Training for The Races

I recently had the absolute pleasure of staying in one of the lodges at Sun Hill Farm, the home of Ann Duffield Racing, a well-known Yorkshire-based racehorse trainer. The gallops run right past the lodge so visitors have the pleasure of watching the horses train while relaxing in a wonderful outdoor hot tub.

These pictures were taken using the Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM lens at 200mm, with a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second to blur the movement and create a sense of speed. The rider in the red skull cap cover is ‘Gentleman George’ Duffield, the retired flat racing jockey.

For a horse lover like me, this was a pretty near perfect stay. The only thing that would have made it better was having ridden one of the horses myself – but realistically, handling a two year old racehorse is probably a bit beyond my capabilities!

My pictures got a mention on their blog, and Hayley gave us a wonderful tour of the stables on the last day where I met some of the above horses.

Casting Call 2 – SS18

This Spring/Summer (2018) I’m looking to create some fashion-style portraits with an industrial/urban feel. See my ‘Industrial/Urban’ Pinterest board above for some examples of the sort of image I want to make.

In order to make it happen, I need models who are based in Glasgow, Scotland, or are prepared to travel there for an evening shoot. I’m going to be working in the city for the next few months and want to make the most of my time there.

If you’re interested, please get in touch.

Happy to collaborate with hair/makeup artists and stylists looking to build their books.

Portraits with the Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM lens

I recently took my new Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM lens out to the lovely setting of Sizergh Castle, a National Trust property in Cumbria. The intention was to do some test portraits, but I ended up creating a little story which I’m calling ‘In Search of Snowdrops’.

The lens performed brilliantly, and I absolutely love the background bokeh when shooting wide open (f2.8) at full zoom (200mm) while close to the subject.

This lens is quickly becoming a permanent fixture on my camera.

Trying out the Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L USM lens

I treated myself to a new lens this week, and have been itching to try it out. At lunchtime today I finally got the opportunity to grab a few shots with it, and I’m seriously impressed with the performance.

First of all, I should say that this isn’t a lens for the faint-hearted. It’s heavy (about 1.4kg), long (about 20cm), and quite tricky to hold steady at full magnification. However, some of the wonderful background bokeh effects that are possible at wide apertures at 200mm make it all worthwhile.

All these images were shot at 200mm, with the aperture wide open at f2.8, except for the cat picture which was shot at 190mm. The cat and the soya milk carton were taken indoors with the light supplemented by on-camera flash (bounced).

The picture of the hen and the picture of the leaf demonstrate the level of bokeh that can be achieved when shooting at this focal length, at f2.8, close to the subject. The dark background on the leaf picture is actually the bottom of the garden, but the shallow lens has totally smoothed it out.

I can’t wait to try out some portraits with this lens.

Casting Call – SS18

This Spring/Summer (2018) I’m looking to create some romantic and emotive portraits of people with horses. See my ‘Portraits with Horses’ Pinterest board above for some wonderful examples of the sort of image I want to make.

In order to make it happen, I need volunteers who would like to have a go at being a model for the day and have access to a horse (either their own or a friend’s). No prior experience of modelling is necessary, and this casting call is open to adults of any gender.

If you’re interested, please get in touch.

I’m a keen rider myself, and ride twice a week, so I’m used to being around horses.

#Antithesis

My last couple of posts have featured carefully arranged and nicely presented food and drink, I wanted to see if I could carefully arrange the opposite. I’m quite pleased with the result, but I think they are still a bit ‘reserved’.

As an experiment, I posted these to the same hashtags that I posted the original pretty images, and predictably I didn’t get the same number of likes. However, I did get a favourable reaction from a few people – and one that I felt was more genuine.

I used the same approach to composition as the original pictures: a shallow depth of field or a flat lay.

I could have gone a lot more edgy with these, and made them quite gritty using some on-camera flash and a different setting, but I quite like them as a set.

Why we all love #flatlays and #coffee

Whenever I have a random browse through Instagram, one of the things I notice is the prevalence of flat lays and coffee – usually flat lays of coffee, tea, or matcha. Why are these so popular? What is it about the subject and format that appeals?

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I’ve done it myself a few times. Above is a picture of a recent matcha latte I was about to consume in Chairs & Coffee, Fulham. I knew I was on to a winner as I set up the shot – the rustic background, the unusual magazine, and the beautifully decorated top on that latte.

We can all relate to them

I think the inherent appeal of the subject is that it’s something we can all relate to. The UK is very much a coffee society nowadays, and we are all used to sitting down to enjoy our Espresso, Americano, Cortado, or Latte on a daily basis.

The fact that many of us frequent coffee shops regularly also means shots like this are quick wins for the Instagram feed. Low-hanging fruit, you might say!

The visual appeal of the flat lay

There’s something about the flat lay that makes it visually striking. As we reach for our hot beverage in the latest hipster coffee shop we don’t usually see it in that two-dimensional way, with the high viewpoint perpendicular to the table top.

It’s fun doing them, but it can become receptive. The flat lay isn’t the only way! We’re used to a more familiar three-dimensional view similar to the one below, but if you have the right camera you can add another visual twist to your favourite subject.

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A cappuccino I recently enjoyed with breakfast at Hally’s, Parson’s Green. Even though it’s not a flat lay I still think this is an interesting image, probably due to the shallow depth of field which makes the coffee and the design on top leap out of the picture. Again, it’s a striking visual effect that we aren’t naturally aware of as we go about our every day life.

So that’s my theory: a familiar and accessible subject presented in a slightly different way that makes it pop. Maybe I should start doing more of them?

Do Food Photographers get to eat their work?

I’ve never really done much food photography, and snaps of my food have mostly been limited to quick Instagrams of meals in restaurants. I’m never happy with the result – mine always seem badly lit, grainy, and because they are taken with the iPhone’s built-in wide-angle lens, everything on the table ends up looking a bit distorted.

Today I thought I would enter the Quaker Oats #ShowUsYourOats competition for a bit of fun, and went about it with a more professional approach. I found myself really enjoying the process of styling the food, as well as sorting out the light and other technical and creative aspects of the image.

The best part was, I got to eat my work at the end! I wonder if all food photographers get to devour what they shoot, or at least sample it.

Often overdressed

Having a keen interested in people photography means I’m bound to be a stickler when it comes to having the right profile and header pictures on my social media. Sorry, but I’m just not the type to turn on the front facing camera of my iPhone and take a snap.

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This is my most recent profile picture. It’s very formal, but I do like to dress up. If there’s an excuse to put on a tie and pocket square, I’ll be there. In fact, I always wear a pocket square if I’m wearing a jacket. It’s become one of my trademarks, and I’m often overdressed, but that’s just me I suppose.

So, I decided to make “often overdressed” a personal branding thing, and did a matching header image for my LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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The light setup for the first picture was quite simple – the main light was a Canon Speedlite shooting into a large white reflecting umbrella a few feet in front of me, just to camera right. The back light was good old fashioned sunlight through a large window. I decided to leave in some background for a bit of context.

The second picture was done with the same setup, but here you can only see the main light, as the sun is blocked out behind me.

I’ll end this with a couple of quotes from men’s style icon, David Gandy…

To walk into a room knowing that you are well dressed is such a confidence boost. Remember, there is no right or wrong in fashion. Someone might criticise you, but who are they to do so? Have the confidence to do something slightly different.

A very British thing is sarcasm and dry humour, so of course you’re going to take some stick from your boys if you do look different, but you can take that as a compliment for having the confidence to do your own thing.