Only One Lens

After reading this article on Mastin Labs about reducing the gear to a minimum of one lens, specifically the so much loved 50 mm, I have to admit I reacted very unconvinced: I like to feel ‘covered’ for any photographic opportunity that might arise on my trips, and that is why I carry as much gear as my back can handle.

Just wanted to ‘breathe in’ the surroundings. I think that the lack of focus on the technical aspects of the photographic process (‘Oh, what lens should I use now? Wouldn’t it be better to change to wider one?” etc.) allowed me to resonate with the autumn landscape more, and to ‘play’ with the frames, almost childishly, rather than seriously and technically construct them. 

Just wanted to ‘breathe in’ the surroundings. I think that the lack of focus on the technical aspects of the photographic process (‘Oh, what lens should I use now? Wouldn’t it be better to change to wider one?” etc.) allowed me to resonate with the autumn landscape more, and to ‘play’ with the frames, almost childishly, rather than seriously and technically construct them. 

The author of the article praised the fact that the limitation to one lens is, after all, an invitation to creativity - and this is one idea that I had to agree with. As a result, I decided to put it to test on a very dull day in which I felt not very inspired and not very well physically but, somehow, I believed it all worked just fine.

I had a walk around the Wayoh Reservoir near Bolton. There is a good footpath around the water which makes use of the Witton Weavers Way on the eastern side. It was a lovely path with waterside and woodland sections to enjoy. There are also great views of the surrounding countryside and the impressive Entwistle viaduct.

Without any ‘obvious’ attractions and with many people around enjoying the beautiful day, the whole place had a different dynamics. On the quieter paths, it seemed to be different; I walked there engulfed in stillness and beauty.

A very short appearance of sun through the leaves and branches, projected on these lovely trees. I knew I had to frame vertically to emphasise the geometry of the path. The fact that it happened to have a human in the landscape never bothers me, on the contrary.

A very short appearance of sun through the leaves and branches, projected on these lovely trees. I knew I had to frame vertically to emphasise the geometry of the path. The fact that it happened to have a human in the landscape never bothers me, on the contrary.

The viaduct was waiting but I knew the image will not be very impressive without a bit of sun illuminating it. So I didn’t hurry, as it was a bit of a walk to reach it from the other side to take a frontal shot.

I wouldn’t normally take a picture with so many distracting elements in the foreground. But this is autumn, the branches are empty now, and it seemed natural to try this frame for the sake of the record. Or was it perhaps the magic 50mm inviting me to ‘risk it’? :) 

I wouldn’t normally take a picture with so many distracting elements in the foreground. But this is autumn, the branches are empty now, and it seemed natural to try this frame for the sake of the record. Or was it perhaps the magic 50mm inviting me to ‘risk it’? :) 

I think the 50mm somehow helps when the light is very dull because it inspires a particular ‘feel’ and adds interestingness.

I think the 50mm somehow helps when the light is very dull because it inspires a particular ‘feel’ and adds interestingness.

Would I give up all my other lenses and use only 50mm? No. Never.

I sometimes might find myself in a place where I have the intention to photograph the landscape (so I need a wider lens) but I also discover on the spot that I want to photograph a bird there. That is why I need a bit more coverage. 

I will continue to train in the gym to be able to carry heavy equipment on my back. As for missing moments, well, probably that’s valid for weddings and certain events: nature works with different rules, and invites to be discovered, researched, and befriended. No need to be quick or extremely efficient. Unless, of course, you’re climbing a mountain by rope or photographing birds in flight. 

Here are a few more pics from the day taken with 50mm: 

 

Entwistle viaduct, embraced by autumn colours. 

Entwistle viaduct, embraced by autumn colours. 

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

I wouldn’t normally be the one who is the first in line to try crossing boundaries - but I think at one point things really change in people’s outlook in life, and their work practice as well - and that usually means new opportunities and experiments. 

The most common photographic fear (probably after missing focus) is raising the ISO setting on a camera, mainly because that will result in noise (chroma noise on digital cameras and grain on film). The recent improvements in camera technology make it possible now to shoot at ISO 1600, 3200 and even 6400 without an issue - with many of the newer DSLRs, micro four thirds and mirrorless cameras. But people are still afraid of it.

Don’t want to delve into the technical side of night photography; yes, a tripod would be great, yes, lights and flashes work if you know what you’re doing but, at the end of the day, I believe it is about the photo and not the technicality side of it. There will always be situations when none of those things will work. And what will you do?

I personally prefer to have the photo, even if it is grainy, rather than not having it at all. 

On my recent trip to Porthcawl (Wales), once the darkness covered everything, the tide came in bringing big, breathtaking waves: we were all surprised, people were screaming with amazement and joy. “WOW, look at that one!” It was then that I took the photo below that is probably one of the biggest waves I managed to record that weekend: 

But it soon got darker and darker.

