Visual Lexicon

Working on a new brief for college titled “Visual Lexicon” – the idea is to take images to fit under certain headings that are given to us. I’ll admit, my work on it so far hasn’t been particularly great – I’ve been very lazy with this assignment by leaving it to the last minute, but I’ve gotten a few images that I’m reasonably happy with. Here are a few of the images I took the other day while working on the project, along with their titles:

Movement

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Pattern

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Translucence

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Gaelic Football and overcoming lens restrictions for sports photography

I photographed Gaelic Football for the first time last week and it was an awkward experience – I was without my 300mm lens, all I had was a 70-200mm F/2.8 which I was not comfortable with. And I was in a position where I couldn’t sit on the ground, I had to stand at the sideline. But I couldn’t just simply not photography the match – I had to producer images that were usable for my college newspaper, and this was a pretty huge cup match!

It wasn’t the best experience to say the least, and it was cold and raining. However, the key is not panicking, and using what you have to your full advantage.

I knew going into this that I wouldn’t be able to cover much more than just the sidelines, so my aim was to position myself at the side of the pitch, between the halfway line and the goal line. Then shoot directly across, or upfield.
There was about a 4 foot barrier in front of me, so I couldn’t sit down and couldn’t get particularly low, but I was able to use that barrier to steady my hands much like a monopod would – and it helped keep horizons straight! Shooting in landscape orientation as opposed to portrait orientation is also an easy way to make things seem somewhat closer, portrait orientation opens up too much of the foreground and makes things seem farther away than they actually are.

Working with what you have at your disposal is the sign of a true photography, and what everyone should try to do. You don’t need that really expensive lens to take great photos, you just need to make the most of what you have with you. Know the limitations of your kit, and work around them.

Here’s some of my photos from the match, the first two are black and white because of artistic preference – I wouldn’t submit monochrome images for publication in newspapers, but I prefer the images this way:

BW (4 of 5)

BW (5 of 5)

DIT vs Marys Sigerson (1 of 12)

DIT vs Marys Sigerson (3 of 12)

DIT vs Marys Sigerson (4 of 12)

DIT vs Marys Sigerson (5 of 12)

DIT vs Marys Sigerson (12 of 12)

Bray, Dublin

Remember when I said I’d blog more frequently? Yeah…that didn’t go so well, but here’s some new stuff for you!

I’m working on some college projects at the moment, some rather interesting ones actually, and I’m about to move into shooting analog (film) so there’ll be plenty of that on here in the next few months! As well as a lot of talk about my upcoming feature length film titled “The Kids Aren’t Alright” – more information about that can be found on its website: http://tkaa-movie.com/

Anyway, photographs! Here’s some recent ones from a shoot out in Bray, in Dublin. These were all shot on a Canon 50D, and Sigma 24-60mm F/2.8.

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Exploring my artistic side

I’ve created a new tab on my website called “Artistic Projects” – I’ve never been really open to the idea of exploring the more “artsy” side of photography, but as I’m in college studying photography now I thought I’d delve into a bit of project work. Building stories around particular themes, or just posting the college work I’ve done.

At the moment one of my assignments is up there, a Kitchen Still Life assignment we got about two weeks ago.

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As well as a personal project I did recently titled “Through the Fence” – which simply put, revolves around looking at/through a fence.

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It was a cool little project that developed while I was out on a photowalk recently, and I thought it was something quite special which I could develop into something bigger in the future!

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But for now, I’m going to keep things simple and just get stuff up on my site as frequently as possible, to get my inner artist to blossom into a beautiful– scratch that, that sounds pretty lame. I just want to take cool photos.

The full photo projects are available on my website, here: http://www.stuartcomerford.com/Artistic-Projects

The Untold Story :: Short Film

Final Facebook

Directing is a bigger step away from photography than I ever expected. My heart has been in cinema probably about as long as it’s been in photography, but it’s a very different change of direction in many respects. (Although, my taste in films is probably just as questionable to most as my taste in photography is). I’m glad to get away from photography for a bit and I’m extremely happy to have taken on this project. I’ve been writing several variations of this story for the past 2 years straight in my English class, and after turning it into a photographic story to use for my college portfolios it seemed almost silly not to take it one step further and turn it into a short film.

