Friday, 29 April 2016

Foto Inspiration Friday - Yousuf Karsh

Welcome to 'Foto Inspiration Friday', the series in which I not only use a rarely used alternate spelling of photo for the sake of alliteration, but I share with you anything and everything I find inspirational, be it a person, an image, a song, a quote, a place, a pizza...ok, maybe not a pizza but you get the point. The focus of this weeks 'Foto Inspiration Friday' is Yousuf Karsh.

Even if you don't know the name, chances are you know Karsh's work...or more specifically this image...



Karsh, born in the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey) had a rough time of it as a child...like seriously rough. He grew up during the Armenian Genocide where he witnessed relatives killed, and saw his sister die of starvation as his family were driven from village to village.

When he was 16 life improved for Karsh when he was sent by his parents to live with his uncle in Canada. Whilst in Canada Karsh assisted his uncle in his photography studio before taking an apprenticeship with photographer John Garo in Boston, Massachusetts. After his apprenticeship Karsh moved back to Canada where he practiced his craft, was noticed by the right people, and his career sky rocketed...eventually. Karsh is reported to have stated that the above image is what launched his career, the image he took some 15 years after starting in photography.

Karsh's images have a natural look to them, I can't recall any looking overtly staged like a school portrait. To achieve this Karsh had a way with his subjects of getting the best out of them, a way of putting them at ease...he'd study them. He'd find out as much as he could about them before the shoot, that way he could keep a natural, relaxed conversation going, making them lower their guard during the shoot. Another of his methods for this natural look was 'stealth shooting'. When I say 'stealth shooting' I don't mean he hid under a tarp the tip of the lens just peering out, I mean he'd ready the cameras settings then leave it alone, releasing the shutter slyly when he saw moments of real emotion.

Somewhat oddly considering how prepared he was in regards to knowing the subject, Karsh was not a fan of preconceived poses, props etc for his shoots. He would see what developed from his interactions, as well as drawing inspiration from their appearance and personality on the day.

Karsh was a big proponent of using light not just as a source of illumination, but rather part of the scene itself. He knew that used in the right way lighting could affect the impact an image had.

I think the majority of us photographers could learn something from Karsh. Be it the way he interacted with his subjects, the way he prepared for a shoot, his use of lighting...there are many things we can learn from him.

I'll leave you with this Karsh anecdote, because it amuses me. That image of Churchill up at the top...seconds before it was taken Churchill had a cigar in his mouth, as he often did. Karsh had tried to subtly suggest that Churchill not have the cigar, when this failed Karsh said to Churchill "forgive me sir", plucked his cigar out of his mouth, and snapped the picture.

I highly suggest you head over and check it out Karsh.org and see more of the talented man's work.

Ian
http://facebook.com/guffoggthegeek
http://twitter.com/guffoggthegeek

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Where When How Wednesday - Siren Arts

Welcome to 'Where When How Wednesday'. In these weekly posts I'll be interviewing creatives about their journey into the creative world, their works, and what makes them tick. This week I'm interviewing Siren Arts, a talented photographer based in Fareham, Hampshire.



We should probably start at the beginning, when and how did you come about getting into the world of photography?

"I've been a model for quite some time so I knew a little about photography from that side, but getting behind the lens was quite by accident, really. I needed a fourth subject to take at college and someone suggested photography, so I gave it a go and that was that - I was hooked! I went on to do a Foundation Degree in Art, specialising in Photography and Graphics."



Photography can have it's share of problems. I personally have a particular problem with self confidence. This confidence issue can and has caused me issues with my photography. Do you find any aspects of photography particularly challenging?

"Self-confidence is an issue all creatives are plagued with, I think! I do like to challenge myself by trying different locations, lighting and editing techniques, but the biggest challenge for me is working within the constraints of my limited kit. That said, it's definitely made me a better photographer - I never want to be in the 'all the gear but no idea' camp."



Photography, especially online, tends to fall into specific genres and/or gets described as being a specific style. The trouble with this is it's quite subjective, the style someone views an image to be can often differ to the style the person creating it views it as. How would you describe the work you are putting out there?

"I like to think my work is feminine and interesting with a hint of narrative. I'm all about empowering women and making them look/feel beautiful (although I shoot guys too!). I guess I would class myself as a portrait photographer."



In my series 'Foto Inspiration Friday' I share the people, images, places etc that I find give me inspiration. Who, or what, or where do you draw inspiration from?

"I've become a bit lazy with my inspiration over the last couple of years - when I was studying, we had to look at the work of other artists constantly, and then it's hard not to be inspired. I use pinterest a lot and recently joined 500px, but I especially love Tim Walker, Katerina Plotnikova, Billy und Hells, Annie Leibovitz and Sally Mann, as well as literature, music and film."



Sometimes images hold a special significance to us. It can be the first image we ever made, it can be an image drawing attention to a cause close to our hearts, it can simply be an image of someone we love. Do you have an image or images that hold a special significance to you?

"An image of my brother springs to mind. He must have been about 4 at the time. I love children - I think they have a unique and honest outlook on the world that adults could learn a lot from, and it's really interesting to capture that on film. I also love taking images of my friends (often fellow models), even though a lot of them have their photograph taken professionally, because we change so much and so fast. I like the idea of looking back at these moments in years to come and remembering."

 
Photoshoots can sometimes leave you open to scary or funny situations. What's the scariest or funniest situation you've found yourself in because of photography?

