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The Girls of Autosport International 2011

The Girls of Autosport International 2011

Another weekend, another show at the NEC and another two days under horrific artificial lighting.

The most popular way to work around it and get some good photos is to use on camera fill flash as you run and gun. But as each hall has a different flavour of lighting, you don’t stand much chance of gelling your flash to match so everyone’s shots tend to look the same. You see ringflash adapters, various brackets and all manner of Tupperware to try and avoid the rabbit-in-the-headlights bare flash look but I decided to even further and make it through the weekend flash-free!

The 5DMkII is pretty happy at high ISOs so I spent most of the time at or above ISO1600, wide open on either my 50mm f1.8 or my 24-105mm f4. As the backgrounds are so varied in the NEC, I found centre-weighted metering was the best bet.

If you read this blog though, you know I can’t resist a bit off off-camera flash in a bid to get something a bit different.

This is Jen with a Nikon SB-28 on about 1/8th power in the passenger seat firing toward her head. Without that kick of light, the interior of the car was pure black and her dark blue outfit just blended in.

Then we have Michelle lit by what looks like a big softbox camera left, which in reality is a full power SB-28 bouncing off a white trailer on the neighbouring stand.

And then there’s Sara and Kirsty with Podzilla, the Santa Pod monster truck. Dozens of other people got basically the same shot, and while they did, I ran around to the back wheel, placed a flash and came back to quickly grab this. Natural light from the skylights (you can see some in the background) acted as the main light while my flash provides a bit of a kick from behind, seprating the twins fro the dark background.

My Data Storage Workflow

My Data Storage Workflow

After watching a couple of Chase Jarvis videos lately about his studios approach to data storage and backup, I thought I’d wade in and give you my smaller scale version. I might not work on assignments the size of Chase’s (yet!) but loosing my images, even if it’s just my personal projects with no paying client, is still not something I want to experience.


Sandisk Compact Flash Cards

I don’t understand the logic in spending money on the latest camera body and quality glass, then risking every single image to save £20 by buying a cheap and nasty CF card. Even with the 5DMkII’s 25MB RAW files I don’t go above 16GB. 500 shots on one card is enough for me, and I don’t keep shooting until they are completely full so there’s always a quiet moment to swap. Once out of the camera, they go to different places – first into my Black Rapid strap pocket, second into my camera bag etc.

Drobo - Redundant backup

After the shoot I get the data from the cards as soon as possible. This is will either be to my MacBook Pro or main iMac depending on where I am. I use Lightroom to copy the data to the on board hard disk and a 2nd external drive at once. In the case of the laptop it’s a 500GB USB driver, with the iMac it’s to my Drobo. I also leave the data on the cards until I need to reuse them – no point in deleting another backup unless you have to. If the data was uploaded to my laptop, it gets imported into the main library on my iMac and Drobo as soon as I get back to base.

So at the is stage I can lose my iMac hard drive and one of the drives in my Drobo and still have a backup. I’ve also still got the original Lightroom catalogue on my laptop and the corresponding backup – although that won’t have any of the adjustments I have made on my main studio computer.

The final chink in my backup armour here is the location of the drives; pretty much side by side. So if the building suffers a power surge, fire, flood or zombie attack I could be in trouble. Enter another couple of bare 500GB drives containing another copy of the data that rotate out to an off-site location after every shoot. No disused cold war bunker or safety deposit vault here – just a different building far enough away not to be caught up in the same natural disaster.

Not quite on the same scale as CJ Inc. but still similar principles at work.

  • Use quality cards and drives
  • Make a backup of the data on your cards a soon after shooting as you can
  • Don’t erase those cards until you have to
  • Always keep your data on more than one drive and;
  • Ideally keep those drives in more than one place.
Clothes Show Live

Clothes Show Live

Just a quick update today to showcase some of the photographs I took at the fashion show held at Clothes Show Live. A little bit of a break from the norm but surprisingly good fun!

On the technical side, these were all shot with a 70-200mm f/4 lens so I had to take the ISO up to around 2500 to avoid camera shake. The combination of the 5DMkII’s high ISO performance and the noise reduction in Lightroom 3 is outstanding.

What The Heck Is “Beauty Dish Mode”?

What The Heck Is “Beauty Dish Mode”?

I’ve had a few questions on Twitter about just what I mean when I say I use my 70cm Elinchrom Deep Octa in “beauty dish mode”, so this quick post is to show what I mean.


This is the way you’d typically use a soft box with both layers of diffusion material in place for maximum softness.

Elinchrom 70cm Deep Octa - Fully Diffused

However you can remove the outer baffle and let the light be a little harder and more specular.

Elinchrom 70cm Deep Octa - Only internal diffuser

But the way I have been using it for portraiture recently is with all the diffusion material removed and the small round reflector inserted about 15cm in front of the flash tube. This stops the majority of the light firing forwards and instead sends it out towards the reflective inside of the Octabox, very like a beauty dish (hence my cunning nickname for it!). The light is still flattering, but it’s punchier and more ‘contrasty’.


Beauty Dish Mode

You’ll find some images created by using the Deep Octa like this in the recent post entitled Death of a Cover Car.

Death of a Cover Car

Death of a Cover Car

Ash Manton’s Type R Civic has been part of the UK modified car scene for several seasons and keeps coming back with a fresh look each year. It’s current stripped out, carbon clad, airbrushed look has just won it the cover feature in Max Power.

As it’s had the Max photo shoot treatment, I wanted to try something different. Enter Georgia Graham, Ash’s girlfriend, showing that hell really does hath no fury like a woman scorned! 

So Ash assembled some props, Georgia put together a suitably OTT outfit and I got to work on the lighting.  The plan here was to go for a dark and moody midnight feel so out came the Quadras again to enable me to stop down far enough at my max sync speed to over power the daylight. We had the car in a shady spot and it was 4pm in September so I wasn’t fighting bright sunlight so f/9 at 1/200th did the job. 

One bare, CTO gelled strobe was positioned camera left adding a rim light to both Georgia and the car to separate them from the dark background and a second strobe, in a 70cm Deep Octa in “beauty dish mode” as the main light. I’ve cranked up the exposure in Lightroom in this shot to give you an idea of the layout. 

Enough talk, on to the pictures! 

Keeping It Real (Estate)

Keeping It Real (Estate)

In a bit of a break from the norm, I was contracted to produce some images of a house recently. The owners wanted a package of photographs to hand to their estate agent to help with the sale.

So out came the 17-40 f/4 lens and tripod. All the images in the slideshow below (except the garden panorama) were shot in HDR (+/- 2 stops) as the sun was shining brightly causing quite a wide contrast range in most of the rooms.