In my last blog post I talked about how I felt inspired by some Rembrandt etchings I saw in Rome, so much so, I decided to dust off my old Bronica medium format camera.
The etchings reminded me of the traditional photographic processes I learnt back in my university days and the importance of understanding your craft. I also loved the compositions of the portraits and the square format in which they were produced.
My Bronica produces 6×6 negatives and lends itself perfectly to this Rembrandt etching style. I love this camera! I can remember buying it after I graduated from my BA in 2004 from my favourite camera shop, Mifsuds, in Brixham, Devon. I had always used Mamiya at Uni, but these were more expensive so I bought the Bronica instead. I love the clunk of the shutter and the sound of the film winding on, it’s so satisfying. The view finder takes a little bit of getting used to because it’s a reflected image and is opposite to what you’re actually seeing.
Ever since Rome and seeing the Rembrandt etchings, I’ve been desperate to shoot on film. I rummaged through all my old camera kit and found a couple of rolls of Ilford Pan50 that was seven years over its sell by date. It was a long shot, but the film was still in a sealed box and in its foil wrapper so I thought I’d give it a go anyway.
My husband and I took our Whippet, Murph, up onto Woodbury Common on a rather overcast Sunday. I knew I wanted a fairly plain background so the grey sky was pretty good for this. I just shot the one film using Jon as a model, as I really had no idea whether it would actually come out or not. The camera doesn’t have an in-built light meter, so I had to remind myself how to use my hand held meter and take the readings manually. I used to do this without too much thought, both outdoors and in the studio – I could tell I was a little out of practice!
After a bit of online searching I found Peak Imaging, who still offer a full range of film processing services. I was super impressed with how quickly my negatives were developed and sent back to me. I posted them on a Wednesday afternoon and got them back Saturday morning, which meant I could crack on with getting them scanned in. Unfortunately I don’t have access to a darkroom anymore, so from this point on, I had to revert to digital methods.
I forgot just how much dust sticks to negatives and the never ending battle in trying to keep them clean, but it made a nice change to have a more tactile, hands on approach to picture editing, rather than just waiting for images to download from a SD card!
The results were a little under-exposed so I want to do a few more test rolls to perfect the art of light meter reading and compensation. The main issue with shooting with medium format cameras is that there is quite a lot of distance between the front of the lens and where the film sits, so you have to allow for this in the exposure.
I’m feeling confident that once I reacquaint myself with this camera, I will soon pick up from where I left off many years ago. I’m really enjoying going back and practicing these traditional processes, which I will no doubt be able to reapply to my digital work. It has definitely triggered a new found appreciation for tradition. I sometimes get too caught up in trying to find something new and forget to look back and take inspiration from what has been before.
I took a trip to my local library and picked out books on Henri Cartier-Bresson and Edward Weston, two of the great masters – watch this space!
My husband and I have just got back from a four day, pasta and pizza filled trip to Rome. I’ve always wanted to go to Italy for the food and culture and my history loving husband, Jon, has always wanted to go to Rome to visit the ancient sites.
What a city it is! We both decided Rome was a place you could visit over and over again and see something new every time. We saw all the main attractions such as the Colosseum, St Peter’s and the Vatican, The Roman Forum…etc. For me, I loved getting lost in the back streets and stumbling across little pieces of history hidden away, in quieter and more peaceful surroundings. I found the hustle and bustle of the main attractions distracted me from being able to fully appreciate their significance. It’s hard to look up at the Colosseum , imagining it in all its brutal glory, when someone is trying to sell you a selfie-stick or guided tour every ten seconds.
I found I was fascinated by some unexpected things. Retro Fiat cars, Roman typography in the carved stone road signs, the vast amount of orange and lemon trees – we stopped for lunch at a crossroads one day and on each corner was an orange tree full colourful fruits, they were so beautiful. I also developed a new appreciation of stone carvings and sculpture thanks to our very knowledgeable guide in St Peters.
