Documentary Photography

Street Photography Vietnam Pt2 - Hanoi.

In April I went for a two week trip to South East Asia taking in Singapore and Vietnam.   This is an edit of  blog posts I wrote for the photograd blog during the trip.   I have come back to them and added some detail and retrospective thoughts.  

I felt at home in the city and enjoyed wandering the streets and capturing life going on around me. Hanoi is a busy and exciting place. The old quarter is a warren of narrow streets lined with shops, restaurants and cafes. So much of daily life takes place on the streets and that makes it great for street photography.

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Vietnam is the third largest exporter of coffee in the world and there are cafes everywhere. Iced coffee with condensed milk is their specialty, perfect for hot days when you've been pounding the pavements. Hanoi also has some excellent street food. Bun Cha was my favourite; it’s a tasty combo of grilled pork slices and meatballs, broth, herbs and noodles.

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I spent a little time doing touristy things, but I was really there to enjoy and capture the atmosphere of the city. The city has a great vibe, it feels hectic and relaxed at the same time. Even just crossing the street through streams of scooters feels like a challenge and you feel happy to be alive when you reach the other side.

The Train Street was interesting to see. People going about their lives right beside the tracks. The train comes through about twice a day and when it's due everyone clears off the tracks and disappears into their homes. Unfortunately the arrival of the train brings a lot of tourists which does slightly ruin the magic of the moment, but hey I was one of them.

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Hoan Kiem Lake is a great area for people watching and street photography. This is the main hub for people to get together. In the mornings people jog, do Tai Chi and dance in big groups. On Friday and Saturday evenings all the roads around the lake are closed and the place fills with thousands of people, playing games, watching street entertainers, singing ad hoc karaoke, and walking their fancy dogs.

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Apart from all the interesting sights and scenes, the main thing that made shooting in Vietnam a pleasure was how friendly and accommodating the people are. As long as I was respectful and flashed a smile most people were happy to be photographed. I would definitely have liked a bit more time to get to know Hanoi and dig a bit deeper. I was there for 3 full days but a month would be ideal to really get beneath the surface. I’d also like to spend more time in the newer parts of the city.

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Overall the trip was an excellent experience and I have some solid work to go towards my MA portfolio. Now I just have to go through the thousands of images, edit them down and relive the memories.

Street photography in Hanoi was great fun, there is so much to capture. Getting out and wandering the streets with the Ricoh GRII was the best way to drink in the atmosphere.   Many of the streets are quite narrow, particularly in the old town so the 28mm of the Ricoh was  useful, plus using a wideangle lens gives the images a bit more intimacy. 

I would recommend Vietnam, particularly Hanoi, for any photographer. The mix of dramatic landscapes and buzzing street scenes will test all aspects of your practice. 

Street Photography in Vietnam pt1

In April I went for a two week trip to South East Asia taking in Singapore and Vietnam.   This is an edit of  blog posts I wrote for the photograd blog during the trip.   I have come back to them and added some detail and retrospective thoughts.  

The Road from Lao Cai to Sapa winds its way steeply through the mountains. The hairpin corners are tight and the traffic is chaotic.  Huge trucks trek up the mountains delivering supplies to the villages and resources for the construction boom currently overtaking Sapa. On more than one occasion our driver attempted to overtake a lorry that was overtaking another lorry, whilst dodging vehicles and/or buffalo coming the other way.

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After 5 hours in the minibus we arrived in Sapa.  On first impressions the town itself appears a strange mix of Vietnamese town and a European alpine resort. There is even an old alpine-style church in the main square. We didn't hang about as we grabbed a taxi to take us 10km to the village of Ta Van.

Roads, distances and timings are a loose concept in this part of Vietnam, especially when you are using google maps to find your home stay. Some of the roads marked on the map are little more than paths wide enough for a motorbike (definitely the best way to get around). As such our taxi driver kindly drove around in circles trying to find our accommodation before realising that the road shown on the map was a footpath. After a couple of phone calls to our host we were dropped off and they came to meet us and showed us the rest of the way.

