Tim Gander’s photography blog.

Light Reading

I like to end the day with a little light reading (currently John le Carré’s The Pigeon Tunnel), but much of my work involves reading the light. Painful punning aside, what I mean is when I’m out taking pictures I’m studying the light; the quality, the quantity, the colour and so on.

Typically I’ll be in an office getting ready to take photos for my client and what I’ll be considering is the light source (window, overhead strips, or a mixture of the two), how much of it there is and what its qualities are.

Most office lighting is great as far as the client is concerned. To the human eye it will appear bright and white, but the human eye and brain are incredible feats of biological engineering and capable of filtering out all kinds of crazy colours and of seeing details which a camera simply can’t.

These two shots demonstrate a rather extreme, if non-typical, example of what I mean.

I was asked to take photos of a group of scholars for University of Bath at an event hosted at The Roman Baths in Bath (let’s see how many times I can work the word Bath into this blog post shall we?)

One of the shots required was a mass group of all the scholars, not too formal, but arranged along one end of the Great Bath. This was an evening job and being early February there was no daylight left. In fact the only available light was from spot lights pointing at the back wall, and a couple of gas torches either side of the pool.

Given this situation, I knew just from looking at it that whatever I did with the camera settings I wouldn’t get a usable image without the addition of flash. Since camera-top flash (which I hate anyway) wouldn’t be attractive and would probably just illuminate the steam from the water, I set up a pair of flashes on stands at the far end of the bath from me, one each side of the bath pointing towards the students.

The test shot (left) shows what the camera sees without the addition of flash. Obviously the students weren’t there for the test shots as I wanted to make sure they weren’t hanging around while I got the settings right, but my stand-ins Rachel and Chris did a fine job.

So if I’m coming to your office to shoot a series of “simple” pictures, don’t be surprised if I bring quite a lot of lighting kit even if the light looks fine to you. It’s rare that the available light on a location is already attractive enough to render the best photos, but if I can illuminate 100 students across a steamy pool of water on a chilly night, I can probably make something visually appealing in your office space.

Routes in the News

Yes, Routes has been dominating my blog lately, but this has to be one of the most important projects I’ve worked on in a very long time, so I hope you’ll indulge me a little longer.

This is just a round-up of where we are with the exhibition, donations and stuff.

I’m pleased to say I’ve had some really positive feedback about the exhibition from people I’ve met in the street, through Facebook and twitter, but what’s even better is that Sarah, the Routes centre manager, tells me people have been donating on the strength of seeing the pictures in Cafe La Strada.

We were a little worried that the cost of getting the pictures printed and framed wouldn’t be met, but with a local grant and donations from individuals we’ve covered that now. Phew!

Now it would be valid to ask why Routes spent money on an exhibition when the centre so desperately needs cash to keep going, but the fact is the portraits and case studies and the exhibition itself have generated a great deal more local awareness than could otherwise have been achieved, especially in the few weeks they have before the funding expires.

Take a look at the local press coverage just this week. Imagine what it would cost to buy a full-page advert in a local paper, yet this week we made the front page and a full-page spread inside. This is in addition to the coverage we had in the last couple of weeks on the launch of the exhibition in both local papers as well as an online article in one of the most popular photography sites on the internet.

With that in mind, I have to give full credit to Sarah for having the foresight to suggest the exhibition.

The latest news I have is that grant funding for at least a proportion of the running costs is on the cards. Fingers very much crossed that this comes through and for the balance to be covered by other funding bodies, but in the meantime if you would like to donate, you can do so by Texting MEND41 an amount from £1 to £10 to 70070, or by a cheque made payable to YMCA Mendip to ‘Routes’ Drop-In Centre, 1A Palmer Street, Frome, BA11 1DS. Donate online by clicking on the BT Mydonate button at http://tinyurl.com/j9jukt9 and select Routes as your chosen project.

Faces of Routes Launches!

Wow, what a rollercoaster ride that was. From concept to completion, a photographic exhibition launched in less that five weeks and that includes shooting the photos! I may have to give the Guinness Book of World Records a call.

You can now see the Faces of Routes pictures in all their glory at Cafe La Strada in Cheap Street, Frome, until the end of March and I’m hoping many of you will take the opportunity to take a look around the gallery areas and read the quotes before enjoying some quality refreshments.

06/02/2017 Faces of Frome exhibition at Cafe La Strada, Frome, Somerset. Photographer Tim Gander (back) launches his Faces of Routes exhibition at Cafe La Strada in Cheap Street, Frome, with (left to right) cafe owner Jude Kelly, Routes service users Laura Davies and Kieran Wason and Routes centre manager Sarah Stobbart. The exhibition features 18 portraits and quotes from those who use and run the Routes service.

