Archive for the ‘General Ramblings’ Category

There are few things in life that measure up to the power of the “photograph”. I find it amazing how memories can be captured in a split second. A moment in time frozen forever. Photographs often tell a story or convey an emotion like virtually no other media format can. I love how a series of photographs take you through a journey and you get to relive happy and sad moments on life’s long road (although the road seems to be getting shorter as I get older).

Photographs are hugely important! At least to me anyway… I am fortunate that my mother took so many pictures of the family when we were kids. We have literally thousands of negatives of our entire history in Africa. About 13 years ago I purchased a professional negative scanner (Nikon Cool Scan III) to digitally capture our life’s journey. This was way before I took photography seriously, but in a sense, it was the beginning of the road I am now on. As I scanned the photographs, it was like watching a replay of our lives in slow motion. I can remember how home sick I felt when I scanned images of the farm that I grew up on as a kid. I could remember the happy days that we spent at Lake McIlwaine in Zimbabwe where I used to go sailing. I remembered what our lives were like during the Rhodesian war. I remembered the happy times spent with the family on our holidays. And I remembered the sadness at the loss of my brother Bradley.

Photographs like these are extremely precious and will never be relived again. Organizing a vast collection of photographs into date order quickly reveals huge gaps of time where there are no photographs at all! There were years where I didn’t have a single photograph of myself. I’ve learnt that you just need to keep taking photographs (all the time). For a lot of people we all know how it goes… you buy a camera, you take lots of pictures until you get bored of it; and then don’t take any more pictures until it’s someone’s birthday. Simply put, you just need to keep taking photos. Every time I take a photograph of a family member, I find myself saying how precious that image will probably become in time.

Since I’ve started on my photography journey, I’ve often come across folk who have little or no regard for the value of a photograph. There’s nothing wrong with this… each to their own… but a part of me does wonder if it will come back to bite them as time goes by.

Very sadly my father passed away in May of this year. As I reflect on the impact he’s had in my life, I’m glad I have so many photographs of the times we shared as I grew up. I’m glad that I became a photographer. I’m glad I have precious photographs which I will remember him by. Few people have achieved as much in their lifetime as my father did. He became a pilot, revolutionized commercial fishing in Southern Africa; and started a business on 60 Rhodesian Dollars and grew the business to the point that every milk bottle sold in Zimbabwe was milked with his milking machines. My father’s achievements in life are many — he did everything in life he wanted to. An achievement in its own right. But most of all, he was a loving father.

As I write this blog post, it reminds of a post that Joe McNally posted some time ago. Taking a picture of a feeling (link) and his feedback response (link).

I’m so glad that I became a photographer… I get the privilege to capture memories of loved ones…

Below are a few photographs of our family’s history.

This is a picture of my Grand Father at their home in 1931. My Grand Father and his two brothers were early pioneers in Southern Rhodesia. They arrived in 1901 from the Boer War, originally from London. They were part of the team to build the infrastructure of Rhodesia. The home shown in the picture was my mothers first home.

This is my Grand Father's car travelling with the family.

This is my mother when she was 18 years old when she was staying with her Grand Mother.

My Father at 23 years old when he immegrated to Rhodesia.

My Father next to his aeroplane getting ready for a trip to Mozambique to spend a weekend on Paradise Island.

The family travelling to Durban, South Africa for a holiday next to the sea. In the picture is my brother standing next to the car and there's me sitting in the back peering out the window.

Visiting my sister near the Zambian border at the Umfolozi river near Mushimbi Pools.

Me with my brother and sister. It was common during the war to carry a gun wherever you went.

My brother often travelled on company business to various farms. He attached the gun to the truck as a means to protect himself from terroist attack during the war.

The family was invited to visit the local chief and he gave us a chicken to take home for dinner. That's me sitting next to the chief...

A fly over the Lake Kariba dam wall. My father was in charge of the fishing fleet for what was the largest man made lake at that time.

My father inspecting a new milking machine installation that was manufactured by his business..

This is a photograph of me at 9 years old soon after my brother Bradley had died.

Me with my father at Lake Kariba.

Me a few years later aged 17 years old. Visiting Worlds View at Inyanga with a betamax video camera.

My father helping me test out a new lighting technique early during my photography study.

My father again helping me out by posing for a photograph.

This was one of my father's favourite photographs of himself which I took one Sunday lunch time.

Both my parents helping me out by posing for a photograph.

My favourite photograph of my father. This shows what he was like. He liked cooking in the kitchen and always wore his apron. The books behind him are also very fitting as he was always very studious.

