Saturday, 29 November 2008

Spreading the word further

A quick update on our ever-widening net of community building today...

Giles Babbidge Photography has finally hit YouTube! Yes, it has been a while in the pipeline, but I have at last got around to setting us up in front of this extended audience. A few things will be tweaked here and there to begin with whilst we find our feet, but already the GBP videos produced so far have been uploaded.

So, if you are a keen YouTuber, please check out our channel here and feel free, as ever, to subscribe, bookmark, comment and pass on the links to anyone you think would be interested in seeing how we go about things.

The same, of course, goes for the GBP Blog too - I really would like to hear your responses to what I have to say.

And remember, it's now even easier to keep track of these ramblings, either using a free Google account or an RSS feed reader - check out the options on the right.

Thanks for being part of the team.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Inspire me!

Today has thus far been altogether uninspiring. Don't get me wrong - I've been productive enough, taking care of 'work in progress' jobs, organising the supply of prints, following up on interest shown in the Blog... blah, blah, blah... but, well, that's about it.
Sure, you expect to have days like this. And it's nice to have it a bit quieter from time to time, to catch up and to take care of the smaller things that need doing.

I should have known this would happen. The day got off to a bad start, with me spending all morning thinking it was Saturday. With this in mind, there were things I needed to do in town, so I adjusted my plans in order to adhere to Saturday's time constraints. Hmm... I also had it in my mind to head out to the woods to try out a few new lighting techniques I've picked up this week. But just look out of the window - it's cold, dark, wet, windy. Combine this with the state of my confused mind, and things do not bode too well!

Shame really, because during the course of a chat with my good friend Paul last night, I sketched out a number of ideas for shots, which I hope will form the beginnings of a new personal project. This is something that's been on my mind for a while - I've been so caught up in producing work for other people recently (not complaining, though!) that I haven't given a lot of thought to my own work. As photographers, we need to make time to create images off our own backs - otherwise our portfolios simply show the work and ideas of a myriad creative directors, marketeers, designers etc.

So here I am, then. It's Friday, not Saturday. And I'm looking for inspiration.

And do you know what, in the the course of writing this post, I think I've found some! Funny how things work out, isn't it?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

40th party people

In my last post, talking about happy accidents, I alluded to a recent assignment photographing a party. Here's a bit more detail about that...

This one was a private affair - as apposed to a corporate shindig - and was held to celebrate a 40th Birthday. The location was a large activity centre housed in an aircraft hangar, in which 60 guests congregated - complete with fancy dress - to let their hair down... Remember Dennis The Menace? Thunderbirds? Banana Man? Well... they were all there, strutting their stuff! Encouraging attendees to dress as characters from their favourite childhood comic books and television shows was a great idea and, photographically, it offered plenty of potential for some striking images.

As is often the case with these jobs, I was commissioned via one of my event management clients. I've worked with them a lot over the years, and we have such a good working relationship now that they know what they can expect - without the need to direct me in any way. I really like this flexibility because I think it produces better pictures - and that is, after all, what it's all about.

Humor me while I get a bit technical here, but I know some readers love to get a glimpse into the 'behind-the-scenes' stuff... My initial set-up, as is often the case, was to have one camera hooked up to the utra-wideangle Sigma lens, and a second to the trusty telephoto. This is the way I most often kick things off, sometimes substituting the latter for my 'standard' 18-70mm Nikkor zoom - an aging optic now, but still nice and sharp.

One of the great things about the wider lenses is that they allow me to get close in amongst my subjects, for frame-filling shots with a certain intimacy that you just don't get by stepping back from the action. This suits me fine, because I think it's really important to engage directly with people - to make them feel at ease... which results in the best possible pictures.

With all shoots - but especially at events such as weddings and parties - I'm always looking out for the smaller shots, too. The details, the incidentals - such images have the ability to 'fill in the gaps' and ultimately build up the narrative of the story.
On the night in question, I was able to produce plenty of candids, using the ambient light to compliment the costumes' striking colours.

Speaking of lighting... each of my cameras was set up with a Nikon SB-800 speedlight. However, I really don't like to use these on-camera if I can help it - the results are often flat, uninspiring and full of god-awful shadows (see left). Instead, I do one of two things - either hand-hold the flash at a distance anywhere within my arm's reach or, at more controlled assignments such as location portraits, place the flash on a stand. Off-camera lighting is just so much better; it is more flattering for portraits, it helps you avoid unsightly image content (again, see picture) and it shows the form of objects off at their best, at the same time adding atmosphere to a shot.

By way of comparison, have a look at this picture, again depicting one of the musicians. See how much better this looks? In this particular example, there was no front spot-lighting of the band, so I was able to replicate this effect simply by holding the flash high up an angle of about 45 degrees to my left shoulder. Notice how the background drops off into shadow, how the wonderful colour and detailing of his guitar stands out, and how I have made use of what little ambient lighting there was, to add a bit of colour and interest. Altogether a much more pleasing image, I think.

And finally, just to prove that the tables do sometimes turn...

If you are one of the girls in this picture, please speak up - I'm curious to see what your picture looked like! Get in touch and we'll do a swap :)

Monday, 24 November 2008

Happy accidents - are they such a bad thing?

This last weekend saw me undertake one of my favourite kinds of assignments - event photography.

The brief itself was very straight forward and called for general coverage capturing the location, the guests, the atmosphere. My initial set-up is nearly always the same for this type of work - 2 camera bodies, each with flash, and lenses covering ultra-wideangle to telephoto. I will be writing about this shoot at a later date, but for now I want to take a more artsy-philosophical route...

There comes a point within any shoot of a certain duration, involving battery-powered equipment, when your batteries are going to fail. Of course I always keep plenty of spares in my case, but the fact remains that it does happen. And not always at the most opportune time. Nine times out of ten, I will have noticed a drop in technical performance or, specifically with lighting equipment, longer recycling times between flashes, and so I can preempt the situation to avoid missing a picture. Sometimes, however, this shortfall in the technology creaps up on you out of the darkness of the music-driven night...

The pictures in this post come as the result of this apparent 'failure'. They are accidents, they were not supposed to exist, and they most certainly do not fit in with 99% of all the images created that night. In theory (ahh, theories...), they are not technically proficient - insofar as the flash failed to fire, meaning they are darker and show more movement than intended. Of course I could easily have produced these results deliberately, but such images were not on my 'to do' list. For a start, anyone who was present at the party most likely would not have recognised the place!

But you know what? I like them. I like them for their atmosphere, for their richness of colour, for their ambiguity even. I like them for what they are. Plain and simple. And what's more, I make no apologies for this - or for admitting to having taken them. This sort of thing happens all the time in our industry - it's just that the majority of photographers keep these 'happy accidents' to themselves. I seem to recall there was one particular news picture, a few years back, which won a major competition (could it have been the World Press Photo Awards?). It was 'taken' when the fleeing photographer tripped and accidentally fired his camera which was hanging at waist height.

But does that make it any less of a picture, any less worthy of the prize? After all, the guy was there, in the thick of the action, covering the events as they played out in front of him. The resulting image may not have been what he would think to produce (either technically or aesthetically), but it was competent nonetheless.

There is, of course, an age-old deabte - centred around the question "What makes a good photograph?" Is it technique? Timing? Or could the simple act of being in the right place at the right time have something to do with it? You see, that's the great thing about photography - and about the creative arts in general. There is plenty of room not just for experimentation, personal interpretation, and technical variation - but for happy accidents, too. I say we embrace the latter and just remind ourselves what the purpose of a photograph ultimately is.

Please let me know your thoughts - by following the 'comments' link below.