My Photo Journey around Wales
Assessing your own images is one of the hardest lessons to learn in photography. All photographers face the same issue, because so much thought and emotion goes into each work it becomes almost impossible to step back and disregard all of this. Beyond the obvious factors, exposure sharpness and composition, it is still mainly based on personal preference.
I often find the memory I have of the day, and the enjoyment of doing what I love, clouds the issue and am nearly always surprised by reactions to what I feel are not my best work. I have won competitions with image that I think are fairly ordinary and other work which I feel is much better doesn't do so well. In the end all any of us can do is work to the best of our abililty and hope someone else can see something in our images that they can relate to.
Having a concept can drive a project, but unless the thought process is explained the meaning is often lost. This can lead to it being judged solely on its visual impact which is only half the story. Almost anyone can produce an amazing piece of work, its much harder to create a whole body of images that are of equal quality with an underlying meaning and great composition to really attract the viewer.
It is only by listening to the feedback from not only people who you know and who understand you, but also from messages left by strangers and judges comments, that you start to understand how others see your work. I have found personally that it is impossible to be detached enough to assess my own images. The only answer is enjoy what you do and hope it comes across to the viewer.
I love photography but as I don't like the pressure of working for someone else it has stayed as more of a sideline. I am still working on my cathedral project, planning any break in this country around an area with plenty of abbeys and churches to add to my portfolio. To help fund this and gain exposure I enter quite a few competitions. I often get into the top 10% in the public vote on Viewbug sometimes in front of as many as nearly 500,000 other images which feels fantastic, even if I don't win at least I feel people like my work.
For me it's more a way getting out and about, keeping fit with a purpose.So any win is an unexpected surprise. Last week I had an email from a small local competition that I had forgotten entering last year, I has second prize so that was a good moral boost. The rewards were relatively small but it's good to get the recognition. It's just a small reminder of why I love what I do, not for the money just for the pleasure of producing an image I can be proud of.
The last year has been a bit of a mad year both in photographic terms and my day to day life. I have been lucky enough to travel more than usual, In spring after my other half retired we started with a break to the Yorkshire Dales, then spent nearly 3 weeks in the Outer Hebrides. I love Scotland,this time we stayed in one place instead of moving on every few days. I felt this would give me the chance to revisit places at different time of day, or return when the weather changed, this really helped, especially going back to the Callanaish standing stones at night. It always improves my work being more familiar with the location. often my best shots are taken on repeat visits.
I have also spent a bit of time entering photo competitions, its always surprising which ones get short listed and why. I have often felt that work not chosen was better, photography like any creative subject is always open to personal interpretation. I was lucky enough to win a competition on ViewBug with an image of the ceiling in Truro Cathedral and at the same time was shortlisted for another competition with a long exposure which I personally prefered to the ceiling shot. I think perhaps, because an image has memories for the photographer it is very hard to step back an evaluate you own work.
I have been to so many fantastic places this year that I am way behind with editing my work, so it might be a while before I get to the rest of the year but at least in a very grey January I have something to work on.
This year I have been of travelling round Britain a few times which has been fantastic, I have seen snowy mountains thundering waterfalls and golden windswept beaches. The variety of landscape we have is inspiring, its always great to travel either close to home or further afield. One of my favorite places is Scotland and this year we revisited the Outer Hebrides, last time we flew, mainly because time was limited, this time we drove taking our time. I had never driven through this area and even with showery weather the mountains around Fort William are spectacular. Glen Coe lives up to its reputation, the crowds of tourists are easy to ignore when faced with glowering mountains and sparkling streams.
A lot of places that are just passed by give enough of a view for me to plan a longer trip in future. I always think of long trips as a way of location hunting in new areas. I don't always get my best photography done but often will revisit at a later date. I will certainly be back in Glen Coe with more time to explore and get of the beaten track.
For a long while I sat on the fence about getting a fisheye, on one side was the novelty value and how different it can make your image look. On the other is how often would I use it and would it pay for its space in my already crowded camera bag.
I have a very talented friend from my degree course who has turned it into his trademark, Harry is brilliant at cityscapes and uses his fisheye very effectively along side a really good added colourcast to create stunning and original work. It really depends on what you are photographing, it seems to work well on subjects with some symmetry and a central focal point. This is mainly because the curve is almost undetectable on the central axis, somehow our eye needs something "normal" to focus on to make sense of the rest. When done properly it can really work.
The flip side is overuse on totally unsuitable subjects with the most common error leaving to foreground empty. To much grass, concrete or even sand and a tiny subject in the distance can lead to at best average shots. Unless there is an understanding of how the strange perspective works, I could see this lens more than most, being quickly discarded as a waste of time and money.
I am terrible for being indecisive, and often take months to make up my mind when buying new equipment, but this has probably been the worst. I finally bought my Nikon 10mm fisheye second-hand having made up my mind to have a go at shaking up my architecture shots. I found you really can get very close to your subject which is great for avoiding people wandering in front of you in mid shot, or even worse standing right in the way snapping with a mobile.I still need to work on subject matter but am happy with the first few images and am glad I finally took the plunge.
As always it's about personal choice and research, I found it made me think in a different way about my subject, which is always a good thing.