Home Schooling

Since coronageddon kicked off, and my usual photography bookings became rarer than truths from a government adviser, I’ve been filling my time with lots of online tutorials, walks, trying new recipes, and roughly 40% of the time, looking after my 13 year-old daughter – which largely involves making sure she gets on with her allotted schoolwork and regularly shovelling food to within arm’s reach. In addition, it’s been nice (for us both) to introduce her to some new creative activities such as music recording, digital art and editing photographs using Lightroom.

I confess there may be a longer term dream that she’ll one day take over the editing side of my photography business (when she’s not at university or becoming a massive success in whatever “proper” career direction she chooses) while I do the bit I enjoy most – taking pictures. Editing, to me, is a means to an end. Unlike many other photographers, I really don’t enjoy the editing process. However, predictably, my daughter has taken to Lightroom like a duck to water and within an hour of my initial guidance, was using functions that I rarely if ever use myself.

And so here are a few of my photographs as edited on Lightroom by “my young apprentice”. She chose to work on these images from a “Urban Ballet” themed shoot at my Strangetown Studio featuring the wonderful Emilie Walt. Not necessarily how I’d have done them – but that’s the whole point. I’m rather chuffed with her results…

 

Ivory Flame: Gypsy Caravan (Part 2)

I’m actually embarrassed at how long it’s taken me to finish and publish these images of Ivory Flame‘s gypsy caravan-themed shoot (we’re talking YEARS). In my defence, I’d already worked my way through editing the 700 or so images from this very inspiring and productive shoot when my laptop conked out and all of my Lightroom work-in-progress was lost.

And then, predictably, I got absorbed in other, current work and never got around to starting again with this shoot. It’s taken a global pandemic, social isolation and the disappearance of all work engagements to give me the opportunity to dip back into these images and start again on the editing. Silver linings, eh?

In a way, I’m rather glad to be attacking these images now because I’ve been developing a collection of painterly Lightroom presets that I think work beautifully with Ivory Flame’s wonderfully ephemeral and Pre-Raphaelite style.

As if Ivory Flame, an amazing authentic gypsy caravan, and a ruined cottage wasn’t enough to inspire heaps of photographs, Gillian’s horses came over to get in on the action…

And here’s a final selection from the hundreds of shots (that I’d be more than happy to share if there were time).

I’ll no doubt be raiding my dusty hard drives for more previously unpublished stuff during the zombie apocalypse. But for now, huge thanks again to the stunning Holly (Ivory Flame), Gillian (for the caravan and wonderful hospitality) and my little group of togs who made the whole thing feasible.

Ivory Flame: Gypsy Caravan (Part 1)

One advantage of the enforced isolation we now find ourselves in is having time to do things we’ve perhaps been meaning to do for a long time. For example, I’ve been able to delve into my deepest darkest archives and find whole shoots that for one reason or another, I never got around to editing.

What I’m going to share today, are images from a shoot I organised FOUR years ago featuring the truly unique Ivory Flame and with a “gypsy” theme (that she does so well).

The other star of this shoot, and the inspiration for the whole idea, is a genuine antique “gypsy caravan” that is owned by my good friend, Gillian, an award-winning designer. When Gillian showed me the caravan, which is at the bottom of her beautiful country garden, the idea for the shoot (including choice of model) instantly popped into my head.

What may not be immediately apparent from the images is that this was early spring and was blimming freezing! It was also spotting with rain and a cold spring wind was blowing through the garden, but Ivory Flame is a consummate professional and soldiered on regardless.

That’s all for now. I’ll post a few more soon.

Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

There is, apparently, a nasty virus going around. It’s separating loved ones, frightening people of all ages, preventing and changing “normal” life, making people ill, ruining businesses, stalling education and careers, and even killing thousands.

Given that perspective, the cancellation of a few photography courses and workshops is pretty small beer really. Inevitably, under these extraordinary circumstances, I’ve postponed all of my training events until it’s safe and sensible to reschedule. Everyone affected has been contacted and have been wonderfully understanding (this is no surprise – my training clients are lovely folks). Whatever happens, and however long it takes, these bookings will be honoured.

I, like many other photographers, and many other freelance/self-employed people (including the models I work with), have a very uncertain future because of Covid-19. I noticed a fairly sudden drop-off in my usual PR and commercial work 4-6 weeks ago but hoped we’d escape the worst of it and could begin to recoup the lost earnings. It’s now apparent this is unlikely to happen any time soon and with studio and house rent to pay, I’m unsure how my business will weather this enforced period of inactivity. I went into self-isolation almost a week ago because I was showing symptoms of what I believe to be (but can’t be certain was) a cold and cough. I have no work whatseoever in the diary until September which is when the school photography contracts should begin – but of course, there’s a chance these may not materialise. Freelance photographers sadly cannot work from home.

