Thursday, 31 December 2009

Introducing: The Vobes-Babbidge Pinhole Camera Project

With the end of another year just hours away, it's time to think ahead to what the next twelve months might hold in store. That in itself will be the topic of a forthcoming post, but for now I'd like to talk briefly about a very exciting project which I will be involved in throughout the whole of 2010...

Many of you will by now be aware of my friend and collaborator Richard Vobes - most likely as a result of following either him or myself on Twitter, or via various audio chats we have recorded this year for (some of which have also subsequently appeared in posts here on the GBP Blog).

Well, now we have taken things one step further, embarking on an idea which Richard came up with a number of months back. Its working title is The Vobes-Babbidge Pinhole Camera Project - and we are very excited about it!

In a nutshell, we are going to be stripping back the photographic process, removing the hi-tech, super-material, computer-reliant aspect so prevalent these days, instead concentrating on producing a set of images as the final outcome of a simplified yet very involved process.

Why so involved? Well, rather than simply purchasing a pinhole camera and photographic film, we will instead be working from scratch - completely from the ground up. As such, the starting point will be to construct our camera- most likely from traditional materials such as wood, varnish, brass, leather etc. And then there's the small matter of the physical medium onto which our images will be physically recorded (clue: we want to make our own).

The final images will for part of an installation/exhibition around this time next year.

For the benefit of both ourselves and those who would like to follow our progress, Mr. V and I will be recording all of our steps along the way - via audio, video, stills and note books. We've already documented our first tentative steps via audio; you can listen to these below in order to get a better idea of just what we have in mind.

Pin Hole podcast - 001

Pin Hole podcast - 002

To keep up to date, either check by here to see new pinhole-related posts, or bookmark the Pinhole Camera Project page over on

Dear diary...

Is it me, or are people getting just a little bit tired of technology, the further it travels along the road to apparent progress?

This may sound like a very blasé question to pose, but it seems that a great deal of individuals I speak with all-too-often find themselves the victim of newfangled ways of carrying out tasks, where their traditional methods never caused such problems. As you might guess, it was my own experiences that brought me to write this post, and one in particular which has to do with organisation and data loss.

In previous years, I have always used a typical, long-established form of diary - a paper-based affair - as I am quite traditional at heart and like the combination of reliability and the strangely-comforting tactility of its pages. But 2009 saw a switch to a more hi-tech solution. Or so I thought.

The rationale was simple enough: As I am often out and about, it made sense to have my diary sync'd up to my BlackBerry device so that, in combination with my online diary, I would be able to view/update my schedule in real-time. Simply put: short of losing a connection, everything would be to hand and I would be able to easily stay on top of my commitments day-in, day-out.

But what is it they say about the best-laid plans? I forget now. What I do remember, however, is that by week 2 of November, my online diary only had entries for the last week of October; by the end of the month, October's records had disappeared completely. And on 16th November, it was already beginning to remove that month's earliest entries. Strangely, January-September and December onwards remained intact throughout.

Now, I'm sure the boffins out there would be able to offer many suggestions about how to recover the missing data and so forth but, frankly, I am no longer interested. At the end of the day, I need my workflow systems to be reliable and dependable (in this respect, a diary is no different to, say, my cameras) and so it is time to seek alternatives for the new year.

With this in mind, then, 2010 will see a return to what I know works best for me - a traditional pocket diary. As I type, there are already scribblings in a nice new, highly portable, soft-cover Moleskine - which allows for much pimpage (probably not an actual word) and considerable peace of mind. By way of backup, I will also resurrect my whiteboard planner in the office, so that activities are always noted in multiple locations.

Granted, a return to 'old technology' would not be everybody's answer to the above dilemma, but it certainly suits me. In talking over this issue with a number of people, a variety of alternative options have been suggested - each not without its own merits.

Even though I have now found my solution, I'd still be keen to hear what you have considered useful in terms for boosting your workflow and/or productivity - so please, as ever, drop me your thoughts in the comments section or via the usual channels.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Looking ahead to 2010

Just as with 2008, I have decided to a write a post centred around a look towards the next 12 months.

It's been a funny old year, for all manner of reasons. Some have been professional - not least of all, the challenges presented by the continuing economic climate; but also I have had something of an unsettled time on the personal side of things, too. There's no need to go into detail here, but suffice it to say that I would once again like to thank all those who offered their support and kind words along the way - it meant a great deal.

But as the saying goes - we must now push forward, onwards and upwards!

The way business is conducted - not just within the photography industry - has noticeably shifted. Clearly, many more people have jumped on the social networking band wagon this year, setting up blogs, podcasts and accounts on open platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Flickr. As far as I can see, this can only be good thing. And from a personal standpoint, thanks to the use of my networking activities, I have not seen a significant loss of trade as a result (regular readers will know that I generally don't spend on 'traditional' paid advertising). Looking ahead with latest developments in mind, it'll be interesting to see what comes of Google Wave... and beyond. All very exciting stuff!

I recently took a few minutes to revisit my 2008 'yearly summing-up' post, to get an idea of just how much of my 'intentions for 2009' list I have actually achieved. Well, in spite of everything, I was pleasantly surprised to realise that I've actually done better than at first thought. So, with this fresh in my head, here is my initial list for 2010 (again, to be extended as time goes on, no doubt!):

  • GBP website - revamp, develop, launch a completely new look
  • Record more audio/video content for GBP Blog; monthly/occasional podcast perhaps?
  • Extend online writing activities (speak up if you can help with this, please! I'm especially keen to target photography, outdoor pursuits, business and networking e-zines, )
  • Consider further tutoring and public speaking opportunities
  • Personal projects - research and develop further; possible exhibition?
  • Continue to build online network, especially via Twitter
  • I must make time to visit exhibitions by other photographers and artists
  • More use of prime lenses, starting with purchase of a new 35mm f1.8
  • Keep up to date with my subscription to Wired magazine - so many good ideas, so much inspiration... it's wasted on the bottom shelf of the coffee table!
  • Ensure that computers remain as de-cluttered as possible!
So that's a start - and enough to be getting on with, I think. I will also be continuing with a number of points detailed on the previous list, despite not mentioning them here.

