January 2018

Invisible Circus Invisible Circus - Bristol

Invisible Circus, Halloween

Posted by on Jan 31, 2018 in Photography, Photography Tutorials

This is a bit of a blast from the past for  me – i was reminded of this performance after shooting Cirque Du Soleil at The Royal Albert Hall and i thought i’d return to it and post a few pictures.

At the time i think i was trialling a lens – so i took it to Bristol and a Halloween performance by The Invisible Circus, which i have to say was great fun. I was using a battered old Canon 5D MKII so was pretty limited on Iso Speed – anything above 1600 on the old 5D MKii and the shot becomes hard to polish but this performance was dimly lit  – and consequently i was operating at levels from 400 to  iso 6400 – which for a MKii is …… a bit nasty.

Invisible Circus - Bristol

Invisible Circus – Bristol

Shooting at a lower Iso would have meant a drop in shutter speed coupled with a potentially limited depth of focus…… and the problem with circus performers is that they aren’t hanging around for a shot…. well… ok the artist above is literally hanging about…… but she’s swinging back and forth through a focus plane and at speed, and that’s the hurdle.

Invisible Circus - Bristol

Invisible Circus – Bristol

It’s easier to focus on a relatively static guy on the floor….. but the 5D MKii is not the world’s best focussing camera in dim light and you don’t want to be relying on a focus lock, in this case it’s better to have an idea of where the focus really in in relation to you and the performance space. Then you can blast away without think too much about focus lock. All these pictures were taken wide open – at f2.8 – it’s not recommended but, as i say, i was trialling the lens and could afford to mess around without consequences. At a narrower aperture the old 5D Mkii would be seriously struggling.

Invisible Circus - Bristol

Invisible Circus – Bristol

Tape marks on the floor are a dead giveaway that an artist will be hitting that spot at some point. Especially in technical shows involving lifting ropes. Know where that focus point is before the show starts…..and you’re laughing.

Invisible Circus - Bristol

Invisible Circus – Bristol

This is where you can really see the iso noise breaking in all over the place….. but especially in the blacks which can get ruined. This is iso 4000 with shutter speed 1//160 @f2.8.

Invisible Circus - Bristol

Invisible Circus – Bristol

Lighting in shows is dynamic, one minute it’s pitch black, the next it can get (relatively) hot. You need to be prepared for those changes…….  i never use auto ISO (don’t ask me why – i just decided not to and haven’t bothered with it) so generally speaking you ride the aperture or shutter speed (within reason) to accommodate those changes. Here with the Mkii i’ve shifted shutter speed to 1/500 to compensate for a lighting shift as a spotlight comes up. I probably would have done exactly the same with a MKiv….. but i’d have been at at much higher iso because the sensor can deliver at those higher ranges.

Basically these days i can shoot at a higher iso – so can afford to narrow the aperture and maintain the same high shutter speed – (at a dynamic show – 1//160 minimum).

Consequently my aperture would have been narrower and things would be generally sharper. The pic above is still f2.8: this is  wide open  – and you can tell.

Invisible Circus - Bristol

Aerial Work and Circus skills

Hey if it gets too noisy you can always turn it black and white and pretend that was the ‘look’ you were going for. Mumble something about the simplicty of B&W and how you think colour has ruined everything…… basically we should all be using box brownies and anyone who shoots with anything post 1980 is a sell out.

Invisible Circus - Bristol

Grant Pollard Photography

I love this lady – i think it’s the Crow umbrella that does it for me. The show drew heavily on German expressionism for the 1930s so has a fabulous style about it.

Invisible Circus - Bristol

Under The Dark Moon

I have planned my next childrens’ birthday party surprise ….and this is it.

Picture-wise – some nasty blow-out on the cake (not a phrase i use often) but then you’re exposing for the artist and that shift from bright white in a spotlight to black is hard to cope with in a hurry. Again grain and noise is prominent and the limitations of the MKii are showing. Nice cake though.

