I recently attended an intensive one-day pro lighting workshop, taught by the fantastic Dan Kennedy, a London-based celebrity and fashion photographer.
The course was held at Shoreditch Studios, London and run from a purpose built photography studio located underneath a railway arch.
I was one of the 12 lucky, keen and eager students ready to learn from Dan and hopefully gain first hand tips and tricks from this successful professional photographer.
Along with the other 11 attendees there were Dan’s two PA’s in assistance. Keeping the momentum going as smoothly as possible throughout the day. These girls were brilliant at keeping us all on-time and on-track ensuring a smooth transition and flow from one setup to the next. It allowed all of us a fair chance at directing the models and taking the shots we all wanted to get.
There was a super friendly, knowledgeable and helpful photographers assistant (helping us to dial-in camera and lighting settings), a stylist, hair and makeup artist and three beautiful and talented models; Shane, Julian and Yani. A cameraman was also onsite recording the behind the scenes for future reference.
Dan was super friendly, knowledgeable and approachable. He shared a few of his stories about some of the celebrities he’s photographed over the years. He explained his shooting style, techniques and business philosophy and we all lapped it up.
Dan demonstrated and explained how he would set up a shot. From initially creating a mood board/contact sheet of ideas, to the lighting and modifiers he would use and in what circumstances he would use them. Camera, settings, lens choice and finally how he imports, edits and then sends his images off to the clients.
He also spoke to us about the importance of communicating and directing the models/clients and keeping them engaged. Finally he offered some super insights from his photography career to date, where he started, his big breaks, words of wisdom and caution and especially to be prepared to improvise at a moments notice!
Below are a selection of shots taken on the day and I’m super pleased with the end results. If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of Dan’s workshops then I would highly recommend it.
We covered a lot of ground on this very much hands on training day. We used polyboards, backdrops, gobos, lighting, flags and diffusers.
I’ve not properly worked with models before and these three made it so easy. I had a few pre planned poses I wanted to try out but these guys went with the flow so easily it was almost impossible not to get a great shot. They were so easy to get on with and were up for trying all sorts of crazy and wacky poses.
Below are some images taken from behind the scenes.
It’s the second year in a row now that one of my pictures has been shortlisted for the British Life Photography Awards (BLPA). The picture I submitted was of the painter, Lewis Hazelwood-Horner (RBA and Threadneedle Prize winner) taken at his studio.
It was a privilege to spend half a day photographing him in his home studio, north of London. It was fascinating to watch him work on one of his paintings. He is well known for his painting technique of building up layer upon layer of thick oil paint. This style gives his canvases and subject matter a real texture and characterful look about them.
I was amazed at just how quickly he applied the paint and how much he could create in such a small amount of time.
Although I took this picture in March 2017, It was only recently when I was going through my images on my computer that I came across it again. This was at the same time the BLPA 2018 submission for entries was announced. I thought maybe I could submit this picture and see what happens!
This was my third year of taking pictures on the evening of the full dress rehearsal for the Killigrew Drama Society (KiDS) pantomime, the Adventure in Pantoland by Alan P Frayn at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans.
This year I wanted to take some portraits of the cast before they went on stage. Time was extremely tight on the night as everyone was so busy coming and going. I only had a couple of opportunities to capture anyone that was willing and able to have their portrait taken just before going on stage or just coming off.
I set up a small umbrella and a Speedlight in a room next to the stage. The background was poor no matter where I tried to do a setup. I decided the best plan of action was not to worry about the background at all. I would concentrate on taking the portrait and then I could remove the distracting background later in Photoshop, replace it for a more interesting one.
So, Aladdin was first, followed by Tommy the cat, then it was the turn of The Fool, Prince Charming, Snow White, a Villager and Fairy Honeysuckle. And these were just a few of the incredible characters appearing in this years pantomime.
Below is a rogues gallery of some of the incredible cast that performed in the pantomime. Click on an image to enlarge.
Each portrait took no more than between thirty seconds to a minute to take. I couldn’t miss this opportunity to take pictures of these actors in theire incredible makeup and costumes.
Below is the image which replaced the boring backgrounds of the portraits. I had taken the picture earlier of a rather atmospheric stage shot with smoke lingering on the stage and backlit by the stage lighting.
Below are three examples showing the before and after post-processing. Removing the distracting background and replacing it with the much more atmospheric smoke version makes a panto world of difference!
It’s that time of year again where goodies, baddies, villains, dames, witches, and bad jokes appear side by side and onstage for the Killigrew Drama Society (KiDS) pantomime the Adventure in Pantoland by Alan P Frayn at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans.
