Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Next Step (Evolution)

When I set up this blog way back in March 2008, I had a very specific agenda in mind. This was to be the place where I would share my day-to-day thoughts, musings and activities so that you might get a glimpse into my world as a professional photographer.

Three years later, and I hope you'll agree I've done just that. Certainly judging by the feedback from readers, I have.

But things move on and now, coincidentally 3 years to the day, I find myself at the point of yet another evolutionary step in my online activities. First it was the GBP Blog, then came In The Frame, my monthly newsletter. These were the first places to announce a number of changes to my main photography website and, more recently, the blog proclaimed the launch of my all-new podcast, The Active Photographer...

Ah yes, The Active Photographer. What started out in December as a simple weekly audio update of my antics has grown into something far more involved - and far more exciting - than anything I had imagined. Just 13 shows in, and already it's about to see some big changes.

There is clearly a lot of overlap between the podcast and this site, which is why I have decided to merge the two. From now on, any written content that I put out, any links to web content which I think you should see, will be appearing on The Active Photographer.

The result, of course, will be a fuller, more vibrant and interesting site - but it also serves another purpose. By now, you must know that I use Twitter and Facebook to share a lot of information... Well, TAP fits snuggly into the community of great, friendly and creative people I am talking to on a daily basis.

All the forthcoming changes to The Active Photographer will see the site reaching a far wider audience and offering much, much more to its visitors.

I'll be posting an announcement there tomorrow, to bring everyone up to date; in the meantime, you can pick up the RSS feed here.

So there it is - the GBP Blog is moving home. Thanks to everyone who has supported the this site over the last 3 years - it means a great deal.

This is not goodbye, as they say, it's the start of something big. So why not come on over and join me for a cuppa and a natter in our new home. I think you'll like it here.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Big Red Fun Bus

Wednesday saw me undertake an assignment for one of my long-standing clients. An absolute pleasure, it was a prime example of how working with a simple setup can help get the sort of pictures I and my customers want.

On this occasion, events were centred around a big red double-decker bus which was used as an activity centre for children who live in a particular community. With distractions such as computer games, mask painting and giant Jenga - not to mention the temptation of free pizza - my job was made easier by the fact they were so engrossed in what they were doing.

In spite of the threat of rain, the weather was pretty kind to us. There was no need for umbrellas (for the 'outdoor' Jenga, Community Support Officer and group shots) and the onboard pictures were helped along by some strong, but diffused, sunlight coming through the bus' large windows.

This equated to the use of natural light for the great majority of my shots upstairs; below required the use of additional lighting via an SB-800 flash gun. Using a D3 set on Aperture Priority, sensitivity was set somewhere in the region of ISO 640-800. Lens choice, because of the restricted available space, was mostly my trusty 24-85mm although, on occasions, the super-wide 10-20mm was brought into play.

With any shoot, I'm always looking to get a variety of perspective in my images. And of course, lens choice is the first consideration for this. You want an all-encompassing wide shot? Fine, stand in a corner and shoot wide. Close-up detail? No problem - zoom in with a telephoto or go in close with macro.

In order to get the best out of those lenses, a photographer has to be prepared to move around with his/her subjects, to interact with them where necessary, to exploit the qualities of the kit being used. The great thing about natural light is that it allows subtlety; yes, the subjects are aware of the photographer, but they soon just accept his/her presence and get on with the task in hand. As a photographer, you're then free record the action in near silence.

The picture above is a case in point. I saw this young man sat there and could immediately visualise the shot I wanted. The camera was already set up, so my next step was to sit down at his level, ask his name and see what followed. He was an excitable little chap who loved to play up to the camera (I knew this from having photographed him in the past), so it was only a matter of time before I got a reaction from him. Then - and only then - I raised my camera up, went in close and started releasing the shutter.

As ever, there's a formula: Colour, reaction and context - 10% technical, 90% people management.

For more behind-the-scenes information about this shoot, check out The Active Photographer podcast - Episode #11.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Steve Edge - Dress For A Party

Every now and then, I come across a video out there on the Interwebs which makes me stop and think.

Sometimes such films make me pay attention because they are funny, other times because they are sad. Or they might be simply thought-provoking, clever, quirky, funny...

I was shown this excellent little Ross Casswell production whilst having a good ol' chat with Matt about the wonders of video now being shot on DSLRs (which this was).

We both liked it - let me know what you think.

Dress for a Party from Carwell Casswell on Vimeo.

Monday, 24 January 2011

I like picture books

One of my University lecturers once said that he hated 'picture books.' You know the sort of thing - coffee-table photography books which have little to no editorial in them, instead relying on the photographs themselves to get the message across.

His reasoning was something along the lines of how he disapproved of the way pretentious photographers were exploiting their work (and its captive audience), simply to make a quick buck and if they were that set on being 'photographic artists,' they should probably just think about getting their work up on the walls of a gallery. Ooph.

