Monday, 24 March 2014

In The Light Garden (Girl In Rose Garden Lightpainting), Kent

Via Flickr:
After lots of recent stranger/model work I wanted to keep up with my lightpainting. I've been doing lots of test sessions with the new TS-E 24mm to make sure I can use it blind come next months trip to Slovenia.

This is my third lightpainting using it, and I'm finding it hard not to use it on full swing. I guess that urge will diminish with familiarity, but I do like the effect it gives - here dropping out the unwanted fence and plumping up the blossom into cotton wool bokeh. All blur is in camera.

All lines were drawn in camera too - though I took the girl from my first frame, and roses from the third, so this is a composite of two shots.

My hands still bear the scars of tracing the roses in the dark. The green is from a plastic bottle top held over the torch; gels have never been string enough to colour bright LED light to my satisfaction. Having discovered bottle tops I think I might start a collection for future use - they're much less fiddly and far more effective than gel for this.

I'll be catching up this evening - hope everyone is having a bright start to the week.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Story Arch (In Camera Light Painting), Studland Beach

Via Flickr:
Last weekend the good weather saw us paddling along Studland beach. The tide was out, so we took Jessica up to the rock pools and re-discovered a set of caves I'd forgotten existed. That evening I went back to shoot from one.

It's a shot I think I'll need to reshoot, but thought it was fun enough for an initial post. I'm going to watch my tide tables and feet a little more to get smooth sand coming into the cave, and would ideally see a little less cloud for a final frame.

There's a strange ghosting from the TS-E here - I think the issues come from shooting straight on, close focused on the rock of the cave. Next time I'll see what I can do getting the girl closer to focus.

There's a little cloning on the left hand cave wall to remove a distracting chalky stain, but everything else is in camera as always.

Info For Strobist:

Three half power flashes of Canon 600EX-RT from 2m camera left to light cave. Girl is hand drawn with LED flashlight with sock as diffuser.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Sarah (Stranger #39/100), London Southbank

Via Flickr:
Sarah and her friend Poppy had come into London from Essex to see the aquarium. I met them outside the Tate Modern, sitting on separate benches and chattering giddily. When I introduced the idea of a portrait, their first eager question was if I knew where they could find a Pret A Manger for food. They had a whirlwind of energy, a charmingly chaotic pace to their questions and a sparkle in their eyes, and I knew we could get a super portrait.

I shot chiefly with Sarah, simply because her scarf and hair were better coordinated to a background of ground-lit silver birch. I think I suggested the scene could look like a fairytale wood.

Colin and Stoyan had kindly stood in as models as I setup a single softbox on a stand in front of the trees ten minutes earlier, and guarded it as I wandered along the river looking for a subject.

We got a lot of great images, but this one - the first frame we shot - caught Sarah's energy and character the most expressively. The trees also framed her best - cradling her almost with their lines.

I wished I'd thought to ask why they'd chosen the aquarium for a visit - it seemed so unexpected and yet so appropriate a decision.

Sarah and Poppy - thank you for stopping. I hope you found your Pret!

This is portrait #39 of my 100 Strangers Project - check out the group page and get involved.

Info for Strobist:

Canon 600EX-RT in 38" Lastolite softbox, 45* up and left of Sarah, nearly point blank. Fired at 1/128, triggered by non-firing 600EX-RT on camera for focus assist. Gold reflector held by Stoyan camera right, low down angled up.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Elena (Stranger #38/100), London Southbank

Via Flickr:
Those of us who treat the 100 Strangers Project as a learning project, as much as a photography project might be interested in Arsene Wenger's comments ahead of his one thousandth game in charge of Arsenal.

"You learn more from the lost games than the games won. Certainly because you go into deeper analysis, you question yourself more, you question the players more and you learn basically the most from the higher the level goes up. You learn the most when the pressure is there, when the talent is against you and when the pace of the game is at the top, top level. This is where you learn."

I include the whole quote, as it's definitely when we push ourselves as photographers that we can learn the most. Last night was just such a situation, written up below.

The incredibly patint strangers that put up with my attempts to fix the various challenges noted below were Elena (above) and Nikki (image in the comments). They were great to work with, and put up with wind and rain as I delayed their evening stroll along the Southbank. I'm afraid I'm not sure I've done them justice in the final pictures - sorry, girls! Our chat was so interesting though, and the encounter was such a powerful learning experience, I wanted to post them anyway.

Elena is from Italy, Nikki from Germany. They're working together at the British Museum on placement during their art history studies. It sounded like the most incredible experience, working with the museum's collection of illustrations.

Without any intention, artists and art historians feature heavily in my project so far. Michelle is another student of art history, and Niamh was on an internship at the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice, whilst Tristan Ra and Stoyan are both painters. Stoyan even joined Colin and I on last night's shoot to experiment with a strangers project of his own.

They've all been super to shoot with, and whilst Elena had some super smiling frames, this one with the colder, neutral stare was the most powerful of the set.

Thank you both for being so generous with your time in inclement weather. I hope you like the pictures and can forgive me the mistakes along the way. Working with you both was extremely useful and has helped me improve as a photographer - so I appreciate your stopping especially.

