From the Tropics to the Arctic Circle

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In 1972 Paul & Sarah Howcroft founded Rohan clothing in Skipton Yorkshire. Rohan was a realm in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”. The first product was a pair mountain salopettes.

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Looking back at the catalogues from the 70′s & 80′s its interesting to see how styles in design and art direction have developed. Today the brand, although no longer in private hands is moving from strength to strength. Having recently been acquired by H Young Holdings PLC the brand continues to innovate and evolve.

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Now in 2016 we aim for a much looser, more human feel, natural and real. They call it “Lifestyle”. The marketing account for Rohan is now held by Joe Public Ltd and I have for a long time admired the work they have produced. All the current fashion imagery for the brochures and website is shot on location.

I was recently delighted  to be invited to put forward a proposal to shoot the Spring & Summer imagery for both web and print. The process involved submitting work and a treatment to illustrate the look and feel I wanted to project and to see if this aligned with the vision of the creative team.

I was thrilled to be successful and in January we travelled to the tropical Cape Verde Islands to shoot Spring Summer 2016.

I’d heard of Cape Verde but knew very little about it, thinking it was just one island that was becoming more and more popular as a winter sun resort. It is in fact a cluster of 10 volcanic islands off the coast of West Africa, an archipelago once belonging to Portugal . Under Portuguese rule it had originally seen prosperity as a slaving post but now, an independent state, it is mostly dependant on tourism.

As international travellers we had to fly into the popular resort Island of Sal which is completely barren with great beaches but little else and in my opinion one of the least interesting islands. Reaching the much more scenic and fascinating islands of Sao Vicente and the spectacular Santo Antao requires a lot more determination to reach. Which means they’re largely unspoilt.

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The trip from Sal to Sao Vincente required a tiny 16 seater plane we had all to ourselves. Great place to start the shoot.

We needed a townscape location, we wanted to suggest travel to somewhere distant and exciting but not too under developed and 3rd World, somewhere the Rohan customer might aspire to go. Mindelo is the main port, once a coaling stop on transatlantic steam voyages now a stop off point for yachties heading West.

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We found the perfect battered Mercedes taxi.

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To get to the next island location we had to take a ferry. All these means of transport provided great shooting opportunities.

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Santo Antao is an interesting island because one side of it is completely dry and barren but to the East of the mountains of Topo de Coroa and Pico da Cruz the landscape is lush and green with spectacular mountain vistas. The prevailing weather comes from the East and when it is forced upwards by the mountain range it dumps its moisture.

_DSC9090Shooting above the clouds was an exciting experience.

041_webThe scenery from the mountain tops is absolutely breathtaking and there are well constructed roads from which to view it.

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The lush valleys offer a great variety of locations

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Amongst the images that were intended to focus on product features I was keen to include pictures that had the suggestion of a story, interacting with real people and conveying a sense of life.

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It was great catching the last of the evening light inside the crater of the extinct volcano. Thanks to the team, L-R Crystal, Lucy, Ian, Phil, Gabrielle, Andrew and myself. Thanks Tom for taking the pic.

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All the images we shot were catalogued in Adobe Lightroom as we went along. Ian, the creative director and I agreed on a unique colour treatment for the Spring/Summer images and the final set of chosen files were all carefully graded and balanced in Lightroom before being output for final use.To see the final brochure click here

Following the success of Spring/Summer I was again asked to shoot the Autumn/Winter range. The location had to be a complete contrast to what we had shot before, we needed landscapes with snow and ice in July.

Svalbard is an Archipelago administered by Norway and situated just inside the Arctic Circle and only 650 miles from the North Pole. Once the exclusive domain of whalers, trappers, coal miners and Polar bears there is now an international airport at Longyearbyen, the worlds most Northern City and tourism is increasing.

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There are glaciers, snowy mountain tops and fabulous unspoilt scenery with the bonus of the legacy from its former history with husky dog sleds and an abandoned  Soviet Era Mining settlement.

The route to Svalbard is via Oslo and we spent a day in this buzzing modern capital city shooting suits and dresses. Then it’s a 3 hr flight to Longbyearbyen where in July the sun never sets, 24 hr daylight takes some getting used to, the sun never goes down, it just moves around you in the sky.

