Archive for March, 2017

New up were the NW Championships held at Wigan’s Robin Park Arena. The Arena and indeed the centre as a whole is superb with some excellent facilities.

It’s only downfall for us is the dismal lighting afforded in the the main hall. Rows of old failing strip lights adorn the ceiling with many having long since expired from this life whilst others make last ditch attempts at lighting the floor like distant stars burning out never to be seen again. We have made enquiries as to if the lighting is on the agenda to be changed yet sadly, as with most things council run, until we are basically holding competitions by candle light there is no plan or indeed funding to replace these lights.

An easy comparison as to how poor the lighting has got is to compare it to a more updated lighting hall. An example of this is in Hull and having recently had a complete lighting change to new strip lights allows us a shutter speed of 1/500th sec at f2.8 and a very credible indoor ISO of 1000. This allows us to capture all the action with lovely stills and quality exposures which require very little in their post event processing. To compare we are pushing the limits at Robin Park with a reduced shutter speed of 1/400th sec at f.28 yet a whopping ISO of 5000. Now I won’t begin on how increasing ISO and reducing shutter speed affects exposure values and stops of light etc as I will assume most of you know. With that knowledge you will understand that we are thus pushing boundaries with the quality of printing. Yes things can be modified and “improved” in Photoshop but it’s always nice to simply take a correctly exposed image, at quality settings which require little doing to them. Post production requires constant white balance corrections dependant on where in the hall we shoot from owing to the vast difference in lighting quality across this single ceiling of light.

The event as always was a roaring success for all involved, with the added bonus of Olympic Trampoline Silver Medallist Bryony Page turning up to talk with the competitors and also present some of the medals at the close of the event. To be fair she was an absolute star even though the onslaught of kids wanting a signature or selfie with her was relentless. I’ve seen some so called stars who can be quite off with hoards of kids yet Bryony simply soaked it all up like a true professional. Nothing was too much and it took her being rescued by one of the organisers to give her a break from it all.

Some 400+ competitors and the associated swathes of parents and family there to watch made for an excellent day.

For us it was another 5500 images, a queue long after the event had finished and home for 2130hrs.

The image below shows the afternoon medal winners with Bryony and the bouquet of flowers she was presented with. The full image was somewhat larger and included all the judges for the day.

NW Champs

The image at the foot of this text is the culmination of several months work with a bride and groom who wanted something different.

It all began when we covered their wedding on what can only be described as a damp and windy day. The outdoor images were ok but certainly nothing startling because of the dull grey sky we had. Yes we used flash to liven things up and the guests event helped decorate a tree in the grounds for a shoot. Sadly the staff at the location took it upon themselves to tear all that hard work down before we had chance to get out and shoot. Idiots jumps to mind.

After handing over the final set of images the bride asked if it would be possible to do a specific location shoot during the summer. I was of course happy to help, as I believe all photographers should be in such a situation, and left the proposed date to them. Once the summer of 2016 arrived we planned a date to coincide with what the weather forecasters had said would be a nice day. The day arrived, the sun was shining, a low but warm wind blew and off we went to Whitby.

The location they had chosen was very specific. The bride had seen a shoot that I had done the previous winter in and around the town of Whitby, North Yorkshire. One of those images had been taken at the end of and underneath the North Pier. This is usually populated with fishermen taking advantage of its reach out into the North Sea and not the easiest point to reach as it involves a climb down some precarious old metal ladders. The brides wish is the brides wish though so off we went.

Once down there the bride and groom simply got changed into their wedding day attire. This was a hoot to say the least with fishermen averting their eyes whilst cheeky comments were received from passing pleasure cruise boats. All good clean fun and certainly something that you wouldn’t see or be believed when you told the story.

The shoot itself was easy enough and took about half an hour to finally get a pose which they both liked. Once this was in the bag and agreed upon we packed up and went for a well deserved fish & chip dinner in one of the many harbour restaurants.

The long process of developing the image into exactly what the bride and groom wanted then began. The whole process took almost 6 months. This wasn’t time with me getting the processing done but actually being able to arrange all three of us to be in the same room at the same time. Work, kids & other interruptions all delayed the process.

The image ended up with some seventy (70) layers, within multiple groups in Photoshop. There are many obvious additions and many very subtle additions requested by the bride and groom. A few obvious examples are the multiple bouquets along each of the pillars, the doves and lighting. The not so obvious include the bride and grooms names and date of marriage etched (via photoshop) onto the nearest pillar. This can be seen in the final print, if you look hard enough, as she wanted several small additions to totally personalise the image.

Finally completed a couple of weeks ago the final 30×18 was framed in a silver to black graded frame on a double mount to match their house decor. One very happy couple and one very pleased photographer.

I never anticipated this taking so long. I just thought a few weeks would see this through from start to finish. All the subtle additions and removals, as the image was created, along with the delays in seeing each other turned this into a long and protracted commission. The result however looks superb up on their wall and has already had many visitors looking for the finely added nuances and personal touches along with the obvious ones.

