Saturday, 31 January 2009

Canvassers welcome

I recently received a call from from a lady whose boyfriend I photographed whilst shooting for Wavelength magazine at an extreme sports event some time back in 2004. Totally out of the blue, but also very interesting at the same time.

I photographed hundreds of people and took thousands of frames during the course of that event, so understandably I couldn't remember exactly who the person in question was. However, a quick search through the archive for the particular file reference number and there he was, riding the waves in all his glory (see picture above).

Turns out his girlfriend was wanting a canvas print made of the picture, to give as a present. She had already gone into her local high street photographic shop to ask about their canvas print services (and no, I am not going to be naming names here!) but, quite rightly, they told her that they could not do this due to copyright laws governing the image. So she gave us a call.

Long story cut short - we have just supplied her with a superior quality, hand-stretched and anti-aging, fade-free 60x85cm (28x40 inches) canvas print. And because we ensure our monitors are calibrated to the the printing machines used (i.e. to guarantee that what you see is what you get), fantastic results are produced time after time.

Canvas prints are a great way to show off your wonderful photographs, both new and old - whether as 'space fillers' in your hallway or as centrepieces in your living room or business premises.

And remember... the whole point of pictures is that they are there to be looked at.

In spite of the rain...

Whilst up in Manchester, Manda and I decided to take a trip out into the countryside of Bowland - a lovely area of rivers, sheep and rolling hills crossing rural Lancashire and North Yorkshire in the North West of England. I'm sure there's probably more to the place than that, but these were just my initial observations!

Having been treated in Blackpool, the day before, to a relatively mild afternoon with dry weather and a fantastic sunset, we were all fired up to have another day out walking around and taking pictures 'just because we can'. As I said in a previous post, creating more personal work is very much on my 'to do regularly' list this year.

In theory then, the idea of another day out was a good one... Seeing that the light was pretty good and conditions were almost rain-free, we packed the car with everything we'd need to create simple lighting on location - 2 flash guns (Nikon SB-800s), 2 lightweight stands and a set of Pocket Wizard remotes (for reliable wireless flash triggering). Between us, we were using both Nikon and Canon camera/lens kit. Oh, and just for a bit of comfort, a flask of coffee came along too (pity we forgot the milk!).

I say the idea was a good one 'in theory', because nature had other plans for us.

With every mile we drove, the wet stuff got worse. Specks of rain turned into a fine drizzle, before passing through a state of what can at best be described as 'lazy droplets', before threatening to become a downpour. Add to this the increasing cold and we were getting further and further away from what would be considered 'favorable' conditions.

But of course, in true British spirit (that is to say a stubborn and determined fashion), we refused to be beaten by this. I always carry a bunch of clear freezer and zip-lock bags with me, to keep all the electronic stuff dry in such scenarios - and thankfully, as ever, this simple, cost-effective solution proved perfect for the job.

Modern pro kit is pretty resilient these days - it has to be - but even so, it makes sense to give it a helping hand from time to time.

We managed to get a good few pictures in the can between us before the decision was made to head off to a different location further up the road. In the event, the weather really set in and so 'Plan B' came into force - head for the nearest pub on the way back and have a late lunch before settling down to a warm evening and review our day's efforts.

All in all, we had a great time in Bowland. And despite the weather, the experience only served to fuel what drives us as photographers, and what it's all about - a passion for photography, and a desire to make images. Pure and simple. And with the thought of long summer evenings on the not-so-distant horizon, we can't wait to get out and about and do more of the same!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Pork, Apple and BlackBerry

I am writing this on the train back from a great week spent with Manda in and around Manchester. As I type, a man sat in the seat ahead of me is checking web-based details on his iPhone; just behind and to my left, a Dell laptop is working hard for its owner. On my fold-down table I have my trusty ASUS Eee PC and BlackBerry. If proof were needed that we are working to ever-increasing time constraints in the workplace and that mobile technology is the key to our productivity, then look no further than Coach A of the 14:15 Virgin train to London Euston!

Last weekend, Manda and I took a relatively short trip to Chester, where a Mac seminar was being held at MCC Computer Store. As regular readers (and those following my Mac journey) will know, I've decided that this is my 'Mac Year', the year when I finally bite the bullet and jump ship from PC to Apple. Don't get me started, but if you want some back-history, check out this post.

Here's a (very) quick video update, from outside the shop:

Anyway, the seminar was all about Apple's 'Aperture' software – which I was well aware of, but hadn't bothered to investigate further up until now, given that it is obviously not available for PCs. I have to say, on first impressions at least, it looks like a great workflow tool, and a definite consideration as an alternative to Lightroom (which I have never really got on with – it seems far too slow, and older software appears to handle my files in at least a third of the time).

