The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

by Wendell Berry

…in design (of websites, or home decor, or clothing) having the most sophisticated of everything usually leads to poor results. Elegance is frigid.

Good taste in these involves the right measure of unsophistication. Less exactitude is more joyous, less neurotic, but still refined.

— Simon Sarris

This neatly sums up my feelings about the work of my favourite artists, writers, musicians and photographers.

Enough order to arrest the eye or ear. Enough chaos to feed the heart and mind.

A Fresh Coat of Moss

You should embrace the visceral quality in reading. Read mostly fiction. Read slowly. There is a kind of marinating that happens with very good works, they are always more than their story. The goal is not to digest information, but to layer over your reality with a fresh coat of moss. Your own world becomes colored by these stories, so it is worthwhile to spend time seeking the excellent works from across cultures and history.

You should have a goal, in some sense, to be influenced by the works that you read. All stories influence you, regardless of how they get to you. A person who reads no great stories will be influenced by the few stories he does come across in life, for better or worse — and I think mostly worse.

—Simon Sarris, from Reading Well

When [a man] puts a thing on a pedestal and calls it beautiful, he demands the same delight from others. He judges not merely for himself, but for all men, and then speaks of beauty as if it were a property of things. Thus he says that the thing is beautiful; and it is not as if he counts on others agreeing with him in his judgment of liking owing to his having found them in such agreement on a number of occasions, but he demands this agreement of them. He blames them if they judge differently, and denies them taste, which he still requires of them as something they ought to have; and to this extent it is not open to men to say: Every one has his own taste. —Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, 1790

via the excellent Futility Closet blog by Greg Ross

Complicated vs Complex

Recently, I heard Arthur C Brooks discuss the difference between complicated and complex problems on an episode of the Tim Ferriss Show and it made me think about how that distinction applies to art.

Complicated problems seem difficult when first encountered, but are easy enough to crunch with enough compute. It might take a while, but if you work through the process from beginning to end, you’ll get the answer.

Complex problems often start with simple questions — who will win this football match and how? — but the correct answer, if it even exists, is unknowable. Too many moving parts. Too many unknowns. Too much randomness.

Of course, complex problems are more interesting and important to contemplate:

  • why are we here?
  • how can I live a good life?
  • who do I want to spend it with?

I think this applies to art too. Art that asks more questions than it answers endures, both in the mind and in the canon.

The complexity inherent in good art shouldn’t be confused for complication. The key is work that is dense with meaning and mystery; not necessarily dense pictorially, musically and linguistically. It can be simple, but not shallow. I’m thinking of artists like Agnes Martin, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Basho who draw power from a minimal approach.

I want to make photographs which share the qualities of the work I admire: pictures that get better over time, that contain details missed on first glance, that leave you with a feeling that you can’t shake. I’m seeking complexity.

Night view of a housing estate in London seen from a high vantage point. It's raining heavily and the raindrops are lit up with flash, forming shimmering octagons across the frame

Democratically elected governments can to some degree adapt to spatially extended responsibility, because our communications technologies link people who cannot meet face-to-face. But the chasm of time is far more difficult to overcome, and indeed our governments (democratic or otherwise) are all structured in such a way that the whole of their attention goes to the demands of the present, with scarcely a thought to be spared for the future. For [Hans] Jonas, one of the questions we must face is this:

“What force shall represent the future in the present?”

from Tending the Digital Commons by Alan Jacobs

Loved this from James Hill, via Alan Jacobs:

Eve Arnold, the wonderful Magnum photographer, used to recount a story about walking with Henri Cartier-Bresson from the Magnum office in Paris to have lunch at his apartment on the Rue de Rivoli. During the 15-minute stroll home, as he kept telling her that he was no longer interested in photography, only drawing, he took three rolls of film on his Leica.”

“I was not suited for this world, but I am suited for the world I have created” —La Monte Young

From the first part of Tones Drones and Arpeggios: The Magic of Minimalism Part 1. I discovered this excellent old BBC doc the same way I find lots of gems: daring to go below the fold and reading YouTube comments.

Walking with a Butterfly Net

I love this quote I read in a recent Austin Kleon post — Lewis Hyde explaining why he still takes his butterfly net on walks:

I carry it in part to catch and release the few things I can’t identify on the wing but mostly because of the way it changes the way I walk. I don’t know if the same is true for birders with their binoculars or deer hunters with their rifles, but for me, walking with the butterfly net alters my perceptions. It produces a state of mind, a kind of undifferentiated awareness otherwise difficult to attain. It is a puzzle to me why this is the case, why, that is, I can’t simply learn from walking with the net and then put it away and transfer what I know to walking without it.

Perhaps it has to do with the way the net declares my intention, which is to apprehend what is in front of me. Walking with the net is like reading with a pencil in hand. The pencil means you want to catch the sense of what you are reading. You intend to underline, put check marks and exclamation points in the margin and make the book your own….

As with the pencil, so with the net: Both declare the possibility of action, and that possibility changes the person holding the tool.

Carrying a camera provokes the same feeling in me. Even if I don’t intend to take pictures, my eye is a little sharper and I look closer at the people and places that I pass. Instead of passively absorbing the visual world as an undifferentiated flow, I start to slice it into potential photographs. The readier the camera is to shoot, the more powerful the effect. If it’s in my bag my attention is duller than if I have the camera in hand, exposure set.

The effect is refined further depending on what camera I am carrying. For walkaround purposes I favour cameras with fixed prime lenses. The focal length of the camera I carry narrows the range of possible pictures I can make, so my attention becomes more attuned to certain subjects and working distances.

Likewise, and as Lewis and Austin mention, reading with a pencil in hand has the same effect for me. I’m reading to identify the information I want, rather than blindly ploughing through. I experience a milder version of this effect when reading digitally with the intention to highlight key passages, but it pales in comparison.

