Archives for posts with tag: Photography

 

2nd issue of Gavin magazine

2nd issue of Gavin magazine

In the 2nd issue of Gavin magazine is a feature on Orangutan rescue in Borneo. This thought provoking story shows the plight of one of mankind’s nearest biological neighbours.

Also in the magazine is a fine art project on Britain’s ancient trees, the look at the work of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, ragged tooth shark migration and a photo project on the 1st World War battlefields.

So there is pretty much something for everyone. The link to the free magazine is: http://issuu.com/gavinparsons/docs/gavin_magazine_issue_2

I hope you all enjoy it.

The French Newspaper Libération’s 14 November issue ran without pictures. Instead of harrowing images of the typhoon ravaged landscape of the Philippines or war torn Syria or even pretty pictures of baby animals doing cute things, there were empty white boxes. The story can be seen on the BJP-online site at http://tiny.cc/jh8k6w. I think it demonstrates firstly the power pictures play in the news telling process, but more importantly, what our French cousins think about photographers. Would the British media industry do such a thing? I very much doubt it. They seem more concerned about drumming photographers out of business as they chase cheaper and cheaper rates.

The UK media has pinned content (words and pictures) to advertising revenues. When the ad revenues fall, so do the rates they pay for content. A shrewd business plan you would think, except it fails one critical point. If you pay peanuts for content you will drive the creativity and heart out of the contributors and before long you end up with bland camerphone style images which then drives away your customers.The UK media industry needs to acknowledge, the readers are the customers as well as the advertisers.

Why hold your readers in such low regard? It’s a point that has always baffled me. The BJP (British Journal of Photography) actually made a bold move a few years ago and instead of racing to the bottom as many others did, it took about three steps up and is a much better and more respected publication because of it.

With a market flooded with photography, you’d think the British magazine and newspaper sectors could command global respect, but very few do. The reason is they care little for the content and more about the Ad revenues. It’s a decision I believe will leave them behind the curve. The electronics sector which creates new technology is deciding the direction the media industry has to go on a global scale. Pro cameras these days do both still and video, many people carry tablet readers and it will not be too long before many of the world’s great cities will offer wireless access everywhere, so you can sit in the park and read your favourite newspaper or magazine online live. You’ll be able to see a stunning high definition picture on screen and be able to tap it and watch a video clip to enhance the story. This is the way technology is pushing us, whether we like it or not. Will the UK media industry be able to keep up? I have to say I doubt it in many cases. They simply do not pay enough for contributors to keep up with the latest technology. In many cases it falls to hobbyists with well paying corporate jobs and an desire to see their work published no matter what the cost.

The UK media industry will price the most creative and talented people out of the market and then wonder why no one is reading their produce.

I think this is a crying shame, but one that is inevitable I feel. I wonder how many publishers will take note of what Libération did and think about the future rather than firefight today?

 

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

Sunrise is a romantic time so they say. Poets pontificate about it, writers get all lyrical describing the subtle hues and colour changes at the start of a new day. But when your alarm goes at 4.45am, the pontification and lyrical prose are far from the mind.

At 4.45am the world is a dark, cold, silent place. It’s not a time to be up and packing camera gear in the car. But off we set in search on the sunrise some 10 miles out into the English Channel. That’s roughly how far Portland Bill sticks out into the sea from the coastal town of Weymouth in Dorset. It is one of the haunts of my photo workshops.

Portland’s lighthouse is famous and it is so well photographed I could almost see the dimple marks of a million tripods in the rocks that overhang the rippling sea. But I set up my shot and waited. The sky was lightening and turning red and pink. It was a moment of anticipation, like waiting for a blind date to arrive.

It looked promising, like sitting in a bar watching the front door to see a stunning brunette walk in. But then metaphorically, the brunette stepped aside and behind her was my date who’d fallen out the ugly tree and hit most of the branches on the way down. All of a sudden, the wonderful sunset waned and vanished as a bank of cloud obscured the rising sun. What promised to be a marvel flicked and burned out within 30 seconds. I had grabbed a shot at the start, but it was not what I’d hoped for.

The cloud though stayed on the horizon and as the sun broke free from its shade the light gently kissed the lighthouse and rock face that tumbled to the sea. So we repositioned ourselves to make the most of the light and sticking on my 10 stop neutral density filter I made the most of the early morning light.

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

 

This well shot scene was never going to be a earth changing moment for me, but I do like to turn my hand, and eye, to many disciplines and the idea of a bit of landscape photography, was reason enough for the early morning.

I’d like to thank Samantha Dunnage for the suggestion of the early morning rise and I hope she enjoyed the excursion as much as I did.

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There really is only one surefire way of making a picture look like it was taken in the 1920s. You can forget Lightroom, Aperture, Photoshop or any other sophisticated sofware. The latest offering from Canon or Nikon won’t help you either. What you need to make and authentic looking picture from the 1920s is to use a camera from the 1920s.

I used an All distance pocket Ensign circa 1920s. It was made in England, takes 120 film (Anyone who started photography this century may have to look up what film is on wikipedia).

