In this blog, I want to tell you about a photograph that has had a major impact on my life over the last two months, and I want to issue you with a challenge.  However, when you start to read this blog you may be forgiven for thinking it is nothing to do with photography – but please stick with it – I assure you that it comes back to photography eventually!

The eye test

In early April I went for a routine eye test.  As part of that eye test the optician took photographs of the retinas of my eyes.  One of those images showed something that has made a major difference to my life.  There was a burst blood vessel in one of my eyes.  That in itself was not a big deal, and the optician assured me that it would heal.  However, they told me that I need to go and see my doctor to get both my blood pressure taken, and to have some blood tests done as the burst blood vessel could be a symptom of other things.

Blood pressure and tests

An appointment was made with our practice nurse who took my blood pressure.  She didn’t tell me what the reading was, but I could see from her expression that it wasn’t good.  “Please wait there,” she said, “I want you to see a doctor immediately”.

It appears my blood pressure readings were very high and the doctor explained that normally with high blood pressure they would wait a few days and take a second set of readings, however, in my case she didn’t want to me to wait that long and wanted me to start taking medication straight away to lower it.

The blood tests came back a few days later, showing high cholesterol and ‘pre-diabetic’ blood sugar.  This meant yet more tablets and a referral to a diabetes prevention program.

Side effects

Several medical appointments later, and things are looking a lot better, however there have been side effects from the various medications I am taking.  I now have a tickly cough that I am struggling to shake, and the occasional slight swelling of the ankles.

But it’s not all bad news.  As many of you know over the last few years I have been suffering badly with migraines and headaches.   At its worse I have had 2 or 3 migraines a week and was waking up every morning with some sort of headache.  Since being on the high blood pressure medication I have not had a single migraine and barely even had a headache!  It’s still relatively early days but I am quietly optimistic!

Pre-diabetes clinic

Let me tell you about the pre-diabetes clinic, and I assure you this is where I’ll start bringing this blog post back to photography.

The clinic is a series of weekly meeting, followed by fortnightly meetings, then followed by monthly meetings.  It covers about 9 months from start to finish.

I’ve only been to the first one so far but I’ve been reading ahead in the training materials.  The upshot of which is that in addition to taking daily blood pressure readings, I am now counting calories, wearing a step counter, regularly weighing myself – and generally trying to be more active and eat more healthily.

I have been assured that taking action now will prevent me (or at very worst considerably delay me becoming diabetic).  So I am determined to do what I need to do to make that change.

Bringing it back to photography

So what has this got to do with photography?  Well, it is all to do with a couple of things that were said at that clinic.

Firstly, making a few small changes can make a big difference.  That’s because of the cumulative effect of them.  I am going to assume that you want to improve at your photography?  Why else would you be subscribed to this blog/newsletter?  But photography is a huge subject and it can seem overwhelming at time.  Like losing weight or getting fitter.  But it doesn’t need to be so overwhelming, just practicing one photography technique each week will make a huge difference.

Secondly, something else that really hit me at the clinic.  The leader made a point: “You have to do this for yourself.  We can only provide you with the information, if you read it and don’t do anything, nothing will change.”  It’s just the same with photography, you can read as many photography blogs as you like, watch as many YouTube videos as you want, but if you don’t do anything, nothing will change.  You will never improve.

The challenge

I want each and every subscriber to this blog/newsletter to improve their photography skills.  But that will only happen if you are putting into practice the ideas and concepts that photography trainers like myself provide.

So I am going to challenge you.  Over the next 7-14 days commit to trying one of these challenges:

  • Photograph a scene that uses lead-in lines to draw the viewer’s attention to your chosen subject. Academy members can download a whole inspiration sheet on this subject here:
  • It will be full moon again on June 13th – make an image of the moon – follow the instruction in this blog post if you don’t know how.
  • Create a portrait of person using a single off-camera flash
  • Create a scenic landscape image, on tripod, using a long exposure so that water in the scene becomes blurred. You’ll need a slow exposure of about 1/8s
  • Photograph a flower but convert the image in post-production to black and white. Make sure you have plenty of contrast.

It doesn’t matter which challenge you pick – and I have chosen five very different ones, there should be something suitable for all different experience levels and interests.

When you have created the image, post it online, to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Flickr, then in the description or comments add the hashtag #InspiredByIansStudio so that I can find the image and provide some feedback.  Make sure you mention which challenge it was in response to.  If you want to make doubly sure I see it – post a link to it in the Ian’s Studio Facebook group here:

Until next time, keep MAKING great images,