This was my third time being involved taking pictures at the full dress rehearsal of the KiDS pantomime.
It amazes me just how much work and commitment the cast and crew put into the production for just three live performances. Starting in September the cast gets together two nights a week for rehearsals. Then, closer to the actual performance it’s almost every night through late December and early January until show time. The first performance is on a Friday evening, followed by a matinee on the Saturday and the final performance in the evening.
The full dress rehearsal, lighting and sound checks are on the day before the live performance, talk about cutting it fine for any last-minute changes!
A fantastic effort from all the amateur volunteers, the full dress rehearsal makes for some great picture opportunities. This year I managed to take a few quick portraits of some of the cast before they headed on stage.
The backdrops and lighting made for some great pictures. Although at times trying to get a good exposure was really tricky. The technical crews were still adjusting lighting throughout the rehearsal and just as I would nail my exposure the lighting would completely change from being spot on to being totally black or completely overexposed. Oh well, it kept me on my toes if nothing else. Out of all the images I took on the night I managed to keep around 10-20%, which wasn’t too bad.
To see previous years pictures click on the links below:
When creating a holiday photo book or any other photo book for that matter it really pays to think and plan in advance (and I’m talking, even before you go on holiday). This blog gives some key principles (in no particular order) I apply to new projects. At the bottom of the blog I have attached a pdf and a hires version of a workflow I use when working through a piece of work. Hopefully you can apply a few of these ideas and principles into your own future projects.
Tell a story about the trip
First impressions count, so jot down your immediate thoughts on arrival! Then, as each day passes, note down what you got up to. By the time you get back home unless you’ve written all of this down you’re going to have a tough time remembering what you got up to and in the order you did it!
Describe your: location (countryside or city) /accommodation/atmosphere/people/local area (modern or old)/weather/restaurants/food/bars/costs/beaches etc.
What was the local food like, best restaurant, was it reasonable or expensive, how much were taxis/hire cars, a glass of wine/beer?
Did you do any activities or travel to other locations? Did you travel by car/bus/train/plane/boat?
This is the workflow I use after I come back from holiday.
Create a folder in Lightroom naming it with the location visited, the month and year.
Download all images from cameras into the folder above.
Import all files into Lightroom.
Start the picture culling process. Be brave, be bold, there’s no room on the HD for all those second rate images – Reject all that don’t make the cut. Delete all over/under exposures, blurry/out of focus shots. Get rid of all the rubbish and if using bracketed/continuous shooting modes, pick the best one out the bunch. I do this three to five times on average until I whittle it down to about 10%-30% of the original import.
I delete the rejects and save the rest in readiness for the book.
I think about the format of the book I want to create and then make the decision as to portrait or landscape and the physical size (page count doesn’t matter at this stage as it’s really easy to add or subtract pages as you layout the book).
I start editing pictures and then flowing them into the page layout.
Type-up my journal I kept on holiday and decide whether to keep it in one section of spread it throughout the book.
Creating the map and infographic is next.
Organise book into sections if needed.
Once everything has been flowed into the book and I am happy with the layout I will go through captioning all images that require a description.
First proof stage. I create a pdf version of the book and print a hard copy. I then use this to markup any issues needing correction such as typos, spelling, layout and and further image editing requirements.
Make all corrections as marked upon first proof, create pdf, print off a hard copy and markup any additional amends. On average this could take anything between two to five times but it’s an essential part of the proofing process.
Once the above is complete I am happy to proceed to print. I will choose the quantity, paper stock, and cover type before uploading online a hires pdf to Blurb’s website for them to print. I can then relax and start getting excited about receiving my very own unique holiday photo book.
Book sizes and finishes
There’s a diverse array of sizes and finishes to choose from. Think about:
Size: do you want to create a pocket book or coffee table book.
Orientation: portrait or landscape.
Cover: hardcover image wrap, hardcover dust jacket or soft cover.
Paper type: lustre, matte, uncoated or pearle (this will not only affect how the images will look on the paper but it will also have a big impact on how the book will actually feel. We’re talking tactile, Personally, for me I love the look and feel of an uncoated paper.
Create a holiday map
Create a holiday map showing your location in relation to the local area/town/city or country visiting. You might want to include:
Location of the hotel.
Places of interest/visited.
Use a recurring theme of the area to incorporate into the map such as colours/typography/textures/architecture/shapes and plants.
Applications used to create photo book’s
Adobe Lightroom: for storing, editing and creating the photo book.
PhotoShop: for finer editing control over images, creating montages and other images that can’t be created in Lightroom.