"Luckily not too many scary situations, although I guess this one falls into both categories: during a shoot down on the beach, the model decided to light up a cigarette while I was faffing about with my kit. I heard a shriek and looked up to see that the wind had blown at just the wrong moment and the model had set fire to her hair and even her eyebrows! I spent the next ten minutes pulling scorched bits of hair off her face and clothing. Luckily she was unharmed and insisted we continue with the shoot - what a trooper!"



We've talked about your start in photography, we talked about your current work, let's quickly chat about the future. What have you got coming up this year, more of the same? any special projects? And in regards to a more long term plan, where are you hoping your creative journey will take you in the years to come?

"I'd like to shoot more weddings, but that means setting up a website, creating business cards and advertising, which is a lot for someone with not much spare time! So far I've just done a few for friends and family, but I've always loved the experience (and they've loved the photos). Besides that, I just want to keep progressing and getting better: maybe with some more designers/make-up artists. I'd also like to upgrade my kit but we'll see about that!"



We can't really talk photography without discussing gear, so...what is your 'go to' equipment that you find yourself gravitating towards the most on shoots?

"90% of the time I shoot on a Canon 600D with a 50mm 1.8. That's it, really - I don't think you need much gear to create great images. I also have the 18-55mm that my body came with, but that doesn't get much use, and a lensbaby spark that gets even less. One thing I never shoot without is my prism - all the blur and rainbows you see on my images are created in-camera, so I'm always on the lookout for shiny things to create pretty flare. In the future I'd like to get a 6D or even a 5D for better low-light work, so I'm saving those pennies."


Now for the shameless self promotion part of the interview...where can people find you and your work?

"Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Siren-Arts-UK-471418122896380/
500px: http://500px.com/siren-arts 
Purpleport: http://purpleport.com/portfolio/sirenarts/ 
Instagram: @siren_arts_uk
Twitter: @SirenArtsPhoto"


I'd like to thank Siren again for taking the time to answer a few questions for me, be sure to check out all of the links for more of her work.


Models, in order of appearance: Sarah Green (http://purpleport.com/portfolio/sarahg) wearing T-shirt by Retro Classic Clothing (http://www.facebook.com/RetroClassicClothing), Miss Pixie (http://misspixie.co.uk), Patience Pending (http://purpleport.com/portfolio/patiencepending), Cheryl Elizabeth (http://purpleport.com/portfolio/cherylelizabeth), Katie Green KRG (http://www.krgcreative.com), Cheryl Elizabeth (http://purpleport.com/portfolio/cherylelizabeth) wearing lingerie by Caitlin Arthur Lingerie (http://www.facebook.com/caitlinarthurdesign) with make-up by Siren Arts (blooming multi talented people!), Rebecca Edwards (http://purpleport.com/portfolio/rebeccaedwards) with hair, make-up and styling by Jules Robson (http://www.facebook.com/aabmakeupandhairartist) wearing a tiara by A Little Bird Dreams (http://www.facebook.com/alittlebirddreams)


Ian
http://facebook.com/guffoggthegeek
http://twitter.com/guffoggthegeek

Friday, 22 April 2016

Foto Inspiration Friday - Ansel Adams Quote

Welcome to 'Foto Inspiration Friday', the series in which I not only use a rarely used alternate spelling of photo for the sake of alliteration, but I share with you anything and everything I find inspirational, be it a person, an image, a song, a quote, a place, a pizza...ok, maybe not a pizza but you get the point. The focus of this weeks 'Foto Inspiration Friday' is a quote by Ansel Adams.

I find quite a number of photography quotes out there to be, well...tossy. I'm too down to earth, or maybe that should be simple, for the arty farty over the top nature of them.  This quote from Ansel Adams however, I like. It's simple yet on point about the importance of considering your composition...see how non-arty farty I am, I couldn't manage better than basically saying 'think about where you point your camera'. Anyway, the quote...



Ian
http://facebook.com/guffoggthegeek
http://twitter.com/guffoggthegeek

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Where When How Wednesday - Chris Blackhurst

Welcome to 'Where When How Wednesday'. In these weekly posts I'll be interviewing creatives about their journey into the creative world, their works, and what makes them tick. This week I'm interviewing Chris Blackhurst, a talented photographer based in Wigan, Greater Manchester.


Hi Chris, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. Lets start at the beginning, when and how did you come about getting into the world of photography?

"My first influence was going for long walks with my Dad. He shot with a Minolta SLR and he loved to shoot the outdoors - landscapes and wildlife etc. I just loved being with him, in the countryside, however, I didn't pick up a camera with any intent until a few decades later. I do think that, if it weren't for my father’s influence, I may not have eventually done so.
  
I have always been interested in art (certainly, appreciating it) but it took some considerable time for me to actively participate in it. A quick scan of my Flickr account suggests I made my first strides into photography in 2007, when I'm fairly sure I picked up a Nikon D40 and kit lens and just shot random crap, as I am sure a lot of people do when they are first starting out. But I have always been one to get “cabin fever” quite quickly - I've never been happy just sat at home watching TV - that kind of existence could send me Postal. So, initially, photography was my escape from just being inside, watching TV or hooked up to the internet etc. However, my motives for photography soon evolved. Without wheeling out a sob story, I fell quite ill a few years ago - so ill, that I was forced to evaluate what was important to me - hence, photography became (and still is) my therapy. When I am not involved in something creative, my mood slumps - I'm not nice to be around."



Photography can have it's share of problems. I personally have a particular problem with self confidence. This confidence issue can and has caused me issues with my photography. Do you find any aspects of photography particularly challenging?

"Phew, I have lots of issues with photography, but I'm not sure that anyone reading this would have the patience to read all of my gripes. However, I will try to select a few that really grinds my gears. 

