Assignments Live: Alan Crowhurst followed by John Downing’s Legacy

All I would like to hilight this talk that is open to BPPA members and non-members.  

First up is Alan. Alan Crowhurst is an award-winning horseracing photographer contracted to Getty Images. His life has always involved racing, his grand father was a racecourse bookmaker. In this interview Alan talks about growing up in Brighton, taking up photography, his passion for his profession, what it takes to get an award-winning ‘Crowhurst’ shot and his hopes for the future. 

Image by Alan Crowhurst

Following Alan, John Downing’s son Bryn Downing will present “Behind the Lens” , a 30 minute film on his father John Downing. 

After the film a slideshow of John’s images alongwith the stories to go with them told by Hazel Thompson . Hazel has known John for 20 years, working with him on his “Legacy” book. 

If you are unaware of John’s work – do a quick google and you will realise his impact on photojournalism as well as being a foundering member of theBPPA … 

This will be a great evening … and is FREE!!!

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/assignments-live-alan-crowhurst-followed-by-john-downings-legacy-registration-78086253085

Primes for the Prime Minister

I am just back from 3 weeks of party political events, photographing the autumn conferences of our largest political parties; starting with the Liberal Democrats in Bournemouth, moving on to Labour in Brighton before finishing up with the Conservatives in Manchester.

It’s a gradual build up of importance culminating in the Prime Ministers speech – arguably the most important event of the 3 weeks (especially this year with BREXIT and the stories circulating about our Prime Minister Boris Johnson).

I headed up to Manchester having the 200mm/F2 Fujion lens on hire again, along with the 1.4TC (giving the equivalent of 300mm/F2 and 420mm/F2.8 on my Fuji X-T2 bodies). Added to that I took my normal supply of 3 x X-T2, the 14mm/F2.8, 27mm/F2.8 pancake, 90mm/F2 and the 50-140/F2.8 (just in case but the plan was not to use it).

My workspace on the final day – taken using the “miniature” filter on the X-T2 with the 14mm

On the morning of the PM’s speech, we arrive early for a briefing that informs us of the plan for the speech; entrance, exit, timings, security arrangements (where we can stand, where not) etc.

With the stories circulating about the PM it was clear that “the picture” of the day would be Boris and Carrie (his girlfriend) leaving at the end of the speech. However the briefing made it clear that getting this image clearly would be very difficult and as the pool photographer would get it perfectly, it was not worth worrying about.

So I formulated a plan..

I would start at the rear at the top of the stadium seating to photograph the PM as he enters, I would then bit by bit move around the rear of the hall, over the stadium seating at the other end before working round to the rear quarter, photographing Boris “conducting” his troops before working my way back to the original position for his exit.

Arriving in the hall before a good while before the speech I was pleased that as I suspected, most of the photographers covering the event had opted for the central positions to shoot the “traditional” speaker image. I was happy to be sitting up at the back near the entrance alone, hoping the others had missed a trick and that my plan was not totally unworkable.

Waiting, I shot a few images of party members around me and the general atmosphere. Then the moment arrived, the PM walked in alone down a dark part of the hall below me to greet members down the bottom of my seating area.

Atmosphere before the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 14mm

My plan with the blog post now was to show two totally out of focus images showing that we all make mistakes totally contrary to how we are supposed to portray ourselves online. However going back through the images I have found one that was in fact useable, one that I missed in the heat of the moment editing on the day…

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, enters to make his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. X-T2 + 90mm @ F2

Starting with establishing shots on the 200, 90 and 14….

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 14mm
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 90mm

Then adding the TC on the 200 (giving an equivalence of 420/F2.8) before moving down the back and shooting through spaces between the seating. A quick nod with one of the PM’s security detail to confirm all was ok with the location (next to him) , staying there for 5 minutes or so before moving on to the next location …

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC

Having been briefed that the speech would be 40-45 minutes I allowed myself approximately 5 minutes in each location before moving on, getting the the far point on time for the “conducting” shot, before returning via the same method to my original position.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC

Once back, I was joined by one other photographer in this position for the exit but as there were about 8 positions reserved for us there was plenty of room. Planning for a “melee” image as the PM leaves, I removed the TC….

