It must be around eight years I’ve been working very closely with green and ecological companies who are trying to make a difference and in the current climate trying to make savings on people’s businesses by being more energy efficient and reducing waste and the amount of electricity being used. So for these last eight years, specifically working with Glowled, it’s been great to see the transition from a handful of individual light panels going in to the likes of Riverdale Recycling or Quayside Frozen Foods on Team Valley through to now all these years later where I’m now going into one of the largest warehouses in the North East down in Middlesbrough, to see some amazing sized spaces all controlled and operated by an amazing system on an app but also motion sensitive and only on when needed. It’s making massive savings for companies and in the current climate, what more could you want?
So as much as it’s always good for me to push my clients’ messages out there and let you know a bit more about my clients, here’s a little bit of a history of Glowled (Check out their website here) and I think if any of you are in a manufacturing setting or have any connections in the manufacturing or distribution sectors, places where big warehouses are kind of the norm, any connections like that, please have a chat with Arzhang. His knowledge in this field is second to none and some of the savings that he’s managed to achieve by installing these lights is crazy. I certainly hadn’t realised how much certain companies were paying for electricity and for their lighting on a monthly basis. In some cases, you’re talking £50-60,000 as a standard bill for this size of company. In a month! That’s crazy! So if savings can be made on that just by being more efficient, even just being on only when people need them, it’s a no-brainer.
If you’d like more information, here’s Arzhang’s details
For all of my life, music has played an important part in how I do things and my mood and how I get motivated to do things. From The Eagles that my Dad used to listen to when I was a child through to myself going through many phases as we all do in our teens and into our 20s, music shifts often with the times, the metal and rock stuff that I listened to in the early 2000s was very there and I eventually I realised that mostly guitar-based music kind of does its thing for me. But it’s been really interesting through lockdown and since starting up again and spending a bit more time editing and pushing the business and I’m sat there on the computer, music still plays an important part in my everyday life. At every point throughout the day, if there’s not a bit of music or something going on, something almost feels like it’s missing. So while I’m sitting in the office now, it could be a range of music that I listen to – I’ve got CDs still in my office. Now, how much do I listen to music from the early 2000s? Certainly not as much as I did. How much is now obviously streaming on my phone and how much of it is actually similar to the same music but maybe different artists or maybe a different style or maybe actually a little bit more chilled out.
Yes, I am getting old so everything has chilled out a little bit so now when in the past it would be great to hear a Stone Sour track come on, “Oooh this is new and this is exciting!” maybe it’s more of a Joe Bonamassa track nowadays. That said, I think music plays an important part in mood and productivity. Keeping your mind calm and keeping your mind in the right place and not being distracted by other sounds and people digging the road or the bin lorry coming past, I think it just helps to keep that tone going.
Now I’ve worked with musicians over the years and bringing music into my photography has been a really great experience. So I’ve done a lot of work with Mark Deeks over the years, whether that’s been his piano work, helping him promote himself as a pianist for events through to the choir concerts that he coordinates through his own metal music that ended us up in Metal Hammer magazine which was very exciting! That whole journey there with music and all the variations just makes me smile. Just being able to bring that in is fantastic. I remember taking pictures of a folk band on Newburn Bridge and if you know Northumberland and you know Newburn Bridge is a very blue and iconic bridge and it happened to be closed and we happened to get a full-on folk band there with full instruments and things and it was just good from an experience perspective because obviously, I’ve got their CDs now – which now and again go on.
How does music impact your life? Is it there every day? I’ve got friends that don’t listen to music at all. They sit in a silent car and music never comes into their sphere but that’s really not me. I don’t think there is a norm with music but it would be interesting to see what your take is on music and how it impacts your daily work or how it impacts your daily life to make things easier for you.
Some of you on here will have known me for years and some of you will only have known me recently as clients, as friends, as golf colleagues and something that has changed in the last 12 months. Some of you may have noticed, some of you may not – in a lot of ways it matters not a jot to anybody else apart from me and my family but it’s significant.
So as with many significant things in life, you just need to throw them out there into the world now and again and let people know.
For a lot of years, I’ve known that my brain works a bit differently. I can see the reaction on peoples’ faces when I say certain things or I can see it in my brain jumping around as it always had. It was a massive help to my business early on. I could really see the connections and the synergy between people and how they can work together. So back in the days, I worked for the council, 15 or so years ago now, I would walk into a room and say, “Right, this MP needs to speak to this community group, this community group needs to speak to this housing officer,” and really make those connections and make those introductions. It was easy for me, that’s how my brain worked.
Now it’s only in the last 18 months that this “how my brain works” aspect has come to the forefront. I was diagnosed in December 2020 with ADHD. At 40 years old, that was a very strange thing for me to take. To me, ADHD is a thing in the 80s and early 90s when naughty boys at the back of the class were thrown Ritalin to calm them down and zone them out. So how did I get to 40 without realising that a lot of the traits were why I am the way I am? It’s very weird, obviously, I’ve learned a lot more about ADHD since then and it’s all about coping strategies. I didn’t realise how my brain was just full of coping strategies to get around these problems and it’s amazing how they’ve dropped off since finding out about the diagnosis and freeing me up in a completely different way.
It’s also incredibly interesting how many people I know since my diagnosis who have also been diagnosed. It’s nearly as if there’s this force or connection between us all. Because of the way our brains work, we do gravitate to each other. You’ll have no doubt seen, if you’re connected with Nicola Little, my big sis in business for 10 years, we’ve always had a close working relationship and been good friends for a lot of those years. As it turns out, as she kindly helped out by pointing out my diagnosis was required, she got a diagnosis about three months before me. So she’s just that little bit ahead on the journey through the realisation that this significant mental health issue has just been there and pre-lockdown, it just never came up as a thing. I was just me being me, it was just the personality that I had. I hadn’t realised that quite a lot of the elements of that personality – not all of them obviously – but certain elements of the personality were real ADHD traits, so that’s things like always quite loud talking, fast talking, making those connections, jumping around, having half conversations with people because my brain is already jumping onto the next thing before I’ve finished the last one. So all of a sudden people would be not understanding what I was saying as I’d jumped maybe three or four steps of logic that may or may not have been helpful but it’s just how my brain works.
It’s quite a strange realisation that you can tie all of those traits into something that I’ve had since I was a child. How does that impact my business? A lot of people have said that to get my business to where it is now without that sort of holding me back, has to be a success and me growing the business to where it is has been tough and may be tougher than I realised and maybe didn’t give myself enough credit for doing some of the things I’ve done and work in some of the places I have.
On the flip side, along with that diagnosis did come medication and there’s a whole other topic about that. So if anyone is going through similar at the moment or thinking about an ADHD diagnosis, I’m more than happy to have a chat about my journey.
I was quite matter of fact when the doctor told me, “This will help you.” My straight response was “Okay, I’ll take that then.” And I’ve been taking Methylphenidate ever since, every day and has taking that medication changed my life? It’s done more than that. It’s changed both my life and my family’s life. It’s taken away a lot of the things that were becoming difficult within family life; we all know as parents that children have that innate ability to prod at the right buttons and my reactions to those prods were just not how they should have been. That’s not to say I was aggressive or violent or anything like that, please don’t take it that way, but more that I could stop situations escalating and needing to alleviate a situation by not reacting to things or realising that I could react in a different way. It’s that sort of self-knowledge that’s been an ongoing journey since diagnosis.
In the last 18 months with the medication, how do I feel that has impacted my business? Realistically, I have to say it’s nothing but positive. Some of the decisions that I’ve made over the last year, some of the ways I’ve reacted to things are so different to how I would have reacted a couple of years previous to that and I think that’s allowed me to have an incredibly successful 2021/22 and I really have some interesting stuff lined up for 2022/23. Whether that’s because of the systems I’ve now got in place; the blogging wouldn’t have happened without the systems and without the ADHD support that I’ve got. I could never sit down, I never had the patience and focus to be able to sit down and type out blogs but now all of a sudden I can do voice notes or dictation and then I can get those blogs out there. The “easy” bit is done, it’s actually getting the information out of my head that’s the big challenge. So that’s been an absolute game changer for me as a business.
I have a support team around me now and it was really interesting listening to Mike Pagan talk about tribes and having a support network around you as a business owner on the podcast with Adam Strong and that really resonated with me that now I look at my team around me – yes there are some staff members in there but there’s also those people that I ask specific questions of and I only talk to them about specific things in a work context and that’s really allowed me to grow other things, grow other ideas and to make things happen.
So, Rachel Locke has been instrumental in helping me implement something that Kevin Maddison ( Root Cause Consultancy) has been trying to get me to do for a good couple of years now and because of the ADHD, there was just no way I could do it. Now with the medication, with Rachel’s support, we’ve now got my CRM system working significantly better than it’s ever done and I feel more in control of my business, which wouldn’t have happened on my own. I’ve tried enough times over the years with 20, 30, 40 different CRM systems to find one that worked for me and they’d work for a couple of weeks but the limiting factor was always me whereas now it’s just set up and ready and going and it’s had a real impact.
