January can be a tough month for freelance photographers, the nights close in early and generally the work is thin on the ground with budgets exhausted towards year end. With extra time on my hands last month I decided to pack up my kit and head to the studio for a test shoot.
In the fashion industry a ‘test” refers to photographers, models, make-up and stylists working together for the common good, to make something beautiful. In this instance I just wanted the opportunity to practice some new techniques that I could apply to the editorial portraits that make up the majority of my work.
My first step was to assemble a team for the day, I already knew a friend who has a start up fashion label and I contacted a makeup artist that I had been working with last year. Models however were a different matter, I had no idea where to source them so I took to twitter and Facebook in search of beautiful women, like buses they all came at the last minute. Eventually securing the services of Abitha and Giada, both whom had a great deal more fashion experience than me.
Ably assisted by the legend that is Tim Bowditch, we started with a lighting technique that I’ve wanted to emulate for some time. Nadev Kander, lights subjects in this way regularly but he generally does it in a studio with a couple of assistants, my plan was to develop a method for achieving a similar result with 10 minutes in a hotel room!
While Tim and I messed around with yards of coloured gel and giant pieces of polystyrene the girls rattled through different looks with their range, carefully keeping an eye on their strategically positioned tape.
With my winter blues remedied, I was pleased to have worked with some honest creatives trying to be the best they can. I’ll be using more of these ideas this year, so come back and see them here.
Big thanks on this shoot to:-
Kate Littlejohn -makeup
Marie-Claire de Sachy (de Sachy-Brown) clothes and styling
Tim Bowditch – Assisting (see his superb photography here)
February 14, 2013 No Comments
Last week I rode a train through the Swiss mountains, hanging out of a window, whilst ducking back in to avoid cartoon style decapitation. I was on my way to Davos for the World Economic Forum or WEF.
The WEF is an annual conference for corporate big wigs and financial leaders, where they discuss the economy and schmooze each other in equal measure. The venue for this meeting of minds is Davos; not a Greek island but a ski resort a couple of hours away from Zurich.
On my first day at the forum I found myself searching for these various luminaries in the main communal hall, it was like shooting fish in a barrel, a very dark barrel!
Within 20 minutes I had headshots of the CEO’s of Coca Cola, JP Morgan and Britains richest man Lakshmi Mittal. Everywhere you looked pinstriped millionaires either sipped their coffees or fended off eager journalists.
As you can imagine security was tight, and that dictated the brief for one of my first images. I was asked to recreate an image that had been shot in previous years; a sniper standing next to a “DAVOS” sign on top of a hotel. To achieve this we brought over a Canon 500mm F4 lens which gave me the perfect crop. That only meant that I had to wait in the freezing cold for my balaclava clad model to do his stuff… 2 hours later, I had my picture.
On the second day of the conference, Prime-minister David Cameron arrived. Having already made his now famous European referendum statement and dominating the front pages, he was big news; especially if he met with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkal, who’d likely give him a good dressing down. Publicly the two were still “allies” but the closed meeting was made away from the cameras. Cameron made his address to the WEF with the charisma of a breakfast TV host, stylish but contrived.
If Davos was a frenetic place for me, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like for some of those attending officially. One day I was also tasked with following Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien with reporter Matt Miller as part of his Day in The Life series of interviews.
Having flown on his private jet to Zurich from Boston the night before O’Brien blustered through meetings as I struggled to keep pace, eventually losing Matt who was needed elsewhere I jumped into his chauffeur driven Lexus while he chatted away on a conference call. Having already taken a punt by getting in the car I didn’t have a clue where I was going; hopefully not back to Zurich. Next thing I knew we had been ushured into a hotel room to meet The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, where I was faced with the terrible “grip and grin”. They shook hands for what felt like forever as I fumbled for my flash and managed a couple of frames before being ejected back into the snow. Read the full story here.
The days were long and hard but fortunately I was with a great team from Bloomberg who are as talented as much as they are brilliant company. Collectively under the supervision of Bryn Colton, our onsite Editor and fondue connoisseur; we survived the week, despite my colleague Simon Dawson’s hatred of dairy products and my propensity to fall over in the snow (because of the ice or otherwise).
Images from this post are available from www.bloomberg.com.
