Saturday, 25 November 2017

First real cold of the winter

Breaking the ice this morning.
Cycling through an icy puddle
Back from the mornings ride. My toes are painful. Winter has finally arrived. And with it the problem of keeping warm on a budget. I'm sure there are a lot of expensive clothing solutions available. But cycling clothing is very expensive, what do I do with it if it doesn't keep me warm as promised?
I have tried some in the past. Pretty disappointed with it to be honest.

It's the fingers and toes that suffer. It can make winter riding almost a chore. Get out and back home quickly. But I like to chat to Matt, and take pictures. The morning light can be great. The golden hour coincides with the rides. It's such a shame to miss it. But stopping, gloves off take pictures, put gloves on again usually results in even colder fingers for the rest of the ride. I just don't feel like it. Should I suffer for my art?

Today was a little different. The gloves I bought last winter combined with an under glove kept my finger warm, even taking the top gloves off for some
picture taking didn't result in painful fingers. Now I just need to sort out my toes.
Two pairs of socks didn't work. it might have been all the layers restricted the blood supply a bit. Which wouldn't help with keeping the toes warm. I'll try something different tomorrow. I'm sure I have a lot more cold mornings coming up to experiment with my wardrobe.

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Saturday, 18 November 2017

How many is too many?

I was talking to a friend who has just booked a photographer for his wedding next year. He asked me how many photographs I thought would typically be delivered after a wedding. I thought back to the best day in my life, some twenty year ago. We had a book of proofs containing about 80 pictures. This was pre digital remember.

James, my friend, said the photographer promised a USB stick containing all the unedited pictures. He told to expect about 4500. A second USB stick would follow with a slightly smaller number of edited pictures. This would take six to eight weeks. I had to ask if he had heard correctly, 4500 seemed an excessive number. For easy maths, if the photography is on his own and covering the wedding from preparation to first dance lets says it's ten hours. That means an average of 450 per hour, or 7.5 a minute. And why show every shot? Isn't it part of the photographer's skill to plan each shot, ensuring composition, exposure etc are correct when the shutter is pressed, and then to be able to weed out the not perfect shots? Delivering only the best.
It appears to me to show lack of confidence. Taking a huge number, to ensure enough are okay, doesn't seem sensible.

I investigated what other wedding photographers provided in their packages. And read forums to get an idea about weddings in the digital age.

What I found surprised me.

It is now common for 300, 600 or even 1000 edited pictures supplied. To have even 300 pictures to edit after the usual cull during processing must mean a huge number were taken. What could they be of? How many set piece pictures can there be? Add some unposed moments, the speeches, the preparation and first dance. Doesn't add up to thousands.

I'm not a wedding photographer. I'm just remembering my day. If you do shoot weddings, I would like to know your view.

And then I thought about how long the wait for the proofs was. When we got back from honeymoon the proof book was ready for our viewing. So that's two weeks. We chose the ones we wanted, the other guests made their choices, and about two or three weeks later our pictures were delivered. I'm reading six to eight week waits, or longer for the proofs.

The digital age seems not to have made life easier, it has given photographers more work. Clients now expect hundreds of pictures. Why? Is it photographers justifying their fee by supplying huge numbers of pictures? Or is it the clients who think more is better? It appears to be accepted that the biggest part of a photographer's time is spent away from photography, sitting in front of a computer editing must take a lot of time if you have to process hundreds or even thousands of pictures for each assignment.

Isn't it better to produce 80 to 100 edited pictures for the client to choose from? I know if I had been presented with many times more proofs, I wouldn't have been many times more impressed. I was given good quality pictures that covered the day. Having lots more very similar ones wouldn't have made a difference.

As I said above, please let me know your thoughts. Am I completely out of touch?

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Sunday, 5 November 2017

Long winter MTB ride


Mountain biking group shot. The intrepid group

I try to keep my cycling fresh. New routes, bigger distances, different terrain. Of course finding the time is difficult. Life gets in the way. I can't always do longer rides with my mates. It's even more of a challenge to organise a group.

My local bike shop, Ross Cycles, organise Tuesday evening rides, no good for me. So when they posted about a Sunday ride I signed up.

It was 22 miles of trails and lanes. The best part is when I say local I mean local. They are about 30 secs from my door. Great if I need a bike repair or accessory. Even better that the 8am start meant I didn't have to leave the house very early.

It rained heavily most of Saturday, so parts of the ride were very muddy. It's been a while since my bike has seen so much mud. Maybe even as long ago as the South Downs Way.

