photography

Liverpool Street Photography Workshop

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I have been working on a series of photography workshops to be rolled out over 2014 /2015.

I have been in talks with a couple of the North West’s best photographic shops so will be running workshops and courses for these guys from their shops as well as my own workshops. Once I have the full program of events I will be able to publish the full course calendar.

I do have a photo walk planned for the 14th of June in Liverpool; you can sign up for this walk here tickets are only £19.99 please book early to avoid disappointment.

I will also be running a street photography workshop on Sunday the 29th of June 2014 from a Liverpool location. The course will give you an insight into the way I work and my style of Street Photography. You will learn how to anticipate and capture that decisive moment at various locations around the city.

Through demonstration and example and through your own photography practice of a variety of creative street photography techniques, you will have the opportunity to explore the Liverpool streets picking up tips and ideas that you will be able to try at home and other world destinations.

You will learn

  • The skill in spotting a possible subject
  • What  to look for in a great scene
  • How to blend in and be invisible.
  • See and compose a subject with a scene or background
  • Capture a subject without intrusion
  • Develop confidence in shooting in the street
  • Photography in public places safely
  • Use different depths of field for different types of shot
  • Use varying speeds for different effects
  • How to review your own work

 

The day course will be £34.99 and you can buy your tickets here.

 

I will be at the Cambrian Show giving two seminars on my Year of Black and White so if you want to come along make sure you contact the shop to sign up as places are limited.

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The Journey so far !

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Photography! Wow its one hell of a journey. I picked up a camera as a young boy over 40 years ago and it was like magic, a simple metal box but when you opened the back whilst pressing the shutter button you could see the shutter move! When you changed the aperture, the hole changed size, what was that all about? The image above is one of my mothers; I remember this image and many others from the huge collection of black and white images that my parents had collated over the years. I had images of me from a baby and could see my life in images. I thought it was amazing and even more amazing the image came from that little bit of light flashing through that hole.

It was simple back then, I used to save up for a roll of black and white film but whilst I was saving I used to get the free Truprint films and practice with the colour cheap film!   By getting to know the people in the camera shops I would get film for free and every time I sent a film to Truprint I would get a free film back. I did not have a clue what I was doing but whatever it I was doing, I was getting lots of prints back and lots of negatives. It was not long before I could not cope with the wait for the black and white film to come back so I saved up and brought my first enlarger and a few trays and started developing and printing my own work. By this time I was shooting Ektachrome Transparency for colour and every type of black and white film I could get my hands on.   It was a passion with no bounds. I had a Dark Room and a Studio in my parents loft and the future was bright. As I left school I wanted to be a Photographer.

I struggled at school due to my Dyslexia but Art and Photography were a welcome release. I managed to get some jobs shooting freelance as well as a few weddings and some events but people had a habit of not paying.  This was quite difficult as once you had laid out for the film; processing and printing it all became very expensive. So a job was the only answer.

I carried on with my Photography but not with the same passion. I shot the odd wedding etc but then I lost nearly all my work in a house fire. I lost more than my images; I lost 90% of everything I owned.   I still have a few negatives but nothing from my early years of mass shooting.  Avery sad day, hours and hours of work all gone just as quickly as it was shot!

I slowed down after that and even though I still had a camera I hardly used it, generally just family and kids stuff with the occasional landscape and a sale here and there with a few images placed in image libraries.

I have always been able to shoot anything.  This was always my problem in photography as people want a Wedding Photographer or a Portrait Photographer.  I could shoot just about anything but I just wanted to shoot black and white and develop my own style.

I moved to Liverpool around eight years ago and gave my Nikon film camera to my son before I left Kent. The plan was to go digital and see how I felt about it. So I bought a Nikon D200 and hated the colour images. I then almost decided that digital was not the same and was just about to go back to film but found the black and white image files from the D200 were very nice. Hard to process to get the look I wanted but I stuck at it. The camera got a lot of use so I ended up getting a D300. Great little camera but the black and white files it created were not the same. I am not a technical photographer so can’t tell you why but they just were not the same, the tones were all wrong.

I was now struggling to process the files so just went out and got another D200. At the same time I was fighting with Photoshop to get the look I wanted in the time frame I needed. I had to find some software that worked for me and Lightroom was the answer. The early Lightroom was not great but it was easy to understand and the workflow was simple. I could process an image in 6 minutes in LR and the same process would take hours in PS so LR was the answer but I was still not getting my black and white images the way I wanted them.

