gill moore photography

Archive for the 'technology' Category

Free Workshop @ Chorlton Library – “Selling on the Web” Thurs 5th Feb 09

For anyone in Chorlton or South Manchester thinking of setting up a website for selling this could be worth a look.  It is a free event organised by Manchester City Council and the MDDA (Manchester Digital Development Agency) with 20 spaces but only 5 left at the time of writing.  Hopefully it will be a good chance to pick up some good tips.  Here is the info from the MDDA site and to book a place click here: UPDATE, SORRY THIS EVENT IS NOW FULLY BOOKED.

mdda_info

In fact the MDDA site has some really useful articles, links and webcasts on this topic, including “How to attract customers to your site”Marketing and Social Networks” and one I shall definitely be investigating “How to choose the right payment system for selling online“.

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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.

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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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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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Olympic Games – a shot of the photographers (and their expensive gear) in Bejing to capture the action

The Olympic Games is certainly generating lots of stories, drama and images at the moment. There are 1,100 Official photographers covering the event for a worldwide audience, I found this great shot on the gizmodo website which shows a sample of the press area covering the athletics in the Birds Nest Stadium.

olympics_togs_gizmodo_com

Just for a laugh gizmodo have worked out that in this one seemingly innocuous image there is probably a quarter of a million dollars worth of equipment on show. Going a stage further, if one was to include the fact that most photographers travelling to China to cover the Games will take at the very mimimum a second back-up camera body and at least 2 other lenses, then that is something like 22 million dollars-worth of professional camera gear in attendance throughout the event!

For many years Canon was the manufacturer of choice for the discerning sports photographer, but this picture shows that Nikon is now making great strides into this specialist market. The white lens is the Canon L-Series, I count 23 lenses on view and only 7 Canons. Also it looks like 16 fella’s and only 2 lady ‘togs …. not quite equality there yet!

Over on the caborian.com site there is a much wider view of the Press Pen, it seems Canon have a slightly better showing here but they are still in the minority. Most of the sports photographers are using a telephoto which will enable them to zoom in close on the action and the individual; they’ll probably be using anything from a 400 right through to an 800mm. Though the guy on the bottom row with the yellow cap looks like he’s sneaked in there armed only with his cameraphone !!

olympics_togs_caborian_com

Footnote. The beige shooting jackets on show are standard issue from the International Olympic Committee for all accredited photographers, I wonder if they come with a laptop hidden in one of the pockets?

UPDATE.  Feb 2010.  Nice link to the photography gear being used by Getty photographers for the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010 over at PetaPixel.

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British Airways commission art for Terminal 5 @ Heathrow Airport

All I know about Heathrow’s Terminal 5 is that the launch earlier this year was a total and utter disaster as far as British Airways reputation is concerned. But amongst all the doom and gloom it appears some glimmers of light sneaked in there too!

I have the “plush patterns” blog to thank for my discovery of Christopher Pearson’s work. He was commissioned by BA through Artwise Curators (who coincidentally handled a recent commission for Idris Khan who I blogged about a few weeks ago) along with three other emerging artists to create some site specific art works for Terminal 5.

The installation is certainly an eye-catcher and consists of Pearson’s wonderful studies of the Growing Cycles of the English Oak Tree which were etched into 3 pairs of huge glass panels and now stand in the First Class Galleries Lounge. Each pane is illuminated to reveal the delicate strokes of the original design and it vividly brings the work to life. His website reveals an artist open to experimenting with new technology and innovative methods for displaying and creating forms of art. One to watch for sure and serves as a reminder that artistic work can often by enhanced by careful consideration of how it is displayed.

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