Becoming a photographer was never going to be easy for me at least. For years I struggled with the technology never really grasping the weird numbering system that to me seemed almost back to front. I mean a little number refers to a big hole and a big number refers to a small hole. Who I asked invented that? Well that was my perception and an obstacle to my grasping this stuff for many years. Its all in the mind and the mind is a lonely hunter for sure.
Its a cliche but yes my first Instamatic camera was a prize possession though I am certain my parents who gifted it to me wondered why I choose to take a pic of a milk crate as my first foray into this new world of instant imagery. Believe me digital is made for people like me. Back in the day if you didn't have your own darkroom and had a muddled disorganised approach you had to wait two weeks to see the results waiting for a chemist to supply your prints. By the time they arrived the process steps were forgotten other events got in the way and the learning curve seemed unattainable. The idea that the camera knew that it was in the hands of an idiot and compensated was the stuff of dreams. But I was never daunted. What you don't know sometimes makes you stronger. Oblivious to what I was doing wrong I continued on this journey. I guess I epitomise the term "slow learner". Frankly the numbers scared me it was all gobbledegook.
That was 40 odd years ago. But I persisted. Ignorance is bliss they say. On my retirement in 2005 at 52 I pledged to myself I would nail it. I bought a 5D a few lenses and determined to crack the code embarked on a lonely life as a street photographer in London. Digital was my best friend. Even at this time it had few friends. Film or analogue was art digital was cheating they all said. And for sure till the 5D film was king the quality of low res digital offerings up until then was still beyond the capabilities of film both in capturing tonal range and producing large quality prints. Medium format film reigned supreme and was still the go to medium for the large glossy mag images.
Yes I was dabbling but I had a purpose. I enrolled on a week long course in "digital photography" thats a misnomer since photography is photography whatever kit you employ. But this was a break through moment for me. The polymath that is Javier Ideami the course teacher as if by magic totally demystified this black art. He had me grasping Ansel Adams zone system and even understanding (little bits) of the digital darkroom that is Photoshop. I was sorted. Well hardly but my confidence went up a serious number of pegs as I began to see the sense in a histogram began to understand the inverse square law that explained why all the numbers were arse about face.
These were for me at least great times with a plethora (not by any means as many as there are now) of on-line photo sites I began sharing my efforts mainly on ePhotozine and a the now dead and buried JPEG Magazine and Altphotos sites. Another learning curve an introduction to "critique" and from a group of people not averse to deflating misplaced egos. Gradually I began to grasp the technology grasping such mysterious jargon like depth of field and aperture and shutter speed. And yes I was driven perhaps by ego perhaps by desire perhaps searching for recognition all the fallibilities of the frustrated artist. Or was it my striving for perfectionism; someone once remarked to me "photographers give art a bad name with their constant striving for perfectionism'. Who knows but I stuck to the task and through luck and not a little determination began to see success. Wins in monthly competitions and great feedback from my peers followed most notable a win in a Sony sponsored national competition that saw me go to the football world cup as the first prize.
By now I had invested in new kit a a Canon 1D MKIII 400mm 85mm and 70-200mm lenses and I had gained an internship with Surrey County Cricket Club to follow a dream of shooting sport. I began to call myself a photographer but then aren't we all? Looking back I was far from the finished product and even though (some might say boringly) had my camera glued to my hand was still uncomfortable about that truth. But I guess we all have to start somewhere; if you can't make it fake it. Often we are our own worst critics I was no different. I attached myself to Richmond and London Scottish rugby clubs shooting another sport I played for years. It helped to a degree at least but playing and photographing are entirely different. Changing light conditions floodlights like glow-worms in a jam jar all conspired to obscure real progress. Don't believe anyone when they tell you kit is not important because it is at this level: it has to be man enough for the job. And getting stuff published meant getting quality images that not only tell a story but are reproducible across a plethora of mediums.
In the background I was really struggling with Photoshop. Not having had the luxury of my own darkroom in pre-digital days left me wanting. This post processing lark is an art in itself. What I did learn though is however much you manipulate a photo no end of manipulation will turn a bad photo into a good image. It slowly sunk in that shooting RAW was king. Though of course this added time restrictions in PP and in capture. Slow cards meant slow capture and often missed opportunities and in fast paced action shooting the two go hand in hand. Shooting in AI servo was essential as was getting the camera set up to suit conditions. Shooting manual was essential well for me at least. It provides more control. Back button focusing another key factor taking this function away from the shutter button made sense as the camera and the mug behind it attempt to keep up with the action. Some call it spray and pray. But then aren't they lucky they can predict exactly when to hit the shutter.
