Archive for January, 2011


Jill and Daphne

Jill and Daphne

One problem I had with setting up my mobile studio on a Sunday morning, is that there aren’t many couples out and about that early.  Most of the people were on their way to the newsagent, the ATM or the local supermarket, not really things that couples do together.  I was fortunate to meet Jill and Daphne, who were from out of town, but were looking for a cafe.  I told them where there were a couple of cafes on the High Street, but i also persuaded them to sit for me.  I got them posed, and asked for them to think of that lovely, hot cappuccino they were about to order.


A photo studio in a carpark

Peter, a good sport.

As part of my homework, for the portrait photography course I am doing, I was required to produce four portraits: a half length and a head and shoulders of a single person sitting down, and a half length and a head and shoulders of two people sitting down.  This posed a problem for me, as my family is spread out around the world, and my work won’t let me take photos on site, and the rest of the people I know in the area will be my customers in the future.

So I decided to set up a mobile photoshoot in a car park next to the town hall off the High Street, where I live, and then I would persuade people to come and sit for me.  Setting up was easy, and being a Sunday, the car park wasn’t busy; and surely I would need to buy a ticket for the car park?  The first person who came along agreed to pose for me; this was going to be easy, I thought.  Then three knock backs, the first was late for work, the next in a hurry to catch a train, and the third, needed to get to a toilet.

Then, another success, so I was getting 2 customers out of five.  Hey, marketing is easy!  OK they weren’t paying money, but they were willing.  I even had one couple who asked me how much the portraits cost!  Then, into the car park drove the car park attendant, Peter.  He approached me and pointing to my car, asked if it was mine.  I gave him my spiel, and he agreed to sit for me, as long as I got a ticket for my car.  So, Peter, for being a great sport, this post is dedicated to you.  Thanks also to Spencer, Jason, Jill and Daphne, who also sat for me.



So this week finds me in Antwerp, Belgium; and I am quite enjoying it.  The mussels are in season, so it is a good time to visit a mussel restaurant.  Last night I had spicey mussels and fries, and very tasty it was as well, washed down by a couple of glasses of dark beer.  After the meal, my colleagues and I headed back to the hotel and had a couple of night caps, more dark ale.

I have to say that I can’t drink copious ammounts of beer these days without frequent visits to the toilet.  And the hotel’s toilets held a surprise for me.  Normally, you would expect a hotel’s toillets to be a little fancy; however, the Radisson Blue in Astridplatz has gone for a different ambiance.  Pictures of girls who seem to be admiring you as you pee.

Although I am not certain if girl, second on the left is laughing or gasping.  Of course this idea is not original, it was tried by the Sofitel in Queenstown,  New Zealnd a few years ago.

Well I suppose its better than piped music!


Barret & Coe training session 1

So, Sunday was the first of seven days of training on my portrait photography course with Barret & Coe, and it went quite well.  This day was held in the delightful town of Ware, north of London, which meant leaving my home at 8 o’clock in the morning, quite early for me on a Sunday, fortunately, being Sunday the traffic was light.  Ware is a really picturesque little town, which I found out because I got lost finding the hotel where the training was being held.

They run two courses at the same time, one is a portrait course and the other a wedding course, so there were about twenty delegates at the hotel.  I talked to quite a few, and there was a broad spectrum of photgraphic knowledge and business acumen amongst us students.  The first session was about the history of Barrett and Coe, the trainers, and the success of the training, then after coffee we got into the nitty gritty of portrait photography.  This part of the training seems to be about locking down a fool proof way of capturing good portraits.  So we covered lighting and posing.  We covered it in about 45 minutes, well the theory any way.  I am not going into what they taught us, because if you want to know, you pay for the course, the same as I did 🙂 

