Location Photography

Stuck in a Rut, Shoot Film!

I went through a point earlier in the year where my photography was becoming a bit of drag.  I was working, but I wasn't really feeling it and was finding myself less and less excited by the prospect of picking up my camera for personal stuff.  With a trip to Poland coming up I faced a dilemma.  Normally travelling with my camera is one of my passions and it concerned me that I had little interest, and even considered not taking a camera at all.  I admit that it was certainly a low point in my photographic life.I had a few ideas in my head, but was not sure about them.  So I sat down and thought about what was putting me off and influencing my decision.  I came to conclusion that one of my major issues was "chimping" (reviewing images on the back of the screen).  Now I will point out that I am in now ways an excessive chimper, but I realised that recently, every time I was shooting personal projects I would review the images, not like them and get a bit deflated.  I decided to remove that obstacle.

I started looking into using film. I had a couple of different projects in mind and managed to borrow a Medium format camera and a Leica M4.  I stocked up on some film and off I went.

The resulting trip was excellent and I have not had so much fun with my photography in a good few years.  It was all so stripped back to basics. Neither camera had a meter, so I was using a hand held meter which definitely slowed me down and made me think about exposure.  The cost of film prevented me from just rattling off shots, so I stopped to think about composition.  Even my street photography was more thought out as I didn't want to waste a single frame if I could help it.  I loved it.

To be honest I was not too concerned about the results.  I had such a good time and it served to reignite my passion. Luckily though I brought back some good stuff.  Some of which can be seen in my upcoming book "Anywhere But Home" 

The following set of image were shot on the Leica, I had never used a range finder before, but I had great fun.  It is important sometimes to just do something out of the ordinary, it helps to keep things fresh and stop you from stagnating.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH (Only the Best :-)))

 

 

 

Thanks for reading. Get in touch with questions or if you have had similar experiences that you would like to share.

Vintage dress shoot with BTS for Mao Couture

I recently shot for a designer based in Newcastle. Ahn runs a small boutique in Gosforth called MaoCouture. She specialises in bridal gowns and prom wear, but on the side she creates some items that are a bit different and her designs are of an extremely high grade.For the shoot we had negotiated with the management of The Head of Steam museum in Darlington to use that as our location.  It really suited the ideas behind the shoot and the staff were helpful and accommodating, which is all you can ask.  It was snowy and cold outside, but luckily the big venue was well heated.

We had a great team for this shoot with models Micshkah and Zara, working hard and excellent make up from the very talented Josephine.  I had help with lighting from Pete, who also brought his video camera along to film some BTS footage, so there is a special treat at the bottom for those interested in seeing what goes on a shoot.

It was a fun day and the results are excellent.  We were very short of time and there was a lot to get done, but it goes to show how invaluable it is to have a good team of people around you.  Makes things so much easier.

Now for some images.

Never one to shy away from testing people, I decided to shoot the last segment outside in the snow!  With me and Pete wrapped up warm it was up to the models to show us up as they got on with the job at hand without (too much) complaining.

Below is the behind the scenes video from the shoot.  Thanks to everyone who took part, it was an excellent day.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gyy6ttAz8fg?feature=player_detailpage&w=640&h=360]  

 

Chinese New year celebrations, Newcastle

My main purpose attending the Chinese New year celebrations (apart from having a good time and eating) was to document the day.  There was plenty going on.  There was the Dragon dance celebration, quite the spectacle, and various other exciting things like markets, fun fair and a performance stage.It was a good day out and everyone seemed to be having a great time despite the cold weather.

Thanks for reading. Until next time.

Chinese New Year - Lion Dance

KUNG HEY FAT CHOI!Today I photographed the Chinese New year celebrations in Newcastle.  I didn't have a strict brief as to what I was photographing, just documenting the day. On occasions like this I always try to set myself mini tasks and projects that allow me to focus my efforts.

