Posts from the ‘observation’ category

“You see, but you do not observe ” – a quote from Sherlock Holmes

I rather like this quote by Sherlock Holmes taken from the novel – ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’. It is just as relevant to Holmes as he tries to decipher the clues to a crime, as it is to a photographer trying to decide what to photograph and why.

We so often arrive at a destination and in haste the camera comes out of the bag, a lens is chosen and a moment later the shutter has been released and we move on to the next shot. Or at least that’s what I am inclined to do, particularly when time is limited. Have I just seen and not observed? If I gave myself more time and slowed the whole process down, would I start to observe and not just see. There is an important difference. Would it just be better to leave the camera in the bag and resist the temptation to take the first photograph until your eyes have truly observed what it is your mind wants to capture?

Do you appreciate something more if it has been observed, experienced and enjoyed as opposed to just seen and captured?

This question brings me rather nicely onto something I heard on Radio Four earlier this month. As I was getting myself ready for work I listened to ‘Thought for the Day’ by The Rev. Dr. Sam Wells.

In the broadcast he recites the story of being in The Alps waiting for the cyclists in the Tour de France to pass him by. He deliberated as to whether or not to take a photograph on his smartphone and capture the moment as they raced by, or simply watch as they came towards him, cycle past, then away into the distance and out of sight. He chose to take the photograph but he admits he missed the race. He goes on to say that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Hamlet at The Barbican in London and coincidentally the same actor also plays Sherlock Holmes in the recent BBC TV series. In Hamlet his adoring fans are trying to capture him on their smartphones, but are they missing the play, the superb acting and the wonderful words of Shakespeare?


 Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series Sherlock. Photograph: Robert Viglasky/PA

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series Sherlock. Photograph: Robert Viglasky/PA


(I urge you to listen to the short broadcast – it lasts under three minutes and in my view, is well worth hearing.)

Thought for the Day on Radio 4 by Rev. Dr. Sam Wells, the Vicar of St Martin in the Fields. First broadcast on 12th August 2015.


As a photographer I often wonder if I am missing the experience of just being in a certain location, enjoying the surroundings in which I find myself, as opposed to concentrating on the point of focus, composition and exposure settings. Or in other words ‘living the moment’.

Perhaps by keeping the camera switched off for a little longer, not only will we enjoy the experience even more but it will also teach us to observe and not just see. It may enhance our lives and through closer observation and appreciation of the subject, improve our photography as well.

Thanks as always for looking, reading and perhaps listening as well.


Do click on the image to view a larger version.

Pool abstracts at Playa Blanca

Pool abstract
Pool steps abstract 

In my last two entries I took a different approach to my photography by abstracting detail and observing how light and shade could aid the composition. In this entry I have included a third element, which is water, and how reflected light can add another dimension to an abstract image.

Poolside abstract
Ripples in the pool - abstract
Ripples in the pool abstract 
Pool steps abstract
Steps in the pool abstract 

All these images, including those in the last two entries are definitely a departure for me from my usual style. A new experimental approach, challenging the way I see my surroundings and breaking out of my ‘comfort zone’. I believe this practice is an essential part of the photographic learning process. Not to be confined by subject matter or a certain style of photography. Trying new things, whilst enjoying and benefiting from the experience. I believe these fresh ideas can be adapted and moulded to new work, so that lessons learned in the past can be applied to images still to be taken. That’s the theory, and I am excited to see how my photography develops in practice in the months ahead.

The previous entries in this short series are:

Playing with the light at Playa Blanca
A fan of shadows at Playa Blanca

A fan of shadows at Playa Blanca

Fan shadow
A ‘fan of shadows’

My last entry was about ‘playing with the light’ at Playa Blanca in Lanzarote. Strong light not only brings contrast to an image but very often shadows as well; so this post concentrates on the shadows and how they can be used to either enhance or be a fundamental part of the composition.

Shadow abstract
The sun lounger cast an interesting shadow – a fish or shark perhaps?
Shadows through the opening
Shadows through an opening in the wall
Chair shadow
The shadow of a chair cast on a tiled floor
Gate shadow
A shadow of  gate
Rake shadow
Shadow of a rake
A fan of shadows
Another shot of the ‘fan of shadows’

These may not be great images but the combination of light and shade, particularly in monochrome, have a certain something about them. They would in my opinion not work in colour. This series of pictures are all about texture, shape, form and how the shadows are absolutley key to the composition.  If nothing else taking and processing these images all help train the eye to see. After the all camera is simply a tool to record the shot. It’s the person looking through the viewfinder and pressing the shutter who is the true creator.

Playing with the light at Playa Blanca

Abstract wall

Back in November we visited Playa Blanca in Lanzarote, one of The Canary Islands for some winter sun and warmer temperatures. We only had one day of rain, the rest of the time we relaxed under clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid to high twenties.

The light was very special particularly at the beginning and end of each day, and having never visited this part of the world before, it was an opportunity for me to try an alternative approach to my photography. Still working in black and white I looked for details in the buildings around where we were staying. Observing the way the light fell on the textured wall surfaces and the shadows that were cast. Simplifying the image through abstraction and including some geometric shapes to enhance the composition. The white walls often worked as giant reflectors projecting light in areas where you would least expect it to be.

Here are a selection of images all of which were taken within a five minute walk of the villa we had rented for the week.



Hole in a wall

Wall abstract 3

Staircase abstract

Chimney abstract

Wall abstract 2

Wall abstract

Staircase abstract 2

For me these images capture the feel and essence of the resort, the wonderful light as it played on the textured and buildings, but more importantly it was a lesson in observation and I greatly enjoyed the experience.