“Stop aiming for perfection, let mistakes happen and embrace serendipity.”
- A B Watson
Mist near Bega. Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2019
“Stop aiming for perfection, let mistakes happen and embrace serendipity.”
- A B Watson
Mist near Bega. Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2019
“Only photograph what you love.”
— Tim Walker
Jodi Rose and I are working on our book ‘Dancers and Trees’ today. I am amazed at how fast it is taking shape. Will start sharing some of the photographs soon. I printed one last week in an A2 and I must say it tugs at my heart.
Australian gum trees make the most amazing forests. These are probably mountain Ashe. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2019
“Photography is not about cameras, gadgets and gizmos. Photography is about photographers. A camera didn't make a great picture any more than a typewriter wrote a great novel."
- Peter Adams
I say this over and over, yes it’s not about the camera but it is worth having a camera you love to use. Chasing imagine quality is falling victim to marketing and numbers on charts.
What is really important to me is how it feels in your hand. Can you use it like you expect or want. Do you love to use it. I know that if I don’t love to use it I am not going to use it as much as I should.
I have just done a year and a half with a camera I didn’t like. It takes the best photographs, when it comes to quality, than any other digital camera I have ever owned. But I found it clumsy and awkward to use. It ended up on manual and on a tripod. Turn it on and use it manually.
Hated using it. It’s time for it to go. Yes I will leave imagine quality on the table. But I will be happier with something I love to use.
Photographing sailing boats today. Will be on the water at the Australian Schools Regatta and Championships at Belmont 16 foot skiff club at Lake Macquarie. Photographing the races I was in when I was at school. One year I raced a Northbridge Senior and another it was a 16’ skiff.
So many stories from those days with my scout troupe.
I will be turning to my Olympus today with the 300 mm lens. Perfect for bouncing around in a boat with. I know it like my own hand. Easy.
Misty trees, from near Bega earlier this year. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2019
“I do not paint what I see but what I saw.”
- Edward Munch
Cairne Wall, from Fortress Ridge. Leura. Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2019
“Learning never exhausts the mind.”
- Leonardo da Vinci
Two trees. Somewhere between Cooma and Bega. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2019
“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.”
- Brad Henry
I started teaching when I was a young teenager at scouts. My first professional job at 18 was as a teacher. Before I was 25 I was teaching my educational staff to teach better and getting gigs around the country teaching teaches to teach and writing curriculum for high school outdoor education programs.
Before I knew what was happening I was writing and running the ‘train the trainer’ at a skillshare Center for long term unemployed.
My next major job was coordinating and lecturering a Bachelor of Teaching, in Adult Vocational Education for the University of Technology, Sydney.
I then returned to the Blue Mountains and ended up in the Outdoor Recreation Department at TAFE NSW. Training outdoor guides to teach and lead groups, coming full circle in a career of education.
Not content to fit in, I tackled the rewriting of the curricula and the assessments. Holistic approaches. I was soon teaching the whole state in outdoor recreation how to use my curriculums and assessment tools. Setting a statewide standard for assessment.
I look back now, and wonder why and how my journey through education evolved.
In many ways it was simple. Love and opportunity. I followed my loves and took opportunities as they arose.
I have a passionate love for teaching. At one stage I thought I wanted to give it away and be a photographer. How wrong I was. Being a photographer isn’t a job I ache for. Having art directors tell me what to photograph and how. No.
Teaching photography was the perfect answer. Be my own boss. Teach to those that ache to learn and listen. Travel the world and inspire other creatives. Take photographs just for me.
I never would have dreamt up this amazing life with my clear goals of a youthful young Leonard. The name I insisted on as a twenty something, because it made me feel older and more respected. No, following my loves, my passions lead me here. And I am so thankful I did.
I love teaching photography. I love mentioning people and watching them grow. Thier success is mine. Not really, but helping and supporting someone with encouragement means that you held thier hand for a while. And knowing you did is reward in itself.
