29 November 2011

Autumn Fitness Shoot in Hyde Park

A couple of weeks ago I got a call out of the blue from Hanan, a personal trainer working from central London.  We had a little chat about what she wanted (some shots in her home gym and maybe some shots in Hyde Park if the weather was good), and about how I worked.  The conversation ended with her saying she'd call me back to confirm.  Ten minutes later she called back, and the shoot was confirmed for that coming weekend.

I do like it when a shoot "just happens" so quickly.

We did half the shoot inside her gym, and the other half outside in the glorious late afternoon sun in Hyde Park.  The outside shots are both of our favourites.  The lighting, the autumn colours, were all just perfect.

I asked Hanan for a testimonial.  This is what she said.  "These are my thoughts on Michael as a photographer: reliable, friendly, chilled out, professional, serious about quality, genuinely cares about delivering the best service, and giving you the kind of photos you’re after.  Basically, I was really happy with the photos I ended up with.  Get in touch with him, you won’t regret it."

Hanan is currently working updating her website with her shiny new photos, when it's finished I'll update this post with a link. Until then, thank you Hanan for the great shoot, the cup of tea, the healthy biscuit and the salmon sandwich!

27 November 2011

Gaspari Calendar

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of photographing 11 of the best female fitness bodies in the UK for the 2012 Gaspari Nutrition calendar.  I've seen the whole calendar, and it looks great, but I'm only allowed to show this preview of the cover featuring Beth Workman and Lydia Rees.

Oh, and before anyone says, yes I'm well aware there are 12 months in the year, but one month features two of the models!

26 November 2011

Published in Ultimate MMA magazine

I've just found out that a couple of photos from a shoot with Jennifer Weintz, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt have been published in the American magazine Ultimate MMA.  It's my first publication in the magazine, and for that matter the first time I've heard of it.

The shoots took place in Vancouver, one on the beach, and if memory serves the second one was half way up a mountain.

Congrats on the publication Jen!

Please excuse the rubbish quality mobile phone taken photo of the magazine.

18 November 2011

Shooting a magician in the dark

After he saw my experimental night-time self portraits, magician, friend and sometimes client Paul Newton asked me to do something similar of him.  Turns out he'd had the idea in his mind for some time, but hadn't been able to get his idea across to any photographers.

So off we trotted one cold mid Novembers evening to one of the darkest places I know in Southampton that has a view, Mayflower Park.

The exposure time for all of the photos was 30 seconds, which for those of you who know Paul is rather a long time for him to stand still and not talk.  The lighting came from me, walking quickly around Paul with a torch, and because I kept moving with little or no light falling on me, I don't show up in the photos.

Now I'm sure a Photoshop expert could probably create a better end result, probably without the need to get so cold, but I'm a bit of a purist where these things are concerned and I like doing it "for real".  Anything else for me is cheating.

My approach is a bit hit and miss, all of the photos were lit differently, but after taking around 50 images we got a couple that we both really like.  A happy client and a happy photographer, what more could you ask for?  I think the final image of the three is my favourite.

16 November 2011

Now the Marwell Zoo animals that aren't meerkats...

I really enjoyed my visit to Marwell Zoo.  Some of the animal enclosures seemed (at least to my eyes) to be a bit on the small & depressing side.  From what I can see the zoo is making efforts to modernise, but I'm guessing there is only so much money available and hence is a slow progress.  The more modern enclosures are all fairly nice, better viewing for us humans, and better habitats for the animals.

15 November 2011

Photographing meerkats is simples?

I recently visited Marwell Zoo for the first time since, well since almost forever.  I have vague memories of going there once when I was little, probably 30 ish years ago.  A re-visit was long overdue.

So on one of the most gorgeous mid November days I can ever remember, along with my hairy biker friend Karl, we visited.  I never thought I'd complain about being too warm while outside for 5 hours in November, but I very nearly did.  Such a beautiful autumn day.

