New Year, New Dawn

General

It is that time of year again when Christmas is already history, the presents are all opened and you wait around for the old year to fade out and the new one to be welcomed! We have had an absolute belter of a 2011 here at Ellis Imagery Ltd. It has been a real exploration of wit, guile and creativity. At times it has been totally frustrating and others thoroughly mesmerising.

So, not one to look back too hard, what does this new year of 2012 hold in store for us here? Well, I have had some amazing photographic books by some of the real masters (like Duffy) and to say I am excited about the coming 12 months is an understatement. There is so much to do and so little time to do it all. Also, money will be a hamperer as it always is.

Lets look at the year and see what it has in store. Well, there is always the Olympics and I would love to set a project around that. Not based on the Games themselves but on ordinary people, people like you and me, what do they mean to us? What hopes do we have about the games? How will it affect and effect our lives? Will you be touched? Mmmm…I will think on this one.

Personally there is quite a big day coming up in May, I get married to my fellow Director, love and inspiration. She is my constant in this wickedly erratic world and should I prepare for a project about the lead up and the aftermath of such a huge day in someone’s life?

Finally, I have a strong feeling that one of my many resolutions this year will be to work hard at some of these personal projects I want to pursue. My main one being to start and develop a theme that has been in my head for some time and this is the project titled “An Englishman’s Home….” It will be a study of how men look at their place of comfort and solace. A series of portraits depicting different styles, loves, cares, dreams and resignations. My biggest task will be to get the subjects themselves to trust me to take reportage images, not to show them in a negative light. The aim will not be to judge but to accurately record, kind of reportage mixed with a journalistic style. All hopefully beautifully shot with care and tenderness for the subjects and their private lives.

Anyway, whatever your dreams and aspirations are for 2012 may the world grant you them and your god look kindly on us all and maybe at least reduce the amount of appalling violence and hate in the world.

Peace, love and dreams

XxX

Guy Garvey

Guy Garvey, Elbow, Cardiff

Olly Murs, Colston Hall, Bristol

Monique Gladding & Nick Robinson-Baker

Olympic Diving hopefuls, Monique Gladding and Nick Robinson-Baker

Shaftesbury Guitar Advert, Soho, London

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Shaftesbury Avenue

Photographs

These past couple of weeks since our return from holiday have totally flown by! I know, I know, everyone says that and it really isn’t interesting but when it happens to you it seems a bit weird.

So, in the world of a pro photography, what has been going on? Well, quite a lot actually. Processing has been the by-word of these weeks. It takes so much of your time and is so much fun, when you are in the right frame of mind. I have had two ‘strands’ to process to get to two different ends. One is straight, what I call, “medical” product shots. These show off the object/item as it truly is. A clinical shot, often/usually taken on a white background, colours as accurate as possible and designed to appear in a brochure/website showing off the item in a simple but beautiful way. High-key the books will call it. The other ‘strand’ is the “marketing” or “arty” shots, aimed at selling the product/object in an advert or other such collateral.

Both have their benefits and interests. For the medical shots I have been mostly shooting guitars and other musical instruments for web and leaflet reproduction. Whilst many think these images are relatively easy, they do need a lot of care and time taken with the lighting. Again, I split these type of shots into two. One is a pure brilliant white background and the other produces a white to light grey gentle gradient from left to right or vice versa. Nearly all are shot at around aperture of f8-f11 at 1/160th shutter speed, always at ISO100 and using tripod, mirror lock-up and a cable release. These last three are essential for crisp images despite what you hear about flash freezing the subject! Manual mode is the order of the day as it leaves everything flexible and easier to manage. Lighting is always awkward with shiny objects such as musical instruments so effort is required to ensure that reflections are in the right place and non intrusive. Medical shots can be shot on a white-ish background as nearly always the subject is ‘cut out’ and the background put back in either as pure white or a gentle fade. Care needs to be taken to use dark card on aspects and areas of the guitar (or subject) that you don’t wish to have white reflections on and this fiddling can take many precious hours. When aiming at a predominantly white background it is best to use high white studio vinyls and light both sides and maybe to the rear as well. I do use a product lighting cube also when necessary.

The processing of these shots can be very time consuming as you cut out the object carefully. Trust me, slap happy short cuts do not work and never look convincing in my opinion! The object then usually needs de-dusting using the spot heal and clone brushes as unless you are using a hermetically sealed environment, dust as always, remains a photographers enemy! Finally, you have to adjust the normal areas such as levels, saturation and odd elements of dodging, burning and sharpening.

