DEVELOPING as a Photographer

Many of the questions and messages I receive through this blog centre around ‘how do you improve as a photographer?’ and ‘How did you learn to take better photos?’. The answer is an awful lot of practice and I am nowhere near done! Below I’m going to talk you through my development in the last few years.

One of my first images I took when I was 16 and just started A-level photography. I had never studied photography before and fell in love with it during this project ‘traces’. Looking back I would never edit an image like this, now I most likely de-saturate the whole image.

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This is also part of my ‘traces’ project. I still like the composition of the photograph but would lower the saturation and contrast of it (I  had just started leaning photoshop!)

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I took this at 18 when I bought my first set of coloured flash filters. This was all about having fun and learning about the effects of flash. It’s taken me a while to realise that I much prefer slow shutter speeds using ambient light rather than flash.

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After watching a YouTube video called something like ‘How to do street photography’  I took my camera out , rather over-enthusiastically , to the streets of London and tried to apply literally everything I learnt.  As I was young I wasn’t aware of how people might feel about having their photos taken and was fearless, I am now more aware of people and how their portrayed.

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I still love the comedy of this shot. I took this during my second year at university.  I was completely against it with 3 essay deadlines coming up and very little time. I had been spending around 6 hours a day everyday in the library.   But on this morning I woke up a decided to dedicate a whole day to photography and just enjoy it. This was one of the first shots I took.

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One of the main lessons I learnt at university was the art of networking and making connections. This was in collaboration with a poet for his debut book.

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This image (also featured above) came in useful when I learnt how to create photograms in the darkroom.  I printed the image on acetate, overlaid random items and placed it on light sensitive paper.  Again I would lower the contrast but I like the combination of image and found items.

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Still one of my favourite ever shoots. I took my best friend, dressed with a snorkel,  along the London underground. The project was a conceptual tongue-in-cheek  project based on the fact the London Underground goes under the river Thames.

Although not a brilliant photograph it represents an opportunity gifted to me by collaboration. A friend and fellow photography student was photographing at an organic farm and asked me to go along for support. Having a camera allowed us to get a behind-the-scenes look at the hard work that goes into running a farm.

I will never claim to be fashion photographer as I have no clue when it comes to fashion but learning how to photograph in a studio is a skill every photographer should learn. You can apply the skills and knowledge of lights, soft boxes etc. out in the field. Light is incredibly important whether its harnessing the golden hour, creating shadow or drawing the viewers eye to the subject.

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It’s not all serious in the studio..

It’s true you should never stop learning when it comes to photography and it can help to have an end goal (landscape, portrait, street photographer etc.). But ENJOY getting there. I am not where I want to be photography-wise but it has opened up incredible opportunities I would never have experienced without photography;  from photographing the cycling Tour of Britain to exploring new cities and countries..

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post I’ve  really enjoyed putting it together. No matter how far you are into your photography journey its always worth looking back over your images and seeing how much you’ve improved.

You can find me on Instagram @madisonbeachphotos or over on my website.

Combining Travelling with Creativity

Over the last year I have been lucky enough to experience many new cultures which I have always wanted to capture.  But it’s not always been easy juggling photography, filmmaking and experiencing a place for the first time.  I have written an article for a great new magazine, 99% Lifestyle, which is available to read on their website.

I hope you enjoy the article, comment below if you have any questions or what you’re getting up to over the weekend. I Hope you have a great Easter!

A short guide to what ISO you should use and why

Since starting this blog a lot of readers have shown interest in starting to shoot film and asked how they can improve their photography skills. Starting to shoot manual on your digital camera is a great way to improve and prepare for shooting film or just jump straight in. There are 3 main components when shooting manually; aperture (how much light is let in), shutter speed (how quick the shutter opens and closes) and ISO.

If you’ve never shot manual before then don’t worry you can get the hang of it, if you have then you can use the guide as a little refreshers course. I will be using 35mm film examples but the same applies to other film cameras and dslr’s.

ISO Guide

Simply the ISO, also refereed to as ASA, relates to how sensitive the film is to light. The lower the number the less sensitive the film (or camera) is to the light.

If you want to shoot a variety of subjects inside and out ISO 400 is a solid choice.

If you’re going to be shooting outside in bright sunshine or traveling in a hot country then ISO 200 will fit the bill. Low ISO films can also produce some great results at night using flash.

The lowest film I use is Portra ISO 160. The film works well for portraits and bringing out skin tones.  I would only use a low ISO if you know you’ll have sufficient light for the whole roll to avoid disappointment. If not go for a 200 or 400.