But I’m one of the lucky ones. I am in generally good health, have food in my cupboards and freezer, have a little garden I can sit in for fresh air when needed – and most importantly, my family are safe, well and taking the necessary precautions to avoid infection. If my business doesn’t survive this, I’m sure I’ll adapt and eventually find alternative work.

My real sympathy is with those already infected or lost to this virus and their families.

And my eternal gratitude to the wonderful NHS and other keyworkers keeping this country battling through despite the best efforts of the moronic hordes of panic-buying, stockpiling, advice-ignoring, virus-spreading dimwits who see no reason to make any adjustment whatsoever to their own selfish routines in order to save the lives of innocent people. To those people, I wish a swift and painful death.

In an attempt to end on a lighter, photographic note (this is a photography page after all), I leave you with this image of lovely Laura (actually two shots, taken, edited, composited on an iphone) proving that there really is light at the end of the tunnel…

This Other England: Model Ellie At Strangetown Studio

Modelling for this week’s “Getting Started In The Studio: Flash“workshop was the lovely Kidderminster-based model Ellie England. It so happens that Ellie’s dad is one of my oldest and best friends so I’ve know Ellie since she was a baby – way before she was one of the country’s brightest new athletics hopefuls, much less an up-and-coming model. Sadly, a period of ill health meant that Ellie is no longer competing in athletics but thankfully, she is back to modelling.

Before Monday’s workshop began, we were able to get a few minutes to grab some studio shots, some of which Ellie needed for an agency application. Ellie is such a wonderfully bubbly personality with a very professional outlook. She is on Instagram and some of the modelling sites (click here for her Purpleport profile).

These were very hurried shots but I hope to bring Ellie back into the studio soon.

Holly In The Summertime

I can’t believe I’ve just got around to editing the images from this shoot with the wonderful Holly Alexander at Strangetown Studio from August 2019!  But editing images from late summer, with some lovely afternoon sunshine, is exactly what’s needed on a day when my home town is facing yet more floods.

This was a really enjoyable grouo shoot in which we were able to utilise not only the studio (and its lighting) but also the corridors and lifts within the studio building and the streets nearby.

And here’s our merry little group on the day (excluding me, as I’m taking the photograph)…

 

James: Headshots

I enjoy shooting “headshots”, especially when the subject is a performer or someone who understands the importance of image presentation. And it’s also more fun if it’s someone I’ve known for many years and have worked with before.

James is an actor and musician that I first photographed around 14 years ago when I was putting together my final project for my Photography degree. We originally met via a mutual interest in a band. James is definitely less affected by those years than I am.

I know I’ve said it before but the best thing about my studio (Strangetown Studio) is that apart from my cosy and well-equipped studio space, there’s the rest of this huge 1930s industrial building to use as backdrops for my portraiture and quite a few of the corridors and stairwells have rather nice natural light.

New Blood: Old Concept

(l-r) Gia, Farrah & Porsha

I recently revived a workshop theme that I haven’t done for well over two years. In fact the problems with finding reliable models for the “New Blood” showcase events (essentially three very different models whose only similarity is that they haven’t worked on my events before) was one of the reasons I stopped doing workshops at all.

Porsha at Strangetown Studio

It’s “reassuring” to discover that nothing has changed and new models are still, on the whole, a fairly unreliable bunch. Of the three models originally booked for this event, only Porsha actually honoured her booking. The other two had to be replaced when they dropped out at quite short notice (one within the 36 hours before the shoot). Suddenly, I remembered why I stopped doing these particular workshops.

Luckily, two wonderful and very professionally-minded models, Gia and Farrah stepped in to save the day. In the end, this was a very successful workshop.  Here are just a few of the images I managed to capture in between running from group to group…

Dream Team Fitness @Henrietta Street Gym

I always enjoy working with Nic and Tracy of Dream Team Fitness. On this occasion, I was photographing a group of their fitness clients as they trained at the wonderfully photogenic Henrietta Street Gym in Birmingham.

Apart from a few posed portraits at the end (for which I used off-camera speedlights), most of the images were shot using the gym’s ambient light which was a mixture of cool fluorescent and window-light.

A few days later, Nic and Tracy were married. Congratulations, guys!

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.