Belfast photographer – review of my 2014 – part 1
That’s a difficult one to put into a year review because, at the time of writing, most of my November and December photos are embargoed until perhaps end of February 2015 at the earliest and some from other parts of the year haven’t seen the light of day yet.
So here’s a review of my year in two parts based on the images that have been ‘published’ (in the US copyright office terms) and some information in and around my other stuff during the year.
Some people think I have the year thoroughly planned out well in advanced, in some cases, yes, in a lot of cases no. I generally have a ‘wish list’ of places that I would like to visit in terms of my own development, a list of up and coming places or places that need a refresh according to agents, requests from clients, block booked client work or ongoing projects that need to be scheduled in depending on either my timescales, client timescales or simple things like the weather.
Each year a certain number of weeks can be blocked out in advance, when working with the arts in various places their festivals are usually busy times so the performances are usually booked a year or more in advance so they are cast in stone, certain travel destinations are only good for certain times of the year, certain work at home can be scheduled in for either busy or holiday periods of the local calendars and last but not least there’s family and friends to build in.
Other things crop up during the year but usually there’s a few windows for a couple of large trips (one summer, one winter but depending on the hemisphere which is which, or ideally, both summer trips!) with a few smaller last minute windows pencilled in on the wall planner for anything that comes up.
As I write this in the last days of 2014 I have an urgent request from a client for an updated set of photos from a particular country and it would be an intensive 5 days or more likely a 10-14 day trip to cover all the bases allowing for weather. Its a long haul destination and not very touristy so will be expensive and or awkward to get there. I have non moveable or non-transferable work on the 6th and 20th of January so that pretty much rules out fulfilling that brief…
…but you could watch my blog or twitter during early Feb to see if I managed it.
That’s the way of it sometimes, sometimes you have to pass on what seem like great jobs at the time but hindsight is marvellous. For instance, if everything had went to plan, I should really have been writing a different blog now, sitting over breakfast in some hotel room in Sydney waiting for New Years Eve festivities to begin….
…but then again I would also have been in a hotel around the corner from the siege a couple of weeks ago and the kidney infection Ive had for a while would have hit me hard on an 11 hour bus ride somewhere outside Cairns… …instead of a quick call to the local emergency doctor, getting sick on a lone foreign long bus journey is something completely different (worse if Id went with the backup plan of driving my own camper through the outback). Everything happens for a reason…
…sometimes plans you have been working on for weeks or months go awry. I remember being given a shot list for a country which was supposed to be opening up for tourism, it would be usually a 2-3 day shoot but with the bureaucracy involved with this country it would probably be a week to 10 days. It was a great opportunity, visiting sites not normally visited by tourists for over 50 years, world war 2 battle sites left remarkably untouched, some of the best roman ruins in the world, again mostly untouched. Id started the paperwork after weeks of planning. It was a dictatorship but because of that was probably one of the safest countries in the world to visit. Id always wanted to go there.
About the time I was due to fly to London for my visa interview, a photographer friend of mine was riding on one of the first British gunship helicopters to start enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya…
If you are new to this blog, then you have to get used to me going off on a tangent, most times its for a reason…
Yes, right, review of 2014. The images and stories I have chosen are ones that mean the most to me from 2014. I probably have “better” photos but I rarely get the chance to emphasise the ones that mean the most to me. Of course some of the images that mean the most to me are of friends and family but I don’t put them up for display, so my true “Best of 2014” are reserved for home display.
2014 started with one definite travel date and one roundabout date with the rest of the year open. The one roundabout date was a month in Canada sometime in Sept/Oct on tour with a band. Id specified about then because Id been out before in June/July and after that trip Id planned to move to Canada. The next tour was in Nov/Dec when I decided that that level of cold just wasn’t for me after all!
The definite travel date was the birth of my niece on the 10th or 11th of January. The date was a booked date, pretty much cast in stone, so Id booked to take the camper across on the ferry and go and visit a couple of photographers I know in the NW of England for a catch up and to check in with a couple of clients in the NW of England at the same time.
Back home in Belfast I got the chance to photograph a real hero of mine, Commander Chris Hadfield. Id left Canada the day he left to command the ISS (International Space Station) and he got into space quicker than I got back to Belfast from Vancouver. I followed his mission on twitter and facebook and saw some of the stunning photographs he produced. He was doing a book signing in Belfast
I could have just got my media photo but like the wee schoolboy that day reduced me to, I joined the queue with everyone else along with a mate from Canada and waited my turn to get my books signed. I had almost two hours to come up with something witty, charming, momentous and memorable to say but my mate beat me to it with tales of life in Canada and all I could muster was ‘Inspiring work!’. Yeah, well done Joe. It reminded me of a time when a mate of mine waited in line to meet and greet President Bill Clinton and he was listening to the conversations down the line with people stealing all his best lines and questions. By the time it got to him all he could think of was ‘Hows it going Bill?’. To be fair to my mate he did follow up my slagging with ‘If you think that was bad, you should have heard what I said to the Pope’.