Crossing fields was the worst, the mud quickly built up around the wheels and bottom bracket. But there were dryer parts where I could up the speed causing the mud to fly off.

The views made it worth it. The sun was out and the temperature climbed to a pleasant level.

Reigate Hill. Mountain bike cycling

Mountain bike cycling, stopping for a break

Mountain bike cycling, another group shot
Another team shot.


We had regular breaks so it didn't get too much.

Mountain bike cycling, waiting for people to catchup

And the autumn colour was still evident.

Mountain bike cycling, through the trees

The route was a big circle and we passed under the M25 a couple of times.

Mountain bike cycling, through a tunnel

There were a few obstacles that sometimes needed ingenuity to overcome.

Mountain bike cycling, through a gate

And then near the end, a pub that needs a revisit when it's open and a little warmer. It would make a very nice place for a pitstop.

Mountain bike cycling, pub stop. The Inn on the Pond


Can't wait for the next Sunday ride.




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Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Team photoshoot

Alison checking the details


Up until now my shoots have been just the subject of the shoot, occasionally a studio, and me.

So they have been fairly easy to organise. It wasn't too difficult to get all the elements together. Pencil in a date with the subject of the shoot. And if it was a studio shoot, book it. Apart from checking a couple of days before that was it.

This time it involved the MUA; my niece Allison, Janayah the model and me. The location was Battersea Park. I had shot there before. So only the weather could cause a problem.

What made it a little more complicated was having three people involved. This meant plenty of texts confirming and reconfirming and chats about what to bring, who was responsible for what. I need to do more shoots like this, involve a team.

The main point was to give Alison a blogpost: what is was like to plan a shoot, style it and complete all of the creative tasks to deliver the planned look.

For Janayah: she would get more pictures and experience of working with an MUA.

And for me: working with a bigger team. Even if it was only one more person. It was good have a more focused goal for the shoot; to highlight and show off Alison's work. Choosing the best light, angle and pose.

The weather was the first potential issue. It was raining in the morning. After calling each other and checking BBC weather we decided it was going to clear up in time. So it was still a go on the shoot.

When we all met up in the park, the weather was great. A little overcast and not too windy.

There was a great vibe on the shoot straight away.

The results are brilliant. Janayah is such a nice person and a relaxed model. Alison is great to be around and did beautiful work. I hope we can all work together again.







Alison making sure everything was just right.


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Sunday, 22 October 2017

Confidence

Much about successful photography is about confidence. Probably as much as experience. And certainly more than the equipment being used.

Three years ago when I decided to become more serious about people photography I lacked confidence in my ability to quickly connect with a person I had just meet. And it's that connection between photographer and subject which can make a photograph. Successful photographers have it. They quickly connect with the subject to steer the shoot in the right direction.

I knew I needed to gain experience in the technical aspects, and in quickly building a rapport. To do that I hired models. I could think about what I was doing, experiment and listen to advice without any pressure. If I came away without a good picture it didn't really matter. My photography had still improved. After a while, as the technical side started to become second nature and I found the initial meeting less stressful I was the one doing the directing. I still listened to the models and learned, but I was confident enough to start to take charge. I don't mean that until then the models had taken charge. Just that they knew how to keep the shoot flowing. Another skill I was beginning to master.

An aspect of a photoshoot I hadn't thought about was keeping it flowing, maintaining its energy.

Now my confidence had grown I could feel myself building and maintaining this energy.

I found it easier to keep the shoot moving. To know when to stick with a setup. How to tweak it and improve it. To know when we had the shot, and it was time to move on.

And just as importantly, move on quickly when it wasn't working.

Anyone you photograph can feel if you aren't in control, and confident about what you are doing. Experienced models cope with it, people not use to being photographed don't tend to. I am the first to admit, I don't really like being photographed. But if it's by someone who puts me at ease, and calmly goes about the task. I relax and that improves the results. So when I'm photographing a less confident person, I know I am better now at putting them at ease. Building their confidence.

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Sunday, 1 October 2017

Motivation III


When I shared the two pictures above it was with the line. Contemplative pause during an autumn cycle ride. Or Norman no mates taking a breather.


I can’t remember how many rides I’ve done solo lately.  Matt has been unavailable lately, like me. Life has been getting in the way. So it’s been self motivation that has got me out on my bike. All week at work I look forward to cycling at the weekend. But then on Saturday morning the voice in my head is shouting loudly. “Matt’s not cycling, stay in bed”. I have ignored the voice, got up and cycled. And as always, felt better for it. But it gets more difficult to ignore every week.