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If traveling in this area I would recommend staying at least one night in a home stay in one of the villages. There are quite a few in Ta Van village. The principle is that you stay with a local family in their home, although some of them operate more like b&bs. They are a good additional source of income alongside growing rice, rearing livestock and making handicrafts. Our home stay, Lazy Crazy Homestay, run by John and his friends, was a quirky place, with great views over Ta Van, rice fields and bamboo forests. It was a great place to begin exploring the local villages and countryside.

In Ta Van there are plenty of local guides that will take you on a hike, and most homestays and hotels will organise them too. We decided to walk without a guide to the next village and explore the small paths that led through the rice fields and village outskirts. The H’Mong tribes that live in this area are really friendly and as long as you are respectful, no area is off limits. Some of the tracks we followed led directly to people's homes but nobody bothered that we were there and there would always be a friendly face to point us in the right direction.

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Whilst in Ta Van I worked on a project exploring the Vietnamese legend “Why Ducks Sleep Standing on One Leg”.  The legend goes that in the beginning there were four ducks who only had one leg. They were jealous of the other animals with two legs so reasoned with the creator to give them a precious extra leg. To prevent their new legs from being stolen they hid them from view at night and all the other ducks followed this believing it to be the way it should be. The legend speaks of the Vietnamese attitudes to the land and agriculture, which I am hoping the project will also reflect.

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After Ta Van we spent a couple of days in and around Sapa town. The town is often covered in cloud and mist which makes for some interesting images. At night the fog, the building work and the neon lit signage lends the town an eerie feel.

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Again I shot almost exclusively with the Ricoh GRII. The small form factor meant that I could carry it all day whilst trekking.  The camera also held up well even with the moist atmosphere.  I wanted to keep consistancy with my images so shooting with the Ricoh allowed me to do this with its fixed 28mm lens. 

Didsbury mosque, Manchester, 2017

last Friday I was lucky enough to photograph at Didsbury Mosque on assignment for the Financial Times. We were given access to shoot during prayer time which is a very rare experience for non muslims. After everything that happened last week in Manchester there was a strong sense of community, with everybody standing together in such hard times. 

 

Gear Note: 

I shot all of these on my Fuji Xpro2 and Fuji X-T1. These cameras are great in these situations, they are quiet and unobtrusive. Plus on such a warm day the Fuji X System is much lighter than the Nikon kit. 

Photo Essay: Ski 101

At the beginning of April I went to Austria for a weeks snowboarding, unfortunately a problem with my knees meant I spent more time photographing than boarding.

It was my first time at a ski resort and I was amazed by the levels man has gone to enabling us to go down the snow on sticks and boards. The infrastructure was quite something. Taking a cable car to a remote mountain plateaux only to find a plush restaurant at the top. I decided to explore this a bit and spent the week exploring, on foot, the slopes above and around Mayrhofen. 

As I had planned on doing snowboarding for most of the trip I had only brought my new Ricoh GRII which I had picked up at the photography show in Birmingham. The camera is small and compact with a fixed 28mm equivalent lens. I might do a review further down the line once I have used it a bit more, but this first experience was very positive. The camera has great image quality, but is very pocketable and unassuming, drawing less attention than a DSLR. 

Ski 101

Thanks for reading.

Random Roll #1: Tri-x 35mm

Welcome to what I hope may become a new blog series. I have a large number of used rolls of film lying around and I thought it might be interesting to get them developed and share what is on them.  Now I have to say, the pictures are more than likely a bit rubbish as most of these were shot quite some time ago, mostly when I was just starting out. I still shoot film occasionally, so some newer stuff will creep in, but hopefully we should see the difference. 

Originally I was going to show every frame on the film, just for reference, but as some of this film is really old some of the frames are just a bit pointless to show. I have also discounted anything that is just technically rubbish or a wasted frame (finishing the roll type of shot). I don't know how many of these I will do or how often (film dev is expensive!), but I will do my best to make it semi regular. 

The Film

The first film is a roll of 35mm Kodak Tri-x. This was a popular film amongst photojournalists back in the day, due to its versatility and robustness. It can be pushed quite a bit and still produce interesting results. The grain gives the film a great texture, which is lacking in a lot of digital files. VSCO presets do an "ok" job at replicating it for digital files, but nothing quite beats the real thing. Tri-x was popular with Sebastiao Salgado, which is why I began using it when I started in photography. 