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There’s a huge glacier to the North at Nordenskiöld Bay that accessible only by boat.

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The Captain was happy to let us shoot onboard. At one point  the engines were cut and we were thrilled to see a Minke whale breach the waves.

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Shooting at the Glacier involved landing in the bay and an overnight stay at the remote Nordenskiöld Lodge, the Northernmost commercial accommodation in the world.

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With no running water or electricity, Nordenskiöld is a true expedition lodge in the middle of the Arctic. They use wood to heat the cabin which has only 5 bedrooms, and drinking water is melted glacier. Charging batteries was a bit tricky from a tiny generator. Our guide Adraea was armed in case we encountered a polar bear !

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Got some great shots on the glacier.

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Ian and I decided on a much cooler grade for the images overall with a little less colour than the Spring/Summer images.

The journey to our next location was by inflatable. Everyone had to wear full immersion suits. All our kit was sealed in waterproof bags.

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The last ton of coal mined

DSC_1240Pyramiden is a fascinating place. Founded in the 1920′s this former Russian mining  settlement lies at the foot of a pyramid shaped mountain from which coal was being extracted until  as recently as 1998. A whole community had developed around the mine with a sports & cultural complex, containing the Northernmost swimming pool and grand piano, a school, town hall and hotel, all now eerily abandoned since the residents left in a hurry after Perestroika meant funding was withdrawn.

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During the 1930′s shipping was increasing around the Svalbard region so radio communications became necessary and the Norwegian authorities chose a remote spit of land at Kapp Linne Fuglereservat to establish a permanently manned radio station. During the war the station was destroyed but rebuilt in 1945 and its communication role increased and the station expanded . In 1977 a satellite dish was installed.Fibre optic cable technology eventually rendered the station redundant and the former technicians accommodation has been converted to a boutique hotel.

IMG_1102The majestic mountain scenery around the radio station was stunningly beautiful.

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We spent two days shooting at this amazing location before returning by open boat to Longyearbyen. The sea was perfectly still for our return journey so we could relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery without fear of immersion.

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There was just one final image required. The famous brightly coloured buildings of Longyearbyen contrasting against the spectacular mountains made the perfect backdrop for our front cover.

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Thanks must go to everyone from Basecamp Explorer  and their constantly vigilant guides. Basecamp are specialists in adventure tourism in Spitsbergen and helped make our trip so successful. We never did see any bears but we knew that had we encountered one we would have been in safe hands.

To see what the finished Autumn/Winter brochure looked like click here

All that remains is to say thank you to Ian & Chris at Joe Public for their confidence and to Phil Rothwell at Rohan designs for his encouragement and sense of humour, Models Crystal, Andrew & Duncan for their tolerance & professionalism, stylist Lucy for her fastidious attention to detail and my assistant Tom for his dedication to duty and determination to master Adobe Lightroom.

Print and Digital Harmony

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Multiple digital channels have proliferated. Previous to the Revolution, the only media available to advertisers were print on paper and TV.

Photographers knew that they produced still images that were intended for print. 300 dpi ! was the mantra.

Well it’s not 1996 anymore and there’s a new mantra, 72 dpi ! Many images we produce may never appear in print, but on a screen, digital panel or a device.

Although just like in music, its not the media that matters but what it delivers, physical packaging can make the delivery a more special experience that digital channels can’t match.

So photographers have to adapt to survive but our new tools have enabled us to do it and we find that the skills we developed in lighting, composition and attention to detail can translate well to the moving images we find we can capture.

But print is very much alive too. Digital media can’t replace the smell, feel, tactile quality and just the simple ability to be casually picked up and quickly flicked through. Print is special.

So we need to understand how to deliver both still and motion imagery but in a way that doesn’t attempt the enormous task of competing with a confident and already well established and highly experienced moving image industry.

I was recently involved with a project by Fogg Associates to brand a new company who were to manufacture nicotine products. This is going to be a huge industry as new regulations are introduced for the substances that go into vapour cigarettes and the company have made a huge investment in a new plant in Liverpool.

It was to be a mixture of a website containing digital motion imagery and a very high quality printed and bound book.

