…But First, Let Me Take A Selfie

…There you are!!!

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20180919 London L1060907 Selfie Master Rembrandt Aged 34 National Gallery resized

September 2018, afternoon.

I am excited to be in the National Gallery. All around me, people are bustling about through the grand entrance hall of the Sainsbury’s Wing goyer. There are around 30 of us waiting for the afternoon tour to begin. Soon enough, our tour guide appears.

We make our way through the building. I do not plan to take any photographs here – my visit is part of a personal undertaking, to learn more about the great art masters and the works that are now on display.

That is, until I see Rembrandt.

(I think he saw me first)

He seems to watch us with the passing interest of a self-assured, confident man. He is unperturbed in the slightest as I automatically reach for my camera, set to f/4, 1/30, ISO-1000

To my mind, Rembrandt is the ultimate selfie-master.

Our tour guide gives us a brief overview of his life, and this particular painting – “Rembrandt, Self Portrait at the Age of 34”.

We learn that he painted more than 40 self-portraits over the course of his life. In this portrait, he is seen here at the height of his career, richly dressed. The pose he adopts here is inspired by two paintings he saw in Amsterdam –Raphael’s “Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione”, and Titian’s “A Man with a Quilted Sleeve”.

Indeed, he went as far as to make a sketch of Raphael’s painting and note its price.

Art influenced by other art.
A photograph inspired by art influenced by other art.

I am sure he would approve.


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(1) https://colourlex.com/project/rembrandt-self-portrait-at-the-age-of-34/
(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-portrait_at_the_age_of_34
(3) https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/

(Ta) Da!

Everybody sing along!

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20180814 Austria Trip L1058640 Vienna MUMOK Da resized

Tuesday afternoon, summer.

Oh Vienna! Today is not going according to plan. The sun hides behind the grey overcast skies. The rain falls lightly, making everything damp. I hold my bag with one hand and an umbrella with the other. And my camera? It’s in the other hand – yes the one grappling with the bag.

It takes nearly half an hour before I conclude that my efforts will be better applied in an indoor setting. The weather report suggests the rain will subside.

Several hours later, I have now made my way across the city, from Belvedere Palace to the Museum Quartier. On foot. The rain has stopped, the sun seems to giggle as it shines intermittently through the clouds.

I climb the stairs and enter the imposing stone clad building that houses the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (Museum of Modern Art Foundation Ludwig, Vienna), more simply known as MUMOK.

MUMOK, with its sprawling collection of modern and contemporary art works including major works from Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso, is my playground for the next two hours.

Oh yes!

A friendly member of staff inspects my ticket and suggests that I should ride the elevator/lift to the top floor and work my way down through the various exhibitions.

Modern art is fascinating.
It follows no rules.

(Except, of course, the rules that it chooses to make up along the way)

It is best absorbed – and even enjoyed – by adopting a state of mind that is open and free from preconceptions, expectations and notions. One must suspend judgement and embrace nothing and everything, leaving reason behind.

I am greeted by Heinrich Dunst’s giant pink letterforms in the corner.


I hear the sound echo through the chambers of my mind – confident, unabashed, unapologetic, defiant.

(Look at the image again and you might understand what I mean)

Simply marvellous!

I stand there for nearly a minute before I bring the camera to my eye, adjust for the lower light levels, set to f/2.4, 1/125, ISO-1000.

And soon it is time to leave.

Back in London, I change the white balance, re-frame the image, perform the final composition check and complete post-production editing.

20180929 London L1058640 layout guidelines

The image itself provides its title.

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An Eye For Composition

Stand back…

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20180912 London L1060900 Eyes For You Only resized
Wednesday evening, autumn.

I wait underneath a bridge. The overcast skies make for constant light levels, set camera to f/4, 1/125, ISO-1000. The camera lens is pre-focussed and I stand facing the mural that is to become the backdrop of my image. All that is left to do is wait.

Except, I am hungry and I have a train to catch.

I have taken this picture before. I have stood in this exact spot and waited before so I know what to expect. People saunter past the mural, caught up in their own worlds, barely conscious of my rather conspicuous form across the road, dressed in black and grey.

Today is about timing. Getting someone to be in the right position in my frame. And all this must fall into place in the next 5 minutes. Did I mention I have a train to catch?

Several shots later, I walk towards the station.

One week goes by. I select the single picture that will be shared with the world. The remaining photos are sentenced to purgatory – the twilight zone that exists between my main collection, archives and the trash bin.

Post-production editing is completed relatively quickly. No major issues to deal with today. I perform the final composition test.

The final composition test relies on guide lines that intersect at the main points of interest in the picture. These drawn lines are then superimposed on a solid colour background to check that the abstract representation that it produces is visually pleasing to me. It is my ‘add-on’ extension to the more commonly applied (and somewhat simplistic) “rule of thirds” principle.

This is my secret formula. It is not a novel idea by any means.

It is not rocket science.

20180912 London L1060900 layout guidelines
Today’s results are satisfactory. All checks are complete. I search for a suitable title.

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Rust and Stardust

Right, we know the drill.

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20180630 London L1055905 Rust And Stardust resized

It is evening. The summer sun is beginning to dip below the horizon. I hold my camera lightly as I walk along the streets near Paddington. A bridge suspended above the rail tracks, lined with ageing panels. Streaks of rust and cracked paint. Look through viewfinder, set to f/5.6, 1/45s, ISO-800.

Pause, compose, breathe… click!

I take the picture and continue on my journey.

A few months pass. It is late afternoon. The sky is overcast and the chill of the autumn breeze cuts through my coat. I enter the Tate Modern. The elevators glide effortlessly to the fourth floor. Sculpted pieces, hanging paintings, grainy photographs, blaring audio recordings and flickering  video streams – I admire the art in the enclosed spaces.

Look, pause, breathe, reflect.

I see a new way of seeing a scene.

A few hours later, I sit at my desk. It is past my bedtime. The selected image fills the LCD monitor. How does one capture beauty in service and silent decay?

Crop. Edit. Tweak. Save.

I search online for a suitable caption.
The words of a poem might work here.

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