Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Imitation or Inspiration

As many of you know already, I am a big fan of Vincent O'Byrne's photography.  His fantasy images prompted me to experiment in Photoshop (Elements) and produce images of my own.
I first saw him in Drogheda Camera Club where he gave a presentation.  His opening words (and I paraphrase) were something like: "If anyone has any problems with nude images or images portraying religious content then they should leave now."  Nobody left and I was intrigued.

He showed us a series of stamps he had created that he used as a cathartic tool to purge his angst about the religious community and his school time.  On their own, the images were incredible.  When he explained that he had hidden relevant texts and symbols in his images and went thorough some of them, I was blown away.

He was also generous with the technical aspects of how he had produced his images.
He showed how he extracts a subject from his original image for use in other backgrounds.  He also showed a simple technique for creating a glowing mist around a person in an image.  I did some searching on the Internet after that and learned more about him.

The first image I created from scratch is the one above.  It was the first time I had imagined an end image and planned how I was going to do it.  At the time I was aware of several guys I knew who had been dazzled by new girlfriends.  They had changed completely.  It was almost like they had been infected by the love bug.  And that was my inspiration for the photo above.

I bought a mannequin head, borrowed the daughter of a friend of mine and went to work in my kitchen.  Then, days later I emerged from my computer room with a print in my hand and a proud look on my face.  In hindsight, the photo is not brilliant but  I had used a myriad of new techniques I had never used before including making the mannequin change its expression to fear and inserting my own eyes in place of the blank ones he had.

I printed it, mounted it, titled it "Love Bug" and entered it into a competition in Drogheda Camera Club which was judged by no less a person than Sean Casey.  All the photos were arranged around the meeting room while he went from one to the next and made his comments on what was right and wrong and how improvements could be made.  When he got to mine, he stopped, paused for a while and said "I have no idea what is going on this photographer's mind", scored it low and moved on.

Yep, I was a bit deflated.

In the years to come I did more in the lines of stage, portraits and art nude photography but I always hankered to do some fantasy work.  I don't know why I didn't.  It might have been that remark that Sean had made - I don't really know.  I did some setups with models but nearly always fell short of producing anything because of lack of backgrounds or ability.

Earlier this year, I was asked by a member of the DCC Council who I would have on my wishlist of  guest speakers.  Vincent O'Byrne was top of my list.  In May my wish was granted and Vincent made his presentation about how there was a formula that guaranteed success in creating winning photos.  It was a brilliant night.  Superb images, witty conversation and a great insight into the creative process he uses.  From that night on, I had in the back of my mind to 'do' a VOB fantasy photo.  So recently, a friend of mine Lily Greibere who works as a MUA but also works with me to produce some art nude images was happy to pose for this shot I wanted to do in Vincent O'Byrne style.  The photograph was based on one of his classic images - you can view it on his Model Mayhem page.
As usual the image from the shoot was left in cold storage for a while but I dug it out and started work.

Lily was shot in the Dublin Camera Club studio on a black background, a hard floor (sorry Lily) and a large softbox on a boom (mine) directly over her.  In the original her hand and her feet project beyond the paper and there are two light stands plainly visible.  The background is a shot taken from my bedroom years ago with my Canon 10D of a sunset.
I used a slew of techniques to produce the final image that are too complicated to explain here but they included masks, gradients, dodge and burn, 'screen' layer blending and more.

I also did a version in monochrome with a warm tint:

Yes, it will definitely be going into the Dublin Camera Club monthly competition (December 2011).  The only question is which one - colour or mono?

I wanted to make it viewable to a wider public but because I have more or less imitated Vincent's photo I felt it would be unfair to make it public without reference to him.  Making reference to him required me to contact him and let him know my intentions and ask his approval.  Recent acts of plagiarism that I am aware of have generated severe reactions and a lot of debate.  I would say it would be almost impossible to take thousands of photographs and not find someone somewhere else in the world had a similar idea. 

So I sent him a link to the photos and an explanation and asked for his approval.
Then I sat back and waited ......
But not for long.  A couple of hours later I checked my Facebook mail and got the following:

"Hi Paul, no problems whatsoever.  Delighted that some of my images in some way inspired you to create ths image. It is quite beautiful. Off you go...the very best, Vinnie"

So with Vinnie's approval .....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jerry Springer the Opera part II

So ........
Last Sunday I went to the Helix to the Jerry Springer the Opera rehearsals.
I had been asked to take a photograph of the cast and not to make it look like a school hall group shot.  It turned out to be a long day.  The rehearsal went on and on and on and on .....
Eventually at about 7pm (5 hours later) and the exhausted cast had just finished a half hour later than they were meant to, I got to set up my photo.  Hmmmm.

It was quick.  Helped by Lily Greibere, I set up two shots.  They weren't quite what I had envisaged but time wasn't on my side.  I set up a large octagon in front of the stage and set the power to give me a meter reading of f16 so as to get enough depth of field.  I was using a 24-70mm lens but couldn't be quite sure what focal length I'd be using because of the number of people that would be in the photo.
I had Lily hold a 'speedlite' set manually to a narrow angle and at a power to produce f16 to add a little extra punch to Simon Delaney (who plays Jerry Springer) who would be the centre of attention.
In addition I put two more 'speedlites' on either side at the back to give some lighting to the heads.

I asked the chorus not to look at the camera but look at Simon but to give me some attitude hence the facial expressions and the single and double-finger salutes.
The shot was not how I had envisaged it.  I had figured Simon to be more prominent in the photo and the chorus to be all behind him.  Logistically this was almost impossible in practical terms due to the number of people - luckily some of them were missing!  If I had tweaked it the way I wanted it I probably would not only have lost more the chorus but also Simon as well, but to be fair everyone was very co-operative.

Having shot the chorus, I then wanted a setup with the principals.
Again, time had its way and one principal had to leave early.  I quickly tried to set up the characters to represent something of what they did in the opera but without any help from anybody knowledgeable this was kind of sketchy.

The picture is far from perfect.  There is little dimension to it - flat lighting.  The trio on the right are much nearer to the camera than the group on the left and so dominate the photo instead of Simon.  It can be hard to manhandle people!
I did have flare from the two 'speedlites' in the shot which looked okay on the back of the camera but there was a significant gap between the one on the left and the girl which made the shot look unbalanced so I had to crop the one on the left out of the shot.

