Category: Uncategorized

What is Photographic Expressionism?

Ever since the earliest days of photography, this new method of creative expression has sat uneasily in the art world. Many steeped in the more traditional techniques of painting, drawing, sculpture, along with a large proportion of gallery owner’s, collectors, critics and museum curators have viewed it as a somehow less worthy art form. Perhaps it seems rather easy compared to other crafts – more dependent on the equipment than the skill of the practitioner. Yet, the earliest photographers were artists first, intrigued by this new medium and it wasn’t long before they were looking for ways to abstract the images they were making. 

The paucity of significant museum exhibitions devoted to abstract photography testifies to this state of affairs. MOMA in New York held a flurry of three such exhibitions between 1948 and 1960 (In and Out of Focus 1948, Abstraction in Photography 1951 and The Sense of Abstraction 1960) The next internationally important exhibition was ‘Shape of Light’ at Tate Modern, London in 2018 – a gap of almost sixty years. This seems to bolster the view that abstract photography is the poor relation of the art world.

Despite this wariness toward photography, we can see it shares a history with art over the last century as abstract explorations in the darkroom ran parallel with Cubism and other forms of modern art. While photography is the ideal tool for creating perfect copies of reality, there have always been photographers who are mentally emancipated from the need for slavish reproduction – those searching for a more impressionistic way of making images. Back in 1905, Alfred Stieglitz opened his ‘Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession’ at 291 5th Avenue in New York (which soon became better known by its nickname, ‘291’). His goal was to showcase the newly emerging Pictorialist photography. Within a short time, the gallery became a hub for this and avant-garde art – from both Europe and America. Edward Steichen became involved, helping with the selection of artists who would be exhibited based on his experience from living in Paris. It became a place to see works by Cezanne beside Stieglitz, Picasso and Braque accompanying Steichen and Matisse along with the abstracts of Paul Strand.

Interestingly, in conjunction with running his 291 gallery, Stieglitz was also a founder member of the Photo-Secession group. Other notable members included Steichen, Clarence H. White, Gertrude Käsebier, and Alvin Langdon Coburn. These photographers broke away from the more traditionalist Camera Club of New York in 1902 and pursued Pictorialism. This approach espoused manipulating negatives and prints to produce the effects of drawings, etchings, and oil paintings. They produced a quarterly magazine entitled ‘Camera Work’ and actively promoted photography as an art form. 

Even earlier, in 1892, a group had formed in Europe called the Linked Ring (or, more formally, the Brotherhood of the Linked Ring), that had similar goals. While members made images in differing styles, they were united in rejecting the technical approach to photography that traditionalists were propounding. Several members of the Photo-Secession group went on to become members, including Steichen, Stieglitz, Gertrude Käsebier, and Clarence H. White.

If we discount scientific photography, then perhaps the first truly abstract photograph could be “Winter Landscape” made in 1909 by George Seeley. It is suggestive rather than descriptive, a snowy landscape as the source, but reduced to pure shadow and curve forms, leaving much room for audience interpretation. Around this time Alvin Langdon Coburn made a remarkable image in his home city of New York, looking down on a Manhattan roundabout from a skyscraper. ‘The Octopus’ of 1912 was a visual shock to viewers unused to viewpoints such as this. In 1911, Linked Ring member Pierre Dubreuil explored both cubism and vorticism with his photograph, ‘Interpretation Picasso, The Railway’ which he embellished with ink and pencil. From these early explorations, abstraction in photography became more widely explored. Examples include Man Ray and his poetic ‘Rayographs’, which he created by drawing with light on sensitive paper. Or László Moholy-Nagy, the constructivist artist and instructor at the Bauhaus school, who was fascinated by creating Photograms with light, forming geometric shapes arranged over the surface.

While abstract photographers were keen to establish that their practice was an art form in its own right, that is not to say that they weren’t significantly influenced by artists working in abstract painting. Take, as one example, the photographer Aaron Siskind. He taught alongside Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly at the Black Mountain College. Siskind’s abstract photography went on to be exhibited at the important Egan Gallery in New York – a gallery that also showcased paintings by Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and Rauschenberg. Siskind, influenced by such painters experimented with the presentation of his photographs, eschewing the mundaneness of regular frame and mount configurations, replacing them by mounting his images on Masonite boards. He became known as ‘a painters photographer’. This cross-pollination of ideas worked both ways. For example, it is believed that De Kooning used an abstract photograph of Siskind’s, ‘New York’ (1950) as he worked on his painting, ‘Woman/1950-2’. So, this may indicate that among a few practising abstract artists there was respect for at least some photographers working in this area, despite the relative youth of photography.

The majority of abstract photography which has gained credence in the art world is analogue, either made entirely in the darkroom from pure light and light-sensitive materials (such as Arthur Siegel’s ‘Motion-Light’ studies) or more conventionally with cameras and lenses and then processed in the darkroom. The advent of digital photography appears in most ‘official’ quarters to have been met mainly with much scepticism. 

This is understandable. Modern cameras are essentially computers with shutters and lenses – capable of amazing optical gymnastics, should the operator so wish. Much of the perceived craft associated with analogue photography appears to have gone – especially that which is part of large format image-making. All the upside down and reversed composing under dark cloths, working with silver gelatin and platinum palladium – the mathematics, the alchemy and chemistry of it all. The pure struggle of getting an analogue image to print adds perceived value, certainly. To the uninformed, the point and shoot, click and print world of digital for the masses just doesn’t cut it with those interested in ‘serious art’.

As a result of this, we have found ourselves in a no man’s (no person’s?) land. Caught creatively, not just in the void between photography and traditional art practices – but also cut off from the part of photography that has scraped acceptance in some areas of the art world. 

As we are part of something new, neither side really know what to make of us. They don’t know how to define us or judge what we create. The more conventional, representational photography world have no labels or beloved rules by which to judge and classify us. We don’t fit in with them. On the art world side we seem to be tarred with the iPhone/Hipstamatic generation/Photoshop tomfoolery/Digital/‘it’s so easy my kid could do it’ brush and swept aside. 

But this experience is similar to many new art movements in the past. It takes time for the world to catch up. In the meantime, as passionate artists, we remain undeterred and will forge on in our craft whether it be recognized or not. As all artists know, the urge to create is a fire that burns inside us and it is not dependent on recognition. We must create.