I couldn't remember using this film, but as it was with some film I have shot over the last couple of years I assumed it was probably used it around the same time.  The film was processed and scanned at PEAK imaging. It was my first time using them and the processing was fast and looks pretty solid from the negatives. The scanning was a bit pricy.  I went for the basic process and scan which was £7.96, this is ok, but the scans are only around 3mb files (6mb when open in Photoshop) which seems a little low res, and only really useful for web use and 6x4 prints. 

On receiving the film back I was amazed to find that was actually a roll of film I shot on a trip to South Africa in 2008! I thought it had been lost years ago, so it was a nice surprise.  Around this time I had begun to get into photography in a big way and was probably my first long haul trip where I had photography in the forefront of my mind, although I was still very much the amateur at this point.  The trip was tagged onto the end of a University field trip to a game reserve in the north of South Africa. Three of us then flew down to Cape Town to carry on the adventure.  

I took my digital kit with me, but I also took a Minolta film SLR with me (exact model escapes me). My dad had picked it up from a charity shop, so we weren't too sure if it worked. This is the only roll of film I shot on that camera. 

The Images

So onto the images. They were all shot in and around Cape Town, South Africa. Most of the images were shot in the Township of Khayelitsha, with a few general shots of Cape Town docks and Robben Island.  Its interesting to see where I have developed over the interim period, but there are a couple of images that I would probably be happy with if shot today.   

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Young Girl, Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Khayelitsha, South Africa, 2008

 Cape Town, South Africa 2008

 Cape Town, South Africa, 2008

 Travelling companion, Rick, taking time out, Cape Town, South Africa, 2008

 Travelling Companions, Rick and Judith, Cape Town, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

 Robben Island, South Africa, 2008

Thanks for reading, any feedback or comments drop me an email or leave a comment below. 

Macedonia with the Fuji X System (Picture Heavy Post)

I've been meaning to write this blog post since I came back from Macedonia last year, but life got in the way.  The other reason for the delay was that I worked on a documentary project whilst I was there and I wanted to complete that body of work before posting any of the Macedonian images. The project I worked on will hopefully be ready for viewing in a month or so, but in the meantime I thought I'd present a selection of images that don't fit in with the project but that I liked. I have included them in this post along with some information on travelling and photography in Macedonia with the Fuji X cameras.

I don't like writing too much about gear, but the experience of travelling with the Fuji X system is great. I remember when using Nikon that my travel kit used to weigh around 10kg. It was cumbersome and wasn't exactly subtle. Now my travel kit fits in a small bag and weighs around 2kg at most.  At the time of this trip my kit was the Fuji X-T1, Fuji X-E2, Fuji X-100s, Fuji 18-55mm, Fuji 55-200mm and Fuji 35mm f2. I ended up using the X-T1 and 18-55 combo for most of the trip.  The 18-55mm kit lens is super sharp and well worth keeping in your bag.  It's sharp enough to be a main workhorse lens, with only the construction letting it down a little. 

Sian and I didn't know much about Macedonia before travelling. We chose it as a destination because the flights were cheap and it was somewhere we hadn't been before. The country is in the Balkan region and borders Greece, Albania and Slovakia. Macedonia was part of Yugoslavia and still has plenty of communist influences, however as it makes a push for full membership of the EU it is increasingly looking to Greece for inspiration. There is some dispute with its neighbour, as Greece does not recognise the name "Macedonia". The name comes from an Ancient Greek region that geographically may not have been where current Macedonia sits. History is also disputed as Macedonia have claimed Alexander the Great as one of their heroes. He came from the ancient region of Macedonia. The formal name for the country is The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, I will be referring to it as Macedonia for simplicity. The clashes of influences makes for an interesting mix of architecture and culture, especially in the capital, Skopje. 

The public transport in Macedonia is ok but limited as it basically centres around Skopje and the lake resort of Ohrid. There were parts of the country that we were hoping to visit that were a bit difficult on public transport so we decided to hire a car. Driving in Macedonia is really easy and the roads are wide. Some of the mountain roads were a little tight, but most of the time you could fit two cars through. Although you do miss things whilst concentrating on driving, it was really nice to be able to pull off the road and stop any place we saw something interesting. 

