Backstage at the Giffords Big Top with Olympus

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Roll-up, roll-up to Giffords razzmatazz, music and miraculous circus.  Enter Luna Park, home to illusionist Odoroff and the irrepresibble Tweedy amongst other larger than life characters.

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A magical world where your imagination is allowed to run riot.  Where Olympus have provided access and equipment to capture it.

Your ringmaster for the day, Damian McGillicuddy, Olympus principal photographer and true lighting and digital magician.  Ably assisted by visionaries, Rob Pugh and Neil Buchan-Grant.

As the lights dim Tweedy enters to captivate the camera toting guests.  He does his best to scupper Olympus’s plans.  His comedy routine invoking involuntary camera shake caused by uproarious laughter. Luckily image stabilisation saved the day.

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The next acts, Bibi and Bichu, Jolly Jack (Big Dave) and the Aeronauts pose other problems.  All testing the anticipation and hand to eye coordination skills of the assembled photographers.

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The Aeronauts acrobatics are executed with a daring finesse and almost supernatural affinity, such is there timing and skill.  Testing photographer and cameras tracking and focusing ability alike.

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Obviously, flash could not be used given its potential distraction for the performers, whilst also killing the atmosphere of a shot if ambient and flash were not adequately mixed.

Varying the shutter speeds and aperture allowed the camera to record movement and the depth of field within the images.  Obviously, the performers could not be individually light-metered as you would a studio portrait, but the circus lights appeared to be tungsten based, which I retained the tungsten cast.  Giving the images a performance quality.  It would also allow for sepia post-processing to give the shots a Victorian feel to them.

Venturing outside the big top to be greeted by Odoroff the mustachioed magician and Rob Pugh.  Who set up a Profoto  flash with fitted soft box by a vintage Giffords liveried van incorporating an organ.  I preferred to shoot natural light rather than mixing the flash with ambient and balancing the two just for speed.

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Damian set up on the bleachers within the big top.  Kata Kiss, a virtuoso gymnast and hoop expert threw the shapes, lit by two strip boxed flashes set at 45 degrees to the rear on each side of her.  An elevated soft box with fitted flash was held to the front of her camera right.  I set shutter speed of 1/30sec when shooting Kata Kiss to ensure that movement of the hoops was recorded within the image.

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Last but certainly not least Neil and Tweedy were found just inside the big top doorway.  Neil’s flash being fitted with a diffused McGillicuddy collaspible beauty dish, to sculpt the light.

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It picked out Tweedy’s expressive features superbly enabling me to capture a partly comedic, partly melancholic portrait.  Telling the story that whilst Damian educates his delegates (background) Tweedy has been excluded from the group for clowning about.  By including the out of focus Damian and his delegates it provides the shot with depth and possibly pathos.

All too soon the day came to an end, but what a day of edutainment (Damian McGillicuddy).  Thank you Giffords Circus and Olympus.

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Anita De Bauch Decadence and Decay at The Pit

Anita De Bauch, The Pit & The Pendulum

The Pit studio in Nottingham is part bohemian decadence and part decay.  With its distressed peeling walls, stripped floor boards and tight corridors creating a Victorian urbex location and an ideal gritty fashion shoot backdrop.

The model, Anita De Bauch providing the decadence to the venues decay.  Her flaming red hair providing eye catching vibrance.

Our session commenced with Anita donning a pair of latex shoulder length fingerless gloves by Kaoris Latex Dreams.  These would protect her modesty and create moody implied topless images.

The shots were low key being lit by one 400w/s Godox AD360 flash camera left.  It was fitted with a beauty dish.

A vintage manual Canon FD 50m 1.2 lens was used to ensure the draw and glow were reminiscent of a bygone era.

Anita De Bauch The Pit & The Pendulum

As the session progressed lighting was built up by adding a further Godox AD360 to the rear and right of Anita.  This was fitted with a reflector and diffuser.  Allowing me with a few positional tweaks to create hair and rim light as required.

Anita changed her clothing, this time opting for a black latex catsuit by Murray & Vern, over which a Heavenly Corset was worn and finally a pair of Fabulously Fetish boots were added.

We had to be particular with the lighting for the latex to ensure the specular highlights created gave definition in the right places and that there were no large hotspots.  A red gelled Nikon flash was added camera left to provide backdrop colour as other props were added to build the scene.

