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Wow, 3 years have past since I started my blog. It actually feels like a lot longer than that. Reading back at some of the posts makes it feel like a lifetime ago. Of course during the past 3 years so much has changed in the world of cameras. I wanted to take a look back at my personal work that I have posted here and reflect on the change of camera gear I have used.
There are too many people to thank for the past 3 years so I am going to try and mention some of them but forgive me if I don’t mention you by name. Cristina and Jon of course, Angeline, my new and dear friend Eric Kessler who is a big supporter of mine, my bro and terrible critic, Steve Weiss, Den Lennie, Rick McCallum who saw something in my work that many hadn’t… Beth Manning, Tom Lowe for inspiring me, Suresh Kara, Karen Abad, Tom Guilmette, Sara, Dennis Wood, Hien Le for making such an awesome 35mm adaptor, Aaron Pinto, Julie for being the person who started me off onto something different with the “If I were PM series”, the Vimeo team, the Exposure Room team, and my dear friends on twitter, the ones I have met and the ones I haven’t. You lot who come to my blog and read it and come back! Without you, the blog would not be here. Thanks to all of you and the enormous amount of people I have not mentioned. The meet ups too have been essential… Connecting with real people has been great. I will continue to do as many of these as possible. I plan on doing one in Amsterdam the second Saturday in December with Gert Kracht.
I try and answer as many questions as I can and I do it all myself. Cristina has come on board to help organise stuff but I want to be the person answering emails and comments as much as I can. I am sorry if I don’t always get to you, I try my best!
So… the blog started with my purchase of a Sony EX1. A lovely camera that I instantly fell in love with. Crisp beautiful full HD video, lovely overcrank, great slow motion, great for timelapse, solid state recording and it worked a treat with my 35mm adaptors…well not strictly true, it worked a treat with the Letus adaptors but not my other ones. My website itself had been going a year prior to this, just with iweb to host my showreel in order to get work. During the 17 years of working as staff for Sky News there was no need for me to have my own site… after going freelance there was.
The first job I did was a doco series for Channel 4. My Homeless Portraits short below is something I cut myself from the footage…
I am still really proud of it and it was probably my first “people” short, if you will, in all but name…I shot this on my old HVX200 with the Brevis adaptor. Not a great low light combo but it worked out here with a little additional light…Dennis Wood the maker of the Brevis adaptor said he cried when he watched it. A huge compliment and one of the nicest.
The first video I posted on my blog with analysis of the shoot was shot with the Sony EX1 and the Letus Extreme. It’s called Piccadilly Furs. I will be doing a commentary for all the films featured on this blog soon… but just do a search in the search button for the blog for each of these. Loads of info there, including what lenses I used etc…
I actually took the camera, adaptor, tripod and lenses out on the tube for this. Something I never do. It shows how small the rig was. This piece was a huge success on my blog. It caused my monthly .mac bandwidth to be eaten up within 1 day of going live…this was before I was embedding with Exposure Room and then Vimeo, before HD embedding…There are some lovely moments in here, the people, the timelapses, the slow motion of the couple crossing the street. I love the guy with the coffee cup running…
It was the combination of the Letus Extreme and the EX1 that gave me something to talk about. The quest for controlled depth of field and 35mm optics. It’s funny that just this week I saw the new Sony F3 which is essentially an EX1 with a S35 sensor in it. Took 3 years but the camera I always wanted is coming out… Although things have changed so much since then, is it now not good enough? What with the AF-101 coming out soon and of course my continued infatuation with DSLRs that shoot video, the Gh2 being my latest and it’s awesome!! This weekend I plan on doing a shoot with it as I love it so much, especially with my new Voitglander F.95 25mm…
Interest with the EX1 and Letus continued and I made loads of shorts in my spare time. A lot of the work I did was quite dull but paid the bills. This new camera with this adaptor made me want to shoot all the time so I did!
Dungeness is my favourite filming location in the world. I shot this below piece using the EX1 and Letus. It’s quite long, but very atmospheric. Worth downloading and sticking on a big screen. The music is by Holst from “The Planets” Suite. My favourite classical music album. I love black and white. Most of my photography is black and white but I don’t do much video work. I should do more. It works so well here. I do want to do some more filming down there soon but not sure what I can add…
These next two are easily two of my favourite EX1 and Letus films. I still love them to this day…a lot of my work has cameos in them…these two are no exceptions:
South Bank was filmed on a really crappy day but that is what makes it, well that and the haunting Radiohead track. I had permission to film within Waterloo station but it was a total blag. The timelapse which pan are digital pans from the 1080p master on a 720p timeline.
