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.