Room with a view

You may have noticed that I have been a little quiet lately.  This is mainly due to the normal reasons – work crazy, loads of shoots, team members on holiday etc.  However, this time there is a new reason/excuse for my tardiness.

An excellent reason in fact.

After nearly six years of living in ships and hotels, from the sublime to the down right ridiculous, we finally thought ‘enough is enough’, and we bit the bullet and got a small cottage way out in the sticks where no one can find us.

It is beautiful.


For the first time in six years, Sian and I have a little piece that is ours.  We don’t have to share anything, we don’t have to abide by rules imposed by the powers that be…we can just ‘live’.

I know this sounds ridiculous and I feel almost callous as I write this.  We have been so, so lucky to have the opportunities and lifestyle that we have had for so long.  We wouldn’t change a thing.  And we aren’t really – we will be staying at the hotel at least four times a week, because that is what our job demands and there is no way that we could keep things going if we were based out here.

Seriously, we’re in the sticks.

But for those long weekends, for that time when we just want to lock the door and get away from sun burnt tourists, the taxi vendors desperate for some business, and the questions and questions and questions you get every time some one hears you live here. “What, in the Hotel?…How lucky you are!”

Yes, yes, yes…

Like I say, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful – and I am not.  We have a fabulous room in our hotel, the staff look after us, and as I mentioned, our operation would not run If Sian and I were not there 24/7.

I’m just hoping it will if we’re there 24/5.

Because with a view like this to come home for, the weekend just cannot come quick enough.

Thanks for reading guys – here’s to a new, super chilled out Ferg in the future 🙂

x

Puppies again!

Before you read any further, I have to let you know that this blog comes with disclaimer.   I cannot be held responsible for any damage, injury or harm either you or your computer may suffer from dribbling, cooing, or general hugging of the screen in front of you.

Because these pups are ridiculously cute.

Some of you may remember this post a few weeks back; we met Rob and Penny and their beautiful puppies.  But we had all the wrong kit.  A wide lens and no flash diffuser, the pictures were alright, but I organised a re-shoot with the pooches with the appropriate gear.

And I am oh-so-glad we did.

It has taken me an age to write this blog, so apologies if I am a little sketchy on the details.  Rob and Penny bought their beautiful Bichon Frise ‘Bo’ with them over from the UK when they moved here a few years back.  They had her bred, and she blessed Barbados with seven of these crazy-cute-canines.  They are gorgeous.

Sian and I popped over to Rob and Penny’s a while back to do this shoot, and since then, the pups have all moved on to their own homes.  But we got them, all together for about an hour.  It was an interesting shoot to say the least.

They say never to work with animals or children.  Now, I love working with kids.  In fact, it’s one of my favourite parts of the job.  I love it when we get a family with nippers.  I find children are a lot more natural in front of a camera, and there is nothing better than a natural shot of a child full on belly-laughing in the Bajan sun.

Puppies are, clearly, very different.  It is hard to get them where you want them to be – hard to get them to look where you want to, and try as I might, I couldn’t make them laugh.

 

But they look gorgeous all the same 🙂

 

Thanks for reading guys.  Keep on snapping.

x

A Blomage: Episode 1 – Leanne Cole

One of the things that I have really, really enjoyed about starting my blog is that I now read a crap load of them myself.  The blogging community is a social one, and if you post good(ish) content regularly, you get followers and friends.

But your fandom and almost freakish stalking of a particular blogger can sometimes go unnoticed…and that’s where the ‘blomage’ comes in.

As you have probably guessed, I have rather ingeniously combined ‘blogging’ with the word ‘homage’ and, well, I’m sure you will figure the rest out.

Anyway, the first in what I hope will be quite a long series of ‘blomages’, is to the wonderfully talented Leanne Cole.  Leanne is a photographer in Australia, and she posts spectacular HDR images on an almost daily basis.  I discovered Leanne because she kindly liked my page.  I followed her ‘like’ and saw her work.

And I have been reading her blog ever since.

Now – for those of you who don’t know, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and there are some simply wonderful photographers out there who use it beautifully. Leanne is definitely one of them, but I must also tip my hat to the amazing Trey Ratcliff who writes the ‘stuck in customs’ blog.

Out. Standing.

There are also a billion idiots who just rape your eyes with their attempts with the technique.  Please quickly go on Google right now, click on the images and search “Bad HDR”.   It’s OK, I will wait…you really have to see what I am talking about to fully appreciate just how awesome Leanne is.

Done it yet?….

SEE WHAT I MEAN?!!  Why would anyone think that is acceptable?!

