All posts by Steve

St.Albans Photographer

My photography work takes me across the county, as well as neighbouring counties and in to London. I’m also happy to work in neighbouring regions, including the South, East of England and the Midlands. 

One of the towns I’m happy to visit is St.Albans, one of the largest towns in Hertfordshire with a population of 88,000.

Photo of period properties in Fishpool Street, St.Albans
Fishpool Street, St.Albans

Work in St.Albans and nearby Harpenden includes headshots, property photography and family functions.

Photo of former railway station
The former London Road railway station building

I’ve also worked with schools and theatres shooting material for marketing and promotional activites.

Photo of attractive historic pub
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub in Abbey Mill Lane

If you’re interested in my photography work please feel free to get in touch.

SmallRig leather camera case for Nikon Z fc

A few months ago I bought a Nikon Z fc camera with 16-50mm kit lens and a 50-250mm telephoto lens.

Whist my professional kit is full frame, I do like to have a crop sensor camera around for the reduced size and weight. I was previously using a Nikon D7000 but this was showing it’s age so I decided to trade up. 

This is my second mirrorless camera, my first having been a Sony A7, which I got for a bargain £649 a couple of years back. I like the A7 but I’m primarily a Nikon man, although I do also have a Sony RX100 for the pocket value.

One of the reasons I went for the Z fc  was of course the retro looks. It’s a lovely looking camera and gets noticed when I’m out and about with it. 

I was therefore intrigued when I saw on Nikon Rumors that SmallRig were selling a very affordable half case and strap that complimented to Z fc’s classic looks. The SmallRig case and strap are available on Amazon for just £42.90 and mine took just a couple of days to deliver.

I’ve not used a half case before so had little idea about how it would fit or feel. I looked for reviews and customer images but there was little more than the usual stock marketing shots available online and very few reviews. Most of these were of the case attached to the camera.

So here are my first impressions of the case and a few photos.

Although I had no preconceptions, I was surprised how firm or stiff the case was. Not that this was at all a bad thing. It fits easily but snugly. The fit is good.

The materials are good quality and I would expect them to last. The stitching is well finished and both the strap and case should last a lifetime.

The case initially feel a little awkward as it changes the size and shape of the camera, but I quickly got used to this.

The strap is quite easy to fit too. I had previously been using the triangular clips provided with the camera to attach the strap but took these off to attached the new strap with the round clip that came with it.

Other than that there’s not much to say. This is an excellent case and strap and I would not hesitate to recommend them. 

Photos taken with Nikon D750 and Z5

Interview with a theatrical photographer

I was recently approached by a student asking if I would take part in an interview about my theatrical work. This was the first genre I took up after buying my first serious camera, and the type of photography I have most experience in.

So let’s take a look at the questions and my responses:

How did you first get into theatre photography?

My interest in theatrical photography came shortly after I bought my first SLR camera. I was in my late teens and a number of my friends were members of a local amateur dramatics group and I joined, often taking my camera with me. I enjoyed taking candid photos of early rehearsals and shots of the final dress rehearsals. I like to capture facial expressions and the relationships between characters. 

What are the biggest challenges of working in this industry?

As with any creative business – finding clients who are willing to pay! The arts are constrained by limited funding so every penny has to count. This means that I have to devise packages that deliver the best value for money.

How did you gain Clients? Did people seek you because of your previous work or did you find work by making contacts and emailing potential clients?

Simple word of mouth. If your work gets noticed and word gets around then other organisations start calling, which is how I get most of my clients. I’ve tried advertising but it never worked for me. Social media is also a cost-effective way of getting noticed.

A production of Princess Ida performed by Southgate Opera

Would you say theatre photography is a male-dominated industry?

I have no idea – for the simple reason that I’ve never met anyone else in my line of work. Theatrical photography is very niche so there aren’t that many people doing it. I also do live music photography, which of course is similar to theatre with both involving stage performances. There are a lot more live music photographers – in my experience mostly male. That said, a live music environment is very different to a theatrical environment so I’m not sure there’s a direct comparison.

Do you have time on the side for more personal photography projects?

Plenty – especially with lockdown. I like experimenting with self-portraiture and lighting sometimes. I’m also keen on reportage photography and pictures that tell a story. 

Are there any mistakes you made when you started? If so what were they and how did you learn from them?

Not many people start out fully qualified in terms of experience so yes, mistakes happen. One of the main mistakes I made was not spending enough on good equipment that was suited to the task. 

What do you see yourself continuing with long-term?

Theatrical photography is what I feel most confident about because it’s what I’ve been doing longest. Not just performances, but informal rehearsals and cast headshots – anything that helps document and promote a show. I’ve always enjoyed theatrical photography – it’s my past, present and future.

What was your biggest job?

A couple of highlights come to mind. Photographing a dress rehearsal of ‘Yes Minister’ at The Gielgud Theatre and a big stage school production at The O2.

A stage school production at the O2 Indigo

Do you work in any other industries or is it just primarily theatre photography?

Whilst theatrical photography is a significant part of my work, I also cover anything that might fall under the reportage banner – so public events, family functions, corporate work and journalism. Anything that involves documenting events. The world is a stage after all.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to get into theatre photography?

Join a local theatre group and get to know the art and industry from the inside. I’ve done lots of backstage work for local groups and that’s helped me understand what goes into a production. It’s always important to understand your client and their needs.

Finally, what is your favourite thing about doing theatre photography?

Getting to see some great shows and performances, often beautifully lit.

Cars At The Castle

The last 14 months have been a challenging time for everyone, especially if like me your income depends on live events, social functions, or anything that involves human  being interacting with each other.

As we move in to the summer of 2021 and lockdown eases, there is now more freedom for people to enjoy their lives, so I was delighted recently to photograph my first public event in well over a year.

‘Cars At The Castle’ is an annual car show staged by Hertford Town Council in the grounds of Hertford Castle, featuring modern and vintage cars. The event was cancelled for 2020 so this year is the first time in two years that the show has gone ahead. 

Fine weather and a thirst for public entertainment meant that the event was well attended, with people queueing to get in to the castle grounds.

The following images were taken with a Sony RX100 VI that I recently bought second-hand to replace an RX100 II. The image quality is outstanding for a one-inch sensor and the 24-200mm zoom covers most situations. The images were edited with Affinity Photo and Nik Color Efex Pro 4.

Hertford Villages Gallery

During April I worked on a series of postcard-like images of villages in the countryside around Hertford. These photos included local buildings, village ponds, rivers, churches and pubs.

Bramfield

Locations include Little Amwell, Chapmore End,  Sacombe and  Stapleford.

The photos were taken with a Fujifilm X100S using the Fuji Velvia film simulation. The border was added with Nik Collection Color Efex Pro (Type 1 width 20%). Tone and colour were processed with the 
Nik Collection Analog Pro Classic Camera 2 filter. Finally the titles were added with Affinity Photo using French Script font.

Hertingfordbury

The X100S is a recent acquisition and I’m delighted with it. Not only is it a gorgeous looking camera but the image quality is excellent, especially when combined with Fuji’s film simulations. This is my first Fuji camera (my pro gear is Nikon) but I suspect I’ll be tempted toward their interchangeable lens range at some stage in the future.

Fujifilm X100S camera

I’ve since bought a lens hood and filter adapter, allowing me to use my favoured polarising filter with the camera.

I find that Spring is an ideal time to photograph the countryside, just as the sun is higher in the sky and leaves coming out on the trees,

Tewin village
Tewin

The complete collection of 15 stylised images can be found in the galleries section of the website. 

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.