This is portrait #38 of my 100 Strangers Project - check out the group page and get involved.

In terms of challenges, I'd like to note them here as much for my own reference as anything else. Shooting in rapidly diminishing light, I suddenly found myself breaking a number of rules. My on camera flash suddenly switched from fill to key light, as the daylight suddenly fled. I pushed my ISO to 3,200 - which I only use for B&W typically. I dragged my shutter to 1/30, when I aim for 1/200 on a 100mm lens. The last two were necessary trade offs, but the first was something I should have realised and fixed by taking the flash off camera where it could be a more atmospheric key. The reflector/on camera fill set up works well as a kind of beauty light, but when the ambient light goes down and the on camera becomes the de facto key, it's maybe a little flat.

We did take the softbox off camera, and Colin kindly held it as a voice activated light stand. That soft box is a little small, however, and those shots were just too harsh and hard. What was needed was some prep before approaching anyone setting up the big softbox, as we did later.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Our Last Summer (Katherine Velours, Birra Moretti Shoot)

Via Flickr:
Despite there being lots of portraits in my Photostream at the moment, I thought this shot from a weekend shoot with Katherine Velours might mix it up a bit.

UPDATE - I've rationalised to two versions; a processed B&W and this less processed colour version. Thanks to those who Flickr mailed and commented - and those who verbally critiqued!

I've been messing around with a free trial of Alien Skin Exposure 5, and thought this edit was rather fun. The colour seemed to work better, as the gold reflector that's lighting Katherine's left arm gives the feeling of the hard sunlight through the Moretti, to my mind at least.

The shot comes from a series experimenting with a re-shoot of an old Birra Moretti ad using a range of branded glasses. More to come as I get to process them. That will take a little while, as quarter end looms and work intensifies. Until then I thought a few non-portrait shots might mix things up - so expect them in the next few days.

Until then, I'm catching up and hoping everyone is having a fantastic start to the week!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Storian (Stranger #37/100), London Bishopsgate

Via Flickr:
Storian is an Italian painter from Bari, recently moved to London from Paris.

We met on Bishopsgate, where I was tentatively setting up a light stand in the hope of meeting a stranger for my project. Timing was touch and go, having just finished a headshot session in Brick Lane, I had one eye on the last train. There were lots of great people about though, and it seemed a shame not to shoot with someone and keep the good momentum going.

Storian in fact wandered up to me as I tried to suss out a background; he was out shooting some night shots of people handheld and was intrigued by the light stands I was erecting, all the while shooting along walls with the macro lens I'm shooting the project with.

Explaining what I was doing, I immediately asked if he'd be interested in being my first subject. It's always felt like cheating; asking photographers, and asking people that approach me, but he had a fantastically wild look. His scarf and hair had an edge of the Sahara, but a chic coat and shirt added a more refined element.

Firstly, I'd note his immense patience. We shot for 30-40 minutes. Usually I have a background planned, but events here overtook me, so we tried a few angles and lines. Storian in fact suggested moving up to the gallery area off the street, conjuring this super set of diagonals.

Storian had explained his painting was about human movement and emotion, and he demonstrated this in his posing. It was as if he was soaring, breathing in a high altitude wind. This shot doesn't quite do it justice. It was fantastic to have someone bring so much of themselves, their character and imagination to a stranger shot. It made me realise that I often impose myself too much on subjects and restrict their expressing themselves.

Storian is the second aritist I've been lucky enough to shoot, the first being Stranger #20/100, Tristan Ra. They've both been exceptional meetings, from which I've taken special learnings.

So thank you Storian for your contributing so strongly to my journey through the project, and for being so generous with your time.

I think you'd really enjoy the project yourself - so please do email if you're interested in joining me and others some evening soon - it would be fantastic to have you along, on your more usual side of the lens!

This is portrait #37 of my 100 Strangers Project - check out the group page and get involved.

Info for Strobist:

Canon 600EX-RT in 38" softbox 45* camera left and up, fired at 1/64 power. Triggered by non-firing 600EX-RT on camera, used for focus assist.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Shams (Stranger #36/100), London Brick Lane

Via Flickr:
The graffiti text behind Shames reads "Stranger". Having seen that, I had to shoot someone in front of, especially with shade in front and the late afternoon sun throwing a tight pool of warm light onto the text behind.

Shams and his girlfriend Viki were checking it out too, and a nearby BT exchange box offered a place for them to rest their coffees. They were fantastic people to get involved.

Viki was over from Hungary visiting Shams, from Paris, as they juggle a long distance relationship sparked when studying together before their personal geography became as complicated as today.

She handled the giant gold reflector, and Shams took centre stage - my fault being to have brought him a little too far near the wall in my excitement to shoot.

He was a fantastic model. When you say "a masculine look, like you're in Vogue" to the average British male, you generally get one of two things; the most hunched uncomfortable grimace you can imagine, or a punch in the face. Shams understood exactly what was meant, and totally owned the shot.

We fired off ten frames from differing angles to help with reflections in his superbly classy spectacles, and I could have posted any of them - he looks this poised in all of them.

