If you fail to prepare.

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Morning

When I arrive at a clients premises for a photoshoot more often than not the client will look at my gear and say to me, “do you really need all that for this shoot?”

I do take a lot of equipment on every shoot – two camera bodies plus my x100, multiple Speedlights (flashguns), an assortment of lenses ranging from 24mm through to 200mm, flash triggers, at least two sometimes three stands, two umbrellas, a softbox, various reflectors, spare batteries/flash cards and various clips and clamps.

As with all things electrical, if it can fail, it will fail, at some point, and its better to be prepared for that failure rather than have to cancel a shoot (and have an unhappy client)

Case in point – only yesterday I had the final shoot (of three) for a client that had signed up to my, “My First Year” package. I shoot the child when it’s born, then at six months and finally at its first birthday, this provides the client with a record of their child’s first year.

As with every shoot I do, I prepare the day before, make sure everything works, all the batteries are charged up, and pack everything I need for the shoot.

But yesterday was just one of those days.

I set up, went to fire a test shot and one of my Speedlights did not fire, even though it fired the night before. The client then said to me, “can you smell burning? Sure enough, the smell was coming from my fried Speedlight, slowly cooking inside. I quickly whipped out the batteries and put the unit outside – the client watching on nervously.

After setting up another Speedlight I took another test shot and this time once again, the flash failed to fire. Worried now I checked the unit and it appeared ok and fired when I manually fired the test button – I could not smell burning – so I suspected the remote triggers. Swapped out the batteries and all worked ok.

By this time young child was getting a little agitated and restless, so I said to the mother to give him a feed while I finished my setup. While she was feeding him I needed to change the angle of my umbrella, so I twisted the handle of the Manfrotto 155 bracket and it snapped right off in my hand.

At this point I was beginning to wonder who I had upset “up there” as things were going wrong one thing after the other and I was running out of excuses for the client!

I was down a flashgun, I had no way of modifying the angle of the umbrella now the bracket had broken – what could I do – I had to get this shoot finished (started!).

Then I had an idea – the Dad was just stood around watching so I asked if he would mind holding a reflector for me while I used my Speedlight on camera and bounced the light into the reflector being held by Dad.

The shoot turned out ok in the end, everyone was happy.

Happy one year old - Lit with Speedlight fired into reflector held by Dad

Happy one year old – Lit with Speedlight fired into reflector held by Dad

But THAT’S why I have to lug around a huge bag of equipment and assorted items when I go out on shoots!!

Best – Colin

Picture within a Picture

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Morning.

Some of you will know I actually shoot a lot of wildlife photography as well as my bread and butter portraiture and bridal work. Wildlife photography is much harder than people think, you can’t ask the subject to “pose like this”, or “just move this way a little bit”, you have to take what you can get – usually.

Sometimes though an opportunity presents itself when you least expect it!

This image of the fountain – there is a lot going on, water splashing, sun poking from behind the centre pillar – but I wasn’t taking a picture of the fountain. Take a close look and you will see a Carrion Crow perching all fluffed up. He was in the middle bowl of the fountain bathing (heaven knows why it was near freezing where I was stood!) and I only had my iPhone on me at the time.

Straight away I saw in my mind this picture, but it had to be a silhouette, behind me were grey buildings so anything other than being backlit would not have worked. I positioned myself so the sun was just poking from behind the pillar to give added interest and waited for him to jump out.

I was lucky that he jumped out the right side AND fluffed his wings – I took several shots using the iPhone and the Hipstamatic App, there are several with him in full silhouette just perching, but I prefer this fluffed up one.

Carrion Crow - taken using Hipstamatic - using Foxy Lens & Kodak XGrizzled Film

Carrion Crow – taken using Hipstamatic – using Foxy Lens & Kodak XGrizzled Film

Sometimes pictures of wildlife can have greater impact on the viewer when they show the environment more than the subject, in this instance the picture only works because of the surroundings, a close up silhouette of the Crow (if I had my DSLR with me) would not have been so appealing.

