Thursday, 29 May 2008

Sucker punched


Just when I sit here and lament over the crappy weather in London at the moment, this comes in. That hurts. Who wouldn't want to work in Honolulu, Hawaii?!?! I wish I could at least afford the air fare for the interview...

Rainy day

As you know I am off work this week and enjoying it! Brighton yesterday was a success, I managed to burn a lot of money in exchange for food, clothes, CD's and stuff. Tomorrow we're off to see that Ansel Adams exhibition in Oxford that I've mentioned earlier. I think there's over 70 prints on show so it should be nothing short of amazing. Last day is June 1st for those who can make it.

But my plans for today went out the window. I was going to jump on the bike and get lost in the Lee Valley again, but the weather is quite wet so instead I've been having a one-man-workshop at home with various lighting setup's.

The above self portrait is a very simple one; just one SB-800 at 1/64th power hanging from a door frame via a super clamp pointing straight down, triggered by an SB-80DX on the camera. The bounce card was out on the SB-800 and I was very close to it, almost right underneath it in fact, hence the strong light fall off.

A bit tricky to frame as I was holding the camera myself; the bounce card kept cropping up in the top of the was shot at 1/250th, f13, ISO 200, so there's no ambient light. Post-processing: turned up contrast (low & high end cut slightly), desaturated & cropped it, touch of USM, that's it.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

70 minutes fo your life

Picture: David Hobby

This is ridiculous. I've just watched a clip on youtube and it was 70 minutes long. Normally I don't get too much joy out of that site, other than the odd 'loving' cat up for adoption, but this is fantastic stuff. Part of the Authors@Google series, where they film guest speakers and put it online, this time featuring a photographic legend; Joe McNally.

Check out Joe's blog here. He's also mentioned on Strobist, with a ridiculous looking flash set up, seen above. See more shots from that shoot on David Hobby's (aka Strobist) flickr page here.

I'm also enjoying my time off this week, sleeping late and watching entire seasons of good TV series such as Prison Break and The Wire. Very productive, I know.

Also planning a couple of trips, one to Brighton for some shopping and to look at the sea, and another to Oxford where they are exhibiting original Ansel Adams handmade prints. If you've ever seen one you will never forget it. He invented the zone system, you know. I used to read those books when I was much younger and it really made me understand photography a whole lot better.

Shockingly, a photographer I know - who shall remain nameless - hadn't heard about the zone system at all. I worry sometimes...

Friday, 23 May 2008

No picture today!

Because I'm off for a whole week. I'm pretty sure, no, absolutely positive that I wont post anything during this time. Sure. Yes, ok.

In the meantime, read my favourite blogs at the moment here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

A word of advice, some of them require a good working knowledge of Swedish, aka Hurdy Gurdy.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

The same old shit again?

On my way to photograph the woman above I stopped into a bookstore/cafe to pick up a coffee. On one of the displays was the book I've been waiting for since the winners were announced a while ago; World Press Photo '08! Go and get your copy now, pronto.

Legendary snapper Gary Knight, also chairman of the WPP jury, puts in his foreword: "A principal purpose of the World Press Photo contest is to celebrate great achievements in press photography, and it is disappointing that so much of what was submitted was familiar. One wonders why some photojournalists spend their time and energy telling us what we already know, in a style borrowed from another photographer". Harsh words indeed, but they also needs to be told. Photojournalism is considered to be in a bit of a crisis right now, with shrinking budgets and competing new media cited as main factors to this decline. But what he really is saying that as PJ's we need to develop our own vision and go with it, not give in to recreating pictures that have worked in the past, to constantly push the boundaries of visual journalism. Not all assignments can be done in radically different way, but if you don't strive for development you end up with stagnation and risk losing your audience.

Anyway, the woman I was going to photograph is called Gina and had just completed six marathons in six days. She is 63 years old. Over the weekend she is running two more marathons. In total she has now done 278, and is soon of to South Africa to run the Comrades, a nice little 56 mile jog.

Picture: perfect example of a familiar image in a borrowed style! But its not WPP photojournalism, its a portrait of Gina, so hopefully Gary Knight will spare me this time.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

One of those days

I'm working as I'm typing this, waiting for downloads to finish. I started my first job in Greenwich at 09:00 and left my sixth job at 17:00. 1191 images in the can. Got home at 17:30 and started editing the only job that was for deadline, which took ages, a spread was needed. Now its 19:35, and the Champions League final kicks of in 10 minutes. I've got five more jobs to edit before bedtime, let alone kick-off. I haven't had a lunch break today. Bollocks.

On top of that I wanted to get some audio for the deadline job in order to turn it into a nice audio slide show. As soon as I turned on my mp3 recorder it flashed on the batteries, and then went dead.

