Best of 2017 & My Year in Review
The last few years I've unveiled my personal picture of the year. Granted it's never the first time it's published and they're all in my portfolio but they're my favourites.
Naturally last year's images are no different, apart from the fact I have a fancy new way to show them and talk about them rather than rely on social media.
BUT before moving onto last years, and I have this fancy new platform to talk about them, let's just take a look at a few from the previous years
So before 2014 I didn't really do the whole here's my favourite picture of the last 12 months, despite shooting considerably more than I do today (was pretty much my job from around 2009-2012). So here's the one up until reasonably recently was categorically my favourite.
Shot on my first ever group (and model) shoot (with the East Midlands Strobists back in 2009). I love this image. It's the reason it was the background on my website for a very long time. From this shoot I decided I wanted to shoot models and learn how to play with light; so that's what I've been attempting to do ever since. It's a nice simple studio image. Bit different, probably more quirky than anything else I did, but the duck was my idea and I'm proud of it.
This was shot on my first ever camera, a Canon 450D with kit lens, I probably didn't even know how to properly use it, but it's proof that actually it doesn't necessarily matter what kit you have, if you can get the lighting and exposure right, then boom.
Interestingly enough there's a counterpart to this image I've never shared. I asked the model to do an angry face, honestly, it was harder then it sounded, the poor girl couldn't keep a straight face. But she did it, it exists. I'll expect that image will come out and see the light of day eventually though.
2014 - Agi & Polo
This is from my second shoot with Agi, a Polish model (and now friend) who I met on my first shoot back into photography after having a couple of years off. I got the chance to shoot this after a previous shoot arranged with her fell through (it was neither of our fault), so she invited me to where she was competing in show jumping with her horse polo. If it isn't obvious it was around Halloween time, hence the haunted rider get up. Agi won the trophy for best fancy dress which she was going for. She's long since given up but I still chat to Agi regularly. Even on each others Christmas card lists!
I'll be honest though. Agi DOES NOT like the way I've edited this photo (as she keeps telling me); "it isn't in the spirit of Halloween". I like it though.
That said I keep meaning to redo the image to more how she wants it and get it printed, but I'll do it for next time I see her.
2015 - Romanie Smith
For those who don't know, Romanie Smith is considered one of the top and most sought after models in the UK. Usually shooting more latex/fetish work I think we were extremely lucky to get her to attend as a model for a few quick shots at the beginning of a tutorial, especially shooting more fashion orientated.
I've shot Romanie a couple of times now, more recently last year in Paris, so I expect we'll see a few more images to come in the blog.
So 2016 I did things slightly differently. I honestly couldn't choose. So. What I ended up doing was picking one from each style of shooting I'd been shooting that year.
Studio - Stephanie Dubois
Shot on a group shoot in 2016 at The Loft, I just love how the hair matches the red in the jacket! Again a really simplistic image, simple studio setup, with the model face on looking directly at the camera, it's the single common colour that bring it all together. That said Stephanie is an awesome model and I'd love the chance to shoot her again in the future.
Location - Nadia Chloe Rose
The golden hour gives the most beautiful light, as this image shows, shot on the Norfolk coast at the end of summer. The colours, the toning, the location the pose just gels together so well. It also shows that you don't even need the model looking directly at the camera to get a good image, and personally I think if it was flipped and she was walking towards me, it just wouldn't have worked.
Aerial - Caitlin - Aerial Hoop
This is from my first time shooting aerial (and only time shooting it in the studio). I hope it's easy to see why it's my favourite genre to shoot. The strength required to do and hold this is unbelievable, especially when you consider she is bent backwards.
So here they are. My favourite images of 2017. The whole point to this article. It was seriously hard, especially with the aerial work and that's why I've also included plenty of honourable mentions as well.
Studio - Pippa Doll, The Loft
From my first person shoot in over six months, this was shot at The Loft at their very first self run group shoot. I'd met Pippa previously on more social things but this is the only time I've had the chance to shoot her. She has a massive following appearing on many other photographers 'I want to shoot in 2018' list. I' hoping to shoot her again this year, but it's sounding like she's getting massively booked up already. It doesn't help that my life situation is massively in the air at the moment so am struggling to commit to anything.
Although we should never admit to editing, I'm really pleased with it. It was my first time having a play with dodging and burning to remove hotspots too. I also got to play with the Sony mirrorless A7Rii as I'm tempted to make the brand switch. I've also been converted to shooting a very narrow depth of field in the studio, with this particular image having an aperture of around f/2.0 (on a 1.2 lens).
