Tuesday 30 March 2010

Holiday Reading - I have never laughed so much.......

I’m just away on holiday in Florida right now, Tampa to be precise.

A holiday is a good place to settle down with a good book and readers of this blog will know I’m a fan of history, so when it came to an airport book purchase I chose to buy ‘The Six Wife’s of Henry the Eighth’ by Dr David Starkey (ISBN 9780060005504)

A rather weighty but by all accounts excellent tome of some 600 pages

But I did not read it

I ended up revisiting the very silly nonsensical but side splittingly funny ‘The Time Wasters Letters’ (ISBN 1-84317-169-4) by Robin Cooper aka Robin Popper

I first read it some 5 years ago and in fact gifted my copy to my good friend Jay Gould of the Outdoor arts foundation

The idea is a very silly one

To write nonsensical letters which engage well known companies and bodies in pointless dialogue, and to see just how far it can be taken before they wake up to the fact they are dealing with a total NUTTER

The Bafta winning author gets the tone just right, plausible, polite but bonkers

Like his letter to the King of Belgium

It reduced me to laughing out loud while reading the book in public places.

Here are a few comments others have made about the book

‘Coopers letters are absurd, pointless, and very, very funny’ Ricky Gervais

‘This is the funniest book I have ever read’ Matt Lucas

‘I laughed so much I hurt myself – and others’ David Walliams

If you fancy a real laugh please buy this book, you simply will not be able to contain yourself (I hope)

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Stills in Motion DVD

Last time I disappeared from the 'radar' I made a DVD titled 'Location Lighting' 

So it is time for another....

Followers of this blog will have heard me talk about reinventing oneself on the photographic journey to stay ‘fresh’

The HD DSLR, notably the Canon 5d Mk II, has opened up considerable possibilities and has inspired me like nothing else in a very, very long time. I go 'off on one' about it on Scott Kelby's blog

Its virtues and benefits cannot be over emphasised

It is a bright and shiny new world, so to speak

Anyone who doesn't seize the opportunity is missing a trick

The Suzuki Swift ‘Resplect’ ad and the ‘Cinderella’ were important milestones to me in my latest metamorphosis

In the process of shooting these projects I learned a lot, but I found the knowledge not always so easy to come by, involving trawling the internet for many an hour

The info is out there, but it can be a real slog getting to the bottom of it all

And not so much of the info is from a stills photographers perspective either

I met Dennis Lennie of ‘F-Stop Academy’ fame at ‘Converge One’ in December and we spoke about how many film makers and how few stills photographers were harnessing the Canon 5d MkII’s HD capabilities.

So we put our heads together and thought we would try and redress the balance by putting together a training DVD

So in the depths of the cold and dark of January we shot an instructional DVD with the help of Katherine Holley, Peter Payne with models Jay Jessop and Francois Sechet (a bloody good musician turned photographer, check his site out, cool portraits) who bought not one but two Cello's over on the Eurostar from Paris.....in the snow

Here is the result

A Two DVD set

Disc One Covers the Technical side in ‘Fundamentals’

Chapter 1 – Getting Started
Chapter 2 – Core Differences
Chapter 3 – The Look
Chapter 4 – Light
Chapter 5 – Prime Lenses
Chapter 6 – Moving the Camera
Chapter 7 – Other Considerations
Chapter 8 – Cinderella

Disc Two we start ‘Applying the Theory’  we put what we have demonstrated into action, shooting sequences and being very hands on

Disc 2 – Applying the Theory
Chapter 9 – How to Shoot a sequence
Chapter 10 – Pulling it All Together
Chapter 11 – The Business Model
Bonus Features
– Slow Motion
– Time Lapse
– Using a Clapperboard

It is aimed at people like ‘us’ stills guys who are trying to navigate the rocky road of HD DSLR’s and make some sense of it all, with all of the info and knowledge I have acquired so far, everything in one place

We shot the whole thing on a couple of Canon 5d MkII’s and it shows, it looks lovely in terms of sheer quality

Though it is a departure form my previous DVD ‘location Lighting’ in that it is very instructional and all about the learning I do like to think I have injected a massive part of myself into it and anyone who watches it will be able to achieve what I have

Stills photographers have a massive advantage over the vast majority of videographers, we KNOW photography, apertures and shutter speeds and with a little help and knowledge and encouragement I like to think we can shoot some really great movies for our clients or just for fun

The training is available as a download for $97 and $10 extra gets you the DVD plus postage and handling

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Winter Olympic Gold Medalist Lindsey Vonn - Sports Illustrated

The Winter Olympics in Whistler have just drawn to a close

Last June I was fortunate enough to be commissioned by 'Sports Illustrated' to shoot a feature on World Champion Ski Racer Lindsey Vonn during her training programme in Salzburg, Austria for a feature in their Winter Olympic Edition

The most successful American Woman Skier in history

The brief was to shoot her while she was training and some portraits too

This was a really great gig for me and needless to say I wanted it to go WELL

In a situation like this the most important factor has nothing to do with equipment but it is the human factor, just how co operative is the subject going to be in the middle of an arduous, focused training programme?

Well, the moment I met Lindsey and her trainers I knew all was going to be just fine.

Lindsey is a really kind, warm, friendly and open person and she made the job in hand easy by being super co operative even though she was training a zillion hours a day

The first part of the shoot was following her and her trainers (from the comfort of a chase car!) on a long and tough (for you and I!) cycle ride through the Alps. It went on for hours....

I was getting some good shots during this but in the back of my mind I was focused on the location for a top class portrait

This process started the week before though as I had asked the crew at Red Bull to suggest some suitable locations and to send some shots of the locations to me, which they did

On a shoot like this you need all the help you can get and local knowledge is invaluable

And they suggested the peak of a nearby mountain

I say nearby but it involved a bit of a mission

I had to check it out, set my lights up and then wait with fingers crossed as it involved a dash by Lindsey to make the very last cable car of the day to the top of the mountain....which was also the very last cable car DOWN the mountain leaving just 30 mins to get the shot!

So I pre lit the shot using passing tourists

Ask nicely and tell them that they are being a stand in for a World Champion skier and you would be surprised how many agree! After all we all want to be part of something don't we?

I lit both the leaping shot and the alpine portrait pic with my Elinchrom Ranger Quadra

On an assignment like this when I'm working alone with no assistant and having to carry all of the gear myself it is a superb little light, packing a very respectable punch

When travelling light I use one of my favourite light stands

The Manfrotto 001b (It seems to have been superseded or renamed the 5001 or but it looks to be much the same)

It is one of the most affordable light stands made by Manfrotto and it is so versatile.

It folds down to 19 inches long which means it fits diagonally inside my carry on baggage

And though I'm unsure of its official load bearing spec I have put some quite silly loads on it which I'm sure would make Manfrotto wince. The stand seems to be 'keener' to flex than fall over. Unscientific on my part but it works for me. I have this light stand with me on my huge productions too, it has the knack of being the tool for the job on more occasions than I can recall

I used a Chimera Medium soft box (which you can see on my pre lighting shots)

Regular readers of the blog will know just how important this softbox is to the look and feel of my work

I shot the whole job on my Canon 5d Mk2 which I Love, Love, Love.

It delivers so much in such a small package, saving my poor old back

The Portraits on my 24/105mm Canon 'L' Series and the leaping shot on my Canon 'L' series 70/200 F4

Th light weight zooms perfect for my travels

Lindsey fought off a nasty injury she sustained prior to the Winter Olympics to win a Gold medal in the Women's downhill, becoming the first American woman to do so, she also won a bronze in the Women's Super G.

Richly deserved