Identifying Portfolio Gaps and Some ’90s Girl Power!

It was about four months ago when I looked through my portfolio and realised that aside from weddings, I only have about three ladies in there. Appalling, I know! We had to fix that, so my beautiful friend Charley and I took to Southampton Common for a fun, relaxed and somewhat rainy photoshoot.

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For the shoot, I chose to use the Daguerreotype Achromat art lens. [Click here to read my first impressions of the lens.] With prior experience using this lens in very similar conditions, I knew how fantastic it would be and how I needed to use it. With the added glow created at low aperture, it was the perfect choice. From there it was as simple as having fun, creating great work and learning as we go.

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I adored this photoshoot, there’s something strikingly unique about photographing fabulous ladies such as Charley. Power, vulnerability, and everything in between. As a creative person, it is essential to identify these gaps in one’s portfolio and most importantly, aim to fill those gaps. Girl power!

The Daguerreotype Achromat Art Lens // Lomography Unboxing & First Impressions.

The Daguerreotype Achromat is directly inspired by the world’s first photographic optic lens – a 19th century invention created for the Daguerreotype camera by Charles Chevalier. Almost two centuries later, we’ve reworked it as a powerful tool for modern-day photographers and cinematographers. Lomography

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The above quote gives a brief explanation as to what the Daguerreotype Achromat art lens is all about. A throwback to the past with all the technology and convenience of the modern day – but for £399+, what exactly are you getting?

Upon ordering the lens I had no idea what I would receive in the post. However, I was not disappointed. The packaging is beautiful and feels like something truly worth treasuring.

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Having opened the box, the first things you see are multiple small cards and papers revealing information such as the warranty details and the serial number of your unique lens. Straight away, the impression is given of this lens being a collectable as well as something practical and artistic.

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Next, we have a fairly comprehensive booklet giving an introduction into areas such as history, facts and figures as well as examples of what the lens is capable of. For example, what the hell is a Daguerreotype? A similar brief history can be seen [here].

This booklet is beautifully designed and feels in keeping with Lomography‘s established brand. Potentially the most important part of this booklet for those of us new to art lenses is the explanation of what exactly the ‘Waterhouse aperture system’ is. Also used in Lomography’s Petzval art lens, below is a quote demonstrating the history and purpose of this system.

The Waterhouse aperture system is a unique and easy way to change the aperture on a lens. Simply by switching between different sized aperture plates, you can control the size of your aperture opening. And not only do they add a touch of 19th century charm to your photography, they also allow for even more creative opportunities by using specially designed aperture plates. – Lomography.

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I remember learning about such aperture plates back in college. However, on a practical level it does mean the slot in which these plates are inserted into the lens makes the lens feel somewhat vulnerable. The loop/keyring pictured above sadly does not come with the lens, but for a small price I believe it is a worthy addition to such a kit.

As beautiful as the booklet is, taking it out of the box reveals the main attraction. The striking brass build of the Daguerreotype Achromat lens creates something fascinating and precious. One cannot be to blame for bypassing the booklet entirely in favour of unwrapping the lens from the protective plastic it is shipped in.

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It is stated within the paperwork that each lens is unique and some colour differences or small marks/scratches may be visible. I enjoy this, it adds to the authenticity of such an item. The lens is elegantly engraved on both the body and lens cap as seen above, and the design feels like the perfect balance between the old and new. Is it a little bit over the top? Probably, but do you buy a lens like this for it to blend in? I have some thoughts on that for later in this article.

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My immediate reaction once I had attached the lens to my Nikon D810 was to laugh. Over the top? Definitely.

Having looked past the initial juxtaposition of the lens on my shiny new camera, I inserted the first of the aperture plates and was thrilled by the novelty of trying something new in an art I am otherwise so accustomed to.

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So far I’ve spoken very highly of the art lens, so what could possibly be wrong with it? A number of small details do bother me. For example, the lens cap feels loose and has occasionally been knocked off and although I have not had it for long, I can imagine with some extended use I will have to be even more aware of dust and damp settling inside the body of the lens. More issues may come up, but for now I have one major gripe and unfortunately, it may not be a fault with the lens.

I briefly took my camera with this lens out into Southampton city centre. Usually, I would be somewhat aware of having such kit out in a busy public space. This day however, I was more aware than ever. It wasn’t the value of the lens, but how gleamingly obvious it was to anyone who may catch a look. People looked at it, blending into a crowd simply is not an option. When I first ordered the lens I saw that a black version costing £80 more would soon be on sale I thought, why would you want black when you can have it in brass?! Well now I know. I’m not sure it’s worth the extra money, but I imagine it would go a long way to eliminating this problem.

