The Pukes II

After shooting The Pukes in October 2014 while they recorded a music video I commented that I had some real issues getting clean usable shots and I would like the opportunity to get some better images.

Guess what?…… I was invited to shoot them again.

I’d like to think it was because they liked my work so much but I think it was probably because their usual photographer wasn’t available on Valentines Night.

Yep! Instead of taking my beautiful wife out for a romantic valentine dinner, we had an alternative valentine evening.

The brief was to take a handful of portraits, a couple of group shots and provide some live performance images…..Be set up for 18:30 for the portraits.

So I made a point of arriving early, I had a good walk around and scouted for good locations to take a few group shots. There was an estate across the road that had some lighting in a courtyard and a great wall with a couple of steps that could be used to make sure everyone was visible.

Along at the next corner was a small wall I could stand on if I had issues getting everyone in the image. I found a couple of back drops at the venue for the individual portraits, a black wall and a really nice wooden door.

I set up in the hope that I could take the individual portraits as band members arrived so that I could spend a bit of time with the individuals on a one to one basis in the hope of catching their personality in the portraits.

That is after all what we are aiming for as photographers.

That didn’t happen and some time later, about an hour (ish) they appeared and wanted to do the group photos first.

No problem, however after taking a couple of photos my flashes had stopped communicating with each other.

At this time in the evening it meant the steps were out of question as there was not enough light. Fortunately I had seen a loading bay at a local hotel and had asked the manager if it was posable to use the bay for ten minutes. Kindly he said yes.

I had anticipated that I might need a step and had put one in the car. As we walked one very short block to the hotel it was clear one or two of the band would not be happy to head into the estate or further along the road to the other wall.

After a couple of reasonably safe group shots in less than ideal light conditions it was now time to get the band into a few different positions in the hope of producing something they would find interesting and would be happy to use.

Oh my good god!!

I have a new respect for wedding photographers….. People look in different directions, blink, move and get distracted by onlookers…..“Hells teeth!” is the polite exclamation that rattled around my brain box when I was reviewing the images as we went along.

This is by no means the fault of any band members, they are human and it is just human behavior to be interested in your surroundings and to respond to comments and the distractions of onlookers. (Something I had given very little thought to).

Many of the shots had band members slightly obscured by one-another or by instruments. It didn’t matter how much I said “If you can’t see the lens, I can not see you”, it was just the nature of the shoot. Anyhow, we came away with a couple of images that looked nice in the back of the camera.

As far as camera settings go, I’d have preferred to use a more closed down aperture to ensure sharpness throughout the entire image but with one speed-light and having pushed the ISO as high as was acceptable I had to settle with what I would consider tolerable softness in focus for the people at the back of the photos.

The lead singer and primary front-members of the band are suitably sharp in the images.

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Onto the individual portraits and the lovely wooden door now had a shutter pulled down in front of it. Ahggrrrr!

So, the portraits were all going to be in front of the black painted brick wall. Probably just as well. It was getting colder and the band wanted to have time to relax prior to the gig and some naturally wanted to catch the first bands performance.

The portraits felt like a bit of a conveyer belt; getting a couple of shots with an outrageous but well made and decorated prop made by Esme, one of the band members and individual shots without the prop were very informal and relaxed.

Ideally I would have liked to take a few head and shoulder shots along with three quarter and full length portraits. But there just wasn’t time for this and I was still dwelling on the group shots and wondering if I’d captured at least one good image.

So due to the limited time and me stressing myself about the lights meant I most likely didn’t give enough of myself in order to get the portraits I would be really happy with. Not that I think there is anything wrong with the portraits. I just would have liked to have more time with the individuals to make sure I could capture not only something they would find flattering but an image that captures their personality.

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I managed to get a handful of live performance images but was mindful there was a paying audience so kept my time at the front of the stage to two songs and shot without flash.

The light wasn’t great for much of the time and a particularly high ISO was required.

