Joe Black : Touch of Evil

I do like shooting at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and I jumped at the chance to shoot there for Joe Black recently. Joe is currently touring with 'Joe Black’s Touch of Evil: A Celebration of Villany in Song' an evening of comedy and songs taken from Disney films and other classics, accompanied on the piano with Friedrich Hollandaise. 

I don't think I had seen Joe Black since the Cabaret Roulette - Bill Murray show so it was good to watch him perform again. I arrived early to bag my usual seat and met with Arran Shurviton. Joe had mentioned the opening of the show would include a mirror which he had asked me to capture and Arran would be on hand to show me the set up. I haven't included the opening in the shot below... if you want to see it go see the show!! Among the Disney tunes there were others from films and theater as well as the creepiest version of a George Fromby song that just works so well!!

I was carrying my new Canon 6d MkII, full frame camera. I wanted a full frame version of my Canon 70d for a while and thought this would be ideal as a replacement. For someone who has used a crop sensor for a few years now the quality difference between a crop sensor and a full frame is incredible! One draw back, my Canon 24-105mm f4 is now exactly that! Where before the crop sensor allowed me to be closer at 38-168mm it feels like I haven't got quite the reach I had before.

I normally cringe when I see a stage bathed in a single colour however I welcomed it this time as the green tinge and smoke drifting around the stage really brought out the 'evil' in Joe's performance.

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Joe Black a gin drinking cabaret darling, musical comedy misfit, drag clown and acid tongued ringmaster, find out more at http://www.misterjoeblack.com/

Wilton's Music Hall - The Study

Since starting this website I have been to one of London's highest points and more recently, one of its lowest. Today took me to one of its oldest, Wilton's Music Hall. Built in 1859 behind a pub and three houses (thanks Wiki). 

I had arranged to meet with Marquissa Darq for a shoot in The Study, this was once two rooms and had a phantom staircase which ends in the ceiling. Well, most staircases end at a ceiling but they mostly continue to the next floor. I had visited the Hall a few weeks prior and made a mental note to make use of the stairs.

I arrived and signed in, was shown to the room and I unpacked and made sure I had everything with me. Marquissa arrived soon after me and we discussed the first shot. I had previously wrote out a shot list of 10 photos that we would try rather than winging it. I had also sent Marquissa some badly drawn stick figures on top of the photos I had taken on my previous visit.

'The Stick Man'

'The Haunting'

From here we set up the next shot, I had to move in to one of the room and shoot through the timbers to get the low angle I needed here. I also brought with me 12 led candles to form a pattern at the bottom of the stairs. To be honest they were not that good as the light was pretty weak. I envisioned that smoke would be rising from the central candle so this was digitally added in post. 

Continuing on with the Gothic theme I wanted a sort of 'dark bride' image, with a sort of 'risen from the grave' look. Wearing a black bodice and small top hat Marquissa was holding a small head band with a red flower as I forgot to buy a bunch of dead stalks with me. I had remembered everything else! This shot was de-saturated apart from the red and purple colour.

'The Summoning'

'Macarbride'

Coming from a Cabaret background I wanted to do a few shot for Maquissa based on the film 1966 film Cabaret! We were not in Germany, we didn't have the right stool and we hat a Top Hat not a Bowler Hat, but we had a go anyway.

The first shot I had deliberately angled 90 degrees as I have seen many couch shots like this but not one that has been tilted like this. The second shot was taken against the window with the light streaming in, I have blurred out the bench in post production. The third shot used the now more diffused light as the Sun had moved on and light was fading a little. These three photos make up the lyrics to the opening song from Cabaret! 'Willkommen! And bienvenue! Welcome!'

'Willkommen'

'Bienvenue'

'Welcome'

As the light was fading fast we had to work quick through the last set of shots.The shot below had Marquissa standing away from the wall and holding up a black lace scarf to her eyes. This provided not only a contrast to the head piece but also to the lighter wall.

'Trust in me....'

The last two shots were done in the last 25 minutes we had of our time in the Study. The head piece worn by Marquissa reminded me of old bathing caps worn many years ago, the green and blue make me think of the sea, let alone the gloves looking like coral. So for this shot I had introduced a blue/green under the sea type tint.

The last shot of the day had Marquissa sat at the table in the second room of the Study. As soon as I saw the area I knew the shot I wanted. In the room is a table which I imagined was a poker table, Marquissa put her hair up and put a couple of feathers at the back. To me this made her resemble a girl working the tables on a classic American Riverboat Casino. You can just make out the pile of poker chips on the table behind the winning hand.... I'm sure that is a legitimate winning hand in poker....

'Siren'

'Riverboat'

We finished on time with 10 minutes allocated to clearing up. I made sure the furniture was back in place as was found and the inner door was held back with the door stop. We walked back down to sign out and there was a selfie involved before Marquissa headed off home. 

Considering the time we had in the Study versus the diversity of shots created I think we did pretty well. There were other events going on in the spaces around, we heard the occasional foot steps from above us but on the whole the room and surrounding area was very quiet.

I hope to return to Wilton's Music Hall sometime soon!

Euston - The Lost Tunnels

I had heard of tours of the London Underground where you can visit old stations and areas which are no longer used, however there would be hoards of screaming public getting in the way of a decent shot. After a bit of research I found an offer of a Photographers day in the tunnels of Euston station. The head count would only be up to eight people so there would be ample opportunity to take some great shots with out the back of someones head in the way.

 Its a turbine, if you missed the preamble....

Its a turbine, if you missed the preamble....

The UK had been experiencing the Beast from the East snow storm so I phoned ahead to make sure the event was happening. It was still going so I trudged my way to the meeting point inside a building opposite Euston Station. Here we were signed in and given a hi-vis jacket to wear. We were not allowed to keep them... yes I did ask.

