Changing the story.

I set out to learn how to take some better pictures so that I would have some nice images of family and friends. So far I’ve enjoyed the learning curve and it has taken me off in a few different directions that I never imagined it would. To be honest, I thought I would learn some basics and then, Bobs your uncle. You’re on your way to being a photographer. Wrong!

There is so much more to it. All the technical stuff, all the artistic stuff, all the different genres and much much much much much more.

I’ve recently been thinking about the editing side of things. Well that and maybe getting a little portfolio together.

You see I’m thinking about signing up for a photography course that will give me a qualification. Yes I know people out there are earning money or just having a lot of fun without gaining qualifications but, I’m going to end up doing several short courses throughout the year; just to give me ideas and to nudge me in the right direction. So, why not do a course that gives me a bit of paper at the end of it?

After all it is something that I can stick on a CV For any job right?

It shows that I have an interest, that I have commitment and an aptitude to learning.

I have a job, I have a good job, a rewarding job (sadly not finically!!). However, its a physically and mentally demanding job and I’m not so sure that I want to do it for another twenty years. Therefore anything to add to my CV is a good thing. So I’m told.

I digress…. Editing and a Portfolio.

I don’t know where to start with a portfolio. I kind of guess I have a body of work with this blog but I need something with printed images. How do you choose what images to put into a portfolio?

There are obvious answers to this, such as your best images, duh!

I might come back to it when I sit down and have a really good think.

Editing is really the key issue here. I’ve just taken a slightly rambling route to get here.

How we edit the photo can change what story we are telling. It is also one of those areas I am having a little difficulty with. I’m not a technical wizard with software, huh! I am barely computer literate. Even the basics of editing can be difficult to know what to do and when to stop……

I’m going to go back to my 100 candid strangers to use as an example.

This is the image I recently shot.
stranger 1.4
It is wonky, its very wonky! In fact I have no idea how I managed to take it this wonky? Anyway, we’d all agree its definitely wonky. Some people will like this and some will not. I don’t.

So its into lightroom for lens corrections, to straighten the image out and add a slight crop to tidy it all up a bit.
Stranger1.1
Personally I think this looks much better but I wonder if my reflection in the window detracts from the image? Does it add to the story? I guess that because it is a candid street shot of the waitress who was folding napkins (until someone at the back of the restaurant hollered something that made her turn around and face me) It doesn’t really matter whether I’m there of not. Again some will like it and others will not.

Here is one without me. Please do not comment on the editing. I am by no means proficient at altering images. I also do not have the tools to do the job. I’m on a lap top that has a small pressure pad, no mouse, no fancy image editing pad and stylet pen type thing. Nothing fancy and I know if I had the equipment and the time, it could be marvelous. The somewhat scruffy alterations took just a couple of minutes and I’ve added the image purely for illustrative purposes.
Stranger 1.3
My point is to simply show how our decision to carry out any edit can change the feel of the image and the story we are telling.

Taking a much closer crop we then have a candid portrait of the person. Some would say the close crop is better and some would say it no longer tells any of the story of how the image was obtained.
printing-17
I actually like all of the images, even the very wonky one.

I guess the three things I would like to know are:
Whether or not the inclusion of the photographers reflection adds or detracts from the image?
If I took time and care over the image with me removed, which one of the last three would be better in a portfolio?
How much should we be altering our images & changing the story?

Opinions on this are definitely welcome folks.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James.

Touching up strangers.

First off, if you’ve arrived here looking for something kinky, I appoligise yet again for another misleading red top style title. (In The UK, the term “red tops” is used in reference to tabloid news papers).
There is nothing remotely kinky here and this blog is just about my photography and the need to make adjustments; touching up the image. In this case, one of the strangers I photographed for a personal project.

I’m not a big fan of overworked photography. Some of it looks great and yet the best stuff tends to be the images that do not look like they have had much done. 

I’m aware of programs like gimp, photoshop and lightroom. I used to use aperture but it just kept crashing so I changed over to lightroom for cataloging my images and it also allows me to make subtle changes. 

I might add a bit of vignetting, change colour saturation or crop an image. People used to do this in dark rooms with film. Used to! They still do!
It is accepted that this is an okay thing to do. 

