Sports Photography

It’s been a while since I’ve done any sports work so I decided to keep my hand in by heading down to the Hartham Common to shoot a football match between local club Mangrove FC and Bully’s Crusaders

Most of my work in sports has been for local news and social media but bookings have declined since the onset of the pandemic and resulting measures. As well as football I’ve also covered hockey, cricket, rugby, lacrosse and athletics, as well as indoor sports such as basketball.

Despite not being a sports fan myself I do enjoy covering the action on a sports pitch (or court!) and it was great to be back out with a long lens.

Hopefully there’ll be more opportunities in the near future to cover local sports events and fixtures.

The future of live entertainment

Stage photography is a significant part of my work, so the Cv-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on my bookings.

Empty stage

At the beginning of March 2020 I was looking forward to a healthy number of engagements. Yet just four weeks later my diary was bare.

Music festivals and theatrical productions have been abandoned, with 2020 becoming a fallow year for the performing arts.  However, most live music events and theatre companies expect to return in the new year.

This, I fear, may be overly optimistic. And I am not alone.

Lollapalooza co-founder Marc Geiger, along with Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis, have both warned that their festivals may not return until 2022. 

Live stage events take months to organise and no-one is going to start a project that might not be allowed to go ahead.

Imagine you’ve been rehearsing a play for two months and at the dress rehearsal someone calls in to say they’re showing symptoms. That could mean the whole cast having to self isolate and the production being cancelled at the last minute. All the money invested in the production would be lost. Ticket money would have to be refunded. No-one is going to take that chance.

One of the main characteristics of live entertainment is that it is a very social experience – both for the performers and audience. By its very nature it involves large numbers of people coming together to enjoy an experience with one another – the antipathy of social distancing. Therefore my calculation is that as long as we have to keep our distance, there is little prospect of live entertainment being viable.

I’m therefore currently working with the expectation that it will be Autumn 2021 before live theatre and music will return in any meaningful way. This can only happen when social distancing is relaxed, when the threat of Covid-19 has abated, most probably following widespread vaccination.

Whilst no two pandemics should be directly compared, Spanish Flu took two years to play out, and I suspect the same may be true of Cv-19.

The music festivals I work with privately admit that that their plans for 2021 may have to be abandoned.  Local theatre companies meanwhile have suspended operations for the foreseeable future. Some are hoping to stage productions in 2021 but have yet to announce plans to hold auditions. Whilst there is optimism for next year, there is an acceptance that it may be some time before live entertainment returns to the stage.

Updated 16/10/20 to add useful links below:

Face masks and social distancing could be in place until next summer, Oxford vaccine professor warns (Evening Standard 14/10/20)

Glastonbury may not return until 2022 as Michael Eavis admits holding festival next year is ‘wishful thinking’ (Metro 4/8/20)

No live gigs or festivals until 2022, Lollapalooza boss predicts: ‘The next six months may be most painful’ (Metro 17/7/20)

Mirrorless fun

At the back end of last year I decided to dip my toes in the mirrorless world – not with any intention of abandoning all the Nikon gear I’ve bought over the years, but more to get an idea of the mirrorless experience. 

I’d heard and read many good things about the Sony A7 range, right from the very first full frame model they launched back in 2013.  The original A7 is still available today and at a very reasonable price, so I decided give it a whirl.  Despite being seven years old, the A7 has a perfectly respectable spec if all you want is a serviceable full frame stills camera. It might not have some of the advanced features a demanding photographer might want but all I wanted was something to get to know what it was like working with a mirrorless camera.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Sony A7 full frame camera

The Sony A7 is a great camera – light, easy to use and with excellent optics. Sure, the low light performance isn’t anywhere near my Nikon D750 but that’s not why I bought it. Whilst I’d heard bad things about the menu system, this didn’t really bother me to be honest.

So, after getting acquainted with the camera, one of the first things I thought I’d try was using it with some of my old Pentax lenses. I still had some old glass left around from the days before digital, when I’d shoot with Pentax gear. 

