Sakari Oramo conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra photographed from a flat-screen Tv. See more in this series in the “Pictures are taken, Photographs are made” section of my website homepage. A picture of expressive action, not an accurate physical likeness.


In this post

COVID 19 Secure Policy

Facts, Fibs and Fantasies, an example from history

Ten Photo Facts, Fibs and Fantasies

COVID 19 Secure Policy as at 28/9/2020

I have prepared a COVID 19 Secure Policy as a responsible trader. However, this may all be academic as the number of cases are rising and so are my workshop postponements into 2021. 

Here is a link to the BBC News website that tells you the number of cases per 100,000 near you. At the time of writing (6 Oct), the number of cases per 100,000 in Bristol has risen from 23 on 26 Sept to 46 on 2 Oct. The national average is 52. The peak of the current infections in Manchester is 529 per 100,000 to put things into perspective.

I will still offer workshops on the planned dates and review the COVID risk nearer the time and location.

There is a link to the policy for workshop participants in the Footer of every website page.

Facts, Fibs and Fantasies, an example from history

Any subject the longer it has been around become shrouded in facts, fibs and fantasies. Especially, where actuality is open to interpretation. Take history, for example. The official version of what happened and why are recorded by and for the victors’ outward reputation and inward ego, not the vanquished.


Moreover, a partial truth of past events will be garnered from a range of competing voices to give a fuller but not complete word picture. However, those who shout the loudest are not always the most truthful, trustworthy and reliable.


A good instance is the official version of the rout of the huge Spanish Armada in 1588.  The new English Royal Navy founded in 1546 was a small but plucky opponent. The population, wealth and power of the Spanish empire were many times greater than that of England at the time. Also, this was not a great English naval strategic victory along the lines of Nelson at Trafalgar.

God’s Wind 

However, the truth is poor weather, bad planning and iffy communications all played their part. The advancing Spanish fleet was blown past the intended battle zone and into the North Sea. The remaining Spanish fleet limped back to Spain via the Pentland Firth (north of Scotland) and Ireland. But, the intended Spanish invasion of Protestant England to return it to the outstretched arms of the Catholic faith did not take place.


Additionally, little-told after the victory, Typhus swept through the English ships, beginning among the 500-strong crew of the Elizabeth Jonas killing many mariners. The sailors were not paid by Elizabeth I for their service in the protection of their monarch and country. Many died of the disease and starvation after landing at Margate.

The English Armada

Also, the English navy myth does not usually shout about what happened next in 1589 – the English or Counter Armada.


The first English Counter Armada to Spain was led by Sir Francis Drake as admiral. He failed to drive home the advantage England had won upon the failure a year earlier. The English fleet lost about 40 ships, plus the 18 launches destroyed or captured at Corunna and Lisbon. The rest was lost to a stormy sea as the fleet made its return voyage to England. The outbreak of disease on board the vessels were also transmitted to the port town populations in England on its return.


Incidentally, none of the aims of the English armada campaign’s of 1589, 1596 & 1597 had been accomplished.


News To Me 

Until recently, I was not aware of the disastrous English Armada attempts to help pave the way for an English then British empire. Elizabeth I and James I both wanted empires (and incomes) to rival those of France, Spain, The Netherlands and Portugal. The purpose of an empire was to help pay for the continuous wars in Europe to maintain the balance of power and reduce the national debt.


Hopefully, I have expanded your understanding of our joint past and how it affects our present and future. Let’s see if you can discern the truth or otherwise of the following statements in the ten Photo Facts, Fibs and Fantasies listed below.


The phrase: “a true fact” comes to mind and makes me smile as does Trump’s alternative facts.

Ten Photo Facts, Fibs and Fantasies


1 More pixels and expensive technology means the best image


“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful”

Mae West – Film Actress


The pixel race is marketing spin to entice us photographers, to give money to equipment manufacturers. We are sold under-developed and tested products that are corrected by firmware updates after the product release.

However, the latest most expensive medium format digital equipment with the highest pixel count won’t always help. Equipment won’t help in the hands and mind of someone with little ability to observe, decide what is significant and express that significance in a pleasing visual design. Moreover, as the old saying goes “it’s not what you’ve got but how you use” that’s important.


A master with a basic camera will produce a more expressive picture than a novice with a money-no-object system.


2 Sharp, clear pictures tell the whole truth

There is a quote from American photographer Richard Avedon that says: “A photograph is accurate, but it’s not always truthful”, which is a good way, to sum up how I feel. Welsh Magnum photographer David Hurn says “the camera only has two controls first where you stand and second when you press the button”. Consequently, both controls are dependent on the intention of the photographer. As a straightforward example, a change of viewpoint to include or exclude an element can change the meaning of the photograph.

See if you have not heard of or seen his work. 


Does sharpness tell the complete truth? For me, this picture is more menacing because a lack of clarity adds to the tension. A sharp picture would have just been a record of what was in front of the lens. 51,200 ISO f2.0 in a very dark alley on a Bristol Old City Night Tour.


3 Photoshop has an automatic “fantastic photo” tool hidden in the Filters menu

This is a 100% spoof; hopefully, you haven’t been looking for it. Or is it all spoof? maybe it’s the Auto Exposure button in Camera Raw or Lightroom?

