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Better Photography magazine's blog is written mainly by its editor and publisher, Peter Eastway. Here you'll find a wealth of comments, ideas and, hopefully, you'll like some of the photographs as well. If a blog doesn't sit neatly into one of the other categories, then generally you'll find it here!

Click on the blog titles to read.

Is Photography In Religious Places Okay?

 

Prayer in Sioni Cathedral, Tbilisi, Georgia.
Fujifilm X-Pro2, 16mm lens, 1/45 second @ f1.4, ISO 400

 

Should we take photographs inside churches, mosques and temples? And if we do, should we take photographs of people at prayer? I'm actually a little apprehensive about the different viewpoints people will have, but hopefully I can summarise my response as follows: It's okay if it is allowed and if you show respect.

 

This is Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. I will post another photograph of the incredible paintings and artworks that decorate the walls and ceilings in another post - it is a magic place in which to take photographs. There is a sign outside saying no flash photography and I think that's a good thing because flash would indeed be intrusive on the parishioners. And of course, flash will generally kill the mood which I like to think I have captured in this image with available light.

 

On one of our visits, a member of the clergy came out and said since they were about to take holy communion, would we mind stepping outside for a while, but we would be welcome back again in half an hour. A similar approach was taken in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul when I was there a few years ago. I think this is very reasonable and I'm happy to comply.

 

Many of the more popular churches and cathedrals around the world don't allow any photography and in terms of crowd control and their priority for the parishioners, I can understand why. I think it's a pity, but as one priest explained, his church gets more complaints when they allow photography from their parishioners, than from photographers complaining they can't take photos.

 

So, if you get a chance to photograph in religious places, I suggest you be discrete. Don't interfere with other people and respect their privacy. Most of my photos do not show faces, although I'm not sure Cartier-Bresson would agree with me there. But unless I'm invited to photograph someone at prayer, there's something telling me to leave them in peace.

 

Perhaps I'm more sensitive than I thought!

Last Chance For Middlehurst

 

Photographed at Middlehurst Station, New Zealand

 

Just a quick reminder that we have two spots available for the Art Photography Workshop with Tony Hewitt and Peter Eastway on Middlehurst Station this June. From Wellington, New Zealand, we fly across the Cook Strait and over the high country, landing on a grass airstrip at Middlehurst sheep station. Then we have five nights and six days during which time we guarantee to super charge the creative side of your photography, plus there are plane and helicopter flights over some of the most incredible country in New Zealand. Bring your laptop and immerse yourself in an artists' retreat.

 

It won't be the cheapest workshop you ever do, but it will be one of the best! Price is $9995 all inclusive from Wellington and it runs 20-25 June.

 

However, if you're interested, you really need to touch base with us now so we can make arrangements. Email Kim at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.for more information.

 

Full details via the link below: 

http://www.betterphotography.com/bpshop-sp-18927/workshops/middlehurst-new-zealand-20-to-25-june-2017-detail

How To Feel Superior :>)

Carmel Coast, USA.
Phase One XF 100MP, 240mm lens, 25 seconds @ f14, ISO 50, Nisi 10X ND Filter

 

Why is photography of the past relevant to our current generation?

 

You can read this question two ways, depending on your interpretation of 'current generation'. Is the current generation everyone who is alive today (an expanded definition), or does it mean the younger generation (an erroneous supposition in my opinion)?

 

No longer falling into the latter definition, I tend to think that the question (asked by a student) could be better worded as follows: Why is photography of the past relevant?

 

Historically, I don't know of any successful or famous artists who didn't have some understanding of the past, or at least trained with a successful artist of their times. The main reason to understand the past is so you can progress further - rather than re-inventing the wheel or copying what someone else has already done, learn the lessons of the past so you can go somewhere new with your creativity.

 

For instance, it's easy for me to dismiss Ansel Adams as an average photographer when I compare his work to that of later American photographers, but we have all learnt so much from Mr Adams that he deserves our respect. Without seeing his photographs, the way he cropped images, the way he interpreted them, we would not be nearly as advanced as we are today. If indeed we are!

 

On the other hand, as Susan Sontag says, all photography is derivative.

Read more: How To Feel Superior :>)

Even Monasteries Lie - A Little!

Tatev Monastery, Armenia.
Phase One A-Series, IQ3 100MP, 70mm Rodenstock lens, 1/125 second @ f8, ISO 50

 

I'm a week back from a wonderful trip to Georgia and Armenia, two very special places if you have photography on your mind. Organised by my Turkish friend and photography guide, Mehmet, I was joined by eight fellow photographers and friends in search of some amazing images and exciting destinations. We weren't disappointed. While both countries are steeped in history and religion, there is so much more to them and over coming months, I plan to show you more photos from this trip.

 

Today, let's start with Tatev Monastery, one of Armenia's most famous landmarks. In fact, it's so famous and popular, the world's longest cable car will transport you from the other side of the valley, rather than requiring you to take a tortuous 30 minute hairpin drive (which isn't good for larger bus tours). But where is the cable car in this picture?

 

As you'll see if you click through to the rest of the article, Tatev Monastery is a little different when you view it in situ, yet most of the photos perpetuate the 'myth' that I have agreed to by excluding 'all the other stuff' that surrounds it. So much for truth in photography, even for monasteries!

 

Read more: Even Monasteries Lie - A Little!

Ansel Adams Wasn't Straight

Carmel Coast, USA.
Phase One XF 100MP, 240mm lens, 1/1600 second @ f8, ISO 50

 

 

Earlier this year, Tony Hewitt and I took a group of photographers around South West America in the footsteps of America's great landscape photographers. Naturally enough, Ansel Adams was one of them.

 

In preparation for the trip, I read a biography about Ansel and was fascinated to learn how much he has been misunderstood by many photographers.

 

At the risk of overly simplifying the issues, in the early 20th Century, Ansel Adams and Edward Weston were pushing to have photography recognised for what it was, not for trying to emulate painting. At the time, the 'Pictorialist' movement was doing everything it could to make photographs look like paintings.

 

Adams and Weston pushed the idea of 'straight' photography, meaning they wanted their images to look like photographs, not paintings.

 

Throughout their careers, their views on what photography should and shouldn’t be gradually changed as they worked it all out. I think Ansel summed it up pretty well later in his life as follows:

“A photograph that is merely a superficial record of the subject fails as an aesthetic expression of that subject. The expression must be an emotional amplification, and this emotional amplification relates to point of view, organization, revelation of substance through textures, tonal relations, and the perfection of the technical expression of all these elements.”

 

I loved reading this. For years, photographers who didn't like Photoshop and the ability to edit and interpret their work have held up Ansel Adams as a legend who produced photographs 'straight out of camera'. Of course, anyone who has read Ansel's books knows that this is far from the truth, however it is also true to note that Ansel questioned himself about how far he could push a photograph before going too far.

 

For instance, using a Yellow filter in black and white film photography would darken a blue sky, giving a more 'natural' result. Using a red filter would turn a blue sky almost black, which was far from natural but looked pretty damn good, and I think Ansel agonised over this for many years. His famous Half Dome was the first time he went to the 'dark side' with a red filter and a black sky, but he repeated the black sky 'interpretation' with his Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. These are probably his two most famous photographs, so what does that say?

 

My message: Photography can be as interpretive or as 'straight' as you want it to be, just let other photographers do what they want and don't worry about it! And photographers who do enjoy the dark side, keep this little piece of photo trivia up your sleeve. Even the great Ansel Adams expects our photographs to have some 'emotional amplification'.  

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