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VE Weekend

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A couple of weeks ago I paid a visit to the Royal Gunpowder Mills in Waltham Abbey, Essex. The occasion was the  VE  Celebration Weekend and my aim was to photograph the re-enactors taking part in it. As the weekend was about the Victory in Europe day everyone taking part was in WW2 uniform, British, Polish, German and probably a few more countries that I didn’s come across during my visit. Let me say at the outset that everyone involved was taking part in ‘living history’, there were no politics or idealists involved. I saw several signboards saying ‘Our aim is to recreate a small section of the Allied and Axis forces that existed during WW2 and not to promote, in any way, political regimes or ideals’. It really was a ‘living history’ experience, a little like being transported back in time with my camera.

My aim was to photograph some of the people involved rather than big action dramas. Never having been to one of these re-enactments before I was not sure what to expect, how serious were the participants, how authentic would everything be ? I have to say the participants were fantastic, they were more than happy to explain everything in detail and their knowledge of their respective subjects was exhaustive. As for the authenticity and attention to detail I can only say it was amazing, the amount of time, effort and money that had been spent was first class. Best of all from a photographer’s point of view people were very happy to be photographed, it was an excellent opportunity for both portraiture and still life of weapons and equipment.

I decided not to burden myself with too much camera equipment, I took my Leica V Lux type 114 which gave me 24mm to 400mm (35mm equivalent) and my Nikon D7000 with the 10mm to 24mm Nikon zoom. With a camera over each shoulder I felt more than equipped for whatever ‘VE Day’ threw at me. In the end I shot nearly everything on the Leica V Lux, however I am a bit of a sucker for wide angle shots so I am glad I took the Nikon as well. As I usually do I set both cameras to Aperture priority as I like to have control of the depth of field, the ISO was set to 400 as there was light cloud and I wanted to keep the shutter speed up. I shot everything in colour and made the conversion to black and white in Photoshop CS5.5.

Although I was only able to stay for a couple of hours I really enjoyed my time with the re-enactors, as I said everyone was very obliging, if you are looking for a great day out for some photographic inspiration you won’t go far wrong with these guys and girls.

Please remember all pictures and text are my copyright so please don’t use them without my written permission many thanks. So here we go with a selection of the photographs that I took..

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My favourite portrait of the day, I really like this strong close-up. I deliberately framed this tight so that just the eyes show beneath the peak of the cap.

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Soldier of the Polish 3rd Carpathian Division.

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British soldiers on the move..

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I would like to thank all those taking part in the VE Celebration Weekend for their help and co-operation with this post..

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A British pathfinder paratrooper taking part in the re-enactment of 6th Airborne Division at Breville Woods, St Comb, France.

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A wounded soldier is helped to the Medical Officer at the Breville Woods engagement.

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Polish Military Police of the 3rd Carpathian Division.

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Sniper ! Luke is from ‘Field of Fire’ which is a good entry point for re-enactors who are just starting out.

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A jeep with soldiers arrives from the 6th Airborne Division

This selection of portraits below show what can be achieved quite simply, they could have been taken with a simple P & S or even a ‘phone, it’s not about how much the camera costs rather it’s about just taking the time to look.

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this barbed wire is actually string, it fooled me from a distance

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Please remember all pictures and text are my copyright so please don’t use them without my written permission many thanks.

 

 

 

Darren Gatcum is an Essex photographer, I first met him when he attended one of my photography workshops. Although a semi-pro photographer at the moment Darren has gone from strength to strength in a short period of time. He has photographed football, golf, ice hockey and many other sports, plus many music events.

Below is one of his photographs and the story behind it.

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World © Darren Gatcum- All rights reserved

Valiant FC was in the West Essex Sunday Charity Cup Final against CFC Flamengo. I was asked by Valiant FC to photograph the cup final at Thurrock FC’s stadium.

I positioned myself near the goal as that is where the action tends to be in football and I was not disappointed on this occasion.

I like this photo because it captures the action and the determination of the players. You have the number 2 defender from Valiant FC sliding into tackle the striker from Flamengo CFC with the dirt flying up from the ground. The sheer determination of the striker can be seen in his face as he leaps over the number 2 defender.