Marwell has some "big" animals, such as leopard, tiger, cheetah, rhino, giraffes, & zebra, but it was one of the smallest that stole the show for me.  The simple meerkat.

Why?  Asides from the fact they are super cute, and had some ever cuter young...?   They are in one of the few enclosures where the view is uninterrupted.  No glass, fencing, or nets to get in the way of taking a photo.  Add in the fact that they don't run away from people.  It's almost like they enjoy showing off for the cameras.  Did I mention yet how cute they are?

They probably are the most simples creature (critter?) at the zoo to photograph.  No?

I'll post a few pictures of the other animals another day, but for now I give you the meerkat.

12 November 2011

You never know...

When you're going to get a photo opportunity.   This evening while walking the dog I saw this little critter.  First time I've seen a hedgehog while out with the dog.  Not surprisingly I didn't have a proper camera with me so had to make do with the crappy one on my Blackberry, that combined with a torch and the flash from the phone gave me this.

It's my best (only) hedgehog photo ever!  

Update:  I neglected to mention the "difficulties" I had while shooting this little beastie.  Asides from kneeing on the wet wood floor, aiming a torch at it with one hand, while with an upside down mobile phone (so I could get the angle from the floor), I also had a dog, still on his lead, running around barking at week late fireworks.  Sit, Skip, sit, and shut the .... up for a few seconds!

08 November 2011

My future in fitness photography

I owe much to being involved with photographing fitness for so many years.  Through fitness I learned how to take a decent photo, got my first photo published, and met some great people.

However back in the summer shortly after I wrote my honest review about the FAME UK competition I started to question whether I’d done the right thing or not.  Although though there were lots of positives about FAME, almost immediately I was banned from future Miami Pro events.

This might not seem like a big deal, but I made close to £1000 on the day through selling event photos, which is actually quite a large percentage of my annual turnover.  If I’d have kept my mouth shut then the Miami Pro door would still have been open to me in 2012, and the potential for networking and earning still available.

A few months later came the Fitness Britain finals, and me being told despite agreements being in place for several months that I was the only person attending that wasn’t allowed to take photos (due to Discovery Channel being there filming whats-her-face)...

Tired of all the bullshit in the fitness industry I even thought for a while about walking away from it and concentrating my business elsewhere.

Meanwhile in the background I was chatting with Sarah Donohue about being the primary photographer and involved with an event she was doing in 2012.  Her ideas changed a bit, but ultimately Galaxy Universe was born.

After spending Sunday at the Galaxy Camp in Hooks Gym in London I can see how the “fun” is coming back into fitness.  Lets face it, unless you’re up there on stage, a normal fitness / bodybuilding show that goes on for about 20 hours isn’t exactly “entertaining” to the average punter.

I really enjoyed the challenge of photographing the camp, so much more interesting than stage photos at a fitness show, which basically amounts to taking the same set of photos X number of times where X equals the number of competitors.  The one time I tried to be a bit creative with my event photos this year I ended up getting “told off”.


But Galaxy, and all the emotions that come with it, the pain and the laughter, I like.  It gives me something real to photograph.  I’m looking forward to being involved with the build up and the competition in May.
Sarah, thank you for letting me be a part of your dream.

Along with Galaxy, shooting the Gaspari 2012 calendar, and getting my first few photos published in Muscle & Fitness UK, it's given me a renewed interest in the fitness industry.  Here's to making 2012 even better.

Now for a few of my favourite “pain faces” from Sunday.

Walking night photoshoot in London

Something I've wanted to try for a long time is a night shoot, using available light (ie street lighting).  So while I was in London recently with some spare time in the evening I took the opportunity to invite a couple of my favourite models to shoot and made it happen.

After a long day of shooting at Hooks Gym in Royale Park I made my way over to the meeting point, the Park Plaza Westminster Hotel.  Silly me for thinking that traffic on a Sunday evening in London would be fairly light.  90 minutes and 10 miles later I finally arrived.  I hate being late, but on this occasion it worked out just fine, as both models were running later than I was.

