Category Archives Guest Blogger

PERSONAL PROJECTS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF STAYING CREATIVE

Hi, Kersten here. You may not know me (yet), unless you’re one of the tens of people who listen to my podcast, the Camera Shake Podcast, in which case – well done! Nice to meet you!

Now, I mention this not to callously promote my ‘cast but because it’s strangely relevant to today’s topic: Personal Projects and the Importance of Staying Creative.

In this blog, I’ll be telling you about two of my own projects which have both changed my creative thinking, broadened my horizons as a photographer and helped me overcome one of the most challenging times of my life.

HEADS UP

Ok, let me explain. I live in the UK and the past 18 months have been, shall we say, challenging. As if you didn’t know already, there’s been a global pandemic and our government decided to shut down the country completely. 

But let’s roll back a few months. In late 2019, when life still seemed normal and the idea of a global virus pandemic was largely part of science fiction lore, I was in the process of updating my website and as such needed a new headshot for the ‘About’ page. I wanted to create a casual, yet stylish self portrait, that showed that I was serious but didn’t take myself too seriously. Thinking up a number of different scenarios I decided on a particular style of image and went to work.

What was needed was some kind of table top, beauty lighting and a neutral black backdrop. My table didn’t make the grade, looking dull and uninspiring. However, some time earlier I had come across a wooden oak board with an interesting grain and just the right amount of gritty ruggedness around the edges. I had previously used it as a backdrop for a range of different images, from flat lays to YouTube thumbnails and it had always delivered the goods. This, I gathered, was going to be perfect as a table top. Add a few props to illustrate what I’m all about (like a camera because no-one, absolutely no-one could guess that I’m a photographer, right?) and Bob’s your uncle.

So I set up the lights, installed the backdrop and got into position. Taking elaborate selfies using anything other than a cell phone turned out to be more complicated than it needed to be. Firstly, the shutter had to be controlled remotely with several seconds of delay so I could drop the thing and act natural. Next, some immediate feedback was required, which made tethering essential. But once the Gremlins had been eliminated, I was ready to get started. I tried out a range of different poses and all was going well. All I had to do was hit the remote, drop the thing like a hot bun, get into position and 2 seconds later – flash bang wallop. Shooting tethered and being able to see the images coming through on a laptop screen really helped dialling in the posing. It all seemed to go well until I pressed the remote, got distracted by something and the camera fired, catching me by surprise in mid move, hands flailing with a not-so-flattering deer in the headlights expression on my face. 

This, I thought, wasn’t going to make it as my profile picture. But on closer inspection, the shot had something. Not the serious, Clint Eastwood-esque cool of the professional I wanted to convey of course, but rather the depiction of a bumbling idiot, too dense to take his own passport photo and utterly bewildered by his own reflection in the water. 

Loved it. 

My wife, always happy to critique my latest creations, agreed that this outtake represented my personality much better than any serious portrait ever could. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still managed to create an image for the ‘About’ page – but I kept thinking about this absurd and comical, yet slightly bemusing mishap of a photograph. It was engaging and immediately made me want to see more. How much fun would it be to photograph other people like this? And who would willingly subject themselves to complete and utter photographic ridicule? Well, all of you who have kids will know what happened next.

And thus, the idea for a personal project was born. Several beverages later I had come to the conclusion that what needed to be done was to create a triptych, or series, of three images in which the subject interacts with personal objects of their own choice. We all own things that are dear to us, maybe for some sentimental reason or another or just because it exemplifies our character, personality or career choice. Also, this would give me plenty of ammunition for conversation and a chance to get to know the subject a little better, essential when pushing the envelope toward the farcical, especially when you’re photographing people who are not used to having a massive lens stuck in their face. 

I called it ‘Three Heads in a Row’ and seeing that Instagram’s grid allows for three posts in a single row, it made for the perfect platform to display the images. Something I loved and still love about this project was the connection you’re able to establish between photographer and model. 

This was fast becoming my number one personal project for 2019/2020. Little did I know.

