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.

Six Days : Three Stage Plays

I recently had a high concentration of stage plays to photograph in a single week. I typically photograph around 15-20 productions a year, plus promotional work, but recently had to shoot three productions for three companies in the space of six days, at theatres in Hertford and Potters Bar.

Nell Gwynn, performed by Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society at Hertford Theatre
Our Man In Havana, presented by The Company Of Players at The Little Theatre, Bengeo
Chess, performed by Potters Bar Theatre Company at Wyllyotts Theatre

It’s Not All Photography

Taking photos is only a small part of running a photography business. I mention this because I occasionally get asked for advice by people considering photography as a career or small business.

  • Photo editing
  • Travelling
  • Sales & marketing
  • Accounts
  • Planning & scheduling

You’ll see from this list that much of running a photography business is not about photography but being a business-person.

Photo editing can often take longer than actually taking photos. Most of my editing work involves adjustments to lighting, cropping, clarity and removing the odd unwanted distraction.

Sales and marketing involve everything from keeping a website updated (including a blog!), maintaining social media, taking customer enquiries, consultations, site visits, pricing, business cards and other marketing materials, photo printing, burning DVDs, packaging, postage and order tracking.

You’ll also need to be organised – checklists and procedures are a necessary part of running an efficient business and keeping customers happy

Photography isn’t a 9-5 Monday to Friday occupation either.  You’ll frequently find yourself working evenings and weekends. I do a lot of private events and stage photography – typically out-of-hours work.

When I was first starting out I did a lot of research in to being self employed and running a photography business.  Of all the material I read this article by Ken Rockwell stood out.  Anyone considering starting their own photography business (or any business come to that) needs to do their research and have a good idea of what you need to do to succeed and what investments are required – financially and functionally.


Working With Off Camera Flash

I’ve never been a great one for flash photography, partly because of the nature of work I do and partly because of the flat and lifeless images flash photography can produce. I’ve always been aware of the creativity that flashguns afford but it’s only over the last couple of years that I’ve started using flash seriously and creatively.

Naturally I have a flashgun – a Nikon SB-700 that I use occasionally for fill-in flash.  Much of my work is stage photography, where creative lighting is already part of what I’m shooting, so flash is unnecessary. For parties, events and functions, where ambient lighting is also an important part of the scene, I use slow-sync flash to light the subject whilst still capturing the lighting from disco lights or other effects.

I’m now being tempted in to the world off off-camera flash, thanks in part to my recent discovery of the AmazonBasics Flash, an insanely cheap flashgun available from Amazon for just £26.

This unit is, as you’d expect from both the name and price, basic. It has no TTL metering or any other wizardly. It’s just a flash, powered by 4x AA sized batteries that can be manually set to one of 8 intensity settings. It also has a wide angle diffuser and a bounce card. It also comes with a hot-shoe stand and a waterproof bag. Build quality I would describe as adequate.

The flashgun has three settings – Manual, S1 and S2 – the latter of which provide a slave mode that allows the unit to be remotely triggered. It is compatible with a range of cameras, including Nikon, Canon, Ricoh, Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, Pentax and Samsung.

I found the unit worked right out of the box with my Nikon D600, using it together with my SB-600.

In the image above I held the Nikon speedlight in my left hand whilst the AmazonBasics flash was mounted on a tripod behind me and to my right. I remotely triggered the shutter using an infrared remote.

Off camera flash is a relatively new practice for me and I hope to be experimenting with it a lot more now that I have two strobes to play with.

To find out more about the AmazonBasics Flash, go to https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01I09WHLW

Spring Townscapes

Spring is a great time of year for taking photos of town and country. I was recently asked to to take a large number of photos of Hertford and Ware in the sunshine, for a brochure promoting social housing in the towns. This was a short notice job, with the client requesting the photos be taken in the sunshine that was forecast in the coming days.  Here are some of the images that I produced:

The River Lee at Ware
Gazebos on the River Lee at Ware
Ermine Court, Baldock Street, Ware
The White Hart, Salsibury Square, Hertford

Continue reading Spring Townscapes

Band Profile Photography

As well as live music photography, I also work with musicians to provide promotional material.

I was recently asked to provide a shot for a new local band named The Greyhound Factory. During a break in rehearsals at River City Studios in Hertford, we shot a simple group photo using a single flash with a black background.  The shot was then edited to reduce the saturation and add some filtering added. The end result is shown below.

Studio shot of local music act The Greyhound Factory
The Greyhound Factory

Other acts I’ve produced promotional material for include Indigo Star, The Trees and  Frankie The Gambler.

Frankie The Gambler