As I mentioned a few days back, Sian and I have had a mental week. Between welcoming guests, being attacked by bees, hounded by nesting bats, and having two team members off for a few weeks, life has been pretty hectic.
Oh – and amidst all this, we flew out to Miami for 5 days on business with our awesome boss Gary.
We were in Fort Lauderdale for a couple of days, and then we popped down to South Beach to soak up some of that awesome ‘Sobe’ atmosphere. Sian had organised our digs in the awesome Catalina Hotel. It is one block up from Lincoln Avenue, which is without a doubt the heart and soul of South Beach. A million bars, and you just pick the one that looks the most comfy, sit down, order some beers, and let Miami walk past you. And it is made up of all sorts. If you like people watching, you have to visit South Beach.
On the first night, we wandered down the boardwalk towards the cafes and bars along the front. Gary had planted the idea of nachos in my head, and as we wandered we were bombarded with deals and offers, happy hours and bargains…we carried on down the front until we found ‘the bar’.
Eventually impatience got the better of us, and we just started asking the waitresses attacking us with flyers “Do you have nachos?” “Yes.” “Are you running a happy hour?” “Yes, buy one round, get the next on free”.
So there we sat, on the front of South Beach as the Ferraris and custom choppers drove by. There are all sorts of people here; there are also all sorts of vehicles.
Now, this is where the story gets messy. All the way down South Beach, we had seen these idiots with the most enormous cocktail glasses. Seriously. Put your hand out, spread your fingers as wide as they will go and you would still be able to put your hand in one of these glasses. Easily. We had quietly mocked these fools for their inability to order a correct sized drink along the South Coast…so imagine our utter dismay when our Mojitos arrived – the size of an arctic truck, and Gary’s beer arrived in the most enormous glass boot I have ever seen.
I would not normally dream of posting a photo on this blog from our little Nikon point and shoot, but I feel it’s important for you to see what we were up against here…
And the Mojitos were good. I mean, really good. So after we had a good chuckle at how ridiculous we had been, getting suckered into the obvious tourist trap, we felt even more stupid when we asked the price of the behemoth drinks we had been served.
Fifty five US Dollars. EACH. No wonder it was buy one get one round free – no one could possibly finish one of these drinks, and be capable of drinking another. The bar was running a pretty awesome scam here. But The Britishness in me kicked in, and I was damned if I wasn’t going to get my money’s worth.
I was in bed by 9pm.
And as I woke up again at 7am, I was amazed at just how fresh I felt. I left Sian in bed and had a wander around this amazing city. It was a ghost town. Miami is, without a doubt, alive at night. And as I wandered around the streets, baffled as to how I had avoided a hangover that I most definitely deserved, I felt like I was in some kind of post-apocalyptic film. No one. Anywhere. It was really quite special.
Grabbing some breakfast for Sian, I managed to pull her from her sleep, and we wandered around the streets together; but by now, that magic loneliness had been replaced with hungover tourists looking for their coffee, skaters, joggers, muscle men, dog walkers, big groups of blonde girls shopping together, big groups of flamboyant men shopping together, and I felt that Sian had been cheated from the site that I had enjoyed only a few hours ago.
But all the same, we had a blast. Thanks Miami, you were very gentle with me.
Thanks for reading guys xxx
One of the things that I have really, really enjoyed about starting my blog is that I now read a crap load of them myself. The blogging community is a social one, and if you post good(ish) content regularly, you get followers and friends.
But your fandom and almost freakish stalking of a particular blogger can sometimes go unnoticed…and that’s where the ‘blomage’ comes in.
As you have probably guessed, I have rather ingeniously combined ‘blogging’ with the word ‘homage’ and, well, I’m sure you will figure the rest out.
Anyway, the first in what I hope will be quite a long series of ‘blomages’, is to the wonderfully talented Leanne Cole. Leanne is a photographer in Australia, and she posts spectacular HDR images on an almost daily basis. I discovered Leanne because she kindly liked my page. I followed her ‘like’ and saw her work.
And I have been reading her blog ever since.
Now – for those of you who don’t know, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and there are some simply wonderful photographers out there who use it beautifully. Leanne is definitely one of them, but I must also tip my hat to the amazing Trey Ratcliff who writes the ‘stuck in customs’ blog.
There are also a billion idiots who just rape your eyes with their attempts with the technique. Please quickly go on Google right now, click on the images and search “Bad HDR”. It’s OK, I will wait…you really have to see what I am talking about to fully appreciate just how awesome Leanne is.
