Guest lecture at Texas A&M University

“Inventing Creativity & Re-Imaging Our Lives”

It was my pleasure to give a lecture to students and faculty at Qatar’s Texas A&M University as part of the STEAM initiative which aims to introduce arts and creative thinking into engineering & science programmes. My talk, specifically showcased the use of photography and how it sits in a space between technology and the arts. Thank you Texas A&M for inviting me to talk at your prestigious university.

Texas A&M lecture

Texas A&M lecture November 2018

Fujifilm X-H1 first thoughts

I had the opportunity to test the Fujifilm X-H1 last night in low light conditions. Great look and feel and ergonomics to this camera and a joy to use. Fast menu system, great dials, wonderful EVF system. 

I'm looking forward to shooting some HD and 4K footage with this soon and will post some results. In the meantime, here are a few still images I took using the 16-55mm f/2 lens.

Hope you like the results as much as I enjoyed using this camera!

Huge thanks to the guys at Fujifilm in Landmark Mall and the FujifilmQA team in Blue Salon, Doha. 

 

Black & White challenge. Leica v's Canon v's Sony

Leica Typ 246

Leica

M Monochrom (Typ246)

For some time now, I have been interested in getting my hands on the Leica M Monochrom (typ 246) camera. It is a dedicated 24 megapixel black and white (monochrome) camera, which means it can only take black and white photographs. Leica's truly are the Rolls Royce of cameras. They are prestigious, beautifully crafted, artisan products made of the very best quality materials and designed and built by the world's best camera craftsmen. 

Leica's claim is that the removal of colour sensitivity in the camera improves the fidelity of the black and white image, compared with carrying out a black and white conversion using a DSLR or mirrorless camera that records colour and then converting this image to monochrome in software after taking the picture. 

Leica state on their website: "As the Leica M Monochrom has no need for a colour filter, there’s also no need to calculate luminance values by interpolation. The result: black-and-white pictures with unrivalled sharpness – even when shooting in low light."

Source: Leica's website

I was fascinated by this and wanted to see for myself...

I had no way of renting the camera where I am currently based, but I was VERY lucky to be given the chance to trial the camera from a local dealer, to whom I am very grateful. 

I then took several photographs with the Leica, and also the same image with either a Canon 5DSR (over 50 megapixels) and a Sony A7SII mirrorless camera (12 megapixels) and converted them to black and white.

The images are tagged 'A' or 'B'. 

Can you tell which images are taken with the Leica?

 

 

 

Is it all about megapixels?

We all upload out images to social media accounts like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Each one uses compression algorithms to make your images smaller so that they take up less space on their servers and so that they load quickly into your browser/mobile. 

I wanted to see if shooting with 3 professional cameras and a mobile phone made much difference when uploading to the internet, and persuaded my wife to take part in the 'quiz'.

Here are the cameras and lenses:

1. Canon 5DSR with the 100mm Zeiss Makro-planar f/2.0 at 51 megapixels

2. Sony A7Sii with the 100mm Zeiss Makro-planar f/2.0 at 12 megapixels

3. Fujifilm GFX50s with the 120mm GF f/4.0 at 51.4 effective megapixels

4. My Samsung Galaxy Note 8 shooting in JPEG mode only at 7.9 megapixels

I went through the exact same workflow for each image for the black and white conversion and for some gentle skin softening. That's it. 
All images were then converted from RAW to jpeg (apart from the Samsung which was already jpeg). Answer like this: A2, B1 etc... how will you do?

 

 

Widelux F7 film roll 2 has been processed

I used the Widelux F7 140 degree panorama film camera to capture these images of the Qatar National Library.

This is only the second roll of film I have had processed using the Widelux, and it really is a joy to receive .tiff image negative scans, which I then process in Adobe Lightroom. 

 

First images out of the Widelux panorama camera!

Here they are folks, the first images out of the widelux. I was provided with the negative scans as '.tif' files which I then processed in Adobe Lightroom. I was also kindly provided with JPEG's of the neg scans, but decided to try my hand at conversion myself. 

All shots are taken at 250th second at f/11. All I wanted to check with these initial black and white shots was that there was no banding occurring, which sometimes happens when the barrel housing the lens 'swings'. If this swing is not at a constant speed, then banding can occur where the film is unevenly exposed...

Film stock used this time was: Kodak TRI-X 400TX.

Qatar's Katara Amphitheatre.

Katara's Amphitheatre 

Taken with the first roll of film I've used in over 3 decades!

Force of Nature 2

Katara's Force of Nature 2

By Lorenzo Quinn

Full sun

Testing light and shade

How would the camera and film hold up?