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I really enjoyed my short time with The Pukes and thoroughly enjoyed the gig. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml1LDhgjQfo

Well after all of that, what did I learn? Actually, lots!

One useful suggestion from one of the ladies in the band was to give them a little count down to when I was going to press the shutter release button. I’m not sure who it was that shouted it out but it was invaluable and has been noted for the next time. That is if I ever put myself through the stress of large group shots again.

I’m only 5ft 8 & 3/4s (I’ve shrunk!) so I need a taller step.

A back up lighting system would be ideal but massively expensive and totally impracticable so looking for alternative spots near the location was a good idea and should be done for every shoot.

Be firm in regards to giving directions and I probably should have just suggested at least one of the other locations. A bit more confidence in my abilities and knowledge of what is needed to produce the best images.

Above all, I do not communicate well when I am being a stress monkey. I need to remember I am fairly pragmatic and that means I will find a way around problems, so I should relax and enjoy the moment. That will also help get the best results.

Special thanks to my better half for her help on the shoot, The Pukes, Peter the manager at RE hotel in Shoreditch and thank you to you for viewing my blog.

Jim Jimmy or James.

Learning New Tricks.

Camden is one of those places that at weekends if you were blind folded, given a stone and asked to throw it in some random direction you’d normally have a 50/50 chance of it hitting someone that looks interesting; be that their face, make up, hair or dress sense. Two weekends and a few hours on week day afternoons I spent there and all the goths, skins, mods, punks……….. where the hell was everyone? I had even gone to a few gig venues but only found people dressing with a kind of hybrid on the old youth cultures I grew up with. So I’m in Camden, it was cold and starting to get late so I decided it was time to head off (via a pub for a swift half and some food). Suddenly I heard the distinctive sound of a Vespa or Lambretta. I was certain it would be one of these hybrid-trendies. The scooter came around the corner and the rider was wearing a parker, looks promising I think to myself. As he passes I clock that he is wearing a crash helmet with the Trojan logo and a pair of DMs. The road goes to a super market, a petrol station or is a good point to turn around if you’d missed a turning. I waited to see where he was going and he headed into the petrol station to put air in his tyres. As I approached him I thought he’d be a great subject for a portrait. Hello mate I’m Jim, offered my hand and he introduced himself as Eddie as he shock my hand. I told him that I was learning photography and about a couple of projects I am doing. Fortunately Eddie was already aware of Flickr and his son in law is a photography assistant. I took a few shots of Eddie, close crop, half length and some with the scooter full in the frame. Whats new for me, learning about off camera flash. My first shot was over exposed and then the next was under exposed. Third shot onwards were all good. Also there is a little photoshopping but I hope it has enhanced the image. I usually use Lightroom to carry out adjustments but it just wasn’t doing the job. I knew photoshop would be a tool I would end up needing to use so I subscribed to Adobe Creative Cloud. Again, photoshop is new to me so I will learn how to get the most out of it with a little practice. In image one I didn’t like the flash on the black drainpipe, I felt that the label of the rodent trap was a little distracting and I really wasn’t keen on the air pump being in the shot.

Image pre photoshop  adjustments.

Image pre photoshop adjustments.

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Edit-1 with distractions removed from drainpipe and rat trap.

Edit 2 with air pump signage removed.

Edit 2 with air pump signage removed.

I am reasonably happy with the work I have done but will only really know how well it worked once I print the image. I emailed Eddie some jpegs and he very kindly offered me the opportunity to do some more photo sessions with him in the future. Thank you Eddie for your time and generous offer. As always, constructive comments are always welcome & thank you for visiting my blog. Kind regards, Jim Jimmy James

Update on my 100 strangers!

Well I said I would update this blog on how my 100 strangers project was going but I had no idea it would be this quickly.

The project is on Flickr and I don’t usually get more than a couple of hundred views over a few weeks and only occasionally get comments and feed back on the images.

Here is my stranger number four. Surprisingly to me, this portrait was picked up by Flickr Explore. I don’t really know much about them other than they pick images that are considered interesting.

