Some pictures…from the day time?!

Reading through my posts, it dawned on me that pretty much all of the photos I have posted have been from the evening.  This is mainly down to the fact that, despite having an awesome job, Sian and I work bloody hard. All the time. But last week we had our good friend Ozzy stay with us (very soon after Jen and Tom left, so we are now pretty knackered!!) and were able to get out over the weekend to do some good old fashioned exploring. As is now customary in Barbados, we knew where  we wanted to take Ozzy – to North Point.  This is…err…the most northern point of Barbados, and offers some great views.  So I just checked on Google maps where we were heading and we set off. As is now customary, Google maps was wrong. And as is now customary, I threw a tantrum. Cursing the Google gurus, we bounced down the pothole ridden track…how can they be so dump?  Sure I can find 2 nearly billion pages of Russian porn in two seconds, source 500,000 pages of lunar moon conspiracy, or watch over 650,000 hours of cats sneezing with the mighty web engine – but can they pinpoint the most northerly point in Barbados and take me up the correct road of the three that are here?  Can they balls.

Anyway, we eventually found it – no thanks to the internet, and all my frustration quickly disappeared. It is a magical place. I took loads of landscapes but, I’m afraid to admit, I was using the D80 (please see here!) and had forgotten that I had cranked the ISO for an example of how pants the sensor is in that blog.  I NEVER change the ISO on the D80 because it is so dire in the top levels, and, like a true rookie, did not change it back.  Lesson 101 Ferg – check your settings! I should have noticed when I was shooting at f16 and a shutter speed of 1000th…it was a bright day, but come on Ferg. Unfortunately, I couldn’t blame Google for that. So we then had a seat and a beer, and watched the world go by.  I stepped back with my 70 – 200 and got some nice candids (I think) of Oz and Sian.

And while we sat drinking our beers, with the sea battering the cliffs below, we were treated to a cacophony of birds singing in the trees above.  Oz and Sian went exploring, and I sat and watched them, Bill Oddie style. I quickly learned that I am a terrible wildlife photographer.  After firing off a few frames, it was apparent that I really had no clue what I was doing.  Trying to shoot wide (2.8) was a waste of time, as the birds moved too quickly for my focus to cope, and I ended up with a horrible blurry mess with twigs and branches in focus. After about twenty minutes of hopeless flailing, I stood and watched, instead of trying to shoot.  It was amazing.  Above us were a good dozen nests, and the birds were all flying out to get their chicks food.  Until now I had been completely oblivious  to the drama going on above.  The birds were busy building their nests and bringing food home for the chicks.  One of the parent birds would fly off in search of food, whilst the other stayed guard over the nest.  The small ones lay silent until they saw mum or dad return, and the nest would erupt in a fury of high pitched chirps – desperate to remind their parents they were there, hungry and ready to eat.

It was wonderful.  Because of my camera (and my sheer stubbornness to get a good photo) I watched this whole story unfold.  Normally Sian and I just enjoy the bird song, but today I watched the full drama in all its glory.  It was amazing.  One bird flew over to another nest and pinched some twigs.  This is clearly why the birds guard their nests – not to protect their little ones from predators, but from their thieving own kind!

I watched for a good half an hour or so, and upon Ozzy and Sian’s return, we finished our beers and headed home for a swim – a little wiser on the wildlife habits of the Bajan Birds, a little more experienced on how to shoot them, and a little more in love with the new camera, for making me see all these things 🙂

Ferg x

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The Limbo Lady

Every Wednesday here at the resort, we have a barbecue evening set out on the beach when the weather permits, otherwise we are all bundled into the slightly dryer Horizons restaurant, and this lady comes out to play:

Sian and I have probably seen Cheryl perform about 40 times.  She is amazing.   She has the most incredible control I have ever seen.  Reminiscent of Bruce Lee in ‘Enter the Dragon’ (?!) she is able to move each individual muscle – muscles that I am sure do not even exist on my abused, overweight carcass – with the utmost of ease.  It really is fascinating to watch.

