Rain greeted my arrival at the Gee Cross scout hut on the 4th November. It’d been a good ten years since my previous bonfire, but the memory of rain on that evening too was still vivid as ever. I must put a few quid on it raining over the next Guy Fawkes weekend too.
Thankfully however, the rain stopped just as the bonfire was due to be lit. Some luck at last! Visitors started to pile in to the field, with lovely hot soup, burgers and chips, tea and coffee from the refreshment tent just in time for the fireworks display to begin.
As the fireworks came to an end, the crowd moved on up to the bonfire, which was well underway by this point to warm their fingers and toes as the early November air began to chill. If there is one community in society that knows how to do a fire, it is the scouts. The safety barriers were left untested, as people stood back due to the intensity of the heat!
MIM Meditech are a Hyde based hospital engineering company that I had the pleasure of working with on these product shots. Sadly, no amount of research could inform me enough of how each item works with each other in an installed system! If I could understand it, I’d be considering a change in career!
What I can tell you though, is that the shots were composed with a catalogue and advertising layout in mind. Simple, bright lighting and shadows kept to a minimum, to enable prospective clients to see the detailing and accuracy of both design and manufacture.
Dubrovnik, Croatia was my base during the trip out to Montenegro for England’s UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying game. Having a couple of days there beforehand, was always going to mean that I had some time for exploration, and normally I’d be all researched out before I’d even checked in for my flight. Alas, on this occasion I hadn’t found the time to even check out the city’s own Wikipedia page.
Upon arrival at the airport alone, I soon realised this had been a mistake. The drive in to the city was one of the most beautiful that I have ever had the fortune to make during my travels. Every turn of a corner, as I made my way along the snaking coast line, provided a new awe inspiring view. The fact it was touching 6pm, still in the late twenties and raining back home had little to no influence on this, what so ever.
My memory strained to remember the vivid descriptions of the history of Croatia that I had recently read in Andrew Eames’ 8:55 to Baghdad. I knew that war had ravaged much of the country, and in my own living memory – which is something quite unique. Will I be casually visiting Iraq in the next 5 to 10 years? I hasten to think not.
Much of the war damage has been lovingly restored, and it was only upon writing this entry that I stumbled across a useful hint to help visualise Dubrovnik following war. The brighter coloured roofing is the newer, and so is most likely to have been damaged through war. Looking at the patchwork of terracotta, it’s easy to see the impact that the dissolution of Yugoslavia had. In fact, it wasn’t until a visit to a memorial upon a hillside overlooking Dubrovnik that I came to find my first actual evidence of warfare. A battered communications fort still bore the scars of war, with gaping holes in it’s fortified (yet still incredibly pretty) walls, and the shrapnel damaged comms cable unit, pictured below.
I have visited many places damaged during World War 2, and very few of them show any signs of what had been. Visiting a place with such recent history, and the evidence to show was quite moving.
Dubrovnik is a city that has firmly taken it’s place in my memory and will certainly be revisited, when I have a better understanding of it’s history. Besides this, they do fantastic pizza!
..and here we are, finally, Leicester! For those that haven’t chronologically followed, earlier in the day, I had been to Chester for the British Red Cross. The benefactor for this job was however, another charity, Rainbows Hospice. Colorsport had a table at the event and I had been assigned the duty of photographing the evening. With a number of cricketing related guests, including Dickie Bird and Peter Bowler aside the star, West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding.. there was much to be captured!
An early morning trip down the M56 to Chester took me to a Caters News commission for the British Red Cross. Their ‘Big Red Cross Bus’ was in town, informing the lovely folk of volunteering opportunities and demonstrating basic first aid. Brief in hand, ideas were aplenty. Until I turned up. Old double decker buses just aren’t as big as I remember! None the less, a quick rethink and I was raring to go – bring on the punters!
Punters. Chester is pretty quiet on a Thursday morning. The first hour passed by with just the one single mother stopping off, with her daughter to pick up some child CPR tips. Business slowly picked up in the second hour thankfully – I’d only been booked for the two! The highlight was probably a visit from the official Chester town crier, whom certainly helped to drum up some interest with his rather magnificent appearance. Having lost out on a number of shots during the first hour, I stayed on for an extra thirty minutes to get a few more frames in the bag.
Next up for the day.. black tie in Leicester! Post coming soon!
In mid May I received a commission to shoot new commercial material for Barton Park Homes‘ media drive.
You often hear on TV blooper type programmes, that new presenters are taught to never work with animals, or children. This commission taught me that as a photographer, you should never rely on the weather. Most of the time, I’m happy enough so long as it doesn’t rain, but on this occasion, good weather was vital. Clear blue skies preferable. Easy, at the end of May, right? No. Apparently not! There were more than a couple of planned days shooting that succumbed to the weather. Overcast skies, and high winds were to become my arch nemesis over the fortnight it took to get two windows of opportunity required. Thankfully, as it was a commercial commission where image quality was required at it’s highest, time was something that was on my side despite having tight deadlines.
The brief was to capture two different aspects of the companies image. Firstly, there was the need to capture the parks themselves. I had been commissioned to work on the two north west based parks at Knott End on Sea, Lancashire, and Orton Grange in Cumbria. This meant photographs of the residences in situ, complete with interior shots of each room.
It was mentioned in the brief that each room should be perfectly ‘decorated’ with home furnishings. I’d envisaged having to remove overly bright cushions, amusing tea cosies, and so on.. but no. Each and every home I visited were beautifully kept and a huge credit to their proud owners. As you can see in the exterior shot above, this also went for their immaculate gardens.
Secondly, I was required to capture imagery that depicted park life. It is amazing how much head scratching went on at thinking up every day tasks to photograph, then how difficult it was to give them the ‘authentic’ touch!
As I was to be working with residents on the parks for the ‘lifestyle’ shots, I’d decided to ask them for their own ideas on what would represent life for them. I was a little more than relieved when the residents listed numerous things that they could do for entertainment. Once again, I’d been previously having nightmares of a Top Gear scenario, where an old lady on a caravanning holiday had been asked what they did for fun, her answer being ‘fill up the chemical loo’. Whilst I’d known that the homes had running water and obviously sewage.. you do occasionally still get surprising comments from clients! I like to think of them as daft answers to daft questions though.
The residents on the whole, turned out to be fantastic models who were great to work with – even if their most common question was how much I was to be paying them! Their enthusiasm was undoubtedly superb and I honestly believe they add an extra quality to the images that wouldn’t have been achievable with hired models.
Exterior lighting had been entirely natural, using only what light was available to complete the scenic and lifestyle shots. Interior lighting needed working with, as to attempt to match the exterior lighting. As space was limited though, I could only work with small flash guns to produce a nice, balanced light. The lack of space for big lights, also meant there was a lack of space for big lighting modifiers, and so I’d simply made use of the neutral colours on the ceilings and bounced light from those. This gave a good even spread without casting unnatural colours around the room.
The finished shots were processed through Adobe Lightroom, having shot in RAW format. This enabled me greater control over variables once I had completed the shoot. White balance could be better corrected and image quality greatly enhanced through noise reduction and sharpening, amongst others. Once exported, the images were uploaded to my webspace via FTP with the details forwarded on to my client for downloading and being given the seal of approval.