My name is Dave Connaughton. I have been interested in photography now for nearly 10 years.
I started in my early 20's when I borrowed my Dad's Olympus OM-1n film camera which had a 50mm f1.8 lens.
At first I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know anything about different film types let alone what the settings on my all manual camera did. Everything was trial and error, which needless to say was a very slow process.
I bought myself a very cheap scanner and started taking photos of random things, inanimate objects, flowers and the occasional candid photo of a family member or friend.
Over time I came to love the 50mm lens and used it nearly always wide open. I loved the aesthetic quality of the lens wide open so much that I decided to experiment and bought an old 55mm f1.2 lens for the Olympus body.
The 1.8 soon started gathering dust as I never took the 1.2 off my camera body. I experimented a lot with shallow depth of field and the quality and framing of the bokeh. Most of my experimentation resulted in awful photos (trail and error again) but it started the building blocks for what I currently do in my photos.
Unfortunately nearly all of my old film scans are now gone (hard drive died) and literally, only a handful remain.
This is one of them. Don't remember the film type but it's obviously black & white film. It was taken with the 55mm f1.2
After realising how much money I spent on film and developing over the years, along with getting frustrated with inaccurate light-meters and the slow process that generally comes with using film, I decided it was time to buy a digital body.
I thought long and hard about moving digital. Without a doubt, the new body had to be able to accept my beloved 55mm f1.2 lens. It also needed to be full frame. I didn't want the edges (which were full of character) to be cropped off.
So my first digital camera was the original Canon 5D (MK I).
After that my photography sped up but I still never really got to do that much as my main work got in the way of my hobby.
At some stage I became friends with some people who worked in the film industry.
At that point I was taking a lot of photos of friends. Candid portraits I guess in my own style, which they really liked. They called me up at a later date when they were working on a short film and thought my style of photography would suit what they had in mind. They wanted a set of documentary photos (behind the scenes) of the filming process. The catch was that although I was to document what was going on, I was only meant to capture enough so that the viewer couldn't tell what was going on. A little odd but that's what they wanted.
It was an excellent learning experience and I had the pleasure to work with them a few times.
At one point I actually applied for a BA in photography. Part of the portfolio was the above behind the scenes photos.
But I also made a set on the North Wall Quay Lifting Bridge. I photographed the bridge at night, under artificial street lighting in black & white, to help enhance the industrial vibe.
The first photo was an general view of the bridge while the other photos were about exploring the space of the bridge. Seeing more detail and more character.
I actually got accepted onto the course but couldn't accept my spot due to planning to move country a lot sooner than I thought.
Nearly two years ago I moved to Sweden with my wife.
Since then I have actually had the time I always would have liked to pursue photography, both personally and professionally.
I generally don't do landscape. I leave that to the people who are actually good at it. But I do like to occasionally take some scenic photos in my own way. I never use a wide angle for these. I nearly always use an 85mm lens. I prefer the more natural perspective when viewing my own photos.
Since being in Sweden I have been taking a large amount of portraits. Some personal, some client based.
I prefer to capture some of the environment in the portrait. I still like to shoot wide open at f1.2 (or close to it) and it is a challenge to get the right bits in focus while also paying attention to how the background is rendered out of focus. For me, the out of focus areas should add something to the photo or help to paint a coherent image.
I have also started a project which documents my son and his grand dad. Amazingly the set of photos is actually going to be displayed at a well-known museum for a month, well-known in Sweden anyway.
Here are some random photos from that set.
Lately I have been using strobes (two softboxes) for portraits and for those photos I usually stop down to f8 which is a huge change from f1.2. So far I am enjoying working with lights and nearly all of the photos from the above set use strobes.
In my own free time I collect Transformer figures. As a way to relax (and to practice using my softboxes) I take photos of them. It's nerdy I guess, but I do enjoy it.
Over the years my equipment has slowly changed and improved. I'm using very sharp lenses and controlled lighting. But part of me always has a soft spot for my original old manual 55mm f1.2.
