Portraits of a soul

Photo of Photographer Richard PilnickEvery now and then you meet someone in your life who changes the way you see and think about things. About 18 months ago I met someone who fits nicely into that category, Richard Pilnick. At first he appeared a bit of an odd ball with his ginger beard and mop of a hair do, but I soon realised there was more to this guy.

Now I thought I was carrying a fair amount of kit with me, but Richard was not only going one step further by carrying a medium format Hasselblad but also lugging around a large format Wisner (pictured). With not a pixel in sight, as both were set up as originally intended to shoot rolls of 120 and sheets of 5×4 slide film.

Richard was returning to the UK, having worked for several years as a fashion photographer in Hong Kong, he decided to stop off along the way home via India to create stunning black and white portraits before  settling down in London.

Several years earlier Richard met an incredibly interesting young face reader, now I had heard of palm readers, sure,  but seriously face readers??? it turns out they do exist and by looking at your facial features Eric Standop can see an emotional map of who you are and where you are going. He is able to read, with immense accuracy, a persons life, their abilities & weaknesses, their passions & fears and their health just from studying their face.

Richard and Eric have been working on a project named portraits of a soul where Richard shoots a portrait and Eric reads the subjects faces and writes a poem about the individual.  Richard explained to me that Portraits of a soul was more of a passion than a project and had spawned from his fascination with the faces of the world.

I encourage you to check out portraits of a soul to discover the incredible portraits and fascinating poems that accompany them.

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    Prints of Toledo

    In preparation for the upcoming Wonders of Spain photo tour I have been visiting several of the locations that we will follow. After Madrid the nest stop is the ancient town of Toledo.

    A visit to Toledo feels like you’ve stepped back in time to when Christianity, Judaism and Islam lived side by side without any of the religious hatred that is so common in the modern world. The medieval city will inspire you with its incredible cathedral, beautifully preserved synagogues and mosques.

    Toledo is one of the must-do day trips from Madrid, but on this tour we´ll be going one step further and staying the night to make the best of the light . It´s a place where we´ll discover three fascinating cultures and a great variety of world-class sites. You will surely be won over by Spain’s richest Cathedral, Toledo’s renowned El Greco masterpieces and the beautiful former synagogues. You can also indulge in local traditions – tasting marzipan, a local speciality  watching Damascene sword presentation, or browsing a shop filled with ceramics. Toledo’s medieval buildings, cobbled alleys and rich history will enchant you.

    To find out more about the tour click here

    Toledo, Spain. Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.


    Toledo, Spain. Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.


    Toledo, Spain. Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.


    Toledo, Spain. Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.


    Toledo, Spain.  Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.

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      In preparation for the upcoming Wonders of Spain photo tour I have recently been visiting all of the cities that will make up the tour. The first city on the tour is Madrid, a city I´ve visited countless times but I´ve never really shot much here,  so I´ve been checking out suitable locations to visit.

      Unfortunately my first few days here were extremely foggy, I normally like a bit of fog to add some mood to my images, but it works best in the countryside and it really didn´t show off Madrid at its best. Towards the end of my stay in Madrid the weather cleared up and the clear skies brought a smile to my face.

      This image shows the Debod temple in central Madrid, it´s a location I´ve not seen many images of which is surprising considering it´s beauty. The structure itself is an ancient Egyptian temple that was donated to Spain back in the 1960´s. It was de-constructed, transported brick by brick and rebuild in it´s current location.

      More images coming your way soon…

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        Gallery of photos of a steel worker in India

        Some blog posts come out of a desire to help others, others from a desire to learn. This one simply comes from me stumbling across some old images I forgot I had, reprocessing them and wanting to share. So if you´ve come here to learn about the hyper-focal distance or how many fps the the new Canon 6D shoots, then this post isn´t for you, move along – nothing to see*.

        These images were shot in 2010 in Rishikesh, India. Now Rishikesh is known worldwide for many things its considered the gateway to the Himalayas, it´s well known for its yoga and meditation, the Beatles visited and are said to have written many of there songs here, not to mention the river Ganges that flows through it and the religious on goings that take place on a daily basis. But who would expect that out of all those things I´d end up shooting in a small steel factory. I certainly didn´t arrive with that intention, in fact I didn´t really arrive with intentions of shooting anything specific.

