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2009 is ending soon. It was for me a wonderful year and I hope it was for you all as well. I've met new wonderful people some of which are now friends, I've learned and shared new techniques but I need now to spend more time with my wife and visit old friends.

For all who do celebrate Christmas, my wife and I wish you all to spend a wonderful Christmas time with your family and friends. For those who don't celebrate, we wish you to enjoy this end of the year and have a great party for this new coming year.

This is my last post of the year, and I hope 2010 will give me more time to update my blog more regularly than I did in the past 12 months. I see you all in 2010 for an even more wonderful photographic year.

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I've started a new project around espionage and have started shooting for a series on how most people would imagine a spy. Of course the most popular spy would be James Bond 007, a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming. James Bond was an officer of the British Secret Intelligence Service, a handsome gentleman surrounded by his bond girls! That's how probably lot of people would imagine a spy, or maybe Jason Bourne?

But this image of a spy is far from the truth, but this is another story...

Halloween 2009. The London Strobist group has organized a meetup in a night club: Club Life in Vauxhall. They gathered around 15 photographers, 9 models and 3 makeup artists. The group rented out the club for half a day and had fun testing new lighting setups and sharing knowledge. That was where I met Vik Moreno and knew he would be my perfect subject for my new project on espionage!

I started to use off-camera flash in my photography works back in 2007. At the time I used to photograph everything with available natural light, playing around with reflectors and finding angles that would match the ambient light. But then I started to learn using a flashgun in a proper way and became addicted to the fact that having a flashgun in your bag makes it your own available light that you can carry with you where ever you go and use it whenever you need it. But as exciting as it is when you start to get nice balanced shots, you tend to go all the way with flash only and forget the natural light. Don't forget that lighting with flash is not The way but just A way to light your image. So recently I forced myself to include natural light shots in my sessions.

I've recently been contacted by several photographers, including Tony Kieu, my cousin in Australia, wanting to start taking photograph of models but just don't know where to start with. As most of us at the beginning, they started to take portraits asking their wife or a family members to pose for them, then, after a little (or big) while both parties can sometimes start to loose interest and the photographer just wants to get into something more challenging: photographing a model.

Taking pictures of a friend, of your wife or of a family member is something easy. It's a person you're going on well with so it's easier to be open and do some crazy things. Meeting and photographing a stranger is something else. For a lot of photographers it can be a really big challenge which can get worse with the time if they don't make the jump and try it.

Hopefully, with the help of the Internet, you can prepare and liaise with models online which makes it easier to arrange a meetup for a photo session.

A while ago I wrote a post on how to take advantage of a cloudy day for nice portraits. Today I will talk about how to take advantage of a bright sunny day and use the sun as a second light source and get great shots even at noon.

I love location photography and prefer it to studio photography as I find it more challenging and interesting to play with all the different background available to you. The challenge is to handle the weather or difficult locations such as crowded areas. Trafalgar Square is one of them, always very busy and even worse it is a private place which means if you are shooting with a big DSLR, playing with flashguns then you will sooner or later, more sooner than later actually, meet the security guards.

Alba texted me one night at 10.30 to see if I was available for a shoot the next day. Well, I was but only at lunch time. So we sorted out a location to shoot that is easy for me to access at that time and Trafalgar Square was it.

David Hobby from Strobist.com has at last launched the 2nd season of the Boot Camp series.

For people who don't know what Strobist is, Strobist is a blog created by David Hobby in 2006. David Hobby was a photo-journalist at The Sun in Baltimore, USA. David was sharing his off-camera flash lighting techniques using small and portable flashguns instead of the heavy studio heads that photographers used to carry with them with the help of assistants. His teaching and photographic skills are such, he now have a worldwide community of fans. If you are interested to learn how to properly light your photographs, I strongly suggest you to go and read his Lighting 101 and Lighting 102.

"The Boot Camp is a series of assignments designed to help the newbs to get off their collective butt and actually go shoot something. If you are more experienced, you are more than welcome to participate. But understand that, at least at first, we'll be dialing the degree of difficulty back a little."

