Photography 101: Two Photos, Same Subject, Two Stories

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Two photos of the same subject resulting in different stories. What do you want your photo to convey? What’s the message, what’s the story? If you’re shooting as a pro these questions are critical to your result.

But serious amateur photographers should be asking these questions too—the only real difference between professional photographers and serious amateur photographers is money. One gets paid and the other one doesn’t.

I am now in Aberdeen, Scotland for three weeks having arrived yesterday from Perth (see my earlier posts). Rain was in the forecast for today but by 11:30 a.m. I saw a bit of blue sky and sunshine from my window. Grabbing my camera I hustled my butt out of the hotel to explore The Grey City (so named for its impressive grey granite buildings). Within minutes of leaving the hotel, however, it began to rain in earnest—yep, both my camera and I got soaked through & through (the trials & tribulations of the serious photographer). You photographers know what I’m talking about—suffering for our art.

Image #1: The Tolbooth – Aberdeen, Scotland (1/40s @ f/16 ISO 100 @ 16mm 16:9 Aspect Ratio)

Just a short walk from my hotel is The Tolbooth. The Tolbooth was a 17th-century prison but has since become a museum. It’s an impressive structure covering one or two city blocks and is an iconic landmark in Aberdeen. Its been photographed thousands of times by thousands of photographers from around the world. However, doing a quick Google search for photos of The Tolbooth results in hundreds of mediocre to lousy photos of this beautiful building (most are probably cellphone photos taken by tourists). I took multiple shots of this iconic structure just minutes apart and I think they tell different stories.

Image #2: The Tolbooth – Aberdeen, Scotland (1/50s @ f/16 ISO 100 @ 16mm 6:4 Aspect Ratio)

I timed Image #1 so the building stood alone without any cars or buses in the foreground. There are people in the photo but they’re pretty small and insignificant and don’t really create a distraction (or a sense of scale). If you do any travel photography at all you know that it’s almost impossible to capture shots of iconic locations without lots of people milling around. Image #2 intentionally includes cars which lend a sense of motion (intentional motion blur on the cars) and scale (how big the structure really is). The same subject taken just minutes apart with two different stories.

I think Image #1 is more of an artistic piece whereas Image #2 is more photojournalistic in nature. Image #1 could work as a piece of wall art in a home or office (maybe) but Image #2 would more rightfully belong in a newspaper, magazine or travel brochure. Again, to the point of redundancy, I think Image #1 has more of an aesthetic quality to it and Image #2 would be more commercially viable (stock photo, travel brochure photo or for advertising and promotional purposes). Image #1 is what I would shoot for myself and Image #2 is what I would shoot for a paid commercial client.

Field Notes: Both images were captured as CameraRAW files with my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV full-frame sensor DSLR and Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM ultra wide-angle zoom lens. The settings for both images are virtually identical with the exception of shutter speed 1/40s versus 1/50s. They were processed pretty much the same using Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) and Photoshop Elements 15 (PSE15). Image #1 was cropped to a 16:9 Aspect Ratio and Image #2 was left at a native 6:4 Aspect Ratio. By the time I got these shots both my camera and I were soaked with the rain. SFD


First Walkabout in Aberdeen—the Joke Was on Us

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Everybody knows it rains in Scotland. Even we know that. But by 11:30 a.m. I was seeing some sunshine out of our hotel window and we were anxious to get oot & aboot (we’re sounding Scottish already) in Aberdeen.

On our way out of the hotel lobby the receptionist asked us where we were heading and we said out for a short walk. We didn’t know then how prophetic those words were to be but we soon found out. Two minutes out the door and it started raining.

At first it was a light drizzle to entice us away from the cover of our hotel but it soon increased to a steady rain. We each have a pair of rain pants (as yet unworn) in our packs, I have a great little travel umbrella and I have a Storm Jacket for my camera and lens. None of that stuff came with us however. Within minutes we were drenched and so was my camera—I’ve thanked God many times that my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR and Llenses are fully weather sealed and robust pro-grade equipment. Typing this post in our room I see blue skies again out the window.

