A Little Portrait(ure)

A portrait of my daughter; I managed to catch her in a pensive moment, looking very thoughtful.  The post production was changing the image to Black and White then adding some duotone tinting.  I don’t have the colours or ratios to hand but I particularly like this, if I was to do any further work on the image it might be soften it a little to give a more retro feel to it.


Dearest Lily


New Stock Sites

As old stock and microstock agencies fails, like a forest after a fire, new shoots spring up from the leaf litter.  I’ve been watching this with interest and there are few newer agencies that look quite interesting, as always most of the make the commitment to the photographer, via the best rates of commission or some other carrot to entice people away from other agencies, but as we’ve seen in the past, that often goes out of the window once they become huge payers in the game.  So watch this space, I’ve uploaded a test set of 10 images for initial approval to gain trust with the agency, we’ll see if they’re approved or not, if they are I’ll start uploading and tracking the sales, to see if they’re as good as they claim.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention, that their current lead time for approval is about 130 hours, that’s about 5.5 days and weekends don’t count, so you can probably safely assume that it’s a full week to turn new images around.  Again. we’ll see how accurate that is.

T’was a Cold Dark Night…..

SmokeScreen Publicity Shot

SmokeScreen Publicity Shot


…. well, it wasn’t that cold, but it was dark, and I found myself in a field, near a gig venue, with a band, and a working light that, well, wasn’t.  I’ve gotta be be honest, I put on a confident face, and hopefully none of the guys realised how difficult it is to work in the dark whilst trying to setup shots, so my thanks go out to Smokescreen, for being so patient with this particular photographer.

The shot itself was relatively simple and like many, many works, the idea was an adaptation of something that’s been used for bands before to give a look of mystery, and perhaps even impending doom.  Most notably I tip my hat to Mick Rock who was the photographer for the cover of the album Queen II, with the most obvious difference being that he lit the band from above, to give the iconic contrasty image that is known throughout the rock world.

My image was a composite of five individual images, all lit at a 90 degree angle from the side (imagine shooting a light directly into the subjects ear) using a narrow grid to reduce spill.

Hope you like it.


Less Live more Contrived.

As much as I love to shoot live concerts and gigs, I’ve gotta be honest, sometimes it can be somewhat restrictive, creatively speaking; so to that end one of the reasons that I’ve not been posting is due to spending time developing and improving other technique.

I’ve managed to pull together a couple of band shoots recently and picked up some work on an artists solo album, so I’m starting to develop a lot more from that angle, in the meantime I’m mixing a lot of the live work in with it too.

I’ll post some images in the next week or so of an album launch that I covered in addition to some of the band shots.

Stay tuned.

HDR – Just get over it!

This topic has been raising it’s head again and again over the last month or two, most recently on Scott Kelby’s blog, and also on the “The Lightroom Killer Tips” site. So here’s my take on it….

Ya know, life really is too short, especially when it comes to beating your head against someone else’s opinion. A very wise man once said “A mind changed against it’s will, is of the same opinion still” if you don’t like HDR, that’s cool, I’m certainly not going to waste hours of my day going on a campaign about how wrong you are, and yet that’s the current situation, and although in the broad scheme of things this blog post won’t be change anyones mind, that’s not why I wrote it.

In every language and every religion, there’s a prayer or a saying or a proverb from some wise dude somewhere that basically says this (or some version of this)..

Worry about the things in life you can do something about and don’t waste your time stressing about the stuff you can’t change. It’ll give you grey hairs and wrinkles and achieve nothing positive.

So if you see an HDR image, and it looks fake, who cares! Really! It’s art after all (or not depending on your view!) if you don’t like it, turn the page, click the “next” link, move along, forget about it and get on with your day, no one requires you to like it, and there’s certainly no need to go all “Canon vs Nikon”, or “Film vs Digital” on it.

Take a deep breath, let the stress go and move along.

Incidentally the same goes for the pro-HDR crowd who certainly aren’t exempt from the whole evangelistic zealotry either, don’t feed the troll, if someone expresses a dislike of one of your images (HDR or not), it’s ok, move on, liking your image, isn’t a requirement, nor is liking HDR, high key or low key, or anything else. You (probably) won’t change their mind, either by insulting their aesthetic vision, or their intelligence, take a deep breath and move along.

Do You Care What Happens to Your Images?

Last week I saw a news item about Clause 43 of the UK Digital Economy Bill.  For those of you that aren’t aware, this particular clause addresses the matter of Orphaned Works.  Here’s what it’s about in a couple of sentences as I understand it (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).  From a 5,000 ft view, it basically says that the UK government has recognised that an in ability to use works (in this case photographs) simply because the owner/creator/copyright holder cannot be traced and therefore permission is unable to be requested, is a severe detriment to the UK’s cultural heritage.  To this end they put together this completely barmy bill, that says if the originator of the image cannot be readily found and identified after making a best effort to do so, then the photograph could be considered and Orphaned Work, and as such be available for use by the person that promises they honestly, really did look very, very hard for the originator of the work.

I’m sure many of you can see how this is wide open to abuse from people that want images but don’t want to pay for the use, after all, as the phrase goes “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission!!

Anyway, a bunch of very well respected photographers organisations and agencies got together, to propose alternatives to those already put forward by the Government.

I just wanted to use this post to draw peoples attention to that site:  http://www.stop43.org.uk/

Take note, be aware, spread the word…..  in the long run it could easily be your images being used without permission, and if you don’t live in the UK, this applies to you just as much, after all by definition, an Orphan Work is one where there is no indication as to who owns it, wherever they are in the world!!