Throughout the twentieth century, various proponents of abstract and expressionistic photography were proposing different ways of describing what they were doing. In addition to Stieglitz ‘Photo-Succession,’ we have, in the early 1950s, German photographer and critic Otto Steinert coined the phrase ‘Subjective Photography’. Another German photographer, Peter Keetman, used the term ‘Fotoform’. The Bauhaus school spoke of ‘New Vision’ and so on. All these and any subsequent attempts to describe impressionistic abstract photography seem to fall short in capturing the essence of what, as artists, we are trying to convey. For this reason, none of these terms has stuck.

This search for a term to describe what they were doing addresses an issue with calling it ‘abstract photography’. While convenient, it feels somehow inadequate. Those of us working now with digital techniques, like intentional camera movement (ICM) and multiple exposures (ME) have also been debating the fact that using these terms is to describe our work is equally unsatisfactory.

Firstly, we are not process focused. Yes, we may well have used ICM and/or ME techniques as part of creating our work. But we may also have used other in-camera techniques, manipulated the image significantly in the digital darkroom and latterly outputted the file as a physical print and then applied any combination of physical processes to embellish the print to create a ‘one of one’ unique physical work of art, far removed from any in-camera technique.

It is also true that while we may use a particular technique on one of our images, we may not use it on others. What we have been searching for is a term that encompasses the style or genre of work we are creating, much as artists working in more traditional forms have. 

Valda and I have had long discussions around this subject. We have talked around the kind of words most often used by artists working in our field or by those talking about our style of work such as ‘painterly’, ‘abstract’, ‘impressionistic’ ‘creative’ and ‘expressionistic’. Which seem most universally applicable? We are also keenly aware of the influences of Modern Art movements, including the Abstract Expressionists, Cubists, the Bauhaus and others in what we do. 

After long deliberation, and with huge respect for the giants on whose shoulders we stand, we would like to propose that we define ourselves as ‘Photographic Expressionists’.

We feel this links us both to the artists work that we derive inspiration from while being proud of our roots in photographic practice. It allows us full scope to work in mixed media – be that digital or analogue as well as incorporating art and other materials in the presentation and embellishment of our work.

We certainly don’t claim to have invented this term. A quick Google search will reveal a Flickr group with it included in its subtitle and the photographer Rick Doble claimed to have coined the phrase ‘photo-expressionism’ back in 1999. No doubt it is used elsewhere from time to time. What we would like to do is establish it as a clear definition for the kind of work we are doing so that it becomes an accepted and understood genre.

We should also make it clear that we don’t feel a need to categorise our work for our own benefit. We are quite clear in our own minds what we do and love having complete creative freedom to make images in any way we choose. Rather, we offer this genre as a means to help others (such as the aforementioned gallerists, critics, museum curators, judges and so on) who do seem to need a way of identifying our work in order to accomodate us and welcome us ‘into the fold’. In the meantime, we are more than happy to make our work with the excitement we have always felt exploring art free of rules and boundaries – something which ‘Photographic Expressionism’ espouses.

It is our fervent hope that then over time, more galleries, museums, critics and collectors will also understand and accept what we do and see us as the next natural step in the evolution of expressionistic and abstract photography – blurring the gap further between the photographic and more traditional art disciplines.

This will certainly be the way we describe our work from this point forwards. So, welcome to the world of Photographic Expressionism.

©Doug Chinnery 2022


Under a Moondrawn Tide

Grainy sand damp crackling in seafire
A sentinel shore chalkscrawled on lemon farls
The slabbed tangle of shattered glass
Unsought by flyblown faces of the gone
Nearer the edge of wild air, of brightness here
Sinking ever as blue dusk abandoned this night
The flood flow from road to eely grike
A tide, moondrawn, lay over the rocks
Behind this light of Cassiopeia
Endless signs on a white field
The veil of space falls our souls the more, the more.
DSC 02.21

The Haul Home

Ink Stained and tangled seaweed
Smouldering in seafire
Broken on sentinel shore
Halting hightide out in rushing rhythms
Cottage smoke whispwrithes into a silverblack, lightless night
Wild edge and wild air whip and froth
Under a creeping moons midwatch
And yet to go still against the cold pull
There to weave and unweave shadowshoals
And haul home through skerried squalls
DSC 03.21

Imitation or Inspiration?

In London on a flying visit for a meeting, I just had time for a brief visit to Tate Britain. There I enjoyed a precious hour in the company of Van Gogh and an artist new to me, Frank Bowling. Both exhibitions, lessons in the sheer joy of colour.

Naturally, I had my camera and as I wandered the rooms in wonder I made a few images. Later, on the train northwards, I began to reflect on the fact that the images on my memory card were made from the art of others. (the image on the left was made at the Frank Bowling exhibition from multiple exposures of two of his paintings combined and then altered in Lightroom). This raises an interesting question about the ethics of using the art of others, in our work.

It is certainly true to say that no art is new – not really. The often quoted (indeed, mis-quoted and mis-attributed) words ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ can be used in this discussion. (If you would like to read more about the possible origins and variations of this quote, please take a look at this discussion – ). 

What is the sense behind the quote? That all of us as creatives are influenced by those who have gone before us. (How many also talk of ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’?). From our earliest days we absorb so much from what we see, hear and read. We look at the work of artists we admire and, so often, either consciously or sub-consciously, this influences the work we create. I am not talking about plagiarism. That is theft, a malicious and intentional decision to take the work of someone else and pass it off as our own. 

No, the idea behind ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ relates to imitation verses inspiration. It is so much easier to imitate those we admire. It takes real effort to be inspired without merely imitating. This is because you recognise an idea in someones work – then put forth great effort to elevate, to add, to move it further in another direction – to make it into something else. Certainly, the influence may be felt – an echo of the informer, but it becomes something distinctly yours.

So, back to my original question – which in our field, working with a camera and perhaps making images which actually might include the work of others – is this not closer to plagiarism than influence – and certainly more like imitation? Hopefully, we aren’t making a straight image of another’s and passing it off as our own (or copying an image from a web page, for example, and then claiming it as ours – that is plagiarism. It does happen too – I can think of an example happening to a friend of mine).