Let's hope 2010 proves to be a great and successful year for us all. As before, do let me know what you have planned; it'd be great to follow your progress and see where you end up in 12 months' time!

Take care, everyone, and have a great new year :)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Festivities, fun and fireworks

Well, it only seems like about a year ago (give or take a few days) since I last wrote about the 'C' word. Yup, that's right - Christmas is just around the corner once again!

Am I more prepared this year? Um... well, I'd have to go with an optimistic "It's too early to say right now." Certainly there are a few things which have been discussed and which have got my brain moving in the right direction. One major achievement, though, is that I have a date set in the diary for getting the decorations out and put up. Hey, it's progress!

On a larger, more public scale, you would expect commercial organisations to be in full flow on this front. And from what I can see on a local level, they are. Christmas lights, street entertainers, hot chestnut vendors, kiddies meeting Santa's reindeer... all these things were set up and ready to be captured through my lens on a recent shoot for one of the local city councils.

In terms of photography, this was pretty typical stuff for me - but as regular readers know, I love getting involved with events as they present so much subject matter to indulge in! Doesn't matter what the theme is - everything from local themed Birthday parties to internationally-recognised multiple-day events.

Thankfully, I was given a pretty loose brief on this day, with only two main technical considerations. One was to keep an eye on timings, as various highlights were happening in specific places at specific times (such as a choir singing and the turning-on of Christmas lights).

Secondly, I had to be aware of the inclusion of young children (sub-18yrs) in my pictures. Such is our current climate of fear/paranoia/mistrust that I will typically make a point of introducing myself to any kids' parents, explain why I am photographing, and for whom, and then request permission to take photographs.

On this latter point, a standard official minor-/model release form often needs to be completed; something of an inconvenience at times, but at least it does offer some reassurance to all those involved about one's legitimacy and professionalism. In simple terms, it is an official 'permission slip', and is standard practice in our industry.
It's sad to have to take these steps, but an unfortunate necessity.

But back to the event...

All was going well up to about 4:45pm when, with light almost completely faded, the area was treated to a not-altogether-festive downpour of rain which, quite typically, decided to fall in biblical fashion just around the time that the firework display was set in motion, moments after the blessing of the Christmas tre and turning on of lights.

Having researched and arranged my shooting position earlier in the day, all plans quickly evaporated as I only had a 7-minute window and needed to get some - any - shots showing the display acting out behind the cathedral.
In spite of the conditions, I managed to get the tripod set up just in time (to avoid camera shake during long exposures).

So relentless was the weather that I could not very well keep the lens free from rain as the camera was tilted skywards and (due to logistical reasons) I did not have an umbrella to hand. Without exaggeration, the water was literally flowing off my camera and yet the Nikon still performed (another fitting testament to the pro- versus amateur-build quality debate).

You can clearly see the water droplets recorded as out-of-focus highlights in the picture on the left here.
Yes, I could have wiped the glass, but this would only have smeared the water around - and with so little time available, I would most likely have missed my chance to record a decent number of frames.

Now, admittedly these were not the greatest fireworks pictures I have ever produced (they wouldn't be, under such conditions) - but you know what, I kind of like happy accidents. Call it 'artistic license' if you like. Whatever. But at the end of the day, I am a creative who is brought onboard a project for that very reason - to put my angle on recording the subjects I am presented with.

All said and done, everyone seemed to be having a great time and were not put off by this soggy end to the day. The resulting imagery will now be used immediately and throughout the coming year (and beyond) for all manner of promotional purposes. Think in terms of websites, flyers, festivities brochures in the run-up to Christmas, annual reports etc and you won't be far wrong.

You know what? It almost feels like Christmas... :)

Monday, 7 December 2009

Unveiling simplicity

A really quick post for this morning...

I recently undertook a job for one of my long-standing local clients. Nothing over complicated, it was a simple case of recording the viewing of several newly-constructed properties, with the resulting images destined for use in various traditional and online marketing publications.

Given that the people involved were there simply to discuss the new unveiling - and not to be bossed around by their photographer - this was a very flexible shoot which involved me fitting the various imagery of my brief around their schedule.

As is quite typical, the shoot entailed the official 'group' picture, informal portraits and a number of interior scenes showing off the overall spaces, fixtures and fittings. And with the properties being empty, devoid of any furniture, the brief really lent itself to some lateral thinking - after all, how does one make an empty room look homely and inviting to would-be residents? Well, if you know me and my approach, you can imagine that the answer is not too complicated!

Because of my long-standing
working relationship with this client, I knew that they would be very open to the idea of a little creativity in the form of what we technical people call 'wonky angles' ;) It's a simple enough technique, really - you just rotate the camera a little to throw a touch of visual interest into the picture. Simple, but effective.

On a slightly more technical note, simplicity again won the day - I used a single camera, mounted on a tripod (for the interior shots), and alternated between two lenses (note techies: 18-70mm, 10-24mm). Lighting was whatever came through the windows and from the ceiling-mounted light bulbs, apart from the people shots, which required a single flash light either bounced off the ceiling (inside) or fired directly from a position alongside the camera (outside).

So there you have it, a quick post about a quick set of basic imagery which will be used to promote my client and their properties over the medium- to long-term.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Old photographs influence the way I work

This morning saw another local networking meeting, and my turn to give a 10-minute update about just what GBP is all about. At times like these, it's very tempting to go full-force into the 'official' promo blurb about professional digital imaging, how I work closely with my clients, building up one's status, blah, blah, blah...

But as regular followers will know, either via the GBP Blog or my Twitter feed, that's not my style. I'm far too down-to-earth, and perhaps far too honest, about the reality of the way I operate day-to-day. I don't like BS and I don't like people who are blatantly out to impress in an all-out blagging fashion (transparency, in such individuals, is not a good quality!).

So, the basis of my presentation today was to turn things around... ignoring the technical, the corporate, the case study, the computers... instead concentrating on what I know best - me, and specifically, how my passion for old photographs directly influences the way I work.

The picture on the left here is a quick scan showing a number of cartes de vistes dating back to the mid-1800s (ok, to be picky, perhaps I should refer to the larger ones as 'cabinet cards'... but that's not important now).