Invisible Circus - Bristol

Under The Dark Moon – What’s in The Trunk?

The lens i’m using is a 90mm Prime Tamron. It’s great for Macro Photography actually – and not particularly designed for these circus shenanigans. If i shot this professionally i’d be using a 2.8 70-200mm zoom which is Pretty standard kit. I’d have had faster focussing and many more framing options. (I’d also be using a modern camera hem hem…..).

Whilst the pic above is an obvious crop the pics here are largely uncropped and have simply been resized.



I treated this one with NIk Software’s Dfine2 – which is a great little freebie plug-in for eliminating noise. It’s used to such an extreme here though that you can see a sort of softening in the trapeze artist’s clothing and skin but generally it can eliminate noise and refine pictures really well.

In a later post I’ll probably put some more recent pics up from Cirque Du Soleil for comparison – i used  5D MKiv and a canon 100-400MM zoom for that so the difference will be instructive.

Under The Dark Moon

Under The Dark Moon – Narrator

The narrator pictured above provided a good story that pulled the various acts together  – the ‘problem’ with circus is that it’s a collection of individual acts under one roof. The more successful shows pull the acts together under one narrative thread and give the show a depth that otherwise isn’t there. CIrque Du Soleil do this with mime and nonsense noises because they play to an international audience and it has to work for everyone. The trouble for me is that it makes it a little childish. One of the aspects i liked about Invisible Circus was that they didn’t play down to the audience. It was entertaining for adults as much as kids and i’d be happy to take anyone of any age to see them

Slack Wire

carefully does it

When you shoot a band or musical group on stage the lighting changes – but the position of lights and (for example) main performer pretty much stays the same. With circus and theatre it’s a more dynamic  environment so actors move from areas of high to low illumination in an instant. I put the camera in manual (i’m always in manual) and spin the shutter (or aperture) dial up and down as fast as i can – before blasting away…… at an incredible speed of 3 frames a second – ha ha.


Under The Dark Moon

Under The Dark Moon

This particular performance was in ‘the round’ so i could get some atmosphere shots that sneaked the audience into shot. I have to say i really like pictures that tell a bit more of a story than a simple shot of someone onstage. (although to be fair…. most theatrical pictures simply will be just that)

All in all that limited 90mm Tamron lens held up ‘ok-ish’. It’s almost as good as the Canon version and i had twinned it with an old camera with a single useful focus point. As i said if i was shooting properly i’d have used a different set-up but i was only there for the testing.

I try to test anything in a useful dynamic way – bench tests really don’t tell you too much and can make your brain explode. Far better to take something out on the road , give it a hard time and see how it copes.  The bonus of course is that you get to be entertained and I have to admit to a soft spot for ‘carny folk’ and anyone with a performance skill. Usually those circus skills have been been worked on, rehearsed and perfected through blood sweat and tears and i am always in admiration.


Copenhagen Harbour Copenhagen Harbour Area

Copenhagen, Nyhavn Walkabout

Posted by on Jan 26, 2018 in Europe, Photography, Travel

With only a few hours to kill in the port of Copenhagen i was still able to take in a few of the more obvious ‘picture postcard’ sights and attractions. The mermaid statue of course is on of those ‘must sees’ but it’s surprisingly small and would be easy to stroll straight past but for the hordes of tourists from cruise boats that congregate around her taking endless selfies. If you need to find her – you simply look for a crowd.

I had to get my feet wet by jumping closer and onto some boulders before i could frame -out the tourists for this photo……

copenhagen mermaid statue

The Little Mermai, Copenhagen

After taking your obligatory shot of The Little mermaid in the harbour it’s easy to walk straight to the cafes, shops and tourist centre of copenhagen, best represented by the iconic area of Nyhavn….


Copenhagen – NYHAVN

Even on a fairly crappy day and with a constant fine drizzle in the air you can enjoy the covered cafes and small shops that line the streets here.


