Jul 242011
 

Amy Winehouse was found dead at her home in Camden Square northern London on Saturday 23rd June 2011.

Amy Winehouse shot fame in 2006 after the release of her album “Back to Black”. The album won 5 Grammy awards thanks to her massive talent which, when combined with her unique beehive hair and tattooed arms, made her one of the music industries most recognisable female artists. Sadly, as too many of the industries incredibly talented musicians do, she found herself on the road to self-destruction. Her 2011 comeback tour was cancelled after she appeared on stage in Belgrade Serbia apparently drunk and incoherent.  If fact her performance was so bad she was booed.

Back in mid October 2004 when Amy Winehouse was still a Mercury Music nominated rising star with her first album “Frank” I was lucky enough to sit in and photograph this young up coming  prodigious talent being interviewed by the local media and afterwards as she played an intimate performance for a couple of dozen people. That Journey took Amy Winehouse  just 6 years and 9 months.

Jul 182011
 

They say Britain is a nation of dog lovers, they also say never work with children or animals. Have you ever tried photographing your pet pooch only to be disappointed by the results. Here (in no particular order) are a handful of photography tips to help you achieve better results when you’re photographing mans best friend.

  1. First rule of all portrait photography is focus on the eyes. Most dogs have long snouts, so if you focus on the nose the eyes can be out of focus.
  2. Most humans are tall compared to a dog, so get down and shoot from their eye level see the world as they do.
  3. Have a hyperactive dog who just cant stay still? Use a fast shutter speed to freeze the movement when they are running and jumping.
  4. For the older or more sedate natured dog, try a wider aperture setting. This will help reduce distractions by throwing the background out of focus. Don’t forget “most dogs have long snouts”  if the aperture setting is too wide  your best friend could end up with a burred nose.
  5. Some dogs are natural posers, you can get good shots just by getting them to sit while holding their attention with a treat or toy. For most distraction is the key give them something to do or play with  that you know they love then you work around them.
  6. Don’t always work alone and do a little planning. Get another member of the family to hold your hound while you move some distance away. On a preprepared signal get your helper to let your pet pooch go and you grab some great action shots as the dog comes charging towards you. If your auto focus is slow or you dont have follow focus try pre focusing the camera on a fixed spot you the dog will run through and fire the shutter as they cross the focus point.
  7. Sticking with the theme of helpers why photograph your dog in isolation? Get someone you love and who the dog is relaxed with to interact and capture that on camera.
  8. Make it fun! Photography may be fun for you but most dogs are not the type who will happily perform on command for the camera. Make things fun for your pet and it will show up in your photographs through the dogs body language.
  9. Watch,  not the one on your wrist! Watch with your eyes. Your dog is genetically 80% wolf, so while walking with your dog and camera take time to watch and learn its instinctive behaviour and try to capture a more subtle side of  your pets character in your photography.
  10. Know your dog. Good photography can often come from to knowing your subject and being able to predict what’s going to happen.
  11. Sometimes all you need to make a photograph really work for you is a caption!

Right at the start I mentioned they say “never work with children or animals” well here is another tip – many of those tips work with kids too.

Have your own top tips for dog photography?

Feel free to add them below.

Want to give your dog an outdoor portrait session give me call

May 162011
 

On May 14th and 15th the Northern World War 2 Association, or NWW2A, held their “Private Battle Weekend”. Established in 2005 with the aim of recreating, and reenacting the Second World War period as authentically as possible, association members spend most of their reenacting time  providing Allied and Axis living history displays and large scale battle reenactments at events across Northern of England. The Private Battle is a chance for the reenactors to don their 1940’s persona’s and spend one or two days war-gaming on a large expanse land, somewhere in Yorkshire, away from the gaze of the public. I spent one day with the Elite Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland of the NWW2A to see what life was like as a member of their Kriegsberichter Zug (war correspondent platoon).  I chose to shoot on my modern digital Nikon D700 DSLR camera rather than my old Kiev film rangefinder. I wanted the best quality pictures. I have chosen to reproduce the photographs in black and white in an attempt to put back some of the atmosphere lost by not using film.

Unteroffizier “Wolfgang Spengler” in command of the Eight  man squad plus one “Kreigsberichter” of the Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland somewhere in NorthYorkshire

Point man “Stefan Kollers”

Above: From a gulley on the tree line  Feldwebel “Otto Henning”  looks for any unexpected movement as two of the squad move forward across open ground to the wreck of an old tank. Below: Having safely made it to cover Gefreiter “Hans Altmann” looks back as his comrade checks for enemy movement to the front, before calling up the rest of the men.

