My Top 10 favourite photography blogs by Neil Alexander

This week I thought I’d share a few of the other blogs that I follow that provide me with food for thought, both visual and written. After the demise of Google Reader, I now use the Reeder app (available for Mac & iOS), and whilst it costs a few quid, it’s a very slick piece of software which regularly receives tweaks and updates.

1 - Eric Kim -

At the tender age of 27, Eric is a prolific California based street photographer and blogger. In fact, he puts out so much great content, that I doubt the lad ever sleeps! His site contains oodles of tutorials, ebooks, tips, reviews and links all revolving around the art of street photography. He’s also quite a philosophical chap for his age and his blog reflects this in a big way.

2 - Chase Jarvis -
With numerous awards and high end advertising campaigns under his belt, Chase is arguably one of the most influential photographers of the last decade. I first came across the self-taught Seattle based photographer, director, artist and entrepreneur in 2008 when he launched the world’s first HDdSLR for Nikon. I then watched him go on to do a series of YouTube videos called Chase Jarvis Live in which he interviewed inspirational photographers and business minds, mixed with live music from up and coming bands such as We Are Augustines and Band of Horses. His blog portrays a glamorous life, shooting from helicopters, and working with huge production teams, that he has worked extremely hard to achieve.   It’s a very glam blog and well worth following.

3 - Brian Matiash -
Brian is landscape and travel photographer based in Portland, Oregon. I came across his work when he used to work for Nik software and subsequently with Google when they bought out Nik. Aside from some damn good photographs, his blog also provides tips, tutorials, presets, textures and eBooks.

 harniman north sea shoot helicopter onboard ship

4 - Nigel Harniman -
I simply follow Nigel’s blog because I love his photography, his car stuff in particular. The Worcester based advertising photographer has a very bright and punchy style which I really love and some of his back stories are rather entertaining. From his site: "wheeled objects with or without engines are part of life! Here cars and photography collide.”

5 - FStoppers -
- Fstoppers is an online community aimed at educating and inspiring photographers, videographers, and creative professionals.  Started in 2010 by founders Patrick Hall and Lee Morris, Fstoppers has grown into one of the top resources for photography lighting, gear reviews, business tips, behind the scenes, and industry news.
Whilst the content is generally very mainstream, I find it extremely informative and much better curated than the other sites in this field such as PetaPixel. Packed full of reviews, tips, behind the scenes, great photography and general photography news, it’s well worth adding to your RSS reader.

6 - Steve McCurry -
A Magnum photographer since 1986, Steve McCurry is a living legend. He began his career as an editorial photographer sneaking into Afghanistan before the Russian army arrived and then being smuggled back out again with rolls and rolls of film sewn into his clothing. For a man with that hunger and the photographic skills that he posses, stunning imagery is the inevitable result.
One of his most widely recognised images is that of the Afghan girl with the incredible eyes, and he’s won more awards than I’ve space for.  “Most of my images are grounded in people. I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face. I try to convey what it is like to be that person, a person caught in a broader landscape, that you could call the human condition.”

7 - Feature Shoot -
Feature Shoot showcases the work of international emerging and established photographers who are transforming the medium through compelling, cutting-edge projects. Started in 2008 Feature Shoot has now amassed an archive of over 3,000 posts of exceptional photography from around the globe and provides a regular stream of fantastic inspiration. With contributing writers from all over the world and a wide range of interests, they feature contemporary work in all genres of photography: fine art, documentary, portrait, still life, landscape and more.

8 - Lenscratch -
LENSCRATCH is a daily journal that explores contemporary photography and offers opportunities for exposure and community. Created in 2007, Aline Smithson set a goal of writing about a different photographer each day, presenting work in a way that allows for a deeper understanding of a photographer’s intent and vision. Since its inception, LENSCRATCH has featured the work of thousands of photographers and has provided a platform to launch numerous portfolios.

9 - 70° West
Centred less on photography, but with stunning imagery nonetheless, 70° West is an environmental photo-documentary project illustrating the impact our modern world has on the imaginary line that traverses the glove from pole to pole.
"Realising the vulnerability of habitats and cultures along a line of longitude demonstrates a fraction of a larger truth: the natural world and cultural ways of life are endangered on a global level. We live on a planet of unparalleled beauty that has given rise to a place of magic and wonder. Though human beings posses a wealth of wisdom for extraordinary and exceptional creativity and transformation, we are simultaneously drawing from the force that gives us life, our natural world.”
The intent of the blog is to raise global awareness of cultures and environments by capturing the extreme landscape as it changes from ice sheets to Amazonian forests while giving a voice to the battles each region faces both environmentally and socially. Through photography and written narratives, this project will broadcast essential information in order to preserve the habitats, cultures, diversity and richness of life on Earth.