Old Blackfriars – Aberdeen, Scotland (Internet File Photo – Not My Photo)

Yesterday was a nice travel day with good weather. We arrived in Aberdeen at 2 p.m. and walked the short distance to Hotel Ibis Aberdeen Centre. My earlier post described the hotel and I included a few photos for those who might be interested. At about 3:30 p.m. we headed to the nearby pub that had been recommended for our late lunch-early dinner: Old Blackfriars. They have a special (Thursday through Sunday) where you can get two meals for £11.95 GBP or about £6 GBP pp. We’ll probably head back there again this afternoon even though the special isn’t available on Friday.

The Tolbooth – Aberdeen, Scotland

We had hamburgers. Maybe the best hamburgers we’ve had in a really, REALLY long time. They were made with premium ground prime steak and actually dripped grease on our plates when we bit into them—you can’t hardly buy a good grease-burger in the States anymore. It came with chips (which are French fries in the UK). Chips are French fries and potato chips are crisps. Donuts are cakes and cookies are biscuits. And so it goes. We’re learning slowly but surely. Our morning walk once again took us by Old Blackfriars and The Tolbooth.

La Lombarda Italian Restaurant – Aberdeen, Scotland

The Tolbooth was formerly a prison in the 17th-century and still looks kind of forbidding (it takes up an entire city block, maybe two). It has since been turned into a museum and it’s very close to our hotel (maybe a two-minute walk at most) so I’m sure we’ll give it a look-see in the days to come. Also the Maritime Museum is right across the street from our hotel. Looking on the map I think there is a ton of stuff to see within walking distance. We’ll also see what’s available in the way of day tours this time of year. Saturday and Sunday are supposed to be partly cloudy with some sun so we’ll try to get out again.

Mercat (Market) Cross – Aberdeen, Scotland

We also passed a cute little Italian restaurant called La Lombarda across from Old Blackfriars featuring Sinatra’s Bar & Cabaret in the basement. The menu looked a little pricey for our budget but we might splurge one of these evenings. The big problem is that we like to eat our big meal of the day around 3 p.m. and a lot of restaurants don’t open that early—it’s an Old Fart thing. I think the little area we’re finding so unique is Castlegate in the heart of City Centre Aberdeen—home to Mercat (Market) Cross, La Lombarda, Old Blackfriars and other shops and restaurants.

Mr. Muscles Outside a Vitamin Store – Aberdeen, Scotland

I will have to give brother Joel (the Waldorf to my Statler in the Muppet Brother relationship) complete credit for choosing the last few hotels. They’ve been modestly priced relative to other offerings, centrally located for easy walking and in interesting locations like Perth and Aberdeen. He does the internet thing much better than I do even if it frustrates him just as much (or maybe even more). I don’t know why I took this last picture of Mr. Muscles except that it made me stop and look (and chuckle a little bit). It reminded me of something I would see in Mexico.

The Muppet Brothers – Steve (Statler) on the Right & Joel (Waldorf) on the Left)

Field Notes: Note to self—try to stay drier on our future walkabouts. Note to others—this morning I was shooting with my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV full-frame sensor DSLR and EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM ultra wide-angle zoom lens (my favourite lens for urban photography). When photographing The Tolbooth I really liked the dramatic distortion this lens produced at 16mm—plus it lets me get the entire building in the camera’s frame even up close. Another note to self—quit forgetting the Storm Jacket for your camera when shooting in inclement weather dumb-ass. It’s a robust camera but quit tempting fate. SFD

The Muppet Brothers Arrive in Aberdeen, Scotland

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Time to leave Perth. We checked out of the Grampian Hotel at 11 a.m. and grabbed a taxi (£5.80 GBP) to the Broxden Park & Ride (a short ride from City Centre) to pick up our bus to Aberdeen (£25.40 GBP pp) for the two-hour drive.