The combination of slow motion, tilt shift with the Hartbleis, music, location combine to make a perfect ode to my favourite spot in London. Hard to film there without permission but worth trying. So photogenic…I look back at this piece and see little I would do differently. Three years on and am very happy with it.
Kew Gardens is a magical place in Richmond very near to me. An oasis of serenity. Again, I blagged my way in there and even was chauffeured around by golf cart. This is a very serene piece to match the place. Helped enormously by the beauty of James Newton Howard’s music. I think he is the best composer working in Hollywood today. His work is simply wonderful and has been the best thing about M. Night Shyamalam’s films recently. This is from King Kong…I hope I have done justice to his music and maybe one day he may see the films i have to his music…and he like it!
When using commercial music don’t use it for paid jobs! I only ever use music like this for my personal projects. They all get tagged on youtube with itunes links…but if you are getting paid for something, license the music and either way…always credit the artist.
The shots of the ice skating make this piece for me. I can still watch this today and be totally transported back to that day 3 winters ago…I dedicated this to Julie. A special person in my life whom had a great influence on me as I mentioned earlier.
This is a piece I was paid to make. Shooting at Duxford airshow with the Letus Ultimate and the Sony EX1, t takes the concept which I love: people being around something… rather than focusing the film on the thing they are there to see, I wanted to focus on the faces, the characters. I did something similar more recently with a day at the races which you can see further down this post. The music by Elgar of course is Epic and helps a huge amount and the clouds and light that day…perfect…this is one of Rick McCallum’s favourite pieces of mine. I would love to see this on the Stag theater screen one day!
Alone in Tokyo I think is one of my more powerful pieces I have made. A lot of my work is me capturing a place, a city, a person and making a study of it. It’s what I like doing the most. It’s pure creative freedom, moving photography essentially. Sure I get people knocking it and saying it has no story etc., but I don’t agree. It tells the story of a city. A city full of beauty and history but one of sadness too. People need to think less in narrative terms and think in a more broader way. That is what I try and do. Tell a story in an unconventional way…
I was in Japan to make a documentary for two weeks. It fell through whilst I was there which was hugely disappointing so I was left there for week, alone. Hence the title. Thankfully Alex Kubalsky turned up and guided me through Tokyo to help me make this film. The money shot being the 360 degree rotational timelapses, done well before Kessler Crane made their Revolution head. I used a simple motorised telescope head and it worked a treat.
This is Cristina’s favourite piece I believe. It made her cry..soppy thing…The beautiful music of Air helped enormously of course. Do check out my other piece shot whist I was there at the world famous Shibuya Crossing.
3 seconds was again a paid job, but this was my own edit which I have done a re-grade and a tweaked edit on…much happier now!
Shot in southern Switzerland it really shows off the beauty of the Letus Ultimate EX1 combo. Easy to forget just how stunning the images out these were. So crisp and filmic!
Ennio Morricone’s music was a huge help and added much to this. The slow motion was 60fps 25p slowed down enormously using the Twixtor plug in. It can be really effective when used correctly.
3 Days in April was my first piece shot on the EX3, again with a Letus Extreme. I had the exclusive review of the EX3 when it was launched and this is what I shot to go with it…It was a tough one. I shot some footage in Richmond (where I live) on a nice day and didn’t know how I could tell a story from it. The next day I went back into Richmond, saw it was flooded and raced back to get camera to shoot. The next day it was covered in snow, I raced from my then girlfriend’s house back to Richmond to get the camera and shoot it. I had my story!
It’s often like that when I shoot. I am not sure where I am going with the piece, then something will click. Perhaps a perfect shot, a magical sequence or just glue to hold it all together. I always know when I have it and get frustrated when I know it is lacking it! Once I have it, the edit is easy…unless I am struggling to find the right music. Sometimes the music comes first other times it’s the other way around…
Love from Southend is a odd one. I was actually having a very, very miserable time in my life when I shot this but you wouldn’t know it from watching this. It’s a love letter to the British seaside. Shot with the EX1 and Letus Ultimate. Some of the nicest looking images I have ever captured with this camera.