The ad shots can be much more fun. The example below,  produced recently for Simon & Patrick guitars and due in the shops in a couple of weeks was produced after an inspired session with the client. I rushed home that day in order to capture the feel of what we had discussed. Others are more structurally planned but all should be free to allow some flexibility and licence to allow the idea of the look to breathe and develop. The majority of my current work develops almost daily and to my mind, the images become stronger and more attractive. The purpose of an advert in any location is to make the viewer stop and ponder, even if only for a fleeting moment. On the street, on the underground, in a magazine. If one of my images makes you hesitate and look again, I have achieved my goal with the imagery. Simple as that…

My next few days are designing and processing more images. We are re-launching a brand of instruments and have to design for online (website) and in-store promotions including light boxes, T-shirts and posters etc.

I have found enough time to watch an excellent performance by Noah and the Whale at Bristol Colston Hall, sadly without camera for once! We also have picked up Poppy our new VW T5 van that has gone through a full re-spray. She looks wonderful but the downside is that in order to protect the paint, we need to thoroughly wash and then fully polish the new paintwork, not once, but twice. Well, one down but man, these vans are large!

Oh and the title? Why, it is the name of the brand of guitar famous in the 60’s/70’s (and originally manufactured there) we are busy gearing up to relaunch.

Simon & Patrick acoustic guitar, taken at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire.

Shaftesbury guitar 'medical' shot for web and brochure use

The Week That Was

Photographs

OK, some weeks are good and some are bad when running your own business. Well, this has to be classed as a good one in the short history of Ellis Imagery Ltd. Where to start? Well there was the gig in Bristol to shoot Rene and Olly Murs. While we didn’t really get the shots we wanted of Rene and his lovely Godin we did (as always) enjoy the shoot itself.

Tuesday meant a meeting with a contact I have had for some time and the time flew by as we discussed an interesting and VERY exciting internet proposition. We will be spending some time building a coherent business plan that could lead to something very big and different. Time will tell as they say. The afternoon was spent in South Wales speaking quickly with another exciting contact about a new marketing proposition. It is very early days with this but it could end up being a cool way of advertising some top kit!

Wednesday was, well, how do you say….OK, a bit of a wash out. We went to London and the Excel Centre to discover the joy that is the London International Wine Fair with a very influential wine buyer. He needed our significant input on the various offerings and we really needed to be thorough in our work. It has to be said that never have I seen so many stands with so many bottles of wine waiting for people like me to obligingly taste it! My friend and Performance Director of UK Diving Kim White assisted me in this difficult and stretching task and we made it back later in the day with a very satisfactory list under our belts. Although not wine, we also are convinced that “Thunder Vodka” an extremely tasty toffee flavoured vodka will be a total sensation with vanilla ice-cream. Seriously, hunt it down and enjoy….

We learned yesterday that we are almost certainly going to have to travel up to Newcastle next week to photograph the Musical Director of Take That at the band’s pre-stadium tour small gig on the Thursday before they open at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland. We also got confirmation that we are likely to be photographing the James guitarist at Hyde Park in June when they support The Killers. Both of these gigs will be part of the Godin Guitar project.

Last night was spent preparing to shoot the beautiful and elegantly bone-structured Claire Richardson and see if we can do justice to her and her new man’s amazingly good looks during a shoot at home over the bank-holiday weekend.

This morning we arranged another visit down to the sumptuous Old Rectory Hotel in North Devon to shoot the amazingly gorgeous gardens and the equally gorgeous Huw and Sam on Monday, lets just hope for more lovely bright weather.

During the week we also had confirmed four new shoots and one ongoing project shoot for various clients and agencies. The whole scene and summer is starting to shape up nicely and our work continues to evolve and grow in its appeal. Keep visiting the Ellis Imagery site and watch this blog for further exciting updates and interesting little snippets!

Now, back to the processing and uploading of images to website…..

Olly Murs

Olly Murs performing at the Colston Hall, Bristol

Two Big Days!

Photographs

Olly Murs performing last night at the Colston Hall, Bristol

Yesterday was somewhat slow to get going following the big build up I had given the Olly Murs gig at the Colston Hall, Bristol. We had left for the venue in plenty of time as we wanted to hook up with our hero Rene Woollard. However, due to a ‘bonding’ go-kart session for the band and crew we were disappointed to learn that we couldn’t get to meet up. The sound check was a no goer as well which was awkward as we were then not sure of the set up for the gig itself. As it turned out the gig was interestingly an all seater affair and the ‘pit’ was simply a case of treading on the front row patron’s toes and annoying the hell out of them. They weren’t to be annoyed for too long however as our Press Pass allowed us a rather miserly 2 songs shooting only which equated for exactly 8 minutes of shooting time. This is barely enough time to get your bearings let alone grab any  meaningful images for client Godin! As it turned out we were to be slightly disappointed again as the object of our desire was again poorly lit and difficult to do justice to. I think we may need to grab Rene for a meaningful studio session in the not too distant future.

