Inspiration

Or rather, the lack of it.

Most photographers making personal work will confess to having run out of inspiration at some point. It isn’t always easy to know what to focus on (pun intended) amongst all the potential subjects in the world. It is especially difficult if you are the kind of photographer who doesn’t have one particular genre that you like to inhabit. I like landscape, architecture, street, portraiture, documentary, and don’t particularly want to concentrate on one kind of photography. My style, if I even have one, isn’t obvious to me and probably to no-one else either.

So on a day when I definitely lacked motivation I put my new X100f onto a tripod for the first time and took it into the garden to see if inspiration lay in the flower beds. It didn’t of course but I liked this image of some ferns captured with the Classic Chrome film simulation.

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Tate Liverpool

A visit to Liverpool, firstly to buy a suit for a wedding, and secondly to visit the Tate Gallery and catch up with the ‘Life in Motion: Egon Schiele / Francesca Woodman’ exhibition before it finishes next week.

I was aware of the work of both artists but wasn’t sure why they were combined in the one exhibition. This became clear as we worked our way around the selection of prints, which were beautifully hung and lit. Amongst other things Schiele and Woodman were concerned with the nature of the body in art, in the male gaze, and with eroticism – though eroticism featured much more strongly in Schiele’s case. Sadly, they both died young – Woodman by her own hand at the age of 22, and Schiele by influenza at the age of 28.

I was really impressed by Schiele, whose work for the period seems so ahead of its time. I would like to know more about him. Woodman’s photographs were beautiful, and perhaps her suicide lent them a pathos that she didn’t intend. If one looks at Instagram there are any number of young women taking photographs of themselves in imaginary or fantasy situations, and they mostly just seem narcissistic. But Woodman avoids this trap by being original and serious.

If you live in the north-west then try and get along if you can – the Tate is a wonderful gallery and this is a fine exhibition. As we were leaving I caught sight through the old windows of sunlight over the Mersey and wished I had my camera with me. The iPhone did its best, but the highlights were completely blown. I also missed the gallery lights reflecting in the window – never mind!

Sunlight on the river Mersey

Morecambe Bay monochrome

Black and white photograph of tidal channels

Looking back over my collection of digital images I wondered what was the first digital photograph I took that I thought was not just a ‘snapshot’. My first digicam was a Fujifilm point and shoot with 2 megapixels and JPG only capture. I used that alongside my Nikon 35mm film camera to capture family life and holidays. The image above was taken in 2004 and the colour version was nothing special, but a quick conversion to a very contrasty black and white lifted it a bit and showed what I saw in my mind’s eye when I took the picture. The quality is terrible but that doesn’t matter – it showed me the possibilities.

Keeping things simple

It seems like the urge to reduce the ‘noise’ in my life has won out over the urge to share my photographs and thoughts on Instagram and Twitter. Both accounts got deleted today. I didn’t delete my Flickr account as I have never found Flickr to be addictive in the same way. In fact I know very few of the people I follow on Flickr IRF and that may be the reason why it isn’t so important to me – I just post my best work and spend relatively little time browsing the work of others. The fact that the app is fairly rubbish also means it has less attractive force, and this is a good thing. I pay for my Flickr account, so I don’t see adverts, there is no algorithm determining what I see, and I don’t get any spam followers. It all seems rather civilised.

Having said all that I want to plan for the day when I exit Flickr too and start using this blog for all my photography. But I want it to look good and am unsure whether a one-picture-a-day blog post approach is better than using the WordPress gallery functionality. Selling my photographs doesn’t interest me at this point (I’m not sure they would find any buyers anyway!), and amassing lots of followers has never been a motivation. I just want to take better photographs and spend less time looking at my smart-phone.

I feel positive about this move and am looking forward to feeling less stressed.

Here’s a favourite image from the springtime.

A path through the fields

Flickr vs Instagram

My current Flickr account is only four years old, but I have had several accounts with them, from before they sold (out) to Yahoo in 2005. When I first starting uploading to Flickr there was a real buzz on the platform as it was just around the time that digital SLRs were becoming quite good and affordable (I had a Nikon D50, which I loved). Lots of amateur photographers were learning the ropes about their hobby and Flickr was a place where your photographs were displayed to best effect, it was run by people who loved photography, and one could get advice and encouragement from like-minded people. Then it all started to go wrong, and if you want to know more about why that happened here is a good analysis.

Not having anywhere else to go (I tried photo-blogging but it seemed a lonely enterprise) I stuck with Flickr, but lost quite a few followers when I deleted my last-but-one account in a fit of self-destructive behaviour. Now I just post the occasional photograph that I like and don’t really engage much with it otherwise. Their smart-phone app doesn’t help by often freezing or crashing, and the Web platform needs a refresh.

A year or so ago I opened an Instagram account and started posting photographs taken on my iPhone. I soon realised that one of the reasons Flickr now felt like a ghost town was that everyone had moved to Instagram, even the professionals. This still perplexes me somewhat, because if you want to look at a beautiful image in all its detail then Instagram is a terrible place to have to do it (compared to Flickr that is). But the way images are being consumed has changed so much since Flickr was launched – most people skim through Instagram on their smart phones, and are not really interested in the quality of the image in terms of resolution and sharpness. It’s all about eyeballs now, and professionals are posting where they will have the greatest impact, and who can blame them?

Taken on my iPhone.

Monochrome image of shadows on a gravel path

A new toy

I have always strived for simplicity in everything I do, and that includes photography. So owning a Fujifilm X-T1 with two prime lenses – the 23mm f/2 and the 35mm f/2 – felt like owning one lens too many. I decided I was prepared to sacrifice flexibility for simplicity and chose the Fujifilm X100F compact camera with its fixed 23mm f/2 lens and smaller form factor. I have also been experimenting a bit with street photography – something I feel very self-conscious about whilst doing it – and I thought the X100F might help to make me feel more confident.

Having owned the very first iteration of the X100, back in 2012, I knew what to expect in terms of look and feel, but the performance has come on in leaps and bounds. I will almost certainly have regrets about selling off my X-T1 and those two primes, but I’m looking forward to not having to decide what lens to use.

Here is an image from my first walk around town with my new toy. It’s a straight out of camera JPEG using the Acros film simulation. It will take me a while to work out what settings to use for the JPEGs, but I also capture images in RAW so as to have the best of both worlds.

Monochrome image of man on street