If I haven’t met you yet, please find your way to one of my classes. Whether it’s a camera club talk, a one day workshop, a week long destination workshop or one of my year long offerings. You won’t be disappointed.
You will learn something about yourself, you will grow, you will leave inspired.
In the mist. Between Bega and Cooma. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2019
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I wouldn’t have even contemplated opening a shop in Kiama. Yet, one persons words changed that. Yesterday, before even the end of my first full month of being open, sales outstripped my last exhibition.
To have a whole shop full of sepia work seemed crazy to many. I knew in my heart that I had to remain true to my work. I also knew that a tiny splash of any other colour would devalue the impact of the sepia.
It has become a signature. My little outlet in Kiama is just so, well, Len. It’s a day to be very proud of my work.
Natasha is the beautiful woman who dragged me through the door and encouraged me to start. Being an interior designer and an expert in retail marketing / shop keeping, meant I had an expert to bounce ideas off.
I had a false impression that she would tell me what to put in there. She is very intelligent. Manipulating me brilliantly. She showered me with encouragement, listened very very carefully to what I was saying, and helped me create my own dream.
A brilliant facilitator... Tash would make a great teacher. The perfect mentor.
I spoke to her about my love of fabric and my idea for my photographs on scarves. She immediately was entranced by the idea. I asked her to choose the floral photographs that I used to start the collection. She knew how to display them for sale, the importance of the customer being able to run thier fingers through the fabric. The importance of lighting and display.
It is so important to encourage others. To support them. Help them become the best version of themselves. Positive and encouraging words have such a huge impact on others. We often don’t know this impact.
Luckily, every so often, someone tells me where my encouragement has lead them. Usually, I get to see the change in thier work.
Without Tash’s words of encouragement it never would have happened for me.
I would love to encourage you to tell those that have helped you with thier words of encouragement. It’s a beautiful gift back to someone whom gifted you. I don’t believe you owe it to them, I believe it is a lovely way of saying thank you.
Lastly, I would love to encourage you to encourage others. Shower someone in positives. It gives them a little light in thier direction.
If you are after a little side trip from Sydney to a beautiful seaside town of Kiama it is a lovely train trip down or gorgeous winding drive or an effortless freeway if that’s more your thing.
100 Terralong Street Kiama.
Near Pipers Lookout, between Bega and Cooma. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2019
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
Turn your camera to monochrome and use the power of seeing in black and white to take better monochrome photographs.
This is why I love Electronic View Finder Cameras. It was a revelation the first time I ever did this. It changed my life, well, my photography, which is my life.
No longer did I have to exert so much energy imagining the colour conversions. I could simply see them. More energy for creative composition.
If you have a DSLR, plonk it on a tripod and use the monochrome mode in live view.
I am horrified to keep reading photographers tell people this colour photograph won’t make a good monochrome or that it will. Best practice is to conceive and shoot in monochrome from the start. Deciding later is a cop out and leads to less powerful work.
The more you practice, the more monochrome’s you create, the easier it gets. Simple.
Why do so many photographers, and photography educators delight in making photography hard? Is it to prove thier intelligence? Is it to asercert thier mastery over the medium? Is it to shut the rest of us out of an elitist activity? Is it their own pure joy in their convoluted methods?
Keep it simple and fun... Photography is special because it is so accessible to everyone. If something works, use it, enjoy it. Simplicity is a thing of beauty. This applies to methods, equipment, thought and composition.
Mist. Between Cooma and Bega. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2019
“TELL ME AND I FORGET. TEACH ME AND I REMEMBER. INVOLVE ME AND I LEARN.”
The weekly photography exercises I started a few weeks ago are going so well. Hundreds of people have signed up for my weekly lesson and a solid group has formed a beautiful learning community by posting and commenting in the comments. They are sharing and discussing their photography and what they are discovering.
