Playing The Long Game: Outdoor Photography With Telezooms

Focus on the sparkle in the eyes


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Focus on the sparkle in the eyes

19 Mar 2021 7:28AM   Views : 783 Unique : 570


That was advice given to me either late in 1979, or some time in 1980, by a chap called Pete, who was one of the team running group sessions at Strobe Studio in Clapham. It cost £6 each to attend, and while it was a little bit thin if attendance was poor, I do remember one evening when there were 36 sweaty photographers crowded in: it was Linzi Drewís first group shoot, I think, just as she was starting to make it big as a model.

Pete and Pat were regular assistants to Arthur Howell, who owned the studio, which was on the first floor above a camera shop on St Johns Hill, opposite the entrance to Clapham Junction Station. If Iím not mistaken, itís the place where thereís now (according to G**gl* Earth) a branch of Snappy Snaps. It was their job to set up the tungsten lights, and a jolly good job they usually made of it. Although it meant that exposure was challenging with medium-speed or slow film, it was a great way to learn by doing, and to find out which models you wanted to work with on your own.


Thereís a whole tale to tell about Arthur, who combined careers as a stuntman and as a photographer, married, at one time, to the legendary June Palmer. I photographed June at Strobe on one of my last visits there in 1982: she must then have been in her late forties or early fifties, but her posing was still fluid and flexible Ė and the sparkle in the eyes was definitely still there! Arthur appeared in most of the earlier Bond movies, and also in An American Werewolf in London, making that the only film to have two people I have met in it (Ms Drew, appropriately, played Brenda Bristols in See You Next Wednesday, the film within the film. Appropriately, you understand, because she hails from Bristol, and had a distinctive West Country burr to her voice).

The advice used to be relatively hard to follow, as it involved focussing with the central microprism spot in the viewfinder over the eye, then reframing for a good composition: model and photographer movement in that half-second could spoil focus. It got worse when the early AF cameras arrived with a single central focus area, because itís more difficult to hold focus with a half-depressed button than with a manual focus lens. Multiple focus areas with the option of choosing an off-centre one improved matters, and the latest generation of eye-detection AF systems has made it easy.

But itís still important to focus on that sparkle!


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
19 Mar 2021 7:29AM
thanks to John (lifesnapper) for his picture yesterday, which reminded me about focussing on the sparkle in the eyes.

And to Linzi (top), Niki Flynn (middle) and Lois-Jade for sparkling at my lens.
bluesandtwos Avatar
bluesandtwos 13 544 1 England
19 Mar 2021 8:21AM
Decades ago, when I was a member of a Camera Club in London, we hired a studio ( in Putney I think) for a group modelling session.
We had used the place a couple of times before and were hiring models from an agency owned/run by June Palmer. On one occasion the model didn't show so June came and did the modelling.
Many years later, from an advert in the AP (probably) I saw a Camera shop in York wanting free to purchase pictures of various models including June P so I sent them a contact sheet and they offered to buy all the 35mm negatives! Not for much money I hasten to add, but that was one of the very few times I've ever sold some pictures....and of a scantilly clad woman at that !!!

Funny what memories come back from nearly 40~50 years ago! Smile
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 37 8 England
19 Mar 2021 9:13AM
A group shoot with 36 photographers !!! what a horror story. If that had been my introduction to model
photography i wouldn't have bothered. More like a visit to the zoo than a photo shoot. Must have been
difficult for the models. Can't imaging there was much of a 'sparkle' in the eye's at those shoots.
Paparazzi shooting, no thanks.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
19 Mar 2021 10:36AM
What can I say, Dave? You're right: but there would be a similar scrum for anyone that famous (within a limited world), even now, I suspect.

Earlier Dave - I remember the ads in AP: I wonder if anyone is still collecting such pictures? Maybe there's scope for a gallery show...
JuBarney Avatar
JuBarney Plus
12 36 7 United Kingdom
19 Mar 2021 6:54PM
Beautiful shots - especially the first two - and interesting blog.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
20 Mar 2021 10:45AM
Thanks, Ju!

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