Clown to everyone but self

I love pictures. I love expressions. I love feelings. Emotions. Capturing and creating them. Watching them and experiencing them. Portraying them. So I decided against using models. Instead I am just gonna go with it.

What it?
– I’m not sure.

But it’s time to play and I already started.

I have started to follow my impulse to get in front of the camera when I am feeling very emotional. I wonder if I one day will manage to capture my own true anger even.

This morning being the second day of my period, naturally I felt like an old bag of  something gross no matter what I wore or did to clean myself up. This feeling will linger til a new cycle starts. It will get me every month for a long time and I gotta learn to deal with it. To not stop my life when it happens. To be ok with my mind being a little negative. it. To not let it affect me. I realize that I am not my body. That I am not even mind – but in control of whats in between.

Still! I sit there, complaining about my cramps and swollen body that feels like something somebody pulled out of a well.  “Ah fck this shit I am not going outside today.” Overwhelmed by the feeling of no matter how much I comb this hair, or how much make up I wear – Its not feeling any better.

I guess one could consider it being “stuck” in between rather than “in control” in between, but that depends completely, 100%, on how you choose to see it. Nobody can tell you how to consider yourself. But it’s your job to make the 2 stay together.

I wanted to portray the feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Clown to everyone but self” is a misleading title. Since it refers to a second idea to explain this picture with, that came up after it was finished. Drunk girl oblivious to how she’s perceived Arrogant and sure of her self, when everyone else is questioning. But she has no idea, since she never cares to look anybody in the eyes.

Organizing files

“Joakim vaknar”  or “Joakim is waking up” was a photo project I started the summer we got together.

I’ve been a photographer for 10 years, and never planned it like a proper business where one has a certain system to things. This means my folder are a mess, with about a million photos in total divided up in 9 hard drives. No bigger thought from start about what goes where and why.

This year moving forward, I will keep 2 HDD per year. One as temp to move things into at first. After deleting all the crap, editing and exporting final images they are moved to the second one for long storage and cloud back up, to Backblaze.

Adobe Bridge made this whole project of restructuring possible.

With bridge you can see NEF thumbnails, which is the main reason I use the program. Bridge works as a sexy interface to your windows folders, making all my dumps of RAW files from SD and CF cards to a few different folders easy to overview and move around.

I’ve stopped sorting after dates, instead I sort after content.

I find it that dates are hard to remember after a while anyway, so I never use the date to find anything. I use the event, the people that were there or the location. From these 4 categories, I can find anything just by remembering why I took the photo I’m looking for.

Personal Photos from home, walks around the neighborhood I live in, minor excursions for less than 24h, house parties, visitors from Sweden etc.
Work Pictures I’ve taken for someone else for money. For example Portraits, or events.
Sanna K Photography Pictures I’ve taken for their objective importance or beauty that might serve a commercial value to somebody else, like live music, exhibitions, any kind of performance art. Also my bigger photo projects like Apparel by Sanna K.
Travels Anything requiring me to stay one night at a hotel.

Chang – People at home

Chang and I met a few years back, probably at 4 Corners. Since then she has changed her hair color and hairstyle a lot, her wardrobe goes back and forth between tomboy and classy lady, plus everything in between. In her collection she has plenty of statement pieces and colorful garments, so it makes perfect sense to leave her all of that decision making up to her.

People at home.

This shoot resulted in a new project actually. Earlier Ive been doig Apparel by Sanna K, where I dress people in my own clothes basically. From this experience I learned that it is a lot more interesting, to have them dress themselves and do the shoot at their enviroment.

Since spring this year we have been planning to do shoot, and last week it happened out of the blue. Nowadays I am keeping my gear ready at all times! Ask me at any point, and my battery is full and my CF card has enough space to shoot an event.

Until I know better, I’ll call this project People at home. The shots will be taken at their own place or maybe at their work, favorite bar, favorite park, grocery store. This project is supposed to show peoples life, and everything that it includes. Wardobe, friends, pets, home, maybe choice of breakfast. There is no set rules to what is and what is not desirable to show, it is up to each person to decide.

