Month: November 2014

Photographic dilemma.

This is just a very short clip about Gordon Parks. It was part of a WordPress article by Photofocus.

There is a nice little story that starts at about 4 mins 30 secs into the interview and it reminds me of starting my first basic dSLR course. I managed to get a lucky break and was invited to photograph a DJ at the birthday party of an England rugby player.

I had no idea what I was doing with the camera and I didn’t have the knowledge or confidence to overcome the challenges of such a difficult environment. (Night Club setting). That was back in September last year.

While there I had an opportunity to photograph some people of interest but chose not to. I blogged about this at the time and made comment on how it would have been inappropriate of me to misuse the generous opportunity given to me by the DJ…..Its not what I was there for and I’d like to think if I approached this DJ again he would remember the integrity shown.

Soon after this event I also took some images of a number of street homeless and was asked by one female not to use anything where her face was showing. This is because she was escaping an abusive relationship. When I arrived home I deleted all the images with her face in view so that I never run the risk of using them in the future.

In both situations I would do the same again, it seems like the ethical thing to do.

Gordon Parks talks very briefly about trust. Since first picking up a camera I always thought integrity plays an important role in the responsibility of photographers and hoped that I wouldn’t get caught up in some dilemma about what to publish and what not to. For the most part I have not had any real concerns; I did feel uncomfortable taking some of my candid stranger shots but I get the impression everyone goes through this.

Now the following picture I took in Köln. It just looked like it would be a reasonably nice candid shot of a couple in a bar that I was going to use as part of a project on Flickr.IMG_4512-2

Then all of a sudden I had a little wobble regarding the ethics in photography.

What is the story inside this image? I don’t know, they are strangers.

What is the story I want you the viewer to see? Again, I don’t know. I just thought the light and the mood would make a nice image so I took a photo.

What if they are not a couple but have respective partners – husband or wife at home. What if they are a couple and ………. you see where I am going.

The image could tell a story of two friends, two colleagues, two busy people, a couple or an extra marital liaison.

I have no issue taking the image, its a public place. I am not betraying their trust because I know nothing of them, I don’t know who they are. Its just a candid shot of two strangers.

However, I wouldn’t want one of my images to cause any home disruptions so maybe I shouldn’t use it.

Then I throw into the mix the actual odds of either of these people or anyone that knows them seeing this image; yes I know that even though it is a different country the world is a much smaller place with technology, but the odds are pretty slim. However its now a dilemma because I gave it so much thought.

I shared my feelings on this with my fellow students on a class forum that is unfortunately not very active. Only one student replied. Her conclusion was pretty much the same as mine. Its in public go ahead and use it but if anyone can prove it is them and asks for it to be removed; remove it.

It took me a long time to come to that conclusion and I still wonder if it is really that simple.

The only other option is to stop photographing people and you’re all far too interesting for that to happen.

Thanks for stopping and reading.

Jim Jimmy James

Travelling light…with a light!

This is a follow up from my previous post regarding traveling light.

A recent visit to Barcelona left me thinking I should have brought more lenses with me.

After asking what the best set up is for a photographer to travel light, a few people have suggested a 35mm lens for street style photography and it is looking increasingly like a prime 35 is going to find its way into my kit bag.

However, sometimes its about taking an image that is further away and needing at least a 200mm focal length.

I also found that in some places I wished I’d had a tripod. Huh! I actually took one away with me but then I didn’t want to carry it around everywhere.

So moving on from the holiday snaps to gig photography. When I read about concert photography it seems to me that the ideal set up is two cameras with two different focal length lenses. After all there are numerous reasons you don’t really want to be changing lenses in front of a stage.

At gigs the light ranges from less than ideal to total crap and in many mid to large sized venues the general rule is “Three songs – No flash”. Non the less I have learned a valuable lesson…… Take a bloody flash with you!

When do you get invited back stage to hang out with a band?

When do you get an opportunity to photograph a band getting ready back stage?

When do you get a chance to get a good back stage portrait?

Not often but it can and did happen…. The Adicts are a punk band that have been around for years. I am in my mid 40s and I remember some of their songs since my late-ish teenage years.

I’ve always said that until I started learning to play bass and guitar that I was blinkered in my music taste and preferred old ska, two tone and the more heavy punk bands such as The Anti-Nowhere and so on.

I only really knew The Adicts from songs on the radio, friends mix tapes (Mix Tapes a thing of the past!) and one or two compilation albums. I liked their stuff but unfortunately they were never on my radar as a band I had to see.

