Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Silhouette of big pointy thing a.k.a. Big Ben

OK, so technically Big Ben is the bell, but wtf - everyone refers to the clock tower as Big Ben.

Natalee and I went into London yesterday…. parked at my work car park & rented a couple of Boris's Bikes - By far the cheapest & best way to be a tourist in London.

Couldn't resist the sunset as we went over the bridge.

What a difference two and a half hours makes....

Monday, 21 November 2011

Shana decided to support Movember with me this year

Sadly we both have more grey in our moustache's than we would like.

At least it gives me the chance to create some ridiculous images for fun.....

Donate on my charity page at

Saturday, 29 October 2011

More Strangers on Southbank

Stranger on Southbank, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
Met this lovely girl on Southbank. She seemed to enjoy Tyla & myself taking pictures of her & her friend…. wore that delightful smile the whole time.

Drummer by the river, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
I would love to tell you this chap's name, but I messed up taking notes on my iphone somehow. I do remember that he is a student & musician… plays drums, mostly jazz.

Out with Tyla again on Southbank hunting strangers. As usual she brought her stobe & umbrella along. She has a great image of his girlfriend.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Strangers on Southbank

Went out hunting strangers with Tyla on Wednesday…. Fantastic evening, partly because Tyla is such a delight to be out with, but also because street photography is so much easier and fun when there are two of you. First time I have done strobist street photography & someone to hold the light makes it a doddle.

Stranger #15 - Chris, Teacher, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
Chris is smiling 'cos he just got out of changing a nappy. Instead I dragged him across to the edge of the river in front of the sunset.

Chris is a teacher & had just come back from Japan to meet old friends in the UK. He was with his daughter & Japanese wife. Hope they enjoyed their visit to London.

Saw Dax's cool glasses & knew I had to make an image of him. He and his girlfriend Lee Yee were browsing in the bookstore under Waterloo Bridge on Southbank.

This is Patricia, she was quietly contemplating the world go by while consuming one of the worlds essential food groups.

She works as an executive assistant in an investment banking firm.

A lovely girl & a delight to talk to.

Stranger with pipe, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....

This is an old chap that was visiting London from up in Glasgow. He seemed to be having a nice peaceful time smoking his pipe & watching the river & the people pass by. I did ask his name, but completely forgot it since coming home.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Model shoots - fun but challenging

So have done several model shoots over the last couple of months..... lots of fun, but really challenging. The biggest problem I found was trying to work out what I wanted from a model & then the next problem was how to direct him/her. My first shoot was OK, my second was better & I was pleased with the results of my third. Luckily on all I was surrounded by more experienced folk from the flickr group London Strobist - a nice bunch of people who were quite willing to help me out.

I went through various stages of working out what to do....
Stage 1 - Work with someone more expert / experienced and sort of copy what they did
Stage 2 - Preprepare the week before by collecting about 30 or 40 photographs that I thought were cool and try and re-create them
Stage 3 - Pick one element out of one (or several) of my various "target" photos and then use these to set my direction

Beyond that I have to talk to the models & encourage / direct them while simultaneously shooting.... And it turns out I am bloody useless at that.... I can barely walk & chew gum at the same time, so composing a photo while putting someone at ease and directing their mood / pose is just beyond me. What seems to work best is giving them some direction then doing the photo thing while they move & adapt on their own (vaguely based on my initial request) gives me some good results.

Anyway here's some of my pics from the various shoots.....

Eisha - Here's looking at ya, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....

Black & White - Live, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....

The choice between looking cool & watching your step., originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....

Monique in the grunge, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....

Monique - Attitude, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....

Alicia - Profile, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....

Lucy - full face, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....

Lucy - Live, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....

Free fall, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....

Saturday, 9 April 2011


Diamond, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
I decided to rework one of my older shots of Sebe. Nice how a bit of easy manipulation completely transforms it.

This is #2 son - Sebe. He spends about 12-16hrs a week rowing / training which is why he has muscles. Mine are long gone ;-(

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Making ART

Making ART, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
Started a 52 week project based on the book Soulpancake. More info here for a fun group if you want to tag along.

The wk 2 challenge: Art at Arms length - "Make some art out of whatever you find around you."

