It’s all about perspective …

It’s all about perspective.

Think about it for a while.

You may think you’re in a worse position then someone else, but you ONLY see it from your perspective. Who’s to say, and this is highly likely, that you are being perceived in the same way by that other person.


They may look at you as being in a much better position in the world, in life? Take stock of where you are now, and then make the changes now that effect your future.

Stop comparing (it’s easy to do so I know) be yourself, do your thing, enjoy what you enjoy and live life.

A path to finding your creative spark.

Being in isolation is often where I find my creative spark. I can retreat to this space wherever I am. All I need to do is slip on a pair of headphones to get myself into that space. I could be surrounded by thousands of people but feel detached, observing the world around me, ready for the moment I press that shutter button.

So if you see me and I appear distant, it could be that I’m in that creative space and just observing, not scrutinizing the world around me. Not watching for detail but looking for patterns, looking for angles, looking for a frame.If you haven’t tried it, it can almost be like self hypnosis or a form of meditation, a way to switch off most of your mind and concentrate on just one thing.

How Fear is such a limiting beast and how I overcome it.

Warning, this is a non-photography post.

Fear is such a limiting beast. I’ve been afraid of many things and too often I haven’t pushed through it.

Until I thought about one such fear, the fear of flying.

170601--© William Mankelow

I love it and loath it in equal measure, but when I’m really scared, when I’m freaking out because of turbulence, or just flying itself, I push through it. If I have a window seat I look out and try to keep myself calm, though this doesn’t always work. A flight I took back from Hamburg last year was just too rough for me to ignore it.

BUT even though it stresses me, scares me. I still do it. Why? Aside from the obvious pay off of being able to explore more of this amazing world. We have to go to Finland every year, at least once. Which means having to fly.

Everytime I face my fear. It doesn’t get any easier, each flight is different, but I face it and move on.

So if there’s something you fear, like me with flying, or me having to pick the phone up for a difficult conversation. Remember, that fear is often just the feeling of not being in control. That you can’t cope. You can. Believe me, you can.

To enjoy the photography you do, do the photography you enjoy

To improve with anything you must practice and often that practice can be tough. To begin with you learn quickly, everything is fresh, new and exciting, and then you hit it, the plateau. Nothing seems to change, you appear to be stuck at a certain level. At this point it’s pretty easy to give up, it’s too hard to continue to be motivated when you see no progress at all. BUT let’s look at this from another point of view.

The one question you need to ask yourself at this point is are you enjoying yourself? If it’s a hobby, you’re not being forced to do it, it is something you’ve chosen. Now even if it is that one thing you’ve always wanted to do, it may not always be fun, but for me enjoyment is the key and remember, you never stop learning.

I’ve learnt a lot about photography over the years to see that enjoyment in the process of learning makes me learn faster. Keeping a positive frame (no pun intended) of mind when you’re trying a new technique out, or attempting to catch that killer shot really does help.

So, to improve your photography. Do what you enjoy, take the photos you want to take.

I often joke that if you’re really into photographing lamp posts, make sure they’re the best photos of lamp posts you can take and above all enjoy taking them and then sharing them.

My real passion for photography is railways and everything to do with them. From the trains to the stations, signals to the sidings I enjoy it. I feel relaxed when I’m out trackside with my camera, which leads me to take what I think at least, are my best images and I’ve learnt so much during that process.

So, don’t wait for permission. Go and take the photos you want, enjoy taking them and you will naturally learn as you go.

The habit of always having a camera on you.

Most importantly have your camera you use to hand at all times. Have a place you keep it and make that somewhere you’re very likely to walk past as you head out of the house. This means you can pick it up almost without thinking.

Did you know that on average if you follow a habit for more than 20 days it will stick?

Once you’re out with your camera have a theme in mind, keep this nice and simple. For example pick the colour red and while on your walk look for everything in that colour. You’ll be surprised with what you capture and will probably ended up photographing things they usually would just walk past.

One last piece of advice is to have somewhere to output your photos. This can be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr or even your very own blog. I find that having a goal in mind not only gets me photographing more, if I have somewhere in mind to put them it also gives me an extra motivation to get out and take more photos.


Capture the change.

The world around you can sometimes appear to stand still, that is particularly true here in Oxford where you can often find a place hardly change in years. But look closely enough and you’ll find that the world around you changes more often than you might think.

SAAA L Blog-1    SAAA L Blog-2

The shop at the end of your road has a new sign to a whole shopping centre being replaced. This is where photography becomes really important. It has the power to document a moment in time, what an area previously looked like, what clothes people were wearing, the vehicles that were being driven.

Even though everything might appear permanent, the world changes. Document now for later.

