Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Project 52 ... 21

Say hello to Des...

D200, Tamron 17 - 50, f2.9, Sb 800 soft box camera left, Vivitar 285 and gridspot camera right

I first met Des about a year ago and given that he is a Building Surveyor we immediately had something in common; the recession. To all who know him he a very happy and sincere person and always has a great building site story!

Throughout this project I have constantly wondered what the next shot is going to be. Because I am invariably in a person's home or office and while often I know them, I don't know their house and given the timescales involved have no chance of a recce beforehand. But I had been to Des' house before so I remembered the glass dining table. So Des became the first reflection shot.

An Sb800 is in a softbox illuminating Des and not much else as I kept it quite close to him. To the right is the 285 with a gridspot that is pointed past Des and onto the wall behind. This separates Des from the background. Ten minute set up, shot done.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Project 52 ... 20

Put your hands together for Father Chris... in prayer that is...
D200, Tamron 17 - 50 f2.8, SB 800, Vivitar 285
Father Chris is the local Parish Priest. A very caring and giving priest, he looks after two parishes with two churches, so his time is precious. I was delighted when he agreed to let me take his portrait.
This is the Altar of St Joseph's Church where we set everything up. Fr Chris could not have been more helpful; he suggested wearing his vestments, I wasn't sure if there might be Canon Law against wearing them for anything other than a mass, but he assured me otherwise! While he changed I set up my lights as you can see in the set up shot below.
I then stepped back and took a wide shot to include the strobes. The Vivitar 285 is to camera left with a gridspot on it aimed at the Crucifix and the SB 800 is to camera right with a softbox on it, positioned to illuminate the top half of Fr Chris and to taper off towards the floor.
Churches are serene and wonderful places. I enjoy photographing them in every way; the architecture is unique among all the architecture of the world. Indeed all places of worship are, whether its a standing stone, a temple or a church; they are all wonderful. Sometimes they are bright and airy, sometimes dark and moody. I like shadows and light together, I was looking for something in between.
That evening it was very sunny outside and the light streaming in was interfering with the optical trigger on the Vivitar 285, the SB 800 was fine with its SU 4 built-in superslave. I eventually got the shot I wanted and one that says to me this is Fr. Chris' church. I want to say a big thank you Fr. Chris for having patience with me that evening!

Project 52 ... 19

This is the wonderful Carole.

D200, Tamron 17 - 50 f2.8, SB 800 gridspot camera left

A fantastic and cheerful lady and always with a smile or a new pair of shoes, it's shoes again...

We spent a few quick moments in Carole and Paul's back garden (you can see Paul here), but the sun was very bright and throwing harsh shadows all over the place. Not very flattering. So we retired to the side of the house where I could control the light better. My VAL, (remember - voice activated lightstand) Katy was holding the SB 800 with a gridspot on it aimed directly at Carole's head. I was looking for the light to fall off fairly gently from Carole's face, but enough to give us a dramatic shadow and keep Carole in the spotlight.

And what lady does not want to be in the spotlight...

Friday, 26 June 2009

Project 52 ... 18

This David. David is a very modest retired gentleman. He is sincere, fun to talk to, and always interested in what people have to say. David used to fly planes, but not just any planes, jet fighter planes and not just any jet fighter planes, but he was part of the RAF fighter display team that were there before the Red Arrows. So next time you see the Red Arrows, David is probably one of the guys who taught them!

The day I went to photograph David was a lovely Saturday in May. I was going to ask to take his portrait later on in the year, but the person I had scheduled to shoot could not make it, so he very kindly offered to bail me out so I could keep to the one portrait a week rule I have set myself.

Well, I knew it wouldn't end with one shot. His wonderful wife, Christina was there and I asked her if I could take her portrait too. Christina was a natural in front of the camera and perhaps the easiest lady to photograph. Her elegance and poise suffuses the photograph. She also makes the best lemon posset desert this side of anywhere!
And then I broke my own rule.
D200, Sb 800 in softbox to camera left.
I took a joint portrait, but it is a perfect shot for a great couple. Thanks David and Christina for bailing me out!
The Sb 800 in a soft box was set to 1/2 power on the SU 4 optical remote, I under-exposed the ambient light to get the sun to act as a rim light.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Project 52 ... 17