However, in making images from the art of another where does the line of acceptance fall between it being too close to copying and it becoming a unique work of our own? Whether we include the brush strokes of a great and recognised artist as I have above – or perhaps we use some local graffiti? Do we work with mixed media, collaging elements from magazines and photographs? Could it be we photograph signs and graphics – all these things contain the ‘art’ of others.

There are no photography police (although plenty of people who try to set themselves up in this role). We have no book of rules to which we can refer. So it is down to us to individually set our own high standard of morals and ethics in this regard.

What is the point of copying the work of another, altering it a little and claiming it as our own? We may receive praise from those who don’t realise what we have done – but how do we feel when we look at ourselves in the mirror?

We each need to decide where the line in the sand is for us. Valda Bailey, uses a good illustration. She talks of musicians who ‘mash up’ the music of others to make new, original tracks. You can often pick up on a familiar beat, a recognisable rift or refrain – perhaps some repeated lyrics from an oft sung chorus – but the new artist has also gone to great lengths to significantly add to and alter the original to make something new. It is no longer the original. Perhaps this could be our guide? But only we can decide.

Maybe a good barometer would be to ask ourselves, how would we feel if our artwork was being used in the images of another? How changed would we want it to be before we felt its use was acceptable? Would we feel flattered by its use? Or offended?

This also leads to another, final point from me on this subject. When making images (or any kind of art) from that of others, is it not the right and decent thing to give fulsome attribution. To mention the fact openly and honestly? Why hide it? If you feel you should, then perhaps that is an indication that you haven’t changed the original source enough with work of your own? And we could ask ourself, wouldn’t we like someone who used our work to give us credit for our influence on them and for the part our work has played in the creation of theirs? 

In this, should we not be treating the work, the reputation and the feelings of the source artists in the way we would like others to treat us? (and in saying this, I should perhaps acknowledge this is not an original thought of my own either, but can also be found at Matthew 7:12 – seems there is nothing new…)

Post Script. My personal response to the Van Gogh exhibition was to write a short, untitled, poem.

I stood
amidst crowds alone
in those echoing, hallowed halls
beneath Vincents starry canopy
who thru his fired look
revealed in me
an aching joy
surging from such swift simplicity
for in his pleading eyes
I saw, as he
the absolute ecstasy
of golden highs
and cerulean skies
an awakening there
to be free
and to walk again
the fields aflame
under pollarded willows and gain
mastery once more
over my shadows.

DSC August 2019

My new book – ‘Abstract Mindedness’ is available from the publishers, Kozu Books, for worldwide delivery now HERE

The Pool by Iain Sarjeant

The Pool by Iain Sergeant

From the first time I heard that Iains series, The Pool, was to be published by Triplekite, I was excited. I have followed Iains work for a few years now and The Pool series has become a favorite of mine.

I first came across the work on Iains website a year or two ago and was instantly entranced by its delicate beauty and simplicity. Iain is a full time professional photographer working out of Strathpeffer in Scotland. His work is often characterised by its keen observational quality. Iain is a man who walks around with his eyes wide open and seems to see things where many do not.

Review of Triplekites new book – Land | Sea

Land | Sea

Land | Sea is the new release and the first in a new concept of publication from quality photography book publisher, Triplekite.

The new concept is based around an idea to provide a format which can be published around three times a year allowing portfolios from five photographers to be showcased. Triplekite have set themselves a difficult brief in this as they want to keep the selling price low, at £20, while maintaining their reputation for using very high quality print processes and materials coupled with design which focuses on the beauty of the images.

Have they succeeded? Most certainly. I was very keen to get my hands on a copy, indeed I held off doing the review until I had seen the physical book even though I get a sneak preview of the pdf prior to it going to print Lets take the physical quality of the book first. I was initially struck by the feel of the front cover. The soft cover material has a waxy coating which gives the book a luxury finish. Inside that care and attention to detail is reflected in the way two different paper weights have been used through the book. The pages on which the images are printed are of a substantial weight and thickness, but interleaved between them the pages which divide the photographers portfolios and the pages with the foreword etc are printed on a much lighter, almost translucent bible paper. It is attention to detail like this which elevates Triplekite publications and shows the people behind the books really care about what they are producing rather than being focused solely on profit.

The graphic design of the book also demonstrates the same attention to detail and love of the images. The typography and colour scheme is quiet and understated, done specifically to keep the attention on the photographs, I’m sure. To compliment this, space is given to the images and they are laid out in such a way as to ensure they are the main focus of the publication. The book is 320 x 240mm, softbound with 68 pages and I found the page size easier to cope with than the larger pages of the ‘Sea Fever’ book, also published by Triplekite and as such it fits on my bookshelves better.

There is an introduction by Tim Parkin of OnLandscape, who has collaborated on the project, where he discusses self expression in photography and a special treat for lovers of fine photography is an afterword written by Paul Kenny. It is a fascinating thoughtful piece which he describes as “Musings on the relationship between landscape, photography and art”.

The featured photographers in this first edition are Joe Wright, Valda Bailey, Al Brydon, Giles McGarry and Finn Hopson. This choice of artists is interesting. Many publishers would go down the route of selecting individuals who all produce identikit work, work in the same style so that it appealed to lovers of that one style. However, this group of photographers have very diverse approaches to their art. As a result you are likely to find something new which excites you, much like buying a compilation album and discovering an artist you were previously unaware of in amongst the familiar tracks.

I think this approach is perfect. It encourages us to consider a broader range of styles and to question our own approaches to photography, rather than just focusing our book buying on photographers whose work is perhaps similar to our own or who are ‘safe’ buys.

In the case of all the photographers in this issue, I was aware of all of them, but even so, I wasn’t prepared for just how exciting some of the work was. Take Joe Wright, as an example. I have seen many of Joes images before and loved them, indeed I have met and enjoyed Joes company up in the Lakes. But, despite this, I wasn’t ready for just how wonderful his images were in Land | Sea. From the opening, full page image of Crocosmia flowers in the rain through to his woodland images and his intimate rock abstracts I was enthralled. I think, seeing his images here, that Joe needs a book to himself!

