Portrait shoots with Hanna and Emma…

Not the most imaginative title, I know. Anyway…

A while ago my friend Hanna posted some images of Debbie Harry taken by Andy Warhol on Facebook. I hadn’t seen them before but instantly really loved them as a set of cool, simple portraits of a very iconic woman. There was also something about Debbie’s look in those photos which really reminded me of Hanna herself. That was my lightbulb moment! I suggested the idea of “recreating” the images with Hanna taking Debbie’s place. Unsurprisingly, Hanna was pretty keen on the idea and with that a new personal shoot was born!

The key to getting these shots right was the hair (a wig in this case) and the make up. These areas are not my forte, but fortunately I know someone very talented in that department: the amazing Emma Watts. I contacted Emma and she was really excited by the idea as well.

Emma set about sourcing a wig and all the necessary bits and pieces while I sorted out the location (thanks to The Castle for helping me out there!). Pretty soon everything was in place and we were good to go.

To give a realistic, 70’s/80’s feel I wanted to shoot these portraits on film using my Canon AE-1. I wasn’t able to get any film from the 80’s but the Fuji Superia 400 that I did use still gave me a nice, vintage feel to the images. I lit the shots using two Aputure Amaran AL-528W LED panels: The key light was on a boom above the camera pointing down (I’m not massively keen on the harsh on-camera-flash style shadows on Warhol’s originals and wanted something softer) and the other was pointed at the back wall…

2014-07-16 - Hanna AE-1 35mm 02

2014-07-16 - Hanna AE-1 35mm 01

2014-07-16 - Hanna AE-1 35mm 03_FLICKR

As well as shooting a couple of rolls of film, I also shot a few frames with my Canon 5D-MkIII. I had the opportunity to, thanks to my good friend Ashley, use an Impossible Project Instant Lab and print some of these images to SX-70 Polaroid film essentially using my iPhone as an enlarger. Below is a selection of my favourites:

2014-07-12 - Hanna Instant Lab_COLLAGE LANDSCAPE

With the Debbie Harry shots, the plan was to create something with a very retro feel but while we were all together, Emma and I wanted to try something more towards the other end of the spectrum. We have a beautiful print by Marion Bolognesi hanging in our kitchen and it was this that inspired me for the next shoot. Basically, we wanted to turn Hannah into a human paint canvas! The idea was to go for a more high end, fashion shoot look with the colours on Hanna’s face being vivid and saturated while everything else around was very muted. Emma went to work again turning Hanna’s face into an explosion of colour (while I filmed it all – more about that in a minute) and this is what we produced:

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I’m really happy with how both set ups came out and it was great to work with both Hanna and Emma again. Cheers guys; you’re the best!

Because I’m not one for sitting around and like nothing more than making life “more challenging” for myself shall we say, I decided to shoot my own behind the scenes video here (mainly of the make up processes for the two set ups) – so if you want to see more of how it went down, check out the video below:

Best of British 2014

GB Bouldering Team 2014

Last month The Castle hosted this years’ selection event for the GB bouldering team. I was involved with the filming of the 2013 Best of British event at The Biscuit Factory and really enjoyed the day, so I knew I wanted to be involved again this year. It’s always inspiring to watch climbers at the top of their game making short work of some seemingly impossible blocs! As a bit of a change from last year however, this time round I was on stills duty instead of video. I’ve been doing quite a lot of video work for The Castle over the last few months which I really enjoy, but it was really refreshing to be covering a comp in a slightly different way this time round.

The whole thing was on a slightly smaller scale than last year (crowd wise), and took place in The Loft. The comp was split into two rounds with four problems for the men and four for the women per round with a five minute on/five minute off format. Being up in The Loft was great for me as there’s plenty of sky lights windows up there to provide plenty of ambient light. The shape of the wall(s) itself meant that I could spend most of time up on top shooting down at the climbers which makes for much more interesting photos and shooting with the 70-200mm (predominantly) meant I could get up close and capture some of the amazing expressions. I was really pleased with the shots I got from the event and it was totally worth, once again, getting totally covered in dust and chalk (at least I remember to not wear all black this time).

As well as shooting the comp, Gaz asked me if I could do portraits of the team members for the GB climbing team website which I was more than happy to do! We managed to arrange things so I could shoot the photos (shown above) during the break between the two rounds. I wanted to keep them simple and consistent, just nicely lit portraits on white, so I set up a mini studio in one of the training rooms at The Castle and managed to get them all done in under an hour (thanks to Dave Mason for the help rounding everyone up and for the team themselves for being so easy going about the whole thing, especially while they were trying to focus on their climbing!).

The team put on a great show and I’m looking forward to the watching them on the next round of World Cup events. Unfortunately, there has been some financial issues with team recently, so if you’d like to donate to help the team pay for their travels, there’s a Crowdfunder campaign up and running now and all pledges are very gratefully received.

Here’s a selection of photos from the event!

Team GB Selection Comp 2014 Team GB Selection Comp 2014
Team GB Selection Comp 2014Team GB Selection Comp 2014Team GB Selection Comp 2014 Team GB Selection Comp 2014

Team GB Selection Comp 2014

Team GB Selection Comp 2014 Team GB Selection Comp 2014Team GB Selection Comp 2014Team GB Selection Comp 2014 Team GB Selection Comp 2014Team GB Selection Comp 2014Team GB Selection Comp 2014 Team GB Selection Comp 2014Team GB Selection Comp 2014Team GB Selection Comp 2014 Team GB Selection Comp 2014Team GB Selection Comp 2014

 

 

 

 

Hanna

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.

