Monday, 21 November 2011

The Fastest Sign Maker in the North East...

I've lost count of the number of times I've been told that photography must be a great life... I'd be a very rich man if I'd kept collecting every time I heard that... but the one thing I do cherish is the opportunity it gives to meet some amazing people... talented people... very funny people... and people who you'd never think had an alter ego.

Forget Clarke Kent... I'm not talking about somebody who wears his pants over his clothes... but it's just reminded me I forgot to mention the "weird" people that I've also met through photography. That's an entirely different subject! No what I meant are those people you talk to, who you drink a coffee with... then they drop the bombshell and tell you their secret.

For a number of years I've chatted to Paul Moss, as he worked for a sign makers not far from the studio who we've occasionally used for projects... indeed we've even bumped into each other at north east karting circuits... whilst taking part in charity events, and laughed that we know each other. What I didn't realise was his alter ego... "The Fastest Sign Maker in Darlington!"

You see it was only when Paul decided to start his own company that he bought a van, as most businesses do, and using his obvious ability decided to create his own livery... and that's when I realised that Paul has been Northern Saloon Car Champion 3 of the last 4 years. He's just missed out on the title this year by 2 points, and wants it back next year!

Former NCSS Champion Paul combines his business with his alter ego as a professional race driver and display/stunt driver... and if you want to see what I mean check out this award winning Ad for Audi R8 convertible, where he and his colleagues from Paul Swift Stunts are millimetre perfect on slick concrete flooring, just inches from a very expensive new car...

My interest in cars is well know to all who know me, so my apologies to Paul for wasting so much of his time talking about something we both love... and which only one of us is good enough to get paid to enjoy... he's a luck so and so! To in some way recompense him for the time wasted, not to say have some fun I offered to take some images for the new website he is having built, which brought us to a windy cold Croft circuit...

After these shots were taken he suffered a serious engine failure... I still don't know the full costs, but I guess "if he wont say, then I don't want to know" is the way you approach it... which pretty much ended hopes of championship success this year... and no I didn't touch anything!

Thursday, 27 October 2011


It's that time of year already, where our young girls thought's turn to... sweets, chocolate... oh and more sweets! It must be all of minutes since the subject was last mentioned by one or the other!

They have been planning their "trick or treating" for some time now... trying on the dresses they will wear and choosing which bucket (oh yes, you read that correctly) they will use to hold their stash of goodies!

Mum's choice of suitable gifts for their young friends, who may dare to call at our door, has also been under investigation... they tried to get a sample for testing purposes but Mum was wise to that "trick!"

Thankfully they have no intention of being anything other than charming and cute when they visit our neighbours... "tricks" just aren't in their mind... but make sure you have sweets to hand as the sound of a very small "Mad Midget" who doesn't get the same as her older sister ( it's just soooo not fair! ) could definitely be classed as a very nasty Halloween surprise !

Now to explain to the neighbours exactly what I was doing lying out on the front lawn...

Happy Halloween Erin and Freya

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Journey to "the Land of Flatness..."

What can I say I didn't invent the title, but when I heard our client ask whether we'd made it to "the land of flatness yet?" lets just say I've not been able to get it out of my head since...

Now this will not be my usual blog post, for one thing I can't really show any pictures from the project... as my client has plans... secret plans... so if I told you they'd kill me!

However for all those who contacted me, saying that I must be on holiday... as my phone was suddenly giving a very European ring tone... no, sorry all those bad jokes and cruel comments were wide of the mark... I WAS WORKING !

In actual fact we'd been working hard for over a week before we set off, checking equipment, checking equipment... and checking equipment again! A recent client suggested I was a little OCD about my gear... no wonder, we were travelling over 500 miles to another country so we'd best not forget anything! However for safety sake I also took probably more than I would need... which proved very useful!

Anyway we were travelling by car, as the client quickly realised the "excess baggage" would probably need them to have a long sit down! Customs at the port of Hull were clearly in a bit of a "moody", to say the least, but when the customs officer looked inside the car she quickly backed off... had "we packed all this yourself" indeed!  Any search of the car would have kept her at work late into the night!

