Busy but still plugging away.

It feels like ages since I last posted anything.

I’ve not gone away, I have just been busy with those life things (like work) that get in the way of us doing the things we want to do.

I have also been loosely planning a 50/50 project. 50 images on a 50mm lens in 50 days. I’d like to give this a go but need to have a few ideas in my head and maybe even a note book. Otherwise I will just be taking random shots and not learning from the challenge.

I have also been helping an artist with a long term project of theirs. They studied at St Martins and is still moving forward with a long term project with particular links through differing themes.

This time in the style of ‘film noir’. He had seen my work and asked me to take part.

I am not in a position to show any shots that might make the final selection but I can show you a couple of images taken on location while checking exposures and looking at the background environments.

Sunny!

This is a man made beach in Brent Cross. Situated along the A406, near the M1 and A41. It has a huge shopping centre and the local environment is fairly industrial looking. Not wanting the surrounding area to spoil the aesthetic of the images was a really good exercise in composition.

IMG_0261

This image does not tie in with the overall feel and theme of what was being shot on the day but does link in with my previous noir images. I took the opportunity to make this image while the next shoot was being set up.

I’m normally pretty critical of my own work but I actually really like this photograph.

I think the position the image was taken in, the simplicity, contrast of the main subject against the sand and cleanness of the shadow give it a movie still feel that I like a lot.

However, for me the key element is the tension I feel as a viewer. As the photographer this surprises me but I look at the image and find myself asking what is going on just out of the frame.

This feels like one of my most rewarding photographs I have taken. So based on that, for once I am not going to ask for any critique from you.

I have also visited a couple of exhibitions and popped into a handful of shops.

Tailor Mark Powell has some great portraits on his wall at the moment. They were taken from a photographer local to The Soho area of London.

I have also visited Getty Images and been to The National Portrait Gallery to see Audrey Hepburn portraits of an icon. 

So I haven’t been far. Just busy but still plugging away.

Thanks for visiting.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

Book Review #6

Speedlights & Speedlites: Creative Flash Photography at Lightspeed. (Sec Ed). By Lou Jones, Stephen Ostrowski & Bob Keenan. Published by Focal Press.

First off, the disclaimer!

At the time of purchasing this book I knew nothing of the authors. I do not know the authors & I do not personally know anyone that has published books on photographic lighting.

This review is based on my own opinion and no payment has been received.

I was looking for a book on lighting because I was undertaking a film noir project & wanted to learn more about getting the best results from my flash gun. (now guns!).

The title and the rear sleeve suggested to me that this was going to be an instructional book. A very brief look at a couple of pages showed some lighting diagrams, so I assumed this book would be suitable for getting me started.

I was quickly disappointed as I realised the book was not going to meet my expectations.

I think the title is misleading in that I found the images uninspiring and for the most part not particularly creative. However, although the images used may not be considered masterpieces, they do illustrate the authors intensions. Combined this with the lighting diagrams and the overall layout, I can see why some may find this book useful.

The book was a little repetitive in telling the reader to get the flash off camera and stating how convenient ETTL/TTL is to use.

There are a couple of pages on batteries and light modifiers that were interesting but this felt very much like an add on to fill a couple of pages at the end of the book.

I can’t say that I read any groundbreaking tips and hints in this book.

The big question is: Would I recommend it? To be honest, its one of those yes & no answers.

Its not what I would call an essential read and I would suggest asking your library to get a copy rather than buying one.

It certainly wasn’t worth the £23 I paid for it and I’m not sure I would consider it value for money even if it was only £8.

My money would have been better spent if I had put it towards the fee for a one day flash lighting course.

While the authors may well be competent photographers, have a wealth of knowledge & experience, regrettably this is not a book that I will be keeping for future reference.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy JamesB

Blue Moon (& Other things in the sky!)

Not the song but the thing up in the sky that is responsible for tides and stuff like that. The big thing in the sky that mankind has supposedly flown to and had a little stroll on.

I’m not into astrology but I’m told tonights moon is special and is known as a blue moon.

You might have heard of the saying “once in a blue moon” and like me not actually realised that we do have a blue moon!

I’m told it is when we have a full moon twice in one month; very rare!

Those that deal with the public on night shift, nurses, paramedics, police and so on will have had a very special two nights as the full moon reportedly affects peoples behaviour.

I thought I’d try and photograph this second full moon tonight.

