Sunday, 29 August 2010

Sometimes you need a little more height than your tripod can give you.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

I'm a Philistine...

I'm on two weeks holiday at the moment but I still went into work today.

"Why?" I hear you ask?

Well after my series of nine photoshoots in Lausanne last week, I came home and began my holidays but the images were still stored on my camera's memory-cards. I am of the opinion that the images don't really exist until there are at least two copies of them. So With this in mind, I backed them up first to my laptop and again to an external drive.

Today I popped into work and transferred them to my work's machine which will later (when I return in two weeks time) be mirrored onto another external drive. Only then will I feel safe  :)

Now a couple of things about the Lausanne job. Nine jobs may sound like a lot but everything was meticulously planned and apart from one or two small run-ins with over zealous security staff, it all went really well.

One of the jobs was at the Giannada foundation who's owner is Léonard Giannada. Mr Giannada is a generous benefactor whose altruistic endeavours support the arts and the less fortunate in our society.

The Foundation's art gallery (where I did my photography) is built on the site of a Celtic temple which has been left largely undisturbed. The light levels inside the gallery (where I did my photography) ranged from bright to very dark. For this reason, I shot three exposures of everything which I'll convert later using HDR. That way I'll be sure to get details visible in the highlights and the shadows.

The park outside the gallery houses sculptures and installations by artists such as Chagall, Miró, Moore and many others whom I must confess, I have never heard of. One online dictionary defines "Philistine" (apart from the ancient people who lived along the coast of Canaan (present-day Palestine and Syria)), as "a person who is uninterested in intellectual pursuits". I think that's me.

I just don't understand modern art. For me, an artwork (specifically sculptures and paintings) must resemble something. 

Squiggles, stripes and splashes do absolutely nothing for me. Give me Constable, a Turner or even a Van Gogh and I'll look at it. Picasso's and other modern art stuff leave me cold. 

It's all above my head as I cannot understand it. Or maybe it's akin to the Hans Christian Andersen tale of " The Emperor's New Clothes "

Wandering through the sculpture park, I found myself drawn to one particular sculpture by the "French Sculptor and Assemblage Artist" Cesar.

It was a bronze recreation of a thumb! Yes. That's right. A THUMB!

It's called "Pouce" (Thumb)

Did you ever (as a child), see the cartoon of an artist busily painting at his easel? He had the brush in his right hand and has his left arm extended with his thumb raised? The painting on the cartoon artist's canvas is that of a thumb  :) Well that's what this massive bronze sculpture reminded me of.  :)

I can see where the idea came from

One of my evening jobs in Lausanne was to photograph some LED street lights supplied by the company for whom I work, which illuminate the way to Lausanne cathedral. I've chosen this one to show you. I used the HDR procedure to give more details.

As always, I value your comments and emails. If you have a photographic subject that you'd like me to cover then please get in touch.

That's it for now.

Friday, 20 August 2010

I'm bushed

As mentioned yesterday, I'm now in the beautiful city of Lausanne. It's been a long day but very productive.

I've shot nine projects for Regent Lighting (the company I work for). Everything from the Lausanne public transport command centre to a small art gallery.

Everything has gone smoothly thanks to careful and meticulous planning. My images have been backed up and I'm now ready for bed.

I'll leave you with this image taken earlier in the art gallery. It shows me trying to figureout how to get the ceilng AND the floor in the same pic.(it was a very small gallery!)

Thankfully, my lovely 17 - 40 at the wide setting came to the rescue and gives an impresson of space.
Good night

Wednesday, 18 August 2010


... Busily preparing for a two day architectural shoot in Lausanne.
Two DSLR's, two wide-angles, hot-shoe spirit level and tripod.
Stay tuned.

My camera family tree. The FD era. Part 0ne

I was looking through the cameras for sale on which is a Swiss version of Ebay.

Just looking. But one particular camera body caught my eye. It was the “legendary“ Canon  T90. Designed by famous Italian designer Luigi Colani. The last professional level manual-focus camera from Canon, and the last professional camera to use the Canon FD lens mount.

It was a beautiful camera then and it still looks futuristic today. This got me thinking about other cameras I have owned over the years and what I thought of them.

The first camera I ever used was a Halina Paulette electric. It belonged to my dad and he loaned me it when I went on holiday to South Africa with the school. I must have been about 13 or 14 years old.

Image by "Just Curt" on Flickr

I was living in Rhodesia at the time and because of sanctions on that country, film was expensive and hard to come by. My dad loaded it with a 24 exposure roll of 35mm. Enough for two weeks holiday.

He ran me through the basics of using the distance scale on the lens, then using the needle in the viewfinder together with the aperture and shutter speed rings on the lens, how to set the exposure.

I had a great holiday and was the only of our group of about thirty boys to have a camera.

