#Sharemondays My View

In a week where weekly competitions have taken a particular beating I felt as #Sharemondays mediator it only fitting I gave my take on the whole perception that weekly comps are all bad and detrimental to our work and development as photographers.

Firstly let me state, I respect everyones views on all subjects and in no way claim to be any authority, this is just my observations from my tiny and quiet little vantage point on twitter. Personally I just can't find the time to be on twitter all day to have lengthy debates on many subjects I may otherwise like to comment on and feel I just wouldn't do my argument justice as no doubt I would be side tracked by real life events and forget to reply with conviction. 

So my sparse time spent on social media may be a reasoning for my slightly different view of the weekly comps. For me weekly comps are a social event where photographers can share an image from the previous week/weekend that they have felt worthy of sharing in the knowledge there is a better chance of a greater audience and views/feedback. With a designated day, I certainly make more of an effort to get online to view others images and give a little more time to SM on that day for that very reason. Whereas generally I can quite often miss lots of posts and work from many other photographers. It's not religious though, there are weeks where it just isn't possible to give much time even on that day but generally I make that little bit more of an effort to view, comment and share others work when I feel with my humble opinion that it merits it.

Now, in respect to this weekly work being some kind of defining work, that could be seen as detrimental and in some way it lowers our standards as photographers well that I feel is ludicrous. No one is saying here is my best work from my portfolio, what do you think. I see it as an insight into our photographic week, like a snippet of what we have been giving our attention to or working on. I find it fascinating to see for instance where people visit, what their perspective of that location is and how they try to represent it in an image. There is also the experience of watching from afar, as photographers develop in front of our eyes. Seeing them flirt with all sorts of techniques and subjects which may stray greatly from their comfort zone. I don't feel this is in anyway detrimental to our development in fact I would say with the ability to be able to throw experimental work out there for interested parties to view helps develop us as photographers as we flirt with things. Surely this is only progressive. 

Another benefit is the time restraint of a week, I understand that this can be seen to hinder our creative thought by putting pressure on us but need I state the obvious, firstly there is no contract to say we must submit every week or you will be sin binned and not allowed to enter again. Secondly, is there not a benefit from restricting ourselves to try and find an image that we feel worthy of sharing by using our imagination to utilise our surroundings. There are no subject restraints so it allows us to look for something unique, pretty, interesting, a reflection or a spot of light falling on a structure, in fact anything whatsoever. I'm constantly amazed what photographers see in everyday life, we have a different eye from others and I for sure learn weekly from others images. I see it as no different from shooting with one chosen prime or at f2 only for a month or one image a day for 10 days. It's like a mini project that encourages creative thinking not stifle it. If anyone has read or taken ideas from The Photographers Playbook by Jason Fulford and Gregory Halpern they will understand the use of restrictions. If you haven't then I'd recommend it, 307 assignments and ideas to keep you thinking. A wonderful tool and exercise in progression and development.  But ultimately, if you are not in the mood to be creative, then don't, you can't force these things so just sit it out for as long as you wish and maybe if you just viewed others images you might be inspired to get creative outside your area of comfort zone. When I choose to share, I don't announce that image to be my best work, far from it. I post for many reasons, maybe sharing a new found location or a subject with potential or just to share the weather conditions I experienced. It's never definitive of my work and I'd never expect anyone to think that it was. It's a playground to experiment and converse, throwing around ideas.

Now for the judging and results. Let me just say, if you are going to get yourself upset by what is chosen then there is no point in entering. It's really just a side show for what is just a gallery of varying images from photographers on different waves of development. Of course it's obvious companies start these competitions only for promotion, they may use it to highlight an up and coming product, workshop or new article relating to their business.  Let them get from it what they want and you take from it what you can, it's simple and if you are in anyway unhappy with how it pans out then don't enter or silence the hashtag. Also, Judges decisions are always controversial too as is generally evident in the reactions to LPOTY, OPOTY or IGPOTY etc when they make their initial cull or when the winners are announced. It generally goes along the lines of who has been omitted when such and such has been credited and so on.

