Monday, 30 September 2013

Day 273 : punk duck!

After we'd realised the models from our evil amateur photographic clutches yesterday, I wasn't quite finished. Taking one of the spiky bracelets we hadn't used in any of our scenarios I “styled” the random rubber duck that the fabulous C had added to the punky accessories for the model shoot. Coincidentally the cushions in the little seating area we’d been using were covered in Union Jacks and we never used them in our punk styling so it seemed appropriate to use one as a backdrop.


Sunday, 29 September 2013

Day 272 : punk it up!

Today has been much anticipated, we’ve been looking forward to today arriving for months. This is the rescheduled and rescheduled and rescheduled second studio shoot. Mr Macro has found us an amazing venue for our efforts today, a much in need of refurbishment old cinema and art venue in Woolwich. There's loads of space, lots of potential, grungy stairwells, retro velvet seating, funky red walls, black and white tiled floor, old electrical boxes and a stage. The group has poured over model cards and chosen Karis for our modern punk theme. I wore the super spiky necklace I bought in Iceland which always makes me feel a little Viking and my Alexander McQueen skull ring to get me in the mood and lend out as props if needed.

As a surprise there was a second model waiting for us, as well as C, our fabulous stylist, plus two makeup artists/hair stylists.

First we have a tour of the undoubtedly eclectic venue, and for some of the spaces we had to don hard hats, so possibly a bit harsh for our models to put them in peril! We then sort through all the clothes and accessories, holding various items up, trying pieces next to each other and choose our look(s) for today.

The models are bring primped, coiffed and styled and we chose our first location and start playing with the lighting.

We all start together working with the black and white stairs. We’ve selected some tartan and red accents to counterpoint the black and white of the steps we’ve selected.

The model is a little hard to work with, we wanted a less pretty look and more spiky in her posture. We want fierce! We’re amateurs so we need the models to almost be psychic and anticipate what we need. I've been able to get the pocket wizard to respond to me this time but annoyingly I have to abandon the EVF so I really can't see properly what I'm doing. I want my inbuilt flash to trigger the remote flashes but they’re not keen!

Now the second model is ready we split the gear and photographers into two groups. We are rather taken by a fabulous white coat against the kind of Art Deco red wall. I cannot get the lights to work for me for this costume. We’ve only got one pocket wizard so everyone else ’borrows’ Macro’s camera which with his eye-fi card inserted we can see directly on the iPad. I've never had a DSLR and I'm just not used to any of the controls so I just have to muddle through with my camera and work out why it cannot seem to see any light. I give up on the white coat but I manage better when we add blue gels to the lights and someone holds them for me. I'm not sure I've they have the punk look but we’re swapping models now.

We go upstairs to try something a little more grungy in the stairwell. Our model is very obliging, tirelessly flinging her legs up on the bannister to give us the look we’re going for. We’re still having lighting issues. I think in our eagerness we just keep not letting the lights recycle and then get repeatedly impatient with them whilst our poor model contorts herself time and time again.

We don't have a huge amount of time remaining but we’re keen to get some photographs in the “danger, danger” room. The ambient light is failing but we’re determined to try a few more poses. Our model is amazing, coming up with great, spontaneous poses for us to experiment with and we eke every moment we have left. My battery fails after the first one-two-three shot I have with the lights and there's not enough time for me to dash back down and up again with a replacement. I think I've managed a couple of shots I'm proud of.

AL has baked a farewell chocolate cake for C, our fabulous stylist, as she’s returning to Belfast. We’ve also got some bubbly to toast her. It’s been an exhausting day but also huge fun and predictively now I've a yen for my own speed lights. I foresee shopping in my future!


Saturday, 28 September 2013

Day 271 : a quiet moment at UK's busiest station

I’m up on the new mezzanine level at Waterloo Station to check all the new eateries to see where I want to dine before returning home. The station isn't very busy at the moment and I have a good view of the minor hustle and bustle below. I'm rather taken by how vibrant all the trains look against the riveted white painted ironwork holding up the glass roof.

It’s fairly quiet now but I believe Waterloo Station is the busiest stations in the UK with regards to passengers. Whereas Clapham Junction, just up the road (or should I say rails), is the busiest with regards to trains.

After taking my daily picture, I decide to eat at Black & Blue just outside the main steps, I've opted for steak today.


