Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Archive for September, 2013

The Happiest Days Of Your Life?

I occasionally shoot schools – in the photographic sense, you understand, not in the Columbine or Boomtown Rats sense. I do this always with the distant memory of that awkward “sit and smile for the camera” moment from my own childhood lurking somewhere in my psyche, inflicting the same measure of brief discomfort followed by years of embarrassment on my victims (I’m kidding. Maybe).

But if you thought your school photos were bad, you might like to check out some of these howlers. This wondrous collection of “hang above the mantelpiece to keep the kids away from the fire” portraits are the studio (and other) shots that taste forgot. Thank you to Meredith Carroll for very nearly making me spit hot tea all over my laptop amid a hysterics fit. And thanks to Sue Edkins for bringing it to my attention (dry cleaning bill is in the post – thanks a bunch).

Here’s a couple of examples – but first put down the cup.

orange-crush-434x285

eyes-wide-open-434x636

sit-with-it-like-beckham-434x565

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Yankee Doodle Nettie

Well, it finally seems as though the rest of the planet is waking up to what we at Fotofilia have known for yonks – that our mate Nettie Edwards is a pioneer and genius of the mobile photography world. Never one to blow her own trumpet, I’m happy to give a quick fanfare on her behalf.

Nettie, who is leading another of her ground-breaking mobile photography courses here in November, has just been named Mobile Photographer of the Year in the 2013 ax3 American Aperture Awards. As if that wasn’t enough, images from her Versailles Grand Canal also won the Mobile Landscape, Seascape and Nature category AND her iPhone video artwork Harriet’s Breathing won the Mobile Moving Image and Video category. No mean feat.

A HUGE congratulations to Nettie from Fotofilia! Read more and see more of her work at http://lumilyon.wordpress.com/

Here’s just one of her beautiful, and now award-winning, images…

Image copyright Nettie Edwards

Image copyright Nettie Edwards


Selfie-ish: When Your Best Model Is Closer Than You Think

I’ve noticed that when I set “self portraits” as a project or assignment option for my students, it is usually greeted with groans and the almost audible sound of minds switching off. I’ve noticed that foreign students are much more willing to tackle the self-portrait than British ones. I have no idea why this is but I try my best to encourage people to at least have a go as it can be one of the most interesting subject choices if approached with an open mind. Strangely, the ones most reticent to attack a self-portrait project are sometimes the very people whose facebook and Instagram profiles are stuffed to the gills with “arm’s length” “selfies”. Hmmm.

I recently came upon a beautiful set of self-portraits by a young man by the name of Alex Stoddard who created many of his wonderfully expressive and inventive images as part of the “365 Project” (where one shares a photograph each day for a year). I’ve posted a few here but to see more, see Alice’s excellent full article and interview here.

By Alex Stoddard

By Alex Stoddard

By Alex Stoddard

By Alex Stoddard

By Alex Stoddard

By Alex Stoddard

By Alex Stoddard

By Alex Stoddard

Alex Stoddard is clearly an amazing emerging talent. His flickr page features work of an incredibly high standard. I hope these images might have been useful to my students who think a self-portrait is always a camera-phone shot in the bathroom mirror.


Back Through The Pinhole

Always at the forefront of technological advances in photography, last weekend we were making photographs with… beer cans. And cream crackers. I kid you not.

The UK’s go-to Pinhole Photography guru Justin Quinnell made the journey up from deepest darkest Bristol to lead us through the low-tech but enchanting world of the pinhole and the camera obscura. And no-one does it quite like Justin. To acquaint ourselves with the principles of the pinhole, we began by playing with some of Justin’s own camera obscuras, the sort that Blue Peter would be proud of, including the legendary “eye-scura”, fashioned from a bin.

Man and dustbin in perfect harmony. Justin Quinnell and the "eye-scura".

Man and dustbin in perfect harmony. Justin Quinnell and the “eye-scura”.

The "eye-scura" as modelled by moi. Not one of my finest moments.

The “eye-scura” as modelled by moi. Not one of my finest moments.

Then the group moved on to hand-crafted cameras made from drinks cans loaded with photographic paper which when exposed, was developed conventionally in our temporary darkroom (also known as the dressing room).

Aisling almost ready for her close-up.

Aisling almost ready for her close-up.

And here’s one of the better beer can results, a self-portrait taken by Chris Hurrell

Beer can pinhole photograph by Chris Hurrell

Beer can pinhole photograph by Chris Hurrell

Here’s a developed print (a negative – it becomes a positive when scanned and inverted in Photoshop)…

Me being negative as usual.

Me being negative as usual.

Just to remind us we are in the digital age, Justin also converted a couple of DSLR‘s into pinhole cameras (temporarily, I should stress). And the last activity of the day involved taking pictures with a camera where the “pinholes” were actually the holes in a cream cracker gaffa-taped to the front of a camera (box) resulting in a sort of kaleidoscopic fly’s-eye image.

Never one to let a good thing get away, I hung on to Justin long enough for him to also speak to our f2 club meeting the following evening. As always, Justin is a fascinating and passionate speaker, infecting us all with his enthusiasm and passion. As one person commented on Facebook,  “Fantastic talk, a really engaging man. Full of energy for what he does… I’m sure we all benefited from the message that sometimes it doesn’t matter what we get out of it, it’s the trying and the idea that are just as important. No rules, and as he said ‘just do it‘”.

Couldn’t have put it better myself. So I won’t. I’ll just say we look forward to bringing Justin Quinnell back again soon.

All colour images taken (hastily) on iphone.


Andy’s New Phase

Nice to see Fotofilia chum and top Midlands photographer Andy Kruczek popping up in the latest edition of Photo Professional magazine.

