Just a simple still from this project I'm working on. It will be about 1'.30"- 45" long and has taken me about 15 hours to shoot so far. I expect about 10 more hours shooting I should have a draft ready to polish.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Friday, November 6, 2015
The Tar Barrel runs are held in Ottery St Mary's, Devon, England. A tradition built around the November the 5th bonfire night celebrations. Only people from the town can run the barrels. They run in teams carrying the huge barrels through the crowded narrow streets as people jump out of the way! I really enjoyed the event, it was wild and had the perfect balance of fun and danger. It will form part of my 'British' series, which will compile my shots from festivals and events from around the country that are quintessentially British.
Further to that one of my shots from the night was picked up by the Telegraph.
The final essay can be seen here.
Monday, November 2, 2015
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Sunday, September 6, 2015
- Cable bag. A tough heavy duty polyester pouch. I keep all my cables in here, along with spare device batteries.
- Notepad. Small with somewhere to keep a pen or pencil. To be honest this one is annoying, the spiral spine just isn't strong enough.
- Gitzo GT1542T Traveler. Its carbon, durable and compact, can't ask for anything more.
- Solargorilla portable solar charger -rugged water resistant 5V & 20V Solar Panel. I'm a big fan of Powertraveller equipment. I take a mix of it depending in what kind of project I'm working on. This can trickle power directly into a device or charge the Powergorilla battery pack (below). With these bad boys you can keep your DSLR, laptop and phone on even if your out in the boonies for days.
- Packsafe. Anti-theft Adjustable Cable Lock, Slashproof heavy duty steel cable. Snatchproof locking systems locks and anchors your gear to a secure fixture. Being security conscious is as important as keeping back ups of your memory cards and images. Getting your gear stolen is no joke, you can replace expensive equipment but if you loose your images too... they are gone. While this won't stop a determined thief it will put off opportunist ones.
- Snood. Just a cheap and cheerful Snood. It can keep a chill off your neck or protect you from the sun. Wear it in the summer to keep the sun off your neck and the insects away or as a headband to prevent sweat running down in to your eyes when you're active, or around the wrist as a sweatband*.
*For the record I have never used this as a sweatband or headband...
- Nikon MB-D14 battery grip. Speaks for itself, keep your DSLR fully juiced up particularly if you're shooting video. This grip also has a AA battery slot which gives you a plan B. I use this for any long events photography gig.
- Nikon MB-D14 battery AA slot. Comes with the above and is a pretty handy option for long remote travel.
- Suunto Core All black outdoors watch. I love this watch, honestly I do. Its tough, and has a shed load of useful features. It will give you sunrise times, has an barometer, altimeter, storm-warming, compass and of course tells the time.
- My Special camera kit. This is a simple fishing tackle box with some of the dividers cut out. In this is a infra red trigger, bespoke sensor cleaning kit, camera spirit level, hot shoe cover, View finder cover and various useful bits.
- Sony Card reader. Loads of different versions on this, just get a decent one so it doesn't take an age to get files off your cards. I've had this for a few years now and its never let me down.
- Swiss travel world adaptor. These are awesome, some come with a USB connector too which is great for charging devices. I used these on all my trips. I literally don't leave home without it.
- Maglite and a spare pen. Maglite is a great bit of old school gear. Available in many colours I went for blue as I've too much 'tactical black' gear which can make you look a bit of a twat plus its impossible to find in the dark. Saying that avoid looking like your on the way home from a Rave and ditch the dayglo colours as you'll stand out a mile. As an aside I also use a Cree torch which are pretty cheap and powerful.
- Powermonkey Explorer. This was the first power pack I ever got and I'm not sure if I'll need now I have its older brother but its pretty handy to have in a day bag. It comes with a little solar panel and a bunch of sockets for different phones. I just use it to keep my iPhone alive and its great to have the reassurance that you've got another charge in your bag when travelling. Check out the spec in the link.
- Important docs bag. Simple tough plastic, waterproof(ish) bag for all important docs. Long term trips I'll keep flight details and insurance papers in here, passport scan. I tend to carry my more important docs on my person in the Unpocket (below). I also carry my Vax sheet and Press pass. You can keep copies of most important docs in your email but it doesn't hurt to have a paper copies, in case you can't get online or your gear is dead.
- Powergorilla. More Powertraveller shizzle. The powergorilla laptop charger will give you an extra 2-5 hours of power, depending on your laptop's specification, and over 20 hours on various other electronic devices. powergorilla will work with devices up to 24Volts - so from your laptop, right the way down to your mobile phone or iPod. You can even daisy-chain, so whilst the powergorilla is charging your laptop, you can charge the powergorilla from the mains power supply. Or charge your laptop and your mobile phone simultaneously = BADASS.
- Tripod ball head Markins Q3-TRQ.
- Wash bag. Don't take too much, you can get everything you'll need in the city you land in. If you're going on an expedition / adventure it's probably worth bringing a first aid kit too.