We’re booked into Hotel Ibis Aberdeen Centre for the next three weeks. If you’ve followed this blog for anytime at all you know the Muppet Brothers are all about CHEAP (as in inexpensive). We got a pretty good deal on this hotel.

We always look for the cheapest lodging we can find which often results in us staying in hostels, apartments, guesthouses and local non-tourist hotels. We’ve learned that our needs are simple: bed, toilet, shower (sometimes with hot water) and Wi-Fi. Everything else is superfluous: towels folded like swans, chocolate on pillows, daily room service, television and guest robes). Give us basic for cheap and we are happy campers. Throw in a free breakfast and we’re yours. Hotel Ibis is a step above for us with its modern design and decor but the price was right for this 3-Star establishment at £23.45 GBP pp per night.

Hotel Ibis Aberdeen Centre – Aberdeen, Scotland (Internet File Photo – Not My Photo)

Breakfast is not included but is fairly reasonable (by Scottish standards) at £8.95 GBP pp for their all-you-can-eat buffet: eggs, hash browns, sausage, bacon, beans, croissants, bread, scones, cereals, yogurt, various fruit juices, milk and coffee & tea. I’m sure I’ve left many available items off the list—suffice it to say it’s a very complete buffet. By comparison the breakfast served at the Grampian Hotel in Perth was a standard traditional Scottish breakfast (not a buffet) and cost £10.00 GBP pp. We’ll look around for less expensive venues.

Our Bedroom in Hotel Ibis – Aberdeen, Scotland (Internet File Photo – Not My Photo)

In Perth we were able find cafes serving breakfast for £3.90 GBP to about £7.90 GBP—some included coffee at others we had to pay extra. We’re still getting used to the high food prices since leaving Latin America but then everything has been more expensive by about two-thirds: lodging $30 USD pp per night vs $10 USD pp per night, taxis on average $7.50 USD vs $2.50 USD and food $15 USD pp vs $5 USD pp depending on the meal. If you’re travelling on a two-week holiday these differences might not mean too much to you but if you’re travelling full-time on the cheap (like us) the dollars & cents add up quickly.

Our Bathroom in Hotel Ibis – Aberdeen, Scotland (Internet File Photo – Not My Photo)

I suspect that many of my readers find these endless price quotes both tedious and boring but to my fellow travellers (especially the backpacker trekkers among you) I hope this information about lodging, transportation and food is helpful. There are many ways to travel and different comfort levels. Some would never EVER consider staying in a hostel, guesthouse or local non-tourist hotel (especially when a foreign language is involved) but we’ve had some great experiences in these places and have met some incredible fellow travellers and locals alike (all while saving substantial amounts of money).

Saint Machar’s Cathedral – Aberdeen, Scotland (Internet File Photo – Not My Photo)

Travelling full-time (365 days a year) is much different from escaping the corporate rat-race for two weeks at a time. One is living the life of a nomad or gypsy (free & spontaneous) and the other is wanting to be pampered and completely relaxed (you will get zero judgement from me). I worked the corporate nightmare for fifty years and can totally empathise—trekking full-time is a chosen lifestyle whereas the all-inclusive two-week escape is survival pure & simple. Do what you need to do. If you’re travelling at all on holiday (instead of curling up in the fetal position in some hole) I commend you.

The Grey City of Aberdeen, Scotland (Internet File Photo – Not My Photo)

Today’s forecast calls for a high temperature of 8°C/47°F with winds of 20 mph (windchill 4°C/39°F) partly cloudy with some rain. Looking out our hotel window (at 10:20 a.m.) I see sunshine peeking through the clouds. Yesterday was a short and very easy travel day so we’ll have to get out on our first walkabout Aberdeen a little later this morning. It looks like there is a lot of cool stuff to see in City Centre within walking distance of our hotel. We find that a two to three-hour walk (four to six miles roundtrip) is about our limit these days depending on the weather. More about Aberdeen to follow.