Here's Malcolm!
D200, Tamron 17 - 50 f2.8, Sb 800, Vivitar 285, Mains Flash.
This is Malcolm. Hiding under the table?; this is the table Christopher was standing on, here, not at the same time I might add...
In this shot I used an old Edison screw in flash head I picked up years ago and never used. I got a fantastic Ikea lamp shade in the shape of the old aluminium flash heads and Bob's your uncle. I placed a piece of white paper over it and placed it to camera left. The flash is manual and has one power setting, so you vary the intensity by distance / aperture / softening. To camera right and behind Malcolm is a gridded Vivitar 285 giving the rim light effect. An SB 800 is placed, bare bulb, in a cupboard behind him.
At first I didn't like the flare the SB 800 is giving off, but it has grown on me now. I could have modified the light by snooting it or putting a gobo on it to ensure the light didn't fall on the underside of the table. But I like it as it is.
And, no, Malcolm does not live under tables...

Those shoes ... again

This is a shot of those shoes again. But they do deserve a lot of attention, at least women seem to give shoes a lot of attention.
This shot is part of a small series I took of a little girl playing in her Mother's shoes. She hasn't quite got the balance yet, but she is getting there.


It also form a part of a friendly little competition I have going with my brother and sisters, called Sibling Rivalry. We are each submitting a photograph a month on a given subject for a year. This is May's 'The Body'.

This was taken with the Nikon 105 VR lens. I love the depth of field, the effect that is sometimes called 'bokeh' that you get with this lens. It seems to pull your eye into the photograph.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Project 52 ... 16

This is John. And the flag is payback.
You may remember that Ireland won the Grand Slam this year in the Six Nations Rugby. Well, the evening we won, I was at a few parties, with John. And I took a photo of him (an Englishman) holding the Irish flag up for all to see. Here he is on his bike raising money for charity and smiling like he always does, proudly holding up St George's flag. Payback is a terrible thing...

For lighting, we threw a bit of fill in from camera right with an SB 800 in softbox. I had my VAL (voice activated lightstand), Katy as my invaluable assistant on the day!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Lest we forget...

Dad and me, 1964
Father's Day was yesterday. My Father was the person who first got me interested in photography. He used to have an old Agfa, which has been passed on to me, that he took all his photographs with. Thousands of photos, taken all over the world.

No longer with us, but never forgotten, my Dad was the first photographer in my life.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

The Emperor's New Clothes...

Who do you take your photographs for? Do you take them for yourself? Or do you take them for other people?

Diesel Pumps, Co. Cork, Ireland
As photographers (and with another hat on: as architects) we have a unique ability to interpret the wishes and vision of those who come to us and to use our vision to bring a project to fruition. Sometimes that will mean taking a different direction to that of the client and sometimes it will be the same. But it is up to us to lead and bring expertise to the table.
Child of Prague, Family House, Co. Kerry, Ireland
For me it is about looking at the ordinary and seeing the extra-ordinary in it. Whatever it might be; an old statue, signs, gates - there is always a story to be told. That is what people are coming to you for; however you do it, when a photograph becomes special, you know it.
Sign posts, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland
I started off this post thinking of the many photographs I have seen that have won acclaim in competitions, magazines, galleries and all over the place and what they did for me; some blew me away, others did nothing. Was I missing something?
But then I look at my photographs, the ones I take for me and only for me. They probably do nothing for anyone else. Does that matter? On one level of course I want recognition for my work. Who doesn't want everyone to like what they do? But on the other level I want to be happy with what I shoot ... for me. My best shots are the ones I took for me. They have a certain depth to them that comes from how I was feeling, what I was looking for, the rhythm of the moment that some of the other shots don't have.
There are many ways to look at photographs, on their own or as a body of work and it is all to easy to criticise. It is hard to take a step back and ask questions; much easier to dismiss that which is different or doesn't fall into our view of the world or how photographs should be taken, in our cosy little world.

Church Door, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland

I am minded of the old fairy tale; The Emperor's New Clothes. Sometimes I cannot help thinking about it when I see some photographs. But whether you are the Child who sees through the clothes or the Emperor who is wearing them one thing is certain; the Emperor is still the Emperor and the Child is still the Child.

Of course there will always be photographs that you just do not like, for whatever reason. But the next time you see such a photograph, take a second look. What this tells me is that I have to get out there and take more photographs, for me.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Project 52 ... 15

This is the one and only Christopher...

D200, Tamron 17 - 50, f2.8, Sb 800 + softbox , Vivitar 285 + gridspot, Sunpak behind

Christopher is standing on a layout space down the centre of the drawing office studio. An award wining architect, Christopher is leaving his mark on this land in the residential sector. His designs are innovative, both traditional and modern, and very well received. He is a much sought after designer. Unfortunately he doesn't appreciate my jokes... but that's another story.