After a brief PowerPoint presentation about the areas we were visiting and a few terms and conditions we were taken to the turbine room next door. To see a turbine... an enclosed turbine so all you could see what the outer shell. A few of the other photographers started taking shots so I thought I would give it a go too. I had my Canon 70d and the Sigma 10-20mm f3.5 wide angle lens as I wanted to capture long tunnels as well as the walls in one shot and not have to resort to a panoramic set up. For now I had to make do with... a turbine.

You may be thinking 'you paid for the trip so why not enjoy everything it has to offer', this is true but the event is called 'Euston - The Lost Tunnels' not 'Euston - The Easily Found Turbine'.

After this we all trudged back outside to Euston Station and headed down to one of the platforms. We were taken through a metal grated door into the starting area. First thing you notice? The cold! 

We were first taken around each area we would be using then split into small groups. Two in each group. Each area was split into two smaller areas so we would not get in each others way. We were allowed to use the magnetic LED torches the organizers had on them and there were many places to stick them to.

This first shot had the light behind the central ladder which cast a shadow towards the camera and another illuminated the tunnel behind. My metal tripod was freezing at this point!

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Along the walls of the tunnels, mostly ripped and faded are advertising posters, many were for films, theater and train destinations. This wall had posters for films  The St Valentines Day Massacre - 1967 and One Born Every Minute - 1967.

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These tunnels are used for storage so there were a lot of tools and metal things stacked up along the walls, none of which were in the way but in places the floor was a little uneven but those areas were well lit.

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Moving further down in to the areas there is a tunnel designed to move air around as the trains on the Victoria Line come and go. The tunnel had a wall bisecting it to funnel the air around. Just around the corner there was a walkway where you could look down on the platform and watch as people boarded the trains. When the trains entered the platforms a gust of warm wind would rush down this tunnel, sadly this would do nothing for my already frozen tripod.

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I swear that if the organizers had someone dressed as H. R. Gigers Alien down here it would not look out of place at all. This side of the tunnel was stone cold as the warm air would only travel so far. You could literally stand in one place and be cold, then step forward and be warm. 

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We had been down there a while now and I started to experiment with using the camera hand held rather than on the tripod. At the current light levels the exposure time would be 1-2 seconds which gave me enough time to zoom in and out to create light trails and blurs.

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I also tried a unfocused shot of the Alien tunnel. The three lights flared out and I have combined a couple of these blurred shots together to create this surreal image below.

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The final area was a short downward sloping tunnel ending in a small door, dubbed the Hobbit door. This area was quiet despite the distant noise of the trains back along the tunnel. I took a moment while setting up the shot to think about where exactly and how far down I was in the system at this point. I wonder what was through the door?

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The curve of the ceiling and the lights caught my eye for this shot. It makes a great wallpaper image on my laptop.

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Our group was eventually released back into the warmth of Euston Station... right into the middle of an emergency evacuation. Hundreds of people milling about and complaining while the snow storm (which i had forgotten about while being underground) ignored the complaints and continued to pelt everyone with tiny ice crystals.

I gave my thanks to the organizers and trudged my way back to Kings Cross then home.

 If you are the last to leave, turn out the light....

If you are the last to leave, turn out the light....

Scarlett O'Hora

There are times during a shoot that I talk to my camera when something goes wrong and on the last one, I attempted to accuse the Sun of producing far to many photons when I was trying to get a bleak looking shot. This was witnessed by my model for the day, Scarlett O'Hora! She did not look scared or worried that I was ranting at the Sun at all.

We had met earlier in the day to get a number of shots done and decided to shoot in and around Wimbledon Common. Scarlett had previously sent me examples of outfits to choose from. Our first outfit was a black dress fur coat and glasses. I immediately thought of Scarlett hanging off a bus stop pole and surprisingly she thought the same! Great minds etc!!

Being the professional I had worked out plan so our time at Wimbledon Common was maximized. This was thrown out almost immediately when we got off the wrong bus stop. Yay me.. but this gave us time to walk up to the next stop while getting to know each other.

Arriving at the correct location we talked about how we wanted the shot to look. I wanted to blur out the background for this in case the traffic got in the way and I wanted the numbers to be unreadable. However with a 70-200mm Sigma lens I had to walk quite far away to get a shot that included the majority of the bus stop and Scarlett together. Having to direct Scarlett from a distance meant a lot of hand waving and I am surprised we didn't flag down the odd taxi and bus service.

 Wasn't even a request stop...

Wasn't even a request stop...

Our next shot was planned for further in, this would have been a choice between the red suit or the black sorceress type dress. Crashing through the complaining foliage we stumbled across the large horse track which was very muddy. We gingerly worked our way around this and arrived at the main clearing. For once there was no one about so Scarlett got changed behind a large tree and I was on the look out for passers by. Quite typically as soon as Scarlett stepped out in a very revealing dress there were families and dog walkers all over the place.

 Even bought my pack of trained crows...

Even bought my pack of trained crows...

When I was shown this dress I immediately wanted a bleak looking shot with crows flying around, sort of a homage to the Morrigu of Celtic mythology. This is when the Sun started to annoy me. G-type main-sequence stars must like families and dog walkers more than photographers.

Our final shot meant we trudged further into the woods in search of a pathway that had a sort of tunnel effect by the trees. All we found was more dog walkers. None of them wanted to join in. The final shot had Scarlett in a fantastic suit. Even among such great trees I still wanted to blur them out so I was using the Sigma 70-200 f2.8 again. So off I went deeper into the woods to get a long shot. The tracking and fast lock on of the Sigma meant I could ask Scarlett to spin around and try to get a few shots where her hair would be flying around her face. Some of the shots had her face obscured but we got some shots on others.

 You spin me right round baby right round etc...

You spin me right round baby right round etc...

