Month: November 2013

Black and White

Someone whose opinion is valued suggested I should produce some black and white photography. 

I’ve always liked black and white images and like the graininess that can be seen with film images but I am not so sure digital black and white has the same effect. 

It still looks good and definitely appeals to me but its just not the same.

I do think good black and white photographers must see in black and white. I’ve said that before and the reason I say is because they seem to understand shapes and textures but maybe they just have a really good or tacit understanding of light. 

I’ve looked at a number of my pictures and converted them to black and white but have not been particularly keen on most of them. Many look flat, that seems to be the only way I can describe them and I’m wondering if this has something to do with the processing. Perhaps I just need to learn more about contrast and adjusting the colour channels. 

I was doing a little project looking at directional light and its effect on an image. I picked four images and converted them to black and white. They could all do with some magic computer trickery but as of yet I am only just coming to terms with the very basic of adjustments

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Initially when I took this photograph my intention was to capture some silhouettes. I played around with the camera settings and managed to get the images I set out to obtain. The image above is one of the first I took and while it is not a strict silhouette I have included it here simply because I like it. The lack of detail, increased contrast and subject makes this image feel old and not dateable. 

The next image was also taken with natural sunlight. When I took the photo I had hoped for some interesting textures and shadows but I think the sunlight being so strong made it difficult to capture what I could see. Some of the detail is missing and I think this might be the result of incorrect metering. I guess if I had metered for the ring finger I would have captured more detail. I also wonder if this image would be salvageable if I was knowledgable and proficient with photography software.

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I don’t know the proper term but when I set out to get this image I wanted to get some flare/glare from the sun. I wanted some bleached out areas and some elongated shadows so I headed out early-(ish) to make the most of a low sun. 

I kind of like the result although I’m sure with a bit more practice and patience I could do a lot better. None the less I’m happy with this as a first attempt and will revisit this another time.

I did chuckle trying to get this photo and many that have been out with a camera will sympathise. Normally the average person will stand and wait for people to move out of the shot so that we can get the picture of our loved one next to a land mark and the photo gets added to our holiday snaps. Yet we stand and stand and stand, patiently waiting and on these occasions it is usually busy and people just mill around. Almost like they are doing it deliberately. Generally they ignore that fact you are trying to take a photo and just stand around, in the way. (or is it just me they do this to?).

Anyway, I wanted people in this shot and I couldn’t believe how many people spotted that I was taking a photo and rather than typically getting in the way people kept getting out of the way and apologising. A little frustrating but actually very funny. (Even at the time).

The next image is the manageress of a pub in Waterloo, London. My first time playing with an off camera flash. 

I have made some adjustments to the image and am fairly happy with the result. However if there is one thing I would change it would be to lighten the shadow on the left side of her face. Again, this is something I do not know how to do (Yet!!) and an area I hope to learn about in the coming months. 

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As always, thank you for visiting and please feel free to leave comments.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James 

A little ill at ease.

I was out with my camera, I wanted to capture some street photography style images, maybe situational or environmental portraits.

As I was walking home from work I spotted this very pretty woman having some photos taken. I have no idea if this was a professional shoot for a product, magazine or if the model was paying the photographer to produce a portfolio.

I took a photo as I walked towards them because I liked the balance of the red poppies and her jacket. But I felt really very very uncomfortable taking the picture. Maybe this was because it felt a bit voyeuristic because of what she was pretty and what she was wearing but then if someone dresses like that in public I guess they should expect a few turned heads and a photo or two?

But I actually think it was the fact that she was posing on a war memorial that added to me feeling a little ill at ease? My intention was to take an image from the side and one from the front to see how the light was working. In any case, once it was clear this was a professional shoot I decided not to take anymore photos. After all, someones time was being paid for and I was not contributing.

I stopped and had a quick chat with the photographer and the model’s sister. They both seemed like nice folks and I got the impression that had I of asked to tag along and learn from them, I may have got lucky.

Erm, maybe I should expand on that and just clarify that I am happily married. Yeah yeah some of you out there will think those two words ‘Happily’ and ‘Married’ don’t belong in the same sentence but I do and am.

What I mean by “I might have got lucky” is that I think they might have said yes, carry some kit and they’d explain a bit about what and why they were doing certain things and I may have picked up some valuable tips on lighting, portraiture and fashion photography.

Perhaps they would have told me in no uncertain terms to “Foxtrot Oscar” (Polite way of saying….F@£* Off!!) I’m guessing Zack Arias  would say I missed an opportunity….. I think I missed an opportunity.

The reason I mentioned Zack Arias is because I discovered his blog. Well I was directed to it.

Questions and Answers.

