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Archive for the 'award' Category

My favourite films of 2008.

filmframe

I usually bore all my filmy mates with my favourite films of the year, but hey, now I have a blog I can be even more indulgent!  My favourite music list will follow shortly, as soon as I’ve taken some more evaluative pills.

  1. There Will Be Blood /Paul Thomas Anderson, USA … ambitious, layered, passionate, engrossing, well acted.  Old-fashioned parable, epic in a good way.  Stunning cinematography.  Needed a great central performance and thankfully we got a top of the range Daniel Day Lewis acting class.  Powerful stuff.  Just spoilt by a drawn-out ending.
  2. The Dark Knight /Christopher Nolan, USA … very enjoyable, disturbing, moody and magnificent, Heath Ledger’s Joker lifts it notches higher on the entertainment levels.  Delve deeper and the messages are thick and potent.
  3. Juno /Jason Reitman, USA … original, funny, involving, imagine a comedy about abortion working so well. Great screenplay.
  4. No Country For Old Men /Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, USA … clever and creepy, vacuous, mans dark side exposed, not much hope on show.  Always interesting but worryingly uninvolving.
  5. Happy Go Lucky /Mike Leigh, UK … just the antidote I needed post “Old Men” and “Will Be Blood”, light of touch, beautifully acted, jaunty, charming and sweet. A film with a heart.
  6. Lars & the Real Girl /Craig Gillespie, USA … I really loved this, its original, affecting and thoughtful.  You are slowly drawn into a quite odd world which is brought to life wonderfully.
  7. Of Time and the City /Terence Davies, UK … rich, moving, interesting, thoughtful, individual, a very personal elegy and an essay on life.
  8. Charlie Wilson’s War /Mike Nichols, USA … entertaining, well acted, surprisingly better than I thought.  Philip Seymour Hoffman should have won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this.
  9. Gomorrah /Matteo Garrone, Italy … realist and gritty, suffers a little being post-“Sopranos”, anti-gloss gangster deconstruction. Tight jumpy editing, visually strong and visceral.  Deserves to be seen widely.
  10. Sweeney Todd /Tim Burton, USA/UK … rich in colour and pantomime,  good fun, I closed my eyes sometimes but the sounds were even worse.  Burton back on form.
  11. The Kite Runner /Marc Forster, USA … emotive, a strong visual hook tells a universal tale.  Strong but slightly flat.
  12. Wall-E /Andrew Stanton, USA … innovative and exciting first 40 minutes, imaginative story then plummets to dullness. How could such potential diminish so quickly?  Massively disappointing.
  13. Indiana Jones /Steven Spielberg, USA … couldn’t resist, my hero returns for more hokum.  Better than Indy 3 nowhere near as good as Raiders.  Old Harrison just about pulls it off, thankfully the laconic Bogart delivery doesn’t diminish with age.
  14. Gone Baby Gone /Ben Affleck, USA … well told crime tale, sturdy acting.  Delayed release due to freakish parallel with real UK child abduction case in the news.
  15. Burn After Reading /Ethan Coen/Joel Coen, USA … poor, almost embarrassing acting and casting, the Coens back to coasting mode.
  16. Hellboy 2 /Guillermo del Toro, USA/Germany … what a let-down, the best bit by far (which produced the only audience laugh) is the singing of a Barry Manilow song.  Save your pennies and watch that clip on YouTube.

Missed but heard good things on:

Hunger (UK), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania), The Class (France), Waltz with Bashir (Israel), In Bruges (UK/USA),  Man on Wire (UK/USA)

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19 steps to be a great Photographic Assistant … and beyond.

assistant_great

UPDATE ADDED:  5 March 2012.  I came across this excellent piece in The Guardian which looks at “How To Become a Professional Photographer”.  They did a live blog Q & A on the topic and the archive is still there in the comments.  There were some superb questions from students and those wishing to enter the profession.  This archive contains some very good advice from an excellent list of panellists.