Brilliantly contrasting with Joes quiet landscapes and intimate landscape details, his portfolio is followed by that of Valda Bailey. And what a contrast. Valdas images, using multiple exposure techniques are full of passion and colour, vibrance and drama. Her portfolio demonstrates how being experimental and letting go of the more ‘standard’ conventions of landscape photography can free you and open up a new world of photographic opportunities. Here is another photographer who I can see having her own dedicated book in the not too distant future.

And so it goes through the book, next is Al Brydons dark, moody landscapes, often of neglected places or those less noticed, revealing a hidden beauty. Giles McGarrys fine monochrome architectural images (and I can see special attention has gone into the printing of Giles monochrome images as the reproduction of the tones is excellent and I know it is tricky to do this without special processes being employed – another testament to Triplekite putting the image quality in front of profit, bravo!) contrast with these superbly, highlighting what can be achieved with long exposures and intense attention to detail in image processing and finally, the book concludes with Finn Hopsons careful, quiet and soothing landscapes of his beloved South Downs. Wonderful pastoral images made in gentle light.

To accompany each photographers portfolio is a short essay from them on their approach, background and thoughts on image making. Particularly appreciated is a page from each in which they detail their personal photographic influences and role models which is a great springboard for us, as lovers of photography, to go off exploring and discovering even more fine work. This makes it an even more valuable resource.

I foresee that this series is going to become very collectable and will build into a great library of photographers portfolios over time. Triplekite have announced the next group of photographers who are to be featured in volume two and I am already salivating over the thought of seeing the edition.

Is there anything I would change? Hunger for images means I would love to see a couple more pages per photographer to allow for some more photographs and some more in depth comments from them, but I also understand the financial implications of enlarging the publication. On the whole, I have to say, Land | Sea exceeded my expectations both in quality of production and content, so there is little else I can think of to improve it. I guess things like inserting Q codes to take us straight to the photographers web sites could be put in, that might be a useful touch for some. Maybe an audio interview could be added to the Triplekite website with each photographer to extend the article? But all these things take time and resources and I do think the price point of the publication is important.

So I would encourage you to go to the Triplekite website, HERE, and purchase your own copy. You can also buy a print from any of the photographers featured in the book for just £20 (buy all five and you get one free) so this is a superb opportunity to collect images from photographers you love at an amazing price. Still available on the website is David Bakers ‘Sea Fever’ and Dav Thomas’s book ‘With Trees’.

I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have.


Disclaimer: In the interests of journalistic integrity I want to make it clear I get a free copy of the publication under review from Triplekite. The above link is also an affiliate link so if you use it I get a small commission. However, I can also honestly state that Triplekite make no attempt whatsoever to influence what I say about their books. They do not see (or ask to see) what I write prior to publication and they do not ask me to alter what I write (except if I make an error regarding technical details. If I don’t like any aspect of the books, I will say so. I take my integrity very seriously.

If you do wish to buy the book and use a link which does NOT give me any commission then this link HERE will do that for you. As a consequence of being a professional teacher, writer, photographer and active member of the photographic community it is inevitable that I will know many of the photographers featured in the books I review. Some are now close friends, others are acquaintances and some I know fleetingly or just by reputation. I hope all of these understand that as a reviewer I have to try and stand back from any personal relationships and give my honest review of what I see and read. If I praise the work I genuinely feel it deserves praise. If I am less complimentary then I will always try never to be unkind but always to be honest, but it will never be personal and I trust that if what I say is less than glowing that we can remain friends? I have come to realise that reviewers walk a minefield, but walk it they must.

Skye Expedition – Day Three

skye day 3

Yesterday Scotland bit back as it often does. Perhaps it feels the need to just remind us, after a day as good as yesterday, that it is still in charge and we should not get complacent. We awoke to driving rain and very low cloud and this continued throughout the day. Scotland is capable of throwing significant amounts of rain at you and I suppose we shouldn’t complain. After all, it is the weather here that goes a long way to forming the land into what it is that makes it so attractive to us as landscape photographers.

If any days was going to be wet, this was the best one for us as we were moving on from Glencoe up to Skye. After checking out we descended from the Kings House Hotel up on Rannoch Moor down Glencoe (stopping for a brief visit to the site of my fall last January which resulted in my broken leg and ankle. I grabbed some iPhone images but most definitely didn’t attempt to re-cross the river!). With little hope we detoured to Stalker Castle but on arrival the rain miraculously eased and blessed us with an hour or so of just the odd spate of drizzle. It was enough, coupled with a sufficiently high tide, to capture some great long exposure images of this castle which sits on its own island out in Loch Linne. A second benefit of a visit to Castle Stalker is the chance to pop in the cafe, which has nice views over the castle and serves exceedingly good cakes.

From there the rain returned and battered us all the way from the Castle to Skye. Even our stop at Eilean Donan Castle was hampered by rain. We were more than pleased to arrive at our base for the next four nights, the Sligachan Hotel which sits nestled under the mighty Cullin mountains. All this rain means the rivers and waterfalls are raging and the shooting over the next few days look interesting. The forecast is for the rain receding, temperatures dropping (with a chance of a dusting of snow on the tops of the Cullin) and some rising winds.

The next few days look interesting!

Adobe announce new Creative Cloud package for photographers

Adobe caused a huge amount of anger, resentment and upset with its surprise announcement some months ago that along with launching its Creative Cloud service it would no longer be releasing any of its Creative Suite products (including Photoshop) in any other format in future. No more downloadable version to own. No more DVD’s.

Basically, the Creative Cloud allows you to have any of the Adobe Creative Suite program’s installed on your computer and for this ‘privilege’ you pay a monthly subscription. It was a brave move by Adobe to make this move so decisively. I believe this model is the one all major software manufacturers will want to move us to in order to guarantee cash flow into their coffers. Anything other than a complete termination of supplying the software by other means will mean few would opt for this system. We naturally don’t like it. We don’t own the software, we are leasing it. We have no way to decide if we want to upgrade or not.

Hence the anger amongst many of Adobes customers. But perhaps I ought to be more specific. The anger was chiefly raised among lone users, hobby photographers, one person businesses and so on. Adobes main customers,  graphics companies, design agencies, large academic institutions and so on, were delighted with the plan on the whole. The pricing works for them, access to all the programs, free updates and monthly pricing works well for business, it helps with cash flow and budgeting.