I won’t even bother with the camera settings as with such a heavily manipulated image it hardly seems appropriate.

JanCmp

This is something that I knocked together for the BSGA Schools Trampoline series and to advertise that we were covering the Northern Zonals along with the upcoming finals.

The young lady in the leotard is my daughter. The image of her in that pose was taken in the studio and then simply photoshopped onto the swirling galaxy image. Taken with her sat on a black sheet and with a black background the removal was easy to accomplish. With a couple of star burst or lens flares added to strategic places the image was good to go.

I could have taken far more care over this yet as it was only going online to social media and not being printed out I felt that the time making things perfect was not justified. Issues with the hair, feet etc could have been sorted to look a little more convincing but for something such as this is there a need?

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The beginning of October saw us covering the third and final Kingston League trampoline  event in East Yorkshire.

This is a typical localised event which garners around the 150 entrants mark for a days competition. As with all local events this gives the newcomers a chance on the big stage in front of their peers and those more used to competition a chance to battle for honours against just team or school mates.

This event has been held at a local school for the last two years sine Hull City banished all the local amateur clubs from the Arena. In some ways this was indeed detrimental owing to the smaller space and subsequent lack of seating. For us however it was actually an improvement. Quite simply the lighting is superb, new and ever so bright. If every indoor event location we worked at had this amount of lumens emanating from the roof lights we would be happy people. Shooting at our usual hight shutter speeds we are using low iso’s that are simply unattainable at even so called prestigious locations such as the Velodrome in London.

All in all a low key event but great fun to be had by all involved.

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September saw the 4th round of the Uk Trampoline / DMT League take place in Newcastle. These events are huge and extremely demanding for us not only as a business yet also on a personal level.

The weekend starts a few days before with the preparation of online galleries being set up correctly and with coordinated passwords for guest access. Equipment checks follow with essentials such as all batteries receiving a last top up charge to ensure we at least have power. We drain at least 4 of the Canon LP-E6N’s each day depending on usage. Usage obviously varies depending on the amount of competitors which dictates how many clicks are required per day.

We aim to capture at least one present to the judges followed by as many of the 10 subsequent moves as possible or look good and then the final present at the end of the routine to the judges. This can provide a maximum of 12 images per competitor. Consider that every competitor does 2 routines and it becomes obvious that with a minimum of 400 competitors at an event we easily reach 10,000 images when podium images are included. Earlier in the year at Cardiff there were 800 competitors over the 2 days and we came away with some 15,000 images to process.

The weekend starts with a drive to the host city on the Friday evening where we have a pre-booked hotel for the 2 nights. If there is time we visit the venue and start our setup if possible. This saves us a little time on the Saturday morning yet as we have been doing this some time now we can set the desk up in some 10 minutes from bare tables to fully functioning sales desks.

The weekend then just steam rolls along taking us along with it. Photographers almost hold the 4.5kg of camera & lens to our faces for 9hrs straight. This can be extended if delays are incurred by competitors crashing out and requiring medical assistance. This has a massive effect on your arms and back which can start to stiffen by lunchtime. The Sunday becomes a mind over matter exercise with the pain that just doesn’t go away. The desk is a continuous queue of people wanting to view, and hopefully purchase the images taken. As Sunday ends for the photographers the desk continues to run. It can, and has, run on for over 2hrs after an event has finished. Still with a queue of parents waiting, the venue almost cleared and up to a 4hr drive in front of us every potential purchase is important so we stay. We arrive home late on the Sunday night, sometimes gone midnight, and after unloading the van its bedtime.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and sometimes even Thursday are then solid editing and uploading of images to the respective galleries.Whilst most people understand the process I can guarantee at least 2 emails are sent on the Sunday, whilst we are still shooting the ongoing competition, asking what they can’t yet see any images in the gallery. We even place a notice at the start of every gallery notifying visitors of the process and yet they still email. Sometimes you just wonder how some people cope with life.

Once Friday arrives its simply time to check everything again if we have work on that upcoming weekend too. We are working almost every weekend of 2017 with just a few free or deliberately crossed off because of birthdays or holidays etc. You have to be busy to survive yet sometimes you just wish things would stop or at least slow down.

This particular weekend produced a reasonable 10,100 images which were edited by the Wednesday. With just one more qualifier to go in a few weeks time it’ll soon be the finals down at the Velodrome in London and thats a big one.

The images are simply what we post on social media to announce when certain panels and beds have completed galleries, though the second one just goes to prove that the competitors can still have time to enjoy themselves too.

You can read all about the league here – Trampoline / DMT League

All serious but with smiles –

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Having a bit of fun too or in one case how not to bounce –

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The following image is one of a series that I have undertaken with a very lovely young lady who has participated in several ideas I have had over the last few years.

