New eWorkshop

Finding Your Voice_Poster

I am happy to announce another eWorkshop that can help you develop your photographic vision. Would you like to improve you photographic skills – become better at capturing pictures which show and tell what you saw for your inner eye when pushing the shutter button? Would your like to develop you personal photographic voice, the distinctive way of conveying how you see the world around you? This workshop may be a way to help you on the way

As you may know I do various photo workshops around the world, the latest took place in Spain this May. At the same time I realize that attending such a workshop can be quite an expensive treat. That is why I have developed this eWorkshop which will not cut as deeply into the wallet.

«Finding Your Photographic Voice» is a workshop which you can do at home. You only need a camera (any will do), and be willing to put in some effort into developing your photographic seeing. The interaction between me and you will by over the internet. Quite uncomplicated in other words. In a more practical sense it will take place over eight weeks. For each week you will receive a little booklet (as a PDF-file) beforehand with inspirations, thoughts, knowledge and ideas for your shooting the next week. Then you will have a week to do the various assignments, of which you will send me an edited selection. Finally you will receive my comments about the photos, included suggestions for improvement – and in which direction I believe you should move you photography. Each week’s booklet consists of 8 to 15 pages of inspiration and ideas, which means that by the end of this eWorkshop you will have a whole book of more than 80 pages about photographic seeing and capturing.

This is not a workshop about technique, but about the visual language, how to develop your vision, what you should look for in order to create catching pictures. As I write in the preface of the first booklet: This distinctive voice that is the focus of the workshop isn’t something «solely based on technical competence although many photographers put all their energy into technical mastery. It isn’t something that is only related to how we use our media, but it’s a combination of how we see the world, how we interpret it and how we express this view through our chosen, artistic media.»

«Finding Your Photographic Voice» is for all levels. You definitely don’t have to be a photographer as such – only wanting to develop your photography. Since it’s not about technique any level of technical knowledge is good enough. My focus with the workshop is really to develop your photographic voice. Of course what you are able to express and how you do it, will depend on your technical level, but not knowing much will not prevent you from developing your voice and becoming a better photographer.

The topics for the eight weeks are:
• Seeing as a photographer. The basics of the visual language
• Understanding colours and the interaction of colours
• Graphic elements of the camera and how it interprets the vision
• The passionate voice, the link to making engaging pictures
• The five elements that make up a good photograph
• Doing the work. Thoughts for developing the photographic vision
• Subject and subject matter. How to bring focus to the story of the picture
• Vision driven photography. The road further on

The eWorkshop will be limited to 10 people on a first come first serve basis. It will start on the week of August 11th. I will create a group where all participants can post their photos and where my response and picture critique will be visible for all participants.

The price for eight the eight weeks eWorkshop is US dollars 240,-.

Does it sound interesting? Sign up by sending me an email or use the same email to ask more about the workshop.

I look forward to seeing you in «Finding Your Photographic Voice».

Posted in Creativity, Photography | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Faces of a Street

© Christopher O’Keefe

© Christopher O’Keefe

© Christopher O’Keefe

© Christopher O’Keefe

© Christopher O’Keefe

© Christopher O’Keefe

© Christopher O’Keefe

© Christopher O’Keefe

© Christopher O’Keefe

© Christopher O’Keefe

For his personal photo project during the eWorkshop earlier this year Christopher O’Keefe chose to go onto the street with his camera. He did a classical street photo essay. His intent was to make photographs along Elm Street – the main street – in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire, USA to try to convey a sense of place. In so doing Christopher challenged his own inhibition of approaching people on the street – which anyone who has photographed on the street know is a very testing challenge. He did very well. Christopher has captured life as it unfolds on a couple of blocks on downtown Elm Street. His images show the many facets of the street life. Whether he captures a parade, a kid playing on the street or customers relaxing inside a café, Christopher does so with honesty and sincerity. He photographs people on or along Elm Street as the classical observing photographer; he lets the action unfold without interrupting and captures its essence at its revealing moment. For more of his photo from the street project have a look at Christopher’s blog.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , , | 36 Comments

Memories of Summer

Pat og Jenny på vei opp langs Big Quilcene River til Marmot Pass

Blomsterprakt i høyfjellet

Pat på vei opp mot Buckhorn Mountain på 2130 meter

Jenny på toppen av ryggen som løper fra  Marmot Pass til Mount Constance

Pat og Jenny på vei ned langs Big Quilcene River fra Marmot Pass

Summer time is a wonderful time. Full of life and amiability. Often summer implies travels or visiting new locations – or just enjoying the good old places where one feels at home. A time to relax and a time to gain new strength for the winter to come. Summer time is also a time to collect memories. When I recall my own past, many of my most vivid memories originates from one of those lovely summers.