Week Notes 018 — W/E 6 August 2023

portrait of artist Alice Irwin in her studio. She sat on the floor and is looking to the left of frame. There are prints in a pile on the floor to her right, as well as paintings leaning against the wall. Her long haired dachshund is laying to her left, looking at the camera
  • A mostly deskbound week with a few pleasant exceptions.
  • I’d left my VAT to the last minute, but turned it around within a day and a half. Having to sort my tax stuff four times a year is a revelation. I used to go through a year’s worth of paper receipts and bank statements in January. The ensuing Hell Week would destroy any new year enthusiasm that I’d been nuturing. Now, almost everything is digital, all business expenses go through one of two cards, and I’ve only got three months of transactions to deal with so it’s a fraction of the hassle.
  • A couple of days of post work on two separate projects. Some last minute high res to grade and retouching on a handful of pictures. This year I started to use frequency separation, rather than working on normal layers when retouching, and it’s hugely improved the quality and subtlety of my results. It feels a little clunky at first, but it’s well worth learning if you’re unhappy with your skin work.
  • I shot a studio visit with Alice Irwin at the end of the week. Alice works in multiple mediums: from large scale sculptures, to prints and drawings. I photographed her a few years ago as part of a series documenting artists at work. She’s since moved spaces (within the same studio complex) and is now working with screen printing, rather than etching. She wanted some new pictures to show her current space and process, so we spent an afternoon printmaking, shooting, and catching up.
    • We probably spent too much time chatting — a lot of the pictures weren’t usable because Alice is mid word… This is something to watch out for, especially when photographing interesting people. You’re having a great time chatting and snapping, but you need to pause and make sure that you get the pictures that you came for. That said, there’s still a reason to work this way: while you get fewer keepers, the successful pictures have a feeling of relaxed intimacy that I really like. When people aren’t used to being photographed, the experience of being ‘examined’ can make them feel uncomfortable, especially if you aren’t talking or taking pictures. I prefer to shoot and talk liberally, so that the subject gets used to the sound and presence of the camera and it begins to disappear. You get a lot of crap pictures in the process, but you create a relaxed mood that’s hard to find if you’re precious about every frame.
  • I revisited Matt Black’s American Geography this week. Recently, I’d thought about selling it, as it didn’t grab me initially, but I wanted to give it another go. It hit much harder this time and is a body of work that I want to spend more time with. There is an unrelenting austerity, bordering on grimness, that is difficult to sit with, but the dignity with which the subjects are treated elevates it beyond poverty porn. Matt depicts the subjects as individuals, not ciphers for poverty, so it doesn’t feel exploitative. And my understanding is that he spent time with them to gain their trust and learn about their stories. There’s a lot of visual variety: stark street photos, environmental portraits and minimalistic, almost abstract landscapes. The dense typologies of cigarette packets, beggars' signs, and plastic forks didn’t work for me initially, but I like how the patterns they form en masse sit with the diary page grids of text. The only thing I still struggle with, beyond the subject matter and bleakness, is the crunchy black and white grade. Sometimes it tips over into a high-contrast B&W style reminiscent of bad street photography on Flickr.
  • I noticed two potential problems with my M6 TTL — the rangefinder not quite lining up at infinity and the meter not working. I assumed that a dead battery was causing the latter, but a fresh one didn’t bring it back to life. After some back and forth with a helpful Redditor, I tried cleaning the contacts with a pencil eraser. Success! …well at least for half a day. The meter has crapped out again, and now that I’ve loaded film into the camera to check that everything else is working, I can’t fiddle with it. I’m going to finish my current roll and then see what I can do.
  • Six month catch-up with some of the couples from our pre-natal course. Nice to see everyone, especially those that we haven’t been seeing socially in the intervening time. The large skylight in the pub’s dining area was creating a lovely slice of sunlight that cut along the edge of our table, so I started to take pictures. I was extra grateful for thought that the designers of the Ricoh GRIII put into its ergonomics as I was balancing a baby on one hip and shooting with my free hand. I think that these pictures of friends and family are some of the most important that we take. As photographers, we can use our skills to cut through the chaos and clutter to crystallise a moment shared. I sometimes feel that my job contributes nothing of value to the world, and in those existential periods, I find it helpful to focus on a less grand goal: adding a little more beauty to the world and to the lives of people that I love.
black and white photo of adults and babies seated around a long table in a pub. Most of the frame is dark and only the three women sat at the far side of the table are illuminated. In the foreground a silhouetted woman is holding her baby over her head and looking up at him
  • @aleha_84’s pixel art
  • notes art — surreal and beautiful sketches made daily in the Apple Notes app.
    • See this short video for a round up of the first year and the artist’s thinking behind the project: 365 – notes art
  • Learn Music Theory in 29 minutes by Underdog Electronic Music School — one of the best breakdowns of the basics that I have watched. Oscar is a brilliant teacher who breaks down a complicated subject into easy to understand parts. I’ve been messing around on the piano again after a very long break, so it was great refresher to ideas dimly remembered.
  • TN:106 Mura Masa - Tape Notes — I enjoyed hearing Alex Crossan breakdown the concepts and production behind his album, Demon Time. I liked that I key part of his process on this project was to do things because they made him laugh or he thought they were a little stupid. I’m drawn to people who can keep the creative process fun, rather than letting it become heavy or pretentious.
  • Yuval Noah Harari: Crisis and tragedy in Israel - Part 1 on Leading. Alaister Campbell and Rory Stewart interview Harari on the pressures on Israeli democracy and ensuing unrest. Harari is incise and passionate as always.
  • Commit Mono. Neutral programming typeface. — I have been using this wonderful minimalist typeface to write this post and everything else in Drafts this week. It’s designed for coding, but it’s a joy for writing and editing too. I love its simplicity and legibility. The website is a masterclass in design clarity too. It’s been released under the SIL Open Font License 1.1 license, so it can be used freely for both commercial and non-commercial purposes. Enjoy.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts for Navigating Finder — sometimes it’s about finessing the basics… I was looking for a shortcut to do something specific but instead stumbled on this great breakdown featuring a host of shortcuts that I didn’t know. I’ve committed a bunch of them to memory but there were three stand outs for me:
    • using shift + cmd + G to activate Finder’s ‘Go’ command bar — you can search for any folder and hit enter to go direct. (I also use Alfred with custom parameters that target specific file types, so that I can search only folders or Lightroom catalogues)
    • moving files without using the mouse (or the command line): select the files you want to move -> hit cmd+ C to Copy them -> navigate to the desired destination (perhaps using the above tip) -> opt + cmd + V to move them, rather than paste them to the new location. I’ve been using this all the time since I found about about it.
    • hit shift + cmd + ? to open the Help menu, start to type the sort order you want, select it and hit enter, and get your view arranged correctly in seconds. This shortcut works in most apps, and is a great way to quickly access an action that doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut.
  • Tony Hawk: Harnessing Passion, Drive & Persistence for Lifelong Success - Huberman Lab — self-recommending
  • Aphex Twin - Windowlicker mini-doc — great video essay running through Richard David James’s musical development on the way to Windowlicker. I’ve always listened to bits and pieces of Aphex’s output, but I’ve never made the time to dig into it as a body of work. I’m remedying that at the moment and have had Drukqs, Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and Selected Ambient Works Volume II on repeat.
  • Regrets List / Things I Did Good List — lastly after reading this post, I’ve made my own ‘regrets’ and ‘things I did good’ lists in Drafts, that I add to as things occur to me. It’s interesting how quickly patterns, both positive and negative, emerge when you are paying attention. I’m interested to see if I can convert noticing these patterns into lasting improvements and so will be continuing this experiment for at least another month.
four chihuahuas wearing jackets studded with metal spikes standing on a path in Primrose Hill

“Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.” —Will Durant in LIFE magazine

From the excellent Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark.

