Friday, April 24, 2009

York and Scarborough

Last weekend I went to York, and met up with Alix and Marcus.

Alix, looking totally unflappable

Alix undertook an epic drive from Nottingham to York, and then didn't even bat an eyelid when I insisted that we took a road trip. So we went over to Scarborough, to look at the chavs.

It was a gloriously sunny day, so the promenade was heaving with hairy bikers and their equally hairy husbands, day trippers from the council estates of Yorkshire and beyond, and one or two bewildered foreign tourists wearing baffled expressions and trying to find Scarborough Fair.

A daisy, Scarborough.

To escape the throng, we climbed up to the castle, where Alix proceeded to demonstrate the ancient art of daisy-chaining. She is a total pro at this kind of thing, so while I smashed up a mound of flowers, Alix calmly linked up a bunch of them in record time.

I had to clone out a couple of damn tourists in the background here, because they spoiled the flow of my photograph.

About five seconds in, and Alix has already made a fantastic chain. By this point I had realised my own incompetence, and wasn't even going to try and compete.

Shortly after the above photo, a giant dog bounded over, slavering and drooling, it's great eyes flashing with menace. Apart from clearly being rabid, it was the size of a horse. For all I know it was a rabid horse. Quick as a flash, I grabbed Alix's daisy chain and made ready to lasso the beast and subdue it, hence saving the day. Fortunately though, the hound noticed a toddler and chased after it, howling like a pack of Siberian wolves. Sadly I didn't get any shots of it, because I was busy trying to hide the wet patch in my jeans.

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Marcus and I had a good time too, though to everyone's relief it didn't involve daisy chains. Since York was experiencing winds rating between 8 and 9 on the Beaufort Scale, we got his Patang fighting kite out.

OK, I don't know if it is actually a Patang fighting kite, but whatever it is, Marcus did some deft flying and managed to cut a squirrel in two with the munja lines.

Flushed with success, I convinced him to pose for some woodland based portraits, which follow:

The chilled shot

The corporate headshot

Rocking some rimlight action

The 'Betty Page'

The 'Van Halen'

The 'Che Guevara', sans cigar

The 'Samuel L Jackson'

So there we go. A great time was had by all, and both Alix and Marcus proved to be brilliant subjects... when these shots are published in Time magazine I'll split the proceeds 50/50 with you guys.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Zoriah Miller

Zoriah Miller is a freelance photojournalist who takes real pictures, of real things - not the kind of guff you get on Flickr, like flowers and trees. He specialises in documentary humanitarian and conflict photography around the world, and strives to highlight issues which are under-reported or simply not publicised:

"I started this blog nearly a year ago with the idea was that it would allow me to make truly independent reports on important subject matter without influence from corporate media, who often choose photographer's assignments based on what stories they think will sell magazines and not what is actually important. I thought I could use it to not only give my stories a voice beyond print media but help me raise funds to report on subject matter that is avoided by large publications." (from his blog).

I'd strongly urge you to have a look at his website and get his blog into your feedreader pronto, instead of wasting your time here.

Before you do, I want to point you towards the post which prompted this entry, in which GMB Akash guest blogs about child labour in Bangladesh. Awesome photos, and something to think about as you lounge around in your cheap knock-off Gucci or Gap or whatever.

This is what photography should be about.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Judy Cabbages
(This post has some technical details about cameras and stuff, so you can just look at the pictures, Alex)

On saturday I met up with Edinburgh photographer extraordinaire, Judy Cabbages, whose blog I mentioned recently. JC was heading for the National Portrait Gallery, because last weekend was the last possible chance to get in before they shut down for two solid years of renovations. So if you didn't go, you've missed out. Anyway, they'll need every day of the next two years to clear up after we got finished in there.

Some off-camera flash, using a Nikon SB-600 via the supremely nifty commander mode on a Nikon D80. In fact, this applies to all the snaps below.

JC was incredibly good enough to bring along a spare camera and pro-spec lens for me to try out, in conjunction with Nikon's sweet Creative Lighting System - which basically lets you fire off camera flash(es) while controlling them from the camera. This is all a far cry from my current system, which relies on cheap flash triggers from eBay and lots of swearing when the flash shuts down after 90 seconds of inactivity.

This meant that when one of Judy's groupies came storming down the Royal Mile shrieking like an injured harpie, I was able to fire off the above shot without even thinking about it, which is basically how I like to take photos... without even thinking about it. Incidentally, Judy usually has to adopt an elaborate disguise when out and about in the town, otherwise he spends most of his time fending off the attentions of his fan club...

Ever patient, JC posed for photo after photo - even though he is more used to collaring random passers by and sweet talking them into posing for him. I suspect that if I tried that approach I'd get a smashed lens and possibly nose, but JC is adamant that this won't happen. All I need to do, therefore, is take the step of asking total strangers if they'd fancy posing for some photos and remember not to back away hurriedly in case they lash out.

On the one hand, approaching strangers would mean that I could work on my behind-camera banter (at the moment this mainly consists of me saying "Try to look like you're bloody enjoying it" or "Smile. Smile. SMILE you bugger!"), which can only be a good thing. On the other hand, my preferred approach to taking portraits is to cornering my subject into posing and then spending upwards of an hour saying "Nearly there...just one" etc. You can only really do this with friends though.

Anyway, in the meantime I'm wondering how JC will take it if I flog his lens on eBay so that I can buy a Canon EF 24-70mm L lens. Probably not very well...