Not a great title for a post, but then I am not sure this post is worthy of a great title….
I hope you have had a lovely Christmas break which involved some form or photographic loveliness. Mine was particularly lazy but did involve a photographic book I can’t recommend strongly enough. Not because it teaches about technique or informs about photography in any way that will be helpful in your everyday “snapping”. No because it has astonishing imagery the like of which we have not seen nor will be able to reproduce…..
The posts about the Queens Funeral Events and the updated workflow posts were meant to be me kickstarting writing (for the umpteenth time). It did not really happen. I hope to write a little more in the new year but I’m not promising of stressing (although I do have more new kit to discuss!)
But back to the (err umm) title of this post. Today (the 27th) was my first time out of the house since Christmas Eve. I shot some monochrome images (Acros simulation) on an X-T3 with the 35mm 1.4 whilst wandering on the seafront.
Much like the day on The Mall, the day of the funeral was another early start having stayed in the city overnight so I could get to the Queen Victoria Memorial (opposite Buckingham Palace) at 7am (ish). Then followed a another (less) long wait for the event to unfold.
Being a photographer is not about just waiting for the event to start, it’s about being aware of all that is happening around you. I noticed a young girl quite a way down the Mall stroking a white police horse, taking the image below on the 150-600. I posted the image on instagram and a few days later, received a message.
“The horse is called Verdun, his stable name is Dave, he is stabled at Bow Road Stables and came to the met after he was fired by the army for being naughty! As you can see he much prefers being a police horse!
I work at bow , all the officers at bow and I have admired your photo , I just thought you would like some background”
I cannot help thinking this is the same horse that I photographed on the first day outside the palace and who I posted in the first post.
There were 2 sets of photographers on the QVM. One set to photograph the procession coming down The Mall towards the palace and another (where I was positioned) to record the late majesty Queen Elizabeth passing the palace for the last time.
During the morning, the guards positioned themselves and the palace staff created a line in front of the palace to pay their respects one last time.
Of course I took any images of the procession but the one we were really here to capture was the coffin passing the palace for the last time as The kings troop lowered their standard in front of the palace
And of course the wide view..
My overriding memory of the day is the haunting silence. I have been in London for 1 minute silences before (for example remembrance day) but the 2 minute silence that morning really was silent, I’m not sure I’ll ever experience that in the centre of London again, even the birds seemed silent.
This last post in the series is a little late – I managed to write the others whilst away working but my last week of work – at the Conservative Party conference was just a bit to manic to sit down and write. The next post will go into those two weeks and the using the 150-600 a little more.
I end with my last view of the late HM Queen as her coffin left my view…..
The last post left me at about 3:30 on The Mall having got there early on the Wednesday morning.
After filing my images and managing to get a dinner with friends in Soho, I headed to Westminster Hall where I had a 30 minute slot to photograph the late Queen laying in state at 21:30.
Luckily before dinner I was able to store some of the kit I was carrying in a secure location so again, I needed to plan what images I wanted to make. Many of the National papers and major agencies had earlier time slots which enabled me to see what they had filed. As expected most had focused quite tightly on the coffin, guards and visitors (there is an saying in the press photography world “Tight, Bright and Shi……” .
The Westminster Hall, where the late Queen was laying is the oldest part of the parliamentary estate and having walked through it many times I had an idea of its grandeur and size. I headed back with the 35/1.4 mounted on the X-H2S and the Laowa Ultra wide on the GFX50R.
The sensor on the GFX50 has an enormous dynamic range and shooting in RAW on that camera gave me the best chance of getting detail in the rafter shadows as well as the colours of the Royal Standard & Yeoman Warders.
Stopping the lens down a bit and reducing the ISO enhanced this enabled me to slow the shutter and blur the members of the public giving them a ghostly appearance.
Stopping this lens down a bit also does give nice a nice star points.
With the H-2S i focused on the details like the changing of the guard.
The final post in this series will be later in the week when I focus on the day of the funeral. As always I would love to hear your comments and questions.
Wednesday 14th was the day of the ceremonial procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall where her late majesty would lay in state until the funeral.
