Thursday, 21 August 2014

Venice on Film

In July I visited Italy on an incredible trip that began with a friend's wedding in Aquileia followed by a visit to Vicenza, Verona, Florence and Venice. I took my digital camera and my trusty Olympus OM10 and shot some colour film in Venice. Here are a selection of my favourite images from Venice:

Click to see full size version. This image was featured by 'UK Film Lab' as their Image of the Day.

I'm really impressed with the tonality and feel of these pictures, shot with Kodak Porta 160 film- it really suits the setting and the mood.

I also shot some B&W film at Lake Garda that I recently got developed. I plan on going into the darkroom for the first time in a year and get some printing done very soon.

Also I've recently purchased a new instant camera and have some ideas for a future project floating around. Watch this space!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Sigur Rós Live from Jodrell Bank: Transmission 006

Returning for a third year, the Live from Jodrell Bank series of day festivals returned to the Cheshire countryside for Transmission 006 and this time it was the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós' turn to take the helm. And just what more is there to ask for? The combination of the enormous 76m Lovell radio telescope that looms behind the stage couldn't be a more fitting backdrop to the otherworldly soundscapes this band somehow manage to create.

At showtime the Lovell moved from its position facing the sky and slowly moved into a position facing the audience. Meanwhile a sequence of ghostly 'space sounds' echoed through the air: the sounds of meteors burning up in the atmosphere, the radio crackle of Jupiter, the rhythmic beating of the first ever detected pulsar and other cosmic hisses. The mood was set for the band, accompanied by a small string and brass section, to bombard us all with a wall of sound. Sigur Rós opened with the restrained Yfirborð building to a quiet crescendo and leading instantly into the louder Glósóli, a piece that builds to a booming distorted end. The audience didn't dare even whisper. At times we even forgot the obligatory applause as pieces seamlessly melded into one another. Jónsi, always a man a few words, broke the sonic flow with a 'Thankyou, this is a very cool place' reminding us all that a live band was behind the sensory bombardment. As we listened we were treated to abstract visual displays behind the band and the Lovell telescope turned into a giant projection screen. A particular highlight was when the stage lighting was turned low and the Lovell telescope was transformed into a huge 76m diameter moon.  

As the night went on we heard a range of pieces from across the back catalogue, a loud cheer welcoming in the chiming opening to Hoppípolla. Hoppípolla was followed by Varúð, from the previous album Valtari, that builds to one of the most beautiful progressions known, ending with the warm crystalline chants of the choir. For the encore, Brennisteinn was unleashed from the new album Kveikur, a hard-edged thumping piece. Throughout green lasers were beamed over the heads of the audience, smoke highlighting the spectacular planar lasers. Finally, Sigur Rós ended the set with Popplagið- a twelve minute epic that builds and builds into a drumming frenzy as the guitars are thrashed and Jónsi sweeps the audience away with his repetitive incantations. After such an all-encompassing sensory onslaught, the question remains: who could possibly step in and top this next year?

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens

I've recently bought a 50mm f/1.8 lens as an upgrade to my camera gear. I've not actually got around to using it yet for actual work but having a quick test with it, the results are lovely. Also, it's very SHARP!

Having such a fast lens means indoor shooting is particularly impressive (e.g. low light portraits/ gig photography). Additionally with such a wide achievable aperture, you can get quite creative using depth of field.

Here are a few examples testing out the lens:

Illustrating the narrow depth of field

Creative defocusing 

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Picture of the Week

Most histories of photography are Western-centric and barely mention the development of photography in the East. This week we focus on an important Japanese photographer, Shomei Tomatsu. Tomatsu  raised traditional photojournalism to new levels, making his work more representational, mirroring the rapid modernisation of Japan as it turned to the West. This is most clear in an untitled image from Tomatsu's Protest, Tokyo series from 1969. At this time of social change, Japan felt the reverberations of youth protest movements in the West and the Tokyo youth became highly politically engaged. The image I've chosen this week depicts a scene from a Tokyo street protest. Tomatsu captures the protestor  uniquely isolated from big crowds expected in such large protests, the background thrown into an abstract blur. To me this suggests a deep-seated uncertainty for the new Japan to emerge from Western influence: the currents of change are impossible to halt and whilst the youth collective provide a political challenge, their influence is fleeting.

© Tomatsu Shomei, Protest, Tokyo, from the Oh Shinjuku! series, 1969
(You might recognise the picture from the front cover of Haruki Murakami's The Wind Up Bird Chronicle)

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Yashica Mat 124g

I've recently bought a Yashica Mat 124g. It's a beautiful camera to look at, the light meter is still working and  it's brilliant having a large waist-level viewfinder for composition. For those of you that don't know, the 124g is a TLR or Twin Lens Reflex Camera meaning one lens is used for composition in the viewfinder and the other is used for the capture. Most TLRs take 120 roll film instead of the more familiar 35mm film. This means the negatives are 6cm by 6cm, allowing wide enlargement and crisp results. I've just got a delivery of 120 roll film for the camera, loaded it (hopefully the right way) and taken my first shot. Hopefully the weather will play ball tomorrow and I can run through my first ever roll of 120 film. I'm really excited to see the crisp results!

Here is the camera next to a tea pot. The light is just lovely in my flat. You can only begin to appreciate it when it's captured:

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Picture of the Week

Delay on the picture of the week this week. Apologies the PhD workload has been hectic recently with an annual review and a recent conference talk down in Dublin. Anyway, we will push on, better late than never.

This week our picture is taken by Philip Jones Griffiths and for me was one of the most poignant images in the current Northern Ireland: 30 years of Photography exhibition, at both the MAC and Belfast Exposed. The picture depicts a soldier staring stonily through a scratched plexiglass shield. It has an eerie ghost-like quality, where the visage seems to be slowly fading away right before our eyes. It's almost a metaphor for post-Peace Process Northern Ireland: a past that is slowly forgotten but still remains either in memory or photography.  

© Philip Jones Griffiths Soldier Behind Shield, Northern Ireland, 1973

Friday, 31 May 2013

Picture of the Week

Today's picture is James Joyce relaxing with his grandson in Paris, 1938, photographed by Gisèle Freund, one of the only female founders of the Magnum collective. Freund escaped Nazi Germany during the 1930s, settling in Paris where she took up her doctoral studies at the Sorbonne in photography. This was originally frowned upon as photography wasn't seen as a true art form but Freund later became known as one of the greatest portrait photographers and European feminist intellectuals.

This picture is all the more relevant as I travel to Trinity College, Dublin, next Friday to give my first conference talk. If only I was feeling as nonchalant as Joyce in the picture!

© Gisèle Freund James Joyce with Grandson sitting on a bench, 1938