The Dolman Pit

The Dolman theatre pit.

It was nice to be invited by MD Cathy Metcalf to record some images of the musicians at work in the Dolman theatre pit. It’s a theatre I know very well, I’ve spent many hours working here as a musician and occasionally as an MD.going back all the way to 1978.  Although many things have changed during this time the Dolman theatre pit still has a special kind of magic. Theatre pits are  generally a bit cramped , full of wires trailing across the floor and going god know’s where. There’s microphones and all kinds of paraphernalia thats necessary to enable the musicians to undertake their work.

‘….a special kind of magic…’

Generally the theatre pits walls and floors are painted black so as not to distract the audiences gaze from the stage and overall there is an ambience of intimacy thats often reinforced by excellent comradeship and a joy of making high quality music.

Pit Orchestra Pit
The Dolman Pit

Anyone that follows my blog  will know that this the second time this year that I’ve recorded musicians working in a theatre pit. Earlier this year I enjoyed a session in Cardiff’s New Theatre capturing images of musicians working on the UK tour of ‘The Sound of Music’.[NEW THEATRE GALLERY HERE] The main difference for me was that on the New Theatre gig I only knew two musicians but on the Dolman session not only did I know all of the musicians but have worked with most of them many times before.

piccolo alto sax baritone sax theatre pit
The reeds (Stephanie and Daisy)

‘…the lowest iso setting was about 6400.’

Technically speaking, dealing with very low light levels can be a bit tricky. The answer is normally a trade off between (digital) noise and shutter speed. Personally I feel its much better to have a blur free image with a small amount of digital noise than a noise free image that has camera shake! From what i can remember the lowest iso setting was about 6400.

 

orchestra pit
MD Cathy Metcalf

Shutter noise was much less of an issue on this particular gig (Legally Blonde) as the band and music is naturally quite loud. It was easy to get away with a mechanical shutter most of the time. I found that I only switched to an electronic shutter when photographing during the lib parts of the show.

pit theatre gig rhythm section
Rhythm section

I had a great time taking these images. The calibre of these musicians is incredible. They manage to to turn in incredible performances night after night without missing a beat. Sincere thanks to all of them for allowing me to crawl around  and snatch some of the photos seen in this blog. If you’d like to see more visit the gallery page or click this LINK.

 

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I hate shaving

Shaving….. arrrgghhh!!!

I hate shaving. It’s one of those annoying daily rituals. I shave every morning. Its amazing how consistent I am too. Before I start, I typically wash my face in hot water. I then religiously follow the same sequence of applying shaving foam, first to the right side of my face, then the left, moving on to my neck before covering my both lips  which I then draw a line through….sometimes upward like a smile, sometimes straight like a robot and sometimes downward like a frown. Mostly though I opt for the robot look.

art deco tap

Then the shaving ritual starts. I follow the same routine of dipping the razor into the hot water. Then shaving my face, right side and then the left side, nearly always choosing  to shave my neck before my upper lip. In actual fact its more detailed than this but worse still if I miss a step or try to change the sequence  it makes me feel very uncomfortable!

…more than 30 hours a year..

Anyway, all told it must take me about 5 minutes. Thats 5 minutes every day, seven days a week and not far off 365 days a year (on some rare occasions I don’t shave) totalling on average more than 30 hours a year. Incredibly thats 1 day and  6 hours of non stop shaving………….Please get in contact directly if you’d like to know more about my morning ablutions that include teeth brushing, flossing, beard and moustache trimming, eyebrow plucking, medication(s) and aftershave application.

taps and soap holder

The point here is that tall of the above represents a significant daily ritual. I stand in the same place, facing the same direction, looking at the same familiar objects that are at my ritual site and perform the same operations in the same order everyday.

looking versus seeing,

This got me thinking about looking versus seeing, just as in music there can always be a difference between hearing and listening. All of this led me to consider how well I knew and observed the site of my daily rituals.

I mention all of the above because the very first photograph that had a real impact on me was of something that was very familiar to me.It was something I’d seen and used many times without giving it any real consideration.The object in question was an old GPO telephone door handle. I’ve mentioned this before on this site that the photographer had made me focus, not least of which by excluding any other distracting objects and had managed to make me look and really see that there was something here worth looking at. The way that the photographer had framed and composed the image, the limited depth of field highlighting  certain points of interest had somehow managed to captivate me.

