The Experience of Newborn Photography at the Hospital by Kim Rix

I often get asked what my favourite age to photograph is, and although my honest answer is “it’s difficult to choose’. I would have to say that photographing babies, (especially newborns) is a magical experience. Being part of those first days of life and sharing the journey with the parents at such a special time is such an honour and privilege.

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I love the fact that I get to be an honorary member of the family and I cherish the opportunity to capture such important images. The parents, grandparents, siblings and friends are so full of love and joy, I soak up and relish the energy of it all. So I have made a personal commitment, to help families invest in their memories. Once such heirloom piece I enjoy creating is the one year baby album. It tells the story for the baby’s first year of development. The journey starts at either the hospital, or at home, within the first twelve days of life.

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The first time I attended the hospital was a huge learning experience. On high alert, and eager not to miss the event, I rushed to the hospital when I received the text message saying my mother-to-be, Victoria, had gone into labour, only to find myself waiting for twelve hours. I sat through the night, patiently, listening to her labour as it progressed. In fact, at 5am, when there was still no baby, I left the hospital to get some rest. I made this decision with a heavy heart knowing that I could risk missing the birth, but equally, I knew I had to be fifty miles away by midday to photograph a birthday party. Of course, after two hours rest at 0815, I received a text message with the birth announcement, so I drove like Kimi Raikkonen back to the hospital, to capture the newborn portraits at 2 hours old.

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For privacy, the curtains were drawn around Victoria’s bed, and the baby was lying in the crib. It was such a small space, the lighting was poor and being a newborn baby, I wasn’t using flash. So, with the help of Grandma, we wheeled the crib to the nearest window where I just took the newborn portrait capturing the moment as it was – natural and breath-taking. I was gone 15 minutes later.

Some say that the birth of a baby is a private affair and professional photography at the hospital isn’t the right time or place. Personally speaking, I am happy to attend the hospital if asked. But speaking from experience, newborn photography is easier and more relaxed when done at home once mother and baby are fully rested, where the room is warm, space is plentiful, where there are lots of natural light, and there are no time restrictions.

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London Portrait Photographer Kim Rix strives to create beautiful family heirlooms, making memories precious, across London, Essex and the UK.
http://www.kimrixphotography.co.uk

Get To Know Your Photographer by Steve Brill

I have been photographing weddings for around 6 years now, and have been very fortunate to be able to contribute in my own small way, in making these fantastic events a memory that my clients will treasure every time they look back at their photographs and albums.

The added benefit for me is that my by the end of their wedding day, is that we have also become friends. This friendship will then quite often lead to me being asked to photograph their children as they are born, so photographing their wedding day is just the start of the relationship.

Get To Know Your Photographer by Steve Brill

I think it would be safe to say that the majority of my wedding clients, (and I would probably include most of my commercial and portrait customers), would usually start the conversation with “I hate having my photograph taken”. So the challenge for me is there from a very early stage, to get them to relax in front of the camera, and who knows, they might even actually enjoy the process of being photographed?

To overcome this common situation, I offer (and almost insist) that all of my wedding clients meet up with me again (usually 6-8 weeks before the big day) and have a pre-wedding photo shoot. This very informal session, which will usually only last for an hour or so, is a great way to get to know them better, but also us allows up to catch up the final timings of the actual wedding day.

The black and white photograph was taken at the couple’s wedding venue, as this also gave me a chance to look for possible photo opportunities on the wedding day. Sadly the wedding day was a complete wash out, with rain from start to finish. So unable to take any photographs outside, they were so pleased that we had gone there prior to the big day, as they had many lovely shots taken around the grounds.

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So as we get to the actual wedding day, I arrive (usually pretty early) to either the brides home or a hotel room. The girls are often in curlers and their onesies, and maybe not exactly looking their best. But within seconds of me walking in the room they are at ease with me being there. They have probably seen the DVD slideshow that I supplied following the pre-wedding shoot. And they now trust me to go about my business, and observe the day as it unravels in front of me.

Certainly all of the couples in the photographs showed signs of nerves, before entrusting me with the task of documenting their wedding day. And it’s not unheard for other members of the family (including dogs) to be involved.

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The photograph of the couple laughing on the steps is another prefect example of them both being very camera-shy beforehand, they were joking as to what to do, and how to behave in front of me. I managed to catch a great natural moment when they both cracked up, and this shot became one their favourites from the session. Once they had seen the photo on the back of the camera, they both instantly relaxed into and we had a great time together (even though it was -5 degrees)!!

So my message to all of the beautiful brides to be is, get to know your photographer before the big day. You may even be able to relax and enjoy it, and know that the photography is in good hands.