I find the whole issue of “networking” somewhat tiresome and a tad sycophantic. I understand its a necessary evil to get yourself “out there” and I am as guilty as the next person for using it as a platform of self promotion, but I struggle with how social networking isn't that social, hence I always do my best to pay it forward and try to promote others who I collaborate with or whom I admire as much as I can, hence qualifying the “social” aspect of networking. On the whole, I don’t enjoy internet forums either, because of the whole keyboard warrior aspect. I genuinely doubt that the majority of people speak to people face to face as they do on the internet. The internet is a scary place - a doubled edged sword. I’d love to be brave enough to ditch internet networking completely. But I'm not quite there. Yet.

I am also not a technical photographer either. I know what works for me and I stick to that. I am happily ignorant of most technical aspects of photography, certainly when it comes to digital. Its the part I find least interesting. I apply the same basic principles to whichever photographic platform I am using. 

My biggest problem is being able to produce a high quality body of work that engages the viewer. Also, I am too ambitious. I'm always punching above my weight. And I don’t like making things too easy for myself - I put myself under quite a lot of pressure quite often, otherwise I don’t feel like I've earned any positives out of the situation - paid my dues.

People I do not have a problem with. Its an area I can handle relatively well and that comes from my day job. I do play this down. I am a big believer in under promising and, at the very least, attempting to over deliver. There’s a lot to be said for remaining humble or having a pinch of humility, I think."



Photography, especially online, tends to fall into specific genres and/or gets described as being a specific style. The trouble with this is it's quite subjective, the style someone views an image to be can often differ to the style the person creating it views it as. How would you describe the work you are putting out there?

"That’s a good question. Something I've not really thought about before. I'm not sure how I would describe it at it is now. Transitional? Transient? I'm still very much finding my feet with what I want to shoot - hence I have hopped from genre to genre, but I know that I have had a few constants throughout these periods. There are definite aspects of abstraction in all of my photography and elements of connection too. Most recently I've done some conceptual projects. Lots of arty farty words there. But its just me feeling around, seeing what I connect with most. I'm getting there."



In my series 'Foto Inspiration Friday' I share the people, images, places etc that I find give me inspiration. Who, or what, or where do you draw inspiration from?

"At last! Something I’ll find quite easy to answer! My two biggest influences are probably Anders Petersen and Michael Ackerman. Absolutely love their images and am in the process of greedily consuming their publications (I am somewhat of a photobook whore). You won’t be able to see this influence in my current photographs, but I’ll perhaps touch more on this later.

At the material time of answering these questions, I am still shooting models (beauty / portrait / conceptual work), I don’t think there is any one person who particularly influences me in this genre, but there are certainly aspects from numerous photographers that have some influence on what I shoot. For example - Ryan Muirhead  - he strives to do minimal work in post, hence his images are more “honest”. I absolutely abhor photographs of models (or anyone) with that horrid, waxy finish after a bout of skin smoothing (is that the right term? See - not technical!). Personally, I find it insulting to the subject. I understand that I am in the minority and this is probably one of the reasons why my tenure with the whole “shooting pretty girls” thing will be finite, or at the very least, sporadic. Its another aspects of why I don’t like forums - I find that if an established figure states something, this is usually taken as Gospel, because of the herd mentality that forums can promote. As such, me going onto a forum and championing doing little work in post would likely be met with “Because you don’t know how to / you’re lazy” (Both kinda true) - but its certainly not the only reason. The fact that some models just expect to be, um, “touched up” (for want of a better turn of phrase) really doesn't sit well with me. Its the whole feeling the need to conform thing - the herd mentality that forums and indeed the internet as a whole often promotes. Its feeling the need to conform to these expectations, nay, feeling obliged to, that is a stepping stone to body dysmorphia. Its just another reason why I will probably not stick with shooting “beauty” shots in the long term. As my bio on a certain site says - scars, wrinkles, marks etc is what makes us who we are - why would I wan’t to shoot one subject after another and spend ages “tweaking” them to make each shoot/subject an homogenised example of the colour beige. Not for me, thanks."



Sometimes images hold a special significance to us. It can be the first image we ever made, it can be an image drawing attention to a cause close to our hearts, it can simply be an image of someone we love. Do you have an image or images that hold a special significance to you?

"Well, I was originally going to post one of my own, but I think it would be more honest to post an image that made me think “That’s what I want to make” - and its still a very powerful image for me. Whenever I hit a creative slump, I keep returning to this image...

© Michael Ackerman

...to give me a kick up the arse. I am still a million miles away from shooting anything like this, but some day…."


Photography sometimes leaves you open to scary or funny situations. What's the scariest or funniest situation you've found yourself in because of photography?

"Christ, you know, I don’t have really! I have shot a lot of street photography over a number of years and have never had an issue with confrontation. Best I can do is a boring example of me making a school boy error; I bought a Hasselblad and was inspired to attempt some landscape photography with it. I packed it up, with a tripod and cable release and drove some distance to Malham Cove. I parked up and carried all this shit to the photographed-to-death Limestone Pavement and took a while to load the film, set up the camera, take meter readings and wait for the right gust of wind to blow some material caught in the branches of a gnarly tree. I was there for about an hour, when finally “whoosh” - the wind delivered her goods and “click” - nothing! The shutter wouldn’t release. Panicked, I double checked the camera, and tried to fire a few test shots, but to no avail. After about another hour, embarrassed and frustrated, I packed up and left and drove back to home crap home. I was really distraught, because my initial feeling was that this beautiful camera I had just invested around £800 was broken. For a few minutes, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then I noticed the dark slide, which I had neglected to take out. What a dick! Now I make it a habit to write "dark slide” somewhere about my person. This has steadily grown into a plethora of notes, a la War and Peace over the years and now if you end up having a shoot with me and I look like Guy Pearce in Memento (except without the square jaw and brooding antipodean good looks) you’ll now know why."