CDVs have a quality all of their own. Sometimes haunting, always intriguing, they link us with our past and, by default, help create and shape our sense of identity. I always get sucked in by good examples of vintage photography, to the point where my computer Bookmarks folder is bulging and my collection of reference books/cuttings/hastily-jotted notes is dictating the practicality and layout of my office space!

Cutting to the chase, what does this amount to? Simple answer - visual awareness.

By default, the 'source imagery' that I consume also informs, inspires and directly influences the work I produce both for personal projects and for my commercial clients. Maybe a lighting technique, maybe a method of posing subjects, maybe even a colour balance; I never know from where the next moment of inspiration will strike - but it's always an interesting process when it does.

We are all familiar with the process of taking family snaps. And at first, such a loosely-bound approach to photography may seem worlds apart from what you'd expect in my day-to-day high-level work. But there is a common thread between the two - the balance of formal/informal conventions...

I like to work in a relaxed way, regardless of my subject matter. Whether it's a high-brow global corporate or an up-and-coming local musician, I always draw, as much as possible, on my knowledge, passion and interest in order to produce imagery that everyone - myself included - is delighted with.

As such, it is very rare that I produce stiff, 'deer-caught-in-the-headlights' portraits (as often seen in 'traditional' studio shots); much more appealing is to get people relaxed, laughing, enjoying the experience rather than fearing the camera as the cold, hard, recording device that it once was. Often, my subjects aren't even aware of the camera, crazy as that might seem - which is why they look so much more 'themeselves' in the resulting photographs.

What inspires you? What are your experiences of having your picture taken? I want to know - and the best way to tell me is either via the comments section below or by connecting in real-time via Twitter.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Giles on Empty Shops Radio

For those of you who are Twitter-literate and who follow my antics (so simple to do - just look here!), you will have picked up on the fact that from this week, and on occasions throughout the weeks leading up to 19th December, I am going to be involved with a new collaborative project down here on the south coast.

Arranged by Artists And Makers, in conjunction with Worthing Lions and, the initiative is turning a former Allied Carpets showroom into The Upmarket - a space for local charities and communitiy groups to raise funds and showcase their work, as well as a meeting place for other assorted arts-based activities.

Today has been great fun, and my first chance to get properly involved with proceedings. It was also a great networking opportunity (so, a quick shout out in particular to good ol' Mr. Vobes, Marie-Louise Plum and David Rogers - all of whom are super-well connected via the Twitter network, of course).

In terms of photography, I had a casual mixed bag of shots to produce, ranging from the typically formal 'group' shots for publication in local press, to spontaneous promo imagery of radio interview activities 'on the shop floor' as it were.

One person who did not feature in any of the pictures was yours truely (probably for the best, to be honest!). However, I did sit down to record a podcast with Mr. V, in which we discussed the use of photography and new media (such as Twitter, Blogs and audio) in publicising your business, events, musings etc.

You can listen to this simply by clicking on the play icon below:

Play Podcast

If you happen to be in the Worthing area, or else fancy taking a trip down from elsewhere (as Marie-Louise did), the guys will be very happy to meet you and discuss what this whole little shindig is all about. The more of you that get involved, the better!

In the mean time, be sure to check back at the Empty Shops Radio web page to hear the latest podcasts as they are uploaded.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Product test: Aquapac PDA Case

One of the latest additions to my kit bag is an audio recorder, which I've begun using to produce interviews, location reports, video commentary etc for the GBP Blog. And so far, I can't fault it ('initial impression' review coming up soon). That is, except for one thing.

This technology is all well and good, but there comes a time when it needs a little helping hand in more extreme environments. Put simply, the audio recorder doesn't like the rain. Suffice it to say this is an assumption and I don't wish to test the theory - but for piece of mind, I set out to find some decent protection for the thing.

Enter Aquapac, who produce all manner of dependable covers and cases. I have been aware of these guys for many years, and took the opportunity to catch up with them earlier in the year at the Ordnance Survey Outdoors Show. Jump forward a few months and they suggested the 100% waterproof PDA Case for my particular requirements.

Rather than waffle on here too much, I've put together the following short video so you can see and hear the test for yourself:

Several details are not mentioned in the video, as I wanted to keep it fairly brief, but for your reference:
  • This case will float in water, and is submersible to 15ft (5 metres)
  • It has an optically-clear rear panel, good enough to shoot photos/video through
  • You can use your PDA stylus as normal right through the case
  • A stylus holder is built-in
  • The product model reference/number is Small PDA Classic (344)
  • You can also check out more more from Aquapac on their Facebook page

If you have any thoughts or comments, feel free to jot them in the comments section.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

New website - honesty and advice

I need your help. But first a little background info.

With hands held aloft, I'll admit that it's been a while since the Giles Babbidge Photography website was tweaked, revamped, poked or otherwise toyed with. I could come up with a number of excuses but, frankly, there's no call for that. So I won't.

Fact is, the site's looking a bit dated these days. And in the words of John Cage (anyone remember Ally McBeal?) - "it troubles me".

But, hey, at least I've realised this - so I'm already on the road to resolving the situation, right?

There's been a fair bit of change at GBP in the past 12 months. Again, no need to elaborate, but one thing's for sure - the direction of my work and the way I promote myself, my services, have both been shaped by the the rise of new media (online social networks, blogs, videos etc) and my desire to adapt and make the most of such technologies. You'll know this if you're following me on Twitter, or have connected via YouTube or LinkedIn.

So what am I trying to say? I'll be completely honest - the current site just isn't me. Sure it's my imagery, my words, my philosophies even... but I feel it doesn't do a satisfactory job of representing me or the work I undertake. Don't ask me how it's happened, but the site is now far too 'corporate' for my liking - and although I frequently undertake corporate work, I'm just not of a corporate nature, so why should the site be if I'm trying to get 'me' accross?

With all this in mind, I'd like to put out a simple request and ask a quick favour of you.

If you could spare just 2 minutes to take a look at the website in its current state [ed. this is no longer available, as the new site is now in place!], and give me some feedback (either in the comments section at the bottom of this post or in an email), I would be extremely grateful. What do you like?... What do you dislike?... What would you prefer to see less or more of?... You know the drill.

