Sunday, July 16, 2017

Light, Camera, Action

When I was around 8 or so, I had a Brownie Box camera which I used to take photographs of the people (and a few animals) around me.  It was always disappointing when I would pick up the developed and printed photos at the drugstore and find that what I had seen with my eyes was not captured by the lens of the camera.  I wanted to make a record of the people in my life as I saw them, and at that age, I didn't have the eye, or the technical skill, to be able to do it. 

I continued to photograph people throughout the rest of my life and the more I practiced, the more my photos improved, but it was still a challenge to be able to capture on film what I saw with my eyes.   I did event and wedding photography, and asked friends to pose for me.  For a while I had access to a darkroom, and experienced the delight, (and the chemical headache), of printing my own black and white photos.  I even purchased some used darkroom equipment with the idea of creating my own darkroom in my apartment, but it sat unused, and was eventually sold to a friend.  I enjoyed looking at other people's photography for inspiration, and attempted some landscape and "art" photography, but the only subject that really interested me was people.

I'm now on my third digital camera, and I love being able to see your images immediately, and not having to pay a fortune to have rolls of film developed and printed only to find that there are only two shots worth saving.  But I miss the tones and richness of black and white film, which in my opinion, can never be duplicated digitally, which is probably why I never shoot black and white anymore.   I still enjoy taking my camera (not my phone) to an event and revisiting my first love - photographing people, and capturing the play of light, shadow and colour.

So, after that preamble, I wanted to show you some photos I took of one of my favourite bands as they played at Sunfest last past weekend.  The band is DakhaBrakha, a folk/world music quartet from the Ukraine, who I have now seen perform a few times.  The band members play multiple instruments and have an astounding vocal range, and the theatrical elements of their performances make them excellent photography subjects.  It was an added bonus that the concert was at night, which allowed the band to make use of multi-coloured lighting and smoke effects.

Below is a video I shot of them in performance, which will give you an idea of why I'm such a fan.


The three women in the band: left to right - Olena Tsybulska, Iryna Kovalenko, and Nina Garenetska

Oleana Tsybulska provides vocals and plays the bass drum, percussion, and the Garmoshka.

Iryna plays the accordian, percussion, bass drums, buhay, zgaleyka, piano, djembe and provides vocals.

Iryna playing the bass drum

Nina also provides vocals and plays the bass drum, but her main instrument is her colourful cello which she plays with a bow and plucks with her fingers.

When the band performs, the women wear elaborate dresses, and their trademark tall furry hats.  This  year's boldly patterned costumes were very effective on stage. 

Marko Halanevych is the band's sole male member, and in addition to providing vocals, ranging from a deep, rumbling bass to a falsetto, also plays the accordion, tabla, didgeridoo, trombone and darbuka.

Iryna and Nina share vocal and percussion duties

Olena, bathed in green light

Olena is the most serious when on stage.  She maintains a kind of regal presence and rarely smiles.

When performing, Nina is the most vivacious member of the group. 

The shot above was my favourite from the evening and is the perfect example of what happens when light, colour, and form all come together at the right moment.  If I had used a flash, as many people in the audience were doing, I would have never got this shot.

Nina came out to say hello, as we had spoken last time they played in London, and a couple of people asked her to sign copies of the band's CDs.  None of the band member speak much English, so we weren't able to have much of a conversation, but I managed to convey how much I enjoyed seeing them perform again.


  1. Shelley, you are a woman of many talents. These photos are really, really good. I'm sure having such great subjects helped you get in that space to frame them so well. I enjoyed the video clip. I must have one of their hats! Hahaha!

    1. You could definitely rock one of those furry hats....

  2. so interesting to read about how has been your experience on photographing people, and how do you've developed your skills!
    This band is a fabulous find, love the original folk and percusion mix, and they're really good!

  3. I'm always amazed by your photography skills, and this post highlights just that. This group thrills me. I love their music, and of course their fantastic headwear. I can see why you featured them, accompanied by your exquisite commentary.

    1. Thank you so much Judith! You're always so kind in your comments.

  4. I've never met Nina, but I feel you've captured her beautifully with her cello. I love how she is cradling the cello in an intimate fashion. The light adds to the intimacy and it's really a remarkable photo Shelley!

    Thanks for sharing the link. It was great hearing the band...quite unexpected in parts...especially the trilling that I associate with middle eastern vocals. Awesome!

    1. The band incorporates instruments and vocal styles from different cultures into their own music which makes them sound all the more interesting.

  5. Absolutely brilliant photos, Shelley. You've done a brilliant job capturing Nina's energy and enthusiasm, I can almost hear the music just by looking at your pictures.
    Jon still loves his old school photography, although since he got rid of the darkroom it can cost a bloody fortune getting film developed. xxx

    1. I can't imagine ever giving up having a real camera. As much as my phone is convenient for instagram and quick snaps when I don't have my camera, it could never take photos like these.

  6. Amazing shots! I hope that they see this. You really captured them beautifully.


  7. Wow, it's like sensaround. You're such a good writer, photographer, Shelley. The combo makes me feel like I was/am there. And up close too. Thanks for the experience and introducing me to something I never would have known otherwise.

  8. Thanks for sharing your night with this incredible band, Shelley. What a unique sound! I LOVE the women's costumes, the cello... A feast! Fabulous photos.

  9. which makes them sound all the more interesting.


  10. Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful! photographe