So what did I learn?
When I'm asked to do a shot like this by another group I will ask to have the shoot put in the schedule with time alloted.  I do shoots for two other companies and they always treat my photography as part of the production.  Time is needed to do the shoot and modify it until it's right.
Discuss the ideas for the shoot beforehand so that there is a definite plan of what the pictures are to achieve.
Get the producer (and maybe the choreographer) to lend assistance to organising the people.

And to finish, here are some of the other pictures I took of a previous rehearsal .....

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jerry Springer the Opera

I've been taking photos of rehearsals for the production "Jerry Springer the Opera" over the last couple of weeks. This is a controversial 'show' based on the Jerry Springer Show that caused enough outrage in the States when it was first aired and is still generating anger amongst some since the program is still running.
The script of this show is set in Hell and there are appearances by (people playing the parts of) Jesus, Satan, God and Mary to name a few.  Needless to say the four-letter words and their relatives are sprinkled liberally throughout and even mixed in (comically) with music.

The first session was in the 'Blue Room' at the Helix.  First impressions?  There was virtually no light.  There were some lights but they seemed to directed towards the walls so the lighting on the people there was reflected.  I like to blend into the background when I photograph rehearsals and flash is out of the question.  So I was left with no choice but to shoot at high ISO speeds.  I started at 1600 ISO and found I was running out of aperture or shutter speed.  In my attempts to keep on top of the changing lighting situation I gave up shooting manual, bumped the ISO up to 6400, set the shutter speed to 1/125 sec, changed to mono (still in RAW tho') and let the aperture float.

Some of the results are below ....

This is one of my favourite shots.  I was using the mirrors to reasonably good effect but there were distortions and joints so not perfect.  I saw the cast line up in front of the mirror wall and had taken a shot from behind ...
.... that I did like but wondered what a shot from the side would look like.  Ideally I would have liked it better if the Producer (standing) and the choreographer (ironically sitting) were reversed.  This would have had more of the people, including the choregorapher, looking in my direction.  Still, I'll take what I can get.

Another shot I got involved the mirror and as far as I know the subject wasn't aware I was taking it.  The other person in the photo obviously was!
Note the tried and trusted camera hold guaranteed to assist the IS capabilities of the Canon lens.  However this requires liberal use of anti perspirant on at least one armpit!  :-)

And my last favourite shot of the producer (John Donnelly) and 'Jerry Springer' (Simon Delaney) having a laugh together.
More shots are available to view on my Facebook page.  So how would I judge my own photos?  They wouldn't do well in a competition.  Blown out highlights, blocked up blacks, high contrast, noisy.  All the technical ingredients that would put them at the bottom of the pile.  Very few would stand on their own without context.  But .... while I was taking the photos for my own portfolio, the style suited what it was - the gritty background to putting on the magic of a stage performance.  I'm glad to say that the 'style' also impressed the producer and graphic artist and a selection of photos will appear in the programme.

More photos to come.  I've done a second set of rehearsal photos and I have to take a shot of the whole cast (50+) and not make it look like a 'school hall photo'.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's all about me!

It's October and in the Dublin Camera Club this means the start of the Winter League where members are invited to submit 2 colour prints, 2 mono prints and 2 digital images (colour or mono) each month until February.  There are three levels - Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.

In each month, the entries are judged by an external judge and points are awarded out of 50.  At the end of the competition the person with the most marks wins!  Simples!
The club retains the top 10% of each month for a "best of the best" in March.

The competition attracts a lot of entries and is keenly followed by all.  I have done well in the past especially when I was in the Intermediate section.  There's some new blood in the club these days and they are stirring the status quo.  It's amusing when some of the judges remark that some entries in the beginners' section would have beaten those in the advanced.

I was a bit pushed for time this month but still managed to enter in all three sections.
I had one entry in the mono section and two in the digital section.  The judging of those two sections was last Tuesday and I scored two 42s and one 47.  I wasn't overly surprised at the 42 marks but was secretly chuffed at the 47 since it was a self-portrait.

I had been in the studio waiting hopefully for my subject to turn up but, because of some communication confusion (mainly my fault), she didn't turn up so I spent a few hours tidying up the studio and 'playing' with the studio flash to educate myself.

On previous studio session I had been know to use 6 studio flashes - too complicated!  I decided I'd go back to the old army adage KISS - don't just keep it simple; Keep It Simple Stupid.
I went back to one light and a reflector.
Here's the setup ....

One Bowens unit on camera left with a 'kill-spill' reflector and a shoot-through umbrella.  On it's own there was two much shadow on the far side of my face so I set up a reflector of sorts - in this case a softbox that I positioned pretty close to my face to get the balance between the key and fill to 2 stops difference..
I kept the key light pretty close to me so that the light falloff at the white background was almost black, actually a dark grey.

I'm not advocating that everyone should adopt this as the standard to use but I'm thinking that it's not a bad place to start to build on.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Facebook deleted me!

I've been a user of Facebook now for a few years.  It has been the only social network Internet site that I could relate to and felt comfortable using from an intuitive viewpoint.  I had dabbled with Bebo and one or two others but couldn't get to grips with them and the interfaces felt "amateur" - as though I had created it myself!
I became a member of Flickr (still am) but got tired of the constant use of superlatives on EVERY photograph regardless of quality and also found out a few people had deleted "friends" from their lists if they said anything remotely negative.  Might be good for some sheep but I'm an individual who doesn't like plámás and likes to speak my mind.

Two Facebook friends of mine were recently deleted.  Both women.  Both very nice people.  Both very much individuals.  Both progressive and positive.  One was deleted for having risque photos of herself on Facebook. It was, and is, part of her business and lifestyle but it appears someone didn't like her and her photos and was determined to have her punished.  The fact that her business depended to a significant degree on her Facebook page didn't seem to matter.  She found out how to contact Facebook personnel and despite repeated requests for reasons for her account being deleted and an appeal to have her account reinstated she was more or less ignored.
My second friend found she had been the victim of a sordid piece of work who hired models for art nude work - mainly for sketching/drawing - but was secretly making videos of them.  It also happened to a friend of hers.  She used Facebook to warn others.  She reported it to the Gardai.  Guess what?  The Gardai gave her the run-around for a week or so before telling her they "couldn't do anything".  And Facebook?  Her account was deleted.

