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Tarot: Death and the Emperor

With 2017 declared as the ‘year of photography’, I decided to challenge myself and start a new project. It would give my work some much-needed focus and perhaps even give myself an excuse to actually do some work!

The theme I landed on was ‘Tarot’ – I could not tell you how I thought of it, but it just clicked one day, riding the subway home. It is a subject that has always had my interest and it would require thought, planning, models and a semi-streamlined vision to bring something new to the card images. The main goal being: to produce a body of work with some coherence whilst practicing my technical abilities. And to create a few kick-ass images along the way obviously! There will be 22 opportunities to do so while working on the major arcana, then a further 16 for the minor arcana – and then there are the suit cards (lower numbers).

Let’s see how far we’ll get within a year, shall we?

I posted a casting call on Model Mayhem and got a lot of initial interest. Mostly from the guys! As the weather did not warm up until April, I had to wait a while before getting stuck in.

The first shoot would be with Mark (ModelTO, Model Mayhem #3385858) who would model for my Death card. Mark’s only stipulation for any shoot is that his face cannot be shown. No Problem! There were a few small technical hiccups – I had lines going through all of my plates. They are not terrible, but mildly bothersome. I later found out that these were caused by putting the freshly poured plate into my silver bath too quickly – a problem I had never *ever* had before moving to Canada!

Death: card number 13

Giving all that is superficial and concentrating on what is basic, fundamental and truly important. An End. Symbol for beginnings, endings, change, transformation or transition. The flip side: resistance to change, being unable to move on.

We went with a fairly traditional ‘hangman’ look, and an ‘angelic’ one for the 3rd image.

 

 I personally really like the last image as it is more original than the other two – even though I like those as well. Mark had a tough time sitting still for that particular image as the temperatures were still not that high (around 10 -12 degrees Celcius) and he was barely clad in the shade! We may have to arrange for another shoot at some point and re-take that image.
 
The second shoot would be with Craig (Craigtwo, Model Mayhem #3302539), who I cast as the Emperor. Craig has an amazing strong look to him, and I feel we put that to good use in a strong persona. The dreaded lines did show up a few times during this shoot, but overall it was camera angles and movement / suggestion of movement that proved most challenging in this shoot.
 
The Emperor: card number 4
 
A symbol of Mars, sterility of regulation and unyielding power. The top of the secular hierarchy, the ultimate male ego, the absolute ruler of the world. Symbol for authority, father-figure, structure and a solid foundation. The flip side: domination, excessive control, rigidity and inflexibility.
 
We decided on a modern take of the ruler: the business man in suit and put emphasis on the flip-side of the card.
 
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2017 – Year of Photography

I hope everyone has had wonderful holidays and is enjoying the winter weather when it’s not too cold. Our holidays were quiet, as they are every year and like every year, I start wondering about my life and all the various things I could do to enrich it. So. This year is photography year. There. I said it, now there is no backing out.

Last year, due to a few house moves and consequently all of our stuff being in storage, I did not get round too much wet-plating, much to my chagrin. This year will be different; I dusted off my Model Mayhem account and created a casting call, to start photographing some plates in upcoming springtime. Yeah, I know, I don’t do cold weather shooting so I’ll have to be patient. I look forward to shooting a few fresh faces in an exciting new project. The theme was so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before! And – it will take me some time to finish it. Which could be a good or bad thing, we’ll see.

 

No, I’m not telling you what it is just yet! If you are truly curious, go find the casting call on Model Mayhem 😀

 

I did manage to do a couple of plates last year, but somehow they did not manage to enthuse me. They are just not exciting enough! For lack of a model, I used a small porcelain figurine that was left to me by my late great-grandmother as well as a small piece of a wasp nest that I found in the shed (and some wasps that were dead on the ground in summer). There was also a pepper, and a mortar and pestle providing the subject of the images.

 

I was mildly enthusiastic about this plate, where the top of the pepper emerging from the shadows almost looks like some monstrous stag beetle…This could be a fun image, after a bit of work.


I did get to do some medium format shooting last year though, with all that travel. I hope I’ll see more of that coming my way this year, that would be sweet! It’s a shame I don’t actually enjoy the scanning and retouching of my images all that much, it would make things a little easier. Hah! This time round, just like my belated holiday images in my last post, I have scanned them all small and did only the bare bone retouching on them. That way, I’ll finally not waste time on image that I’ll never use or will misplace at some point anyway. Again, time will tell if this is a good of bad way to go about it.