For me shooting is so therapeutic. I was in a bad place when I shot this and I was lifted out of it whilst filming this. It truly is my therapy. I am never happier than with a camera. You may have noticed that I generally prefer shooting less than beautiful people. There are loads of shooters out there doing that. I would rather shoot the quirky than the stunning and there are some great looking characters in this piece. I would love to have sat down and interviewed them…
I used the same telescope mount for the timelapse here, a bit of twixtor here too…I also love the juxtopositon of the very french Charles Trenet music to the very English seaside shots. Not exactly South Beach Miami really!
I only went back to Sky once after leaving them to do a freelance job and that was for the Life of Crime series. A 4 part series of shorts which I shot, directed, and edited on the JVC HD201 and the F350. This was before the EX1 had come out… I was and am still really proud of these. You can check them all out here but here is my favourite with Great Train Robber Bruce Reynolds. I would love to have done a full doc with him. What a character, so many great stories. This is about as un-news like as you can get. I love these films still enormously. I made them with Julie, whom I made If I were PM with. It’s a shame they have never tried something like this again. They loved them, I think they just stood out too much next to a normal news piece
A did a lot of multiple takes with the two different cameras to get the look and the angles, hard work but I think it paid off.
Forgive me for jumping back but I actually made my Anorexia series for Channel 5 just before the EX1 and Letus Extreme came out. I shot them on the Brevis and the JVC HD201. I am immensely proud of these, which I shot, directed, and edited. They actually made a difference in the health system and caused change to happen and for anorexia to be more widely recognised. You can see the rest of the series here.
My favourite piece is easily Part 2 so do check it out. All this was shot with available light again….really impressive that Brevis adaptor back then…This was the first 35mm adaptor stuff I had shot for Channel 5. They had no idea what I was doing but they loved the look of it and did not care!
Going back to my EX1 and Letus shorts, my Siberian Portrait is another of my favourites, it’s almost Siberia’s People again. I had a lot of Siberian people email me saying it was so refreshing to see their country represented in the way it actually was rather than the stereotypical view it normally has…
Lots of people shots, including the governor…he is the tracking in shot. I think I really went on a journey with this one and am very happy with it. I may go back one day and use smoothcam on the helicopter shots. Would make them perfectly smooth. Just need to find the original edit!! Do check out “Return to Siberia”, about the indigenous people of the region, shot without adaptor. Just the EX3.
I have not done a huge amount of narrative short films and am keen to do more… This is one of my first, if not my first proper narrative short. Directed by Joe Shaw. Very powerful stuff. Single camera, EX1, Letus Extreme… I really want to do more narrative stuff so if you have a good story, get in touch with me. I am serious!
The writing, the acting, the directing (by Joe, son of Martin Shaw) are all so spot on. We shot this in just a few hours. Really proud of this, it’s hard to watch. It’s not pleasant but I think it still packs a right wallop!
As explained in the interview for CanonFilmmakers.com this is my favourite short. It’s my favourite location and it features my dad. I love this so much. Shot with the EX1 and the Cinemek G35:
To have this day with my dad captured on video, us together is very special to me. I adore my dad. I just need to do something with my wonderful mum next! I may shoot something with her tomorrow, if she will let me..
The below commercial was the first thing I shot that went to 35mm film print, although I never saw it. It was for London’s National Theatre, shot on the EX3 and Letus Ultimate. This would normally have been shot on 35mm film but due to the recession and budget cuts they couldn’t afford to…thankfully! Otherwise I would not have got the call!
This brings us onto DSLRs. I was late into them, after a bad D90 experience. I started off with the GH1 and this is something I shot very quickly with just the stock lens and a gorillapod but I still love it to this day. Part of the magic is the music, music is SO important. Now, I am cheeky in that I often use commercial tracks for my personal projects and always credit them. For anything commercial, as in I get paid, it is all licensed. I hope I do justice to the music and all of it has been tagged on youtube for use, so I feel ok about it… But never use commercial music for stuff you get paid for. You will become a cropper!
Then of course it was time for the 5Dmk2 to rear it’s beautiful shallow depth of field head. I was shooting using the EX3 and Letus in Hawaii and it was killing me. I had a 5dmk2 on loan from Zacuto so I decided to try it, despite the 30p and lack of manual controls… This is what I shot my first day using it. Turned it pretty nice! I ordered a 5Dmk2 that night after seeing the footage!
