This recent shoot for the children’s cancer charity, Young Lives vs Cancer, was a fun day out at Wimbledon Park Athletics track.
Using four character models from Uglies and a couple of client volunteers, we set about shooting a suite of images to be used in fundraising promotions.
I have worked for this fantastic charity, previously called CLIC Sargent, for over 15 years. Over this period, the photography style has changed a number of times, and luckily, I’ve been asked to stay on board and help develop and refine each of these changes.
About five years ago, as part of a brand overhaul, the photography style changed radically from a storytelling reportage approach to a stylised studio portrait look.
Earlier this year, Senior Creative Director Bryan Meredith wanted to take this strong lighting style and apply it to some location scenarios to illustrate individuals’ personal stories.
Photographically, this shoot was a continuation of that journey.
The original brief for this board photography was to shoot a set of portraits set against different abstract architectural backgrounds within the Broadgate Estate.
Each director will be positioned within a location that has a distinctive architectural feature. The images will be used with a tight crop, so there should be distinct background interest close to the directors’ head and shoulders. The primary format is to be landscape.
The head and shoulders will be the focus, with the subject looking off-camera. A variety of expressions should be captured but not too smiley.
We organised a half-day recce with the art director and client, from which I produced a recce report outlining the best possible areas and available light ideas of what the portraits would look like. The art director wanted to have both the subject and background in focus. So although I knew we would have to deploy additional lighting, I was also aware that we had to be able to pack down and reset in a completely different location within 15 to 20 of each other. I decided to base my lighting around my Profoto B10 and B10 plus kits and to use the 3′ Gridded Octa as my main light source and umbrella’s as any secondary lighting. The final part of the jigsaw was to organise shooting the directors so that they appeared in different locations for each of the three-page spreads and make that work given the timetable we had to work to. The one bit of good fortune was that we had 30 mins with each person, giving me time to work with each individual and understand and express their personality. Although the original brief was to shoot everyone looking off-camera, a last-minute request asked me to shoot a few shots of everyone looking at camera… just in case. In the end, the client reverted to having the majority of people looking at camera, which are the selected images below. I still feel that it was a much stronger set with everyone looking off, but hey, I’m just the photographer.
Working with two assistants over two days, we shot the following set of images.
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