Publish or Perish – Social Media be Damned

We live in an explosive age of photography where prolificacy is seen as a virtuous trait. The mantra is quite clearly, ‘Publish or Perish’.

Quantity over quality is the order of the day as banal image after image is splattered across every single social media platform in a never ending tidal wave of mangled and abused pixels. Photographers (and I use that term loosely) are racing to outdo each other by producing and posting a sheer volume of work that is somewhow supposed to make them a better photographer than the next person. There is a rush to be heard (or rather seen) and an omnipotent narcissistic need for more ‘Likes’ than the next person; as if this somehow gratified the photographer and satiated the ego (or paid the bills). The truth is, it does none of these things – it just feeds the beast and fuels the fire for a continual tidal wave of mediocrity. Its a death spiral that leads only to even more mediocre imagery. How on earth did photography arrive at this situation? Social media be damned.

This age of prolificacy has risen like a dark phoenix from the ashes of the wet darkroom where it used to take skilled photographers many hours of painstaking work to create a quality ‘work of art’. Perhaps only one or two frames from a roll ever made it past the contact sheet and onto paper in the developer tray. It took significant skill and craft to create a good photograph and thus only those photographers who were willing to put the time in to truly learn the craft of photography created truly superb photographs. With the advent of digital it became easy to take, process and share photographs and as a natural result more photographs are being shared than ever before. The problem is, the pain staking work isn’t being done and the net result is an ocean of garbage. This publish or perish mentality has completely engulfed social media and created so much white noise that the task of sifting through the detritus to find those few hidden gems (they do still exist!) has become tiresome at best.

I want to be clear at this point that I understand that many people use Social media to simply share their life experiences through snapshots with family and friends and are not in any way proffering their work as high quality photography. This is really the core of what Social media was designed for – sharing experiences with family and friends. I am instead targeting the large number of images that are being offered up as quality photography (but fall well short of that mark) in the hopes of accumulating gratifying ‘likes’. Its nothing more than a ‘look at me ‘mentality’.

Or, is my assessment of the situation to harsh? Are we being subjected to all of these photographs because photographers are struggling to find an audience for their work? Is Social Media an easy audience?

Even if this is the case (and it may well be so) and photographers are using social media as a vehicle to an audience my point about an ‘ocean of garbage’ remains at the forefront of my thinking. I have given this a lot of thought over the last year and I believe the root of the problem is that a great many photographers simply do not understand what makes a good photograph and lack the insight to be truly objective about their own photography.

If your goal is to improve your photography and to be seen by your peers as a photographer who captures wonderful photographs then I encourage you to think twice before you post and share your next photograph on social media. Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve by sharing your image. Are you just looking for an easy audience? What is it you are trying to say with your photograph? Try and be objective and truly neutral in the assessment of your image. Sit on it for a day or two and then look at it with fresh eyes. Is it really a good photograph? Or, is it merely the best you were able to make on the day? There is a marked and critical difference that many photographers would do well to understand. It is hard to be objective about our own photography; but we absolutely must learn this critical skill if we want to be seen as the producers of quality imagery.

I have pointed the finger of blame pretty strongly at Social media in this article (and in previous) and I firmly believe I am right in doing so. Keeping in mind of course that Social Media is merely the delivery platform for these photographs. Ultimately, it is the photographer who needs to show restraint. However, and to be objective and fair it is important to acknowledge that some people use Social media as a test platform for their photography; putting out their images for constructive criticism. There is some merit in this approach; although I would argue you are unlikely to receive objective and constructive criticism on a social media platform (there is no dislike button!). In truth, I do not believe most photographers use Social media as a test bed for their photography. The reality is thats just a convenient excuse. Most are instead simply looking for gratification of their photography through Likes and comments (although they are unlikely to admit it).

I am sure to have touched a few nerves amongst some with my analysis and thoughts on the state of the publish or perish mentality. And if a few eggs get broken in the process thats ok. What is important is that we remain objective about our own photography and that we are clear on why we share our work through social media channels. Our goal should be to produce the highest quality photography we can and to share those images amongst our peers. I cannot recall who passed on this particular pearl of wisdom with me, but it feels timely to share it. “If you post up ten images and nine of them are totally amazing and the tenth is mediocre then you might as well not have bothered at all.” We are naturally flawed to remember the worst of the series and that drags down the rest. If our goal is just to satiate our ego then we need to look inward at why we take photographs….

Art League Rhode Island – Views of the Extreme Latitudes

Photo Plus Expo wrapped up yesterday afternoon in New York and it was both an honour and pleasure to present to great crowds at both the BenQ and Canon / Moab Power of the Print Stands. If you missed the show this year you also missed a preview of the spectacular new BenQ SW320 UHD 4K Wide Gamut monitor that will be released early next year. I expect to have a full review later this year / early next year.

Just a reminder, that this coming Thursday I will be presenting ‘Views of the Extreme Latitudes‘ at the Art League of Rhode Island from 6-8pm. Details below. I hope to see you there.ArtLeague1 copy ArtLeague2 copy

Leaving for New York and Photo Plus Expo 2016

Just a quick update as I am about to head off to the airport and make my way to New York for Photo Plus Expo. If you are attending the expo this year please be sure to come and say hello at the BenQ stand on Saturday or Sunday between 2:00 and 3:00pm when I will be presenting on Polar Wildlife photography. BenQ will also be giving away signed postcards of several of my photographs on both days.  I will also be presenting at the Canon stand for both Canon and Moab / Legion Paper on the Saturday at 12:00pm on the Power of the Print – The Power of Print Pavilion in Booth 973. Moab will also have several of my photographs from Antarctica on display as large prints on the new Moab Juniper Baryta paper on their stand.

