Insecurity

Being insecure is good for the photographic process.  Usually when you are out and about – you take a picture, and then review it on the back of the camera.  You might then move about a bit, and take another. You might do this a few times, till what you see on the back of the camera accords with your own internal ideas.

You can’t do that when you shoot film of course. You don’t have the benefit of seeing the ‘result’ straight away, and so there’s that element of insecurity because you are not totally sure what you have got ‘in the can’.  You are also limited by the number of pictures you can take.  36 on a roll, or 24, or maybe as few as 8 or 10.

What do we do?  Digitallly, we take lots of images – but which ones do you like the best when you get home, and look at them all together?

I often find that the images I like the best are usually not the ones I thought I was taking at the outset – things move on, even as I shoot, and it might be the 10th image that I take that is the one that I use. The benefit of the digital camera is that you can check as you go – but is this always good for you?

Sometimes I wonder if by virtue of being able to look at the back of the camera all the time, I am just confirming that what I saw was good, or am I merely looking at a preview of my ultimate expectation.

It might be both – because looking at the back of the camera all the time can disrupt the shooting process – causing us to miss things….

When I was working as an agency photographer – most times I didn’t have the opportunity to look and check what was happening on the back of the camera – I just had to keep going, and trust that the settings were the right ones. I learned to adjust as I went, working on the principle that it had to be right first time, as there were no second opportunities.

That was the insecurity which was hanging over my shoulder all the time – it made me work harder, and faster.  If I checked at all, it was briefly.

The best lesson I learned was to reset my camera to a default, at the end of every single shoot.  So the camera sat at ISO 400, f5.6, RAW, and Aperture Priority.  That would get me most times an OK shot – it also meant that if I’d previously been shooting at ISO 12,000 – I wouldn’t be doing that the next day, when the sun came out again.  

It happens to us all, we make mistakes, but resetting the camera can mitigate things.

Why not try this – put some black tape over the screen – and go out and shoot – make yourself a little more insecure – and see what happens….

It’s only pixels……..

Margaret Bourke-White, and the weight of a camera…..

Margaret Bourke-White – June 14, 1904 – August 27, 1971 was an American photographer.  She is best known as the first foreign photographer permitted to take pictures of Soviet industry and was the first American female war photojournalist.

She was also the first woman to be allowed to work in combat zones during World War 2.  In 1941, she traveled to the Soviet Union just as Germany broke its pact of non-aggression.  She was the only foreign photographer in Moscow when German forces invaded.  Taking refuge in the US Embassy, she then captured the ensuing firestorms on camera.

And what a camera!  In a book she wrote after the war, she described what she took with her.  Five custom built Speed Graphic cameras, all of her film, and everything she needed to process the film, and print, which she did – using the bath in her room.

In total, she had over 600pounds of camera equipment including portable lighting.

As she wrote in Portrait of Myself: “People often ask me, ‘What’s the best camera?’ That is like asking, ‘What is the best surgeon’s tool?’ Different cameras fill different needs. I have always had a special affection for the larger-than-miniature cameras.”

I mention this because I think we – as photographers in this upcoming new decade – need to appreciate how much easier it is for us, than it was for her.

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Found Imagery

I was looking at a photo competition the other day – and the more ‘interesting’ categories that were there – and amongst the more obvious ones of portraiture, environmental etc, there were two that struck me as unusual.  One was ‘appropriation’, and the other was ‘found imagery’.

I did a search as to what ‘found imagery’ was, and was led to this article which referred to “Unfortunate Views of Google Street View” 

Do click on the link (it’s safe) and have a read.  The photographer is using Google street view, and photographing what he sees on his computer screen. The German photographer Michael Wolf received an honorable mention for a set of images taken in this way in this year’s World Press Photo Contest.

Is this photojournalism though?  I’d question it.

I used to be an agency photographer, and was not allowed to change anything in an image – it had to reflect exactly what was happening at the time, so I’m not sure that a photograph of a photograph qualifies.

Britain’s Got Talent, Manchester

Then there is ‘appropriation’ art…. the term seems to have come into use specifically in relation to certain American artists in the 1980s.  For example Sherrie Levine reproduced as her own work other works of art, including paintings by Claude Monet. Her aim was to create a new situation, and therefore a new meaning or set of meanings, for a familiar image.

