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Category : Editorial Photography

Hagia Sofia and construction

Istanbul and Instagram, Late to the Game but Catching Up

Istanbul and Instagram Hagia Sofia and construction

Ceiling detail Hagia Sofia mosque

Istanbul and Instagram is part 1 about my trip to the city and contains images shot on the iPhone.

I have a list of places I want to go to and I have a friend who makes me go to them.

The places tend to be the easier ones, the ones you could visit over a weekend, with little planning and therefore, never end up going to.

Thanks to Yeesan I have finally made it to New York, Rome, Berlin and now, Istanbul, even the UK one time: a paying wedding gig was the sweetener.

Her modus operandi consist of booking stop-overs (mostly travelling from NYC to Malaysia), that are in my part of the world. It’s a great service, someone should make an app for it.

So, Istanbul in December. Colder than Barcelona but I am rarely bothered by a few days without sun and the weather suits B&W photography.

I alway knew I would like the place, kind of ramshackle, the emerging cool and trendy living cheek by jowl with faded glory and prosaic poverty.

Our apartment was pretty prosaic, but the area was great. Perched on top of a hill, an occasional boutique breaking up the uniformity of bric-à-brac  vendors and corner shops.

Pretty soon I realised Yeesan was on her phone a lot more than normal, and normal normally means never.

Social media had finally got her. I had, to be fair, joined Instagram quite a while ago but it ended up on the shelf. I just did not get it.

Yeesan did though, the secret was hashtags. When I realised this it all made sense. The trouble is coming up with good hashtags is harder than coming up with good photos. maybe I could outsource that?

So, each day we set off, keen travel photographers both and both fans of the Olympus OMD10, so now this was in  one hand and our iPhones in the other. I know you can do all that wifi sharing stuff, but as I love to use a fixed 40mm equivalent lens on my camera, but I get a little extra space with the iPhone which is sometimes  handy.

My images below were all captured using an iPhone and always using the square format.

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Inés Miró-Sans co-founder Casa Bonay

A Flying Visit To and Then Around Casa Bonay, Barcelona

 Inés Miró-Sans co-founder Casa Bonay

Inés Miró-Sans, co-founder Casa Bonay Hotel in Barcelona

One of the first really interesting job of the year was a shoot at Casa Bonay, a boutique hotel recently opened by Inés Miró-Sans in the centre of Barcelona.

Receiving an email that is a possible job is always a little like Christmas, when it comes from another country even more so, because apart from the appeal of the exotic, it often means they might actually pay you a reasonable amount!

Living in Spain is all too often an exercise in stoic acceptance of clients pleading poverty, not understanding the value of things, or just plain penny-pinching, but what the hell, the sun shines most days and the wines good and cheap.

So, sometime back in March I get an email that boded well, ostensibly from a Miami based magazine called Le Miami, but via an agency in London, so I guess that infers extra exoticness.

Several people were CC’ed into the email. Experience told me that this would likely complicate the process and on top of that the shoot meant organising 6 busy people to be at the location the same day, the same hour, for group and portrait shots.

When I look back on the email exchange it lasted about 3 weeks and jumped from magazine to agency quite a lot and of course each had distinct ideas of the look. Basically it went from sober examples of Time portraits to the Day-Glo mayhem of a summer edition of Italian Vogue for men.

Some grandiose ideas were floating around my mind for the Casa Bonay shoot. I had recently purchased a new and rather large light modifier and was going to use it come hell or high water.

I also decided to dig out the war chest with just about everything I own and haul it over to the location in a taxi. No amount of experience seems to sink in with photographers and the overly cautious or overly enthusiastic make a rod for their own back (and risk injuring it as well) with the amount of kit they are willing to drag around.

Arriving extra early I made my presence known and then went off to scout locations. They hired me to do ‘environmental portraits’ a term I have used on my site and which may have therefore got me the job. I was not really photographing Casa Bonay per se , but the people concerned in its design, etc, so it was a backdrop to the portraits.

