Posts By David Williams

#TravelTuesday is here and I, Dave Williams, have this week’s installment of wisdom for you, free of charge!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but who are “they” and what else do “they” say? Sometimes, all we need is a little inspiration, a little motivation, and a little quote. From the world of travel and photography, here are some of my favourites to put you in the right frame of mind on this sunny Tuesday before travel comes back to life. Well, it’s sunny here in the UK! Hopefully, it’s sunny where you are, too!

Which is my favourite photograph? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.

Imogen Cunningham

It’s weird that photographers spend years or even a whole lifetime, trying to capture moments that added together, don’t even amount to a couple of hours.

James Lalroupi Kelvom

If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera.

Lewis Hine

Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.

Peter Adams

The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point of separation.

Susan Meiselas

My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.

Steve McCurry

If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.

Jim Richardson

You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.

Joan Miro

All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.

Richard Avedon

You don’t take a photograph – you make it.

Ansel Adams

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.

Elliott Erwitt

What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.

Karl Lagerfeld

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.

Ansel Adams

I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.

Diane Arbus

Photography has nothing to do with cameras.

Lucas Gentry

The picture that you took with your camera is the imagination you want to create with reality.

Scott Lorenzo

Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.

Diane Arbus

It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.

Paul Caponigro

Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.

Don McCullin

We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.

Ralph Hattersley

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.

Aaron Siskind

When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear.

Alfred Eisenstaedt

Photography is the story I fail to put into words.

Destin Sparks

The eye should learn to listen before it looks.

Robert Frank

It’s not enough to just own a camera. Everyone owns a camera. To be a photographer, you must understand, appreciate, and harness the power you hold.

Mark Denman

The context in which a photograph is seen affects the meaning the viewer draws from it.

Stephen Shore

The way that light hits objects, I think, is one of the more important things that sculpture and photography share.

Rashid Johnson

What do we feel when we look at a good photograph? We just want to be there, right at the exact moment that photo taken.

Mehmet Murat Ildan

When a moment in front of me appears to be particularly special, whether it be by beauty or experience, I capture it. I usually find a reason to justify taking that photo – symmetry, or color, or contrast – and it’s my hope that my photography sheds light onto what I see and do on a daily basis.

Connor Franta

The art of photography is all about directing the attention of the viewer.

Steven Pinker

It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter because you can invent things. But in photography, everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary.

David Bailey

Ok, so that was 31, but who was counting?! I hope there was some inspiration in there for you and I hope you all have a great day!

Much love

Dave

Zoo photography counts as travel photography, so for #TravelTuesday today I want to share my top tip for photographing animals in the zoo. I’m Dave Williams and I’m here every Tuesday on ScottKelby.com—let’s begin!

I realise that zoos aren’t for everyone, so let’s get that out of the way straight off. Personally, I’m careful to ensure that any zoo I visit has credibility in conservation because, as an animal lover, there’s nothing I loathe more than visiting a zoo with animals that aren’t properly cared for. There is a difficult balance, I realise that, but so long as there’s no mistreatment etc., I’m happy to visit.

I won’t mess around with a clickbait-esque title—I’ll cut to the chase. My number one tip for photographing animals in the zoo is…

Make it look wild!

It can be tricky to achieve this, but making the scene look wild will add so much to our images. Freeing the animal back into the wild gives a much greater connection to the animal’s natural environment, and that connection will cause the viewer to lend more appreciation to our image.

To achieve this our best tactic is to ensure the background is absolutely clear of any “zoo clutter.” By this I mean any unnatural enclosure features, like cheesy fake rocks, fences, walls, cables, walkways, all the stuff we see at the zoo that makes it so fake.

Something else we can do is crop in close on the animal, perhaps not dissimilar to a portrait shoot showing just the head and shoulders. This will bokeh out any unwanted background and give star-focus to the animal we’re photographing, revealing their character. When we do this a key portrait rule applies: always focus on the eyes! Bonus tip: if the animal is at an angle, focus on the closest eye.

