Birmingham is one of the largest and most racially diverse cities in the country.
Each year it hosts the Frankfurt / German Market and it’s visitors increase greatly over this Christmas period.
What we perhaps don’t see are the number of homeless people tucked away…I say tucked but that is perhaps inaccurate as they are in plain sight – just ignored by the majority of passers.
Their are many reasons why these people find themselves living on the streets, some due to an unfortunate set of circumstances leading them to a place they never expected , others cannot hope with the confines of buildings and find a certain comfort in the lack of restrictions. Who are we to judge? Sadly there are also the organised gangs that professionally beg….the ones who arrive an hour or so before the early morning commuters to set up their little sleeping bags to give the pretence of being there all night. Perhaps these are the worst, they are preying of the real street people – next time before parting with goodwill, have a talk to them… find out their story and make sure you are actually making the difference you believe you are.
This year was I think my 7th or 8th year of shooting the event and is pretty much one of the highlights of my catwalk show year. This year was somewhat different from previous years as I knew a lot of the models and dancers in the sequences. This whilst giving me an extra link to the show bought along it’s own problems. Not only was I shooting for my news agency and getting overall shots that they could sell for me but I also wanted to get images that the people in the show that I knew could use for there portfolio. If you saw the show you will realise how fast paced it is and how they take care to ensure that the action encompasses all of the stage. Quite often my subjects were on different sides and also shooting with two camera’s wide and telephoto led to a number of fast camera changes and awesome panning skills. Actually that part is a lie, I shot the show over about 15 performances to make sure I covered everything my client and I required.
I also managed to sneak a few words with some of the models between shows, and it was nice to receive thanks from them that I was capturing them in a way they could use. I think this connection came out in the images, of which I can only show a few as the rest have been released to clients.
Pretty much the first day of Summer saw Charli and I heading to Birmingham to try and take advantage of the weather. The light was pretty unforgiving it was harsh, bright and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. One of those days when you envy photographers who have the huge scrims and portable shades – the ones you only need for 5 days a year in England and today was one of them!
We started off at the Canal Basin behind the Mailbox, and took a couple of quick snaps:
As the light was getting harsher and harsher we dived into the nearest subway for a quick bite to eat and a throw away comment lead to us heading to Coventry Railway Station, yes the backdrop to many an expensive fashion shoot…..
Whilst we were shooting these we were approached by the station staff and asked if we were shooting for Virgin Atlantic as Charli was ‘wearing the uniform’
Through out my time taking pictures I have met a number of people who have inspired me, taught me and pointed out my mistakes. Hopefully as time has progressed I am making less mistakes but I do believe that once you have mastered every single aspect of a skill it is time to find another. Surely the pleasure comes from the challenge, the determination to produce something ever better?
I am sure that if you ask any great artist about their work, they would point out the flaws, how they would just change that little bit there…
So I thank the models that I have worked with, some would say that models are the blank canvases that we work with but in reality a good model brings so much more, they will interpret what you say, add little nuances and interest.
The photographers that I have had the pleasure of working alongside (and whose techniques I have unashamedly stolen!), the studio’s that have allowed me to use there facilities, the designers who have loaned clothing, the venues who have put on shows or loaned rooms, and of course the make up artists who with a few pots of powder create flawless faces or amazing fantasy creatures.
Once many years ago I had a lens and it’s name was 50. It was a very groovy guy and cost me £50 for a 50mm lens. It was made of plastic but had an aperture of f1.8. It was known as the nifty fifty.
Then one day as it sat on its shelf it looked longingly at the world beyond and stepped hesitantly into the abyss betwixt shelf and floor….fleetingly it caressed my hand before landing with a sickening thud onto the carpet. Its front and rear elements went in separate directions and alas it was a lens no more…
Recently I decided that perhaps it was time to replace that little workhorse and had a look at the various offerings. Canon were now selling the 1.8 for around £90 which for such a sharp lens is pretty affordable.
Sigma also sold a contender but a little voice in the back of my head whispered f1.4….
Canon sold this for around £350 and researching it told me that it was a very good lens for the money, however Sigma also offered the same lens but around £370 or so…decisions decisions…
I was able to sweet talk Sigma into lending me the lens for a few days and so spent this lunch time wandering the arctic temperatures of Birmingham.
This was to be a scientific test so I ensured that I didn’t have a tripod with me and had made no forward plans.
I wasnt interested in how good it was in a controlled enviroment, I wanted to know how good it would be in the real world.
I also tried shooting buildings with lots of hidden detail, for example on this picture I saw the vapour trail from the plane but only when editing did I see the bird flying high over the roofline.
So far the little Sigma lens is performing remarkably well. It also comes with a little petal hood, not sure how much use this would be in reality as it is quite small – but it is not offered with the Canon version…
As a totally unscientific test I wanted to catch some lens flare, I was interested in the way it presented itself across the lens. I think you will agree that it is quite pleasant?
So after a couple of hours play what did I think?
Beautifully sharp lens, cute lens hood AND has a 77mm front element – which matches the filters I already own…
Its about £30 more than the Canon equivalent but I would probably spend that on a new filter for it….it also has the lens hood…
Dear Sigma I appear to have misplaced your lens……I think I may be raiding the piggy bank!!!
After a successful shoot at the Curzon St car park earlier in the year, I did a follow up shoot with Amber around the Custard Factory in Digbeth and then we ventured into the city centre.
The Custard Factory is as its name suggests an old custard factory (I believe Birds?) that has been reinvented as a creative and arts centre. It is home to a diverse range of creatives from Graffiti to Wedding Dress designers to vintage and retro shops. It is well worth a look round and often has exhibitions for you to see.
We used one of the empty gallery areas for some shoots and it was a chance for me to try my new pocket wizards out.
As we had spoken to the reception staff there we were fortunate enough to be given free rein to shoot where we liked as long as we didnt disrupt or get in anyones way.
We also met the owners of Graffiti4Hire who graciously gave us permission to take some shots inside their design space, these guys are very creative and if you need some work done then please give them a look
Have had the pleasure of covering Clothes Show Live in Birmingham for the last few years (OK so it’s maybe more than a few now!) and it is the highlight of my fashion show year. The main arena show is breath-takingly well rehearsed and flawless in presentation. 2010 was the first time I have missed it but seeing as I was recovering from surgery it is allowable. My surgery was on first day (thank you NHS)!