Oxford School of Photography

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Category Archives: Photography

Cloud Storage

When I am teaching I am often asked about cloud storage as a means of backing up images. It seems to me that most people shoot a lot and backing up to the cloud is OK if you have a fast broadband connection but there is the additional issue of cost. We have been seduced by the likes of Google and Amazon offering free or cheap storage but when that free storage is say 30GB that is not much use when you are regularly filling 32GB cards with images. Then came the options of unlimited storage, Amazon were one of the first in on this and it seemed a good deal but as we now learn from DIYPhotography this is coming to an abrupt end and if you have Amazon as your storage you have to look at what you are using because otherwise it might all disappear.

Clouds above Sydney Opera House

Clouds above Sydney Opera House

 

Google have been pushing people towards Google Photos as a means of cloud storage and you get 15GB free, less than one card! a 1TB of storage is $10 a month. Currently I use 3TB external hard drives to back up my images, so that would cost me maybe $30 a month with Google.

Cloud storage is fine if all you do is back up your phone snaps but for any serious photographer the cloud is adding to the expense. So you say external hard drives connected to the computer cost too, this is correct, my Western Digital drives cost about £70 so in 3 months or so I get free storage and the peace of mind knowing Google etc are not tracking my images.

I still like Flickr you get 1TB (1000GB) free and if you want a more pro feel you can upgrade for about £32 a year. It allows for RAW file storage unlike Google and although 1TB is not enough for all my images I use it for my personal work. The trick would be if you want more than 1TB then have more than one account, break your storage down into subject areas.

 

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Fake News, Fake Images the world of stock photography

From the BBC, a place not adverse to using images that are of the poorest quality simply because they were taken by someone “there” (as in are you there, send us your pictures) doesn’t matter how bad they are!

There is a place where no emotion is understated. A place that pioneered “post-truth” before it was discovered by politicians. A place where both triumph and disaster are met with… perfect dentistry.

This is the land of stock pictures.

Even if you wanted to avoid it, you’ll have been there. News websites and social media have spread the air-brushed nirvana of stock pictures further than ever before.

They are part of the click-bait culture, exaggerated and attention-seeking.

But what kind of messages are they sending? Are they reinforcing stereotypes? Or do they do the opposite and create a fake utopia of gender and racial equality?

Lost that loving feeling?

So it’s all over then. I thought things were looking bad for our relationship when you walked into the living room in a business suit and carrying half of a broken heart and a portable partition. We’ve all been there. Be strong.                                   Thinkstock

OK Computer

Technology is always fake in stock images. Just as stock image people often live in empty rooms, the gadgets they use are blanks. This image showing “good news” is baffling on every level. If this is good news – what does tragedy look like? Thinkstock

Melting Pot

“Business meeting, diverse.” Diverse, maybe. But completely bonkers. Imagine going to an away day with these smiling zealots. And any real meeting has at least half the participants surreptitiously checking their mobiles. This is a glimpse of the end-times, with flipcharts.                                                                                           Thinkstock

So next time you see a picture on the web, in a sales document, in fact almost anywhere that is not real think of stock photographers slaving away to bring you fake images.

See the rest of this article and examples on the BBC website here

 

How to Pause and Learn to Make Fewer and Better Photos

The question I always impress on my students that they should ask themselves is Why? Why are you taking this picture, interrogate the reasons that made you stop and look and raise your camera. If you can understand why that will help you to point the camera at the right bit of your subject but also tell you how to set the camera. I ask my students to employ a simple technique which I describe as close, closer, still closer. By looking harder, pausing and thinking about why, taking a picture, then getting closer and doing the same you learn how to understand what about the subject moves you

Launceston Gorge Tas Au © Keith Barnes

Launceston Gorge Tas Au © Keith Barnes

This article on Digital Photo School A Post By: Kim Manley Ort explains this in a different way but I totally agree with the ideas here. If you want your pictures to improve read this and learn what it is that makes a photographer.