But then I found Silver Efex Pro. This was a dream come true. I could now get the black and white digital files to look exactly how I wanted them to look.  They even printed better than the images I could create in a wet darkroom.  I was at last getting to the point I was nearly happy with my images.

Whilst getting to grips with processing my event work was picking up and my style was developing (pun intended) I was starting to enjoy photography again. I was now shooting with a pair of D3s bodies and using pro glass and looking for the sharpest and best image and everyone on social media was talking about sensors, cameras and the best lens etc and I got caught up in it all. I was confused.  I was happy with a film camera shooting when I was 15 but now it wasn’t the same. Everyone appeared to be obsessed with the technical side of photography and I was only interested in my style and how the image made me and the viewer feel.

It was at that point I found ‘Street Photography’ was a perfect complement to my event work. It’s taken me back to my roots as a boy with a camera that no one notices taking shots of people.  This was my first love, shooting people and telling a story. It was not about the technical side, burst rates, sensor size and functions it was all about the amount of light coming through that little hole and creating an image that made me feel happy.  The same feeling I get when I look at old black and white family photos.  My D3s was a weight around my shoulders and for many other reasons as explained in previous posts it was time for a change.

It’s no secret I fell in love with Fuji. I have spent my life looking to make my photography work for me again and Fuji combined with Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro made my style complete! I can now go out into the street with a camera I love and shoot all day. Have fun, have a laugh and make images I love. I never have to hear “look at the size of that camera” or “look at the size of that lens” again! With 20 kilos of Nikon kit it was hard work, even when I bought a Nikon D7000 and a 35mm lens to try and shoot street it was just not working. Once I got out there with the XPro1, it was like everything had all come together at once. The XPro1 with a 35mm lens is just about all you need for Street. I have the X-T1 and its great as well for Street but it’s a different style of Street.  I use the XPro1 on a strap under my coat to pull up and shoot and the X-T1 I keep in my hands ready to shoot, all the time making use of the tilting screen for some very special candid shots. So, I now have two amazing little cameras that are the closest match I have ever found to the metal box I used to have. Yes, the best camera I had ever owned was the Nikon Fm2 but that all changed with the XPro1 at first, and now the X-T1 is a modern day version of the Fm2.

I have never seen so many comparisons between Fuji cameras and the other Pro gear out there. To be fair, stacking the Fuji XPro1 up against the Nikon D3s was quite interesting considering the D3s was a 3.5k Camera body and the X-T1 is getting stacked up against the D4 and the 1DX ! These cameras are over 4k just for the body, amazing to put a little £900 camera up against top pro cameras to make comparisons! But the funny thing is the image quality is stunning from the Fuji bodies! The Fuji glass is also stunning, sharp and is also getting compared to glass twice or three times the price. Wow! Well done Fuji!

I am not a technical photographer and sometimes I cringe on social media when people spend half their lives talking about sensors, frame rates and circles of confusion etc

I just love photography. Getting out there in the open air and taking pictures, making exposures and having a go. Photography makes me happy and if you ask Jane that’s not an easy task! I think people need to take their cameras out into the open air and just use them, have fun, play about with the functions, learn to see and learn to have fun. Don’t get bogged down with all the technical information, it’s a camera and it’s designed to make images. So go out and enjoy it!

If you are not feeling the passion in the brand of camera you are using then change the brand! You never know you might fall in love again!

 

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Yes is me on the beach, I wish I was that age again !

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The image above is what its all about for me those moments when it all just comes together, shot at the Bluecoat Liverpool.

Fujifilm X-T1 First thoughts.

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This is not a technical write up, it is simply what I think and feel about the X-T1 and Fuji and the reason I purchased the X-T1 as soon as it was available.

Not long after I had brought the XE2 the X-T1 was announced, I was a little gutted but decided I would stick with the X-E2 and see how things went, having moved over from Nikon Pro gear to Fuji I was actually struggling with the XE2. The sensor is better than the XPro1 and the images were very nice, but the XE2 was just a little too small in my hands and the fact Fuji removed the View Mode button was very annoying. One of the most annoying problems was shooting nighttime at events with a bright viewfinder in my face. Of course I could have just taped the sensor up to keep the EVF lit and not the rear screen but just as I was working on a solution the X-T1 was announced.

The tasters and the reviews on the X-T1 convinced me to sell the  XE2.

I shoot street and events. I am shooting Portraits this year and I shoot landscapes for pleasure.

