Multi-Story Orchestra Rehearsal

Multi-Story Orchestra in their Peckham home

About this time last year I attended a concert by the Multi-Story Orchestra who perform, you guessed it, in a multi-storey car park. The orchestra is part of a wider arts project, Bold Tendencies, who have taken over the car park in the centre of Peckham, south London.

During the summer each year Bold Tendencies host a series of talks, concerts and art events. The roof of the car park is turned over to a great café and bar – Frank’s Cafe. As part of all this, the Multi-Story Orchestra play a series of classical concerts in their ’auditorium’ on the 8th floor.

Bassoonist with the Multi-Story Orchestra

…  several hundred Londoners joining in on the chorus of Wonderwall.

It’s quite a surreal experience. Imagine the typical multi-storey car park, low ceilings, harsh lighting. It is open on all sides, there’s concrete, lots of concrete and an orchestra! The day of the concert is one of those wonderful all too rare London days when the air is warm, there is barely a breeze and somehow all feels right with the world.

Mult-Story orchestra in their Peckham home

I’m guessing much of the audience aren’t familiar with Gérard Grisey’s Les Espaces Acousitiques, as I’m not. Never-the-less we sit entranced. My enduring memory comes in one of those unscripted moments. The other side of the railway is another building with its own roof top bar and their own performance – an Oasis cover band. As there is a lull in the music, across the tracks comes the unmistakable sound of several hundred Londoners joining in on the chorus of Wonderwall. Smiles spread across the faces of the audience. For a few seconds, two slices of London life are merged. Then as the orchestra continues those countless Noel’s and Liam’s gradually fade away.

Young musician working with the Multi-Story Orchestra

This year I’ve been lucky to work with the orchestra in shooting their rehearsals. The day of the rehearsal pictured here is very different from that day last year, thunderstorms were spreading across London, the rain hammered down. However, all that concrete isn’t easily intimidated. In that way the car park makes the ideal concert hall. It’s as though there’s no rain falling on the roof two floors above us.

Multi-Story Orchestra working with young musicians

For the second half of the rehearsal, the orchestra is joined by young musicians from local schools. It was great to see the musicians working with the next generation. From what I saw this year’s performances should be a treat.

Tuba player with Multi-Story Orchestra

I love this picture: a smile on her face

The band Lux Lisbon on stage at the Scala

I was going back through my pick of the shots I took for Lux Lisbon trying to decide which I prefer. I love this picture, it isn’t technically the best shot and it’s probably not the one most people would choose, but it works for me.

What it does is embodies the mood of the night. The Scala is the largest venue Lux Lisbon have ever played, it is sold out, the place is rammed, the band have just played a great set, it is the last date on their tour and everyone is having a great time.

I love this picture … a smile on her face, says ‘we did it!’

Most of the evening I was sitting in the pit in front of where Charlotte was playing and she had an amazing smile on her face. It was obvious she was having the time of her life and this moment towards the end of the night where she lifts her hands above her head, the smile on her face, says ‘we did it!’

That’s why it works for me. If you get the opportunity go to see Lux Lisbon play live, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. There’s more info on their website and you can even download a free 10 song EP, how many many bands do that.

Lux Lisbon at the Scala, London

Lux Lisbon on stage at the Scala, London

It’s great to get to shoot a high energy live gig, but even better when it’s a band you like, so I was more than a little chuffed to get to shoot Lux Lisbon’s largest gig to date at the Scala, in London.

Michael Kilbey on stage at the Scala, London

Michael Kilbey

There were two support acts starting with singer-songwriter Michael Kilby. I’d not shoot at the Scala before so it gave me a good chance to get a feel for the venue – singer-songwriters don’t generally move around too much and I’m pleased to say Michael followed in that honourable tradition. Michael has a great following, the ‘Sea Queens’, as they’re known, really enjoyed themselves!

Orlando Seale & the Swell on stage at the Scala, London

Orlando Seale & the Swell

Next up were Orlando Seale and the Swell. In addition to a guitarist, Orlando was playing with two great violinists and a very lively group of backing singers. It’s easy to tell when a group are enjoying themselves on stage and they were really enjoying themselves. I had the pleasure of meeting Orlando, he’s such a nice guy and was happy to chat to the audience in the bar after the gig.

Lux Lisbon have no management or record company – everything is completely DIY. I later found out they’re the first self-managed band to sell-out the Scala, a great achievement. I admire them for doing it that way, it’s really hard work, all the band were on stage before the set doing what would normally be roadie duties.

Lead singer Stu from Lux Lisbon on stage at the Scala, London

Stu from Lux Lisbon

Lux Lisbon are one of those bands that really come into their own in a live setting. I’m no music journalist so I’m not going to attempt to describe the references that inform their work – happily there’s a free 10-track EP you can download and do that for yourself.

