Self-Portraits in the Studio.
In an unusual fit of householdy ambition, I cleared out half of my cluttered home office to create a tiny, tiny studio space. Using only the lighting gear I already have, a very modest set of two flashes and stands, plus a few light modifiers, I’ve been experimenting with self-portraits.
I’m not a huge fan of studio photography. I’d much rather be in someone’s home or outdoors and capture the interaction between a person and their environment. However, we should always keep pushing ourselves, learning more about the skills we love.
Studio, after all, means a room for studying, and that’s what it is to me.
In my first, fumbling, feeble forays I’ve taken from, among other sources, the notorious portrait photographer Platon. His photos have great depth and contrast, despite relatively simple (but thoroughly considered) lighting set-ups.
He’s also fond of using moderate to extreme wide-angle lenses, which give a sense of depth and proximity – unsurprising, given how close the camera needs to be. Generally, wider angles are less flattering on a person, since they enlarge the nose and shrink the ears and make the face seem to bulge.
I wouldn’t attack a portrait subject with even a modestly wide-angle lens like my beloved Sigma 35mm f/1.4, but since I was my own model (a frustrating experience, let me tell you) I could do whatever the hell I liked.
And I did like it. Not at first, my first few shoots were flat and abysmal, but I’m getting better at balancing light, depth and texture.
These photos are not my most flattering, or significant, or even interesting. They’re not supposed to be. They’re supposed to be honest and real, even when they emphasise my oily skin and my weird, uncooperative left eye.
Hello, you. This is me.
Queen’s Day ‘13, a set on Flickr.Via Flickr:
I have hazy memories from my earliest childhood of the festivity and excitement of Koninginnedag, Queen’s Day, which is not the Queen’s birthday, but never mind that now.
I’ve stopped going to Amsterdam for the celebration, way too busy. If you need to pee, you’ll soon be in dire straits — and this is in Amsterdam! I’ve enjoyed previous Queen’s Days in Almere. Multicultural and playful, just as it ought to be.
The core of the celebration is a national free-market license for all Dutch citizens. Kids and parents spread their blankets on the pavements of the high streets and sell old junk for next to nothing. Clothes, electronics, arts and crafts, sometimes surprisingly useful, but mostly just colorful junk.
This year was a bit of a muted affair, I found. It’s disappointingly cold for this time of year, with fickly fluctuating temperatures that surely led to hundreds of kids, parents and independent entrepreneurs sitting on their blankets for hours with inadequate summer attire. Whatever, though. We’re Dutch, we don’t know any different!
There should have been more music, though. In previous years you couldn’t turn a corner without running into a marching band or tripping over blond, blue-eyed boys jamming on djembe drums, but there was fairly little of that going on.
Nonetheless, it was a grand afternoon, and we closed the day with an afternoon barbecue, medium-cold wind be damned.
This year was a very special occasion. A couple of months ago, Queen Beatrix announced her abdication, and today would also see the coronation of her son and successor, King Willem-Alexander of Orange-Nassau. There had been some talk that he might take the throne as King Willem IV, but I’m glad he’s keeping his hyphen. Alexander is a fine second name!
After over a century of Queens, our country will once more have a King. The Republican movement was in the news again, stating that the monarchy is an outmoded tradition that had no place in modern life, but as with every year their protests amounted to very, very little. The Dutch are a practical people; the monarchy is a tradition we all grew up with, it doesn’t conflict with democracy (something the new King addressed with emphasis in his inauguration speech), and of course the parties are worth looking forward to.
Beatrix, now a Princess, sat on the front row chatting with her granddaughters while the new King and his Argentinan wife Máxima were inaugurated. The term ‘coronation’ is sometimes used in this context, though it isn’t quite appropriate. When the monarchy was recreated, the prevailing Reformed sentiments of the time considered the actual business of crowning to be too much of an implication of Divine Right, so the crown and other accoutrements were simply on display on a nice table.
It was quite an uplifting experience, standing with hundreds of fellow Hollanders, watching the ceremony on a big screen while some kids completely ignored it in favour of the bungee-trampolines they’d been standing in line for. Surinaman families singing the national anthem, the Wilhelmus, far louder and more accurately than the rest of us, Turkish women in orange hijabs, exemplifying the diversity and fraternity of our society.
And orange everywhere. I love my country.
