Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Spotlight On .... The Man Behind The Lens!

Those of you who frequent haflas in the North of England may well already be aware of the fabulous work of Ian Woodward! He is now a regular fixture at our dance events, together with his partner, Pauline (herself a dancer) and he takes some pretty amazing pictures of us all in our finery strutting our stuff. A nicer bloke you couldn't wish to meet .... he is so patient and generous with his time and work and even remains calm under the pressure of hordes of dancers harassing him on Facebook as he desperately tries to download hundreds of pictures in super-record time!

Anyway, we decided it was time to turn that lens around and focus in on HIM for a change ...... He very kindly agreed to do an interview to tell us a bit more about the real man behind the camera! So here we go!

1. Ian - you are getting pretty well known here in the North West as one of our leading hafla photographers! For how long have you been wielding your camera? What first got you interested in photography?
Me, famous? Surely not! I know it’s hard to believe, but I am VERY old! I got my first camera a LONG time ago, a little plastic thing from Woolies. I think it was 2/6d, and took black and white roll film with yellow paper backing – no 35mm film cassettes back then. Probably 12 shots per roll. My dad was an illustrator and art lecturer, and was taking pictures as long as I can remember. I learned all the technical basics from him, including composition, lighting, taking care with backgrounds (avoid trees growing out of people’s heads) and of course darkroom stuff (developing tanks, chemicals, temperature, enlargers, paper types, cropping, vignetting etc. etc.) The first roll of film I remember shooting (and which still survives) was in the primary school playground in 1962-ish on the Woolies camera (no, that’s not me, just some classmates).

2. And for the techy ones out there - what sort of camera/equipment do you find gives you the best results? Does anything make hafla photography particularly tricky?
I don’t want to get into recommending a particular brand or model. I have had many, many cameras over the years, and had some great pics from all of them. I still like some I took on a pocket instamatic back in the 70’s. Because it was small enough for fit in a (denim) shirt pocket, I always had it with me, so rarely missed interesting photo opportunities. I moved over to digital a few years ago – with the advent of the Internet and FaceBook you can’t avoid it. But, I miss some things about the old fashioned way too.
Hafla (or any event) photography does present challenges. Firstly, the photographer is not in control of what happens, who stands where, or for how long. Don’t forget it’s a live performance, and I try not to distract the performers, or obscure the view of the audience, who have after all paid to watch the show. I try not to point the flash directly at the dancers, preferring to bounce it off the ceiling or walls where possible. This gives a more even light, without harsh shadows on the wall behind, and helps to reduce red-eye. Backgrounds are the bane of my life though! Raffle prizes, souk clothes rails, exit signs, fire extinguishers, serving hatches, wall paintings and striped wallpaper: Grrrr! I do my best in the digital darkroom to reduce the impact of these distractions. Also, the lighting at these events is always poor. Even when there are spotlights in the room, they are rarely used. So, the dancers are either in the dark, lit with fluorescent tubes, or no better illuminated than the audience. This is why I use flash for most of the pics I take.

3. What first got you involved in the magical world of bellydance?
That would be Pauline’s fault. When we got together, she was already attending a class in Ormskirk college, and now goes to Sarah’s in Lydiate and Bridie’s (Weird Sisters) in our village in Wales. Hafla-ing is something we can do together, and provides me with plenty to photograph.

4. And what do you particularly like about hafla photography?
Firstly, it’s a darn good evening’s entertainment (although I see most of it through a tiny viewfinder)! Secondly, I get a chance to photograph all the fabulous dancing, costumes and general sparkle for a few hours all under one roof! Thirdly, I get to meet some of the nicest people around. I’m not just saying that, I find the atmosphere very supportive and friendly, everyone getting a cheer whatever their level they are at, regardless of style, age, shape, costume etc. A happy place to be. What’s not to like?

5. Do you have a favourite style of bellydance/costuming, from a photographer's point of view?
I’m not going to declare any favourites, I like it all! Photographically, I try to get the best from every picture I take, regardless of dance style or costume.

6. Again from a photographer's point of view, what makes for a good hafla and/or performance?
 Not been to a bad one yet! Getting a good seating position is important for me, one with the least distracting background stuff behind where the dancers will perform. In this respect, Lowton is good, where I sit on the floor, sideways on to the dancers with the black stage curtain as the background, although those speakers on the wall, sigh… Also, Casino El Layl, where the dancers are on stage with the black sparkly curtain behind. The type performance matters less to me, and each has its own challenges for composition, focus, lighting, movement, timing etc. It’s actually quite hard work!

7. Are there any hafla photos of which you are particularly proud (obviously not including any of Sakura or any of their friends of course! ;-0) 
Yes, I have quite a few faves. One day soon, I will make an album of the ones *I* like the best, photographically. That’s not to say these are necessarily my fave dancers (rapidly trying to dig myself out of a hole here…). Here’s one photo I particularly like, of DarkStar at the Pick ‘n Mix hafla in July 2011.

8. Are there any dance performances that really stand out for you? (again obviously not including any of Sakura or any of their friends of course! ;-0)
As I said above, I have my personal favourites, but too diplomatic to say here! Photographically, they all offer interesting, and welcome, challenges.

9. How does it feel just after a hafla when you have over 500 photos to process and almost as many dancers hassling you on Facebook to post them NOW?!!!
Flattered that there is so much interest! Also, very amusing – it’s a bit like a feeding frenzy of great white sharks circling around a surfer! I try to tag people I know on FaceBook as soon as the album is uploaded, but I am often beaten to it by the gathering hoardes! If I leave the PC for 20 minutes after posting, I usually return to a broadcast storm of notifications (likes, comments, shares, requests to tag). Everyone is so nice about the pics, and each other too!

10. What other subject matter do you like to photograph?
Ah, what DON’T I like? People, places, buildings, signs, gigs, travel. Anything that looks interesting, amusing, where I can take an unusual angle or juxtaposition.

11. Where can people see your photos/contact you?
Facebook is the best place to start. Just search for Ian Woodward. I do post a lot of my pics on Picasa here:
I also have some on Flickr, but those are also on Picasa.

12. And finally - is there anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself?!
Er… I ride a Harley Davidson! The empty one at the back of this group in the Alps:

Thank you so much for all your hard work Ian - it really is appreciated! Keep those fantastic photos coming , and we'll see you at the Merhaba Christmas hafla!

Until next time - happy dancing!

1 comment:

  1. I know this man. He's a hard drinking, hard riding soul, with a concrete handshake and a 1000 yard stare. He's a decent bloke.