27 February 2014

Blown Tulips

Wedding Reception: before everyone arrives

Wedding Prep

30 Wedding Photos: 9

So, here's a few children, guests at a wedding in Manchester. They got restless waiting for the ceremony to begin and took refuge under (inside really) the altar:

Cute, I think, but how could it be improved? Well, better lighting for one thing (always better lighting) but that wasn't an option - this was a one-time deal and over in seconds. All of them looking at the camera would have been good but I still think it works and besides waiting wasn't an option, and nor was making a request - I took this and the moment was over.

I could perhaps have gone wide and got the children and the church interior in the same shot - this would have been a definite improvement, though again timing is everything and I took this just seconds before they scattered. The main thing that I really should have done, though, is to have got down lower, onto their level - I don't know why I didn't really now that I'm looking at this; I crouched but didn't get low enough. I still like it, still think it merits inclusion in these 30 pictures, but a lower angle, and something saying "we're in a church here" would have definitely improved this picture. Still and all, like the others, it makes me smile and that's why it's here. You're welcome.


26 February 2014



30 Wedding Photos: 8

So, posed, yes: not a truly spontaneous moment, though let's say it's about 85% up to the kids, 15% to me. Which is to say, though they came to pose in front of the camera, they were already posing about the place and the hat had already been purloined, I just had to kneel down in front of them at the wedding reception (we're pretty deep into the evening here) and get the shot. Unusually for me, I used a bit of flash here - things were DARK in the venue - but I don't think it kills the moment as the girls fill the frame and I had the flash dialled down so that a good proportion of the light you see here is ambient, hence the tungsten warmth.
What do I like about it? The fun, the smiles, the genuine warmth, the kids-being-kids business. I like the one eye of the girl on the right, I like the oversized hat which tells you "wedding" without further ado, and I like the cheesy, we're in front of a camera expressions. I like the warmth of the tungsten mixed with a bit of flash; I like the lean in to the camera - they are giving it everything they have - and, well, I like it because it makes me smile.

25 February 2014

30 Wedding Photos: 7

Why this one? The three smiles mainly, with the two main ones forcing, IMHO, the viewer to smile too. I like the backlighting, I like the hug, I like the guy on the right and the movement in his hands, and I like the fact that they are performing bandeoke (though admittedly you had to have been there to know this, and therefore this reason for liking it is partially disqualified from a more general appreciation). Mostly, I like the fun and friendship, the abandonment - you know, raw emotion, happiness, being in the moment? Yeah, all that stuff - that's why I like it.

24 February 2014

Mia: A few more from yesterday


30 Wedding Photos: 6

OK, so, well, with a bride this beautiful it becomes a fish-in-a-barrel scenario but, even allowing for that, I do love this picture: Rae's eyes, expression, the rapt attention of the woman in red behind her, with the implication that her other friend is similarly absorbed. I like the direct-to-camera eye contact, the colours, the dress, the lighting on her hair, the smile playing on her lips, the bright morning light, the fact that what is happening can only mean one thing - that a ceremony is but a short time away :-)

Not a lot left to say really - is that not enough?? OK, well, slight challenge in exposure with a scene so heavily backlit; plus, I shot pretty wide open so as to throw the background out of focus as much as possible, and I shot with the subject on the third of the picture. So, with all that, we're set.

22 February 2014

30 Wedding Photos: 5

Why is this one of my all-time favourite wedding pictures? Let me count the ways: 1. The later afternoon light. 2. The smiles on nearly every face. 3. The Kiss. 4. The iconic London skyline (getting up high - nearly always a Good Thing, photographically). 5. The guy at the back climbing up so he is in the picture. 6. The composition. 7. The happiness. 
Of course, this one was a set up, unlike the others so far, but the fact that so many people were involved, the setting, smiling eyes... somehow, it really doesn't matter that everyone was asked to pose for the photo - so many are doing their own thing anyway, the "pose" is really very little more than a grouping and a request that they look at the camera. Having viewed this picture a lot over the years, it still makes me smile. Would I change anything? Well, I'd be happier if the woman in red, extreme right, was looking at the camera... 

21 February 2014

Syncing Data between Macs: A Short Guide

A world of pain. Buy a couple of PCs.

If you want more detail:


Or just take it from me. It requires a brain capable of theoretical particle physics or radio astronomy or some such. Alternatively, go old-skool and buy an external drive, copy your stuff to that, then copy it to your other Mac. Forget about iShare, iCloud, HomeShare or any of the other things I have misremembered - too much aggravation. The whole thing is as opaque as the process for getting a Flickr slideshow to work.

