Monday, 26 December 2011

How to sharpen your images

without sharpening
I have discovered a useful technique for sharpening images to give them extra punch. This  is particularly useful for my on going project of faded hand painted adverts on brickwork. The passing of time and weather all contribute to the deterioration of the signs that are sometimes difficult to read. I have known of the ability to sharpen images in PhotoShop for a long time but fear of trying to master something new has always blocked me from taking the plunge. Like most things it was not as hard as I imagined......

It is difficult to know how clearly the improvement is demonstrated in these pictures as the final one has been subtly changed  and the resolution is low affecting the appearance of over all sharpness. The technique that I have used is three different methods and picking the best one. The advantage is that each image is treated individually and you get the best one from your choice of three.  I have used this method on a few images and the improvement is worth the effort. Below is the tutorial that I used and the changes are noticeable for the purposes of demonstration. 

Really hope you find this useful.

The still must tease with the promise of a story the viewer of it itches to be told. - Cindy Sherman

Thursday, 22 December 2011

how not to take family portraits.

Merry Christmas.
How many times will you have your photograph taken at Christmas? Holidays are the time more photographs are taken than at any other period of the year. The surge is frequently caused by the family coming together and a desire to capture this. Ever since photography was invented with the Daguerreotype mankind has striven to capture their own likeness and of loved ones. It is well known that a family with young children has more cameras per household than any other group. So we have established that photographing ourselves is of great importance  but what else can learn form this? The majority of pictures at this time of year are taken indoors and this helps to reveal information about our homes and how we live. It gives an indication of taste and a clue to our standard of living. Many family portraits are taken with this in the sub-conscious mind of the photographer, especially if it is the man of the household. Children are frequently photographed with their new toys which serves at least two roles. It acts as a record for the family of a happy occasion and as a status symbol signifying the generosity of the family. The clothes that we wear and and even the expression that we adopt all contrive to create an 'impression' of how we want the world to see and remember us. Do you like to look a certain way in a photograph or do you know someone who does? Victoria Beckham is a good example as she rarely smiles in any photograph. This is not her natural countenance unless the botox as restricted her face to a stern expression. The images that we take of ourselves and the reasons for doing so appear to have changed little over the years that photography has been around. When you see a group portrait who is the first person that you look at? It is a universal trait. A student of mine recently conducted a survey of fellow students asking about the images that they upload to Facebook and how they act in photographs. Nearly 80% stated that they did not have a 'look' that they liked to adopt when having their picture taken. This is high percentage. What is perhaps more surprising (or not) is that 90% of those interviewed said that they knew someone who did have a 'look' that they liked use when having their picture taken. Is it just me or do you think that maybe the 80% were being less than truthful about 'striking a pose.' Here is some photographic trivia. Every month over 6 billion images are uploaded to Facebook! They are the largest site for photography in the world.
Click on the link below the photograph for some visual clues on how not to get your family to pose this Christmas.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

What a Rankin!

W. Eugene Smith
Rankin the renowned fashion photographer presents a riveting look at Life Magazine in this BBC documentary. Many of the great photographers of the last century are well represented including; W Eugene Smith. For those of you reading the blog regularly you will know that Smith is considered one of greatest photographers of all time. This picture of Emest Cerlani tending to a boy who is about to go blind is breath taking with the emotion in his face and the anonymous helping hands. The photo essay that Smith took over twenty three days was to highlight the chronic lack of country doctors and its impact on rural America. The Story of Life Magazine.
Margaret Bourke White
This picture taken by another Life photographer was the subject of discussion for my class this week. Some  were shocked that Bourke White agreed to learn how to use a spinning wheel, like the one shown, as part of the conditions to allow her to photograph Gandi. When you are young, often you do not really want to work for things. It is easy at that age to think that great things happen in life without trying. There are often many hurdles to over come to get the right image. Anything worth having you need to apply yourself and make sacrifices.  Margret Bourke White was a very attractive and charming 'lady' who slept with many Generals and a few Colonels to get access to take her pictures.  Naturally I did not mention this bit to my young charges as impressionable minds are easily corrupted!