Its very straight forward and massively helpful to read through. I emailed the man with a simple question and even though he had closed down the Q&A blog he got back to me. I say a simple question but its kind of simple if you already know the answer; I was looking for a bit of clarity which Mr. Arias kindly provided. So, Zack Arias is my newly found photographic hero. So much so that I will be buying his book  (Thats a subtle hint to anyone that might be thinking about buying me a christmas present).

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Is it okay to gate crash a pro shoot?

Is it okay to take a slightly voyeuristic photo? Is that what street photography is??

If I felt a bit uncomfortable with them using the war memorial as a location should I have said something?

Maybe its okay to use this location because any images using poppies in this form highlights the work of the British Legion?

I’m really torn about the image and would like to know what you think?

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Jim Jimmy James.

999 Whats Your Emergency?

I had to take four portraits that are all linked. As a theme I opted for the emergency services that operate within the City of London. City Police, London Ambulance Service, London Fire Brigade and The Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

The later not being an official emergency service but very much considered one by those unfortunate enough to require their services.

My first portrait is of Paul, a police officer with the city of London constabulary. He told me he always wanted to join the police since his childhood. He also gave me some of the history behind the city police. Naturally the city had some form of policing in the Roman times but interestingly the current police helmet takes its shape from the first Roman centurions that policed the city. In old London people were poor (You might argue that not much has changed) and they would have few if any changes of clothes, So the unique red and white chequered sleeve and cap bands worn by the city police officers was used in ye oldie days to show when an officer was on duty.

In London and much of Britain there is some distrust of the police (I get the impression that this is not an issue isolated to the UK), however when discussed in any depth it appears that the general consensus is that much of this distrust is the result of a very few rotten apples or is the result of negativity from individuals that have done something to come to the attention of the police (I’m talking about within the UK). Traffic officers are particularly harshly judged. I think most would agree that in the UK we are fortunate to have a police force that is for the most part transparent, trustworthy, uncorrupted and dedicated.

City Police Officer and old Police Phone.

My next portrait is of Chris, a Paramedic who works primarily on the Motorcycle Response Unit. He is a fully qualified Paramedic and has the same skills as the Paramedics that work in London’s statutory ambulances. However as a motorcycle Paramedic he has had to complete a police motorcycle response course, is assessed annually and is required to re-qualify his riding skills every three to five years. There are only around Forty Paramedics in London that are trained to respond on motorcycles and this means with their shift patterns there can be as few as six to ten on call.

Undertaking the training and education to become a Paramedic was a complete change of career for Chris whose previous jobs were not  related to medical profession.

The motorcycle unit in London has been running for twenty-one years and is able to negotiate and make progress through London’s congested roads quicker than a traditional ambulance.

A report by the London Ambulance Service suggested that cardiac arrest survival rates were in the region of thirty percent higher if a motorcycle paramedic attended a cardiac arrest call.

This is most likely to be due to quick defibrillation and CPR.

A number of city police cars also carry defibrillators and most, if not all of the tube and train stations have public access defibrillators.

I’m informed that since the MRU was set up, paramedics on the motorcycle response unit have attended every major incident within London.

Paramedic Chris. One of the few paramedics in London to respond on motorcycles. 

My third portrait is a firefighter called Jim. He has been a fire-fighter for a number of years and has  followed family members that joined before him. Spending a short time talking to Jim it was clear that he is a down to earth chap that is proud of his job and doing something valuable for his community.

Within London the fire brigade have been particularly successful at fire safety and prevention. This along with building regulations has made London a much safer place to live. My personal opinion is that the fire service is a victim of its own success; that because London is safer and we see fewer large scale or fatal fires our Government feels safe to make cuts and changes to the service.

The fire service also attends a number of calls such as road traffic collisions alongside their police and paramedic colleagues.

I’d prefer to have Paramedics, Police and Fire-Fighters sitting around waiting for calls rather than those services being cut, overstretched and potentially delayed.

Jim. London Fire Fighter based near the River Thames. 

My final portrait is another Chris. A full time member of the RNLI. Not to be mistaken as part of the coastguard. Chris is based on The River Thames and spent much of his working life on and around our waterways and shores. 

The RNLI is funded heavily through charitable donations and they attend a range of calls from people not checking the tide times and becoming stranded on one of the Thames bank beeches, various maritime emergencies such as persons taken unwell on boats, industrial injuries or persons that have either accidentally or deliberately ended up in the river. The day I visited the RNLI under Waterloo bridge they had attended 449 incidents so far this year (2013).
Since they set up on the Thames in 2002 they have received 4780 call outs and saved 267 lives. They have very specific parameters for what they consider a saved life and what is then added to their statistics. This is something I should have asked more about and assume this only includes persons pulled from the water. I imagine the figure would be higher if it included people taken from vessels with life threatening medical emergencies and handed over to the ambulance service.