 

UV Filter comparison

To the left, Exposal HMC UV filter, 350 RMB 67mm
To the right, cheapest shit you can find, 80 RMB 52mm

2 years ago I broke my first UV filter and before that I had only been buying second hand lenses, which all came with one. So I knew squat about these filters. At the shop I asked to look at all the different kinds and I wondered why the hell a UV filter would cost 800 freaking RMB. To be fair, it was a big one. 82mm for a Sigma 24-70mm. This was in Malian Dao Camera Market. Same filter at that size goes for 650 in Wukesong. Just saying.

Now all of my lenses has this filter, because it turns out that the expensive one does some pretty cool things.

Now, to show you the surface difference of them, I flung some water at them with my fingertips. The way you would when your hands are wet and you cant dry them on your clothes because you’re dressed too fancy. Then I put them in my lightbox and angled a light directly at them. See the difference? Now, which one do you think handles a back lit person the best? Or a shoot in the rain?

The Exposal HMC UV filter divided big spots of water into small ones, and holds on to them like glue. And look at the reflection! Oh oops, there is no such thing.

At the bottom of the other filter, the red cloth is has a big blob of water on it, because the glass did not hold on to nor divide it.

How does this matter in the end?

It doesn’t really… Not for anybody uninterested in exploring the possibilities this filter provides. See, I love the rain, so I wanna walk around in it with my camera. The D700 is supposed to be robust enough to even handle being submerged, so I am not afraid to whip it out even in heavy rains. It gets a bit slow for a day, then its back on track again.

When the guy in Maliandao showed me the surface difference using water, I started thinking about what else I could put on them and shoot through. Different colored water drops? Coffee? Different cooking oils? How about pure paints? To satisfy those thoughts I needed the filter at home. And like many others, I wanna minimize all reflections and glare to keep my images overall feeling: clean. Strip down all chaos I possibly can, then add and arrange it myself.

Shoot for whom?

Pub Quiz at 4C 1/50 sec, F2.0, ISO 2000, WB K4350, No flash on a Nikon D700.
Added +0.48 exposure in Lightroom. That’s all.

The image above is a lovely picture! The boy making a face and holding his stuffed animal, relaxed big family and Quiz night host at the back leaning in. Great shot! It tells you of the atmosphere. People talking and hanging out. Drinking, but not drunk. It’s a cozy, social evening for sure. But this is not an acceptable image to send your boss.

So let’s criticize it! “Only 2 of 8 faces are sharp, 3 if you count the stuffed animal. The beer in the glass doesn’t look all golden and amazing. The table isn’t illuminated enough, neither is the stuffed animals body, or the boys face. Facial features should pop on all people! This shot is just too murky.” These could be the words of a professional event photographer.

If I’d been shooting for a client, I’d used a flash for sure.
But it changes the moment, and it isn’t worth it at these kinds of events. But imagine a cocaine fueled party going on til 5 in the morning, where there is already lights everywhere and exhibitionistic outfits; it makes perfect sense. Those guests will LOVE the bigger and bulkier the camera is! It will make them feel like the Kings and Queens of the whole evening, which is EXACTLY what you want them to feel when taking their picture, cus it will show in the resulting image.

But at a local pub, a big flash with a softbox on it makes people a uneasy. Nobody gets more relaxed by the bigger and bulkier the camera is with it’s extra add-ons and gadgets. The picture above here, would have had a bright warm soft lighting all around with all faces sharp, compared to this murky thing we got here. It would have been absolutely stunning! But you know, the light WAS murky! Why is the job of photographers to not just capture, but beautify the evening and the guests? Why can’t reality be good enough?

What really counts, is the vibe!

This shot has all it needs to satisfy the people in it. They would be stoked with this! But an organizer paying you about 2000 RMB, would not be. This is why I was worn out quickly trying to satisfy them, because I cared for the wrong people.

After my own judgment, this shot is perfect. I love this image very much. The light is more than enough for all the important information to come through. But if my goal was to really make some art out of a moment like this, a bounce flash or softboxed one would be necessary. But to capture it, you just need a good lens and a steady hand. See what I am saying?

Usually when I shoot for a client, I am constantly on the shutter. Constantly going after each beautiful smile, elegant or cool posture. If I see something happening on the other side room, and I can’t shoot it, I am tormented. “I should have been there in the perfect spot with the flash already set! I suck!!”