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I  provided a set of still images that told the story of what the company does and its processes. Jack Fairhurst of Fogg Associates did a beautiful job of designing the book and Team Impression printed it, they used GF Smith 270gsm Colour Plan Imperial Blue with a Gravure Emboss to 1 side on the front, and standard silk paper for the inner. There’s a blocked shimmer foil logo on the front that has been embossed too. It’s oversized A4 landscape format and perfect bound. It feels and smells wonderfully analogue !

Nerudia2At the same time I shot a series of HD motion sequences that run behind the parallax scrolling elements on the website.

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I’m really proud of the result and really excited to see how the unique qualities of both new and traditional media can be successfully combined into one project. Thank you to Chris Fogg for his inspired art direction and having the insight to commission me in the first place, James Brooke and thanks also to Brian Barnes for his valuable input, technical advice and assistance.

My Hero Film

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I was recently approached with an interesting portrait commission by Soho based independent film production company Redeeming Features . Their recent feature film, My Hero, was to be World Premiered as part of the Raindance Film festival and they wanted me to make some portraits of the Cast and Production team on the eve of the event.

The film is based on the incredible true story of Jake, (Nathanael Wiseman); a small time criminal on a council estate in a dying seaside town in England, who is forced to go on the run with a neglected nine year old girl Jade (Alexandra Newick), on the eve of a turf war, after the accidental murder of her father.

The production has received generous support from the Cadogan family. Earls Cadogan is one of the richest families in Britain and is the main landlord in the west London areas of Chelsea and Knightsbridge and after the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Estate is the second largest surviving of the aristocratic freehold estates in central London. I was really excited to be offered their beautiful No 11 Cadogan Gardens Hotel as a location.

The building had originally been a elegant Victorian town house in London’s bohemian quarter, home to radicals, artist and poets. It was the library that immediately inspired me with its fine oil paintings and dusty leather-bound novels and almanacs.

I chose to shoot the main two stars here. I wanted to emphasise the special link that had developed between the characters Jake and Jade, the child who through a series of dramatic and tragic circumstances had effectively become his ward. Using the simplest of lighting there was one really strong fleeting golden moment which I felt captured the right sort of mood and poise that portrayed their friendship and strong working relationship and I’m really pleased with the result.

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I really enjoyed working with the production team, Nathanael Wiseman, Katarina Gellin, Vivian Richmond, Chairman Nathaniel, Dir’ Robert Osman and of course, star of the show, Alexander Newick. Thanks also to assistant Danny Walker with his bottomless supply of fresh Duracells and packhorse like capability with kit.

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The film is being sold worldwide by ALDAMISA ENTERTAINMENT and being released by METRODOME in UK in March 2016. To view the trailer visit myheromovie.com

 

Dementia Awareness Week

I nearly forgot about this, the week 17th -23rd May has been designated Dementia Awareness Week hosted by the Alzheimer’s Society . Dementia is a serious and progressive disease that leads to memory loss, mobility and communication problems that can make life confusing. Distressingly, sufferers can fail to recognise loved ones in the later stages.

I was out looking for portrait opportunities.

A house with an unusually maintained hedge caught my imagination but little else.

I was beginning to loose heart.

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Then an elderly gentleman slowly shuffled by.

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Shuffling  is a major sign of the later stages of the disease.

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Here was my subject !

I walked alongside trying to strike up a rapport.

“Moi names Moik, you remoind me o’ moi brudder !”

“Can I take your picture Mike ?”

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I followed Mike the short distance to his home. He seemed happy with the attention.

At his front door Mike fumbled in his pocket for the key, a fleeting moment of anxiety, where was it ?

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Found !

“Mike, I think it would make a really cool shot, you standing in the middle of the street with those old storage tanks in the background”

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A lovely obliging man, I promised to return with some prints. The portrait I captured was recognised in the SUN Awards . I wanted Mike to have a copy of the book but when I returned Mike was sadly gone.

No More.

1 in 14 people over 65yrs currently have Dementia increasing to  1 in 6 in over 80′s.

The Alzheimer’s Society are the UK’s leading support and research charity they believe passionately that life doesn’t end when dementia begins. They exist for anyone affected by dementia, and do everything they can to keep people with dementia connected to their lives and the people who matter most.

Dementia can happen to anyone and there’s currently no cure. There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK and the number is set to rise to 1 million by the end of the year. We are all expected to be living longer in the future so research into the causes of the disease is urgent and vital.