I assumed the staff would inform these people where I was when they arrived, but no, that did not happen. So caught up in my location hunt was I, that I did not see the time passing and when I finally went to check if anyone had actually arrived I found them all chatting in the bar. Lucky for me they did not seem put-out by my apparent late arrival. Of course this ate into my shoot time and like most people they assumed doing portraits is a simple click and shoot affair and there was I, wielding gigantic flash lights on stands…

In the end I ended up doing 5 portraits in 7 locations and one group shot in about an hour.

Not ideal, but in truth I find that kind of stress to be conducive to creativity; if you can think on your feet your ideas rarely fall flat.

Included here are the original images, as the ones in the print edition were cropped a little too much for my liking.  Also apart from the photo they used of Inés for the cover, you will find the one I prefer; after shooting for a while she suddenly lit up with this wonderful smile that kind of melted my heart a little.

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Amazing magic hours light in the afternoon

City Light; Those Magic Hours When You Can Take your Studio to the Streets

Amazing light in the afternoon

Plaza España, Barcelona

I would like to take the idea of ‘Magic Hour‘ and turn it into Magic Hours.

Maybe ironically, what I am suggesting might fly in the face of something sacred to many; that moment when the natural light is just perfect (and alas fleeting) for beautifully lit portraits.

My magic hours are when the natural light, by chance of modern architecture and it’s gleaming brutality, can give you a look like that of a studio and most likely won’t be at all soft and nostalgic.

Many years ago when living in London I began to notice this effect and endeavoured to remember when and where it occurred. It is the look you get when the sun hits the glass or metal of modern building and creates all sorts of amazing specular effects that, like the natural type, are all too often fleeting.

The great advantage of this light is that it can happen any hour of the day and of course is affected by the seasons.

If I were a more organised person I would have written down the info in the past, but never did, luckily today with your smart phone this is no longer a problem, take a photo and you will have date and time and GPS if needed.

I really think it’s a good idea to watch out for this phenomena where you live as it could make for great fashion or portrait shoots, especially if like me you favour the use of environments.

I decided to write this post because of a particularly spectacular occurrence near where I live and I grabbed a few shots on my iPhone one of which is below:

Amazing light from reflections

Plaza España, early evening, amazing light reflected from buildings behind me, notice the couple taking pictures, they spotted the effects as well! (iPhone 6)

Now of course if you are just shooting head-shots or something that does not directly reference the place you are, you can get similar effects with reflectors, or even flash, but you will be limited by their size, availability of assistants and if it’s windy, well good luck!

When I think about this lighting it is because I imagine capturing the someone in the space or even just the space itself, as is the case in the examples I have posted here.

When I decided to write this post I did a quick search of my archives and found some images easily, but I know there are probably many more, so I’ll maybe update this article when I come across them.

Below is the earliest example I can find, dating from the mid/late 90s and captured on one of Olympus’s first digital cameras which they kindly lent me:

Specular reflections creating something abstract

An image captured somewhere in North London in the the mid/late 90s with an early digital camera lent to me by Olympus

Below are a mix of images captured with iPhone or camera.

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Violeta fashion Shoot

Bohemian Beach Fashion Shoot, in Barcelona

Bohemian Beach Fashion I have been running a film group in Barcelona for about 7 years, I do this because I love showing people films that they might not get to see and as it is situated in a cultural centre and there is also a great bar, so the whole evening is very sociable; people arrive early and leave late so they can chat and just hang-out.

One of the unexpected outcomes of hosting this event is that it is quite a  good networking tool, I never think of this when there, but slowly getting to know people over a period of time leads to a very natural way of connecting: slow networking if you like.

Anyway, I got to know a girl called Alessia, who is a stylist and blogger and we kind of fell into doing a shoot together.

I like doing fashion these days, much more than I used to in the past, but the usual problem is getting things organised and finding reliable models and collaborators.

I met up with Alessia a couple of times with a view to discussing this and admit that, having done a few shoots in the past I know often they can come to nothing. With Alessia however she was very much on the ball and before I knew it the whole thing was set-up and ready to go, what a luxury!

The actual shoot coincided with another one with a regular client I love working with (Barcelona Hair Academy), so it was a kind of frantic day.

I got to the location early enough to have something to eat and relax a little, which was great as we were doing this at a very cool restaurant on the beachfront called Gallitos, they were very kind to let us use their space and generally get in the way of the very efficient (and patient) staff. Also with us was Eneritz Rojas, who was doing hair and make-up, she did an amazing job and was a fun person to work with.