I was shooting with a Canon 5D3. To fill the frame you need a long lens so I was using a 300mm f/2.8 lens. I used manual mode because I like to have full control over all my camera settings. In order to isolate the players from the background I was shooting at f/2.8 which is the standard aperture for shooting football. To freeze the players I set my shutter speed at 1/1000 which is the minimum shutter speed for shooting football. The match was under stadium lights which were awful. As a result, I had to increase my ISO to 8000 to get the correct exposure. High ISOs are no longer a problem with modern DSLRs.

The final score was 2-2 and the match was decided 7-6 on penalties with Valiant FC coming out the winners.

You can contact Darren via his Twitter account at @DarrenGatcum.

A simpler and lighter life..

I spent much of my life travelling all over the world with up to twelve or thirteen cases of camera equipment, I have now decided that it’s time for a simpler and definitely lighter life. Who were the main benefactors of all this equipment, well I expect the subjects were because I had everything to hand, the excess baggage guys and girls at various airlines certainly  and of course my chiropractor. In the days of film, remember film, the cases roughly broke down to 1 big Lightweight case full of medium format Mamiya RZ camera bodies, lenses from 50mm to 360mm, polaroid backs, prisms, motor drives etc. 1 big Tamarac shoulder bag full of 35mm Nikon camera bodies and lenses from 24mm to 200mm. Then of course there’s all the other stuff, a metal case with filters, two makes both Lee and Cokin, another metal case full of film, daylight film 100 ISO, 400 ISO, artificial light film all in both 120 and 35mm and Polaroid instant film. Oh and of course a Fuji Instant camera for quick left to right captions. Two cases of Elinchrom lights packed in Elinchroms own fine cases, a bag full of stands for the lights, a bag full of modifiers, umbrellas, soft boxes etc for the lights. Another bag with a heavy Manfrotto tripod with spare plates naturally. How many’s that so far? 9 I think. Well going on, a metal case for miscellaneous bits and pieces like extension cables, clamps, hooks, gaffer tape and anything else you can think of. Then of course there may well be props, backgrounds or specific clothes for the subject and finally your own personal stuff. You can understand why the airlines were so pleased to see us with all that excess baggage to be paid for.

Several of the bags have been ditched thanks to the change to digital cameras. No longer do I need both a medium format and 35mm cameras, the filters have been cut down drastically, all of the warming and cooling filters are gone as I can do that in the camera. The film case is obviously gone so now I’m fine tuning what’s left. Until recently I had been carrying a very big, excellent and beautiful Lowpro case (well it was to me anyway), this contained 2 Nikon digital bodies about 8  lenses a Nikon speed light and other camera related parphanalia. Then things changed.

Because I take a picture nearly every day to go on my Wanstead Daily Photo blog I needed something small and light to carry around, a camera that would fit in my pocket. After a lot of research, ploughing through magazines and trawling the internet I decided on the Leica D Lux 6. I went along to Red Dot Cameras in Old Street, London to try one out. Ivor is the owner and a Leica enthusiast he  is one of the most knowledgable Leica people around. The camera impressed me, small, light , pocketable and I liked the styling I was sold and took the plunge. The camera proved brilliant, exactly what I need for my daily blog, I was more than happy. One day it occurred to me that I had never made a print from it, jumping in at the deep end and rather than just do an A4 I decided to make an A2 size print, I thought that would really show up any faults. We use Epson printers and  for this particular print I used the Epson Stylus Pro 3880. The quality was fantastic, more than I could have hope for from a camera with a relatively small sensor. Long story short, I was so impressed with the print quality I used  the camera to photograph two covers for The Green magazine.  When the V Lux type 114 came out with it’s much bigger sensor I couldn’t resist and bought one, again I am truly delighted with it. So much so It has become a bit of a workhorse, used in the studio, on location, for portraits and also for most of my stock photography. I will be talking about both the D Lux and the V Lux in more detail at a later date.

