Flowers, Laughs and Heathcliff | Blogger Photoshoot

Fresh off the back of a blogger photoshoot with Amani, the next day I shot with Juliet, who blogs at Not Capulet. (Good name for a blog, right?)

We started with a coffee and prayed that the rain would hold off, exchanging photos of our cats in the meantime. When we decided to brave the elements (it was pretty windy by this time), we went in search of some flowers. Juliet had an open mind about what kind of shots we would take, but the floral theme was a popular suggestion, so off we went.

Here are some of my favourite shots from the day:

Nottingham city centre is pretty bereft of flowers, but we managed to find a few. From Broadway Cinema (which Quentin Tarantino loved so much that he used it for the UK premiere of Reservoir Dogs. Fun fact) to Cobden Chambers, we found some pretty cool locations.

We also stopped outside Nottingham's Kitty Cafe, as Juliet regaled me with tales of many of the feline residents within. Her personal favourite, Heathcliff, was sadly nowhere to be seen. But she did have a copy of Wuthering Heights in her bag, so he was there in a sense.

I'm really happy with how the photos came out and, like the day before, it was a lot of fun. We both agreed that a blog should be about authenticity, so I hope I managed to show a bit of the real Juliet in these shots. 

Want to book an affordable blogger photoshoot? Drop me a message today to arrange a relaxed and natural shoot.

Red Hair & Neon Signs | Blogger Photoshoot

Last Sunday, I spent the morning photographing Amani Carson, a local blogger with very cool red hair.

It was a pretty new experience for both of us, but after a coffee and a few test shots, we got into the swing of things. Amani mentioned that she was after some edgy photos, so we walked to Hockley, an area of Nottingham that is packed with independent shops - and neon signs. 

Everywhere we went, we seemed to find stuff that matched or contrasted well with Amani's hair. Shop fronts, signs, street art, the lot.

Take a look at some of the best shots below:

For the photography nerds out there, I used my Nikon D600 and a couple of prime lenses - the 85mm 1.8G and 50mm 1.8D. Both served me well on the day, particularly the 85mm. It's a great focal length for these kinds of shots, and probably one of the best photography purchases I've made.

The shoot was really fun, and it was great to shoot in places I haven't tried before. Nottingham is pretty photogenic, after all.

And just like London buses, another blogger shoot came along the very next day. Check out my blogger photoshoot with Juliet, who blogs at Not Capulet.

If you're a blogger looking for portraits, outfit shots or any other photos, get in touch!

A Car Park Photoshoot with Daisily

Rarely does a week go by when I haven't climbed to the top of at least one Nottingham car park. No, I'm not a hobbyist with a passion for multi-storeys. I'm just a man on a mission to take portraits.

This particular time, it was a bright evening but the sun was dropping rapidly. Nottingham's many high-rise buildings cast long shadows across the city, so finding the perfect light was a challenge. Our solution? Go up and catch the last rays from on high.

The lighting wasn't the only factor to deal with, though. When we climbed the (predictably grim) staircase and arrived at the top of the car park, the wind was unrelenting. That made the top level pretty much unusable.

The shots in this blog post were all taken one floor down, where we salvaged the last of the light whilst keeping the wind at bay. I have to say, viewing Nottingham from that height made me appreciate it even more. The buildings, from the ultra-modern to the near-ancient, and the surrounding countryside make for pleasant viewing from a few storeys up.

So even if you're not after some late-evening portraits, I'd definitely recommend venturing up high now and then. See your city from a new perspective and you might grow to love it that little bit extra.

Thanks to Daisily for being a patient model even when the wind was blowing her fringe in all kinds of ungodly directions. You're a trooper.

3 Photographers Who Have Inspired Me

When it comes to knowing the big names in photography, I'm rubbish. I know a few of the top dogs, but I don't really dedicate much time to expanding my knowledge of the genre. With that being said, there are a few photographers whose work I admire and ingest on a regular basis. 

If you're big into the photography scene, you might know some of the names on this list. If not, I urge you to check them out. Number two is someone I know from school who is currently making waves in London. The others are big names whose work has adorned gallery walls for decades. 

1. Lewis Baltz

The first photographer I got obsessed with. And I mean obsessed. I studied Lewis Baltz at A-Level, but it wasn't until a year later that I got the bug.

In my gap year, I stumbled upon an exhibition of his work in the Albertina, Vienna. I spent three hours taking in every inch of his precisely-composed images of the new American landscape. I looked on in awe as he left important elements poking just outside of the frame, and tried to figure out how such simple compositions could be so effective.

