Last Week’s Instagram

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Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. Except for the technical details beneath the pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.

Facts about the photo: The photo was taken with a Canon Eos 5D with a 24-104 mm lens and the zoom set at 24 mm. Shutter speed: 1/125 of a second. Aperture: f/9. The photo was processed in Photoshop, included various filters from Nik Software before transferred to my cell phone..

Posted in Personal Work, Photography | Tagged , | 29 Comments

An Era is Over

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Fidel Castro under en begravelse av en av revolusjonens helter

Politisk propaganda i nærheten av Camagüey

This weekend the long time head of state of Cuba, Fidel Castro, passed away. With his passing, an extraordinary era has come to an end. Not that Cuba will change much because of Fidel Castro’s demise, as he hasn’t been in charge of Cuba for ten years. When he in 2006 handed over the command to his brother, Rául, he also completely withdrew from the political scene.

Nevertheless, Fidel Castro was one of the most prominent and controversial head of states in the past century. He was a man of the cold war—and a master of playing its game. Rightly he will go down in the history books as the one who made the Cuban revolution happened—for better or worse—and with only 81 men began the revolt that finally kicked out the old dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Fidel Castro was controversial from beginning to end. Some saw him as a devil, others as a saving angle. No doubt, he was a complex character, and as a person probably somewhere in between these extremes. I believe he honestly had the better for the Cuban people in mind, during his 47 years in power, certainly in the beginning. At the same time it’s not possible to disregard the fact that he headed a repressive and in many ways undemocratic regime. In the end, though, I think he did more good than bad for Cuba.

I have followed the development in Cuba for 25 years. Although I never met Fidel Castro personally, I photographed him on many occasions. He put his mark on the Cuban society. The question now, is of course where Cuba is heading. Immediately no big changes, I believe. Not as long as one Castro brother is at the helm. But then? Not possible to predict.

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Fidel Castro under en begravelse av en av revolusjonens helter

Propaganda ved innkjøringen til Cienfuegos

Posted in Personal Work, Photography, Photojournalism | Tagged , | 54 Comments

Learning to Learn

Good books about how to develop as a photographer can be of great inspiration and bliss. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. There are plenty of good and instructive books about technique, composition, the process of capturing beautiful photographs as well as about post-processing and workflow.

However, excellent books about the learning process itself and how to approach one’s own development as a photographer, seems to be somewhat lacking. There are a few, as far as I have discovered, but most of them out there seem to me to be either very lose and general, and not giving good enough directions how to stimulate one’s own development. Or they are too bound to one way of doing things, too detailed in their approach and following too strict the authors thought patterns.

An invigorating book about photographic development gives clear insights and ideas as well as examples, but at the same time allows for each photographer to follow his or her way into a greater understanding about how to develop one’s photographic voice.

By understanding how we learn, as I wrote about in my post The Rollercoaster of Learning last week, we are better able to choose a conscious path toward mastery. But it’s never only one path that fits all. I have always been looking for books that can help in the process and yet allow for individual adjustments. Since I teach photo workshops on a regular basis, it’s only natural that I am interested in the learning process itself. However, I think most photographers may benefit hugely by understanding how you are able to develop yourself as a photographer (and of course, that is true for all art disciplines).

Three books I really have enjoyed and as such recommend are quiet different. The Passionate Photographer by Steve Simon take a broader approach, talking not only about the learning process, but also about more practical aspects of photography. As such it’s quite a complete book. Tao of Photography by Philippe L. Gross and S.I. Shapiro has a more philosophical approach. It draws upon Taoist wisdom and photographic artistry to provide insights into creativity, spirituality and awareness training (and don’t let this discourage you, it’s a great book for any photographers). Finally, The Creative Fight by Chris Orwig is more a book about creativity in general and how to develop it. However, since Orwig is a photographer himself and use a photographic reference in the book, it’s definitely one for photographers. The book teaches you about how to discover your own creative voice. All three I highly recommend (and I am not paid to say so).

As I am always looking for new books, I have a question for you: Have you come across inspirational books about creative and photographic development that you would like to recommend? I look forward to reading your suggestions.

Posted in Creativity, Photography | Tagged , | 33 Comments

My Photographic Retreat

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Do you have a photo project you return to for inspiration and to unwind from daily pressure and stress? And, maybe even more importantly, a project that you can easily throw yourself into when you have some time off?

I am a big believer in working on personal photo projects. It keeps you focused. Furthermore, nothing can add so much to your photographic development as working on a project. However, just the word «project» may throw many off the ground. It sounds a little pretentious or even prestigious, doesn’t it?

Well, a personal photo project does not have to be either, nor something you need to go far away to pursue. In fact the closer it is to home and the less you put into it of prestige or high-flying prerequisites, the easier it will be to carry on working on the project.

That is exactly the point with my backyard project. Those of you, who have followed my blog some time, know I return to this project every so often. It’s my way of finding balance when everything comes falling down upon me, or when I am in some sort of limbo, when I can’t find inspiration or don’t feel like photographing.

My backyard project has no ambitions or achievements associated with it. It’s just something I do for fun. Even more so, I allow myself to do anything that I would not otherwise do, for instance when working for a client or doing «serious» projects. I let myself loose. Let myself go with any whim or impulse that comes to mind. I certainly break all the rules in the book, whether it is shooting without focusing, using «wrong» lenses, or like the pictures in this post, shoot with very long shutter speeds without using a tripod.

For other posts with pictures from my backyard project, you may look up this entries: My Backyard Project, My Personal Challenge, The World from the Backyard, Instagram my Backyard, Out of Comfort Zone and Challenge and Expand.