On the other end of the scale for low light conditions you can get ISO 1600, 3200 and 6400. But the higher the ISO number the more likely your image will have noise (visual distortion) but you can use this to your advantage. I recently shot a roll of Black & White Ilford 3200 film in Iceland. Its one of my favourite rolls I’ve shot this year.

The more you learn and experiment the more you can get out of your camera and/or film.But at the end of the day if your enjoying taking photos then you don’t have to change a thing.

 

New Video!

I have been very lucky and have had many adventures in the last 8 months including traveling around Iceland, Japan, Northern Italy and Wales. After a day of watching back all my footage I realised its time for a new showreel. Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together!

 

 

Photographing with Purple Film

When I first started shooting film at 16 Lomography products were brilliant fun to use. But as I began to take photography more seriously and studied at university the inconsistency  became more of an annoyance and money sapper. Days before I headed of to Iceland I spotted the Lomochrome Purple 35mm film at my local photography shop. I made a quick impulse purchase of two films and packed them for my trip.

The film works best in bright conditions with a  lot of green in the frame. When we touched down in Iceland I realised I made the right choice. The northern part of the island was covered in snow but the other half? a beautiful, natural, deep Green. The contrasts created by the strong winter sun and volcanic land was going to be the best introduction back into Lomography.

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I shot these on my Pentax K1000. Unfortunately I only had time to shoot one film and have already planned a trip to my favourite forest in Southern England to fill the frames and experiment with portraits. I’ll be posting these and others from my trip to my Instagram @madisonbeachphotos and website (madisonbeach.com). Let me know your thoughts on Lomography and any tips and tricks for getting the most out the film!

Back to Black & White in 35mm

I have been experimenting with colour film a lot lately, mainly Portra and Lomochrome purple. But a late-night purchase led to me buying some HP5 Ilford Black and White film (accidentally in bulk..). This was the first film I ever shot back in college when I was 16, I really enjoyed using this film again and experimenting with double exposures.

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IG@madisonbeachphotos 

Photographing Iceland at Night

With such little sunlight hours, especially in the winter, Iceland provided the perfect opportunity to try out some light-sensitive film. Using my trusty Pentax filled with Ilford Black & White (3200 iso) film I set out to capture Icelandic life after dark.

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I’m really impressed with how the film performed, especially in daylight as its built for darkness. When using film with an iso as high as 3200 its always going to have some noise, but I think this creates a fitting aesthetic. The Pentax also adapted well to the conditions, the cold didn’t affect it and the ‘bulb’ function worked well allowing me to capture the northern lights. I’ve got hundreds more photos to scan, edit and upload, follow me on Instagram to keep updated with my photography adventures @madisonbeachphotos

Seeing the Northern Lights For the First Time

This time last week I was in my Reykjavik hotel room putting on as many thermal layers as my body would allow in preparation for our midnight adventure; northern light hunting. I was a little naive before I touched down in Iceland, I assumed they would be visible most nights in an Icelandic winter.Nope. When we arrived we spoke to numerous people who had been there for over a week and there had be no sighting of these mysterious lights due to cloud.

We arrived on monday with tickets for that evening to be taken out on a coach to the middle of nowhere to witness the lights. It was cancelled and we re-scheduled for tuesday. Needless to say it was cancelled again and again. We were slowly running out of hope until we woke up on thursday, our last full day, and the sun was shining through the clouds.

We were picked up at 9pm and drove an hour South-West from Reykjavik to the edge of the ocean (although it was so dark we had no idea). The city lights were dull in the distance allowing for whats known as black spot to provide the perfect backdrop for the northern lights..

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A dodgy photo of me looking the wrong to prove I was actually there

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Iceland was one of the most photogenic countries I’ve ever visited. I shot hours of footage while travelling and have put it into a short video:

I shot 4 rolls of film which I’m very excited to be picking up today, I’ll be posting the photos on the blog and to my instagram @madisonbeachphotos

Iceland Travel Diary: Day 04 & 05

Day 04&05

The last couple of days have been so brilliantly busy I have lost track of the time and what day it is. The sun rising at 10am is something I’m not used too and lulls you into a false sense of security, waking up when its dark makes me think I have hours left to sleep, often not the case. 

Day 04

Day four starts at 12.30am in the middle of nowhere, freezing cold with a huge smile on my face. I was witnessing the northern lights for the first time and yes, it was incredible. 

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After the coach being cancelled for the last couple of nights due to cloudy weather we were running out of time (and hope) to see them, as even when it’s a clear night there’s no guarantee of seeing them.  But we were very lucky, after receiving no cancellation message during the day our coach arrived at 9pm to pick us up. 

