Monday, February 22, 2010

what to do?

...with some photographs. It is a question I occasionally ask myself. Who is going to be interested, and for what reason? So when there is an image like this one, that I am not 100% certain about (in that I kind-of-like it, but am not confident that it is good enough to share), it ends up never leaving a hard drive on my desk.

And that doesn't seem right either. So here it is; an experiment. I like it because it is quiet, calm, a private moment before sleep, it does look like typical Erica. And I'm not sure, because there is not quite enough of her face (does there need to be?...) and sometimes the shape of it all seems confusing, distracting...

But maybe it is better that you get to see it and judge for yourself than if it is left to slowly drop down lower, just one of the rows and rows of thumbnails.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

more on cameras

I am still thinking about this whole camera buying, and by extension testing and reviewing thing.  I also just re-visited an old favourite photoblog of mine, belonging to Sam Jarouvnah at the Daily Dose of Imagery.  He always impresses me, not least with his blogging stamina!  I really like his bold, wide angle record of city life, especially as Toronto gets proper seasons and doesn't just look the same all year round.  Anyhows, on scrolling back through the days I came across his note to a snow bound Christmas Eve shot:

I’m playing with the Canon 5D Mark II and so far it's been really great. The resolution and the detail is remarkable. And after shooting hundreds of frames for over an hour in snow storm it proved to be really weather resistant. The camera was completely wet and the wheel at the back was frozen so I had to break the ice to turn it but the camera came out unharmed and performed great. I'll post more impressions later.

Now that is what I call worthwhile camera testing.  None of those stupid test cards or set up shots in studios and endless specification disection.  Sam's review is of the kind that would have me outside Jessops on Monday morning, waiting for them to open.  Well, almost... 

Camera testing for me usually takes the form of trying to shoot in dingy artificial light and get a decent photograph.  Cat Power came for Christmas, should really watch that at some point...

MIR-1 37mm at f/2.8, 1/125th sec, 800 ISO

As a footnote to anyone in Hull.  Next time you're near the St Stephens shed, take a quick look at the massive photographs of the great Hull lifestyle that you all live, that have been blown up on the walls in there.  Check out the terrible chromatic aberation left totally uncorrected.  Now when the image is going to be 30' high, that might be the occasion on which a little pixel peeping might just be worthwhile...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

on cameras

A friend has asked me to share some of the knowledge that I have surely amassed over my many years as a photographer and give him some advice on buying his first digital SLR.  It is not the first time that I have been asked for camera buying tips and surely not the last, and of course I am always happy to share my thoughts.  I get to pretend that I know what I am on about. 

The thing is, I am not sure that I can actually help.  I am always reminded of Mike Johnston (TOP hero) and his advice on buying a digicam a while back.  Though he made his point back in May 2007, I am sure it still stands up fairly well.  His wise thoughts, based on experience?  “I won't keep you in suspense. Here's the upshot: they're all shit.” 

Harsh I guess.  But also true if you are actually interested in learning the craft.

taken with my phone; soft, fuzzy guesswork (with optical slave SB-26
on floor, camera phone right)

But what about dSLRs?  Does our consumer marketplace let us budding visual artists down in the same manner?  Well I am going to venture that the opposite is probably (almost) true.  And no thanks to any marketing department or camera reviewer.  You might get a slightly gloomy dark viewfinder, or jpgs that bear a passing resemblance to a watercolour, or end up cursing a crazy system of buttons and menus (you’ll get the hang in the end).  But all said and done, the camera will do what a camera should do.  Of course some will do it better, but in general that has more to do with how much you spend and what is most important to you as a potential photographer.  And better is subjective and not a simple black and white thing; an amalgam of a bit sharper here, a bit slower there, a handy feature here and a strange omission there.  In short, choice certainly is not all it is cut out to be. 

Mike’s point was not to put off a potential camera purchase, no matter what your budget. Again, here is where choosing that SLR should follow a similar thought process.  If we take the approach that we are selecting a means to an end (to take pictures), then it takes that tricky, specification-comparing decision process out of the hands of endless hours with Google and firmly back in the realm of ‘a good use of your time’. That done, the best is still to come; so get on with it and get out looking for that glorious, northern British January light.  Pick a little silver box and accept the endless limitations – and go and make pictures.  Pick a black chunk of high tech glass and plastic – and go and actually learn about depth of field, why people like me spend £600 to own f/2.8.  And go and make pictures. 

taken with my D200, SB-26 remote triggered, on floor, camera back left

To close, and I hope clarify, I would like to share a little more of Mike’s views on digicams, point-and-shoot boxes, digital instamatics, call them what you will: 

I don't mean "shit" as a pseudo-hip way of registering a connoisseur's disapproval of the demotic or an enthusiast's disdain for the democratic. I mean that despite their cunning little shiny bodies and technologically marvelous innards, as cameras they're little stinking turdlets of fresh, steaming excrement. Yageddit? Poo. Stool. Just north of camera phones. And when I say they're all shit, I don't mean most of them are shit. Eighty percent of them are horrible, outrageous, awful, a swindle on the public and a fraud perpetrated on their purchasers. And the other twenty percent are really bad. Bah-dum-pah.

What a guy.

Oh, there is another point, vaguely worth making here.   The pound is not about to rally anytime soon, camera prices will only go the wrong way...

Monday, December 22, 2008

new favourite food

I think that today, this might be my new favourite food.  Mmmm, crispy seaweed. 

