The polling station.

As a photographer I was amused when the Northern Ireland Electoral Office said that the taking of ‘selfies’ in the polling booth was not allowed on the grounds that it was a secret ballot!

Elections and electioneering can provide some interesting photographs.  In a climate where there is little cooperation and indeed much bitter confrontation within Northern Ireland politics it was nice to photograph a situation where there was a friendly spirit.

In the following photograph outside a Belfast polling station a council candidate shares a moment with a canvasser from another political party.

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All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission

 

Should amateur photographers do wedding photography?

Occasionally friends will ask me to take their wedding photographs.  My standard response on these occasions is to say that I am not a wedding photographer and they might want to investigate what a specialist wedding photographer has to offer as they will provide a more specialised service than I would be able to offer.
 
Having make this point clearly I am sometimes still asked.  The question is should I? Obviously wedding photographers will say that I shouldn’t!  However I take the view that if you explain carefully the approach you will take on the basis of what the couple want then you can safely proceed provided both the couple and the photographer have a clear understanding.
 
Every couple will have their own particular idea of what they want.  The couples I have undertaken wedding photography for seem to prefer a low key approach with emphasis on informality.  It is a pleasure to participate in these occasions on what is an important landmark day for the couple and I suspect that if you provided wedding photography as a business service you would lose this level of intimacy.  
 bradley-6834All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission
 

A little bit of preplanning pays!

My last blog covered an exploratory visit to the Cathedral Church of St Anne’s Belfast for the purpose of deciding how I would undertake a photographic shoot of their choir.  This turned out to be a good move because when I returned the following day I already knew the shots I was going to take, the angle of each shot and the ISO rating that I would use.  

My test shots were shot at 1/80 second at f2.8, so I knew that to obtain better depth of field a slower shutter speed would be required.  I used a tripod mounted D700 fitted with a 14-24mm f2.8 lens and the live shots were taken at f9 with shutter speeds as slow as 1/10 second which required the choir to be very still.  A bit risky using such slow shutter speeds but it worked.  Here are a couple of the shots taken just after their service of evensong.

It was a most enjoyable shoot and the choir sang quite magnificently, thanks are due to the Dean and Chapter who made me most welcome.

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All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.  

 

Politicians at work!

Election campaigns can be an interesting period for the photographer with different opportunities presenting themselves.  Here Mike Nesbitt the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and former television news presenter chats with a prospective local government candidate at the opening of a new advice centre.  I wonder what they said to each other?

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All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.  

Seductive Red!

Red is a seductive colour, it dominates the image and pulls the eye forcing you to perhaps miss other features in the image.  In the right circumstances it may be appropriate to desaturate the colour or to convert the image to monochrome.  This photograph is one I took of Brunswick Accordion Band from Annalong Co Down and they published it on their Facebook Page as a monochrome image.  It worked and gave me the idea for this blog!

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The monochrome image I my view helps you to see other features more clearly, such as the band members’ feet being bang on the beat; well they are a first class band! Notice how the red tunics have become a grey shade, which I think blends in very well with the sky and the sea in the background. Rather than colours clashing with one another the shades complement each other thereby providing a pleasing balance.

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The band are releasing a CD soon, you can look out for that!

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.  

 

The image tells it’s story!

I took this viewpoint in daylight, which featured a few blogs back, and later decided that I must return at nighttime to take the image from exactly the same viewpoint as before.  This image is the result.  The Harland and Wolff cranes have become an iconic symbol associated with Belfast and can be seen in the skyline from many different parts of the city.  But what does this image convey?

In the early twentieth century Belfast was an industrial powerhouse and the shipyard was a very busy place employing thousands of workers, this continued up until the 1970s but today it is a shadow of its former glory.  Yet the shipyard still survives by diversification.  In this image we see an oil rig being refitted and there is a sense of the old spirit of the Yard being revived, at least in part.

The lighting surrounding the oil rig communicates that activity is going on around the clock and the brightness draws your eye into the image.  The derelict ground in the foreground now ripe for redevelopment shows the contrast.  In bygone days the entire site would have been a hive of activity.  This is how the image works for me – every image should tell a story.

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All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission

 

Event photography at City Hall

Recently I was asked to cover an event in Belfast City Hall, it was a evening function held for the east Belfast McMordie Memorial Orange Lodge on the occasion of their centenary anniversary. James McMordie, a former member, was Lord Mayor of Belfast around 1910.

In covering such an event you really want to pre visualise the shots that you want to make and a brief conversation with the organiser in advance can give you the information you need.  Requirements were quite straightforward, a group photograph on the stairs from the central lobby is a somewhat standard image, another photograph beside the portrait of their former member provides a more direct link or association with the lodge and the occasion being celebrated.  Later that evening the lodge was to hold a meeting in one of the main committee rooms so a photograph here was also appropriate.

In trying to find settings that are in keeping with a Belfast Orange Lodge the stairway and adjacent war memorial to the 14th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (Young Citizen Volunteers of Belfast) Pioneer Battalion memorial was another photo opportunity.  But perhaps the most interesting shot was unplanned, this involved getting the members to stand in a circle around the rotunda on the first floor of the City Hall.  The selected images are shown below.