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, exits the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. Boris huged Carrie Symonds, his girlfriend, before greeting activists as he exited the hall. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm

In all, photographing the speech and editing took about 6 and a half hours; from entering the hall at 8am for the briefing , planning, re-entering the hall at 10:30am through to leaving it at about 12:45 and then finishing my edit with all images with the agency by about 2:30pm. All for a set of photographs that I knew were unlikely to make the front page the next day because, as I said, the story was Boris and Carrie.

Not every paper went with the pooled “couple” image.. but most did…

Onwards…

Royalty, Celebrity and the Press at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery – The Talk

Further to my last post, at the weekend I did indeed make it up to The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery where I spoke about my journey to the world of Entertainment photography.

Celebrity photographer and BPPA Board member Julie Edwards speaks at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent on 18th August 2019 as part of the BPPA Assignments exhibition.

At 1pm Sunday approximately 20 people joined me in the exhibition space of the Assignments 2019 Gallery. 

Celebrity photographer and BPPA Board member Julie Edwards speaks at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent on 18th August 2019 as part of the BPPA Assignments exhibition.

My slide show included over 100 images with subjects such as:

  • Childhood Dreams
  • My Journey – From my first published image (The Sunday Times 13th Jan 2008)
  • Access (The Key)
  • Working with “Stars”
  • Camera Shy “Stars”
  • Papping (or not!)
  • Dealing with photographing your idols
  • Dealing with Egos
  • The rocky relationship between celebrities and the press
Celebrity photographer and BPPA Board member Julie Edwards speaks at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent on 18th August 2019 as part of the BPPA Assignments exhibition.

The talk itself ran for an hour, after which the questions and answer session lasted another 30 minutes with all sorts of interesting points raised.

It was great fun, I really enjoyed it and despite all the hard preparation I would be really happy to do it again should anyone express an interest. If you are, please do not hesitate to contact me!

I even got asked to sign one of the Assignments 2019 books (as I was on the creative team and one of the curators of the exhibition). It is a great book and well worth a look (they are selling fast).

I would like to thank the Potteries & Art Gallery Team who were really helpful.

I even got asked to sign a book at the end!

Royalty, Celebrity and the Press

Just a heads up.

I am doing a little talk at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke this weekend (18th August).  If you are free why not pop down and say hello. There will be cream tea’s, a good selection of photos (not all mine) and (hopefully) an interesting talk (plus the BPPA’s assignments exhibition) .

Info and booking:  http://www.stokemuseums.org.uk/pmag/whats-on/events/?event=EVENT598806

Hopefully see you there!

Photoshot with Luna

Luna and I had been talking about getting together for a photoshot for a couple of years now. We met working together at Frightfest where she is one of the presenters of Frightfest TV.

When discussing the shoot we decided we needed a prop or two. She suggested she could use a Mustang GT for the day and so I outline planned an outdoor shoot. I say outline planned as with this kind of arrangement I only like to put together rough ideas as when heading outdoors weather is a a major consideration (especially in the height of summer in the UK). I also like to spend some time with the model, chatting and gauging their mood on the day before firming up my shots.

Lady Luna Wolf and Mustang. Picture by Julie Edwards. X-T2+18-55@1/2000,F4

There are a number of ways to shoot a darker, gothic feel type style on a bright sunny day, my preference being for high shutter speeds with high power flash units. I worked with a couple of AD200’s combined with the X-T2’s on High Speed Sync.

The first set of images we shot right in the centre of worthing, near home, with my “assistant” holding a Godox AD200 with a beauty dish, just to get a feel of the light and how the shoot would go.