So ADHD and me. Nobody will think any differently of me knowing the information because that’s all it is, information. It might find me a better listener than I’ve ever been and much better at reacting to questions in the sense that I now give a lot more thought-out answers because I can pause, take it in, dissect the information and then give out a more valuable response whereas previously it was very reactionary. So I think I’m just a slightly more polished diamond than I was previously so hopefully when you go meet me, if we haven’t met in the last year with all the Covid goings on, you might see a tiny change but in the same vein I’m still me so you might not see any difference whatsoever.
If any of this has resonated with you or if you’ve had any thoughts about potentially having something like ADHD or any other mental health issue, I’m an open book and more than happy to have a chat because I think by talking about it a little bit, it will open the door and then I’ll talk about it a lot since and it’s opened so many other doors. It’s a real way of helping each other out.
Anything you need, just ask.
Are you like me and have used every CRM system known to man? As a photographer, it’s tough to commit all of those clients that you’re working with into a CRM system and use it to its median percentage. We could easily get distracted and we get bombarded by new systems, new opportunities, and things that will save time and save money. But ultimately, it’s about finding a system that works for you and really bedding it into your systems and not getting distracted by all the other bells and whistles that everybody’s offering at the moment.
About a year ago, my good friend, Kevin Maddison, set me up with a nice, free account on HubSpot and it was all great, the idea behind it, the premise of it, all fantastic. I made massive savings on anything I’d used in the past, where I’d been paying, you know, upwards of £25 or £30 a month for different bits of software and this did a good chunk of that for free. But obviously, it was the commitment of getting all the information in there and utilising it on a daily basis. And that’s a year ago, so 11 months ago, I completely and utterly forgot about it and never used it again. Which is obviously a bit silly, I know you’re saying that, but Kevin obviously spent his time and I put my time into the effort of it, but then the working life just kind of didn’t integrate into my systems because it was new, because it was scary; well it wasn’t really scary, but you know what I mean, it did have a thought process of putting stuff in every day was tricky for me.
Now roll forward to October last year, when everything changed, the work changed, life changed and it meant that I had some support, so Rachel came into the team and has supported me through a lot of my admin tasks and kept me on top of my systems. Now, this was a real game changer, because then all of a sudden it was like, it’s somebody else telling me that I need to do this on a weekly basis or a daily basis. And it’s been a game changer.
Now if you’re not good with systems it’s dead easy to lose leads, to lose potential work, to lose the passing comment that somebody says, ‘Ah, it’d be great to get some headshots done,’ as a one-off line, now how do you capture that and how can you show that visually (I need to see things visually) so that when that person asks again or I see that person, I can drop in those hints of, ‘Oh actually, do you still want to do that shoot?’ Now in the past, it would have either circled around my head and then popped out on a Friday night when I was watching a film or something, but now that I’ve got it all on HubSpot again, we’re rock and rolling for six months now, it’s been a revelation. It’s been great to have all the information in there and I don’t feel as though I lose any leads in the same way at all.
Yesterday, for example, I sent out about four emails to companies on quotes that I’d sent out, maybe in the last month or so. And not heard anything from you, just to have an update. Now, two of those have come straight back and gone, ‘Oh actually, timescale-wise, it’s that the products don’t start yet, but obviously, we’ll be in touch as soon as we can, in the meantime, how are things going?’ kind of thing. Or, the flipside, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, let book a meeting next week.’ So I’ve got two phone calls next week and I’ve got two projects that were just floating in the ether, but now I know I’ve got some certainty around it, they are going to happen.
So this is basically a big shout-out to Kev, that supported me through this. And I know Kev’s running some free sessions in Durham at the moment, to help businesses to get their heads around this, as a starting point for their business to really be able to push forward and know that the information’s captured in the right way. Now, this HubSpot isn’t just for photographers by any stretch at all, Kev actually had to do a lot of manipulation to make it work for me in my head. So, it’s about making it fit for you. This isn’t a sales pitch for HubSpot by any chance, I mean they can give me some money if they like, but actually, it’s just about having that system and having that thing in place. Now, have you got systems in place? Have you thought about this? If any of this rings true to something you’ve been thinking about and you happen to fit within the criteria for Kevin’s sessions, please go and have a look and have a chat, because it’s certainly helped my business massively and taken away so much of that thought process and doubt about quotes and things that you’ve said out there.
A few weeks ago I was contacted by a reporter in Bristol who was writing an article about a cyclist living in Rothbury in Northumberland. The story that he was capturing was an amazing one from an ex-footballer, who worked at the fire service who has always been a keen cyclist. Had a stroke and then onset Parkinsons and is still out on his bike at 60 years old, absolutely doing amazing things on a bike.
Straight away this sounded like a fantastic story and it really intrigued me. So obviously I said it would be fantastic to do the shoot and I managed to get the nuts and bolts ironed out on the logistics.
Roll on a week and I was driving up to Rothbury on the hottest, sunniest day of this year so far thinking to myself, “Can we just have this weather for another two hours?”
I pulled up at Kevin’s house and what a nice, genuine man he is. He wanted to help in any way he could. He was so accommodating and came up with ideas himself which is always handy because he obviously knows the terrain around Rothbury a little bit better than I do!
We planned out two or three little locations that we could include; Simonside and some of the hills and the background and really capture some nice light on him.
I obviously had my car full of equipment to get some extra lighting involved. If you have an interest in my kit and why I pack the way i do, there is a blog about it here!
We had about two hours’ worth of shooting. We got some great stuff and then we got somebetter stuff– I got the one shot I wanted which was a long shot with the road and him looking off into the middle distance. This felt appropriate as he is a road cyclist and it was rural Northumberland paired with the road and him in all his biking gear. Then, just as I thought we were done I thought, “We’re here, let’s do more.” My assistant Karl was with me so we could do some VTLS stuff in the middle of the road.
I got one of my little lights (Pixipro 100)– I did have my really big lights with me but that would have been overkill for where we were on a main road. I used the little light and I said, “I’m not sure if this is going to work, the sun is so powerful, I’m not sure if the light has got enough clout in it to really do what I want it to do,” but that’s me being naïve and not pushing my lights to their full potential to try them out. It was a good opportunity to test them out and – guess what – it absolutely smashed it.
We reshot my winning shot that I was really happy with and it completely popped. For me it was great to go, “Ooh that worked!” Then we went to the opposite extreme and I raced around and shot with the sun behind me and a really cool shadow coming off the bike underneath him and then flashed on him to make him pop out, which was just fantastic.
The magazine didn’t use that image in the end but for the purpose of it and for me doing one of those shoots that I really felt I pushed my creative juices to, it was fantastic. Here it is in print!
So as you know, I do a lot less networking than I used to.
My networking these days really does focus on my Fore Business golf networking and a little bit from Mint Business Club and Social+ Network+ when I can make it. So realistically, I have to know that it justifies my time. Playing a lot of golf, building up the connections, to build up my presence across the UK network for that, has worked fantastically well.
Paired with Mint Business Club, it’s a fantastic opportunity to chat with a different demographic of businesses working in the North East.
Again, this week I’ve had at least five invites to various networking opportunities across the North East, whether that be BNI Next Generation Networking, the Network B2B and AWE. These are all great networks and bring together a diverse range of people. Did I go along to all of them?
I took a decision a while ago to really focus my networking on golf/MINT. It’s very easy to get sucked into networking as a job. You know, if I was a BDM for a larger company then it makes sense to be at everything, but as a sole trader, doing lots of jobs within the business for myself, I need to maximise my time and make sure it’s efficient. So going to numerous networking things on a weekly basis that I can’t necessarily straight away see the direct benefit of… it’s always going to be a difficult balance.
So the decision was tough to cut back on networking, I mean yes, I miss the early mornings and the coffee here and there around the North East, but has it impacted on my income? That’s a difficult one to figure out. We all need to be seen and pull in new clients but it has to be justified spending time finding those contacts, as we always say, time is money too.
I know that I get really good numbers out of the networking that I do currently, so that’s got to be a positive, but how much would I get if I did some of this other networking? Have you done the maths on how much each of your networking routes brings in over a 12 month period?
Yeah, it’s a bit chicken and egg in that sense, that you can’t know until you do more stuff. So it’s a little bit difficult on that one. But I’m certainly happy that the networking that I do, the decisions I made to do that were right for me and my business, certainly at the time and certainly for the moment.
Would I advise people to be doing more networking or less networking in the current climate? I think it’s about finding your tribe; you see people talking about tribes a lot and it’s finding the network that works best for you, there’s no right answers in this game. I’ve often said I’ve stood in a room with a lot of good photographers before and you can ask every one of them and they all get their work in different ways and from different sources, so – certainly for me as a commercial photographer, my network needs to be strong, I need advocates across all sectors, but they need to be the right ones.
So my advice is very much that you find your tribe and you find your group of people that you really, really fit in well with and never feel as though you’re at networking because you need to be there. You have to be at your networking to want to be there and to justify the numbers that you get out of it. So you need to really figure out all of your income sources and which ones justify it.
If you’ve been to networking every week for a year, how much money have you made out of it? How much money have you passed on to other people? Are you actually just acting as a conduit for everybody else’s business? That’s lovely, but then no work’s coming back to you. You need to justify your time in a way that fully stacks up for you and your business, not to be just a BDM for everybody else in the room.