In the afternoon, after a nice lunch of chilli con carne, we got into some practical stuff, with explanations of why you had to have the kit they state in their bumf.  At the start I was a bit sceptical about their equipment needs, for example a tripod.  Yes I have a tripod or two, but do I need it for portrait photography?  Hell no, if I hold the camera in my hands, I can quickly changed the shooting angle or distance, make small adjustments easily, be free in my movements.  However, my method does have a couple of downfalls; firstly, you are putting the camera between you and the sitter, and most sitters aren’t comfortable at being photographed.  By having the camera on a tripod, you can hide it behind your body just revealing it at the time you expose the shot, which puts the sitter at ease, and allows you to build a rapport with the sitter. The second issue, is around the training model, which is to master the basics, first before becoming creative with your shots, so for instance if you are doing a head shot the camera need to be a few inches higher than the top of a sitter’s head, so, if that is the height you need, why, then move around?  Once you have your lights set up and your sitter placed.  There is only one place to take the photo from, depending on the kind of portrait there is only one height for the camera to be at, so fix it on a tripod! 

At the end of the first day they have sent us away with some homework to do; which means I have to bully some people to be subjects for my photography,  which could be interesting.  I have a couple of ideas at the moment, and I will let you know how these pan out.

One thing that surprised me, given the price of the course, was that there was more than one person on the course, who didn’t know how to make basic adjustments on their camera, such as how to set the camera to manual and adjust the exposure; yeah, I know that I used to be like that before; but surely, if you are joining a course that aims to turn you into a professional photographer (someone who makes money from photography), surely that person would want to know the basic controls of their tools?

The main thing for me, at the moment, is it is rebuilding my motivation to go out and photograph people, and I am enjoying the course.

After the first seminar, I had to leave sharply to get myself to Heathrow Airport to catch a flight to Belgium, where I am working this week, and, yes, the Belgium beer is rather nice.


Well, that was a busy week!

So at the start of the week I was in Oslo.  There was lots of snow on the ground, but it seemed to be clean snow; whereas the snow in England seems to turn grey within half an hour of settling.  Oslo was expensive – a burger and a pint of beer US$40, it makes Hong Kong seem cheap!

Wednesday and Thursday, I was in Windsor for a conference – actually it was quite good fun.  My presentation on the Thursday morning was interrupted by the Changing of the Guard, as the ladies preferred to oggle the soldiers than listen to me, and who can blame them?  Except there was more police around, than there were soldiers in the guard.  I need to ponder on this some more.

Friday, I went to Hammersmith for the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers Convention, and, even more surprisingly, I didn’t buy anything!  I only paid for the trade show ticket, so didn’t go to any of the seminars, but there were several, good presentations in the trade show, including a some good ones from Adobe System and The Flash Centre.  I also had a brief chat with Elaine Sheppard from Barrett and Coe, who I will meet next Sunday, when i start my course with them.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day culling loads of photos, to put together a collection of my best portrait shots.  I have put these together on Smugmug, which offers a 14 day free trial.


Getting ready for next week

There’s not so much to write about today.  I am too busy getting ready for next week, which will be hectic, but unfortunately not photography wise.  Sunday night, I fly to Oslo and fly back on Tuesday evening; Wednesday and Thursday, I will be in Windsor at a conference.  Hopefully Friday will be quieter.


Jet Li does not need a Trampoline!

I love photography books, and one i recently purchased was “Lighting and the dramatic portrait”, by Michael Grecco.

One of the stories he tells is of photographing Jet Li.  Preparing for the shoot, he brought along lots of gear, just in case; this included a fog machine for atmosphere, a wind machine to have the shirt in the right place, and a trampoline to make the jumps bigger.  He was explaining his ideas to Jet Li through a translator, and the translator was giving him funny looks.  The translator told Jet Li what Michael Grecco said, and the response came back, “Jet Li does not need a trampoline”.  Grecco argues, that Jet Li has to jump very high, has to do it many times, and has to look fresh and handsome every time.  More translation, and back and throw conversation, then the translator turns to Grecco and says, “Jet Li does not need a trampoline”.  After a third time they start shooting.  According to Michael Grecco, “JET LI DOES NOT NEED A TRAMPOLINE!”

Jet Li by Michael Grecco for People Magazine