Photojournalism

Manchester, 2017

 23rd May 2017, Manchester, UK. A strong show of unity at the vigil at Albert square. On assignment for Schweizer Illustrierte.

An emotional day on Tuesday covering the aftermath of the Manchester bombing.  As a photojournalist there are times when you are forced into action in the most demanding of circumstances. In such situations you have to really concentrate on capturing the scenes in front of you otherwise your emotions can get the better of you. Witnessing the actions of the emergency services and the unity of the people of Manchester was very humbling. 

 

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 - 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.

James Nachtwey - War Photographer.

"I have been a witness, and these pictures are

my testimony. The events I have recorded should

not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

-James Nachtwey-

James Nachtwey is possibly one of the most important war photographers of the last thirty years.  His vivid black and white imagery from countries such as Afghanistan, Kosovo, Rwanda and India are extremely provocative.  They show human suffering and conflict in a way that is not really presented by any other photographer. Shooting mainly with wide angle lenses, he gets himself into the thick of the conflict and this results in an energy and brutality that hits hard.  There is not much I can say that cannot be seen through his images so head over to his website and check them out for yourselves. 

In 2001 a documentary was released called "War Photographer" and was made by Swiss director, Christian Frei.  The film followed Nachtwey as he worked in Kosovo and India, using on board cameras filming "camera point of view" footage.  It includes interviews with Nachtwey and people who have worked with him.
Overall it is an excellent insight into war photography and one of the greatest documentary photographers ever. It is interesting to see how Nachtwey works and also how he deals with being exposed to so much horrible stuff. It is compulsory viewing for every photographer of all disciplines.  It makes you realise what some people deal with on a regular basis.
Buy the DVD from here

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pPxqWe7j1U]

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

PR for Shepherd Construction

A few weeks ago I was asked to shoot a construction site visit by students of the engineering degree at Northumbria University.So early on a chilly October morning I arrived at the Narec site in Blyth owned by Shepherd Construction. My brief was to follow the students around as they went on the site tour and capture images that were to be used in internal literature.

 

Whilst I was there I was also asked to take a few images of their latest construction project.

On these types of jobs you never fail to learn something and I came away knowing a tiny bit more about construction and the testing of wind turbines.

Bye for now.

Mimi Mollica

I came across the work of Mimi Mollica whilst flicking through some books the other day.  There were a couple of images from his Terra Nostra project.  The project is an intimate look at his homeland of Sicily, specifically the myths surrounding the Mafia.He has a variety of work and his reportage work is really interesting.  His style differs from project to project and I think this makes viewing his extra interesting.

 

One particular project I am not too sure about is his work documenting London busses through the cctv screens.  Different idea, but not sure I like it too much.  Have a look yourselves and let me know your thoughts, view the work Bus Stories.

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

Veiled Rebellion: Women in Afghanistan by Lynsey Addario

Lynsey Addario has visited Afghanistan a number of times, making her first trip in May 2000.  She went to document the lives of women under the Taliban regime.  From the early images it is easy to see that women were an almost invisible section of society.  Limited to grabbed images or confined to the home.Over the last decade Addario has visited Afghanistan at least once and year.  The images taken after the fall of the Taliban are what tell the real story of what life must have been like before hand.  The images become more expressive and the women featured in the images are often holding more important roles within them.  The images also show the role in which female NATO troops have had with encouraging this change.  This was something I was personally unaware of before visiting the exhibition.

There are some moving images in this collection, no more so than the images of self inflicted harm that show the lengths some women will go to to try and escape an oppressive marriage.

The collection is currently on display at the Side Gallery until the 13th September and is well worth a look.

See more of lynsey's work at www.lynseyaddario.com

 

Spilling over

I came across this interesting film whilst reading the blog of photographer Ed Kashi . The film follows the Arneson family as they struggle to deal with the fall out from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.There has been very little exposure given to the coastal communities that have been effected by the disaster. It shocking to see how little interest is taken in these stories and even now, two years later, the information is very minimal as to effects on local gulf coast communities.

