A3 brown paper, opaque white gel pen as well as coloured fine tip markers, 2 1/2 hours. Next week, I might try a gold gel as well. If you arrive late to a group portrait session (as I, ahem, may do), only the seats at the extreme sides of the model tend to still be free but I’m starting to rather enjoy the antique effect of a profile portrait. Perhaps it’s time to start a series?
This morning was well spent, looking and drawing and looking and trying and failing and nearly succeeding just a bit to pin a hint of what I could see to paper. I’ve joined a social drawing group that meets one morning a week to practice portraits. Gary, our model for the last two weeks is about eighty years old, and it’s been interesting and challenging draw all the wrinkles and softened shapes of a happy face where gravity has had its way. Drawing with no great goal in mind is more relaxing than anything else I can think of, plus it’s always nice to be part of a friendly group of people pursing art on their own terms, gently supporting and encouraging each other.
Snapshots of Nero, Julius Caesar and the rest, after they decided to ditch the regal togas and move to a more informal neighbourhood.
The goal was to bring statues somewhat to life, but still keep their essential statue-ness apparent. The original Greek statues, which the Romans copied, were brightly painted in lifelike colours. The pale marble ideal as we know it now was all a misunderstanding . . . .
This short project was undertaken as part of a photography course, but it’s an idea I may go back to and explore further. These faces are from ancient Roman portrait busts, and along with the backgrounds are all pictures I’ve taken.
Last week was a wonderful hectic roller-coaster of improv theatre. The New Zealand Improv Festival, 2015 edition. It was sometimes stirring, startling, heart-string tugging, occasionally awkward, occasionally camera-shaking hilarious, but most of the time just a really really good time. If you weren’t there, you missed out forever, since all the unscripted theatre happened just for those us who were there. Of course. There were performers from a bunch of countries, workshops run by amazing teachers, a bunch of socialising for the social people. I was one of the volunteer photographers, snapping my way through 10 or so shows over five days. I’m coincidentally part way through a photography diploma, and required to photograph a wedding “or the equivalent” Combing my study with my hobby seemed the perfect plan. And I did photograph a wedding. An improv wedding, with a groom sourced from the audience and a just slightly drunken minister. A wedding, a bunch of train journeys, a podcast, a prison with 50,000 prisoners, a cruise liner and many quite twisted tales.
For the assignment, I had to choose just 10 photos to tell the story of the festival. They needed to be a mix of candid and formal images, all orientated the same way and cropped to the same dimensions, and either all colour or all black and white. These were the 10 I chose, with the theme of “moments of connection”, but the choice, it was not easy!
I took around 2,000 photographs using two cameras, which at only 200 per show is quite restrained really. Most were taken with a Sony 7ii and a Mitakon 50mm f/0.95 lens. This combination which was lovely and let me take photos in light I would normally be struggling with, but with the downside of a slow and finicky focus, very shallow depth of field, and being tricky to nail just right with moving targets. Someone near the front of the stage tilting their head a few inches and something that looks good in the viewfinder, is not so sharp full size. Also, using a 50mm lens and sitting in the front row meant that I could only catch part of the stage in a scene. So, I also had my tiny and lovely RX100 iv, set to auto focus and very wide, ready for when action took off on the stage, or I wanted a wider view.
One of my favourite NZ Improv Festival 2015 shows was Nelson group Body in Space’s “Do I“. The groom plucked from the crowd turned out to already have an actual wife, who spoke up at the “has anyone got a reason . . . ” part of the ceremony, so the bride married the priest. A happy ending for all. The show was delightful, and I got a chance to take some weddingesque photographs.
Where stippling = making an image with tiny dots of ink, recklessly applied to paper for fun. I spent today life drawing. There are two quite different reasons to draw more often than I have been. The first reason is that skills start to slip. Drawing is not a thing to learn once, and then, hey, you know it. Every time I spend a few months away from the ink and charcoal, it’s as if I forget how to see properly, forget how to foreshorten, how to draw hands to look not too sausagey. My thinky-brain has to relearn how to relax, and let my art-brain get on with it. The second, much more important reason for life drawing is that by golly heck it is a nice way to spend time. People are the most fascinating and complicated creatures.
One bad habit I’m trying to keep in check is worrying too much about results, fretting about how something will look to others, and not enjoying the process. And thinking that I should keep all work hidden away, until I can do it properly. To stop that sort of foolishness, here, from today: one of the 20 second warmup sketches, and one 20 minute dotted portrait.
Specifically, the Tamron AF70-300mm F/4-5.6 LD Macro 1:2, Model A17S for Sony.
I am waiting for Sony or someone else to come up with a properly splendid telephoto lens for my A7ii camera, something full frame and E-Mount of course, that zooms from, say 20-600mm, is as fast as heck, sharp as a pointy sharp tack, and costs less than my car. While I wait, and I admit, it could be a while, I’ll make do with a more basic alternative. In this case, a very cheap Tamron lens, NZ$215 new, made for the Sony A-mount, so used with the LAEA4 adapter. That adapter is a cunning device, basically adding back in the mirror that isn’t in mirrorless cameras, so that lenses designed for more traditional DSLR focusing will work on a mirrorless camera (how many times can I say mirrorless in one sentence – well, up to four times now). It works with all the lenses I had for my ol’ Sony A380, and any random secondhand Minolta lenses that take my fancy on Ebay and the local equivalent.
The Tamron lens, bought for its low low price point, arrived yesterday and I took it for a short walk around m’local zoo. It seems fine. Perfectly okay. Adequate in all the areas that I need basic adequacy. And it cost less than a fancy pair of shoes or a handbag. Not that I’d waste money on fancy shoes of course, and only on a handbag if it has a whole lot of padded storage for camera, spare batteries and other essential accessories.
Buying this super cheap lens is me being slightly strategic, I won’t feel that I have to stick with it once the fancy-pants new lens hits the shelves. There are downsides of course, the autofocus is loud and slow, it’s clunky, but hey, photographs of things I can’t physically get close to can get made. There’s a weird switch setup for the macro function, and it’s not entirely intuitive as to how you switch back to normal. I had to look at instructions. But while not dazzlingly sharp, that macro was quite nice enough to catch the details on a resting honey bee; it means another bit of kit I can chose to leave home on a ‘just rambling’ sort of day. The lens weighs less than 500gm, and even came with a hood.
So, photos. These were all handheld, and the caracal cat who’d just caught it’s own lunch, and the chimp (in a dark room at high iso) were both shot through glass.
My review can be distilled down to “at that price, you really can’t complain”, and “it’ll do for now”. If you want the kind of review that looks at test patterns, Mr Google is your friend. I didn’t buy from Amazon this time, but they have mixed user reviews in abundance. And Sony, if you’re listening, I’d be happy to test that experimental lens you’re getting ready to release later in the year. Just so I can make a fair comparison eh.