The remainder of the squad wait anxiously for the signal to make their way across the open ground and into cover.

 

Having made it into woodland without being ambushed the men of Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland take a breather. Above Right: Using an Esbit stove and German mess kit Gefreiter “Johann Rechenmacher” and other members of the patrol share a coffee while others (Above Left and Below) rest or chat quietly so as not to give their position away.

Below: The Großdeutschland squad anxiously wait for the return of point man “Stephan Kollers” who has been sent ahead to investigate gunfire.

Unteroffizier “Wolfgang Spengler” orders  his men into position as they advance on an “enemy position” that is already involved in a fire-fight with other elements of  Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland, 21st Panzer Division and 1st Fallschirmjäger.

One  Panzergrenadier attempts to work his way towards the strongpoint and find an effective firing position. Below: Feldwebel Otto Henning has already spotted one target.

While attempting to get around and flank the allied strong point, with Grenadiers “Stefan Kollers” and “Hans Muller”, our battle was cut short by fusillade of well placed rounds from element’s of Fox Commando Royal Navy and US 101 Airborne  (below).

 

Above; The long walk back to the camp at the end of day one. Left to right:  Fallschirmjäger from the NWW2A, Grenadier “Hans Muller”,  Grenadier “Stefan Kollers” and Unteroffizier “Wolfgang Spengler”

NWW2A consists of a number of different groups or“units” ranging from the US and British Airborne troops, French Resistance, British and Soviet infantry, German 21st Panzer Division, Infantry, Luftwaffe and Fallschirmjäger and the Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland. Moving away from  front-lines units there’s the German Field Police, Deutches Rotes Kreuz , Ensa Moonlight Seranaders and 40’s Civilians & Home Front Auxiliaries.

Apr 162011
 

Some of you may have noticed that I have an interest in most all things military, I also have an interest in the 1940’s, more specifically the second world war. This has led me to invest in a “new” camera, well new to me. Its actually a 38 year old Kiev range finder, a postwar Russian copy of the famed German Contax range finders which were introduced around 1933 and were once the main competitor for Leica.

I intended to buy one of these Russian Contax or Leica clones as a display piece but attempts to find a good looking non working display camera for under a fiver soon evolved into a little bit of a quest to find a reasonable working camera and preferably a Keiv. I wasn’t actually worried about the age of the camera but I did want it to work on 1940’s technology. Then thanks to eBay a Kiev 4, a Contax IIIa copy, arrived along with a very odd desire to put a roll of film through it.

I think I actually imagined I was going to stick a roll of film in this 1940s vintage piece of technology and instantly be able to use it just like my Nikon equipment. However to give you an idea of the differences between this camera and any modern digital SLR or compact I thought about writing a short list of what you don’t get with a Kiev but forget the list. If your camera has the word “auto, automatic, program, mode or electronic before one of its features take it as read the Kiev doesn’t have it. It does have a built in light meter but its not very reliable and you have to read it, work out the exposure settings then manually enter those settings on the camera. Its design requires the camera to be held in a specific way, known as the Contax hold, so the fingers of your right hand don’t block the range finder window and make focusing impossible.

To swap from my Nikon D700 to the all mechanical and manual Keiv for a couple of days was to say the least a culture shock. I am used to knowing my Nikons so well that I pick them up and work them, almost without thought, leaving me free to concentrate on creating images. With the Keiv I was forced into a much slower pre planned, less instant, pace of photography. Not just less instant in the sense you don’t get to see the result straight away but you suddenly realise you have to move the camera away from your eye to set the shutter speed and aperture then again to wind the film on. You are forced to think much more about the image you are about to shoot or want to shoot and makes the grab shot so much more valuable. It has also left me wondering how famed war photographer and Magnum founder member Robert Capa managed the images he did from a pair of Contax II cameras. Despite the totally different way of working forced on me when using the Kiev I think I may just be looking for a Zorki or Fed Leica copy now to sit alongside my Keiv or maybe Ill look for a Kiev clone of Capa’s Contax II.