It was time to pack up and leave.. once again my professionalism shone though by having us walk further than we needed to get back to the pub for a drink, chat and a look through the photos.

 Not a break, we were still working

Not a break, we were still working

 Yup, that's the sun up there!

Yup, that's the sun up there!

 Slightly lost...

Slightly lost...

 Reflective and red

Reflective and red

 Always look stunning even when lost...

Always look stunning even when lost...

 Wave to the dog walkers... so many of them..

Wave to the dog walkers... so many of them..

 One of my favorite shots...

One of my favorite shots...

This was a fun shoot, even though some of my planning went a bit wrong it flowed easily from one area to another... must do this again!

The Apothecary Cabaret - Vol XXVI - Beginning

I was asked to shoot at The Apothecary Cabaret located underneath the Haunt in the heart of West Hackney. I had not shot in that place before so I immediately set about finding internal pictures of the area so I could see before arriving where I could stand without getting in the way.

And as usual I got there about 20 minutes early so after meeting the contact, Poppy, to discuss the shoot then I wandered back up to the bar to sit on a sofa and enjoy an expensive glass of cola. I went through my usual routine of checking the camera and been reset since the last outing and check all SD cards had been cleared. The stage area was dark so I would have to wait until a performer was standing directly in front of the main spot light, even then I was expecting high ISO levels.

The Master of Ceremonies was Driscoll Bleak, a compare I had not seen perform before but had the right mix of vaudeville and insane creepiness to make the number of cabaret virgins in the audience huddle together for protection. It was also his birthday so was forced to sample various objects and had to guess if they were cake or not.. most were not.

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As feared the lighting was low so I had to wait for the right moment to capture each performer at the best time. And then there is of course the guest inanimate object that is the bane of any photographer in a live situation. The pillar in the odd position...

I clocked that one as soon as I walked in the room. About two thirds across the stage there is a large pillar, OK i know it is there to make sure we are not covered in screaming drinkers from above as the ground floor collapses on top of us but still, like microphone stands they do tend to get in the way of a performance.

To this end I decided to stand to one side with my back to the bar and take shots from there. I would not be in the way of the paying public and could see the majority of the stage anyway.

After the show I said hello to those I knew of the performers and audience members and also had some of the birthday cake... which made me late to catch my train but that gave me time to look through the shots and start the culling process.

Shot delivered next day as usual...yay me!

 

Curiouser and curiouser!

During a recent shoot with Miss Morphic, we set up a shot to simulate Ana falling while wearing an Alice in Wonderland costume.  I thought sitting on the Box of White Doom while having her rest her foot on the White Chair of Unspeakable Horror would be preferable than actively pushing Ana down a rabbit hole. The studio was lacking in rabbit holes to begin with.

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We tried a number of poses but the one above was the best out of the lot. I originally planed to have a tree and a tube like tunnel stretching down from the top of the frame. However this wasn't coming out right so I decided to try some with a little more weird.

The first thing I had to do in post was to cut Ana out from the background.  This would have been much easier with a green screen but there wasn't one available. Using the Blend If function allowed me to key out the majority of the white leaving Ana suspended in the air. Some of her dress and legs looked like they had been eaten by moths so I had to paint those back in from the original shot. I used a blurred ellipse positioned below Ana to act as a shadow.. 

 No rabbits to be seen...

No rabbits to be seen...

 Totaly fake floor..

Totaly fake floor..

Next would be the background. I used Google images for Alice based inspiration and choose a chessboard as the floor. This was easy to make in Photoshop, black square, white square, rinse and repeat till I had a large floor print to work with. I used the perspective tool to form the floor them bent it 90 degrees to point upwards to form wall which was then covered by a smoke image which had been bent around its polar axis. This would form a sort of ethereal tunnel ending at the floor. The floor was given a grungy look but adding a gritty texture image over the top.

Next up was the clock image, representing the White Rabbit's time piece. This was colored red, the layer duplicated and a radial blur filter applied to make it look a bit zoomed out.

You also have to have a reference to the Queen of Hearts so a simple heart brush sprayed across a white layer and blurred out accomplished this.

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 Did you spot the reflection in the floor?

Did you spot the reflection in the floor?

Bringing all the layers together I decided on an overall red tint to the composition. Total edit time was around 2.5 hours, to get everything right. I used dark brush to darken parts of Ana to add a bit of depth to her arms and legs otherwise she would have looked a little flat. Also added a reflection in the black tiles of the floor.

I could have added more but called it after 2.5 hours otherwise I would still be doing it!

I think I will print this one for the portfolio book!

Angels and Demons

Collaboration time again, this time with a burlesque/dancer/videoographer Ana Morphic. Ana had shown me a studio in London that has a massive seamless white cove wall. This would allow for pure white backgrounds that I could utilise in post production. 

I was looking forward to this so I jumped on the tube to Ealing Broadway on the Distric Line and as normal turn up 30 minutes early.. OK so I sent a message to Ana asking if she would like a large tea from the shop across the road. She did, so while carrying two large cups of tea I walked across the park with my hands slowly burning. I was hoping that my camera bag would not slip off my shoulder and pull my arm around splashing hot tea over someones unsuspecting face. 

Luckily I did not scald any passers by and I met Ana just outside the studio. On entering I noticed the cove wall was bigger than I thought and the main light had been set up already. Yay!

Ana introduced me to the owner and we then set about arranging which costumes Ana would be modeling. While discussing the options Ana mentioned the tattoo she had on her back. Once I saw it I made a mental note to shoot that and do something with it later. While Ana was getting changed I set up my Canon 70d on a tripod with the 24-105mm f4.0L attached. I did't think I would need the wide angle this time, and set up a chair as a reference point.

 THE CHAIR OF DOOM... it's just a place to sit really...

THE CHAIR OF DOOM... it's just a place to sit really...

