Saturday, 3 November 2012

I like-a like-a like-a my new Leica!

The an-tic-i-pat-ion is over! My new Leica is finally here in my hot hand! I eagerly pre-ordered the D-Lux 6 on arriving back from Photokina in September. When Leica Mayfair called me on Thursday to say it had arrived, after whooping quietly I discovered the new EVF 3, which is the only electronic viewfinder that works with the latest model, had somehow not made it into the shipment and they didn't know when it would be available. So good news followed immediately by bad news. I’m not easily thwarted, don't want to go back to live view only and am determined to have my new camera complete with the EVF for shooting fireworks on Saturday. I called Leica Mayfair again on the Friday and as they were still bereft, cancelled my order and was determined to hit the Internet to see if anyone else was luckier with their first shipment. And Robert White could deliver and, to my delight, they did exactly that the very next day, today.

Since discovering at Photokina that I'd need a different arrangement to attach filters to my new camera I'd been busy doing reconnaissance as to which adapters I'd need. Luckily the wait from the announcement of the D-Lux 6 and its docking on our shores gave me time to get the crucial tiny Panasonic screw fitting ring from Japan and when I realised the filters that I wanted don't come in 37mm I'd have to also track down the appropriate step-up ring(s). My current filters are 55mm and with the rather excessive step up ring, I can repurpose those (see picture below) but I've also been checking out 39mm filters, much neater.

B+W have a tasty line in German-made Schott glass filters and the UV/IR filters currently protecting my new baby is one of theirs (image at the top). That's what give it the eerie red glow which isn't viewing the world through rose coloured glasses but just protects the fabulous Leica lens from all those nasty infra-red rays and an extra barrier from everything else.

So lovely new Leica, check, super-sharp EVF, check, requisite filter adapters, check. Let the photographing commence.


Friday, 21 September 2012


Two years ago when I was rushing between New York, Hawaii, London, Paris and then the Loire Valley I was disappointed that I couldn’t also swing by Cologne, Germany to hang out at Photokina for a day or maybe two. Every two long years the great and the good of the photographic world gather together for a huge photography fest with pixel-heads drooling over the latest models and eager to be one of the first to play with the plethora of new toys. I swore back in 2010 that the very next time I’d be there, not just reading the reams of reports, reviews and gushing prose about what was happening next but there, seeing it for myself and most likely writing my own gushing prose.

But when finally September came round it looked like I wouldn’t be able to take a few days off and hang out there drinking it all in as I’d hoped but instead have to cram it all in one intense day. And today was the day!

To make my cunning plan work I wanted to be there at the show for the maximum hours possible which entailed a stupid o’clock pre-trains running taxi ride to Gatwick to reluctantly throw myself on the mercy of EasyJet. But I made it and the ticket I had pre-ordered included the train from the airport to the exhibition centre so it was easier than I thought to get straight to the show. I could see tantalising glimpses of Cologne on the horizon from the train, perhaps I could pop by later after the show and before I head back to the airport. Yes that could be a plan!

On entering I made a bee-line for the Leica wing. I had to schlep through the Nikon, the HP and pass the corner of all the Canon stuff. Their stands were bright, a little brash with an excited hum of buzzing photographers checking out their wares. But the Leica Hall, however, was subtly lit with pools of light illuminating each new exciting offering flanked by a giant white X, C, S or M. The Paul Smith X2, all orange and green in a little cabinet, as maybe you’d expect any self-respecting designer outfit to be. The M-E had plenty of takers, all clutching the subtle grey body and the hallowed lenses. I had a go, the M-E is a serious consideration for me but despite about a dozen attempts over two visits I was not able to take a picture in focus. The range-finder focusing is so much trickier than good old auto-focus. Definitely very much food for thought, but undeniably I am taking on a major challenge if I go down that route. Maybe if I have the optical viewfinder adjusted for my long-sightedness or possibly get used to focusing wearing my reading glasses, I would fare better. But the first attempt was far from impressive.

The D-Lux 6 however, the upgrade to my current little Leica is fabulous! The 1.4 lens, the aperture ring, the astonishing new viewfinder, the clever restyling on the EVF focusing, the built in ND filters – I want, I want, I want! Before I get the overcoming urge to surreptitiously slip one in my camera bag I visited the Leica Galerie. The curators have done a fantastic job gathering some of the most favourite/well known photographs. The Magnum greats, Nick Ut’s show-stopping/Vietnam War-stopping of Kim Phuc, his fellow Pulitzer prize winners, Rankin and a fabulous collection chosen by my hero Elliott Erwitt. I missed the Erwitt exhibition when I was at the ICP nearly a year ago. They had replaced his work with a retrospective on the decade post 9/11. To rest my weary feet and to fill my head with more inspirational photographers’ musings I sit and listen to talks from Nick Rains, Peter Turnley and Tom Stoddart. Tom’s work captures those injustices in glorious starkness that shouldn’t ever happen and as Tom says “don’t be sad at my pictures, be angry. Not with the photographer but the politicians”.

