Posts By David Williams

Dave Williams here for #TravelTuesday on ScottKelby.com, and this week I’ve been trying not to dwell on the fact that I’m not in Iceland when I should be, and when the northern lights have been kicking off large! (British term, hope you get it.)

It’s still a time of uncertainty for all of us, globally. Scott announced his annual Worldwide Photo Walk, but this year there’s a twist: it’s solo. I sincerely hope that as many of us as possible will take a walk with our cameras on October 3rd to continue the world’s largest social photography event and to support the Springs of Hope Orphanage in Kenya, with 100% of the entrance amount being gifted straight to them. Walking solo rather than in a guided group, as usual, will be a little different, but there’s plenty of support coming from the team at KelbyOne.

Sticking with uncertainty, we often find ourselves uncertain about our photography. We also all strive for improvement constantly, at every level in this industry. Even Scott himself never stops learning and it’s very important to our individual success that we identify areas of improvement. Sometimes it’s not straightforward to do this, but all too often the things we need to improve are rooted in quite practical reasons why our photography may not be at the level we want it to be. To that end, this handy list of reasons serves to remind us where those roots are and what our focus should be when we’re trying to identify those areas of improvement. Let’s get stuck in.

Exposure

The exposure triad, the triangle, the weigh-off of shutter speed versus ISO versus aperture, whatever you want to label it, understanding and applying our knowledge of exposure has to be top of the list. Shooting in Auto doesn’t allow us control or understanding of the exposure triangle because we’re handing over complete control of it to the brains of the camera. So, doing some research into exposure and moving away from Auto onto a semi-automatic setting such as Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Program Mode should be our first step, followed by the absolutely-immersive and totally-overwhelming Manual mode. The thing is, once we get a grip on this understanding, we lose all sense of being overwhelmed and release a whole new level of creativity. We can also sway away from the rules and deliberately over or underexpose our images for that artistic edge, having understood the rules so we can effectively break them. Trust me, it makes sense! It also opens up the world of light painting, long exposures, and much more, which in turn gives us direction and education in itself.

Composition

Composition is a very, very close second place on the list. There are far too many photos taken that clearly give no aforethought to composition. Here’s the thing: Us humans are big subliminal fans of certain things. These things include even distribution, good placement, regularity, pathways, and other such things. All of these have a place within the realm of photography composition, such as the pathway found in an image containing leading lines or the placement of a subject when the rule of thirds is applied. There are a lot of resources available for what makes good composition—I’ve written several here on ScottKelby.com, and there are classes available on KelbyOne which help, among others. Composition should be considered—it can make or break an image. It’s even true to say that good composition can make an awesome image of a boring subject, whereas a really interesting subject composed badly will be an image nobody remembers. Remember that.

Perspective

This is also a very close position, only losing to composition by a hair. Perspective is another element that makes or breaks an image, and here’s why: –

We walk around all day, every day, seeing the world from our perspective— our eye level. When we take photos from our eye level they look normal. They look the way we see things as we walk through life. The photos that intrigue and captivate us, sometimes even leaving us wondering for a second or two about what we’re even seeing, are the ones that are taken from a different perspective to what we’re used to from our eye level. For example, a flower sits below our eye level and we look down on it—that’s normal. If we take a photo of a flower from the perspective of a caterpillar in amongst the foliage it creates an unusual perspective. Now we’re looking up at, or sideways onto, an object that we normally look down on, and that shift in perspective has made an everyday object look far more special. The same thing applies to Kaylee Greer‘s awesome dog photos, for example. We see dogs from above, but if we shift our perspective and get low, we see them from a new angle. And, in getting lower, so that we look up to them, we even step it up a gear and turn them into heroes, just in the way that iconic images of our superheroes are from an upwards perspective. Change your perspective!

Light

Learning to see light is an actual thing. It may not be something that many people understand, and it can even be the case that people think they can see light but the truth is, once you can see light, you know you can see light. Highlights, shadows, drop-off, gradation, tone, all these things suddenly come to light (pardon the pun), and it helps us really understand a scene and a photograph. I’m talking about blue hour and golden hour in this section, too. Knowing when the best light will arrive and recognising it when it does is the difference between a snapshot and a portfolio piece. There are lots of places to help us understand how to see light, and one of the best teachers for this is Glyn Dewis.

Projects

And by “projects” what I mean is that you haven’t done any! One of the best ways to improve, hands-down, in photography is to undertake a project. It takes us out of our comfort zone and helps us to understand a different genre of photography, educating us in the intricacies and nuances of another field and giving us skills that transfer into our own field. For example, if you’re a landscape photographer, shoot some portraits. If you’re a macro photographer, shoot some night skies. It could even be as simple as doing an alphabet project, finding everyday objects that resemble letters of the alphabet in order to improve composition and perspective.