I gave up my Nikon Pro gear in the hope Fuji had the answer to carrying around 20-30 Kilos of gear the X100 got me hooked. The XPro1 is a dream for most situations but unfortunately not events. The viewfinder is a little small even with a +1 diopitor glass, the fps rate is also a little slow and so was the af speed. The write speed was far too slow for live music events. I know I am comparing this amazing camera to my D3s and the plan was to shoot in a different way, but if there was a chance Fuji had made a camera that was as good as a crop sensor DSLR I did not want to miss out.

I was reading the write ups on the net and listening to the guys that had X-T1’s on test from Fuji in my facebook group Fujiholics Anonynous and they were all comparing the X-T1 to full frame DSLRS used for shooting sport !  It was not getting compared to other mirrorless cameras it was getting compared to full frame DSLR’s.

 I picked up my X-T1 yesterday from Sarah at Cambrian Photography with the battery grip and the nice free leather case that I will never use! I hardly got to see my own camera as the staff in the shop all wanted to see and hold it, this was great news, if they were that interested it had to be special.

The little leather case BLT-XT1 and blanket (Camera Wrap By Fuji) were great, it was a free gift from Fuji for placing an early order, the case even opens at the bottom to allow access to the battery which is nice little touch, it does not allow access to the card slot now on the site but with a 32gig card I can’t see that as a problem. I also ordered the VG-XT1 Battery grip for shooting portrait and the extra battery capacity is great for long exposures. Some people might think it defeats the object of buying a small camera, but it’s nice to have the option of extra battery power on occasions, for me it will be great for events.

The X-T1 is stunning, yes that’s my first impression, the view finder is massive and bright, the rear tilting screen is a bonus. I have seen so many people putting the tilting screens to great use a events and out in the street I decided a tilting screen was a must have. I love my XPro1 and will not part with it. The rangefinder is not my classic go to street and landscape camera. The X-T1 is my event camera as well as my Portrait camera; of course I will use it for Landscapes as well as soon as I get myself the electronic cable release.

There has been a lot of talk on facebook about button placement, but no one likes change and everyone likes to compare !   So I will compare it to every crop sensor DSLR I have used, this little camera is a game changer. It’s better than any non pro DSLR body I have ever used and its kicking at the heels of the Pro bodies. As I remember my D3s cost me £3999 and its functions are very close behind the D3s for £2999 less ! The af is not as fast as the D3s the high ISO of the D3s can’t be matched by the X-T1 but even the D4 is struggling to do that!

The af speed is the best yet for Fuji and its great in daylight. I have not given it a test at an event yet but my D3s used to struggle to focus at night at events. The write speed on continues shooting is very very good and just firing off a few bursts last night I did not wait for the buffer once and could carry on shooting in bursts, now this is a big plus point for events. The X-T1 with the grip is light and it feels great in the hands, the menus are simple and you can assign most used functions to function buttons and the Q menu is very useful. I am not going to post any images just yet as there are plenty to look at on the internet, but I can tell you the Jpegs look the best yet, I shoot RAW and will be waiting for the lightroom update so will be shooting RAW+Jpeg for a while.

I used to shoot film and this camera reminds me of the Nikon FM2. It feels just great in my hands, I set it up last night and just fell in love with this little Fuji, I also love my Xpro1 so won’t be parting with it any time soon.

My first talk this year on my Year of Black and White was to a local camera club and after showing the guys my Fuji gear one asked if I worked for Fuji ! I guess the passion that Fuji are showing for their amazing cameras and lenses is showing in me. Fuji have changed the way I think about photography and made me more passionate about what I do. Fuji are not only passionate about the cameras but the Fuji staff are excited and passionate about the end users passion. They listen to the feedback on every camera, the staff are on facebook and other social media interacting with photographers, feeding back all the comments to  Fuji HQ, the guys at Fuji are pushing forward, they have a fantastic  lens road map for 2014/15 and some very exciting cameras in their future plans.

Fuji have changed the way I think about my craft and taken me back over 40 years and made me want to start all over again.They have given me my passion back by putting all the passion they have for photography and film in to these little cameras. At last a company that are doing things for the right reasons and not just mass producing cameras for profit.

I have been so impressed by what Fuji have managed to do this year and can’t wait to see what they bring out in the future..

2013 A Year Of Black And White

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What can I say about my year of black and white! It was quite an easy project to be honest, a lot easier than I first thought!  There were a couple of times I wish I could have posted some great colour images but not many. I did miss a few sunsets in 2013, well if I am perfectly honest I missed a lot of sunsets in 2013, I also did not shoot a lot of images in autumn and Christmas has been a little quiet on the photography front. But apart from that the year has been good.