Although I don’t like photoshop when its over done or when a photographer uses it all of the time, to the point that their work becomes gimmicky rather than standing on its own. I am thinking that I now need to learn how to use some sort of photoshop program that will allow me to add layers. 

In a previous blog I photographed a stranger for my 100 candid strangers project. If you look at the image you will see a floating hand. I’m at the stage where I am feeling comfortable with the camera settings and as stated previously, I am getting a better success rate at capturing images on the streets but there are the small things that I have no control over. Such as the floating hand!

I should really be starting to remove these small distractions to move my images on to the next level. I have already shown you an example of dodging an image. This is simply the selection of an area on an image and making adjustments to exposure to darken the selected area. That was done for modesty reasons.

This next set of images however have been adjusted because I think they generally improve the picture.
Coincidently this lesson by Photofocus also popped up on my reader as I was getting this blog ready. 

Image one has already been cropped. I should have moved a wee bit closer as I was using a prime lens but it would appear that I forgot, just for a moment how to use my feet.
Stranger 64.1jpg

The changes are very subtle in image two but they include a little vignetting, the overall contrast has been increased just a smidge and the exposure brought down a tad.
Stranger 64.2

Finally, touching up of the stranger!

The little bit of sunlight hitting her leg has been dodged and healed. I think it adds an evenness and hope you would agree that this small attention to detail improves the image.
Stranger 64.3
I still feel that I have a lot of practice ahead of me in regard to capturing images but these small adjustments are what is hopefully going to help the images look a little more aesthetically pleasing. 

Tips, hints and comments welcome. 

Thanks for visiting.

Jim Jimmy James. 

Its like Déjà vu but its not Déjà vu.

There probably is a term for it bit I don’t know what it is. I’m certain a wordy linguist wordsmith type person somewhere will know the exact descriptive word I’m looking for. However, for the mean time we will just have to put up with my rambling.

I met a couple of friends at the weekend and we set off along the south bank with our cameras. I had a set idea of what I wanted to capture for an upcoming project/topic. I didn’t really see much of an opportunity to get what I was after so while Neil was getting location ideas, Matt was shooting architectural and street scenes I changed my focus and decided I would get some images for my 100 candid strangers project.

So I set about taking pictures of people. Some close up, some not so close up, some I felt comfortable taking and some not so comfortable.

I used a few tricks like placing one of my photographer pals in a shot and shooting over their shoulder or just past them. I did the old looking into the camera and shaking my head and pretending to be recomposing a shot so the real subject thought taking their photo was an accident. I took a few shots from the hip too.

Overall I’m reasonably happy with my success rate. While there were images that I was not so keen on, most were well exposed and in focus. Thats a step in the right direction. Especially on such a bright day with strong contrasty sunlight.

Anyway, the woman in the following image was not my intended subject. She was sat near the person I wanted to photograph. When I was reviewing the images I noticed her holding the camera and that she appeared to be looking straight at me and Matt, who, I was using as my decoy at the time. I chuckled to myself while thinking she must have known that Matt was being used as a distraction and has probably done the same herself. Either that or I really wasn’t very subtle at all. :/

Anyway, I suddenly thought that I’m sure I have seen her somewhere before. Yes that is a really naff chat up line or a coy and polite way of introducing yourself to someone that some people use. However, my day job is very much in the public eye and I come into contact with numerous people every day. So it is possible that I have seen her elsewhere. Also just to clarify, you will be pleased to hear that I didn’t suddenly blurt out “have I seen you somewhere before”. In fact I didn’t speak to her because I wanted natural shots of people.

I’ve used this cropped image because I much prefer this accidental capture to the image I was trying to get.

Stranger 60

One of my mates has an unbelievable memory when it comes to faces, he even remembers names and where they came into contact. Its bugging me that I think I know her but can not place her face.

Its like Déjà vu but its not Déjà vu.

 

As always, thanks for visiting.

Jim Jimmy James

Advertising to Burglars!

Not my normal type of post and nothing fancy or clever with photography. Just two snaps and a bit of a moan.

Where I live there was a short lived spate of burglaries, thankfully we were not directly targeted but some of my immediate neighbours were. 

Its a dreadful situation that leaves people feeling angry and vulnerable. Not only do people loose sentimental and expensive property, there is also a psychological impact on the victims. 

I’m not going to give you references to pages and evidence, if you want that, search for it yourself, there is plenty of it out there. 

