A post (card) from Venice

Hopefully you have noticed that I have started posting a little more often – I am trying to get back into the “write every Monday” habit. It’s not quite there yet but I am making more of an effort.

I am writing this in the press room at Venice Film Festival (those of you that follow my social media will have seen I have been here since the 2nd). I planned the trip as a quick smash and grab; come over for a busy part of the festival, get some shots and go home before the end. Yesterday and today are a little respite before my final day tomorrow and trip home.

Photographers are reflected in the glass doors of the The Palazzo del Cinema before the Premiere of SUNDOWN during the 78th Venice International Film Festival on Sunday 5 September 2021 at The Palazzo del Cinema, Lido di Venezia, Venice. Picture by Julie Edwards

I always say that we (photographers) are paid to wait till that moment we can make the image. Sometimes the wait can be long.

This is now the 3rd trip I have made away in these interesting times (covid times); Cannes a few months ago and Venice a year ago. It’s fascinating to see how things have changed in the past year.

A year ago we had masks and 2M distancing for photographers working on the carpet but no other measures. (The wearing of masks generally over here seems very well adhered to, especially on public transport). Now we have not only masks but also attendees need a Green Pass, which in Italy is either proof of double vaccination or a proof of a negative test within 48 hours. There seems to be more responsibility placed on the individual though, whereas I have been used to (in the UK and France) to need to show this pass before entering, here they reply on spot checks and social responsibility, which means things flow far more smoothly.

Line 20: From Venice to The Palazzo del Cinema, Lido di Venezia.

I stay in the main city of Venice, taking the Line 20 from St Marks to Lido twice a day. The Vaporetto (water busses) are mostly old and noisy but its a lovely 20 minute ride, especially if I manage to get the rear facing outside seats giving the view above.

Anya Taylor-Joy poses on the red carpet for LAST NIGHT IN SOHO during the 78th Venice International Film Festival. Picture by Julie Edwards.

With red carpet events being few and far between over the past 18 months it seems a few photographers were a little more “vocal” than normal when Anya hit the carpet for the well-received Last Night in Soho, so much so that she walked away for a while after asking for a bit more calm. I like to think I would have done the same. I have often heard the argument that the person on the carpet should not get upset because its their job but I always counter how would you feel if if were your daughter or partner being shouted out like that?

Very few photographers in the media positions have been the other side, walking the carpet and to be honest, its horrible (even if its not you thats being photographed), the lights and the shouting has to be experienced to be understood. It might be their job but it is almost impossible to look at every photographer and besides, the skill of the photographer is actually catching that split second, or as in this case, making an image that does not need it. It should not be a case of Who can shout the loudest.

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac poses on the red carpet for SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE during the 78th Venice International Film Festival on Saturday 4 September 2021 at The Palazzo del Cinema, Lido di Venezia, Venice. . Picture by Julie Edwards.

I started this post with no plan, I was not really sure what I was going to write about. It’s always interesting how the thoughts and words flow and sometimes you just have to go with it to see where it leads; hopefully it’s a worthwhile exercise.

More soon.

Julie

Lens in the Bag

One of the most annoying questions I see (almost every day) posted in Facebook groups and the like are “what lens should I buy next”, often with very little explanation. (I am willing to accept that this is my issue and lack of tolerance).

With this question in mind, this post is a run-through of the lenses I took to Cannes along with quick explanations of how I used them along with samples.

This is the list of lenses I used and image count of each from this years Cannes folder (taken from Lightroom)

Tackling that list in order, I start with the workhorse; the 16-55/F2.8 Of all the lenses, this is the lens that is probably of most use in general purpose photography. From a wide angle through to a slight telephoto (full frame equivalence of approximately 24-70), it is suitable for almost everything and should (almost) be the starting point for any kit bag.

In Cannes, my main use of this lens is on the Red Carpet, mounted on a X-T3 with the V1 flash fitted for shooting the full-length fashion type images as well as half-length portraits.