In my second round of scanning, I found a few beauties that I do not want to keep to myself. These are taken in the Chinese Garden in Frankfurt, Germany. It’s not a big garden, and it’s usually busier than this, but it certainly provided with ample opportunity for a few nice shots.

 

 

 

 

 

Wetplating with Wil

Here I am sat, on my birthday, packed and ready for a fun weekend of wet plating frolicking in Wales, poised to go our for dinner with my husband, that I remember my wet plating session with Wil.

So I’ll just leave these here…..

 

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California Honeymoon

Monday, May 4th

We take our own car to Heathrow, as parking there for 2 weeks turns out to be about the same price as taking the train. No hauling suitcases for us and we arrive well on time. The moment we try to check in, it turns out that I made a stupid little mistake on Sean’s Esta, putting in an o instead of an 0, and he cannot be cleared to fly until we book another one on my mobile. This is super stressful but I am very glad that for the first time in a long while my phone just does what it’s asked to do.
About 12 hours later we are in the USA, collect our upgraded rental car and drive to the hotel. I am happy we brought out own satnav as I wouldn’t have wanted to navigate the streets of LA by map at night. Or by map at all! We arrive around 22:00 at the hotel.

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Tuesday, May 5th

After a rough and restless night we wake up silly early and cannot seem to go back to sleep. We get up at 6.30, have breakfast at the hotel around 7.30 and off for Hollywood. We see the walk of fame and sunset boulevard (which is a bit of a…dump) but we’re too early for most thing to even be open! After a much-needed coffee and a view of the Hollywood sign through a tourist binocular, we are off to see the sign closer-up.

We drive to the observatory through an amazing neighbourhood to a fantastic view over the city and hills. In the afternoon we go to the Citadel outlet shopping centre where we spend money on things we don’t really need; apart from my wetsuit ofcourse!

We have out dinner at a diner, which was a poor choice and more for convenience sake than anything else. Sean is hoping to join a local Kyukushin Dojo for their Tuesday training session tonight. He can, and does, and I for one am very impressed as I sit on the side trying really hard not to fall asleep….

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Wednesday, May 6th

We’re going to Disneyland!!! The ride over is smooth and after putting down $17 for parking we take the little tram to the entrance. The day start off great; The bobsled ride (Matterhorn) that Sean wants to go into, is closed for maintenance. We head into Toontown and get stuck in a ride that’s breaking down! Then we find out that pretty much all the big rides are closed – in all fairness, there was a list at the entrance, but we were way too excited to get in to look at it properly. We still have fun in several silly rides, have a blast with the great purchase of a pair of  Malificent horns (small children are easily convinced you are a villain on a day off) and going on Splash Mountain was a baaaad choice. The Indiana Jones ride, as well as the Finding Nemo submarines were an unexpected success. Then, as a final stroke of genius, the park shuts early!!!! At 19:00 things start shutting down, restaurants closing and everyone gets kicked out at 19:30…..Boooo!

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Thursday, May 7th

After a broken night due to an alarm going off, we get up, pack our bags and have breakfast. We fail to find the address to ‘It’s a wrap’ vintage shop on the satnav, so we point it toward Jack’s Surf outlet instead. We find it (disappointing), we find a secondhand bookshop nearby (also disappointing) and finally and most wonderful antique shop, filled with goodies. Ellie, the owner of Gramma’s Attic is lovely (and also went to the early-closing Disneyland yesterday) and we end up taking away a gorgeous black dress and a 1920’s-1930’s ice cream scoop. We then continue to Huntington beach where we have a great lunch at a ‘good food’ place and shop somewhat for bikini’s and surfboards. The weather is cloudy and a little chilly and there is no waves.

Later in the afternoon we take the I-5 south to San Diego. Along the way we managed to slow puncture the front tire, which we keep filling up and after checking into the hotel we exchange the car at Dollar rental. Since we’re already in that area we go into Old Town for some Mexican food.

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Friday, May 8th

Tonight, and this morning in San Diego it doesn’t just rain – it pours! Bad news for us is that this means that we cannot go surfing, unless we’d like to risk infections and/ or becoming very ill. Apparently, when it rains after a dry spell, all the crap from the city washes into the sea. Not only that, they get the rubbish from Mexico on top of that! Needless to say, we stay on dry land today. We talk a while with a surf dude at ‘the Surf Bunker’ named Travis, who recommends going to the Wavehouse further down the road. With our luck though, its closed! Closed!!