Take a look at this link researching into ‘appropriation’

Incorporating Photography into Art History, Starting with August Sander

Lightwaves – Salford Quays – Humans Being Digital

On Friday – December 15th, four of us went to Salford Quays, to attend Lightwaves, on Salford Quays, hosted by Quays Culture.

We were able to meet with the Creative Director, Lucy Dusgate, and talk to her about this years show. (Image by Keith Balcombe)

We discussed the latest commission “I forgot to say”……

International novelist, University of Salford Chancellor and Scotland’s national poet, Jackie Kay has produced a brand new, large-scale commission neon word sign, which spans 15 metres in length across the Plaza outside The Lowry.  Jackie Kay was invited to choose a sentence that for her sums up this year.  The neon (LED) word art spells out ‘I Forgot To Say,’ with the latter, ‘To Say’, illuminating and increasing in intensity and colour when audiences leave their messages..…..  In response to the messages left, Jackie Kay will produce a brand new poem in early 2018.

You can find information about this poem by clicking HERE

Planning for these events, starts at least 18 months in advance, and the build can take up to six months.  The exhibits have to be weather proof, and be able to withstand winds up to 45mph, as it can be pretty windy on the Quays.

Lucy, who works part time for Quays Culture, has a lot of support from both full, and part time staff – one of whom deals just with all the administration.

We asked Lucy about the selection of artists to display their work on the Quays.  She explained that she keeps an eye on the artistic processes, and when she sees work that she thinks will fit, she will approach the artist directly.  She is also aware of upcoming emerging UK talent, and will encourage those to apply to have their work displayed.

This year, the Danish artist Tom Dekyzere is displaying some of his work.  You can find more information about Tom by clicking HERE

His installation on the Quays, a dynamic waterside sculpture will translate soundwaves from beneath the River Irwell into lightwaves.

Tom Dekyvere explores the deeper layers of reality and mind. Just as the alchemists of former times probing for unexpected connections, in search of the boundaries between nature and technology, between man and robot, between dead and living matter.

With over 400,000 people attending the Quays last winter – Lucy hopes that this will be exceeded this year.

The other section of the display is entitled “Humans Being Digital”, an exhibition which ends in February 2018.  Thom Kubli brings his piece Black Hole Horizon – which illustrates sound in the form of bubbles.


This is what Thom’s website has to say about the installation

“What kind of relations exists between oscillating air, black holes and soap bubbles? What effect does the sound of horns have on the human psyche and why is it present in various creation myths? What impact does gravity have on our collective consciousness? Where do spectacle and contemplation meet?

The installation Black Hole Horizon is a cosmological experimental setup, a meditation about a spectacular machine that transforms sound into three-dimensional objects and that keeps the space in steady transformation.

The nucleus of Black Hole Horizon is the development of an instrument that is operated by compressed air and that resembles a ship’s horn. With the sounding of each tone, a huge soap bubble emerges from the horn. It grows while the tone sounds, peels off the horn, lingers through the exhibition space and finally bursts at an erratic position within the room.”

Heart, Brain and Lungs by Pascal Haudressy are screen-based pieces that encourage you to think about your own bodies…


Finally, Nye Thompson uses CCTV footage to create a curious environment that asks questions about technology and privacy, contributing a sense of anxiety to an exhibition of many emotions.

humansbeingdigital artists: U_Joo and Limhee Young; Max Dovey; Thom Kubli; Nye Thompson; Thomson and Craighead; Mary Maggic; Mango Chijo Tree and The Jayder; Pascal Haudressy; Libby Heaney and Felix Luque Sanchez.

If you get a chance to visit, entry is free.

Lightwaves ends on December 17th, and Humans Being Digital Ends February 2018.

 

Water Fools – Salford Quays – Manchester

The French outdoor theatre company ILOTOPE put on a spectacular event this weekend at Salford Quays.  I was down there to shoot the dress rehearsal which, although brilliantly done, did not have the fireworks going.

Water Fools, Salford Quays-11It did feature though, a floating car, with a caravan, a huge floating bed, and lots of other magic.  At 9.30 prompt a car arrived, dropping a man off on a platform in the middle of the water.

Water Fools, Salford Quays-14The story is rooted in the fanatical, as a surreal world explodes out of a man’s head, transporting him from the rigmarole of his everyday existence to a landscape populated with mythical creatures and inexplicable magic, while all spectacularly taking place on the water’s surface. Caravans, prams and penny-farthings will feature, defying all logic, bringing an impossibly innovative piece of entertainment to Salford Quays.