I probably should explore more of what Photokina has to offer me. There’s over 1,200 exhibitors and I’ve seen one of them. It’s what I came to see however but I also fancy a little explore and to purposely go and check out Lee filters.

Lee has brought out another version of my RF-75 system but mine looks sleeker and appears more robust. Though there are rumours that they'll be a Big Stopper for their more diminutive filter format and that is interesting. Hmmm I wonder how my filters are going to attach to my new camera, must check that when I return to “Leica World”.


I check out Hasselblad, their stand is teeming, a crowd gaping at the Lunar and agog as to how it can justify its gravity-defying price point (and that's coming from a Leica owner!) They're also offering very popular smart black show bags so that will create a gathering for sure. I've seen a few people sporting a Leica show bag but the staff vehemently deny its existence. Well that surely is going to make me more determined to lay my hands on one before I leave!

It’s not too long before I return to the calming influence of the land of Leica. Principally I wish to explore more of the Galerie and there's always the mission to check out the arrangement for pimping up the D-Lux 6 that examining the Lee filters made me think of. I sit through a couple more presentations and satisfy my curiosity about the way to attach filters to the new D-Lux, entirely differently than ever before is the answer. As usual Leica have no intention to assist their D-Lux owners add filters etcetera so I will have to research the requisite LX-7 accessories.

When the show is drawing to an end I treat myself to the Ninety Nine Years Leica book and gently manage persuade them to part with one of those Leica Photokina bags.

My plan to explore Cologne further is scuppered by being extraordinary weary, especially of seemingly seeing rest of the show I hadn't seen as I tried to locate the appropriate exit. Next time I need two days!

Cologne will have to wait for 2014 for a further examination and I head for the airport (considerably more challenging than journey to the show). It transpires that EasyJet have laid on a treat for the return journey, a fours and a half hour delay in an empty airport with Muzak played continuously on an endless loop. EasyJet-lag for sure!

A very long day, arrived home over 24 after I left, so in summary:

  • Photokina was as fabulous as I believed it would be
  • Journey there and back not so
  • Will definitely plan to return 2014, and spend longer exploring all of it
  • Lots of lovely new Leicas to dream about
  • Have to wait a little longer than I hoped for my new delivery
  • t-45 (ish) and counting!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Up close and personal

Having discovered a new feature of my little Leica whilst trying to capture little green men during Wednesday’s photo social AO’ suggested I explored it a little further. I checked the Leica D-Lux 5 manual and though it explains the effects of the ’My Colour’ settings such as ’retro’, ’silhouette’, ’high dynamic’, ’pin-hole’ and a handful of others with slightly curiously worded explanations it doesn't mention the phenomena I stumbled upon.

I'd been zooming in on a green jelly baby perched on a window ledge with a deep stone sill. I hadn't been able zoom in satisfactorily enough to fill the frame, a constant challenge with these photo socials as your entries are presented on the back of the camera. I'd been in aperture setting wishing somehow I could elongate my arms to get closer and I knocked the dial to a hitherto unexplored setting. Here I was in the ’My Colour’ mode which is illustrated by an artist’s palette (I assume to hint at the creative effects beneath your fingertips). What is particularly ironic is that I'd just been coveting the lovely C’s ability to add colour filters in-Camera (she has a Nikon) which she'd put into good use converting a Malteser into a red planet. As the dial turned I was thrust into ’dynamic art’ mode which colour-wise wasn't a huge surprise as I do favour punchy colours but suddenly my jelly baby shot towards me as the usual maximum 3.8x zoom increased to 8.9x. These lovely surprise enabled me to frame the jelly baby as I'd wanted to.

I've never explored extended zoom, intelligent zoom or digital zoom on my camera, these are buried in the menu and smacks of image deterioration but perhaps I should have more faith in my Leica’s ability. Though I’m pretty sure the digital zoom would impact the quality, I think these don't look pixely at all.