So ...... me?
Every time I photograph a model I ask her to allow me to take a photo of the two of us standing side by side.  Initially it was for my private portfolio.  I'm 64.  I have more days behind me than I have in front of me.  At some stage, whether due to age or finances, I may not be able to take photographs of models and this would be a nice collection to look back on.
I give them the option to pose with me me nude or full-clothed.  Most have posed fully-clothed.  Some have posed nude or nearly nude.  Recently I took some of those photos that had a humorous touch to them and started to post them (with permission) on Facebook as my profile pics.

The photo above was one of my first.  As usual I poke more fun at myself than anything else.

The next one (above) was a little more daring.  The idea came from requests in the Dublin Camera Club (where I am a member) to sit in on my art nude shoots.  I felt that these requests were coming from people who were nervous about a naked woman standing in front of a guy with a camera and not getting his face slapped.  The atmosphere at these shoots is anything but tense.  It's very clinical and relaxed and any sexual tension would come about after the model puts on her clothes!
Anyway, 2 of the 3 models knew that I took shots of 'me and the model' and I asked if the three would agree to a funny twist on a threesome art nude shoot where they were in the background and I was oblivious to them, on the phone - probably to my wife telling her I was still busy at work.  They agreed.  We did the shot.  I posted it on Facebook.  It got a few laughs.

Tuesday of this week (September 6th) I had a great shoot with a UK model called Ivory Flame (real name Holly) and told her of my humorous 'me and the model' shots.  Would she be up for it?  I gave her my idea.  She gave me hers.  Hers was better so we went with it.  The idea was that she is famous for being an art nude model and I was being portrayed as being very nonchalant about having her draped on my shoulder.  If you had seen the 5 minutes before and after the shot it was no more exciting than watching the news!  Holly checked the shots after we had done them to be sure they would be Facebook friendly - no female bits on show.
I posted it (see below) yesterday as my profile picture and got great comments.

This morning I was about to go through 240 photos I had put in a private album for an entertainer to make choices from when my account just disappeared.  No warning.  Just left me with a login page.  I'm kind of used to this.  Facebook dumps me out of its pages and I have to log in again.  I always thought this was something to do with privacy or security so this time I thought it was the same.
I got warnings.  Optimistically I figured there would be a path to Facebook personnel somewhere along the line where I could question the account deletion and also appeal it.
Nothing.  No avenues out of the situation.  Just dumped.  What I found even more disturbing later was that all traces of me seem to have vanished as well.  My comments on other's pages - gone!  Like I never existed.  I'm assuming anyone who used some of my photos for their profile pics will find them gone as well.

The realisation of what that meant began to dawn on me.  I could live with losing all my private messages, friends' list, and most of my photos but some people had based their work schedules on me and Facebook was a big part of that.  So my immediate reaction was anger at the arrogance of them.  Very dictatorial.  Reminded me of '1984' and 'Enemy of the State'.  With the lack of responses from Facebook in these situations there lie the seeds of rumour and for people to make unchallenged statements.  One of the reasons often quoted for deletion is that someone has complained about a page.  I find this more realistic than the idea that there are Facebook police trawling the pages looking for illicit material. 

What's bothering me is that I can't find any rules governing what is allowed or not allowed on Facebook.  If it's there it is well hidden. I have found a few Internet sites but again, there's a lot of hearsay on forums which is not definitive.

I realised from my two friends' similar situations that there was little point in ranting about it and wasting energy in futility so I took the opportunity to create a new profile and do some friend-culling along the way.  Ha ha!  Facebook got me again.  I added a few friends pretty quickly and that generated a list of possible others.  I thought this was briliant.  Facebook was making it easier for me to build my friends' list.
I got a new warning that I was sending unsolicited friends' requests and there was reference to "not knowing them".  While I was wondering how I could ask people to be my friend Facebook issued me with a 2-day ban on sending friend requests.  I can't be sure - from a fear of causing me more penalties - but I think the ban may also include sending messages.  Bummer.

So beware fellow Facebookers.  They (whoever 'they' are) may just be worse than most people paint those secret government groups.  God, I'm turning into a 'anti' person.

What started off as a really bad day got worse when I almost alientated two people I know.  Totally unintentional and I put it down to the bad karma that was around.  But it got better.  My friends rallied around and a particular friend of mine (Jen Murray) started the ball rolling by initiating my friends' list. After that, the word spread and things got better.  The cream on the cake was a trip to see a new company called Abstract Theatre Group who put on a musical called "Rent" in the Mermaid Theatre in Bray.  An outstanding night.  Brilliant show (parallels with La Boheme) and a wonderful cast.
So Facebook, I'm back!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A good day

Today, or to be more precise - yesterday, I had a good day!
I've put off updating this blog for some weeks now because it was to part of my website reconstruction (a big thank you to Bonnie Cullen) and also because I was so busy and didn't want to dash something off just for the sake of putting words here.

Early morning saw me up at 5am-ish.  Takes me a while to get up and even longer to wake up.  It takes 2 hours and a bit for me to approach human status where I won't take your head off.  :-)
Visited my new Urologist in Beaumont - a long story that would bore you and gross you out at the same.  Suffice it to say that everything is working pretty well and there will be a few (unreported) tests in the coming weeks to verify that status.  The reason I mention him at all is that my experience of consultants (and I've had a few in the last 20 years) have been quite negative for the most part.  This morning was an exception.  Friendly, courteous, not patronising, helpful, educational.  So the day bode well.

My next event for the day was a  photoshoot with a girl called Ivory Flame (real name Holly) who is just exquisite.  Her name describes her perfectly.  Red hair and alabaster (perfect) skin.  Holly is a very experienced art nude model from the UK who is very aware of how lighting works and how her body works with the lighting and camera.  I had photographed her once before at a workshop and was bowled over by how relaxed she was with 6(?) guys in the studio with her and how pleasant and friendly she was, on top of how she seemed to defy physics (including gravity) with her poses.