Studio - Honourable Mentions
Back in June I decided I really wanted a play around with gels (plastic almost acetate used to provide coloured lighting). So that's what I did.. Gels are awesome. I want to use them a bit more this year, not go full on gel like the style of another photographer but just like I've done here, adding a slight colour addition.
I ended up shooting this in my Mum & Dad's living room whilst they were away and I was house sitting. The dog didn't look impressed with me that's for sure! But hopefully in 2018 I'll be having my own studio (more on that later!) which should allow me to have a bit more of a play.
Stacey, Canon UK
In about April I went down to Canon HQ in Reigate (not my first time either, last time was about 20years ago when my Nan ran the caff!) for an afternoon of beauty and print workflow tutorials hosted by Canon, Tina Eisen and Andy Farrer.
I took this on the Canon 5D4 whilst playing with an 85mm 1.2. It was the first time shooting a portrait with a crazy fine depth of field (as you can see with one eye in focus the other isn't) and I love it (apart from next time I will aim to get both eyes in focus, but apparently some people like it like this). My aim this year is to shoot more portraits with a crazy DOF (probs not at 1.2 though).
Location - Romanie Smith, Musée du Louvre
I think it was pretty safe to say my favourite location image was going to be from Paris. Ok. It was probably the only location shooting I did this year, but what a location! The problem was in my opinion there were so many 'good' images to choose from.
Hopefully this is clear why i consider it my favourite. Shot at one of the most recognisable landmarks on the planet (with notable lack of tourists), with beautiful pastel colours emitted from the setting sun which match the dress, a well lit and superb model. My only issue with it is I don't have a wider shot with the tip of the pyramid. Not that I think it matters as I think this image is perfectly acceptable but it would have been nice to have the option with the full pyramid.
Location - Honourable Mentions
Romanie Smith - Musée du Louvre
Another from The Louvre. Again I love this shot, but unlike the others it's not identifiable that this was shot at the landmark. Using a gate into the courtyard beyond the famous pyramid, it gives the illusion Romanie's behind bars.
Jenny O'Sullivan - Musée du Louvre
Number three from The Louvre. Lens flare is something I've never really played and experimented with, either on camera or in post production, but this is the real deal. Look how the light from the setting sun catches the hair! Again unlike the second Louvre image of Romanie behind the bars, the smaller pyramid behind and the Parisian architecture behind makes it instantly recognisable where it was shot.
Romanie Smith - Trocadéro
Again. Another instantly recognisable location shot. Although Romanie's clearly the subject of the image, it' pretty much impossible to miss the Eiffel Tower behind her.
Jenny O'Sullivan - Square Alexandre et René Parodi
Granted this could have been shot anywhere, when you take out the location this is really just a bog standard fashion shot. I have no problem with that. I like the colours, the outfit in the setting, the subject/background separation (but the grass at her feet is still in focus) and look at those mirrored sunglasses!
Romanie Smith - Square René-Viviani
Another shot which could have been anywhere. This image is quite simplistic; nice background blur produced by the depth of field and the focal length, tightish crop, and then just Romanie and a rose. Lit with a single reflector, simplism at its finest.
Aerial - Danii & Kelly - Double Aerial Hoop
This was the hardest category to choose. I really struggled. In fact I chose another, but switched it to this one whilst writing this blog, and hence why this year I've introduced honourable mentions. It was that hard.
I opted for this one over the others (besides the crazy super human feat they're doing on a spinning hoop) because of capturing it at the right moment, showing both performers at the height of their move and how clear it is, despite being shot on a reasonably high ISO at the back of an auditorium, and with over a stop in the way of increased exposure there isn't much in the way of noise. But that's what it came down to and why it had the slight edge. Personally finding less wrong(photographically, never ever with the performers) with this one than the others.
Aerial - Honourable Mentions
Naomi - Aerial Hoop
Up until I was writing this blog post this was my favourite image. As a common theme through many of the images, it's because of the colour and the timing, making sure the subject was in line with the camera. I love how the costume provides such a contrast to the background. Plus the makeup was pretty convincing too (she's not actually burnt, but if you saw her in it you'd believe she was!) It wasn't until much later I realised that one of the hands was slightly motion blurred and it's quite noisy BUT I don't care. I like the image.
Louise - Aerial Hoop
An image I just like. Lovely pose and the blue to yellow lighting really works on the subject. I do have a couple of niggles though (I could arguably fix in post... so may do in the future), the yellowness of the lights behind and the lack of space at the bottom of the image. But hey, my blog, my website, these are my personal favourite images this year!