Illustrator: for creating graphics for the infographic and maps.
Blurb: for producing photo books.
Create a holiday infographic
Creating an infographic is a great way to visually show, at a glance, key important information about your holiday. So we’re talking about:
Cost details: flights, accommodation, and spending money.
Length of stay.
Equipment. Technology is cracking along at a pace! It’s interesting to look back over time and see what equipment you took on a trip and how it has evolved over time so make sure to include cameras and lenses.
The total number of pictures taken (it’s an eye opener to see the comparison between the number of pictures captured, compared to the keepers!
Layout, theme, and flow
You can choose from template-driven layouts to get started or go all freestyle and created your own unique look. Incorporate the essence of your holiday in the form of colours and typography. Don’t forget how much of an impact the type of paper you print the book on will also have. Consider the following:
Page numbers: Bottom or top centred/left or right, or middle of the page.
Page layout: Clean/creative/portfolio or travel inspired.
Use captions for pictures.
Write an overview of the holiday.
Create sections describing accommodation (inc bedroom, bathroom, living room, balcony, grounds) pool, local area, trips etc.
I used to travel with a DSLR, at least two lenses (a wide angle, 10-20mm and telephoto, 28-135mm), filters and all the usual accessories. I got so fed up of constantly changing lenses, equipment being too bulky, awkward and rather heavy to carry around with the other usual holiday essentials stash in my backpack. And finally I really didn’t want to take it out at night.
There’s no one camera or lens that does it all. The camera I chose to fulfill my particular travel photography needs was the Sony RX system. It’s so small, lightweight, the spec of the camera and quality of images are amazing. I also take a GoPro along for the same reason but with the added bonus of being waterproof and having an amazing wide angle lens!
Sony RX 100 IV.
GoPro Hero 6.
Below are six pictures showing some of my holiday photo book covers.
The below three images show the different types of introductory text I have used to describe the overall holidays.
Below are examples of holiday maps and infographics from various holiday photo books.
Below is a slideshow showing various spreads from different holiday books
Below are pictures showing the different layouts of sections I have used for the various photo books. The sections range from Accommodation, location, tours, the pool to road trips.
Below are two hires images detailing my workflow process. You can also download a free pdf which describes and shows you the creative process I go through when creating a holiday photo book.
Back in early July this year I took part in the Great Glencoe Challenge. A 26.2-mile Trekathon through some of Scotland’s most breathtaking scenery. From the north end of Glencoe to the foot of Ben Nevis.
It was a fantastic race and the weather could not have been any better (I know, I know, we’re talking about Scotland and Fort William, one of the wettest places in the UK). However, this was one of the warmest summers to bake the entire UK since 1976. Instead of the usual lush green fields and trees associated with our British summertime, the landscape was drifting to a more autumnal colour palette of browns, yellows, and ochres across the parched landscape.
Whatever the colour palette Glencoe has to offer though it doesn’t distract from its rugged and mighty awesomeness. Although the weather on the day of the race was amazing (blue sky, sunny, light breeze and warm – 18-22 degrees) it didn’t make for taking good pictures. It was too sunny, mostly directly overhead and at the wrong angle. For most of the day the sun was casting too harsh a shadows! It wasn’t until the day after when I was heading back through Glencoe on the way home that I managed to grab the images I was after.
There was no more sun, the temperature had dropped, rain was driving in, the breeze had picked up and there was plenty of low lying cloud. PERFECT conditions for taking atmospheric pictures of the Glen.
I pulled over into a lay-by to take some images. It was mesmerizing just sitting in the car watching the constantly changing cloud formations roll in and out of the mountain tops. The landscape was so dramatic and the weather changing so quickly that it didn’t seem to matter where I pointed my lens to get a great shot. Mountains would appear and disappear with each rapidly approaching wave of low flying Scotch mist!
Attached are a few of my favourite images I managed to capture on that day.
Can you believe we’re almost halfway through October already, where does the time go? Tomorrow, the temperature is supposed to get to a balmy 23 degrees in London – in mid October! I know, crazy right? Anyway, apart from the weather grabbing my attention, below are five creative hot topics that have my curiosity all fired up.
I hope at least a couple of these links will ignite your inquisitiveness nature and you find them as thoughtful and as useful as I did. Until next time, enjoy the late seasonal sunny weather.
No.1 // Typography – Wieden + Kennedy London
A typographic treat for the new Honda Civic created by Wieden + Kennedy London.
No.2 // Topography – The National Library of Scotland
The National Library of Scotland has a brilliant site where you can view old maps overlaid on current views. You can flip back and fourth seeing in an instant what it used to be like over the years – fascinating.