We had discussed a few weeks before of trying some levitation shots and my mind immediately thought of the famous painting 'The Creation of Adam' by Michelangelo. I wanted to try something like that. Not in exact detail but something in a similar vein.

Ana came out dressed in black with a headdress sporting a pair of horns.. the demon in our composite. The other costume was a lighter colour representing the angel.. we didn't have any wings but you get the idea. I dragged over a white box for Ana to balance on as the chair was only designed to be sat on and not to be used as an acrobatics platform. Neither was the box really but it didn't complain.

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This is the resulting composite with a few extra tweaks here and there.. can you spot them? The rune brushes were provided by http://www.obsidiandawn.com/

 The Sistine Chapel meets Michael Bay [A little bit explody] Explody is now a word! Live with it!

The Sistine Chapel meets Michael Bay [A little bit explody] Explody is now a word! Live with it!

Just after the demon shot was taken I asked Ana to sit with her back to me and reveal the tattoo on her back. I had in mind how I wanted this image to look so asked her to cover her chest and turned back to look at me as I noticed the lightness of the hair would be a good contrast to the dark of the headdress. 

 Original shot

Original shot

 A demon rises

A demon rises

Ana also had an Alice in Wonderland costume. This was a bonus after we were discussing doing a levitation shoot! We could try a falling down the rabbit hole shot too.

For each of the costumes I asked Ana to sit on the box and look up at the light. I didn't really know where I was going with this, just wanted something to work on later.

 The good, the bad and the not so innocent!

The good, the bad and the not so innocent!

The two hours we had together just flew by and I really enjoyed it. The light settings did not change from shot to shot, unlike a live show where lighting changes are in abundance, so we had time to try other shots and angles. I left Ana in the studio as she was working on some videos. 

I declined to get another scalding hot cup of tea and caught the tube home. I only culled a couple of frames from the shoot, just the ones from the start where I was working out the lighting. 

Really want to do that again!

You can see more of Ana as Miss Morphic on Viveo at https://vimeo.com/missmorphic and at her Patreon site at https://www.patreon.com/missmorphic.

A hand full of baubles.

I was contacted early morning by Joe Morose asking if I was available for a very quick photo shoot in central London the same day. I said I was and arranged to meet at the Cafe de Paris in Leicester Square.

Joe wanted some shots with a subtle Christmas theme. Nothing major like dancing reindeer and copious amounts of snow everywhere, Joe settled on a collection of baubles which he would hold in various places.

I arrived early (as I usually do) and was shown to the back changing rooms to wait for Joe. There I met Rubens R Kaye and had a quick chat as Joe arrived. He changed and we went out to the stage. Joe wanted full body shots and mid to head shots.

 Holding the baubles at a distance!

Holding the baubles at a distance!

 One bauble or two sir?

One bauble or two sir?

We had the stage for around 30 minutes, some of the shots needed to have the Cafe de Paris signage included. I had my Canon 24-105 f4.0 and the Sigma 10-20 f3.5. I decided on the Sigma so I would get not only Joe in the picture but the rest of the surrounding area.

 Mmmm smells like Christmas..

Mmmm smells like Christmas..

The Sigma can focus at close range so I used it for the head shots too. You can see there is little distortion at this distance, the baubles are still circular and not stretched. 

 Looking insane..

Looking insane..

 The green ones taste of jelousy...

The green ones taste of jelousy...

The distortion of the lens was evident when Joe was sitting on the banister. In the original shot his legs were pointed towards the camera and were visibly stretched out. So I asked Joe to move his legs over the banister so the eye would be drawn up towards where Jo was sitting.

 You need two hands to hold them.

You need two hands to hold them.

 See how shiny they are!

See how shiny they are!

After the stairs we moved back to the stage, Joe had the idea of lying down on the front of the stage clutching the baubles. Again with the Sigma I was able  to capture Jo and the signage at the top.

I was able to use the lights around the edge of the stage to illuminate Joe but it wasn't enough. I used my recently purchased LED light, balanced on its own battery pack which allowed me to illuminate Joe's face.

We finished up and I left the Cafe, total time since entering was just over an hour, back in time for tea.

Joe Morose - Fan of gin, vice, sin, glitter and obtuse observations on the human condition. Cabaret Compere and all round raconteur. 80% Vol. You can find his twitter here

A man has to pose I suppose...

It is a bit of a mine field when you use Google Images for 'man poses'. Once filtered I had a number of poses ready for a shoot with Jack Stark. I recently shot for Jack for The Why Not Institute and he was returning the favour.

We arranged to meet at Cutty Sark station as I wanted to try a shot in the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, but as we approached I thought we would take a few shots near the waters edge first. Just a simple leaning against the railing shot. I then noticed the massive fairground attraction looming behind us. I asked Jack to stand in front of it and then I thought we could try a 'man pose'. A simple one foot behind the other and Jack improvised, as he called it, the 'I'm having a heart attack' stance of one arm gripping the elbow of the other. 

 I hurt my arm on the rush matting...

I hurt my arm on the rush matting...

 Look there is a seagull...

Look there is a seagull...

I wanted a contrasting shot next so Jack donned a jacket and stood against the brick wall of the entrance to the foot tunnel. Another of the 'man poses' was utilised. This one is called 'Waiting for a bus'. Most up against a wall shots have the wall straight, however I prefer the added curvature in this shot to add a break from the norm.

 Do I need an oyster card?

Do I need an oyster card?

We walked around the Naval College wondering if it was ok for Jack to straddle a cannon on display. I thought better of it as I didn't think the Royal Navy would appreciate a British subject cavorting on a selection of heavy weaponry. We opted for something less deadly... a park bench and tried out another 'man pose'.

 Thumbs.... good for holding your head up.

Thumbs.... good for holding your head up.

 A patch of ground, at least in focus...

A patch of ground, at least in focus...

