Tagged: Photography

Girl with a camera: New adventures in photography

So I finally got myself a proper camera. Photography is something I’ve wanted to learn for absolutely ever, and seeing as my food blog will never go anywhere with smart phone snapshots, I decided the time to do it may as well be now.

My budget determined an entry-level price range, so after reading and watching every single review on the Internet I chose the Olympus Pen E-PL7. Even though the little retro-look compact system camera was aggressively marketed at selfie-snapping fashionista lifestyle vloggers, it came out at the top of its price range among all the reviews I compared, and a lot of photographers were quick to point out that it can do a lot more than what Olympus positioned it for.

My first test run wasn’t the most successful because I hadn’t had time to read the manual and found it difficult to get past the various auto and selfie settings and Instagram style filters to find the real stuff. But after a bit of reading and with the help of some online advice, I’ve got my newly customised buttons and a quick-access custom menu all set up and ready to shoot.

Now I just need to learn to use the thing. To start with I’m reading food photographer Corinna Gissemann’s very helpful, beginner-friendly book Food Photography, and setting up a low-budget photo studio nook in my flat with some pretty props and a decent light.

In the meantime, here are some very early test shots from when I was figuring out where all the buttons are, and all that.

Healthy apple and cinnamon cake (recipe here)

Lovely carrots from the market

derp1My beautiful baby cat…

derp3…his ridiculous facial hair

Hampstead Heath on a sunny autumn day

Squirrel in Golders Hill Park

And yes, Olympus, I took a fricking selfie.

How my photo came to feature in Richie Sambora’s new video

As I may have mentioned previously, Richie Sambora is my personal guitar, singing and songwriting hero. His two solo albums have been a constant companion since my teenage days. Life changed, my tastes in music changed and bounced back, but those 22 songs from Stranger in this Town (1991) and Undiscovered Soul (1998) remained on top of my playlist throughout.

The more excited I was to find that, after fourteen long years, Sambora’s third solo album is to be released. In the run-up, his PR team thought out a totally interactive, socially networked competition: The first single, Every Road Leads Home to You, was released free of charge and the fans were asked to submit photos they associate with the lyrics via Instagram.

A selection of photos would be used to make the video for the song. Well, not the proper, official music video – for that they preferred to have Mr Sambora strolling, bleached blond and guitar over one shoulder, through the desert for four and a half minutes. Meanwhile, the fans’ creative contributions were used in the official lyric video – as I’m told, another new-is marketing effort undertaken by various labels. Presumably to pre-empt all those fans making their own lyric video, via Windows Movie Maker and Comic Sans, over the next few weeks.

And since I’m a hopeless fangirl, I dutifully instagrammed my photo into the Samborasphere. And one of them now carries the vital phrase “I’m” of the refrain line “When the bridge is burning and I’m losing my faith”, right after the solo, at three minutes thirteen, of the official lyric video. Staying in the frame for about a third of a second.

But, hey, my photo is in Richie Sambora’s video.

The lonely little bench sits on a hidden bit of beach just outside Zadar, in Croatia.

Picture of the Week: Steve Bloom’s wildlife photography

Here we go with Picture of the Week #3, and once again it wasn’t really possible to actually keep it down to one picture.

Steve Bloom is another of those People I Shoulda Known About (but didn’t until I had to look them up for work). He currently has a new book coming out, titled Trading Places – The Merchants of Nairobi and has also got a massive portfolio of absolutely stunning wildlife photographs. If you have a look at his ‘Animals’ galleries, don’t miss ‘Water’ and ‘Elephants’!

I love animals (as you’ve probably guessed from my rants about live duck bags and squirrel kebabs), so of course I instantly had a whole list of favourites when I looked at Blooms’ project galleries. Here are my top three:

Chimpanzee by Steve Bloom
A chimpanzee photographed at Monkey World ape rescue centre in the UK, from the Water collection. I love how he seems to be catching raindrops in his hand in this thoughtful pose while all the others are huddled together to shelter from the rain.

Wildebeest by Steve Bloom
Stampeding wildebeest crossing the Mara River in Kenya, also from the Water collection. This photo looks like an elaborate painting to me. The powerful movement of the herd seems to be frozen onto a canvas, with the dozens of horns rising out of the mist creating a pattern that’s at once beautiful and unsettling. Makes the animals look like the spirits of all the wildebeest that have migrated there over time rather than one actual herd. (Or maybe that’s just me seeing ghosts everywhere again.)

Polar bears by Steve Bloom
And, of course, this selection wouldn’t be complete without a bit of ‘Awww, fluffy!’ These three Polar bears, photographed in Manitoba, Canada, are just too cute. The one that’s looking at its hand makes me squee every time I look at the picture. Also makes me wanna paint its nails! The one lounging around next to it looks like it just needs a remote control and a can of coke. And the third is just kind of, ‘Meh, this sucks. Can we do something fun?’