The idea of body painting someone in either a single colour or multi colours is certainly nothing new yet something I would recommend to any photographer who has the time, a studio and a willing model. The whole experience is something different to the usual humdrum high key imagery normally produced in the studio. With the right people involved you can also have a jolly good laugh as we both did on this occasion.

The model is simply painted in silver dust mixed with body oil. This allows the dust to spread easier whilst giving it a shimmering almost alive look. We had sampled just applying the dust in its raw form yet I believed, and the model agreed, that it looked somewhat dull in comparison to the liquid version. When I say painted the silver was literally applied with a 1″ paint brush from the pot in which it was mixed. Nothing fancy about that at all.

There was nothing outstanding about the shoot and things progressed as with any other shoot trying out different lighting and poses. A whole series of different image styles and poses were accomplished however I will keep the imagery appropriate for all to appreciate whilst retaining the dignity of the model on such a public forum.

The gold liquid was added towards the close of the shoot to simply add a different dimension within the colours. This almost made it look as if she was either melting or indeed oozing the gold from her mouth which we both agreed was a quality look.

With the ‘melting’ idea firmly afloat I added the flame effects in Photoshop to create a set of finished images the model was extremely pleased with. All in all it was a most satisfactory finish to what had initially been a “what if?” idea.

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September started with a specialist image created to highlight the rather awful Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. An issue which amongst other things causes hyper mobility and degradation of muscle tissue amongst other things.

This an inherited condition owing to faulty DNA and is seriously debilitating. The model in this image is an actual sufferer. Her hand pose shows one of the hyper mobility issues created whilst the joints fail. The DNA strand is to highlight the hereditary link.

We have allowed the unlimited use of this image by the EDS group to highlight and promote the professional assistance available to sufferers.

For more information read – Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

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The end of August saw the studio turned into what looked like and explosion at a cake factory. A young lads first birthday was celebrated with a cake smash shoot for his family. He however  wasn’t too impressed with whole thing and simply kicked off regardless of what the parents tried to appease him with.

Mum and Dad however were in a superb jovial mood and made the most of the time available having what could only be described as a personal cake fight. I just sat there capturing it all having a jolly good laugh as it happened.

Experience has taught me that covering the floor with one of the clear plastic dust sheets, readily available at most DIY stores makes tidying up so much easier. Simply tape it down and once everyone has left drag it all up carefully into a large bin bag before disposing. Leaves the studio floor almost spotless other than where cake got through the odd minor tear created during the shenanigans.

Usual equipment used as for any high key shoot with just some plastic coverings over the electrical and vulnerable items for protection.

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An all too rare family portrait session in August was also a pleasure to do. I don’t push the studio at all and I really should because the rewards can be quite fruitful. I am actually wanting to rip it all out, place full wall to ceiling windows in and have an option of natural light, mixed natural/flash or just flash. I also want a raised apex ceiling with additional skylights too. I will probably then push the studio side of things and see if we can make a real go of it. My issue is that most people just want a high key family photo. I can see why yet I would just love to undertake something a little more alternative with a more adventurous family. Patterned backdrops or sat on seats with low key or coloured lighting. Well just about anything other than high key. We undertook only 14 such sessions in 2016 yet the yield far outweighs the effort required to complete things. I must push this side of things.

A family who wanted the simplest of portraits which we managed in three clicks of the shutter with a 4th being of just the daughter. Here probably 30mins at most, immensely happy with the 24×16 framed print they purchased. I’ve included this as the daughter was an absolute credit to her parents. Big smiles, polite and thoughtful you wonder why so many other kids just couldn’t be like her.

Usual kit used, namely a gripped canon 5Diii, Bowens 750pro’s, sun dish, couple of brollies etc etc providing a nice clean high key image.

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As with most gymnastics eventing and as per the previous two years of covering more regional and national events August was a relatively quiet month for us. Two weeks were spent on holiday with the two weeks either side allowing for some additional R&R.

We did cover a couple of events with a fun day at the Humber Bridge photographing the jet ski championship competitors preparing to travel down to the marina area where they were racing. Some of the warm up stunts we saw really opened peoples eyes to what level these guys are at in their sport. At high speed it would appear that simply keeping the thing attached to the water, for propulsion, along with speed and stability gives you the best chance of winning. The variable is wave intensity which can throw a serious spanner in the works for even the most experienced of riders. Thankfully the river was calm and so we saw some fun warm ups in our time down there.

A couple of summer weddings were also completed, one of which was our first same sex marriage. This was slightly damp though that never dampened the spirits of those involved and indeed an excellent day was had. Even a mishap with our rainbow brolly and the breeze simply caused waves of laughter throughout those there.

All in all August was as expected with just enough tick over work mingled with a nice rest abroad in the sun.

Below are a couple of images with one showing a selection of jet skiers just before a warm up and the second showing the unexpected moment that wind crashed the wedding party.

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When the wind blows…….

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