One of my favourite photography pastimes is shooting live concerts, regardless of size, as I love to hopefully capture the essence and vibe of an evening within my images. I have covered from pubs to full blown outdoor multi band festivals yet sadly not as many as I would like. The reasons why its so hard to get a photographers pass is worthy of a whole new blog.

One rare opportunity did however arise with a group of seasoned musicians, who had not long since released their new self titled album “Colour Of Noise”. I was aware of the lead guitarist Bruce Dickinson, who had previously found fame in the band “Little Angels” and having liked the music offered my services for the last date of the 2016 tour. I had already purchased tickets, kept seeing updates on social media and yet did not see a great deal of imagery to help promote themselves. I sent a speculative email to Bruce and he graciously accepted my offer of covering the event. There was no money involved but just my passion for photography, love of music and the possibility of providing some helpful images to a band on the bottom rung.

The venue is somewhere I have been on too many occasions in my life. Actually that is a lie as some great nights have been had there. By most standards its a small club/venue with three rooms of differing size where bands can peddle their wares to what seems an endless swathe of excited ears. Based in Sheffield UK “The Corporation” is a hot spot for quality live music and has been for many years. With three bands on the night, I was there again, I can only assume things continue to bode well for this musical outlet.

Colour Of Noise where simply superb. With just a single album to draw from you could have possibly expected a few covers in there yet no it was just an onslaught of quality melodic rock music from the album. The whole set was the extremely polished affair you would have also expected. The set was superb, the crowd loved it and all appeared well at CoN towers.

The images were far from the greatest I have ever produced, and when I say far I almost mean fairytale far, far, far away from ……..

The lighting was poor and indeed the young man charged with operating the lighting seemed to have little notion that the crowd actually wanted to see the band. 90% of the evenings light came from behind the band thus giving us all silhouettes to watch whilst listening. This did not bode well for me and the camera. Even with low shutter speeds and whopping ISO’s pushing the boundaries of NASA sensors things were mostly dark. When one of the few front cans did light up land illuminate a band member I pounced to capture something worth looking at. At one point I even stood poised waiting for a young lady to take pictures on her phone. As phones do it gave out a rather long pre flash to eradicate red eye. This gave me a wonderful source of light assistance that I willingly exploited.

I supplied a set of images of which one was indeed used to help promote their proposed 2017 Stark Reality Tour. Little did I know this was not to be.

The bombshell was then announced in March; they had split. I’m sure these guys have their reasons, as all bands do, and I’m sure that reasons will come out eventually. So the frustration of shooting an almost dark concert gig and producing a sub quality set of images turns out to be the only record of their last gig as a band. Nice on the one hand yet extremely frustrating on the other.

The Band –

Matt Mitchell – vocals

Matt

Bruce John Dickinson – Guitar

Bruce

Ben Daniel – Bass

Ben Daniel

Stand In Drummer – Mark Richardson

Mark Richardson

And what was to be their final bow together –

last hurrah

The guys had used this final image as part of the social media tour promo. Easy enough with PSCC2017 though I didn’t spend too long on it as my OCD on image quality told me it would never be used seriously. I still like the idea though.

tour

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The end of 2016 was somewhat manic and so to simply write up about each and every event would be literacy lunacy at best. It would probably bore most people to sleep also.

The biggest event of the year for us was the Trampoline League Finals which were held at the Velodrome in Londons Olympic Park. Some of you may recall that we also covered the 2015 finals at the Copper Box Arena, across the road. Though the velodrome was clearly built for cycling the fact that the track was there made an excellent barrier between competitors and spectators. This kept the main competition floor clear of curios spectators that ignored keeping the floor clear of spectators at the Coper Box. You now have to imaging some 600+ competitors over the 2 days all doing two qualifying routines on the Saturday and then onto the actual finals on the Sunday. To say this is manic for us would be a gross understatement on the physical workload imposed. The two days saw us capture some 12,500 images in total which were all individually colour checked, cropped and uploaded into specific online galleries by the Thursday of the same week. Literally 7am to 11pm, over four days, continually using 2 computers to edit with is a guaranteed headache by 12 noon each day. Plenty of water consumed its almost like a marathon for your mental abilities to remain focussed on what you are doing. As with anything repetitive this can go somewhat wrong at times and this is where you take that 5 minute break and grab some air and refresh your brain.

The weekend was the success that the previous year had been too. As a consequence we are booked to cover the 2017 series including finals, which are again at the Velodrome. Our only niggle was the location for our sales desk which was somewhat stratospheric in location and required quite a trek, by potential customers, to reach us. This year we will be requesting a more local to the people spot.

Here’s my daughter with the view from our desk. This was the Friday evening during setup.

velodrom

Other notable jobs we undertook at the end of 2016 where the BSGA Schools qualifiers for the Yorkshire, North West & North East regions. These were held over three weekends, owing to their size, and again kept us busy as they were all held on successive weekends.

The Yorkshire championships were also held which was a mad weekend away in Huddersfield. Another fine spectacle of well drilled kids showing their skills to a most interested audience.

After a few Xmas parties for clubs and businesses the year came to a close for us in the third week of December. To actually sit and not have to worry for a couple of weeks about batteries, printers, monitors, and anything else equipment wise was lovely and allowed us to enjoy both Xmas and the New Year.

2017 was now knocking on the door. Bookings started in the January and with what was already a good solid years bookings did not include the surprise contract which arrived at the end of January. With several bookings already in for 2018 things were looking good.

I’ll leave with the image of our business logo being shown on the giant screens at the Velodrome. When I looked up and saw this for the first time I got one of those big silly smiles across my face. All the hard work was worth it.

velodrome tv

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.

9.jpg

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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