December 10, 2012
I had a great few days recently shooting with Trevor Smith of Animals Work. He arranged for me to take a picture with the vultures at Eagle Heights, a bird of prey centre in Kent. The first question the people there asked me was ‘What do you want – small, medium, large or extra-large?’ Obviously the answer was extra-large… until they showed us the birds. ‘Extra-large’ turned out to be Bernard, a Eurasian Black Vulture who was over 3 feet tall with a 3m wingspan and a beak to match, so we decided to give him a miss, and chose ‘medium’ – Becks, a White-Backed Vulture with a mere 2m wingspan.
Chris, who was handling Becks, had a nice line in small-talk.
- ‘The local hospital’s really good.’
- ‘Yeah, they did a great job with one of the handlers.’
- ‘Becks took a chunk out of one of his lips.’
- ‘Where did you want him?’
- ‘Um… I’m just going to hide behind the camera.’
Working with animals is always a great experience, and this was no exception, although I have to say that the sight of Becks jabbing frantically at Chris’ leather gauntlets when he got fed up with shooting was a little unnerving. Thanks to Chris and Trevor, the shoot went well and our ‘banker’ remained intact.
We also shot a capuchin monkey, who did a great job of collecting the live mealworms that Trevor sprinkled in the model’s hair (quote of the day: ‘There’s something wriggling around in my bra…’)
… and a chameleon:
Here are some behind the scenes photos:
Many thanks to everyone who helped me producing these images:
Trevor Smith // animals
Laura Walters // styling (apologies for making you work with animals)
Jody Daunton // assistant
Ella Bernhardt // assistant
Dawn at Poogles Corner
Rosie @ BMA Models
Tyler @ Mad Dog Casting
Chris, Marissa and everyone else at Eagle Heights
and of course the models: Margot Edwards (BMA Models)
Christopher Sherwood (soldier)
Antony Gilding (banker – Mad Dog Casting)
December 3, 2012
One of my pictures is being featured in an exhibition of artwork based around pandas at the Galerie Jacques Schneider in Luxembourg:
October 3, 2012
I’ve been busy shooting various ad campaigns over the last few months, and also have a lovely new baby boy (cue sleep deprivation and plenty of vomit), hence my lack of blog posts. In between jobs and nappy changes, I’ve been producing a new series of studio shots. I’m still working on others, but here are four finished images.
The first couple are with sphynx cats:
I’d wanted to see a sphynx cat since watching Mr Bigglesworth, Dr. Evil’s cat, in the Austin Powers films, and Nicola Ball of Misfits Cattery was kind enough to let me photograph Felena, Milly & Mumbles. For anyone who’s interested in sphynx cats, they’re naturally hairless, and very cuddly. They’re also very warm, a bit like wriggly hot water bottles – apparently they eat 50% more than normal cats in order to pump out heat to compensate for the lack of hair.
The second shoot involved chasing several piglets around a muddy field, trying to persuade them that posing for a photograph on someone’s shoulder was a good way to spend the afternoon. With some food bribery, we succeeded in shooting this picture:
The most complicated shoot by far was this picture, with my two year old daughter, and Chester, a Green Tree Python.
Here’s another picture of Chester, who was one of the most unusual models I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.
There will be more pictures following in a few weeks after I’ve finished shooting the rest of the series. In the mean time, many thanks to everyone who has helped me with these images:
August 17, 2012
It’s that time of year again – photography students have finished their degree courses and are looking around for work experience and jobs, and like most other advertising photographers, I’m getting a lot of emails from prospective assistants. I thought it might be worth posting a few tips to maximise the chance of getting somewhere with the people you contact.
Be prepared for it to be difficult. I’m happy to have people along for work experience on editorial shoots or when doing personal work, where I or other assistants have the opportunity to take time to show them how equipment works and assess how much they know, but on a big advertising shoot it’s rarely practical to have someone around who doesn’t know what they’re doing. There are lots of good assistants out there, and unfortunately if you’re not completely confident shooting tethered with medium format backs and using a wide variety of lighting equipment, particularly Profoto, which is the standard brand for many hire shops worldwide, you’re probably not going to be able to get any paid work straight away.
