Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hey! I'm in demand .....

There are a lot of scams on the Internet designed to part you and your money.  They're all quite clever but it seems the scammers (is that a correct title?) don't have the highest IQs because once they find a scam setup that works, they continue using it well past its sell-by-date to the point where some people now play the scammers at their own game by taking the bait and sending false details and using delaying tactics to thwart them.
A common one I get in my e-mail inbox is one telling me my bank account has been frozen as a precaution due to unusual activity and that I will need to log in and reactivate it.  The fact that I don't belong to that bank is the giveaway for me.  A more sinister one that did make me pause was a similar message about my PayPal account.  Being suspicious, I sent off an e-mail to PayPal and they confirmed it was a scam and even asked me to send the e-mail on to them.

I was in China a few years ago, on my own, for a month.  Nothing odd happened, for the most part, except being photographed at least once a day by Chinese people who probably found a short, bald, bearded, round-eyed person too much a novelty to pass up.  I found them very friendly and inquisitive.  I visited 5 cities during my visit and it wasn't until I got to Shanghai and Beijing that the seedier side made its presence felt.

I was visiting a public area in which there was also a museum I wanted to visit.  I was approached by a couple (boy and girl) in their early twenties which was not uncommon.  The girl asked me where I was from and showed a lot of interest in getting to know more about Ireland, translating for her boyfriend as  we talked.  She also asked me where I had been in China and wanted to know what I thought of China.  Then she asked me if I had ever been to a tea party.  I replied that I hadn't and she said they, and a few others, were going to a traditional Chinese tea party and invited me to come along.
I don't know if I spotted something in her body language or whether it was that I tend to resist being pushed in a particular direction by a stranger but I made my excuses and that action brought about a change in attitude I definitely noticed and didn't like.

When I got back to the hotel I looked up scams in China on Google and found that tourists had been caught by the "tea party scam".  Apparently they lure you into a genuine tea party, run up a bill and then plead they have no money.  When you try to leave; a couple of burly (their word, not mine) staff will stop you and demand you pay.  The bill would usually come to about €20-€30 so there was no major harm done except to your dignity.  Armed with this information I went back to the area in the following days and was approached by two groups who I let go through their setup and then suggested I photograph them for my scrapbook and saw them turn extremely shy and disappear.

Another scam involved a young man (usually) who would engage you in conversation and then mention that he was an art sudent.  As a matter of fact he had his artwork in an exhibition right now and you could visit it for nothing.  Interested?  No, I wasn't.  I smelled a rat and decided to check that out as well.  Yep, you are at the 'exhibition' but are pressured into buying.  Not sure how they did that because the scam report didn't go into that detail and I didn't go to any of the exhibitions.

So, today I smiled when I got this in my e-mail inbox:

From: Andy Harrison <>Subject: BOOKING REQUESTDate: Sun, 7 Nov 2010 08:26:43 +0000

I want to make a reservation onbehalf of my Chinese friends because they can't speak or write good English....They will be coming into your country for their first Pre-Season vacation visit.
They are just two (2) couples
*Mr & Mrs Po Chui Yang (41 and 36yrs)
*Mr & Mrs Fuhua Shirong(44 and 38yrs)
They want you to prepare a 5 days tour package and accommodation for them, They are from Hong Kong and are willing to accept and pay for your offer.
*Arrival Date : 10th January, 2011.
*Departure Date : 16th January, 2011.
*Number Of Days : 5
*Number Of Guests : 4
Confirm availability and get back to me with your rates and total cost of your services, So that i can send you my Credit Card for immediate deposit. Waiting for your reply.

Andy Harrison..
My guess is that this is a new variation on the cheque with excess amount scam.  There will be an exchange of e-mails making all the arrangements and then they send you a cheque; except it will be for more than the amount agreed.  They will apologise and ask if you could send them the balance.  If you do, you'll find that your money is taken and their cheque bounces.

I am so tempted to play ......  Ni hao.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ask the Experts .....

Last night (Nov-02) I had the dubious honour of being on a panel of experts in the Dublin Camera Club.

Before I continue with what went on let me tell you a story .....
I used to be an Engineer.  One day in our Engineering Department, our esteemed leader (The Captain) came out of his window office in the corner and asked "Who knows about the Infralyzer 400?  Who's the expert? I have a Service Engineer in Italy who needs help."
There was silence.  We looked at him and at each other.  Nothing.
"Has anyone got any details on the system?" he asked desperately.
"I have a brochure somewhere on my desk" said Bill.
"Bring it with you into my office and talk to this guy."
"But I'm not an expert" protested Bill.
"You've got a brochure.  You know more than the other guys!"

