"This is my mask. There are many like it, but this one is mine..."
Well actually this one was mine... I've now retired this trusted friend.
I thought I'd mark it's passing with a portrait so that, hopefully, in the future I can view the image, and use it as a reminder of this extraordinary time.
During the dark days of the first lockdown this is what stood between me and the global pandemic. Whether it protected me or not is not really the point.
At that time, before we were all doubled jabbed. When there were fewer theraputics and the queues for hospital beds were longer. And, the eyes of the people I passed, whilst jogging in Richmond Park, were wider, and less self assured, I held this mask across my face to run past them, along the narrow paths.
My trusted running mask -2020 - Farewell my old friend
"For countless runs I lifted it up to my face as a courtesy to others and with a hope that it may afford me a little protection as well..."
Life can be strange
When I purchased the mask I had no idea of the importance that it would play in my life. No idea that I would come to rely upon it's filtration capability. No idea of the dust that it would stop along the paths of the park.
I thought I'd use it protect my lungs whilst cutting some MDF boards, or to wear in the loft to protect me from fibre glass fibres floating amongst the house dust and spider mites, and then I would simply throw it away. I could have no idea that it would play an essential role in family life by protecting me in the supermarkets and at the doctors' surgery whilst my wife Jo shielded safely at home for 13 months.
When it still had its elastic straps I would pull them tight to create a near perfect seal, whilst I rushed around the cash and carry, gathering the essentials for the long lockdowns to come. Eventually, the straps lost their elasticity and I retired the mask from frontline duty and began using it for my runs, the only outdoor exercise I was allowed at the time.
I would hold it in hand and run along the lesser used paths of Richmond Park, lifting it only on the rare occasion I passed another park user. I became adept at sealing the mask around my face before I passed people, and I held it there for 25 metres after I had passed them. At first, people were perplexed and sometimes slightly alarmed, but we all soon got used to it. ANd masks soon became the norm. After a while people in the park learned how to speak "Mask" and we all began to understand what "Thank you" sounds like from behind a mask. It turns out that kindness and community cannot be blocked by an N99 mask, if everyone in pulling in the same direction, and I'm pleased to say that the good people of Kingston upon Thames were pulling together.
As I am posting this image I thought I'd confirm what I thought I already knew about the protection that the mask afforded me:
"N99 or FFP3 face masks are used to provide protection from viruses, bacteria, and solid or liquid toxic aerosols. N99 and FFP3 provide the same amount of protection as each other, but have different names depending on where they have been made. These masks are commonly used by those working in the healthcare industry as personal protective equipment (PPE). FFP3 masks filter 99% of particles from the air. These face masks have been approved by the World Health Organisation for preventing the transmission of COVID-19."
I hope you enjoy viewing the image - Colin
Pixel Peepers' Notes & Newbie Hints & Tips:
Sony A7R Mk III / FE 16-35mm f2.8 GMaster Lens @ - 24mm - ISO 100 - f22 / 0.5sec - Tripod - IBIS Off - Cable Release
I had an interesting time shooting the mask. It's lit from above by natural daylight in the studio. There are black cards surrounding the mask to deaden the exposure towards the back of the mask. There are also some small silver cards pushing light on to the valve rim. In addition to this I have muted the reflective surface of the granite used as a background. The mask is suspended above the background. By doing this I can control the focus. I'd love to tell you that I bulit a jig that I measured and created, but what I did was use an upsidedown glass that "filled out" the mask, and pushed it into shape... (keep it simple!)
Whilst the camera instantly focussed on the front valve, it didn't want to focus on the white material, despite moving the focus point a few times. It was easier to simply switch to manual focus and set the focus a third down the mask. I didn't want to faff around with focus stacking, so I stopped it down to f22 and that did the job nicely. I remembered to turn off the IBIS this time, and the camera was mounted on my Manfrotto tripod. Lastly, I used the Sony cable release to keep everything still, as the exposure was half a second.
