On Friends, travels and a natural eye

This post is a review of a photographers work. The photographer in question would not consider herself a "true" photographer, but I do. In a time when titles and labels often mean more than they should, she is a prime example of the true meaning of a gifted amateur.

I have known Peta Frost for a long time. She was a work colleague and friend of my wife's on and off for more than 20 years, and has always kept in touch.

Now semi retired allowing her to succumb fully to the effects of her travel bug, Peta is showing a natural photographers eye, curiosity fuelled and sensitivity moulded. A natural eye is a great gift. My wife also has a great eye, possibly tainted by too much exposure to me, but strong none the less.

My first contact with Peta's image making came in the form of a little Canon compact camera, purchased from the shop I was working at several years ago. This went to Morocco, a favourite destination and came back laden with great images. She stretched that little camera as far as it would go and then some. It was clear to me, she had more potential than the camera could service, an ideal situation really (I have sold plenty of cameras over the years that are never going to be fully stretched or even fully understood by their owners). 

This is often a tipping point for active photographers. Many a time, a customer or friend would upgrade from the camera that gave them so much satisfaction, only to be disappointed that their flash new camera not only fails to make their images noticeably better, but that added complication has stolen their comfort zone away**.

Very National Geographic 1960's, this image has been processed to bring out the mood and depth it showed, using the cameras short comings to full advantage. A great example to me of what emotion and character can do more powerfully than sterile perfection.

Very National Geographic 1960's, this image has been processed to bring out the mood and depth it showed, using the cameras short comings to full advantage. A great example to me of what emotion and character can do more powerfully than sterile perfection.

The next trip would be to Norway in the winter, pretty much semi darkness at best. This would be beyond any normal compact. Peta was in luck though, as I was just starting to come to terms with a one brand kit, choosing Olympus, primarily because of the size of my investment in their gear and the work flow I had developed. The best Fuji I owned was actually the cheapest (XA-1), so we made a mutually beneficial deal. I found a good home for the camera and Peta got the ideal upgrade.

The Xa1 is the little camera that could. It does not have the unusual and problematic (at the time of production especially) Fuji sensor and processor combination, but rather the normal Bayer type. The Fuji colour was intact, along with the sharpness, but no strangeness in processing. It was also ridiculously good in low light. I still wonder why Fuji pushed their more exotic sensor so hard, when this more conventional one delivered everything the other could, without the quirks?

Peta now had a camera that would allow her to express herself with fewer limitations*, so after a couple of brief lessons on how to get the most out of it (mostly the use of exposure compensation for best utilising the "what you see is what you get" benefit of mirrorless cameras) she was away.

I have to admit to being surprised at the quality of images coming back. The compositions were mature and those of a photographer, not a tourist. Peta's photographic interests tend to follow story telling images, often devoid of clutter (people) or with people included if that is the compositional element that is intended. 

The little camera came up trumps also, getting out of the way and providing clean and colourful images in some challenging light.

I think this one was taken from a moving vehicle!

I think this one was taken from a moving vehicle!

We processed some of the top images together in Lightroom, but they did not need much work. The Fuji jpeg files really are spot on. 

Then off to Morocco again, but this time with the Fuji.

The thing that stands out to me about Peta, when she talks about her images is the emotional connection she shares with her subjects. Refreshing after all of the tech talk.

The thing that stands out to me about Peta, when she talks about her images is the emotional connection she shares with her subjects. Refreshing after all of the tech talk.

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The above images were mined from her impressive library. Some have been gently processed in Lightroom, some by Peta in a different, more generic programme and some are as shot.

Peta has taught (re taught?) me, to appreciate the results and the story, not to obsess about what took the image, but more the why and who of the image. Part of me wishes I could unlearn a lot of what I know, releasing some pressure of expectation and the restrictions often inherent in accumulated knowledge (sometimes called analysis paralysis), expanding my ability to see freely, with an open and generous eye.

I am grateful to have shared Peta's journey a little bit and helped in some small way to contribute to it. David Vestal, one of my favourite photo philosophers once said something along the lines of "You can't teach someone to be a good photographer, you can only guide them on their own path". Pretty sure that is not word for word, but you get the idea.

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* The more I talk about and use cameras, the more I come to realise that a camera does not have the capacity to expand a photographers ability to see images, only to hold it back through technical limitations. Camera limitations have always been the hard ceiling that photographers have had to combat, so much so they often determining fashions in image making and viewing (National Geographic and Kodachrome for years were the assumed way to look at colour images). The current crop of cameras are lifting that ceiling, freeing us all to express ourselves without having to learn the "secret sauce" just to get the job done.

**Rant, un related to To above photographers work; I remember once having a customer in tears after stuffing up a wedding with a brand new 5D mk3, set in the wrong AF setting for the whole day (continuous servo with the left hand focus points only activated, fiddled with because they had read how fast the AF was, but could not work out how to undo their settings), sporting a new, fast zoom, left wide open for more bokeh (grrrr), shot in RAW without any upgraded software loaded or any understanding it was even needed (frightening when your wedding images won't open and you don't know why).

The perfect back up (old faithful crop frame body, a 500D if I remember with a simple AF system and slower lens-providing lots more depth of field) had already been sold off to a friend, leaving the customer with the new monster to fight and no plan B. The traps of upgrading had been fully explained before purchase, but like a dear in the headlights the new camera promised the customer improvements unmeasured. Well done that marketing dept.!