It’s a fairly easy journey home from the Scala never-the-less it was still after midnight when I started editing. I was shooting RAW + small jpeg. I’ve written before about how great the Fuji jpegs are, it’s a massive time-saver to be able to grab jpegs straight from the camera, give them a quick tweak and email them off. The band wanted a few shots for their twitter and facebook feeds so they didn’t need to be huge files, the jpegs were ideal.

Charlotte from Lux Lisbon on stage at the Scala, London

Charlotte from Lux Lisbon

I’ve been playing with using the built-in wifi on the Fuji XT-1 to download files to an iPad. Snapseed and Lightroom Mobile are so intuitive on the iPad, in some ways I enjoy editing with them more than with full-blown Lightroom. Doing it that way would allow me to get some shots out even quicker, but I’m still not at the point where I feel I could rely on it to work without a hitch.

I spent the following morning editing the RAW files, uploading the final images to dropbox by the end of the day. You can see some more shots on my website. I hope you enjoy them and thanks to Lux Lisbon for the opportunity.

Record Store Day 2016

Rough Trade East on record store day

Beyond getting to see some new bands I like to start Record Store Day with a vinyl release to search for, even if my track record in actually finding it isn’t great. In the past this has included Radiohead’s 2011 12” release of ‘The Butcher and Supercollider’ and in 2014 Tame Impala’s, ‘Live Versions’. You guessed it, I didn’t get either.

This year was likely to be no easier. The object of my desire was The White Stripes highly regarded Peel Sessions, 15 years after recording they had been pressed into vinyl for the first time. Two disks, one white, one red. Reports on twitter said record stores had received their allocation only hours before they closed the night before RSD.

Rock couple in Rough Trade East

I’d planned a route through east London which would take me past three shops ending at London’s Record Store Day ground zero, Rough Trade East. Rough Trade regularly host in-store gigs and had booked a day of bands and DJs. The real pleasure of RSD for me is not what might be for sale, it’s the chance of catching an amazing set by an artist I’d never before heard of. Even if the music isn’t my taste there’s something about ‘the new’ that’s captivating.

Inside of Love Vinyl record shop

My route starts at Love Vinyl, just off of the Kingsland Road. They have a good selection of RSD pressings, but hadn’t received any of the White Stripes. One of the staff tell me an early customer had spent over £800 – that’s a whole lot of vinyl. I speak to a group of friends outside who are frantically calling trying to track down a copy of The Slaves ‘Are You Satisfied’. RSD can get you like that, especially if your favourite artist is involved. If you’re not careful a sense of panic can set in, do I go there or that other store which is closer but may be busier – what to do?

Sister Ray Ace on Record Store Day 2016

My next opportunity is Sister Ray Ace further down the Essex Road, coffee was calling me but now is no time to be taking breaks. As Sister Ray comes into sight I see there’s a queue, my heart sinks, but maybe that means there’s something worth queuing for – a little Jack maybe! Things are very organised, a girl at the door is letting a small number of punters in at a time. Even though it wasn’t on their list I still have to ask, but Jack is nowhere to be seen.

Two bearded men in Rough Trade East

..they’d received three copies of the White Stripes all of which were sold within 15 minutes of opening. Jack White had left the building.

I pull myself up, don’t lose hope now. I push on through the now drizzly east London. Left on to Bethnal Green Road, my brain’s begging for coffee, but Jack might be alone and waiting for me! Flashback Records comes into sight – no queue – that’s a good sign right? I get inside to be confronted by a scene reminiscent of the morning after a really good student party. There are a couple of forlorn souls searching for the vinyl equivalent of an old bottle of cooking sherry at the back of the kitchen cabinet. The staff are looking slightly stunned by the morning’s events. A sympathetic guy explains they’d received three copies of the White Stripes all of which were sold within 15 minutes of opening. Jack White had left the building (sorry for that).

The queue to get into Rough Trade East on Record Store Day 2016

Record Store Day 2016 ends the same way as it had every other year, without the main prize. I walk along Brick Lane to Rough Trade, I knew any copies they’d had would be well gone by now. I can’t help but ask never-the-less.

Chilean duo Magaly Fields playing Rough Trade East

On the bright side, I saw Chilean duo Magaly Fields who were new to me play a really stonking set. I also caught a DJ set by Blanck Mass – a bit too discordant for my taste but plenty of people were enjoying it.

Next year I’m sure I’ll be doing the same. Probably with the same lack of success – but still full of hope.

