A Photo Tour in Andalucia

Next year we are offering Photo Tours in Andalucia, Southern Spain when we will be dipping our toes into the city of Seville, Spain’s sun dappled, fiesta loving, passionate land with the scent of orange blossom and the sounds of the flamenco guitar.  Also on the agenda is living like a local in Genalguacil, an Andalusian  mountain village seemingly sprinkled into the mountain and home to modern artists living and working alongside octogenarians who have lived here all their lives. Art works are displayed at every twist and turn of this stunning white village. Our tours will include a stay in Granada, with it’s medieval, moorish Albaicin area and the impressive Alhambra Palace. 

We travelled with Air Portugal from Miami to Malaga with a change in Lisbon. The flight out gave us 15 hours to explore a corner of Lisbon. Having never visited before we found it a pleasure, enjoying walking in the Jardims gardens, a coffee at one of the typical coffee kiosks and some satisfying warm Autumn sunshine. 

From Malaga we rented a car for a week to travel from place to place on our location scout. The first adventure was a drive into the mountains, an hours drive north from the coastal town of Estepona. The road winds up and down with spectacular views into the Genal valley, past olive groves, cork trees and sweet chestnuts. We met the occasional goat in the road who were not startled but merely peered at us as if to say ” I belong here not you” before hopping out of the way amongst the rocks.

A tourists takes photos of the scenic Genal valley, Andalucia, Spain
A tourists takes photos of the scenic Genal valley, Andalucia, Spain

In the village of Genalguacil we met Miguel, he is the Mayor of the village and a personal friend. Over a beer or 2 perched on rustic chairs outside the local Rural Hotel , where we were staying for the night – we casually discussed our plans to bring a group of photographers to his village. Miguel is very keen and proactive at bringing Artists into the village and offered ways to help including a studio for tutoring classes and an exhibition of final work to be printed in a brochure. The next morning we woke early to meet Salvadore, a friend of Miguel’s who was taking us to see some local chestnut harvesting. A great opportunity for Gary to get some authentic images of people / small business/ farming. 

After a typical late lunch with the locals consisting of  egg and meat soup, followed by tortilla we set out down the mountain for the city of Seville.

Almost 3 hours drive away Seville has been a favourite get away location for a while. Having always arrived by taxi we soon learnt how difficult it is to park a car! It took an hour to find a place, fortunately it wasn’t far from our Airbnb location. Once in Seville there is no need for a car. Everywhere is accessible by foot, the narrow winding streets have a surprise for you at every twist and turn with a cafe, plaza, decorative Spanish tiling, a church or monument. Photo opportunities abundant in the architecture, colour and lifestyle of this enchanting city. We particularly enjoy finding our way to the oldest tapas bar in town, El Rinconcillo established in 1670, not only for the great wine and tapas but also to people watch and shoot some street photography. 

Our 2 hour drive from Seville to Granada saw the scenery change again, expanses of dry arid desert land with layers of mountains as it’s backdrop. In the Spring the mountain peaks are snow capped and it possible to combine a day of sunny city exploring with a snowy Alps like hike. 

We chose to explore the Albaicin, the old Moorish quarter of the city late in the afternoon. With its medieval maze like cobbled streets to meander, climbing high in the town we got the perfect view over the terracotta rooftops. It is a neighbourhood where you can experience the atmosphere of its bars and terraces, and watch a red sunset over the Alhambra. whilst listening to the sounds of Flamenco coming from the caves.

Flamenco show in the caves of the Albaicin, Granada
Flamenco show in the caves of the Albaicin, Granada

With the curiosity to explore the coast between Granada and Malaga we spent our last night in Almuñécar a resort town on the beach. Not blessed with beauty by day we discovered a gem at night. At this time of year the town has few tourists, there are many beach front restaurants to chose from for dinner. On our to-do list was to sample some Espetas de Sardinas, freshly skewered and smoked in a wood fire laid in a boat on the sand. Carefully selecting a restaurant with tables almost on the sand we chose a table at the front, ordered our sardines and watched them being cooked. They were fresh and delicious and cost only €6. Sitting back with a good wine in a good glass, the sun had gone down, the night was warm, we toasted our successful treasure hunt.

Fresh sardines cooked on charcoal fire on beach, Almuñécar, Spain
Fresh sardines cooked on charcoal fire on beach, Almuñécar, Spain

The drive back to Malaga took us on the coast road through regenerated old fishing villages, some of which still retained charm with tastefully renovated fisherman’s huts, tidy promenades with typical pavement cafes and bars. 

In the city of Malaga where we have visited a number of times we always discover something new to us. The Cathedral, The Gibralfo castle, The Glass Museum, The Picasso Museum to name a few. This time we only had time to say hello to Picasso ( a statue of the artist sits in Plaza de la Merced) and sit with a coffee watching the people go by. Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881 in a house in this square and spent a part of his life here before leaving to study art in Madrid, Barcelona then Paris.

Now we have an itinerary for our photo tours in Andalucia but will be researching transport options using the train to travel between Seville and Granada. 