(L-r) Jude of Cafe La Strada, Laura and Kieran with Routes manager Sarah and me at back

This really has been a Frome effort, obviously starting with the help and cooperation of Sarah at Routes and her colleague Silky, all the young people who so bravely sat for my camera and shared their very personal experiences for the case studies, right through Nik Jones who added the text to the images for the exhibition, Mount Art Studio who did such a fantastic job of printing them and Studio Prints who did the framing at breakneck speed so we could get the exhibition launched as soon as possible and of course thanks to Cafe La Strada for giving us exhibition space for two months for free!

Of course the whole point of this exercise has been to try to save Routes, and we’re not there yet. The hope is that the bodies which really should be funding this kind of service will understand how important Routes is to young, vulnerable people of Frome and that without it there will be barely any other resource to which they can turn when they’re in difficulty.

Fingers crossed then. In the meantime, if live in Frome and you want to help but haven’t the finances to do so, please consider writing to your local councillor or David Warburton MP. If the message is made clear that we don’t want Routes to close, we have to speak loudly.

 

 

Routes Update

The launch of the Routes exhibition inches nearer, slowly. We’ve been working hard to find sponsors for the printing and framing because even though we’ve been offered a fantastic deal on the printing by Mount Art in Frome, exhibitions aren’t cheap to do.

The exhibition is important because it will spread the message far and wide to those who need to consider funding for services such as Routes (the local MP, councillors and so on), so if you feel you’d like to donate to the costs of the exhibition or to help Routes continue its work, please text MEND41 £AMOUNT (between £1 and £10) to 70070, or donate via the website www.mendipymca.org.uk.

In the meantime I’ve launched the Faces of Routes portfolio page on my website which gives you a broad preview of the exhibition itself. There will be additional images on show at La Strada Cafe in Frome, so if you’re in the area, do pop in for a lovely coffee, a piece of cake or an ice cream and take the time to view the prints and read the stories of the youngsters featured.

I’ll update you all once the exhibition goes live!

Routes to Exhibition

Happy New Year! Ok, so 2016 might not have been your favourite year, but the bright side for me was lots of great work with wonderful clients and some personal highlights I won’t go into here.

To make sure my 2017 kicked off with a January-blues-beating personal project, I’ve launched into one which is exciting in a number of ways; I was able get it under way quickly, it’s local, it has a finite duration, has a tangible purpose and perhaps best of all it looks like it’s going to culminate in a local exhibition.

It all started when, just before Christmas, I had been trying to formulate ideas for a personal project I could launch in the New Year. I wanted something which would not only please me, but also have some kind of impact either on those involved, or on its audience.

Then I saw a tweet from Routes, the youth drop-in centre in Frome. I’d always been vaguely aware of their work with young, often vulnerable people in the town, but didn’t have much detail beyond that.

Routes tweeted that their funding is coming to an end in March 2017, after which they would have to find a new source of revenue or close. While I can’t afford the £80,000 + per year to keep them running, I felt I could help them publicise their plight so I got in touch with the centre manager Sarah Stobbart, an absolute ball of energy and a real doer.

The idea was simple; I would take portraits of those who who either use or had used Routes and the pictures could be used for press releases and grant funding applications. Sarah added the idea of holding an exhibition of the portraits somewhere in the town, and so the ball got rolling.

I started shooting on January 3rd because there’s no time like the present, and with all those willing to participate we now have 13 youngsters, Sarah and her colleague Silky shot for the project.

The local press have picked up the story and one local paper is looking to publish the portraits with case studies as a series, while a local cafe/art space has agreed to host the exhibition for free for two months.

At some point I’ll create a portfolio gallery of the final images on my website, but I’ve included a couple of examples here to give you a taster of the work.

The main purpose of all this is to get funding for Routes to continue their work, so I’ll leave you with this plea from Sarah:

“If you would like to show your support and help to keep this vital service operating for young people in Frome, there are a number of ways you can help our appeal. By Texting MEND41 an amount from £1 to £10 to 70070 Or by a cheque made payable to YMCA Mendip to ‘Routes’ Drop-In Centre, 1A Palmer Street, Frome, BA11 1DS. Donate online by clicking on the BT Mydonate button at http://tinyurl.com/j9jukt9 and select Routes as your chosen project. By holding a fundraising event to help raise funds and awareness! Or become a ‘Friend’ of Routes!- Contact Sarah Stobbart (Routes Project Manager) on 01749 679553 Ext 5020 or e-mail sstobbart@mendipymca.org.uk”

2016, a personal review

Normally I’d post a “year in pictures” round-up just about now, but I’ve decided to do something a little different this time just because.