10 - National Geographic Great Energy Challenge -
Energy is an issue that touches every person on the planet. That's why National Geographic has launched the Great Energy Challenge. "It convenes and engages influential citizens and key energy stakeholders in solutions-based thinking and dialogue about our shared energy future.” Whatever that means!
It's a call to action to become actively involved, to learn more and do more—to change how we think about and consume energy so that we can all help tackle the big energy questions.
National Geographic has assembled some of the world's foremost researchers and scientists to help address the challenge. Led by Thomas Lovejoy, a National Geographic conservation fellow and renowned biologist, the team of advisors will work together to identify and provide support for projects focused on innovative energy solutions.

So there you go. That's my top 10 photography related blogs. Have I missed any key players? Which ones do you follow?

Until next week.

10 great sources of photographic inspiration for the summer holidays by Neil Alexander

Expecting to find yourself with a rare few spare hours over the summer? I know I'm hoping to! Then check out these photography related resources guaranteed to provide you with a little inspiration for your photography somewhere.

First up, a few websites:

1. Bruce Percy is a Scots adventure photographer who has had his work published all over the world and has an extensive client list ranging from Fujifilm to American Express, though he now primarily runs workshops in Scotland, Iceland, Norway and South America. His work is absolutely stunning. Spend a little time going through his portfolio and you can’t fail to be impressed. He also puts together short slideshows complete with his own narrative. I find these incredibly inspiring aided considerably by his soft spoken voice and artistic insight - See them here.

2. According to the website, Lenscratch "is considered one of the 10 Photography-Related blogs you should be reading by Source Review,, Rangefinder and InStyle Magazine.”. There’s more incredible art on this site than you could shake a stick at. Originally created 7 years ago with the aim of showing a different photographers’ work each day and gaining a deeper insight into the thoughts of the artist, there’s now work from thousands of photographers on here and it’s well worth subscribing to the Lenscratch RSS feed for daily updates. 

3. David duChemin is a legend in his own right. I love this guy. His lengthy thought provoking blog posts are only superseded by the quality of his photography and the amount of effort he goes to to give back to the photography community at large. On top of being one of the best humanitarian photographers in the world, he’s also an international workshop leader, a best-selling author and the founder of the amazing resource that is Craft and Vision. Not only does he give the impression with being totally in tune with himself but also with mankind as a whole.

And so now onto some eBooks. These can be read on a laptop, iPad or any other device (a smartphone may be a bit tricky) and are all either ridiculously cheap or even free!

4. I’ve been a fan of Martin Bailey’s for some years now. An expat from Nottingham now living in Japan, Martin has risen his way from mediocrity to a global leader in the field of nature and wildlife photography. This latest eBook of his on the Craft and Vision label is his best to date and jam packed with inspiration. And it’s only $8!
Striking landscapes by Martin Bailey - Check out the contents here.

5. Scott Bourne, an industry legend, who has now officially hung up his boots, has long been prolific on the old social media front. Scott, who started shooting long before I was out of short trousers, has had his work reproduced in just about every manner and medium possible. His thoroughly engaging manner is only outdone by his loathing of social media trolls and naysayers and this free PDF is well worth a read for the novice and seasoned pro alike. 
Scott Bourne's Essays on inspiration, creativity & vision in photography - Download it here.

6. Trey Ratcliff, one of the pioneers of good looking realistic High Dynamic Range photography is another star on the rise. Trey is a photographer, artist, writer & adventurer who runs the number 1 travel photography blog on the net. His work became popular after having the first ever HDR photograph to hang in the Smithsonian. Rather extraordinarily, Trey was born blind in one eye and has a background in computer science and mathematics so he brings a somewhat different slant to the world of art. Trey releases all his work under the Creative Commons licensing standard which means that anyone and everyone is free to use and distribute his work as long as it’s not for commercial gain and currently resides in one of my must visit locations, New Zealand. This brilliant article titled "10 Principles Of Beautiful Photography", which starts "There is a fine line between a photo that is quite nice and one that is quite breathtaking” is really well worth a read if you’ve a spare 15 minutes or so. This used to be an PDF format, but now is up there as a plain old web page to make it easier for you.

