A Dog With A Bone. Scooters,Greek Myths & A Career In Photography

The second thing that people often ask after what I do for a living is “how did you get into that”
I must admit to often asking the same of others I meet as either I’m just nosey or intrigued about the work paths people follow in life.
I always tell my children although all are quite young still ( I was a late starter) you are a long time working so find something you love and make a career in that.
One of the beautiful things about photography is that there are no set ways into it. You can go and get a degree, attend part-time evening classes, assist or simply teach yourself.
Not being the academic type I chose the self-taught route with a short stint as a rather poor assistant.
Ultimately it is the work you produce rather than how you got here that counts at the end of the day.

My journey was rather as my mum would say arse backward!
My father had an interest in photography and this is definitely where my interest initially came from at around 14 years of age. This did not last for long and for whatever reason I sold my camera and moved onto other interests or 5-minute fads as my mum would call them (she had a phrase for many things in life and most not printable!).
As a teenager, my interests turned to riding Vespa and Lambretta scooters to rallies and events across the UK with my friends.
This was the 80’s and by August of 1984 at the age of 16, I decided I wanted to build a custom show scooter.
Another passion I had inherited from my dad was the love of Greece with its rich history and of course mythology.
This was to be the theme for my scooter build and decided to travel around the archeological sites of Greece for a week for further inspiration.
This trip turned out to be the catalyst for my lifelong love of photography.
I borrowed my dad’s very impressive camera kit consisting of Canon A1 and several lenses including a monster of a 200mm zoom.
Looking back I think I probably enjoyed the attention I received from having such an impressive looking camera around my neck.
In 1985 the scooter was completed titled “Chariot Of The Gods” and it won several awards at many of the shows I attended.

 

 

 

 

It was around this time a national magazine was launched called Scootering which I approached and started to freelance for.
I couldn’t believe it I was actually getting paid albeit very little to shoot the people, scooters, and places in the scooter scene which at the time was my life ..I was hooked and decided this was the career I wanted.

 

 

I needed to learn faster so I consumed as much knowledge about photography & printing as I could and enrolled onto a home study course with the New York Institute Of Photography to learn the fundamentals.
This also allowed me to study while still working in the family Carpet & Furniture business.
Most of my knowledge was then gained by large amounts of shooting and note taking, so basically much trial and error.

Approaching the late 80’s an opportunity to start my own business came along with the government’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme together with the Princes Youth Business Trust.
This gave me a grant for equipment plus a loan of £1000.00 to kick start my business. In January 1990 my business called Apollo Photographics was launched.

Looking back now I don’t know how the hell I thought I was ready to enter business especially as my photography was still very raw to put it kindly but as Nike say “Just Do It” and indeed I did.
Business, however, did roll in coming from small local businesses, local papers, and tourist boards.
Circa 1991 with no apparent fear I booked an appointment to show my work to Somerset-based Clarks Shoes and incredibly came away with the biggest shoot to date which gave me my first real big break into Advertising work.

 

 

The job went well and I apparently became flavour of the month and more work followed from Clarks for the following 12-18 months and I thought I had made it ….but I was very wrong!.

Photography can be a cruel bitch and you can never sit back and relax for any length of time especially in the digital age where everything changes so quickly.The country went into a recession and work did go very quiet.It was around this time that another client who probably recognised I  needed a photographic reality check got me a day assisting a friend of their’s who was a well-established advertising photographer based in Bristol called Colin Peacock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That client was right Colin’s studios and his work were an incredible wake-up call for me and I quickly realised how little I still really knew.
I was lucky with my timing in that Colin was in need of a second assistant so I ended up putting my business on hold and staying with him for around 9 months.
We worked on many large-scale shoots for well-known clients. The most memorable being a day at St James Palace in London shooting a royal portrait of Princess Alexandra.

Eventually however, I got itchy feet and despite knowing I still had much to learn I left Colin to continue on my own.
I know he rated my chances of making a living in photography at exactly 0 and at that point looking back, I would have to agree with him.
However quoting my mum once again she would say “Your like a dog with a bone once you get a bee in your bonnet” meaning I’m quite a tenacious bugger if I get an idea in my head and for me not being a Photographer never entered my head for a second.

So as you can see my path was indeed slighly arse backward but passion, hard work, eagerness to keep learning and a refusal to give up is what has guided me this far and still does. Yes it can be hard and yes Ive had doubts probably at least once a month but pack up and do something else ?… nah  I’m like a dog with a bone.

 

Young Fun In The Sun.