        By chance I happened to be out walking the streets when, as the sun was getting low, I passed an interesting building. With a nod, a wink and a smile I was warmly invited in, as is so often the case in India. Unfortunately a complete lack of language skills on my behalf meant I was unable to ask the men their names, I always try to learn a few phrases but India always gets me. With so many different languages and dialects, I really struggle.

        These photos are not posed they are simply men doing there job (or not in some cases) the light was stunning and poured in through 2 windows, but it was dark inside. It was so dark that I actually under exposed these images by nearly 2 stops, just to keep the shutter speed manageable, knowing I could bring the detail back while post processing.

        As always I´d love to know your thoughts. If you click on the image they will load up large.

        f/3.2, 1/30 sec, at 28mm, 400 ISO.

        f/3.2, 1/30 sec, at 28mm, 400 ISO.

        f/3.2, 1/30 sec, at 28mm, 400 ISO.

        f/3.2, 1/30 sec, at 28mm, 400 ISO.

        f/3.2, 1/30 sec, at 28mm, 400 ISO.

        *4.5 fps

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          October 2012 wallpaper & a free photo walk

          Its time for the October 2012 wallpaper, but before we get to that.

          Anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter may well have come across the news that I am to be leading one of the London legs of the Worldwide Photo Walk This event is organised by Scott Kelby and his team.

          Join Tom on a FREE photo walkThe idea behind it is simple on 13th October 2012 in every major town and city across the globe thousands of photographers of all levels (there are over 12000 signed up already) will get together to walk around, shoot photos, and generally have fun with other photographers. It´s a great social occasion and who knows maybe a chance to learn a thing or two before heading to the pub for a drink.

          If you want to sign up for this free event just click here and fill in the form, its going to be a great day out, lets just hope the weather holds.

          So this months wallpaper was actually shot on the route of the London photo walk that I´ll be running. How many of you thought this was shot in Asia? So if you come on the walk I´ll be able to show the exact spot I took this image.


          October 2012 wallpaper


          Download the October 2012 wallpaper

          Select your screen size from below, right click and select save as.

          Free October´12 Wallpaper – 320×480 (iPhone/ipad)

          Free October ´12 Wallpaper – 1024×1024 (Ipad)

          Free October ´12 Wallpaper – 1024×768

          Free October ´12 Wallpaper – 1440×900 (Mac book Pro)

          Free October ´12 Wallpaper – 1366×768

          Free October ´12 Wallpaper – 1920×1080

          Free October ´12 Wallpaper – 2560×1440

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            One and a half hours on a train

            Regular visitors to my blog will rember a couple of months ago I wrote a post title 56 Hours on a train where I shared a collection of some of the images I shot on my phone while travelling from one side of India to the other. I thought it interesting to do a similar thing on a train journey I had the other day up to London, this was only a 90 minute journey compared to the 3360 minutes of the Indian leg. Never the less it´s interesting to see how the 2 sets compare.

            The empty carriages and orderly queues the clean seats and peaceful atmosphere in these images are in total contrast to the madness that is the Indian train, man I miss that place.

            Tom Bourdon Travel Photographer | Train photos (2) Tom Bourdon Travel Photographer | Train photos (1) Tom Bourdon Travel Photographer | Train photos (5) Tom Bourdon Travel Photographer | Train photos (6) Tom Bourdon Travel Photographer | Train photos (7) Tom Bourdon Travel Photographer | Train photos (8) Tom Bourdon Travel Photographer | Train photos (9)Tom Bourdon Travel Photographer | Train photos (10)Tom Bourdon Travel Photographer | Train photos (11)

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              My Town – Eastbourne

              Eastbourne, East Sussex, England.

              This is where I grew up. This is where I was born and I lived here until my first trip to Asia at the age of 21. Since then I´ve visited many times but never stayed for more than a week or so at a time and strangely enough never really spent much time shooting here despite the fact I know the area so well. I guess I´ve been caught up with travel and visiting exotic places rather than looking for the images that are right here on my doorstep.

              I´ve been trying to resolve this situation and fortunately we´ve been blessed with the most amazing spring weather with sunny days and clear blue skies. Knowing that this surely wont last I´ve been out shooting a fair amount recently and thought I should share a handful of the results.

