Tag Archives: photography

London’s City architecture: a triumph of vanity and capitalism

I went up to London on June 4th to photograph London’s City architecture. Two things of note about this. It was the morning after some terrorists drove a van at people on London bridge and then attacked them with knives. I went up with the Hampshire Social Snappers, a Meet Up Group.

We agreed to to meet at Monument Station and said we’d find each other because we we’d be the people with the cameras. Sadly the world’s press were there all filming down London Bridge but we eventually met up and fought our way through the associated bloggers, vloggers and mainstream press and started our walk using a map provided by the Corporation of London.

We walked across the City to iconic buildings like the Walkie-Talkie, the Gherkin and the Lloyds Building. We were lucky with the weather with blue skies and nice white clouds.

I last worked in the City nearly forty years ago and so expected the cityscape to have changed beyond recognition. And it has. It feels more like Manhattan than London but tucked between the glass and chrome of new London were the gorgeous Wren churches I remember from my time there. However the thing that struck me most was the sheer quality of the architecture.

I’ve always felt that good corporate architecture is a mix of sheer vanity and flamboyance. Most companies who build a mega-structure are basically waving their dangly bits in the face of their rivals and saying ‘mine is bigger than yours’ in a 60 story,thrusting,glass and steel sort of a way.

The architecture is also a triumph of capitalism. You cannot imagine a government funding the Gherkin or the Willis Building. It simply requires too much money and imagination and governments aren’t very good at that sort of thing.

So this was an exciting trip that started with the aftermath or terrorism, moved through world class architecture and ended with a tango demonstration in Spitalfields.

I decided to try and find unusual angles so I asked an Italian tourist if I could photograph her and her glasses with the Gherkin in the reflection.  She was a bit stunned initially but readily agreed.

Not the greatest shot but she was a good sport and I took a picture of her and her friend on their phone to say thank you.

A wonderful day out. Lunch at Wagawama and then the train home to the New Forest.

 

 

Clevedon Pier

My wife had broken her foot just before we were due to head off to Bath for a few days. So with a non-cancelable hotel room in our name I decided to shoot off to Bath and then onto Clevedon for a spot of photography.

Clevedon is a funny little Victorian seaside nothing, famous for its Grade 1 pier and from what I can see very little else. It’s an hour west of Bath and in addition to the pier it has a marine lake – basically a sea water pool.

I arrived intending to shoot the pier a sunset but with a couple of hours to spare I shot the marine lake in what started as overcast conditions and moved swiftly onto rain and then torrential hail.

Just before sunset I moved onto the pier and met a strange bloke who shoots the pier every night and claims to have over 14,000 images. It’s good but let’s be honest not that good.

Wood

I recently decided to photograph wood. And why not you ask. I think this was driven by some images I’d seen in mono which were beautifully rich and full of contrast. So I headed down to my local timber merchant and spent a hour crawling around their yard much to the bemusement of the manager.

I’d assumed I’d process these in mono but the autumn light was lovely so I stayed with colour.

 

Moving to Micro Four Thirds

camerasI’ll start for saying that this post is for photography nerds only so I won’t be offended if you switch off now. Today I sold my old and much loved Canon gear and finally embraced the world of micro four-thirds completely. I sold my old body and lenses on eBay and decided to fully commit to a new camera system. But why?

I had been using a Canon 7D for the past five years and had bought some lenses along the way including an excellent Sigma 18-55, 10-20 and the stupendous but extremely heavy Canon 100-400 L. The quality was fantastic but as I bought more gear I realised that simply going out to take pictures was becoming more of a logistical and physical commitment than a spontaneous one. I graduated from a small camera bag to a larger one and then onto a backpack so I could always have everything and I mean everything with me. The downside was that my backpack weighed 19kg (41 lbs). I remember walking around Venice earlier in the year convinced that my kidneys would be pounded to puree by the constant weight of the bag and that I was in danger that if I fell over, rather like a turtle, I would never be able to right myself.

So something had to be done or I’d start taking less photographs. So I borrowed an Olympus em5 from a friend and went out early one morning to see how it the camera felt.  Thirty seconds later I knew there was no tuning back.

So I saved up some money and bought the Olympus em1 and the 12-40 pro lens. I have to say I’m very happy with the move. The quality is all there and the weight of my camera has dropped by at least 30%. Canon plus lens 1.44kg, Olympus 0.97kg. That doesn’t sound a lot but believe me it is, especially after a day holding the camera. The other lenses are also smaller, the 75-300 Olympus lens weighs about the same as the lens cap on the Canon 100-400. Not the same quality as the Canon I’ll admit but a useful lens none the less. And I’m waiting for delivery of a Olympus 7-14 lens for those oh so important landscape shots.

