Off to AoR this weekend

I’ll be off to Archers of Raunds, in Raunds, Northamptonshire surprisingly, for another challenge this weekend.  Saturday sees their end of season fun shoot in aid of Bradley Denny, who is currently shooting with Archery GB and looking to make the Olympics.  It’s an expensive time and the club are hoping to raise some cash to help with the development fund.

I’ll be trying to get some nice action shots from behind the line whilst they are shooting.  Low light (again) but at least it’ll be much slower action.  The issue this time will be getting decent images whilst standing behind the archers, or behind and to the side at best.  Room along the shooting line will be tight for this one, so getting decently framed shots could be interesting.  If only the shoot was outside, it would be a lot easier.

I think I could use some good luck yet again.  The session is for a good cause, so hopefully I’ll be able to deliver.

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More practice session images

Eclipse Gymnastics Tumble Squad

Eclipse Gymnastics Tumble Squad

Today saw me heading back to the Pemberton Centre and an attempt to capture some high speed action on the club’s tumble run.  Hopefully, the better lighting in the main hall will prove adequate and we’ll get some flying gymnasts for the clubs website.

Following the refurbishment at the Pemberton Centre, the lighting is a lot better in the main hall, but even so, it still proved a pretty big challenge to keep the gymnasts in focus and stop the action to get some reasonable shots.

So, 70-200mm 2.8 lens mounted onto my Canon 5D MkIII and with AV priority mode dialled in with 500th second and ISO set to Auto (Uhh Ohh), we’ll see what we get.

The session included a mix of Acro and Tumble shots because there were a few new groupings trying new things on the Acro floor and a few images caught my eye whilst moving around the hall.  Those have been dropped into two different galleries for ease of browsing.  However it was the tumble run that too most of my time and attention.

Ellie Flying and Spining

Ellie Flying and Spinning

During the shoot I switched between AV priority and manual mode and experimented with both auto and manual focus.  The camera speed and high ISO appeared to be working out fine, even ISO values into the 10,000 mark looked OK and the images would later be cleaned up a little in post processing – another reason why onsite printing is not always going to work and why many professional event photographers stick to the safe stationary or slow moving shots in good light.  That said, the remit for today was to get the kids off the ground and the images for use on the club’s website.  These images would therefore be smaller in size and noise (graining) would be less of an issue.

Ellie and Lucy enjoying a rewarding Acro Session.

Ellie and Lucy enjoying the session

Overall, I was pretty happy with the results form this shoot.  My only disappointment was focusing.  For posed images you always focus on the eye and let the rest flow.  However, when you have someone running at you and then flipping and twisting through the air at speed, you don’t have time to frame the image, let alone pick put the person’s eye.  Manual fixed point focusing was also not working because not all of the gymnasts took off and landed in the same place, so it was out with the rule book and back to pot luck – all too often the case with this sort of photography.

Inevitably, the cutting room floor soon became littered with deleted images, but we still managed to secure a nice number of reasonable (and some very nice) shots given the nature of the shoot, lighting conditions, etc.

M4Photo.co.uk Goes Live

M4Photo's brand new website

M4Photo’s brand new website

After much research and testing www.m4photo.co.uk has finally gone live.  I must extend a huge thank you to Charlie at Southcot Services who has put up with a large number of questions and for giving me access to a test domain to try things out and to see what works prior to laying out any cash.

I have gone for a minimalist approach to keep things nice and clean and easy to use.  The left navigation panel provides users with access to 99% of the pages in the site.  There are a couple of pages that expand on information contained in other pages and those includes links were necessary.

The site features the obligatory Home page which includes a number of images with links to some of the galleries in the website.  Ease of use has been my highest priority and this approach provides users with a really quick way of finding recently added galleries.  I’m not sure how deep this page will grow, but it’ll always include some of the open galleries and others will drop off over time.

I have two highlighted white menu items which provide access to a gallery browser.  This will make locating your gallery much easier once the number of galleries grows over the next couple of years.  The second of the two highlighted links provides information about how to order images from the website – more on that in a moment.

We then have some information about the services that M4Photo provide, some Frequently Asked Questions (which will be added to) and ways to contact M4Photo or book us for a shoot.

Opening your gallery requires a username and password if the content is sensitive or the owner wishes to keep their images to themselves.  A padlock icon on the main gallery page shows which are open and which are closed galleries.

I have opted to have one gallery for each club, school, person, family, etc.  As with Eclipse Gymnastics, I am hoping to built a working relationship with clients and this approach will enable me to locate all of your image galleries in one place.  Take a family for example: an initial gallery might include a stag or hen party, the wedding, first born, second born, parties, key anniversaries, etc.  Sporting clubs will have a growing gallery of events of all types, all in one convenient place.

