Cops And Cars

Since my last post I’ve moved house (I’m now living in beautiful Bridgnorth, Shropshire again) but still very much based at my Strangetown Studio in Birmingham. So it’s been a very busy couple of months in many ways but I’m delighted by the way 2019 has gone so far.

It does mean, however, that I’ve badly neglected this website so it’s about time I got on with sharing some recent work with you. Much of my work can’t be published (at least not yet) due it’s sensitive commercial nature but here is a development that many (including myself) wouldn’t have imagined just a few months ago…

I organised a workshop. My first for over a year, and this time it was really for my own amusement and creative stimulation. I began by inviting only former FOTO-CLUB members but then opened this up to a couple of other great supporters of my previous workshops.

The concept for this shoot was inspired by spotting that my friend Nick had bought a beautiful 1966 Dodge Charger. Nick had previously supplied an original 60s Vespa GS scooter for a shoot quite a few years ago and so I had the idea of creating a shoot based around his new car and that kind of car’s role in certain American 60s movies such as “Bullitt” (starring Steve McQueen). Nick kindly agreed to take part and mentioned that his friend Simon might also be interested in bringing along his 1967 Pontiac Catalina Coupe.

Next came the models and I was keen to echo the Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Bisset roles to some extent. For the female role I approached the stunning Lottie Locke who I knew, as a skilled make-up artist, would be able to reproduce an authentic late 1960s look.  As she’d just started a new job, there was some doubt if she’d be available but I waited for her to try to get time off and was prepared to postpone the shoot if necessary because I was convinced she was the perfect model for the role. Once I knew Lottie was available and happened to have a fantastic wardrobe of suitable clothes, I approached boxer Ryan “Tank” Aston to play the role of the male cop. Ryan is a very good and cool-looking model with a genuine “tough guy” look. I bought a black polo-neck jumper from the Custard Factory vintage clothing market for him but discovered on the day that he had one of his own that was perfect.

The location was the backstreets of Digbeth in Birmingham and I chose an early start time on a Sunday morning to minimise traffic and intrusive pedestrians. Finally, Nick and Simon arrived looking like they’d just stepped out of one of the films that had inspired the shoot – and so were persuaded to play support roles in the shoot and were fantastic.

So this has been a very small selection of images from the shoot. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the morning and we all came away with shots we were happy with.

Many thanks to Lottie, Ryan, Nick and Simon (and to Keith for supplying the prop “weaponry”).

The team: Simon, Lottie, Ryan and Nick.

Impromptu Elena.

Sometimes, others’ loss is your gain. On this occasion, I’d booked lovely model Elena to pose for a short, fairly casual, studio lighting demonstration for two clients but despite having paid in advance, they failed to turn up. This meant that Elena and I could either call it a day and go home or make the most of the opportunity for a quick shoot in my studio and around the building. We went for the latter option and I was chuffed with some of the results. It was a cold wintry evening and I was in the mood for some noirish filmic images. Good job I took my camera!

Bethany Reynolds Fashion Shoot

The last (as in final) FOTO-CLUB workshop at Strangetown Studio was a fashion shoot featuring the beautiful Bethany Reynolds, a young model I’d wanted to work with for some time.  I think it’s safe to say that it was a successful evening with everyone walking away with a selection of tremendous images.

Here is a quick selection of images that I took during the evening (all shot on my Nikon DSLR)…

The Final Furlong

I’m on the final wind-down of FOTO-CLUB training courses and workshops. The last one-off workshop was a Fashion-themed workshop with the stunning Bethany Reynolds at my very own Strangetown Studio.

All that’s left now are these two 5-week courses which start at the very end of February and 1st of March. I’m happy to report that, like the final workshop, these look very likely to fill up (with only a couple of spaces remaining on each). And so after 14 years or so of these events, I’m looking forward to them… and dreading them in equal measure. The last class will be a sad day (well, evening) indeed.

