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Behind the Photo with Monika-C.Mansell

By Leonardo Urena on April 17, 2015


Behind the Photo allows New York Institute of Photography students to answer a few questions about their photograph featured on our Student Photo Gallery.

Behind the Photo with Monika-C.Mansell

Where was the photo taken?

I took this picture in the Ancienne Belgique Theatre, in the very center of Brussels on the 14th of March 2015 during the 5th European Blues Challenge.

I captured this image during the exciting post-contest jam session when the winning blues band from Spain, the Travelling’ Brothers, were on stage jamming with the accordion player, JT Lauritsen, from Norway. This is a wonderful music competition, which saw representatives from 19 European countries perform over two nights (March 13th & 14th 2015).

What inspired you to take it?

As a member of the European Blues Union (EBU) it is my aim to keep the Blues in Europe alive.

I do this by providing photographs of the events for the organization, journalists and editors of Blues magazines within the UK and France.

My inspiration is to try and capture the fun and beauty of the Blues in a photographic form and encourage people to join us next year.

Write a good caption which could answer these 5 questions:

Who, What, When, Where, and Why?

"Jamming the Blues at the European Blues Union competition - the winners from Spain joined on stage by the Norwegian accordion player"

What camera settings did you use?

Canon EOS-1DX, EF24-70mm at 24mm, f2.8, ISO 5000, 1/250s

Tell us a bit about the technique you used.

Taking pictures of musicians performing can be tricky, dependent on the ambient light conditions inside the venue and on stage.

Flash is not good for the band so I use neither flash nor reflector; instead I use stage lighting and work to maintain the atmosphere of the live performance.

The Canon EOS-1DX is a fantastic camera especially in low light conditions. Preset to a maximum ISO of 6400 I’m able to shoot on shutter priority with at least 1/250 of a second, to end up with a grain free, sharp image.

Using a wide-angle lens set to 24mm has the advantage of capturing the interactions and enjoyment of the whole band in one picture.

Tell us anything else you would like to include about photography.

I got my first film camera 35 years ago, which I sadly neglected after having it used for only a couple of years. When I moved to The Falkland Islands in early 2009 I got my first DSLR and realized, that a camera is no guarantee for taking sharp pictures. To learn and understand the basics of digital photography I signed up for a beginner’s photography class in The Falkland Islands and had my first field trip to nearby Bertha’s Beach, taking pictures of penguins. There and then I got the bug. I found lots of highly interesting and useful information about photography online, where I also saw some stunning wildlife images taken by wildlife photographer Andy Rouse, which left me gob smacked and covered in goose bumps. One day I want to be able to take pictures like these, was my initial thought. I signed up for an online photography course and also graduated with the New York Institute of Photography by doing a course in professional photography.

Apart from taking pictures of blues musicians, I am a very keen wildlife photographer. In early 2014, I joined an online camera club (, which was founded by award winning wildlife photographer Andy Rouse. FotoBuzz is the home of inspirational photography, expert tutorials and adventurous tales. It’s educational, fun and a great read, with stunning images, audio and video weaved into the articles. It’s a virtual camera club, an online photography resource that I can turn to at any time and get inspired or learn something new, wherever I have access to the web - computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. FotoBuzz isn’t just for wildlife photographers either. While Andy Rouse delivers great wildlife advice, Andrew James brings general articles and advice on all manner of photography topics, while top specialists, such as the brilliant landscape photographer David Clapp, contribute in depth classes to help me learn.

I'm dreaming of taking powerful images, which show true joy, beauty and skill in the 2 dimensional pictures. In catching a glimpse of a telling eye during a performance, photographing a happy smile on the face, or taking an image, reflecting the confidence of someone performing, it is possible to show a persons true beauty and amazing uniqueness. I believe, a smile - and even if it’s a hidden wry glance, is the unique magic, this to me makes the difference between a picture and a portrait. It is this kind of personal magic I try to capture, which then turns a portrait into a piece of art.

Do you want to become a better photographer? NYIP now offers 9 online photography courses. Request your free course catalog today!