Now I don't regard myself as an expert in photography.  I am constantly made aware of my shortcomings in artistic ability and knowledge but, apparently, I have more knowledge than some people even if that is only knowing where prints for competitions are kept.

So last night was interesting.  The first question was, to my mind, quite a technical question asking why it was that Nikon and Canon dominated the market with their DSLRs which are quite bulky and heavy in comparison with the 'four thirds' format which are much lighter and still produce great results.

The range of questions after that varied from printing and printers (both machines and businesses) to studio setups to finding out what competitions were going on outside the club.  It was a good night.  There was a lot of interaction between the 'experts' and the club members and between the club members themselves.  Personally, I would like to see more of these in the future albeit with a little more structure and formality.  Some answers were long and tended to go off on reminiscences and tangents rather than be moderated.  There were also some secondary discusssions that went on as though nobody else was present!

I was told in advance of some of the questions I would be asked but strangely wasn't asked most of them!  More room for improvement.

I wonder if any other clubs do this ......

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A dilemma in our camera club ......

Over the past few months there has been a pot simmering away building up pressure and it's about to explode.  Let me explain - it's a bit complicated.

Dublin Camera Club is registered as a charity.  It cannot be seen to be making money from its existence.

We have a studio.  The studio is available to members who may use it under certain conditions.

They cannot use it for commerical purposes as it would violate the charity status.
They can only use it during one week.  Then miss a week before trying to book it again.
Booking can only be done in person on a Tuesday night.

So where's the problem?
Well, a number of members (myself included) were frustrated at the fact that we couldn't predict when we could book a time in the studio.  Forget about professional models that you might have to book weeks in advance - even friends you would bring into the studio would ask "when?" and you would reply "I'll let you know Tuesday night when I find out".  Trouble is you had to get a list of times they were available and you were available and then try and get to the front of the queue to try and ensure you got the time/day you wanted.

I proposed we have an online reservation system where you could see what other people wanted and could communicate with them if it clashed with yours and you could indicate your intention to use the studio on a particular day/time.  Booking would still have to be done on a Tuesday but it took the frustration and irritation out of the equation.  There was even a possibility that you could show your intentions 2 or maybe even 3 weeks in advance.

Cool?  Nope.

You see, there is a hard suspicion that a number of people ARE using the studio for commerical purposes.  The present system is seen to frustrate their commerce by virtue of the fact that they CAN'T book their clients in advance.  So you can see the advanced 'booking' system would play right into their hands.
So it appears a few amoral people are putting our club of over 60 years in jeopardy and screwing it up for the rest of us.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An alternative to collages ......

A friend of mine, who had a mother-in-law with a significant birthday, asked me if I could put together a collage of old photos of her life that he and his wife could give her as a birthday present.  I agreed to do it but was not overly enthusiastic about constructing the types of collages I had seen others make. 

Usually these collages are the result of hours, even days,  of work collecting the old photos, negatives, computer files and developing a system of filing that will allow these precious memories to be returned to their respective owners.  When this is done there are even more hours put into making the construction which, generally, is a physical one that brings its own set of problems.  All this produces, to my mind, a homogeneous mass of imagery that as a unit does not have any picture merit when hung on a wall.

I don't mean to demean them - a huge amount of work goes into making them not to mention the consideration that has to be given that there is 'fair representation' of all the people in the collage.  You know the sort of thing.  "I see there are three photos of Mary and only one of me!"  or  "Of all the photos you had of me you picked that one .... in THAT dress!"  You get the idea.

So, I decided I would try something different ......

The first job was to scan the photos.  I have an Epson 4990 scanner.  It's an old scanner and is now discontinued and replaced by a newer model - the Perfection V750-M Pro Scanner - which has a significant price tag of around $850.  Mine is still working fine and I don't do much more scanning than the odd document, photo and old negative so I guess I'll keep using it for a while longer.  I don't use any of the bells and whistles that it comes with.  I tend to be a person who likes the army rule of KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid - so I set up the scanner software relative to what I am scanning.  In this case it was a photo, so set it up for photos - some at 300 dpi, others at higher resolutions to give me larger images that I could fix in Photoshop Elements.  Some of them were in bad condition and some were very small.  Some were both.  The process of scanning the photos and restoring them is also to make them equal in size and appearance.  This a time-intensive task and if you don't have patience then use one of the many places that offer this service otherwise you will be less than enthusiastic when you get part way through the project and it will show.

Once I had all the photos restored and sized it was time to place them in my collage.  I had visualised a picture - a table with a family tree being drawn up on parchment complete with quill pen and a bottle of ink on a beautiful wooden table and the photos scattered (artistically) around the work area.
First I needed pictures of a table, a quill pen and an ink bottle.  I would gladly have photgraphed them but I didn't have any or even access to any so I used stock photos from iPhoto.