The Muppet Brothers (Steve & Joel Dennstedt)


Saying a Fond Adieux to Quaint & Beautiful Perth

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Our time in Perth, Scotland is quickly coming to a close. Our next stop will be the larger city of Aberdeen (about 4x larger than Perth) on the northeastern coast of Scotland (Population just shy of 200,000).

We’ve booked a three-week stay because it seems to be the hub on the east coast for getting oot & aboot (or out & about in English). We woke up to bright sun, crystal-clear blue skies and warmer weather this morning.

Today’s forecast calls for a high temperature of 7°C/45°F with winds of 15 mph (windchill 3°C/38°F). We’ve been in Scotland for almost three weeks and this will only be the third day we’ve seen any sun at all. And a high temperature of 45°F seems almost balmy after the past few weeks. Nicknames for Aberdeen include the Granite City, the Grey City and the Silver City with the Golden Sands. During the mid-18th to mid-20th centuries, Aberdeen’s buildings incorporated locally quarried grey granite, which can sparkle like silver because of its high mica content.

Aberdeen, Scotland – Internet File Photo (Not My Photo)

We will be checking out of the Grampian Hotel on Thursday morning, grabbing a taxi to take us the short distance to the Park & Ride outside of town, and then hop the two-hour bus to Aberdeen. Our two weeks in Perth have been grand even with the rain, sleet and snow. We’ve eaten at a few moderately priced (by Scottish standards) restaurants and had some good meals—standouts include the Indian food at The Nawaab of Perth, the Galettes at Breizh French Restaurant and the Fish & Chips at Holdgates Fish Bar (our favourite little eatery). Perth is easy to walk and the walkways along the River Tay are beautiful.

The River Tay with Saint Mathew’s Church of Scotland – Perth, Scotland

If you’re ever undecided about where to visit in Scotland you could do worse than Perth. I don’t think it’s a huge tourist mecca like the Highlands or big cities but it has a charm all its own—it’s small, quaint and authentic. Claire and her husband (the owners of the Grampian Hotel) couldn’t have been any nicer, City Centre is quaint and fun to walk, the Saint John’s Shopping Centre has lots of shops and restaurants and the river walkways along the River Tay (Scotland’s longest river) are scenic and interesting. The Balhousie Castle & Black Watch Museum are also a must-see.


What’s It Like to Live in a Snow Globe

Stephen F. Dennstedt

I’ve always been a sucker for Snow Globes. Little vignettes of romantic fantasy tucked inside a glass ball. The scenes are always idyllic: little cabins in the woods, snowmen (Santa Claus & Christmas Trees) and 19th century Dickensian England.

As a young introverted kid growing up 1950s Southern California I could lose myself in a Snow Globe. A couple of quick shakes and I could be transported to a different time and place—to a different world. Even in the midst of a sweltering Santa Ana.

Since departing the USA in late November of last year, to begin World Trek Part II, Joel and I have lived the fantasy. First Iceland for two weeks, then Ireland for three months (both the Irish Republic in the South and Northern Ireland) and now Scotland (for another three months). It’s winter of course and an unusually harsh winter for the UK. Again, Joel and I were born and raised in San Diego, CA so we’re more accustomed to sunshine and heat. Though Joel lived in Alaska for fifteen years his blood has once again thinned to Southern California consistency.

We spent our first six years (World Trek Part I) slō-travelling through Mexico, Cuba, Central America and South America. With the exception of the Andes Mountains (Peru, Chile and Argentina) and Southern Patagonia (Argentina) most of that travel was in warmer climes (often much warmer climes). Since leaving the USA for the second time (after a visit to family & friends) we’ve been bundled up in four to five layers of clothing (see my photo inset at the top of this post taken yesterday). It snowed all-day yesterday and is forecast to snow all-day today—for the most part it’s really cool (pun intended).

But then we don’t have to commute or work in it. We’re retired after all and our schedule is open and flexible. For instance when we first arrived in Scotland (Cairnryan) from Northern Ireland (Belfast) on the ferry we got stopped cold in our tracks. Storm Emma from the Atlantic had collided with the Beast From the East (from Russia) and brought most of the EU and UK to a complete halt. We were headed to Glasgow but got stopped in the small Scottish town of Ayr (Population 47,000) because the trains and buses had stopped running. No problem—we just hunkered down for a day and arrived in Glasgow one day late.

