Lifestyle change is the key.

I’m hardly the perfect advocate, but you know when you see those photos online of before and after? Well these are mine.

It’s just over 12 months since I began my lifestyle change from an unhealthy fat potato with plantar fascitis & knee pain to become what you see on the right.

It was the photo shoot for the covers band on the left which horrified me. I looked disgusting! I was enormous and in an ill fitting suit which at the time I actually thought looked quite good.

Now I can shop at normal shops, delve into the middle of the rack, and when I see something really unusual like the PVC suit from ASOS I can actually buy it off the peg.

It’s not a diet that did this; it’s a lifestyle change. Less food, more exercise. For me it’s about the high fat foods. I now have them as occasional treats and only then as a small portion.

This photo was the shoot taken with my folk band a few weeks ago. The transformation is unbelievable!

Choo Choo!

Throwback Thursday to September 2017 when we visited the Midland Railway at Butterley.

I took this with a camera phone and promptly pissed off loads of pro photographers by making the cover of the society newsletter.

Flickr -> Picasa. Phew!

I have posted photos on flickr for many years now, and in that time have amassed over 16,000 pictures – some are just cheesy little camera phone VGA size pictures; but since late 2008 I have owned a DSLR and have been taking photos using a 10 megapixel CCD.

As you can imagine – this has set my photostream in a very high kilobyte count… in fact I would hasten to say gigabyte. In total, I have 14 gigabytes of photo data on my flickr photostream!

Now recently, flickr hasn’t evolved. It’s interface isn’t the best, and I find it clunky at times. I have used Picasa side by side for a while now and the Picasa interface knocks spots off Flickr; but the community hasn’t been there in the same way.

Then along comes Google Plus…

Google really have got their heads screwed on right. Where facebook becomes bigger and clunkier by trying to do everything itself, G+ outsources things like photos and videos – after all, Google do own Picasa and Youtube (although – note – you CAN post videos on Picasa). The community is suddenly there – but instead of comprising mostly of people you don’t really know – as is on flickr – it now comprises of your friends and family.

Picasa has an amazing face detection system which also swings things for me. The more photos you identify people on, the more it learns what they look like; such to an extent that I now upload a band photo and it tags all the members for me without me even having to do a thing.

Yes, I therefore am migrating my ENTIRE photostream to Picasa storage. It’s no more expensive than flickr ($24 a year) although unlike flickr it does have a size limit (which I will still be miles off!) and the size limit is upgradeable (subject to paying out more money), and the virtual cloud drive of Google is also shared with Google Apps and Google Mail… but I don’t mind. I like the cloud. I quite like the Google cloud (although I do also use Dropbox, just in case).

Anyway, for you tech heads – I am using a nice piece of software called Bulkr to download stuff… and just Picasa to upload back to the Google cloud. I do wish Google would do a photostream import, but I should imagine Flickr would object to massive raids on their Yahoo! owned file storage.

You never visit what’s near you.

It’s always the truth that you never visit or appreciate what’s nearby. Take Bolsover Castle for example – just off Junction 29A of the M1 and less than half an hour’s drive away – and I’ve never been.

Well I have now – as we met up with Hannah’s parents and enjoyed a day at the castle. Not quite a Mediaeval castle – more mock Mediaeval rich man’s playhouse, but still impressive.

I’m rather impressed with my cupola picture…

The other visitors were rather bemused by a bloke in a black shirt and leather trousers laying on the floor, sticking a camera up in the air, and taking photos of the ceiling, or the same bloke setting up a camera on “The Pod” and taking a self portrait of himself sitting on some old steps… which gets me onto…

TOURISTS. Why do they insist on spoiling your shot by walking straight across, dreaming, in a world of their own… and in the case of the annoying kid (deleted from the top shot thanks to The Gimp and a second shot without me in the frame) who kept sticking his head into frame just as the self timer pips doubled in speed indicating the last 2 seconds…?
I suppose they’s day PHOTOGRAPHERS… just why do they lay on the floor and take photos at strange angles?

