Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Jack the Snapper

The new owner of my D-Lux 4, Ben, recommended a London photography workshops company called Point 101 but when we googled them they had morphed into Frui, which despite sounding awfully like a yoghurt promised more excitement than a fruity dessert. I was immediately enraptured by their website, as well as one day workshops like Ben had taken in Hampstead or street photography there are mystery photography days out where you're taken to a secret location within two hours of London (blindfold optional) and set photographic challenges with the other attendees. There are longer creative holidays in various countries including Italy, Croatia, India, Germany, Morocco and Ireland, one which I've promptly signed up for already and another most likely the month after and they'll even come into your office and run your own workshop - for free! But before I booked a holiday I thought I'd check out a Photography Social or two which the gist of is you congregate with fellow eager snappers in a selected hostelry (Frui events generally involve photography instruction well lubricated with the alcohol (or non- if you prefer) of your choice) where you're placed in teams of five and given a mission and an hour to produce a series of photographs to meet the evening's selected criteria.
My inaugural social had a royal theme and it didn't have an auspicious start. I sat at my round table waiting for my fellow team mates. The first two women sat down awkwardly, introduced themselves briefly and then claiming illness left. And then there was one! Luckily a few more joined and we split into two groups and set forth to interpret such phrases as 'royal wave', 'royal mail', 'royal variety', 'royal blue' and 'royal jelly'.
On returning we pick the best image illustrating each phrase (ensuring all photographers in the team are represented) and then have them scored. The winners receive a nice little prize and the bragging rights especially if you get one of the coveted ten out of tens of the night.

We presented our portfolio on two iPads and though we did reasonably well I think we were marked down on content over style. We concentrated too much on literal interpretation and less on perfect composition which is a big no-no. I think Stephen and my stab at 'royal variety' had a bit of a quirky edge and had the added benefit of us not being accused of shoplifting, despite the supermarket security thinking we were acting suspiciously, but really we could probably do better.
For the subsequent Photography Social we congregated in Brick Lane, Whitechapel and our assignment turned out to be to tell a little Jack the Ripper-esque tale in eight photos using our team as models.

Over a drink we storyboard a few ideas, we aim to show a trio of disorientated tourists being picked off by the hooded assailant one by one who finally tucks into the unfortunate victims. Not a gruesome tale at all!

I have bought some sensible (for me) footwear for our expedition but the consensus is that my less practical killer heels (killer - get it?) will add a little local colour to the first death scene.

We're all rather taken by the vibrant street art of the area so decide to try and incorporate some in our images. Though we weren't able to accommodate Oscar the Grouch in our story.

We had planned that the final images should be shot in a kebab shop preferably involving the light catching a glinting knife hovering close to our victim with the inverted trapezoid of the doner kebab behind the action.

The cunning plan was thwarted by the fact in our diminishing time we couldn't find an attractive doner, they all looked heavily consumed and even though we thought the meat was cut by a knife it's actually a shaver and not aesthetic enough for our needs.

We opt to return the leitmotif of the discarded red stiletto from the first murder, which was tricky to stage without incurring the wrath of the kebab shop owners by placing a shoe on a clean surface so we chose the less controversial stairs.
Before we set forth snapping we tried to come up with a suitable team name (something that potentially earns a vital five points) and first thought of 'Jack the Snapper'. On returning it was decided that we should instead tease the viewer with the caption of the final frame and go for 'tastes like chicken!'. Maybe this was an unwise decision as the team name out of context with images is beyond perplexing. The irony is that the winning team name was Jack the Snapper and our photographs only scored three points less than their winning score. Ah the benefit of hindsight! Perhaps we should have called ourselves 'the one that got away' instead.

As a final point I feel I should qualify the lack of quality of some of my team-mates' photographs on this post. This is a byproduct of uploading raw files onto my iPad for perusing and then manipulating them in BlogPress for your delectation. It seems some really didn't enjoy the experience!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 17 April 2011

I like-a my new Leica!

Honestly I resisted for months.  The beautiful D-Lux 5 was launched at Photokina last October and even though I was perfectly happy with my little Leica, news of the enhancements kept me poring over an unnatural number of enthusiastic reviews, JPEG comparisons and feature overviews until I caved in.  The final straw one when G came over from New York and extolled the virtues of an upgrade so eloquently and I suffered from massive camera envy. The decision was made - it just had to be mine!  My only fear, after extensive research, is that I wouldn’t be able to use any of my 46mm filters that I’d acquired for my beloved D-Lux 4 and would have to start amassing my collection all over again.  I suspected my Leica daylight UV filter, which gives the camera its eerie night vision goggles glow, would be almost impossible to scale up to 52mm, as I couldn’t find evidence of one even existing.  And the irony is that the difference in lens diameters between the two cameras is so miniscule and whereas the Lensmate extension tube was a straight 46mm, the new Panasonic one (Lensmate have sadly stopped servicing Leica D-Lux customers) I had to get for the D-Lux 5 is inexplicably wider at the filter end so my only choice was a 52mm-46mm step down ring.  Hence the front view isn’t quite as sleek as my old camera but at least I was able to recycle my filters. However saying that I had to experiment; I needed the thinnest step down ring I could muster as the first one I found impaired the images with a little vignetting when deploying some of the deepest rotating ring filters especially on close-ups.
Unusually for me I was persuaded to find a new home for my D-Lux 4, it seemed extra indulgent to keep both and really I want someone else to get the joy out of it as I have done so I packaged it up into its little silver box and bade it a fond farewell.
But I cannot possibly be sad; I have a new toy to enjoy.  And enjoying it I am, it’s only a few weeks so early days yet but I am totally loving the square (1:1) images, the firmer controls that stop the dial wandering to another setting without you realising, the extra oomph to the zoom, a more achievable bokeh effect and its love of the dark without necessarily having to crank up the ISO.  But I am sure I will have more delights to discover as I explore it further.
I was told I wouldn’t be able to protect it in my D-Lux 4’s black leather case but as I’d always kept a tiny spirit level in my hot shoe I had already pre-stretched my case slightly and it’s perfectly happy with the extra protuberant hot shoe of the D-Lux 5.  I can’t keep a spirit level there now but the new camera comes with its own hot shoe protector so that’s more than fine.
Every photographer I know has embraced Nikon, Canon and occasionally Pentax but I don’t regret taking my more svelte, Leica D-Lux route.  I am fairly sure I wouldn’t fare too well on a safari unless the wild animals were very obliging, and landscape photographers will still mock me.  But my, some say, quirky instrument of choice means I always have my camera about my person (and I don’t mean my camera phone) and all my accoutrements fits into the teeniest of Billingham bags when I come over all photographical, no nylon Velcro fastened turtle home rucksacks for me!     
Now off for more red dot snapping!