She had sent me an e-mail letting me know she was coming over to Ireland for the week and I jumped at the chance to book her for a 4 hour session in the Dublin Camera Club.  I was not the only one!
I had also had a chat with my friend Lily and asked her to come with a special makeup for Holly.
Did the session go well?  I don't know if most photographers have days where the images in their heads refuse to translate into images in their cameras and studio flashes seem to produce results that are completely foreign to what they had expected.  It seemed that was happening to me.  I persevered on a few shots and stopped altogether on others because they weren't working and I didn't want to get frustrated and have it affect Holly.
The amazing thing was that Holly actually guided me on a number of occasions into getting the best shots of the day.  This should be one of the reasons any photographer who is considering art nude shots should get a professional because, like the ad says on TV, they're worth it.
Lily did an amazing job on the special makeup. I'm amazed at innovative she is and a lot of other virtues that I won't mention here 'cos she will be embarassed and then not talk to me.  I'll stop now before I start gushing.
The shoot ended with me having several serviceable shots for the future competitions in the club and my portfolio.  Happy chappy.

The last part of the evening was somewhat special as well.
I had been asked on a few occasions by members of the club if they could sit on one of my art nude sessions.  Afraid not.  They asked about workshops.  Thought about it, discussed it and said no.  I wasn't trying to keep secrets but it seemed to me (and another member in the club) that an art nude shoot was 80% about the model and 20% about the photography.  Unlike portrait photography there are no defined lighting setups (that I know of) and it's a question of deciding what your want and figuring it out.  Also, you don't just take a girl, professional or amateur, and plonk them in a studio, tell them to strip and shoot away with a camera.  You will just record a naked model.  If that's your bag then you're set but you will become know as the "guy with the camera" not a photographer.

You need to do your homework.  Choose the model to suit what you want to do.  Approach the model (usually via email) and ask if she works with amateurs, where she is located, is she available, what her rates or conditions are, etc., etc.  There can be pre-shoot meeting where you can show her the types of shots you want to do and she can show you her work and both can discuss what's on and not on.
Communication is important.  The day of the shoot has its own protocols and so the list continues.

I felt that the reluctance of a lot of members to organise their own shoots might be down to fear of the unknown.  When you think about it, asking a girl who is a relative stranger to take her clothes off in front of you will probably get your face slapped.  Nakedness is also associated with sex - strippers, Page 3 girls, etc.  Remember the model is putting herself into a vulnerable position and it is the photographer who has to instil confidence in her (or him) that he (or she) is trustworthy and serious.

I had a chat with Sarah Burns who is not only a great model but I like to think is a friend of mine.  I wondered if she would give a presentation to the Dublin Camera Club about what it's like to do art nude from a model's perspective.  We worked on the skeleton of the presentation together and Sarah created a well thought out presentation and gave a friendly and warm talk to the members who in turn had plenty of questions for her.  I was delighted on two counts - I'm hopng more will venture into art nude shoots now that they realise the models are human and they have seen the ptifalls that can befall the careless photographer and that the shoot is normally quite clinical and does not reek of sex!
I was also delighted for Sarah to have a wider audience to see the great standard of work that she does.

Yes, I know.  There are no links and no photos.  It's late.  The adrenaline that was keeping me going has started to fade and I think I might be able to go to bed now and sleep.  Links and photos will probably appear over the coming days but don't hold your breath.  I still have a lot of work to get through.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A day in the studio ......

I was helping a friend of mine, Eimear, about a week ago with a shoot.  I had met her on a fashion photography course I was on (briefly) and she was fretting a bit because she had to produce 5 framed A3 colour fashion photos from scratch.  I said I would give her a helping hand from the technical side and bring along some gear she might need if she provided the models and ideas.

The day was a reasonable success and I was impressed with one of the girls (Thabi) who had agreed to model.  I asked her if she would consider a photo session in the club studio and she agreed.  Eimear, who had provided all the clothes and shoes for the shoot and whose real passion is to be a stylist asked if she could style the shoot.  Now I'm a bloke.  I'm Irish and, like the majority of men, have a red/green deficiency in my eyesight as well as an inability to recognise what's fashionable or what colour-coordinates with what.  So a girl offering to do all this for me was great.

We shot a few e-mails back and forth and met up last Thursday afternoon, albeit a bit late, in the studio.
Having seen Thabi in action for Eimear's shoot I wanted to do a high key fashion shot myself and then do some low key which is what I like most.
I used to light high key with two lights on either side of the white background at the wall and then light the model separately from the front.  I always got variable results and would spend a lot of time in post processing eliminating the shadows and getting the background white again.  I went to a free tutorial in DML last year where the most useful thing I learned was how to light a white background with ONE light.

The setup is relatively simple.  I have a photograph of the setup below.

The idea is to bounce the light from the flash at the ceiling which bounces off the veritical section of the background and down and forward onto the floor.  A few caveats to this setup are:  I have used a Bowens 750 at almost full power.  A 500 would be about the lowest power you could go.  The second is you need that reflector I have which is described as "A high performance reflector" (Bowens # BW 1878) which is shaped to concentrate the light.  The next is a barn door to prevent spill hitting the model's face and/or the top of the background roll.  The last is the positioning and angle of the flash.  The picture above was my initial position which I changed and moved it closer to the back wall and changed the angle.
I normally set the power to get an incident reading (with the invercone) on the flash meter of f16.  I set the camera to f8 (maybe f8 +1/2 stop) and check the histogram and highlight blowout warning on the camera adjusting the flash power if necessary.

The rest of the setup is probably more easily seen in the sketch below:

You can see the background is lit by the flash angled to the ceiling.  I've coloured it yellow to make it distinguishable from the rest.  The model is (key)lit by a softbox set to f8.  This softbox is set high enough to give a more natural light and create some shadow - a bit like butterfly lighting.  Similar to butterfly lighting I use a second softbox (smaller) on the floor to give some lighting to the floor in front of the model, the models legs and feet and to fill some of the shadow caused by the key light.

And the end result is ......
Model: Thabi Graham Nkoala
Stylist: Eimear O'Reilly.

Next time I'll show you some of the other shots from the day and tell you about a phenomenon on the 5D MkII that produces red skin when you underexpose.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A date with a Goth!

Never judge a book by its cover.

Earlier this year I was part of a photoshoot in an 18th century manor house. There were three photographers and two models. It was a hectic day and my plan to have time with both models didn't happen. I didn't have a chance to shoot with a model called "Spunky Gore" who is a Goth. So when we talked about doing a shoot together I wondered what kind of shoot I could do.
Daniella (her real name) is a very nice, intelligent girl despite the impression her full-on Goth appearance gives. She has two Goth 'modes' - one for shoots and one for everyday. Her full-on Goth mode is quite impressive and I guess most people's reaction to it would be to take a step back. I spoke to her about ideas I had to contrast the appearance of the Goth 'uniform' with the reality of the 'girl' inside. She was quite taken with that and we spoke at length about ideas. Some time passed and she reminded me (I need reminding a lot) that we hadn't had a shoot. So we planned .....