For most small users it was a disaster. Adobe had not thought through the impact on these small users who only use Photoshop and Lightroom. For us the model is hugely overpriced. The outcry was massive. It took Adobe by surprise. It led to lots of bad publicity. 

It seems Adobe listened to the outcry. They have just announced a new level of membership aimed at users of just Photoshop and Lightroom. 

This is how it will work. If you have bought a legitimate copy of Photoshop CS3 or above you will qualify. Between now and the end of the year you will be able to subscribe to the Creative Cloud. In the US the price is $9.99 per month. In the UK I thought it would be jacked up to £9.99 but in fact it will be £8.78 per month and it starts in two weeks time.

For this you will get unlimited use of Photoshop CC, Lightroom 5, all updates which are released as soon as they are available, 20gb of Cloud storage, a free Pro Behance portfolio website and free support. If you already subscribe to the Photoshop only version of the Cloud you will be moved automatically to this new level when it goes live.

For those who now feel aggrieved that this offer is just for those who have bought CS3 and above please spare a thought for those who have. They have spent in excess of £600 on the program and then upgrades have added more to this investment. It is only right that they be compensated for this outlay and loyalty to Adobe. We don’t yet know how much the subscription will be for those who are currently Elements users or who have never bought a legitimate copy of Photoshop. I estimate £12 to £14 a month, but this is only my guess.

For those who qualify for the £8.78 price point I feel this is an exceptionally good deal. Do the maths. How much do Dropbox charge for 20gb of storage? You can’t by just 20gb but 100gb, the lowest amount is $9.99 a month so 20gb has to be worth $2 a month. A Behance Pro site, which is a good portfolio site, costs $99 a year – so those two features alone cover the subscription. Now most of us wouldn’t go for a Behance site, but if you currently are paying for a Smugmug, Clikpic or other site you might use this to save that subscription and move to Behance (which is professionally recognised and viewed by many creatives). If you are paying for Cloud storage you could save that cash and use the Adobe space instead.

Besides this you are getting £600 plus of Photoshop and the very latest version of Lightroom along with all future updates. Already Photoshop CC has some great new features and no doubt over time more will follow. How much do you spend on Photoshop and Lightroom purchases and upgrades over, say, three to five years? Add it all up and I think the subscription represents good value.

Even if you don’t have CS3 or a newer version of PS, decide you want to buy in to the Creative Cloud and have to pay, say £12 or £14 a month, I still believe it represents good value for money.

I think, despite our reluctance to accept the leasing model, we are going to have to get used to it. Other software companies will soon follow Adobes lead. Microsoft is already offering, but not forcing, a Cloud edition of Office. The others will follow. It makes sense for them and they have us where they want us. We can resist for a while by not upgrading but gradually the new features will draw us in. Or, our current computers will get old, our version will not run well on new operating systems, file formats will change. Bit by bit it will become impossible to resist for all but the most determined.

In the meantime hopefully this news from Adobe will cheer some up who were rightly aggrieved by Adobes heavy handed and thoughtless first offering of the Creative Cloud. I think they should be given credit for at least listening to and responding to what their smaller and less profitable customers said. Quite refreshing in today’s corporate world.

Here are some FAQ’s to help explain things further, taken from Terry Whites excellent tech blog
Q: What is the Photoshop Photography Program Offer?
A: This offer includes access to Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5, plus feature updates and upgrades as they are available, 20GB of cloud storage for file sharing and collaboration, a Behance ProSite, and access to the full library of video tutorials in Creative Cloud Learn.
This offer is available to customers who own a previous version of Photoshop or Photoshop Extended product, version CS3 or later (CS3.x, CS4, CS5.x, or CS6). Suites do not qualify. Requires annual commitment, billed monthly.
Offer valid through December 31, 2013 and is available in countries where Creative Cloud is purchased directly from This offer is not available in China, Vietnam or Turkey.
Q: Can I get Adobe Bridge CC with the Photoshop Photography Program Offer?
A: Yes. Bridge CC is available for download and use as part of your Creative Cloud membership.
Q: I am already a Creative Cloud member; do I qualify for this offer?
Existing Creative Cloud members who wish to transition to this offer must own a previous version of Photoshop or Photoshop Extended product, version CS3 or later (CS3.x, CS4, CS5.x, or CS6). Suites do not qualify.
Those who meet the qualifications have two options:
Creative Cloud Single App members for Photoshop CC who already completed the qualification process when they originally signed up for their membership will be automatically transitioned to this new program when it ships, with the additional benefits and lower ongoing price.
All other Creative Cloud members who meet the qualification requirements may contact Adobe Customer Service to discuss transitioning their membership to this new offer.
Q: I own an earlier version of Lightroom but not Photoshop. Do I qualify for this Photoshop Photography Program offer?
A: Only customers who own a previous version of Photoshop CS3 or later qualify for this offer.
Q: Will the cost of my membership increase?
A: This price is not a special introductory price for your first year only; it is the standard price for this level of membership. Customers who sign up by December 31, 2013 will be able to continue their membership at the same price. But if you cancel your membership in the future, you will not be able to re-join at this special price.

Shooting Landscapes Handheld. You Are Joking!


Dark Light III – Taken handheld from Rannoch Moor.

I have written some time ago about my thoughts on working with what you’ve got. Basically, the premise of my mantra is, if all you have is a 50mm lens, then shoot with it. If its raining, rather than giving you he technicolor sunrise you envisioned, shoot the rain. You get the idea.

Recently, on the day I broke my leg in fact, I had to work to my own maxim. 

I was leading a workshop up in the snows on Rannoch Moor and Glencoe, in Scotland. On the first day of the trip, just an hour into shooting my tripod head broke. It broke in a major way (and kudos to Manfrotto for replacing it for me straight away once they saw what had happened).

I tweeted about the failure and many of my followers replied with sympathy (and we all like a bit of sympathy). Several said how angry I must be feeling and how it would ruin my trip. I could understand their point of view but I just didn’t see it that way.

Kit fails. You have to get used to that which is why I have back ups or alternatives with me for virtually everything in my bag, including tripods and heads. Except this time. This time I was car sharing and to save space the one thing I hadn’t bought with me was my spare tripod & head. Ironic, huh?

Getting angry about it would have just spoiled the trip, it wouldn’t have actually changed anything. Here I was in the most stunning of locations with amazing light. I was going to work with what I had.