              So don´t think you have to travel to stunning places to take great shots, you´ve just got to look for them, I´m sure there are some great locations close to where you live, you just need to look.

              Eastbourne countryside. East Sussex, England.

              Eastbourne countryside. East Sussex, England.

              Eastbourne Pier, Eastbourne, East Sussex. England.

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                A funny moment from 2008

                Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.

                Now many of you will have seen images like the one above of the local fisherman who are known for their distinctive, and some what ingenious, rowing style. By standing on one leg and wrapping the other one around the oar they are able to propel the boat. This unique style came about as it gives the fisherman a greater view of his route and is able to better navigate through the thick reeds and floating plants that fill the lake. It also always one hand to be free which can be useful to smoke a cigarette, or wave at tourists.

                Now normally I wouldn’t shoot any image that I knew would cause embarrassment, but there are moments in everyone’s life when funny things happen and to not take the photo at those moments would be a real waste. So what happened here well I was on a boat with a fisherman coming towards us, he was really showing off at well he had mastered the leg rowing and was playing up to the boat full of tourists  when his longyi (sarong like garment) slowly started slipping down. He grabbed the front of it with his spare hand and burst in to a fit of laughter and carried on rowing.




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                  Taking portraits

                  Copyright Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.It comes as no surprise, to me at least, that the people we meet on our travels are the highlight of any trip. Yet why is it that we still come away with without an engaging portraits of them?

                  So what´s the secret? Well the problem is that people, myself included, are often uncomfortable approaching someone and creating a repport and, fearing a negative reaction, either just walk away or worse try to sneak a portrait without asking. Stealing a portrait in such a way does not only generally result in a poor picture, but it’s rude and rather invasive, trust me this is not the route to a pleasing portrait.

                  To get pictures with feeling you have to engage the person whose portrait you want to take. It´s interesting to note that in Spanish, and it´s similar in other Latin languages, the phase ´to take a photo´ translates litterally to ´hacer una foto´ the verb ´hacer´ meaning ´to make´, enforcing the idea that photos are created and not just taken – I prefer the Spanish on this one.

                  How you create your rapport will depend on how brave you are feeling, it often takes more than just asking the question. But remember – smile and be respectful, keep that in mind and you´re half way there.

                  The key here is preparation but remember it´s your subject you need to prepare more than your camera (in fact speaking of respect, as I was, perhaps ‘subject’ isn’t the right word to describe the person in your image, but I´m struggling to find an alternative), the more you interact the greater chance you have of captureing the real person rather than a stiffly posed awkward image.

                  Before you approach someone visualise how you want your shot to look, think about the composition and the background, set your exposure and make sure you´re set. Once you actually walk up to someone to take their photo, you´ll want to be ready, otherwise you´ll quickly lose their attention – so if you’ve already sorted the technical stuff before you´ve got a good chance to get the best shot without fussing around.

                  Once you’ve done the hard work and approached someone, don’t just take one picture and move on. Shoot a few, improve on your composition and while doing so keep the conversation going, showing them images on the back of the camera.

                  If you want truely natural looking photos you should spend time with those in the image so that they become totally relaxed. This can take just a few minutes, it could be hours or even days, or even weeks but the investment will pay off.






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                    Heading home and a small correction

                    Tom Bourdon | Documentary Travel Photography.I start this blog post with a small correction in yesterdays blog post where it was stated that I am now 25 years old. This was obviously an error and I can only assume a typo, it should in fact have stated that I am a few years older than that. Very sorry.

                    As this post goes live I’m not actually online I’m somewhere in Mumbai just a few hours away from the final leg of my trip, a flight back to the London (this is another one of those scheduled posts provided by the good people at WordPress).

                    After 6 years I am finally coming home to England, in those 6 years I have visited numerous countries in both Europe and Asia, I’ve witnessed some incredible events and met some remarkable people, but my time is up and I’m coming home to spend some much missed time with the family.

                    It’s always an odd sensation returning to Europe after several months away, on one hand the excitement of seeing loved ones again and the fact I wont be living out of a backpack for a while, plus the constant electricity, hot water, baths … now I think about it there are many reasons to be heading back. However… I really am going to miss this place, it’s impossible for me to describe it in words, but Asia really has an essence, a magic, a something that I really connect with, and I will truly miss it and start planning my return soon (in fact I already have).

                    See you on the other side…



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