pressmen performance and photography

Sunday, September 10, 2006

clown in dressing room


Blogger hermajestythequeen said...

An interesting shot of a clown that is illustrating what many famous 'clown' images have already accomplished - that of contrasting a certain sadness which is shown in the eyes with the conventional 'fun and laughter' side of a clown that most of us all know and love. The mouth smiles but the true feelings are shown through the eyes. The photographer has clearly captured this.

Interestingly many famous comedians portray a completely different image of themselves on stage or when entertaining - than they do when embroiled in their private life. Many have been depressed and lack the self-confidence that takes most of us through life without too many backward glances. No need to name names but they do include Tony Hancock, Kenneth Williams, Bernard Breslaw and even Stephen Fry...

Similar pictures are often taken of artists in other areas such as ballet and so forth which seem to portray the 'real' personalities beneath the illusional surface. Most do not succeed as they are often staged and somehow this 'stage managed' situation comes through and the picture can be seen for the sham it is. This clown picture is honest in my opinion. It succeeds to a certain extent because of it's honesty - nothing set-up here I would imagine.

However - despite the plain white background which helps us to focus on the essence of the picture and it's undeniable lack of stage management - it does fail in technical competance and maybe a little on the lighting (although when grabbing shots such as this - one can not always choose the most appropriate lighting). Often a photographer will wait until the light is more dramatic interesting or position themselves where the lighting will strike a subject in the way they feel is 'best'. Wait for the moment but wait in the right place.

The most obvious flaw in this picture is the camera shack which has produced an unsharp image. A true professional would have used a higher ISO rating to ensure there was little chance of this happening. One might hold a camera for a 1/30th or even a 1/15th second but any exposure longer than this would almost certainly (unless supported by a tripod/beanbag/other) suffer from shake. The heartbeat interrupts even the most steady of hands and will sometimes ensure camera shake occurs. In this case it probably is a photographer who has been forgetful about holding the camera steady and who has been more caught up in the business of obtaining expressions.

A more pleasing lighting might have come from light from a window to one side which would provide some good modelling. The larger the window the softer the light generally. This is just information of course but sometimes the subject can be persuaded to have pictures taken in an area you choose - rather than in situ where the lighting is not very suitable or interesting. Once you have it in the lighting, I always believe you are 80% towards producing a great picture. The framing and the decisive moment(s) are then important elements in portraiture. Your own personality and the way you ingratiate yourself with your subject will also have a very powerful influence on the type and mood of the pictures you take. Unless you are shooting from a distance where your personality counts for less - you will in most probability be engaged in some sort of conversation. The personality and mood of your subject will play a large part in how your interaction will succeed or not. This may be obvious now but it is surprising how many elements come into pl;ay when a simple portrait is taken. If you know the subject - it is sometimes helpful. Conversely - sometimes it is best not to know your subject so that you are not compromised by preconceived ideas concerning what is allowed, expected and so forth. There is a large following of those who believe that without knowing your subject - it is often impossible to portray them as well as you might.

A lot of rubbish (and some of the above probably falls into this category) can be written about certain pictures but in the end - depending on what it's purpose is (a very small image can often escape close scrutiny and camera shake may not be noticed) - less than technically excellent or fantastically creative (define creative) can be all that's required to evoke the emotion you would like. Phrases such as "What a lovely picture" or "You have captured the mood of this subject" or perhaps "This image reminds me of a..." etc can often be just the reaction that you want. I always cringe when someone says "What camera did you take this on?" or "Did you use a 200mm lens?" as for me - this has little to do with the image itself. The Technical side should almost be an extension of yourself so that you can concentrate on more important details such as composition, quality of light and so forth.