We've talked about your start in photography, we talked about your current work, let's quickly chat about the future. What have you got coming up this year, more of the same? any special projects? And in regards to a more long term plan, where are you hoping your creative journey will take you in the years to come?

"I'm currently involved in a semi-long term project that is tentatively titled “Siren”. It;s a bit of a radical departure for me and my style of shooting, is fairly ambitious and involves a number of very well established creative people. I want to always be about making my photography tangible, to Siren will hopefully lead to a book and certainly some prints. Siren is going to be a work of visual fiction - a fairy tale of sorts, that will hopefully work on two levels. Something that is none explicit and is accessible for children, but also something that adults will appreciate and who will realise there is a darker undercurrent that kids [may not] initially notice. Because any text will be sparse, the story can be told or understood in numerous ways. Its under lying themes are life, death, escaping, being consumed and drowning - both figuratively and literally. I want this element of tangibility to run like a golden thread through this and future projects. 
It’s sad that a lot of peoples photography ends up a zero’s and one’s on the internet. Some people buy 40 megapixel camera and shoot in RAW, then only ever upload to the net to be seen on, what? A lap top? A tablet? Phone? Smart watch? 

After Siren, I’ll be looking to shoot some documentary work, I think. I’d like to do something a bit gritty and personally challenging. Not just for the sake of it, though - its just that ambition thing again, I think. More to push myself to work that bit harder to produce something worth someone's time and perhaps even money? I’d very much love to shoot something nearing the aesthetic that Michael Ackerman produced throughout his Half Life book (probably my favourite photo book). See? Overly ambitious. I'm conscious of shooting in genres (and bear with me, as this may seem slightly controversial) that are quite incestuous in their nature (lots of people working with the same people and promoting each other cyclically) and although beauty and portraiture is as difficult a genre to master as any (and, indeed, I am at the very bottom rung of that ladder), I am always aware that producing images of very good looking people is somewhat of a quick win. Even if you don’t conform to certain technical expectations or current trends (milky baths, native American head dresses, stuff in front of the camera etc), most images still seem to garner positive comments and attain love. Shooting with models and other creatives has been an invaluable lesson for me. I have learned an immense amount about collaboration and compromise and even to some degree, about professional expectation and legal issues. Its been a very sobering process for me - I was completely ignorant of most of these aspects this time last year. What I like to look at, the aesthetic that I get enjoyment from does not translate well to beauty images. Indeed, its probably counter productive. People in this industry (and it is that for some people - their full time living) are not interested in exclusively black and white, unphotoshopped-warts-and-all, abstracted images, because then, its not what is commonly understood as “beauty” any more, is it? 

Its not a criticism in any way. Well, it might be, but not of anyone else. Just me. Its an issue of mine, only. I'm attempting to transfer elements from one genre to another and that is not always mutually acceptable."



We can't really talk photography without discussing gear, so...what is your 'go to' equipment that you find yourself gravitating towards the most on shoots?

"Years ago, I used to be a right gear head. I've lost count of the thousands I've thrown away on gear. Its been a slow burn of a lesson, but thankfully, I've learned from it and now have a very stripped back selection of gear.

My “go to” camera is a battered old, unreliable Contax 645. I do have a Contax G2 and a couple of Polaroids, but the 645 is my default camera. I don’t have a range of lenses either - just the amazeballs 80mm f/2 (and 45mm on the G2). The G2 and the 645 compliment each other due to their similar focal lengths (equivalent) and almost identical aspect ratios. I am naturally inclined to shoot a lot wider (80mm on a 645 medium format body is the equivalent to a 50mm on “full frame”). This focal length to me is a bit of a half way house. I'm much happier with anything between 28-35mm (full frame) - I think this comes from previously shooting street etc. I am currently considering “toying” with the now defunct “Holga” cameras for my next project. I like the idea of something anti-technical, but still very usable and portable and relying more on the content of the resultant image over the perceived IQ. I am always talking about the “feeling” of a photograph with a friend of mine and this is certainly by no means gear dependant. Plenty of images look pretty, but not many make you “feel” something. Stripping down to some extremely simple cameras should be a good test of that. If/when I return to digital (I am not a digital hater, I just prefer the aesthetic and the haptics of shooting film) I will likely return to a high end compact with a fixed focal length. Despite wielding the Contax, I'm not concerned about the perceptions of others and don’t feel the need to wave around a bulky DSLR with an L series zoom on it in order to garner respect. I'm not an inverted snob though, either. Everyone should just shoot what they are happy with or what best suits their chosen genre. As previously discussed, I don’t really have a chosen genre, but I am definitely keeping my gear options open for where I think I'm headed in the next couple of years. 

I'm sorry. I realise I have just given you my life story. You only wanted to know what gear I leaned towards for shoots! lol - Short answer - Contax 645"


Now for the shameless self promotion part of the interview...where can people find you and your work?

"Well, my “hub” is my website which is www.blackhurst.exposed (probably due a spring clean) but for something a bit more accessible and for some behind the scenes stuff, my Facebook page is www.facebook.com/blackhurstphotography"


Once again, I'd like to thank Chris for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. Be sure to check out all the links above to see more of his work.