I’m just going to moan about Yellow Pages (I guess its Yell.com on line?). 

Anyway, I came home to find a copy of yellow pages hanging out of my letterbox. 

So what you say. Well, yellow pages advertised the fact that my flat was empty. I’d like to thank those good folks at yellow pages for their consideration. 

Image

 

Just a little miffed I thought, well these things happen and nothing happened to our flat. But thats not the point thought I; It shouldn’t happen! Life is to short to stress about it. Let it go. 

So I let it go. It was nothing but a minor irritant in my day. Short lived and quickly forgotten about.

Hmm, you are thinking/asking: If it was “nothing but a minor irritant…. Short lived and quickly forgotten about”, why are you posting about it?

Because I believe that in The UK we have regulations regarding mail drops and that any items should not be partially posted or door stepped (left on the doormat).

What do I find when I get home?

Yep! You guessed it. If the yellow pages are out so to is the British Telecom book. What do they do with it? Look……………

Image 1 

So thank you British Telecom for adding to my annoyance. You too advertised my empty home to would be burglars. 

I believe there is a £4000 fine to contractors that deliver these items without dealing with them properly. This was passed because it is a way that burglars spot homes where the owner/lessee is away for a day or two. 

Do you know what I did. I walked around and pushed the yellow pages completely through my neighbours letterboxes and I gathered up the BT books and left them by the lift of my block so that anyone that actually wanted one could take one. But what I really did was give up ten minutes of my life protect my neighbours homes. They don’t know that and that does not matter. I wished someone that was home had done it prior to my arrival home. But hey, some people are community minded and some aren’t. Thats life!

I’m pretty hacked off at the lazy incompetent toe-rags that were paid to deliver these books. I’m at a loss to find the right words to describe how I feel without swearing, so I will leave it at that.

But, what I will ask of you dear reader is this: If you see these books hanging out of your neighbours letterboxes or sat on their doormats, do the decent thing and move them. In doing so, you may well save one of your neighbours from going through a whole heap of heartache.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James 

A cheeky bum flash!

Anyone who has stumbled across, or is following my blog will know that I am shooting in different environments and photographic genres. In part to see where I would like to concentrate my efforts but generally to improve my overall camera skills and knowledge.

Those that may have delved a little further and found me on Flickr as well as Tumblr will know that I am taking part in a 100 strangers project.

There are a few different versions of this. I intend on completing the 100 Strangers Portraits, whereby I am required to stop the subject, find out some info about them and with their agreement, take a portrait that they would hopefully be happy with.

Currently I am capturing images for a 100 strangers ‘candid’.

The first few pictures I took made me feel a little uncomfortable but as I relaxed into it, I found it surprising how many people just do not notice you pointing a camera at them.

Anyway, to date I have had no real dilemma regarding the images I use. There was a question sometime ago regarding crashing a pro photo shoot. But that was a while ago and not in the same league as this dilemma that I never thought I would find myself facing.

When we get to the crux of the matter some will think there is nothing wrong with the image and that I am being a middle aged prude and others will pigeonhole my as that creepy photographer.

When I set out on my candid strangers project I made a conscious decision that I would not post any image that I would feel unflattering if I was the subject in front of the lens.

I’ve stuck to that self imposed rule and the following image, I think, is not unflattering nor embarrassing. But has left me questioning whether or not its appropriate for my project.

After long consideration and opinion sought from friends and peers, I decided that although there is some divided opinion, the overall consensus (and mostly from women) is that it is an okay image to use.

Now if I was the sort of chap to wear a mini kilt and I flashed a bit of cheek, the image would be fine. For the record I am a bit of a prude and do not wear a mini kilt, therefore would not find myself in the position of flashing any body part. Unless I got drunk and decided to perform a hand stand. In that case you might get a flash of my six pack that is cleverly disguised as a one pack.

When I went to take this picture the woman was sat on a fence. My camera settings were not set up to capture movement, you can see this by looking at the people in the background. The woman was posing for a photo and it suddenly started to rain, she hoped off the fence where she was perched and I captured an accidental flash.

Personally I think there is a little too much blur in the image to use but I want an opinion from you. Yes you dear reader. I would like your thoughts on the images.