I started out with my monitors set to black and white, but this only lasted a month! I could not cope with trying to work out the tones with my eye sight on the back of the camera in the field. I have also grown up shooting film and I did this without a view monitor on the back of my camera. I guess growing up shooting black and white you learn to see the tones of the colour image in your mind’s eye and you have an idea of what a final image will look like after editing. So the cameras got set to standard colour RAW.

The next issue that happened in my project was the X100 came in to my workflow and threw a great big spanner in the Nikon works. I started shooting with the X100 and its files were just the most perfect files I have ever seen for black and white. My favorite Nikon Body for black and white was the D200 this old Nikon body was just so good at producing a RAW file for black and white. But the X100 was better ! I started to use the X100 more and more and in the end I sold my D200 and my D7000 because I was only using the D3s and the X100. I thought these two cameras were just perfect for black and white and for my future projects. But then it all changed again! I found myself not using the D3s and having 30k in Pro DSLR gear laying about not earning its keep was bugging me! But the X100 could not replace a D3s ! So I went out and brought myself an XPro1 with a couple of lenses from Cambrian Photography.   I was shooting the Liverpool International Music Festival at the time and took the Xpro1 along to give it a try ! It was slow and not a DSLR and I was not sure what to do, but after a while I decided I quite liked the way it made me think ! I was shooting with the pack with the D3s and when I got back home all my images shot on the D3s were the same as the rest of the Press Pack. Mine stood out only because they were black and white. But the few shots I got on the XPro1 that day had a little more thought go in to them. That was it I decided to sell all my Nikon DSLR gear and move over to Fuji Mirrorless !   This is a big leap and a leap of faith in my ability to make this system work for me in 2014 !  I have now got a Xpro1 and an XE-2 with almost all the lenses Fuji make.  So this is one of the biggest changes that has come from my black and white year! I am now a Fujiholic ! Totally addicted to Fuji cameras, the build quality is amazing and the lenses are stunning, I am in the process of adapting the way I work to fit in with the camera system, it’s a very steep learning curve but I am getting there !

My black and white year has also taught me to slow down and think, to take my time, to wait and to shoot less! I am not a great memory muncher any way to be honest, but my black and white year has made me shoot less and this is a good thing when it comes to editing ! I now have more time shooting and less time editing.

I have tried to shoot Jpeg with the Fuji’s as others do but for me it’s just not working for me !

I have been asked over two thousand times this year how I process my black and white and what pre sets and actions I use! Well the secret is, there are no actions and no pre sets !   I shoot the image and have a plan in my head already for how I want this image to look when processed. So after downloading the memory card I import straight in to Lightroom 5.3, then I open the image in Lightroom and clone out any dust and marks as well as birds and crisp packets etc  I check the image at 100% and also check for sharpness and camera shake. There are the odd occasions I have to go in to Photoshop to use content aware clone but very rarely these days.  I then open the image in Silver Efex Pro 2 and convert it to black and white. I then use the sliders to give the image the look and feel I am after and this is how I first visualized it when I shot it ! There have been many times at this stage the image is rejected ! I just don’t like the look and feel. I then gets left on the hard drive to have a look at later in Colour !  When I  made all the changes I need in Silver Efex I then import it back in to Lightroom for some final tweaks before exporting as Jpeg. I start every black and white image from scratch so sorry guys there are not actions to share or presets to share.   I can’t show you all how I process my images because every image is different. I have however found a new way to process Colour so in 2014 I will be using the same method I use on  my black and white images to make Colour images.  

I have always hated Colour images and struggled for years with colour film ! I only ever processed Colour transparency film. I was late to Digital and have never been a fan of colour digital, until switching over to Fuji and now at last its growing on  me, there is something about the Fuji Sensor and the way the camera processes the images that has made me want to explore colour !

So will I stop shooting Black and White in 2014 ? No, is the simple answer! I will probably shoot 90% black and white and 10% colour, black and white is my passion and always will be.

So my black and white year has made me move over to Fuji, I don’t think this would have happened if I had just carried on as I was, so that is one thing to thank this project for.

I have learnt a new way to shoot colour and discovered also that the Fuji cameras give me a RAW file that more suites my needs as a photographer and hopefully not only does it make my Black and White images stand out from the crowd but next year it might even make my colour images stand out from the crowed! 

I have had some great feedback and interest on my black and white project and learnt a hell of a lot about myself that I want put in to words in a blog post, I can recommend a year of black and white to any one so why not start one in 2014 !

If you have any questions about my year of black and white or my change over to Fuji then please get in touch.