Geography was always an interest when I was at school, indeed I can often seem to have the ability of a "homing pigeon"... where food is concerned! However having left the dockside in Hull we were still moving down the Humber Estuary nearly 2 hours later... Hull may be a port but it's not close to the North Sea!

Anyway after a great night at sea... it was great because the sea was calm... we docked in Holland and drove to Arnhem without problem... and very little traffic! A quick call to the client from outside in the car park was greeted with the memorable line... "so you've made it to the Land of Flatness then!"

Pictures... nothing much, just pallets of our gear... "yeah, we packed that all ourselves, what do you think!"... the client very kindly arranged a forklift to get all the gear up to the level we were working on... the ferry leaving Amsterdam... Oh and some beautiful woman who got herself in front of the lens, eh Claire !

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

To "InterNorga" inity and beyond....

Ok, Ok... bad title... apologies to Buzz, Woody, Jessie and all who have to sit through / watch Toy Story at least once everyday as I do at present, but you get the principal I'm sure...

I wish I could blame the girls love of all things Toy Story for my addiction to cartoons... they are certainly wearing a grove in this set of disks... but I was raised on Tom and Jerry... the "full fat", flat iron in the face, hammer on the toes version... not the "skimmed milk" version of now... but that's another blog post for another day!

Anyway back to the world of photography...!

It's always great to be asked to contribute to the ideas which form a client's Brief and even better to be acknowledged as having something to contribute! Not always the case at present, particularly with those have come to believe that photographers are only "data capture technicians" without any artistic skills or creativity of there own... that's right you in the back row, with the purple shirt and glasses who believe that composition, lighting, perspective and colour are all just "drop down" menu's in a photo application, I mean you!

We were recently sent a really great idea, just an outline on paper but full of possibilities, for one of our more creative clients... and asked for our input. Really should have remembered to think carefully before I replied... but what the heck...

They wanted to run a teaser campaign in the run up to the launch of a new product range, timed for the largest trade fair of their year... to highlight the artistic, creative nature of a new range of... plates !

Never mentioned a sports car, supermodel or pop band did I... so why are you surprised about the brief being crockery?

Anyway we knocked a few ideas back and forward, about art galleries, abstract art (yes really, Picasso if you want to know!) and exhibitions... oh and the product will be with you tomorrow and we need this shot by the end of the week! Never said this was going to be a month in the Maldives did I...

The result was a Brief that I was really interested to shoot, that I felt I'd helped contribute to positively, and an agency and client who were really pleased with the result.

How you support all those plates and bowls, not to mention tomatoes and asparagus without visible supports... or the need for complex montage or retouching... well that's what makes us more than just data capture technician doesn't it! Wish I had a "behind the scenes" shot of the rig but lets just say that my "photographers Meccano set" came in useful, as did a couple of roles of gaffer tape! And it's fun to chase tomatoes rolling across the studio floor... certainly more fun than standing in the one that got away!

The sequence of images ran across 4 separate Ad's prior to INTERNORGA, in Hamburg Germany, the European market... and were then picked up and used again by the South African side of the business, for an event they were displaying at later in the year. I bet none of those that saw the images knows ( or cares! ) where Darlington is, or that it's in the UK but that's just the power of what we do... work with great people to create great ideas and make clients happy!

So many thanks to Louise and Ruth, at Wildfire, for the Brief and putting up with my  rambling suggestions, scribbled drawings and our "wonderful test shots" which were laid out across the studio floor... and to John at CARLISLE for letting us all go with the idea... Thanks Guys!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Set Building... Or some things are just best done in a studio...

Some wiser photographer than me once said " is 95% preparation and 5% creativity..." We can all argue as to the correct percentage split, as it depends on what aspect of photography we are involved in, but the principal is correct. To be prepared leaves you free to concentrate on being creative with the subject you are shooting...