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Milano Manchester

Earlier in November I had the great fortune of going on a Chris Hanley workshop. I’d been with him on a previous Cherish the Dress workshop and the opportunity to do something different screamed out at me! An added bonus was that the model for the day was Valentina Feula (link). Below are the pictures I took with a few comments…

We started the day near the meeting point and Chris encouraged us to 'see' the photographic opportunities around us.

Valentina was a joy to work with and I particularly liked this frame.

A few nice shots from the same location.

It was time to move on to the next location. I shot this at -0.7 stops metered against the ambient light (in manual mode).

A tighter shot...

...and a wider frame.

Has the bus arrived? I think this frame in Black and White works just brilliantly!

Okay... maybe the bus won't be here for a while... 😉

The following location was nearby against a wall that you might have walked passed.

A moment caught while Valentina was posing for another photographer.

I loved this location as there were so many different images to be had.

Next up was a portrait taken in New York! Or at least something that might look like it was in New York 😉

This frame was shot at 1/30 sec.

In the same location as the previous 2 frames.

This kind of frame works in Black & White and in colour.

An abandoned location makes for a wonderful portrait.

Simple textures make great locations!

A tighter frame still works great!

I love Valentina's pose in this frame.

A quick trip over to Cuba!

It sure is hot in Cuba in early November!

Shhh... don't tell anyone I'm here...

Nice window reflections are hard to resist!

It was time for lunch and an opportunity to make a few frames indoors with the Lowel-ID light.

Valentina just looks fabulous!

The Lowel-ID light is so versatile and helps create wonderful images.

I just couldn't stop snapping away at the camera's shutter release button...

The wonderful Valentina kept making it easy to grab shots like this...

The last frame indoors before we headed out into the pouring rain!!!

The rain was pouring and I placed my camera inside it's Storm Jacket. I originally shot this on a cool White Balance but ended up correcting it in post-production.

What a perfect location for a rainy day!! I got to see how Chris works when it rains and how he finds wonderful locations in such conditions. A true master!

A wider frame... I love Valentina's expression!

We ducked into a small off-loading bay (under cover from the rain) and shot these wonderful frames with a Lowel-ID as a back light.

Its hard to stop taking wonderful pictures of Valentina...

Still in the same location... more picture opportunities...

Still using the Lowel-ID light....

Back on the street in the rain. My camera's Storm Jacket was doing its job nicely!

Again... we ducked into a small location under cover from the rain.

I love this look which I applied during post-production.

The blue's and green's... loving it!

So many different pictures to be had from this location.

I love how Valentina can look so vulnerable in the next few frames.

Picture says it all...

I borrowed this idea from Adam Johnson (ARJ Photography).

Going in close....

Its simply amazing how many pictures we could take at this location.

Off we go to our last location of the day. I decided to give some of these images the Black & White treatment also...

The Lowel-ID light so wonderful that I purchased one straight after this workshop.

I still don't know how Valentina found the energy! We'd been full on the whole day...

I always try a wide shot and I instantly loved it in this case.

The very last frame of the day... and a big 'thank you' to Chris & Claire Hanley, Valentina and Samantha Gardner (who did the make up).

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I thought I’d share a follow up from my first post of ‘How I got into Photography’ (link). My journey is so exciting… I love it! I love it so much that I want to tell you about it.

This update is more about the training I’ve been doing through Damien Lovegrove workshops.

The Lovegrove moment continues…

I mentioned in my first post that the Urban Portraits workshop I attended (link) changed everything for me. The camera techniques were awesome! I learnt more about lighting and exposure on that day, that books and online materials simply cannot compete. I could use the camera techniques the very next day, however, what did take time was learning to ‘see’. If you’re not used to ‘seeing’ with the photographer’s eye, then this is a skill that needs to be developed. During this time your head is buzzing everyday looking out for potential locations. You start to imagine how the location would look in natural light, the framing and composition, if using flashes, where would they go and how would you want the light to fall. Getting to this stage is very exciting and when you setup your flashes on stands (whilst on a shoot), you feel confident and excited to be taking some nice pictures.

6 months later… I was about to embark on a 3 month holiday (towards the end of 2009) and I decided to do a post-production workshop with Marko Nurminen (Damien’s picture editor). My pictures were nice, but not great. I realized the importance of post-production and being able to do it well was also key. The workshop I attended had a total of 4 delegates and Marko edited about 10 photos from each delegate and explained in detail the what’s and the why’s with the adjustments he was making. After a few images, you begin to see a pattern and over the course of the day, you learn what makes a good image. There’s plenty of free material online about how to do specific things with Photoshop, but none of them tell you what makes a good image. This workshop with Marko has been the basis for all my picture editing since.