Thank goodness there is an arcade next door that is open and we throw some quarters at our misery. Afterwards, we drive to San Diego antique district where we have beautiful burritos for lunch / early dinner and shop around a little. Sean even manages to find some retro games to take home. We then ask the satnav to take us to a cinema, to have a look if there is anything we want to see perhaps, it guides us to Sea World… which is closed….and after resetting the directions to another cinema it doesn’t have anything we’d like to see.

Back at the hotel, we walk to a pizza place for cake and margaritas and quickly jump into the hotel pool before it shuts for the night.

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Saturday, May 9th

We check out of our hotel in the morning, drive to the same Japanese-run fruit-and-crepe place we had breakfast yesterday and then go on to a secondhand board shop we passed yesterday (you may have guessed by now that it was closed at that time). Sean finds himself a great board, just what he was looking for. Across the road there is a kite festival going on and we decide to join in by getting ourselves a dragon kite. We have ice creams, enjoy the show and the great weather for today the sun is out in force!

At around 13:00 we set our satnav back to LA, first to the Anaheim center of photography. We arrive around 16:30 – it looks abandoned and it’s… CLOSED! When the machine wants to charge us $14 for the privilege of undergoing this nonsense, I throw a little fit and get back in the car without paying the ticket. Lucky for me, a kind lady actually lets us out of the complex. We try the Getty instead. The satnav guides us to the rear of the building and after some cursing, swearing and honking by my fellow road users, we arrive at the Getty. Which is open!

We view their photography collection on display and after being thoroughly disappointed with the (second half of the) day, we pay for parking and head towards our hotel.

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Sunday, May 10th

Today, we’re off to the Rosebowl, a giant monthly fleamarket held in Pasadena, LA. We get up at 6:30, enjoy our complimentary breakfast, pack up and we’re on our way. We get there nice and early around 7:30 and dang! They did not lie when they said it was big! We decide to skip all the new stuff as we won’t have time for that and focus on the antiques and vintage clothing sections as those will be hard enough to cover as-is. There is some amazing stuff for sale on this market – some cheap, some bizar, some wonderful and everything suited for every budget. We manage to find some amazing things: I get a short dress with apple print, a small musical box with a dancing man, a flight suit and a full leather sports / weekend bag. Sean finds a retro skateboard deck, fully made of wood and a bunch of retro games.

With pain in my heart, we leave around 13:00 to head for Vegas.

Driving through the Mojave desert is not as I imagined it. It’s not actually very desolate with petrol stations around every other corner – and what’s up with those little fences next to the Motorway? Are they afraid people will wander off into nowhere? We stop a few times and reach Vegas around 18:00. We booked a room at the Luxor (the pyramid) and after refreshing ourselves, I change into my old new black Cinderella dress for dinner and we take a walk on the strip.

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Monday, May 11th

We agree that Vegas is a little like Disneyland meets Times Square; the buildings are mad and everything is expensive around here. Even though we are – I am – happy to have seen it, we’re also happy to have been here at night time. It looks so …. dead… during the day! We drive towards the North side of the strip to try and find the ‘World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop’ from the TV show. It’s a lot smaller than we thought it would be and after checking out the other shops as well, just across the street we set off for Death Valley.

Today’s drive will be out longest, according to our planning so wanting a fairly early start we leave Vegas at 11:00. Within the hour, there are plains with Joshua trees, mountain ranges and vast open spaces of hostile rocky terrain. We see sand dunes, salt flats, gravel pits, dust plain, dust devils and snowy hilltops. This is amazing and I am a little sad that I ‘only’ brought my medium format camera with me, instead of a proper proper old big one.

We get to our destination, a hotel at a half-way point at around 20:30, half an hour before reception closes for the night. We settle in with some store-bought cheesecake and a B horror movie. And I can tell you that watching a B-horror movie, set in a small town in the middle of nowhere is NOT a good thing to watch when staying overnight in a small town in the middle of nowhere!

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Tuesday, May 12th

After a restless night we pack up and go find breakfast in the nearest town. We have a look around some small shops, get a drink in the saloon (it has horse ties and swinging doors and everything!) and set course for the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park. Our hotel keeper advised us a different route than satnav wanted us to take, so we drove for many a mile through orange growing country before going off into the hills again. Along the way we stop at a lovely antiques shop where I manage to find a few stereo cards to add to my ever growing collection.

Going through Sequoia National Park is tough – an hours of slowly winding upwards, fortunately with stunning views to easy my pain. We reach the old man around 17:00, have a good look around – but not too good as it’s freezing cold up here – and then go find food and out hotel for the night.

