27 January 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - Oliver Godby

This week's featured photographer is Oliver Godby, Oliver contacted us through the comments in reply to our first featured 'tog James Corrin.

Oliver's Biog
I’ve been taking photographs for around twenty-five years, but I’ve only been taking the pursuit seriously since I was about sixteen. A good friend of mine at school was considering submitting some of his photographs for a GCSE and looking at his portfolio and talking to him about how and why he had taken them I started to realise that I too could see another level to photography, beyond that of capturing a moment or a memory. I realised that one might create something larger and more meaningful with a camera; I have been trying to do that ever since.

Almost all of my photography revolves around people and or life. That’s not to say that I don’t often try my hand at landscapes, architecture and other disciplines, but I tend to find that time and again I return to what I seem to be best at; people. Whether we are talking about club photography, event photography, weddings, candid portraiture, portraiture, fashion, nudes, erotic or anything else involving people then I am interested in shooting it. For me, the way that I see people and the way that I try to express the wonder, beauty, darkness and light of the human experience through my photography is a necessary part of my passage through life; when others see something that they like or moves them in what I create then I am even happier.

Some of my current work is of a particularly erotic nature and maybe not appropriate for readers of the BLAB Blog in an open office. It is not my only interest by any means, but if readers are interested in seeing that side of my work, then please contact me via the website at the end of the article.

As is usual for featured 'tog on a Tuesday, we ask tough questions to see what makes the 'tog tick.

BLAB: What colour would your Ferrari be?

Oliver: Red, of course. I realise that a different colour would trumpet my individuality or something, but the truth is that a Ferrari should be red, even if they were originally all yellow. I used to despair of people in the eighties who bought the Testarossa, which means ‘Red Head’, and then ordered them in a colour other than red, but that’s just me…

BLAB: What's your best bit of advice for a new photographer?

Oliver: Take a camera with you everywhere you go and take lots and lots of pictures. With digital being the financial godsend that it is you can make a lot more mistakes without it costing you a fortune, but there is no point taking lots of pictures and making those mistakes if you don’t learn from them, so be prepared to get some criticism and __really__ listen to it. I can’t recommend Flickr enough for positive and constructive peer review.

BLAB: Rucksack or shoulder bag and why?

Oliver: When I started out in the world of digital SLRs I was all about the sling or shoulder bag, and I had an awesome one (that is no longer produced) called “The December Quarter” by Crumpler. I could fit two bodies and three lenses, plus a half decent sized laptop and enough clean underwear, socks and t-shirts for a weekend away without having to check my luggage. Can you see the problem? Yep it was an unwieldy bastard. So I started to look for the perfect backpack, and I think that I’ve found it. It’s a camera and laptop backpack by Kata, an Israeli company that started out making equipment for media personnel in dangerous environments. They still make stuff for those kinds of applications, including kevlar helmets with cutaways for camera viewfinders and the like, but they now also make really well designed and rugged camera and kit bags for the pro market. They are a little bit more expensive than Lowe Pro and the like, but I have never been so happy with a bag. So in answer..? Rucksack, every time.

BLAB: Natural light or flash and why?

Oliver: I know that this question appears to be an “either or” kind of deal, but my feelings on this argument are very strong and somewhat contrary to the spirit of the question; there is no definitive answer. In terms of my own photography, I like to use natural light, and I like to construct the light that I want, and in the end this all comes back to what the shot needs in order for it to be right. Taking a purely strobist approach removes natural light from the toolbox, and saying ‘I only use natural or available light’ creates the same restriction in reverse. I suppose that the important thing is to look at any shot and understand what adding a flash, or several strobes can do for it, and also what they may take away. Some of my most treasured images have been taken based entirely on making use of available light in odd situations from windows in a run-down section of a practice studio to the outside light at the back of a pub, but at the same time I have created images based on camera mounted flash or even studio heads (when I have had access to them as I do not currently have my own set) that I am not only proud of but that achieved everything that I had wanted for them. While I understand that many who espouse the strobist ethic feel that one can only ‘paint with light’ if one is in control of it, I firmly believe that a photographer needs to see in both ways, to see the potential of the light around them and what effects and emphases it can offer, and also how to change those potentials with a well placed flash. Once you can do that you won’t ask the question ever again, you will simply do what is needed to make the shot that you want.

BLAB: How about pictures, we love pictures?

The first is a portrait that I took as part of my project that ran from 10/05/2007 to 09/05/2008 wherein I undertook to and succeeded in creating a portrait of a different person every day for a year. It is a portrait of my paternal grandmother taken under purely natural / available light in a snatched moment on one of my rare visits to the North West during that year.

365 Portraits - #170 ~ Dorothy "Nan" Godby

This second photograph is an entirely constructed picture, created in a kind of minimalist-strobist approach with a single, camera mounted flashgun, firing away from the subjects and to the right and bounced off a silver reflector held by an assistant. This gives the sharp, stark light you can see in the image, but it generalised the light so it is not as directed, giving compelling highlights and light in general to the surroundings as well as the models.

Scary Burlesque - Cathy and Bunny

This third is an example of some of my gig photography shot with only the available light in the venue, and just to own up to it in advance, I was using a VERY wide aperture in order to keep the ISO as low as possible, but I don’t consider that cheating - I got the lens in America when the dollar was almost 2 to the pound!

The Airborne Toxic Event, Live in Bristol - Mikel and Anna

I have also developed an interest in nature photography on a recent trip to South Africa, and am now beginning the mammoth task of trying to save for another trip and the glass that my experience has told me that I am going to need to create the images that I want to create in that arena. Still some of the images that I managed to create on that trip were worth showing off, and so I leave you with this, captured on a cloudy morning in Kruger, at a doubled 200mm, with a stabilised Canon lens that I would not be without for love nor money:


I’d like to thank the BLAB Blog for the invitation to be their Tuesday ‘Tog, and to offer any readers who are interested in seeing more of my work to visit my website here: http://www.techno-mage.co.uk/blog/photos/

If you want to be our featured 'tog on Tuesday in the coming weeks, then leave a comment on this post, it could be you here.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good blab. I honestly thought I'd be more at odds with Oliver but it seems we're more similar than I realised. :)

I do have a few comments though:

"many who espouse the strobist ethic feel that one can only ‘paint with light’ if one is in control of it, [... a photographer needs ] to see the potential of the light around them and what effects and emphases it can offer"

In fairness to David Hobby, Strobist has always had an element of "use the light around you". Earlier posts tended to be much more about strobe-only work, chiefly to work in places with insufficient or nasty lighting. Later posts have included greater focus on making use of the available light, even if that often means knock a stop off it and add flash.

I've always liked Strobist for that element of "see the light".

[on gig photography] "I was using a VERY wide aperture in order to keep the ISO as low as possible, but I don’t consider that cheating"

Neither would I, and in fact in gigs available light is often a better solution than using flash, especially in small venues. The gig picture above demonstrates the point excellently.

That said, I have found on-camera flash (580EX, anyone?) can be a godsend for doing directed fill-flash at a distance in large venues while still blending with available light. Never underestimate the flash zoom control or flash compensation. Sometimes a dab of white light can really lift someone in a gig environment.