We get asked to tackle some complex projects at the studio and building room sets is pretty high on the list. In this case we did this job sometime ago but as part of preparations for a couple of new projects... shh don't ask, or this blog post will self destruct... we have produced a video which shows some of the basics behind the process. As you'll see preparation is the key.

We had a very specific idea of what we wanted the pictures to look like. It was agreed with the client building a set was the only way to ensure that vision would become a reality. Too often, the outcome of a photo shoot can be left to chance. Hoping the lights will fit in the room, or that the walls will be the colour you want, or that there won’t be an ugly picture on the wall.  

There are a million little things like this which have an effect on the outcome of the final image... something clients can often not appreciate when they suggest you shoot in the showroom or customers home! Do you cross your fingers and hope the location you are shooting happen to have colours and furniture that go with the concept you have in mind, or do you prepare all these details before hand? Guess which is less stressful...

With 12 large, heavy, expensive marble and stone fireplaces to shoot there was just no possibility of shooting these on location... either in the client's showroom which had limited space or in customer home's... which might have some very dodgy decor! The only solution was building, lighting and propping a sequence of room sets.... so out with the hammer, the screwdriver, the timber and the paint... not to mention the flooring...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Weddings, Parties, Stag Do's, Hiking Holidays and your Business Profile

I was invited to speak last night to a group of local businesses at Darlington Business Club, as part of a presentation on social media. I was following Claire Mitchell of 19Marketing, the group Chair, who spoke about social media, what it meant and how it could form part of each and every business marketing plan.

I was there to share some examples of why everybody should think carefully about the images they use... particularly as a "Profile Image".

I didn't need to say much just pull a few "horrors" from that well known professional networking link site... business owners and directors using party pictures holding large drinks complete with fruit and umbrellas... the works! Then there was the commercial director of a large insurance company using his hiking holiday picture... complete with shorts! The marketing and advertising executive pictured on holiday, slumped in an airport chair looking bored, bored, bored! ( I know that feeling! ). Perhaps the one Profile Image which brought the house down was the web development director pictured acting the monkey up a tree!

You only have to think of the number of images that hit you on a given day, and how efficient you are at making subconscious assessments based on image content and style to realise the full implications. We all do it everyday... so what does your image say about you?

Perhaps as photographers we could all blame the rise of the "IPhone-O-Matic mug shot machine" but really I think it comes down to the fact that often business people don't realise the audiencesuch images will reach through any of the social media platforms.

Indeed I've heard from others that some companies are actually using employee I.D.badge photos as avatars for their Twitter folks, on Facebook pages or LinkedIn Profiles... Talk about being "penny-wise and pound-foolish!"

Having said that a quick trip to the local "omnipresent"supermarket is guaranteed to raise a smile... just look at the Customer Service Board with pictures of the Manager, Head of Vegetables, Baker etc... seriously they expect us to buy our food from them... yikes!

My part of the evening finished with an audience question on Copyright and Photography... foolish, foolish... I had to warn the audience that I had "form" on this subject and they'd best be prepared not to see family and friends for days... the last time I got into that subject myself and an interested group were the last one's in the bar and I don't think the glazed expressions were "liquid induced!" It was really interesting to see that the creatives in the room knew the score, but some of the other businesses represented didn't realise what was right and wrong.

Anyway it was a great experience, many thanks to Claire for the invitation and just to "keep this photography" below are a few portraits created for my clients...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Photography... Not expensive, it's priceless... Pt1... of many!

Funny thing time, I always seem to remember things as having happened just recently when in fact they took place years ago... I know, I know it's an age thing! I've said before if I remember to bring the shopping home I've done well...

Anyway I opened the local Chamber of Commerce magazine this month, looked through the articles as I usually do and stopped... below was a shot I recognised.

I remember this shoot well, the rushed deadline (aren't they always), a late Friday afternoon appointment (always a great time for interaction and expression!) and being interested in the company's role in supporting the National Lottery ( I even put a ticket on that week, thought perhaps the gods would be kind... but no luck... typical!).