As I am posting this I am off to first The Netherlands and then Paris along with two of my kids. This will be our summer vacation together. I haven’t been to Paris in a very, very long time. It’s exactly 30 years to be precise. About time I would say. I expect this trip will add to my memories as well as my boys’. May indeed the trip become a loving memory for them to remember in the future. Before that, though, let’s enjoy the experience itself.

I will leave you with some memories from only a couple of weeks ago, when I spent a handful of days in the Buckhorn Wilderness in the Olympic Mountains in the state of Washington, USA. We had a great couple of days staying overnight right under Marmot Pass and hiking up to mountains such as Buchhorn Mountain at 6988 feet or 2130 meters above sea level.

Have a great summer all my blogger friends!

Posted in Photography, Travel Photography | Tagged , , , | 107 Comments

Great Photo Blogs

I have finally compiled the greatest photo blogs out of the many rounds of voting you readers have been through since I first announced in November last year that I soughed your suggestions for best photo blogs. Of the 206 blogs you suggested I assembled 34 of the most popular through the 14 rounds we have been through together. I think it ended up being a very far-reaching compilation. I have listed them on the page Great Photo Blogs. I hope this can become a reference page for all your bloggers who are interested in photography. I want to extend a warm thank you to all of you who helped me with suggestions and voted through the many rounds. As of now it’s no longer possible to vote – naturally. I hope some time in the future to repeat the process in order to be able to add new blogs which have come along since the creation of this page. Enjoy the many great photo blogs!

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , | 71 Comments

Finding My Way

Pats hage

It was never an obvious choice that I would become a professional photographer – despite finding the love of photography early in my life. I never had that eye-opening experience that many photographers talk or write empathically about, who grew up in the old analogue film-based realm. When they recall the first time they saw a picture emerge in the darkroom they speak about it as a revelation – and knew from then on there would be nothing but photography. The fact is I never thought much about the work I had to do in the darkroom, I deemed it tedious and boring. So that wasn’t it. In addition I had set a different course for myself when I began studies at university level.

So how come I became a photographer, after all? Was it purely coincidental; random events that set the course for me – or would it eventually have happened any way some time? Did the fact that my grandfather was a portrait/studio photographer have any influence – despite the fact that I never saw him at work as a photographer? Was it friends that indirectly persuaded me to sway from my set course? Or was it after all my own mind and soul that led me to choose the path of photography, albeit a little late. Would my love for photography have emerged no matter what? And would it have directed me towards a professional career at some point even if I started out heading in a different direction?

How do we become what we are? Is it random? Is it fate? Or is it predestined in some way or form?

My first cameras from the simple Agfa Iso Rapid to Canon F-1.

My first cameras from the simple Agfa Iso Rapid to Canon F-1.

I began photographing very early in my life. My first camera I shared with my sister. It was not love by first sight. I think I took less than a couple of frames with the camera which I don’t recall what was, besides a simple plastic camera shooting 120 film. As far as I remember I already lost interest after the first roll of black and white film, and then let my sister take over. My first camera I owned myself was a Christmas present from my before mentioned grandfather. It was an Agfa Iso Rapid, the back then German giant’s equivalent of the Kodak Instamatic easy film system. I was 10 at the time, and the simple camera didn’t do much to push me in the direction of discovering the beautiful world of photography. It wasn’t the camera’s fault, though, I used it in holidays and such – and was happy with the result.