We have family and friends who live and work in the midwest and on the East Coast and I can’t even imagine trying to work in severe winter weather. Here is Scotland we just go with the flow—today we didn’t even leave the hotel for breakfast we just had our large traditional Scottish breakfast in the dining room (more expensive but more convenient too). Watching the large soft flakes drift down as we indulged ourselves with a second cup of coffee was relaxing, while those outside were braving the elements. Living in a Snow Globe is kind of neat as long as you have a warm retreat (and maybe a fire, whiskey and an old dog).


Rain, Sleet, Snow and Nightmares

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Rain, sleet, snow and nightmares. My nights often include bad dreams, nightmares and even full-blown night terrors. Tossing & turning can quickly become low moans and keening to screams and shrieks. Can’t explain it—night terrors are for two-year-olds.

My ex-wife quickly learned to keep her distance during these violent episodes because I wakeup fighting (for my life). And I’ve brought brother Joel wide-awake many times with my blood-curdling screams and flailing and he never gets used to it.

I rarely remember the circumstances of these late night adventures, only that they are terrifying in the extreme. Sometimes these shenanigans cause me bodily harm—I once broke a toe in Mérida, Yucatan when I violently kicked a bedside dresser in the middle of the night. Waking up in the morning I had no recollection of the event. Last night (here in Perth, Scotland) I dramatically flipped myself out of bed at 3 a.m. in the morning. I bashed my head on the nightstand, tweaked my neck and wrenched my shoulder—and woke Joel up with a loud crash.

God only knows what the other hotel guests heard and thought this morning. When staying in the occasional hostel dormitory I’m always embarrassed to think what our roommates think of my late night episodes. They probably think they’re rooming with an escaped psycho-killer from a lunatic asylum—I know they always look at me with a wary eye and never give me any shit (one benefit of being crazy I suppose). I have no explanation whatsoever for these psychotic travels into alternate realities except to think they are the Karmic consequences of a misspent youth.

Me This Morning in the Rain, Sleet and Snow

So it was with a headache, neck-ache and shoulder-ache that I faced a new day this morning. Looking out our hotel window I could see white rooftops and snow flurries drifting about and so I quickly Googled the weather forecast: -1°C/30°F with winds of 28 mph (windchill -9°C/16°F). Snow forecast for the next two days with partial clearing by Monday. A bleak morning in Perth (to match my bleak mood) but there can be a certain beauty in bleakness if you’re open to it. I quickly popped some aspirin (for my morning aches & pains) and we headed out to breakfast and COFFEE.

Walkabout Town After Breakfast

Moods (bleak or otherwise) are just emotions and they come and they go. Emotions will mislead you into thinking they’re all-important but they really aren’t. My Buddhist practice taught me that years ago—don’t attach or cling to emotions (good or bad) just observe them as they pass through your life. Life is not about being continuously happy, it’s about being content with whatever is going on. Happy and unhappy are just extremes of a continuum and are not worthwhile goals in themselves—strive, instead, for acceptance and contentment. My spiritual teacher Reverend Jisō taught me that a long time ago.

Walkabout Town After Breakfast

Having said that, however, the photo of me above (in the rain, sleet and snow) makes me look anything but accepting and content. That is a pretty dour look on my face but totally in keeping with the Scotts that surround me. Trust me I’m not as miserable as I look. Maybe the long (and cold) winter months in Iceland, the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland and Scotland are catching up with this born & raised Southern Californian—one of my Facebook friends just asked me if I was crankier than usual. I noticed today’s temperature in Mérida, Yucatan (my former home) is 21°C/70°F with full sun and 89% humidity.


The Downside of Photography Groups & Forums

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Photography groups & forums are interesting places. For the most part I shun them like I do other forms of social media. I am not a big fan of group-think—Conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh (who I detest) coined the term Sheeple.