So, would I advise going to lots of different networking? I would, I’d say go and try everything that you get invited to, go and try, go and look, go and see what in your local area is a good fit for you. Who in the room can you get work from? Who can you really partner with? Who can you do different and new projects with that really make it justify its time? If it is a weekly meeting, just think about the time and impact on your family, which is why I don’t do a lot of the weekly networking.
My stuff’s very much around a monthly basis, just so I can have the flexibility with the family and time in my business to be able to deliver. So it’s very much a balancing act between you and how your business is sat, but there are so many opportunities out there and networking. Everybody should be out there, talking to everybody. Working in isolation, even with the best website in the world, there’s going to be a ceiling on that.
So yeah, I’d say, get out there, have a look, go and try all of them. You can get free trials at most of the networks. Go and see where you feel comfortable and where you feel some work can come from and some friendships and business connections can really come from and what they could lead to.
I mentioned two of mine; they are Fore Business, which is a national golf-related networking and golf business. We meet monthly and it’s been a real game-changer for my business. if you are a golfer, please drop me a line as its a great way to build relationships.
The other one is Mint Business Club, which is my friend Nicola’s business club, which is helping small businesses in the North East to really iron out some of those things on a weekly basis that every business goes through. But it’s a place for me to be able to ask questions and really make sure that I’m hitting all the buttons that I need to both for me personally and for the business. Go and check them both out, they’re both really great and they’ll love me for giving them a shout-out on here.
As a lot of you know, I spent a lot of time in Yorkshire in my 20s and into my 30s, living in York and Leeds/Bradford, as my friends often find out. And it was a great experience being in Yorkshire and experiencing the cultures and the people in a community that really has that same passion about their land as us Northumbrians and Geordies do. So it was fantastic to get an enquiry from Laura White some time ago. I’ve known Laura for a lot of years and she asked me about a shoot in a community centre in the south of Leeds and I was like, ‘Alright, let’s see if we can figure this out,’ ‘cause my last job in Yorkshire was working for Leeds City Council Area Support Team in the south of the city, supporting the communities of Middleton, Belle Isle, the city and Hunslet. So knowing that area very well, the conversation started, ‘Oh it’s a community project, working with young people to get them into sports that we wouldn’t normally get them into. Working predominantly with disabled children and really having a fun time, getting them into these sports.’ So of course, quick chat, let’s go and do the shoot. Went and did the shoot, came back, client absolutely loved it. At the time I didn’t realise it was going into Yorkshire Housing’s magazine that went out to however many thousand different places but it was the start of a really good relationship that out myself and Laura on a number different of projects.
So since then, I’ve had the chance to go to Scarborough to see a young gentleman in a supported living flat that’s really changed his life around and is really making a difference through some extreme adversity. And also, I managed to get the chance to go to Beverley to see the Chair of the Yorkshire Area Tenants Forum. And talking to a gentleman that felt to me like a local councillor but with a housing twist, it was fantastic and it certainly took me back to my days working at a local authority and working with communities where people in communities that really had that passion about making a difference to people and making sure everybody’s getting their fair share and really getting the support that they need in their housing provision. So, cut to this year, we’ve had potential for four or five different projects and some of those have come off and some of them haven’t, just because of the nature of the people and the nature of the geography involved.
But actually a really good one and I forgot about, was Irene, the 101-year old lady from York, who I went and took pictures of with her certificate from The Queen and all the history. And she started talking, she was there with her daughter and one of the staff members and she started listing off a few things about Fulford, where she used to live. Now I lived in Fulford for a good four or five years on and off in different things and I play golf at Fulford Golf Club and the University’s right next to it, so I know the area really well. And it was really good chatting to her, because she said a couple of places, just in passing, as people do. And I went, ‘Oh no, next to such and such, or you know, next to that building,’ and she went, ‘Yes,’ knowing that I’m from Newcastle and knowing that I’m out of the area. And she was fascinated by how I knew these things and she started listing off about York City Football Club and I’ve been part of corporate hospitality of York City Football Club a few times. And it was great having those conversations. And you could see by her daughter and the staff members’ face that just having that tiny bit of knowledge about an area, or a thing, or a bit of history, just makes such a difference. It made the shoot so much easier, because there was something to talk about. And it was an ice breaker and it wasn’t just this bloke coming in to take photos.
Now, I’m not saying I’ve got an expertise in everything, we never do, but over the years I’ve had a skill of being able to maintain a bit of knowledge on many, many topics, whether that be, obviously my science background with my degree and my master’s in chemistry, through to the photography. But obviously in a geography perspective, my child often gets confused with how many places I know of or facts about places. It’s just information that floats around my head on a regular basis, so I am a wealth of random facts and they’ve helped me so much over the time and this is a good example, where just that bit of geography of an area really made a shoot go so much easier, because we could laugh and joke about a place and it’d be a right conversation, rather than, ‘Hey, hello, I’m a photographer, smile!’ Because that often gets people into a place of worry, because the photographer’s there to do a job and you’ve got to smile and da la la la la. Where actually, if we can break that down and just have a little chat, it makes things so much easier.
So I’m sure you haven’t seen one of my pictures from that shoot because obviously, it went in the magazines that went very local to Yorkshire, but for me it’s been great going back to Yorkshire to do these things and to work with Laura and Yorkshire Housing on a regular basis. And long may it continue! We have a few things potentially in the diary, so fingers crossed we can get those fully booked in and get everything lined up. Have you been to Yorkshire much? Is Yorkshire a place that you visit on a regular basis? Whether that’s down in the wolds, or the cities of York and Leeds, Huddersfield and Halifax and the old ‘Rhubarb Triangle’ and collect all those facts and all of those fun things that make me chuckle and smile as we go round there.
Over the last few weeks, it’s been really exciting to work with so many different clients and on so many diverse projects. But one thing that’s come up a couple of times, certainly with new clients, is they’re surprised when I turn up with as much equipment as I do. So for a headshot shoot, that we may have planned in quite a bit of detail, so I know exactly what we’re doing, they’re surprised when I bring extra equipment or as many bags as I do. And I obviously get in a conversation about it.
For me, it’s about what could happen, not what’s going to happen. So, I have enough equipment with me, on a normal shoot, in case the weather changes, or we get the opportunity to do something extra, or one of my bits of equipment fails. I’ve got redundancies within my system to cover me if something goes wrong. Now, how many times has this happened? It’s happened a couple of times, where I’ve had failures on equipment and had to do some workaround. But that’s fine because I’ve got a system, I’ve got a backup. And this isn’t just a spare camera, which obviously I have two or three cameras with me depending on the situation.
It’s different lighting set-ups, so for example, driving down to York to shoot Louis Alexander, an ultra-marathon runner, who’s doing 17 marathons in 17 days, I have my lighting set up, which is a three-light set-up, to get some cool lit shots. But I might end up doing most of it in natural light, just for the weather conditions and things, I don’t know. But I want that light in there, I want the opportunity if I’ve got a little window to get some of those really cool shots.
But I’ve also got a couple of small strip constant lights, LED lights just in case, because if the wind’s too bad and I can’t get that shot, I can get two people to stand either side of Louis and I can still get a really cool shot, just with natual light, because I don’t need the light stands and the flash and any other things going on.
Just those built-in redundancies within my system mean that I’m covered for those eventualities. Now, do I often leave the car in a car park around the corner from my shoot and feel the pain, feel the burn, as I arrive on-site, whether that’s with things over my shoulders, or on trollies, or on whatever else? Yeah, of course, I do. But would I risk turning up to a job with only a camera and shooting only natural light for the vast majority of commercial jobs? No I wouldn’t. I mean, if it was an event, maybe, you know, 99% of it would be with just the actual light that’s in there and play with the shadows, but if I’ve got a light with me, I can mix it up and I can do some different stuff as well.
Having that opportunity, being able to capture exactly what was asked and then an extra 10% of something a bit different, something a bit intriguing, something a bit of an interest, that you may or may not use, just adds that into the mix and keeps clients on their toes and it means for the next shoot, they might turn out to say, “Well actually, oh can we do this next time? Ooh, I’ve just seen you did that, can we do something like this, next time?” That, for me, is the bit that always strives for, it’s not always having all that equipment there for the shoot that I’m on, it’s having all that equipment there for the next shoot that I might be on, with the same client, because of the ideas that we’ve done on the shoot that we’re doing.
Now that obviously sounds a bit of a convoluted way and partly the way that my mind works, that I’m always 17 steps ahead of myself. But I know that there are clients that I’ve worked with and I have mixed stuff up with and I’ve gone, ‘I’ll tell you what look, seeing as I’m here, I’ll do this.’ And they go, ‘Wow! I really like that, I’ve got an idea for that for a project,’ and I’ll not necessarily get extra work out of it, but on the next shoot, we look at it differently and we react differently, again, creating something different on that next shoot.
