Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Top music, top blokes, top night out!

On Friday I had the privilege of attending the Stringer Bessant gig at The Forum in Tunbridge Wells.

Sitting well away from the road at the top of a hill like a misplaced tiny Roman fortress, at first glance, the forum is a very unusual venue, looking more like a restaurant (in fact it was originally a public toilet, apparently) but is very easily accessible, and it's small stature makes it very intimate, and gives it a relaxed atmosphere. Once inside it oozes rock'n'roll, and you can't help but feel you're somewhere special.

First band of the evening was Maker, and we were spoilt rotten by their rock'n'roll exuberance. Styled somewhere amidst Kings Of Leon, Small Faces, and the Mighty Boosh, they backed up their awesome 70's attire (I want the singer's jacket!) with some killer riffs, and blistering rawk tunes.

All timeless, memorable, foot-tapping asnd head-nodding classics, all worth searching out on Myspace etc. I can only see great things happening for this band!

Next up were Origami Dinosaur. Kinda wacky. Kinda be-boppy. Kind of Scissor Sisters, but with hats. They clearly had a large following present that evening, and the crowd loved them.

And then changing the tone completely came Stringer Bessant - the stage was reduced from mini-arena to two chairs, a couple of microphones and a mysterious flask. Gary and Jack leaving the room spellbound as they played tunes from the Yard album, plus a couple of bonuses - one being "Mellow" - a Reef tune, which the crowd were very much blessed by.

As you listened to the two of them, you couldn't help but be impressed by their musicianship, but also found yourself spellbound by the feel of the songs, and the atmosphere in the club - a previously heaving rock gig had become a quiet, reflective and relaxing evening's entertainment. It is testimony to Stringer Bessant that they were able to compliment such an evening despite a totally different style to the rest of the acts.

After the gig, it was heartwarming to note just how long Gary and Jack spent chatting to fans, some clearly a little worse-for-wear on the sauce - but at all times they are friendly, genuine and courteous to all. And you get the impression they're not so much doing it for "marketing" or "customer care" - they are doing it because they are happy, comfortable in their own skins and genuinely like and appreciate people.

I had a fantastic few minutes after the gig, backstage having a good old natter to the two of them, hopefully more of this will be published soon in one of the magazines I write and shoot for.

Big thanks to Gary and Jack for a fantastic evening and for making time to talk to me and my mate Andy - possibly the biggest Reef fan on the planet :)

Saturday, 23 October 2010

A Grand Night Out...

Last week I was asked to shoot at a fashion show being run at the Grand Hotel in Folkestone, organised by Folkestone and Hythe Conservatives.

The outfits and models in the show were provided by several local boutiques, and there were some really stunning ensembles on display.

I had a fantastic evening chatting to some lovely folk, and managed to shoot plenty of photos of the lovely models dressed up in their finest.

In between catwalk shows, several local business demonstrated beauty products and displayed jewellery, whilst a young lady played the piano (and if she happens to read this, I noticed that she played "The Spy Who Loved Me" and the theme from The Incredible Hulk amongst more classical pieces!)

MP Damian Collins was there as well, and he and his wife seemed to really enjoy the evening. All in all, a very enjoyable and entertaining evening, and a great excuse to take the camera!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Way Ahead goes to London baby!

A week or so ago I had the privilage of being asked along for a styling and photoshoot arranged by the uber-talented stylist, Karena Sedgewick from MyNewBestFriend. Karena works for individual clients and also boutiques, giving advice on fashion, arranging events and shoots, and sharing her wealth of knowledge and amazing contacts!

On this occasion she was working with the extremely stylish and lovely Sarah Robotham, who when she isn't being a psychologist runs FashionOnTheCouch. The shoot took place in the luxurious Amika club, on Kensington High Street, so for the first time in a while, I found myself jumping on the high speed train, armed with a bag and a half full of camera and lighting equipment. It felt REALLY good :)

Arriving (eventually) at the club was a daunting experience, lots of well-dressed people, all sitting around looking confident and efficient, and then me, a slightly scruffy photography, feeling a few butterflies and wondering if I could really pull this off.

But the folks Karena had assembled were not only a collective of some of the best talent around, they were really friendly, supportive and fun to be with. She really does know things about people!

With the aid of my lovely photography assistant, we set to work arranging lighting and finding electrical sockets, whilst the brilliant makeup and hair stylists went to work on the lovely Sarah. It was fascinating to see them all at work, so passionate and so clear on what was required. Sarah turned up on the set looking even more stunning than usual!

The shooting couldn't have gone better - as soon as I started clicking, I was in my element and the minutes and hours flew by. Sarah was a natural model, throwing some fantastic poses, culminating in the included shot, which is in every single way "Style On The Couch!"

And it was a wonderful feeling afterwards that despite a few hiccups with the venue, a few challenges along the way, we had all worked a a team, and pulled off something rather fantastic, whilst having an absolute blast at the same time!

Heartfelt thanks and respect to all involved, especially Karena and Sarah for allowing me such a brilliant opportunity. I can't wait for the next one!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Why I love shooting festivals...