Straight into the sun

Full sun above

How would the film and camera hold up when pointed directly into the sun?

Last Day of exhibition TODAY (27th July 2018) 10pm.

Dear friends,

Today is the last day of my "Desert Rose" exhibition in Katara Cultural Village in Doha, Qatar. Building 19, Visual Arts Studio. 

I'll be there from 3pm to 10pm tonight, when the photographs will be taken down and moving to a new home..?

Please come along and say hello, I would love to meet you!

Photographer, Richard Bentley.

Interview with Olive Radio, Qatar.

This morning I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Olive Radio here in Qatar. I was interviewed by two hosts, Neeti Sharma and Station Head, Aniruddha

You can hear the whole interview by clicking here!

The interviews will be broadcast tomorrow morning (23rd July 2018) and at the weekend. Such a lovely team of people. Professional, funny, smart and WOW! What a bright studio! Sure did wake me up this morning. I am sure this is a fun place to work.

They are also running a photography competition called 'Through the Lens' UPLOAD your BEST images today for a change to be featured!

Have a great day and enjoy your photography and Olive Radio, the first Hindi FM channel to be aired from the State of Qatar!

Richard. 

Developing a habit!

So, the first roll of 35mm black and white film has just gone for developing, after shooting my first 20 images with the Widelux camera.

Because of the 24x58mm nature of the negatives produced by this 140 degree panorama camera, only 20 shots are possible on a roll of film that would usually give 36 shots...

Not having built exposure metering, only 3 shutter speeds and f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8 and f/11 as f/stops, it has been a real challenge. I only shot in the middle of the day and at night and I expect at least 50% of the images to be dreadful! 

Nothing quite like starting from scratch again and learning to be a photographer all over again!

I love it.

Kodak 400TX film in the Widelux F7

Back to the future

Black and white film stock - like gold dust.

Widelux magic!

The Widelux  F7

Like learning photography all over again.

Being a photographer is like being a chef.

There are many similarities between photography and cuisine. Think about it for a moment... 

Any good chef will tell you that a plate of food is only as good as the ingredients used.

What we focus our lens on, are the 'ingredients' for our final image. If the subject is not interesting, then we will struggle to make the final image pleasing to the eye. Similarly, if the raw ingredients for the chef's food are poor, then no matter what his or her skills are with the knife and the seasoning, the meal is not likely to meet the chef's vision or meet the expectations of the person eating the food. 

Be like the chef. Become familiar with your tools, using a sharp knife can be hazardous if placed in the wrong hands and mistakes using your camera will likely result in a poor image. Using your camera in fully automatic mode, is a bit like the chef asking their assistant to prepare the food for them, whist they oversee the proceedings. Learn to use your camera in fully manual mode ('M' mode on the dial), and after a while, you will become the master of your camera.

Post-Processing. This is when you 'bake' your image. You need to make sure you are shooting in 'Camera RAW' format on your camera to make full use of software like Adobe's Lightroom and Photoshop to truly add that 'special touch' to your image. This is when the true magic can happen. Taking this raw ingredients captured with your camera and turning them into something special.

Presentation. You have used the best ingredients, you have worked out post processing workflow and style and now it's time to present your final 'dish' to the viewer. Are you ready? 

Timing. A plate of food should be served just in time, in the right atmosphere and with all the right ingredients in place. Very often, this is what will make you image stand out from the crowd. To be a 'michelin starred' photographer, you will need all of the above and a large sprinkling of luck and timing on your side.

Be unique, learn the basics, the advanced techniques and then break all the rules. Most of all have as much fun as you can on the journey. 

Sharp focus

Be the chef.

Master your tools.

Widelux

Your camera is a tool.

Be creative with it.

Widelux panoramic film camera

We live in a digital age. No doubt about that. But, having come from an 'analogue' age and having used film cameras, played my music on vinyl and climbed trees instead of computer game levels, I wanted to get back to that time and age. That nostalgia. 

Today, with digital photography, we can take hundreds, if not thousands of photographs and choose from the 'best one' to display (usually on a social media platform). I remember all too well, the discipline of only having 24 or 36 available shots per roll of film. If you messed up, you messed up, simple as that. There was no second chance. 

I feel that today, all to much of that 'discipline' has been lost, or at least never learnt. And I'm not just talking about photography, I think it is true for many things in life. Patience, deferred gratification and focus, are at least to me, some of the ingredients to success. 

Back in 2012 I was working on the Olympic Games in London, with a good friend of mine called Justin Fraser. He had recently been married and showed me (on his iPhone) his wedding photographs. They looked to me like something from a movie set. They were in black and white, the blacks were a rich, dark inky black and the whites softly graduated off, rather than being 'clipped'. 