I didn’t do too well. Partly because I only have a 200mm lens so the moon looks tiny.

It was however a good opportunity to try something new. What did surprise me was that the better photos were taken on faster shutter speeds. That was not what I expected. Neither did I expect a smaller aperture to make a big difference.

IMG_6111

There is a very obvious lack of detail in this moon although I still like it. Other images were blown out even more and lacking any sharpness. The second image taken with a narrower aperture has slightly more detail

IMG_6116

Now onto the other things in the sky……… As a kid in primary school I would sit for ages looking at the clouds, seeing faces, horses, all sorts of things. My mates and I had good imaginations. This is something I suspect and hope most of us have done at some stage of our life.

When I uploaded my blue moon photos onto my lap top I immediately spotted this head silhouette. Made me smile & reminded me of happy carefree days.

IMG_6130

Thanks for stopping and looking at my photos. Now pop out and look upwards at The Blue moon & other things in the sky.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

City & Guilds Photography, Level Two, Part Two.

So my first submission was based on portraits.

For part two we had the same options again, portraits, landscapes, still life and so on…….

I don’t like labels and am aware that the gig photography or portraits are my stronger areas.

Although portraiture was a complete accident and a total surprise to me that I enjoy it.

Anyway, I wanted to move away from these areas and try something a little different. I also wanted to really challenge myself to learn about lighting.

So we are in class and the teacher asks people what they want to do. So far he hasn’t really questioned anyones decisions and then he gets to me.

“How about you Jim, what are you thinking of doing?”

Really I want to do a mix of things, I am happy with my first submission and confident that whatever I pick, if I screw it up, the first images would be strong enough to at least guarantee a pass grade.

Being me (Apparently a typical Aries…If you believe in that stuff) I don’t want to do one thing…. My reply was more of a question; because with tutor approval you can step outside of the suggested genres.

“Can I do some landscape/cityscapes, portraits and still life?”

The poor teacher has had to put up with me for two terms and I can see him thinking to himself ‘where is he going with this’. He asks me how I plan on tying the different images together.

I suggest ‘Film Noir’. I get a smirk from the lecturer who says “Go on then, lets see what you can do”.

Instantly I think I have made a huge mistake. But I have to say I loved this project so much and had a massive learning cure.  Not only technically with the camera and lights but with UK firearms regulations, having to be creative and getting organised.

Due to time constrains I was unable to complete all the images I had planned. I was finding it difficult to find particular props and rather than rigidly sticking to the 1940s and 50s film noir props I had to improvise and settle for the overall mood and feel of those classic movies.

Due to the time of year I was unable to arrange for friends to get city scape shots. Yes cityscapes don’t need people but this is Film Noir, I need shadows, silhouettes and so on. I guess I could have taken some without people and they would have added an element of suspense and danger but I had my plans…… So the long days and light evenings defeated me with regards to that aspect of the planned cityscape submissions.

Budget also played a big factor. I would love to have time and a budget suitable to tackle this project again.

One or two of the still life images may have been posted earlier; prior to making my final submission. Some of the images didn’t make it into the final submission because I wasn’t happy with them or I had stronger images.

As with my portrait post I am going to post two examples of the work produced:

IMG_7366

The image above did not make it in to the final body of work. I do like it and think it has all the right touches of Le Femme Fatale from the era. The silhouette of legs going up the stairs only add some mystery and intrigue to the image.

I was torn between this and another image, my C&G photography peers helped me select a couple of images.

You can see the stronger image that was chosen from this shoot on my flickr page.

FN15

As you can see from image one and two (Along with other images taken in the series) lighting was an important element for the project. I learned a huge amount and feel like I have only just scratched the surface of how to sculpt an image with light.

I hope you like these enough to visit flickr and see the other images.

If you are wondering what grades I got; it was a distinction for submission one and…….. distinction for submission two.

I’m not really sure how the grades work to be honest. I have seen some people call it a ‘double distinction’ but I think the overall grade is just a distinction. Thats good enough for me.

One last thank you to everyone that modelled & provided props. Without you it would not have gone so well. Thanks also to everyone that provided feed back and encouragement. Especially Mrs.M. PJ. & my working photographer friends, Teacher & Classmates whose blogs and work and be found by clicking the links: PJ, Caz, Seb, Ian, Tim, Matt, Hannah, Paul & Sara.