Models Featured; CinnamonGaze, Harley Monster and Amy Morris.


Ian
http://facebook.com/guffoggthegeek
http://twitter.com/guffoggthegeek

Monday, 18 April 2016

Review: Manfrotto BeFree Compact Travel Tripod

I've been photographing one thing and another for...well, I don't know the exact figure, let's just say some time now. In that time the majority of my work was produced hand held, occasionally with me propped on something to steady myself. As far as I can recall I have had only two tripods over the years, both of which were cheap, poorly made things that were so light a butterfly's fart would knock them over.

As my photography is progressing and I am wanting to try more techniques, I decided it was about time I tried something that actually had build quality. Having considered my needs I concluded that a travel tripod would be a better option for me...I don't work in a studio, the majority of the time I go out and about to photograph and have to carry my gear. Now, I don't know about you but when I think tripods I tend to think Manfrotto. So after a quick look at their site I decided on the Manfrotto BeFree Compact Travel Tripod...and headed to Amazon to purchase it...sorry Manfrotto, it was just so much cheaper there!



The design is as you would expect...three legs and a centre column where you attach your camera. When collapsed, the BeFree is designed to be as small as possible for easier storage. The legs fold back on themselves, resting snugly on the centre column. This design feature knocks inches off the folded configuration, reducing the length from around 145cm (57 inch) when fully erect to around 40cm (15.7 inch) when folded away...in the words of my wife, minus the childish giggling...it's a grower not a shower...this makes storage and transportation very easy.



Each leg of the BeFree has an angle selector giving the ability to choose from three positions; closed, standard and wide. With the wide angle selected the tripod can be used as low as 40cm (15.7 inch), making for some interesting angles in your landscapes or portraits, and helps you get closer with your macro shots. The varying leg positions, combined with the height adjustable sections on each leg also make life easier should you find yourself on uneven terrain. Each leg also has a rubber foot providing grip and stability on most surfaces.



The BeFree comes equipped with a specially designed ball head. This head is smaller than Manfrotto's standard ball heads for the purpose of taking up less room when stored. On one side of the head is a grove, this grove allows you to aim your camera straight up, or down...if you are into astrophotography this feature would be particularly handy...hmm, me thinks I may try astrophotography sometime! Atop the ball head is a quick release plate mount. In the past I have not had the best luck with quick release plates, they were always kinda loose, granted they were on cheap tripods...seriously cheap...a Domino's/Pizza Hut/Papa Johns pizza cost more! The quick release plate on the BeFree however fits securely, so much so I'd actually trust it holding my camera in the straight up position...well, as much as a worrier like me can trust it.



The build quality of the BeFree is excellent. It feels weighty, but not so heavy as to make carrying it a problem. It also feels solid, like it could take a fair bit of stick...my foot can attest to how solid it feels, been that I dropped it on it the other day. Due to the high quality of the BeFree, it does tend to run a little higher priced than some other available travel tripods...I suggest trying Amazon, when I got mine it was at least £50 cheaper than Manfrotto's online store. The way I see it regarding the price, it's better to get a slightly pricier tripod that is built well, and sturdy enough to withstand wind rather than me having to replace my camera when it's blown off a cliff.

Overall it's a great tripod to take out and about with you. It's sturdy enough to stand up to most conditions and terrains, holding your camera nice and steady, but light enough to make carrying it almost effortless. The price to quality and life span ratio is great, I can easily see the BeFree lasting me quite some time. The only downside, if like me at 6'1" you're a little taller than the 'norm' the maximum height comes up a little short for your eye line...this is however to be expected from a travel tripod. I can't say enough good things about the BeFree, and if you're on the lookout for a travel tripod, or just an easily transportable tripod in general, I highly recommend it.


Ian

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Local Landscape Location Scouting Failure...ish!

I haven't been out shooting in some time, life and the British weather always found a way to put a damper on it. The other day however I joined my dad and Max...you remember Max, the little bundle of fur in this post...on Max's walk to see if I could scout some locations to shoot some landscape photos.

I'll be honest, the first part of the walk I was a little distracted by Max, he has a way of commanding attention...a combination of clumsiness and cuteness. As you can see in this snap shot...which got me in trouble with the missus when I both technically, and artistically ripped to shreds...Max plays up his cuteness when he has an audience.



When he doesn't realise he has an audience however, he can be quite a calm young man as you can see in this candid, 'street' photography type shot...I've never done street photography, anxieties and all that, but I'm calling photographing a daft dog and camera shy human without them noticing a 'street' photography win for me!



Now in this post, very much as I did after that shot, I shall get onto the topic of location scouting. Throughout the rest of Max's walk I kept looking through my viewfinder, desperately hoping I could find some beautiful shot I could go back and take when I didn't have 20 some kilo of dog who'd potentially run through my tripod...I found nothing! Actually, saying I found nothing is not strictly true, I found a couple of spots that had potential. The only issue, I'd have to go in with a skip before hand and remove washers, ovens, fridges, stoves and who knows what else...or shoot it as some sort of social commentary, which is not something I'm looking to do at the minute. I just want to shoot some pretty landscapes!

Whilst in the respect of a location scouting trip it was a big failure, I'm taking my outing as somewhat of a win...I got out and about with my camera for the first time in a while after all. I'm also hoping it's the start of me being able to get out to shoot on a more regular basis...fingers crossed!