So, the plot thickens as they say. I suppose my next question is just which Mac I should be looking at; the current favourite is the iMac... but it's still early days just yet, and I'm still very impressionable at this stage. Answers and suggestions from those in the know, please.

(Oh, and as for the pork reference in the title of this post... Food on the go can be quite tasty really, judging by the pork-stuffing-apple sauce baguette I had on the train upcountry. And I do like my food!)

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Just a bit of fun

I like to have a laugh. After all, it can't always be work, work, work. Sometimes you just have to find an escape and let your hair down. For me, this relief often comes in the form of visiting a little web site by the name of World Of Poot. Don't ask. I
t's just a bit of fun - check it out if, like me, you have a twisted sense of humour, and all will become clear. Disclaimer: I have always maintained that it is my insanity that keeps me sane - and, no, it is not me in the pictures!

Anyway, the point is that over the New Year break, the WOP team went out and about to do a spot of filming locally. Naturally, this gave cause for supporting still images for this non-factual spoof documentary. And as far as I was concerned, it also provided a chance to give the new 50mm Nikkor another airing. Lovely standard lens, and perfectly suited to quick, no-frills portraiture. I also brought out the ultra-wideangle for some more dynamic perspective - another nice option for this kind of stuff, so long as you are aware of the limits of its perspective distortion at closer distances.

As for lighting, the rather flat ambient of the late-afternoon overcast day was just perfect for balancing with portable flash. Given that the images were shot at an old abandoned folly, and the underlying story had a theme of history and the past, we wanted to inject a bit of atmosphere. Playing with light (albeit very simply) is the perfect way to do this.

Additional lighting, then, was supplied by a single Nikon SB-800 speedlight, triggered remotely using CLS - Nikon's Creative Lighting System, and fired bare-bulb style (i.e. no modification such as diffusers, brollies etc). This was mounted on a small tripod for easy positioning.

These are by no means technical images, nor do I claim them to be. It was all just a bit of fun. However, the techniques used for the shots here can be applied to many different assignments in order to add interest, highlight certain image elements or to create separation from surroundings.

Oh, and for quick reference, the direct link to the mini-film is this one right here. Enjoy!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Looking ahead into 2009

First up, a belated 'Happy New Year' to you all! I hope you all had a great Christmas and have by now suitably recovered from your New Years Eve hangovers!

As for getting back to work, I decided to ease into things gently, and have been taking care of all those little things that tend to catch you out if left too long.
And with the weather outside being completely uninspiring today, I thought I'd take the opportunity to get a few thoughts down about what this year holds in store.

With all this talk of the economic climate crashing around our feet and the doom and gloom which it brings, the only way to move forward is surely to be positive and look ahead. In much the same way that us photographers have had to seek new angles in our marketing efforts (think Blogger, YouTube, Flickr etc), I think the key message for this year is that we need be very open to the idea of making changes and to diversify. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about abandoning our usual 'bread and butter' work or making radical changes to our approach to workflow - just that we should be open to exploring avenues that, say, a year ago would not necessarily have been a consideration.

So, what will I be doing? Well, it's back to basics for me - simple light and simple kit. As many of you will know, I've never been one for complex post-production work and I certainly don't intend to start now. Call me a traditionalist, but I like to get things as close to how I want them at the time of capture. Therefore, I'm going to continue concentrating on good, solid lighting and the use of good old-fashioned principles relating to interacting with one's subjects rather than relying too heavily on technology.

For this reason, you will no doubt see plenty of mention of the gift Father Christmas brought me - a no-frills, bare and basic 50mm Nikkor prime lens. I've already been playing around with this and I have to say it is a fantastic little piece of kit. Combined with good, crisp lighting, it's a win-win combination. More to come shortly.

Of course, this is the time of year when people typically let fly about resolutions - how they are going to do this, do that, make this change, make that change. Modest or not-so-modest alterations, in order to better themselves, their life or their business. Well, I've never been one for these resolutions - maybe I'm just lucky enough to feel I already have the balance right all year round? That said, I do have a list of things that I intend to do, both in the short term and the long term. As such, this list is a 'work in progress', but currently looks something like this, and in no particular order:
  • Relaunch our monthly newsletter in its new format
  • I really must get those new business cards sorted out!
  • Write more regularly on the GBP Blog
  • Extended networking - locally and online
  • Revisit past clients with updates of our latest services
  • Approach new 'key market' clients
  • More joint collaborations, across various industries
  • Produce more personal work, regularly. Therefore...
  • Get personal projects underway
So as far as I can tell, then, it's going to be a busy year!

Have you got similar lists on the go? If so, chip in and tell me what you're planning to do - you never know, we might just find some common ground!