Flash Triggers

OK.  So it’s been a while.  Great to see so many of you joining up to the Concert Photography Community over at Ning (link can be found in the side bar if you’ve not been there yet).  I’ve been spending the festive season checking out low end flash triggers.  Whilst I accept that there’s a strong likelihood that I’ll be jumping on the Pocket Wizard bandwagon eventually, for now, I just wanted to see what was available.  I’ve checked out a whole bunch of different sources of information and settled on a product that I’m quite happy with.

It’s important to understand that when I say cheap we’re talking about triggers/receivers that are less than £70 (about $100 US), which inevitably means that we’ll be dealing with “cheap far east imports” (not to be confused with expensive far east imports).  This means that the prices are low, but the quality can be extremely variable, as can be seen as you read through the reviews of the many different triggers out there, but them’s the breaks 🙂

One last thing, most of these can be found on eBay in one form or another and when you’re browsing eBay, if you look closely many are available shipped from Hong Kong, and whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there are a few things to be aware of the biggest of which is the import duty that you have a good chance of getting stuck with as your gear passes through customs, and secondly if the gear is DOA for any reason, it’s a pain to return it back to Hong Kong (remember what I said about variable quality?).  However if you look closely there will be some sellers that have already gone through the import hassles and duties hassles and already have them in your country, which is a much easier thing to deal with.

So the winner was Yongnuo CTR 301P, which I bought from UK eBay seller fotobyte-uk. I still can’t believe it myself, but I bought a remote wireless trigger and two receivers for the astounding sum of £42.99 (about $60 US) that’s about £12 per piece, and the shipping was free.  They shipped in a couple of days (with CR2 lithium batteries!!) and worked right out of the box.  They work in very close proximity (some remote wireless triggers have been know to misfire when they’re too close together) and they work way across a 20ft room (which is fine for my purposes).  It’s important to note that I’ve not used and abused them over a period of time, and they’re definitely not very robust (what do you want for that price?!?), I can’t comment on overall batch quality, but for me these things have saved me a bunch of cash, since splashing out on the high end of Pocket Wizards would have set me back more than £500, which will buy me lots of these of these, which I predict will serve me in the 90-95% of shoots that don’t require the extra stretch and robustness that the higher end brands provide.

One last thing…. did I mentioned that they can also act as light slaves (triggered by other flashes) as well as wireless slaves!! Nice!!

Yongnuo CTR-301P Wireless Triggers/Receivers

Yongnuo CTR-301P Wireless Triggers/Receivers

Low Light Frustration

I’ve been wanting to get outside for a week or so and try some nice low-light shots, long exposure in the order of minutes.  Then it snowed…..  Then it snowed some more…. then it froze over and iced….  then it snowed some more… now it’s raining, you gotta love that UK weather!  I don’t need it to be perfect weather, but snow and rain are sure to diminish image quality.  Keeping my fingers crossed for some non-bad weather for a few days and I’ll see if I can’t get a few of these pictures out of my head and into the camera.

Lighting Musing

Wow, the first post of 2009 comes in February, which makes me feel a bit sad that I’ve gone a whole month without yapping on here.  I’ve recently decided to start looking at some lighting solutions because let’s face it, without light the photographer is lost.  But those who are familiar with my work will know that I prefer to work with available light and fast lenses, whether it be portraiture or music photography, day light and available light have been where my love has been.  There’s nothing quite as spectacular as a portrait taken when the daylight is diffused in just the right way, at the correct angle to make (or exceed) the image you have in your mind.

But two of my favourite photographers also use additional light to create a mood and an effect that blows me away frequently, one I have mentioned in this blog several time, Damien Lovegrove, who has gone from strength to strength in his commercial career and now authors DVD’s, speaks at professional conferences, writes for magazines, the list is endless.  The other sadly died in 2002, Yousuf Karsh is generally heralded by some of the top portrait photographers as a leader in the field, his work had so much depth and often created an image that epitomises the subject’s inner personality (Yousuf was quoted many times that this was because his interest always was in the personality rather than the image itself!).  The one thing that both of these great photographers have in common is a background in stage lighting, Damien at BBC Television, and Yousuf experienced and experimented in a theatre environment.

Now Damien is proof that he loves to experiment with lighting, Yousuf was amazed at the possibilities using incandescent lighting, so I’m now looking at my options to take the plunge in to the mystical realms of lighting.  I’ve started doing research and have decided that although more expensive, the freedom offered by a mobile solution like Elinchrom’s Ranger line or Broncolor Mobilite seem to be the way to go to give freedom.

Once I’ve made a choice and started experimenting, I’ll be posting some images for critique, but in the meantime, if anyone has any good resources for lighting knowledge and information, I’ll gladly accept it, since entering the world of photographic lighting feels like the first time I picked up a camera and wondered what difference changing the F-stop made?  It’s quite overwhelming.

One last thing, if you’re not familiar with Yousuf Karsh’ work you can find him right here:  http://karsh.org


Imelda May

Imelda May actually opened for Joe Bonamassa at NEC in Birmingham, although I’ve gotta say I enjoyed her and her band every bit as much as I did Joe.  She has a style jazzy blues, and has many Rock n Roll & Rockabilly tunes in her bag of tricks.  If you like the Lazy Jumpers or other Jump Blues style music, you’ll love Imelda, she’s well worth a listen and I saw her new CD (Love Tattoo) in Zavvi the other day and this link will take to the CD at Amazon UK.

As always, a link a to her gallery in my portfolio can be found here….

Imelda May @ Birmingham NEC