The first step into discovering the magic came with a friend of mine. It was some years later and both of us shared a love for nature. We ventured out early and late, and in our teens we were already pretty savvy outdoor enthusiasts, by now for instance backpacking in the high mountains during wintertime. It was probably only natural that one of us would make the connection between nature and photography. It was my friend. He was a paper boy and for the money he made he bought an inexpensive SLR produced in former East-Germany. Strangely enough I still remember the brand to this day; a Praktica Super TL. Still with my Agfa Iso Rapid and he with his Praktica, we started venture out into nature with the pursuit of immortalizing its splendour.

Soon after, my grandfather once again came to my help pushing my photography into the next level. He gave me a used rangefinder camera for 35 mm film. It was an Arette IA – and now I felt like a real photographer. But of course my rangefinder camera couldn’t compete with my friend’s SLR. When it came time for my confirmation (despite the fact that most Norwegian don’t take their Christian faith very seriously, most kids do their confirmation; I believe because of the presents involved). I was very clear that I desired a SLR camera. And not just any brand, but the 1000 Mamiya DTL. It had a double exposure metering system; you could choose between average metering and spot metering. That’s was grand! I did get it – and suddenly I was not behind my friend any more when it came to gear. I was 15 then and equipment matters at that age. The Mamiya was an awesome camera, but compared to today’s electronic cameras heavy as a brick – it was nothing clear of a mechanical monster. But for the time it was a dream come true. It used what we called automatic lenses; it automatically closed down the aperture when the shutter was triggered. Which meant that we could look through the viewfinder at full opening and not only try to make out a dark image on the viewing screen. That was technical wizardry. Of course today all SLR lenses are automatic in this sense – but nobody even knows. Automatic film winding? Forget about it. Auto focus? Are you joking? Or even exposure meeting at open aperture? No way. This would all be imaginary science fiction – unthinkable.

My first picture capture with Agfa CT18 - in 1973.

My first picture capture with Agfa CT18 – in 1973.

While my friend early on began exploring black and white in the darkroom I quickly discovered the grandness of slide films (which of course also has to be seen in light of what I just wrote about darkroom work). My preferred film in the beginning was Agfa CT18. The digit 18 referred to the speed of the film, which of cause was stated by the German norm DIN – Deutsche Industrie Norm. 18 DIN was the equivalent of 50 ISO or ASA as it was called back then, so I got used to low light sensitivity. Imagine how delighted I am today when I with my digital camera I can use 400 ISO as a standard. The Agfa CT18 was inexpensive, well, relatively at least, and included developing in the price. It was only years later when I started shooting with another friend of mine I found out how bad it was. He used Ektachrome which had more muted and real colours as well as much less grain. I swopped, of course. The Ektachrome later became Kodachrome, before at the end of the film era I got to use Fujichrome. I loved its muted colours.

My first sheet of slide films.

My first sheet of slide films.

It was yet another friend that got me interested in the finer creative details of photography. He recruited me to start subscribing to the Norwegian photo magazine Fotografi. I was for a long time undecided about it, because the subscription was quiet expensive for me at that time (I was still not in high school). But when I received the first issue I suddenly discovered a whole new world of possibilities and imagery. It was really from then on my love for photography caught on.

Eventually I started delivering papers as well, and my first wages I saved to be able to buy a Soligor 300 mm. Remember back then it was all nature for me, and I needed a long lens to be able to photograph birds. Of course today I have gone in the other direction; it’s all wide angles for me, but then of course I am not so much a wildlife or nature photographer any more. But that Soligor was another dream come true. Today it would probably not been regarded as anything but junk, but I was in cloud nine nevertheless.

By now it should be clear that I was heading towards a professional career as a photographer. But no, it didn’t even strike my mind. Instead I fancied an academic vocation. As the nature lover I was it was given that I went for natural science studies with biology for my master’s degree. The change, though, came during the master study. The before mentioned friend, who made me change to Ektachrome, and I were together doing research on the bear population in Western Norway. What seemed like a blow back then, turned out to be our lucky strike. One year we didn’t get founding for the research. We got so mad, both of us quit. We could have pulled it through, I am sure, but in a later perspective, it would have taken us years and years of work to compile enough material for a thesis. My friend moved to Denmark and became a renowned studio photographer there! While I, well, I was slowly starting to see a different course for myself as well.

The dusty old aluminium factory that become one of my first published stories.

The dusty old aluminium factory that become one of my first published stories.