Delicious, and with good nutrients from the sea.  What more could you want from a snack?  Get down to the Asian Superstore on Vicars Lane if you are in Leeds, it is better than dry old turkey at any rate. 

Seaweed lit with my new blackdrinkingstraw gridspot...  ( on SB26, 1/2 power, optical slave, through the snack from camera left.  Main light is a bare Viv 283 dialed down to 1/16th with a VP-1, camera right.  Shutter slow (1/6th ish) to get some ambient (monitor), f/9 for a bit of depth of field. 

More small flash lit stuff here:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I party at Red

It was Red on Thursday. My favourite nightclub ever. This place is fantastic, I always have a great time shooting and a great time full stop - the atmosphere is guaranteed to put a smile on my face (even when I am tired and grumpy*).

I have had the honour of being their official photographer and have been documenting the nights for the past year now. As a photographer, the challenges of shooting in a dark bar, with constantly changing coloured lighting and fast moving dancers on a packed floor are not inconsiderable. But man, what a great crowd to work with!

This time I was working virtually entirely with ambient light - there was often plenty of it, just not always where I wanted it to be. I didn't have a flash with me, so I had a go at using the built-in Speedlight on my D100 for some shutter-drag fisheye pictures. The trick here was in not underestimating how puny this flash is, so requiring a close subject. Once I figured how close I needed to be to the subject for them to be lit about right, I ended up with a shutter of about 1/2 second at f/16 to give me some trace of the ambient lights.

My aim at Red is to capture the atmosphere of the party, to see everyone lost in the music and the lights, to share the moment these people are enjoying. It is so cool to be there with my friends too.

A rare treat.

* Yes, occasionally I do get grumpy. But not often.

Monday, July 21, 2008

an apple a day

Well, who would have thought it? Back after so long.

I thought that I would have a go at re-animating this blog as a kind of sketchbook for some photography ideas. I have just moved house, indeed city, to get to a point where I can begin to properly call photography my profession. Inspired by some of the people who have been unwitting mentors and inspiration to me for the past couple of years - David Hobby of Strobist fame, Mark Johnston and his friends at The Online Photographer and many others - I know that using the internet and harnessing the power of the blog is a great starting place to get things moving.

My good friend Hollin mailed me this morning to let me know that the Mac Format article I contributed to - he regularly writes for that fine Apple related monthly - is out in the August edition now. I couldn't wish for a glossier introduction to the wider world. I am sure even Mac Format readers get married or have photogenic offspring and need someone to record such events (though many are creatively able enough to do that themselves I am sure – though that does lead on to other ideas that I have had). But I knew that anyone reading that article with the curiosity to find out more, would have to have somewhere to go… so maybe here to? Hello if you have looked me up from the magazine to my website to here! Thanks for visiting.

So I will be keeping this up, ideas, plans, news, oh, and probably some photographs too. Because that is what it is all about.

Catch up with you soon then?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

what summer?

DSC_9763 grad.jpg, originally uploaded by altitudezero.

Here I am, distractedly disjointedly blogging. Perhaps 2008 will see more activity here?

I have no idea.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

back to skool

DSC_1657 m.jpg, originally uploaded by altitudezero.

Been at Hull College learning some new (maybe) stuff. This is a post to test out blogging from Flickr. There is a link to my photostream there in the sidebar. Lets test...

Saturday, August 25, 2007


This a favourite shot of mine, taken with one of Puplet's E-1s at an event we photographed back in June. Looking at it now I can see how another light, something really subtle (reflected through an umbrella?), to bring up the right side of his face and body would transform it.

Details I like are the soft diffuse north light from a tall window out of frame left and the blue room at the back lit with a remotely triggered flash. I would love to go and do it again, but better.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

watch the birdie

I have been asked by an old friend if I would shoot his wedding next May. We were in a band together in the late 90s and used to hang out in France doing extreme sports... I wonder if it will be a bit of a rock and roll style event? I expect that the wine and the food and wine will be fantastic if his parents have anything to do with things, I can't wait!

This shot is so you know what to expect C... just stay calm and remember to enjoy the day.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Improved? Not really, but here is a first post for a while. Not really back by popular demand, but at least the comments box on this should work better than on my old template... I am thinking about what I should do with the old blog(s). Suggestions welcome.

The photograph was my desktop picture for a while, but now I have this picture of Tobias. Here it is for all to see... who knows where it is?

Monday, April 16, 2007

aeria microcosme

Buy this record. Even better go and see them live and then buy the record. And a copy for your best friend. There are more pictures to see at my Flickr account. Click a picture, then on 'all sizes' for a bigger version. And then buy the album.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

like rock and roll

How nice to be back in the Lot, smell the springtime and catch up with a couple of old friends... Respect to Jynx for keeping a legend alive. 374,000km and counting.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

last night

...Different city, different country. It was beautiful and tonight we're back in Hull, seemingly in a different world. Thanks Aeria and friends but of course especially my little brother and Paulin. See you soon and I promise I'll be in touch with a few more souvenirs from the evening.

- edit: have been wondering why I didn't burn out the distracting cymbal stands at the bottom right in the first place... this is a new version of the picture now that I am not tired.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Will it still be there? This original Panda, one of Giorgetto Giugiaro's masterpieces, was parked outside 21 rue de fleurance at New Year. I'll look out next week.