When I was at school and the teacher put a film on, it was probably because it was raining and we weren’t allowed out to play. I would never have expected the lead role of the film to walk into class, sit down with us and be interviewed. Jeremy Irvine (who played Albert Narracott, the leading role in Steven Spielberg’s version of War Horse) did just that in a South London school. The event was organised by FILMCLUB, a national education charity which ‘provides young people with a chance to transform their lives through film’. The members can watch and review a huge selection of films and there are currently 3961 to choose from (It would take me an entire academic year to decide which one to start with). I would definitely do my homework if the main character was going to see it too. Not one of the students said ‘a dog ate my screenplay’; they were transfixed but not at all shy with their questioning which delved headfirst into how Jeremy had got into acting, got the War Horse role and if he could do accents… and would he prove it to them right away! He did.
One of my most interesting clients I don’t post about* is The Prince’s Seeing Is Believing program (run by BITC) as the images invariably include minors and vulnerable adults. These visits take some of the finest and most successful business brains and ask them to attempt to solve social problems through responsible business practice (Typically a room of 10 delegates could be responsible for many thousands of employees as well as the considerable affect they have to the communities in which they operate). We go into prisons, homeless shelters, schools in areas of poverty and many other charities helping those at the less fortunate end of our communities. The first and last 2012 visits were in Tottenham. A Report Back seminar is then held at St James Palace with HRH Prince of Wales (Here’s the Report Back document for the last year’s visits – click here).
For these jobs I leave the flash in the bag, put the shutter on the ‘Quiet’ mode, wear shoes that don’t squeak and have my ears in the ‘open to receive’ setting.
* CONTRADICTION ALERT! I am indeed posting but they have had this large 16 page spread with all my pictures in The Sunday Telegraph supplement (3rd February) so I feel it’s okay to mention it on my blog.
Hey, stop staring out the window, the year has started..! Are you using up your allocated company charity days effectively? If not, get BITC to help mobilise your whole company by registering your interest here. I photographed the January launch for the 17th May 2013 Give & Gain Day. Since BT are a partner they held the event on the top of BT Tower. I got the job done but I also spent more time than usual looking out the window. This shot is the view towards St Paul’s Cathedral and Canary Wharf, but you probably guessed that already.
Sean Lock performed at the HAC for a comedy fundraising Christmas lunch organised by Inconnection. His adaptation of his own material for a rowdy pre-christmas crowd was really entertaining. It’s great to watch a performer in complete control. He’s is very much like his dry on screen persona in real life too.
I photographed him as soon as he was off stage at the back of the pavilion. The HAC pavilion is a temporary seasonal structure (on top of the cricket pitch!) with black curtain walls, a black ceiling and black floors which absorbs all the light. I decided to point two lights straight at him and expose for the face and leave everything to fall away into the black to give an on-stage performance look but still keeping his gaze straight to camera.
I don’t advertise the slogan ‘will work for food’ as it lowers the tone. I will, however, work and then eat the food. The pastry chef at the Corinthia Hotel London created a selection of cakes for their Festivi-Tea event. If you get the chance to stay the night here, have a cocktail at the bar, eat breakfast, nibble on their bespoke chocolates then I certainly recommend it. What’s that..? No, you’re still here on my blog. You haven’t been redirected to Trip Advisor unless you click here.
I covered the glittering ASCAP Awards and photographed Annie Lennox with her award. She used this picture on her Facebook page. I am always keen to see how many likes I get with all my posts and get excited if my popularity count makes it into double figures. This picture on Annie’s page is currently at 7,192 likes… Here’s her uplifting words she said at the podium upon receiving the ASCAP Award for Sweet Dreams
“..Almost thirty years after it’s release, and still going strong! I was on the verge of giving up and heading back to Scotland on the day that we wrote and recorded it… Dave and I had released four albums and we seemed to have reached an impasse. The line “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” was a sardonic swipe at my miserable countenance of our predicament. It just goes to show that you never know what’s just around the corner… Your biggest disappointment might become your greatest treasure in the end.”
The Berkeley Group did a study on how to measure the social sustainability of new housing developments and wrote a report called Creating Strong Communities. To illustrate the document I went to their Empire Square development and sat and watched how the people living there reacted with their environment. None of the people pictured are models or were prearranged, I just let everyone do what they wanted to do and then asked permission to photograph them in action. The end result was very real and very rewarding. I may just have to let you know what the client said “I’ve just been through the photos and I love them! Actually made me feel quite emotional. You’ve done a brilliant job of communicating real relationships and the flow of human life in the development, against the backdrop of the interesting shape of the buildings and communal areas, and given us a huge range to choose from. All this without a minder. You must have been exhausted. A fab afternoon’s work. Thanks.” You’re welcome Zoe, call again!