I truly recommend any of you who are serious about your photography to work on a project like this. It expands your vision, it helps find inspiration when none is, it develops you craft, it makes you less tense when you are shooting more important work, it extends you photographic platform.

Do you have a photo project, that is easily within reach to do and that you return to every so often?

Facts about the photos: All photos were taken with a Canon Eos 5D with a 24-104 mm lens, mostly at the long end of the lens, like 85-105 mm. Shutter speed: 1 second. I hold the camera still for about half the time and then moved it in various ways for the reminder of the open shutter time. The aperture varies from f/16. to f/22. The photos were processed in Lightroom.

Posted in Creativity, Personal Work, Photography | Tagged , , | 65 Comments

Last Week’s Instagram

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Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. Except for the technical details beneath the pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.

Facts about the photo: This photo was captured with a Lumix Panasonic LX-100 with the lens set at 10.9 mm (the equivalent of a 24 mm for a full frame camera), 1/125 second and f/2.8. It was processed in Lightroom and then transferred to my cell phone. Only a frame from the Lo-Fi filter was added in Instagram.

Posted in Personal Work, Photography | Tagged | 38 Comments

The Rollercoaster of Learning

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It’s funny how, when you first notice something, it tends to reappear almost regularly thereafter in various situations and place and in various forms. Not long ago, I read about the four stages of learning in a little ebook by the Canadian photographer, David duChemin. Then, not long after, an explanation of those same four stages appeared in a book I then read, by the photographer Rick Sammon. Interestingly enough this book I had bought long ago, but only recently got around to read.

After those two first encounters, the four stages have appeared in many different circumstances, until I finally learned that they originate from Gordon Training International. Initially known as the «four stages for learning any new skill», the four states of competence was a learning model originally introduced by Noel Burch, an employee of the institute. First drafted in the 1970s, this «conscious competence» learning model is described as the psychological states that are involved in transforming skill incompetence to competence or outright mastery.

The Four Stages of Learning provides a model for learning. It suggests that individuals are initially unaware of how little they know, or unconscious of their incompetence. As they recognize their incompetence, they consciously acquire a skill, and then consciously use it. Eventually, the skill can be utilized without it being consciously thought through: the individual is said to have then acquired unconscious competence.

Being one who teaches workshop and give lectures, and also being passionate about understanding the creative process, this was for me an eye-opener. On some level The Four Stages of Learning is pure common sense, but seeing it in writing made me realize how well they describe my own journey as a photographer, as well. Because it is a journey.

As duChemin writes in his lovely, little book Master the Craft; «Mastery is a tricky thing. It’s not so much a destination as a journey. That journey takes us through predictable stages:
• Unconscious incompetence
• Conscious incompetence
• Conscious competence
• Unconscious competence
We go from not knowing what we don’t know, to knowing how much we really don’t know, to learning more and being very aware of what we know, to finally knowing a great deal but being able to operate in that knowledge somewhat intuitively.»

The first stage, unconscious incompetence, can also be describe as «I don’t know what I don’t know». In photographic terms, it describes the entry level to the craft, the first encounter, maybe, with a camera. When we first get into photography, we take some shots, look at them on the camera’s display, and say something like, «hey, that’s cool, I did it!»

For most people that is probably good enough, but others maybe get caught by a more profound interest in the photographic process. They enter into a new stage where they search for knowledge and understanding. This is the conscious incompetence stage, «I know what I don’t know». This stage can hit us like a ton of bricks. It can be frustrating and it can be demanding. We realize that we need help and have potential. This is the first step, really, in becoming a good photographer. We maybe read books, attend workshops, take online training courses and so on to get a better understanding.

At some point we reach the third stage, conscious competence, «I grow, and know and it starts to show», or, «I know what I know». Knowing we are good is a good feeling. However, it takes a lot of hard work to get to this level of learning. At this stage, we also know that there is plenty out there that we still don’t know, and we may still at times feel inadequate or encounter low self esteem. Nevertheless, we do know what we know.

As you build experience and expertise, you reach the stage of unconscious competence—wherein you do not have to think about the activity that you are very good in. You use your skills unconsciously and keep building your level of understanding on a more unconscious level. This is the level we all want to reach in the things we care passionately about. We don’t really have to think too much about what we are doing—we just do it. The rollercoaster ride of making pictures is not over; we still have creative ups and downs. Nevertheless, being on the rollercoaster is much more fun than being on the merry-go-around of making middle-of-the-road photos, as Rick Sammon points out in his book «Creative Visualization».

This is what duChemin writes about the last stage: «To me, mastery is about getting to the point where the tools in my hand no longer get in my way. It means getting to the point where I more easily reach a state of flow in my creativity. It doesn’t remotely mean the creative efforts themselves come more easily; they may come harder. Once you’ve been doing this for 30 years, you’ve picked the low-hanging fruit and your standards have grown along with your craft. You always have something new to learn.»

In the end, that is all what matters to me; to keep learning. I may have creative ups and downs, but learning more about my craft, my skills, myself and the world around me is for me always a driving force and ultimately nothing but pure enjoyment.

Facts about the photo: The photo was taken with a Canon Eos 5D with a 24-104 mm lens and the zoom set at 24 mm. Shutter speed: 1/640 of a second. Aperture: f/13. The photo was processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Posted in Challenging Yourself, Photography | Tagged , , , | 77 Comments

Last Week’s Instagram

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Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. Except for the technical details beneath the pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.

Facts about the photo: This photo was captured with a Canon Eos 5D with a 24-105 mm lens set at 55 mm, 1/200 second and f/5.0. It was processed in Lightroom and then transferred to my cell phone.

Posted in Personal Work, Photography | Tagged , | 39 Comments