Let me add that in the mean time other incidents had happened. Between high school and university I spend the whole summer working in an aluminium factory. I made a hell of a lot money – but of course the work itself was not exactly a dream. But I brought my camera into the dusty and polluted factory halls, and when I was done working there, I got a big story about the factory published in one a weekend addition to one of the major Norwegian newspaper. During my time at the university I worked as a photographer for a student paper and got other stories published in major papers as well. One, for instance, was about whale hunting. As a major in biology I was chosen to be an inspector onboard one of the whale hunting vessels during the early summer season, and it lead to several published stories.

Whale hunting in the Barents Sea.

Whale hunting in the Barents Sea.

Anyway, by the time me and my friend’s bear study crumbled other students friends of mine, studying media, had noticed my stories in the various magazines and papers. Some of them starting playing with the idea of establishing a news agency and asked me if I wanted to join. Eventually I did. In the end the agency went down without ever flying, I believe because we were young and naïve, and didn’t have enough contacts in the media world. But it set me going in the direction of journalism – more specifically photojournalism.

Would I have ended up here anyway? I don’t know. It’s still interesting to think what would have happened if things had happened in a different way. Again, would I have discovered photography at all if it hadn’t been for my friends? Or a professional vocation as a photojournalist?

Let me end here. And let me end with an apologue for my indulgence into myself. I guess it was a way for me to celebrate my 250th post with this blog. Thank you for your patience I might add.

I would love to hear how you got interested in photography. Do you think it was coincidental or would you have started photographing anyway at some point (well, who doesn’t photograph these days)?

Posted in Personal Work, Photography, Photojournalism | Tagged | 120 Comments

10 Tips for Better Travel Photography

To arbeidskarer slapper av før dagens arbeid begynner

To travel and to photograph are for many the ultimate fulfilment of desires and dreams – and in those two activities combined everything seems to come together in a higher unity. Travelling may entail far away places or just exploring one’s own place in ways not tried out before. No matter what; travelling is a way of opening our senses and minds to the new and unknown – and it’s a way of living in the very moment, the now, like we never seem to be able to in our regular lives. That is what is so compelling about travelling: the feeling of adventure and the feeling of being alive. And as contradictory as it may sound, the intensity of the now is something we want to record and capture in order to be able to teleport back again to those moments when regular life once again has engulfed our feeling of independence and vibrancy.

Once travel photography was a way of showing the world how it looks like in corners most people wouldn’t know anything about. Today travel photography is more about connectivity and capturing the variety of human spirit in the many forms and shapes it takes, in full awareness that all people, no matter where, share the same emotions, dreams and aspirations. When we travel and photograph our travels, we feel connected to the world. Or as Stephanie Dandan, photographer and travel writer, writes in her post Photographing Our Travels: Tips from Infinite Satori on The Daily Post: «When we travel, we’re reminded that everything is connected by a beautifully intricate, invisible thread. We are filled with wanderlust – exploring a foreign country or city, an exotic island, or mountains in the mist. Wherever we are, we indulge in the novelty of each moment. Each place has its own charm, energy, and ambience that will leave its trace in your soul. A travel photographer’s job is to capture this while it’s still there, available to all of your senses.»

I have been fortunate enough to have both photography and travel be part of my living. I know how alive and connected I feel to the human spirit when I am on the road. I also know how difficult it can be to capture those novel moments Stephanie Dandan talks about. Unfortunately, there are no quick steps to make better travel photographs. We are only as good photographers as we are when we do not travel. Of course the excitement of the new in itself will be an inspiration for our photography, but it may just as much be an impediment to getting those spectacular images we dream of capturing. If we are not able to see past the extraordinary and compassionately connect to the universal human experience, our images will not engage, neither ourselves nor any viewers.

Below I have listed a few points of which to be aware. They are not magic bullet points, but may help to focus on the essential when you are out travelling with a camera in your hand. As with everything creatively, the more you photograph, the better your photos will become. If you only take photos during those two weeks of holidays, it’s really not realistic to expect photos that will emulate those of National Geographic or Condé Naste Traveller. The ten points below, though, will most certainly improve the result (and as in my post 10 Indispensible Travel Accessories I have added a bonus point – just for the measure). However, just remember I do not promise you a rose garden. There are no magic bullet points here. They simply do not exist.