What is nice being a member of a camera club or a photographic society is that you get to meet other photographers that you can learn from or teach to which both makes you improve yourself. My first ever photographic society is the Ealing and Hampshire House Photographic Society (EHHPS), I joined the club as it was the closest to my place and just like it a lot even though I'm one youngest members. Most of photographic societies exist for a very long time and their members are members since long time ago, but it's really interesting to join as you will have different points of view and submitting your work into the local competition is always interesting.

Among photographers I've met at the EHHPS, there is Frank Williams that you already know from my photograph called "Attack of the autumn leaves". We've been mates since then and went shooting quite a few times together. Recently I've been getting in touch with Shaun Hodge another great photographer from the same club. After talking about flashguns and photoshoots he invited me to join him shooting for a dress maker friend of his. The shoot would be taking place in Dover and we would have a MUA (Make Up Artist).

Fave Links - Web Links

I've recently joined Twitter and got addicted :-D, it's a free social messaging utility for staying connected in real-time. A lot of people are using Twitter to just update their status answering to the classic question "What are you doing?" within 140 characters. But Twitter can be used as a great micro-blog allowing you to stay connected with not only your relatives and friends but also to other professionals and individual (read potential customers). Well used, Twitter can be a great complement to your online website showing case your work, dragging traffic to your main website and staying in touch with your visitors, they will not only read your blog or view your pictures, they now can communicate with you in real time, follow your every day work etc... This gives a new dimension to your online marketing.

Twitter is also a great source of news and advises, in today's Fave Links I will list some of my favorite tweets from other members of the Twitterverse (universe of Twitter).

I recently discovered some pictures taken on the iPhone that was somehow quite impressive knowing the low quality delivered by the iPhone built-in camera. It is said that what's important is not the camera but the person using it. "Yeah but what if the camera delivers low quality files?" was I asking to myself. So I decided to give a go and try to get some decent shots with both my iPhone and MDA Vario IV.

This started last week during my Easter break to Devon. My wife and I decided to go to Torquay after seeing a TV program "Hotel Inspector". The sceneries shown in the program seemed very attractive and we wanted to have a try and hoped it was going to be a sunny trip as it usually is for all our Easter holidays. So we packed up for a 6 days trip to Devon with my D300 and her D70s and of course our mobile phones.

Luckily for us the weather was so lovely that week while it was raining cats and dogs in London. So Saturday and Sunday were spent at Slapton Sands a 3 miles long beach near from Darmouth. I was really lazy that day and most of the time was spent sleeping under the sun in the lovely breeze. From time to time I would try to get some pictures taken but with my mobile phones leaving the D300 in the backpack (until the Sunday before leaving the beach doing some jumping shots on the sand, but this will be for another post).

Mid June 2007, one of my best friends was getting married in France. For his wedding day, I decided that I should give a try with flash photography for low light conditions. So I bought a Sigma EF-500 DG ST, an E-TTL only flash. Having no clue on how to properly use a Flash gun using E-TTL, I started to look for a good tutorial on the web. One of them was linking to a blog called Strobist. That was the start of an addiction. I couldn't stop reading that great blog that teaches you all you need to know about off-camera flash photography. My issue then was that my Sigma flashgun was E-TTL only and the blog is mentionning about using manual flash to have full control on your work. So after the wedding I sent the flashgun back to the shop for an exchange for the Sigma EF-500 DG Super which allows manual control of the flash.

November 2007, the EHHPS (a local photographic society here in Ealing) was organizing what they call "Panel of Prints Competition". As its name indicates it's a competition where you present a panel that has to be composed of at least 3 and up to 6 images that have to be linked by a same subject or that are telling a story. So one night, coming back from work on the bus, I was trying to think of what to shoot for this competition. It was the time where "painting with light" photographs was flourihing on the web. The idea was in my head for quite a while already, but I didn't want to do something that has already been done so many times and wanted to add something more to it: "what about mixing two techniques to it? A off-camera lit self-portrait and painting with light?". That sounds cool to me and few ideas started to grow as I nearly missed the bus stop....

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