OK, so I took this literally and "made" ART

Letter A
- Through the Lens - National Geographic's Greatest Photographs
- Exposure - Jane Bown
- Firewire Cable

Letter R
- The Art Book - Phaidon
- Moleskine Notebook
- Dexter - DVD boxed set Series 4
- The Cathedral & the Bazaar - Eric S Raymond

Letter T
- Masterclass in Photography - Michael & Julian Busselle
- Visionmongers - Dechemin
- Balancing Agility & Discipline (A guide for the perplexed) - Boehm & Turner

Monday, 7 February 2011

Guitar Licks & Serendipity

Did a shoot this afternoon with a good friend..... John Parkin. I have know him for years since we were work colleagues 10+ years ago. Now he is my son's guitar teacher. He agreed to help me out with a photo training assignment....
Guitar Licks & Serendipity, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....

Project 52 - Assignment 4:
"A local entrepreneur has just been nominated by a national conference as the number one leader in his/her industry… a new and upcoming industry. The magazine needs an image that shows the person in either an environment that shows their working area, or how his/her business/industry effects _____ (environment, people, energy, people or technology). Note although the assignment allows for a faux description - this is actually full reality."

This is John Parkin.... a guitar teacher extraordinaire. He is able to connect with pupils and teach them how to play the music THEY want as well as teach them all the building blocks required to be a competent and eventually great guitarist.

He does this by taking the (pupil selected) music track and de-constructing it into all its basic parts and then explaining them all individually, plus demonstrating them. Each of these components is then taught, supplemented by the appropriate scales, arpeggios, exercises etc to build sufficient skill to play that component part well. These are then reconstructed by the pupil and John playing various parts between them.

He teaches my older son & I have sat in the background listening to music tracks that I have heard many times before and hearing them with a completely new perspective, and heard my son's progression to playing the piece correctly.

The scales, arpeggios & exercises all build general competence, plus the student remains motivated because they are playing music that appeals to them. Occasionally John adds additional pieces to broaden the students learning & appreciation.

This deconstruction & reconstruction is an extra skill that is learned throughout this process..... Although my son not currently in a band, when he has, he has been the person using these same skills to work out who should play what and how the music needs to be adapted so that it is within the playing capability of the various players.

So where does the innovation come in.... John is currently in the process of constructing a set of interactive DVDs that someone can follow to gain the same skills and building blocks for their guitar playing.

This was a fun shoot..... I entered it at the last minute as I was struggling to find a suitable entrepreneur. Thank goodness I remembered John & that he was flexible enough to immediately participate.

Spent a couple of hours with him doing various setups of him, 8 of his 16 guitars (some of which are collectors pieces), and the various equipment & speaker stacks.

Had a list of about 4 or 5 different poses that I walked in with, but wasn't sure what would actually be possible with the room constraints. Lighting worked out on the fly for each different setup.

For this particular shot I wanted a visual joke based on the dual meaning of "Guitar Lick"

Strobe illuminating the blank wall behind him making him pretty much a silhouette. The reflection of the wall in his glasses giving his face an extra dimension was serendipity rather than planned.

Project 52-4: Photographing an Entrepreneur (face), originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
For this particular shot I wanted his face almost full frame with the guitar neck only as context.
Decided to keep the lighting simple with alot of darkness and shadow. Hence only 1 Bowens strobe with a 60deg reflector from beside his face

Project 52-4: Photographing an Entrepreneur (wide), originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
For this particular shot I wanted him (full body), his guitar and the equipment stacks.
Decided to keep the lighting simple with alot of darkness and shadow. Still only 1 Bowens strobe with a 60deg reflector but with barn doors to restrict the light to just him & part of the stack.

These are the assignment particulars:
Vertical Image
8.5×11 ratio.
Templte provided with text to be overlaid 

You must deliver:
2 photographs, the entrepreneur’s business description (faux, of course) and a paragraph that explains what the entrepreneur has done within their industry. They will both be vertical. One close up in environment, and one in a more expansive shot with more environment. We also would like to see your shoot planning docs, any sketches you are working with or have done for this image, and a lighting explanation.
See below for my images with the text template.....
Final versions, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....

