Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Firstly I would like to state that all images on this blog are copyright to Cecil Paul Studio’s and we do not give any permission for any individual or company to copy, transfer, alter or amend any image in any known or unknown format without permission. Don’t be a digital thief and pay for the image if you like it that much!!

The above statement comes after one particular radio station robbed an image from here and used it for a promotion. Unbelievably another radio station then robbed that copy for their own radio promotion. The music industry complains about kids downloading songs for free and yet they are thieving when it suits them. Double standards at work which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

So onto September –

Things kicked off for us on the first weekend with the third series of the National Trampoline & DMT League, held at Birmingham University. This was a superb venue and being almost new gave us possibly the best balanced lighting of any event this year so far. When you can have your speed with a nice low iso its almost xmas as a photographer and this place delivered in swathes of light.

The weekend as a whole was manic as expected with some 600+ competitors over the two days. We were constantly busy and without barely time to visit the loo for most of both days. The evening meal and a few cold ones, on the Saturday evening, to wash it all down makes things worthwhile though and helps us get a nice nights sleep.

We took some 8500 images in total and had our usual excellent response to the quality of our image and montage offerings over the weekend. Sadly the organisers hadn’t produced the promised event program and so, with no advert, all things regarding our gallery codes went out of the window which had a knock on effect to the subsequent online sales. You’d think they would learn from this, as we were not the only disappointed sponsor, yet you’ll see in Octobers roundup they never. Incompetence at the highest level.

21105961_1271504582976759_7858157569135873735_n

One thing can always be said for the competitors though is they have a good laugh when there and will happily pose for images such as this one below.

21248525_1277339192393298_2291221121932011126_o

Our equestrian coverage also continued with several dressage events over the month, one of which was our own business dedicated event. This was a lovely day not only with the quality of competition shown but we had our own branded rosettes. Manor Grange Stud had commissioned a whole series of garlands and rosettes with our name and logo on which was absolutely lovely to see.

The other equestrian events were, as usual, slick and with no messing about. Thankfully the weather held out and so there were no monsoon days where I end up hiding under the main building canopy to shoot from. Our business from these events continues to grow at a steady rate and thus I believe we will chose to continue providing coverage into 2018 and possibly beyond.

These galleries remain our only open event galleries and can be found here – Equestrian Galleries

22046584_1297950263665524_5435524775096100411_n

Gymnastics also played a key part in September with two competition weekends hosted by Bridlington Gymnastics. This is proper grass roots stuff and we love it. No big arenas, no ego’s, just lots of enthusiastic kids and parents doing what they do. The competitors start around 4-5 years up to the seniors around the 16-17 age group. We are well looked after by the hosts and have a fantastic rapport with both the organisers, adults and kids alike. We are already booked for the 2018 events and look forward to them as its just a fun set of weekends.

21761551_1290479674412583_1007655187585330805_n

Back in July this year I did a bit of work with the band Wayward Sons when I covered their first ever live gig down in Bristol. This had come about from my involvement with their promotional videos for the new album which can all be read about in an earlier post.

September saw them out supporting UFO on their 2017 UK Tour. One particular date, the 15th, was also the official release date for the album. Thinking it would be a good idea to capture that night I emailed Toby and he said thanks, yes, pop along and do your thing. The night was superb and in my personal opinion the Sons were head and shoulders above UFO in musical deliver and enthusiasm. The crowd were bouncing along to the music, which noticeably stopped once UFO had taken to the stage. The UFO set was slick and polished though I feel lacked a raw feel. I could honestly say that you could have listened to this on the radio as visually and engagement wise things were seriously lacking. To put it into context I was sat uploading and editing my images in the main hall area whilst they were on. Looked up a few times just to make sure things were still going when the music stopped.

On a working basis the Picturedome at Holmfirth is not actually too bad to work in. Yes it is compact though the fans are all stood on a sloping floor leading upend away from the stage. Tis allowed me to move up and down and simply shoot over the top of those in front of me. Non of the usual clamouring about to secure a gap between heads and phones which is nice. Setting were mediocre as though the lighting operator did give some light it wasn’t nearly as much as that given to the headline act. Thank the lord for full frame cameras and f2.8 lenses.

The night finished, I had a good chat with the band and then it was away home, still damp from sweating in the pit for a nice warm shower and bed.

