Monthly Archives: November 2011

Christmas Offensive Starts NOW

Photos make great presents. But there is only so much wall space your lucky recipients have. Plus, it can be quite costly to give a *real* photo present: A print is nice and all, but will hardly go up on a wall without frame and mount. You’re looking at € 30 minimum for a nicely presented image – depending on size. But there are other ways of presenting images as presents. And I have just found one that will make a little girl quite happy, I hope.
A notebook with a customised cover. I ordered this from Vistaprint and it will be a stocking filler for the thoughtful little lady in the image. Yes, I know – I couldv’e just printed the image and glued it onto a notebook. I might have gotten away with it a bit cheaper. But the little detail that this is custom-made will not fail to impress ;-).
I have a few more photo pressies up my sleeve in the pipeline. Bearing in mind that Christmas is only less than four weeks away, I/you need to get my/your skates on with this kind of present. Don’t forget the delivery time it takes for these things to reach you. Happy printing 🙂

The Pursuit of Loneliness

Panic gripped me on Thursday. I had realised the night before in college that we are very close to our deadlines. And despite best intentions, I always end up panicking in the run-up to deadline week. You would have thought that a sprightly pensioner as myself would have learnt from her time spent in college first time ’round. Well, no, I haven’t. I am still a last minute girl. I keep telling everyone that “I need the pressure in order to produce the work.” But here is the truth: More often than not I am fuseling because I keep putting off dealing with the people who are needed for my projects.
In this case it was the people from whom I need permission to shoot what I am planning to shoot. I did eventually pluck up the courage to call the people in question. And was more than relieved, if not elated!, that they were actually delighted that I would choose their property for a photography project. I have settled on Wicklow Lighthouse as the architectural structure I would like to portray for my Large Format class. It is a historic building, built in 1781!, and situated in a scenic spot. It is nicely tall (good for playing with the camera movements!) and best of all: it’s not round but octagonal, which will facilitate a little bit of Scheimpflug much better than a circular structure.
To get back to Thursday – I made it down to Wicklow Lighthouse with the intention of shooting the outside. But to my surprise and utter delight I bumped into the housekeeper who invited me in and allowed me two hours to shoot the interior of the lighthouse. I shot four images inside – which took me nearly two hours. I did it all on my own – the loneliness of the large-format-photographer is slowly growing on me, even though I did miss a second opinion and pair of eyes to point out mistakes or angles or wrong settings.
And I loved the lighthouse – so romantic, so lonely, so cosy. And thus I leave you with a photograph I took in there, that describes the lighthouse on so many levels. It speaks of its structure, its situation in the landscape and it also touches rather evocatively on the possible solitude of the place – by contrast.
Cuddle up

Nostalgia

Who would have thought it would be like this? There I am. With the luxury of a studio in the house. A recent development that is possible because a) I have the room and the connections and b) my friend has the equipment. On our own I haven’t got the gear and he can’t afford a studio space. Together, however, we can fly shoot. Hence we have pooled the resources and set up his gear in my house. All well all good. 
But what do you do when you want to practice studio photography and you haven’t got any willing victims? Right, you take what is there, plonk it in front of a backdrop and shoot away. 
Square – an unusual format for me. I do not particularly like squaring off my images (although I have done previously for my “Tracing Mainie” project), but somehow this turned out to be the right framing for this tin horse. (His name is Claus, by the way, and I am looking after him for a friend…)

Why are toy horses reminiscent of Christmas time, by the way? Anybody know? Somehow it has just occurred to me that this really looks like a nice ‘n’ neutral “holiday” shot for Christmas cards. Beautifully non-denominational, so as to not offend anyone’s religious sensitivities. *um* I guess one could also call it beautifully bland…

This was shot with a massive octabank softbox. So big, actually, that the light gets diffused so well, so wide, so evenly that it literally looks like daylight. In fact, when I showed my images to my friend, he thought I had not bothered to switch on the lights but shot with daylight, streaming in through our large windows. And even though the toy horse is made of metal and has a shiny surface, there is hardly any reflection on it (apart from that one hoof).
I can’t wait to test what this will look like with humans in it. Hehe, sounds scary, humans. But even if I am writing about “willing victims” – I am not looking to eat my sitters, I just want to photograph them. Volunteers, you know how to get in touch!