I was allocated an elevated “rota” position on The Mall . The procession was due to start at 2:30pm but having checked out the position the day before, I wanted to ensure that I had the forward corner position to enable me to shoot the approaching procession so after waiting for a pret to open for my breakfast, I arrived at the position slightly after 7:35. Yet again a long wait ensued.
The above image shows my position. An hour or two before the procession I set up a GFX50R with the Laowa 17mm, clamping it to the scaffolding to be triggered by a pocket wizard setup to get a wide image of the procession. The difficulty then is to ignore the camera and not keep fiddling / testing / adjusting it all the time up to till its needed.
The GFX was being triggered by either the HS2 or TX3 which I would be shooting in a burst mode, however the GFX would only fire on the first shutter press. To get rou5nd that and get a burst from the GFX I set it up in a bracketing mode (shutterspeed) at +/- third of a stop which got be 5 frames per burst.
Alongside the GFX I had two other cameras set up: The X-H2S with the 150-600 plus an X-T3 with 50-140 (both triggering the GFX).
As the procession moved down the Mall I started with the longer of the cameras, trying to pick smaller frames and members of the royal family from the scene.
Shooting with a fixed shutter speed and a changing aperture (due to the zoom), the ISO was reducing as the procession moved closer. These three images give an idea of the flexibility and aperture changing.
Once the procession got to this point it was a quick switch to the X-T3.
Then back to the X-H2S for the final image(s) as her late Majesty moved away.
Once out of view it was sit down, edit the images (on the iPad following the workflow I have outlined previously), with pre-set metadata in ShutterSnitch, waiting for the public to disperse so I actually had a strong enough signal to actually transmit the images. (Long story but it seems 4G is far more robust in these situations than 5G).
So after getting to the stand at 7:40am(ish), I finally left it at about 3:30pm (maybe later). However the day was not finished yet, during the time on the stand I received details that I would have a 30 minute position at the Laying in state .. but thats for the next post..
I look forward to hearing your comments… Until the next time..
I was sitting with a number of other “entertainment” photographers at the Red Carpet for the Mercury Awards on the evening of the 8th when the PR for the televised event came and told us it was cancelled. Although we had an inkling earlier in the day, that was really the point at which I knew the Queen had passed away.
It was strange, although I have not covered “proper” news for some years, instinct kicked in, do I go to the the palace and wait for the flag to be lowered to half mast? Or do I go somewhere else? What I actually did was wait for the news to be confirmed by the palace and made a commitment to myself to make sure I do my upmost to photograph as much of the historical period as I could.
In the morning I was on the phone to Nathan at Fixation “can you get me a 150-500”? (In my mind the 100-400 might be pushing it over the next week or so for the upcoming state funeral and other events). Quite simply there were none of the new Fuji long zooms in stock. Next stop was Fuji themselves to see if there were any hire units available… yep! A few mail exchanges and I was sorted, about 30 minutes after which Nathan called me back “they have just come into stock, do you want one? I can get it to you tomorrow morning (Saturday)”. One credit card transaction later followed by a few hire cancellation emails and the new lens was winging its way to me.
All this occurred whilst i was on a train to London with 2 cameras and a couple of primes (the 35 & 90) to get a feel for the atmosphere there.
The mood was very sombre and quiet but I could not help but feel there was quite a few people being a bit over-zealous with “I’m sad” , “here’s a selfie of me being sad”, “here’s a picture of my flowers”, “here’s a selfie of me laying my flowers” oh and for good luck “here’s a picture of my flowers at the palace”..
I did not shoot much that day, nor over the weekend where I stayed at my studio in Worthing and on the beach practicing with the 150-600 which was delivered nice and early on the Saturday morning. (Posts to follow on this lens!)
My next day in London was Monday the 12th in the capacity of photographer for Mark Kermode Live at the BFI (a monthly show) preceded by a trip to Green Park to see how the floral tributes were shaping up. The mood remained sombre and I was pleased to see far less people making their visit about themselves.
I was back in town the next day; I needed to collect my accreditation and go through security checks for the procession to the laying in state the next day but also photograph the late Queen arriving at Buckingham Palace for the last time (as she was travelling down from Scotland that afternoon).