This is one such mini project.  I knew I wanted to do something around the Lion, which is one of the focal points of the celebration.  The Lion visits establishments and is presented with a lettuce, which is then torn apart and scattered.  This is brings good luck and fortune to the establishment.

 

Thanks for reading. Tomorrow I will post more images from the New Year Celebrations.

PR Photography in Newcastle: Red Tractor Thank You Tour

In November British Red Tractor Pork Farmers ran a country wide tour to say thank you for the publics continuing support of the british farming industry. On this tour they were handing out free Bacon and Sausage sandwiches to the general public. As their mascot they had found a large red tractor.On the Newcastle and Sunderland leg of their journey I was asked to provide photographs for the event which did involve manoeuvring the aforementioned tractor into places near landmarks for both cities.  My main brief was to photograph the tractor with major landmarks in the background, whilst providing general promotion stills of the day.

All in all it was a fun, if slightly wet and cold, day.  Plus there was plenty of bacon and sausage sandwiches around!

Thanks for reading! For more information and to show your support head over to the Red Tractor site at Lovepork.co.uk

PR for Shepherd Construction

A few weeks ago I was asked to shoot a construction site visit by students of the engineering degree at Northumbria University.So early on a chilly October morning I arrived at the Narec site in Blyth owned by Shepherd Construction. My brief was to follow the students around as they went on the site tour and capture images that were to be used in internal literature.

 

Whilst I was there I was also asked to take a few images of their latest construction project.

On these types of jobs you never fail to learn something and I came away knowing a tiny bit more about construction and the testing of wind turbines.

Bye for now.

Maz on location.

I couple of months ago I was lucky enough to shoot with the beautiful Maz.  She had a couple of outfits that we were looking to shoot and being summer we thought that a location shoot would be great. Well as usual it rained, a lot.We proceeded with the make up with the hope that the rain would clear away, at least enough to shoot something.  We got a lucky break in the weather so rushed down to Heaton Park to shoot at the victorian pavilion.  Maz had brought with her a Vivian Westwood dress which really complimented the location.

We headed back to base as the weather turned again, so we changed the make up, outfit and location.  Another break in the rain saw us out in the back streets of Heaton.

One last change of costume and Make up and we were out again.  The other item that Maz had brought was this very colourful designer jacket.  Viki, our make up artist did a wonderful job creating a different look.

My favourite image of the day came from the first section of the shoot.  I really love fashion images that are set in cafes and luckily for us there is an Italian restaurant (Sambucas).  We asked permission to use their outside tables.  I wanted to create the feeling of the afternoon/evening sun so I put a full cut of CTO (colour temp orange) onto a single speedlite off to camera right.  I blended it with the ambient to give the appearance that the sun was setting over her shoulder.

 

Thanks for reading, as always please contact me with any questions.

Announcing the Photo Hub, Newcastle

A few months back, friend Chris Moody and I, decided to try and put together something that would serve the North East photographic community in various ways.

We were initially lured to the idea of a retail operation combined with a cafe and studio.  So we started running some ideas and more importantly, numbers, and came to the conclusion that this was not feasible or applicable in the current retail market and economic climate.  We threw hundreds of ideas around, but the main idea that stuck was that we wanted it to be a community based project, reacting and adapting to the needs of the local photographic community.

After many discussions and a lot of planning, the Photo Hub was born.  The idea of the Photo Hub was to be constantly moving and incorporating fresh ideas and trends at the drop of a hat.  The Hub was based on online social networking communities.  There are hundreds of photographers who communicate and chat on the various networking sites and the role of the Photo Hub is to bring them together physically.

The aim is to offer support, help, tuition and networking, in a friendly, professional and encouraging environment.  We aim to accommodate photographers who's experience level ranges from beginners all the way through to Professionals and bring them together to chat, have a drink and discuss the various aspects of photography.  Most of all we want the Photo Hub community to dictate and participate in the Hub's future direction.

