Tara’s Shoot

I was asked recently by a friend of mine the very talented sax player, musician and producer John McGough to take a series of photographs for promotional use of a talented singer from around these ‘ere parts that he is promoting called Tara Ovington.

So with a view to trying to get some photographs of Tara that could be used as PR shots and some other shots that might be used in posters or even future CD covers I wanted to try and get as much from the shoot as I could so we headed down to South Gare near Redcar. I chose this location because it is such a diverse area and would offer a range of possibilities for various backgrounds in the shots.

The Gare offers open spaces and sand dunes in one area and then you turn and have the background of industry on the banks of the River Tees. Turn again and you have the weathered and muted colours of the fishing huts and small harbour at Paddy’s Hole. All of which lends itself to great pictures.

My approach to the shoot was to try and keep it as simple as possible so we basically just went for a walk around the Gare. When I spotted a location that might offer something we stopped, Tara posed up and with occasional direction from me I took a couple of pictures and we moved on.

After an hour and a half or so we felt that we had taken some decent shots and as we were at the exposed river mouth to the River Tees it wasn’t the warmest of places despite the low sunshine so once we had shots in the bag we decided to call it a day and headed off to find the car heater.

These are a few pictures from the shoot and clicking  HERE  will let you listen to a small teaser of Tara’s recent work that should let you get that Summer vibe going… ‘Celebrate’.

All the photographs in this shoot were taken on a pair of Leica M9’s. One fitted with a 50mm f2 Summicron and the other with a 35mm f2 Summicron and were all taken using natural light. They were shot as jpeg’s and were edited in Lightroom.

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See more of my work on my website and blogs…. HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth 2017

All rights reserved.

No usage without arrangement.

Whitby Morning

Out and about in Whitby, North Yorkshire this morning to make use of some wonderful light…

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TECH STUFF: All pictures in this set were taken on a pair of Leica M9 cameras fitted with 50mm f2 Summicron and 35mm F2 Summicron lenses. The 50mm lens was fitted with a 3-stop ND filter to allow for pictures to be taken at the f2 aperture in the bright sunshine. All pictures were subsequently edited with minor adjustments made in Lightroom and in line with standard editorial editing guidelines. No picture has been doctored or altered in any way.

 

See more of my work on my website and blogs… HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth 2017 / Getty Images

All rights reserved.

No usage without arrangement.

Scarborough Awakens

So yesterday morning I headed further down the North Yorkshire coast to Scarborough to shoot a few pictures. Arriving at North Bay after an hour’s drive from Saltburn I was early enough to catch the high Spring tides as they caused a few waves to crash over the seawall and railings. They weren’t massive waves by any stretch which always look so dramatic but the light was great and it made for some nice shapes as the water crashed against the wall.

I find it’s quite addictive shooting something like this as there’s always that feeling of ‘…if I leave now then the next one might be even better‘ so I spent a while shooting a few as I tried to get close enough to get some drama without getting drenched and spending the rest of the day soaking wet and at the same time trying to avoid being knocked over by the cars driving along the road! But needs must and I was able to get a few half-decent pictures that I was reasonably pleased with.

From there I parked up in a usual spot I go to at the end of Marine Drive and close to the harbour where I went for a wander about. I like this approach to doing my own pictures and I try to do a similar thing wherever I go to. Now I know from being there a number of times before that like many places, there are good pictures from certain areas more than others but if I can I try and shoot something different or if I see something that attracts my interest then I just shoot pictures anyway.

After I had wandered about for a while shooting a few around the harbour area, the fishing boats and some ‘street’ type stuff I headed along to the Scarborough Spa. This is a great old building with a rich history and which currently acts as a venue for shows, conferences and performances as well as being one of the most iconic symbols of the town.

Today they were hosting the ‘Scarborough Sci-fi Festival’. An event that brought together those folks that are into all things sci-fi to enjoy and take part in a host of guest talks, lectures, merchandise stands, entertainment, screenings and generally dive into a weekend of sci-fi shenanigans. There were quite a few people dressed up as various characters from all different genres of science fiction so I hung around for a bit and shot a few pictures of some of them as they were outside the spa or down on the beach.