“You’ll never meet a hater who’s doing better than you.” — David Goggins

via Kallaway x Creator Lab

Week Notes 017 — W/E 30 July 2023

  • No shoots booked — the first clear week in a couple of months. So nice to get time to clear up all the admin that was pushed aside in order to meet deadlines.
  • Celebrated the flexible schedule by taking Monday morning off. ‘Swimming’ lesson with Baby first thing, then off to a baby friendly screening of Barbie at the Barbican. Joyful carnage on screen and off. By the end, there was a line of parents against one wall flinging their babies around in mystical patterns to encourage them to sleep. I enjoyed the film itself: it wore its cleverness lightly, and its dumbness proudly. Great lines, sharp outfits and incredible set design.
  • The bulk of the week was spent choosing images for my new site and sequencing them. I’m getting really close — just waiting for some display issues to be resolved. I feel like my work has progressed by a step change in the last two to three years — and I can’t wait to share it and get back out on meetings. I’ve mostly replicated and expanded on the structure of my current site, and I’m working on a ‘Places’ category to encompass some travel, cityscape and interiors work. I need a ‘Street’ category for the personal section of my site too, now that I have enough work to fill it out.
  • First time out with my wife sans baby on the weekend. My mum and sister wrangled the baby while we went to see Groundhog Day at the Old Vic. I’m allergic to musicals, but I thought it was brilliantly executed. The handling of the daily reset deftly conveyed the frustration of the protagonist and the surreality of the premise, while evolving enough not to bore the audience. Maintaining forward momentum in a story about going in circles is a hard task and I was impressed with how it was handled. Tim Minchin’s writing was acerbic, raucous and raunchy in equal measure. The leads were charismatic, but I didn’t feel the chemistry between them. The set pieces and inventiveness more than made up for the lack of passion though.
  • Back to using kettlebells for simple and functional workouts that are easy to fit in when I have 15–30mins spare. Lots of press ups and bodyweight squats in the gaps too.
  • My favourite browser, Arc, has reached v1.0. I’m very pleased for them as I have been using it for months now and it’s become an indispensable part of my digital life. I love browsing websites full screen, copying URLs with a keyboard shortcut and being able access anything I need in secs using their multi-context Command Bar. I’ve used all the big browsers and this is the first one that feels like it’s doing something new. Arc has ditched the waitlist, so I encourage everyone to check it out.
  • I’ve discovered Underdog Electronic Music School’s excellent YouTube channel and have been making my way through his videos. He has a real gift for teaching concepts in a clear and concise manner. I found him through his breakdown of Fred Again..’s key techniques and thought his Music Theory in 29 Minutes was by far the simplest explanation I’ve watched of the basics of a confusing topic.
  • I really enjoyed this Conversations with Tyler interview with Noam Dworman on Stand-Up Comedy and Staying-Open Minded. He’s the owner of the Comedy Cellar and it was interesting to hear his take on how comedy is changing and evolving.
  • My photobooks are on the bottom of our bookshelves, next to the play mat (a terrible idea, but that’s another story.) When the baby is occupied chewing on whatever has fallen into her clutches, I’ve taken to dipping into some favourite books. I used to make a song and dance of sitting down with a photobook — waiting for good light and uninterrupted time. As a result, I rarely looked at them. Now, because I grab and browse when I have a spare five minutes, I’ve spent more time with my photobooks than I had in the last year. Exiles by Koudelka is the one that I keep returning too. The ground he covered and the variety of scenes that he witnessed are mind-boggling. And this doesn’t even speak to the incisive eye with which he captured them. On these recent flip-throughs I’ve appreciated the classics like the angel on the bike or the rocket man, but also fallen in love with pictures that I didn’t even realise were in the book. He is a master of mood, light, and layering. I can’t wait to read more about the life behind the pictures in The Making of Exiles which also awaits me on the shelf.

A nice accidental collage in Finder while gathering images for my new website.

collage of images 'stacked' on top of each other in the MacOS Finder preview panel. The top image is a black and white landscape portrait of Peter Crouch, and a colour image underneath it is showing a colour image of his hand. The colour hand and his black and white wrist line up perfectly so it looks like he has a gigantic hand.