So this meant shooting landscapes, often in low light, handheld. 

So how did I approach this? I was using the Canon 5d mk2 and was happy taking the ISO up to 800 (and in very low light I went to 1600 at times – whatever it took to get the shot). I also went wide with my aperture. So I abandoned my usual preference for f11 (or f16)  most of the time and went wider, right down to f2.8 at times in low light, but often working at f8, all with a view to keeping the shutter speed high enough to get sharp images.

If this hadn’t been possible I would have gone over to shooting ICM (intentional camera movement) images. Again, working with what I had. 

Another approach I adopted was to shoot in burst mode. Firing three frames at least for each image to give me a better chance one would be sharp. It meant I came away with nearly 900 frames fom the day, but it did increase my success rate.

I also moved to auto focus. On a tripod, I use manual focus in Live View mode which is perfect, but hand holding it just isn’t practical to focus manually all day. There is no benefit in it, in fact, auto focus is perfect for just this situation. I use centre point focusing so I have complete control over what I am focused on. So I turn on just the centre focus point. I then point the centre of the lens very precisely at what I want to be my focus point, press the shutter button half way to lock focus and hold it there, reframe and then complete the shot. You can also use the Focus Lock button on the back of the camera in the same way. 

I found I got the best results using my longer lenses, especially the 70-200 f2.8 IS L zoom. This stayed on most of the day. The image stabilisation helped with sharpness and I followed the basic rule of thumb that you need to keep your shutter speed faster than your focal length so I tried to stay above 1/200 sec all day, using ISO and aperture to do that.

Another advantage of using the 70-200mm (and the 24-70 f2.8 L which I also used on the day) was they both have long full tube shaped lens hoods. On the day, blizzards kept blowing through and these hoods really helped to keep snow off the front element of the lens.

When I came to review the images later (and trust me, I had plenty of time to review them, lying in my hospital bed) I realised that broken tripod head had done me a favor.

I had an extraordinarily high “hit rate” for successful images on the day. I took many more that I was happy with than I normally would. I found I was able to react really quickly to the fast changing light up there. As the blizzards were blowing through we had amazing gaps in the clouds with shafts of light and wonderful cloud shapes. On a tripod I would have been faffing about and couldn’t have got half the  images I did. 

I also would have been shooting much wider lenses, 45mm or 24mm, out of habit and on reflection, images at those focal lengths wouldn’t have had the impact I got from the 70-200 lens. (For my wider shots with the long lens I shot several panorama sequences, all handheld, and Photoshop stitches them perfectly. It’s amazing).

I would also have been more likely to have been trying to use my Lee filters. This would have slowed me down even more and with the falling snow caused frustration and even more lost shots.

Yes, that tripod head did me a big favor. Of course, looking at it another way. If it hadn’t failed I would have had it with me later when crossing the river and would have been using it to steady myself so maybe I wouldn’t have fallen and broken my leg… But let’s not speculate.

So, the lesson. If something fails in the field or you forget something, work with what you have. Think laterally. Work around the problem. Find a solution. It might feel uncomfortable, but just do the best you can. Getting angry with yourself or your kit, or giving up and going home don’t help, and you never know, like this occasion, you might just produce something unexpected by approaching the problem with a positive frame of mind.

If its something really bad like leaving all your batteries or memory cards at home, then use your mobile phone camera. If that’s back in the car, then just sit back and enjoy the sunrise. There will always be another.

Dark Light II – Taken handheld at the mouth of Glencoe

Limited Edition Prints. Should I Sell Them? Should I Buy Them?

limited edition

Let me start by saying I don’t issue limited edition prints myself. Although some would argue that I sell so few prints they are all, in fact, limited editions. 🙂