It’s a great way to learn. Slowly, in bite sized chunks. Figuring out what is going on with photographic process or visual language. They jump all over the place each week so that they address different issues, hopefully so one doesn’t get bored only pursuing one issue for two long.
Besides, it’s free, it’s in your spare time, it’s all about you and your love for photography.
I am hoping that the community around the exercises helps with motivation to keep working at them. But, because of the format it is easy to join in at any time and complete them in your own leisure.
Last week we explored Dutch Angles. http://www.lensschool.com/lens-weekly-photography-exercises/dutch-angle
This week we are using Freeman Patersons exercise about seeing beyond the obvious. http://www.lensschool.com/lens-weekly-photography-exercises/photographs-are-everywhere
The sign up form to get the weekly exercise in your email inbox is here. http://www.lensschool.com/photography-exercises/
Why not join us and develop from home. Quiet a few of my past students are there. It is so lovely to see them. Having been travelling for the past two weeks I am yet to really sit down and look through all the work and thier learning / discussions. I can’t wait.
I scored a great misty day on my way down from Jindabyne to the coast last week. Can’t wait to download and see what I captured. Today I am driving up the Blue Mts to pick up my photography from the show at the now closed Light and Shadow Gallery. My Eizo monitor gets delivered this week, I will let you know how that goes.
How I love photography in the mist. Gum tree in the mist at Cradle Mountain, Tasmania last year at my first workshop down there. Usually I do tours. Was a great success. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2019
“My portraits are more about me than they are about the people I photograph.“
- Richard Avedon
Ivy Rose Raven, Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2019
“Every viewer is going to get a different thing. That's the thing about painting, photography, cinema.”
– David Lynch
We were heading out to the glow worm tunnel. I was with my first Photography Masterclass, well after they had finished thier intensive year studying. Dot, Shirley, Anne and Paul. The mist was thick as we drove along the Newnes Plateau. I drove around a corner and suddenly the forest I had known my whole life was gone.
I was devistating, heart broken and overwhelmed with sadness.
A few photographs came. Not many. Just enough to capture that intense feeling. The other one with the black cockatoo in it is still one of my favourites.
We drove away... The sadness followed me that day as I processed my feelings and thoughts.
Why do I get so upset with the logging of a planted pine forest in a managed state forest. Years later I now get it. Managed is the wrong word. The trees were planted, they grew and then they were removed. The forest stripped bare with no aftercare or management. Left is a wasteland to fend on its own.
What happened to the native species that that were displaced. The soil too acidic to support the regrowth of the original natives. Where did the rest of the eco system go?
Where is the replanting, the reforestation?
They say a sand mine might come. At least Sydney’s second airport didn’t go there.
How has it come to this? A world where we discard our forests and wilderness and continue to use expansion and growth as a mantra to economic success and survival. Yet we all know we are dependent on these places for our fresh air.
We cant continue to expand. We can’t continue at the current population growth. We can’t continue to prop up our economy with growth.
Well, that is what this photograph is to me. It says something different to everyone. That is the thing about art isn’t it.
The other photograph, for those of you that haven’t seen it yet.
Newnes Plateau. Newnes State Forest. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
I spend a lot of time talking about this photograph taken in Cradle Mountain, Tasmania in my presentations at camera clubs. It has taught me a lot about photography. It all started when I quickly cropped it square to drop into one of my presentations.
During the presentation at an un named camera club a louder older male in the back corner suggested that it would be better if I chopped off the sky. It pushed a button and I almost snapped. I posed the question about whether it really was appropriate to talk that way to a guest speakers, nor to someone whom hasn’t asked for foto feedback. Is it the usual way club members are given suggestions? Usually, people pick on others for their own self esteem, not really wanting to help the person. If they were coming from a helping perspective they would be structuring thier words in a helpful way rather than one that inflicts pain.
My reaction was latter vindicated by two lovely older ladies who thanked me because that person really did need putting in thier place.