Friday, 27 September 2013

Day 270 : the river runs red

I've finished for the day of client appointments at Canary Wharf and after a bit of essential shopping I'm going to head off for the wonderful CP’s leaving do in deepest Hackney. As I pass the clock lollipops and approach the entrance to Canary Wharf tube station I spot the sky looking delectably pink. I descend the steps to get closer to the water and see if I can grab a good reflection in the windows of the building lining the wharf and in the water itself. The sky gets redder and deeper hued and the river looks almost like its running with blood. I take my shot and as I leave I notice more people coming down the stairs to take their own shots. I turn around and am surprised how dissipated the pinky, red, orangey hues are and the sky now looks insipid. Looks like I was lucky with my timing.


Thursday, 26 September 2013

Day 269 : macro Macro!

The lovely U has bought me some tiny photographers from Berlin and sitting around with my fellow photography friends gave me an idea. There are always cameras strewn across the table amongst the pint glasses or wine glasses and bottles in the pub and I thought I'd put one of them to good use. Firstly I was going to use F’s for my prop but whilst I was screwing on my close-up filters she randomly managed to knock her wine over both her own camera and all the sundry things lying on the table. I don't think there was any harm done but after wiping all the wine off her camera she opted to tuck it away safely.

I decided to try again at another table. There was another camera camera conveniently lying around. And very conveniently the grooved rubber grip around the lens made a perfect place to stand one of my little photographers. The challenge was to add a little more light to the scene. One of our esteemed tutors has the incredibly appropriate surname of Macro and he has an excellent idea to light my miniature snapper. He ripped open a metallic crisp packet and uses the silvery interior to add the needed highlights to my figure.

We decide that he's adopting Macro’s stance so a macro Macro it is!


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Day 268 : not a postcard

Tonight’s Frui social was located around St. Paul’s Cathedral. The team challenge tonight was recreating a scene from North by Northwest. I think we managed pretty well having our “Cary Grant” being pursued by a paper aeroplane but I don't have a copy on my camera. For our individual challenge we had to take a photograph of St. Paul’s Cathedral that you'd never see on a postcard.

My plan was to find a weird quirky angle and just capture a piece of St. Paul’s, abstract but still recognisable. I’d found a promising spot on a previous social here but looked at lots of other viewpoints too. I just kept returning to my initial thought of standing on my tiptoes near the bike racks. The buildings nearest to me obscured most of the dome. It didn't do too well points wise, I'm not sure I fully understand the concept “not fit for a post card” as one could argue that just a poor photograph could scoop the top prize. Maybe mine was too “nice”!


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Day 267 : tick, tock

The large four-faced clock at Waterloo Station is a popular meeting spot. I'm sure it's seen many assignations, friends gathering in their finery heading off to the Ascot races, before the Eurostar relocated to King’s Cross St. Pancras excitable parties would congregate before checking in for Paris and groups setting of for adventures start here. I've met other photographers here before we set off for a mystery photography excursion. The funny thing is if you’re meeting someone you don't know, as I did recently for a Hairy Goat workshop, there are so many people milling around under the clock I couldn't fathom out who I should be introducing myself to.

The clock has been swathed in plastic for ages whilst the Waterloo Station refurbishment has been taking place. But some of the refurbishment it complete as there's a new mezzanine level encircled by shops and restaurants. I'm stood at the edge of the little café, on level with said clock after stocking up on more rubber animals from Paperchase. AL took some fabulous photographs of the inner workings of a clock tower recently and though nowhere near as intricate as AL’s gorgeous black and white shots, I'm inspired to at least try and capture the clock sans plastic covering by getting as close as possible.


Monday, 23 September 2013

Day 266 : glimpse of Autumn

The early signs of Autumn coming are starting to show. Green berries are turning red, conkers are scattered in the ground, browning leaves are falling and strewn all over the pavements. I was taking pictures of berries that catch my eye and I discovered what looks like an immature raspberry. I can't find any others so it seems like it’s a rogue possible raspberry. Close-up filters to hand I snap the lone berry against the blurry backdrop of the surrounding shrubs.


Day 265 : milk and honey and moon!

We've been having a lovely, chilled evening hanging out at Milk and Honey again. Ever since LB introduced us to the the delights of a speakeasy cum private members’ club, I've been a huge fan. Fortunately LB invites us to partake in her membership privileges quite regularly and last night we all gathered to partake of cocktails, delicious food and cheer MB up, although not in that order! We have a great evening though a flu of us feel rather fragile around the edges, shades of flu and other infuriating seasonal changes malaise. So it's not a batting on until dawn sort of night but it’s still past the last tube and train home time. My favourite Soho cab company Phoenix do us a great deal as I am whisked home. The moon is pretty big tonight - not Cosmo’s moon size - but large enough to warrant try and capture it. Luckily someone else is still up at this time adding a welcome little warm glow to a corner of my picture.