So for now this is my day to day camera bag setup. A small LowPro Micro Trekker 200 backpack, inside the Leica V Lux type 114, a Leica D Lux type 109, a Nikon 50mm F1.4 lens and Nikon D7000 with a 10/24mm wide angle zoom lens. There is also a Nikon SB900 Speedlight and various remotes etc, this combination really works well for me, I have focal lengths from 15mm to 400mm (35mm equivalent) all in one small bag. If I want something light and inconspicuous, perhaps for street photography or just to carry all the time I use the D Lux type 109, for studio, stock and really everything else I use the V Lux type 114. The Nikon comes into it’s own with the 10/24mm wide angle zoom, it’s a lens I love for interiors and where space is really tight, you can achieve some really dramatic perspectives with it. The Nikon 50mm f1.4 I normally use wide open at f1.4 for throwing the background really out of focus. All in all it’s a kit I am very happy with now I just have to work on the lights…

Holidays and airports…

If you follow my daily blog, Wanstead Daily Photo, you will know that for the last few days I have been posting Spring themed pictures. What comes after Spring? Well Summer of course and what does Summer mean….holidays!

I have spent decades traveling all over the world by aeroplane both for newspapers and magazines. One of the questions I am asked by students and at talks is ‘did you check in your camera bags to go in the hold’, Well no never is the answer, the cameras always traveled with me as hand baggage inside the plane, lights, tripods etc were checked in to go in the hold. I don’t think any airline would let you take eight to ten cases on board as hand baggage. If you carry your camera with you then it’s safe, it doesn’t matter if the rest of the equipment doesn’t show up for a day or so as long as you have your camera you can take a picture..

So when you’r packing for this years holiday don’t pack your camera in your suitcase carry it with you.

In case you need more convincing check out this link to a YouTube video by 01Bowfin which shows how checked bags are handled at some airports. I don’t know at which airport this is filmed at but those poor cases….

A germ of and idea…

Branches overhanging in a churchyardWorld © Geoff Wilkinson – All rights reserved

I think this picture is becoming one of my favourites,  in fact I’m sure it is. It first appeared on my blog Wanstead Daily Photo as the post for Easter Sunday. It is also probably one of the quickest pictures that I have ever taken. I was looking for an Easter photograph that involved a church but wasn’t to obvious so I headed off to St Mary the Virgin in Overton Drive, Wanstead. This is a lovely church designed by the architect Thomas Hardwick in the late 18th century. The foundation stone was laid in 1887 some 70 foot north of the original medieval church and today the church still retains the original 1790 pews.

The churchyard lies behind the church, it’s one of my favourite places, and as I wandered along one or the paths it passed under the the branches of a low hanging tree with new growth on them. The contrast  struck me immediately  between the new shoots on the branch and the old gravestones behind, I knew I had a picture.

I knew however that I needed some separation between the two, because the branch was only about two foot from the camera and the gravestones were much further it would be easy to throw the background out of focus. I chose an aperture of f2.7 that combined with a focal length of around 50mm would give me a shallow depth of field. I focused on the shoots of the overhanging branch and framed the churchyard behind them, I took two pictures in quick succession, one upright and one landscape, the landscape composition won by a mile. The whole process took under a minute, I  concentrated thinking of three things, light, composition and depth of field.

So I started with a germ of an idea not really knowing where it would lead me and just by looking and a little thinking I ended up with a favourite. I thinks it’s quite subtle, not to obvious but it conveys what I was trying to illustrate for Easter Sunday..

 

Technical stuff: The camera was a Leica D Lux type 109. The shutter speed was 1/100th of a second and the aperture was F2.7 which gave me that lovely out of focus background. The ISO was 200 and the picture style was set to vivid. The focal length was appx 50mm equivalent on 35mm format.

 

 

Photography Walk Workshop

Carter Lane and Fleet Street.

Date: Sunday 26th April 2015

Time: 10 am to 4.30 pm

Cost: £75 per person (Maximum of 8 people, so places are limited).

Fare and refreshments are not included.

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This is a walk that I have wanted to do for a long time.

Carter Lane is a relatively short distance,  it is a very old thoroughfare possibly dating from the 12 century. It’s name first appears in the 13th century when carriers used this lane in preference to nearby Ludgate Hill which could be congested with cattle and traders.

