Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Sunday August 06 2006

My friend Bruce Nicoll is a Real Photographer.

Last Tuesday I interviewed him and recorded it, but first let me show you some of his photos, that he gave me in .jpg form.  Bear in mind that what you are seeing is but a diminished, computerised version of these things.  The “originals” are vastly bigger files, and the print-outs of these photos are stunning.  There are thousands more where these came from.  Makes a change from Billion Monkey snaps, doesn’t it?

Bruce especially likes doing portraits.  In the first of these you may perhaps recognise the actor Dudley Sutton, who was in Lovejoy.  The others are friends.  Click on these thumbnails and be impressed.

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Next are some shots that are what you might call portraits in a setting.  The backgrounds here are more than just backgrounds, more like stage sets.  And also as in stage sets, there is usually more than one person on stage.

imageimageimage

Bruce also likes doing outdoor shots, without people.  Here are four of those.

imageimageimageimage

And finally, here is a particularly stunning shot of the Dreaming Spires of Oxford, an opportunistic snap when the light just happened to be just so.  Bruce talked about this one in our conversation.

image

That last one is, I suspect, something of an exception in Bruce’s work, because it was an opportunity seized rather than a picture carefully composed, set-up, and shot.  Although, an immense amount of skill went into it, not least in realising that here was a photo-op, and the setting up was done, just ultra-quickly.

When I talk to Bruce I feel more strongly than ever that the difference between us Billion Monkeys and Real Photographers is that whereas we Billion Monkeys just snap away and then pick out whatever comes out looking nice, Real Photographers decide beforehand what they want, and then systematically settle down and get it.  When they get home, their surprises are less complete, and are often somewhat bad, as when they do not get exactly what they wanted and thought they’d got.

Also, Photoshop looms much larger in the lives of Real Photographers like Bruce than in those of Billion Monkeys like me.  I didn’t particularly want to talk about Photoshop in our conversation, but Bruce did.  This illustrates a general rule that I have observed about who uses computer programmes best.  Invariably, the most effective users of computer programmes are those who were already doing the thing in question by hand (as it were), before the software even existed.  I was a desktop publisher before Desktop Publishing (literally cutting and pasting stuff), and a blogger before blogging.  Bruce was a photo-manipulator before Photoshop.

So, anyway, now that I have (I hope) convinced you that Bruce Nicoll is indeed a Real Photographer, and someone whose opinions about how to do photography – and whose reflections on how he himself does photography – are worth listening to, here is the mp3.  Enjoy.  It lasts somewhat under 45 mins.

Great photo of Dudley Sutton. I was Googling him and came across it. Please pass on my compliments to your friend the photographer.
All the best,
Jim.

Posted by Jim M on 18 April 2009

I still wonder if it is possible to learn working with photoshop on my own. I am actually one of such enthusiasts, have read several ebooks already (e.g. http://www.ebook-search-queen.com/ebook/phot/photoshop+basics.all.html ) but still lag behind… Perhaps, I miss something important… Need your help!

Posted by patt on 16 June 2009

Nice collection of photos here. Thanks for sharing this article.

Posted by New Jersey Wedding Photographer on 02 September 2010
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