- Eagle Creek Packet Cubes. I love these things. I use these constantly. It turns packing into a game of Tetris you'll win every time. If you are travelling for any length of time, get a few of these, they will change your life.
- Head torch. Get one with a number of settings; Red - for night photography so you can see without getting blinded by white light and then a number of settings / strengths. This isn't just for outdoors work, hotels and hostels can often have weird or bad lighting set up so torches are a must.
- Unpocket. This is made from waxed canvas on the outside which is naturally soft, durable and water resistant. And on the inside, the police-grade stealth fabrics physically block all RFID, GPS, WiFi and Cell signals to ~100 dB. Why do I use it? Stop your cards and ID getting skimmed.
- iPhone 5. I prefer iPhones as I find them more reliable than Android devices. I'm pretty agnostic when it comes to devices, I just want one that works and won't let me down. Whats more important is the apps I use. I use Booking.com, Google Translate, Easy Release, Evernote, Whatsapp, Skype and Music and my beloved Podcasts.
- Macbook Pro. I don't think I need to explain this one. However I would say get a smaller one than me. I dragged this beast across Northern India for 5 months and my back is still crocked....
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Some shots of my recent campaign work for the Royal Navy on the Royal Navy site and their social media channels. I've had a couple of requests to do one of these for my own kit so I'll get one up in the next week or so.
Sunday, August 9, 2015
Been playing around with low key portraits of late (of my partner, naturally). Simply get one source of light, focus on the highlights with the eye catching light and the process in LR with a dash of PS and you're done. The great thing about this technique is it allows you to capture a striking image virtually anywhere that has a single light source in very poor light conditions.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Monday, July 27, 2015
Sultan Nevrus marks the first day of Spring according to the old Persian calendar (the word Nevruz is of Persian origin and is a combination of the words ‘nev’ (new) and ‘ruz’ (day), meaning ‘new day’). The celebrations are held in honour of Ali ibn Abi Talib, who was both the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the first young male to accept Islam. They culminate in the ritual Ijra, during which Shejh Adrihusein Shehu pushes long spike-like needles called Zarfs through the cheeks of his sons and some of his followers, and devotees chant the Zikr: a mantra-like repetition of verses from the Quran.
The rite of piercing, while an act of devotion, is also said to have its roots in the culture of the military men who made up the ranks of the Sufi order throughout the Ottoman Empire up to the present day. As Shejh Lulzim Shehu of the Union of Kosovo Tarikats explained to me, these men prepared for wounding in battle by giving themselves physical traumas and practising Zikr in order to cultivate an ability to remain calm under physical and mental stress. The origin of Sufism is a subject for much debate. For many, Sufism has multiple religious and cultural links, with pre-Islamic roots, but it is generally thought of as the mystical heart of Islam with its beginnings in the first centuries following the life of the Prophet Mohammad.
The Rifa'i Order is widely accepted to have been founded in the 12th century in Basra, Iraq by Ahmad Ibn Ali al-Rifai, and arrived in the Balkans 400 years later, when Kosovo was ruled by the Ottoman Empire, though the current branch wasn't established until 1860. In 1974, Shehu's father Sheikh Xhemal founded an association of Dervish orders and Shehu's branch is now one of seven practising in Kosovo. Sufis believe that they can commune with God in a deeper way than achievable in orthodox Islam and use music and dance in their rituals - which are forbidden in most Muslim worship. For the Shejh and his sons the day of Sultan Nevrus has a festival atmosphere and this year they welcome to the proceedings esteemed guests Seyh Veysel Dalsaldi from Istanbul and Shiek Mohammad Ihmedan from Houston, Texas, as well as the Kosovan President, Atifete Jahjaga.
When I first arrive to join them on the Friday before the celebrations I meet Shejh Adrihusein Shehu at his Tekke (the Sufi gathering place and house of worship) where he talks to me about Sufism. ‘Most people are here, on the surface of the ocean,’ he begins, holding a strong-looking hand horizontally in the air. 'But Sufis, Sufis go deep, go under,’ and he sweeps his hand down in a diving motion. His eldest son, Sejjid Rina Shehu takes me on a tour of the Tekke, listing the ages of the various ritual axes and weapons that hang on the wall. ‘This is 200 years old,’ he says, passing me an ornate Zarf. It is crowned with a large, heavy bulb from which short chains ending in tear-shaped disks cascade. The chains fan out wildly as Sejjid spins the Zarf between his palms. In the centre of the wall there is a semi-circular enclave called a Mihrab. It is bathed in green light and is filled with Zarfs ranging in sizes with the smaller ones intended for the younger boys to use and the heavier ones for the men. Sejjid is 25 and was first pierced when he was five years old. His brother Xhihan is 19 and experienced his first piercing at seven, and Emir, the youngest of the three at 12, began his piercings at the age of six. Sejjid explains what he takes from the practice of Zikr, how it makes him content and happy. He radiates a sense of calm as he talks. The piercing he explains, isn’t the focus of the day, it is only part of the ceremony. The focus is the Zikr, the devotion to God.
