Wex Mondays: Week 17

© Katherine Broadbent
 
This was my favourite from the shoot at the Nikon School. I’m still practicing my skills at polishing an image to a high fashion standard, but I don’t feel I did too badly.
 
This weeks winners can be seen over on the Wex Leader Board. I really liked the third place entry from Sameul Pilgrim a serene panorama in calm, almost pastel, tones.

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Friday Adventures: 24th April 2015 The Art of Film Noir with Neil Freeman at Nikon School, Center of Excellence.

Over Christmas Nick won a voucher to study with the Nikon School. Not finding much to his liking (except a residential course that would have cost him more than he saved) he was a sweetheart and gave me the voucher.
Having never had any formal training in photography, all I know is self taught, I jumped at the chance.
 
Nikon School, offers a wide variety of courses.  Most are day courses run in London at the Nikon Centre of Excellence. 
 
Stylistically Film Noir Chiaroscuro lighting appealed to me but the course also offered me a challenge. Working with a model is something I have never done. I usually shy away from capturing the human form all together! So this course seemed perfect.
I travelled up the day before and, after meeting an old school friend for coffee, visited the Tate
Modern to view the Salt and Silver Exhibition, see my seperate post here.
 
I stayed in the Hub by Premier Inn. A perfectly compact hotel near Leicester Square. Which is clean,
convenient and excellently priced for a hotel in the centre of London! I slept soundly, it was actually a lot quieter than most hotels I have stayed in. There was a small issue with the staff not replacing a
towel that was filthy on my arrival. But they kindly gave me a voucher towards my next stay after I
complained. 9/10 I would highly recommend this hotel to any photographers who need a comfortable stop over whilst in London. Holborn station was a 15 minute walk and then just a couple of stops to
Oxford Circus. Which in turn is a short walk to where the Nikon School is based.
On arrival I came into the showroom where all manner of Nikon goodies are on display and the friendly staff are happy to chat about the products. It’s not actually a shop so there is no kind of pressure to buy or invest in costly gear. You can just have a good old chinwag with the experts.
From here I was directed to the training room. Seat and training packs were laid out ready. Backdrops, reflectors and studio lights leant up against the walls. After grabbing a tea I sat down and my fellow students began appearing. There were some really lovely people, a few had been to courses before.
There were a few professionals and just as many enthusiasts.
I got on particularly well with an actor/photographer Rosemary Rance, check out her website. Rosemary started out taking her own headshots. Actors need to update their headshots ideally around every six months, which can be costly, especially when you consider actors are mostly self employed. When people started complimenting and asking who had taken her shots, she started up her own business! Rosemary offers affordable rates and sessions tailored specifically to actors needs, informed by her own experience.
Our tutor Neil Freeman began by talking through some basic camera settings. This is where I began to panic. I suffer from anxiety, see previous blog post about my photography and OCD. Situations where I feel I could be judged (even positively) cause me a lot of problems. When Neil explained we’d be using Single point auto focus and spot metering, the blind panic began to take hold. I suddenly thought I had no clue. I wanted to make my excuses, that I was in way over my head and quietly bow out. “Fortunately” I couldn’t because if I had opened my mouth at the point I would have burst into hysterics.
So I took a deep breath and thought about it for a minute. It all came rushing back to me. I always use
spot metering and I have my auto focus set up for back button focusing. I did make sure to tell Neil, once I had regained my voice, that I wasn’t confident with the more technical side of things. And he said “That’s okay. You don’t need to be.”
 
Thumbs up Neil.
Neil went on to brief us on the shoot. We’d be using either one, two or three speedlights and would be focusing on high contrast, chiaroscuro, lighting. We’d be using light to build depth in our images in three main groups: Main Subject light, Background light and a Kicklight/accent light.
We had a brief run down on the Nikon CLS flash system. One thing did annoy me greatly about the course. It was advertised that we would need to bring a speed light, which in fact we didn’t. Neil used his speedlight/s, as we only set up one shot at a time. Those of us without commander units just passed one of Neil’s between us, as only one of us could shoot at a time anyway. I had bought a cheap Youngnuo speedlight because I’d never used a speedlight before and I had no idea if I would ever use one again and I didn’t fancy spending over £100 on a Nikon model! As it turned out we’d have needed the most expensive model anyway. Those who had the cheaper Nikon model were also disappointed to hear their speedlight didn’t have the right settings to achieve some of the looks created. So I didn’t get to use my speedlight that I bought especially for the occasion.
Neil was, however, happy to share with us some ‘gear hacks’ for studio equipment. So that was a neat bonus that will save some money in the long run. We dissected the shots we were recreating by asking ourselves four questions about the light:
What is the Quantity,
What is the Quality,
What is the Direction,
& Colour (which since we were shooting black and white we didn’t use).
Once we knew this we could begin to build out picture. Neil asked us to set our cameras to ISO 100
(I had to do 200 as my D300s doesn’t go that low) F4  and 1/125. And what did we get with that? A black screen. But! This was exactly what we wanted to start with so we could achieve the high contrast shots. Neil described this as “using our camera’s as a dimmer switch”. We built each group of light, isolating each one and making adjustments until we were happy. After cycling though all three we then made the final adjustments using all light groups together.
For each shot, a member of the group took the role of Director of Photography and another was photographer. As a group we decoded the lighting, the DOP having the final say, while the photographer altered shutter speed to achieve the perfect look. We then all had an opportunity to work with the model and adjust the settings and angel of the shot.
Sadly time constraints meant we were limited to three shots each, per pose. I made a few basic errors
mostly due to my nerves. I wasn’t too dis heartened though as I had gone to take away techniques not perfect shots first time round.
After shooting a few poses we stopped for a lovely lunch laid on by Nikon.
 
