The Photography Experience

The Photography Experience

One of the main activities of camera clubs is competitions. I’ve entered many of my own photos into competitions and judged a few too. This is about evaluating the finished and presented photo. What is a good photo? Many factors are considered, but it is mostly a subjective exercise… how I personally see and appreciate the photo.

But there’s a significant factor when evaluating a photograph which is missing from judging. That is the experience of the photographer leading up to this point… the journey made in reaching the destination. In competitions the emphasis is on the destination, the final print, with little regard for the journey, the purposes for which the photo was made, and the context and personal perspective within which it was made. But this, for me, is what photography is all about! It is the journey, the experience, the sheer joy of seeing and interacting with the world around me, framing images that express how I see and think and feel. Every photo is a self-portrait, an experience captured.

It’s great when at the end of the day’s journey I’ve got some photos which reflect something of that journey and an arrival at the desired destination. But if I’ve got nothing to show, who cares. The journey itself was photography.

Finally, a comment about what professional photographers and some entering competitions may share in common. Both may strive to please others, one for money and the other for honours certificates and awards!  I’m not accusing you of doing that, because I do it myself (especially as a professional photographer). But I’m rather offering a word of caution. Don’t sell your soul and your creative vision to the notion of making photos to please others, let alone competition judges! Instead, be yourself and take pleasure in the process of photography, irrespective of where it leads to.

Photo Books

Photo Books

Photo books are one of the best ways to show the memorable moments from special events, family celebrations, and holidays. They’re fabulous gifts and great coffee table books. There are do-it-yourself services available, but most people don’t have the time to make a photo book nor the computer skills of a professional photographer to enhance the photos to look their best.

I design and print high quality custom made photobooks from your photos, with rigid thick photo printed pages that lay flat and are coated to protect against spills and stains. These are bound in a hard cover with a photo that can span both the front and back cover. There’s a wide range of sizes available, the most popular being 11 x 8 inches and 14 x 11 inches. These books have between 16 and 70 pages, and each page can include been 1 to 10 images.

Contact us for a quote to make your photo book.

Sample books that we have made:

  • English Country Gardens (11 x 8 inches). Click here. (All photos made with iPhone and iPad)
  • Our Wedding Day (14 x 11 inches). Click here

The Film Photography Renaissance

The Film Photography Renaissance


Why is there a resurgence of film photography?[1] One could ask the same question as to why there is an interest in classic and vintage cars, vinyl records in audio, and why musicians still use ‘analogue’ instruments… when modern technology is often thought to have superseded what is now considered antiquated.  Well, it’s just not the same.

For some of us the journey making photos is more pleasurable and rewarding than reaching the destination… the printed image,[2] and taking the long hard road sometimes makes the destination more pleasurable to reach. For many film photographers the shoot is just the germination of the idea that grows (e.g. Michael Kenna). The negatives might not be seen for weeks or months, and getting into the darkroom to print may be months later again. This is precious gestation time, an extension of the journey. Compare this with my typical digital workflow… race back to the computer, download, select, process, produce… all within an hour or two. Oddly enough, many of my best digital images are those that I’ve rediscovered years later, unprocessed and overlooked.

This is not an argument for switching from digital to film, just as it is not an argument for those who have classic cars to switch to a new newer and faster car. Most have both, and their workhorse is the modern faster and easier technology. But there is nothing like parking up the modern machine for the weekend, and taking to the road with old.  Because the ‘old’ doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the new, including ‘safety’ features, one takes a little more care to get it right. When I know that I’ve only got 36 exposures on the film, I make my photos with more care. When I cannot see a preview of my photo on the camera’s LCD screen, I take more care with my exposures. I really have to think more before I shoot.

Some of the leading digital photography teachers advocate learning ‘to drive’ first with a film camera. David Duchemin begins his book The Visual Toolbox saying…

“If I were to begin a school of photography right now it would send the geeks screaming for the hills… or at least avoiding my school in droves. Every student would spend one year with one camera: a fully manual 35 mm [film] camera like the Pentax Spotmatic, or the Canon AE-1. It would have one prime lens and a light meter.”[3]

Automatic this and that has dumbed down many photographers or made them ignorant of the process which is common to both digital and analogue. Using a film camera is not a retrogression. There is nothing new ‘under the sun’ when it comes to making a photograph compared to making photos 100 years ago. Even though modern cameras are ‘light years’ ahead in their technology by comparison, the camera is essentially the same tool as it was 100 years ago, and the principles of making a photo are just the same!

So now I can say a few things about what I think about film photos themselves, rather than the process, and why I like them.