Fast forward to 1979. I was in England, it was Christmas and my folks asked me what I wanted for a present. I chose a Russian Zenit E camera. I think that my only criteria for choosing this camera were because my dad told me that “you can change the lenses without fogging the film”. Technical stuff indeed.
Zenit E with Industar 50mm f3.5
My camera was equipped (as in the above example) with an Industar 50mm f3.5 lens. As with the Halina, you had to use match needle metering to set the exposure. First you would focus with the lens set to its widest (f3.5) aperture, Then  select a suitable shutter speed and turn the aperture ring on the lens until the needle hovered in the middle of the display. At first I thought that the darkening of the lens was a special effect to give a “night time” feel to the pictures. It was useful however because it taught me better than any book can about the relationship between shutter speed and aperture.

The Zenit was built like a tank. I bought myself some additional lenses, a 35mm and a 135mm and my fate was sealed. I was hooked.

I began to photograph anything and everything. From sports events to friend’s portraits. At sports events, it would take me 11 seconds to change lenses. The lenses in question had a 42 mm screw thread mount.

As my interest in photography grew, I began to devour anything I could about photography. I took books from the library, I bought books on the subject (some of which I still have), I spent all my spare money on photographic magazines. I also shot almost exclusively in Black and White. I joined a local camera club and picked up hints and tips to feed my growing hunger for photographic knowledge.

As my interest grew, so did my desire to have a ”better“ camera. One day, I saw an advert from the electronics shop, Dixons, for a Chinon CM-3 camera with powerwinder. I went to the shop and played around with a demo model and immediately fell in love with it. 


Again, as I was out of work and trying to freelance, my wonderful parents helped me with the purchase of the camera. This camera was the business!! It had a traffic light system of light metering plus the enormous advantage of not having to stop the lens down before taking a picture. All you had to do was focus, and then turn the lens aperture ring until the middle green LED lit up. However, the biggest kick for me was the powerwinder. This was Chinon’s name for an autowinder. It had controls on it such as an intervalometer  which allowed the taking of pictures every 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30 seconds and you could tell it how many frames you wanted exposed 4, 8, 12, 16, 24. Heady stuff for an impressionable photojunkie such as myself.

For a while I used the Zenit and the Chinon side by side as they both had the same M42 lens mount. Eventually though I picked up another Chinon and sold the Zenit. Now I felt really professional!

I began to take more and more pictures. My work improved and one day a ballet dancer friend of mine asked me to photograph her for an upcoming production. I remember photographing her in the sitting room of a derelict house with a stocking stretched over my lens to give a soft focus effect. She was pleased with the results and they went on display (with my name of course) in the front window of the local bank.

I began to receive bookings for weddings and other types of social photography from people who had seen the images and the work slowly started to increase in volume.

Although freelancing can be interesting, I was constantly looking for something a bit more stable so I answered an advert in the back on one of the photographic magazines for a portrait photographer wanted in Stuttgart, Germany.

I had forgotten all about it until a month or two later I received a phone call from the studio owner telling me that he loved the example pictures that  had sent him and would I like to come over to Germany to work for him.

The job in Germany wasn’t quite what I expected (or was led to believe). It involved door to door canvassing from Monday to Friday on American army bases in (what was then) West Germany.

Days were spent cold calling and trying to make appointments to come back in the evening to persuade the family to book a portrait session. Saturdays and Sundays were taken up with photographing the family’s who had booked us.

This wasn’t quite what I had in mind so after a few months I quit. I didn’t however want to go back to the UK with my tail between my legs so I decided to stay in Stuttgart. In order to save money (for film of course ?), I slept for three days in a row in a youth hostel (the maximum time allowed) followed by a couple of days in my car. Alternating between the two. This lasted for two months until one day, a friend told me that the photographer at the local army base was going back to the States. I decided to try my luck and went for an interview.

I was taken on as an (civilian) American Army photographer based at the Public Affairs Office. This was 1982.


This was a fantastic time for me. I was photographing everything from portraits, sports days, military manoeuvres, medal presentations and newspaper stuff to send back to the states. I sold my two Chinons and treated myself to a new Canon AE1.

The AE1 was shutter priority or manual. I preferred shutter priority as I favoured action photography. My work camera (the camera supplied for my job), was an original Canon F1

This came in a metal case with lots of accessories including hoods, finders etc. It (like my first Zenit) was built to take knocks. I was in camera heaven. They also thoughtfully supplied a 35mm and a 135 mm which also fitted my AE1.

My quest for more photography experiences led me two years later to quit the job and fly to South Africa on spec.

Before I left the Army job I was presented with an official commendation by the US government for my photographic work.

I immediately found a job in South Africa doing progress photos at a paper mill owned by SAPPI Fine Papers which was bang in the middle of the bush at a place called Ngodwana. It was a six month contract and I loved it. Again it was a new experience. I also had to attend a video making course.