Despite her amazing skill, however, we find it very painful each and every time we walk through the barbecue.  The show is more about ‘the guest experience’, rather than a showcase of the art of Limbo.  There is the inevitable ‘get the kids up and have a go’, followed by the painful parents – more specifically dads, dancing with the pretty Bajan lady who wiggles her hips oh-so provocatively.  Then the fire is whipped out and we are treated to some pyrotechnic antics.

And she is better than that.  Much better.

But please – I don’t begrudge Cheryl.  The show is what it has to be, forty minutes of pure holiday gold for the beered up Brits, but when you see the finale – I sometimes wish we could focus more on the art than the audience participation.

Because it truly is breathtaking.

Cheryl has been the Limbo Queen in Barbados for a good few years now, but the sport is dying.  No one is as interested in the calypso-fuelled past time, and Cheryl has no one to pass the torch onto.  This may sound ridiculous, but when you see her do her thing, it does make me wonder – will my kids returning to Barbados as Beered up Brits be able to enjoy this amazing performance?…Because, believe it or not, the amazing Cheryl is over 40 years old.

Have a great weekend 🙂

Ferg

x

Digging out the old…


Quick post – I am trawling through the harddrive and trying to work out which photos I should share with all you good people, or at least the eight that will come and read this.

I am also trying to find some snaps that I have not already shared on Facebook or Flickr, because I am under no illusions that the people who are reading this are my friends and family, and will have seen the pictures all before anyway…

So, here, for the first time ever, are some piccies from my and Sian’s affectionatley named ‘mini moon’. The day after our wedding, waaaay back in October, our good friend Ozzy who is the deputy GM at the amazing Ardoe House and spa up in Aberdeen very kindly sorted us out with a three night stay in what can only be described as a palace.

The place was awesome, the food amazing, and Ozzy was, as always, the host of champions.  It’s tricky when you take pictures of your holidays when you’re a photographer, as there is a lot of pressure (at least I put it upon myself) to take amazing photos everywhere we go…thankfully, with a wife like Sian, the job is made a little easier from the get go, and the Aberdeenshire backdrop helped out a lot too…

Hope you like them 🙂

Ardoe House.   And Oz was worried we wouldn’t like the place!

We had a jaunt out to Dunnotar Castle too…which was pretty epic.

Some pretty pictures for you to mull over anyways – thanks for looking guys 🙂

Ferg

x

Everybody in the house make some noise…

As you may have gathered from my previous posts, Sian very kindly agreed for me to buy ‘us’ a new camera  (despite her best efforts she is yet to have a proper go with it…I’m afraid I’m not the best at sharing).  Anyway, the camera we opted for after much deliberation and discussions, was this beast:

This is not my photo - it's pinched - sorry! It's 11 pm and I need to go to bed 😉

It’s a Nikon D700.   And I love it.

It’s not, by any means, a new camera – it came out waaaay back in 2008, when Sian and I bought our tried and true Nikon D80s.  We still use the D80s every now and then, and they are lovely, lovely little cameras – but the 700 is just a new world.

So what makes it so good?  Well, the first thing I am sure a lot of you will assume, is that it has a million mega pixels, full HD video, touch screen interface and the ability to create beautiful panoramic photos by simply waving it vaguely towards the horizon.  Wrong.  It has none of these perks.  Image size is relatively small with a mere 12.1 megapixel sensor, and video was but a weird experiment (introduced by Nikon, but far surpassed by Canon now) that they toyed with their D90 around the same time the D700 was released. There is certainly no touch screen and the panoramic gimic of some of the new Sony point and shoots – although an excellent application for the holiday snapper, is definitely not there.

“So why spend nearly 2 grand on a camera that’s so dump Ferg?!” I hear you cry. And the answer is very simple.  Noise.  And no, I don’t mean the wonderful mechanic clank of the mirror locking up with each exposure – I mean image noise.

This bad boy is amazing.  The 700 has what’s called an ‘FX’ sensor – so it is physically 33% bigger than the weedy chip in our D80s.  Even though it is delivering a very similar megapixel count to the D80, the bigger surface area and quality of the chip makes it much more sensitive to light, and therefore, your ISO range can be increased significantly.

