Wicker Coffins & Wetlands Centre

Today was the end of a very full week of shooting in London, Devon & Somerset.
We also had to produce estimates for a couple of fantastic briefs that we hope we will be shooting next month which we are pretty excited about.
So all in all a very enjoyable week and to top it off today we spent a fantastic morning looking around yet another location we are planning to shoot for our personal project “Life In A Somerset Landscape”
The location was PH Coate & Son “Willow & Wetlands Centre” here in deepest Somerset.The Coate family have grown willow here since the 1800’s and today produce products from environmentally friendly Wicker Coffins to Christmas Hampers for the famous Fortnum & Mason in London.
So just like Cider making the Willow growing indusrty just had to be included in our project and we plan to return in November when the Willow Harvest is under way.

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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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Photography Location “Preparation” for successful Landscape Photography

 

Photography Location “Preparation” for successful Landscape Photography

I don’t normally post any kind of tutorials here they are normally posted on my Digital Photography site but I’ve been asked a couple of times how I approach some of the work in my Travel Photography Portfolio so thought I’d add a short post here.
A Photography Location is not always the easiest of subjects to capture unless you do a little bit of pre-planning.

That’s not to say I don’t sometimes just stumble across a well-lit scene or just head out and explore an area without any planning because sometimes I do.
However, a professional vacation photographer will almost always do some scouting before shooting.

Weather can be unpredictable especially in the U.K where it changes very quickly and of course, we can’t be prepared for that!

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Rotterdam Traffic On A Misty Morning

I’ll often research the area via good old Google and Google Earth to get ideas of the locations terrain and possible shooting angles.

I’ll also phone local tourist offices who can often be invaluable in recommending good vantage points or even specific times of the year they believe are best to visit although they are rarely photographers themselves and their idea for a chocolate box image/vantage point will rarely be yours!

Looking at books or local postcards can also help show the more popular spots and this can be a good starting point but I’ll always search out a new angle where I can and try to make the image my own.
If you are out scouting locations consider using a compass or better still a smartphone app like Focalware.
I use Focalware on my iPhone and it tells you the sun/moon angle during various times of the year which can be extremely handy especially in hilly areas where parts of your scene could fall into shade.

Another way to find out what time the sun rises and sets for the chance to create some creative travel photography is a site like Time & Date and of course, check the weather forecast while you are online too!
Even after viewing forecasts the weather can be unpredictable so be prepared to have to wait around for the light so perhaps pack a good book or a laptop to entertain yourself.

Travel and landscape photography can mean early starts or a late finish so a flask and a snack are other items I never leave home without especially when I’m out shooting at dawn.

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Rowing To Market, Couple Rowing Small Boat In Canal Venice

Stay close to your chosen viewpoint and be prepared (especially if the wind is up and clouds are moving quickly) to grab the unexpected change in the light.
Early morning and dusk can also mean unexpected wildlife too so again be prepared for a few grab shots.
Landscape photography is not the hardest subject technically to capture but sometimes does take a bit of planning to get the best images that the location has to offer.
Be patient and be willing to cut your losses and return another time (if that’s possible) if the light or weather is too poor for the image you want.

 

Gill’s Allotment

I was asked a few weeks ago if I could produce & present a training video on shooting Environmental Portraiture for Envato Tuts Plus Network in Australia.
Over the last few years I have produced many training videos for Envato’s PhotoTuts’s premium content so this was not a particularly unusual request to receive.
For this shoot I decided to photograph Gill who I’ve captured before and is not only a great character to shoot but also happens to be my father in law !
The location is Gill’s allotment located in the beautiful South Somerset landscape and was perfect to demonstrate photographing people in their personal spaces.

 

A Paddle With Grandad

Im currently away on an annual family holiday in St Ives Cornwall.
St Ives is very familiar to me as I have been coming here since a child and also lived here for a short period.
This means photographing something fresh can be quite a challenge to do but an enjoyable challenge none the less.
Also a challenge is shooting on the iPhone but again it can be an enjoyable task as i find myself devoid of camera functions and allowing myself to rely only on my eye to create something interesting.
Below is an image shot yesterday and may well be part of one of my iPhone projects once I return.

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Graceful Killers

A while ago I was asked by a client if I could shoot some promotional images and video at the Airbus family day in Bristol.Although only open to Airbus employees and their families the event is huge and hosts a variety of great aircrafts.
I love planes probably because they generally take you somewhere nice 🙂 and not being one to miss an opportunity to add some shots to my compositing archive to save for a rainy day I shot till I could shoot no more.
Having some unexpected spare time this week I decided to trawl through my archives and create the image posted here titled “Graceful Killers”.
At the time of writing I’m still researching with help from some kind fellow photographers on Pro Imaging to what these WW1 fighter planes actually are, of course if you know feel free to post below.

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Mud, Nuclear Power & The Mud Horse Fishermen

As I have mentioned in a previous post I’m currently working on producing new life images of people & animals within the landscape.