Baltz passed away a year after I visited that exhibition of his work, but his legacy will continue. If you get a chance to see his work in person, make sure you give it the attention it deserves. Get up close, notice what he puts in and what he leaves out. I learned a lot from that long, warm day in the Albertina.

2. Simon Martin

I know Simon Martin from secondary school. He was a few years above me, but I always knew him as Simon the Photographer. He knew I was into taking photos too, as I distinctly remember him telling me, in a local Wetherspoons, that I should have studied photography at university. (Note: he may have been right.)

Simon has produced a few long-term projects that I check back on regularly, including Cadets, from which the above image is taken. Another project looks at the redevelopment of Sittingbourne - our shared hometown. Since I've moved to Nottingham, it's one way I keep in touch with the ever-changing town of my birth.

His work is always insightful, and his portraits are of the highest quality. There's a really genuine feeling to all of Simon's work, which is regularly featured by well-respected institutions. You might have seen one of his photos in the British Journal of Photography's Portrait of Britain in 2016. 

3. Alexey Titarenko

The final name on my list is Russian photographer Alexey Titarenko. His ghostly long exposure images provide a new perspective into the cities we think we know well. Viewing his work, I started to understand that people are everything to photography - even if they're blurred, anonymous shapes.

Titarenko was possibly the first photographer I studied from an academic perspective, but somehow, that didn't put me off. I wrote a bunch of essays on his work during my GCSE Media Studies course, most of which, I assume, were rubbish. I would dread to re-read those wordy discourses, but I still revisit Titarenko's work when I'm in need of photography inspiration.

So there you have a brief insight into what excites and inspires me in the realm of photography. If you've got some more suggestions for me, please leave a comment below. I'm pretty bad at seeking out new work, so feel free to give me a hand!

Shooting with Natural Light and an Ironing Board

Before I start, I want to impart some wisdom: If anyone tells you that you can't use an ironing board in a product photography shoot, they're wrong.

The best thing in life are free, and that rule also applies to lighting. In the flat I share with my girlfriend, we're blessed with some big windows. Last week, I decided to make the most of them.

That same girlfriend runs a popular lifestyle blog called Daisily. With a backlog of products to photograph and review for the blog, I resolved to kill two birds with one stone and shoot some beauty products she had been sent. I figured my experiment would be welcomed with open arms.

As it turned out, I ended up shooting some products that had already been photographed. By me. The week before. Doh.

Anyway, I was pretty pleased with the photographs, so I thought I'd share my process of shooting the Miss Patisserie products.

lily brighter.jpg

The lighting, background and ironing board setup

You might have guessed by now, but I only used natural light for this shoot. It took place in the afternoon of an overcast day, so the light was nice and flat. To balance some of the shadows, I grabbed a piece of white card and manoeuvred it as I desired.

As luck had it, I had just done some ironing, so the ironing board was still erect. While I gathered the props, ferrying them between rooms, I placed them on the board. Then, instead of moving our heavy glass desk over to the window, I decided to use that as my surface. It worked pretty well, too - the adjustable height of an ironing board really helps when you're trying to shoot a flat lay!

For the background, I used a really cool marble chopping board that my girlfriend had picked up the week before. I placed a simple grey tea towel underneath the marble to keep the colours consistent (and hide the floral pattern of the ironing board).

Choice of lens and camera settings

My trusty 50mm gets me closest to the subject among my selection of lenses, so I stuck that on my recently acquired D600.

I stuck my camera on a tripod in an effort to keep things shake-free. For the clean look I was going for, I didn't want to use a high ISO and have loads of noise ruin the shot. I kept that at around 400 and relied on the tripod to keep my camera steady.

For the flat lay photos, I used a smaller aperture - around f6.3 to f8 - to keep everything in focus. For photos taken from a more horizontal angle, I wanted a shallower depth of field, so opted for f2.8 to f4. The latter was small enough to get both the pot and spoon in focus, but blur the flower in the background (see below). 

Product photography using a marble background.

A lighting lesson from the shoot

I sometimes overthink my photographs, and that's usually a surefire way to mess up a shoot. Sometimes I try to be too clever with lights and flashes, or use a certain lens because that's what other people would use. This time, I stripped things back and got some results I'm really happy with.

So the next time I'm looking for excuses about not having the right gear for a certain shoot, I'll remember when I used an ironing board to great effect.