Just so it's clear, I'm not going to take your comments personally, not going to take offense, and certainly not going to argue back at you from one keyboard to another. I'm being completely open and honest here, and I would ask you to do the same.

Inspiration often comes in the form of criticism - both good and bad - and as I see it, this is what I need in order to drive the website development not just to a satisfactory resolution, but to create an online resource that I can be happy and proud of.

Your thoughts about this here blog will also be gratefully received.

Thanks guys :)

[Update: Thank you all so much for your positive and constructive feedback. I hope you'll agree that the new site is a great improvement!]

Take shot, take flight

A number of weeks ago, I teamed up with all-round nice bloke John Preston (of Preston Creative Design Consultancy), to illustrate some publicity material for another of his clients.

The brief was simple enough - photograph a single male subject against a bright blue sky, pointing a branded paper aeroplane towards that sky. The reality of the shoot, naturally, turned out to be less than perfect just as soon as the weather got involved.

Arriving in plenty of time, John and I had a scout around the area for the best location, taking into account the sun's direction, the patches of blue sky and the fierce wind that was blowing around the coastal area. It's one thing having a nice breeze blowing through, but on this occasion it threatened to jeopardise the shoot, given that the paper plane was relatively flimsy and our subject's hair could look a mess if he was blown around too much! The morning's weather had generally been pretty good up until that point and the ground was dry underfoot, so at least that didn't pose any real problems.

Whilst Mr. P went off to meet with our subject, I investigated further, picking out a shortlist of two possible 'sets' to work with. In each case, the sun would be behind the subject - acting as a back-light over his right shoulder (and in so doing, balancing the flash nicely). But my main concern was getting the subject sheltered from the wind.

Here's a quick diagram of the set-up (click to enlarge):

Our saving grace came in the form of some trees and bushes, roughly shaped like a letter L, which wrapped around us nicely.

Next thing, moments before the guys returned, it was time to set up my kit. As ever, keeping it very simple, I went with a single lens (50mm) and single light (SB-800, triggered by Pocket wizard, on a stand). Remember, the sun would be my 2nd light - after all, it's free, so why not make use of it?!

That's when things started to slip. And within a time frame of approximately 1 minute, the shoot was over.

In all I shot just 7 frames, including lighting and posing/angle tests, before the heavens opened and we were forced to run as fast as we possibly could back to the cars.

From memory, the sequence went something like: Sun becomes obscured by cloud... wind picks up... single patch of blue sky is replaced by grey rain clouds... torrential rain. What a farce.

Of course, there had always been a Plan B - to head for a local hotel which both John and I have worked with in the past. There, we would be able to set up a more typical 'studio' arrangement in one of the larger rooms, if needs be.

Amid the ensuing deluge, we peered at the back of my rain-soaked camera...

Job done. No need for additional pictures, no need for a re-shoot. The only call was for dry clothes and a hot cup of tea.

Once the pictures were turned over to John's team, they were tweaked a little - just enough to bring a bit more colour into that damn awful sky. The picture at the top of this post is a quick scan of the final document, showing the image as it appeared, so apologies if it doesn't exactly 'pop' off the screen.

In hindsight, and keeping in mind the less than perfect conditions we faced, I was happy with the way these photographs came through. Looking for the positives, the paper plane stands out well from the sky and the 'mood' of that sky ties in well with the accompanying text.

Sometimes, as they say, it's not the destination but the journey - and this shoot was a case in point. The greatest irony of all still remains that as I was driving back to the office, the clouds parted, revealing a great blue sky and perfect sunshine. Bugger.

Still, at the end of the day, the client was delighted with the end product - and that's what really counts.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Now is the time to take action!

Given that it was recently my Birthday, I thought I'd mark the occasion with a Special Offer.

Simply put, here's the deal:

For the whole of this month, I am offering a discount on all rates. Photographic shoots, image restoration, even photo presentation options - everything will be subject to 1/3 OFF.

I'm not one for hidden catches, so there are none. The only condition is this:

All assignments must be booked and undertaken by 31st October 2009, and will be subject to a discount only when the Reference Code GBP30-1 is quoted.

A lot of people are holding back on their advertising/marketing spend (no guesses as to why!), and the issue of cost often over-shadows that of 'value to the business'. That's fair enough.

But at the same time, it is important to remember that bad photography can have a worse effect on, say, a website than including no images at all. Tempting as it is do 'do it yourself,' this is often a false economy.

I want people to be using great pictures in their brochures, newsletters, flyers etc because I know what a great marketing tool photography is.

So, if you've been considering commissioning a new set of imagery for your business, now would be a great time to give it some real thought and take action.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this offer also applies to the social side of life too - family events, fund-raisers, group trips... everything is covered!

If you are planning an end-of-year event, such as a staff party or a charity ball, you can also benefit by taking action this month.

Secure your December photography booking by 31st October, and you will be given a 10% Discount.

All assignments must be booked by 31st October 2009 , and will be subject to discount only when the Reference Code GBP30-2 is quoted. Bookings will only be secured after receipt of a non-refundable deposit.

Getting in touch is easy - just follow this link and tell me what you have in mind.

Monday, 5 October 2009

A positive exhibition

Well, I'm glad to say that things are finally getting back to some normality, following the past couple of months... which means the GBP Blog is fully functioning once again. Thank you to all those who offered their support in recent weeks; it meant a great deal.

Right then, by way of a quick catch-up, a small reminder of my joint exhibition which runs until 1st November...

Some months ago, my good friend Jane Doel, author of a little book of inpiration entitled 'Positive Steps Forward,' approached me with an idea for a collaboration - to illustrate some of the pages of her book. From this starting point, progress generated further ideas, until the day we said "Let's put on an exhibition!"

And so, with everything in place, our first collaborative show - intitled 'Positive Posters' - has been revealed to the public.

The location is the Pumfrett Room and Coach House Cafe at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, just off the A3 near Petersfield, Hampshire. Jane is Life Coach in residence at QECP which, together with Butser Hill and West Beach on Hayling Island, has been the source of inspiration for the words of her book and the photographs I have taken to illustrate them....

So, if you are in the area and have half an hour free, why not pop in and take a look?