Feb 242011
 

15 degrees C and sunny… Its beginning to look a bit like springtime in Ecclesfield

Nikon

D700

50mm f1.8 lens

400 ISO 1/800 at F8

Jan 302011
 

I bought my partner Black Diamonds for Christmas. Not  the ‘Black Star of Africa’ or ‘Table of Islam’ type, she isn’t that lucky because I’m not that rich, it’s one of the downsides of being a professional photographer. What I did buy her was the book “Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty” by Catherine Bailey. It tells the epic and stranger than fiction story of the Fitzwilliams, who claim descent from William the Conqueror and once owned what was, in fact still is, the largest privately owned house in Britain, Wentworth Woodhouse.

I have lived in South Yorkshire all my life, I have heard of the Fiztwilliams, Wentworth House and that there was something special about the place but as is often the case with things you grow up around I hadn’t really given it that much thought. Even when one of my first assignments as full-time professional press photographer was to cover the wedding of  Wensley Haydon-Baillie, one time owner of Wentworth Woodhouse who married at Wentworth’s “new” Victorian Church with Prince Michael of Kent reportedly as his best man, I didn’t really think beyond that immediate story.

Above left: Former owner Wensley Haydon-Baillie and his new bride are congratulated by a local as they walk the footpath back to Wentworth Woodhouse from the Fitzwilliam family Church. Above right: Prince Michael of Kent attends Haydon-Baillie’s wedding in Wnentworth.

Below: Commissioned by the 6th Earl of Fitzwilliam in 1872  at a cost of around £25,000 in memory of his parents, with a spire of almost 200 feet tall Wentorth Church is visible for miles around. Dedicated to the Holy Trinity it was designed in Gothic revival style by leading Victorian church architect James Loughborough Pearson who later designed Truro Cathedral.

Wentworth Woodhouse, the size of the building is breathtaking.  Built by Thomas Watson-Wentworth, 1st Marquess of Rockingham, added to by his heir, in the nineteenth century it was  inherited  and became the family seat of the Earls Fitzwilliam. It took a Scots Lass Born in Glasgow, who strangely enough can trace her ancestral linage back to one of  William the Conqueror’s Noblemen to pique my interest in the place enough to try and capture the grandeur of its East façade. This is really the only shot that can be taken of the house as it is a privately owned house and not open to the public.

You really do have to stand in front of this Grade I listed country house in Wentworth, South Yorkshire to fully appreciate its size. The East Front, 606 feet (185 meters) long, it is the longest country house façade in Europe. With 365 rooms the house covers an area of over 2.5 acres (10,000 square Meters).  Currently it is owned by a retired architect in his 80s called Clifford James Newbold who, if what I have read is to be believed….

  • Paid in excess of £1.5 Million pounds for Wentworth Woodhouse.
  • Paid £1.5 Million pounds for Wentorth Woodhouse
  • Moved from a “family sized home” in Highgate to Wentworth Woodhouse.
  • Lives there alone.
  • Is a recluse
  • planned to convert it into three homes for his family.
  • Is is progressing with a defined programme of renovation/restoration.

I’m only guessing here but I think its probably fair to say some of the things written about Mr Newbold may not be quite accurate.

  • What seems fairly certain is in 1998 he was Master of the Guild of Freemen of the City of London.
  • In May of 2010 the guild held three events
  • Thursday 13 May 2010 – Weekend Visit to Wentworth Woodhouse
  • Thursday 13 May 2010 – Reception & Gala Dinner – Wentworth Woodhouse
  • Friday 14  May 2010 – Day Visit to Wentworth Woodhouse

If Britannia Historical Attractions are to be believed when the house went up for sale for £1.5 Million pounds it would “require ten times that to restore”  and  “In Early May 1999, Wentworth Woodhouse was purchased for a figure substantially in excess of the guide of £1.5m”

While I haven’t seen them apparently Country Life Magazine published evidence of the restoration and renovations in issues dated 17 February and 24 February 2010.

Its seems as though some people are always willing to believe the worst, something borne by the graffiti on the sign at the entrance to Wentworth House. Surrounded by a 150 acre (0.6 km²) park the numerous “Private”  and  “Keep off the Grass” signs gave me the feeling that my presence was being  suffered because it is a public right of way rather than welcomed. If like me the mysteriousness of Mr Clifford James Newbold has raised your curiosity levels a photograph of the present owner can be found here under the heading “Presentation to the Guild 27 February 2008”

Dec 242010
 

A Christmas Eve walk with my partner and our dog Wallace.

Quite an odd collection of images thanks to the weather, some look like they were shot at  Christmas with snow and everything while others look they may well have been shot in autumn, it  Just goes to show the camera can lie but all the images were taken today the 24th December 2010 although I must confess that  to the last two images were not actually taken while out on the walk, they are close up shots of our Christmas tree.