Friday, 25 November 2011

word of the day

I have learnt a new word today. It is pronounced "bunting" and means dog rough or shit... The girls gave this word while playing a quick game of, 'guess the meaning'  this afternoon.  This London street slang was in response to me asking the class about a 'palimpsest'. A very grand word meaning a sign or document, written over or crossed out.

Lewis Hine
Photographer Lewis Hine, who changed the world that we know today through his pictures, is the source of great interest for one of my students. Our current brief is on portraiture and the genre that my learner is looking at is child photography. The above picture was taken less than one hundred years ago and I still find that quite shocking. Childhood is something that we now cherish as a society and understand  the link between these formative years and the adults that we become. Of course I am curious about the girl in the image who looks to be about nine. Surrounded by heavy industrial machinery the dirty shirt indicating the nature of her work. The pdf a collection of his images I found on the internet is moving and shocking. 

'While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph' Lewis Hine

Lewis Hine -  

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Sold! Behind the gare St Lazare a snip @ €433,000

Henri Cartier-Bresson.
For those who love the French master and are fascinated by the mind boggling fees paid for photography this post is for you. If I were an investment banker I would certainly consider spending this kind of eye popping money on such a fine example of 'the decisive moment'. While no expert I would anticipate that this image will increase in value. I am less certain of getting the same return on Rein 11 Andreas Gursky's record breaking sum achieved early this month. If I had the choice about which one I would like to see hanging in my penthouse apartment St Lazare wins every time. 
Andreas Gursky
The Worlds Most Expensive Photographs is a run down of famous pictures sold in recent years.
I am going to check down the sofa for cash to start my collection, all donations gratefully received.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

What makes a good portrait?

My learners are busy working on their portrait assignments (or they should be) so when I read Chris Floyd's  blog about a portrait session; I felt it was worth sharing. This is a great insight into the world of professional portrait photography at the highest level. The link is for a job shot in London with two British actors. The picture of Macca is one of my favorites from his archive.

Chris Floyd
"You don't take a photograph you make it," Ansel Adams

Saturday, 5 November 2011

photographs for research

Nicholas Brewer
Nicholas Brewer

I have spent a couple of hours this afternoon looking through old photographs of the high street in Wimbledon. The Broadway in SW19 has four excellent ghost signs still in existence; during the early 20th century they were everywhere. The earliest photograph that I could find for the sign above was taken in 1908. 'Dining Rooms',  at least 113 years old is looking good. While the commuters of London were using trams to get around; a ghost sign adorned every other wall. Looking through the pictures today I saw one of the first photographic businesses in the area. They were trading from 1900, roughly 60 years after the birth of photography. There were pictures of the other signs I have photographed and there is more research to do. Using photography as away of piecing together a time-line for the ghost signs is a first for me and demonstrates the many uses of the medium.
Gregory Crewson
The 'Genius of Photography', the seminal six part program from the BBC is essential viewing for those wanting to increase their knowledge of photography. While watching the final episode recently Gregory Crewson was interviewed and talked about his method of working. Each image is constructed like a film set with roads closed and street lights turned off. The cost and organisation involved in such a mammoth production is mind boggling. The work has a cinematic quality rich in pools of light bringing out small details that guide the narrative.  The work is very atmospheric and reminds me of an Edward Hopper painting. Crewson's prints sell for about £70,000.

Edward Hopper

Friday, 28 October 2011

behind the gare St Lazare...a bargin at €180,000

Henri Cartier-Bresson
If you have a spare €180,000 then this rare print could be yours. Christie's are auctioning Henri Cartier-Bresson's print next month. The image was taken in 1932 and the last print was made in 1946. It is this print that is going under the hammer. I am unsure of the printer but it was unlikely to have been the great man at the enlarger. The reason that I wanted to bring this to your attention, other then the fact that I did not want to you to miss out on placing your bid, is that it is one of the few images that he cropped. HCB often printed with the black borders around the edge of the print so that the viewer knew that they were seeing the same vista as the photographer. The reason for the cropping on this occasion is due to the railing of the fence that you can see below.

Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again. - Henri Cartier-Bresson

Saturday, 22 October 2011

London Protesters

Nicholas Brewer
Nicholas Brewer
I have just returned from the protests outside St Paul's Cathedral in central London. The tented community is peaceful and the crowd are friendly. The above image indicates how the majority feel about the police although some of the idiots speaking were less than supportive. Occasions like this do give a voice to some who are clearly speaking from a narrow agenda and the usual misfits were well represented. One speaker in particular seemed to have a personal vendetta against Paris Hilton. While she is an easy target for those feeling resentful of the inequality of wealth it is hardly her fault that she was born into a wealthy family. While there are banners galore moaning about globalization and the oppressed masses there seemed to be a lot of protesters drinking Starbuck's coffee naturally I did not feel inclined to point out the irony of this. There were many photographers and news crews all providing Tarquin and Victoria with their fifteen minutes of fame. I am not absolutely certain there were protesters of this name but I could hear many speaking with an educated and refined English accents. Everyone in the free world has the right to protest regardless of their background. If you are going along to support them maybe you could take them some deodorant, a week is along time without the comforts of home.
Nicholas Brewer

Monday, 17 October 2011

life through a mirror

Welcome to the 40th edition.

Gary Winograd
Teaching young people does provide you with a mirror of what you were like when you were that age. It is not long before you start identifying your friends in this new found looking glass. The group is a mixture of hormones, shyness and the cocky swagger of youth.  There is not an exact copy of your friends just characteristics or similarities that may remind you of your nearest and dearest. The photomontages made from old magazines that they produced this week were funny, irreverent and sensitive. As they leant a new skill and had an enjoyable experience it all went well. Naturally teaching is not just about having a good time but if this is included in a lesson then it helps to keep learners motivated and more likely to return. The arrogance of the young can help them to take risks and next time you see a boy racer you will be reminded of this.  You may recall that being aged between 16- 19 blessed you with the ability to think that you were 10 meters tall and bullet proof. Here is the balance that a lecturer is looking to maintain. Risk taking in a safe environment is a positive thing and is actively encouraged. A measured response to risks and the ability to understand what worked well and what needs improving. It reminded me that I need to come out of my comfort zone and make opportunities professionally and personally to accomplish my aims. The uncertainty of it all does make the heart bit a little faster and risk taking lets you know that you are alive.
I am currently reading 'dialogue with photography' by Paul Hill and Thomas Cooper. A great read of interviews conducted with legendary photographers like Paul Strand that describe his meetings with Alfred Stieglitz. For all of those who like to read and want to brush up on your photography history this is recommended.
Paul Strand
I think of myself as an explorer who has spent his life on a long voyage of discovery. Paul Strand - From Aperture article on Paul Strand.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

how to keep motivated in a long term project

Matthew Rolston
Long term projects are rewarding and provide the opportunity to learn not only about photography and your own practice but also the subject or subject matter depending on your project.  I am still working on the ghost signs which is a positive thing as a lot of work has gone into recording them and this is a good reason for doing it. The question now becomes is it a good enough reason on its own? I am acutely aware that the best results are achieved by sticking with something even when you doubt yourself. It is easy to start something and not finish it, any fool can do this. It takes determination and character to stick with something when the negative chatter between the ears gets to loud. The work has evolved into a history project and I am now blessed with knowledge about the bravest of graphic designers which is what sign painters whose work I am photographing were. Not only did they often have to design the logo for the smaller retailers but had to work out the spacing and typeface. This would not have been easy a hundred years ago without the aide of modern scaffolding and ready mixed paint.

Nicholas Brewer
This picture only shows half of the sign that I was hoping to capture and I was slightly disappointed that I could not see more from my vantage point on the balcony of a shopping centre. Nothing is ever wasted when you take your camera out. What this picture did give me is another ghost sign that I might have missed. If you look at the image about half way across you will see the number 2  at the bottom and again near the window ledge on the other side going left to right.

