New custom usb sticks

I was recently contacted by the guys at USB Memory Direct asking if I wanted to try out their custom usb drives. I jumped at the chance, as those things are so useful in so many ways, and ordered some of their bamboo 'Navigator' drives, with my logo and website address printed on the side. They're super cool! I love the wooden casing, and they have little magnets that keep the lid on which is a nice touch. And being able to print my details on them is great, as it means I can send files to clients and they then have a little reminder of me that is actually a useful thing that they'll keep around.

As file sizes have got bigger, and as my photoshop style has become more and more complex, the file size of my final images can often be in excess of 5GB. There's no easy or quick way to send these monster files over the internet, and posting or biking hard drives around is expensive and full of the worry of never getting the drive back, so having a little disposable usb drive which I can easily send to a client if they need layered files, and not worry about getting it back as it's useful promotional tool in itself, is fantastic.

HITACHI RAIL EUROPE - MARKETING CAMPAIGN

Most shoots have challenging aspects, something that complicates things and requires your best problem solving skills. In the case of shooting lifestyle images to promote new rolling stock designs for Hitachi Rail Europe, showing people aboard the trains enjoying all the onboard innovations, the glitch was that the trains didn't at that point actually exist.

Luckily, what did exist was a number of full size, incredibly detailed interior, and partial exterior, mockups housed in various warehouses and train depots. These meant that we could shoot images of people on the trains, as long as we could add in the scenes outside the window.

I took care lighting the scenes to give the impression that there were light sources inside the trsin but also the sun shining in from outside, and used the actual refections in the glass to at least give me a guide to how to add in refections against the photoshopped outside environments. Then took several train journeys to shoot realistic scenes outside the windows, and dropped them in.

LORNA BROWN B+W FILM SKATE PORTRAITS

Back at the turn of the millenium, when I studied photography, digital cameras were only just starting to appear and most people thought they would never take off. Through university and into my first 2 or 3 years of assisting, and developing my own work, I used medium format film cameras such as the Mamiya RB67 and shot everything on film.

When digital photography became available and affordable I quickly jumped on it, asd it meant I could shoot as much as I wanted without having to pay for film, polaroid, processing, scanning, printing etc. I am not by any means a film romanticist, but that doesn't mean that I don't still like film, especially black and white, or that I would never want to shoot on it again.

A yera or so ago my wife bought a second hand RB67, and we both shot a few bits and pieces on it, but the focusing bellows wore out and started leaking light, and so everything came to a halt until we could fix them. Much fiddly repair work later, we once again had a working camera.

Finally I could shoot the lighting test I had had in my mind. As this was a personal shoot, and a test, I kept everything super simple ad low key, shooting at home, with just a couple of strip softboxes and an umbrella as a fill.

Some time later, after developing the film (shooting on film really does take a lot more time than digital) I could scan my negatives and reveal the final images.

Although I really wouldn't want to have to do it all the time, I do enjoy the slower, more deliberate process of shooting on film, and will be continuing to shoot these film portraits over time.

TRUE GRIST FITNESS - PERSONAL PROJECT

This shoot came about from wanting to shoot in a location that wasn't spectacular and exotic, but local. It's easy to get excited about the setting when you're shooting on a frozen lake in Finland, but what if you're just under a motorway bridge in East London?

I also wanted to portray exercise and fitness in an outdoor, urban setting, and working with Beccy was perfect as it also generated visual content that she could use for her blog and website.

A recce trip by bike revealed some promising spots along Regent's canal, including a very vibrant and colourful grafiti spot next to a lock

as well as a good spot under a motorway flyover, with a great raised, tiled section of floor. It was also partially undercover and shaded, so to a certain extent weatherproof.

With some location ideas in mind I booked car, Beccy and assistant, and waited for the booked date to come round. When it did, it demonstrated one of the laws of location shooting, you will inevitably pick the one grey, rainy, cold morning in a week of glorious sunny days. The location that had looked so great on my recce looked dead and flat, and without bright morning sunshine there weren't even great refections in the water. Furthermore, the grafiti I had liked so much had been painted over with some that was much less interesting.

Rather than labour over this spot when it really didn't have what I had liked so much about it before, I decided to admit defeat and move on to plan B, the covered location, which had a grittier, more urban look that didn't rely on sunshine.