When it comes to #Sharemondays though there is no hidden agendas. I started it up as a result of seeing everyone complain about the results and I felt what better way than to allow everyone the chance to experience the pressure of judging, where we question our every decision and flick between our favourites. I think now that it has been going for a little while it's plain to see the variation of decisions, as with other competitions not always the result we might have chosen ourselves. But when it comes down to it, #Sharemondays is all about sharing, there is no weekly prize or benefit to anyone as it basically runs itself and is merely the chance to show whatever you feel is worthy. No one will judge you for the quality etc as more likely than not its just an experimental piece of work not your portfolio. There has been some talk of a book of winners being produced at the end of the year and I think this would be a great collection of varying work. If it does come to fruition then I hope to include all the winning images giving small details from both the winner and the judge. It will be a non profit book, with only my time given to get info etc and create on a suitable platform. I see it being available as a print on demand project but the finer details will develop over the year as long as the weeklies survive that is. Domain names have been acquired and when I get my finger out a simple web page of winning images and the very loose rules will appear but for the time being you can see everything here. 

If you have got this far then firstly thank you for sticking with my rambling and secondly maybe there is a chance you would still be interested in taking part in the weekly event. If so your contribution no matter how sporadic would be greatly welcomed by everyone even the ever changing judge and who knows, there may be a beautiful book at the end of the year to celebrate the positives of weekly twitter competitions. 

Sleeklens Presets + Brushes Review

The good people at Sleeklens asked me to have a look at their new Landscape photography Presets and Brushes for Lightroom and I have now managed to write up my findings with a short video example of a workflow using the presets. 

I explained to Sleeklens that I rarely if at all, use presets in my image processing but they were still happy for me to give my honest opinion on their products. My reasons for not using presets are mainly due to the fact I feel each image need its own personal attention as it develops and a simple click does not do that for me, in general.

Having now played around with these presets by Sleeklens, I have now realised that it doesn't need to be just one click. They can firstly be a starting point to work back or forward from. One of the good things about these are the different options, you can go for the ALL IN ONE recipes and work from there or by using the layers options where you can add presets on top of each other without altering the effects of the previous one. You can start from BASE and work through EXPOSURE, COLOUR CORRECT, TONE/TINT, POLISH and VIGNETTE to finish.





By using the layer option I found that by also adjusting the develop sliders to control the preset effect more to suit my personal tastes before adding another helped make me feel more in control and of having a part in creating the image than I would have had by just clicking the ALL IN ONE and leaving it there.

In my work I try to be subtle in my processing and so loud colour bursts and crazy saturation is not where I take my processing so I would have to reel a few presets back a fare bit if I was to use then all the time. But as is with many things in life, using things like these presets, in moderation and with full control then there can be a place for them in my Lightroom workflow. 

Below is a short video of an example workflow using the Sleeklens Landscape presets as well as links to their product pages. I have also included a much more detailed and professional video by Doug Chinnery who gives a review and tutorial of the Sleeklens presets used in Photoshop.




A Week in the Woods

Here is an Adobe Spark project I created to show images from a week in local woodlands that were very different in landscaped weather but all captured within 7 days and 3 outings.

A Week in the Woods

Portraits, or lack of them.

I've been looking through my catalogue for portraits and just realised it has been years since I consciously made an effort to create a portrait image of any merit. I used to love the idea of capturing the hidden life and expressions behind an individuals mask that they put up in everyday life. I was hoping to enter an image in AP Magazines monthly competition, which this months subject, Portraits. (If I do enter I better remember to copy and paste the tick passage to the email since I've only just realised I never did this in the previous 2 rounds and so my entries would be void, oops!) Going through the archives I have came up with very little and have since tried to create something while out with the kids to make up for this, but have found I am way out of touch, although, there is still a glimmer of thrill and excitement bubbling away which has possibly started a little fire of enthusiasm again. Maybe, who knows!!!

Below are my shortlist images of possible entries, none of which really excite me except possibly the emotional one of my youngest daughter taken 2 days ago after she got upset over a dog running away with her stick while playing on Stevenson beach. She will kill me on her 21st when I unearth this from the archives. 

Anyway, from this selection process I think I might try and do a little more portraiture especially when I have such willing models in my over enthusiastic daughters, if for nothing else but to humiliate them in future years. I am quite sick really, so I'm told!

Outdoor Photography Magazine - In The Spotlight

Back in February I got a lovely email requesting an interview with me for Outdoor Photography Magazine, by far the leading magazine dedicated to Landscape, Wildlife, Nature and Adventure photography. The excitement quickly went from flattery and elation to, 'wait a minute is this a spam email'? After a few clarification emails back and forward I was back to excitement before then wondering what on earth they want to speak to me about.

I went over my pile of back issues of OP and reread other 'In The Spotlight' interviews which only filled me with dread. Suddenly all I could think about was the interview and trying to find something in my short time as a Landscape Photographer that would interest anyone reading the Magazine. Knowing many people far more experienced, interesting and talented that read the magazine only added to my dread. 