And, finally, also themed around aperture, is this: –

When shooting through a mesh fence, like in a predator enclosure, we can lose the fence by shooting wide open if the subject is a reasonable distance from the fence. This wide aperture pushes our plane of focus and depth of field away from us (and from the fence), so we can often get a cool image with no fence in it.

I hope that tip was useful, and if you keep an eye on my Instagram for the next few days you can catch a few more tips!

Much love

Dave

Whether you shoot for fun or you’re an amateur turning pro, this little list contains the secrets to success. I’m Dave Williams, it’s #TravelTuesday, and it’s time to get on with things!

1 – Be committed

Take the sunrise analogy. If we’re committed, we’re there for the first light of the day, ready and keen to get started. If we’re willing to sacrifice a warm, comfortable bed in exchange for a cold, early morning, we’re demonstrating our commitment to travel photography and to ourselves.

2 – Think laterally

If we go where the crowds go, we’re more likely to take a shot that the crowds already got. If we think outside the box, however, we’re far more likely to create something unique that stands out amongst the crowd. It’s worth putting in the work to create something unique.

3 – Research hard!

If we put in the research behind our shots, we can plan for things that don’t often happen, like obscure moon phases or annual events. Putting ourselves in the right place at the right time will allow us to achieve something different, and meticulous planning results in us knowing where to be and when to be there. This research should present itself in the form of a shot list, allowing us to prioritise and plan whilst on a trip.

4 – Know your gear and techniques

Practicing hard and educating ourselves with regard to our gear and the techniques we can use will pay dividends when we’re on location. Having our methods honed so they become second nature means we can get far more done in a shorter time, and react to any changes effectively. We don’t need to travel to far-away locations to practice, we can do it close to home. When we are well-practiced it shows in our work.

5 – Learn patience

Patience is the most important tool in our bag—this is something I’ll always remember hearing Scott say. One characteristic of a great travel photographer is identifying and composing a photo, then waiting for everything to be right. The right light, the right colours, the right mood, the right anything—it often takes patience to have everything right.

6 – Be ready

Despite the need for patience, we also need to have the ability to reach quickly, responding to situations that develop around us. We need to understand the exposure triad (ISO, shutter, aperture) and know how to quickly apply it by touch only, so a fleeting moment doesn’t pass us by.

7 – Understand composition

We need to know when and how to apply the rule of thirds, leading lines, diagonals, the golden spiral, and every other compositional technique, as well as knowing when to break these rules with patterns, contrast, and depth.

8 – Self critique. A lot!

At the end of the day, when the shooting’s done, examine your work very carefully. Then take a break and come back to it again for another examination. Critique yourself and actively look for your mistakes so you know where to improve next time.

Photography is competitive, in some cases, more so than others. The most important thing is to have fun, and if we practice hard and achieve the most we possibly can, it becomes less stressful and easier to have fun.

Much love
Dave

I’ve told this story before, but it’s totally relevant!

I’m Dave Williams and I’m here every week for #TravelTuesday (because I’m a travel photographer… and I know it’s Friday, but Adobe decided to release some awesome updates on Tuesday so I was relegated, but just imagine, ok?) and last year in Florida I was shooting two new KelbyOne classes in the studios when, having called it a wrap, I had a day to myself to explore. This is what happened on that day: –

Yep, I added a little more ink to myself and got a new tattoo from the best shop in town! (It was definitely the best place in Tampa – they can’t lie on a sign, can they!)

Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this….

So, that unpronounceable mumbo-jumbo is actually Icelandic and it is the words ‘Thetta Reddast” flanked by two Icelandic runes, one for safe travels and the other for love. The strange D/P looking character is pronounced ‘th’ as in Thor (Þórr) the Norse God. The term is Icelandic and despite having no discernible translation, it certainly has a translatable meaning. Here’s how I know…

In the winter of 2016 – specifically October 29th – I was in Iceland on an adventure and decided I was going to explore the cave waterfall at Gljufrafoss, which was an incredible experience albeit not the smartest decision I ever made. Take a look at this: –