Lady Luna Wolf and Mustang. Picture by Julie Edwards. X-T2+18-55@1/3200,F2.8

Now I had a feel, we packed a couple of the flash units, a couple of lightstands, modifiers and lenses and headed out of town (to the mighty burble of the 5.0L engine).

Lady Luna Wolf and Mustang. Picture by Julie Edwards. X-T2+18-55@1/1000,F5

On the day, the light was really variable and most of the time I was having to use the Godox at full power (some of the shots had a second light) whilst waiting for the clouds to help with the light also.

Lady Luna Wolf and Mustang. Picture by Julie Edwards. X-T2+18-55@1/4000,F3.2

I wanted the images to have a “film” quality to them and so back in the office I edited the RAW images in Lightroom using either the Classic Chrome or Astia simulations before moving them in to Photoshop for retouching. These two simulations gave me a choice of base tones (especially skin tones, where Astia is my favourite).

Lady Luna Wolf and Mustang. Picture by Julie Edwards. X-T2+18-55@1/4000,F3.6

The final look was applied using the NIK collection (now owned by DXO) running inside Photoshop. I learned a thing or two here as well; It had always frustrated me how adding a NIK layer to a PS image was a “one hit” action. If I decided I did not like the look after I had applied it (or subsequent edits), with my old workflow it was a case of deleting the layer and restarting. However a quick goggle on a train this week revealed the “magic” recipe. Convert the source layer to a smart object first and then the NIK filters are applied as Smart Filters meaning they can be edited with a right-click..

As you can see above, I used a combination of Colour Efex Pro to get the contrast and colours where I wanted them before adding a subtle film look and grain with Analog Efex Pro.

Lady Luna Wolf and Mustang. Picture by Julie Edwards. X-T2+XF56@1/8000,F1.2

The style may not be to everyones taste but we had a loot of fun shooting these and they definitely work with Luna’s style.

Hi my name is Julie and I’m a creative

In a world where it seems everyone wants to leave the “rat race” and become a “creative” of some kind, why does it seem so guilty to admit it?

Phone selfie

“Hi I’m Julie and I’m a photographer” – almost sounds like something that should be said at “Photographers anonymous” . Well I am and after a few months of struggling I am happy to admit it again, to myself and others.

Note: It’s often said that press photographers should not be creative but thats just rubbish, there are times to be creative and times not to be creative in this job, the key is knowing when.

I had become jaded with my work, with the situations I found myself in, with the images I created. The fact is it’s easy to blame the situation, the lack of control (in public places or arranged photocalls), the light, the kit (oh how often do we hear “if only I had xxxxxxx”) but the fact is, what we produce is never the fault of the kit, of the situation, of the lack of control.

National Youth Dance Company / Botis Seva perform MADHEAD during a Photocall at Sadler’s Wells. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2+XF90 @ 1/100 F2

What we produce is always a product of the decisions we make given the situation we find ourselves in. They may not be the images we planned, or want but we always have a choice how we shoot something, how we approach it, our attitude and our commitment.

National Youth Dance Company / Botis Seva perform MADHEAD during a Photocall at Sadler’s Wells. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2+XF35 @ 1/20 F1.4

I was recently introduced to the concept of “Hell Yeah or No”. Put simply it means 100% commitment. When presented with an opportunity, decide “Can I give this 100%?” . If not then say no! Once there, commit to the job, no matter what the situation, too controlled? poor light? bad positioning? poor location? If they are things you can control then take ownership. If not, make the best images you can.. 100%..

National Youth Dance Company / Botis Seva perform MADHEAD during a Photocall at Sadler’s Wells. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2+XF56 @ 1/15 F1.2

Take the 3 dance images above. When I had the notice that this photocall was available, I checked my diary, found I was in town and had time. It was obvious that it should make nice images, I was not sure what they would be as you never know how a production is staged until you see it, all I could be sure was that the light would be “interesting”. Upon arrival it was suggested it was “a bit dark”. I had sort of surmised this before and although I did not take a tripod I did carry my 35/1.4 , 56/1.2 & 90/2.0 giving me the best chance in low light. From then on it was a case of using what I had, making the most of the light and making the most interesting images I could. Some I shot with intentional blur, some I froze the movement.