It really is a bad lens. It's very soft wide open. It only got a single coat so the contrast is low and it flares up extremely bad. But I still actually use it when the time suits.
This is my most recent photo taken with that lens. It was taken last month.
My most photographed subject is my son. With the amount of photos I take of that guy it's hard not to devote a little section to him. I can only display 15 photos in this post so I'm going to cheat here
So yeah, that's me. It's a little awkward condensing everything down. As a result I'll look back at this and see loads of other photos I should have used instead. That's the way it is I guess.
If you've made it this far thank you for reading and all the best,
Love those shots with your son and his grandad, they capture their relationship so well . Hope your exhibition goes well, no reason why it won't, lovely shots.
Thanks for putting up your profile.
Lovely profile. I really enjoyed reading about your journey into photography. Your portraits of your son and his grandad are beautiful.
Best of luck with the exhibition.
Great work Dave, love the colour tones and processing with your work and your portrait shots. Your dad's place looks like a portrait photographers dream.
Also love the shots of your dog. I have one of them too and they are great fun and a bundle of laughs.
Mind you she is just about starting to mellow at 8 and a half.
Great read and the best of luck with the exhibition.
Great photos and post Whammy!
I really love your "wide open" style. The ones of your wife and son + son alone in the grassy fields are my favourites of the portraits and the film set and bridge are excellent.
I'm very much a novice but my tastes for wide open shots with nice bokeh are the same as yours and I try to achieve this style as much as possible when shooting the family at home (albeit with cheaper lenses and a cropped sensor!). I'd love to hear any thoughts you'd like to share on your approach to portraiture, camera settings and post processing at low f-stop values - obviously without giving away any secrets!!!!
Wonderful post Whammy! and really nice to be led through your photographic journey, which I have a feeling has some very interesting times ahead Best of luck!
Thank you everyone. I've been busy so I haven't had time to reply until now.
The photo set of my Son and his Grandad have certainly been a change from my normal approach to photography. I've learned a lot from doing it, but I still have a long way to go.
A nice outcome from the photos is that now my Father-in-law has a collection of photos between him and his only Grandson.
There are no secrets. But there really is no one camera setting or post processing method that I use.
But a few notes that you may find useful...
Dealing with a very narrow depth of field can easily work against you when working with portraiture, especially if they are moving.
If I want to get most of their body in focus (but shoot wide open) I will keep the camera lens perpendicular to their body. That way most of their body should be in focus.
If you want to maximize the out of focus effect then shoot looking down, or up and focus on their eyes. Their body will be further (or closer) away from the lens compared to their eyes.
When working with two or more people pay very close attention to everyone's distance from the lens. Everyone (at least their faces anyway) should be the same distance away to make sure everyone looks sharp.
For post production, well the sharpening tool is quite important because a lot of fast primes are soft wide open (some more than others).
I've spent a while getting the best sharpening setting for my different lenses. I have to be very drastic when using my old 55mm lens but you need to still make it look natural. Every sensor and lens is different so I think there is no ideal setting. Trial and error will get you there
Working with a cropped sensor can make it a bit harder. But there are lenses out there that can produce very nice results. The Fuji 56mm f1.2 springs to mind (not cheap though).
Another option could be to use a "metabones speed booster". They are adapters that give you back a lot that would normally be cropped off. They have their pros and cons of course.
Depending on your camera if you look for a 50mm (or close to 50mm) f1.4 or f1.2 old manual lens, you can probably get an adapter to fit it on your camera. It should make a nice portrait lens.
Many thanks for the comprehensive reply Whammy! Really appreciate the advice!
i love your style. your work is incredible! especially the collection of your son and his grandfather! awesome work
thanks for sharing!!
Beautiful images. I especially like the images of your son and your father. Great idea. very natural and full of personality and emotion at that time. Best of luck
Great post and excellent shots.
I'd love to know what type of lighting you use for the indoor shots of your son and his grandfather?
Apologies for completely missing this and asking a question that you already answered!
Once again - great post.