A few weeks ago I produced a mature travel lifestyle photoshoot Mature Travel In The Pesky Sun.
Following on from this I decided to capture another travel shoot this time with a younger more upbeat concept.
My models Tristan & Robyn were in their early twenties and quickly built a great rapport. On all the shoots I do my aim is to not only get the brief nailed (and some) while making the production as fun as possible. This was especially true on this shoot, in fact, my pre-shoot chat was simply let’s have fun!
Tristan & Robyn built a great rapport very quickly and my job was made much easier as a result. This really underlines the importance of having the right models that not only look the part but have the right personalities.

Mature Travel In The Pesky Sun

This was a shoot I had planned for a while but my workload and that of Jerry & Annabel my models seemed to hinder things.
My fab studio base at The Monks Yard was also a factor as the site was moving a short distance to a larger and even more beautiful location at Horton Manor.

The image assets I planned to create were to be composite images (backgrounds & models captured separately) so ideally, I wanted to shoot in natural soft light and add the sunlight where I needed it with my own lighting for complete control.
I did say I didn’t want any rain but the fabulous sunlight we received on the shoot day was also unwanted (yep no pleasing me) so shade was required to get the lighting as I needed….but no problem.
Shooting images this way can solve many problems one being the costs & logistics for the client taking a large crew and models abroad for long shoots.
It’s not that I’m against jetting off and shooting models in situ I have shot this way for many years it’s simply about providing alternative solutions and getting the images the client needs.
I have to admit I do love the freedom shooting this way provides me both creatively and being able to move quickly from location to location without the logistics of moving so many people.
Being in a beautiful country and heading out (often on my own) at dawn to capture backgrounds for a lifestyle concept I have is wonderful.
Capturing the model images to blend into the location images requires some pre-planning to match not only the lighting and perspective but several other factors too for the image to work seamlessly.
For this reason and the fact I enjoy the process, I always like to shoot all my own image elements needed but occasionally I have no choice as with the ship images here to use stock shots.

Isn’t compositing cheating?
I do admit to having moved the bay of Bodrum and surrounding mountains a few feet for a better composition in one image many years ago but then the image was a personal shot and not used to sell a visit to Turkey.There’s definitely a responsibility to be truthful when shooting to sell a holiday location and you always have to consider that on every image created this way as it’s easy to seek perfection.
The locations you see here are as I captured them with nothing removed from the scene…honest!

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Repurposing Images With The Parallax 3D Technique

I’m always looking to be able to offer clients more bang for their buck especially when budgets are tight.
Repurposing existing stills into 3D engaging (actually 2.5D to be precise)  motion clips is one way to offer more value and provide engaging content for website and social media channels.
Best results are always to be had by planning with the end result in mind and shooting with the following Parallax technique is no exception.
However, it’s still possible to take an existing image and produce some incredible results.
The first sample below was captured for my client Mimecast and is a fairly straightforward still image from a business lifestyle production shot on location in London.

With a little post-production and 3D rendering, it was possible to repurpose the image into a simple and eye-catching image asset.

This image was a little more involved and shot with the Parallax technique in mind which allowed a little more scope for creating some depth and motion.

 Again this one lent itself perfectly to a Parallax effect keep an eye out for a couple of subtle movements towards the end of the movie.

You can view more motion work here

Pre Christmas Summer Shoots

A few weeks leading into Christmas assignment work quietened down enough to catch up on some long overdue personal work.
Shooting a summer themed Travel Lifestyle in December is not ideal for summer clad models for obvious reasons but needs must.
I prefer when compositing images of natural daylight lit scenes to use daylight as my main source if possible and add any other strobe lighting to this.
In short, if I need to replicate daylight on my subject to match a scene then I use daylight rather than try and recreate it in a warm cosy studio!
Great for the integrity of the image not so great if your a model being asked to pretend it’s 32 degrees and it’s actually minus 2 and wearing a slinky evening dress.
Needless to say, I worked quickly (in my thermals) to avoid too much discomfort for her.
I have to say Lilliana my model did not moan once and was fabulous to work with and I think the final images work beautifully.
Have a great Christmas everyone.

Travel Lifestyle Rhodes Old Town Greece

 

 

 

 

 

Fornells Menorca Spain.

Travel Lifestyle, Dawn in the Dodecanese

It’s been a another busy year shooting assignments especially video work.As a result fitting in shoots and producing new work for my book has had to take a back seat.
Finally this last few weeks I’ve had a break from commissions and produced a shoot with a couple of models, stylist and makeup artist for my travel lifestyle work.
Ive also had time to commission a complete rebrand and update the website to reflect the changes.
Also coming shortly are some beautiful custom promotional packs that will be sent out early next year to individual clients.

So this shoot was shot in two stages.The backgrounds were shot on location in probably my favourite place the Greek island of Rhodes.
My love affair with Greece goes back many years and taken me to many parts and this was my 3rd visit to my favourite place of all.
I had planned to shoot some Aerial work but decided against it as to do what I had planned legally was going to cost a lot of money to get permissions needed so maybe that’s a plan for another visit.

