#nunavutday by emile holba

To celebrate #nunavutday I've posted a portrait of Polarman, long term resident superhero of Iqaluit ᐃᖃᓗᐃᑦ 

I met Polarman on Baffin Island, Nunavut whilst documenting Terje Isungset recording part of his latest album Meditations. You can read my detailed post about the creative and difficult process of recording ice music > 'How do you record music at 40c

To discover more people and frozen landscapes of Baffin Island, check the whole series of photographs > 'Qallunaaq of Iqaluit'. The region is simply breathtaking and majestic and I cannot wait to return some day!

Quick viewing tip > look for the '+' symbol in the top right of any frame featured in my galleries to view large.

My Camera View by emile holba

I'm currently in the final throws of building a brand new photographic library / image resource for the newly independent Musical Futures. I've visited a diverse variety of schools that champion the initiative during the past few weeks and a number of sneaky 'me in action' shots have emerged. I thought it fun to show you my exact camera view (seen below) at the time @peterromhany took this shot of me above > and no, I'm not trying to support that wall. 

The new photographs will serve many visual needs from populating a brand new Musical Futures website (currently being built by the lovely Cog Design posse) to usage within its various social media commitments and a wide variety of printed reproduction.   

For this type of brief I like to 'formalise' the fly-on-the-wall shots a little, so I allow the pupils to settle into their lesson and then seek out vignettes to shoot, as staging them nearly always look disingenuous or 'advertorial' looking - looks not appropriate for such progressive pedagogical methodology that Musical Futures excels in. 

Once pupils get going, I'll look around each scene for visual distractions (such as the yellow chair pictured above) and move them out the way to further focus the viewer to the pupil(s) activity and engagement. Once my frame is set, I'll wait for the appropriate facial expression, action or change in body language before firing the shutter. Taking this compositional approach also allows me time to asses the frame's components too, so their interplay with subject focus allows for more flexible layouts for designers. For example, including the negative space / grey wall panel in the top left of the image below allows for text or logo overlays. 

Morpeth School in Bethnal Green, London, boasts a truly state of the art music department with multiple, large practice rooms, recording studios, stages and a huge range of instruments but these spaces still suffer from poor light quality. Schools nearly always employ an odd mix of localised (read hotspots) tungsten and fluorescent lighting which not only presents muddy colour temperature but also low lux levels which restricts the optimum use of aperture, shutter speed and sober ISO. 

To help me cut through the light pollution, I put up a couple of Profoto B1s, one with Profoto's trusty Zoom Reflector and the other with a Zoom Reflector + 10º grid. Highly portable, I position the non-gridded Zoom B1 high up and facing one of the room's corners, with the resulting reflected light being super soft with the whole room acting as a giant soft box. I'll then move the gridded Zoom light around to highlight a pupil's face or torso and add a little more shape, contrast and 'punch' to the frame.

Below is my exact camera view. I look forward to sharing more images from this latest round of photoshoots for Musical Futures in the very near future.

Keen eye'd viewers will spot me shooting with my Phase One IQ250 and may cry that the camera system is not as good at rendering high ISO as a modern Canon, Nikon or Fuji alternatives. On paper this may hold some truth but shooting in the real world, I rarely ever shoot above 1600 ISO anyway as the blacks and micro contrast shift too much for me. I also use a Canon 5D3 and even with that great sensor, I generally keep the ISOs low and rather augment the light properly with considered lighting instead of just pumping up silly ISOs, adding a tonne of grain and throwing other digital glitter at the file (or convert to black & white to hide a multitude of artefact sin). 

Furthermore, when shooting up at 1600 ISO I find that the Phase One simply offers far superior skin tone straight out of the camera. Any visible noise is 'nice' or more natural looking than the 35mms and with true 16 bit colour + 14 stop latitude, those blacks are tight and silky smooth (assuming one is exposing well at point of capture). Throw in a range of insanely sharp Schneider Kreuznach leaf shutter lenses and the sweetest relationship of sensor size (read huge and pixels that can breathe) and depth of field and I'll happily shoot with the Phase One on documentary assignments like this any day of the week. I've left the metadata on the file above if you would like to peek.