It all kicked off last Sunday (4th Nov) with our very first event day.  Held at the Star and Shadow cinema in Newcastle, we held an afternoon of talks and activities.  We were also joined by various suppliers who exhibited their goods and demonstrated the latest in photographic gear.  Big thanks to the guys from Lencarta, Direct Digital Imaging (bringing their Phase One cameras with them)  and Intro 2020 for joining us.  Also thanks to Chris Ireland at completecaptureone.com for supplying our raffle prizes.

Thanks to our guest speakers for some very informative workshops and seminars and for a showcase of some truly inspiring images. Shout out to Phil PuntonJohn PictonMontana Lowery and Mark Pinder.It was an excellent afternoon and the feedback we got from the audience was great.

As part of the Photo Hub we will be holding monthly meets (first one TBC) and every six months we will be holding bigger event like the one at the Star and Shadow.

It's all very exciting for everyone involved. If you would like more information on the Photo Hub, then please visit our facebook page.

Lastly, and most importantly, a big thank you to everyone that came and made the afternoon really enjoyable and worth while event.

 

First Impressions - Panasonic GX1

Well the other day I bought myself a Panasonic GX1.  This is the first time I have owned a Micro four thirds camera.  First of all, why? you probably asking this, why bother?  Well I do a lot of street photography and travel photography.  Sometimes using a big professional camera can be a bit annoying as people look at you suspiciously or notice you before you take the picture.  As much as I try to blend in its hard, with a camera the size of a Nikon D3.  This was my main reason for buying the GX1 (also lugging around a massive camera can be very tiring).I have been interested in the Micro Four thirds system for some time, with the GF1 originally making me think.  I looked into it and I didn't really think the technology was at a point for me to consider it seriously (I must add, I have since seen some really good work taken on a GF1).

The recent advancement in the technology has made me reconsider and after reading up on all the specs and after a lot of thought I decided to take the plunge.  On paper the results should be similar, if not slightly better than the D90 I was using as a back up body.

The main stats for the GX1 is a 16mp sensor, ISO up to 12,800, Full HD video and obviously much more. I'm not all that interested in specs as I like to see real world results, but if you are interested here is the spec list.

Straight out of the box it felt tiny, but reassuringly made. It has a metal chassis, which makes it feel like it will take a bit of abuse.  The hand grip feels really nice and gives it a high end feel.  I bought it with the power zoom, which I am not too sure about yet, but it does make it quite a good size for the equivalent of a 28-84mm zoom.  The main downside is the f5.6 aperture, which will limits use in low light.

Out on the street the camera handled really well, with really fast focusing.  The feature that has really revolutionised my shooting with the D3 is the auto ISO function.  Basically I can set a maximum ISO and set a shutter speed, so when I am in Aperture priority, if i set the shutter speed at 1/60th the camera will adjust the ISO to maintain that shutter speed until it reaches the pre determined max ISO. Sounds complicated but it is simple and a really good feature.  The GX1 has a similar feature , you can set a maximum ISO, say ISO1000, and the camera will change it up and down to reach an exposure, however there is no way setting a minimum shutter speed, not that I have found anyway.  I am therefore not entirely sure what the auto ISO is doing.  In my first outing I found myself shooting one minute at 1/13th at ISO 160 and then shooting at 1/500th at ISO 1000.  Need more reading up on that one.

Looking at the early results, though, i am quite impressed. Even at ISO 1600, noise isn't an issue, especially once it is processed in Lightroom 4.  The power zoom has some odd characteristics and really benefit from a run through DxO optics, before processing.

As a tool for street and photojournalism work the GX1 seems perfectly capable, yes you wouldn't shoot high end advertising campaigns on it, but then thats not the point.  Its small, lightweight, fast focusing and produces good quality files up to ISO 1600.  I will be using it a lot more over the next few weeks so I will report back on any findings.

Here are a few sample images.

If you would like to get in touch or ask questions about the GX1 or anything else please email blog@darrenobrien.co.uk or leave a comment.

