Monday, 24 January 2011

I like picture books

One of my University lecturers once said that he hated 'picture books.' You know the sort of thing - coffee-table photography books which have little to no editorial in them, instead relying on the photographs themselves to get the message across.

His reasoning was something along the lines of how he disapproved of the way pretentious photographers were exploiting their work (and its captive audience), simply to make a quick buck and if they were that set on being 'photographic artists,' they should probably just think about getting their work up on the walls of a gallery. Ooph.

I can see his point. I don't necessarily agree, but I can see his point.

Personally, I love seeing my work come together in any way, shape or form - whether that's on a client's website, in a national magazine, in a self-published book, whatever. It's often been said that pictures are no good just sitting on a hard drive - they should be enjoyed by others, employed to increase awareness of a situation, or to generate revenue if used in a commercial context.

By now, you will be aware of my Fountain Jam book project. I'll be editing, laying out and generally putting this together next month, but already I'm thinking about getting this year's book project under way. No details to share with you yet - you'll just have to watch this space!

Anyway, the point is, it's really important for us photographers to create bodies of work other than those which are commissioned by our clients. If we don't, all we have to show for ourselves is a bunch of pictures depicting interpretations of other people's ideas.

I like 'picture books.' Regardless of whether they are produced by contemporary photographers or creators from other disciplines. If I admire their work, chances are I'll take a look at any new collection they unleash on the viewing public.

One such example is Chase Jarvis, who I have mentioned in previous posts and on The Active Photographer podcast. Not so long ago, Chase brought out a new book called Seattle 100: Portrait of a City, which is a fine example of what a self-driven book should look like.

Whether you like his work, or you simply want a great photography book to inspire some fresh thinking (especially if portraits are your thing), I'd highly recommend you take a look.

My copy is sat on the bookshelf, waiting to be brought into action just as soon as I have a spare moment - but from what I've seen of it already, the ol' brain will be buzzing with ideas once I properly indulge myself in the pages' rich, contrasty, black and white images.

The Active Photographer - Episode #6

... Portraits And Picture Books.

This week's show is a fair bit shorter than usual, as time is against me.

I'm on location in London, talking about the technical and aesthetic considerations involved with corporate portraiture.

Also... Do you like picture books? Why are they important for photographers, and whose would I recommend?

Episode #6 - Portraits And Picture Books:

To check out more, head on over to, where you can listen to this week's show and see its corresponding show notes, get in touch with me directly and subscribe via iTunes or RSS. All previous episodes are also there, too.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Active Photographer - Episode #5

... Food for thought at ExCel.

This week, I’m in London again - but not to undertake any assignments. Instead, whilst visiting the Outdoors Show at ExCel, I stop by a couple of stands for a chat about their products and how they might fit nicely into my activities.

I also collect some new business cards en route, just in the nick of time. The process reminds me why they are so important for promoting oneself… and why I am so grateful my supplier came up trumps once again.

What do you do when you haven’t got time to stop and eat whilst on location? Simple – you munch on a nutritious energy bar. Hear what Matt Willis of Mule Bar has to say about how to feed a busy photographer!

Last week’s show went behind the scenes as I filmed a video review of an Aquapac rucksack; in this episode, I also catch up with their product development director, to see what other goodies are on offer for photographers.

Episode #5 - Food For Thought At ExCel:

To check out more, head on over to, where you can listen to this week's show and see its corresponding show notes, get in touch with me directly and subscribe via iTunes or RSS. All previous episodes are also there, too.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Looking ahead to 2011

So, it's that time again - where I put down a few thoughts about what lies ahead in the next twelve months and, more importantly, what I would like to achieve. But before I do, I want to recap on what I said around this time last year...

A quick glance at my 2010 to-do list is rather pleasing; with the exception of one or two points, I made real progress on all of my intentions - and those which you might describe as 'could try harder' are, relatively speaking, quite low on the list of priorities.