The highly polished, chrome handle simply looked fantastic. The image was beautifully printed in monochrome with deep rich blacks , brilliant whites and a rang of tones inbetween. Remembering all of this I decided to undertake a photo study of my ritual site. I was surprised by the result. The images had made me see elements of familiar and unfamiliar shapes and design.

The ritual site

To take a high resolution look at the images please navigate to the gallery or click here.

 

 

 

Texture, Light and isolation.

Texture, Light and isolation

Sometimes it’s possible to miss the interesting, to walk right past something that has  a real and unique quality and yet pay it no attention. Often this can be because this object (this thing) has been seen but never really looked at. Occasionally it might be because the lighting, direction of light and time of day may not compliment the subject.

..a real and unique quality…

Perhaps this blog’s title should have been reordered to read Light, texture and isolation as light is always the most important factor in photography. Depending on the quality, direction and colour temperature of the light so much can be achieved. The image below is a perfect example. The surface of the rock pictured here is so interesting when examined closely. There are wonderful natural patterns, veins, cracks and faults that are all the more visible when the light falling on it comes from the side. The soft light also brought out the subtle blue and grey colours of the stone. Depending on the framing its possible to isolate the subject so,as in this case, a sense of scale is hard to understand. In this particular image the real scale or size is about 18 inches wide by about 10 inches tall.

Light, texture and isolation

Texture
Rock face, side lighting

All of the images in this blog were recorded more or less in the same location, no more than about five or ten feet from one another. This next example uses similar techniques to isolate the image from its context. I selected this particular section of rock because of the direction of light and the textures that it shows. The same forces of nature have been at work here as in the previous example, waves, wind and erosion but because of the geological differences in the rock, those same forces have yielded a different result.

…isolate the image from its context.

Rough textured tidal rock

Although you couldn’t say that the images seen here are abstract (they’re very obviously images of rock or stone) what the camera can do, is to make the viewer see the specific subject outside of its context i.e the family one metre away eating ice creams on the beach. I find this particular ability of the photographic process fascinating. You, the photographer can make your viewer and audience see the subject exactly how you want them to see it. Of course, how they interpret it is another thing all together. Its probably worth stating the obvious by mentioning that your choice of lens, exposure, depth of field and framing also contributes massively to the end result.

..make the viewer see the specific subject outside of its context..

This next images starts to venture a little towards the abstract but only a little. It’s an image of stones and rocks recorded in a fast flowing fresh water stream. The scene is in constant motion. The surface of the water is constantly changing. The light is always in motion reflecting from the water surface in an unpredictable way. It’s not an ‘intelligent’ image in as much that I couldn’t predict the exact result but for me that doesn’t matter. Taking multiple shots from the same angle produces very different results. The process though, allows you to take multiple images and select the the one(s) that produce the best or desired result.

…light is always the most important factor in photography.

Stream stones underwater.

The final example here is of the remains of a steel handrail that has been eroded by the sea, sand and a great deal of time. For me it makes a contrast in terms of textures and most importantly colour. Its easier to see the scale in terms of size but the contrast of the ‘man made’ as opposed to the naturalness  of the stone is appealing to me.

Rusty steel bar in stone.

To see more example please navigate to the Galleries menu or click HERE

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I do not share personal information with third-parties nor do I store information I collect about your visit to this blog for use other than to analyze content performance. I am not responsible for the republishing of the content found on this blog on other Web sites or media without my permission. This privacy policy is subject to change without notice.

The Exe estuary at dusk

I’d thought about taking this trip to the Exe estuary for a while. In my head I’d arrive at the estuary about 45 minutes before sunrise and shoot until the light flattened out, probably about 2 hours later. Like many of my best ideas somethings just don’t go to plan. Getting out of a warm bed at 3.00am was just too difficult.So the only thing to do was to re calibrate, in this case an early morning shoot turned into a late afternoon/early evening session.

The Exe Estuary
Exe Estuary Evening light Ship at anchor
Evening light from the west

Have a plan before you arrive but don’t be afraid to change it.

I had a reasonable idea of the geography and layout of the area as I’d spent a year in Exmouth at teacher training college during the late 70’s. I remembered the quality of the light and how fantastic it was especially in those early and evening hours. As you get nearer to the mouth of the estuary the sky seems to open up. It has a real and unique quality.