Hevy 2010
Originally uploaded by Way Ahead Photography
This year I had the privilage of attending both the Hop Farm Festival, and the Hevy Festival in Lympne - 2 paradoxically different events.

Whilst Hop Farm tended towards big and well celebrated acts, Hevy was very much about the new and the now, and where Hop Farm verged on a Folky sound, Hevy was, as the name suggests, very much about Heavy music - be it rock, metal, or whatever those kids are calling it this week...

But having got over the initial "oh dear, I'm getting old" feeling that often accompanies this sort of assignment, I started to really enjoy it, and it came to me again that the best thing about shooting music festivals is NOT that I get to see the bands I know and love.

It's getting to discover new bands, and new music.

This year I was blessed with the discovery of The Subways. A trio of energetic British rockers, who haven't yet received the huge success they deserve, but nonetheless have a large and loyal following.

They rocked the Hevy festival with their blistering riffs, powerful vocal harmonies and frantic stage capers. I don't often stand around to watch a band after I've had my 3 song shoot in the press pit - but for The Subways I was willing to make an exception. And then buy their latest album "All Or Nothing" on Itunes as soon I got home!

It's a given fact that trying new things keeps you feeling young.

And my heartfelt gratitude goes to bands like The Subways who make it less like taking cod liver oil, and more like trying a new flavour of Haribo.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Don't be afraid to try something old...

My shiny Spotmatic film SLR arrived the other day in the First Class post.

It is a wonderful machine, built in 1964, and entirely mechanical in operation, it almost feels alive in your hands, unlike its cold, lifeless digital counterparts.

When you wind the film and press the shutter, the feeling is akin to that of using a bolt action, "Old West" rifle... you feel... MANLY!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Luddite, I was in IT for 15 years! And I love my EOS, and it's earnt me a good wage so far, and I couldn't practically justify always shooting film, for all the portraiture and commercial work I do. People want digital images these days, not 10x8s...

But sometimes in the ever-advancing quest for speed, performance and perfection, we lose sight of things that are beautiful, meaningful and profound.

There is something very magical about shooting on a camera where you can't see straightaway if you got the shot or not, or fire off six shots a second. You start focussing less on the camera, and more on what's going on in front of it - you start to FEEL and PREDICT the shots rather than just think them...

Or as a wise man once put it:

"To take photographs means to recognize–simultaneously and within a fraction of a second–both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis."

Somehow it seems easier to achieve this with an old SLR... funny that!

This shot taken in the style of my fave 60s tog, who didn't just "try" cameras like this for fun - he didn't have any choice!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Some things are ageless...

Friday night I was given the privilage of shooting at the Hop Farm Festival 2010, near Paddock Wood in Kent.

I arrived in time to shoot the three main acts. Each act could claim a very long and prestigious career. Only one of those acts, it felt, did not rely on that fact to wow the crowd. Blondie came on the stage, second to last, and went for broke.

If I am not mistaken Blondie were formed the year I was born - 1973. And yet their music sounded fresh, very cutting edge even. They had made the effort to rework the classics (their rendition of Call Me was fantastic!) and they traversed every inch of the stage, and tried to reach every member of the audience.

Guitarist Chris Stein utterly rocked, playing an instrument that looked like it had been designed by Salvadore Dali. His riffs and solos were powerful and beautiful, and had the hairs on my neck a-bristling.

I won't mention a lady's age, as it's rude, but suffice to say Deborah has definitely still got it. Her voice is as magnificent as ever, and the performance her and her boys gave would put many "younger" bands to shame. Awesome!

For me, camped out in the press pit, and bearing in mind I really and truely fell in love with Blondie aged just six, it was six minutes (we only get 2 songs in the press area) of sheer bliss.

I think I must have spent three minutes smiling like a loon at Debbie (who smiled back AND winked, if I am not mistaken *happy sigh*) and another two singing along to "Hanging On The Telephone". Which left one minute to take photos.

So I'm quite pleased with what I got!

And as for the following "headliner"?

Well, I've read somebody say somewhere else it was unfair putting him on after the whirlwind that was Blondie.

I have to agree. I also think it was a bit mean making him dress like Boss Hogg from The Dukes Of Hazzard, and lending him a rap singer's microphone. The poor chap was clearly struggling to be heard...!

Joking aside, Blondie should have been billed as the headlining act.

Never mind Brown Eyed Girl, this Blue Eyed Tog was decidely underwhelmed with a little chap playing the piano and muttering... especially after the girl of many dreams and her band had just blown him and his camera away!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Dizzee rocks! Where were all the togs?

Originally uploaded by Way Ahead Photography
Watched Glastonbury on the tellybox last night and marvelled at young Mr Rascal's performance, especially when he teamed up with the lovely Florence Welch of Florence And The Machine. I had the privilage of photographing both Florence and Dizzee at festivals last year just before they both got uber-famous.

Wished I could have been there snapping this time!

It's interesting to observe that for both Isle Of Wight and Glastonbury, there is a noticeable lack of still photographers in the press pit; they appear to have been superceded by videographers... is this is a sign of the times? Has still music photography become old-fashioned? I hope not!