No.3 // Podcast – Hurry Slowly
Hurry Slowly is a podcast about how you can be more productive, creative, and resilient by simply slowing down.
Now in it’s second season and hosted by the curious mind of Jocelyn K. Glei. It’s a great podcast on ideas for finding more creativity and meaning in our daily lives. There’s some great interviews covering a diverse array of topics that have really made me think about the way I work and spend my time.
No.4 // Newsletter – Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery is a weekly subscription newsletter edited by Kai Brach who is also the publisher of the super duper Offscreen Magazine. Dense Discovery is a curated mix of practical and inspirational links to inspiring technology, design, philosophy, psychology and culture. Some other great links take you to useful apps, tools, and websites, accessories for the office/home, inspiring art and design projects and some great content covering Thought-provoking things to read, listen and watch.
No.5 // Illustration/illustrator – David Tazzyman
If you have young children and you like collecting some fine art children picture books I can highly recommend the illustrator David Tazzyman. I have a couple of his picture books at home (You can’t take an elephant on a bus and Eleanor’s Eyebrows) and love his loose illustration pen style. His whimsical freestyle approach of the characters in the books are excellent and I love the graphical treatment to the backgrounds. Even if you don’t have kids I’m sure you will appreciate the magnificent illustrations David creates.
Here we go, this is it, the start of the 2018 Great Glencoe Challenge.
In July 2018, I returned to compete in The Great Glencoe Challenge (Scotland’s toughest trekathon with over 5000ft of ascent). A 26.2-mile trek from the heart of Glencoe to the foot of Ben Nevis in Scotland.
The previous year I competed as part of a team and although it was great fun I knew I had a lot more left in the tank as we crossed the finishing line! I knew I was capable of doing it a lot faster (Click here to see the 2017 Great Glencoe Challenge blog) and thought I would return to take care of unfinished business and give the course another crack to see if I could really do it in a faster time.
Part one of my footage shot while competing in the Great Glencoe Challenge. From the start in Glencoe to the halfway point in Kinlochleven.
Part two of my footage from the halfway point in Kinlochleven to the finish line at the foot of Ben Nevis.
So a year later at 08:00 on a cool sunny Saturday morning on the 7th of July 2018 I took my place in line with the other eager Trekkies to get piped across the start line on this epic journey.
Through some of the most spectacular scenery in Scotland, we headed off at a leisurely pace. A wee bit too leisurely a pace for my liking. I really didn’t want to hang around as I was conscious I needed to pick up the pace somewhat to beat last years time. It was difficult to overtake for the first few miles with such a narrow path, overtaking was pretty tricky at the best of times without looking like a right road hog and pushing in at every available opportunity. I decided to go with the pack, bide my time and should an opportunity arise, seize it and slip up another place until the route opened up and I would have no problem overtaking.
I managed to really pick up and maintain my pace at around the five and a half mile mark just past checkpoint one. This is known as ‘the bog’ which is a long stretch of peaty, wet ground that takes you up part of the route called ‘the Devils Staircase’! Now last year the bog was indeed pretty boggy and one of the group actually disappeared up to his knee in it. However this year in Britain we’ve had an amazing summer and there was no exception for Scotland. With weeks of dry sunny weather, almost unheard of for these parts, the bog had literally dried up. The ground still felt spongy underfoot but there was hardly any wet patches around which made the going easier and quicker.
I didn’t hang around, picking up the pace, I soon overtook those I was unable to pass in the previous miles. With a big push, I was up and over ‘the Devils Staircase’ in a cracking time. There’s a long plateau to follow next before descending down into Kinlochleven to the halfway point.
All competitors had to check in at the Leven Centre upon arrival to make sure you were fit and able to continue on the next 13 miles. There was hot food and drink on offer so I grabbed some pasta, garlic bread, and some water. I sat down to eat, then had a quick check over my feet before reapplied vaseline, talcum powder, and a change of socks before I hit the road more energized ready for part deux of the challenge.
A few images from around the course.
For the next 45 minutes, it was a beasting all uphill through wooded terrain until you reached to the top of the hill. From up top overlooking Kinlochleven it was pretty much following a more gentler contour of the hills for the next few miles through a long winding glen, phew.
Although the weather was great i.e. not much cloud, blue skies, gentle breeze and temperature in the high teens to low twenties it didn’t make for taking great pictures. There was too much harsh sunlight. Race start was at 08.00 and because it was in the highlands we had more daylight hours having just passed the longest day of the year. It meant I missed the sunrise and would get well in before sunset, so no golden hour opportunities to make up for it. There was simply no decent light to be had I’m afraid. Last year was much better for taking pictures as it was mostly overcast, raining, low cloud and mist cover and good contract (basically what you would call a traditional summers day in Scotland)! Now that sort of weather makes for great atmospheric shots.
