zero-to-hero-alan-radley How I became a better photographer by Alan Radley
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Alan Radley

 3rd Oct 2016

Although I have been taking photos for a long time, I have never considered it to be any more than a hobby. My first SLR was a Zenith 35mm film camera, using it mostly at airshows, back in the 60s and 70s.

I then had a Minolta camera, using it to take Kodachrome slides.  Moving onto around the year 2000 and I bought my first point and shoot digital camera, a Kodak DC280 with all of 2 MP! It was one of the best point and shoot cameras around at the time.

I used a variety of cameras, before finally buying my first DSLR in about 2014, an entry level Nikon DC3300, which came with the included zoom lens and also getting a 55-300 Nikon zoom lens. Since then I have also purchased a Sigma 17-70mm lens.  I don't manage to get to exotic locations, but I think I still get some nice images in my retirement.

I have a number of hobbies, photography being just one of them. These days when so many people are obsessed with making money, hobbies aren't always looked on as being "cool" (I so hate that word), I also don't think it's a good idea to be fixated on only one hobby either. 

Being retired I had to buy pretty basic equipment, and sometimes I’d look at photos others had taken and thought "I wish".

Although as Mike and so many other professionals often say,

"It's you that takes the pictures, not the camera"


The photo above was taken at Audley End in Essex. with the old Kodak camera. I managed to get just about everything wrong with this. As with all of my old photos, they were taken in "auto".

Watching Mikes videos, I found him like the bloke next door, someone who appreciates what it's like to be at the bottom of the learning curve. Explaining things in an easy to understand format, showing the mistakes he has made and ones we all make. Even my wife points out what I should be doing, when taking a photograph :-) 

I am currently doing Mike’s 7 Building Blocks of Photography, it’s helped inspire me to go out and shoot photos better than my last ones, not always possible I know. Especially when the only time you can take pictures is in the middle of the day with a blazing sun overhead, not always being able to get the best angles or able to have people pose.

I am a lot more self confident now,  I get up close to buskers now to take their pictures; after putting a £1 in their box first :). I also take pictures of traders in our local market, I always try to print and laminate them, for the people to keep. I feel naked if I go out without my camera now, even when only going shopping.


In the past I would take pictures to remember a place or people, now it's more a case of taking a photo which I can improve upon in post processing. Of course you need to start of with something pretty decent and I always try to get it as close as i can in the camera, to my approximation of what I perceive to be the end result is going to be. 

I am not a big fan of HDR or shots of moving water taken using a ND filter, strange effects and angles are ok, but they can be overdone and as can black and white. I am more interested in capturing a moment in time, than I am of creating a piece of art.

Like everyone else I get it wrong sometimes, I will typically go out for the day and take around 800 pictures, ending up with 150-200 I want to keep. That's the beauty of digital though, some call that lazy photography, I don't!


This was taken near to where I live. It's at the Essex County show, and shows a plough being pulled between two steam traction engines.Taken from underneath one engine.

I love taking pictures of aircraft. Photographing prop driven aircraft presents it's own problems. The optimum shutter speed being at or around 1/160th sec.  Much faster and you get a static prop, which makes it look like a model. A lot slower and you don't get it sharp. This Hurricane picture was taken at Duxford. I am quite pleased with this.


The picture of the woman holding the young boy was one of several I took, all coming out quite well, but when that one popped out of Lightroom, I thought "YES", I've nailed it. 


Of course we all like others to appreciate our work, but primarily I want to please myself. If others like them, it's a bonus. There are lots of "rules" in photography, just be prepared to break them.