Seagull and Surf


Just recovered from our shoot down on the South Devon Coast for a lovely guitar company and its UK distributor.

We met up late in the afternoon on Wednesday, all four of us meeting at our place for the loading up of gear and the formal introductions. Benno from the guitar distributor (aka ‘The Client’), Artemis (aka ‘The Model’), Alma (AKA ‘The Assistant’) and my good self of course. After exchanging pleasantries we loaded up all our gear including surf board, wet suit and various technical equipment for every eventuality.

We headed off down the M4 and realised the surf board on the roof wasn’t secure enough. We stopped and restrained it further. We set off again, and realised the the new restrainers were making an awful racket in the wind and that we would all have brain ache by the team we reached the M5. We stopped again.

Once on the M5 we stopped off for a cuppa and to borrow another, larger board from a friendly publisher who happened to know what he was doing. He pointed out the error of our board restraint techniques, and off we set again with a VERY secure load! We arrived at our destination, a small south Devon coastal Inn, checked in and headed straight down to the location for a reconnaissance mission to the beach. It looked very promising and after consulting our charts and maps and working out the sun rise and set locations we decided to head back for a well earned bite to eat and a drink.

We spent a very relaxed evening eating too much gorgeous steak and drinking west country cider and bursting our seams with way too much hilarity and mirth!  We braved a quick nightcap before we staggered upstairs aware we had set ourselves a stiff target of being awake at sunrise of 5.15am and making it to our location by 6am as the sun rose above the hills.

Well, full credit to us, we made it on time, nobody complained (well Alma had a headache but she didn’t moan too much!) and we set off driving the full 500 yards to the beach car park. Only, it wasn’t open at that time of the morning! So, we travelled 150 yards and then carried all of our gear the rest of the way to our first location.

Now, the shoot was to be trying to capture the essence of beach life. Surf, sea sand and……guitars! Our intention and aim was to make images that would translate into beautifully crafted adverts in specialist magazines highlighting the high-end acoustic guitar range’s coolth and beauty as part of this hip and trendy scene. The processing would reflect this also. We had thought of some fun straplines for the ads like “Seagulls (the guitar brand name), they don’t only nick yer chips!” but settled on something much wiser!

With that aim we headed for the sand dunes and gorgeous wooden fence and awaited the rise of the red hued sun. We were not to be disappointed. We had a few ideas and we sprang into action. We shot using a variety of props and scenarios both into the sun and using it’s early morning wonderful colour on the dewy grasses and sand. We shot mostly wide open at f2.8 or wider with 70-200mm or 85mm lenses. We used a bit of fill flash from a softened strobe and when the sun got stronger we used a reflector to help fill the shadows. After several changes of clothes and shots our poor little Artemis was looking decidedly blue so we headed back to the sanctuary of our Hotel for a much needed cup of Earl Grey and a fry up!

Suitably refreshed we headed upstairs to attempt to grab some indoor shots that somehow captured the atmosphere of our ‘theme’. After a bit of discussion and trial and error we decided that although we would be able to grab some nice images (see below) we would not be able to further the advertising ideas we had for the brand.

We headed to a slightly different location back on the coast and discovered that the good weather had brought out a lot more people which would make shooting just a little more challenging now it was later morning.

We managed to continue shooting different ideas, some that worked, others that didn’t, with changes of clothes, backgrounds and styles. Again, we shot mostly with 70-200mm at f2.8 to minimise depth of field and ‘throw out’ the gorgeous background into an even more delicious looking backdrop. We dispensed with fill flash but could have done with some at times when the light from the sun became too harsh. The reflector does a good job but contrast is too much when the big orb in the sky is at its stunning best!

Happy, knowing we had some great shots in the bag we headed off to Kingsbridge town for a very late lunch before starting our long and tiring journey back to Wiltshire. ‘The Model’ and ‘The Assistant’ still had a way to go from here so probably weren’t home much before their eyes were ready to be rested for a longer time than the night before. We were all content however that we had achieved our goals and most importantly, “The Client” seemed to be very happy with our results even before we have got on to the serious processing. The shoot was a brilliant example that maintaining humour throughout makes for better images and a much better atmosphere in which to create and receive new ideas and thoughts. We shall publish the ads as they are to appear in the mags when we have them signed off.