What do they consider interesting? I’m also not too sure about that. I do know that being invited onto their page is held in high regard and it brings a lot of traffic to view the image.

Ordinarily if anyone comments or likes an image I try to visit their photo-stream with the intention of returning any complements, finding some inspiration and hopefully finding an image or description I can learn from.

The 100 strangers project has already been great for feed back but oddly, and this is why I am blogging an update on the project already.

In the album I only have four images and two of those have been shown In Explore.

The latest image has had over seven thousand views and currently has 79 favourites (That is like the ‘like button’ on wordpress and facebook).

The same happened a while ago on the Viewbug site.

The number of views and likes is small compared to many of the great photographers on Flickr but none the less its exciting to think that so many people have seen a portrait that I have taken. I feel very privileged to be invited to the ‘In Explore’ page and very flattered that so many people have kindly clicked the like button. It will be interesting to see how many more people view the image.

I’m not going to have time to visit all those pages but have visited a few and will select a few more to look through.

If you happen to be one of those that have taken the time to visit my images and even clicked like; Thank You.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

100 Strangers

So, I completed my flickr project to take 100 candid stranger portraits.  While I spoke to some of the people I photographed the vast majority were bypassers.

At times I enjoyed the project and at other times it felt very awkward.

My intention was to use this personal assignment as practice for another one hundred strangers project that will push me both technically and sociably.

Its funny that my job puts me in positions where I have to take control of some demanding situations and people/strangers often look to me to control many many different and difficult environments.

During my working day I have to appear confident and totally unfazed by anything I have to face.

At times my job can be physically and mentally demanding. Funnily I’m also often photographed and recorded.

Now, put a camera in my hand and ask me to approach a total stranger, speak to them and ask if I can take their portrait… It is totally nerve-racking!

Its different from my job. At work I have a tacit knowledge of what needs to be done, how it needs to be done and a pragmatism to get the job done. When it comes to photography and I approach a stranger I feel anxious about how they’ll react. I don’t feel particularly confident in how I should go about directing them as a model and I just feel like I have too much running around in my head…. exposure, shutter speed, chatting, pose, background, am I holding the person up…. I actually feel a bit rushed and hurry myself far too much because I am worried about taking up the persons time.

Perhaps unnecessarily because if they were in a huge hurry they wouldn’t agree to having their portrait taken.

Anyway, I find it difficult to engage strangers in conversation and this new 100 strangers project is going to be tough.

I hope it will get easier as time goes on and I certainly want to improve my portraiture along with my understanding of the use of natural light, flash photography and light modifiers.

Below are my first three strangers that very kindly agreed to take part in the project along with a little description that goes with the images.

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This is Chris. He is #003 in my 100 strangers project. I went to a gig at the 100 club on Oxford Street, London. Then on to The 12 Bar on Denmark Street who had a late night DJ.

A Rockabilly/Psychobilly band called King Kurt had been playing. Their gigs can get a tad messy. That is actually an understatement. I once had to walk a good few miles to get home after seeing them play. I could not get a taxi and the bus drivers would not let on the busses. I was covered in flour just like Chris who was the DJ following the live music.

I actually went up to a balcony to photograph the aftermath of the gig and stumbled across Chris. I had a quick chat about the gig, previous gigs I had been to and the joys of getting home in such a state. I told him about the project. He agreed to his portrait being taken.

My batteries had died in my flash and I wasn’t really sure if I’d get a good image or not with the ISO cranked up such a huge amount. There was a small light above Chris’ decks and the light with a high ISO has given me what I think is a reasonable image.

The reason I wanted to photograph Chris is because his hair still looked immaculately fixed but his face and clothes were absolutely caked in flour. His facial expression really made me laugh, its a look of being slightly amused and the acceptance of being covered in flour. (The 12 bar was relocating and the flour-bombs were really only to be expected).