Time for bed I think!


Saturday, 21 September 2013

Day 264 : shake, shake, shhhhh

I'm walking alongside Waterloo station. I don't think I've ever taken this route before, certainly not on foot, maybe by cab. As I cross over this small bridge I can smell strong fumes and hear a weird noise. A metallic rattle and then a shhhhh. I peer through the diamond trellis fencing and see a graffiti artist carefully sculpting the arms of a figure with spray paint. Ah mystery solved, the now recognisable smell is the paint and the noise is the constant shaking of the can. But there seems to be a lot of noise from one artist. I peer through the gloom and see more bodies. Might be worth a further investigation.

I climb down the steps and as my eyes adjust I can see the Old Vic tunnels are packed with people furiously shaking and spraying. The aroma of the spray paint is now mingling with a distinctive whiff of weed. The walls and ceiling are adorned with images and more are being applied on top. There's music playing and a cacophony of sprayers are doing their stuff. Several of us are watching a tiny Japanese girl who’s recreating several drawings from her sketchbook. She asks for some pallets to stand on so she can outline her latest creation. I'm not sure if this is a random graffiti collective, a competition, a very lucky coincidence but it definitely creates a photographic opportunity.


Friday, 20 September 2013

Day 263 : and then there were six..or seven!

It was very curious, the elephant had disappeared! It was last seen balancing on an orange sat on top of the partition between EM and myself. And then they were gone. We figured it was because our CEO, who has an extraordinary capacity for concerning himself about minutiae, is due to visit. We've already gotten rid of all the cupboards, coat stands and plants at his behest it wouldn't surprise me if a tiny rubber elephant and a precarious orange would push him over the edge.

There seemed to only one solution - obtain more elephants, a small army of elephants. The lone grey elephant re-materialised, it had bounced off its perch, most likely when the cleaner has knocked the desk with the vacuum cleaner. But even though the mystery is solved, half a dozen more multicoloured elephants are winging their way to us. On arrival we realise that the heads, trunks and bodies are interchangeable so that's exactly what's happened. I think I prefer them all one colour so I get them to pose as thus before mixing up all their parts again and return them to their station on the partition. We've discovered that SB finds their pointy trunks “threatening”, so naturally they are placed back all lined up in a row staring at him! Who can seriously be spooked by a pack of little rubber elephants, pointy trunks or not?


Thursday, 19 September 2013

Day 262 : the secret Mexican

There's a curious fad for bars, clubs and, now I know, restaurants, for some ambiguity or twist especially regarding the differentiation of the men and ladies toilets or even the actual entrance to the place. I think it adds to the mystique, the secret handshakes, nod to the wise, either being in the right clique or on the outside. I suspect if you have to ask, you've failed some sort of test, and they didn't really want you as a customer.

Possibly the cryptic signs on the toilet doors are a conversation starter when you return to your group. The hilarity of the slow realisation that you’ve picked the wrong door. For men it's normally the puzzlement of why they'd be a tampon machine to the side of the wash basins whilst they're washing their hands. For the women they either walk through the door to see a couple of guys with their backs to her facing a porcelain wall or you're on your way out and a man is walking through the door adjusting his flies and you both pause and wonder who's made the mistake this time.

On each visit to Milk and Honey we discuss the different between the toilets there. As you may guess one is labelled “Milk” and the other “Honey”. Actually the rooms are the same apart from the size. We have decided that “Honey” is for the ladies but they are interchangeable so it doesn't really matter as they're separate bathrooms rather than a couple of cubicles behind the main door.

It's not just the facilities a few places also want to have an obscure entrance. The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town is a case in point. Their website used to say you'd have to ring and someone would meet you and escort you to the bar to keep the entrance a secret. Now I guess a lot of their guests are already in on the secret but I won't spoil it for those who don't but suffice to say you should really explain that you've “come to see the mayor!” and they'll expose the secret door.

