Thursday, 31 December 2009

Introducing: The Vobes-Babbidge Pinhole Camera Project

With the end of another year just hours away, it's time to think ahead to what the next twelve months might hold in store. That in itself will be the topic of a forthcoming post, but for now I'd like to talk briefly about a very exciting project which I will be involved in throughout the whole of 2010...

Many of you will by now be aware of my friend and collaborator Richard Vobes - most likely as a result of following either him or myself on Twitter, or via various audio chats we have recorded this year for (some of which have also subsequently appeared in posts here on the GBP Blog).

Well, now we have taken things one step further, embarking on an idea which Richard came up with a number of months back. Its working title is The Vobes-Babbidge Pinhole Camera Project - and we are very excited about it!

In a nutshell, we are going to be stripping back the photographic process, removing the hi-tech, super-material, computer-reliant aspect so prevalent these days, instead concentrating on producing a set of images as the final outcome of a simplified yet very involved process.

Why so involved? Well, rather than simply purchasing a pinhole camera and photographic film, we will instead be working from scratch - completely from the ground up. As such, the starting point will be to construct our camera- most likely from traditional materials such as wood, varnish, brass, leather etc. And then there's the small matter of the physical medium onto which our images will be physically recorded (clue: we want to make our own).

The final images will for part of an installation/exhibition around this time next year.

For the benefit of both ourselves and those who would like to follow our progress, Mr. V and I will be recording all of our steps along the way - via audio, video, stills and note books. We've already documented our first tentative steps via audio; you can listen to these below in order to get a better idea of just what we have in mind.

Pin Hole podcast - 001

Pin Hole podcast - 002

To keep up to date, either check by here to see new pinhole-related posts, or bookmark the Pinhole Camera Project page over on

Dear diary...

Is it me, or are people getting just a little bit tired of technology, the further it travels along the road to apparent progress?

This may sound like a very blasé question to pose, but it seems that a great deal of individuals I speak with all-too-often find themselves the victim of newfangled ways of carrying out tasks, where their traditional methods never caused such problems. As you might guess, it was my own experiences that brought me to write this post, and one in particular which has to do with organisation and data loss.

In previous years, I have always used a typical, long-established form of diary - a paper-based affair - as I am quite traditional at heart and like the combination of reliability and the strangely-comforting tactility of its pages. But 2009 saw a switch to a more hi-tech solution. Or so I thought.

The rationale was simple enough: As I am often out and about, it made sense to have my diary sync'd up to my BlackBerry device so that, in combination with my online diary, I would be able to view/update my schedule in real-time. Simply put: short of losing a connection, everything would be to hand and I would be able to easily stay on top of my commitments day-in, day-out.

But what is it they say about the best-laid plans? I forget now. What I do remember, however, is that by week 2 of November, my online diary only had entries for the last week of October; by the end of the month, October's records had disappeared completely. And on 16th November, it was already beginning to remove that month's earliest entries. Strangely, January-September and December onwards remained intact throughout.

Now, I'm sure the boffins out there would be able to offer many suggestions about how to recover the missing data and so forth but, frankly, I am no longer interested. At the end of the day, I need my workflow systems to be reliable and dependable (in this respect, a diary is no different to, say, my cameras) and so it is time to seek alternatives for the new year.

With this in mind, then, 2010 will see a return to what I know works best for me - a traditional pocket diary. As I type, there are already scribblings in a nice new, highly portable, soft-cover Moleskine - which allows for much pimpage (probably not an actual word) and considerable peace of mind. By way of backup, I will also resurrect my whiteboard planner in the office, so that activities are always noted in multiple locations.

Granted, a return to 'old technology' would not be everybody's answer to the above dilemma, but it certainly suits me. In talking over this issue with a number of people, a variety of alternative options have been suggested - each not without its own merits.

Even though I have now found my solution, I'd still be keen to hear what you have considered useful in terms for boosting your workflow and/or productivity - so please, as ever, drop me your thoughts in the comments section or via the usual channels.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Looking ahead to 2010

Just as with 2008, I have decided to a write a post centred around a look towards the next 12 months.

It's been a funny old year, for all manner of reasons. Some have been professional - not least of all, the challenges presented by the continuing economic climate; but also I have had something of an unsettled time on the personal side of things, too. There's no need to go into detail here, but suffice it to say that I would once again like to thank all those who offered their support and kind words along the way - it meant a great deal.

But as the saying goes - we must now push forward, onwards and upwards!

The way business is conducted - not just within the photography industry - has noticeably shifted. Clearly, many more people have jumped on the social networking band wagon this year, setting up blogs, podcasts and accounts on open platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr. As far as I can see, this can only be good thing. And from a personal standpoint, thanks to the use of my networking activities, I have not seen a significant loss of trade as a result (regular readers will know that I generally don't spend on 'traditional' paid advertising). Looking ahead with latest developments in mind, it'll be interesting to see what comes of Google Wave... and beyond. All very exciting stuff!

I recently took a few minutes to revisit my 2008 'yearly summing-up' post, to get an idea of just how much of my 'intentions for 2009' list I have actually achieved. Well, in spite of everything, I was pleasantly surprised to realise that I've actually done better than at first thought. So, with this fresh in my head, here is my initial list for 2010 (again, to be extended as time goes on, no doubt!):

  • GBP website - revamp, develop, launch a completely new look
  • Record more audio/video content for GBP Blog; monthly/occasional podcast perhaps?
  • Extend online writing activities (speak up if you can help with this, please! I'm especially keen to target photography, outdoor pursuits, business and networking e-zines, )
  • Consider further tutoring and public speaking opportunities
  • Personal projects - research and develop further; possible exhibition?
  • Continue to build online network, especially via Twitter
  • I must make time to visit exhibitions by other photographers and artists
  • More use of prime lenses, starting with purchase of a new 35mm f1.8
  • Keep up to date with my subscription to Wired magazine - so many good ideas, so much inspiration... it's wasted on the bottom shelf of the coffee table!
  • Ensure that computers remain as de-cluttered as possible!
So that's a start - and enough to be getting on with, I think. I will also be continuing with a number of points detailed on the previous list, despite not mentioning them here.

