Find Your Story (Hint; It's Probably Behind You!)

This is World Champion & World Record holder Jayne Paine.


I met Jayne whilst photographing the Lincoln Grand Prix cycle race. I was stood waiting for the Ladies race to pass by and noticed a rider had “paused” on a previous lap, she had clearly battled hard and I felt her exertions were written across her face.
I went across and asked if I could take her photograph, this is the result.
What I didn’t expect was then to be told that Jayne is a reigning World Champion & World Record holder, how cool!
As we chatted Jayne (or probably more accurately her companion) told me she was the World Masters Pursuit Champion, she had also set a new age group World Record on the way to the title. Additionally she was the oldest entrant to the Ladies race that morning and proceeded to describe just how hard the Lincoln Grand Prix course had been and how shocked she’d been during her reconnaissance ride the day before.

When we photograph an event, location or even just a subject we come across we approach it with pre-conceived ideas. I confess, my plan was to photograph the racers streaming through Newport Arch with all the speed, colour and atmosphere I could cram onto my sensor. I got those shots & loads more great ones during the day but the one thing that struck me was how, even getting close to the riders, they remain anonymous beyond the grimaces, pained expressions and odd expletive muttered during another endless climb of Michaelgate! Taking a moment to spot something on the periphery, to go over and chat, ask to take a photo, opened up a whole new story and produced a unique image that I'm very proud of and stands out amongst the day.

Don't be so focussed on a primary objective as to be blinkered to everything else. Ask yourself what the story is and importantly where the supporting stories are lurking, you might be surprised by what what you find, you'll definitely have fun looking and if all else fails your primary objective will still be there for you.

Admission to The British Institute of Professional Photography

I'm delighted to have been admitted to Licentiateship of the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP) in the Commercial Photography category.

Unlike many other institutes & societies, the BIPP maintain a strict entry criteria involving portfolio review by an expert panel, rather than simply paying an annual fee.
The recognition of excellence by an expert panel of my peers is really important to me. It validates the hard work in striving to provide the very best quality of image and level of service. It also provides confirmation of the positive direction the development of my photography is taking.

For my Clients, both current & future, it's a powerful, impartial assurance of the quality they are guaranteed when they utilise my services.

BIPP Portfolio March 2107

BIPP Portfolio March 2107

 

Being a professional photographer sometimes feels like swimming against an ever stronger tide in maintaining the highest of standards and so receiving recognition is important in maintaining that effort, especially when it's by experts within the same field. The sheer accessibility of good quality cameras (from smartphones to dSLRs) and the ability to instantly reach a huge audience has resulted in an acceptance of reduced quality. How many times do we see mediocre or even poor photographs receive praise from an audience that knows no better?

I'm very proud to receive positive feedback and glowing testimonials on an almost daily basis as well as work with a range of Clients with whom I continually work to develop & improve my imagery.

Admission to Licentiateship therefore reinforces and validates the feedback and confirms I'm going in the right direction. Find out more about The BIPP here

Sculpture in the Garden

click on any image to see full size

Doddington Hall East Front, completed in 1600

Doddington Hall East Front, completed in 1600

During the summer of 2016 I visited the sculpture exhibition at Doddington Hall, Lincoln. Doddington hosts a sculpture exhibition every two years within it's extensive formal gardens and clearly it has become a very significant event attracting noteworthy artists and impressive works of art.

I live close to Doddington Hall, visit it regularly and know it well but this is the first time I had visited the Sculpture Exhibition, it left we wondering why I hadn't been before, it was spectacular.

Photographically speaking, living close means my social media streams are full of photos of the sculptures over the summer and this maybe explains why I haven't been more motivated to visit in previous years. Sculptures are displayed in a very careful manner to show them off at their best so the majority of photos are very similar, photographed at eye level from the 'obvious' viewpoints.

Trying to photograph in a unique manner is extremely difficult in this situation but I approached my visit with an open mind and spent some time on a beautiful late summer afternoon exploring the exhibition, the environment and trying to discover the personality of the overall event.

Whilst the sculptures are very beautiful, fascinating & at times very thought provoking the aspect that I felt makes this event unique is the environment & location of each item within the landscape of the gardens themselves. It becomes very clear that the exhibition is very carefully & expertly curated and the sculptures draw so much from their surroundings, including those surroundings therefore provides a unique context & takes simple photos of the sculptures to another level.

