Kage Collective : The Wind Of Change

After an unintentional break this year, we have returned to the monthly magazine format at Kage Collective. I think by the end of last year and having produced each month to a deadline, we just wanted to go at it differently. But the last few months of not producing much has proved to us that deadlines work, like or loath them.

We've also had a change in lineup to. Flemming and Charlene have both moved on to do other things and we wish them both well on their global travels. But we are super happy to introduce our new member Ronas Rask. Jonas is not only an official Fujifilm X-Photographer, but he actually does all those amazing product shots for the brand. Kage will be an ideal place to show of his documentary side. So now we are 7. Patrick La Roque (Canada), Robert Catto (Australia), Bert Stephani (Belgium), Vincent Baldensberger (France), Kevin Mullins (UK), Jonas Rask (Denmark) and myself have new essays on our latest issue (13).

It took me a while to get back into that deadline mentality, but I finally decided to shoot the second part of my elements with a Lensbaby series. I shot this essay on the X-Pro2 with the Lensbaby Composer Pro and Edge 80 optic. The pictures and the text took a darker turn though when the news of the Manchester terrorist attack surfaced the morning of the shoot, which game me the title of The Gentle Breeze Of The Blast .

As it's the centennial of JFK's birth, I decided to write a review of My Kennedy Years - A Memoir by JFK's photographer Jacques Lowe. A terrific book if you're a fan of the long term documentary project, which this was the mother of them all.

Kage Collective Issue 9 & Mitchell Library

Our 9th monthly issue of Kage Collective is now up and is a little different this month. Each issue tends to have a theme picked from suggestions from the eight of us. This month we went with Patrick's (La Roque) slightly odd idea of 'The Silence'. It's odd for a couple of reasons. 1). There had to be no accompanying text with the pictures. 2). Pitrick is the biggest wordsmith in our collective.

The Quiet Room at Mitchell Library - You can hear a moth flap it's wing!

The Quiet Room at Mitchell Library - You can hear a moth flap it's wing!

I paid a visit the Michell Library in Glasgow. I sat at the back of the quiet room, a place people go to study and read in silence. I shot a few pictures there and around other parts of the library, but I wasn't getting what I wanted or needed. I spoke to a security guard to try to gain access behind the scenes and although he did open a couple of doors for me, he also said there was a chance to go behind closed doors if I came back the following day. Once a year for the past twenty seven years, Glasgow has an open door month long event, where the public can go behind the scenes of some famous buildings.

So I returned the following day and captured the pictures you see here, plus the ones found over at Kage Collective under the title of 'Books Speak Volumes'. Michel library used to be a reference only library up until ten years ago. Members of the public would search for titles and then fill out the paperwork required. A member of staff would then be dispatched to go into the many floors of books and find the one that had been requested. Only 10% of books at the Mitchell are on display to the public these days, so it was fantastic to be able to wander through the many floors and rows of bookshelves, taking in the amazing smell of extremely vintage and rare works.

Arild Andersen Trio

Last week I had the pleasure of photographing The Arild Andersen Trio during the Scottish leg of their current tour. The Trio consists of Norwegian bassist and composer Arild Andersen, Scottish tenor saxophonist Tommy Smith and Italian drummer Paolo Vinaccia. Although Paolo is Italian, he has actually lived in Norway for the last couple of decades. I photographed a gig at The Queen's Hall in Edinburgh and then again a few nights later when they played a private gig for a the music students at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland which is located in Glasgow, where Tommy is Head of Jazz. The picture at the top of this post was shot with my trusty Fuji X100T using the daylight balanced florescent lighting on the ceiling of the room. The picture has a slight crop to straighten it up a little, but other than that it's straight out of camera. All other pictures were taken with a couple of X-T1's.

If you haven't seen or heard this trio and you like jazz, I would highly recommend you do so as soon as possible. With beautiful compositions and double bass from Arid, not only that, his use of effects and loops help expand the normal constraints of a trio. Paolo's drumming and percussion is unique and he can take the band from a whisper to a full out onslaught and then back again. He can produce sounds from a cymbal that I have never heard from any drummer and on top of that he's a really nice guy that knows his cameras. Last, but definitely not least is Scotland's jazz legend Tommy Smith, fresh from receiving The Houses of Parliament jazz award for teaching. Tommy is a world class saxophonist and composer who has created a thriving jazz scene in Scotland and is largely responsible for the talented crop of young jazz musicians coming up today.

I've also been shooting some pictures for Tommy's next CD with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. More about that coming up in the next couple of months.



