You’ve come a long way baby……….

I was going through my stored digital images and went back to my first digital photos. My first digital camera was, like my current ones, made by Olympus.

It’s fascinating to compare a few specifications of that one C960Z ( a fixed 3x zoom lens) with the EM1 Mk2 that I now use:-

Modes Auto Iauto/P/A/S/M/Custom x 3/Video/Art

Shutter Speed 1/2 – 1/1000 sec 60 – 1/32000 sec

ISO range 125, 250, 500 64 – 256,000

Megapixel count 1.3 20 + High Resolution 80mp

There’s the old saying that “the best camera is the one that you have with you.” This was certainly my best camera for the early days of digital, and apart from precious family shots there a few which, in my view, still are acceptable today:-

Debs, Ben & (St) Paul

It was my very great privilege and honour to to be asked to photograph my friends wedding at a venue I am unlikely (though never say never) to shoot at again – St Pauls Cathedral.

Debs was able to get married here as her father was awarded an OBE and any recipients offspring are entitled to get married in the dedicated chapel.

Photographically there were a few things that I needed to consider. Firstly time frame, I was on a very tight schedule, more so than with other weddings I’ve shot, and needed to move quickly! Secondly there were the restrictions on when, and where from, during the service you are able to take photos, and St Paul’s are very strict on this. Finally because the chapel is below ground, in the crypt, the light is not great so you need to adjust your camera settings accordingly.

As with any wedding, as a photographer you are aiming to capture both the traditional special, and the more candid, moments:-

Giggity, giggity…..

Going to gigs has been a regular occurance since my teenage years, although being based where I am now, I don’t go as often as I like. It’s great to combine my love of music with my other passion, photography and wherever possible I take my little Olympus Pen-F camera and usually 75mm and 12-40mm lenses. I compose and shoot in B&W to cater for all the light variables at gigs (and because I think it suits that genre of photography, if I’m honest)

I shoot with an ISO of between 3200 and 500 with the lens wide open to get a fast a hutter speed as possible, normally in aperture mode but if lighting conditions are tricky, I’ll switch to shutter mode and bring out the subject in post processing.

Glasgow has a series of concerts every year called Celtic Connections, and invariably there are some excellent gigs, with some superb musicians, in a variety of venues – from the major concert halls to smaller more intimate clubs and bars. This year I have been to four and these are some of the shots taken:-

To B (&W) or not to B (&W)

A subject that has been much discussed, ever since the introduction of colour photography I suspect, is the relative merits of shooting in B&W (or monochrome if you prefer) as opposed to, or instead of colour.

My own preference is, for the majority of situations, to at least compose and shoot in B&W. By this I mean that I set up my camera to show me the B&W image in the viewfinder. My view, and past experience would seem to bear this out, is that if the image looks good that way then it’s likely to be ok as a RAW colour image as well unless there is dominant distracting (as opposed to focal point) colour in the image.

There are, of course, going to be occasions when colour will be the preferred option, but it is, to me a useful step in the image taking process (Note, not the editing process) to think B&W.

Perhaps the most obvious place (again as far as I am concerned) is shooting gigs, particularly with all the lighting variations you now get on stage. I like that you are not distracted by the hue of the performers skin because of the green lighting or any other unnatural colour. But even in portrait and landscape work there is, in my view, a case for B&W as compared to the “natural” colours. There is of course a whole philosophical debate to be had about individual colour perception.

There have been examples of feature films shot in colour also having a B&W version available, films such as The Mist; Mad Max,Thunder Road and Logan spring to mind and in the first example it’s fascinating to see how your perception is changed of the film to that of a 50’s B movie monster picture (although I should say the quality if the film is way above the majority from that genre.)

In the final analysis it is down to personal choice, but if you have the option to view you prospective images in black and white then it might be worth considering having a look?

The Church

On the subject of reworking old photographs, see “Re-work, re-edit”, I have been revisiting the photographs taken on a trip seven years ago to get shots for the then forthcoming Highway 61 book. Of the large number of shots taken, we used eventually about 100 or so. There was therefore a lot we didn’t use and for good reason, either not good enough or not relevant being the main categories.

Falling firmly into the last category was an abandoned church referred to us by some fellow travellers which we detoured to have a look at. As a photographer it was a fascinating subject not just for its appearance but also for the Marie Celeste state it had been left in – it was like the congregation had left mid service. I have had a look at the photos I took and reworked/re-edited them as below:-

Better View Saul

One of the major benefits of doing a photography degree is discovering new photographers you were either unfamiliar with, or were completely unknown to you.

Such a one was Saul Leiter an American photographer rightly famous for his colour photos in the 50’s and 60’s bringing a painters aesthetic to colour photography. Its fascinating how often he comes up either in conversation or in my mind when looking other peoples work, where colour has been used sparingly – but to great effect. Rest assured, that if I ever say something you have done is Leiter-esque it is high praise indeed.

There’s a lovely documentary on him:- “In No Great Hurry – 13 Lessons In Life With Saul Leiter” which is well worth a watch.

My favourite image by him? Wells it’s a tricky one but the shot of Soames Bantry, Nova. It can be seen in this article:- but do have a look at his other images as well.

Rework, re-edit……

Like most photographers I go back over my catalogue from time to time. This is in part housekeeping, whittling down unwanted images (do I really need 12 versions of that?) and part re appraisal.

What is often the case is that some of the older photos can be looked at afresh with the benefit of new editing software introduced since they were taken or last looked at.

One recent example is this shot from a Photo24 event I attended in 2014. it was an early morning shot of Oxford Street taken before the paths become totally congested with people.

Here’s the original RAW shot with no adjustments made:-

Here’s the recently edited version of it. I’m not necessarily saying its better but it serves to illustrate the ability of software (in this case Lightroom) to get more out of an image, and is, in my view, a reminder as to why you should always shoot RAW to retain the most information you can – you never know what you might be able to do with it in the future.

I’ve been working on the railway

Had a visit to the Scottish Industrial Railway Centre at Patna near Ayr. This is a fascinating place with volunteers running the trains on open days at the weekend. Of equal interest – to me anyway – were the the abandoned buildings which are pretty huge as the site at some point employed nearly 1400 people producing pig with coal brought in by train from nearby coalfields. The iron production ceased in 1921 but the site continued as a brickworks until 1976.