Friday, 22 February 2008

STEVEN TERMINI : Featured Artist Series

This is my first FEATURED ARTIST post in this blog, to share with my readers, of friends and acquaintances whose natural artistic talents have astounded and impressed me. Photography and the performing arts, be it poetry, drama, dance, or music can influence each other, and quite often, these disciplines intertwine indirectly and have been doing so over the centuries.

I have known Steven Termini for close to 10 years now.

Truly, this man's a genius.

A master of the piano, a composer, a classicist musician, jazz artist and an improviser.

Steve, as I call him hails from Texas, USA and studied
with Tatiane Sarkissova at the Royal Academy of Music, in London. He is an unassuming person, eccentric at times and terribly focussed in his convictions but tremendously good fun to be with, and you can't help but laugh at his Southern drool, but he admits he loves London, and England. Not surprising, since he was practically living the life of a perpetual student over here!

It was Steve who introduced me to the works of jazz maestro, improviser-supremo Keith Jarrett, who became a personal influence to his own music, and the subject of his research in his Masters degree.

I have always loved jazz music, the mainstream kind which one buys in compilation CDs like Jazz Greats, Greatest Jazz songs etc but with Keith Jarrett, you have to grow to appreciate his genius on the piano.

Like, the joy of skiing, once it hits you, you'll be blown away! I promise.

Steve just launched his website, and there are some audio works and videos you can sample and download. I photographed a few of his publicity images several years ago which have been included. I was then still pre-digital, so I think I used a Konica Hexar with Fuji Neopan 400, my favourite black and white film. All of the photos were taken at the Academy in available natural light, and that included a practice session with Korean Sun Roh, another brilliant violinist, whom Steve had performed with on several occasions internationally.

The sight of Sun and Steve performing on stage is mesmerising. One does not require much knowledge in classical music to appreciate the passion and raw talent that emanates from the hearts, minds and hands of these two musicians.

I urge you to watch this video in its entirety (10:49s), to understand but only a little, of what drives Steve to pursue his dream and what motivates his song-writing. He has certainly influenced me in my own work, and that is to be passionate but spontaneous about it and persevere, even through the darkest and loneliest of times.

© IceWater Productions

I hope Steven Termini will also inspire you in your own quest. Photography and music, both are disciplines which require foresight and practice, and both requiring the mastery of tools. We often hear that 'practice makes perfect'. The quest for perfection at least for me, is unattainable, but to a pianist like Steve it is imperative. His improvisational scores requires it, and anything less would be classed as failure.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Do you have a Swiss Bank Account?

Images © Swiss Picture

How many times have you lost your cherished photos from your computer because your hard drive crashed or you accidentally deleted them with a single click? Or you have forgotten to back them up to CDs or an external drive? Perhaps your computer has succumbed to a virus attack.

With the age of digital photography clearly upon us now in every way, from cheap digicams to phone cameras, we shoot everything more freely now than ever before. The consequence? With ever increasing megapixel counts to cheaper memory cards, we now have gigabytes of photos and these fill up our laptops and PCs quickly. How many of us actually backup our photos to DVDs regularly? DVDs are great but can you be bothered to search through the hundreds or thousands of images you have taken to find the one shot of Aunt May dressed as a clown at your niece's birthday party?

Enter one very neat solution, that is, the web based Swiss Picture Bank. Now, online storage isn't really new, after all, Apple has its (subscription required) remote iDisk for many years now and many other web-based photo sites like flickr and picasa. The main difference with the Swiss setup is that for 3 cents per image, they guarantee to preserve your pictures for at least 30 years or they pay you 30X for each picture they loose!

It doesn't sound very much, but if you have several thousands preserved photos with them that could add up.

This is their blurb :

"With a Swiss Picture Bank account you can make sure these memories last forever. There's no more wondering where they are on your hard drive, no more struggling to transfer them to a new computer, no more discovering they are trapped on an old disk that you can no longer read. Best of all, your photos are protected against hard drive crashes, accidental deletion, lost CDs/ laptops, viruses, fire and water damage.

Swiss Picture Bank is the online savings account for your pictures.

When you upload photos to Swiss Picture Bank, you're doing much more than storing them on the web. We make multiple copies of every picture, encrypt them and secure them on redundant servers housed in data centers located throughout Switzerland. And we don't use just any data centers, we use facilities operated by Swisscom IT Services, the leading provider of outsourced IT services to Swiss banks.

Once your photos are uploaded to Swiss Picture Bank, they are accessible from any computer at any time. If you ever want to retrieve a picture, all you have to do is login to your password-protected account and download it. And of course you can also print, share, organize or view your photos online using the intuitive account interface. It's that simple - and that safe."

The site also has a downloadable photo management program to allow easy up and downloading of your photos to its site. This all sounds like a brilliant idea if storage is a problem for you.

Do let me know how it goes if any of you decide to give it a try. For now, I backup my files to an external drive and DVDs.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Backstage with Bernard Chandran

St. Valentine's Day saw me backstage with Bernard Chandran preparing for his On/Off Show at London Fashion Week. This time, the venue was the Royal Academy of Arts on Burlington Street, in Mayfair. I arrived just after 10 am for the scheduled start at 11:30, whilst I understand that the stylists and models were there from 7:30 am! Ain't no sleeping-in for models despite what is written about a model's life!

I quickly got wrist-tagged at the check-in by the polite On/Off Staff and showed to the backstage where I met Bernard. (Incidentally, Bernard appears in MALAYSIANS as one of the most multi-racial of my portrait subjects)

The models already had their hair and make-up sessions, so I just photographed them relaxing and waiting for the rehearsal and show to start.