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Also included in the package, a cleaning cloth, a small manual book and the somewhat flimsy (yet fashionable) lens pouch. Reading about this lens, there is a lot to be said about why a professional photographer would need this lens. Why have a 19th century quality to your photographs when they could be crisp, clear and without distraction? And of course, those dirty photography words cannot be ignored: Instagram Filters.

Yes, the results can look somewhat ‘Instagram’, but there’s a reason that style became so popular in the first place. It has a beautiful, playful quality to it. Nonetheless, the impressive f/2.9 capabilities of the Waterhouse aperture system cannot be ignored. That’s only .1 away from what I use to photograph live bands.

I will be testing the versatility within a professional environment using this lens later this week. For now, I will have to get over people staring and put this lens to the test. After all, what’s not to stare at?  The Daguerreotype Achromat Art Lens is STUNNING!

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Wedding Photography // Five Lessons From A Newbie.

 

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In August, I photographed my first wedding. A beautiful outdoor event in a very familiar part of Cornwall. I knew the bride, groom and many of the guests which made the otherwise daunting experience much more relaxed and enjoyable. By contrast, the wedding I recently photographed in Winchester Cathedral was based indoors, allowed for very little preparation and familiar faces were few and far between.

That is not to say the latter was any less breathtaking. The vaulted ceiling of the cathedral allowed for endless bright, natural luminosity and the guests clothes draped in sparkles gave me countless opportunities to play with the available light.

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So what did I learn?

 
1.

Be prepared to look after yourself and each other. 

As I said before, at wedding number one I knew the bride and groom and was therefore treated like a guest. I was on the seating plan and could allow time to relax, get to know the guests and eat fantastic food. Wedding two also served fantastic food, however it was eaten with the wonderful venue staff in about three minutes, tops.

We were fed, but time did not really allow for it. As usual nothing went to plan and by the time everything was back on schedule, that small amount of spare time for us to eat was gone. You and your fellow photographers/videographers are not guests, you are working. Stash cereal bars and water in every available space in your camera bag. Share it out, and if your meal is served, make sure you quickly let those working with you know.

 

2.

Do not be afraid to step back.

This is more for second shooters. If you are not the lead photographer, let them get ‘the shot’. Leave your pride at home, and step aside when they need to get that shot of the bride walking down the aisle. Be creative, find a different view point and capture something else spectacular. What are the bridesmaids doing? How are the guests reacting? This could be your chance to get the shot of the groom seeing his bride for the first time!

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3.

You (probably) need a flashgun & get to know your equipment. 

During the reception of my first wedding job, I was flashlight-less. I simply did not have the equipment. My little (yet very, very trusty) Nikon D90 struggled but thankfully my software knowledge saved the day later on. For wedding number two, I was prepared and the results showed it. It doesn’t need to be expensive, just get to know what you have and use it well. Knowing you can rely on your equipment takes the pressure off during a long, long night of shooting. Enjoy it and get involved. The reception is the perfect time for those treasured candid photographs.

 

4.

Communicate with everyone

The couple, the best man, the venue staff and any other photographers/videographers. You are a team and the stronger you are, the better the results.

Nothing goes to plan, times change and demands vary. Communication for wedding number one was easy. We had all met up beforehand, discussed the plan of the day and the only person I had to be aware of was the videographer, who was my brother. I was the only photographer so only I had to know what was required.

However, the immense team brought in to make wedding number two happen was a challenge. I was second shooter, and I hadn’t even met the lead photographer yet. Little did I know before I started that throughout the day I would be working with four other photographers and two videographers. Many weddings will have a ‘Master of Ceremonies’.  Get to know this person, they will help organise guests for group shots and hopefully let you know when any big event is going to happen. You don’t want to miss the first dance because you took a toilet break!

 

5.

Every wedding will be unique.

These two contrasting experiences have gone towards confirming how I have felt about photography all along. You never truly know what you’re doing, it’s just a case of learning to be adaptable. Bring in skills from other jobs – Did you work as a nightclub photographer during university? Great news, you’ll need that during the reception. That family album you photographed once? Remember how you asked them to pose, what worked and what didn’t. All of this comes together to make you the most versatile photographer you can be.

 


 

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Of course I am no expert, but we all start somewhere. Keep learning, be flexible and get to know your equipment. You may not know it at the time, but a small problem you overcame in a past shoot might just get you out of a sticky situation in the future!

 

Drownload Festival 2016

Last weekend was an important one, I got to live out a teenage dream and go to Download Festival. We camped in cheap tents and ate overpriced food, and it was great. While we were ankle-deep in cold mud for three days, it seems the weather at Donington Park was well known.

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The weather came close to ruining the day on Friday. We were waiting for Baby Metal when the torrential rain began, but respect to them for coming out and playing an amazing set. Dry socks saved the day, and it went on to be a fantastic weekend.

