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February 2011
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April 2011

March 2011

NET gain

Lunch at The Leather Exchange pub 

On Monday I had a great day out in London, Boris biking from Liverpool Street station down to my friend Ben Laurance’s for a pub lunch - of the most delicious home made fat ‘fish fingers’ in ciabatta rolls, mmmmm. 

I then cycled over to Grays of Westminster to use my discount to get a Think Tank wheely bag for all this gear I’m increasingly lugging around. Needless to say I didn’t cycle away again… 

Mike Baker with one of his corny jokes

Instead I trundled by Tube over to the splendid surroundings of the Inner Temple law chambers, which was the venue for the National Education Trust’s annual lecture, delivered this year by England’s Children’s Commissioner, Maggie Atkinson. It was chaired by my former BBC colleague, Mike Baker - which is the kind of thing he does these days but also he is a trustee of the NET.  I was also very pleased to see my old chum Goffy (Hannah Richardson) too, the only reporter there. 

I bagged a seat near the front which made it a perfect range to the dais for the brilliant Nikon 105mm f2.8. I shot this pro bono as a favour to Mike (who has been a great source of inspiration and advice to me) and the trust, which is only a small charity doing good work. The trust used some of the photos on their website, and liked them so much they subsequently also bought some prints for their office. Thanks! Such nice people. 

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner also wanted to use one of my shots of Maggie Atkinson. But they have no budget for photographs. Sign of the times. Should I have let them use one for free?

More Springy

Tricky sunlight

Back to Pigott’s for another Spring rehearsal yesterday, this time shooting in daylight in the afternoon - or until the light began to fail, that is. So it’s the same basic set-up, but with new challenges.

Firstly, the cast were moving around far more and using pretty much the whole floor space. This meant I had to be active too and work around them, but doing so as unobtrusively as possible so as not to disturb their concentration. I switched the D3s to Quiet shutter. And for the first time I used my new TC-20 III two times converter with the 70-200mm to get extra reach into what they were doing without literally joining them on stage. So the max aperture goes up to f5.6 - highly usable still especially with the high ISO capability of the D3s and all that Vibration Reduction going on. It performed brilliantly, retaining fast accurate autofocus - the only downside being the (even more) weight. 

Secondly, the light was slanting into the big space from above at an angle. Sometimes I could work the way this was bouncing off the floorboards to give a gorgeous fill light - but in other shots it would just be a royal pain, blowing out highlights or setting the background alight. 


This photo gives a sense of their workspace

I had a great time yesterday photographing the kids rehearsing for their musical, Spring Awakening, which they are performing at Easter. They being my son, Joe, who came up with the idea a few months back and has assembled a fabulous cast and crew including his sister, Alice, and many friends from the Swan youth theatre, former school, etc. 

Anyway they are all, thanks to the parents of one of his friends, working out at Pigott’s Farm at North Dean a few miles from where we live. It has a fabulous big old barn-sized space used in the past for music and dance occasions - I’m not sure of the exact history, although I do know the sculptor Eric Gill owned the place in the early part of the 20th century. 

So: photographically it’s a bit of a challenge. It was an evening rehearsal, under big (sodium?) lights which were pretty good although dimmer where the band were sitting (they have a live band). I was using the D3s and 70-200mm f2.8 typically at 6400 ISO, and something like 1/40th at f8 and with the white balance left on Auto.

So it was an evening of ‘chasing the moment’ - trying to capture those expressions and subtle interchanges between cast members that make these things fun to do, without making them look like complete dorks because they are singing. Really enjoyed it.