At the mouth of the Exe estuary
river Exe. Exe estuary. Exe bouy Mouth of the estuary
Towards Dawlish Warren

There’s lot’s  of very special locations along the estuary and each of these change depending on high and low water tide times as well as time of day. One of my favourite locations has to be where the river finally meets the sea. The currents are often fast, sweeping swiftly past sand banks that rapidly disappear at high tide.

The Exe at Low tide
The exe estuary evening light sailing boat on the exe
The Exe at Low tide

At low tide the whole estuary takes on the shape of a shallow basin punctuated by deep puddles, stranded sailing boats, bouys, ropes and small dinghies. It’s possible to walk out into the middle of all of this but take care if you do as its easy to get into danger. From the Exmouth side of the estuary you can clearly see Starcross and beyond as the coastline disappears towards Teingmouth and later on Torquay and the Torbay riviera.

Exexestuary, contre jour
Into the light

I was here in late winter and at that time of year the light fades very quickly, literally minutes between reasonable light and complete darkness. Even though this can be a tricky time to photograph its always worth ‘firing’ a few frames off. As the light begins to fade the evening sky’s colour seems to saturate into some very rich and deep colours.

Evening Light
Exe estuary evening blue light
Last shot of the day

To see more images visit the gallery by clicking here.

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Street Photography: The decisive moment

Street photography  has to be one of  most difficult genres in photography. Its also raises some ethical issues, the main one being consent or to be more accurate, lack of it. Many street photographers refer to previous experts such as the french photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. The phrase ‘the decisive moment’ is attributed to him.  As a photographer he tried to be inconspicuous, to go unnoticed, to be  ‘a fly on the wall’ and simply document/record a person or group  of people in their particular environment.

Street Photography : without permission

…the decisive moment….

Street Photography Shopping Joatamon FuujiX fuji
The shopping mall

…neutrality can be much more difficult to achieve….

The object is to be neutral, i.e not to try and influence or orchestrate the scene but simply to let a scene develop and capture an image at the critical or decisive moment. This neutrality can be  difficult to achieve. Simple unavoidable decisions such as choice of lens, camera position, proximity, angle of view, media type (monochrome versus colour), shutter speed and depth of field can obviously influence the viewer.

Body language
Street photography Joatamon, candid FujiX Fuji
Pre match drink

The successful image can say something about society, inter-personal relationships and a lot more. The photograph should be able to tell us something about the context, time and situation with minimal explanation from the photographer.

Street photography : There’s often more information in the shot than we first realise
Street photography candid Joatamon FujiX Fuji
The arcade

There is another approach to street photography and that is to ask for  permission. The results though can be quite different. If the subject(s) agrees to be photographed very often the result appears less natural and ‘staged. As soon as the camera is raised the subject can act unnaturally or in some cases even pose.

A tale of two approaches

The next two images here illustrate the difference. The subject in this case is a security guard in downtown San Francisco. The first image was taken without permission. I liked this mans stance. Silhouetted against the bright Californian sunlight with his black stetson on made him appear to be like the town sheriff in an old cowboy movie. Anyway, to me it looked good.

Candid and without permission.

Perhaps not better or worse, just different.

As I left the car park I asked him if he’d mind having his photo taken (this can be the dodgy bit) but he was ok with this. As soon as the camera was raised though he adopted this cool ‘gangster’ like pose. I didn’t ask him to do that, he just did it. The results are quite different. Perhaps not better or worse just different.

With consent

To view more street images view the gallery by clicking this LINK

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Dartmoor, Haytor and the source of the Avon

Dartmoor is an amazing and rugged place. Approximately 400 square miles of wild and generally unpopulated high moorland. Dotted across the landscape are Tors or rocky outcrops. You really get a sense of an ancient and slightly dangerous place. Lots of opportunities for photos here.

Photos Landscape Photography Monochrome Hi-Resolution Quality Dartmoor scene
Haytor

If you ever walk there alone it’s a good idea to go prepared for sudden changes in the weather and to let someone know the area you plan to visit.

‘..the place really does have its own kind of ‘vibe’..’

The terrain here hasn’t really changed for thousands of years. Haytor  pictured above is a relatively easy place to get and can be the perfect introduction to anyone thats unfamiliar with the moor.

Landscape Photography Monochrome Hi-Resolution Quality Dartmoor scene
Rowan Tree

I love being up here, its difficult to explain but the place really does have its own kind of ‘vibe’. Many trees have grown into strange and unusual shapes, the result of unrelenting strong winds. Criss crossing the landscape are lots of fast flowing rivers and streams.