The challenge to producing good images at times is separating a subject from it's background and when sculptures are produced from or created in the form of natural materials this can be difficult. This collection of winged figures makes a perfect triptych but in order to maintain consistency of image, they needed 'lifting; from their background with a wide aperture.

Its an indication of the success of the exhibition that wandering through the gardens you can't help but spot the inspiration that nature provides. Shooting these details closely cropped with just a hint of surroundings allows the viewer to fill in the space with their own imagination, the phrase 'less is more' is one I use often.

The 'Doddington Dragon' was a stunning welcome to the exhibition and a real demonstration of accessible art. A willow creation by Carole Beavis, visitors were encouraged to take a swatch of fabric and attach it to the sculpture. Over the duration of the installation the Dragon came to life with colour & movement as the swatches intermingled & fluttered in the breeze.

Choosing a high contrast black & white conversion enhances the texture & pattern of the woven willow, exposing another dimension to figure otherwise 'hidden' behind the distraction of colour.

all photographs taken on Canon 7d with 18-55mm f2.8 lens set in aperture priority at all times, ISO100 and processed in Adobe Lightroom.

Corporate Reception at The Palace of Westminster

In December 2016 I was commissioned to photograph a Corporate Reception within The Palace of Westminster. Held in The Strangers Dining Room, a reception room for The House of Commons, the event bought together industry experts from across the country for networking, discussion and speeches by MP's & a Government Minister.

Entering the Palace of Westminster via heavy security at Portcullis House was an experience in itself and we were quickly whisked through Westminster Hall and the stunningly ornate St Stephen's Hall to Central Lobby to wait for our room to be available. Photography isn't permitted in Central Lobby (despite being stood next to TV cameras filming a live interview) so the camera stayed in the bag until we were ushered to our room.

The Strangers Dining Room is a lavish wood paneled room with a heavily ornate ceiling overlooking the Terrace and the River Thames. A small platform was erected for the speeches and the evening revolved around photographing the attendees and the speakers.

On departure I took the opportunity to grab some photos of St Stephen's Hall and New Palace Yard.

If you're organising or attending a corporate event, conference or trade show anywhere in the UK give me a call, drop me an email or complete the contact form to discuss how I can capture the event.

Shooting Eric at National Armouries Museum, Leeds

I was recently commisioned to photograph a multi day, international conference at The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.

The European Road Infrastructure Congress (ERIC) 2016 brought together industry representatives, academics, policy makers, research institutes and road authorities from across the continent to network, engage and share their knowledge. As well as a series of conferences, talks, workshops and debates the event hosted a major trade show and, across two days of attendance I photographed the whole range of activities.

The congress was held across a number of venues at the Armouries including rooms within the Museum building as well as the separate conference centre.

If you are arranging or taking part in a conference, trade show or other corporate event get in touch now to discuss how we can ensure you capture the very best images to publicise your message and future events.

 

Your Camera Doesn’t Matter

I recently posted three photos into the Lincolnshire Photo Training Facebook Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/lincsphototraining/) and asked members to tell me what cameras they thought I’d used for each photo – a top end camera, a mid range or a basic level.

My objective in this exercise is to demonstrate that when you’re learning photography & trying to improve, your camera doesn’t matter. Really, comparing your camera to other’s and looking at the latest, greatest equipment has the least value to you as an improving, developing photographer.
I’m asked all the time “what camera do you use” or “what’s your advice for buying a new camera, I can’t take good photos with mine” and whilst I understand why people ask, they’re asking completely the wrong questions.

Anyone just setting out on their photography journey, spending hundreds of pounds on a new camera will only create that value of expectation for better photos, and a new camera alone WILL NEVER deliver better photos. They’ll soon get demoralised and disappointed, when initially just getting outside and taking photos was fun!

Time spent studying other’s photos, asking questions like “why did you choose that location, angle/height, time of day”, “what attracted you to that subject, light, effect” etc is a much better investment in your hobby or interest and your learning will increase exponentially.

Let me explain;

Here are the three photos I used. A photograph of a red post box in the countryside, a photograph of a local park and a cityscape. Before you read on (don’t cheat!) just quickly look at the three images and rank them as taken with the best camera, a mid range camera and a basic camera?

Done that? OK let’s look at them.