Matt 

Critique

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I have decided to blog my view on Critique!

I have become fed up with the constant unwanted daft comments on my images and my friends images over the last few years, this post won’t change a thing but it will let you all know how I feel about it and how I feel about the people that offer so called critique or make negative comments on images.

It’s hard to know where to start but I will start with this, in the thirty plus years that I have been taking photos I have only ever asked for feedback about ten times. Once was from a major photo stock library that I wanted to sell my images for me, the feedback from the editor was simple, my Landscapes were too abstract for the library but he was interested in my black and white work as it was very strong. This was very useful and constructive.

I have also asked a few photographers for feedback on images I was going to submit to competitions and asked advice from friends on pricing an image.

I do not ever ask for feedback on my images as to the style, content or processing as I am happy with the way these areas develop and change over the years.

There is a growing trend on the internet were people feel the need to offer negative critique and they feel it’s their right under the freedom of speech!  I regard this as rude!  I would never make any kind of comment on anyone’s image unless it was asked for! I tend to click like if I like an image and pass it by if I don’t and if I have more time or the image is great I will say so.

I look at quite a lot of images everyday and believe me I do think to myself ‘that horizon is not straight, that tree is distorted, the composition is nonexistent, the colour balance is all wrong, the lighting is appalling’   but these are all my own opinions! I don’t know what the photographer was trying to achieve.  I have had to have a thick skin in Photography as I shoot stock and anyone who has submitted images to stock will tell you it’s not always easy. In the early days I have had hundreds of images rejected for all sorts of reasons and I just suck it up and move on!

What I can’t stand is the ‘Pets and Fruit’ mentality and it’s these people that have made me write this post! I will come back to explain Pets and Fruit.

If I was walking down the street no one would walk up to me and say “Hi Matt, I quite like your trousers but your shirt it too bright, you need to lose a few pounds and that grey hair needs dying” No one would do that to me and no one ever has. I put myself out on display every time I walk out of the front door and in 50 years no one has ever made such a comment. I am not tall dark and handsome, I am short fat and bald. I have however had a few compliments, not sure why but even a nice smile makes your day a lot nicer!

So why do people feel the need to write under your image “Hi Matt, I love your work but your processing is over the top” or “Matt, that does not look like it was straight out of camera” or “Hi Matt, that sky looks wrong.”  I get the Sky one quite a lot, the reason it’s funny to me is I don’t use Photoshop so the sky is how it was on the day!

So for the record………..

I use Silver Effex Pro and Lightroom and on the odd occasion other parts of the Nik Collection and when I do HDR I use Photomatix. I have not used Photomatix for over a year!  The ‘SOOC’ people need to get a life! I shot film for 20 years and all my images were processed by me in a darkroom and most of the ‘SOOC’ work I have seen is decidedly average. Not because its ‘SOOC’ but because its just snaps. Not one ounce of thought has gone in to the image.

Just keep one thought in your mind and that is Vivien Maier like so many did not ever have her work Critiqued or even viewed, making her work and journey pure..

So I should explain ‘pets and fruit’.  In the thirty years I have been taking photos I have never once had constructive feedback from any single person about my work. I do not ask for feedback but I receive it once a week at least on an image or by message. I always check out the work of the person that gives me critique (as they call it) and in thirty years it’s always the same! Their work is, well their work! Most of it is shots of the family around the house and garden, holiday snaps and of course shots of the family pets and various attempts at still life with fruit! Pets and Fruit!   There is nothing wrong with having a body of work that consists of pets and wonky fruit but why do all these people feel the need to make comments on my work? I have never been sure but when I ask them, they run off or accuse me of being nasty!! Most of them block me! Strange that.

I know some people that think critique is important! My view on this subject is simple, if I asked 30 of my friends to tell me what they thought about my work I would get their views depending on their style of processing etc and if I listened to all of them my work would start to look like 90% of what you see on flicker, a set of images that are made up of 30 people’s ideas! If I joined a critique group on the internet I would end up with 500 people’s views! This would make my images even worse!

I have never seen one good image from any one that openly offers to critique work! Never have and never will!

The worst part of this is some people new to photography stop posting their images because of the bullying ways of ‘pets and fruit’ people and that is very sad.

So this blog post is for you Mr or Mrs Pets and Fruit. If you are going to critique peoples work who do not ask for it just remember, your work is probably average! I do not know one professional photographer or gifted amateur that takes amazing images and openly critiques other peoples work. They don’t have time and they do have respect for other people unlike Mr or Mrs Pets and Fruit who are just rude!