Kage Collective :: A New Direction


Today, Friday 15th of January 2016, we launch a new direction for The Kage Collective website. Although there's always a lot going on in the backgroung everyday between the eight members, uploading content has been a bit sporadic and we haven't always produced as much as we hoped. So as a way change all that and to give us a kick up the backside and give our followers more quality content, more often, we have decided to take the website in a new direction. Today we launch our new monthly online magazine style format that will be updated on the 15th of each month and have a number of new essays, an interview, a review and a favourite shot of the month from each of us. This is new to us and it's possible that we may introduce more things in the coming months too. But don't hang around here, go see all that's new at Kage Collective by clicking HERE.

p.s. Don't forget that we have a free ebook called Under A Vagrant Sun that you can download from the Kage website or by clicking HERE.

Get In The Loop With A New Ebook


If you enjoy shooting music, or if you haven't tried it yet and don't know where to start, Flemming Bo Jensen has the answer. Flemming launches his new ebook available now called 'Get In The Loop - How To Make Great Music Images' and man is it worth the money! At 220 pages long and only $6.99 (USD) it's a no brainer. Flemming has done a first class job on the layout too, which makes it a really enjoyable read that's packed with information on how to do music photography.


Get In The Loop is also under the banner of Kage Editions which is our Kage Collective publications side. I know that Flemming has slaved over this ebook for many months, with a lot of help in the editing department from Charlene Winfred (our Singaporian Kage member).

So as it's comming up for Christmas and you know you need something informative to read, why not download Get In The Loop. Then feed your brain and maybe start a personal project in 2016 on shooting music with what you learn? If you're still not convinced, try reading my post on the Kage Collective site titled The Value Of A Personal Project.

The Catacombs Of Paris

We walked down a spiral stone staircase and felt the temperature drop with every step. The Paris sun above had been blistering hot and we welcomed the break away from the heat for a while. We walked slowly through the dimly lit tunnels for a while, a little less impressed than I had expected. Then just as I started to wonder what the big deal was about, we walked into the next section and there it was, stretching out through the passageway.

A German kid reached out with a single finger and poked around inside the eye socket of a human skull. A man with a thick french accent called out in english "Do not touch the bones, this is a cemetery!". The kid pulled his finger back out and moved on until out of site of the skullkeeper, then continued to fondle and prod as many skulls as he could until being told off again, this time from a voice in the darkness that made him jump.

The skeletal remains are expected on this trip underground, but it's the sheer volume of them that is shocking. The bones from all the cemeteries in France were brought here between 1786 and 1788, always at night under a black vail and lead by priests. Walls of bones and skulls are stacked neatly into walls 5' tall (sometimes floor to ceiling) and at least as deep. There's even the odd roundabout made of bones. The tunnels stretch for miles below the streets of Paris, under blocks and blocks of houses.

Oddly, I came across a small pile of old photos placed on top of a stack of bones. These were the last things I expected to find here and they were like an electric shock, a sudden realisation that all of those bones were once regular people, families with kids.

Then suddenly another stone spiral staircase rises steeply in front of us. The climb felt never ending and after days of walking the streets of Paris, my calf muscles could have done without the haul back up to the streets. A quick security check to make sure my camera bag didn't contain the odd skull and we were outside again in bright sunlight and fresh air. I had no idea where we were, but I knew we had travelled a great distance underground. I glanced back, wondering if the German kid would emerge from the staircase holding a skull like a bowling ball, but he was nowhere to be seen.

The Digital Contact Sheet :: Episode 7


I shot a series of pictures for an NGO in the Philippines in 2013 that involved visiting orphanages in Cebu and Davao. The organisation is called SOS Children's Villages and you can find out more from their website HERE. The shot above was taken in the Davao City village the day before I flew back to Hong Kong. I was looking for a dramatic picture when I came across this scene. I had already shot some pictures of this boy earlier that that day, but after making my way around the village, I came back as the kids were doing their chores. The smell of the smoke caught my attention first and then I saw it creep out between the houses. I walked toward the smoke and saw the two boys from earlier. The smoke was thick and I wasn't sure I would be able to get a usable shot, but I fired off a few frames and hoped for the odd clear spot.

The final contact sheet showing red markings for my favourite frames & yellow for the best one

The first three frames on this contact sheet are from the end of another sequence which was a good crop of pictures of a girl studying on a porch. I wanted to show this sequence of twenty-five because it demonstrates how the photographer has the ability, or the power if you like, to show a scene in a way that leads the viewers emotions and thereby the way he or she interprets a scene. My friend Patrick La Roque wrote a post on our Kage Collective website about this very thing and I would urge you to read it HERE.

The Digital Contact Sheet_07_C_700--3

I like this shot of the two boys away from the smoke. Although I didn't pose this one, the boys saw the camera and looked into the lens. But I like the composition with the boys off to the right and the wall producing strong leading lines. The Fuji sensor always produces great colours too. I actually have this one printed and hanging on my office wall in a plain black frame with white mount.