And then…Covid happened. 

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My blog today is to talk a little bit about things I wish I knew about photography when I began, and how weird and wonderful it can be. It’ll be a bit messy but hopefully you can get some insight from me and hang on til the end!

I started photography back when I was 15, a teacher gave me a bridge camera to take home over the weekend and told me to take photos of whatever caught my attention. The pictures I took were horrific and I edited them very very badly on Picnik… RIP. Unfortunately I can’t show the photographs because I deleted them as soon as I became embarrassed by them being online!

As you can see below I over edited all of my images, angles didn’t exist and shooting in any direction was my thing, I also enjoyed the use of colour selection and I absolutely did not know how to colour balance!

As a photographer or any type of creative person, you should just allow yourself to evolve! I know it’s hard but try to stop stressing out about how many likes you’re getting on social media and just create work that YOU enjoy. I understand that if you’re working for a client then you may have to stick to a specific brief, however if you are working for yourself and creating content that you enjoy by messing around with new techniques, things that interest you or making work by trial and error then I guarantee that you will enjoy more of what you create.

Over the last 10 years I’ve developed my skills in different aspects of photography and tried not to just stick to one niche like a lot of photographers do. Sometimes I think it would have been easier to throw myself into a specific aspect of photography but I’m glad I didn’t because I don’t want to trap myself and become stagnant.

It can be a overwhelming place to be in when you can’t creatively express yourself, I’ve found that trying to stick to a specific theme or style can be tiring, I trialed this for a month on my instagram and the likes don’t change, nor do the comments or shares! It’s all subjective and if you become obsessive with social media then it can really stunt your creative flow and your courage you have to post things. This happens to me in waves, I will be going out all the time to shoot for a while and suddenly it’s been a month and I haven’t picked up my camera or posted anything online. Yeah that grid below looks pretty, but oh my was it boring..

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June is Pride Month, so I thought I would take this week to highlight some amazing LGBTQ+ photographers! I asked people on social media to share their favorites with me, and I loved looking through the work of these photographers to discover a lot of truly talented people. So here they are, in no particular order.

If there are others whose work you’d like to share, head to the comments and post their links!


Elizabeth Dugan

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest


Sam Eckholm

Instagram | YouTube | Twitter


Nicol Biesek

Guest Blog | Website | Instagram


Cody Stallings

Website | Instagram | Facebook


Cat Palmer

Website | Instagram | Facebook


Dav.d Daniels

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter


Meg McCauley

Instagram


Bryan Clavel

Website (contains nudity) | Instagram


Emily April Allen

Website | Instagram


Ryan Pfluger

Website (contains nudity) | Instagram


Holly Mason

Website | Instagram


Carsten Bruhn

Website | Instagram


Pamela Ann Berry

Website | Instagram

Hello, my name is Kristi Odom. I am a wildlife photographer and filmmaker, who is often on the road photographing in remote locations or teaching workshops photographing bears, sharks or some exotic animal. I have always felt I had to go far to photograph wildlife. My camera would often stay in my closet until a big trip, sometimes it would just live in my Think Tank airport roller bag waiting for the next adventure.

I had a dream to have one of my stories published in National Geographic, so every chance I got, I was on a plane traveling to far off lands to photograph exotic animals.

Up until the end of last year I lived in the DC area, so photographing wildlife around home was challenging, or so I thought. In 2018, in a series of fortunate events (which I may not have felt so fortunate about it at the time), I needed some wildlife photos in a short period of time. My schedule was too crazy to go on the road, so I had to shift my mindset and look for photos I could take of wildlife close to home. I randomly got an email, on the right day, at the right time, about an insect survey group that was going out to count butterflies and dragonflies. I had no idea the can of worms that this would open (pun totally intended there).  

Passion is contagious, and this quirky group of insect enthusiasts, at first had me scratching my head and wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into… but soon had me excited and curious. From the patterns in a dragonflies back to the question marks on a butterflies wings, there was exploration and discovery all around. Every time I was in town on a Friday (they meet every Friday and have been doing so for 27 years to count bugs), I would grab my camera and head down to the local parks.