I’d met LB at the Mexican restaurant La Bodega Negra last week for our mutual birthday so I knew where the entrance was and the look of the place. Today I’m back, this time with my team to celebrate EM’s six month probation pass. We arrived a bit early and rather uninspired by the ambience went in search of a pre-dinner cocktail. When we returned EM checked the reservation and said she had a different address. So we went in search of the other address and discovered that it appeared to be adult video shop and peep show. Hmmm, that doesn't seem right. There's a other woman stood outside the sex shop frontage peering desperately at her BlackBerry and wondering where on earth she's supposed to be meeting her date/friends. We’re still totally unconvinced, someone shoves SG through the door and he returns assuring us that it IS a restaurant after all. We’re not entirely assured but slowly troop through the door and into a curious little lobby. On one side there's a mannequin crudely dressed in bondage gear. On the other wall the hostess stands behind a cabinet containing a saxophone that appears to have a tongue and teeth and next to it an old violin sporting wooden breasts and a merkin! Yes, really! The men are divested of their jackets and ties, and shirt sleeves are rolled up, as suits aren't permitted here!

We have a great table almost in a mirrored cave which made for some great team photos. And we enjoyed some delicious lamb, feisty cocktails and excellent banter. A fine, albeit very belated, welcome to the team EM!


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Day 261 : black and white and red sauce!

Today was such a lovely late birthday treat and a catchup with old friends. My fairy goddaughter, KK, and I share a birthday and we'd yet to exchange presents. K with her two children are over from Singapore and I haven't seen K since she visited from their last home in Dubai. Z I've met once briefly three years ago but I'm sure he wouldn't remember and E, was only a couple of days old when I could have met her, but it was really late so we let her sleep. The idea was an early evening afternoon tea (as some of us work!) in the BB Bakery in Covent Garden. The children were highly entertained by amongst various delights, the animal erasers finally reaching KK and she was kind enough to donate a kangaroo and my favourite penguin to Z and E.

whilst the grown ups enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea the children licked the odd cupcake and played. Of course the moment we said it was time to pack up and leave they announced collectively that they were hungry, most likely for pasta. So we settled our bill at the bakery, gathered all the toys, bags, presents, take-home cakes, small rubber animals, ponies, drawing books and made our way to Carluccio’s. Then whilst the younger members of our group slurped their way through pasta, the older members drank a fine red wine. When as much possible mess had been made by both consuming spaghetti and colouring in the books about tomatoes (ugh!) they'd been furnished with I showed them how to make origami penguins and we took some pictures of tiny things. Even though I don't profess to be a portrait photographer I had some beautiful and willing subjects, so it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. I preferred the calmness of the B&W and opted to remove the spaghetti sauce in post-processing. Well it just looks like weird dirty marks in monochrome and spoil a very rare portrait from me!


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Day 260 : the other side of the tracks

It's another late night, I'm stood on Turnham Green tube station platform waiting for the elusive last tube to Richmond. The Richmond tube can a bit of a scarlet pimpernel, if this end of the District line is having an issue, the Richmond tubes suffer first. The reason is that the tubes go to sleep overnight on the Ealing Broadway branch of the District line so the onus seems to be on getting the drivers home, the trains home but not always, it transpires, the passengers home. And a few nights ago we suffered this cavalier attitude to us getting home and to bed. The rule is that as long as the London Underground run the last tube, at any time at all, there's no compunction to get the passengers home by any other means. This can mean that the last tube to Richmond from Turnham Green timetabled at 12.55am can actually run at 2am, 3am or whenever. Far from ideal, especially on a school night! If of course we know there's an issue we could make alternative arrangements but invariably we don't know until there are not alternatives. The other night we had the infamous “the Richmond train is ten minutes away” for well over an hour. There was a hardcore of passengers who were demanding answers but as usual, it was the “we will run the last tube to Richmond, but we don't know when”. Even though everyone was being terribly polite (we are going to Richmond after all!) the station staff exhausted by not having the information they needed to give to the increasingly demanding (though entirely to no avail) would-be passengers had called the police. I gave up just before 2am and asked for a cab to be called. The rest stuck it out but I don't know when they finally reached Richmond.

Tonight, thankfully, it seems we’ll get home without drama but just as our tube is snaking around the corner I spot a little scene on the Eastbound platform I want to grab. I like the fact on a totally empty platform they are sat on the same bench but they don't seem very together.

What I don't like, however, is that even though I'm stood square to the bench all the lines in the picture seem to diverge. Either the tracks are on a slant, the platform, the building opposite, I can't fathom it out. It's not that I'm just leaning over or something because when I straighten one line the rest are more askew. I'm very aware of the converging lines effect when taking pictures of tall buildings, and often exaggerate it but why would lines diverge so much? It’s a mystery for another day when it’s not the last tube coming!


