Inside “The Wedding Cake”

Challenging location shoot at St.John’s College Cambridge last week. New environmental lighting control installation inside the centuries old “wedding cake” tower in New Court. Had to deal with up to five stops difference in exposure in some areas and variances of over 3000k in colour temperature for some of these shots.

West Bay Doha

Now in Doha for the week. Just had dinner with the ISL team and our cameraman Tom and we’ve run through what is a pretty hectic shoot schedule. They’ve had sea fog here for the past three days so we’re praying it clears up as we have a lot of stuff to shoot around the city.

Health Club shoot

Elevations Health Club at Old Thorns Manor Hotel – with a huge 7:1 lighting ratio between the interior of the gym and the golf course beyond, this shot proved to be a challenge.
No trickery here though – all achieved in a single frame with minimal post-production.

Vertigo – the highs and lows of commercial property photography

Commission: New brochure photography for an office block re-development in Southampton city centre.

As with all architectural photography this project was weather-dependent. Obtaining sunrise and sunset data was the first step, allowing us to work out the optimum lightfall at various times of the day. We combined this with Google Street View which allowed us to look at potential angles beforehand, ensuring that once on site our time was optimised.











 The first morning visit was forecast with cloud cover increasing by midday from the South. With this in mind we headed straight for the roof to shoot two panoramic views of the city skyline. Here’s the view looking West from what is Southampton’s tallest building.








 … just remember not to look down !












Next we moved indoors to capture one of the office spaces. These are large (and currently empty ) but the aim here was to capture the space and the outlook. This was a challenge as there was a six stop difference between the interior and the exterior levels. To resolve this problem we ended up combining four different exposures and then blending the layers manually to achieve a result that looked as “real” as possible.













We followed this shot up with the reception area with it’s flowing curves and sweeps, reminiscent of the old ocean liners . Shot from the door this gave us deep shadow areas by the lifts and on the first floor landing,  which we lit with two 200ws Lumedyne heads fitted with globe diffusers to balance with the ambient light.


















The second visit was for daylight exteriors of the front and rear elevations and the new signage. These were essentially straightforward shots, just a case of donning a hi-vis and dodging the traffic to find some sympathetic angles to soften the rather rigid geometry of the building.


















The third and final visit called for some dramatic night shots to highlight the building’s lighting and give a busy, city centre feel.

We arrived on site a few minutes before sunset and headed up onto the Itchen Bridge for a long establishing shot. Regrettably the forecast “clear spell” had not materialised and although the sun had set behind the building, the flat, pinkish cloud lacked definition and failed to inspire, so we headed back to street level. About 25 minutes later the structure began to come alive as it’s blue wing lighting came on and the sky started to darken. It’s for this reason that photographers often refer to the period just after sunset as the “golden hour”, but you have to work quickly as it doesn’t last long. For one of the overall shots a low angle worked best as it removed some unecessary street furniture from the frame and increased the drama. A 10 second exposure to catch the light streaks from the numerous passing taxis added colour and buzz. 

















 For the final image of the evening we got down and dirty, with the tripod spread flat in the gutter and working only a few feet from  speeding cars on one side and drunken Saturday-night revellers on the other. We thankfully survived both and headed home for a well earned nightcap !

How Domino’s Pizza can ruin your day . .

A very special thank you to the pond-life driving this Domino’s truck, who parked in front of our camera position (on double yellow lines) in Maidenhead for over an hour and a half today. This meant we lost the light we had been waiting for on the building development over the road. I hope the council and food safety police get you next time …

Bringing the Rose to life

As the Rose Theatre in Kingston is now just over two years old, I thought it would be interesting to go back and see how things looked when we were first commissioned to photograph the main auditorium in August 2006. Channel 4 had been due to come in and film, but the director had taken one look at the dark concrete shell (lit only by four 60 watt bulbs) and said it was far too much work to light for TV ! Undaunted, Karen and I turned up a week later with a car load of lighting and several hundred feet of cable and set to work. It took three hours to place and set all the light heads before we discovered that each time they were triggered they tripped what turned out to be a very rudimentary electric circuit. Undaunted we made a few subtle modifications to the electrics and finally managed to get all ten flash heads firing at once without setting the building’s alarms off !

In September 2007 we returned to photograph the installation of the supporting metalwork frame for the (unique) lozenge-shaped stage.

In December 2007 we finally captured the heart of the Rose as it blossomed to it’s full glory. It’s an inspiring, yet surprisingly intimate, 900 seat space that has given the South a brilliant new theatre, and as house photographer I’m fortunate to visit the Rose regularly to shoot both publicity and production images.
It continues to grow and flourish, drawing some of the country’s finest directors and actors to it’s unique charms . .

To discover more about the Rose visit