And the fury of the sea even more uncontrollable and, in a way, beautiful. Small balls of sea foam were flying everywhere. We could hardly see what was going on, and only the bigger waves could be seen, under the lights from the shore. 

Photos were a bit messy. I knew this without checking the back screen. ‘What am I going to do with that artificial red light reflected on these waves in the foreground, close to the shore? It doesn’t look right at all!’.

But I had fun and no intention to stop.

In time, all the people who ever photographed alongside me (and even my models) have noticed my stubbornness in photographing something, continuously, obsessively, as if I want to extract the very soul out of it. I don’t praise this method: it results in massive storage and selection issues. I admire photographers who know exactly what they want, and they go for it, focused and intentional, with no time to waste on “sideways" events. 

But at the same time I love what’s going on on the ‘sideways’ or in the background. Where reactions happen. Where another layer of the story develops.

I started my photography practice with street photography - a continuously inspiring “place” where you learn how to “look” and where to find interesting things in a sea of mundane. And that habit - of looking and searching inside what is apparently uninteresting - stayed with me as well as my favourite teacher’s words: ‘Always turn around and see things from a different perspective.’  It is a bit literal but I went behind this pier. Darkness was so deep and dangerous that I didn’t even see where I put my foot, something not quite safe on that wet promenade. It was disappointing and a bit insane to shoot into the darkness at ISO 10.000 but I am glad I did it, and, today, a few weeks after that night, I cherish these pictures, and their imperfection (after completely dismissing them at first).

There is a light that never goes out, I think, and that is my obsession for this unique setting; the light of the lighthouse and the light of my camera met somewhere in the middle, and danced this crazy late evening dance.

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Of course, I agree that we should strive to reach what can be called a technical and compositional perfection, a harmonious, aesthetically pleasant presentation of reality or of our imagination.

But on the way there, in order to help ourselves develop, we shouldn’t forget about our instincts and our desire to play or discover things. 

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I love how this image functions now as a perfect memory, and nothing else, and that it is taken after everybody packed, and left home. I love the fact that it is so imperfect, and it shows limitations but at the same time, madness. My “madness", in perfect tune with the sea and the tide, and with that stoic, hypnotic red light of the lighthouse. I love how one might think it is snowing when seeing those sea foam flurries flying everywhere that messed up the focus. And I love how you can only guess the town’s lights in the distance. 

iPhone photo, no flash, a bit of light from the promenade down onto the shore in Porthcawl

iPhone photo, no flash, a bit of light from the promenade down onto the shore in Porthcawl

Even on A4 (21 x 27 cm) noise is hardly visible, let alone at 500k Internet page pics. So why should one be afraid? Imperfection is beautiful and inspiring!

Last shot of the night. 

Last shot of the night. 

Making mistakes or imperfect/incomplete photos show us what we can at a certain moment in time, in certain conditions, and it teaches us beautifully about what should we do if we want to improve. In any case, it’s a ‘win-win’ situation. 

Fairytale Gone Bad @Turnpike Gallery Leigh

Poet Joseph Coelho, National Poetry Day Ambassador, created magic today at The Turnpike in an enchanting performance for young and old alike, unravelling familiar fairy tales and creating fresh, ‘thrillingly grisly, darkly funny’ contemporary classics.

Puffins at Bempton Cliffs

I visited Bridlington for the first time last year, and with the same purpose: photographing puffins at Bempton Cliffs! It is not the easiest place where you can do that - because the cliffs are quite steep, and provide an excellent place for puffins to hide, usually in the shadows, making photography almost impossible at times. Why do I choose this place, when there are other places, like Farne Islands in Northumberland or Hermaness and Sumburgh Head, Shetland where you could literally go as close as you want to puffins? 

I really don’t know. I think to me it is also about the way in which I manage to get close to the birds, understanding their behaviour and habits, and, as with human subjects, creating a magic encounter. And this year, I thought, I am more prepared and more confident that I’ll get the results I want. 

ABOVE: We were so close and looked into each other eyes, with the same wonder, curiosity and respect.

ABOVE: We were so close and looked into each other eyes, with the same wonder, curiosity and respect.

My main concern has been to get closer without disturbing, almost trying to become part of the landscape, giving the birds the respect they deserve for allowing me to step into their personal lives, especially since puffins are known to be pretty shy creatures. 

ABOVE: The puffins don’t seem bothered by the sea fog. So why should I be? I continued shooting. 

ABOVE: The puffins don’t seem bothered by the sea fog. So why should I be? I continued shooting. 

There are times when weather is a challenge, too. If it is not rain, then it might be sea fog which engulfs everything around, making focusing difficult, and, indeed, you can’t see anything anymore. But I guess I took this as yet another challenge, and did not stop shooting. Although not very clear, I like the photos of the birds in the mist because of the context they offer, and, oh, well, because they are different. I’ve seen many amazing close-up portraits of puffins, and I took some great ones. Somehow, I still love more the behaviour shots, and I find them also hard to capture. 