Sheeple has been replaced with Snowflake to describe my brand of politics though I am not a Liberal (Progressive). I tend to be a fiscal conservative and social progressive which basically labels me a Libertarian.

But I’ve always hated labels (political or otherwise). I am what I am. Of course I am what I am and that’s all that I am was coined by another guy I never really liked—Popeye the Sailor Man. Wow—what a rambling introduction to a potentially controversial blog post. The bone I have to pick with most groups and forums (photography included) is that they’re too political, governed by opinion and appeal primarily to the ignorant masses. They tend to pander to our basest human instincts as does most social media. I usually find them banal and a waste of time.

The River Tay with Saint Mathew’s Church of Scotland – Perth, Scotland

I’m an odd duck—a loner, introvert and social misfit. So I caution you to take my words with more than a grain of salt and not get your panties all in a wad (it would be a complete waste of time). I’m sure I’m going to lose some subscribers over this rant but I’ve always written this blog for me (as a creative outlet) and not for my readers. If my readers find my posts interesting or helpful so much the better but I’ve never been one to worry too much about the opinions of others, positive or negative. The modern trend on social media is to promote personality over content and I’m just not that guy.

Perito Moreno Glacier – Southern Patagonia, Argentina

I am not God’s gift to photography. There are thousands upon thousands of photographers who capture better images than me. But I am competent and honest when it comes to my work and I work really hard to hone my craft. Digital technology is changing the way we approach art and creative effort—everyone copies everyone else and calls it original. Everything is melting into homogenous crap, pabulum for the masses. Literature, music, movies are all increasingly formulaic and boring. We’ve really strayed from our roots and I find it sad. Original concepts are copied by millions the next day.

Brown-faced Capuchin Monkey – Northern Amazon River Basin, Cuyabeno, Ecuador

I find that most groups and forums tend to foster this group-think mentality. That members often mimic what others are doing instead of pushing new boundaries themselves. Anyone who doesn’t conform to group-think is unjustly criticised and culled from the group while those who pander to the (largely uneducated) masses prosper and are hailed for their creative efforts. My experience leads me to believe that groups and forums function more as social interaction than places of real education—and as clearly stated earlier I am not a social creature.

Giant’s Causeway – Atlantic Coast of Northern Ireland

I’m old enough to remember the first efforts to keep both the foreground and background in sharp focus using wide-angle and ultra wide-angle lenses and tilt & shift large format cameras. Now we just focus stack. I can remember spending hours, days and even weeks seeking the perfect shot—now we just composite our images. Just slap that big old moon into any creation we want and better yet silhouette an owl or wolf in it. Peter Lik just got caught doing that very thing after claiming all his photos are real and un-manipulated. Bullshit. Be honest with your work.

Orange-winged Amazon Parrot – Northern Amazon River Basin, Cuyabeno, Ecuador

There was a time when HDR (high dynamic range) processing pushed the envelope and then it became the thing. Now we’re trying to dial it back with subtle exposure stacking or better yet with improved camera technology. I have nothing against post-processing—virtually every digital image is post-processed either in-camera (as JPEGs) or processing RAW file images in Lightroom, Photoshop or Adobe Camera RAW. In the old days we processed film negatives and prints in a wet (chemical) darkroom now we process digital files electronically. One method is wet the other dry but they attempt the same thing.

Great Egret in Flight – Monterrico, Guatemala

I love digital technology. But I miss the discipline and originality of the old film days. I like classic anything: classic movies (especially black & white), classic rock & roll, classic blues, classic country music and jazz, classic literature and dance and most especially classic photography. Before the bean counters took over and demanded that everything be commercially successful. Now everything is run by accountants (and not creatives) with their advanced algorithms and we get CRAP. Same-old, same-old. People love the new and innovative, bean counters want tried & true.

