Sunday, 28 December 2008

An interview with Messy

A couple of weeks ago, I promised an article on my camera gear....and then I promptly forgot about it! Well.... better late than never I guess:

Famous Interviewer (FI): So, Messy, what type of Camera do you shoot with?

Messy: Up until April this year, I was using what my Dad would call a "point, shoot and pray", a 3.1 megapixel Fuji point and shoot. After much begging, pleading, cajoling and bargaining, I got my secondhand Nikon D200 DSLR which I now use exclusively.

FI: Are you a Mac or a PC girl?

Messy: I am (most unfashionably) a PC gal! However, on all the shoots I have assisted on where the photographer is shooting tethered, the Mac definitely reigns supreme. Maybe when my PC finally blows up (it constantly feels like it is about to erupt) I will change to an AppleMac....

FI:What lenses are in your kit bag?

Messy:When I first got my camera, and after ridiculous amounts of research, I knew that I didn't want to go down the "zoom kit lens" route. Instead, I went with a 50mm 1.8 lens which (coincidentally!) happened to be the cheapest prime lens (the focal length is fixed) available. This lens is often referred to as the "nifty fifty" and is a fabulous lens for the money. It is fairly sharp, great in low light and weighs very little- which I have discovered is kind of important when you are travelling and schlepping around a camera for 12 hours a day. The 50mm definitely created a Prime Lens Obsession (PLO) such that I am constantly scheming and daydreaming about adding to my Prime family :)

And so to my current favourite lens- the Nikon 85mm 1.4. This lens cost more than my camera body and is worth every penny (err make that hundreds of pounds!). It is just beautiful and produces consistently sharp images and amazing, buttery bokeh when shooting wide open. It is also exceptional in low light and FAST which is great for photographing children, particularly toddlers who can move incredibly quickly. The only downside to this lens is that it is kind of BIG and attracts a lot of attention so it isn't the best lens to use if you want to remain inconspicuous and blend in with the crowd. Other than that I LOVE this lens!

FI:What else is in your kit bag?

Messy: A number of Lexar Professional CompactFlash cards (you need a lot of these little blighters when you shoot RAW), lens cleaning fluid and tissues, air blower and a collapsible reversible reflector. I need to add a few filters to my kit in the New Year. I keep all this in my Kata 3N1 Sling/BackPack.

FI:What about Post-Processing?

Messy: I use Lightroom and CS3 to process all my photos. Lightroom first (to catalog, organise, tweak exposure etc) and then CS3 to "finish". I back up my photos on a Western Digital 2TB MyBook Mirror Edition external hard drive (which my hairdresser- who knows about all things techie and well as all things hair- said was large enough to run a medium sized office!) as well as a couple of other portable Western Digital hard drives. My computer screen is colour calibrated with a Eye-One system to ensure what I am seeing "on screen" is the same as what will be printed.

FI:Anything you wish was currently in your shopping basket?

Messy: Most definitely the Nikon D3, or the D3X (pending its release, further reviews and a cool £5, 500 sitting in my bank account!) Both these cameras are FX (full frame sensor) cameras with the D3X sporting an impressive 24.5 megapixels (which would be marvellous for shooting stock and would presumably relieve me from having to upsize images...). One of the photographers I assisted this year uses a D3 for all her work (magazine editorial and advertising) and it is outstanding camera which delivers a lot for a reasonable (compared to the D3X!) amount of money.

Other than a new body, some more Prime lenses would be great! Oh, and I would love some continuous lighting (I love the look continuous lighting gives even though they get so damn hot)...a Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod with a Really Right Stuff Head and quick release clamp, jobo portable image storage device....not much really ;-)

FI: Wow, thanks Messy for your time. I am sure that someone, somewhere, will really enjoying reading your insights!

p.s. took these photos yesterday on an outing to Primrose Hill, London. Shot on 50mm 1.8.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Paddington Bear has had his fill of marmalade, sticky buns, roast tatties, goose, brussel sprouts, glazed ham,panettone, winter berry crumble....