Now, this is terrible…

All of that goes away when I shoot on my own. I like the real moments captured for what they were. Beautifying with lights and stuff is fun and understandable for portraits, but I am not comfortable doing it at social events. I wanna keep my gear to the minimum, and work with what’s there. That way I feel more as a part of the event, rather than a bright flashy thing running around in it.

When working at an event as a photographer, my judgment on whats a good shot goes out the window as well, because probably nothing will ever be good enough for the client; so I want to get them all. Then spend endless hours of choosing add editing for days after. Stressing myself out and not making the deadline.

The worries doesn’t even make sense at all half the time. But still too concerned to just trust myself, and this is bad.

FINISHED, NOT PERFECT.

So let me tell you this: a photographer working like that, will not be working very long because his/her brain will be all fried up pretty soon. 

When I shoot for myself, like this evening, I first of all just worry about my own comfort, and then I wait. Let the moments come to me instead of chasing after them like a cat after a laser pointer. What If I miss a moment? Well shit, I am sure there will be another one.

This is how you’ll find the clients you are more similar to. Those who appreciates you for what you do and how you do it. Trust yourself.

Most importantly, keep delivering! Keep the deadlines. It is better to deliver bad photos on time than mediocre ones late. 

If you prioritize the deadline, your quality will get better and better per delivering because you learn to understand where the pressure points are much quicker. I’ve done the opposite for years and I recommend against it.

Know who you are trying to please. Is it yourself or someone else? Both at once is hard, if your feeling about what make’s a picture differs. Just choose.

Volvo Twinpower Turbo

Living in the hutongs of Beijing provides plenty of photo ops, so going out to test the freshly unboxed TAMRON 35mm was aa lot of fun thanks to my neighbor, who loves fiddling with his car.

This is my second prime lens, unless upgrading getting an additional 50mm with newer motor counts.

Peoples opinions about primes varies, but I enjoy them because they lock my mind. I know what I got to work with, rather than the endless possibilities provided by a zoom lens. The 50 is my best friend because the shots are beautiful no matter positioning. Standing up or laying down, it does the trick!

With the 35 though, the vertical ones look kind of bad… This has to do with the distortion. As a rule, it just doesn’t work. Taking horizontal portraits with a wide angle lens, keeping plenty of space on he side of the shoulders, the person will look older than in real life. True story. The nose comes out, the face grows longer and skinnier… Turns any cute girl into more of a which, and any slick guy into an old fart. taken into account that I might be exaggerating a bit but if you put it to test, you will see what I mean.

However, the old 50mm (filter size 52mm) is many times just a wee bit too narrow, at least my old one on 52mm. My new one (filter size 67mm) has never not been enough to get what I need. With a 35 though, I can get what I want.

Unboxing Tamron 35mm F1.8

This is my first lens that is actually new, not just new to me. Whatever, lets unbox this thing!

 

What makes this lens so special?

If the the beauty of it isn’t enough for you, it ford have one quality that made me think it is one good piece of gear.  This lens allows you as close as 20 cm to your subject, which is about half of what I am used to have with my Nikon 50mm 1.4D and 1.8G.

My mom who has been a photographer for a long time, warns me of buying any other lenses than originals to your body. Simply because they might be cheap and all, but they aint durable for shit. I have not applied any durability test to this one, and neither do I plan to, but from what I have been reading, it seems like the new SP series is a bit stronger than the lenses my mom has tried out a few years back, that literally would go in pieces if dropped to the floor. Which does happen if you are shooting at concerts or just dealing with drunk people more often than not.

Mine is purchased at Wukesong Camera Market for 3350 RMB. If you haven’t been there but live in Beijing, I got one word for you. Go. The guys in booth 2-11 are sweet, but their hot water and tea is just sitting there. Not being served even to high paying customers! Swiped my card for almost 8000 one day. Still no tea. What’s up with that?

Designing my business card.