Do-Goody

Do you like to see yourself in print? Sure, that is one of the reasons why many of us are photographers: We do not only love taking photographs but we also think that others might like to see what we produce. We “make” photos because we want to communicate something through them. Sometimes we document important events which the public ought to know about. Sometimes something funny and unusual catches our eye and we want to make others laugh. Or we see the beauty in something and capture it on film for other to enjoy as much as we do.
Only few of us are lucky enough to earn our living with photography. Photography is a craft and an art combined. Thus it depends on the tastes of the public and not only the technical skills and aesthetic vision of the photographer whether he or she is commercially successful. For most of us the money does not really come into it. We snap and shoot, anyway. Photography is an obsession, and probably has to be, if it is considered an art…
But to get back to my initial point: Your photos are worth nothing if noone wants to see them. And thus I was incredibly chuffed when I was approached by an Irish charity recently who asked me to contribute one of my images to their annual charity Christmas card project. I was more than happy to hand over an image. Exposure as a photographer and doing good combined – could it get any better?
Irish Deaf Kids is a non-profit organisation that is committed to supporting children with hearing issues in Ireland. IDK provides resources and support to parents of deaf children, with particular focus on inclusive mainstream education. The proceeds of the Christmas card project will fund the charity’s good work in the next year. If you want to do good, you can support IDK by purchasing a pack of Christmas cards. Details are here on the comprehensive IDK website.
Do-goody that I am, I would like to ask you to consider giving away a photo of your own to the charity of your choice, too. Or, as it is almost too late for such a project in conjunction with a charity this year, have you considered printing your own Christmas cards, selling them to friends, family, business partners, colleagues etc. and passing on the proceeds to a charity? It may only be a small project and won’t make you any money, but the gratification is priceless… 

Going Dutch vs. Big in Japan

“Oh look, she has got herself a new handbag.” – “Isn’t it lovely?” – “Look at those brass details, so shiny, so classy, so bling.” – “And that delicate little carrying strap at the top – actually, quite fashionable, a slight equestrian feel to that, isn’t there.” – “Oh, and the elegance of the mahogany inlays – now if that’s not exclusive, then what is?”
LF in style
No, I did not believe for one second that I could fool you into believing that this is a little handbag. It is, of course, a viewcamera. Tachihara. *blessyou* *excuseme* And I have gotten my hands on it thanks to my friend-in-photography Karl. He is lending me the Tachihara 4×5 – which is very handy as I am, as you all know, in the middle of my first LF project already.
Now, it’s not that I don’t like shooting with Mijnher Cambo. In fact, he is a sturdy and reliable fella, just as you would expect it of a solidly built Dutchman. Seriously, the Cambo 4×5 has been great so far. (Ok, I admit I still haven’t printed the negs, but the negs actually look ok-ish…) There’s only one thing: Mijnher Cambo is rather big and bulky. And heavy, too. 4.4 kg is a bit of weight alright when you are shooting somewhere in the wilds – or intending to do a project on lighthouses, which, by their nature, tend to be perched on inaccessible rocks on the shore… The Cambo can’t be carried in a rucksack – it sits there on its monorail (people, I warn you, no jokes now!), front and back standard sticking up, the delicate lens largely unprotected. There are, in fact, no rucksacks big enough for it. And I am not even starting on the tripod needed for this square fellow.
This lovely little Japanese beauty, however, is a different ball game. Delicate, pretty and practically minded – well, metaphorically speaking (as I am obviously in the mood to do today), it is a petite geisha of cameras. Made from beautiful wood and put together with shiny brass screws and fittings, it folds together into a small little square, that indeed you can carry with the ditzy little leather strap attached to it. (Probably appeals to the women photographers a bit more than to a big butch photo pro *roar*). Rucksack? No problem – it weighs about 1.5 kg and its dimensions are 216 x 94 x 196 mm. Folded down, the lens board fits neatly in, protected by the bellows. Ideal for location shoots.
So I look forward to testing out the Tachihara. One plate is shot already, but not yet processed. Instead of going Dutch, I’ll try to be big in Japan. *um* Wordplay is flying low today, better sign off…

