Friday, 31 August 2007

Ten years on

Diana tribute at park house, Sandringham, Norfolk

Ten years. Yes, a full decade has passed since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in the tunnel in Paris. In those ten years we have seen the media and public demand for news stories and images connected to the stars soar beyond anything seen in 1997. I'd like to think that the world learned lessons from the death of the such an important figure but ten years on it seems it isn't the case.

In 1997 we started to see the rise of celebrity culture that began, innocuously enough, with the social magazines like OK and Hello but eventually led on to the celebrity fueled media monster that we know today. The celebrity magazine market has more than doubled in five years to be worth £300 million. Sales for the top two magazines, Closer and Heat, rose in 2005/06 by 5.4% and 4.1%*, respectively. Both magazines sell a staggering 600,000 copies per week. The celeb magazines are having to change as the market reaches saturation point but they will still continue to use celebrity images as a selling tool. Ten years ago it was a rather different story.

In the days and weeks after Diana's death, the public turned on the press and especially the paparazzi photographers in the hunt to blame someone for the death of the princess. I have no doubt that the paparazzi were responsible for causing the Princess much distress but the arguments put forward about press intrusion by many over the years ignore one key fact. Paparazzi photos pay and pay well! Even more so in the 21st century than it did ten years ago.

Ten years on i would like to think that we learnt our lessons from the treatment of Diana but it seems that the public and media have short memories. The same people who shouted down the paparazzi are now the ones who buy Heat, Closer or one of the tabloid newspapers. The hatred shown towards the paparazzi hasn't completely gone, but they seem to be have become an accepted part of 21st century life; the price one pays for fame. The recent debacle with Kate Middleton has only reinforced my believe that the media is starting to creep back into its old ways. Why fifty photographers have to wait outside Kate Middleton's house when two could easily get the shots required is beyond me. Maybe its the money talking again. As long as the market for celebrity images stays lucrative, the paparazzi will flourish and continue to deliver the images the public demand.

*Magazine statistics via Timesonline.co.uk

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Tamrac Pro 8 review

Tamrac Pro 8 Camera bag with optional Strap accesories

I’ve been a big fan of Billingham camera bags for over ten years and really love the protection and design that their bags offer; however Billingham bags have a few downsides ( weight and colour being just a couple )and so I decided to look for a bag that could take some of the workload off my Billingham 445. I needed a bag that was lighter and smaller than my 445 but could carry a reasonable amount of equipment. The bag I chose was the Pro 8, a medium size camera bag in the Tamrac’s Pro range.

Many camera stores in the UK stock a ridiculously small collection of bags and I think it’s essential that a photographer has a close look at any bag before purchasing; you have to see firsthand if the bag fits your requirements and has good construction quality. A camera bag has to protect your gear from the elements and the wear and tear of everyday use but it also has to help you with your work flow when shooting images. Its no good having a bag that restricts your shooting because of bad design or because you can’t fit in that special lens or locate those spare digital cards quickly.

Tamrac has obviously thought about the changing technology in photography and offer the pro bags as part of their digitally equipped range. This involves specific pull out pockets that can store cards, batteries and other items essential to digital photographers. The Tamrac Pro range, with its smart layout, may offer the perfect solution to digital only photographers while appealing to digital and film photographers who also want room for cards and film. For its size, this little bag can carry a heck of a lot of stuff and with the Tamrac strap accessory system (SAS), photographers can carry even more film or extra cards located in pouches that mount on the bag strap. Always useful during those long shoots.

The Pro 8 can fit two cameras with lens with room for a flashgun and various lens. There are numerous pockets for film, light meters and other odds and ends. For me, the best feature of the bag is the layout which can be adapted to fit any camera style. The Pro 8 can easily carry two large pro style cameras like a EOS-1D or D2Hs but you could carry a small Bronica / Mamiya 645 system with some adaptation to the bag layout.