Subject

That is to say, lack of subject. One big mistake people make, particularly at the beginning of their photographic journey, is to take photos that lack a clearly defined subject. Our brain works well at rationalising things. We try to understand what things are all about. When that applies to photography we’re looking for a reason, a rationale, and a subject. We look at a photo similar to the way we look at a piece of art in a gallery, and how many times have you looked at a piece of art and wondered, “What is this even about?” If we have a clear subject in our photos, we don’t leave people wondering what the photo is about and we free our viewers into exploring other elements rather than walking away scratching their head.

Practice

Practice, practice, practice. Understand photography, understand your photography, understand your camera, learn why things work and why they don’t. A great way to do this is to study and copy other photographers’ work, and critique your own work whilst constantly practicing and striving for improvement. We’ve all heard the famous, “Your first 10,000 photos are your worst” quote, and it’s because it’s all practice, and it’s ongoing.

Keep taking photos. Keep thinking about why they do and don’t work. Keep striving for success. If you aren’t happy with an image, just take a step back and think about why. There are lots of things we can do to improve, and no photo is perfect. There’s plenty of time between now and October 3rd to register for the Worldwide Photo Walk and knock out some amazing photos and win some amazing prizes on a solo photo walk in the world’s biggest photography event!

Much love
Dave

#TravelTuesday is here once again and it comes with me, Dave Williams, here on ScottKelby.com to inject a dose of motivation into your day. Here’s hoping that happens as we touch on something from the world of post-process in the form of a very simple yet effective tip.

Before I get too deep into it I’m going to vent a little, corona-wise. Amongst a plethora of cancelled trips was Iceland. Plethora was definitely the correct term to use there, by the way! I was supposed to be in Iceland right now, but their quarantine rules have changed for us Brits and all many other incoming nationalities. With a two week quarantine, it simply isn’t worth going for me, having to lose out on two weeks worth of accommodation payments before being able to get out there and shoot. One thing I was supposed to do was hook up with local guide Alex Palmi, who sent me this last night.

It translates to something like, ‘my evening walk.’ So if we could all just take responsibility and wear masks, avoid crowding, and maintain hygiene, that’d be great! It’s not about whether or not Covid-19 is a conspiracy or an election tool, it’s about getting back to life as normal and reducing infection transmission (and saving lives!) I’d quite like to see the rest of the world again sometime soon.

So, the half rule…

When we work on our images it’s tricky to get the retouching balance just right. We often reach out to friends and peers for confirmation and critique, and there are lots of things we can do to make sure we haven’t over-retouched our images, such as taking a break for a short period of time and coming back to look at the image again with a fresher pair of eyes. This technique, along with others, certainly does work, but here’s an idea I’d like to share with you about how to implement changes to our images and maintain some realism.

The half rule is something I’ve been doing for a while and it’s so simple and effective. All we need to do is consider halving our slider adjustments, be that in Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop, or Lightroom. For every slider adjustment we make, all we need to do is remember the figure beside the slider and half it, making comparisons to our original image. The reason this works so well is because we quite often over-zealously shift our sliders and end up with something too powerful and overbearing, when in fact we are simply targeting the correct adjustment just a bit too much. By breaking the adjustment in half we can often give the right amount of that edit, or at least use it to consider something somewhere in between the original and the half which sits easier with people and doesn’t look so unrealistic.

This trick works with all the sliders, but more-so with those outside of the Basic adjustments, such as Clarity, Dehaze, HSL, etc. It’s simply a case of using this method to work out whether or not the initial adjustment is too much, too intense, too unreal, and using the half rule as a point of reference to work this out. It’s not hard and fast, but it’s a brilliant back-pocket technique.

So, before I go, please all keep your fingers crossed that my next trip (Norway, mid-October) doesn’t get cancelled! I leave you with someone else’s view of Iceland last night.

Keep yourself and others safe.

Much love
Dave

I’m Dave Williams, here every #TravelTuesday on ScottKelby.com. Yesterday I got back from a mission in Norway where I was focussed on trying to capture some of the tranquillity and the ruggedness of the north at the change of the seasons, just at the end of the regular hiking season before the snow starts to fall. It got me thinking, which in turn made me think that I need to think about thinking. What was I thinking? What is it that makes my ‘thinking’ that of a travel photographer?

I was isolated everywhere I went – save for the odd camper or hiker here and there, it was just me. I was free to shoot what I wanted, how I wanted. But imagine the not all too unfamiliar sight of a bunch of photographers stood shoulder to shoulder, all shooting the same subject from the same perspective, no doubt using the same settings and composition. We’ve all seen it in popular places – a squad in a linear formation at the Place du Trocadéro awaiting the rising sun behind the Eiffel Tower, or the team abreast on the beaches of Malibu, CA, shooting the golden sunset beside a lifeguard tower. Each wants the perfect image, yet each has the same image.