The images from this event are behind a secured gallery and only for the band to see. Images from the gig will be released as and when they see fit which is sad in a way as I like to see my images out there in the wild. To stop any thieving radio stations or any other publications grabbing images of the band you’ll just have to put up with this montage again. Shame how people spoil things for others.

WS2

The month was topped off with a visit to City Of Leeds Trampolining & Gymnastics to undertake a specific shoot of gymnasts who had qualified for a host of national and international competitions. With all new leotards the head coach wanted a series of portrait images taking to help promote the club within the Yorkshire region.

The whole thing took around 4hrs to complete and with a happy head coach, general coaches, kids and parents I headed home.

That was not quite the end though regarding this as we are returning in January to film a whole series of short films about the club, their offerings and what kids can expect to be doing if they join the club. Really looking forward to that.

This image was a fun pic taken after all the kids had individually paraded in each of their leotards for their portrait to be taken. I know from my school photo experiences this isn’t fun so when the coach suggested a pic in the foam pit, we ended up with this.

21616307_1288989247894959_1561451255791796579_n

I’ll try not to leave things too long before blogging our October exploits.

 

Advertisements

I’ve been meaning to get this all up to date recently, and indeed I will soon be doing so, though a recent event has prompted me here in advance.

We recently covered our third National Trampoline League & DMT finals at the Olympic Velodrome in London as the official photographers of the event. Now whilst this will be subject to my all encompassing end of year update, it was actually our journey down to London which causes me to write today.

We always stop somewhere for tea, a loo break and a coffee for the onward journey. It helps break up the long journeys to events and as any driver will tell you, that half hour rest can do you the world of good. Last Friday was no exception and whilst travelling down the A1 through Lincolnshire it was time to indeed stop for this break. A Burger King Restaurant along with a petrol station approached and after a quick consultation, with the kids, I pulled in and parked up. The Burger King was almost empty, which I like, so items are usually cooked to order and indeed that was what we were informed by the counter assistant. Mmm nice hot fresh food rather than the stuff thats been kept Luke warm in the heater display trays.

I saw the most luscious looking image of a Triple Cheese & Caramelised Onion Angus Burger on the display board, placed my order with the wife and went to the loo. Upon my return the family had all placed their orders and had sat down to wait. Imaging my excitement when the young counter assistant brought over our freshly cooked meals, oh was my mouth drooling. We almost yet not quite.

Indeed if my mush had of been drooling at the prospect of this lush looking burger on the display board it would have been sorely disappointed in what laid beneath the wrapper.

I think its time for an image, the image of disappointment, corporate greed, misleading advertising and the blatant rip off that these soulless fast food outlets have become….

Burger King

Now excuse me for being disappointed with what I unwrapped, but do the two images match? Of course they don’t and Burger King just don’t care either. I enquired as to my lacklustre looking offering against the most pristine of images on the display board and was assured that it was indeed what it was supposed to be. I think my look of disbelief prompted the comment “We cant replicate those images but your burger does contain what it should”. This is surely the biggest con going and they are getting away with it. If I ordered a new car with a luxurious leather & walnut interior I think I’d have recourse to complain if it came with some tatty old worn cloth seats from a bus in. Why should food be any different?

To be fair to the poor counter assistant it would appear that I wasn’t the first to complain about this limp excuse for a burger. I tweeted my disgust and some four days later no response from Burger King. I’ve placed it on Facebook and again no response. In an age where there are many offerings, of fast food outlets, it would appear that Burger Kings silence on the matter speaks volumes. Do they actually not care about customers like me who will never eat Burger King again. Heaven forbid I might order chips one day and receive wood shavings instead. Hey ho we have your money, just eat and drive on.

To rectify things we stopped at one of the many “OK Diners” restaurants along the A1 on our way home and enjoyed four sumptuous meals (kids had burgers) and drinks. I used to like Burger King for their bigger burgers, though after this experience I doubt we shall return any time soon.

Independents rule.

Where have I been?

Posted: December 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

Well the last few months have been totally manic with work. Indeed I have just finished editing some 10,000 images from the weekend.

I will be updating the blog next week when I finally have some time …….

Firstly I need to clarify which Wayward Sons band I am writing and discussing here. The band is the Wayward Sons band formed by former Little Angels vocalist Toby Jepson and not the American band of the same name. If you would like to see what they are all officially about then head over to Wayward Sons Official Website or their Facebook page at Wayward Sons Uk Facebook. If you like the look of all that then you can always become a member of the Wayward Fans official Facebook page too. There’s certainly lot’s going on around these guys with a very positive buzz from the critics.