Nicholas Brewer
The latest photograph was taken from a window in the building of the picture above. You can work out my position from comparing the two.  Gibberd's Boots is one of my best ghost sign pictures so far but you can see that I persevered and kept hunting for the best spot to shoot my prey. Cold calling was required. I had to phone the office manager of the building that had the exact spot and explain what I needed to do. My experience is that if you have a pleasant way about you and are honest people will normally help you. This is also true for getting access to the balcony for the first image. Of course I did not have any money to pay them and I therefore only had about 10 minutes. I often spend a long time photographing each one, occasionally  photographing the same one at different times of the day, season and lighting to get the right picture. There were no such luxuries on Gibberd's Boots.
The Matthew Rolston picture is included along with a link to his website for no other reason that I love his work and wanted to share it with you.

Thank you for reading and happy hunting.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

What do you learn on a photography course?

Nicholas Brewer

It depends on which course you are on and how hungry you are for success. Learning the subject in a structured environment helps to ensure experience is gained with traditional methods of photography. The array of technical skills needed for learners to take good pictures needs time and patience. In addition college is a fun stimulating place that develops life skills and often provides a suitable pit stop from school to industry. Others feel that a college course is a waste of time and that you could learn what you need going straight to work. While true the lack of skills and jobs are the biggest challenge to over come. Assisting jobs have changed and they now demand a high level of digital skills. College provides the opportunity to get some work together and have a laugh doing it with new mates.
I have finished my final day of teaching this week and I am thinking about ideas for Tuesday. The students have had a good variety of photography and have definitely learnt useful advancements. It is a buzz teaching and gets the adrenalin going. While hard work and quite nerve racking at times, it is without doubt thrilling.
We had a look at some photomontages yesterday and I have included a few below for you to have a look at. The ghost sign above for Gibberd's Boots was taken on Tuesday and I am grateful to Raf who allowed me to take the picture from his office.
Thanks for reading
Peter Kennard

Saturday, 24 September 2011

urban exploration and hdr photography

Nicholas Brewer
Urban exploration appeals to a wide variety of adventurers not just photographers. The rich pickings for photographs are well documented but decay brings a freshness of patterns in the changing seasons. The intensity of the sun affects contrast and shadow detail therefore every picture is unique. This image was quite contrasty when I took it but after five exposures varying in 2/3 of a stop pushed through HDR I got  extra levels of tonal range. There will be a tutorial on this subject in a future post.
Nicholas Brewer

This straight black and white image was produced from an underexposed raw file.The increased tonal   range and contrast was produced in camera raw. There are so many natural layers in the image that a sense of depth is easily created.
Nicholas Brewer

This photograph I found on a memory card that I discarded. I am delighted with the light through the windows  and the zig zag shape of the building. The ghost signs are looking good and there are more on the link above.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

What is it like teaching photography in a school?

Matt Stuart
Have you ever wondered what we teach photography students at school? This week is my first experience of teaching in a state school in Surrey England. It is a roller-coaster of emotions as learners who are forced to be there are sometimes a challenge to motivate, but this is the reward. Not everyone is bitten by the photography bug at an early age it is sometimes a slow burning fuse that ignites the fire. A good teacher is often the catalyst for this change and with hard work, dedication and a desire to make the subject relevant to their lives I would like to fill this position. So what do we teach them? Naturally the basic technical stuff like ISO white balance and the exposure triangle. 60% is course work with the remainder a practical exam so there is the opportunity to allow learners to experiment. Photography provides the vehicle for creativity and improvement through trial and error. Have you experienced corrupted cards or some other technical malfunction when taking pictures? When learners are young it can affect their desire as the lost images are always 'the best work ever' so over coming this needs careful handling. Photography today is much faster and we live in a world of instant gratification. The speed of life is what I use to keep them thinking like photographers. Pictures happen around us all the time and a good photograph is when we catch the world winking at us. Blink and you miss it. The answer is a cognitive solution so for all the things that do not work and the pictures that are best sent to the trash, you are that much closer to the picture that makes you feel like you have discovered the elixir of life. One of my students is a big fan of Matt Stuart and I thought I would share the above picture with you.
Nicholas Brewer

Thursday, 25 August 2011

war photographer tim page

Tim Page
 Tim Page born in England made his reputation during the 60's photographing the Vietnam war. Arriving in Laos penniless but determined he was the original drug fueled photographer.

