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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.

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#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

Last Friday I shared an Adobe Spark Page of my favorite Spiral Staircase photos (here’s the link in case you missed it). Anyway, I wrote that those were my favorites, but of course, I’ve photographed other spiral staircases, and different shots of the same ones, that didn’t make “the cut” and weren’t included in my Spark Page.

Today, I thought I’d share some of those shots that didn’t make the cut here, as I thought it might be helpful for educational purposes to see the ones that weren’t good enough (and being able to sort the wheat from the chaff, the Bartles from the James, the Hall from the Oates, is an important part of our job as photographers). So, knowing all that (and that you’re about to see some total B and C-level photos), here’s goes nuthin’:

A kind of out-of-the-way staircase in the Palace of Versailles, France

This one is probably the best one of the bunch, so I’m starting with it to kind of ease you into it. It’s really not that bad, but it’s also really not that great so I pulled it from the post. It also took a lot of Photoshop work just to get to the state you see here, so maybe I’m also seeing that when I look at the shot.

Outside of Lisbon, Portugal near Sintra.

This is one my friend Dave Williams (of “Tuesdays with Dave”) really wanted to shoot, and a lot of folks really love this ancient ceremonial well/staircase known as “The Masonic Initiation Wells of the Quinta da Regaleira,” but I wasn’t super digging it. I don’t know if it’s the color, or the angle or what, but this one definitely did not make the cut. It may be somewhat interesting, but I don’t think it’s beautiful.

From the bottom looking up

Above: Not much better from the bottom of the well looking up, either.

Above: When the behind-the-scenes shot is more interesting than “the shot” you know you have a problem. That’s me, Dave Williams, and Chicky Nando! :)
In The Chicago Modern Art Museam

Above: This staircase has potential, but the day we were there, they were doing some maintenance on the upper floors and they closed those off so we could only access the 2nd level and the floor level. Not awesome, and a weird angle to boot.

Sommerset House in London

This isn’t awful, but it ain’t good. I went to Sommerset to shoot this amazing, incredible super-modernistic glass spiral staircase…but it was closed that weekend, and they said, “you can shoot this one just down the hall.” My buddy Dave, our friend Peter Treadway, and I shot it to death. To death! Nothing. This was the best of the bunch and it’s not awesome (to say the least).

Same place: from up hight. It gets worse from here.
A swing and a miss!

Yeah, it’s not getting better from up high. Oh, well. Moving on.

From the Tate Britain. I’m not sure you can even tell what this is. Ugh.
OK, this one isn’t too bad, actually. It might should have made the cut.

Above: that’s another view, from the bottom, of that awesome spiral staircase in the Hilton Reykjavik, Iceland. It looks very different since from the top you see all red carpet. I wish it was centered up a bit more, but this one isn’t actually too bad. I think I could have snuck this one in the keepers.

This one’s just messed up.

Above: Here’s one that didn’t make the cut from San Francisco’s Mechanic’s Institute Library. The railing is all just distorted and everything. Kind of a symmetrical mess.

This is the other side of the Embarcadero staircase shot I shared on the Spark page. Now I see why I liked my shots from the other side so much better. Total “meh.”

I’m not sure it’s technically spiral, so I didn’t put it in my Spark page, but I actually do like this shot (from Madrid, where my mother was born). :)

I spare you the pain of any more, but there ya go. The photos that didn’t make the cut. I hope you found that helpful, interesting, (nauseating)?

Now, as we go into this week, I want you to think of these images any time you feel down about your own photography. That way, you can say to yourself, “OK, I may not have nailed this shoot, but at least it wasn’t as bad those spiral staircase shots Scott took that didn’t make the cut.” I’m glad I could be an inspiration. LOL!! ;-)

-Scott

P.S. We’re just about two weeks from ‘The Landscape Conference.” It’s going to be awesome, and you don’t want to miss it. Details and tickets at this link. It’s going to be (wait for it…wait for it…) epic! :)


Well, my love of photographing spiral staircases has finally become its own Adobe Spark page, where I tell the story, share some behind-the-scenes shots, camera settings, and lots and lots of shots of beautiful spiral staircases around the world.

If you get a sec, I hope you’ll give them a look. Here’s the link:

https://spark.adobe.com/page/EWh7Bge2itJkj/

Many thanks, and here’s wishing you a safe, happy and healthy weekend. :)

-Scott

7 Tips for Photographers

Hi there, I’m Polly. I’m a journalist, photographer, and a bunch of other labels.

This past month, I soft launched Black Women Photographers, a global community and database of Black women and non-binary photographers on July 7th, my 26th birthday. Before the launch, I kickstarted everything off with a COVID-19 relief fund — #BWPReliefFund — to help those in the community who have been hit hard by the pandemic. 

I’ve learned quite a bit in a short period of time. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m literally just getting started in my career, however, I want to share seven things I’ve learned along the way.


Tip 1: Remove The Word ‘Aspiring’ From Your Bio

Please, I’m begging you. Are you a photographer or not? If you are, say that. You only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention. Do you really want to waste it with filler words?


Tip 2: Do It On Your Own Terms

What do I mean by that? I’ve quickly learned that some of my favorite photographers, creative directors, writers, you name it… they all have one thing in common: they do it on their own terms.

You would think it would be easy enough, since there is no blueprint for this, but it is not. With social media being a highlight reel, it creates a false perception that your favorite creative people have it all under control. Spoiler alert: we do not. We are tweeting and Instagramming through it, too.

However, I’ve quickly learned that the more I listened to my inner voice, the more wins I’ve had. I’m doing this on my own terms. Most importantly, I’m having fun with it.


Tip 3: Remove Those Boxes

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Not long after the invention of photography came the first selfie. It’s #TravelTuesday and I, Dave Williams, am here as always with something from the world of travel, photography, and life. Today – selfies!

The person who first sat for a selfie was Robert Cornelius who, in 1839 in Philadelphia, sat for a little over a minute in front of his camera to capture the self-portrait that followed suit of so many painters before him. So many photographers have continued this self-portraiture tradition since the painters and our faces and bodies hold incredible storytelling ability, so it makes sense to do this.

It can be surprising how many photographers are reluctant to turn the lens on themselves, knowing that some of the world’s most famous photographers specialise in self-portraiture. If you’d like inspiration, look no further than Gilmar Smith, who takes amazing portraits and self-portraits alike.

Exactly what is it about turning the lens on themselves that stimulates photographers? For many famous self-portrait photographers, their body is a canvas on which they can layer ideas and delve into their inner psyche. For others, it can be a commentary on society. This genre of photography can also be a visual expression of inner emotions or even a photographic diary. In this age of the selfie, it’s easy to think “isn’t a self-portrait the same thing as a selfie?” Not exactly. A self-portrait is more considered than an off-the-cuff snap of the situation.

Using yourself as your own model doesn’t necessarily mean a seated portrait, but is more an excuse to experiment with poses, costumes, and artistry with the only model you’ll ever have who won’t complain—yourself.

What a self-portrait does for us, whether staged, environmental, or in action, is that it serves as a reminder to us of the activity, the emotion, and the situation we were in at the time we took it. It’s a reminder, as well as a piece of art, and with that little piece of enlightenment and explanation, I hope those who have never taken a self-portrait will give it a go.

Much love
Dave

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