Category Archives: reflection

Focus folly

two men standing in a doorway at night

two men and a doorway

Here’s a curious one, which I’m calling a focus folly.

I was in St Andrews to get some photos of their St Andrews Day celebrations, but mainly the fireworks. Walking along the street my attention was taken by these two chaps standing in a doorway having a smoke. My line of sight was across the rooftop of a parked car and the way the light was falling on the raindrops intrigued me as a foreground. I had no time to set up a tripod so getting anything here was reliant on being quick and hand-held with a fast enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake. This meant a high ISO of 10000 and the inevitable grain that would go with it. I quickly chose my composition and, using an aperture of f5.6 took two shots – one with the foreground droplets as the focal point and a second with the two men as the focal point. At this time I had no idea what I might end up doing with the shots, if anything.

Getting the shots on screen I really liked the way the foreground raindrops worked with the deep bokeh of the background. The trouble was, that this meant the two men were also out of focus and they really made sense as the subject of the photo. I did, however, have a second image in which they were in focus. At which point I was straight into Photoshop and working with layers and a mask to produce the end result we have here.

Why am I calling this a focus folly? Simply because this is a manufactured effect but I think it works with the foreground leading you directly to the main subject without all the other background distractions.

Now, after all of that, did I get any shots of the fireworks? I certainly did….

St Andrews fireworks-4988

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Michaelmas

Which came first – the daisy or the festival? One has almost certainly given its name to the other but whichever way it is this is a sure sign of autumn; the appearance of the Michaelmas daisy blooming here beside some autumnal berries. As the new literature Laureate said, “The times, they are a’changing”.

With a new season, I am going to try to post a focal point much more regularly. Now that I have the WordPress app I can take and upload photos using my phone. This image is the first I’ve posted having taken it on my phone with minimal in-phone editing for highlights and contrast.  It’s fine but I still prefer using my DSLR but let’s see what’s possible with a phone camera too.

Light and time

colour on stone

cast colours

What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time.  John Berger

 

Light and time are ever present, yet also fleeting, passing and constantly changing. As John Berger says, they are the essential raw materials of photography. As the shutter opens and closes the light present at that moment in time is captured and recorded.

Both concepts of light and time speak to me in this photograph taken in Gloucester Cathedral. The direct light of a low February sun was shining through the stained glass windows casting this collage of colour onto the stone pillars of the Cathedral. I was drawn much more to this casting of light than I was to the window itself. The pillars provide a sense of permanence, stability and strength, almost challenging time itself. In contrast, the cast of colours suggest the fleeting nature of light washing lightly and gently over the hardness of stone. Those particular patterns might never appear again in exactly the same way and the magic of photography lies in capturing this moment of interaction between light and time.

I’ll probably keep coming back to this image as it’s just one of those that I can look at time after time and be inspired to different thoughts and emotions.

The photo was shot on a Canon EOS 70D at 1/40 sec with an aperture of f8 at ISO 800. The focal length was 29mm. It was shot in portrait format and I made slight adjustments to tone and colour in Lightroom as well as cropping for composition.

Travel retrospective 11 – paddling home

Paddling home

Fisherman

This was shot during a visit to the Indonesian island of Nias in December 2006. It was an extremely hot day and in a break from filming on the beach I had gone for shelter higher up the shore which gave me enough height to spot this lone fisherman making his way back to shore.

I was struck by the effort of paddling back home and the pose of this fisherman seems to capture that. I think the effort is made more visible by the contrast and silhouette created by the contre-jour lighting. When this fisherman had hauled his boat ashore with the help of a friend, I wandered down to see the extent of his catch; a mere three fish. I was struck by realisation of the amount of effort it takes for many people in the world today to scratch out a living and this photo always reminds me of that.

The photo was shot using a Nikon D70s at 1/640 sec on ISO-400 with an aperture of f14 and a focal length of 300mm. The original photograph was in colour and has been converted to mono in Lightroom with minor adjustments to tone and contrast.

 

Travel retrospective 10 – Catching the bus

Bangkok bus

Catching the bus

This was shot in Bangkok from an elevated walkway. It had been raining heavily and, as usual, the roads were busy with traffic. This bus had stopped in the congestion and I noticed a few people run through the traffic to reach it, as it was nowhere near the pavement or bus stop. That seemed to be no obstacle for those wanting to get on.  The woman approaching the bus was the last to make the dash and look of delight on her face indicated just how pleased she seemed to be to be in getting there.

I think the wet road adds an interesting texture to the photograph with small puddles of gathered water and softly reflected shadows. I like the sense of contrast in the story of this picture with the stationary nature of the traffic counterpointing the movement of the people grabbing an opportunity.

The photo was shot using a Nikon D90 at 1/320 sec with an aperture of f5.6 and a focal length of 105mm. The original photograph was in colour and has been converted to mono in Lightroom with minor adjustments to tone and contrast.

 

Travel retrospective 9 – health confidential

Submitting a prescription

Pharmacy

This is how prescriptions are submitted and dispensed at a clinic in Kinshasa, D R Congo. The patient leaves the clinic with a prescription and then goes round the corner into a secluded street where it’s passed through a window to the pharmacist. Once made up the medication is passed out in the same way.

Why should something as simple as this appear so clandestine? Perhaps it’s a security issue, or maybe it’s more to do with the fact that this clinic deals mostly with patients who are HIV positive or have AIDS and perhaps there is a social stigma still associated with that. In truth, I don’t know the answer but it makes me wonder what we do to the dignity and self-respect of people when we end up stigmatising them as a result of a medical condition. It seems, perhaps, that some conditions carry with them a moral judgement making them more serious than others. That hardly seems right.

For this photograph I deliberately chose to shoot the transaction from inside the pharmacy to emphasise the anonymity of the patient.

Travel retrospective 8 – curiosity

An old woman shows interest

Curiosity

It’s curious, sometimes the unexpected just appears before you and proves to be really captivating. I was on my first filming trip with BMS World Mission covering a number of projects in and around Kathmandu, Nepal. On this occasion, we were filming a public health initiative which was focusing on maternal health. Upstairs in a small brick building, babies were being weighed and checked after which there was to be a nutritional cooking demonstration in the yard at the back. I was making my way up the stairs to get some photographs of the baby clinic when I happened to look down into the adjacent property where this elderly woman had appeared and was looking up at the noise coming from the clinic, as babies cried and mothers sang.

I have often wondered what she was thinking, but she has a look of curiosity on her face, Was she struggling with her eyesight and unable to see what she was hearing? Was she fondly remembering being a young mother herself? Was she concerned about something? There’s no way of knowing, but I was immediately struck by her appearance and expression, behind which lies her own personal story. A story we can only guess at but which is real, was lived and experienced.

This photograph was originally shot on Fuji Pro 800 colour film, transferred to digital jpeg format and processed to monochrome in Adobe Lightroom. The conversion to monochrome is a stylistic reference to this being a retrospective view.