But I digress.  I love Leanne’s work, and I hope that you do to.

One of the things that I like so much about her page, is that she explains (as best she can) her process to get where she wants to, and, shock of all horrors, she shares her original images too.

This is so, so brave – and I love her for it.

In order to make an HDR photo, you must take a set of at least three photos, in exactly the same spot at varying exposures. So, at the most basic, you would take one slightly under-exposed, one bang on the money, and one that is overexposed.  You then merge these bad boys together with an appropriate program, and play with the tonal mapping.  This allows you to expose the entire scene absolutely perfectly.  You can bring out details in the shadows that would just be black in your ‘bang on the money shot’, or bring down highlights that would otherwise be completely overexposed.

Bearing this in mind, you still need to compose correctly, and you need to know what you want your photo to look like in the end…otherwise you end up with something like this.   And no one wants that.

Ever.

But by sharing the original, Leanne faces the age old ‘oh, it’s just Photoshop – you’re just pressing buttons – that’s not photography’ bullshit.  And that is really unfair.  Post processing is part of photography now.  Sorry if you don’t want to hear that, but it is.  Photoshop is as important nowadays as the lens you buy, and if you don’t use it, you’re either a liar or an idiot or both.

What Leanne does, masterfully, is draw your eye to what she wants you to see.  She blurs out areas she thinks distracts, she blends tones and adds contrast where she thinks it is needed, and I would hazard that she spends just as long (if not longer) processing the shots as she does shooting them.   Unlike Snapseed and Instagram – which have their place and I do not knock them at all – Leanne has 100% control of her images.   She decides what the software does, not a computer.  Just like black and whites, Leanne understands which scenes suit the technique best – often abandoned buildings and old industrial sites, and she works her magic.

And with that, I leave you with my first blomage – an HDR exposure from Venice.  I wanted to bring out the graffiti on the wall, screaming from behind the beautiful hand carved and ancient second hand furniture.  This image is made up of nearly thirty layers (I counted them especially) with an array of blurs, blend modes, exposures, contrast, textures and noise…I hope you like it.

And if you’re reading Leanne, I hope I understood your last 50+ posts!!!

Thanks for reading guys 🙂

http://leannecolephotography.com/

Do you hate crap HDR as much as I do?  Please feel free to post any links to corkers you find in the comments below, and I will speak to you all again at the weekend 🙂

How did we get here?!

The other day I rang my dear friend Rachel.  She is awesome and gorgeous and has a wonderful husband called Ross and they have a baby I am yet to meet and another one in the post.  They, like us, eloped from the UK for a few years over to the States, but are now firmly back in the UK, living the dream and happy.

And Rach said something that really rang true with me.  I missed it all.  She wasn’t saying it in a bad way – but I missed the whole thing – I missed them moving home, I missed their visits back, I missed their birthdays and  I missed the pregnancy…and now their first boy Niels is going to be nearly two years old when I finally meet him.

I have also missed so much of my other friend’s paths – becoming teachers, actors, writers, performers, managers, cowboys (seriously) and everything in between…and I have no idea of their journeys…And I, like them, kissed and waved them goodbye 6 years ago – on a path to become a self-proclaimed literary genius, and am set to return a fully fledged photographer…how the hell did that happen?

Well, if you would care to indulge me, I hope to share the last six years of our somewhat crazy lives in a few paragraphs.  If you have come here for a few pretty pics, please, go ahead and check them out – I am under no illusions that the autobiography of a tubby balding Englishman may be deemed as tedious to say the least.  But for those of you still with me, I thank you, and promise to keep it brief.
When I left university, a glistening eyed 22 year old whipper snapper, I had grandiose plans to become the next Anthony Nielson.  A genuine bad boy of the theatre world, I loved his writing, and I adored his approach.  He does everything.  He writes and directs, and sometimes performs, very gritty, very witty, and all round awesome plays.  This was my plan.  And by God if, by the age of 22 I wasn’t on my way.  I was crazy lucky enough to work with some wonderful people in the Scottish Theatre scene, and after assistant directing Petrol Jesus Number 5 In the time of The Messiah at the Traverse with Philip Howard – a wonderful man, and amazing in the rehearsal room – I was offered a paid assistantship with another upcoming production.

I was ecstatic.

But then we got a phone call that changed our lives.

A family crisis and we had to drop everything in Edinburgh.  I tearfully spoke with Philip, who, as Philip does so well, listened and gave advice and told me that we were doing the right thing.  We left Edinburgh within two weeks, and moved into a small house in Bexleyheath with our little nephew Ryan who was only a few months old, and Sarah, my wonderful sister in law.  I kidded myself that I would be back in Edinburgh, working with Scotland’s New Writing House again in the future, and that all would be fine in the end.  But in my heart of hearts, I knew that I would be closing the door on that particular adventure…

…And so a new adventure began.