Both my own parents were affected by this distressing disease.

The Alzheimer Society would be most grateful for your support.

Please Donate Now

 

 

Model Boat Club

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boatmen1There’s been a model boating lake at New Brighton since 1932. I remember sailing “Yacht Endeavour” there as a child. No radio control only wind power so enthusiasm quickly wained.

Many years on I meet Alan Dean. Retired from the merchant Navy, Alan is a model boat enthusiast and builds his own. Alan has all his boats with him in his Citroen estate but sadly there was no lake. The council took it away with a promise to build a new one.

oakes_jonathan_8There’s nowhere to sail but Alan still brings his boats down to New Brighton Promenade to show them off.

Some time later I hear the council got money from the EU. They built a new lake and the Mayor will open it. Alan invites me along and promises to introduce me to ” a character or two”

New_Brighton_John_FinalHere is David John Talbot, John builds his own boats too. John hands me his card and it reveals he’s a retired photographer. Nikon man like myself.

_D3R7986-Edit-Edit-Edit-EditReady to Launch. #Captain of The Ship, #Blazer and Slacks, Dreaming of Rum,  Sea Shanties and Far Flung Shores.

The New Brighton Model Boat Club members meets regularly on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at the pool from March till October. If your interested just pop along to the pool on the days mentioned above and you will receive a cordial and enthusiastic welcome.

Teenage Tommies

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This evening , on Armitice Day 2014, as part of the WW1 Commemorative season, BBC2 will be screening a documentary “Teenage Tommies”.

Fergal Keane will be presenting the story of how in 1914 as many as 250,000 young boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army. Every 10th volunteer lied about his age in the general enthusiasm to enlist. Some were as young as 14. More than half of them were killed or wounded.

The Leeds Pals was a battalion raised in West Yorkshire and contained many underage boys, they trained in preparation to being deployed in the Battle of the Somme at a camp in Colsterdale in the Yorkshire Dales. Today on bleak moorland where the camp was located, stands a memorial to those who gave their lives.

It was on an appropriately  grim and rainswept September day last year that I met Fergal and Mike Connelly, the director, and the production team at the memorial. The programme was to follow the stories of 5 boys from around the country and Fergal was to talk to experts and surviving relatives.

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Horace Iles a Leeds blacksmith’s apprentice , signed up aged 14 after being handed a white feather, an accusation of cowardice, on a tram.

After being wounded and sent back to the Front, his worried sister Florrie – with whom he shared a moving correspondence – wrote to him begging him to reveal his true age.

The letter was returned to her unopened, marked to show Horace had been killed in action before he could read it.

It was Horace’s descendants who had come to Colsterdale to talk about their heroic relative.

My brief was to cover portraits of Fergal and the experts plus the relatives but I was most struck by the boy William.

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William was about the same age that his great uncle had been when he had enlisted 100 years ago and even had the look and hairstyle of a raw recruit of the era . The army boots issued him as a modern army cadet completed the picture.

“The truth of war is that there have been boy soldiers fighting for time immemorial. What changed here was when the scale of casualties became apparent, and there was a backlash and public concern for the first time.”

Eventually, under public pressure, the army recalled all boys under the age of 19. Unfortunately it was too late for Horace.

This and the other stories will be told in full in the BBC2 programme Teenage Tommies, due to be broadcast tonight November 11 at 9pm.

 

 

Mik Artistik, Paper Bag Artist

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Over the last 30 years, Leeds based artist Mik Artitik has walked the city and “bagged” over 20,000 portraits just on brown paper bags and using only a Biro. Drawing only in black biro, Mik captures the wonder, concentration, wistfulness and expectation of each sitter

Mik randomly knocked on my door and asked if he could do my portrait. “Only if I can do yours” I replied.

These are the results. Both portraits but totally different. Mik’s media is timeless and low tech whilst mine must conform to Moore’s Law and is all Binary and Algorithms. Mik just needs a wad of brown paper bags whilst I need Terabytes.

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Until the 15th June 2014, at The Barbers Shop in London, it will be the first time any of his extraordinary body of work, this exceptionally creative endeavour, has been seen by the public in a single place. The exhibition will be entitled, Mik Artistik – Bags of Life.