Entrance is free, car park is £1 all day. And if you have any questions or feedback, you can get in touch with me here.

If you can't make it along, fear not. At some point in the near future, I will be writing a post specifically about the exhibition. I shot some time-lapse footage at various stages of preparation and at the Private View launch evening, and we will also be recording some audio, too.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

FOS '09 - Day 3

Just a quick post this evening, by way of completing my 3-part coverage of this year's Goodwood Festival Of Speed. It's been a long, hot weekend and as much as I've enjoyed covering the event, as I always do, I really am looking forward to hanging up the cameras and taking a few minutes for myself at the end of this day!

Following a brief visit to the track and the opening Super car run, I went in search of a few candid protraits as drivers waited to make their way to the start line. It was the turn of the pre-war race cars, so lots of opportunity to show off some of the great characters behind the wheel. Although this event does not specify 'costume' (as with the Goodwood Revival later in the year), a number of those taking part were clearly more than happy to get into the spirit of things.

By late morning, current Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton made his first appearance on the track - and of course, being a star attraction, it was important that he was photographed as part of the web site coverage. I caught up with him as he got out of his car to a round of applause from spectators - who he graciously acknowledged.

With the afternoon sunshine beating down, it was time to head over to the Cartier Style et Luxe area again, to photograph the competition-winning cars, following judging earlier in the day. Nothing fancy, just simple pictures which showed the vehicles being admired by onlookers.

The day wrapped up with the now-traditional award presentations, recognition of drivers' performances throughout the weekend. With a myriad of famous faces up on stage, the assembled crowd saw a great end to yet another fantastic Festival Of Speed.

When time allows, I will be working on a number of my pictures from the three days, giving them the treatment they deserve. Naturally, these will be presented here on the GBP Blog - along with a little background information. Watch this space!

Today's action (featuring a selection of both my images and those captured by colleagues) can be seen on the Goodwood website here.

Related posts:
FOS '09 - Day 1, FOS '09 - Day 2

Saturday, 4 July 2009

FOS '09 - Day 2

Well, the second day of Goodwood's Festival Of Speed 2009 has drawn to a close under a blue sky and puffy white clouds. It hasn't been like that all day, but at least the only rain we had lasted all of 2 minutes - so I mustn't grumble!

So then... Today's imagery was not so much weighted towards the main track action, instead taking in the wider variety of sights and the people enjoying them.

After a brief visit, first thing to, to the Supercar line-up, I headed to the Dunlop area in order to get a few people pictures. With lots of display panels and notable vehicles running on Dunlop tyres, there was plenty of scope to shoot some candid (unposed) pictures - both of the public and of guest speakers. At the time I arrived, racing car driver Richard Attwood was being interviewed, and I ran off a series of pictures looking down from the back of the 'audience' stand, just as the brief rain shower began.

Very often, part of my brief involves interacting directly with people, posing them and arranging them strategically. However, it is always my preference to follow the 'natural' route where possible, as the expressions and true personality almost always come across better when the subject is unaware that they are beingphotographed . It is for this reason that the same approach (albeit under very different conditions) is used when we deal with with teams, staff and corporate groups.

On the walk away from Dunlop, one passes through the Cartier Style et Luxe area, which this year displays some fine examples of both vintage and modern machines from the likes of Bugatti, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. With the rain still clearly visible on the bodywork, I took the chance to go in close to capture some detail shots which are simple in their arrangement, but great as 'filler' images. Plenty of scope here, also, for images depicting people viewing the cars, looking through windows and under bonnets. Oh, and we mustn't forget the jazz musicians who were creating a great backing track to a lively atmosphere on the lawn.

Next it was another brief visit to the Hill action, and a great vantage point looking directly down the track, to capture modern-day Formula 1 cars racing away from the start line. Amazing machines and challenge enough to capture on camera! As were theEurofighter Typhoon planes flying overhead just moments before.

A brief lunch was taken before heading to one of my favourite areas of the whole event - the rally stage, set in woodland at the very top of the site. So good is this area that it could actually pass as a real setting for a race. The cars on show - spanning a number of decades up to the current day - looked fantastic as they were thrown round the chalk roads. I positioned myself on one outer bend, protected by hay multiple bale barriers, and mixed up the shots to include both long-lens and wide-angle views of the action. Great stuff.

By this time, my shooting duties were drawing to a close, and I had just enough time to photograph a number of displays on my way back to the Press Office and before the process of preparing the images in line with yesterday'sarrangements.

Not sure what the weather will be doing tomorrow, but either way it should be another great day of diverse photographic opportunities.

Today's action (featuring a selection of both my images and those captured by colleagues) can be seen on the Goodwood website here.

Related posts: FOS '09 - Day 1, FOS '09 - Day 3

More to come.

Friday, 3 July 2009

FOS '09 - Day 1

Once again, I am under commission from Goodwood in West Sussex, covering this year's Festival Of Speed event. And as in previous years, I am shooting imagery for direct use the Festival Of Speed website, this time along with a number of colleagues.

With day one wrapped, it's time for a little reflection on just what I have been photographing today...

Friday is always the quietest day of the FOS weekend, with slightly fewer people - but no less of the action. Things kicked off bright and early, with a light drizzle that cleared up within 30 minutes of being on-site, just in time for the Supercars to make their way up 'The Hill'.

Name a sports car brand and chances are it's appearing at the event - from Mercedes to Ferrari, Lotus to Bugatti. My brief was fairly loose, insofar as there were not specific cars that I had to capture; rather, it was a case of getting a selection of images which would fit in nicely with the copy written by my journalist colleague.

Next up was more of the same, covering everything from pre-war cars to motor cycles, modern-day Formula 1 cars to sports prototypes.

That took me up to around lunch time - and a chance to get out of the sunshine for a few minutes.

One highlight just before though - a special appearance was put in by Peter Fonda on the original 'chopper' featured in the film Easy Rider - with the man parading past the crowd to at backing track of 'Born To Be Wild'.

At 3:30pm, my attentions were turned skyward in anticipation of the Red Arrows air display team. Always stunning in the sheer speed and agility that they show, these guys once again stunned the crowd with against a backdrop of coloured smoke and blue sky.