The pictures have a certain quality about them. The focus isn’t tack sharp and the clarity is softer than you’d get with a modern camera, and, in my opinion, all the better for it.

A steam train came through the village station last week and I took the opportunity to run a roll of film through the camera. A massive 8 shots is all I had, but I like shooting like that. Each shot needs to be considered. The trouble was the tiny viewfinder is reversed and framing will take some getting used to.

For a first attempt I don’t think I did too bad. More shots will be taken soon.

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A different view of the Taj

Photographed by Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

Photographed by Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

 

This week’s ‘Behind the Picture’ is a global icon. The Taj Mahal is probably one of the best loved and most photographed pieces of land in India. There are almost well worn paths to the best angles to photograph this stunning piece of architecture. Hawkers wait for tourists and offer to show you the best spots for the light in a sort of manual version of having a Taj Mahal mode in your camera.

I though wanted a new angle, one I’d never seen before. There are shots of the Taj from the front, from across the river, with trains in the foreground, from the side. In fact, it’s pretty much been photographed from every angle you can think of and several you wouldn’t dream of. Most of the Taj Mahal pictures are, of course, tourist snaps. And I did think it was fun to photograph people photographing the building. But that was more for my own amusement.

Ordinarily I would have researched the subject intensely before I got there, but on this particularly trip I had no idea whether I would see the place. I was on assignment photographing Dancing Bear rehabilitation and it I was in Agra only by chance.

So I took the opportunity and pitched up at the sort of time sparrows are thinking about getting out of bed and waited in a massive queue. When I got into the complex the sun was just coming up and the misty moody light was lovely. The Taj Mahal was almost lost in the background. In a way the light was sensual and seductive which sounds like pouncey photographer speak, but it’s the only way I can describe it.

So I walked around like a tourist selectively taking the usual types of shots and taking the advice of a few of the hawkers and then on my way out I looked back along the ponds and saw my picture.

No one else would be mad enough to lie down on the pavement in India and then to rest their camera so close to water you’d think some kind of alarm would go off. But that’s what I did. To help me see what the camera was seeing I used a ZigView digital display which screws into the viewfinder and allows me to see the picture without having the camera pressed to my eye. It’s perfect for ground shots or over my head shots. It’s a brilliant gadget.

I positioned myself slightly off centre to show the pillars sticking out of the water and then took a couple of frames. They required minimal post processing and the final image was so different to the usual, that I loved it.

You can see it larger on my website in the locations section. Also, if you would like to learn how to take better pictures you could join one of my monthly weekend photo courses. Again see my website for details.

The stories behind some of my favourite images

Big fish little fishes

whaleshark

A few years ago I returned to an island called Mafia off the coast of Tanzania. I’d spent several months in the early 90s there as part of a team studying the feasibility of creating a multi-zone marine park. It was created in the late 90s. I went back 13 years later to write an article about how the place had faired.

Usually when I return to a destination, it’s a disappointment. The world sadly is deteriorating before my eyes. But Mafia Island was different as it was better. The corals, the fish were all healthier and more prolific than my first trip.

There was also an added bonus: whalesharks. Mafia Island is one of the world’s whaleshark gatherings. They come to the shallow water in front of Kilondoni, the main settlement on the island. At the time I took the picture it was a pretty new discovery and the only way to get out to the sharks was to hire a local fishing boat. I have to use the term ‘boat’ fairly loosely because the one we hired was more holes than boat. The captain though was bailing just about enough to keep his planks of wood afloat so it wasn’t all bad.

The whalesharks were used by local fishermen who would find a shark, surround it with net and draw it tighter. It’s not what you think though as fishermen would be in the water and allow the shark to escape and they would harvest the fish that swam with the sharks.

The fish seemed to the drawn to the sharks probably for shelter as the seabed was barren sand so the sharks were a kind of moving reef. We found a shark that had just been released by a fishing boat and sat a while until it settled down. It didn’t take long. The shark swam directly towards our boat, it submerged slightly as it got to us and I watched it go beneath us. It never came out the other side so I dipped my head below the water and saw the shark vertical in the water within the shadow our boat created.

Slipping below the surface I could understand why. The glare created by the sun, bright white sand and suspended particles in the water was horrendous. The shark was using our boat as sunglasses.

She stayed under the boat for several minutes, enough time for a shoal of small fish to gather around her. I watched them swirl and anticipated when they’d get between the shark and me. The moment lasted no more than a second, possibly two.  Back on the boat I reviewed the images and knew I’d got a special shot, but didn’t realise quite how special. “`the images earned me Specially Commended in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

If you’d like to see more of my work take a look on www.gavinparsons.co.uk

 

 

 

gparsons_snowdrops06

At the end of January whether it snows or not, tiny bursts of life appear in the English countryside. Snowdrops, or Galanthus nivalis as they are known to men in white coats.

They are a very early flowering bulbous plant, which are the harbinger of the coming spring. For photographers they are a god-send, a beacon in the blandness of the mid-winter countryside. They can be found all across the UK and I happen to live near one of the best places to see them; a small village known as Compton Valance.