I bought a simple Gobe adaptor and dug out a couple of old lenses – a trusty Pentax SMC 50mm f/1.7 prime and a Tokina SD 70-210mm lens. Initial results with the Tokina were uninspiring, but the 50mm proved to be far more fruitful.

Sony A7 camera with Pentax 50mm lens attached

The 50mm SMC was the standard lens fitted to most Pentax cameras during the 70s and 80s and has a solid reputation. Like most prime lenses it is very sharp.

Used with the A7 and Gobe adaptor, operation is completely manual.  so I set up focus peaking in the EVF and monitor to help with focusing. 

The lens gave some excellent results, although wide open at f/1.7 it was a little soft. However, stopping down to f/2 and beyond produced some very sharp images.

It should be remembered that when using a basic adaptor like the Gobe, no metadata is recorded from the lens.

Unedited shot at f/4.0 1/500th ISO 100. Click for full sized image.
Unedited JPG file shot at f/4.0 1/2500th ISO 100. Click for full sized image.

As well as these outdoor shots I’ve also tried taking the camera and lens on a couple of stage shoots and it performed very well.

I’m not going to go in to any detailed analysis of the performance of the Pentax + Sony combo (if that’s what you’re in to try this). The exercise was simply to see what could be achieved and how the combination handled.

My pro kit will continue to be my Nikon D750 and associated lenses and I’m in no hurry to migrate to a new system, especially given the investment I’ve made in Nikon and the cost and logistics of moving.

Photography for neighbourhood planning

I’m pleased to have provided photographic services for a number of local neighbourhood planning initiatives over the last couple of years. This includes imagery for websites and social media illustrating such subjects as traffic, parking, housebuilding, education, business, health, sport and leisure.

Local streets

Picture 1 of 11

I’ve also covered events such as exhibitions, presentations and announcements for press,  media and promotional use.

Neighbourhood plans provide the means for communities to have a say on planning policies in their local area, adding detail to Local and District Plans formulated by district and unitary authorities. A large part of the process involves groups of local residents engaging with their local communities in drawing up policies that guide development in their locality. 

Photography can play an important part in highlighting local issues and communicating the aspirations of everyone involved. It can also illustrate how local residents engage with the process and help policies evolve over time.

If you’re looking for material to help with a Neighbourhood Plan I’d be delighted to discuss offering affordable services to help make your project a success. To get in touch just fill out the contact form.

Working With Retune

I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with mental health organisation Retune, providing promotional material including live music photography, branding-in-use and headshots .

Retune was founded by musician and journalist Tom Ryder, who faced mental health difficulties in his early twenties, and music has always been his greatest respite.

Retune harnesses the power of live music to promote wellbeing and mindfulness.  Exploring the strong link between creativity and mental health, Retune provides a safe space with no judgement to increase confidence and resilience for our community.

Director & chair of Retune, Greg Camburn, says on the website: “I have always been acutely aware of the connection between mental wellbeing, creativity and music. I am incredibly proud of Tom and the team for creating a fabulous, non-profit organisation that I am certain will go on to assist a great many people”

Greg and Tom are also assisted by Fionnuala Shakespeare, the organisation’s director of funding, and sound engineer Tom Rowntree.

Retune put on regular shows at The Half Moon in Bishop’s Stortford and have featured a range of artists including Didi, Sabrina Francis, The Kazans, Vertaal, Wardnparker and Alex Bayly.

The next event is an all-dayer on Sunday 2nd June 2019 featuring an open mic, comedy and a very special headliner.

Festival of Literature

In February I covered a number of events for the 2019 Festival Of Literature at Bishop’s Stortford College.

The festival featured a busy schedule of talks and workshops by authors and illustrators,  aimed primarily at children and young people.  However, there were also events open to the public, with some of the speakers taking part inboth events for the children and evening appearances for adult audiences.

Illustrator Nick Schon draws for a class of pre-prep pupils

Many of the public events took place in the school’s Ferguson Lecture Theatre, whilst the childrens’ events took place in the prep school and pre-prep school halls.

Chris Riddell discusses his work with children from local schools

Stage photography is one of my core skills so these events were familiar work for me – performers working with an audience. However, unlike most stage work, there was no dedicated lighting in the school halls and the talks were lit simply by fluorescent lighting.