After that I filed a few pictures in and as it was getting on a bit I headed off back in the general direction of my car thinking I might get a few more pictures as I went. But as it was a cracking day on our great Yorkshire coast the visitors had descended in their hundreds and the place was heaving so after weaving in and out between the masses for a while and not really getting much in the way of pictures that were working and after a seagull decided to carry out an aerial bombardment on the back of my jacket letting me know what it had had for breakfast – always happy to share are seagulls! #flyingrats – I figured I would call it a day and head off.

 

Behind the Scenes:

There are some pictures from Scarborough below but before that is a ‘kit shot’ of what I use on some of the jobs or photo-trips I might undertake so by way of a techy stuff interlude I thought I’d go over a few things about what I use. So read on if this stuff interests you or if doesn’t then jump down to the pics 😉

My approach to my photos is generally very ‘loose’ and without a specific brief and I tend to work quickly. Methodically but quickly and kind of let things happen or, if I have to pose up a picture for a portrait (and I might only do it for portraits – everything else is just as it happens) then I don’t go mad with it usually.

I don’t use tripods (unless it’s the middle of the night or something obviously) and I like to travel light and work with a small amount of kit. When I can I use prime lenses. Always have done in the main. But obviously some of the jobs I cover need to have the benefits of using zoom lenses either due to the space, mobility, flexibility or the requirement to get a range of shots from one event. Obviously this is far easier with zooms but for my own stuff or indeed those jobs I do where I know, or think, I will have some freedom then I shoot on prime lenses and that’s what I did yesterday.

All the shots below were taken on a 35mm f2 Summicron lens on my Leica M9 digital camera. I had also initially thought to use the day to shoot some film. I learned photography shooting film. All the technical ‘stuff’ that you need to know I taught myself when I first got into taking pictures twenty odd years ago and understanding film and learning to develop it was of course a big part of that. But yesterday I kind of got into a groove from the off with my digital camera and didn’t end up shooting much film at all unfortunately. But that’s ok – there’s always the next time.

Below is a picture of what I carried yesterday. It kind of looks like a lot all laid out but it isn’t really that heavy and it all fits into the small Barbour shoulder bag I was carrying so it doesn’t end up being too much of a pain to carry around all day especially when one of the cameras was always out anyway.

 

Whats_in_the_bag

So to briefly go over the stuff (from left to right and top to bottom) we have:

My BPPA Press card (British Press Photographers’ Association). Barbour bag. Chamois leather/lens cloth. Air blower for getting rid of dust from sensors or whatever. MiFi to get on ‘tinternet when using the IPad air 2 – I usually use a 15″ mac book to edit, caption and file pictures to a news desks when I’m out and about but sometimes when I’m shooting my own stuff I’ll just carry this as it’s lighter and reasonably capable of doing an edit. I can still ingest pictures, edit, caption and file through that with a couple of programmes but I’m still trying to streamline and tweak that workflow process to make it faster and more efficient. USB and SD card adapters to connect and ingest pictures to the IPad. Notebook & pens. Apple blue tooth wireless keyboard – connected to the iPad I find it easier to type captions on a normal keyboard rather than touch screen and these are great (and light). Ten rolls of black and white film (5 x Kodak 400ASA TriX and 5 x Ilford 400ASA XP2).

Leica M9 with manual focusing 35mm f2 Summicron lens. Couple of 3-stop ND filters (these essentially reduce light coming into the camera allowing me to use a higher aperture especially in bright sunshine as the M9 only has a 4000th of a second as the max shutter speed). Spare M9 batteries (although a couple of my Fuji spares are in there all the time). Leica M2 with manual focusing 50mm f2 Summicron lens – this is a great old camera. This one was produced in 1960 and is fully manual and doesn’t have a meter so needs no batteries. Spare SD memory cards.

Sekonic L-308s light meter – I use this in tricky lighting for getting a first exposure when using any of my cameras if time allows but especially with the M2. It came in handy yesterday with the bright white of the storm trooper uniforms in sunshine.