As always, thanks for looking. Constructive feed back and your thoughts on my photographs are welcome.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

City and guilds Photography, Level Two, Part One.

I have finished my city and guilds in photography.

This had two main submissions. In each case there were topic areas such as still life, landscape and portraiture.

There were no set in stone rules so landscapes could be the more traditional mountains and fields or could be city-scapes. The only stipulation was that the topic area and theme had to be agreed by the tutor.

For theme one I opted for portraiture of people in the age range of forty-plus years but specifically those with a strong visual identity relating to street styles, youth cultures and sub-cultures that I grew up with through the 1970’s into the 1990s.

The vast majority of the people I photographed were strangers and it took a bit of effort on my part to approach them.

Only one person declined which surprised me. The remainder seemed either bemused or flattered.

Although most were happy for me to use the images in any way I wanted, some have stipulated that they would be happy for me to take their portrait and use prints for my course work but they did not want them published in any public forum.

I was able to photograph some Punks, Skinheads, Mods, Scooterists, Rockabillies and Rudies but didn’t find the full range of street cultures that I wanted to.

This was partly because of the time of year and there being no major events that would bring large numbers of particular groups together. I also had some issues around time management; primarily having a full time job that involves some rather unsocial shift patterns.

The dark nights and poor weather meant that when I did spot someone I wanted to photograph it was in poor outdoor lighting or inside pub/club/concert venues.

I found that this restricted me a little as I did not have a good working knowledge of using small off camera flash or lighting modifiers. Going to some of the venues I wanted to travel light and not be weighted down by having lots of kit.

The following two portraits are examples of the work I submitted.

IMG_0331

Biker at The Ace Cafe in London.

I suspected I would find one or two bikers at The Ace but did not expect to get any portraits. The only person to decline was a Hells Angel patch wearer. I have limited knowledge of this group but know they keep themselves to themselves and for that reason I suspected he would say no. No harm in asking and his refusal was never going to be any skin of my nose.

Its a shame he declined but I fully unerstand his reluctance and distrust.

So, I was at The Ace and was actually looking for people with a classic 1940s 1950s rockabilly look.

This biker arrived and looked like he would fit with exactly what I was looking for and fortunately he agreed to be photographed. Once we chatted for a little while it turned out that we had mutual friends in the past and that I may have even been at a couple of venues that his sister occasionally frequented.

The problems I had taking this portrait were the strong contrasting light, I wanted to hint at our location without making the location as equally important as my subject, The Biker.

The location was getting busy and I was limited with composition options and didn’t want to capture people in the background wearing more routinely accepted clothing. That would have ruined the aesthetic of my shoot and removed the impact of my models style and genre.

My next subject is a Mod.

I had been to a number of locations where they are known to meet but again due to the time of year and weather, not very much was going on.

I had met and spoken to several people from the Mod scene but many were a kind of oasis style brit pop hybrid of the real McCoy. Some had the right jacket but the wrong shirt, the clothes but not the right attitude and so on.

To be honest I was struggling until I met David and his good lady who agreed to be photographed.

They both looked the part, not only in what they were wearing but also their confidence and demeanour.

I opted to submit this portrait as I felt it was the strongest of the images that I took with them.

IMG_5755

I was very lucky to have meet some really nice people and everyone that modelled for me were simply awesome, relaxed easy going, a dream to direct and just made my job effortless.

Each person that agreed to be photographed were sent jpegs and it is my intention to invite them all to a private showing so they can see the collection in its entirety as well as have a glass or two of wine.

If anyone of the people modelling for me happen to see this, I’d just like to say thank you again. Without you there would have been no project. What ever your genre……. Keep The Faith.

My second project theme was Film Noir. If you’d like a quick preview of some of those images before I make my diary entry, a handful have been uploaded to flickr.

Thanks for visiting and as always your opinions are always welcome.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

Diversity

At college we were asked to print a large poster sized image that was going to be displayed along side images from other photographers attending the college.

It was really good to see the diversity of subjects shot. Although I think it would have also been nice if the lecturers had displayed an image that they’d taken over the year.

Anyway, I was thinking about diversity and style.

I have been told a few times by a few people that I have a consistency with my portraiture and gig photography. This is intended as a compliment and very much taken as one.

