Category Archives: General

Happy 2nd Birthday to my Photo Blog!

Happy 2nd Birthday MiniF1 Photo!

Curacao Round
Being currently home on shore leave from my job as a Cruise Ship photographer, and with a bit of time on my hands, I decided it was high time I updated the About Me section of this website.  My circumstances have somewhat changed since I set this site up and I wanted to reflect this on the site.  So yesterday I took the opportunity to indulge in a little self-reflection and look back at how both my life and my photography have developed in the two years since its inception. It was then that I realised it was two years ago this month that I created this Photo Blog!

This photo blog site was born at a time in my life when I came to realise how important photography was to me and decided I wanted it to play a bigger role in my life.  But at the time I didn’t know how to realise that newfound ambition.  So I created this site as an experiment in self-expression, to showcase my favourite photos and to chart my journey of self-learning.

I had no idea what direction it would take… would I enjoy writing about photography, or the places I visited to take the photos, or just let the photos speak for themselves? Would it become the basis of a business, or a marketing tool? Or just a place to show off my newfound skills?

Even two years on, I’m still not entirely sure!

The ongoing journey

The tagline I set the site up with two years ago was ‘walk with me on my journey of photographic discovery’ and what a journey it has been.  From amateur hobbyist, to unemployed job seeker looking to turn my life upside down, to professional photographer on Cruise Ships, it’s fair to say both my life and my photographic journey have taken some twists and turns, which you can read all about in Chapters 1-3 in the About Me section:

Chapter 1: How I started
Chapter 2: Great Life Change
Chapter 3: The High Seas

The biggest development was becoming a cruise ship photographer, a job in which I have learned so much about different aspects of portrait photography, post-processing, printing and even filming.

And rest assured the journey is far from over.  Every day I am learning something new.

Moving to the Dark Side

Just this week, after months (or probably years) of cogitating I finally bit the bullet and bought a new camera.  Being a die-hard Canon user for over 20 years I have moved over to what my Dad refers to as the ‘Dark Side’ and bought a Nikon! The D750 DSLR is my first full-frame camera… and is by far the most expensive I have ever bought!

I could write a whole article on the reasons for this decision, and I may well do.  Suffice for now to say this is not a decision I took lightly, but so far I am pleased with the results 🙂

Where will I be two years from now?

I am still happy in my job as a photographer at sea, but I don’t think that will last forever.  I am always on the look-out for ideas as to how I can transition from life at sea to whatever comes next.  I think I would like to become a freelance photographer of some sort, with aspects of travel and possibly motorsport mixed in.  But the picture in my head is too fuzzy at the moment, which means I’m not quite ready for the next step yet.

So watch this space and let’s see where this photo blog and I find ourselves in two years’ time!


The Next Chapter

The next chapter in my photography journey begins on Saturday.  I’ll be making the jump from amateur to professional photographer, as I start my new job as a photographer on a cruise ship! With no prior professional photography experience or training, I got the job on the strength of the photos I’ve published on this photoblog 🙂 So, aside from being an outlet for me to showcase my favourite photos, this site has also been valuable in helping me move my photography career on to the next level.  What a great idea it was late one Sunday night to start it!

Equipment, accommodation and food will be provided on board, all I need to do is take pictures of the passengers and then convince them to buy as many as possible. Getting paid to travel and take photos… sounds pretty awesome to me 🙂

I’ll be primarily taking portrait photos of the passengers, either posed in a studio, at the dinner table or on the shore excursions. I’m looking forward to getting ‘on-the-job’ training and experience in professional portrait photography, but may also get the opportunity to shoot a few weddings too! Apparently they’re becoming quite popular on cruises. Whatever happens, I’ll pick up new skills and get to visit some new places too.

I’m intending to keep this photoblog updated as often as free WiFi allows, so watch this space and follow me as the next chapter of my photographic journey unfolds…

Look for the small picture in the big picture

Given the opportunity to spend some leisure time taking photos, I’m not sure many people would list their back garden as their number one destination, but I can always find something to shoot in a garden. Two weeks ago it was bees, today it was spiders and brightly coloured leaves!

As I was looking around for something emotive to shoot in Mark & Audrey’s garden in Wimbledon, I combined Halid’s words of wisdom with those of James Christie*, another pro photographer whom I met in Edinburgh, which were:

Look for the small picture in the big picture

There are photographic opportunities all around us if we look for them.

He taught us not only to look, but to see.  When walking around don’t just look ahead at where you’re going, look up, look down, look around.  Look for the small details.  Even if you walk the same route every day, keep your eyes open and you will see new things every day.

