Photoshoot: Jack Cooke

A little while ago I had flung myself back on Model Mayhem, full of zest and inspiration, eager to find some fresh faces to photograph in order to maintain and further develop my photography skills. I soon got in touch with local man Jack Cooke, we met for a meet-up and a coffee and decided on a first test shoot – a digital one. Anyone following this blog would now notice this is a slightly odd choice, but I had my reasons!

Not only would going digital on this occasion allow me to get a good feel of Jack’s capabilities, it would also allow for both of us to see how well we would work together without wasting a lot of time, money and film. We would not have to deal with the off chance of the film not coming out well and, most important, I wanted Jack to have a wide selection of shots to choose for his portfolio.

Apart from all those (dare I say; good reasons) it allowed me to dust off the digital camera and take it out for some fresh air! If all would go well on the day, we agreed to do another session in which we will use film and wet plate only. I did take the Rolleiflex TLR with me with 1 sneaky roll of 400 ISO. With regards to my previous post on planning shoots: I did not know what Jack would be wearing before meeting him at his house, I had not seen his bike or the pub where we would start shooting. We agreed on a quiet road, but again, I had not seen it prior to the shoot.

Thank goodness all went well! Not only is Jack a funny and likeable fellow, he is eager to learn and worked hard throughout the session. Some images at the start of the session did not work so well due to an ill-fitting blazer but later images of the day will have to count amongst my favourites to date. Not planning a shoot seems to be working well for me when going digital and even though it might cause small fits of stress on the days beforehand – I quite enjoy working like this.

 

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How to conduct a photoshoot (warning: no answers provided)

A few weeks ago I attended several lectures on the subject of photography. The evening lectures were interesting and diverse and got me thinking about ways to conduct oneself and how to express your personality within the way you decide to work on a photoshoot. Some people like to plan out a shoot in every detail and won’t take a single image before everything is just right, where others just shoot and capture what they need in the first few minutes. Both good solid ways to work – as was apparent from the end results shown.

A few years ago, I was much more active in organizing my own photo shoots. I went on Model Mayhem to search for suitable talent, I searched for inspirational looks or poses, as well as scout for a location. If I had the time. Sometimes I would just agree to meet someone and we’d see what we would walk away with. Now I have come to the point where I am actively trying to find my own style, and some consistency in planning my shoots would not hurt especially since the slow process of wet-plating won’t allow for much of that ad hoc nonsense….. The trouble with me, is that I love the idea (and results) of a very organized, detailed plan but cannot go without the element of surprise. A contradictio in terminis. Or is it?

There are ofcourse several ways to create an element of surprise for yourself, one being letting go of creative control. Think of working with an experienced model that has a wide array of poses and expressions – someone that is sensible and sensitive enough to understand your concept and will be able to execute it. Working with a creative team will most certainly add value to the experience and final product – especially when hair and make-up is done to a very high standard, within the theme, but not to a brief. Wardrobe certainly has a large influence on the image – unless you shoot nudes – and discussions on clothing and accessories can be avoided by having a stylist on board.

‘That all being good and well’ you think, but a photographer would need to own the shoot, be the vision holder, know what they are doing. Do they? Do they really? Can they not just set the precipice for an amazing shot to ‘just happen’? Create several moments or unrealistic fantasy for them to capture, like a private little stage of ‘real life’? Can we not just think of a theme and then throw some thing together like we were making a cocktail of sorts? Maybe we can when working with models, or a team – but the problem posed get a little trickier when trying to create a still-life. A team can just as well be employed ofcourse, but I think it is fair to say that most of us will take some objects, food or flowers and ‘see how we get on’.

Which brings us to another point. We can take a model, or objects or a scene and look at it from various angles and decide which one would be best and shoot accordingly. But is that really the best shot that is there? Would the aid of a lighting expert, or a make-up artist or a food stylist bring out something else, something better, an additional layer? Is it needed for your intent and purposes? The question is: Is Your Best Shot Good Enough?

Like many other creatives, I sometimes struggle with bouts of near crippling perfectionism – if I know in my heart of hearts it will not live up to my own personal standards, is it worth bothering with it? Even when I know this completely and utterly wrong, doing myself a greater disservice than any other critic in the world could. If I do not create, how will I learn? If I do not create, how will I find my style? If I do not create, I will not grow!

Apart from that, my taste in photography keeps changing – as it should – and I would hope that my preferred images of today are a bit more refined to what they used to be. Still, that should not take away from the immense joy I experienced when looking online at the latest additions on Facebook or Model Mayhem, or digging up little personal treasures via Google image search. Those images, even though not as highly valued by myself today, have shaped me into the photographer I am today and I would do well to remember that from time to time.

Well, that’s enough of my rant – how do you conduct your photo shoots? Do you plan everything out to the last detail or do you like to leave it a blank slate until it’s showtime? What do you think of images you loved 5 years ago? Do they still look equally good to you today?

 

 

Large Format Photography: Day 1 in the UK

As the days grow longer and the weather is progressively getting better, I started on the inventory and checking of my wet plate chemicals. I was keeping my mixed collodion and my silver baths, as well a box with the other chemicals in the shed, mainly because of the fumes that might leak out into our bedroom. And we don’t want that.

Living in a much smaller place than before (let’s face it, my parent’s shed was utterly convenient) it took me a little longer to establish that some of my dry chemicals had gotten soggy, my Glacial acetic acid had frozen solid, the silver bath needed dire maintenance and the collodion mix had gone bad. Great!

I could have served it up for desert

I could have served it up for desert

So, I did what any self-respecting self-taught DIY-er does: I went online. I pretty much expected the collodion to be un-salvageable, the consistence was a little firmer than a jello-pudding and I was forced to mix up a new batch. Now here came the trouble: I could not find the same alcohol (spiritus) that I had used in Germany so was forced to use something else. My good friend google advised me to use methylated spirits instead – as it’s basically the same thing with some colour added – but I decided to be curious and stubborn (or both!) and not heed the advise against using surgical spirit.

let the battle commence!

let the battle commence!

 

I took two identical glass jars to mix about 100 ml of salted collodion of each kind. The methylated spirits, despite the glaringly obvious notion of it being bright purple, mixed very well and acted just like my spiritus. The surgical spirit however, did not fare so well. The salts I was using (ammonium bromide and iodide) swiveled and swirled into small strands and beads, refusing to mix with the collodion and surgical spirit. They sank to the bottom of the jar like a ton of bricks. And this is where they have remained.

 

IMG_0777 IMG_0779 surgical spirits vs methylated spirits

 

After this, I remedied the silver bath and defrosted my glacial acetic acid. Apparently it’s freezing point is around 16 degrees Celcius and it had been in the shed for the winter.

steamy

steamy

 

So now I finally got to do some tests! I decided to use the new lens I had gotten (see my post on making a lens cap) and create a quick scene in my study. Out of the two mixtures, the purple mix had cleared quite nicely, still leaving some residue on the bottom of the jar, but seeing my previous mix always left some residue, I was not bothered.

Pouring it, I noticed immediately it was a lot thinner and a lot clearer (less yellow) than what I had used over the previous summer in the Netherlands. The pour was very fluid and pleasant and it adhered to the plate very well. My first test was 6 seconds which left me with a completely blank plate. Judging the light (late afternoon, inside, using quite a bit of bellows extension, lens wide open but fairly dark) I tried once more at 45 seconds. I had to overdevelop by about 4x so I know it’s underexposed but still I am quite pleased with it.

I’m sorry it’s only a snap for now but I think it’s a keeper!

skull spider

skull spider