Sunday, 29 June 2008

Low Tide

PhotographerI'm quite lucky, I actually work a short walk from Britain's coastline. Which means that at lunchtime on a nice day I can go for a walk on the beach. The downside is that while it is technically part of the coast, the river Thames doesn't have a beach for much of the day. For the geographically challenged, the Thames is the river that runs through London England, past Big Ben and under London Bridge.

Not a lot of people realise this, but the Thames actually has a rather fine sandy beach on the south bank and most days, at low tide you can find people making sand sculptures in the hope that the tourists will chuck money at them. There are many places on both banks where you can access the beach, though you may well have to climb over a small wall or gate to access the steps. On the whole the beach is littered with all sorts of things that have washed up with the tide some of which are hundreds of years old. Only the other day I found a rather fine clay pipe that had been discarded in the 17th century. Quite often you'll find bones, in fact there is a small bay on the north bank that has a beach that consists entirely of bones and oyster shells that were dumped in the river by the stew houses in the area for hundreds of years. You can also find more modern flotsam and jetsam, that could make an interesting photo. You can pick up anything you find on the surface, but you will need licence if you want to start digging.

Of course getting down on the beach gives you a different perspective on the area, because you can get closer to the water than normal and, if you're not careful, in it. You'll need stout shoes and be aware that in some places the sand may be softer and dirtier than others. You should also make sure you know what the tides doing and don't get stuck anywhere that you can't get out of. In some places the beach is only a foot wide so you don't want to walk too far along where when the tide is on the turn, because the only other way out is up some very steep walls.

If you live in London, or are visiting, you can get a weekly prediction of the tides from The Admiralty Easytide Prediction Service. Its sometimes useful to also know when the high tides are going to be for those times when a low tide would ruin your shot.

So if you live in a classy city like London, on a tidal estuary, go get yourself some tide charts and some wellies and take a walk on the beach.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

What are you like?

So the competition let me get to know what my readers are like. Oh well lets be honest, it showed me what a few of my readers and rather more opportunistic strobists are like.

You are mostly North American, though looking at my google stats I can tell you that you come from 78 different countries, with africa being particularly under-represented.

You are mostly amateur though a little bit professional too. You have taken some absolutely brilliant photos of everything from street to studio and everything in between.

Your favourite photographers are:
Anna Pagnacco, Ansel Adams, Bert Stephani, Chase Jarvis, Dan Winters, Dave Tejada, David Hobby, David Nightingale, Diane Arbus, Duane Michals, Michael Grecco, Helmut Newton, James Nachtway, Jeffery Scott, Jerry Uelsmann, Jill Greenberg, Joe McNally, Man Ray, Marion Warren, Martin Prihoda, Michael Muller, Patrick Rochon, Paulo Rodrigues (sucking up to me didn't help you win), Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir, Richard Avendon, Your Dad.

Can I just add that you really, really like Joe McNally and Ansel Adams. If you are reading this and haven't just gone back to, take the time to have a look at the photographers in the list, you may find someone you like.

Thanks for taking part

Saturday, 21 June 2008

The Winner Is....

Fernando Isai Meza Barba

Born and raised in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. A City on the border of the U.S.

You can find Fernando at these sites, though I should warn you that some images are not safe for work flickr, deviantart, myspace, geocities, and his blog payasokrusty

Here is what Fernando had to say...

I love night photography but haven't had that much time lately to shoot in the open... also there's lots and lots of film prints and negatives that need to be scanned in order to make a decent portfolio... but as I have to choose, one of my top favorites would be this one: Mariachi Rave 1

Besides night/low light photos and long exposures, I love to take portraits and I'm kinda new in all this strobist world although is not always nescesary. I do love street photos but as mentioned above haven't had that much time to walk freely in the past months.

Favorite... woa... lots of names out there. most of them journalist and old times pioneers, however, my all time favorite has to my Ansel Adams.

Me, let's see I started to take pictures long every time we went out cruising or vacations, I always liked to hold the camera since my childhood. I shoot at Seaworld, Blue Angels aviation shows, Universal studios, Mountains and beach ocations as I recall. Also had a couple of disposable cameras on my youth and got my first own camera at the age of 16 (bought it myself). A cyber-shot DSC-50 or something like that, a 2.0 megapixel camera with fun-to-deal-with environment and custom effects. I had my way with slow-sync, low light, and long exposure all that I could with that little joy. Bought a couple of DSR-Like cameras for minolta in further years but never got into studiying the subject intil I reach 20. Experienced with some manuel 35mm SLRs and finally bought a Minolta 5000i Auto focus camera. Shoot lots of rolls on vacations and on the streets. In September last year I couldn't continue studying (I study for two semesters, also two days a week into "Painting" as well) cuz I got "Leukemia" and been on treatment ever since. I somehow saved some money and sold my Konica-Minolta Digame z5 prosumer camera and got myself an a100 and been droooooown into photography again way more than I ever expected. I find myself most of the time reading, browsing, blogging thou the web on all different kinds of photography subjects and try to shoot as much as I can, just waiting to get better in the following months (chemotherapy is finally going to end). I've been all this year on different exposition and art shows although I couldn't assit to half of them but I do my best to get to the local community somehow. This week I shoot my first wedding for a friend and I'm starting charging for photoshoots and events. Things looks all good and shiny on the horizon.