Monday, 16 September 2013

Day 259 : off the rails

I was going to try and not mention the rain again but it’s making its presence very known today. But then there is a break in the deluge so instead I embrace the abstract nature of the rain splattered metal railing bisecting the underpass, outside of Waterloo station. On one side the black taxis are driving through the puddles and on the other side potential passengers rushing hither and thither. I opt for an upended 16:9 aspect (normally saved for panoramas) and black and white for that arty feel (not that there is much colour).


Day 258 : yellow brick wall

I was rather taken by this yellow wall, a vibrant splash of art under the bridge. I waited to have a couple of people striding in front of it, slightly slowed down as a juxtaposition to the painted figures. I also wanted to include the puddle in the road and capture a bit of reflection. So crouching down, trying very hard to not get run over I got the image I was after.


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Day 257 : like a hairy goat?

Ever since been handed a flyer about The Hairy Goat photography tours and workshops whilst rushing for a bus to the office outside Waterloo, I was determined to check them out. Apparently “hairy goat” is an Australian (though I failed to have this verified by any of my Aussie friends) alternative to “headless chicken” as in “Running around like a...”

They have these mystery walks with a camera around London that caught me eye, several workshops and there's also an intermediate workshop that's starts with a couple of hours of tuition plus a mystery walk. And that's what I signed up for today.

Only two of us had signed up on the dotted line today so we met over coffees and hot chocolate at Waterloo to see where the gaps were in our knowledge. Rob our tutor decided we both needed to embrace manual mode more rather than aperture. Then we hit the Southbank to try some of his suggested techniques. It was interesting to see if we could lift details from an extraordinarily bland sky, in camera. As we walked further we came across a carrousel with a small queue of eager children waiting to board. On a grey day it was a welcome burst of gaudy colour. I purposely picked the horses without riders as I preferred the slightly more stark and surreal look. It captures the cacophony of the moment. It was fun wandering around looking for quirky little angles. The rain mostly stayed away but Corinna’s mantra (the owner of Hairy Goat Photography Tours) is that often the most interesting photographs come out of the rain. I will admit, raindrops on roses, leaves, on metal and reflections in puddles I do love but I don't like getting wet myself. I always enjoy dedicating some quality time with my camera rather than snatching a few moments in between my real life when I'm running around like a headless chicken/hairy goat/whatever, one of the reasons I like going on workshops.

I'm not entirely comfortable with losing the seemingly safety net of slipping back into aperture priority quite yet, but very happy to practice until it’s second nature. I just need to schedule some more camera-me time!


Friday, 13 September 2013

Day 256 : Rocky Horror rain storm

Did I say it rained yesterday? I take it back as today it rained. Rained and rained, really rained, proper soak to the skin, possibly will never get dry again rain. AL had kindly gifted me a ticket to the open air film of the Rocky Horror Picture show at Kew Gardens for my birthday. Did I say it was open air?

Well that's okay I had carefully packed a waterproof backed picnic rug, a raincoat and umbrella, what could possibly go wrong?

The rain just kept falling, soaking the blankets, pouring off the umbrellas and utterly drenching us. But we’re British, we’ve come to watch the film so we will and a little rain won't stop us. I'm assuming some people bailed but there were enough crazy people remaining to brave the elements. The people sitting in front of us had all kitted themselves out with clear pack-a-macs with hoods. They looked like little gnomes sat in a row and the points of the hoods partially obscuring the lower part of the screen. Hence the curious shapes in front of my photographs.

As usual the Rocky Horror Picture Show requires audience participation, though the early scene where Brad and Janet are caught in the rain didn't need the customary newspaper held aloft to pretend, as we were living it for real. Some of the braver souls actually braved the deluge and ran around in skimpy outfits, for example Rocky in nothing but tiny gold shorts. Definitely braver than I. We discovered the unfortunate consequence of sensibly bringing our waterproof rugs. The torrential rain had no way to go so pooled around us until we could veritably paddle. It was about then I realised that wearing a silk taffeta skirt perhaps hadn't been the wisest choice! If I was going to run around like the other crazy people I'd have to acting as a drowned rat.

So's just a step to the left and a step to the ri-i-i-i-i-ight!


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Day 255 : drip...drop

Yet again the rain is falling. The only answer is to grab my camera and see if I can capture an interesting abstract from beneath the relative shelter of my umbrella. The raindrops dripping from the iron handrail caught my eye. A couple of close up filters later and the leaves and building behind blurred to a pleasing bokeh, or perhaps beyond bokeh.