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Sherman! Buddy!

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Wednesday, May 13th

We leave the hotel early in the morning, after some amazing complimentary self-cooked waffles. Today we’ll be setting course for Yosemite National Park. We drive a while and stop along the way at some random antique shops and I manage to find myself a beast of an X-ray lens. I don’t yet know how I should be using it – let’s just say it won’t be for original purposes. We reach Yosemite proper at around 13:00, drive a little further in but do not really have time to do a walk as we had planned as we’ll need to reach San Fran by the end of today. We also managed to miss inspiration point, but I suppose the Tunnel view vantage point more than made up for that. We also have our lunch there, on a log next to a stream….ahhh. Relaxation! It’s out first ‘normal’ sandwiches we have had here and the desert we got – a cake/custard vanilla/ banana whatever sort of pudding mix – is utterly delicious!

Then, we drive another 3+ hours to San Francisco, arriving at around 19:30. We check online for tickets to Alcatraz, but as it turns out, May is not a slow season around here and everything is sold out! The night tours are even sold out for the next 2 months! Oh well, we head out for a slice of pizza and dive into a book shop that’s open late.

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Thursday, May 14th

Today we’ll be spending the day in San Fransisco. Going up Polk street, we have breakfast at a ‘French’ Boulangerie place, having coffee from a cereal bowl (honestly, these Americans! ;-)) Visiting the Fisherman’s Wharf, we quickly determine this is NOT for us as the area is overly touristy and walking onwards to the Alcatraz landing dock we see that normal tours are booked up till Tuesday. Sean does receive some kind compliments on his wooden skateboard deck from the local bums, which is nice. We take a street tram towards Mission street – we are hoping to find a skate shop that can fit Sean’s deck with some trucks and wheels. We find one and he gets the work done.

We carry on a few blocks to a bunch of Antique and thrift stores before going towards Chinatown. Chinatown, like Fisherman’s wharf is unfortunately yet another tourist trap. We do sit in at a great teashop, having a full-on taster session with the salesgirl. We opted for dinner at the ‘Great Eastern Restaurant’, a place where apparently Barack Obama once had a Dim Sum take-away, or so the proudly displayed newspaper clipping tells us. We walk back to the Hotel UP the giant sloping hills, wandering what it would be like to live here (and having to carry shopping bags up this hill….and what if you forgot the butter….?)

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Friday, May 15th

We walk over to Lombard street ‘the crookedest street in the world’ – which was yet again, disappointing. We walk back to our hotel to check out and head over to Santa Cruz instead. Sadly for us, there’s not much surf going on. The winds are fierce (and a bit chilly). We park at the hotel, take a walk on the pier where we spot a group of sea lions chilling out, go over the boardwalk and have some hotdogs for lunch. The place we decided to sit down at, the picnic basket also does these amazing wild flavours of ice cream, most of them from local farms.

We take the car for a drive round some other beaches in the area and to a local surfshop to get Sean a boardbag. We visit the museum of surfing at the lighthouse and then lo and behold! There’s waves!! Sean heads out on his new board, we meet a new surfer in the area and help him out a bit. Afterwards, we head into the Santa Cruz main street for dinner and some late night shopping. I could get used to shops being open till 22:00!

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Saturday, May 16th

We have some complimentary waffles and head out to the beach. Again, no waves! Instead, we check out some of the sample sales advertised along the roads and make several unplanned stops for yard sales in between. At a local surfshop, Sean finds some tiny fins to go with his board and I find some vintage clothing to put on Etsy. Win!

We then drive South along the Coastal Highway, stopping countless times to take photos. When we arrive at our hotel for tonight, the historic Santa Maria Inn, it turns out that it played host to the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Eva Gardner, Judy Garland, etc etc. No=one famous stayed in our room, however. We take it easy for the night as there is nothing to do or see in this area.

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Sunday, May 17th

We get up quite late and re-pack all of our stuff. My hand luggage now has a killer weight due to that massive ‘radioactive’ lens I just ‘had’ to buy. We enjoy a continental breakfast and set off to Venice beach, where we booked the last hotel of this trip. We are hoping to meet up with James Cooper, one of Sean’s former colleagues who lives somewhere in the area. We arrive fairly early and after a bit of faff parking the car, we walk up to Santa Monica Boulevard, play a few games in the arcade and end up at ‘Hama Sushi’ in Venice for food. They are not the cheapest place, I’m sure, but their dishes seem quite original and sure were tasty!