As we finished up, I gave them a card and am delighted they reached out for a copy of the shot. Thank you for stopping and following up Viki and Shams.

I hope you remembered to pick up your coffees!

This is portrait #36 of my 100 Strangers Project - check out the group page and get involved.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Jitka (Stranger #35/100), London Brick Lane

Via Flickr:
The mistake I made with Jitka was taking more than one shot. It set up me up with all kinds of dilemmas about which frame to use of ten. There's an alternative shot just left of this one (hit left arrow), and in many ways I think that's superior - yet, less consistent in my project as a whole. I'd be really interested in people's thoughts on the two options here.

Having shot in Camden for a couple of hours, I whizzed over to Brick Lane to mix things up. Camden Market ought to be a fantastic location for street portraits, but I find it hard to spot either usable backgrounds or really interesting people. I'd had a lot of luck with two super strangers (Belle and Toby) and thought I'd quit whilst I was ahead.

Brick Lane on a Saturday turned out to be a revelation. There were maybe only 5-10% of the people at Camden, but five times the number I wanted to shoot. The street art always offers fantastic backgrounds, and changes so frequently there's always something new to use.

In fact, I shot Layla #10/100 in this exact spot - and the background has changed five or six times in the interim.

Attracted to this metal swing gate's latest zebra/sonar incarnation, I settled down to find a stranger - ideally one with stripes. I only saw Jitka's scarf, and thought it would work well on that front. When I walked up to introduce my project, she spun around and turned out to be somekind of brunette Claudia Shiffer. A crowd of 8-12 of Jitka's friends gathered to listen to the pitch. The good news was that two of them could help with the gold reflector. The bad news was that all of them were going to stand three feet out of shot and commentate!

It was kind of fun, in fact, and I'm amazed Jitka rolled with it as effortlessly as she did. It would have completely freaked me out if I was on the other side of the lens.

The group dynamic was such that we chatted across and around, so I only got a sketch. Jitka's over from Prague with friends, checking out Brick Lane's street art on an informal tour of sorts. She's shot/modelled before, and the group shot lots of their own photos. When we finished up I turned and my 1.2m reflector was neatly folded up - my volunteer assistant, it turned out, was a photographer himself.

I left with as many questions as answers, but a lot of healthy energetic chat. It's perhaps to be expected, but I find the range of encounters on this project interesting. The successful ones always have conversation and energy and interaction; but it can take many forms. Some are deep, introspective examinations, with considered language and thoughts shared. I've chatted with some people for as long as an hour. Others, like this one, are really pretty superficial in terms of what is discussed, and they're brief, but there's a shared enthusiasm, a working together to suddenly common purpose, an impromptu trust and empathy that is pretty inspiring to be part of for a moment.

Thank you Jitka for agreeing to be part of the project. I'm in awe of your poise in front of a crowd. Please pass on my thanks to the two guys that helped with the reflector! And have a fantastic end to your London trip.

This is portrait #35 of my 100 Strangers Project - check out the group page and get involved.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Belle (Stranger #34/100), Camden Market London

Via Flickr:
Having met Toby and Lilly I headed back to the Chalk Farm Road end of Hawley Crescent and waited for another stranger that might fit another section of the coloured frontage on the new buildings where I'd shot Toby's portrait.

So much of my 100 Strangers Project turns out to be waiting around! My process is always to find a background, and then to seek a stranger that could set it off. Maybe 500 people went past, with a couple of rejections, before I met Belle.

As we walked up the street to the last section of shade on the south facing facade, we chatted. She's from Thailand, studying textiles here in London at the moment. This makes perfect sense - she is an exceptionally stylish individual.

Belle held a large white reflector beneath her, and we snapped away at a section where the building curves and the colour piles up even quicker in the background. I avoided the gold option, fearing the warmer light might blend her in too much with the backdrop.

Before we could chat too much more, her phone went and she had to head off to lunch, back to the pub outside which I'd stopped her. Her friends must have been inside and seen her led off down the side street.

Belle - thanks again for taking a moment to stop. Best of luck with your textiles degree, and I hope you like your portrait.

This is portrait #34 of my 100 Strangers Project - check out the group page and get involved.

Toby (Stranger #33/100), Camden Market London

Via Flickr:
Toby and his daughter Lilly are local to Camden Market and out for a casual morning shop, when his neatly trimmed beard and feathered hat caught my eye. I've been to Camden before, and shot a couple of strangers, but never found a good enough background to feel they could be posted to my project.

However, they've just unveiled a huge coloured frontage along Hawley Crescent. Toby and Lilly endured a shot walk along to it, and Lilly held a large white reflector to fill in some shadow given a bright sweep of pale winter light.

Toby fell into posing very naturally - he noted he's in a band (vocals and guitar) and so this kind of thing was kind of business as usual. I wished I'd asked the name of the band to link to it... but events and conversation just went in another direction.

Toby and Lilly - many thanks for tolerating the interruption to your morning. Please do drop me an email for a copy and if you'd like me to link to the band page! Otherwise, have a great weekend in any event.

This is portrait #33 of my 100 Strangers Project - check out the group page and get involved.