Wood image from iPhoto duplicated and rotated

Pen and Quill from iPhoto
 I wasn't able to use the shadow that came with the pen and quill (ignorance on my part) so I cut the pen and quill, less the shadow, and brought them into my photoshop file.

The next thing I needed was a family tree.  Luckily I had a program called Coreldraw which I was familiar with so it was relatively quick to construct a page with the family lines on it and export it as a jpeg.

Family Tree parchment created in CorelDraw

Next step was to put the ink bottle and quill on the table.  But as you can see they don't look realistic without the shadow.
Ink bottle and quill without shadow

So, I created a shadow.  There are various ways of doing this.  You can load up your palette with black and reduce the opacity then use a very soft brush and paint the shadow.  That's if you're a bit of an artist.  I'm not that much of an artist so I painted a fairly hard-edged black shadow, softened it with Gaussian blur and then changed the layer opacity to about 65%.

Shadow added on a separate layer

Now to add the photographs.  The job wasn't overly difficult - just time consuming.  It was a case of placing the photos in a reasonable chronological order, sizing them and rotating them so they looked liked they belonged. 
Added picture

A further small refinement was to create a very small shadow under each photo as though the light was from above otherwise they would look 'too clean' and unrealistic.  I achieved this by duplicating the photo layer then using the fill (paint tin) tool and clicking on the photo and filled the photo area with black

Black fill.  Original photo layer is underneath and turned off.
Then I applied a Gaussian blur (about 5 in my case)

Gaussian blur applied
and reduced the opacity (to about 65%) so that it looked grey and so you can see 'through' the shadow. 

Opacity changed to allow layers below to show
To complete the shadow effect, I moved the layer below that of the photo, then shifted the shadow so that it showed.
Shadow layer moved down and to the right.  Photo layer moved above the shadow layer 
Now repeat for the rest of the photos ......

The last job was to put in radial gradient to create a vignette that resembled a lamp selectively lighting the table and you have the finished collage.

Click on the image to get a larger size - reduced resolution.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Time for something new .....

A scene from Lyric Opera Productions' dress rehearsal of La Traviata in the National Concert Hall
Geek details:  Canon 5D MkII, 100-400mm L-series @100mm.  1/80sec @f6.3 ISO 4000.
  Those of you who know me will know that I have had a link with the theatre (mostly amateur) for years and have allied it with my love of photography.  In the last few years the opportunities to photograph productions have diminished a little partly due to the recession and also because more and more people are taking photos and putting them on Facebook and the like.  One company that I have worked with for a number of years is Lyric Opera headed up by Vivian Coates who, by the way, appears on the far right of this photo.
I am now their 'production photographer' and take a real pleasure in photographing their operas for several reasons.

I am regarded as one of the team and that I have a contribution to make even if it isn't necessarily to the actual production.  The operas they produce are brimming with quality.  The principals are a mixture of local and International performers of the highest standard.  The costumes and makeup are oustanding.  The lighting design and execution is superb and the singing and music from the orchestra is flawless.  When you understand that some of the 'chorus' will be principals in other productions; you get some idea of the standard.

I have a schedule I work to for Lyric Opera that involves attending rehearsals, the dress rehearsal and then one or two of the performances.  I will be constructing a page devoted to that at a later time.

I enjoy the dress rehearsal because I have free rein to wander all over the auditorium, backstage and actually on the stage.  I try not to be intrusive when going on the stage because I don't want to distract the cast on stage who are not only trying to give a performance but are familiarising themselves with the stage, the props and directions from Vivian and the conductor.  The disadvantage of taking photos of the dress rehearsal is that they are of little use to Vivian (no matter how good they are) for publication because they have to be performance shots.  So, I usually take up a position in the sound/lighting box and shoot the performance from there.  The biggest difficulty is that I can only shoot during 'the noisy bits' because of the shutter sound which, on the 5D MkII, is quite loud.  The advantage of going to rehearsals is that now I know where the action is going to take place and when.

After any shoot, I rate my photos 1,2 or 3.  '3' is for the bin.  '2' is a photo that is clean, well exposed, conforms more of less to composition rules etc., but is not one that you would spend much time on when browsing through an album that it was in.  '1' is a possible medal winner.  The shot above rated a '2'.  In colour it is a homogeneous mix and nothing draws your eye to any one area.  Also, there is no sense of drama either.  One of Vivian's talents is being able to create tableaus on stage with a large cast that avoids the rows of straight lines or equal clumps of men and women nodding at each other that you see in so many productions.  It is as though they were sprinkled randomly across the stage and, having seen each other for the first time, they interact naturally with each other.

