Hi there. Happy new year. I hope you all had a good one! Things have been rather quiet on here of late (this is by no means a reflection on the rest of my life – more on that shortly). I have a confession: I was thinking of not writing this, due to time constraints among other things, but I was called out by my literally ones of fans so that sealed it. No dodging this bullet for me, no matter how embarrassing it may be. So here goes…
Oh, just before that however, I should probably add a small caveat: After the wedding, (double) house move and-lots-of-other-stuff filled 2012, I had high hopes for a quieter 2013 with more time to dedicate to all the things I had planned for the year. Then in January my wife told me she was pregnant. So, like the Fresh Prince of North London that I am, my life got flip turned upside down and some things which I had planned to do were not attended to in the timely manner I was hoping for. We are now proud parents to a little boy who is astromonically cute and entertaining and everything is great! So please, just bear that in mind when you read how badly I’ve failed.
Seriously though, look how cute!
On with the blog post!
Watch more films
2013 started off well on this front. Snoo and I were having regular film nights with friends and getting to the cinema pretty regularly too. I even kept a list of what I saw across the year. Things did start to tail off a bit come the summer though and especially as the iminent birth approached. Still not a bad list, but by no means staggering. This is the problem with these open ended goals though; they are very tricky to gauge.
However, before we write this one off, let me bring this to the table: One of the main points of this goal was to expose myself to more beautiful cinematography and to study how and why DoP’s and directors do certain things. I may not have watched as many films as may have liked, but one thing I did watch a lot of was TV. Breaking Bad, The Wire and House of Cards (the new, Kevin Spacey version) all got watched in their entirity in 2013. If you add that up, that’s a lot of time watching and studying. And study I did.
BREAKING BAD TANGENT ALERT: YOU DON’T HAVE TO READ THIS. I’LL TELL YOU WHEN IT’S OVER.
All three of these series were excellent, but Breaking Bad by far grabbed me the most. Everything about it was/is superb. The direction, the cinematography, the script, the acting, the music (both the original score and the additional music choices) – all top notch. It’s not without it’s faults, but they are small and nit-picky and in no way detract from this magnificent series. I have an obsessive personality at the best of times, and Breaking Bad was what I focused it on for the best part of 2013. We were up to date (the end of the first half of season 5) a couple of months before the final episodes aired so despite being pretty later to the BrBa party I still got swept up in the anticipation, speculation and excitement of how it was going to end (not least the incredible Ozymandias teaser which I watched so many times I can now recite the poem from memory). Aside from the 60 odd hours of actually watching the series (actually, it would be more than that now as I have since re-re-watched it), I spent a lot of time reading about various aspects of the show, interviews and different people’s takes (my favourite of which had to be Seriable’s Breaking Bad Observations which went into huge detail about the visual semiotics, similarities, call backs, theories and other minutia of the show. There was a lot of stuff in those articles which I didn’t pick up on at the time, but which heightened the enjoyment even further for me. If you’ve watched the show, I would thoroughly recommend reading your way through that archive link – it is, naturally, very spoilery though so be careful how you click if you haven’t seen it all yet). I also listened to a lot of podcasts, both official – which fed my interest to find out more about the technical aspects of how the show was actually made, and unofficial which just fed my need for crazy speculation and obsessive breakdown of scenes.
Aside from being a throughly entertaining story, the cinematography was really great. My friend Steve convinced me to watch it on this basis alone, enthusing about all the unusual and interesting shots and use of timelapse photography (you created this monster, Steve! I hope you’re happy! You have no one to blame but yourself. And possibly Vince Gilligan). The series really made me rethink how to shoot and light things, and made me push myself to think how to get more interesting images. I have found myself on several occasions unable to get to sleep while thinking of ways of how to attach a camera to various objects etc to get a cool shot. This, while slightly frustrating at the time when it’s 2am and you’re still very much awake, can only be a good thing!
The argument over which is the better show of recent years, The Wire or Breaking Bad still rages on, but I would say having watched both, I personally think Breaking Bad edged it for me, mainly because of the very cinematic and unusual look it has that The Wire doesn’t have (although to be fair, having a BB aesthetic wouldn’t have been true to the much “realer” story that The Wire tells, in my opinion). The simple solution is to just watch both of them.
TANGENT ALERT OVER
Improve my After Effects skills:
I think I did pretty well with this one. I’m a lot more familiar and comfortable with After Effects now which is great! I even created a few pieces created entirely (more or less) in AE like this Breaking Bad related (see above for obvious reasons why) piece of Kinetic Typography:
Like most things done in AE, this was a huge learning curve and that’s part of what I enjoy about it so much. It’s been nice to being able to take on different challenges with it and from there plan more and elaborate projects. I can definitely see a notable improvement from a year ago and I know where I want to take my skills with it and I can hopefully create a really interesting style to my work.
Do more cooking and improve my diet:
I am the pizza master now! Ok, maybe that’s a bit much, but I’m bloody good at them. Snoo and I eat a lot of pizza (Friday night is pizza night!) and we now routinely whip up ours from scratch now (the dough and the tomato sauce). Sadly we don’t have space for a proper wood burning pizza oven, but we bought some pizza stones which are great! There have been a few other additions to the repertoire as well include Eggs Benedict which I make fairly regularly (I poach a mean egg!). I think our diet has improved a lot, if not from just cutting out a lot of the bad things but from making a lot of our favourite dishes from scratch. It’s nice to know exactly what’s going in to these meals.
Having Noah has helped to focus this goal for the future. I’m really hoping that he isn’t a fussy eater (I never was as a child, and I’m still not now) and I want to be able to make a lot of really nice meals for him when he’s older, but without him feeling like he’s missing out on fun stuff. I was always given what my parents were having and I think that’s a good approach. I think tackling curries is the next step!