Jim Shields Photography

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The marks we leave.....

The marks we leave....., originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
The words in the fingerprint are the lines from Rudyard Kipling's poem "If". This poem is one the marks my father left on me.... He used to quote it every now & again, and when you read the words they are actually a pretty good set of values to live by. (Words included at the bottom for those that don't know this poem already.)

Folk who used to know my father and who know me always remark how similar we are... appearance, attitudes mannerisms etc. All in all, pretty happy with that - he was a good man.

Makes me wonder what sort of marks I am leaving on my boys.... at 18 & 20 already, most of the shaping from me is probably already done & dusted. They are both boys to be proud of, so I can't have screwed them up too much.

Project Soulpancake wk 1 - Examine your fingerprints.

P.S. Given that wk 16 task is "learn a poem" I may finally learn the damn thing. Always wanted to be able to quote it....
P.P.S. It's an old photo of Sebe & me from over a year ago to which I added the "fingerprint" today
P.P.P.S. People remark Sebe looks like me too. Nathaniel is lucky enough to take after Natalee appearance wise


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on’;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And - which is more - you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling
Jim Shields Photography

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Reeds at sunset (and details of the coolest iPhone app for photographers)

Went for a walk along the Thames in Henley at sunset..... Love the warm light at that time.

Timed my dog walk especially for sunset.... recently got the coolest iPhone app for any photographer - it's called "The Photographers Ephemeris"..... which nomenclature probably means sweet F.A. to you as it did to me. It is actually an app that tells you exactly when sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset is or will be wherever you want in the world. It also tells you where it will be relative to where you are standing and all sorts of other useful stuff in addition. Links in a sensible way into the iPhone GPS and compass functions also for real time help on the scene.

Jim Shields Photography

Stranger #12 - Tony, Water Consulting Engineer

Tony is a Water consulting engineer. (Helps with Dams, Weirs etc)

Met Tony while walking along the towpath beside the Thames in Henley. I was out taking photos while walking the dog & he was searching for his wife. (Not in a `'speed-dating`' sort of sense.... he is already married but had simply misplaced her.) I met him again about 20-30 mins later, but he had still not found her.

This picture is #12 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at
Jim Shields Photography

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Brochure cover assignment - Still Life

Training assignment to do a "Still Life" to fit on an 8"x8" brochure cover.

We are to make an interesting, compelling photograph of something that is inanimate. Something to illustrate an article that is inside a magazine. The goal is to catch the eye and compel a closer look, or investigation into the brochure we are shooting for. The Brochure covers interesting discoveries in technology, design, "Green" processes and agriculture.

Spent more time thinking about what to shoot than doing the actual shooting.... Sometimes a wide open theme is harder to create for than a single defined specification.

In the end I went for 2 different approaches..... one a naturally lit, organic shot.... (the espresso & coffee beans shot above), and a hard clinical, metallic shot of kitchen utensils with hard artificial lighting (see below) as an alternative.

Personally I like the kitchen utensils one more, probably because it was harder to do & I thought the hard work paid off, but I got many more comments & faves when I published them on flickr for the espresso cup shot. Either way, pleased with them both.

Thursday, 27 January 2011


Word #15 - Commemorate, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
I decided to do a "professional" product shot of my watch. Fuck, but this was harder than I could have imagined.... 2 lights, multiple diffusers & reflectors & lots & lots of frustration.... There is still one reflection that bugs me but wtf!.....

So how is this a commemoration?..... I bought this watch from some of the dosh out of my fathers legacy..... always wanted a "proper" watch & decided that some of the dosh from his legacy should go towards something that was permanent & lasting. Been a few years now but I still think of him when I look at the watch... not every time... sometimes I just want to know what the damn time is.... But when I LOOK at the watch...... I think of my father.

24/365:2011 - 24th Jan
100 words: Word #15 - Commemorate
Jim Shields Photography

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Carry a camera.... really!

Word #28 - Distance, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
Glad I carry my camera around almost all the time..... sometimes the best shots are completely unplanned & just appear before you.

This one happened when I went to Henley Rowing Club to pick up #2 son from his training session. This is him at the far end of the boat house. Loved the reflections off the boats on their racks and all the lines leading towards the distant light from the open door at the far end.