Hanging around the palace from about 2pm, taking a few more pictures and discussing the events with other photographers it was really difficult to judge what to do. It was clear for me the palace needed to be in the image (as surely that was the point) but knowing where the official position was and how many other photographers were around it was difficult to come up with a plan (where possible I don’t like to follow the herd, it’s true that sometimes there is just one image thats right but this night was not one of those cases). I was walking away from the front of the palace wondering if the wellington arch might be a better spot, concentrating on the hearse and the crowds and as I walked down the side of the palace I got an image in my head.
I did not have a clue if this would work. It would be dark by the time the Queen arrived (remember at this point we did not know the coffin would be lit) but I decided to do an all or nothing gamble. To be honest I thought I had maybe a 50/50 chance and even if it did work it would not be the sort of image that most of the press would use but I did think it would be a moment in history so I sat down, in the drizzle, hoping I would not be moved on and waited for 5 hours , chatting to those around me.
It got dark. Then it got darker. I kept turning the ISO dial, ending up on the max setting!
The image above is the one I had in my head. A small coffin returning to the large “state” (I hoped it would be lit by the car behind, the fact the coffin was lit was a huge bonus).
The second image probably tells the story better for many though. The coffin, clearly draped in the royal standard, lit, passes into the arch as 2 soldiers stand guard.
The latter part of this blog tells the story of one image, by one photographer. Image then how I an others must feel when we see pages like this one on the bbc site. All those images created by many photographers, each image (all much better than mine) with a story, planning and a lot of time by a photographer and yet not one photographer is credited. The credits go to the organisations that distributed the images (or the photographers employers) and the people that selected the images on the page.
So please. Next time you look at an image (still or moving) on the web or in the paper, spare a thought for the work that has gone into it by a photographer.
My next post will detail the following day of the state procession
I am not a “royal photographer” by any sense of the imagination, however over the years I have photographed Queen Elizabeth II many times as part of my work as a press photographer either as part of the “royal rota” or at what are known as “fixed points” (i.e. Accredited)
My first memories of the queen having any influence / importance are from the Silver Jubilee year, I can remember the street party and fancy dress quite well but my overriding memory is away from these.
The Queen was due to visit Highbury Fields (my family are from the Islington area in London although we lived in Edmonton at the time). My parents wanted to take my brother and I to see her on this day however it was a school day so mum planned to phone us in sick. That day was also my cycling proficiency test day and I was in tears, being extremely upset at missing it which would mean I would be unable to cycle to school.
A compromise was reached. I went to school in the morning, did the test, earned my right to cycle to school before earning another award – this time for acting as I threw my best “tummy cramps and headaches” performance.
My parents collected me from school “sick” and we made it to Highbury fields seeing Her Majesty shake the hands of a couple of elderly women standing next to us (dad had a theory that she had a regular pattern of greeting on these walkabouts).
Anyway I digress… here is a very quick selection of photos I have taken of the late queen over the years….
Since 2009 my August Bank Holiday Weekend has been spent in Leicester Square as the official photographer for the Frightfest Film Festival.
This year was no different as I headed up last Thursday morning with the Think Tank Airport full to the brim with 3 Fuji Cameras, Assorted Lenses plus Godox lighting (with a couple of Lume LED’s thrown in for good measure).
With full control of the Frightfest Media Wall and it being many of the filmmakers first experience of one, I try to make it a fun time for all whilst I endeavour to create images that are a cut above the normal flat step and repeat images that emanate from most of these events.
I do this by setting up an AD200 on a stand controlled by a camera mounted V1 on the X-H2S. I also set up an X-T3 with a controller so I can switch to that using just the AD200 for single light portraits. With the V1 controlling the light I can change the balance, making the light flatter or adding more shape with the AD200 on the fly.
I augment this by moving mine and the subjects position / angle as we shoot to bring in the shadow I want.
Of course this is all only possible because I have complete freedom (within reason) and a bit more time than the rest of the photographers. With the number of films attending (I shot over 60 films + atmosphere & a dinner over the weekend) there are always time limits so I have to work fast.