Is that something, as any photographers reading this, is that something that you’d do? Or is it something that you’re very much driven by the clients’ wishes and that planning process that you have, you’re not overly committing yourself with the amount of equipment and time and space and health, to get all this extra equipment to site? Are you happy just doing so many things like natural light? There are a lot of really good natural light photographers out there that are making loads of money. Or are you like me? I’m surely not the only one that goes overboard with the thought process of the justification for it. And as a client, how would you react to that? Does it feel like you’re getting extra value? Does it feel as though it’s overkill for the things that you’re doing? You’ve heard my logic as to why I do these things. Am I overdoing it? Would you rather a photographer just turned up with the bare essentials and delivered what was asked, as the bare essentials, but it was a lot cleaner, easier, smarter process? There you go.
I was recently approached by a local start-up company in Hoult’s Yard, called Fyto Hydroponics. Now with the background in science that I have, obviously I’m aware of hydroponics and the potential world-changing technology that is around the subject and where developments are currently being made. It’s certainly one to go and Google yourselves to really get to the details of it but with the changes since Brexit, even in the UK, this industry has taken a massive step forward in helping local communities and local people to grow food in a totally different way.
So this photo shoot was a mixture of things where it allowed us to capture the large units which are designed for industry, so for pubs and restaurants who want to grow their own herbs and green leafy veg, it’s a real target market in the North East for them to feed into. And then smaller under counter units for home use, so instead of having a large greenhouse in your back garden, you can have a small under counter LED-lit rig that allows you to grow products in three weeks versus three months or three weeks versus six weeks in the case of lettuce and that sort of stuff. Which is just a fantastic turnaround and can really have a massive impact on grow your own and the mindset of being a bit more self-sufficient.
So from a photography perspective, it was a challenging shoot. These units are between sort of a metre and a metre and a half tall, metal, a lot of reflective surfaces, they include LED lights and the detail that we needed to get in there to show some of the fantastic 3D printed bespoke nature of the product and bespoke nature of the fixings, mean that we had to capture all of that without losing the essence of them being a lighting system.
I was discussing the easiest way to do this was to be onsite with the client, as opposed to taking them to a studio to get a perfect colour background. This was very much one that was easier to do on location so that we could make sure that all the product is correct and then we could swap out different plants to show the type of things that could be grown in the system. I arrived at Hoult’s Yard with all of my full studio rig, a big white background, all ready to capture these fantastic units.
As you can see from the photographs, these are going on the front page of the website. They are also going to be used in social media and a load of scientific papers to push the technology behind it.
As ever with all of these type of shoots, I always do two sets of pictures, one being very functional, being the size and the essence of the actual product itself for that front page. But also, the social media images that tell the story a little bit more and allow a little bit more of a story to be told and words to go with them in the likes of blog posts or written articles. We’ve got a mix of large metal frames, along with details of the LEDs, the plants growing, germination of the seeds and just really making that difference.
I’m really looking forward to seeing these images all over both the internet and in scientific papers.
As I said, as a scientist it’s always great to see your work represented in front of peers in a sector so I’d be really interested to see where Aiden and the team get this technology out to and where it eventually gets some use. I think the plan, I’m going to chat with them next, is getting on location into one of the clients of theirs. I want to find those clients and showcase them what fantastic products and end results could be made out of these. Can you imagine a local restaurant having one of these in the back kitchen and showing exactly what is grown to people, so literally going from seed to plate within the restaurant. That’s a fantastic thought process and a fantastic selling bit for so many restaurants in the local area.
If you’re interested in the product itself, get in touch with Aiden and the team at Phyto by clicking on the link below. But also, if you are a manufacturer or a creator then get in touch and we can have a chat about how we can get both your functional images as well as your social media images to really promote your product and step it up in the coming year.
Okay, so I couldn’t decide what to call this blog post. It was a toss-up between ‘James Vargas Saxophone Legend’ and ‘The Craziest Shoot Of My Life’, ‘cause like that’s kind of true.
A couple of weeks ago, I got a one of those random phone calls that I really love for the chaos that could ensue on the back of it. It was Monday afternoon and I was already booked in for a job shooting a property in Durham. But when a phone call comes in that just makes you go, “Huh?” you have to ask a couple more questions just to see what you’re missing out on. So, the phone call goes, “Hi Gavin, we shot a project a couple of months ago. I’ve just changed jobs, I’m now the manager of a musician. Is there any chance you’re free this afternoon to take some images in Newcastle?” I pointed out that I was unfortunately already booked and it was a little short notice for me because I normally work on around a two-week lead time for shoots. But it just intrigued me, for a gentleman I knew who was an educator in a college to now be the manager of a musician just seemed a fantastic transition. So, obviously I asked a question of who the musician was and what it was that they wanted to capture. Just out of curiosity, just out of that thing that sometimes niggles away in your ear, that you need to ask the question.
So, I got a little bit of information and it intrigued me some more. It was actually the saxophonist from Boy George and from Culture Club. He’s also played on numerous records over the years and generally in a scene in London, in Ibiza and as it turns out, Newcastle. With people that, names that just roll off the tongue, from the last 30 years-worth of music. So, you know, a little bit like, ‘Ah,’ not that it got away, but you know, one of those ones that would have been really, really, really interesting to shoot. A couple of hours later – so it was around 10 o’clock in the morning and around one o’clock, I pick up Karl, my assistant and we’re going down to Durham to shoot a property and I get a phone call from the agency that booked me to do it. “Unfortunately, due to things outside of our control –” as these things often do, the shoot was being postponed. And I was already in the car with all my camera kit. And Karl, my assistant.
So, never one to waste time or to miss any opportunities, I rung back Mr. Manager to go, “If you happen to still need a photographer, if you’ve not managed to get somebody sorted out for this afternoon, I happen to have my camera with me, I happen to have an assistant with me. I’m here to shoot if you fancy it.” And they hadn’t managed to get something sorted out, luckily it was all back on and off we trot to the middle of Newcastle to meet the musician. And it turns out his name is James Vargas and I didn’t know him but obviously when I started listening to the list of things that he’d been involved with over the years, it became clear that I’d listened to him play many, many times over those years.
So, again it’s a bit of a ‘picture the scene’ moment. We meet Laurence, his manager, have a quick catch up on life, to how to go from one thing to another and then a door springs open and a whirlwind of a person came through the wall in his shades and his pink suit with no shirt. And the atmosphere in the room changed, it was just amazing to be around somebody with that funny energy that you get from somebody that’s lived a life and has stories to tell.
So, where does the shoot come from, where does the shoot go? Well, being 100% honest, it was a whirlwind! I am someone that plans but doesn’t plan to the finest detail in the sense that I’m always open for flexibility and for seeing the situation as we are shooting, so I’m always looking for those little nuggets of light or we’re looking for those little bits of ideas as we’re going round. So, to have such a change of, “I’m shooting a property where I know all the confines and all the restrictions and what I’m doing, to going to this,” where it was literally absolutely free rein and James going, “I’m your muse here, you tell me what photos you want,” is a massive shift in mindset and thought process, so it was very much off the cuff and very much on the hoof.
But, what a fantastic shoot! And we shot everywhere from the site of St James’s Park with the steps that were up the stadium to a [very old pub] on Stowell Street, went round to the back of St. James’s Park near the old Georgian terraces with the really cool lines and the architecture on that side. We did it at The Strawberry for a little bit and then we wandered aimlessly through the middle of Newcastle to try and find clothes and things that he wanted to wear and extras that he wanted to do and it was just one of those things that it’s sort of difficult to describe and all the things that happened in a way that captures the looks on my face especially. Well actually more so on Karl’s face, because Karl’s only 21 and the days of Boy George and Culture Club are a good generation before he appreciated who they were. Even the mention of when James was out with Jay from Jamiroquai which obviously harked back to my days in the 90s, Karl had that look on his face, like I was talking a different language.
But overall, to be part of it was absolutely fantastic and to capture the images that have since gone onto banners and will be soon going onto marketing material for James’s push to move back up to the North East from his London base and be the known saxophonist and DJ in the music scene in Newcastle, like he was in the past, is just a great journey and a great thing to be part of.
But technically, it was a lot of natural light shooting, going with the flow with two channels of light, to minimise equipment moving round in the middle of Newcastle, because we knew it was going to be a number of locations in a very quick period of time. It was an involving shoot and I think if had involved big lights and staged poses it wouldn’t have had quite the relaxed atmosphere that the shoot dictated and the end result needed for this case.
In that situation again, would I have tried to do an emergency plan? Maybe in some ways but on the flip side, the way my brain works, I was able to pick kind of five or six locations in the space 10 seconds. Knowing Newcastle very well, I was able to do that. Had it been in another city, had I had to go to you know, last minute in Birmingham, or last minute in Manchester, in an area I don’t know as well as I do around St. James’s Park and the top end of Newcastle, it might have been different. But I would have still gone on that first priority of finding the light and finding the creative lines, as I often do. Is this a lesson in not planning? No, not by any stretch. But it’s a good justification for being adaptable and creative when the need arises.
Now if like me, you’ve been on any of your social medial platforms over the last six months or so, you’ll have seen an advert for Verisure Alarm Systems which offer monitored alarm systems for homes and businesses all over the world. Now, I assumed they were a UK business when I first got this enquiry but actually it turns out – having shot for the that covers Peru and Spain and various other bits, it was a fantastic experience of a couple of days shooting here in the North East, but covering such a wide gamut of places.