Today was about as difficult as it gets. I got the abort text as I was about to get up. It had been raining last night as well so it wasn’t going to be as nice a ride as it was yesterday. Then ten minutes in, it started raining. The voice was back, this time telling me to go home and avoid a soaking. But I kept going. As I write this having had a shower and breakfast. I’m again glad I went out and didn’t turn back. I’m not sure how many more weekends I can cycle alone, especially as the weather gets worse.

Come back Matt.

Yesterday I saw a lot of cyclists. Today just five. So I guess I’m not the only one whose little, stay at home voice, is becoming more vocal.

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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Disappointed

A picture from a while ago. It shows White Lane, and the steep last part of the climb.

Yes, disappointed with myself. Matt was on holiday last weekend so it was a lone cycling two days. I tend to ride the road bike when I'm on my own. It rarely gets ridden and it's faster. But how much faster?

As I cycled a slightly off road route on Saturday I decided to find out. It would be Saturday on the mountain bike. Sunday on the road bike. I'd have to choose a route on Sunday that was similar to Saturday's without the off road bit.

I use cyclemeter on my phone to record my rides. Distance, ascents and descents, speed etc are all recorded. The route would include White Lane. It is a very steep hill Matt and I don't often climb. I had conquered it on both road and mountain bikes before. It is tough, but doable.

The mountain bike climb was harder than I remembered. I couldn't get the lowest gear, it stuck during the down change. But I made it.

On the road bike the next day I had started talking myself out of climbing the hill way before I got there. As approached the steepest part, I slowed almost to a walking pace. And finally admitted defeat, got off the bike, and walked the rest. Ever since then I have wanted to get back on the bike and make another attempt. It is very rare that I give up during a climb. I've been beating myself about it. I'm not cycling next weekend. After that I will be with Matt. So the road bike will remain in the garage. White Lane will have to wait.

How much faster, even with the walking, was the road bike? Twenty minutes over a 17 mile ride.

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Thursday, 31 August 2017

Blackpool

 Blackpool tower and Central Pier


A few months back my wife and I were watching a program that mentioned Blackpool, it's illuminations and it's popularity as a holiday destination.  It turns out Marcia had never been, and my one and only visit was over twenty five years ago.

So that was settled then, a trip was planned. Accommodation is always a concern. Disabled access and facilities, and easy parking is a must. I used Trivago to search for a hotel. It's easy to use unless you have specific needs. I didn't want to just book any room. It had to be the disabled access room. So I contacted the Imperial Hotel. They were very helpful and I paid the same price as I would have going through Trivago.

It didn't occur to me the August bank holiday would be a bad time to travel. I don't travel far these days. So second guessing road works and other travelers is no longer second nature.

The weather report said very warm, may be even the warmest August bank holiday in a long time. So another thing I hadn't thought of was okay.

What wasn't okay was how long it took to get there. Ten hours including a brief stop for food. That's around 27 mph average speed. Only one set of road works. The delays were all caused by poor driving. I won't bore you with the details, except to say. When driving on the motorway, leave bigger gaps and we wont all be reduced to stop start progress for hour after hour.

First impressions of the Imperial were good. We were both tired and more than a little irritated. So we needed the check in to be trouble free and easy. It was.

The hotel is 150 years old this year. So it had a lived in feel to it. But that's not a criticism. It was what you would expect of a grand hotel. Confident and at ease with itself.

We rarely get up in time for breakfast when we are away, after such a late arrival, even with breakfast service ending at 10:30. We didn't make it this time. So I used Tripadvisor to find a cafe. The Promenade cafe is only a short walk away. A number two sized cooked breakfast had it all and we really didn't feel like eating much for the rest of the day.

Time for tea at the Promenade cafe.

Our end of Blackpool was very quiet. I thought it would have been much busier on a bank holiday. We walked down to the first pier. It was the North Pier. It's a traditional looking structure. Definitely the forgotten Blackpool pier. I hope they get the money needed to finish renovation works.

That was it for walking on the first day. Still not busy though for a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Sunday saw another a visit to the Promenade cafe, this time for the small breakfast. We had seen a second pier in the distance on Saturday. So decided to walk to it, thinking it would be the South Pier and be close to the rollercoasters of the pleasure beach. When we got there we discovered it was the Central Pier. It was a lot busier here, much more as I had expected Blackpool to be. And in the far distance, another pier. And beyond that the pleasure beach. We continued a little further, but it was very hot by now, and we had traveled over 2 miles. So we turned around and started looking for some fish and chips. We couldn't see what we would call a traditional looking establishment. Finally we bought some from a booth on the North Pier. I wouldn't recommend buying fish and chips from them. Greasy is how I would describe it.

