Photo Essay: Ski 101

At the beginning of April I went to Austria for a weeks snowboarding, unfortunately a problem with my knees meant I spent more time photographing than boarding.

It was my first time at a ski resort and I was amazed by the levels man has gone to enabling us to go down the snow on sticks and boards. The infrastructure was quite something. Taking a cable car to a remote mountain plateaux only to find a plush restaurant at the top. I decided to explore this a bit and spent the week exploring, on foot, the slopes above and around Mayrhofen. 

As I had planned on doing snowboarding for most of the trip I had only brought my new Ricoh GRII which I had picked up at the photography show in Birmingham. The camera is small and compact with a fixed 28mm equivalent lens. I might do a review further down the line once I have used it a bit more, but this first experience was very positive. The camera has great image quality, but is very pocketable and unassuming, drawing less attention than a DSLR. 

Ski 101

Thanks for reading.

Shooting the Devil - UKIP party conference

Sometimes in my line of work you end up covering something that may cause you to have to push personal feelings and beliefs to the background. I enjoy covering political events and when I was asked to cover the UKIP spring conference in Bolton I was Ok with the situation. I am not overly political (although, like many, I have become much more switched on recently), but I do struggle with my moral compass when covering UKIP and other such organisations. I really have to switch off and focus on what is happening, visually.  

In the grand scheme of fairness these events should be documented even if the message they spread is not one you agree with.  The conference had various speakers but I had the feeling that most people were there for Nigel Farage and the new UKIP leader, Paul Nuttell. 

These are interesting times indeed!

Chinese New Year 2017 - Year of the Rooster!

We were down in London for Sian's birthday which coincided with the Chinese New Year celebrations. It can be difficult to move around Chinatown when things really get going, despite this we thought we would have a look to see what was going on.  

luckily we stumbled right into a lion dance ceremony, which is always fun and full of energy. Seeing as this was not a photo trip I only made a few images. All shot on the Fuji xpro2 and 18-55mm lens. 



Hull tent city eviction

Back in November I shot a story for the big Issue in Hull. The story was focussed on the eviction of the Tent City that had sprung up in the city's Queens Gardens. 

The tent city movement is a form of protest highlighting the the issue of homelessness and there have been a few around the country. It involves the putting up of tents that can then be used as shelter. The council had issued an eviction notice and the protest had until 4pm on the 15th November to vacate the area. Journalist, Ryan fletcher, and myself had been commissioned by the  Big Issue North to cover the eviction and to find out a bit more about the protest. 

Things took a strange turn in the afternoon around 2:30pm when Jeremy Kyle turned up and it all became a bit of a circus. The police never turned up to evict either, probably because of the tv crews. 

All the images are shot on the Fuji XT1 and XE2 with the 18-55mm, 35mm f2 and 55-200mm lenses. 

And this is how the feature looked in the magazine itself.

Thanks for reading. 

British Homing World 2017

Over the weekend I was asked to go and photograph the British Homing World event in Blackpool. If, like me, you are unsure what it is let me explain. Every year there are a series of events across the country celebrating the world of pigeon fancying. Hundreds of birds are entered into the show in different categories. The calendar culminates in the largest show held in Blackpool. The winners from all the regional shows come together to compete for supreme champion. All in all it makes for an interesting event and I was intrigued to go along and see what it was all about. 

I was shooting for a national newspaper, who had arranged for me to gain early access before the public were let in at 9am. This meant an early, 5am start to do the 2 hour journey from Sheffield. The lighting in the venue was less than perfect, which gave me a good opportunity to test out the low light capabilities of the Fuji Xpro2, which I have just got my hands on. It was a fun day out and recommend checking it out next year. 

All the following images were shot using the Fuji Xpro2, Fuji XT1, 18-55mm, 50-200mm and 35mm F2. 

Instants: Park Hill Sheffield

Originally built between 1957 and 1961, Park Hill housing complex sits proudly above the city of Sheffield. The complex was designed by architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith.  The area is currently being redeveloped. 



A photo posted by Darren O'Brien (@darrenjobrien) on







Instants: Tunisia

When I a go travelling I like to produce a series of images for Instagram.  Its a fun way of letting off steam, Photographically, and allows me to play with concepts and composition. 

Here is a series that I shot in Tunisia a couple of years back. 





A photo posted by Darren O'Brien (@darrenjobrien) on


A photo posted by Darren O'Brien (@darrenjobrien) on



A photo posted by Darren O'Brien (@darrenjobrien) on


Morocco Day 4: Exploring the Atlas Mountains

On new years eve we booked a guide to take us up into the Atlas mountains.  The walk took us through amazing scenery and beautiful berber villages. It was certainly colder than I was expecting and we quickly started coming across piles of frozen snow.  

The villages on the route are beautifully isolated, with no roads.  The only modes of transport are feet or mules and it was a really tranquil experience wandering through the streets. 

After the walk we had a really good meal and joined in the new year celebrations at one of the local hotels. 

If you visit Morocco I would definitely recommend a trip to Imlil and take in the fresh mountain air.

 Berber village in the Atlas Mountains.

 Mules resting, Atlas Mountains.

 Local Guide preparing food for a group of walkers.

 Football Pitch, Atlas Mountains.

Whilst on the hike, I decided to try a couple of stitched landscape images. The below was taken as 6 images and stitched together in photoshop essentially making the resulting image equivalent to 80 megapixles. You can see a higher res file here.