I’m so glad I wasn’t in the venue with my camera when the carnage was under way.
I certainly wouldn’t have changed lenses in the venue.

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This picture is #001 in my 100 strangers project.  So this is Peter. He is a piercer based in London. I meet Peter when I went into a tattoo shop and the tattooist that has done some previous work for me introduced us. I told him that I am learning photography and told him about the 100 strangers project, then asked if I could take his portrait.

The reason I wanted to photograph him was simply because I think he has a friendly face. I was pleased that he’d said yes and also relieved that the initial approach was already dealt with by way of an introduction while talking to the tattoo artist.

I had to take a few shots to try and get the exposure right as I made a school boy error and forgot to put my settings to a near usable setting following some night photography.

I remembered to quickly review the images as I was taking them and noticed that the background was not good in the first shots. It looked like he had things growing out of his head. So I asked him to stand in front of some art work on one of their walls. This was the least noisy place within the shop.

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My stranger number two is Kat.

Kat works at a well known jewellers that makes customised jewellery along with their own designs.

I signed up for a photography course and was given a homework task of portraits, landscapes, street photography and a few others. I opted for Street Portraits with the intention of killing two birds with one stone. Homework and joining the 100 strangers group.

I was walking around and looking for someone that stood out. I spotted Kat having her photo taken by a colleague of hers and I guess she was modelling the chain and cross seen in this portrait.

As she was about to go back into the shop I quickly asked if I could take her portrait. It was all very quick and I didn’t really have time to think about how I was going to approach her or even what to say.  I asked her to step into a doorway that was black as I thought it would be a good background and there were lots of people around that would have been walking between her and the camera.

I would like to say that I considered the light but I have to confess that I just got lucky.

The conversation was very brief, she was obviously at work and I didn’t want to hold her up.
I’m also very pleased I didn’t have time to think about the situation because afterwards I was wondering if a 44 year old man asking a young woman for their portrait maybe a bit weird.
I guess I am just going to have to get over that if I want to take images of interesting people.

Kat is very pretty and with her style stood out from the mundanely dressed crowd (I include myself in that description). I had to have the images printed for college so told Kat that I would drop of any prints I made. Luckily Kat is aware of Flickr as it turns out she was previously photographed by another member of the group and she kindly agreed for me to take her portrait to be post it here.

Thank you Kat for not telling me to bog off!

Thats my new project well under way and I will update my progress some time.

As always, thank you for stopping to have a look at my blog. Constructive criticism is always welcome and if you like street portraiture please have a look at the flickr group. There are some great photographers showing some wonderful portraits.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

uninspired

Like all good students of photography I go around the occasional gallery or pop into art shops to try and find inspiration; to look at the work of other photographers and try to figure out what I like, what I don’t like and how I want my own work to look.

While in Berlin I visited The Helmut Newton Foundation. I knew nothing about him and still know very little.

Something that put me off the exhibition and wanting to know more about this photographer was a diary entry that stated he should open a museum to himself.

It just didn’t sit right with me. Not just the statement; on its own it could be taken very much as tongue-in-cheek but I got the impression it was not a light hearted diary entry and that he may well have been a very vein person.

The lay out and atmosphere in the gallery may not have anything thing to do with him and he is clearly a good photographer. Clearly!

However I quickly became aware that I was not going to walk out of the building as a fan. The opposite is probably true. There is a very fine line between confidence, over confidence and arrogance.

While I find the cover image below to be nothing more than a bit of harmless fun that is a bit cheeky (Sorry but I am a child of the 70s & 80s) the rest of his work left me feeling a little cold.

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There seems to be a definite arrogance towards women where females were nothing but objects and treated like mannequins. I have tried to rationalise just how sexist his work appeared to me, as part of ‘that generation’ but again, it just doesn’t sit right me.

Something about the work displayed sat very uncomfortably with me and I hope my work never leaves anyone feeling as cold.

