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Category : Action Sports Photography

Barça FC Messi portrait

Given the run around for a day at Barça FC

Messi, Suarez, Pique, etc, having a laughAny photographer who gets a call to go and shoot with FC Barça is going to have an initial reaction of ‘yes!’ I reckon, even if they are FC Madrid fans.

Any experienced photographer who is asked to do a shoot with a film crew, will most likely have a reaction something  like ’hmmm…’

Even the most accommodating crews will forget all the plans and concessions once the shooting starts; it’s not really their fault, dealing with celebs and more importantly their minders is fraught with problems…

…and a shoot like this, which was a contractual obligation, for the sponsors Becko usually means they want to do the minimum possible.

So my friend Brett and I, who came to help out, were running from pillar to post trying to get all the shots we needed. I had a dream for dramatically lit portraits but that plan did not see daylight: we were in essence more like tolerated paparazzi than official photographers!

The  Barça players themselves were not so bad, they just used the time to horse around and have a laugh. It was the officials of the club who kept clock-watching and throwing the crew curve balls about what was happening and when.

Many years ago when I was assisting a photographer called Martin Black we did quite a few jobs on film sets, there to capture publicity shots for the production.

I could never understand the attitude of the crews back then, they would begrudgingly give us  precious little time to set up for our shots (medium format cameras need powerful and considered flash lighting) and we would often be waiting around for ages, twiddling our thumbs while all the technical stuff for filming was being finessed.

The truth is there was always plenty of time to do what we needed and in the end, we were there to take shots that basically promoted their films!

This job was in sharp contrast to one I did for a magazine a few years ago about Espanyol. We got access to everything and all the time in the world to get the images you wanted

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run on goal

The Europa Cup Tournament; Kids in Camp Nou

run on goal

One of the more hectic events I have had to cover.

Even with an assistant/second shooter this was a day of nonstop action on a day when the temperature was probably closer to 40ºC. There were maybe 50 teams of kids from about 7 years up to 15, participating in The Europa Cup tournament. The pitch at Camp Nou was divided into 4 so that meant, at any one time, 8 teams were playing for 20 mins, the conditions were kind of punishing and boy do the parents take it seriously!

The organisers had a challenge on their hands arriving here and having to deal with quite a lot of bureaucracy, as did we; half way through the event the officials for the stadium decided that we photographers could not walk on the grass, because obviously we were tearing up the turf in our soft-soled shoes; when you are confronted with such random logic you know no amount of reason will prevail, so best to just get on with it.

All in all we were shooting for about 8 hours under a really intense sun and we had to scavenge water where ever we could, it’s fair to say the cab ride home was the nicest one I have taken in quite a while and the glass of wine I had when I got home were pure medicine.

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Joanna Mills Athlete

Joanna Mills, Irish Runner

Joanna Mills AthleteIn the run up to the Olympic games in London I got a call from a guy who I had worked with in the past, he is a sports journalist and the last time we met was at the Marathon in Barcelona where he was helping to promote the marathon in Belfast.

This time he was working on a story about Joanna Mills, a contender to represent Ireland in the 400m  and the relay, there was however a cloud hanging over this because certain governing bodies had made a complete hash of choosing the final team which then led to appeals, so that Joanna and her rival where left hanging as too who would go forward.

Joanna was in Barcelona taking part in an event on Monjuic but it was obvious this mess was hanging over her, but still she was lovely to work with and a great girl. Her father was her manager and minder and he was, let us say, a little more like an attack dog waiting to pounce, but I still managed to get him to hold a reflector and hopefully convince him my intentions were honourable.

Because there was a film crew there as well my time was severly limited and conditions were  far from ideal with strong sun, a strong wind and precious little shelter on the hotel roof to help.

I am satisfied with what I got, it may not be the most flattering image but because of the hard light, but when you are that young it’s not such a big deal.

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Hollis Dunca -Bike Cross Sport

Hollis Duncan, Bike-Cross Fan

 Hollis Dunca -Bike Cross SportThis photo is an example of me having an idea in my head and striving to make it real. I have probably said before, that one does not do these interview pieces for the money, but they, at least, give you pretty much free reign to do as you please.

I had an image of this shot in my head and basically I nailed it.

I needed the ambient light to be close to sunset to paint in the background and then i used 3 flashes to get the effect I wanted, I had quite a lot of gels on the 2 main lights which was set up co axially at a point that Collis would cycle through pretty fast, on the camera I had a ring flash to add some fill. Doing a shot like this means you get one shot each time he passes so timing is pretty important, I prefer to work like this anyway, having a motor drive going always makes me uncomfortable as it can run away with you and also I think there is some atavistic reaction from the analogue days of burning through too much film. This picture is not cropped and is one of quite a few that I would be happy to use in portfolio.

One other thing to note is that this image was shot on a Saturday afternoon, I was suffering a bit of a hangover and had not really slept. I met him at Lesseps where I travelled to using Bicing, I had a lot of equipment but was determined to get some exercise after the excesses of the night before.

