Thursday, 22 September 2011

Photography really DOES mean 'drawing with light'

We went to the theatre last night to see the Rambert Dance Company. It was a series of three pieces, all modern and all different. The middle piece was called " Seven for a secret never to be told".

What has this got to do with photography ? ...

It's all about light. The stage lighting was out of this world. The use of colour, modelling, shaping, direction and quality of light was simply sublime.

If you think you're pretty good at lighting or if you're thinking of taking up photography as a professional then go and watch these REAL experts at work, you will come away feeling inadequate, humbled and inspired.

In fact it should be mandatory for all photography students to study stage lighting before they are even allowed to touch a camera. The bland rubbish that is often passed off as 'creative' photography by the current crop of degree courses could be consigned to history.

Photography done properly is a true craft and the idea that anyone with a digital camera and a 'bit of flair' can produce high quality work is frankly just not true.

Apart from anything else, a trip to a professional dance theatre will also teach you a hell of a lot about the possibilities of the human form and should leave you with your jaw dragging on the floor in awe and amazement.

Rant over

Friday, 5 August 2011

Hard work this Blogging !

I've been busy taking photographs recently and so blogging has had to take a back seat. After all I'm a professional photographer and one has to get ones priorities in order.

I'm working on a new collection of fine art prints which will be available as  a limited edition run once the series is complete. The theme for the project is the textures and forms which can be found all around us, if we can be bothered to look. My self imposed restriction of not arranging either subject or lighting in any way but simply working with what I find on my wanderings has led me to discover some remarkably beautiful compostions created by the natural elements with no human intervention.

The inspiration came from revisiting the still lifes of 'found' objects created by the late Bob Carlos Clarke 20 years ago. I will change that to the late GREAT Bob Carlos Clarke. If you don't know his work then you simply MUST research him. Don't be put off by his reputation for concentrating on the erotic and voyeuristic side of photography. Brilliant though his erotic images were ( and no, they most certainly are NOT pornography ) his talent covered many fields and I can't believe it's over 5 years since his tragic suicide.

My images are not in the same catgory as his as BCC's were carefully arranged and lit in a studio and are of a standard that I only aspire to.Would that I had his vision. However I don't, I have my own and here is the first image from my new project. It has, naturally, no title, I just can't stand titles

Interpret it as you wish. Whatever conclusion you come to is exactly correct.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

White Balance

In an ideal world you would always shoot you images as RAW files. My next blog will explain why but in the meantime if you are still shooting jpeg it is VITAL that you get your white balance right every time you press the button.

You camera will have an AUTO white balance function which I would advise you never use except in the direst of emergencies, where you simply don't have time to change settings for fear of losing the shot. Auto settings only work perfectly in a 'perfect' situation where you have an absolutely 'average' subject. Even lighting, even tones, even colours etc. These conditions only exist in a laboratory, not in the real world.

The camera will also have a number of preset white balance options to accomodate bright sunshine, cloudy days, artificial lighting, flash etc . These are all approximates and can't be anything else. Light can be at any point on a long sliding scale of colour temperature and these presets are once again a compromise.

The only way to be sure of pictures with neutral greys, clean highlights and colour cast free shadows is to use your CUSTOM WB function. It's really easy. Follow the instructions specific to your camera and take a reading from a piece of white card in the same light as that falling on your subject every single time you take a picture. Faffy ? yes, worth it ? definitely.

A more costly but far more convenient and even more accurate method is to use a specifically calibrated device called an EXPODISC, cost around a hundred quid but is invaluable to the serious operator, have a look at it  
http://www.expoimaging.com/product-overview.php?cat_id=1&keywords=ExpoDisc

Happy snapping !

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Famous Clients ( well almost )

I've had John Wayne AND Lana Turner in my studio this week, at the same time!.

You'll be greatly relieved to hear that they weren't here in person, both being long deceased but a client brought in some photographs of them to be copied. Not just any old photographs but ones that he actually took himself whilst they were filming in the far east and he was stationed there.

The photos are not remarkable in any way but my client was able to confirm that a) Lana Turner was indeed as beautiful and gracious as the studio publicity always said she was and b) John Wayne was indeed capable of consuming VAST amounts of alcohol with no apparent effect on his ability to function normally.

Hopefully I'll be posting in the next few days with my views on the importance of white balance and why you should NEVER shoot  anything other than Raw files. Shooting on jpeg may seem to work most of the time but one day it will all end in tears and you'll lose that once in a lifetime shot because using Raw seemed too time consuming or complicated. It IS both of these things but it's worth it. Watch this space... ( I do like a well used ellipsis ).