Best – Colin

Wedding Catwalk

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Morning

Occasionally I am asked to Video Catwalk events, Bridal, Fashion etc which I do alongside my photography. There is usually a lot going on, especially at Bridal Catwalks and it pays to keep your eyes peeled for any unguarded moments – such as these two lovely models, Helen D & Hannah W doing their thing!

Best – Colin

iPhoneography

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Afternoon

iPhoneography – taking photos with your iPhone – right?

A brief history lesson first – back in November 2008 a fellow called Glyn Evans launched a Blog onto the unsuspecting world, called iPhoneography.com. Glyn’s Blog bought the phrase iPhoneography to the masses, more so because Apple has Patent rights on the term iPhone and to date have not pursued him for infringement – thus implying tacit approval. 

iPhoneography has become very big business these days. With the explosion of the App store there are literally thousands of Apps for the iPhone and many are specifically related to the Camera function of the phone.

Like most people with an iPhone, I have downloaded my fair share of “Apps” for the camera, I have the usual HDR Apps & Camera Plus, along with the almost mandatory Instagram App, but yesterday I downloaded an App I had only been made aware of via an advert in an online magazine, and its called Hipstamatic.

Hipstamatic uses the iPhone’s camera function to enable you to shoot square photographs, to which it applies a number of software filters to make the images look as though they were taken with an antique film camera. You can then choose among a number of effects which are presented in the application as simulated lenses, films and flashes. 

Its a pretty cool App to play with, you can change lenses and film types with just a swipe of your finger to give you hundreds of different possibilities when shooting – but does it cut the mustard?

One of the great things I learnt pretty quickly is that rather than having to change lenses and film types between shots (which could get very time consuming) you can enable a “shake to randomise” feature. Just shake your iPhone and you will get a random selection of lens and film type. I looked pretty daft shaking my phone vigorously  every few minutes!!

Here are twenty of the best, different subjects, different lens/film combinations.

Would I recommend Hipstamatic? You bet

Would I have taken any of these photos if I had been using my DSLR? Nope

Is it art? I think so 🙂

Foxy Lens - GS0 Film

GSQUAD Lens - Kodak XGrizzled FilmJimmy Lens - Ginas 1962 FilmLibatique 73 Lens - Kodak X Grizzled FilmFoxy Lens - Blanko FilmTejas Lens - Inas 1969 FilmLucas AB2 Lens - GS- 0 FilmFoxy Lens - XGrizzled FilmJimmys Lens - Inas 1969 FilmFoxy Lens - XGrizzled FilmLibatique 73 Lens - Sugar FilmMelodie Lens - Blanko FilmJames M Lens - GS-0 FilmHipstamatic - blog-16GSQUAD Lens - Big Up FilmLucas AB2 Lens - Inas 1969 FilmMelodie Lens - Dream Canvas FilmSusie Lens - Sugar FilmSusie Lens - Rock 11 FilmLucas AB2 - Blanko FilmLibatique 73 Lens - Inas 1982 Film

 

Best – Colin

Get Creative with White Balance

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Afternoon.

Light is all around us, both natural and man made – but not all light is equal. Every light source has a different colour, or temperature to them and this is why visible light is measured in degrees using the Kelvin scale. Warm light has a high number and cool light has a lower number.

Our eyes adjust seamlessly to these different light temperatures, or colours, but cameras are not so clever and have to be told what the temperature of the light is to render the scene correctly.

But just because there is a button that allows you to set the White balance correctly, doesn’t mean you actually have to set it correctly.

Take a look at these two images for example. The White Balance was set in camera at the time of capture, to 3330k

Of course, you can change the White Balance settings in post processing, using Camera RAW or Aperture or your own favourite image processor. But doing it in camera at the point of capture, allows you to instantly see the results on screen, so that you can adjust the settings if needed or discard the shot entirely.

