Art Criticism: when to be constructive, and when to leave well alone

There is a man who lives in my area who, at every opportunity, forces on me his educated opinion of the deficit my photography shows with regards to technical skill. On the first occasion I met him, he sauntered up to me and made a comment about the seriousness – or lack thereof – of my equipment, sneering down on my diminutive Olympus XZ-1. I will be the first person to admit that I have little technical ability, having never learned how to shoot manually with any skill, but I do enjoy the images I create despite their lack of technical finesse.

I’m not someone who won’t take constructive criticism, when given with respect, but I will assert my right to choose how I take it. This man recently mentioned having seen some of my work where it hangs in a friend’s studio (where he paints fantastic larger-than-life portraits – find out more here), and momentarily after he had vaguely complimented it, he followed up with the swift and tactless pronouncement that I hadn’t shot the sky correctly, and proceeded to explain – as usual, without invitation – how it should be done (he has a degree, you see).

The image I believe he was referring to was the feature of this post in January, where the sky is quite white; had he seen some of the other photos I took at the same time and shared in this earlier post, where the sky has lovely clouds and isn’t so blown out, but which I felt were not as dynamic, he may have felt less inclined to bludgeon me, metaphorically speaking, with his boorish need to feel superior. As it was the only photo on exhibit with landscape including sky, I suspect he latched onto that flaw with delight and determined immediately to enlighten me the next chance he got.

I appreciate the effort many photographers have gone to in learning their craft, and sometimes feel a little disappointed I have not done that – though, of course, it’s not too late; however, photography is my hobby, not my profession, and while it doesn’t hurt to be always learning, improving my technical ability for the sake of the good opinion of one rude member of the community isn’t necessarily going to reap rewards for me.


Eden in Ruins: rediscovering TtV photography


There were big “hurrahs!” at my house when I discovered that the new PEN is perfectly well suited to being used for Through the Viewfinder (TtV) photography, which I had abandoned after selling my DSLR last year and discovering that my XZ-1 couldn’t do the job.

Because I had decommissioned my TtV contraption (I had sewn together two neoprene lens bags, cut a hole in the bottom one for the Duaflex’s lens window, and stiffened the unit with a cut-down plastic soft drink bottle – it was rudimentary, but it worked!), I needed to start again.

Rummaging around in the pantry I discovered a bottle of port…and, more importantly, the box it came in, which happened to have a window already in it for the Duaflex to peer out of. I dropped the Kodak down the bottom, packed it with nylon stockings, then cut a hole in the box lid for the PEN’s lens to slot into, reinforced it with electrical tape, and I was on my way – simpler, cheaper (free), and in fact better than my original version.

Happy New Year: seeing in the new year with new gear

Do you ever have those phases when you jump on the internet and bleed your eyes dry over camera reviews for days? This happened to me in the week between Christmas and New Year, and led me up the garden path and around the mulberry bush. But that’s okay, as it then led me to this conclusion: paying a hundred dollars less for an Olympus PEN E-PL3 system camera with kit lens than I paid for my comparatively simple (i.e. fixed lens point and shoot) XZ-1 nearly two years ago Made Good Sense. So I did just that.

Major differences are that the PEN (pictured above right) has an interchangeable lens (I’d say lenses, but so far there’s just one), which one can manually focus – joy of joys! I’ve missed this so much since going away from using a DSLR; a screen that tilts up and down; and tweakable modes, even when shooting in full auto mode.

On the downside, I just know that I’m going to lose the lens cap, since it’s not attached to the body; it also weighs a lot more (which is far less than a DSLR), so really needs a hand grip on the front, and takes up more space. And it doesn’t have the XZ-1’s sublime super macro. No matter, none of these are dealbreakers, especially since I don’t really have to choose between one or the other.

Anyway, here’s cheers to a new year with new gear!


PS if you’re a troll who came here looking for things to hate me for, good luck with that and happy new year to you and the team.

Woolshed Love Affair: a new perspective on an old favourite


For a while, now, I have admired a certain little woolshed near where I live, featured in earlier posts that you can see here and here. Today I got to see it from a new perspective – from inside the paddock in which it sits, as I rode behind the grain truck in the fire unit while I was helping with harvest.

Please click image to view full size.