Accounts…

General

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

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The Killers??

Photographs

We were invited to attend the “Hard Rock Calling” festival at Hyde Park by “James” on Friday. We decided to train it up and back as we thought there might be some alcohol involved. Again, we were assured both guest and photo passes as the Godin project continues to roll. We arrived without a fuss at around 3pm at Hyde Park. We had already had a hearty lunch and bottle of wine to get in the festival spirit!

We approached the “Media and Guest List Booth” and asked for our tickets. As we have become accustomed, these moments are always fraught with a bit of worry, “have they remembered to put us on the list” etc etc. Well, this time, they hadn’t. Saul, the guitarist, was quickly contacted. He assured us he would sort it and get the guys to get us in. Well, 60mins later we were starting to doubt we were ever going to make it in through the front gate! We had already become personal friends with the Security Guard, Rob and the girl in the ‘hut’ Debs. But we were still not in! At last, Kat arrived. Kat was all of 20 years old but she was a PA to the James Tour Manager and we felt we had a lifeline. We wandered back to the smallest hut in the world at the entrance to Hyde Park. Nope, no tickets there. We wandered back to where we started this escapade and Kat asked Debs where our tickets were and what she had to do to get us in. A quick phone call to her Manager and his calling to Justine and we had a pass!! Wow! However, I reminded Kat that we needed a photo pass and she nearly collapsed in front of me. However, three minutes later we had everything. Passes and an entry to the massive gig featuring James (our reason for being there), The Kaiser Chiefs and The Killers.

After entering, I saw an entry point titled “Guest Area”, well naturally, I tried to get in with our wristbands. Amazingly we got in without any fuss and found ourselves pretty much behind the main stage in an area with a few private bars and food areas etc. Well, not wishing to appear rude and not believing our luck, we proceeded to make use of said facilities and grabbed a beer, or two. Within minutes it seemed, we needed to get front of stage where we were going to be photographing to get pics of James and the fabulous Godin Saul was playing. Well, we wandered out to the front, pushed our way past the thronging masses and made our way to the front left stage and showed my photog pass to get into the ‘pit’. “Sorry, you have to go through the ‘Guest Area’ to get into the pit” we were told. Ben flashed his wristband and said ‘Really, can’t we come this way?’. Incredibly, we were ushered quickly through the wrong way and entered the pit. I then set up and proceeded to grab the shots that were the reason we were here. 3 songs later and that was it. We were out, as per normal.

Only, I had a feeling, I had a feeling we had some pretty cool wristbands that were better than the normal bands we received. On trekking back through the backstage areas I decided we should try t0 get on the mainstage and join family and other artistes for the rest of the gig. Well, guess what? Instead of being hiked off as per normal we were waved through and on the main stage we went!! I had my 5D II and a 70-200mm f2.8 strapped to my front, hardly inconspicuous but still no worries from anyone. I shot away, nobody turned a hair!! Amazing. When we had all the shots we wanted we went back behind the stage and wandered unchallenged anywhere we wanted and ended back up at the Guest Area for a few beers.

When The Kaiser Chiefs came on we decided to do exactly the same. To the front for the photog pit and then backstage after the 3 songs. Incredibly we did exactly that. Wandering on to backstage at the fourth song unchallanged due to our wristbands. Cool or what. The Kaisers were amazing! Backstage, I snapped away and then something was shouted in my ear. I couldn’t hear so asked Benno to repeat it. It sounded like he had said, “Prince Harry” was right behind me! Haha! I turned around and guess what, there was Harry! Seriously, I was stood with a 70-200mm lens and two feet behind me was Prince Harry! Well, I wussed it and after 10 mins we left. Leaving Harry to his girls and his privacy and I had no shots of him! Should I have gone for it? I don’t think so, I didn’t want any of him, I was just pretty amazed he had the same goddamn wrist-band as me!

So, a while later and I arrived at the front of stage for the main act. The Killers. Well where were all the other photographers? I got out my camera and within seconds I was pounced upon by the Head of Security! “No photographs of The Killers” he told me. “No way”, I said, “I have been given clearance”, I lied. He radioed through, I ignored him and walked away. He held onto my coat and received his answer. The answer I knew was coming. “Sorry Sir”, he said, “you have to leave!” Bollocks. Never have I been so pissed off. I love The Killers. Oh well I thought. I have this wristband. I shot backstage to get a prime position for some shots from the side of the main stage. Within seconds I realised I had a great wristband but not the best wristband. “excuse me” said the lead singer from The Kaisers, as he pushed past and got onto the main stage. I was told that my pass was not gonna get me on, I needed a green band and I didn’t have one! Bugger!

Out to the front we shot with the plebs! Pissing it down we got soaked but loved the set and sang along to all the classic Killers tracks.

A brilliant gig but so nearly the best we have ever been to……. but not quite!!

Tim Booth

Tim Booth from James performing at Hyde Park

Take That!

General

The updates have been slow recently due to literally no time at all and a gruelling schedule of fun and excitement!

Thursday last week involved a wake-up call at 4.30am followed by a gentle drive to Bristol Airport to catch the 7.05am flight to Newcastle. Plans went very well apart from a small car accident on the way to the airport with much damage occurring to the car that ran into us and virtually none on the back of the Saab 93 we were in!

We were headed north to witness the ‘pre-show’ event of the massive Take That Progress tour. We were to be guests of Musical Director Mike Stevens at this exclusive and amazing final ‘dress rehearsal’ for the whole show at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland.

Having successfully checked into our hotel, we made our way by taxi to the Stadium. We nervously queued with hundreds of other people slightly uncertain whether we would be actually on the list or not. Our wait was a cold and breezy one but ultimately successful. We were allowed entry and had to promptly hand over to security our mobile phones and my camera gear! We were also asked to sign a Confidentiality Agreement making sure we divulged nothing about the show before it opened and that we took no images or recorded anything. We then made our way up to the Sunderland Hospitality Suite. Beers at £4.10 a pint meant we were in for an expensive evening!

After an hour or so we were asked to make our way down into the Stadium itself. We walked along a short corridor, through some double doors and then up some steps to enter the arena high up and about where the halfway line would normally be. The sight that greeted us was, well… totally awe inspiring. The sheer scale of the stage and set was the first thing that grabbed you. Then the intricacy of the different elements of the whole set-up. Looking at it, taking it all in, you just had a great feeling that this was going to be a special and amazing show.

We made our way down to pitch level and to the 3-400 or so seats that were laid out either side of the large cat-walk jutting out far into the middle of the ‘pitch’. Within minutes the Pet Shop Boys opened their set with all the familiar faves of years gone by. They were slick, well honed and fun to watch and listen to. The show as much a visual one as it was aural. Those of us present all politely applauded and cheered but our noise was mostly lost in the scale of the vast stadium.  We felt a little pathetic stood there with an enormous stage, gigantic venue surrounding us and a massive sound but only a very small number of us trying to be heard over the huge silence.

Another hour and the main event started. The four ‘remaining’ members of Take That took to the stage and we all cheered and sang along to their recent hits. Then in flew Robbie! Wow- what a showman and what a mini set. Incredible and jaw dropping. I will not spoil the whole show and experience in any way for any future attendee but we were left thinking after eight or so songs, what on earth can they do to trump this? There was still 3/4 of the show to go! Well, believe you me, they do trump it and they do leave you knowing that you have witnessed something truly, truly special. As I mentioned on my Facebook page “Oh wow! Just wow! Totally utterly amazingly fantastically incredible! I am speechless. Totally speechless. Wow. See it whatever it takes”. And that is it really, just make sure you see it. These things do not happen very often, this is the largest Stadium tour in Europe EVER. You MUST make every effort to go and see this show, you will remember it and it will live with you for a very, very long time. See you at Wembley in a few weeks time.

My evening was made complete by managing to grab a (meaningful) handshake with both Howard and Jason as they made their way off stage at the end of the whole gig.

We hotfooted it away from the Stadium back to the Quay at Newcastle and specifically to an upmarket Hotel to hook up with our host. Mike was fascinating to listen to post the event explaining the whole concept of the show and the way it came about. He was pretty pleased with the sound and the musical side but told us there were a few ‘production’ issues along the way. After all, isn’t that what dress rehearsals are designed to iron out anyway?

At stupid o’clock we made our way back to our hotel and then got up at 4.45am to make sure we caught our (ultimately delayed grrr…) flight back to Bristol. Knackered but delighted and hoping against hope that we get the Press passes for Wembley that we so desire and need for some lovely tasty icing on our Godin project cake!

Take That

Take That in Sunderland with "Om"

Frustrating Mondays

General

Are Mondays always as frustrating as they are often made out to be? Well if this one is anything to go by then yes they are! After a brilliant week last week, today has been an anti-climax.

I was telephoned on Sunday by Huw from The Old Rectory where I was due to visit and take some images. However, due to an almost hurricane force wind and the prospect of torrential rain, we decided to postpone the session by 24 hours. I was called again this morning to be told that our friends at the Met Office were not forecasting anything brighter on Tuesday and that the trip should be further postponed until better weather was more likely to be forthcoming. Annoying for all of us as the exterior of the Rectory and the grounds themselves were looking amazing before the storm. We will get the job done but it would have been good to make the most of the great weather we had been having and the beautiful springtime gardens. Never mind, we shall return very soon.

I don’t know if I mentioned that on Friday I realised my fantastic file storage system had let me down big time. My Western Digital external hard drive was appearing as “not recognised by this computer” (my iMac) having previously been recognised for months with no issues. Upon many hours of internet trawling I realised that not only was this a fairly common problem for Western Digital external hard drives but also that it was likely to be fairly serious, potentially resulting in lost data! Now, this kind of thing has never happened to me before and I must say I do a fairly good job of backing up most files and images especially given the important nature of some of my work. However, upon further investigation, I realise that my system of backing up was not flawless and I have indeed several months of images that exist ONLY on this damn drive. Well, today (Monday take note), I telephoned the computer shop where I took the drive to be ‘repaired’ (saved more like) to be told that they had ripped it out of its housing and plugged it into a PC whereupon they had been asked to format the drive. The good news is that the PC recognised it and asked the question, the bad news is, they don’t have a Mac there to test it out on. So, I popped over and gave them my little MacBook Pro to test it on, with the promise they would call me later. Yep, you guessed it. They didn’t call me! So, I am still none the wiser re the hard drive and its contents.

Frustrating? You bet.

However, on the upside, we received confirmation that we are indeed invited to attend the Take That ‘pre’ show that takes place at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland the day before the official Progress tour begins. We will be one of only a few hundred privileged enough to see the show before anyone else and we will be asked to sign confidentiality agreements and to hand in ALL equipment that is able to record either visual or audio data. That means no photographs. The upside is that we hope to meet the people that know these things and manage to get a pass to at least one of the big stadium shows and snap away in the ‘pit’ along with no doubt countless other people for the Godin project. I will also take some kit just in case we get a chance after the gig to seek out our main man. To say we are pretty excited is an understatement and the only thing that could possibly stop us is some kind of Icelandic volcanic ash preventing our flight from landing at Newcastle airport the morning of the gig! Haha….wait a minute, have you seen the news today? OMG! Oh yeah, I forgot, it is Monday…

Oh well, I will post a gratuitous image of a lovely lady taken for my ‘Lyrics Project’ to cheer me up!

Voyeur Nude

Voyeuristic Nude

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