It may be true amongst my own peer group but I suspect in the wider world of photography my images would not necessarily carry a definite style that would be associated or credited directly to me. Naturally I would love someone to look at an image and say “that looks very much in the style of JJJ’s portraiture”. I’m a very long way off from that & I think it is something that just happens, we find our feet, capture what we like, when we like, how we like and then develop & process those images to our personal taste.

Some advice I was given was to do what I want to do; what I like rather than try to conform to ‘the norm’. Not to do what I think people will like or want to buy, but, to do what I do and let the people that like what I do find me.

I think this is good advice to maintain an enjoyment of photography. However, to sell images, either to cover costs of equipment and trips or time and effort, certainly to make a living, there is also a need to produce and be able to consistently produce images that a wider audience can appreciate.

Where am I going with all of this….. well, along with my class mates I took about eight images to college and had to select one for the end of year exhibition.

The image that was picked was a gig photo, black and white, high contrast with low key lighting. It was also a bit gritty with the subject being heavily tattooed and looking a bit rough & ready.

The image was selected because my peers felt that this best summed up the images they are used to seeing from me. Its not the one I intended to go with but I’m actually really pleased that its the one I had printed.

Why?

Because its the one I had the most fun getting. It was also, by far the most challenging to take.

I guess I should post it? I will.

My class were surprised at the other images I had brought along; a swan, landscape, still life…….. Its kind of nice to be pigeonholed into a particular genre and style but the truth is that I take a range of photographs in a range of styles because I think selecting a diverse subject matter will ultimately improve my images.

It would also be nice to produce images that would fit into the stock photography bracket and this is something I will have a look at towards the end of the year.

Below is the live performance photograph that was printed and displayed at college:

Oi! Roi!

Below is a still life that I did not take as one of my selections but I feel still has a slight dark and gritty element that I like.

IMG_9657I

I wish digital photography had the same feel as film. I’d love to shoot film but its an expense that I can not justify.

Two further still life images follow. There is some further editing that should be done but I have included them just as examples of stuff I have been working on.

IMG_0585

A number of things could be changed in this image. I could have ironed the backdrop or dealt with the creases post production. I could have selected bananas that were more yellow and some fruits that was a little less natural without dents and marks. However, the fruit was bought to be eaten and not with the intention to be photographed.

IMG_0587-Edit

The cropping on this image is a little tight and there are a few other obvious little tweaks I would make. Again the food was not selected to be photographed but to be eaten. Very nice it was too.

Fortunately everything I have done around photography has been a really fun learning experience. Some of it has been a little stressed but still fun & I hope to see even more of an improvement over the next year.

As always, feel free to comment, email, add constructive criticism and thank you for stopping by.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

You can See, Like and Comment on images at My flickr account

What to keep & what to delete…….

One thing I have not learned over this last year is to back up my files. I’ve been told time & time again but as of yet I have not really done very much about it.

This is probably because I have been lucky and not lost huge amounts of images or documents.

However it is something I am going to do over the next week.

The reason I have had to have a rethink on this is because I delete loads of images once I have finished with them…. gasps of horror I can hear being echoed as you’ve read that.

You might even have given your eyes a rub and re-read it to make sure you weren’t seeing things.

Some of my class mates also had looks of disbelief. Firstly that I don’t back up my images when it is so easy to do and also that I delete so many.

The thing is, I remove them to save space on my laptop. Yes Yes I know…. external storage. Like I said, I’m on it next week.

What has happened to make me document it to the www today?

Well, as I have said all along, this blog is my photography diary.

Today I wanted to find a couple of portraits I took a while ago; there are two reasons:

First off, the person is well known in certain circles and has a web page. It wouldn’t have done me any harm to send him a couple of jpegs in the hope that he would publish them to his page with a link to my work.

Hey, I’m just being honest & the reality is that is how it works. I want some exposure. Tell me a photographer that doesn’t….. Okay maybe a police officer in the forward intelligence team (FIT) doesn’t but that is an entirely different ball game.

Secondly and actually the primary reason I wanted to find the images was to re-edit them.

I have a better understanding of white balance, I have discovered the skin retouching tool in Lightroom & I just think I am equipped to do a better job with the photographs.

They were already of a good standard but I still think they could be improved.

Alas, that is not going to happen.

They must have been amongst some of the many images that I removed from my library.

The other thing I really need to look at next week is cataloging my images.

Personal tip to myself & any new/old photographers: Delete less & keep more.

Thanks for reading.

Jim Jimmy James.