Train for Hueco trip/Tick ‘Dragonfly’:
Well, this one certainly didn’t go as anticipated. I was in pretty good, strong shape when we left for Hueco and despite getting to my high point on my first attempt, Dragonfly remains unclimbed by me! On our only trip to that side of East Mountain I got a bit carried away trying Hobbit in a Blender (which, annoyingly I didn’t manage to do either despite getting very close) so by the time we got to Dragonfly I was totally shattered. It was also warmer and drier than we hoped/anticipated so my skin was getting shredded pretty quickly! I sincerely hope it’s not the last time we make it out there; there’s still so much I want to do out there.
Get a bike:
Nope. Still not gotten around to that. Storage is the big bottle neck at the moment with that, but I’m still really keen to get it sorted out. Let’s see if 2014 is the year for that.
Finish outstanding video projects/Cut together a 2012 showreel:
At the time of writing this, I am up to date on my editing (although, having said that, the showreel is still outstanding — those things are surprisingly hard to cut!). This will all change in the next couple of weeks when I will be neck deep in footage (loads of stuff happening at the Castle which I’m covering over the coming weeks for starters!). My editing workflow is getting quicker but I feel it could still be a lot slicker. I’m sure a huge quantity of footage sitting, mocking me on my hard drive will be a good motivator.
Catch up with friends/family more:
Snoo and I did pretty well at this across the year. We made a fair few family gatherings and weddings which was nice and managed to catch up with a lot of people. Many of our/my friends all seem to be having children around the same time which is has good reason to get together and with Noah coming along it has meant that Grandparents and Aunties/Uncles have been making more frequent visits!
So, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag of success and failure, and to be honest, I think most – if not all – of these goals from last year will roll over into this year. There’s been a real up turn in business over the last year which is great! I’ve had a real mix of work (a lot of it coming from Liquid Crimson who have been amazing to work with! Never a dull day there!) but I’ve also made a lot of new contacts as well. It’s reminded me how fortunate I am to be able to make a living doing something I love! My big goals for 2014 are to build this client base even more, and to try and work on as many inspiring projects as possible.
I also want to be as good a Dad to Noah as I can be. Snoo has really taking to being a Mum incredibly and if I can be even half as good a Father as she is a Mother then I’ll be happy!
Hope you all have a great year! I have a good feeling about this one.
At the end of March, Snoo and I headed out to America for a holiday. We’d planned a trip down to Hueco Tanks for a week, but due to the way the dates fell around Easter, we decided to squeeze in a few days in Chicago as well. I’ve always wanted to visit Chicago as I’ve been a Chicago Bulls fan since I was a kid (we even managed to get some tickets for a game which was on while we were there which was a big tick off the lifelong ‘to do’ list!).
I decided when we booked the trip that I wanted to document our time in the city. I’d also recently acquired some new gear to try out Lens Whacking, and so the cogs mashed and the idea was born: a lens whacking film of Chicago. And so it was that we spent three unseasonably sunny days exploring the city and shooting it’s best bits. It was a nice change of pace to just be able to chill out and do some tourist-y stuff (we almost never have holidays like that) and film some cool sights.
The lens whacking technique is an unusual one, but I really enjoyed the limitations of having just the one lens (a Nikon E-Series 50mm f/1.8) and the happy accidents that the style of shooting produces. The down time on subsequent flights was then spent cutting together what would become ‘The Windy City’. Enjoy!
For a quick shoot/edit I was really pleased with how it came out. The whole thing was done relatively simply. One camera; one lens; and all edited and colour graded in Premiere Pro (no After Effects on this one). Looking forward to doing more whacking in the future!
I also shot a few stills as well (some lens whacked, some not)…
It’s been a little while, but it’s time for a few updates on stuff I’ve been working on. First up, the video from our trip to Albarracin last year is finished and has been proving pretty popular on Vimeo. It took a while for it all to come together, but Ben and I are both really pleased with how it came together. If you haven’t watched it yet, please have a look below. It’s hopefully enjoyable for climbers and non-climbers alike…
I really feel like this video has been a big step in the two or three years since shot ‘One Week In Hueco’. The purchase of a Cine Slider definitely added a huge amount of production value and I was really pleased with the quality if the footage we shot with it. Amazing how much better a shot can be with some creative composition and a little extra camera movement.
I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it!
Hello all. Happy new year! I hope you’re all enjoying 2013 thus far. I can’t quite believe it, but it’s that time again. Time to to have a look back over the just year gone and see what I’ve achieved, before planning ahead for what’s to come. 2012 was a pretty incredible year. I got married, did a load of traveling, moved house (more on that later) and there was all kinds of craziness in London what with the Jubilee and the Olympics and Paralympics. Good times for sure. 2013, as it stands currently, looks to be a pretty quiet year, but I’m sure that will change. I’m looking forward to it! As fun and exciting as 2012 was, I’m looking forward to having more time to focus on work and pushing myself forward.
So, with that in mind: let’s see how I got on with my goals from last year…
Promote my Photography more:
This is, and always will be, an on going thing of course, but I am starting to get new clients and more photography work generally so I guess I must be doing something right in that respect. Actually, over the last year or so, video work has been taking up probably as much time as stills photography (which is great in my book – it’s not as if the two are mutually exclusive) and I’d certainly like to carry this on into 2013 and beyond. I already have a few video projects and jobs lined up for this year, and I’m more than happy about that.
