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.



Edinburgh Festival & World Press Photo 15

It was a busy rainy day at the Edinburgh festival. Sure it was busy on the streets, but I'm talking more about cramming in as much in the day as possible. I traveled there on the train with my two photographer friends, John McPake and John Summers. The idea was that we would go to Edinburgh for the day, shoot some pictures and visit the World Press Photo Exhibition at the Scottish Parliament building. But by the time the day came around, I had been booked to shoot a musical comedy act at the Playhouse (thanks to my Kage Collective accomplice Robert Catto) and had a meeting at a venue about an exhibition that I will be involved in this coming November.

I really don't mind rain when shooting on the streets. Everyone is so distracted by the weather and seem to have tunnel vision, that it's so easy to get in close. If you're holding an umbrella with your left hand, nobody notices the camera in your right hand. I'm really enjoying using Fuji's Classic Chrome film simulation and find that the out of camera JPEG's need little to no work in post. A bit of Contrast and Clarity in Lightroom and maybe a vignette and they're done. But they're definitely very usable straight out of camera. I shot a lot of Kodachrome on my OM-2n back in the 80's and to be able to get that look straight out of camera using Classic Chrome is really great.

Edinburgh is a fantastic place to be when the festival is in full swing. It doesn't matter if you're a tourist or a local, the Fringe is constantly bubbling over and constantly changing. It's a street photographer's dream and I always look forward to multiple visits each year. It's also a good place to try street photography for the first time if you've always wanted to try it, but were a bit uncomfortable about pointing your camera at a stranger.

World Press Photo 15 in the Scottish Parliament Building (above and 3rd from the left) was well worth a visit and had a good variety of pictures. WPP has had a lot of controversy over the past year or two, but there is some fantastic work this year and it's a shame the event has been tarnished a bit. I bought the book on Amazon the next day and have to say that although some of the pictures work better on a wall, a lot of them look even better in the book, as the prints in the exhibition seemed to be a little up and down on the quality department.

I've been back to the Edinburgh Festival since to test the latest 90mm f2 lens that Fujifilm UK kindly sent me for a test drive. I'll have a full review here soon, but lets just say that the shallow depth of field blur is probably the best and smoothest I've seen on any lens, from any manufacturer.

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.