I planned the locations I wanted to shoot before leaving England and once on the ground set out before dawn to get the best light and of course avoid the bloody tourists !
Rhodes did not disappoint I was rewarded with some incredible views and gorgeous light and my job of capturing was easy.

Once I had returned it was time to edit my collection and create several backgrounds to which I planned to place the models.
The image below of Lyndos was created with 18 images.The reason was I wanted to use a longish focal length lens rather than a traditional wide angle that is often used for landscapes.
This would allow me to capture my interpretation of what Greece is all about, historic temples, mountains and of course the sea.
The longer lens would compress and bring all these elements closer together creating a softer more tranquil look that helps make up my style of work.

Lyndos At Dawn

 

 

 

The second image below is captured at  Mandraki Harbour in Rhodes town and was a multi image composite.
I was around 22 years old when I came here for the first time and spent the night at Mandraki harbour while waiting to catch the early morning ferry to Kos.
My memories of the place where of the statues at the entrance to the harbour and these distinctive arches.
Memories are a funny thing and the image below fits perfectly with that but the reality was that the locations were not as close together.
Not a problem I removed the car park and positioned my tranquil memory of the harbour entrance in position.
I also replaced the rather plain floor with something more elegant.
I realise none of this is something that would be tolerated if shooting to promote the location for a visit but hey it’s how I remember it !

Mandraki Harbour

 

 

 

Below are a few behind the scenes images shot here at our studio base. Not as glamorous for the models as being in Rhodes (or as warm as it was late October).
The location was perfect enabling me to concentrate on capturing the correct light quality, shadow quality,perspective etc to blend the models into the backgrounds.
A great team is vitally important to to pull everything together.I called upon Natasha Musson who I have worked with before to organise the styling and makeup artist Suzanne Peppard.
The models were supplied by Gingersnap who Ive also worked before on many Business Lifestyle shoots over the last few years.
Our models Katie and Sal were great professionals even when the cold took it’s toll.

 

 

 

Palace Of The Grand Masters

This is the first image completed from a recent trip to Rhodes.
The location for this image was the medieval castle courtyard of the Palace Of The Grand Masters in Rhodes old town.
The models however were captured a little closer to home and composited into the scene taking great care to seamlessly blend all the necessary elements together.

Summer Flight Over Burrow Hill

We have had some fantastic summer light this last few weeks and I just had to take advantage of it to capture some aerial images and video and experiment a little.
In a few weeks I’m heading to one of if not my favourite place on earth Rhodes in Greece.
Greek history & myths have been a passion of mine passed on from my dad since a child and the reason I became a photographer but that’s another slightly strange story.
Over the years I’ve travelled to many of the sites both on mainland Greece, the islands and also Turkey too but Rhodes has always been my favourite.
This trip I have several locations I wish to photograph and film and I plan to do this with the drone.
So Ive been busy checking my aviation maps for any airspace restrictions for my proposed locations and planning the timings for best light.
Not one to ever be satisfied I’ve been looking at extracting extra resolution from the drone’s already impressive camera hence the experimenting.
The latest image is of Burrow Hill in Somerset which Ive shot many times but never from the air.
My experiment to extract extra resolution and quality from the drone was a success and one I’m going to use again where appropriate.

A Place To Remember

It’s been a very busy year so far which is my main excuse for not updating the blog in several months.
One of the reasons is I’ve recently taken on a new client who are currently keeping me extremely busy.
Part of the work this client needed required me to do aerial stills and motion work via a quad copter (Drone).
This in turn required a hectic 3 day training course for certification to fly commercially, which I’m pleased to say I passed.
Learning yet another skillset to stay current seems to be a regular thing these days and something that certainly keeps life interesting !
Ive done several aerial shoots so far and getting more creative and daring (within the civil aviation authority rules) with each flight.
A personal shoot Ive been planning since getting the aircraft is the one shown here.
This spot is special place to me as it’s somewhere I used to visit almost weekly with my mother in her later years.
It’s also a place i’ve photographed many times over the last 30 plus years.
The spot is situated on the Somerset Levels and you might just make out Glastonbury Tor on the horizon.
What I never done is shot the area from the elevated perspective and positions that the drone offers.
With good weather forecast with a fair chance of some low hanging moorland mist I set the alarm for a 4am start.
Drone work needs a fair amount of pre planning for safety reasons before getting on location and a fair few more checklist to tick off on the day too.
I did two flights that morning capturing some stills but mostly motion footage which Ive edited into a short video shown here.
As a personal piece of work I think this is a brief but fitting video shot from an appropriate vantage point to remember my loving mum.