___

Many people dream of a career as a photographer and there are certainly a myriad of ways to get into the photographic industry.  My own path started by studying at college for 3 years, but the learning really only properly began when I became a Photographic Assistant in a large commercial studio assisting 10 different photographers.  I worked hard and learned a great deal.

I have now worked as a photographer for well over a decade and I have gleaned a fair bit of insight on the question of “What Makes a Great Assistant?”.  So, using my own experiences, reading around and from listening to the many folk I have met along the way I have attempted a potted guide which I hope may prove helpful to others .

Of course, it is all subjective (and by no means definitive- I certainly don’t know it all!)  so take or leave whichever bits you like.

  1. Find out and learn as much as you can about the key bits of equipment used by professional photographers in your area (and I’d include software in that too).  A good place to look would be the main source for hiring professional gear, ask them what gets hired out the most … what manufacturers people tend to use.  This increases your value as an Assistant if you can show a range of knowledge and familiarity with all the latest kit.  Hire it out yourself or strike a deal testing it for the hire company.  If you are at college use every piece of equipment regularly and know it backwards.
  2. Learn the going rate for an Assistant, never try and undercut others … usually not a clever or productive route to go especially if you are just starting out without a decent reputation.  Different commissions will have different budgets, often Digital Assistants get more than Studio Assistants.  Be prepared to work long hours on some shoots and get no lunch break.  On another day you may find you finish early and go to the beach.  To get the best answers ask other experienced Assistants, if you ring up a photographer, most will give you an honest answer.
  3. Shoot as much as you can yourself, develop your own style, practice using all available equipment and cultivate how you like to do things and slowly build up a folio and a nice set of reliable photo gear.  Once you start thinking like a photographer you should become a better Assistant; able to anticipate and be a real asset.
  4. Be reliable, discreet, loyal, unobtrusive but helpful and decisive when necessary.  Being adaptable, easy-going and good company helps.  Don’t underestimate how important good social skills are in being a good Assistant.  Each photographer is different, some will prefer you to be gregarious and take the pressure off them with models and Clients etc. However, be aware that others may hate that!  You need to read people and their needs pretty well.
  5. Ask if you don’t know how to do something. Never just muddle along and then end up breaking a piece of equipment.  Though not too many questions, or you will make the photographer nervous!  If you can, ask someone else who might know an answer (other Assistants or people who work at the studio if it is a Hire place?).
  6. Learn skills from everyone else connected to the shoot.  Watch how they work as part of a team, how do they conduct themselves and use their skills?  Be helpful to everyone;  yes it is a nice way to be and it can lead to other contacts and work.  Network and cultivate useful contacts yourself and make recommendations should someone come looking.  What goes around comes around.
  7. Keep good notes and contacts of anything you learn.   You think you will remember it all but you won’t.
  8. Create an ideas and influences book. Read, visit and study other photographers.  Come up with a shortlist of your favourites from the emerging to the worshipped.  Analyse why you like them.
  9. Never forget your main role is to support … you are all part of a team, don’t try and take over but a useful suggestion at the right time can be invaluable.  Cultivate showing the right amount of initiative, don’t always be waiting to be told what to do.
  10. Always be a little early, NEVER be late.  If, for some reason, you will be late then phone ahead and let the photographer know.  Don’t turn up with a hangover.
  11. Be available should the photographer need you, “busily hovering” is a very useful skill.  If you go off to do a task then let the photographer know.
  12. Dress to blend in, you’re a creative; you can be stylish but practical.
  13. Be keen and able to drive a car and a van, try and have a clean licence.
  14. Don’t moan on a job, if a photographer is a nightmare then do your best on the job and don’t work for them again.
  15. Keep your private life out of work, put your phone on silent&vibrate. Yes, you are running a business, but when you are on a job, don’t take other work calls unless absolutely necessary.  Try and make your calls back at a suitable moment if there is such a thing.
  16. Don’t approach or show your own work to a Client on a job.  If you fancy collaborating with a Model, Make-Up artist or Stylist then agree to meet up some other time.  It might be nice to let the photographer know of your plans as they did put the two of you together in the first place and it could be better than them finding out from someone else.
  17. Do a business course, understand the market you are in, look at other Photographers and how they have positioned themselves within their sector.  Do you want to specialise, do you want to be your own boss?  Read lots about marketing a creative service.
  18. Understand copyright and Intellectual Property, protect your work. In the UK Own It is a good place to start and often run free workshops and Copyright Action has some excellent advice and links.
  19. Get feedback on your work, listen to advice, enter competitions & awards but always read the small print, make sure they are not Right’s Grabs:- a great place for advice is Pro-Imaging: Competions the Good & the Bad.  Keep shooting, but follow your own instincts too.  Love what you do and never lose sight of enjoying taking photographs.