Lucky Andy was asked to test and review the new Phase One IQ260 medium-format digital camera. Retailing at £30,461 (body and lens), it’s rather unlikely I’ll be getting to play with one of these babies myself but you never know, maybe as a second- or third-hand deal on eBay in 2026…

Andy road-tested this nice piece of kit in his Black Country studio and the magazine devoted a full 8 pages to the piece. I’m not going to review a review here – you’ll just have to go out and buy a copy and see for yourself. At £4.50, the magazine is a tad closer to my weekly pocket money budget than the camera itself.

Andy Kruczek in action, and in Photo Professional magazine.

Andy Kruczek in action, and in Photo Professional magazine.

That’s all for now: I’m off to the newsagents for a couple of lottery tickets…


Murder By Vignette. Chimp Held For Questioning

Once upon a time, I embarked upon a self-righteous rampage against the willful abuse of sepia in photography – my so-called CAMOS (Campaign Against Misuse Of Sepia). Well, I now have a new photographic bete noire…

Vignetting, a phenomenon which started out as an inevitable consequence of taking rectangular pictures through a round hole, is basically that distinctive darkening (or in some cases, lightening) of an image’s corners. Back when I spent half my life in a darkroom I would often “burn in” the corners to add a vignette where required. I like vignettes – but only when they suit the image and when applied with some sensitivity.

I’ve noticed an alarming rise in the number of images on websites and social media that look like a vignette has been applied by a chimp with a 6″ paintbrush and a pot of black paint. Eurgh! Here’s a few randomly acquired images (sadly, I can’t use some of the worst offenders I’ve seen on Facebook)…

Who thought this effect was a good idea?

Who thought this effect was a good idea?

So if you’re a bit slapdash with your vignettes, read on… At best, the vignette will darken parts of the picture (for instance, one of your portrait subject’s eyes) more than others, and at worst it will look as though your entire portfolio was shot through the porthole of a convict ship (which is possibly the best place for you if you’re a “excessive vignette offender”).

A case for the RSPVA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Vignetting on Animals).

A case for the RSPVA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Vignetting on Animals).

Shoot me now.

Shoot me now.

And so the motto of this story is: Children, have fun with your vignettes, but when you start to feel you can’t do without them, please pass your camera on to me, and go take up crochet.


Flash Harry

There is a kind of unwritten, un-named natural law that seems to apply to photographic studios. A kind of “Techno Sod’s Law“. This law dictates that…

  • If a piece of key equipment is going to fail, it will fail when it is most needed, and
  • If you have a back-up piece of equipment, that will fail shortly afterwards.

And so it came to pass. My radio trigger system for the studio flash, which had been a little erratic of late, finally gave up the ghost altogether a couple of weeks ago. Not a huge surprise and I can’t really complain as it’s been in regular use for about 18 months and only cost £15 in the first place (a last-minute purchase from Focus On Imaging 2012). And so I dug out the spare system, which I usually reserve for shooting graduations and other off-site stuff and that too fell off it’s perch within 3 days.

This left me with just the trusty cable to rely on, which when you hire the studio out to others, is like counting the minutes until someone forgets they’re tethered to the lights and pulls them over. Unsurprisingly, I hurried to order more triggers online. I ordered one set, realised that delivery could potentially be a number of weeks so ordered another set with a faster delivery time but higher price. Then I realised that I also needed a system that included two recievers rather than the one-trigger-one-reciever sets I had ordered thus far, so I ordered yet another set. It was only when the first set arrived in the post that I realised I had another unused set, still in the packaging, languishing in the storeroom. Hmmph!

Lastolite Lumen8 Radio Trigger Set 3265

Lastolite Lumen8 Radio Trigger Set 3265

So I thought I’d share my feedback for a couple of these systems in case it will be any use to you. The first trigger/reciever system that I pressed into service was the Lastolite Lumen8 Radio Trigger Set 3265. I connected it up and then tested it in as scientific a way as I could. I took 100 photographs – 70 with me in the studio room where the flash was, 10 with me in the dressing room, 10 in the corridor adjoining the studio and even 10 in the storeroom. Here’s the ground-breaking results…

  • Total Fires: 100 (so 100% – even when I wasn’t even in the same room as the reciever).

I was quite pleased with this. But this is my equally scientific (or not) opinion on the Lastolite trigger system…

Good points

  1. Seems to fire consistently with a good range.
  2. Has an “in-line” mains-powered reciever and so only the battery on the trigger to worry about.
  3. Not horrendously expensive at £46.90 from Amazon.
  4. Decent brand.
  5. Quite robust-looking and looks unlikely to break at the usual connection points (though I’m sure one of my studio users might prove me wrong).

Bad Points

  1. Only one channel and so not great for situations where you’re shooting alongside other togs and their flash systems. It even seemed to be activated by a trigger from a completely different system.
  2. Still a teensy bit over-priced for a single-reciever, single-channel system in my opinion.

And I’m not sure whether this is a good or bad thing but the instruction sheet supplied is borderline hilarious – a classic example of Chinglish I think. For example: “There will be miss out trigger phenomenon when the battery will run out” and “remote trigger for studio flashlight, is a control discreteness for camera to trigger studio flash synchronously”. Get that? Nah, me neither.

But overall, not a bad bit of kit and proof that for what this trigger will be put through on a day-to-day basis, you don’t don’t have t pay the earth.

The interfit trigger in situ.

The interfit trigger in situ.

 

The surprisingly robust mains-powered reciever.

The surprisingly robust mains-powered reciever.

Images taken on the iphone (sorry for dodgy quality).