Nothing on my mind, 11 June 2009

2009/06/11

Anyone who has perused my Flickr site [1] will likely notice immediately that I generally do not photograph people or take portraits of any kind. Its just not the sort of thing that interests me much, and since this is primarily a hobby, I do not feel the need to do things with my photographic pursuits that I do not enjoy doing. This being said, while today’s post may appear quite atypical, the set in which this photo appears is a photoshoot I did for a musician friend during one of his shows. Yes, sometimes, I do things for friends that I would not normally do, were I left to my own devices. Yes, that’s right…sometimes, I find myself capable of acting like a real human being. Just sometimes, though.

NWest22s

Photo Information:

Camera: Nikon N80 (F80, internationally)
Lens: Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4
Film: Ilford HP5+ ISO 400 (EI 1600) [2]
Exposure: N80 TTL meter [3]

Technical details aside, the singer/songwriter/guitar player stud who is the subject of this photo is Nick West. [4] The show was just under a year ago, and was staged in the apartment of a mutual friend; yes, you read that right: another friend rearranged his apartment such that he could host a music show in his living room. It isn’t so obvious in this photo, but if you check out some of the shots from the rest of the set, the apartment setting becomes more obvious.

Of the 28 shots in the set, this one is far and away my favorite; once I saw it after processing the film, it made the entire shoot worthwhile (not that the other shots aren’t good, either, but if you’re at all the creative type, you probably know that feeling). I think it adequately captures the mood not only of the setting and the show, but also of Nick’s music. I would try to describe it for you, but if you’re really interested, just check out his site; its much easier just to listen, and see how awesome his work really is.

As for the photo itself, besides the custom processing, there’s not too much to tell. The lighting for the show was mostly improvised; basically, we grabbed lamps from around our friend’s apartment, and set them up to provide some illumination for the “stage” area. It actually wasn’t as bright as it appears in this photo; the high contrast here is a result of the added contrast inherent in the push-processing procedure and the fact that I shot most of the show using the widest aperture setting possible. The latter was primarily because it was so dark in the apartment, but also because I wanted to keep the focus on Nick himself, and de-emphasize the background as much as possible (hence, the blurry background in this shot). This also had the added effect of rendering his guitar out of focus, particularly the end closest to the camera; I would have preferred that the guitar be in focus, but it was unavoidable. The lowered perspective for this shot (and one other in the set) was actually a suggestion from our host, and I think it worked out well.

Finally, the symbol in the lower right-hand corner is, as you may have guessed, my signature. In Chinese. Actually, its not my full signature, as it is missing the character for my family name, but it does contain my full given name. The symbol is a scan of an actual seal made by the stamp itself, [5] which I typically use as my signature on various creative works. Of course, I added this stamp in post-processing, which accounts for its transparency, and the fact that it is grey, even though the original stamp is in red.

Enjoy.

Notes:

[1]: My Flickr site, in case you’re interested, and missed the widget on the right that directs you there. Enjoy.

[2]: EI = Exposure Index, in case you haven’t read my previous posts related to push-processing.

[3]: TTL = Through The Lens, otherwise known as the camera’s built-in meter. Though I typically use a handheld spotmeter for most of my older meter-less cameras, I rely heavily on the TTL meters in my various 35mm SLRs. Generally, they have served me well, so I have no complaints in that regard. Besides, most TTL meters are averaging meters, which means that they automatically calculate average light values such as those I use my spotmeter to measure and calculate on my own.

[4]: Check out Nick’s music on his MySpace page; why don’t you head on over and have a listen? He’s also got his recently-completed EP, Future’s Mystery, available on iTunes. Buy yourself your very own copy! There’s also a permanent link to his site on the right side of the main page for my blog, so its there in case you need it again.

[5]: Such signature stamps (colloquially known as “chops”) are common in Asian cultures, particularly in China, Japan, and Korea. I obtained mine from a calligraphy set I bought while I was in China with my family; my cousin and I had our stamps engraved by a local artisan, after having our respective parents write down our Chinese names [*] (neither my cousin nor I spoke or wrote Chinese at the time; my cousin does now, but I am still uneducated in that regard). See here for more information about the use and history of these such stamps (Wikipedia article).

[*]: In case you’re wondering, I do not actually use my Chinese name often, though it is technically my middle name (in English, and in its anglicized form). From what my parents explained to me, the characters were officially given to me by my paternal grandfather; this was a concession to traditional Chinese cultural norms. My grandfather, who was notably progressive in his views on such matters, did not expect or demand the right to name his grandchildren (apparently, this is/was the norm in highly traditional families); his only request was that my parents provide him with the meaning of the names they intended to give to their children, so that he could translate them into Chinese names that he would subsequently grant us in his “official” capacity as nominal head of the family. Of course, this leads to a rather interesting situation where my given and middle names are actually redundant. Of course, you’d never know that unless I told you it was so.

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