On further examination I concluded that once in ’My Colour’ mode the ’high dynamic’, ’dynamic art’, ’dynamic B&W’ and ’film grain’ settings all allow this ’super zoom’. I still can't find a verification of this discovery in the original manual, Alexander S. White’s companion book or the notes on the D-Lux 5 firmware update in December.

Here is the new feature in action. I've removed one of my sparkly rings and popped it on a magazine article on improving black and white images. The first image is using aperture setting, macro mode and mounted on a tripod as close as the focusing will allow.

Without moving the tripod, spinning the dial to the palette allows me to see that my bunny ring that I'd always looked rather cute looks a little sinister up close and personal.

It makes me think my little Leica has more tricks up its elegant sleeve to explore so let the adventuring begin.


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Dotty over spots

When the Jomojo threw our ”circles” yet again I was going to ”re-roll” but fate intervened. When I'd been given the topic of circles last week one of the images I'd immediately thought of was Damien Hirst’s infamous and dare say iconic spot paintings, or to be more correct, his controlled substance series. On a memorable visit to the original Saatchi gallery they had featured prominently and a spot emblazoned mini had been pride of place in the entrance (though Damien himself got into a row about it being art). We'd also discovered that when taking the water taxi to the Tate Modern whilst doing a little art gallery crawl, it had also been spotified. I was delighted to discover one of my clients had a huge original painting in their reception (Biotin-Maleimide) so I get to visit it regularly. It has always appealed to my aesthetics, despite the furore concerning whether they are art or whether they were or not actually painted by Damien’s assistants (it's safe to say the vast majority were). I think the combination of the pleasing lines, coupled with circles and the punches of colour just work. I know so many art critics cringe at this series as they bemoan the commerciality and consider it just too crowd pleasing and certainly not high-end art. I just know that I adore eating in Michelin-starred restaurants but also occasionally plump for an M&S ready meal.

So with all that said when I opened my Observer this today and realised the double page spread of the review section was this exact picture, circles won the day.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Ba-bling, ba-bling!

The Jomojo forced me to resort to 'some of my favourite things' today namely ”jewellery”. I do seem to be inordinately attracted to shiny things, possibly being part magpie, and have acquired a spectacular collection over many years plus inheriting some wonderful pieces as well. Therefore gathering the subject wasn't particularly challenging but it was, however, harder to decide which of the sparkly pieces should feature in the photograph. I wanted the picture to be fairly monochromatic so I started by selecting my smoky champagne diamond and black rhodiumed collection (all courtesy of the fabulous Sarah and all those at Bolder & Co.) Then selecting some random black or white diamond gorgeousness all accented with the Theo Fennell ruby phi symbol. Phi seemed appropriate as it represents the golden ratio or harmony, surely a lucky charm for any artist or photographer plus the rubies are a delicious pink.

It’s ended up rather as a cacophony of bling. If you look hard you'll see a ruby-eyed rabbit peering coquettishly from behind a flower ring and I have now spotted that the tiny date on my watch is incorrect, showing how much credence I normally pay to it. Well if nothing else it gave me the perfect opportunity to have a good rummage through my jewellery boxes and revisit some old friends.




Friday, 9 March 2012


Today’s Jomojo mission is ”stations”. Fortunately I generally pass through a couple of these in the course of the day but luckily I found myself at Clapham Junction, which is billed as Britain’s busiest railway station (I believe in terms of number of trains passing hither and thither rather than merely passenger numbers). It's nearly midnight so I'm a little challenged by low light and not having a tripod about my person have to avoid the long shots of the orange hi-vis jacketed engineers strolling along checking the line as they turn out as fuzzy fluorescent blobs. A more likely shots is one of the trains that come through every 13 seconds (at peak times) and I should be able to capture a speedy streak of SouthWest train-ness even without my three-legged friend.

Reflections on a relocation

The mojo motivator or as AL calls it, the Jomojo, gave me ”mirrors” today and I think I've had an idea that has been right in front of me all week. We've relocated to a new building, which is better on the inside than out. By which I mean the building is newly refurbished so it is bright, clean and decorated with inspirational messages and bursts of citrus colours but the location doesn't really cut it. On one side our neighbour is a strip, or if you prefer, table dancing club and the other a discount tile warehouse. Laden lorries trundle loudly up and down the major highway just outside and if you opt to take a shortcut from the station to avoid the traffic fumes, you walk through a estate where the residents have felt the need to put metal grills up at their windows. Yes, I feel very safe here!