We planned to do maybe 4-5 different looks and we worked right up to sunset. Our model was Violeta, a real star, lots of class and no attitude, so a joy to work with, the only minor hitch during the shoot was the over-zealous security connected to the W Hotel who claimed some nondescript wall was actually their wall and private property… Really? It was as public a thoroughfare as I have ever seen… So a little cat and mouse fun ensued.

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Iracional Belts. Handmade Gaucho belts in Buenos Aires sun flair

Fashion Shoot, Gaucho Style Belts

Irrational Belts, Handmade in Buenos Aires. The ParkI was contacted by Philipp, the MD of Iracional, a German/Argentine accessory company. They wanted to do a shoot for their belts. The style of the belts is a traditional Gaucho design and they are handmade by a guy in Buenos Aires who is famous for his horse saddles, etc.

The idea was to have some models in the street interacting socially and naturally, one model in particular acted so naturally he did not bother to turn up, which considering this was a paying job in a city where such things are a rarity did seem a little cavalier. I remember jokingly saying to Philipp when we were looking at the model’s portfolios that he looked like a party animal and was sure to arrive late… Luckily the agency owner sent her own son over to cover and he did a great job.

Philipp set up the shoot because he was visiting Barcelona and realised that it had certain characteristics similar to Buenos Aires, Argentina and Uruguay are the spiritual home of the Gaucho), also, as I never tire of telling people, December and January here can be brilliant weather-wise, almost always sunny and not really that cold.

So, once we got started after the delay of the no-show rock star model we headed out and looked for locations.

In this city there is maybe less problems regarding doing such shoots in public spaces but even so, given the choice between putting a flashgun on a stand or having someone hold it, I choose the latter; the carbon based life-form light stand is so much more agile.

At that time of year you have great light, but it goes quickly, the park shots were mid afternoon and the images against the wall started with a nice natural light, but in the end I was using flash to get the look I wanted.

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Anthony Llobet, Hair Dresser & Salon Owner

I went to photograph Anthony whilst still recovering from a stomach bug that had been doing the rounds of the city. I was feeling very light-headed and generally not ‘all there’, I did however have an idea in my mind as to what shot I would like and when you are lucky enough to have this, it can make taking photographs that little bit easier; you have to all intents and purposes solved the creative puzzle and now its just a matter of technicalities and perhaps ‘shoe-horning’ the reality of whats possible into the form you had in mind.

Funnily enough Anthony had only just recovered from the same bug so was either being sympathetic or he too was still slightly delirious (trust me, after this bug you lose so much water, etc, in such a short space of time, it is like a natural high).

The shoot turned out to be good fun and though there are a couple of things  I might have done differently, on the whole I quite like the result. I was determined to not do a traditional portrait and knew I would like to get him sat next to a model and do something with her hair. The space we choose had a nice symmetry which I tried to use, space was very limited though and I was pressed up against the back wall trying to get them both in and having viewing the image on the LED screen, which luckily on the EM-5 flips out.

Nicki-Smyth Barcelona Plumber

Interview Portraits for Magazines

Nicki-Smyth Barcelona PlumberI realise I am behind in posts and it seems like a good idea to do one covering the interview photos I take every month.

I have said this before, that doing these is not going to make me rich, but I do get to meet people, who for the most part, are interesting and quite a few either become friends or clients.

Included in this selection is a photo of Mad who was a friend before and we later did a shoot that was pretty successful.

Also in here is an image of Julian who became a friend and a client and we have had quite a few long nights out at a favourite cocktail bar,  I have also photographed his theatrical productions.

Kostas was also fun to photograph and I am still looking forward to trying his restaurant some day soon.

The photo pictured above is the latest and I have just returned from a trip to Hong Kong so used it as an excuse to try out one of the new light modifiers I had bought there (along with a new camera and lenses). I wanted to try and reprise a look I used last year of Pablo, who became a friend as well.

I guess you could say the aim is to try and mimic the quality of old masters, I would never claim to be the first to try this and a lot more people have achieved something more faithful to the original, but for me it was always justna starting point, so I was never slavishly sticking to the ideal.