Picture: Still got time to post this while I wait though; Kevin Boys, world famous blacksmith, hard at work earlier today. Nice fella too.

PS. Tomorrow I will have an eye test. I'm pretty sure its needed...

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

A true gentleman always holds the door for a lady...

Dame Kelly Holmes and her pumped arms. © Magnus Andersson

...and today that gent was me! The lady in question was no other than the 2004 Olympic gold medalist Dame Kelly Holmes. She paid a visit to a sports academy here in London and we were walking around the different fields, chatting to the kids, etc. We then headed inside and my moment of glory came; I swiftly held the door and she glided past me without a word of thanks - just the way it should be - one shouldn't have to thank one's the servants all the time.

It felt really good to hold the door for a proper lady!

Picture: she retired from professional athletics in December 2006, so you would have thought she doesn't have to keep up with the training anymore, huh?

Sports is the new war photography

Photo: AP Photo/Ryan McGeeney

This is what happened to sports photographer Ryan McGeeney whilst straying into the javelin zone at an athletics competition in Utah. Ouch. All credit to him though; he took this picture himself.

"If I didn't, it would probably be my editor's first question when I got back," McGeeney said later. Always working, we photographers...

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Come for a walk

I've become slightly addicted to Soundslides, which is used to create the audio slide shows seen here and everywhere else. I don't know if its healthy, but when you are learning something new it can get quite exciting, hence another slide show in this post.

Anyway, yesterday I went for a long walk along the canals of east London today and they are both beautiful and ugly at the same time. There's old industrial estates, new developments - especially the Olympic sites - people fishing, sleeping, jogging, the closeness to nature which is rare in London, graffiti, rubbish, animals, you name it, its all there and I love it.

I've condensed my four hour walk (plus a few more hours editing...) into about 3.5 minutes for your viewing pleasure. You will get to see all of the above mentioned plus of course Mr Spider. Take a look here.

Stock car racing

My friend Mattias works for a local paper in south east Sweden and although spring is on its way there now, here's a fantastic reportage from the beautiful Swedish winter. Enjoy.

Picture: a man takes a picture in the tunnel near Waterloo station, decorated by Banksy and other street artists.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Lets have some fun with the photographer

On Friday evening I was doing a late job in a sports field down in Bromley, south east London. We'd been invited by a successful football academy and the kids we're doing their bit on the field. I was shooting the kids and waiting for the main attraction, West Ham United defender Anton Ferdinand, brother of Man Utd's Rio Ferdinand, who both are patrons for the academy, hailing as they do from south London.

Only one problem. Anton hadn't arrived. I waited an hour. Photographed the kids match. Then my 80-200 lens stopped focusing. Not good. It was getting very cold. Still no Anton. Premiership footballers are infamous for not showing up, especially on a Friday night with the season over.

After nearly two hours he finally showed up and I went about my business to set up a shot with him and some of the coaches as they were watching the game. Then I fell for the oldest trick in the book...

He asked me which paper I was from and as soon as he had eye contact with me he screamed - WATCH OUT, BALL COMING!!! and I scrambled for my life, covering my head and my camera, bracing myself for the thumping impact of a high velocity football to my head...alas, there was no ball near me, it was miles away. I'd been had. I don't think I've seen a bunch of grown men laugh so much in a long time, they were literally falling about. Safe to say that I looked like a twat, and they really enjoyed it!

Anyway, Anton is a good sport and gave me a photo session a little later, after Sky Sports had finished interviewing him. The result can be seen at the top of this post.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

I fought the law...guess who won?!

For a long time the authorities has told us to be vigilant against potential terrorists, report 'suspicious' looking people, perhaps someone taking photographs in public places, a guy with a beard, who knows?

To instill this climate of fear is very practical for the police when they want to interrupt a professional photographer in their work. They can simply threaten you (or anyone actually) with arrest for suspicion of terrorism, or, as in my case last year, taking the moral high ground and illegally confiscating my camera.

I was on my way to a job when I happened upon an accident scene in which a pedestrian had been killed by van. Horrible as it is to witness, it is still news and something which it is my job to report on. I parked up, got my camera and walked over to the police cordon. It had happened a while earlier, technicians, traffic cops and paramedics were all present, traffic was closed off. The body was laying in the middle of the road, covered by a blanket, so there was no way of identifying the person.

I did as I should, approached the nearest officer, produced my press ID and got the all clear. I spent maybe 15 minutes at the south end of the cordon before trying to find a way to the north side. Once there I was just about to take some more picture when all of a sudden my camera was snatched from my face and pried out of my hands by a real swine of a cop. I'm sure you know the (stereo)type...and this was it.