Shortly afterwards I was on my 3 month tour of Australia and the Philippines. I was so excited to just have fun photographing my trip and spending time with family and friends abroad. I took just 7Kgs of clothes and 26Kgs of camera gear! 🙂 There’s a few images from my holiday at the end of this post…

The Training

Upon my return to the UK, it was time to find a job and resume my photographic training. Once you get past the basics in photography, books become less relevant (in my opinion) and there really is no substitute for spending time with a professional photographer. When I first came across Damien’s blog (back in November 2008), I found the images instantly desirable and wished I could make such photographs myself. Needless to say, all my training has been with Damien. Every workshop I’ve been on and still plan to go on is all part of a big plan. I’ve worked out precisely which workshops I need to do next and make sure I cover the right things when the time is right.

My third Lovegrove workshop was Passion on the Streets in Amsterdam (B&W – link, colour – link). My main motivation for attending this workshop was learning the dark art of capturing images of loved up couples. What I learnt about taking images with couples cannot easily be expressed through books. Damien pointed out significant aspects to this kind of picture taking that rocked my world. My comprehension of images with couples has been taken to a new level.

One aspect of photography that I had largely ignored was lighting in-doors. I find it easier to focus all my attention on one thing and move on to the next thing. About the only aspect to in-door lighting I had done (a while back) was this pub shooting guide (link). Virtually all of my lighting was on-location outdoors. To help me focus on in-door lighting, I attended the Cherish the Dress workshop with both Damien and Chris Hanley (link). Wow! This workshop changed everything and has made me totally re-think lighting in general. If you can’t tell already, this workshop has had a significant impact. This workshop was the first time I met Chris Hanley and his shooting advice is first class stuff. Like Damien, Chris is very generous with information and covers everything in detail which is so important on a shoot like this. Working with both Damien and Chris really adds a new dimension. It’s so much fun to watch them spar with each other throughout the day and who’s going to get the best images… This workshop was also the first time I had met Chloe-Jasmine Whichello (one of the models for the workshop). She is such a joy to photograph and is simply amazing!

I own a few flash accessories such as gels, light modifiers, etc… However, I needed to grasp clearly the best way to use the equipment. So the next workshop I attended was the legendary Speedlight Mastery workshop (link). I had originally booked the October workshop, however, I quickly changed this to August in Manchester when I discovered that Chloe-Jasmine was going to be there. This was an amazing workshop and the day was filled with fun. I learned more advanced lighting techniques with speedlites, ring flashes and softboxes all triggered with Pocket Wizards.

Tacit Knowledge

You may have noticed that all of my training involves Damien. Why? There’s a few reasons… Damien’s workshops are always fun and he’s very generous with information. However, there’s a more important reason. It’s about tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is something that cannot be learnt from books. It can only be learnt by being with the person or finding your own way of doing it. For instance, it’s unlikely you’ll find a book about ‘how to ride a bicycle’. This is something that cannot be learnt from a book but rather requires someone to show you how to ride a bicycle. If you like the images that Damien makes, and you want to learn how to make similar photographs yourself, then you have to be with Damien to learn how to make them. Simples…. it’s tacit knowledge…

My journey in photography continues….

Below are some of my photos from my travels abroad nearly a year ago…

My cousin Barry Johnston in Melbourne.

My first frame at Apollo Bay.

A back street in Melbourne.

Melbourne at night...

Portrait of Ryan (a member of the family).

The small lighthouse in the Gold Coast.

Broad Beach looking north. You can see the storm coming in from the right.

This is a structure that represents the split between Queensland and New South Wales. In this shot, I'm looking straight up!

I love the way this photo looks in Black & White!

I used a polarising filter to remove the reflections of the sea... Taken at around 9:30am.

Danger Falls.

Part of the river running through Brisbane.

I think I got carried away taking photographs!

A kararoki bar on Boracay Island, Philippines.

West Cove Resort in Boracay. You can just imagine sitting having a beer here can't you!

Boats mooring up at the end of the day...

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Last weekend was the annual Newtown Carnival. This was an unexpected surprise for me given I haven’t attended the event for years. However, this year equipped with my camera made the day a wonderful experience… My buddy Graham Law took some really nice close ups and hopefully will be writing a blog post soon on his very own blog!

A quick frame of a small group waiting for the event to pass over the bridge.The center of Newtown.

A few minutes later...

All frames captured with the camera set to Aperture Priority mode.

One of the people participating in the event.

All sorts of costumes...

I love this frame! And it really works well in Black & White.

I'm still on the bridge taking these shots.

My last frame with my 70-200mm lens on the camera.

I just love the wide angle perspective that the 5D mk II now gives me.

I went for an older looking desaturated look in this frame.

I then moved to a different location in time for the 2nd lap pass through town.

This is one of my favourite frames of the day.

I'm just having so much fun at this point. You really feel great when you know instantly how this type of image is going to look afterwards during post-production!

Everybody seemed to be having a great time...