As they say, “a walk in the park”.
Spring can’t seem to make her mind up this year. She dips her toe into the world, uncorking our pent-up optimism, only to shy away and let winter take care of business for another few weeks.
It bodes poorly for the summer, though we’ve had years before where spring seemed to have been skipped, so there’s some hope yet.
Tomorrow is Queen’s Day, the last, the day on which Prince Willem-Alexander is to be crowned King Willem. A good day, then, for a walk in the wild.
Well, I say ‘wild’… This whole province is an artificial island. Every tree was planned and planted, but then, I believe that can be said for most of Holland. Nature never held much sway here – not the green kind, anyway. The sea, always the sea, was our country’s ally and adversary in equal measure, bringing trade and profit in a fearsome wave, and threatening to swallow us all in the next.
But this is still the land of Hieronymus Bosch, Allert van Everdingen, Albert Cuyp. Oil paints, by some accounts, entered the European art scene by first staining the fingers of Dutch painters.
I certainly won’t pretend to see what they saw, but when I climbed this tree and tippy-toed through those thistle and squinted just soat the sun, I may, I think, have caught a glimpse.
Contemporary photographs mixed in ghostly fashion with historical ones taken in the same spot.
Cueball visited Holland this weekend, so when he and Kenai stopped by, we took the opportunity to head out to the park and capitalize on Spring’s much-delayed arrival with a nice portrait shoot.
Overpowering the sun with a single radio-triggered flash proved an interesting challenge, but with some Dutch ingenuity and Cueball’s energetic and photogenic charm, the shoot turned out very nice indeed.
This is the light that got me into photography.
For about two weeks a year, the sun sets just right so it can blast through the glass facade of Schiphol Airport, the hub of my daily commute, on my way home.
I’d been dabbling with iphoneography for a while, but when I saw this in late March 2011 and spent a half hour trying to capture it properly, I knew I wanted to do more with it.
Every year I look forward to seeing it. It means the dark season is over.
The unimportant town where I spent my teenage years wasn’t a particularly adventure-laced place, which suited my sedentary sensibilities.
The council never licensed a coffeeshop so the kids had to score their weed from one-armed-Achmed-with-a-tattoo-on-his-stump around the back of the butcher’s shop at night.
He was a really sweet guy, but he really hammed up the tough guy act so they’d feel a greater sense of mischief and, as I mentioned, adventure.
The closest thing to adventure and mystery we had access to was a bunker a few miles out of town. German-built and situated in a cow pasture surrounded by, in typical Dutch fashion, pointless little canals.
It never evoked much curiosity in my — that said, it also never evoked none. I’d cycle past it on the way to school every day, but it would only be visible once the leaves fell and I just wouldn’t think about it in the rich, horizonless month of summer.
My dad had grown up in that town, and one day it occurred to me that he, as a lifelong ’80s rocker, must have been much more adventurously inclined than I was when he was my age and I was the horrifying and unimaginable long-term consequence of his teenaged evening dreams.
So rather than bike five miles outside of town and cross a tiny fence in daylight and carefully vault a soggy little most into a cowpatty-peppered mirror-flat Teletubbyland to explore the bunker, I could just ask him, right?
“So Dad,” says I, pouring myself a glass of milk while he rolls a joint at the table with the exact right amount of spit, and ask him about the bunker. Dad lights up, takes a drag, considering the many dimensions of the question and the fractal facets of the answer, exhales and answers.
He answers with one word.
With that word he cures me of, and rationally satisfies, my tiny smidge of curiosity. With that one word he explains that if I discover anything at all in that prefab concrete pothole, it’ll be multi-used condoms and syringes and if I’m really, really lucky I’ll meet some of the smelly unwashed hairies who come to the bunker to reuse and recycle them.
All that, with one word.
“So Dad,” says I, pouring myself a glass of milk while he rolls a joint at the table with the exact right amount of spit. “What’s in that bunker outside of town?”
Dad lights up, takes a drag, considering the many dimensions of the question and the fractal facets of the answer, exhales and answers.
Jetpack solves everything.
Video of my Con Photography panel at RusFurrence 2013.
M’buddy DZ was thoughtful enough to film the whole thing. For your enjoyment!
In this panel we deal with the challenges of photographing people and fursuits at cons. Shutter speed, aperture, color temperature, the art of selection and on-camera flash.