I've been buying a few photo books lately. Thanks to Eric Weight mentioning Sam Abell I ordered his 'Life of a Photograph'. One very interesting aspect of the presentation in this book, which I found slightly disappointing in the amount of text given how well Abell talks about photography, is the presentation of similar pictures of the same subject.
Most of us try a few variations of composition, I am sure. Most times one picture stands out as being the 'best'. Every now and then there may be two that are impossible to choose between. Sometimes there might be one stand-out shot and others that work to place it in context. It was reassuring to see this in action in a renowned photographer's work.
Another book which has more text and is part autobiography and part retrospective is "William Albert Allard: Five Decades". I'm not yet right the way through this, but it's a good read, filled with superb photographs, and again chimes with my experience of photography in many places.
Neither of these photographers is easy to pigeon-hole, their work is varied yet consistent and individual in style. If that makes sense. They are just out to take (or make) great photos - which they do with a greater regularity than most of us!
This leads me to ponder on the value of photographic workshops. I am sure that you can be taught to be more technically competent. I am sure you can be taught to improve your compositional skills. So I guess that means you can be taught to make better photographs. I don't think you can be taught to see. And seeing photographs is what it's all about really. It is for me. Although I don't always manage to capture what my eyes and mind see as a photographic image. This I have always put down to my slapdash technique. So it was heartening to read Allard saying that he frequently finds his images (shooting film and not seeing the results until after the fact) fail to capture the moment as he saw it. Cheered me right up did that!
Yesterday I had intended to have a wander round town, but ended up in a park I hadn't visited for some thirty years. I had a camera with me then and must dig out the negatives. It proved to be a worthwhile couple of hours in bright sunshine. A theme of shadows and fences emerged. I'm not sure why. An example of each here, and more on Flickr.