The only other memorable thing about the gig was that I had never really been to a ‘teeny’ gig before other than Avril Lavigne at the MEN in Manchester but never had I heard such awful screaming. We ended up in front of the huge PA stack and even that was drowned out by the hideous noise emanating from the audience. I guess the Band and Olly have their in-ear monitors in and therefore are protected to some degree but man, that is not a good sound!

Today was spent in two business meetings, one in Bristol and the other in South Wales. The first has a very exciting potential attached to it and I truly hope to be able to report on that in the near future. The second was a slight cock-up (not sure who was responsible) but no harm done and a good chat was had anyway with a further meeting booked for next week with the potential for another exciting project to be launched shortly.

Tomorrow has a bit of fun attached to it as we are heading up to London to visit the International Wine Fair at the Excel which will of course be all in the interests of research and assessment and nothing whatsoever to do with photography!

One final note is that we hope to be involved in some way with a big charity event at the Royal Albert Hall with the very worthy cause that is the Sunflower Jam, featuring Deep Purple. More details will follow but for now check out the website here http://www.thesunflowerjam.com/

Rene & Olly

Photographs

Today we are going to be mostly shooting Olly Murs and more particularly, Rene Woodward at the Colston Hall in Bristol. Given that the last shoot we did at a live gig in Bristol for Rene was with Jessie J (see below) and the lighting for the show was poor photographically, today we have another go. Although my client was fairly happy with the Jessie shots, I am keen to better them and get a better overall image of the very gorgeous Rene playing the Godin in ‘anger’!

We have to be in Brizzle for the sound check (as that often gives us better light!!) which starts at 4pm ish and the gig begins at normal gig time of 8.30pm ish. Technically, I will take along two bodies, the 5D Mark II and the 7D. The 5D will be the preference as it shoots with better noise at higher iso’s. I will almost certainly put on the 70-200mm L f2.8 to the 5D and the 24-70mm f2.8 L on the 7D. Although there is a lot of cross over as the 7D effectively makes the 24-70 a 38-112mm because of the crop factor. I am probably going to plump for a single focus point but use auto focus and the AI Focus mode. I used it at the Jessie gig and most shots seem to be accurate. I might switch that however depending on the circumstances of the gig and the degree of movement from the performers. Rene is a ‘mover’ which is great for good shots. The preferred focal length will also depend on the ‘pit’ which although is great as you get really close in, sometimes is awkward because you tend to take a lot of ‘up the nose’ shots. I often prefer to shoot across the stage using a longer lens. This can lead to difficulties with camera shake which is why I am almost permanently on widest aperture and keep watching shutter speeds changing iso’s up if necessary.

There is a lot to think about for these shots and simply turning up and firing doesn’t work. It also helps to visualise the type of shot you are after. You usually get 3 songs to shoot which means often less than 12 minutes shooting time. That isn’t long if you are hoping to experiment. Switching lenses is costly time wasted. Having covered quite a few gigs now, I am experienced enough to understand lighting and hopefully have a solid grasp of good composition and interesting approaches. ISO grain is always liveable with, poor focus and (most) movement blur is not acceptable.

At this particular gig the trains leave early and I am not sure quite how we get back to sunny Wiltshire after 11pm but hey, thats a problem for later. In the meantime, focus (pun intended) and concentration are the key words for my 12 mins of ‘action’.

A 'moody' Rene Woollard playing with Jessie J April 2011 at O2 Academy, Bristol

Hooray!!

Photographs

Hooray, I have now officially finished the Jessie J/Rene Woollard/Godin Guitar shoot. Taken me pretty much all day and will take me till next week to get them up on my website but another two for you to be going on with! I particularly like a few of them that won’t be much good for Godin but are pretty cool photo’s of the gig.

I have, as usual, spent some time over the processing of them and am just mad for the slide and print filters from yesteryear. Some of the cross processing effects are to die for and I am able to pretty much juggle with tone and colour to my hearts content. I am really slow on the first few pics but once I get hooked into the ‘vibe’ then I can pretty much get the looks I see in my head relatively quickly.

Rene especially looks so cool in some of these, he is so good looking and fit etc that it is hard not to make him look cool but like all great artistes, he carries that certain something else with him…I must persuade both him and Godin that a studio session should be in order!

Rene has also confirmed that he is playing for Olly Murs next month on his tour next month and that we can get in at the Colston Hall in Bristol this time which should give us much more room and space! I think I might trial a couple of alternative methods for that shoot too…..

I am strangely excited about the 300mm f2.8 arriving tomorrow, I guess its boys toys stuff but I am looking forward to getting my hands on it. Mmmmm…

Rene Woollard Godin

Rene Woollard with some cross-processing

Jessie J

Jessie J in mono

Rene Woollard

Rene Woollard and his Godin