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Converging Verticals

toon-architecture

This is an image of Thornton Place in Newcastle upon Tyne. It’s not one of Newcastle’s best known architectural locations (the likes of Grey Street and the Quayside are the usual ‘go to’ places), but like a lot of cities you never really notice some of the buildings unless you’ve got a few minutes to spare and you look upwards.

1524659_1025229974158213_5955181392400240162_nThis shot was really taken as a test image to see how I got on with the Fuji X100. This is a compact camera, beautifully styled by Fuji to look like an old 1970’s rangefinder, but more importantly the technical specification and image quality is bang up to date. It’s got a fixed 35mm focal length lens with a maximum aperture of f2, which makes it the classic choice for street photography. This is combined with an APS-C sensor, the size found on a lot of high end digital SLR’s. The lens and sensor combination have been specifically designed to work together, and that’s where the quality comes from.

The image above is a reasonable one, but what pleases me the most from it is the complete lack of distortion from the 35mm lens. This is quite a wide focal length, and you would expect to see some barrel or pincushion distortion in there somewhere, especially considering the subject is made up of straight, converging verticals, but there’s none. It’s absolutely nailed it.

Since getting the X100 (I looked around for a mint condition second hand one which is a bargain) I’ve hardly picked up my DSLR, and I could genuinely say that I could use it for pretty much everything I shoot. More importantly, because it’s so compact it’s the kind of camera I don’t manage carrying around with me, so I’m more likely to grab those interesting photographs (like the one here) when out and about.

A Foggy Day

 

fog

Foggy days are usually days suited to black and white. Low contrast and monochrome just tends to go together hand in hand, so this image was originally going to be without colour.

The location is the grounds of Matfen Hall Hotel in Northumberland. I’ve photographed there many times before, usually taking images of the hotel itself (both inside and out) and the golf course, but sometimes in-between photoshoots, when I’ve a little time to spare, I have a wander around the grounds to the east of the Dutch Garden. There’s a cracking little woodland there that I’ve always made a mental note to myself about how great it would look in mist.

I always find the combination of trees and fog early in the morning quite an evocative one. I’m not sure why, I think perhaps it’s something to do with what I feel while I am there capturing the scene.

It always seems very quiet in an environment like this, yet you can still occasionally hear sounds from quite a distance away travelling through the thick air and breaking the silence. You can hear animals moving around under the cover of the mist, you never catch a glimpse of them, but you know they are close.

This photograph is all about vertical lines, and is very simple. There’s not a lot going on in there, but I like the depth as you look through the rows of trees, and see each row becoming subsequently less visible than the one before.

On Reflections…

ovoline2

Reflections are fickle things, especially in rivers and moving water. You can spend literally months waiting for the reflection in the Tyne to be just right.

The tide has to be right, as does the amount of water in the river system, the wind, the river traffic and the location of the sun. It’s rare that it all comes together, and when it does you typically don’t have a camera with you!

This is one of those rare exceptions. I was in Newcastle on a photo job and decided to take a 15 minute break on a bench by the river, and the scene pretty much presented itself. This building has always fascinated me, though I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the pale blue colour, or perhaps the blue and red strips running from the roof and along the base. Regardless, I like it, and I especially like it when you can see almost a perfect mirror image of the jagged roof in the river. It’s a very untypical view of architecture on the quayside.

Technically there was nothing to it. The aperture was f8 to get the best out of the lens, the shutter speed was left to the camera and ended up being 1/40 second. All I had to do was make sure I was as square on to the front of the building as possible, and the rest would look after itself.

Dance away…

It’s not often that I write blog posts about other photographers, but I’m happy to make an exception here.

I’ve known Hannah for a few years now. She’s a photographer who lives not that far away from me in Newcastle, and I’ve been watching her work with interest (and a little jealousy!) over the last few months in particular.

ballet

Click the image for a larger view

There are a lot of photographers around here who book models to shoot in studios. Often you’ll find these are fashion or lingerie style photoshoots, and whilst there’s nothing wrong with that it’s just something that doesn’t really do it for me. I think perhaps I’ve reached saturation point, as there are so many images like that floating around at the moment.

Whatever the reason, it’s nothing personal, and it’s not intended as a criticism towards anybody. It’s just not for me I’m afraid.

The problem I have with a lot of images is that whilst technically they are very good, they just don’t reach out to me. Yes, that’s a pretty model, and she’s wearing a very nice dress, but I need a bit more than that. There has to be something about an image that draws me in emotionally, and an image being technically competent isn’t a good enough reason in itself.

Hannah’s recent set of dance inspired images succeed where others have failed. I can’t quite explain why, maybe it’s because she doesn’t shoot models, she shoots dancers, and perhaps it’s because she’s not in a studio with a plain background, she’s out in the real world.

It all just feels a bit more organic and natural, and I know it’s been done before, but it somehow still feels fresh to me. She doesn’t overdo the post production, she just has a solid concept, keeps it simple and elegant and captures it all beautifully.

The litmus test for me has to be “Would it go on my wall?”, and I think that in all honesty the one on this page from Hannah probably would. Hopefully Hannah is jumping for joy at the results as much as the subject in the image is.

hannahweb
You can see more of Hannah’s work at her website:
http://www.hannahtoddphotography.co.uk

“Blue Hubbard”

img-19420This is a shot of acoustic folk / blues band ‘Blue Hubbard’ who I photographed recently at an outdoor event they were playing at.

The image is all about ‘blue’ – the name of the band, the colour of singer Rebecca’s dress, the wall in the background, and the original artwork on the wall behind them.

Composition wise, the image is fairly simple. Band members Paul and Phil were positioned seated on either side, with Rebecca kneeling on the floor at the front centre, at a slightly lower viewpoint. This was so that Rebecca’s dress didn’t merge into the blue of the background. Originally there was a short table in front of the chairs, but I moved this out of shot as I liked the horizontal line that the blue floor rug gives at the bottom of the image.

The great thing about photographing performers is that typically they’re used to being watched, so have that ability to appear very relaxed in front of the camera. Because of this, once they were in the right position the shoot only took a few minutes. There’s no point in firing off hundreds of shots when you just know you’ve got the one you want in the bag!

Lighting wise, this was a gentle mix of diffused daylight through a glass ceiling, with a little fill in flash to bring out the details of the clarinet and texture of the guitar.

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