I should perhaps research him a little more as I may well be doing him a dreadful injustice but this wasn’t a first impression judgment made in thirty seconds. I spent a fair bit of time in the gallery.

For now my personal opinion stands and rather than looking at more of his work I should be out taking my own photos.

(I am happy to be corrected on this post and would welcome direction to sites you think would make me better informed).

TTFN

Jim Jimmy James.

 

 

iPhotography

I’ve decided its okay to take snap shots with my iPhone.

They are never going to be the best images I produce but they may help with composition and anything that helps can only be a good thing.

It also means that I will not miss the odd shots like this:

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It kind of sums up how inconsiderate us humans can be to one another. Although I am undecided who is more in the wrong, the driver or the riders.

Did the driver think “sod it, I’m parking here cos there is no other space”, were they taken unwell and pulled in at the first available space rather than clog up the road or was it perhaps just a genuine mistake?

One thing is for sure it is going to be a bit difficult to get out of that parking space.

Would I have parked my own bike to close to this car? Nope!

I wonder if people think the riders are being selfish or if they are justified?

Jim Jimmy James

Candid Strangers 100/100

If you have read this blog you’ll know that I have a photo project that I started off doing to get me thinking a bit quicker about light, exposure and forcing my hand a little with my camera settings. You’ll also know that I did not want to carry this project over into 2015.

I am pleased to say that I have now completed my 100 candid strangers project on Flickr.

I have chosen a woman in a Burka, Burkha, Burqa, (sorry but I’m not sure of the correct spelling and the dictionary I checked with has all three spellings). The reason for using this image is not to be controversial. I have no intention of making any political statement but….. But is the ‘However’ and the point you know someone is going to say something that is most likely to be the contradiction of what they have just said.

That really is not my intention. The reason for this image is two fold:

1) The project is about capturing portraits of strangers. The woman is a stranger and always will be. We do not move in the same circles and we are unlikely to.

Even if she was my neighbour I doubt I would recognise her again.

We are all affected by politics and the lady and I may have many of our personal political opinions in common but I will never know. Something else we have in common….. We breath, sleep, eat & excrete (that is the polite version).

2) This is just from personal experience that I have found on the few occasions were I have tried to photograph anyone of a middle eastern appearance, be that male or female, it is a nightmare.

Other people will stand in my way, the subjects tend to spot me quickly and either cover their face or look away. The rare moments when I was not noticed by the subject, other bystanders would draw their attention to me by shouting and pointing.

I’m not totally sure what to make of it.

It could be down to recent wars and the current paranoia of anti terror laws and actions. If it is then maybe I should have been taking pictures of the people that were so keen to make the subjects I was photographing aware of my presence?

If I’m not photographing them or people they are with why would they object so much to me taking photos. That modern saying about CCTV and carrying ID cards “if you’re doing nothing wrong you’ve nothing to worry about” crept into my head a few times even though I do think we have far too much CCTV. I’d rather have police on the streets preventing crime than CCTV that in many cases is not really that useful. It was a short lived but recurring thought.

What does strike me as odd is that I have not had this from other people, whatever their nationality, colour, religion……. It makes no odds to me who I photograph. I’m photographing the people around me. The people that look interesting or are in a nice light. If you look through the 100 images this will be pretty clear that there is no hidden agenda.

So reason two is that this particular image although could be better has made me look a bit deeper at street photography in general.

Walk along Edgware Road between the A40 flyover and Marble Arch and I stand out like a sore thumb. White, middle aged and sometimes picked out as ex-forces or a police officer. I didn’t blend into the environment and that may be the reason for the issues. I am curious about this because I have seen other people taking photos and not getting any hassle.

Maybe it is because it is a DSLR and it is just a bit bulky for street photography.

I’ve been pointed into the direction of Leica or Fuji for street portraits and general street photography.

If its an area of photography I intend on pursuing I will certainly need to look more into the costs of buying another camera kit.

After all that waffle here is 100/100.

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As always, constructive comments are welcome and thank you for visiting my blog.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James