In the quiet, in the shadows at the back of the hall, I do a lot of thinking about what it really takes to do this job well.
In the quiet, in the shadows at the back of the hall, I do a lot of thinking about what it really takes to do this job well.
If you happen to have a) a garden b) a camera with a shutter drive and c) a collection of small people with summer holiday interests that include waterfights and shooting things…
Got an iffy leg at the moment, otherwise I’d have been running here this morning.
So I took my camera down instead…
Glowing with pride, a newly-minted Queen’s Counsel bursts through a passageway in the heart of the Inner Temple, London’s maze of legal chambers and halls.
One of my very favourite clients is the Heatherley School of Fine Art. They do some fantastic events throughout the year, and January marks the exhibition of work by the staff in the Bankside Gallery.
When I ordered my Canon 1DX Mk2s a few months ago, I hadn’t spotted that I was also entering a competition run by Wex Photographic. First I knew was that I’d won it, and I’d landed a day’s workshop with top sports snapper (and all round excellent man) Eddie Keogh. We headed to Holme Pierrepont near Nottingham to get up close with white water kayaking.
This is really part of a much bigger theme of “how we undervalue our work”, I suppose, but I’m sometimes asked a simple question: “can I buy a print of that?”.
(It’s about many other things too – it’s about marginal costs of production, it’s about motivations, and it’s about friendship and favours, if there’s a personal relationship involved in the request.)
One of the lesser known things about digital photography is that the camera often sees more than it’s letting on. Generally speaking, cameras can produce two types of digital image: “RAW” and “JPG” (or JPEG, jpeg or .jpg but let’s not get hung up on that…)
It’s only mid-January, and surely one of the year’s most memorable events is already done and dusted. I was honoured to get an invitation from Zoe Margolis to come and make pictures as 11 incredibly talented acts gave their time in a comedy benefit to raise money for Brook, the sexual health charity for young people.
I’d never thought of myself as gullible. Quite the reverse, to be honest. Master of the Snopes. Debunker of the flimsy tale. And all that.
Not quite so much now, though.
As I did a year ago, I’ve picked out a few favourites from the year just gone – as much to remind myself of all that flew past as for anything else.
Some I’ve published before in one place or another; most I haven’t – they’re taken on a mix of cameras, from DSLR to phone, some as commissioned commercial work, others as personal projects for my own enjoyment. I hope you enjoy looking through them – they all bring back special memories for me. Hectic (probably 25% too hectic at times if I’m honest), but fun, year.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about costs and pricing for photography. Unsurprisingly, really – I send out a bunch of quotes every day for photography work, big and small. Making the right call is vital to putting food on my table.
A few notes about finding a fascinating photo subject, right in front my nose, entirely by chance.
The story begins with some old honey. Been lying around for a while, in need of heating and filtering to put in jars.
1980. Sharp suits. Wraparound shades. Pork pie hats. The days when we had proper fashion tribes, and a row of button badges down the (narrow) lapel – or on the inside of it in the case of a school blazer – was enough to indicate allegiance and provide that little inner glow of belonging.
Maybe it’s unprofessional to admit that things go wrong sometimes. Maybe it’s more unprofessional to conceal that they do, and not to talk about ways that even an abject disaster might not be as bad as it first seems.
Under my nose this morning landed a competition promotion from British Airways that at first glanced looked to be worth a bit of my attention. Send in a travel pic, win some travel. Okay… well, I have some nice travel pics. And I like a good travel.
[NB: 16 March update now added at the foot of this post]
As I did on NYE last year, I sat down a couple of hours ago to pick out the photos that I remembered most from the year just gone.
With these reviews, there’s a tendency to put in some showy-off “good stuff”, and perhaps also a few that haven’t been seen publicly before but have something special about them, but this year I’ve also picked a few that are personal, rather than for work. It’s been a busy year of jobs – scarily so at times – but there’s been a life going on there as well. That’s made the selection a bit bigger than I intended…
I knew the storms were on us last week, even without going outside. I knew, because half a dozen friends tweeted, texted and messaged me at pretty much the same time, asking the same question.
