The Wheatsheaf, 21st Jan 2012.

This weekend I went down to The Wheatsheaf in Oxford to check out some local bands and take some photos. I’ll be honest and say it’s not something I’ve done much of in my life (the last time I was there was over 10 years ago!) so felt a little out of place at first but soon settled in. It’s definitely something I’ll do again, and somewhere I really recommend going. Oxford has a brilliant and diverse music scene and it was a great night out for just £3.

The bands that performed were King Of Cats, Sonic Rising, Kill Murray and Mayors of Miyazaki. (I stayed for 3 out of the 4 acts – bit gutted I had to miss the headline)

Shooting bands is a lot of fun, but it is really difficult to do well.  The lighting isn’t that great, there’s the obvious risk of a lively audience bouncing around and/or getting in the way of your shot,  as well as other photographers to try and work around. It’s a challenge!

Here are a few of my pics from the evening:

If you would like me to shoot your wedding, band, gig or help with your portfolio, then get in touch. In 2012, I’m offering massive discounts (some even FREE) where possible in exchange for experience!

Softboxes and Stairwells – Moody Portraits

Having been inspired by Zack Arias’ One Light Workshop, I went right out and got myself a portable softbox kit from eBay.  Zack’s whole philosophy of the “one light” approach comes down to cost – being bankrupt and having to rebuild his career, he was forced to create professional editorial quality images on a budget because it was all he could afford. Anyone starting out will understand just how expensive it is to pursue photography as a hobby alone, and “turning pro” is very, very, very expensive.  Being able to shoot with just a single light source is a huge skill, and obviously, half the price of using 2.

My light source was a Canon 430 EX ii, something that I’ve only used 2 or 3 times in the few years I’ve owned it.  Any on-camera flash, not just those built-in pop-ups on entry-level cameras,  always gives awful results. I’ve been scared of shooting with flash, and avoided it until recently when I got myself a 2 metre long TTL cable which allowed a little more creativity.  This year I’ll be forcing myself to use it more, especially now I’ve got a basic understanding. My next step is to get a set of Pocket Wizards and work wirelessly, but just like Zack says, you gotta earn them.

Here’s a couple of what we took on the day.

Unfortunately just as we were starting to get into the swing of things, that cheap, crappy,  TTL cable started to die. The flash kept misfiring, then not firing at all so we cut the session short and got hot chocolates.

Christmas Houses: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

When I was a kid the most elaborate thing you could do to celebrate Christmas was to hang fairy lights in the window – you might have had a spare set left over from the tree (which physically couldn’t take any more decorating) and so taping them to the inside of your living room window seemed a fun thing to do. It’s quite nice and adds a nice festive glow to the neighbourhood.

Then something strange started to happen. Well, a few things happened:  eBay, access to cheap Chinese tat and intense competition between neighbours. Quite often accompanied by a lack of taste.  Twinkling fairy lights became flashing rope lights and eventually neon garden animals started to appear. Let’s not forget the awful singing snowmen either – cranking out some out of tune and distorted recordings of Christmas songs from 40 years ago the moment someone happens to walk by them. Brilliant.

The result? Houses so bright that they are a danger to Air Traffic Control. Streets that could be seen from the moon. I’m all for good causes and charity fundraisers doing something special to raise awareness, regardless of how good their creation is, but I generally hate the assault on the senses some have become. Thankfully with rising energy prices the numbers have declined in recent years – it must cost a small fortune to power that lot over the Christmas period. This year there were probably half the number there were about 5 years ago.

You would think that the owners of these hugely OTT, attention grabbing neon nightmares, wouldn’t mind having photos taken of their display. This isn’t always the case. On two occasions during this mini-project people came out of their house, and as with all street photography or photojournalism, once you’ve been made it gets very uncomfortable very quickly!

I’m not against people decorating their houses,  and certainly not against Christmas or charity work, but quite often “more” gets confused with “better”!