Going wild with a VW campervan in Spain

Beautiful landscapes, some sun and an open road in the Basque region of Spain. The perfect excuse for letting your hair down and going wild with a VW campervan.

Leaving the humid climate of Florida is always a good idea in August if you can get away therefore we chose to head to the Basque region of Spain. With it’s green vegetation and fertile land, mountain peaks as well as rocky coves travelling is curious yet pleasantly rewarding with a surprise around every corner. Add to this the decision not to use any organised campsites, instead we would seek out natural spots in forests, by the beach or somewhere wild for an overnight stop with the VW campervan. Of course this meant ensuring we left the spot undisturbed, removing any rubbish and choosing a location which was unlikely to bother any local residents – including animals! If in doubt we were always prepared to ask permission to park overnight.

Joined by friends in a classic 1965 VW campervan we had no plans and an open road. I wanted to capture the freedom and escapism we experienced on this road trip. Although using the technology of GPS systems to help us to an end destination was useful, we also found the old fashioned paper map invaluable to navigate our way through small towns and villages. It added to the charm of this get away from it all vacation.

Carefree moments are captured in the camera from the wind blowing our hair on the open road, baguettes and camembert cheese eaten by the road side and the sausages cooking on a gas stove for breakfast in the pine forests. Getting lost, really getting lost, adds to the scenarios with the paper map saving the day.

Nothing beats the evenings. Our skin tingles from the sun after a few hours on the beach and we have the wonderful feeling of healthy tiredness from a day of fresh air. We sit in our camping chairs with a citronella candle sipping chilled rose wine and looking forward to the next day’s adventures.

Going wild with a VW campervan in Europe may not be everyone’s idea of a relaxing vacation. But there are ways to incorporate it into a a few days away with the comfort of a proper bed and bathroom. Book a hotel on route or even better stay in a rental accomodation eg. Airbnb for a couple of days. This way you will keep refreshed while exploring and you will be meeting the locals who are always ready to share their knowledge of the area.

Our next Spanish journey is to the coastline and white mountain villages of Andalucia in Southern Spain. We are putting together our photography workshops for 2017.

See a link here to more images.

 

Stock photography and how we make it work

Stock photography and how we make it work
Woman in silk dress in the sea, used as book cover.

Developing concepts and ideas for a stock shoot pays off when you see the published work.

For us stock photography is producing and creating a curated collection of innovative still images and motion clips which are fresh, dynamic, compelling unbranded and released. The content is distributed by our agents to fulfil the needs of creatives who are looking for immediate images. This post explains a bit about stock photography and how we make it work.

OK, so we know what stock photography is but how is the content created, what is in demand, where do you shoot, who do you photograph and when do the photos get selected by licensed stock agencies?

Also stock video clips are making a huge impact on the market these days. Look closely at TV advertisements, how many can you spot which are mainly a bunch of video clips strung together as opposed to a full production? Thus we shoot video clips too.

The journey of a still or motion clip is basically the same from ideas to production to revenue in the bank and this is how we do it.

  1. Research. We research topics, keep up to date with latest trends, seek and meet interesting people (old, young, in between, active, individuality) seek advice on photo requirements from creative advisers and take note of interesting and suitable locations. It’s important to think of a concept for the shoot beforehand then build the storyboard around that.
  2. Planning. Sometimes a shoot is planned in fine detail with a production plan, models, crew, travel and budgeting but sometimes it is a walk on the beach with the camera, yet even this simple pastime has been given some thought, for example, the time of day, the location, what to wear and whether we need props.
  3. Production. Getting the right shot takes many, many captures and much patience from all involved. The lighting, camera exposures, props and talent adjusted and tweaked. Then the talent, be it a friend, relative, new talent starting out or a pro has to sign a model release…otherwise the pictures will be worthless. This needs to be agreed beforehand. Even dogs, cats, homes, offices, boats require a property release.
  4. Editing. Back in the office the photos are edited with a fine tooth comb leaving the best to be distributed to the agency for their selection.
  5. Key wording. Generally about half of the edit will be selected, these then get cleaned up in photoshop, removing logos and a little colour adjustment, uploaded to the stock agency portal where the metadata and description is completed using those conceptual keywords and phrases, these have to be good to get the images found, selected and sold.
  6. Selling. Images are now live and ‘for sale’
  7. Revenue. It could be 3 months before we see any revenue..it could be as little as a dollar or enough to book a plane ticket to a nice location for the next production.

That is stock photography and how we make it work for us.

Companies are asking us to produce in house libraries of content for their social media and advertising requirements. If this interests you contact us with your needs, we will be happy to help you. hello@garyjohnnorman.com

 

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.

Eating in Tulum, Mexico.

Nachos with freshly made salsa and dips with lemonade
Nachos with freshly made salsa and dips with lemonade

Food often plays an important part of our shoots and I thought it was a good time to reflect on eating in Tulum and the great food on our recent shoot in Mexico. We arrived in Tulum on day two of our two week shoot in Mexico.

The cultural downtown is mainly one road lined with restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and bars. This is where we decided to look for a place for eating in Tulum.

