"The Lovers" by Greg Arnold
You have some very interesting and quite different collections on Excio - from street photography to wildlife and people. Tell us a bit about your photography background.
My interest in photography started at primary school age. My Father used to lift me up to bench height to develop (red light safe - pre-panchromatic film) negatives in trays. The Darkroom was magical and I had books on the old Daguerrotype process and stories from Dad about how he coated his own plates and used moonlight to expose the prints before WWII. By the time I reached High School I had a collection of hand-me-down cameras and my interest was consolidated, when my (not wealthy) parents bought me a 'spanking new' Asahi Pentax in the 6th form.
By Uni. I was 'hooked' and mostly taking people shots, but I unfortunately never had a mentor, or joined any camera clubs (I regret this). I was getting a few photos published (mostly in Salient and other Uni. newspapers) and did well one year in Uni. Arts Fest. An interest in street photography was forming and I was on the streets of Wellington shooting film at night. This was about the time of the Vietnam War and after the 1966 film "Blow Up” when the Nikon F was the sexiest camera to be seen with.
“2-Up on a Bonni” was taken with me sitting backwards on Charlie’s BSA Lightning (the guy drinking). My belt looped through his for bracing and no helmet, so I could photograph. I was 18 and in my first year at Vic. (My mortality wasn’t on the horizon!)"
Many years later, (after a “doldrum” period of awful colour negatives processed commercially and the advent of early Digital), I joined the local Camera Club. Very good photographers there gave me the impetus to get back to taking B&W photos again. I built yet another Darkroom but sadly I only use it occasionally.
What I photographed, was really dictated by what was available to me locally, but I was soon doing day trips to Wellington, trying my hand at street photography again. I'd say I am drawn to emotive street shots but I also love my “critters”, so I have ended up on a bifurcated route.
You submitted some of your photos from Cuba Duba for our feature on the festival - do you attend it every year? What do you find most interesting there as a photographer?
2019 was the 2nd year I have attended Cupa Dupa. I loved the 2018 Festival so much I couldn’t wait for 2019 and was planning ahead. Unfortunately, it was hobbled by the tragic events in Christchurch.
Much as I’d like to be a good street photographer, I’m not! I lack the skills to be able to get close for a frame filled 28/35mm shot and I don’t enjoy being noticed, or handle well, any form of confrontation.
Cuba Dupa (on the other hand) is a “party”, with so much going on and so many photographers and cameras on display, that I can just meld and observe! I typically, will 'tape up' and camouflage the gear I carry, so as not to draw attention to it.
There is something there for everyone; be it blazing colours, eccentric dress styles, fantastic music, or pavement level pathos. I can’t wait for 2020!
There are two of your photos featured in the latest issue of NZPhotographer Magazine that are very interesting - you managed to capture quite an intimate moment between two people, can you tell us how you did it and what was going on behind the photo? Had you been waiting a long time to capture that moment or was it spontaneous?
I’m happy you liked the "Lovers" photo! There were so many competent photographers at Cuba Dupa, that I needed a point of difference! Anticipating the crowd involvement in the music I found a ground level seated position that gave me best light on a 90 degree view of the crowd faces. I wasn’t interested in band photos, but I was close enough to the stage to get the spontaneous dancers. I minimised my need to move (ie get noticed and in people’s way) and I had the low perspective I like. I was watching and shooting through gaps in the crowd with a (moderately) inconspicuous 85mm, at about 8-10m.
This young couple caught my eye. She spotted me photographing quite early on and I got the: “what’s your game” look, so I just put the camera down and smiled. I was intrigued by the chemistry that was evident and knew (hoped) there was a nice shot coming. Over about half and hour I took 5-10 shots of them, while keeping an eye on other faces I found interesting.
I’d like to contact them to send them the images if you're reading this and happen to know who this couple are.
You definitely nailed the "depth of feeling" in The Lovers photo - Can you give any tips or advice on how our readers can take similar kinds of shots?
This shot was a mixture of luck and planning. I had positioned myself well and could see a lot of lovely portrait potential in the crowd, but was “lucky" to have this beautiful couple to shoot reasonably close.
I new immediately from the body language, that there was a nice shot to be had, but I had to wait to get the moment in the photo.
I really don’t have the skills to give “how to” advice, but as I walk around, I am constantly watching the light, trying to see the world through an imaginary frame, and thinking of perspective and camera setting changes I need to make in anticipation. Light is always the most important thing and I see light on faces before I’ve even thought about whether or not I want the shot.
What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of photography?
I am hobbled to quite an extent, because of farm commitments, but if I can conserve enough grass to see the stock though for 7 to 10 days this September... a week in villages on the HoChi Min trail would be my dream photographic trip!