Our plan included a small girl, a dog, a librarian and a library. "Never work with children or animals" was echoing through my head and I probably should have listened but .....
The shoot didn't go quite as I had planned but we gave it the best shot (sic) we could. It might be that I can salvage a shot using Photoshop to assemble one shot from several.
Once we had called it a day on the dog/small child shot, I saw an opportunity to show how people's perception of a Goth could be shown to be flawed.
If a Goth and a librarian were going to choose reading material I was guessing that the librarian would have something like the Sunday TImes and the Goth would have a magazine like 'Piercings Monthly' or something similar. My good friend Bonnie went above and beyond the call of duty and bought a copy of 'Nuts' (lad's) magazine for me - the best that could be bought in a Mace supermarket on a Sunday - and acted as second model for the shot.
I shot this in an actual library. I wanted the lighting to look a bit like daylight coming in a window with artificial lighting coming from behind. I also wanted the background to be out of focus so chose my 100-400mm lens at 170mm and a fairly open aperture f5 to get a shallow depth of field and a shutter speed of 1/100 at an ISO of 100. Without using any flash the ambient lighting of the background was dark enough not to be a distraction and bright enough to see some detail. Now to set the flash units.
On this shot I used a 750 and 250 Bowens along with a Chinese speedlite - a YN560 - which has a similar power output to the Canon 580EX II but is manual and not TTL.
I used a softbox on the Bowens 750 and adjusted to the power to give the exposure I needed to match the shutter/aperture/ISO I had set - this was my key light. I used a shoot-through brolly on the Bowens 250 to give a fill about one stop lower than the key light. To finish, I used the YN560 as a hair/back light.
The setup is shown below.
A bit of banter as we set up.

We took a few more shots during the day. It was a pleasure to work with Daniella and I recommend her to anyone for her professionalism, enthusiasm, energy and ideas. As is my custom I have a photo taken of me with my new model. Normally I don't show these but I thought this would bring a smile to some faces and confuse others who think my Facebook profile picture is quite representative of my grumpiness.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is something out there trying to tell me something?

This week has been a strange experience.

I've always been open to the idea that "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy". (Hamlet Act 1, scene 5).  So spiritual healing, telepathy, etc., are possibly there.

A friend of mine (Darren) and I have been hanging out for a while now and have shared photo equipment, knowledge, skills and a love of the stage.  We share a sense of humour and he's probably the only person who can consistently make me belly-laugh.

Another friend, Nadina, is someone I met late last year when she was entering photos for herself and her partner in the IPF Print and Projected Images competition.  I have since become good friends not only with her but her 6 month old daughter and her partner AND I have photographed her in the studio.  The session was something I really enjoyed and gave me a little spur of inspiration.  Nadina was in Edinburgh last week with her daughter Dani and came home on Saturday.

Yet another (and dear) friend of mine (Ruth) and I lost touch with each other a couple of years ago.  She had been a very supportive friend during a crucial time and introduced me to the Drogheda Camera Club where she encouraged me endlessly to take more and more photographs, enter competitions and to "go for my L".  A measure of her photo skills is evident in her distinctions - FIPF and ARPS.

The last component in this tale is my entries in the Dublin Camera Club's Winter League competition.  As I have explained before, the competition runs from September to February and a number of the top-scoring pictures are retained and in March they are judged as the "best of the best" competition.  There are 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in the sections novice, intermediate and advanced.  And then there is an overall winner chosen by the judge from the three "firsts".  There are three categories overall - colour print, mono print and digital projected image.

So .............
Yesterday I visited Nadina and dropped in some prints I had collected from Denis Whelehan that were superfluous to requirements in a competition.  We talked about what I was doing later - meeting up with my friend Darren and going to the Dublin Camera Club for the competition judging.  I left and went to the club and was going to sit down when the judge and I spotted each other and looked at each other in disbelief and joy - it was my friend Ruth.  After probably the biggest hug in history followed by a succession of "How aree YOU?" questions, I looked down the club gallery and could see the look of wonderment on the members' faces that might have said "That's it!  We've had it!  He knows the judge".
In the meantime, Darren sent me a text to let me know he couldn't make the judging but to keep him apprised.

We settled down for the judging and I won 1st in the advanced section of the projected images and 1st overall so I guess a medal and a cup?  The look of surprise and delight on Ruth's face when she found out she had selected my photo was worth more to me than either the cup or the medal.  Sorry DCC.

The next elelement in the tale was that she chose my friend Darren's photo as 1st place in the novice section.

The final element now links all the rest.  Darren called me this morning and during our chat told me that his brother (and his wife) had been in Edinburgh last week and came home on a flight last Saturday.  During the flight they started up a conversation with  ........... Nadina.

Too many coincidences and happy happenstances.

By the way, this was my winning picture.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ignorant Experts .....

I am not an expert on any subject except of course making love to women but you knew that.  :-)
I would even say I am ignorant in a lot of areas.  Are you surprised at the word 'ignorant'? (Not me!  Ed.)   Like a lot of words these days it is misused and abused to the point that it has lost its meaning - a bit like the word 'decimate'.  How often have you heard "the earthquake has decimated the city"?  They believe the word to mean obliterated.  In fact the word means almost the opposite - "to reduce by one tenth".  Similarly 'ignorant' has come to mean uncouth, lower class, tasteless; whereas it actually means lacking in knowledge.  I used to often quote a sentence a teacher told me - "Ignorance is curable.  Stupidity, unfortunately, isn't".  Unfortunately nowadays ignorance and stupidity or maybe arrogance are all interchangeable.

So what has me off on a yet another rant?  Ignorant Experts, that's what!
In fact it has become so bad I am considering seriously not giving advice or opinions on any subject.
"How's your pint Paul?"  "Compared to what?"