Through our new windows we can see our building and a couple of iconic city skyline features (namely the Gherkin and Tower 42 (formerly the Natwest Tower)) reflected in the mirrored edifice across the busy road. This seems as good an example of mirrors I might find without resorting to using an actual mirror. I really wanted a vantage point and hankered after a brief sojourn on the roof so I could take a nice, clean shot without naughty reflective glass but was thwarted by all the doors and windows being hermetically sealed and no handy key being tucked away - and I did look. Our old building overlooked a dock full of yachts and tantalising glimpses of Tower Bridge but had temperamental air con and heating, lifts that didn't always go all the way or open when they got there, running water optional, lights that often chose not to illuminate and awful smells emanating from who knows where. Oh and occasionally rodents! Our new home however is all fresh and bright, albeit featuring a rather curious layout and lacking in a place big enough for us all to meet should the mood take us but if it was in an entirely different part of the city it wouldn't be half bad.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Dishing it

Hmmm ”dishes” today. Well there really is no other choice but to channel Donna Hay. And for those of you not so au fait with the Australian former food stylist now television cook and author she does favour a very neutral palette and does makes her food look stunning. Time to stack some white plates on casually folded white linen napkins. I found the wide shot not quite white enough as the sun through the fine porcelain added too much yellow so opted for a close up instead. I liked the concentric circles of this Gordon Ramsay Wedgewood plates which added a little texture, possibly not very Donna but hey!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Knock, knock who's there?

Today's random theme to try and photograph is ”doors & doorknobs”. I immediately start scouting in my image memory bank for big, aged door with layers of peeling paint with a chunky cast iron door knocker, an impressive old lock which conjures up the sort of key the robin helps Mary unearth in the Secret Garden. Actually a real secret garden hidden door would be perfect...what are the chances?

Instead I go closer to home. I realise my beautiful antique crystal doorknobs get very little attention and they are rather elegant. I find their tactile coolness very pleasing. They don't turn but have a static twin attached on the other side of my front door. It also seems under the scrutiny of my camera’s macro setting, my doorknobs are a prime vehicle for fingerprints. Worth considering if I ever need to get CSI in.


Monday, 5 March 2012

Hidden talent

"Hidden” should be any easy theme today. I was immediately transported to LB’s evocative shots in Croatia peering through a rustic, large wooden gate into the secret garden beyond and another shabby paint peeled door into a dimly lit passageway. And as much as I'd like to evoke some of those iconic images in a homage to LB I cannot think where I'd begin to replicate the mysterious mood. Sadly I think my life may be devoid of secret gardens at the moment!

Whenever I had a moment during a busy day unpacking and settling into the new office I was peering under things, behind things and inside things but my inspiration lay hidden. Finally I'm waiting for the penultimate train home, it's a shade before midnight and I haven't taken my daily photo. I find a handy pillar on the platform and consider that if someone crosses behind it I can maybe grab a nice shot of them partially hidden but there's a distinct lack of someones tonight. Eventually I opt for this minimalist shot of a women, who's at least hidden from view, and adopts an intriguing stance as she waits most impatiently for the train.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

A bit of a blur!

Today my trusty randomizer threw out “bokeh” or as AoR insists - blur. I guess he's right but there's motion blur and camera shake blur but bokeh is the shallow depth of field thing that has your main feature in focus and the distracting background pleasingly fuzzy. There are several schools of thought on the pronunciation, probably because so many people saying it don't speak Japanese. ’Bouquet’ is occasionally used but I think the popular way is bo (as in boat) and ke (as in Ken).

When I first upgraded my camera from my tiny Leica C-Lux snapper this was the effect I craved in my food photographs. And when one day I branch into an interchangeable lenses system it will be so I can get myself some of those tiny numbers and big apertures. But in the interim I can still get some pleasing effects by getting very close and picking my subject carefully.

I've been on a bit if a mission dallying with daffodils recently. To me they herald spring and their sunshine yellows spread cheer. I've been struggling to find some at the right level of perkiness but this miniature one in a tiny window box caught my eye and the low light helped me with the look I was going for. Look at me defying the rule of thirds, flaunting all it stands for by having the daffodil defiantly in the centre of my square image. I blame my camera’s lovely 1:1 square format, it leads me astray!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Circular thoughts