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Northampton based Professional Wedding, Commercial & Portrait Photographer.
http://www.brillpix.com

The Weavers of Varanasi by Jayant Neogy

Varanasi is the ancient name of Banaras located in UP, India, a city considered most holy to the Hindus. It is the longest continuously occupied city in the country. While some claim a 5000 year old history, the city may actually be about 3,500 years old, making it one of the few oldest continuously occupied cities in the world.

One of the reasons for its longevity and existence in the same location is because the river Ganges, on whose Western bank the city lies, has remained remarkably unaltered in its course over Milena. While both city and river hold a place of reverence, the city has another very old tradition that makes it famous. This is its unique handloom weaving industry that has flourished for centuries.

Caught in his own web of tradition?

Caught in his own web of tradition?

Indeed, silk weaving is the dominant manufacturing industry in Varanasi. Weaving is typically a cottage industry, operated from home in which the entire family pitches in. Most of the weavers are Momin Ansari Muslims. The Arabic word “Ansari” means helper. For generations they have passed on their craft from father to son, hand-weaving silk on room-sized foot-powered looms.

The pride of the weavers are their very fine silk Banarasi saris. The saris are adorned with intricate designs and zari (gold thread) embellishments making them popular during traditional functions and weddings. In the past, the embroidery were often done with threads of pure gold. Today, silver and gold plated silver threads are more common. In addition to saris, the industry also produces dress material, stoles and furnishing fabrics.

Proud of his workmanship

Proud of his workmanship

Although much sought after and prized in the past, the industry is now threatened by the rise of power looms, computer-generated designs and competition from Chinese imports. To combat the threat to their livelihood, many weavers have upgraded to Jacquard looms. Many such looms use punched cards to control the weaving process. While this does reduce the time to weave a sari, the mechanization reduces the variety of designs and the uniqueness of each sari that used to be one of the hallmarks of the saris woven in Varanasi.

Now what design is he dreaming up?

Now what design is he dreaming up?

Some weaving co-operatives are supported by the UP State Government who also helps to sell their products in well-appointed emporiums. A visit to one such emporium showed me that the weavers are dedicated, proud of their heritage and craftsmanship while being very individual and unique characters as well. This is a study of three such proud weavers of Varanasi.

The Ruins of Ancient Hauz Khas in Delhi by Jayant Neogy

Hauz Khas complex in Hauz Khas, south Delhi India houses a water tank, an Islamic Seminary or Madrassa, a mosque, a tomb and pavilions. These were built between 700 and 800 years ago. Today, the ruins abut a subsequently urbanized village which includes living areas, boutique shops and many eating places, A great tourist attraction today, the medieval history of the ruins traces back to the 13th century reign of the Delhi Sultanate.

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The ruins of Hauz Khas are one of the most amazing sights in Delhi. Few historical ruins are found in close proximity to very modern urban spaces. This magnificent monument reveals itself slowly to us as we approach it past the village. The dominant landmark is a large water tank. It was built by Alauddin Khilji the ruler of Siri, who called it Hauz i Alai. The tank supplied water to the capital city of Siri.

Beside the water tank are the ruins of the Madrassa or Islamic Seminary. Feroz Shah Tuglaq built this in the 14th century and it became a center of learning for Islamic Scholars. The Madrassa is a double storied structure, the colonnaded halls were probably lecture halls. Feroz Shah also repaired the Haus i Alai water tank and renamed it the Hauz Khas.

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At the junction of the two wings of the Madrassa is Feroz Shah’s tomb. The tomb entrance is enclosed in an unusual railing. Feroz Shah was probably inspired by patterns on Buddhist monuments such as the Sanchi Stuoa. It is not known if the railings are a copy or was actually removed from some Buddhist structure and reinstalled here. Moving ahead, steps lead down to a lower story. Here we see some cells: each are tiny, with a small ventilator and a doorway. These were probably rooms for students. There are also some pavilions on the lawns containing graves, now used by visitor to sun themselves in winter. The graves were probably of teachers and officials of the Madrassa.

The overall impression of the ruins are of bygone magnificence. They are surrounded by the modernity of present day Delhi yet retaining the mystique of the distant past. Today, the ruins offer a beautiful spot in the middle of a bustling metropolis where one can rest, reflect upon the Islamic past of Delhi and enjoy the sun in winter. The many eateries and shops in the adjoining village offer the visitor to sample the past and the present in a single visit.

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Bio: I am an amateur , retired and a late entrant to photography. I live in Gurgaon near New Delhi with my wife and one daughter. I use a Nikon D800. These pictures were shot with a Nikon 24-85mm f/2.8-4 and a Nikon 18-35 F/3.5-4.5 lens in two visits.