23/365:2011 - 23rd Jan
100 Words: Word #28 - Distance
Jim Shields Photography

Monday, 17 January 2011

Stranger #11 - Jack, Aspiring musician

Saw Jack coming out of a shop in Henley & his bohemian appearance just screamed out to be photographed.
When chatting to him I discovered that he is currently earning his living as a gardener, but aspires to a career in music as a guitarist. When I mentioned that my eldest son is also 20, plays guitar & that we lived locally he seemed keen to hook up with him for some jam sessions. I passed him my card so he could see his photo and perhaps contact Nathaniel through me.

This is the first night photo I've taken for my strangers project. (A fast lens is really essential). Really pleased with the view behind him of Henley town hall with the bokeh lights and the reflections on the wet pavement.

Jack was happy enough to do a couple of different poses. Alternate in comments.

This picture is #11 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at
Jim Shields Photography

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Stranger #10 - Jane, Retiree & Charity Worker

Jane stopped to chat to me when I was taking a "face-down" shot in a pedestrian underpass. (Actually she stopped to ask about Shana, my Ridgeback dog who was my "assistant"..... Seemed obvious to ask her to be one of my 100 strangers).

She was a cheery individual and chatted about her two dogs (Yorkies), and the charity that she has been involved in since retiring from working at Heathrow. The charity is "People & Places" and she clearly enjoys her time there.

This picture is #10 in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Teenage Hoodie a.k.a. Number One Son

Decided to join Lighting Essentials Project 52 to stretch myself a little (actually probably a lot). It's all Tyla's fault for suggesting it.

OK so the exercise for week 1 is to write a Mission Statement.... "Tell us with a single paragraph what you want to be able to do with your images."

No not corporate bullshit stuff, nor even what I what to achieve with my nascent portrait photography business.... after all I take many more photos for my own pleasure & learning than I do for profit (much as I wish this ratio was reversed!), but a statement about what I want my photography to achieve for me. Ideally I would want to have this ALSO be a foundation for business success, but not necessarily. I guess that is more of a chicken and egg debate i.e. learn to build a business around what my passion / vision / mission is vs learn to enjoy what I have chosen for a business.

So what do I enjoy....
- seeing how people act & think
- telling a story about people to people
- have a dialogue with people
- look at what people do or say
- telling jokes to folk
- creating a sense of awe or fascination
- learning how to get stuff done
- creating something that is both unique and innovative
- creating something I can take pride in
- I am a geek & like playing with technology

Now convert that into a mission statement !!


OK - Here is a first attempt. Not sure I am happy with it and it certainly does not trip off the tongue very easily. But I'll work with it over the next month or so to make it fit better.

I find people fascinating & often amusing. I create unique and different images that communicate this wonder and humour so that there is a dialogue between the observer and the images or their subject. My images will evolve over time.

And finally the image at hand..... This is Nathaniel, my number one son. I've portrayed him as a teenage hoodie here, but in actuality he just turned 20. Lighting concept for this one sort of came from this image by Lubdah.... who is even further from being a teenager to say the least.

p.s. Look at this large to see his eyes - which was more happy accident than design

Jim Shields Photography

Friday, 7 January 2011

"The Hound of the Baskervilles"

Celebrating the "birthdate" of Sherlock Holmes.

Sometimes it is fun to play with photoshop

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Sarah & Jonny

Sarah - B&W, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
Did some portraits for some kids just before Christmas. (OK - Kids may be a misnomer as they were 18 & 20). They wanted a protrait for their mum as a Christmas present. In exchange for a free session they spent some extra time posing for me so I could practice some extra poses / lighting scenarios. Liked the close in versions of Sarah.... this one I processed as B&W. Not often I get willing subjects other than my sons to pose for me & I feel I can't really waste the time of paying clients for experimental shots.

Into the light, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
Played around a bit with one from my session with Sarah. The original was cropped in much closer so I added some negative space and a light source.

Looking Up, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....

Smiley dude, originally uploaded by It's life Jim.....
So much easier to get a nice portrait when the subject is smiling... Making wisecracks obviously pays off occasionally.