Well, I finally got around to seeing my Straight 8 film last month. To my surprise it was chosen for one of the London screenings, so on June 12th we had a family outing to The Vue Cinema in Piccadilly to go and see the result. Popcorn and all!
I have pretty much never shown unedited film, or even stills, for that matter to anyone. There’s always been some kind of edit, however minimal. Now here I was sitting among strangers – film makers, in a proper cinema, to watch something I hadn’t even seen myself! Which was filmed with a 35 year old camera I had only used once to check it was working!
Obviously I must like making life hard for myself but that’s the partly the point of Straight 8. It’s not easy to produce something within the constriction of the 3 minute 20 seconds of film without having the luxury to edit afterwards. The only thing I had control over was the soundtrack, and I thought well at least that’s not too bad – people will have something to listen to.
My film was towards the end of the 25 shown so I had time to enjoy the others, the time flew by and then mine was up! The interesting thing was when my film came on I found that I wasn’t particularly nervous – I was more nervous in the pub before. I was just as interested to see if it had worked out as perhaps the rest of the audience were – well my family anyway.
My thoughts on seeing it? Yeah, it’s rough and raw – but that’s Straight 8. It was mostly a feeling of relief that it had kind of worked out something like I planned but really it inspired me to do it again. Push myself with a more difficult theme next time. It’s just a bit of fun so might as well push the limits – I played it a bit safe this time.
I noticed earlier this week that CBS aired a tribute to Stevie Wonder and it reminded me of the time I photographed him, so I thought that I would offer my own small tribute.
This year I will have been working in photography for 40 years. I decided that I might do the occasional look back over the years in my blog so I thought that I would start with one of the best moments.
It was December 1994 and I was sitting in the bar of the Lanesborough Hotel in London with a journalist, waiting to see Stevie Wonder. I had been around music photography since 1978 so had my fair share of photographing the famous. One of the first albums I bought was by Stevie Wonder, and his show at the Birmingham Odeon in 1968 was one of the first gigs I went to – so this was a bit more than just another job for me! It was a long wait in the bar, a couple of hours – so no alcohol! Eventually we were ushered in to the room and met Stevie – and what a great guy he was. One of the few stars that I have met that seemed genuinely interested in our conversation when we chatted before the interview – me mentioning the ’68 gig and him mimicking my English accent and making the atmosphere light and friendly. There were just the three of us in the room and I shot some photographs while the interview took place. We were there for maybe twenty minutes and then the interview was over.
They say never meet your heroes, but sometimes it’s worth taking the chance.
Back in the city today and I managed to get down to the river to get a few shots of the start of the ceremonial event for the anniversary of Winston Churchill’s funeral. I remember watching the funeral on TV when I was young and that kind of thing always sticks in the memory so it was interesting to see a recreation of the event.
The boat which originally carried his coffin, 50 years ago today, retraced the route along the Thames – so I thought that I would go and get a few shots for stock. I know the area really well and had a place in mind to shoot from but as I couldn’t get down there until 45 minutes before the event I thought maybe I might have a struggle with crowds – but only a few tourists were around. Even when the boat passed the crowd was very light and also not many photographers were near my position – always a good thing! Weather was good, bit of hazy sun and not too cold. The boat moved pretty quickly, much quicker than I expected, and from my position it was all over in a few minutes. I had quite a few shots in the bag so as the boat moved on I packed up and headed for the station.
The fact that there weren’t big crowds did kind of make me wonder about the relevance of the anniversary for the average person on the street. There’s been a lot of media focus on the anniversary, a lot of stuff on TV, and for those closely involved it’s obviously an emotional event, but as for the general public – many don’t seem to take much notice. I found that there’s a few commemorative things going on including an exhibition at the Science Museum which runs until 2016.
There’s also a General Election coming up in a few months – but whatever any of us might think of Churchill, it would be a shame if the anniversary of the death of a major world statesman were to be hijacked for political reasons. That wouldn’t happen would it?
