Carla Monaco

General, Photographs

At long last I’ve managed to get round to doing some processing for me!

I’ve long been an admirer of Carla’s work and if truth be told, I was really waiting until I had a great idea so that I could see if she’d work with me. After much deliberation I settled on three lyric project shots I wanted to try and thought she’d be perfect for.

She lives and has a studio close by so I emailed her with the ideas and asked if she’d be interested. She responded quickly and much to my delight, said she’d be keen to have a go. We settled on a date and time and I sent her more details…

I set off on the day a little unsure how things were going to go, Carla is a model of great repute and some of her portfolio is quite simply, stunning. I arrived, was offered a cuppa and chatted with Carla about how I saw the shoot going. She is a creative and highly professional model and was willing to try the ideas out. I realise after some time of this type of shooting that my ideas aren’t too run of the mill (but not that whacky!) for a working model.

I think the difference is I ask them to act a part and get into a different persona for the shots I’m after. I’m quite chuffed also that every lovely model I’ve had the pleasure of working with seems to really quite enjoy it and are quite prepared to ‘go the extra mile’ to get what we need.

Carla was no different and when I finally suggested that the last pic I was after was one involving a close-up face beauty shot with the twist being she had to pour honey onto her mouth she never batted an eye (she did have the foresight to change into an old top though)!

This photograph was taken in between the ‘main’ events and was really a grab. The dress Carla was wearing was for another image but standing chatting together I decided it would be a waste of a great sorta fashion opportunity if I didn’t just try to get a lovely shot of her looking, well, like Carla looks!

The ‘real’ shots are coming shortly!



The Hardest Part


We managed to take a break from the chatter to actually take a photograph! Layla had this gorgeous vintage dress and had brought some boots along so we both felt it would be perfect to shoot Coldplay’s, Hardest Part lyric in the hallway.

“Waiting for that bell to ring” was a good line and could mean a number of things. Phone, end of lesson but we settled on the doorbell. A ring on the bell could be the start or end of something or just be mundane and an anti climax. I like to think of it as the beginning, an unknown that doesn’t reveal itself until you swing the front door open.

Waiting for it to ring, implies a hint of desperation, a ‘need’ for it to, as if the world can’t move forward unless it does…

“The strangest thing” suggests the writer believes it was an odd thing to be doing but, out of control, he has no choice.

The song is about love of course but as usual, there are many synonyms contained that could be interpreted into many aspects of life.


Model: Layla-Leigh
Location: Chippenham, UK

Dancing in the Moonlight and choices…


I’ve been laid up for the past week or so with a bad back so I was a little worried about the shoot we had planned for last Sunday. A few anti- inflammatories and some pain killers managed to at least get me mobile again so we decided to crack on with the plan.

The aim was to shoot the next photograph in my ‘Lyric Project’ and this one was simple to interpret (as much of this project seems to be!). The lyric was “Dancing in the Moonlight” and my idea was to get a lovely ballet dancer to foolishly listen to me and perform some graceful loveliness in front of the Royal Crescent in Bath Spa, Somerset, UK. The shot would be completed at dusk/night (obviously) and I decided would need to be two shots comped together, one of the landscape and the other of the dancer, strobed to freeze the graceful movement of a leap. The wonderful Royal Crescent was chosen due to its grace and grandeur (suitable for ballet) and its unique crescent shape representing a new moon.

I was joined by a young and hugely talented ballet dancer, Gabrielle MacAllister and her wonderful (and equally talented teacher/mentor) Rebecca Petty-Fitzmaurice from the Dance School, FitzGraham Academy of Dance from Chippenham, Wiltshire, UK. Gabrielle is soon to attend a school in Barcelona to further perfect her trade such is her ability! I brought along my long time friend and able assistant Kev Borley to help with the lugging and to be my mobile light stand for the strobe!

We arrived too early for the shoot given there was still remaining light from a rapidly setting sun but this gave us the opportunity to munch on the sandwiches, crisps and chocolate we’d purchased on the way!  We took the short walk up to the location and were all surprised at the bitter northerly wind that bit into us in the open land in front of the Crescent. Gabrielle looked uncertain at the thought of donning the flimsy white dress we’d brought along for her ‘performance’. No joke, we were down to 3ºC with a strong bitter breeze and I realised we would have to work quickly.