January 30, 2013 No Comments
Yesterday, I found myself in The Independent on Sunday newsroom in discussion with The Picture Editor, Art Director and Graphics editor trying to solve a tricky problem. We needed to illustrate a story about the ridiculously poor service offered by parcel courier firms, who managed to loose thousands of deliveries on the run up to Xmas… Not easy, especially as it was needed for the front page.
Most of our creativity hinged around battered boxes and a cheeky mock-up of a failed delivery note in a letter box. In that vain I gathered some brown paper and got wrapping. Now, even though I had opportunity to practise over recent festive season, my wrapping skills aren’t amazing, but in this instance “boy wrapping” was exactly what was needed. As any man will admit it’s all very stressful so my next step was to take out those frustrations on the box, to give it a battered look.
I went about shooting the parcel in a variety of locations, always allowing space for the designers to add the masthead and various other text on the page. Finally ending up back in my makeshift studio, carefully trying to craft the right amount of shadow on to a white background.
Once I’d finished photographing a box in various corners of Kensington we still wanted to try the delivery note idea. The Graphics Editor, Cath Levett had mocked-up a brilliantly sarcastic UK-Fail delivery note. Again after crumpling it, I gingerly wedged it into the front door of what looked like an empty town house and rushed the pictures back to the office.
While the image of the delivery note told the story, it was still probably a bit word heavy for the front. After a few different page designs, the final consensus was to use the beaten up parcel on a white background which made a strong, graphic front page.
It’s not the most exciting picture I’ve ever taken, but sometimes the route to achieving a goal makes it worthwhile. I’m lucky to be able to give my input into these ideas and work with such a small but perfectly formed team.
You can read the full story by Susie Measure here.
January 6, 2013 2 Comments
Time once again for my annual audit; to look back at the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met during 2012. The pictures I’ve pulled together in the gallery below represent my most memorable moments, not those that have necessarily made the headlines.
During the Summer I got the opportunity to photograph the Olympics for The Independent on Sunday, a highlight for any photographer especially in their home city. London came alive and I had a front row seat to watch both the opening and closing ceremonies; Jess Ennis winning on “Super Saturday” and Usain Bolt in the 100 Meters.
Portraits are my bread and butter and this year I met several icons. From Jo Lumley smothering me in lipstick to mistakenly shaking Ice T’s fist, this year’s crop have proved an eclectic bunch. One of my more interesting encounters was with inventor Trevor Bayliss, who I visited on his island in the middle of the Thames.
So, that’s it. Thanks to those who have given me commissions and everyone I met along the way. Here’s to more adventures in 2013!
A couple of my colleagues have done similar roundups, see Ben Cawthra and Leon Neal for some excellent work.
January 3, 2013 No Comments
Last week I had the honour of being named UK Business Photographer of The Year by the Picture Editors Guild for my work with Bloomberg News.
I’ve always enjoyed looking at Photographic awards, as with any art form these things are totally subjective. Some competitions leave you scratching your head and contemplating how you’ll ever manage to compete, others inspire you and encourage you to keep trying.
Here are my winning images:-
The UK press has had a tough time in recent years, but I for one am pleased awards like this exist to promote what we do and recognise some truly great British photography.
Well done to all of the winners and nominees from the night especially my colleagues at Bloomberg Chris Ratcliffe and Simon Dawson who were also nominated. There is a full gallery of the pictures available here.
Finally, in true Oscar tradition I would like to thank a couple of people, Bryn Colton and the Photo team at Bloomberg who provided most of the commissions and encouragement that made the win possible. Also, the wonderful Mrs.Jason who provides unwavering support, puts up with all the late nights and makes me amazing quiche when I’m too tired to fend for myself. Thankyou.
November 11, 2012 No Comments
Celebrity shoots can be a mixed bag; flanked by an entourage brandishing clipboards, who are themselves; self important it’s easy to see how they are going to become affected. Often the famous see a shoot as a tiresome duty and can’t wait to get away, mentioning no names… Marco Pierre-White!
This however, isn’t always the case. I was commissioned to shoot a set of portraits of Ricky Gervais for The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), to launch their red collar campaign, helping fight against rabies. Ricky is a massive star and gave clout to the campaign, so naturally the charity was keen to get it right. Working with them a location was booked and along with the help of Barney the dog we had the potential at least for a great set of pictures.