Canada. It’s a big country with big trees and big rocks and big animals.
I photographed the actor Tom Hiddleston (Loki in Thor ) who plays Henry V in the BBC’s Shakespeare season. The British Museum invited him to see their new Shakespeare exhibition before it opened and hosted a screening of the movie. As you can see by the blue surgical gloves, no one is famous enough to touch the nation’s antiquities with bare hands and the museum was keen to show this. The seal-die he is holding depicts the young Henry on horseback and is over 600 years old. I asked Tom what the reason might be for his character to be wearing a light blue latex glove…”throttling the French”. But of course! I used a soft box close to Tom’s face while he skillfully angled the seal to the light for me. The light falls away quickly into the darkness and creates the dramatic effect I was after while still illuminating the face softly. I blasted the background with another flash set right against to the wall to bring out the subtle texture of the theatre setting.
This was the first time HM The Queen spoke publicly about her eldest son’s charity work and my client was keen that I get The Prince’s Charities logo in when she spoke – I got two logos in the one shot! The location was The Weaver’s Triangle in Burnley which is due for regeneration. After following the Royal trio around the cluster groups for many handshaking photo opportunities I was ushered into the press pen for the formal speeches (here’s the best picture to illustrate a press pen, just substitute the sheep for people with cameras). The Royals were seated with their backs to a huge arch window, the only light source into the empty warehouse (A photographer’s backlighting nightmare) You just can’t see any detail against the light. I decided to rest the camera on a ledge with a longer exposure and hoped to capture a flash from another photographer’s camera at an angle to me. This is the only one that worked but it works well, I think.
Melody Hossaini, the former BBC1 The Apprentice candidate was the guest speaker at an IFS event. She is now running her social enterprise InspirEngage International. I took the first picture using the natural light coming in from the 30th floor window with just a flash bounced off the white ceiling to fill in the shadows. Melody told me about her last experience of being photographed as a speaker at an event and was dismayed the photographer just came up with close-ups of her in action – they didn’t give a sense of place or the energy of the interaction between herself and the audience. This will happen if the photographer just sits at the front and points the camera forward – it is easy not to capture the real essence of an event. In most cases it means moving around and predicting what will happen to capture the shot. In this second shot I moved to the back of the room and waited until Melody had got the audience reacting to her and I feel it communicates better how she is able to motivate a crowd.
Although I specialise in photographing people, every year I get the opportunity to shoot a more static, but surprisingly fun, subject. Potholes – they’re the bane of many drivers’ lives, but they’re my models for the HMPR‘s annual Alarm road maintenance survey.
I love this job. Asphalt is everywhere, but I see it in a different light when I’m tasked with capturing everything from the smoothest new ribbon of road to the worst ruts in a city street. And, as much as I enjoy the dynamic, interactive nature of photographing people, it can also be a pleasure shooting things that sit still.
I’ve had to prowl the countryside looking for the perfect pothole. I’ve surprised a few drivers by asking them to reverse through a particularly photogenic rut so that I can capture the splash. And I’ve trained my friends to report the most gruesome examples on their commutes.
And I’m not alone in finding something oddly fascinating about potholes. The magazine was chosen ‘guest publication of the week’ on the BBC’s Have I Got News For You?
MOSAIC : a charity that creates opportunities for young people of all backgrounds growing up in our most deprived communities - was invited to tea at Clarence House. It’s amazing inside, it’s just like an everyday family sitting room with ornaments and family photographs on the furniture – except that the family is the Windsors and the ornaments are worth more than a semi detached in East London. Here the first picture shows the room before everyone is assembled for tea and biscuits. I like to have the shutter in quiet mode when no one else is taking pictures but I’m not very impressed with it – it’s just not very quiet. The clatter of the reflex mirror is just spilt into two clatters. Nikon says: ‘the mirror is raised and the shutter is released but the mirror is not lowered until the shutter-release button is released. Thus the photographer can choose when the camera releases the mirror‘ …erm, that’ll be right away since I can’t see anything while the mirror is left up and I need to take another picture, please. I was asked recently ‘Can’t you just choose to turn that noise off these days?’ Damn those Smart phones and their sound effects!