 

A colour temperature of 3330k renders the scene very blue and makes the skin tones much cooler, but in these particular images the effect works well. Not all scenes would suit this colour temperature – and purists would discard the images as they are not “correctly exposed” – but from a creative viewpoint you can experiment and create some striking images, just by taking your camera off “Auto White Balance”.

For the purpose of comparison, the image below was taken straight after the image above, but the White Balance is set to “Auto”

 

This is a more natural looking scene, skin tones are more natural and the light appears how we would expect it to appear – white.

I’ll let you decide which you prefer.

 

Best – Colin

 

Gone Fishing

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Morning

Every now and then I decide on the spur of the moment to go off on some mad photographic adventure like driving through the night to catch gannets at Sunrise then driving back home again, a 450 mile round trip.

But on this particular occasion I would really push my limits.

I have always been fascinated by birds of prey, wether it’s the Buzzards circling high up on the thermals, the Kestrel hovering by the road side, or even the Sparrow-hawk taking smaller birds from the garden.

Most UK birds of prey rely on either roadkill or smaller birds and small mammals for their food – but their is one bird of prey that stands out from the rest, notably because it’s diet consists solely of fish – the Osprey.

Whilst not indigenous to the UK, since the 1950’s some birds have been migrating to parts of Scotland to breed, in fact, almost every year since 1959 a pair have bred successfully at a site in the Scottish Highlands. Only recently have Ospreys started to nest in England, most notably at Rutland Water.

It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings and can weight up to 4.6 lbs (2.1kg) – to see this size of bird plummet into a freshwater lake and rise up carrying a Salmon is pretty spectacular!

I just knew I had to go on a journey

The only site within the UK that you can reliably see these magnificent birds of prey is at a location in the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands. So I planned my journey. Because of filming and shooting other commitments I could only be away two days, so, I decided to drive up the night before my shoot, from Wiltshire to the Cairngorms and stay in a local B&B. Ospreys are very wary of humans (as with most wild birds/animals) and at this location you have to be in a hide long before the birds come fishing.

It was June and the birds start fishing at first light, so I had to be at the location and ready to shoot by 4.30am at the latest.

I was totally unprepared for the site of these large birds plummeting from the sky vertically and descending below the water line – they did it time and time again, not every time catching a fish. It was breathtaking.

The birds only fish until they have caught enough food – and so this spectacular sight was over within the hour.

Reviewing the images on the back of my SLR screen I see I had captured a lot of water, but few actual Osprey – I was too disappointed though when I saw these images.

It was a long drive back down South and more than once I am sure I dozed off, but thankfully I made it back.

A split second before this shot the Osprey was totally submerged under water.

Osprey emerging from the lake with Salmon

 

The same bird flying back to the nest to feed its young

Osprey taking prey back to nest

 

This is the hide I was shooting from. Small lightweight and packs up real nicely

My Hide

 

 

Best – Colin

Bridal Fashion Shoot

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Morning

My last few portrait shoots have been either children & families, or alternative, out of my comfort zone shoots, so it was really great to get back into my comfort zone yesterday with my favourite type of shoot – on location Bridal Fashion.

But it very nearly didn’t happen.

Most photo-shoots, especially those on location, do require a certain amount of planning. You need to research the location, decide on the look/style, source a suitable model, book a make up artist and hairstylist, decide on props, book the time and date and check the weather forecast!

Many of my shoots are planned weeks if not months in advance. The shoot yesterday was booked back in the Summer. I had a location I had researched, but Summertime was not ideal due to the light, it needed an autumnal feel, so November was chosen.

Everything was ready, model booked, MUA/stylist booked, weather forecast looking almost perfect and then……

What every photographer has to deal with at sometime or other, the model AND the MUA called three days before the shoot and cancelled. At least it was three days and not three hours as I have heard stories of!

So what to do – cancel the shoot entirely and with it all the hard work on styling and planning gone to waste – or try and find another team.

I am fortunate to have worked with a number of professional models and one of those, Lorena, I knew loved being shot in Bridal wear and if she was free I was pretty certain she would be happy to step in.