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McMordie Memorial LOL 1214

McMordie Memorial LOL 1214

McMordie Memorial LOL 1214McMordie Memorial LOL 1214

Some other issues!  I was using on-camera flash which is the least flattering form of lighting, but you work within the constraints.  In a public building and with limited time I wasn’t going to carry around off camera lighting.

The second issue involves people management.  In some respects event photography, like wedding photography, is more about “people management”, giving clear directions and getting people to do what you want them to do without making them feel overly directed or worse still bored stiff with the whole process.  I think the series of images above capture the spirit of the event and that after all is the purpose of event photography.

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission

 

A perspective on General Lundy!

Welcome to the first blog of 2014!  Last year was a busy year for Ulster Photography with ninety-nine blogs published detailing my photographic musings.  I will not promise to repeat that number in 2014.  One way to pursue photography is by undertaking personal projects and this blog details one such project I undertook which detailed the making of the Lundy effigy in the Apprentice Boys’ Memorial Hall in Londonderry.  I made several visits to the Memorial Hall for this purpose.

There were a few objectives I wanted to cover.  Most photographs of Lundy portray its burning, after all that is why it is made in the first place, but I wanted to cover the construction process as I have never seen images of this aspect.  In total I made four visits and took hundreds of images.  The second objective was to demonstrate its size and scale, photographic perspective was used to do this.

Below are two photographs that I have selected that do precisely this:

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Using height, comparative sized of the the effigy to the man on the ladder and the ladder itself conveying height all transmit information that enable the viewer to judge the size of the effigy, even through all of it is not shown in the frame.

Preparations for the burning of Lundy at the closing of the gates ceremony in Londonderry

A close up of the finished head and torso also give evidence of the scale and it is immediately recognisable as being the Lundy effigy. 

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission

Snapping photographs or making images?

A friend of mine said a few days ago that he was just a snapper and liked taking snaps. This got me thinking about what photographic challenges I would like to set for 2014. Photography should be more than taking snaps because we want our images to say something meaningful, whether that be to express a feeling or to promote an issue we feel strongly about.

In this regard we don’t take photographs but rather we make images.  My last blog contained twelve images, one taken in each month during 2013.  I now question whether some of them were snaps or images which I made!  From those twelve images I have selected just one which I want to talk through.  By doing this we learn from our decisions. How did I make the image, what choices did I make and why?  Lastly what was I wanting the image to portray?  Here is the selected image:

Dundonald Banner Parade

The image was taken at a banner parade in Dundonald last August, I used a Fujifilm X Pro 1 camera fitted with a 35mm lens.  To make the image I moved in quite close and my objective was to use a narrow depth of field, in this case f4.  I wanted the background to be out of focus, yet to be sufficiently discernible to show the context of the image.  The near rim of the drum is in focus, while the far rim is out of focus.  I actually focused on the side of the man’s face.  The light of the drum shell is reflecting light on the man’s face making the image stronger.  These factors were all considered in just a few seconds before dialling in the camera settings and releasing the camera shutter.

Could I have taken it better?  Probably, the second drummer is too much in focus relatively speaking.  I don’t like the lamp post in the background and I could easily take it out in Lightroom or Photoshop, but I have left it in.  The image is a documentary image and it is un-cropped, it is exactly how I framed it even to the point of chopping off the top of the man’s head.  As a documentary image it works very well as a monochrome, better than in colour as colour can be distracting.  For comparison a monochrome version is below.  The composition is tight and stops the eye wandering out of the frame.

Dundonald Banner Parade

Lastly what was I trying to achieve?  The lambeg drum is a potent symbol of Ulster unionist culture, the man’s stern expression complements the message portrayed by the image and for these reasons I think it works.  I took many images of the banner parade that day and most of them did not work in the way this one does!

The challenge for 2014 is therefore to make more powerful images that convey something meaningful.

 

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission

 

Looking back on 2013

So far this month I have not done very much photographically speaking, mostly due to a flu bug and then a persistent cough, which I still have!  However the close of the year is usually when most photographers look back over the year to take stock and assess the images they have made during the year.  I have tried to pick just one image for each of the year and have found it to be a difficult task.  After some deliberations this is my selection:

A cost wet January night

January: a wet night at the Titanic Signature Building

 

February flag protestor at City Hall

February flag protestor at City Hall

 

March - uniforms not in sync!

March – uniforms not in sync!

 

April snow at Spelga Dam

April snow at Spelga Dam

 

May and looking like Spring has arrived

May and looking like Spring has arrived

 

Installing the Clinton Exhibition in advance of the G8 Sumitt

June exhibition for G8, its the shadow that does it!

 

July at Craigavon House

July at Craigavon House

 

August, Lambeg Drum at Dundonald

August, Lambeg Drum at Dundonald

 

September: autumn on the horizon

September: autumn on the horizon

 

October mist at Spelga Dam

October mist at Spelga Dam

 

November at Ballintoy, but not looking like November!

November at Ballintoy, but not looking like November!

 

December with Brunswick Accordion Band

December with Brunswick Accordion Band

 Now looking forward to see what 2014 will bring!

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission