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.
When I was younger I used to like wandering around the streets of London ( or where ever I might be) with my camera looking for interesting things to photograph, ‘street photography’ as it’s commonly known.
Now I’m doing that again. I’m in the City of London quite often so now I look around for things to shoot when I’m on my way to a job, or scout out a location to go back to later. It’s something I stopped doing for a long time. I was just concentrating on earning money I guess, it’s an easy trap to fall into, but for a while now I have been shooting more stuff just for myself. Anyway here are a couple of shots, old and new. I have been scanning some old work recently and when I saw the little electric GWiz on the way to a job yesterday I remembered my Cadillac shot (Paris 1981) which I had scanned only a few days ago. Cars that are on opposite ends of the spectrum in just about every aspect.
For the technically minded, the Paris shot was done using an Olympus OM -1 with a 35mm f2 lens, the GWiz with a Canon 5D3 and 24 – 105mm lens.
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!
It’s been a long time since I have been to Abbey Road, work doesn’t seem to take me to that part of town these days and the last time I worked at the studios was sometime in the early 90’s. My first job there was in 1979 and I worked there quite a few times in the 80’s.
So there I was last week walking up towards the Abbey Road Studios to photograph a party and I saw these photographers taking pics of the tourists on the crossing. My first thoughts were – good little business idea ( I guess they were selling the photos) but surely dangerous! Then I thought, no, it’s actually far less dangerous than having lots of tourists jumping in front of the traffic with their own cameras. At least these guys understand the traffic and which direction it’s coming from and in the short time I was there they only went out in the road when it was safe. Can’t imagine what it must be like in the summer – manic! This was 4pm on a grey, cold and rainy January day and there was a small queue forming! So I didn’t interrupt them and went on my way to the party, looking forward to working in Studio 1 and Studio 2 again.
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!
Last month I was again at Portcullis House for the Breast Cancer Campaign to photograph MPs dressing up in pink to promote wear it pink day. A fundraising day for breast cancer, wear it pink is Friday the 25th October.
A hectic day at times, but the Breast Cancer Campaign team helped select the pink outfits then guided the MPs in my direction so that I could photograph them in their pink gear. A total of 201 MPs were photographed that day, which beat the previous record by a long way. So look out in your local press in the next week or two to see if your MP was one of those supporting the charity, and see just how much pink they wear!
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!