Summer Fun in the Low Country

Brother and sister exploring outdoors and climbing tree in the summer vacation
Brother and sister exploring outdoors and climbing tree in the summer vacation

This month we packed our bags and the cameras and took a road trip to South Carolina to photograph and video some summer fun.

Here we caught up with a great family who were enjoying their school vacation in the great outdoors. The beautiful natural environment with big trees and expanses of water are the ideal playground for adventurous, brave, energetic kids to explore and learn just by being themselves.

Summer fun would not be complete without friends, brothers and sisters to share it with. This family of four took us to their grandparents home where they love to be. A tree swing, a big grass area to run around and a wooden boat dock jutting over the river was the perfect location for our photography.

We took along some props for the kids to have fun with. Some bubbles, water bombs and juicy watermelon were introduced intermittently. By doing this the kids response was real. Laughter, expressions and spontaneity where there to capture in the camera.

The really wonderful thing about these kids is their desire to be outdoors. They are not afraid to run barefoot, get dirty feet, swim in the lake and climb trees.

During a location scout we found a friendly neighbour who had a fallen tree in her backyard. It stretched across a muddy dyke where pieces of wood had been placed making precarious bridges. Having made sure it was safe ( Gary’s excuse for crossing the bridges and climbing on the tree trunk) we brought the kids to the tree and let them loose. Their pleasure at discovering a new adventure was exciting. Off came the flip flops and bare footed they explored their capabilities.

Back at the dock they amazed us once again by fearlessly jumping into the river, climbing higher as they gained confidence. It was refreshing to watch their support and encouragement of each other as their held hands and leapt to the count of three.

Of course Mum was at hand for these moments and no one was pressured out of their comfort zone.

Due to the great light in the early morning we were able to use minimal equipment. For stills a Canon 5dmk3 with a bit of handheld strobe light to kick light into shadows and for film a Canon 1dc shooting 4K and a hand held reflector.

Regardless of how much attention we paid to photographic equipment, propping and styling the best ingredient for this shoot was undoubtedly the kids themselves.

See a link here to more images.

A new product needs new dynamic imagery

Lifestyle and motion shots of Talaria 34R a new product for Hinckley yachts
Shots of Talaria 34R on the water

When a new product is created there is the need for new images and promotional material.

Often a rebranding is happening too, so it is likely that a lot of time has been spent discussing, planning and producing between clients and professionals.

As the image producer for a client who wanted fresh new images and a taster video for a bright, new, shiny boat just out of the box. I collaborated closely with clients, augmenting ideas. This accumulated to a two day shoot involving two sets of talent, a stylist, a drone for details aerials that helicopter just can’t achieve, a support boat and me and my assistant capturing both stills and motion.

However, an hour before leaving to begin the project I was notified of a problem with the new product that was out of our hands and would delay the start of the shoot and could even postpone it. Knowing a lot of planning and preparation went into this between everyone I was determined to carry on if we could. Eventually we got word the boat was ready but in a different location! Not deterred, a few calls and rearrangements enabled us to move the people and equipment to the new start location and work continued. The first day was shorter than planned and my shot list went out of the window, but the planning and preparation beforehand was invaluable as we still got great material for the client.

Day two ran according to plan shooting a few more hours bringing the total of the shoot to six hours. In this shorter time I was still able to deliver a bunch of enticing stills to enhance the new marketing of the product and a fun, sizzle video to wet the customer’s appetite. Best of all the client went home smiling!

Bad weather challenges a photo production

 

Family sailing vacation on luxury Hinckley Yacht
Family sailing vacation on luxury Hinckley Yacht

Despite bad weather this shoot has been my most memorable this year so far.

I was shooting for a regular client who I love to shoot for, putting a breath of real life living into the images for their brand of yachts. This image was captured in the last few minutes of daylight on a section of the intracoastal near Stuart, Florida.

However, it almost didn’t happen due to a bad weather front delaying our start by 1 hour. I have never called off a big production/shoot in all the 25 years of my career but this one was touch and go. An unexpected change in weather with heavy rain and stormy clouds challenged me to make a decision with the client. I held out and 3 hours later it paid off with this shot.

It just happened that in the end the ingredients were right. The sky with it’s moody grey clouds reflecting the amber glow of the sun as it descended from the sky and the perfect talent and crew on board all played a part in allowing me to get this great shot.

The talent on the yacht were a real family who live locally and are happiest in and around the water. Having worked with them before I had a good relationship with the children who trusted me with my directions and I trusted them to be confident on the paddle board and not fall in! At such a young age they were so accomplished but if they got tired I just hung on to the back of the board and paddled them into position, still holding my camera to get some great POV shots and wide shots of the boat for the collection. In this one I was shooting from a small boat, a Boston Whaler, with a shallow draft perfect for getting into shallow water and close up when needed. View a short teaser video below.

Croatia Coastal Journey.

Father holds his daughter as she steers the yacht
Father holds his daughter as she steers the yacht

The value of production can never be overlooked, a great example is from our shoot Croatia coastal journey.  

Months of communication with local producer, casting talent and hand picking a crew that were not only skilled sailors but competent and versatile to assist in image production too.