If you know what ISO is – please skip down to the pretty pictures below, but if not, please allow for a quick explanation in as un-patronising way as I possibly can.  ISO was introduced to film makers back in the day, to help photographers know how to expose their photos.  The ISO (which simply represents the International Standards of Organisation) rating of a film refers to how quickly it reacts to light.  The higher the ISO, the faster it reacts, but at the cost of clarity (remember all those grainy photos in the rain from back in the day? High ISO film).  The ISO rating was put in place to ensure that whichever brand film you bought,  the film sensitivity would be the same throughout, thus making your metering and exposure correct.  If, for example, you bought an Agfa 800 – it would be exactly the same exposure (nothing to do with colour, vibrancy etc) as if you got a roll of ISO 800 for free when you developed your negs.  You would tell your camera which ISO film you had loaded, and it would expose accordingly for you.

The easiest way I can think of explaining it is if you imagine you have a blank canvas and a paint brush.  A lower ISO allows you to paint the canvas methodically from left to right, allowing for an even and polished finish – but it takes time.  A higher ISO means you have to achieve the same goal – painting the entire canvas, but you do so in a fraction of the time – so you just chuck the tin of paint at the canvas and hope for the best.  When chucking the paint, you may well get a similar result, you have, after all, painted the canvas – but it is very likely to be blotchy and spotty, when opposed to the methodical and slow approach of a lower ISO.

So what’s the point?

Well, with our spangly new camera,  I can ramp the ISO to about 5000 and still get beautiful, crisp images that I can use.  With the D80, if I crept the ISO up to even 1600 – I would invariably get what is known as noise in the image.  To demonstrate, I setup a (dump) still life with a few of my favourite things…beer in the form of dominos – a wonderful gift from Jenny and Tom, my nephew Ryan, a bed complete with comedy colonial throw and a camera. I tried my best to take the same photo, one with the old D80, one with the D700, and layer them on top of each other to to give you an idea of the better quality in low light.  Both images were shot at 3200 ISO (The equivelant on the D80 anyway) at f6.3, shutter of 6oth second.

As you can see, I hope, the D700 has the same exposure as the D80 – but the image is much, much clearer.  This means I can effectively turn up the ISO on my camera, and still use fast shutter speeds in low light conditions – great for when I go to a grotty, dimly lit boxing match like this:

“But what about flash? Everyone has a flash on their camera these days – get with the program Ferg, you don’t need ‘High ISO’, just a beefy few kilojoules burst into your subject’s eyes to light them up real nice.”

Anyone that has worked with me will know that I have a pathological dislike of flash.  And truth be told, this is because I have little if no idea how to use it properly…and I just love ambient light. There’s nothing better than magic hour, where the sun is low and your subject is bathed in that soft golden glow… Having said that, I love my studio strobes, and I love using my flash gun with a ramped shutter for awesome forced sunset shots – like this:

A shot I took up on the Studio Facebook page - come and like us - you know you want to! Colorbox Studio on Facebook 🙂

But I have not spent nearly enough time with my flash to call myself proficient with it.  There is a wonderful movement gathering momentum called strobism, which I had my first proper stab at a few days back -I shall blog my findings and results soon, but in the mean time, I’ll stick to my high ISO and ambient light…because I love it when I take pictures like the ones I took at the Mount Gay rum factory we visited the other day.

So, in all honesty, is the camera worth it?

“Well of course it is, yes” says the professional in me – the new camera is simply amazing, and when it’s dark and dingy, we can get amazing, usable/sellable shots without blinding people with dazzling flashes or having to setup tripods for long exposures – and there are a million other things that I have not even touched on in this blog that make the camera so much better than our previous models – the depth of field, the weight and feel, the 51 point AF system (essential, believe me) and all round awesomeness of our new camera is just mind boggling…

But as I tell all of my guys – the best camera you have is the one one you have with you. The D700 is massive, heavy, and boy oh boy not cheap.  I can safely say that I carry it proudly to weddings, studio shoots and everything in between, but despite its amazingness – I would never have got a shot like this with it:

because it would not cross my mind to bring it along for the trip.

And so let that be the lesson of the day, despite all of it’s electronic gimmickery – all of the control and poise expected of a pro body,  the ridiculously good low light performance, the sheer comfort of the thing, the high frame rate, true 35mm depth of field, obscene battery performance, live view and assignable buttons to mention just a few of the inexplicably good features of our spangly new camera,  our 80 quid waterproof Fuji Finepix was much better the day we went on a catamaran, because that was the one we took with us.

