Monday, 3 January 2011

Photographing Music First

365 Day 83, Music First, originally uploaded by Matt Hunt.

Music First is based on the Venuezalen youth orchestras where school children receive free instruments and tuition - and they're good. Really, really good.

As in the longest standing ovation I've seen at a classical music concert.

The London version - inspired by the El Sistema orchestras - is still in the early stages with the first intake under 10 years old. In December I went to help expand their photo library, photographing the end of term concert and rehearsal before hand.

Flash is not going to be good here, because the school hall will not allow bounced flash and it would have been too distracting. The D300 would give me a safe shutter speed, just enough aperture at ISO 1600 and the D700 was better yet - so the 70-200mm stayed on the D700 where I could match shutter speed to the longer focal lengths. The rest of it could be described as keeping my eye in the camera and smiling alot. Then showing the children their pictures.

Shooting bursts did help get me steady images out at 200mm, the first and last are probably out but the middle of the burst usually had some keepers. Just not a good thing to do in a quiet moment in the concert.

Click Here to Read More..

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Donate your old camera to a charity!

In October I arranged a photoshoot at the Salmon Youth Centre in Bermondsey. Myself and around 10 other photographers spent a day there taking photographs for over 40 individuals and families as part of a day based around the Help Portrait model.

From that I am trying to help out with their project to develop (no pun intended) some photography capability at the Centre. However, funds were scarce to start with and now that the Government is reducing its spending, the Centre has seen its budget from the Government dwindle. So buying used cameras is not going to happen.

Instead I have put an advert in my village magazine and so far we have 3 SLRs and 3 compacts plus a small flash. It would be lovely to increase this number slightly, especially to gain a few simple flash guns and a stock of 35mm print film, even if its been in your freezer for years would be fantastic.

So if you're reading this in your coffee break and have an old 35mm camera gathering dust, waiting to try its luck on ebay or a trip to te charity shop, please let me or the Salmon Centre, Old Jamaica Road, London, SE1 know about it because the Centre can offer it a new lease of life with the children and teenagers who attend. Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The honeymoon is over

(Luckily I am not talking about my relationship with my wife, just my 365 day project).

Yesterday two things happened. The first thing was that having not been able to find a window seat in the local coffee shop I failed to take the planned portrait of my wife. Kodachrome 64, Supertakumar 50mm at f1.4, natural light as she people watched.

But there no window seats available and away from the windows at ISO64...not a chance until I hit 1/8 sec.

But the 'Thing' is that no Plan B appeared, in fact nothing really crossed my mind until much later that evening I clambered out of my bath, grabbed my mobile phone and took a picture showing just how tired and grumpy I was feeling. So here I am, just under one seventh of the way through my 365 Project and the inspiration is now going to be harder to work for. This was bound to happen. There are only so many ways to walk to work, few hours of usable light until next April, only so many times you can find a visual joke and only once that you express your relief at having a hot bath at the end of the day by taking a picture of your legs whilst in the bath.

The second thing that happened was the non-arrival of a pack of slides from the US. Of the last four rolls of Kodachrome 64 that I had, two so far have been used for my project. Neither of them have yet appeared. If this was the 1940s I would have one chalked up as 'missing' and the other is 'overdue'. The third roll ( with three more days on it) is nearly finished but I am now loathe to send it in case that also disappears into the blue. My wife suggested I try to incorporate this loss into the project but at the moment I am not sure how since by default a 365 project needs 365 consecutive days worth of pictures. But unless I extend this into a 410 day photographic project I might be in trouble here.

On the plus side, I saw a portrait in the Saturday Times yesterday with a background dropped back to grey. So this afternoon we tried this. White paper roll between two stands, Lastolite softbox just to the right of the camera and slightly above my wife. SB900 triggered by CLS, Nikon D700, ISO200, manual, 1/100 at f4. Some post sharpening and high pass in Capture NX2 and Photoshop CS4.

Click Here to Read More..

Friday, 29 October 2010

365 Day 38 Sherlock Holmes

365 Day 38 Sherlock Holmes, originally uploaded by Matt Hunt.

Well I am just over 10% of the way through and so far it has proven to be quite interesting.

I've not found limiting myself to just one lens (bar a few occasions when I've carried 2) to be limiting, but on the days when I shoot film I immediately miss changing ISO. In fact, I shoot at higher ISOs than I thought I did and seem to rely quite heavily on that feature of digital photography. Suddenly I wonder how my father spent so many years soley using Kodachrome 64.

I use over a focal length of over 135mm once in a while, find 35mm the most useful and missed a great, great shot of the rising full moon last Saturday because the longest lens in the bag was an 85mm.