Better Late Than Never

No, that title does not refer to the day and time I am getting to write this update. It refers to the fact that I really do not appreciate finding out essential facts late down the line… Mind you: better late than never. But this, again, does not just apply to last night’s proposal near-rejection, but also to the revelation that my negatives are NOT up to scratch.
Or rather: They are. Scratched. Literally. But that is not the worst thing about them. They are simply over-exposed. Well, possibly. Maybe not. It is quite hard to tell with negatives how good they have come out and I have gone down the line of panicking unnecessarily before when I thought my negs were far too light – yet when printing them, they turned out fine. This is it:
4×5″ negative
The lighthouse on the West pier in Dun Laoghaire harbour. Well – you might remember it from last week. I shot this with the 4×5 camera at a wide aperture of f5.6 and 1/250 of a second. I played a little bit with the camera movements because I didn’t want just a clean, clear, predictable shot of a lighthouse. So the focus deliberately is off the light and onto the door of the lighthouse. This was achieved by tilting the back of the camera backwards. I actually also used a back fall because I needed to get a bit more of the base of the lighthouse in the image.
I do like the overall aesthetic effect (not taking into account the possible over-exposure) – the falling off of anything above and below the door. It kind of adds a sense of vertigo to the image – the lighthouse is swaying in a storm, going to fall over any second. Rather contradictory to the usual image of the lighthouse as a proverbial rock in the ocean. 
On that note: Lighthouses have been photographed a million times. Yeeees, I know, my project is extreeeeemely original. *um* But therefore: Anyone have any suggestion on other famous or interesting lighthouse images? I need to find a different angle on this whole thing, because a collection of phallic edifices apparently is not going to cut the mustard with college. Bit late, finding THAT out. But hey, better later than NEVER!!!

Is It That Time of Year Again?

I know you don’t want to hear about it. Neither do I really. It is far too early to think about Christmas. *eeeeeeek* There you have it. I have used the C-word. And yet, planning is everything when it comes to Christmas. And think about it – we, as photographers, have a whole host of potential Chrimbo pressies at our fingertips.
Is that too gloomy for a calendar cover?
Ok, I admit, not everyone wants to have a artsy-fartsy print of a deserted carpark in a Mid-Western industrial estate on their wall. But there’s so many great things you can do with photographs which even non-visual people will appreciate. Mousepads, t-shirts, mugs – all adorned. Hey, I have even seen a site somewhere where you can have your image of choice printed on a pair of flipflops. Great – just imagine: Your mum and dad on left and right sole respectively. Well, not a joke for everyone. I guess, you could – quite literally – put your foot in it.
So for the slightly more conventional gift-bearing photographer, maybe a personalised calendar is the way to go? I make them every year and give them to my folks. Always to much success. Yeah right, I know, they are my parents, of course they love everything I do. But hey, you’ve got to choose wisely who you give your hand-made, once-off pressies to! Mind you, I have been dithering and fuseling and postponing sending off that final order for several weeks now. But today it is going out!

As If!

