of my photos it is really difficult to select what I think is my favorite for 2008. At the Window was probably a bit of a turning point for me as I learnt some cool photoshop techniques in creating it, but I also like When Morning Comes, The Pier and more recently my Beach Huts in B&W. My Flickr Stats tell me that you all seemed to like The Clown the best.

Last week my Flickr photostream views went over the 100,000 mark with 4 photos reaching the top ten in Explore, and my blog has hit 30,000 visits (and no that doesn't include me). But it's really hard work trying to push my work on Flickr, it is so saturated, there is so much good stuff on there, and may be it's time to try and fund some of this expensive hobby of mine. So to get better and to get out there a bit more, to make it a bit more than a hobby, I have a wish list for 2009:

1. Next year is all about light, I need to understand light and how the camera can capture it better. Money next year will be spend on light things!
2. I need some more formal hands-on training. There are a few places that run photography workshops like the Royal Photographic Society - I'd especially like to have a go at the Studio Photography and Fashion Photography workshops.
3. I would love to get in a magazine!
4. I would love to sell some prints - SmugMug and Photobox Po Galleries look to be decent options.
5. I want to work towards the Royal Photographic Society Associateship Distinction
6. I will damn well master long exposures!

So, so far that's quite a lot for 2009. I do plan on doing other stuff too! 2008 was a funny year, I worked too hard, but achieved a lot, I made some good friends, nurtured relationships, but I also lost some people I loved. I grew up a bit more. In 2009 I think I'll just stay peaceful and creative.

I'm off to sunnier climes now for most of January so I'll see you all in 2009, hopefully with lots more to share.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bad Firefox

I noticed that when I uploaded a recent photo to Flickr that the colours went all funny. They were not as rich or deep as they looked in Photoshop or iPhoto. Turns out that the problem was with Firefox which doesn't yet support colour profiling. I upgraded to Firefox 3, which I read did support this function only to find out that it ships without this support by default...why? Anyway there is a plugin available for Firefox 3, and on installing it all looks much better. However it is annoying that most of those people using Firefox will not be seeing my photographs how I want them to see them.

Here's a nice blog explaining it all by dria.org

The Cat Lover

"Heidi was struck by a sudden thought - what if Gordon wasn't a cat at all but a man under a spell? A man forced to don the disguise of a cat by some wicked enchantress? A man trapped in the body of a cat?

Heidi knew there was only one way to break that kind of enchantment...she lent over and warily kissed his downy cheek. Gordon's ear twitched and he stirred but instead of being transformed into a man he simply swiped her away with a sleepy paw. Heidi wasn't sure whether she was disappointed or not." (The Cat Lover by Kate Atkinson)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A woman and her cat

I have been impressed by a number of photographers on Flickr who manage to get their cats in a photograph with them. As anyone who has a cat knows, cats can not be told what to do, in fact we humour them more than the other way around. They have enormous patience with the limitations of the human kind. So I love it when I find a good cat-owner photograph. Here are some of my favorites:

There's no place like home
by Elle Moss (Above)
Untitled by Lenaah
A woman and her cat by MaryElise
Words fall through me by Reflecting Truth
Hey, you and me by Oladios

I also love the photo-montages of Mattijn , whose fantasy-esque images always feature his cat Pino. It's good to see a bit of man-cat love!

The most photogenic cat award however has to go to vaneska~tHOmz's cats tabitha and
charlie. How she does it I have no idea!

My cat is not one for being handsome in front of the lens. Every time I've tried something I end up with scratches all over my arms, so usually I have resorted to photo-montages too (see my blog on The Escape). Today however I was honored with some rare camera affection from my feline friend, and he even sat on my feet and kept them warm whilst I did all my photoshopping.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Love my bones..

I've entered an alternative version entitled 'acceptance' for this weeks Digital Photography School Competition where the theme is "Happiness is...", although I imagine that this is perhaps an interpretation too far to be in with a chance! I think really that happiness is a sense of fulfillment or wholeness, and you can't rely on the external world (people, situations, or things) to provide that, it has to come from inside, right down to the depths of your bones. So happiness is, for me, acceptance and understanding, and being able to say to the world that they should accept me for who I am too. Happiness isn't a goal to be achieved by doing stuff or having stuff, it is being a peace with who you are, it's not easy.

...also a bit of a play on people always telling me I'm too skinny, well I'm content with the way I look, so naanas to you!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Pounds of Flesh

Ok, so considering the bizarre places I've found my photos on the web I'm not overly surprised to find Mirror Mirror in a Jewish article about body image, entitled 'Pounds of Flesh' - The Merchant of Venice, Jewish, get it...! In once sense I'm, as usual, chuffed, for some reason I've been told a few times that I'd make a good Jew (?), however I'm not to keen on their colouration -hmmm maybe it's time to readdress that creative commons license. Photoshop is not always a good thing.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

To branch away from Flickr?