I look up much more than I look down

I only notice strong colours

People find a film camera much less interesting / intrusive than a DSLR.

St Pauls's cathedral looks lovely at dawn and I've started to walk to work along the South Bank just to see it.

The Millenium Bridge really does wobble. Forget 1/30 sec!

Using the camera in my phone is fun.

Once a fortnight I really have to work to be inspired and that photograph usually shows it.

Click Here to Read More..

Saturday, 18 September 2010

365: Any day, any camera

The last two days seem to have been one big hint.

Om Thursday morning I finally started messing around the camera in my new phone and found I really ought not to have been so dismissive of camera phones over the last few years. Then on Thursday evening I was looking at Chase Jarvis' blog and saw the link to his book 'The best camera is...'. On Friday a friend at work lent me a book of taken on mobile phones by celebratories and ...

...well today is a very good day to make Day One of the project to shoot every day and select one picture for each day. How fast will ideas come (or fail to materialise?), what will I gravitate to - DSLR, film or will I end up using the embedded 5mp camera in my phone? And in a year's time will I see a noticable change in style, ability, ideas? Lets go.

Picture 1/365.
Lets just say that this picture will hopefully be updated. Click Here to Read More..

Monday, 23 August 2010

Photographing garden birds, part II.

Earlier this year I set up an area of the garden so I could photograph birds without showing them at a feeder. I’ve been regularly baiting it since then, but because I had to send my Sigma 100-300mm f4 back to Simga to be recalibrated, it was only recently I was able to try things out.

Using the longer lens lets me get the camera that little bit further away from the birds. The shutter noise from the D300 or D700 is sufficient to scare away most birds at closer distances, only the starlings ignore and carry on filling their beaks. With the 300mm on the D300 I can have the camera around 12 feet away and the birds are generally content whilst I get a large image without resorting to heavy cropping.

Although I had planned to use flash, the weather was sufficiently bright, even in the shade of the tree, that I could shoot at ISO 400, around f5.6-f8 and at 1/100-1/50 second. I left the camera metering in matrix mode because the background was also in the shade, focus in single servo and then triggered the camera using a Hahnel wireless release. The range on this last item is around 100 feet (I’ve not tried longer distances). With the camera mounted to the tripod using my new, longer, Giottos MH 621 base plate, the pictures at 1/50 sec showed little sign of camera shake and the only problem was that the autofocus sometimes selected the wrong end of the bird.

I’d been using a mixture of crumbled fat ball and, separately, bird seed mix to tempt the birds in and within 10 minutes of setting up and adding some seeds I had a male chaffinch feeding away. I took about 10 photographs and then he left, have eaten all of the seeds. I reviewed the images, increased the ISO to gain a little on the aperture and added more food.

Nothing! I’d had my chance and the bird’s were off doing something else. Click Here to Read More..

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Photographing Spaniels

We, the assorted children and the people they married, are making a photobook for my father-in-law’s birthday. I thought that for the end covers we could have a pictures of his beloved springer spaniels, one dog at the front paper and the other at the end.

Anyone thinking about that much quoted maxim: Never work with children or animals?

Having spun some story about how I needed pictures of the dogs to test some post processing idea of mine I drove up to their house with:

One 3mx4m muslin backdrop and supports
Three speedlights
One Lastolite Ezybox
One silver umbrella
85mm and 50mm f1.8
Elinchrom Skyports

The plan (from back to front):

Back drop lit by an SB24
A dog
Softbox and SB900 to camera left, silver umbrella and SB-26 to camera right
D700 on tripod.

My first problem was that the dogs associate my wife and I with walks, big long walks in the woods with rabbits, deer and exciting things like that, so sitting still for me was not on the agenda.

I used a handy teddy bear as a test subject, sorting out my flash settings and taking a test shot with a white card in so I could set the white balance in Lightroom afterwards. I also changed down to the 50mm since 85mm left me too far from the dogs if I wanted to fit all the dog in the view finder.

Then the fun started. The little bitch (in the female sense) would not come upstairs – each time I came close she rolled over, wriggled and begged for a tummy rub. Finally I grabbed a handful of lamb flavoured biscuits from the kitchen and bribed her. Once on the back drop she was fairly easy since all she did was lit down in the hop of a tummy rub.

The dog however likes to be close. He usually sits right next to your for attention, food, slobbering….In his case we did a lot of practice for “sit, stay, wait” and then “down, stay, wait”. My supplies of lamb biscuits dwindled. In the end we had a big game of wrestling on the backdrop where I would get him into a position, grab the camera, shoot 3 frames, bribe him and then we’d wrestle into the next position.

Finally we reached his boredom threshold and the shoot was over. Click Here to Read More..