In day to day use, the bag has been fantastic; you barely know you're carrying it even when its fully loaded. One of the best design features is the location of the shoulder pad on the strap. The pad has been angled so that it rests squarely in the shoulder, making it a comfortable and secure experience when carrying the bag over long distances. This bag has been on every assignment I've been on this summer and its is certainly the easiest bag to carry that I've ever owned.

In conclusion i would say that Tamrac have got it right, at least for me anyway. The bag's design is the best I've seen and the durability seems first rate. I liked this bag so much I purchased the larger Pro 12 and I'm certainly buying a backpack style bag from Tamrac's Expedition range for going out and about in 2008.

Tamrac range of bags can be viewed at http://www.tamrac.co.uk/

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Mountain sunset

Mountain sunset near Llangollen, North Wales

The landscape lesson post had me rummaging through some of my North Wales images yesterday and i enjoyed looking through them so much, that i decided to post another. This image was taken just outside Llangollen in North Wales, just after a sudden downpour of rain; a common event in the Welsh mountains.

There's something magical about North Wales and Snowdonia - mystical even. King Arthur fought some of his battles in the mountains of North Wales and there are even Holy Grail connections at Dinas Bran castle, not far from where this image was taken.

This viewpoint was found after about an hour of hard climbing so i set up the camera, rested and waited for the sun to do its work. The clouds were working their way across the mountain tops and were lit with a gorgeous orange sunlight. It was very peaceful to watch. Quite a spiritual moment.

The image was shot using a Nikon F4s with a 70-210 zoom set at 210mm. Film was Fuji Velvia 50.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Landscape lessons

Lyn Ogwen, North Wales - 2004

This is the first of a series of posts where I'll be giving a few tips that help me take great images. This first post looks at landscape photography - the most popular choice of subject for many photographers.

So you've found your view and want to photograph it and capture its beauty.

First of all you want to create depth in the photograph. I always think of depth as layers in a photograph; these are items in the image that lead the viewer's eye to the scene itself and act like a guide - in essence, you are aiming to create a photograph that is interesting to look at from front to back. In the photo of Lyn Ogwen above, layer 1 would be the rocks in the foreground and layer 2 would be the grass and rocks of the outcrop of land. Layer 3 is the lake itself and layer 4 is the range of mountains. The final layer is the sky which has to have some detail if possible. A blue sky with white clouds is perfect but dark stormy clouds (my favourite type of landscape cloud) can add some mood and look terrific.

The second item is perspective which can affect the depth of the photograph. I always try to survey a scene before picking a camera up. Find something interesting to use in the foreground of your image and then concentrate on the background. Perspective and depth provide the detail that draws the viewer in and makes the image work. I personally look for the depth before looking for a perspective but you could easily do it vice verse. With the Lyn Ogwen image i could have chosen a lower perspective to bring the rocks closer to the foreground. I photographed the scene standing up but it could have worked just as well lower down. Play with perspective and think of unusual angles; look how different lense alter the look of the landscape.

The final item is light which can make or break an image. My photo of Lyn Ogwen was taken in typical Snowdonian weather so bright light was not on the cards; the light reflects the changeable environment that you get in the mountains. I avoid shooting images with cloudless skies because the light can be very harsh; clouds often act as light diffusers, softening the light. I also avoid overcast skies but it often depends on how detailed the cloud is. If the light and overcast cloud adds to the mood of the image -use it. Finally think about the time of day you intend taking your landscape images. Most landscape photographers tend to shoot at either end of the day, capturing the landscape in early morning or late afternoon/dusk light.

For a landscape image to work you need all three of these attributes in some shape or form. If one is missing, there is a good chance that the image won't work or will be poor. The key thing is to experiment and look at other landscape images to see why they work/don't work.

I hope that these rough guidelines will prove helpful. The next lesson is in portraiture and will be posted next week.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

End of the pier

Cromer Pier, Norfolk

Piers are beautiful examples of Victorian architecture and engineering that have come to define the British seaside holiday. This pier at Cromer has a theatre that offers the 'End of the pier' show, a variety show that is very popular with holiday makers and runs during the Summer months until October. The theatre also hosts concerts by touring bands.