This was a simple portrait type shot. Nothing special, no fancy effects just practice taking a solid portrait. The park bench was less heroic looking than a massive cannon but it served the purpose as a place for one to sit. This is where my camera had a problem with Jacks face. It just would not seem to focus properly. It did however like to focus without problem on the floor, so along with the portrait of Jack I also present a portrait of a stone.

 Can you see me?

Can you see me?

We moved through to Greenwich Park stopping and taking pictures where the surroundings looked good. I set up a panoramic shot with jack right in the middle which worked well. 

 Blending in with the metal.

Blending in with the metal.

 The geography teacher 'man pose'.

The geography teacher 'man pose'.

 Contemplating the use of the park bench.

Contemplating the use of the park bench.

 So, why do you want the job?

So, why do you want the job?

 Time for a close up....

Time for a close up....

 Kinda looking lost here...

Kinda looking lost here...

 Jack in the box..

Jack in the box..

 Shadow stalker.

Shadow stalker.

 Coming at ya...

Coming at ya...

With time running out we returned to the foot tunnel to find it occupied by what looked like a number of musicians. So we returned to the side of the Cutty Sark exhibition to try out a mirrored shot you see above. Trying to find a clean part of the glass with out finger and nose prints took a little while. Here we see Jack performing the 'keys in the back pocket man pose'.

Our last 'man pose' made us look around for a set of stairs. Luckily there is one next to the Cutty Sark, which goes down to a car park. This was the last of our 'man poses' I'm not sure what this one was, either 'I'm running for that bus from earlier' or 'Help me I falling'.

We concluded the session with a dual 'man pose'... having a drink in the local pub for review of the pictures.

Cheers Jack!

Burlesque In Underland at The Camden Fringe Festival

I was once more delighted to be asked to shoot for Burlesque In Underland. This time it was at the Hen and Chickens pub in Highbury and Islington. The venue was similar to the Old Red Lion Theatre in Angel. 

I arrived about 15 minutes before curtain up to see where it would be best to sit. I had with me my Canon 24-105mm f4.0 and the Sigma 10-20mm f3.5. While I was up at the back I thought I would be reaching over peoples heads and I may miss the performers feet if I shot from way back there. So I went and sat directly at the front. I decided to switch to the Sigma and utilise the wide angle to get lot of the main stage in the shot... it could get the whole of the stage in fact as you can see from the shot below of the opening number.

 Pi the Mime ( as Mercury)

Pi the Mime ( as Mercury)

Normally, using the wide angle you would get distortion, but being this close to the performers there was very little. One consequence of using this lens, it looks like the performers are further away than they actually are. When looking up from time to time it was quite a shock to see them only a couple of feet away! 

 Athena Beauvoir

Athena Beauvoir

 Pinky T'boo

Pinky T'boo

 Jessabelle Thunder

Jessabelle Thunder

 Valarie Savage

Valarie Savage

 Ella the Great

Ella the Great

 Senorita Scarlett

Senorita Scarlett

 The cast

The cast

I like a show that is so good that you do not notice the time passing. This hours performance flew by and I was soon off home on the tube checking and marking off keeper and rejects. Glad to say a lot of them were keepers! All were packaged and sent off within my self imposed 24 hour time limit. Hate to keep performers waiting.

The Battle, the Oak and the Lens.

During July 2017 I was asked to shoot some head shots to promote my friends face painting business, http://www.whatsaface.co.uk. This was to be at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. Hatfield House was hosting this years Battle Proms and Folk by the Oak festival, so there would be other things to photograph over the weekend.

The entrance to the fields are directly opposite the station. However as I wandered down to the Queen Elizabeth Oak Field I noticed it was a lot bigger than I thought. Passing across a small dried up river I heard a lot of squeaking to my left. I noticed a ferret chasing down a small rabbit. The rabbit was doing really well until three dogs ran in and then chaos erupted. One dog ran after the now squealing ferret while the other two harassed the rabbit. Things were not great for the rabbit and one of the dogs got hold of it. I suppose it was a sort of 'Battle' so it seemed an omen of sorts.

On the first day, after taking many head shots of children with painted faces and glitter (with parental consent of course), I made my way down to where there was to be a horse display, the riders were dressed as soldiers from wars from Wellington and Napoleon times. They were showing horse riding skills not widely seen in Napoleonic war time. I don't recall hoops and balloons that needed dispatching as enemies of the British Empire during those wars but it made for a good display.

I had one problem though, I was not the first to arrive at the fence so I was about two rows back, I had to make use of the flip screen on the Canon 70d, along with the 24-105mm f4 lens. Finally getting to stand next to the fence in front of the display I found the reach of the 24-105mm lens was not enough as I was by then quite far from the display. I had brought my older lens with me, my Canon 50-250mm. I had not used this for a long time since I had got my Sigma 70-200 f2.8. It did have the reach for some great shots.

Which came in handy as the next display from the Red Devils. I was expecting some satanic ritual but it turned out it was a parachute display team. The plane flew over a couple of times  as they were checking wind speed before the jump and I kept my lens trained on the open door of the plane and managed to take a shot just as the lead jumper let go! Each jumper made it safely to the ground, one carrying a Union Jack flag on his foot.

The highlight, once the day turned into evening was the firing of a World War One cannon. Until that evening, I had not been in the vicinity of a loaded cannon, let alone being in its presence when it get fired. I tried to time my shots to the firing of the cannon and missed completely the first time. I was rocked by other smaller cannons firing off to the left of me. These cannons seemed to have plastic caps on to make the sound louder. This cap would be shredded to bits. These bits would then be wafted by the wind into my face. So a little shell shocked, I wandere back to the face painting stall and took one last photo as the sun set. 


Whatsaface, a professional face painter and make-up artist, with 11 years experience. Worked for many organisations, including local school fêtes, charity days and company corporate events, as well as children’s birthday parties and weddings.