Robin Ince gave a hilarious 2 hour talk to the public

The speakers were aimed at a range of ages from very young children just starting out in education, through teenagers, to adults who attended the public events.

Childrens’ authors and illustrators such as Jackie Morris & James Mayhew, Sarah Macintyre, Chris Riddell and Nick Schon entertained the younger children, whilst Radio 4 presenter and comedian Robin Ince and art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon engaged the adults.

Debs Newbold talked to prep school students about Shakespeare

Actress and performer Debs Newbold gave life to the characters of Shakespeare in a talk to students in the prep school hall.

Author and illustrator Sarah MacIntyre spoke to younger students about her illustration work

This was a great series of events to be a part of and I enjoyed covering all these events for the college.

The Festival of Literature was supported by the Bishops Stortford Independent local newspaper.

Photographing The Work of Alan Davie

Hertford Arts Hub have recently engaged me to shoot a number of events to promote their organisation and activities, including exhibitions, activities and talks, much of it about the artist Alan Davie, who lived in Hertford during his latter years.

Exhibition of Alan Davie’s work

I was also asked to photograph some of his artworks for use in leaflets and other printed matter. These paintings were on display at a temporary exhibition in the town.

Unfortunately, lighting conditions were far from ideal as can be seen from the picture above. It was clear that I was going to have to chose an overcast day to shoot the works, although even then the lighting was not going to the balanced (I chose not to use my own lighting as the client had limited funding).

I shot the photos using a tripod with an aperture setting of f8 and focal length of 50mm. The ISO was set to 100.

Post processing consisted of some dodging to compensate for any uneven lighting along with levels adjustments.

Most of the paintings were unframed. Only a couple were behind glass – one with a matt finish and the other with conventional glass. I shot all the pictures with a polarising filter.

Wedding Of The Year

Despite not being a full-on wedding photographer, I do cover a handful of weddings every year. These functions typically come my way by word of mouth – from people who know my photojournalistic style and informal coverage of family functions and events.

Jade and Martin’s wedding was the largest wedding I have covered recently, and included preparations at the bride’s father’s home, travel to the wedding location, outdoor ceremony and both afternoon and evening receptions.

The day started mid-morning, where I photographed a team of of stylists and markup artists preparing the bride, bridesmaids, maid of honour and bride’s mother at the family home.

Continue reading Wedding Of The Year

A Good Advanced Compact: Sony RX100M2

For a while now I’ve been looking for a good, advanced compact camera – something that takes better photos than a smartphone but without the heft or bulk of a digital SLR. My quest brought me to the Sony RX100M2, an affordable, lightweight “travel camera” (or whatever you want to call this class of camera) that delivers excellent results.

The original RX100 was launched in 2012 and is now in it’s sixth iteration, each revision improving on the last. Unusually, all six versions are still made today and are available at prices ranging from around £300 to £1150.

Because I was looking for a simple point-and-shoot, albeit with greater control and higher quality than you’d normally find in a point-and-shoot, I went for the M2, the second in the series, which I picked up at my local John Lewis. 

The Sony RX100M2 features a Carl Zeiss f1.8 28-100 (equiv) lens and a 1″, 20.2MP CMOS sensor. Online reviews are excellent and at 280 grams it fits comfortable into a jeans pocket. 

The f1.8 lens makes it particularly good for low-light usage  whilst overall image quality is excellent.

I’m not going to go in to detail about the camera so check out reviews online to find out why I chose this little gem.

Hertford Headshots Offer

For the month of May we’re offering 25% off our headshots package for residents of Hertford.

For just £30 you can have headshots taken in the comfort of your own home with our mobile studio. We can produce either colour or monochrome shots suitable for websites, press releases,  CVs etc.

Sessions of up to 30 minutes within the boundaries of the town are available.

Click here to find out more about our headshots and portraiture Services or contact us for more information.

Offer applies 1st-31st May 2018 for shoots in any of the Hertford town district wards of Bengeo, Sele, Castle or Kingsmead.