The final shot is deliberately muted to reflect the gravity of the subject matter, for those of you old enough to remember, I loosely based it on the imagery used in the early 1980s at the beginning of the HIV/AIDs awareness campaign, also a desparately tragic period in recent history that those of us of a certain age had the misfortune to witness.
I hope that some of you may find this information is useful. Please leave any comments below- Colin
Postscript Update 13.09.2021
There have been some fantastically misguided and inappropriate responses to this image on the Sony Facebook Groups. Some people are wrapped up in an ill informed debate about the effectiveness of masks, others about the very existence of COVID19. I'd like to take this opportunity to respond.
My qualification is an Arts based Bachelor of Arts Degree (Actually, the pre cursor to this, I have a Diploma of Art and Design). I do not not have any expertise in the areas of epidemiology, virology or immunology. If I have an image that may be associated with the areas I never comment on the impact that the subject may have on others. I try to restrict my observations to my own experience. Unfortunately some push their parochial opinions on to others with a sense that social media somehow insulates them from consequence. It's like watching the monkeys throwing peanuts from the gallery.
Some free advice to these people: Don't do that.
Before commenting on complex issues I always think that it's best to find out what the facts are first. Local opinions about what is, and what isn't fact, are very probably ill informed and full of confirmation bias. I have found that what others may think is true often requires further investigation. Ask yourself the question... "Did the information I just espoused come from a source that can be verified?" This is a wonderful technique that improves the quality of the exchange for all of those involved. You may come from a large nation, or a small one. The West or the East. We are all subject to differing biases that mask the fact that whether we like it or not "we are all in this together". Unless you have a space ship, and an alternative planet to which you can decamp, your reluctance to acknowledge this fact is entirely your responsibility and of little interest, or use, to others.
"We are all entitled to our own opinions, but none of us are not entitled to our own facts."
My expertise lies in photography and graphics arts. During my forty year career in this area I have enjoyed reasonable success in may genres, enabling me to do what I love throughout my entire adult life. At the start of my career as a photographer I worked for 22 professional photographers as a freelance assistant, all based in London. As a photographer I have content in Conde Naste publications including Vogue and Tatler ans Mirabella. My images are constantly used by the international press and travel journals. My portraits have been requested by many celebrities and persons of note. I have been lucky enough to work for the national railway here in the UK. I travelled the networks recording the "Listed" structures that the railway own. This has given me a fascinating insight in to the works of the famous architects and engineers of the golden age. I have travelled the length and breadth of the country that I love. Literally Land's End to John O'Groats, and to far off destinations. I have shot as far afield as the Caribbean, Australia the USA and Europe, the Far East, including Indonesia and Hong Kong and Macau with a foray in to mainland China when it wasn't so easy to get in. It's fair to say that Photography is my area of expertise. I am happy to exchange views on the topic of photography forever. I am on a continual journey, socratic in nature. The more I learn, the more I find out I don't know.
How's your learning going?
The Cleanliness of the Mask
There have been a couple of comments regading the cleanliness of the mask. This has been very rewarding.
As with all considered images, I set out the weave a spell. The image was deliberately dark and moody, as mentioned in the article, and as such, it was lit accordingly. The image was used during a recent biotech conference, as a visual metaphor to illustrate the gravity of the current situation, and I posted it on social media, as I thought that both the shooting and the retouching may have some further value to photographers starting out.
Some of you are concerned about the hygiene standards of the mask itself, and I thought that I would tear down the curtain, to reassure you all that the mask, although very real, and the associated story true, was used as a prop to illustrate a point. The marks and dust have been "enhanced to look darker and grimier. There is no "retouching" as such. I merely painted light and dark to emphasis the dirt and to increase the visial impact of it. To assuage any anguish, I have taken the time to snap it again so that you can see its actual condition. I hope this settles the more literal amongst you.
Image shot to as an illustration that lighting and reouching have been used to weave a narrative.