The exhibition will be on at Offsite Gallery @ Vicks the Barbers, 185 Grays Inn Rd, London W1X 8UE

Time has passed but Mik has promised to drop in and visit me again soon, watch this space !

 

 

 

 

Leica Legend

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Up until the 1920′s cameras were huge and not very portable. Leica changed all this when they cleverly developed a camera that could use 35mm cinema film. Cinema film runs vertically so the frame measures 18 x 24 mm. Leica designed their camera to transport the film horizontally to create a larger frame size of 24 x 36mm. With the launch of the Leica 1 in 1925 the age of 35mm film photography was born. But such a small format needed a very sharp lens to withstand the enlargement that would be needed. Leica developed a special 50mm f 3.5 lens for the job. The Leica 2 came in 1932 with innovative rangefinder focusing. Leica cameras were compact, discrete and quick to use

At about the same time a young Henri Cartier Bresson was being wowed by the photography of Martin Munkacsi , Bresson found the image “Boys at Lake Tanganyika” particularly influential. He said of it “I understood that photography can fix eternity in a moment. It is the only photo that influences me. there is such an intensity in the image, such spontaneity , such “Joie de vivre”, such miraculousness that even today it still bowls me over”.

munkacsi_tanganyikaBresson was inspired to take up photography himself but he needed a camera that would be an extension of his eye, that would make him blend in to a crowd or intimate situation so he could capture his “Decisive Moment”. That camera would be the Leica.

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What makes Cartier Bresson’s images special is his talent for capturing a precise moment in time

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Like a predator, observing then silently, patiently, waiting for the exact moment to present itself , and …..  ”Click” captured.

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Portraits that convey a narrative, capturing a moment of unawareness, a depth and realism in a subject.

decisive3Cartier Bresson was a master of candid photography.He shot with just one lens, a 5omm for almost all of his work. He would walk the streets, draw his camera up to his eye and shoot, all in one smooth unobtrusive motion.

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The Leica company had continued to refine the design of their cameras through the 1950′s. The Leica M3 was introduced in 1954 with a new bayonet lens mount and there were subsequent model upgrades through to the end of the film era with the M7 then the MP in 2003. Then came digital and first the M8, cropped sensor then the M9, full frame sensor and now the M. However with all the improvements and innovation the current camera still retains the classic look, manual rangefinder focusing, accepts lenses made in the 1950′s and above all still enables the user to be discreet and unobtrusive which were the qualities that encouraged Henri Cartier Bresson to pick it up and make those classic images over 80 years ago.

I wanted to see if I could somehow go back to basics and dispense with the sophisticated and obtrusive equipment that I normally use and try working with a small relatively simple camera to see if it could influence my style and force me to see in a different way.

I made inquiries at The Leica Centre in Mayfair and I’m really grateful to Rachel Barker who was able to let me have a Leica M9 with a 35mm lens on loan.

I had a commissioned project that I wanted to try using the camera on. An undergraduate prospectus for BPP University I wanted the portrait images of the students both at leisure and in the university environment to have a relaxed candid feel to them.

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I wanted to walk amongst the students, oblivious, whilst lectures were going on and be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible whilst getting really close in.

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One of the alumni, Shaun Dias, had ambitions to become an MP. We didn’t have permission to shoot in The Houses of Parliament. Low key, quiet, rapid and unobtrusive was the only way to go.

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I wanted to portray the tutors as professional but approachable, informal and relaxed. Alan Thompson, School of Foundation & English Language Studies

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I wanted to experiment with a shallow focus, wide angle portrait style. Katrina Taylor LLB (Hons) Student.

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Often you just see a picture and need to grab it before the subject gets bored.

The Leica M9 isn’t exactly a “point and shoot” but it’s light and has an all metal, precision engineered, quality feel that takes some practice to use. Remembering to line up the double image squares in the viewfinder manually is important as there’s no autofocus and you can’t just blaze away shooting because the buffer will trip you up, so think and shoot carefully. That’s a bit like the way it was  in the film era.

The controls are simple and there’s everything you need with no over complicated menus to learn.  Live View, since the 1930’3 the cameras have had it, its the viewfinder window !! Its very sharp too.

I won’t be giving up my other cameras totally but there’s definitely a place on my wish list for an M. If you want one or some advice the very nice people at the Leica Centre will be pleased to help you.