Travel to photograph – or photograph to travel. An essential understand of what comes first – travel or photography – makes it easier to set your photographic aspirations right. Are you travelling with your family, photography will most likely be a way of recording your family’s experience – not a goal in itself. You will have to compromise and accept that some pictures you just won’t get. In addition I recommend to bring as little equipment as possible, possibly only a point-and-shoot camera. Instead of trying to capture The Eiffel Tower or Taj Mahal in ways no one has seen before, maybe try to make a photo essay about your family’s travel with them and about them. On the other hand, if you are on assignment for a travel magazine, you bring the big load of equipment and make sure that no photo opportunity will be lost. The two ways of travelling and photographing don’t combine. Trust me; I know.

Search for the essence of the place. Immerse yourself. I think the worst thing any travel photographer can do is just to ram out of the hotel and run around like a crazy horse on speed to capture as much and as many photos as possible. It might be a way of going after quantity instead of quality – but maybe not even that. In the end, you might find yourself with less pictures than if you had taken your time to search for the essence of the place – and then I am not even talking about the quality of the photographs. Instead sit down, do some research beforehand, maybe walk around the place the first day or so without shooting, and try to get the feeling of what the essence of the place is. Like I wrote in my post Railing through the Streets of Lisbon, the Remodelados, the trams became the identity of Lisbon for me and I ran around for days mostly photographing them. Or in Cuba it could be sensuality and rhythms. Or in Seattle it could be coffee. Or in Paris it could be love and romance. The point is really to constrain yourself as a photographer. Suddenly you will se that world will open up instead. And then; when you have gotten a feeling for the place, immerse yourself in it. Completely. Let yourself go and be open to anything that can happen. If you get invited home by someone on the street; go for it. It will be a severe experience as well as a great photo opportunity. Guaranteed.

Bring less equipment. This is one thing I stress again and again. Less is more. Rather than not having your equipment with you all the time, because it’s too heavy and cumbersome, go for a point-and-shoot camera you will always be able to carry around. Even when I am on an assignment, some days I only hang a Fuji X-10 around my neck. That’s it. And as I wrote in the before mentioned 10 Indispensible Travel Accessories-post, I always carry a little camera on my hip. So when I go out with friends in the evening I still have a camera if something unexpectedly happens. If that doesn’t sound attractive to you, remember you will most likely always bring you cell phone. Use the built in camera then. The point is really; instead of bringing a lot of equipment, it’s more important to bring something you will actually use. One recommended accessories for those die-hard photographers: A polarizing filter is always great to intensify blue sky and emerald green waters – and bringing down reflections.

Have your camera out. Be prepared. No matter what equipment you end up taking along, have it ready. All the time. Literally, this means taking off the lens cap and hang the camera on your neck or around your shoulder. When something happens on the street, you want to be ready. If you have to dig the camera out of the camera bag, take off the lens cap, and what not; the situation is most likely gone. Being prepared also means knowing how to use the camera. Put it on program or automatic even if you have sworn to use it manually. Again, if something suddenly happens, you just point the camera and push the trigger. Manual settings you can save for those landscape pictures where you have the whole day to fiddle with dials and buttons.

Shoot a lot. Take your time. When you find something you want to photograph; stay with the situation. Wait for its culmination. Photograph, photograph, photograph. Don’t «save the film»; you are shooting digitally and have as good as unlimited capturing capacity. Two or three frames are not enough. Keep going; don’t be content before you have 50 – to give you an arbitrary – and low – number. Be patience and take your time in any given photo situation. This is one of the things I cannot stress enough in my workshops. The best photos come when you immerse yourself into the situation and stay with it. And if people already have let you take one photo of them, they won’t mind if you hang around a hour more and keep photographing them.

Ask – or not ask people. More than anything travel photography means photographing people we meet on the road. If you don’t think or do so, it’s about time to change that perspective. Travel photos without people quickly get boring. We – as viewers – relate to people. We don’t care much about a rock – even if it’s Ayers Rock captured in a way that never has occurred before – not after the 101st photo of it. Make sure you capture people when you travel. Approach them on the street or in their homes and you will be surprised how easy going most people are – and not only that, but will feel honoured when you ask for a photo. Make it a habit to ask beforehand, though. And respect when people don’t want to have their photos taken. This much said; I also know there are situations you don’t want to ask in advance, because asking will destroy the moment. Candid photography is fine and is a natural part of travel photography, but don’t stick a camera in the face of someone without having the courtesy of asking beforehand.