So, in one post I have managed to incorporate 8 months of work! A cheat I know, but I really need to catch up so it will have to do.

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El Jardinet Dels Gats

El Jardinet Dels Gats

El Jardinet Dels Gats, Anna AgainI don’t do so many articles for this magazine anymore, but I got called up to do this at short notice and being free said yes.

I know this little park quite well, situated at the back of the Boqueria market but, I suspect, not much visited or written about in guide books, it is pretty easy to miss, a lot of it is shielded and the canopy of trees and tranquility is hardly likely to catch the eye with all the other things going on around there. I met Alex and her mother who run the place and another guy who is a cat therapist/whisperer etc, etc. It is basically a sanctuary that, I believe, is donated by owners of the building it abuts.

I used to live in Buenos Aires and near my apt was a park called Botanico which was an unofficial cat sanctuary in a city overrun with dogs and dog-shit. The funny thing about this park was that there was lots of trees and lots of grass and you could lie down with out the need to worry about lying on something smelly. It was situated between 2 very busy roads and though not so large, once within its iron fence it was surprisingly quiet and peaceful.

When the sun sets the cats would all come out and sit facing the dying rays, it was vaguely surreal and in stark contrast to the mayhem on the streets and roads outside.

El Jardinet Dels Gats has a hint of this atmosphere and though most of the cats were far less friendly or trusting than in the park it is nice to get away from the monopoly of pooches that rules Barcelona.

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IBIS Geneva Professors

UBIS, Geneva

IBIS Geneva ProfessorsI was contacted by Elena Panizza, head of Brain Bazaar about this job. I was very pleased to be asked, after all, it combined travel and decent renumeration, though, in truth, living in Barcelona means I am no longer sure what that is, as very few here want to spend money on work that might be professional when they can get amateurs for free. But this is not a post about the woes of being free-lance in this otherwise picturesque city.

We spent about a day and a half in Geneva at the new premises of UBIS, a Business University. Basically, the work consisted of an impromptu studio set up, for formal portraits and if time/weather permitted, some more informal shots of students being, well students.

There are countless stock library images of photos like this, but it always nicer to get your own; hopefully something less anodyne, more particular, to the client in question and in truth, if I see one more shot of bland preppie models pretending to be students, I might swap my camera for DVDs of Gossip Girl, start shopping in Ralph Lauren and then get a lobotomy, so I can enjoy the whole experience guilt free.

The people we dealt with at UBIS were really great, It was an enjoyable shoot; this is an institution that is being developed a new, so there is a freshness about their approach I like; you are not hide-bound by a too rigid a corporate ID.

I did maybe 17-odd portrait and groups shots and also some video (which was a first and gives me an excuse to learn new skills).

We did not have much luck with time being short or the weather, so we did not really get any informal images, but hopefully future trips will rectify this.

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    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Agata Restaurant Barcelona

Agata Restaurant, Barcelona

Agata Restaurant BarcelonaThese pictures were for a restaurant that was creating a new website.

I got a call from a girl I know called Freddie, who is a designer and also runs a Meetup group for such people, I sometimes go along as it is a very relaxed social night out, rather than the typical networking events, which always feel a bit false and not unlike how I imagine  speed dating nights might be!

I basically had to get shots of the restaurant and also a party they were hosting.

Shooting a place like this is always going to be a tad awkward if its busy and of course the day I arrived this was the case; I wanted to do HDR postproduction, so ideally needed to use a tripod…

My favourite shot is the one I did when no people had arrived, I think the HDR is not excessive and brings a light touch to the image. The second part of the job meant coming back in the evening for the event, this was primarily about food shots so I had to work on the fly before people arrived getting what I could with an agile set up, this in the end involved a flash with a either bare head or basic diffuser and a ring flash for fill, I  was up very close with a lens that has macro capabilities so did not need to shoot wide open to get some decent shallow depth of field (a lot of people talk a lot of crap about how DoF is only really possible on full frame cameras; most of these were shot around f8 on a 4/3 sensor).

The lighting set up worked quite well and like I said was flexible enough to work quickly, as anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant knows things can get very stressful. luckily Lorien, the chef, was a great help.

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