Week Notes 016: W/E 23 July 2023

A fallen tree branch in front of the tree line on Parliament Hill, London
  • I had to turn around the edit for my Wimbledon pictures over the previous weekend, which was a pain at the time, but meant that I had three days free at the beginning of the week. Finally got stuck into what I hope are the final stages of setting up my new site. I looked at the new site yesterday and am really pleased at how my work has progressed. It’s easy to feel like nothing is changing when you are head down, but little by little, the cumulative impact of project after project builds up into a body of work.
  • I enjoyed two films by NYC street photographer, Chris Chu: a breakdown of his approach to a documentary project focussed on the iconic West 4th basketball court and a short interview film looking at the relationship between two fathers and their sons.
  • More NYC photography goodness: Walkie Talkie with Aaron Berger. A relaxed and interesting interview with an NYC street legend, returning after a bit of time away from photography.
  • Continuing on the YouTube tip, I find The Bioneer’s exercise advice from to be really helpful. Lots of pragmatic advice for building up functional fitness using a minimal approach. I think that the videos highlighting single exercises are great, and showed me movements that I practice most days like Hindu squats or hip bridges. His recent film about training for parents is great too. Yes, there’s lots of footage of him shirtless, running, squatting, and thrusting, but the information is high quality and backed by studies. (This might be a positive for you depending on your proclivities)
A row of tall plants with purple flowers run along a black fence in the foreground. Behind the fence there is a stand of pines trees on a small rise which are blocking the view of the sky.
  • Still reading Writing Tools, but slowed down a little as I switched to reading Built to Move by Kelly and Juliet Starrett. I need to refine my creaky writing skills, but first I need to address my creaky body… I like the format of the book: benchmark tests to find your limitations, followed by exercises to open up your range of motion. I’m burning through it as there is quite a lot of filler, but the core suggestions seem effective. I’m going to fit in a little batch of exercises every day and will see how I feel in a month. I like their idea, shared by The Bioneer, of adding movement practice into the gaps in the day. Press ups while processing files, resting in a deep squat while your tea is brewing or mobility work in front of the TV. Even if there’s no time for a full work out, there’s always ten minutes here or there to get the blood flowing. Little and often adds up
  • Shot on Friday out of London at a beautiful location. Lots of different set ups — documentary images, interiors, gardens, portraits, and still life. Fun to stretch my skills under time pressure. Nice to shoot in mostly nice daylight too. First time using the MOLUS X100 on a shoot. My assistant handheld it with a white umbrella to for some grab-and-go portraits. More than powerful enough for a dim interior, integrated into existing ambience and a lovely light quality. With the umbrella it was a bit of a handful, so I’m going to look into one of their mini parabolic soft boxes.
  • Back very late from the shoot, then edited all the following day until 0500 in the morning. Went to bed for three hours and then woke up to work through Saturday. Mid morning, my wife and I heard shouting outside the window and ran to check what was going on. Dark grey smoke was billowing a fire in a flat in our building. Luckily, the fire service arrived en masse shortly afterwards and managed to get the fire under control. No one was hurt, though the flat looked like it was gutted. It happened so quickly and was scary and chaotic — all the neighbours were out on the walkways trying to get people out of the flats nearest the fire. I saw one man stood on the balcony a couple of floors up from the blaze, enveloped in the thick smoke, taking drags on a cigarette while he watched the fire fighters working below. We went out for an hour as the flat smelled strongly of smoke and we needed to decompress. As soon as we got back to the flat I settled into The Cave and worked on the grade until 2100ish. It was a brutal few days — I spent such long stretches at my computer that my body ached. At least the slog bought me a few free days this week.
Four fire engines lined up the left hand side of Malden Road after an apartment fire. There is a man in blue trousers and green T-shirt walking his bike across the road, an ambulance on the right hand side, and various emergency personnel standing in the road surrounded by water hoses. There is a double decker bus waiting in the distance for the road to clear.
  • This thread about the King of Spain’s tailoring by Derek Guy (@dieworkwear) was great. It’s clear that the king’s suits look great, but it takes the expert eye to point out the details that are creating the effect.
  • We watched and loved Jury Duty. It’s ‘documentary’ following a jury on a trial in the US. There’s one catch: everyone is an actor except for one juror. It’s a joy to watch Ronald negotiate the bizarre characters and situations that he’s thrown into with warmth and grace.
  • doubled up on two interviews with Fred Again.., Tape Notes 105 & Tape Notes 75, that are a brilliant insight into the making of his last two albums. Fred drops a lot of wisdom that is applicable to creative practice beyond music-making. I’m a sucker for song breakdowns à la Song Exploder but it was the advice that I could lift for my own purposes that resonated. I want to see how I can apply his suggestions like laying down a drone to avoid ‘blank page’ syndrome or using time constraints in the early stages can be applied to my own creative process. I think that I’ll chuck together a short post with some of my notes in the next few days.
  • I’ve been working too much and haven’t been shooting enough personal pictures (apart from the tens of baby pics I’m snapping every day). I need to leave my Ricoh GR out and about in the flat so that it’s easy to grab and make time to head out into town for some street photography. I’m still looking for a new personal project, but maybe I should take Fred’s advice and run some mini-experiments to see what hits, rather than ruminating on the perfect concept?
  • I picked up my new Brompton last weekend. Even though I haven’t had much time to ride it, I’m in love. It’s a marvel of engineering and so damn nippy. It’s a pleasure to ride. I can’t wait to get out and about on it now that things are quieter for summer…
  • Baby T is growing and learning at full speed. Her hand to eye coordination is leaps better than even a week ago and I think that she’ll be reliably sitting up unaided within days.
Emerald green Brompton P-Line folding bike leaning against a brick wall

