Category Archives: Photography

Fast wide-angle lens

So, I’ve been working down in London for a couple of weeks and, as a result, even though I’m still hugely overdrawn and in debt, I can now see a way to paying it all off, something which eluded me as recently as three weeks ago.

As a result, as always happens when I know that I’ll have money coming in soon, I got credit card happy. Lots of little treats all week (books, meals out), plus one very big treat: the lens I have been lusting after for many months now, a Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L USM. I got it second hand (a mere £690, including hood) from the Camera Café in Museum Street.
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Sheffield Bench store launch party

On Thursday night, I was hired to photograph the launch of Bench‘s new flagship shop at Sheffield’s Meadowhall, and the subsequent VIP party.

Mani (Stone Roses/Primal Scream) and The Yell at Bench VIP party

I have to admit, my hopes weren’t that high. I mean, how exciting can a Meadowhall shop be? Well, how wrong could I be? The shop was amazing, and the evening even more so.
Continue reading Sheffield Bench store launch party

The 1234 Shoreditch Festival

Yesterday I went to the 1234 festival, organised by our mates at 1234 records. With my “Access All Areas” press pass, I had some fun backstage and got a few decent photos (appearing soon on Dan Shot Me – a couple are already up on Flickr). Didn’t catch a lot of music, although I was very happy to grab the end of Man Like Me‘s set – I saw them last December on the Vice tour, where they were the highlight of the evening.

I hooked up with Jan while I was there, and the two of us pootled around photographing everything, him with his little compact camera and me with another Heath Robinson-esque flash rig, which Suz has described as looking “like a portable version of the Fylingdales Early Warning Station in Yorkshire”. Here’s a photo Jan took of me and my rig:

Dan pretending to be Fylingdales Early Warning Station (mobile version)

Washtock photos and new flash doodads

This weekend was Washtock 2007. Last year, Washtock was the event which introduced me to so many of Sheffield’s bands and really helped me to connect with the Sheffield scene. So I wanted to try and be there for the whole weekend this year, and catch as many new acts as possible. I failed rather – got there for the last 5 minutes on Friday, caught most of last night, but tonight felt too ill to go at all. All the same, I did manage to take some great photos on Saturday night at Washtock, and I also got to see Kid Acne for the first time which was well worth the wait.

I was trialling new equipment too – a few weeks ago, I splashed out on a very expensive Canon Speedlite 580EX II (I bought it because I was photographing a wedding – bloody typical, the Speedlite didn’t arrive until after the wedding) and a Lumiquest 80/20. I’ve also ordered an off-camera E-TTL flash cable which hasn’t arrived yet, but Andy lent me his. So, last night was the first time I fired this lot in anger. I started off feeling my way, pretty experimental and pretty crap, but once I sellotaped a piece of white paper over the top of the 80/20 and dialled the shutter speed right down to 1/5th to get some background fill-in, things really started cooking. I got some lovely photos, and I’m really looking forward to going out again with this set-up.

This man with lanthorn, dog and bush of thorn…

This man, with lanthorn, dog, and bush of thorn,
Presenteth Moonshine; for, if you will know,
By moonshine did these lovers think no scorn
To meet at Razor Stiletto, there to woo.

William Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With amendments.

Tonight, I’m going to Razor Stiletto. For the first time, I decided to dress up. And to combine my dressing up with some strobist experiments.

The fancy-dress theme for tonight is “Midsummer Night’s Dream – Shakespearian Splendour, Fairies & Woodland Creatures”. I acted in Midsummer Night’s Dream when I was 17. I played Robin Starveling, the Tailor, who appears as Moonshine in the mechanicals’ play-within-a-play towards the end of the show. So in homage to that role, I thought I would play moonshine tonight.