It’s been fascinating to watch what’s been going on in the taxi industry over the last few months. There’s always been a (healthy?) tension between black cabs and private hire licensed cars, but that’s been nothing compared to the storms caused by technology startups coming in to disrupt things.
I’ve had a few requests to say a bit more about the technical aspects of event photography, so this post digs into the settings a little, and also says something about how and when I bring flash into play.
1. Could you just pop in for a few minutes? – we only need a few shots.
Usually the tuning notes that precede a full symphony of requirements – as models, costumes and props descend as if from the Covent Garden Opera House ceiling. The “few minutes” inevitably harks back to (and magnifies) the amount of time the client has spent thinking about this. The “few shots” are what you wish you could administer to the back of their head in a quiet alleyway. (Or that some photographers pour down their neck to dull the pain.)
If a picture says a thousand words, why would anyone want to hear someone say a thousand words about pictures?
This thought did dart through my mind after agreeing to do a turn at a fabulous recent event, about events, for event people.
I’m not a big one for competitions. This is something of an understatement. I put one picture forward for one, once, and heard no more. I’m generally a bit more focused on doing the work than on chasing trophies around. Plus, it’s a lot harder than you might think. Picking a tiny handful out of vast swathes of work – declaring those to be your best – and then being…judged. Publicly. Against brilliant people. Yeah.
Lots of my work involves capturing people, organisations or events associated with technology. Sometimes it’s to feature the founders of a shiny startup, and quite a few times it’s been the subject of this post: a hack event.
A big, big year. So many amazing opportunities, countries (26!) and of course people.
In a last minute rush on New Year’s Eve, here are twenty pictures that really stood out for me from this hectic year.
The Scandinavian leg is hard to describe. Hundreds and hundreds of lakes, thousands and thousands of miles, millions and millions of trees, and a few answers to the question: “what’s the difference between Norway and Sweden?”
I’m writing this on a short train journey. 5 hours. 5 hours is a short one. Just time to justify getting the laptop out. Less than that, and it’s feels like too much hassle. Get your head around that.
You might have seen pictures from this twitter feed sweeping socialmedialand over the last few days <1>. Crowd-sourcing at its finest. People take photos of other people while they are asleep on public transport. They tweet them to @sleepycommuters. This account scrapes the picture, and tweets it from their own account, sometimes citing the originating tweeter <2>.
But it bloody lashes down. A cold, wet, dark November morning. Sane people are hiding in bed for at least another few hours.
The less sane are taking their prized veteran cars on the annual run from London to Brighton. And the really barking mad are heading into the storm to take photos of them.
Star client of the month is the wonderful Learning Pool. I’ve been shooting at their events for a while now, building up a vivid record of their learning events and vibrant community.
I live very near the M25, close to a bridge carrying a main road over it. Just over a year apart, in July 2010 and August 2011, I captured news photos of two spectacular crashes right next to it.
A few weeks back I was in the middle of a portrait shoot when I spotted one of those chance frames that really stopped me in my tracks. Not for the first time, it involved one of London’s bridges. These three red buses, set against a diabolical, stormy City backdrop, became a very popular image of the weird weather of Summer 2012. Pre-Olympics, at least.
One of the very first bits of advice I was given as I clutched a Kodak Instamatic back in the 70s, was to make sure I had the sun behind me when taking family snaps. Well-meant advice, of course, but as I’ve written before, light shining straight into the face of a subject is a mixed blessing. Yes, you can see them well enough – but you see them as they screw their eyes up against the glare, with any hope of casting interesting shadows lost to the flat, boring, frontal (and often intense) lighting.
The official launch of the Shard – tallest building in London by some distance – was trailed as being something spectacular.
Lasers, searchlights, pyrotechnics… Sauron’s eyeless tower conducting a thorough inspection (or benediction) of its new neighbours: much to see and much to capture.
LeWeb comes to London! Today was the first of two days of a little bit of Paris in England (well, quite a lot it seemed, with the whole crew from bouncers to videographers shipped in by the debonair Loic Le Meur). I’m doing photo coverage for a couple of tech publications, and having a fine old time of it.