The woman is pretty, she has a figure that I guess some would like to have (one female friend said if she had a backside like hers she wouldn’t mind who photographed it) and she is obviously very confident to wear such a short flared skirt. On those assumptions I’m guessing that she really wouldn’t mind the image being used. However, in case I am wrong, I have blurred her face a little.

1 

This is not the image I set out to get. I think that is pretty obvious.

2

The image needed to be cropped but now looks a bit iffy and suspect.

3

I think Black and White makes the image appear more acceptable.

4

Small adjustments to colour filters changes the image further .

5

Increased blacks and added contrast to add some modesty.

6

What I want to know is, if I had a faster shutter speed and the image was sharper, which of these, if any, would you consider suitable for street photography?

In life there is a very fine line between confidence and arrogance. Only now have I come to realise that in photography there is also a fine line between art, capturing a moment (albeit accidental) and stepping onto, maybe even across that line that takes ones photography to a place where it could be considered by some as pervy rather than street photography.

Acceptable, Unacceptable, just a bit cheeky?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treating Humans like Feathered Vermin!

Vermin!

Thats not how I see it. Please read on and let me know your thoughts.

A number of weeks ago a private building put some blunt ended spikes in the door way to their premises. The purpose was to stop street homeless\rough sleepers from sleeping in their doorway.

We don’t really know the full history of events leading up to these spikes being installed, it could be that a one off or several incidents occurred; it may be that the residents or landlord just didn’t want a vagrant sleeping there and making the place look untidy.

The building in this news paper article is not the only place that has them, but for some reason had been singled out.

St Martins Place near Trafalgar Square has them outside an office block. Presumably to stop people sitting there and leaving rubbish behind.

I say this because they’re on a wall that is about three feet high and an area exposed to the elements. It is also next door to a very very popular sandwich shop that has limited outside seating.

I guess the sitting and loitering excuse would be the same as the “Play to Win” shop in London’s China Town (Gerrard Street at the junction with Wardour Street, W1).

I presume that at some stage people have sat and caused unintentional damage to the shops’ windows. So the spikes are used as deterrents to loitering in the same way as the rows of plastic spikes on buildings stop pigeons landing and nesting (because of the damage they cause).

I’m torn over the issue of these spikes. I have empathy for the street homeless and I personally like to sit and watch the world go by. But I can also understand why business’ would use them.

Personally it makes me uncomfortable because it kind of feels like a form of social engineering and an unsympathetic, immoral way of dealing with social issues and overcrowding in my city.

Wherever they are installed, these spikes ultimately affect all of us, they stop us sitting and relaxing, people watching, having somewhere to rest, eat and drink.

What are your thoughts? Do some of our fellow men (and women) deserve to be treated like pigeons? The spikes say a lot about our society.

My two images left me thinking: Are we really going down the road of treating humans like feathered vermin?

Speakers’ Corner.

Its been about a month since I posted any images. There is no real reason other than I’ve just being too busy. 

I’m doing a personal project of 100 ‘candid’ strangers that has kind of stalled. I want to get it finished by the end of this year, so, I decided to head along to Speakers’ Corner at Hyde Park in London. 

I thought it would be a great place to get some candid shots of people but it wasn’t that busy. It has also changed so much over the years. Much more than I had realised.

With the exception of Tony Allen, “Advocate Heckler” “Anarchist Parasite” & “Mixed Ability Shaman”, the rest of the speakers were religious. The Gent talking about The Qur’an had some younger guys nearby that were getting in the faces of people who questioned anything he said. Not nice to watch and I can imagine some found it intimidating. (Can I point out that I can not confirm if the younger men were with the speaker or acting on their own volition).

The self proclaimed “Advocate Heckler” only had three people in front of him but they did seem to be having a good old fashioned in-depth debate. 

A christian preacher looked like he was healing people. At least that is what I think was going on. He had a big group around him and he was speaking very quietly and placing his hand on people’s heads. 

Another chap, I’m not sure if he was christian or some sort of scientologist was asking that age old question of “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”

The speakers were not actually at the corner that I remember where speakers used to gather and they were not very well spread out. It also felt like it was nearly all tourists. I will go back to take more images when I have more time to commit to listening and observing what is going on. Today it felt a bit of a hostile environment so I left them to it. 

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Thanks for visiting.

Jim Jimmy James