Author: Uncle Dick

A friend of mine has commenced making a series of dance videos that go out over the internet on the Instagram site. They are little video clips taken in her own studio. I hasten to add it's a dance studio, not a photographic one. They are colourful and musical and have a keen following - but they are lit with an LED system that is normally associated with video conferencing. This is apparently a ring-light tube that encircles a camera or mobile phone. It's bright enough and the auto white balance of the recording device seems to be able to cope pretty well with the colours and the contrasts. But the problem is that there is no life to the light...

When you not, you not. And thank you to Jerry Reed for giving us one of the best explanations for photography there is. We've all experienced the streak of good fortune or creativity - of inspiration, facility, or felicity that leads to rapid success. We've picked up a camera at a wonderful location to see a wonderful scene and pressed the wonderful button as fast as we could. With any luck, the results have not corrupted in the memory card. Equally, we have all called forth the wellspring of inspiration, only to find the water table has lowered so much that it can't be found. The wisest of us have realised that the time for photography was not then, and gone home. I've spent entire weekends not being the wisest of us...

Now that you are up, had breakfast, and hopefully put your clothes on, we can continue. We need to learn to see as well as our cameras do. I use the term " well " rather than " good " because photography has nothing at all to do with goodness. Too many pictures of shocking events  - too many shocking pictures - flood our world to confuse the art with morality. Photography is neutral, and it is up to ourselves to be good as we practise it. Okay, we're looking, but what are we seeing? The visible spectrum of light, bouncing off the world. Some of us get to see the whole thing, some get just a selected part. Some of us see it through lenses made of crystal and some of us get the linoleum optics. We cannot actually see what others see, but we can be shown hints and use our imaginations to connect their images to our experience. Our cameras do better. They can see smaller, bigger, darker, lighter, and quicker things than we can. This started long ago -...

Or How I Learned To Hate The Plugin. I use a number of plugin programs on my computer that ride on the back of Lightroom, Photoshop, and Photoshop Elements. Most of the time they are tame strings of electricity that do useful things; make images look like paintings or old-fashioned photographs or intensify colours. One set sharpens everything without making ragged halos. In some cases the effects are naff but you only have to see them once and then just don't press that button again. Most of them are signals imported via discs or internet connection - visible enough on the screen but ephemeral in real terms. You buy what they do instead of buying what they are. However, one piece of gear is all too real - the Loupedeck+ editing console. It's been making life easier on Lightroom and Photoshop for two years now. I can breeze through a dance show or an exhibition shoot with my eyes on the screen and my hands on the buttons and knobs - or at least I could Saturday. By Sunday it had all...

We all remember the 1950's* when labour-saving devices were the newest rage in advertising. Whether it was an electric cake mixer or a twin-tub washer, nearly every advertisement that wasn't dinging the patriotism bell was shouting out about saving labour. It suggested that we had been slaves chained to the stove or washtub in the past and that we were going to have a glorious future of doing nothing at all. I'm retired, with nothing to do, and I have never been so busy in my life. You may be in the same position, and we'll both be looking desperately at our camera gear to save us. The working photographers are in a worse position - they are saving labour so hard that many of them collapse under the strain. Once you could pull out the Brownie, turn a knob until a number came up in the red window, point the camera at your subject and press the button. The chemist and Kodak did the rest. If you did not get a good picture you could blame the subject - in the...

One of Fremantle's most famous bike-riding photographers frequently says that if Photoshop is the answer, you've asked the wrong question. He's in a good position to say this as he has passed a working lifetime making excellent pictures with film as well as digital cameras and has the ability to teach others to do the same. I am not sure if he gets it right every time, but I'll bet he gets it right nearly all the time. That's experience and skill. Some of the rest of us have a poorer batting average. I can look back on decades of negatives, slides, and prints and see where I went wrong, and that on a steady, regular basis. I'm not saying I was dumb, but I learned early on that you could make most mistakes in new ways if you tried...

Because if you are, keep your fingers out of the way. For myself, my cutting edge is best expressed by the heading image. I am allowed to use one at the dinner table as long as I have corks on the sharp points of the fork. My photography is a lot like this, too. You may be better...