Capture by A photoblog


Still Life in Mobile Homes

by Jackson Perry

Still life photography.

With a long weekend, and feeling the need for inspiration, I embarked on a mission to try my hand at still life photography.

The photographing of inanimate objects has a long tradition, and while it  perhaps borrows a lot from still life art in general, with the arrangement of the objects being a key ingredient, in photography the lighting is of equal, sometimes greater, importance.

Not having the benefit of a studio resplendent with thousands of dollars in lights and flashes, I was forced to make do with ambient light, provided either by props in the photo (i.e. candles) or the torch light on my phone. We do try to maintain our low tech, low cost approach to the art of photography. :-)

Using long exposures, the torch allowed me to burn in light in the shadows. In some cases it required a lot of experimenting, and I started to realise taking even 8 photos over a long weekend of reasonable quality was a little ambitious. Which is why it took two long weekends.

Using the broader sense of 'Still life', I also found some pre-prepared props at a regular haunt of mine, Just Plane Interesting. Check them out some time.

One of the hardest things for me was deciding what to photograph. In this case I thought it would be fun to take the objects out of a favourite song, and turn it into a photo series.

Have a go. And please try not to burn the house down...

Capture away.


Sergeant Read's Gallipoli

by Jonathan Ganley

The selection of photographs below were taken by Sergeant James Cornelius Read of the Wellington Mounted Rifles during the 1915 Gallipoli campaign. Sergeant Read's photographs were perhaps taken on a Vest Pocket Kodak - The 'Soldiers' Camera' - but these details aren't recorded.

Looking at these photographs we can see the weary men, the hardship and heat, the graves (the Read collection contains photographs of three separate ones) and  gain some insight into the task of gaining a foothold on the high cliffs and dusty dry hills of Gallipoli. With his camera, Sergeant Read was like many thousands of soldiers on all sides during the First World War. They were at the forefront of a technological and social revolution, as photography finally became truly portable, more affordable, and most importantly, accessible.

Source: Papers Past / National Library of New Zealand

That accessability was soon curtailed for British soldiers. By mid-1915, as Sergeant Read and his comrades fought for their lives at Gallipoli, the British High Command had banned soldiers from using any cameras on the Western Front. With the promise of handsome prizes for the right shots (word of these competitions soon reached New Zealand), many uncensored images were making their way into the popular British press. The ban was also an attempt to stop images that were thought to be undermining the patriotic message of the times, such as photographs of British and German soldiers fraternising during the Christmas truce of 1914.

The recent BBC documentary below looks at these issues from both a British and German viewpoint, and a recent National Library blog post takes the New Zealand view.

 (The images below are from the J C Read photographic collection and are reproduced with thanks to the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library online  archive)


Sculpture Vulture

by Jackson Perry

This weekend is your last chance to see the Harbourview Sculpture Trail at Harbourview People’s Park, Te Atatu Peninsula. It's quite magnificent.

There's plenty of other public art on display at the moment, including The Big Egg Hunt NZ, widely reported for both good and bad reasons. How could you possibly want to damage things of such beauty? Some people.

Go capture your own statuesque goodness in the wild, and post it in the comments.

Capture away.


Getting closer

by Jos Van De Laar

"Take a trip and never leave the farm." 
- Jim Stafford

I like nothing better than to spend a pleasant afternoon in my garden stalking small critters and details of flowers. Much closer is much more interesting - you start to see what the naked eye can't. It takes some patience and perseverance and breath-holding.

You don't need to go far to explore a different world, you just need some close-up photo gear. The macro setting on your camera may not really be living up to its promise, but better gear doesn't have to be terribly expensive. Getting closer does not need a dedicated macro lens - there are other options with no loss of quality. If you are a Dslr user, simply adding a cheap set of extension tubes between the lens and the camera allows you to get nice and close.

Another way is to use a short prime lens (a prime is a non-zooming lens), and a reversing ring. This is a $20 metal ring that allows you to put the lens onto the camera backwards. Adding extension tubes to a reversed lens gets you seriously close. The downside is the difficulty in holding the shot in focus and still, as the depth of field comes down to millimeters. A tripod becomes essential in the end.

I have a 'Canon nifty fifty' lens, 50mm 1:8. It's just so sharp for so little money, and with its 1.8 fstop you can play with very shallow depth of field.