Tim Page
During his first job in Laos as an agricultural adviser he was caught up in a coup. Getting his hands on an old Nikon he began photographing what he saw.  At 21 he was a staff photographer for UPI's Saigon bureaux. With others of his generation including Don McCullin he brought the horrors of the conflict to the world. Sean Flynn (the son of Errol) was a friend and colleague who was kidnaped by the Khmer Rouge and never seen again. For those of you who have seen Francis Ford Coppola's classic Apocalypse Now the Denis Hopper character is loosely based on Tim Page.
The video is a good look at Tim's work and I hope you enjoy it.

If the photographer is interested in the people in front of his lens, and if he is compassionate, it's already a lot. The instrument is not the camera but the photographer. - Eve Arnold

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Never give up on photography.

After putting 'pictures of disappointment' into Google images this was the best one I could find. There were various images dealing with 'sexual disappointment' but I decided not to go there. So why am I disappointed? The twins who I am meant to be photographing today could not make it. 
'The measure of a man is the way he bears up under misfortune." Plutarch I re-tweeted this earlier on today and while it is bit of an exaggeration to describe my situation in this way it did get me thinking. Photography is not for the faint hearted and if you are not committed to it then it probably will not happen. Perseverance is a quality that all photographers must have to succeed. I need to be reminded of this fact as much as anyone.
Henri Cartier-Bresson
The above picture is a less well known image by the great master and I hope it inspires you as much as it does me. 
It is like a shot of adrenalin.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Photography is not easy.

Nicholas Brewer
With a bit of luck I am off to photograph the twins on Sunday. Above is the last one that I did of them and while much more what I am looking for it is not there yet. I have been photographing Michael and Jonathon for about a year and it is often difficult to get subjects to feel comfortable being in front of the camera They are both professionals with busy lives so it is difficult to find time in our schedules to keep the momentuem going. This is essential on a project like this.

Nicholas Brewer
The 'Ghost Signs' are another project that has been going for 12 exactly months on Saturday. The miracle of Meta data (data about data) tells me not only the date but also focal length and exposure. The project is enjoyable and I have learnt a great deal about this historic form of advertising. I feel the work is now getting tired and predictable. The bike creates a triangle shape pointing to the sign and the traffic light and chimney serve as vertical structures to add geometric form to the image.

Nicholas Brewer
Click on the 'Ghost Signs of London' link at the top of the page and see the best of the year.
Thanks for reading

Thursday, 11 August 2011

the law photographing the london riots

Amy Wenn
Dramatic pictures like these taken only a few miles from my house made me think about my rights to photograph on the streets. The law changes quickly in these volatile times so it is good to know when you can tell the police to 'move along now.' The Terrorism Act has been responsible for 100,000 stop and searches, many were photographers. From July of last year, Section 44 was removed and you cannot be stopped for taking photographs under this section of the Terrorism Act. This legislation was responsible for routinely disrupting the lawful business of photographers. Professionals and amateurs (derived from the love of) were harassed by police. Despite over a 100,000 stop and searches no one has been convicted of any terrorist offenses.

You are allowed to photograph the police in public places conducting their work. They only have a right to see your images if the police believe you are a terrorist. Just taking pictures is not a valid reason. Under no circumstances can they delete your work. Look at it this way. If you are taking images for terrorist purposes it would be destroying evidence and if you are not then what is the problem?

Things you are not allowed to do.
  • Take photographs near a court.
  • Take photographs of military bases and restricted areas.
  • Use a tripod in a public area.