So the brief for Verisure was around three main points. One being the installers working on a British house, paired with some headshots for internal use and may be potentially a little external use, but most predominantly around internal use. And then finally some, some final product images of their new range of equipment. Obviously, two days is a long shoot but when it’s capturing this many people and this many things going on it was a fun challenge The company itself are very slick, they’re very on-brand, they’re very on message, so being in the offices, it was very easy to capture the number of logos to really feel like we were part of that – that each of the pictures were part of the Verisure brand.
When shooting at the house, it was a case of taking images that didn’t showcase the house, it was more about the installer and the smile and happy faces from the installer, actually putting the units on the wall and explaining to the residents what benefits they can have from doing this. It was also great to be able to capture some of their signature products actually working. So they have a building set up in the Newcastle office that can showcase their ZeroVision Alarm, which allows for remote smoke systems to deter any potential perpetrators in the property. So it was great to be able to capture that actually going off and filling a room with smoke.
It’s going to be great to see where these pictures end up from the marketing team because it was great to be working with the UK and the international marketing team and hopefully these pictures get to go a little bit more. It was certainly fun seeing my photos come back at me on social media and obviously, we’ll have to have a chat with their ads team for me getting the adverts, but yeah, I’m seeing pictures that were taken in the garden already coming back to me on social media, which is great to see.
As I’ve said a lot in social media recently, the last couple of months has opened some amazing doors and some amazing stories to me and my business. After Covid, there was a lot of work around clients that I’ve worked with a lot before and very socially distanced photography that was easily done after Covid with or without all the restrictions. So a lot of property, a lot of individual work with single people as opposed to big groups. And it seems as though from sort of September ’21, there has been a shift, the doors have opened, people’s thought processes have changed and not necessarily that people are cracking on again, they’ve been doing that for a little bit longer, but I think the opportunity to do things in a different way and a more group-led way is seeing the whole events and things coming back and people thinking about getting people involved in stuff in a different way.
This means that the doors for me to be shooting some of the things that I have, have just been amazing. And this one’s no different. Middle of last week, last-minute phone call, the event came out of nowhere, it was an opportunity thrown at Durham Cathedral that I couldn’t pass up. As I’m sure you’re aware, the cathedral for a few years now has had a regular installation of the moon [I’ll have to put a note in about exactly what the title of the art installation is] but the illuminated moon in the middle of the Cathedral, in the absolute cross of the Cathedral, which I didn’t manage to see the last time it was round, even though it looked absolutely amazing. To pair that off this year, the Cathedral were approached to say would they like a talk by the world-famous Andy Aldrin, who as you can tell by his surname, is the son of Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon. Now Andy in his own right is a Professor of Science – he is Associate Professor of Engineering Management at Florida Tech – and has worked tirelessly for many, many years to keep science in the mainstream and to keep educating us using science as a tool for younger people to get into science all over the world.
So, when I get the phone call, “Would you like to shoot Buzz Aldrin’s son under the moon in Durham Cathedral?” I dropped everything to be there. And a little bit of shuffling, as ever with my diary, allowed me to stand there about half an hour before his talk started, with about 300 adults and kids. To be stood there in the Cathedral, which is obviously the home of Marvel’s Asgard in at least two Thor movies I believe, was an amazing sight. Just to see the architecture of the Cathedral and to see the moon just floating there in the middle was just an amazing experience on its own. Let alone to then to hear the dulcet tones of an American stood there in front of all those children, talking about one of 12 people to have ever stood on the moon. Under the moon. It was a little bit surreal.
Technically, from a photography perspective, it was an incredibly tricky gig due to the low light of the Cathedral. Specifically the location in the Cathedral is one of the darkest places, just because of the windows all being on the sides and he was right in the middle of it, so sort of as far away from any windows as possible. So then you’re relying on light that is lighting the space, as opposed to lighting the person because it wasn’t a stage show in that sense. So the ISO had to be cranked up a little bit to say the least. But thankfully the Canon R5 came through and we got some really great images to showcase the event and to promote both the Cathedral and Dr. Aldrin in the UK.
I’d love to say that that was one of the most intriguing shoots I’ve done of late, due to the subject matter and the location. But the way this last month’s gone, I couldn’t possibly say what’s going to happen between now and the next two months, because it could be absolutely anything!
In the current world of the many different platforms and different opportunities for people to contact me, I often get contacted in different ways, whether that’s on social media platforms, via email or my website or on the phone. I don’t so much get letters and carrier pigeons these days but it’s still always interesting where things come through from. So a couple of months ago, I got a message on Instagram which isn’t a platform I often get requests from clients from. Clients tend to look at my Instagram just to check that I’m busy with work and that sort of stuff and then they come back via my website. Well, this enquiry came in from a company down in Birmingham regarding a sportsman signing sports equipment and being part of an official signed merchandise contract. So, straight away I asked all my normal questions about the shoot and I got as much information that they could give me at the time and I was obviously very intrigued.
So I happened to be free on that day. We got things booked in and it wasn’t until a couple of days before, that I was finally able to get the information of who this secret celebrity sportsman was that I was going to be shooting and capture the image of. And as you can see by the photos below and I’m sure you’ve seen some of my links on social media before, it was England international cricketing legend, Ben Stokes. So, Firma Stella are the UK leaders in signed memorabilia, having thousands and thousands of signed items on their website from people all over the world in so many different sports. It was fantastic to be able to be a part of this addition to officially signing Ben Stokes to the team and to be there on the day with Peter and the Firma Stella team, to take part and capture these signings and capture these documents.
It was, as you can understand, it was a very frantic few hours. There were cricket bats all on one side of the room and shirts all down the other side of the room. And Ben was fantastic on the day, to sign all of these fantastic items with so much history. Some of these were match-worn pieces of memorabilia and that’s the next level up from just an England cricket shirt that you can buy off the shelf. So for me, it was absolutely fantastic to be part of, it adds another England international cricketer onto my shoot list, which as you know, Mr. Phil Mustard, England international legend, is around another blog and on the front page of the website as well. And it’s just great to be part of this level of the sport.
As a cricketer in my very younger days, my cricketing heroes were more the Bothams and sort of the start of Freddie Flintoff. Nowadays, Ben Stokes very much epitomises the dream of young cricketers all over the world and to see him playing for England and obviously in the IPL, it’s a fantastic experience. So, to be there with Liam Wilson Films, it was just great working together again. Liam’s a fantastic videographer and has worked previously with Ben Stokes so that banter and that camaraderie between us all was absolutely fantastic and great to be a part of.
There’s a link below to Firma Stella’s website with just some of the items on there. If you really are a big Ben Stokes fan, there’s some fantastic memorabilia on there. But if you’re a sports fan in general, go and have a look. I mean I personally have a range of signed things from golf to footballers to various other things and they really do bring back memories and take you back to some of those things you saw on the TV or you were there in person. So, always a fantastic gift and always a fantastic thing to have on the wall in the office. I have two signed things on my wall at the moment, one being me and Gazza, the infamous Paul Gascoigne, who I met when I shot him in Wakefield many, many years ago and I had a good chat about him fishing at Prudhoe which brings back memories straight away, him and Jimmy in the back of the thing, was just absolutely fantastic, so that brings back memories every time and that’s up on my wall.
And ironically, non-sportsman, my other signed one in my office is Steven Seagal. Yes, the legend, the fast hands himself, Steven Seagal, who I met while he was playing blues guitar on a UK tour many years ago. And again, it’s not the physical thing that he signed, not the physical photos that I’ve got of him on stage, it’s just that memory of being there with my wife and my very good friend and just the whole experience and the stories over the years of saying, “Yes, I’ve seen Steven Seagal.” It’s not always the thing itself or the memory of the event where you’ve got the thing signed, it’s actually the other memories that it brings up over the years that make me chuckle, make me laugh, and when you see him on TV and all that, it’s just absolutely fantastic.
So, the link’s in the text and have a look and see what jumps out at you. But absolutely fantastic to be a part of this one and fingers crossed there’ll be some more sportsmen on our list of blog posts in the coming weeks.
This story goes back four years (wow that is a long time ago now) when I originally started listening to podcasts. Ian Farrar’s “Industry Angel” podcast for the North East was suggested as one of the podcasts to listen to. For whatever reason, one of the first ones I listened to - don’t know why it jumped out, just one of those things - was a young, Welsh lad called Ash Dykes that had just done his two significant travels to-date - walking across Mongolia unaided with a drag trolley and then Jungle treking through Madagascar where he contracted the deadliest strain of Malaria, held up by the military, dodging bandits, and avoiding all manner of wildlife. The whole enthusiasm he had for his travels for being such a young man was really inspiring and interesting so I followed him on LinkedIn (LI) - not friended, just followed - I didn’t feel that was right at the time. Following him across social media and just watching his journey, I admired his passion and determination.
