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. 

 

Saintfield’s Market House

Saintfield Market House was built in 1802 by N Price. It is a two-storey three-bay structure. The pediment above the central bay contains a clock. There is a simple square louvred cupola. The building beside the market house was an hotel which was built at the same time.  Now serving as an Orange Hall it was first used as a Courthouse in 1804. The clock in the roof of the building was made by the Saintfield clock maker, Samuel Spratt. The iron gates in the three archways date from 1828.  The two photographs show the Parish Church on one side and the hotel on the other side.

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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

 

 

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 

Lanark Way Bonfire

I have found that I am increasingly drawn to more of a documentary or a street style of photography.  Unlike landscape photography where you arrange the elements of the image in a pleasing harmony to create the perfect image, street photography is quite different.

In street photography the compositions are imperfect as people move about and the scenes change extremely quickly.  You get what you can and make the best of what you observe.  What you are really trying to do is to make images that tell a story in that fleeting fraction of a second!

Yesterday I visited Lanark Way to see the bonfire that has been built for the coming Twelfth celebrations.  In photographing this scene I adopted a specific approach.  A distant shot to provide the viewer with the general context, known as the ‘establishment shot’, a medium distance shot showing some of the people involved and finally a close up shot.  Each image has its own role to play and viewed together they should tell a story.

In preparing the images I processed them as monochrome, removing the colour simplifies the image and encourages the viewer to observe the whole image by not be drawn to particular colours.  This is the result.

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This morning a story has appeared in the Belfast Telegraph newspaper about this bonfire for all the wrong reasons!

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   

 

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.

McMordie Memorial LOL 1214

McMordie Memorial LOL 1214

McMordie Memorial LOL 1214

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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

 

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.