We then posed a few more shots inside and then moved out into the streets of London! Neil spoke about how a lighting stand is too cumbersome and requires a licence if you’re using it outside. So instead he uses a Manfrotto MN175F Spring Clamp with hotshoe mount. This is particularly useful because if can be clipped onto a fence/railing/bar ect or even a hand help lighting pole to light from above! The best thing is it doesn’t require a permit.
 
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 
First shot of the day. Did notice I had focused on the necklace rather than Courtney’s eyes. Neil was very kind though and said I’d “Nailed it”.
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 
The next pose I tried from different angles and had a go at directing our model. Courtney has a massive amount of patience and kept a beautiful composure through out the whole shoot. Even with 12 different people telling her how to pose!
 
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 
Whilst outside waiting for my turn to shoot I came across this AMAZING cigarette. It really leant itself to the old school gritty glamour of the day! luckily I had brought along my 105mm Macro to use as a portrait lens so I was able to capture this little beauty!
 
 
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 
 © Katherine Broadbent
 
A couple shots of my trust DMs. With the spotty tights I couldn’t resist!
 

© Katherine Broadbent
 
One of the final shots of the day. Again I caught Courtney’s face slightly out of focus so I’ve added a little film grain. The idea was to work with the blur!
 
All in all it was a really brilliant day. Even though I didn’t pay for the day myself I would defiantly pay to go back and on a different course because it does reflect, in my opinion, value for money.
 
 
As always you can keep up to date with my projects over on Flickr.
 
 

Wex Monday: Week 16

© Katherine Broadbent 
 
I was really blown away by the light at Holkham this week so my entry had t be from this set.
 
 
Winner this week are over on the Wex Blog. Third place was a dreamy still life by Matthew Laviers, the pastel tones in this image really caught my eye.

OCD & Photography

I recently read a twitter post by a photographer I highly respect. It was a light hearted quip. Another photographer I follow responded in a similar light-hearted and jokey manner.
No malice or offence intended by either party.
But still it bothered me. Why? Because the joke was about OCD and about two years ago that illness ruined my life.

I just want to make clear am not offended or upset in anyway by jokes about OCD.

I don’t have any ill will towards people who joke about OCD. At all. Even my family jokes about it! I believe that laughter is the best medicine. But sometime I get the impression people laugh for the wrong reasons. 