... and has retired to his bed with a very full tummy and a sore head (could it have something to do with all the Veuve Clicquot and Pol Roger Champagne he consumed on Christmas Day?) with a nice cup of hot tea and 2 panadol.

um, okay, so maybe it's me who is feeling the effects of too much food and too much alcohol, not Paddington Bear :)

Christmas Day was a blast this year with the Messy household hosting and the Cusack and Perrett families in attendance. We had smoked salmon blinis with champagne to start, followed by goose (lovingly cooked t0 perfection by Mr Cusack), roast tatties cooked in goose fat, brussel sprouts with pancetta, roast carrots and parsnips, Jamie Oliver- esque glazed ham, cabbage with bacon, steamed green beans and the pièce de résistance, Ernest (he was named by one of Mr Messy's work colleagues).....the roast piggy.

Yes, Blog Fans, the free-range, organic, happy piggy (complete with head) was delivered by the farmer in time for Christmas Day... and was roasted by Mr Messy with a bacon (does anyone note a cured pork theme developing here??), apple, cranberry and macadamia nut stuffing....It was, from all accounts, heaven on a plate and Ernest did not die in vain.

I was a wimp and could not bring myself to try even a small morsel of Ernest...but I made up for it by eating everything else in sight including apple and winter berry crumble for dessert (made by Mrs Perrett), iced panettone cake (if you are the lucky recipient of a panettone and are unsure of what to do with it-a makeshift doorstop comes to mind- do what Mrs Cusack did: douse the little blighter in a mix of sugar syrup, cointreau, orange and clementine rinds, slice, reassemble and coat generously in a thick icing of mascarpone and cream- Fabulous!!), chocolate hazelnut torte and fruit mince pies :) :) Gluttony and over-indulgence at its best!!

There was much hilarity over the course of the day fuelled by too much sparkling Shiraz, too many bad Christmas tunes, and too much Balderdash. Overall a tops Christmas Day:)

Now, just where did I put that Alka-Seltzer....

p.s. numerous BLOG FANS have advised me (privately!) that it was in fact a BULL I was charged by not a cow!! Mmmmm so I have a law degree and an accounting degree but still can't tell the difference between a cow and a bull?!!

p.p.s. I would have posted photos of the Christmas Feast including Ernest in all his glory, but the photos I took were too, too awful to post.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

"Darling, Shall We Take Tea at Browns?"

After my dice with near certain death (i.e. the Rampant Cow Incident at Mudchute Farm), it was time for a more refined, pleasurable experience- and what could be more indulgent and soul restoring than Afternoon Tea at Browns with friends?

While Afternoon Tea at the Ritz Hotel, London, is probably more famous, in my view, tea at Browns is slightly less obvious and therefore a wholly more chic experience.

In light of the Festive Season and the need to be terribly self indulgent, we decided on the Champagne Afternoon Tea which included a glass of Taittinger Rosé Champagne along with all the frills and thrills of the full English afternoon tea:

To start, the dainty finger sandwiches included thinly sliced cucumber (of course!), smoked salmon, red onion and English cheddar, thinly sliced ham and cranberry sauce, creamy egg and watercress...

Then came the freshly baked scones (plain, and with dried cranberries) with luscious strawberry jam and generous dollops of rich, thick clotted cream...

And finally some fabulously calorific sweet treats (including festive Yuletide log and frosted Christmas Cake) washed down with comforting cups of Browns Afternoon Blend tea. With bulging tummies and bursting bladders (all that tea!!), we all agreed that it was the perfect way to spend an afternoon in London- cosily squirreled away from the maddening Christmas crowds and rampant charging Cows ;-)

Friday, 19 December 2008

Running of the Bulls.....London Style

Take a long, hard look at this cow- note its beady eyes fixed intently on the camera (and hence your Blogger), its tongue licking its chops tastily, its "I am Cow, hear me Roar" (or moo, whatever) stance....because yesterday, dear blog fans, this BEAST tried its damndest to send your London correspondent to a place where blogging would be no more...