By sheer chance, when I took the kids to school yesterday I discovered a load of drum-heads which somebody had thrown out. Now, a drum-head is round. So is the moon. And most of these were also white. “That’s it!” I thought. “I’m halfway there already…”

Thing is though, the moon is illuminated. I wondered about putting a torch behind the drum-head to light it up, but as I’m going to be wandering around taking photos, using my Ebay remote flash triggers, I thought “why not put a flash unit up there, so that the moon lights up whenever I take a photo?”

And so, I built an elaborate wire headgear which holds the drum skin on my head, and holds the flash unit up a few inches behind it so that the drum skin acts as a rather wonderful diffuser (at least, it would with the flash in the right place – I’m still having some trouble avoiding getting bent wires). To this I added on one side a cuddly toy dog belonging to Rowan and Lola, and on the other side a sprig of miniature holly branches. Voila: the man in the moon!

But I wasn’t finished yet. Having got into the swing of making stuff (something I normally never do, unless it’s “virtual stuff”) I carried on with a project I’ve had in my head for ages: the umbrella reflector glove. Take one fingerless glove. Stick some lengths of garden cane in each finger. Put some silver wrapping paper over the lot, in a “bat hand” sort of shape (actually, I’d meant to use reflective gold fabric, but I couldn’t find it. The wrapping paper was a pain because it kept ripping, but it does the trick). I know Robin Starveling never actually dressed as Edward Scissorhands in the mechanicals’ play, but please allow me some artistic license.

To the bat-hand I added my usual off-camera flash technique, slightly modified: I have the flash pointing upwards along my wrist, so that it hits the umbrella-hand and is reflected back over my subject, suitably diffused.

Here are some slightly dodgy photos of the whole kaboodle (better ones will no doubt follow later):

With the flashes off:
Robin Starveling flash experiments - flash off

With the flashes on:
Robin Starveling flash experiments - flash on

I can’t wait to try this out. Wish me luck! Results coming soon to my photo website.

Band Photoshoots

I’ve finally got over one of my biggest photographic hurdles, and started doing “posed” photos. This last week, I’ve done photoshoots of one sort of another for four bands/musicians. None has been perfect, or anything even approaching, but all have made me realise how much I have to learn, and have pointed me in the right direction. I still have great difficulty with posed shots, because I am useless at directing people, too nervous myself (never a good vibe in a photographer) and never have any kind of mental image of what the finished photos might look like – I only really discover that once they’re on the computer. In fact, I think these are the two most important things for me to work on: confidence and visualisation, but in the meantime I also need to work a lot on lighting technique – my current approach of using remote flash units on ebay triggers, pointed in semi-random directions, yields some interesting but very inconsistent results. I could do with a proper lighting kit, and I certainly need a reflector. But with every random shot I take, I learn a little more about what works and what doesn’t.

Here’s a photo I took yesterday of The Cherokees:

The Cherokees at Volstead

Dan Shot Me dot com Sheffield party photographer

Wawa river, Bacoor, Phillippines

When it relaunched in its new Berliner format, the Guardian added a wonderful new feature, Eyewitness, which occupies the centre pages of most editions of the paper and fills the entire double-page spread with a single photograph. Some wonderful pictures have appeared in this slot, and they really benefit from the huge size (approximately the same as a 30″ x 20″ print).

Last Saturday was perhaps the most eye-grabbing I have seen yet – simultaneously fascinating, shocking, disgusting and thought provoking, with that added “WTF” factor which has one heading straight for the accompanying caption. The photo showed the head of a boy emerging from water among a flotilla of junk. It instantly prompted thoughts of death, bodies thrown up in some tsunami or other natural disaster, but this boy appeared very much alive, if rather wary of his surroundings. The caption read “Risking it all: A Filipino boy beats the heat in the Wawa river in Bacoor, south of Manila. Almost all major rivers in the region, Metro Manila, are now considered biologically dead”. The photograph is credited to Mike Alquinto/EPA.

I have searched online for a version of this photo, without success, but somebody has posted another photo obviously from the same set to Livejournal.