Driving along the street we observed it is rustic where locals eat and people go about their business. The cooking is traditional and often on view to the public. No shiny aluminium kitchen appliances but food is freshly prepared with fresh ingredients. The juices are delicious, the coconut water comes in the coconut, the service is exemplary.

After a couple of drives up and down the street we settled for El Vegetanario, a vegetarian restaurant on the roadside where we could park the car full of equipment in view of our dining table. We chose this place not because we don’t eat meat but because it was such an inviting, colourful place, with friendly welcoming staff. Our first discovery was complimentary fresh, crispy nachos and spicy dips to nibble while drinking the local beer or lemonade. We chose homemade carrot soup and mushroom burgers, the flavours of both were remarkable without the grease and we left with a healthy feeling.  Prices are cheap US $7 per person for a meal and fresh juice or beer.

When we didn’t eat out we had our lovely talent cook with us. One morning our male model prepared breakfast, a feast of scrambled eggs with peppers, toasted slices of baguette piled with avocado and proscuitto and tomatoes basil with olive oil. A delicious feast that we lovingly named the breakfast after him, the ‘Mauricio breakfast’!

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.

Hello Croatia

Man standing on bow of yacht with arms outstretched.
Man standing on bow of yacht with arms outstretched.

It’s the summer and we are saying ‘Hello Croatia” as we travel around the islands and explore the salty seas by boat .

We will be photographing lifestyle for leisure, financial and tourism around the enchanting sun drenched islands. On board will be photographer and captain, that’s me. Crew to include Anna the wife, stylist and cook. Jens, male talent, assistant and deck hand. Derek and Greg assistant trainee captains. We will picking up various talent along the way to help us create fresh new engaging imagery to engage your customers.

This popular image happened by chance. It was early morning, I mean early, not even all the crew were out of bed. The light was beautiful. This is the perfect conditions time for shooting using gentle natural light. Assisted by Jens my assistant we untied and manoeuvred the yacht out of the harbour. The light wind was perfect so Jens began to hoist the sails. At that moment I saw the shot, grabbed my camera and started clicking away, directing Jens into various positions and postures. A series of images in this series have been very popular with clients in the financial industry.

The image suggests a vitality and well being of the person, who embraces a new day with open arms ready to take on new challenges.

 

Four days in Spain

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We flew London to Barcelona, leaving cold, wet UK and arriving to cool late afternoon sun that warmed our faces. Four days in Spain started in Barcelona after which we were location scouting the tree houses in Sierra del Montseny, 84 km (52 miles) from Barcelona,

To get to our hotel the plan was to use the Train and Metro system but we discovered the  airport bus cost €5.90. It took us to centre of the city . This proved a wise choice as we later discovered there is not much room on trains for luggage, which we had plenty of due to the photographic equipment.

A taxi took us from Plaza Espanya to our hotel for the night for €8.00.

My usual luck was still in abundance as having lost our booking the hotel upgraded us to the penthouse suite! This included a kitchenette and balcony. Well worth paying for if you want space and fresh air. The hotel was in a super area, around the corner from Las Ramblas, a short walk to the Mercado and the port, plus the Metro on the doorstep. Highly recommended.

Wednesday 29th

Temperatures warmed up so we enjoyed a stroll along Las Ramblas. We grabbed some breakfast and headed to the market.  I planned to photograph Anna shopping amidst the moving crowds. Unfortunately this was interrupted by the appearance of security. Tapping the tripod and the word ‘no’ was enough for me to understand using a camera with tripod was forbidden. My idea was to shoot using a long shutter speed, keeping Anna in focus but blurring background, thus stability of tripod was essential. With plan A shot to pieces we moved into the street to try the same thing. This time we did not get in trouble but found a ‘crowd’ slow moving and avoiding us! So tricky to get the effect I was after.

Location scouting

After lunch it was time to pick up a hire car, load up and head into the mountains for a couple of nights in a treehouse!
(Fantastic place to escape from the world, very clean, good food and friendly helpful staff. Very little English spoken which pleased Anna as she then HAD to practice her Spanish! )

Only 1 hour 20 mins drive north and inland from Barcelona but we watched in horror as the temperature gauge in the car plummeted from 23 degrees to 5 at the lowest!!
At the ‘cabanas’ it read 7.5, however we soon cosied up with the gas stove on. There was no electric or water in the tree house, everthing was organic and kind to the world. even the toilet was a bucket with a lid and a pot of sawdust. Use your imagination here! We spent the evening in the farmhouse with wonderful home cooked food and wifi!

Thursday 30th

Breakfast was preordered. Coffee, juice, breads and croissants were delivered to our cabana in a basket. It was tied to a rope which you hoist up then enjoy on the veranda or in bed. Looking out over the tree tops, in our case. We really chilled out today then took a hike around the mountain discovering sun and warmth on the south side sheltered from the breeze.

On Friday 31st we returned the hire car back in Barcelona. As we got closer the temperature rose dramatically. A very surreal experience. After four days in Spain we returned to London Gatwick on 4.55pm flight.