Friday, 17 December 2010

Into the light

Into the light, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
A quick portrait practice shot with my son. Most of the time he is OK with posing.... as long as it is either quick as this one was (2 or 3 mins), or fun stuff like throwing flour or lightpainting.

This was just experimenting with lighting techniques to get a slightly more unusual portrait.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Family portrait with dog

One from a recent shoot. Interesting trying to get family portraits, especially with pets involved. Quite like how this one turned out - managed to even get the dog to look at the camera.... even if he does look a bit mournful.

What 'yer lookin' at ?, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
Seem to almost always end up doing a composite line-up construction for some reason. (Method B of getting a simultaneous smile from everyone & all looking the right way.)

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Stranger #9 - Celeste, Barista

Celeste works in my favourite coffee house in London. (Flat White in Berwick Street, Soho).

She never seemed to stop moving.... making coffee,delivering coffee or sandwiches to tables etc.... and always with a sunny smile. I was able to persuade her to pause for 20 or 30 seconds to take a couple of pictures. Not sure I could either be that cheerful or work that hard all the time!

You can see her colleague still beavering away at the espresso machine in the background.

This picture is #9 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at

This is the flat white I was drinking while waiting for my sandwich.

Almost every time I come into the café I pick up the book you see from the corner of the magazine stack. It is "Soho Lives" by Catherine Garcia. A fascinating book all about people who live in, work in or regularly visit Soho. For each portrait it names the person in the portrait, gives their role in life, and a 1 line quote from them about Soho. The picture on the left page is actually one of the other Flat White baristas sitting in front of the door of the café I am sitting in. An inspirational book for photographing strangers.
Love this café..... great coffee & food plus a cool bohemian atmosphere. I visit here almost every time I come into London on my infrequent trips

Monday, 29 November 2010

Published !!!!

Published !!!!, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
OK, so only 'cos I entered a photo competition in Berkshire Life magazine. Winner of the National competition gets £5000.... Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Still - nice to see one's work (& ugly mug) in print.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

If ignorance is bliss, why aren't more people jumping up and down for joy?

Photo session with both my sons late last night. My older son is doing a jumpology project for his Photography course at uni & persuaded his brother to do a few jumps for him.

He had me set up my big white studio paper backdrop up outside & we used a projector to project an image of the sky onto it, then Sebe did a few (hundred) jumps. I would never have conceived of this. Odd doing nothing in a shoot but taking direction.

A few extra in the comments section of this photo in my flickr stream (Just click on the photo to get there)

Monday, 8 November 2010

Stranger #8 - Lorraine, Café Owner

Meet Lorraine, the owner/proprietor of the nicest coffee shop in Henley on Thames. (The café is "Hot Gossip" situated on Friday Street.)

What makes it so nice?.... mainly the friendly welcome you get there. Lorraine & the two young girls serving there seemed to chat amiably to everyone who came in. It is also the only café around that is dog friendly - I had been out taking the dog for a walk & fancied a sit down in the warmth. Lorraine and the girls pampered my dog Shana who shamelessly looked mournful until she was fed dog biscuits from the special doggie treat tin.

Lorraine has owned the café for 3 years. She gave up a career as a graphic designer to set up the café. No regrets from such a big career change. These days she still does portraiture sketching for fun & relaxation.

This picture is #8 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at
Jim Shields Photography

Flashing the Mo !

Flashing the Mo !, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
Time for you folk to dig in your wallets. This is Movember..... the month where chaps start clean shaven & grow a moustache throughout November in support of Prostate Cancer. (Donate here)

Only a few days growth so far.... i.e. too embarassing to display. Not entirely sure I will make it through the month - still job searching & not sure a half grown moustache is the right impression to take into a job interview, but will see how it goes.

See my version of the picture on the front cover of this book below.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Stranger #7 - James, Avid reader

Came across James, sitting neatly on a stump on the riverbank as I was walking the dog in Henley. I had brought my camera along with the intent of getting another stranger shot & his intense concentration on his Dick Clancy novel was endearing enough to catch my eye.

I wish I knew what James did, because although he IS an avid reader, it's probably not a very good label for anyone. Not sure I would have got an answer even if I had asked. James is the first stranger I've talked to that was somewhat reluctant to be photographed... although I realise 6 prior strangers is not exactly a conclusive social trend. He seemed perplexed by some weird chap coming up & wanting to take his photo for no apparent reason. I did explain the 100 strangers project, but this clearly only partially explained my oddness. "What are you going to do with these photos after the project?". Good question indeed.....