Keep on snapping 🙂

Ferg

x

Oistins

Today we enjoyed a rare day to ourselves.  We were in the lab for a few hours, and then hit the beach.   Seeking refuge from the sun under some local foliage, I lathered myself in sunscreen, much to the mirth of everyone else.  Sian rarely trusts me to do this.  I invariably miss something – somewhere and end up with what I affectionately call ‘comedy burn’  which  basically makes me look like an albino leopard that has lost an epic, decade-long, game of slaps.  I go very, very red in the patches I miss.

Determined not to fall folly to my usual rooky-(ness?!), I went all out. Liberal and relentless – I was determined not to burn today…well at least not from the sun…

Sian kindly took a picture. Those of you easily offended by pasty, overweight Brits, you may wish to look away now…


Happy that I was lubed up to the max, and impenetrable to the sun’s evil burning ways, we went for a swim and the obligatory game of catch.  For anyone that doesn’t know, I love catch.  The beach was invented for catch.  We developed opposable thumbs for catch.  And Sian, bless her, always obliges my need to throw an inflated projectile until I get bored.  Or injured.

Today was awesome, and we had FUN.  For one reason or another I convinced James we needed to take a stunning picture of us emerging from the water…Halle Berry style in that Bond movie (not a huge fan – sorry!)

I, again, feel obliged to re-iterate the above disclaimer…

….As you can see from both the pictures, and reading back – my tone, it was a silly, silly day.  But it is always important to forget about work and have fun every now and then.

After more shenanigans and a few rum punches, we headed down to Oistins, with our new  ‘proper’ camera (POST TO COME) with the view to get a bite to eat and soak up some Bajan culture.  Sian’s friends Jenny and Tom have been out for the last twelve days, and it has been great to show and see so much of the local touristy stuff that we normally miss out on.  We are, however, not strangers to Oistins.  It is a ‘local fish fry’ that was initially started every week by the wives of the fisherman who would bring in their haul.  The food is awesome, the beer is cheap, and the atmosphere of it all is friendly and excited.  It is great fun.

The only trouble is, it only really ‘happens’ on a Friday.  Sian and I were aware of this, but we were locked in the hotel for a flood watch last night and Tom has a guide book that said there were some stalls open on a Saturday too, so we took the chance and went down.  We got some great food, but there was only a fraction of the stalls open and the place was dead quiet…except for our arch nemesis in tourist hangouts…the dreaded karaoke.

But it was great for the guys to see it, and it was actually really nice to be able to walk around without having to get your elbows out.  I got some rather cool shots of the locals playing dominoes too which was a bonus, and the evening was lovely and cool.

I always enjoy seeing the local traditions and cultural nuances of the places we go – and this is definitely no exception…but much like the beautiful and peaceful cannabis-inspired reggae of the 60s and 70’s from the Caribbean slowly changed to the overtly aggressive and violent cocaine-fuelled ragga of the 80’s, so too has the demeanor of dominoes.

These guys are violent.

There is no placement about it.  You slam your piece down, as hard as you possibly can, and curse.  Seriously, that’s apparently how it’s done in Oistins, girl or boy it’s hardcore.  I loved it.

You can see the dominoes taking air from the somewhat aggressive gentleman's last move.

As a final cherry on the cake, we wandered round to what Sian and I affectionately call ‘culture corner’. On a Friday, it is full of wonderful old couples – people in their 60s, 70s and 80s, in all their finery – three piece suits and trilby hats.  They play 30s ballads and ballroom, and they all dance the night away – if you’re lucky (or you’re my boss, Gary) you may just get swept up by an old bird who wants to show you a thing or two – but unfortunately we got there to see it was empty, with a DJ playing Rihanna’s greatest hits.

But, today was our day off, and day of fun, so fortunately this guy came out and threw some shapes for us.

I say it again.