And onto some movies:

7. Tim Hetherington- Restrepo

Tim Hetherington was a Birkenhead born photojournalist, who in 2007, won the World Press Photo competition for his moving photo of an American soldier in Afghanistan and proceeded to win many more. In 2010 he went on to release Restrepo, a joint project with acclaimed director Sebastian Junger which was subsequently nominated for an Academy Award. Sadly he was killed by shrapnel doing the job he loved while covering the civil war in Libya a year later. In the movie, the two directors take their cameras into the trenches for a "day in the life" look at what it's like to fight in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, nicknamed the most dangerous place on earth. It’s vivid, intense, unvarnished stuff, and the two filmmakers won the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at Sundance this year for their troubles. 

8. Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window

I love Hitchcock, his use of minimal lighting and ability to create something out nothing. Suspense is his middle name and his ability to leave so much to the viewer’s imagination is something that many photographers could learn from. Rather than a stock thriller, this particular movie is more about the viewer’s interpretation of the relationship between the photographer and his wife, how he copes with his acrophobia (fear of heights especially when one is not particularly high up), and his obsession with his old friend’s wife. Featuring James Stewart and Grace Kelly the film has gone on to be nominated and win more awards than I’d care to mention. It’s slow and not a great deal happens but is still a stunning piece of film.

9. The Bang Bang club

This is a movie based on the real-life experiences of 4 combat photographers set in South Africa during the final days of apartheid directed by Steven Silver and released in 2010. The film goes to some lengths to build the back story of the 4 photographers and then follows them as they try to document a situation that was clearly terrifying to be anywhere near. 
"After proving his worth with a Pulitzer prize photograph of a burning man the four young men bond closely as the Bang Bang Gang and proceed to capture all of the fighting and incomparably cruel hostilities as the three fighting forces in the struggle for power in South Africa create the chaos of 1994. In a particularly touching scene Kevin photographs a starving child being stalked by a hungry vulture and his photograph wins a second Pulitzer Prize for the group. But war is war and takes is mental and physical tolls on the Bang Bang Gang and only two survive to write the book whose journal like content provides the story for the film."
It’s quite a harrowing film and not easy to watch, but well worth the effort.

10. David Lidbetter

And finally, just for the beauty of the colours and simplicity of the compositions, you have to check out David Lidetter's still life work.
I stumbled across his work pretty much by accident, but never fail to be entranced by his use of colour and the beauty he creates from such simple items. A still life photographer based in London, David’s work has "a keen attention to textures, colours and the smallest of detail, he has a simple yet fun style”. Fun it most certainly is. And inspiring too boot.

So there you go. That lot should keep you entertained for a bit. If there's anything you'd like to send my way for me to consume over the summer, then just leave it in the comments section below.

DIY Black Reflections by Neil Alexander

Plum and lime Chrysanthemum arrangement (Click for larger)

 Inspired by this post from the Cheap Shot man, Larry Becker, I decided to try and throw my own slant on the process and see where I ended up. So I swung by B&Q, grabbed this Rust-oleum direct to plastic paint, and a large sheet of clear perspex. I think I spent around £25 in total. Spraying the perspex was straight forward enough though it did take 3 coats to come even close to making it completely opaque. And before you ask, the shoes on the right are not mine and were black before I started - they were the first "paper weights" I put my hands on once I'd finished spraying.....

Spraying clear perspex black

Once I was satisifed with the finish I brought the perspex inside and placed it on a table. I hung a black cloth up for a backdrop and, for the flower shot above, set up a couple of shoot-through umbrellas either side. Gauging an exposure that would completely kill all the ambient light (1/125 @ F5.6 ISO200), I then began adding light via a couple of SB900s. I brought the umbrellas in as close as I could to the flowers to light them with as soft a light as possible.

Chrysanthemum set up with blackened perspex

I applied a similar technique to the wine bottle shot below, but just used one umbrella and a grid on the other strobe to give me a more controlled and concentrated light in order to better pick out the lines of the bottle and the glass.

Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir red wine with wine glass (Click to view larger)

Quite an interesting experiment and I learnt quite a lot about shadow in the process and controlling the strength of the reflection in the painted perspex. Definitely a technique that I could use in the future so the perspex is now safely tucked away behind the sofa in my office.

As usual, feel free to post in the comments if you've got any questions.