Both sides now

The mouth of the River Wear is a place of contrasts.  On the south bank; the docks and quays of the Port of Sunderland, a commercial port providing berthing, loading and repair services for a variety of vessels like this Japanese multi-purpose heavy-load transport ship Kurobe.

The north bank is a more relaxed place, home to a campus of the University, an Anglo-Saxon church, the National Glass Centre and the marina with its Marine Activities Centre.I love to stroll around here and enjoy the sights and sounds, though I am puzzled as to who owns the dozens of boats; trawlers, inflatables, yachts, canoes etc., that are moored here, because I only seem to ever see a very small number of them in use, by which I mean actually leaving the marina.  I’m sure some  are like floating garden sheds, a male drinking refuge, rather than actively functioning vessels.

Here there are always possibilities; abstract patterns of light and water waiting to be photographed.

Here art imitates life imitates art.

And alongside the boats?  (Apart from an anamorphically projected door carved out of a wall of rock)

Well what else would you expect to find here but a hairdresser and an aromatherapy studio – just what every seafarer needs!  The coffee shop does well too, especially on such a fine August morning.  I wonder if Fiona was headed there after walking her dog?

Joni Mitchell – Both Sides Now


A bit of a headache…

Another beautiful day today and I was in paparazzi mode.  No, I wasn’t getting in people’s faces against their will or chasing princesses at high speed, but I was on two wheels.  It’s been a while, but it was nice to feel the pedals turning under my feet as I cruised along the coast.  (I wouldn’t have troubled Augustus Windsock in a race though!).

Despite my gentile approach I did seem to bring out more resistance than usual in people (hence the paparazzi comment) which is a shame since some of my refusals would have made great pictures; particularly the man with the white handlebar moustache who very curtly made the point that he would mind if I took his picture, and the woman who was beautifully framed by the open window in her car, but was too self conscious to pose.

Against this background I encountered two girls taking pictures of each other with a Blackberry, so did the decent thing and offered to take one of the pair of them.  Having done them a favour it was their turn to reciprocate and be photographed by me, and that’s where the headache begins.  What do you do with two pretty young girls on a sunny beach?  (Clean answers please!)

The problems are these:

  • It’s so bright that the dynamic range is too bright for the camera.  Any angle that cast shadows and I’m reduced to either blown out, pure white highlights or deep, black shadow with no detail.  I shoot into the light to avoid this, but end up with flat uninteresting lighting on their faces; less of a problem with well lined faces but with fresh, peachy skin like theirs I’m on a hiding to nothing.
  • They’re young and fashion conscious so they’re both wearing shades.  No chance then to really make their eyes pop and sparkle.  What’s more, the trend being for large shades I’ve lost a good proportion of their faces.  Worse still, because they’re so large you can clearly see me reflected in them and this wasn’t supposed to be a self-portrait.

So Sarah and Kirsty, what am I going to do with you?

If I keep it dark enough for Kirsty’s hair I lose Sarah and her vibrant hair colour in shadow…

If I go to monotone and try some different filters I can compensate a little, but then I lose Sarah’s crowning glory even more completely…

What about a bit of cross processing?

Too contrived, I agree.

How about a high fashion glow?  Interesting but now I’ve lost Kirsty’s hair.  This might have come off if I’d gone full length and the girls had made the most of their great legs in some angular poses.

What it came down to was that there were two elements that kept drawing my eye – Sarah’s smile and that bright red hair, so sorry Kirsty but my solution had to be to reach for the cropping tool.  Now I had just one colourful character I could really boost that colour and hey presto!

What would your preference have been?  Leave me a comment below with your ideas please.