I lit Christopher with an SB 800 in a softbox to camera left about six feet and 30 degrees to the front of him, it was probably at 1/2 power. A Vivitar was placed behind him at about 45 degrees and at 1/2 power, with a tight gridspot. About ten feet behind him was a small Sunpak flash with one manual 'full power' setting to give him an 'edge'.

I set this all up beforehand, again visualising the finished shot, did a few test shots, tweaked the aperture. The D200 was set to manual at 1/250th. Then all that was left was to call in Christopher, get him to climb on the table and shoot! As you can see I missed!

Project 52 ... 14

Say hello to Bev, or, as she is sometimes called; Carol Vordeman, you had to be there...

D200, Tamron 17 - 50, f2.8, SB 800 in softbox camera left

A difficult shot - at least for me. The sun was blazing through a skylight just over Bev's head bouncing all over the place. So I dropped the exposure for the ambient as much as I dared to and then threw back in a little flash to make a subtle portrait of this lovely lady.

Oxford Rain

Oxford for me, was always the centre of British university learning. The seat from which academic careers were launched. At least that is what it seemed like to me living as a teenager all those years ago in Ireland.
I couldn't help but imagine all the students going to and from their lectures and tutorials; they always seemed to wear the black gown and mortar board hat. The dreamy spires and all those colleges - I never understood how there seemed to be so many colleges there.
But what epitomised Oxford for me was Inspector Morse. During the eighties, I must have seen every single one of the episodes. The City, the man, the car; it all said Oxford.

I enjoy visiting Oxford - it is always a treat to wander the streets with my camera watching the particular Oxford world going by, trying to get a glimpse into what it might be like to study and live here. The day we visited, it rained. Mind you it rains more in Ireland.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Project 52 ... 13

Meet Donald. A pillar of the community.

D200, Tamron 17 - 50, f2.8, SB 800, softbox

This shot was taken one evening in March, when the weather was kind to us; it was warmer than expected. I say pillar of the community because Donald has given a lot of his time to being a school governor and has recently been recognised for it. He gives this time and expertise selflessly; a lesson to us all. This is a relaxed picture of Donald, being himself, in his own environment. He can also be seen here, in a more formal portrait.

The shot was very simply lit with an SB 800 in a softbox to camera right at about 30 degrees to Donald and slightly higher than him. I wanted to give the effect of ambient light coming through the French doors of an evening. I dropped the exposure on the ambient, set the camera at about 1/250th and tweaked the aperture until I got the shot I was looking for.

Martin's Garage

This is Martin's garage, in a villa on the north coast of Spain.

Canon A95, stitched in Panorama Factory, panoramic head on tripod

All too often panoramas are taken perfectly level - and that's okay with a lot of subjects. But sometimes to tilt the camera brings a different dynamic to the photograph.

This is a teenagers paradise! Graffiti, flags and bikes; what more could you ask for.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Project 52 ... 12

This is Maria.

D200, Tamron 17 - 50, F2.8, SB 800 softbox camera left


Maria is of Italian extraction which is given away by her beautiful continental looks, and photographing a beautiful lady is always very easy. She is a wonderful lady and great friend of the family

I placed an SB 800 in a diy softbox to camera left very close to Maria's face, but at such an angle that the reflection of it would not bounce off her glasses and into the lens; you want to be able to see through, her very fashionable, glasses! The resulting light was very soft and wrapped around her face perfectly. A bare flash would have been too harsh and the shadows hard and unflattering.

We spent about half an hour taking a few shots until I had the one I wanted. A great shoot, thanks Maria.

Project 52 ... 11

Meet Juanita, She is Headteacher of a primary school.

D200, Tamron 17 - 50, f2.8, SB800 softbox, Vivitar 285


There is an air about head teachers that is always there; it is tangible, real and everyone can feel and sense it; which is what I was trying to convey in the picture. But this is only evident if you are a good head teacher, and Juanita is. The school has gone form strength to strength under her direction. The children are making fantastic progress and are very happy, which is vital in a school. Everyone has a great respect for Juanita and the work she does. Long may it continue.

The set up was the same as the Governor's Formal Portrait setup, described here.

Monday, 15 June 2009

'57 Chrysler ....