At the end of each year do you find yourself with thousands of photos and wonder what to do with them all? Or wondering if you should even keep them? This is a lament that I often hear in my photography workshops and have experienced the same problem myself. Sometimes, this is a result of being too quick to click. You see something that excites you photographically and proceed to snap away, hoping that you’ll cover all the bases and that at least one shot will be a keeper. Sometimes this works and you do get one that you like, but often you find yourself disappointed because there isn’t even one that truly reflects your experience.

Luna Park, Sydney,Aus ©Keith Barnes

Luna Park, Sydney,Aus ©Keith Barnes

Kim Manley Ort says But what if you could take a different approach to your photography? One where you make fewer and also perhaps better photos? I’ve found that the simple practice of pausing before clicking the shutter can make a huge difference in the quantity and quality of your photographic output and enjoyment…..read more here

Peacock tail ©Keith Barnes

Peacock tail ©Keith Barnes

Pausing is the practice of checking in with oneself. When something stops you and you want to make a photograph, take a moment to notice what’s happening and ask yourself a few questions.

  • What do I see, smell, and hear?
  • What stopped me?
  • Was it a colour, shape, or texture?
  • What am I feeling? What do I like about it and why?
  • Does it mirror something going on in my life at this moment?

If this sounds like navel-gazing to you, believe me, it’s not. Many photographers over the years have said that a photograph says something about the creator. Your choice of subject matter reveals a lot about you. By becoming more aware of why you photograph what you do, you will gradually uncover your photographic vision…..read on

 

Something useful from drone phototgraphy

As seen on the BBC website finally a use for drones

Sighisoara, Transylvania, is the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler - otherwise known as Dracula

Sighisoara, Transylvania, is the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler – otherwise known as Dracula

The low sun creates long shadows, and impressive patterns, across the ridges of the sand on this Polish beach.

The low sun creates long shadows, and impressive patterns, across the ridges of the sand on this Polish beach.

Surrounded by moving palm trees, a couple lie together in a clearing on Huahine island, French Polynesia.

Surrounded by moving palm trees, a couple lie together in a clearing on Huahine island, French Polynesia.

An idyllic view of the brightly-coloured buildings of the Italian seaside town of Vernazza.

An idyllic view of the brightly-coloured buildings of the Italian seaside town of Vernazza.

Rhythmic patterns of umbrellas and beds during summer on the Playa de Amadores in Gran Canaria.

Rhythmic patterns of umbrellas and beds during summer on the Playa de Amadores in Gran Canaria.

see more here and a very happy new year to you

3 Ways Photography Alters The Mind

I keep saying in class that an understanding of photography, of image making, of communicating in a visual way changes the mind. As the saying goes ‘mind stretched never goes back to the same shape’ Therefore seeing better, understanding your world through a visual medium has to be a great advantage. You will not be surprised then when I champion this article by  on Lightstalking

Visual perception, or the ability that allows you to observe a certain situation, is shaped and molded by you and your experiences in your surroundings. The way you see things, observe, take note of details and so forth defines your visual perception and how detail oriented you are.

Let us take a neurosurgeon for example: his visual perception is highly tuned towards details. The surgeon should be able to notice things which regular people wouldn’t even be able to see.

IMG_0024

Psychologists, on the other hand, should be able to catch various micro expressions by the people they are working with in order to be able to help them; their visual perception is highly tuned towards noticing small differences in the facial expressions, which often occur for a split second. Along with this, they should also be observant of the bigger picture.

Us photographers are a different breed. Our visual perception is separately tuned towards different things that we are supposed to observe…….

Light

Though it’s very difficult to fine tune your perception for light, this is something you start doing right away. Due to the limitation of the camera (the amount of light it needs to generate a decent picture) you first start evaluating the amount of light you have and whether it is hard or soft.

Generally, you do this by trial and error. First off, all you start with sources you’re familiar with e.g. fluorescent lights – and you generally learn which settings work in that kind of a setup, this can then be used in other scenarios.

You can ascertain whether the light is harsh or soft by looking at the shadows and observing their shapes i.e. whether closer or further away from the light source.

