Saturday, August 31, 2013

The 5th Test

With the decision made to abandon the remaining projects to there own banality, I am still interested in making imagery that support s my development as a photographer and explores social documentary from different angles.  This short study is far from an in depth sociological investigation but it is an attempt to look at a conventional subject from a slightly different angle.

A week ago I was lucky enough to be invited to the 3rd day of the 5th Ashes Test between England and Australia.  Apart from being my first visit to an international cricket match, this was my first exposure to cricket beyond bashing at a tennis ball as a kid.  I enjoy watching a little cricket on the TV, dipping in and out of a test series, but am not a cricket fan in any sense of the word.  However, an Ashes Test Match was something special and I was very honored that my brother offered me one of two tickets he has managed to obtain - much to the disappointment of many of his friends.

The tickets were rather special as were provided by someone who worked at the Oval.  The result was that we were in a special section, adjacent to the members pavilion, about 10 feet from the playing field, and 3 seats away from the steps that the players used.  Just in front of us were the benches used by the substitute fielders and the big lenses of the professional photographers.  For me this was a day out, watch some cricket, drink a beer or two, and lounge in the sun.  I did not really expect it to be a photo op, but our location transformed that idea.  I took my OM-D and two lenses, a 12-35mm f/2.8 and a 45-175mm consumer telezoom.  This gave me a range of 24-350mm in real money, not wide enough to capture the whole ground and not long enough to really shoot the action, but a good compromise on weight versus quality.

If anyone reading this is a cricket fan they will know the story of the day, the slowest play in over 50 years of test match history.  Australia started with a massive total and it seemed that England had decided there was no way they were going to win and so set out to avoid losing.  This meant playing slowly and defensively, paint drying would be an apt metaphor, some of the papers suggested going to watch tin cans rust would have been more entertaining.  BUT, I still thoroughly enjoyed the day, the atmosphere was amazing and the sense of being at a major event lent an excitement that the cricket could not take away.  Jeremy and I had stayed up late the night before and so were not minded to drink too much, although that was not the case for the mostly white, male, middle-aged, and generally rather overweight crowd.  This competed with the Oktoberfest for sheer volume of alcohol put away.  

The net result was that I had far more time to take photographs than I had expected and so I started thinking about how I would document the day.  This yielded a good many photos from which I have selected 15 that tell the story of the day.

The first eye opener was taking our seats at 11am and noticing that virtually everyone was already drinking.  I generally have a rule of "sun past the yardarm" or something like that, but my brother insisted that we get into the spirit of things, so pints were duly purchased.  We had 3 during the morning session.  Which I thought was a lot, but not compared to our fellow spectators.

It was marvelous to be so close to the teams as they came and went, here the English batsmen head for the field - this is the most animated they ever appeared.

I really needed a wider lens to capture the sense of the place, but was able to capture a few iconic views, this is my favorite, the gasometer.  Note the guy on the roof line to the right. I have always loved the strange juxtapositions that city photography can generate.

At the other end of the scale, my zoom was not really long enough, most of the pros had either 500mm f/4s or 400mm f/2.8s with extenders.  The other issue I had was that at the long end I was shooting f/5.6 which on an m4/3 camera is more like an f/8 visually.  Thus it was hard to really do much action photography, so I concentrated mostly on trying to capture the sense of the place and the structure of the game.  It was also fortunate that the day was quite bright and so f/5.6 yielded a fast enough shutter speed.

I was quite impressed by what the camera could do with a cheap lens, the pros were using gear 20-30 times more expensive than I was, but I did OK - not great, but OK.

There was not much action, so a big tele probably would not have yielded very much anyway.  However, what was interesting was the periods during the 3rd umpire's decisions, the Aussies clustering together, whilst the English batsmen fretted.

Getting out does hurt, KP was not a happy bunny as he walked towards the pavilion.  It really is a long way to walk under the gaze of 18,000 people.

Aside from the actual play one thing I had not anticipated was how much time the substitutes spent on the field of play.  Both of the Aussies actually fielded for a time, toilet breaks I think.  However, they also ran onto the field frequently with drinks and other supplies.  One aspect of where we were sitting was that we could actually hear them chatting with each other and throwing gentle insults back and forth with the English bench.  Interestingly it really was a bench, a bog standard garden variety wooden bench.

Another aspect of the game that came as a surprise was how much activity there was additional to the cricket.  Every break had some form of on pitch entertainment, here Kevin Peterson is being interviewed during some form of award for scoring many runs - well not today.  Above and behind him are the corporate suites, rarely full, guess the free champagne and food was far more interesting than what was happening on the pitch.

