The First Fifty

Well, it's taken 3 years and 6 months, but I've finally shot my 50th magazine cover. in truth, I've shot quite a few more than this, but I decided quite a while ago to only count my chickens once they'd hatched, and I'd actually got the finished copy in my hand.

By my current reckoning, there's at least 8 that haven't "hatched" yet - about 4 of which I never got sent (!), and another 4 (minimum) which I've shot in recent months and have yet to be published. I can't be certain about this last number, as I've shot quite a few potential images, but whether they'll meet the required standards is yet to be seen, as in most cases the conditions on the day (including yesterday!) were not great.

Some scores:
  1. First cover shot: October 2004, last cover (in order of appearance on the above set) December 2007 - although there are 6 in there that were shot January-April 2008.
  2. Golf Covers - 22, Poker Covers - 18, Woking Magazine Covers (!) - 5, PriceWaterhouseCoopers - 4, Britannia Building Society - 1
  3. Taken in 6 different countries - UK, Spain, Portugal, Dubai, Monte Carlo, Italy.
  4. Only 16 were taken in the studio, and the rest in various locations
  5. Here's where it gets really nerdy, but I know deep down you care - 27 were taken on the 1D Mark II, 22 on the 5D, and 1 on a Hasselblad with a Phase One P30 up it's arse.
Here's to the next 50!

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A belated Easter Egg

OK, here's a late Easter Egg treat for you all. Ages ago I saw the Michael Greco/Michael Scorsese time lapse video, and thought to myself "that looks like a good idea". So I had a go myself earlier this year.

The first attempt was a bit of a washout - I used a cheapy webcam, which, whilst it kept the file sizes down, was such low quality it was unwatchable. Then I tried again with a 1D mark II tethered to the Laptop, and this time I was much more successful.

The shoot was a cover and inside feature shoot for Inside Poker magazine of Tony G, a regular on the international poker circuit. The brief was "Power Play", and we were trying to get as much emotion out of Tony as possible. Given how bloody cold it was in the studio he did a superb job - one of those shoots where once I've set the lights up I can simply point the camera and press the button.

We were shooting at 3 Mills, out in the East End of London, as Tony and many others were there filming some Poker TV show or other. The studio was very accomodating, but there seemed to be a problem with the heating in the room we were using! I had enough time at the end of the shoot to try out a lighting test that I'd been mulling over for a little while. It's not finished yet, but I felt I'd better leave it in the film for the sake of honesty.

I've never edited video before, so it took quite a bit of fiddling in Adobe Premiere to get this together. The jaunty background music is by Kevin MacLeod, and was free to download and use - I think it works rather well. This sort of thing only lends itself to some of the work I shoot - lots of my location shoots just wouldn't be suitable as I move around too much, and would have to keep continually unplugging the camera and laptop.

You can play "I Spy" with the video in the following ways:
  1. The Backdrops/Props didn't arrive until almost half way through. Spot how many times you can see Rich, the art director, on the phone trying to chase them up.
  2. There was no heating in the studio, note how certain people don't seem to take their jackets off the entire time.
  3. Unwrapping the 9ft Colorama offered a challenge to quite a few people. Eventually Juliana won the prize by being the first to tear off the strip that holds it together.
  4. Try and work out the ratio of "setting up and hanging around" time to "shooting" time. You'll find it's heavily skewed in favour of the former.
  5. Count how many times Duncan waves both hands in the air (like he just don't care)
  6. Try and spot Rich playing Cricket - on his own.
Overall I shot 194 frames of Tony, and the timelapse is made up of 901 images, one every 10 seconds from start to finish. I was shooting another Poker cover in the same location the next day, and tried the same trick again. It was less successful this time round, as the player in question didn't quite give us his full attention, or very much of his time, and much of the timelapse is taken up with shots of an empty studio...

If folks like this, I may well play around with it some more, though moving images scare me, and I'm probably going to need a little help!

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Poker Player Magazine Covers

A few weeks back the World Series of Poker came to the UK (specifically, dear old London Town) for the first time, and 2 of my clients (both Poker magazines, obviously) jumped at the chance to grab shots of various players whilst they were in the vicinity. So for a few weeks I seemed to be doing nothing other than running round after various gambling types and taking shots with big blank backgrounds that can have stuff comped in afterwards.

Marc Goodwin

The list included: Johnny Chan, Devilfish, Daniel Negreanu, Ram Vaswani, Marc Goodwin, Brian Townsend, and Paul Wasicka. Most of these (except Devilfish and Johnny Chan) were shot in Blank Space studios in Chalk Farm, which I hire from time to time. As always, I can't go sticking lots of photos up online just yet, as the magazine hasn't gone to print and I'll get my wrist slapped. In fact the situation is worse than usual in that since we were taking advantage of the glut of players in London, we shot several months worth, so most of them won't be visible for quite a while yet. All the studio shoots had a similar brief - to get a cover shot as well as a couple of feature portraits for use inside to accompany interviews etc.

Generic Cover Shot setup

Technically most of these shoots were pretty straightforward. The cover image was always shot the same way, as explained on the Marc Goodwin shoot, I would either turn the polyboards to white or black depending on how contrasty the art director wanted them to be, and on occasions I'd add a 2nd head to either backlight the subject, or throw some colour onto the back wall. All the "feature" shots/portraits were shot in a variety of different ways, including ringflash, softboxes and windowlight mix, ambient and flash mix outside, just ambient, slow-snyc flash and pretty much anything that helped to add a bit of mood or give something an edge when I had only a few minutes with someone.

The aftermath of opening a bottle of lucozade between my legs whilst driving home from shooting devilfish - oh the excitement!

As so often happens with jobs, it wasn't the technical side that was interesting, but the people involved. Poker Players are an idiosyncratic lot - maybe it's the gambling lifestyle that creates some of these idiosyncrasies, or maybe they're drawn to it in the first place. I can happily report that there were no ego explosions to speak of, though I was amused by the fact that the British players always turned up alone, and the Americans (and 1 Canadian) always brought an entourage. A couple of idiosyncracies: Johnny Chan had completely forgotten about the shoot, and had I not bumped into him as he was leaving his Hotel it would never have happened, Daniel Negreanu couldn't leave the golf club that we'd brought as a prop alone, and Devilfish was, well, Devilfish really.

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