 Sian waiting patiently in the car whilst I photograph satellite dishes.

Lake Ohrid

Despite the name, The lake and town of Ohrid is a really beautiful and relaxing place to be. Most flights from the UK fly into Ohrid as it is the main holiday destination in the region. The lake itself is one of the world's deepest and oldest lakes and when looking out it feels more like an ocean. Its a lovely place to relax and take in some of the culture of the region. Apparently in the summer it can get incredibly busy, but in early May it was pleasant and not too hot. The town itself is not huge and has its fair share of usual tourist shops and cafes, but with a bit of exploration you can uncover some lovely areas. For street photography it will probably keep you busy for a day or so. There are plenty of trips around the lake and you can even take a ferry into Albania. We didn't do that on this trip but I am hoping to go back. 

SKOPJE

After three days enjoying the Lake we collected our car and drove to the capital, Skopje. We took the scenic route through one of the mountain ranges and stopped at a few places along the way. I was a bit concerned about driving through the mountains but it was very easy. We stopped at the St. John the Forerunner Bigorski Monastery in the Mavrovo National Park.  It was a beautiful setting although the light was a bit rubbish for pictures. It was quiet and tranquil, again I was thankful for my Fuji gear that allowed me to photograph quietly in this situation. 

St. John the Forerunner Bigorski Monastery

On arriving in Skopje we promptly got lost. The road of our Airbnb had a similar name to a road 2 miles away and we spent ages on the wrong road trying to find the flat. In the end we stopped and asked directions from some people looking at us curiously. Luckily for us they spoke good English and helped us contact the guy at the Airbnb to find out where the flat was located. They offered to drive us to the location, so we set off in convoy and when we arrived they helped us with introductions. We were touched by their kindness.

Throughout this trip it became apparent that the Macedonian people are very welcoming and friendly. Most will stop and help you if needed.  At one point, in the latter stages of the trip, our car became stuck in a low ditch. Luckily the first person to drive past stopped to help. He spoke excellent English and we tried to move the car with no luck. In the end it took 8 of us, a tractor and a lorry to move the car (surprisingly there was no long term damage). All in all about twenty people stopped to help and offer support. My only regret was that I didn't capture the moment on camera. 

The entire city of Skopje appears to be in the process of being renovated. Many of the soviet style buildings, especially in the centre, are in the process of being replaced with more ornate ones that are Greek in style. Lots of faux marble pillars and multiple statues, all recently erected. It makes for an interesting back drop.

Just before we arrived in Skopje, there had been protests over Government spending. The protestors had thrown paint at the newly installed monuments to protest the expense. The action was effective at bringing attention to the protestor's concerns and the paint-splattered statues added another dimension to the city, even for people unfamiliar with the city's politics. No protests took place whilst we were there, although we did notice the police presence at times. 

Skopje is surrounded by mountains. Mt. Vodno overlooks the city and has a large cross on the top which lights up at night. You can take a cable car up to the top of the mountain for a closer look at the cross and great views over the city and the surrounding landscape. It is quite an interesting structure and we spent a couple of hours wandering the top of the mountain. Strangely there were also few bedraggled cows up there. 

After Skopje we made our way back to Ohrid via the winery at Popova Kula (well worth the cost, we stayed the night here) and a stay at Villa Dihovo near Bitola. I would recommend Villa Dihovo as base to explore Bitola and the surrounding mountains. Its a nice little lodge which operates a pay what you feel policy. The only thing that has set prices is the wine (made at their own winery). All the food is homegrown and organic. It was quite the experience and worth an excursion. You get welcomed in by the owners and really made to feel at home. 

When we first arrived there, they were having a family day and a group of musicians were during the rounds from house to house in  the village, which of course I had to capture. 

My experience of photographing in Macedonia was a pleasant one. I have heard that in some rural parts people are suspicious of photography as some believe it steals the soul. I did not experience any issues. Shooting with the Fuji system helped as it is pretty unassuming and not as threatening as a full DSLR kit.  I also think I capture more intimate moments with the Fuji because I always have it with me, where as with a DSLR I may have been tempted to leave it at the hotel on some occasions.