Behind the large theatre building is the lifeboat station which is being upgraded to accept the new Tamar class lifeboat that will be operating from Cromer in late 2007.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Forties lighting


One of my favourite things is rummaging about in secondhand bookstores for that rare treasure. Sometimes you find something and other times you don't but in a book & antique shop in Wooler, Northumberland i found a book about lighting - published way back in 1940.

Lighting for photography by Walter Nurnberg was sat on a shelf eight feet up; i actually had to climb a ladder to get to the book but it was well worth the climb. I've always been a fan of the forties style of lighting that defined the era's films. Casablanca, Rebecca and Odd Man Out are just three forties films that used light to the max. Darkness, shadows and highlights were all part of the film experience, the light often used to focus the audiences attention and create mood.

Ironically the book was first published during the war when film and paper were in short supply. Photography, within a year of the book being published, was put under the tight control of the authorities where it would remain until the end of the war. The book's author actually got called into service before his book was published; another person proofed the book on the author's behalf.

Lighting for photography is a fascinating look at the world of photography sixty seven years ago. Some of the details are out of date but a good 90% of the book is still useful to the modern day photographer. Am i going to try some of the lighting setups? Yes i am and I'll be posting some of the images and how i took them on the blog over the winter months.

Friday, 24 August 2007

A broken back

A Bronica camera 645 film back that is!

I broke one of my Bronica camera backs a couple of years ago. Nothing too serious, just a sheared piece of plastic that holds the 120 film in place - i actually fixed it with some masking tape at the time - but it did slow down the time it took to load new film. I just wanted to locate a small plastic part but instead i found out how closed up the camera spares market is.

I've tried on numerous occasions to locate this replacement part but to no avail. No spare parts could be located and what made it worse was the part i was after would have cost no more than £4.00. If i took it to be repaired it would probably cost me £60+ and i can locate another back on eBay for that money -which is exactly what i did. An old back used for parts to repair mine. Perfect!

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Speaking of which...


As if to prove my point in the last post, Nikon UK have released details about the new Nikon D3 - the next generation of Nikon Pro camera that will retail at around the £3400 mark. It is due to be released in November.

The full frame image sensor is probably the most important item that photographers will want but the camera also offers a 9 frame per second shooting speed and various other focusing improvements over the D2 range. Better get saving!

Digital Photography Review have posted a detailed preview of the camera that can be found here

Life's a beach

People walking on the beach at Cromer, Norfolk, UK

Photography is one of those pastimes/professions where the technology can sometimes have a strong hold over your work. In this digital age the fascination in camera technology can often overtake the picture taking itself. Sometimes photographers get so hung up on getting the newest equipment and software, they forget that the only important thing is the end result - the photograph itself. Regardless of what took the image, it should be the IMAGE that matters most.

I took this photograph of Cromer beach with a battered old Nikon 200mm that i purchased a few months ago and the lens still performs well - even after some twenty five years of heavy use. I actually purchased my Nikon D2H specifically so i could use some of the older Ai/Ais Nikon manual focus lens alongside my Nikon/Sigma AF lenses.

I do like this pic. I've always thought that a walk on the beach can often visually represent this big adventure we all call life. Think about it. We have all walked along a beach and left our mark, only for the tide to wash away any trace of our being there. Photographer and philosopher... hmmm .....think I'll stick to photography :o)

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Boy, oh boy!!

Folklorna Skupina Jurij vodovnik Skomarje dancing at Alnwick Gardens

Here's another shot of Folklorna Skupina Jurij vodovnik Skomarje from Slovenia but this time doing their excellent folk dance routine at Alnwick gardens. The location for the performance was not exactly photographer friendly due to trees etc and our young friend in the foreground of this picture didn't help either.