Back at the Imperial, we went to the bar. Number 10 it was called. Pictures of past prime ministers were on the walls, along side mirrors engraved with their names. It as then that I started to notice how many people work in the hotel. There always seemed to be someone close by. A big difference to other hotels where you are on your own most of the time. We didn't need any help, but it was nice to know it would have been very easy to ask for.

On Monday we did make it down to breakfast. Again, it was a well staffed occasion. And the dining room was very impressive. The whole hotel, as I have said before was a nice, relaxed place to be. Wood paneling, stained glass rooves. Old fashioned maybe. But not in a bad way. The experience felt like going back to a time when good manners and respect for others was still common.

And the drive home? Seven hours. Still too long, but it was a bank holiday.

Links.

The Imperial Hotel

Promenade Cafe

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Saturday, 12 August 2017

It's a network thing




I have read a lot of posts and articles about turning my hobby of photography into a paying profession. They all follow roughly the same lines.

Social media is the way to go, they say. Get yourself a website, instagram and LinkedIn accounts and a Facebook page.

Then just call a few people at magazines, they see your online presence and you're away.

I'm guessing other hobbies have similar advice handed out by their respective publications and forums.

On my weekend cycles, Matt and I often discuss how our digital footprint hasn't done much for us. No lucrative writing jobs for him, or photography assignments for me.

So how do you make a successful change of career?

Hard work, determination and the support of family and friends. Which brings me to the sort of point of this post, and the reason for the pictures accompanying it.

Mike, a friend of mine has just opened his own brewery. Fishers Brewing Company.

I bought a selection of beers to drink, and photograph. I would have had an example of all the varieties he produces if it wasn't for Parcel Force. They smashed one of the bottles, didn't let Mike or myself know, then delivered a day late without even an apology.

Mike, I know has worked for a long time to learn his trade. Get all of the certificates and permits, and setup the brewery. So he deserves my support.

It gives me a project. If a brewery were to commission me to produce some product shots. I have some examples.

And not forgetting, some beer to drink. Total win.





In memory of the blonde beer, that succumbed to the injuries inflicted by Parcel Force.

Why get in touch, let me know what you think. Do you need product shots?

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Saturday, 22 July 2017

Dulwich Park



Third shot with Janayah. She is quickly settling into the photoshoots now. She's not bothered by passersby. You can see it in her face, she just looks relaxed.

It was also an opportunity for me to use a new speed light. It supports High Speed Sync (HSS). This means I can use as fast a shutter speed as I want with the speed light. There a lot of explanations about what HSS is and how it works. So I wont go into to a lot of detail.

When a flash of any kind is used there is a maximum shutter speed that can be used, it's called the sync speed. If you go above this speed a shadow is cast on the sensor by the shutter as the flash fires.

Why would you user HSS? If you want to alter the exposure you use a smaller aperture, right?

If there is a well lit background, you either expose for it and have the subject in silhouette, or expose for the subject and have the background over-exposed. With HSS you expose for the background with the combination of shutter speed and aperture. And use the flash to light the subject.

If the location is well lit, without HSS you would have to use a very small aperture to in order to be able to user a shutter at your camera's sync speed. A side effect of a small aperture is a big depth of field. So the background will be in focus. By blurring it with a combination of large aperture and HSS, the subject stands out more.

My speed light isn't powerful enough to completely overpower the sun, so the nearly cloudless sky is still largely over exposed. But Janayah isn't silhouetted and the rest of the background is well exposed.


Two different styles of outfit, two different areas of the park. I think the bridge suited the dress Janayah was wearing. I also used a 80-200 that I had only previously used for motorsport. The long lens is used to foreshorten perspective. Combined with a large aperture it made Janayah stand out more, almost giving a 3D effect. It meant standing a long way from Janayah, losing a little of the connection I like to have in my pictures. But I liked the results, I'll use it again if space allows.

I hope you like the results.

85mm lens


These two are at 200mm on my 80-200mm telephoto zoom


And then with HSS and the 85mm again







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Thursday, 20 July 2017

Zara at the Hacienda


This post is a bit out of time. I thought I had wrote it already. This shoot happened way back in June.

I had worked with Zara before, quite a long time ago in fact. I wanted to arrange something this year. It took a lot of back and forth before our schedules coincided. She had a studio day with two hours free. I had wanted to shoot at this new studio so it was a perfect match. Here is a link to the studio.

The studio has great natural light streaming in through huge windows, but loads of lighting equipment too.