These limits are even more pronounced when photographing a genre icon like Dario Argento. With the security pressures keeping the autograph hunters at bay along with Dario’s increasing frailty it meant working very fast while he was with me. As I have photographed Dario a few times I decided to go all out and just go for a single light portrait on the GFX. With the language barrier between us i knew I had to get the light right up front as I would not have much time to adjust. I have too say I was fairly pleased with this…
The Timelapse below shows creating this image
Away from the media wall I created a number of portraits over the weekend featuring the Cinema staff who wore horror cosplay. These portraits will be the subject of the next post.
As always, I select a good number of images from around the festival to create a slideshow on the IMAX screen before the last film screens. For the first time I put my self portrait / light test in. The bottom line is that the images have to be good & sharp to stand up to this huge sized scrutiny…. (They do 😉 )
Until the next post, let me know your thoughts and, as always, stay creative !
Another non photographic post, although the lesson (if there is one) can without doubt be applied to the business of photography..
I think people of a certain age have had a couple of sayings used around them for most of their life and these sayings have been hammered into them too deeply and they without doubt they have huge negative effects.
“Pride Before a Fall” can be manifested as “can’t ever be proud” (of achieving) thats wrong.
“Self Confidence” was often mistaken for “Over Confidence” .
Confidence in the self, self belief, call it what you will is a huge requirement of making the most of our lives. Without it time will be spent sitting on the sofa, staying in a negative job or situation and not making the most of our lives..
The most important message I think we can impart (to our children and others) is “Have confidence, be strong, work hard, you can succeed in your dreams”
Take the current situation. Following in COVID I have a (very) part time design job. I’m really grateful for it. Without it I am not sure where I would have been through the pandemic. It helps us and it help my son. Before that it helped pay to get my son through university (the reason I took it on – we can live with an income that fluctuates but for student rent etc.. not great).
Now I’m getting back to being busy, very busy. The photographic business is rebuilding and sales are starting to grow in the art business I started during the pandemic) so I’m starting to plan the way I can leave the part time job, with the way the economy is going it’s going to be tricky and it’s not going to be tomorrow, there is a balance to be made and I’m confident the tipping point is getting closer. My partner is concerned but backs me 100%.
My parents however are totally different, all they do is voice is concern and worry, just like they did when I was a teenager (I guess thats what my parents generation do). When my son decided to leave go freelance straight out of university I did not say its all sunshine and fun in the freelance world, I think I was truthful but backed him 100%, if he has confidence to do it, then I have it also. I think the generations before us measure confidence in a different way, they only see salaried jobs as the option. I’m confident but not over confident, I have self belief.
Putting it in a slightly shorter fashion. Sunday I was planing a 12km run. I have not run past 10km for 3 years. Most of my running post 2018 have been between 5 and 10km.
Since a hip injury during the 2018 London Marathon I have been fearful of it returning, I was worried about running distances, my running pace was off because my stride length is short because, guess what, i was scared my hip would go if I lengthened my stride.
For an hour before Sunday’s run I started I was pacing up and down, my head was saying I can’t do it, my body will break, my hip will go.
I made an effort to reframe the run. I made it about breaking that fear. I ran intervals concentrating on kicking my feet out and lengthening the stride in the running intervals and then walking fast with long strides between.
I made the distance, I beat the fear. (I’m sure it return but … today i won)
What am I trying to say in this post? In our creative lives there are jobs we might get offered, shoots we want to do but something holds us back. Well this is the time for measured Self Confidence, it is time to reframe your fear and beat it.
This post is not actually for the photographers, it’s for all the lighting techs and lighting techs in training (hopefully a few lecturers will read it also). Especially for the techs at small venues.
Before I go on to the post proper, I need to explain that I totally understand the job of the lighting is to produce a show for the gig goers, the fans, the audience. There is a reason the large bands tour with huge lighting rigs and show; it is to provoke and enhance the atmosphere, to elevate beyond just a person or band standing on a stage performing. I know that. This is beyond doubt.
However before an act reaches the levels where they can afford to go on tour with their own crew and rig, the venue technician is usually the person responsible for how the act looks on stage and as that person you should have a few other considerations.