Week Notes 013, 014, 015 — W/E 2, 9, and 16 July 2023

Flash on camera picture of two blonde women on right of frame laughing and hugging. There is another woman laughing at the left hand edge of frame
  • I shot at the Serpentine summer do. It vies with the V&A for the coolest June art party, and for my money has the edge. Great guest list and nice flat, bright light. Lots of good combos and funny interactions (turns out that Paul Smith and Orlando Bloom are BFFs). Fun evening all around: I took some nice pictures, caught up with a few friends and talked to a pop star about kombucha. Great music later on too.
  • Craig Mod’s pop-up newsletter Basie! Bop! Jamaica! blew me away. He travelled to 16+ jazz kissas in Japan’s smaller cities, then wrote a multi-thousand word essay about each venue and released them day by day on the trip. Oh, and he also documented every one of them with stills, video and audio recordings… It would be a staggering feat of creative endurance regardless, but to top it off the writing is excellent. He captures the personalities of the owners, talks about the history of jazz in Japan and American, the qualities of the music and performers, nerds out over the sound systems, and finally weaves it all together with personal experience and socio-political commentary on contemporary culture. It’s an improv masterpiece.
  • Off the back of Craig Mod’s series I’ve been listening to a lot of the jazz albums that came up, like Chick Corea’s Return to Forever and Ryo Fukui’s Scenery, along with some old favourites of mine: A Love Supreme, Sunday at the Village Vanguard, The Köln Concert, Kind of Blue and more.
  • I’ve been experimenting with Imagen AI to speed up the process of grading selects from large documentary or event shoots. When I’m in control of the light and using manual settings for e.g. a portrait, it’s easy to copy and paste styles across batches of images. However, on reportage-style shoots, the lighting conditions are unique to each image, so that approach doesn’t work. Often I’m using aperture priority and riding the exposure compensations dial, so the settings are inconsistent shot-to-shot. That means I have to tweak the brightness, contrast, and colour individually on 250–500 selects. And that is before I make use masks to make local corrections. I’ve sped up with practice, and can finesse about a picture a minute, but that still adds up to hours of computer time. I’ve used Imagen to create a custom AI profile trained on 3000+ of my pictures. I finish my edit, select the Lightroom catalogue within Imagen, choose the correct filters to bring up my edit and then upload them to the service. The magic grading pixies work their magic, they send me a notification when they’re done, and then I download my edits. They aren’t good enough to release — but I’d say that they get me 80-90% there depending on the image. I need to tweak every second or third pic for brightness or white balance and apply any masks that I want to shape the light. I estimate that it’s saving me at least two to three hours on every grade, which is a huge quality of life improvement. I particularly like that you re-upload your final edits to refine the model’s understanding of your preferences. I’ve nearly uploaded 6000 images, at which point they fine-tune your model, which according to Reddit is when it noticeably increases in power and usefulness. I’ll see how my profile changes post fine-tuning and assess how the cost adds up, but I think it’s likely to become a full time part of my process. They are releasing a beta version of a tool that is supposed to help with culling which I will play with, but I have had very mixed results with similar AI tools in the past. Generally they are great at identifying blinks or missed focussed, but bad at distinguishing between subtle facial expressions or gestures that mark out a great picture from a good one.
black and white picture of a plant next to a window. Most of the plant is dark and two leaves are lit up. There is a round mirror in the background
  • Messed around with Pi AI. It’s an AI powered chatbot that you can talk to with a dedicated app, or in WhatsApp, Facebook, or Instagram DMs. It’s interesting, in that it seems to parse meaning well and reply with useful information. Apart from the slightly formulaic responses, it does feel a lot like talking to a person. I asked it questions about creative programming for generative art and got a nice steer on a good language for beginners and resources to get me started. It also gave me some good jumping off points for exploring the tracker music production workflow with a Dirtywave M8. Judging from the Discord, a lot of people are using it as a sounding board for creative ideas, to talk about philosophy and other ‘big questions’ or as a journalling / talk therapy aid. I can imagine that it would be good to talk you down if you are spinning out as it has a very calming and friendly conversational style. Over the summer, I want to go deeper on the newly available AI tools to see how I can use them to aid my creative practice.
  • Started The Man from The Future, a book about John von Neumann. I listened to a brilliant podcast with the author which made me want to delve deeper into the life of this seemingly extraordinary man. It was a while ago, but I think that it was this one. In honesty, I hadn’t heard of him until a few years ago, when a physicist on a podcast declared that von Neumann was far and away the smartest person he had ever meet. Learning that this physicist also used to know Einstein made me really sit up and take notice. Who was this man whose genius outshone one of the most famous brains in history? Most impressive is the sheer breadth of his contributions: game theory, mathematics, quantum mechanics, nuclear physics, ballistics, cellular automata, early computing, and much more. A lot of his discoveries laid the groundwork for the most important technologies shaping the present. Here’s another interesting podcast with the author that I listened to this week.
  • I also started Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark, after a recommendation in Robin Sloan’s excellent newsletter. I’m only ~50 pages in and it’s great — pragmatic, concise and non-dogmatic. I’ve found the quotes are particularly helpful — the writing is brilliant, and from writers with diverse styles, working across fiction, non-fiction and journalism. It’s a good book to dip in and out of and will likely find a place next to my desk.
  • We needed to shoot Baby T’s passport photo, so of course I made a palaver of it. Most of our friends resorted to laying their babies on a sheet, but had to live with creases galore. I scoured the flat for a suitable white background and then realised I had the perfect solution — the large, minimally branded box for my Apple Studio Display. I placed baby over the branding, et voilà, studio quality white background… For simplicity’s sake I bounced a speed light off a white wall (plus a little of the ceiling), with the monitor box perpendicular to the wall. Was a nice soft light, if in retrospect a little too ‘toppy’. I should have moved the box further from the wall and aimed the light at where the wall meets the ceiling. It was much improved by my wife holding some silver card to lift the shadows and provide a second catchlight.
Woman sitting on a green sofa with her left arm held up. There is a line of spots of light running up her arm from gaps in the blinds. A baby's legs are sticking into frame from the bottom left corner. The woman is looking down at the baby
  • Shot at Wimbledon at an editorial x commercial crossover. Small group of VIPs so not much to cover. It was raining throughout, but the balcony had a large roof over it which shaped the light nicely. The roof blocked the top light, which prevented the ‘panda-eyes’ look you get on an overcast day, resulting in beautiful soft light that wrapped around the subjects. Shot some nice safety portraits first, then made the best of the spotlights in the hospitality suite. When the key group disappeared in the middle of the day to watch the action, I started in on the edit and had most of the first pass finished before they returned.
  • Shot a set of lifestyle marketing images for a startup. Their office was the uninspiring first location, but with a little light, some plant rearrangement and judicious use of shallow depth of field, we transformed a small corner of it into an aspirational apartment. We also squeezed a studio set-up and a ‘gallery’ out of the same end of the room. I hired in a few of the more powerful Aputure COB LED lights so that I could try before I potentially buy. We used the 1600D Pro and the 600D Pro, alongside my 300D II and smaller Zhiyun lights. I hired the 1600D to test a higher powered COB fixture, but as we were blending our lights with indirect daylight, we used it below 15% power all day. If the location at been close enough to street level to put it through the window, it would have been a different story: I’d have unleashed some fake sun onto the fake plants. The 1600D Pro and soon to be released Electro Storm XT26 are the embodiment of my dream lights from a decade ago. Lights that run cold, are nearly equivalent to 2.5k and 4k HMIs in output, and are a fraction of the weight, cost and power draw. I think that there is probably a 600D Pro in my future, or maybe a 600X for ease of blending with artificial light. The RGBWW versions look interesting, but I recently learned from a Youtube video that you get more colour information when you gel a daylight lamp, than if you use an RGBWW fixture to create the same colour directly. That means that I’m more likely to invest in daylight-balanced or bi-colour lights for maximum power output and gel them as required.
  • Aside from the geeky specifics mentioned above, it was really nice to shoot something where I had the time (and an excellent assistant) to light each scene properly. It’s fun to nerd out about subtle nuances of bounced light, fake daylight and optimal shadows. Normally, I might only have three to five minutes with a portrait subject, ten max, so the focus is on making sure that the lighting is functional, flattering and reliable. Often I use a medium soft source (umbrella or bounced light) near the camera or available light for speed and simplicity. It’s a case of getting the shot in the bag, not lighting the shot as beautifully as possible, with all the subtleties that would require.
  • I discovered the Gaffer and Gear Youtube channel when looking for reviews of the Aperture lights and have been obsessively watched older videos. The reviews have everything that you need to know — precise measurements, real world use-cases and comparisons to similar products. However, that’s not why I am watching them. Cumulatively the videos are a masterclass on lighting and rigging from an experienced gaffer. Every review contains at least one ‘ah-ha’ moment, little tip, or unconventional idea that I can’t wait to implement. Also, if you are watching to learn rather than shop, you can just watch the discussion on the first half of the video and skip all the technical measurements that make up the second half. In particular, I loved this cut from the archive: Best Advice I Ever Got. Yet again, Youtube turns out to be the best university in the world…
  • I was gifted an Ooni pizza oven a couple of birthday’s ago, but as I’m in a flat with only a small balcony, we couldn’t use it without smoking out our neighbours or burning our block of flats to the ground. Recently we gave it to my wife’s sister and husband on long term loan and were (appropriately) invited around for the inaugural firing. It’s amazing. Nicely designed, easy to use, and most importantly, turns out perfectly scorched circles of heaven, pizza after pizza. We frazzled a few early attempts as it cooks so quickly, but got the hang of it soon enough. Can’t wait to use it again — I guess I better get my head down and try to cobble together the funds for the forever house & garden combo.
  • A running theme of the last month is that balancing parenting with working is incredibly hard. Who knew?!