There were a lot of cameras, I lost count of the TV crews working the event.

A rather interesting contrast was formed by an artist painting the scene, perhaps a reminder of the gentler times, when cricket was not such a media industry.

Later in the afternoon I was beginning to regret not bringing something to read as the play became progressively more tedious and the crowd turned to better things.  I suspect she was brought along by her increasingly drunk husband and brought her own entertainment.

Towards the end of the day the crowd became very bored and started to make their own fun.  This largely consisted of creating snakes.  A lady just down from me and working for Surrey, explained that this was banned and the stewards had been instructed to stop such behavior, which she seemed to think was a shame.  In the end they gave up, too many fans were involved in the game.  To a continual chant of "Feed the Snake", thousands of empty plastic beer glasses were stacked in towers and then connected into a snake.  This one is the longest I saw.  Apparently a long standing tradition at the ground.

Finally it was over and we wandered through the ground a little.  Everywhere we looked was the debris of an 8 hour drinking session.

A great day out, loads of fun, and in the end an opportunity to practice a little alternative social documentary.  Sport is not my thing, personally or photographically, but large events of this type always offer up a different view of society.  Technically I continue to be impressed with what mirrorless system cameras can do, I would have taken better photos with my DSLR, but I would never have taken it with me...

I have varied the crops on these images quite strongly, thinking not just about the subject but about the picture.  I am increasingly finding that I prefer a more square frame to the 3/2 of a DSLR, the 4/3 framing of this system is pretty close to ideal for me.

I cannot really intellectualize about these photographs, there is no hidden meaning, except perhaps a simple comment on the excessive drinking of the 40 something middle class male, and for a change not this 40 something middle class male.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Assignment 5: A concept

Not yet started assignment 3 or 4 and already thinking about 5.  Well, as my last entry stated, I am taking an alternate approach to completing this course and assignment 5 is going to be a big part of my remaining practical work.

This is not yet a statement of fact, I need to run it by my tutor first, but I think I have a way of looking at the final assignment that would provide a development opportunity for me and also something I find interesting.  The brief suggests photographing a place full of human activity and taking an objective somewhat distanced view on the subject.  The comment is also made that it should be rich in human activity and that I might incorporate the environment in my work.

My concept is to undertake a photographic study of a street in Germany, in fact a single block of a street.  By confining myself to a narrow space I am permitting a deeper look at what is there, I want this to be more than a superficial study, I want to investigate who lives and works there, what is it about this place.  I plan to use my camera to investigate the modern Germany, to help me to better understand my local environment.  The street in question is a stretch of Richard-Strauss Strasse, between Muhlbaur and Lizst.  This used to be Munich's ring road, a congested 6 lane highway, now a leafy urban street undergoing progressive modernisation.  The ring road runs beneath the street now.

I plan a candid look, discreet street photography coupled with some work that might be more in the landscape genre, but is I think an important record of the street:

This is the street looking South, the width is a relic of the old highway, the building work part of the renewal that is being undertaken now the congestion has gone.

This concept sprang out of an interest  in repeating the street photographs of Sunset Boulevard of Ed Ruscha.  I saw this in book form in a museum gallery a year or so ago and it captured my imagination.  Not only was his photo strip a fabulous work of art it was an insanely valuable record of how somewhere once looked.  I wanted to apply this to the newly refurbished Richard-Strauss Strasse to record this definition of modern Germany in street form.  Place is very important in my work and this was a way of making a definitive record of a place.

It also served as a way to investigate the patterns formed by buildings, not noticed as we walk along the street until we step back and realize that there is more form present than we thought.  To that end, I carefully photographed each side of the street, endeavoring always to shoot from the same distance from the buildings (cycle path helped) and to maintain a parallel framing.  I was not worried about overlap and had no plan to make perfect joins, in fact I want the individual pictures to still have some presence (perspective ensures that anyway).  Once completed I found I had 24 frames making up each side of the street.  Careful alignment and some perspective adjustment in Lightroom did the rest.

This is the West side of the street
and the East

The west side is more residential, apartment blocks punctuated by the occasional small shop, whilst the east side has a couple of larger shops, including a completely organic supermarket.

These two photos would be part of the submission, they would act to bookend the remaining images.  Personally I view the two composites as stronger statements of Social Documentary than anything else I could make.  They are in the genre of landscapes, perhaps even lending themselves a little to the geometry of the Bechers, but within them is contained a wealth of information about how a German street really is, an objective study of the space ordinary people inhabit.  Of course, it is not really objective, I chose it, but it is as close as I can get.

