Experimenting with EyeEm

©Neil Turner, June 2013. Fisherman's Walk, Bournemouth.

©Neil Turner, June 2013. Fisherman’s Walk, Bournemouth.

A lot of photographers have been playing around with various image sharing sites. Most are doing it because it’s fun and others because they have been told that it’s a great way to get noticed by new audiences and to be seen by clients as “up-to-date”. I simply wanted to ‘have a go’. Get with the fun. A lot of photographers that I like and respect have been uploading some lovely work using EyeEm over the last few weeks and, although I’ll never beat them, I thought that I’d join them.

I missed out on Instagram and I have publicly parted company with Flickr. I’ve used Moby to share a few images in Twitter and of course TwitPic has seen a few of my pictures too.

A couple of weeks ago I set myself the challenge of uploading a few pictures to the EyeEm sharing site to see what happened. The experiment isn’t over – far from it but I am starting to find it a bit limiting and I’m starting to worry that the lens of the camera on my iPhone is showing it’s 3 years and 4 months age.

Anyway, if you are on EyeEm please let me know and please think about following my experiment. I promise not to bombard you with art – even if I’m tempted! Most of the images have nothing to do with the kind of professional work that I do and a surprising number so far have been shot around my home town of Bournemouth.

The picture that you can see above is about the most extreme treatment that I’ve given any of my pictures to date. For the geeks amongst you it was processed (contrast, sharpening and cropping) in Adobe Photoshop Express on an iPhone and then given the moody treatment and distressed border in the EyeEm app on the phone.

Compose the picture and then wait

I have a folder full of images on my hard drive that I use for teaching. They aren’t always my best work but they help to illustrate a point better than others from my portfolio. This is a perfect example of that idea.

Sometimes you can see the potential for a picture but the picture isn’t happening. This is a common issue for news photographers who have to shoot pictures to go with stories about something quite specific but aren’t allowed to set a lot of shots up. This picture was to go with a very small story about an art exhibition that had been put on by some young female artists on a very tight budget. The venue was a shopping centre (mall if you are from the USA) and I could see that some human interaction with the work was the best way to cover it. I grabbed a tripod from the car and stuck my camera on it. Composing the frame was pretty easy and all I had to do was wait for the right people to walk past and look at the work. People came along and I tried various shutter speeds to get some blur in order to keep the ‘focus’ of the story on the art. Soon I was happy with my plan (1/10th of a second at f4.5 on 200 ISO) and I waited, shooting frames as people came past in ones, twos and threes.

©Neil Turner/TSL | London | October 1999

I could see these two women with very similar pink in their outfits coming. I could see that they were in perfect step and so the plan went from the occasional frame to a full burst (about 3 frames a second in those days) and got this shot. Of course I did a few more but the deep joy of those early digital SLRs was that you had great confidence in what you saw on the rear LCD.

The idea remains one that I use over and over again. I see pictures and I compose them around what’s there and then I just have to be patient and wait for someone or something to come along and complete the photograph. You can see the same idea here in an old post about walking with speed lights which has pictures taken a lot more recently!

For those who love detail, this was shot with a Kodak DCS520 camera (1.9 megapixels of class) and a Canon 17-35 f2.8L lens at the 35mm end of the range perched on a Manfrotto 055 tripod (which I still use).

Photography and the art of compromise…

This is an old opinion piece that has been well used in teaching, writing and seminar work.

Photography and the art of compromise is a title for an essay that’s been rattling around in my head for a while. The other day I tweeted a version of what I wanted to say in “140 characters or less” and it was responded to or re-tweeted more times in a few hours than anything else that I’ve ever written on that particular social networking site. It was at that point that I decided that I needed to put my thoughts about the subject down as a blog piece.

All photography requires compromise – the better your skills as a photographer, the more control you have over the compromises you make.

That was the wording on Twitter (OK, there was a hashtag on the word photography). It seemed to strike a chord with a lot of my peers – maybe because it is possibly the single hardest lesson to learn when you become a photographer.

For the less experienced photographers amongst you who might be unsure about the kinds of compromises I am talking about, here are a few of the choices that you need to make on a day-to-day basis that lead to compromise:

  • Shooting wide open apertures to get a shallow depth of field versus stopping down a little to make sure you get the subject in focus.
  • Going for a higher ISO than your camera is comfortable with versus the chance of getting camera shake at the lower ISO where there won’t be any noise in the shadow areas…
  • Having to shoot at f22 in bright sunshine so that you can shoot flash and still keep the shutter speed down to the camera’s maximum sync speed.
  • Placing your flash unit close to the subject to get the effect of a proportionally larger light modifier versus placing it further away to reduce the effect of flash fall-off.

And so on and so on. Every time you alter a setting on your camera, every time you place a light and every time you focus the lens you are making decisions most of which lead to a compromise. Sometimes the decision has a small effect on the image and sometimes it has a crucial one. The technical and creative skills that we pick up throughout our time as photographers equip us with an ever greater understanding of the options. As we practice our craft, we learn to take more and more decisions in real time – often without really thinking about them and it’s these decisions that dictate our style of photography.

As a photographer my preference might be to worry less about depth of field and more about critical focus when I’m shooting some jobs whilst I’d almost certainly place a light where it will give me the right light on the main subject and allow me to worry about backgrounds second.

Put simply, that’s what makes my pictures mine and the decisions that you would take in a similar situation would mark your images out as yours. Where decisions become compromises is the place where creativity lives and where most photographers do their best work