30 Wedding Photos: 4

Taken on one of the hottest days of the year last year (I can't tell you how much I longed for a lighter suit - I was a horrible sweaty mess during the vows but there was little I could do about it; the UK doesn't often do air con as anyone who lives here will testify), here the bride has her marriage certificate in her hand and is hugging a friend immediately after the ceremony. Even with a cursory glance you can tell that the hug has a depth and meaning some hugs just don't achieve :)  Though you can see little more than her eyes, they and her hands are enough to tell you that this is the Mother of All Hugs and it was my privilege to be able to photograph this and other telling moments throughout the day. Other thoughts? Well all that negative space is important - all the action is taking place in the lower left hand corner but the picture wouldn't have the impact it does if it was more heavily cropped and the subject centred. A couple of other things: 1. spontaneity continues to rule; and 2. the visibility of the wedding ring is another part of the reason why I like this picture. 

20 February 2014

30 Wedding Photos: 3

So, no. 3 in the series. James and Dani spontaneously combusting with joy outside their reception venue (The Rosendale - a stylish gastropub in Gypsy Hill, South London). Why this one? Well, as ever, the spontaneity is a big part of it: though we were about to take some group shots and shots of Dani and James together, this happened before we'd begun and had nothing to do with me, something you can tell just by looking at their faces - James' knew what he was going to do, but neither me nor Dani had any idea; had it been planned, you'd have known in an instant from their expressions. 
What else works in it's favour? The light is nice and even with enough contrast to give them some form - daylight, cloudy: nature's own softbox. Composition, focus, all that stuff - that's there. The bouquet is perfectly placed, and the arch in James' back, the angle of Dani's shoes ... they all work. Mostly though, it's the simplicity of the gesture and the beauty of Dani's expression as both of them look direct to camera and enjoy their day, the tension of the ceremony over, the party yet to properly begin. 

18 February 2014

There are still unique people working in photography that are out there to be discovered, creating beautiful new work.

30 Wedding Photos: 2

This was taken at a recent wedding in Richmond and isn't, perhaps, your usual wedding shot. It isn't just that it is closer than some wedding photographers might go; nor is it the dramatic post-processing; it is also the fact that it doesn't immediately say "wedding". But it makes the grade, for me, because of the lighting, the girl's expression, and the slight air of melancholy and darkness - true beauty always has an element of melancholy for me, perhaps because of my Celtic upbringing and spending too long in the West of Ireland as a child - a melancholic landscape if ever there was one. 

To me (and I'm sorry if I keep relying on my own interpretation of my pictures, but in the end it is the only interpretation any of us can truly be said to understand, and even then the understanding is often partial or fleeting), other successful elements in this photograph include the stuffed toy the girl is holding, her expression, the fact that she isn't looking at the camera, and the simplicity of the tonal palette. The pattern on the curtain behind her helps as it gives the picture an air of ageing splendour, at least to my mind, and the diagonal light cuts through the darkness in a manner that enhances the subject. YMMV of course, and you may see none of this.... 

Less successful elements? Well, the aforementioned lack of weddingyness is the main problem with the picture I think, but on balance I think it's strengths as outlined above ensure it is one that can be said to make the cut. 

30 Wedding Photos: 1

Hello, welcome to the first in a series showcasing some of my favourite wedding photos. Here I shall share pictures I have taken that I am particularly happy with and will explain why. I am going to be quite quick today as the sun has just come out and round this way it is like seeing a unicorn riding a unicycle and I want to be reminded of what it feels like. So, without fanfare or further ado, here is photograph number 1 in the series:

This is the beautiful Dani at her wedding last summer to James, whom you can see in the background, right, smiling the smile of someone who has just Done the Right Thing. So, why this one? It isn't a shouty photograph, it doesn't say "hey, that Mr Dodds, he knows his wedding photography tricks and techniques". And that is one of the reasons I like it - it's a relatively quiet picture, not technically hugely accomplished, but it all comes together nicely. And of course it isn't posed.