Instagram 365 Project:
Well, I can give myself a nice big tick for this one. I managed it, and to be honest, it was (at certain points) much harder than I expected. Some days were easy and I ended up with a difficult choice of which image I was going to post for that day, but on the flip side there were plenty of other days where it was a real struggle to get a decent shot. Some images I was more happy with than others, but ultimately I feel like I kept the quality up to a standard I was happy with, which was the main aim. I certainly picked a good year to do it as well, as 2012 was a pretty incredible year (a wedding, two house moves, plenty of trips abroad etc etc), and it’s really nice to have a visual diary of what took place. I briefly thought about continuing the project into 2013 but decided against it. The challenge was really good, and forced me to look for photos when I didn’t necessarily want to, but I think continuing it much longer would just lead to it losing it’s charm and becoming an annoying burden.
Having said that, I will still continue to take photos and use Instagram (even after all the fiasco over their T&C’s), it’ll just be more on my own terms, and hopefully mean the quality will be even higher. Below are a few of my favourite images from the project. Please check out the blog for the full year’s worth (or, if that’s not enough for you, check out my Instagram profile for all my images).
Ha! Yep; did that. Twice, in fact. Maybe I should award myself extra points? Anyway, shortly after getting back from Honeymoon, we exchanged and completed the sale of our place in Kennington. It was a pretty emotional time, what with the come down after the wedding/honeymoon and then having to leave the home that I’d lived in for a good five or six years, and Snoo for even longer! We moved into a friends’ flat which he very kindly rented to us on a month-by-month rolling basis, but after about three months we’d found somewhere to buy and it was time to pack up again. Renting was really useful as we got a chance to check out the area and see if it was where we wanted to stay. It turns out we did, and finally bought somewhere in Crouch End. It’s taken a little while to get everything sorted out and get settled in, but it’s really starting to feel like home. I’ve even done the unthinkable, and started to enjoy DIY. We don’t have any grand plans to remodel our entire flat like some of friends have done, but Snoo and I are getting pretty good at putting up shelves and we plumbed our Washing Machine in too! I’m sure this is something that many people would just shrug off and take for granted, but it feels like a big step for me!
I plan on not moving house again during 2013.
Finish my time-lapse film:
YES! It took some doing, as the perfectionist in me wanted to get it just right, but it is done, and I’m really pleased with it. It seems to be going down pretty well on Vimeo (and elsewhere) which is nice. If you haven’t yet seen it, please have a look:
This project taught me a lot about timelapse, video editing and After Effects, so even though it took longer than I wanted it to, it was a valuable learning experience.
Draw/create more artwork:
Hmmm, well, this one didn’t go too well. I have been drawing a bit more (creating storyboards and the like), but I don’t feel like I’ve done as much as I wanted to. I’m not sure if maybe I set my expectations a bit high. I have had the idea of creating some more mixed media (drawing, typography and photography – and possibly even video/animation) pieces, so this would be a good reason to start drawing again. Slap on the wrist for this point. Hopefully 2013 will prove more productive on this front.
Climb somewhere new (at 7a if possible!):
Aside from three or four weekends in Font and a day at Castle Hill in New Zealand, we didn’t really take too many climbing trips in 2012. The only new area we did visit however was Albarracín in Spain. We spent a really great week there exploring the area and trying out some amazing problems. The style (and certain parts of the landscape) really reminded me of Hueco Tanks which always a good thing in my book!
Anyway, I really enjoyed Albarracín, and even managed to get a 7a on the very first day! Below is a photo of Ceri on the aforementioned problem: ‘Empotration’ (7a) in the Parking sector.
There was one more 7a which I managed to get late on in the week, the really amazing “Techo Don Pepo” at Cabrerizo. Those were the only two 7′s that I managed to do, but the rest of the week was filled with a high quantity of really excellent 6′s, and when we left (skin shredded and muscles aching) I felt like we’d got a really good, overall feel for the place. I definitely want to get back out there at some point as there was so many problems which I didn’t get to try. We also shot a load of video while we were there, so keep an eye out for that soon…
Well, I didn’t keep the list that like I planned to, but I did get through a lot of books in 2012 (including the Steve Jobs book which I mentioned in my post from last year. Considering it’s size, I got through it really quickly whilst on Honeymoon).
This isn’t all of them, but many of my favourites have either been lent out to or borrowed from other people. Obviously, I enjoyed some more than others. ‘American Psycho’ was challenge to read. I’m not particularly squeamish or anything, but some of the scenes in that book took some getting through. Weirdly, it did make me want to see the film again.
Really great! Lent to me by my friend Steve after I mentioned I was reading ‘American Psycho’, it has a similar theme, but is set in the London music scene in circa 1997. There are some gruesome parts but nothing on a par with ‘American Psycho’ and there are some really funny moments, and excellent characters. I need to read some more of Niven’s work.
This took me a couple of “chapters” to get into, but once I did, I was totally hooked by it. I’d never read any of Ronson’s books before this one (you may have noticed in the photo above that I subsequently read ‘The Psychopath Test’ – Oh, and I had seen the film adaption of ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’) but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I found Ronson to be a very level headed, impartial and honest journalist. A very easy book to read and very easy to dip in and out of due to the nature of the (relatively) short, self contained “Mysteries”.
I always really enjoy the Discworld books, and I think Pratchett hit a real sweet spot around the time of ‘Moving Pictures’. I’m trying to read through them in order and ‘Guards! Guards! which comes before and ‘Reaper Man’ which comes after ‘Moving Pictures’ were both really excellent as well.
As I mentioned above, I rattled through this biography while in New Zealand. I never thought I’d get through it, due to the pretty daunting size of the thing, but it is a very engaging and well written. Jobs’ story is a fascinating one (and he certainly doesn’t seem to be as clean cut as you’d expect).
