My Method of Working.

...there is no way that I will not take a camera along...

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Going through my back-ups to compile the galleries for this website, I realised how varied the subject matter was and this prompted me to reflect: why do I photograph and how do I choose subjects or projects?

I’ve been working on the first question for years and haven’t come up with a comprehensive answer yet. I remember well an occasion years ago when as a young man I took some of my photographs to a famous photographer for comment and advice. Before he looked at any of the photos, he asked me “Why do you photograph?” I couldn’t give him a satisfactory answer then and I probably couldn’t now either, without falling over my feet. Suffice to say that it gives me satisfaction. I derive some pleasure from the actual process of capturing the images which mostly happens away from home or my work environment and in the process I usually learn something new, whether it is about environmental issues around the gold mining industry, or the cremation of bodies on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi, India.

I break up my photography loosely into two categories. Firstly, I am quite capable of being a tourist with a camera slung around my neck. If I am going to go on holiday, wherever that may be, there is no way that I will not take a camera along, even if it’s only the compact, light weight type. On these occasions, I will photograph what comes my way as part of the journey, but even then I realise that there are certain influences just beneath the conscious level that makes me pick out certain things from the clutter. A lifelong culmination of influences and experiences, likes and dislikes obviously plays a part here and although I sometimes make an effort to shoot something in a deliberate way, these images usually just “happen”. Although this method of photographing appears more casual, even frivolous at times, I find the results often surprisingly rewarding.

A more deliberate way I like to work is to pick a concept or project or, should I rather say, it picks me. These projects usually happen over a period of a few days or longer and this gives me the opportunity to measure the results as I go along and change my approach if necessary. Depending on the subject, I like to do some form of basic research as I believe that this enables me to make informed decisions on the most suitable equipment and clothing to take along. Photographs from this method of working usually hangs together better as a whole. The volume of images to process is normally quite big, something that can keep me busy for weeks after the actual shoot.

As someone with one foot in the visual arts, I also derive great pleasure from processing and making prints. My processing mostly includes exposure level adjustment, contrast and colour balance adjustment, burning and dodging, sharpening and black and white conversion. I rarely find the need to edit the so-called “content” of my photographs. I use Lightroom for raw file conversion, basic processing, cataloguing and web gallery compilation and Photoshop for individual refinement of images.

Printing has always been a rewarding part of the photographic process to me. I acquired my basic photographic skills long before the digital age of photography arrived and had various black and white darkrooms over the years, including a 4X5 inch large format setup. Currently I use an A2 Epson 4880 and a large format Epson 9800 printer, capable of 1 metre wide prints. My monitors are calibrated and I print through an Imageprint RIP (Raster Image Processor) which simplifies the process of using the correct paper/printer/ink colour profiles to ensure consistent, predictable results.

I own various professional camera bodies and a wide variety of lenses and, to a degree, I am a bit of a techno junkie. This can be a trap, because it is an expensive business and the technical side of photography can get in the way of the creative side of it. However, I believe that many an excellent image is spoilt by sloppy processing or printing when it could have been done properly with minimal extra effort.