Anita De Bauch The Pit & The PendulumAnita De Bauch The Pit & The PendulumAnita De Bauch The Pit & The PendulumFinally Anita changed into a full length wedding dress.  Shooting against full length windows we created softer more romantic looking images.

Anita De Bauch The Pit & The PendulumAnita De Bauch The Pit & The PendulumAnita really is a fabulous model, whose skin glows naturally and who seems to have a sixth sense of where to put her arms and hands in order to convey a mood or emotion.  I will certainly be looking to work with Anita again.

Posted in Canon, Nikon, People Tagged |

Cricket’s County Champions Yorks CCC take on LawBlacks in the name of charity

Tim Bresnan

You would not expect to see Andrew Gale and Tim Bresnan on the touchline of a Conference football ground on a cold December’s evening. But these genial giants of the cricketing world, along with their county colleagues answered the call to play to help the Marie Curie charity.

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Their opponents from the legal world, LawBlacks from Leeds.  Bolstered by guesting ex professional footballers, Ken Monkau (Chelsea, Southampton, Huddersfield Town), John Hendrie (Coventry City, Bradford City, Newcastle Utd, Leeds Utd, Middlesbrough,Barnsley), Wayne Jacobs (Bradford City) and ex England and Yorkshire cricketer Anthony McGrath.

Resplendent in Guiseley’s daffodil yellow kit, Yorkshire cut quite a dash.  Playing as a unit, keeping their shape and formation.  Allowing Will Rhodes to push forward when Richard Pyrah and Andrew Gale dropped back with Bressie leading the line.  The number 9 showed his all round football abilities scoring with a superbly timed header in the first half and neat footwork to round the keeper in the second.  Whilst next season’s beneficiary Pyrah bagged a brace and an ankle tap or two for his troubles.

There really was no respite for the legal eagles.

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LawBlacksThe cricketers strength and conditioning coach, Ian Fisher led by example with his rangy runs down the left flank.  He must certainly have been pleased by his charges stamina and pace in sapping underfoot conditions.

The second half commenced with a change of referee and an up turn in LawBlack’s fortunes.  With John Hendrie relinquishing the whistle and providing more purpose up front and the perfect foil for the rampaging Anthony McGrath.  Despite Hendrie’s trickery and McGrath’s bluster, Steve Patterson marshalled his Yorkshire back four to repel all invaders.  On the few occasions Blacks broke down the Tykes stout defence they could find no way past keeper Richard Damms.  Whose shot stopping in the post match penalty shoot out competition proved sublime.  No corridor of uncertainty for Richard.

Anthony McGrath Steve PattersonJohn Hendrie LawBlacksChris Allen LawBlacks Matthew FisherLawBlacks Ken MonkouWhilst the match was played for charity, neither side conceded an inch on the pitch, tackles were robust as both Tim and Richard can testify to, but played in true spirit.

Given the lighting of the ground all shots were taken between 1/800 and 1/1000 of a second using large apertures set between 1.8 and 2.8.  This gave a razor thin depth of field so focusing had to be extremely accurate on the intended player.

Posted in Camera Gear, Canon, Football, Sport Tagged , , , |

Leeds the Italian Revolution

Leeds Utd. Guiseley AFC, Steve Morisson, Danny Lowe

The Elland Road faithful are on tenterhooks as the clock ticks down to kick off at Nethermoor.  The times are a changing at Leeds.  With talisman captain Ross McCormack sold to fellow championship contenders Fulham.  New coach, David Hockaday in situ. The Italian revolution is in full swing orchestrated by owner Massimo Cellino.  Who happily chats and poses for fans photographs.

A full house greets Leeds starting 11.  Which features new signings Marco Silvestri, Tomasso Bianchi and Soulamayne Doukara.  The latest signing, Swiss international prised from Sampdoria, Gaetano Berardi, is missing from the line up.  Presumably due to his registration not being fully processed.

My brief besides capturing match action was to ensure shots were obtained of the new signings.  Identification was made more difficult by the fact that the Leeds team sheet did not include numbers.  I opted to shoot the Guiseley attack in the first half.  This would provide the opportunity to bag crisp shots of keeper Silvestri.  As it was Silvestri remained untroubled for his 60 minute appearance.  But he appeared confident in organising his defensive line.

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Doukara had a snap shot well saved by the Guiseley keeper Steve Drench and another goal bound effort blocked. Both his and Bianchi 60 minute cameos showed glimpses of promise. Leeds looked to play a passing game. It will take time for the new players and systems to bed in.