Why he was there...i don't know. He didn't seem that interested in the dancers to me and must have frustrated the poor photographer who was trying to get the publicity shots. I would have asked him to move because the only really good angle to photograph from was this one. That said, he does add a slightly surreal element to the photograph. I think he just liked sitting in the front row!

Monday, 20 August 2007

Bush blog

I must admit that i love aviation and love the outdoors too, so i was really pleased to find a blog that combined the two.

Shaun Lunt has spent some time flying around Alaska in his Piper Cub (equipped with tundra tyres!) and has photographed his journey. The landscape is just breath taking and so are some of Shaun's landing sites! The photography on Shaun's blog is first class and well worth a look. I'd love to do a trip like this.

Have a look at this great blog at:

http://shaunlunt.typepad.com/shootings/

Sunday, 19 August 2007

The decisive moment!

Folklorna Skupina Jurij vodovnik Skomarje from Slovenia visiting Alnwick gardens

Folklorna Skupina Jurij vodovnik Skomarje from Slovenia were performing at Alnwick gardens as part of the International music festival held in the town each year. This image was taken when they were having a bit of a break from entertaining the visitors. The accordion players still played on though and can be just seen on the extreme right of the image.

One of my heroes is the French photographer Henri Cartier Bresson (an article on him will be posted on the blog soon folks) who is regarded as the master of the 'moment' picture. Cartier Bresson always believed that there was a decisive moment to take a photograph; a moment when everything came together to form the perfect image. With this image that decisive moment came when the young lady in the middle started leaning on the man's shoulder.

Self portrait II

Friday, 17 August 2007

Out from the dark....

Burham Overy Staithe, Norfolk

It's strange but i miss my darkroom and not for photographic reasons either. I do all of my work via my computer because its easier and you have far greater control over your images than you ever did with chemical processes. No.. I miss the darkroom because it was a refuge from the world; a place to lock the door and embrace your photography without distraction.

I actually got hooked on photography at school because of the darkroom processing rather than the actual taking of images. I just loved the seclusion and I can still remember my first print coming through in the developing dish.......ahhh.......happy days.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Master of illusion

I studied documentary photography when i was college and university so you can understand that i'm NOT the biggest fan of the heavy manipulation of images.

A few weeks back i posted a link to a photoshop manipulation that was, quite frankly, scary.
The online photographer ( a rather good photography blog) has posted another such link to a pro photo retouching company website showing the before and after images of some hollywood stars. The results are bizarre and as one comment so rightly said 'The only reality is the illusion'.

Have a look at the retouching website by clicking here and go to the portfolio section. Just wave your mouse over the images to see the before and after effect.

The sound of music

Folk academy of Ellassona, Greece - performing in Alnwick

Alnwick is a quiet market town in Northumberland that hosts a international music festival every year and invites acts from around the globe to perform. This year saw the 32nd international music festival hosted by the town and one of the regular acts was the Folk academy of Ellassona from Greece.

The academy performs dances from all over Greece and especially Ellassona with the aim of teaching and keeping the traditions of dance, song and culture alive. They did a excellent job of motivating the crowds and were absolutely brilliant to watch.

One rather amusing episode was the encounter with a local press photographer who looked at my pro camera gear and obviously couldn't work out why i was there or who i was working for. Was i competition? I just smiled, went on snapping pics and remained a man of mystery :o)

If only.....

The UK news today (yesterday now) has been dominated by a single mum from Scotland winning a staggering £35 million on the Euro lottery........with a lucky dip ticket too !!!

It got me thinking about if i won that sort of money. Would it change me? Would i stop taking pics and retire to California?
Would i go out and buy a solid gold Nikon camera.....nah!
Would i go out and buy a diamond encrusted 80-200mm f2.8 Nikon zoom lens...hmmm....nah!

To be honest i would carry on as i am but just have better gear and more options to use it. Money isn't everything.....is it!

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Fountain of youth

Two boys enjoying Alnwick garden's fountains

Kids and water. They love the stuff and it's not always a happy outcome when the two mix but i think this shot shows that complete fascination that children have with water.

