Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Laid off

This sums up my mood

On the 13 of September this year, I was invited into the HR department and told by our new department head, that the company for which I have worked for the past nine and a half years had no more need of my services.*

I was given five months notice, effective from the beginning of October. My last day will be at the end of February 2012.

To say that I was shocked would be a massive understatement. To be laid off is bad enough, but to be made redundant when you think that all is well is a nasty surprise.

Since my birthday in 2002, I have worked as the in-house photographer for the premier lighting company in Switzerland. The work I do includes, but is not limited to product shots, on location work, portraits, exhibition coverage and lots, lots more.

As the sole English person working here, I proofread brochures and documents for accuracy in my mother language. With my knowledge of HTML, I built private websites for my co-workers including members of the management board.

Presentations, movies and PowerPoint’s are also called for. In fact, only last week, one of my self made movies was shown in the town of Olten to inform its citizens how their Christmas lights will look next year.

I’ve immediately started a campaign of letter writing and registered myself for email alerts for any jobs with “photography” somewhere in the description.

The rejection letters are coming back thick and fast. It seems that employees can now be choosier because of all the “photographers” on the market and the plethora of picture libraries.

Although (at the time of writing this) I have another three months or so until I have to go, I am cautiously optimistic of finding an in-house position. If not, then I’ll have to go back to freelancing.

Other steps that I’ve taken are building up a mailing list of architects and lighting designers etc that I have worked with in the past and offering my services to them. My print portfolio has always contained my best stuff so I don’t have much extra work to do with that. My website will be completely revamped to show more professional work. Business cards will also be added to the mix.

Since I first got into photography, I have always been able to survive. In the past I moved to different countries and was always able to find photography related work, whether it was managing a lab in South Africa or being the base photographer for the US army in Stuttgart, Germany. (For which I received a certificate of commendation for my photographic work and knowledge.)

However. I was younger then and didn’t have a wife and family to think about.
I’m not going to make this post depressing but rather will use my blog to detail how I’m managing to find photographic work which is my passion.
* I have just checked my work computer. Since 2005 I have made 25,777 digital images for Regent.  Before that and up until about two years ago, I shot hundreds of rolls of medium format film. I think that there is DEFINITELY a need for a photographer.

Film from a three day shoot

 Film boxes from a two day studio shoot

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Timing.............. or the lack of it

Timing, meaning everything from pre-planning to arriving on time to being at the correct spot to get the image, in photography, is everything.

Last weekend I displayed a singular lack of any sense of timing.

As you may have read I prepared to photograph the traditional  Gansabhäut in the town of Sursee in Switzerland (for exact details refer to the previous post).

I've been meaning to photograph it ever since I came to Switzerland in 1995 but things always seemed to happen that prevented me from making the journey.

This year I made all the arrangements. I researched the event, and telephoned the event organiser, the extremely helpful and very knowledgeable Mr Michael Blatter from Sursee council.

He informed me that this year, one hundred and eleven people of all ages from 15 to 70 years old had registered. Each person would only get one attempt at separating the goose from its head. There would be two geese. Last year it had taken about one and a half hours until the second goose was cut free.

The event was scheduled to begin at one o’clock with speeches etc and a procession of guild members carrying the two geese. My interest lay however with the actual main part of the proceedings i.e. the goose whacking.

I left my house in plenty of time and was sure of arriving at about three o’clock. Getting caught in traffic and then having to find a parking space a bit away from the event meant that I turned up 35 minutes late at the town hall. I was confident however that all would be good. Last year’s event had taken ninety minutes right?

Years ago, when I worked as a press photographer, I was told always to take a quick picture at a news scene upon arrival. This ensures that you have a picture, in case anything happens such as being told to leave.

With this in mind, I popped my head trough the door and took a long telephoto shot of one of the contestants lining up his aim. Not a great pic as his left arm is obscuring his mask / face. But I had at least one pic, should anything untoward happen.

 My establishing shot
Eos7d 70 -200 zoom

I went back inside to find Mr Blatter and heard a tremendous cheer from the assembled crowd. Spinning round and exiting through the door, I saw the goose’ body lying on the ground. I snapped several pics and said to one of the press photographers standing next to me

“So that’s the first one gone”

“No” he replied. “That was the second one”

I couldn’t believe it. I’d missed the action!

I learnt from the photographer that the first goose had been knocked down after the seventh participant whacked it.

The second goose had gone after the first person hit it!

All was not not lost however. Another thing that doing press photography teaches you is that there are always other images to be made. Thinking about this, I set about taking other images from the event. Pole climbing (Stangechlädere), ugly face contest (Chäszänne), where the winners get a slice of cheese, and the combined sack race (Sackgompe) & sausage eating contest were recorded by my cameras and these images will go to a slide library of traditional Swiss folklore events.

 Ugly faces rewarded with cheese

The pole climbing

 Combined sack race and sausage eating

 Town square
As for the main event. I'll definitely be back next year!

Thanks for reading

Friday, 11 November 2011

Gansabhäut. Sort of like a Swiss Piñata

Gansabhäut. Sort of like a Swiss Piñata

Ever since I came to Switzerland in 1995, I've liked to photograph various folk festivals.

Today I'm off to photograph the Gansabhäut festival held every November 11th in Sursee, Switzerland. This involves stringing up a dead goose, then having blindfolded youths (not sure if girls take part), trying to decapitate it with a blunt sabre, whilst blindfolded andwearing a golden mask and crimson robes.

Apart from the sword, the robes and the mask, I guess it's a sort of Swiss version of the Mexican Piñata. That's the kind of thing you see on the home video programmes where a blindfolded child wields a baseball bat and (usually) hits an adult between the legs.

Apart from the main event of decapitating a dead goose, there are lots of things for youngsters to do including (but not limited to) an ugly face contest, climbing a pole barefoot, eating sausages dangling on string without hand contact (seriously) and a few others. It all finishes of with a flaming torch procession through the town,  although this last part is relatively new, having been introduced in 1997.

I'll be taking my Eos 5dMkII and my Eos 7D with me. On the 5d, I'll probably mount my 17 - 40 and on the 7D there'll be a 70 - 200 zoom in case I can't get too close. Both cameras will have a flash mounted to add a bit of "punch" to the red robes and the gold masks.

Pictures to follow.

To read a bit more about it in English you can visit the Swiss Tourist board website here. These are some images from previous years to be found here.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

How did I do that? Part 2

Banishing reflections

I work a great deal with reflective surfaces in my job. It could be a highly reflective silver grid on a light or even just the inside surface of a light reflector. Either way, these surfaces produce reflections which detract from the image.

Add to the fact that these surfaces are sometimes concave or convex then the problem gets worse as the curved surface takes in the whole room!

For small surfaces it's relatively simple to place the object in a white light tent. For larger objects it can get problematic and the images may have to be extensively retouched.

I had this problem recently when I was photographing one of a new range of LED lights produced by the company for which I work.

I had done all the catalogue standard shots and wanted to finish with a shot showing the light source itself.

When I looked into the reflector through my viewfinder, I could see myself! The light was just a bit too big to place in a light tent so I came up with another solution.

Here's what I did:

Camera is mounted on the FOBA stand. There's also a spirit level in the hot-shoe.

First result: 

That's me reflected in the silver reflector.

A large piece of white card with a lens sized hole in the middle is called for:

I used the self timer function on the camera to give me ten seconds of time to position the board correctly

This was the final result.

I make no apologies if you already know of this technique, but I simply like to share my knowledge.

Thanks for reading