After the bike trip we then had a bit of a hike up to Parc Guell which was pretty painful in my state. The thing I have noticed before is that there is no better cure for a hang-over than activities, either physical or mental, that stop you thinking about how crap you feel. After all the hiking I then had to deal with the technical issues of this shoot and I am pleased with the result, this also works for colds and other ailments as well!

Andrea Wheatley Escrima Champion

Andrea Wheatley, Escrima Champion

Andrea Wheatley Escrima ChampionA very interesting person. Andrea loves all types of martial arts, and also has a really good boxing class that I now regularly attend.

Going to photograph her for the magazine was the first time I met her; I would say that now we are friends.

I did a variety of shots some with her waving those sticks very fast right up close to the camera, in the end I prefer this one, it is relatively static but I like her stance. As with all the Interview shots the idea is to have quite a lot dead clean space around the person so they can run the text, this often means a compromise and I have taken to framing shots for the page and then doing others that I like. In this instance I think it works for both of us.

A couple of strobes were used for lighting, there was a lot of ambient too, which helped get some movement in the shots, not so obvious in this one. The good thing about these interview shoots, is meeting people and the chance to find future clients, pictures from this shoot showed up in a couple of other magazines around the World.

Taekwon-do flying kick

John McKissok, Taekwon-do

Taekwon-do kickA trip into the country side on train.

I love travelling this way, especially longer journeys on proper trains that have good seats and tables, so much nicer than flying and the views are easier to be had as is getting up and wandering around.

I was photographing John for the Resident Magazine, I had know idea what to expect. I arrived during a tournament for local schools, it was a sports hall full of frenetic activity and people randomly (it seemed) getting together to beat the crap out of each other, and just as fast as a session began it would end; in short organised chaos.

When John was free we went to another big hall that was empty, it was a prefect spot as I had in mind a way to shoot this and it involved essentially everything in shadow expect for him whom I rightly assumed would be dressed in white.

I set up 2 flash more or less facing each other and gave him a spot to aim for. Due to recycle time I only took one shot of each jump, so it involved getting the timing perfect; it was surprisingly easy! Each time I assumed  I had missed the moment but not so, I maybe did around 60 shots of 60 jumps and almost all were usable and no shots have been cropped.

I love this kind of theatrical lighting and how it freezes everything and really shows the modelling of the fabric, very 3 dimensional.

I intend to use this style more often, I think for sports type shots it is perfect as you are not really looking for a soft beauty light but edges and angles.

American Football Portraits 2

American Football Portraits

American Football Portraits 4This was a story about the semi pro American football league in Spain. The coach was actually British and the training ground is on Monjuic. The weather was pretty awful, rain and drizzle and I was there for about 3 hours in the end, luckily my E3 camera is weatherproof along with the lenses. The problem was the lighting, as for these portraits I was determined to use a couple of flashes. The ambient lighting though did make for a dramatic background.

I took a lot of photos of the game. But even after a couple of hours can still not claim to understand what the hell is going on. I do enjoy photographing sports and find that after a while you learnt to predict movement and using high speed motor drives is not really so necessary if you can anticipate.

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Halcones, Falcons, barcelona Airport flight

Falcons at El Prat Airport

Halcones, Falcons, barcelona Airport with planeI was looking through a magazine one day and I saw a picture of a guy with a falcon at Barcelona airport and thought “What a boring photo” but also realised it was a great  story.

I got in contact with ´Doc´my writer friend who I work with and set the wheels in motion, it was an easy pitch to the magazine so all that was needed was to get through any bureaucracy at the airport.

This was as slow as I expected it to be but not as difficult.

As I suspected the world we encountered there was nothing like what would would of expected. Far from being ‘One man and his bird’ We found a whole team and maybe 80 different types of birds in a special compound situated right in the middle of the runways.

I got a lot of shots that day and may include more in this entry when I can find a way to do it I like, but for now I am using this one because I like the element of humour, the way the bird is seemingly looking at the incoming plane. I also quite like the lighting, I was using flash off camera and the slightly theatrical, almost studio look belies the fact that it was rather windy and quite chilly.

I very interesting day and one of those shoots you could easily turn into a project, as we had precious little time and I know there is a much more in depth story there waiting to be covered.

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Ice-Hockey Camp Nou

Ice Hockey at Camp Nou

Ice-Hockey Camp NouThis was my first paid job as a photographer since coming to Spain. I had been to the magazine about some possible design work the month before and then got a call asking me if I wanted to do some pictures for them.

Ice hockey is fast and I had limited equipment but in the end got a lot of dynamic shots. I think I have a talent for predicting whats coming sometimes and I don’t like to rely on a motor drive to hopefully get ‘the moment’, I hate it when the camera runs away with you, be it with the metering or with some high speed burst mode, I feel like someone going down a steep hill in a car with no brakes.

I actually went back 2 times to photograph these guys, they were so friendly and I realised the training session would allow me to get more portrait type shots, the one here is not my favourite but a variation of it ended up on the cover, though it was supposed to be a minor story orginally.