Reculver Towers

During my recent workshop I explained the need of ‘dancing around the teacup’ – shooting the subject from all possible angles to arrive at the most ‘powerful’ approach. What is “powerful’ or ‘interesting’ in photography is a separate matter – what I mean here is achieving an image you are happy to put your name to and hang on your wall.

Bluebell surprise

Bluebell season in the UK is officially over but I guess we will keep see the images of those beautiful flowers posted here and there for quite some time, in spite of garlic and rapeseed bloom. Such is the nature of the bluebell phenomenon that it possesses some strange power over many of us. Simply put it – we find them beautiful.

What title?

I normally have no problems with it. Titles come to me naturally and often it is that the title proceeds the image. Every now and then it is the case of ambiguity though – either in an image itself or in the process of constructing it. This is when giving it a name does not come easy. It happens rarely – one or twice a year only – but that is already often enough to make me contemplate what I normally take for granted – the truth universally acknowledged that an image properly executed must be in want of a title.

Post-processing as a mood-reflecting tool

The mood in photography can – and should be, as much as it is possible – achieved in-camera. Good craftmanship simply demands it. Yet, enhancing and developing further what has been recorded on the film or digital sensor has always been a vital part of photography. Whether it is darkroom or computer screen – this is of no significance in this respect. As-true-to-photographer’s-vision-as-possible deed has been done in the field, now it is time to see what has been achieved and how it can be developed further.

What are you shooting about?

Anchored is an image taken with a shallow depth of field to keep the focus on the foreground artefact (the chain and anchor) while ensuring that the background, and most importantly in this case, Tower Bridge, is rendered with a slight fog-like effect. The shutter speed used was below 30s, just enough to lose a few people who happened to stroll by at the moment of taking this picture.

Candyfloss Tree

For this month I have chosen my ‘Candyfloss Tree’ for what I believe is a very good reason. It is of course not such a long exposure – merely a few seconds achieved with a 4-stop filter. I was considering using a 10-stop as well but in the end decided on not doing so – it is no good to use all you options at once. Not draining your subject and leaving something for the future visit seems to me rather a good idea.

Inspirations, inspirations

Many who turn a new leaf never look back, as if the past did not matter at all, almost as if never happened. Stieglitz did something slightly different – he deliberately interspersed exhibitions of what he knew would be controversial art, such as Rodin’s sexually explicit drawings, with what Steichen called ‘understandable art’, and with photographs.

Do chime in!

Apart from occasional trips with friends or workshops photography is usually a lonely experience. Whether you are a landscape or studio photographer, like some kind of new gold miners we tend to keep ourselves to ourselves and explore and discover new spots and approaches alone. We enjoy it quiet, we like to focus and not to be distracted. And definitely we do not like to be rushed by anybody. Ours are long hours of congenial solitude spend on long walks and later on post-processing, in darkroom or in front of the computer. We are poets of light and our photography hours are positively secluded.


Some time ago I re-visited a well-known ship wreck near my house to photograph it at high-tide. I had been there a few times already and the first ever visit to the location – in spite of all my expectations – was most fruitful: the image taken as a test one gained some recognition and has been selling well ever since.

I have not come here for this

There are times when everything seems to go wrong. In time like this nothing seems to go to plan (a plan that have been meticulously crafted, with maps and directions, based on weather reports and previous experiences with the photographed place) and all the impressions that you have are that you are being utterly unprepared.

Positively dangerous inspirations

There is always one, they say. I wonder which one it is for you.

If there is a single image that has made the biggest impact on your carrier as a photographer, which one would that be for you? Do you actually have one?

A new opening

I have been an avid admirer of infrared photographers for many a year and still clearly recall the moment when I first really took notice of it. It came to pass when I was devouring ‘Master Printing Course’ by Britain’s most authoritative practitioner of the art and science of toning monochrome prints. An accomplished photographer, writer, and lecturer – Mr Tim Rudman. Infrared images presented in the book captivated me and I instantly surrendered to their charm.

Long exposure in confinement – ICM

I often ask myself – and other photographers, whenever I can – a simple yet tragic question: what are you shooting about? When I teach photography I approach this matter from the other end – trying to make my student realise that what is important is not the gear or the subject of the photograph but the message a photographer aims be sending across to the viewer through the final image.

