Normalisation

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Well, Obama shook hands with Castro in Havana today. The US national anthem is played over and over in front of José Martí’s memorial in Independence square. Historic day indeed, as President Obama is the first US president to set foot in Cuba since 1928.

The people of Cuba long for a better life with less restrictions, to travel and run businesses. Only 90miles from US soil, young Cubans hang out on the Malecón sea wall in the evenings, to cool off, but mainly to drink, sing and just chill with mates.

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I brought a group of keen photographers to Cuba in 2011 to photograph Havana and the countryside. The Cubans are warm and friendly but in a wary way. The service industry is patchy and the food is only average (apart from several amazing restaurants) but the music and smiles will charm you.

Take a look at what our group photographed in 10-days here.

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LookBack – Old Havana, 2011

 

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I have been searching for some notable images recently on my archive and as usual, had a good look at the Cuba images from one of the explorenation workshops we ran in the Summer 2011. These stood out for me worthy of a review. They was taken in Old Havana, in a dodgy looking side street around 8pm. Old Havana is like some typical Spanish city, but about 60 years behind. Amazing pre-war architectural, ornate windows, but totally derelict, and in need of regeneration. Sodium vapour lamps casts monochromatic orange hues onto street surfaces, Yank Tanks and children playing football. This picture was taken inside one of these buildings, and was our destination for the evening. It houses a very well-known restaurant  La Guarida (state-run, of course, like every business in Cuba) but totally Western in concept, taste and  even the grungy style added to it’s charm. We hope to make another trip back soon, hasta la vista Cuba.

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More on Cuba here.

2011: My Best Shots – Review and Reflect

 As 2011 draw to a close, I have trawled through my archive of close to one thousand photographs made over the last 12 months to see if I could identify the most memorable ones, the best ones or the most striking images. Call them keepers, significant images or gems, whatever, these are the 15 photographs that called out to me as I scrolled through the filmstrip in Lightroom. Memorable may not be the best ones, I have discovered.

I tend to shoot less nowadays, opting for more precisely captured images rather than a ‘trigger happy’ mode. I guess that’s simply down to time. The less time I have to sit in front of the computer editing and deleting wonky shots, the better. I also shot film this year, albeit about 10 rolls of black and white and experimental colour negs 120 in total with my Rolleiflex. I guess, less is still more. One observation is that I have simply taken more images with my phonecam, some significant images too, as I have the phone with me all the time. However, I have left these out in my quest.

I believe this is a good exercise for all you serious photographers out there. Review your work and chuck out all the clutter, free up some hard disc space along the way also. Honestly, you will probably not be viewing all the hundreds of other images stored away on your computer. Save only the best, your best. Reflect on what you could have taken or been, how you could have improved the shot, changed angle perhaps, zoomed in a little? Used a wider aperture perhaps? Tilt your frame a little? Used a wider lens? Once you are conscious of the variability that you can have in making your pictures, it will open a whole new world. You will be in control.

Make a book! With all the online publishing platforms available today like blurb.com or Apple albums, it would be a neat little project to put all your favourite images into a book. The quality is amazing, and you will also have the perfect gift for your friends. That is what I will be doing next year, starting January!

As Erwitt puts it rightly,  ..‘Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times…I just shoot at what interests me at that moment. ‘

Lastly, don’t limit yourself to any subject or genre, shoot everything, who knows, you might even enjoy it!

Here’s my Top 15… enjoy! Cheers!

I believe Ansel Adams uttered the phrase ‘Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop’. I guess, in his eyes, I have a bumper harvest.


1. R Chubb & Sons Butcher, 350 Upper Richmond Road West, London SW14 – This was taken last December a couple of weeks before Christmas. A friend who buys her meat from this butcher told me about the pre-Christmas turkey orders which her butchers hand pluck to hang, before customers come to collect. Photographed with a 28mm lens inside the shop, I only had a couple of minutes to grab a few shots, most were blurry, and one was a keeper. The lighting was horribly green due to the mix of fluorescent, and daylight plus a UV lamp by the window. I just love the traditional documentary aspect of this image, the wry smile of the butcher, his sleeves all pulled up, ready for action. These are organically grown birds I suspect, which have been pre-ordered by his discerning customers.

2. Family at the beach, Nice Plage, France  – This was taken in late summer on the Cote d”Azur. This time of the year the beaches are empty, the sea is cold, and the light is simply amazing. It was nice to see a family coming together for a picnic and swim in the icy waters. Not the glamour that you would associate here in high Summer, but ordinary folk having a good time.

3. Odd couple, Nice – Also captured in Nice, I find this image reveals the complexity of human emotions, relationships, inner thoughts and the spontaneity which the medium of photography can capture. Deep in thought or idle conversation, the interpretation is left to the viewer to decipher.

 4. Pete Irving, Urban Kings gym trainer – taken in an ultra modern boxing gym in Kings Cross. The lighting was a challenge, but the camera handled it well. Handheld at 640ISO with the brilliant little Fujifilm X100.

5. Vuvuzela, Notting Hill Carnival, 2011 – I photograph regularly at the carnival in August, and this year I brought out the Rolleiflex and shot some Lomography 120 Redscale film. This was the first time I was using this special film, I was told it was just standard Superia 100 film wound back to front on the spool. It gives interesting red or green tinted negatives depending on the exposure. Give it a stop under and it goes reddish and vice versa, or was it the other way round. I don’t care but the results are nevertheless interesting.

6. Carnival reveler – I shoot a lot of street photography and urban portraits is one of my favourite subjects. Again, taken with the square Rolleiflex, on Redscale film, I particularly like the blurred background which brings attention to the girl’s cheerful face. Now, what’s wrong with a smiley portrait?