It got very busy when the Prime Minister David Cameron met HRH Prince Charles for BITC’s Communities Summit at The Roundhouse - Number 10 entourage meets Clarence House entourage – my most useful piece of equipment in the camera bag was my roll of black gaffa tape (yes I know, that links to Clerkenwell Screws, a manly place for manly men who know the right terminology for bits and things and who’ll never need a website). I had less than 10 seconds to get this group shot but most of the morning to set it up. I marked out on the floor where the BITC delegates should cluster and stuck down marks on the floor as indicators for where they should leave gaps for the PM and HRH (you can just see the tape on the floor by their feet). It all came together like a well oiled flash mob, then they departed in different directions moments later. Job done though.
Seen Paul Gascoigne lately? He doesn’t look too bad. He now talks about his past with incredible honesty and is able to have an audience laugh with him. He is definitely on the mend and I think we may see more of him in his new cleaned up form. You have to look at past video clips of him to remember just how great he was on the pitch. This was one of those jobs I had plenty of time to set up (two Elinchrome 250 Watt heads) and plenty of time with Gazza who arrived early with his very caring manager / friend. Gazza was very interested in the camera I was using as he was looking to buy a family member a present. I did say the Nikon D3s may be overkill for a birthday but I would certainly be happy if I found a Nikon D4 under my next christmas tree. There are many beautifully designed places you could link to for a review on the new Nikon D4 but I find Ken Rockwell foregoes any of the last decade’s web design trends to give you the raw techie nuts and bolts ;)
The two establishments meet – Tracey Emin and HM The Queen at the official opening of the brand new Turner Contemporary Museum in Margate. Any royal visit is scrupulously choreographed with places and timings fixed well in advance so Tracey and her mum (out of shot on the left) had plenty of time to get excited as they waited in front of the Turner painting for Her Majesty to come along for an informal chat. They seemed to get on just fine and I didn’t hear the reported gaff a newspaper spoke of. I was concentrating on the light which is great in the galleries that face the sea but not in the one at the back where the two were meeting (I had set up a studio flash on a radio trigger in the corner to bounce off the ceiling but that got shut down – shame) . The architect, David Chipperfield who designed the place was keen to capture the famous Turneresque lighting bouncing off the sea and channel it into the galleries. It puts Margate back on the map and is definitely worth a visit (and so is the chip shop across the road).
So Sir Steve Redgrave is 50 (here pictured with John Inverdale the BBC Sports presenter). He entertained a room full of Prestige Ticketing’s clients who were all looking to them to look after their clients during the Olympic weeks with top notch corporate hospitality – food and drink from the best of British suppliers! I tasted the best Devon cheddar cheese and learned it can also be a verb – to cheddar (let me link you to a respectable cheesemaking definition before you end up on Urban Dictionary). The event was held in Vinopolis where the brick tunnels were up lit with coloured lights. I decided to go with the lights for the background and light up Sir Steve and John’s face with the flash on camera bounced off the curved orange brick ceiling – the white balance control in Adobe Lightroom 3 will always bring the skin tones back to normal with a few tweaks.
A perfect test for my new Nikkor lens; the AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm F/2.8G ED since you ask…I haven’t named it though… I refer to it as the ‘wider angle, wide open lens’. The speed of the silent wave motor and of course the silence of it is impressive. I see a real difference in colour rendition with the ED glass optics (In short, the coating corrects the direction of the rogue light beams; in long, click the link where they use the lovely term ‘chromatic aberration’ which rolls off the tongue and makes you sound really smart). My choice of subjects for my test needed colour and unpredictable movement so the arrival of Fraser in his Olympic/Jubilee romper suit was the obvious choice. I’ll do my best not to make him my only choice of subject ever from now on. I’ll limit his appearances just to when he gets so cute I want to burst.
Diverse Productions are doing a program for the BBC called Home Movies presented by Kirsty Wark and Dan Cruikshank. The program involves a lot of time sitting on sofas talking to experts interspersed with home movies and this is where the real visual interest comes from so I wanted to incorporate this in the background of my publicity shots I was commissioned to take, as well as capture an essence of Wilton’s Music Hall where it was filmed. I had plenty of time to think about what to do, but the usual few minutes to execute it… Here is how: DVD projector onto back wall, soft box bounced off the lowered ceiling on right, Kirsty and Dan were grabbed between takes, job done!