Try as we might in situations like these our shot may be the best of the bunch, but it isn’t unique enough among a dozen similar shots. I say similar – perhaps I meant to say almost identical. Shooting that famous or familiar scene may be something we merely need to tick off our personal shot list, in which case please crack on and do it, but it isn’t the shot that’s going to bag us a buck or two. To achieve that we need to think like a travel photographer, which kinda involves thinking like a marketer as well as a photographer.

What is it about a location that makes people want to be there? What will make people want to visit? How can we represent that visually? Simply taking ten paces one way or another can make a huge difference to a scene, or even concentrating our efforts on something that is iconic of the place but not necessarily iconic in itself, like moving away from the majestic fjords and concentrating on the solemnity of a lake at a time many people won’t see it like in this shot: –

If we take a moment to think outside the box and think like a travel photographer, capturing the essence and the story of a place rather than simply it’s iconic sites, we stand a far better chance of making that sale and having our images stand out among the crowd.

The right balance of skills and inspiration can make a good photographer great. It can help us to think about what we’re doing, and what else we can be doing. A good photographer can make a mundane scene look wildly interesting and captivating, and it’s all down to the way we shoot it rather than what the actual subject is. It’s important to have a style because that helps us to create these kinds of images, but remember that our style is dynamic and our vision should be clear. When I am on an assignment it’s clear what my objective is, but when I’m shooting self-assigned it can be quite different so in those cases I like to assign myself, and I recommend you do too. Imagine the editor of National Geographic has given you an assignment – stick with it and achieve the goals and objectives in it. Make believe may seem a bit child-like, but just go with it! Think like a travel photographer, capture the essence of a place, and think about what it is that makes people want to go there and incorporate that into your shots.

Much love

Dave

I write this from the departure lounge of London Gatwick Airport – quite apt for #TravelTuesday with me, Dave Williams, on ScottKelby.com today and every Tuesday. I am a little apprehensive, though, because there’s a chance I may not be allowed entry to the country I’m flying to today. Keep an eye on my Instagram story or Facebook page to see where it is and whether I made it in!

(Clue: – the Aurora can shine bright!)

Today I want to talk to you all about luck. Luck is something a lot of us need during times like these. To keep our photography business or hobby going with strength during a global pandemic is just one of many problems we’re faced with right now. For me, it’s the cancellation after cancellation of trips, trade shows, and missions, causing a distinct lack of opportunity and content to shoot and write about. The thing is, it’s all too easy to take a back seat and go with the flow when we get beaten down as we’ve been. Perhaps models and clients are less available to you, or maybe locations to shoot are closed or limited. Whatever the problem is, it’s down to us to get lucky and find a solution.

The thing about luck is that it goes hand in hand with opportunity. When we’re presented an opportunity, we’re said to be lucky, and we should take it. So, is luck the opportunity? Do we wait to have an opportunity and, in turn, wait to be lucky?

No. The answer is no.

Luck can be described perfectly: Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. We are in control of our own luck. To a great extent, we control our destiny, our fate. If now is a time when you feel like you need a little luck, be prepared to take whatever opportunity you find or whatever opportunity you can create.

Two weeks ago, I lost the opportunity to go to Greece (and the money invested in that trip). Similarly, last week I lost the opportunity to go to Hungary. Iceland has also been lost, and Canada. For a travel photographer and writer, this is a huge blow, but it’s down to me and me alone to prepare, to create another opportunity, and to make myself lucky. It’s down to the luck that I created that I’m sitting and writing this post today from the wiped-clean, dishevelled, disgusting green seat of Gatwick airport’s departure lounge, waiting anxiously for my gate number to appear on the screen amongst only a handful of flights.

For me, I need to travel. It’s a necessity of the job that I d, although there are “workarounds” I can take to travel closer to home. More than that, it’s in my spirit. I am simply not me without travel. I need to be me, and this is how I need to do it. I’ve created my own luck exactly as I described – I prepared and made an opportunity. I’m being entirely complicit with all immigration requirements, hence the number of cancellations I’ve faced. But against the odds and in spite of the circumstances – I’m lucky.

Whatever it is you do, and whether it’s related to photography or just to your everyday life, remember that you are in control of your luck.

Put in the hard work, take some leaps of faith, be positive, and improve your odds. I promise, it will all work out in the end.

If you need help or advice from myself, any of the other KelbyOne instructors, or like-minded friends, there’s plenty of us out there willing to push you in the right direction. A great community accessible to all is the Friends Of The Grid Facebook Group, or the KelbyOne Member Community to start with.