Later, he told me the photos had been shot using his 'Widelux' camera. An old school 140 degree panorama film camera. I was intrigued... fast forward to 2018 and I find a group of gentlemen in Qatar using Leica cameras and developing their own film. This all coincided with my photography exhibition in Katara Cultural Village, the "Desert Rose". That nostalgia came again, this time in a way all too powerful to resist. 

I emailed my friend Justin and asked his advice about purchasing one, his reply was both knowledgeable and well written, and he pointed me to the direction of the great actor Jeff Bridges. He was and still is an amazing actor and, an incredibly gifted photographer. He used the Widelux. I read an article he had written about the camera here, and I was hooked. I had to have one! 

Jeff 'documents' the films he works on from behind the scenes using his Widelux, and creates a book of his work to give to cast and crew after the filming is finished. Imagine that! What a great guy! One of my favourite is his behind the scenes photographs of the making of Iron Man, shot using his Widelux. You can see it right here. 

There have been some great articles written on the use of this magnificently designed camera. Some of which I will share shortly (I am about to take my lovely daughter swimming!). This particular model, the 'F7' was manufactured between 1979 and 1988 in Japan. I was lucky to find one (and had to dig deep into my pockets!). 

I'll be posting some images taken with this beauty over the coming months... keep an eye out! 

"Desert Rose" photography exhibition in Katara launches.

After weeks of preparation, including finalising the photographs and the final selection of images, working with the printing company and the wonderful people in Katara Cultural Village, Qatar, we finally opened the doors to show the photographs to the public. As always, I was thrilled to have my wife and baby with me during the opening night. My family is the cornerstone to everything I do.

You know, there is a HUGE difference between a 'like' on social media and a 'like' in person. To have the privilege of being present with those viewing your work, is truly magical. It is a visceral experience, a tangible experience and one I will never forget, as this was my first solo exhibition. If you are a photographer, I encourage you to have your work printed and displayed, even if only at home, it will make a huge difference to how you view your work. 

I want to personally thank everyone that came on the opening night, and in particular Mr. Ahmad Al Sayed, Deputy General Manager of Katara Cultural Village, Qatar and the rest of the wonderful staff from Katara.

The exhibition runs to 25th July, 10pm, building 19 Katara Cultural Village, Qatar. 

 

 Huge thanks and and a great honour to meet with Mr. Ahmad Al Sayed again during the opening of "Desert Rose" photography exhibition in Katara. 

Huge thanks and and a great honour to meet with Mr. Ahmad Al Sayed again during the opening of "Desert Rose" photography exhibition in Katara. 

My solo photography exhibition "Desert Rose" is ready to launch!

We are ready to launch!

Planning the photo layout in the gallery

Simple Planning

Simple things like printing the images at home and creating a floor plan made all the difference when it came to hanging in the gallery...

Delivery of the photos. It was a warm afternoon!

On a hot day!

The day had arrived and we were unloading the photos ready to be hung in the gallery.

There is a lovely headline outside the gallery.

"Desert Rose"

 

Katara had created this lovely wall introduction next the the entrance to the gallery. 

 

Banner outside gallery - look out for it! Building 19.

Lovely banner.

Katara created this wonderful banner from one of my images outside the gallery, There is an English an an Arabic version.

 

Made to measure!

Made to measure!

 

Checking everything was perfectly aligned during the installation was important to me. 

 

'Pearl essence' is the name of this photo. Qatar has a rich history of pearl diving, I I wanted to show this with the contrast between the old dhow boat and the modern architectural lines of the Qatar skyline. It is also the image on the banner outside and on the front cover of the catalogue. 

Thanks to the install team.

Install team.

The Katara installation team worked long and hard. We are very grateful for their efforts. 

 Many of the photos were printed at 2 meters wide, like this one called 'Ripple in time' over in the black and white section of the gallery. 

Many of the photos were printed at 2 meters wide, like this one called 'Ripple in time' over in the black and white section of the gallery. 

Qatar's Katara Cultural Village photography exhibition

I have been honoured with the chance to display my photography at Katara Cultural Village in Qatar this summer. 

Entitled Desert Rose, the exhibition will be held in building 19, gallery 1 of Katara Cultural Village with the opening ceremony at 7pm on 1st July. The exhibition runs until 25th July and is open daily from 10am to 10pm. Admission is absolutely free and I will be there most evenings to discuss photography and life in general. 

I will be showing 34 images printed on canvas on wooden frames, up to 2 meters wide and we will also feature time-lapse films on monitors in the gallery. 

My wife and I would love to see you there!

All the best,
Richard,