After visiting Kingston Cemetery & Crematorium last week I went back there today to take my first set of photos for the Cruel and Tender Assignment.
I felt very welcome and was blessed with the most gorgeous golden light so I decided to start by walking around the grounds, getting to know the area, finding the right angles, direction of light, etc.
My reason for choosing to photograph Kingston Cemetery & Crematorium was based on the inevitable feeling of loss we all experience at some point in our lives. That, in my view, represents the ‘Cruel’ part of my assignment.
While spending some time talking to the staff there and getting to know what goes on behind the scenes, I learned that their role is much greater than just that of carrying on with the tasks involving the actual cremation or indeed grave digging.
Their role involves the utmost respect for the grieving families, sure the chapel needs to be pristine for each service, the flowers carefully positioned, the right music ready to play BUT what struck me the most was the incredibly composed way in which the staff conducts themselves in the face of the pain of those saying their final goodbyes. This, in my view, is what cover the ‘Tender’ part of my assignment.
The tenderness and kindness needed to handle such raw emotions was evident all around me. Talking to a member of staff I learned of the trust and understanding that is built over time between them and the relatives who come to visit KCC.
From a more technical point of view, visiting KCC shortly after sunrise (8:30ish in the morning) gave the an amazing opportunity to capture some rather atmospheric shots with the grounds bathed in a mixture of golden light, frost and lifting mist. The location was full of beautiful shadows evoking a sense of peace, sad, eerie beauty.
To photograph inside the chapel, I started by using my faithful 10-18mm wide angle lens but I felt that my 24-105mm lens gave me the advantage of larger aperture, reduced noise and allowed for more clarity. That said, I would have benefited from taking the shots with a tripod and the reason for not using it was that this was my first visit to the chapel and I had no idea of what to expect.
By the end of my visit I was pleased to have chosen this location and am very much looking forward to going back for my next set of photographs. This time I want to visit at the end of the day so I can shoot the light from a different direction.
… yet one does not need clarity to see how beautiful Richmond Park is.
As the colours of the Autumn faded and the winter set in it was time to see a whole different kind of beauty in the park. My favourite time to explore the park, of course, is at dawn. The quiet, almost eerie feel of solitude that early in the morning is both inspiring and calming in equal measures.
The sun rays through the fog and the silhouettes of the trees are divine. I admit, the coffee and burger in the middle of the park are just as lovely after the freezing cold hr or so spent scouting for the best photo positions of the day.
Although my photographs aren’t always directly taken with my assignments in mind I do try to relate them to improving, practicing and learning new skills with every shoot. In this occasion for example, I was thinking about what we covered in the first term which was all about ‘Les Based Image Making’ and ‘People and the Environment’
Because the pictures were taken during the sunrise I had to adjust the settings as the light changed. A little post-editing in Camera Raw helped bring out the colours and sharpness to the shots.
Richmond Park remains one of my favourite places to be, to photograph and to remember.
… said Charles M. Schulz, and oh boy was he right!
I must confess, I was instrumental in convincing a friend to get a puppy. When my friend had to go out this week I was just as instrumental in convincing her that the puppy needed looking after and I was the right person for the job. Puppy-girl is called Storm.
I really wanted to photograph Storm (the puppy) with a few different lenses and try something different. Armed with a few props, Christmas dog costumes, plenty of treats and lenses, of course, off I went.
My own puppy is a year old now and I had totally forgotten how little they are at 8-weeks. The props we too big, the costume was too big and she was just too adorably playful to stand still.
On a more technical level, the indoor light was pretty poor and, since it was raining, going outside in the garden was out of the question.
The puppy was sooooo full of energy! She never stopped playing which meant using a slow shutter speed to get a better exposure was out of the question. Using the flash spooked her so I chose to change the exposure composition and adjusted my settings as I went along.
Overall the photos turned out ok… Especially after Storm got tired and calmed down a bit.
Going back to our Lens Based Image Making lessons, it’s fair to say my nifty-fifty came in handy when making these images. The aperture worked really well when fully opened and let plenty of light in with that gorgeous soft background we all know and love in both people and pet portraiture.
I also tried photographing Storm with my 18-55 kit lens and a high definition filter. I wasn’t quite so enamored with the result. There was too much distortion, which is to be expected from the kit lens anyway.
Not much I can add here, expect that I was so proud of all the youngsters who Paraded through Kingston to mark Remembrance day.
I love to hate shooting moving subjects. One moment the light is perfect and I’m in ‘Sweet 16’ mode, but within a few minutes the biggest scariest cloud arrives and I have to reset the camera all over again.