This was one of those scenes shot from the balcony and I felt it deserved a different treatment that might portray what was going on in the scene.
I like that it has a style.  It reminds me of an artist I have seen before but can't remember.  I think the contrast and the HDR-style of it suits the scene.  I find my eye is now wandering around each of the individuals and the small groups looking more intently to see if I can figure out what they are up to.
If you are interested in it you can see the full-size image by clicking on it above.  I'm still working on this image as I see is changing my image slightly and showing up some 'defects'.

I'll be posting a few more photos from the performance anothe day ....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Competition time again part II

Hmmmm.  An interesting night.  I mentioned earlier that I had entered pictures for two competitions.  One was the first night of the club's Winter League and the second was a competition termed a 'Round Robin' run by the Dublin South Leinster Region (do you think the initials were a coincidence?) and I chose to forego the club's judging and attend the latter, with member of Council - Gerard Kelleher,  which was held in Rua Red in Belgard Square, Tallaght.

First of all let me say that the premises that Tallaght Photographic Society use are very swish.  The attendance was sparse - probably 30 or so people representing 3 clubs.  Since there were only two of us from DCC then there was a disproportionate representation there.

The competition got under with no less than the president of the IPF (Mark Sedgwick) being the judge for the evening.  Prints from the three clubs were placed in three piles and a print was taken from the top of each and displayed to the judge who placed them in a 1st, 2nd and 3rd category.  Initially I found this unerving to have say two landscapes in competition with a portrait but then open category competitions do this all the time.

I was surprised to see photos with bad mounts and even damaged mounts being given 1st place without any comment.

At the end of the mono section, the scores were announced which produced a chuckle.  Each of the three clubs scored 30 marks.  At the end of the colour section DCC came third or last if you prefer.  As far as I can remember, the winner had 98 marks and DCC had 88.

We went back to DCC and caught up on the night's events in the club.  I had submitted 2 colour, 2 mono and 1 digital.  They were judging mono and digital entries only.  What followed is a jumble of mistakes and is probably best left unsaid.  The judge did make very favourable remarks about some of my pictures in particular the two girls (Best Friends Forever) which got 50/50 and my pregnant woman (Waiting) 45/50.  My nude, and it looks like it's the mono version, got 48/50 but should never have been shown!  I had asked for it to be withdrawn as I had entered a colour print version.  It will be interesting to see what happens to clear up the mess.  I think this is where I would normally insert a smiley ......

An update:
Last night (Oct-26) was the judging of the October colour section of the Winter League.  Before the actual judging, Javier Leite made an announcement that 'a member' had inadvertently submitted pictures from the same file in two sections of the competition which is illegal.  He pointed out that 'the member' had made every effort to have the situation rectified in time but the club had failed to do so.  As a result, this picture would be allowed to stand.
So did I do?  I had two prints.

Top mark was 44.  The picture on the left got 40 and the controversial picture on the right got 42 and I got joint second place.  The winning print was a cracker and a seascape.

Friday, October 8, 2010

What's in a name - part 2

I mentioned a while ago that people spell and pronounce my surname wrongly. When it appears spelt incorrectly on a letter it can't be blamed on a computer malfunction. No, this is down to humans. Humans who don't care.

Another thing they do is get my address wrong. I live in a place called Donacarney. I pronounce that very clearly when asked for my address but a lot of people still hear Donnycarney. Amazing, isn't it?

The lady who lived in our house before us really hankered to live just a few hundred metres away in the more well-known Mornington so she tacked that onto our address. I suppose it would be the equivalent of living in Sutton, Howth or Rathmines, Rathgar. Anyway, it took me some time to get it sorted out with the post office, credit card companies and the like.

Donacarney is in Co Meath. Now, I'm not a football supporter so don't have an unswerving mindless loyalty to my county but a rational engineering-oriented matter-of-fact attitude that this is where I live. I know there are people who are planning to usurp our little area into Co Louth and we may very well become part of Drogheda but for the moment we're in Co Meath.

So let's summarise all of that into the following name and address:

Paul Timon
Blackhill Crescent
Co Meath.

Simple? Yes?
Look what I got from TD Fergus O'Dowd on Dail notepaper ......

I suppose I should be grateful that our new postman is able to interpret what others guess at.  And I am.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Competitions time again .....

Photographic competitions, in a similar manner to all competitions, bring out different reactions in people.  The club I belong to (Dublin Camera Club or DCC) has regular competitions all year round.  Last night (Tue) was the beginning of the Winter League competition where members can enter a maximum of 2 colour prints, 2 black and white prints and 2 digital images (to be projected) per month for a period of 5 months.