Water Fools, Salford Quays-48Choreographed by French artist Bruno Schnebelin the routine had chain breath-taking visuals, punctuated by pyrotechnics, with engrossing theatre while fellow countryman Phil Spectrum composed an original score to make the show spectacular in all aspects.

Water Fools, Salford Quays-40The rest of the images from this shoot can be seen HERE

The Great Manchester City Games

Manchester City Games 2013

Manchester City Games 2013

The Manchester City Games were held today – May 25th, and will be followed by the BUPA 10K run on the 26th – the games though were all about running, jumping, and pole vaulting.

It was hard for me to be everywhere all at once, but I managed to bag all of the long jump, and all of the pole vaulting.  I did shoot the races last year, so tried to concentrate on things I hadn’t shot before.

What I did find was that the main challenge was not so much the athletes themselves, but the light – it was dull and shady in the morning – meaning I needed a high ISO to keep the shutter speeds up, and harsh sunlight in the afternoon, meaning I had to control the amount of light that was coming into the camera, without compromising the image.

Malte MohrAnyway, it was an experience I hope to repeat in the none too distant future….

Feel free to peruse the rest of the images by following THIS LINK

X-Factor in Manchester

Gary Barlow and Chris Maloney
Gary Barlow and Christopher Maloney

Well it’s been a long weekend of x-factor madness here in Manchester, ending with James Arthur as a worthy winner, Jahmene Douglas coming in second and Christopher Maloney not appearing on the final night.

Louis Walsh is rumoured to have said that Simon Cowell has ‘big plans’ for both Jahmene and James.

James Arthur
James Arthur

What happened to Christopher though?  The 34 year old is said to be not interested in the x-factor final, and has gone back to Liverpool.

Jahmane Douglas
Jahmene Douglas

When I photographed the final three last Thursday night, they were all in good spirits, and all three got a good reception from the people who turned out and stood in the cold and rain to greet them, and their mentors as they arrived at Manchester Central.

Louis Walsh
Louis Walsh

I wish the contestants every success for their future careers.

Tulisa Contostavlos
Tulisa Contostavios

The rest of the images from the shoot can be found by clicking Here

To buy images please contact http://www.opticphotos.co.uk

Shooting London Fashion Weekend

Thanks to the team at Canon CPS, I was able to travel to London recently, to shoot the London Fashion Weekend at Somerset House to shoot catwalks from the photographers pit.

It was a fantastic experience, and producing a great set of cohesive images was a challenge to say the least.  Canon were superb, and their briefing was very useful, especially to those of us who had not shot professional catwalks before.  Shooting was all hand held, (no tripods or monopods allowed) so shutter speeds had to be upwards of 1/500th second.  We were told in advance that the lighting would be set to 3200Kelvin, and so adjusting our white balance to take this into account meant that every shot was correct.

A flashgun wasn’t essential for this shoot, as the catwalk was so well lit, but some photographers did use one to lift the light a little under the model’s hat, and to add some catchlights.

The challenge was to get the models in focus, all the time, so using the ‘Servo’ setting was essential.  Although the models were not moving that quickly, they were moving faster than I expected, and the pause at the end of the runway, was only for a few seconds.  It was great to have time to be creative, and to experiment with different types of shots….

Achieving great compositions was difficult, as we only had the one chance to get it right – no-one was going to repeat anything for us, and so it was shoot it or lose it.

All in all it was a great shoot, and I offer many thanks to Canon, and to Vodafone for the experience.

To see more shots from the Fashion Weekend – please click HERE

Lytham Proms 2012

Over the last weekend, I was able to shoot the Lytham Proms, held each year on Lytham Green, just outside Blackpool.  It was a fantastic experience to be able to shoot such giants as Alfie Boe, Olly Murs and Diana Vickers, as well as the Lytham Community Choir.

The weather on Saturday night was mixed, but even as the rain hurled down, the voice of Alfie Boe made you forget the water running down the back of your neck.

You can just about make out the rain to the bottom left of the shot.  Despite all that, the sun shone, and though I’ve not got a photo of it, there was a wonderful rainbow, that arced from the sea, over the Lytham Windmill, and onwards.  Alfie remarked that it was a great light show, that had been set up..

Next night was Olly Murs, and the whole demographic of the evening changed.  Lots of  young people, all screaming their heads off for Olly.  He was a true professional, with so much energy – and lots of time for his young fans.

The full set of images can be found by clicking HERE