The 24 Shot Challenge

What is the 24 shot challenge?
It’s a photography project that can be as short or as long as you like with the express idea of only taking 24 photos.
Why 24 shots?
In the days of 35mm film photography you’d often only have 24 exposures per film.
Let me explain …
Do you ever look at your hard drive at all those shots you’ve taken but never done anything with? Well this is where the 24 shot challenge will hopefully help you change that habit. If you feel this applies to you, read on …
Step 1. Think of a subject. What would you like to photograph? It can be anything you choose, but pick a subject that will hold your interest.
Step 2. What time frame will you be taking your 24 shots over? You could go for a simple 10 minutes, or why not be really strict and only allow yourself 1 shot and hour?
Step 3. Think of what you will do with images after you’ve taken them? Will you post them to a social media platform? I recommend Instagram as it’s a great place to see and share images. Have somewhere in mind to output your images
Step 4. Follow through with your plan. Maybe begin with a short time and simple theme. For example, everything around you that is the colour red in 5 minutes. Simple, 24 shots in  5 minutes.
Step 5. Enjoy the process. Make a note of how it makes you look at what you’re taking and what you are not.
(Optional) Step 6. Send you results to me, I’d love to see what you have taken, how the challenge panned out for you. Or post them on the SAAA Community page.

The Five Photomeet Steps

If you’ve never been to a photomeet before, you might be wondering what they’re all about.
I mean they’re called a photomeet because that’s what we do, we meet up to take photos.BUT there is more to it than that. So here are what we like to call the Five Photomeet Steps.
1. What camera are you using today?
Is it the one you regularly use? Is it a new camera? New Lens? We’ll spend a few minutes at the start talking through any questions you have about your particular camera.
BONUS INFO: You don’t need an dSLR (the one you can change the lenses) to take great photos.
2. What photos would you like to take today?
There is a theme set every month but you don’t have to stick to this. We’ll talk about what each of us hopes to capture and how we’re thinking about going about this.
3. How can you get those photos you want?
Are you trying out a new technique for the first time or are you using a tried and test method. Once again we talk through this, encouraging you to create your own style.
4. We go for a walk.
Simply put, we take a short walk enabling you to find a new part of the city you live in and give you a good excuse to get out and start shooting.
5. How can I take away what I’ve learnt today?
At the end up we have recap of what we’ve shot on the day (usually over a cup of coffee) and how we felt it went.
So there you have it. The five Photomeet steps. Steps to help you have fun with your photography and meet other like minded people.

Top Three Tips to Better shots

I’m often asked many questions, but the one that crops (pardon the pun!) up the most is how can improve my photography? There are many things you can do to help you create the shots you’ve always wanted to get, but that would take more than this email to go through, so for now, I thought I’d share with you. My top three tips to help you get better results.

Take your time. Most shots don’t need to be rushed, so take your time. Have your camera somewhere within reach and enjoy the process of taking each shot. Being calm and in the moment when you press that shutter button will often lead to your best shots.

Which leads me nicely onto …
Plan your shot.
Having fun with a pan shot again _
Even if it’s taking a few seconds to think about what kind of outcome you’re after. How would you like to frame the photo? Where do you want the main subject to sit in the shot? Will it be landscape or portrait?
And finally …
Learn how to hold your camera.
Get to know how it feels in your hands. Are there particular functions you need to use on a regular basis? What buttons are where? A heavy DSLR with a long lens will handle differently to a compact? If you have a long zoom on your compact camera it will behave differently the more you zoom in.

The experience is everything

I’ve always believed that life is not about the possessions you accumulate, it’s about the experiences you have. A couple of weeks ago I had one such experience that I won’t forget for a long time to come.

As a bit of a back story I’ve been following my local team Oxford United through good and bad, for over thirty years. From the high of winning the league cup in 1986, to the black days of the conference and then the joy of a second win at Wembley in 2010 to get us back into the football league, the love for the club runs deep.

This past Saturday I was privileged to be able to lead the two teams out for the match against AFC Wimbledon (another team with a very interesting and at times painful history) as the 12th man flag bearer. As part of being the flag bearer I was given a guided tour, with two very enthusiastic and happy mascots, around the backrooms of the Kassam. I had a chat with a few of the players and really got the vibe of what it’s like to be there behind the scenes on match day.

Before I knew it was time to grab the flag and wait at the end of the tunnel for both teams to come out. Again feeling that atmosphere of match day at close quarters, greeting the players as they came off from their warm up and getting an “alright mate” from the Mickey “Mad Dog” Lewis, Oxford’s  caretaker manager  was brilliant and I couldn’t stop smiling.

Then it was time to lead the teams out, with flag in hand I proudly walked ahead of the teams and stood on the centre spot soaking up the atmosphere, which compared to sitting in the stands, was 100 times louder. There was time for some photos, once again with the two bouncing by now mascots, a quick handshake with the Wimbledon captain and match officials, and a quick “good luck” to our captain Jonny Mullins and it was over. It was an experience that will live long in my memory, and what made it better is that we won a pretty close match 2-1!

So if you ever have the chance, especially if it’s a once a in a lifetime kind of thing, grab it with both hands as experiences like the one I had on Saturday are what life is worth living for.