Instead I’m going to focus on the more off-beat, off-diary photos I’ve taken. You’ll have seen most of them, but not all, in various blog posts through the year, but it’s fun to pull them together into a single gallery to enjoy again.

So sit back with your cuppa and your mince pie and enjoy…

 

 

Right On The Button

Earlier this year I was involved in covering the Summer graduation ceremonies for University of Bath, my principle role being to generate images for rapid turnaround for social media use by the press team.

So when they asked if I could do the same for their Winter graduation ceremonies this week I was delighted to be able to help.

It was a hectic task because I was there on Wednesday to cover three ceremonies and turn pictures around after each one, but it did remind me a little of the old press days of having to beat deadlines. It involved some very tight editing to ensure the best pictures got sent as fast as possible; no real time to “umm” and “ahh” about which pics to pick because by the time I’d selected, captioned, edited and delivered, the next ceremony was about ready to start.

When I’m doing this I tend to put on my social media hat (figuratively speaking since I don’t actually own an actual social media hat) and go for the pictures I think will work best on Facebook and twitter. This means setting aside the more formal shots in favour of less posed, more spontaneous ones and of course this requires me to be more attuned to those kinds of shots as the event is unfolding.

The awarding of an honorary degree to retired Formula One racing driver Jenson Button added an extra frisson and urgency to the second ceremony of the day. Luckily I’d managed to get some shots of the local hero (and, I believe, international heart throb) arriving which I was able to file before the ceremony started so the press team could tweet fresh photos before he’d even gowned-up.

Before the third ceremony started I’d filed more photos of Jenson as well as photos of students celebrating their graduations, then I was straight back in to covering the final ceremony of the day which again I filed straight after for the press team to share.

By the end of the day I’d shot about 800 images, but everything went smoothly, the feedback was great and when I got home I took a look at the responses on Facebook and Twitter. It was good to see people had been following the feeds, liking, commenting and sharing, which was of course the point of my being there.

On a slightly different note, time allowing I’m going to do one more blog post this year which will probably be my round-up of 2016 in pictures. After that I’ll take a bit of a rest until January 2017.

Marketing Smarter

While my lovely Pentax S1a is off for a rebuild, I’ll return my attention to things more corporate photography related.

With doom and gloom headlines about the state and future prospects of the UK economy all over our news channels it might be tempting to think it’s time to tighten belts and hunker down for the long haul.

Often the first casualty of financial difficulty is marketing, and perhaps more specifically photography, but if that’s your plan you might want to hold fire because done right, good marketing and good photography, even on a reduced annual budget, can keep your company name in the frame and help you survive the economic Winter.

This week’s message is simple: If you’re going to market less, you’d better market smarter. What does this mean in practice?

Of course I speak from the perspective of a photographer in this corporate world and what I occasionally see is businesses devoting a lot of resource to cutting corners. Not only is this a waste of their valuable time, it also leads to results which don’t hold the client in the best light, or images which have little real impact. It might look like the cheaper option, but at what cost to the business?

I know I’m not the cheapest photographer in my market, but then I wouldn’t want to be. Because quite apart from the quality I strive for in my photography, when a client approaches me I’m there for them from the word go until well after the project has been delivered.

The difference I offer starts with the helping hand and sounding board at the concept stage. Even corporate portraits or the “humble” press release require a level of creative input and the right photographer will be able to guide the project from the earliest stages, ensuring the end-result has maximum impact.

The other aspect you’ll want to consider when hiring a photographer on the sole parameter of cost is, will they help, guide and assist during and after the photo session?

All this help and input, from concept stage to post-delivery assistance, requires time, knowledge and experience, all of which have a value which should be factored into the cost of hiring. Of course this means a cost above and beyond simply that of producing photographs, but since you’re spending the money anyway (and almost certainly taking up your and your colleagues’ time doing so) you may as well get the best results possible.

And when the job is over, the photos delivered, is your photographer still there to help if you need it? I’m not just talking about up to the point they’ve sent the invoice. I’m often helping clients with follow-up assistance months, even years after the job was shot, delivered and paid for.

So, who’s the smart marketer now?

 

Basic as a spade

You might know, or at least you should if you’re a regular reader of this blog, that I’ve been taking some time to revisit film photography of late and I have to say I’ve been rather enjoying it.

There’s definitely a different interaction with photography when your camera isn’t buzzing with electronics, utterly reliant on batteries and a whole host of features which are sold to us as benefits, but which on the whole are just technological mitigations for the shortcomings of digital.

