2017 Favourites!

I want to wish a massive thanks to everyone I have worked with over the past 12 months, it has been a fun and crazy turbulent year! Below are a few of my favourite portraits from the past year. 

Happy holidays everyone! 

5 non-photography videos that will help your photography

Youtube is packed full of content aimed at either informing or selling information (and/or products) to photographers at various stages of their journey. Much of these are nothing more than the low hanging fruit of subjects that have been covered to death or they are paid product endorsements that are well disguised lies, or at best part-truths, with an aim to do nothing more than generate dollars from misplaced trust.

Much of the really useful content that is available for photographers can be found at sites such as Creative Live or RGGEDU though these do come with a (justifiably) high price tag. 

But here are 5 videos that, whilst not intended for photographers, still offer some valuable information, fresh perspectives & universally applicable advice.

So here are...

5 non-photography videos that will help your photography

1. "Composition In Storytelling" - Channel Criswell

The first but not the last time we will visit this channel for some incredibly articulate and thought provoking theories on the subject of visual art. Now whilst this is aimed of DoP's and Directors looking to develop stronger storytelling skills, anyone hoping to engage their audience and immerse them in a visual scene (still or otherwise) can learn so much about the psychological effects you can create with simple yet effective techniques.

2. "Sparkles & Wine" - Nacho Guzman

Just watch and be amazed by how light can augment a persons appearance...

3. "David Fincher - And The Other Way Is Wrong" - Every Frame A Painting

Just a fascinating video about my favourite movie director and his philosophy on how inform an audience of what is important. A thoroughly entertaining dissection of a great artists work and this channel is flooded with great videos on all things cinematic.

4. "Colour In Storytelling" - Channel Criswell

Back to Criswell and possibly my favourite video on youtube. Covering the psychological impact colour has on everyone. How to create dominance or to pacify. How to single something out or how to create a wall of complimentary tones. Just watch! 

5. "'The Revenant' Cinematographer Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki - Variety Artisans" - Variety

OK, so you could take most any still frame of the multi-oscar winning movie "The Revenant" and it would be a stronger, more engaging image than 99.99999% of photos that have been taken in the history of still imaging! There I said it, and if you disagree you are wrong.

Even if you don't like the movie itself, the visuals are unreal and this short video which speaks to several cinematographers and the films colourist gives so many glimpses into the genius that is Chivo Lubezki! So what can you take away from this video? If you watch this and aren't inspired, awe-struck and terrified, I have some bad news for you! 

Thanks for reading and watching!


Gear I can't live without #1

I am a man who really hates gear! More specifically, I am a man who really, really hate dependence on gear! The very notion that something you can buy will just instantly fix fundamental issues with the user is something that has pissed me off. It isn't even specifically a photography/photographer issue, more an issue with some peoples inclination to find a shortcut regardless of how much it costs, as long as it saves time and ego!

Despite all this, I have some pieces of equipment that I think are just so wonderful I would gladly sell my wife before I decided to part ways with. 

And to kick things off, any who knows me will already know what I am going to pick...

Canon 135mm F2 L

It is just magnificent! My insistent and no doubt irritating love for this piece of glass has, to date, caused 11 workshop attendees and/or friends of mine to purchase the lens entirely based from my whining and swooning! Canon really should consider cutting me a commission cheque...

So why is it so great?

Well to start with it is sharper than a prison toothbrush. Like, scary sharp! Wide open it is most definitely one of, if not the most sharp lenses canon has. A lot of glass picks up when it's stopped down, but this beauty is magnificent wide open! 

The images it produces have a similar yet slightly more compressed look to the 85mm 1.2 L but with some massive bonus points over the (in my opinion) much-overrated sister of the 135. Straight off the bat, the focus speed is as swift as you could possibly want. An area the 85 really struggles with. Next is the sharpness wide open. Now this isn't a fair comparison per say, but its my blog, so deal with it. 

Next is the compression. This can easily be chalked up to my preference for longer focal lengths, but having plopped this lens on the front of many, many peoples cameras to enlighten anyone who is bored enough to humour me has shown me that the focal length/maximum aperture/sharpness is the perfect portrait storm.