Sean is very helpful and relaxed, always good in a studio host.

I used just natural in two of the rooms, but a one light setup in the other. I had used a beauty dish once before. I really liked the effect it produced. I hoped to balance flash and natural light. I think I got it right. Zara doesn't look studio lit. I turned off the light and it was very apparent what the beauty dish was doing. I'll use this technique again. That's the good thing about working with a great model. I can experiment and try new techniques without worrying about directing the model. Zara is brilliant.

Natural light.





And now the beauty dish and natural light.






It would be great to know what you think.

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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Steampunk Westerham

 

Today was to be a solo ride. Matt was expecting a furniture delivery this morning. This time of year there are other so many tasks that need doing; the days a longer. But it doesn't feel like there is any extra time.

The normal question arose; where to go? Westerham was the answer, via some off road sections near Woldingham. Then down the Limpsfield Rd and Clarks Lane. I remembered another off road section through a forest just past Westerham, just off the A25. I eventually found the correct turn off, but I had underestimated how much further the forest was, so I turned back and headed for the green.

That's when I came across the Steampunk horse statue. It, and 23 companions are raising money for a hospice. Find out more here. I have donated, if you can, please donate as well.

It is very impressive. Art I can understand and appreciate.

The herd is on show until the end of September.


It certainly provided a welcome change of view as I ate my cereal bars and had a drink. But before long it was time to head home.

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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Caterham to Canterbury

Me, a piece of cake and a medal


I hadn't participated in a sponsored ride for two years. RideLondon was a big hassle to get to, and my local Multiple Sclerosis centre don't run a sponsored event anymore. 

A few weeks previously I had seen a shared event on my FB time line. It was run by a local bike shop Larner Cycles, it was on a day I was free, and it started in Caterham. So the alarm wouldn't need to go off at silly o'clock. The only issue would getting home from Canterbury. I could cycle home again, but that would be 130 miles. I knew I didn't have the time. But they said they could arrange transport, so I signed up. 

The morning of the event was overcast and a little chilly, a light jacket was needed. I forgot the sun screen. But I thought I wouldn't need it so didn't return home to pick it up. 

I arrived, signed on, listened to the safety briefing and was off just before nine.

I have cycled a few events and long rides on my own. I don't mind, it allows me to ride at my own pace. I don't have to push myself to keep up or wait for people to catch up with me. But this time I didn't want to ride alone. I left the start in a small group. Within a couple of miles it had strung out and I found a cyclist that was riding at roughly the same pace and me, and wanted some company. His name was Andrew. We soon settled into a comfortable pace. He was training for RideLondon. It was good to chat about my two rides. Let him know what to expect. 

Andrew cycles from Peckham out to Tatsfield so some of the early route was familiar to him. I pointed out a few tougher hills he could tackle. He was after an extra challenge ahead of his big ride next month. 

The first food stop was a little different from those at other events. There wasn't just bananas and energy gels. I can't eat banana, so it was good to see other fruit, cakes and chocolate.

There was much made of the lunch stop. I expected the same as the first one. How wrong I was. Tea, coffee, tasty sandwiches and muffins awaited us. It would have been all too easy to stop for a very long time. The sun was now out and making it’s presence felt. Luckily Andrew had sun screen, mine was still on the kitchen table.

After a particularly rough section, loads of gravel, flint and potholes. Andrew got a puncture. He suggested I should leave him and go on, I said I would stay. It didn't take to sort out and we were on our way again. Then maybe half a mile later he got another puncture. This time the piece of flint was easy to see, it left a slit in the tyre. He didn't have another inner tube or patches. So I gave him one of my tubes. Had I not stayed with Andrew when he got the first puncture he would have had to wait for the support vehicle. 

We started together, we would finish together.

We were now around ten miles from Canterbury. I thought it would ease up a bit as the previous ten miles had included a lot of hills. If anything this last section had some of the steepest hills. Or was I getting tired? 

Eventually we entered Canterbury, Andrew remarked how the traffic seemed more oppressive after the largely quiet roads we had been on for most of the ride. Although that isn't to say the quiet roads had all been pleasant. The level of selfishness shown by some drivers is hard to believe. 

Before we knew it we were turning into the grounds of Tower House, and crossing the finish line. 

A medal, a goody bag, and some more food including home made cakes awaited. What a great day. 

Andrew hadn’t booked a lift home. Adam, the organiser, quickly organised an extra space. And without any fuss we were quickly on our way back to the start. 



I’m definitely doing it again next year. Hopefully I can get a group together. 



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