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Monday, May 18th

It is our final morning and again, there are no waves! We have been unlucky on this trip with quite a few things, but thank goodness there was also plenty fun stuff and more than enough to make us want to come back!

We have out breakfast at a nearby cafe, complete with building site ambience. We grab the car, check out a few shops on the South side of Venice and then drive towards Santa Monica. There, we get bored real quick with the dime-a-dozen up-scale shops, but we do manage to find a massive charity shop. We have crepes for lunch and head back to the car. The car!! Where did that car go!!!!

PANIC STATIONS EVERYONE!!! WHERE DID THAT CAR GO!?!?!

Turns out we were looking in the wrong building…..sigh….

The rest of the day runs smoothly, dropping off the car, getting to the airport and faking my hand luggage really isn’t that heavy at all. Bye bye California! We hope to visit again soon!

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Cambridge Darkroom – Photography Social – Big January Debate

At the end of January, we had the Big January Debate at the Cambridge Darkroom Meetup themed ‘Is cropping cheating? where I was supposed to be one of the members on the discussion panel, sitting straight across one of the organisers Dom Reed, better known as Mr. Flibble on Flickr who makes heavy use of image editing in his photographic work. I was supposed to take the side of the purist, as a user of antique photographic processes – but I found it really hard to do so.

Unfortunately for this event, we were not able to make use of our normal room at the Cambridge Brewhouse and we were forced to shift to the restaurant opposite. They kindly made space for us and pushed several tables together, pulled out some extra chairs and we made do. It was hard to try and hold a discussion in a noise restaurant, in the middle of a long table, and trying to get everyone to hear you, but as the evening progressed more people started joining in and it was great to see some new faces and hear some (new) opinions.

The main questions of the discussion were: Is cropping cheating, any any techniques allowed, when does an image shift from photography into digital art. Dom point of view consisted mainly in: everything is allowed, the technology is there and why not use it? Sometimes there is just no other way to take a certain shot as practical, financial or timing issues get in the way. Sometime you think you got it right, but it turns out you are just a little off, what wrong with correcting this afterwards, especially if it helps the image?

I do agree, but for the sake of the discussion I did not – and my main arguments were: It’s lazy not to get in right in camera, there is zoom and sneaker zoom (walk to or from your subject) and there is such a thing as using the right tools for the job, researching your subject / location and timing, knowing your camera settings and making sure those are right for what you are trying to achieve.  Having a great technical advantage is one thing, but can you really call yourself a photographer if you shoot on ‘luck’ or just on post-editing and say ‘it’s part of your process’. Blurry images have time and time again been excused as ‘artistic intent’, but when is it actually acceptable?

We finished the discussion on an overall consensus that no-one actually thought that post-editing an image was wrong – in the understanding that certain jobs might require more, less or no editing. Like wedding photography (it’s normal for images to be Photoshopped) or reportage photography (it’s frowned upon to edit these images)

Cambridge Darkroom – Photography Social can be found in Meetup.com – and we gather every last Thursday of the month.

 

 

 

New Year, New Resolutions

First up: Happy New Year everyone! I know it’s not common to still be saying that halfway through the first month, but what the heck. I hope everyone has had a good Christmas and an even better New Years Eve. We did… nothing! Sitting at home with food and video games, because that’s how we roll!

For the new year, my resolutions revolve around one thing: more photography. So far I’ve been dusting off my photography books and checking my chemical and darkroom inventory. Since we moved into this new house, I was kind of hoping to be able to build a darkroom in one of the cupboards, or to transform the bathroom – but it’s proving trickier than I thought. The cupboards are both quite small and narrow and will not allow for any ventilation to be put in place. One cupboard, which holds the boiler, has a window, but frustratingly it does not open. The bathroom has quite a good window but the access to the wet space is a little awkward and the shower head itself will not come so far down as to provide an easy rinsing solution. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll figure it out. I’ll be sure to keep my wet-plating activities outside, but it would be nice to get properly into salt printing and traditional darkroom techniques.

When digging through my photography books (I do plan on reading some of them this year), I did run into some beauties I fully forgot about. Dutch speakers amongst you might appreciate this book for kids.

 

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I also found a photo Technology; Learning activities softcover workbook, for which I may have to try and find the actual instruction manual and a manually typed out collectors checklist of Voigtlander Camera’s 1840-1970. The latter one is pointless for me to keep and it will make it’s way to my Etsy Shop within the next few weeks.

