Alec Soth: Photographic Story Telling

Magnum Learn have now produced two educational programmes to inspire photographers. The first course was ‘The Art of Street Photography’, which I can’t comment on as I have not seen it! However, I am halfway through ‘Photographic Story Telling’, so this should not be thought of as a complete review, rather my first impressions. All the images posted are mine and are ones I have taken since enrolling on the course.


Alec Soth

It is hard to describe Soth’s work. He flirts with Street, Documentary, Fine Art, Still Life and Portraiture. You get the feeling he does not care too much about how he is defined, rather his focus on is making great photographs. To further muddy the waters, he does not stick to one camera. Throughout the series Alec uses large format cameras, polaroids and digital cameras. Don’t expect much in the way of guidance on how these cameras work; it is not that kind of course.

Candid Headshot

Photographic Story Telling

The course itself is split into 19 recorded video lessons. The video sessions are accompanied by an 11 chapter ebook. The accompanying workbook has links to online resources, hidden gems within the Magnum site and photography books. To access the series you need to log on and watch online. There are numerous Youtube channels featuring Soth, so if you want a teaser of what this course offers, have a search online and listen to him talk.

What is this not…

This is not a series on technique, you will not learn about fstop and camera settings. You will not be informed of the best cameras to use, or guided through photoshop tutorials. Soth will not try and persuade you that his way is the right way, or that other photographers are wrong. You will not be lectured on ethics, or the purity of a particular genre. You will not hear how successful he has been and why his images of so fantastic (they are). So what is it?


Soth inspires. You get a feeling this is a programme he has put his heart into. In addition, it is made by Magnum so you know you are getting a quality production. As a viewer we get an incite to what make him tic and the journey he has been on. There are case studies where we look at Soth on location see how he works. Again, I find it hard to define any certain style or any strict rules that he follows, but he is reflective and that leads us to some understanding of how his work has progressed. Soth shares his inspirations and beginnings, and does so in a very humble manner.


Improving My Photography

I purchased this course in the hope of improving my photography. How is it going to do that? I am progressing through a section of this course that looks at putting together photo books, and at how different photos can be put together. What we see here is how Soth refines and edits his selection. I am not talking about editing in PS of LR, rather the process of building narrative through imagery, and he does this very well! Note – I would love to see him editing in LR and PS.

Who is it for?

This is invaluable material for those wanting to engage further with photo projects. While it will inspire photographer’s seeking the ‘decisive Bresson moment’, Soth really is not that kind of guy. On a personal note, my last Street Photography session was much more relaxed, and I found myself taking much more time ‘making’ each image and not quickly ‘taking’ each frame.

I am certain that the upcoming in-depth look at photo books is going to help when compiling and choosing future projects. In addition, most photographers can easily pass the day listening to the masters of photography. The style of photography is either for everyone or no one.


There are tasks set for the viewer. So far I have completed one activity – to take a portrait and upload it to Instagram (with the correct hashtags of course!). So far there really are not many uploads from the course, but perhaps I am ahead of the game. I feel Magnum could look at developing an online community where purchasers of the course can discuss ideas and share photos.

Final Positives

Inspiration from a world class photographer. Yes, there are lots of inspiring youtube clips and books that you can read. However, this is a course from the World’s leading photographic agency and it is really quite special. I am sure any photographer would love to find it in their Xmas stocking!

That is all for today folks. Keep clicking, Chris

India’s Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is India’s most popular tourist route. Not surprisingly, the journey encapsulates three major sites. The route generally starts at Delhi, a street photographers dream and a city steeped in history, myth and architectural beauty. From Delhi you head to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal and numerous lesser-known heritage sites. The final destination is Jaipur, also known as the Pink City.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Despite living in India for the last two and a half years, this was the first time I explored the Golden Triangle. The route has been photographed by millions, and on a short 5 day trip I was going to struggle in terms of getting the images I sought. The Taj itself must be one of the most photographed buildings in the world and I was fortunate that only a small part of it was in scaffold!

The Baby Taj

The Itimad-ud Daulah, is more conveniently referred to as the Baby Taj. I arrived here close to mid-day, so shooting conditions were poor. However, the site is much less crowded than the Taj itself.

‘Baby Taj’


Jaipur is a place I wish to return to for more photography, and to stop by as a gateway to Rajasthan; an area I would dearly like to further explore. If you enjoy wandering around ancient Forts, then this is the place for you. However, what really captured my imagination were the massive astronomical instruments of Jantar Mantar. As you can see below, the potential for some interesting architectural photography is huge.


I did not take many pictures in Delhi, and some of the more interesting places to see did not allow any photography (such as the past residence of Indira Gandhi). However, phots taken earlier this year can be seen here.

Morning Wash, Delhi

Planning a Trip?

If you are planning a trip it is well worth doing your research first. For instance, tripods are often not allowed in many of the venues. Secondly, it is worth finding the best time of day for capturing the light in each location, with mornings and evenings obviously being best. As yet I feel I have only just scraped the surface of the potential each location has for photography and I plan to return at some point.

