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2017 a Year of Colour

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Way back in 2013 my project was A Year of Black and White and this was to explore my digital black and white photography in many ways and to see what I could learn in a year. I mainly wanted to learn how to process black and white files and try to find a style that would suit me. It was a great success but as time goes by and we get older our tastes change.

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I did not think in 2017 I would be doing a year of colour !   I have been thinking about it for a while now and I have decided it’s time to give it a go. If I am asked to produce Black and White images for clients then I will do but the rest of my work will be shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom and possibly Viveza but we shall have to see how that progresses.

I would love to be able to just use Fujifilm Jpegs but I am not sure they can give me the starting point I need for a simple workflow.

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I could never have done this project with Nikon as the RAW files were such a pain for me to process and to find consistency with. I have noticed however the Fujifilm RAF files are almost where I need them to be be to create a colour style. I could be mistaken but this is what 2017 will all be about.

So on the 1st of January 2017 I will start the project and it will finish on the 31st of December 2017, I have not quite decided where I am going to start putting the images apart from social media as I hate mixing black and white and colour so I need to think about this over the next couple of weeks.

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I hope to come out of 2017 with a more consistent colour workflow and a more interesting colour style. I also want to explore Colour Street photography through my own eyes.

Black and White Street photography has always been an amazing storytelling medium and I have always found colour quite annoying, but as I get older its growing on me.

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My colour work has always been a bit abstract and a little loud and I have toned that down for people but that means I have fallen into the trap of pleasing the viewer and not myself. Its now time to change all that and work out what works for me.

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I am quite looking forward to it and in a way it’s quite exciting and as with my Year of Black and White I will have the RAW files in 2018 if I need to process any images into black and white.

One of my favorite Street Photographers is Saul Leiter and I know his style has inspired me so now I need to explore colour for myself and see where it takes me.

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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.

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!