Leeds Utd, Soulamayne Doukara

Leeds Utd, Soulamayne Doukara


Leeds Utd, Guiseley AFC, Tomasso Bianchi, Gavin Rothery,

Leeds Utd, Guiseley AFC, Tomasso Bianchi, Jack Stottdill

The wholesale changes made on the 60 minute mark sparked more impetus from United and with the clock running down they broke the deadlock.

Leeds Utd, Guiseley AFC, Jason Pearce, Jameel Ible, Steve Drench,

Leeds Utd, Guiseley AFC, GoalAiden White took a long corner which Jason Pearce met with a looping header that evaded both keeper and defenders to give Leeds the lead.

With the clock ticking down the visitors doubled the score courtesy of a Sam Byram cross into the path of Matt Smith who hit the shot without breaking stride from 10 yards out.

On a hot and humid day David Hockaday will have been pleased to have earned the victory against the Conference North team who at the beginning of each half more than matched Leeds for their guile and pace.


Posted in Football, Sport Tagged , , |

Manchester Urban Portrait Shoot

zoe blog headerWith a brief Manchester urban portrait shoot in the pipeline I began by unburdening my camera bag of its bulk.  Leaving the large Canon 1D series bodies, prime lenses and numerous flash guns at home.  Preferring instead to rely on the small but beautifully formed inconspicuous Fuji XPro-1, two lenses (18 and 35mm) and the Calumet GF400 bare bulb flash kit.  It felt strangely liberating being free from my usual baggage.  Yet still having enough power and pop to create useable portrait images.

Meeting up with model Zoe at the Night and Day Cafe to discuss the shoot route.
Castlefields proved a perfect setting with its canal basin, geometric doors, railings and stair wells set against an urban skyline.

Sometimes making the most of a two or three metre area to frame up the shots.

Manchester Urban Portrait ShootManchester Urban Portrait ShootManchester Urban Portrait ShootWhilst at other times incorporating the wider panoramic scenery and urban skyline into the image.  Sometimes balancing the available ambient light with the flash and at other times, killing the ambient light by under exposing by up to 2 stops and lighting the image using the GF400 with fitted diffuser.  This technique allowed for a day time shot to be given a night time look.  Atmospheric dark contrasty shots being the order of the day whilst high key shots were definitely banished.
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We ended the session by making our way back to Deansgate.  To the late victorian neo-gothic, John Rylands library which dominates the streetscape.  The dramatic setting proving perfect to create some film noir type shots, incorporating the shadows and harsh light to sculpt the images.  With it’s cloistered corridors and large opulent stone steps flagged by lighted piers and stained glass windows providing a rich tapestry for ideas and backdrops.

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All too quickly our time came to an end but suffice to say the two hours spent shooting with minimal kit yielded publishable results. Many thanks to Zoe without whose natural pose ability and patience the session would not have been either as enjoyable or provided such excellent results.

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Rachelle Rocks Biker Chic

1 rachelle summers colourJeans teamed with a black leather biker jacket creates a timeless fashion statement.  A look embraced by Miley Cyrus, Jessica Alba, Kate Moss and thousands of other would be wild ones worldwide.

Armed with a size 6 jacket, All Saints vest, belt and America flag scarf sourced by Wedding Market Diva Caught In Action headed to the studio, to meet model Rachelle, to rock the look.

Whilst Rachelle applied make up and changed, I set up the lighting in the infinity coving area.  With both black and white adjacent areas it allowed me to shoot both high and low key shots with minimal adjustment.

A 4ft Octobox was fitted to the Elinchrom flash, left of camera.  This would act as the key light and create a large light source, ensuring a gradual transition from light to shadows.  The power was set between 1.5 and 2 stops less than maximum.

The fill light, at a lesser power was stationed slightly behind Rachelle to the right of camera and fitted with a gridded stripbox.

Whilst the hair light was affixed to the Colourama cross bar directly behind Rachelle and gridded to ensure accuracy and no spill.

Lastly,  a reflector was placed to the left hand side of Rachelle.

The white balance on the camera was set to flash, all shots were taken at ISO200, with a flash sync speed 1/125 sec with apertures between F7.6 and F10.

After a couple of test shots we were good to go with the session yielding high key and low key shots from full length to head shots.

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Finally, using the grafitti wall I bounced the key light, set at maximum power off the adjacent wall to light the scene with a reflector at the side of Rachelle.