Now go get lucky!

Much love

Dave

Being here on a Wednesday is a change of scenery for me. I’m Dave Williams, and I usually write the #TravelTuesday column here on ScottKelby.com, but today I’m joining you all on a Wednesday for a guest blog post, and I’m pretty excited about it.

I’ve updated my Northern Lights book for the season, which begins now. It’s available right now, but I wanted to give some insight into my relationship with lady Aurora, so here goes.


It begins during a strange part of my life. It was a kind of ‘in-between’ time when I wasn’t sure what my path was. I knew I was progressing with my photography, but I was mindful of it becoming an income generator because it was a passion – it was my ‘happy place’ and I didn’t want that to become labour. What I’ve managed to do is find a ‘happy place’ within my ‘happy place’ – that being the northern lights.

It all started more or less the same time I began to travel. I was in a strange place in my life, and with my photography passion, I had always been interested in unfamiliar landscapes. I began to try and explore them and started with Iceland, with which I immediately felt great affection.

I was in Iceland some years ago, in January, and I woke up early in the morning to drive a few hours from Reykjavik to Solheimasandur. On a pristine, wild black sand beach, there’s a wreckage of a Douglas DC-3 Dakota belonging to the United States Navy. I travelled in darkness to reach it both by car and on foot, trekking several kilometres through slushy black sand, and arrived just in time for sunrise – my first light in Iceland. I was pleased with my achievement and had an excellent time shooting that plane, which set me up for a great day ahead.

The thing is, it was an Icelandic winters day, so it was a concise one. I had just a few hours of daylight to explore and spent much of it exploring as much of the south coast as I was able to before I ran out of time. By the evening, I had reached Thingvellir. I was on the Thingvallavegur, the main road through the park, and began to turn my search skywards for the elusive northern lights.

I was standing in a flowing, pristinely snow-covered landscape with my head turned toward the stars, straining my eyes and wondering whether I was seeing things or whether it was my imagination as I listened to the howling gale or the polar wind. Snowflakes drifted just above the ground at break-neck speeds, and the light of a new moon played tricks on my eyes, showing me reasons why Icelanders may believe in elvenfolk, or elves.

Above me, in the star flooded sky, I was watching what I thought were clouds forming. The dull greyness moved slowly, pulsating in the air, though I struggled to see it through focused, squinted eyes. The clouds seemed to move in a way I’d never noticed clouds move before. They almost swirled and danced slowly, pulsing and changing in opacity as I looked up confused.

I was beside my idling rental car which was toasty-warm, and the stereo happened to be playing Pray by Take That (my musical taste is impeccable) which contains the line, “I’m so cold and all alone.” The feeling, the atmosphere, and the lyrics connected perfectly to me at that moment in time and that moment in my life.

(more…)

#TravelTuesday certainly does come around quick, even when there’s not so much travel involved! I’m Dave Williams, here today and every Tuesday on ScottKelby.com

Today, I’m sad. I’m sad because the world is a very uncertain place right now and we don’t know what’s coming next. As a travel photographer, it makes life hard, as it does for everyone in their own respects. Since last week, I’ve cancelled Greece (last week), Hungary (this week), Iceland (in two weeks), and Canada (October) because of transmission rates, as well as the previous cancellations I’ve had to make since March. I have a trip to Norway coming shortly, which hopefully, I’ll be able to make – keep an eye on my Instagram story to see whether I do!

The point, I guess, is this: travel photography isn’t necessarily about travel. We don’t have to travel to shoot travel photography. It’s more about the result. In our travel photography, we aren’t just showing where we are, but we’re inviting people to want to be there, too. It isn’t so much a genre as it is a result. Travel photography is the art and skill of giving somebody the feeling that they want to be there in your image, through your image, and at this time when travel isn’t an option for so many of us, it’s the ability to have people feel they’re living vicariously through our imagery – through our experiences.

We can all still do this right now – we can “do” travel photography without travelling. Take a look through old photos from trips away, or go somewhere locally and take some new photos, and get to work however you want on making someone want to be there in that photo, at that place, and live vicariously through it. It could be basic adjustments or full-on composite work, but whatever it is, it’s practice. It’s important that we all keep on top of our skills and our sanity right now and do things like this, which will maintain and develop our skill set, as well as provide focus and accomplishment. I went not too far away to get this shot on the south coast of the UK last week, just to stay “in the game.”

If you’re up for a bit of this, try finding places to shoot near you by searching your location on Instagram, Flickr, 500PX, or LocationScout to see what other people are shooting near you as a little source of inspiration. You really don’t have to travel to shoot travel photography.

Much love

Dave

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