To Read

To Watch

To Listen

Andy Matuschak on The Lunar Society — on self-directed learning, the power of memorization, and the balance of freedom and discipline in education. Huberman Lab — Science-Supported Tools to Accelerate Your Fitness Goals — brilliant selection of tips and techniques

A monstera sitting on a yellow round side table by a window, with metal blinds in the foreground. The image is mostly dark apart from the light illuminating the plant and table.

Week Notes 010, 011, 012 — W/E 11 June, 18 June, and 25 June 2023

View of the British Museum main entrance at night. It is lit with warm light, there are candles on the steps and a line of cars waiting to pick up guests.

Another set of week notes bundled for your reading (dis)pleasure…

I don’t think it’s worth accounting for the time week by week. The late nights, tens of thousands of images and numerous shoots of the last few weeks blurred into one amorphous endurance event. This isn’t comprehensive (I can’t talk about some of the projects), instead it’s a selection of takeaways and things that I want to experiment with or think about more in the future.

  • I started with four evening shoots split between two venues. The four events were split into two pairs, with different guests at each, but following a nearly identical format. Welcome drinks on the first day at venue one and then a black tie gala dinner on the second day at venue two. It was both challenging and interesting to work through the déjà vu of shooting essentially the same job twice in the same week. Each evening I had to find new angles and approaches to keep the pictures fresh and my attention sharp. On the other hand, I could review the pictures from the first pair of days, then go into the second half of the project knowing where I messed up, what I over and under shot, where the light would be at a certain time, and how people would interact with the spaces.
  • To a certain extent this is the kind post mortem I run after every shoot: What worked? What didn’t? Did I need more depth of field for the tight shots? What would have been a better shutter speed / ISO trade-off? Should I have asked for more portraits or prioritised candid moments? However, it’s rare that the review ⮂ shoot cycle is so short, and even rarer that I can apply what I’ve learned to an almost exact replica of the situation where I learned it.
  • I enjoyed the scope of this project — in one evening I shot the scenography and spaces, documentary pics of guests, details of the food, two fashion shows, beauty shots of models wearing jewellery, a performance by a pop megastar, night time architectural shots of the venue’s exterior and a dimly lit after party. Despite being snobbish about photographing at events initially, it’s honed and diversified my skills more than any other photography genre. It’s taught me how to cover a variety of subjects quickly and effectively, even when I have little to no control of the situation.
  • I shot two projects at the newly reopened National Portrait Gallery and one at the National Gallery. Having also shot at Tate Britain a few weeks prior, I can say that the light for ambient photography at some of London’s premier galleries is terrible. Legions of spotlights and high ceilings are a recipe for burned out highlights, panda eye shadows and luminous noses — a visual dish that is deeply unpalatable to me. I’m comfortable shooting in very low light situations, scenes lit only my candle light or a handful of lanterns for example, but straight-up ugly light is hard to deal with. The National Gallery is by far the worst in this respect. Not only does the light veer between harsh and sludgy, the main rooms are also incredibly dark.
  • I had to be discreet on the first shoot at NPG, so I crossed my fingers, underexposed to save the highlights and boosted the shadows massively in post. (Sometimes using specific masks on hero shots to bring out faces.) For the second NPG shoot and the National Gallery shoot I decided to renege on my vow of purity and add a speedlight to my wide angle camera. I kept the longer lens free for ambient light images, and switched between them as the situation dictated. At the National Gallery, that meant getting safety shots/full lengths with flash and then shooting some super shallow DoF ambient portraits when in areas with nicer light. Despite the obvious differences in sharpness and directionality, the flash images integrated quite nicely with the other pictures. It helped that I shot it at a higher ISO, gelled the flash to tungsten, and used a wider f stop (f2–f2.8) and a slow shutter speed (1/15s–1/60s to mix in the ambient light) to mimic images shot in low light.
  • I still don’t have a lighting solution that I’m happy with when shooting impromptu portraits or reportage in shitty light. I need to experiment more with flash on camera, to work out how I can integrate it into my style of shooting. I dislike how a speedlight makes me very obvious when shooting candid pictures. (I prefer to take the picture and move on without the subject even noticing.) My work camera + flash combo is large and cumbersome, and as soon as I take the first image, I announce my presence, changing the scene. For portraits it’s not so bad as I’m not in stealth mode. However, it worries me that I can’t see what I’m going to get through the viewfinder especially when I need to work quickly. I don’t want to hit playback to check that I got the picture, I want to see the light in the viewfinder before I trip the shutter.
  • I’ve found TTL unreliable recently — I get two or three perfect shots and then a completely different lighting balance on next few images. I’m scared that I could shoot 5–10 pics of a VIP, then check the camera to find that the results are a dog’s dinner and I’ve lost my opportunity. I’m going to start experimenting with manual flash for consistency. My working distances are usually quite controlled and I can work out sensible defaults for a full length, landscape two-shot and a close-up. I’ve been practising this with my Ricoh GR III + LightPix Labs FlashQ Q20II with good results. This is my Goldilocks set-up for non-work parties — the camera is designed for one-handed operation and the flash has a tiny detachable transmitter for off-camera work. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a cute combo that people find funny… Particularly when I pop up in praying mantis stance, camera in one hand, flash held aloft in the other, grinning ear to ear. I’ve started carrying the GR in one pocket and the flash in the other on work shoots too, so that I can grab a quick hard flash shot when the opportunity presents itself. I used to hate the flash-on-camera look when I was younger but it’s really grown on me. I like projects where the photographer mixes photos using beautiful natural light with saturated hard flash pictures.
Oliver Holms holding up a Ricoh GRIII in his right hand and LightPix Labs FlashQ Q20II in his left hand. He has long brown hair, is wearing a dark green jacket and is smiling to the camera
