New year project

So instead of a picture a day for a year, I’ve decided to go for a slightly different approach, taking a picture of my Moleskine weekly year planner, at least every week for the year, sometimes it will have picture stuck in like a scrapbook, sometimes my plans, sometimes just my words.

Why? Well, why not? I think the 365 has been done too traditionally too much now, you’ll get bored of a picture a day, but if i mix it up and throw in a bit of variety with a mixture of images and words, it could make something really interesting. I also intend is year to be a big one for me, got my driving test soon, car being delivered soon, NYC again (ohhh yeah), Anna Maria Island AND i start university! So if it does turn out to be that good, ill want something at the end to remember it all by.

Also, if you’ve got any theories, interesting stories, thoughts or experience with street photography, please read my last post and get in touch.

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Street Photography: A Dissertation

Well, for the past month or so I’ve been working on m own dissertation-type-thing on street photography, its influences and what it means to me. I’m really trying to put it together in the best, strongest way possible, I want it to read well, seem concise but also very broad in both its reach, appeal and relevance.
The work will be available on here for free, of course, but it wool be a while, but if you wanted to see it sooner, drop me a comment or email about your experience with street photography/photojournalism or any similar practice, maybe giving some info or hints where I might find the info. You will of course be cited.

If you want to have a read of the intro as it stands ill email it upon request or just Skype me (OllieGapper).

Have a great new years!

– OG

How To: Wings

How to: wings

Backscape retake

Project 365: Day 57, Wings take 3

So one of my more popular images seems to have been my ‘wings’ shot, of my back and the question I’ve been receiving more and more is simply “how did you take that?”. Well its actually a very simple shot to make for your self, so here’s a step-by-step to enable you to give it a go!

What you will need:
– camera with full manual (M) control
– some form of off camera lighting (strobe preferred, but other forms can be used)
– darkened room or garden
– Photoshop or similar

Step one, select your model:
Well this was an easy step for me as i intended to use the shots as a timeline for both my photographic and physical progression, so my model was myself.

Step. Two, location, location, location:
The next step is to select your shooting location. Im going to guess most of you aren’t blessed, like myself, with a studio, but don’t despair! Believe it or not you can create this shot without a studio! For the second in the series i simply got my SB600, hung it from my washing line at night, placed my camera on a tripod, set my timer an kneeled beneath the light.
I now use my Interfit studio strobes with a soft box for these shots, all in my studio on a black cloth background, shot tethered so i can nail my shot first time and save time in front of a screen.

Step three, Settings and such:
I used all TTL metering with my camera on M set to underexpose my surroundings by around 4 stops. The camera and speedlight did the rest! I had the flash undiffused and unfiltered, so a very simple yet effective setup that yielded great results.
(for studio strobes either strobe meter or just shoot and adjust till its right!)

Step four, posing:
This is something that would be a lot easier if you had a model that wasn’t also the photographer, as, being able to look at your subject through the viewfinder and direct them as you desired is a lot easier than shooting, checking, correcting, shooting, etc. Get the ‘safety’ shot, the shot that you or your client needed and will be happy with, but once you have that, don’t stop, start working, this is your chance to push your, or your artistic directors creative boundaries, so try different poses, different models, move the light, move yourself, go crazy!

Step five, Post processing
This is a crucial stage in any image, but none more-so than with this shot. I usually make a layer mask of my body outline, black out the rest and lay a new layer on top and experiment with a black feathered brush to see what looks best

Step six, Publishing
Now you’ve got the shot, upload a copy to flickr and post me a link in the comments or via email! I’m serious, i really am interested in seeing what i inspire people to create, a few have done vie Twitter and have had some amazing results that I’m proud to have inspired.

Have fun and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 Review!

New York

The nikon 28 2.8 is a tossed salad when it comes to performance and, well just over all “ness”. When i say tossed salad though i mean the good kind, like the kind you’d get at a good italian restaurant served with generous amounts of balsamic vineagarette. Basically what I’m trying to say is I love it, but i can see why many wouldn’t. My first real experience of the lens has fortunately been in New York over the course of my 18th , meaning i have been able to really out this lens through it’s paces in both controlled environments and of course the street.
New York

So as a how does this lens perform as a street lens? Well this is a question I’d assume, the answer to which would prove useful to the majority of those considering this lens. I have only used this lens on the d90 so my metering has been all manual and my focal length magnified. BUT this has not hampered me from growing very fond of this lens for fast, reactive street work. I have found this lens to be my new walk around lens, out ranking the 50 1.8 so far for usefulness with it’s wider focal length and speedier operation. I have found the manual aperture ring to be a lot faster and more useful for the speed and feel i need to get for the street (i know all non-g lenses have this as well but as i am forced to use it, it has really grown on me) and has allowed me to get great shots of spot lighting and hard light in shadowed ares of the city really efficiently.