Last year, I talked about how the economy was presenting a real challenge for a lot of people, and how many turned to social media for reaching out to potential business contacts. Google Wave was the big thing, but the internet is a fickle mistress... and we all know what happened there!

It's true to say, though, that my online activities have come on leaps and bounds this year. The most rewarding and promising of developments have undoubtedly been the creation of my Facebook page - for which I won an award - and the launch of my podcast, which has its home at I must be doing something right, as both channels are creating contacts and opportunities which I'm sure I would never have encountered otherwise, and the feedback has been fantastic.

As for taking time out for myself, photographically-speaking... Well, I am glad to say last year's project - Fountain Jam - has been really well received, and I can't wait to finally put together the layout together over the next couple of months and see the book printed!

So then, what's on the list for the next twelve months?


  • Write a blog post at least once per week.
  • Interact more with others' blogs, via comments and forums.
  • Create more behind-the-scenes videos.
  • Extend my podcasting activities/further develop
  • Continue my self-driven yearly projects, including another book for 2011.
  • Conduct more product tests/reviews.
  • Extend my use of wireless speedlights - regular lighting tests for own benefit.
  • Work more with the outdoor market - if this is you, let me know!
  • Build on the GBP:Workshop tutorials which were set in motion last year..
  • And yes, keep on top of that Wired magazine subscription!

Once again, this little lot should keep me going for a while...

What about you? What are your aims and ambitions for 2011? Whatever you've got in mind, have a great one!

Monday, 10 January 2011

The Active Photographer - Episode #4

... Bags And Bagpipes.

This week, one last bit of catching-up... A couple of recordings in which I make the most of the weather and finish off the last of my 2010 shoots.

Before the snow disappeared, back in November, I headed out into my local woodland to film a product review video, in the usual behind-the-scenes fashion. It all worked out well eventually - despite nature's attempts to thwart my plans!

My final recording of last year saw me returning home after photographing a large family dinner party and a man with bagpipes on New Year's Eve. In spite of still having a cough, I just about managed to get my words out.

Episode #4 - Bags And Bagpipes:

To check out more, head on over to, where you can listen to this week's show and see its corresponding show notes, get in touch with me directly and subscribe via iTunes or RSS. All previous episodes are also there, too.

Product Review: Aquapac Wet & Dry Backpack

You may remember my last review video, which looked at the Aquapac PDA case. On that occasion, I headed out the woodland in the pouring rain, to see just how well this protective case stood up to the elements when shielding my audio recorder.

Well, throughout last year - from around summer onwards - I also put another Aquapac item of kit through its paces. This time, it was the turn of the excellent Wet & Dry backpack - a technical, yet simple and versatile 25 litre bag.

Once again, I've put together something of a real-world review video for you - this time, filmed when we were lucky enough to have snow just before Christmas.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comment section below this post.

Key features worth noting:

  • 25-litre capacity
  • 100% waterproof and buoyant
  • Quick-access key pocket
  • 3-roll top closure with quick-release clips and toggles for extra security
  • Removable back support
  • Separate wet and dry sections
  • Mesh bottle pockets
  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • Removable waist strap
  • Breathable shoulder straps
  • Lightweight - 640g/22.5oz

Monday, 3 January 2011

The Active Photographer - Episode #3

... Family And Festivities.

Following a no-go for last week's show, I'm playing catch-up, bringing you a couple of audio ponderances, recorded whilst out and about in the run-up to Christmas.

It's Christmas Eve, and I've just completed a traditional family gathering shoot - there's real snow, fake snow, carol singing and more. What a great way to round off the pre-Christmas work schedule!

Whilst on the road, I also take the opportunity to record a few thoughts about the importance of printing out your picture for future generations. What happens if you don't? Will part of your family's history be lost forever?

Episode #3 - Family And Festivities:

To check out more, head on over to, where you can listen to this week's show and see its corresponding show notes, get in touch with me directly and subscribe via iTunes or RSS. All previous episodes are also there, too.