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We drove an hour South West of Reykjavik to find a ‘black spot’ where the city lights aren’t visible. When we arrived a small crowd had already assembled looking with anticipation to the north. Before we knew it a white light appeared across the sky,seeing the magnificent colours through the camera lens. Then, after half an hour the light got brighter and brighter and began to curve. Then within a split second it started to ‘dance’ across the sky. It was a great moment and while watching the lights you even forgot how cold it was! We were extremely lucky as both Venus and Mars were visible amongst Orion’s Belt (a load of stars to you and me). 

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We got to see the lights for two hours before boarding the coach and falling asleep in the early hours of the morning. 

We awoke relatively late in the morning to make up for the late night and to fully refresh as we were heading to the famous Blue Lagoon. Although expensive, it’s considered a must-do when in Iceland. A thermal geo spa heated from the ground. 

The spa is located 50 minutes away from Reykjavik and you have the option to be picked up from your hotel. The Lagoon is set in a surreal landscape amongst mountains and bright turquoise pools of water. 

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To avoid over-crowding you are given an entry time but then allowed to stay as long as you like. It was busy with a diverse range of people; college trips, families & couples but just enough people to create an atmosphere and not be packed. We took advantage of the pool-side bar and complimentary face masks. After an hour of relaxing in the hot water it started to rain, this was a welcome sight as ironically, I was beginning to overheat in Iceland. 

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After a few hours at the Blue Lagoon we headed back to Reykjavik on a coach, the driver asked everyone where they would like to be dropped and then created a customised route, very handy! We decided to be dropped off in town to consume more pizza at our favourite restaurant before heading back to let reality sink in and pack to go home. 

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Day 05

To avoid something going wrong and missing our flight we booked a coach to pick us up at 12 to take us to the airport. Waiting outside the hotel a minibus from the company arrived. After speaking to the driver we realised it was a Reykjavik sightseeing tour but with two spaces available the driver said she would drop us off!  The drive was absolutely hilarious, the middle-aged Chinese born, Icelandic tour guide/Mini-bus driver spoke in what seemed like slow motion. And aside from just pointing out the sights she took advantage of the onboard mic system to vent her distaste for Justin Bieber and tell us about the Red Hot Chilli Peppers concert she’s going to. But for all her madness she was very friendly and we got to the airport on time. 

I am very sad to be leaving Iceland as it has a great (and often rare) mix of friendly, helpful locals and a landscape saturated in natural wonders I have never witnessed before. This will definitely not be my last visit to Iceland. I have a very busy week lined up including flat-hunting in London and most importantly, developing four films,2 colour and 2 black & white, which will be up on this blog along with my Instagram @madisonbeachphotos. I am also considering doing a blog post dedicated to the photos I took of the northern lights as I have way too many to post here.  Hope you have a great weekend and feel free to comment/recommend where I should go next! 

Iceland Travel Diary: Day 03

A 3rd packed day started in the dark (the sun rises at 10am!) boarding a coach to the first of our adventures. Our first stop was a tomato farm which uses only renewable sources to power the greenhouses using the geothermal heat of Iceland. A member of staff gave an in-depth talk about the behind-the0scenes happenings at the farm and explained the processes. It was really interesting and a good reminder of where your food comes from and the energy (renewable or not)  it takes to get there.

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Next up, the geysers. Hot springs sending boiling water 30m up into the air along with a plume of smoke. The main geyser erupted water every 5 minutes so there wasn’t too long to wait. It was the most tourists I’ve seen since arriving in Iceland, but for a good reason; geysers don’t appear in many countries. Around 100m away there were a few restaurants and a shop so we picked up some food to keep fuelled up for the day ahead.

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Next, what I most most looking forward to, the Gullfoss waterfall and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The power of the waterfall meant you were constantly getting covered in water spray. The waterfall was set in an incredibly luscious green landscape with the water dropping at an incredible rate.

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After taking in the sights of the waterfall and getting very wet we headed for what turned out to be the surprise of the day. Þingvellir national park is a world heritage site and provides views of snow-capped mountains and volcanoes. But what I didn’t realise before arriving is that the oldest parliament in the world was founded here and you can physically see the meeting of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. You can witness the visible effects of continental drift, I’ve never seen anything like it and it reminds you of how powerful and unrelenting nature can be. After a short 40 minute trip back to the hotel we are now chilling for an hour or two before heading out hunting the Northern Lights.

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IG:@madisonbeachphotos