I'm happy with today's topic - “circles”. I've always been drawn to circular things and I have a photography trip planned today so I'm bound to stumble across some inspiring material. But St. James’ Park certainly supplied plenty of spring flowers, people photographing the flowers, squirrels, ducks and rather scary birds but a distinct lack of circular items. After our little photographic group went their separate ways at Piccadilly Circus I headed for Fortnum & Mason. I had an idea that I might find towers of round tins that would give a pleasing circle themed composition. But in retrospect, the chance if them trusting such a precarious arrangement especially with hoards of eager shoppers around seems highly improbable. I did find a two tier display of Petticoat Rails shortbread in their flat round F&M turquoise tins but the shadows cast by the containing shelves didn't work. I tried a large group of jars of honey but again was disappointed. I turned instead to enticing trays of macaroons, pyramids of dark, dusky chocolate truffles and swirly topped chocolate cup cakes. Nothing really worked, too much protective glass resulting in infuriating reflections and light flares, but it did put me in mind of some other circles - Dante’s circles of hell. If you've opted to eschew chocolate for forty days and forty nights I suspect it isn't recommended to photograph in Fortnum & Mason’s impressive deliciously aromatic confectionary department. Hmmm, change of tactics!

I love the shape of this store through the central atrium. If you're on the top floor you can look down and see the other floors and from the basement looking up you've the perfect shot of concentric circles leading up to the roof. However their current decorations of staves and musical notes doesn't photograph very well from below. It's best admired from the side or perhaps from above and spoils the perfect circles I was aiming for, so another idea canned. I had one last attempt amongst the fruit, wicker baskets of melons and pomegranates were pleasing but not quite enough however it did give me an idea on a similar theme to try later.

On returning home I retrieved my light box, I've only used it once and the lemon slices I tried were a little insipid. This time I was going for more verdant leek fine slices and hoped I could achieve a nice study of tightly packed concentric circles pleasingly illuminated from below.

For the first time I inverted my tripod centre column to ensure a nice steady hold on my camera. I been inspired watching DA shooting daffodils in the park today, being able to get his tripod so low and LB had asked if my old tripod I'd given to her could do that. I'd been reminded being shown I could remove the centre column and turn it upside down if needed when shooting bluebells in Norfolk. But today I wanted my camera to be completely upside down for the overhead shot, and was pleased my newer carbon fibre one could perform that trick also.

I was only when I finally got the shot I realised that my plan was to live by the photo mojo motivator for seven days and us just completed my eighth. Maybe I’ll try ten days!


Egg hunting turns into angry Birds!

Our little photographic group – "several photographers and a dog" - decided to do a bit of egg hunting today. These eggs have sprung up all over the place and one of the ideas is tocapture them artistically and submit your efforts. So far I’ve shot five of them and from a stunning photograph point of view they leave a lot to be desired. Generally their situation is a bit busy and the egg by itself is really just an egg. I’ve hatched (get it?) a plan to procure a chicken to perch on top of one and then I can shoot it. Now where to get a chicken…

When planning this expedition we figured the weather would be horrible as it often is whenever we get together to shoot so we’d incorporate a nice pub lunch. It is fair to say that whenever our little bunch of intrepid shooters gathers, generally the rain begins to fall. But we’ve gotten to enjoy some nice dog-friendly pubs! Today we’re taking no chances and start in the pub and after another lovely lunch we see that the sky are surprisingly blue and head forth into St.James’ Park to try out for eggs and see how much of the spring has sprung.

The crocuses are out in force as are the photographers photographing them. DA immediately takes the opportunity to capture us all on our hands and knees trying to get the perfect shot. As we cross the blu ebridge there are some feisty gulls being fed and I managed to grab a shot ofthem in full swoop – and a cheeky little slice of the London Eye for a bit of context.

It seemed wrong to not try and get the daffodils even though they were rather un-obliging when it came to raise their heads attractively, they looked a tad woebegone. LB got astunning portrait of DJ languishing amongst the daffodils, momentarily not chasing squirrels or sticking closely to LB’s heels! DA set up his tripod and got a beautiful shot. AoR captured a moody shot of us searching for the perfect daffodil and I haven’t seen OP’s pictures yet. And the rain stayed away for quite a few hours!



Friday, 2 March 2012

Kiss, kiss!

I struggled with the “lips” theme that the photo mojo motivator threw out at me today. I had lofty notions of assembling a series of self-portraits of my own lips in various expressions. The snag is that I'm not keen on having my photograph taken coupled with struggling to get the lighting right so I rapidly rejected all my attempts.

I then moved onto more abstract numerous lipstick blots on tissues, lipstick still-lives and lining extended tubes of lipsticks up like little soldiers. But then I couldn't choose between the resultant shots. I asked LB for advice and she conceded the colour was preferable in the still-life but the orderly standing to attention lipsticks were very me!


