All posts filed under: Inspiration

On the bookshelf – Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait by Michael Grecco

Here’s another good reference book, Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait by Michael Grecco.  It is an inspirational book that blends the best of the Rotovision series of books (lighting diagrams / camera info) along with interesting behind the scene anecdotes of a celebrity photographer (“We were shooting at Shaq’s home…”) The first sections are based more on types of gear and how to use them: cameras, lighting etc. Later chapters are based on concepts and case studies. Well written, great images, a quality book. On Michael Grecco’s website you can also get a good idea about his lighting setups by looking at his behind the scenes video clips. I particularly liked this clip showing a portrait of Scorsese, it shows a clever use of natural and strobe light along with a bit of smoke.

Birds of Peru

Back in 1998 not long after graduating from university I spent a year in South America. For six months I worked as a resident naturalist guide at a jungle lodge in the Peruvian Amazon. I guided tourists on forest walks, canoed on the lake looking for giant otters and spent evenings out in the peki peki motorized river boats searching for caiman. The memories all came flooding back when I saw a field guide to the Birds of Peru on the  Amazon website.  Our small patch of jungle had arguably the greatest diversity of bird and butterfly species in the world. I ordered a copy of the guide and have spent the last few days flicking through the book reminiscing about Hoatzins,  Harpy Eagles, Potoos, and Macaws. It’s amazing to think that I once used to use the calls of Howler Monkeys as an alarm clock.

BBC’s Natural History Unit: Life

Today, June 1st, sees the U.S. release of “Life” the latest series by the BBC Natural History Unit. If you’ve already seen Blue Planet, or Planet Earth you will be well aware of just how good these productions are. I grew up on these programs, they inspired me to study ecology at university, they inspired my love of travel, and now they inspire me to get out into the world and take photographs. I can not recommend them more highly. Both Blu-ray and DVD versions come in two variations Life (narrated by David Attenborough) and Life (narrated by Oprah Winfrey). I’m a fan of Oprah but for me (and probably a large proportion of the British public) Attenborough is a broadcasting icon beyond compare, so I know which version I’ll order.

On the Bookshelf – Henri Cartier-Bresson Photographer / A Propos de Paris

Last Christmas both my parents and my brother gave me books on photography by Henri Cartier-Bresson. It turns out that by blogging about what is on my bookshelf, they were able to deduce what wasn’t there. Henri Cartier-Bresson: Photographer is a comprehensive collection of Cartier-Bresson’s work spanning the years 1926 to 1979 and includes images from France, Mexico, China, Russia, and even Japan. In Henri Cartier-Bresson: À Propos de Paris he delves deeper into his relationship with Paris. One aspect of his images I find fascinating is his ability to get fly-on-the-wall shots where the presence of the photographer is unnoticed or ignored. I have never used Leica cameras, but their compact size would not only make the photographer more maneuverable, I presume, it also reduces the impact the photographer has on the scene. Subjects would have behaved differently for example if he’d used a giant camera like my Pentax 67 that tends to get stared at rather than ignored (Not to mention the rifle-like crack of the Pentax’s shutter). My favorite Cartier-Bresson image can be …

The Americans by Robert Frank

As I mentioned a few weeks ago I thought it would be interesting to talk about a classic photography book with others. There is a Japanese phrase Ju nin to iro which means 10 people 10 colors i.e. we all perceive the world a slightly different way. I’d be delighted to hear how you see the images in the book. For me the cover image of the street car in New Orleans is one of the most powerful. A clear reminder that when Robert Frank made his journey across America in 1955/1956 the divisions between races were very clear. It was December 1st 1955 that Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat for a white passenger. The image of the rodeo rider is another of my favorites, what strikes me is just how wiry and sinuous he appears. For me it seems to speak of a time when heroes, and perhaps America in general, were leaner. So there you go, anyone else want to share their thoughts?

On the bookshelf: A Shadow Falls

A Shadow Falls is a impressive book. Impressive in its physical size (nearly 16 x 13 inches). Impressive in its vision (vast African savanas). Impressive in its goals (to memorialize the vanishing natural grandeur of East Africa). The images are stunning. The tritone plates have a mesmerizing quality to them. Although the shots of elephants are perhaps the most famous examples of his work I found the images of the wildebeest migration the most powerful. Enjoy.

On the bookshelf: A Camera, Two Kids, and a Camel: My Journey in Photographs

I was given one more photography book for my birthday. I hadn’t mentioned it already as A) it came by sea so only arrived recently, and B) it has a few more words than most photography books so I had to sit down and read it. The book is  A Camera, Two Kids, and a Camel: My Journey in Photographs by Annie Griffiths Belt, a National Geographic photographer who has managed to juggle her career with two kids and a camel. (Something you don’t even see at Cirque Du Soleil.) It would perhaps be best described as an illustrated autobiography. The author talks about her life as a National Geographic photographer and there were several interesting facts or pearls of wisdom along the way. These included: “Assignments in those days (early in her career) averaged three to six months. No assistants. No shot lists. No excuses.”  Photographers were sent to a place after a five minute phone call and then it was their job to find the story behind that city or region and to photograph …

Who is Ray Harryhausen?

If you are still wondering who Ray Harryhausen is, and why Pixar used his name for a restaurant in Tokyo… He was the guy who pioneered stop-motion model animation in films.  He was the guy who created the skeleton fight scene in the 1963 movie Jason and the Argonauts. I watched this when I was little and it was the most fantastic thing I had ever seen.  Mind blowing stuff. Enjoy.

The Best of British – The BBC’s Natural History Unit

I have friends from many different countries and I am often amazed at how passionately patriotic they are of their homeland. I have been told numerous times that America / Canada / Australia / New Zealand / China / South Africa is the greatest country in the world and that not only should I visit but I should move there because it is such a fantastic place. Brits don’t tend to enthuse quite so much about their own country. In fact, most, seem to delight in telling a fellow ex-pat how grey / rainy / bleak / miserable the UK was on their last trip. I am sometimes asked what exactly Britain produces now that the shipbuilding, textiles, coal, and steel industries have almost gone. It turns out that we are still very good at banking, insurance, and producing weapons. Not the most popular industries in the world right now. Britain does however have numerous small companies that I am proud of Bowers and Wilkins (speakers), Marshall (amps), Lotus – (fast cars), Mclaren – (very …