Ughhh, what crap weather. I haven’t been out with my camera much recently. I was very hopeful that over Christmas I use my holiday from work to get out and make the most of some potentially chilly and frosty conditions, but no. Rain, rain, rain. I only actually went out shooting on the last day of my holiday when the wind was pretty vicious down at Portland. Luckily there were some great waves smashing about and an awesome sunset, even though my filters got caked in the lovely things that are dissolved in the south coast see, be it salt or sewage, making some of the photos a bit smeary!
I wish I could say that this means I have caught up with all my processing of shots from Thailand, Norway and various places in the UK, but I haven’t. Work has just been too busy.
What it has resulted in though is more thinking about photography rather than doing. One thing I have been mulling over is the idea of photographic progress. Having been taking photos for around 5 years am I actually getting better at it? My own view is that, yes, my shots are definitely improving, but is there any proof?
I guess first let’s look at social media/photo sharing sites. Am I getting any more hits, views, comments that I used to? The answer to this varies depending on which site you look at, so let’s start with Flickr.
It would seem according to flickr statistics that I am actually getting worse at photography, or at best staying the same. I don’t get any more views per photo than I used to, or at least there’s no distinguishable trend. I don’t get any more comments either. One thing that has improved is the quality of comments I get. I no longer submit to any groups at all, as I just cannot be bothered with it. I upload my photos and then let them be. This means I don’t get a bunch of comments asking me to look at their newest uploads and comment back, or a host of meaningless “This photo deserves to be in National Geographic” awards with accompanying awful graphics, which also means I limit the number of views I get and hence chances of appearing in the fabled ‘Explore’. However the comments I do get tend to be from contacts, many of whom are great photographers themselves and so if a photo receives a comment it tends to be more genuine and useful to me.
The other site I upload to is 500px. Here there are no groups, no awards and so on (as far as I am aware) so there are less opportunities for promotion. Photos generally have to stand on their own. A good photo will get a lot of comments and rise up their ‘Explore’ equivalent which is called ‘Popular’, whilst a poor photo will just sink, which to me is a much more fair way of doing things as it relies less on the time spent on self promotion and internet hours logged. That’s not to say that these things don’t help, as you can still add hundreds of contacts and ask people to look at your photos, it’s just not quite as easy. My 500px stats tell me that I am getting better with more views and associated higher rankings, although I have only been posting there for a year or so which is too short a period of time to judge real progress. I am certainly getting more picky in my photos, and find I upload less and less.
So what about this site? Views on here are steady, if unspectacular. Around the time when my photo of ‘The Wave’ was in newspapers I was racking up the hits. This was incredibly useful as it took my site from being a 10th pager in search engines to appearing at the top of google if you type just my name (something I am quite chuffed about). Since then the number of views are roughly consistent month to month, and having only been an active site for just over a year this doesn’t tell me much.
So how can I judge my progress and potential improvement at taking photos? It’s going to have to be completely subjective, just taking a look at a few photos over a time period and seeing what’s good and what sucks. Luckily I have been using flickr for almost the entire time I have been into photography, so it has a more or less complete timeline of my photos. There are over 1500 photos on there, the majority of which I look back at now and want to delete, keeping around 200 of the most recent ones. So here is the timeline with selected photos from each year for you to judge yourself. I have tried to keep the photos UK based to make it fair for each year to compete:
So what’s the outcome? Am I getting better? In my eyes, certainly so. Compositions are (hopefully) less obvious and more considered, processing a bit/a lot more subtle, and more importantly understanding of light and how it falls on or interacts with subjects. I still love colourful sunsets and sunrises but am now looking for more things than just a large rock in the foreground and a blazing red sky. So when did I most improve? Changes in early years are obvious as the photos are likely to get considerably better with upgrading gear from low end to mid-range and learning how to use a camera, but once you have the major technical things down is when the hard work starts. I’d consider 2010 to 2011 the major improvement, which happens to coincide with my trips to Iceland and the Southwest USA where I was fortunate enough to have a lot of photography in a short space of time, not to mention some incredible landscapes to practice on.
Judge for yourself though.
In a few weeks I am heading back to Iceland, this time in the Winter, for some Aurora Borealis spotting as well as iceberg hurling and puffin chasing. Let’s see if I’ve improved since I went there 18 months ago.