Using it to obtain an ‘Incident’ light reading which reads the light falling on your subject, instead of measuring the light reflected from it as the built in meter in a camera does. The difference is that in reflected mode, the meter can be fooled because a white subject (or a black subject) reflect light very differently. When using incident mode, how light or dark the subject is doesn’t matter because the meter is reading the light emanating from the sky or artificial light source before it gets to the subject. So as the light didn’t change much yesterday I took a reading at the start so that I was exposing accurately for the bright suits, remembered it and used it as the foundation for exposing the pictures, of the Storm Troopers at least, and then I just tweaked the exposure as needed as I went.

So that’s what I carried yesterday. Fairly simple and light enough to carry around. Shooting as I was on one lens yesterday – the 35 – it does restrict you at times and it takes more thought and discipline to shoot a prime lens and of course there are shots that you simply can’t achieve but that’s fine. In situations like this I’m happy with that. If it was a ‘normal’ job I’d have had three cameras on the go. The M9, but with the 50mm attached and 2 x Fuji XT1’s. One with a 16mm (24mm equivalent as it isn’t full frame) f 1.4 prime and the other with a 50-140 f2.8 (70-200mm equivalent) to give me more options.

But given the choice and the freedom to shoot how I want this lens is normally what I like to use…I can get close to what’s going on, I can include some of the environment in the picture to give it some context, the quality of the lens is amazing and it’s good to be more ‘manual’ – controlling the exposures myself, focusing the lens myself and thinking more about my pictures and putting them together.

Doing it like this as often as possible makes it, for me at least, more intuitive and helps me keep sharp on the basic foundations of photography – the light, the exposure, the composition and the subject – it keeps my eye in and makes me think about what’s important in a picture. All of which can sometimes be overlooked and even forgotten if you always rely on the camera to do everything. Even in fast moving more news orientated stories it has paid off and I’m as comfortable using this manual focusing ‘slow’ camera where I can’t take several shots a second as I am with using my other, more speedy’ cameras’.

 

So anyway…….. here’s a few from Scarborough:

 

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See more of my work on my website and blogs… HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth

All rights reserved.

No usage without arrangement.

Leica – so what’s it all about then?

So I’ve been asked by a number of people recently, friends and colleagues, what my thoughts are on the Leica M9 after I bought one about 6 or 7 months ago. So I thought it was a good opportunity to put some of my thoughts down here for what it’s worth so that others who might be wondering what all the fuss is about can have a read and form their opinions before taking the plunge and maybe buying one.

Firstly though I have to say that I’m not a technical camera reviewer. So I’m not going to be doing that. If you want to see graphs, charts and tables and images zoomed into 100% crops to talk about resolution and the like then Google search it because I will be writing about some of the good and bad points, in my opinion, that I’ve found since I bought the camera and started using it and how I’ve found it during day to day photo work. Also, I don’t work for Leica so I’m not spinning their products…but if they read this and want to send my the new Leica Monochrome or the ‘M’ to have a look at then……well……ok……go on then!

 

The Leica M9 with 35mm f2 Summicron

So what did I buy initially?

Well I got the M9, a spare battery, 2 x Sandisk 16Gb SDHC memory cards (although I now have 3), a 35mm f2 ASPH Summicron lens and a 50mm f2 Summicron  lens. The 50mm was ordered about 2 months after the initial buy. I’m not going to go into the lenses here as the links above have more detailed reviews but suffice to say that the glass is amazing quality and whilst there are faster lenses available (Summilux etc) these come at a cost that I couldn’t meet at the time I got the camera so I went for the Leica Summicron f2 lenses which are incredible to be honest. I also bought a skylight filter for each lens to protect them. Better to scratch those than the Leica glass!

I also got one of these – A ‘Thumbs up’ grip   This I’ve found has been exceptionally useful with gripping the camera and keeping it steady. The M9 body is a little slippy in the hands at times and this gives the extra reassurance of knowing that it isn’t going to slide from the hand and fall to the floor. After a couple of close runs early on while I was waiting for the grip to arrive I came close to dropping it and I’m sure my heart stopped for a moment as I thought about the money spent on this camera as it bounced along the pavement! Buy a thumb’s up grip and save the heart attack!