I have listed some links for obtaining critique on your photography below.  I am not endorsing any of these and the standards of photography submitted varies but you may find it is useful for looking at other work and getting feedback.  Please let me know any others which you have found worthwhile and I can add them to the list.

Photoassist … good UK Assistants website and forum, features a showcase gallery for current test work.
Photo-net
J M Colberg website … US-based, you have to pay a fee for this one ($75) see further comment on this offer at the “A Photo Editor” site.
Photosig
Photozo.com Forum
Photopoints.com
PBase Forum
Flickr photography critique group.
Modelmayhem.com.  You can have a profile and if offers critiques but you have to join, mostly fashion.

For actual one-to-one reviews

Format Festival. Photography Festival in Derby, UK.
Redeye. Photography Support Group in Manchester, UK.
Rhubarb Rhubarb. West Midlands, UK based photo-development Agency.

To finish off, here is a link to some respected and experienced photographers on the Magnum blog, featuring brilliant work and some insightful advice on being a photographer ….  “Wear Good Shoes – Advice to young photographers”

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19 steps to be a great Photographic Assistant … and beyond.

assistant_great2

Many people dream of a career as a photographer and there are certainly a myriad of ways to get into the photographic industry.  My own path started by studying at college for 3 years, but the learning really only properly began when I became a Photographic Assistant in a large commercial studio assisting 10 different photographers.  I worked hard and learned a great deal.

I have now worked as a photographer for well over a decade and I have gleaned a fair bit of insight on the question of “What Makes a Great Assistant?”.  So, using my own experiences, reading around and from listening to the many folk I have met along the way I have attempted a potted guide which I hope may prove helpful to others .

Of course, it is all subjective (and by no means definitive- I certainly don’t know it all!)  so take or leave whichever bits you like.