Shooting in Aperture Priority makes it easier to shoot as the cadets go about their business but I can’t help but wonder how I would have coped with shooting in a normal SLR rather than a DSLR.
For the past 4 years I have witnessed how joining the Kingston Royal Marine Cadets Detachment has had a very positive impact in the lives of some of the youngsters who regularly attend the parades.
One cadet in particular, Patrick (not his real name) is a textbook example of how being at the unit gives these kids an encouraging, structured environment in which they can thrive. Patrick has often said that the unit ‘saved him’ because it gave him something to belong to and kept him off the streets.
Patrick is one of the many cadets across the country who come from fragmented, broken homes without much direction or guidance. Joining the Cadets means that youngsters such as Patrick, can take part in a huge range of activities, competitions and exercises carefully crafted to teach them self-reliance, team work, discipline, leadership and the value of dedication. In short, it prepares them to deal with whatever life sends their way.
Whilst this all sound awfully exciting, the truth is that working as a team often means doing very mundane tasks like washing up, putting up tents (see photo mosaic above), sweeping the deck after events, setting up the unit for visitors, etc.
That said, there are times when being a Royal Marine Cadet is very exciting indeed! Some of the duties Cadets are often asked to perform include the Carpet Guard during the London’s Lord Mayor Show, field craft exercises, weapons handling as well as water born activities such as sailing and canoeing.
It turns out that being a Royal Marine Cadet gives these youngsters such a great experience that the cadets leave at 18yrs old but soon return as Staff Volunteers. Some even return years later and bring their own children with them. P1, P2
Lens Based Image Making Attempts:
Since I was given this assignment I have been testing different lenses and how they would affect my big day (I knew right away that I was going to shoot the Cadets on Remembrance weekend). Here is how I went about researching different photographic methods:
Method 1: first I tried shooting with my iPhone (see Taking Photos with my iPhone) and I soon found out that it was never going to suffice. It was a good try tho. P1, P2
Method 2: Following my failed attempt at Lens Based Image Making using my iPhone, I tried to photograph a family event without flash. I knew my Canon 7D Mark ii was particularly good for low light conditions so decided to use it with my 24-105mm lens and went bowling. The result wasn’t incredible but I was rather pleased with it, click here to see the photos – Bowling and Making MemoriesP1,P2
Method 3: For the sake of this project I bought a new lens… ok, ok I admit I had been secretly saving for a Canon 70-300mm for a long time! The ‘Darling’ turned out to be a dream come true and I have taken her out many many times including on a beautiful Sunday morning so I could shoot the rutting season in Richmond Park, here is the link to the photos I took on that day – Easy Like Sunday Morning
I did shortlist the ‘Darling’ for my assignment, as I knew I would. P1, P2
The Final 5 Images:
The was always aware the Parade passes by so quickly and I was anxious at first. To calm the nerves and prepare for the task I took a series of test shots to try and get ready. Although the weather was glorious I was positioned in a narrow street between tall buildings and plenty of shadows.
The clouds were coming and going between strong sunlight. I really didn’t want to take chances with the shutter speed so I decided to set my Canon 7D Mark ii to AV so I could control the aperture (the f/stop) & ISO and hoped the camera would properly expose my shots.
The shots taken inside the Unit were much easier to plan as the light was constant. I needed a high ISO number but with slower shutter speed it was possible to take good shots without the need for flash (I forgot the batteries!).
I particularly like my last image as it is a close up of the Globe and Laurel Lapel Badge. Globe and Laurel being the emblem of the Royal Marines. I like the depth of field and the contrast between the gold of of the badge and the darkness of the uniform.
P1, P2, P3, P4, P5
Image 1: TS Steadfast Band
Image 2: Laying the Remembrance Wreath One Last Time
Image 3: The Ex-TA Soldier, The Ex-Royal Marine Commando, The Ex-Cadet (soon to join the Royal Marines) and the Ex-US Army Serviceman.
Image 4:Like Father, Like Son
Image 5: The Globe and Laurel Lapel Badge
Ok so I’ve just spent the best part of 2hrs writing my research but wordpress didn’t let me save it… I thought I had published it and guess what? I can’t see a thing! Arggggghhhhhh… *takes a deep breath and decides to try again*
As I was saying, whilst researching for this project I came across some great methods for making lens based images (i.e. using different lenses, different cameras, printing in different papers, sizes and colours). Needless to say, I came across some great photographers too, here are just some of my favourites:
Johnny Tang: 35mm film, clone photography and film influences
A fine art photographer who became known as “The Clone Photography Magician” who only shoots in 35mm film, Tang never quite knows if his ideas and set ups will work until it is developed and made digital.