It was pretty cold, but after we had set up the lights Beccy heroically stripped down to her sports bra and leggings and we got to work, shooting a range of exercise poses that would illustrate features on her website, as well as a couple of straight portraits, and close ups to illustrate topics such as 'working your glutes'.

I used two Bowens 400W Gemini heads with strip softboxes, running off Travelpak batteries. A main light to the side at the front, and a key light from the opposite side and behind. These were balanced with the daylight to give a nice, dramatic light on Beccy but still show detail in the background.

On the same day I was shooting elements for another shoot in a studio, so after wrapping up at the location we headed over and did a couple of quick shots there as well. A super side lit physique portrait

and a backlit image featuring a semi transparent Adidas windbreaker that I'd seen and loved, and wanted to shoot. Because it was so see through the light bounced around inside it, so lighting it mainly from behind created almost the effect of a softbox, lighting Beccy inside the coat.

Overall I was really pleased with the results of the shoot. I wasn't able to do the vibrant grafiti idea, but I had a backup plan and that worked out great. The British weather can never be relied on, and especially when working on personal shoots where budgets are tiny and favours have been called in it's not always possible to build in weather days or reschedule at short notice. By having multiple plans in place beforehand, plus using the studio that was booked for another project later in the day, I could maximise what I got from the shoot and go home with a nice range of shots in the bag.

RHIANNON ISHMAEL & LORNA BROWN SPORTS PORTRAITS - PERSONAL PROJECT

I love to photograph people who are great at something in a way that visually illustrates that skill, so when I came across Rhiannon, formerly a player for QPR, currently studying in the USA on a football scholorship, I knew I wanted to shoot a great set of portraits of her, showing her in the act of playing football. Rather than taking the more obvious route of shooting her out on a football field, I though it would be more interesting to bring a little piece of the pitch into the studio and shoot her on that, a little like an action figure on a base, or a statue on a plinth.

The first stage was to work up my intial back-of-an-envelope sketch into something more substantial, and plan the lighting.

I then needed my circle of grass. I initally planned on using real turf, but as it is heavy, dirty and difficult to transport and deal with I was pleased to find that you can buy extrememly realistic fake turf, on a carpet-like backing. I cut a circle from this, and masked and sprayed a white line to further create the feel of a football pitch.

Once in the studio, I placed a large softbox above Rhiannon as a top light, along with a strip softbox behind on one side and hard light on the other acting as keylights, and a beauty dish as the main front light with another strip softbox as a fill. A 12' x 12' black cloth backdrop was hung up in front of the set for Rhiannon to boot the ball into, as I wanted her to be able to really commit to her kicks without worrying about destroying the studio.

I also shot empty plates of the white studio cove, with different spot light effects on the back wall, as I knew I would be replacing the background of the shots. Creating a background plate for real rather than purely digitally gave it a sense of reality, an idealised studio setting rather than a very flat CGI feel.

As i had the studio and lighting all set up I was keen to shoot a second subject as well if possible, and Lorna kindly agreed to do some skateboarding for me so that i could treat it in the same way and create a little circle of skatepark in the studio that she would be skating on. She made loads of great shapes doing ollies and bomb drops and I picked my favourite pose to use as the final image.

I also made sure, in the next day or so, to shoot the floor of a local skatepark and some local roadworks, which had revealed a cross section edge of concrete.

Back in photoshop, once Rhiannon had been cut out and placed onto the clean background, which I also colourised, everything was looking pretty good

But when I used the assets I had shot to create the base for Lorna skating I loved the thickness of the base that it created, as if I had literally cut a section out of the ground and taken it into the studio.

So I called in a favour and cut some pieces of turf out of the ground so that I could shoot a cross section of the earth beneath the grass.

I could then use this to give the fake turf from the studio shots some thickness, giving a much better final effect.

I'm really pleased with the final images. I love freezing fast motion, I love shooting people who have skills and showing those in an interesting visual way, and I'm really pleased I found an interesting and unusual way to photograph Rhiannon and show her as an athlete, and could then expand that to show Lorna as well. I'm looking forward to continuing the 'circle' series with other sports.