– The postbox was photographed on an overcast, dull slightly misty morning. There’s little interest in the background and no interesting sky so depth of field was of little importance. The box itself is clear, sharp & vibrant and that, along with the fence line moving you along the photo are the two key elements at play. It was taken with a dSLR & lens combination worth over £3000 and it could just as easily have been taken with a basic compact or smartphone, they would have done as good a job.
– The Park photo is vibrant, saturated and crystal clear. Even the birds in flight are sharp and crisp. It was a bright morning, nicely back lit and the conditions made it easy to take a bright, colourful photo. There are no serious depth of field concerns but everything, front to back, is sharp. It’s taken with a 2 year old smart phone. This is what smart phones excel at, good lighting, expansive scenes, saturated and punchy images.
– The Cityscape is, intentionally a ‘wow’ factor image. It was a well planned moment for sunset & the lighting. It’s sharp, crisp and vibrant and the depth of field extends from the closest buildings to the horizon several miles distant. Crucially for this exercise at least it’s worth knowing that this image is hanging in my office as an A0 size poster, it is that clear. It was taken with a ‘good quality’ compact camera which is now eight years old and which I purchased from eBay second hand for less than £100. It probably remains my favourite camera to use currently.

The cameras used here have added little to the actual photograph they have recorded. A camera never creates a photograph, it simply records what it is pointed at. The photographer selects the subject, the angle, the lighting effect and how to present their ‘picture’ and within each of these choices is our own, personal subjectivity (something that no camera yet possesses!). Some camera’s are weak at certain effects or techniques but by knowing these limitations we can take photos that avoid, limit or even embrace these weaknesses.

These photos aren’t exceptions, I haven’t carefully chosen them but they do illustrate a very important point for developing photographers. All cameras have strengths and weaknesses and as photographers every decision we make, from choosing a camera, a lens, a subject, lighting, position, time etc, etc is a compromise. How we balance these compromises effects our learning far more than worrying about the camera itself. (You can see my “choosing a new camera” factsheet for an un-biased guide to choosing your next camera).

My smart phone takes great photos when the light is good and I want a wide depth of field. Pop it into HDR mode and I know it’ll saturate colours so they’ll look really good on Facebook. It’s convenient, quick, connected for instant sharing and it’s with me all the time, I take lots of photos with it and I often ask myself whether it’s the ideal travel camera (there’s a future blog article!).
When the light is bad it’s awful, it’s flash (if you can call it that) is useless and (call me old fashion) but I hate using a screen to take photos. But it’s always in my pocket and ready to go. I know it’ll never be good with creative narrow depth of field because it’s size and design mean it’s physics prevent that so I make allowances and work to it’s strengths and understand it’s limitations. Sometimes I miss the shot I really want because it’s impossible with a smart phone.

My eight year old compact takes great photos in good light and more challenging conditions (it’s poor in the dark because it’s high ISO performance is rubbish), has a great zoom lens and is convenient as I can slip it in my pocket. It has limited manual modes which can be restrictive but just like the smart phone it’s endless depth of field is brilliant for wide shots. I use it extensively with a Gorrilapod (travel tripod) so I can keep the ISO low and shoot with long shutter speeds to maintain image quality.
Knowing these limitations and strengths mean that I can handle most situations and I have confidence in it’s reliability. I can force some narrow depth of field upon it but again, it’s physics mean it’ll never be great and I accept that.

My dSLRs are fantastic and can handle just about everything but when you invest several thousands of pounds you expect that.
The great thing is that technology works it’s way down and the current crop of entry level dSLRs are outstanding. I think I’ve illustrated above that, in all honesty, a lot of times I could pass off photos taken with other far less expensive kit as dSLR photos and no-one would ever know!
My dSLR, lenses & flashes are bulky, heavy and expensive and sometimes their inconvenience doesn’t justify their selection. If I want maximum creative scope however (wide to narrow depth of field, total exposure control, precise focussing and ultimate image quality) I have no other choice.

Of course, as your journey through photography unwinds you will learn about your own style, what you like and don’t like and how and when you want to take photos. You’ll also learn about the ‘technical’ aspect of our hobby and gain a far greater understanding of the types of camera available and what they can and can’t do for you. This may well be the point at which you ask “What next?”, until this time just enjoy the camera you have in your hand and discovering the world through it’s lens.