This was only possible thanks to everyone who participated and contributed to the making of.  And a special thanks to The Rehns for providing some brilliant music for the soundtrack (I suggest you check them out here – http://www.facebook.com/TheRehns ). This was a pretty strenuous undertaking as it was a first for everybody involved. The film is set to take part in the Kerry Film Festival, Cork Film Festival, IndieCork Festival, and Dun Laoghaire Underground Cinema Film Festival in the coming months and hopefully more in the future.

For now, I present to you, my debut as a writer/director – “The Untold Story”.

‘The Untold Story’, is a documentation of the frequently avoided subject of teenage depression, following the story of one teenage girl as she deals with bullying, social exclusion, isolation, and domestic violence while nearing the end of her time in secondary school. It touches upon the serious topic of teenage life, more specifically – the part of teenage life that people prefer not to discuss openly. The film depicts modern teenage life in school as vile and abusive as it really is. It aims to reveal how two-faced and self-absorbed teenagers can be, while highlighting the pressure to conform to an idealistic image of what your peers deem acceptable, with those who are ‘different’ being looked down on and bullied – both psychologically and physically.

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Eliminating distractions when photographing concerts

In music photography, one of the biggest concerns (apart from lighting) is how nice the stage is.  When indoors, the stage is usually (but not always) lovely, it’s clean, has awesome lights and is sometimes customised for the band you’re photographing – depending on how big they are. But when you’re outdoors, stages generally tend to be nothing more than a small tent raised off the ground with people crammed closely around it, or a huge tent with scaffolding everywhere at a festival.

Well, the small tent situation is what many early stage music photographers get stuck with. It’s either this or a small dingy pub (I haven’t quite figured out how to make the most out of these situations yet). These events are generally the easiest to get access to as a beginner, which sucks, because no matter how hard you try you’ll never be able to get amazing looking photos to help you progress, show off your skills and gain access to bigger events. However, they are good learning grounds when it comes to watching your frame. You’ll have to work harder to keep unwanted objects out of your background/foreground because the stage honestly looks like someone just threw everything there. My first paid live gig was to photograph Kate Nash in a tiny, terrible pub here in Dublin. I hate every single photo I took that evening, and I hated the entire evening because of the god awful stage.

026 - July 03, 2012 - Stuart Comerford

Maybe I’m just spoiled because I’ve never really been in too many terrible venues, but nobody wants to have to shoot in a terrible venue, unfortunately for some it’s unavoidable as they’re trying to assemble a music portfolio to gain press access to better gigs. Everybody wants to just take awesome looking photos. So what’s the best way to make something good out of a bad situation? Well, the other day I photographed Kodaline in the US Embassy here in Dublin, Ireland for the 4th of July celebration. It was a terrible tiny and cluttered stage and the best solution I could find was to shoot tight. I’m not a fan of “standard” focal lengths, I like to go extremely wide or extremely close when I don’t have a specific brief to stick to. I love shooting with telephoto lenses, I love the compression. I’d happily shoot a full body portrait at 200mm, 300mm, it’s just not always ideal.

When you’re in this situation where your surroundings is mostly one big distraction with scaffolding, stands, speakers etc then unless you have a very eventful crowd, shooting wide won’t work out very well. I unfortunately only had a 24-70mm with me on the day of the gig so this is as wide as I was able to go when I moved to the back of the crowd.

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The crowd was pretty poor, when there isn’t much life in the crowd just avoid photographing them. Nothing worse than a photo where somebody in the crowd is looking away from the stage. However, having an eye open for those rare occasions when a photo pops up in the crowd is always smart.

