documentary photographer

Spitfires at Goodwood

The Goodwood estate not only hosts amazing events such as the Festival of Speed and the Goodwood Revival but also caters for corporate and VIP events at the motor circuit and race course as well as golf course and aerodrome.

A recent little job involved shooting at the aerodrome where corporate VIPs were being taken for flights in a pair of two seater Spitfires - now that's a treat anyone would love.

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spitfire-13

Being so close to these aircraft was a great treat - the noise and smell of the engines are enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck and get the pulse racing.

Whilst shooting these pictures I realised I recognised one of the aircraft as being a Spitfire that my Uncle (Wing Commander Tim Elkington) had flown in a couple of years previously.  As one of the remaining 'few' - the pilots who flew in the Battle of Britain - Tim was taken up for a flight by the RAF at the age of 90.  I have a suspicion the emotions he felt during the flight were very different from those of the corporate guests.

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Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 15.17.10

Fuji X100s - a match made in heaven?

The lovely little Fuji X100s is without doubt a great camera.  I bought it originally on the back of reviews by people such as David Hobby and Zack Arias for whom it had rapidly became a firm favorite.  I'd kind of hoped it would be the same for me - I wanted something small and light for overseas assignments that would get rid of the need to carry my 5D mk lll plus 3 or 4 F2.8 L series lenses and all the associated paraphanalia that goes along with it - my long suffering back would thank me and all in all life would be simpler.

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IMG_0744

Having had the camera for over 18 months now lets say I've grown to love it..  It was not an out and out love after a first date but it's a simmering relationship that has grown stronger with time.  I now know the quirks and foibles but I think we might well be happy together in the long run.

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DSCF0677

So first lets talk about what's wrong with the camera.

This is actually the second one I've had - the first ended up being returned only months after receiving it with a variety of problems including a dodgy LCD and a tendency to shut down not start up again without removing the battery. Not a good start.  Having got all that sorted and repaired the camera was stolen from a vehicle in Indonesia - a black version was provided by the insurance company and the camera has been fine since.

Fixed lens - with a fixed 35mm equivalent F2 lens you are obviously stuck with what you have.  There's no convenient zoom or long lenses here - it's 35mm and that's it....  If you can't get you head round this and pull yourself away from your bag of zooms then this is not the camera for you.

Batteries - The batteries are woefully poor.  No other way to say it.  If you have an X100s the first thing you will want to do is buy a pocket full of spare batteries.  The battery indicator has a habit of going from full to 2 bars without warning and then from 2 bars to shut down in the space of a couple of frames.  It's got so bad that I switch the camera off if not about to take a shot - something I'd never have to do with my Canons - I could leave my 5d mklll switched on for weeks without worrying the battery would ever be flat.  With the Fuji you might get a couple of hundred frames at best before the battery dies almost without warning.  BUY MORE BATTERIES.

Focusing - Apparently a big improvement from the previous model the X100 - but nonetheless still a bit of a laggard compared to most modern DSLR cameras.  While the green focus indicator in the optical view finder (OVF) does show you that focus lock has been achieved it takes a lot of use to develop a trust in this however it does seem to work - ok it needs light to focus reliably but then so do many cameras.  The continuous focus option works kind of ok but with this you are limited to a central focus point only - useless for off centre subjects.

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_DSF1436

Both the cameras I've had have occasionally locked themselves up to the point that the camera does not wake up when pressing the shutter button - you want the camera to be alive as soon as soon as you go to shoot but this is not the case.

Menus - Far from the simplest of menu structures - I've assigned the function button beside the shutter release to be ISO selection which saves a bit of time when required.

Image quality from the camera is stellar.  It's only a 16mp sensor but delivers extremely sharp high quality raw images that have a very particular look to them.

So the camera is not perfect - but then which one is.  Despite it's quirks and foibles, where this camera shines is being inconspicuous, silent and delivering quality images.  OK it's a fixed lens but that teaches you to move your feet rather than zoom your lens in order to get the shot - many of the great documentary images of our time were shot on fixed 35mm lenses.  It's a lovely camera to use - the focal plane shutter is a real asset when working with flash and for slow fly on the wall street photography and reportage.  Now if Fuji were to do a version of this with a fixed 85mm lens we'd have a perfect combo - for the time being though the best option I see is to add the more recent Fuji X-Ti with the 56mm F1.2 lens (85mm equivalent) - now that would be a match made in heaven.

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DSCF0963
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DSCF1188

What in the name of God...? Image of the Day

filmportraits-11Now religion can be a tricky subject at the best of times - fascinating certainly, but tricky nonetheless.  While shooting images at the amazing Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad in 2013 there were some truly extraordinary sights - some defied logic and normal reason, but then religions themselves (to many) often defy logic and reason.

In Hinduism a Sadhu is a religious ascetic or holy man, dedicated to reaching a higher state of being through meditation and contemplation.  Sadhus engage in a wide variety of religious practices. Some practice extreme asceticism while others focus on praying, chanting or meditating.  The Kumbh Mela brings thousands upon thousands of Sadhus together on the banks of the sacred Ganges river in a heady cannabis smoke laden display of devotion.

Relying on donations from lay people the life of a Sadhu could never be described as easy - understandably hunger and poverty are a common feature of Sadhu life.  At the Kumbh Mela I photographed a lot of Sadhus - their naked ash smeared bodies and strange practices provide an obvious draw to both the faithful and the not so faithful.  This particular Sadhu had long ago decided to show his faith in a rather unconventional manner -  others sat cross legged and claimed to be hundreds of years old (donations gratefully received in exchange for blessing) or claimed to have sat naked on high Himalayan glaciers for years at a time (cue picture of a melting snowman as proof - as if proof were needed - donations gratefully received in exchange for blessings) or amazed crowds with floating rocks (cue pumice in barrel of water - donations gratefully received in exchange for blessings).

This particular Sadhu chose to wrap his genitals around his sword - a sign of complete lack of sexual desire - and then had one of his devotees jump up behind him and balance on the sword, putting significant force on an area not generally accustomed to such things - cue donations in exchange for blessings.

As a non Hindu my donations were always accepted in exchange for photographs and the occasional blessing.  The greatest blessing I have received in life is that I'm fortunate enough not to have to make a living in this way - religion is a strange thing for sure.

Latest shoot - Southern Co-operative

A recent shoot for the Southern Co-operative annual review involved shooting at a variety of locations reflecting the range of services offered by the Co-op - from portraits of the Chief Exec to local egg supplier and funeral services, it made for a couple of interesting days shooting. A few of the images are shown below.

Starting at the local crematorium provided some useful images but the image below was a little more quirky and off brand - it will not end up being used but I kind of liked it none the less.

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Claytons Eggs, Romsey

Amy, Co-op trainee, West Wittering

Portraits of the Chief Exec and Chairman were to be used as simple cut outs in the review so were shot against a plain wall.  I always feel it's better to over deliver so took the option of shooting another very quick set up only feet away from the first.  With nothing more than a quick shift of a lighting stand we could shoot a totally different image and provide the client with another option even though it wasn't part of the brief.  The selection below show the original image shot against plain wall - the second option against the window and then the cut out on white as the images will probably appear in the final review.