Book review #4

I read some great reviews about The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman so I added it to my ‘must read’ list of books.

When I started reading the book it quickly felt like an instruction manual jumping pages to refer to this or that page and I very nearly wrote the book off as one of those that target an audience just to make money rather than being of any value in developing the reader.

If it wasn’t for my short (20 minute) tube journey for my early shifts that start at 06:15, I probably would not have gotten around to reading the book. But the first train in the morning is too early to plug in my headphones and ignore the world around me.

So, my early commute made the though of reading an ‘instruction manual’ a little more tolerable. Thankfully the page jumping references didn’t happen too often.

The book takes a handful of images and breaks them down, analyzing the framing, composition, lines, curves and movement. The story the photographer wants to tell along with the reasons why certain images have particular patterns & rhythms that appeal to us as viewers.

The analysis of the images feels academic and would probably be a good book for referencing on a photographic essay looking at composition.

I’m not sure that one could use all the compositional thought process’ described while at a location. In fact I’m certain that if you tried you’d never manage to take a photo.

From reading this book I have taken away the importance of moving around, Michael Freeman reiterates a key concept of street photography & photojournalism in that observing and anticipating events unfolding affords the photography the opportunity to compose a shot but also highlights the need to sometimes just take a shot rather than risk missing the moment altogether.

Would I recommend this book? Truth be told, I’m not sure.

I guess I should have taken some notes as I was reading and that may have helped me really evaluate whether or not this book has been useful for me.

I don’t think there have been any lightbulb moments but it may help me a little when deciding which images I show.

I would be disappointed if I had spent my money on this book but it was a really good choice for a stocking filler at christmas. Sometimes I deliberately leave books on the train for others to read. However, this one leaves me with mixed opinions and it will go on the book shelf at home for future reference.

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Taken on an iPhone

I was about to suggest if I read anymore books in the series by Freeman, they might best be borrowed from the library.

However, look what I got for my birthday…….

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Taken on an I-phone

Lets hope the whisky & Capturing Light are more interesting.

I need a dodge in Camden.

Well finally something I think I will enjoy is on locally. Unless I’m getting a Hackney Carriage home and he decides to take the scenic route!

Actually it was a very entertaining journey and he knocked the meter price back down to where is should’ve been.

FARE PLAY!

Sorry! Just couldn’t resist it.

So, the night begins in a mexican restaurant near to KOKO in Camden. For the older folk that have moved away, this used to be The Music Machine.

Me and my date for the night (The lucky lady has been my date for the last 27 years) walk in to a mexican restaurant to get some grub and The Urban Voodoo Machine are there chilling out. To my surprise they don’t say a word to the table of ten girls sat next to them in their net ball outfits. Not very Rock ‘n’ Roll but very gentlemanly.

I know one of them has clocked the camera (The band not the net ball team) and I feel like saying to him, relax, yes I know who you are but there is a time and a place for photos and I’m not disturbing your last hour before a gig.

Its just not the done thing…. Its not how I work. I want people I shoot to trust me. I do not want to put sneaky photos out there and I’m not going to put out anything I would consider unflattering.

Entering KOKO. “Excuse me Sir, No cameras!” What the….. You’re kidding me right?

My wife then asks rhetorically “what even though almost everyone has a phone?”……… I have to say at this point that the security chap was extremely polite and I asked for his supervisor who offered to call the manager…. Its not on the tickets that we have, nor have I noticed anything on their website stating no cameras.

So here I am, camera in hand and ready to demand a refund when the manager of the venue apologises for the situation, appears empathetic to my concerns over the safety of my kit and gives a personal reassurance that it will be looked after.

Reluctantly I accompany him to a secure area and hand over my baby. I feel like its in safe hands but there is a niggling doubt that leaves me a little uncomfortable and somewhat diminishes my enjoyment of the show.

You know what else detracted from the show…. people holding up phones to take substandard photos and videos….. other people with DSLRs without battery grips turning their camera into portrait position and holding the camera in such a way that their elbows are poking out and obstructing other peoples views. Flashes going off… I wouldn’t have used a flash, the lighting at the venue was great, I’m always mindful of an audience that has paid good money to see a gig, nor am I recording moving images and sound, … I am not sure if this is a policy of the venue, the particular promotor or the artists? I’m disappointed.