I love my job 🙂

 

 

Ferg x

A very happy birthday :)

When I started this blog all of 4 days ago, I had visions of sharing my work with the world and pointing out why I had done this, and what choice I made to do the other, but it is coming apparant to me that it is much more of a platform to journal my thoughts as well as the technical aspects of my photography. So please, if you’re not interested in this, come back tomorrow – I have a truck load of photos and ideas that I intend to share with you all over the weekend, but for now, I want to focus on this little guy:

As you may have seen from my last post, Ryan is my nephew, and he is totally, totally awesome.

My cousin Den moved into my house the day that Sian and I first got together. He is one of my best friends and as dear and close to me as my two wonderful brothers Teggy and Ed.  Den met Sian’s big Sister, Sarah 9 years ago at out 18th birthday party. Their eyes met, the world slowed down, and Chris de Burg’s “Lady In Red” played throughout….well at least in Den’s head it did anyway – it’s the only song that he knows.

And that was that.

6 Months (?) later they were engaged and all was well with the world. We got to spend a lot more time with Sarah who made the treacherous journey from the exotic concrete wilderness that is Milton Keynes almost every weekend. They soon got married and moved into a house together in ‘The French Apartments’, Purley. And here they started their family.

During our trips back daaaaannn saaath from our respective unis, Sarah and Den made a room up for us to stay in. They would welcome us, along with luggage from abandoned student dens, student-amounts of laundry, student amount of debt and the abundance of worries and concerns that weigh the shoulders of all that studentness – with wide arms and big hearts. Our parents were always happy to have us when we came back, but we called Sarah and Den’s home. And I loved them for that. And then they gave the world Ryan.

And I loved them all even more.

Today he is FIVE and he is MASSIVE!

We were lucky enough to have Mumrah and Denrah and the Monkey Man come and visit us out in Barbados not too long ago, and we had a quality time.  Den too is a budding photographer and is getting pretty handy with his Nikon.  We regularly have chats about our primes, aperture, shutter speed and filters,  but where as I strive to capture an awesome candid shot, or better the portfolio with more dramatic sunsets and seascapes,   the truth has to be told Den:  you’ve already made your best work.

You made this guy.

And he’s freaking awesome.

Happy Birthday Ryan xx

In the beginning, there was business…

Unlike most photographers in the world, like this lot, Sian and I didn’t really get into photography through a ‘passion’ or ‘burning desire’.  We needed jobs.

Long story short we had both had a pretty rough year.  We had some bad news within the family, a company that I had been commissioned to write a play for went bust, Sian hated her job in the city and a dear friend of ours was murdered.

We were pretty keen to put the bad times behind us, and as luck would have it we stumbled across an opportunity to join Colorbox onboard a number of cruise ships as photographers.  We leapt at the chance.

This was the first ship we joined – the Thomson Destiny.  Originally built by Royal Caribbean and sailing as ‘The Song of America’, she soon became outdated and was bought by Sun Cruises, to sail as ‘The Sunbird’.  Then Louis Cruise Lines got their mits on her and now lease it to Thomson.  She’s an old rust bucket, but a great, great ship, and we had so much fun on there…

Anyway – when we started as photographers on the cruise ships, there was no question about us ‘fuelling a passion’, ‘creating images that linger on the mind’ or any other of the wank cliches that seem to litter the internet these days.  We were there to take pictures and sell them.  It was aaaalll business.

Now this isn’t high brow stuff.  Sure, you get to go to amazing places and take pictures like this:

which is epic and totally, totally awesome, but your job is to be efficient, friendly and my God CONSISTENT!  When you are printing 6000 photos in one night you HAVE to trust that, despite which photographer on the team of six took the photograph, the exposure and cropping will be EXACTLY the same as that of the other 5 photographers – and this is where all the skill lies.   Every photo you take is potential earnings for you, the cruise line, and the company, and so there is a lot of pressure to get the shots right, in camera every time.  There is no chance to play with a photo later in a RAW editor, and there is certainly no chance to go back to the guests if you get the shot wrong and don’t notice at the time.