We chartered a yacht, a Grand Soleil 43 from NCP Yacht Charters in Sibenik, an hours drive from Split airport in Croatia. We were very impressed with this company, their communication was excellent and they are very welcoming. The marina was clean, efficient and well provisioned with super clean toilet/ shower facilities, supermarket and cafe/ bar.

For the first three days we took models onboard, a couple, a mum and young daughter, then twin 7 year old girls ( Papa came too ) We were sailing and shooting in different locations around the islands which meant picking up and dropping off at different locations in the Islands or on the mainland. We would be sailing from Sibenik on the mainland to Solta, Brac, Vis and Kornati National Park. I had the logistics finely tuned as sometimes the yacht hardly stopped, as we sailed by the harbour wall people leapt on or off the boat!  Also it was important to keep the boat fully provisioned for 8 people eating for 2 days and plenty of water, snacks, beer, wine and sun cream.

With so many crew everyone had their jobs. Production manager Anna styled models, took care of paperwork and fed them all. I directed and took the images, sometimes on the deck, sometimes from the dinghy propelled by assistants Greg or Jens. Whoever was left on the yacht controlled the lighting. Somehow, someone was always available to steer the yacht when it wasn’t the talent at the wheel.

We would usually anchor somewhere for lunch and  enjoy diving into the unbelievably clear blue sea to cool off. As captain I would look for an anchorage using the charts and work out distances and times, thus when we turned the yacht into the little bays we were always blown away at the first sight of the natural beauty of the location. Sometimes there was a cafe or restaurant which we either reached by dinghy or, my favourite thing to do, swim ashore!

When the shooting had finished it was just the crew left, time to really relax and recharge. We all enjoyed a sail to the Kornati National Park  Wow!, the bare rocks rise out of the ocean, a lack of vegetation give a moon surface appearance, it was as if we were discovering a new land.

A Cuba journey

Couple kissing in street in Havana, Cuba
Couple kissing in street in Havana, Cuba

Cuba is almost untouched since 1959, its beauty still visible in the crumbling buildings and in the innocence and openness of its people. With the impending possibility of increased tourism from America I travelled a Cuba journey to record the Cuban lifestyle as it is today.

I travelled to Cuba as a photo journalist to capture some Cuban lifestyle in the camera with a wide brief which excludes crumbling buildings, fat cigars or Vintage American cars – there is an abundance of that out there.  I wanted to get to Cuba  before Americans destroyed it by installing McDonalds and neon signs at every corner.  I travelled through Nassau, Bahamas into Havana as I was travelling with a US passport and advice seemed to suggest this caused fewer problems, I had no problems clearing immigration either way.

The itinerary was to explore areas of Cuba from Havana to La Boca, Trinidad, then back up to Havana for a couple of days then out to the west to submerge ourselves in the National Park around Viñales where the fields are full of tobacco plants. I planned to say in Casa Particulares, the Cuban equivalent to Airbnb, families opening their homes for 25 CUC a room for the night, followed by a hotel in Havana for a treat in the middle of the trip.

I got up at 3:30 am to catch a train to Miami at 4:45, a plane to Nasseau, Bahamas,at 9:00 am then another to Havana at 11 :00am.

As Havana is never in a hurry ( a pleasant virtue, not a criticism) by 2pm I was in a queue for exchanging money – you have to get your CUCs in Cuba, ( CUC is the tourist currency, locals use Peso) At 2:30 we were still there! I believed an American Visa card could be used in most hotels and restaurants but  soon discovered this is not so. Thankfully my wife’s trusty UK Barclays debit card saw us through the week and never got swallowed in a machine, it was all we had!

I picked up a pre-booked rental car and got on the road, getting lost leaving Havana and being stopped by police for a document check, thankfully all ok there.

The journey continued, long winding roads which wound through national park and mountains. The sea came in and out of view, another 30 mins would see the end of the road. Suddenly, on coming traffic was swerving as objects appeared in the road! Moving, scuttling and sometimes frozen to the spot, dozens of large red crabs took over the route. I tried to avoid them as many others had not, alas soon it was clear the swerving was, A. dangerous and B. impossible to dodge a carpet of crabs!

We did eventually arrive at our first Casa Particulares in La Boca, Trinidad. We were booked in at El Galeon but ended up at La Terraza – another casa belonging to a brother, great place with lots of space, bathroom, air con, breakfast etc. We ate at El Galeon in the evenings. Both highly recommended.

Trinidad is a Spanish colonial town seemingly  untouched since 1850. It was built on the fortunes from sugar plantations in the early 19th Century and it has stayed the same way as if clocks have stopped. The arrival of tourists in 1988, when the small city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, has not prevented the charm of this enchanting, quiet, sleepy outdoor museum where the clip clop sounds of horses hooves mingle with the leather faced, local cuban bands which can be heard around street corners drawing you in and making your hips sway. The cobbled streets, dusty roads, colourful buildings and red rustic roof tiles are all part of Trinidad’s soul. I hope it never changes.