As it happened she was free and she was happy to be part of the shoot. We were unable to source a styling team – but Lorena, the consummate professional, did her own to fit the mood and styling we had in mind.

Yesterday was a typical autumnal day, crisp, cold clear blue skies, sun low on the horizon. These are just a few of the images we created on the shoot.

Bridal Fashion - Lorena F

Bridal Fashion – Lorena F

Bridal Fashion - Lorena F

Bridal Fashion – Lorena F

Bridal Fashion - Lorena F

Bridal Fashion – Lorena F

Thank you Lorena for stepping in and helping me create these images

Best – Colin

Ten Tips for Improving your Wildlife Photography

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Afternoon.

All of us enjoy looking at images of wildlife. This world is filled with an abundance of different species, many of which we can only dream of seeing in the wild. Wildlife photography can produce some pretty spectacular results with plenty of care and attention to detail.

But contrary to belief, you do not have to venture far from your home to take images of wildlife and if you follow these tips then your wildlife photography will improve.

1. Do your research BEFORE you set off

If you go out with the aim of shooting birds of prey, do your research first. When are they most active? How do they hunt? What is their habitat? Do I need permission to walk across this particular field/path etc?

Doing the necessary research will enable you to better prepare yourself with the correct knowledge and equipment needed to shoot this particular species.

This shot of a Common Buzzard, was taken locally to me. I knew that this particular bird liked to perch on fence posts in the early evening in a field near my home. I set up a hide several hours in advance and waited. Luckily I was also blessed with beautiful backlighting which accentuated the flight feathers.

Common Buzzard

2. Choose your background carefully.

Backgrounds are almost as, if not more important than the image itself. Position yourself so there is a clear background for your subject to stand out from. Doing this one thing will greatly enhance the impact of your pictures.

The picture of a Rook below, a common if under rated bird, taken against a backdrop of out of focus reeds from a reed bed. The colour contrasts well with the blues and purples of the Rook. I used a long lens with a wide aperture to throw the background out of focus, and waited for a bird to land on the fence

Rook

3. Composition – the rule of thirds

Perhaps the most well known principle of photographic composition is the “rule of thirds”. The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 equal parts.
You then place your subject or point of interest at the point of intersection. This, in theory at least allows for a more balanced photograph which is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

This stooping Red Kite was compositionally placed, at the point of capture, in the top right intersection. Notice how the birds shape and placement lead your eye into the empty space below. If the bird was placed too centrally, or perhaps in the bottom left hand intersection, the picture would be unbalanced. (I have drawn the rule of thirds grid on this image)

Stooping Red Kite

4. Use natural framing

Where possible, try and use natural framing. This image of a Swallow was taken using the natural framing of a hole in a shed door. Inside the shed up in the rafters this Swallow had built a nest and the only entrance/exit was through this tiny hole in the door. Every now and then the bird would stop on the way out and perch for a split second, but mostly it would fly straight in and straight out – it took a LONG time to get this one image.

Swallow

5. Get up early

Get up, get out, preferably BEFORE dawn. This just happens to be the time of day when most animals are out hunting or foraging for food. The old adage, the early bird catches the worm, is never truer when spoken with Wildlife Photographers in mind.

It’s no good just getting up at Dawn, you have to be up about and set up at the location you are shooting, at Dawn.

This image of the Gannet at Sunrise, was taken at 5.30am, looking out from the North East Yorkshire coast line. I had wanted to take this image for a very long time, but I live several hundred miles from the location. On this particular day I got up at 1am, drove to the location, was set up at 4am and waited for the sun to rise. This was the image I wanted. I then packed up, and drove straight back home again 😦

A little extreme perhaps, but the light at dawn is the most beautiful light you will see.

Gannet at Sunrise

6. Don’t be a fair weather photographer

Don’t put your camera away at the first hint of rain/snow/hail etc. Go out what ever the weather. Animals and birds don’t stay inside in bad weather. Some of the best images are possible when you take the time and trouble to shoot in bad weather.