New photo

Today I decided I needed a new photo.

The nice thing about being a photographer, though, is that when you need a new photo to represent yourself it’s fairly easy to sort and costs nothing.
The new one represents me as I now am due to my rather dramatic change of hair (or loss of…).
Taken using three strobes, all at the left of the picture and all bounced into umbrellas – silver for my face, and white for the rest of me.
I had to do a little work on the highlights, particularly around the headstock of the bass and on my trousers and the guitar strap, but the effort was worth it and I’m really pleased with the result.

When you shouldn’t post a photo on your website…

I’ve recently been building the new website for Manning and it has given me a little bit of an insight into what constitutes a BAD band photograph and a GOOD band photograph. I give you the example at right – I won’t name the band (unless you email me and REALLLYYYY PLEAD) but the example in question shows a few faults:

  1. The lighting is awful – it looks like it was photographed with the house lights on!
  2. Why do the band NOT actually fit together at all? – we have clubland singer, with mekkal guitarist.
  3. The backdrop is awful – again the stage generally looks like a working mens club.
  4. It’s too wide! – not a problem if you’re getting a photo of 2000 audience members, but where’s the audience here?

We were offered this gig as Deadline and we declined it. I am so glad we did!

Solstice at the Wesley CentreNow my second example is how you SHOULD take a gig photo. This was taken in a similar sized venue, but has the advantages of both experience and equipment. Believe it or not this venue had less than 30 people in and the front stage presence was non existant… so why does this still look great?

  1. Get in close if you haven’t got a crowd in front of the stage. There is nothing nice about a back of house shot showing an empty venue.
  2. Lighting – even the restricted front only lighting in here was emphasised by avoiding flash and using timing and aperture.
  3. Bokeh – open up your aperture as wide as possible. Your depth of field will suffer, but you can use this to your advantage – the items on the top left hand side are out of focus and it draws your eye to the artiste.
  4. Your camera should be fast – 800 or 1600 at least! – this means you can keep your exposures fairly fast, although the cost of this will be noise on the images.

I hope this guide has helped you. I don’t profess to be an expert, in fact I’m hardly even a novice but I will share what I learn.

The Follies

It’s just over a year since I was approached by Dave Winstanley asking me to help with the design of his CD cover. Since buying my DSLR it was my first real attempt at using it in any form of commercial means and I jumped at the chance.
First of all it was the name of the album that inspired me… Follies. What better name for the Rotherham area than Follies, after all the Wentworth Estate is absolutely filled with weird and wonderful architecture, none of which seems to serve any purpose except to show just how much money was wasted at the time.
Dave suggested the theme based around The Hound of the Baskervilles… I agreed and I suggested a visit to Hoober Stand for some of the photos, and perhaps using some local stones – originally positioned to deter people driving in the woods – to act as his suggested hillside.
Dave arrived dressed up in black as I suggested to create that gothic look, and we ventured up to the site and I started taking pictures, and the final result… well, judge for yourself.
The front cover in it’s original format.
The sunlight certainly works well from the oblique angle, and when converted into moonlight using The Gimp and various colouring and filtering techniques as well as a gibbous moon photo I had in my stock photos, I can say I feel pleased with the results.
Aren’t Gibbous moons just soooo spooky?
The front cover – version 1
As a parting shot, I caught a photo of Dave in front of Hoober Stand itself, with the monolithic stand looming overhead… Dave stood on a grassy knoll and I positioned the camera in the quarry (I believe the stone from the stand was actually quarried here, but don’t quote me on that)

Workin’ the leather trousers
Lessons learned:
1. Focus on the face and use manual focus and not auto focus (if you notice, the photo of Dave on the rock is slightly out of focus on his face, but perfectly in on the middle of the frame, which tragically… is his crotch!). Nothing a little unsharp masking can’t sort.
2. When going on site on 4th January… GLOVES! – the tripod was freezing and I kept sticking to it!