The Dan Kennedy Pro Lighting Workshop

Dan Kennedy (top right), his crew and us. What a happy bunch we are. Picture, courtesy of Dan Kennedy.

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.

A behind the scenes shot of Dan overseaing one of the students as he takes some shots of the talented model Shane.

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.

Another behind the scenes shot of the beautiful model Julian posing for one of the students.

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.

My curated edited pictures of Shane @shanenolan_alive

My shortlisted images of Julian @Julian_Nayiga

My final selection of pictures of Yani @yani.matsunaga

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.

Shortlisted for the British Life Photography Awards 2018 (BLPA)


An artist in residence. Lewis Hazelwood-Horner. BLPA shortlisted for my submission image ‘An artist in Residence’ under the portraiture category.

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!

Portraits of a cow, a wicked witch, a fool and a dame

This can only mean one thing…

… Panto portraits!

Nice feather duster you have there in your hand sir! One of the pantomime cast posing for a portrait.

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.

As you can see, this was the not so flattering background I had to work with.

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.

There’s no smoke without a panto dame. This was the picture I took of the front stage just as they let rip with the dry ice machine and thought it would make for a good background to the individual portraits I was taking.

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!


Adventure in Pantoland

Oh no, it isn’t, oh yes it is!

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:

2018 – Camelot the Panto

2017 – Once Upon A Time

Gear:

Canon 5D MkIII
Canon 5DMkIV

Manfrotto 055 Tripod
Manfrotto Ball Head 494RC2
Peak Design Everyday Backpack 30L
Canon 600EX-RT Speedlight

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Lens

A bag full of memory cards and batteries

The 12 disguises of Christmas

I came up with the idea of creating this fun little stop-motion selfie for the 12 days of Christmas. I used what we had gathered over the years from the Christmas box and hey ho here we go – the 12 disguises of Christmas!

See you next year!

5 things that got me gingered up this December.

Oh my word, how did we get to December so quickly! The last month has zipped by with such speed it’s difficult be believe in less than a week it will be Christmas! With a hop, skip and a jump we will be fist footing into the new year where we reset the clock and start the whole thing all over again.

Below are a few things that grabbed my attention in the last month that you might find of interest too.

Merry Christmas and see you on the other side for Brexit (ooh, now that’s going to be fun). 

No.1 // Film – They Shall not grow Old – Peter Jackson

The Imperial War Museum and the BBC wanted to use their black and white film archives of the first world war to commemorate the centenary year of the Armistice. Peter Jackson took the original black and white film footage and turned it into a stunning visceral colour documentary – They Shall not grow Old.

. You can view a couple of clips on YouTube where Peter describes how they laboriously turned the black and white footage into colour. You really have to watch it to see what a stunning job they’ve done and then watch the incredible movie afterwards.   

  

No.2 // Adobe Photoshop action

If you subscribe to Adobe Create Magazine you can get your hands on a fabulous Photoshop action which turns photographs into drawings. From Photoshop artist Nuwan Panditha (BlackNull) comes the Scribble Artist Action Set exclusively to readers of Adobe Create magazine.

The action set applies pen strokes, colours, and background textures to photographs transforming them into unique, custom drawings. 

No.3 // Photographer – Alexey Titarenko

Alexey Titarenko was born in 1962 in Leningrad (now St.Petersburg) and has been taking pictures since he was nine years old. After the collapse of the Soviet Union he produced several series of photographs about the human condition of the Russian people during this time. To illustrate links between the present and the past, he created powerful metaphors by introducing long exposure and intentional camera movement into his amazing and atmospheric street photography. His St. Petersburg body of work from the 1990s won him worldwide recognition. 

No.4 // pottery – Joe Smart & Emily Stephen

Jono Smart and Emily Stephen, are a Scottish based couple who live and work together in two studios on the top floor of a converted Victorian school in East Glasgow. Jono works as a potter and Emily as a woodturner. They open their website shop a number of times throughout the year but you better be quick as the work often sells out within just a few hours. Their work is stunning, simple, classic and elegant and if you want to buy any of their wares you better sign up to the newsletter to be one of the first to know when the next shop opens.

 

No.5 // Stationery – Present & Correct

Present & Correct has been around since 2009. As well as selling their own unique designs and stationery items, they also source and sell unique and vintage stationery items from around the globe. This is the sweat shop for stationery lovers.

How I create my holiday photo books

Overview

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?

Workflow

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:

  • Accommodation details and places visited.
  • Flight details: carrier, airports, dep/arrival times.
  • Cost details: flights, accommodation, and spending money.
  • Exchange rates.
  • 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:

  • Fonts.
  • Colour.
  • 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.

Equipment used

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.
  • Gorilla Pod.
  • A6 notebook.

 

Below are six pictures showing some of my holiday photo book covers.

The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-29The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-38The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-22The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-6The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-16The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-5

 

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.

The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-4The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-21The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-28The Shortbread Shed-photobooks-44

 

Below is a slideshow showing various spreads from different holiday books

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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.

S121_How to create a holiday photo book

 

 

The beer with a bang is back for bonfire night.

The explosive big bang home-brew trilogy is back in time for bonfire night. 

Big Bang, Short Fuse, and Pocket Rocket, my home-brew beers have made a welcome return this October just in time for bonfire night. 

The Shortbread Shed- Firecracker beer label-1

The trilogy is back this October!

I haven’t made a home-brew for a while now and since we’re heading into deepest and darkest autumn I thought it was time to get the beer making kit out and start the brewing process in readiness for the long winter nights!

I have always loved watching fireworks but I also get just as excited by looking at the brilliant designs, typography, vivid colours, packaging, shapes and sizes of the actual firework themselves. The graphic design plays just as an important role to me as the explosive bang it produces.

Last year I wanted to pay homage to these British iconic symbols for my latest home-brew project underway at the time. For this autumn I wanted to create a just as suitably appropriate label. I thought to myself why not resurrect last years version instead of trying to reinvent the wheel!

And so I dusted off the printer, inserted ink cartridges and breathed a new lease of life into one of my favorite beer labels. CHEERS.

For full details on the fireworks beer label design process, click here Firecracker beer.

 

The Shortbread Shed- Firecracker beer label-3

A homage to the classic pocket rockets.

 

The Shortbread Shed- Firecracker beer label-5

Light the fuse and stay well back! A close up of the tissue paper used to cover the bottle top, designed to look like the classic tough papers on top of fireworks and rockets.

 

The Shortbread Shed- Firecracker beer label-4

A closeup of the beer labels showing the three distinct logos, typography and colours used to reflect the classic firework packaging

The Shortbread Shed- Firecracker beer label-6

The Firecracker party pack packaging above.

 

S115_fireworks beer labelsS115_fireworks beer labels3S115_fireworks beer labels2

Artwork for Pocket Rocket, Short Fuse and The Big Bang beer labels.

S115_fireworks beer labels5

Party pack packaging artwork.
firecracker beer flag
Artwork for the party pack stick flag.

For previous beer label creations click the links for FlipperooneyThe Wonky Woo Wa and Spring has Sprung

Quotes that got me thinking No.16

The Shortbread Shed-movement

“A blurry photo communicates feeling
in a language that perfection never will.”

Yan Palmer

The mighty Glencoe

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.

The Shortbread Shed-Glencoe 7

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.

The Shortbread Shed-Glencoe 6-2

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.

The Shortbread Shed-Glencoe 5

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.

The Shortbread Shed-Glencoe 4The Shortbread Shed-Glencoe 3The Shortbread Shed-Glencoe village