My connection with the band started in 2013 when Toby was gracious enough to let me shoot a couple of his tour dates, namely the O2 at Sheffield and Hull Fruit dates. This assisted me greatly with my BA(Hons), when certain teaching elements said it couldn’t be done and I am eternally grateful for Toby’s assistance. Recently he moved back from the solo work to forming a the new said band. This has produced an album, “Ghosts of yet to come”, which is to be released on 15th September 2017. The band decided on a quadrilogy of video’s, to support four singles from the album, for which they decided to use fans and acquaintances as extras. A general request was sent out to which I replied and waited. A couple of emails later and I’m booked to attend the video shoot in Leicester.

Check out the bands video’s –

“Until The end” – Watch here

“Alive” – Watch here

“Crush” –Watch here

“Ghost” Watch here

As part of my BA I had produced a photobook of images from the dates, which I wished for Toby to sign one day. The video shoot was the perfect opportunity, to get it signed, so the book came with me. At the end of the day the book was signed and I asked who would be covering the first live gig a few weeks later. Toby essentially said he hadn’t thought about that and so I jumped on the opportunity and sold myself, to which he accepted.

The 26th July 2017 was the first live date the band were to perform live together. With a four hour drive to get down to Bristol it was an early start to get there when the band did. The gig was to be held at The Louisiana in Bristol. Even with some internet searching I wasn’t able to find much information on the size of room, lighting, stage or basically anything. To say the least images of the place were rather thin in the google searches and this started to fill me with dread. I knew the room had a capacity of 120 so this was going to be small, intimate and a bugger to shoot properly.

My reservations about the room were indeed justified upon arrival. A small rectangle of a room, box stage at one end, mixing desk at the other and to my horror barely half a dozen of the new LED stage lights to illuminate things for me. These lights are a pain for the cameras. Colours yes but those precious lumens lighting the stage where just not in attendance. With dozens of them yes you can quite confidently shoot away but this was going to be hard, very hard.

The room taken on my iPhone upon arrival.

IMG_2770

Now you can see what I mean by intimate. Even the mixing desk is situated in what was a small function room bar to the rear. The daylight is from a balcony fire exit which was opened for some fresh air.

I had a couple of hours to see what suited my cameras and lenses best and it quickly became apparent this was indeed not going to be easy. Low speed, wide open and huge ISO’s just to capture the guy’s setting up were not a good start. A few hours later and we where ready to go. I left the band in the dressing room having taken a group image of them all and made my way to the room. It was almost pitch black, other than those lumen free diet LED lighting units at the stage. They didn’t even face the band as situated on the sides of the stage.

I made my way to the stage, sat on it, placed down my two 5Diii’s armed with grips and 24-70mm f/2.8 / 70-200 f/2.8 lenses respectively and felt the intense wall of heat hit me. I, as was everyone in the room, sweating when things began to roll.

A large roar of approval, and introduction from the DJ, the band step on stage and Boom we are go……..

Wide open at f2.8 the ISO’s where on the limit at 12,500 regardless of 100th sec or 250th sec shutter speeds. The bands front three just never stood still either, which just made things worse. Undeterred I simply wet for it with the 24-70mm wide and 70-200 zooms I had to hand. Being literally sat on the stage I was unable to fit the whole band into any single image. I looked back and saw a young lady shooting away with a DSLR whilst being jostled with the crowd moving. I decided that was not an option so I made the decision to go intimate. I knew there would be 100’s of phone images as upon looking back I could see them all glowing away.

Close up and intimate still gave me a challenge, though I began to like what I saw when quick reviewing the images between bursts. The set was short and before I knew it we were on the last song of the night. For this I made my way to the back of the room and shot over the crowd. Being unable to direct the crowd and band to my vantage point the camera was firmly to my face and finger on the trigger for any opportunity that arose in those last minutes. I grabbed a few and was pleased with the overall results.

Post gig the band made their way downstairs, to the bar area, and mingled with the fans. I took a small selection of fan pics with individual members of the band and then made my way home, arriving back at the ungodly hour of 4am.