Project - No Ball Games

Wandering around a few months ago I was struck by the utter chaos and dirtiness of backstreets in my local area. I found it quite funny how the council and residents/shop owners, spend so much time and money making the fronts of their buildings look so inviting and yet the backstreets and side alleys are left to fend for themselves. This struck me as odd, because in many cases, at least where I live, these streets are quite well used by people, or in some cases the streets are open to the impeccable fronts of other streets.Despite the lack of care and attention paid to such streets and alleys, there two things you are not allowed to in almost all of them, they are "No Parking" and Definitely "No Ball Games!"

This has formed the basis of my project to document the backstreets and alley ways of Newcastle.

 

 

This is on going, long term project.  I will be posting a couple of images at a time to keep you up to date with my project.

 

Heddon On-The-Wall Jubilee fun day

If you hadn't noticed there was some big celebration thing going on over the past few days, I know it was easy to miss. I had kept out of the way of most of the celebrations going on for the Queens Jubilee, not because I'm unpatriotic or dislike the queen (I think she has a magnificent collection of hats!). I was just very busy, utilising the long weekend to catch up on paper work and visiting the Newcastle Green Festival (in which they could have incorporated more for the Jubilee, i'm sure the Queen does her bit for the environment).Any way, being English I felt a bit bad for not taking in one part of the Jubilee (apart from the 20 seconds of concert on the telly), plus I was asked to make some submissions to Country Life Magazine for a big spread they are producing for the Jubilee.

After a quick scan of the "Whats on" guides, I decided to visit Heddon On-The-Wall where they were having a Jubilee Fun day.  It was a small affair and was pretty much a normal village fete with extra bunting and flags, but everyone was having fun.

We were lucky for about an hour as the rain held off.

This also gave me an opportunity to test out the Pocket Wizard Flex system in a work situation and I have to say I was really pleased with the performance, I was able to palm my flash onto a stranger to hold quickly whilst I took the pictures and controlled the flash output from my camera.

Thanks for reading, any questions please contact me at blog@darrenobrien.co.uk or leave a comment.  More of my work can be seen on my WEBSITE

Sophie studio and location

I was able to fit in a shoot with the beautiful Sophie at my studio.  I had been wanting to shoot with Sophie for a while after seeing some of her portfolio on Facebook.  In this shoot we managed to do some work outside on location.  I enjoy shooting on location because there are so many variables and it can often be a challenge, but then the environment is much more interesting and it can be fun thinking of ways to get the subject to interact with it.Anyway here are a couple of the studio images.

 

It was a nice day outside and we found this really cool building which was covered in graffiti.  It made for a really colourful backdrop.

We moved back inside for the final shots using the corridors of the studio building.

Shooting outside and in the corridors allowed me to use my new pocket wizard flex system.  I haven't had much time to use them at the moment, but from these first couple of experiences, I can see that they will be a big help for location work.  They allow full ttl control of the speed lights, and with the AC3 controller allow me to change the power ratios from the camera.  Interesting stuff, I will hopefully be back with more examples of how this system works.

Thanks for reading, have a browse of my portfolio.  Any questions please contact me at blog@darrenobrien.co.uk

New Model, Leika

I was introduced to Leika through a make up artist that I have worked with once or twice. New models offer a challenge that is different to that of an established, more experienced, model. In some ways it is more exciting as you have to work harder than normal to produce the great shots.  Working with a new model means that you, the photographer, has to be that little more creative.  It can be easy to rely on a model to produce the goods without much prompting (even though I nearly always fine tune the final poses to fit my ideas).Leika was a pleasure to work with and soon got into the stride of things, and even took a good dollop of cold weather for the team. She should have a bright modelling future.

To get in the mood we started with some very simple portraits.  I often start the shoot this way, first of all it allows me to talk to the model and familiarise myself with their working style. Most of all it is a good way of breaking the ice, using a lighting set that i know will produce good results straight away.  The last thing I want to do is start the shoot producing images that look terrible (not that I ever do that!)