Travel Notice: Morocco 28th Dec - 9 Jan

I will be in Morocco between the 28th Dec and 9th Jan working on personal projects and other assignments. I will be available to complete assignments during this time, get in touch via the contact page to discuss your project. 

The regions I will be visiting are Marrakech, The Atlas Mountains, Taroudant and Guelmim Camel market. Possible trips to Fes, Meknes and Casablanca may also be included. 

Cornish Adventure

After four years of working and operating in Newcastle I have left for new pastures. It was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to a city that I had grown to love and call home.  Life is full of adventure and this is a new one that brings its own trials and excitement. 

It is important in life to approach everything with a sense of adventure and make the most of the opportunities.  I like to think that I can end each chapter of my life with no regrets. That is certainly easier said than done, but I believe that if you throw yourself into every opportunity then it is achievable.   upping sticks and moving to Cornwall may not be for everyone, but even the smallest challenge can open up doors or give you a life changing experience.  

This can be applied to photography.  Challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone and throw yourself into it.  For me, as a past time, I like to indulge myself with street photography.  I find it soothing and exciting and each time I shoot there is always variety.  Cornwall however is not overly abundant with cities and is much more rural. The coastal landscapes are breathtaking in this part of the country, so this may become my new pastime, cliched I know, but it is something that I find quite challenging.

This meant that tonight I was down on the beach with my tripod, no doubt making a fool out of myself. As the sun set on another beautiful day, I fumbled around trying to remember all I had learnt about landscape photography.  Possibly the last time i read anything about the topic was when I bought my first Dslr about 9 years ago. I looked at the screen on my Fuji X-T1 trying to work out why my images weren't coming as I visioned. I then looked up just as a freak wave came crashing in to the beach. I grabbed my tripod, but didn't have chance to move my feet. The water receded back over my sodden ankles and shoes. I could have shouted something obscene at that moment, but clocking the stunning scenery, awash with the beautiful red glow from the sunset. I took a deep breath, readied myself, and squelched off to find another scene to fill my lens.

Look for challenges, accept that there will always be trials, and above all, keep creating.  

 Fuji X-T1, 18mm f2

Abi workshop

Today we were lucky to have Abi in our studio for a workshop. She is a brilliant model and is always a pleasure to shoot. She has been seeing a bit of success of late with her modelling career, with some high profile work coming up. It was privilege to shoot with her and wish all the best with her career.We started the workshop with a classical portrait lighting set up, using a softbox above and an umbrella below, producing what is known as the clam shell set up. Its not the most exciting set up, but it does produce pleasing results in most circumstance. It produces very even coverage, with the upper softbox used as the keylight with the umbrella being used to fill any wrinkles or bags under the eyes (Abi has very few of these anyway). In this situation it is best to have the fill light a stop lower than the key light so as not to produce a completely flat image. As you can see below, there is still some texture in the lighting that still makes it interesting.

Now personally I prefer a higher contrast look and for this I like to use the Octa, as it produces very soft light and has a nice light fall off.

Thanks for reading, any questions and feedback are welcome.


For a recent one to one workshop we took Danielle into the centre of Newcastle. The theme of the workshop was to be Winter Fashion, so bring out the big coats. As it was the weather was more windy than winter, but we made the most of our urban location.During such workshops we usually start with some images using natural lighting as it is very important to learn how to use ambient lighting to create some nice images. Our model today was Danielle and she is really good to work with as she will pose all day and will help by providing ideas during the shoot. This makes the shoot move along easily.

We then try some simple ideas using one speedlight, first via TTL then using radio triggers. Once you have a set up it is important to explore all positions around the subject, shooting from different angles as this will result in some different looks.

Moving on we try some different locations and introduce more complex lighting setups by using a hair light, to give a bit of texture to the image. In the final location, inside an empty shopping arcade, it was really effective dragging the shutter and introducing some of the ambient light from the spots in the roof.

Finally I tried a technique of introducing a bit of flair into the shot to try and give it a frosty look. It sort of works, but let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading.


We recently had Lilith in the studio and had a very enjoyable shoot. Lilith is a beautiful model that has a variety of looks due to her short brightly coloured and collection of wigs. We wanted something a bit different and grungy and Lilith fitted the bill perfectly.We started with one light and a grid to get some really hard directional light. With a model such as Lilith this worked a treat due the structure of her face which has nice strong features. This lighting set up does not work with all models so you have to judge that, you might end up with a very unhappy model and they can be vicious (only joking). With this sort of lighting you have to really work the lightmeter to work out your hotspots because the light is so directional. I was measuring f8 on the models face, but f11 on her breast area. Taking just one meter reading would have led to a hotspot on her chest, which is not where we really wanted it.

We then added a rim light to add some more depth to the shot. For this I usually have the rim light about a stop lower than the key light, but changing the power creates different effects so it is worth trying different light ratios.

Shooting in the studio is good, but sometimes its fun to add a bit of scenery, luckily the studio is surrounded by interesting corridors and stairs. Lilith put on one of her wigs and we went for a more straight up fashion shot, which is something the model wanted for her portfolio. luckily she had brought with her this fantastic blue dress that went with the location really well.

I have to admit I don't do an awful lot of Glamour stuff so this last part of the shoot was reasonably new to me but here is one shot the set.

Thanks for reading. Comments and questions always welcome.