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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Rejected image

Please take a look at this image.

Take your time and critique it (to yourself for now).

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This is one of my rejected images that I wrote up for my city & guilds submissions.

If you have finished having a look at the photograph I will tell you why I rejected the image………

Firstly I will say that when I first looked at this image on my computer I loved it. I felt I had caught a really nice portrait and I was really pleased. Actually I was chuffed!

  • The model is slightly off when using the rule of thirds. That was intentional but as other images were not slightly offset, would the examiner really know the intent of the composition. Probably not.

If I had three or four images slightly offset this would show intent and the composition would be perfectly acceptable.

Naturally rules are there to be broken. However, not when I don’t want little things to distract from the image and my grades.

  • The wall paper has damage or creases.

Obviously this is something that can be easily rectified.

  • The chair rail is not totally straight.

To be fair I could live with that and again, it is an easy fix.

  • Some loss of detail in the black areas but hey, its supposed to be in the mood of film noir so thats okay and not really a problem.
  • The image was taken in landscape view and not in portrait view.

Well, every image was shot in landscape to show intent.

Many were also shot around the 30-40mm range. Again to show intent.

Unfortunately only once the image was printed did I notice the false perspective of the models left hand.

That was the point that I felt the image had to be discarded from the final selection.

I suspect you spotted all of those and perhaps one or two or three or more others.

I like the light, the depth of field, the composition, the catch light in my models eyes; generally speaking I like the pose and her playing with the pearls but I kept seeing the hand and feeling negative about the image.

Please feel free to take another look and critique it openly this time (constructive comments are always welcome).

You could also head over to my flickr page to see more images.

Thanks for visiting.

Jim Jimmy James

Getting close up.

I had a little feedback at college the other evening.

I was told that the work I show in class is good but I don’t take enough shots.

The teacher then went on to say that although I achieve what I’ve set out to get within a few frames he is not sure whether to complement or criticise me.

Friends that have been persuaded to model for me have been surprised at the time and effort that had gone into setting up my latest project (I will show these in a couple of weeks) but they have also voiced their surprise at how few shots I take and how quickly I have wrapped up the shoots.

I have been liked to someone shooting expensive film that doesn’t want to waste it.

I think that was also the teachers point. With digital I can play around and explore the different compositions without extra cost……. Experiment!

So in class we were asked to set up some lights and they had a model show up for a couple of hours; Actor: Mr Robin George.

I think this was to get us used to working with people we do not know and to start directing our subject.

I took some safe shots then took on board what I had been told about taking more frames.

I decided to go for the shots I don’t think my friends would be so keen on……. getting up close.

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Feel free to leave comments on the blog page or the ‘contact me’ page.

Thanks for visiting.

Jim Jimmy James

Contacting Me

A friend had a look at some images I recently printed for my city & guilds project and commented that he would happily hang them on his wall at home.

A great coffee shop has also asked me to provide them with some photographs of their local area.

I have had some interest in my concert photography; some of my portraits have been overwhelmingly popular and I was recently asked about taking some portraits to be used for a couple of people to use as their professional on-line profiles.

The conversation with my friend progressed and it was clear that while I am not in a position to take on photography as a primary source of income, the above requests are well within my capabilities.

My friend then raised the question of how someone would buy any prints or hire me.

Well, people would get in contact and ask me.

How?

Through my blog on Flickr and twitter!

How?……. Okay, I am not going to give you a word for word account of the conversation but the upshot is that my friend spotted something that I did not think about.

Up until today I did not have a contact page.

I have had some emails from people but I suppose they have had to search out how to contact me. So to make life a lot easier I now have a contact section on my blog.

So if you’ve wanted to comment on a post privately or have any enquiries please use my new ‘contact page’.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James