Added to that I would then investigate the street in detail capturing moments or activities that make up the social fabric.  Just by way of example

This will also be a return to colour, my preferred medium, although not for most of this course.

This is a study that I think I can engage with, that I can buy into emotionally as well as creatively.  I think I can make it work and even if I can't it will be a useful developmental journey for me.  The open question is am I stretching the definition of the assignment too far - I kind of hope so, as that is what I want to do, but not so far that it is rejected.


I made a final attempt to get back into the normal run of this course, working on Project 24, "using an auto focus lens (optional, dependent on your equipment)".  Then I realized the inanity of what I was doing, running through a series of "How To" exercises that could suit a GCSE photography course, but really should have no place on a degree level study pathway.  The course is old and has been replaced, for very good reason.  Looking at this project and the remaining ones I see no value at all in completing them, even with a creative spirit of lets turn this into something different.  So I am making a call and deciding to focus my time on the remaining three Assignments.

I accept that this might not look good at assessment, but I am gaining nothing and becoming increasingly frustrated with the course material.  In fact, I am hoping that getting real and putting my creative effort into the assignments will pay dividends and subsequently make up for any possible loss of credit due to my rebellion.  I also wish to finish the course by the end of the year so that I can start 2014 with the new level 3 courses and a renewed enthusiasm for my photography.  At my present rate of progress it'll be another 2 years.

This leaves discussion of what I plan to do with the 3 remaining assignments and what I want to accomplish with the remainder of this course.  Assignment 3 is pretty much decided, an essay on Robert Frank.

Assignment 4 is then programmed in, although I want to think about this a little.  Is it really a foregone conclusion that I must create photographs in the style of the man I write about?  I have already been working on this assignment for a year and have amassed some good material, I am just not sure this is where I want to go with my work.  Frank is an important and influential photographer, his work changed photography more than any other (opinion, that I will try and expand on in the essay), however, his working model and method are not at aligned to my own.

As I mentioned in my last post, my visual interests are more in line with Shore and Sternfeld than Frank, each equally interesting as social commentary but adopting a very different viewpoint and style to Frank.  I find myself more wedded to the observational style of Shore standing back and studying the world around me, than I do Frank's more involved approach.  having said that a practical compromise might be to complete assignment 4 as given, using the material I have already developed and then work assignment 5 from a different perspective.

Here is my current proposal:

Assignment 4: In the style of Robert Frank: Take a look back on the work I began a year ago to develop a parallel concept to Frank's The Americans, a study of the people of Munich, largely at their leisure.  This would continue my B&W work for the course.  Most of the material exists, so this would be an exercise in edit and sequence, developing a narrative for the set.  If this does not work, then I would have to work something new and rethink.

Assignment 5: Richard Strauss Strasse:  Here I want to deviate from the human interest obsession of the course and develop my own view on German life.  My goal from the very earliest stages of studying with the OCA has been to use Munich as the subject for my photography.  I want to use my photography to help me understand the city and the people that live there. This does not need to be portraits of people doing things, it can also look at the cultural signifiers that decorate the landscape, where people live, where they work.  To that end I propose a study of a typical street, a block from where I live.  In some respects this would be a different take on the one acre assignment from Landscape, but with a deeper look into the cultural and societal elements that make up the street.  Also rather than viewing this as an event to be photographed in a day or so, I want to spend time developing the concept.  I have easy access and could shoot there for a few minutes every day, choosing different times, weather, days, gradually building a conceptual basis for the study.

Assignment 5 as stated above would help me back into the style and content that I find myself most interested in and want to develop further as I progress to Level 3.  This course has pushed me towards subject matter and methods that rather than helping me to develop has pushed back my creativity and understanding of photography.  The in close approach, making the person the subject is something I can do, I get stuck doing weddings every now and then, so I do get it, it is just not of any artistic interest to me whatsoever.

I need to develop as a photographer, and am prepared to risk a bad mark for this course to do so.  The alternative is to abandon this course and start again with something else.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back to What I Like

I am currently in the progress of re-engaging with my photography.  My goal is to try and find where my head is in terms of what I like to photograph, but also what I like to look at.  If I can bring the two together I should be in a better place.  This set of photographs and blog entry is a return to a subject that is becoming a thread through my work, the river Isar and the activity along its banks.  I also need to ground my work, to avoid the continual flipping from one thing to another that has characterized my recent work, weddings, underwater, landscape, and so on...