Can't remember how many open trailer trucks passed through...

Carnival almost at an end...

If only all pirates looked this good! 😉

I love the sun glasses!

The perfect moment to use flash in very bright sunlight.

Later during the ceremony I captured this wonderful frame.

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The Hoedown

Over the bank holiday weekend I attended a fantastic party all themed in a country and western style event. Of course me and my camera went along and here are a few frames from the day.

The lighting provided by a Lastolite EzyBox Hotshoe softbox.

Using the hay as a prop.

Simple natural light frame.

This was taken around 3am in the morning. I had a friend of mine hold the softbox while I took a few pics.

There's something I like about this frame...

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So typical! I go out for a day’s shooting and it starts to rain! I had quite a few landscape locations lined up today… Oh well… I did manage to kick off a few frames which I’ve posted below:

My first frame of the day. Shot on a tripod at ISO 200, 1/40 sec, F22.

St. Mary's lighthouse in the distance. ISO 200, 1/125 sec, F22.

St. Mary's Lighthouse up close on St. Mary's Island. ISO 200, 1/500 sec, F10.

I saw this yacht and decided to photograph the view. Taken yesterday from the apartment I'm staying in. ISO 200, 1/500 sec, F8, 200mm.

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Today I passed through Warkworth in Northumberland… it was such a nice day that I thought it would be nice to go for a drive.

The view of the bridge on the River Coquet.

I like doors! 🙂

On the bridge with the camera at a low angle. I used a blended exposure to balance the exposure of the sky and the small building ahead.

The bridge from a different angle.

Warkworth Castle.

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It’s amazing how photography can inspire people! Every now and again, my friend Graham and I would go out for a few beers and I’d eventually end up updating him on what I was doing as far as photography was concerned. I’m just so buzzed with the whole industry! Last year Graham decided to jump into the fire and he purchased a Canon 40D with a 17-85 IS kit lens in the July 2009 timeframe. We went on a few photo shoots and continued to chat about all things related to photography! It’s so cool to go out with a shooting buddy…

I was really impressed at how quickly Graham became familiar with the camera and when he started taking nice images, he knew why he needed some ‘L’ glass. Since then he’s purchased the EF 24-70mm L F2.8 USM and the EF 700-200mm L F2.8 IS USM lenses (not mention flashes, stands etc). These lenses are real money and he’s taking some really nice images with them. We’ve been on portrait shoots, photographing bands in pubs, location scouting, etc… Last weekend, Graham has gone further by photographing a show at the local theatre company and he often goes to festival events to shoot there also.

It’s simply amazing to see someone so inspired about photography and he’s really getting involved with the whole process. Graham is also going to his first Damain Lovegrove workshop which we are both doing in Amsterdam later this year. Really looking forward to it! I just happen to have a few landscape images that Graham has taken over the recent winter period.

Photograph by Graham Law.

Photograph by Graham Law.

Photograph by Graham Law.

Photograph by Graham Law.

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I had the opportunity to meet Dai Robs, a good guitarist & singer and his acoustic solo work is an absolute pleasure to listen to. I decided to go for a low-key look for the images for something a little different. When I saw Dai performing, it just seemed the right thing to do, have him appear out of the darkness with his guitar. You can find out more about Dai Robs here (link).

Graham had the idea of the split lighting which I think works well. ISO 200, 1/200 sec, F11.

To get the low-key look in a pub environment, I used a fast shutter speed and small aperture to kill the ambient light. Then relied on flash to illuminate Dai Robs. ISO 200, 1/200 sec, F13.

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My last days in the Philippines were very much in denial. Even when I was leaving on the boat it didn’t register that I was actually leaving the island. In many ways, it would be easy to make Boracay a home…

I left the island and got on the SEAir flight to Manila and then the next day, started my journey back to the UK. My first stop was Singapore. I always loved this airport, but this time round, it wasn’t as much fun as it had been on previous visits. I waited around the airport from 2:30pm till 11:30pm. So had quite a lot of time to wonder round. The next time I’m in this airport, I’m definitely going to bring swimming gear. They have a great outdoor swimming pool which costs about £7 to use.

Then it was time to travel from Singapore to Heathrow and then onto Manchester. Arriving at Heathrow was a complete shock! -6 degrees C!! Unfortunately I discovered that my luggage had got misplaced in Singapore. This was a little worrying as I had 16Kgs of camera gear in the bag. A week later, my bag arrived in Wales and was very relieved.

Within a few days of being back, the Great British seasonal winter bugs,viruses, etc… had a huge welcoming party for me! I was in bed all of New Years Eve and have been unwell since. Today (7th January) is the first day that I’ve started to feel close to normal.

Looking forward to 2010…

Phil and I with the day time staff at Rumba's on my last day...

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