It all started innocently enough with me snapping and chatting away (there was no one around to witness my odd behaviour in case you are wondering!) to the sheep and 2 cows which live in a large field attached to Mudchute Farm which is just behind Canary Wharf (financial district) in London. Next thing I know, there is a massive prancing, lunging, "jumping" ANGRY COW coming at me-with hooves flying and nostrils flaring and snorting. This thing clearly thought that it was in the Running of the Bulls and that I was one of the willing participants.

In the split second I had to think about matters, I was in disbelief going"this cannot be happening to me- this is NOT how the fairytale is suppose to end!" Then I just started running while squealing at it "No, No, PLEASE, STOP (since when did a charging cow have manners??) NOOOOOO!!!!" Luckily there was a bit of an embankment behind me and I managed to run up it and get out of the Beast's way, saving myself from consequences I don't even want to think about.

Needless to say I was in a bit of shock afterwards and spent some time cursing and yelling at the cow (from a safe distance of course!) trying to make myself feel better.

Lovin' the fro on this little is like a full frontal comb-over!:

Run little sheeps Run...though I would avoid those BEASTLY cows in the distance if I was you!

Is this not the cutest face EVER??? He is a Gloucester Old Spot Pig (a rare breed which was typically reared in orchards, living off the fruit that fell to the ground before it rotted) and made the sweetest, happiest little pig squeaking, snuffling noises. I so want one- or two!

Note to Mr Messy and Mr Mark Cusack- keep your greedy little eyes off this darling piggy. He is NOT for consumption :)

I have my eye on Ewe! (sick joke, I know)

p.s. when I showed Mr Messy the photos of the BEAST COW this morning, his response was "oh, its just a little calf." Hellllllllloooooooooo!!!! when a leaping, jumping BEAST is coming at you full pelt, it doesn't MATTER how big it is.It is the FEAR that counts :)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Going ever so slighty Shouty-Crackers...

It is one of the most splendid Winter days we have had in London so far this season (so much so that my beloved MetCheck Weather even went as far as having a pulsating sun- completely unheard of!- for today's forecast) and I am stuck inside with flu waiting for the UPS man to arrive with a delivery- ack*

I am itching to get outside and bang off a few rounds with the Nikon but unfortunately UPS deliver "between 9am and 7pm and cannot specify a specific delivery time within that window" I am stuck. inside. going ever so slightly Shouty-Crackers.

To relieve my need to press the shutter button, I photographed my new Reindeer mug for y'all to see (exciting life I lead, huh?!) It came all the way from Starbucks...yeah, I admit that I sometimes grab a cheeky Starbucks if I am not anywhere near my usual coffee haunts :)

In other (much more interesting) news, a big shout out to Master Riley Elliott (son of lawyer extraordinaire Ms Heidi Elliott) who has, at the ripe old age of 2, behaved splendidly in his 2nd encounter with the Big Fella himself, Father Christmas. Here is an excerpt from Ms Elliott's email:

" We took him for his Santa photo. Was a bit worried as last year he went mental and we had to sit with him. This year he just marched right on up to the big fella, put his arms up to be picked up, sat on Santa's knee and told him he wanted a "BIKE!!!!" for christmas, smiled for his photos and then when Santa gave him a lollipop he said "THANKS Santa!!" "

I am loving Master Elliott's direct approach- no pussy footing around for this little chap!

*"ack"- does this word remind anyone else of a large labrador (aka the Hoover of the canine world) throwing up a half digested smelly sock?

Monday, 15 December 2008

On the First Day of Christmas, My True Love gave to me...

...A Tiffany & Co Hot Chocolate (with marshmallows and whipped cream) and teeny Fruit Mince Pie dusted with icing sugar :) Okay, so it isn't quite the Tiffany&Co Art Deco inspired diamond and platinum bracelet I was hoping for but a gal can't be too greedy in these Credit Crunch times ;-)

I absolutely adored the SKATE ice skating at Somerset House which is sponsored by Tiffany&Co. It truly was a winter wonderland with a giant Christmas tree adorned with Tiffany blue skates and giant glittering silver snowflakes, beautiful music, skaters gliding (errr, well, some glided most slipped, lunged and clumped) across the pristine white ice rink, and a fabulous cafe serving Hot Chocolate, Champagne, mulled wine and delightful Tiffany&Co cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery.
Your London correspondent did not brave the ice on the basis that a photographer with 2 broken wrists and a broken leg is not a very productive photographer ;-)

How gorgeous are these two girls (I gave them a little cheer each time they completed a lap!)