Next up came, I guess, my seminal piece: Sofia’s People. Shot with my newly acquired 5Dmk2 and a Zeiss 50mm F1.4 lens with a first generation Z-Finder. This is what I shot on my way to dinner. That opening shot is still my favourite shot ever!
A big part is of course the haunting voice of Stacey Kent.
A nice footnote to this piece is almost everyone who appeared in this has emailed me to say they have seen it and love it. I guess it went viral in Sofia. Not just that but I had an email from David Soul saying he loved it. That made my day!
It took me six weeks to feel comfortable with the camera and the workflow to use it professionally. My second job with it was for the Greenpeace Voices of Change series. Shot in Delhi over a week…I lot was shot for this, in fact I still have enough footage that I never used to make a Delhi’s people. I must get around to cutting that.
This is easily my most viewed short as it went out to a billion people worldwide for about 6 months on TV! Shame I never saw it! I have learnt a lot since shooting this, new picture profile for starters! Also this was video timelapse! A great edit by Daniel Bird on this. He told me he was gutted I didn’t shoot the other two in the series (they couldn’t afford to pay me).
I heard about the Canon 7D coming out and was desperate to try it. A twitter campaign by people asking Canon to let me try one resulted in me getting a phone call from them and I had a chance to try out a pre-production model. I shot this the evening I got it… I was kind of limited in what I could do but shot Dublin’s people a couple of days later!
Quite hard to shoot yourself you know? Thankfully I had a Marshall monitor on hand to help me! I had a lot of people (men) freaking out over “Shaving in back” as it looks like I am shaving against the grain, until you see it is all backwards….a fun piece!
Dublin’s People had a lot of views as it was picked up by a lot of sites due it being one of the first pieces on the 7D. Nothing amazing about it. But it showed how well it performed in low light and it had some nice slow motion in it. Far from my favourite int he series , but worth mentioning for that reason.
Not long after, I did another one of my people series, this time with more of a mini doc approach…all sound was the Rode Video Mic. A really good top mic for the camera. I hope to go back to Venice Beach next year and shoot a follow up to this…see if some of the same people are around. Especially “New York”!
I guess my biggest break came with the call from Lucasfilm to go to Skywalker Ranch to show them the capabilities of these cameras for use potentially in Red Tails, their new feature film and also the upcoming Star Wars TV show. I shot this off my own back the day after I arrived just so I could show them some new footage on the big screen. Little did I know that when I saw it on the big screen for the first time (first time I had seen any of my work projected on big screen) it was in the company of Rick McCallum, George Lucas, Ben Burtt, and Quentin Tarantino. Fucking terrifying!! Thankfully it came out better than I expected and they loved it…Read more on my epic blog post here…
This also had my first my successful Astro Timelaspse in it. I am NO Tom Lowe but he inspired the crap out of me! I am getting better, but will never have his skill or patience.
Here is my second short I made while visiting Skywalker Ranch…
This of course led to me being hired to be the second unit DP using the DSLRs on the reshoots of Red Tails… A huge honor and I am told 250 of my shots have made the final cut. My idea of having a drinking game where we have one shot every time a DSLR shot came on is out of the window now!!
I went to Prague to test out the Canon 1Dmkiv. Prague is a stunning city, especially in the winter, but bloody cold! I went to meet up with my friend film director Albert Hughes and the wonderful Rick McCallum who lives there a fair amount of the time. I made the film a literal journey of me making my way through the city. This is literally how I saw it. It was Christmas and so was very Christmassy! Rick has an awesome sausage eating cameo in it. Love the camera, great in low light…
I have been shooting timelapses for a long time, but it wasn’t until this year that I made my first entirely timelapse film, Sky. I made it in Dubai whilst I was there working on a documentary. It remains one of my most watched films. It’s interesting as this is one of my most viewed videos on Vimeo if not my most viewed. It’s been picked up by a lot of Dubai websites and used to show off the beauty of Dubai. It wasn’t my intention…my intention was to show the sadness and soullessness of the place. Don’t get me wrong. I love the people of Dubai, but in six years since my first visit a metropolis of empty skyscrapers had sprung up. It was sad.
A lot of this was shot form my hotel room balcony. My favourite shot is easily the tilt shift of the pool looking down. Clint Mansell’s haunting music added so much to this.