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Three come along at once

Ooh today I have “buses”, that shouldn't be too challenging. They're everywhere, well maybe not when you want one but the rest of time they seem to hunt in packs. I was thinking of the red streaky slow shutter speed buses but today is such a beautiful day it seems sacrilegious to wait for lower light. I tried inside, alongside and behind, I like this shot as I captured two other buses through the window of the third. The picture seemed a little flat so I posterized the image for a more painterly effect.

If I'm away from Lightroom I post-process my photos on my iPad with Filterstorm Pro. It means I can do my touch-ups en route back and forth from work if I can get a seat. The seat is kind of crucial as I haven't yet mastered manipulating my iPad on a crowded train, being buffeted by other passengers and their rucksacks, whilst clinging on to the handrail. Filterstorm Pro doesn't have a lot of the crazy effects you can employ but it does have this one.

None of these buses are any good for me!

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Taking note

When I was presented with the theme of ‘jam-packed’ I had a plethora of ideas – a tangle of arms and legs protruding from a red phone box, or a mini, a basket full to bursting with sleeping puppies, a train carriage heaving with commuters.  The first seemed to need some feat of engineering and possibly an advertising budget.  The second, possibly very cute but where am I going to stumble on a handy litter of sleeping puppies.  I’m no JLo I cannot click my fingers and summon puppies, kittens or both.  Really the only answer is the commuters.  And after a sardine style train journey the last two days, today it was too bad.  I am speaking relatively I must add, I am sure less seasoned travellers would claim it insupportable.  I thought I’d get a shot of all the feet and bags but it just looked a murky-ish mess.  I tried a subtle head height shot but really the view was just dominated by one large man with unfeasibly large headphones and I gave up.  Here’s a clear insight into what I deem to be out of my comfort zone – people.  I try for the surreptitious shot but it looks like some hidden camera out of focus and trying to catch someone out.  I did end up with a nice shot of carriage doors opening onto a crowded tube with people squeezing out onto the platform.  Two reasons it got rejected, it somehow didn’t look that crowded  and secondly quite a few noticed me taking the photo – yes shock horror, someone uses a real camera not an iPhone, and they looked perturbed verging on angry.  Better delete that, they look litigious!
Still at work and pondering on a replacement shoot I grabbed a Post-it note to jot something down and was struck by my little cardboard holster positively bulging with a rainbow range of the sticky notepads.  And it got me asking – “Is there a chance I have acquired too many Post-it notes?” Hmmm note to self, no more sticky notepads - possibly ever!      

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Is there anybody out there?

The photo mojo motivator spat out “abandoned buildings” today. I was scratching my head to think of any deserted places near me. I wasn't sure trying to photograph through the window into the long gone Habitat store would work but after casting my eye around it occurred to me that where I work is certainly becoming abandoned (think ’sinking ship’!). Other floors have already packed up and whisked away all their detritus. Perhaps if I go down the back stairwell, see if by any chance there's a door that's not been securely locked that I could sneak into and grab a few shots of the gloomy stripped out floor. There was and I did.
I opted for black & white as the vibrant orange pillar seemed to make it a little less desolate. Maybe rather too reminiscent of yesterday’s photo but if I'd known what I would be given today I would have rethought my ’leading lines’ shot. But then I know I'm drawn to these linear, converging line, abstract images. Well at least it's not food!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Leading astray!

Today's random theme is Leading Lines. Thankfully this could be interpreted in a more uplifting way than "sad" and "decay". Though I could be mean and call this building both sad and decayed, well maybe just falling apart.

After well over a decade we are leaving this building, the blue crates are stacked high, the skips have been wheeled into place. It's just the matter of tackling the mammoth task of sorting, tipping or keeping.

This is the funny little walkway I've traipsed countless hundreds of times over the years, trying to not get my high heels caught in the wooden slats on the left of the columns or in between the paving slabs. At least there aren't any cobbles this way but if I turn 180 degrees that's another obstacle to endure. And there's a small matter of the murky waters of the dock where I've nearly (but not quite) sacrificed a mobile phone and where another J lost a shoe! Our new building isn't in such a picturesque location, there's no view to speak of and the busy main road adds a degree of danger to journeys to and from. But it's much fresher, the lifts work and just maybe the air conditioning blows cold when it's hot and toasty warm on the chilly days. Fingers crossed!

The white balance is a little funky due to the odd overhead lights but I liked the contrast of the blue rectangle indicating the path to freedom. day three done!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

An apple a day...

Day two of throwing myself on the mercy on the random themes delivered by the Photo Mojo Motivator and again it seems to be offering ideas at odds with the lovely day. Today I have to immerse myself in “decay”.