I could go on, but I think I’d be in danger of turning this into a literary blog! I didn’t get through a huge amount of books, but I think on average I came in at just over one a month which, for someone who reads quite slowly, was a pretty good achievement. I shall definitely continue this trend into 2013.
Visit a new country:
I’m giving this one an honorary roll over (possibly ad infinitum, as it’s something I’m keen to keep doing). I didn’t just visit a new country; I visited four! Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Cyprus. Pretty pleased with that – that’s some good quality country visiting, if I do say so myself. Possible destinations for 2013 include: Italy and Czech Republic (Prague, specifically). There’s definitely a lot more of Europe I need to see as well.
Here endeth part 1…
So, that brings me to the burning question: What are my plans for 2013 (other than the few from above which I will continue)? Well, these…
Watch more films:
From frequent conversations with Steve about films, it has become quite apparent that there’s a lot of films that I really need to see. Also, from a cinematography stand point, I feel like I could learn a lot from exposing myself to more movies. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve started a spreadsheet to keep a track of the films I watch (as well as the ones I want to watch) along with some notes about the films etc. I put a call out on Facebook asking for suggestions and I got a huge response, from many different genres and styles so I have plenty to get my teeth into. Hopefully it’ll be a good learning experience and will stop Steve’s constant heavy sighs and looks of distain during car journeys when I say (yet again) that I haven’t seen something.
Improve my After Effects skills:
I really enjoy using After Effects, and I’m constantly discovering new and interesting things to do with it. I want to make a concerted effort this year to continue this and use AE to add a more slick finish to my videos. I don’t have any plans to become a full blown VFX artist, but I’d like to be able to produce nicer looking titles and motion graphics into my work. I have a few projects planned for this. Stay tuned…
Do more cooking and improve my diet:
Since we’ve moved, and subsequently gained a larger kitchen, we’ve been cooking a lot more and making things from scratch. Snoo and I are both getting very good at pizzas now, and it feels really nice to have more control over what we eat. The more elaborate things I try, the more I want to try! I also find cooking really therapeutic and a really good way to make myself take a break from the computer. I’m also trying to lose a bit of weight (I’m 15st 9lb at the time of writing) and by having more control over my food, I will hopefully be able to achieve this. That also brings me neatly on to…
Train for Hueco trip/Tick ‘Dragonfly’:
We’re heading back to Hueco Tanks soon (hooray!) and although there’s always a huge list of problems I want to try, the one that is really sticking out in my mind at the moment is ‘Dragonfly’. I’ve tried it a few times now and I came pretty close on our last trip, so it definitely feels within reach. I’ve been training a lot recently too (we have a finger board up at home now which is proving very useful) and as I know the moves and beta on it fairly well now, I know what I need to train to hopefully get it done. Only time will tell, and hopefully I won’t totally psyche myself out before I even get there!
Other than the Hueco trip, we don’t really have any other trips sorted yet. I’m hoping for a decent (read: dry) spring and summer which would hopefully mean we could explore the UK climbing a lot more. I’m sure we’ll end up in Font at least once as well. I really hope we do, anyway. Also, with our friends Ben & Ceri moving out to Spain in March, I can imagine a trip out there will be on the cards too. I need to be stronger and fitter for all of these; but they are the best motivator for training!
Get a bike:
I can’t really elaborate too much more on this one. I want to do more cardio exercise, and as my knees seem to be slowly seizing up running is pretty much out of the question (on concrete, at least). Plus, I find it incredibly boring. Now we’ve settled in somewhere I’d really like to start cycling again. We need to try and sort out the storage situation first, but hopefully I’ll be able to have a new bike by the summer.
Finish outstanding video projects/Cut together a 2012 showreel:
Before I get super bogged down in new projects this year, I have a couple of things which need finishing. Namely another BTS video I’ve shot with Steve which could be really good with the right treatment. I must make some time for this, as I hate having things unfinished. I’m also keen to cut together a showreel from everything I worked on in 2012.
Catch up with friends/family more:
I’ve kinda stolen this on from Snoo, but it’s a good thing to do so that makes it alright. We’re very fortunate to have a really amazing group of friends in London which I spend a lot of time with (Castle people particularly) but I’m equally fortunate to still have strong relationships with a lot of people I went to school with (as well as from other parts of my life). However, I don’t see that second group(s) quite as much. I’d like to rectify this. Our wedding was so amazing partly because of having all (or at least a lot of) these people in one place. I felt like I needed another couple of days to really get round to speaking to everyone properly, so that’s what I’m hoping to do in 2013. I feel bad for making a lot of promises to meet up and stay in touch more (in the days of Facebook there really is no excuse) but proper face-to-face time is the best way. We’re now in a position to have people over for dinner, and we’ll soon have a fully functional spare room for people to stay over, and I certainly hope people will want to! So, anyone reading this who wants to meet up, please give me a shout!
Right, I think that’s probably enough to be getting on with for one year. There aren’t as many many work based ones for 2013 mainly because a) a lot of them have been covered and rolled over from previous years of doing this and b) after reading this excellent blog by Philip Bloom about the elusive life/work balance, it got me thinking that there are parts of my life which are being neglected that shouldn’t be.
I’m sure 2013 will throw a lot of opportunities my way, in both my work and personal life, and I’m excited about the blank canvas of a year ahead!
Have good one, and thanks for reading!
PS: I will be keeping this blog up to date. Shut up; I will! That six month hiatus was inexcusable!
