Thursday, December 1, 2011

My First Picture                                                   Wilkinson Street, Broomhall, Sheffield, 1971

The memory is hardly a visual one anymore. It is just a vague notion of been allowed to have a go with the box with a small plastic window you looked through with one eye. Kind of intriguing. What can I say? I missed the target largely. Or it was an early artistic statement. Got the feet quite nice. The subject is Brian who later became my stepdad holding our cat, Zappa (my mum denies it was anything to do with Frank).
I remember the house, most of my earliest memories were formed there. It was the Lord Mayor's residence way back when. We rented one half of it. Distinctive with it's mock pillars and double doors painted a bold red. A perfect background for a pair of legs in blue flared trousers. When I look at the pic now I think it could be any where. In fact, it is more evocative of North America than the UK (it would take me another twenty odd years to get over there). After a good few years of being away I went back to the house recently, see how it was holding up. A newish block of apartments stood there instead. The stepdad and the cat no more too. It's all gone. Forty years on and only the picture remains the same.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

                                                     The White Elephant, Hallam Towers Hotel, Sheffield, UK

The long derelict Hallam Towers Hotel rising over Endcliffe Park. It is a landmark, a white elephant, an icon, an eyesore depending on who you ask. A little like one of those 50's Las Vegas casino hotels that slowly became obsolete as the expanding Strip took business up town. No grand demo planned for this one though.
According to wiki, Sheffield, with around 2.5 million trees has the highest ratio of trees to people of any city in Europe.
The one I live up has no front door but is roomy, spacious with incredible views of the long derelict Hallam Towers rising....

Friday, October 7, 2011

                                                                                        american truck stop, oakland, california

The One I Didn't Let Go

I cannot remember if I was on my way somewhere or simply cruising around in the golden hour, as I was wont to do with camera and tripod. When you have making photographs on the mind all the time, when it's what you do with the major portion of your time, then you see opportunities everywhere you go. Often as not you are behind the wheel when they sit up and say Hello, here I am, take me! Several split decisions burst in your head at once. Wah! That looks great. I need to stop. Should I stop? Break my forward momentum. No. I can go back later, I know where it is. But it will never be the same as it is now. The Moment is now. Are you truly devoted to photography? C'mon stop! Damn, that scene just looks perfect in the rear view mirror. Geeeeeeees......
And so it goes.
Often as not I would not stop, so propelled by the momentum of my car journey, my destination, my plans. When I did though I found that the ideal image I just clicked in my head while driving, as it flowed into my short term memory bank through the windshield and across the rear view mirror was not entirely how I saw it when I got the car parked and had my camera equipment in hand. Somehow the relationship my senses had with the scene had changed. The angle was different, the bits and pieces of the scene difficult to entangle, just nothing as straightforward as it had seemed.

Idealisation is a sort of optical illusion to the mind's eye. It constructs an ideal picture of what you thought you saw heavily influenced by the prospect of not being able to possess it. A desire unfulfilled. A psychological phenomenen that i'm sure has been studied and i'd be interested in reading. When you don't stop, you carry on, and it will be another great one you let go. The mind is like a rear view mirror, and it all looks great as it goes away.

This one didn't though.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

                                                                                             Under Wraps, Point Richmond, CA

Point Richmond, an end of the line railroad town in the wealthy San Francisco Bay. It was midday bright (12pm), enough lumens for the camera to purr. I walked up one of the winding, hilly roads that make Point Richmond so enduring to the eye. At the curve of the road high above a sewage farm below sat what you see. A uniquely American vision I think - the car, the house, the street. Williams Egglestone's work comes to mind. And all the images I grew up with far away in England. I think it was around this time that I began to process images in a different way. I call it cfab. A non HDR (for I dislike the effect) way of processing an image to boost colours and contrasts. The result looks akin to pictorialism I think.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Evidence in the Night

Light Footsteps

 I like to use light and long exposure in photography. Although often said that a photograph catches a fleeting moment it can be argued that the moment is not constrained to being fleeting. My long exposures range from seconds to occasionally hours. Largely I shoot static scenes for the long-exposure aesthetic I am drawn to. But it is also fun to play with moving sources of light within a long-exposure. They provide a form of evidence attesting to the presence of an entity and the character of it's movement. These incidental lights sources are literally illuminating the fact that an object has passed through the frame. Modes of transportation provide a rich vein of long-exposure light play. Running lights trace the contours of the roads, illuminating the aesthetic of their design. Airports too - evidence of the fluid movement and the steady hands that command wings and steel. As a night photographer I can also stage little scenes with small portable light sources - flash light, bike light, neon glow sticks etc in what is loosely referred to as light painting. In Light Footsteps you see the flash light creates my ghostly footsteps proceeding up the path, otherwise I'm invisible. Are these accurate representations of my subject or am I manipulating the truth? Well, I'm using the mechanism of the camera as another way of seeing. As an eye that senses and records a picture different to how the naked eye and mind would process it.
And I put my own little artistic spin on it for style.

Exit 13

Friday, August 12, 2011

A silentfoto?


                                                                                                                       Stay Centered, USA, 2008

What is silentfoto?