I bought all the gear from Red Dot cameras who were very helpful in getting my order sorted. I did have to wait for the 35mm to come through for a couple of weeks as there was a back order but at the suggestion of Ivan from Red Dot I bought an earlier non-ASPH 35mm lens from them and when my lens came in they bought it back from me at the price I paid which I thought was great as I could start shooting straight away instead of waiting for a lens.

Now I’m not a rich bloke! I take the decision to buy one of these cameras and the associated ‘stuff’ pretty seriously and I also had to sell off a Nikon D3 and couple of lenses to go towards the funds for this although that didn’t make a massive dent in what I needed to pay to be honest but I got there in the end. So I had to consider how usable this camera was going to be for me and for what I shoot.

Now there is a lot of pretentious commentary surrounding Leica’s. You’ve heard it all before I’m sure….they’re a rich enthusiasts toy, they are no good in ‘real world’ news type photography, they’re only used by those ‘arty’ lot who have visions of themselves being some glamorous ‘photojournalist’ travelling the world to exotic locations, you can get better performing compact cameras these days, they are too expensive…etc etc. You get the point.

And to be honest….much of this is probably right! This camera is limited in what it will offer and what it can be used for. There are better cameras out there that perform with better ISO or with faster computers in the camera to process and write the images to memory cards, cameras with better weather seals, cameras with auto focus, cameras with more accurate white balancing and cameras with a setting for every occasion. Cameras that decide what kind of picture you want before you know yourself! Now all of that is fine but this is the point to get your head around I think – A camera is simply a tool to get a picture with. At least that’s how I see it. Any camera, whether you use the term amateur or professional to describe your involvement with photography it shouldn’t make any difference. A camera is a means to an end. The end being, hopefully, a good picture and this should only be influenced by why you’re shooting – and for whom.

The three most important things in photography, in my opinion, are light, subject and composition. The camera is the tool used to make a record of this but what I like about the Leica is the fact that I make all the decisions in that process.  I have to look at the light, the subject and the composition and I am deciding what I think is going to work best for what I want. I decide what exposure to use. I focus the lens myself, I take time and construct my picture. Now all of this you can do with a mid-level or pro DSLR of course and there are far better photographers than me doing this as we speak covering may different subjects and simply owning a Leica will not make a better photographer and to be honest if all of this manual control is new to you it may well make you a worse photographer initially until you get used to it. I still own a Nikon D3s and I use that for much of my professional work when it is suitable but I have always shot it fully manual. For the majority of my work I still manually focus using old Nikon AIS lenses – although I do also use a 70-200 AF for some news and press work – I expose in manual mode and I take control of my pictures and so the shift to the fully manual Leica wasn’t a huge shift in the way I work.

But I learned about photography by shooting film. By making sure my technical shooting skills were as good as they could be and then I developed and processed my own film before printing my pictures in the darkroom so I needed and required that technical understanding and discipline of controlling what I wanted for the best results. I understand exposure and can use it for what I want to achieve I have never relied simply on a ‘mode’ setting to achieve results and this is simply an extension of that. It is a tool for making pictures. Like a carpenter uses a hammer or a plumber uses a wrench or a painter uses a brush it is a necessary tool to allow them to do their job and so also is the camera for a photographer. But like the artist, who uses that brush to make great paintings so the photographer uses the camera to shoot great pictures.

But this is where things change a little, at least for me. This is where the road divides and we leave the common sense and practical route and head down a road that doesn’t really make any practical sense at all and that is simply that this camera is really great to use. It is a tool yes and it is a very expensive tool but there is something that is very enjoyable and satisfying about using a finely crafted tool with a heritage such as the one enjoyed by Leica and which through its use makes you feel as if you are using the best equipment there is for true, no frills photography. Buying a Leica is not a practical decision based on sound financial and business choices. It is a decision based on the heart and a passion for photography. Rather like the classic car owner who drives his E Class Jag, it might not be the fastest or the best daily-use car but it is the experience of driving it that is the appeal.

Now since trading in my other Nikon I have had to use the Leica for some of the press and news jobs that I’ve done. I’ve used it in fast moving demonstrations and busy public events. I’ve used it to shoot portraits and features and I also use it on the documentary projects that I’m currently working on so it is still in full daily use as a working camera and runs right along side my D3s when I’m out on a job. My 2-camera set up is still achievable and using the 35mm on the Leica and the 85mm AIS or the 70-200 AF on the Nikon I can cover most eventualities and requirements without changing lenses. However I can’t use it when the weather is really bad though. If it’s really raining hard I don’t trust the weather seals, such as they are, so I have to work around that but I have the Nikon that can step up for those times so I can get by.