Ian
http://facebook.com/guffoggthegeek
http://twitter.com/guffoggthegeek

Friday, 15 April 2016

Foto Inspiration Friday - 500px

Welcome to 'Foto Inspiration Friday', the series in which I not only use a rarely used alternate spelling of photo for the sake of alliteration, but I share with you anything and everything I find inspirational, be it a person, an image, a song, a quote, a place, a pizza...ok, maybe not a pizza but you get the point. The focus of this weeks 'Foto Inspiration Friday' is 500px.

I was quite late to the 500px bandwagon, joining as I did February last year, and it's even more recently than that, like the past three months, that I've starting to post my work. Truth be told I'm not quite sure why I didn't join sooner,  I just never did.

Since joining I have been blown away by the talent on there...don't get me wrong, you get the obligatory t**s for the sake of t**s, but if you ignore that, the skill on show is phenomenal. I won't get into the specific users who I find inspirational, they'll come in future posts, what I will say is that there is a wide array of talent from all around the globe and it's well worth a look even if you don't intend to post yourself.


Ian
http://facebook.com/guffoggthegeek
http://twitter.com/guffoggthegeek

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Where When How Wednesday - Sean Conroy

Welcome to 'Where When How Wednesday'. In these weekly...ok probably sporadic posts I'll be interviewing creatives about their journey into the creative world, their works, and what makes them tick. This week I'm interviewing Sean Conroy, a talented photographer based between Dublin and London.



Hi Sean thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. We should probably start at the beginning, when and how did you come about getting into the world of photography?

"I always had a bit of a pull towards photography - I remember spending weekends looking at a book about Dublin in 1989. People were asked to take a photo on one particular day and send it in. I loved the book and how it encapsulated a time, even then as a child. A family member also had a large, SLR when I was very young and he taught me some basics, but it wasn't until my first job that I really got into it. I worked in a hospital and it was good money. I remember being in A&E (ER) one day and they handed me a Nikon D1 (if I'm remembering it correctly) and asked me to photograph the ankles of these guys who were in a car accident - it was for medical legal reasons, I believe. It was a huge, bulky thing but it was beautiful. This would've been about 2005-2006, so it was fairly basic compared to what we have available now, but even so I was so jealous of not having it. I went out the next day and bought a Fuji Film S9600 Bridge camera and outgrew it within weeks, so I sold it and upgraded to a Nikon D80."


Photography can have it's share of problems. I personally have a particular problem with self confidence. This confidence issue can and has caused me issues with my photography. Do you find any aspects of photography particularly challenging?

"I think the biggest issue I have is finding the right people to work with. I've been lucky enough to have worked with some really enthusiastic bands and models, but unfortunately I've worked with some models especially, who just don't pull their weight. It's not an easy thing to model, but there are lots of people who think that looking good and standing in front of a lens makes them a model. It doesn't. As a result, I've wasted a lot of time and effort on some people, when I could've been doing far more productive work with others. It's put me off working with models for the foreseeable future, to be honest. Thankfully, I've a few really dependable people who I know that if I need someone for a particular shoot, I can call on, but in terms of hobbyist stuff, I'm pulling back more towards working with bands and at concerts again these days. Bands are easier to work with and for the most part have a vision of how they want to be reflected in the visual medium."



Photography, especially online, tends to fall into specific genres and/or gets described as being a specific style. The trouble with this is it's quite subjective, the style someone views an image to be can often differ to the style the person creating it views it as. How would you describe the work you are putting out there?

"For me I try and keep things minimalistic - or as much as is possible in portraits and live music. I really feel affected by distracting elements in background of photographs, or when there is too much going on outside the main focal-point of an image. I'm not sure if everyone sees that in my work, but that's the aim."



In my series 'Foto Inspiration Friday' I share the people, images, places etc that I find give me inspiration. Who, or what, or where do you draw inspiration from?

"I know lots of photographer friends who can name dozens of influences and really keep up to date with fStoppers' photo staff, but the only people I've really ever felt have encouraged and inspired me were Michael Lavine and Anton Corbijn. Lavine's Grunge stuff in particular really impresses me. It's so simple and clean, but there's the feeling you can read the style or personalities of the people he shoots from one still. They're not contrived or big productions (or at least they weren't then), but they just sing off the page. Corbijn is obvious a genius and his use of heavy black in his images is something I love."


Sometimes images hold a special significance to us. It can be the first image we ever made, it can be an image drawing attention to a cause close to our hearts, it can simply be an image of someone we love. Do you have an image or images that hold a special significance to you?



"In 2011, I shot Irish bands backstage and contrasted them with scenes of austerity hit Dublin City Centre shopfronts, plastered with 'For Rent' and 'Out of Business' signs. Most of the photos were technically not-fantastic, but I feel they captured the feeling of what I was experiencing as a 20-something interested in music but battered by a recession. I took this shot of Shane Kinsella from the band 'The Minutes' just before they were about to head up on stage. It was a dark room and somehow he was lit almost perfectly. There's a nice serenity to it and it picked up attention from the NME who featured it and another as one of the best Documentary Music Photos of 2011. Whether it's that good, I don't know, but I felt like it was a nice acknowledgement for the effort I'd put into the whole body of work and made me feel like I wasn't just wasting my time."


Photography sometimes leaves you open to scary or funny situations. What's the scariest or funniest situation you've found yourself in because of photography?