At around 11:15, the guests began to arrive (from another show in the building, that was running late, as usual) and the photographers enclosure begin to fill up also. Bernard gave the models a last minute pep-talk before lining up to exit onto the runway.

In the press enclosures, videographers and photographers from the various agencies and publications 'reserve' their standing room by marking X on the ground with tape. This is usual occurrence at events like these, they certainly do not believe in 'first come first served' basis! The in-house press always gets to choose first and gets the best spots on the stand, whilst latecomers will huddle around at the bottom or sides to get a shot. Its all very intimidating to say the least, and its also the 'guy with the biggest lens wins' scenario. Mind you, there are women photographers too, and I spotted about 5 yesterday.

Once all the guests are seated and the thumbs-up goes backstage, then the music starts and the show begins...and finishes in about 10 minutes..and then the whole she-bang starts all over in 6 months time.. well for me at least. Some of the models have to do it all over again in 2 hours time at another show!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Model behaviour at Fashion Week

I had another opportunity today to photograph backstage at Ashley Isham's show at London Fashion Week, (yes, its a twice yearly affair) and the venue was the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden again. Last evening, the BAFTAs were held at the Opera House main theatre but his show was to take place in one of the smaller rehearsal halls below deck.

For this event, I used my Canon 1D Mk2 with a 24-105 lens with Image Stabiliser. I tend not to use flash where possible, preferring available light. This reminds me of a quote one famous photographer said. He shoots in available light, yeah, whatever light that is available to him. The backstage was bathed with strong natural light from huge windows so that was great, and it had great ceiling height so the whole area was perfect for grabbing casual shots of the models being prepared from head to toe without flashlight.

In cramp situations like this, where there are literally 3 - 4 people 'working' on each model (there are about 18 models, plus dressers, assistants, PR consultants and ushers) you tend to get in people's way and it could upset stylists or make-up artists who are delicately 'priming' their sitters, so it pays to be discreet, smile and nod a lot (not unlike in a wedding shoot) to gain their respect and assistance so that you can float around, in and out of their hair. They have a job to do and so do you, so a little understanding is important.

You also have to be nimble at your feet, darting in and out of tight spaces to get THE shot, looking at new angles and most of all, avoid copying 'other' fellow photographers on site!

One of my favourite images from today is the one below of the empty dressing table. The models were called to do a rehearsal about 30 minutes before the show started, so the backstage area was devoid of people and I noticed these dressing tables looking rather sad but with evidence of recent activity. I think I might enlarge this photograph.

London welcomes The Year of the Rat!

Last Sunday, Central London played host to a huge Chinese New Year celebration in the West End. From Trafalgar Square to Soho and the area around Chinatown, hundreds of thousands of visitors were treated to a variety of cultural events, parades, lion dances, food stalls, martial arts and music.

Several 'Choi Sun Yehs' or Prosperity Gods strolled around the crowded streets handing out red packets of ang pows with 20p in them, yeah, I got one too!

In Leicester Square, firecrackers and fireworks were set off every hour from 2pm to 6 pm, and boy, were they awesome. There were about 50 of those huge firecrackers about 3 meters long strung up around the square and lit simultaneously!

Gerrard Street was strung up with hundreds of red lanterns and restaurants were all open and full to the bursting, with queues lining up outside, it was an incredible sight.

Over at Trafalgar Square, thousands were watching giant TV screens showing live cultural performances on a stage. It was one of the biggest Chinese New Year celebration for London this year, and hope this Year of the Rat brings you great luck and joy!

It was quite a surreal sight to see so many red lanterns decorating the perimeter of this historic venue, with Nelson's Column as the centre piece of it all. The presenter on stage got everyone in the crowd to shout out Kong Hee Fatt Choy ! (still Canto here in UK) three times at the top of their voices, it was incredible!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Taking the high road

Its been 2 years since we last went skiing, and I love the mountains more than the sea, especially the French Alps on a clear, nothing beats it in my opinion. Realising how small we are in amongst the panorama which stretches to infinity is truly a wonderful experience. Of course, I carry my camera with me, this time I brought along a Canon IXUS compact which is a bit faulty, and the Ricoh GRD2 (minus the GV2 viewfinder, just in case I'd loose it in the snow!)

Of course, as luck would have it, my MacBook died on the way down! I had the ''sudden-hard-drive-death'' syndrome which I found out later is a widely reported known failure of certain MacBooks and MacBook Pros. This meant that I only had about available to me 1.5Gb of pictures to store in both my compacts with no where else to dump the files, I had only to be selective and careful of what I shoot. Actually, this became an exercise, like shooting say 4 rolls of film only, back in the old days. Mind you, one can always buy film or memory cards at the supermarkets or tabac stores.

The skiing was wonderful and the food was great, but since this is a photo blog, I won't necessary go into those matters, suffice to say I found my ski-legs once again, and got hooked a second time round. Being middle-age is fun.

Then the worse happened. On my 4th day, the 256MB Sandisk II SD memory card in my IXUS got corrupted! I could no longer take snaps anymore, and since I only took RAW in the Ricoh which ate up megabytes like crazy, I was stuck between a rock and a snowy cliff. To cut a long story short, I had to compromise and shot smaller files with the Ricoh. It wasn't such a big deal as holiday snaps don't need 10MP, where 3MP would do just fine.

On the mountains, I noticed there were many lovely derelict stone huts dotted about. These were probably old farm stores that used to house grain or animal feed. I love the texture of their weathered wood and stone constructs, and experimented with the GRD2's high definition lens and in black and white. Here is one from a series I am still editing.

I am also working on another series of images of trees which I will post soon, again working with the GRD2 and the 1:1 format in black and white, below of which is a teaser.