My first recollection of Ignorant Experts was quite a few years ago.  I was always one to latch on to the new gadgets that popped up and the computer keyboards of one sort or another were never far away from my fingertips.  So it was not uncommon for someone to approach me with the sentence "You're an expert on computers  .........."  I always contradicted them but my protestations were dismissed - another pet peeve.  (You've got a few.  Ed.)  I remember one guy who said "I need to get more memory.  What one would you recommend?"  Yes, there will be one or two of you who will have spotted the quirky contradiction in that question.  I ignored it and asked why he needed more memory.  "Those picture files are big!"  Okay, I thought,  it's not an unreasonable reason.  "What size were you think of getting?"  "Oh, about 80 gigabytes" (This was the late 80s).  "80 gigabytes!  You can't fit that size memory into a PC!"  I said.  "Yes, you can." And he showed me a catalogue with hard drives.  "They are hard drives!"  I said naively.  "You said memory".  And then he said "They're the same thing".  So, he had come to me because I was an 'expert' and now the expert was being corrected by - - - -  an Ignorant Expert.  Anytime he came to me after that, I pleaded ignorance - ironic in a way.

I had a digital camera when people didn't even know what it was.  So I was ahead of the game when they started to become affordable and popular.  That made me a target for the people who couldn't be bothered to read their manuals and wanted a quick fix otherwise known as "the golden bullet".
But it also attracted the type of guy who had spent his money on the biggest, best, heaviest, smallest, most-loaded-with-stuff camera and wanted to show off how smart he was.  I have asked on a few occasions with this type of guy to cut through all the crap and just plonk our manhoods on the table and compare with a measuring tape.  It would be simpler - I would lose and everybody could go home.
I had a 6 megapixel camera - a Nikon (Aghhhh! Ed.) - and a guy was comparing cameras with me.  There were some features I had that he didn't and vice versa.  Both of us were using 500MB cards (I think) and I was able to store several hundred large quality jpegs on one card.  "Aha!" he exclaimed, "Gotcha!  I can store more than that!"  In fact he was right.  He had found the menu item that let him change the pixel count and the quality so he turned his 6 megapixel camera into a 1.3 megapixel one and reduced the quality from maximum to lowest.  Fine if he ever wanted a print no larger than a postage stamp but the main thing was he had a 'better camera' than the so-called expert - me.

And we stored our photos on cards.  Then USB flash drives appeared.  People came up with all sorts of names for them but when Sony brought out a different storage device for their cameras called a memory stick, the public latched onto that name like cold porridge in a bowl.  Now the common flash drive that resembled the memory stick is almost universally called a memory stick.

Photoshop has given painless birth to a plague of button pushers who can produce results that are very different to what a straight print off a file produced in your local camera shop will give.  'Different' was the carefully chosen word.  'Different' doesn't mean better.  Sometimes they are but more times than not they are the result of someone else's knowledge gathered into what is called an 'action' and is essentially the same as pushing a button.  Unfortunately, some of the actions come with adjustment sliders and I can almost see the user at his monitor moving the slider to an appropriate position and then thinking "nobody will see that change I made" and so push the slider that little bit further so that people will 'oooh' and 'aaah' that Molly's acne has gone and is replaced with the same stuff they make Wavin pipes from.  Whiter than white backgrounds with people standing suspended in mid air with faces that resemble plastic.  Hmmmm.  I'm kind of happy to leave them to their trickery but it's when they ask me for my opinion on the pros and cons of various editing programs and plugins and then dismiss my answers that I want to ask why they asked me in the first place.  The answer is they are Ignorant Experts.

"Can I ask your opinion on my photographs?"  This sentence along with "Would you like to judge a competition?" are probably the ones that I find create inner conflict.  I know there are some of you thinking that I am putting too much thought into this but I remember my first photos appraisal.  I remember my first masterpiece being torn to shreds by an insensitive judge.  So my initial reaction is one of pleasure that someone thinks I have enough knowledge and expertise to give an informed assessment of their work.  But two new thoughts quickly elbow their way into my cosy space and decimate (I use the word deliberately) the pleasure.  The first is what do I do if all the work is actually bad?  The second is what do I do if they put up photos that may be works of art but I can't see it?
The last thing I want to do is discourage a budding photographer from becoming a master.  (Sexist? Ed.)  I have had people come to me in the last 10 years (now that I've taken up the camera again) who tell me they have photos I took of them 20, 30 years ago, sitting on their mantlepieces.  They also tell me how pleased they are that I took those photos.  I would find it hard to live with myself if I destroyed a potential photographer who could carry on this wonderful pastime.  So I praise what is good and suggest ways that other areas, that are obviously bad, could be improved.  I concentrate on safe basic foundation-creating points involving exposure control, composition and ideas.  They will develop their own styles and break the rules later on!
"That's a good thing" I hear (metaphorically) you say.  Yes it is.  So what happens when in a couple of weeks or months, your advice is ignored and the advice-taking becomes a debate on whether you are right or wrong?  I wonder why I'm being asked and the answer is I'm talking to an Ignorant Expert.

A few years ago I joined a couple of forums where models and photographers could find each other and show off their talents.  The members/subscribers varied from girls who uploaded the worst phone self-portraits to the best professional photographers that made you drool.  A lot asked for constructive criticism and a lot had their egos shattered with flame wars being the result and interventions by the moderators.  Some photographers told us that they refrained from making comments other than those that praised good photographs because of the negative reactions they got.  I guess they thought it was a bit like those talent programs on TV like X-Factor and the like where if anything is said that isn't a positive superlative then booing and bad karma are the reactions.
Me?  I was stung once.  Only made comments on photos and portfolios I thought were good after that.  There is a natural attrition so these do disappear gradually.  Unfortunately there is a myriad of others just waiting to take their place.

And competition judging?  I have judged competitions in the past.  My engineering background probably influenced the analytical way I approached the task.  I divide the photo qualities into sections.  Does it solicit and emotional response from me?  I don't care (for the most part) if the emotion is joy, fear, hatred, disgust, amazement or 'whatevah'.  The level of emotion will determine the mark.  Is it technically good?  Is it correctly exposed, printed for the subject matter?  Has it got good composition?  Use of colour or post-processing?  The last section is how difficult was it to take the photo?  In my opinion, Joe McNally climbing the lightning conductor of the Empire State Building to photograph a guy change the aviation light bulb (skip to 6 mins if you're impatient) will always win this section over a perfectly taken photograph of a piece of rust!  But there are genres that I am definitely uncomfortable with.  These include panels of tree bark, rust, record shots of people standing somewhere, Indians bathing/with their cows/looking poor/begging, derelict Irish homes with 'imported' memorabilia, graffitti - you get the point.  I'm not saying that these don't have merit.  I don't know.  It could be ignorance (!) but it could be a case of the "King's new clothes" too!
I have been asked to judge an IPF competition.  I declined on the grounds that I felt I should prove my worth to do so at club level where I wouldn't do that much harm and certainly wouldn't affect my club's reputation.
The thing is .....  how many competitions have you been in and after discussed the merits (or not) of the judge's ability to give a fair assessment?  Have you joked about his comments?  Have you been angered by the fact you were in first place in the competition series until that final judging and argued with the club committee?  There will never be a perfect judge.  There will always be somebody who is genuinely better at judging a particular photo than the judge but there will be a lot more whose norm is to show how much better they are than the judge - Ignorant Experts.

