photography

Eddie Hearn : Sunday Mirror

Last week I got the opportunity to shoot editorial portraits of Eddie Hearn for Focus Images Ltd for the Sunday Mirror. Tom Hopkinson from the Mirror was doing an exclusive interview with Eddie after his press conference at the Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch, where he was promoting Wednesday’s boxing night in Bethnal Green.

I knew I won’t have much time with Eddie, so I made sure to show up early and find a good spot for a range of portraits. The Courthouse Hotel has a great interior and first I was drawn to the main lobby and bar. Unfortunately by the time of our interview the bar would be open and busy. Luckily the hotel staff was really helpful and gave me access to a private bar upstairs, where I could setup and do some test shots, so by the time Eddie would be in front of my lens I would need less then five minutes to get all the shots. Also it was really helpful for Tom to interview Eddie there, away from the busy press conference.

I decided to start with some standing portraits, lit with my new favourite softbox to bring on location, the Pixapro 90cm octagonal umbrella softbox. It’s a great modifier and so quick and easy to setup! Behind the bar I tucked away another speedlight, which I used to bounce light off a mirror to act like a fill or kicker on camera right.

For the portraits of Eddie sitting, I just needed to move around the softbox and turn off the second light. Very simple lighting, but I concentrated on the composition and especially Eddie’s expression. I was really happy to see that the Sunday Mirror also used my favourite frame to go with their story:

As the interview took place before the photo shoot and I had already setup for the portraits, I actually used the same lighting (just had to move the key light a bit) to take some photos of the interview. As there was literally no ambient light in the background from this angle, I just added another speedlight to lighten up the wall behind Eddie!

Looking forward to shooting more editorial portraits like this. Even though there is a lot of pressure to get the shot, I love the challenge of creating something in a short amount of time. Actually, it is all about preparation and being able to deliver when the subject is ready!

IMPRESSIONIST PHOTOGRAPHY

It all started in 2014, when I was planning to visit Hong Kong for the first time. Wherever I travel I want to get at least one unique personal picture for myself, something special that maybe hasn’t been photographed before. Of course I will take pictures of the main sights, like the Hong Kong Island Skyline seen from Kowloon, but I won’t spend too much time photographing them. I know, it has been photographed before a million times, and many times better than I could achieve with the gear I travel with. As someone passionate about street photography I am usually drawn to street scenes, moments that might capture the feel or culture of a place.

This time, I wanted to try out something different. The skyline of Hong Kong Island is unique itself and I wanted to experiment with it and make an image just for myself. From a young age I was interested in Impressionism, especially in the work of Claude Monet, however that art form is naturally quite a contrast to photography.

Photography is mainly about recording the "real world”, portraying something how it really looks like. Of course you can change a scene through framing, lighting, add colour gels, smoke etc. and create something that is not actually real. Furthermore Photoshop offers endless possibilities to create whatever you like, but generally the aim is to make something at least “look real”!  

Impressionism on the other hand is more about the subjective perception of a scene. The Tate explains that impressionists “found that they could capture the momentary and transient effects of sunlight by working quickly, in front of their subjects, in the open air rather than in a studio. This resulted in a greater awareness of light and colour and the shifting pattern of the natural scene.”

What’s particularly interesting is that Impressionism was actually also “partly a reaction by artists to the challenge presented by photography, which seemed to devalue the artist's skill in reproducing reality. Photography actually inspired artists to pursue other means of creative expression, and rather than compete with photography to emulate reality, the Impressionists sought to express their perceptions of nature, rather than create exact representations. Photography encouraged painters to exploit aspects of the painting medium, like colour, which photography then lacked: The Impressionists were the first to consciously offer a subjective alternative to the photograph. [Wikipedia]

Back to Hong Kong, my idea was to capture an image that represents the Skyline in a different way. My first thought was to try a slightly longer exposure and pan the camera up and down, like a brush. My vision of the shot was that it might look somewhat similar to a barcode.

I was travelling light and didn’t bring a tripod, so I was panning the camera up and down just hand held at about 1/5  to 1/30 of a second. As with any new technique it is all about trial and error, and after a few shots I got the effect I was looking for. However due to the long exposure (I didn’t bring a ND filter either), even at a high aperture, the images came out completely overexposed. So I wasn’t sure if I could work with the files in Lightroom. Hence I was really surprised how much information there was still left in the extremely overexposed raw files. The colours were obviously completely washed out, so in addition to pulling back the exposure I also had to push the saturation up close to the maximum and then adjust the colours individually. Usually red and warm tones, at least with my camera, are blowing out quickly, so I had to pull back red and orange tones a bit after the saturation adjustment.

Hong Kong Island 1

The previous photo was taken at f/16 at 1/30s, whereas the following one at f/16 at 1/10s. Obviously this one was even more overexposed and not much of the warmer and brighter tones were left. Even though it came closer to my “barcode” vision, I do prefer to retain more colours in my images in this project.

Hong Kong Island 2

Hong Kong Island 2

Back in London I continued working on this technique as a personal project. It is very time consuming and some days I wouldn’t get a single frame that worked. I wanted to keep the images more organic, so I kept working without a tripod and it was great to just walk around and be more fluid with my decisions.

When I first started taking vertical panning photos of the Houses of Parliament, it didn’t really work or feel right though. The problem was that I would completely loose Westminster Bridge. I could emphasise the bridge by panning horizontally, but then I would loose Big Ben. That made me think to work with a double exposure, first panning vertically, followed by panning horizontally. It took me countless trials, considering the variables involved, the speed and direction of each pan and aligning the two exposures!

