Archive for March, 2007

On the value of Photography

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

An issue I come across all the time is one of people wanting my photos for free.
Usually I’m quite laid back about this, but a recent barrage of requests has prompted me to decide on a firm policy.
I am not an amateur photographer, I am a professional photographer and I can’t think of any other job where people would ask for free products on such a regular basis.
Perhaps there is some confusion as amateur photographers give away their photos readily. That’s fine, but don’t ask a professional to do the same. This is my job and I need to pay the bills and mortgage like everyone else.
If you can get an amateur photographer to do the job as well as a professional, then by all means use them instead!
While I’ve been travelling, new friends have asked me to take photos for their businesses. When I ask them why they don’t just use a local photographer, they say that they charge too much and don’t have equipment as good as mine. They have wanted me to photograph for free! Photographers in England (especially music photographers) are similarly pressured into giving photos away.
People don’t tend to appreciate the value of what they have been given if there is no price or energy exchange involved… what I do is worth something! I work damn hard at what I do… my mind is 100% on photography when I’m on assignment and I don’t enjoy an event in the same way as someone taking the occasional snapshot. I also can’t give my wife attention or spend decent time with her when I’m photographing a lot… this is a job! It is mostly rewarding but it is still a job.
So, if my photos can help you earn money in some way… if they are good marketing for something that puts food on your table, you have to pay for them. Or you can link to my website.
If they’re for a charity, I’ll consider donating photos. But not if the people who are asking are getting a salary or similar money from the charity. Most charities can easily apply for a marketing fund which covers photography.
If the photos are for personal use only, I’ll usually donate the photos for free but only if I have the time to sort this out.
I like to be generous but I get very upset when people demand, expect or assume that I will give anything away for free. A little respect and appreciation!

Music Party at Auroville

Friday, March 16th, 2007

We were priviliged enough to be invited to a birthday party thrown by a load of young musicians. This included an informal concert organised by the musicians… the standard was stunning. One of the big questions when wandering around Auroville is how successfully it manages to bring together different cultures and ethnicities. On the surface, everything and everyone seems quite separated but when you dig beneath the surface, you see that actually it is quite a successful melting pot.
The musicians here played across all cultural barriers, but it was also great to see this happen on a social level too.
The youth of Auroville are amazing people (more on this in future blogs), and it’s a shame that it takes quite a lot of effort for the outsider to realise what they have to offer to the rest of Auroville.
This concert was really tough to photograph, very low levels of light against the wall of a building. I used a 50mm lens at f1.8 at 1/20s.

Lovely sax playing with beautiful tone, with an accomplished drummer who has great energy

This chap runs a music studio in Auroville, and used to be a professional jazz violinist in Germany. This instrument is an electric viola with bottom F and B flat strings… giving it the range of a Cello and a Bass! Many musicians in Auroville have similar crazy ideas for custom made instruments which work really well.

The guy on the left plays beautiful Indian style violin and sings so beautifully that your heart feels like it’s being ripped out. The chap on the right is a farmer from Portsmouth who is also a singer-songwriter and plays jazz guitar. What a cultural melting pot… the guy on the left has a western girlfriend, and the guy on the right is about to get married to a local Tamil girl.

It’s great that we have opportunities to get to know the people here… casual visitors to Auroville just get to see the Matrimandir (the space age golf ball) with loads of people meditating around it, and a few people cycling around. Apart from that, it seems a bit dead.
There are a lot of tourists and much media interest, which can make the residents here quite self-protective. It’s really nice to have the opportunity to see beyond most tourists’ (and journalists’!) surface impressions.



Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

We’re currently in a utopian society called Auroville near Pondicherry… it has some fantastic ideals including human unity and sustainable living, and is aiming to be the city of the future.
Kate got some interest from Maire Claire for a Pongala article, and we’re aiming to write a few features on Auroville for various magazines and papers. We’ve had superb help from the media team here, and we’ve been filling our time talking to various people here finding out what makes the place tick. It would take years to really understand everything, there’s so much here… but the more people we talk to, the more impressed we are. In fact, we can seriously see ourselves living here! We’ll take it slowly though!
What I love about this place is that everyone is here with a great deal of hope and faith that they are creating an ideal human community. Of course it isn’t perfect, but it’s a fascinating experiment. There’s a great mixture of spiritual types, creative people and people who work the land… everyone is particularly intelligent. The music scene is superb, we’ve met some exceptional musicians.
In the words of one of the resident musicians, Auroville is a community for black sheep… it’s a great herd!
I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this place, but in the meantime here are some photos:

Savitri Bhavan
Lots of modern architecture in Auroville!

We’re currently staying in a tree house… very atmospheric.

Our communal kitchen from the inside, and the outside.

The Matrimandir is a space age golf ball in the middle of the village which is supposed to give unity to the place. People meditate in it.

Town Hall
The Town Hall… reminds me of a villain’s lair… or maybe a bank’s headquarters.

Town Hall

Fuji S3 Pro and HDR

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

I started experimenting with HDR, taking advantage of the Fuji S3 Pro’s wider dynamic range with one RAW file.
Here’s a shot I previously posted of the Taj Mahal:

Taj Mahal
and here’s the newly generated HDR version of it:

Taj Mahal HDR

Those of you not interested in cameras can stop reading here!
The problem with this technique is that the Fuji S3 (I sold all my Minolta gear just before I left, and bought the Fuji S3 along with all Nikon lenses) is unbelievably slow at taking RAW files, and they take up stupid amounts of room as they aren’t compressed.
It takes about 10-15 seconds to save a RAW file… you can’t change settings or review any photos in that time. The buffer is also very small. And I can only fit around 20 images on a 1Gb card!!
There are so many other annoying quirks about the Fuji S3, it’s almost unusable and takes quite a while to get used to. However, my wife has a Nikon D80 which I use as a backup body, and although I prefer her camera in almost every single way, the sad fact is that the photos from the Fuji S3 completely outclass those from the Nikon. The colours are amazing, and need hardly any editing in photoshop, which is a great timesaver when travelling. The two photodiodes per pixel really make a difference to the tonal range.
I would like some opinions from the photographers out there who have been following my blog for a while… has the quality of my photos improved or not since I started travelling, as I completely changed equipment and my laptop which I use to edit the photos?