The photograph above taken with a Canon 1D3 with 300mm f4 and 1.4x converter.
Clapham Common, London, on a very windy and rainy evening in May. It was the night of the Moonwalk. The event organised by Walk The Walk, a charity dedicated to raising money for breast cancer causes.
I had heard about the Moonwalk but this was my first time working at the event – I was there to photograph the celebrities for Walk The Walk. Great guest tent – tent’s the wrong word – more of a marquee/orangery, styled with trees adorned with fairy lights.
Anyway the event is all about bras – and showing off your decorated bra on the walk, and not just for women as men are encouraged to don a bra and join in the walk too. Mannequins wearing bras decorated by designers and celebrities including Aliza Reger and Charlie Dimmock were on display in the guest tent.
So my evening was spent shooting the celebrities and their bras, including Walk The Walk ambassador, Harriet Thorpe. A very upbeat event – also a friendly bunch of press photographers to work alongside.
Midnight and the walkers were on their way. I drove my assistant for the night, Lauren, back to Clapham Common tube station – yep, the tube to Elephant and Castle much quicker than car even at that time of night. I sat in the queue of traffic on Clapham High Street and thought about the walkers. A cold night, still a little rain, and I guess unlike the marathon – no streets lined with cheering crowds to help them on their way. That takes some commitment!
Last night I photographed the London Bubble’s show From Docks to Desktops, an intergenerational show with a cast of 30, aged 12-80 plus.
The show was at The Biscuit Factory, Bermondsey. The old Peak Freans factory, an appropriate location as the show was about the changing face of the docklands and the old industries that used to exist in the area around the biscuit factory. It was about those who lived the area and based on interviews with people who worked in the docks and factories.
Plus, hand made beforehand in a room next to the performance space, free custard cream biscuits after the show!
Recently I was asked to do some photography at Danson House. The photography was for a new brochure showing the wedding set ups at both Danson House and Hall Place, both located in the London Borough of Bexley. I took along a Canon 17mm TSE together with a little rig I sometimes use to get very wide shots.
The photograph above is of The Salon, an octagonal shaped room in the house. The image is composed of three separate images which are then just layered together, it’s not stitching as there’s no special software involved.
This is a very tight space. I was literally standing against a wall ( not leaning on it! ) in between a very expensive chair and a probably more expensive cabinet. The tripod legs about a centimetre away from each!
Over the years I have used various cameras to get super wide shots, the Hasselblad SWC of course and 75mm lenses on 5×4 cameras. The digital full frame camera and shift lenses have in recent years made it possible to achieve the same kind of wide angle photographs that I was used to gettting on film.
The main issue is to keep the lens in exactly the same spot (relative to the scene) for all three images, this is done by effectively moving the camera around behind the lens. There are various rigs available to do this, but they can be quite expensive, so a couple of years ago I looked around for an economical alternative. I already had the Manfrotto umbrella attachment for a light stand and an old Metz 45 flash bracket so I just needed something to slide this around. I found the Manfrotto 454 micro positioning plate which was just what I was looking for. Cost for the Manfrotto 454 is around £75. I put these together so that I could mount the camera in a vertical position and then slide the whole thing very precisely sideways. It takes some time to ensure that everything is vertical – a bit fiddly but effective.
The shooting method is as follows;
1/ Set the lens so that it shifts from side to side across the vertical plane, then centre the shift.
2/ Set the Manfrotto slider to a given point which works for you, I usually start with the marker at 20 or 30 on the scale. Ensuring that the camera is positioned so that it is directly above the tripod head.
3/ Take the first shot ( centre image)
4/ Move the slider 10 mm to the left (markings are 1mm) then move the lens shift to the right 10mm. Take second shot.
5/ From this move move the Manfrotto slider back to the centre point and then another 10mm to the right, move the lens shift so that it now goes beyond the centre position and 10mm to the left.