Am I learning anything through the project from these first 7 strangers? Well I think so.... One has to think quickly about composition & what you want of their character to show in a portrait, and you only have about 5 or 6 shots to get it. It does make you consciously think about your shots - digital photography allows us to shoot blithely away, knowing that each shot costs nothing & that if you take enough shots then there is bound to be a decent one in there. The 100 strangers project requires a completely different ethos entirely and will create another working methodology that will be useful on occasion

Far from the best portrait in my strangers project so far.... although his concentration on his book attracted me, it lacks a connection with the viewer.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Who's crying now !

Who's crying now !, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
Never any point in crying over spilt milk.

Using flash photography can be fun at times.... but messy.
  • Position the flash/strobe close to the subject - this makes sure the subject is well lit, but the background remains in darkness. 
  • Use a high f-stop in order to get a deep depth of field so that the front and back of the milk splash both in focus
  • Use the highest shutter speed available that syncs with your strobe, although no great issue if this is only 1/60th second
  • The milk will appear frozen in place as the actual flash duration is typically about 1/1000th of a second.
  • You will probably have to repeat multiple times to get the timing coordinated between the splash happening and operating your camera.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Under the nose of Cow #18

Ever feel you are being watched? I guess that is the problem with doing face-down Tuesdays. (Take a picture lying face down on the ground.... why?..... Why not?)

Took my car into Reading to get it MOT'd, and this was on the wall of the meat market (auction yards) across the road from the garage.

Hopefully I livened up the day for the cows.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Stranger #6: Cathy, Rowing Mother

Just to be clear, Cathy is a mother of a rower.... not a mother who rows.

I met her at the Head Race I attended today that my son competed in. Cathy's son Ed also participated & we got to have a pleasant time chatting on the bank.

As parents of rowers we end up spending unreasonable amounts of time on riverbanks, waiting for a few seconds of excitement as our offspring row past, shouting ourselves hoarse in the meantime...... plus doing a taxi service to take them to training sessions 5 or 6 times a week.

When I asked her to pose she was happy to do so.... I chose the classic head & shoulders pose rather than the 3/4 length pose so she could proudly display the bulging bag containing a souvenir from her dog.

I am sure we will see each other again on the riverbank sometime.

p.s. A "Head Race" is a race where the entire field of competitors start at approx 30 second intervals over course usually 2km-5km. Each boat is individually timed.

This picture is #5 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at

Jim Shields Photography

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Angel shining bright

Angel shining bright, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
Had some fun with my son Sebe a couple of days ago. Practised some "Light Painting" techniques.

Light Painting is where the photo is taken in darkness, and one uses a flashlight or equivalent to paint streams of light in the air. For me the most difficult part was remembering where I had painted - so important to have the whole act of painting clear in one's mind first

I also used strobes from each side to light up his body. Strobes were set off at the start of the 30 second exposure before I started "painting"

Sebe seemed to enoy it too..... Luckily quite happy to pose half-nekkid at night in October in the UK (the young are hardy & foolish).

Friday, 1 October 2010

Stranger #5, Julio, Art Student

Came across Julio at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. He and 3 other students were sitting there sketching each other.

He was quite relaxed about posing for me - I guess he is used to the concept of being a subject, plus he mentioned that he had done a similar project himself in the past.

I asked him to carry on with his sketching as the thing that had attracted me to him as a subject was his intense concentration on his task.

This picture is #5 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Doodling in Photoshop

Doodling in Photoshop, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
This started off as a copycat of the fabulous Froukje, but then somehow wandered off into some bizarre photoshop doodle. No idea where the heart came from, but it just seemed right to add it.

I suppose that photoshop is a guilty pleasure, so it's OK to indulge in occasionally as long as it doesn't go to excess.

Any way I had fun with this, forcing my son to pose for me, then doodling away..... It isn't perfect, but I learnt a bit more about photoshop which was half the point of it.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Stranger #4 - Gino, Barista

Gino works at Josef's Café.... Which is a trailer based café just beside Walton Bridge. It's just behind him in the picture here.

I stopped there for a cup of tea earlier today. As I was sitting sipping the tea he came out from the trailer & started chasing the swans away. (The café is only 30 yards from the River Thames .... and clearly the swans look for a free lunch from the customers occasionally). He seemed in good humour doing this and could see I was amused at the exercise.

After I explained the project to him he was happy to pose.

This picture is #4 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at

Monday, 27 September 2010

Approaching Tower Bridge in the Great River Race 2010

Spent Saturday competing in the Great River Race 2010.
This is a 21 mile marathon up the River Thames from London Docklands to Richmond. Race is for traditional boats only. (people powered, no sliding seats).

Had a great time - great to see London from a different perspective as well as the pageantry of the race. A larger set of photos here.

Friday, 24 September 2010

An example to us all.....

Last weekend I did a very quick photoshoot for a family celebrating a 60th wedding anniversary.