New York

New York
The focal length and separation isn’t ideal, perhaps a faster lens would offer more but i really think it’s just a case of the focal lengths hyper-focal distance coming into play. I mean i can really get along with this approximate 42mm focal length but i feel the separation is just not always their at a useful focus distance. The DX sensor of the D90 will also be a contributing factor to the separation and DOF i have been experiencing so if your a FX or film user ignore me on this point. I am the type of shooter that likes to be able to isolate entire person from their surroundings at least, large groups of people would be preferable (thats why i carry a minolta x300 on me) and this lens just doesn’t give me either. I can get some separation if i frame the shot for just a head and shoulders shot but i never take shots like this, I’m a street shooter. Don’t get me wrong though, you can separate people or groups, you just have to be very lucky and work very hard, but it is possible and the results ARE worth it.

New York

New York

As for build quality, the lenses primary construction consists mainly of plastic, but this is not a negative point, oh no, the plastic used is very, very tough feeling and feels very reassuring in the hand. This also makes the lens very light and being one of Nikons 3 pancake lenses, this lens makes a great walk-around and everyday lens. Don’t be put off by the plastic construction though, the lens mount is all metal, so it’s gonna outlast it’s useful life.
The focus ring feels very smooth (on a good condition specimen) but has a relatively small focus range, which can be a good thing in terms of speed, but not so much for focus accuracy. With the 50mm 1.8 the focus ring has a much broader gamut, not to say it focuses that much closer, just that it has much smaller focus increments.
The aperture ring has a good feel, positive movements and solid increments. One thing i have found is that it exhibits my pet hate play at the 2.8 end of the ring. This is were the aperture ring has that very small bit of movement at the wide end, meaning it clicks into 2.8 but then moves just a little bit more causing the precision of the lens to be compromised and, at times, making me want to rip the rings off the lens (it gives that kind of feel)
New York

New York
Suggestions + conclusion
Would i recommend this lens? Yes, but only if you can get as good a deal as I did (I traded old camera gear i bought for about £10 at a boot fair for it). Ok i know this is amazing deal that will probably not come to fruition for the majority of you so I’d recommend a £40-50 cap for this lens which isn’t as low as you may think, this is an average price for this lens. If you can spring for it, I’d strongly recommend getting a wider and even faster lens if you can, something like the Nikon 20mm 2.8 or even the Sigma 20mm 1.8 as I have found 28mm to be a little tight to be able to capture the drama of the street. But other than this the lens is sharp enough, produces excellent colours and feels good to use, so yeah, I like it. I love how this lens has forced me to really think about every exposure and given me the ability to alter my exposure to nab a highlight in a flash. If your seriously considering one, get out to a second hand camera shop and have a try to see if it’s the right lens for you.

Billingham Hadley Small Review

Coming in as one of the smallest Billingham bags, the Hadley small is by no means a weak competitor. It’s size may be an issue for those who like to carry 2 or 3 pro zooms or multiple flashes or multiple bodies, but it’s a fantastic bag for those of you who are like myself and much prefer venturing out with one or two fast primes or are users of smaller form-factor cameras like the micro fourthirds, NEX or even Leica branded cameras. Personally i use is bag for either when I am heading out with the D90 with a 28mm + 50mm for light digital street work or with my Minolta x300 with 50mm and 5-10 rolls of film OR with my iPad. Or all three together, yep, that’s right, this bag can, with little encouragement, take two primes, two small bodies, ten rolls of 35mm AND an iPad/net book. Hardly befitting of it’s size.
If, however, you do intend to carry this amount of gear in the bag, i would highly recommend one of Billinghams leather shoulder straps as sloping shoulders + heavy bag + frictionless camera strap = disaster. I was a little disappointed to learn that the bag did not come with said strap, but luckily I had one from my 335, so i just bunged that on and all was well.
Having used this bag for my entire 5night trip to NY, i can safely say it is brilliant for street photography. And i mean brilliant in every sense of the word. It’s small so it’s not an issue on the subway, the leather straps ensure it is secure from pick-pokets and it’s weather resistant coating enstows a sense of confidence should a sudden downpour enter the mix. This bag is a LOT faster to use than the 335, with that bag i had to unstrap 2-4 straps, 1-2 zips and then wrestle my gear out, with this, its two, well fitted straps and your away! Don’t worry though, the lack of a zip-top is compensated for with a padded top flap that adds another layer of water and shock protection.
The main compartment has ample room, when divided properly, to hold my D90 with small prime and my X300 with 50 1.7, which is great for speedily grabbing a cam out when the opportunity arises. The back pocket can snuggly fit an iPad/small net book, or whatever you want of similar size, just be aware that this does make the bag a bit tight and it does tend to roll around your body more as the bag cannot form to your body. The front two pockets area good size for many of the small necessities for street, or just about any other shooting, theirs room in each pocket for 5 or more (at a push) rolls of film, or a lightmeter, phone, iPod, small hard drives, cables, memory cards, batteries, I’m sure you get the idea. Personally, I have around 5-6 rolls of film, a pen, light meter, memory cards and replacement Nikon battery, but theirs still room for a small notebook or phone.
I prefer having my wallet and phone in this bag rather than my pocket now, it’s just a lot safer and cleaner.