My two models for the evening were Ina "talks alot" Gutowska (who I'd recently worked with on the Gaspari calendar shoot) and Emma Burrows, who I'd been shooting with 13 other girls at Hooks Gym for most of the day.  Just so you know who is who, Ina has dark hair, and Emma is the blonde.

Technical bit...  I used the Canon 5D Mark II with a 50mm f1.4 lens for the shoot.  I had it wide open the whole time at f1.4, and went from ISO 400 to 3200 throughout the shoot depending on the levels of light we could find.  As mentioned I only used available light "stolen" from street lamps, shop windows etc.

Trying to auto focus black on black was not easy, next time I think I'll bring along and use a torch to aim at the subject while I'm focussing the shot.  I tried this technique on my experimental self portraits a few days ago and it worked rather well.

I've never done a walking photoshoot of any kind before, but it was rather interesting.  We walked almost 3 miles and stopped to shoot at anywhere we found that we liked the look off, from alley ways, to a Christmas tree in Covent Garden. 

Ina & Emma were great, and thankfully it wasn't that cold (for a Novembers evening).

Most amusing part of the shoot was while we were shooting by the door that "James Bond" walks through on the film "Die Another Day".  He disappears down to an abandoned fictional underground station.  I'm not sure who got the bigger shock when the door opened, the guys coming out, or the girls!

04 November 2011

Movember Portraits

I realised this morning that it's been six months to the day that my Dad passed away after a horrible battle against cancer.  He died on "star wars day", 4th May, which was strangely apt as the original Star Wars movie was the first and only film I can remember going to see with him.

At the same time as remembering the date, I noticed a couple of people tweeting early photos of their Movember progress so far.

It got me thinking, how could I help raise awareness of prostate cancer (which is ultimately how my Dad died), using my photography.  So I came up with the idea that on the 30th November of setting up a make-shift studio and photographing guys who've made the effort to grow.

Ideas for me are quite easy to come by, putting them into practice and actually making them happen is a whole different talent which annoyingly I seem to be lacking in.

So I'm asking for help.  First I need a location, ideally somewhere with easy access in the Southampton area.  Once I've got that, I just need help spreading the word and getting people to come and be photographed.

If you've got a location that you might be able to donate for a few hours on the afternoon / evening of the 30th November please get in touch.

While I won't be making an charge for the photos, I will be asking that people make a small donation to the Movember appeal.

Update:  Well stage one complete, and strangely easy.  My friend Antony over at lightboxstudios.co.uk has kindly donated his studio for as long as I need it for on the day.  Cheers dude.  Now all I need is to spread the word and get people there to photograph.

02 November 2011

Experimental night self portraits

Last week I was inspired by the work of another photographer.  He'd created these amazing images all by using light and long exposures.  So inspired was I, that I headed out into a cold November night, not to copy, but to try something similar.

How did I do it?

Quite easy really, 30 second exposure on the camera, and then I just stood relatively still and aimed a very bright torch (the Armytek Predator if it's important to anyone), at myself.  It was dark enough that I could move a bit and it not to really matter.

Where my legs are "see through", I just aimed the torch at my legs, and then moved out of the picture for the final few seconds of the exposure while aiming the torch, just behind where I'd been standing.

Painting with light is rather fun, and I shall be doing it again soon.  Next time though I hope to be using a pretty girl instead of a fat photographer as the "model"!

Lots more luck than any skill or judgement, but some fun photos resulted.  These are a few of my favourite photos from the evenings experimentation. 

Update:  I almost forgot to mention the "ghost walk" that was happening while we were shooting on the old walls of Southampton.  A little bit of research on Twitter later and I've found out that it was "The Sarah Siddons Fan Club Theatre Company Present Halloween Ghost Walks - Harry Houdini’s Horrible Halloween".  It's interesting making a bit of a dick out of yourself waving around a torch while 50 or so people look on while being entertained by "ghosts"!