I am invited back on the eve of the Ijra. When I arrive I am politely ushered into the Tekke to sit with the lesser ranked Sufis and the young boys. An important dignitary is due to arrive and the Shejh and his guests will hold a private audience with her. Sejjid casually tells me the guest is the Kosovan President, Atifete Jahjaga. She stays for an hour with a TV crew while the Sufis sing. They continue long after she departs, completing the Zikr and retiring to Shejh Adrihusein’s lounge where we all drank sweet black tea and they sing Turkish Sufi songs late into the night. On the wall there are photographs of the Shejh as a young man, and of his teacher, and a depiction of Ahmed ar-Rifa’i (1118–1182), the founder of the Rufa’i Order. These pictures represent the Shejh’s Silsila or lineage and I am shown an ornate document of this Silsila depicting a family tree that traces the Shejh’s lineage right back to Ahmed ar-Rifa’i himself. This is the lineage of the Order, its teaching and the Ijra ritual. As I leave I am told by the Shejh, to come early tomorrow for the ceremony, it will be busy.
By noon the next day, the day of the piercing, the courtyard of the Tekke is full to capacity. Men in suits and in Sufi robes stand around talking and smoking; elderly mustachioed men in traditional Kosovan white hats are greeted and given seats. By the door of the Tekke two Sufis stand guard, holding ceremonial poleaxes, crossed to bar the entrance. They move the poleaxes out of my path as I approach but their faces remain stern and solemn. Inside, the floor of the Tekke is filled with concentric circles - or Halkas - of kneeling Sufi devotees: both men and boys dressed in white and black robes and felt Fez hats. Their ages range from five to 85. The room is alive with expectation and the audience areas are full to capacity, with Kosovans of all backgrounds in attendance. Above us, viewing galleries of white-scarved women look on: they are the partners, mothers and daughters of the men and boys below. Shejh Adrihusein enters, wearing a green robe and a black and red turban. He is followed by Seyh Veysel Dalsaldi and Shiek Mohammad Ihmedan and flanked by senior Sufis. For several hours the Sufis sing and chant, the songs building up into fast, guttural breathing. It is loud, frantic and immersive and it is utterly impossible not to be drawn into the intensity and rhythmic noise in the room. The chant is addressed to God, starting slowly and gently: ‘There is no God but Allah’. The devotees raise and drop their shoulders to the pace as they chant louder and louder, accompanied by the rhythmic beating of the Kudum, a flat drum, not unlike a traditional Irish Bodhrán. The chanting draws to a crescendo and the Sufis relax and settle back to a gentle swaying with a soft and drawn out ‘Hu’ before it all begins again. The words are sures and ajets from the Quran. Hu means God is one, Hu in Arabic mean’s ‘He’ its symbolizes God and its seen as one of the names of God.
The time approaches for the piercings and the Shejh blesses the Zarf needles in preparation. Emir, the Shejh’s youngest son stands before him stoically as the chanting Shejh takes a small Zarf from the Mihrab, blesses it by slowly pressing his lips along the long sharp needle and easily passes it through his son’s cheek. Emir does not react and retakes his place in the core of the circle of swaying Sufis while several boys wait their turn. As the chanting crescendos, the Shejh chooses a larger Zarf and men stand forward who wish to be pierced. Sejjid is one of them and his father presses his fingers on the outside of his son’s cheek and pushes the point of the Zarf through the flesh in one well-practised movement. The pierced Sufis do not bleed as they sway back and forth, holding the large bulbs of the Zarfs in their left hands. An 85 year old man holds a Zarf that pierces through his cheek. In the centre of the circle two senior Sufis dance, spinning the Zarfs between the flats of their palms, causing the chains that circle them to fan out and cut the air. They push the points deep into the hollow of their throats before piercing both cheeks. The only blood appearing is a small trickle after the Zarfs are removed. One of these men - Aliezgar Kabashi - wears a formidable moustache and has steely eyes but he is kind and humble and later thanks me for attending the days events. On his cheeks he wears small circular scars of many years practising Ijra.
The Shehu's eldest son Sejjid, talks to me after his piercing. ‘I feel happy,’ he says, simply. ‘See, there is little blood.’ He points to a thin line of congealed blood that has tracked a path through his beard. After the ceremony is completed I am invited to the Shejh's lounge where he has a media audience. Here the Shejh promotes a message of religious peace and open-mindedness. Having seen the devastation of war and ethnic atrocities - in an area that is still recovering from the 1998-99 war against neighbouring Serbia - he understands the need for Kosovo’s different cultures, ethnicities and religions to celebrate their similarities. ‘We are all believers in the same God, but take different paths,’ he tells us. Within the Order there is a true sense of community and brotherhood and it’s clear the celebrations are deeply important in the lives of both young and old practitioners alike. The rite and tradition of this, the first day of Spring, is an inherited responsibility that has run through generations of the Tekke and will continue through the family of Shejh Adrihusejn. At its core is a mysticism and belief in the divine that is compelling, and which provides a unifying cultural cornerstone in Kosovo that Kosovans from all backgrounds can celebrate.