  • I’m also looking into small continuous lighting options like the amazing new mini COB lights by Zhiyun — the MOLUS X100 and MOLUS G60. I love the idea of that much light from such a small package, coupled with a small hard source and enough battery to run for a while on low to medium power settings. Reviews are a little thin on the ground, so I might have to buy one to try out. I sometimes work alongside a great French celebrity portrait photographer. When he is shooting portraits at an event, he moves through the crowd with an assistant who carries a Profoto B10X on a pole. They locate their subject, the assistant lights them up using the flash’s modelling light through a mini-softbox and the photographer gets the pic on his medium format Fuji set-up. This approach allows him to work in chaotic and dark environments using a high resolution camera that would otherwise suffer in those conditions. I want something more minimal and inconspicuous than their gear; maybe something that I can hold myself, or light enough to clamp to furniture and bounce off the ceiling in hotel rooms/small venues. Still the idea is solid and I love continuous light, particularly if it’s a situation where I won’t have much time, control or second chances.
  • I bought a new screen, my first in more than a decade, after it became impossible to calibrate my ancient Eizo CG234W with due to a software / operating system conflict. I went for the Apple Studio Display as I wanted something that would integrate with my all-Mac ecosystem without fuss. Gaining three new USB-C ports and the ability to charge my laptop via the screen are a bonus too. I bought a reconditioned VESA mount version so I can use a monitor arm to free up desk space. I needed to get down to work immediately, so I bolted its beautifully machined chassis onto the fugly grey plastic stand I salvaged from my Eizo. (Shudder) So far the screen is excellent — the extra resolution makes it much easier to assess how sharp a picture is and see people’s faces clearly in a group shot. The reflections on my standard glossy version are a little annoying (the window is behind me in my office). However, when editing/grading I like to work in what my wife and I affectionately call ‘The Cave’ — a sensory deprivation environment created by closing the blinds, turning off the lights and wearing noise cancelling headphones. In the gloom of The Cave, the reflections disappear; and when I’m not working on photography stuff, the reflections don’t bother me much.
  • I had a last minute shoot at Ascot called in the night before. I scrambled to find a morning suit at 2100. I lucked out — my wife’s friend who lives 20mins away had one. Clearly, he has much fancier friends than me. I have a few suits and black tie on hand for various dress codes, but I draw the line at having a top hat on the kit shelf…
  • I’ve shot at Ascot a few times and it never ceases to bemuse. It’s a such a strange mix of people, drawn together to have parallel but distinct experiences. It’s a playground for memetic desire. Everyone is aspiring, but in different directions, following different blueprints. Perhaps one year, I’ll get a press pass and attend to shoot street-style without the strictures of a commission? I want to read Wanting by Luke Burgis too, his book on René Girard and mimesis as I enjoyed his interview on The Knowledge Project.
  • This has been nearly a month of complete work life imbalance — if I wasn’t shooting, I was editing at my desk until 0000–0430. I’m very grateful to have so much on, but the delivery schedule required so much computer time that it swallowed all other aspects of my life. Being so busy is great for my finances and building new client relationships, but the workload was totally unsustainable. As an assistant I used to freelance on projects for some A+ photographers who were shooting 2–5 days a week, often travelling internationally once or twice a week to get to the job. It’s mind-blowing to me that they managed to endure that pace for years on end without burning out. One famous photographer told me that his crew were the only friends he saw regularly — in his eyes they were his family. Working with him was a powerful experience for me — it made me reconsider whether I wanted to attain the specific vision of success that I had been striving for. What if winning is worse than losing?
A man wearing top hat and tails walks up a shallow ramp into a marquee at Ascot. He is seen from behind and the ramp is flanked by large Roman style pots, some filled with ornamental shrubs. There are large cumulus clouds in the blue sky.

Week Notes 007, 008, 009 — W/E 21 May, 28 May, and 4 June 2023

blurry picture of a waterfront church in Venice taken through the window of a speed boat at night

I’ve missed a bunch of these, so I’m bundling them up into quick summaries and kicking them out the door.

Week Notes 007 — W/E 21 May 2023

  • I had a last minute shoot come in on the previous Friday, pencilling me to fly to Venice on Tuesday morning to shoot that evening. I was confirmed on Monday morning, which resulted in a scramble to book tickets as the prices climbed and prep for the shoot.
  • The wrinkle is that Monday was also the day that we’d agreed to move everything out of our (thankfully small) storage unit and back to our flat. And the local Zipvan was booked. And the nearest entrance to our unit at the storage facility was broken. AND we have a 12-week-old baby who refused to help carry anything. This meant that we had to do three trips in a small car filled with kit, duffels full of clothes and various crates of miscellaneous crap, piled low enough that it wouldn’t avalanche the baby during a tight turn. The broken gate meant that each journey from the unit to the car required pushing a recalcitrant trolley through a near endless labyrinth, dodging minotaurs and rats as large as dogs. During any gap in the schlepping, driving or baby-placating we were checking and re-checking the rising flight prices waiting for the green light.
  • I got an early cab to the airport, had an uneventful flight and landed in Venice around midday on Tuesday. I was on the same flight as the client, so I got whisked out of the passport queue, through security and onto a waiting boat taxi. God Tier airport process unlocked…
  • Super intense trip with no down time. Pretty much straight out on a recce to the nearby island where the dinner would take place, then back to the hotel, 1.5 hours to prep kit and get ready, then a boat out to the venue. Helped with the table setting as time was of the essence. Fun and tricky shoot. Abiding by the rule that the key to a good party is to have a lot of great people crammed into a small space, things were almost impossibly tight. All the tables were butted up against the wall on side leaving only a narrow corridor between the free ends of the tables and the bar on the opposite side. I had to move into the gap between two tables, shoot as much as possible from that vantage point, then wriggle through the throng to the next between tables ‘trench’. I generally like to circulate through the crowd as much as possible when shooting, so I was happy that I could still come away with good pictures despite the constraints.
  • I survived on the snacks that I bought at the airport for two days — Italy doesn’t have much for someone who is vegetarian and doesn’t eat dairy… Lucky that I quite like fasting otherwise I would have passed out mid shoot.
  • The shoot needed an overnight turn around so I edited and graded until 0530 in the morning. And then had to get up at 0830 to go through the pics with the client before heading to the airport. I was already looking up the price of new MacBook Pros in the cab back from the airport in a bid to exchange money for speed and therefore gain sleep… My maxed out M1 Air is great for the form factor and I love the lack of fan, but it just doesn’t have the grunt required when applying AI masks or denoise to hundreds of images in Lightroom.
  • Ended up going with a reconditioned M1 Max (64GB RAM, 32 Core GPU and 4 TB SSD). It’s nowhere near as elegant as my Air, but it races through common tasks in a fraction of the time. It’s a huge boost and it makes me wish I’d done it sooner. Still a millstone to carry around though…

