Thursday, 22 September 2011

Turn the camera on yourself


A few days ago I turned the camera on myself. Being on the other end of the lens was an interesting experience for me. Even though I had Olga next to me to tickle me and be silly with I didn't find the whole experience exactly an easy one. I don't think having to wait 10 seconds each time I pressed the shutter button helped, and I worked out after a while that only giving ourselves 2 seconds seemed to be much more fun. Normally I would make a shoot like this fast paced and silly, but it's really difficult to do that when you're also one of the subjects. I've gained a new respect for self portrait photographers.

Olga should definitely take a load of the credit for these, it's just as much her set as mine. Thanks Olga!



Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The anatomy of a shoot - People and animals Kasztanka stables


I thought it might be interesting to talk people through one of my most recent people and animals photoshoots. In case you missed the series you can see what I've been up to here: link. Read on for more details on the shoot...

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Silent Portraits - what I've learned

Silent Portraits: Sophie - 0490.jpgSilent Portraits: Paul - 0184.jpg

So all of the pictures from my silent portraits have been shared with the world and I thought it was worth saying a few words about the project as a whole...

Just to recap - the thoughts behind it all:
When shooting portraits I normally talk a lot, and I encourage others to talk too. This generally gets people to relax. However, sometimes I find the best way to get a good expression or feeling from someone is to stop that chat, and just wait. They start off not quite knowing what to do, they look shy, smile, laugh, pull an amazing awkward face, or give you the best silent look. So many interesting things occur when I stop talking.

This got me thinking: what if I didn't talk at all during a photoshoot. From the moment my subject enters the room to the moment they leave I wont say anything - I'll just stay quiet and see what happens.

So I put out a plea to the world for some volunteers to take part in an afternoon of photography. Seven people agreed to take part and gave me their time for free in return for an interesting experience.

Silent portraits: Will - 0150.jpg

What I've learnt:
Getting people to commit to an idea means that you will get better images from it. I warned all those involved what I was going to be doing with them and they were totally ready for it. If they had not been then I doubt I would have got images that look anyway near as intimate and interesting as those I took during my shoots.

Silent Portraits: Emily - 0610.jpg

Doing something different together makes people closer. It took maybe 5 minutes max to break down the awkwardness in each of the sessions. This is a way shorter time than when people can hide behind polite conversation. I also found that when we finished each session we left feeling like the best of friends, or at least a whole lot closer.

Silent Portraits: Keir - 0374.jpg

You can say so much without even talking. I could still direct and suggest ideas to the people involved the shoots. I could gesture, act, copy, smile, frown, move about and shake my head. There were so many other ways I could encourage and coerce people that didn't involved talking. It was really interesting to see how well they worked.

Silent Portraits: Katy - 0849.jpg

Keeping it simple can often mean the best images. I took one simple idea and expanded it to a whole shoot - I couldn't talk. I didn't have fancy lights, I didn't have a fancy set, I didn't have fancy props, I didn't use fancy processing. I just photographed in a small plain room with a chair and a table using the natural window light. This meant that there was nothing to distract me and my subject from one another. I think this shows in the intimacy of the images.

Silent Portraits: Olga - 0680.jpg

Here are all of the images for you to enjoy:
See the first person into the room here: Will
See the second person into the room here: Paul
See the third person into the room here: Keir
See the fourth person into the room here: Sophie
See the fifth person into the room here: Emily
See the sixth person into the room here: Olga
See the seventh person into the room here: Katy

A massive thanks to all those who took part in this project. It was totally fascinating to be part of.


Kasztanka Stables - people and animals project


I got back a few days ago from a fun trip to Poland. This was partly to see my girlfriend and her family and enjoy the Polish countryside, but it was also to shoot another day for my people and animals project. In case you're not up to date I have now done 4 separate and great fun shoots for this project.

Here are the others:
Koc-pol cat*PL blog post - renowned cat breeders
Holebrook Farm blog post - horses, dogs, and some pigs
Bristol Mounted Police blog post - horses that are not afraid of a fight

The idea behind the project is to concentrate on the interesting people who decide to spend large amounts of their lives with animals.  They are often great fun people, who aren't just like everyone else - they have a passion that they pursue constantly, often working far more hours than the norm, but doing something that they love. And as well as all this they have some beautiful animals that make wonderful props in a photo.

Krzysiek and Marta are no exception to this - they are two exceptionally passionate people. Krzysiek got on a horse for the first time about 15 years ago and loved it so much he moved on from running a shop, bought a large amount of land, built some stables on it and has worked in partnership with horses ever since. Marta works for Krzysiek at the stables and seeps excitement to all those around her. Whilst I was taking her photos I could see just how much she loved horses and riding. I said to her at one point:
"You look like this is exactly where you belong Marta?"
"Yes," she said, giving a smile that proved exactly what I thought. Hopefully I've managed to show this in my photos.

As keeps happening in this project I find myself awash with picture ideas and possible photos. The hardest part of a shoot like this is deciding which images to concentrate on and which to pick as my final few. I want to show you everything, but ultimately I need to pick four for my project that grab the essence of what I'm searching for in these shoots. Those selected images are seen in this post.

However, wait a few days and I will be posting a little bit more about this shoot, telling you the ins-and-outs of what I get up to arranging shoot like this.

_MG_5698-Edit copy.jpg

I love being a photographer, and shoots like this are why.

Visit the stables website here:
Huge thanks to Krzysiek and Marta for all their support, and also a massive thank you to Olga for her constant help.

more to come...


John Rankin for BBC Countryfile Magazine


BBC Countryfile has just hit the shops with a 3 page feature on John Rankin. He's a progressive school chef in Penair School in Cornwall. Through a great amount of enthusiasm and determination John has turned the school's kitchen around massively. It used to cook untasty and unhealthy meals for 30-50 kids a day, now the kitchen cooks 400 plus gorgeous locally sourced meals. He's turned the school kitchen into an independent non-profit organisation that has amazing links with local farmers, fishermen and suppliers. He butchers his own meat to save on costs and even encourages the children to get involved. As you may of guessed he was a great fun guy to photograph...


Massive thanks to Countryfile for the fun job and to John and the school team for making my day much easier than it could have been.