PEOPLE 238 – GOING TO WORK 6

 

 

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Rush hour in central Bristol; Baldwin Street choked with traffic and people.  A bus passes, inbound to the city centre.  I see a moment and have just time for one shot before that moment has rushed on by.

She’s asleep, its summer and the interior of the bus is probably warm and close – and maybe getting up early is not her thing anyway.  Perhaps sleep has taken her, temporarily, to a nicer place, but what is she dreaming off?

Details.  What details are here?  False eyelashes, lipstick, smart earrings – equipped to meet the day, and other beings too.  Going out without those accoutrements may well arouse the same uneasy feelings of undress as I feel if I forget my old cap.

Then, slumped against a window and marred at least by reflections and maybe by city grime too, and with the tip of her shoulder flattened against the glass.

And lastly, the light from the rising sun, blasting in through the back of the bus, catching her braided hair and turning her left ear into a translucent splash of warm colour.

Earlier images from this series can be found here.

X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; 19 July 2016.
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ARCHIVE 255 – PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG FRIEND (MONO)

 

 

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Portrait of a young friend; 19 July 2014.

She is the younger daughter of close friends of our’s.  Earlier pictures of her can be found here and here.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

D700 with 105mm Nikkor; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Triste 1 preset.

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ARCHIVE 218 – KIKUYU GIRL

 

 

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Little Kikuyu girl at a wedding near Thika, Kenya; late 1970s.

The bottle of Fanta fizzy orange is about 10 inches tall – and evidently her treasure!

She’s chewing the white Fanta bottle top while wondering with horror what this fat mazungu (white man) is about to do to her!

OM-2 with 75-150 Zuiko; Kodak colour transparency.

UPDATE: This brings back a lot of memories, not least the day glow colours of much of the local knitwear, which in this case fits so well with the colour of her drink.  Kenya is a land of colour, I remember returning there from visits to England and being visually stunned and uplifted by the blazing brilliance and radiance all around.  There are two factors in this.  First, of course, the country is straddled by the equator, and the sun simply blazes down from high overhead for much of the day – your eyeballs are hammered back into your skull – and especially so on days when the sun is obscured by thin, white stratus clouds.  And to add to this effect, this photo was taken somewhere around a mile above sea level – so not only were we being blasted by the light, but we were somewhere around 5,000 feet up in the clear air – just to make sure we got the full effect!

But the other thing of course are the tropical colours – vegetation, birds, insects, clothes – absolutely wonderful to behold.  There are to be sure drabber places there too, particularly in the wilder and more arid areas, but they still have a wild beauty that stays with me.

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PEOPLE 211 – MOTHER AND CHILD (MONO)

 

 

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A mother comforts her child;  26 Nov 2009.

They are both old friends of our’s.

In the emotion of the moment, the mother’s eyes close and her lips part slightly to murmur soft comfort and reassurance.

And, to me, the baby’s anguish is reflected in the widely splayed hand that desperately clutches her mother’s neck – and especially in that little thumb. 

D700 with 24-120 Nikkor at 120mm; 25,600 ISO; Dfine 2; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Soft Sepia preset.
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ARCHIVE 191 – FATHER AND DAUGHTER (MONO)

 

 

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A good friend with his baby daughter, 5 April 2009.

The baby’s mother loves the direct and very vital connection between the baby’s rapt gaze and the father’s smiling face and she’s totally right.  I also like the apparently huge size of the father’s hand as it rests on his daughter’s diminutive shoulder.

I don’t have a lot of confidence with people pictures, but luck has won out here – and this sort of close, intimate shot is one of the things that, for me, monochrome is all about.

D700 with 105mm Nikkor; 6400 ISO.  I was very new to both digital photography and the D700 when I took this, and I have a vague recollection of frantically raising the ISO to 6400 to keep pace with the faltering light conditions, and of then setting matrix metering and trusting to autofocus – with a lucky outcome!
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ARCHIVE 190 – YOUNG VIOLINIST (MONO)

 

 

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Young violinist; 9 Sept 2012.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m fortunate in having four darling little girls in my life.  Two are our granddaughters, the other two the children of friends.  Yesterday we went to visit those friends, so that my wife could measure the kids for knitware that she is giving them for Christmas.

As is usual when I get together with these little ones, who are now aged 7 and 2, mayhem and anarchy reigned!  Within minutes of arriving, I was down on my hands and knees on the kitchen floor, giving a ride to the two delighted and squealing monsters, and things just got better from there on in.  But I have no aches or pains this morning – must be tougher than I thought!

