Thursday, 23 July 2009

Tweeting Hell!

Love it or hate it, Twitter has entered our vernacular with a Twallop and it's sure to be the greatest addition to online social networking till, least the end of the next cup of tea. I must confess, I've grown rather fond of it in the eight months or so I've been glued to it but, let's be perfectly honest, when you've run out of internet links to share or cool things to retweet, it's just another platform to wallow in a little bit of self indulgent narcissism, isn't it?

And we all like a little bit of self indulgence, don't we?

Yes we do.

Humour me.

Please. Just a bit.


So I've come up with a new Twitter identity with which to revel in a spot of that aforementioned self indulgent narcissism but with one very specific aim; regaining a little creativity.

My summer shoot was amazingly good fun, I learned a lot about being a professional travel photographer (well, I WAS a professional travel photographer for two months), and I took some guidebook-worthy shots but, towards the end, however, I realised my approach was becoming formulaic and even I was a bit bored of the way I framed subjects, levelled horizons and combined elements.

One of the great things about Twitter is that you can access your Twitter stream on an iPhone and upload images directly to your profile. 'Hark!' I hear you cry, 'Why would you want to use a few-mega-pixel, grainy camera to share shots with the world when you have several thousand pounds worth of top-notch Nikon machinery?' Well, that's exactly my remit, innit. I'm readdressing the balance before I get way too hung up on coveting a bag full of primes and insist on colour managing every image on a huuuge screen in a room of D50 lighting. Oh too late.

Yep, the new challenge is to upload one shot a day taken on the iPhone. The shot won't be an editorial or descriptive account of my day but it will be something that is visually interesting in one way or another. For a photographer with, in all, a focal range of 18-300mm and apertures from f/1.4 to f/22, it's extremely limiting to be reduced to a mere point and shoot with inbuilt focussing and metering but at least it will make me think about what makes and image appealing and stimulating from the ground level rather than relying on camera trickery and photoshoppery to enhance it.

Anyway, if you want to have a look at what I've done so far; Do let me know what you think. After all, it's not up to me to decide whether my shots are interesting or not. That's your job. Or Twob.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Winchester Hat Fair

Winchester Hat Fair, originally uploaded by doodlegoeswest.

Juggling daggers at Winchester Hat Fair

Winchester Hat Fair

Winchester Hat Fair, originally uploaded by doodlegoeswest.

It's not *actually* a fair about hats (which is a shame because I need a new one) but rather, called the Hat Fair in homage to the tradition of sending round a hat to collect money in after a performance.

I arrived in Winchester mid-way through the afternoon so the town was already buzzing with activity. As soon as I saw a map of the performance areas I knew exactly the composition I wanted. As soon as I saw the sun, however, I knew it was going to be tricky.

To immediately communicate that the performance was taking place in Winchester I decided the Cathedral had to be in the shot. Having already spent several days in Winchester earlier in the trip I knew my lens didn't quite get the whole building in (it's longest nave in Europe, I believe) and I still hadn't invested in that oh-so-coveted wide angle lens I've been banging on about for months. The evening sun illuminates the cathedral from the front which, rather irritatingly, meant the afternoon sun was coming straight at me when I sat down to my perfect composition. Darn you sun, you allow and scupper my plans in equal measure!

So...I chose my spot and camped out for most of the afternoon to see what I could get away with.

I had to sit through an excruuuuciatingly dull turn by an Australian woman called Shirley who was dressed up like a bee and whose performance mostly involved trying to persuade (male) members of the audience to be her husband. She did it with none-too-impressive attempts at acrobatics while holding on tightly to the prey she'd hauled from the audience. It was half way through her act before she pointed out it was supposed to be a co-me-dy show. FAIL.

It was hot and the sun was bright but even if she'd hovered in the right place for a moment or two, there was NOTHING photogenic about her act.

I wandered over to another stage to see Punch Drunk doing The House That Jack Built. Their wordless, movement-based (with more than a nod to Steven Berkoff, if I am not mistaken), soundtracked show, more dance than theatre, was far more entrancing. But, sadly, not very photogenic; the bloody cathedral was way too far away to get in shot and there simply wasn't enough audience to create the vibe I was after.

I wandered back to the first show area and when I saw her outfit, I knew I'd have to watch this next act. I don't really need to describe it, you can see from the picture she'd gone for the burlesque look. Oh man, I want that dress! AND those heels!!! I don't want a fire-breathing, dagger-juggling husband so it's ok, no competition, lady. Oh, but I had just found my very photogenic subjects and in the right place too. Now all I needed was to master the tricky lighting conditions.

The sun had moved and created more shade for the performers but this had meant all the light was behind them and on the bright stone-work of the cathedral. Dosey Di Di's rechargable batteries were not charged so fill-in flash was not an option.

I took lots and lots of shots using different slightly different exposures. I tend to use the Aperture Priority setting for this kind of thing and meter on the moving parts of the shot but because in this case they were so dark as well as in the shadow, the light behind kept being blown out and the figures still looked too dark. I switched to matrix metering to see how that would fare and it gave me a lot more to play with back at the computer.

This shot was originally quite unbalanced with some parts over exposed and some parts under exposed. I was able to bring much more colour into the shot using the psuedo-HDR techniques of upping the 'recovery', reducing the fill light and adding about 12% clarity and vibrance. I've slightly over saturated it, too, to give it a bit of Martin Parr look which, let's be honest, is de rigeur these days when it comes to articulating The British and their antics.

The resultant image is a lot better than it would've been without post-processing but there is a little bit of fringing around the highlight areas owing to the huge shifts in 'recovery' and fill light. The light throughout the image is much more even now but I wonder if it looks a little on the fake side? I wouldn't mind if I was just editing a set of stylised shots to stand alone but for RG, as previously mentioned, I need to supply very real looking imagery.

Their act was pretty darned good too. I shall leave the pictures (more on my Flickr) to show you what they got up to. That's the point after all isn't it? ;)