The learning curve is really steep today. You think you have it all sussed. You have scouted your location, you have loaded your films, you have made time in your schedule. And even the weather is playing along and providing a bright, mild, dry day for the location shoot. And yet…
As planned I set off this morning for my first project shoot on Dun Laoghaire pier. Well, not quite as planned. Maybe it should be part of the whole process of organising a shoot that the previous evening is set aside for contemplation and rest, too. I am thinking soccer camp here – no drink, no drugs, no sex latenight TV! It was the latter (of course!!!) that delayed me this morning. Watching seminal 1980s films until 2.15 in the morning is not conducive to getting up on time.
Nonetheless, I took off at 8 am (only marginally later than planned) and headed out to Dun Laoghaire. View camera in its big wooden box, tripod strapped into the back – and the old push chair in tow. Push chair you ask? No, not for me, old as I may be. For the gear, it was. The West pier is exactly one mile long – a loooong trek if you are carrying a four kilo view camera and a sturdy tripod that weighs probably twice that. 
On my way I had a first taste of this not being as easy-peasy as I had assumed. In view of the bright sunshine it – pardon the pun – dawned on me why my lecturer H___ had been proselytising about the need for a compass. Assuming that the sun rises slightly towards the Southeast (in winter time) and it being already an hour after sunrise (7.31 am), chances were that the sun would be right behind the lighthouses when I got there. I.e. no way I would be able to take a shot against the sun.
And as I got to the pier, more holes in my strategy appeared. Yes, I had found out that I needed to pay for parking. But I had not made sure to have change for the parking meter. *doooh* Back into the car and off to the nearest petrol station for some change then – and a further delay of 15 minutes.
With the car parked and the view camera avec tripod safely strapped into the push chair I finally bumbled off onto the pier. (My mood was already nearing lowest possible point – I tend to get discouraged and easily frustrated when things don’t go the way I thought they would. Thank God my mood-enhancing iPod was fully loaded and got me back in form.)
The pier was not exactly teeming with people, but there were of course the unavoidable anglers at the end – who obviously had some fun watching this weird lady turning up with what to them probably looked like antiquated equipment, fumbling to set up the tripod and then putting a black bag over her head to look at the back of the camera. (I actually wish I could’ve seen the whole scene. Probably
of slapstick quality…)
With camera on tripod I took focus on the East pier lighthouse – only to realise that my scouting had been totally off. The lighthouse was far too far away to appear big in my frame. Bummer! I took a picture anyway, but then just turned around the camera to photograph the West pier lighthouse.
Three pics in the bag. I would have liked to take the same on transparency, too, just for testing, but stupidly I had no box for exposed negs with me and therefore could not take the negs out of the holders. There is another thing to add to the list of facts learnt today… At least my college work book will be full!
East and West Pier Lighthouses, Dun Laoghaire Harbour

Girl Scouts

After a rather disappointing experience a couple of weekends ago I had resolved never to go out shooting anymore without having scouted the location before. At least when photographing with the 4×5. Hence I had set aside this morning for a trip to Dun Laoghaire harbour where I am planning to shoot the lighthouses at the end of the two piers for a college project. Based on that previous trip where I had to concede that my vantage point was too far away from the object I wanted to photograph, I had carefully checked the focal length of the view camera’s lens to make sure I could take test shots with Marky Mark and find the spot where I would set up the 4×5 on a subsequent trip. 
And so I set off, Marky Mark by my side and a little acolyte for company. A beautiful day and a good trip. I found the best place to park my car (not very close), checked how much the parking cost (daylight robbery!!) and which vistas suited my purpose (any without people in it!). The sun shone nicely and even provided me with a nice preview of what I might catch on film – minus the lighthouse appearing to fall over backwards.
Test shot with the iPhone *ooops*
I also realised that – although I was going to shoot on the less busy pier – I would have to come out early-ish on my shoot if I wanted to avoid having people walk in on my shot all the time. A slight problem as we are now in winter time and the mornings won’t get light until 7.30 am – not exactly an ungodly hour and therefore I would still have joggers running, anglers fishing and dogs and their people walking into the frame. Why oh why could I not have done this project in the summer? Surely, the early worm i.e. myself would have caught the bird then (or something like that…) The whole tour along the pier takes about 25 minutes one-way. So time will be a factor to keep in mind (if I want to avoid being clamped by the carpark stasi).
Tomorrow then is the day. I’ll go out for 8am and get my first few shots in the bag. I’ll try to take some transparencies as well as I want to experiment with that in advance of my final project (although that will be shot indoors).