And the family have a beautiful new cat, who seems to have a very calm and friendly personality.

Rather than high structure and contrast, I was looking for a softer, more delicate image here – something to suit a young girl bathed in window light.  I’ve never used it before but the Gold Toner does it – the result is rather like a sepia tone.

D700 with 105mm Nikkor; 1250 ISO; converted to mono with Silver Efex Pro 2, using the Gold Toner preset.

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ARCHIVE 175 – ON A FARM IN WESTERN KENYA (MONO)

 

 

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Luo people on a farm near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.

I love these portraits.  The man is at ease with me and my camera, he knows me well, and in his expression we see nothing contrived, just a calm and direct gaze.  The little boy is nervous, but is being reassured by the man’s closeness – while the little girl’s radiant smile is a delight.

This smile reminds me powerfully of African children in general!  I was often in out of the way areas in Kenya, often far off the well beaten tourist tracks, searching for unusual birdlife.  And I can remember entering villages where white people were only infrequently seen – and being beset by a tide of brightly smiling little children like these, chanting “mazungu, mazungu!” – swahili for “white man, white man!”. 

And sometimes they were so curious to see me, maybe not having had close contact with a european before, that they came and wondered at the pale hair on my pale arms – and touched my arms and head as if they couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing – it was a real, uninhibited examination!

I like children anyway, I vastly enjoy interacting with them – and especially so when they can talk – and these were simply wonderful and fascinating experiences.  And I also want to mention here how friendly Kenyan people were in general, throughout my years there – friendly, hospitable and humorous.

On the negative side of things though, it was on this trip that I first contracted malaria – and that is something truly unpleasant.

OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO; converted to mono in Silver Efex Pro.

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ARCHIVE 164 – PORTRAIT OF A LITTLE GIRL (MONO)

 

 

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A  friend, aged two; 30 Aug 2011. 

To say that we value the friendship of this little girl is one of life’s vast understatements.

Click onto the image to see a larger version in a separate window.

D700 with 105mm Nikkor; 12,800 ISO; converted to mono in Silver Efex Pro.

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ARCHIVE 156 – HER VERY FIRST WRITTEN WORDS (MONO)

 

 

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We were visiting friends when their elder daughter, whom we like very much, suddenly started asking her parents about how words are written.  She knew how letters and combinations of letters sound and how they look when written down, but she’d never equated the two before.

A few words of explanation from her parents and –   to the vast astonishment of everyone present – she just started phonetically pronouncing words and then writing them all over large pieces of scrap paper on the floor!

I had my camera to hand, and a unique occasion was recorded.  This is not a good picture photographically, but in this sort of instance that doesn’t worry me at all – and I love her tentative, slightly doubtful expression.

26 Apr 2009; D700 with 105mm Nikkor; 3200 ISO.

UPDATE: yes, photographically, in technical terms, this is not a good picture.  But it is nevertheless a very valuable picture, and especially so to the girl and her family – here is a fundamental achievement on her part, a fundamental moment in her life.  Which feeds into one of my core beliefs about photography – that by far the most important aspect of an image is its content – have interesting / striking / meaningful content, and the technicalities come a very, very long way second.

So, ok, let’s turn this on its head.  Here’s a meaningful image that is technically imperfect.  Who would rather have a meaningless image that is technically perfect? .
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ARCHIVE 151 – MOTHER AND DAUGHTER, AT A PARTY

 

 

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Mother and daughter, at a party; 24 Mar 2012.

The mother, an old friend, is aware of me and smiling – she and her partner are very happy for me to take photographs of their two daughters, and to have them posted on the internet too.  The girls have wonderful personalities – we can’t get enough of them – and I never forget that, in today’s neurotic society, being able to photograph youngsters in this way is a great freedom, which I enjoy and value immensely.

Here, the mother sees my approach, but her daughter is not aware of me.  Her attention has been caught by something that amuses her but which she’s not sure she should be laughing at – and so she is hiding her smile behind her hand and looking amusedly up from beneath lowered brows.

D700 with 24-120 Nikkor at 120mm; 400 ISO; bounced, diffused flash.

UPDATE: this was first posted three years ago and, with the benefit of hindsight and experience, I have to say that wherever possible I prefer working without the aid of flash.  I must be honest and upfront, and admit that my ignorance of many of flash’s more subtle techniques and nuances most probably contributes to my mediocrity with the genre but, deep down, its natural light that gets to me – unless of course, as was the case here, there is no other alternative.

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