Weather protection saves the day

Heading to Richmond in Yorkshire on Saturday morning to photograph a parade of the Royal Irish Rangers Association, who have ties with this area since their formation here some 40 years ago I knew the weather was going to be bad – the local radio was saying scattered heavy showers, and a severe weather warning was given for some parts! Great.

So about four hours later it was all over – water from my soaking fleece was running down my arms and dripping heavily from the cuffs, my trousers were sticking to my legs, socks damp, my Domke pouches, full of my gear were dripping wet. My notebook, containing all my names and quotes and other information I would use to help me write up my piece to accompany the photos was soaked, pages stuck together. Generally, a bit of a nightmare.
My main concern was obviously going to be my camera gear – 2 Nikon D2x, 12-24, 24-70, 70-200 and 2 x SB800’s. One of the speedlights and the 24-70 remained in my pouches, not worth changing the lens and risking water getting inside the camera, which it was bound to do, so they were left. But the rest was out and exposed for the duration. I’ve had my gear wet before but never to the same degree as this, the rain never eased really for the whole event.

It reached the point were you couldn’t really see through the viewfinder to compose and if it wasn’t for autofocus you would struggle to get anything.

Towards the end I gave up on wiping the lens of the 12-24 with my chamoix leather cloth, just couldn’t get rid of the smears so I tucked the lens into my fleece pocket as the camera hung from my shoulder to try and protect it and worked with my other camera.

It has to be said that the weather protection now built into these cameras is incredibly effective and saved my gear from some serious damage.

Hopefully I came away with something useful and it was a challenge to try and keep concentration and get the pictures I wanted to get.

Young and Old

I was able to photograph the end of a ‘Freedom Parade’ today after coming from another job, soldiers from the 2 Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (formerley the Green Howards) were parading through Redcar to be awarded the freedom of the town, earlier that day they had done the same in Middlesbrough. Along with the freedom parade it was also an opportunity to mark the recent return of the Regiment from operations in Afghanistan, a Regiment who has very strong links to this area of the North East.

These are a couple of the shots from the day showing the flag waving school kids from a nearby school reacting to the camera but there to support the troops nonetheless and the other, former soldiers from another war, watching proudly from the sidelines.

There was a lot of support from the members of the public who lined the route and applauded and waved flags as they passed, having been part of many parades in one way or another over the years this was the first time I have seen such visible support.

Hey Man, What’s in the Bag..?

Photographers love talking about their kit! Cameras, lenses, bags, pouches, flashes, filters….on it goes….Over the years some tend to accumulate enough camera bags and pouches to supply Jessops if they had to.

Money is spent on buying this stuff, money that could well be spent on other things – food for example, and yet despite the common sense of it all we continue to pay out money on the endless hunt for what we think will be the ‘ultimate carrying solution’.

I have now come to the decision that I will not buy another camera bag until the one I have now falls apart. I bought my first Domke bag in the early nineties and despite having had three other bags from another make I always come back to this.

Before I go on I should just point out that I’m not endorsing one make over another, this is just my preference, and you’ll have to come to your own conclusions as to what works for you. Although if anyone from Domke are reading this and want to send me loads of free stuff then please do!

So I thought I would put up the type of kit I use and carry on a daily basis – I have two main carrying set ups that I use depending on the job. One is a standard day to day set up for when I’m at work the other is a set up I use if I need to travel extra light or if I am doing some of my own work.

I am using a Domke f2 bag which forms the base of my main day to day set up, it is a hard wearing canvas and unobtrusive, it allows easy access but doesn’t offer massive protection to your gear but on balance it works for me. The photos illustrate the type of kit I have in the bag, this is every day kit, where the types of jobs can vary significantly so I try to cover as many possibilities as I can whilst trying to keep the weight down.

So what makes up my kit – first off I use two Nikon D2X bodies with three main lenses for work. A 12-24mm f4, 27-70mm f2.8 and a 70-200mm f2.8 although at times I will also carry a 20mm f2.8 and a 50mm f1.8 prime lens. With these are 12 memory cards of various capacities from 4Gb to 512Mb. These are carried in a Think Tank wallet which folds up to a small enough size and also has a space to slip a business card inside so that if in the (nightmare) scenario of losing it, it may get returned- yeah right!

As you can see in the photos other kit I carry will be spare camera batteries, AA batteries for the flashes, of which I normally carry two SB 800’s, spare download lead to connect to a computer, an off camera flash cable, spare gels for the flashes (CTO and green), a small tripod, mainly for mounting the flash on for off camera flash work when using the Pocket Wizards. These Pocket Wizards are carried in the pouch from a SB800 speedlight with a piece of foam between them for padding. Also, and thanks to Matt Kirwan ( for the ‘top tip’, the plastic bag that the Pocket Wizard synch cable comes in fits over the SB800 perfectly providing an impromptu waterproof cover!

Other items carried are a chamois leather and lens cloth, blower brush, which I also use for cleaning the camera sensors and a small paint brush. A notebook, pens, passport photo ID, a digital sound recorder, a Swiss army multi-tool card, and my contact book and diary which has all my appointments inside and all my contacts that I may need to transmit photos to.

My lightweight kit consists of the pouches which can be adapted for the job, take them all or just one, can be worn around the waist or over the shoulder as a normal camera bag, with these I will carry my 2 cameras and if it’s my own work then usually my prime lenses but it depends on the job, memory cards and spare battery.