"I was shooting a band, in Dublin City some years back, who were so hardcore by their own admission, that they were 'Core Core'. They were awesome. We were heading up to this flat area of the city for a quick photoshoot to accompany a podcast about them. The city was busy, as it was a Saturday, but for the most part where we were was empty enough. So with a softbox erected to one side of the band and my gear laid out in front of me, these three lanky, skinny teenagers come over and ask 'Lemme hold your camera, bruv.' They were trying to be threatening. It was hilarious. I'm by no means a physical specimen that you should be afraid of, but alone I could've probably eaten all of them for breakfast. 'I don't fink you understand, mate. We need your camera. I won't ask again'. I don't know where they were getting the fake London accents from, but they were so contrived, it felt like I was on hidden-camera. Behind me, I had four, gruff, rugby-player looking musicians who now came closer to assess the situation unfolding. I don't know how these young guys had seen the camera, but not the guys I was pointing it at, but as soon as the penny dropped they made their excuses and left us in peace."



We've talked about your start in photography, we talked about your current work, let's quickly chat about the future. What have you got coming up this year, more of the same? any special projects? And in regards to a more long term plan, where are you hoping your creative journey will take you in the years to come?

"Well I think I'm giving up on the model shoots. They've become very same-old, same-old. They do attract most the traffic to my website and social media pages, but I'm not really as concerned about that as I used to be. I did use some of these images to stand out, but I feel they don't really reflect what I want to be known for as much anymore. So, the plan is to look back at the musicians and shopfronts of Dublin in 2016 - 5 years on from my original photo-essay on the music scene. I've started already and there's been some noticeable difference already, both in terms of bands and the recovery of the streets. I've always been aware of the years ahead and I try and age my photographs as best I can - I'm not one for 'timeless' photos, I like to look at an image and be able to place it in an exact time. The plan for the future is to combine all the images I have in a 2010-2019 book of sorts, which very obvious is within that time frame."



Now for the shameless self promotion part of the interview...where can people find you and your work?

"The place I put most effort into is my website, www.deadl.ie - you'll find all my best work there and some tidbits of information on my seldom updated blog. Otherwise I'm over at facebook.com/deadliephotos and I'm deadl.ie on Instagram too."


Once again, I'd like to thank Sean for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. Be sure to check out all the links above to see more of his work.

Image subjects, in order of appearance; Rebecca, Jade, Overhead The Albatross, The Minutes, Health, Enter Shikari.


Ian
http://facebook.com/guffoggthegeek
http://twitter.com/guffoggthegeek

Friday, 8 April 2016

Foto Inspiration Friday - Tony & Chelsea Northrup

Welcome to 'Foto Inspiration Friday', the series in which I not only use a rarely used alternate spelling of photo for the sake of alliteration, but I share with you anything and everything I find inspirational, be it a person, an image, a song, a quote, a place, a pizza...ok, maybe not a pizza but you get the point. The focus of this weeks 'Foto Inspiration Friday' is Tony and Chelsea Northrup.

I watch a lot of YouTube...seriously a lot...think the amount teenage girls watching the YouTubers you see in the paper watch! The large majority of this, when not watching animals being cute or people being dumb (it's not my fault, it's advertised in the trending section!), is taken up with photography related content. Some time ago while watching said photography related content I was 'suggested' a video by Tony and Chelsea, quite possibly a 'Tony & Chelsea Live', or rather 'News, Booze & Reviews' as it was known then...and the rest as they say, is history.

Tony and Chelsea, with the assistance of the talented Justin and Siobhan put out a c**p ton of content on their YouTube channel! They publish tutorials, reviews, Q&A's and gear tests multiple times a week, as well as a live show once a week...they also have books and a website. I won't get into the in's and out's of the 'regular' videos, you can probably all work out what's involved with them. What differentiates them from most other photography channels on YouTube is their weekly live show. The live show has a large emphasis on community participation, with Tony and Chelsea looking at viewers portfolios, single images based on a weekly theme, and answering questions, all of which are sent in live during the show. Whilst viewing the works, and answering the questions, they offer advice in a friendly, personable, albeit occasionally tipsy way...their other videos are personable too, but missing the booze...I assume!

The quality, and quantity of their content makes them a great resource for photographers of all levels, and their relaxed yet informative nature makes them an easy watch...put it this way, when I talk photography my wife's eyes, despite her best efforts, glaze over. She can however, without such a reaction, watch Tony and Chelsea's show.

Ian
http://facebook.com/guffoggthegeek
http://twitter.com/guffoggthegeek

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Where When How Wednesday - Mike Croshaw

Welcome to 'Where When How Wednesday'. In these weekly...ok probably sporadic posts I'll be interviewing creatives about their journey into the creative world, their works, and what makes them tick. This week I'm interviewing Mike Croshaw, a talented photographer based in Reading, Berkshire.



Hi Mike, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. We should probably start at the beginning, when and how did you come about getting into the world of photography?

"I started about 4 years ago now. My twin brother, who was an excellent photographer, was shooting in Wokingham with a model called Dee.  I popped along just to say hello and have a cup of tea, but I found the whole thing fascinating and decided I wanted to give it a go.  Sadly my brother has had to give up photography due to a brain injury, but it's nice to think I'm carrying on in the family name!"


Photography can have it's share of problems. I personally have a particular problem with self confidence. This confidence issue can and has caused me issues with my photography. Do you find any aspects of photography particularly challenging?

"The most challenging thing for me is not buying any more new gear that I don't need and can't afford!  In all seriousness, the big problem for me is balancing the demands of photography with family life and a full time job.  I can feel pretty stretched thin and balancing it all so that it doesn't really impact my wife and kids too much is something I'm still working on."



Photography, especially online, tends to fall into specific genres and/or gets described as being a specific style. The trouble with this is it's quite subjective, the style someone views an image to be can often differ to the style the person creating it views it as. How would you describe the work you are putting out there?

