Patrick Arends

mind travel - 'masters'

Learning is a journey of discovery that never ends. Whilst developing my photography skills and approach, I have come across many books, papers, essays, websites, forums, blogs, interviews and videos. Hungry for improvement as I am, I read and study a lot. Reading and absorbing a lot of information doesn’t necessarily make me a better photographer. I feel that I need to seriously reflect on what I read, and review whether it inspires me, or improves my skills, which will enhance my photography.

I’ve gone through many books, and after some time, finding myself starting to paging through the content, instead of actually reading everything. The information starts to bore, or turns out to be inapplicable to me. Some well-known photographers claim to have the ‘answer to the ultimate question of photography, the universe and everything’ (and I can tell you the answer is not 42!), and are not holding back in explaining what everyone ‘should be doing’. Some are more humble, stating that it works for them (although strongly recommending you do the same). It might work for them, although I don’t find there is one clear truth. (more)


Studying and developing my view on photography takes more energy than just listening to someone, watching a video or reading. It is about how I apply the ideas, or suggested approaches. One of my conclusions so far is that many photographers out there are not my cup of tea at all.

One particular photographer, who’s written many books, has explained in a YouTube video how he creates some of his travel photographs. It turned out to be a complete illusion! Using Photoshop to create a false reflection of a beautiful city skyline in the water in the foreground doesn’t make sense to me. Erasing a particular building out of this skyline (because the photographer doesn’t like it) is trickery in my opinion! Creating a world that actually doesn’t exist.

My photography involves seeing (what others might not see) and creating a photograph by using what is actually there. If the composition is not ideal, I need to move around until it is right. If the lighting is not right, I need to wait, or change the perspective to make it work. I don’t introduce multiple layers in Photoshop and ‘create’ (read: fake) an image that actually never existed.

What I found out is that not all photographers are necessarily the right people to learn from. I need to consider any master carefully. And even then, some tips they give, may fit well in my approach, some may not.

One photographer may be a great master of techniques, how to nail the photograph technically, before you even recognised the shot. Knowing the lighting conditions, having made design decisions on aperture and shutter speed, being prepared for the shot. Another photographer may be brilliant in composition or nailing timing. Whether the photograph taken turns out to be slightly out of focus then, is of less importance. The timing was right, and something interesting is recorded!

Having studied my Leica M9 thoroughly, and practiced the techniques required to get the shots I want, I find that it’s time to move on. Stop worrying about the camera and the technicalities; I know how to use it.

It’s also a reason to stay away from gadgets and not get distracted by stuff that shops try to sell you. I’m happy I use my M9 body and 50mm/F2.0 lens for most of the time and a 28mm/F2.8 for perhaps 5% of the time only. It’s human nature to be interested in gadgets, and to be fair, some gadgets make life easier (e.g. Thumbs Up), but don't necessarily result in better photographs! In the end, it’s how you use your tools.

Next up: what can you study to improve your photography?

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