Clunk, Click, Every Trip… until now

Old Blue LastIt’s almost a truism that, whenever you most rely on it, some piece of photographic equipment is going to fail. This has certainly been my experience, although until now it has been limited to cheap and dodgy flashes and triggers which refuse to work when on a job, but then fire up fine the next morning.

And so when, for the first time, a strange woman walked up to me in a pub, spotted my camera, and started taking her clothes off, you could almost guarantee that something was going to go wrong. I fired off a few shots but then, shortly after hitting (I think) either 60,000 or 70,000 shutter actuations, my Canon EOS 20D stopped working. Auto-focus was fine, metering was fine, everything was fine, it just wouldn’t fire the damn shutter. I could even get the shutter to life using the sensor-cleaning shutter lock-up mechanism, but using the normal photographic mechanism yielded nothing. I changed batteries, lenses, even memory cards, but still no change. Looks like I have to take out one last additional mortgage on my house to pay the £200-odd to get the shutter fixed. Either that, or pay £350 for a new (refurbished) 20D, or £3000 for an EOS-1D Mk III. And then find some more money for lenses 🙁

Update: this morning, it works… slightly. I have to squeeze the button very hard, for about half a second, and then I generally get it to fire. This makes me think that the button, rather than the shutter, is what’s broken (auto-focus still works fine on a half-press of the button). Perhaps last night’s strange situation made me sweat too much, and the sweat got in the button and bust it? 🙂

Art and nightclub photography controversy

(I started writing this post just over a month ago. Just spotted it in my drafts, hence it’s a little out-of-date).
Last night was wonderful! I did my first live-run as and it worked a dream. And I did plenty more too…

First up, I went to an open studios event at Persistence Works/Yorkshire Artspace. The event itself was a lot more fun than I’d expected, but even better I got paid to photograph proceedings (and I found out when I got there that after some internal negotiation, my initially rather small fee had been doubled!) I was worried that I wouldn’t get anything worthwhile, as I was a bit unprepared and very rushed, but in the event I got plenty of good photos.

After a whirlwind tour around Persistence Works, I headed back out of town to Jonny’s, where a Tajalli Vortex jam session was under way. Annabel, our new singer, joined us, and the resulting music was wonderful, she added a vital dimension, and at last our sound seems complete.

At 11pm, we packed up and Jonny and I headed over to Corporation. I’d told Mark, the owner of Corp, about my Dan Shot Me idea a couple of weeks ago, and he had seemed (if possible) even more enthusiastic about it than me. He rang me again the other day to ask when I was going to come down, so I thought it would be rude not to.

When we got there, Mark showed me around a bit and then let me loose to take some pictures. I was quite nervous at first, doing my usual: walking around and snapping surreptitiously while walking by, then scuttling off before someone has time to object. But then I started confronting people more directly, and at first some took offence but once I started handing out the badges and got

Had a funny ending to the night. I got into an argument with a bouncer because I’d taken a photo of a girl without asking her permission, and she got pissed off. We argued for about 10 minutes over whether or not I was allowed to take photos without asking permission, he asked whether I was a full-time professional photographer, I said no and he said he was so he knew what he was talking about and I didn’t. I told him most of the professional photographers I’ve come across aren’t worthy to kiss my arse, or words to that effect, which didn’t go down to well, but in the end he accepted that I was more-or-less, but very rude. I told him he was right and I didn’t give a shit. Then he went to have a long chat with the nightclub owner (the one who rang me when I was in London asking me to come and take photos). I had to wait outside the door, as if it was the headmaster’s office. Then the bouncer left and I went in to chat to the owner, who basically couldn’t give a toss that I was photographing people without their permission. Nice outcome!

I left then anyway, because my flash was on the blink and I knew I had more than enough good nightclub photos. It was 2am. I put my head up to the frosted windows of the Washington pub on the way back, just to try and discern whether any of the bar staff were still around. Somehow somebody spotted and recognised me through the glass (maybe it’s the beard), so they let me in, I got one last drink while they swept up, and a cab ride back home with the bar manager.