So the images taken and how did they turn out? Well to be honest I was actually pleased with a good 75% of what I took. From almost individual portraits to the close up where you could see beads of sweat on their faces I had accomplished what I decided to do. I’d even taken a quick scoot through them upon getting home due to my concerns about the available light etc.

This was my view at 4:11am with a nice cold refreshing beer in hand. Amazingly being up for nearly 21hrs at this point, driving some 400+ miles and done a live shoot I was wide awake on adrenaline. Great feeling.

WS1

The image shows L-R,  Sam Wood, Toby Jepson and Nic Wastell

I have agreed that no actual images from the event will be made public without the express permission of Wayward Sons therefore this blog post is almost anorexic in imagery. One small montage which I can show is below. I compiled this for the fans page as a momento of the evening and it has the bands approval to be published.

WS2

 

The band are L-R Dave Kemp, Sam Wood, Phil Martini, Toby Jepson & Nic Wastell.

The gig itself was superb and the whole band did themselves proud. The enthusiasm, energy and belief on stage was visible to all and received enthusiastically by the crowd. The setlist was a trial run for the new stuff, which is superb, mixed with a few Angels classics thrown in.

The setlist as recovered by Mr Damian Gore –

WS3

Final image here is of Toby and myself just before I left the Louisiana. Taken by an unknown person on my phone my shirt was finally drying out and I was not looking forward to the impending 4hr drive ahead. Smiles anyway.

Toby

Moving forward Toby mentioned me doing some more live gig photography for the band on their upcoming support tours around the UK. I hope he’s good to his word on that, as I love the live gig stuff, and would love to be involved with the band at some level going forward. I think they have a bright future ahead of them.

All images are © to Cecil Paul Studio’s and Wayward Sons Band UK and may not be copied, reproduced or used in any manner without approval.

Sunday saw us booked to cover a regional qualifying round for the British Riding Clubs UK Championships. Winners and, I believe, certain others would be qualifying for the National finals in a few weeks which is quite some achievement when you consider what they have to do on a horse.

Horse jumping has always intrigued me, especially those jumps where the height simply doesn’t appear achievable, yet the horse somehow gets over without knocking off the poles. So, as a non rider myself, the fact that people can actually make a horse complete any number of manoeuvres, which include almost dancing, to me, is exceptional. I know full well that many hundreds of hours go into practicing and training so when something goes wrong even I tend to be a little disappointed for the rider. Equestrian riding is almost an art with the subtle ways in which they guide and instruct the horse. There are no verbal commands just fine control of the reigns, stirrups and seating position of the riders. There may be more and I’m happy to be corrected if there are.

So take the difficulty of equestrian competition and place a twist into the mix, with the twist being two horses doing the same routine at the same time. Oh yes and with a maximum of 20% of the allotted time spent apart with the other 80% of the routine side by side, around the arena.

I saw this “Pairs” riding for the first time on Sunday and was totally impressed with the four groups of competitors who took part in their respective groups. The look of concentration was clear for all to see on their faces throughout the routines, with the elation of finishing what they obviously knew was a solid routine visible too.

As a photographer this was no different to any other equestrian event I shoot with just one exception, capturing the 2 horses in complete harmony and literally mirroring each other step for step. Now that sounds easy yet I assure you it isn’t. This actually happens only a few times in any routine owing to all the turning and change of step etc. Ideally, so one pair told me, they have 2 horses of the same size etc etc. As this is not too easy to find at club level you tend to get one horse which is slightly bigger than the other. This is like having one tall human walk alongside a smaller human and expected to walk stride for stride for 8 minutes. It rarely happens but thats the image they want capturing.

Knowing my strides and turns I was able to second guess when the pairs were likely to come together in that perfect harmony moment. Even then only two of the four actually achieved this whilst travelling in a direction that gave a suitable image. Standing and watching this happen as they trotted away down the arena, away from you with bums and backs onshore, is rather demoralising. In those instances you simply capture what you can from the opportunities given when they are correctly positioned in their line of travel.

The day for us was great with the lovely weather and a few cool drinks to boot. With many of the competitors asking about images we also hoped for a good response with the galleries which I am pleased to say has actually been superb. We have also received several messages complimenting the quality of our images.

I know, from a riding friend, that a lot of the local clubs either use someone they know i.e. a rider or parent for photography, with some clubs having serious amateur or even alleged professionals shooting them. Now I am not here to slag anyone off so I will just say that a lot of these  images tend to be somewhat lacking in technical ability.