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I am a retired amateur and a new entrant to photography. I use a Nikon D800

Shooting in The Dark by Dominique Shaw

My brother Liam and I have been shooting weddings without flash for over eight years. The flash equipment is safely in the car boot just in case of an absolute emergency but for the last four years we haven’t had the need to bring out the flash gun at all! We like to let the day unfold naturally, letting things happen without interference and without directing the action. We find that using flash alerts our wedding couples and guests to our presence and stops us being able to faithfully capture the atmosphere and feel of the day.

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To achieve this look we use great quality prime lenses and the most advanced cameras but more importantly we have a great understanding of light and a very steady hand! We find that available light allows us to share the true moments of the day with real, genuine expressions and storytelling scenes.

Sometimes we find that we are working in very dark venues, sometimes just by candle light and if the wedding couple get married at 4pm in December you may hardly see any light at all. The dance floors can be pitch black with cloth ceilings and just some DJ laser lights for company. In this scenario I’m not going to pretend it is easy but it is certainly very possible; slow shutter speeds (you need to be able to hand-hold at 1/30 and below) and wide apertures (f1.8 and below) are necessary along with a lot of patience and experience in manual focusing. You must also not be afraid of grain in your images and use high ISOs (without of course going too far and impacting on the photograph, this is a judgement call). Some photographers favour black and white when working on the dance floor without flash but we actually love using colour as for us it brings more mood and excitement to the image.

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From a technical standpoint it’s imperative to shoot fully manually and know your camera inside out. When you are shooting in the dark I’m afraid there is no hiding place and if you get the exposure wrong it will be unusable. If you really want to learn to shoot manually buy yourself a film camera and practice on that – you find you learn pretty quickly when you have to pay for each mistake.

Perhaps more important than any technical pointers though is this: don’t be afraid of the dark. Sure you might find that sometimes the faces are slightly in shadow, but does that really matter if the emotion is shining through? Used correctly a little shadow can be just as powerful as a beam of sunlight, and sometimes it’s the way the body shape is accentuated that makes the shot more than the facial expression. But once you get over the fear factor and turn off the flash you really learn to find the light in every shooting situation, after all if the dance floor was dark the pictures really should be quite dark, otherwise you’re taking a natural moment and, with flash, turning it about as unnatural as lighting gets.

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Although shooting in the dark isn’t easy, when you get it right it really is wonderful. The emotional impact, fluidity and creativity you can deliver really makes up for all the out of focus mistakes and wrong exposures along the way. When you finally knock it out of the park with a shot that would have been impossible using flash you will be happy that you kept that flashgun locked up in the boot!

Dominique & Liam Shaw / York Place Studios

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Yorkshire Wedding Photographers Dominique and Liam Shaw are the creative award-winning partnership behind York Place Studios who together strive to create emotional, storytelling wedding photography across the UK and abroad.
http://www.yorkplacestudios.co.uk/

Lighting a Classic Wedding Portrait by Matt Foden

We shot this image at a wedding at Wotton House, a classic old country-style house in Dorking in the middle of the Surrey Hills (where the Olympic Road Race took place last year). As a portrait it’s a little different from our usual style (which is quite relaxed) but we wanted a classic, formal portrait of the bride to fit in with the look of this venue.

The image was shot using a mixture of ambient light and off-camera flash. Brenda took the image itself, and I’m holding a flashgun, mounted on the end of a monopod, just outside of the frame to the left. The flash was triggered using the Phottix Strato 2 radio receiver/transmitter set, which is an excellent and reliable system. It does only operate on manual mode, but I actually prefer this, as I find automated systems a little unreliable and inconsistent.

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First we set the camera to underexpose the ambient light by one stop. This was so that the contrast between the off-camera flash and the background was more pronounced. The settings, on Manual Mode, were 1/160 sec at f5.6 at ISO 800.

I then adjusted the output of the off-camera flash to ensure the bride was lit properly. I seem to remember the flash was set to 1/16 Power in manual mode. Initially the flash output was a little too strong, so I took a step away from the bride to slightly reduce its effect. There are many different ways of ensuring the right mix of flash to ambient light, and I don’t profess to be an expert (I’m still very much learning this skill). I find that a degree of trial and error is involved in this process. You could, for example, change the aperture to f6.3 to reduce the effect of the flash. This would have the effect of darkening the background however.

In terms of the composition, Brenda wanted to feature the strong lines and shapes of the floor ‘tiles’ as they form a strong leading line to the bride. She has also used one of the three archways as a ‘frame’ for the bride as well.

Overall we were both pleased with this image. On balance we may have been able to add slightly more dynamism into it by asking the bride to tilt her head to one side slightly, but I think that it is an effective portrait, and does convey the setting well.

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Matt Foden and his wife Brenda run Foden Photography, shooting weddings and portraits across the UK. They are located just outside of London, in Croydon, Surrey.
http://www.fodenphotography.com