6/ This now means that I have three images each with a slightly different view but with the lens in pretty much exactly the same place in relation to the scene.
All that needs doing now is to align each of the images in Photoshop using layers. It’s feasible to do this in just two shots but I like to use the eraser tool to blur the joins of each image and having three shots gives me more room to play with on some shots. Also it’s safer to do three if you want to push the lens shift to 12mm, although I find it easier and quicker just to go for the 10mm markers most of the time.
The images usually line up exactly if I take time to make sure everything is straight and vertical, so layering them together is simple. The image on the left is slightly off in this shot. I have guessed roughly 10 pixels, but it’s only on the vertical axis and the side to side matches perfectly. I must have nudged the camera slightly on that one, or more likely I forgot to lock the Manfrotto plate on that exposure and this made a slight difference in how the camera was positioned.
You can see from the centre image on the Photoshop screen grab that you end up with a much wider image than just doing the one shot. The shot a the top of the page is cropped square which I think works well, very similar to how it might look on a SWC – possibly even wider. The full uncropped shot is below and works out at almost exactly a 5×4 ratio with a size of 113.5Mb.
It was the day of the Parkinson’s UK ‘Walk in Greenwich Park’ and I was on my way to photograph the event. The air was a little chilly and the sky grey as I walked into the park, but after the recent hot weather I appreciated the change. Maybe I would check the forecast with the Sky weather presenter Nazaneen Ghaffar who was going to start off the walk.
I tried to keep up with the walkers as I photographed them and not lose them as I dodged around the route. Surprisingly difficult to find them sometimes – despite their bright cyan T shirts. It was good to see the park back to normal after being used as an Olympic venue last year.
The clouds stayed for most of the walk; so it was cool, perfect for the walkers, also for me – nice flat light so I didn’t have to fight the harsh light of a clear blue sky.
So what was Naz’s view on the weather at the start of the day? ‘Good weather for walkers’ was the verdict but warming up later. Spot on – must take more notice of Sky weather forecasts in future!
Summer returned to the UK last week and last Sunday (7th July) I photographed the Danson Festival for Bexley. Very hot, unlike last year when it rained so much that my camera stopped working (Canon 5D mk11), fortunately last year I also had my 1Dmk111 which carried on regardless. Anyway back to this year. I followed and photographed the Mayor of Bexley, Cllr Sharon Massey, around the site for a few hours while we both (and the tour group) slowly wilted in the heat. The Mayor meeting and greeting etc. We finished and I said goodbye to the Mayor and then spent the afternoon doing some general pics around the festival.
The day always ends with bands on the main stage and so there I found myself shooting the local London band Leogun, not the headline band but well worth a look in my opinion.
The heat of the day faded as I stood in the shade at front of the stage. This is where I switched into ‘gig’ mode: a history of shooting hundreds of gigs in the 70’s and 80’s (and a bit of the 90’s) came into play, it’s second nature, it’s like I am 25 again. After a hard day toting gear around in the heat this, for me, is a refreshing way to finish. The day ends with Craig Charles and The Fantasy Funk Band. After Leogun finish I catch a quick pic of Craig backstage before going out front to shoot the rest of the show.
Recently I was photographing an 80’s themed event for a corporate client. The weather, unusually, remained acceptably warm so the event was held on the office rooftop overlooking London. After a while I started to take notice of the background music, and thought to myself: photographed that band, and that one, and them, seen them, met him, etc.
A couple of days later I thought that maybe I should do the occasional retrospective in my blog. So here it is, 30 years ago this week I drove through Wimbledon in the early morning, passing the fans on their way to watch the tennis. I was on my way to shoot the band Talk Talk, one of the iconic bands of the eighties. I met them at their manager’s house and then we drove down to somewhere in the New Forest for the photos. One of the photographs from this shoot was used last year in the unofficial biography ‘The Spirit of Talk Talk’.
Driving there and back through the Wimbledon tennis traffic has forever linked that shoot with Wimbledon fortnight for me.