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This is one of the locations I run snowdrop photography workshops – one of my winter series. And this year while preparing, I was lucky enough to do a recce on the day we had a lovely dumping of snow. Actually, it was the day after it snowed and it wasn’t particularly easy to reach the village which is in a steep valley.

The snowdrops were just starting to flower and a few were pushing through the snow cover which gave me the chance to get the shots I’d been after for several years. Snowdrops and snow are not as easy to find as you might expect. As a subject I love them. They don’t move for a start which enables me to work with interesting angles and compositions.

I work mostly with a 60mm micro lens, which gives me the reach to provide soft foreground details and compress the background plus work in close with the small blooms.

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I also, as I do with the fungi I shoot, work with a ZigView viewer that allows me to keep the camera on the ground and still see the image I’m taking. The low angle get’s the view at ‘eye level’ with the subject, but creates an intimacy with the image that a straight snap shot never achieves. It’s one of the most valuable techniques in the natural history photographer’s arsenal.

If you’d like to learn more about my approach consider booking either a course or a workshop. Details are on my website at www.gavinparsons.co.uk/pages/workshops.html

snow

Yesterday and today have been a rarity. Snow has come to my little part of Dorset and when that happens, work on the renovations stop and I head out with a camera.

I haven’t had time to think about what to photograph or set anything up this year as I’ve been busy trying to finish the house so I went after my favourite plant which I’d already seen starting to blossom – the snowdrop.

snowdrop1

For many years I’ve hoped to find snowdrops in flower at the same time as snow and this was finally my year. There is a small patch which grows about 5 minutes walk away so that’s where I went first. I’d seen them the day before and knew they were almost ready. So at 9.30am I was kneeling in cold snow as large flakes fell from the sky. As they hit my face I could feel pinpricks of coldness. It was a lovely feeling.

snowdrop2

I manged a few shots of the extremely small patch of flowers and then went for an almighty walk in the snow. I photographed basically what I came across, which isn’t the usual way a pro does things, but I had no choice. Next time I’ll be prepared to photograph birds of prey, deer, garden birds and anything else my image libraries are crying out for.

Today I had to get to the small village of Compton Valance which is famed for its snowdrops. I went for a walk and found a few poking up through the snow. The light was tricky as it always is with snow, and I dialed in between +0.7 and +1 stop exposure compensation. Without doing that the camera will read the snow as 18% grey instead of white and will create a dark image.

The drive home was a bit tricky, but made enjoyable by finding a spot to photograph buzzards next time it snows. That may be later this year, it may be next year. who knows, but I’ll be ready.

Snow in Chilfrome, Dorset

Unknown to the majority of people in UK’s capitol, let alone the outside world, London is the host to the oldest rowing race in the world. Started in 1715, the Doggetts Coat and Badge race is as historic as it is ceromonial.

Each year up to six Apprentice Waterman of the River Thames compete for a rather plush Red Waterman’s Coat and a silver badge.

As part of an ongoing project to document the life around the River Thames, the Port of London Authority asked me to photograph the preparations and start of the race at London Bridge.

The start occurs adjacent to Fishmongers Hall on the north side of London Bridge which is where the competitors prepare their sculls (the small one person rowing boats).

It was quite popular this year with a photographer from the New York Times and Channel 4 film crews around to film the event. I can only imagine what it will be like when the race hist 300 years old in a couple of years time.

I worked in Black & White to capture the event as a small story.  It’s hard to capture the 298 years of history when essentially you are dealing with a modern scull race, so I opted to record the moment for what it was rather than what it stood for.

The day was fairly cloudy and the light was pretty flat, which suited monochrome. Occasionally we got a blip of sunlight, but also quite a few rain showers, but the build up was calm and light -hearted.

Passers by on the river must have wondered what was going on though as Fishmongers Hall, the home to the Fishmongers Company, one of London’s 12 great Livery Companies, put on a bit of a show and delighted the public with free fish and chips and London Youth Rowing held their own static Thames race on rowing machines. It was a great spectacle that even attracted the Lord Major of London (Not Boris, but the other fella who can trace his job back to Dick Whittington and beyond).

The race started pretty quickly and in a couple of blinks of an eye the competitors were gone. It takes a mere 20 minutes to row the four mile course from London Bridge to Cadogan Pier in Chelsea, but it would have taken me a lot longer by road, so I didn’t get to the finish. However the race was won by the brilliantly named Merlin Dwan.

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The tall ship Belem arrives in London for the 2012 Olympics

I’m not a sports photographer, so didn’t get the chance to get into the Olympic stadiums, but I have been working on several projects around the Olympics for the Port of London Authority. Because London revolves around the Thames, The Port of London Authority (PLA) has seen a huge amount of shipping coming into and out of the Capitol.

I was lucky enough to be asked to capture the moment the French tall ship the Belem came into the city. The Belem is a three masted sailing barque from the the 19th century. She is a training ship these days, but still as beautiful.

It was due to arrive at 8.15pm and the day was clear and blue so the sunset was set to be perfect. I couldn’t have asked for better light, wind and setting. The breeze was coming from the east ensuring the Belem had her sails out, just as the sun hit the top of Tower Bridge.

In the next day or so I will put up an Olympic based gallery on my website.