The photographer’s eye

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The photograph above was taken at Clough Co Down, one of the centres where the Orange Order were parading throughout Northern Ireland on the 12th July.  On the day I surprisingly took very few exposures but this image is one that stuck in my mind.  It’s not a particularly well composed image and it was taken early in the day before the parade started.  So why did I take?

There were several reasons, firstly I noticed the cowboy boots, the lyrics to ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’ by Nancy Sinatra came to mind!  Another reason for seeing this picture was the fact that nearly everyone else in the scene is standing and the main subject is sitting, so there is a certain juxtaposition.  The fact that the heads of the people standing are cut off help the viewer to concentrate on the main figure.  I lowered my position when making the image so that I was almost at the same level, obviously the person saw me take the image which has not spoiled the photograph.

This image conveys a relaxed atmosphere in anticipation for the parade yet to commence. Probably the dominant feeling was …will it stay dry?  In actual fact it did stay dry until around 5pm!  There is nothing threatening or decisive conveyed by the image, unlike many images of Orange Order parades that you will find in the media.

Photographs are a powerful means for conveying messages and you are really depending on the honesty of the photographer.  In this case Clough was really about a family day out and meeting up with friends.

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 Somme Remembered

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Yesterday (1 July 2014) was the 98th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and the usual civic remembrance was held within the grounds of Belfast City Hall.  In documenting the event I took 85 exposures and from these I have selected just 13.  In making the selection I took the deliberate decision to exclude politicians and other civic dignitaries because I wanted the Armed Forces on parade to be focus, after all it was their forefathers who paid the supreme price!

Her Majesty’s Forces on parade were drawn from the Royal Irish Regiment and the Irish Guards.  The series of images commences with army personnel assembling, the series continues with the parade to the cenotaph and it concludes with an establishing shot taken through a window from a second floor cafe adjacent to the City Hall.  

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  

Click on the link below.

http://ulsterphotography.co.uk/?page_id=5207

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

 

An historic location to remember the Ulster Covenant

Hosting a photographic exhibition in a vacant and dilapidated Victorian building with no electricity or facilities could be regarded as an unusual place to host a photographic exhibition covering the celebrations held throughout 2012 to mark the centenary of the Ulster Covenant.  

However Craigavon House; the home of Northern Ireland’s first prime minister, Sir James Craig, later Lord Craigavon, and the site where the Ulster Covenant was planned, made this location ideal for such an exhibition.  If only these walls could speak!  The exhibition included the work of three photographers, myself included, amounting to over seventy images.  The following is a pictorial record of the exhibition:

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bradley-2646During the viewing we had a visit from Ruby Brown who served as a nurse in the house providing a link to the past use of the building.  When the Craig family moved out the building became the UVF Hospital at the end of the First World War.

bradley-2684 The granddaughter of Lord Craigavon with Ruby Brown.

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The other contributing photographers were Rennie Gribbin of Rennie Gribbin Photography and Thomas Sewell.  Finally thanks are due to the Unionist Centenary Committee for making this exhibition possible.

 

Not close enough!

It was the war photographer Robert Capa who famously said, ‘…if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough’!  One of the constraints of the Fujifilm X Pro 1 fitted with a 35mm lens forces you to get in close and of course this is what you should do. The following image taken a few days ago illustrates the point.

ISO 200, 35mm @ f4, 1/500th second

ISO 200, 35mm @ f4, 1/500th second

Experimenting with shallow depth of field (DoF) can be a useful way to improve the image. In this photograph I used a single focus point and with the lens at f4 a shallow DoF is assured, the area that is focus sharp is only a few inches wide! In this case the closest brass clasp is sharp as is the profile of the man’s face, both edges of the drum shell are slightly soft and of course the background is out of focus forcing your eye to the parts of the image that is in focus.

So getting in close and making use of a shallow DoF work well together to produce a stronger image; the image has not been cropped, so the full size of the frame was used. Now time to go out and practice these techniques!

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.

 

Grabbing that colour!

This afternoon I covered a banner parade organised by the local Orange Lodge in Dundonald, formerly a village on the outskirts of east Belfast, but these days now regarded as an extension of east Belfast.  I went armed with just one fixed focal length lens, a 35mm. My set objective was to take as wide a variety of images with this one lens.  I only took one posed image and in total I took 199 exposures and have edited these down to just twelve images.  From this I have selected just one!