That’s all for today folks, keep clicking, Chris x

Old Delhi

I have recently returned from a brief photography trip to Delhi. This is a magical area for Street Photography. Markets and lanes are filled with colour and life. Early mornings helped produce the best images. As the sun rises the light is soft, and the streets are still quiet.

Chandni Chowk

Chandni Chowk is the area to go for the best Street Photography. It is loud, dirty, smelly and full of life. There are numerous rickshaw drivers who are happy to show you around, and drop you at various shops in the hope of a little commission. Refreshing ‘chai’ is readily available for 10 rupees a cup!

Other Areas of Delhi

If you do go to Delhi there are a few other areas worth checking out.

  • Garstin Bastion Road – A large red light area. Don’t try to take photos of the women who work there. During the day the area is full of tradespeople and quite safe. I would not go there are night. Even in the morning I felt unsafe.
  • Connaught Place – some people rave about this area. I did not find it great for photography, but there are some good restaurants to visit if you are hungry. I also headed here when I needed a coffee.
  • India Gate – this place is too much of a tourist trap for me. However, at night the area comes alive with Street Food hawkers, which may interest some.
Chicken Dealer

The Golden Triangle

Delhi is often the launching area for trips around the Golden Triangle. This was my next adventure. The golden triangle encompasses Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. My next blog will (probably) look at how I managed to capture the truly stunning Taj Mahul, and how my Sony A7iii escaped the confines of its shoulder strap and met with a near death experience.

For those of you that are interested in such things, most of my images were captured using the Sony 50mm 1.8 lens, which is the best piece of glass I own for low-light shooting. This lens is light, compactThat all today folks, take care and keep clicking.

The full set of images can be viewed HERE!


KR Market Re Visited

KR Market in Bangalore remains one of my favourite local photography locations. At first glance, the market appears an area of complete chaos. However, scratch under the surface and there is a structure that supports multiple industries, individuals and businesses. Many of my photographs are headshots, but recently I have been working on creating images that tell a bigger picture.

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10 Tips for Better Travel Photography. Part 2

Firstly, thanks to Brenda for pointing out that for most of these tips, you do not really have to travel far. This brings me to my first discussion point…

Long Distance Travel not required!

Bangalore City Market – 30 Minutes travelling time from home
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Street Photography Mysore

I realise that I am half way through an article of 10 tips for travel photography. It will get finished. One day… In the meantime I have just returned from a weekend in Mysore, a growing city in South India. While there I managed to undertake an early morning’s Street Photography in Mysore’s historic market place.

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10 Tips for Better Travel Photography

Part One

Everybody has a camera and can call themselves a photographer. Last year over a trillion photos were captured, that is a one with 12 zero’s on the end. If you can’t image just how large this number is, think of it in seconds. A trillion seconds is the same as 31 thousand years. Travel is also becoming cheaper and more people are escaping to exotic destinations than ever before. If everyone is a travel photographer, then what can you do to differentiate yourself, and give your images a professional touch?

Signs help tell a story

Tell a Story of Place

Often more that one photo is required to tell a story of place. Look out for roadsigns and displays as well as people involved in day-to-day activities. If you have a travel zoom make sure you take a wide shot that includes the landscape, then zoom in to capture significant details. If you shoot with primes, don’t be afraid to change lenses, or use your feet to get the wider view!

Tell a Story of People

It is hard to think how a photographer could succeed in travel or street photography without some skill in capturing people. If time allows aim to get more than just a head shot. Hands, feet, wrinkles, muscles and lines all tell a story. 

Holy Bull Walker/ Bangalore

The Environmental Portrait

I was taught the environmental portrait by my friend Glenn Guy, who runs the wonderful website I kicked and fought against this style of imagery, preferring the candid image. However, the style has slowly won me over. The environmental portrait is a collaborative image between the photographer and the subject. Permission must be sought from the subject for this photo. The image should capture the person in his or her environment (duh!), which could be work, home or play. As the photographer has gained permission, they can take a little more time over composition and light.

Composition and Light

Is there any genre of photography that cannot benefit from a stronger understanding of composition and light? Most successful photos will adhere to one guideline or another, even when you are trying to break the rules! When traveling take into account the time of day and the direction of the sun. Mornings and evenings are obviously the prime times for photography. However, the harsh shadows of mid-day can also create effective photos.

Fishermen/ Vietnam

Capture the Vernacular 

When traveling it is easy to focus on the major tourist attractions. Yet is is often the smaller, domestic buildings that tell a story with greater clarity. The vernacular deals with the functional, domestic architecture. These buildings will reflect the environment and cultures of a surrounding area. Weather will play an important role in the construction of these buildings, as well as the materials they are made from. In many countries religion will play an important part in the design of a house, look for symbols to ward off spirits, or shrines used for worship. 

Cao Dai Symbolism (Vietnam)

Well that is all today folks. It WILL be a 10 part tip sheet when I have written part 2. What can a say, life happens.

Take care and keep clicking, Chris

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