P.S. Just so you know, you can click on any of the photos and it should (I say "should" because that is what is suppose to happen, not necessarily what does happen with my computer!) open a larger version.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Sniffle, Sniffle, cough, cough, splutter...ack

Most Excellent Blog Fans, your London correspondent is SICK with FLU. And just needed to tell everyone about it :) :)

Mmmmm think maybe it might have been something to do with those freezing cold afternoons I spent last week in Hyde Park at the Winter Wonderland and at the Tiffany&Co "SKATE" Ice Rink at Somerset House (I will post photos from that tomorrow).

Don't feel obliged or anything (hee hee!), but if you are feeling uber generous then y'all can send me bunches of these to cheer me up ;-):

Later this week stay tuned for Messy Musings on cameras, lenses etc. A couple of you have been asking me what camera I am using, what lenses I shoot with etc so I thought I would do a question and answer session with myself to let y'all know what I am using right now.

This Little Piggy went to market, This Little Piggy stayed at home, This Little Piggy had roast beef?!, and this Little Piggy went wee, wee, wee...

...all the way to the Jackman/Cusack/Perrett Christmas table this year...poor little piggy :( :(

This year Mr Messy and his partner in piggy crime, Mr Mark Cusack (actually I think it was all Mark's idea), decided to go all Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (he of River Cottage fame) on us and get an "ethical" piggy for Christmas luncheon. Basically this means that we are having roast pork from a piggy that has been raised on a lovely organic, free-range farm, has had a lovely piggy life snuffling in the mud, sleeping on warm hay, eating lots of nummies (soya bean meal, cabbage, corn, bananas, pig nuts and whatever the heck else happy piggies eat) and has gone to piggy heaven in a respectful, non-stressful manner (well, as non-stressful as going to the great big departure lounge in the sky can be...).

I admit that I am still a little bit squeamish about the whole thing although I know it is completely irrational as I eat meat, wear leather etc. and it is much better to eat meat which has been raised non-intensively, with ample room to move and play, and live "normal" animal lives.

Anyhoo, I received an email the other day from Mr Cusack which had me giggling and snorting my head off- so I thought I would share it with y'all. Mr Cusack is concerned that he and Mr Messy have not yet received the "cut sheet" (I assume this sets out the different cuts of meat that the piggy has been made into) nor has the arrival date of the piggy been confirmed by the farmer. Hence there is some stress in the Jackman/Cusack household which the wives (me and ewah) have had to deal with. Here is Mr Cusack's email re Porkulus Nocomin aka pork stress:

"This condition is known clinically as “pork stress”. I have now copied wives into this email, just in case they are curious as to our current mental status.

Pork Stress – aka Porkulus Nocomin

A condition first identified in the early 21st century. Symptoms in the disease’s early stages tend to take the form of hyperactivity in emailing and cursing. This is then followed by disbelief, dismay, and what has effectively become known as meat depression. Pork Stress relates to the anxiety and fear brought about by a lack of locus control surrounding the unknown yet anticipated delivery of free range farm fresh pigs. There is no known cure other than what is known as a farmer’s presentation. This involves the pig farmer taking and removing the digit from his/her back end and making haste with the delivery of said beast".

Mrs Cusack, wife of the world's biggest pork fan (organic, free-range, happy piggy only etc etc), Mr Cusack. These photographs were taken when we went "glamping" (glamorous camping) in October in Lancashire.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

On Dasher, On Dancer, On Prancer, On Vixen.....where the heck is Rudolph?

Despite the frightful weather, your London correspondent has been out and about this week sipping egg nog and hot chocolate, riding the Giant Observation Wheel at the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, watching the thrills and spills of outdoor ice skating (note to self: office Christmas parties+alcohol+slippery ice rink=disaster!), snacking on Bavarian Hog Roast and Gingerbread, and slugging back copious amounts of Glühwein to try and keep warm : all in the name of research, you understand!