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The last card I made for myself impressed people at the same time as it freaked them out. It was sketched by hand with black ink on one side, and pencil on the other, then printed in the exact same size on 2 kinds of paper. The end result looked like it had been hand drawn. A few times I had to explain the process because people did really thought each card had been drawn by hand.
You could not tell it was printed, unless you tested it with an eraser.

I offered people a hard white traditional card, and softer one too with texture and a tone of yellow. The softer cards went quicker than the hard ones. First I thought, that people just had noticed how the hand drawn style worked nicely with the feeling of drawing paper, that the softer one had. But turned out, the softer ones was a favorite of some people, because it could easily be turned into a perfect roach if a situation required one. No matter which paper people preferred, they still gave me a lot of love for the creativity, so I wont do things that much differently this time. Just took my acrylics out today started covering a few sheets of A3 paper with black strokes. Some full covering, some textured… My plan is to make one side black, with text in white 0.4 mm gel pen. The other side bright and colorful, with text or logo in black.

For now though, I am just enjoying the process of cutting up old colorful sheets of acrylic paintings I have made, and ofc, the new black ones. The colorful sheets were made just a few weeks ago when I was figuring out new creative ways to show the color wheel. Each sheet as a painting, is terrible. But placing out a business card and cutting out the shape, gives me plenty of beautiful backgrounds. Just perfect! Now I just gotta flawlessly put my signature on it, and call it my logo. Luckily, I have sheets upon sheets to practice on, and am more than willing to make more if necessary. I knew it was a wise decision to keep my painting equipment.

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Spraying the paper wet first, created the light dots in the pictures below. This tool is bought from a gardening market.

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Hutong life

The hutong roof is more of a floor for the hutong cat, rather than a roof for the hutong human. These cats have have clear territories, the cats are big and really G looking in general. Basically, it is cruel to let a kitten lose outside all on its own. Because that kitten is gonna get eaten. However, the roof of a hutong is beautiful. Old or new, still gorgeous. And these images I shot from my friend Ethans terrace, east of Jing Shan park. He lives in a traditional hutong courtyard, with a big tree in the middle surrounded by houses. The open space is shared and respectfully looked after by all families living there inside of the same red gate.

2 old ladies came back from the market while I was outside shooting a pie. They handed Ethan fresh vegetables that had been pulled out of the soil that very morning. You could smell it. You could see it and feel it. Then they planted some chives by the big tree in the middle and told Ethan, that he can go snatch some whenever he pleases.

Last weekend he gave her the big late of cured salmon we shot last, and I guess that fish made him a friend.

From the very begining of this project, the neigbours 4 year old son took interest in us, and he became our friend. Frank and I spent time a lot of time in the courtyard reading his English book about robots while Ethan was killing a lobster, braising som meat or chopping onions. It was so great to have an enthusiastic boy babbling Chinese to me and wanting me to pay him attention, read for him, teach him English and you know, just, hang out. I loved every bit of it. Such a sweet boy, and full of energy and ideas. Creative one for sure.

Being a Chinese child is not the same as being a Canadian or Swedish child. As a 4 year old in Sweden you go out and play with your buddies until your mom shouts through out the door that it is time for dinner. If you cant hear your own mom, you can hear somebody elses. It kind of works like in the old days when people would light a fire to warn for attacks. That fire lights another fire further away, and eventually the village is told. Just like one mom shouting makes another mom shout. Eventually, the kids are told. In Beijing, your friends are all studying or learning something. Most likely piano or extra curriculum math. And there is no playground. You have yourself, and your parents, and most likely no sibling. So naturally, Frank was drawn to us, because he had nothing to do. Grandma was busy cooking and the other folks around were so worried Frank was bothering us. They kept pulling him away and excusing him. Took a long time before we could convince them to just leave him be, because we are happy to have him around.

Franks mother kindly gave us abottle of rum at the end of the first weekend, as a thank you for being so good to her boy. Franks “popo”, meaning his fathers mother, came out one evening with a plate full of steaming dumplings for us.

The life in the hutongs, is really something. The connections you have with the families around you in a courtyard, is beautiful. The sense of community is really comforting.

If I ever need to live alone, I would love to have a community like that to rely on.

Hutong rooftop by Jingshan Park Hutong rooftop by Jingshan Park Hutong rooftop by Jingshan Park