I’ve always loved photos that bring out animals’ personalities – and Steve Bloom is clearly a master at it. I only wish we could all spend more time studying animals and less time driving them to extinction.

Picture of the Week: Emma Watson by Ellen von Unwerth

One thing I love about journalism – no, make that the thing I love most about journalism – is that you learn about new things all the time. At the moment I’m doing work experience at the British Journal of Photography and this past week I had the chance to write a review about a photography exhibition. (Going to a gallery during working hours – there’s just no end to the list of advantages of being a journalist except for the part where you don’t get a job.) So I picked Ellen von Unwerth‘s exhibition Fräulein, which is currently on show at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London. And then I had a bit of an “OMG” moment when it turned out that she is the artist behind loads of photos I’ve come across and absolutely adored in the past.

Ellen von Unwerth’s story is a really cool one. She used to be a supermodel, but after about ten years it occurred to her that taking pictures is actually much more fun than posing for them. And in no time she became super-famous for getting pretty much much every female icon in fashion, music and film to take off their clothes and pose naughty. The advertising world and all sorts of super-glossy magazines love her, too. And she’s living proof that you don’t need to be a trained photographer to take fantastic photos.

I love the kind of femininity captured in her work. All of her photos I’ve seen so far have one thing in common: The women seem to have a lot of fun with the identity they chose for the shoot. They’ve got this incredibly bold, in-your-face confidence, in a very playful way. Kind of like back in the days when you’d get all glammed up to take fancy snapshots with your girldriends. (Well that’s what her pix remind me of anyway.)

It took me three days to decide which of Ellen von Unwerth’s photos to choose. Even if you limit it down to the celebrities, there are just too many stunning ones. I decided to go for a more recent shoot with Emma Watson. Mostly because she’s been in magazines quite a lot lately, and editorial photos (and features) are somewhat annoyingly pushing the fact that she’s all grown up now. (Okay, so she is. But we got that the first time you told us, dear press. At some point that angle just gets old. And boring.) What I like about this shoot is how it plays with that media obsession with the little Harry Potter girl growing up.

Emma Watson by Ellen von Unwerth

One moment, she’s all innocent little girl, with barely-there make-up and cuddling her retro doll. Then we watch the little girl play dress-up in the bathroom, and she comes out of it as this untouchably confident young lady. And then again, she’s just a dreamy teenager, with tear-smeared mascara, her fragile body almost getting crushed under the load of feminine accessories.

Emma Watson by Ellen von Unwerth

IMHO the best attempt ever to capture Emma Watson’s transformation without annoying everybody with the oh-look-she’s-grown-up angle.

I also strongly recommend checking out more of Ellen von Unwerth’s work. There’s a new monograph, Fräulein, coming out later this month. But that’s 450 quid, so a Google image search might be the better option.

Also, my apologies for once again failing to keep it short. But at least I didn’t mention Gillian Anderson.

Picture of the Week: Gillian Anderson for Esquire, by Rankin

It just occurred to me, while I was cleaning my kitchen, that we generally don’t do a lot of pictures on here except for the rare occason where my mind runs wild with a 60-picture movie re:View. Which is a shame really, especially because my hard drives are stuffed to the last byte with images I adore. So, I thought from now on I’ll make an effort to share one of them every week.

All right, let’s bring on the pretty pictures.

Picture of the Week #1:
Gillian Anderson, shot by Rankin for the Esquire Augst 2008 issue.

Gillian Anderson by Rankin, Esquire August 2008

(View the full set in HQ)

Why this picture?
Well, first of all, because IMHO Gillian Anderson is one of the most beautiful people on the planet. And I love what they did with this shoot with regard to her, uhm, intense efforts to distance herself from her legendary X Files character Dana Scully. (She tends to be a bit funny about her most famous of roles and won’t even sign X Files stuff at times.) But clearly, as Esquire ran these pictures along with an interview to coincide with the release of the second X Files movie in August 2008, they had to do *something* X Files-related.

I think Rankin’s photos are fabulously playful about Gillian’s X Files history – they’re a sweet little parody of her obsession with avoiding being typecast as Dana Scully for the rest of her life. I love how they captured her nature in this shoot – which, away from the X Files set, is all contagious laughs and goofing around. The woman in the pictures, with the mischievous smile and the wild curly hair, couldn’t be further from the character on the show. And then they give her all those wonderfully cheesy props, kind of like a geeky inside joke – et voilà, we’ve got some of the most stylish and yet comic X Files promo pictures ever made.

Chosing a favourite from the shoot is almost impossible. I went for the Tentacles from Outer Space picture because it was the first that made me gasp when I opened the magazine and that wasn’t even because of the side boob…well, not only. But the picture had to fight off some tough competition from the Alien Facelift and the Naughty E.T. Nailbite!

Check back next week for picture #2. I promise it won’t be about Gillian Anderson and I will keep the rambling bit short.