All things related to Photography

Filming “A Certain Kind”

One of the nice things about being retired is that, to a certain extent, I can pick and choose what I do. And I can respond readily to requests such as “Dad, are you free on Sunday to manhandle the GoPro?”

The brief was to spend two minutes filming Isaac and his pal Andy walking along a path miming to the new single off their latest Cats and Crows album, Winter.

“We can do it in one take,” he said.  Yea, right!

The song, A Certain Kind” is actually four minutes long. The idea was to film him miming at double speed to impart a nice flow to the footage.

So it would involve walking quite fast but that was okay because the GoPro was to be mounted on a Gimble, effectively turning it into a SteadyCam which would iron out the bumps.

Ah… hang on… all this would need to be done walking backwards down a winding, uneven path littered with obstacles such as signs and fence posts. And all whilst Andy clowns around (literally) with water pistols, balloons and exploding Coke cans. Not quite so simple as the initial brief suggested but a lot more interesting nevertheless.

Isaac had made a detailed script for Steph to stage-manage and shout out the carefully timed cues. We had a couple of dry runs to rehearse, whilst Jayne broke out the face paints to complete Andy’s transformation.

When it came to the actual shoot, Jayne walked alongside me with a hand on my shoulder. She had to be the eyes in the back of my head, guiding me around corners and past the obstacles so I could concentrate on the framing, whilst Steph kept out of shot, timing everything, shouting prompts and handing the various props to Andy the clown.

We did it in four takes and I had the good grace to avoid falling arse-over-tit until right at the end of the last segment, much to the delight of the onlookers gathered at the windows of the nearby houses.

Then it was off to Isaac’s man cave where he carefully edited the footage. It was good to see his vision of the video come to fruition. And over 7,000 FaceBook views over the first three days was a great way to launch the single.

Video directed by Isaac Birchall, Filmed by The Hairy Photographer, Edited & Produced by Well Street Records.

A Certain Kind is the first single from the Cats and Crows album, ‘Winter’

Cats and Crows are Isaac Birchall & Andy Cooper.
(C) Cats and Crows 2019

Buy it here:

By |January 23rd, 2019|0 Comments

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The Lighting was Hell, the band were Merry

Listen while you read

It’s no secret that one of my favourite folk rock bands in the Wigan based Merry Hell.

They are lively, uplifting, and highly entertaining. They write songs in the modern folk ethos, with keen, wry, often humorous, observations of life and love. And when touched by discrimination, injustice and political malfeasance, they protesteth well through the medium of song.

We’ve had them perform at our own folk and acoustic club on a number of occasions, and indeed they will be back again in November [Link].

They are a great band to photograph too. The three Kettle bothers; gravelly voiced Andrew in his dapper suits, the plectrum chewing John with his animated guitar style, and the hirsute and behatted Bob with a face full of character that randomly breaks into the widest of smiles. And of course there’s the lovely Virginia, who is great to photograph because of her nimble and gesticulous performances, and just because she’s the lovely Virginia.

As this particular gig was at a club in a neighbouring town, I’d awarded myself a night off and left my camera at home, only to find on arrival, an SLR being pressed into my hand. I agreed to the request, quietly self-imposing a “three songs and out” rule so I could relax and enjoy the show.

You will have guessed by now that this is not so much a music review, being filed primarily under “Photography Talk”. Please go here for past Merry Hell reviews, and Here for Ron Lester’s review of the Rhyl gig.

The camera was a Fuji S5. My first digital SLR had been the Fuji S1 which I still have but rarely use. It was low on megapixels and lacked the ability to shoot raw, but I always loved the smooth skin tones produced by the unique pixel structure of  its ‘Super CCD’.

Being a Nikon user, the S5 felt comfortable, based as it was on the 2006 iteration of the Nikon D200. Because it was dark and there was a gig to enjoy, I didn’t have the time nor inclination to fully familiarise myself, so I went with the camera’s settings as they were. Luckily, I spotted the fact the auto-focus was set to dynamically focus using the centre spot, so not wanting to trawl through an unfamiliar menu, I utilised the focus lock button the ensure it didn’t keep drifting to focus on the background.