Seagull Test Shot on Location in South Devon. Model - Artemis

Unused shot for Seagull. Model - Artemis


Lazy Dayzzzzz………..


Well, not done much in the last few days. Been far too lazy…!

Done some processing testing for the shoot this coming week and have confirmed model (the gorgeous Sarah), Hotel, assistant (Alma) and we are in the process of ordering some good weather! The ideas we are coming up with are going to look good and we will have to just think on our feet regarding the location (which is going to be awesome). Once we get into it the different shots themselves will flow. We have a few set shots we want to do and then we will ad lib from there.  With the number of ideas and brains we have there we will not be short of ideas!

The big power pack arrived in the week and it is everything we hoped it would be. It is small enough to be portable but at the same time it carries enough juice to fire the Elinchroms with quick recycling times. It is important to obtain a power source that is consistent and pure so as not to expensively damage the internal delicacies of the flash head itself.

On Friday I visited an agency that I hope will provide some really good and important work for us in the coming months. The future for both them and us looks really exciting and I can’t wait to start working with them soon.

On my way back from that meeting I received a call from the big retailer in London to confirm they will be in touch in the next couple of weeks to finalise the photography required by them in launching their new range later in the year.

Having had a big night on the sauce last night in Bristol with some lovely people, we decided that today was a fried brekkie and British Open on the telly day. Brilliant to see such a true gent and sportsman as Darren Clarke win such a major prize so late on in his career. Never has one man deserved such a sparkling win. To maintain such cool for so long was a true achievement in itself. Hats off and bottoms up to you Mr C!

Further tests of retro processing

Retro Processing


It has been such a hectic week and I have almost nothing to show for it shoot wise! Grrr…. what a pain in the arse. The week has totally flown by and yet again I find myself wondering what happened to that last 5 days of my life?

The weekend was uneventful but really cool, spending time with the loved ones that fill my life so completely. I also had a chance to plan a new shoot. I have been given the opportunity to develop an idea around an advert for an acoustic guitar. The brand is pretty well known amongst the guitar playing fraternity in the UK but hasn’t done much advertising over the recent years. However, it has been around for quite a while in the UK slowly developing a good and loyal following.

Now, the owner of the distribution licence came to me with a retro 70s kinda shoot for the guitar itself and a kind of VW split screen retro surf look. I took the idea which is currently en vogue and added a sexy young girly into the frame (so to speak). I was chancing my arm a little but hey, this is art and marketing! I put it to my client/old buddy and he not only endorsed the idea, he loved it! So, I quickly sourced a totally appropriate model, and made sure she was free, within a few hours, we had the whole shoot arranged and booked up!

Next week we head off for a two day spree to the south Devon coast, with a suitable sexy model, an assistant and me! Now, don’t get me wrong, we are a million miles away from the finished product but I am delighted that Alma is joining me as my Asst. as she is bright, fresh out of photo college and above all, really talented. She will help to come up with some suitably cool shoot ideas and hopefully will be a total inspiration to all of us. We plan to head down there in the early evening and shoot pretty much all day the next day from sun-rise! No drinking the night before then huh?

Now, I did have a slight problem with location shooting that may well prove to be a familiar one for a lot of togs with studio lights but no location lights other than speedlights (flash guns). After much thought I have decided to go for a solution that provides me with what I think is total flexibility. Essentially, I have ordered a super powerpack that my studio lights plug straight into. The Innovatronix Explorer XT SE allows me to use my main powerful 500 watt heads outdoors on location. I will let you know how I get on after the shoot. I am VERY excited about this as it will be a test of shooting and of processing. I have developed an idea that has a retro feel and this is an example here.

Retro Processed Holly in proverbial corn field!







My other task this week was to update my website with the lovely Old Rectory Garden shots which I have now completed and sent out to my contacts. I also am processing the final “Hard Rock Calling” shots taken at the Hyde Park gig of The Kaiser Chiefs which are coming along very nicely.