Reading

Listening

view up a grassy bank covered in wildflowers. A red brick Victorian industrial building can be seen above the horizon created by the bank in the top left of the image

Week Notes 008 — W/E 28 May 2023

  • As it only happens every four to five years, I forget how annoying and long winded it is to set up a new computer. A couple of days of faffing and then a few more days of forehead slapping at key things that I had forgotten to set up. Numerous times, I would start typing the name of the application that I needed in the Alfred search bar, only to find that I hadn’t installed it yet.
  • Used the laptop switch as an excuse for a digital declutter. Cleared out a bunch of junk from my Dropbox and streamlined the folder structure.
  • two smaller shoots for a regular client, both of which I managed to despatch smoothly and quickly. Luxuriated in the power of the new machine when making previews and running AI processes.
  • Missed the Taylor Wessing deadline like an idiot. I was working on a client project in the daytime, thinking that I would pull a few pics for the competition and enter them before the midnight deadline. Unfortunately, when I sat down to do that at 2130, I saw that the deadline had actually closed in the middle of the afternoon this year. Much swearing and then sullen acceptance. I was annoyed with myself as I had a few nice pictures to enter that may not be eligible next year. The positive spin is that it is a good excuse to shoot more for next year’s competition.
  • Met my new sibling, who is a month younger than my daughter.
  • Deep South London BBQ on the weekend, soaking up the sun in a friend’s garden.
  • Walked out to the Kings Cross nature reserve, had a little walk around and sat out by the canal. It’s not nature in its awesome splendour, but it has a scruffy beauty that is charming. A nice place to go and sit with a book on a sunny day. Like with a lot of weekend activities, it’s a destination that gives you an excuse to walk and talk, and then walk back again.
Back lit reeds in a dusty pond, covered in pollen from the trees that surround the pool

Reading

10 Thoughts From the Fourth Trimester - Wait But Why Our kids were born days apart and he nails the feeling of the first few weeks with a newborn.

What Photography Has Taught Me About Music via Duncan Geere

24-Hour Black Screen YouTube Videos — A fun dive into a genre of Youtube videos that I new nothing about.

Listening

Dr Andy Galpin: How to Build Strength, Muscle Size, and Endurance — Huberman Lab

View through a large wooden sculpture by Ai Wei Wei in side a gallery. The wooden structure is made out of old furniture and beams from a temple. The foreground is covered with assorted multi-colored Lego pieces. On the far wall behind the sculpture there is a panoramic reinterpretation of Monet's Lilies painting made out of single Lego squares. There are a group of gallery visitors framed by the sculpture, standing in front of the Lego painting.

Week Notes 009 — W/E 4 June 2023

  • a full week of stressful pre-production for a four day mega shoot starting the next week. Lots of last minute changes and mountains of emails.
  • had a lovely weekend day out to celebrate my wife’s birthday early. My shoot the following week sandwiched her birthday and I knew that the edit deadlines would make it hard to do anything fun on the day. We went to the brilliant Ai Wei Wei exhibition at Design Museum. Wei Wei is one of my favourite conceptual artists — unlike many he combines powerful ideas with a strong visual aesthetic. A lot of conceptual work falls flat for me because the artist forgets to make it interesting to look at or experience. I don’t want to be told why something is good or thought provoking, I want the work’s form, content and presentation to encourage discovery and conversation. Also, the exhibition was one of my favourite things — a one room show… There was this incredible density of visual interest and meaning to be deciphered in the space — each of the pieces talking to and presented in relationship to all the others. The only downside was a Gallery Bore, who was expounding loudly about What It All Meant to his date. We had to strategically navigate the space to stay out of earshot.
  • Nice collection of work by and that inspires Yinka Ilori on the first floor balcony too.
  • We went for a brilliant lunch at Akub, a Mediterranean restaurant in Notting Hill after the gallery. The food was delicious and presented beautifully, but without fuss. We sat upstairs under the skylight and felt like we were on holiday.
  • I’m sure other things happened during the week but I was swimming so hard to stay afloat in the email ocean, that I’ve blanked out everything else.
baby's face, mostly hidden by the back of an adult's arm. You can see one of the baby's eyes, and in the hand of the adult behind her head is a gallery booklet with Ai Wei Wei printed on it. The background shows a white gallery space with a large collection of ceramic pieces laid out on the floor. There are photographs on the far wall

A certain kind of photography is in no small part a craft of access. Get access, and all you need to do is pull focus and get the exposure right, and beautiful images will fall out onto your lap. —Craig Mod

This quote from CM’s excellent new pop-up newsletter about jazz kissas in Japan, nails a feeling I have on many shoots. Specifically, how the places & people that I photograph hugely influence the quality of my images. I always make usable pictures — that’s part of being professional. But sometimes I’m dropped into a scenario so special that magic happens wherever I point the camera…

I found this short poem in a text file from 2016 while clearing out my Dropbox:

A warm full moon seen,
through a break in the clouds,
Hangs above red taillights,
streaming away into darkness.

I have no idea if I wrote it or copied it from elsewhere.