That’s what I said, digital has shortcomings. Don’t get me wrong, digital is incredible and of course it’s perfect for my corporate photography. The technical image quality of digital is astounding and under most circumstances far out-performs film, but this isn’t an article for those wishing to watch a punch-up between film and digital.

My point is just this; shooting with film allows you (indeed often forces you) to think differently, approach your subject differently. It sometimes limits what you can do, but if you’re doing it properly then you’ll realise that film isn’t about photographing everything, it’s about considering and carefully choosing not only how we photograph something, but also which things we choose to photograph.

I’m also finding it’s getting me back to basics, and as of Wednesday evening even more back to basics than I have probably been in maybe 30 years. That’s because there was a knock on my door and my neighbour, knowing my interest in getting back into film photography (and him having cupboards crammed with gear he stopped using years ago) gave me, gratis and for free, a Pentax S1a camera with three lenses and a camera-top light meter. I was bowled over and spent the evening cleaning and cooing over it.

To say this camera is in stunning condition would be an understatement. In all likelihood it was manufactured in the 1960s, but apart from the odd mark, scuff and slightest of dents, it’s immaculate. Inside, the film chamber looks like it’s never been accessed; it’s that clean.

For several months now I’ve had an inexplicable craving for a basic, no-frills, fully-mechanical camera. No batteries, no lights, bleepers or anything which could break or fail through old age and lo and behold, my amazing neighbour just gives me this utterly scrumptious camera. It has no instructions, but then it’s got nothing to learn beyond the theory of photography. It’s as basic as a spade.

It’s weighty for sure; it’s solid metal, but everything seems to work. I’ve put a film through it and will get it serviced soon because I suspect the seals around the film door have probably deteriorated, but I bet it’s still light tight. I just want to be sure and I want to have the shutter serviced too. Of course components on this camera could fail, but they’re all almost certainly repairable.

One thing I can say for certain about my current digital cameras is that as fine as they are, I (or more realistically, my descendants) won’t be able to get the batteries for them in 50 years time. They will at best be nostalgic, novelty doorstops, at worst landfill.

At the same time I’m having a look at a medium format kit he’s selling because I also want to have a go with a larger film format. One thing is for sure, my adventures in film have only just begun. Obviously I’ll be keeping you updated here.

Art for Inspiration

This week I took a trip to Birmingham, partly for pleasure and partly to refresh the ol’ brain cells and for a change of scene.

Yesterday, during a visit to the city centre I decided what I really needed was an injection of inspiration so headed to the IKON gallery to see an exhibition by Žilvinas Kempinas. Sara Barker is also currently showing there, but for time/space constraints I’ll need to concentrate on Žilvinas’ work today. I happen to prefer his work too.

Žilvinas’ art is very much on the Intsallation spectrum, and normally I’m a little sceptical of anything with that tag, but his work is very engaging and thought-provoking. I’m no art critic, so I’m going to struggle with the terms and concepts used to describe this work, but it seemed to me he’s very interested in magnets and magnetic media, physics, frequencies, organic shapes and ways of using these elements either singly or combined to fascinate or disturb us.

I won’t describe the entire exhibition, but highlights would have to include Oasis; imagine a loop of recording tape, diameter approximately 6 foot, levitating, swirling, shape-shifting, rising and falling in mid-air by use of a ceiling fan directly above and an arrangement of metal panels on the floor below which together form some kind of air vortex which keeps the tape from ever flying out of its space or dropping to the floor.

In another room, black walls with circular works laid behind panels, illuminated all-round from inside the wall, resemble a series of moonscapes. From the ceiling are suspended dozens of strands of magnetic recording tape, forcing the viewer to mind how they navigate the room. At the end of the room is a giant screen, a piece titled White Noise, comprising a dizzying display of horizontal strands of video tape, rapidly animated by hidden fans, creating the effect of white noise on a de-tuned TV.

Standing facing this screen and allowing it to fill my vision for a few moments gave me motion sickness, but it was fascinating to allow a piece of art to affect me on such a visceral level and I struggled to peel myself away.

The IKON positively encourages photography, and plenty of visitors were snapping away on cameras and smartphones, and while I wanted to concentrate on just looking at and considering the works I couldn’t resist lining up a couple of shots to capture peoples’ interactions with them.

I don’t get the opportunity to get out and view much art, but often when I do I come away with new thoughts about my own work; even the corporate photography. It’s good fuel for my mind’s eye.

And every time I do go and see an exhibition, I tell myself I must get out and see more. Then time passes by, life intervenes and I seem to be back where I started. The beauty of Žilvinas’ work is I think unlike most modern art, this will stay with me for a long time and I’ll keep thinking back to what it represents and what I learned from it.

For more information on this and future exhibitions at IKON, see this link.