The latter part of the afternoon was a matter of capturing general imagery, showing off the attractions and atmosphere all around, before liasing with another colleague in order to back up all pictures and confirm a selection of imagery for inclusion on the 'live' web pages.

All in all, a good day and very happy to have the sun shining! These awesome machines always look better with a brightness that brings out their colours, shapes and performance body work.

More to come tomorrow.

Related posts: FOS '09 - Day 2, FOS '09 - Day 3

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Always carry a camera?

They say that you should always carry a camera with you, just in case a great picture presents itself out of the blue. For this reason, the G9 is my constant companion.

A couple of weekends ago, Manda and I decided to take some time out and go for cycle ride. And, wanting to get away from things, it we chose to head just a little way up the road and hit one of the nearest woodland-surrounded off-road trails. Because the main objective was simply to get out and about, we travelled light - just a pump and tyre repair kit, some water and a mobile phone (my BlackBerry ) - 'just in case'. It was this last item (complete with built-in camera) which proved to be the defining factor in our afternoon's events.

After about 15 minutes of incident-free cycling, we rounded a bend in the trail - only to be greeted by a 'crackling' sound and plumes of smoke coming from a number of hedgerows. After questioning whether these might be controlled burnings, I decided to make a call to the local fire brigade just in case. Turns out these were purely of a boredom-driven, needless nature and there were also other fires on the go further along the way. Aren't people charming?!

What amazed me was that it too 3 fire engines, 1 fire Land Rover and 10 fire fighters to extinguish the flames! Still, I'm no expert in these matters, so I'm sure it was all quite justified. At least the fires got put out - which is the main thing after all!

I had initially been quite happy just to stand by and watch whilst waiting for the firemen, but the photojournalist in me took over, and I ended up capturing a good few frames on the Blackberry.

Nothing special, and with no post production, these pictures merely serve as a record of the events of that afternoon. Upon my return, I made a quick call to the local newspaper and emailed the photographs (all of which appear here) across for publication, simply as 'local interest' news images.

The moral of the story, so they say...? Always carry a camera - in whichever shape or form - because you never know what opportunities lie ahead, just waiting to be pictured.

Funny... but oh so true

I was reminded of this short video in the past week, having seen it some time ago. Yes, it does make you smile, but for anyone running a business
in these 'interesting' economic times, the sentiments will surely stike a chord!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

You know the 6 Ps make sense

According to one variation of the old 'Six P' adage, "Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance". One job, a few days ago, was a case in point - and stands as a lesson in both the positive and negative outcomes of heeding this advice... or not.

OK, so I had an assignment up in London, for which I was given about 4 days' notice. Nothing unusual there - people often leave it far later than that, and I am more than happy to fit them in if I have the availability. With a number of calls/emails/texts exchanged, everything was confirmed and I knew I had to be on site for a 9am start. Which meant skipping a networking meeting but still being up at a considerably-less-than-favourable hour.

Lesson 1: If an event/meeting/job has taken considerable effort to come to fruition, don't waste everybody's hard work by messing up on the travel arrangements. I always allow plenty of time for my journeys and on this occasion it was just as well; due to tube strikes (and therefore more people choosing to drive into work) on that day, what should have been a 1.5-hour drive actually took an additional 45 minutes. I arrived at 8:45, so no panic and no worries.

Once in the building, I had a short wait for my contact to arrive, before being led back outside to do some exterior shots. After that, it was back inside to set up and do a few general shots at the first location whilst we waited for our (non-professional) models to turn up. Give them their due, they all arrived dead on time, at 10am. However...

Lesson 2: Please, please,
please - if you are wanting your staff/colleagues/students/associates/friends/neighbours to stand in as subjects for your pictures... ASK THEM BEFORE THE SHOOT! Long story cut short, there were around 8 people expected to assume the role, and not one of them would agree to being photographed. In fact, so I gather (it was decided that the client would 'negotiate'), some of them were demanding payment for their 'modelling services' and were even less willing when the reply was a resounding 'no'!

Having wasted valuable time waiting for a decision, we eventually got around this considerable oversight by having a number of staff change out of their uniforms and into their everyday clothes. Not ideal, but this was the only option short of coming back to finish off the shoot another day.

Of course, the general public observing the resulting pictures will be none-the-wiser. But that's not the point. The fact remains that the whole shoot was jeopardised by the actions of one or two people, very nearly wasting both my time and theirs. Whilst I appreciate these things can and do happen, in these tough economic times, I would encourage everybody to ensure they have everything in place ahead of the agreed day/time; not just with regard to photography shoots, but in the general day-to-day running of their operations.

Failing to do so just might cost you considerably more than your time.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

What's your go-to?

This post is a non-technical 'one-year-on' review of sorts, and is essentially a follow-up to
this post.

Our colleagues over in America have a phrase they use to describe any technique or item of kit which is the mainstay of their work; something which is used time and time again - dependable, reliable, guaranteed to get the results they require. The phrase? 'Go-to'.

For all the high-tech 'bells-and-whistles' kit we use on a regular basis here at GBP, I would have to say that my go-to item has come to be the trusty Canon Powershot G9 point-and-shoot camera.

Having used it regularly for just over a year now, I can honestly say it truly is an indispensable tool on a great many assignments. Whether to capture behind-the-scenes snaps and reference shots at a recce, or to film events in real time, this little machine has come up trumps more times than I can remember. Quiet, subtle, unobtrusive - it is small enough to slip easily into a jacket pocket, yet powerful enough to deliver. Clearly a rugged shell of a body, it has done remarkably well in all conditions from rain-soaked moorland to sun-baked car forecourts; even when it suffered a 4-foot drop onto the pavement recently, all that was required was a simple lens realignment - surely testament to its build quality.

The 12.1 megapixels offered is more than enough for our requirements (you already know my thoughts about the issue of resolution). The resulting images have frequently matched the quality produced by the Nikon SLR cameras - to the point where the G9 always accompanies me as a back-up camera, just in case all the SLRs should pack up mid-shoot. With so much manual override available, including two user-defined Custom settings, this camera has proven itself to be just as versatile as the big boys.