I also need to work out in my mind what I want to get out of the remainder of this course.  I will write about this in a future post, I know what the options are, just not which one to take.  This short set of images is a way to help me to find that answer.

One aspect of my photography is a disinterest in people, but an interest in their presence.  I do not see people as characters in my pictures, but as transient subjects inhabiting a landscape that I am creating.  The following is an example.  This photo appeals to my need for geometry, lines and curves that come together to create a harmony, or chaos.  This is still a photo about people, this is a human place and there are two people in the frame, lending a presence, but a transient and almost invisible one.

The problem with either photo is that the graffiti makes a cultural statement that generates fear.  Deeper into this underpass the walls are covered in graffiti and it is beautiful...  The B&W version even hides the pink graffiti making for a more threatening image.  Somehow a pink heart takes away the menace that might be there.  Herein is another challenge I am wrestling with, working in colour or B&W.  I am still very drawn to mono, but do not see this as a long term thing, just something I need to explore right now.

The next photo describes where my head is at the moment.  This is a documentary photo that portrays a sunny afternoon.  The people inhabit the photo, but do not make it.  Here I am trying to describe a part of the city, building an image from the layers of the landscape.  Without the people it would be an OK image, but with them it is a document of society.  In a way this probably lends more to Joel Sternfeld or Stephen Shore than to Robert Frank, a problem that is beginning to niggle me right now.  I want to write about Frank, but am not so sure about the "In the Style of" bit.

Once again I have taken very different processing strategies.  The B&W is dark and contrasty, the colour fresher more pastel.  That is where the images took me.

A few more with a similar goal in mind, all taken along the riverbank...

Oh, and when I first edited this entry, I forgot to mention that these photographs were taking with a view to learning the use of an auto focus lens - time for a reset.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

P26: Selective Focus

Over time my use of wide apertures is changing.  Many years ago when I first realized what a wide aperture lens could do, especially at telephoto focal lengths, I used this technique a lot, marveling in the new found world of Bokeh.  Nowadays, I cringe when I read that word, it and the technique it springs from is one of the most overused cliches in photography.  I recall a conversation I had with Rob in a bar in Leeds in which we agreed that most photography could be done by setting the camera at f/8 and letting ISO worry about the rest.  In fact, these days if I am working street photography or landscape this is pretty much what I do.  The more popular magazines describe f/8 as the boring safe aperture, wrong, it is the sweet spot where stuff works and the photographer can worry about what is in the frame.  We spend so much time on the physics and technicality of handling the camera that we forget that it is about the picture.

Now, you might immediately point me at my last two posts in which I gleefully used fast lenses wide open at f/2.8 or f/2, and yes I also agree that there is a value in such photographic technique, but it should be used carefully and deliberately to produce an effect for a purpose.  In my case this is generally to romanticize a couple or to reduce a picture to an abstract blur.  I also think that narrow apertures f/22 and up are also over used. Landscape photographers marvel over the depth of field, as do macro photographers, the problem I have is that they can create descriptive photographs that somehow lack a soul.  For me f/8 is where its at.  I have an f/1.2 50mm full frame lens in my cabinet which is where it stays - expensive lump of glass.

This project, however, suggests a use of shallow depth of field quite different from what I have used in the past, to blur the foreground and not the background.  Here are a couple of wedding/engagement shots that place a sharp foreground on a blurred background, the conventional use of low depth of field.

However, I have also used the opposite to blur the object of desire in a groom's gaze:

In the above image the blurring affect draws attention to Toby's face as he commits himself to Kati. The lack of detail in Kati, suggests rather than states.

The next image was one of those snap moments when a picture emerged from the crowd then vanished again.  Here Julia is framed by the two older ladies, their blurred white hair drawing attention to Julia in the background, her eyes directly engaging the camera.  The slight blur on the foreground really emphasizes the figure in the background.

Similar shot, different subject, a Bayern fan enjoys the lead up to their Champions League victory this summer.  Once again the two figures in the foreground serve as a frame bringing the eye into the image.

An alternative view is the following.  Not a great image, it is too untidy, but the contrast is strong between the flowers and the rowdy fans.