All this stuff was stumbled on either by luck or gleaning info from well hidden articles reviewing kit people like the much maligned Ken Rockwell and Rob Galbraith. Few of my peers at sporting events either had the time or were willing to impart hard earned knowledge. I learnt through bitter experience the effects atmospheric heat haze had on the cameras ability to snap focus. I spent hours berating myself for being an idiot until one day a passing remark to one of the good guys amongst my peers enlightened me to this unavoidable (well there is a work around) fact. The cameras tracking mechanism is fooled by this mirage or haze not visible to the naked eye but there and which plays havoc with the internals. Shooting above it solves the problem or at least mitigates it and it adds another creative angle at least in shooting cricket.
I now found myself in the employ as the photographer attached to a cricket team the Unicorns. I following them around the country providing images for their web pages parents and various promotional publications. These were great experiences that challenged me to embrace XMP data tagging my images working in Photomechanic and meeting deadlines while all the time realising there is so much to learn. I would not have done it any different. It began to open new doors I attached myself to an online line (small) sports image agent. That opened more doors as I began to gain accreditation to shoot at a higher level and start to experience new sport tennis snooker and horse racing events followed. As did first class cricket including internationals. Had I arrived well I think not as all the technical issues remained at the forefront the frustrations of the kit not being totally up to the mark. I recall one match where I think I only got one saleable image out of 500 or so frames. All this conspired to dent my confidence rather than enhance it making what was supposed to be enjoyable all very stressful.
In the background I was still pursuing my own personal work now shooting wildlife since I had the "reach". I would visit Londons regents park and St James park to hone these skills and while my efforts in sport stood me in good stead once again a different set of circumstances called for a different approach. All the park visits were early morning in more agreeable light conditions. Now the weather began to play a major part in things. Harsh late morning afternoon sunlight was a no no shooting often white plumaged birds and some notable events captured were found completely unretrievable when back in front of the computer because white feathers were blown out and don't you know it I forgot to shoot in RAW. And there is the rub however good you get you are only as good as your ability to be organised as I said setting the camera up to match the expectations of a shoot is vital. Had I shot in RAW then my 10 mins of shooting two mating Great Crested Grebes doing their mating dance might just have been award winning images as it was they were consigned to trash...But it wasn't all that bad. My work was being published on a curated site called 1x.com. which in its day it was at the pinnacle of photo sites with a great collection of top class photographers offering advice and critique participating there took my work to another level. Here I was rubbing shoulder with the likes of Rui Palha Eliza Deacon Andre du Plessis Jimmy Hoffman Ben Goosens Prateek Dubey Mandy Schoch and many more too many to mention who were part of a community of "amateur" photographers who cared about sharing and who cared about their passion. Sadly it too has lost its sparkle too many changes too many of the main characters then present have dispersed and are no longer there. But I was part of it and boy did I gain a lot as well as many new friends.
By now I had shot my first "proper" wedding at St Brides in London though in truth I winged it though the client was extremely happy. A few more followed. Other jobs came in some pro bono others paid though nowhere near enough to put bread on the table and my success rate at sport no longer justified the effort. Last year I shot my last major sporting event. I needed to change from a "spec shooter to either work for one of the major agencies or get out. It served its purpose one to realise a childhood dream and two to hone my skills in a professional fast paced but highly stressful environment. It owes me nothing but it gave me more in personal advancement if not in financial rewards. In the meantime I continue to follow my passion. My nature photography has been recognised at national level and I am getting more work which says I am doing something right.
And thats my reason for at last getting around to creating these web pages. Its a blend of confidence in my own ability to deliver and a realisation that in this digital world you cannot promote yourself by word of mouth. A web page is an essential part of a photographers armoury. People can now see my work can now read my story and engage me or not but at least I now have a presence and can if work comes my way embrace it or not. So I got there is an apt title because only I could get there. It is about believing in yourself it is about stepping up it is about stepping out of the dreaded comfort zone. And hey even shooting passport photos is good enough for me.
I hope you enjoy my work and my candour in these blog posts. I have a attached a couple of images that I am proud of taken on my journey into photography so far. Others reside within these pages navigated through the header or footer on each page. Remember technique is no replacement for a good eye but what it does provide is the ability to capture what you see with the least amount of margin for error. Understanding what the camera can and can't achieve will reinforce the creative process and expand the creative options.
And finally out of my photography I have grown other skills most notably my advancement in creating abstract fine art limited edition prints using photoshop and launching my own designed silk scarf brand using my artwork to design the motifs for these unique luxury women accessories.
If you want to enquire about taking me on to cover any event large or small please call me on +44-(0)7986877490 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.