Squash was one of my first assignments when I began working for Colorsport back in January 2010. Just over six weeks in, and I was listed to do the National Championships at Manchester’s National Squash Centre. It was the first sport that I’d done for the agency that wasn’t football. A difficult sport it turned out to be too.
Firstly, was the positioning available for photographers. It was brilliant. Located directly behind the glass wall which was used as the main part of the court, it gave fantastic views of the action unfolding literally feet in front of me. What’s so terrible about that I hear you cry? Small rubber balls, flying at 100mph plus make quite a racket I can tell you! When it hits the glass wall inches from your face it certainly lets you know about it.
Secondly, the sheer speed of the play and unpredictability of players movements made it difficult to keep up and frame the action nicely before it moved on. Thankfully this is one of those things that you pick up relatively quickly and after an hour or so you can beat the players to the next spot on the court.
My plan of action was the get a clean action picture of each player during the warm up, this meant I’d have a picture of each of them on their own with as little background distraction as possible. The first couple of sets would consist of more action, but with both players in the frame. Lastly, as the match was drawing to a close I’d concentrate on interactions and facial expressions.
Somewhere amongst all that I intended to take a wander up into the stands to get shots looking back down on the court. This was something that I added during the first game, as I’d realised that players turned their backs on the court when they were contesting a referee decision.
Two days in the Polish capital of Warsaw, saw me take in the delight of the first football match to be held at the new National Stadium (Stadion Narodowy). The stadium is one of four to have been built in former Soviet stronghold, alongside four in neighbouring Ukraine, to host UEFA’s Euro 2012.
Upon my arrival, I had been greeted by slush clogged streets as the weather was at the tail end of a cold snap. However, much to my delight, on the following day the streets were dry and sky was blue! Dare I say, it was even approaching t-shirt weather.
This, I was most grateful for. After devouring breakfast, I decided on a fifteen minute walk up Nowy Swiat towards the picturesque Old Town. I’d be there before on a number of occasions, but the history and beauty of the area still has an immense draw. After a spot of lunch on the market square, and quick check of my accreditation email (and a dodgy Google translate later), I found I had to make a trip across Warsaw to pick up my pass. Forty five minutes walk later, it was in my hands.. and so, off to the stadium!
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.
Kelly & Andrew followed in a long line of bookings that spans back to one of my first weddings, three years ago. It is amazing just what word of mouth can achieve. Having first met them last year, and again a few weeks before the wedding, it felt crazy at just how quick this wedding had come around. Time is flying on by.. blink, and I’ll be photographing their childrens’ weddings!
The day itself was looking promising. The weather was forecast to be unusually summery for the British month of July. Nine bridesmaids would be providing photo opportunities galore, and I had two great new venues to discover!
I began at the couples home in Swinton where I was admittedly half expecting mayhem, but upon being invited in I found a sea of calm! All nine bridesmaids, and even the bride Kelly, were getting ready as if it was just another day. Nerves were in short supply, but thankfully the natural smiles that come on such exciting days were aplenty.
Onwards to the church. St Peter’s in Swinton has always been in my mind. Having lived only a few minutes walk away for a year, I had passed it regularly. It’s beautiful stained glass windows had always stood out to me and I’d hoped for a long time to see them at their best from the inside. I wasn’t disappointed. The service itself without a hitch, as was becoming customary and before long, we were thrown back outside into the warming sunshine.
Our final destination for the day was to be The Orangery at Manchester’s Heaton Park Hall. Surprisingly, despite being on my doorstep for all 25 years of my life and one of Europe’s largest municipal parks, I’d only visited twice before. Once for a concert, and once to photograph a charity run. Neither of which had really given me the chance to appreciate the surrounds.
Heaton Hall and the Orangery, added in 1823, provided a stunning backdrop to the photographs. As did the views out over the park and city beyond. The harsh daylight gave a depth to the photographs creating shadows across the architecture’s golden stone walls, which also contrasted beautifully with the evening sky later in the day.
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.
Charity Clubs for Young People commissioned me to create images for their Gillette sponsored 5 a side football finals, at the Trafford Park Soccer Dome, Manchester.
Football outdoors during winter can be difficult enough, but indoors during the winter.. touching on impossible! Light was in short supply before kick off, and come the final whistle creative use of wide angle shots were the best bet for capturing the action.
The wedding of Maggie and Matthew took place in the stunning Grade II listed surrounds of The Place Hotel Apartments, Manchester. In attendance, to induce salvation with his gorgeous crepes, was Andrew from Original Crepes. Assisting myself (with a lovely 15mm fisheye!) was Chris Jackson whom I must thank for his light holding abilities!
Whilst Winter brings darkness and gloominess (seemingly by the bucketful in Manchester), it also brings new avenues for creativity. Darker afternoons mean natural light is, well.. none existent. Flash provides a new angle on lighting, and used well can add another dimension to what would otherwise be dull, flat images. Coupled with beautiful surrounds.. you can’t help but capture those unique, treasured images!