I finish with something quite different and strange.  I have been trying to adapt a shallower depth of field approach to my underwater macro photography.  This was shot at f/4, but very close to the animal which has thrown it almost entirely out of focus.  This is a very delicate lacy scorpion fish with a strange fragile beauty.  I wanted to do something different, most people would shoot this at f/22 or higher, creating a very detailed and dark image.  By shooting at f/4 I get this luminous affect.  The key is in the eye, it must be in focus and is why it is at the center of the frame right underneath the focal point for that shot.  I might have chosen differently, but such moments are fleeting and wearing scuba gear managing a camera is more challenging.

I use this technique of blurred foreground very selectively.  It has the risk of becoming very trite, but has been used by the masters, Garry Winogrand springs to mind, but he is a master of this technique, although in his case I am sure many such shots were happy accidents.

Sema & Ermis

Yet another blog post that is not actually about my course, although this one is firmly within the genre of social documentary.  Another event, not a wedding, but honestly without knowing I would have struggled to tell. Back in April, our next door neighbour asked whether we would be interested in photographing an engagement party for a Turkish  friend of hers in June.  I agreed, not really thinking too hard about what I was agreeing to.  Well, I now know a lot more about the engagement rituals of the Turkish community.

From the first meeting with the couple, it was obvious that Sema had a very clear idea about what she wanted in terms of photography.  It was actually quite refreshing to have someone provide examples of photographs that she liked, enabling Heidi and I to plan our work with them.  Too often people we photograph are very vague, sentences such as "you know best" or worse, we want  you to "enjoy yourself, just take a few shots, we'll be happy", don't help.  I know damn well that they want romantic beautiful images that they can share with friends and family and ultimately their children.  I value the few photographs I have of my parents 1960's wedding, who wouldn't.  Sema was very clear and Ermis, well, he was clearly going to do whatever he was told to do.  Perfect!

Because we knew exactly what she wanted I could plan my equipment and also the location we would use.  The plan was to meet at 1pm for a series of romantic images of the couple, then move onto Sema's home where the actual engagement would take place. And then the coffee, the party, the dancing, the ribbon, the jewelry, the cake, oh boy, we had no idea what was actually going to happen, but we were well prepared.  The day was dull, rain forecast for the whole day and getting heavier as the day went on.  Our original location was scrapped as it offered no cover, so a couples of texts set up plan B, the Munich Hofgarten, a place I was familiar with from its use as the location for Assignment 3 in DPP.

The dull grey skies and rain actually proved to be a blessing as it eliminated the shadows and yielded a balanced diffused light.  We had a large and colourful golfing umbrella to act as a prop and for additional shelter.  The garden was ideal offering lots of covered spaces and heavy tree cover.  The only problem with the weather was that it was cold and after about 90 minutes Sema was too cold to continue with the shoot, but we had enough by then.  I took a pretty standard wedding load out, 16-35, 24-70, and 70-200 f/2.8 zooms, plus my 135 f/2 for the more dreamy look.  A couple of speedlights and my 5D2 and I was ready to go, although a sore shoulder would be the price for all that kit and spare batteries, etc.  As always Heidi had my backup 7D with a 17-55 f/2.8 and acted as second shooter.  We have an understanding.

The day then started with a fairly standard portraiture shoot, an attractive couple letting me practice my skills on them in exchange for some free photography, happy with the results, but nothing particularly remarkable

Along the way we had some fun with the umbrella

Nice images, but could belong to any culture, however, the next shot is very specific to Islamic culture:

The blue glass object is a Nazar, a talisman against the evil eye. The couple wanted to be photographed under it to bring them luck and protection. This created some logistical challenges, resolved through the use of the umbrella and one of my shoelaces.  I took a variety of images, this one worked for me as it suggests rather than illustrates. As the day progressed I found many Nazar's attached to gifts and worn as jewelry.

Apart from the rather conventional portraits so far Sema wanted something a little more romantic and different.  Heidi helped to create a few poses and then I processed the images along different colour lines.  First of all I tried a little desaturation (well quite a lot actually):

The next one would be my choice from the set, a moment in time, not really posed, they were just larking around a little.  Focus is poor and I have gone for a rather traditional black and white process, a strong vignette framing the couple.

The next one, well this is a case of the customer is always right, even when they are not actually paying.  I did not explain that such methods could get me disbarred for life from the fraternity of serious photographers...

And all done in Lightroom, no recourse to the evil Photoshop CS

OK, that was the portraiture, a nice set, lot's of fun to make, but not saying a great deal about their culture.

This changed when we got to her parents home:

An Aunt from Istanbul made us very welcome with cheese filled pastries and small glasses of sweet tea.  We felt a little odd as we were strangers in the house and there to do a job, but they were so hospitable and friendly - we rapidly became a part of the celebration.