16-55 @ approx 16mm / F3.5
16-55 @ approx 32mm / F2.8
16-55 @ approx 52mm / F3.5

At the start of the week, I experimented using the 27mm pancake lens on the Red Carpet – mostly I use it as a camera body cap and walk-around lens. The way it deals with light coming directly into the lens (flare control) means it was not really suitable on the carpet or at gigs

27mm @ F3.6

Both of these lenses are perfectly good and produce nice contrast images (if you set your camera up appropriately) but for me, they show up the limitation of using an APS-C sensor, there is a limitation on getting a shallow depth of field. For this reason my two really favourite lens are the 56mm/F1.2 & the 90mm/F2 . I use both of these in a similar way.

The 56 is a great portrait lens, the distances involved on the Red Carpet means I usually create 3 quarter or half-length images with it, always shooting wide open. After all there is no point using a nice fast lens and then not making use of the shallower depth-of-field.

56mm @ F1.2

The 90mm I use in the same way, just tighter images (normally on the X-T2 body as the focal length leads to the images rarely needing much cropping). One thing I will say is the 90mm does seem to produce richer images than the 56.

90mm @ F2

The 50-140 telephoto lens is another real workhorse lens, enabling me to get fairly tight portraits when the subjects are at a closer range or full-length group shots up on the staircase. I think (on my X-T3’s with grips) that this lens handles fantastically, the zoom ring is lovely and smooth.

50-140mm @111mm / F2.8
50-140mm @140mm / F2.8

Because of distances, crowds, my love of tight portraits and less posed images, my 100-400 is my second most used lens (after the 16-55). With it I can shoot the talent in the crowds at the head of the carpet, create really tight and personal looking portraits on the carpet as well as head-shots up the stairs.

100-400mm @400mm / F5.6
100-400mm @400mm / F5.6
100-400mm @234mm / F5
100-400mm @190mm / F5

Hope this post gives a little insight on how my use of lenses helps to create different images and gives me more creative options.

Next week I will write my guide to back restorative exercises needed after carrying them all around for 2 weeks. Actually I will probably write about the GFX50R which I purchased last winter during the lockdown with the prime aim of shooting more landscapes (and for use in the studio shooting portraits).

Happy Shooting. J

Godox V1f – Things I learned in Cannes

It’s seems I always have something new to understand when I go to Cannes. (Well thats a general in life – the day we stop learning/have something new to understand is the day we die).

This year it was the Godox V1f Round Head Flash .

As usual this will not be a really technical write up (there are far more techie blogs and better writers for that), what follows are a few of my thoughts and experiences.

The first thing to talk about and one of the real reasons for getting this flash is the quality of the light. Not only is the fall off of the light at the edges far more pleasing, the hotspot in the centre seems, well less hot and more flat. (The above images have had the white and black points expanded to hi-light the fall off pattern.)

The second thing to talk about is the quality, this flash feels solid, well made, very similar to the AD200 and a definite improvement over their other on-camera units.

The battery is chunky and comes with it’s own USB-C charger which charges quite quickly. That said, even with heavy use (on the evening of amFar) I do not think I used more than one bar.

This quality and battery add up to a unit that is quite heavy and when top mounted on an X-T3 (even one with a fully loaded grip and 16-55/F2.8) the result is very top heavy. As my main use for flash during red carpet events is to shoot full length images, I use a custom flash bracket CB Mini-RC and in this configuration it does not feel to bad at all).

Stella Maxwell at amFar . X-T3/16-55 : 1/200 @ F5 & 320iso

Actually using the unit took a little getting used to. Although it does support High-Speed Sync and has TTL Metering, in red carpet situations I found this combination to be a little sporadic and the additional power required for HSS meant slower recycling (and the manual states that the thermal cutout is likely to cut in earlier). In slower situations this has not proved to be a problem.

Sharon Stone at amFar . X-T3/16-55 : 1/200 @ F5 & 320iso

Once in manual the unit really is consistent (see the two images above). With a bit of experimentation I came to the power setting of 1/16 +0.7, which allowed the unit to keep up with my X-T3 in High Burst Mode for the short bursts I shoot (Its a technique to try and ensure no other flashes and open eyes on the subject).

With the manual power set and the shutter fixed between 1/200 & 1/250 (so not using HSS) I worked back to get a suitable iso from the selected F-Stop.

Gemma Chan attends the Closing Ceremony Red Carpet. X-T3/16-55 : 1/250 @ F4.5 & 400iso

As the subject distance varied on the carpet, I needed to allowed for the fixed output of the flash by opening the aperture slightly (maybe 1.2 a stop) so I think the zoom head was also helping as little in this regard.