  1. Grain is not Noise. Grain on film is a lovely evenly spread texture of small particles of metallic silver. It is a whole lot different than the random blotches of ‘noise’ in digital photos (usually at a high ISO, and more in the shadow areas).
  2. The great film manufactures like Kodak, Agfa, Ilford, and Fuji, spent millions developing their different films which each produce a different effect. It is difficult and time consuming to emulate the same effect in post-processing digital, though it can be done. But for me, it is just easier to shoot film if I want the film effect. This is why some of the world’s leading cinematographers still use film, and not digital.

Have the best of both Worlds

I’m not a purist when it comes to analogue. Sometimes I’ll process the film myself with the chemicals, and sometimes I’ll send it off to a lab for processing. I scan the negatives and process the digital files on the computer. The scanned 35mm negative becomes a 24 megapixel image and a 16 bit TIFF file (45 megabytes).

One advantage of digitizing the image is being able to easily ‘spot’ remove dust particles that have dried on the negatives. There is very little other processing required on the computer. It’s great to be able to take a close look at the image without having to print it.


The photos from my last two rolls of film processed can be viewed here. Ilford XP2 400 (B&W) and Kodak Ektacrhome 400, both films C-41 processed (Photo Warehouse, Wellington), scanned, and produced here without digital enhancements other than dust spot removals. The scanned negative becomes a 24 megapixel image, 16 bit TIFF file (45 megabytes). So no darkroom work involved.



[1] Olivier Laurent ‘This is Why Film Photography is Making a Comeback’ (Jan 2017)

[2] There is no better illustration of this than the photographer Vivian Maier. Most of her amazing 150,000 photos were never developed or printed in her lifetime. See the 2013 movie documentary Finding Vivian Maier.

[3] David Duchemin The Visual Toolbox: 50 Lessons for Stronger Photographs (Craft & Vision, 2013).

Camera Exposure and Light Metering

Camera Exposure and Light Metering

How do we make a photo which is the brightness that we want? There are a number of different methods which I will cover in this tutorial, starting with how do determine this without a light meter, then looking at the incident light meter, the reflective light meter, and the Zone System. Finally we make some other important observations about the range of brightness the camera can record.

[Please note that this post is available as a PDF where the tables and illustrations can be seen at there correct size – click here]

The Sunny 16 Rule

Back when there were only film cameras and very few photographers had light meters, the manufacturers of film supplied a tiny slip of paper with recommended exposure settings for the light conditions. So for example, the guide for a 200 ISO film looked like this…

Lighting conditions and weather Shutter Aperture
Bright sun/  Shadows distinct or hard 1/200      f/16
Slightly overcast / Hazy / Soft shadows 1/200      f/11
Overcast cloudy / Faint shadows 1/200      f/8
Very overcast and cloudy / Open shade from sun / No shadows 1/200      f/5.6
Around sunset time / Deep shade 1/200      f/4
Just after sunset / Bright neon lights 1/200      f/2.8


You can see that the shutter speed recommended is 1/ISO. This guide is just as relevant today with modern digital cameras, where we can change the ISO for every photo. It is a reliable and simple starting point to getting a good exposure without using a light meter.

Measuring Light

There a two very different words we use to explain ‘brightness’[1] in photography… illuminance and luminance.[2]

  1. Luminance describes the measurement of the amount of light emitting, passing through or reflected from a particular surface from a solid angle. It also indicates how much luminous power can be perceived by the human eye. This means that luminance indicates the brightness of light emitted or reflected off a surface.
  2. Illuminance is a term that describes the measurement of the amount of light falling onto (illuminating) and spreading over a given surface area. Illuminance also correlates with how humans perceive the brightness of an illuminated area. As a result, most people use the terms illuminance and brightness interchangeably which leads to confusion, as brightness can also be used to describe luminance. To clarify the difference, illuminance refers to a specific kind of light measurement, while brightness refers to the visual perceptions and physiological sensations of light.

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This Blog is about Photography

This Blog is about Photography

This blog is about photography. It will include articles discussing photos, techniques in photography, and how to use a camera (and computer) to make photographs. Everybody is a photographer. Most choose to use a camera or phone to ‘take’ photos. But here we are interested in the serious photographer who with skill and creative vision ‘makes’ a photograph, and where the camera is a tool… in the same way the paint brush is to a painter, an oven is to a chef, and a piano is to a pianist.  My interest is to help you become a better photographer. I’ll show what I do and how, which may be thought of as idiosyncratic! But at the end of the day a photographer is always ‘judged’ by their photos, no matter who they are and the processes they use.

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Mark Brimblecombe Photography