Here's the equipment I used, in its entirety:

  • Nikon D600 + 50mm 1.8
  • Tripod
  • Ironing board
  • Window
  • Piece of white A4 card
  • Marble chopping board
  • Grey tea towel
Almost everything I used during the shoot (minus the camera and tripod, which I used to take this picture...obviously).

Almost everything I used during the shoot (minus the camera and tripod, which I used to take this picture...obviously).

Want your product to appear on my ironing board? Get in touch and book a free Skype call today.

 

Three Houses: A New Photography Project

I've been after a project for a while, and I think I may have found the right one.

Sundays are my favourite day for going out early and taking photographs. The world has an extra hour in bed compared to Saturdays, so it's always quiet. Just how I like it.

This Sunday morning I got out before 7am with my new camera and started wandering. I didn't have any shots in mind, so I just walked until I found something interesting. About half an hour into the shoot I stumbled across a beautiful mosque (below).

A photo of a mosque in Nottingham, England.

I'd photographed the mosque on film before, but never on digital. I took a few cursory shots and carried on walking. Directly opposite the mosque, I noticed a church. (I've since discovered that it's part of the Christ Citadel family of churches, which I didn't know anything about.) Further down the road, I saw a small building with the sign "Seventh-Day Adventist Church" on the front.

Three places of worship within around 20 metres of each other? This must be rare, I thought. It speaks to the multiculturalism of Nottingham that such buildings can co-exist in such proximity.

So here's my new project idea: Three Houses

I'm going to document the three houses of worship over the coming weeks and months. I'd like to go in and talk to people from each building, first of all to get an understanding of their beliefs. I was brought up (kind of) Catholic and went to a Catholic primary school, but I've been away from that scene for years now. I don't know what Christianity really means for people's everyday lives.

Likewise with Islam and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. We all have preconceptions about these groups, but does the reality match our prejudices? I'd guess not. I'm going in with an open mind.

Some preliminary photos from the shoot

Below I've attached four images from this morning's shoot. If you want to see some more, check out the Three Houses page of my portfolio. I'll be updating it as and when I take more photos, so keep an eye out!

Check out my portfolio for more little projects like this. Thanks for reading.

 

 

New Camera: The First Proper Test

A couple of weeks ago I took the plunge and bought a new camera. I'd been after a full frame Nikon for years, but only took the plunge recently when I found a deal that was too good to pass up on. The camera? A shiny new (used) Nikon D600.

I'll get round to writing a proper review once I've put it through its paces, but here are a few first impressions and some sample images.

First impressions of the Nikon D600

  • The depth of field is non-existent (in a good way). I'm having to stop myself from taking every single photo at f2.8 because it looks so damn nice.
     
  • I can use higher ISOs for the first time ever. Anything above ISO 800 on my old camera was dodgy. I can push the D600 to 6400 and still get relatively useable results. My tripod has been momentarily retired.
     
  • I've had a bit of a problem with underexposed images. My preliminary test shots looked a little dark, and then I went out shooting today and found the same thing. I had to push the exposure compensation to +1 before I felt happy with the exposure. This might be unique to my copy, but I'd be interested to hear if others have experienced the same thing.

A few sample images

When I get round to it, I'll post some low-light comparison shots against my old camera. In the meantime, here are some moderately edited daytime shots, taken in Nottingham city centre.

A green tree on an industrial background.
A street lamp on top of a car park in Nottingham.
A close up photography of chipped-paint railings.
Scenes from the top of a car park in Nottingham, England.
A dented garage door in Nottingham, England.

Falling in Love with Film Photography

I'm on a film hype.

Since discovering the Negative Feedback YouTube channel, I've been inspired to get back out there with my old (broken) 35mm film camera. It's completely changed the way I take photos, and I've regained a buzz for photography that I haven't had for a long time.

Molly on a neon background

When shooting film, you've got to be picky. I find myself bringing the camera to my eye, examining the scene before me, and putting it back down without depressing the shutter. I never do that with digital. With a D-SLR, you can shoot willy-nilly and all it costs is a few megabytes on your hard drive.

BUNK. Neon at night.

What type of film do I use?

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I've been shooting with Poundland's finest: Agfa Vista 200. It's so much better than I was expecting. The reds are bold and the blues are pretty dreamy. Not bad for a quid.

The photos in this post are a mix of Agfa Vista 200 and Fujifilm Superia 400. I got a few rolls of the latter for my birthday and I'm pretty impressed with that, too. The bottom photo is taken using the Fujifilm and I'm amazed at how it's coped with that deep, neon red.