Each month a judge (usually external) awards marks to each print in the Novice, Intermediate and Advanced sections with a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.  The points are accumulative so it means that someone who has made entries every month but not actually come in the first three places might still win the overall competition because of an accumulated score.  The top three pictures in each section are retained by the club and there is also a final competition of the "best of the best".

Like most clubs there are members who enter photos to get feedback on whether they are doing well or need to improve.  Others like to see how they compare with others of a similar standard.  Then there are others who cut their 'photographic cloth' and tailor their photos (forgive the puns) to win the competitions.  A lot of these are formulaic and guaranteed to tick all the judge's boxes of what constitutes a 'good photograph' but there are new kids on the block!

It seems to be that since the movement restrictions of people in the EU diminished and more people from Latvia, Romania, Poland, Germany and other countries appeared in Ireland; the calibre of photogrpahers in the club changed in style and quality.  I like this.  It might mean my status within the club will drop but that should give me the incentive to improve rather than wallow comfortably in the doldrums.

Judges, of course, vary in their judging.  We've all seen it.  Most will preface their comments by announcing that their marks and comments are personal to them (almost by way of an apology in advance) and that they may not be agreeable with everybody.  Fair enough.  But, where I don't have any problem with judge's criticisms, I have on occasion had issue with how they presented them.  Most judges will go lightly on the negative (more puns!) and accentuate the positive with suggestions on how to improve photographs submitted by novices.  They will be less gentle with photographs in the advanced section as these photographers should not be making basic errors.  However, when a judge literally dismisses someone's work then I feel there is the chance he may have discouraged a budding Cartier Bresson.  This is wrong.

We have been lucky that most of the judges have been fair and, for the most part, have given judgements that most people agreed with.

In addition to the Winter League Competition start, there is another competition going on that I am entering some pictures to but am not sure what it's about.  It has been referred to as a "round robin".  It appears (you're going to see that word a lot!) to be organised by the Irish Photgraphic Federation or IPF) but it also appears (told ya!) that the IPF aren't advertising it on their website.  Using their search engine produced no viable results for words such as "Round robin", "Tallaght" nor did a check of their competitions section.  Finally I used Google and found a link to the Dublin Soth Leinster Region that listed the competition for next Tuesday (12th).  "And you problem is ......?"  I hear you ask.  Well ......  it's the second round.  I didn't know about the first and the clubs listed as being in competition with each other are:
South Kildare.
Do I see the Dublin Camera Club in that list?  Nope.

Anyway, the number of photographs that members can submit is unlimited BUT the club will choose 20 colour prints and 10 black and white to form 2 panels for this round of the competition.  So I have entered a number of photos.  It's one thing to compete with members of your own club.  There is a familiarity with all the others' work and because of that there exists a sort of comfort zone where there are no major shocks.  But competing with another club destroys that happy feeling.  You're out in the open!  On top of that there is the added component of how a panel hangs together.  It needs to have balance and the difference between winning and losing could depend on that format.

So, I'm sticking my neck out in a way.  I have submitted a number of photos to the club competition and for consideration in the IPF panels competition.  And here they are:

DCC Winter League Colour entry

DCC Winter League Black and White entry

DCC Winter League Digital entry



Round Robin entries

Not chosen

Not chosen.

I think I'm going to have to change my method of blogging.  After trying to put these photos on this page I found they went every place but where I wanted them to.  So ...............

Friday, October 1, 2010

Looking for a pregnant woman ......

Earlier this year - about January - I started on a quest to find a severely pregnant woman who would pose for a humorous photo.  I knew most women don't find themselves attractive during this time and I wanted to make the person even less attractive so I promised I would pose them so nobody would know it was them.  How hard could it be to find someone?

Well it was.  I got blank looks.  I got curious questions.  "What's it for?"  That's a common question.  You don't hear painters (artists) or sculptors being asked that question.  "It's for me!  It's for my portfolio.  It's for exhibitions and competitions.  It's to satisfy an artistic longing to create!"  No, I didn't use that last one although it might have gotten me a more positive reaction.  I did get a couple of promises - relations of friends who might 'do it'.  I even asked a woman who is a professional photographer and was pregnant.  A resounding 'no!'  You know who you are ......

Nothing happened.  It's at this stage I start to wonder if I'm missing out on the unwritten and secret language that women use and we men have no idea it's being used at all.  You know the sort of thing.  "Ah sure that'll put you out of your way"  actually means "Feck off, you're not leaving me home!"  On top of this we (men) are supposed to know when our female friends/wives/girfriends are communicating to us wordlessly.  A typical example is the newly-married man arrives home and senses something is not right.  Really, he should go back out but he stays.
"What's wrong my lovely?"
He persists.
"I know there's something"
Foolishly .......
"I'm a modern man in touch with my feminine side and I want to know what's wrong so I can put it right pet"
The comes the fatal strike ....
"If you loved me, you'd KNOW!"