I think you should read more of this article, it is not long but it is worthwhile

I cover much of the conceptual aspects of these ideas in my Intermediate Photography, we have the next course starting on the 12th May and we have places

In the Future, We Will Photograph Everything and Look at Nothing & Free Nik Software

My good friend David Thomas alerted me to this article in The New Yorker

This is a really interesting and important article because it looks and addresses the issues that photography now faces. Yes I know that sounds heavy and overblown but there is no doubt that the way we make pictures, what we do with them and how they are consumed has changed, and changed for ever. Don’t worry I am not deaf to all those who tell me film is coming back, it’s just that I think it is doing so only to those who like the film process and mostly those are not the people who are interested in image making. They enjoy the craft based process and uncertainty that they introduce into the image production through lack of control that film can bring if you don’t know what you are doing with it.

Malik-Photograph-Everything-Look-at-Nothing-1200

PHOTOGRAPH BY JORDAN STRAUSS / INVISION / AP

“Today everything exists to end in a photograph,” Susan Sontag wrote in her seminal 1977 book “On Photography.” This was something I thought about when I recently read that Google was making its one-hundred-and-forty-nine-dollar photo-editing suite, the Google Nik Collection, free. This photo-editing software is as beloved among photographers as, say, Katz’s Deli is among those who dream of pastrami sandwiches.

Before Google bought it, in 2012, the collection cost five hundred dollars. It is made up of seven pieces of specialized software that, when used in combination with other photo-editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom, give photographers a level of control akin to that once found in the darkroom. They can mimic old film stock, add analog photo effects, or turn color shots into black-and-white photos. The suite can transform modestly good photos into magical ones. Collectively, Nik’s intellectual sophistication is that of a chess grand master. I don’t mind paying for the software, and neither do thousands of photographers and enthusiasts. So, like many, I wondered, why would Google make it free?

My guess is that it wants to kill the software, but it doesn’t want the P.R. nightmare that would follow. Remember the outcry over its decision to shut down its tool for R.S.S. feeds, Google Reader? Nik loyalists are even more rabid. By making the software free, the company can both ignore the product and avoid a backlash. But make no mistake: it is only a matter of time before Nik goes the way of the film camera—into the dustbin of technological history.”….

Google’s comments—disheartening as they might be—reflect the reality of our shifting technologies. Sure, we all like listening to music on vinyl, but that doesn’t mean streaming music on Spotify is bad. Streaming just fits today’s world better. I love my paper and ink, but I see the benefits of the iPad and Apple Pencil. Digital photography is going through a similar change, and Google is smart to refocus.

Read the rest of this article and here you can download the Google Nik Software for free

Afghan Girl – Sharbat Gula

afghan-girl

She remembers the moment. The photographer took her picture. She remembers her anger. The man was a stranger. She had never been photographed before. Until they met again 17 years later, she had not been photographed since.

The photographer remembers the moment too. The light was soft. The refugee camp in Pakistan was a sea of tents. Inside the school tent he noticed her first. Sensing her shyness, he approached her last. She told him he could take her picture. “I didn’t think the photograph of the girl would be different from anything else I shot that day,” he recalls of that morning in 1984 spent documenting the ordeal of Afghanistan’s refugees.

The portrait by Steve McCurry turned out to be one of those images that sears the heart, and in June 1985 it ran on the cover of this magazine. Her eyes are sea green. They are haunted and haunting, and in them you can read the tragedy of a land drained by war. She became known around National Geographic as the “Afghan girl,” and for 17 years no one knew her name.

In January a team from National Geographic Television & Film’s EXPLORER brought McCurry to Pakistan to search for the girl with green eyes. They showed her picture around Nasir Bagh, the still standing refugee camp near Peshawar where the photograph had been made. A teacher from the school claimed to know her name. A young woman named Alam Bibi was located in a village nearby, but McCurry decided it wasn’t her.

No, said a man who got wind of the search. He knew the girl in the picture. They had lived at the camp together as children. She had returned to Afghanistan years ago, he said, and now lived in the mountains near Tora Bora. He would go get her.

Read the rest of the story here

A Cautionary Tale

So this story is true, it was told to me today by a good friend and if you are lax should send shivers down you spine.

