Thursday, 31 January 2013

Continental Chic (Man, Newspaper & Dogs), Venice

Via Flickr:
Quick candid shot of a Venetian local enjoying his Sunday paper in a strong winter sun, with fashionably attired dogs in attendance.

Hope everyone is having a fantastic week!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Golden Host (Lion Of San Marco Detail On Gondola Ferro), Venice

Via Flickr:
Another from my quick December trip to Venice. It's probably an inferior shot to the one posted previously (in comments below), but I keep coming back to it. Therefore, I thought I'd post it too and to hell with the law about posting excessive bokeh to Flickr.

It's taken looking up towards the Rialto bridge at golden hour, with a strident winter sun lighting up the bobbing Gondola blades - individually "ferro", so I guess "ferri" in a group?

Hope everyone is having a fantastic week. Looking forward to the 100 Strangers Project London meet up this weekend - hope to see some of you there!

Christina (Stranger #5/100), Rickmansworth Aquadrome

Via Flickr:
This is Christina, who kindly agreed to be stranger #5 in my 100 Strangers project.

I was out in the snow, hoping to shoot a winter shot with a slight "fashion" feel. Christina was a great sport and, smiling, agreed to go for this direct, moody stare. My week since has been spent canvassing opinion on the processing - on the one hand I fear I probably over processed it a little in going for that "look", whereas on the other hand, everyone has liked the outcome.

She was in a rush to catch up with her husband and daughter, so whilst we didn't chat much beyond the quick shoot, I very much appreciated her delaying herself a moment to take part.

Christina - thank you for joining in. I hope you and your family had a fantastic time in the snow, and that you like your portrait!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Christina, Hilary, Chris and David - Aquadrome Portraits

Christina, Hilary, Chris and David - thank you so much for agreeing to take portraits with me on Sunday afternoon. I do hope you had a great afternoon thereafter. Please do drop me an email if you'd like me to email you a copy of your shots.

I'm working on them all, yet will likely just post the first one of the day online as I don't want to overdo the snow in the series!

Just email me (at the address on the card) and I'll send the images over straight away.

Have an amazing week in the meantime!

Blea Tarn Storm Front (Langdales Vertorama), Lake District

This is a three shot vertorama of Blea Tarn, on National Trust land in the Langdales. It's another shot from my rainy day up in the Lake District over Christmas. Having driven up from Great Langdale I spent three or four hours up at the tarn, watching the light scroll across the landscape.

Assaulted by rain, sleet and hail, I had a heavy duty sandwich bag taped around my lens hood and back over the whole body and tripod. All good fun.

Two hours in there was a brief break in the rain, and a couple of minutes patchy golden light, then a sudden grey slide into darkness. This is from that moment. Originally I was set up just for the Langdales and the tarn, but when the colours appeared higher in the sky, I thought I'd have a go at a vertorama. That was created manually, first blending two exposures of the sky by hand, then cutting out the distant shore and dropping in the lake. Finally a manual "perspective" adjustment hopefully did the job of making the water look natural. The hardest thing was holding back thereafter - the colours are pretty much as shot.

If you want to see some proper vertoramas, I'd suggest you check out Peter Ribbeck's incredible photostream. He's a classy chap and his landscape photography is relentlessly breathtaking.

Hope everyone is having an amazing week so far!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Doug (Stranger #4/100), Mill End

Via Flickr:
Please see alternative B&W version in comments below.

I met Doug out in the snow today, walking his two fantastic dogs along the edge of a smothered wheat field. He very kindly agreed to become stranger #4 in my 100 Strangers project.

I'd set up along the edge of a winter wheat field, blanketed with snow right up to a distant tree line that offered a blurred delineation between snow and sky.

When I interrupted Doug's walk, I'd have understood if his dogs or the cold had necessitated a "no", but he generously agreed to stop and chat a moment.

We discussed the light - clouds diffusing and snow reflecting, and the potential of the spot. Doug offered some superb anecdotes and thoughts of film days, and the benefits/flaws of digital photography. Likely we spoke for some fifteen minutes in all. Having recently received my Moo cards, Doug became the lucky first recipient of web address and email.

We shot a couple of series of shots, with Doug surveying the gun metal clouds of snow now scrolling in from the north west. Then, as we chatted further, I fired off a few more to demonstrate the 5D MKiii's "silent" mode. It's one of that series I post.