Once you have accessed your main gallery page, you’ll see a number of images which can be clicked to open up that specific gallery.  The images are then presented as small thumbnails for quick browsing and these can be opened to view a larger 400 x 200 pixel image.  These are too small for printing but give a good idea of what the image is like.

I have also just added a Gallery and Comments page.  This will no doubt be changed from time to time but it has been included so that visitors to the site can see some of my work in a slideshow style presentation.  Below the slideshow, I will be including some of the comments received from time to time.

M4Photo says NO to Tradition.

That is the dilemma that I am working through at the moment.  With the website almost ready for publication, the question of whether I offer onsite printing or offsite printing has once again come to hassle me.

There are some good positive points for photographers to offer onsite printing and all of the big boys do just that.  DE Photo, Professional Event Photography and many of the smaller independents all offer onsite printing and discussions with some other photographers all tell me that to maximise the business opportunity, onsite printing is the only way to go.

However, through M4Photo I hope to break with tradition and offer something a little different.  Traditionally, onsite printing means just that, you buy a hard copy print at the event or you order a hard copy print online.  These are copywritten, meaning that if you want another copy you have to pay again, if you want to scan it and publish it on Facebook, you’ll be breaking their photographers copyright.

Whenever I spoke to people (parents and children) the overwhelming reply was that they wanted both printed images AND the ability to share them in digital format without the worry of breaching copyright laws.

So, the clear message is to print onsite and maximise the business opportunity through offering an impulse buy on the day and ignore the fact that people might have bought the wrong image, the image quality might be compromised, the framing slightly off, etc.

Hmm – I want to enable kids to share low resolution images online and for parents to be able to make multiple copies for their own personal use, or to order larger prints or products from a photo lab or their local supermarket.  I want a more quality focused, customer friendly approach.  If this bucks with tradition, maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but let’s see.

So, research done and decisions made – the M4Photo approach will be to offer an offsite service.  This enables me to spend more time capturing images and then they can be post processed where required.  Afterall, if you are going to spend your hard earned money on an image, you want it to be the best that it can be right?

This offsite service will consist of the ability to buy a low cost digital .jpg file.  This will be of around A4 size and it will be emailed to customers.  This will both reduce costs and give customers the flexibility that they want.  M4Photo are also going to invest in a professional grade Canon ink based printer that will handle numerous paper sizes up to A3 in size.  These prints will be made available as plain paper images (numerous sizes up to A3) and A4 cardboard mounted images and A4 framed images.

The printer remains on the wish list pending initial purchases, but I feel happy in my approach and only time will tell whether this is going to be workable, profitable and a welcome approach by our customers.

Eclipse – Regionals in Leicester

Eclipse Gymnastics, Leicester Regionals

Eclipse Gymnastics at the Leicester Regionals

Today Ellie and I will be heading off to Leicester for the Gymnastics Regional Tournament.  Ellie was only competing in the afternoon and with four groups competing during the day (one at lunchtime) this was an opportunity to test myself once again.

The venue was interesting because there was a large tiered seating area along the left side of the floor and no access whatsoever to the front or right side.  Furthermore, when we got there all of the seats alongside the floor had been taken and I found myself behind the far left corner.  Not the best place.

I’d been invited along at the Eclipse photographer and seeing other clubs taking photographs from the front right side, I made my way over to where the Eclipse gymnasts were waiting to be called forward.  Less than a minute later, I found myself being quizzed quite forceably about what I was doing, what the images were to be used for and I was quickly kicked out of the area and back to the seating area.  So much for clubs being allowed to take photographs.  Hey Ho, the joys of photography.

In the end the guy did me a favour.  The professional photographer would position himself towards the front right edge of the floor and this gave him a background of spectators and more worryingly a family who were seated right up against the floor at the back left edge.  Those people would form a lovely background, even if F2.8 was the order of the day.

Thankfully, the lighting in the gymnasium was better than most and I found myself a little home at the top of the tiered seating at the front left of the floor.  A little further back than I would have liked, but with images shot in RAW and large format selected, I knew that some post shoot cropping would have some nice images for the website and the club to use.

The Eclipse Gymnastics gallery is password protected because the images are of children and for this reason it is not openly available for viewing.  However, if you are one of the competitors, please see Terry who will be happy to give you the club’s username and password.

All in all, another great day shooting images and I have since received some amazing feedback from some of the parents, one of which told me that my images were better than the professional at the venue – motivation indeed :-D.