Wednesday, 7 October 2015

First Light of the Lonely I.

It's been three years since I lost my Sharon. Three long lonely years of living in limbo and soaking my savings. In that time my health has gone south for the winter, my right knee is shot to pieces and my blood pressure has gone through the roof. Yet, three years later, something has changed! I can't really put my finger on it but in the last three weeks, I've started to live, as opposed to merely survive. I'm back on my mountain bike ( and soon back in the pool), venturing out into the world and watching movies with perfect strangers. More than anything else though, I'm starting to enjoy my photography. And this is the weird thing, to the best of my knowledge, this change of fortune is all down to a non functioning Fuji X-Pro 1.

My Fuji X-Pro in better days!
I have owned this camera now for less than a month and from the beginning it wasn't right. A quick trip to Fixation and a firmware upgrade later, saw a vast improvement in performance (especially with regards to back button focusing). But the camera itself was still flaky and freezing at any given moment rendering it useless for day to day shooting. So a week later I returned it to Donal and as I write this, my honey bunny is having open heart surgery at FujiFilm UK HQ in Northamptonshire. In the very short time I've had the pleasure of using the X-Pro 1, it has made me realise, like never before, just how lazy I've been with my interactions with the average DSLR. This broken down, mashed up, non functioning paper weight has forced me to re-think the way I make pictures and learn again the mechanics and science behind it. Truth be told, I've been a lost soul for a very long time, long before Sharon's passing. For too long, mentally,  I've been in a bad place and Sharon's illness and subsequent death didn't help matters. I have become a man out of place and out of time. Part of my loathing for all things digital came from the bad experience I had with the Nikon D1 and my time at Trident Communications which quite frankly, sucked! Alas, even I have to admit the modern D.S.L.R has grown and matured in ways inconceivable in the 14 years since I left their employ but for me, it was all too little, too late, the damage was already done. How could I work with a technology that I didn't trust?

Far from my beloved South Africa and the death of a loved one does strange things to a man, trust me. Alas, it seems that God does indeed have a sense of humour and giving me a broken X-Pro 1  was just one of his jokes. It's been quite a journey, just to get here, reading manuals and watching YouTube. Hearing the penny drop! How could this be? I can only put it down to the fact that the X-Pro 1 is a throw back to the good old days of film, my first love, before Billinghurst. The X-Pro 1 is tactile and mechanical and ole skool familiar and though I didn't fully understand it, it instilled in me trust instead of fear. It is NOT a modern take on an DSLR come rangefinder (aka Leica) but more like a digital reboot of a familiar friend. A trusted friend.

So my health is work in progress, work in slow to non existent  and finding an reliable, honest 1st assistant has proved to be one of the worse experiences of my professional life (more about this later). Truly I would not wish this upon my worse enemy (apart from a certain lowlife cretin from Worcester) but slowly and surely I'm working my way through it, one problem at a time, which brings me nicely to a lady called Alessandra.

I first met Ales via the free online dating app "Plenty of Fish" a year ago and we have been on and off friends ever since, with me trying my hardest to get her to work for me. In the meanwhile poor ole Ales has had her own issues to deal with, which lead us to meetup in Shoreditch for a catch-up brunch, whereupon she told me about a small photography project she was involved in. A friend of hers needed a few "fashion" shots taken for her fledgling business and Ales offered up herself and her humble Canon EOS 550D and Sigma 70-300 telephoto to the task. And I offered to come along for a easy afternoon, carrying her bags and my Strobist kit (and a 5Dmk3 and a 24-70L, just in case). The next day, saw us in a small council flat in Hornsey with a nervous one woman business owner, a amateur model and a collection of clothes and that was it! It didn't take too long for me and Ales to get into our groove but whereas Ales wanted to just press the shutter and hope for the best, I slowed down and my mind started to think and my eyes started to roam. What I soon realised was that even though my X-Pro 1 was far away having it's guts ripped out, it's spirit was here with me in a cream coloured living room, in North East London. We had beautiful diffused light, a low white ceiling and a black model, so out came a single Shanny SN600c speedlight, a Yongnuo YN622c radio slave and a stand, with the speedlight being bounced into the ceiling.  We then underexposed the ambient light by about a stop and let the flash do the rest. Ales was in her element. The picture below was shot with a single bare off camera flash, bounced into a low white ceiling, camera right and that was it! Keeping it simple, really does have it's advantages. 

Not a bad effort at all from OUR Ales and her Canon consumer DSLR.
Me, I was looking for something else and I found it in the lobby and soon we had the poor model shuttling between the two locations. This time I wanted the light to be a little more directional, so I placed my speedlight into a umbrella box and stood it as close to the model as possible. Maybe a little too close, as I later discover that some of that light had spilled onto the artwork. A small mistake, easily fixed in post production in Photoshop ( or pre-propduction by the use of a flag ). Can't wait to get my Fuji back though........All in all in was a good afternoon's "work".

All of the shots here were taken with a single off camera flash, either bounced into a low white ceiling and dressed in a umbrella box

This was taken in the public lobby area and I hope you agree it made for a perfect backdrop. All of the photo's here were taken with a single (off camera) Shanny SN600c speedlight, remotely triggered by a pair of Yongnuo YN 622c Radio Transceivers.

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