Personally, my telepathy switch is turned off.  I tell all women at some time or another that this is so.  It's akin to being blind or deaf.  It's not there and you need to make allowances for that.  But back to the photograph.

Eventually I found a woman brave enough.  Let's call her Brenda to maintain her anonymity.  Even she asked me what it was for!  I explained.
My initial idea was to have the woman sit in a comfy chair facing me wearing an old and comfy tracksuit bottoms with girlie slippers with her legs crossed and one slipper hanging off her toes while she read a paper such as the Mirror or a gossip magazine.  So where's the humour?  She would have a mug of steaming tea sitting unattended on her bump.  The woman is so dismissive of the bump that she uses it as a table.

Round 1.  We tried it.  First problem was no comfy chair.  Okay so we substituted something else after moving every piece of furniture around the room.  With my camera gear and flash units with softboxes and umbrellas, the room was beginning to look more like a movie set.  The size of the room forced me to use a short focal length lens which produced the wrong image for me because the feet were too near the camera and the body was too far away.

Round 2.  Tried it sideways and it looked all wrong.

Round 3.  Moved the couch back and thought about making her lie along the couch.  This seemed like a good approach but there was one big problem.  I was getting her to read a magazine to hide her face which left the back of her head facing the camera.  It looked wrong and her hair wasn't in keeping with her unkempt but comfy look so we went shopping!

Round 4.  Back from the shops with hair rollers we completed the 'comfy look'.  Now it was time to shoot.  I had a couple of props - a mug, cereal bowl, vase and a plant.  This was when the unborn decided to wake up and let us know there was another to contend with.  Items placed on the bump had to be watched carefully for signs of movement as they were swiped by an internal foot.  The vase just couldn't be kept in place without a person holding it and the bowl had a swirling spoon in it due to the antics of the unborn.
Eventually I got my lighting set up which took a while.  I was getting severe falloff because of lack of space so ended up pointing a unit with a spill kill at an angle to the ceiling - this lit my scene from above.  I used another unit on the floor with a softbox turned down to a minimum to give some fill from the front and help light the magazine.  After that it was easy!  What I thought would take an hour took 2 1/2 hours.

As I mentioned, I'm a member of the Dublin Camera Club and next Tuesday is the start of the Winter League competitions where members can enter a maximum 2 colour, 2 black & white and 2 digital images each month for 5 months.  At the end of the 5 months trophies are awarded to the persons with the most points.  There are various other prizes as well.  I'm not in to win but I do like to showcase (vanity) and I like to get feedback about my pictures from both the judges and other members.  So today I'm going to enter this photo as one of my colour shots.

Geek data:  1/160s @ f5.6 100 ISO.  Canon 5D MkII with Canon 50mm F1.4 lens.
Processed in Lightroom 3 and Photoshop Elements 8.

Waiting ......

PS:  The print got first place.  The judge loved it.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Now is the time .....

So apparently I can blog via e-mail. Cool......

What's in a name?

I would have thought that my surname (Timon) would have generated the odd question or two - “Unusual name!  Where does it originate?” or “Only one ‘m’?” or “Are you related to Pumbah?” - but no.  That’s the way my brain works but then it has been pointed out that my brain is not quite the same as everybody else’s.  I’m not sure whether that is a good or bad thing.  It’s immaterial really.  The outcome depends more on perception than reality.
Anyway, the pronunciation of my name generates untold problems.  People assume there’s another ‘m’ in there and that I have just forgotten to use it for the best part of a lifetime so Timon becomes Timmon.  Even worse, some believe that it feels incomplete without an ‘s’ (go figure) and it becomes Timmons.
It also has become Tymon, Tynan and, the mind boggles, Turon.

Well it’s Timon.

And before I get classed as a Mrs Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) let me clue you in on how old it is.  It dates back to biblical times.  Yes, it’s in the Bible - Acts 6:5.  I don’t think you’ll find any of the other variations ……  So that takes care of age and precedence I think.

Then there’s pronunciation.  Shakespeare wrote a play called “Timon of Athens”.  People in England and others who are familiar with Shakespeare don’t have a problem with the name.  But then I live in Ireland and not everybody has either read that play or has even heard of it so for them Timon=Timmon.
I have put a footer on e-mails to new people that reads:
“If you can spell Simon, you say Timon”.
Most people get it.  Others, on phones for example, don’t receive my witty aid.
Phone conversation ….
Lady: “Thanks you sir, could you give me your name and address please?”
Me: “Sure, it’s Paul Timon, that’s spelled T_I_M_O_N”
Lady: “Thank you Mr Timmon, and what’s your address?”
I used to let this stupidity slide.  A wise man once told me “Ignorance is curable, stupidity isn’t”.  My take on the situation was that I had informed the lady thereby removing the ignorance component so stupidity must be what’s left.  Now I take time to point out the error they have made.  It wastes time but it irritates them even more and I hope (not in vain?) that they might learn to take more care.

