The graffiti text behind Shames reads "Stranger". Having seen that, I had to shoot someone in front of, especially with shade in front and the late afternoon sun throwing a tight pool of warm light onto the text behind.
Shams and his girlfriend Viki were checking it out too, and a nearby BT exchange box offered a place for them to rest their coffees. They were fantastic people to get involved.
Viki was over from Hungary visiting Shams, from Paris, as they juggle a long distance relationship sparked when studying together before their personal geography became as complicated as today.
She handled the giant gold reflector, and Shams took centre stage - my fault being to have brought him a little too far near the wall in my excitement to shoot.
He was a fantastic model. When you say "a masculine look, like you're in Vogue" to the average British male, you generally get one of two things; the most hunched uncomfortable grimace you can imagine, or a punch in the face. Shams understood exactly what was meant, and totally owned the shot.
We fired off ten frames from differing angles to help with reflections in his superbly classy spectacles, and I could have posted any of them - he looks this poised in all of them.
As we finished up, I gave them a card and am delighted they reached out for a copy of the shot. Thank you for stopping and following up Viki and Shams.
I hope you remembered to pick up your coffees!
This is portrait #36 of my 100 Strangers Project - check out the group page and get involved.
Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Tuesday, 4 March 2014
The mistake I made with Jitka was taking more than one shot. It set up me up with all kinds of dilemmas about which frame to use of ten. There's an alternative shot just left of this one (hit left arrow), and in many ways I think that's superior - yet, less consistent in my project as a whole. I'd be really interested in people's thoughts on the two options here.
Having shot in Camden for a couple of hours, I whizzed over to Brick Lane to mix things up. Camden Market ought to be a fantastic location for street portraits, but I find it hard to spot either usable backgrounds or really interesting people. I'd had a lot of luck with two super strangers (Belle and Toby) and thought I'd quit whilst I was ahead.
Brick Lane on a Saturday turned out to be a revelation. There were maybe only 5-10% of the people at Camden, but five times the number I wanted to shoot. The street art always offers fantastic backgrounds, and changes so frequently there's always something new to use.
In fact, I shot Layla #10/100 in this exact spot - and the background has changed five or six times in the interim.
Attracted to this metal swing gate's latest zebra/sonar incarnation, I settled down to find a stranger - ideally one with stripes. I only saw Jitka's scarf, and thought it would work well on that front. When I walked up to introduce my project, she spun around and turned out to be somekind of brunette Claudia Shiffer. A crowd of 8-12 of Jitka's friends gathered to listen to the pitch. The good news was that two of them could help with the gold reflector. The bad news was that all of them were going to stand three feet out of shot and commentate!
It was kind of fun, in fact, and I'm amazed Jitka rolled with it as effortlessly as she did. It would have completely freaked me out if I was on the other side of the lens.
The group dynamic was such that we chatted across and around, so I only got a sketch. Jitka's over from Prague with friends, checking out Brick Lane's street art on an informal tour of sorts. She's shot/modelled before, and the group shot lots of their own photos. When we finished up I turned and my 1.2m reflector was neatly folded up - my volunteer assistant, it turned out, was a photographer himself.
I left with as many questions as answers, but a lot of healthy energetic chat. It's perhaps to be expected, but I find the range of encounters on this project interesting. The successful ones always have conversation and energy and interaction; but it can take many forms. Some are deep, introspective examinations, with considered language and thoughts shared. I've chatted with some people for as long as an hour. Others, like this one, are really pretty superficial in terms of what is discussed, and they're brief, but there's a shared enthusiasm, a working together to suddenly common purpose, an impromptu trust and empathy that is pretty inspiring to be part of for a moment.
Thank you Jitka for agreeing to be part of the project. I'm in awe of your poise in front of a crowd. Please pass on my thanks to the two guys that helped with the reflector! And have a fantastic end to your London trip.
This is portrait #35 of my 100 Strangers Project - check out the group page and get involved.
Sunday, 2 March 2014
Having met Toby and Lilly I headed back to the Chalk Farm Road end of Hawley Crescent and waited for another stranger that might fit another section of the coloured frontage on the new buildings where I'd shot Toby's portrait.
So much of my 100 Strangers Project turns out to be waiting around! My process is always to find a background, and then to seek a stranger that could set it off. Maybe 500 people went past, with a couple of rejections, before I met Belle.
As we walked up the street to the last section of shade on the south facing facade, we chatted. She's from Thailand, studying textiles here in London at the moment. This makes perfect sense - she is an exceptionally stylish individual.
Belle held a large white reflector beneath her, and we snapped away at a section where the building curves and the colour piles up even quicker in the background. I avoided the gold option, fearing the warmer light might blend her in too much with the backdrop.