The key was though, I did not think “this is too dark”, I just committed 100% to what was in front of me. Looking back now (and listening to others) it’s obvious, if I (you) don’t commit 100% to what I (you) are shooting, how can I (you) produce the best images possible?

“Hi, I’m Julie, I’m a creative and I am always going to create the best images I can”

WOMAD

Despite using, writing about and loving the XF90/F2 lens over 2 years ago in Cannes (and borrowing one since), I had not purchased one until a few weeks ago, when I took advantage of the (recently expired) cash back offer to pick a shiny new XF90 up from my preferred dealer Fixation.

It’s with this new purchase, a pair of X-T2’s plus a XF14/2.8 and XF56/1.2 that I rode down to cover WOMAD this weekend. Travelling by motorbike means I like to travel as light as possible. I had guessed that the XF90 (equivalent of approx a 135mm) would be ideal for half length images on the main stage, with the XF56 for full length. I guessed right.

The 2 most effective ways of using a wide such as the XF14 is either to get in close to exaggerate the perspective or to take a step back for the wide general view.

Moon Hooch performs on the Charlie Gillett Stage WOMAD Festival (World of Music Arts and Dance) on Friday 26 July 2019

Moon Hooch performs on the Charlie Gillett Stage : X-T2 & 14mm@F11

Anna Calvi performs on the Open Air Stage WOMAD Festival (World of Music Arts and Dance) on Saturday 27 July 2019

Anna Calvi performs on the Open Air Stage shot from the top of the Light/Sound Tower. X-T2 & 14mm@F2.8 (1/5th sec)

On the smaller, less bright stages, the speed (wide aperture) of the XF56 enabled a lower ISO and higher shutter speed than the slower F2.8 lenses.  Gigs (should) feature bright lights, strong colours and high contrasts which can make them tricky. Shooting with the  Astia simulation dialled in, I set a fixed white balance (depends on the venue) and the dial down the hilights in camera whilst increasing the shadow contrast. The resultant jpgs require minimal work. (If it is a tricky venue, I do switch to RAW).

Anna Calvi performs on the Open Air Stage. X-T2 +XF56@F1.2

Anna Calvi performs on the Open Air Stage. X-T2 & XF56@F1.2

Macy Gray performs in the Saim Tent at WOMAD X-T2 & XF56@F1.2

Macy Gray performs in the Saim Tent at WOMAD X-T2 & XF56@F1.2

The XF90 allows me to stay further back and produce an image with a lovely soft out of focus background. To enable a wide aperture on bright days I sometimes resorted to the Mechanical + Electronic shutter option. As long as there are no artificial lights or fast moving subject the ES is fine.

Atmosphere at the WOMAD Festival (World of Music Arts and Dance) on Friday 26 July 2019

Relaxing in a hammock checking a smartphone. X-T2 & XF90@

Extinction Rebellion The Red Brigade at the WOMAD Festival. X-T2 & XF90@F2

Extinction Rebellion The Red Brigade at the WOMAD Festival. X-T2 & XF90@F2

Extinction Rebellion The Red Brigade at the WOMAD Festival. X-T2 & XF90@F2

Extinction Rebellion The Red Brigade at the WOMAD Festival. X-T2 & XF90@F2

I must admit i got a bit carried away with the bright reds of the robes against the dark greens of the arboretum and did not really shoot enough wide images to put the brigade into a wider context. I did love the images i got though..

So that was WOMAD, shot on 3 fixed length lenses. Zoom lenses are very handy but they are not the only tool!

Next up, probably Brighton Pride next week…..