My prime lenses consist of a 14mm 2.8, 20mm 2.8, 24mm 2.8, 50mm 1.8, and 85mm 1.4. I like using these lenses, they’re lighter, I think still better quality than zooms although if there is a gap it is closing fast and also I like the way you have to work harder with a prime from a composition point of view – it makes you think more, obviously they’re not so good for main stay press work but I think it benefits you as a photographer to shoot primes every now and again when possible.

In Iraq I worked with a set up like this because it was easier to ‘sling’ the pouches across the body which made getting in and out of armoured vehicles easier than it would have been if I carried a normal shoulder bag – you have to carry a lot of kit anyway and space is limited.

I also carry a lighting set up for my day to day work which stays in the car until I need it. Following the techniques and advice given on the Strobist website ( my set up consists of a small light stand and clamp a transparent or shoot through umbrella, a home made snoot, made of cereal box cardboard and black tape in true Blue Peter style! All carried in a manfrotto tripod bag.

All this allows me to use a wide range of lighting set ups depending on the situation which can only benefit the end result which is, after all, what your after.

I never leave the house without a camera –ever, whether I’m working or not, I have come close to missing some photo opportunities in the past and won’t let this happen again, some of this kit will always be with me, some is job dependent, but this set up allows me to cover many different job types and seems to work for me.

What makes the grass grow?

I recently photographed young Infantry recruits from the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire as they went through bayonet training as part of the syllabus of training that all recruits go through at the training centre.

This was my first attempt at incorporating both stills and ‘real time’ audio into a multimedia piece as opposed to just laying down a music soundtrack over the pictures.

It was produced using Windows Movie Maker.

Any comments welcome.

A Fitting Tribute

I attended the funeral recently of a British serviceman killed in Afghanistan. Trooper Robert Pearson who was 22 and was serving with the Queens Royal Lancers came from Grimsby was killed when his vehicle went over a mine.
At the funeral, held at St Mary’s church in Grimsby, what became very obvious was the huge public participation. The street running alongside the church was packed with members of the public who were there to pay their respects.

The local newspapers in Grimsby had announced the funeral and had asked people to show their respects on the day, one paper included a full page picture of Trooper Pearson with a Union Flag superimposed behind him.

The picture shows a member of the public, and, to my knowledge has no connection to Trooper Pearson whatsoever, and yet she takes this picture from her paper and attends the service as a mark of respect.

This was replicated by many of the people who attended the service which was broadcast into the church carpark through loudspeakers. They stood in silent respect holding flowers, this picture from the newspaper, or simply with hands behind their backs. Many cried. All for someone who they didn’t know but still wanted to pay their respects to.

It was a remarkable sight, in this day and age, that so many people took time out from their day to attend.

About time

I started this blog last year when I was away in Iraq. However through a combination of work load, other distractions and general laziness I have neglected to keep on top of it – much to my frustration.

However, he says optimistically, this is going to change and I will endeavour to keep this updated with my comings’ and goings’ for anyone remotely interested. It is very much a ‘work in progress’ and the content and direction of the blog will no doubt change as I go along, but we’ll see how it goes.

Working in Iraq

I have recently returned from Iraq where I was working with the British Army in the South of the country in and around Basra.

During the time I spent there, some six and a half months in total, I was able to photograph various aspects of life for the British Troops in this volatile part of the world.

I was able to document patrols that were undertaken in many different parts of Southern Iraq, not only in Basra itself but also further north in Maysan province where troops lived for weeks at a time, in the most basic of conditions, in the desert. Moving daily to avoid potential mortar or rocket attacks they lived an almost nomadic life as they patrolled the vast expanse of the desert trying to combat smuggling activities that are carried out by various groups in this region.

The conditions proved to be just as hostile at times, with soldiers having to endure extremes of freezing temperatures at night to scorching days and, following the heavy rains at the beginning of 2007, thick mud that stuck to everything that moved and everything that didn’t!

The following are some of the images were made in the Maysan province…further images from Iraq can be seen on my website

Feel free to have a look and any comments are welcome.

After The Silence

The idea for this project came about as I was walking through one of the larger towns in the North East as I was heading for a train. It was a couple of days before Remembrance Day and as I was walking along I happened to noticed that there was a lot of people who weren’t wearing poppies. Again I saw this as I sat on the train and I begin to think of a photo project that would raise the awareness of people to the reasons behind this tradition that we have of wearing poppies and what former soldiers do throughout the year once the spotlight of Remembrance Day has passed.

I didn’t just want to show veterans wearing poppies and marching to their respective War Memorials as people traditionally see, I wanted something different.

My idea is to show veterans, of any war or conflict, be it World War 1, although sadly many of the veterans from this area have died, World War 2, Korea, Suez, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leon, and of course the last 2 Gulf Wars in 1991 and 2003 and Afghanistan.

I want to photograph them in their natural surroundings, or where they feel more comfortable, be it walking their dog along a beach, sitting in a club with a pint, or reading, or something that shows what they do through the year when the focus has moved on and the average person on the street does not even think about them, or what they have done in their past.

Why do this?

What might it achieve?

Maybe nothing… probably nothing…But if the photos aren’t taken, then eventually, as the years march on and these veterans have died then the reasons behind what they did and the fact that they did it and were involved in such a big part of history, will die along with them and even fewer people will wear a poppy, let alone understand why they are wearing one.

So I’ll try and make some pictures and I’ll post them on here and maybe someone who wouldn’t normally wear a poppy, might, just for the day. It isn’t much to ask.

If anyone is interested in getting involved in this project…especially veterans then drop me an email and we can take it from there. Especially in the North East of England and North Yorkshire where I am based.