Overall I am very happy with the unit and its a great addition to my Godox kit, adding to the two AD200’s , the TT685 and single AD600. Like the other units it can act as a slave, controlled by any of the Godox Remote Controllers. Or it can act as the Master in a multi-flash set-up (which is how I will use it for portraits with the AD200 at the up-coming Frightfest where I will be returning as the house photographer)

Cannes, Covid & Brexit

Covering Cannes this year provided a couple of firsts for me. 

  • It was the first full-on red carpet event since the start of the pandemic (Although I was in Venice last August, I cant really count it as a full-on event as the restrictions compared to normal were quite extreme (justifiably).
  • It was the first travel time traveling into the EU since the UK finally left it.

As you can imagine – both of these points had a significant impact on working the event, all around COIVD-19.

During the 74th Cannes International Film Festival on Wednesday 7 July 2021 at Palais des festivals, Cannes. Covid-19 test results or proof of double vaccinations being checked as a requirement to enter the Palais. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

For anyone to access the event, COVID-19 status (Vaccination or Negative PCR test) had to be proved (a type of COVID-19 passport that is currently under debate in the UK), this had to be proved using the French app (TousAntiCovid ) or a printed QR code . This is where we experienced the first real impact of Brexit, the TousAntiCovid system does not recognise non-EU vaccination records. This meant that all non-EU nationals had to undergo testing every 48 hours whereas EU nationals did not.

During the 74th Cannes International Film Festival on Wednesday 7 July 2021 at Palais des festivals, Cannes. The Covid-19 testing site provided for festival attendees free of charge. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

For all of the Festival, good anti covid measures were in place, distancing, cleaning, mandatory masks.

Festival attendees in masks at the “Benedetta” Red Carpet during the 74th Cannes International Film Festival on Friday 9 July 2021 at Palais des festivals, Cannes. All attendees to the festival are required to wear masks in the Palais des festivals including on the red carpet. They are removed for photographs to be taken. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

However consider how working red carpet photographers have to operate; spacing measures just cannot be implemented. Photocalls and Red Carpet events had us standing shoulder to shoulder and pushing like in the good old days, for hours at a time. Black masks were mandatory (to tie in with the evening dress code) but let’s be honest, most masks are not really adequate in this situation.

Palais des festivals, Cannes, France. 9 July 2021. Photographers working at “Benedetta” Red Carpet. Photographers working on the Red Carpet are in close proximity to each other and are required to wear masks. Picture by Julie Edwards

If you are planning to work in the EU, it might be an idea to consider the following (assuming where you are working might have the same regulations):

If an EU national had caught COVID-19 (still possible even with double vaccinations), due to the proximity of other photographers at events it would have spread. The EU nationals , with their vaccination passports would continue to work (untested) while the non-EU nationals, when tested would be found to be positive and unable to work.

The bottom line is – in modern times, the UK being an island is only a physical attribute. For so many , our work is cross border and for work of any kind to be able to continue whilst COVID-19 is still a factor, a world-wide passport system needs to be developed.

Palais des festivals, Cannes, France. 11 July 2021. Bella Hadid attends the “Three Floors” Red Carpet. . Picture by Julie Edwards

The next post will talk more about actually shooting the festival on the X-T2 & X-T3’s . 

More Soon.

J

74th Festival de Cannes – A Monochrome View

I am just back from working overseas covering the 74th Festival de Cannes (Cannes International Film Festival).

I say “just back”, it’s actually 5 days now and I have just dropped off my “Day 5 test to release PCR-Test” so hopefully I’ll be back working soon.

I plan to write a couple of posts this week that will talk about the experience of covering the festival but in the meantime, here is a slide-show of monochrome photos from the 2 weeks, all shot on X-T3 and X-T2 Fuji’s.

Let me know what you think 🙂

Spike Lee poses at the Photocall for Jury Officiel Du 74Th Festival during the 74th Cannes International Film Festival on Tuesday 6 July 2021 at Palais des festivals, Cannes. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. All usages must be credited Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon.

The Internet is making us lazy

I’m starting this essay with the background knowledge that it may upset some people. Thats ok though, if it makes one or two think then I have achieved something.

So what to I mean by my title “The Internet is making us lazy” ?