Fast forward to Christmas before the pandemic, so December 2019, and I was on a training session with Nicola Little ( MINT Business Club). I sat with that day’s guest speaker, Celia Delaney, at lunch when she asked me a very tough question. “What would your dream shoot be? What would be the best thing that you could shoot as a photographer?” This sounds like a simple question but in reality, it made me really think. I started to question what photos I was taking. I was busy taking lots of photos but they were all for other people. What about me? Did I really want to look at my business and think, ‘Actually I’m not shooting what I want to shoot.’? So it was a good question and a real eye opener of a thought process - What did I really want to do? She prodded me and I said, “I’d like to shoot an adventurer on the top of a mountain à la Sidetracked magazine,” which is a magazine I read regularly and appreciate the content. And I thought that was the end of it. Just a cool ice breaker type question. It wasn’t the end of the conversation! She pushed me again and said, “Right, what are you going to do to make that happen?”
So I filled my face with a sandwich and asked myself, “What am I going to do?” After a while, I threw the idea out there. “I know of this person on LI. I could message him and see if a shoot is possible.” So she said, “Go on then!” So I sat there Father Ted-style, “Go on, go on, go on!” and then I did. I messaged Ash out of the blue on LI and said, “Is there any chance we could have a chat?”
Unexpectedly, he replied saying, “No worries, drop me an email.” I dropped him an email and said I was a photographer of many years’ experience but something that’s in my head is this adventurer on top of a hill. It would be fantastic to come down to Wales and do a shoot.
And to my surprise he turned around and said, “Yes, that sounds fantastic. Let’s do it!” So that was the middle of December. The week before Christmas we were throwing some ideas around. He sent me his number to talk on WhatsApp to do things a bit easier and we said, “Right, we’ll sort it out the first week after the new year,” because we were both busy over Christmas. All great, so that was massive progress - to even be talking along this dream shoot line was significant. Thinking back to that initial ‘prodding’ when I threw the idea of this dream shoot out there I never expected to get this far.
Roll on the first week of January, I’m about to send him an email to say, “Yeah, let’s get this sorted,” and he drops a video of himself saying, “Hey everybody, I’m just jumping on a plane to Los Angeles. I’m going to be on the Joe Rogan podcast.” This is actually just after he’d come back from China anyway. So his next big adventure which was walking the route of the Yangtze River, which nobody had ever done before from source to mouth and he’s obviously incredibly well-known over there now - and now across the world because of his feature on the biggest podcast in the world.
So there I am going, “Oh, there goes my idea of a dream shoot. Alright, we had a good journey, let’s see how things go.” So he goes on the podcast, the podcast is brilliant. Obviously, I watch it, he’s really engaging with Joe and I’m thinking, “What do I do now?”
So I sent another cheeky email along the lines of, “Hello Mr world-famous adventurer, Joe Rogan guest - is this still something that we could get arranged? Let me know what you think.” He replied straight back, “Yes, of course we are. We’ll do it.” Absolutely fantastic!
So we picked some dates in the middle of February for me to go down to Wales. I’d organised second photographers and video people and stuff to be with me to make a big deal of it - if this dream shoot is really happening then I needed to do it properly. Then I had some tragedy in my life - my mother’s health nosedived. She’d not been well for a long time but it was a significant nosedive and it was clear that she wasn’t going to make it out of the month. I spoke to Ash through all of that and let him know what was going on at home. I got some lovely messages from him - my younger cousins were totally confused that I was talking to such a famous person and that he was wishing my mam well. It was a very difficult and emotional time.
My mother unfortunately then passed away and then literally within a day of that happening we went into the first full Covid lockdown. Again, this shoot was getting further and further away. We had dates, we had times, we had everything planned and then it just couldn’t happen. Obviously it was a tough situation in life but it was also tough from a mental point of view as we’d worked hard on this for such a significant amount of time but it was slipping away.
Roll forward a little bit to August 2021. After I’d had an incredibly busy June and July, as a family we had planned to go away on holiday and we booked a holiday to North Wales. It was nice to get away. We usually go to Scotland but North Wales was a nice change and Llandudno turned out to be a lovely place. I had a look at the map and a name jumped out at me which was Old Colywn which is where Ash lives and it just jumped out at me and it was like, “I can’t be this close to this four-year little worm in the back of my head and not at least approach the question again.”
So I did. I sent him an email from the same chain of emails that we’d sent before and just said, “Ash, fantastic stuff mate. I love what you’ve been doing and the motivational stuff you’ve been doing through lockdown. I know we chatted about this pre-Covid but I happen to be around the corner from you in two weeks’ time. Any chance I can have 20 minutes of your time?” That was all I really wanted. It was very much a mental thing for me as opposed to a big shoot. I just needed to get it out of my system now. To tick it off my list of things that kept slipping away.
“So 20 minutes, I can do a shoot close to you and it would just sign off a little thing in my head - an achievement that we’ve gone through this process and sign off something I talked to my mam about that didn’t quite happen.” Unsurprisingly (again) Ash said, “Of course, let’s do it.” So the family holiday - don’t tell the wife - went on pause and it was all about planning for this shoot. I packed lots of extra kit for the holiday, loads of planning, loads of back and forwards with images that he likes that I’ve got in my head. I did a really good Google Maps scout which is something I do for most of my jobs where I’m not local or I need a slightly different overview of it. Lots of Streetview stuff and finding those locations. I still couldn’t quite believe it was actually going to happen this time.
I found a great location just up the valley from where Ash lives. It turns out it was one of the “places to go” in Wales which was fantastic and so all of a sudden I’m there in this park looking at this amazing scenery. I scouted it out a bit while I was there instead of just looking at Google Maps and up pulls a Land Rover Defender (he’s sponsored by Land Rover). It was as if we’d met 100 times before and we were instantly having a chat and a laugh. After 20 minutes I said, “What time are we finishing on this shoot as I don’t want to take up all of your time,” and he was like, “Well it doesn’t get dark until half eight so we’ve got about three hours. Is that ok?”
Wow, fantastic. So we’ve got three hours shooting on a job that I thought was going to be 20 minutes. The range of work that we got - the different styles of stuff that we got - was just fantastic and Ash has already been sharing a lot of these. He’s now changed his profile picture to one of mine (which is probably the big one for me) from one that he’s had for years from when he finished Madagascar. That’s a fantastic sight to see!
To go on this journey for four years and to go through kind of the ups and downs of it, it meant a lot and to be as reactionary as I was on the day - a lot of my shooting is very reactionary and very in the moment but this one I had to be because I went from having 20 minutes with a load of ideas that may or may not happen to having three hours to go, “Wow, I can really smash this and really do a load of stuff.”
There were so many little locations within the place where we were. So much potential. Yeah, we didn’t get the man on top of a hill which was kind of the original theme but we got so much of the feel of being an adventurer where we were. You’ll be able to see in the behind the scenes video that it was a cool little location but it wasn’t full on Yangtze River but that’s fine because we got some really cool pictures that had the feel and emphasis we wanted.
To top it off Ash then said, “Right, what are we doing next after we’ve finished the shoot? We’ve done everything, signed off, had a great evening, what are we doing next?”
So we’ve started to talk about plans to see what we could do and you never know where things lead.
I hope you appreciate the pictures and hope you see the journey and the process behind this has been a long one and something quite significant for me and my own mental health. So hopefully we’ll see some more shoots with me and the man, the maestro, the legend, Ash Dykes, very soon.
As I’m sure comes
as no surprise to anybody who has seen my LinkedIn stream of late, I do play a
little bit of golf. And this is
something I’ve done since I was 11 or 12 years old and now I’m playing, dare I
say it, as much golf as I have done for at least 10 years anyway. Maybe I certainly got a little bit more getting golf
in at university, but certainly over the years with life getting in the way and
as a lot of you will know that family and life generally makes activities that
take four hours often quite difficult.
So, I’m sure you’re
asking yourself how I can manage to get a game every two weeks in and it
actually be work. The perception that I
obviously have to maintain a little bit of clarity on is that it is work. It’s very much seen as work from me and
thankfully seen that way by my wife and the team, that as much as I’m out
playing golf, I’m bringing in work into the business. And now obviously for years there’s been the
running joke that a lot of business is done on the golf course. I think that has always been the case in the
past, as it was a good place to have a four-hour meeting and congregate with
other business people. I think in
interim years, where business changed over the last few years, the
opportunities to network have taken place in a different way – the bacon sandwich
and a coffee kind of networking has taken over a lot of that. I think the perception of networking is very
much a thing now of a couple of hours of talking to loads of people, handing
out business cards pre-Covid.
me, I took some advice from Michael Stewart ( askmjs ), who invited me back in 2013/2014
to have a look at Fore Business as a fantastic networking opportunity. We’ve played golf together for years and
Michael was one of the early adopters of Fore Business in Yorkshire and he
always said that it was a fantastic opportunity for me and my business to grow
both in my local area but also on a national scale. And as much as I love the idea of playing
golf and classing it as work and having to deal with all of the, ‘Ah yeah,
you’re working again,’ kind of thing, it didn’t quite fit logistically for me
and my family. I had a young daughter at
the time (I still have a daughter but she’s not so young anymore!) and just the
logistics of it didn’t quite work. Now
fast forward a few years and business changes and life changes. And now, over the last two years, I’ve
engrossed myself in Fore Business and really pushed that as my main networking
opportunity every month.