My name is what identifies me.  It has come from history.  It is not something to be dismissed and misspelled.  We have made a few attempts to trace it back but haven’t gotten very far probably because a lot of the records were burned during minor upheavals in Irish history and nowadays we all expect that everything can be found online.  Rumour has it we date back to the 1600s when ‘we’ were wine importers from France and also did a sideline in smuggling priests into and out of Ireland in large wine barrels.  Our origins could be Greek or Russian depending on who you listen to.  Most of my family are short (arses) - I’m 5’ 5” - and ironically one of the meanings of Timon is ‘small’.  There’s a shock!
So you’ve been educated.  Perhaps the title of my blog “Timon time again” now makes sense.......


I had the opportunity last year to photograph an art nude model from London by the name of Iveta Niklova.  I have photographed about (by my faltering memory capabilities) 9 art nude models in the last few years, each having their own talents, quirks and personalities.  Each one brings something new to a shoot and it's up to me to try to marry the abilitites of the model to the type of shots I am aiming for.

On the subject of art nude .....  It usually raises a few titters from those who haven't done any.  There's sometimes the image of a page three shoot and of course the 'dirty old man' syndrome.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is usually a very relaxed session but there are protocols that should be followed.

Firstly, your model is a person and has feelings including fear.  When I contact a model she doesn't know who I am so I give her references to people that we both know so as to put her at ease.  If we haven't any mutual friends/coleagues then I will show her a collection of my shots so that she can guage for herself if I am serious or just 'chancing my arm'.

Models have limits.  In the case of nude photography, that can be implied nude.  I found this to be a bit of a misnomer but essentially it means that even though the model is actually naked, she will not be showing nipples and/or genitalia in the photo - they will be discretely hidden.  Most models will specify no 'open legs' shots - this is self-explanatory.  Some models will be happy to work with another nude model - male or female - but will specify that the shots must not be regarded as erotic or pornographic.  You need to check first.

I discuss, usually by e-mail, what type of shots I want to do, where,  and what time period I propose to shoot.  Then importance of this is also to nail down what props might be used and who is bringing them.  Don't expect your model to have a range of clothes, shoes, hats, sunglasses, etc.,  on hand unless you asked her.  I also discuss rates.  Some have hourly, half-day and full-day rates.

 I try to get to the studio an hour beforehand to make sure the place is relatively tidy (safety) and warm and get the flash units set up, check out the radio triggers, flash meter and those hundred little things that will make you look unprepared if you're doing it whiles she's sitting there ready to go!
When she arrives I show her where the bathroom is, where she can put her case, where she can change, where the studio is, introduce her to the makeup artist (MUA) if I have one and find out if she has any questions that need to be answered.

One of the most critical moments can be the first transition from clothed to naked.  I normally indicate that I am ready to start and then turn my back and fiddle with some equipment while the model removes her dressing gown.  I will talk to her about what pose I want and look at her face.  Yes!  It sounds strange but I make a conscious effort to do that at the start.  Later on you will be discussing various parts of her body that you want in the shot or hidden and at that stage the atmosphere will be far more relaxed.  It also becomes a working relationship and not one of a man and a naked girl.  You'll have to trust me on that one.

One major rule I have is that I ask the model's permission to touch her.  It doesn't matter where.  I ask.  Sometimes I will ask the MUA or another girl in the studio to make adjustments but again it is always with the model's permission.

So......  back to Iveta.  Iveta's unique talent is that she can give you poses so fast you need your camera on motor drive to keep up.  She looks incredible and can combine body, hands, arms, legs and facial expressions to give outstanding shots.  She contacted me to let me know she was coming to Ireland for a few days and was trying to set up some photoshoots and wanted to know if I was interested.  I was.  I set up a shoot for last Sunday (2010-09-26).

We got off to a shaky start (not her fault) and my first shot of her was taken at 12:45pm instead of the intended 11:00am.  I was forced to rush somewhat since my session was scheduled to end at 3:00pm and her next shoot was at 4:00pm.  Rushing is not a good idea.  I tend to overlook small errors in the shots instead of eliminating some of the ideas and concentrating on the few.  My style of shooting with Iveta is a little involved.  She likes to move a lot!  I like to set up one shot and get it absolutely right so you can see how our two different styles of working is in conflict.  My compromise is to set up the lighting so as to allow her a more unrestricted posing style and I will get her to slow down for one or two of my poses.  In the middle of her pose-changing I will stop her and get her to modify poses that I want to put my stamp on.

