Frustration

I was tempted to title this post “Shitty day just got shittier”, but in the interest of the high standard of this blog (…) and in view of the fact that it doesn’t look good to come back to the blog after a couple of months’ absence with that kind of profanity, I’ll keep it clean. Fact remains though – I am deeply disappointed and annoyed. More with myself than with the actual shitty product I have received today. The lessons to be learnt from my experience are as usual self-referential.

Sligo small

You see, I had had the brilliant idea of making a few photo calendars. I owed a few people who have been helping me with a project. Since they are not based in Ireland, I wanted a personal gift that could be easily shipped. Photo calendars. Bingo. 13 landscapes of Ireland on my hard drive, quick upload onto the website of an online printer, bam bam bam and out. It literally took me five minutes to do, including research for a discount code. Nonetheless I paid 72 Euro for five desk calendars.

And here they are, looking shitty. What the…? What was I thinking when I made these? Apart from the quality of the calendar (images are grainy, design template of the calendar is crap), how the hell did I not see in a preview how bad this looked? Right, it is my fault that I forgot to put a title in – the usual snazzy “Ireland 2014 – 2015. But those landscapes look lost on the page, and the black frame around them looks like a condolence card decoration, and the  monthly calendar bit looks cheaply designed. Those images are massively big files (4000×2666) – how canthey come out grainy? Dafuq??????????

Moral: Don’t do things in a hurry. I should’ve looked at this closer.
Moral 2: Not using that particular printer again. (Name on application).

That’s 72 Euro straight into the bin. Arrrrrrrgh.

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Photogenic

One of the big challenges of studio shoots is the distinct lack of context. There are no circumstantial or environmental references available for the sitter – the scene has been deliberately emptied of all outside distraction in order to focus entirely on the face of the subject. Pros are able to deal with that, and know how to provide the photographer with facial expressions. Amateurs, however, often appear like deer in headlight – thrown into an artificial situation with the spotlight trained on them, literally. Well, not so my friend M___ who has sat for me several times for various projects. She is an absolute natural – almost all of her shots come out great. She has that “something” that makes people photogenic – and she is just great at letting go and simply fooling around in front of the camera.

The downside of that is that I have huge problems with the editing. I simply cannot decide which images to post-produce. I like them almost all. Invariably, with M___ as my sitter, I end up with far too many good shots. Which means I have to spend a long time adjusting them all… What a complaint to have… No, it is obviously a joy to shoot with someone like that. Hope there will be many more!

Abstract

Yesterday I was shooting in difficult conditions. I had been asked to take action shots of a soccer team. Indoors! They wanted shots of the players in action, i.e. kicking the ball. That demands a fast shutter speed, a fast lens and lots of light. The shutter speed I could do – but the shoot was at 8 am! So bad lighting. I had no other option but to crank up the ISO. Grain City! But with my fast shutter speed I still had to shoot at f4 – far too low an f-stop when you are trying to focus on a moving subject. Hmph.

So it is so surprise that my favourite shots were the group images I took (where the players were standing still), and something entirely unwanted…

Greetings from Piet Mondrian. I didn’t compose this image *at all*. It just happened. But strangely it turned out to be interesting how the lines criss-cross the image and create a pleasing overall composition. Well, at least in my opinion.

The power of coincidence. This happening to me quite often. It happened when I was shooting blindly into the crowd at the red carpet in Berlin and ended up with a couple of great shots that turned out to be more evocative of the whole scenario than the actual celebrity shots. Is there a lesson to be drawn from this? To stop composing and to just blindly aim nowhere and wait what comes out? Maybe only as enhancing bonus shots, but not as the general strategy, I suppose. Still, I’m glad I got this one…

Beauty

From classic b/w over to a burst of colour.