I came across an article this morning commenting on a court case in the US. In the case a very serious collector of limited edition prints by the photographer William Eggleston had complained to the courts because Eggleston (or his estate) had issued a new “limited edition” of a famous print of his, some years after the original edition had sold out. You can read about the case here.
Here is the image concerned, one of Egglestons most famous, Untitled 1970  © Christies Images LTD
(I do love the image and it has become rather iconic over the years).
The basic issue the collector had was that the same image was used, albeit in a different size and using a different print process and this devalued his considerable investment in the original limited edition (his original print reportedly costing him $250,000). 
The judge disagreed, ruling in Egglestons favour, saying that the new edition was completely different from the first. The image was the same but the size, paper and print process (the original edition was dye sublimation, the new one digital) and these differences made the new edition justifiable and in the judges opinion had no effect on the value of the original edition. (It might even be argued that the original edition now gained even more collectibility as elevated above other, later editions).
Egglestons lawyers explained they felt this judgement was good for artists and collectors. Many collectors disagree.
This case raises lots of interesting questions and issues around limited edition prints. I will attempt to deal with some of them here and put my point of view, but I would be interested in your views and comments too as this is a volatile and debatable issue from both the artist and collectors point of view.
Firstly, how do limited editions work (or how are they supposed to work)? The idea is the photographer declares that they will only sell a set number of prints of a certain image. This is done to add kudos and collectibility to the image. It is designed to give a rarity value. 
To claim very high prices for prints, photographers who are collectible will sell very small editions of, say, just five prints. In the most select art photography case, photographers sell the single print in existence along with the negative (these are most often analogue images, not digital, so shot on film or glass plate negatives etc). The print and negative come with a certificate from the photographer stating there are no other copies in existence. This is as close as a photograph comes to being a unique piece of art in the way a painting or piece of sculpture is. Needless to say, from the right photographer, these pieces can  command very high prices.
Editions more commonly run to ten, twenty or more. Michael Kenna issues forty five prints in each of his editions, as an example. The photographer has to decide whether to sell every. Print in the edition at the same price, or to increase the price gradually as the edition gets closer to selling out. This encourages early buyers to invest in editions and creates a perceived (if not real) increase in value, making the prints seem even more desirous and collectible. Michael Kenna, for example starts his editions at around £1300 a print and this rises over time until an edition getting close to selling out has prints selling for £6000 or £7000 each.
Once runs get above fifty prints you have to start to ask yourself if they are truly limited. Owning number 879 of 1000 doesn’t really cut the mustard in my view. Having said that, if you are paying less than £100 for the print, you can hardly complain. As I have shown in previous blog posts, photographers who charge less than £100 a print are actually selling at a loss. They may think they are making a big profit over the cost of paper and ink, but they are ignoring the true costs of making the photograph. You cannot run a photography business full time on print sales and price your work on a cost plus basis. You will soon go bankrupt. It shows a lack of understanding of business and finance. But that is a whole other topic. So having a massive limited edition run is really just a marketing tool to give some perceived value which, if we are truly honest, doesn’t really exist. If we produce 250 prints of a sunset and we are not a collectible photographer is that print really going to increase in value because it is number 139 of 250. Not really. Not if we are honest.
However, in researching this piece I was astounded to read that Peter Lik’s “limited editions” are of 950 with an additional 45 artists proofs. Personally, I feel this is taking limited editions too far and exploiting collectors, but his images almost all sell out and the values often increase. (Many by huge amounts- some collectors of his work have made very handsome profits from selling on his images after editions have sold out). So there are no rules (and no accounting for taste, either). His collectors are obviously happy or they wouldn’t buy and many of his prints sell out before they even hit his shops so demand is huge. (Is this down to the quality of his work, his skill as a marketeer, or investors knowing they can make a return on their investment?)
If we do decide to sell our work as limited editions, and it is a personal decision and can work very well for us, we have to get set up properly. This is a matter of integrity. If you tell people they have a limited edition print, that’s exactly what it should be. You should be able to prove it. So the edition needs to be recorded and documented. A spreadsheet should be kept, forever, and be kept accurately logging every sale and print number. This tends to be okay when we enthusiastically start offering a print. But come five years later and we have only sold five copies of our limited edition of fifty are we still prepared to maintain the records? Lets be honest. Most of us, myself included, don’t sell huge volumes of prints and so editions of these sizes will take years to sell out. For me it would take a lifetime!
Each print needs to be signed by you (with a pen that does not harm the print and does not fade or change colour with age, or with pencil), it needs to be dated (probably) and many photographers go to the added expense of buying an embossing tool of their logo which they emboss into the paper. This adds a feeling of genuiness and quality. It is a good marketing tool and worth the expense if you at going to run limited editions (or even if you are doing open editions).
Hahnemhule also sell a kit with certificates you can print to issue with the print and each has a hologram too, to add genuiness. All this adds weight to your offering and real collectors expect such refinements. They are paying you a lot more for it, after all.
Pricing of limited editions is tricky. What often happens is a photographer sets a price and an edition run of say twenty five and it starts to sell well. They then realise they could have charged more or sold many more. Pound signs in the eyes kick in. They now want to sell more editions and do what Eggleston has done, varying the size or paper to justify the new edition. 
So when you set your price you can adopt Kennas model and increase the price as the edition sells out. He is very upfront about this, so no deception is involved. Early buyers know they are getting a ‘bargain’ while those late to the party pay for being slow off the mark. 
Or, you can decide how much you want to make from an image and be content with that. So you make a nice image and decide to sell twenty five limited edition prints. You decide you would like that image to make you £5000 and so you price each print at £200 each. 
The issue is always one of greed. If a print does well, photographers might start to wish they could sell more. They worry that this steady source of income will soon dry up,when the edition sells out. What if they they don’t take many really popular images. Their income will drop as they realise they don’t have anything quite as good to take its place. This is where true professionals are out constantly shooting, trying to find the next image to replace their better sellers that are selling out. They accept when an edition has gone its gone, just as a painter paints a canvas, sells it and then has to paint another.
An additional layer of complexity comes in the form of poster prints. Although many well known and collected photographers sell limited edition prints at high prices you can also buy poster prints of the same images from them. So, going back to Michael Kenna as an example, but the same would be true of many others, you can buy posters of his images for £20/£30 or so. You can buy his images on calendars and in his books. Now the posters and calendars, while very nice are not printed to the same quality as one of his hand printed darkroom prints, but the image is identical. Does this devalue the limited edition? They do allow mere mortals like me to own an image from a photographer whose work I love and couldn’t afford any other way. How else could I own “Storm Clearing” by Ansel Adams, for example, if it wasn’t for posters?
Recently in fourteen US states a law has been passed to begin to regulate Limited Editions. There is a fascinating blog post by Joshua Kauffman who is a lawyer on this subject. You can read it here . In the article he shows just how some artists and photographers had really pushed their “limited editions”, necessitating the law change. It makes fascinating reading.
I also found a very interesting blog by an artist, Stuart Duffin, on the etiquette surrounding limited edition proofs and it includes some very interesting details about the abbreviations you find on editions which can tell you a lot about what you are actually buying. This too is worth reading here.
I wonder if, for most photographers, issuing limited editions is done more for our own self esteem than or any real value for our customers? It’s much nicer to say the print we are selling is “limited”. It certainly is a useful marketing tool and there is no harm in exploiting that as long as we don’t make any claims, actual or implied, that what our customers are buying is definitely going to become collectible or soar in value. And who is to say it won’t? Every now an then a new talent emerges and their early work becomes hugely valuable. It might just be yours. Customers also like to think they are buying something “limited”, even if subconsciously they realise it is not really of huge or rising value. They just like the feeling that buying a limited edition gives them over a regular print, and if the customer likes this, who are we to deprive them of it.
There are no hard and fast rules respecting LE prints (except in some US states now and that may well increase). So it is down to each of us to decide if we are going to offer them and if we are, how we will operate the system. What is important, in my view, if we o offer LE prints, is that we are totally. Upfront, honest and transparent with our customers so they know exactly what they are getting and what we may possibly also do in the future too.
I am not famous enough, nor is my work collectible, so as I said at the outset, I don’t issue limited edition prints of my work. If things change and I suddenly become the Banksy of the photography world I may have to alter how I work, but I can’t see that happening any time soon, if ever.
Now I’d like to hear your thoughts…

Stay with me back in the dark ages

Dark Ages

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those blogs where I witter on about the joys of shooting on film. I have also resisted the temptation of January 1st blogs which feature either “my best shots of last year” or “My resolutions for the year ahead”.