 

Phil Noir…

So, despite my best efforts to keep my blog more up to date, it seems it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. Wedding planning (two weeks to go!) has taken over somewhat and work has been pretty crazy too. I’m not complaining about either of these things; quite opposite in fact. However, that doesn’t excuse the fact that this blog has been neglected and I need to put that right…

To kick things off, I thought I’d share a few photos from a (not-really-all-that-recent-now) shoot I did with my mate Phil. I a concept idea that I wanted to try out which was inspired by some cool photos of David Lynch that I’d seen and as Phil was one of the few friends I had who smoked, he seemed like an obvious choice. However, he informed me shortly after I mentioned the idea to him that he was in the process of giving up smoking! He was using a stop smoking book written by Allen Carr which, luckily for me, tells you to continue to smoke while reading the book. He only had a couple of chapters to go, so I had to act fast! We managed to find a date in the diary which worked for the both of us, and set to work. Here’s what we produced…

The shot above was *the* shot I really wanted to get, and I’m pleased with how it came out. I wasn’t totally sure how I needed to light it to get the look I wanted, and as it turned out, I could have really done with another light. My 430ex-II which to begin with was camera left had to be moved to the right and behind Phil to light the smoke in the way I wanted, which then left me with nothing to lift the other side of Phil’s body and face. I currently only have two Speedlight flashes, and because of the short notice of the shoot, I didn’t have time to hire one. Annoying, but not the end of the world. All part of the learning process, I guess.

Below are a couple of shots which taken with the original setup, which I think came out really nicely. We took all of these shots on Phil’s roof terrace out the back of his flat and it was DARK out there! This made focussing a real nightmare, so I also had to end up shooting everything on a tripod, getting the focus as close as I could with the small amount of light available and hoping for the best! After a couple of false starts though, we pretty much nailed it.

After getting the shot I wanted, we decided to flip the set up round and shoot a few more against the lovely exposed brickwork of Phil’s flat. Again, focussing was tricky, so these were again shot on a tripod with my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM giving me the luxury of being able to zoom in and pull out wide to get some different compositions…

 

Here’s a shot of the set up I was using for the second set of shots. The Westcott Apollo soft box I have on my 580ex-II has been on of the best recent purchases I’ve made. I love that thing, and the quality of light it gives out is beautiful. I’m toying with the idea of getting the 60″ version too…

So, that was it. After we finished up, we went and enjoyed a really nice dinner which Phil’s wife Stacey was preparing while we were outside messing about with cameras in the dark. Good photos; good food; good wine and great company: a pretty perfect evening as far as I’m concerned!

Stacey…

It’s was becoming increasingly apparently that since returning home from South Africa, and subsequently working incredibly hard on the video, that my stills shooting hard taken a real back seat. Flickr and this blog especially were getting very neglected, and before too long I was starting to feel the urge to get shooting again. My portraiture project I’d been working on had also taken a back seat, and I was keen to get this going again. Among the list of potential victims models I had in mind was my friend Stacey. I’ve known Stacey for about four years now. She’s the wife of my good friend Phil (I even photographed their wedding) and I’ve been wanting to do a portrait session with her for a while. When I broached the subject with her she seemed really keen and after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing on both of our parts we finally managed to get a date nailed down to do it. I had a pretty cool concept idea for what I wanted to shoot with her, and I was really excited as the evening rolled around. Mother Nature however didn’t seem as keen as us though, and on the evening in question, we were treated to a steady downpour of rain. I was incredibly frustrated, but so excited to take some shots, we agreed to go with a contingency plan of doing some simpler portraits at Stacey’s flat. As it turned out, it was an incredibly successful evening! We did two or three different setups and I ended up with an abundance of shots which I was incredibly happy with (and which she was too!). Below are a few of my favourites from the evening…

Stacey was, unsurprisingly, a joy to work with. Very enthusiastic to try different things and even more helpfully for me, incredibly patient. I’m really looking forward to doing another shoot with her soon, and actually being able to try out my initial idea. It was probably a little foolish on my part to plan a fairly complexed outdoor shoot for the middle of December, but hey, why make life easy for yourself, eh?…

There wasn’t a huge amount of retouching to be done on these shots, but I after seeing a couple of other peoples before/after shots I thought it might be interesting to show a comparison of what I did do in Lightroom/Photoshop compared to a SOOC shot…

More to come soon. Doing these shoots seems to be as much an exercise in time/people management and organisation as anything else, but it’s all good fun!

 

Smalls

Last week I (finally) made a start on my portraiture project that I’m supposed to be doing this year. The project is basically to get some nice portraits of my friends who I climb and hang out with regularly at The Castle. Although the people involved are climbers, that was just my starting point, and the shots won’t necessarily be climbing related (although I dare say some of them will be). My first victim model was my friend Smalls. I’d be looking forward to shooting her for a while as, despite what she says, she’s very photogenic. Also, I’d had a rough idea of a composition for her, so it seemed like a good place to start. She’s a really talented graphic designer, and I thought that would be a good thing to focus on. These shots were all taken in her flat where she does a lot of her design work from, liberally decorated with various props and things. You can read a bit more blurb about what I did and why I did it on Flickr.

It was a really fun shoot. Like I said, I had a vague concept and composition for the image I wanted to shoot, but we tried a few different things which happened quite organically and I ended up with some other really cool shots which I was really happy with. It’s certainly lit the fire under me to do more! Watch this space…