I say unfortunately because I have missed out on years of great showmanship. A friend recently asked me to go and see them at The 100 club in London but I couldn’t make it. So I first watched them perform live in Berlin this year and was blown away. Musically tight, a bunch of lads on stage looking like they were loving every minute of it and visually…. How do I describe them visually?

A mix of clockwork orange and the joker, with a hint of mardi gras they were colorful and theatrical. Maybe it would be best described as comedia dell’arte.

I didn’t take many photos because I was so distracted I just wanted to watch the show unfold. Simply Brilliant!

I’ve been keeping an eye out for them performing in London since that first live show… Nothing.

So, my wife and I had some time off, we had plans to see a bit more of Germany at sometime and The Adicts were playing in Wiesbaden. That was it. We didn’t need another reason, tickets booked and off we went.

The venue was heaving and I had no chance of making my way along the front of the stage to try and get any images. As with the previous gig, the lively crowed were all singing along and the show was spectacularly spectacular.

There was of course the added bonus of being invited back stage with permission to take some images….. Great but guess what? I was travelling light with no bloody flash!!!!!

I took a handful of images back stage but the light was so dim it required a high ISO setting which left the images extremely noisy. Some could be saved with a quick black and white conversion but others will require a bit more practice with the post processing fine tuning.

I managed to get a few reasonable shots of the gig but it was difficult not to put the camera down and go and join in the fun with the audience. I have to say that I will definitely be seeing The Adicts perform again and they are at the top of my list of bands as a “Must See Band”.

Back stage with The Adicts. The only half decent light was over a broken seat.

Back stage with The Adicts. The only half decent light was over a broken seat.

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On a personal note, they couldn’t have been more friendly, welcoming and engaging.

Sincere and warm hearted thanks to Monkey and the rest of The Adicts for their hospitality.

(Gents, if you happen to see this and you need a UK based photographer….)

Lesson learned: Travel light but take a light!

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James.

Love locks

Love locks create some debate; some hate them and some love them.

The idea is to symbolise a couples eternal love. Some don’t like the idea and would argue that they find it a symbol of oppression.

My personal opinion is that these love locks are simply a modern version of carving yours and your lovers initials or name into a tree or an old park bench. Is that romantic or just a simple act of vandalism?

Some cities remove the love locks and others just leave them alone. There are arguments that they are a form of vandalism and I have read articles suggesting the extra weight causes structural problems to these fences and bridges.

I can definitely understand removing locks if they are causing damage or weakness to structures and also when they are placed on beautiful or ornate bridges but on a recent visit to Köln (Cologne) we walked across a love lock bridge that crossed The Rhine; I think they added to the aesthetics of what would be a boring mesh pale green fence.

Love locks on a pedestrian and rail bridge in Köln crossing The River Rhine.

Love locks on a pedestrian and rail bridge in Köln crossing The River Rhine.

Spotted a young couple attaching a lock as I approached.

Spotted a young couple attaching a lock as I approached.

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Young couple throwing love lock keys into The River Rhine. Cologne. November 2014.

Young couple throwing love lock keys into The River Rhine. Cologne. November 2014.

All images taken candidly at a much higher ISO than I would have preferred but using a flash would have alerted the couple that they were being photographed. I did approach them after and emailed them the images yesterday evening.

I wish them luck for their future.

Thanks for stopping.

Jim Jimmy James

Travelling Light!

I’m not much of a travelling person. I like what is familiar and its familiar because for the most part I like routine.

So when the time comes to hop over to Europe, I say that like I’m not European; truth be told I’m British and everyone speaks English. Even The Americans; sort of! (Yes I know its not Europe its a tongue in cheek, light hearted pop at my American cousins).

Where was I? Yes Europe! I do try to speak a little bit of the local lingo and actually this trip has been the first time where people have been patient enough to let me try; really try. The Spanish and The Germans have been awesome. However that is not what I am blogging about; its what kit to pack as a photographer.

So my last visit to Germany seen me packing two cameras and a few lenses.

My start up camera is a canon rebel T3i / 600d. Fab little camera but I felt it wasn’t meeting my needs as I have developed. On advice I purchased a Canon 6d and have been slowly upgrading my lenses.

So the 600d and the 6d. Cheap-ish zoom up to 200mm EFS lens and a EF 50 along with an EF 85. It seemed a good combination but it was to bulky and cumbersome to carry everything around.