And he’s right.  Here’s the garden that I spent the best part of an hour and a half wandering around in this morning:

Mark & Audrey's urban jungle
Mark & Audrey’s urban jungle

When I took the time to stop and look closely in the garden I saw raspberries ripening, I saw sunlight shining through the leaves of an acer tree, I saw a bush budding with new growth, I saw a dog rose pointing up to the sky, I saw a lone rose that had climbed up in the middle of the acer tree, I saw the tendrils of a vine reaching out across the void, and I saw spiders – lots and lots of spiders. So much in such a small space!

IMG_4628 Spider at rest scaled
I wonder what’s on the menu today?

But the best bit was seeing a spider eating her lunch – having caught a small fly in her web, she wrapped it in silk and spun it into a ball, carried it back to the centre of the web, ate the silk off it and then proceeded to dine at her leisure.

Mmm, yummy fly
Mmm, yummy fly

Fascinating to watch, I felt quite privileged. It’s something I’m sure that goes on every day, in every back garden.  But how many people have actually seen it unfold?

So my advice to you today is: Take the time to look at what’s around you – you don’t need to go somewhere spectacular to see something spectacular.

See the rest of the photos from today’s garden shoot in the Photo Gallery here.

* James Christie: Edinburgh Walking Photography Tours

What is the one thing that makes a good photo?

As I pottered around Mark & Audrey’s garden with my camera looking for inspiration today, I remembered something that pro photographer Halid Izzet* said to Adam & I last weekend, when we visited his photo gallery for a free taster lesson. Halid asked us “What is the one thing that makes a good photo?”

While there are many elements that go into making a photo – such as aperture, shutter speed, the subject, the composition, depth of field, the mounting & framing of the picture and so on (and they are all important contributing factors) – the one thing that makes a photo ‘good’, according to Halid, “is when it prompts a feeling, a reaction, or triggers an emotion in the person looking at it.”

Emotion is key.

“It doesn’t matter what the emotion is” he said, “or whether it’s a positive one or a negative one. A good photo makes you feel something.”

So that is what I set out to search for today.

* Halid Izzet is the founder of Rhubarb & Custard, a Photography Studio & Gallery in Eton, Berkshire

Why photography is like IT

Up until recently, if someone asked me “What do you do for a living?” the answer would be “I work in IT.”

If that wasn’t a conversation stopper in itself (greeted with “Uhuh…” followed by a blank stare and a swift change of subject), then often the responses to this general job description would be along the lines of “Ah, computers… I don’t get computers, blasted things, I don’t know how to use them” or “I have a problem with my PC/internet at home, can you fix it?” or “My husband/brother/son works in IT too, he does something with websites/he’s a software engineer/I think he builds networks… is that anything like what you do?” Umm… no, not exactly.

Those of you who also work ‘in IT’ know that this generic term covers a multitude of sins… from programming the chips in mobile phones, to configuring WiFi services in marinas, pubs & hotels, to writing iPhone apps, to managing all the PCs, printers, webcams, iPads, electronic whiteboards and other technology in a secondary school while making sure the kids can’t look at websites they shouldn’t… Yes, I know people who have done all of these jobs and they would broadly describe themselves as working ‘in IT’. What do they all have in common? That their job revolves around operating or managing computers.

It then occurred to me, as I am delving deeper and deeper into the world of photography (and even considering switching careers to it) that photography and IT have quite a lot in common. How so?

Well, aside from the fact that digital photography is in fact it’s own IT discipline (someone has to write the software in cameras that controls the sensor and helps choose the ‘optimum’ combination of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance and point of focus, not to mention the programming that goes into writing software like Photoshop), it is also a generic term which encompasses a broad range of skill sets. And what do those skill sets have in common – they are all based around operating a camera.

As Grumpy George explained to me (Grumpy George is a landscape photographer based on the Isle of Skye in Scotland who I had the pleasure of meeting earlier this year):

“Think of photography as like having a trade. You may call yourself a tradesman, but that could mean you’re a plumber, electrician, plasterer etc., each of which is it’s own discipline with it’s own unique skill set. Photography is the same: for landscape photography you need different skills to those you need for other types of photography, such as portraits, weddings, sports, events, fashion, wildlife… And therefore your  training depends on the type of photography you want to do.”

Well, that’s the same as IT – skills for designing, building & configuring hardware such as telephones, printers or shop tills are different to designing, coding & testing the software that operates on those devices.

Which is perhaps why I feel rather lost right now. I want to develop my photography skills to the extent that I can make a living out of my photographs, but I am quickly becoming overwhelmed by the different advice and rules regarding ‘correct’ exposure, ‘good’ composition, what should be captured ‘in camera’ and how digital images should be processed.  Do I perhaps need to first decide which discipline I want to specialise in, and then focus on learning the skills needed for that particular style of photography?