The (remaining) ‘Boys of ’66 squad’ presented Fabio Capello with a signed England shirt. I was there for MBN, the FA and the National Football Museum. He seems a very ‘hands-on’ bloke and his English is getting much better. I set up the ’66 squad and a space for him to sit down (we only had Fabio for 30 minutes; he didn’t stay for lunch) and down he sat and grabbed Gordon Banks and Geoff Hurst’s knees. There was no need for me to ask them to smile. The room was very crowded so I had to use a wide angle lens and bounce the flash off the ceiling (I say ‘flash’, it was an Elinchrom 500 flash head plugged in with a radio transmitter – I could light up the whole room no matter who he decided to put his hands on).
I followed Nick Cowley this week. He is an HEA (Home Energy Advisor) for G-Ten and the client was the Sustainability Team for Camden Council. Nick can assess your house and give you advice on how to use less energy by replacing all the light bulbs with energy efficient ones, put reflectors on your radiators, rig up a monitor on your meter and check the walls and roof insulation. It was a job full of visual demonstrations which is increasing rare in our service economy and a real joy to photograph. My favorite is this one in the attic, the sun shone in to illuminate the curious house owner and stair well and I just bounced the flash (SB-800 if you’re interested) against the brick to light up the inspection with a warmer yellow (brick) light.
I’m 5ft 8″ and (not forgetting the) three quarters; I stand as tall as any average man but this wasn’t enough when I was in a room with both the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race teams for a charity dinner event hosted by Martin Bayfield (the rugby international) I may have exaggerated the height a little with the camera angle in the far left photo but it felt like I was a small child again.
So they all go to a top university, they are all tall and they are all fine specimens of athleticism (I wasn’t the alpha male in the room today). The client was MBN Promotions and I’ve photographed many sports stars, old and new, for them over the years.
4000 BC? No, 4000 ISO! There isn’t much light in the British Museum so as to preserve their many artifacts from the ravishes of light over time so in the preNikonD3S period which finished at the beginning of 2010AD taking photographs with no flash and being able to see anything in them afterwards was a problem. I am so old I remember putting film in my camera and worrying about pushing the development two stops; I now regularly shoot at 3200 ISO and the results at 6400 ISO are very good too.
This job was for theHistory of the world in 100 objectsproject. Did you know there are still people out there who can make flint tools?
Now, I’m a dedicated pay-as-you-go Oyster card holder and this particular morning’s London transport wasn’t pleasant or indeed quick… but if you ever get the chance to go through London on the same means of transport as HRH Prince Charles, complete with four motorcycle outriders and police escort it is much, much quicker (and I didn’t have to touch in).
I did a few sneaky royal waves out the window to immobile motorists; is that wrong?
The client was Business in the Community
I was in 11 Downing street to photograph Alistair Darling, our current Chancellor of the Exchequer for the charity Mosaic. The dynamic range between eyebrow and hair wasn’t enough to need an HDR double exposure image though. My new Nikon D3s was up to the job in low light.
Linklaters, the international law firm in London, is so big it is like entering a small community I’m going to call Legal-town. Managing just their own waste is a big job and is taken seriously. I set up the studio lights and equipment in the restaurant area (close to the bins) and arranged rubbish on a backdrop of the company colours.
I had the good fortune to photograph Nelson Mandela at his house in Johannesburg in 1998. I just sold the use of the photo to a Swedish publisher for the front cover of ‘Mandelas Arv ‘ by Richard Stengel.
Thank you on-line translators, but I’m guessing the title of the book is not ‘Mandela’s inheritance tax’. I’m going to go with ‘Mandela’s Legacy’.
Ever wondered where you can learn how to be a bricklayer or carpenter? The King’s Cross Construction Skills Centre teaches local teenagers and adults to do just that. The idea is to supply the King’s Cross site across the road with a locally sourced skilled work force.
On a shoot like this the equipment gets covered in brick dust, cement and wood shavings and so does the photographer. I had to go to The Goldsmiths Guild Hall soon after, probably the most ornate building in the City. Nobody noticed as I unwound the extension cables and a small garden wall fell out.
I followed artist Jessie Brennan as she took a group of London Underground staff on a creative voyage for Art On The Underground. The Southwark Tube volunteers took brass rubbings from the Tate’s escalators through to constructing their own cardboard city in the underground foyer, all this while answering travel enquiries from bemused passing commuters. I wonder if Picasso could have been as prolific if he had been wearing a TFL uniform.
Art on the Underground is Benedict Johnson‘s client. We cover for each other’s clients when the other is busy (or break their arm while skateboarding).
We’re happy to announce that Alastair Fyfe photography has launched a new website.
The new site features Flash image galleries showing some of Alastair’s recent work. If you don’t see what you need, please contact us.