The picture above shows the exact opposite of the featured shot. We see a boy full of fun who doesn't seem to have a care in the world, a far cry from the one below, that sees him working in the yard cleaning up and burning leaves with a home made shovel.

This is the one I used from this sequence. This for me, is a great story telling image that makes the viewer read into it and hopefully ask questions. It's a natural moment that brings out empathy for the subject. The fact that he is using a homemade broom only enhances this feeling and draws us deeper into the story behind this young orphan boy.

Freedom Through Photography :: Part 4

Back in September I had the pleasure of shooting a project with Fujifilm UK and Millican. The two companies had teamed up to produce a couple of camera bags for the Fuji X Series and they invited myself and fellow photographers David Cleland and Andrew James to the picturesque Lake District to shoot a project called Freedom Through Photography. The idea was that each of us shot a subject that tied in with the landscape and how it was used. The X-Series is small and lightweight, while Millican's products are all about getting out into the countryside and having an adventure, so the two companies pair fairly well. David's mission was to shoot The Landscape itself, which meant a very early rise, while Andrew had the task of shooting someone who works in the landscape. I had the pleasure of doing a documentary project on Alan (Al) Wilson, someone who uses the landscape for their passion. Portrait Of A Photographer is the third in this series and features me shooting Al with the X-M1 and a few different lenses.

ALAN WILSON Sophie (my awesome sidekick for the day) and I met Al at the Bowder Stone. It was my first visit to this amazing 2,000 ton rock, but Al had been here many times before. He has climbed and studied this rock for years, practicing and perfecting moves that could take him to the top using all sorts of routes. A few minutes talking to Al about the Bowder Stone and you know he has an obsession with this place. He talks about rock climbing the way photographers talk about photography and you can see the passion in his eyes. He also has a fair bit of respect for The Bawder Stone, as if it lived and breathed. It was a privilege to photograph Al doing the thing he loves and I hope I did him justice in the photographs you see in the film.

FUJIFILM, MILLICAN & FREEDOM THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY The purpose of the Freedom Through Photography project was to showcase the collaboration between Fujifilm UK and outdoor bag company Millican. Thanks to the great folks at Millican (especially founders Joritt and Nicky), we X Series shooters now have a dedicated bag for all our great Fuji cameras and lenses. The bag featured in the film above is the ‘Christopher’, but there is also the option of the smaller ‘Robert’ bag. These bags are really high quality and will last for years. The Fuji bags now come in two colours and you can see them at Millican HERE.

THE CREW As I've mentioned before, director Giles Brown and camera guys Andrew Lawrence and James Barns did a fantastic job on all of the films. I’m sure you will agree that the quality of these films are fantastic. Credit to Sophie Crewdson, for not only co writting the screenplay with Giles for these films, but Sophie was also my guide while shooting my part at the Lake District.

THE GEAR All three of us used the Christopher bag from Millican (the larger of the two bags made for the X-Series). Like all Millican products, it's made for the great outdoors at a very high standard that will last for many years. These bags are tough, good looking and above all else functional. Freedom Through Photography isn't just a nifty slogan by a PR department either. Having spent the weekend with Millican founders Jorrit and Nicky, I know they are totally dedicated to producing quality kit for people who love the outdoors. Millican also do a complete range of outdoor bags for hillwalking and many other outdoor persuits.

The Fuji gear we were using was the X20 and the X-M1. The X20 is a solid little camera that just oozes quality, but I think all three of us shot most of the projects with the X-M1 and a verity of lenses. Not having a viewfinder was a bit alien to me and I really missed not having one, but you adapt to the gear you have and it didn't take long to get the hang of holding the camera out in front. It did force me to use my glasses though and I was glad I had my eyes tested a few weeks before:o). I made a conscious decision to use a variety of settings to show how the camera handled things like high ISO etc...

This was my first weekend with the 14mm and I was impressed with how it performed. It's the one lens in my kit that I feel I haven't used enough yet. The 23mm and now the 56mm are the shiny new toys and two of my favorite focal lengths (35mm and 85mm in old money), but I'd like to spend a few weeks with just the 14mm (for my personal stuff at least) and really get to know that lens better.

THE EXIBITION Some of the photos shot by David, Andrew and myself will be part of an exibition at the Keswick Mountain Festival in the Lake District, which will run from the 15th of May until the 22nd of June (2014). I'll be dropping in to see the exibition on the 17th of May and would be happy to talk about Fuji, Millican or anything photography related.

THE COMPETITION You could also be included in the exibition by sending your own Freedom Through Photography photos in for review. Click HERE for full details on how to enter. The winning prize is a Fujifilm X-M1 and a Christopher X-Series camera bag.