Before we could chat too much more, her phone went and she had to head off to lunch, back to the pub outside which I'd stopped her. Her friends must have been inside and seen her led off down the side street.
Belle - thanks again for taking a moment to stop. Best of luck with your textiles degree, and I hope you like your portrait.
This is portrait #34 of my 100 Strangers Project - check out the group page and get involved.
Toby and his daughter Lilly are local to Camden Market and out for a casual morning shop, when his neatly trimmed beard and feathered hat caught my eye. I've been to Camden before, and shot a couple of strangers, but never found a good enough background to feel they could be posted to my project.
However, they've just unveiled a huge coloured frontage along Hawley Crescent. Toby and Lilly endured a shot walk along to it, and Lilly held a large white reflector to fill in some shadow given a bright sweep of pale winter light.
Toby fell into posing very naturally - he noted he's in a band (vocals and guitar) and so this kind of thing was kind of business as usual. I wished I'd asked the name of the band to link to it... but events and conversation just went in another direction.
Toby and Lilly - many thanks for tolerating the interruption to your morning. Please do drop me an email for a copy and if you'd like me to link to the band page! Otherwise, have a great weekend in any event.
This is portrait #33 of my 100 Strangers Project - check out the group page and get involved.
Friday, 28 February 2014
Another one from last week's shoot with Estrany for my "Soho Noir" project.
The gel on this is a little vivid perhaps. I was about to pull it back to something a little more blue/grey to match the colour of the metal paneling (camera left - glowing turquoise in this one!). It had a lovely smokey quality to it, which I'd like to have captured. Unfortunately, that wasn't to be...
We fired off three or four frames, of which this was one, before we were joined by an unexpected assistant - and a not entirely sober one. After he'd explained about his time in Wormwood Scrubs Prison, and his nuanced relationship with various ethnicity of women he borrowed my phone to leave a five minute, ranting voicemail with his probation worker.
Short story; we will come back and shoot this location properly another day...
Info for Strobist:
Canon 600EX-RT in 38" softbox camera right, 45* above model and to front, around 1m away. Triggered at ~1/64 power by RT from non-firing Canon 600EX-RT used on camera as trigger/focus assist. YN560ii triggered as optical slave, 4m behind model just off camera right, gelled "Blue/Green" at 1/16 power.
Thursday, 27 February 2014
One Sided (Soho Noir Shoot With Estrany), London Soho, a photo by flatworldsedge on Flickr.
This is actually a test shot, taken whilst setting up lights on a shoot with Estrany for my Soho Noir series.
Whilst incomplete, the lighting is way bolder than I'd usually shoot - and I really like how the edgy light combines with Estrany's hard, almost murderous stare.
The processing is incomplete too - the full process, taking out her mole, etc. was just too porcelain to keep the edge. This version feels right to me, with the human imperfections retained, but so penetrating a stare and so intimate a frame it is amplified.
Estrany is great; she's on Purpleport, superb to work with and if you're in London you should give her a shout!
Hope everyone is having an incredible week!
Info for Strobist:
Canon 600EX-RT in 38" softbox camera left, at 1/64 power and around 1m from Estrany, slightly up. Triggered with RT from non-firing on camera Canon600EX-RT, used for focus assist only.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014
(All In Camera Tilt Shift Light Painting), Wareham, a photo by flatworldsedge on Flickr.
After around a year's agonising research, I've finally invested in the Canon TS-E 24mm. Whilst the 24mm end of my 24-105mm zoom was wide enough for me, it's just not sharp enough for what I want to shoot. Tempting as it was to go wider and get something like the Zeiss 21mm, the image circle of the TS-E is so vast (to accommodate all that shifting) that if you choose not to tilt or shift, you get a superbly sharp result. So far in the field, so good. It's a thing of beauty.
I'm also looking forward to deploying the tilt (or swing, as above) features to drop out elements of backgrounds in light paintings.
This is my first attempt at it - I wanted the girl and gate and blades of grass in the flood water, but didn't need the distraction of a forensically sharp set of houses and a petrol station behind her.
I'm sure I'll get even more mail about processing, which my light paintings attract anyway! I'd forgive anyone for mistaking this shot for lots of Photoshop, but all I've done is drop in the reflected street lamp from a still image - with me wading up to the gate, etc. there were just too many ripples and the reflection stretched out of the bottom of the frame.
Looking at it now I think it might still need some WB tweaks - it's a little orange, but the 5D MKiii doesn't get on with deep blue skies, and too much WB adjustment can cause banding.
Anyway - I hope people like it and can forgive my slow catch up time at the moment. Have a great week!