Later I looked at my square cropped image. Hmmmm, yes the balance wasn’t quite right.
Here is his suggested crop.
Unfortunately it changes the feelings of the image for me. That wasn’t right either. This crop may do better in club competitions where impact counts in a judging scenario.
So I went back to my original and it immediately took me back to the intense sadness I felt while taking this photograph and at that spot. That extra sky evoked the sadness I wanted to expresss.
These days when I talk about these images, I make a strong case for shooting in the aspect ratio that I plan to show them in because cropping after the fact changes the feelings for much of my work.
On Monday night I was talking about this image again and someone asked why I was sad for the dead tree.
Because it’s dead is the straight answer. The longer one is about why is it part of a whole stand of dead trees. Where are the new ones growing at its base to replace them.
At first I thought it was die back. Something in the soil. A fungus perhaps that was killing them. Drought perhaps.
Each subsequent visit to Cradle Mountain sees me returning to this tree and this stand to pay my respects and unfortunately I am always overwhelmed by the flush of sadness that flows through me. Five years later and still no trees for regrowth. Still sad. Lonely. Dead.
I visit this skeleton each time I return and pay my respects. I am deeply sorry for what my fellow humans have done, and how selfish we are as a species.
This year it dawned on me that they were a victim of fires. In Tasmania the trees and forest doesn’t regenerate. Not like the Blue Mountains where a fire is the start of new beginnings. In Tasmania the trees die and don’t grow back. It was the burnt branches I stepped on that made me twig to it. They reminded me of the newly burnt forest in the Tarkine I had seen a few years before hand.
I really don’t know what killed this tree or the stand around it. I can only tell you my educated guess.
The original photograph expresses this sadness for me. It’s about the lonely dead tree, not the playful button grass that grows at its base. The tree here isn’t some hero, it’s life was lost, and I am full of sadness for it.
It is a stark reminder for me that climate change is real and that many more trees will be lost in the coming future. We must plant the ones we have cut down to halt the imbalance we have caused with our relentless population growth and reliance on fossil fuels for our modern convenient lives. We need to be planting millions and millions of trees.
Sad dead tree, Cradle Mountain, Tasmania. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
“ I think good dreaming is what leads to good photographs.”
– Wayne Miller
I am definitely a dreamer. Day dreams. Fantasies. Imagining things. Designing things. Drawings and notes of ideas. Hundreds of journals full of them. For me I have had to learn to live with an over abundance of ideas. Can’t possibly do or make all the ideas that flow out of my imagination.
The point is that they keep coming. I enjoy them. Cultivate them, so they keep coming.
Why is that important? Well, they are an expression of creativity and being an artist means being creative as much as possible. Living a creative life.
How can you make your life more creative? Dream is just one way.
The show in Leura continues to do well. Thank you to everyone that has gone and particularly to those of you that have told others (and myself). It’s open again tomorrow though to Sunday 11am - 4pm. I will be there all Sunday too if you want to visit me while I am there. There will be an artist talk on Sunday at two pm. Come and say hello. Light and Shadow Gallery Leura.
Furber Steps. Katoomba. The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
“Photography is a craft. Anyone can learn a craft with normal intelligence and application. To take it beyond the craft is something else. That’s when magic comes in. And I don’t know that there’s any explanation for that.”
– Elliott Erwitt
Its been a hectic week, one of preparations for another exhibition. I don’t know why I end up in last minute shows. I much prefer booking them in a few years in advance with plenty of time to curate them. This one was curated by the gallery director. So hard to let go of that aspect of your work when you spend your life creating meaningful bodies (series) of works. I regularly create images to go into particular series.
Anyway, it’s printed and now at the framers. Am now so glad I didn’t take my usual route of framing them myself. Have even made some greeting cards.