Fujifilm x-series JPEG files

A trio in close conversation in Tap coffee

 

Having read recently read Kevin Mullins’ article detailing how he set the custom film profiles on his Fujifilm X-series cameras I was keen to give it a go on my new Fuji XT1. Although I’ve been shooting with my X100s for some time it’s mainly been in RAW.

Fujifilm X-T1 jpeg file of a cup of coffee in Tap Coffee, London.

I was in Soho yesterday and decided to forgo the RAW, shoot JPEG and see how they came out. Let me be the first to say none of these are going to win any awards but they give a good cross-section of lighting situations.

Fujifilm X-T1 jpeg file of a patisserie shop worker admiring his wares

The commonly accepted wisdom is that JPEG files just don’t give the necessary flexibility in editing.

By virtue of the fact a RAW file includes all the available data and a JPEG doesn’t, then the RAW file has to be the safer way to shoot. However do we always need that additional data?

If I’m shooting for a client then, yes, I’m going to buy the insurance of a RAW file. But if I’m just shooting some street photography as I wander Soho on a Saturday afternoon, then on the evidence of these shots, for me, JPEG is good enough.

Fujifilm X-T1 jpeg file of a darkly light London street scene

Kevin details how he sets his custom settings in his post. I found when I used his settings on my X100s I was losing all the detail in the blacks. As the XT1 has the same sensor as the Fuji X100s I decided to back off the shadow settings a little. These are the settings I used:

Black & white (using the B&W+R film simulation)
Highlights -1
Shadows +1 (KM: +2)
Sharpness +1 (KM: +2) – this change more to see the difference than any science.
Dynamic Range (Auto)
White Balance (Auto)
Noise Reduction -2

Fujifilm X-T1 jpeg file of a man drinking in the Milk Bar, London

Generally, I’m really happy with the look. It’s far more to my liking than JPEGs from my Nikon D700. The blacks in these shots aren’t as dark as on the test with the X100s. If I were going to use these elsewhere I’d like to increase the contrast a little, so it could be my metering that was at fault on the first test. Maybe I’ll give Kevin’s settings another go.

If you’re using the Fujifilm simulations I’d be interested in hearing the settings you’re using?

Street Photography: Princess May boot fair

Part of an ongoing ‘Sunday Morning series’, shooting street photography at the Princess May boot fair. It saves me from hanging around aimlessly while my beautiful wife is looking at the clothes (again).

Street photography: A man & his daughter at the Princess May boot fair

I’ve struggled back and forth between colour and black & white. My eye defaults to b&W for street photography too easily, I’m aware of that, and this market is generally bursting with colour. But then that b&w looks so clean, classic and so beautiful. However that colour it does catch the eye… there’s red in there you know. You see how it goes. I tried to resist the dark side but in this instance I just couldn’t ….

Street photography: A man searching for bargins at the Princess May boot fair

Street photography: A group talking at the Princess May boot fair

Street photography: A woman in a headscarf at the Princess May boot fair

If you’re ever there on a Sunday morning I’m the guy with the camera and the ‘I need a coffee‘ look. Come over and say hi.

Event photography: Multi-story orchestra

Christopher Stark: conducting the Multi-story Orchestra in Peckham, London

The concept of an orchestra basing itself on the seventh floor of disused multi-story car park in Peckham, South London, is not one that immediately jumps to mind. But it works, really well. I had a great time shooting the Multi-Story Orchestra before their concert last Saturday and the concert itself was superb. The event is one of many, in the car park, organised by Bold Tendencies.

Viola solist with the Multi-story Orchestra in Peckham.

Being a disused car park the ceiling is low and the floors are open on all sides, so on a cold, windy, day it would have been pretty unpleasant. However, it was one of those warm clear days that can, sometimes, be a little hard to come by in London. I was lucky with the lighting, the ‘stage’ was lit well with a lot of small spotlights all around. So as the sun dropped the lighting worked really well picking the musicians and their sheet music out really nicely.

2nd violin with the Multi-story Orchestra in PeckhamThe multi-story orchestra are performing twice more this season, Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, on the 12th & 13th September. I’d recommend it if you get the chance to get along.

Double-basse player with the Multi-story Orchestra

 

Working with animals

A woman and her dog in a shop in Shoreditch, London

I’d never really considered whether the adage about ‘Never working with children and animals’ was true. Until I approached this lady who was taking it easy in a very ‘Shoreditch’ clothes shop / coffee shop and asked if I could take her portrait with her dog.

She was charming and agreed straight away. No matter how much I tried the get the bloody dog’s attention he was having none of it. He almost has the ‘I know you’re there but I’m ignoring you’ look on his face – I guess I’m lucky she didn’t have kids with her!