On Sunday and ,as an example of this, we had a very ice lady who came to stand near us to photograph several different horses, all from one club. She quite openly declared herself as the club photographer, for those horses, and was most impressed with our setup and the way we conducted ourselves. After the first horse she captured, someone came over and asked her to turn the camera flash off. She had a Canon DSLR, with pop up flash, the camera set to auto and was just clicking away happily with the flash trying to doing its thing against the sun. She asked for some advice and I suggested changing the settings to either TV or AV and adjusting those to shoot what she wanted. She admitted to having not much of a clue so I showed her two options that would improve the images shot and, more importantly, not require flash. Did she listen …. nope she went to the other end of the arena so the sun was more to the side of her. Oh well you try and help lol.

So the images we took. I’m going to keep this down to the usual couple of images I like to add at the end of a post.

If you would like to see the days images click here – Cecil Paul Studios Equestrian Galleries

Image One :

The one where it all comes together, just at the right time, right angles, riding positions and just togetherness. Riding like this for an 8 Minute routine is not easy.

Pairs1

Image Two :

When you just know it was excellent. The elation at completing a quality equestrian pairs routine. I do believe these two ladies came first and thus through to the national finals.

Pairs2

 

When not on a commissioned job, or working in the studio and I actually have a weekend free I like to take a look at local motor racing circuits and see whats on. Usually there’s nothing of interest happening or the wife has something organised for us. Last weekend however my Saturday was free, yes totally free and with the VMCC holding one of their racing events at my local circuit Cadwell Park I was on my way.

I love Cadwell Park as the place is quite simply a superb circuit, non of the flat round and round places that are all too common these days. Full of hills and sweeping bends with the infamous mountain it ticks all the boxes for spectators and photographers alike. The VMCC events are totally open so you can have a good, unrestricted wander around looking at the machinery on show. The facilities are good, there’s always a burger van there for lunch and coffee which is reasonably priced and finally the toilets are clean and functional. There is a hospitality building, if that’s your Raceday thing, excellent access to a good 80% of the racing with just one small strip inaccessible. Official photography is exclusive to one chap, which I find odd for such a big place. Access to the prime spots is therefore a non starter, though there are plenty of places you can stand if the crowds aren’t too big. A nice 200-400 zoom or fixed 400mm 2.8 would create an even keel though as you could reach across to achieve those angles. Justifying the £8k spend to the wife would be a tad difficult though lol.

I enjoy this racing for two reasons. Firstly I rode motorbikes in my youth having range of Yamaha’s from 350cc through to 750cc over several years. Fabulous carefree times where the adrenaline rush of twisting a throttle and being catapulted down the road made my youthful brain buzz. Living in Germany for three years and having speed limit free autobahns made fun for modding the latter, bigger engined machines, and in the early 90’s and quieter roads having an absolute hoot out there. Secondly I love capturing motorsport and movement. Motorsport, like gymnastics, needs to have a perspective of movement. All of the top publications will show on track imagery with a sense of movement. This will be within the tires and spokes of the vehicles as nothing else really moves. A adjusting settings to continually provide this effect, coupled with some clever planning helps produce some lovely imagery. Doing this consistently to provide a gallery of the days events takes some skill. I see many online images that are simply awful in tat the bike has been shot at such a high speed it simply looks stationary. Not ideal when trying to provide that sense of movement.

I was actually approached by a group of men, from a local amateur photography club, who stated they were struggling with aperture speeds around the 1/1000th of a second. They had recognised my “Gear” and labelled me either Semi Pro or Pro so popped over for a chat. Lovely blokes, well mannered and respected the fact I was cracking on capturing the racing. In short they where simply after the fastest shutter speed they could grab to freeze the action. They almost had a seizure when I showed them a shutter speed under 1/250th sec. To put it simply they tried it, failed at the panning and surprisingly went back to high shutter speed, high ISO’s and medium apertures of F4+. Using stock kit lenses didn’t help their cause on flexibility but with the day being clear and bright they could easily capture imagery like mine with a bit of effort. Even under 1/250th and an ISO 100 gave me apertures of between f.35 – f11 through the day. Anyway they stayed at their super speed options as I came across them again when I moved to the chicane. Blasting away on high speed shutter with high speed apertures and ISO’s it was like they were shooting some rare, single moment, wildlife rather than repetitive circuit racing. Oh well.