Charlie - Silks
I really like this image but don't at the same time, it's weird (it's nothing against the performance, it never is, and having seen it several times can honestly say it was phenomenal). I think it's because of the colour palette... it's very red and there's quite a lack of difference between the subject and background (despite shooting at around 1.8 it wouldn't have blurred that much). I did try cutting the subject out of a sister image and sticking it on a rendered background (so it was on a solid red white background without the tones of the real one) but it didn't look right.
Live Music - deadmau5, South West Four 2017
For the first time since 2012, 2017 saw me returning to gig shooting. Shooting a few gigs and a festival for Gig Junkies.
Shot at South West Four festival 2017, deadmau5 (or dead-mau-five) is probably the second biggest act I've shot (the other being Calvin Harris pre his current stardom). I chose this one partly because of that fact (it's clearly identifiable who the artist is) but to me it's a nice clean image without any busy background.
Live Music - Honourable Mentions
deadmau5 Stage/Crowd Shot, South West Four Festival 2017
Shot at the back of the crowd on my way out of South West Four festival during deadmau5's set (I'd been shooting all day, I was tired and I wanted to beat the crowds to the tube. It's filled with pretty lights.. it's a very atmospheric shot.. but not much else..
Carl Craig Presents Versus Synthesizer Ensemble, South West Four Festival 2017
My favourite act from SW4 (seriously go check them out). I really, really like this shot. The colours, the differentiation between the subject and the background. Everything.
Áine Cahill, The Lexington
Shot on my first gig since 2012, Áine Cahill is a fantastic singer/song writer from Ireland at a great London venue called The Lexington. I've very quickly come to the conclusion singers are far better to shoot compared to DJs as you can see emotion in their faces whilst performing... rather than kinda just standing there... That said a lot of the music I listen to is more dance orientated which means you're more likely to get DJs rather than full on performances and is a bit conflicting with what I enjoy and what I'd rather shoot.
This is a wildcard entry which deserves a bit more than an honourable mention (partly as it doesn't really fit in any of the sections).
Shot at the end of their 2017 Showcase 'Fear', I'd spent the last few weeks prior to this shooting these guys at various rehearsals and when they were performing at Scaresville. During this time my friends and family were honestly convinced I'd joined the circus. Rather than coming home after work I was hanging out with a bunch of aerialists (kinda like acrobats) and fire performers (including fire breathers) in a big top. This photo is the culmination of I don't know how long for the performers but this was it and they could finally relax. The idea then came about to just do one pulling funny faces.
This is the second group shot I've got of these guys (getting one in 2016) but this one blows the other out of the water. Yes, it's a successful group shot of 26 people (Yep, just counted), but this image has been reposted several times, been used as a cover photo my several people, it's my most 'liked' photo on my personal facebook account of 2017, and it's just a nice photo. I said it.
2017 in Hindsight and looking towards 2018
I started out 2017 with the aim to do the equivalent of one fashion shoot a month, this was my new years resolution. I failed. If that wasn't obvious. I got to June and I'd averaged one a month, but then my personal circumstances changed (I bought a house so that had to take priority). I did however join Gig Junkies meaning I've started shooting gigs again (although it's been a while), I've also joined a new studio group which mean I may be doing a few more group shoots again, despite having a couple of really bad experiences with some fellow photographers earlier in 2017. I'll see how it goes, but I expect with the lofts new (mini) boss (Ayla Rose) in charge there may not be as much of an issue!
So what things have I learnt last year:
- DJs are the worst to shoot. Unlike live acts they're really boring as apart from a pretty light show they can kinda just sit there. Live bands are far more interesting.
- Shooting on location is so much fun and far easier in a crowded tourist site then I ever realised. I'm away for a couple of weeks in the US this year, so may try put some of these developing skills to use!
- Gels are amazing.
- My 5D2's auto focus, metering and dynamic range is horrendous. The Sony is horribly gorgeous to use.
- Aerial is still my favourite photography genre.
And some things to look out for this year, some plans in my head and changes:
- I really need to shoot more. Honestly, I think my 'skill' stagnates over time. Yes I feel like I can/do get some nice images but most of the time I look at my work and go a bit meh. I understand everyone goes through these dips. Studio is where I'm most consistent, so maybe a place to start?
- Convert my dining room into a studio. So I'm attempting to buy a house at the moment... and the plan is to convert the dining room into a studio space. I have a full set of studio gear but hardly ever use it. Who needs a space to eat anyway?
- Attempt to replace both my cameras.
- Try to keep this blog up to date.
So that was it. My year in review. Do you agree with my choices? Do you have some personal favourites you think were better, or didn't even receive an honourable mention? By all means let me know.