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With the shots in the bag all that was left was the processing.




Posted in Camera Gear, People

The Dunwell Brothers

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A football club is playing host to the Dunwell brothers tonight. Tomorrow’s BBC tv performance on the Andrew Marr show has been cancelled, due to the untimely death of Nelson Mandella.

Entering the club, I’m greeted by David Dunwell, whilst his brothers Joe and Matt sound check on the makeshift stage area. There is no PA and no lighting rig. This is strictly stripped back to basics.

After sound check we retreat to the sanctity of the dressing room. In reality a room which is usually used to serve food on match days, complete with a double door serving hatch and overhead strip lights. Fixture lists and posters adorn the walls. It’s not exactly the BBC’s green room or Manchester Apollo’s backstage area resplendent with leather chesterfield sofas. But it’s home for tonight and in ten minutes a makeshift photo studio.

Tables and posters are removed to clear wall space, the all important serving hatch to the left will be used as a light source from the bar. The double doors acting as both reflectors and flags whilst the overhead strip light will create some hair light.

Although shooting Canon I used two Nikon Speed Lights off camera with triggers, everything being set manually after first ensuring the white balance was tweaked on the camera.

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The Dunwell’s needed some clean high key shots which would allow for compositing for PR material.

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Shooting headshots to full length against the off white wall, the Dunwell’s proved excellent subjects, taking direction and posing naturally as I worked around them. So much so that in twenty minutes we were done and they had time to relax and prepare before the show.

With the shots downloaded on to the laptop I began working on a composite taking a full length shot, and removing the background. Then opening up a shot of building ruins. Exposure and contrast levels were adjusted on both images along with some dodging and burning after the images were composited together.

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The ruins were chosen for the background due to the wall opening to the left which could be said to mirror the light source coming from the serving hatch whilst the roof void opening would similarly create hair light to give a more natural lighting effect. All in all the draft composite took fifteen minutes.


The Dunwell’s Andrew Marr show has been rescheduled for January 19th when they will be performing their new single, “If I could be a king.”

The band will be Stateside in January and February before returning to the UK for a tour in April finishing up at their home town of Leeds on Friday 25th April at the Town Hall.

Posted in Music, People Tagged , , , , |

2013 Rugby League World Cup

1  rl world cupThe 2013 Rugby League World Cup was heralded with much finery, glitter, pomp and circumstance at the Millenium Stadium on the 26th October where Australia (the tournament favourites) played hosts England.

England’s sprightly opening with composed structured play mirrored the opening ceremonies energy and sheen. Alas, Australia ran out eventual winners 28 : 20 to dampen the England fans enthusiasm.

What greeted Caught In Action, for the Fiji v Ireland match at Rochdale on the evening of the 28th can best be described as a downpour of the stair rod variety. Ah, a chance to practice big rain shots, much employed by wedding photographers. Thanks, but I’d rather not. Thank goodness for Nike gortex jackets which kept me dry whilst the Canon’s were protected by Acqua Tech.

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As horrific as the weather became the more exhilarating and hard-hitting the Fijians played. Whilst their supporters choral singing will linger in my memory long after the tournament. Fiji triumphed 32 : 14 with fleet footed winger Akuila Uate running in a hat-trick.

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Baring in mind the prevailing weather conditions and the floodlights, which can sometimes be patchy or if too high create shadows where eye sockets should be seen I decided I would process some of my personal shots as black and white. Deliberately ignoring noise ninja and allowing the grain to prevail to create gritty images and using the backlights almost like rim lights in a fashion shoot.

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The World Cup really caught the public’s imagination from Workington down to Bristol crowds proved to be at full capacity. Records being set at Huddersfield where England beat Ireland 42 : 0. although the second half proved less than remarkable.

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In spite of the nation embracing the sport England unfortunately didn’t make the final. Being beaten by the holders in the dying seconds as New Zealand rolled the dice at Wembley.

During the tournament the sport lost one of its finest exponents and all time good guy, Steve Prescott, whose passing was marked by the Scotland captain, Danny Brough wearing a specially emblazoned shirt bearing Steve’s name.

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The final at Old Trafford between the two Anzac nations also created a crowd record for rugby held at the stadium. But proved a hurdle too far for the holders who lost their crown to Australia 2 : 34. Sonny Bill Williams, the New Zealand second rower who had put Papua New Guinea to the sword at Headingley, with a devastating hat-trick could not repeat his heroics against the green and golds with the Man of the Match award going to Australia’s stand off Jonathan Thurston.