Or, to give it its full name; 1957 Chrysler Saratoga, I believe. The annual Classic Car Exhibition was on in Bracknell last weekend. There was some truly amazing cars and bikes on show. This '57 Chrysler caught my eye.
I never knew what they meant in the movies, when I was growing up, when they said a car was a '57 Chrysler' or a '56 Chevy'. We didn't even have a car when I was growing up! You live and learn.
All photos; D200, Nikon 105mm VR
I photograph the cars every year but this year I decided to do it a little different. I used the Nikon 105mm VR lens. On the D200 it is around a 150mm lens and the depth of field, or to give it is 'on trend' name. bokeh, is amazing. Brilliant for detail shots, you can pick out a subject and isolate it from the background easily. I also enjoyed just using a prime lens; no messing about zooming all the time.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

More formal portraits ...

The School Governor seems to be a particularly British institution. And long may it continue to be one. It is a way of giving something back to the school and through it to the greater community in the form of time and expertise. Completely voluntary, these people provide support and help to the Head Teacher and all the Teachers of our schools to grow and develop the school, which ultimately comes down to a better education for our children.

I was recently asked to take a set of portraits of the School Governors of St Joseph's RC School in Bracknell.
D200, SB 800 in softbox camera left, Vivitar 285 gridspot to background
I went into the hall where the meeting was to take place beforehand and set up the lights and took a few test shots. I tweaked the exposure until I got the look I wanted and then it was a matter of sitting all the Governors down in the strategically placed chair, (which was moved again and again) and taking the shot.

The camera was in manual mode, at 1/250th; I cannot remember what the f-stop was. The flash guns were on 1/4 and 1/2 power to give a faster recycling time, as I knew I would have to get the job done quickly.

I want to say thanks to Adele, John and Donald for allowing me to post their pictures and thanks to all the other Governors for having their photographs taken.

Project 52 ... 10

Say hello to Paul,

D200, Tamron 17 - 50 f2.8, SB 800 in softbox camera left.

I met Paul at a school Governors meeting and we got on well from the start. Paul is a very busy man so i was delighted when he agreed to sit for me. This is his favourite chair so that's where the shot was going to be and I wanted to contrast the shot with his busy life, so this is a 'resting' photo.

I under exposed the ambient, which became the fill from the right, set up the Sb 800 in a small softbox relatively close and just off camera to the left. I had it set to 1/2 or 1/4 power and the D200 on 1/250 and tweaked the f-stop to suit. A simple and subtle shot.

Look Up ... again!

D200, Canon A95
Looking up is becoming a bit of an obsession. But I am amazed at how many people miss what is around them by not doing so.

Canon A95, programme mode

Some of these lamp posts, for me, almost tell the story of the decade they were erected in. They are fascinating and wonderful and sometimes exceptional. Next time you are out and about, Look Up!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Stuart and Louise

I had the great privilege to take some photographs for Stuart and Louise recently at South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell, this spring. A great couple that have been married for 40 years; an amazing feat in this day and age! Thats their daughter, Carole in the background of this first shot.

We had permission to shoot in the wonderful ornate formal gardens of this amazing mansion built in 1760's. The old brickwork, the stone steps all made a perfect backdrop for a perfect couple. It was a great day and for once the sun did shine and good luck guys to the next 40 years!!
Thanks go to Stuart and Louise for being so easy to photograph! And also a big thank you to South Hill Park for letting us use their amazing gardens!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Project 52 ... 9

This is Neil. Neil likes his cars. A lot.

D200, Tamron 17 - 50 f2.8, SB 800 CTO gel camera left

This was a fun shot to take. In February, the weather wasn't exactly clement and the sky a dull cloudy grey. I set the camera's white balance to tungsten which threw the sky blue and then aimed the SB 800 at Neil's face. I gelled it with a 1/2 CTO (colour temperature orange) gel, put a gridspot on top of it and illuminated just his face. It was a bit precarious as I was crouching down, handholding the flash at the maximum reach of my left arm, while taking the shot. In this case the flash was connected to the D200 by an SC-17 cable. I also dropped the ambient exposure about a stop or so to add a bit of drama. We turned on the headlights to give a bit of definition to the front of the car.

Again, this was a quick shot. I had pre-visualised what I wanted to achieve and it was just a matter of checking as I went along. As with most of the Project 52 shots, the camera was set to manual at about 1/250th, which is the max sync speed of the Nikon D200 when using the flash.

As the days get longer it will be interesting to see if I use less flash and more ambient.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Project 52 ... 8

Meet Lisa...