Shame on all of you who didn't recognise the lyrics ' Time flies etc'
The answer, The light pours out of me by Magazine

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Self Promotion

Been a really busy couple of weeks, what with it being the Wedding season and everything, so no deep thoughts or fancy philosophies today, just a little self promotion.

If you live locally pop out and get yourself a copy of tonights ( Sat June 4th ) Lancashire Telegraph and if you look on page 26 there's a chance to win a fabulous free portrait from our Studio. There's still a week left before entries close so don't delay !

Back soon with more abstract and tangential thoughts

Saturday, 21 May 2011

PERHAPS , It's all in the interpretation

When you take a photograph, the point where you press the button in just one of a number of stages involved in 'creating an image'.

It all starts with an idea. You get a picture in your mind and then go out and find a subject that fits your mental picture. Or perhaps that's not true. Perhaps you see the subject in front of you and this then evolves into an idea which you then have to record. Or perhaps it's neither of these. Perhaps  you take a snapshot without really thinking but all the while, in the background at a subconcious level you really ARE thinking and you don't realise until later that you have a potentially exciting image to play with.

Too many variables to ever nail it down as a simple logical process to be sure, however at some point you have to make concious irreversible deciscions about how you want to present your creation to the world.

Digital or wet darkroom, it doesn't matter, that's just physics and chemistry, we're talking about creativity here and so far thank goodness the white coated boffins haven't managed to distill that into a bottle and if they did , well, then people like you and I are lost.

To complicate things further, there is, of course, no RIGHT way to print an image. The same image and I mean EXACTLY the same image can be prepared to give any number of completely different results leaving the viewer with several ways to interpret what they see and hopefully inducing different moods and emotions to experience.

Perhaps the images below will explain things more clearly







And finally thanks for the emails Identifying the Song 'Freelove' by Depeche Mode.So if you think you know your lyrics, identify this song ( and no internet cheating ! )

TIME FLIES, TIME CRAWLS, LIKE AN INSECT , UP AND DOWN THE WALL

Monday, 16 May 2011

Problems with comments

I was a bit puzzled at not receiving any comments on the first few Blogs I posted but being new to the game I though perhaps this was quite normal.

However I've been contacted by a couple of people who tell me that they tried to post comments but were being blocked by the software.

Having spoken to my internet guru I've discovered that the problem may lie with google and he's currently looking to find a way round it.

So, in the meantime, if you do feel the urge to make a comment on one of my blogs then please feel free to contact me directly via email on reg@garthdawsonstudio.co.uk and I'll get back to you.

Apologies for the inconvenience but I did warn you from the start that IT is not my strong suit. Hopefully things will be sorted soon.

Should you find yourself once more looking for inspiration and want to see some outstanding photography then try googling  CINDY SHERMAN. It's only my very humble opinion but I rate her as the greatest living artist in any media. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

No hidden catch, No strings attached just free film

Clearing out at the studio I came across some film in the fridge which is no longer of any use to me. The stock is all Fuji 35mm some 160 ISO some 400 ISO and a few rolls of 800 ISO.

The film is all out of date but its professional film and has been stored in a refrigerator from the day it was purchased. The ISO rating may have changed with age but using a couple of rolls to experiment with and judge its current speed should still leave 50 perfectly usable rolls.

So if anyone out there reading this fancies a batch of film to play around with then simply contact me on 01254 231802 to let me know.

The film is FREE to the first person who contacts me, with a couple of minor conditions,

  1. You must collect the film from the studio
  2. It's a job lot, you take it all
  3. There is NO guarantee of its condition, it's taken as seen
If the collector wished to make a small VOLUNTARY contribution to our chosen charity, DERIAN HOUSE CHILDRENS HOSPICE this would be very welcome but I stress this is not a condition for taking the film.

Finally and just for fun there is a bonus point (but no prize) for spotting the song reference in the blog title

Friday, 6 May 2011

Always use the best materials

Here at the studio we do a LOT of copy and restoration work.

Many of the photos we see are in a pretty bad way, cracked, creased, torn or with pieces missing. Most of this damage can be repaired given enough time and patience.

The other major problem with most of them is that they have faded to some degree and once again using the right tools and lots of experience this can largely be remedied.

The most surprising aspect however is that the most badly faded ones tend to be the most recently taken and this is largely because they have been printed on cheap paper using cheap inks on a home printer.