As time went by eventually the day of the interview arrived. And, after all my worries it inevitably was all without need. Nick Smith quickly put me at ease and the interview flew by, not without me going off on many tangents as I tried to find something interesting to say. Before I knew it, it was over and Nick tied it all up with very kind and complimentary comments about my work. It was all a bit of a blur as I tried to recall what I actually said, but it was done and there was no more I could do, what would be would be. 

And now its arrived through my door, within its beautifully glossy cover.

Image by  Pieter Ras

Image by Pieter Ras

Two images accompany my article and now all the nerves have gone and all I can do is enjoy the fact someone was interested enough in what I'm doing with my photography to have me tell my story. I'm honoured and humbled to be within the cover of this magazine, I've been lucky to feature in the One Thing This Month comp before but this is entirely different and I am hugely grateful to Steve Watkins (Editor) for suggesting I do it, and to Nick for making the process very easy.

So to anyone who hasn't subscribed and received the issue early, it is available in the shops as of Thursday 5th May. It's a great read as always with outstanding images and articles from regulars and many other talented photographers including Verity MilliganMatthew Dartford and Dave Fieldhouse. You can miss out pages 64-65, there's nothing to see there!

Connected Exhibition 2016

It was an honour to exhibit 3 of my images on Saturday at the opening event of #Connected2016 in Patchings Art Centre, Calverton, Nottinghamshire, which is a yearly exhibition of inspirational photography now on its 9th successive year, run by the incredibly committed partnership of Rob and Karen Knight. To have my 3 chosen images hung alongside the work of extremely talented photographers was daunting to say the least and on viewing their work no less intimidating. 

I only got into the exhibition from the reserve list after just missing out on the initial intake which seems to be filled within hours. So it was a bit of a mad rush to choose my 3 images to submit to Rob although with an initial tip off from him I had a few extra days to mull over my choices. I decided to keep my selections to mono and were as shown below.

The opening event was excellent and it was a pleasure to meet so many like minded people and also put real faces to the twitter friends I have only ever known by their Avatars. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming with some very kind comments to my work as well which helped my inferiority complex and also allowed me to relax and feel part of the whole event.

There were talks from the excellent Vanda Ralevska and Guy Aubertin in the afternoon which was preceded by a charity Auction of images provided by exhibitors, which raised at least £600 on the day for the John Van Geest Cancer Research Centre. I managed to grab 2 myself by Peter Dyer(left) and Mike Barber(right)

I donated 'Crooked' an image from this winter.

A3 Print on  Fotospeed  Baryta Paper

A3 Print on Fotospeed Baryta Paper

Overall an absolute pleasurable experience and only hope I will be able to beat the stampede to next years Connected2017 which is the 10th Anniversary Event that promises to be another huge success. The Exhibition runs until 21st May and I urge anyone passing or in the area to drop in and see the outstanding quality of work on show, you won't be disappointed.

Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year

After seeing the wonderful entries printed in the recent Landscape Photographer of the Year Volume 8, including the sensational winning image from Mark Littlejohn I decided I'd enter some images into this years Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year.

My previous post was of my earlier entries to the LPOTY in July where not surprisingly none of them got shortlisted. I cannot expect too much from my entries especially since I have only really ventured into Landscape photography since March of this year and I have a lot to learn and can't wait to enjoy every moment doing so. 

I currently spend far too many hours as I'm sure my wife Louise will testify looking at and studying work from photographers who regularly get printed in such books, as well as troll through documentaries, tutorials and websites of some fascinating artists/photographers hoping to pick up the slightest bit of knowledge to help me develop as the photographer I aspire to become. I will be joining Doug Chinnery in February on one of his workshops in the Cairngorms where I'm hoping the experience will be invaluable to my development and really can't wait to go.

So it is with this aspiration I am putting myself through the pain of certain rejection again by entering some more images in a competition, namely the Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year. I am basically using this experience to try and self critique my work better where hopefully I can use this knowledge to help my choices when setting up, choosing subjects, deciding on my goals and generally photographing in the future. 

So here are my entries, mostly new ones taken since July. 


11th July 2014

I felt it was about time I started some kind of blog for the website. So today I entered the 2014 LPOTY competition. I was almost deterred when I reviewed some of the entries and realised the quality required and how for I have to go before I can come close to the standard needed to make an impact on any sort of competition. But saying that, I felt the experience of entering by selecting, preparing and thinking about the images I would enter was enough reason to have a go and hope that my future competition entries  would benefit in the long run. 

So here are my entries for this year. Some have been seen on the website before, others haven't.

Nothing Ventured…….and all that!



YOUR VIEW entries