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But when you have a band like Kodaline on the stage, you don’t want to turn around with just photos of the crowd. So, how do you deal with the horrible stage? My main recommendation is to shoot as tight as possible – for me, it was 200mm @F/2.8 which worked a treat.

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However, you might not have an F/2.8 lens or you might not have a lens long enough to compress the background enough to minimise distractions. So you need to find a way to clean up your backgrounds/foregrounds. A handy tip for cleaning up your foreground is to use the crowd to block things by shooting between their shoulders for example.

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This method can be used to different extents, I only have a little bit of their heads in here as I actually shot quite close so didn’t have much to block out. But sometimes, don’t be afraid to just cut out all the distractions and shoot with as much empty space as possible when you find a clean part of the background.

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And remember, you only need one good shot to make it an acceptable shoot. If you can get one good shot from every shoot you do then you’ll be doing better than most people.

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Is gear important?

For making good photos? No. Unless you count your mind/eyes as pieces of gear (I do have to include my brain on a checklist of gear to bring with me for shoots as I frequently find myself making stupid, brainless decisions).

If you want to take good landscapes, portraits, street shots etc. – you can do that with anything. About 90% of photography doesn’t have any sort of gear restrictions, of course better gear can improve things but you can still create magnificent photos with anything that takes a picture. I love using Instagram for example, my phone is the one camera that I have on me all of the time so I’m always taking some photos on it and popping the best ones on my instagram. You see many people on Instagram taking brilliant photos with their phones (not everyone, but there are some great photographers on there). There’s always been a huge cult-like hatred for Instagram but regardless of the means used to take/create the photo, surely if it’s a well taken photo – it’s a well taken photo?

But depending on your chosen field of photography, gear can be of the utmost importance. Sports photography is extremely difficult to do well at with minimal gear. It can be done, you can get some good photos, but to replicate the best you need to have the best gear available – there’s no real way around it. Long lenses, fast bodies, rugged equipment. Then for wedding and music photography you need to have gear that can cope with extremely dark situations – fast aperture lenses and high ISO capable cameras don’t exactly come cheap.

There’s something that I’ve learned over the past year which has really shocked me. “Looking the part” seems to be quite important when it comes to getting hired. Flash a white lens here or there, and you’ll have people whispering “oh, he’s a professional”. Getting people to move out of your way is much easier when you have a big camera and lens. Not very many people took me seriously when I was at a stage where I had minimal gear, only when that started growing to more lenses, bigger gear, bigger bags did I start getting respect for what I did. I can still remember the very first time I brought two lenses on a shoot with me – I was photographing a band’s recording session and I could feel the atmosphere in the room get more serious as I took out the other lens. Now, it was only a 55-250mm lens for my Canon 500D (the day that shoot was done was my 16th birthday, I got that lens as a present from my Mam that morning, the only other lens I had was my kit lens), nothing majorly impressive about the lens but I felt like I was in charge, which was a first.

I say it a lot, but it’s true that we live in a society where nearly everyone considers themselves photographers (thanks a lot, hipster culture) so people naturally look for ways to distinguish the big dogs from the rest of the bunch. Sometimes flashing some fancy looking equipment is the easiest way to stand out – it’s quite a dirty tactic, especially if you then go and produce terrible images, in turn damaging the reputation of professional photography. Looking and acting the part will open doors, your ability will dictate whether or not those doors get slammed shut in your face. I sometimes wear my business card on a lanyard around my neck for 2 purposes, having my contact information easily accessible and showing that I’m a photographer, this is my job.

Go look on 500px and you’ll see that there is a plethora of unbelievable photos that are taken with near ancient equipment. If you want to take great photos then just go outside and start taking pictures with whatever camera you have, practice makes perfect. But unfortunately, in a culture where first impressions mean a lot, looking the part is the easiest way to break into the field. But don’t let that hold you back, I’m still chugging along, building my gear as I go and pushing to get media passes, great photos, and respect for what I do.

 

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