Anyway, I protested and told him of my rights - whether you're a professional snapper or not doesn't actually matter - everyone has the right to photograph in public as long as you don't obstruct the police in their work. He thought that I should consider the victims of the deceased though, taking the moral high ground and deciding that a normal traffic cop also has the right to adjust citizens moral code. Bah humbug. I find it hard to take moral advice from a police officer who doesn't even know how to perform his own duties.

He walked off with my camera, I called my editors who called his superiors, and as soon as the officer in charge at the scene found out what this swine had done, my camera was magically back in my possession! Even then he insisted to make a nuisance of himself by walking in front of me so that I couldn't get a clear view of the scene.

The whole thing turned into meetings with the police, 'would I like to press charges?', they asked me. Damn right I want to! to which they pleaded that if the cop was found guilty, he would stand to loose his job, and he had a family to support.

I carefully weighed my options...after all I had actually got the pictures that I needed before his intervention, so in the end I decided that no matter how stupid this guy was, his kids didn't deserve it, so I let the whole thing slide with just an official apology to me from the Metropolitan Police, and the promise that all ground staff would get proper training on how to treat the press.

Victimising photographers in the war on terror is such stupid thing to do. According to BJP: More than 190 MP's have now signed up to an Early Day Motion introduced in the House of Commons by Austin Mitchell, urging the 'Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers to agree on a photography code for the information of officers on the ground, setting out the public's right to photograph public places, thus allowing photographers to enjoy their hobby without officious interference or unjustified suspicion'.

And now we are fighting back too, he he he. There's a few of them that are quite funny indeed.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Some days are better than others

At the beginning of last week I kept thinking - and had been for a while - that I hadnt been on any interesting jobs for quite a while. Its all been: show up, arrange the people into a group shot and do the picture or; shoot general views of the police at a murder scene/accident spot or; in/exterior of a restaurant for a review etc, yada yada.

But towards the end of last week it all got better, I photographed Georgina Studd, a cerebral palsy sufferer in a wheelchair, but also one of the brightest sparks in this town. She is now also the youngest ever documentary film maker to be shown on Channel 4, and a complete joy to be around! (wonderful Q&A stuff here and here, and click on the "Watch" button to see her film here)

Then I got booked in to visit the studio of artist Ed Gray. I had the pleasure of spending a long photo session with him at his last exhibition in Camberwell last year, so going to his studio was amazing. He also speaks a tiny bit of Swedish which makes it kind of funny as well, but his Swedish wife probably wants him to learn a bit more. I'll be posting some stuff from his place once I have some audio to go with it.

As it happens on good days, his studio was only minutes from where I live, and it was a Friday, so I could go home and download in the safety of my own home, and without having to dodge the dreaded Friday rush hour.

So that's a good day in a PJ's life, and maybe one day I'll get to the bad bits.

Main picture: Two Brixton rappers; Frantic Frank and Logic aka Cigol, and FF's scary dog. I was glad to survive this shoot in a dodgy alleyway on this SW9 estate. Luckily it was raining hard outside (hence the lens flare top left) so nobody robbed me of my gear, but I did get quite scared when the dog tried to go for my throat. He had two of them in his flat. I said one would be enough for the photo.
btw, Logic's latest album is quite brilliant.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

So what's the difference?

Today we've have had some wonderful weather in London, rain, sunshine, thunder, proper April showers even though technically we are in May. In between jobs I managed to catch some good shots of the contrast we've had today, such as this one above - goalposts in Charlton Park - slight sunshine and ominous skies in one go.

But what's the difference between photography and photojournalism? Is there one? Where do you draw the line? By using the greatest talking point of all time - the weather - it will all be made clear here. First up is photojournalism:

And next we have have photography.

The difference is neglible but very important. In the first example we see tiny specks of grey in the image. This is actually minute pieces of dust caught by static electricity on the imaging sensor of my digital camera. Now you might think this is too small a detail to bring up, but if you are documenting something rather than creating an image, this is where journalistic integrity comes in. If you alter an image beyond adjusting contrast, colour correction and to some degree sharpening, it is considered to be false in photojournalistic circles. Especially if you clone out 'undesirable' elements, as is the case of pic #3. You only need to see this to understand how damaging it can be when reporting in the field (as opposed to a 10 minute lunch break in Blackheath).

I'll leave you with this piece of photojournalism, where I've adjusted contrast a bit and added some sharpening, but left the dust in there, for all y'all to see.

The Commitment II

As mentioned in the previous post, commitment to the job is a given if you want to be a good photojournalist. Olivier Jobard, a French photographer with SIPA went way beyond the call of duty when covering an African refugee's perilous journey from Cameron to Europe. I don't know what he was thinking getting into that boat for the final crossing of the Atlantic. The story itself is simply amazing, so please spare 20 minutes of your life and check it out here. Today I will not complain about a single thing in my life.

Thanks to Lars Dareberg for link tip.