The acts you are dealing with are normally trying to establish themselves, they want or need reviews, be they on websites, bloggers, or in local or even national press, they need to get thier name out there. When it comes to reviews, pictures help, great images can grab attention, they can promote a review from a lesser spot to a more prominent one, a reader may stop and read a review based on the image.
Anyone involved in gigs knows the rules “first 3 and out, no flash”.
So put basically, if there are photographers or videographers in the house you have 3 songs to make your act look great. After the first 3 you can do everything to build the atmosphere but the first 3, why not help the artist?
(Ok I know there are artists that don’t like photographers or who want to be in the dark, to them, I refer to the paragraph above)
So how can you help?
Turn the lights on! Pitch black does not really help!
LED colour washes look really bad on camera!
Add a bit of white to the front, even if you have heavy back lighting or colour washes
Front/Side lighting works! Flat washes are boring.
What do I mean about the LED colour washes? Well put on that yellow or blue colour wash that seems to be the “flavour of the month” at the moment. Now stand where the artist will be and take a selfie on your phone? How does it look? Let’s just say not flattering! Compared to the filtered incandescent lamps of old, LED lights produce a really intense colour that might look great from the back of the room but from the pit, on camera, it’s probably one of the least flattering looks there is. Modern camera sensors have a real issue dealing with it and it’s tricky to dial out. Adding some white from the front on the artist makes all the difference and the rest of the stage still looks great from the audience.
You might think I’m writing this just to make my life easier in the pit. I am but because I want to produce greatflattering photos. I’m not a kid, I’ve been doing this for a while and whilst there are many more experienced photographers shooting with the big names out there, I’ve been doing this in the smallest and largest venues there are for quite a while and the bottom line is, good photos help everyone in the business!
So the next time you light a venue, have a think about those first 3. Any photographers in there? Do your act and the venue that employs you a favour..
If you have read this blog for a long time or if you follow me on social media you will know I ride a motorbike and do not drive a car. This means if I choose to go to a festival and camp on the bike, I need to pack carefully. Some would say, right take 2 zooms, 16-55 & the 50-140 however one of the reasons I go to WOMAD is i don’t know what I’m going to get, which acts might become more relevant to press or who will be reviewed therefore I go with no pressure, no expectation, just having the aim of producing lovely images (there is always lots of colour here).
So my packing was 2 x X-T3, a 14/2.8, the 35/1.4 , a 56/1.2 & 90/2.0
Add to that a small tent, minimal wardrobe and the MT-07 is loaded.
Taking prime lenses means I have to work (slightly) harder to get the images, working the angles but this makes me think and slow down and think about how I want to portray the act.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again “there is no point having fast lenses if you shoot with them closed down all the time” so probably 90% of my images are shot wide open
Japanese vocal performer Hatis Noit was a joy to shoot – bright colours, amazing shapes and lighting that shouted “play with me” and with the 90 on camera and the 56 on the other I obliged with both lenses rendering the colours (in Astia profile) really nicely with (the 56 mainly) beautiful flare.
Kae’s set was in complete contrast, more simple, stark and emotional
I was sad to read the demise of regular visitor Carters Steam Fair and although the modern replacements are colourful, making lovely images, I feel they are just too brash, not meeting the the atmosphere of the festival.
The 56 is well touted as a great portrait lens – shooting wide open with eye tracking as I did for this backstage portrait of Wayne Coyne, lead singer and songwriter of the Flaming Lips, renders the background and even the hair lovely sand soft ensuring the eyes and face get all of the views attention.
The 14mm was useful a few times none more so that with Taiwanese contemporary dance troupe B.Dance, closing the aperture down slightly to keep them all in focus.
Im writing this on the Sunday morning before I shoot the acts of the last day, (the super efficient workflow you have been reading about 🤪 means I am totally up to date with my editing and sending) .
I think the images from the first 3 days give a good enough flavour how I use (and am inspired by the quality of) the Fuji prime lenses.
I have tried not to use the same images as I have posted on my social media channels in this post so if you do not follow me, there are links elsewhere on the page.
So, break out the primes, don’t just twist, use your feet and brain, and go create some images.. I look forward to seeing them.