For this type of shoot, in the inevitable low level lighting, I tend to shoot on Shutter Prioriy at a 30th with auto ISO.

As well as the four main band members, there were the back line bass and fiddle players, Nick Davies  and Neil McCartney to consider. Getting all six in one shot was always going to be a challenge, so I altered my vantage point for each of the three songs. Whilst I was precariously perched  atop a rickety bar stool, Virginia announced she wanted everyone to sway along to “Bury Me Naked”. As infectious as the music was, I declined, not wanting to be buried just yet, naked or otherwise.

“I’ll send you the files”, he said, as I handed back the camera . What he meant was “will you process them for me too”. Anyway I didn’t really mind. Ron’s a mate, and he never objects when the tables are turned and I thrust a camera into his hands at our own club.

The following day, three dozen Jpegs appeared in my Dropbox, under-exposed (I knew they would be) and with the colour balance from hell (I knew this too).  What I hadn’t known was that the camera was set to shoot only Jpegs. Ah well. The Fuji’s firmware had done it’s best to cope with the mixture of low power tungsten, halogen and led spot/floods that illuminate the business end of Rhyl Folk & Acoustic’s clubroom, and in doing so had stripped out a hell of a lot of the digital ‘meat’ I am used to dealing with in my own NEF RAW files.

The sliders in Lightroom’s Develop Module looked like  something created by Salvador Dali, but we got there in the end and the images turned out quite reasonable considering the conditions.

I was satisfied with the images and had got to enjoy my first Merry Hell fix of the year.

By |February 14th, 2017|0 Comments

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Exquisite Body Art

Some exquisite images on here, in terms of the canvas, the art and the photography. Some of the most beautiful I’ve seen. Real works of art.

By |April 15th, 2016|0 Comments

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This fascinating video shows how a photographer’s perception of a person can influence the resulting portrait…


I’ve always been a “people photographer” preferring to photograph faces to trees, bodies to landscapes.

When I was a press photographer, working mainly on features, it was my job to tell a story in a single picture, or a series of pictures, that would correlate with the words that would be written by the feature writer I was working alongside.

Later, when I became a portrait photographer, it was my job to create a flattering image of the person before my lens. The whole idea was to make a sale and my customer was the person in the picture. Flattery was paramount.

Now I have retired, I think I need to start creating proper portraits again.  By that I mean images that portray the person. Not flatter or search for their most photogenic features. And not “tell a story” in the journalistic sense either.

The word portrait means, quite literally “to portray”.  To do that you need to discover something about the person and bring that out in a photograph. Much in the same way an artist does during the much longer time frame they have with their subjects.

I think I might enjoy working without the commercial restraints and get back into exploring the art of people photography much as I did as a young enthusiastic amateur.

I’ve just found this video that explains what I am wittering on about in just three minutes far better than I can put into words.


By |November 4th, 2015|0 Comments

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Sharon Stone at 57

Sharon Stone, 57, as she appeared in Harpers Bazaar. Photo by Mark Abrahams

At the BeautyPhoto Studio, we have photographed many beautiful women over the years and not all of them in the first flush of youthful adulthood.

We have also photographed women for a number of Naked Charity Calendars, their ages ranging from 18 to 85.

Brave, confident women.  Doing what they did to raise money for charity (over £40K in the past five years).

Therefore I find it sad that some people are saying of Sharon Stone: “Tut tut… At her age…”

I say – So What!

She has a beautiful body, regardless of her age, and between her and photographer Mark Abrahams they have produced some beautiful monochrome art.

But more that – they have said: be bold, be brave and be proud.

Some of the ladies on our calendars, and many of those who have had lovely boudoir photographs shot at our studio, would not pretend they have bodies as slim and as pert as Sharon Stone’s.  But they have been proud of their bodies. And they have been empowered by the likes of Sharon Stone, Demi Moore and the countless other celebrity “ladies of a certain age” who have posed naked proudly and tastefully.

They are creating tasteful art that transcends the common porn that pervades the internet masquerading as titillation.

Good on ya, Sharon.

You can read all about Sharon Stone’s nude photo shoot at Harper’s Bazaar now.

By |September 12th, 2015|0 Comments

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