There were a promising weather-battered wooden frame, split and covered in peeling paint but in the end I reverted to type again I opted for decaying food. At least the sun had been useful as I precipitated the decomposition by slicing the apple and leaving it for a few hours in the sunshine.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Not So "Sad" Day

So day one of dicing with the photo mojo motivator, there are some topics which would really lend themselves to this balmy surprisingly spring-like day at a busy, buzzing food market and some not so. I think “sad” rather unfortunately belongs to the latter category.

The sun coupled with the delicious food seemed to weave its magic on the crowds, even the long queues did nothing to dampen the general mood. I peered into a few push chairs wondering whether I could grab a candid shot of a howling baby, but they all seemed either blissfully content and many intent on devouring some sticky morsel. Also I feared the reaction of over-protective parents and instead settled for the fishmongers’ stall.

There are several fish shots I prefer but frankly the fish just didn't look sad enough. This one looked the most woebegone.


If a picture paints a thousand words, how many does three?

The one off Frui workshop this month is all about the three picture story. This device was often used in newspapers reportage to assist with the storytelling. The general idea is to begin your story with a wide shot to set the scene followed by the main theme of your piece and ending with a bit of detail or colour. However sometimes it's not so structured and perhaps the pictures follow on from one another like a minimalist flip book or just complement one another in some aesthetically pleasing way.

Filski set us forth to practice our craft in a very crowded Borough Market. Being so fond of food photography I was very happy with macro/detail shot but some of the proceeding shots didn't please me as much. After photographing fishmongers filleting, butchers chopping, artisans slicing salami, cheesemongers proffering morsels of cheese and the green grocers weighing, selecting the plumpest and twisting brown paper bags bulging with their wares I settled on the very popular raclette stall.

The half moons of raclette cheese bubble beneath the grills and the servers having been shown the correct prepaid ticket scrape gooey rivulets of molten cheesiness onto a plate of potatoes and gherkins or just potatoes. A wooden fork, and a push through the crowds with your steamy bounty to find a place to perch and then cheesy heaven! Yes, surely a photographic story here.

To make it a little more challenging we were then tasked to create another trilogy but this time avoiding the obvious material of the food stalls.

I plumped for photographers as second to people joyously relishing food are the others photographing food and some eating and snapping. I had a couple of ideas in my mental storyboard. I wanted a shot over a photographer’s shoulder so I could see the obligatory review of the last image, or else live-view depending on the camera. Next one of those unique postures photographers tend to adopt and finally that special camera cradling you see especially with the big cameras as the fingers gently cup the lens. I couldn't do that maneuver until I'd attached my extension tube but I do now find myself mimicking this protective stance. Luckily there was plenty of material.

When we reconvened after completing our mission we uploaded our pair of threes on Filski’s laptop so we could share. It was interesting to see the different interpretation of especially the second challenge. There were buskers setting up, then playing and then the “money shot” of the tossed coins in the double bass case. There was a slice of café life, a red and smoking theme and finally some happy eaters.

This definitely seems to be an interesting device to adopt for the holiday snaps. I noticed how many times in Iceland I went for the wide landscape followed by the macro detail shot. I wanted to record those unique vistas, the tranquility and majesty but I was also attracted to the tiny icicles on the grass, the patterns made in the iced puddles and the melting ice cutting through the dense, black ash. Next time, I'm going to aim for the three picture story rather than the two.


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Jo's Photo Mojo Motivator

When AL bemoaned of losing her photo mojo it got me thinking how we get to take these pictures. There's the 'I just have to record that beautiful, surprising, funny thing for posterity/sharing and quite possibly Facebook'. Then there's the photographic mission where you've identified a particular potential 'decisive moment' and sally forth with a grim determination to nail this image. There's the occasion photography, a celebration, an artistic plate of food or a new location to explore where brandishing your camera is obligatory. Some people just grab their cameras, go out and shoot whatever catches their eye, and hopes to catch a good one. And really this is a great habit for those of us practising our craft. I do carry my camera every day, not just my iPhone but a proper, grow up one but I have to admit that stuff gets in the way and I don't take it out of my bag enough. So using the photo mojo finder tool I had developed I thought I'd set myself a challenge - if I chose to accept it!