The look of disappointment on a clients face when told that the image is beyond redemption can be quite upsetting, particularly when the other photo they want restoring is 60 or 70 years old and in better condition than the newer one.

The lesson is simple. If you want your images to last NEVER use cheap unbranded paper and NEVER use cheap alternatives to the printer manufacturers own inks. You will only regret it at a later date when your irreplaceable photo is gone forever.

I learned this lesson the hard way. In the 1970's there was a cheap alternative to Kodak, Agfa and Fuji slide film made by a company called GAF. I used it extensively at the time and when I recently decided to revisit some of my old images I found slide holders full of clear , blank film.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

The best camera ?

This is a question I am frequently asked, " What sort of camera do you use?" or " Which is the best camera?"

My answer to the first is " Does it matter?"

.You can now buy a digital SLR complete with a 'kit' lens and 12 million pixels for well under £400. Used with intelligence and care and shooting RAW files it should be easily capable of producing  a 24"x20" print  and let's be honest, that's plenty big enough for most everyday uses.

From the same manufacturer you will also have the option of spending perhaps £5,000 or more for which you will get a much sturdier construction, a faster, higher spec lens and  maybe double the number of pixels. You will be able to produce bigger prints with a smoother tonal gradation and also bounce your camera off the odd wall without doing too much damage

The question you must ask yourself is, " Do all these advantages justify spending six times the money?". If you only print up to A4 or occasionally  A3, the answer is probably no. If you regularly produce bigger prints and use the camera as a day to day tool from which you earn your living then perhaps it's a yes.

The BIG question though is " If I love this beautiful photograph in front of me and it moves me to tears every time I see it, does it matter what sort of camera was used ? "

A camera is just a tool and no more and if it does the job required of it then the make, model, prestige and cost are irrelevant.

As my old tutor Prof John Hannavy once said to me, an observation that has always been a touchstone for my view of photography, " A camera is just a dark box with a lens on the front, it's YOU that takes the photograph "

Which camera is the best one,  THE ONE IN YOUR HEAD.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Back to Basics

Here's a little tip for those days when the Muse doen't want to come out and play. You're itching to take some photographs but your mind can't settle on what to do, inspiration just isn't there.

Try what I think of as my back to basics routine.

First choose which camera you will use
Second choose a focal length to work at
Thirdly choose an ISO setting
Then choose B/W or Colour
Lastly choose a subject matter and location.

Do NOT be tempted to vary from any of the above, if you are , pretend that you are using an old film camera and don't have the luxury of changing your mind.
Go out and do your stuff. Setting yourself a brief and sticking to it helps concentrate the mind and sooner or later the ideas will flow.

I SAID DON'T BE TEMPTED !!!!!!!
Here's one I took on a day like that .
Deceptively simple.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

I have a great job ( well, most of the time )

The best thing for me about being a photographer is when someone comes along and asks for something a little different, it makes the job so much more interesting.

A case in point was when actor Trevor Williams approached me to create a new portfolio of promotional stills for him. Trevor has appeared in many well known TV productions such as 'Life on Mars', 'Shameless' and 'Hollyoaks' to name but three.

He has just co starred alongside Liverpool comedian John Bishop  as the character 'Nelson' in ROUTE IRISH, a tense and dark feature film by legendary director Ken Loach.

We decide to shoot two sets of images. The first show Trevor as, frankly, someone you wouldn't want to bump into on a dark night . The second showing him as an urbane gentleman.
You've got to agree, he's pretty damn versatile and this was what we were trying to convey in his folio. I think that between us we haven't done too shabby a job.

My thanks to (the very urbane ) Trevor for kindly allowing me to show you these pictures to illustrate what a great job this can be.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Reg enters the blogosphere !

So... this is my first blog... just to give you a taster of what to expect in future.

The idea is to keep you up to date with all the exciting things we have in mind for the studio and let you know when new products become available.

I will also be giving random tips on how to improve your photography, letting you know about the work of other photographers that hopefully you will find interesting and inspirational and occassionally reviewing various pieces of hardware and software that I use in my day to day work.

If I can work the technology I'll also include a few pieces of my personal work for you to see.

What I WON'T be doing hopefully is boring you with all the mundane stuff that seems to dominate most of the blogs I've seen.

Here goes !
This is quite an old one of mine, it has no title, none of my work does.By giving work a title I believe I would be influencing the way you interpret it which is something I prefer the viewer to do for themselves.

And finally try a visit here for some stunning photography  http://www.corbijn.co.uk/

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Welcome to our Blog

We are going to use our Blog to review equipment and let you know of new or improved services.

Regards, Reg