So, how can you get started?
First thing: increase your skill set. Make sure you know CaptureOne inside out. This is standard software for shooting tethered with Phase One backs / DSLRs and for managing RAW files shot on card. You can download a free trial from Phase One which’ll give you 30 days to learn how to use it. Tethering is not complicated, but there are basic skills (focus checking, creating sessions in CaptureOne, file naming and processing, sharpening, overlaying layouts) that are absolutely essential.
I shoot with a Hasselblad back using Phocus. This is Hasselblad’s proprietary tethering / processing / image management software, but unlike CaptureOne it is completely free. Get it from Hasselblad’s site, and you can use it not only for Hasselblad files, but also for Canon, Nikon etc. Its features are restricted if not used with Hasselblad files and cameras, but as it’s free, it’s a no-brainer to make sure you know how to use it. Most of the features are similar to CaptureOne, but some of the shortcuts are different, and there are user-defined capture and process folders rather than a session system.
Most graduates have a basic knowledge of Photoshop, but make sure you’re up to date with CS5/6 and that you are comfortable using layers and curves and cutting elements out to trial rough layouts. It’s expensive software, but again, you can always download a trial version from Adobe.
When you go on a shoot, be honest about what you know and what you don’t. Don’t risk breaking equipment by forcing cables into sockets they’re not designed for!
Email rather than phoning. You’re more likely to get a positive response if you don’t ring someone in the middle of a shoot. Personalise your email. Everyone knows you’ll be contacting lots of photographers, but BCC-ing the whole of the AOP members list on a single message addressed to ‘Dear Photographer’ isn’t a great plan. If you want to come across as reliable and careful (both important qualities in assistants), take the trouble to spell your email properly.
Buy yourself a Leatherman. They’re amazing tools and I rarely shoot without using mine. You’ll make friends fast if you’ve got good improvised DIY skills. Assisting is not just about knowing how equipment works but also about common sense and attention to detail – making sure no-one is getting too cold on a location shoot; spotting stray cables; keeping an eye on the flashes to make sure they’re all firing on every shot; noting all the equipment that comes out of the bags and making sure it all goes back in at the end of the day.
Working in a hire studio can be a great way to increase your skills very fast. You might have to get an unpaid internship for a month or two until you know enough to be useful, but you are likely to work with a wide variety of equipment and photographic styles, and you might meet photographers who are looking for assistants.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but hopefully it might be of some use to some recent graduates. Here are some links to hire studios:
Little Yellow Jacket
Hire studio directory
August 2, 2012
I’ve spent the last few days trying out Mountain Lion, having ‘upgraded’ directly from Snow Leopard, missing out the Lion stage.
As a photographer, I wouldn’t recommend Mountain Lion, at least at this stage (10.8.0). I held back from putting it on my primary machine, a Mac Pro, and installed it on my laptop (2011 15″ MacBook Pro with quad-core 2.3Ghz i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB Crucial M4 SSD in the optical bay and a 750GB 5400 rpm hard drive).
I have the SSD split into 3, 1 partition for the OS, another as a fast work space for tethered capture and the third for a Photoshop scratch disk. With the OS on the SSD, I had very fast performance under Snow Leopard. Finder windows opened instantly, Photoshop CS5 took around 3s to launch, and everything was generally very snappy and crucially, stable.
Under Mountain Lion, everything lags. Performance feels about the same as with Snow Leopard installed on a traditional hard drive – not bad, but missing out on the snappiness of an SSD.
I shan’t talk about the cosmetic changes in Mountain Lion, as other people have discussed them exhaustively – suffice to say that I couldn’t see any real advantage to the new system for someone using it for a photography business. On this note, I was unimpressed with not being able to get a VAT invoice from Apple for the software upgrade.
I had frequent system hangs, particularly when moving files around, and Capture One 6 (supposedly compatible) crashed every time I tried importing images from a CF card, and refused to tether. This was the final straw – an OS upgrade that stops me working, reduces stability and degrades performance isn’t for me – so I’ve reinstalled Snow Leopard from the backup I made on an external drive before upgrading, and am working again on a glitch-free computer.