At this point I have to thank Andrew Biggs for the support, work and friendship over the last 18 months. Both on and off the golf course he has proved to be amazing for me and my business….all from thaie fairways!!
As a lot of
Sean and Arron’s merchandising says, ‘It’s a no-brainer’ and it’s safe to say
that that is the case for me. At a
minimum, I get two games of golf in directly related to Fore Business. So that’s two four-hour meetings with
like-minded business people on the golf course, not really talking business,
not really talking golf, talking anything but most of the time. But just building relationships and that has
been key to how I’ve had a 2,209% ROI this calendar year. ROI just on Fore Business and that also
accounts for a significant percentage of my income this calendar year.
That said, it’s not
easy. Obviously, like any networking
opportunity – and that’s all it is, it’s an opportunity – it’s the platform,
it’s the scaffolding around potential. And
they always say, you only get out what you put in and I’ve kind of dived in
with both feet; I’ve got contacts all over the UK and actually abroad on the
back of this, so I do commit a little bit of time every week to that networking
that isn’t totally associated with the four-hour sessions. If I was only playing golf with this, if I
was only going for those four-hour meetings and not doing the rest of the
engagement and not helping out here there and everywhere with everybody else,
would I get the same returns? Of course
I wouldn’t, but that’s the same with any networking. If you just turn up for your bacon sandwich
and a coffee at other networking and you sit in a corner and eat your bacon
sandwich and drink your coffee, all you got out of it was a bacon sandwich and
a coffee. For you to engage, you need to
follow up things, you need to talk to people and build those
Now, that’s not to
say I need to be playing more golf than I am.
I think that would be a challenge for the business but it means that I
need to be making sure that on the likes of LinkedIn, on the likes of the national
WhatsApp groups and these Zoom get-togethers, that I’m seen and I’m active and
I’m out there. So when any photography
work does come in, I’m not necessarily the first on people’s list because obviously
there are other photographers in the network, but I’m up there and people are
aware of the type of things that I do to help them with their business.
Now, is this the
right networking for everybody? Is this
the thing that’s going to change your business?
I can only ever talk about my business and for me it’s been an absolute
game-changer. That massive percentage of
work that’s come from it, ROI-wise even, is significantly justifying
itself. A lot of this depends on what
you do for a living. Your business is
your business and every business has that niche that means that the networking
that you do will be better in certain places than others. Simply put, as a photographer, a lot of the
business owners that I meet on the golf course need photography for either
their staff or for their new products and new lines that are coming out so there’s
a direct need for that. If my business
was selling golf-related equipment, it’s obviously a fantastic connection.
So, there’s no way
I would say to every single business, “You should be all going to play golf and
making a big effort to be the best golfer you can be, because this is a
definite return on investment.” For me,
it’s been an absolute no-brainer. For
you, if you’ve got that little itch as a golfer from the past, that we all
have, to get back into the game and you think that your business could benefit
and could fit well with this global network that the Fore Business has
developed, it’s certainly worth looking at and if it’s something that you want
to have a chat about, I’m obviously more than happy to chat about it. My home base is the Sunderland Group, we do a
lot of work regionally with the Newcastle Group and the Darlington Group, but
also I know people across all of the UK.
And if you are a business, or anywhere in the UK that’s reading this, I’m
more than happy to have a chat and put you in touch with your local ambassadors,
that are more than happy to have a chat with you and advise you on where’s a good
opportunity to have a game of golf, on something like the Golden Ticket Scheme,
where you get a free game of golf, the free and other access to the wider
networks. For a month, for free, which isn’t
bad, is it?
So yeah, most weeks
I get a lot of conversations on LinkedIn around, “You’re getting a lot of golf
in. Are you a professional golfer these
days?” whenever I share anything about Fore Business. Is that enough to put me off playing as much
golf as I do? Of course it isn’t, this
is a fantastic way of playing golf for my business and bringing business
in. If it wasn’t making money, I
wouldn’t be doing it. Because I couldn’t
– there’s no way I could justify networking two lots of four hours a month and
not make a significant return on investment.
We’re all in this for one reason. We’re all in business for different reasons,
but ultimately it still has to be a business and not a hobby. And I think if that was a hobby – if the golf
turned into the business and the business turned into a hobby, I think my wife
would be having words with me. So remember
this is a business decision and very much one that I will be continuing to grow
again both locally and nationally – to just figure out what amazing doors can
open for me and my business, both through hitting a small white ball around a
field and having a bit of fun.
The other week I had the opportunity to be part of something that
I have been aware of for a couple of years now and due to Covid couldn’t
Sidetracked Magazine has been a part of my escapism for
quite a few years now. It’s a print magazine
that really captures both the tactile nature of photography along with
fantastic stories and puts it together in this beautifully designed package
that really brings out the best – in my opinion – of the photographs and
features that they cover.
Now there are many magazines out there that cover the world
of adventure and exploration but none of them do it in the way that Sidetracked
Magazine does. Yes, the stories are from
everywhere across the world, covering people with amazing skills and amazing
mindsets to do these fantastic adventures but the way it’s presented and the
way it’s delivered – the combination of words and photos really does stand out above
So the Creators’ Tour was mentioned a few years ago by the
owner, John, as a potential to roll out across the UK and as soon as I found
out it was happening I got in touch to say I was eager to attend if it was going
to happen somewhere in the North – not necessarily Newcastle. We had a good chat and we found out a bit
more about John and his business through that process and it was great to hear
how they take submissions and how the whole process works. So when I found out that the tour was
happening and specifically there was one coming to Newcastle – even better to Wylam
Brewery which is a stunning venue – I had to make great plans to be there.
So, I attended with around 60 or 70
people, all with an interest in the outdoors and an interest in that spirit of
adventure that is sometimes lost in our crazy world of social media and work
and life and other such things. I’ll be
honest, I didn’t expect it to have the profound effect it did on a lot of
people in the room. I kind of guessed it
would have that effect on me because I’ve followed the magazine for a long time
and followed a lot of the stories but it was just amazing to see and hear the
noises of people when certain videos were played on screen. So basically it was a number of short films from
all over the world – from the highest polo competition in the world in Pakistan
through to some amazing sunrise photography – helping a photographer and his
struggle with mental health through Covid in Edinburgh.
Pair this with in-person talks by Jenny Tough who I’ve
followed for many years on her solo and group adventures walking across different
continents along with Sal Montgomery who was just an inspiration. We heard her story of how she went from not
getting it at school to all of a sudden finding herself as a kayaker on a summer
camp to now being a world renowned kayaker exploring the wild lost rivers of Bhutan! Her story was amazing and just to hear stories
like this in person rather than on a video or in print did just raise them up
to that next level. Both of these talks
were absolutely fantastic.
Just to be around other people with that interest – as you
all know from my commercial work, my photography is very much business focused
and very much about helping businesses to make a difference on a local
level. I really, really want to push
this more adventurous side of my photography and to get into some places to really
go WOW and experience the place along with a person that really epitomises that
journey and that place.
You’ll have seen some of the pictures on my social media – I
have done a shoot with Ash Dykes who is a three time Guiness World Record
holder and it was absolutely fantastic.
This event was
just an eye opener again to what we can plan in for our next shoot, but also what my plans are for shooting long term.
Thank you to Jenny Tough for hosting and obviously a special
thank you to John Summerton, the owner and CEO, director and head honcho of Sidetracked
Magazine. I thanked you on the night
with a handshake and a confused face because I thanked you for the reply back
to my email back when we talked a while ago and I appreciate it was a random
conversation starter but it really did kind of spark something to get me going
down this road and obviously we’re not there yet but it’s certainly given me a
good grounding for getting my head into things.
Fingers crossed I can chat with John again about
future stuff and really get a bit deep into some projects that could even one
day be featured in the fantastic Sidetracked Magazine.
Are you someone who gets out there in to the wilds and fancies collaborating on a shoot? Lets have a chat!
For many years I’ve been a supporter of the work that Prostate Cancer UK does supporting men with the prolific cancer problem across the UK. The work they do is absolutely fantastic and to be asked to shoot one of their key events of the year, the Jeff Stelling March, was absolutely fantastic.
Jeff Stelling, known to most football fans due to his work for many, many years on Sky Sports and his amazing memory recall for footballers in the seventh tier of Norwegian football and any other league around the world for that matter. For the last five or six years he’s been organising a march - Jeff’s March - that completes four walking marathons in four days. This year his march covered all the way from Newcastle through to Sunderland via Durham, which was the route that I did, but also in Liverpool, Manchester and down in London.
The march itself is fronted by Jeff and some fantastic pacers and a support team from Prostate Cancer UK along with around 100 local people - not just gentlemen - but also ladies who are there raising money and supporting Prostate Cancer UK to raise both awareness and vital funds for care and research.
The walk itself started at St James’ Park where everybody piled into bacon sandwiches and a chat from Jeff and the Chief Exec of Prostate Cancer UK, where they got to stand in the stadium, appreciate the 52,000 seats around them and really soak in the atmosphere. From there they walked through Newcastle city centre down past the Angel of the North where they had a nice congregation in front of the Angel and where they were interviewed by ITV and various other TV channels. They were joined by Chris Kamara, Jeff’s ever-willing sidekick on Sky Sports and the laughs that were had on the first part of the journey were just absolutely fantastic and everybody had a good joke and a laugh with some of Chris Kamara’s stories. It was absolutely fantastic.