At this stage we were just Sema and her relations.  After an hour had passed Ermis and his family arrived, now the formal part of the day would begin.  We were about to witness and record a series of rituals that are centuries old.  We gathered that Sema and her family were pretty relaxed about doing things the formal way, however, Ermis's family wanted things done properly and so they were...

We had done some research, and so had a basic understanding of what would happen, but it was to be an interesting day.  First of all Ermis's relatives gathered in the living room for coffee.  At this stage there was a palpable tension in the air, everyonewas being terribly polite and reserved.

Coffee - this was the first and perhaps the best ritual of the day.  Traditional Turkish coffee is strong and thick, not for the faint hearted and especially not if you are the future groom.  Note in the photo below the one cup that is a different colour.

The key here is that Ermis must take the cup and drink it, enjoy it and finish it. the challenge is that in addition to coffee there is salt, pepper, chilli, pretty much whatever Sema wanted to add.  In fact she was being quite sparing, her friends upped the ante - he really needed a spoon to eat this coffee.  Anyway, this is a traditional test of his tolerance and love for his wife, whether she can cook or not.

Then came the first major moment of the day.  I think it is Ermis's uncle, not his father, but this was hard to follow as my Turkish is non-existent and my German poor.  In any case her father was formally asked for his permission that his daughter would become part of Ermis's family.  This was a very emotional moment and marked the point at which the couple became betrothed to one another.  The giving of a ring (first piece of jewelry) sealed the relationship.

At this point the tension lifted and everyone started to hug, Mother's ran from the room in tears and the first step on the journey to marriage had been made.  Normally this would then be followed by some time before the next step of actual engagement.  Yes, we were a little confused, we thought they were now engaged, but no, that would come later.

Many presents also arrived, primarily in the shape of food:

Next we all headed off to the local catholic church hall for the evening party.  Heidi and I thought we would be with them from 1 until around 6, no chance, this was quite an event.  We really had not idea, we just went with the flow.

A table had been laid out at the church hall for the couple facing the guests.  No alcohol at this stage and in fact the only alcohol present was a bottle of champagne that the couple shared.  They were following Islamic principles, but not too rigidly as we shall see.

I have also noticed that any Turkish event will somehow incorporate Ataturk the father of the nation.

Back to my comment about Islam, no alcohol OK, but those heels and skirts, these girls might be Muslim, but that was not going to get in the way of partying.  I found this all very interesting and quite refreshing, Islam is too often portrayed as rigid and cruel, the truth is far away.

Everyone then sat down to eat which we declined as we prefer to work and then eat later. The food really looked good, but one you sit down to eat it becomes hard to take photos, I have tried this before and it is frustrating to keep getting up and down.  However, big mistake, at this stage we thought we would go out for dinner when we were finished with the photographs, at 10pm we stopped in a gas station to grab two frozen pizzas on the way home.

Next came a series of group photos, dozens of them, every possible combination of family and friends.  Heidi had been warned that Turkish people love to be photographed, but oh boy...

The main event was, however, finally drawing near, the actual engagement.  Two rings were joined by a ribbon, these are the actual engagement rings.  The couple will put them on and then after some jollity and bribery someone will step up and cut the ribbon.  This then marks the point of engagement.  Later in the evening the ribbon is cut into strips and shared among the single girls in the room.  Whoever selects the "short straw" will be next to be married.

And I did mention, jewelry, well we have seen 3 rings now, then came the serious stuff, another fabulous jeweled ring and ropes of pearls.

Next, the dancing, starting with Sema and Ermis.

As I said at the beginning, I would have thought this was a wedding, if I had not been told quite emphatically that it was an engagement.  If you are wondering, well the wedding is next year and the invitation list is expected to be roughly 700 people, not sure we will be back for that one, not sure I want to or am even capable.

However, it will probably be quite a blast, the dancing was fantastic, the music loud and exotic.

It was now nearing 9pm, Heidi and I had been on the go since 12 and were getting a little weary.  We approached the couple to sign out and wish them well.  Cake, the cake, you must take photographs of the cake.  Actually two cakes, each of which took over a day to create.

Like I said, the wedding is going to be quite something...

What a day, really enjoyed it, a wonderful insight into a different culture hosted by a lovely and very hospitable family. The wedding genre is not fashionable among "serious" photographers, but this really is social documentary, a study of people forming society, a merger of two families.  This would have made a good day in the life of, however, it is not easy to integrate these events into the course, they happen when they happen and not always at a convenient time for me.