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As always the shots were taken using shutter priority therefore allowing me to dictate the speed of the shutter whilst the camera dictates the aperture required, which I find beneficial when covering sporting events, changeable light and movement. By using a fast shutter speed it allows the use of large apertures which in turn creates a narrow depth of field.  Allowing the focus on the main subject whilst the background is out of focus and therefore less distracting.  This is particularly useful where the background is cluttered or spectators are rather sparse.  At Old Trafford for the final we were not allowed to have remote cameras fixed nor to cover the Haka from either on field or a high vantage point. This access and facility was reserved for the official photographers and a very large picture agency.

I would like to thank all the volunteers of Team 13 for their help and assistance in directing me to press rooms and ensuring we were well looked after. Also Hannah of the RFL is an absolute trooper and ensured along with Tony and Joe that there were no glitches with regard to accreditation or communication. Thank you.

Posted in Camera Gear, People, Rugby League, Rugby League World Cup, Sport Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

The end of an era


1 2013 grand final super league

In the fast turn round timescale of sport with its short-term contracts the term legend is often over used.  However, as the 2013 Super League campaign drew to its conclusion, the grand final would see two monumental players, Adrian Morley (Warrington Wolves) and Sam Tomkins (Wigan Warriors) taking their final bows, before moving on to pastures new.  Salford Red Devils for Morley and New Zealand Warriors for Tomkins.

Whilst legend, Wigan’s Pat Richards was due to return to the NRL  and Wests Tigers. With whom he won the Premiers title in 2005. Add in the Man of Steele award in 2010 when he also claimed a Super League winners ring, plus  a couple of Challenge Cup trophies.  Along the way scoring over 2500 points  in his eight year Wigan career, and the term legend is probably understated.

Caught In Action’s brief for the press conference was to obtain shots of  Pat for a retrospective piece on his career, whilst not forgetting to get images of Adrian and Sam also.

It was easier said than done given the fact that the Elinchrom Quadra failed that morning.  Speed lights to the rescue on a cool October day.

First up, Adrian and Sam with the trophy pitch side, in front of the Alex Ferguson stand.

I opted to shoot from a low vantage point to exaggerate the athletes physique.  To make them more imposing even over powering the size of the stadium stand behind them.  I had no fears of shooting from such a low vantage point regarding double chins as these guys have strong firm jaw lines.

After ensuring I had got full length shots and noted Sam’s customised X Blade boots, embroidered on the toe with his initials I took half length shots from eye level.  Before ending with shots at a more jaunty angle.  All the while checking the screen to ensure my shots had not synched with other photographers flashes and been over-exposed.

Pat Richards has features chiseled from granite and perceptive bright eyes.  A herculean figure both tall and broad.  I knew I needed to depict this power and strength.  To do so I asked him to fold his arms.  This pose created bicep bulge and accentuates strength and power.

Given his height, I could have done with a set of short steps to shoot from a slightly raised viewpoint to get his shoulders and chest even nearer to the camera to exaggerate his breadth even more.  I use this technique to create a more inverted triangular body physique.  However, you have to work with what you have and there were no steps.
1 blog era 1For the next shot Pat adopted a more relaxed pose whilst looking into the distance wistfully.  As if possibly looking back on his career in Super League.  It was important to ensure that I had sufficient depth of field for this shot.  I therefore shot with a smaller aperture, thus ensuring that “Manchester Is My Heaven” is legible.

1 blog era 2Finally, a head shot was required.  Given Pat’s 2010 status of Man of Steel it was necessary to incorporate the steel work of the stand roof.  Whilst cropping out the rest of the stand.  Pat was positioned so the Wigan Warriors badge and his player identity number were visible along with the steel struts.  The remainder of the shot is sky.  Allowing the negative space to be used for text and career statistics.  To ensure the sky was not blown out an ND filter was used on the lens.

1 blog eraOn the 5th October Old Trafford witnessed Wigan Warriors over turning a deficit of 16 : 2 to run out eventual winners 30 : 16.  This proved to be the biggest comeback in Grand Final history.  Inevitably Pat Richards scored Wigan’s fifth and last try.  He must surely believe that Old Trafford is his theatre of dreams.

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Posted in People, Rugby League, Speed Light, Sport Tagged , , , , , , , , , |