The photographs from this post were all taken at the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. For any of you who have been following the progress of my "100 Strangers Project"*, you might recall that the Winter Wonderland last year was the place that I took my first Strangers portrait (of the guy with the toddler on his shoulders). I can still remember the look of utter horror on Mr Messy's face when I explained to him what I was about to do!!! Ahhh dear Blog Readers, so much, yet so little has changed since then.... ;-)

*which I am still doing by the way, umm, I just haven't posted any photographs lately of my strangers. (I am rubbish, I know)

Anyway, onwards to the photos. These reindeer's (the "Reindeer Express") were one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time. They moved forward with quite some force and the little kids had to hold on really tight! I love the look of "Crikey, I don't quite know if I am enjoying this....maybe I'll just do one little lap on this here Reindeer then I'll get off" on the face of the little girl (above)!

This chap (below) will be added to my 100 Strangers project. He is a born and bred Croydon lad who is shortly moving to Kent for a more "relaxed" lifestyle with his wife. He asked whether his photo would be on the internet and I said "um yeah, sort of, on my blog". He got very excited about this prospect and I felt a bit bad when I had to confess to him that my readership consists of, oh, about 3 people at the moment!

In the interests of bringing you all the fun of the fair, your blogger braved her fear of heights and rode the Observation Wheel. Best £7.50 I have spent in a long time. The view was fantastic (when my eyes were open!) and I had a whole little "pod" to myself so I could grip the sides, squeeze my eyes tight shut, and take deep calming breathes without anyone else seeing (or hearing my mutterings when my pod got stuck right at the top for what seemed like an eternity).

This was one of the photos I managed to take when I let go of the sides of the pod for a wee moment:

Big Dipper (didn't go on that one- not THAT brave):

Nor did your blogger go on this little number:

nor this one:
This is the lovely Rachel (below) from America who kindly struck some poses for me on the ice along with her equally gorgeous friend Christanna. Both are studying communications at university and are hoping to move into the fashion industry once they have finished their studies. I will post more photos of Rachel and Christanna later next week- one of which will be going in my "100 Strangers Project".

P.s. No sign of Rudolph- although I did see 4 very hairy legs and a bright red shiny nose flash past on the Giant Toboggan Snow Slide as I wandered past...lets hope Santa finds him before Christmas Eve otherwise the Sleigh might be in a wee bit of trouble this year ;-)

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Oh baby, its cold outside....

I am sitting typing at the computer with the heating on full blast, the fire crackling (well, it's gas so I guess it doesn't really crackle- it kind of "pops"!), a water bottle on my lap, a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, thick bed socks on my tootsies and STILL I am cold! Brrrrr, it seems that winter has definitely arrived in ye olde London town. A hearty slice of steak and portobello mushroom pie (courtesy of M&S) and a glass of Egg Nog (hic!) should help to keep Jack Frost from nipping off my nose (and toes!)

Thought I would share with you our wee trip out to Richmond Park on Saturday morning with friends. The weather was absolutely smashing- blue skies, crisp and clear- perfect for huntin' some deer! Just joking!! The only shooting I do is banging off a few rounds with my camera :)

Richmond Park was originally a deer hunting park established by Charles 1 in 1637 and still has about 300 Red Deer (which are the ones I photographed) and 350 fallow deer (which look more like Bambi). It is the largest Royal Park in London, covering some 2,500 acres (it felt like we covered every damn one of those acres on Saturday trying to find the way out!) and is popular with horse riders, dog walkers, cyclists and those that just need a break from the hurly burly of city life (like us!)

I will definitely be going back next Autumn to photograph the rutting deer (when the stags and bucks compete for the females) as I am dying to hear the clashing of antlers and the primal roar of the male deer. Might need some camo gear (can you imagine me in camo gear?!!) and a nice big zoom lens for that one, I think!

This old chap (above) was one of a couple of people who bid us a good morning- so very polite and something that never happens in the middle of London.