Nov 212010
 

OK so they didn’t visit Sheffield today or even together and while these photos may not be exactly “before they were famous”  the headline did get your attention long enough to read this far so here come a few old pictures of the current X Factor Judges visiting Sheffield starting with Cheryl Cole


Most of these were shot back in November 2004, bonfire night to be precise. The on stage shots were a personal appearance by Girls Aloud at Sheffield’s main public bonfire and and fireworks display, earlier that day Cheryl and the the Girls had done a live radio interview at Hallam FM studios. The images of Cheryl in pink are from the Girls Aloud show at Sheffield Arena on th 20th May 2005.

Next up is Simon Cowell at Meadowhall shopping centre where he was officially switching on the Christmas lights back in 2004. Most of the images I have included are from the back room area and were candid shots of Simon being interviewed by various local media journalists before he stepped out into the public glare.

Finally Dannii Minogue from back in 2002 when she  performed at Sheffield Arena with the Smash Hits tour.  The photos show her both on stage and back stage during interviews.

My personal favourite is the one of Dannii holding a Polaroid picture. I remember she rushed into the room where the interviews were being held waving the picture excitedly saying “I’ve just had my picture taken with Blue”  it  just goes to show celebrities can find themselves star struck just like everyone else .

Oct 252010
 

Everyone misses a picture, even the pros don’t get every shot every time but sometimes, just sometimes there is something you can do to salvage an image you really wanted but just didn’t quite get.

The photograph below is my cousin with his niece at a family party. I spotted the opportunity grabbed the camera and the shot unfortunately having consumed the odd  (double)  Bacardi and Coke or two I missed one small but very important detail, the on button for the flash. Three frames later, the moment has passed and the best of the three images is the one below, rather orangey red, dark and slightly too soft.

Carl & Pauline 30th anniversary.23 October 2010 .Images © Paul David Drabble

For the technically minded it was shot on a Nikon D700 and 50mm f1.8 lens. The settings were manually set to:  1000 ISO,  f4.5,  1/60th sec.

On the night I wrote off the shot  as a duff one but I didn’t delete it, I never do, I think its because, back in the days of film, I was taught never throw away a negative.  The next morning , well OK  lunchtime, it was a great party and we did have one or two more of those Bacardi and Cokes, I spotted the shot again and considered it worthy of five minutes  TLC.  My first instinct was to lighten it and try and take some of the redness out. While I was pleasantly pleased with the results of lightening the photograph it quickly became apparent that recovery wasn’t going to be totally successful thanks to masses of colour noise while trying to get the colour balance right, at which point I decided to get all retro and just turn the thing Black and White. A little more fiddling this time with contrast  and unsharp mask to loose some of the softness in the photograph and finally a little cropping to tighten the picture up and hey presto the result……..

Carl & Pauline 30th anniversary.23 October 2010 .Images © Paul David Drabble

You cant make a silk purse out of sows ear, as they say, and the same goes when trying to  recover a photograph  like this one. Sometimes a mistake will leave you with an image that really is not salvageable, no matter how skilled you are or how much time and effort you put into it, so be realistic.  This photograph will never be a technically perfect image it will always be a little soft and a little noisy  but  it does leave me with a  satisfied smile, especially after reading mums comments about her daughters photo in my Facebook  photo album.

Sep 282010
 

I don’t mean in their suitcase I mean photography. Well here are a few holiday snaps from our holiday in Whitby North Yorkshire this September (2010) with what I hope you will find are some useful captions to inspire those who feel their “holiday snaps” are a bit of a let down.

We arrived in the afternoon and after settling in decided to take a walk up the hill to St Mary Church. As we wondered through the grave stones I looked up to spot this. The abbey with the Grave stones of the church in the foreground. I have never really been happy with shots of Whitby abbey from outside the walls until this one. Its shot on a wide angle to give the grave stones more emphasis and stop the abbeys boundary wall dominating the photo.

From the Church we walked down the 199 steps, headed to the harbour. The late sun was catching the the white tops of the waves and spray off the sea as you look west up the coast towards Sandsend from the Harbours west pier. The people and gulls on the beach help give sense of scale to the scene, while exposing for the highlights adds atmosphere bringing out the cloud formations, catches the spray over the distant waves and turns the figures into silhouettes.

Day two we headed up to the whalebone arch and Captain Cooks statue. Getting two landmarks of Whitby in  a single picture I used a telephoto zoom to get St Mary’s Church framed in the top of the Whalebone arch.