It all depends on your needs. If all of my work was fast paced news events then I would struggle with using the Leica for some of the reasons I’ve mentioned but for the majority of the work I do, including much of the news and press work, it fits nicely into my workflow. When it comes to my own ‘documentary’ and project work then I love using it. The fast write speeds are not an issue as I’m not shooting off loads of pictures at once so the buffer doesn’t strain too much, being relatively slow is a little frustrating maybe, but not a show stopper. Shooting wide open at f2 in bright light needs use of an ND filter to let me achieve f2 because the fastest speed is 1/4000th and so I have a 3-stop ND filter for each of my lenses to allow me to do this – the images really pop at f2 though, especially with the 50mm!

It is a little more discreet and as such people tend not to take much notice when I’m using it on its’ own which can help at times depending on what I’m doing although I have had to explain a few times to some who ask if it’s a film camera or who ask if it is ‘one of those really old ones‘? Yeah, a really old one whose file size and image quality blows the D3s out of the water!

The ISO isn’t as good as I’ve become used to with digital, especially with the D3 or the D3s and images can have more ‘noise’ when I crank the ISO up beyond 800 or 1600 but that’s fine. I can help reduce this with accurate focus and exposure and to be honest I’m changing my mindset about this. Thinking once again back to shooting film and the grain that was visible at higher film speeds and which often lent itself more to the subjects of those images and I loved the look of grain. So maybe we are that used to the ‘clean’ noise-free digital images of today that can almost look plastic in appearance that maybe having that grainy, film-like appearance isn’t a bad thing? With so many pictures whizzing over the desk of editors or picture desks is it such a bad thing to at least try and be different?

Below are a few examples of pictures taken with the M9 and the 35mm Summicron…

Street scene, Saltburn

Fishing from Saltburn Pier. Part of my ‘Coast People’ project

Rainbow and sun on Huntcliff

Night fishing event

So….Will this camera make you a better photographer? No, at least not straight away, but I think it does improve your photography abilities and understanding. It makes you think.

Will this camera be suitable for every job you may be shooting if like me you’re a working photographer? No, but you’d be surprised at just what it can do.

Will the limitations of the ISO range and slower computer on the camera have to be considered? Yes, definitely but it can be worked around in many cases with a bit of thought.

The biggest issue I have is the weather protection. Great pictures can often come in the worst of weather conditions and I do feel restricted as a result. Mine is scratched on the rear screen, some of the paint is rubbing off through use and it looks about ten years older than it is already but I’m not bothered about that but I do wish that I could use it in any conditions – especially the wet – and not have to worry about water getting into it. Maybe I could and just see what happens…but I’ve bottled it because I can’t replace it if it does die on me!

Getting a handle on this camera takes time. It takes time to get a grip on the rangefinder focus method – especially when shooting wide open. But eventually it becomes faster and more intuitive. After 15 years plus with Nikon cameras a rangefinder was a different beast entirely but one that soon becomes familiar and as the confidence grows so too the pictures start to improve. With focus needing to be spot on to ensure the best performance from the amazing quality lenses and with real accuracy of exposure needed to ensure the best quality results it is not a very forgiving camera but this forces you to up your game.

It forces you to challenge yourself and in photography I think that is something we should all be trying to do. All the time. If nothing else it brings about, for me anyway, a self-satisfaction that my photography knowledge, skills and abilities are good and are always being pushed and improved upon. It is down to me to constantly improve my skills and to get the most out if this camera. To be able to think about what you want and how to achieve it and then when the results come…when a quality image results from the creative decisions that have been made it brings a greater sense of satisfaction knowing that you made all those decisions. Maybe a little bit like – and I hope this doesn’t sound too much like pretentious, arty-farty, Leica crap – a master craftsman who enjoys the process and not just the results?

The choice is yours.

 

I now pack a lot lighter for many of my own jobs when the Nikon is not required.