Done it yet?….
SEE WHAT I MEAN?!! Why would anyone think that is acceptable?!
But I digress. I love Leanne’s work, and I hope that you do to.
One of the things that I like so much about her page, is that she explains (as best she can) her process to get where she wants to, and, shock of all horrors, she shares her original images too.
This is so, so brave – and I love her for it.
In order to make an HDR photo, you must take a set of at least three photos, in exactly the same spot at varying exposures. So, at the most basic, you would take one slightly under-exposed, one bang on the money, and one that is overexposed. You then merge these bad boys together with an appropriate program, and play with the tonal mapping. This allows you to expose the entire scene absolutely perfectly. You can bring out details in the shadows that would just be black in your ‘bang on the money shot’, or bring down highlights that would otherwise be completely overexposed.
Bearing this in mind, you still need to compose correctly, and you need to know what you want your photo to look like in the end…otherwise you end up with something like this. And no one wants that.
But by sharing the original, Leanne faces the age old ‘oh, it’s just Photoshop – you’re just pressing buttons – that’s not photography’ bullshit. And that is really unfair. Post processing is part of photography now. Sorry if you don’t want to hear that, but it is. Photoshop is as important nowadays as the lens you buy, and if you don’t use it, you’re either a liar or an idiot or both.
What Leanne does, masterfully, is draw your eye to what she wants you to see. She blurs out areas she thinks distracts, she blends tones and adds contrast where she thinks it is needed, and I would hazard that she spends just as long (if not longer) processing the shots as she does shooting them. Unlike Snapseed and Instagram – which have their place and I do not knock them at all – Leanne has 100% control of her images. She decides what the software does, not a computer. Just like black and whites, Leanne understands which scenes suit the technique best – often abandoned buildings and old industrial sites, and she works her magic.
And with that, I leave you with my first blomage – an HDR exposure from Venice. I wanted to bring out the graffiti on the wall, screaming from behind the beautiful hand carved and ancient second hand furniture. This image is made up of nearly thirty layers (I counted them especially) with an array of blurs, blend modes, exposures, contrast, textures and noise…I hope you like it.
And if you’re reading Leanne, I hope I understood your last 50+ posts!!!
Thanks for reading guys 🙂
Do you hate crap HDR as much as I do? Please feel free to post any links to corkers you find in the comments below, and I will speak to you all again at the weekend 🙂
The other day I rang my dear friend Rachel. She is awesome and gorgeous and has a wonderful husband called Ross and they have a baby I am yet to meet and another one in the post. They, like us, eloped from the UK for a few years over to the States, but are now firmly back in the UK, living the dream and happy.
And Rach said something that really rang true with me. I missed it all. She wasn’t saying it in a bad way – but I missed the whole thing – I missed them moving home, I missed their visits back, I missed their birthdays and I missed the pregnancy…and now their first boy Niels is going to be nearly two years old when I finally meet him.
I have also missed so much of my other friend’s paths – becoming teachers, actors, writers, performers, managers, cowboys (seriously) and everything in between…and I have no idea of their journeys…And I, like them, kissed and waved them goodbye 6 years ago – on a path to become a self-proclaimed literary genius, and am set to return a fully fledged photographer…how the hell did that happen?
Well, if you would care to indulge me, I hope to share the last six years of our somewhat crazy lives in a few paragraphs. If you have come here for a few pretty pics, please, go ahead and check them out – I am under no illusions that the autobiography of a tubby balding Englishman may be deemed as tedious to say the least. But for those of you still with me, I thank you, and promise to keep it brief.
When I left university, a glistening eyed 22 year old whipper snapper, I had grandiose plans to become the next Anthony Nielson. A genuine bad boy of the theatre world, I loved his writing, and I adored his approach. He does everything. He writes and directs, and sometimes performs, very gritty, very witty, and all round awesome plays. This was my plan. And by God if, by the age of 22 I wasn’t on my way. I was crazy lucky enough to work with some wonderful people in the Scottish Theatre scene, and after assistant directing Petrol Jesus Number 5 In the time of The Messiah at the Traverse with Philip Howard – a wonderful man, and amazing in the rehearsal room – I was offered a paid assistantship with another upcoming production.
I was ecstatic.
But then we got a phone call that changed our lives.