The film below was made entirely through glass windows from hotel rooms!! Again set to Clint Mansell’s music. I would love to meet him one day. A genius composer.
I mentioned “A day at the races” earlier. It’s one of two pieces listed that I did not edit, along with the Greenpeace spot… Shot with the Canon 7D PL and Cooke Primes. Lovely! I still show this at my workshops…
The original concept was to capture the majesty of horse racing, but with limited time, one camera and the longest lens being a 100mm this was not going to happen. I suggested doing a piece on the people around horse racing and it worked a treat. A lovely edit by Jeremy Ian Thomas and a great grade by him..
A lot of symmetry in this piece. A huge love of mine…
Showing the power of the cheap camera, with my T2i I went to the very odd Salton Sea, south of Palm Springs, to shoot for the day. A real workout for the camera there… intense heat and a lot of dust, but it came out a treat! I have to thank Sara for this piece.
All the sound is foley but the music by Ry Cooder helps enormously. I used the Kessler Crane Pocket Dolly V2 for the first time here and it worked a treat. Just a 2 foot slider and it added so much to the shots. An amazing location that I must revisit soon.
I MUST shoot more music videos. I love music, so why have I not shot more music videos? Don’t know. Well I am open to offers. Please get in touch with me. Below is the only one i have done to date. For Celeste Griffin of Monarchs. It was a spontaneous music video that I decided to do on the night after hearing Celeste sing on stage. We filmed for 45 minutes after her performance on the street with just available light and my 5DmkII and 50mm F1.2 with Z-Finder and that was all I had. No assistant. Just me and her.
The next day we met at magic hour and filmed for another 45 minutes. I had her email me an acoustic recording of the track to play on my iphone for miming too which was much better than the night before which was rough lip syncing. I cut it that night and showed it at my presentation on DSLRs the next day at SxSW!
I really really want to do more music videos. I have become good twitter buddies with Olly from Turin Brakes. They make beautiful music and to work with them would be a dream. Olly is a huge Gh1 fan, so maybe it’s time to get the new GH2 out for that!
Shot for my every now and then weekend challenges, Clock is the simplest piece I have shot and I think one of my favourites. Mixing timelapse with video, all done of one clock in my Boston hotel room…Black and white…one object. 3 days of filming! Mainly due to the timelapse! I must set some more challenges soon!
Monument Valley has been a place I have always wanted to visit ever since I saw “The Searchers,” quite a majestic place. I went there this summer with lots of my DSLRs and shot for 1 and a half days there. I wish I had had more time!
I was very lucky with the weather. Perfect blue skies would have ruined this. The clouds, the rain, the rainbows all added to this. I am in awe of this place and I must go back…actually blue skies next time for some astro timelapses…Most of this is shot from “The View” hotel. If you do go there make sure you get a room on the right hand side for the best view!
Below is another very simple piece. 45 minutes of shooting with one lens, the 100mm macro. Shot on a Canon 7D in 60p and conformed for slow motion. Really happy it came out so well… I made this for my good friend Eric Kessler. Simply one of the nicest most generous people I have ever met. He has done much for me and this little gift of a film of his fish tank is the least I could do…
Something a little different here… this month I have been raising money for prostate cancer by growing a moustache for Movember. I have been making a series of shorts for the TV channel Bravo. Below is my first one. Shot using the awesome Canon 60D. Makes filming yourself so much easier with that flip out screen!
If you can find it in yourself to donate anything to show your appreciation for the past three years I would greatly appreciate it. SUCH an important cause…PLEASE
Finally we get to where we are today, my most recent short, shot with a pre-production Panasonic AF-101 in Kyoto Japan. I really am pleased with how this turned out. It’s one of my favourites…another case of going out with no plan (all organised by Panny) and I had no idea how to make this into a short. Then the idea of using the driver Hirano San to be glue to hold it together and it worked a treat!! This actually is one of my favourite pieces!!
So 3 years have past and what has changed… I still shoot very similar stuff for my own pleasure and different stuff for paid work. Am I still creatively satisfied? Absolutely. I am lucky enough to love what I do and I am at my happiest with a camera in my hand, be it for stills with my new Leica M9 or shooting video. We have new cameras coming out like the AF101 and the Sony F3. There has never been a better time to be a filmmaker. But you know what, going through all of these videos that were shot with all these different cameras, one thing strikes me… Who cares what you shoot it on? It’s what you shoot that matters!