As for build quality and ergonomics, this has to be the best in class. Even though it is among the smallest pro camera bags available, it is as well built and designed as any bag in Billinghams range and even better than my 335 (as it is the older version with the traditional canvas). The material is soft a nice to the touch, the leather is thick, well cut and of obvious high quality, all of which are stitched together in way that will NOT break under strain. This bag, as with all in Billingham range, seem to fit my body and distribute weight perfectly. I can bend down quickly, swing the bag round to my back and front, run, jump, you name it the bag just. Seems to be exactly where you want it, all the time (when its not stuffed with an iPad).
Being in New York, one of the most photographed places in the world, locals, other photographer and more importantly thieves know what a good camera looks like and more aptly, what a good camera bag looks like, so discretion, as with all places, is key. I had some hangups about using a Bilingham on the street, as it’s not exactly unheard of and if anyone knew what it was, they would presume it would be carrying expensive gear. This however was never really the case, i noticed other photographers being noticed a lot when they were sporting very tactical looking lowepro bags, yet i never once caught even a passing glance onto my bag, even whilst shooting. This isn’t to say i didn’t wrap the strap round my leg every time I sat down and on the subway, but that’s just being sensible.
Suffering from scoliosis, I have to be careful of not only what gear i travel with and use, but also the bags i use, as the way in which a bag distributes weight CAN make a massive difference. I have used the Lowepro SlingShot AW, but just found it very impractical and uncomfortable. With bags that lie across your torso you get a crushing effect on your chest that leads to chest pains and mid back pain, so this bag was not for me. Other shoulder bags of no brand I have used seem to place the weight in such a way that my lower back becomes compressed and begins hurting, which is all limiting in the field. Without wanting to sound like a brand adoring snob, the Billinghams just seem to place the weight and carry any load perfectly; I mean i still get back pain, but i do anyway, its just no where near as severe, which speaks volumes for their design.
This is a gorgeous looking and amazing performing bag that i would not be without now. It literally goes everywhere with me, with my iPad, a pen, a camera, some film and whatever papers and such given at school, two camera bodies for shooting or just the NEX and the iPad for when im just leaving the house. A truly brilliant bag that i would recommend in a heartbeat to just about anyone, photographer or not.

New wave

Ok, so after having 2 weeks in the lovely US, i am now ready to start back with my internet ventures. I have a few posts and things in mind, including a review of my Billingham 335, another review of the NEX 5+16mm +18-55 (yeah, we have one!), a tutorial on studio metering without a meter (It’ll explain itself) and more thoughts and ideas on gear and my advice on what to buy.

Hell yeah, lets get blogging.

Stay safe and watch this space.

Fashion + modeling shoot colours.

Project 365: Day 33, ...Its a State Of Mind
I was experimenting a while a go and found a nice way to achieve the same colour grading effects as many professional modeling and fashion photos.
Its really simple and all you need is a RAW image handling piece of software!
Ill restrain from many screenshots as their is only like 1 step to do this, first open your file in either Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture or similar. Next get to the Vibrancy/Saturation sliders and bring both down to zero. This will give you a black and white image, so all you need to do is slowly adjust the saturation slider until the desired effect is achieved. Play with both sliders until the image looks its best and voila!

Post your results here or tweet them to me (@olliegapper)
Race Track