I really have no idea how it is possible for me to have not made a blog post here since July(!!), but apparently that is the case. Wow. Pretty poor show on my part. 2012 was a pretty live changing year for me (more on that soon) and I can only really offer that up as a, frankly rubbish, excuse for the lack of posts.
Anyway, enough of dwelling on why I haven’t been doing things and more actual doing of things! New year; new start! I was busy last year (very busy in fact) and here is a run down of some of the things that kept me away from my blog since the summer. Shooting and editing video took up a great chunk of my time, so here are some of my favourites:
BlocFest 2012-2013 Promo
First up is a promo video I made for a new climbing competition series which started in October. It’s called BlocFest and it is run by a group of routesetters I know from climbing at The Castle. This was a really fun project to do, and it was nice to actual shoot a more stylised (having full control over lighting etc) climbing short. I’m really pleased with this one, and I hope to do more work in a similar vain in 2013:
Steve Brown – Behind The Scenes
I’ve continued to work with Steve throughout 2012 on a variety of things. He even managed to find some time in his busy schedule to do some personal work, two of which I documented.
The first was with London based American Football team London Blitz:
Steve Brown & London Blitz Shoot – Behind The Scenes
Behind The Scenes – Steve Brown Roller Derby Shoot
Probably the biggest tick off the to-do list however was finishing up my timelapse film from around London. It has taken a lot of work, and lot of standing around in the cold, but I think the final product was definitely worth all those hours. I’m really pleased with it, and I’m glad that I took the extra time and effort to get it right. If you’ve not seen it yet, please have a watch (in HD, full screen and with sound if you can!)
Last, but by no means least, is the video from Blissfields. My last post was a selection of stills from the weekend but the real meat of the job for me was the video side of things. I was the sole cameraman for this, and I worked really hard for two (long) days to capture as much of the atmosphere as I possibly could. Jason at Liquid Crimson did an amazing job with the edit (I was amazed how he managed to turn t around so quickly considering the amount of rushes he had to watch through…)
So, those are a few of my favourite projects I’ve worked on in the last few months. There are a few more which still need finishing off, but hopefully I can get those wrapped up soon as well. I love shooting and editing video, but it is a very time consuming process! I thought I’d ease myself back into blogging with a short and sweet post, and let the videos speak for themselves. There’ll be more to come soon though!
Happy new year everyone! I hope you have a great 2013.
A week or so ago I got a call asking if I could go and shoot some video of the Blissfields festival, a smallish festival not far from Winchester. It sounded like fun so I went for it! I had a hectic couple of days trying to sort things out, but on the Friday morning I was sat on the train, watching the big, looming grey clouds overhead. Fortunately, the clouds didn’t last and we were treated to two days of blue skies and sunshine! Shooting the festival was hard work, but it was also a lot of fun and I got to see and shoot a lot of really great acts. There was probably only around a few thousand people there, but in amongst them were a lot of interesting characters, many of which I did my best to surreptitiously shoot stills of as a little mini project in between all the video footage. Here are a few of my favourites from the weekend. As always, the amazing Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II L USM lens came into its own again!…
It wasn’t all just stealth shooting however. My main job was to cover the main stage, and document the very eclectic selection of acts on show. There were only a few bands that I’d heard of prior to the festival, but I can honestly say that each and every act that I saw put on a great show in their own way, and I enjoyed them all. Many different genres were covered including rock, ska, rockabilly, hip-hop and dance but they were all entertaining and the crowd seemed to be really into just having fun which was great and made for a very fun, relaxed atmosphere. I reckon the highlight act for me though had to be Man Like Me who were really great to watch (and, I later found out, were the guys in that Ikea you’ll-always-find-him-in-the-kitchen-at-parties advert. They didn’t play that though). Here’s a few shots of some of the bands I saw. Enjoy!
This year has been an incredibly busy one for me. I like this fact, but it is amazing and slightly worrying how fast the year is disappearing. It’s July now! Yikes. Despite this huge time rift, I am, by-and-large, getting a lot done which is great. I’ve managed to tick off a few things that I was working on or wanted to do, but it seems that every time I put one project to bed, two more are already waiting for my attention. I’m not sure if this is a good way to handle things (am I spreading myself too thin?) – who knows, but for now, I’m going to keep pushing myself hard to produce better and better work like I always have done.
Anyway, this naval gazing preamble is a long winded way of saying that I’ve finished another video. It is my first full (more or less) timelapse based short film. Aside from just getting away from everything and having a thoroughly relaxing time on honeymoon, I really wanted to try and capture some really nice timelapses of the stunning landscapes of New Zealand and Australia. This mini-project, unsurprisingly, dictated a lot of how we went about travelling round. Fortunately for me, my wonderful wife had already factored this into the itinerary so we had plenty of time to make the more picturesque journeys. Also, fortunately for me, my wonderful wife was (or at least did a good impression of) happy to sit in the car by the side of of several roads (and in a couple of cases, in the pitch dark) and read her book while my camera(s) clicked away. To be honest, I personally think it made the trip more pleasurable; made us slow down and when we did stop, we stopped for a good chunk of time with some incredible scenery to enjoy. I felt like we actually *saw* a lot of the country(s) properly instead of just grabbing a quick snap while with the engine still running. At a timelapse seminar by Philip Bloom I went to last year, he equated shooting timelapses as “the modern day fishing”, which is totally spot on. So, sticking with that analogy, here’s the fish that I caught. Or something. I hope you like it.
I’m very pleased with how it came out. It’s not perfect (but it’s mine – to quote Tim Minchin) but I think it’s rather nice few minutes of footage. It wasn’t without it’s pressures and frustrations, however. Weather was a (slightly) limiting factor, but probably not in the way you’re thinking. In the South island of New Zealand especially we were treated to some unseasonal (apparently) warmth and sunshine! These crystal clear, blue skies were great – but didn’t really make some the most interesting sequences. Obviously, I had no control over this, but I ended up with plenty of footage for what I needed.