Let's hope 2010 proves to be a great and successful year for us all. As before, do let me know what you have planned; it'd be great to follow your progress and see where you end up in 12 months' time!

Take care, everyone, and have a great new year :)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Festivities, fun and fireworks

Well, it only seems like about a year ago (give or take a few days) since I last wrote about the 'C' word. Yup, that's right - Christmas is just around the corner once again!

Am I more prepared this year? Um... well, I'd have to go with an optimistic "It's too early to say right now." Certainly there are a few things which have been discussed and which have got my brain moving in the right direction. One major achievement, though, is that I have a date set in the diary for getting the decorations out and put up. Hey, it's progress!

On a larger, more public scale, you would expect commercial organisations to be in full flow on this front. And from what I can see on a local level, they are. Christmas lights, street entertainers, hot chestnut vendors, kiddies meeting Santa's reindeer... all these things were set up and ready to be captured through my lens on a recent shoot for one of the local city councils.

In terms of photography, this was pretty typical stuff for me - but as regular readers know, I love getting involved with events as they present so much subject matter to indulge in! Doesn't matter what the theme is - everything from local themed Birthday parties to internationally-recognised multiple-day events.

Thankfully, I was given a pretty loose brief on this day, with only two main technical considerations. One was to keep an eye on timings, as various highlights were happening in specific places at specific times (such as a choir singing and the turning-on of Christmas lights).

Secondly, I had to be aware of the inclusion of young children (sub-18yrs) in my pictures. Such is our current climate of fear/paranoia/mistrust that I will typically make a point of introducing myself to any kids' parents, explain why I am photographing, and for whom, and then request permission to take photographs.

On this latter point, a standard official minor-/model release form often needs to be completed; something of an inconvenience at times, but at least it does offer some reassurance to all those involved about one's legitimacy and professionalism. In simple terms, it is an official 'permission slip', and is standard practice in our industry.
It's sad to have to take these steps, but an unfortunate necessity.

But back to the event...

All was going well up to about 4:45pm when, with light almost completely faded, the area was treated to a not-altogether-festive downpour of rain which, quite typically, decided to fall in biblical fashion just around the time that the firework display was set in motion, moments after the blessing of the Christmas tre and turning on of lights.

Having researched and arranged my shooting position earlier in the day, all plans quickly evaporated as I only had a 7-minute window and needed to get some - any - shots showing the display acting out behind the cathedral.
In spite of the conditions, I managed to get the tripod set up just in time (to avoid camera shake during long exposures).

So relentless was the weather that I could not very well keep the lens free from rain as the camera was tilted skywards and (due to logistical reasons) I did not have an umbrella to hand. Without exaggeration, the water was literally flowing off my camera and yet the Nikon still performed (another fitting testament to the pro- versus amateur-build quality debate).

You can clearly see the water droplets recorded as out-of-focus highlights in the picture on the left here.
Yes, I could have wiped the glass, but this would only have smeared the water around - and with so little time available, I would most likely have missed my chance to record a decent number of frames.

Now, admittedly these were not the greatest fireworks pictures I have ever produced (they wouldn't be, under such conditions) - but you know what, I kind of like happy accidents. Call it 'artistic license' if you like. Whatever. But at the end of the day, I am a creative who is brought onboard a project for that very reason - to put my angle on recording the subjects I am presented with.

All said and done, everyone seemed to be having a great time and were not put off by this soggy end to the day. The resulting imagery will now be used immediately and throughout the coming year (and beyond) for all manner of promotional purposes. Think in terms of websites, flyers, festivities brochures in the run-up to Christmas, annual reports etc and you won't be far wrong.

You know what? It almost feels like Christmas... :)

Monday, 7 December 2009

Unveiling simplicity

A really quick post for this morning...

I recently undertook a job for one of my long-standing local clients. Nothing over complicated, it was a simple case of recording the viewing of several newly-constructed properties, with the resulting images destined for use in various traditional and online marketing publications.

Given that the people involved were there simply to discuss the new unveiling - and not to be bossed around by their photographer - this was a very flexible shoot which involved me fitting the various imagery of my brief around their schedule.

As is quite typical, the shoot entailed the official 'group' picture, informal portraits and a number of interior scenes showing off the overall spaces, fixtures and fittings. And with the properties being empty, devoid of any furniture, the brief really lent itself to some lateral thinking - after all, how does one make an empty room look homely and inviting to would-be residents? Well, if you know me and my approach, you can imagine that the answer is not too complicated!

Because of my long-standing
working relationship with this client, I knew that they would be very open to the idea of a little creativity in the form of what we technical people call 'wonky angles' ;) It's a simple enough technique, really - you just rotate the camera a little to throw a touch of visual interest into the picture. Simple, but effective.

On a slightly more technical note, simplicity again won the day - I used a single camera, mounted on a tripod (for the interior shots), and alternated between two lenses (note techies: 18-70mm, 10-24mm). Lighting was whatever came through the windows and from the ceiling-mounted light bulbs, apart from the people shots, which required a single flash light either bounced off the ceiling (inside) or fired directly from a position alongside the camera (outside).

So there you have it, a quick post about a quick set of basic imagery which will be used to promote my client and their properties over the medium- to long-term.