The front man for the urban voodoo machine is our master of ceremonies, our compare…He is perfect, one or two little slip ups but does a fantastic job of keeping the evening moving. The Crunch start us off and are much better than I expected. Terry Chimes starts hammering out a rhythm accompanied by Dave Tregunna on Bass and Mickey Geggus showing us how to play an axe with attitude. On vocals and the second guitar is Sulo Karlsson.

The Crunch go on my list of bands to see again but preferably somewhere both I and my camera are welcome.

Don Letts then spun a few tunes before Chris Salewicz confidently gave a reading from his Joe Strummer biography ‘Redemption Song’. As a side note Mr. Salewicz came to the Joe Strummer underpass because he heard something was going on there one night. It was just me tinkering with my guitar… I’m very novice at guitar and most certainly do not consider myself a vocalist but if your interested it is here (Building work was going on in the subway and it was one of the most stressful things I’ve done). Intended to be just a record for me and a way of me looking back to see if I have improved. If you do decide to view it or even comment, be gentle.

I’ve no idea how Chris heard about it or what he thought was going on but none the less it was nice of him to stop and spend five minutes chatting.

Back to last night; the screening of ‘I need a dodge’ directed by Nick Hall. This was mostly in Spanish with English subtitles. It was an easy watch and at points it raised a few laughs. There was a bit of a racket from the bar area during the reading and screening; some fella that looked like Gary Bushall but surely it couldn’t of been him? He surely wouldn’t be that loud? Really THAT LOUD!

Then more music with various artists and singers. The billing from the KOKO website read….

….Cadiz Music presents Rock N Roll Cinema – The premier UK screening of ‘I need a dodge! Joe Strummer on the run’, on  Wednesday 25 March.

As well as a screening of the film, the evening will also offer an all-star band, playing The Clash and Joe Strummer songs. All Star Band with Special Guest Vocalists including… WAYNE KRAMER from MC5
CHARLEY HARPER from UK SUBS
RUTS DC
CHRIS BAILEY from THE SAINTS
NORMAN WATT-ROY from THE BLOCKHEADS & WILKO JOHNSON BAND
MARTIN CHAMBERS from THE PRETENDERS
PAUL RONNEY ANGEL from THE URBAN VOODOO MACHINE
TYMON DOGG from THE MESCALEROS + ANTONIO ARIAS from 091
RACHID TAHA & HENRY PADOVANI from THE POLICE
LARRY LOVE from ALABAMA 3 THE CRUNCH – FEAT. TERRY CHIMES from THE CLASH / MICKY GEGGUS from the COCKNEY REJECTS / DAVE TREGUNNA from SHAM 69 and SULO KARLSSON from DIAMOND DOGS Plus Don Letts perform an exclusive DJ set.

Back to me: What an awesome gig, I really do not remember when I last felt the floor move so much.

I don’t write gig reviews so I will suggest you buy Vive Le Rock magazine as I’m pretty certain they will have it covered. If not I will be seriously surprised.

I’d happily watch this set again tomorrow. I thoroughly thoroughly enjoyed the night. Missed my camera, kept feeling anxious about my camera but what a great gig.

As far as photography goes I got nothing more than a crappy snatched shot of Don Letts and Chris Salewicz.

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Along with a quick shot of my knee. Yep my knee!

In my day job I quickly learnt not to kneel and that every situation presents something to learn from…… in this case it was do not kneel.

Yes I made the school boy error of kneeling down in a venue and ended up with a patch on my knee that smells like vomit.

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So thats that.

A very unsuccessful gig shoot.

Until next time, thanks for stopping and reading.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James.

Google image search.

Interesting to see my blog being visited by someone that has used one of my images to do a google image search.

What else can I see on the admin stats page?

Visitors from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Czeck Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece,Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, The Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, The UK, The United Arab Emirates, and The USA.

I wonder what they were looking for?

Did they find anything interesting?

How many are return visitors?

If you are one of those that visited and return every so often, hello & thank you.

Its all about the light. Again!

