Monthly Archives: December 2012

Instagram is Saving Photography


My daughter Issie and her friend Kate took the above image with an iPhone and posted it on Instagram while they were out on a run yesterday.

My daughter Ruby posted the one below on holiday in India:


While we were all on holidays they shot a quick portrait of their gran:


If you asked them, none of these girls would say they were interested in photography.

And yet in the past six months their photography has advanced from what was mostly a series of banal self portraits to this.

I think we can thank Instagram –  for the following reasons:

  1. Seeing. They are now looking with a critical eye for opportunities to make exciting images.
  2. Editing. They critically assess the images they make before posting. Only one image of a place or situation is selected, perhaps none if none are warranted.
  3. Technique. Unconsciously, they are looking for light, colour, and composition. They make cropping and framing decisions. The filters that many people deride actually alert them to the possibilities of working with tonal range, colour balance and contrast.

If I try to talk to them about photography their eyes glaze over, but I would be happy to claim any of these images as my own.

A lot of serious hobbyist photographers bash Instagram for the faddishness of its filter effects, and I must say that when I saw some wedding photos that had Instie-like filters applied to them I did cringe a little.

But I do believe that Instie has the potential to improve the photography of those who use it as it leads to more careful, considered and critical image making.

Certainly it has worked that way for my daughters and their friends.

But they haven’t entirely forsaken the selfie…



Lessons Learned and Forgotten


I’ve been looking at old slides lately, thinking about the differences in taking photos 15 yrs ago compared with today, and I came upon this session from 1998. Shot with my Nikon FM2 and 35mm f2,8 lens on 100 ASA Fuji Sensia.

One thing I’d forgotten is how much I used to hunt for light.

The light here is all natural – just window light. It was a portrait in the workplace to go with an article, shot in half an hour.

Looking back to those days I remember I was always trying to find light. I spent much more time concentrating on where the good light was.

I was much bossier about getting my subjects to move in to the light. These days with digital there’s always enough light, and maybe that can make us lazy.


My favourite shot from the session is this one. There are lots of portraits on the net showing my subject (Meryl Tankard) being serious, but here she’s smiling.

I think this was because I’d convinced her it would be a good idea if she and I swung round dancing in circles while I tried to get a few shots with blurry backgrounds showing movement.

Her kindness in humouring this dumb idea shows through even after all these years.

Chicken and Couscous Salad

Sometimes it’s easier to get family approval for charcoal cooking if you disguise it as salad.

“How abut a salad tonight?” See? Who could say no to that.

So this is a chicken and couscous salad with lots of nice vegies. It will serve four. The vegies can be done first so as not to interfere with the charcoal side of things.

I have a nice old le Creuset wok, very heavy cast iron, that does a great job.

In it I have stir-fried:
1 capsicum
1 bunch asparagus
2 onions
baby spinach
grape tomatoes

but use whatever you feel like – it’s hard to go too far wrong.

Remove these, then cook about 200g (dry weight) of couscous in the wok. Just follow the instructions but err on the side of less liquid, as there will be nice flavours and juices from the vegies to moisten it later, and you don’t want it gluggy.

Let the couscous sit there staying warm while you cook the chicken. Do that however you like; in this case I’ve used a faux-Portuguese style of marinade – just some lemon juice, sweet chili, paprika and a few herbs.

Back at the wok, warm it up again and use a flat wooden spatula to lightly stir the vegies in to the couscous. Roughly slice the chicken and spread that around by hand over the top, then stir that in very lightly.