My friend was working on images on her laptop, it was a very important project, hundreds of images shot all over the country and almost unrepeatable as most of the subjects were in their 90’s. My friend, she shall remain anonymous, was feeling unwell and so took her laptop to the sofa and in a short time felt unwell enough to lie down to have a little snooze. She has two cats, one came and settled and my friend fell deeper into sleep. Vaguely aware of the other cat trying to get comfortable but too far in the land of nod to do anything about it my friend continued to sleep.

cat

spoiler alert – this is not the cat in question

When she awoke and settled back into her work she couldn’t find the folder with all her images. She searched her laptop but no they were not there. Panic rising she worked out they must somehow have got into the trash or waste bin so opened that folder and no they were not there……I think by this time panic was no longer rising but had reached it’s zenith of terror. It was clear her images, all of them, the year’s work, were no longer in existence on her computer. I believe we can all imagine how this felt. She worked out that the other cat in trying to get comfortable had hit the delete key and then either out of stupidity or malice when asked “there are too many files to trash these to the bin would you like to delete them permanently” had said yes, or at least pawed yes.

My friend went to a computer store to see if they could help but no they couldn’t, maybe a data recovery company could extract them from the hard drive but it was unlikely and the cost would be hundreds of pounds even if they couldn’t.

Well the story has a happy ending, my friend had backed up her files and so had only lost the processing work she had done since her last back up. All the RAW files still existed.

So have you got your files backed up. I back mine up when I load them into Lightroom, I use the back up to second drive function and later I back them up to a third external drive that I locate somewhere else. I could use the ‘cloud’ but the number of images I have would take a pretty large cloud. If you haven’t backed up recently, or god forbid ever, do so this weekend.

Here are some links that might help you

Your Photo Backup Needs a Backup

Best backup software 2015/2016 UK: 13 best file- and system backup utilities

The 5 Best Ways to Backup Digital Photos

The best way to back up a photo library, back up photos online, back up photos to iCloud

These Are the Sounds of Film Photography

The rather amazing gimlet eye of Norman McBeath discovered this and as he and I and many other friends and photographers spent most of our lives with these sounds he thought it worth sharing. If you never visited the original Photographers Workshop or had your own darkroom this will bring back memories, if not this might seem a bit pointless but to all those old enough to have enjoyed the days of darkroom work this will have you sighing.

It’s a 1-minute tour of the different sounds (and sights) that are part of the analog photography process, from opening a new box of film to hanging up film strips to dry after developing them. from Robert Marshall

http://petapixel.com/2015/11/22/these-are-the-sounds-of-film-photography/

Black and White Darkrooms, Photographers Workshop, Oxford

the black and white darkrooms, Photographers Workshop, Oxford 1982

http://www.photographersworkshop.co.uk/

The gallery and finishing area Photographers Workshop Oxford 1982

Photographers Workshop 1982

Photographers Workshop 1982 front door

enlarger, black and white darkroom, Photographers Workshop, 1982

enlarger, black and white darkroom, Photographers Workshop, 1982

 

 

Kim Leuenberger – photographer

_85466488_taliskerbeach,isleofskye

The BBC website has an article on photographer Kim Leuenberger. 

Kim Leuenberger is covering the Goodwood Revival, which starts on Friday, where she will be photographing some of the most expensive cars ever produced, as well as capturing the nostalgia of motoring. Yet she is more used to shooting far smaller models – toy cars set in the landscape.

The series, called Travelling Cars, began more than four years ago when, having received a camera for her birthday, Leuenberger took some pictures of toys, including the blue van as seen above, for a project to raise awareness about autism that was running on image-sharing platform Instagram.

“When I posted on Instagram the feedback was so positive that I continued taking that blue van everywhere I travelled. Then with time, I bought more cars,” says Leuenberger .

_85466575_lavenderdelivery-hitchin

_85464978_bluevwvan-intotheblue-calajoncols,catalunya,january2013

_85464984_anirishpuddle-malahide,ireland

You can read the full article here or better still visit Kim’s website and see more quirky pictures featuring toy cars and and landscapes.