When it comes to video, the 640x480 'standard' video quality setting is more than adequate for use here on the GBP Blog; and the time-lapse function (user-defined between capturing one frame every one or two seconds) produces highly effective results. Time-lapse is a great way to capture the events of a shoot from set-up to completion and thanks to silent operation, clients are more comfortable with the G9 in the corner of the room than a regular video camera; they even comment that they'd forgotten it was even there.

My only real gripe concerns ISO/noise levels - specifically, that when you set the G9 to ISO 400 or above, the 'grain' within images is often clearly visible, whereas it is not at the lower sensitivities. This, of course, is not such an issue most of the time, as I very rarely go above 200. And what's more, for web use (for example behind-the-scenes stuff), one can often get away with a slightly lower quality image if the output is, say 400x300 pixels.

Of course, as is so often the case with manufacturers these days, Canon has superceded this model with the Powershot G10 which, as you can imagine has 'a better this, a faster that' and so on. Before you ask - no, I'm not going to rush out and buy one; it's predecessor is still more than capable of doing everything I could ask from it, and I therefore have no need to change it.

Would I recommend this camera? Definitely. And with it now being 'the old model', you just might find yourself a bargain online.

Thoughts, comments, questions gladly welcomed as ever.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Radio appearance - Picture your business

On Monday, I posted this notice ahead of an appearance on Louise Barnes-Johnston's radio show. Well, we had a great chat for half an hour or so and, as promised, I'm now posting the link for those who didn't get the chance to listen in.

For quick reference, here is a run-down of the main topics we covered:

  • The early days of GBP, how it all began.
  • Starting out - the importance of seeking advice.
  • How to gain new clients with little or no marketing budget.
  • Networking - the valuable key to building connections.
  • The diversity of work undertaken for our wide range of clients.
  • Advice to business owners who are nervous about the current economic climate.
  • Top 3 tips for businesses considering using a professional photographer to spruce up their business image.

As ever, please feel free to drop me a few lines of feedback - questions, what you thought etc - either via email or in the comments section below this post. Enjoy!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Waiting for inspiration to strike

They say that inspiration is lurking around every corner. But is it? Are such moments of clarity really there for the taking, or do you have to make them appear through the process of your own thoughts and actions?

Whichever way you cut it, inspiration comes in many forms. Whether it hides in the pages of a book or magazine (my current read of the moment is Wired Magazine), or comes from the company you share... Perhaps the places you visit or the journeys you make around the internet super highway - everyone has their own way of coming up with fresh ideas.

For us photographers, we need to be on the constant lookout if we are to stay on our toes and produce interesting images. It is one thing to be set a brief to follow, but when you are commissioned to create a set of images, it is your ability to visualise concepts and bring them to fruition that will keep the client happy - not simply your ability to 'press the button'.

What about personal projects? In previous posts, I have written about the importance of photographers producing work for themselves, as well as producing commissioned work. I have been getting a few ideas of my own together recently - nothing concrete, just a few thoughts and images to test the waters - and the latest developments came about thanks to the postponement of an assignment over the recent Bank Holiday.

Seizing the opportunity to get out of the house, Manda and I headed off for the local ancient woodland - with no real thoughts towards image making in mind. It was a beautiful day and we were just glad to be out in the fresh air. But... Me being me, with my head always buzzing, I began to think about how I could use the location to my photographic advantage; every corner we turned presented the possibility of a would-be backdrop.

Thoughts immediately sprang to mind of Drew Gardner's fantastic work, which I have been following via his blog in recent months, and I soon found myself stopping to take 'location snaps' to place in my sketch book for future reference.

What I have in mind is by no means the same as Drew's concepts. I am drwaing on my own interests and influences, my own love of the outdoors and how I wish to place my subjects there.

I have not set myself a deadline for this personal work - it it not at that stage yet. For now, I'm happy simply to keep on walking, to keep on thinking, to be open to outside influences and the oportunities of what is yet to come.

Another radio appearance

A quick tip-off for something which is coming up later today...

Following my appearance on the Vobes Show at the end of April, I have been asked to contribute to another online radio show - this time hosted by Louise Barnes-Johnston at Frontline Results. A brief overview of the show can be found here.

As well as discussing 'where it all began' for GBP and the sort of work we undertake, Louise and I will also be addressing issues which concern small business owners in these tough economic times, including what potential oportunities are out there just waiting to be exploited.

I hope you can find the time to listen in - 5:30pm (BST) - and of course, I welcome any feedback in the comments section which follows this post. For those of you who can't be with us online at the time, I'll be posting up the audio shortly after the show.

UPDATE: The audio for this interview can now be accessed on this post.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Calling all musicians...

A quick request...

As anyone who has checked out our videos on YouTube or the GBP Blog will know, we always like to include a music backing track to our productions. Up until now, this has always been a single track, used over and over again. It has served us very well, but it's time for a change.

So... Are you a musician, UK-based or international? Do you know any great musicians out there whose sounds should be pushed out to a greater listenership? If so, get in touch!

Here's the deal: Our videos typically run 3-5 minutes and feature behind-the-scenes footage, often time-lapse, of shoots and all manner of things that arise in the course of our work (have a browse through this blog and you'll get a good idea). If you'd be kind enough to let us use your soundtrack, we'll give you a plug - not only on the videos themselves, but right here on the Blog too. And on our Twitter stream. And in our monthly Newsletter... All of which have a far-reaching global audience. Hey, it's all free publicity!

Added to that, we'll give you special rates on photography if you or your band ever need some fresh publicity shots.

Interested? Then drop us a quick line via email or in the comments section below. And if you have a web presence at all - your own site,Facebook page, Twitter stream, MySpace profile etc - pop that down too.

Remember - it's all about spreading the word, and connections build connections.

Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Sun, wind, scenery, portraits

Last week, I undertook an assignment photographing a couple on their Wedding day. This came about as the result of a referral passed by one of our corporate clients some months ago, and just goes to prove the value of networking and the power of recommending trusted suppliers.

This was not a 'Wedding photography' job, per se, as the couple were having a very low-key ceremony and did not require our coverage at the West Sussex registry office where they 'tied the knot'. Instead, they asked us to meet them at a rather grand five-star hotel about an hour and a half away, up in the glorious Bedfordshire countryside, where we would simply concentrate on some nice relaxed portraits within the picturesque grounds.