A family crisis and we had to drop everything in Edinburgh. I tearfully spoke with Philip, who, as Philip does so well, listened and gave advice and told me that we were doing the right thing. We left Edinburgh within two weeks, and moved into a small house in Bexleyheath with our little nephew Ryan who was only a few months old, and Sarah, my wonderful sister in law. I kidded myself that I would be back in Edinburgh, working with Scotland’s New Writing House again in the future, and that all would be fine in the end. But in my heart of hearts, I knew that I would be closing the door on that particular adventure…
…And so a new adventure began.
I wrote and emailed and scribbled my new ‘masterpieces’ to whoever I could think of, whilst Sian (then my girlfriend) worked a horrible job in the city she abhorred.
All for me.
What a lucky, lucky man I have been.
Rejection after rejection after rejection; the only saving grace of this time was that, for three days a week, I got to be a full time uncle. Sarah and Sian would leave early for work, and from Monday to Wednesday I got to look after the two month old bundle of joy that was Ryan.
It was – and still is, the best thing I have ever done. He was awesome. We would go to parks, and go to library readings and play on the sofa, and make tea together, and whilst he napped, I would open the stream of rejection emails and letters; some of them hard, some of them soft, but all of them as gutting and upsetting as the next. Until one day, I got a commission, and all was well with the world again.
Ironically, the play I had been commissioned to write was to be premiered back up in Edinburgh – the very city we had left a year ago. Sian, stoically said she would work more hours to pay for my full-time writing shenanigans, and somehow we got by and I finished my play.
Two weeks before we opened, the company that had commissioned me went bust. I had not received a penny for the year’s worth of work I had put in, and now it looked like I would have no production, no money, and all of it had been for nothing. Worse still, the company had invested a crap load of other theatre companies for the Edinburgh Festival, but as they had gone bust, there were no venues for them to perform. Not only my play was in jeopardy but so were another 80 odd companies’.
Things were not good.
We went back to Edinburgh anyway, and by hook and by crook, we got our show on. The cast were great, as were a lot of the people who had been let down by my previous employers…it was not the nicest of times, but we got through.
On the 14th August I got a call from my friend Keara. She told me the saddest news I have ever heard. A very good friend of ours, Evren, was murdered back in London. We hadn’t seen dear Ev for a good few years, but he was one of the most gentle and kind human beings you would ever be lucky enough to meet. It was unjust, unfair, and Sian and I decided enough was enough, we would have a better year next year; we would run away.
And that’s where it all began. Fired by a want to escape – a need to find something good and happy, we left shitty, cold, unkind Blighty for a life of sun drenched dreams and frivolity.
Well kind of. We worked on the cruise ships.
And this is where it all started for us. I quickly forgot about my literary ‘masterpieces’ – my obsession for good reviews (Google them, I’m sure you will find quite a few unkind ones) and yearning to work stupid hours for no money, and I fell in love with the instrument of our new profession. I loved the cameras. I loved learning about aperture and shutter and ISO.
True, in the beginning, I learned very little very slowly and my first few years as a ‘photographer’ yielded embarrassing results to say the least. I was great at portraits and gangway and everything else, because my manager would set me up with the settings, and off I would go. Getting people to smile and look happy was easy for me, and then the camera did the rest.
But left to my own devices, I sucked balls. Big time. So much so, that I do not want to share any of my photos from the first year we were away with you..but I would like to share this.
This was the very first time I used my camera in manual, where I am proud to say I knew what I was doing. And I sold a crap load of them, and every time I did, I felt like I had got a 5 star review for one of my now forgotten about ‘masterpieces’.
And it got very addictive, very quickly. Every port we got to, I would take my camera out, and try and find the photo that would sell…and would be better than everyone else’s.
Because that’s all photography is really, showing off.
And I do love to show off.
You will probably notice that my earlier stuff is a lot more heavily processed than the work I produce now. That’s because in the early days I really had very little clue what the flash I was doing. But I have always been pretty handy with a computer, and when we first joined ships, I had a pretty solid grasp of Photoshop.
And as the years went on, I read and read, and shot and shot and shot.
Three years on the ships and I had worked myself up to Photo Manager. When we were offered our position in Barbados, we leaped at the chance.
And here we are now nearly six years later, and looking at returning to the UK next year. We have seen so much, learned so much, met some amazing people along the way, and spent a disgusting amount of money on cameras, lenses and everything else that this career demands.
And to think, if we hadn’t had that phone call all those years ago I may have been a struggling director living in soggy Scotland.
If we could do it all again?…We wouldn’t change a thing 😉
Thanks for reading guys, puppies to come next – promise!!