At the start of this year, that is just about to disappear around the corner, I wrote down my resolutions for 2018. I’m not a big fan of resolutions although, believe me, there is plenty to improve about me! So when I wrote them down it wasn't in a “post them on the fridge to haunt me” kind of a way. I wrote them on my blog (http://www.hughrawson.com/blog/resolutions-2018) so the whole world could hold me to account.
Actually, these weren’t so much resolutions as much as areas to develop within my photography. In that sense, these were things that aren’t just for the beginning of a new year but are development points for all year - a bit like the pet dog that’s not just for Christmas. Oh and I had no other resolutions - shoot me!
So - how did I do? Well, my end of year report, like so many of these things, would probably say “Could do better.” If I’m honest, I had to look back to see what my five resolutions were (never a good sign - except it’s a sign that I haven’t really focused on them!). But, but, but… I have made some progress on each of them. A recap…
Enter more competitions - a slight improvement here. Last year I had just entered the Sony Photography Awards - always a highlight of the year for me to see the range of images displayed at Somerset House in April. I didn’t get anywhere in that. However, I was thrilled to be shortlisted in the Street Photography category of the British Photography Awards with an image that I shot at my local village fair (moral: always carry your camera!). As a bonus, the article that Digital Photographer printed about my street photography last winter, made a reappearance in their 2018 annual.
2. Slow down - my default was always to shoot from the hip. Breeze through a crowd, shooting away like the final scene of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, and be gone before anyone fully realised what you were up to. I still like that instinctive approach and it suits my style to move fast and move on (I get bored easily). However, I was keen to become more considered in my approach - and I have been. My default lens for street is 23mm which works well for shooting from the hip. My favourite lens, however, is the Fujinon 56mm f1.2 - great for portraits, hopeless for shooting from the hip. The focal length is just too long - it’s all hit and miss and mostly the latter. So, I have taken the 56mm out with me, especially at night, and actually stood still to frame up and enjoy taking the time to compose. It works.
3. Get to know my camera better - probably the area I’ve done least well on. I know what I need and rarely venture beyond it. I can find my way around those limited areas pretty well by feel but pose me a more tricky question and I break into a cold sweat. One major achievement was to actually get round to setting up My Menu in the camera settings. I now have easy access to those things I use most often - that’s good. So I’ve got faster at doing the things I was already fast at! Erm?
4. More subtle colour processing - definitely improved here. I think, as much as anything, I’ve become a better self-critic and have developed a keener eye. I do enjoy the processing side probably as much as taking the photos, but have always been pretty heavy handed. I like my tastes strong - coffee, whisky, music, you name it - I’m just not a beige latte kind of gent. However, this meant that I was always overdoing the saturation, the contrast, and, particularly, the clarity (so, so tempting) until the shot was ruined. I just didn’t know it. A year ago, I was most pleased with my black and white images. This year there are fewer mono shots on my feed or my website. My colours have improved. They’re more subtle and are better for it. Less is more. Definitely.
5. Keep on keeping on - taking the shots I want to take. It’s very easy to be swayed by what brings in the most likes on Instagram or whatever social media you pay attention to. All of these things have fads and trends. And some of them are great - for a while. It’s never a bad thing to dabble in those waters. Get your feet wet and see what sticks as you continue to develop your own style. I know that when I do shoot the photos I want to take, that my style will resonate. Not someone else’s. And usually they are the photos that get the best comments and the most likes - and for all the right reasons. I’m pleased that I’ve shot for me this year and it has worked. I have a set of photos that I can be proud of and that say something about me. I still have so far to go...
So what about next year, you ask? And quite rightly.
Always, slow down - this should become my mantra. A re-enty from last year’s resolutions and straight in at number one. It’s that important to me. Fundamental. I am good at anticipating what is going to happen and I need to be quick to be in the right place. But sometimes, as I have learned, I also need to take my time. I did this a bit this year but going forward I am going to be more considered in my photography.
Strip back - carry less. I am a sucker for “take it just in case” syndrome. What if such and such a scene appears and I haven’t got the right lens? I nearly always end up carrying a spare lens and even another camera. Sometimes it gives me an extra flexibility but it also hampers me in moving about. To be honest, none of the kit is that heavy and the bag is only small - but it’s still a bag. It’s still stuff. I love the idea of moving swiftly through the city, camera in hand, and only a jacket pocket to keep it in. If that! It doesn’t happen often enough. Sticking to one focal length would put an end to dithering around with kit and potentially missing other shots. And, as a bonus, I’d get to really know that lens.
Travel more - I often read advice that says the best investment for your photography is travel - not kit. I am sure this is right. New places really open your eyes. For me, this doesn’t just mean travel abroad but I feel that I have become very parochial in my street photography. This year, I have found myself defaulting to London, and not just London but small areas around Mayfair and Soho in London. It would freshen things up to stay an extra few stops on the tube - or take a different line. Or even find out if there is anywhere outside London… answers on a postcard in orange crayon please.
More time on exhibitions and books - less time online. The recent iOS update for Apple allows me to see how long I spend online each day. Terrifying. I can resolve some of this as “working” on my website/social media presence/photo editing. I also know that vast swathes of my day can disappear when I have what I feel is an odd moment to "just check” - an odd moment that soon becomes half an hour. How much better it would be to spend that time looking at published photographers’ work in books or exhibitions. I’m not a social media hater who secretly uses it in my spare time. And I am aware of how valuable Instagram, for example, is as a tool for photographers today. However, there really is nothing like the look of an image in print in a book or framed large in an exhibition. We learn so much from the work of others. Yes, the internet gives us that easy access, but it’s also too easy to just browse through and flick by. Books and exhibitions force us to really look. I mean REALLY LOOK.
Get out more at night - yeah, I have a day job. And I get tired. Heck, it’s demanding, all right?You’d be tired too… And all that. But I have evenings that just get frittered away when, with a little effort and thought (thought and effort), they could be spent being creative on the streets, improving my skills, doing the thing I love. Do it Hugh.
Variety Pack - there isn’t much variety in my pack at the moment. It’s pretty much all street. Don’t get me wrong - that’s what I love. But photography is photography is photography… and any kind of photography is going to help with every other type of photography. How about some landscape, portrait, travel shots? How about really getting your head around flash photography this year? I’d be very satisfied to have that in my armoury in 2019.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, tips, advice and recommendations as well as any thoughts on your own resolutions for the year ahead.
Thanks for all of your support this year - it brings so much encouragement and inspiration.
Have a great 2019!