I would recommend Macedonia to anyone, it is a beautiful country with a diverse landscape and enough interesting places to visit. The people can be a bit cold to begin with, but are helpful and welcoming ones the ice has been broken. English is not widely spoken outside of Skopje and Ohrid but that is to be expected and it is easy enough to get by. For me the best thing about Macedonia was that there were not huge amounts of tourists. We quite often found ourselves the only people in a museum or on a mountainside on a nice sunny day. It felt like an easily accessible adventure. 

Please get in touch to ask any questions or share your stories in the comments. 

More images

Finally an obligatory selfie in a wing mirror.

Discovering the Lake District

For some reason I have never really appreciated the Lake District. Whenever it came up in conversation I could never quite grasp the allure. Maybe this was because I remember wet and cold holidays from my childhood, probably resenting the fact that I had been dragged away from my mega drive.  I also became preoccupied with wanderlust, always looking for adventure on foreign shores, dismissing what England had to offer. 

Over the last couple of years I have begun to really appreciate everything around me, making a conscious effort to be present and enjoy the moment. To say the least my attitude towards the Lake District has changed with my last few visits. 

With this new found enthusiasm we headed for a couple of days of family time in the Lake District.  In the past I might have taken my camera and not use it, but I have recently set myself a challenge to try and tell a small story whenever we have a day out or mini break. It helps to keep things interesting photographically and also gives me an opportunity to try things a bit different away from a work environment.

On this particular trip I decided to have a play around with using a square format. I've seen some very good work using square format and wanted to see how the approach to composition may differ. Any way here are the results. It was a fun couple of days and I have to say I am hooked on both the Lake District and square format photography.  

Thanks for reading.  

Stuck in a Rut, Shoot Film!

I went through a point earlier in the year where my photography was becoming a bit of drag.  I was working, but I wasn't really feeling it and was finding myself less and less excited by the prospect of picking up my camera for personal stuff.  With a trip to Poland coming up I faced a dilemma.  Normally travelling with my camera is one of my passions and it concerned me that I had little interest, and even considered not taking a camera at all.  I admit that it was certainly a low point in my photographic life.I had a few ideas in my head, but was not sure about them.  So I sat down and thought about what was putting me off and influencing my decision.  I came to conclusion that one of my major issues was "chimping" (reviewing images on the back of the screen).  Now I will point out that I am in now ways an excessive chimper, but I realised that recently, every time I was shooting personal projects I would review the images, not like them and get a bit deflated.  I decided to remove that obstacle.

I started looking into using film. I had a couple of different projects in mind and managed to borrow a Medium format camera and a Leica M4.  I stocked up on some film and off I went.

The resulting trip was excellent and I have not had so much fun with my photography in a good few years.  It was all so stripped back to basics. Neither camera had a meter, so I was using a hand held meter which definitely slowed me down and made me think about exposure.  The cost of film prevented me from just rattling off shots, so I stopped to think about composition.  Even my street photography was more thought out as I didn't want to waste a single frame if I could help it.  I loved it.

To be honest I was not too concerned about the results.  I had such a good time and it served to reignite my passion. Luckily though I brought back some good stuff.  Some of which can be seen in my upcoming book "Anywhere But Home" 

The following set of image were shot on the Leica, I had never used a range finder before, but I had great fun.  It is important sometimes to just do something out of the ordinary, it helps to keep things fresh and stop you from stagnating.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

 

 

Thanks for reading. Get in touch with questions or if you have had similar experiences that you would like to share.

Portraits of boats

This weeks posts have a very heavy Maritime theme and I am going to continue that today (must be the sunny weather).  I am fascinated by the sea and the surrounding coastal landscape, especially inspired by interactions between humans and the deep, churning, waters.One manifestation of this fascination is boats.  When ever I am at the coast I come away with a good number of images containing boats.  It doesn't matter what size or shape, I photograph them.  A lot of them are quite similar I have to say, but they do make for some nice images.  They are also useful devices to add foreground interest to a scene.

 

This one was interesting as it was beached amongst the reeds. The sun just appeared from behind the clouds, boosting the contrast within the scene.

 

Until next time.

Raising Anchor!