Iveta can be found on Model Mayhem and Folio 32 and her own website.

Anyway, I'm posting one of the shots from the shoot here.  There will be more.  For those of you who are obsessed with metadata and the like, the details are:

Camera: Canon 5D Mark II.  Lens Canon 50mm f1.4.  2 Bowens 250 focused on the black backdrop.  2 Bowens 500 with softboxes either side of Iveta and 1 Bowens 750 with softbox in front.
1/125sec @f11.  ISO 100.  Manual mode.  RAW.  Processed in Digital Photo Professional (Canon software).  Post processing in Photoshop Elements 8.

I have to start somewhere ....

So..... my first blog page and my first words.
What does one say on their first page?  Something profound about how photography (oh yes, this will be about photography) has changed their lives for the good?  Nah!  These are my first faltering steps in sharing in a similar manner to other friends of mine.  I help people with advice when they ask me (and sometimes when they don't) and also have given talks and workshops but now I can reach a larger audience.
I'm not saying I know everything (some 'accuse' me of it) or that what I do know is complete but if my knowledge helps then you are welcome to it.

About me - the unlimited to 1200 characters version:
I was born in London of Irish parents.  Moved to my parent's hometown of Athlone when I was 2 years old and then to Howth when I was 5.  Went to O'Connell's school, the Pembroke College of Technology (otherwise known as Ringsend Tech) and Bolton Street College.

I started work in 1967 as a draughtsman, later to become an Engineer which was most of my working life.  I've had a range of cameras from a tiny spy camera to a Hasselblad.  The first camera I used was a Box Brownie before I was even a teenager.  Not only did it get me into trouble with some local ladies (another day's story) but it also, I suspect, created an awareness in my father that my addiction to taking photos was going to cost him a small fortune in processing so my photography at the time was limited.
My first 'real' camera was a Zenit, Russian-made.  You could drive a tank over it and it would still work! I became obsessed with sharpness and size.  This became a quest for bigger and better through a range of cameras - 35mm and 6X6 to a Mamiya 67 which I still have today.

My ability to take photos fostered a mutually beneficial relationship with my employer where I photographed everything from components for technical manuals to visiting dignitaries to the plant.  It was at this time I joined the ESB photographic club and had access to their studio.  I was asked by a very innovative group of people, called Take 4, who were about to put on the Irish premiere of Cabaret (think Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey) if I could do their promotional shots.  I said yes and went on to other similar shots and also portraits for programmes.
I also got involved with a guy who was grooming girls for modelling - yes, it does sound a bit dodgy but it wasn't!  My '15 minutes of fame' is probably that I started Karla on her path to fame and fortune.

After many years of photographing for everybody else I realised I was doing nothing for myself and stopped.  Cold turkey.  Took up other hobbies and interests until the mid nineties where I took the odd photo with a 35mm camera and then bought (out of curiosity and a penchant for gadgets) a digital camera.  Nothing like we have today.  It was the Logiotec Fotoman.   It was greyscale, the sensor size was 284 by 376 pixelsand it could only store about 10 shots and if you didn't get back to a PC to download the shots before the battery gave out then you lost your work.  It was regarded as revolutionary for the time even considering that it took the camera 11 seconds to store the image internally.
I kept an eye on the digital scene for a while and bought my first 'serious' digital camera from the US in 2000 - an Olympus C2100 which was remarkable for its time as it had a 10x optical zoom unlike the rest who were peddling digital zoom.

Since then I have bought more digital cameras - some of which I still have - and become more seriously involved in my photography.
I belong to the Dublin Camera Club where I have met more like-minded people who share their enthusiasm and their knowledge with others and are active in the club's programs and activities.

Since I mentioned my first 'professional' shoot in a studio was for Cabaret (1976) I thought I would dig out the old negative (6x7 cm), scan it and post it here.  I don't remember the details and there was no metadata on film cameras but I do remember that I would have shot it using a shutter speed of 1/60 sec.  I didn't have a flash meter so exposure was gauged by distance and experience.  I was also tethered to a flash head by cable and the biggest danger was someone tripping over it.  Still it was all good fun and I could savour that magic time between pressing the shutter button and seeing the negative where the image in my mind was the best I had ever done!

I don't have a Model Release Form (MRF) for this photo - we didn't really need them in those days! - and I'm sure the girls won't be recognised, or if they are they won't mind.  Sadly, the MC, Ed Brady has since passed away.  He is still missed even today for the talent he had and the character that he was.

Taken in 1976.  Older than some of the people viewing it!