This is a longer post that usual and contains many images. It is a post I am writing as part of a photography challenge, reflecting on a lot of work undertaken this year. If you are going to read it, it may be worth making a pot of tea first.
Seven months ago I joined Glenn Guy’s Travel Photography Cohort. This is the third cohort, or ‘sphere’ of learning that I have undertaken with the Arcanum. Glenn is an artist with over 35 years of experience in the photography industry, and owner of travelphotographyguru.com. His website is packed with useful tips, reviews and fantastic photos. I joined Glenn’s cohort as there are strong parallels between Street and Travel photography. However, I was soon to learn that there also differences between the two genres. Glenn is a big fan of ‘Lord of the Rings’ and there are a few quotes in here just for you Glenn. If you can spot them!
When I joined Glenn’s cohort, my living room window looked out onto the scene above. This is not my usual Street Photography style, but with a view like that, what is a photographer to do? As most of you know, my photography generally focuses on the alleyways and slum areas of towns. I like to explore, but not all those that wonder are lost. The photos below form part of my completed project on Hongzhen Lu. Glenn helped to expand the horizons of my projects, suggesting types of photos which may otherwise have been overlooked.
One challenge set in the cohort was to take photos using a slow shutter speed. To be honest, I don’t enjoy this style of photography, it means carrying a tripod and release cable, and it just ‘aint Street enough for me. However, having a tripod opened the possibilities for some alternative shots of the area. The photos below serve a journalistic purpose of acting as an establishing image of Hongzhen Old Street; my favourite hangout in Shanghai.
Using a slow shutter speed led to the photo above. The alley was actually fairly busy, but a slow shutter speed has the magical effect of making moving objects disappear, it’s just too dark to expose anything that does not sit still for 30 seconds. Glenn however, is a bit of a stickler and wanted to see some movement. The obvious location was to head under the massive underpasses in Shanghai. The photo below was my favourite by far, although, it was one of the least popular of the pictures I posted. Let me know what you think.
I can’t claim to have fallen in love with long exposure photography, but all’s well that ends better and I am happy to have some photos of Shanghai’s monolithic structures. Secondly, there are just occasions when you really need a tripod. While a lot of Street Photographers argue that you should ‘stick your camera’s ISO to 800+, I am always keen to keep it as low as possible and maintain the quality of the photos I take. I ended this challenge with some rather hurried shots, to be honest I just wanted to move on. Fortunately a different challenge was right up my alley. Street Art.
Moganshan Lu is an area in Shanghai where Street Artists are allowed to graffiti. I knew a visit would enable me to capture some artists in action. My initial plan was to use film, and I loaded my camera with Kodak Portra, a film I like to use due to its muted colours. After taking dozens of photos, I noticed my roll counter still showed that I was on the first frame. The joys of shooting film, 36 exposures completed over and over on the first frame. There must be others that have made this mistake. Digging deep, I reloaded and managed to photograph the above scene. Later, I found a large area of land that was recently demolished, the walls were covered in tags and street art, one such piece being my eldest Sons!
The architecture in Shanghai is astounding, and it would have been easy to have walked off the to Bund and taken shots of the Pudong skyline, a scene I have often covered. However, my Hongzhen Lu project was going to be coming to an end soon, therefore it was back up the stairs (of a half demolished building) to set up a tripod and take some Cityscapes.
Four years living in Shanghai ended, Glenn’s Travel Cohort had helped me to capture photos of an area I loved. It was time for a holiday. The next challenge was to follow a photo recipe. For this assignment I escaped to Bangkok for 3 days, staying along the notorious Sukhumvit Road, home of Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza. Although the area is well known for parties and prostitutes, there is still a spiritual element and this added a further layer of contrast to the photos I captured.
This challenge involved following instructions, not my favourite pastime. However, it’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish. Glenn can be a stickler for rules, while I will do everything I possibly can to avoid or break them. At times I felt this led to a little tension, but at the end of the day, I was there to learn and Glenn knows his stuff. This challenge gave me a glimpse into what it may be like working as a Journalistic Photographer, where you are expected to take certain photos. Enthusiast photographers certainly have a greater degree of freedom than most pro’s, and this was one take-away from the challenge. This task opened a doorway for expanding my Street Photography, and now I often go out with a shot list with more detail than previously.
Maybe I am emerging as a true travel pilgrim, as the final stages of my time with Glenn ends in India, my new home. During this stage there was a lot of time for reflection and I wrote a list of goals for myself, as well as my artist’s statement. This was one of the most powerful of the challenges Glenn set, and made me question why I take photographs. As for goals, I am already meeting some of them, with my work being available for sale through this site. India is the most colourful place I have traveled to, and as a colour photographer it is a dreamscape of possibilities. It was through a final critique, that Glenn paid me the most wonderful complement of my time in the Arcanum, claiming one of my photos was perfect, and compared it to the work of Alex Webb. Sitting down with a pro and having your photos discussed is one of the most effective ways of planning and evaluating the work you have done.
I am blessed to have had three wonderful masters, who have helped my photography through their mentorship and tutoring. Thanks Alastair Arthur, Wes Hardaker and Glenn Guy. Please google their work and be inspired!
As for the Arcanum, I cannot overstate how much it has helped me as a photographer. This is due to the excellent mentorship provided by the ‘Masters’, and it is a community where everyone helps each other. However, it is time for me to move on. For my next step, I am looking at the Royal Photographic Society (RPS). After all, all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. There are opportunities with the RPS for expanding my skills, and the RPS is cheaper than the Arcanum! As always, I will post about it here!
I learned a heck of a lot from Glenn and hope to remain friends well into the future. He has a vast wealth of knowledge, and he shares a lot of this for free on his website. Glenn likes his students to stick by the rules and will insist that you take the right shot of the right quality, and one that sticks to his definition of the rules. He is not one to shy away from stating that, ‘you shall not pass!’.While this became frustrating at times, it really did push me , and I have come out of the cohort as a far stronger photographer for it. This post really touches on a little of everything I gained from the travel photography cohort. If you are in Melbourne, Glenn is available for 1-1 sessions and I am sure he would stretch the capabilities of any photographer. Please check his website http://travelphotographyguru.com/.