All in all I had a fabulous day. The smell of 2 stroke oil in the air, rasping engines all blessed with some bright dry weather made things great. From traditional motorcycles to scooters, sidecars and the odd rare one off’s that survive into today an excellent day out for any petrolhead. A plus point, for me anyway, being that a few riders came to me for business cards made things worthwhile.

A couple of images from the day now follow. To see the entire days images see here 2017 VMCC Cadwell Park

A Norton, I believe..

bike

These sidecar guys are brave or a little unhinged or potentially both.

bike 2

A BSA Bantam in full flow.

bike 3

Equipment wise all images were captured using a Canon 5Diii with Canon 70-200mm IS ii zoom. Settings varied owing to location and light available but nothing shot over 1/250th sec thus portraying the speed involved.

Oh for one of those magic Media Passes to reach the prime shooting points 😂

So January saw yet another new venture for us at the Manor Grange Stud & Show Centre in Yorkshire. As previously mentioned we were put onto the availability of a photographers position by someone who we knew through regional gymnastics. I will be perfectly honest in that word of mouth and existing customer recommendations have been the most beneficial component to our business growth over the last few years and this was no exception.

A random comment on an equestrian thread which mentioned us, followed by a couple of emails and we find ourselves invited to try things out. We made no excuses to the management that this was a filler job, to our main event work, and as such we would not be able to cover every event. With this in mind they initially took on a second company, though sadly this didn’t work out owing to the rather irrational outlook they had on event photography.

Quite simply event photography is totally hit and miss on sales. You can cover an event one week, take a serious four figure amount with little effort, to barely covering your costs at a similar event the following week. I think the other company simply saw the cost of keeping horses etc and thought that this would transfer into a weekly cash bonanza for them. As a product example they offered a 20×16 framed portrait print of your horse for £600. Yes a whopping £600 for a portrait image framed print. Now I won’t go into markups and profit here yet with our associated costs, for a similar product, I can only see that price as obscene and attempting to take advantage. Oddly they never sold any and found this odd …….. go figure. When the cash didn’t begin flowing weekly they began pressuring the management for the bigger events and trying to squeeze us out. Thankfully the management refused to budge and so the other company bailed on them leaving us a sole photographers. The management subsequently decided to keep us as the primary business and invite random guest photographers in when we are busy. This is certainly working, things are settled & people are happy so we hope it continues without interference. Sales vary at every event and no two are the same even with similar entry numbers.

We are now six months into the contract, things are going just fine for us and the management are happy too. We have developed our imagery with multi image montage options that differ from the gymnastics montages. The equestrian customer prefers soft blending of images and no particular text, other than the location. As a business you listen, tailor and develop your product until people are happy. We have done this and sell quite a few of the montages per month.

An example of a montage –

montage

At manor we cover two styles of equestrian competition which are dressage and jumping.

Dressage is, when it all goes to plan, a wonderful demonstration of harmony between horse and rider. From the basic entry level tests, for beginners, to the advanced where the horses even complete the routine to music is something to see. As someone who has never even sat on a horse I respect every rider out there for the hard work and dedication to just reach these regional rounds.

When it’s all going nicely –

Dressage1

And when things require that exceptional extra control –

_54A7217

Surprisingly I have captured several of these rear-up moments which can appear a little scary at the time. The riders I have subsequently spoken to all seem to laugh it off with the lady above almost resigned to this happening as her horse had been ‘flitty’ all day, as she put it. Well I for one am still impressed at their control of such a situation.

The jumping side of things is far simpler than the dressage side. Dressage riders like the horse to look all flowing and majestic, which can be difficult to capture, whereas the jumpers are simply that, jumpers who like to see them and their horse coming over a jump. A slight angle is normally preferred to show the horse in its fullest so the only real thing we can’t guarantee is the weather. When it rains this particular eventing is awful to cover. Standing in the middle of the arena, wrapped up in waterproof clothing all day, shooting through a steady downpour is no fun. Thank the lord for Canon’s Pro sealed weather sealed cameras and lenses.

A typical jump image –

jump

We have had several of our images published too. Publications Horse & Hound, Equestrian Life & British Dressage all help spread the word that we are out there. Will the call from a major event organiser or publication come asking us to cover a major ever come. Well I never thought I would have been booked to cover gymnastics finals at the Olympic Park, this year, for the third year running so anything is possible.