Liverpool are near the top of the table.
January and February are normally quiet times in my Calendar due to business holidays, bad weather and companies keeping budgets back until the end of financial year spending rush, but this year, mostly down to the mild winter, both months were very busy.
One of the most interesting jobs of the month was the Annual Arts and Business Awards ceremony in the Ulster Hall Belfast. I was there to cover the artistic side of the ceremony and the ceremony would have a 24 page pull out feature in the Belfast Telegraph the next day. So that’s enough photos taken, edited and delivered by 1am to fill a 24 page colour supplement including front page from a ceremony finishing about 10pm. No pressure there then!
Days like that go past in a blur and when you hit the transmit button at 12:53am you breathe for the first time in what seems like an eternity and go and put the kettle on and make the lunch and dinner you missed from yesterday and then maybe make a start on the breakfast you are going to eat whilst waiting up all night watching the emails and text messages to make sure everything got through ok and make any last minute horizontal or vertical edit changes as the layout evolves through the night.
These are the sort of jobs that make you feel alive, from the rehearsals to following the production setup, the running order on the night, the running (well driving) home (normally on a tight deadline Id wire from site but would be kicked out just after the event so elected to go home to edit), getting the head down and doing the selects, edit, captioning and preparing for print, to the final ftp and the relief (and tea and chocolate biscuit) after receiving that ‘gone to press’ email. Backup, archive and then ready for the next job.
As well as the local work in Belfast, I had put together a trip at short notice for the end of February and most of March. Nothing much, just Belfast to London to Madrid to Santiago Chile to Pellines Chile to Santiago to Punta Arenas to Ushuaia to Antarctica to Ushuaia to Buenos Aires to London to Belfast. All sorted at 3-4 weeks notice. Well when you get an opportunity like that you take it. A few years ago I was home from my last trip to Buenos Aires (mostly model shoots in summer environment – our Jan/Feb) when I took a call from a friend about some photography lessons.
No problem, when suits?
Well it has to be this weekend as Im off to Australia on Monday.
Yes that video production I was talking to you about, touring round with a motorbike expedition, they want some stills for the DVD cover and documentation etc and Ive been asked.
Why didn’t you ask me to go and do it with you?
You were in South America and besides you are always busy.
I was in daily email contact and trust me I’m never _that_ busy to turn down a one month trip to Australia!
Well ok I was in that instance, Id managed to arrange client shoots for after my return from Buenos Aires and persuaded a couple of clients to tag on model style shoots to what I was doing in South America so the images needed working for final delivery asap.
At the end of the month I was in Chile and Liverpool were near the top of the league.
This time last year I was in Norway watching the Northern Lights twinkling and rustling all around me.
Blog here in 2 parts – part 1, part 2 Another trip organised at short notice and one I thought I would never better.
March was spent in Chile, Argentina and Antarctica.
The day I walked down to the ship in Ushuaia, Liverpool had just gubbed Man U at Old Trafford and Liverpool were near the top of the league.
St Patrick’s Day was spent on ship crossing the Drake Passage.
I set foot on Antarctica.
I came home.
The full blog post of the trip is in the following 11 parts. Ive only just realised how long that is with this review but I do think its worth reading over a couple of cups of coffee. Then again I would say that, wouldn’t I?
Here’s an initial video slideshow I put together for the trip
At the end of March Liverpool were top of the league… …but they aren’t going to win.
April was packed with all the work Id managed to re-schedule due to my epic South American/Antarctic journey. I do have a colleague I work with closely to covers for me whilst I am away for any last minute stuff but generally the non-time crucial work can be scheduled for other times.
On the way out to one of the jobs I reached for one of my cameras and 16-35 lens and almost got it but instead watched it fall in slow motion from my desk, bounce on the floor in one piece then bounce again in two pieces. It had survived blizzards in Antarctica but not clumsy hands in Belfast.