My final bunch are the people who have made it as photographers and then put themselves forwards as experts.  Yes, I know this sounds like they are entitled to do so but bear me out.
I know one photographer who takes very good portraits but hasn't a clue how the shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings connect with each other and regularly takes studio shots using flash using shutter speeds anywhere from 1/15 sec to 1/250 sec.  If you see nothing wrong with this go find out.  His photographs look good on screen but don't print well above A4 and this is with a camera in the 15 megapixel range.
A lot of these people also give workshops.  I think this is a good thing as long as they teach what they know.  They have found a mode of working that produces results every (or most of the) time.  Their concentration is then the other aspects of getting a picture - setting up lights, talking to models, composition, etc.  If they tell me that the flip up mirror in the camera is actually the shutter I start to worry.
They point out that the cameras have aperture priority and shutter priority settings as well as manual but don't explain why I should use them and suggest that 'Auto' is perfectly acceptable to use.  Maximum flash sync is never mentioned or barely touched on.  ISO is 'something to avoid' if you don't want 'grainy' pictures.  Shooting portraits with a 24mm lens is perfectly acceptable without mention of what might produce a more pleasing result.  The list goes on.
The end line is "I am a successful professional photographer therefore I am an expert".  Well, I can fly a Jumbo jet in a simulator but I don't think you'd want me in the pilot's seat on your way to New York.

So what is this rant really all about?  It's the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing coupled with arrogance.  There is a group of people that are in the majority unfotunately who, because of the technology that exists, can produce photographs that are better than the straight point-shoot-print class and are on their way to being great.  Unfortunately they also assume that this ability and plucking snippets of information from knowledgable people gives them carte blanche to redefine the facts and the standards of what contributes to great photography.

Grumpy grunt?  Yeah, probably.  But the final points are:
  • I'm fed up being called an expert when I'm not.
  • I am ignorant in so many areas but am dismissed (grrrrr!) when I protest.
  • When I offer advice/information it is fact because I have done my homework.
  • If I offer an opinion I tell your first that it is an opinion.
  • I object to having advice I give being fragmented to suit the person's opinions.
  • I object to online courses, workshops, training where the material is wrong and I know more than the tutors.
So, because of the past few years of dealing with Ignorant Experts I will be filtering my responses to requests for advice and opinions.  I am hoping though that I can pass on some basics here in this blog and welcome corrections to my information where I may make mistakes or not relate the information in a clear way.  As long as you can back it up with something other than opinion and Wikipedia.  :-)  Also unfortunate is that I may alienate some people whose work I admire but who have asked  me for my advice or opinions in the past.

And no, most of the time I'm quite at peace with the world but I have a reputation for grumpiness I have to maintain.  Sorry!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Despite all the doom and gloom ......

We've just had our election and as predicted Fine Gael ran away with the votes which, by the way, was a massive 70% of the electorate.  I sometimes wonder about statistics when you consider I had two polling cards delivered to my house - neither of which had my name correct. Oddly, the local politicians' pollution machine that pukes out blurb about the candidates went into overdrive and sent me two of everything.  Again, the names were incorrect.  Oh well, the excitement is over, the posters will eventually come down either by design or by encouragement of time and weather, the government will form with compomises made, the public will turn on them as they renege on their implied promises to solve everything without cost and we will continue where we left off several months ago.
However, the doom and gloom hasn't affected me too much.  I've been busy.  My memory is so bad I can't tell you what I did yesterday but I do have a few landmark moments I can recall that brighten up my day.

Photographically I've done well.  The Dublin Camera Club hold a Winter league competition every year that runs from October to February.  There are 3 categories - Colour print, Mono print and projected image (colour or mono) for each of the levels - Novice, Intermediate and Advanced.  There are overall winners in each of the sections and a number of pictures are retained by the club for a "best of the best" final in March.

I'm not an overly competitive person.  I'm probably my own worst critic but I do enjoy seeing a reaction to my pictures and to hearing a judge's opinion on them.  There is friendly rivalry and discussions about the judge's expertise and whether we can do a job on his tyres before he can get to his car.  The club also puts the pictures on display in the Council room so that we can all get a closer look at them and also get a chance to talk to the photographers who took them and maybe get some knowledge as a result.

This year, there were a few front runners in each section and the final outcomes (besides the March final) were not forgone conclusions and all depended on the judge on the night.  And so comes one of my highlights.  I won 1st place in the Advanced sections for colour and mono prints.  I'll be putting up the photos I entered later on next month so keep checking.

A bonus that happened during the competition was that the IPF were holding print and projected image competitions.  These were regional competitions that culminated in a national final in Athlone during February.  I entered a few prints into the competition when the regional competition was being held in the Dublin Camera Club.  It was there I helped a woman and her child with her buggy.  I showed her where to go to enter her prints and we started chatting.  We all had to leave the premises until the judging was being done so we ended up having a few coffees in the nearby Insomnia where I learned she was from Riga in Latvia (where I had visited once) and she not only took photographs but was an artist and a horse whisperer.  I had seen the pictures she had entered for the competition and was already impressed so the additional skills were causing a slight overload.  She showed me some self-portraits that were equally impressive and that was when I asked if she would pose for me and she agreed.

Nadina's work can be seen on her website and on her blog.

We went back to the club for the judging where she won two places - a first for this shot below called "TWO"

 .......and a third place for this shot called "THE GAME"

Sadly, Nadina didn't win in the finals in Athlone but I got the good news that my entry in the mono section was awarded a judge's silver medal.  There are the regular gold, silver and bronze medals with others receiving "highly commended" certificates.  Apart from these the judges are allowed to give a medal to and individual print and I got one for "IVETA".

