Rolling In Dirt & Dollars At The Colosseum

Several years ago I did a fair amount of productions shooting for stock libraries including Corbis & Getty images.
These where mostly lifestyle shoots on location but also a few landscapes & travel images which for the most part where less salable & profitable ….mostly.

If there is one sure thing in photography it’s there is no sure thing or second guessing what the market will want.So when I took a trip to Rome back in 2005 with the family I did take my cameras (of course) but did not really expect to capture anything that my stock libraries might want as after all how many images must there already be of the eternal city.
With this in mind I decided I’d just follow what took my fancy and capture images for pure pleasure just for myself.

Rome is a little like Venice in terms of photographic opportunities (see my last post on Venice) around every corner except there are more cars and less water !
One of the must have locations I wanted to capture during this trip had to be the iconic Colosseum which posed two problems for me to overcome.
The first and easiest problem to solve was the sheer amount of tourists at the location.This was easily solved as images like these are often captured (at least by me) in the soft light of dawn. Being early spring this meant a 5am start which also meant the only people up and around was myself and street cleaners.
The more challenging problem which I spoke about in my last post was how to photograph the familiar in a fresh interesting way.Can you imagine how many times the Colosseum has been captured over the decades?

The light from the sunrise that morning was simply beautiful and made even more sweet as I had this magnificent and historic building all to myself well at least the exterior of it. As I explored the location It dawned on me (no pun intended) that shooting with Contre-jour light and a precise exposure would help reproduce the beauty I was experiencing.
What makes this image so successful (more on that in a moment) in my opinion was the fact I always explore my composition options, moving left-right up and down around the scene to find what gives me the strongest image.In this image I decided an ultra low angle lying on my stomach with a wide angle lens would provide a strong foreground with the sunlit cobbles.
Although I knew I had several strong images I was still unconvinced about submitting these to my Art Director at my stock library after all landscapes / travel images did not sell that well partly due to the vast amount already available but I decided to send them in anyway.
To my surprise the agency took a good selection of those I submitted including several of the Colosseum images but the best was to come.
The first month they appeared for sale the Colosseum image featured here sold for $25,000 to American Airlines for an advertising campaign they where producing and it continued selling for the following 18 months notching up some amazing sales.
The least financially beneficial sale it received but probably my proudest was when it appeared on the cover of the National Geographic.

National Geographic

So why did an image of one of the most famous and photographed land marks in the world gross in excess of $50,000 in sales when the market was saturated with images of it?
Well I think it’s very simple..It’s the familiar captured in an unfamiliar way. By lying on those dusty uncomfortable cobbles and using the beautiful dawn light the best way I could I had created an image that was pretty unique and fresh compared to anything else available at the time.

In my opinion to succeed in today’s commercial photography market it’s essential to be as unique in your image creation as possible to have any chance of standing out in the overcrowded market and that means understanding & developing your eye / visual style over many years.

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Venezia, Gondolier’s, A Straw Hat And A Dog With A Bone

It’s so easy to travel to a popular destination and simply fall into shooting well known landmarks from where everyone else does.
Lets face it the reason a particular spot is often used over and over is because it’s simply a great angle that many photographer’s (and possibly painters) have used again and again.These images get seen published and then searched out by others to replicate.
I’m not saying this is wrong but the problem for me is that by doing this it’s not exactly being creative as you are simply copying what every other bugger is doing again and again !
So the challenge for me is to capture these iconic places in my own style and hopefully a fresh new way …which not easy!

