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Smartviewfinder – Using an iPhone for prep work

iPhone 4S - Hipstamatic App Buclhorst H1 lens, Blanko film

Matt here,

If you stand in the street with your hands forming a rectangle and one eye closed, the other eye beadily looking through the aperture you have created, you’re likely be regarded with suspicion. Beyond that you might be sympathetically shrugged off as an old-fashioned cliché of a photographer, because these days we have smartphones and it is impossible to distinguish us from anybody else waving around their latest super-powered mobile. This is good as generally we prefer not to be noticed. It also gives us what we strain to get by closing one eye, a 2 dimensional representation of our subject matter.

The shot above was taken two days ago with my 13 month old son in one arm (try that with a dSLR). The clouds were racing along and there was a nice breeze amongst the reeds. I used the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone, predominantly because I wanted a square shot, but I kind of like what the retro settings have done to it, creating a diamond vignette and tingeing the sky cyan.

I resolved to come back under similar conditions with my Canon. Today the clouds were starting to look interesting so I went out at roughly the same time, early evening and set up. By the time I got there the clouds were not looking so playful and the wind had died, so I changed the shot a bit and concentrated more on the reeds, which you can’t see so well in the iPhone shot. Afterwards I cropped it to 5×4. It just wasn’t asking to be square anymore. It’s a very different shot, and perhaps the shed in the background is lost a bit, but I like the swirl of reeds in the foreground, and the detail that the full frame sensor gives me.

Canon 1Ds MkII ISO 50 f/20 1/13th 24-105mm

The clouds were amassing off to the right of shot and there was a good chance of something dramatic happening as the sun dropped, but this wasn’t the place to be. I had been planning to return to an old favourite haunt east along the coast and I was waiting for the right light. So I rushed off in my car. I arrived at the destination and the tide was right out, not what I’d planned (I usually use another app ‘World Tides’, which is great for planning coastal shots, but you have to buy the update each year and I hadn’t got round to it).  The low tide did reveal some interesting shapes in the old rotten groynes and abandoned crates. The sun was now threatening to burst the clouds so I had to get a move on. I got a few shots before the sun disappeared and the sky turned grey. Here’s one:

Canon 1Ds mkII ISO 50 f/18 1/8th 17-35mm

Neither location presented me with the shots I had planned, but you’ve got to remain flexible. In the end though, the preparations that I made sent me to these locations and  I knew that in the right conditions both of them would offer me something.

So folks, unholster those smartphones, practise seeing the world in 2D, and consider that these cameraphones might have more to offer than just remembering IKEA codes.

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Large Format Landscape

Bamburgh Castle at dawn

Details: Wista 45DX, 90mm, 4 secs, f22 2/3, Fuji Velvia 50, 0.6ND Grad

Yesterday evening I made a presentation about large format photography to the City of London & Cripplegate  Photographic Society and received a very welcome. I covered all aspects of large format that I’ve used throughout my career on both 5×4 & 10×8, from portraits to still life and on into landscape.

I now run Large Format workshops both for complete beginners through to experienced practitioners. There will be a two day introductory to large format landscape on 2-4 Nov 2012 in South Wales and refresher days on 16 March 2012, 27 April & 25 May either in London or Essex. I supply the cameras for these workshops so if you’ve been considering LF and want to experience it before buying a camera then perhaps a Shadows & Light workshop is just for you?

Another recent speaker at the same society was Red Saunders, a photographer from whom I learnt a great deal of LF skill and technique.

Apart from shooting landscape in this form I’ve also done a great deal of still life with art directors such as Pearce Marchbank.

Stone, Paper, Scissors

Details: Sinar Norma 5×4, 150mm, 1/125 sec, f22, Fuji 100D
Art Director: Pearce Marchbank, Client: Marxism Today


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Inside Lives

My friends Rosie Berwick, Marjorie Devine-King, Bénédicte Emsens are putting on a collaborative exhibition ‘Inside Lives’ together with Debby Besford at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill in March.

I’ve had the opportunity to see much of this work at various stages and ‘Inside Lives’ will be well worth seeing. These photographers use a variety of formats and shoot both digital and analogue. Some of the flash kit they use use Elinchrom supplied by The Flash Centre.

Why not put the date in your diary and drop in to see it? You can combine it with a trip to the Portobello Road.

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Phase One – 9 Below Zero

Waste Incinerator, A406

It’s late. It’s cold. However the Li-ion batteries that come as standard with the Phase One to power the IQ back worked just as well in the low temperatures as team at The Flash Centre had assured me they would. After 50 mins shooting I still had around 55% charge remaining and I could have carried on for a while longer but by then my body was too cold.

One criticism I do have of the camera is that it’s not possible to operate the touch screen on the IQ back when gloves and when it’s so cold and with a sharp northerly wind I’d prefer to keep my gloves on.

I’d been intending to shoot this waste incinerator for some time but knew that I needed to wait for a particularly cold night in order to enhance the steam and vapour that the plant gives off. I was driving back from Essex late on a Thursday and knew that all of the elements I needed would be in place. Standing downwind of this plant is much fun though as the smell is pretty overpowering!

This is yet another area urban Britain that I will add to a future Shadows and Light workshop. It’s gritty and grimy but does have a certain appeal.

Details: Phase One c/w IQ160, 35mm, 1 min, f22, 50 ISO, no filtration


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DSLR – Out of the Dark

January 28 was the day that we ran the first ever ‘DSLR – Out of the Dark‘ practical workshop for people getting to grips with digital SLR photography.

Based at the British Legion Club in Muswell Hill, London N10 we created a studio environment to allow people to shoot portraits and still life with their own cameras whilst Matt & myself where on hand to guide and support as well as delivering a structured seminar.

This is something that we will be running again in the future so watch the website for announcements.

DSLR - Out of the Dark workshop, January 2012

Details: Nikon D300, 35-70mm , 1/10sec, f8, 400 ISO

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Neville Brody

Telly Addict

The V&A’s examination of postmodernism in style, design, graphics, photography, etc comes to an end this week.

It’s given me the opportunity to reflect on a shot I did of Neville Brody for Design Magazine at his Tottenham Court Road studio. The art director who commissioned me, Neil Braidwood, has written about it elsewhere… The nice thing with Neil’s blog is that it allows you to see the image in context.

At the time I naturally knew Neville Brody’s work and yet he was rumoured to be a very difficult subject. However he took to the concept that Neil & I had in mind of shooting him from inside a TV set whilst eating popcorn and wielding a remote control. The rest took care of itself.

Details: Hasselblad 500c, 50mm, 1/4 sec, f11, Ilford FP4 @ 125 ISO

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Shadows and Light Photo Workshops

Welcome to the start of the Shadows & Light blog. If you don’t already know us then Shadows & Light are a small, specialised business that offer high quality, affordable photographic workshops and tours in the UK & Europe.

Why not have a look at the 2012 programme? We have events up to April 2012 with further courses being finalised in the next few weeks. This will be the first of a regular series of articles that will tell you about our future plans, our photographic experiences and more besides.

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