EOS 5R Could this be the one I’ve been waiting for?
It’s been a few years since I was last up in a helicopter, so when photography legend, Paul Campbell, asked if I like to join him on a flight, I jumped at the chance. Paul has been working on an aerial photography book project for a couple of years, so as well as coming along for the jolly, I suggested that we might get some shots of him in action for his biog page.
The shots document all aspects of the trip from the all-important pre-flight equipment checks, take off and positioning to the location, opening the doors and then directing the pilot into precisely the position he wants for his shot. All of this needs to be timed to hit a 10-minute window when the light level in the sky, balances with those in the buildings.
The combination of low light and the vibration from the aircraft, it is a battle to capture a technically perfect image. Paul attaches his camera to a handheld gyroscope to help steady the shots.
The cityscape shots that I’ve got here are just grab shots taken through the front cockpit glass and so lack the final clarity that Paul’s shot will have. Still, there are some spectacular views of our fine capital and the excitement of flying in a helicopter never subsides.
There was a slight edge of tension put on things when ten minutes before the flight was due to finish, pilot Tim announced that we had to return to the airfield as a gearbox warning light had come on. This was conflicting with the information on the rest of the instrumentation, but as Tim succinctly put it once we had landed, “It’s far better to be safely on the ground wishing you were in the air, rather than in the air wishing you were safely on the ground”
This reminded me of an incident that happened a good twenty years ago… I was flying with the same photographer Paul, all be it in a different capacity as his assistant. We were photographing crop circles for a pharmaceutical company hayfever ad. We had been in the air for about half an hour and had spotted a field of wheat with a series of connecting crop circles that looked interesting. As Paul directed the pilot into a static position at about 750ft above the field, the aircraft suddenly lurched upwards and sidewards. The pilot immediately put out a mayday call and within what felt like seconds he’d regained control and brought the aircraft to a safe landing. Some weeks later after in air investigation had taken place, it turned out to be a failing servo to the rear rotor, but at the time it all felt a bit alien crop-circle spooky vibe. The pilot was ex Israeli airforce, I’ve always felt his quick reactions saved our bacon.
This series goes back to 2005 and was shot on my first full-frame DSLR, the Kodak DCS Pro 14n. I was still shooting on my film Nikons with Nikkor glass at the time and desperately hoping that Nikon would bring out a full-frame digital camera. However Canon beat them to it, and a year later I sold all my Nikons and invested in Canon… Regrets, I’ve had a few…
No, I do love my Canons, but I still have a nostalgic hankering for that Nikon badge.
The Kodak files were great for portrait work but hopeless for landscapes as they could not handle the fine detail. Looking at these files though, the gritty grainy feel almost has a film-like quality which really suits the subject matter.
Airfield firefighters training for the day they hope will never happen
In 2014, I decided to have a go at an Olympic distance triathlon. I entered the Hever Castle event, which is part of the Castle Triathlon Series. It’s a fantastic course which kicks off with a 1500m open water lake and river swim, followed by a 40k cycle and a 10k run. As a regular swimmer, I was swim fit but I had only started training for the cycle and run about six weeks before the race. Considering that I did most of my cycle training on a hybrid and only got my road bike a week before the race, I was more than happy with my finish time of 3:08:26.
I had to miss out on the race in 2015 due to an ill-timed flu bug, so I entered again for September 2016. Once again my cycling and running training had been at best sporadic over the summer, but with the 28th September marked in my diary, I was determined not to miss it again. With less than ten days to go, I landed a rather nice four-day shoot in Cannes. Suffice to say, while the job was very welcome, it wasn’t the greatest way to prep the last week of training for a #triathlon. To top it all, my flight back was severely delayed which meant I didn’t get back home till 3.00am on Saturday morning.
And so the day arrived. After an early morning call and a belly full of porridge, I was joined by my Tri buddy, Adam Harman, we packed the gear into the car and drove off down to Hever Castle. I blame his infectious positivity for making me sign up to these madcap races. The nerves always run high before a race, and as Adam was starting in the wave before me, I just had time to grab the #Sony and shoot a couple of snaps before the start of my wave. The photos of me puffing my way around the course are from the official photographers on the day.
At the start of the race, the weather was perfect, overcast cool and no wind. Two hours in, the sun had come out and the temperature was in the high 20s C, which made the 10k run very hard going indeed.
My finish time was 03:14:44. My excuse for the slower time? Well, I had a pretty good one actually. I got a blow out puncher on my front tire about half a mile from the end of the cycle section, so I had to run to complete this section. Running is my least favoured sport and in cycle shoes, with a bike, it was not ideal.
And why am I posting this in 2019? Well in September 2017 we had just started a massive house renovation and extension project which didn’t get finished until February/March of this year. I was heavily involved in the project management throughout and on top of keeping the business going, I had neither the time, inclination or energy to keep the training up to a level that is required. You might also notice that the blog posts stopped around this time for similar reasons.
However, the building project is behind us, I have paid the exorbitant fee and my name is down for Hever Castle September 2020… So watch this space.
If you’re traveling on the underground, keep an eye out for the latest Doggbuddy Summer Ad Campaign.
I shot this back in May and had my favourite all-girl team on board including stylist Becky John, hair & makeup Sarah Jane Green and digital opp Jo-Anna Rohmann.
The creative director was Jonathan Howells of Dinnick & Howells.
One last mention to our models the Phillips family, for being such good sports about spending the day scrunched up in a cage!
Oh and how could I forget the main star ‘Arthur’… Woof Woof
It is a general rule of photography that the more planning that’s done before a shoot, the more successful the end result. It is also true that no matter how much planning is done, one needs to be prepared for the unexpected…. And sometimes jobs come in with such short lead-time, that you just need to jump straight in and sort things out along the way. Last week proved to be an example of the latter.
Working for Indivior PLC, a world leader in the treatment of opioid addiction, we had to photograph the CEO and Chairman at a Surrey location first thing Tuesday morning, travel back into London to set up for an evening shoot involving a case study patient at a studio in Brixton, and then drive to Germany first thing Wednesday morning, to shoot Dr Patric Bialas, a physician based at the Universitätsklinikum des Saarlandes, Homburg on the Thursday.
The brief was to shoot everybody full length on a white background with matching lighting across the set. The images were to portray a sense of energy and personality of each subject and reflect natural, candid and relaxed poses.
With less than three days to pull everything together and with final locations and patient details still to come in, it wasn’t until Monday afternoon that everything finally appeared to be in place and we set off to deepest Surrey do a pre-light for the following morning.
After the planning and logistics, comes encouragement, persuasion and coercion. To persuade and coerce the chairman of a PLC to let his guard down and perform in front of the camera. To encourage a shy, reluctant patient to express a natural, candid confidence. Then finally, with Patric our German doctor…. Well sometimes you just luck out!
The images below are my selections that expressed the true personalities once the guard was dropped.
I was recently up in Glasgow and found myself having to kill couple of hours in the afternoon. Walking around exploring and taking pictures, I came across this fantastic mural by street artist Sam Bates a.k.a Smug. It was obvious what the artist had in mind and I felt I had to oblige. #streetart #mural