All I'd done is collected random topics to inspire from the web, my imagination and eliciting often intriguingly obscure images from others and ended up with a database of 350 disparate themes. Because I have an unnatural love of Excel, I put them in a spreadsheet complete with a random picker to at a mere press of [F9] plucks a topic from the 350. I have a slightly less elegant version on my iPad, I can't discover how to force a manual recalculation in Numbers so have modified it slightly. I’ll be sending it off to AL and our little band of happy snappers and we're going to think of ways to set challenges with it. And as the fad seems to be for these 365 projects I thought I'd be less ambitious and go for a week of living by the dice also. If a dice had 350 sides that is. I figured I may need to set some rules so I don't keep randomising until I really like the proffered theme but I should be able to 'roll again' if I've already done that one, or I could add the wrinkle that I can roll again but have to tie it in with the first theme. A week doesn't seen a mammoth task and it will be interesting to try dice with creativity. It certainly won't be as subversive as Luke Rhinhart's cult classic The Dice Man, I can guarantee that, but it is bound to get my photographic juices flowing and who knows it could turn into something bigger. Wish me luck!

And if you're wondering about the funky abstract image, I created it using the iPad Percolator app.


Sunday, 5 February 2012

A hint of the Northern Lights

The money shot from this trip is capturing the elusive Northern Lights. After several nights on the bounce of too much cloud to even try there is an expectant buzz at the hotel tonight eagerly waiting for the buses to whisk us away to the bus station before we begin our chase. Unfortunately our group of twelve get split into three different coaches and more of the hotel guests climb into other coaches. I'd envisaged that we would all congregate at the same spot but each driver and guide had different plans. So much to our surprise we all had completely different experiences.

We started off with a few false stops, we'd climb out into the total blackness, armed with our tripods to find we could barely see a star in the sky.

Finally our guide started leaping around the coach in excitement pointing out of the windows at the tendrils of light dancing across the sky. Us uninitiated visitors peered out the clouds and wondered if this was the case of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Eventually we stopped again, decamped (well not everyone, as some felt that we were on a fool’s errand) but clutching my tripod I was determined to give it one more chance. As I squinted up at the sky I could see a band of fast moving cloud which could have had a greenish tinge. I pointed my camera at this possibly greenish cloud for forty seconds and to my shock got lucky.

The rest of our group were treated to a twenty minute light show but as least we saw something. The other groups drove around for hours and didn't give up until about 2am and still saw nothing.

In conclusion, the Northern Lights are elusive, mystical and can be a little frustrating. I am delighted I saw a hint of what they can deliver, maybe another time I can see the full performance.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

A Day at the Opera

The rest of our group headed off for snow mobiling this morning so I continued exploring Reykjavik, sadly the rain caught up with me today but another interesting building had caught my eye overlooking the harbour that I was determined to explore, capture and discover more about.

As well as being a striking design formed of a honeycomb of hexagons, cubes and asymmetric shapes the double walled front windows has LEDs that appear to ripple and gyrate across the surface.

And on investigation the influence for the architecture of this opera house is the form of the homes of their near neighbours, the elves or hidden people. These mythical creatures live deep underground beneath the cliffs around Iceland. The exterior of the elves’ homes are dark and secluded, but on entering a glittery crystalline space is revealed.

Whatever inspired the architects this building begs to be photographed from every angle and I found myself in architectural detail heaven. I hope the elves approved.


Friday, 3 February 2012

Land of Ice

I'd been hankering to go to Iceland for years and this has nothing to do with a deep abiding love of prawn rings. Iceland has always seemed so mysterious, so mystical, geographically quite close but in reality a million miles away. They even share a timezone with us. And then iceland kept hitting the news. Firstly we discovered in September 2008 that Icelandic banks had bankrolled a surprising number of British companies, and when the global credit crisis hit, Iceland's economy really suffered. Then the now infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano blew its top in 2010 and disrupted the worlds air space, making the blue skies around me eerily quiet. So when AY, who I met in Berlin last year, said her friends had found a great flights and hotel package and threw it open to the Berlin crowd, I snapped at the chance.

The first surprise was how much toastier Rekyjavik was compared to London, and I was more worried beforehand that I wouldn't be warm enough. And the next surprise was the distinct lack of ice, there had been a huge snow fall just before we arrived but there were barely remnants surviving.

Our hotel was situated right opposite the Hallgrímskirkja, one of Iceland’s tallest building and strikingly designed to mimic the landscape of lava flows.

We'd discovered the usefulness of the this church as a beacon when we got a little lost on returning to our hotel. We also thought it looked like a Bond villain’s lair which one day might suddenly blast off for a land far, far away.

The inside was equally modern with elegant simple tall windows and a very impressive organ.

It certainly is an dramatic structure and in lieu of ice and snow, the first photographic opportunity.