Whilst walking along the beach the other weekend I bumped into this chap raising a land anchor. The land anchor is used to ensure that boats do not float away during the winter months, when strong surges in the estuary may move boats with a traditional anchor.He was very accommodating and allowed me to make a few images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newcastle Street Spice

After photography, food is probably my biggest passion.  It is a major part of my travels and I really appreciate local cuisines (leading to more than one stomach upset).  Last weekend Newcastle hosted the Street Spice festival.  It was a wonderful celebration of street food from around the globe.  There were plenty of tasty treats available and I definitely ate my share.I was there to photograph the event for my own personal enjoyment, as I am inspired by the art of cooking and food in general.  It was a great day.  To find out more about the event and the organisers visit the street spice website

 

Chinese New year celebrations, Newcastle

My main purpose attending the Chinese New year celebrations (apart from having a good time and eating) was to document the day.  There was plenty going on.  There was the Dragon dance celebration, quite the spectacle, and various other exciting things like markets, fun fair and a performance stage.It was a good day out and everyone seemed to be having a great time despite the cold weather.

Thanks for reading. Until next time.

Chinese New Year - Lion Dance

KUNG HEY FAT CHOI!Today I photographed the Chinese New year celebrations in Newcastle.  I didn't have a strict brief as to what I was photographing, just documenting the day. On occasions like this I always try to set myself mini tasks and projects that allow me to focus my efforts.

This is one such mini project.  I knew I wanted to do something around the Lion, which is one of the focal points of the celebration.  The Lion visits establishments and is presented with a lettuce, which is then torn apart and scattered.  This is brings good luck and fortune to the establishment.

 

Thanks for reading. Tomorrow I will post more images from the New Year Celebrations.

Photography Exhibition at the Cluny, Newcastle

Just a heads up, I am exhibiting 6 prints from my "In the shadows" Project at the Cluny in the Ouseburn. My prints feature alongside fellow photographers Chris Moody and Dave Park.  We had our opening night on Friday, which was exciting.  The exhibition runs until the 17th February.

My project is an abstract look at forgotten, everyday items that help us in our working lives. Objects that that are often paid no attention, but are integral to work and life in general.  It is a slightly different direction for me, so I would be interested in any feed back on the exhibition. Till next time.

PR Photography in Newcastle: Red Tractor Thank You Tour

In November British Red Tractor Pork Farmers ran a country wide tour to say thank you for the publics continuing support of the british farming industry. On this tour they were handing out free Bacon and Sausage sandwiches to the general public. As their mascot they had found a large red tractor.On the Newcastle and Sunderland leg of their journey I was asked to provide photographs for the event which did involve manoeuvring the aforementioned tractor into places near landmarks for both cities.  My main brief was to photograph the tractor with major landmarks in the background, whilst providing general promotion stills of the day.

All in all it was a fun, if slightly wet and cold, day.  Plus there was plenty of bacon and sausage sandwiches around!

Thanks for reading! For more information and to show your support head over to the Red Tractor site at Lovepork.co.uk

Announcing the Photo Hub, Newcastle

A few months back, friend Chris Moody and I, decided to try and put together something that would serve the North East photographic community in various ways.

We were initially lured to the idea of a retail operation combined with a cafe and studio.  So we started running some ideas and more importantly, numbers, and came to the conclusion that this was not feasible or applicable in the current retail market and economic climate.  We threw hundreds of ideas around, but the main idea that stuck was that we wanted it to be a community based project, reacting and adapting to the needs of the local photographic community.

After many discussions and a lot of planning, the Photo Hub was born.  The idea of the Photo Hub was to be constantly moving and incorporating fresh ideas and trends at the drop of a hat.  The Hub was based on online social networking communities.  There are hundreds of photographers who communicate and chat on the various networking sites and the role of the Photo Hub is to bring them together physically.

The aim is to offer support, help, tuition and networking, in a friendly, professional and encouraging environment.  We aim to accommodate photographers who's experience level ranges from beginners all the way through to Professionals and bring them together to chat, have a drink and discuss the various aspects of photography.  Most of all we want the Photo Hub community to dictate and participate in the Hub's future direction.

It all kicked off last Sunday (4th Nov) with our very first event day.  Held at the Star and Shadow cinema in Newcastle, we held an afternoon of talks and activities.  We were also joined by various suppliers who exhibited their goods and demonstrated the latest in photographic gear.  Big thanks to the guys from Lencarta, Direct Digital Imaging (bringing their Phase One cameras with them)  and Intro 2020 for joining us.  Also thanks to Chris Ireland at completecaptureone.com for supplying our raffle prizes.