To sample a little more of my work with Phase One IQ250, take a look at Welcome To The Quiet Zone shot with natural, available light only / this series for ISM and this series called Bunad > both of which were shot with a mix of natural light and multiple studio lights & modifiers.

Owing a Phase One is not as daunting as photographers think. If you would like to discuss the Phase One IQ range in more detail, don't bother with email, just pick up the phone and speak to Steve Martin at Teamwork Photo & Digital in central London. Steve is super knowledgeable, resourceful and offers levels of after sales & support above and well beyond what's required from retail. The rest of the mob at Teamwork aren't too shoddy either...😎 No sponsorship or arrangements with Teamwork, just feeling compelled to mention.

Landscape > Budalsvatnet Style! by emile holba

Wow! It is incredible that a place so tranquil and calming in the height of summer turns into a near inaccessible winter barrier within the timeframe of just a few months. The winter photograph is taken around 250m to the left of the summer frame with the same Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8 lens, just where the fjord's water falls in a steep sided valley, running down into Geilo. 

In the background, the mighty Hallingskarvet Plateau continues to dominate and decitate its borderland regardless of seasons and weather. I love the fact that it looks appropriately fierce in its ice coated clothing. Shot on location for Visit Geilo.

Oh and click on the winter picture and look closely, go on...really closely, and you'll spot two cross country skiers making their way across my frame!

Algorithmic Complexities Meet Creative Arts by emile holba

I recently collaborated with the team at Drake Music to start a detailed process of documenting their world leading development of assistive music technology for disabled musicians. Through a national network of associates and consultants, the organisation fosters an imaginative and innovative approach to creating a truly inclusive culture of music making > with near unparalleled success.

To really start to understand the levels to which Drake Music go to ensuring disabled people have meaningful access to musical instruments, I joined them at the recent Web We Want Festival at London's Southbank Centre. As one of the key participants of the Web We Want Festival, DM were out in full force staging a 12 hour adaptive music tech hackathon and displaying their music technology designs in the Clore Ballroom. 

Carefully nurtured over the last last 2 years, Gawain Hewitt has assembled a crack team of some of Europe's best coders and hardware hackers. As DM's Head of Research & Development, he's formed a free thinking skunk works of technologists passionate about seeking new ways of utilising readily available software, regular low cost (dare I say mundane) hardware with an in-depth knowledge of source and machine code. This 2 year relationship is proving rather fertile with busy monthly 'hack' meets, strong collaborative interaction with disabled musicians and a joint desire to bring projects to life. Projects that work, are easily accessible and economically available to all. 

For an insightful analysis of the 12 hour hackathon along with some mini profiles of DM's Web We Want's activities, please read this enlighting blog entry by writer & broadcaster Kester Brewin (please note that Alex Williams simply uploaded the article > Kester is the author and more of my photographs are featured). You can also catch up with a previous news entry called 'Photobombing' featuring 2 of Drake Music's leading disabled musicians > John Kelly & Kris Halpin.

My work with Drake Music continues throughout 2015 and I look forward to updating and sharing photographic progress captured in a world where algorithmic complexities meet creative arts.

R.I.P Ornette Coleman by emile holba

Music lost a true giant of improvisation and fearless musical innovation today. Ornette Coleman has sadly passed away and I feel truly privileged to have met and photographed him during the London Jazz Festival in 2011. 

Pioneer of the famed free jazz movement, Ornette's legacy is rich, textured and continues to inspire music makers across an endless myriad of genres. Humble, gentle and warmly spoken, Ornette made me feel immediately at ease and gave his undivided attention, regardless of how brief our time together was. 

If you've not discovered Ornette's extensive discography yet, ease yourself in with 2 timeless classics - 1958's The Music of Ornette Coleman: Something Else!!!! and a year later with the seminal release of The Shape Of Jazz To Come. Their sonic intimacy is just amazing. Enjoy.