Flowers in the time of cholera

OK, I admit – it is not cholera and hopefully it will last a lot shorter than the malady which befallen Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza (if you have not yet read ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ by Gabriel García Márquez I cannot recommend it highly enough). It is March 2020, the corona virus time with total or partial lockdown happening across the most of the world.

Long exposure in confinement

I have been an avid admirer of infrared photographers for many a year and still clearly recall the moment when I first really took notice of it. It came to pass when I was devouring ‘Master Printing Course’ by Britain’s most authoritative practitioner of the art and science of toning monochrome prints. An accomplished photographer, writer, and lecturer – Mr Tim Rudman. Infrared images presented in the book captivated me and I instantly surrendered to their charm.

One week in Berlin

For a your man West Berlin was back then a fabulous place to live in. Endless parties, concerts, impossibly relaxed atmosphere and openness of everybody I chanced to meet. It was colourful, vibrant and as open as they come – a place I must have subliminally dreamt of when still suffocating under the communist regime in 1980s in Poland.

A winter sunrise in Trakai

This year it was my third visit to Vilnius. The first was just for one day, when Lithuania still suffered under the heavy boot of Soviet Union friendship. The city showed signs of past greatness but most of the buildings were run-down and boarded up. People in the streets seemed to be constantly in the rush and so preoccupied with the matters of their daily life that it seemed to me they were some king of grey ghosts, gone as soon as they appeared, without a care in what I considered to be still prepossessing buildings.

Kick that block

I was supposed to write about something very different for this issue but found myself lost somewhere in the middle of creating my composition and after a few days of struggling with the stubborn text decided to abandon the initial idea altogether and try something completely different instead.

Those wonderful mistakes

Have you ever thought of the moment when early humans found out that meat exposed to fire for long enough is way better to that served raw? I have always imagined a group of homo erectus sitting by the fire helping themselves to a raw gazelle or some other kill, and one of them dropping his part into the fire too hot for the meat to be salvaged right away.

A wonderful journey

Recently I had a pleasure of spending good few hours with a very young person who felt the urge to create something. To be precise, to paint or – at least – to draw something. While staring at a blank A2 sheet of glossy drawing paper which was staring back at her as an artist’s abyss, her biggest problem was that she had no idea what she wanted to paint (or at least draw).

Feb is fab

It is an uninviting time, February is. New Year’s Eve reveries are long gone and all that’s left is to wait until the spring starts waking up the world around us and within us again. It can be a very long and a very grey wait.biggest problem was that she had no idea what she wanted to paint (or at least draw).

I don’t like it anymore

I should actually say ‘I do not like it like this anymore’. Looking at my pictures taken and processed in the past all – or almost all – I can see are my mistakes and shortcomings, as if they were holes in the picture. All that I learned from the last time I worked on those images, post-procession wise, and all I experienced in life slowly changed me and altered my photographic vision as well.


From the sordid detachment of Walthamstow, from smelly corners of Hackney, from half-cosy streets of Bethnal Green, from dangerous nooks of Wembley, failure of Uxbridge, whiffs of Jamaica at Kingston, from seemingly significant opulence of Sidcup, though deceased Dartford, jeopardy of Croydon, boredom of Hays but also through the excitement of Piccadilly, constant shoulder-brushing at Covent Garden, calmness of Richmond, splendour of Regents Park, …

April could well be the cruellest month

Whoever considers photography and literature to be intricately connected (meaning they both are different ways of expressing and – to some extend – untangling labyrinthine ideas a human mind often amuses itself in manufacturing) might perhaps agree with me that art is not here to explain what we see or read, nor it is to answer any of the questions we may put to it.

Which one are you?

I went to National Gallery in London, where I have not been for a bit more than a while. I used to live just round the corner, amongst the whirl of Soho, where rather less picturesque scenes unfold almost daily – and in the past would visit the Gallery at least once a week. Not to mention that additional irresistible attraction of National Portrait Gallery next door, where one can quite often stand face to face with a set of intriguing images.

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DEREK MICHALSKI – Fine Art Photography

Copyright – © Derek Michalski / All Rights Reserved 2000