While having drinks on the steps of Casa de la Musica, I met Di a single Chinese traveller taking pictures of herself with her camera and tripod. I got chatting and found out she is a freelance journalist from China and  had the same desire, to explore, photograph and capture Cuba as it is today. We teamed up and wandered the streets taking photos of Di as she explored the Historic town. We climbed the bell tower at the Museo Historic and peered down at the rustic red roofs, we listened to Cuban music and wandered in and out of the little squares and streets. We ended our morning having drinks together listening to a Cuban band at a cafe on the steps of Casa de la Musica, where we watched as the locals showed their best salsa moves and we couldn’t help but join in with the beat.

Next we headed back to the city to explore Habana Vieja ( Havana Old Town). I expected to see the crumbling buildings and historic cars which were in abundance. However, I was not prepared for roads dug up and left, holes, open drains full of rubbish, wandering stray dogs. I wasn’t getting any vibe. Tourists are constantly hassled for taxis or hotels and it takes the pleasure away from exploring. Later in the evening we did find Plaza Vieja which was regenerated and a nice place to people watch. We learnt there are 4 squares in Old Havana like this and they are worth taking a stroll to along with a meander along Mercedes a pedestrianised street ,so no hassle for vintage taxis or bike taxis.

Having dinner that evening, people watching in the street, looking up at the architecture and identifying different eras and styles, watching the men proudly cleaning their American cars, the city grew on us. It dawned on us that this place is stress free. No shop fronts, neon signs, sale signs. People chatting, kissing, holding hands, no heads buried in iphones. No heavy police presence..had we seen any? Happy, healthy people and well educated, the literacy rate is 99.8% .

 The next day I went out early to get some shots in low light around the harbour and a walk in the cool before the sun got too hot, then back for breakfast.

I decided to use a taxi for the next leg of of the journey. I liked to idea of a road trip in one of the classic American cars, with the potential of turning the drive into a photo shoot. However scouting the taxi ranks I found the prices inflated and lack of potential model appeal in the sweaty faced, bloated bellied local drivers.

Then I spotted Alejandro. Having dropped off a fare he was proudly polishing the dust off his 1959 Chevrolet Belle Aire. He was young, friendly, genuine and full of energy.  I negotiated a price ( 50 CUC ) and arranged to meet at the same place at 1pm and we all arrived on time, setting off on our road trip to Soroa, a National Park in the region of Pinar Del Rio, deep in tobacco growing country.

The following day we took a trip to Viñales, a beautiful drive through the National Park, winding roads , lush vegetation, valley and hills. We passed fields full of tobacco plants and drying huts, it was possible to see through the cracks and broken doors thousands of leaves hanging up to dry. Before heading back we enjoyed a panoramic view- and a gin and tonic, over the valley in a little cafe run from a house which we discovered at the end of a side road in the town.

The next day I summoned Alejandro to take us to the airport. He appeared as if by magic as we ate breakfast, the sound of the reliable vintage Belle Aire rumbling up the drive and our happy, enthusiastic driver leaping out with a welcome “Buenos Dias Gary!”

Link to more images here.

Superheroes

Superheroes with capes on the beach
Superheroes with capes on the beach

A big kid at heart, Gary’s favourite things are trains, planes, boats and the sea.

Where he can he incorporates these elements into his work along with a bucket load of fun!  We took some creative kids to the beach with a cardboard plane and lots of imagination, soon they turned into superheroes.

For this shoot we cast some street talent, there are some very naturally talented young people out there and we wanted the kids to play spontaneously. We found these three through a friend, also a model so she recognised the potential and the qualities needed in them. In fact, they took direction when needed really well, were extremely enthusiastic , not to mention a lot of fun. The shoot was themed around role play with the emphasis on girls in stereotypically boys roles too. Girls want to be pilots, astronauts or superheroes too!

One way to create a genuine imagine is not to prop and style too much. We provided the props but let the kids try them out, build, create and style themselves. In this shot they ran around the beach chasing each other then did this….. We just made them do it again for the camera.

A fun shoot…but exhausting, kids have so much energy!

LGBT couple

LGBT couple at home with their child
LGBT couple at home with their child

For the last year an image I created portraying a gay couple walking hand in hand has been the featured image on the front of the Getty creative website. With this in mind we realised the need for more authentic, relaxed images of real people in the LGBT community. This LGBT couple helped us by allowing us to photograph them while supporting the exposure of the gay community in lifestyle imagery for advertising

We welcomed the lovely couple into our home where they would feel relaxed and confident to be themselves. The addition of a baby to create a little family widened the scenario. The result was a collection of images full of vitality, warmth and energy. Real people in real situations.

Sailing adventure photos

A sailing lifestyle around the islands of Croatia
A sailing lifestyle around the islands of Croatia

In June we went on a swashbuckling adventure around the islands of Brac and Hvar in Croatia. Three fearless and daring models came on board to shoot some lifestyle sailing adventure photos. This shoot included some fashion shots for a customers swimwear collection. We sailed out early in the morning or later in the afternoon to catch sunrise or sunset. Timing was crucial to capture the low subtle light that is so important for the style of Gary’s images. Switching between stills and footage and dealing with extreme weather changes which caused calm seas to become tumultuous, meant we had to be very adaptable…often at the last moment.