The bulk of this was shot with my Canon EOS 5D-MkII and my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM lens. I also experimented with shooting some sequences with my iPhone 4S (with the ‘Timelapse’ app) which actually produced some pretty impressive results, and meant that I could double my output from each location. It’s pretty amazing that it’s now possible to shoot really nice video sequences with a phone. The camera on the iPhone 4S really is great!
Post production wise, all of the sequences (along with colour correction and grading) were assembled in Adobe After Effects CS5.5 (many of them on the fly while we travelled round) and the final film was then cut together in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5. I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable and confident with both of these packages now, and they really are a joy to use. I think that the Warp Stabiliser tool in After Effects (and also directly in Premiere Pro CS6 now, I believe) has to be one of my favourite things ever! It’s come in incredibly handy for taking out those little bits of annoying movement from the timelapses, and smoothing out some of the handheld video footage that I used in the film too.
This project was a really good learning experience for me, and I’m really pleased with the result – The astrolapse sequences especially. Although it was frustrating at times that I couldn’t necessarily get all the shots I wanted or that the weather wouldn’t quite play ball, having to work within a very strict time frame kept me motivated and actually made me shoot more. I think part of the reason that my London film has taken so long is that it’s too easy for me to wait for the conditions to be “perfect” and procrastinate instead of just getting out there and getting on with it. I will rectify this! Any comments or feedback would be very welcome!
Last weekend me, Snoo and my good friend James went up to (the now local) Alexandra Palace for the first day of the 2012 Red Bull Empire of Dirt* event. James (or Speedie as he’s more commonly known to me) stumbled across it a few weeks ago, and mentioned that he was thinking of coming down to Manchester for it and did we want to go. Seen as it was only up the road for us, and sounded fun we went for it. It was a really fun day with some truly incredible riding from the 30+ riders competing that day.
The course, which ran down the hill from the Palace itself, and apparently took around 4,200 tons for dirt to build, featured a really varied selection of ramps, jumps, quarter pipes and berms to make for very exciting runs. The design of the course was, as you’d expect, very spectator friendly and there were lots of opportunities to get some decent views and photos. We entered the event up near the start of the course and slowly worked our way down the length of the course until we settled on a really great spot on the last corner. From here you got an almost 180° view of the last half of the course, a fairly good view of the big “jumbo-tron” screen at the finish line and with the added bonus of being situated at the top of the final straight which featured three big kickers in a line which many of the riders used to full effect. The bulk of the photos below were taken along this last stretch of the course…
The weather and the light weren’t especially great in the end, although they could have been worse and overall I’m pleased with the selection of shots that I got (through a pretty even ratio of luck and judgement). It may have been overcast, but there was still plenty of light to play with, which meant that I could keep the aperture relatively small (around f/8 for most of the day for a nice long depth or field) and the shutter speed fast (usually around 1/500th or faster). Unsurprisingly there were plenty of photographers there, ranging from amateurs to full on pros with a whole host of lights. If I’d have had the foresight, and known a bit more about the arrangement of the day and the layout of the course I could have taken my speedlights along, although I’m not entirely sure if the would have done much good. I do need to look into getting higher synch speeds with them, as I’m currently maxing out at around 1/200th which would have been too slow for what I wanted.
Despite doing a lot of Mountain Biking in my youth (with Speedie more often that not) and being really fascinated by these incredible riders, I’ve not really done much Mountain Biking or BMX photography. It’s definitely something I’d like to do more. I really enjoy watching (the wealth) of BMX videos on Vimeo too, and would love to try my hand at BMX video project as well. If anyone reading this knows any talented riders that would be interested in doing a joint project, let me know!
All in all, a very fun day was had. I hope it becomes and annual event.
It’s been a little while since my last post here, and it’s fair to say that a lot has happened. I am now a happily married man, and my wife and I have recently moved to north London. Thankfully it’s been over ten years since I had to take my driving test otherwise I could have been on course for the hat trick of the most stressful things you can do in your life!…
Actually, that’s not totally fair. The organisation of the wedding, by the end, was getting pretty stressful, but the day itself was amazing! I always slightly suspected that the whole “greatest-day-of-your-life” thing was a bit of a cliche, and something people just thought they had to say, but after doing it myself, I have to say that it is totally true! Simply the greatest party ever with all your friends, family and loved ones in the same room – you can’t go too far wrong really. Everything went to plan and all the guests seemed to enjoy themselves. I definitely felt that I could have done with another six hours or so to get round and properly speak to everyone, but come 3am when I finally went to bed, I was totally exhausted.
The fun wasn’t over then though, oh no! We still had the honeymoon to look forward to. A honeymoon that would take my new wife and I pretty much as far as it is possible to travel before you start coming back on yourself. Yep, we were off to explore Australia and New Zealand! The honeymoon destination was one of the first things we decided on (after the photographer: my friend Amy Murrell who did an amazing job). Snoo is very well travelled, far more so than me, however New Zealand was one of the places she’d never visited so it seemed like the perfect once-in-a-lifetime destination for us.