When I take my Royal portraits I like to dress up to look like my subject - as I believe it puts them at ease. I dress up in clown frocks very ocassionally just for fun. Recently I looked exactly like Mr Blair but had to take off the suit and wig as I was handed so many letters from his colleagues. The letters were not too obusive but I decided that Blair should not "go" under pressure. I prefer his company to that of Maggie Thatcher but do like wearing blue very much. David Cameron will make a lovely subject and I can wear blue again. I'm fed up with red. Now where can I lure him to get some interesting lighting? What subject of conversation can I engage him in? Shall I use my Leica and 600mm lens so I don't have to talk to him? What shutter speed shall I use (nothing below a 1/600th in the old days if I were using a 600mm. With my new Canon I could use my latest USM lens and shoot at 3 stops less (speed wise) to ensure I don't get any camera shake. However, I believe that Cameron will be shaking in my presence themselves - so maybe I will have to up the shutter speed a little. I think I need jugglers in the background. This is all rediculous - I'd rather go fishing or do some gardening.

1:00 pm  
Blogger Tim Gooding said...

Another suggestion might be not to leave your whitebalance set to tungsten.

7:04 pm  
Blogger the clown said...

thanks, yes the shutter speed was 1/8sec.

7:08 pm  
Blogger hermajestythequeen said...

1/8th of a second... nuff said. Unless you were cushioning the camera on a bean-bag - supported rigidly by something else or on a tripod (you not the camera silly...) - your heat beats at a rate faster than 1/8th and the pulses in your wrist (and perhaps elsewhere) will be enough to gain a slight shake. I expect you were on auto white balance - which is generally quite good unless you have an unfavourable mixture of daylight, tungsten, sodium and flourescent + maybe a touch of arc.

I tend to light my subjects with flamelight. They do scorch a bit but it makes a change from the usual tortures, hanging, drawing, quartering and so forth. Would you sit for me? I have a lovely well equipped studio at the Tower. I see you are trembling a bit - therefore I will let you know in advance that I shall use 1/125th second and be there! (see below)

An old master in photojournalism and press photography used to say the best photo's came from his old Leica camera shooting at 1/125th second at f/8 and BE THERE! (on time and in the right location presumably). I'll add that you must 'wait and watch'.

4:58 pm  
Blogger hermajestythequeen said...

and don't forget... to release the shutter while engaging the brain (this is called framing). While you are waiting (this is something you should have carried out previously but had no time to do) you should check out your battery life, locate spare batteries, ensure the apertures, speeds are functioning properly, look at the iso rating and alter it if still set to 3200 from last nights job - clean the lens carefully again after checking for dust on your chip. Don't leave your camera on whilst changing/taking off your lens - why not? the chip generates a charge on the surface of that very thin piece of glass that protects it - dust is immediately attracted to positive charged ions (of which the charge is composed) and you will be sorry at some later date. Also set the white balance to something appropriate - you may have a little time to play with and be able to take some test shots and access the colour balance. If in doubt - maybe leave on auto. Don't forget to delete these test images if you have time - they are a slight nuisance later on when having to wait for downloads and selecting for deletion.

Here's a story to make you think about white balance... a friend of mine specialised as a student in stage photography and attended many photo-calls ocassionally having one or two of his pictures published during his 3 years at college (photo college). Imagine his delight when he inadvertantly used daylight film during a photo-call for The National Opera in London. I have forgotten the performance name but remember his sheer delight. Everyone else (experienced news/magazine and Fleet Street types) had used tungsten film. After all the opera/plays were all illuminated with tungsten lighting - lots of it! In this particular performance the stage was saturated in a blue light. The result was that the tungsten film was all tooooo blue - revoltingly so. You have guessed haven't you? My colleague's images were just perfect with the right balance of blue but picking up warm tones where it was needed (flesh tones and the like). He sold so many of his pictures that he was able to purchase his first Leica. Have you ever compared the sharpness of images taken with a well chosen Leica and lenses to match? Ever felt inadequate with your own image sharpness using Nikon or Canon? You will if you compare.

I still use my old Royal pin-hole camera. It never breaks down and I have no problem with dust. One really good thing is that I do not have to use PhotoShop to manipulate my images as they all are produced in my favourite style - circular with a slight blurriness that Maggie Thatcher used to prefer. I always use 2 minutes using 4 candles on my left and 2.5 on my right with a wind machine and I'm always there.

5:22 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home