 

 

 

 

Leika was building a portfolio for a local modelling agency and needed a variety of shots, so we changed up the lighting and went for a few longer shots.  These were taken using speed lights (SB900) and I used the Pocket Wizard flex system to trigger them via ttl. I will write a bit more about this system in a future post, but so far I have been quite impressed.

The first speedlight was fired into a silver reflective umbrella to camera right and a second SB900 was fired into a silver reflector on the floor to provide a nice glowing fill.

We then changed it up and did some shots that showed of Leika's figure a bit more.

We had a bit of spare time at the end of the shoot so decided to brave the weather and head into the cold to see what we could find.  I had spotted this location outside the studio earlier in the day and though that it might make a good image and something else for Leika to add to her portfolio.

Again I used the pocket wizards and an SB900 to light the model whilst underexposing the background.

Thanks for reading, any questions please contact me at info@darrenobrien.co.uk

For more of my work visit my website.

 

 

 

Use available Light!

Over the years I have spoken to many people about the art of portrait taking and specifically the use of flash.  A few people have shown me images with the accompanying statement of "if I had better lights" or "if I had this bit of equipment", "then the shot would have been better".  Well in a lot of cases this is not true.Some people miss the point of portrait taking, they are too interested in lighting, where to put the key light, how many lights should I use etc. Any connection with the subject is lost in amongst the technical babble.  A photograph of an uncomfortable, bored subject is just that, no matter how many lights people throw at them.

This is where the problem lies,  Many people have never taken a thoughtful portrait using just available light, before jumping in with the flash guns.  Whilst doing my travel and documentary work I have honed my skills at taking portraits with just the light available at the time, as it is sometimes too intrusive to bang away with the flash.  This has helped me to understand the value of a portrait, and how different lighting works and how to adapt to different lighting conditions.  I know how my light should look and this is then transferrable into the studio or with using flash.  I can now say to myself, "if the sun was in this position my portrait would look better, but I want to keep the background as it is, so I will introduce my flash here."

As most of you will know I have my own studio (for now), but this has not stopped me from utilising the lovely natural light that is available in the studio and in the corridors.

In a recent shoot with Jade I ventured out into the corridors of the studio building.  I found a nice bank of frosted glass windows that were filling the place with a lovely light.  I used this as key light for most of the shots, but I also took a couple that were filled in using the white wall.  I was shooting with a 70-200mm so i was shooting wide open at f2.8 and occasionally f 5.6,  at iso 400.  For natural light portraits I love shooting wide open as much as possible.

 

 

 

These were taken on my latest shoot with Sithembile, I have already shown the shots taken with the studio lights in my previous post , but these were taken with just the light from the sky lights.  again all taken at f2.8 on my 85mm, at iso 800.  It was an overcast day the windows are frosted so it was really soft light.

 

 

If you are inexperienced with taking portraits, try mastering them using available light and perhaps a reflector. Using flash adds a complication to the equation which just adds to the negative of the experience. Just strip it back to you, your subject and the available light and you will begin to see an improvement in your portraits.  Work with the light, move your subject to get the most out of it, the results can be just as spectacular as using flash.  Check out the work of Steve McCurry, when it comes to using natural light for portraits there are not many better.

Thanks for reading, any question please email me at blog@darrenobrien.co.uk or leave a comment below.

 

For more of my work visit my websiste

Wedding boudoir

As part of my wedding photography package I have introduced a wedding boudoir option.  I decided to try and get some examples for my portfolio and although I would like everything to be natural and on assignment, sometimes you need to cheat a little bit.  So we found a model that would be willing to fulfil our requirements.  We have worked with Jo once before and luckily enough she was free and also had a wedding dress, which we could use for the shoot.  I wanted to shoot this as though it was a wedding shoot so I had Jo pretend to get ready in her bridal underwear, before putting on the dress.  It was mostly shot with available light, with some fill thrown in, using lights which would be similar to what I would use at a wedding.I am pleased with the results and it was obviously easier with somebody who is comfortable in front of the camera with very little clothing on.