Thanks to our guest speakers for some very informative workshops and seminars and for a showcase of some truly inspiring images. Shout out to Phil PuntonJohn PictonMontana Lowery and Mark Pinder.It was an excellent afternoon and the feedback we got from the audience was great.

As part of the Photo Hub we will be holding monthly meets (first one TBC) and every six months we will be holding bigger event like the one at the Star and Shadow.

It's all very exciting for everyone involved. If you would like more information on the Photo Hub, then please visit our facebook page.

Lastly, and most importantly, a big thank you to everyone that came and made the afternoon really enjoyable and worth while event.

 

Its not the size that matter, its what you do with it.

I can now announce that I am a fully fledged professional micro 4/3 user.  Thats right I have ditched my Full-frame Nikon system for a camera that is probably less than a quarter of the weight.  How did I get to this point, you ask? Let me explain.A couple of months ago I bought a Panasonic GX1. I bought it for use in my street and documentary photography, due to its size and focusing speed, it really lent itself to this type of photography.  I didn't buy it to use in a professional capacity, but as a tool take nice photos when I was out and about with the view to sell prints and just add to my street portfolio.  However I have since been blown away by its image quality and lowlight performance.

As you can see on the above image the quality at ISO 1600 is still excellent and noise and details in the shadows are handled very well indeed.

I was impressed and certainly thought that the micro 4/3 system had come on to a point where you could easily use this on a job and produce images with enough quality to satisfy most clients.  I was still sure my Nikon system was safe at this point, I had no intentions of doing away with it, even though I was actually using it less and less.

Then came my encounter with the Olympus OMD-EM5. This is Olympus' flag ship Micro 4/3 camera, and is the pinnacle of the entire system to date.  I was amazed at the size and build quality of the EM5.  It has a metal chassis and is weather sealed.  I took some images with the camera and was surprised at the level of detail in the files.  I was also quite amazed at how different the files were from the GX1 which uses the same 16mp sensor.

With the GX1 files I could quite easily see those taken with the panasonic and those taken with my Nikon, but the Olympus is completely different.  Even zooming 100% into the RAW file I could not instantly tell and this was a big moment for me.  I realised at this point, that i could quite happily swap my Nikon system for an Olympus one and not notice any real drop in quality.  People will point out that Nikon D3 will produce slightly better files at say ISO4000, but in all honestly those are negligible differences, especially when viewing on a screen or in a magazine. I very rarely pushed the ISO higher than 2000 on most occasions, so its not really an issue.

I am not saying that the Olympus has the Nikon beaten. In all honestly I would say that my Nikon system was better in terms of build quality and noise performance over ISO4000.  Tracking auto focus and frame rate too, is in the Nikons favour.  To complain about that is missing the point though.

When it comes to cameras I think some people are so concerned about what a camera can't do as apposed to what it can do. There are list of things that the Olympus struggles with compared to the Nikon, at the same time there are just situations when the D3 would have been overkill or just a plain hindrance. At the end of the day the camera is just a tool. A tool a photographer uses to express themselves and create images.  The Olympus does this as well as the D3 and it doesn't break my back.

I now have two of the things and even with my bag full of my whole kit, it still weighs less than the D3 and one lens.  This is a massive bonus for me as I spend most of my time walking around the streets or travelling with my camera.

Its still early doors in my journey with Micro 4/3 but so far I feel liberated.  When I had my Nikon gear I was constantly obsessed with the latest gizmo and the new zoom lens. Now I have all I need in one bag, I can be a photographer again.  My kit has limitations, but thats just part of the fun.  At the end of the day the images speak for themselves.

 

 

 

 

My Olympus kit consists of 2 OMD bodies, Olympus 12mm f2 Zuiko, Panasonic 25mm f1.4 Leica summilux and Olympus 45mm f1.8 Zuiko.  I will also be adding an Olympus 75mm f1.8 when it is finally available.

If you would like to ask about the Olympus system or about anything else please contact me through the contact page or at darren@darrenobrien.co.uk