Part of this has evolved into a small project shooting “Life In A Somerset Landscape” where I show people and animals at well known Somerset locations.
While researching new people to shoot I caught an old TV clip of one of the last Mud Horse Fisherman who live close to Hinkley Point B Nuclear power station nr Bidgwater Somerset.
20 years earlier I had photographed one of the last few fishermen for a magazine and so was not sure if any where still actually still fishing in the area.
After a bit of research with good old Google I managed to find a telephone number for Brendan & Adrian Sellick who are father & son and the last two people still Mud Horse fishing a stones throw from Hinkley Point B Nuclear Power Station.

So what is Mud Horse Fishing?
Having lived close to the coast most my life (mostly on the Bristol Channel) I know how dangerous this stretch of coast can be.
Firstly it has the second fastest fall and rise of tide in the world plus and more appropriate here the mud banks can be like quicksand.
The fishermen place their nets 2 miles out over the treacherous mud banks of the Bristol Channel. They use a wooden sledge known as a Mud Horse to help them not only carry back their catch but more importantly aid them to glide over the thick treacherous mud and not sink into it.
Following my telephone call I arranged to meet Adrian Brendan Sellick and photograph them with the Mud Horse at the beach.
My vision for the image was not one shot in bright clear sunlight which is what the shoot day presented me with.For me this is the kind of uncertantity that makes location shooting so interesting and certainly keeps you on your toes.
Another surprise on the day was I did not expect to go onto the mud banks to shoot but stay on the shore.
Adrian explained that the Mud Horse is stored about 1 mile out onto the mud banks of the channel weighted down by rocks as is to cumbersome to drag out.

We jumped into his 4×4 and started to drive cautiously over the mud which I have to admit was rather unnerving after the scores of cars I’ve seen submerged on this coastline by tourists driving on the beaches and ignoring the warnings.

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Luckily I always carry a pair of wellies in the boot of my car so was pretty well prepared for the mud that I had to wade through in certain areas.

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I had as I always do planned to use my tripod but it quickly became obvious that I would have to go out my comfort zone and hand hold the camera.
Adrian directed me to where was safe to walk and pointed out the areas that would have me knee deep plus in mud which was a worry with £6,500 worth of camera around my neck !
I directed Adrian where I wanted him and set about shooting with quite briskly with a healthy burst of fill in flash to reduce the harsh contrast from the crystal clear sunlit sky.
It was a very enjoyable shoot even though it took me out my comfort zone a little (which is not a bad thing) and made me adapt my plans slightly.

 

 

I retired with Adrian back to his rustic fish shop where I finished by shooting some headshots of him and his charismatic father Brendan.

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This shoot summed up to me how much I love the excitement & unpredictable nature of location shooting.Combing this with meeting interesting,charming people doing jobs that sadly may not continue in years to come also gives me satisfaction of knowing that once again my camera has enabled me to explore places & people otherwise I may never had chance to.


The final image shown here combines several images of Adrian,The Bristol Channel and the Hinkley Point B Power Station.

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Travel Photography Portfolio, New Images From Menorca Spain

Travel Photography Portfolio, New Images From Menorca Spain

Following my recent trip to the beautiful island of Menorca, I have finally finished the post-production  and added the images to my travel photography portfolio

The image here was captured at Santo Tomas which is located on the south of the island an area that provided many stunning locations to explore and shoot.

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iPhone Photography, A Creative Workout

 

I’ve mentioned before on my Photography Training site that I’m a big fan of shooting images on my iPhone. There was a time when I’d never leave the house without a camera but over the years my style of photography has changed somewhat and most of what I shoot these days is less spontaneous and much more highly planned. Theabove however changed with the iPhone and I found myself shooting more and more freely like I did when I first discovered photography. I believe there are several reasons for my love of shooting on the iPhone and it definitely has nothing to do with the awesome quality or versatility which it lacks in abundance !

For starters it’s a challenge to shoot with as there is no control over aperture,shutter and little exposure or focus control so you are on a level playing ground with everyone else who shoots with it. This basically means you only have your eye to reply on for capturing something visually interesting & creative which is also another challenge in itself as there is no view finder. Secondly the above means you are released from any technical control and free just to enjoy capturing everything and anything without fear that the image is exposed correctly or has camera shake as there is little you can do to adjust it anyway.So in short you give yourself permission to become an amateur again and go wild. None of this means I don’t ever take out any of my more pro level cameras when out and about but for most day to day off the hip shooting the iPhone is always in my pocket.

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In short using the iPhone as a camera is just great fun and that after all is what it’s all about and a nice workout for the creative muscles.

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Here is a links to my Projects Gallery where you can view some of my images shot with the iPhone most recent being some captured in Menorca Spain.

Moored For The Night

There is nothing more therapeutic to me than to set up the camera at sunset and to watch & wait for the light to almost disappear into what I call the edge of darkness.

This period of the day (or is it night !) is magical to me and fits in perfectly with my photographic vision.Read More