At times I wonder why I have 3 1 series pro level canon cameras and enough lenses to kit out a small photographic shop with backups of every major lens (17-40 for my 16-35 mk2, 24-105 for my 24-70, 70-200 f4 for my 70-200 f2.8 IS and 300 f4 for my 300 2.8 IS) and there are times like this when I carefully put my 17-40 on my backup 1Ds Mk2 and load it with the rest of the gear and head out the door. As fate would have it the job that day involved a lot of wide angle photographs and about a third the final set were all images I wouldn’t have got if I didn’t have a double up backup policy. Clients wont accept the ‘I dropped my camera’ excuse and just part of the cost of doing business (as are the repair bills or in this case, the insurance excess).
Thankfully my insurers don’t have an anti-stupidity clause in the policy but the 250 quid excess made it an expensive lesson in putting the camera bag in the car first before going back and stretching across the desk for the camera.
Although Liverpool weren’t going to win the league in my humble opinion I rang round a few places to see if they wanted any possible homecoming parade photographed. Id missed the Istanbul Champions League win because I was working on a closed set for a client and Id almost missed the Athens Champions League loss because I was in the desert in Tunisia.
If there were any chance of Liverpool winning the league on the final day, I probably wouldn’t be fit for work the next day regardless so I may as well be there in the crowd earning money out of it. A few people said they would be interested in a set of photos as well as one feature article so I booked the ferry and sorted a trip to Liverpool for May.
Liverpool were top of the league.
Liverpool aren’t top of the league any more… …but there’s still a chance.
By the time I had boarded the ferry there wasn’t a realistic chance any more. I ignored the ‘Joe, if Liverpool doesn’t work out can you go to the City of Manchester instead?’ emails. I didn’t need the money that badly.
I watched the final game of the season in my brother’s living room in Liverpool whilst he headed off to Anfield with his season ticket. I was prepared to put some serious guilt down on him if it had ended up the decider but I figured my chances to be somewhere between none and ‘snowballs chance in hell’.
I had also made the mistake of arranging some client meetings whilst I was over and suffered a couple of meetings where people laughed at me. I didn’t realise I worked for so many Manchester United and Everton fans.
The rest of May was its usual jam packed series of PR client photography with one of the usually busiest months of the year. The weather was a lot kinder than the previous May so a lot of the photography got the nice bright, clear, happy blue skies that clients deserve but so often dont get in this country.
One of the PR shoots was for a regular client of mine DUDance. They had been invited to represent Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival in Scotland allied to the Commonwealth games so the brief was to get a series of photos of the dancers in front of iconic Northern Ireland landmarks to go with the PR and the final event brochure. The photos all had to match a certain style of photograph so the home countries page would look reasonably similar with a same theme. Blue cloudy sky being one of the key elements.
Liverpool didn’t win the league, sure there’s always the World Cup to look forward to.
About a year ago I had started to look seriously at putting a plan together to go out and cover the World Cup. Id been to the World Cup in 2002 but only from a fans perspective. The industry was very different then and fan feature articles and online diaries (they hadn’t been called blogs yet). At the Republic of Ireland training camp media centre I got chatting to a guy from a wee website called soccernet. It was a father and son operation who had sold out to the Daily Mail and then had been sold on to forerunner of Disney Interactive. At the time they didn’t have much money and I got the usual sob story about no money, credit lines and fees when they did make it big and although I talked to them a bit I didn’t really buy in to it. I think they are now the largest soccer site on the planet. Ah well.
Needless to say in the current climate I couldn’t make the figures work for a prolonged trip to Brazil at World Cup inflated prices so thought Id stay home and watch the games and in the downtime between Commercial jobs, rebuild the studio.
I had built my studio at home 7 years ago and during my trip to South America the roof had leaked slightly and with the damp warm winter mould had grown inside so it was time to strip the building back to its shell and rebuild. I had built the studio primarily for products and for business and commercial headshots. It had originally taken about 2-3 months to plan out and the same to build. Over the years the walls had had a little extra bracket fitted there, a support here and the floorspace layout was a compromise with some of the stand Id acquired in the intervening time period. I was glad of the opportunity to redesign the entire thing from scratch plus a chance to upgrade the insulation and redo the wiring to make it more convenient for how I now operated. It would take about 2-3 months again to rebuild and to finish and Id planned to do a lot of the fit out myself as some of the layout would need some trial and error before finally putting the walls in place and if I was to pay builders to wait on me going through a few lighting scenarios each time a sheet of plasterboard was to be fixed then the studio would cost more and take longer than the World Cup Stadia to build!
The weather was a real good mix this year which made working on the studio one of those labours of love that involves almost as much sweat loss as it does swearing.
The upside was that clients got a lot of beautiful blue sky and people wearing summer clothes in summer photos for their upcoming brochures.
To be continued….