Should you be bored within the next few weeks and finding yourself in the Cambridge area: I’ll be speaking about my wet-plating for the Milton Photographic Club on Wednesday the 21st of January at the All Saints Church Hall, Church Lane, Milton CB24 6AB, the talk starts around 19:45. The week after, I’ll possibly be part of the discussion panel for the Cambridge Darkroom group, our discussion will revolve around image editing and the ethics in doing so. The meetup is being held on Thursday the 29th Of January at the Cambridge Brewhouse, 1 King Street, Cambridge, CB1 1LH, Cambridge and starts around 19:30.

Well, that’s it from me for today – I found a roll of exposed film in my Rolleiflex today ( I fear might have a light leak) and I should set to developing that / testing the camera. Let’s get to work!

 

 

 

 

Wet Plate Photoshoot: Alp

Alp was introduced to me through Calvin and later it turned out he is also friends with Wil and Varun. We would take out shoot in the afternoon and lucky for us, the weather was as beautiful as an October day could be, albeit a bit chilly.

The only plate that would not come out well from this session was our test plate, due to the pose being a bit ‘common’ and the plate had no real sparkle. Some small little tweaks and the second plate was a great improvement, but then he spotted the swords! Neither of us had anticipated him going bare-chested – it being quite nippy and all – but he went there! The portrait we took at a shady spot in the cemetery and I completely adore it – the pose, the light, the crispness…. all of it! Then, Alp kindly agreed to let me have a go at photographing his fangs and even though it did not fully work as intended, it was good practice. The last plate of the day however, steals the show in it’s sheer over-the-top-ness; I shall have to find a nice spot in my house to hang this one 😉

The images were taken on a wooden no-brand 1/2 plate camera using a Dallmeyer lens, mostly on f5.6 at around 8 seconds.

 

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plate 2, a little more vintage thug-ish

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Time to bring out the props!

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Possibly my favourite portrait to date

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we tried to get the fangs in by using an apple

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And one more go with the sword. I still believe it’s missing the maidens and mullet 😉

 

 

Wet Plate Photoshoot: Wet Plate Camping

In the last weekend of August 2014, Tony Richards organised a social wet-plate gathering for all those from the UK and Ireland. Wet-plating would be optional, having a pint in the local pub would not be! 🙂

After packing my gear, I drove for nearly 3,5 hours to the Bank House Farm Campsite in Derbyshire where I would meet with Tony Richards, Marc Voce, Mark Scholey, John Kiely, John Brewer, Kate Horsley and Violet, Sam Christopher Cornwell, Guy Brown, Kevin Lunham, Moo Pa, Tim Ingmire, William Cameron, Tony Lovell, Simon Harbord and Ray Spence. (Sorry if I missed anyone). The Friday night was a bit miserable and the camera’s remained hidden, us photographers opting instead to head to the pub for a meal and some drinks till the early hours. The campsite proved fine, with plenty of space – with the only downside being the distance to the toilet and shower block, which was a 5 minute walk. The little river that ran by it was very pretty and proved a popular subject for the plates.

The Saturday started off with much of the same as the Friday, occasional showers both light and heavy, but we set up regardless and started shooting. The whole day would remain overcast and we finished up like the night before: in the pub with food and drink. I managed to shoot around 10-12 plates on the day, of which I will keep 2. I learned a lot about judging light and development times this day and will need to keep an eye on my continuous over-development of plates.

 

This was my first set-up, it took me about 5 tries to get the exposure about right. The light kept changing, with the sun towards the lens – so the spot between the trees burned out amazingly quickly. I am fairly happy with this plate as I tried tin typing for the first time and the material is remarkably easy to work with. Thanks to Kevin from Wet Plate Supplies (http://www.wetplatesupplies.com/) for hooking me up! This plate was shot at 25 seconds at about f5.6 – f8.

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This was my second set-up. Again, it took me a few plates to get the exposure right, but the balance on this plate is definitely better. I believe I came to 2.5 minutes at f8. The subject and composition, unfortunately, are not great. I scanned it, but this plate might be wiped.

 

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For my third set-up, I just turned the camera round and took the same exposure. It had a lot of lines over the top, that only showed when the plate was dry – which are not great – and I am not overly keen on the composition. I scanned it, but the plate will be wiped.

 

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This plate was just a complete guess. I saw the scene and wanted to capture it, but ideally, I would have come closer to it. There was a river in the way though…. I took this at 20 seconds f5.6 – and overdeveloped by about 15 seconds due to underexposure. This plate might look OK now, but the plate is very low in contrast and needed a lot of help in Lightroom. It will be wiped.