Copenhagen Harbour Area – nyhavn


Nyhavn Copenhagen

Copenhagen Harbour Area – nyhavn

The pretty coloured houses are what we’re all here to see – but there’s also scope to get your ‘art’ on and photograph smaller sights and oddities. I seem to have some kind of fixation with signs and stickers….. a semiotic fetish. This picture is artistic… you can tell because it’s in Black & White…. if i collect enough of the shots I should open up a Fine Art Gallery and fill it with stuff like this for some sucker to buy.

Of course the real question here is….. who is Reverend Screaming Fingers ?

Copenhagen Harbour Area B&W

Not really the weather for it today … but you can take a very pleasant harbour cruise …. the one below is (strangely enough on this sodden wet day) completely empty.

River cruises Nyhavn Copenhagen

Nyhavn Copenhagen

Moving on ….  who wouldn’t point the camera at a wall with lifejackets stuffed into it…… very colourful… but could do without the building skip in front of it.

Copenhagen art

Copenhagen Nyhavn

A hop skip and a jump from Nyhavn is Frederik’s church (Frederiks kirke). It’s also known as the Marble church and is a pretty prominent part of the skyline and a good reference point for when you’re wandering about. It’s slap in the Frederiksstaden District and pretty much neighbours the Amalienborg (see more on that below).

Frederiks Kirke

Frederiks Kirke

Frederiks Kirke or church

Frederiks Kirke

Another of the sights to tick off your list is Amalienborg.

This is the winter home of the Danish royal family, and features of four symmetrical palace façades facing around an octagonal cobbled courtyard. It’s literally right next door to Frederik’s Church – just due west.



Entrances are guarded by some splendid  looking soldiers or guards, dressed in royal blue and sporting the busby style hat. Perfect for that cold winters day. It’s not a look i could pull off though.

Amalienborg guards

Amalienborg Guards

By this stage i had only been walking around for about an hour… but the constant fine drizzle had got through my rain cover and was starting to creep through the seams of my clothes. It wasn’t a cold day either so i felt hot and wet… like a race-horse. Time to go home.

Event Photography Bath Editorial & Event Photographer Bath, Bristol, London

Fashion Runway Shooting

Posted by on Jan 22, 2018 in Photography, Photography Tutorials

Editorial & Event Photographer Bath, Bristol, London

Le Intro

Crikey it’s been a while since i had time to upload anything for a blog – but i thought i’d post a few belated pictures from last Septembers London Fashion week.

So – how do you shoot a fashion runway or catwalk?…… What even happens at one of these shows?

At a major show like London there is fierce competition and you’re lining up with some very accomplished photographers from all over the world….. best charge your batteries and be on your best behaviour.

The set up is that spectators line the runway and photographers bunch together at the very end  – the models therefore walk continuously towards you….head on & at a brisk pace before turning on their heels, casting a moody look, and motoring off back down the catwalk.

This alone tells you that you need a fast focusing camera and lens combination. At this even there were zero mirrorless cameras, and you can make of that whatever you will….. there’s a a whole heap of overworked, competitive, and well seasoned photographers sitting at the end of this runway and they want results all the way up the catwalk. The ladies move fast…. and through about a 25 metre distance in varying degrees of light and shade (more on that later).

To put it bluntly your camera focus and lens better keep up.

Ladies & Gentlemen – grab your positions

The floor at the end of the runway will have been marked out with tape into various little boxes. This has been done previously by the ‘House’ photographers and various agencies who, for reasons of editorial reach, will take some kind of precedence. But hey, various individual photographers can also tape-out a square for themselves and effectively stake a claim. Don’t do this square at the front and centre….. because the house photographer or videographer will simply ignore it….and they have the right to. What you can do if you’re willing to get there a little early is nestle down under the tripod of the house videographer though…..and this will give you a great ‘square on’ position looking right down the barrel of the runway.