I'm not sure it is the strongest of the session, but it communicated a certain elemental calm that Doug possessed.

Across the 100 Strangers, I'm hoping to achieve a consistent feel; currently imagined as same lens (100mm L Macro), same aperture (3.2), same distance to subject, all high key, all colour and all with eye contact.

Doug - thank you for agreeing to stop, chat and photograph today. I enjoyed out conversation immensely, and very much hope you enjoy exploring the 100 Strangers project if you do find a moment to follow up. Just let me know if you'd like any of the other images emailed, and I will get it sorted instantly.

Hope everyone is having an amazing weekend!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Kettle Crag & Redacre Gill (Langdale Panorama), Lake District

Via Flickr:
For some proper Lake District landscapes, you should check out Tom Eversley.

Over Christmas I had one day up in the Lakes whilst my wife and JSH were with family in Blackpool. Needless to say it thrashed down with rain and hail all day long! I like to think rain brings out the best in the Lakes, however. It clears fells, trails, roads and car parks of all the lightweights. Whilst they're holed up in Keswick or Ambleside buying that essential Northface cagoule or Leki walking pole, the landscape comes alive with bubbling streams and waterfalls, and the air gurgles with a fresh, cold purity lost to the average man.

This a panorama heading up out of Great Langdale to the end goal of Blea Tarn. It's rather haphazardly threaded together from 14 handheld exposures in Photoshop - the output file, once flattened, was a hilarious 781Mb. I then used content aware fill for the corners, then cloned then into shape. The result looked like something from a CIA drone or weather balloon, so I subjected the whole scene to a pretty brutal manual "warp" to bring some emphasis back into the scene.

I then played with the levels left to right to try to express the hard shadow of the rain front as it swept in again. Not entirely successful, but fun.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Bottle Green (Moored Gondolas By Night), Venice

Via Flickr:
With my first three 100 Strangers shots all posted, it's back to business as usual. This from back in December; a wretchedly cold night in Venice, out looking for long exposures.

It's always tempting to pull the WB on these to get that quintessential Venetian turquoise to the water. I held off here - the fierce bottle green and sodium tinted horizon were what attracted metro the shot. There's some cloning across the foreground to take steps out of the corner; hope that's not too obvious.

Hope everyone is having an amazing week!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Annie (Stranger #3/100), London South Bank

Via Flickr:
I spotted Annie's amazing green hat outside the Tate Modern gallery, and she very kindly agreed to be stranger #4 in my 100 strangers project. In fact, due to a merger, she finds herself #3.

Annie was waiting for a friend, about to explore the Tate Modern in a repeat visit. Thereafter the river and town would offer further entertainment. We chatted about the local geography, it turned out that she'd been at school just around the corner from where I now live. We also chatted about the project; her boyfriend uses Instagram, and it intrigued her.

On the photo front I've uploaded an alternative version (see comments). That's rare for me, yet I thought they both offered enough to share. This one, whilst the less traditional composition, seemed to express Annie's energy and effortless style a little more fluidly.

Annie - thank you for agreeing to take part in the project, and I hope you do find a moment to check it out. I think you'd enjoy it!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Tony (Stranger #2/100), London South Bank

Via Flickr:
This is Tony. I met Tony and his friend Emmanuel outside London's Tate Modern gallery and they kindly let me take their pictures as part of my 100 Strangers project.

They're stylish chaps, great people to meet. They were in a bit of a hurry, as darkness was imminent, so we didn't chat for long, but enough to know they'd recently moved to town and it was their first time at the Tate. We agreed it was a worthwhile institution, and that the walk up to Westminster was a good introduction to London.

As it was only the one request, one story and one interaction, I felt uncomfortable about posting their portraits as two separate "strangers". Emmanuel wasn't entirely comfortable with the picture taking, so I thought I'd just post Tony's picture formally.

Tony and Emmanuel - thank you so much for tolerating my interruption to your day. I've prepared both of your portraits, so just email or call and I can forward them both over - I hope you like them!

On a technical point, this was my second portrait of someone wearing glasses. Having seen Michael's (1/100) images on my LCD, I knew focusing would be an issue, and tried to adjust - by pre-setting my camera on a single micro point, then aiming just above and behind Tony's eyes. The result is better, though it doesn't feel like the full solution yet.