Gondoler Grande Canal, Venice Italy

Gondolier Grande Canal, Venice Italy

A few days before Christmas in 2004 I was itching to take a trip to test my transition from film into digital capture. I persuaded the wife that a romantic trip to Venice was needed together with 20kg of shiny new gear (fortunately she’s pretty strong !) and off we flew.
Venice… lets face it you would have to be complete lemon to go to there and not come back with at least a few great images from what is one of
if not the most stunning and unique places on earth.
Needless to say I took a lot of images during the trip and being December the light was good all day and fortunately dry although bitterly cold.
On our final morning I left the wife in bed and carried my kit myself to a very famous spot where I planned a dawn capture of the Grande Canal with the Maria Della Sallute in the background.
Although this is a very famous angle painted and photographed a million times I was determined to make it my own in some way.
As I was early I decided to pop into a cafe alongside the bridge where I planned to shoot from to wait for the light and have a well deserved Cappuccino especially after having to carry my own kit !
It was from the cafe I noticed a decked area with some plant pots and it was from here I decided would give me an interesting fresh angle for my image.
The dawn light was everything I hoped it would be and the scene came alive.
I added some extra depth by allowing one of the cafe’s plant pots  to appear out of focus in the foreground.
Apart from a few cranes I was very pleased with what I had but  could not help think how perfect would the image be with a gondolier in the scene.
I decided to wait in the hope one would appear in my beautiful composition but despite my patience none appeared.

My mum always say’s that once I have a bee in my bonnet I’m like a dog with a bone and just don’t let go !
I decided I definitely wanted a Gondolier for the image and went on a mission to find one before my flight departed that afternoon.
I searched high and low trying to capture a gondolier at the correct height (to match perspective)  and in a similar light to my background and found several BUT none had the classic straw hat..that I now decided was also required for the perfect image I had in my head.
Time was getting short and despite my effort no gondoliers in the correct light and perspective with a hat could be found on the water so I decided I would have try another way.
Finally after much stalking around the rustic back streets of Venice I found a suitable doner hat  and although the light was not quite perfect I knew with some tweaking I could get it to work.

This is one of my favorite images maybe not because it’s one of my strongest but probably because it’s a reminder of a magical weekend a few days before Christmas in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It was also the start of a new way of working & capturing images that blended seamlessly with the way I already was working in post production and of course it was also a romantic weekend with my wife 🙂 ..yep that too

Images Available As Prints In Our Gallery


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Wandering Paris By Starlight

Sounds kinda exotic doesn’t it..”Wandering Paris By Strarlight” well actually the fact I found myself wandering Paris in the early hours was a slight cock up.
It was 2007 and I had been shortlisted for a very large car shoot for an agency in Paris and my agent called to say I needed to fly over to meet the creatives at the agency.I decided that after my meeting I would stay on an extra day to shoot some personal work to make the most of trip.
I’ve visited Paris before so had images of the city but this was many years previous when I was still very green behind the gills and as I mentioned in an earlier post your vision and tastes change with time.
So I planned my itinerary together with sunrise & sunset times so that I could maximize my precious short time and the best light.The problem arouse when I planned to shoot the Eiffel Tower (which was only a 10 min walk from the hotel) at pre dawn.Somehow my phone alarm got confused (or was it me!) and I ended getting up 3 hrs before sunrise and found myself walking the damp cold streets before I had noticed the error.
As it happens Paris and especially the Eiffel Tower look rather stunning under starlight and of course it has the added bonus that at this time of morning/night it also lacks the crowds of Grockels (Tourists) as we call them down ere in Zummerzet !.

Images Available As Prints In Our Gallery





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A stunning photography location the Gumbet Windmills

A stunning photography location, the Gumbet Windmills

I travel to Turkey quite a lot and I’m fortunate to have a home there from which to explore the many areas of historical interest and is a fabulous photography location.

On this particular trip, I left my friends to enjoy an evening meal together and borrowed my Turkish friend’s car to travel & capture the Windmills in the beautiful evening light.
The Windmills are located on a headland high above the bays of Gumbet and Bodrum and give a wonderful view over the sea and mountains. I’d been told about this location many times by Turkish friends but unfortunately, on arrival, I found it a little disappointing compared to the vision that I had built up in my mind.

I decided that seeing I was not being commissioned to capture scenery photography and to shoot a faithful representation of the place that I would stay true to my own vision (as I often do) of this beautiful location by moving a few elements around and clean the place up a little with some highend retouching.

My main disappointment at the location was the fact that the stunning view behind the windmills was not clearly visible so I decided to rectify this by raising the sea & mountains.
This was accomplished by capturing the precise images I needed than in post cleaning out a couple of the more derelict windmills so that the view could be seen behind.
This image was also made into an image retouching training Video called “Moving Mountains”




Turkey 2009 Images for Prophotoinsights Video Training, View from Peninsular between Gumbet & Bodrum where windmills are located.