There’s a lot of etiquette to these things….  but don’t despair if you can’t get front and centre…. some of the more interesting shots are often made when you arrive too late to get in the throng…. maybe even after the show has started ….. look for the big wide taking in the whole spectacle or an interesting long lens shot from a not so obvious angle. It’s all good.

learn to shoot runway fashion

Editorial & Event Photographer Bath, Bristol, London

At the end of the individual walkthroughs the models all troop through together and all of a sudden being to one side and off-set isn’t such a bad place to be. I was late to this show because it clashed with the previous one, so here i am at rear, offset to side and standing on a box. It’s still a nice shot that shows the atmosphere and size of the show.


A staple lens is 70-200mm which is used to track the model up the fashion runway. There is a lot of travel involved so focussing is going to be moving and continuously servo-driven. The good news is that there is a good degree of predictability to the subject movement, in that it’s linear and not erratic.

You will want a good wide angle (24-70mm) zoom to capture both wides and the models when they get close to you at the end of the runway…..and they WILL get close. To close for a 70-200mm to make much sense of.

Runway Fashion

Editorial & Event Photographer Bath, Bristol, London

Models start way back and sashay up the walkway  – ending up very close to you and your long lens.


An agency photographer is not shooting raw.  I man, they can be shooting raw – but they’ll be planning on using the paired jpg and getting it out fast.

You’ll be wanting to nail the settings then…..

The bad news is that despite being ‘lit’ by continuous lighting  – those the runway lights aren’t particularly powerful and areas of the runway may be better lit than others. Consequently there will be varying areas of exposure value that you’ll have to ‘ride’ either manually ‘on the fly’ or using Av or Tv Priority. Personally i ride the exposure manually and that way i know what Dof and shutter speed i’m at.

Runway Fashion

Half way up the runway

Shutter speed will need to be pretty quick – 1/400 – 1/500 up the runway and possibly dropping sharply when the models hold position and pose momentarily at the end of the runway. The movement here is not so pronounced and you can drop to 1/100 or even 1/60 believe it or not… Risky though.

End of the runway – about face, and turn

As you can see from the shot above as compared to the models in the background at the start of the runway, and at mid-point, the exposure is very different. This is still a relatively narrow aperture so i’ve dropped the shutter speed to provide a quick fix while the model isn’t moving too fast. It will sometimes be a toss-up between DoF and shutter speed … you pay your money and take your choice.

I try to get settings in my head for the start , middle and end points and capture those. The ‘grey’ areas in between are still useful and it’s not an exact science.

Colour temperature

Whilst the lights vary in intensity – they don’t skew too much in colour temperature. You’ll set this in K by taking a few test shots before the models move down the runway. If in doubt ask another photographer what the light is at – they’ll most likely tell you.

Don’t be surprised to find the colour temperature is very warm….. set designers often use tungsten and at low intensity the tungsten is even more orange than usual. A K value between of 3000 – 3800 is not uncommon.

Fashion Photography

Editorial & Event Photographer Bath, Bristol, London

To be honest this last shot could still be at 70mm – but she’s close and therefore you do need to be prepared to grab another camera if you have one and use a wider lens.

Fashion Photographer

Editorial & Event Photographer Bath, Bristol, London

Lights in the show above were bright – more uniform in intensity and closer to daylight…. but still tungsten.

event photography

Editorial & Event Photographer Bath, Bristol, London

Models above are making their way back down the runway in a long line….. there’s enough DoF to make it interesting but still ‘read’ the scene. The framing is uncropped and i think makes for an interesting quirky shot. Too much of the bottom on the left would make the picture wrong somehow. The show is basically finishing and you have all your fashion shots….. so there’s now time to be playful.


Fashion Photographer

Editorial & Event Photographer Bath, Bristol, London

Congratulations – you are now one of the ‘beautiful’ people and may sip Campari and Soda on a gondola in Venice. Now when someone asks what you do you can tell them you shoot fashion and have every right to be wearing some kind of stuffed animal as a hat or a pair of leggings.