But eventually I did end up with a frame captured in camera that worked for me:

Westminster

For subjects other than recognisable buildings or parts of the city, the light becomes even more important. The light from the sun setting really gave the trees in Green Park here much more shape, and of course the warm colour added to the feel of the image:

Green Park

By the way Claude Monet also worked in London for a while producing his “Thames Series” and my favourite painting “Leicester Square at night”.

Both can be seen until 7th May 2018 in “The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London” at the Tate Britain in London.

Earlier this year I travelled to New York then, which has been on my bucket list for so long. New York really helped me to enhance my body of work in street photography and ultimately inspired me to make more space and time to keep developing my personal work. That in turn also reignited my passion for my impressionist project.

I made sure to have enough time on top of the Empire State Building to experiment with panning my camera while capturing the amazing views. I love how the image came out in the end as if there are strokes from a paintbrush. You can clearly see the new World Trade Centre, thanks to its iconic architecture. All the glass buildings turned blue, while the older New York buildings maintained the red, brown and yellow colours, with some of the few trees in Manhattan bringing in some green! 

Manhattan

Manhattan

Finally, I think it is so important not to forget to really take in your experiences when you travel. I try to make a conscious effort to step back and just take in the culture, the scene, the light, the smell, the sound, the weather and so on, so I can really remember it later on. I rather take fewer photos, but the ones I do take are then the gateway to my memories in the future. It is like a good soundtrack to a film. When you hear a song of a movie you have seen ages ago, it brings back the scenes and feel of the movie!

Portrait Photography : Beard & Tattoo

I was very fortunate that my friend Dawid, who not only has an awesome beard, but also a great work of art as a tattoo on his back, agreed to sit for some portraits for my portfolio. (Btw, I’m not sure if I could ever grow such a beard, even if it would literally take me years, haha).

My plan for this session was to shoot just in my 5m x 5m living room, which also serves as my headshot studio with a grey seamless background. Furthermore I limited myself to using just one light and modifier and decided to go with my beauty dish. The goal was to get a range of different images within these limitations and a rather short time frame.

My first thought was to incorporate the windows in the composition and use the available light coming in from the outside to my advantage. The only artificial light source is the beauty dish with a grid high on camera left to create this dramatic portrait.

As mentioned before I have a grey seamless setup in my studio, but for the next six images instead of the paper background I used a simple old IKEA duvet cover :-) It actually looks like a wallpaper!

For the next few photos I made an exception and used a second light, but not on my subject, just behind the background to make it brighter and change the colour with some gels.

Dawid’s tattoo was the subject of the last few images. As you can see the tattoo is really a great piece of art, made by Mike from Tattoo-Bar-M13 in Brighton.

I wanted more of a fine art feel for these portraits and chose to shoot on the grey paper background and again just using the beauty dish with the grid. Colour grading was done in post in Capture One.

It is great to work within limitations and practicing with just one light, finding out how much you can actually do with it. Not having to worry about the gear also frees your mind to become more creative!

Stuntman Andrew

My latest shoot was with Andrew, who soon qualifies as a stuntman. He needed some photos to show his Tae Kwon Do and Gymnastic skills.

Even though it was already December, we decided to shoot on location on a beach near Portsmouth. Luckily it stopped raining just before we arrived. It was one of the warmer days in December, but it was obviously very windy, which made it very cold after all. There were still quite a few wind surfers and kite surfers out in the sea enjoying the waves and my assistant almost joined them with the umbrella :-)

Andrew started doing his Tae Kwon Do routines on top of the sand dunes with the dramatic sky in the background, while I was shooting from down low, to make it look even more powerful. 

The weather forecast for once was correct and the sun came out soon after, so we went down to the water to shoot Andrews two- and one-handed handstands.

Because of the cold weather we had to work very fast, but thanks to the weather changing quickly as well, we were able to get all our shots in a short period of time.

That’s what I love about the weather in the UK, you often can get many different looks throughout a day!

Hong Kong

This year I finally was able to go to Hong Kong, where my girlfriend’s parents are from originally.  One of her sisters is currently living there as well, so it was a great opportunity to visit and stay with her for two weeks!

I could write a very long blog post about Hong Kong, but in a nutshell it is one of the most amazing places in the world! Great city (very modern, but also traditional), great people, great food, great mountains and islands for trekking and beaches. So you have pretty much everything in one place, and pretty good warm weather all year round as well.

 And you just can’t get bored of that skyline:

There is so much to explore, obviously the views from Victoria Peak, architecture, temples, markets, shopping and lots more.

Here is an iPhone panorama shot from Victoria Peak, whilst we were waiting for the light to drop:

If you are planning a trip with your camera to Hong Kong, I highly recommend watching David Hobby’s “The Traveling Photographer: Hong Kong” on lynda.

It is full of very useful, time and money saving travel tips, and of course lots of great photographic advice too.

If you have some more time in Hong Kong, I would suggest to also explore the other islands. Firstly go to Lantau Island and take the cable car to the Big Buddha. After that you can take a bus (approx. 25min) to Tai O, a small fishing town on the western side of the island, which turned out to be one of my favorite places.

You can take ferries to the other islands very easily with your octopus card too, some are great for trekking and some have nice beaches. (The octopus card is like London’s oyster card, just better, you can even use it to pay at seven-elevens!) One of the nicest beaches is apparently on the south eastern side of Hong Kong Island, called Shek O, which I have to check out on my next visit.

 

In the second week of our holiday I actually also increasingly tried to take some street photographs. I always loved that genre of photography, especially looking at great street photographers work. It is definitely something I want to explore further in my free time.

 

I can’t wait to go to Hong Kong again! You should go too!

More about street photography in my next post.