The rest of the course was pretty straightforward although at six miles to go most of my body was aching especially my lower back and the tops of my toes where I seemed to manage to stub them at full pelt on unmoveable rocks all too regularly. Apart from that I was in good fettle and kept up the pace all the way to the finish line.
It was brilliant. I had come to settle a score, I had put the training in and was determined to beat the previous years time. I set off at a slow pace but more than made up for it later on. I had stopped many times to take pictures and video and had allowed 20 minutes at the halfway mark for a bit of a rest, a check over of my body and a change of socks. The weather, well the weather couldn’t have been any better especially for Scotland!
So you may be wondering how well I did. Well, I’m delighted that I did the 26.2-mile trekathon in 7:42:27 and came in a 20th overall position out of 385 competitors. whereas last year we came in at 11:30:49 in an overall position of 378 out of 430 competitors. GET IN THERE!!!
I was really chuffed with that time and of the whole experience during the day. The course was superb as was the organization, the volunteers and marshals throughout the course were brilliant. I finished the day off with a hog roast and a pint sitting down on the grass watching the other competitors cross the finish line, some in a better state than others.
I went back to my B&B just outside Fort William with a couple of cans of beer for a celebratory drink. I sat on my bed in front of the TV and promptly fell asleep!
The finish. What an amazing day. I came 20th out of 385 competitors which I was delighted at.
Finish time: 07:42:27
Categ: Over 40
Race No: 263
Deus Ex Machina is the company and I’ve followed this Australian brand after discovering it on the internet and immediately fell in love.
I was fortunate enough to be on holiday in Bali this year and knew Deus has a flagship store on the island near Canggu, not too far from where I would be located. Intriguingly called the Temple of Enthusiasm, with a name like that who could resist the temptation to go and seek out the hallowed temple and check out first hand, why I have developed such a crush on them.
Deus ex Machina (god from the machine) was born in Australia back in 2005. It’s more a philosophy than a brand, it’s one incredibly creative company. Founder Dare Jennings and Co-Founder Carby Tuckwell wanted to build a company that represented the things they loved without exclusion. It started with their passion for motorcycles and a desire to build custom bikes and parts.
Still located within the original building from back in the day, the company has transformed from a small two hoist garage with a shop attached to the now global headquarters of this creatively diverse multidisciplinary house of fun, known as The House of Simple Pleasures!
The thing I really love about this brand is that creativity seems to flow through its veins like petrol through an engine. So not only do they do amazing custom built motorbikes they also produce surfboards, pedal bikes, clothing, artwork, Vinyl, apparel to movies, events, cafe’s and restaurants.
So, on a hot sunny sticky day, I set out in search of the Temple of Enthusiasm. The Temple can be found on JI. Batu Mejan No.4 Canggu, on one of the many tributary roads flowing down to the beach, some 15 minutes walk away. It’s not just a surf shop, it’s more of a compound, a hub for selling and exhibiting their creativity. You have the usual surf gear, apparel, clothing, flip-flops, wallets, t-shirts and surfboards but then you have an exhibition space, a restaurant, a cafe, a barbers, a custom surfboard workshop, a custom motorbike workshop, a photo studio, a bike show area, an outdoor eating/drinking/events area and an office, oh and don’t forget the skate park!
From an empty space the Temple rose and from two sides, rice fields frame the multidisciplinary complex layout. They even imported traditional Javanese Teak wooden houses to form part of the facility which is incredibly beautiful in and of themselves.
On entering, I immediately got that young boyish excited feeling like walking into a toy shop and being overwhelmed by choice and possibilities, it was a designers dream come true.
Deus have put their creative stamp on just about everything within the Temple. From beer coasters and sugar sachets (I managed to liberate a couple as a memento) to the large hand painted motorbike murals adorning the inside and outside walls.
Art is an intrinsic part of the brand. Yes, they make amazing custom built motorbikes and surfboards and thousands of other cool stuff, but it’s everything in-between that makes this amazing creative brand who they are.
I absolutely loved the whole Deus brand experience and philosophy. Their message is spreading and temples are beginning to appear around the globe from Sydney Australia where it all began to Bali, France, Madrid, Milan, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. “The stores are all different, a seed that grows into a different tree depending on the local soil it’s planted in, but they all ultimately share the same routes”.