This time I thought I will go light…….. My 6d, 50, 85 and Tamron 24-70mm.

It hasn’t worked very well and I’ve not taken many photos. Though I shouldn’t let my kit stop me. Other photographers would get a great deal of use out of the equipment I have with me. I can but just felt a little uninspired. Hey, it happens.

A few times I could have done with some fill flash…. 6d has no on camera flash and off camera kit just adds to luggage weight and stuff to carry around all day. The T3i has the flash but even with the fast lenses it will not cope with the low light stuff I want to shoot later in this trip.

I don’t want to carry to much because apart from it being a pain in the arse, my wife and I like to wonder around cities and end up wherever we end up. I feel its the way to get a real feel for a city.

This sometimes lands us in neighbourhoods that are not necessarily the safest to advertise that I am a tourist with lots of camera gear. So this time I trying one camera one lens….I have some good kit but none the less one camera one lens has left me a bit limited. I can live with this, its not the end of the world and its a holiday, not a paid assignment!

However as an example:

I am currently in Frankfurt and wanted to take a picture of this Euro symbol in the financial zone with the office buildings towering over it. Nope! That does not work with a prime 85mm lens. Not the way I visualised it anyway. IMG_3497

The composition is not what I wanted to achieve and could have been executed much much better with a different lens.

It was only as I was walking away I really started thinking about this and how as photographers we either do not get the shot we want or go back another day…… That or carry a number of different lenses but what is the optimum lens for being out and about for a day and only wanting to carry one lens?

The next two shots show how different images can be while standing in the same spot.

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This image was taken on a Canon 6d with a Canon 85mm lens. Its not a great image, its not very technical and it is hand held when ideally it should have been taken while on a tripod.

It is really very unremarkable and is only being used for illustrative purposes. I had to stand some distance from this art piece to fit it in with the camera and lens I was carrying. In contrast I could have taken the same image much nearer to the object if I had a wider angle lens.

Stood at the same place, the next image was taken on an iPhone:

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Ignore the quality and don’t consider shutter speed, ISO and so on; that is not for discussion here. Its the composition. Same shot, different lens size.

What is the answer? What is the most practical lens we can carry?

On days when I had a wide angle, I wanted something with a longer focal distance and always seemed to be carry the lens I didn’t want or need for the shot I could see in my head…. My ‘photographers eye’. My own “artistic vision”!

You know the most practical lenses I had were the two I got with the T3i but why can’t I get those two lenses at the same size but with the better quality glass. Maybe I can?! Maybe its just a matter of cost?

Maybe I’ll find out what to do sometime? Hopefully sooner than later or I’ll discover that one lens to get me almost anything I want in one day…..

What do you do when you need or want to travel light?

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

Ps. Canon and Tamron  have not sponsored this post but if their reps want to contact me and give me some kit to review, contact me and I will consider your offer.

That goes for Phase One too. 😉

s and this was the best shot I could get. Therabout it but it highlights that my composition options were limited.

Commando 999 – Speed March 2014

There is very little I can tell you about The Royal Marines other than they are part of The British Armed Forces and that they have one of the toughest training and selection processes.

I can also tell you that they address one another as ‘Royal’, say “Hoofing” an awful lot and have a tradition of ‘Port Fines’ for minor misbehavior and breeches of etiquette at the dinning table.

I spent a day and evening with some Royal Marines that are current serving, ex-serving, reservists and cadets.

What I witnessed was a sense of fun, respect, camaraderie, love and warmth that is only found in the closest of families and those friends that we hold dear.

I was fortunate to be in the company of these extremely humble people at a time when I had to produce ten images for a photo essay. Commando 999 is a charity that organised this current event where the serving and ex Marines (One was 77 years old) undertook a thirteen mile speed march through London with the cadets joining them for the last three miles.

Distinguished guests included The Prime Minister and high ranking officers within the admiralty and the MOD.

The Military housewives Choir performed on The Mall and at The Regimental Dinner.

The Royal Marines Band also performed their duties at The Graspan Memorial and again at The Regimental Dinner that evening. I managed to take a number of images throughout the day however I was not there in the capacity of a photographer and thus was greatly limited with regards to positioning myself and therefore restricted in composing my images.

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I hope you enjoyed the images that I have selected to share with you. It was a great privilege to follow the event and enjoy their company in the evening.

Thankfully as a civilian I escaped the port fine for not having a self tie dickie bow.

A huge thank you to the organisers of Commando 999 and those taking part for allowing me this opportunity.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James