Rather, I have decided to make an appeal that you ditch a piece of technology (if you have adopted it, of course). What am I on about?
Picture the scene. It’s pre-dawn. A group of photographers are setting up by their tripods on a remote beach. Things are looking good, the air is clear, the cloud scattered and not banked on the horizon. You can sense the excitement.
As the light grows shutters start to fire, images at being made by all. By all except one in the group. He is identifiable by his strange antics. Hoping about behind his tripod waving one arm in the air at different heights, periodically peering at both his and and the back of his camera, which stays resolutely inactive. While his companions gasp t the results on thir screens, it is unrepeatable utterances that emerge from his.
The root cause of his problem? His wireless remote shutter release.
From years of running photography workshops, often starting like this before dawn, I can almost guarantee that if anyone will have teething problems first thing it will be someone with a wireless remote. (The others who struggle are those with low cost flimsy and poorly deigned tripods and heads – but that’s a subject or another blog).
It shouldn’t really be the case, should it. Technological advances should make things better, easier, quicker, more reliable, surely? I love wireless technology. I use it as often as I can in other areas of life. But having seen the anguish they cause so often, I won’t use a wireless remote on my camera. 
Admittedly, it is the low cost pattern “brands” which tend o be the worst culprits. (how often have I had a customer proudly telling me how he got it “off eBay from China for £5” and then seen it be the cause of them missing the most wonderful light because it wouldnt fire when hey wanted it to? Factor in the cost of the workshop and travel to the location only to miss the shots and they don’t seem to be such a bargain). The genuine brands do seem to work more reliably, but I still see they perform temperamentally on a regular basis. I can’t risk this. I need kit I can have absolute trust in.
And as landscapers, exactly why do we need wireless remotes anyway?  Wildlifers, maybe, but unless we want to be in our own pictures, or have some reason I can’t think of to need to trigger the camera from some distance away, what is the benefit of them?
Certainly, if the exposure is 30 seconds or less we can use the cameras self timer, but in low light or when doing long exposures, this just isn’t an option.
I use genuine Canon remotes. I tried the cheap knock offs, but with my level of use they last just a few weeks before the switch fails. Genuine units last me two or three years or more and so outlast many, many knock offs. I have never had one fail in the field. And by that, I mean, every single time I have pressed the switch the camera has responded. If I have missed a shot, it has been my fault, not the kits.
So if you have a wireless remote, take a piece of advice from me. Put it in a pocket in your camera bag as a spare and treat yourself to a corded remote. Come and join me back in the good old reliable dark ages and be sure not to miss the light.

Amazing one day only deal on Adobe Elements 11 on Amazon

This is just a very quick post as I have just found out Amazon are doing a one day deal on Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 today (10.12.12). They have the full official version for £32.97 which is way below half price for a superb piece of software which has almost everything we need as photographers and is a huge saving over the full version of Photoshop. You can check it out HERE – so grab yourself a real bargain.

Fotoviva Art Prints – The First Five Years

This month Fotoviva Art Prints are celebrating 5 years in business as one of the UK’s leading online wall art retailers. Seeing as I offer a selection of my photographic work on their website I thought it was a great opportunity to sit down with the owner, Jason Wickens, and see how business has been going…

5 years as an online business is quite impressive, how have you found it?

Hi Doug, yes we are very happy at how things have worked out, considering interior wall art is such a competitive market, especially the canvas print side of things. Despite the current economic downturn we continue to see a steady flow of orders and we’re expecting a solid growth over the next few years as we add new features to the gallery and more images.

How has Fotoviva evolved over the years?

The online gallery has been improved many times, and right now we are working on a funky new design which will give the site a classier look with a modern feel. When you are selling online you have to keep up to date with new technologies and styles to ensure you look the best and can offer a good online service. We constantly tweak elements here and there to improve the customer experience. Of course the image collection is always growing too, with over 600 art prints now available – from an initial 20 images on launch! That’s thanks to our great team of photographers who provide us with such inspirational imagery.

What style of images sell the most?

As you can see, the artwork we offer leans towards the creative side of photography. These kind of images are what home owners want on their walls. We hand pick the pictures from our team of photographers to ensure the right ones are offered to our customers. There are many technically brilliant photographs but that doesn’t mean they will sell. We believe people look for wall art that has an artistic touch that touches their emotions. This is especially true with landscape and seascape prints. It’s a way to bring nature into your home.

What is the most popular type of wall art?
Interesting question! When we launched Fotoviva we only sold poster art and canvas prints, but now we also offer the images as acrylic prints. Customers tend to choose the print finish based on their own interior designs – acrylic art is more suited to homes with a modern decor, whereas canvases work anywhere. I think canvas art is probably still the biggest seller but acrylic prints are becoming quite popular and I think one day it may overtake canvas prints.

I see you also offer a print service now – how is that going?
It’s going very well. The acrylic photo blocks are big movers right now – very popular with wedding and portrait photographers as well as the general public. They are freestanding blocks and look very modern and glossy. Customers can upload their photos and choose their print style on the site. We see a lot of wedding pictures and family shots, such as newborn babies and holiday photos. We also offer a photo on canvas and photo to acrylic service in the same vein. We’re pleased with how it is turning out. There are quite a few companies doing this on the internet but I think many customers use us because of our association with high quality photography and prints – it helps to reassure them they will be getting a very good quality print for their money.

Do you get much time to take photographs yourself?
Not as much as I would like! Fotoviva keeps me busy, as does family life, especially with a toddler! There is a selection of my photography on Fotoviva but I tend to spend any spare time improving the site or adding images from the contributors. I have a Nikon D7000 and try to get out in the countryside whenever I can. Next year I’m planning to book a couple of days off and finally go on one of your workshop days. I really like your style of photography and I’m looking forward to learning a great deal.

What are your plans for the next 5 years?
Looking ahead we will continue to add new pictures to our image collections to increase the selection available. Currently we are not adding any new photographic contributors but we hope to change that in the future so we can expand the style of art prints. Our marketing will also continue online to reach out to new customers whilst retaining the current ones. As for the site itself, we have some ideas for improving this and we’ll add things here and there, including the new visual update we will be launching shortly.

Speaking for myself as a photographer who supplies Fotoviva with images, I recommend their canvas and acrylic printing service which I use myself. The quality is very good,and the prices are competitive. All products come well packaged and Jason & Carly are very easy to deal with. Obviously it is a great place to buy my images too!