The Blue Door – San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico

Star Wars was new and innovative—now we have Star Wars 184. Die Hard was new and innovative and now we have Die Hard 168 starring an 80-year old Bruce Willis (I don’t really know how old Bruce is but he’s too damn old to play that guy). Look at any creative genre from food to music (to photography) and all you get is same-old, same-old. Boring and uninspired. As photographers we are Indie-creators, no one hires full-time photographers anymore: newspapers, magazines, advertisers and corporate America all contract their assignments to freelancers like me.

Photo Shoot for The Yucatan Times Newspaper (Local Zoo) – Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

The word cliché rings loudly in my ears. Things (or words & phrases) that become so common as to become routine. Think no further that ND filters applied to moving water (oceans, rivers and waterfalls). When that technique first appeared years ago the water (and clouds) looked magical—so silky smooth and ethereal. Now its become totally cliché—every single photographer does it. The same thing can be said about Astro-photography—really cool in the beginning and now totally cliché. I think photography groups and forums foster this kind of copy-cat photography.

Clifden Castle Ruins – Clifden (County Galway) Ireland

I only belong to two photography groups these days. They are both closed groups and you have to be invited to join. There are some really great photographers involved, some pretty good photographers and a few beginners. These are social photographers who meet up for shoots and learn from one another—I just can’t do that. The loner, the introvert, the anti-social part of me rebels at the thought. I’ve made some good (social media) friends in these two groups but I could never join up for group photography outings. I shoot alone—I always have.

Northern-crested Caracara – Yucatan, Mexico

I appreciate their recognition and praise of my work but I don’t live for it. I find that my favourite photos rarely receive much attention whereas the over-processed, gaudy and clichéd photos of others garner most of the group’s praise. Many highly touted photos actually cross the line into graphic arts. I can appreciate graphic arts as a creative medium but again it’s not my cup-of-tea. Maybe it’s the photojournalist in me. If I had to define my style (and I abhor the idea of boxing myself in) I might call it artistic documentarian. I like my photos to appear natural but with a certain artistic flair.

Male Cinereous Harrier – Southern Patagonia, Argentina

When I’m shooting for money I shoot for my client—their wishes are my command. When I shoot for myself I shoot my way, to please myself, and I don’t really give a rat’s ass who likes it or not (that’s not entirely true). I try really hard to avoid the cliché images if possible (I will leave those to others). I think that’s why I gravitate to wildlife photography, scenic photography and street photography (and of course photojournalism). Real animals, real people, doing real things. If I’m not on commercial assignment I will artistically post-process my images (a taboo in photojournalism).

Juan Pablo – Antigua, Guatemala

I want my viewers to see real subjects presented naturally but artistically—that requires sophisticated but subtle post-processing skills. Over-the-top processing (aggressive sharpening, contrast and colour saturation) creates unnatural crunchy looking images. A cooking metaphor would be they are over baked. I hate the look. Again, photography groups and forums tend to foster this over-processed look. Maybe I should start my own group—NOT! Constructive criticism is a powerful tool but most creatives are not open to it. Your worst enemies are family, friends and group members.

Uros Indian Girl – Lake Titicaca, Peru

They tell you what they think you will want to hear and not the truth. And frankly most non-photographers wouldn’t know good photograph if it bit them in the ass—they lean towards the sensational and overworked. Checkout what people like on Facebook and you will see my point. Photography, in my opinion, should be like a Zen painting—subtle, refined, simple and perfect. Compelling subjects tastefully rendered: tack-sharp, properly exposed and well composed. They should look simple and not overworked (look at a Zen garden). Simple is not easy—simple is very, very hard work. Keep it simple.

Galapagos Sea Lion Pup – Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Field Notes: I suspect I’ve probably pissed off a few of my photographer friends with this post. It sounds pompous and arrogant and it probably is. But I’m older than the T-Rex and even dirt so it really doesn’t matter. We live in an overly clichéd world and I hate it—I crave spontaneity, realism and innovation in all things (especially the creative arts). Photography groups, forums and YouTube channels can be great resources but they are also guilty of perpetuating stereotypes and clichés. The next time you photograph water take a pass on the silky look—just once. SFD