As a charity funded organisation that plays such an important role in my city I was very surprised to hear that they pay business rates and rent on the space they occupy and use of utilities.

I think there is something fundamentally wrong with this. The river Thames has three lifeboat stations. If you would like to make a donation  you’d be helping keep our rivers and coasts safe.

Chris on duty with the RNLI. At the side of The River Thames on a wet, cold and very miserable day.  

Taking these portraits was challenging because I really wanted to capture good images of these dedicated and hard working people. There were time constraints. Not set by the individuals or their organisations but by the likelihood of them receiving a call out and the opportunity to photograph them being lost.If you’d like more information on any of the organisations please look up the relevant web pages.

I am actually reasonably happy with the images I have taken and would like to say a massive thank you to Paul, Chris, Jim and Chris for their time and agreeing to be photographed.

I hope they have long and safe careers.

Finally, thank you for stopping by and having a look at my images.

Jim Jimmy James.

Learning to see.

Okay so photography is about composition and having a different view on the real world. Its about learning to see things a little differently. Its about learning to see.

For example I was challenged to spell my name by photographing everyday objects but without photographing preformed letters.

I’m not going to post the full Jim Jimmy James…. We all know how boring that could be.

Its fair to say though, I found it an interesting challenge and found myself looking for the entire alphabet. But fear not, I will not be posting  A through to Z; just James.

That will be more than enough to give you an idea of what I mean and then you can go out into the big bad world and stare at it as intently as I did.

If you do give it a go, be aware of the people around you. Personally I found some of the extremely baffled and inquisitive looks highly amusing.

But on a serious note, someone on the short course I have signed up to found himself in a position that could have gone horribly wrong when two less than desirable chaps wanted to relieve him of his camera. Fortunately the would be pilfering pests didn’t get away with any of his photography kit and equally fortunate that the toe-rags (Thats keeping it very very very polite) were a pair of cowards and didn’t cause him any harm either.

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‘J’…. A park bench arm rest.

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‘A’… Small section of a fence.

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‘M’… this was taken from a large metal gate.

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‘E’…. fairly obviously once you start looking and get the old box into that mind set.(Traffic lights!).

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‘S’… A manky old pipe in an underground car park.

Thanks to Charlotte Ashworth Photographer and lecturer at Morley College for the very big nudge in the right direction to start looking… Learning to see.

I currently have no links for Charlotte’s own work but once I do, I shall share it.

Thanks for taking a peek at my photography diary and I hope to see you here again soon.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James.

Where am I going?

I read a blog article by ‘C-Nic’; actually the article was by Cheryl Jacobs Nicolai. “C-Nic” is actually reference to this article which got me wondering where I want to go with my photography and if I’m doing it right?

So far I have enjoyed the weekly challenges on my 52 week Flickr group as this has forced me into learning how the camera works. 

I also couldn’t believe it when I was notified by ViewBug that one of my photos was in the top thirty for a competition and given an ‘Outstanding’ award by one of the judges. I only entered out of interest and hoped to get some feedback rather than thinking I had any chance of winning against experienced photographers.  

As expected, I didn’t win. I didn’t even place in the runners up group or probably have any chance of being voted the peoples choice. I could say its because the picture does not fit the standard for concert photography but then I would be falling into the circle that CJ refers to in her article which has made me think that perhaps I should try and get an idea of where I want to go with my photography rather than just tinkering about with my camera. Maybe its time to think about a genre of photography? Maybe I should just carry on as I am; after all, although the genres have their own unique problems they all have important factors in common.  

For example; the image from ViewBug may not be super sharp or of a quality we commonly see in our glossy magazines, but the composition does tell a story and that is in part what I think photography is about. 

The image called “The New View” is very much what gigs are like in this modern era of digital compact cameras and smart phones. When I was younger I used to get in the mosh pit and burn off so much energy that I never needed gym membership. Now its a bit of a mix of moshing and standing to one side to watch and listen to the show. But it seems a large number of people miss the real experience of the gig because they spend the entire show watching it through a tiny LCD monitor and actually stopping everyone else from seeing the full events unfolding on stage. 

So my picture tells a story and was noticed by one of the judges. 

Thats good enough for me.

So where am I going with photography? Am I doing it right? Am I heading along the right path to maybe being able to sell an image one day? Is that even what I want to be doing? 

I can honestly say I have no idea; Not a scooby.

I’m enjoying the learning process and I kind of guess thats all that matters at the moment. 

As my “Outstanding ViewBug Award” was for gig photography and this is my photo learning curve diary I guess a few recent concert shots would be appropriate. 

The following images were taken at The Borderline, London. October 2013. 

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Thank you for visiting and please feel free to comment. 

 Jim Jimmy James