D200, Tamron 17 -50 f2.8, Sb 800 with gridspot

Lisa, a very tall lady, seen here illuminated in her domain amongst the filing! She has since progressed on to the realms of management - Good luck, Lisa!

I placed an Sb 800 on a mobile VAL (voice activated lightstand - Catherine) with a gridspot to concentrate the beam of light from the flash, camera left. The flash was set to half power, the camera at 1/250th, I think and then I just chose an aperture that worked to give the shot I wanted. I knew there was going to be some fill from the wall beside Lisa.

Another thing I was concerned about was Lisa's glasses. I didn't want a reflection of the flash in them. The way to overcome this is to remember secondary school physics; with light the angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence. So if you set the flash - or any light source for that matter, at such an angle that it will not be reflected into the lens, you are onto a winner!

Red Shoe Diaries (sort of)...

Back in January I photographed the Shoe Queen of Berkshire, Catherine, with her red shoes. In the background hanging on the wall is a canvas picture of the same red shoes with what looks like lightning strikes all around, you can see it here. Well, this is how I took that picture.
First catch yourself a pair of ridiculously high heeled shoes. Red, but any colour will do. I laid them out on a piece of black paper. I tried various arrangements until I came on the one that I thought was most pleasing.

I took the shot with the camera on a tripod and used the pop up flash to illuminate it. I just wanted to make sure the arrangement was the right one. This shot is, in itself, nothing to write home about; dull, lifeless; its just a pair of shoes. But to women, no shoes are 'just shoes'. You'll have to ask them about that yourself.

So we have to make it a bit special. A bit magical. I set the camera to manual and dialled in a 20 second exposure at f8. It was a guess, but it proved to be spot on. I then took a Maglite torch, took off the reflector head and with the bare bulb got ready to start 'light painting'.

D200, tripod, Tamron 17 - 50 f2.8, 20 secs at f8, Maglite torch

From then on its all a matter of timing. Oh, and I forgot to say all this is done in the dark, room lights off and hope no one decides to come into the room! Then trip the shutter on self timer, wait for the click and start painting. I must have done about twenty shots before I was happy, and then I chose the first one! And remember its twenty shots at twenty seconds with fiddling around with the self timer and torch and possibly the arrangement, so we are talking half an hour and most of it in the dark with just a pair of sexy red shoes...

Friday, 5 June 2009

Project 52 ... 7

Meet Stuart. He is probably the happiest man alive that I have the pleasure of knowing. In fact he always seems so happy that it is difficult to take a photograph of him without a smile!

D200, SB 800 in softbox camera right

A quick and easy shot, exposed for the ambient, drop a stop or so and illuminate Stuart with just the one light in a diy softbox. A handy side wall provided the fill!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Project 52 ... 6

Esta es Sandra,

Sandra trae encanto latino a la oficina!

D200, SB 800 with gridspot camera left

From Argentina, Sandra, now practices architecture here in the UK. We didn't have much time, so I quickly set up the shot and asked Sandra to stand where I had pre-visualised the scene and pressed the shutter!

This shot of Sandra was taken with a DIY gridspot on an SB 800 to camera left, feathered to take in just half of her face and then to illuminate the background. The ambient was taken down a stop and a half or so, with some light still coming in from a window at camera right.

Project 52 ... 5

Meet Colette. If you can see Colette, she can see you. And if you can't see her, she can still see you! A great lady and wonderful office manager.

D200, Sb 800 camera right snooted, Sunpak camera left, blue gel
I wanted to light the background separately to Colette and have her lit by the main light. We had a great laugh taking the shots and I thought they were in the bag when someone popped their head around the door, Colette turned and laughed; I took a grab shot and i knew that was the one I wanted. It sums up Colette's smiling happy personality. I left in the side shadows because I like the way they help frame Colette.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Project 52 ... 4

This is Liz, a wonderful Lady and great friend of our family!

D200, SB 800 in lamp shad to camera right, 285 + gridspot to Camera left

Liz is always there when you need her and always has a great smile, and she hosts great parties too!
I placed a Vivitar 285 to camera right with a black straw grid spot and feathered the light from it on her face. the SB 800 was clipped inside a lamp shade to give the hair and side light.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Look Up ...

Lamp posts of Ireland. D200, A95

If you are like me - you walk around looking up from time to time. Its amazing what you see, or amazing what you do not see.

These lamp posts are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. On the one hand this is a good thing; no more cables. on the other hand these posts are sometimes works of art.