I believe that I reached your blog by flickr and the "sony alpha group".

Congratulations Fernando, the book will be on its way to you on Monday. Its been very difficult choosing a winner but all of the responses have been great, and I think I have been enriched by the experience. Over the next week, time permitting, I hope to share some of the good stuff that has come my way through the contest. Thanks everyone who entered.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Competition Closed

The month has gone round fast and following a bit of pimpage on the flickr group, the entries came flooding in. Its been interesting reading your stories, discovering your favourite photographers and seeing your excellent photographs. So now I have the difficult task of choosing a winner. Unfortunately I have a terrible cold that has already burst one eardrum and is threatening the other, so I haven't the energy to write more today, but I will announce the winner in the next few days.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Case Closed

I returned to the scene of the accident to see if I could find out anything about what happened to the old man from my previous post. Travelling in the opposite direction from my original bus journey, I wasn't able to recognise where I had been. I thought that maybe I was mistaken about where the accident happened and that perhaps I was on a different road. It was only when I retraced my original route, that I actually recognised the location. It was surprising how much was different from what I remembered. The side road wasn't as narrow, the cobbles were more modern bricks. It shouldn't be surprising that reality doesn't match my memory, but I did find it a bit weird that it was so different, especially as I had been up that road quite a few times..

I went into the newsagent on the corner and asked if they had seen what had happened to the old man. They told me that he was allright. He had come round and got carted off to hospital for a checkup. Here's hoping he makes a full recovery. Though I think next time I will take the shot and then moralise about it afterwards.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Am I going too far?

Today I went a bit further afield on my lunchtime walk and had to catch the bus back to the office from Farringdon. But thats not what the topic is about. While I was sitting on the top deck, watching the street, I saw an old man running up the road. He was wearing a cowboy hat and a dark jacket with a purple flower in the lapel. Just as he was crossing a cobbled side street, he just keeled over and fell flat to the ground. He lifted his head briefly and then lay back down and didn't move again. He lay there completely lifeless and after a moment, people noticed him started to point and move towards him. The bus moved on and I lost sight of him.

The whole thing lasted a few seconds, but I've had to spend much more time thinking about my responses to it. A whole seres of jumbled thoughts came into my head, but foremost of these was a strong urge to pull out my camera and take pictures of the scene. My brain was putting together a composition in my head, I was pre-visulaising how I wanted the image to look. The man lying on the cobbles, with his wethered hands in front of him, the elevation of the bus almost making it seem like you were viewing yourself in an out of body experience. Would it look better in colour or black and white?

At the same time my thoughts were telling me that someone had fallen, they might be hurt, they might be dying, they might already be dead. I had a competing urge to get off the bus and see if I can help, which I immediately discounted because there was nothing I could do to help, I don't know first aid and there were already people on the ground. Another impulse resisting the urge to take a photograph was that it was morbid, that you couldn't reduce someone's life to an attractive composition or a cool black and white photo. Is it right to try and create something beautiful out of something tragic? On the other hand would the image be useful to the police? Unlikely.

It all sounds a bit callous, but in a way its something I've been training myself to do every since I witnessed a brawl that led to a murder. Since it happened I have tried to make sure that I always have a camera with me, so that I can be a better witness if I was ever put in the same situation again. The other side of the coin is that I have been training myself to see the composition and the light, which I why I started to think that way too. Being a good witness in this case wouldn't have helped anyone, or brought anyone to justice, but the instincts were still there.

I didn't take the shot. Could I have been proud of it if I had taken it? I don't know. In "On Photography" by Susan Sontag, I felt that she villifies photography, she uses some harsh language to describe it, words like theft and rape. She criticises the way that some photographers try to show beauty in terrible things, and today I felt that she was speaking to me. Having said that, there are photojournalists around the world who have to make the choice every day.

If you have had to make the same choices I'd like to hear from you. Leave me a comment or send me and email or flickr mail if you want to comment confidentially