You can wrap up warm and stay dry, and your equipment can be protected by a multitude of wet weather protection gear sold on the internet these days. Failing that, you can always go to a nature reserve and sit in a purpose built hide.

These Lapwings were wading in a lake, oblivious to the torrential downpour that was going on. The rain drops in the water and the monochromatic feel to this image give a real sense of the harsh environment the birds were in.

Lapwings

7. Follow the Light

Light can change in an instant – be prepared for it and you will capture great images.

As previously stated, light can be best at dawn and often at dusk too. But at other times of the day it can be harsh and produce very unflattering results. Sometimes though, light appears when you least expect it and you need to be prepared. This image of the Drake Mallard was taken 15 minutes after the image above of the Lapwings. It’s true.

Mallard

8. Know your equipment – the right lens for the right job

It sounds simple, but often it isn’t. Wildlife photography can be very monotonous, sitting in hides for hours at a time, nothing happening, then, bang, the action happens, the animal/bird appears and then it’s all over again.

Wild animals/birds, by their very nature are shy creatures and (mostly) afraid of man. It’s usually necessary to use a long lens, 500mm and above, often with a converter, to capture some of the images we see daily in books and magazines. If you have followed all the other tips and done your research you will have the correct lens on your camera for the subject.

Away from bird feeders these Great Spotted Woodpeckers are extremely shy birds. This was taken with a 500mm lens from a hide.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

9. Look after the environment.

Whilst this might not affect your camera skills it is very important to realise where you are and that you should take care when out with your camera and equipment.

Take only photographs

Leave only footprints

leave it the same as you found it for others to enjoy

And finally….

10. Have Patience.

Wildlife photography can be very lonely and at times boring and monotonous. You can sometimes sit in hides for hours (days even) and not see what you are wanting to see. But with a little patience and perseverance it sometimes, just sometimes, all pays off.

I had been waiting for this Vixen for days, I had learnt her route from her den to her hunting grounds, and I had set up a hide in a prime location to capture her. But the wily old fox always knew I was around. In the following image, shot from a great distance with a 500mm lens and a lens converter she sat staring straight at me, for 40 minutes or so she just sat there, looking at me (well, where the hide was).

I was about to call it a day and pack up when she suddenly yawned the widest yawn you will ever see, and turned and disappeared.

A big grin did I have that day 🙂

Wily old Fox

Best – Colin

Photographing People differently

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Afternoon.

I’ve spent a good few years of my life photographing people (among other things) and over the years I have heard many a person say that “photographing people is easy”. Well, to be fair, if you know how to use a camera, know where to add light or subtract light from and can properly pose an individual then yes – I suppose photographing people is easy.

But then, driving a car is easy too, if you can co-ordinate your eyes, hands, ears and feet to do different things all at the same time!

If you don’t know how to use a camera, or can’t co-ordinate your body, then taking photographs of people, or driving a car is definitely NOT easy.

Taking nice portraits of people IS easy, for someone who has plenty of experience, (just like driving a car) but what is not easy is taking a different portrait of a person. I know, you can change the lighting, change the props, dress them up in different clothing, put them in a different location etc etc etc but after a while they still all look the same, just nice portraits of people.

Recently I had a lady come to me asking, in her words, for, “something different”. I asked if there were any limitations or caveats to this and she said no, I just want something different.

A nice easy client !!

I could have spent thousands on a bespoke photo set, or whisked the client away to some exotic location and perhaps used a Tiger as a prop, or some other over the top solution. But I decided upon simplicity. Put her in a box.

And that’s what I did.

I knew of a large iron box that had a hole cut out in the side and decided to put her in there. We had her make up done pretty brightly along with some awesome finger nail colours and just, well, put her in the box.

The fact you can only see her eyes and not her mouth along with the harsh lighting adds some mystery to the portrait

 

For this next shot we asked her to position her hands as if she was trying to escape from the box.

Something very different and I obviously wouldn’t shoot all my clients this way, but this client loved the shots 🙂

Best – Colin