I found myself in the middle of a big story about such little critters. With climate change, use of pesticide and land management, there have been all sorts of changes in insect populations that this group’s data had keys to understanding. They also had records of the depth of biodiversity, endangered species, first arrivals of the seasons….their data helped preserve lands and create awareness. This group, who I now consider my close friends, quickly became my heroes. They were making change while connecting with nature.

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7 Tips To Optimizing Your Adventure Workshop Experience

As I prepare for my upcoming Photo Adventure Workshops to locations like Antarctica, Cuba, Costa Rica, and Yellowstone, I feel it would be helpful to create a list of suggestions on how to make the most out of attending these excursions. 

The photo adventures I lead are so rewarding, yet they’re not advertised as leisure vacations. These are WORKshops. They’re intended to test and improve your skills in some of the most awesome places on earth. These excursions are not only an investment of time and money, more importantly, they are an investment in yourself and in your artistic development.

By maintaining a positive outlook, fostering great group camaraderie, and by understanding your vision for the trip, you ensure a successful adventure. Based on my years of experience as a Professional Wildlife Photographer, here are 7 things for you consider to optimize your next workshop experience:

1. Start with The Right Attitude

This may seem simple, but I believe it’s the most important piece of advice I can give you. Always keep a positive outlook, a real desire to learn, and an open mind to fully benefit from your experience. Be patient and courteous to both your workshop leaders and fellow participants- you are all there for a common purpose. Immerse yourself, go with the flow, and be up for anything.

2. Be Observant

No matter what stage of photography you’re currently at, everyone has something to learn from attending a workshop. One of the fastest and most effective ways to hone your craft is by observing how others work within a scene. There is certainly much to learn from your workshop leaders, but also from fellow participants. Study how everyone is setting up their shot, and ask them about their process.

Effectively working within a group, requesting feedback, and drawing inspiration from photographers of all backgrounds can greatly enhance the workshop experience.

3. Ask Questions

First and foremost, don’t hesitate to ask questions, no matter how basic they may seem. Asking questions helps create dialogue on aspects of photography that some participants may have never known or considered. You are attending a workshop to learn, help your instructors and comrades help you!

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My name is Odd-Petter. I’m a photographer based in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway. I’m 47 years old, and I started photography as a hobby in late 2014. I found a friend here in Kabelvåg who had the same addiction to the northern lights and landscape as I do. We went from Svolvær to Reine in the west of Lofoten almost every night from October 2014 until the end of 2015. It was very strange to drive in Lofoten to hunt our lady Aurora, but with no tourism attached to it. Towards the end of December 2015 I went to Svinøya Rorbuer to ask if they needed a guide to drive guests around hunting for the northern lights. This began my journey as a tour guide photographer.

In December 2015 – in fact, more specifically, on the 29th – I started my own business. Today my brand is Discover Lofoten. In order to start this business and comply with all the rules and regulations surrounding businesses in the tourism industry I had to get all the necessary permits from the government. Trust me, that was hard work and very expensive, even by Norwegian standards. I’m proud to say that I did it, and today I am known as “The Aurora Jager” here in Lofoten and around the world. “The jäger” translates as “the hunter!”


In the beginning of 2016 a tourist company called ‘Il Diamante’ came to the Lofoten Islands from Italy. They contacted me and asked for help. They wanted to know where they could find the northern lights. Normally this kind of group tourism operator never uses a local guide or photographer when they are in various different places. I told them over phone that I don’t know where or when we could find the northern lights, but I offered my service to them for a trial. They took my offer and for the first three years we had bad weather and snowstorms here in Svolvær. They did not want to get out. I told them that we could try different places in Lofoten to see if we could find better weather. We went out hunting other locations, and I succeeded in finding the aurora for them on all tours from 2015 up today, except for 2 nights. We always recommend tourist to book us more than 1 night and, book the first night here so they have the best chance to see the best northern lights.

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