  1. Find out and learn as much as you can about the key bits of equipment used by professional photographers in your area (and I’d include software in that too).  A good place to look would be the main source for hiring professional gear, ask them what gets hired out the most … what manufacturers people tend to use.  This increases your value as an Assistant if you can show a range of knowledge and familiarity with all the latest kit.  Hire it out yourself or strike a deal testing it for the hire company.  If you are at college use every piece of equipment regularly and know it backwards.
  2. Learn the going rate for an Assistant, never try and undercut others … usually not a clever or productive route to go especially if you are just starting out without a decent reputation.  Different commissions will have different budgets, often Digital Assistants get more than Studio Assistants.  Be prepared to work long hours on some shoots and get no lunch break.  On another day you may find you finish early and go to the beach.  To get the best answers ask other experienced Assistants, if you ring up a photographer, most will give you an honest answer.
  3. Shoot as much as you can yourself, develop your own style, practice using all available equipment and cultivate how you like to do things and slowly build up a folio and a nice set of reliable photo gear.  Once you start thinking like a photographer you should become a better Assistant; able to anticipate and be a real asset.
  4. Be reliable, discreet, loyal, unobtrusive but helpful and decisive when necessary.  Being adaptable, easy-going and good company helps.  Don’t underestimate how important good social skills are in being a good Assistant.  Each photographer is different, some will prefer you to be gregarious and take the pressure off them with models and Clients etc. However, be aware that others may hate that!  You need to read people and their needs pretty well.
  5. Ask if you don’t know how to do something. Never just muddle along and then end up breaking a piece of equipment.  Though not too many questions, or you will make the photographer nervous!  If you can, ask someone else who might know an answer (other Assistants or people who work at the studio if it is a Hire place?).
  6. Learn skills from everyone else connected to the shoot.  Watch how they work as part of a team, how do they conduct themselves and use their skills?  Be helpful to everyone;  yes it is a nice way to be and it can lead to other contacts and work.  Network and cultivate useful contacts yourself and make recommendations should someone come looking.  What goes around comes around.
  7. Keep good notes and contacts of anything you learn.   You think you will remember it all but you won’t.
  8. Create an ideas and influences book. Read, visit and study other photographers.  Come up with a shortlist of your favourites from the emerging to the worshipped.  Analyse why you like them.
  9. Never forget your main role is to support … you are all part of a team, don’t try and take over but a useful suggestion at the right time can be invaluable.  Cultivate showing the right amount of initiative, don’t always be waiting to be told what to do.
  10. Always be a little early, NEVER be late.  If, for some reason, you will be late then phone ahead and let the photographer know.  Don’t turn up with a hangover.
  11. Be available should the photographer need you, “busily hovering” is a very useful skill.  If you go off to do a task then let the photographer know.
  12. Dress to blend in, you’re a creative; you can be stylish but practical.
  13. Be keen and able to drive a car and a van, try and have a clean licence.
  14. Don’t moan on a job, if a photographer is a nightmare then do your best on the job and don’t work for them again.
  15. Keep your private life out of work, put your phone on silent&vibrate. Yes, you are running a business, but when you are on a job, don’t take other work calls unless absolutely necessary.  Try and make your calls back at a suitable moment if there is such a thing.
  16. Don’t approach or show your own work to a Client on a job.  If you fancy collaborating with a Model, Make-Up artist or Stylist then agree to meet up some other time.  It might be nice to let the photographer know of your plans as they did put the two of you together in the first place and it could be better than them finding out from someone else.
  17. Do a business course, understand the market you are in, look at other Photographers and how they have positioned themselves within their sector.  Do you want to specialise, do you want to be your own boss?  Read lots about marketing a creative service.
  18. Understand copyright and Intellectual Property, protect your work. In the UK Own It is a good place to start and often run free workshops and Copyright Action has some excellent advice and links.
  19. Get feedback on your work, listen to advice, enter competitions & awards but always read the small print, make sure they are not Right’s Grabs:- a great place for advice is Pro-Imaging: Competions the Good & the Bad.  Keep shooting, but follow your own instincts too.  Love what you do and never lose sight of enjoying taking photographs.

I have listed some links for obtaining critique on your photography below.  I am not endorsing any of these and the standards of photography submitted varies but you may find it is useful for looking at other work and getting feedback.  Please let me know any others which you have found worthwhile and I can add them to the list.

Photoassist … good UK Assistants website and forum, features a showcase gallery for current test work.
Photo-net
J M Colberg website … US-based, you have to pay a fee for this one ($75) see further comment on this offer at the “A Photo Editor” site.
Photosig
Photozo.com Forum
Photopoints.com
PBase Forum
Flickr photography critique group.
Modelmayhem.com.  You can have a profile and if offers critiques but you have to join, mostly fashion.

For actual one-to-one reviews

Format Festival. Photography Festival in Derby, UK.
Redeye. Photography Support Group in Manchester, UK.
Rhubarb Rhubarb. West Midlands, UK based photo-development Agency.

To finish off, here is a link to some respected and experienced photographers on the Magnum blog, featuring brilliant work and some insightful advice on being a photographer ….  “Wear Good Shoes – Advice to young photographers”

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How does a rather excellent real ale and the UK’s largest sedum roof go together?

adnams_distributecentre

I recently saw a very large and impressive sedum roof at the Wildfowl and Wetlands site at Martin Mere, Lancashire. It got me wondering who can lay claim to having the largest sedum roof in the UK?