On October 21st I will be attending the memorial for Michael Reichmann at The Tryp New York City Times Square South Hotel between 5 and 7:30pm. Michael was a significant influence in the early days of my photographic career and one of his prints still hangs in my studio. Please RSVP to Kevin at if you also plan to attend.

Lastly, I will be in Rhode Island for a presentation at the Art League of Rhode Island Community College on the 27th of October between six and eight in the evening before I make my way down to South America and Antarctica for the rest of the season. See you in New York.14466995_10210904338992494_1634388334_o

The Emperors Expedition and South Georgia / Antarctica Packing List 2016

As is traditional for me, I like to post my packing list before an expedition and this particular list has probably give me more pause for thought than any in recent time. I am packing for both my Emperor Penguin Expedition and Photographers First light Expedition to South Georgia and Antarctica and although the two destinations are very similar (both in Antarctica) they require different approaches. Just as an aside, for those of you who have emailed me asking if I will be running another expedition to the Emperors in the future the answer is ‘maybe’ at this stage. I have pencilled in for a possible expedition in November 2018, but as yet nothing is confirmed. The best way to stay up to date on a possible future Emperor trip is to just drop me an email and register your interest.

In terms of subject matter, the Emperors expedition is absolutely all about Wildlife (as is South Georgia), but the Antarctica portion of the First Light Expedition is ship based with a significant emphasis on landscape and icebergs and that requires some different equipment (at least it does for me). I have decided to take the 85mm F1.2L MKII lens as I have long wanted to use this lens in Antarctica and the Emperor Penguins provide the ideal subject. The lenses depth of field at f1.2 is razor thin making it the perfect tool for getting just the eye sharp. In addition, I am also taking my 600mm F4L IS MKII lens as I have really fallen in love with the telephoto compression of this lens and love the effect it has of bringing the background close to the subject. A 600mm lens is absolutely not required for the Emperor Penguins or South Georgia – it just so happens I love the effect enough to schlep it all the way to the interior of Antarctica and South Georgia Island. I am also packing a Really Right Stuff tripod with Satchler FSB-6 fluid head for the 600mm lens in my checked luggage. With all of that in mind I settled on the following as my selection for these two expeditions:

Gura Gear Bataflae 32L Camera Bag (Carry on Luggage)

– 2 x Canon EOS 1DX MKII bodies
– 1 x Canon EOS 5DSR body
– 1 x Canon 11-24mm F4L Lens
– 1 x Canon 24-70mm F2.8L IS MK II Lens
– 1 x Canon 85mm F1.2L IS MK II Lens (specifically for the Emperor Penguins)
– 1 x Canon 70-200mm F2.8L MKII IS Lens
– 1 x Canon 300mm F2.8L MKII IS Lens
– 1 x Canon 600mm F4L IS MKII Lens
– 1 x Sigma 15mm Fish Eye Lens
Gura Gear Chobe (Carry on Luggage)
– 1 x Apple MacBook Pro 15″ Retina (I plan to upgrade this to the new 13″ model early next year)
– 1 x Apple laptop charger
– 2 x USB 3 2TB external portable Sandisk SSD Drives
– 1 x  Thunderbolt CFast card reader and CF card Reader
– 1 x Sunglasses and sunglasses case
– 1 x Leica Ultra-vid 10×42 HD Binoculars
Etcetera Case #1 (Inside Chobe)
– 1 x Canon 1-Series camera charger
– 2 x Power Adapters for on board ship
– 2 x Canon 1DX spare Batteries
– 2 x Canon 5DSR spare Batteries
Etcetera Case #2 (Inside North Face Duffle)
– 1 x Arctic Butterfly Sensor Cleaner
– 1 x Filter Wrench
– 1 x Zeiss Cleaning Fluid and Lens Cleaning Tissue
– 1 x Micro Fibre Lens Cloth
– 1 x Rocket Blower with Hepa-Filter
I have been toying for some time with the idea of adding the new Canon 100-400mm MKII lens to my arsenal (as a replacement for the 70-200mm), but in the end decided I really wanted the faster 2.8 lens for these particular trips. It should be said though, that the new Canon 100-400mm MKII lens is a really superb optical package at an incredibly attractive price. When you consider the much more expensive and much heavier 200-400mm F4L IS Lens is more than six times the price for very little increase in resolution (although it is faster and has an inbuilt teleconverter) it makes the new 100-400mm MKII a veritable bargain. If you need a flexible and versatile telephoto lens on a budget its really hard to go past this new lens.
In addition to all of the above, I am also taking a CamFi remote trigger system for the Canon EOS1DX MKII system. I recently reviewed the CamFi here on my blog (Read the Review) and am looking forward to trialling this very useful product it in Antarctica.
There is one other important piece of documentation that has become a must have on all my travels and that is an Australian Customs Declaration form. If you are travelling internationally from Australia you can read about the benefit arming yourself with this documentation HERE.

Photo Plus Expo in New York

Before I make my way down to South America and Antarctica I will be spending some time in New York for the Photo Plus Expo and will be presenting at both the BenQ and Canon Stands on Saturday and Sunday as well as the Community College of Rhode Island a few days later. If you are at the show be sure to come and say hello. See you in the New York!14466995_10210904338992494_1634388334_oP.S Christmas will be coming a little bit early for me this year… After much deliberation I placed an order this week for a Nauticam underwater housing the Canon EOS 1DX MKII camera and an optical glass dome port to accomodate the Canon 11-24mm F4L Lens. Although they wont arrive in time for the Antarctic expeditions this year; I am very much looking forward to using them in Svalbard in Winter early next year (with a new ‘polecam’ system for split level and underwater images). My sincere thanks to Peter at ScubaPix for all his assistance with the selection of dome port and accessories for this project.DSC_9367__19597.1462232108.1280.1280