My problem with scanning film

This might be sacrilege, but I got the photographs on this blog developed in Boots. I added some 6x4 prints too, mainly because I was intrigued. With the first roll of film I got developed there, I also used their scanning service.

I won't make that mistake again. 

Plants on a white background

The "high res" files were around 500kb. That's just about enough to print off a postage stamp. As a result, the photos were pixelated as hell and pretty much unusable. After a quick search around Nottingham, it appeared that there were no other options unless I want to post my negatives.

So, for this set of photos, I went meta and took photographs of the printed photographs. You can see a bit of glare in a couple of the shots, but they're just for kicks at the moment anyway. I might decide to splash out on a scanner in future, or use the postal service that a bunch of companies offer. Until then, I'm happy with re-shooting my prints.

But if anyone knows a place to scan 35mm negatives in Nottingham, get in touch. I'll buy you a roll of Agfa Vista 200 in return.

Portrait on a carpark.
Carpark blues.
Molly on pink and blue.

The Story Behind My Broken 35mm Film Camera

Take a quick glance at the photo below and you'll be able to see that something is amiss. Nikon F601 cameras rarely come with Duct tape, Sellotape and surgical tape as standard. Mine does, though, and here's the story behind the bodge.

The story starts in Kent

After I finished my A-Levels, I was mentally stranded. I had a vague inkling that I wanted to go to university, but I didn't know what to study or where to go. While I made up my mind, I started working full time in an office.

A close up of the repair.

A close up of the repair.

I had worked there on and off for a few years, spending my summers in stuffy shirts and pointy shoes, tied to a computer all day. It was unfulfilling but it paid well.

As much as I loathed it, the time I spent there was invaluable. It motivated me to do something else. Anything else. My creativity and wanderlust were sparked in that dusty room, so I resolved to do The Gap Year Thing: travel.

After 9 months of working, I had saved enough pennies to go Interrailing around Europe for a month, solo. I packed my cameras (a D-SLR as well as the camera in question) and set off for Split, Croatia. An eye-wateringly early flight meant that I arrived in the sunny coastal town mid-morning. The owner of the hostel I was staying with picked me up from the airport and drove me to his warm, welcoming abode.

It continues in Croatia

There were no other guests in the hostel when I arrived. They were either exploring or working. As I settled, a young Russian called Phillip entered with a timid "Hello". He had been interning with a multi-national organisation for 3 months and was a long-term resident of the hostel.

We exchanged awkward pleasantries and I went to my room to unpack. When I say "my room", I mean a four-person dorm.

Taken during a trip to see the Mosor mountains with Phillip.

Taken during a trip to see the Mosor mountains with Phillip.

It breaks on a bunk bed

I plonked my bag on the top bunk in a bright corner of the room, arranging my day bag for an afternoon of exploration. I unpack my camera gear, deciding to take both cameras with me for my first solo taste of the continent.

It is at this point that it breaks. Nonchalantly, I tossed the 35mm camera onto the soft, springy mattress. The landing wasn't quite the cushioned one I had in mind. The camera bounced on a wayward spring, the back compartment flinging open and revealing the open roll of film within.

A couple relax in the shade near Split's swanky marina.

A couple relax in the shade near Split's swanky marina.

My partially successful rescue attempt

A piece of plastic the size of a pencil tip had broken off, rendering the latch useless. With no hope of repairing it, I resolved to tape the back up as a temporary measure. Using plasters and surgical tape, I managed to keep it under wraps until finishing the roll of film. When I changed film, off came the makeshift stitches and on went a more secure bandage: Duct tape. Lots of Duct tape.

I shot two rolls of film on my trip and both came out almost unspoilt. To my delight, I only lost a couple of frames. Both casualties occurred at the point of impact on the bunk bed.

I've since put a few more rolls through the camera, to varying degrees of success. I lost a complete roll to light-leakage, whilst others have come through the ordeal unimpeded. 

The bodge remains to this day.

The bodge remains to this day.

Four years later, the tape solution is a mainstay. A common sense approach would be to get the latch fixed, but I quite like it as it is. I'm not a prolific film shooter, but that may be about to change. I've been hooked on the Negative Feedback Youtube channel for a few weeks, and it's inspired me to get shooting in the old school way again. On the presenter's recommendation, I even picked up a couple of rolls of Poundland's Agfa Vista 200 film, which I'm eager to try out.

So maybe the tape is on borrowed time. Even if that is the case, I'll always look back fondly on my Duct tape memories.