ABOVE: ”I don’t just pretend I’m working. I’m really working on a nest situation.” 

ABOVE: ”I don’t just pretend I’m working. I’m really working on a nest situation.” 

As with everything, the more you insist, the better the photos. The light changes, and then, for a few moments, you have exactly what you wanted, and the magic happens. I love this photograph because it preserves the warm glow of the sun, and it also shows the puffin caught in ‘action’. 

ABOVE: Last meal before leaving. 

ABOVE: Last meal before leaving. 

I must admit I would have wanted to do better in photographing the puffins in flight with little fishes in their beaks. It was, however, very problematic, as most of the birds already left, and, there were a few hours when there were no puffins in sight. I must admit I was sad and desperate, at the same time. I knew I should have come weeks before if I wanted to capture the ‘buzz’ of puffin parents coming back to the nest with food for the little ones. However, I managed to get some shots that I am pleased with. 

ABOVE: See you again next year!

ABOVE: See you again next year!

For the second time photographing these amazing birds in such a difficult and challenging location, I think I did okay-ish. I am not a bird photographer by any means and, apart from puffins, I don’t photograph any other birds - at least not with great intent. I read many articles on bird photography and watched a few tutorials.

But probably the most valuable information I found was through practice - things I needed to know about puffins and about my camera and me. The photos are dear testimonies of a special encounter that I cherish until we’ll see again next year. 

 

Online Dating Photography: sunny smiles with Zoe at Chorlton Waterpark

There is a reason why they say a photograph is worth a thousands words. And it is valid in the case of online dating when with a swipe left or right people decide who they are interested in or not. Should we blame them for that? Of course not. Don’t we do the same when we glance at each other in real life, waiting in line at a store, or at a bus stop, or across the room at a party? 

As someone who used online dating myself, and saw many, many bad profile photos, I knew I can help people obtain better and more meaningful photos of themselves for their online profiles. People fall in love instantly and furiously, I’d say, and scientists confirmed it: according to Science Daily, “falling in love only takes about a fifth of a second”.  (Source)

It means we only have a few seconds, if not less, to make an impression on someone or to attract the right person for us. I read all I could read on the subject and after careful planning and detailed communication, I met Zoe at one of her favourite locations - Chorlton Waterpark, on a lovely afternoon for a photo session aimed at updating her online dating profile. 

Zoe is a professional voiceover and copywriter. She writes on her profile: ‘Music and comedy are my favourite things’, and lists Radiohead as one of her favourite bands. Now, if you love Radiohead, you are my friend, my friend!I knew this is going to be a great session, so I planned it with joy and loads of enthusiasm. Zoe was very open towards my ideas, very flexible and keen to experiment. We were lucky to have perfect weather for such photography, with cloudy skies, then a bit of gentle sun, constant change in light that made everything a bit challenging but more interesting as well. I opted for natural poses, allowing Zoe to be herself, and encouraging her to smile more, as I thought her smile is very photogenic!

I intend to make this photo service as client-oriented as possible, with loads of attention to details, in order to express clients’ individuality a bit clearer and naturally, so that they increase their chances of finding the right person for them! I told Zoe about this, and the fact that I want to create portraits that ‘speak volumes’, that are natural and humane and that the right people will fall in love with. I was happy to see she understood what I meant.

Rain started as soon as we stopped our session - so we were extremely lucky! She chose a few photos that she liked and has already used them on her online profiles. 

Left: Screen shot of Zoe’s profile photo before our shooting. Right: two of my favourite photos taken at Chorlton Waterpark. 

Left: Screen shot of Zoe’s profile photo before our shooting. Right: two of my favourite photos taken at Chorlton Waterpark. 

Here is Zoe’s feedback: 

Working with Livia was a fabulous experience for me. Like most people, the idea of having my photo taken filled me with dread, but as soon as I met her, she put me at ease immediately. She let me do my own thing, alongside giving me pointers on how to pose/stand. I can actually say I ended up really enjoying it! I am thrilled with the results too – I now have some profile pics for my dating profiles/social media that I actually like! I was 100% recommend Livia to anyone requiring photographer services – she listens and she delivers!

I am grateful to Zoe for being so generous with her words! She did not mention I struggled a bit with my jokes repertoire, aimed at making her smile more - but I promise I’ll update on that. Apparently, my ad-hoc invented pseudo-start of a joke, ‘Three croissants entered a pub’ can make people smile for a short while, enough to take a shinny, happy photo - but I should do better. 

Here are a few more examples of photos taken during our session: 

If you wish to update your online dating profile with photos like these, get in touch at livialazaruk@gmail.com.