It was important to fit the layout... I had a quick look at them as I wrote this as I still have them on file... as this was part of a longer series. I struggled to suppress some nasty green fluorescents in the roof without switching off all the lights and provoking all manner of "anti-photographer" outbursts and managed to hit city rush hour traffic without trying... Friday night, trying to cross The Tyne... oh joy...

However the thing I'd forgotten was that this was 5 years ago... and the Ad is being run again!

So when earlier this week I had another client comment on the cost of photography I had to point out the value and the benefit it brings... well it does if it's mine!

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Midnight Munchies...

Do you ever wake in the night... there is something lurking out there, but you can't quite describe it... you can feel it inside you... you know it's there... then it strikes you... hunger!

Me, I sleep through most things... a 2 year old with a keen desire to communicate her love for her parents at the top of her lungs doesn't wake me... though an elbow in the ribs apparently works!

However if I were to wake I imagine that in my semi conscious state, with difficulty in forming coherent thoughts... no change there I hear some cry... then I might be very impressed to open the bedside drawer to find a selection of suitable chocolate confectionary.

Sadly this will never happen to me... living in a house with 3 females prevents any chance of chocolate making it to it's "sell by date"... but I know a hotel that will cater for those midnight munchies...

After 5 years, almost exactly to the day, we returned recently to the Wensleydale Heifer, near West Witton in Wensleydale, to create new imagery of the additional new rooms and latest menu dishes.

The new rooms all have individual themes, as did the original rooms created when the Heifer opened, now including "the Chocolate Room" where the bedside drawers, cupboards, framed prints, bathroom murals and decor all pay tribute to chocolate... sweet dreams!

We had so much fun, working once again with David, Lewis, Chris and the rest of the team there that I'll post again... more tk...

Monday, 14 February 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

It's that time again... hope you haven't forgotten that "special someone".... I know, I know they really should know how you feel about them... roses are for wimps, secret declarations of love are for "chickens"... so go on do something really different whilst you still have the chance...before you land in the dog house don't stop at the petrol station for flowers, I have a better solution... check out Claire's Blog and contact her at the studio for further details...

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Just call me Jonathon...

I must be honest, very rarely do commercial clients turn up at the studio “on spec”… indeed such a “well kept secret” are we that often clients require the services of our in-house “traffic controllers” just to find the car park!

So when sculptor Michael Kusz opened the door and walked in, carrying a large cardboard box, he was lucky not to get treated like the other parcel couriers… which we almost thought he was! That he’d driven down from his studio in The Dales on the off-chance that we’d be around… well he’s an artist!

I have to say that that the contents of the box were amazing… Michael creates dramatic, stylised but very animated sculptures of animals… real and imaginery… from metal… and somehow brings them to life. After that first visit we agreed that in the future we’d make arrangements to guarantee he didn’t waste a journey.

Which is what gets us to his later visit, another cardboard box… much larger this time…This was a beautiful sculpture, designed in The Dales, of what I called a sea monster. As we were just about to start another project this sculpture sat quietly in the studio for a few days, whilst I wondered how I’d light something which seemed to reflect the entire studio!

Needless to say I quickly christened it “Nessie”… you can take the boy out of Scotland, but not the ancestry out of the boy… which we thought was quite appropriate given the rising, curling swirls of it’s body… it appeared to be leaping out of the water…So when Michael returned to collect his beautiful work and review the images we’d created I had to mention the new name… but Michael had beaten us to it… apparently he’s called Johnothon... 3 "o's" for 3 humps!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Hi, Welcome to 2011...

Where did 2010 go... did anybody see where it went...? Well it's been and gone now so I wonder what 2011 has in store?

I really appreciate the support we get from clients, suppliers and friends...some are even now all 3, which is amazing... Thank You All.

New Year's Resolutions... made a few, broke most already, but there is only one that matters "I must post to this BLOG"... there are things from last year that I've yet to post... post processing and client releases can be more time consuming than is often appreciated... and new things happening... but I can't say what... just yet!

Anyway... here we go...