Although none of the original buildings survive this narrow twisting lane still has plenty of old world charm and mystery. Aside from the lane itself there are many smaller lanes, alleyways and a courtyard that add to it’s charms. There is the original St Paul’s Choir School building built in 1875 with it’s Latin inscriptions on the front and the site of the Kings Wardrobe destroyed by the great fire in 1666 in a lovely little courtyard. As I said there are many unique alleyways off Carter Lane to explore.

From Carter Lane we shall head across to Fleet Street, my old stamping ground in my  newspaper days. Again narrow alleys, courtyards, squares, Christopher Wrens St Brides Church and the famous Cheshire Cheese pub are all in this street. Once famous for it’s newspapers, at the far end of the street where it meets The Strand is the Church of St Dunstan’s in the West and interestingly next door is purported to be the site of Sweeney Todd’s barbershop, true or false I don’t know but it’s a spooky thought.

There are masses of picture opportunities on this walk. Please make sure your battery is fully charged and bring a spare if you have one. Any type of camera is suitable for this walk from point and shoots to DSLR’s

As usual, I will be there not to take pictures but to give you technical support with things like white balance, exposure compensation and anything else you might need. Of course me being me I’m bound to chuck in a few ideas and suggestions as well!

This is an all day workshop meeting and leaving from Wanstead tube station at 10am, we will wrap up on location round 4.30pm. There will be plenty of opportunities for coffee breaks   etc.,  during the day. If you are not Wanstead based you can meet up with us at St Paul’s tube station.

To book a place on this workshop, please call the gallery on 0208 530 1244.

Please see Disclaimer Page. 

The Photography Show

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World © Geoff Wilkinson – All rights reserved.

I paid a visit to The Photography Show at the NEC, Birmingham earlier today. I thought going on the last day it would probably be a little quieter, how wrong was I. The guys at The London Camera Exchange told to me that yesterday it had been reported 17,000 people had passed through the hall. Now that’s quite a number and just goes to show how amazingly popular photography is. There were some great deals to be had with the dealers.  and some great shows and talks going on. Was I temped ? I certainly was but I’m not going to say with what at the moment, it’s part of larger plan.

Wondering about the photograph? Well I shot this as we were waiting for the bus from the car park to the exhibition hall. The guy is holding a fold up reflector or diffuser on his way back to the hall, not quite sure why’s it’s not folded up, there is an art to it. Anyway good luck to him getting that on the bus…

Print size ?

A2 photographic print coming off Epson printer

A2 photographic print coming off Epson printer

We have been making prints this afternoon to go on the Gallery wall. I’ve come to the conclusion that A2 in my favourite size, it’s big enough to look impressive but not too big to be a problem with where to hang. Hopefully by the end of the weekend they will all be finished and on the wall. As you can see from the picture we use Apple computers and Epson printers, we think it’s a great combination and produces lovely print. If you are not to far away you are more than welcome to pop in and have a look at the final prints on the wall. What’s your favourite size of print? let me know…

Technical info: nor very much I’m afraid, I shot this picture with my i.pad and processed the image with Snapseed

I’m back…

As Arnie said in the film Terminator ‘I’ll be back” and then in Kindergarten Cop ‘I’m back’…

A bit like me really, after a year’s absence, I can’t believe it’s been that much time, I’m back on the photography blog. Sorry I’ve been away for so long. As some of you will know part of my time has been taken up with the Gallery where there is now a new craft shop, Craft Boutique 84, as well as everything else that goes on photographically, generally it’s just been really busy. The Wanstead Daily Photo goes from strength to strength, as I look at  todays figures I see readers from the United States, France, Canada, Australia, Germany, India, South Korea, Lebanon and of course the UK. I am amazed how what was started as a very local blog for the immediate community is now read worldwide. I have taken lots of pictures in the last year, some for editorial assignments, some for commercial jobs and some just for me, I’ll bring you up to date on the thinking behind them and how they were done. I’m in the middle of a big rethink with regard to cameras, tripods, filters and equipment generally and you will get my thinking on that. The workshops that have been on hold will start again next month, although I have been doing lots of 1 to 1’s, some will be walks others will be studio based. I’ll be tidying up this site, paring it down and generally keeping it a lot tidier. So we’re off running again, thank you all for your patience and the new posts will start in just a few days so please check back in a day or so…