When the contract finished, I found work in Johannesburg with the Electricity Supply Commission (ESCOM). Another great job with interesting people. Varied and interesting work including regular flights over the bush in a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter and all sorts on other photography including forensics, portraits, progress stuff etc.

Best of all, they had a fully stocked photo equipment cupboard.

I was issued with two Nikon F3’s and a selection of lenses plus a Metz 60 series flash gun. 

Unfortunately the F3’s weren’t up to the job. In six months I went through six bodies. Just little things like the metering wouldn’t meter or the flash synch wouldn’t fire the flash or readings would show false information etc. I went back to using my own Canon and as a treat I bought myself a Canon A1 with the Motor drive MA. The Motor drive added bulk to the body but improved the handling especially when shooting vertically. One particular feature that I loved was that when shooting in single frame advance, you could immediately change to high speed advance simply my pushing in a small white button that fell naturally under your little finger.

My time at ESCOM came to an end due to my “itchy feet” syndrome and I moved to the UK. London in particular. After a spell as a photolab manager I decided to freelance in London. I was doing everything from door-stepping to breaking news, demos and the inevitable “grip ‘n grin” pics.

It was around this time that the T90 (as mentioned at the beginning of this article), appeared on the market. So I sold my beloved AE1 and purchased the Colani designed masterpiece.

It was small, Light, all curved design with six integrated motors to handle rewind, film advance, shutter cocking etc. The amazing thing was that all this came from only FOUR penlight batteries!!

I loved it so much that I sold the A1 and bought another T90 body.

But the FD lens mount era was drawing to a close. It was 1987 and something big was stirring in the world of Canon photography.....

Tune in later for part two

Till then. Keep shooting.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Streetparade was a disappointment this year...

I've just finished photographing the 19th Street parade as mentioned in one of my previous posts.

After a break of two years I was really looking forward attending again. I was disappointed and I'll tell you why.

Normally (well, in previous years actually), there has been a massive party held in the Zürich main station. As soon as you disembarked from the train, there was the thud of Bass from the massive loudspeakers echoing through the giant hall.

This year there was nothing. Just people milling around. I took a few pics with my colleague Sindhoor and then we made our way to the Parade itself.

Walking down the main street towards the parade route I was struck by how "quiet" it was in comparison to my previous visits. The people as always were in a happy mood and willing to pose for pictures but there just didn't seem to be that "vibe" from previous years.

I had warned in my previous post that taking a rucksack would be a bad idea due to the crush of people attending but the reality was different. Sindhoor had a rucksack and experienced no problems whatsoever with mobility. There were open spaces everywhere. I could've swung my camera around by the strap and not hit anyone in some of the places.

There were several stages throughout the parade area. Normally they are populated by very attractive dancers. I was dismayed to see that this years crop (with only one or two exceptions) were lethargic and distanced.

Also a first for me this year was seeing the amount of drunk / drugged ravers. Now I know that rave parties and drug culture are inextricably linked, but previously they weren't too visible. This year I had them walking into me, I saw them falling over. I watched them try to focus their eyes when talkng to their companions. One couple behind me kept snorting what I can only assume was cocaine through a twenty Franc note every four or five minutes after which he'd unroll the note, lick it clean and then carry on dancing. I took this one surreptitiously over my shoulder. I've made him anonymous with a suitably trippy mask.

One group were just sat in the middle of the pavement with a cigarette rolling machine and a plentiful supply of marijuana.

Lastly, the Lovemobies themselves. I know that it takes quite a while for the Lovemobiles to make their way along the route and maybe the dancers onboard are tired by that time but of the first five mobiles that I saw, there were hardly anyone dancing. Most of the people onboard were jusr drinking, chatting amongst themselves or leaning on the railings and looking into the crowd.

At around five o'clock it began to rain heavily so I called it a day and made my way home.

I'm not saying that the parade was a complete let down but there wasn't the atmosphere of  previous years. Sindhoor enjoyed it and he got some great images with his new camera. Me? I  "only" took around 300 images. I didn't even fill one memorycard. That would have been unheard of previously.

Maybe it will be better next year. Or maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm getting jaded and spoiled by the experiences of previous years.

I'll leave you with this image. It's a crop from one of the pics on my site and shows me reflected in one of the girls' sunglasses.

Till next time. Take care.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Anyone got a rock?

At the moment I'm in a field of beautiful yellow sunflowers which contrast against the deep blue sky. I want to use my 17 mm with a polariser filter but I can't get the UV filter off the front.  Using both filters together on such a wide lens will darken the corners of the frame ( vignetting ) I've tried everything except hitting it with a stone!

Looks like I'll shoot anyway and see if I can correct it later.

Image courtesy of the crappy iPhone camera