366 X 2012

There are quite a few daily photography challenges going on around the interwebs. I know that there are quite a few writing ones too, but I have never seen a hybrid. This year I want to force myself to publish a photo or a proper blog post/ article at least once a day. Sometimes I might even do both.

Practice, they say, makes perfect – and I need lots of it for my writing and photography if I am ever to be considered decent in any of the fields.

I find it easier to write than take (good) photos, so I am going to have a hard time convincing myself to keep a healthy ratio going. To balance this out I also aim to be stricter on my written contributions than I am on my photography ones.

I earn my keep writing, and have done so for years – so I will need to push myself to improve my grammar and style, but the real challenge is to inject a viral aspect. The target is to write content that is worth sharing and commenting on.

Initially I thought of setting myself a minimum word count, but even though I have a target in mind (around 400w,) I will not commit to it for one simple reason – I want to experiment with more condensed writing too.

Just because I have done so forever, I shall write about anything that comes to mind. There are a few topics that are closer to heart than others, however I have a wide range of interests and like writing about any of them at any given time. I might write tutorials, interviews, opinion pieces and reviews. I have a particular affinity for travel writing, so that will feature quite heavily too.

Photography is a passion that I have had for years. I have had quite a few photos published in print, but that was mainly in publications I was involved in – which, to a certain extent, means I was cheating. I want to take photos that are impressive enough to stand out in their own right – and for them to stand out on Google+ they will need to be truly spectacular. If I manage to get just one amazing truly spectacular photo out of this challenge I will be satisfied.

I can sometimes go through very busy periods, so I am building in a loophole – I don’t need to create something new every day, but instead I will commit to creating something for every day, and every one of them must have been created in the year 2012. I will do my best to publish something every day though, and even when I’m abroad (and with no internet access) I plan on scheduling my blog to publish something daily. Publishing to my blog on schedule does have one drawback – I can’t link the posts to Google+, but it’ll have to do.

I have quite a few other targets for 2012, so let’s hope I can keep up with everything. I know I will give it my best shot.

This post officially counts as the #1 of 366

Photo of myself with the ever-so-lovely wife as we moved into 2012.
Photo of myself with the ever-so-lovely wife as we moved into 2012.

First foray into street photography

I have tried my hand at various types of photography, however before I started following some brilliant street photographers on Google+ I never tried it myself.

On a recent trip to Ireland I decided to try it out. I was travelling light and only had my Canon G12 with me. Even though It is a relatively compact camera I have been pretty impressed with the results it offers.

What I have not been impressed with, however, is my street photography. I know it is my first attempt and it is cruel to compare myself to people who have been doing it for years, however at this stage I really feel that my photos lack the necessary punch. I also felt I was getting stuck in a rut, using people’s motion to create interest in photos that would otherwise be quite mediocre.

Anyway, here is a selection of photos I took – B&W helps quite a bit, but I’m still not too sure. I need to go out into the streets with my DSLR to really reach a verdict though.

See the full set here.

Random Musings – Vol 2 (HDR Photography)

HDR Clouds
A classic example of total HDR overkill.

I remember seeing my first HDR photo – it was a cityscape which just jumped out at you from the screen. At the time HDR was still a relatively new phenomenon and definitely not as overused as it is today. I had no idea what the difference was, I could not fathom how the photograher managed to fit in all that range of colours into one photo.

I had already dabbled a bit with multiple exposures within the same photo, but it had been purely out of need to have an interior shot with the view from the windows well-exposed. The only time I had ever overlaid multiple pictures, however, was when I was still shooting in slides and used to try it out for fun – coming to think of it I should try the technique out again in PS one day.

The concept of extending a photo’s dynamic range is, quite frankly, stunning. The result, when done well, is usually far superior to the normal equivalent.

As with everything else, though, there is a caveat. HDR is often overused or used in the wrong situations. To a certain extent one can compare it to makeup. If a pretty woman knows how to apply makeup to herself she can make her look even more impressive – but the real skill lies in applying it well and in being as subtle as possible with it. If she applies too much of it she will end up attracting far more attention to the makeup itself than to her face and its beauty.

HDR photography is similar. Some of the nicest HDR photos I’ve ever seen needed a second look to realise that they were HDR. When you look at a photo and can immediately see that it has been overedited I feel that some of the beauty is lost. It might be more impressive at first sight, however I often realise that the colours that HDR afford the picture are overriding my senses and I can’t really see past them.