So three happy landmarks.
On top of this I got to have a photo session with Nadina in the studio.  Below are two pictures from that shoot.  An exceptional photographer and a gem to photograph.  More shots will follow.

I also did a photoshoot in a country manor house with two friends from the Dublin Camera Club.  We had been planning this for some time.  It is difficult to coordinate three photographers, two models, a makeup artist and availability of the location.  However, we managed it.  The original idea was for a collaboration between us so that we could learn from each other and also share setups - we had a mixture of Bowens monoblocs and speedlites of various types along with softboxes, brollies, snoots and the like.  We had also decided on a mixture of shots from art nude to 18th century costume.  I had hired an 18th century costume from Clown Around and bought a wig on eBay.  I also made a visit to one of the models to choose clothes for the shoot.  A lot of planning and yet we ran over time and, in my case, I felt the pictures were not as good as they could have been because I was rushing.  But I learned lessons from the day more about management than photography

Instead of a collaboration, what actually happened was we did three shoots.  That's not a fault of the day, just what happened  and suited all of us.  It also cemented new relationships that would be mutually beneficial in the future.  Three of my photos from that day did well for me in the Winter League competition I mentioned earlier and here they are:

Yes, there were a few other significant happenings but they'll have to wait until the next update ....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

From the shiny side of the lens .....

Monday, the 7th of February, I had my portrait taken.  "Big deal!" is probably the words going through your head - hundreds of thousands of people have their photograph taken every single day.  Of that number there would be a much smaller percentage who would be posing for a photograph that might be used in a company brochure or as a record of an event to be published in a local newspaper.  Or maybe headshots for theatre progammes.

And then there's the scary kind......

The kind where your character is captured - the essential you - frozen in time and on display for people to pore over.

For me it was a big deal.  I have always avoided having my photo taken even in group shots.  I was never a photogenic person but would have had my fair share of 'snaps' taken of me by friends when we were engaged in fun and frolics - nights out and the like.  I've even had two portrait sessions in my lifetime.  One was where I was the guinea pig for a friend who was trying to perfect his lighting techniques and the second was when I actually instigated the event and went to a professional photographer's studio.  This was because of a visit to a professional photographer in the mid 70s where I had bought a Mamiya RB67 from him.  At the time there were (I was told) only 12 of these cameras in the country so I was well chuffed.  While I was there, waiting for the guy to finish off his paperwork and find the bits and pieces to go with the camera I was looking at his work.  It was magnificent.  All low key portraits.  Moody but not dark.  He had portraits of university graduates in their black gowns against black backgrounds that were beautiful.  He could photograph a black cat in a coal hole!
In later years I went back to that studio to have my portrait done but he had passed on the business to his son and he was not the artist his father was so the results went in the bin.

So, in the last few weeks, when two friends of mine asked me to pose for them my initial reaction was to
run.  But lately I have been challenging my own reactions, and I chose to consider their requests and say "yes".  I thought it would be interesting for a photographer to be on the other side of the lens and wondered what effect that might have on the person photographing me knowing that I would observing their techniques - hopefully not in a negative critical way.  And yes, there may be a few more puns to come!

So the day arrived.  The photographer was a girl (any female younger than me is a 'girl') called Sinead McDonald who is in her third year of a degree course in the Institue of Technology in Tallaght.  She has a wonderful portfolio of work, an amazing colection of film cameras and is passionate about photography.  Recently she embarked on a continuing photo documentary of a veterinary practice where she photographed everything from the mundane to the gory.  The style is all her own and required not only a knowledge of the technical side of photography, an artistic eye but also an empathy for the work that the vets do.

As I drove to the place, I was increasingly aware of what I was letting myself in for.  Maybe Sinead considered this because she almost immediately showed me the style of photograph she had in mind and it immediately reminded me of the low key portrait images I had so wanted years ago.  She did tell me that I didn't have a 'smiley' face!  I knew what she meant.  I have a reputation for appearing sullen and grumpy.  I have been told numerous times in the past that it takes less muscles to smile than to frown.  On that basis there are no muslces (probably) used if you're not smiling OR frowning.  THAT is my face.
We went to the studio, got out the equipment and chatted as everything was set up.  One Bowens 1500 on me with a beauty dish with the 'baffle' removed to give it a bit more contrast and another unit with a snoot on the black background paper to lift me from the backgound.  The camera was a 5" x 4" view camera - oh boy!

Being aware that I was now the model I was very conscious that this was a very formal portrait where attention is paid to the smallest detail.  This is not just because of the cost - 5" x 4" negatives are not cheap - but also because it will be one pose and slight tweaks to that pose rather than the quickfire change of pose we have become so used to seeing on TV and movies.  A small movement of my head or even an eyebrow made the difference of having a catchlight in my eye or not.

In this kind of atmosphere there is also an awareness that you are exposing (pun!) your character and putting some trust into the other person to capture that essence without abusing it.  There are other mundane aspects that I keept drilling into photographers at studio workshops I give about treating the model as a human being and not an object.  Holding a pose for a long period of time can be sore and make you stiff.  Sinead, and her tutor who appeared now and again, gave me the opportunity to relax and move if I needed to and kept up a dialogue with me all through the session.  I have to say that there were moments when I became an 'object' and was spoken about as difficulties to overcome rather than a person.  I was amused.  Other' mightn't be.  I know that when I am photographing low key nudes I am guilty if treating my models the same way and must strive to be different - lesson learned.

The big moment arrived.  All the readings had been taken.  All the settings had been set.  It was now time to take a photograph.  In the days before digital there was a method of checking that your lighting, levels and pose was correct before you exposed the film - it was polaroid.  Very hard to come by these days but not impossible.  But you don't want to waste them.  Shutter cocked, lens closed off, polaroid back loaded and 'click!'.  The first shot was good.  Pretty much how it was envisaged.  I suggested changing my light coloured jacket for my dark coat and we set up again.  "Click!".  Second shot.  I was slightly impatient to see the result and when I did see it I wasn't disappointed.  It was the photograph I had wanted thirty odd years ago.  As was mentioned before I'm not a smiley sort of person and the picture, to an extent, looks melancholy.  That may be another's view but I'm a person who 'ponders' and whose mind is constantly whirring away even when I'm doing other things.  I think that picture captures that.  Because of that I am now (sort of) looking forward to my next photoshoot with another 'girl'.

Thanks Sinead.