ISO 200, f5.6, 1/500th second, 35mm lens

ISO 200, f5.6, 1/500th second, 35mm lens

This image is different from all the others on several counts.  I sought permission to enter the ranks and took the image in between the ranks of marchers, their backs where towards me and I took the image low down kneeling on the road.  I used the white line road marking to lead into the centre of the image and looking up at the banners flying in the wind which provided that splash of colour.  Most people take photographs from the front, I was shooting from the back.  All these factors make the image different from the others.

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 country Orange parade

This is the first Orange parade that I have photographed this year.  The annual Mini Twelfth in the small town of Saintfield in Count Down provides a very different setting compared to that found in Belfast.  Signs of protest, aggravation and alcohol abuse are totally absent and a family atmosphere prevails.  Instead of using my usual DSLR gear I used the simple Fujifilm X Pro 1 which is light and easy to carry, its also not as obvious enabling me to move freely around and be relatively unnoticed.

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In moving around I am looking for scenes that are typical of such events, people standing chatting waiting for the parade to get under way, children holding the banner strings and Lambeg Drums which are a particular feature of country parades, notice the man standing studying the drum beat and rhythm.

None of the images are cropped, they are as they came out of the camera and hopefully they are a faithful documentary record of the events at the assembly field.

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.

 

Reenactment and Orange Arch opening in Dromore Co Down

In the small Co Down town of Dromore I covered the anniversary reenactment of Sir Edward Carson’s visit to the town one hundred years ago.  Photographing such events are always fun but the main task is to simplify the scenes as you see them through the viewfinder, either by careful cropping or selected use of focus and when there are Scottish dancers performing you really do need to take lots of exposures to be sure to capture the right moments.  The following are a few examples of what I mean:

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It is always useful to show a couple of context shots showing a wider view of proceedings, so here they are:

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All images shown are full frame and have not been cropped in post production.  There is a huge debate among documentary photographers as to whether or not images should be cropped.  For myself I don’t see a problem provided cropping does not mislead the viewer as to what happened.

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.

 

Flag Waving – Dutch Style!

We are well used to flag waving in Northern Ireland and so when I visited Amsterdam I was intrigued to see how they staged public parades.  In this case a trade guilds parade which interrupted the flow of traffic in downtown Amsterdam.

Taken in September it was unfortunately a dull grey damp day.  I remember being rather disappointed with my photographic results, the images lacked the clarity I was after, however I kept taking images with my best walk around lens, a 24-70mm f2.8.   The image below was one taken from this series.

24mm, f13, 1/60, 400iso

24mm, f13, 1/60, 400iso

The relatively slow shutter speed provides the sense of movement in the flag waving.  I had considered making a monochrome version of this but instead opted for colour.  In Lightroom the red, orange and blue filters were tweaked to bring the colour out more strongly and this was about the only manipulation required.

What appeals to me about the image are the diagonal forces produced by the zebra crossing, the marchers, the tram and the overhead cables which are all parallel to one another.  This produces a forceful diagonal line through the photograph.  In general diagonal lines make for stronger images.  By contrast the sole pedestrian standing at the zebra crossing provides an important element to the image and the image would not be as interesting without her.

Despite the technical faults I think this image works to make a powerful piece of street 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Documentary Photography

I was not sure whether or not I should include a post like this one as it does not really promote a positive image of where I live.  But after some consideration I decided to post it as it reflects part of reality of life in Northern Ireland.

As I was aware that there would be a protest outside Belfast City Hall concerning the council decision not to fly the Union Flag from the building, except on certain specified days, where it had previously flown every day for the previous 100 years.

Armed with a medium telephoto lens and the camera set to manual mode I took up position behind the police lines.  I took about 140 images and to be fair all were not like the one below.

Belfast City Hall Flag Protest 5 January 2013There was quite a cross section of people there, around 1000, from the very young to older people, including this attractively turned out little girl with her mother!

Belfast City Hall Flag Protest 5 January 2013

As a documentary photography exercise I learned quite a bit from the shoot from keeping yourself safe to looking for widely diverging images.  The above two images were taken just yards apart but they reflect very different accounts of the one story!

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.