Playing with light, well actually understanding light rather than playing with it will take my photography into another level. I like natural light but haven’t really learned a massive amount about how to use it to my benefit. Although I’m not doing to badly at getting reasonable portraits. I did the candid strangers project to get me thinking quickly on my feet about the ever changing light situations from walking on the sunny side of the road to suddenly wanting to take a photo on the side that was shady or just about to take a candid image of a stranger and the cloud would clear and change everything. It was a good experience, often it was just simply changing my shutter speed, sometimes altering the ISO and on the odd occasion having to think about the exposure triangle in its entirety. I can hear people now saying ‘thats not complicated’. If you are one of those then all I will ask is that you take yourself back to when you started out. Yes once it is explained the concept is easy to understand but putting it into practice and feeling comfortable with it is one thing, its another thing when you need to do it quickly to get candid street portraits. However this was simply a project to get me thinking about exposure. Now I’m moving on and thinking about light modeling. Using light to add interest and another dimension to my images rather than relying on depth of field. When it comes to taking portraits of total strangers I am sure that I will feel like a total wally when I pull out my newly acquired reflector. However, I am following a couple of photographers on flickr that use reflectors and it seems like an easy way to sculpt light, lift shadows and even block out some harsh light. I just need to get over the fear of whipping it out in public. The reflector! Any regular reader will know I joined a flickr group to capture portraits of 100 strangers but this time with their permission and posed. This is majorly stressful for me, I like to do my own thing and just blend into the background. None the less I joined the group as a personal challenge and in the hope of improving my portraiture. Here are a couple of the photographers that I have started to follow…Iain BlakeTerry Lok,  Al Fed,  Barbara Asboth and Arnab Ghosal.  They’ve all given me a warm welcome to the online group and importantly for me, feed back on my images. I’m sure I will learn more from them as I progress through the challenge. If you have time please have a look at their work. They might even inspire you to join in and I hope an old friend that has been supportive throughout my learning might even fancy a go and dust off his camera. So….. learning about light also means learning artificial lighting. There is a huge amount to learn and I have jumped in head first with regards to using flash. My camera does not have a pop up flash built in to the body but I did that was intentional. I knew I would want to use more interesting lighting. Another group on flickr is where I plan on learning about lights. I think however I might have dive-bombed into flash photography when I should have perhaps dipped my toes in first. I have been using the flash on manual when I might have been better starting with the automatic side of things and looking at flash exposure compensation. I need to have a good look at this and once I get that under my belt I can start to think about looking at flash in more depth. Also the joy & expense of buying light modifiers. Anyway, enough waffle from me. Here are some images taken in Camden recently and one has been added to my new 100 strangers album.

At an event in Camden I introduced myself to Dennis and asked if he would sit for his portrait to be taken.

At an event in Camden I introduced myself to Dennis and asked if he would sit for his portrait to be taken.

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Dennis was more than happy to have Norman Jay MBE gate crash the photo shoot.

Dennis was more than happy to have Norman Jay MBE gate crash the photo shoot.

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I think the first image is pretty cool in black and white. It needed some work on the sun glasses to remove the flash reflection and the scooter reflection. Image two I will probably submit as part of my city and guilds work. Image three was very rushed, the light had been moved and I was concentrating on that more than changing my aperture. That said, I think the slight softness, although not ideal, is acceptable. If its good enough for Pierre Bresson (I recently viewed some of his work in Piccadilly) then it is good enough for me. In image four I like the point of view but knew the mannequin behind my subject would be a problem. I wish I had the balls to just move it or at least have asked the stall holder to shift it for a couple of minutes. If I was using the image for anything I would naturally try to deal with the flash in the glasses and remove the few rain spots on Dennis’ parker. Thank you Dennis for being a patient model and thank you Norman Jay (MBE) for the guest appearance. As always, thank you for visiting my blog. Jim Jimmy James

The Pukes II

After shooting The Pukes in October 2014 while they recorded a music video I commented that I had some real issues getting clean usable shots and I would like the opportunity to get some better images.

Guess what?…… I was invited to shoot them again.

I’d like to think it was because they liked my work so much but I think it was probably because their usual photographer wasn’t available on Valentines Night.

Yep! Instead of taking my beautiful wife out for a romantic valentine dinner, we had an alternative valentine evening.

The brief was to take a handful of portraits, a couple of group shots and provide some live performance images…..Be set up for 18:30 for the portraits.

So I made a point of arriving early, I had a good walk around and scouted for good locations to take a few group shots. There was an estate across the road that had some lighting in a courtyard and a great wall with a couple of steps that could be used to make sure everyone was visible.

Along at the next corner was a small wall I could stand on if I had issues getting everyone in the image. I found a couple of back drops at the venue for the individual portraits, a black wall and a really nice wooden door.

I set up in the hope that I could take the individual portraits as band members arrived so that I could spend a bit of time with the individuals on a one to one basis in the hope of catching their personality in the portraits.

That is after all what we are aiming for as photographers.

That didn’t happen and some time later, about an hour (ish) they appeared and wanted to do the group photos first.

No problem, however after taking a couple of photos my flashes had stopped communicating with each other.

At this time in the evening it meant the steps were out of question as there was not enough light. Fortunately I had seen a loading bay at a local hotel and had asked the manager if it was posable to use the bay for ten minutes. Kindly he said yes.

I had anticipated that I might need a step and had put one in the car. As we walked one very short block to the hotel it was clear one or two of the band would not be happy to head into the estate or further along the road to the other wall.

After a couple of reasonably safe group shots in less than ideal light conditions it was now time to get the band into a few different positions in the hope of producing something they would find interesting and would be happy to use.

Oh my good god!!

I have a new respect for wedding photographers….. People look in different directions, blink, move and get distracted by onlookers…..“Hells teeth!” is the polite exclamation that rattled around my brain box when I was reviewing the images as we went along.

This is by no means the fault of any band members, they are human and it is just human behavior to be interested in your surroundings and to respond to comments and the distractions of onlookers. (Something I had given very little thought to).

Many of the shots had band members slightly obscured by one-another or by instruments. It didn’t matter how much I said “If you can’t see the lens, I can not see you”, it was just the nature of the shoot. Anyhow, we came away with a couple of images that looked nice in the back of the camera.

As far as camera settings go, I’d have preferred to use a more closed down aperture to ensure sharpness throughout the entire image but with one speed-light and having pushed the ISO as high as was acceptable I had to settle with what I would consider tolerable softness in focus for the people at the back of the photos.

The lead singer and primary front-members of the band are suitably sharp in the images.

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Onto the individual portraits and the lovely wooden door now had a shutter pulled down in front of it. Ahggrrrr!

So, the portraits were all going to be in front of the black painted brick wall. Probably just as well. It was getting colder and the band wanted to have time to relax prior to the gig and some naturally wanted to catch the first bands performance.

The portraits felt like a bit of a conveyer belt; getting a couple of shots with an outrageous but well made and decorated prop made by Esme, one of the band members and individual shots without the prop were very informal and relaxed.

Ideally I would have liked to take a few head and shoulder shots along with three quarter and full length portraits. But there just wasn’t time for this and I was still dwelling on the group shots and wondering if I’d captured at least one good image.

So due to the limited time and me stressing myself about the lights meant I most likely didn’t give enough of myself in order to get the portraits I would be really happy with. Not that I think there is anything wrong with the portraits. I just would have liked to have more time with the individuals to make sure I could capture not only something they would find flattering but an image that captures their personality.

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I managed to get a handful of live performance images but was mindful there was a paying audience so kept my time at the front of the stage to two songs and shot without flash.

The light wasn’t great for much of the time and a particularly high ISO was required.

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I really enjoyed my short time with The Pukes and thoroughly enjoyed the gig. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml1LDhgjQfo

Well after all of that, what did I learn? Actually, lots!

One useful suggestion from one of the ladies in the band was to give them a little count down to when I was going to press the shutter release button. I’m not sure who it was that shouted it out but it was invaluable and has been noted for the next time. That is if I ever put myself through the stress of large group shots again.

I’m only 5ft 8 & 3/4s (I’ve shrunk!) so I need a taller step.

A back up lighting system would be ideal but massively expensive and totally impracticable so looking for alternative spots near the location was a good idea and should be done for every shoot.

Be firm in regards to giving directions and I probably should have just suggested at least one of the other locations. A bit more confidence in my abilities and knowledge of what is needed to produce the best images.

Above all, I do not communicate well when I am being a stress monkey. I need to remember I am fairly pragmatic and that means I will find a way around problems, so I should relax and enjoy the moment. That will also help get the best results.

Special thanks to my better half for her help on the shoot, The Pukes, Peter the manager at RE hotel in Shoreditch and thank you to you for viewing my blog.

Jim Jimmy or James.

Learning New Tricks.

Camden is one of those places that at weekends if you were blind folded, given a stone and asked to throw it in some random direction you’d normally have a 50/50 chance of it hitting someone that looks interesting; be that their face, make up, hair or dress sense. Two weekends and a few hours on week day afternoons I spent there and all the goths, skins, mods, punks……….. where the hell was everyone? I had even gone to a few gig venues but only found people dressing with a kind of hybrid on the old youth cultures I grew up with. So I’m in Camden, it was cold and starting to get late so I decided it was time to head off (via a pub for a swift half and some food). Suddenly I heard the distinctive sound of a Vespa or Lambretta. I was certain it would be one of these hybrid-trendies. The scooter came around the corner and the rider was wearing a parker, looks promising I think to myself. As he passes I clock that he is wearing a crash helmet with the Trojan logo and a pair of DMs. The road goes to a super market, a petrol station or is a good point to turn around if you’d missed a turning. I waited to see where he was going and he headed into the petrol station to put air in his tyres. As I approached him I thought he’d be a great subject for a portrait. Hello mate I’m Jim, offered my hand and he introduced himself as Eddie as he shock my hand. I told him that I was learning photography and about a couple of projects I am doing. Fortunately Eddie was already aware of Flickr and his son in law is a photography assistant. I took a few shots of Eddie, close crop, half length and some with the scooter full in the frame. Whats new for me, learning about off camera flash. My first shot was over exposed and then the next was under exposed. Third shot onwards were all good. Also there is a little photoshopping but I hope it has enhanced the image. I usually use Lightroom to carry out adjustments but it just wasn’t doing the job. I knew photoshop would be a tool I would end up needing to use so I subscribed to Adobe Creative Cloud. Again, photoshop is new to me so I will learn how to get the most out of it with a little practice. In image one I didn’t like the flash on the black drainpipe, I felt that the label of the rodent trap was a little distracting and I really wasn’t keen on the air pump being in the shot.

Image pre photoshop  adjustments.

Image pre photoshop adjustments.

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Edit-1 with distractions removed from drainpipe and rat trap.

Edit 2 with air pump signage removed.

Edit 2 with air pump signage removed.

I am reasonably happy with the work I have done but will only really know how well it worked once I print the image. I emailed Eddie some jpegs and he very kindly offered me the opportunity to do some more photo sessions with him in the future. Thank you Eddie for your time and generous offer. As always, constructive comments are always welcome & thank you for visiting my blog. Kind regards, Jim Jimmy James

Update on my 100 strangers!

Well I said I would update this blog on how my 100 strangers project was going but I had no idea it would be this quickly.

The project is on Flickr and I don’t usually get more than a couple of hundred views over a few weeks and only occasionally get comments and feed back on the images.

Here is my stranger number four. Surprisingly to me, this portrait was picked up by Flickr Explore. I don’t really know much about them other than they pick images that are considered interesting.

What do they consider interesting? I’m also not too sure about that. I do know that being invited onto their page is held in high regard and it brings a lot of traffic to view the image.

Ordinarily if anyone comments or likes an image I try to visit their photo-stream with the intention of returning any complements, finding some inspiration and hopefully finding an image or description I can learn from.

The 100 strangers project has already been great for feed back but oddly, and this is why I am blogging an update on the project already.

In the album I only have four images and two of those have been shown In Explore.

The latest image has had over seven thousand views and currently has 79 favourites (That is like the ‘like button’ on wordpress and facebook).

The same happened a while ago on the Viewbug site.

The number of views and likes is small compared to many of the great photographers on Flickr but none the less its exciting to think that so many people have seen a portrait that I have taken. I feel very privileged to be invited to the ‘In Explore’ page and very flattered that so many people have kindly clicked the like button. It will be interesting to see how many more people view the image.

I’m not going to have time to visit all those pages but have visited a few and will select a few more to look through.

If you happen to be one of those that have taken the time to visit my images and even clicked like; Thank You.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James