It's not a topic I'm happy to raise! I love Flickr, in Flickr I have found a supportive community which supports my views on open content and has provided me with the opportunity to get feedback on my photography which over the past two years has become my art, and a huge part of my self expression, even at times my therapy. Without Flickr I doubt I would ever have returned to art, a subject I gave up long ago because 'it would never get me anywhere in life'. I used to 'do art' with a 3B pencil and a brush, and now I paint with a lens. So let me be clear, I have no intention of leaving Flickr, however the more lean towards trying to make a bit of a profession out of what was initially was a bit of a hobby, the less Flickr can cater towards my needs.

First off, I like the idea of password protected galleries. If I branch into doing some paid for photographic commissions, it is kind of a service I need. Secondly, I've had a few requests for large prints of my work. I don't offer high res photos on Flicker at present, i.e big enough to print more than 6x4. I'm happy for them to be used under the creative commons licence that I presently stick on them (no derivatives and attribution) and splattered across the interweb. But to be hung as an actual piece of 'art' on someone's wall, or printed in a publication, well for that I want some wonga!! So my thoughts lately have been that I would like to find an online service that will let me create showcase galleries and also sell my prints for me at a price I stipulate, and print them, and post them - the moon on a stick basically!

You'd think this would be out there.....think again.

I've ransacked the web and it seems that there are really no UK based websites that offer the moon on a stick. There is Photobox, where I order prints from (and I have generally been pleased with the results), who offer pro galleries that do the above. However, the site is not taking any new pro users until 'the future', and the old interface left a lot to be desired for - to showcase fine art photography the website should really mirror that. But then I came across SmugMug, a US centric photosharing site that offers everything I dream of - it looks amazing, unlimited storage, is totally customisable down to the domain name, offers a sale service and multiple privacy and viewing options, but...is in $. But really does this matter? In the virtual world where space is not an issue? It's not cheap, at $149.55 pa, BUT I think that's not too bad for a high quality virtual hard drive with e-commerce capabilities.

There are many alternatives to Flickr - deviantART, ZOOMR, Fotki, Photobucket, to name just a few, they all cater for different types of user. I'm toying with the idea of setting up accounts on a few to see what happens and having a test run of e-commerce on SmugMug until PhotoBox gets it's finger out...that's if anyone wants to buy anything that is!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Can a photographer travel light?

I'm not very good at light packing - you should see the contents of my everyday shoulder bag - I could quite easily find myself marooned in the Alaskan wilderness, and use what's inside to build a shelter, protect myself from the elements, rear and slaughter reindeer, set up a chanel no.5 beauty salon for passing bored Inuit women and live quite happily for a very long time.

On Christmas day this year I wont be sitting around having the usual xmas feast and frollicks as most people will be enjoying in this country, I'll be on an aeroplane heading off on an adventure to explore Peru and Ecuador for a whole entire month! I know my mind should be on the excitement of traveling, the amazing things I'll see, the new cultures I'll experience, the warmth of the sun on my skin, the gorgeous Spanish language I hope to finally master, a holiday that has been a long time coming...relaxation...but no, I'm kind of obsessed with the photographic opportunities that it will afford me. Wide angled landscapes of the Andes, Machu Picchu, the wildlife of the Galapagos, the faces of Quito. Worried that I don't have the photography skills to capture it how I want, the right equipment to do it, and most of all on my mind is that I don't want to lug heavy camera equipment around with me.

Right now I have my kit lens (canon 18-55mm), a macro lens that is incredibly satisfying in a phallic sturdy lens kind of way (canon 300mm), and my wide angled sigma which is a dream, but obviously, I need a new lens. Nothing new there, I always need a new lens! You see what I don't have is a decent telephoto lens to take. The kit lens doesn't really reach all the right places. Was wondering if I could get a good all-in-one I could take with me to lesson the load. I don't want a mega long ultra extending lens - I'm no wildlife photographer, but just something to give a bit more reach would be good (always left feeling a bit frustrated with the 55mm). Yes, I hear you, 'it's not how big it is, it's what you do with it that matters' ....*NewsFlash*...size...does...matter.

The friendly guys at the Station Camera Shop in Reading (one of those really great camera shops that let you try and buy) have suggested a Canon 55-250mm (c. £202.00) or a 55-200mm Tamron (c. £70) - unfortunatley my budget won't stretch to go down to 18mm or up to 300mm (sniff). So I tried. The Tamron was surprisingly good for the price, light as a feather but it does feel plasticy, and it doesn't have image stabilisation which means I may need a tripod at times. The Canon on the other hand does have the IS, has that extra 50mm and also the bit that connects it to the camera is aluminum, more durable. But to be fair the difference in image quality on a rainy day was pretty non-existent - and it is an extra £130 more...dream trips to S.America don't come cheap. Both lens' though won't go down to that 18mm mark which means I should really take the sigma and kit lens too, then there are the filters, the lens hoods, the memory sticks, extra batteries and cards....

Today on the DPS Blog popped up a post on 5 Tips to Travel with One Lens. It's traumatising enough I will have to leave the laptop con photoshop behind, no post-process playing until I get back. Can I really bring myself to travel with ONE lens in addition? Surely the psychological effects will be too much to deal with creating stress and anxiety which could easily be avoided by carrying an extra kilo or two. Perhaps I can justify taking the whole shebang if I just pack a change of knickers and my Lonely Planet.

The Beach Huts

Craving to feel warm