You can see the waterfall in the cave through that short canyon behind the incredibly wet photographer named Dave, somewhat blurred from the water inside my iPhone camera! It was very cold and I was reminded why I am smart in some senses but not in others as I had a complete change of clothing in the car, and a towel. I got some awesome shots inside the cave of the water thundering down the rock cascade, crashing into a small pool at its base before flowing out towards the sub-Arctic Icelandic countryside, concealed in a frozen mist. The part of me that wasn’t being smart was the bit responsible for my Nikon D810. I realise that my job is to educate and inspire, and I promise you can trust me! Anyway, having dried myself off and believing I’d dried my camera off I began on the 351 mile (565km) drive to the Westfjords where I had an appointment to shoot the resident foxes of the Arctic Fox Centre, Ingi and Móri. I wasn’t far into the journey when I noticed the camera was behaving a bit strangely. The first thing that aroused my suspicions is when the camera took a photo by itself with no intervention from myself… I thought that was a bit strange and I cast my mind back. The camera is ‘weather sealed’ and although it was wet when I emerged from the frozen canyon I thought I’d done a pretty good job of drying it off with my microfibre cloth. Apparently not. The camera occasionally fired off a shot by itself so I decided to take further steps to dry it out, including opening the ports and keeping it warm, and by using a bag full of dry rice.

That evening, having arrived in the Westfjords, I took this photo: –

I was in the Westfjords, far away from civilisation in an area covering 8,598 square miles but containing only 7,115 people, one third of whom are in one small town named ísafjörður. This mountain range was in the middle of the Westfjords and the lack of any notable population and no moon meant there was a pitch dark night sky and the faintest of Aurorae were visible. I set my camera on a tripod and had it firing off shot after shot, walking away from it to stare up at natures finest light show. When I stepped back toward my camera I turned the switch to ‘off’ but the camera continued taking shots, not turning off. I removed it from the tripod and took out the battery, affording myself a short term solution to what would turn out to be a long term problem. I made my way to ísafjörður for the night, leaving the camera in the bag of dry rice beside the warm radiator in stark contrast to the sub-zero winter temperatures that it transpired were to cause the cameras ultimate demise.

The following morning I headed to Súðavík with what was now just a very expensive paper-weight bearing the ‘Nikon’ emblem, not working at all. I arrived at the Arctic Fox Centre and met Midge. This is Midge: –

Midge gave me the warmest greeting as he cleared the snow from the parking area to make space for me, and I excitedly and enthusiastically introduced myself, eager to meet the foxes, before explaining my conundrum. I was midway through telling Midge that I wouldn’t be able to take any photos because my camera had broken, and the first thing he did was invite me inside for a coffee and to make a plan.

Armed with caffeine and ready to take on the world, that’s exactly what I did. Being a Nikon Pro I made a call to their offices first, talking them through what had happened, and they offered to send me a camera. The excitement was short lived however, when I found out that the camera they planned to send me was in Sweden as there was no residual stock in Iceland suitable for me, and that camera in Sweden would take a couple of days to arrive on a flight from Stockholm to Keflavik, then a truck to Reykjavik, then another flight from Reykjavik to ísafjörður. I didn’t have a couple of days – in a couple of days I was leaving Iceland and heading home. I had to turn down Nikon’s offer and make another plan. That’s when Midge said to me, “don’t worry, in Iceland we say ‘Thetta Reddast.'”

I had no clue what he was talking about but the world was closing in on me so I carried on trying to make a plan, calling the local tourism office to see if they knew of a photographer nearby who would be able to help out. There was only one (remember I said there’s basically nobody living there) and she was busy. I was stumped. Midge said, whilst making me a second coffee, “I have a camera, it’s probably not as good as yours but why don’t you borrow it until you go home.” I couldn’t believe it. I graciously accepted and, for the rest of my adventure, shooting the foxes and a helicopter flight among other things, I had a camera again. Midge simply asked that when I get back to Reykjavik I send it back to him on a flight to ísafjörður, which ended up costing me around £40 to send the box containing his camera on the next flight. Without that, I wouldn’t have been able to shoot the aerial views of Iceland offered by Nordurflug.