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The last set-up of the Saturday was, again, that little current in the river and the trees behind it. I love that I managed to get the timing right and for once I did not overdevelop. This image is taken on trophy aluminium and it has to be my favourite of the weekend.

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The Sunday proved a little better on the weather front and despite some people having to pack and leave earlier due to driving distances or being kicked out of their plush B&B, most kept shooting till well after midday before packing up themselves. The winds had picked up, most dramatically when it decided to pick up Mark Voce’s marquee and ditch it over the roof of Tony’s marquee tent. That day, I managed to shoot about 5 plates, of which I would keep 2. Having shot the river with varying results, I directed my attention to some of the attendees of the weekend.

 

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John Brewer, master in antique photographic processes, turns his hand to the power of digital image capture

Mark's brand new Marquee tent took a dive

Mark’s brand new Marquee tent took a dive

 

I asked John Kiely if I could photograph him in his van. Not amazingly original, but John is a patient man that proves a great subject. The first plate came out… odd, but it was not the first time I had seen this happening on one of my plates. Unless there had been an 8 second hail storm I failed to notice, it had to be a chemical issue. I remembered I had used the same funnel for both my fixer and my silver bath…. oops! I quickly filtered the silver and the second plate came out much better. It got hit straight into the lens by a stray ray of sun though, so it was very overexposed. The third one came out well enough – still a little overexposed at 8 seconds f5.6 – but we decided to leave it at that.

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For my last plates, I asked Mark Scholey to pose for me. The first one coming out well overexposed, this one was much better – again 8 seconds at f5.6. Unfortunately for both me and him, he must have moved a slight! Oh well….

I would have loved to have had more time to shoot some of the other amazing people at the gathering, but it’ll have to wait till next time. I will be looking forward to it!

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Creative Collaborations: Finding a Model

In this blog I would like to discuss creative collaborations and how to find a model for your photography. When I started my professional job as a studio portrait photographer in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 2008 I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had been trained for a few days in a studio style but I wasn’t exactly a seasoned portrait photographer; to tell the truth, I was scared to death on my first solo shoot – a person I didn’t know, using equipment that wasn’t mine, in a style that I found a little strange, working to a strict deadline and all the while having someone look over your shoulder to make sure you don’t slip up. It was after a few months that I found my place within the studio and I started to get a serious interest in photographing people – and the need to practice arose.

But how to find someone to sit for you when everyone you know doesn’t like to be photographed, or lives abroad, or are unavailable/ unsuitable for your shoot? Back in 2008 I didn’t have the funds to go out and buy props, let alone pay a (professional) model for her time. But there are several ways around this which are useful, especially if you are still learning.

Please do note that these are not tricks to get a professional model for free, but you may be lucky enough to get a great model to work with you on an amazing project on an equal exchange basis. If you are interested in learning quicker and you have willing to spend some cash on your personal development as a photographer, I highly recommend hiring a professional model instead.

 

1. Facebook

Not the easiest option, but useful if you have a large network. You may know someone via a friend that has the perfect looks and location for your project. You already have a friend in common, that might want to join you on the day of the shoot which can make things more fun and relaxed. Do NOT spam or harass strangers because you think they like you or your photography. Do not act like a perv. Do not act like a stalker. Ask polite and if the answer is no, thank them for taking the time to respond and then back away. So far I have only scouted 1 person via Facebook where I posted a casting call on the page of a local  photography group I belong to.

Rui, wet plate collodion on clear glass

Rui, wet plate collodion on clear glass

2. Gumtree / local ads

A tricky option, but useful if you are looking for non-professional sitters. You can either offer a few free shoots to attract some people if you are looking for portraits or lifestyle shots or ask for people on a specific project. I recently posted an ad on Gumtree asking for ‘normal people’ to sit for a wet-plate portrait and after the shoot, I sent them the scans of all the plates taken. The good side to this was having a few enthusiasts come over to see the wet plate collodion process up close – the downside being that you might have less commitment to the shoot (it’s just a bit of fun and not career-building) and they might not be able to fulfill the brief (stand STILLLLLLL!!!) The best part was having a couple of completely different faces in front of the camera, all with their own beauty.

Gumtree is more specific to the UK, I’m sure the same would apply for Craigslist in the US and alternative sites for other countries.

