An environmental portrait telling a story

Having now used both Fujifilm X type cameras and more recently a rangefinder camera for quite a while now I had forgotten just how heavy DSLR cameras are.  I recently covered an awards ceremony when I used my old D700 with its 24 – 70mm lens and it weighed a ton. Having a slight thumb injury the camera felt quite unwieldy so much so that my heavier D3 never left the camera bag.

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The next day I was in an office with my lighter rangefinder camera when I took this photograph.  It was so much more enjoyable to use.  I was intrigued by the office, there are so many clues here which tell a story.  The photograph was unposed and I took the opportunity to photograph while a phone call was being answered.  Building layout plans were pinned on the noticeboard, which indicates the nature of the work conducted here. Post-it notices on the wall and the untidy desk indicate the level of activity and perhaps the limited view through the window provides yet another clue.

I like the image because it is unposed and entirely unplanned, it was taken on the spare of the moment using just the ambient light in the room, but it does capture a moment in time, it describes an activity and indeed it now provides a social history in what has been a hectic period for this office worker.

This photograph shows Jonathan Mattison who is the curator of the new interpretative centres promoting the Orange Institution which will be formally known as the Museums of Orange Heritage.  The museums, currently undergoing construction at Schomberg House, Belfast, and at Sloan’s House, Co Armagh, are part of the REACH Project (Reaching out through Education and Cultural Heritage), which received £3.6 million from the EU’s PEACE III programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

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 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 

Red Barn Gallery

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Frankie Quinn pictured above runs and manages the Red Barn Gallery in Rosemary Street, Belfast and currently he is displaying his own photographic collection entitled “The Orange’.

On display are around forty images, all monochrome and 18 inches square, depicting various aspects of the Loyal Order as he recorded them in Belfast, Londonderry, Scarva and Rossnowlagh between 2011 to 2013.

Frankie is from the nationalist community which makes the treatment of his project all the more interesting.  A visit is definitely worth it and I understand the display will be available until the end of July.

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

 

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.

 

First Publication

This is my 100th blog and it is appropriate that I use it to tell you about my first publication in collaboration with Rennie Gribbin Photography.  We have produced a large format coffee table photo book entitled ‘The Centenary of the Ulster Covenant in one hundred images’ to mark this significant centenary in the history of Northern Ireland.

One of the reasons we decided to produce this publication was to preserve a body of work that we assembled over the course of one year.  We don’t propose to sell it as the unit price would be too expensive, but we did want to see what the work looked like on the printed page, so it will serve as a personal monograph.

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For those who would like to see the full body of work we have produced an eBook which can be downloaded from Blurb: http://store.blurb.co.uk/ebooks/367522-the-centenary-of-the-ulster-covenant-in-one-hundred-images-roger-bradley-rennie-gribbin at a more economical price.  Even if you don’t purchase you can preview the first 30 pages of the 108 page publication.

The Burning of Lundy

Today I attended the Burning of Lundy in Londonderry, I had never been to see this annual event before so I was keen to see what photographic opportunities would present themselves.  Late afternoon sunshine brought out the colours beautifully when I photographed Lambeg Drummers, in the background Lundy awaits his fate.

I had to wait until almost 5pm before Lundy was lit, by this time the light is fading fast and a flash unit is useful to balance against the ambient light.  The following are some of the images I was happy with.

This is my initial sift of images with many more left to edit.  I am now looking forward to next year!  Other images available from http://ulsterphotography.co.uk/LundyDay/

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.

Orange Lodge Link to Guide Dogs for the Blind

I was asked to take some photographs last night when Saintfield District Orange Lodge presented a donation to Guide Dogs for the Blind.  The incentive to raise money grew out of a tragic accident at the 2009 Twelfth demonstration in Killyleagh when a vehicle in the parade lost control and hit Debbie Jordan, a member of Cahard Flute Band, she died shortly afterwards of her injuries.

Since then the District Orange Lodge undertook a street collect at the 1012 Mini Twelfth in Saintfield and Cahard Flute Band as well as other groups, from both sides of the community, combined to raise over £5,000 to train a guide dog in memory of Debbie Jordan.

Presentation to Guide Dogs to the Blind in Saintfield Orange Hall

It is pleasing to see a side of the Orange Order that is not often seen in the media.  One thing is sure, the memory of Debbie Jordan will not be forgotten.

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.

Print it big!

The various events organised to celebrate the Ulster Covenant have kept me busy.  I seem to have taken thousands of photographs and spent endless hours editing in front of a computer screen, so one image began to look much like another.

This led me to print out some of the images on an A3 printer and it is clear that viewing the printed images gives the viewer the much better experience than viewing the same image on screen.  One of the downsides of digital photography is that people seldom print their images and in years to come we will be left with a dearth of archival images.

With the photographic documenting I have been doing my hope is that I will have a body of printed images that will be a permanent record.  Nothing beats a mounted print hanging on a wall!

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.