We lugged all the kit to our set and I set up the tripod with my lovely 17mm tilt and shift Canon lens. 17mm was wider than I’d hoped to have to go but we were as far back from the viewpoint as we could go. I took some shots of the view on long shutter speeds and noticed the lovely blue sky full of stars above the buildings. Perfect.

Then it was Gabrielle’s moment in the flash light.With the help of “Miss Beccy”, we trialled some leaps and worked out the best technical move that captured the light correctly and made the dress ‘flow’. Once this was done, it was just down to our ‘light stand’ and me to aim and time everything correctly. Gabrielle’s performance was of course, perfect every time. We had frequent breaks to make sure our gorgeous dancer didn’t actually get hypothermia and when the teacher and light stand started to complain of being unable to feel their fingers, we decided to call it a night. As always with these things, I was totally oblivious to the time and realised we had been stood around for longer than I had anticipated.

On reviewing the images we were happy with what we had achieved and on the big screen back in the office, they looked excellent but would need some work to produce a final image due to the need to comp the different images.

I spent considerable time combining the shots to create a suitable ‘base’ image I was happy with. In the end, the final shot is 3 images blended due to the dress not being as I wanted it to be in the best action shot. Once I had created the base image the biggest problem and not one I have had for some time, presented itself. I ended up with 3 images I liked for different reasons but that themselves conjured up quite different feelings upon viewing. After much seeking of advice and ummming and aaaahing I have decided on the image below. Its unusual but I think it captures Gabrielle’s dynamism and the image has the element of fun and exuberance I was seeking. I also accept that its a bit love it or hate it but hey, that’s art isn’t it?


Tips & Tricks For Pet Portrait Photography

General, Photographs

Happy New Year to everyone. Lets hope 2015 gives as many great opportunities and interesting images as last year!

If you’d like your gorgeous pet photographed like this or any other style, please get in touch!

Having shot some commercial images of animals for a pharmaceutical company I thought it would be interesting to photograph some portraits of a family pet. The thinking being that ‘snaps’ are fun to take in the garden or field but how would a more formal studio shoot go. I had learned a few ‘tricks’ from my previous experiences and the handlers I had worked with.


The secrets are quite obvious but easily forgotten in the heat of battle. The idea behind the shots were to try to capture our Black Labrador “Smedley’s” personality but also his nobility and handsome good looks! He has a rich, deep, luxurious coat and that was something I wanted to highlight so a simple dark background, low key approach was what I decided on for these. It also gives the viewer a ‘feel’ for his wonderful character. Calm (for a puppy), strong and intelligent.

Tips for shooting animals such as dogs are:

  • Be very clear of the shots you want and the mood you are after BEFORE introducing your animal.
  • Try to time your session with the animal to its most ‘chilled’ time of the day. After a walk, early evening etc.
  • Be fully prepared before the subject arrives into the shooting area (ie. Don’t fiddle with you lighting when they’re on set!)
  • Keep the number of frames/time they’re actually ‘sitting’ to a very short timescale. You can repeat several times but keep each sitting short.
  • Check lighting and look between each short shooting spell to make adjustments
  • Have an assistant (owner?) close to hand to help and be clear with them as to what you’re after, again before you bring the animal on set.
  • Flash the studio lights a few times before setting to work so the animal isn’t too spooked during the proper shoot.
  • Turn off studio light recycle beeps
  • Have plenty of treats and favourite toys to hand to distract, cajole and encourage the animal.
  • Be patient – if the animal won’t settle or becomes agitated you won’t get the shot anyway. Take a break, relax the animal and take your time.
  • Be relaxed and encouraging to all parties at all times.


Obviously different animals will require different strategies but this is a very rough guide and it helps to be mentally prepared before each session. Be clear on the type and style of shots you want prior to the session. Talk with the owner/handler thoroughly as to their role and how you will conduct the shoot.

As I say, it all seems pretty straightforward and simple but when you have an animal in your studio, things can quickly deteriorate and important clear thinking and easy details can be forgotten and lost.

Have a great year and keep coming back for more updates!


Dixie Wedding


We had the wonderful pleasure of photographing Ross and Wendy’s beautiful Wedding the other day. The ceremony took place at Farmborough Church in North Somerset and the gorgeous reception at Priston Mill a couple of miles up the road.