But if you or someone you know fancies the first (and last) ever 5 week DSLR For Beginners or Advanced Photography course, I’d suggest that they sign up soon.

Winter Sunshine

Please forgive a bit of self-indulgent nostalgia. One of the highlights of the year, in so many ways, was the second FOTO-CLUB Spain trip. Same villa, a couple of the same models and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t posted any of these here before. Funny how being snowed-in for two days makes you pine for Spanish sunshine. Here’s the stunning Lauren, who despite insisting she was not a model, turned out to be one of the best models I’ve ever worked with…

The End Is Nigh

Shawna Leigh at Strangetown Studio, 2017

I decided a few months ago that after some 14 years of photography training, I was going to hang up my virtual board-rubber and concentrate on other aspects of my business – and perhaps some new business ideas as well. This was a very difficult and emotional decision for me but the more I considered it, the more it seemed like the right thing to do.

I began teaching photography at Birmingham Botanical Gardens as a way of earning a few extra quid while studying for my photography degree. As quite a shy person, I didn’t really relish the idea of standing in front of a group of fee-paying students and finding out I didn’t know as much about photography as I thought I did. But contrary to my expectations, I not only really enjoyed teaching, but I knew more than I thought I did, and I continued to learn with every course I taught.

Over the years, in courses and workshops at the Botanical Gardens, mac (Midlands Arts Centre), Stratford College, Solihull College, via Fotofilia and FOTO-CLUB, and at numerous private venues and institutions, I have had literally thousands of students in front of me. It has been a real pleasure and a privilege to watch absolute beginners develop into competent (and sometimes professional) photographers, some of whom I still consider friends. Our journey has taken us through at least 6 studios, too many courses and workshops to count, overseas trips, exhibitions, two successful photography clubs, numerous “copycat” “competitors”, a fair bit of frustration and a LOT of laughs.

So why would I give up something that I have grown to love? Well, there comes a time when other priorities arise, and you realise that what you’re offering is no longer achieving the level of interest that it used to and is suffering from a very crowded marketplace (so many photographers I know have begun to offer training on a more regular basis where they were previously less interested) and a growth in “peer knowledge” where groups of beginners or near beginners come together to “learn” from each other, often at little or no financial cost. Quality, it seems, can be less important than cost and increasingly, people are happy to glean bits of experience from other eager amateurs for free than have to pay the inevitable overheads/salary of full time, qualified professionals. I can understand this and believe it’s an inevitable consequence of the widespread belief that “anyone can be a photographer”.

Also, when many of your workshops rely on professionally-minded models, it can be frustrating to note a significant decline in the reliability of models, both male and female. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some wonderful models (and non-models) over the years and there is a reason that some are invited back time and again – they can be trusted to show up when a group of paying photographers are expecting them too. Sadly, I have been let down by more and more models at the last minute – arriving up to 90 minutes late or even not at all, calling in sick or suddenly uncontactable shortly before the shoot only to pop up on social media as working elsewhere or out on the tiles. The modelling interface sites like Purpleport and Purestorm are no help in this regard – when I left appropriate feedback on one model’s profile to reflect a last minute no-show, the feedback was removed within 24 hours. It is therefore increasingly difficult to provide a supply of “new” models for workshops without that knotted-stomach feeling of wondering whether they’ll show up.

So, I’ve arranged a few last bits and pieces for FOTO-CLUB early in 2018 and then that’s it. You’ll find these here on the website. I’ll say a proper goodbye to FOTO-CLUB nearer the day but for the moment, thank you.

All That Glitters…

…Is probably our favourite FOTO-CLUB model Emilie Walt and her equally sparkly accomplice at this week’s “Showgirl” themed group shoot at Strangetown Studio.

Professional dancer (and our most-photographed model) Emilie will be bringing some welcome seasonal sparkle to the studio and there’s still a couple of spaces if you feel like braving the arctic conditions to get here.