Photos Landscape Photography Monochrome Hi-Resolution Quality Dartmoor scene
Across the moor

A few miles north of Buckfastleigh in South Devon is the Avon Dam and the source of the river Avon. The avon starts here and flows more or less southwards through South Brent, Avonwick and Averton Gifford before  flowing into the sea at Bantham a distance of about 18 miles.

Photos Landscape Photography Monochrome Hi-Resolution Quality Dartmoor scene
The Avon near its source

Theres a great walk from Shipley Bridge (OS grid reference SX680629
Lat 50.451047 // Long -3.860666 Postcode TQ10 9EL (approx. location only) up to the dam with lots of great opportunities for photos. Just take a lot of care, it’s really easy to fall in.

Photos Landscape Photography Monochrome Hi-Resolution Quality Dartmoor scene
Small granite rock

To see more more imagers go to the gallery or click this LINK

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I do not share personal information with third-parties nor do I store information I collect about your visit to this blog for use other than to analyze content performance. I am not responsible for the republishing of the content found on this blog on other Web sites or media without our permission. This privacy policy is subject to change without notice.

Normandy and the French Connection

These photographs are the result of a recent impromptu five day trip to Normandy in northern France. We caught the boat from Dover and just over an hour later landed in Calais. We planned to stay for one night a few miles down the coast in Bolougne sur Mer and then to travel south west to the picturesque  towns of Deauville and Trouville.

Time to relax

All we wanted to do was to relax, drink some nice french wine, eat some tasty french food and have a lot of fun.

Photos FujiX Fuji Travel France Hi-Res Quality Image Photograph
The Waiter

 

“…things that were typically french…..”

Its easy to do all of that in France but for me I wanted something else as well, and that was to try and capture with my camera things that were typically french.

Photos FujiX Fuji Travel France Hi-Res Quality Image Photograph
Restaurant scene

That was it! My theme for my pics was Frenchness!! In a global, multi-cultural, corporate world it can sometimes be difficult to find a specific quality such as this.

French culture

Often what I was looking for lay in landscape and  buildings, sometimes in people, occasionally objects and other times in small details such as wall and building colours. I’m not sure how successful I’ve been but it was a lot fun trying.

Photos FujiX Fuji Travel France Hi-Res Quality Image Photograph
Antique shop

To see more images visit the gallery or click this LINK

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Llanthony, Capel y Fin and Hay Bluff

About 9 miles north of Abergavenny is the beautiful Llanthony Valley. It’s well worth a visit whatever the weather. It’s pretty in places, rough and tough in others but always peaceful and serene.

Llanthony : A place for quiet contemplation
Photos Llanthony Priory Joatamon Blog Photography FujiX
Llanthony Priory

‘The landscape opens up and you can see for miles…..”

As you head north up through the valley the hills close in and the climb gets steeper until you reach Hay Bluff. The landscape opens up and you can see for miles into the Herefordshire countryside below. If you’ve ever seen the film ‘An American werewolf in London’ the creepy opening scenes were filmed here.Loads of opportunities for photographs along the route.

Remnants of the past

Llanthony Priory is fabulous, mostly derelict but what remains hosts an amazing old cellar bar with Felin Foel regularly on tap. If you want stay the night its possible to book a room in the Priory or there’s a very basic camping field nearby.

Photos Llanthony Priory Joatamon Blog Photography FujiX
Hay Bluff

Capel y Fin is little more that one cottage and a small chapel. The chapel dates back to the mid 16th century. Its a small single story building painted white and to my eyes doesn’t depict a typical welsh chapel but I’m no expert.

‘….Yew trees a few of which are more than 2000 years old.’

 

2000 year old Yew tree

 

Llanthony Capel Y Fin Yew Tree Graveyard FujiX
Capel y Fin                                                                                                                                          The grave yard is littered with ancient Yew trees a few of which are more than 2000 years old. Yew trees are often associated with graveyards, there’s actually  a Yew tree in a chapel graveyard in Carmarthenshire thats one of the oldest trees in Europe, dating back to more than 5000 years. I know that I’ve bored many of my friends and family with that little fact but I really think its amazing that anything could live for that amount of time.

To see more images visit the gallery or click HERE

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I do not share personal information with third-parties nor do I store information I collect about your visit to this blog for use other than to analyze content performance. I am not responsible for the republishing of the content found on this blog on other Web sites or media without our permission. This privacy policy is subject to change without notice.