So myself and Karl, my assistant, were on location all the way from the first stint through Newcastle and we then caught up with them again at the Angel and did a lot of work around there. From the Angel they looped down to the Holiday Inn in Washington and then finally on that stint to have lunch at Durham County Cricket ground. Again, lots of chat, lots of smiles. Jeff met up with the Hartlepool Football Club supporters group. Jeff often talks of his love for Hartlepool - the town and also the football club so it was great to see him meeting the supporters’ trust and again regaling stories of past wins and the hope of success in the coming season.
From Durham Cricket Club it was very much cross-country through the back streets and byways to the Stadium of Light which from a logistical perspective for me and Karl was very much having a map, figuring out where they were crossing and being at the right location to spot 100 people walking towards us - hopefully on the correct road and the correct timeframe to be able to get as many images as we could.
In order to achieve this we took over 5,000 images on the day which was just fantastic. So many smiles and so much happiness just being part of a day like that was absolutely fantastic.
Photography-wise for us, we shot a mix of wide angles capturing the essence of each of the locations that we were at from St James’ Park to the middle of Newcastle to the Angel of the North, all the way through to the Stadium of Light. But also lots of tight, zoomed-in images which allowed us to capture the faces and smiles - not to mention the anguish on the pained feet of people as they walked the distance of 26 miles.
From my perspective, it was fantastic to be part of a national fundraising campaign. I’ve supported lots of charities and done lots of charity work myself over the years so to be working with such a well respected and well known UK charity was just another opportunity for me to combine both my sports photography elements along with the feeling and sense of really supporting an organisation that really, really makes such a difference and has a close place in my heart.
As a 90s football fan - or a Newcastle fan growing up in the 90s, the entertainers were really, really a team that hit a lot of buttons as a football fan and entertained the nation. One of those players that did a lot of that was John Beresford and it was an absolute pleasure to be able to take pictures of him at 55 taking the mick out of a lot of younger people on the pitch as part of the ”Play with a Legend” shoot at Gateshead Powerleague. Play with a Legend gives groups of people the opportunity to play five-a-side football with an actual football legend. Now, that could be from their own club or it could be from the national team or an all-around legend.
So for me it was great for it to be a Newcastle legend. I knew of him obviously from my time in the 90s but it was also amazing to hear some of the stories that he had around the legends that were playing at that time from Faustino Asprilla to Rob Lee to a bit of Gazza actually from when he played for England.
So my job on the day was to capture the feeling of the day and the laughs of being shown how to play football by a Premier League footballer. It really made people smile for the guys that were playing in Sunday League and just enjoying their football.
Technically it was quite a difficult shoot. It was on a five-a-side pitch with fencing around the outside and a significant amount of metalwork at both ends of the goal so being able to capture that was technically quite difficult - To find little gaps or to find locations that worked - both for the Team, the players and the ball - to get that essence of the day without leaving lots of metalwork and artefacts in there.
What this shoot did give me the opportunity to do was to have a good chat with my friend Serena Taylor who is the Newcastle United photographer and appreciate yet again her amazing skill set at being able to capture footballers on a weekly basis. I’ve worked with Serena in the past and Newcastle United but this was a good opportunity to get some of my sports photography skills from over the years back into the portfolio.
What other sports would you like to see featured on here?
It’s currently 3 days after the epic day but I’m still feeling it. When Kevin Maddison ( Root Cause Consultancy) suggested a 72 hole golf marathon it sounded like a great idea. We have all done 36 in a day for competitions in the past… double that for a great cause seemed like a no brainer…
I’m still finding pains in my knees that I haven’t had before!
So why did Kevin, John Taylor (What’s in the bag) and Paul Sykes (Unite group) decide to miss England vs Germany in euro 2020…Well, it was for an amazing charity that is doing work that has the potential to help all of our lives. Its great to bring together the four ambassadors from the Sunderland and Newcastle Fore Business groups to make a difference across the region.
Business Beats Cancer Newcastle is making a difference locally through fundraising, volunteer support and awareness raising of both the challenges and successes of people in the local area.
We have so far managed to raise over £1800 from the day and hopefully this can continue to rise over £2000. If you have any spare pennies down the back of the sofa please throw them in the pot. They all make a difference however much they are.
So, how many assumptions did you make this morning? About the weather? About the way today will pan out?
I get asked where I did my degree in Photography
Well, you all assume I have a degree in Photography, Nope my degree is in Chemistry! I have a degree in straight Chemistry and also a Mres in Clean Chemical Technology ( ‘Novel green methods of decolourisation of Lignosulfonate’)
It’s crazy how people assume that you must be classically trained in a topic to be an expert… Well no. I’m assuming that there are a fair few people reading this that have qualified in something totally different to what you have ended up with a passion for.
In the years between university and today, the majority of my learning has been through talking and practical experience with a camera. I have had the chance to learn from some of the world’s best ( Fer Juresti, Brett Florens & Kevin Mullins to name a few). It’s weird how learning styles change and evolve. I’m not sure that I could actually learn sat in a lecture hall anymore !!
Come on, comment below with where your journey started and how far it has evolved to where you are now.
Also here is a laugh at me in my gowns as proof of doing that learning lark. And yes that’s the golf team with prizes too James MasonJosh Blavins
Well, after a little covid related break the Fore Business Sunderland group welcomed the Newcastle group to the Fairways of George Washington yesterday.
From the biting cold first thing, to the shorts by 11 holes it was a cracking day all around.
Big shout out to Kevin & Paul for such a brilliant event to kick us back into action and Bill for his unending hospitality.
I know you all want to know about my game..well not really but I great thanks go to some great fun with Gavin, Mark and Alan.
Well done to the Sunderland winner Mr Maddison, along with the Newcastle and overall winner John.
Very well played lads, the wind and drying conditions made it tough out there.
It was great to see everyone again after such a long time and see the smiles and laughs before during and after the event.
If you are or know a golfer in the North East get them tagged below!!!
One of the last shoots of 2020 was on the fairways of Newbiggin Golf Club for a new company launching in the next 2 months. Snap golfer is the go to place for your golfing needs! I know that sounds like a sales pitch but its an awesome collaboration between Arron Arkley and Ryan Ingram. Go check out their site here
So the shoot was on a cold morning on the Northumberland coast, as you can see by the number of layers everyone had on it was a challenge to keep warm! But the golf and the images / video courtesy of Danny and the team made it worth while. It was challenging conditions with the low sun, frosty floor and changing light with the cloud belt coming over from the sea. This gave a mix of settings for the images and a great set to work with. I was heavily layered up but the cold on my fingers did create its own challenges at times. This was a joint shoot with a full video production team so it was fun fitting between 3 cameramen and additional support team to get the images I needed but having worked in this setup before, I got some images I was happy with and provided a great set to keep the social channels of the Snapgolfer team going till launch. You will have seen me shooting on golf courses as part of my Fore Business networking but it was great being able to shoot real people playing without the pressure of my next shot! I said in a LinkedIn post late last year about getting more sports images in my portfolio and this was certainly a shoot for that and one I really enjoyed. It may also have the most amount of out-takes from a shoot too but that is for the golfers to laugh at not all you lot! If you are a sports professional, team or brand and are looking to get some new images, get in touch for a chat and we can plan out how to capture you and your brand.
Which app do you use for taking photos on your phone?
The stock one that your phone tells you to use?
Is it the best?
So, I like most of you do use my phone a fair bit in the week for behind the scenes and where I am photos. I like to have a bit of control over my images but also I want to be able to closely match my main camera work. To do this I have found some apps that work for me.
This app lets you have a play with the full lens distortions pack that I often use on my main work. Not for every photo but it is useful.
I’m happy to do a 121 to show you how these work if you feel they could help your business.
SHOWMEYOURTOOLS Tools of the trade, you would expect me as a photographer to have a fair bit of equipment and you would be right. This isn’t all of it but it is all I could fit on the floor! This doesn’t include modifiers, extra light stands and backgrounds that come to 90% of the shoots with me. These are not the tools I use most on my shoots. They actually only a small part and the thing that is in my hands. There are so many cameras and lights I could set up on a shoot that would all do the same job and get near enough the same results. The tools that I bring to a shoot are actually all based around the last 10 years of me shooting images of people. As much as I have shot a range of topics over the years from architecture, food, sports, landscape etc etc etc but most of the time there has been some involvement with people. This could be in part of the shoot but often it’s the main element of the shoot. So these tools, these are things like:
Creativity & Imagination
Technical photography skills
Patience and concentration
Attention to detail
Strong networking skills
Team working skills
A wide network of useful people
To name but a few. I’m sure your business is exactly the same, The thing you do isn’t necessarily the main thing you bring to the party. What are the main tools you bring to your clients? I often get asked what camera I use and which lenses are best, and I usually say the same thing. Whatever camera you have can get better results than you think. It’s how you use it. Have you got an office camera? Do you know how to use it or know the person in the office that does?