Beauty shot

Virtually unedited. There was not much need. She was perfect the way she looked and the way she posed. She let go and was not afraid to follow my directions. Despite 20 people surrounding us and observing her. The haughty look was just as good as the photos where she laughed and flashed a full-on smile. I took 24 pictures of her in total, and every single one was a winner. If anything was wrong, it was only my technical mistakes – focus off, or bad framing. Amazing. It just proves the point that the best results in photography come out when the sitter is either reckless or self-assured enough to not care what she actually looks like. Or if she trusts the photographer. I hope the latter was also the case.

Hahahahave Made It

If you remember my post on falling into work mode rather than fangirling at the red carpet, you’ll recall how unhappy I was with my resulting photographs due to bad decision making. Turns out the fans were not as critical as I was. Well, I weaved some post-production magic over the ten two images that were miiiiiildly acceptable and threw them out there. The old b/w trick worked particularly well, and it also helped that in the following image the subject was incidentally lit by the flash of someone else’s camera.

IMG_4896Still fuzzy and I am not talking about Mister’s stubble there. But a razor-sharp picture of the hair. Maybe Pantene will come calling?

I was laughing out loud today, though, and not entirely ironically when I saw that a fan had actually used my pic above to have an iPhone case printed. I have made it as a photographer! iPhone cases are only the start. I expect tote bags, coasters and t-shirts next.

Under a Blood-Red Sky

Not kidding:

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This is the sky this morning, 8.30 am. No filter, no mumbo-jumbo. Just a crisp, cold winter morning in the city centre of Dublin. We are back to the time where I just about finish my morning work and get up from the desk – to notice the colour of the sky outside. (In deeper, darker winter the sun has not yet risen when I take my breakfast break.)

The image comes with a reminder for all Dublin readers that the annual Turner show is on in the National Gallery of Ireland. I make my pilgrimage to the exhibition every year. It is all the more special because the Turner watercolours are only ever shown in the month of January (as stipulated in the Vaughan Bequest from 1900 that stated the Turner watercolours were to be shown every year in the month of January – as the light was least damaging in the muddy grey of the Irish winter… too right). They match the sunrise in their pinks, reds and oranges – although Turner does not paint with a wide, wet brush or however else we usually see watercolours. There is an amazing amount of detail in the vague, the occasional stronger brushstrokes and the carefully unpainted parts of the images. I find these paintings so un-watercolour-ish, I am astounded every time I see them.

My photo does not reach the lofty heights of artistic expression that Turner perfected. But the view of the sky certainly connects me with him. The beauty of colour. Amazing.

Landscape at Night

As we are nearing the end of week 2, I better get my skates on and spoil the world with another image *ahem*.

Killarney small

I have always been fascinated by night photography. Because it is difficult – and more a less a contradiction in terms. If photography is painting with light, then how do you paint if there is no light on your brush? Well, ok, there is *some* light available even in the darkest of nights. The moon, the stars and the little Prince, and, in our civilisation-pestered time, street lights etc.

Above picture was taken early last summer in Killarney. This is the Castlelough Castle which is situated in the grounds of the plush Lake Hotel. No doubt, thousands of hotel guests have taken pictures of the suitably dramatic medieval ruin, built in the 12th century. But maybe not quite so many did so at night. Or if they did, with rather grainy, shaky outcome.

Of course I did not have my tripod with me on this trip. I was travelling light – by train. No, space for a kilo and a half courtesy of Manfrotto. But who needs a tripod when there is infinite scope for shitty rigs? All you need is a bench – on the shore and suitably provided by the hotel. I had to balance the camera on lenscap and finger in order to get the horizon vaguely straight. Matters were complicated by an annoying outside light that kept going on and off, f*cking up my WB with interfering neon light (or whatever light it was). I spent at least 15 minutes manually releasing the shutter and avoiding to breathe while capturing this image. And time was of the essence as the atmospheric, misty mountains (…cold, to dungeons deep and caverns old… no chance wasted to refer back to the film du jour) were in and out of cloud coverage. Without the strong illumination of the castle the image would not have been possible (save myself freezing my butt off and holding the bloody shutter open for an hour and a half).

I like the ghostly fingers of the tree trunks.