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3. Model / photographer sites

This is probably your best bet. There are a few sites, all with their own audience and flavour, where creative come together to show their work and look for possible collaborations. Some portfolios on these sites are simply stunning, as are the models. They cater for people all over the world and will be useful if you live in a crowded area (big cities) or if you are about the travel and have some spare time to shoot. Sometimes you’ll find the person you’d most like to photograph lives on the other side of the planet and you’ll have to ‘settle’ for someone closer to home. Not all models will work TF*, which you should respect.

Model Mayhem

I’ve personally been part of this site since 2009 and I still like it a lot. You can make your own free profile and portfolio after submitting a few sample images of your work, featuring people. Do not worry about this too much, I don’t think anyone is likely to get rejected on basis of their initially provided material. After being accepted, you can make use of all the features of the site, the best being the ‘casting calls’, short adverts made by members asking for collaborations on specific projects or dates. You will be able to post your own to look for models and with a bit of luck you’ll get the person(s) you need. The downside on Modelmayhem is the amount of flaky people that just stop responding to messages or don’t show up at the shoot.

Jack Cooke by Yvette Bessels

Jack Cooke by Yvette Bessels

Purpleport

I just created an account on this site today as most of my photography friends have been raving about it and focus seems to have shifted from Model Mayhem. You need to add your experience from the get-go and submit 4 images to have your account reviewed for acceptance. The basic account is free to create but there seem to be a few added features on the site that you won’t be able to use without paying for an account. Like Model Mayhem, they have a casting call section to find the people you need for your project. I immediately found 2 people I would like to work with and I am hopeful I will be able to scout others in the near future.

Purestorm

I joined this site a number of years ago and maybe used it for a few months. The members on this site seemed mostly interested in shooting topless/ nude/ adult images and most models did not seem very interested in building a serious portfolio. Needless to say I did not use it for long – but I also do not know if and how it may have changed over time. It may be worth a go if you are looking for nude models.

Net-model

This site is new to me and I have not actually used it. Judging from the latest forum posts it’s nice to see there is a thread specific for paid work, but all of it seems geared towards getting models into the adult industry. It might be worth a go, you never know who is out there and you may find someone if you are looking for nude models.

There are numerous other sites out there, some more locally geared than others, so do a Google search for ‘photographer models site’ and you’ll be sure to come up with a few good addresses.

Making arrangements

 

So, you have found someone you’d like to photograph. What’s next?

 

First up, and this should be obvious: be polite when writing a message. If a potential model says no, it’s no. Don’t be rude or pushy. Use full sentences and DO NOT WRITE IN CAPS!

Second, know what you want to shoot. It’s fine to discuss ideas with the model (it’s very much recommended even) but don’t ask to photograph someone if you have no clue what you’ll be doing. Be able to offer some ideas. Once you are talking to a model, set a location, date and time. He or she may want to bring an escort for safety reasons – you can refuse or make objections if you feel it may interfere with the shoot (like a family tagging along with a small baby, or an overly talkative or jealous partner), but you can also allow it and involve the third party by having them assist you in guarding equipment or holding reflectors or lights. It will make the model feel more safe, but not always more relaxed.

Then, make sure to offer something to the model in exchange for their time – TF* meaning Time For – and he/ she will expect to receive at least a few of your best images via cd, e-mail or filesharing server or, a little less common these days, hard copy prints. Talk about this before the shoot. I share only jpeg files both large (for them to print) and small (to use on social media), never TIFF or RAW files. Not only do you need specialised software to see or edit the TIFF and RAW files, they normally serve as my proof of ownership and unless you are happy to share that, do not send those out. Set yourself an editing time limit and stick to it; let them know if you’ll be late with your images. It can be frustrating for models to do TF* shoots and not have anything to show for it in the end, this exercise is meant to be beneficial to both parties.

The last thing you will need to consider when photographing ANY person, not just a professional model, is a release form. There are numerous forms to be downloaded online for free, or you could make your own quite easily – I normally use a basic form like this model release typed

A model release is needed should you decide to use your image commercially in the future. This could mean selling the image to magazines or newspapers, but also if you want to use the image online for your portfolio, selling prints/ products or if you want to display it in physical or online galleries. Not having a model release means that the rights to image may be automatically yours as you are the creator of the image, but the person the image belongs to (the face, body or part thereof) can force you to withdraw it from the public eye. Also, you don’t want to be a dick and it’s better to sort these things out beforehand. 😉

Now, my pretties – with the very best of good luck wishes, go forth and find yourself a model!

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?