Take a step back, take a sip of your coffee and think about the resource you have in front of you. If the internet did not exist you would not be reading this (I would not have written it), you would have probably found a far better resource of information, something far more useful to spend your time doing, however I digress. What I want you to think about are all the images you have seen on the internet, all the places, all of the inspiration for your work (I am assuming you are a photographer or artist).

Think about those images, on instagram now or if you have been around a few years, on Flickr or other photo sharing sites. Now extend that thought to the comments below “Great Capture”, “Inspired” etc… If the photograph was great or unusual it would not be far down the comments that the first “What Camera” question would occur, closely followed by “What lens?” “Aperture?”, “Shutter speed?”, “Why don’t you open up your exif data?”. The equivalent questions can be applied to many subjects but I’m a photographer and artist so I will stick to this realm.

In the garden studying a book of Terry O’Neill’s work through the years.

When I first see a photograph that excites me, once the initial “joy” has ebbed away I start asking myself “how was this done?”, “how would I have done this?”. Once I have worked this out I start to question “why was it done this way?” .

Think how different that process is compared to just asking the creator how they did it. What do we learn if we are handed all of the settings on a plate ? Other than at that moment, at that place, with that equipment a person made an image in that way; thats not learning. If this information is taken and used in exactly the same way to create work, these works are not unique creations, they are copies!

Photography is an art, so lets cast our minds back to learning about art at school, college or university. Teachers led the way, examples and inspirations shown and discussed, the way forward was shown but the student had to find the way, make the mistakes and learn.

Some people say no, photography is not an Art, it’s a science! How about science lessons then? The theory was thought, a method for proof was explained and the student would be helped through the experiment to learn for themselves and understand the proof.

Take a look at the 10 Rules for Students, Teachers, and Life by Sister Corita Kent (yep you can find it yourself in the true spirt of research). When it comes to all creativity Rule 4 is the key.

I probably should have written this nearer the beginning of lockdown. I’ll admit whilst I know I should have been documenting these difficult times with a camera, for various reasons I have been studying, learning and creating with pen, paint and ink as well as video (take a look at https://julieedwardsvisuals.com for a hint of what I have done).

I started my JEX photography blog as a resource to help photographers using Fuji cameras and mobile workflow, it holds a lot of information but I always try to write in a way that guides the way as opposed to detailing every press.

There are a lot of resources out there for us all, (not all of it trustworthy!) If used in the right way it could fuel a generation of great creatives, however at the moment I am worried that its mostly fuelling a lot of copyists….

“Nothing is a mistake, there’s no win and no fail. There’s only make”
– Sister Corita Kent

Stay Safe
Julie

Kids of the Congo

A few days ago I wrote a post on my personal facebook which said

Back in 2012 I went to the Democratic Republic of Congo documenting work with ex-combatants. One of the things I learned was how lucky we (in the west) are being able to plan our lives and having some idea of the future vs their living a day to day life. Following that 2012 trip I thought had managed to reduce my planning to a minimum and lived a fairly free unplanned life (compared to many). I now realise what a complete fallacy that was. This morning its obvious that all of the plans I have made, (we have made), work, trips, financial planning, investment have all gone out of the window. 

I illustrated the post with an image of young boys playing with simply made spinning tops at an IDP camp at the village of Karonja on the outskirts of Masisi .

The post got number of comments and requests to see more of the work I did there so this afternoon I have had a quick look back through the trip and pulled out a set of images not of the work I did there for the client but images of (mainly) children that followed me around where I was working and posed for the camera.

These images were not created with any journalistic or other intent other than to show the people in them.

Technical Note: These images were created with either a Nikon D700 or a Fuji X100 (original model).

Goodbye Stirling

People that know me well know I am a petrol-head

It will probably come as no surprise that I met and photographed Stirling Moss a few times. One of my most prized possessions is a biography of him I “borrowed” from my father, it’s probably the first biography I ever read and I still have it – have had it for over 40 years now. I regret not having the courage to ask him to sign it when I last met him (I had it in the bag and had carried it around all day).

These 4 pictures were taken on the celebration of his 80th year at Goodwood Festival of speed. A wonderful man. I’m a bit surprised but I did shed a tear when I read the headline…

Goodbye Stirling… Rest in peace The best driver ever not to be champion… he put loyalty before prizes..a lesson there for us all I think…