The exhibition is important because I hang with Max Dupain. It is a similar honour as to hanging with Hans Strand and Art Wolfe in Germany at the Art of Wild Gallery. Or in the Museum of Photography in India. To hang with such masters of photography is in itself a huge accolade. Such a boost of self esteem. Am so proud.
Hopefully you can make it. It opens on the 1st December in Leura. My home town. Another little great Omen. Actually Max Dupain lived just down the road in Castlecraig in a Walter Burley Griffin home. Just a few hundred meters away.
1st December - 8th January
Light and Shadow Gallery.
Wednesday to Sunday 11am - 4pm
Shop 2/ 19 Grose Street, Leura 2780, NSW AUSTRALIA
I am going to be in the Gallery on Sunday 16th December if you would like to talk to me personally. I will find some other dates to be there too.
Hopefully visitors will buy some of my work. For that is the ultimate destination of it. Someone’s wall. It is proving to be an art investment.
Narrow Neck is showing there. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
“Great things are not done by impulse, but a series of small things brought together.”
– Vincent Van Gogh
Last night was another lovely and well received talk. Lane Cove Creative Photography. A club that has dumped the competition roundabout. This photograph walked out the door with a happy owner… Such a rewarding thing to feel… Knowing that someone wants to keep one of your artworks.
This morning was such a special morning. We dumped classes and photographed knowing that the mist was fleeting. We didn’t see it again like this all week.
Cradle Mountain Mists. Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
Last year we had such a good workshop and photography tour in Albany I can’t wait to get back there again. We photographed the magical Kalgan River as seen above on a misty morning, we photographed beautiful aqua water lapping pure sandy beaches, delightful flowers, tall forests and enchanting mountain ranges. My visual exploration of this different landscape has only just started.
Next year I plan to land in the middle of the wild flower season and run the same trip. Yes it was just perfect this year. So why change a good thing. Now it is time to do it again.
There are over 1500 species of plants in the Stirling Ranges alone. Imagine that in bloom. They say its about plant diversity per square meter. You had better pack your macro lens.
Albany in Western Australia is a stunning photographic location, and is particularly enchanting right in the middle of the wild flower season. Len has two different offerings in 2019, back to back. The first week is a workshop, and the second week is a stay and play tour. For those of you who choose to do both, Len is offering an all inclusive trip ex Perth from the 13th to the 25th September 2019.
Albany Workshop 14th - 18th September 2019
Albany stay and play photographic tour 20th - 24th September 2019 (only three spots)
Add them to your diary now, it is only a year away.
A testimonial from last years Albany workshop and tour.
“The past two weeks with you have been fantastic. You are such a good teacher, helpful, patient and willing to share your knowledge. Thank you so much, I have learned a lot and look forward to learning more. Your choice of our homestay was perfect, such a glorious setting, I could have been in the English countryside, which I miss so much.” - Hazel
For more information and to book follow this link: http://www.lensschool.com/workshops-tours/albany-photography-workshop-2019
Kalgan River, Albany, Western Australia. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
"Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better."
- Andre Gide
Dead Horse Gap, Kosciuszko National Park. Photograph copyright ©️ Len Metcalf 2018
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
~ John Muir
Cradle Mountain on a misty day. Photograph copyright ©️ Len Metcalf 2018
“Don’t be afraid to just sit and watch.”
~ Anthony Bourdain
Misty day in Cradle Mountain. I originally thought these dead trees were die back, but I now think it’s from fires. The Bush here doesn’t regenerate after fire like it does on the mainland. I have no idea how it will survive climate change. Leaving Cradle Mountain today, another fantastic workshop ends. A week of growth and total immersive photography. Photograph copyright ©️ Len Metcalf 2018
"The serious photographer today should constantly be seeking new ways of commenting on a world that is newly understood. Constant creativity and innovation are essential to combat visual mediocrity. The photographic educator should appeal to the students of serious photography to challenge continually both their medium and themselves."
Trees in the Tarkine mist. Photograph copyright ©️ Len Metcalf 2018