The Day my Photography Life Changed by Guest Gary Nicholls

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: October 18, 2013

Category: General

Hey Folks,

Thanks for taking the time to stop by; it’s very much appreciated.

Ok so for today I’m handing over my blog to my friend Gary Nicholls; someone I’ve known for only a short while and would likely never have met had it not been for this wonderful creative industry.

There’s so much I could say about Gary; how he’s the kind of person who knows what he wants and goes all out to get it and just seeing how things have moved on for him over the past few months I think makes a great story.

We caught up and spoke a lot at the recent Scott Kelby World Wide Photo Walk that I lead over in Oxford, and it was from hearing all that’s been happening I just had to ask him to write it down and share.

So…Gary, over to you 🙂

•    •    •

Hello everyone! My name is Gary Nicholls and I am a Conceptual Artist Photographer. Typing those three words a year ago was just a pipe dream, so what changed?

Well, firstly I bought a copy of Practical Photoshop, it was the issue where Glyn Dewis had photographed his good buddy Dave Clayton smoking on a cigar. I was hooked, followed the link to Glyn’s Blog and signed up for the newsletter.  Shortly after, I saw that there was a workshop day, in Oxford, working on cutting out people and in particular hair…. I signed up and that workshop, was the day my photography life changed.

I knew what it was I wanted to do.  On that same day, I met Dave Clayton  who suggested I join NAPP.  I did, and my photography life changed for a second time. It led me to Photoshop User, Light It magazine and Kelby Training, but more about that later.

So, all this life changing stuff was great but,  I needed a project, a theme, a story to bring my images to life.

I tried landscapes, still life and portraits, architecture, exploding milk splashes and…. well you get the idea.  I studied Photoshop, applying the techniques I had learned from Glyn and referring to the pages of notes I had taken. Glyn said on that day that he always makes sure he does at least “30 minutes of Photoshop learning everyday”  well, my wife would be delighted if it was JUST 30 minutes with me!

Now I must say here, that I have a different approach to many photographers. I “create” the image in my mind and then go and find all the parts to put that image into print.  I am not for one minute suggesting this is the right approach, but it works for me.  So after attending the Glyn Dewis workshop I was able to create a couple of images that I had no idea how to do, until that day.

This started me on a creative path, but something was still missing. I still needed a direction, something that captured my imagination. It was at this point I turned, once again, to Practical Photoshop. The issue had a section on “creating a Steampunk Image”.  I loved the look, and thought that there must be people that do this, for real. I Googled it, and page after page came up. In amongst them all, was The Asylum, the Lincoln Steampunk festival.  I watched a YouTube video  on the festival and promptly bought 2 tickets. That was when my photography life changed again, for the third time. I had finally found my project theme. The costumes, the people, it was like the biggest fancy dress party I had ever attended. But it was the attention to detail that caught my eye.

That was September 2012, and 2 months later I was in a studio with Julie and Peter Walton and a group of their friends, all Steampunks, creating what is now known as The Imaginarium.  There was, a complication, however. I knew what I wanted to do, I just did not have the Photoshop knowledge to carry it through.

Back to Glyn for another workshop, this time, the dynamic duo, with Calvin Hollywood. Another day of copious notes, but a day to think about combining techniques, from two masters. My mind was buzzing;  I became a Photoshop junkie, reading and looking up people that have now become my online guides.

Apart from Glyn and Calvin, there is Joel Grimes, Jill Greenburgh, Amy Dresser, Dave Hill and Erik Almas. All have techniques I use and combine. I love Joel Grimes and Dave Hill’s lighting technique, which means that I now have a ring flash on my Christmas list!

Amazingly, Photoshop started to unravel. 18 months ago I had never heard of layer masks and blending modes or non destructive editing.  Glyn showed me how to change my workflow, introduced me to the world of Composites; Calvin pointed me in the right direction for skin retouching; Joel, along with Light It magazine, made me watch films and television dramas in a different way, studying the cinematography. I use Nik and Topaz plugins in combination, at the end of the process, but Calvin’s’ Raw tutorial and Joel’s’ HDR’s that Rock and Posty Edge technique find their way in, somewhere.

Photography, for me, is Art. I know that is not the view of everyone, and I know the purists hate it, but that is changing. I use photographs to create my Art; with some composites having 35 images.