A rather chocolate box image of the New Forest
A rather chocolate box image of the New Forest on the Olympus

The result is spontaneous shooting and a freedom to take a camera places I would have thought twice about before. My camera bag is now the size of a small handbag and when I pull out the camera I’m not assumed to be a member of the paparazzi but just some bloke with a camera.

I’m sure I will come across the compromises in image size and low light handling but for now at least I glad I made the switch.

Look back in four year’s time when Canon have made a full frame camera that weights the same as  plump sparrow and I’ll no doubt have switched again.

 

 

LRPS Success

The nail biting is over and the frayed nerves are getting back to normal and I’m happy to report that I got my LRPS.

For those who haven’t been keeping up with my increasingly neurotic blog posts, I’ll explain, but before I do here is my hanging plan and my panel.

Mark Lanigan LRPS Hanging Plan

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For non-photographers, the LRPS is the Licentiateship of the Royal Photographic Society. The first of three distinctions they award. It involves submitting a panel of ten images, and five judges critique it and decide whether it’s good enough.

To save you digging through all the old blog posts here is my story in the form of the ten stages I went through to get my LRPS.

1. Take some photographs, preferably thousands. Can be over a weekend or 15 years.
2. Select 50 or 60 that you think meet the criteria the RPS sets, see link
3. Print these at 6″x4 “and drive your wife mad covering the house with them
4. Select 10 that are perfect, lay them out in a hanging plan. then throw them away.
5. Select another 10 that are even better and loving print and mount them at the display size you’ve chosen . Realise your printer is total rubbish, throw away the prints , then send the files to a bureau and then mount the new ones instead.
6. Take your 10 babies to an RPS Advisory Day and be prepared to have the printing, mounting and composition ‘constructively critiqued’.
7. Return home despondent, vow to give up photography and swear that print bureaus are the spawn of Satan. Then spend £400 on a printer and some new paper.
8. Reprint everything plus another ten just in case. Mount everything.
9. Lovingly layout your prints on the dining room table and rearrange and swap them until you run out of time and/or a divorce lawyer calls every hour citing neglect.
10. Drive down to Bath convinced that yours will be the worst panel on the day.

So, in the end. I was successful but what tips can I pass on?

– Print lots of 6″x4″ images. You can’t do a panel on screen in the early stages
– Select images that work together not your ten best images.Your top ten undoubtedly won’t work together as a coherent panel.
– Discard anything with blown highlights. I mean this.
– Don’t choose your latest shots. The judges won’t know. One of mine was nine years old.
– Change your mind and then change it again. Only 2 of my original 10 made it to the final panel.
– Get fanatical about blown highlights. The judges will fail you in a heartbeat for these. Don’t think they won’t notice as they view the images from 6″ away.
– Follow the rules of panel building e.g pairs, ends, central shots etc. The Advisory Day and RPS Forum are great places to learn about this. The judges look for these. Avant garde panels do get through but they are Marmite, so why take the risk.- Attend an Advisory Day. It is worth it in spades even if like me your prints were ripped apart for poor printing.
– Post ideas on the RPS forum and you’ll get useful, constructive criticism.
– Don’t worry about sleepless nights. I woke at at 2am convinced that one shot was out of focus. It wasn’t thankfully…but I still checked.
Every print counts. Be obsessional about quality. One technical issue is a re-submission, two is a fail. And have I mentioned blown highlights?
– Prepare well in advance but check your submission. The day before my Assessment Day, I realised that one print was crooked in the mount.
– Then shut your print box and you’re off to Bath. Allow plenty of time as parking is dreadful.

So that’s it. The day was a blur but I walked away successful. They even asked to keep back my panel to show at RPS Advisory Days over the coming months which was the icing on the cake.

So now it’s time to hang up the camera for a few days and sit back and think of nothing photographic. Well I might just have a gentle read of the submission guidelines for an ARPS……

Second hand tourism and the rise of the selfie stick

SelfieOn a recent trip to Venice I noticed the staggering number of people using selfie sticks. These had become the top choice of must-buy Venice kitsch. Say no to plastic carnival masks or gondoliers’ hats and spend your hard-earned holiday money on an old car aerial with a clamp at the end.

As a keen photographer, I’m only too aware of the dangers of experiencing new places through the viewfinder and seeing the world in terms of exposure and composition rather than simply being there. But selfies mean that you don’t even look at the Grand Canal, Grand Canyon or Renaissance cathedral directly, you experience it with your back to the view you traveled all that way to see.