Or, does “Auto” mean automatically wrong? This will be defined by your creative style and intent. If your go-to style is what Photoshop has been pre-programmed to give you, then happy days. If not, and you want to express your creative vision then keep looking for the elusive combination of buttons to press to get what you want.


The quest for a personal photographic style is not found in the answers but in the right questions, you ask.


4 Photoshop automatically fixes poor seeing and lack of attention to detail at the taking stage

Fortunately, post-production allows us to re-interpret our work, but it’s not automatically carried out by software. When processing files, the same critical judgement is required as when behind the camera. The latest versions of cropping tools do not delete pixels as they did when they have first introduced so this is a good safety net. Sloppy camerawork that requires cropping or removal of distractions is a good way to increase your post-processing time.


5 Computers know everything

Computers are completely stupid and now you think I have gone completely mad! I think it was Confucius who is quoted to have said: “He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.” Moreover, years ago I quoted the French philosopher Voltaire who said: “Judge a man by the questions he asks not the answers.”  Able and intelligent action is knowing the right questions to ask. Computers know all the answers, they don’t know the questions. However, a camera or computer manual may have all the answers you require. But the manual will be worthless to you if you do not know what it is you need to find in the index (the right question).

6 Cameras know your innermost thoughts

I thought that by now most cameras have an “intelligent auto” mode this must have become a fact? (Beware of the double bluff).

Artificial Intelligence is defined as the study of “intelligent agents“: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals. Since the mid-1950s AI or Machine Learning has been used to develop and advance numerous industries, including automobiles, aviation, agriculture, cybersecurity, telecommunications, finance, job search, legal analysis, military, healthcare, education, voice recognition and many more. Little by little we have been surrounded by “weak AI” i.e. technology to do a specific task.


What do you understand by the term “Computational Photography”? In a survey of 2620 Fujirumours readers in October 2019 72% wanted the addition of computational photography features in future Fujifilm cameras, 15% didn’t know and 13% did not.


The Fujifilm X – Pro 3 already has an HDR blending function to smooth out the excesses of very high contrast. It does this by taking three shots very quickly with optimal exposures for highlight detail, mid-tones and shadow detail and blends them into one frame.


Read the Fujifilm view of their three-year master plan in the advance of AI here.  



7 Instant impact in a picture is vital

Instant-impact is vital in a news type picture to tell a story with truth and accuracy to sell newspapers. For me, the pictures that are interesting and will stay with me are those that I have to engage with and think about. Consideration of the potential use of the picture is a primary factor.


As an example, those seeking photographic distinctions should fully understand what the assessment panel are looking for. I have always described the difference the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB) & Royal Photographic Society (RPS) distinctions as the PAGB are looking for individual pictures with instant impact and the Royal a panel with cohesion and consistency. These two are very different tasks. The PAGB wants to see competition-winning type pictures, preferably at a national level.


8 The use of the “Rule of Thirds” in a composition is imperative to your development as a photographer

The rule of thirds is very crudely based on the Golden Ratio. The Golden Ratio is also called the golden section, divine section and has been around since 300 BC. Therefore, it must be good. It is an irrational number that is a solution to a quadratic equation. Apologies if I got the quadratic equation wrong, I never did fully understand them. I won’t bore you with the maths, the Golden ratio is 1:1.618 or approx. 1.666 or 2/3.  666 is the number of the beast from the Book of Revelation in the bible. 


Those who have been on my workshops know I may talk about the instruments of the devil in my photography. This predetermined off the shelf compositional tool is a great boon to all creatives everywhere.

This is a fantastic tool to have switched on in your camera viewfinder, to aide perfect composition every time without the need to think.


9 Entering photo competitions will make you a better photographer

Entering photo competitions will teach you a style of photography that wins or attempts to win local, national or international prizes. As we all know points mean prizes. This type of endeavour will not prepare you to become a distinct photographer reaching your own highest individual photographic potential.

It depends on who your photography is for, the part of you that wants the oxygen of praise from your peers, or the part of you that seeks the best and highest potential that you can achieve.

Those who follow the crowd, have to act like the crowd and will be treated like the crowd.


10 Digital photography is cheap, quick and easy

Cheap, quick and easy are the three magic words used by salesmen to hoodwink a buyer into parting with money. The photographic digital revolution has democratised photography for the masses. The masses have vastly benefitted from cheap compact cameras and A4 printers that are cheaper to buy than a new set of inks to put in them. The ability to be able to produce an A4 print very quickly from a file taken on a compact digital camera is great. The colour balance, brightness and contrast might not be everything you’d hoped for, but it’s a lot cheaper, quicker and easier than going to the local chemist or photo retailer was.

If you are looking to make a large accurate print from a digital SLR with a huge file, then cost spiral for cameras, lenses, computers, software, printers, paper, ink and mounting.

For those of us who pour our heart and soul into photography to do whatever we do, then we still need the same amount of dedication, skill, knowledge and judgement as our predecessors had in the colour or black and white darkroom. This means for us unlike the masses, digital photography at the expressionist level will not always be cheap, quick or easy. For us, photography is about the art and craft of making a print that satisfies the maker and communicates to the viewer.


What you have just read may a fact, fib or fantasy.


“I enjoy reading your blogs as, for me, they make me think. And you have so many useful references and quotes.”

Stu Thompson