"That's a really difficult question for me, more so than most I suspect.  Most people gravitate to particular areas of photography, but I am very happy as an all rounder.  I shoot studio, location, weddings, women, men (not enough of those, need to do more!).  I also try and vary my focal lengths and processing style all the time, as I get bored otherwise.  I guess I'm more a fashion/portrait photographer than anything else.  I'd like to say fine art, but I don't think I'm there yet.  So lets say wannabee fine art & portrait photographer."



In my series 'Foto Inspiration Friday' I share the people, images, places etc that I find give me inspiration. Who, or what, or where do you draw inspiration from?

"500px is my best source at the moment, especially the Russian photographers, some of their output is phenomenal and very humbling.  I like Frank Doorhof and Brooke Shaden as well, although the relentless copying of Brooke's work is kind of diminishing it's impact a little I feel."


Sometimes images hold a special significance to us. It can be the first image we ever made, it can be an image drawing attention to a cause close to our hearts, it can simply be an image of someone we love. Do you have an image or images that hold a special significance to you?

"Not from the modelling world, but plenty of family photos, especially of my kids.  I spend a lot of my spare time documenting my family life, but its also something I keep separate from the internet modelling world (although I do put some up on my blog).  In terms of modelling photos there are plenty that have good memories or associations, but I don't get sentimental about them, you are only as good as your last shot!"



Photography sometimes leaves you open to scary or funny situations. What's the scariest or funniest situation you've found yourself in because of photography?

"Plenty of funny ones, not too many scary ones.  The last wedding I did was kind of scary as my flashgun decided to go on the fritz just as I was about to take the big group shot.  I'd had to get the train into London so didn't have my normal full level of kit.  We didn't have time to mess around either, so I had to shoot it at ISO12800.  Luckily it worked out ok but I was sweating bullets at the time.  The first time I went on an urbex shoot was kind of nerve wracking too.  The funniest one I can remember was at Studland, the one time I went there.  There were about a dozen models there in various rooms, many shooting up to art nude.  A couple came around to view the venue as they were getting married.  The poor guy didn't know where to look, and the models kept giving him cheeky waves from the windows.  His fiance was not impressed!"



We've talked about your start in photography, we talked about your current work, let's quickly chat about the future. What have you got coming up this year, more of the same? any special projects? And in regards to a more long term plan, where are you hoping your creative journey will take you in the years to come?

"I've got a few weddings in the pipeline, although I'm not really going after them anymore, I'm happy just teaching every now and then and trying to increase my own skill level.  I'm doing a lot of post processing training at the moment, and trying to put together big shoots with full teams.  Every year I challenge myself to work on a couple of aspects of photography.  Last year it was wide angle fashion and speedlights, this year it's using colour for fashion shoots, and putting together really big productions.  Beltcraft and Amersham Studios were the first two of these, and the next is in the summer, so I've got some organising to do!  I'm not planning on going full time or anything, quite happy being an amateur.  There is no long term plan, just to keep trying to get better!"



Now for the shameless self promotion part of the interview...where can people find you and your work?

"My favourite portfolio site: http://500px.com/mcroshaw
My blog, which is of particular interest to Fuji users: http://www.mikecroshaw.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mikecroshaw"


Again, I'd like to thank Mike for taking the time to answer a few questions for me, be sure to check out all the links for more of his work.


Models in the above images (in order of appearance) Zara Watson, Angel, Oryx, Amber Rose, Anna Rose, Mossy.


Ian
http://facebook.com/guffoggthegeek
http://twitter.com/guffoggthegeek

Friday, 1 April 2016

Foto Inspiration Friday - My Wife, Jan

Welcome to 'Foto Inspiration Friday', the series in which I not only use a rarely used alternate spelling of photo for the sake of alliteration, but I share with you anything and everything I find inspirational, be it a person, an image, a song, a quote, a place, a pizza...ok, maybe not a pizza but you get the point. As this is the inaugural post in the series I'm gonna be a little soppy with this one, you've been warned! The focus of this weeks 'Foto Inspiration Friday' is my wife, Jan.

Ever since our meeting Jan has always been extremely supportive of my photography, whatever genre I wanted to shoot. This is something which is rarer than you'd think, even within relationships between models and photographers. For example, you'd be surprised the amount of forum posts I see where models are jealous of their partner photographing women, fully clothed women, yet they themselves pose nude for photographers. As well as supporting my photography, and despite making typing this post difficult with her arms flailing in her sleep, she has always been supportive of my blogging. Actually, she actively encourages both my photography and blogging. It's not just this supportiveness that makes her an inspiration to me, although her blind faith in me is a great ego boost. The reason I find her such an inspiration is her continued ability to show me this support and caring despite the constant pain and suffering she goes through each and every day. I won't get into the specifics of Jan's vast array of conditions, what I will say however is, if I had all her conditions I'd probably just sleep most of the time and I'd be one angry son of a b***h when awake...seriously, I'd make Hulk look mellow! It's not just me, the person with whom she is legally bound to care for that she, well...cares for. She showers many people with this caring and support, often putting other's happiness before her fragile health.

It may sound cliche, and you may think it's because we only married January 2011 so are still quite 'honey moon' period-y but she inspires me daily to be better...don't get me wrong, there's a laundry list of things I fail at, or that I myself feel I fail at, but she inspires me to try...and kicks me up the a**e when needs be...metaphorically!

So there you have it, my first and more importantly main inspiration in not just photography, but life in general...I warned you it may get soppy!


Ian
http://facebook.com/guffoggthegeek
http://twitter.com/guffoggthegeek