During the trip we visited the Vatican Museum that had a Rembrandt exhibition. I was familiar with some of his work, but less familiar with his etchings. In terms of art, these were my absolute highlight. Beautiful portraits dated around c.1635 etched into copper plates, the detail in them was incredible and they were so small and delicate looking. Both the process and result felt very reminiscent of Daguerreotype photographs – a photographic process invented by Louis-Jaques-Mande Daguerre in c.1839, where sheets of silver plated copper were used to capture an image.
Every bit a shadow, detail in eyes, hair and clothing must have been carefully considered so not to etch into the copper too hard or too soft. The compositions were again, very similar to many photographic portraits and from a distance, they did look like very early black and white photographs.
They got me thinking about the history of photographic processes and the importance of understanding your craft. I had flashbacks of everything I had learnt through from my A’level photography to my MA photography. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely an advocate of digital, particularly in a commercial setting, but there was always something very considered about the film based photographic process that was unavoidable; choosing the right type of film for the job, taking multiple light readings during a shoot to make sure that you wouldn’t be under or over exposing the film, developing your negatives with precision timing, going through the negatives on a light box (or sometimes taped to a window!) and then producing your contact sheets for editing, choosing the right printing process and type of paper to use (would your image require a warm tone or cool tone, high or low contrast, did you need to maintain detail in the blacks?). Every step in the process was considered.
Digital technology has made photography accessible to the masses and brings joy to so many people. This accessibility has also created a hugely competitive photographic market, with many photographers offering a range of photographic services making it difficult to choose between them.
I have been learning my craft since I was 16 years old and I understand the importance of putting care and consideration into every photograph I take. I have spent hours in dark, fume filled darkrooms learning how to create beautiful lasting images, skills which I’ve transferred into my more modern approach to photography. I have an ever growing collection of books on photography and art theory and continue to learn and be inspired from the greats across many art forms. I believe this is what sets me apart from many of my competitors. I know photography, its history, its process and its power.
My friend and coach, Jack, is just setting up a personal training business Jack Fish Fitness and I was super excited that he asked me to take some photographs for his new website. I have worked with Jack a couple of times before through photoshoots for fitness clothing brands Bear Strength Clothing and One Hand Lift – so he’s a bit of an old hat at this modelling thing now!
Besides an unintended modelling career, Jack has many other strings to his bow. His new business not only includes personal training, but mobility and rehabilitation, sports massage and programming as well, so was really important to make sure that each of these areas was covered during the shoot. We also went through the layout of the new site to make sure that the new images would suit the format of its design in terms of composition and tone.
As well as my photographic education, I also I have a marketing background and in particular, digital marketing, so whilst I was editing Jack’s photos, it got me thinking about the importance of photography in web design . This is where I now go on a little geek journey, but one I hope my clients and future clients may find useful.
It doesn’t take a marketing professional to know just how important a well designed website is for any business, large or small, new or well established. Photography has always played a big part in web design and probably always will – although now it is joined by an ever-increasing amount of video and animation. It is, however, important to invest in good authentic photography, but why?
In 2014 Google launched their Material Design Language, which in basic terms, were a set of template and design guidelines to help improve the user experience of their products. Google later made these guidelines available to third party developers and since then, more and more designers and developers are using these principles when creating websites and it is a trend that is likely to continue throughout 2017.
The ultimate aim for this style being, no matter who’s website you are on and no matter what type of device you are using to view it, it will act in a similar way. From a business and marketing prospective the upside is that the consistency will improve user experience for your customers, but on the downside, websites have the potential to become more uniform, making it increasing difficult to make your website stand out from the crowd.
This is where photography comes in. Original, authentic and bespoke photography that really represents you and your businesses ethos will make you stand out. Customers now demand authenticity from the brands they use and they will spot generic stock photographs from a mile off. If you want to connect with your customers, then you need to put you on your website.
Having a marketing background helps me to understand how important my photographs are to someone’s business and I always take the time to research who they are, what they do and make sure that this comes across in the photos that I take for them. If you are getting a website designed for your business, please feel free to get in touch as I’ll be more than happy to talk to you about how photography can be incorporated into your site.
To see more photographs from this shoot and similar click here
Shot on location at Crossfit Pi