Visit her website www.whatsaface.co.uk

Clowning about...

I was contacted by Jack Stark and was asked to come down and take some shots for The Why Not Institute. These were to be added to the website and used in promotional material.

I traveled to the location, a church hall in Clapham, South London and shocked two old ladies as I walked into the church by mistake. I was quickly ushered out before I burst into flames and found the hall. Met up with Jack and Angela and had a quick chat about the set ups, we were to be joined by Ness Gracious later on. This would be the first time I would be working with people on a green screen, so I had to make sure there was very little green reflections and spill over onto clothing. 

We started with some simple head shots to establish characters, finger pointing (to point at objects on the website) and finished off with holding a large piece of paper which would be filled in at post production.

We then went out side to shoot. We tried to do a series of shots where Jack and Angela were traveling with instruments. One of which was bulky and heavy so we took turns with the large instrument being carried on each others back. As you can see Jack seemed to be either enjoying himself or was experiencing immense back pain.

Look! Its green!

Possible internal hemoraging too.

Getting in to the spirit of clowning I asked if I could throw in a few ideas. I had my 10-20mm f3.5 lens with me which close up can really distort facial features but I was thinking more along the lines of enlarging other features. Jack and Angela sat on the pavement surrounded by the instruments and I crouched down to their level. Instantly the legs and feet expanded due to the wide angle nature of the lens but as the heads were further back they were not distorted. This was also true when Jack pushed his hat towards the lens, it made it look massive!

Large feet..

Massive hat..

Ness Gracious arrived soon after so they all changed into cloths more suited to musicians and we played around with trombones. One of them had the mouth piece missing so in the shot below I asked Jack to shout into it. From then on things got a little insane..

OI!!!

Just insane...

The sun was still shining so we went back outside to shoot more shots with Ness, again they all sat down and I used the 10-20mm and this time asked Angela to point at me. This lens does have a good close focus range and at f3.5 I managed to make the finger sharp and the faces behind burred out. While working with them for the day I noticed how each character interacted with each other. It seemed that Ness' character was more interested in apply her make up than help move the instruments so for the shot below I asked for Angela and Jack to look back at Ness while she looks into her compact.

 Look there is a photographer!

Look there is a photographer!

 At least someone is helping..

At least someone is helping..

I really enjoyed working on the collaboration and it was good throwing some ideas into the mix. Of course I cant let this go with out doing my own twist with things. I used some of the green screen shots to do some simple portrait work.

Silva (Angela de Castro)

 Kiki (Jack Stark)

Kiki (Jack Stark)

Ness (Grace Miller)

 

The Why Not Institute is the UK’s only organisation totally dedicated to contemporary clowning. They are a community, offering resources, developing performance, and nourishing support networks for clowns and others interested in the approach of its founder, Angela de Castro (as well as that of a growing band of collaborators and associates). The Institute is dynamic, shaping and responding to the resurgence in modern clowning, with a special focus on clowning within theatre traditions.

 

Hammer and Stone

A friend of mine alerted me to an event going on at the Freemasons Hall in London. They were having a open house day so I decided to go take a look. I of course turned up early, I wanted to beat the crowds. Turning the corner I found the front of the building still closed and about six large motor bikes were parked on the front pavement. 

 Beware the rumbling doors!

Beware the rumbling doors!

I stood around ticking off the minutes until the doors opened and when they did the didn't open with wooden creek, no. They rumbled open,loudly. Everyone has heard of stories of Masons and Masonic lodges and things that may or may not happen in them but I was not expecting a large rumbling door to greet me!

After my camera bag was searched I was then given another bag, plastic, which I searched thoroughly. I found a map and information about the building. Typically I ignored the map and wandered to the right up the short steps past the string quartet, which I thought was a nice touch considering the day was a free outing. No drinks though.

I was carrying my Sigma 10-20mm f3.5 wide angle lens. I thought there would be a number of rooms where a wide angle lens would be beneficial. Sometimes the 24-105 f4 just would not cut it.

 I wandered in here.

I wandered in here.

 A lot of coat racks.

A lot of coat racks.

After being shuffled away from the area I was not supposed to be I climbed the stairs onto the first floor. Here there were stalls showing the various activities the Freemasons offer. Behind me I found a three pane, stained glass window. I took shots with the 10-20mm lens to get all of it in. Moving through the stalls I moved towards the Grand Temple.

This was impressive,it can hold around 1700 people as well as golden thrones to sit on. Standing on the checked floor I found myself directly under what looked like the night sky in fabric form. It is called the Celestial Sky. Around the top is a decorated border, one of which is a representation of the Ark of the Covenant. I wasn't carrying a representation of a fedora and bullwhip so I couldn't make off with it. Instead I took a few shots of the thrones and headed out.

 A room of thrones

A room of thrones

 Euclid and Pythagoras

Euclid and Pythagoras

 Soloman and Hirim

Soloman and Hirim

 More thrones

More thrones

 Helios the sun god

Helios the sun god

 Saint George and the Dragon

Saint George and the Dragon

Walking into the drawing room I saw something I was not expecting... a race track. One of the attendants handed me the white controller and we had a quick race with another visitor. It was a close race, I was holding my own until graciously accepted defeat and rammed my car into the visitor car to end the race.

 Not quite the winning car...

Not quite the winning car...

For the next hour I wandered around the exhibition room (with another throne), the library and museum where they had on show the ceremonial sword and the original maul which I was told laid the first stone. The Grand Officers Roding Room, Processional Corridor and ended with me exiting the building at Great Queen Street after being told I couldn't take photos in a certain area. Opps!

Multifaceted Gem

Many things can be considered 'hot', people, cloths and of course the large yellow thing in the sky called the Sun. The Sun is a G-type main-sequence star according to Wikipedia. I don't go around name calling solar bodies but today I had other names for the spherical celestial plasma spewer. It was HOT!!