I’m grateful to Beth & Natalie at BPP for letting me experiment on their project and thank you to Helen Kershaw and Marie & Ray Webster from WRG for having the confidence to commission me in the first place. Thanks also for all the bag carrying, card downloading, focus checking, assistants Claudia Moroni and, for also retrieving my MacBook Pro from Euston Lost Property, Philip Banks. I think we got a great result !

 

 

 

The Shard, Europe’s Tallest Building

Standing a whopping 1,016ft (310m) high.The 87 storey Shard of Glass dominates the City of London skyline. Its Europe’s tallest building.

It was designed by international architect Renzo Piano who made his initial sketch on the back of a restaurant menu over lunch with London based entrepreneur Irvine Sellar.

Planning delays caused by shananigans with deputy prime minister John Prescot prevented construction until 2007, just prior to the financial crisis, which put its future in jeopardy until a consortium of Qatari investors provided the necessary capital to proceed and The Shard was finally completed in 2012.

The Shard’s observation deck can be accessed by super high speed lift for £25 an hour.The design incorporates three two-storey duplexes and seven single storey apartments on floors 53 to 65. The the price of the best duplex, 735 feet up in the air is £50 million. There are three really cool restaurants at the top with amazing views over London and a super luxury hotel.

I hired a special tilt & shift lens for this project. Its a completely manual lens so you have to put the camera on a tripod, level it all up then remember to carefully set the focus and f stop. So you have to be sure its going to be a good picture before committing yourself to the pain of setting up. That’s good discipline !

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This is the final beautifully produced printed piece by Fogg Associates it was, as always, a pleasure working in London with James and Chris on this project.

The Donkey Sanctuary – Adoption Scheme

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The Donkey Sanctuary was founded by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE in the 1970′s and is the world’s largest charity caring for donkeys and mules.

The Sanctuary raises the huge amounts of money needed to carry on its work caring for over 40,000 animals world wide in a number of ways. An important fund raising initiative for the Sanctuary is the adoption scheme whereby donors can build a relationship with their chosen donkey, learn about its traits and habits, visit their donkey and make it part of the family.

I was asked by award winning brand agency The Allotment to work with them on a new campaign and mail pack that would emphasise the idea that the donkey could become part of the family and make the relationship deeper, contact more frequent and more enduring.

The idea for the mail pack received by the donor was of a family portrait of the donkey complete with a frame that could be assembled and displayed. In addition there would be a set of postcards of the donkey’s daily life, grazing in open fields and with other donkeys. Also an Ap’ has been created that facilitates frequent sharing and interaction via social media, a fun feature being that the donkey can be placed into personal photos wherever they may be.

The photos of the individual donkeys were intended to resemble a formal traditional style studio portrait and the design of the cardboard three dimensional frame with its gilt detailing further enhanced this idea.

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The shoot involved a mammoth UK and N Ireland road trip over land and sea photographing 20 animals. I wanted to approach the shoot in the same way as I would approach a portrait session with a human subject.

We found the staff at each of the centres to be devoted, dedicated and proud, easily understanding the attention to immaculate presentation required. Hooves were highly polished, coats beautifully groomed, manes were impeccably coiffed  and whiskers lovingly trimmed.

Donkeys have a reputation for stubbornness but ours performed impeccably, better than many professional models, with the exception of one donkey, who shall remain nameless, who acted like many important business executives I have known, allowing me just one shot before hoofing it off on “more important business”. All I was told was that it involved an appointment with fresh spring grass and ginger nuts and not even a carrot and stick could persuade otherwise.

Since the campaign was launched subscription income from the adoption scheme has more than doubled.

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I would like to express my sincere gratitude to donkeys Alfie, Benjy, Hannah & Timothy for their patience, cooperation and professionalism in helping me achieve the above series of portraits which were voted into the final round of  The Association of Photographers Awards this year. It was a privilege to work with the extremely hard working and inspiring James Backhurst, Creative Director at The Allotment Brand Design and enthusiastic and totally professional Mark Cross, Head of brand design at the Donkey Sanctuary. Thanks also to the extremely dedicated staff at the various centres we visited plus Anthony Cassell and Billie for their hard work, assistance and enthusiasm.