As an example, on formal night, we would need to take three pictures of the guests standing in their finery in front of a less-than-convincing backdrop of the Titanic Staircase…don’t ask.  Anyway, this backdrop would require a set of three photographs: a full length, a three quarter crop, and a horizontal.  These pictures are then printed with very minor color correction on the epic Fuji Frontier (A blog in the making – I assure you) The lighting and cropping of EVERY SHOT is determined by the photographer IN CAMERA.   Now, it sounds simple, but I have challenged some very experienced photographers to take 10 ‘sets’ and see how consistent they are – and I challenge you!  Get your mates together, and see how consistently you can reproduce the same three photographs throughout them all…it is actually very difficult.  Remember – you can’t crop in Photoshop, and all of your photos must have the same cropping throughout (Roughly a fifth of the frame at the bottom for the feet, and the same again at the top for the heads) To add to the difficulty, we’re dealing with studio lights, so if guests stand a cm forward or back, you risk overexposure, shadows and all other of drastic pitfalls that render the photo ‘unsellable’.

Unfortunately, as I don’t own the rights to any of the photos we took of guests while working on ships (and for some reason I cant find ANY of the millions that Sian and I had taken) I have bodged together a similar example for you to see.  This was from a shoot that I did when my cousin and sister in law (sounds incestuous because it is – ANOTHER BLOG to come on that) and our gorgeous nephew Ryan came to visit.  Obviously, on the Cruises we wouldn’t have 70 year olds giving each other piggy backs, but you get the idea – the cropping is all done in camera, exactly the same for every single shot.  It might sound stifling, but this strict disicipline taught Sian and I so, so much…

And this is where we started!  Unlike 99% of the photography world, we started out working to a business model, and we knew that every picture we took had the potential of making money…this is very upside-down to how photographers usually discover the love of their cameras; most start as hobbyists who then take the plunge to try and make money from their images, and it has definitely had an effect on us both on how we approach our photography.  We love taking pictures – and we love sharing them with our friends and family, but we always have, and I think always will come to our work from a business point of view.  The first ‘photo’ I ever took, I sold, and we have never looked back.  There is a notoriously grey area when artists go from making amazing work, to making amazing money, and the balancing act that artists go through to justify what they charge.  But I find it fascinating how quickly and happy people are to give away their work for nothing – especially when it comes to taking photos.  Here in Barbados, we are setting the standard for wedding photography – the guys (not me) produce amazing work. Seriously, it’ll blow your mind.  But we are in direct competition with people who will offer (very very possibly) as good quality work, but awfully finished for a tenth what we charge….and I don’t understand why these people sell themselves short.  Our work is CHEAP.  For about 390 quid our wedding couples get at about 90 minutes with an experienced, seasoned photographer.  These guys are out shooting pretty much every day – they know the light, they know the sites, and they are all great with the guests.  They then spend a good 5-6 hours editing the photos, present them to the couple who then pick their 24 favorites and we print them and put them in an album.  That is the very basic package, and in my eyes, an absolute bargain.

But there are people on the island who will shoot a wedding for $100BDS – that’s  about 30 quid.  And the guests are more than happy to pay that – for their wedding photos!  Now, call me old fashioned, but if you went to a garage and the mechanic said “I’ve replaced your discs and pads on all four corners, that’ll be $60″ (sorry, I don’t have a pound sign on my laptop) would you not think…”Hang on – that’s a bit cheap – where is this guy skimping here?”

Whenever I go to buy something, or receive a service, I have a rough idea in the back of my mind of what I expect to pay.  Should that figure be way off either way, I get very suspicious…very quickly.

And I wish that our guests would too.  I think the problem we have is that no one wants to quantify photography (despite our damnedest) and what it’s ‘worth’.  Pretty much everyone has a good camera these days, and it’s quite easy to get a well exposed and composed shot, but it doesn’t make you a ‘photographer’.  Just like when I cook a meal in the evening doesn’t make me a chef, giving someone a lift down the road doesn’t make me a chauffeur and wailing into a microphone at the karaoke doesn’t make me a singer.  So please, everyone – stop underselling your work.  If you’re good and want to make a career of it, charge fairly on what you think you’re worth.  If that worth is $75 for a day’s work and everything on a disc, you’re either not good enough or you have esteem issues.  If you think you’re days work and all the images on disc are worth $40,000, then best of luck, but you have to be competitive in this already saturated market.  And if you just ‘do photography’ at the weekend and offer to do your mate’s wedding for a fiver.  Stop.  Even if you do it with all the passion, focus and zeal in the world.  You’re just giving the rest of us a bad name.

Ferg