I met up with Ruby Deshabille, a burlesque performer, whom I had shot a couple of times at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern for Cabaret Roulette. I wanted to shoot some contrasting shots and Ruby had the very thing, a bright metallic type dress that really stood out against everything.

We moved around the area we had selected to shoot in, a small dock area in Haggerston in East London. There were a few people walking along the banks enjoying the sun, I often wonder what people think when they see me waving a large lens around. When I'm using the Sigma 70-200 f2.8 I can be a considerable distance from the model.

As you can most probably tell I have been working on these shots with bright light in mind. In each I have left some element of light or introduced an even greater element to enhance the photos.

You may also notice that Ruby seemed to have more than one version of the dress she was wearing. This was just down to post processing in Photoshop, targeting the blue dress and changing the hue until I found something I liked.

I especially like the shot below titled 'Stunning in Scarlet'. I read somewhere that a photo can be more interesting if you throw in a splash of red. OK so it is less of a suggestion and more like a slap in the face to all blue dresses in the world but there was enough blue in the shot to begin with.

Ruby Deshabille is a London-based burlesque performer, actress and pin-up model, you can visit her website at www.rubydeshabille.com

Flaming hot...

It is now June 2017 and the Earth is now tilted towards the Sun so everything is getting hotter. With that in mind I decided to edit one of the shots from recent shoot with Briar Rouge. I took inspiration from her red hat, with the intention of creating a much warmer photo.

First thing I wanted to do was to blur out the background more than my 70-200mm f2.8 Sigma lens could achieve. This was done by creating a selection around Briar then using the Tilt Shift blur tool in Photoshop. If you just make a copy of the picture and then try to blur that layer and mask out the figure you will get a lot of halo marks around the subject. Making a selection can take more time but the effect if much better.

Next up was the colour grading. I wanted to darken the image so any fire and lighting I applied later would show up better. I used the free Greater than Gatsby Photoshop actions to create a darker mood to the image, I chose Giant Peach, Hammer and Strings and Ombre. You can find the free actions at https://www.greaterthangatsby.com/free-photoshop-actions/

At this point I was going to add stars and a planet but though better of it as it didn't fit the image to well. Instead I used a couple of frames from a recently purchased animated fire pack and added them in, changing the colour a little using the Hue/Saturation filter. One of the flame bursts had the Radial Blur applied to create a nebula effect in the dead space to the upper right of the frame. A flare shot was added to draw the eye from the top right towards the center of the frame.

From the same animated fire pack I chose a number of frames to add to Birars left side. I applied three flame images and used a mask to remove the fire from her torso. One final colour gradient was added with a red hue to bring out more of a flame look. The white rune around Briars hand and those on her arms were provided from www.obsidiandawn.com

Burlesque In Underland : The Queen's Croquet Ground

It sometimes pays off to think of the bigger picture when taking shots. Except this time I wasn't thinking... this was a fortunate occurrence. 

I was asked to shoot for Burlesque In Underland at the Looking Glass Cocktail Club. I arrived just before doors opened and met up with producer and to take my usual seat for the event. With me were my Canon 70d, Canon 550d as backup with lenses 24-104 f4 and the 10-20mm f3.5. 

While people were filtering in to take their seats the host asked if I could move position to accommodate extra visitors. No problem I thought my 24-105 can still.. oh OK, that is now a bit close. I only moved a little way forward but the 24mm end meant I would be closer to the performers than I really needed. The 70d has what is called a 'crop sensor' so when the focal indicator on the lens reads 24mm it is actually an equivalent of 38mm. Not so wide angle.

Lucky I had my wide angle with me then! On the 70d the 10-20mm would actually be 16-32mm which gave me a nice wide angle of view at the 16mm end and enough to have the performer framed nicely at 32mm.

This also had an unexpected and welcome occurrence. When the performer was very close up to me it would give a type of perspective that I would not have got with the 24-105mm. It helped created some interesting fish eye type shots!

Marnie Scarlet

There was no interval this time, the show jumped from one act to the next, which caught me off guard when I noticed I was down to 50 shots remaining on my card and had to quickly swap them out.

The lighting was better but again I had to wait for performers to be in a certain area of the lighting to get a good shot. All shots were delivered well within my self imposed 24 hour time limit. Yay me!

Ella The Great

Flamingo Girls

Coco Nobel

Mysti Vine

Mercury

Kheski Kobler

Lilly Snatchdragon

Bawdsville presents - Other Creatures

Once again I find myself arriving to shoot a show far too early again. Out with the phone.. nearest chicken shop this time please. Ahh there is one close. I was due to shoot for Bawdsville at the Ram Jam Club in Kingston. So munching on chicken I checked my kit for the third time since I left home. It would be most embarrassing turning up at a show with out a camera,  I'm not a good sketch artist!

I met with the host Unruly Scrumptious to have a quick chat about where best to stand. There was also a couple of people who were there to video the show too, so I had a quick chat with them to see where wished to record from. Compared to other venues, this is a more intimate performing area and more darker than I am used to. However there is always a sufficient amount of light in the center area of stage so shots were timed to get the best of each performance.

 Pi the Mime

Pi the Mime

 Good Ness Gracious

Good Ness Gracious

 Ophelie Frenchkiss

Ophelie Frenchkiss

 Kimberley OddSocks and Andy Van der Graaf

Kimberley OddSocks and Andy Van der Graaf

 Lewis G Burton

Lewis G Burton

 Ernesto Sarezale

Ernesto Sarezale

 Tuesday Laveau

Tuesday Laveau

 Unruly Scrumptious

Unruly Scrumptious

Down the middle of the area was a clear space between the seats where the performers would walk to the stage. I shot along this line as there would be little chance of anyone getting in the way.The usual work duo of the Canon 70d and the Canon 24-105 f4 L lens were with me and helped to capture some great shots. These of course were delivered within 24 hours via a Dropbox link. 