Thetta Reddast. It means, ‘everything is going to work out fine.’ It’s a beautiful Icelandic saying and it turned out everything did work out fine. Through the generosity of a stranger come friend I was able to continue, despite my own stupidity. Thing happen to us – hurdles pop up and road blocks appear – and we get through them, past them, over them, around them, and we work out the best of bad situations. Creatively I’ve been in a place lately that hasn’t been productive, but I’m pushing past it…

It’ll be fine

Much love
Dave

#TravelTuesday comes again, which means I’m back! I’m Dave Williams and I’m here every Tuesday. For the past nine weeks or so I’ve lacked motivation. I’ve had to suspend projects and slow down a lot, and I’ve had to cancel trips. I’m busy writing a book and even that’s been hard to focus on because, for me, this whole pandemic has severely dented my creativity. In a twist, now that we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I have plans to go north as soon as possible. It’s picked me up, and it’s meant I can make a plan.

“The plan” is exactly what I want to talk about today. “The plan” is the thing that motivates and inspires us to achieve big!

When I say “have a plan,” I mean a specific plan and an overarching “grand plan.” What I mean by this is we need to have targets, and we need to work out a way to achieve them. If we have a big target, the best way to get to that point is to break down the journey into smaller targets, so we have more successes along the way, and a shorter fall if we fail one small step versus falling the whole way to the starting point if we’d had one big goal alone. I’ve talked about that all before, so this time let’s go over how to have a plan for a small step and why it’s so important.

When we have a plan and we succeed at it, it gives us a huge psychological boost. The resulting confidence helps us to achieve the next goal, as part of the next plan. Look around at the photographers you follow and you’ll see that they all have a shot list—a plan—and this is their measure of whether they’ve succeeded or not. If Paul Nicklen, National Geographic and Sea Legacy photographer, wants to shoot leopard seals he plans meticulously. He scouts locations, checks weather forecasts and maritime forecasts, and he prepares his kit. Alongside this and many other things, he has a shot list. On this shot list, which may be quite minimal, there’ll be that one shot he wants to achieve from the project. The planning all amounts to one thing: getting the one shot. Secondary to that, there may be other locations or other shots, and together these make up the shot list. When it all comes together and the shots on the list are attained, the project is a success. Tertiary to the “one shot” and the rest of the list, any extras which become keepers, which we may call “lucky shots” in our business, are a bonus. It’s a kind of “above and beyond” scenario if this happens, but the goal is the goal, and combining all these projects together pushes us along on our master plan.

Paul Nicklen, Scott Kelby, and all the other successful, working photographers out there today follow these principles, albeit through slightly different iterations. There’s a master plan, then there are all the little plans, and in the little plans, there’s a shot list. Success with a shot list means success with the plan, and success with the plan means success with the master plan.

As life goes back to normal and your camera sees more action again, make a plan and make a shot list. Trust me, having small, simple goals—like which mountain you want to shoot at sunrise, or which setting you want to shoot a family member’s portrait in—will help pick everything back up again and the success will push you to work harder and achieve more, and lead, in turn, to the next goal, and the next, and the next. As the sights close in on the success of the master plan, move the goalposts and aim higher.

Much love
Dave

It’s #TravelTuesday, I’m Dave Williams, and I’m a professional photographer. But what does that mean?

One commonly asked question in the industry these days is around the definition of what actually constitutes a ‘professional photographer.’ The usual definition is that it is somebody who is shooting for pay. I suppose in the strictest sense of the definition, that is true. A professional person gets paid for what they do. What’s more important though, is professional conduct and skill.

What I’m going to attempt to do today is express my own views on what I believe constitutes professional behavior in photography. This is my opinion and although it may be shared by others, it isn’t shared by all.

I think a large amount of the confusion stems from education, or more specifically, the lack of it. If standards are not clear to photographers themselves, it becomes very difficult for the general public to have any idea of what to expect when engaging or working with a photographer. I have no photography education from ‘the institution,’ my education comes from self-teaching, trial-and-error, online training, books, workshops, etc etc.