HDR used well
Beautiful use of HDR - adds to the photo's dynamic range without making it look fake. (C) Christopher Bruno/ Flickr


My first cover shot – for Vida (Sept 2011 issue)

The cover shot

The story behind the shoot…
Sometimes you think that Murphy’s Law is indeed true, however when I see the result of this shoot I think that despite all the trials and tribulations, if there is a will there is a way.

This shoot started off badly – the owner of the bird park had forgotten about us. Thankfully his wife was at hand and was incredibly helpful. We were racing against time because we wanted to shoot around sunset, but that did not stop Sarah (the stylist) wanting to include six outfits.

Half way through the shoot my flash started working intermittently – triggering once every four or five shots.

And even though I am all up for new experiences, I usually do not like them happening when I’m racing against time. I never knew a lens could die on you, but mine (an 18-55mm kit lens) did. An hour into the shoot it just stopped focusing, thank the high heavens I had my trusty 85mm on me, however most of the areas we had earmarked required shorter focal lengths – back to the drawing board to choose new bits of the park.

All this while we’re trying to rush to get in all the outfits in the right kind of light. I pumped up the ISO, ditched the flash and here are the results.

(A couple of shots included in this set were taken with flash, those were the one offs where everything coincided perfectly – lens was still working, flash triggered, pose was fine :) )

P.S. These shots are completely unedited, so they might vary slightly from the ones seen on Vida.


Sadly this picture wasn't published

Stepping into the unknown

One of the things we tend to underestimate most in life is the importance of the people we have around us. There might be the obvious people who you find overtly rude and irritating, but it is far more dangerous when you are in the company of people who try to see the bad side of things, even if they themselves are generally nice people to be around.

I don’t know how to explain it – someone might be good fun and seem to be a generally happy person, however in the long run you realise that everything they touch must be approached from a negative aspect.

I had better move on quickly since I don’t want to be one of those people myself. Recently I have made some changes in my life which for a very long time seemed to be quite scary. I was not scared of the new challenge, however it meant moving out of my comfort zone by venturing into relatively uncharted territory.

My only regret now? Not having taken the leap of faith earlier.

The result is that I am spending much more time in a friendly atmosphere, learning new things and improving in various aspects of my life.

In reality it is similar to life on Google Plus. Even though it might seem stupid, the difference it has made to my life in its short history has been spectacular, and for this I would like to thank +Vic Gundotra, +Vincent Mo +Sergey Brin & the rest of the team for making it possible. It would also not be fair not to also show appreciation for +Trey Ratcliff +Mike Elgan +Guy Kawasaki +Tom Anderson+Angel Leon & +Jody Swaney (amongst many others) for making my stream so engaging.

Unfortunately a public forum is not really the ideal place to get into specifics about the other change, at least not yet, however I must thank one of my friends who told me something which resonated in my mind when taking the decision:

“The biggest risk in life is not taking any risks”

Even though it might sound like an idiosyncrasy, I believe that it is actually very true. I am still too conservative a person to take real big leaps into the complete unknown, however I really believe that if we take the plunge and push ourselves (even just slightly) beyond our comfort zone, we are usually rewarded.

Random musings – Vol 1 (alcohol/ photos)

Random image from Flickr, by michaeln3
Random image from Flickr, ©michaeln3

Thinking about “City of God” – the oh-so-amazing Brazilian crime film released about a decade ago – set me thinking about the power of photos but more importantly about people’s base reactions when placed in front of a camera.

Have you ever been in a night club where someone was going around taking photos of the crowd? With the exception of some shady individual who is probably there without the knowledge of their better half, the minute someone sees a camera they start grouping up friends to pose for a photo. Everyone joins willingly. In certain cases they might even stop the photographer to make them take photos of the group, even if they don’t know them and have no idea of how they will get the photos from them.

Try this out in a place where everyone is sober and the scenario changes completely. Most people freak out when you point a camera at them without context (some freak out even if you know them and ask politely!).

I’m not really sure where this is going, however could it be that deep down everyone wants to be seen, however without alcohol (or peer pressure) to lubricate the situation most people feel too shy to be seen in a photo. Is it simply a question of self confidence (along the lines of approaching someone from the opposite sex more easily if facilitated by alcohol)?