I felt sure it would be housed somewhere like the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth (Wales) or maybe one of the large regenerative building schemes undertaken over the last few years for eco-friendly social housing or public buildings?

I did find a few nice examples of sedum and regular green roof schemes:

Certainly quite a number of educational buildings such as St. Martins-in-the-field Girls’ School, London roof and one at Cambridge University plus many new build schools across the country.

The well-known Eden Project has a small green roof, the most picturesque I could find was the Gallie Craig Coffee Shop, Drummore, Scotland. Wow, I SO want a hot beverage there now! :-)

gallie_craig_coffee_shop

Sometimes the choice to create a green roof was by necessity, such as the restaurant within St. James Park, London; any design for the new roof there had to blend in with the surrounding parkland or it would not gain planning permission.

An award-winning illustration on my doorstep here in Manchester is the Norman Foster designed scheme called Budenberg HAUS which has 4,500 square metres of green roof sited on the edge of Altrincham overlooking the Bridgewater Canal.

budenburg_haus1

The largest UK green roof (not wholly sedum) is at the Rolls Royce factory near Chichester which has a huge roof space measured at 40,000 square metres.

Eventually after a fascinating journey delving into various schemes I found a winner … and a real-ale brewery at that! Any real-ale fans will have heard of Champion Beer Brewers Adnams who are based on the Suffolk Coast in Southwold. In 2005 beer sales were up and faced with this growing demand they realised that a new distribution centre was required.

Adnams website lists their environmental goals “We aim to manage our impact positively on the social, natural, and built environment” and on this newbuild project they certainly went for it, not only creating the UK’s biggest sedum living roof but also building the Centre predominently from bricks formed using locally-grown hemp, lime and chalk.

These building materials certainly earn green brownie points (sorry I couldn’t resist!) but they also add effective functionality. Acting rather like a cellar, it maintains a steady 11 degrees celsius temperature within the warehouse, and means there is no need for expensive air-conditioning units. Heating for the offices is provided by solar panels. Though the initial build for the scheme was higher than a conventional approach, is has meant running costs are nearly half what they were at the Brewers smaller previous warehouse. So in the long term it will result in a considerable cost saving.
sedumroof

The roof itself is predominently sedum. These low maintenance, fleshy, thick skinned succulents have excellent insulation properties and also help filter out air pollutants. The plants are low maintenance and usually require no artificial irrigation, they absorb sound (useful in an urban environment) and can provide a habitat for birds and wildlife. The Adnams planting scheme also included regional wildflowers and wild grasses to supplement the sedum and to blend more naturally with local flora.

However, Adnams may soon be knocked off the top of their green perch. Work is ongoing on a scheme in Hemel Hempstead for a new Indoor Ski Centre. The sedum roof here will be a jaw-dropping 21,500 square metres and is set to open in the summer of 2009.

I have rather skirted over the pioneering use of the hemp and lime bricks on this project, but that is only because I am planning a longer post on this Stone Age plant and it’s modern applications in the very near future.

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Winners Manchester Blog Awards: what is a Blog anyway?

genblog1

Last month I was surprised (but very delighted) to announce on my blog that I had been shortlisted for the Manchester Blog Awards 2008 in the category of Arts and Culture. The winners were announced recently at a fun shindig hosted in the Northern Quarter, Manchester at Matt and Phreds Jazz Club.

Sadly (for me anyway) I didn’t win but see later in the post for who did !!. It was a really well organised evening (thanks Kate over @ The Manchizzle and the MLF folk), highly sociable and glued together with a musical soundtrack and some brilliant readings from many of Manchester’s top bloggers. I particularly enjoyed the night’s final two guest readers; Maria Roberts (Single Mother on the Verge) and Chris Killen (Day of Moustaches). There is good coverage and critique over at The Mancunian Way.