A simple photo.
Such a powerful thing. It can demonstrate bare, unpalatable truths. It can lead to a swift journey to the courtroom. It can certainly frighten the hell out of people, especially those in authority. And even more so when there are children involved.
(Forgive the clunky title, but I’m quite keen that people stuck in the situation I’m about to describe can find this post.)
If you take your photography seriously or commercially, it can be a very good idea to embed some information about you-the-photographer-and-copyright-holder within the file itself.
The World Naked Bike Ride is exactly what it sounds like. In dozens of cities around the world, cyclists take to the streets for a couple of hours, wearing nothing – or not very much – to highlight a range of issues from cyclist safety to greener living.
A regular part of an event coverage job is making sure there are strong images of the main speakers. Maybe these are captured as they’re out there in the bright lights, perhaps in action doing their piece, perhaps in a relaxed moment. But sometimes the portraiture is more formal.
Last June, on an event shoot for Channel 4, we went for the latter.
Yeah, you’ve heard it before, I’m sure. The best camera isn’t a Nikon, or a Canon, or a Leica. It’s the one you have with you.
That big thing with the boats last Sunday – I was steering one of them, at the very front of the flotilla, with an exceptional vantage point to snap a few frames from as we went along. Of course, steering and safety were my first priority. Of course.
The wonderful investigator and campaigner Heather Brooke collared me at an event last week – could I do a quick portrait while we were both there?
The obvious answer (I’m a huge HB fan) was yes, of course. The slower thought was: great portraits are not a quick business, generally.
A once in a lifetime chance to explore an extraordinary boat.
There I was last weekend, polishing a boat by the river at Richmond, when the Queen’s new Royal Rowbarge, Gloriana, pulled up alongside. Impossibly gleaming and shiny, brand spanking new, undergoing its final preparations for the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on 3rd June.
After a lovely shoot last week – the last one in my sequence for Mozilla – my mind has been on the art of event photography in what might charitably be called “extreme lighting conditions”.
Spotted a Steve Lawson update the other day pointing me in the direction of a few tracks on SoundCloud from a fine, fine singer/songwriter called Luke Sital-Singh. I was bowled over, really. Hadn’t heard anything quite so intense and powerful in years. This was the track that blew me away. This, from a guy of 24. Steve, I’ve said this before, but you have amazing taste in music, and your generosity in sharing it is legendary.
With spring being a mixed bag this year, chances are you’re hiding indoors right now looking at a dubious sky and needing some cheering up. So here are seven images plucked from the archives that all have more or less of a spring in their step.
If you’ve left your social media alone for the Easter hols, you might just have missed this fascinating tale of the guys who crept and leapt their way to the top of the Shard and took some unbelievably good photos.
Unbelievably good? Well, let’s have a closer look.
It’s a challenge that’s much older than digital photography, of course. As long as there’s been the ability to change an image after the shutter has closed, the cry has gone up: “Yes, but that’s not really photography, is it?”
A man called Peter Gregson has been on my radar for a good while now. A cellist and composer, excelling at a creative discipline but also popping up all over the place under virtual tags (in my mind, at least) of “innovative”, “social” and “digital”. While I’d be wary of comparing myself to the brilliance that is a professional musician, let’s just say that things have chimed here and there.
In the world of typography and design, something about which I knew a fair bit once upon a time, my all-time favourite quote comes from a man called Derek Birdsall. “White space is the lungs of the layout. It’s not there for aesthetic reasons. It’s there for physical reasons.” So, so true.
A very dear friend of mine, when he hears someone is feeling a bit down, invariably sends them a story to read: Jerome K. Jerome’s magnificent “Three Men in a Boat”. When it was my turn to receive it, I saw why.
Boats, words about boats, pictures about boats…they weave a special magic. So a day aboard the Nb Midnight Star, a 30-foot narrowboat owned by my pirate friend Glenn Lesanto, was going to be full of the stuff.