The bride of course looked stunning (the Groom looked pretty hot too) and it was a privilege to photograph such a wonderful laid back and relaxed couple with their equally affable and fun guests. The day was a long one but thoroughly enjoyable and exciting (as Weddings generally are I guess!).

The service was interestingly punctuated by a Barn Owl that was (supposed) to deliver the rings for the Best Man but they do say never work with children and animals. The beautiful owl got stage fright at the last second and ended up on the videographers shoulder rather than the waiting glove and titbit of the Best Man!

The weather held good and we grabbed an opportunity to take some images along the way before the reception which led to some cool images in the wonderful Somerset landscape.

Our heartfelt congratulations to Ross and Wendy and may you enjoy many years of happiness in the future.

Here are a few of the shots taken during the day:-

Dixie Album Thumbs-5877R&W-5851 R&W-5917 R&W-6033 R&W-6129 R&W-6178 R&W-6230_tn R&W-6331_tn R&W-6382_tn R&W-6439 R&W-6692a_tn R&W-9351 R&W-5398

And the pesky Owl!

Dixie Other Thumbs-5993

Edro III, Sea Caves, Cyprus


On a recent trip to Paphos, Cyprus we investigated the wreck of the cargo ship Edro III at Peyia that ran aground in stormy weather on the 8th December 2011. It was en route from Limassol to Rhodes carrying a freight of plasterboard.

I had scoped the wreck out on Google Maps and decided the best time of day to photograph it would be around sunset on a clear evening (any summer day in Cyprus!).

When we arrived early it seemed churlish to refuse a couple of beers and a meal at the nearby excellent cafe, Oniro By The Sea, that overlooks the rugged bay and rotting hull. The ship sits around 15-20 metres off shore, near an outcrop and looks expectedly out of place in a lovely blue sea.

I took various shots at different angles during the sunset but this one is my favourite. There were a few others taking pictures and it struck me that this otherwise plain and functional vessel would never normally be so photographed if it weren’t for its unusual predicament.

There are plans to salvage the stricken vessel this year.


Northern Lights at Callanish Stones



Callanish WM-

Our recent trip to the Hebridean Islands of Harris and Lewis in Scotland brought many gorgeous views and photogenic subjects to our hard working lenses. Not least this amazing chance to photograph the iconic and ancient site of The Callanish Stones with the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) behind them.

The Stones incredibly date back to 2,900BC and were later used as an ancient burial ground. The truth behind their original purpose is unclear with some suspecting moon and nearby mountain alignment. Folklore suggests, among others, ‘turned to stone’ giants who refused to accept christianity. Whatever the truth behind their existence, visitors to the site are left with an enlightening feeling of hope and relative importance, much the same way as a trip to Stonehenge and other ancient monuments create.

The story behind the shots are, as always, interesting but involved an incredible amount of luck!

After a full days shooting around the Hebrides (or Western Isles) we had returned to our base home for the week for rest and replenishment. During a phone call home later in the evening I noticed an ‘odd’ cloud formation in the dark night sky. As I hadn’t long returned from a trip to Norway’s northern region to photograph the Northern Lights I mentioned to my wife on the other end of the line that “if I didn’t know any better I would say I could see the Northern Lights in the sky up here!” I thought little more of my comment as we finished off our evening conversation.

Returning inside and taking one last look at the night sky, I was even more convinced that it appeared I was indeed watching the Aurora. I sped inside to quickly conduct a ‘Google’ search and lo and behold, there were reports around the country of sightings. My companion and I hastily prepared for another quick trip outside (gear and warm clothing!) in our well used hire car and stopped by the roadside a mile away free from any light pollution (not too difficult up in the Hebrides).

My excitement was complete on the first handheld ‘test’ shot. There was green in that there sky! We set up our camera equipment and took some shots. They were good but not great, we needed some foreground interest. We realised we were 2 miles away from the Callanish Stones so jumped back into the car and headed straight for them.

The resulting shots were amazing for us. We were totally alone (it was by this time 1am) but we combined unlit stones with ‘light painted’ shots using a flash and maglite torch and much trial and error.

Being there that late at night, that alone and with this spectacle occurring before our eyes we got caught up in the moment. This site is nearly 5,000 years old! I favour the ‘Giants’ folklore theory as the magic we witnessed that night means anything is possible!


Callanish WM--2