A year after I visited Lincoln,  I was back there, exhibiting 3 images from The Imaginarium, printed on Hahnemuhle archival paper 1 meter high by 70 cm wide, and thanks to the printers, they looked amazing. The same month I had one of the images featured in Photoshop User magazine, and coincidence or not, Dave Clayton had his first article published in the same issue.

I have had 3 images on exhibition in New York over the summer, and I am off to the Dutch Steampunk festival in November to display them again. Next April/May my exhibition of the first 20 images from the 60 that is, The Imaginarium, will be exhibited in Bermondsey, and it will be an event. The cast of my story will be there, dressed, and the props and costumes all on display. This will be followed by an exhibition in LA.

When the final image is complete the whole story, along with the commentary, will be published in a high definition book. You can read the synopsis here. It is a Dickensian story in the true tradition of Dickens, all the bad stuff followed by the good. It is taking me all over the world to get the images I need to bring it to life.

Steampunk is a dystopian world that takes a theme and blends it with echoes of the industrial revolution. The term originated in the 1980s as a variant of cyberpunk but has grown into its own identity. As a movement, it is often influenced by the scientific romances of Jules Verne and HG Wells. Until a year ago, I had never heard of it.

So, I for one lament the passing of Practical Photoshop, it brought me to Glyn Dewis, Dave Clayton and The Lincoln Steampunk Festival. Dave Clayton led me to NAPP, Kelby Training and Light It. If I had not bought that first copy, I would still be in the photographic wilderness.

I believe that you meet people, and things happen in your life because they are meant to. But also, I believe in hard work. You get nothing sitting waiting for it to happen.

The final image in my collection will be a Lord of the Rings Style battle scene, with 4000 Steampunks from all over the world in Legions, flags flying.  Completely crazy, impossible?…maybe. But proving that at the age of 57, I still have creative life in me. Besides, that image could be history making, and we all have to leave our mark on this wonderful planet. You can read all about it here

Glyn Dewis is generous with his time, his knowledge and he is an inspiration. He is genuinely one of the good guys. I thank him for his support and for inviting me to guest blog, I am completely honoured.

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  1. DaveT

    It just goes to show that:

    a)it is never too late to start.
    b)if you work hard and practice then improvement follows.
    c)you learn a lot from following the work of other people.

    Thanks for sharing and providing inspiration Gary, and well done you Glyn for supporting him in this way.


  2. Stuart Cosgrave

    A nice bit of Friday inspiration and a good example of carving out a nieche in the market for yourself! Thanks for sharing guys. Stu

  3. Gary Nicholls

    Thanks for your comments guys, means a lot.

  4. Coventry Bob

    What a fantastic story and all thanks to links made possible by Glynn and the Scott Kelby crew who don’t realise how many photographers lives, hobbies and work they have a profound effect on. Great support from this great big community from whatever quarter is truly amazing..

  5. Ray Fidler

    Gary, this is a really inspiring blog. I took up photography on my retirement 6 years ago. I stumbled along some what blindly until a couple of years ago thanks to a photographer called Doug Chinnery. Early this summer I discovered Glyn and my Photoshop skills have started to develop. Your words have made me realise my age is not a barrier. Next week I am giving a presentation on my post processing journey with the aim to inspire others to grasp the nettle. Do you mind if I use some of the words from your blog duly attributed?
    Next March Glyn is speaking at my photography club, Kingsclere, could we use quoted from your blog as part of the marketing again duly attributed.
    Your an inspiration Gary and Glyn is a total Star!


  6. Gary Nicholls

    Go for it Ray! Thanks for your comments. I started my working life as a teacher, so I know just how good Glyn is at teaching and inspiring people to go for it. I am glad I have had the opportunity to add to that today.

  7. Steve Healy

    Nice one Gary. We shared a workshop with Glyn at Wokingham. I was impressed with your work then.

  8. Torsten Kieslich

    I guess I’ve never mentioned how much I enjoy these posts. Gary, you’ve definitely been an inspiration to me with your post. And Glyn – well, he’s just an amazing teacher. I’ve picked up so much from him.

    So thank you both and keep up your fantastic work.



    • Glyn

      Torsten…Thanks mate. Oh and I have a surprise for you soon 😉



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