The film itself is still unfinished, but there is a first draft copy available, it makes for some interesting viewing. The film is produced and directed by Lauren Frohne and Jessey Dearing

[vimeo 13529015 w=400 h=225]

If you would like to find out more about Spilling over then visit the films website.

First Impressions - Panasonic GX1

Well the other day I bought myself a Panasonic GX1.  This is the first time I have owned a Micro four thirds camera.  First of all, why? you probably asking this, why bother?  Well I do a lot of street photography and travel photography.  Sometimes using a big professional camera can be a bit annoying as people look at you suspiciously or notice you before you take the picture.  As much as I try to blend in its hard, with a camera the size of a Nikon D3.  This was my main reason for buying the GX1 (also lugging around a massive camera can be very tiring).I have been interested in the Micro Four thirds system for some time, with the GF1 originally making me think.  I looked into it and I didn't really think the technology was at a point for me to consider it seriously (I must add, I have since seen some really good work taken on a GF1).

The recent advancement in the technology has made me reconsider and after reading up on all the specs and after a lot of thought I decided to take the plunge.  On paper the results should be similar, if not slightly better than the D90 I was using as a back up body.

The main stats for the GX1 is a 16mp sensor, ISO up to 12,800, Full HD video and obviously much more. I'm not all that interested in specs as I like to see real world results, but if you are interested here is the spec list.

Straight out of the box it felt tiny, but reassuringly made. It has a metal chassis, which makes it feel like it will take a bit of abuse.  The hand grip feels really nice and gives it a high end feel.  I bought it with the power zoom, which I am not too sure about yet, but it does make it quite a good size for the equivalent of a 28-84mm zoom.  The main downside is the f5.6 aperture, which will limits use in low light.

Out on the street the camera handled really well, with really fast focusing.  The feature that has really revolutionised my shooting with the D3 is the auto ISO function.  Basically I can set a maximum ISO and set a shutter speed, so when I am in Aperture priority, if i set the shutter speed at 1/60th the camera will adjust the ISO to maintain that shutter speed until it reaches the pre determined max ISO. Sounds complicated but it is simple and a really good feature.  The GX1 has a similar feature , you can set a maximum ISO, say ISO1000, and the camera will change it up and down to reach an exposure, however there is no way setting a minimum shutter speed, not that I have found anyway.  I am therefore not entirely sure what the auto ISO is doing.  In my first outing I found myself shooting one minute at 1/13th at ISO 160 and then shooting at 1/500th at ISO 1000.  Need more reading up on that one.

Looking at the early results, though, i am quite impressed. Even at ISO 1600, noise isn't an issue, especially once it is processed in Lightroom 4.  The power zoom has some odd characteristics and really benefit from a run through DxO optics, before processing.

As a tool for street and photojournalism work the GX1 seems perfectly capable, yes you wouldn't shoot high end advertising campaigns on it, but then thats not the point.  Its small, lightweight, fast focusing and produces good quality files up to ISO 1600.  I will be using it a lot more over the next few weeks so I will report back on any findings.

Here are a few sample images.

If you would like to get in touch or ask questions about the GX1 or anything else please email blog@darrenobrien.co.uk or leave a comment.

Challenge yourself and improve your portfolio.

It is easy as a photographer to get stuck into a particular shooting subject, whether it be Landscapes, Macro, Wildlife, etc. Sometimes it is good to mix things up a bit and shoot something that does not fit your usual remit.  In my case I have found myself shooting a lot of fashion, obviously working with a lot of models, which I enjoy very much.  However I enjoy all kinds of people photography and really felt that I could do with a bit more variety within my recent work and also give me a bit of a challenge.After having a good think I concluded that my portfolio needed some regular "Joe Public" types, so I decided to head out and do some street portraiture.  Normally this would be done with a 70-200 to capture unguarded moments etc, but this time I went out with my 50mm and grabbed strangers as they walked past.