To deconstruct a little further - her face, his face, the bouquet, the headdress, the hug - the huge hug - the suits and ties, the look direct to camera, the smiles, the heartfelt emotion (love), the blue sky, green trees, the depth of field giving nice focus fall-off: these are all the things I want, these are all the things a picture like this needs. A lucky shot? To some extent, perhaps, in the sense that it wasn't, of course, scripted, and I didn't know she would hug this friend right in front of her groom like that, nor could I have planned for her to look to camera like that. But there was also a fair degree of preparedness - the right camera, lens, settings, the need for a quick reaction, the need to edit out any shots either side that weren't of the decisive moment. All that stuff. I don't know yet, but I suspect most of the 30 photos I will include in this series will be "lucky" to the extent, at least, that I didn't pose them.*

Could it be improved? Sure. The brides' face could be closer to the centre of the picture - she is pretty low down, and I could perhaps have gone a little wider, but that's it for me - you might have other ideas, but for my liking pretty much everything else should stay the same.

And here endeth the lesson. I'm off to look at the unicorn. And edit some more wedding pictures of course.

*I read a comment on a wedding photography forum the other day to the effect that the commentator hadn't seen a wedding shot pre-1990 that he (?) liked. I was initially dismissive - of course he must have done, there are millions of them out there. But on thinking about it, I thought there might be a grain of truth in what he was saying - professional wedding photographers before about 1990 from what I understand adopted a directive approach, setting things up and posing groups, the couple etc. And, in doing so, pretty much killed the evanescent emotion they were trying to capture. Do you want your pictures to stir emotion, do you want to have something more than an empty simulacrum of the happiness felt by the bride and groom and their families? Don't go the posed route. Sure, get some group shots, and get some joy out of them as best you can (I try and do this myself - a group shot or two, with all the guests attending, can be a beautiful and fun reminder of the day and who was there) but remember, the less organising, the more chances there are for you to capture (is there a better word that "capture"? I'm still searching) something genuine, that will resonate with the attendees in years to come.

17 February 2014

How and Why of Photography

Sarah Moon - I love her pictures. This is her in the early '80s (I think - no date of interview given) - she may well, of course, have changed her working method, indeed if she is even still taking photographs, but this bears consideration:

"Today my technique is still to set the scene, to get the mood and the atmosphere right and then to wait to see what happens, hoping for the accident that will provide the correct moment to expose the film."

Later in the same interview she says:

"... something I have come to realise is that I never photograph reality. That's a reason I could never do reportage. It's not my thing - not my way of working or my vision. I could never go out in the street and take a photograph. Also I would be incapable of photographing somebody without their agreement. I can't bear to be pushy, to intrude ... So reportage would contravene my moral code."

These quotes are from a wonderful book, "Master Photographers - The World's Great Photographers on their Art and Technique" edited by Pat Booth. Others interviewed include Ansel Adams, Horst, Karsh, Elliot Erwitt, Robert Doisneau, Eve Arnold... Highly recommended. Here's Bill Brandt, who talks about photography in an almost mystical fashion and for whom the process remains a mystery:

"The photographer must first have seen his subject, or some other special aspect, as something transcending the ordinary. It is part of the photographer's job to see more intensely than most people do. He [sic] must have, and keep in him, some of the receptiveness of the child who looks at the world for the first time, or the traveller who enters a strange country... I believe this power of seeing the world as fresh and strange lies hidden in every human being ... it is there even if it is no more than a vague desire, an unsatisfied appetite that cannot discover its own nourishment ... Yet when all is said and done I do not really know how I take my pictures."

And here is Lartigue, being asked how he has managed to give his pictures such optimism and happiness:

"I think I have retained the thoughts of a child, but that is God-given. I am a very happy man, and a light-hearted one, so I guess my pictures reflect the kind of man I am. I have only ever painted or taken photographs for my own pleasure, never anybody else's, and I don't care how the world sees me."

It's difficult to stop quoting from this lovely book but I'll leave you with just one more excerpt - this is Harry Callahan:

"Before photography nothing was important to me. I was merely existing with no purpose at all. Now I use the medium to express the things that are happening in my life. As my life changes, the work reflects it. It seems that life and photography must be closely related."

5 February 2014

This is True

"The hard part is being brave enough to stake out a vision and work on it. The hardest part for most of us is to continually engage the people around us that we want to photograph and to convince them to collaborate in the realisation of our vision."

More from Kirk Tuck, writing on Michael Johnson's blog, here. It's good stuff.

Lost on the way up

3 February 2014

The Pattern Maker

My ex-neighbour Nick has got his first novel out and I'd highly recommend it - I don't read much since the internet obliterated my attention span, since Atomised (published as The Elementary Particles in America) rendered much modern literature redundant through lack of scope and range, and since photography took over my life to the extent that it has. However, all that said, I honestly have no hesitation in recommending Nick's thriller The Pattern Maker. And no, it's not just because I worked on the cover with him ;-)