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Technical Mishappenings and the Nature of Things

  1. Last week really was a week of contrasts and balance between technique, technical know-how and creativity.

    I spent a great day last Thursday taking PR photos for the very talented and friendly bunch of people at Chameleon, which is based in London just a stone’s throw away from the famous Smithfield meat market.

    The technical adventure began on Wednesday with the purchase of some new portable lighting gear – a Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe, an additional speedlite, brackets, light stands and a new all-singing, all-dancing reflector. Like a little kid, I rushed home and got straight down to the joyful task of checking out my new kit. Our living room was soon transformed into a makeshift studio, complete with the obligatory bowl of fruit as my prop. For any of you who have studied art or photography at college I’m sure you’ll recognise this familiar scene – the tried and tested method for learning about lighting. All went swimmingly, the kit performed perfectly and it also meant I was able to save a few presets into the speedlites ahead of Thursday’s shoot.

    As there was one bit of equipment I hadn’t managed to get, I arranged with David at the brilliant York Cameras in London to stop off en route Thursday morning to pick it up. Thus breaking a cardinal rule – never turn up to a shoot with gear you’ve never used before! Still, I knew the interface on the speedlite transmitter was identical to that of the flashguns so felt confident all would be well. And it was! As it uses radio frequencies rather than an optical ‘line of sight’ method of communication, it meant ultra reliable flash firing, even though I was working outside for the duration of the shoot. The set-up for the lights worked like a dream and the results were just as I visualised. Easy to use equipment allowing me to concentrate on creativity when required – brilliant!

    I therefore awoke on Friday morning raring to crack on… I had my list of tasks to do – a few emails, a few calls following up leads and most importantly, a portfolio to print to show a prospective client I had arranged to meet on Saturday. Easy! I’d have that lot licked by lunchtime. Except, my printer had other ideas. My reliable digital darkroom companion decided that it had seen one too many sheets of fine art paper and refused to feed on any more. Frustratingly, it also decided that when it did acquiesce, it would only print using 7 of its 9 colours! Try as I might, it would not behave and by 5:30 pm I was staring defeat in the face. Left with half a printed portfolio, I reverted to the iPad, at least safe in the knowledge I could show my photographs, just not necessarily provide the full effect the portfolio would have had with multi-image spreads. Never mind, it was a back up and a damn fine one at that.

    Throughout the weekend I kept thinking back to my truly frustrating Friday and the amount of time I had lost, wasted. There is a running joke between Claire and I which is trotted out almost every time Claire takes a photograph only to find someone has walked into the frame at just the wrong moment or the thing she was framing up, has moved. There is one infamous occasion when Claire must have spent 30 minutes or more framing a photograph of a building in Le Havre, patiently waiting for the scene to be perfect, before the lights went off and total darkness descended, the moment lost. It’s like the moment you realise you forgot to put film in the camera but not until you’ve taken forty frames!

    At times like these I stick a joking tongue in cheek and follow up with a helpful ‘that’s the nature of photography I’m afraid’. I think Friday was pay back time!