Horse & Hound –

I have blurred out imagery which is not mine.

H&H

Equestrian Life –

EQLife.jpg

The next six months sees us filling all of our gap days on weekends along with some steady weekday work also from this venture. We have made some new friends, gained a whole new customer base and hopefully something that will grow as the gymnastics has over the years.

Until next time ……

The end of January saw some necessary hardware upgrades of which one, the new 2016 Mac Book Pro, was an absolute pain in the proverbial for a couple of weeks.

So when you spend some serious money on hardware to assist your business you would at least expect it to work properly. Now we already have Macs and they have proven their worth in the photography side of things, especially with batch editing massive amounts of RAW files after events. Some of you may know what I mean here with the word ‘massive’ though if you are new to the blog then a typical event will garner some 5000 images on average with up to 14,000 images on national final and similar event size dates.

We have tried Windows based PC’s and to be honest they just don’t stack up against the Macs. Speed difference is blatantly obvious to the naked eye let alone when tests are run for comparison. Indeed after purchasing a so called Dell powerhouse of a laptop, which was allegedly a competitor for the Macs, it soon became obvious that this was a complete waste of money, business wise. We ran several tests, side by side, and the Dell just lagged behind in every test we did. Now we are no PC testers but loading or processing batches of identical images through photoshop, side by side, showed the windows based machine was a true snail of a editing machine. That’s the Mac v PC explained for us.

So the new MBP was unboxed, loaded up with operating essentials and prepared to be thrown in at the deep end. The deep end was the British Schools Gymnastics Association Trampoline Finals in Newcastle. This is a huge event for us and indeed the third year we have covered the finals. The rewards can be somewhat hit and miss, depending on the amount of parents who actually attend the event. More parents mean more sales and you have no idea on those numbers until the day arrives and competition begins.

Parents aside our first major issue began after setting up. Fully bench tested at home the Mac was fine and did as it should with everything required. With all the photoshop actions transferred over and new save locations adjusted this should have been as any event set up yet something was seriously amiss …….. the Mac wouldn’t link to our external display. We swapped displays between Macs and the 2012 Mac worked on both yet the 2016 Mac just wouldn’t see the external display. It had worked in testing. at home, so what was the issue here? This was new kit so straight to Google we went and what we found was not good reading. Plenty of 2016 MBP owners complaining that their machines were either intermittently seeing external displays or not seeing the displays at all. Now ours had seen the external display at home so why not here.

To cut a long story short we ended up completing a whole national series event with only one display operating which was a major hindrance. Tweets were flying between ourselves and Apple trying to resolve the issue with things moving onto phone calls in attempts to reset the software responsible for the Mac to see the external display. Nothing worked and trying to do this between potential customers was just ridiculous and embarrassing. Apple Care, to be honest, did the best they could when Apple as a company had clearly sent out machines with known issues. I had read of people having this issue from the machines being new some six months previously, so my blood was boiling before things had even started. You would expect that this would have been quickly rectified by such a manufacturer yet it would appear not. We know this whole debacle cost us money as the whole editing to print process that includes the input of customers took an eternity. Ordinarily the customer is looking at the large external display as we operate the laptop. Discussions on editing are done in real time and the whole thing runs smoothly. Take away the external display and the whole system falls down. Turning a laptop to face a customer up to 20 times during editing takes time you don’t have with a large queue. Some waited patiently whilst others simply walked away at the time it was taking.

Not a great start with the new MBP.

Ouch 1

Issue number two was not too far behind. Photoshop was just crashing constantly and when this happens several times whilst trying to serve one customer, all parties can become quite rightly frustrated. Apple Care were bemused by this one and indeed it carried on for several days until it appeared to simply rectify itself.

I was initially informed it was a glitch, not to worry and just use the machine as normal. When I informed Apple that Photoshop was crashing because of the apparent lack of memory, I was then informed that this was a known issue and on the “to do” list at Apple and then told sorry but you’ll just have to wait for the update. Non of this helped us on the day and of course being a small business we can’t go knocking for redress at Apple. What this will do however, is ensure that I know all potential issues that could and would affect us will be shown to be non existing or resolved before I purchase a brand new updated model again. Whilst manufacturers love to see people queuing for the latest model on release day, I will not be amongst them with Apple products.