I’ve done similar shoots in the past involving animals and they are never easy, with that knowledge, the plan was very much safety first. Working with my assistant for the day Tim Bowditch, we lit the area evenly with plenty of light to allow the Barney (and Ricky) to run around without any fuss.
As soon Ricky turned up and saw the dog I knew we were on to something. After spurning the make up lady and swapping into a different colour top Ricky and Barney ended up rolling around on the floor, but it was the dog that stole the show when he licked Rickys face. Ricky was a great sport and far from wiping it off he encouraged him, before I knew it I had my picture.
Ricky was great to work with and was genuinely a supporter of the cause, the whole shoot evolved in a very natural way and eventually took an unplanned detour outside when our stars continued playing. This gave my friend Andy Davies who was directing the video an opportunity to grab some really honest footage to cut with the piece to camera he recorded inside. You can watch this here.
On reflection, anyone can have a bad day but it helps if your photographing a top bloke doing something he really believes in.
October 31, 2012 No Comments
Weighed down with handbooks, maps, passes and an unsightly khaki photographer’s jacket that looked more suited to going on safari, I arrived at the Olympic stadium last month to enter the strange and exciting world of sports photography.
I have never really shot much sport, always preferring to stick to features and portraits. I threw my hat in the ring about 6 months before the games to get a press pass and that paid off when my Picture Editor at The Independent on Sunday put my name down.
My first glimpse of the games was during Danny Boyle’s opening extravaganza. There was a lot of speculation and negative coverage leading up to the ceremony and yes, it was pretty crazy but completely British. Boyle managed to celebrate how culturally rich Britain with a few sheep, some clouds on string and a parachuting royal. A success.
I worked non-stop with 3 camera bodies and a magnificent 600mm Canon lens that I had borrowed for the evening. There was almost too much to take in.
Now as I’ve said already, I’m no sports photographer and I was never going to be in the prized pool positions allocated to dedicated specialists but my goals were different. I was there to shoot features and be on hand for portraits if and when I was needed, fortunately that still meant that I had access to all of the events and could photograph them when I was free. My answer to all this was
not to try and match the Sports photographers but to photograph things slightly differently and take more of a features approach.
Once I finally got home after the Opening ceremony I managed to scrape a couple of hours sleep and prepped with a couple of pro-plus I made my way over to Greenwich for a dressage equestrian event. Now dressage is something I know very little about and for me it held only slightly more appeal then watching paint dry but this wasn’t the only new sport with which I was to become acquainted over the next few weeks. From fencing to wrestling every sport offered a different challenge. One of the first events I shot was tandem canoeing, it took place on a white water course that seemed as if it had been made to be photographed, everything I tried worked and I ended up feeling pretty pleased on my way home.
Predictably other highlights included beach vollyball; but not for the reasons you might imagine. The setting was particularly spectacular, overlooking the Palace of Westminster and The London Eye, I overheard foreign photographers referring to it as “a classic”.
Working for a Sunday newspaper meant that Super Saturday was always going to be a long day, with Jess Ennis picking up her heptathlon Gold whilst being ably supported by Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford in The Olympic Stadium. Jess’s race finished at 9pm; bang on the deadline for the first edition of the paper so I found myself racing to get the pictures across to stand any chance of scoring a historic front page. In the end, I didn’t quite make it with the paper electing to use a picture from an agency photographer in one of those prized pool positions I mentioned earlier. This time it didn’t matter though; it was an amazing experience and an honour to be able to say I was part of it.
Here are a few of the other sports I tried my hand at during the games:-
Multiple exposures in the fencing at The Excel Centre
There were a few crashes in the ladies Triathlon in Hyde Park.
Excellent positions were available for photographers all over the Olympic stadium.
Hilariously the Russian Synchronized swimming winners made an effort for the medal ceremony
When I was at school I remember the excitement of England hosting Euro ’96 the Olympics seemed to have rekindled that same excitement. One of my most enjoyable assignments in the whole of the games was when I was asked to photograph crowds for an afternoon while Mo Farah competed in the 5,000 meters. It was like shooting fish in a barrel, usually these kind of requests force you into setting up
pictures but this time I just picked my spot and waited.
Sundays are generally quiet affairs as the paper goes to press the day before; although when the fastest man on earth is in town and I have a ticket to the show I was more than happy to pop along. I went with very little kit to the 100m final and no sense of pressure. I took only 3 pictures of the race on a tilt-shift lens, which gave me opportunity to enjoy the event and try something a little different (top image).