But it's definitely been harder to get press accreditation this year, the organisers don't seem as interested as they once did (even tho I have magazines that will print my pics and writeups now!).

It will be sad if my suspicions are proven correct. Photography and live music go together so well, and I believe a still image conveys so much more than several minutes of film ever can.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

"A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others."
(Ayn Rand)

Recently I've read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and have just bought and started Atlas Shrugged (which is an immense publication and should provide weeks if not months of happy reading!). Her writing blows my mind!

It's not so much that her words have inspired me to change, or have revealed a new truth. Rather they have underlined, and given voice to the thoughts and feelings I've had for as long as I can remember, about how messed up this world can get, and how I can overcome it and remain true to the person I was made to be.

This world does not like individuals. It does not like people who succeed by their own merit. It likes to build up heroes it can control, fake-heroes who can be praised for their weak efforts (for if their efforts were truly great, they'd be a threat to the collective!), then destroyed if they put a foot out of line.

But, to quote another great Randism, " "The question isn't who is going to let me, it's who is going to stop me!"

Saturday, 15 May 2010

What Makes Me Unique?

Now there's a question for a sleepy Saturday morning!

I met with a lovely lady yesterday who is an expert at marketing, social networking and all that good stuff. She was talking about how a business needs to have impact, be essential, and be unique. These three can form an equation that can measure the potential success of a venture.

I was reminded again of something James Kaan said that impacted me greatly about the time I set up Way Ahead:

"Observe what everyone else is doing, then do the opposite!"

Now I don't strive to be individual. I don't deliberately go out of my way to be obtuse, because that would be pretentious and fake.

What I do try and do is something another wise man once told me, I just get on with what I'm doing, and not worry about what the others are doing, what they are succeeding at, or if they are having a go at me.

My uniqueness is found in the thing I want to do, not the things I do to try and make it a success. And it's very easy to get sidetracked if not careful.

I have to remember that I don't take photos to get clients and work.
I get clients, and I get work, so that I can take photos.

If I keep it that way round, I think my uniqueness will show...

Friday, 26 March 2010

We Don't Need This Disease (in Folkestone)

Had the privilage of shooting the Editors Tuesday night at the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone.

Now it would be very easy for me to berate the absolutely imbecilic morons who threw beer, caused fights and even accosted Tom the singer. But to be honest I think they've got too much credit already.

Instead I will focus my attention on what was one of the best live performances I've had the privilage to witness this year.

Despite everything that was thrown at them, literally at times, the band gave it their all, and put on an amazing show for the REAL music fans who were there.

The set and lighting were simply perfect, I had a blast taking photos and then stood back and enjoyed the fantastic music. I didn't know their music so well before the gig, but as is often the way when I shoot a band, I have become a fan! My next Itunes invoice will be a biggie...!!!

As for the others - well done you. I only feel sorry for the people who have to serve you at the dole office...

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Practicing hard...

We have a gig Saturday - first in ages, in fact the first this decade!!!

Loads of people from my village, from our workplaces etc coming. I love it that the band is becoming a "community" thing - it's about the people who come out to have a good time.

And we will give them one! A band that amongst others, plays Kaiser Chiefs, Blondie, Reef, Stereophonics, Abba, Girls Aloud, The Proclaimers, Sugababes, Gerry Rafferty, Stevie Wonder and Foo Fighters all in the same set, has nothing to fear :)


Saturday, 23 January 2010

What makes a photo "interesting"?

Recently I've been trying to explore "Explored" on Flickr, and find out what it is that makes photos interesting enough to get so many views.

At first my rather cynical observations pointed to the fact that many of the photos contained pretty people, many of whom didn't have many or even any clothes on...

Whilst I'm not a shy fellow, I didn't think this would be condusive to making people want to view my photos. More likely in fact, it would scare them away...

Then the other day I saw a quote that said "If the world is cold, make it your business to start fires". Inspirational. And also a great idea for a photo. Out came the zippo lighter, and the result was a photo that has so far ranked #15 at its highest, and had over 500 views in just 2 days!

So - I've not been at this very long, but my tips for getting a photo on Explored are:

1) make sure you view other people's photos add them as favourites and leave POSITIVE comments. If you've got nothing nice to say, say nothing (as my dad says!)

2) add contacts and keep in touch. Flickr is social networking, just like Facebook or Myspace - you make relationships online with like-minded photography lovers. I've already made some great friends on Flickr.

3) Join groups - groups are themed towards certain types of photography, and there are hundreds of them - you are bound to find one that you enjoy submitting to.

4) Regularly submit photos. Consider doing a project like a photo a week to start with (I started with self-portrait Thursday for example) - and perhaps move on to something more ambitious (like the 365 project I'm doing for 2010 - a self portrait every day!)

5) Seek inspiration - look at other photos on flickr, but also listen to music and note the lyrics, read books, watch TV, play with your kids, go for walks. In other words - live your life. Don't become obsessed so much with photography that you end up doing nothing worth photographing.

This photo of Salvadore Dali is the sort of thing I aspire to. It's just incredible - the amount of work that's gone into this moment, and the way it captures the personality of the subject as well. Makes my meagre laptop-burning efforts look like the cheap publicity stunt they really are.