Walking along the top of the cliffs towards Sandsend and looking down on the beach you come to the multi coloured beach huts. Again shot on a telephoto zoom lens, this picture uses diagonal composition to add interest and, although you cant really see him on this small version, if you click through to the larger version you will see there is a lone figure stood close to the waves which gives the viewer an idea of the scale.

I got a little carried away on day three when we visited Whitby Abbey. The sun, an almost totally clear blue sky and the abbey almost empty of visitors was a little bit of a photographers dream come true.

Top left: Is taken on a wide angle lens,  I hid the sun behind the abbeys walls exposed for the brightest parts of the pictures turning the walls and shadows black.

Top right: Its Always worth grabbing a shot of a sign when visiting somewhere if you later decide to put together a slide show or a screen saver you can use them like the titles in a film. Don’t just photograph them straight on try a few angles and see what you come up with.

Bottom left: Sometimes even when you have a wide angle lens you just cant get everything in. This is two pictures “stitched” together. Stand in one spot, look at what you want in the photo and just turn (on the spot) to the left or right. The trick is not to move from where you are stood keep the camera level and make sure the edges of the pictures have some overlap.  Use computer software to merge the photos into a single image with a wider view than your original lens. This option can be found built into some compact cameras making it even easier.

Bottom right: Ever tried taking a picture of a tall building only to find it looks like it falling over backwards when you look at the photo? You either have to get further away or buy a really expensive camera, like specialist architectural photographers use, or try to fix the problem on the computer in a program like Photoshop or Googles Picassa. There is another alternative though, you can really go for the converging verticals and strange angles to create your own very striking images.

This is Whitby photographed photographed around 5:00pm, exposing to keep the detail in the sunlight white painted buildings darkens the shadows and brings out the reflection of the buildings on the water. This is another two photograph joiner or stitched together shot which has been cropped into a long thin panoramic images. Keep in mind that just because a camera produces a particular shaped photo doesn’t mean it has to stay that shape, you can crop them when when you get home.

So you have photographed to local tourist attractions and the scenery don’t forget the wild life. Whitby isn’t exactly know for big game or exotic animals but it does have its fair share of Seagulls in this case  Herring Gulls. Keep your eyes open for the common everyday things and shoot more than one frame at worst you improve your chances of getting a good image at best you get more than one good one.

What about getting the family in the pictures? Well day four was trip out to Robin Hoods Bay.

Top left: Aileen and Wallace, if you decide to pose the family up with a sign showing where you have been don’t always go for the obvious  sign above their head style shot, sometimes there are other options if you keep you eyes open. This sculpture had Robin Hoods Bay 2000 carved into it so posing them up on it tells us where it was taken even if the date is somewhat misleading.

Top Right: The best family shots aren’t always the posed ones sometimes action and sometimes candid is where the real photos are to be found. Wallace heard the first click of the shutter and decided that was enough of the posing this one is the second frame as he took off to play so always be ready and never shoot one frame where two will do a better job.

Day Five found us back in Whitby. We decided it would be a good idea to take the 25 minute trip around the bay on the replica of  Captain Cooks Bark Endeavour.  While waiting on the quayside we were passed by the Haven Seajack One, a jack up barge, being pushed out to sea by tug work boat VOE Service and guided by the pilot boat St Hilda. It was on its way to start work on Whitby Harbours East pier.  Remember wherever in the world you go on holiday is where someone else lives and the day to day things in their everyday lives can give you a photo opportunity a chance of something a little different.

Bottom left: The Seajack one being Navigated through Whitbys open swing bridge, a prime camera angle had anything gone wrong while making her way through.

Bottom right: It would have been nice to get this  shot from the other side, with Whitby in the background but that means we would have needed to already be on the Endeavour, so as you see professionals don’t get exactly what they want every single time.

Day six was a day trip to Scarborough where we wandered around the shops and amusements unusually I didn’t take a single picture and so on to day seven which answers the question what to photograph if the weather is bad on holiday? The answer is the weather!

High winds and high tide combine as a rough sea crashes against Whitbys outer harbour making for some quite spectacular waves at times

If you spotted this and wanted to know what I packed well camera kit was a Full frame Nikon Body, with 24mm wide angle lens, 50mm Standard lens and 70-200mm zoom lens. nothing that couldn’t really be covered by a good quality amateur compact.

If you want to see more images from the week check the slide show below.