We’d booked to be away for three weeks, but when you factor in that it takes a day to travel each way, we decided that we’d need to head off the day after the wedding. It took a little mental preparation on my part for the flight, but it turned out to be not as bad as I was expecting. I’m sure the Premium Economy seats (check us out!) helped a lot, but I think after such a hectic build up to the wedding, it was nice to just have some downtime with nothing to do other than relax, watch films and pretend to sleep. Despite the length of the flight, the jet lag wasn’t too bad, and after accidentally falling asleep at 5pm on the first night, we got ourselves onto Antipodean time fairly quickly. We were still getting up early, but it’s always so much easier on holiday, isn’t it? We also used the early mornings to get out and shoot photos and timelapses around the city, and explore parts of Sydney in relative quiet. It was exciting.
This trip would be unusual for us, as it comprised of almost no climbing and a lot of “touristy” stuff. During our time in Sydney (which book-ended the trip) we would take a tour of the Sydney Opera House (I became pretty obsessed with it. Not only is it an incredibly iconic and beautiful building, but it has a fascinating history too), go up the Sky Tower, visit a friend in Manly and visit the world famous Taronga Zoo…
After a few days recovering and sight seeing, it was back to the airport and onto New Zealand. The scale of Australia is hard to take in, and where as I thought that the flight to New Zealand would be a short hope over the water, like travelling to France from the UK, it’s actually a good three hour flight. We were both very excited to visit a new country though and after a night spent with friends in Auckland it was good to stretch our legs (so to speak) and do a bit of driving. We only had a few days in the North Island but we managed to fit a lot in. We covered a lot of ground in our little hire car, and saw a good chunk of the island. Starting in Auckland we drove down to Waitomo (where we went Black Water Rafting – which I enjoyed a lot more than I was expecting) onto Ohkune, and along the Whanganui river road finally ending up in Palmerston North where we’d take a flight to the South Island. During this time I, and my already long suffering wife, shot a lot of photos and timelapses of the landscape. During a seminar by legendary film maker Philip Bloom which I attended last year about timelapse photography, he described it as the modern day equivalent to course fishing, and I think that is a great analogy. You set up somewhere, often very picturesque, and sit and wait for your camera(s) to finish doing it’s thing. This ended up being perfect for our trip. It slowed the pace down, and we’d often stop for an hour at a time at a stunning vista point and really, properly enjoy the view. It’s made for a very different experience to just pulling the car over, grabbing a quick wish-you-were-here snap and carrying on with your journey. Again, after the very hectic months previously, it was a welcome spot of relaxation. I really felt like we *saw* New Zealand…
From Palmerston North, we boarded a tiny little plane, through an equally tiny airport to fly to Queenstown. Even this internal flight (with a change in Christchurch) the flight to the South Island was longer than expected. It has to be said though, it was one of the most incredible flights ever. I thought that the North Island was beautiful, but the South is something else again! Flying over it felt like being in a huge Lord of the Rings establishing shot. It’s clear to see why they shot those films there as it does look like a fantasy world!
Queenstown was/is definitely my kind of place. It’s location at the foot of some impressive mountains makes it a hot bed for mountain biking, skiing and surfing, and as such, has the sort of vibe you’d expect. Like a cross between Boulder, CO and Newquay. Very relaxed and friendly, and bathed in plenty of apparently unseasonable sunshine. It even has a Disc Golf course which was great fun. Queenstown is also the home to the first ever Bungy Jump location (the Kawarau Bridge bungy), and seeing as we’d come all this way, it seemed wrong not to throw ourselves off a bridge with a glorified elastic band tied to our feet! I think that counts as my ‘do something I’ve never done before’ for 2012! It was over in literally a matter of seconds but it was amazing!
After a couple of days in Queenstown we headed north and west towards Franz Josef which delivered a Helicopter ride to the top of the Franz Josef glacier and some beautifully clear nights, perfect for some astrolapse photography (below is a stacked, single image of one of the timelapse sequences I shot in Franz Josef)…
…And a few more from Franz Josef:
Although this was not a climbing trip as such, we still managed to sneak in a cheeky day of bouldering at Castle Hill on our way to Christchurch. The Castle Hill area delivered more amazing scenery and an incredible climbing spot. We only visited Spittle Hill, which apparently is one of the areas which is a little thin on holds. Well, to our eyes at least. Similar to Fontainebleau, you have to look at things a little differently and get creative with what you can use to get yourself up the boulders. We did spend a frustrating couple of hours at the start trying to get our bearings as well as getting into the Castle Hill way of climbing. Being a rather friction dependant area, the fact it was in the mid to high 20′s didn’t really help but we found a few shady problems and get a few things ticked.
Christchurch was the last stop on our whistle stop tour of New Zealand, and it certainly left an impression. Christchurch is definitely a very beautiful city, especially when wandering through it’s vast and beautiful parks in the autumn sun. The fact that the city was struck by two huge earthquakes within a matter of months of each other, and seeing the devastation they cased is incredibly sobering. The bulk of the city centre is cordoned off while many buildings (including, potentially, the cathedral) have to be demolished and rebuilt. Looking over the barriers surrounding this portion of the city at the empty streets is like looking to some kind of post-apocalyptic landscape. I can’t imagine what it must have been, and still be, like to have to deal with something like that. The destruction wasn’t the only thing about Christchurch that left a lasting impression though. Since many of the shops in the city were either destroyed or closed, many have reopened in the form a small shipping container mall. When I heard about this, I thought it would be more like a market with containers instead of stalls. I clearly grossly underestimated the people of Christchurch! No, these were proper, fully finished shops and cafes with floor to ceiling windows and everything you’d expect from a more conventional brick and concrete store, but all contained within brightly painted steel. It was definitely a superb thing to witness first hand. A few random shots from Christchurch…
So, that was it for New Zealand, but we still had another week to look forward as we boarded a plane bound for Cairns in northern Australia. After a couple of weeks of pretty full on driving and moving from place to place we slowed things down a little with a four night stay in Cairns. We had planned to just spend some time sitting by the pool and on the beach, but we soon got twitchy after a morning of that, so on the second day we rented a car and did a big, looping drive around the area. The most exciting part being able to see some Koalas up close which was great! I didn’t feel like I could leave Australia without seeing them, and they didn’t let me down. Snoo pretty much melted at the sight of them which was entertaining to watch. They are very cute! This is Gina who we got to hold for a few minutes…
A day of snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef followed which was yet another incredible experience, and luckily for me we chose a warm, sunny and most importantly calm day to head out on the ocean waves. It was a very long day (leaving at 8:30am and getting back around 5pm) and I think everyone on the boat had a great time, with the exception of a young girl of about ten or eleven who more or less spent the entire eight hours sat on the stairs outside with her face buried in a paper bag. I really felt really bad for her, but also thankfully that it wasn’t me, which it could well have been. As it turned out, we had a great time swimming with the fishes (not like that), even if we didn’t get to see everything we want (namely “Nemo’s” and Turtles).
