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!