July 25, 2012
A big thank you to the printers at Spectrum who spent a lot of time running tests and discussing print options with me. Digital C-type Lambda prints from the Durst Theta gave me lovely deep blacks and shadow detail, and very vibrant colours, but giclée prints on Innova Ultra Smooth Gloss with the Epson 9900 printer were extremely sharp, and had better red and orange detail and saturation than the C-types, due to the 10 colour Ultrachrome HDR inks.
In the end, I chose the Lambda prints, which looked best overall, and gave me great images with a few tweaks to the saturation and highlights. I’m looking forward to seeing them up at Ambika P3 for the Awards evening in October.
May 3, 2012
Very quick post this time, just to show some behind the scenes snaps from a shoot last week. Animal photography is always a challenge, but can be a lot of fun. I spent Friday on location in a muddy field in East Sussex persuading a pig to pose nicely on a short-lived white background. Cinnamon and her companions were more interested in trying to chomp through the flash cables and run through the paper backdrop than anything else, but we got the photos we needed in the end, with the help of a lot of food and back-scratching.
Torture tests for Manfrotto light stands and Hensel flash cables – fortunately they stood up to the pigs’ best efforts to eat them:
Cinnamon is tempted onto the set…
and decides that modelling is overrated.
March 15, 2012
The brief involved a woman snorkelling down from the surface and swimming along the bottom. We were hoping to shoot at a depth of around 6-8m, but although the weather was great, there was enough wind to stir up quite a lot of sand in the shallower areas, so we had to go deeper. The location would have been a tough job for any normal swimmer, as we shot at 13m. Luckily for us, we were shooting the 2011 female world record holder for static apnoea, Sophie Jacquin, who can hold her breath for almost 7 minutes, and who had no problems with swimming down again and again. You can see some pretty amazing films of her swimming underwater here - she just keeps on going. I of course was sitting on the sea-bed in full scuba gear, while the art director worked on her tan in the dive boat above.
Technical details as usual: we shot with a Canon 5D MK II, 17-40 f4.0 L, and an Ikelite housing with a super wide 8″ dome. We were shooting pretty wide areas, too large to be able to light practically with underwater strobes, as the light fall-off would have happened too fast to cover the whole image, so I was limited to shooting with available light. Fortunately, there’s plenty of that in the Caribbean, and I was able to get 1/250s at around f5.6 with 100 ISO most of the time, which kept noise to a minimum.
I did some tests with a UR Pro CY filter to compensate for the lack of red light, but in the end the sun was so bright that we were able to get all the colour detail we needed by adjusting the white balance on the RAW files in Capture One, without losing all the light that the filter would have cut out.
We had several days shooting underwater, partly in the sea, but also in a swimming pool and an aquarium with turtles. I was nervous to start with – the people in the aquarium warned me that while one of the turtles was friendly, the other was more aggressive. Apparently she took someone’s ear off a few years ago, although they might just have been saying that to wind me up… She did come over and have a look at me a few times, but the aquarium staff were on hand to push her away with a pole. I was shooting with a 17mm lens, so she was only a few centimetres away in this picture – it was a privilege to be able to shoot so close to such fascinating creatures.
We’re now working on the post-production, but here are some behind the scenes shots of our trip.
Thanks to various people who gave me a huge amount of help preparing for this shoot. Glenn at Newhaven Scuba was amazingly patient with all my questions about locations. Steve at Ocean Optics spent hours advising me on the best way to deal with the various technical challenges. The Guadeloupe aquarium allowed me to dive with their turtles, and took us out in their ridiculously fast twin 225 HP engine RIB (v. nice, I want one) for our scuba diving days.
January 24, 2012
Here’s a campaign I shot for Boggle through DDB Paris recently. We’ve just spotted it in Creative Review‘s round-up of last week’s best work. We produced about 15 images, some English and some French, and had fun shooting some extra anagrams that unfortunately didn’t make it through the ‘rude’ filter…
Agency: DDB Paris
Creative Director: Alexandre Hervé
Creatives: Frédéric Lahache, Pierre-Antoine Dupin
Art buyers: Sophie Mégrous, Quentin Moenne Loccoz
Account managers: Marie-Laure Dangeon, Juliette Ferré