Check back soon for more thrilling updates!

Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs at Hard Rock Calling, Hyde Park, London

Wembley and New Shoots!


Monday we had a delightful ‘day-off’! We took care of some personal business and then headed across the country to tackle the mighty Wembley Stadium and traffic. The reason? Well, we and 85,411 other people had tickets to go and see the huge Take That Progress Tour. The eagle eyed among you will quickly realise that I had already seen this show, and I had. However, not with a stadium full and not from the punters perspective (as it were and not trying to sound too nobby!).

We decided that as we had the day, we would mosey on up really early and take our time. The last trip up we had was for Coldplay and we really got ourselves into all sorts of bother with the traffic and the parking arrangements. So, we arrived hours before the gig, parked in an ‘unofficial’ area (for which we were relieved of £20!) and then wandered around the delights that Wembley centre had to offer. Which, as you will know, isn’t much so we did what comes naturally and hit the pub for an hour or so!

After some food we decided to try and get an unreserved seat and good position for the gig and go into the stadium and soak up the atmosphere. We weren’t alone in being early! The place was packed with middle aged ladies dressed up and in some TT attire or another. I felt a bit out of place being a guy and not really a fan. Anyway, we waited and relieved ourselves of a huge amount of cash for beer and soft drinks and snacks etc! (Come on Wembley, £10 for 2 bottles of Carlsberg??) Things got underway with The Pet Shop Boys and their weird coloured block stage show, which many thought were a strange choice but I was quite happy with. They have a string of hits and are as static as TT are mobile so they didn’t detract from the main event.

The main show is awesome to say the least. It is such a shame the Musical Director could not get us Press Tickets so I could shoot this event properly! He hoped he would be able to persuade the Management team but obviously he hasn’t been able to. We are gutted. Anyway, we watched in awe as the ‘boys’ strutted their stuff and sang all the old classics and some of the new, soon to be, classics! All too soon it was over and we left, swiftly getting away from the venue and onto the M4 home. We got back easily and had a wonderful day. Probably like about 85,000 other people!

The last two days have been spent on processing and admin. Jobs continue to come our way which is really, really positive! I have received several enquiries from various sources and have been so motivated I might even have a spare day to organise more of my ‘lyrics’ shots!!

The James shots are all but finished and now I have to start on the Kaiser Chiefs set and see what classics we have in there!

Ho hum… show now….its all go!!

Take That on Stage at Wembley Stadium



This week has whistled by as they all are starting to do these days! Must be a sign of age?We haven’t done much in the way of photographing over the last few days due to the fact that I have had to get my accounting system up to date and accurate. This is not one of my favourite tasks and nor is it one I hate doing either. It just consumes time and much of it. I think Mr VAT Man will be happy as all seems to be in fair order there and the business is doing well according to our P&L log which is brilliant given we have only been properly trading over the last year!

I have also spent a huge amount of time researching and gaining background knowledge on the internet business idea that has now reached a point where we have totally run out of excuses to not proceed with it and the whole thing now needs to go somewhere. I am totally committed to this idea and HAVE to find the right partners to help take it forward and make the dream a very exciting reality. There is an enormous amount to do to take this project finally to market but all the big hurdles can be easily overcome.

Yesterday was spent in London on the above project and visiting one of the oldest retailers in the country to discuss a photographic project. Having spent a brilliant hour with the owner we have agreed that we will begin a project of product shots and location shots for their ‘soon to be launched’ product range and developing campaign. It is a very exciting piece of work based on retro-look imaging and I cannot wait to get going on it. We hope to start work on this in the next couple of weeks and help build a great presence for this wonderful rekindled brand.

As always, everything keeps moving swiftly and each phone call brings a whole new set of ideas and challenges to the ever evolving Ellis Imagery. I am loving this constantly changing and dynamic world and look forward to each week immensely. If only everyone could enjoy their work as much as we seem to!

Saul of James playing his Godin at Hard Rock Calling, Hyde Park, London