His work is unusual, original and requires great skill both in setting up the scene and shooting it. Tang works is mainly based in self portraiture so he has an assistant who shoots his scenes for him as the poses.
His images remind me of the feature movies The Matrix and Inception. On my next visit to Boston I will make sure I visit the Hallway Gallery where his work is often featured.
Best known as the man who ‘discovered Yellowstone’ he was also an environmentalist. His images are celebrated and recognised around the world for being full of detail and depth. His photography was mainly done using a large format camera and often considered ‘bulky, old-fashioned and clumsy’ by the new wave of ‘point and shoot’ photographers.
Adams achieved a great deal of contrast in his images by using a technique called Zone System, which he developed to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of his final prints.
Lee Miller: That bathtub, War Times and Women in the Front Line
Whilst I could spends all the time in the world talking about amazing photographers, I wanted to redirect my research towards military photography and link it to the subject of my assignment (The Seacadets Kingston). I decided to research the work of Lee Miller.
An American photographer who worked for British Vogue during the Second World War, Miller, was at first a model but soon moved to work behind the camera.
On the outbreak of war in 1939, Miller offered to work as a photographer for Vogue – an offer that was initially rejected. Instead, she was taken on as a studio assistant. But as the magazine’s male photographers left on war service, she began to take on much of Vogue‘s fashion and lifestyle photography.
As the war escalated and the government recognised that women could and indeed needed to play a bigger role in society Lee was accredited in the US Army as a War Correspondent for Conde Nast.
A photograph of Miller in the bathtub of Adolf Hitler’s apartment in Munich is one of the most iconic images from the Miller–Scherman partnership (David E. Scherman was working alongside Miller at the time).
Research Photographs of the Sea Cadets
As I mentioned at the beginning of this Page, I have been personally involved with the Kingston Sea Cadets for over 4 years. During this time I have taken endless photographs of the cadets doing exercises, parades and special events. Here are just some of my many shots:
Research Photograph of the Location
I have been lucky enough to live in Kingston for the past 14 years and know it well. When I photograph the cadets I find out before hand where the parade will take place (when it is outside the Unit) and arrive early to scout for the best spots.
Shooting outside can be challenging with the weather playing its part and I often have to prepare carefully. Here are a few of the things I keep in mind:
The Weather – do I need a Polariser? Flash? Tripod? Which lens to take i.e. Wide angle? Zoom? Prime lens for optimum aperture? Will I be sheltered from the elements or need to take extra camera gear to cover in the event of rain/snow/sleet?
The location itself – arrive early, preempt where the Cadets will look best from? Find where the traffic will be coming from (sometimes the traffic is suspended especially for the Parade). Will the Cadets be coming from round the corner? If yes, find the best angles.
But I know not of such a beautiful mist as the mist that descends in the Autumn at Richmond Park and this past Sunday was no exception. Whilst the sun decided to hide for most of the day, the mist stayed giving the park the perfect backdrop to the Halloween Running Race that was taking place that morning.
After scouting for intriguing landscape angles to shoot, I had a lucky break and spotted a young female kestrel I had been trying to photograph for months. It turns out that the mist and lack of wind meant the kestrel needed to stay closer to the ground to hunt, I was delighted to be able to watch her.
A local photographer and wildlife aficcionado told me this particular female kestrel is used to being photographed so we got close and took quite a few nice shots. It was just such shame the sky was so grey.
But kestrels wasn’t the only wildlife around last Sunday. There were plenty of squirrels burying their nuts for the winter, I love watching them!
This once, the mist and abyss that this tumour brings into my life left me and I felt free. Funny it should happen on a misty morning.
For years now I have been getting up at the crack of dawn wherever I am around the world just to watch the sunrise. This morning I decided it was high time I watched the sunrise in my own backyard so I woke up really early and headed for Sawyers Hill, in Richmond Park.
I love Richmond Park all year round but even more so at this time of the year. The rutting season runs from September to November during which time the parks comes alive. Being there at dawn reminded me of Jurassic Park! The calling of the deers came from all directions and I was half expecting to see a T-Rex jump out of hiding 🙂
The Darling and I had plenty to enjoy. The golden light was glorious and the animals were very active near Pen Ponds, I guess one can’t beat the waterhole!
I even managed to photograph two deers locking horns! The larger male won the fight but lost an antler, I wanted to pick it up but there was NO WAY I was going to get in the middle of them!
I had to try a few different settings, different shutter speeds and different aperture. It was certainly challenging to adjust to moving subjects and light conditions.