Professions are trades or crafts that have enforced standards, regulatory bodies, certification requirements, and some sort of formal training. Medicine, law, accounting, architecture, etc. are all good examples of this; each of these professions has one or two major internationally-recognised accreditation bodies which uphold standards and ensure members comply with minimum requirements and, more importantly, educate customers about what they should expect.

This set of standards is not reflected in our industry. It makes our industry more accessible, more competitive, and the door is opened for photographers with less integrity and lower skill. It makes it harder for all of us. This also means that most photographers do not bother with certification. I will tell you now, I’m one of those people. The increased costs and requirements do not translate into increased revenue, customers, or profitability. It serves as ‘club membership’ and an internal status symbol.

There are some exceptions to this — The Photographers Guild, The Societies, Royal Photographic Society, NPS, CPS etc. for instance — but even that tends to be rather fragmented with mixed standards and virtually zero general consumer awareness. Perhaps part of the problem is that, because the nature of our work is so subjective in the first place, it becomes difficult to apply quality control standards to the result itself. This is obviously not the same for, say, medicine.

There are agency or brand associations, too. The public perceives acceptance to these groups as a stamp of quality (or minimum quality). Generally, this is reasonable. The caveat though – just because a photographer takes excellent portraits for one agency, or for their portfolio, it doesn’t mean that their standards for portraiture also apply to architecture, or travel, or product photography.

Perhaps a better solution here is not to look at the quality of work, but the conduct of the photographer. I firmly believe that, regardless of occupation, there are some minimum standards required of all humans who offer a service. There is a level of trust and commitment given to you by your client on the basis of belief that we will deliver as we promised to, and it is our duty to ensure that we deliver on that promise.

Will you, as a photographer, take this pledge?

Professional Photographers Pledge

  • I will deliver on time and to spec, as promised
  • I will uphold my agreements and if I can’t, I will say so in advance, and will try to mutually work towards a solution
  • I will do my best, and will not accept compromise unless there is no other choice, in which case I will inform my clients so there are no misunderstandings
  • I will do my best to try and work for my client’s needs. For whatever reason, what they think they need may not be the same as what they actually need, and I will find the best solution
  • I will deliver at a consistent level of quality regardless of external circumstances that may affect us personally, and I will never compromise that quality – it is better to under-promise and over-deliver
  • I will uphold basic standards of courtesy, including timeliness and professionalism of communication via any medium
  • I will respect my clients time and timescales
  • I will respect my subject — whether this be treating models/talent/fauna/flora with courtesy and friendliness, or carefully handling product and props as if they were my precious things
  • I will maintain my integrity and be fully transparent in my pricing, even if I get things wrong. If there are big variances or changes in scope, then I will communicate this and reason with the client
  • I will clearly detail the scope and deliverables of all assignments
  • I will do my part to educate clients where necessary, whether this be to do with technical or creative choices, licensing or otherwise
  • I will respect the creative rights of other photographers and clients so that they will respect mine
  • I will value my own work and will not fight others on price alone, retaining credibility and economy for the entire industry rather than damaging it
  • I will have spares and backups
  • I will make a contingency to meet eventualities that are within my control to resolve should anything go wrong
  • I will not ‘fix it later in post’ when this would mean delivering a sub-standard result that could be remedied in camera
  • I will maintain my skills and training to ensure I am always at the top of my game

There are stories all over the internet on photography media sites. It’s clear that photographers are not observing any of these standards. In turn, the expectations are lower, trust is not there, and the overall lack of confidence in our industry from the client’s perspective translates into lower value all around. A few bad apples spoil the barrel.

I think you can see why we have a recurrent crisis in our industry. It doesn’t help that a lot of the practicing photographers have no work experience outside of this; it means that they have no idea what’s to be expected in a normal professional workplace.

All we can do is ensure that we do our best to adhere to our Professional Photographers Pledge, and make an effort to educate those who are not where possible. In the long run, it’s in everybody’s best interest.

Much Love
Dave

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