Waterfall Country-south rim of the Brecon Beacons

Nestled into the southern slopes of the Fforest Fawr massif, west of Merthyr Tydfil, Waterfall Country is one of the most beautiful and popular parts of the Brecon Beacons National Park and the Fforest Fawr Geopark, with steep, tree-lined gorges and an abundance of tumbling water.

‘…wooded gorges, caves, swallow holes and waterfalls.’

Coed-y-Rhaeadr (Wood of the Water), Waterfall Country lies within the triangle formed by the villages of Hirwaun, Ystradfellte, and Pontneddfechan. Here, old red sandstone and a long belt of outcrop limestone have created a highly distinctive environment of wooded gorges, caves, swallow holes and waterfalls.

The Rivers Mellte, Hepste, Pyrddin and Nedd-Fechan, tributaries of the River Neath, have their headwaters in the Fans, the old red sandstone mountains further north, and wind their way south through Waterfall Country via steep-sided, tree-lined gorges.

It’s well worth a visit at any time of the year…..

I had a fab day here. It can be a bit tough in places but lots to see. It’s well worth a visit at any time of the year but especially after heavy rains increases the flow of water over the many falls.The most famous waterfall is Sgwd-y-Eira, the Snow Waterfall, on the River Hepste, where a natural path leads right behind the curtain of water.

To see more images visit the gallery by clicking HERE
 
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I do not share personal information with third-parties nor do I store information I collect about your visit to this blog for use other than to analyze content performance. I am not responsible for the republishing of the content found on this blog on other Web sites or media without our permission. This privacy policy is subject to change without notice.

 

 

Theatre photography : A night in the pit.

This is an environment I know very well but as a musician and not a photographer. Theatre photography is an area I’ve always wanted to try. I’ve worked in many theatres in Wales and England as gigging ‘pit’ musician during the last 40 years or so. It can be a very special place, intimate, occasionally intense nearly always business like and focused. Pit musicians have to be able to turn on a great performance, instantly and sometimes after long periods of doing very little. Theatre work is quite a craft and there’s often a great sense of camaraderie. I’d often thought that I’d really enjoy a three hour theatre photography session documenting some of the moments that typically happen in the orchestra pit.

‘…a very special place, intimate, occasionally intense nearly always business like…’

On Tour

When I discovered that a good friend of mine was on a UK tour with The Sound of Music I asked her if she could approach the music director to see if he’d grant permission for me to sit amongst the musicians and take photographs.I was delighted when he agreed. Here was my chance!

The Maestro
Be Prepared

I arrived at the theatre in plenty of time to find some of the best locations to shoot from but also to meet all of the musicians, firstly to thank them and to explain what I was doing and secondly to tell them to ignore me. Shooting in an orchestra pit environment can pose some very special problems for the photographer. Low light and camera noise are certainly at the top of my list.

‘The Fuji XT2 was incredible and performed brilliantly.’

Up close

 

Fuji XT2 Camera

.This was the first time I’d used my new Fuji X T2 camera n this type of situation. Technically the Fuji offered  some big advantages. Many Fuji lenses have Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and this is implemented brilliantly. Also the camera has two basic ways of operating the shutter, mechanically or electronically. In this latter mode its quite possible to set the camera up to be able to shoot completely silently. I mean completely silent!!

Silence is golden

The only disadvantage using the electronic shutter can happen under certain lighting conditions. This shows up as a strobing effect. The Fuji XT2 was incredible and performed brilliantly. I managed to use both types of shutter mechanisms during the performance. The mechanical shutter during loud passages of music and the electronic (silent) shutter during periods of no musical activity.

Dynamic ISO

The newly developed Fuji X CMOS cropped frame sensor is incredible. It’s also worth mentioning that camera implements a dynamic ISO setting. This can optimise the shutter speed against a higher ISO setting. This was really useful and even when operating at 12500 ISO, great results can still be had.

Stage Right

Lenses used were a Fuji X 10mm-24mm a Fuji X 50mm F1.2 and even a Fuji X 100mm-400mm zoom (hand held!)

To view more images visit the gallery or click this LINK

Privacy Policy:

I do not share personal information with third-parties nor do I store information I collect about your visit to this blog for use other than to analyze content performance. I am not responsible for the republishing of the content found on this blog on other Web sites or media without our permission. This privacy policy is subject to change without notice.