It troubles me how prevalent and accepted these types of jokes are. It also troubles me that some fellow sufferers lash out at the people who make jokes, that’s not cool either guys!! 
So to the reason for this blog post: I began to think about how OCD interacts with my photographic process. And it’s not the way you’d expect. So I thought I’d share.
Just to be clear OCD is not about being obsessively neat/clean or having things in order. Here’s a picture of the current state of my bedroom. 
I know, right?! I am an A-grade slob! 😀
It’s not about making sure things are just right because they need or you want them to be.
OCD is about having troubling thoughts and the faulty believe that particular rituals (which, yes, for some sufferers is tidiness and order) will somehow neutralise these thoughts. And this process stops you doing what you love. If untreated and allowed to run wild, OCD stops you living your life. It causes crippling anxiety that something terrible is going to happen and you are the one responsible. That is, if you don’t do the ritual over and over and over again.  
So to be completely clear the THOUGHT is the OBSESSION and the cleaning/orderliness (if that’s what you do) is actually the COMPULSION.
Ergo, people who suffer with OCD are not OBSESSED with being clean/tidy/ordered/ect.
I’d like to pause for a moment to help you understand the gravity of living with a mental illness. Because luckily, not everyone has suffered as I have. People are perhaps a little in the dark about why I am so passionate about sharing my experience with OCD and trying to get people to truly understand what it’s like.
Whilst untreated, my OCD took away:
My career. I chose to leave my job because my panic attacks were so bad I was exhausted and I would often just collapse. If anything went wrong, I would blow up in a bout of uncontrollable hysteria. Not very professional. I was actually really good at that job and was in line for a promotion.
A relationship. I don’t really know what caused the end of this relationship, do we ever? But I can see how my untreated illness put undue pressure on everyone involved.
Friends. I was scared I couldn’t save them from the bad things that I believed would happen if they were around me. So I cut myself off. A few probably still think I’m an aloof, stuck up bitch. But I cut them out of my life because I believed I was protecting them.
My hobbies. Most days I couldn’t leave the house.
My independence. Dealing with all this took it’s toll. I couldn’t cope living independently so had to move back in with my parents.
My self respect. I thought I was insane and a failure. 
I lost everything and had to start from scratch. I had the equivalent of a midlife crisis at the age of 25.
Photography, integrated with my therapy and medication, is helping me earn all that back.
Photography actually helped me recover. I am rebuilding my life.
It gave me a reason to leave the house. I was petrified that I or my loved ones were going to die horribly if I even put a toe out of bed and did anything other than my mental rituals.
It gave me something to focus on outside of my head. 
It helped me deal with violent intrusive thoughts. By just letting them be and getting on with something else, I took away their power.
At the beginning of my recovery I began to meditate and practice mindfulness. I feel photography is an art, a process, that is, in every way, mindful. When I found photography it was finally a way for me to take mindfulness and meditation with me everywhere.
OCD doesn’t push me to take perfect photographs. OCD doesn’t cause me to fuss over the perfect lighting of a shot. It doesn’t make me want to get best composition. 
That’s all down to me and wanting to be the best photographer I can be.
If my OCD had it’s way: I would never take another photograph. 
Because photography has helped me loosen the grip that OCD has over my brain, over my life.
So next time there’s a meme about freaking out if all the Smarties aren’t organised by colour. 
Or there’s a buzzfeed page how great it is that a snake is  zig zagging perfectly through some paving stones. 
Or someone says “I’m a BIT OCD about that.”
Think about what I’ve just shared with you. Label it correctly. It’s being anally retentive, not OCD. 
Why?  
Because trivialising an illness doesn’t help. It just makes people more ashamed that they are unable to deal with it. When people are ashamed the clam up. They don’t ask for help. They hide away and the illness takes over. Believe me, I’ve been there.
Because being anally retentive is annoying at worst.
Because OCD, at it’s worst, takes people lives away. And that’s just not funny.

I have chosen to speak out today, not to call anyone out, but because I have heard people speak out before. Those are the people who saved me. Who helped me realise:
I was not insane,
I was not going to get sectioned and locked up
and
that I needed to get help.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from mental illness Mind have some great resources to help you and other understand what is happening. As does the NHS website. OCD UK’s website has been really helpful for me too.

Peace and love!
Regular service will resume shortly.

Friday Adventures: 17th April 2015 Holkham Beach

Sorry I have been quiet of late.
 
I’ve been unwell which has resulted in me having the odd day off work and having every of my normal days off not taking photographs.
 
Despite still suffering vertigo I decided to go out anyway. Or else I would have contracted a secondary infection of Cabin Fever.
 
I parked up at Holkham along Lady Ann’s Drive and after purchasing a cheeky ice cream started off along the Costal Path. The path snakes through fields and trees eventually, after nigh on 2 miles, end up at the beach area bordering between Wells and Holkham.
 
To get to the beach there is a staircase up the embankment.
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 
And then the view from the top blew me away.
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 
The way the light chased across the sand had me awestruck for a length of time I could no longer comprehend.
 
Holkham for me is heaven on earth. I’d be hard pressed to choose between Holkham and Machu Picchu as the location have my ashes scattered when I die.
 
Sorry, that statement may seem strange. 
I’m not planning on kicking the bucket anytime soon!
These two places give me a feeling that I could stay there forever and ‘just be’. It’s a special connection that you get with a landscape and it plays a large role in how you interact and capture that scene, the spirit of that place.
 
So maybe I’ll be scattered half and half.
 
The experience of being in a place, of walking through that landscape, the time spent connecting and being mindful with your surroundings are just as important, to me, as the photographs.
 
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 
Here is an opportunity to see the before and after of my open skies project. This image is my edited version of the colour capture above.
The light when I think about it, must look odd in this edit. I’ve removed the clouds! This is intentional to fit the ascetic of my Open Skies project. In which I want to convey a certain sense of a disjointed reality. Things are not quite right, not as you would expect and not how science and logic teaches us it should be.
 
© Katherine Broadbent
 

Open Skies is about my ongoing battle with mental illness and my quest for wellness.
I feel disconnected from people and the world at times.
At times I feel very far away.
I feel that I am on the outside looking into a world in which I do not conform to or belong in.
Through my photographs I hope to remake that connection with people through a visual explanation of feelings and sensations that I often don’t have words for.

 

 
 

Wex Mondays: Week 14

© Katherine Broadbent
 
 
I got my speedlight delivered this week in preparation for an upcoming workshop. This weeks entry is from a simple shoot I sent up with the aim of getting to grips with the controls/settings.
 
Winners this week are over on the Wex Leader Board. Third place really made me slime, a cheely little grouse shot by Nick Hanson.