This really is a fantastic way to meet people and get some images with a bit of variety.  In a couple of hours I have 8 new faces to add to my collection, and I was really taking it easy.  One of my main issues with standard street stuff is that sometimes the background can be busy and distracting, so on this occasion I took the background out of the equation my finding a wall that I liked and setting myself up there.  I then looked for interesting characters as they walked past and approached them.  The thing is with this sort of thing is to keep it real, don't lie to people and tell them your shooting for a piece in National Geographic. I explained that this was a personal project and that sat well with most people.  I also carried small business cards that I ordered from Moo (mini moos) which were handed to everyone. I also took everyones name and email and promised to send them copies of the images.

For this type of shoot it is best to find a shaded area otherwise you end up with too much contrast,  we were shooting on an overcast day here, but we still had to use a diffuser to block out some sun that poked through the clouds.

It can be a real challenge especially if you lack the confidence to just approach people, but after a few yeses you quickly get into the swing, its well worth it.

Thanks for reading.

 

Heddon On-The-Wall Jubilee fun day

If you hadn't noticed there was some big celebration thing going on over the past few days, I know it was easy to miss. I had kept out of the way of most of the celebrations going on for the Queens Jubilee, not because I'm unpatriotic or dislike the queen (I think she has a magnificent collection of hats!). I was just very busy, utilising the long weekend to catch up on paper work and visiting the Newcastle Green Festival (in which they could have incorporated more for the Jubilee, i'm sure the Queen does her bit for the environment).Any way, being English I felt a bit bad for not taking in one part of the Jubilee (apart from the 20 seconds of concert on the telly), plus I was asked to make some submissions to Country Life Magazine for a big spread they are producing for the Jubilee.

After a quick scan of the "Whats on" guides, I decided to visit Heddon On-The-Wall where they were having a Jubilee Fun day.  It was a small affair and was pretty much a normal village fete with extra bunting and flags, but everyone was having fun.

We were lucky for about an hour as the rain held off.

This also gave me an opportunity to test out the Pocket Wizard Flex system in a work situation and I have to say I was really pleased with the performance, I was able to palm my flash onto a stranger to hold quickly whilst I took the pictures and controlled the flash output from my camera.

Thanks for reading, any questions please contact me at blog@darrenobrien.co.uk or leave a comment.  More of my work can be seen on my WEBSITE

The Space in between

On Friday night three of my friends opened an exhibition of thier work at the Cluny. I went along to photograph the event and to look at some very good work.The exhibiton is on until the 31st of March and I recomend popping along for a look. The Exhibition includes work from photographers Al Palmer, Dave Park and Christopher Moody.

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Thanks for reading.

www.darrenobrien.co.uk

Shouth Shields at the weekend

On Sunday we decided to have a little drive out along the Northumberland coast. Normally we head northwards, mainly due to being north of the Tyne, however this time we decided to head the other way. I didn't really have in mind to take any photos, but as a diligent photographer I put my camera in the car.In the end we stopped off by the Marsden Grotto pub. The pub itself is really interesting, built into caves in the cliff, with a really interesting looking lift structure leading down from the top. Unfortunately the drink and food selection doesn't really live up to its surroundings, but I captured a couple of nice images of the exterior.

Now I have to say I am a bit of a hypocrite, I hate HDR images with a real passion. However, I do have to admit that it is quite easy to get caught up in it as the process is quite fun even if the results are not to my tastes.

So here's on I produced from three bracketed, handheld exposures. I would have used a tripod, but I left it in the car.

Thanks for reading, any feedback or questions welcome.

www.darrenobrien.co.uk

Back to the Future

Ok maybe not as exciting as the title suggests, but I did have a pretty interesting afternoon with the Cleadon Village Drama Club. I was invited over to an event they were holding to raise money for the club and to support renovations to the theatre.The event was a fashion show of 1940's clothing, including dresses and military outfits. This was followed by performances from the Drama Club. It looked like everyone had fun and they raised a resonable amount from the day.

I was also able to try out my new Billingham and a lens which has not seen much action for a while, my 35mm.

Thanks for reading. Click here for more of my Documentary photography