7. Ventnor Beach, Isle of Wight – We were on the Isle of Wight for a SLOW Photography weekend workshop and encountered this lovely restored VW campervan parked on Ventnor esplanade. Might just enlarge this and hang it on my wall.

8. The Royal Wedding, Trafalgar Square – This picture of two brothers sleeping on the ground at Trafalgar Square was simply too good to miss. There had only just been a Royal Wedding, and a huge crowd gathered there to watch the live telecast on giant LCD screens. Tired out or just not interested, they slept peacefully whilst their parents stood over them.

9. Outside 30 Camden Square, London NW1 – Simon McGregor-Wood, anchor of ABC News making a live broadcast outside Amy Winehouse’s home, the day after her sudden death.

10. Second Floor, Eiffel Tower, Paris – Not quite sure why this photograph was screaming out to me, but then it always a special moment to be at the Eiffel Tower and the light was kinda surreal too. Definitely a hanger.

11. Havana, Cuba  – Taken in the Cathedral in Central Havana. A tender moment in this photograph of a father explaining the depiction of the Crucifixion to his daughter. A grab shot in all ways, I was there at the right moment. I think I fired off 4 shots but only one was sharp. The first one. Lesson learnt.

12. Malecon, Havana, CubaCuba was the destination of one of our photo workshops. The Malecon is a famous stretch of seafront lining the north coast of the city of Havana with the Florida sea. Just some 90 odd miles away is Florida, where so many Cubans risk their lives to cross over by boat. This photograph was taken in the early evening, where we were walking to our dinner appointment. Four boys fishing in the foreground show the scale of this stretch of coast.

13. Visiting Che, Santa Clara, Cuba – Che Guevara’s monument in Santa Clara is an amazingly stoic place, sparse,  all marble and concrete. A group of local women walk past the huge statue of their favorite national hero.

14. Havana, Cuba – A popular pastime for Cubans is to rear birds. I found this interesting wall complete with growing orchids and tropical plants in the rear courtyard of a restaurant where the Buena Vista Social club members were performing. The light was very low, and it was a gamble to take the shot, at 1600ISO.

15. Tottenham, one week after – A significant photograph of a burnt out building, totally destroyed by fire at Ground Zero of the Tottenham riots in August. The trouble in Tottenham sparked a nationwide riot, the worst in UK history, causing millions of pounds of damage and widespread looting, violence and deaths.

Bring on 2012.

NB. Any of these pictures are available to purchase, just send me an email for a quote. This is the first time I’m compiling this, may make it a regular yearly ritual.

O Tannenbaum

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!
They are green when summer days are bright,
They are green when winter snow is white.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!

The Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square is an annual gift by the city of Oslo, Norway to London, since 1947,  in gratitude for Britain’s support during the Second World War. I grabbed this photo from my favourite spot on the square, at the western fountain, looking back at the National Gallery on the left, and St Martin’s in the Fields church, partly hidden behind the tree.

Approaching storm

I captured this approaching storm yesterday on a wet and windy, freezing cold day on Shanklin beach, on the Isle of Wight. It was a pleasure to use the highly portable GRD2 again. I just love the tonality the RAW file captures, and the ability to shoot 1:1 square is a bonus.

KL International Photoawards 2012 : Call For Entries

KLPA is an annual portrait photography competition, now in its 4th consecutive year. Open to all levels of international photographers in 3 categories- Portraits, The Photo-Essay, Open.

Top finalists and winners will be selected by a jury of 5 judges from the arts and photography industry. Top cash prize of USD$3,000. Pacsafe products and a specially commissioned trophy will be awarded to first and second winners from each category.

Submissions open 1 to 31 March 2012. Closes 31 March 2012.

Special sponsor Select Awards prizes from Pacsafe, Anti-Slavery International and FotoVisura.com.

KLPA 2012 will culminate in an Awards Evening in Kuala Lumpur in June where all the main prize winners will be invited to attend a presentation ceremony. A public exhibition will run in conjunction.

Please visit the main website to register your participation and to receive notifications.

KLPA is supported by Time Out Kuala Lumpur & MAP KL and is organised by explorenation.net and KL Photoawards Malaysia.

Twitter @klphotoawards

Website www.klphotoawards.com

Book news : LUMINA is officially launched

http://www.blurb.com/assets/embed.swf?book_id=2314857  (Preview selected pages)

I began the LUMINA series in 2009 after MUSEO was published a year earlier as I intended to work primarily in colour from then on. The transition from black and white photography has not been easy, as I found that colour completely destroyed the essence of an image when it is over-represented within the frame.

The abstraction of colour to its minimum, and focusing on subtle and minimal hues was a challenge that I did not expect would work, but, over the years and after numerous editing sessions, I have come to respect its formal representation, which are displayed in this collection.

Available as an Apple iBook download for iPad/iPhone  £2.99

La strada per Roma

The saying “See Rome and die” may have actually been a misquote from Goethe’s reference to Naples, but the Roman streets aren’t quite the same. I traveled to the Eternal City and stayed for 3 nights in the Trastevere district, on the west bank. Slightly rough around the edges, Rome is like no other city I have been before, simply because its history, it’s grandeur, and the Roman people help make it a ‘living museum’ of a place. The entire city centre is an ancient monument of historic artifacts, and it is a wonder how the Italians just go about their daily routines without being awe-inspired. Rome also has a serious problem with graffiti.  Every wall, street corner, fountain and church door is splattered with skewed writing, and daubs of paint. But perhaps, the charm of this city lies with the chaotic traffic, the little cars and buzzing scooters, its street pedlars, and wandering tourists.

I only made a few images, as the weather had been rather wet on 2 days, but I’m pleased.