Look for beauty in details. Just as much as people belong in a travel story, so does the small details. To phrase Stephanie Dandan one more time: «Notice subtle beauty: hair blowing in the wind, children playing and laughing, leaves falling around a person, the golden light peeking through the silhouettes of passersby. The magic of travel photography lies in the dance of the environment. Capture small details found in the rhythm of each place.» In a photo essay from your travels, those small details will create space and connectivity as well as adding a surprising element to the story.

Use the light. This is probably a point that shouldn’t go in here, since it relates to all photography and not only travel photography. Nevertheless maybe more than in any other kinds, light is essential for travel photography. There is no right or wrong light; it all depends on the situation, but some lights are more forgiving and easier to handle. The most beautiful light you will always find just after sunrise and before sunset when the sun is low on the horizon and modulating and pushing those warm rays sideways along the face of the Earth. Make sure you are in a place you want to photograph during these hours – and preferably extend the shoot into the blue hour, the time after the sun has set and till the sky has turned pitch black.

Shoot wide angle and create space. If your photos aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough. It’s the visionary statement of the renowned photographer Robert Capa. Instead of zooming in on people or details or whatever you try to capture when travelling; use the apostles’ horses. Put on a wide angle and get close. For those who know me, this comes as no surprise. I really do recommend using more a wide angle than a telephoto lens. By using a wide angle lens you open up the space around the subject and create a stronger relationship to the subject. For more on this; look up my post Wide Angle for People.

Backup. When you have done you once in a lifetime travel, nothing is more tragic than losing all your pictures. Make sure it doesn’t happen. Back up all you photos every day. Bring an external hard disk, use a USB stick or download all your photos on the Cloud, but make sure you have at least two copies of every photo. Don’t wait till you get back home. Remember Murphy’s Law.

I hope I have not been too lecturing in my recommendation for travel photography. This is really the essence in ten bullet points of how I approach my own travel photography. Just as with light; there is not right or wrong. We all have to find our own way. However, maybe some of these suggestions may facilitate some improvements for you while photographing on the road. As before mentioned, though, this is not magic, more than anything is it important that you bring your own curiosity and authenticity into the process.

I promised you a bonus point in the beginning:
Be respectful and smile. This may go without saying, but I do know that many people find it hard for instance to approach people on the street to ask for a photo. A smile can do wonders. Moreover, if you treat people with respect as well; there is no telling how far an incidental encounter can go. You may just have found a friend for lifetime. Respect also goes to sending photos to people you promise to do so. Don’t just say you will send them images you have taken, but make sure you really do so.

How do you approach your travel photography – and do you have some indispensible tips you want to share?

Posted in Photography, Travel Photography | Tagged | 100 Comments

The Shadows of Recession

© Terje I. Olsson

© Terje I. Olsson

© Terje I. Olsson

© Terje I. Olsson

© Terje I. Olsson

© Terje I. Olsson

© Terje I. Olsson

© Terje I. Olsson

© Terje I. Olsson

© Terje I. Olsson

During the photo workshop in Villajoyosa, Spain, Terje I. Olsson focused on the economic recession in the country for his photo project. The economy in Spain has been under pressure for the last many years. It has translated into hardship for most Spaniards; unemployment, uncertainty, unrest, uneasiness and deprivation for too many. The first area to be hit by a recession is the housing market, which was very evident in Villajoyosa. Everywhere houses and apartments were being announced for sale or rent. That was what Terje captured with his camera. His images show beautiful houses, closed down and for sale, they show rundown house that has been on the market for a long time and his images show buildings under construction where the work has been stopped in the middle because of the recession. There is a glooming quietness in his photos, a telling contrast between beautiful colours and an almost lifeless atmosphere and his images convey a sense of downfall and almost death. His visual language is subtle, but all the more poignant.

Posted in Photography, Photojournalism | Tagged , , , | 71 Comments