A screen shot of the memory allocation issue.

Yes 1.22TB of memory taken on a 500GB drive ……. go figure 😡

Ouch

 

The year certainly kicked off in style and other than the first weekend we were booked for all subsequent weekends. Year on year this was a large increase as have been the bookings for the entirety of 2017. We either have odd days on a weekend spare or no space at all until the second week in December. Word of mouth has seen us be snapped up over several regions and now with the equestrian work a weekend off will be rare. We have however reached agreement that for 2 weeks in August I will not take any bookings and leave 2 weeks empty as agreed in 2016.

The middle two weekends were both gymnastics with the North West BSGA Zonal Qualifiers followed by the North West NDP Individual & team qualifiers. Both huge weekends for not only ourselves but those involved I would say some 800-1000 competitors were involved over each weekend. A massive undertaking for both organisers and ourselves which I am pleased to say ran smoothly for both sides.

We now offer some new versions of our popular event montages which have gone down well. Maintaining prices at £10-£25 depending on how many images are chosen we have simply mixed the orientation of imagery that can be selected. This has allowed imagery such as team photo’s that tend to be landscape in orientation to be mixed with action images that tend to be in portrait orientation. Further options are currently being trialled for offerings.

January ended up being our busiest January for the last five years. It also yielded the highest take and subsequent conversion to profit too. With repeat bookings for next January we can hopefully rely on a good start to 2018 also.

This blogs image is a triple montage from one of the gymnastics events.

Jan 17

 

2017 started off with a whole host of new bookings within the gymnastics event coverage. Building on the success and increased work of 2016 we had been booked to cover a whole host of UK gymnastic qualifying events throughout the North of England. Whilst at the same time last year we were taking stock of the year ahead, assessing our existing and planning new equipment we were planning hotels and travel for the January event bookings.

Now let’s be honest here in that we all want to be busy, all year, and this year we have indeed almost reached saturation point for weekend bookings. There are literally a couple we have free in July/August though I’m expecting those to probably go with our new line of event coverage.

Whilst being busy all of the time is indeed nice and rewarding it does cause an issue for some basic requirements such as servicing equipment. Items such as the die sublimation printer should be serviced every 2 years and ours has now slipped into its third year owing to this quick start of business. Our servicing centre wanted 2 weeks for turnaround and with them being closed for the whole xmas period this was just not tenable. Reading the forums though this shouldn’t be a cause of concern for up to 5 years. I just hope the stories of longevity and robust build quality also apply to our printer which I will give a big cuddle before each event.

Both of our Canon 5Diii’s have now exceeded 100,000 actuations with one now over 160,000 actuations. The cash to replace or repair them sits patiently in an account as I’m not just purchasing against a what if scenario. We know the higher shutter count body is the main issue having exceeded the 150,000 manufacturers guarantee yet I know of 5Diii bodies well in excess of 200,000 clicks and still going strong for fellow event photographers. Spending oodles of cash, on a “what if” policy, to simply have the latest bodies is not my style. Indeed I could replace the current 5D’s with brand new 5D’s & grips for less than a single 1Dxii after the recent price drops. This will be explored when the inevitable happens and I see how deep my pockets are yet how short my arms seem to have become.

The only new piece of equipment, so far this year, has been the acquisition of a new Mac Book Pro to replace the windows laptop which was simply pathetic at handling large amounts of RAW files. This gives us two MBP’s for events which are now making the whole desk workflow system work superbly. I’m certainly not going to slag off the windows laptop as I’m sure it will have uses for some but as a large RAW file handling machine and Photoshop processing tool it just didn’t cut the mustard for us.

So I really ought to mention our new avenue of work which we have been signed up to cover. This opportunity arose, as almost always, through a recommendation from an existing customer. The world of all things equestrian was requiring a local photographer to cover some regional competition work and would we be interested. To cut a long story short we applied, exchanged business details/models, discussed expectations and agreed to a one year trial contract. It was a great decision, business is brisk and being published in national horsey magazines certainly doesn’t harm our reputation. More on this in a future blog.

The image I will leave you with today comes from the studio. Yes we still have the studio going between all the weekend event work, not as busy as I would like it to be but then we have never promoted it and just rely on word of mouth.

This lovely young lady just had the most beautiful eyes and amazingly didn’t require oodles of bribery from her parents to look into the camera.

eyes