One thing which I did take from the 'Wedding photography' check-list was the need to have a look at those grounds ahead of our meeting. We always insist on conducting a recce with every couple we photograph, taking in all locations where photography is required (for example, the Bride's preparation address, church, Reception location etc). Typically, this occurs about one month before the Wedding day, and let's us make an initial connection and look for possible areas for photography, as well as taking stock of potential issues and considerations such as the need for a contingency plan, should the weather be less than favourable.

On this occasion, though, logistics dictated that it was not feasible to make two trips and so I simply arrived about an hour ahead of time, in order to have a wander around and see what photographic opportunities awaited us. What greeted me was something of a photographer's playground - rock gardens, freshly-mown lawns, stone statues and gardens created by the famous landscape designer Capability Brown. All good stuff, and I couldn't wait to make some images!

There were two main obstacles that we faced here: One was the strong overhead sunlight - lovely to walk around in, but less than ideal for portraits, as it casts heavy shadows at every opportunity and people have a tendency to blink! No worries, though; I simply 'filled-in' these darker areas with some complimentary subtle flash light, and took the couple into shaded areas where suitable. The second concern was the wind - it was a very breezy day; but again, we made use of natural shelter where possible and exploited those moments of facing oncoming headwinds so as to inject a little humour into the images. Hey, you have to make the most of what you're given!

Following that day, the pictures were placed in a secure, password-protected album on our website, allowing the couple to take advantage of the Slideshow function and share them with friends and family.

A printed Preview Album is also on its way to them, together with suggestions of how best to display these pictures. And our services do not simply end at 'pressing the button' - as I have often said, pictures are there to be looked at; because we want our clients to get the most out of images, we will happily discuss the wide range of presentation options available to suit all tastes and budgets.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

It's a team effort

As I have said many times here on the GBP Blog, the clients we work with aren't always of the 'shirt and tie' variety. One of the greatest joys of what we do is the range of assignments we undertake. For example, one day I could be on the beach shooting informal portraits, the next I might be thirty metres up in the sky perched on a crane and swaying in the breeze. As I said in yesterday's post, indoor work is all well and good, but give us half a chance to get out of the office and into the fresh air with our clients and we'll take it.

Another quick example from last month, then, which saw me working with a local football club one Sunday morning. Nothing too challenging or remarkable about the job itself, but a prime example of the need for simple yet effective pictures which could be used widely in all manner of marketing activities.

We were very lucky with the weather on this occasion - blue sky, puffy white clouds - all of which worked very well with the team's freshly-washed, colourful kit. In terms of a 'shot list', we had already outlined three sets of images to capture during our time together - team shots (as a whole), player profiles (individuals) and supportive imagery (game action). As is often the case, organisation was the key here; I turned up early in order to meet my contact and make introductions with the team, and the players themselves were already in place, warming up. It was then simply a case of getting everyone into position for the first 'group' shot, followed by individual portraits in quick succession.

Given that all anyone there really wanted to do was play football (i.e. not stand around being photographed!), I kept things very simple. Setting up two cameras - one for the portrait stuff, the other for the action - the D2H was again brought out of the bag for the latter, making the most of its ability to capture the fast-paced action. On this occasion, I seem to recall, it was set to a rate of 4 frames per second and I shot in bursts of 2 frames in succession.

The resulting images from the hour or so that I spent on the sidelines have since been used on the team's website and in the local press, with plans to use them further in newsletters and printed promotional matter.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Indoors, up-country

With the weather getting better (well, I am an optimist!), it would be nice to think that all our assignments will be set outdoors from now on. Being realistic, of course, this won't be the case - by default, some projects dictate an indoor set-up. Think product and food photography, room sets and medical sector - that sort of thing.

April saw a trip up-country to Cumbria, to undertake a follow-on shoot for a hotel set in the glorious Lake District. I love the outdoors and this area of the country always holds great appeal, so the long drive up there didn't seem half as bad when faced with such a backdrop.

The task at hand was to photograph a number of recently-refurbished bedrooms and some of the finer details contained therein. For this, I used one of my favourite setups - one tripod-mounted camera, two lenses (wideangle for overviews, standard for closer details), and one/two mains-powered lights, each bounced off the ceiling.

Now, the joy of lighting any subject is that there exists a great deal of flexibility - and therefore potential visual results - in the equipment we can use. On location outdoors, for example, regular readers will know I am a great fan of using small, lightweight flash guns, making the most of wireless technology.

However, when photographing room sets, I nearly always turn to the use of 'continuous' lamps, specifically a set of 1000-watt halogens. These are great, and typify the essence of lighting. Simple and 'no-frills', they produce a very natural light, enabling me to see immediately how the subject is looking, where shadows are falling and where any unwanted highlights might appear, even before I take the first test picture.

Having spent many thousands of pounds on the refit, it made sense for our client to again make use of strong imagery in the marketing of their hotel. And as GBP produced the previous set of pictures, it also made sense to have us back so as to keep a continuity.

In these tough economic times, there is a tendency for businesses to hold back on their advertising/marketing activities and, unfortunately, one of the first casualties of this action is frequently professional photography. Out of this, two observations can be made:
  • Firstly - 'in-house', 'DIY' photography often has a negative effect on your business. For example, you might have a nice website and a great product, but many is the time we have seen poor 'snap-shot' imagery not just completely undermine the efforts of a web paid designer, but also make a company's product/staff/service look second-rate and amateurish when compared to those of their competitors.
  • Secondly - any marketing company will tell you that when times are tough, the last thing you should do is cut your marketing spend. Rather, you should invest (within your budget, of course) in keeping your product/service in the minds of existing and potential clients. When things calm down, you will then be ahead of those competitors who have held back - clearly an advantage.
A final note about these last points, in something of an ironic twist - It doesn't have to cost as much as you think to employ such professional services, but not heeding these warnings can/will have a profound effect on your business, to the point where it is very difficult to recover from such a 'cutting corners' approach.

It doesn't cost anything to ask for advice or opinion, so feel free to get in touch or speak up in the comments section of this post!