 Certain subjects and aspects that come about through the qualities produced in long exposure night photography work. The resulting image often possesses a stylistic quality. Other than that I'm not sure. An aesthetic? One guy praised me for my skills with cgi after I exhibited some of my silentfoto work at a local cafe. I probably tweaked the levels in LR a tad. Beyond this only a camera and tripod where involved. The above is a prime example of the silentfoto aesthetic from a Night Industrial collection. It was taken under part of a freeway maze in Oakland. I think the exposure was 30 seconds at 100 iso. There is no sense of normal, observable time to the scene and object (okay, there is a tail light streak - ignore), it's waiting in the darkness, inert, obsolete. It is in a time like that out in the universe - in slow, immeasurable stretches, often referred to a timeless. We do judge time by change, change by perceptible movement. Ironically I can see the the elevated highway decks and the rail track as 3 twisted clock hands extending from their centre point, the tanker. The thing about long-exposure work that dazzles me is how it uses illumination (to produce a certain quality) not through correct light strength but through the accumulation & subsequent compression of light over time on the electronic sensor. Aside from softening the image, the colours from this incidental sources of illumination are all the more vivid.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Shot in the Dark

Martin Stephenson in concert - The Greystones Backroom, 6.11.11

I had not heard anything of Martin Stephenson since leaving the UK 15 years ago.
Recently returned, I spyed his name on the entertainment schedule for my local pub. The pub has a small concert venue in the back. Bought a ticket straight away since the stature of MS's reputation as a songwriter & performer is far bigger than the venue. Although Duanne Eddy played here a week or two later. Not bad for a suburban boozer in a provincial town like Sheffield.
I did not intend on taking my camera. Another long walk in the countryside made me sufficiently late to dump camera at home. So I took it to the Backroom and was surprised to find myself standing right next to the stage. Let the snapping begin. I only had the my big 18-200mm zoom in tow. It's 3.5-5.6 -  a slow lens and entirely inept for dark concert venues. Flash was not really an option. Fortunately, my proximity to the stage gave me a chance, if I shot as wide as I could. I also had to anticipate when MS was likely to arrest his movement for half second or so. Not easy since the guy is a little hyper even when not on a stage behind a microphone. Basically, the most coherent shots were taken between songs when he likes to slow to a canter and talk to his audience.

About half way through his set the comments started to come my way. Generally good natured, but definitely an inquiry into Mr. Photographer & his camera over there in the corner. Hey, once your in that mode, you forget your inhibitions, and you climb into the camera.

I was pleased with the results considering the conditions. The angle i.e. shooting from behind his right ear made for some interesting content, good profile shots, and a different view of the energy a performer puts into his act.

More of Martin Stephenson @ The Greystones Backroom can be found here -

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Location: Dore, Sheffield, UK

Fun with Fences
I often find myself experimenting with fence and camera. Any design of fence - wooden, chain link, barbed wire and my favourite the slated fence. A long fence presents a well defined perspective to the tools of camera & lens. A long flat repetitive surface that taper away at the far end.

With the above image, what was I trying to do?
The fence ran along a driveway to a farm. On the other side of the fence, an old elegant house and it's garden well lit by the afternoon sun.
There was a gap of about an eight inch between each fence board providing a fleeting glimpse of the other side. Even at a fairly brisk pace along the fence the brain is able to discern what it sees through each and every gap. The camera on the other hand can be made to see it differently in the image it produces. Adjusting the camera to it's slowest settings - 100 iso @ f/22 resulted in a shutter speed of about two-thirds of a second. At that speed you can see the compilation of slat views snapshots realise itself as one image. You can see to the left the garden begins to emerge from behind the fence. Conceivably I could make the entire garden appear in front of the fence while not being able to see more than a tiny fraction of it at any time. The zoetrope effect at work. 

A fence is just a fence, a wall just a wall. Unless you have a camera with manual settings.

 More fence fun - a fence piece video I shot in a parking lot with a slightly different spin on it: 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Contrast & Colour

Ringinglow Wheat Field

 What was I trying to do? A spot I have returned to intentionally shoot. Significant when you begin to this. Becomes a study scene. How professionals operate - return to the same spot over & over until they get exactly what they are seeking. Think Ansel Adams. It is a striking scene. The wind breathes through the tall wheat, a millions stems in unison. The sun sets over the field to the west. The colours and contrast are vivid at this time of a late evening in summer (around 10.15pm at this northerly latitude). I returned a couple of days after coming across the scene. To get a lock on it. Accentuate the colour and contrast.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

All Quiet on the Weston Front

The camera I pick up, I point the lens down.
To an average bloke, In an average town.
I see patterns, and, I see lines,
but  I don't see
a general design....

Rapping while shooting.

What was I trying to do?
I shot this average bloke from atop the University Arts Tower, Sheffield's tallest building.
The building is being refurbished since it is beginning to fail in more ways than one.
I casually wandered in and up to a top floor devoid of people, furniture, even security - this time w/ the camera. My mission simply to snap 360 degs. of Sheffield from this high vantage point.
I learned that Sheffield's overall design is, well, isn't. A myriad of shapes, blocks, acute lines,  a headache but for the fact the city is so  blessed with trees. 
After a round of cityscapes I took the zoom to it's full 200mm honing in on features below - streets, traffic, people. It's an unusual vantage point.  Not the greatest angel or distance for people watching.
A little bit of activity below, the street corner on which the Star & Garter pub sits. The bloke, the geezer, in the image came out for a smoke, inspect, be vigilante. I like the effect of being coughed out of the pub onto the corner, standing on his tod. Plus Also I like the topography, the small world of the corner boundered by lines and the patchwork of modern urban locale.
The bloke finished his smoke, looked around a bit more, went back into the Garter.

Heinz St. test

The old heinz building, heinz street, berkeley, ca.