Finally, and maybe not most importantly, but its a hell of a bonus, it's half a grand cheaper than the 85mm. I buy most of my gear, especially lenses second-hand from mpb.com (not a paid advertisement, I just like them). Second hand, these can be found for between £450-£550 for very decent examples which means you can get a used 135mm and a holiday to Greece for the cost of the 85mm! And with how slow the focussing speed of the 85 is, you'll probably be on the flight back from Santorini by the time the 85 locks in! 

And just to preempt the idea that I am in any way jealous of the 85mm or am knocking it without warrant, I own both lenses :)

Thanks for reading


5 ways to break through a creative block

I've been there so many times I should get my post forwarded there! We've all been there and I would take a pretty safe punt that some of you are there right now. That place where it just isn't working, we just aren't liking our own work and are creatively clueless as to what is going wrong. We get trapped by our own standards and/or ambition & don't know how to get back on track.

Sometimes there isn't an escape. Sometimes the issue is more psychological and less photographical. But I thought I would write a handful of ways I actively attack a creative block and move on from hating any and all of my previous work! 

Not saying these will work for you, but hopefully it helps some of you, so here is...

5 ways to break through a creative block

  1. Simplify your ideas: I have a handful of catchphrases that I repeat on workshops and personal tuitions. Advice and opinions I reiterate so much even I am sick of hearing them. One of the main ones that comes up when I am asked the vague question of "how do I get better?" is that the majority of beginner and intermediate photographers have a portfolio that resembles an iPod on shuffle. Spreading yourself creatively so thin can only leave your inspiration tired and lacking. Focus yourself as an artist down to two or three shooting scenarios, making sure that they have a common bond, and work within those restrictions. Artists don't always benefit from running with any idea that comes to mind, confining yourself to set parameters will not only define your portfolio much better, but it will also ensure that you improve on key areas much faster. And with that in mind...
  2. Create a series: Have a set, a theme that you return to every time you have a face in front of your camera. Some of my favourites are gorgeously raw low-key mono headshot (Agata Serge), makeup-free, ringlite beauty shots (Chris Conway) and coffee shop portraits (Marc Hayden). These photographers may or may not have these as a "series", but they are a very common theme through their portfolios and something they return to time and time again. It becomes their "thing" and means not only are they building their skills within the series, but they are building a look for their work that will become more and more recognisable. 
  3. Chaos theory: One of my absolute favourite things to do with a camera is to infuse an element of the unknown into an already well-versed formula. It can be as simple as creating a set of images restricted to one lens that you normally wouldn't use, or using a prism or toy lens to create a look that, whilst potentially easy to recreate in photoshop, will drive your creative eye to chase a look in camera and may force you into trying something you would normally overlook. When I photograph weddings, I will almost outright refuse to visit the venue before the date of the actual ceremony. I want the location to be the chaos theory I introduce on the day. I don't want to google what other people have done and poison my mind of all originality. I was to walk into the scene and see what my eye wants to do with it. I also often use wine glasses, fractal filters and all kinds of daft paraphernalia as gobo's and foreground interest to see what the situation throws at you.
  4. Restrict your gear: I can say, hand on heart, that having more gear has caused me to become more lazy and less creative than when I am restricted. I am not even someone who has an abundance of gear compared to some, but I definitely find myself being less creative compositionally and with regards to the feel and expression of an image when I am constantly thinking about which piece of gear to use next. To such an extent in fact, that I am currently on a bit of a pilgrimage to get back to what I was doing in my first 18 months of being a photographer, where I only had one camera and my beloved 135mm lens. I have even had periods in time where I would only shot with a 50mm, mostly due to the fact that I really don't get on with that focal length and it forced me to be observant and work harder to find the shot. This is also why I don't own any zoom lenses (as well as my interpretation of prime lenses image quality).
  5. The imitation game: Now, whilst plagiarism & generally ripping people off REALLY irritates me, approaching the work of your biggest influences and working to recreate the aesthetic or feel of your favourite images of theirs could potentially open up your compositional eye, teach you a new technique or at the very least reignite your passion by focussing your energy on the very work that gets you excited! How do we negotiate the line between influence and imitation? Well if you're intention when you start is to recreate the image that influenced you, then go for it, but don't post the results for the public to see. Use it as an exercise and a learning scenario. Not everything you photograph needs to be posted on Facebook for it to have any value to you!