Both are very talented writers and have used their wonderful blogs to gain book deals. Maria’s debut book will be on Penguin and is due sometime June 09 and Chris’s “The Bird Room” will be published by Canongate Books in January 2009.

Here are a few grainy pictures I snatched from the evening …

chris_1

jenn

kate

bar

… some more photos are over on samscam. Sam was all over the place during the night and managed to get some great shots, he came over and said hello and seems like a very nice chap. There is also a podcast put together by one of the winners, he actually had two blogs nominated that night Manchester Buses (which won) and 14 sandwiches; how does he find the time !!??

After perusing all the nominated blogs I was delighted to see my favourite won best overall blog … and I don’t even have a baby! Check out travelswithmy baby, I loved the cutting dissection of Susie’s visit to Trof near Oxford Road :-)

Here are the winners ….

Best New Blog: Winner: Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Katherine Woodfine
Best Writing on a Blog: Winner: Every Day I Lie a Little, Jenn Ashworth
Best Arts and Culture Blog: Winner: Northernights, Danny McFadden.
Best Personal Blog: Winner: Travels with my baby, Susie Stubbs
Best City or Neighbourhood blog: Winner: Manchester Buses, Martin SFP
Citylife Manchester Blog of the Year: Travels with my Baby, Susie Stubbs

There are lots of people out there who don’t read blogs, in fact they don’t really know what one is and I am sure events like the Manchester Blog Awards can only help to raise interest and standards. I have trouble explaining what a Blog is when I am asked.

Just look at the list of winners above, you have:-

  • meticulous and specialist musings of a slightly eccentric topic,
  • a funny and honest fly and the wall account of life with a little’un in tow,
  • superb up-to-the minute info and analysis for followers of the clubbing scene,
  • personal flowings from a gifted and funny writer with a commissioned novel on the way.

I think the key is once you find a blog you enjoy, it is like finding a friend, something you will dip back into regularly, it’s a new kind of reading. This year I discovered a fab new band The National via a blog I read … for that I a shall be eternally grateful to the “girl on a train“, aswell as having great taste in music, she is a talented observational writer with a dry wit.

The blog is an organic form, as a creator and shaper it can be exactly what you want it to be; conversely it can have a tendency to wander off depending how tight the reins are clamped !! But hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. Scatterdrum is more like an influences scrapbook for myself and I really enjoy sharing links to great talent and topics, I am no gifted writer but hopefully, my blog allows people to glimpse a little of my personality. Hopefully this works in tandem with my website which showcases my photography work. It has provided me with a new creative outlet and pushes me to constrain my thoughts and share. Just for the sheer process of writing it is good for my brain and my discipline.

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Life as Art : Photographs taken with a microscope.

Some of the personal project work I do involves photographing nature in some shape or form. I try to often use an abstract or unusual approach, hopefully it helps to make the viewer stop and think. It is a fascinating, ever-changing and endless canvas, I feel it helps glue us all together.

The image above is from a page over on the National Geographic site which features stunning and beautiful imagery all created using the help of a light microscope. There is a slideshow of 10 shortlisted images taken from a competition sponsored by Nikon called “Small World”. Utterly beguiling and contemplative. If it wasn’t so expensive to invest in the kit I would be trying my hand at this tomorrow. Click here to read more on microscopy (photography using an optical microscope).

This image came in Seventh place, it looks just like a landscape which has been “photoshopped to oblivion”! The reality is more interesting, it shows in massive detail an antibiotic cancer drug; the colours are created by the light passing through polarizing filters which helps to reveal the drug’s chemical structure.

The only photograph that doesn’t work for me is the final one which finished in Tenth spot. I have been lucky enough to travel extensively all over the beautiful New Zealand Islands and I am afraid biting memories of sandflies and sandhoppers prevents me feeling anything but horror when I look at that particular image. Sorry :-(

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