Books That Inspire and Inform Me

Books that Inpire and Inform me

Ok, So we had the art of seeing yesterday. I often find myself looking for inspiration, for something new. Of course, inspiration can be found everywhere (that’s my next post), but when the light has gone and I’m sat thinking in the evening and need a little direction, what do I do? Could what I do help you? I hope so. I read books, I flip through books full of pictures, and I find new ideas in old print. So in this post I’m listing a few of my favourite books I wouldn’t be without. They may surprise you as choices for a photographer, but why limit yourself to photography books which are, after all, mostly about  technique. It’s not the quality of camera or knowing how to use it that makes a good picture, it’s the content. What you point the thing at and how you frame it that counts. So what do you point your camera at? What do you put in and leave out of the frame? What is the picture for? Is it a news item, a family record, an artwork for your wall? Do you want bright colour, a moody look or something to make you smile?

70 mph Down the M1

Some of the photos here maybe wouldn’t stand up to too much professional scrutiny, but unless you’re selling the photo, that really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get creative and play with your camera. Until you try, you don’t know what you might be able to come up with. After all, since the digital camera became the norm, you can take and delete as many shots as you like without extra cost. So have fun with it!

Inside a Tipee

OK, the books.

The Creative Artist – Nita Leland (1993 – also later editions)

Cultivating Sacred Space (Gardening for the Soul) – Elizabeth Murray

Gothic Fantasies – The Paintings of Anne Sudworth

The Colour Eye – BBC books

And a couple of photography books –

Photographing Flowers – Sue Bishop (includes Inspiration, technique and equipment)

The Making of Landscape Photographs – Charlie Waite (not digital, but good for advice on framing and light)



Photography and the Art Of Seeing

As a photographer how many times have I heard the words ‘crikey, where did you spot THAT?’ Sooo many. So I thought it was time for a blog on the art of looking. We most of spend our days, heads down, storming through life just to get through the day without ever looking at what’s around us. Did you spot the colours of that butterfly that flitted past you? Did you see the patterns in that rusty old door or peeling paint? Did you miss the sunset? Did you ever look in a puddle at the reflections? Years ago I studied art. Drawing, painting, textiles, sculpture. My art teacher, Val, took us out into the yard one day and gave us a project. She had us sketch every detail of one square foot of the car park surface. That taught me a lot. The textures of the little stones and gravel, the muddy bit that was smooth and dark, the dead fly that had met its end on my bit of car park. I saw details I’d never noticed before.

Bottle and light idea

I was only an average artist, but as a photographer, this was great training. I learned the art of looking and seeing. My partner caught me trying out some experiments on a piece of still life and said ‘haven’t you got that upside down?’ I replied that if you always look at something from the same angle, you’ll always see the same thing. It’s true of everything. Walk around your subject. Bend down, lie down and look from a different perspective. Get on a ladder and look from above. Look in a mirror or via a reflection in a pool/lake/river. What would it look life in different light? What would it look like at night? what if you get closer/further away? Turn around. What can you see that you’d missed because you were focusing in a different direction? If you want to take good shots that show your take on the world, first learn to see the world in your own way, then start shooting.

Tree and shadow

The couple of photos I’ve put with this are illustrations of what I’m talking about. The first is a bottle I filled with coloured water. I put the water in so the bottle would bring colour into the room when light shone through the window. Then I noticed one night what happened where the light hit the wall. This picture shows you my idea. I haven’t yet taken the final image of this, but I have several ideas to try just because I noticed this effect of light. The second is simple enough. I was on holiday, went to a pub for a drink and sat outside. I looked up into the tree in the pub’s garden. What interesting shadows were cast in the evening light! So, I got out my ever-present camera and started shooting. Cultivate the art of looking, and your photography can only benefit.

Pride, colour, pattern and the photograph


It was Nottingham Pride last Saturday. I thought I’d go along again this year. So we packed up a picnic, and of course my camera, got on a train and spent a lovely afternoon at Forest Fields. It’s one place you can get out  a camera, start shooting and get tapped on the shoulder by strangers. They’re not complaining, not confronting the photographer, but asking for their photo to be taken. What a refreshing change! Lots of smiling faces, colourful sights and music. Lots to get creative about. I took 176 photos in a few hours, ran my camera battery down and flattened my own battery. I fell asleep on the sofa when we finally got home, exhausted but very happy with my busman’s day out.

I wanted to get the essence of the event. What makes a good iconic shot? I don’t know, but I try to find something a little different from the standard shots most people would point and shoot. I don’t know if I have managed to capture anything special, but I hope so. Having a good camera is all very well, but in the end, it’s the idea, the concept that I want to ‘bag’ at events like this. They’re not shots I would market on my website, but life moments I want to remember when I’m in my dotage.

Balloons at Pride

The lovely man selling balloons approached me at the end of the event. He wanted some pictures to help sell his wares. He explained he’s illiterate, yet he’s made a business, and his wife handles correspondence. Good for him! That’s what life’s all about. Of course, he can have copies of the shots, I told him, no problem. I came home on the train with a balloon he gave me, and had matched to the colour of my dress. Bless him. I just thought they made great abstract shots that would give me my memories!

Wave That Flag!

The flag, the balloons or the whistles? I don’t know which shot says the most about the day. There was colour, smiles and fun everywhere, despite protesters trying to stop the event, trying to put the LGBT community down, but look at them. Part of life, ordinary people, just different, as we all are, thank goodness. Diversity is absolutely essential to life. We couldn’t have evolved without it. Life is and should be colourful, happy and eventful if we look hard enough. Pagan Pride followed in Nottingham on the Sunday, and I would have attended that, too if I’d had the energy. It’s such a pity that we have to fight for the right to be different. Who wants to be a clone anyway? And who would decide what a clone should be? Which religion? which looks? what skills? Don’t we need them all, provided by different people?

Walk Tall whoever you are!

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