Next stop, The Aquatics Centre, where (pardon the pun) I was a little out of my depth. Freestyle swimming is tough, really tough. Generally the best pictures come from victory celebrations after the race, but with little experience I was trying my damdest to catch the swimmers as they breathed between strokes. My colleague Leon Neal likened it to “photographing a sock in a washing machine”.
It all ended the way it started; with a bang. The crowd sighed as the torch was extinguished, and with heavy heart and aching bones I got the last tube home from the Olympics for the final time. It was certainly a job I’ll never forget and one that I will dine off for years to come. The legacy of this games will unfold in time but for the moment at least we can be British and proud.
August 24, 2012 5 Comments
You can’t win them all; and that was certainly how I felt once I’d scaled Tower 42 (formally NatWest Tower) a few weeks ago. My plan was to capture the city skyline at dusk. A first-rate picture had been practically in the bag with the Tower’s panoramic views of the City, or so I thought, once I got on the roof I realised mother nature had other ideas.
I can only compare the rain to what I’d imagine it being like on the deck of a ship in the middle of a storm, it was torrential and sideways. My guide Shaun, a tough New Yorker thought I was crazy but I only had one night for the shoot and had already paid for him to be there…it had to work!
Initially the visibility was down to about 25 meters so I decided to take a break while the rain hopefully eased a little. I spent a couple of hours scouring the City for an umbrella eventually being forced to plump for a pretty floral number as there had been, I was assured, ‘a rush’.
As the light fell to give me some definition in the otherwise blanket white sky there was a break in the rain. With my camera on a tripod tethered to the buildings air-conditioning system and covered in chamois leathers to soak up moisture I had 10 minutes to get my picture. I experimented with a few different exposures and even a few HDR pictures to try and bring out as much dynamic range as possible.
The week after; stuck at home with an unseasonal cold I spent some time with Photoshop and eventually had something I was happy with (above). You can plan all you like in this business but at the end of the day it will always come down to capturing a moment.
August 10, 2012 No Comments
I think I may have reached the point where my shoots are repeating themselves. I first met Joanna Lumley about 6 years ago when I photographed her with a suitcase full of cash for the National Lottery fund. Try as I might, I can’t find that picture but I do remember that it was a bit rough and ready by my current standards. This time as I drove to meet the woman who has become an icon for her work with the Gurkhas I knew I owed her a cracking picture.
She was being interviewed by The Independent on Sunday for her involvement in the Oxfam and M & S ‘Shwopping’ campaign. This meant the location was an Oxfam distribution centre in Milton Keynes, a typically grey, bland industrial estate.
After walking round the building for a quick recce, while Joanna was being interviewed, I decided on two locations. I started in the warehouse with a rail of clothes, not inspiring, but necessary to keep Joanna’s people on side. Then the star of the shoot pitched up and suddenly everything came to life as she dived into the clothes rail. I was instantly aware that I was shooting a modelling pro. Although I attempted to reminisce over our last meeting she politely changed the topic (maybe our first encounter wasn’t as memorable for her!)
With the PR’s agenda met, I moved outside where I had found a slightly edgier pile of bright blue palettes, which worked really well with her outfit…
I was pleased with the results and I hope she was too; fingers crossed she will remember me next time.
July 8, 2012 No Comments
I’ve always shot a lot of corporate photography, and whilst many of these shoots merge into a pinstriped haze, there are a few jobs that stand out.
I first visited the London Metal Exchange (LME) in 2005 as rookie photographer with a Nikon D2H in my hand and felt myself being left behind in the seemingly chaotic activity. Traders wave their hands frantically to send signals across a noisy floor, while juggling telephones and scribbling notes. The building itself is decked out in garish red seating and flashing LED displays that must have been installed in the affluent 80’s.
Established in 1877, the LME is the last open outcry exchange in Europe. It trades around $US 11.6 trillion annually, the stress is obvious. In 2012, trading is tighter and the LME has become an interesting news story with a take over offer from Hong Kong immanent.
This time round my allotted 30 minutes vanishes in the excitement but at least these days I can keep up with the traders, even if only for half an hour.
The images in this post were taken for Bloomberg News, please contact them for reuse.
May 24, 2012 No Comments