A cheap set of extension tubes gets the lens further from the camera body, and allows you to get closer still. Setting a smaller aperture manually on the lens gets things more and more in focus, but lessens the amount of light. The tripod is essential.

The end of the lens is sometimes only an inch or so from the subject. I used the flash in manual mode on the camera for these shots, and added a small reflector to bounce the light downward more. The flash gives you a nice amount of light that allows you to use a good fstop to get more in focus. Used with a tripod or monopod, you can get great results.

This is my simple setup, a plastic lens bounce gadget with 50mm lens and small extension tube:

Jos owns and operates a photographic and picture framing shop in Whakatane. For more information, see his website at Jos's Photography.


One picture of you, and no more

by Giovanni Tiso

Reblogged with kind permission from Bat, Bean, Beam.

It was taking me so long to draft an obituary of my beloved Alain Resnais for Overland that I re-watched some of his films, in search of inspiration. That’s how I was reminded of the scene in Last Year at Marienbad in which Delphine Seyrig’s character wanders down a corridor and finds inside a desk drawer hundreds of identical pictures of herself.

In the context of the film, the pictures signify Seyrig’s inability to find external evidence of her past that isn’t frustratingly ambiguous or elusive. As a stranger tries to persuade her that they used to be lovers, her only defence is that she can’t remember him, and it gets progressively weaker.

I had forgotten about this brief scene, and I’m struck anew by that image. A single picture, but in an indefinite, infinitely multiplying number of copies. It’s hard not to think of how digital images circulate on the web, or are stored and backed up in the cloud. Conversely, there is nothing so culturally alien to the present time as the idea that there may be only one picture of any one of us.

In my dissertation I drew a contrast between Winston Churchill, whose life was documented in minute detail form the moment of birth, including a great deal of photographs, and my maternal grandmother, of whom there was only one picture before the age of fifty. This one.

Nonna was sixteen at the time, and pregnant with her first child. The picture is so worn because my grandfather took it with him on his military service. I suspect that this was in fact the reason why the picture was taken.

That there is virtually no visual record of my grandmother until her daughter’s wedding, and a very sparse one since, is in no way unusual. It’s not just that cameras and films were still expensive until the 1960s. It's also that the lives of working class people – and women especially – were not deemed worthy of documentation. Nonna shared in this reticence, and was always reluctant to have her picture taken. In the one we selected for her tombstone she looks like she’s saying: ‘Why are you doing this?’

It hardly bears pointing out that we have collectively moved past such prejudice and misgivings, and that most people are as keen to self-document as the state and corporations are to document them, regardless of class – and when it comes to a visual record, even more so. (This at least in Western countries, and probably outside of them as well.) It’s also trite and boring to speculate whether we may be taking and sharing too many pictures, creating a surplus of description that impoverishes each individual image. Which, to the extent that it may be true, is most often meant as a critique of other people’s behaviour, and seldom reflexively, to question the roots of that desire to see oneself socially immortalised.

But I wanted to turn that question around this week, starting from the arresting image of a drawer full of the same photograph. What if you were forced – due to a material constraint that is pretty well unthinkable – to pare down your personal visual archive to a single picture? Which one would you choose? How would you operate that selection? What would that picture come to mean to you, and could you bear to let go of the others?

Let's say it has to be a photo of you, not to make it a question of who else is involved, or fulfil their own quota of one. And if it has to be a photo of me, it would probably have to be any one from the set which included the one below. So let's say this one.

It was taken on a Sunday afternoon, in 1975. I know it was a Sunday, because my father worked on Saturdays and we had guests that day. The photographer was a friend of the family who died just a few weeks ago. There are few photos of him, because he was always the one behind the camera. And he stopped doing it, eventually. He had grown tired of friends using his portraits for their tombstones.

I am attached to this picture because there aren't very many of me as a child, and because I can see bits of the house in which I was born, and how little it has changed (I spoke about this before). Except for the armchair, that I destroyed by jumping on it repeatedly. Were it the only picture of me, I think I could live with that. It would speak to me of another life.

To have a single portrait of oneself means to have one more than almost all of the people in almost all of history. But wouldn't that image become an obsession? What if you forgot everything about your life except the context of that one picture? Or remembered everything, except for that. You are sitting in the garden of a wealthy estate, on a sunny day, not far from a statue of which we can only see the plinth and legs. You seem to be happy. You just don't know why, or who the person in the picture is.