The happy couple were a perfect example of what we should all be striving for in our personal life..... still together after 60 years, and at a celebration with all their family around.

Tried to get this done as quickly as possible as I didn't want to intrude on their family time, so took less shots than normal, but I think I captured some good ones regardless.

This one was my favourite.... clearly showing their happy and alert characters.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Bristol University Open day

I just loved this building. It's the Wills Memorial Building at Bristol University.

Bristol looks to be Sebe's #1 choice for Uni for his Biochemistry course. I'm hoping he ends up there just for the photo opportunities.

Next time I need to come back with my tripod & do multiple bracketed shots & try one of these smartarse type HDR things. I had to simply burn in more detail on the ceiling & it has suffered a bit from this.

The entry tower on the Wills Memorial Building at Bristol University.

It is a breathtakingly beautiful building.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Stranger #3 - Lucy, Skipper

This is Lucy Herbert. She is a Skipper for the Rivertime Boat Trust.... a charity that takes disabled & disadvantaged children and adults out on boat trips on the River Thames. Donate to the charity here

Met her at the Henley River & Rowing Museum café where I met Dorothea (stranger #2) and once again she spoke to me first to admire Shana my ridgeback dog. (Looks like taking a cute looking dog along is a great introductory ice-breaker).

This picture is #3 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at
Jim Shields Photography

Stranger #2 - Dorothea, Pensioner

Sat down at the café at the Henley River & Rowing museum. Dorothea came up to me to admire Shana, my Ridgeback dog. We chatted for a little while. She was originally from Germany but has been living in UK for 35 years. Despite this, she still had a heavy accent. A delightful old lady.

I forgot to ask what she used to do, and only half explained about the 100 strangers project, but she was happy to have her photo taken.

This picture is #2 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Advanced Pilates

Advanced Pilates, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
Fun time with my son playing with gravity & rotations today.
Yes - He really is doing that!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Stranger #1 - Thomas, Head Chef

An easy start to my 100 strangers project.... My son & I were going round Nottingham University on an open day & were admiring the refectory in Lincoln Hall of Residence when Thomas came up to talk to us.

As you can tell from his smile, Thomas is one of those indomitably cheerful people & enthused about his job & the hall that he worked in.

The refectory hall had caught my eye as we toured as it was very "Harry Potteresque" in it's appearance.

Sadly I only had my iphone as a camera, but it seemed to cope OK.

This picture is #1 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at

Friday, 10 September 2010

The 100 strangers project

The idea: The One Hundred Strangers project is a learning group for people who want to improve the social and technical skills needed for taking portraits of strangers and telling their stories. The method is learning by doing.

The challenge: Take 100 photographs of at least 100 people you don't know. Approach a person or group of people and ask for permission to both take a photo of them and to post it to the 100 strangers group. Get to know your subjects. Who are they? What is their life like?

Monday, 6 September 2010

Essential skills for photographers - Part 1: Capturing Bokeh

bokeh is the blur in out-of-focus areas of an image, or the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Family Portrait - Profiles

Did another family shoot yesterday.

Odd how I always seem to prefer family group shots as B&W. Colour in comments. Be interesting to see what they choose themselves.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Attack of the Blonde Beer Monkey

The Beer Monkey
Attacked me last night
He emptied my pockets,
He stole my light
He ruffled my hair,
He jumped on my clothes
He banged on my head,
Left kebab on my nose
The Beer Monkey
Threw sand down my throat
Then Peed in my wardrobe
Before I awoke
The Beer Monkey
Was ever so quick
He fled my house
And in the garden was sick
The Beer Monkey
Left me fragile and white
The Beer Monkey
Attacked me last night

Written by Marcus Richardson (

That damn monkey gets around doesn't he!

Saw this poem on someone's T-shirt in a pub one night. Had to google it to find the author etc.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

How to cope when babysitting boys.....

Had a fun time at the weekend doing a photoshoot for Nick & Charlotte who had a host of family over to visit. We managed to get some fun shots in as well as traditional portraits.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Three Hats

Three Hats, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
Damn.... I really should have sucked my gut in for this one... My sons look considerably slimmer than I do.

Not often that I persuade the boys to participate together. Makes a pleasant change.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

"Let me die a Youngman's death"

50 years old this week..... Yippee?

Normally I don't bother too much about age, feeling old, mortality etc etc, but the whole "celebration" of this milestone (we have a party & BBQ planned) seems to make me think about it now. The poem describes exactly the sort of feelings I would prefer to have about ageing & mortality.

The poem is by Roger McGough...... He has some other wonderful & droll poems as well. If you have not read any of his, then take the opportunity to do so if you can.

Monday, 12 July 2010


Lean....., originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
Got my son to pose again. Nice to have a cheap, willing & photogenic model on call.