These fountains at Alnwick gardens went off on the hour and every half hour creating a spectacular water show. Four fountains were timed to go off and squirt water over anyone passing; much to the amusement of the youngsters who waited in their swimming costumes for the fun to begin. These two lads were probably waiting for the next spray attacks of fountain water.

Self portrait


Self portrait taken at Alnwick gardens, Northumberland, UK.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Through the dunes

Bambrugh castle - the wider perspective

Sand and camera equipment. Not a good mix to say the least but sometimes you have to take a chance and hope that sand doesn't get into anywhere vital. Just getting to the location for this shot was hard work: its quite a steep climb getting from the beach to the dunes. No pain, no gain as they say.

With me i had my trusty Benbo Trekker tripod which i normally don't carry - it usually stays in the boot of the car. I'm not much of a tripod user to be honest and on this dune expedition it didn't get used very much either. Always useful to have with you though but just a pain to carry everywhere.

This is another digital shot which, at the time, I thought were pretty average when i looked back at them. Using digital viewing screens in bright sunlight is virtually impossible - its difficult to tell what you've got at the best of times. I'm definitely going to try and look for a better screen protector/sunshade.

The rest of the shoot was done using the F5 loaded with some Ilford FP4. It'll be interesting to compare results of the different formats. Film vs digital....oh no.... not that argument!

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Place of legends

Bambrugh Castle, Northumberland, UK

You'll have noticed that its been quiet on the blog these last few days which was all due to my trip up north to Northumberland near the Scottish border. It was a great four days and although i wish i could have spent a few more extra days there, i managed to photograph pretty much what i wanted.

Northumberland has a rich, colourful and rather violent past. The amount of battlefields marked on the map is staggering and most reflect the violent relationship that the English had with their Scottish neighbours during the medieval period. Bambrugh castle is a monument to that struggle and was an important strategic point for the English in a period when Northumberland was regularly invaded by the Scots.

It's worth mentioning that the image is a digital shot converted to black and white. I've read various photography blog postings recently that state that digital cameras cannot produce really excellent b&w images - something i think is completely ridiculous. I hope this shot of Bambrugh castle proves that strong B&W digital images are possible.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

A timeless classic

Tiger Moth coming into land at Burnham thorpe Airfield, Norfolk

I've noticed that we've had Black and white images posted since the end of July so...enough of the moody black and white, lets have some colour!

This encounter with a Tiger Moth flying from a small airfield was just a case of luck and being in the right place and the right time. The only setback was the light, which was flat and lifeless thanks to the overcast cloud. Oh how i would have liked some sun and blue sky to appear but you just have to work with the light you're given. I do like the timeless feel that this image has.

Norfolk has loads of little airfields scattered around the county, mainly due to the flat nature of the countryside that makes it ideal for flying. The airfield at Burham Thorpe is used mainly at weekends as a fly in meeting place for pilots and their families.

Digital was the format choice for this shot and is ideal for this type of work; you just shoot, review the images and re shoot if need be. I must admit that my camera panning was a bit rusty but otherwise the images came out OK.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Imagekind art

Brancaster Staithe - 2004

I took this photograph of a moored yacht a few years ago but I think its a good representation of my black and white work; the use of light and dark tones is typical of my work.

The image was taken using a Yashica 124G 6x6 camera that i picked up a few years ago when i was a student - the camera cost me about £100 and I still use it for a lot of my 6x6 landscape work.

Art prints of this image and others featured on the blog are now available to buy from Imagekind

Perfect place

The lifeboat ramp at Sheringham

It was VERY windy when i took this shot and quite frankly you wouldn't have thought that it was July....then again with British summers maybe you might!

The sea was a lovely 15 degrees C and a few mad people ( all approaching their sixties i might add) were taking a swim under the watchful gaze of the lifeguards. If I'd turned up on a hot day, the beach would be packed out with families having their seaside holiday but most of the time the Norfolk beaches are pretty much deserted and the perfect place to have a think.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Another angle

Access ramp to the sea for Sheringham fishermen

This image was taken looking down towards where the last posted photo was shot and shows the access ramps, used by local fishermen, that are located at points along the sea defence wall at Sheringham.