 

 

 

 

 

Vicky at the Black Rose Tattoo Studio.

Location shoots are always exciting because you are not always sure what the place will be like until you get there. I have been looking to shoot in a tatoo studio for a while, but I was really looking for the right place. Well today I finally managed to get the shoot done. Vicky put a posting on facebook, looking to do some dark themed pin up style shots and a friend of hers had a Tatoo studio we could use. So with the car packed I headed to just south of Durham, to Spennymoor. I had arranged to meet a few of the guys from our facebook group.The location was great, with a nice set retro funiture and plenty of space. Vicky was a great model and worked hard and we grabbed some nice shots. It was good to meet up and chat with the other guys too and it is always interesting to see how others work.

 

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As some of you may have noticed I have udated and changed the look of my blog and website. I would love to hear any feedback or issues you may have with the new layouts. info@darrenobrien.co.uk

Thanks for reading. For more of my work visit www.darrenobrien.co.uk

Making a Pointe

Of late I have been receiving a few enquiries relating to dance images and dancer profiles and it was something that I was looking to do more of this year. When the first opportunity presented itself I decided to try out an idea that had been lingering in the back of my mind. I liked the idea of shooting with a backdrop of a local landmark and on a shoot earlier this year I spotted this location. On that day the sun was breaking through the clouds and was bathing the Tyne Bridge in a beautiful pink light, and that was what I wanted.When shooting on location you very rarely get everything you want and on this occasion there was no wonderful sunlight on the bridge just a vast expanse of white sky. I still had a job to do and set about working with a very talented dancer (and seemingly a very good rock climber) Ashley. Ashley worked hard and was very enthusiastic about trying different things, which was great considering it was quite cold and dull.

We went straight in with trying to create my vision and I have to say that although the results are still good they were not exactly what I was after, only due to the lack of sun in background.

We then tried a few different ideas and came out with a couple of nice images.

In our workshops we try to press home the importance of exploring all shots around your subject. By leaving the lights and subject in the same place and the photographer moving around the subject you find different angles and effects.

A couple of days ago Alien Skins released their latest version of Exposure, Exposure 4. I used v3 a fair bit and was interested in seeing what would have changed. I have only had a couple of hours with the software and will release a full review in due course, but here is a sample of some of the effects you can play with.

Thanks for reading, any questions or feedback please contact me or leave a comment.

More of my work can be seen here

Jo on Location

We have been working behind the scenes on a lot of things and putting into practice some exciting developments. Anyway we finally made time to shoot for fun. We really wanted to do something on location, especially in the back streets around our studio.Our poor model for the day was Jo, not someone we had previously shot with but had a pretty good portfolio. Even though it was warmer than the last week it was still very, very cold. The main purpose of the shoot was to test out a new location umbrellabox. Basically this is a compact softbox that opens and shuts like an umbrella, it has a diffused white panel on the front. It is mainly designed for speedlights but it could easily be used in a studio. It has an opening in the bottom to insert a light stand and works well when used with a standard light stand head. Apollo do a great version for around £100, but I have to admit this one was £18.99 of off ebay, on this evidence probably the best £20 I have ever spent. It is really easy to use and produces a nice soft light. The only slight issue I have is that the flash sits to the top of the soft box, so you end up with a hot spot towards the top, but otherwise it is really good.

As mentioned it was quite cold so we worked quickly with some ideas we had formulated.

For these shots I was going for more portraits than fashion or editorial. We found this rough door with peeling paint and really liked the effect.

We then went back to studio and worked the back wall. The white wall produces a nice contrast with the bright orange in Jo's outfit.

I then quickly grabbed a low key shot in the studio.

It was a very cold day and I am still warming up, I might go and grab a cuppa! Thanks for reading.

To see more of my work visit www.darrenobrien.co.uk. Feedback and questions welcome.