Thanks to Unruly Scrumptions for asking me to shoot!

You can find Bawdsville at https://www.facebook.com/Bawdsville/

 

A Shade of Rouge

I had some time to go and see Briar Rouge recently to do a quick photo shoot. We choose a small local park five minutes from Hitchen station. Hitchen is only thirty minutes from Kings Cross so I was able to view new things from the window like rolling fields and sheep. These sheep were either circus performers or they just liked getting on top of each other for some reason....

Pulled into Hitchen and consulted Google Maps and headed towards the park. The wrong way... oh great start. Arriving at the park I noticed something that Google Maps didn't show me. The cluster of trees I thought were dense turned out to have a fence stopping any further progress. This was fortunate as this would have taken me up to the train lines and a large number of volts to the legs would not be nice.

I received a text from Briar confirming she was on her way so I did a quick look around for viable places. The first thing was a willow tree with a path behind it. This was a good place to start as we would then walk around the edge of the park looking for area to shoot in.

Urtica dioica

  Pink Chiffon

Pink Chiffon

Briar arrived and we had a quick discussion about the cloths and accessories she had bought with her. Briar was already dressed in pink chiffon dress and a red hat so we started with that. I like red as its a contrast to most things especially when you are in a large field of green things. I stepped down a few nettles around the tree, one thing you don't want is a model annoyed at you for stepping on a perennial Urtica Dioica. (thanks Wiki). Always look after your model, you want them to smile at you! The sun came out just at the right time for a shot that illuminated the dress.

We moved from location to location, dodging a few dog walkers and managed a few costume changes. I had a three of my lenses with me, the Canon 24-105mm f4Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 and the Canon 50mm f1.8. All three were used with the 50mm f1.8 used for close up shots of Briar's face, the f4 for medium to close shots and the f2.8 for long range shots or when I wanted to really blow out the background.

On occasion I do like to take a few candid shots while the model is getting ready, it can show a different side of the shoot.

  Mirror Mirror.. off the wall.

Mirror Mirror.. off the wall.

I allow two hours for a shoot, this allows time for a costume change and enough time to explore the area and utilize as many versions of a shot as you can. Ideas can run out quick if the area is small too. We wrapped in a hour and a half and parted ways. Throughout the shoot Briar showed a lot of experience and suggested areas to shoot in and improvised looks and poses while the shutter was clicking away. Cheers Briar hope to work with you again!

Briar Rouge is a singer and burlesque performer, you can find her website here at http://www.briarrouge.com/

On Fire Again!

Oh yeah I like shooting fire! I was asked to visit the Fire School again. This time of year the area was lighter so in post I took the decision to drop the blacks down to enhance the fire. This is in stark contrast from my first shoot at the school, you can see them here where the shots were a lot brighter but you can see early attempts to darken some of the shots.

Thanks to Red Sarah for inviting me down and please check out The Fire School at http://www.thefireschool.co.uk/

Click on any photo to see full screen then use arrow keys or swipe to move between shots.

~ Neverworld ~

I had been asked to shoot a metal gig in The Unicorn in Camden. I personally have little knowledge of 'metal' but as with other events I have covered this would be the same as, follow the action and look for facial expressions.

I had to look up Heavy Metal... ok so this was going to be loud. As per usual I looked at Google Images for interior shots of The Unicorn. This showed there was a bar at the front and the stage area was at the back. The area in front of the stage is where the audience would be
standing.

I met my contact at Kings Cross and we traveled to the venue together. On arrival I checked out the area and spoke to the AV guy and asked if there was anywhere he didn't want me to stand. It is always good to check in with others that are working on the show in case there are established house rules you need to be aware of. I was told I could go anywhere so I decided to see how the audience would be arranged then work my way around them.

I checked out the lights and it was a mix of reds a purples. This can be corrected in post so for the first performace from Forged In Black, I waited till the lead singer was central to the stage for the optimum lighting. It was loud but not as loud as I thought it was going to be. So
no need for my ear plugs.

My kit for the evening were the 24-105mm f4 and the 10-20mm f3.5. I bought the wide angle after looking at the interior photos, I thought I would be able to capture the full stage from wherever I would be standing at 10mm and also short zoom to 20mm if I found myself close to the stage. I was there to shoot photos for Neverworld, a British metal band, but I used the time before they started to check out how the shots and stage positions would work.

I was fortunate to see that the light set up changed for Neverworlds performance, it was brighter for a start so shutter speeds would be faster. For the first song I used the 10-20mm lens to capture the full stage set up the the 24-105mm for close ups and performer profiles.

There seemed to be a pattern emerging during the set. It was something I noticed during the previous set with Forged In Black. There seems to be three stances that performers use:

 Legs apart with the guitar thrust outwards

Legs apart with the guitar thrust outwards

 Legs together, guitar thrust upwards

Legs together, guitar thrust upwards

 Combination of both but with more hair!

Combination of both but with more hair!

So once I knew this I could anticipate where the performers would be. The one problem I had was the drummer. At any eye level, either standing or crouching there would either be a cymbal, a fret board or lots of hair in the way. I had to wait and again anticipate when he would hit the cymbal so it would move out the way. He did seem to be enjoying himself immensely up there so I did get some great shots.

The editing consisted of reducing the harsh colour cast from the red and green spotlights, then cropping to bring either the performers or action more central to the shot. I was asked to provide black and white shots too, which in Lightroom is easy by creating virtual copies of all
the shots and changing the initial treatment to Black and White.

All shots were then exported and delivered by Dropbox.

You can find Neverworlds website here at www.neverworldmetal.co.uk.