Posted on: 29 Jul 2013
Written by: Ngaire Ackerley
After being blown away by the amazing speakers at Travel Photography Live in 2012, I decided to head down to Royal Geographical Society for a second year of hearing some very talented and impressive professional photographers speak.
I know how hard it is to get up on stage and speak to a room full of strangers so I give it to all of the speakers, they did an incredible job and I enjoyed every talk. Likewise, the friendly organisers held a smooth-running conference throughout.
After wandering around the Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition on Saturday morning, it was all go with Gavin Gough up first, speaking about 8 key things for people starting out as a travel photographers. He began by showing his human side, displaying one of his first travel photographs. It was nice to see that we all have to start somewhere and how working hard at your passion can really help develop your skills into producing amazing photographs.
One of the big things Gavin pushed was ‘do a lot of work’ and ‘give yourself a brief.’ These were two things that really hit home to me and reminded me of days I used to go out with my camera and aim to shoot a weekly topic. Somehow I’ve gotten caught up in life and the camera only comes out when I’m inspired or travelling. However, listening to Gavin reminded me I need to practice my skill so that when I am truly inspired the photographs count.
I liked the idea of giving yourself time, drinking tea first with someone you’re going to photograph, get to know them and their story. Easier said than done when you’re as nervous as I am amongst strangers, but I’m learning – you’ve got to put yourself out there to progress, it will become easier the more you do it (or at least that is what I tell myself every time I do a presentation). One special thing I liked was when Gavin showed his little Polaroid camera that allows him to share photographs with his subjects, absolutely brilliant and inexpensive too. That will be top of my list before I head back to Africa. I’d love to share photographs with all the smiling children that I met last time I was in East Africa, they loved being around cameras and giving them something back in return for all the joy they gave me would be awesome.
Gavin also went on to suggest photographing with a child-like enthusiasm, get down low, climb things, don’t worry, just enjoy the experience. I think this is one thing that we so often forget as we grow up and our photographs get boring, it’s something I try to remind myself, but instead I just need to get it ingrained into my photographic technique by doing it more often.
Finally Gavin discussed finding an editor – get someone impartial to go through your photographs and tell you want is good and what isn’t. I’m still on the hunt for this ‘impartial’ someone and even considering starting a group where we can critique each others photographs in different pairs each month. If you’re in London and interested in this idea – flick me an email: [email protected].
Following on from Gavin was another of my favourites from last year, wildlife photographer, Chris Weston. He reiterated some of Gavin’s points such as a quote from one of my long-time favourite photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s when he said:
‘Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst’
Chris spoke about photography being an art of communication and how much you really need to learn about your subject and get the story behind them to be able to portray a narrative in the photograph. I couldn’t agree more and again, I probably don’t do it often enough. He also talked about simplifying a scene, making it unambiguous and emphasising the subject. I found this interesting because often people try to convey too much in an image, to try get the whole story in it. While we could really think more about the subject and how they can tell the story themselves without everything else in the image.
Something that really hit home, being a designer, was when Chris said the five main elements of design make up photographs. Line, shape, colour, pattern, texture (granted there are more than this, but its a good basis). This lead me back to my days of doing photography classes where you focussed on each of these topics. It’s amazing how we lose sight of the simple things as years go on. Much of my abstract work focuses on line and shape, but using some of these elements in any photograph can make it so much stronger as you could see from Chris’s work.
It was interesting to hear about the photographic kit that all the presenters use, from massive cameras, to smaller ones, long lens to short prime ones. I think this showed that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to camera and lenses, it’s about finding which works best for you, your style and your subject matter.
These were not the only brilliant presentations of the day, other presentations were also very impressive and showed some incredible work from the likes of returning photographer Nick Danziger, landscape photographer Colin Prior and entertaining portrait photographer Jim Marks.
Sunday didn’t disappoint either. I was pleased I decided to attend both days this year and really made the most of it.
First up again was Gavin Gough, giving insight into his photographic workflow and some excellent tips on Adobe Lightroom 5. I’m sure he probably made Adobe several sales in that room – it’s definitely on my ‘to-buy’ list along with his book ‘The Photographers Workflow’. One thing that everyone would have definitely taken away from his talk was to SHOOT RAW. I’m pleased that is one thing I definitely do right!
Martin Hartley showed his impressive adventure and expedition photography and how much you have to overcome to capture those amazing shots. Simple things such as getting dressed in Arctic or Antarctic conditions can be incredibly difficult. Some great tips about shooting in cold temperatures were to keep a couple of batteries on you to keep them warm so they don’t loose their charge and be careful of humidity and where you put your camera equipment. Using silica gel when you’re storing your camera and lens in humidity can also help – something I’ll definitely keep in mind for future trips in warm climates. He also mentioned simple things that we often forget in harsh conditions, such as holding your breath when you take a shot can help save the camera from fogging up too.
As the final day progressed, Eamonn McCabe talked about some of his work and demonstrated how he often uses shapes to compose photographs. There were a few informal question and answer talks about being a travel photographer where you were able to ask those nail biting questions to the likes of professional such as Gavin Gough, Chris Coe, Martin Hartley and Debbie Ireland. Likewise, Colin Finlay and Eamonn McCabe had some interesting points in their discussion about images for publication. I even managed to nip into the end of Steve Bloom’s talk and see some of his incredible wildlife images before the day was up.
All in all, the weekend was great. Ending on a slideshow of some of the most incredible photographs I’ll see this year from Travel Photographer of the Year, it was a truly inspiring weekend. I look forward to what the TPOTY team will pull together for next year!
One final thing I’d like to share with any of my blog readers is a brilliant charity that Gavin Gough has set up called SeedLight. Seedlight is a project that aims to provide creative opportunities to children in disadvantaged communities through photography. Hearing about this project was truly inspiring and I hope it brings the children as much happiness as photography and travel has brought me. I encourage anyone to check out http://www.seedlight.org/ to find out more.« Back to Blog