Photo Philosophy

Photography is an interesting blend of the technical and artistic. It lends itself both to gadget geeks and hipsters. We have the gearheads who’ll drool over the latest camera or lens, discuss high ISO performance as if it were the be-all, end-all of camera function, or worship at the altar of megapixels. On the other hand, there are the retro afficionados with their Lomos, Dianas, or Holgas preaching, “Don’t think!” and “Shoot from the Hip”.

In between those two extremes lie a middle ground which takes a balanced view of how to approach and improve one’s photography. For me, I see it terms of four axes which together encapsulates the factors for good photography. There are:

  • Equipment. Photography is merely the formation of an image and the means to record it. However, we require the appropriate tools to achieve our photographic goals. Equipment should be seen as a means to an end, and not an end onto itself. Perhaps gear fetishism brings pleasure to some people but it can distract from the main event, taking¬† photographs. A professional photographer does not have top end equipment just to look cool, it’s because they need to utilise their capabilities.
  • Technique. Simply having the best tools isn’t enough, you have to know how to use them. But technique in itself can sometimes overshadow content so this needs to be balanced against artistic vision. A professional photographer should have honed their skills through years of practise and a continual process of learning.
  • Artistic Vision. Having the latest and greatest gear and the technique to use it should serve the purpose of expressing your artistic vision. Otherwise you might has well just take snaps of your cat. Some people naturally express their vision, others may require work to develop and enact it. Balance your own experimentation against gaining inspiration from others. Looking at the work of others is helpful for discovering possibilities, but conversely don’t let it narrow your own vision. Develop a style, make the photos you take your own.
  • Opportunity. This isn’t just a matter of finding the time or funds to take photos, but also involves making opportunities. This could be networking with colleagues or potential clients, scouting out new locations, planning photo trips, being in the right place at the right time, or chasing up that lead. If photography is important to you, give it the chance to grow.

There is an interplay between these, my vision may drive the kind of equipment I need to acquire and the skills I need to learn. New opportunities may lead to a different direction in my vision. My technique may evolve to accommodate the equipment I have. To improve, you could consider what balance is best for you and which area(s) you many need to work on.

Recent Panoramas from Brussels

I recently returned from Brussels where I was able to take a few panoramas. Brussels is sometimes called a mini-Paris, I found it pleasant enough. The weather was a bit dreary for most of the time I was there so it was best to take photos in the evening where the grey sky does not intrude. The last day was clear and sunny, though very chilly, so I managed to capture a brighter looking Brussels.

The Grand Place is a usual tourist sight so no surprises here. The “square” is 68m by 110m and is dominated on one side by the Town Hall and the Royal House on the other. It dates from the 10th or 11th century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Jardin du Monts des Arts lies beyond the Central Station and is colourfully lit up at night. There was a busker who was very pleasantly playing the saxaphone and the flute which made the ordeal of standing around in freezing weather a little bit more tolerable. Here’s a view (360 degree pano) from a little bit further up the hill.

Heading further East, we get to the Place Royal. The church of St Jacques  du Coudenburg is on one side of the square. The interior (360 degree pano) is fairly restrained but still beautiful.

On my last day, I was able to catch Brussels in sun. The Royal Palace has a nice garden at its front. There were some bored looking guards standing in huts, probably wondering what this strange person with a funny looking camera/tripod was doing.

Amarone Siege 10/2/2012

Last week was an eventful one. A man created a siege situation by claiming to have a bomb and holing up in a restaurant. The city centre was sealed off and a minor media circus began. Here are a few of the photos from that night.

In the News

It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. When the James Weir Building at the University of Strathclyde caught on fire, I was nearby with my camera at hand to document the operation to bring it under control. A chance encounter with an editor of The Journal led me to share my photos with the student newspaper. They appear online illustrating the news stories and also forming a photo essay. A few photos may even end up in the print edition this week.