This led me to wonder of there was a new form of tour company that catered for people who wanted to go to a county but have second-hand experiences.

Welcome to Vicarious Tours. “We have the experience, so you don’t have to”

Vicarious Tours will be founded on the principal that getting to the place is tiring enough but having to actually listen to the concert, get up at sunrise or queue for the art gallery is actually a waste of your valuable time. So we’ll do it for you.

Here are some of the tour option.

Culture Vulture: You want to impress the folks back home that you actually saw all that art and culture rubbish, but need proof. We will lovingly Photoshop you into shots featuring the top three museums and against at least one world-class painting. In the evening we will attend a concert for you (please state preference classical/religious/ethnic) and take six minutes of shaky hand-held video on a camera phone. If you buy Culture Vulture Plus we’ll even write a Facebook post for you explaining what was played at the concert and how moving/crazy/magical/awesome it was (please state preference).

Food Lover: Let’s be frank most of the food abroad just isn’t McDonalds. In France they eat offal, in Japan poisonous fish and you don’t even want to think about rural Chinese food. So why not let Vicarious Tours have dinner for you. We’ll go to all of those restaurants the local visit and order the most weird and disgusting food imaginable and then photograph our plates. You can then tell your friends that you ate sweetbreads, Fugu and chicken embryo and have the shots to prove it. For our premium customers we’ll post on Instagram with a suitable caption. (No vegetarian option)

Bar

Vinophile Delux: As it’s a sunny day you’d rather to be sitting in a cafe having a beer but everyone says the wine here is great. So do you spend the afternoon in a cellar sipping indifferent wine? Why not let us do the tedious tasting for you. We’ll take various blurred shots of wine labels and even put two bottles of undrinkable local plonk in your suitcase to take home and bore your friends with.

Lazy Boy Special: You’re on a cruise and arrive in a port at 6am. Do you really want to get up, disembark, get on a coach with similarly jaded,fellow shipmates only to be carted off to a series of whistle stop photo opportunities at the local ruins. Of course you don’t. You can have a lie-in, gorge yourself once again on the lunchtime buffet and have a well earned afternoon nap knowing that the crack team from Vicarious Tours is doing all the hard work. We’ll take the tour for you and upload pictures to your phone (password required). Package includes  a set of ten images of you and your partner lovingly Photoshopped into the most popular sites. It’s just like being there!

So there we have it. Vicarious Tours will make even the selfie sick redundant and I can get back to looking at the world through my viewfinder.

LRPS insecurity – all my shots are rubbish

So I’m now in the third of Dante’s circles of hell – self-doubt. OK the third circle was gluttony which is pretty appropriate on Christmas morning. So we’ll take gluttony as read, as I wolf down another of my home made salted caramel. (Note from Cardiologist: Home made salted caramels are not a recommended health food. Don’t do it man, it’s very,very naughty)

Back to photography. The story so far is that I’ve selected my ten panel shots for my advisory day in February. I printed 6″x4″ test shots which was a brilliant idea if I say so myself, and then decided to print my panel.

Now doom and despair

I used WhiteWall.co.uk and chose matt prints because I thought they’d look sophisticated. Horror. They all look flat and lifeless, I hate them all. I must start again……..give up photography…..take up flower arranging. Join an order of Benedictine monks, throw my camera into the sea and slope-off, a hunch-shouldered wreck. 

Then I decided to cut some mounts by hand. Even worse, especially as I decided to put my cutting board on the bed. Two hideously tortured mounts later I slunk back into my lair to consider a life of stamp collecting.

So what are my options. Spend £650 on a decent printer and finally print the images I’ve chosen…. properly. Choose different images and then set my LRPS back a year? I decided to sit down with YouTube and learn a bit more about printing from Lightroom & Photoshop and after printing a rain forest full of alternative versions made one that I don’t hate. At last the quality is there but now the little insecurity demon on my shoulder is saying “Are you really sure it’s good enough?” You can see it here. I chose it because it would act as a natural top left hand image acting as a frame for the panel of ten. But I now hate it.

So I’ll probably replace it with this shot of Boston….or maybe something else entirely. Aaaagh,

This is the hardest thing about the process, choosing ten images that showcase your range as a photographer but not necessarily your ten best images. So I’ve come in from the window ledge and have decided to make a few (honest only a few) changes to my panel, mount five more and then have a suitcase of other prints in reserve for my Assessment Day on 15th February. 

In the meantime, have a very Happy Christmas, get out and take some shots and don’t try and print anything. A combination of champagne, red wine, turkey, Christmas pudding and Adobe RGB (1998) are not healthy.