We flew back from Cairns to Sydney, and that was that. We finished things off with a trip to the zoo and over to Manly, more delicious and very fresh seafood and a few finally timelapses for the road before it was time to fly home. I don’t think we could have asked for a better honeymoon! Pretty much everyone we came into contact with when we were there were very quick to tell us how fortunate we’d been with the weather, and how terrible the summer had been, and indeed we were fortunate. In lots of ways. I don’t know if or when we’ll ever make it back to that part of the world, but I certainly hope we do. There’s still plenty more to see!
I’m not doing it in Economy class though. Just so you know.
If you made it this far through this post, I am very impressed. Apologies for the bombardment of holiday snaps (I know how tedious they can be!). Thanks for reading!
As the weather’s been improving and as I’ve started to have *slightly* more time to do things, I decided I really needed to get out and shoot some more portraits. I’d found a small but cool location in East London that I wanted to try out, and needed just the right person to fill it. That person came in the shape of my friend Hanna (who I have photographed before). It had been a while since we did our last shoot, and she has since changed her hair quite dramatically. These things, coupled with wanting to reshoot her anyway, all seemed to come together perfectly. I floated the idea past her and she seemed keen. After a little to-ing and fro-ing we finally managed to get a date set.
She arrived in London on very warm and sunny Thursday morning, and we headed east to the location, a small, church yard in the heart of the city, chatting and catching up over coffee. Luck seemed to be on our side that day, and as we arrived, the sun was streaming through the trees and arches of the old church and we found a nice, quiet little spot to start shooting. I quickly set up a couple of lights and started firing away. A few tweaks here and there later, and we were already getting some great shots. Here’s a small selection…
Aside from being really photogenic, Hanna is really easy and fun to shoot. She’s really easy going and we always seem to have a lot to chat about which is nice, and means that there are no potentially awkward silences to fill. She’s also really relaxed in front of the camera, and instinctively seems to change and adjust positions and poses with little to no direction needed from me. It’s because of these things that we managed to get so many great shots in the bag in a relatively short space of time.
Once I felt like we’d got everything I wanted from this location, we went off in search of lunch. We both had a hankering for noodles, which surprisingly, was harder craving to fill than expected. It was after 2pm by the time we’d finished and everywhere we found seemed to have been already raided by a hoard of city working locusts. Undeterred, and in no real rush, we wandered over the bridge to the Borough Market area and managed to find somewhere. Once we’d eaten, and with a surplus of time, I suggested heading to another spot I’d wanted to use for a while to do some more shots. Hanna was keen, so we headed off to Vauxhall and on to Battersea Park.
There’s a really amazing looking Pagoda in Battersea Park, and this is what I wanted to use. It had, however, been a couple of years since I’d been there in person, and I have to admit that the distance between it, and Vauxhall station had been somewhat skewed in my memory. I think Hanna began to realise this after we’d been walking for twenty minutes and still didn’t seem to be any nearer to our destination. We stuck to our guns however, and eventually we arrived. Luckily for me, Hanna was suitably impressed and after she’d had a chance to sit with her shoes off for a while as I set up the lights, I think she was glad we made the trek. I certainly was.
I went for a slightly different lighting setup here as there was some really beautiful sunlight hitting the west side of the Pagoda, I set up a couple of bare 580ex-II Speedlights either side and behind Hanna to give some rim light and to try and lift her from the background (I couldn’t really shoot with as wide an aperture as I would have liked due to the ambient sunlight being so bright). I also used my 430ex-II Speedlight with a Lightsphere diffuser to add a bit of fill light onto her face. Again, shooting didn’t take long, but I was very pleased with the outcome.
…And to wrap up the day, I shot some quick portraits the other way (looking back over the park) with a single light in my Westcott Apollo Softbox (followed by a record pack down time so Hanna could get back to Brighton). I like this really simple, but I think very effective setup. I really love the quality of light from the soft box and catch lights that that thing gives!
All told, this was one of the most productive and enjoyable days I’ve had out shooting for a while. I found that my setting up times were getting shorter and was balancing the light a lot more easily which is good. It also felt really nice to get a whole load of shots done, and from a variety of set ups, even if it did mean that editing was a tricky as there was so many shots which I really liked! Huge thanks to Hanna for being so patient with me again and for such an enjoyable day! I feel like a photographic itch has been scratched. For now at least.
Oh, and while I’m here: Hanna, because she is sickeningly intelligent and multi-talented, has written a book (or at least, the first of a series of books). The first of the series ‘Something You Are‘ will be out in December through Peters, Fraser & Dunlop. You should buy it because it will be amazing. That is all.