Monthly Archives: May 2015

Live Ceilidh Band

“Unpredictability. Accidents. Not good when you’re engaging in, say, brain surgery, but when lighting…wonderful!” – Joe McNally

At the end of the Paul Chamberlain-Michael Haywood promo shoot at the Voodoo Rooms, I was asked by Paul if I was available to take live pictures of the ceilidh band he and Michael are part of.

I gladly accepted the opportunity and found myself a few days later at the Edinburgh ceilidh club event in Summerhall.

I first tried taking pictures without the help of a flash, but the fraction of usable pics was low enough that I decided it was best to use some lighting help.

When using flash, I typically like to underexpose the ambient light, to saturate the background colours and give the pictures more contrast. Since I like to take lots of pictures during a live event, to increase the chances of getting some good ones, I was shooting fast. So fast in fact, that on quite a few occasions, the flash didn’t have time to recycle and hence didn’t fire.

Michael Haywood playing the violin at ceilidh event in Summerhall, Edinburgh, with the band Hotscotch

One of the lights at Summerhall produced a rim light on the musicians when shooting from that particular angle. This is the feature that caught my attention when reviewing the photographs on the LCD screen of my camera.

When I decided to review the pics I had taken thus far on the LCD screen, a few really caught my attention! The light was really interesting, and I loved the mood created by the underexposure. It quickly occurred to me that those were the pics when the flash didn’t fire. I quickly switched off the flash and explored this set up for a few minutes. These pictures happened to be some of my favourites from the live ceilidh event. Joe McNally is absolutely right. When it comes to lighting, embrace the unpredictability and accidents. They may lead to some interesting photographs.

Paul Chamberlain playing the accordion at ceilidh event in Summerhall, Edinburgh, with Hotscotch band

With the accordionist Paul Chamberlain, not only did I get a nice rim light, but some wonderful reflections on his instrument.

Chamberlain-Haywood Promo Shoot

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by accordionist Paul Chamberlain regarding doing a promo shoot for a new duo he formed with saxophonist/violinist Michael Haywood.

To my delight, they chose the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh as the location for the shoot. It is a wonderful place to take photographs. In fact, my first model shoot, about four years ago took place there.

The main reason I like to work with musicians is that they are generally looking for creative pictures and are willing to experiment. The photograph below was the last set up of the shoot and is my favourite from the day.

Michael Haywood with a saxophone soprano and Paul Chamberlain with an accordion, photographed back to back using dramatic lighting.

The wonderful thing about lighting is that it allows the photographer to completely control the light and come up with images that would be very difficult if not impossible to create using only natural light.

The reason the experimental set up was the last one is that I always want to make sure I have some pictures the client can use. I also need to warm up at the beginning of the shoot, so I always start with tried and tested set ups and get some nice pictures in the bag. Once I know the assignment is completed, I can feel free to experiment if there is some time left and the client is up for it.

When I saw the black, shiny table, I knew there was a picture there, because I could get some nice reflections. They always add a wonderful element of interest to your images. The colour scheme also worked very nicely. Mostly black, with a touch of colour from the violin, the musicians’ faces, the other instruments and the background. Surprisingly, perhaps, even though the photograph is mostly monochrome, it works much better in colour than in black and white.

Paul Chamberlain and Michael Haywood with their instruments sitting at a table in the Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

I knew the reflections I would get from the shiny black table would add a key element to the environmental portrait of the two musicians.

For the first set up, I took individual portraits of Paul and Michael. With artists, these portrait sessions can go in unexpected and wonderful ways. This time was no exception and I really like this picture of Michael Haywood.

Portrait of Michael Haywood with a saxophone soprano,  looking up, taken at the Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

Michael Haywood is a dreamer.


Impressionist Photography: Winter Forest Pans

This is the winter instalment of my forest impressionist photography project using the panning technique.

Impressionist photography using the panning technique in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh in the winter

I discovered this location in the fall and was curious to see what it would look like during the winter.

While I’ve been using this approach for some time now, I’m still surprised by the results I get. This luckily means there must be many, many other photography subjects out there for which one can get interesting panning shots.

Impressionist photography using the panning technique in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh in the winter

It was one of the few locations deep inside the forest where I managed to get the panning technique to work.

From experience, I’ve found that it isn’t a good idea to dismiss something out of hand without giving it a try, because some of the most interesting discoveries I’ve made with impressionist photography techniques were ‘happy accidents’. So experimentation is essential. On the flip side, that also means one must discard of lot of attempts, but that isn’t too much of a problem with today’s digital technology.

Impressionist photography using the panning technique in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh in the winter

I found it earlier to use the panning technique in soft light, and the clear advantage of the winter season in Scotland is that there are many, many cloudy days with even soft light.

In the film days, such a project must have cost a fortune. Not only is the cost of taking a picture minimal with digital, the immediate feedback from the display at the back of the camera allows one to adjust from shot to shot, thus enhancing the chance of getting a usable photo. And in spite of this, it does take quite a few takes to get it right.

Impressionist photography using the panning technique in the forest of Blackford Hill, Edinburgh in the winter

I find vertical shots more challenging when panning the camera. 

And while I’ve slowly grown to like the muted colours of the winter season, the spring colours now on display make me itch to pursue this personal photo impressionism project.