Although we tend to think of holiday resorts as purely tourist based economies, many UK seaside resorts still have a fishing fleet, however the numbers involved in the fishing industry have decreased drastically over the last decade or so.

This image was taken of Ilford HP5 rated at 800asa which has been my favourite speed rating for this film for years.....BUT.....I'm going to try a standard 400asa rating and see if the film produces better results for grain and tone when its not pushed. The differences may not be that noticeable but its something to try.

I've been thinking about my film use this year and i've decided to make the ratio of slow to fast film more even for next year's Norfolk work. It'll be around 50% Ilford FP4 and 50% HP5...with a few rolls of 50asa Pan F thrown in for luck!

Finally if you have a bit of time to spare, have a look at the Viiphoto website where there are some great documentary images.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Available light

Sea front at Sheringham, Norfolk

I'm currently going through the long process of creating an online presence - essential for any photographer who wants to show their work and maybe get some commissions too. The amount of websites set up for the pro and amateur photographer to access is mind-blowing but one of the best is lightstalkers.org.

Lightstalkers offer a place for like minded photographers to show their work and get feedback but for some reason its a website that seems really difficult to use. I've just spent an hour or two trying to upload some images to my gallery....with no result. The site just won't let me do it. I suppose I'll have to try later but a website should be easy to use and for me, lightstalkers ain't!!

The shot of Sheringham above was taken with my Nikon nikkor 35mm f2.0 lens which is a typical photojournalists lens - fast and sharp. 35mm lenses fall into the area of the wideangle but without the distortion you get with 28mm and 24mm wideangles. I use fixed lenses quite a bit but I'm also recognise the huge benefits of the zoom lens.

I love zoom lenses - modern zooms being far better than the older types of twenty years ago. Some photographers still believe that a zoom is inferior in quality to a fixed lenses (i.e 50mm or 135mm) but i think that's no longer true thanks to modern lens design. The Sigma and Nikon zooms i use with my cameras are pin sharp but i still use fixed lenses like the Nikon 35mm f2.0 simply because they are fast and can be useful in low light conditions.

An interesting experiment to do with a zoom is to keep it set on ONE lens setting, say 28mm, and photograph everything you come across by moving YOURSELF and not the lenses. you'll certainly learn a lot about perspective and framing images....its fun too!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Post Fifty

Boy fishing in the harbour at Wells next to the sea, Norfolk

The first post for August and the fiftieth post for the blog. Yippee!
Hopefully you'll have liked the way that this blog has developed over the months and my aim is to carry on and give my perspective on everything photographic - from the technology to the image making itself. I'll also throw some of more of my images into the mix too.

I think a blog for any photographer is essential these days, even if its just used as a diary/therapy. Where else could you put images and the stories behind them ....and show them to the world! There's probably a good argument that there are too many photography blogs on the web but the way i see it is if a blog is any good then people will look at it and hopefully come back for more.

So how am i going to develop the blog further? Well I want to make the posting more regular and broader to cover a wider range of photographic issues. Documentary work will always have its home here though and I'll continue to show whatever images i think should be out there for people to see. Next year i want to update from the 'field' so that images are posted minutes or hours after I've taken them. More importantly I KNOW that the blog has increased my output of photography because i now have an outlet for it; the blog acting as a portfolio, a scrapbook or an online publication.

The next few months will see some more images from Norfolk but I'm also going shooting in Northumberland this month, although this will be a purely digital exercise... Well..OK..maybe the odd roll of film....here and there. The landscape will be completely different to that of Norfolk and the weather can be a bit unforgiving at times too but the castles, windswept beaches and rugged landscape will more than make up for it.

Finally any comments that you may have about the images or articles you've seen on the blog are always welcome.
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