I wrote and emailed and scribbled my new ‘masterpieces’ to whoever I could think of, whilst Sian (then my girlfriend) worked a horrible job in the city she abhorred.

All for me.

What a lucky, lucky man I have been.

Rejection after rejection after rejection; the only saving grace of this time was that, for three days a week, I got to be a full time uncle.  Sarah and Sian would leave early for work, and from Monday to Wednesday I got to look after the two month old bundle of joy that was Ryan.

It was – and still is, the best thing I have ever done.  He was awesome.  We would go to parks, and go to library readings and play on the sofa, and make tea together, and whilst he napped, I would open the stream of rejection emails and letters; some of them hard, some of them soft, but all of them as gutting and upsetting as the next.  Until one day, I got a commission, and all was well with the world again.

Ironically, the play I had been commissioned to write was to be premiered back up in Edinburgh – the very city we had left a year ago.  Sian, stoically said she would work more hours to pay for my full-time writing shenanigans, and somehow we got by and I finished my play.

Two weeks before we opened, the company that had commissioned me went bust.  I had not received a penny for the year’s worth of work I had put in, and now it looked like I would have no production, no money, and all of it had been for nothing.   Worse still, the company had invested a crap load of other theatre companies for the Edinburgh Festival, but as they had gone bust, there were no venues for them to perform.  Not only my play was in jeopardy but so were another 80 odd companies’.

Things were not good.

We went back to Edinburgh anyway, and by hook and by crook, we got our show on.  The cast were great, as were a lot of the people who had been let down by my previous employers…it was not the nicest of times, but we got through.

On the 14th August I got a call from my friend Keara.  She told me the saddest news I have ever heard.   A very good friend of ours, Evren, was murdered back in London.  We hadn’t seen dear Ev for a good few years, but he was one of the most gentle and kind human beings you would ever be lucky enough to meet.  It was unjust, unfair, and Sian and I decided enough was enough, we would have a better year next year; we would run away.

And that’s where it all began.  Fired by a want to escape – a need to find something good and happy, we left shitty, cold, unkind Blighty for a life of sun drenched dreams and frivolity.

Well kind of.  We worked on the cruise ships.

And this is where it all started for us.  I quickly forgot about my literary ‘masterpieces’ – my obsession for good reviews (Google them, I’m sure you will find quite a few unkind ones) and yearning to work stupid hours for no money,  and I fell in love with the instrument of our new profession.  I loved the cameras.  I loved learning about aperture and shutter and ISO.

True, in the beginning, I learned very little very slowly and my first few years as a ‘photographer’ yielded embarrassing results to say the least.  I was great at portraits and gangway and everything else, because my manager would set me up with the settings, and off I would go.  Getting people to smile and look happy was easy for me, and then the camera did the rest.

But left to my own devices, I sucked balls.  Big time.  So much so, that I do not want to share any of my photos from the first year we were away with you..but I would like to share this.

This was the very first time I used my camera in manual, where I am proud to say I knew what I was doing.  And I sold a crap load of them, and every time I did, I felt like I had got a 5 star review for one of my now forgotten about ‘masterpieces’.

The Great Pyramids – Egypt

And it got very addictive, very quickly.  Every port we got to, I would take my camera out, and try and find the photo that would sell…and would be better than everyone else’s.

Because that’s all photography is really, showing off.

And I do love to show off.

You will probably notice that my earlier stuff is a lot more heavily processed than the work I produce now.  That’s because in the early days I really had very little clue what the flash I was doing.  But I have always been pretty handy with a computer, and when we first joined ships, I had a pretty solid grasp of Photoshop.

The Great Mosque – Istanbul

And as the years went on, I read and read, and shot and shot and shot.

An amazing room in the Lavadia Palace – Yalta

One of the millions of gondolas in Venice

Three years on the ships and I had worked myself up to Photo Manager.  When we were offered our position in Barbados, we leaped at the chance.

Sian and I at The Cliff – Barbados

And here we are now nearly six years later, and looking at returning to the UK next year.  We have seen so much, learned so much, met some amazing people along the way, and spent a disgusting amount of money on cameras, lenses and everything else that this career demands.

And to think, if we hadn’t had that phone call all those years ago I may have been a struggling director living in soggy Scotland.

If we could do it all again?…We wouldn’t change a thing 😉

Thanks for reading guys, puppies to come next – promise!!