One new issue on this occasion was reflections - the red streak on Tony's frames, and the faint glow in the right hand lens is me in my Cornell hoodie... I was in the centre of the frame too, but removed myself with the clone stamp tool, as it was just too distracting. Still - another thing to be aware of. Steffan Hi did kindly warn me about this on Michael's portrait, but I'd met Tony too soon. Sorry Tony - I hope you can forgive me!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Michael (Stranger #1/100), Rickmansworth

Via Flickr:
For the last couple of years I've been looking with admiration in on the incredible 100 Strangers group page. The idea is to take pictures of one hundred strangers; introducing yourself, explaining the project, sharing a chat and some moments together. A mix of fears have held me back from getting involved myself; the uncomfortable thought of breaking the ice, the fear of rejection and most of all the fear that people would say "yes" and I'd fall short of giving them a portrait they'd be pleased with.

This last year, however, I've really enjoyed taking pictures of my daughter; JSH. I've got a good number of JSH portraits I'm happy with technically, and a keen desire to get better so I can keep pace as she grows. The first point diluted the fear of being seen as inept. Meanwhile, in striving for the second, the 100 Strangers project seemed to offer a way of learning hard lessons to get better at portraiture.

So, this is Michael, who was kind enough to share ten minutes with me whilst he waited for the 336 bus from Rickmansworth back to Watford. He'd been over to pick up some shopping for his elderly father.

I'd made the decision to go into London and start my 100 today, then procrastinated through the early morning. Having eventually parked up across the road from the station, I saw Michael at his bus stop as I crossed to catch my train. He was meditating on the afternoon with a characterful pose and pipe. I'd taken three steps past him, when I remembered gtpete63's advice in his interview on the 100 Strangers Flickr Group page; "...keep reminding yourself that your greatest regret will be not asking “that” interesting stranger you just saw walk by."

So, I stopped. I got my camera out on the other side of the shelter, I looked about the cluttered area for the best chance of some smooth background and fired off a few frames to get an exposure around about right. I fully expected a "no", yet knew if I didn't ask gtpete's advice would be haunting me the whole way into town. So, with a half-planned sentence of introduction I backtracked and said "hello".

We had a fantastic chat. I'd feared I'd be interupting Michael's quiet thoughts, but he was very interested in what I was up to. We chatted about that, and the area; he's a hugely knowledgable local, whilst I'm a releatively recent arrival to Rickmansworth. I learnt lots - for instance that a nearby pub that recently burned down, had previously burned on some four other occasions. When the bus arrived, it was too soon.

In terms of photography lessons learned, I'd likely highlight a couple. Firstly, when I met Michael he was wearing a black woollen hat, which he removed when we took our pictures together. I was too caught up in things to adjust accordingly, and so the sky is likely a little too bright. I wish I'd adjusted my suggested background in response to his removing the hat, but I'll hopefully remember next time. Secondly, never having taken a portrait of someone with glasses, I didn't realise how hard it is to focus correctly. I fear Michael's spectacles stole the focus from his eyes. Another learning for next time.

This is a slightly cropped version. Even though the B&W version was fantastic, I've kept it in colour; I find colour portraits harder to shoot and hope the challenge will increase the learning potential of the project.

Michael - thank you for sharing a portion of your afternoon with me, for your good humour and for offering me a start to this fabulous project.

I very much hope everyone is well and enjoying a fantastic 2013 so far.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Looking Forward (Jessica At Leeds Castle), Kent

Via Flickr:
Happy New Year everyone; I hope you're fantastically we'll and enjoying a bright start to 2013!

After a few experiment and long exposure postings, I'm starting the New Year with a resolution to pay more of the "normal" things too. One of the main explanations I offer when asked who shoot odd things is that it makes you better shooting everything else. Who knows if it's true.

Anyway, this is JSH guarding a tunnel at Leeds Castle playground. She posted herself up there and let no one through for twenty minutes. It's shot with my 100mm L macro lens, which I'd hugely recommend for portraiture.

One note - I had cropped this (see note above) on my iPad, and saved. Uploading with the (otherwise excellent) new Flickr app, however, it has ignored my saved crop and instead uploaded the original!

Have an amazing week!