LINKS Click on these links for more information. More on this project. David Cleland (Flixelpix) Andrew James Fujifilm UK Home Of Millican

A big thanks to Katie, David and Marc at Fujifilm UK for taking an interest in what I do.

Kage Collective :: Now We Are 7

image The big announcement today is that we have gone from four to seven members over at The Kage Collective. Our three new members are fellow documentary photographers (in alphabetical order) Vincent Baldensperger fron Toulouse, France, Craig Litten from Palm Beach, USA and Fuji X photographer Bert Stephani from Steenokkerzeel, Belgium. All three of them are great photographers in their own right and we look forward to including their stories in the near future. But for now you can take a look at our updated Members Portfolio section on the Kage Collective site. All seven portfolios are newly check them all.

It's a privilege to be part of a collective with such a fantastic group of photographers. I would like to single out the hardest working member of the Kage Collective. Patrick (La Roque) created our Kage website and keeps it up to date and running smoothly. We all upload our own content, but everything else is Patrick. He is also the founder and both the magnet that brought us together and the glue that keeps us as a collective. A friend, a colleague and an absolute star.

Asia 2013 Part 7 :: All That Glitters Is Not Gold Sometimes life takes us by the hand and helps us to see what otherwise might be missed. It shows you one thing to allow you to see another. You might not realise it at the time, you might not realise it until after it happens, but the aha moment shows it's face and makes you wonder just how the universe nudges us one way or another as we stumble through life.  The divide between rich and poor was projected on the walls of  shops and houses, but first I would be taken on an unexpected journey with the Chinese workers of Taipa and Macau.

I woke early and slipped out of the hotel room with my shoes in my hand and my camera bag over my shoulder. This was fast becoming my MO, up early and out either before, or as the sun comes up, leaving the others to sleep. I slipped my shoes on and stepped into the elevator and hit G. The lobby was empty, nobody on the desk and nobody on the door. I stepped outside and felt the Asian heat hanging from the night before. The sun had just came up, but was nothing more than a bright spot in the thick fog. I was in Taipa, but  I has heading to Macau, the Chinese gambling capital. The Taipa Bridge wasn't far from the hotel and would take around ten to fifteen minutes to walk across (it's long), but I felt like commuting with the local workers that were just starting to surface from their grey hi-rise flats.

I asked the driver of the first bus if it went to Macau and he nodded and gestured me inside, looking a bit annoyed that I wasn't speaking Chinese. I had a good idea he didn't have a clue what I was saying, but I got on, sat on a single seat and felt the laser-like stares of thirty-odd pairs of eyes. The bus headed off in the opposite direction from Macau and the Taipa Bridge, but hey, it's a bus route and it will get there eventually right...wrong. I sat there hoping the bus wouldn't cross over some Chinese border with this dumb Gweilo (white ghost) with no passport. Eventually I asked a collage student (guessing they would have a better chance of knowing some English) if the bus went to Macau. He shook his head and spoke to the driver briefly. The bus pulled into the station and the driver looked back at me and  pointed out the door. As I left the bus he used his right index finger to tap each of the five fingers on his left hand, which he repeated and then pointed to the departure area. As the bus pulled away, I thought "did he mean 5 or 10?". Number 5 bus came first, so I jump on, but it was the wrong bus. Another wrong direction, then a third bus and I was travelling toward Macau.

I had gone miles off the reservation, but I was back on track and heading into Macau. In a way, I felt there was a point to my journey through the streets of Taipa and Macau. I was looking at the average Chinese person in an average working class area, both on and off the buss. This was no tourist tour!

As soon as I spotted the unmistakable shape of the Grand Lisboa casino in the distance, I knew where I was and got of the bus at the next stop (in case it changed direction). I had got off way to early, but I was happy to be walking in an area that I recognised. As I turned the corner, it hit me like a slap in the face, and it was as though I had been guided here at just the right time. I would have missed it if I hadn't made the unplanned extended journey first. The sun shone on the facade of the the Grand Lisboa and bathed the run down buildings behind it in the most amazing ocean of gold. I stopped in my tracks and stared. It seemed to shimmer and the words literally popped into my head 'All That Glitters Is Not Gold'. The physical gap between these two buildings was nothing more than a narrow street, but the real gap was vast. One of the most iconic casino buildings stood there proudly showing off it's gold and rubbing the little guys face in it.

Ghandi once wrote "There is enough in the world for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed!". You see it in every country.  Rich man,  poor man, beggar man, politician. It's Robin Hood in reverse!

Looking from Taipa towards Macau. The Grand Lisboa can be seen at the end of the bridge with its exploding firework design.

All photos shot using the Fujifilm X-E1 & 18-55mm lens, except image number 2, which was shot with the X100 (obviously).