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We were some of the lucky ones, we set up camp in White Camp which turned out to be the best decision after seeing the flooding further down the campsite. However, my disposable cameras did not fare well. Unfortunately, they got damp in my bag and got slightly water damaged meaning I lost some photos. However, I took plenty and a bit of water damage can add a lot of character to an otherwise boring shot!

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Highlights of the weekend included Anti Flag and Avatar. I knew very little of Avatar but they stole the show on Saturday morning. Of course, it goes without saying that Black Sabbath were the stand out act of the weekend for me. Hearing that infamous introduction to their self-titled track during a downpour is defiantly ‘life goals’ material!

Overall, an unforgettable weekend. By Sunday night I was ready for some dry clothes and a quiet night sleep without planes taking of from, what seemed like, on top of my tent. For now, I have had my festival fix but we’ll see what happens next year!

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto | Architecture of Time

All images used in this article were taken from ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto: Architecture of Time’ (Schneider 2002) – Published alongside an exhibition of the same name. 

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“…it seemed like an interesting idea to photograph 20th Century architecture out of focus.” – Sugimoto explains. “The concept of time applies – I’m trying to recreate the imaginative visions of the architecture before the architect built the building, so I can trace back the original vision from the finished product.”

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Netley Abbey – Southampton

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I’ve had a little break this week, and during that time we went to Netley in Southampton. Home to the stunning ruins of a 13th Century abbey, I have visited before and this time decided to photograph it. I used film, so those images will come later. Below are a couple of photos  I took on my phone of the interesting textures found around the Abbey.

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I adore this exposed brickwork. It changes throughout the Abbey, I imagine due to repairs. More photographs of Netley Abbey to come!

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Simon Roberts – Pierdom

ALL PHOTOGRAPHY AND IMAGERY USED IN THIS POST IS FROM www.simoncroberts.com

While trying to come up with ideas for my master’s project, I discovered the work of Simon Roberts. In particular, his series ‘Pierdom’.

From series 'Pierdom'
Weston-Super-Mare Grand Pier, Somerset, 2011

“Made over the past three years, Pierdom is a comprehensive survey of Britain’s Pleasure Piers. Predominantly constructed during the 19th Century in the context of expanding Victorian seaside resorts and railways, these structures were often erected as landing docks for pleasure steamers and other sea craft. Growing to accommodate the needs of day-trippers escaping the smog of the city, engineers began to incorporate bandstands, cafes and music halls into their designs, embracing the growing notion of ‘pleasure seeking’ by the seaside.” [SOURCE]

From series 'Pierdom'
Saltburn Pier, North Yorkshire, 2011
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Pierdom, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, 2015-2016

This is only a small sample of Simon Roberts’ extensive study of piers. [View more here]

I came across this series after becoming interested in how we spend our British summertime. A lot of what I was finding included glamorous black and white images or the use of colour, such as Martin Parr. Both of these techniques produce beautiful photographs, however I enjoy the desaturated appearance of Pierdom. Even moreso against the grey walls of the exhibition space.

Don’t forget to check out Simon Roberts’ work. I recommend Urban Parks.

 

Packaging Porn – Amon Amarth’s JOMSVIKING

A bit of back story – We’re trying to buy albums on vinyl now when possible, especially when they come with a CD or digital download. So when Amon Amarth’s ‘Jomsviking’ was released I got down to HMV and found one lonely copy there on the shelf. Naturally, I had to buy it.

This isn’t a review of the album, we all know it’s fantastic and Amon Amarth never disappoint. Unless you’re not into that kind of thing, then who doesn’t love a bit of great packaging?

So I bought it, all wrapped up. Got it home and couldn’t wait to open it.

DSC_0060.jpgAll as expected, right?  WRONG. The whole thing felt quite thick, which I’d put down to it being double disk.

So I opened it up and…

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Oh Great Odin’s Raven! It’s pop-up.

POP UP!

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Isn’t that just a thing of beauty?

I have a fair collection of Amon Amarth records and have always been impressed, from bright pink vinyl to pop-up, 100% worth the extra cash.

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How Photographing Bees Prepared Me – Transferable Skills

Back in the third year of studying graphic design, I did my final major project about bee decline. This included photographing bees. Lots, and lots of bees. I would wait for the perfect day, go to one of my known bee spots and do shoots of 800+ photos, with maybe five really successful images.

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This was different from anything I had done before. I was used to landscapes and shop fronts. They don’t really move much, and that is not calling it ‘easy’. Landscapes bring a whole different bag of challenges. Bees however, without me knowing it, prepared me for photographing gigs.

Completely different lenses and settings, but that experience shooting hundreds of images in a fast-moving and unpredictable situation to only get a handful of great photographs at the end of it was invaluable.

I’m all for bringing past experiences into new work and using what I have already learned to make something new a little easier. Looking into what will happen in the next few months, I have my first wedding booked. Am I terrified? Of course. But reflecting on this makes me feel a little more prepared.

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