I can see his point. I don't necessarily agree, but I can see his point.

Personally, I love seeing my work come together in any way, shape or form - whether that's on a client's website, in a national magazine, in a self-published book, whatever. It's often been said that pictures are no good just sitting on a hard drive - they should be enjoyed by others, employed to increase awareness of a situation, or to generate revenue if used in a commercial context.

By now, you will be aware of my Fountain Jam book project. I'll be editing, laying out and generally putting this together next month, but already I'm thinking about getting this year's book project under way. No details to share with you yet - you'll just have to watch this space!

Anyway, the point is, it's really important for us photographers to create bodies of work other than those which are commissioned by our clients. If we don't, all we have to show for ourselves is a bunch of pictures depicting interpretations of other people's ideas.

I like 'picture books.' Regardless of whether they are produced by contemporary photographers or creators from other disciplines. If I admire their work, chances are I'll take a look at any new collection they unleash on the viewing public.

One such example is Chase Jarvis, who I have mentioned in previous posts and on The Active Photographer podcast. Not so long ago, Chase brought out a new book called Seattle 100: Portrait of a City, which is a fine example of what a self-driven book should look like.

Whether you like his work, or you simply want a great photography book to inspire some fresh thinking (especially if portraits are your thing), I'd highly recommend you take a look.

My copy is sat on the bookshelf, waiting to be brought into action just as soon as I have a spare moment - but from what I've seen of it already, the ol' brain will be buzzing with ideas once I properly indulge myself in the pages' rich, contrasty, black and white images.

The Active Photographer - Episode #6

... Portraits And Picture Books.

This week's show is a fair bit shorter than usual, as time is against me.

I'm on location in London, talking about the technical and aesthetic considerations involved with corporate portraiture.

Also... Do you like picture books? Why are they important for photographers, and whose would I recommend?

Episode #6 - Portraits And Picture Books:

To check out more, head on over to, where you can listen to this week's show and see its corresponding show notes, get in touch with me directly and subscribe via iTunes or RSS. All previous episodes are also there, too.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Active Photographer - Episode #5

... Food for thought at ExCel.

This week, I’m in London again - but not to undertake any assignments. Instead, whilst visiting the Outdoors Show at ExCel, I stop by a couple of stands for a chat about their products and how they might fit nicely into my activities.

I also collect some new business cards en route, just in the nick of time. The process reminds me why they are so important for promoting oneself… and why I am so grateful my supplier came up trumps once again.

What do you do when you haven’t got time to stop and eat whilst on location? Simple – you munch on a nutritious energy bar. Hear what Matt Willis of Mule Bar has to say about how to feed a busy photographer!

Last week’s show went behind the scenes as I filmed a video review of an Aquapac rucksack; in this episode, I also catch up with their product development director, to see what other goodies are on offer for photographers.

Episode #5 - Food For Thought At ExCel:

To check out more, head on over to, where you can listen to this week's show and see its corresponding show notes, get in touch with me directly and subscribe via iTunes or RSS. All previous episodes are also there, too.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Looking ahead to 2011

So, it's that time again - where I put down a few thoughts about what lies ahead in the next twelve months and, more importantly, what I would like to achieve. But before I do, I want to recap on what I said around this time last year...

A quick glance at my 2010 to-do list is rather pleasing; with the exception of one or two points, I made real progress on all of my intentions - and those which you might describe as 'could try harder' are, relatively speaking, quite low on the list of priorities.

Last year, I talked about how the economy was presenting a real challenge for a lot of people, and how many turned to social media for reaching out to potential business contacts. Google Wave was the big thing, but the internet is a fickle mistress... and we all know what happened there!

It's true to say, though, that my online activities have come on leaps and bounds this year. The most rewarding and promising of developments have undoubtedly been the creation of my Facebook page - for which I won an award - and the launch of my podcast, which has its home at I must be doing something right, as both channels are creating contacts and opportunities which I'm sure I would never have encountered otherwise, and the feedback has been fantastic.

As for taking time out for myself, photographically-speaking... Well, I am glad to say last year's project - Fountain Jam - has been really well received, and I can't wait to finally put together the layout together over the next couple of months and see the book printed!

So then, what's on the list for the next twelve months?


  • Write a blog post at least once per week.
  • Interact more with others' blogs, via comments and forums.
  • Create more behind-the-scenes videos.
  • Extend my podcasting activities/further develop
  • Continue my self-driven yearly projects, including another book for 2011.
  • Conduct more product tests/reviews.
  • Extend my use of wireless speedlights - regular lighting tests for own benefit.
  • Work more with the outdoor market - if this is you, let me know!
  • Build on the GBP:Workshop tutorials which were set in motion last year..
  • And yes, keep on top of that Wired magazine subscription!

Once again, this little lot should keep me going for a while...

What about you? What are your aims and ambitions for 2011? Whatever you've got in mind, have a great one!