Shooting the Venice Carnival

The atmosphere in Venice is very festive during the carnival, with people walking the streets dressed up and throwing confetti all around you, which traditionally is very much part of the festivities.




I arrived in Venice with the weather being less than ideal, which was alright as it gave me the time to just chill and sort out what I wanted to do, pack the gear I was wanting to use. The next 9 days were going to be a little crazy, up at 05:30 to get ready to go down to San Marco Square where many masks come down to be photographed in the morning light, which, could be exceedingly beautiful as the dawn breaks, for the rest of the day its pretty much moving around from location to location looking for Masks as they generally wander the streets normally towards the larger spaces as the narrow streets of Venice are not easy for them to walk in, in their costumes. To make the most of the Masks and their costumes, is to take them away to a location that's away from the crowds where you can photograph them in a little more peace and with better backgrounds, that in itself is not always easy as they will not just go with you  unless they know you or know of you.


It is not just about the photography though, as much as it is a part of meeting new people, other photographers and forging new friendships along the way that make this annual pilgrimage such a rewarding experience, that makes you want to return time and time again. The  colorfulness of the costumes and masks can make for some gorgeous images matched with a good background and you might just have a wonderfully unique portrait. Photgraphing the Masks is not always an easy task as you are up against the cell phone brigade who sometimes in their enthusiasm have no idea that they are jumping in front of you to get their shot or selfie, but these are generally only a problem in the touristy areas where they mostly hang around, so to get them away with you can be as easyily done as just asking them to move to another location, sometimes they are willing and sometimes not.

By going to the carnival regularly it becomes easier, the masks get to know you, they have received their photos you took of them so they know you will send them images, they go to so much trouble and effort to make these costumes that its almost a sin to walk past them and not shoot them, now granted many people take photos and send them to the Masks, but not all the images will be liked by the Masks. Some people who send them images have done no edits to them so have not brought out the best in the image, while others have really made good edits to the images and they will be remembered by the Masks, so when next year comes around they are almost looking for you to shoot with you.

There are many places to go shoot in Venice, the challenge is to find a different background, something a little different but trying to compliment the dress, otherwise it could just look out of place. Shooting in San Marcos square early in the morning certainly never gets old, it does not matter if you shoot there a hundred times, you never know what conditions you will find in the morning, it could be misty, sunny, raining or overcast, personally my two favourite conditions are misty and early morning blue hour, misty being my absolute favourite the conditions are so surreal and moody. The drawback to shooting there is that it can get really crowded with photographers and with models, so it can be hard to find a clean background or the composition you would like. 

Venice is such an exciting city with so much to see and do, enjoying the narrow alleyways finding little shop's that make speciality tiramisu, other shops making chocolates, shops making lamps from glass blown on the island of Murano, clothing shops that sell garments from local designers, all hidden in alleyways around corners, it's a wonder anybody can find shops there as it can be a little challenging especially if its your first time, but then again for most first timers its the one and only time they will come to Venice and they mostly see the sights. Now as a photographer there is basically a picture around every corner, and its not hard to find one.

If you come to Venice specifically to shoot the carnival be prepared for early mornings long days and late nighters if you so choose, the models are all over and walk around, there are some gatherings at certain places through out the time where many of them come together, it can be a little crazy though with many models and possibly even more photographers so that's when a little patience can be handy otherwise you will never get the image you would like.


What equipment should you bring:  The key to that question is try and travel as light as possible or drag along an unpaid assistant.

One or two bodies, a backup is always essential, a 24-70, and a 70-200 at the very least, a wide angle is another good lens to bring. For many of the images you can shoot without a strobe, so if you don't have one or are to afraid to use it don't panic. The only time you would really need it is the balance the morning like and the evening light with flash, shooting with the gorgeous sunrise and a little flash can really give you very pleasing results. Some folks bring constant lights but they can be frowned app-on by other photographers. Comfortable shoes is essential or you will have a dire day. If you are incorporating the carnival into your holiday, you can still shoot the models in the morning enjoy time with the family and shoot again for sunset, this way everybody is happy. 

One  of the most exciting part of Venice for me is the number of really good places to eat dinner, I would stay away from any of the restaurants near any of the touristy areas and the level of food is mediocre at best, do a little research there are truly some fabulous restaurants to dine at.

If you have been thinking about going to Venice, don't put it off, spend at least 4 days there, anything less than that you will not see much of Venice, its will all be a blur of trying to see everything. Hope you have enjoyed this short little blog on shooting the carnival, if your have any questions hit me up here on the blog, instagram or Facebook. 


Been Published Matters

So been published in a big name magazine is a rather big thing, for many photographers this is a dream they strive for, some get published often, others once or twice and some never, It kinda depends on many circumstances, good old fashion luck, knowing people, or your work actually been that good that magazines want to publish your work or want to know your story.

While I was in Birmingham a few months ago I met and had a chat with Mr Dave Clayton, the Kelbyone self proclaimed evangelist and all round nice guy. So while we were chatting he asked if I wanted to be published in the Photoshop User magazine which, Is distributed worldwide but published in the USA, and possibly a front cover, naturally I jumped at the opertunity. 

So it was a kind of questions and answere interview, which was great as I have a great story into how I got into photography. SO while I did not make it onto the front cover, the photoshop awards guru beat me, Damn him I still made it into the magazine, which is great. A short story, but more importantly it gives a photographer a little more credibility been published, which when asked if you have been a published photographer can have long term benefits. 

So been published does matter.



Alu Dibond wall mount review from saal-digital uk

Recently i cam across a add post on Facebook, now normally I would not click on these sites as generally they are crap, but I clicked on the saal-digital link as they advertises a GBP50 voucher if you review any of their products, so after looking into their web page I realized there products are similar to Whitewall products that I had used before, So I though ok Ill give this a go, I read other reviews people had made and they seemed happy.

What I did not come across was people doing a like for like comparison and as I'd used WHITEWALL before I thought I would do a review on the same product and see if there were any differences. 

First off you can order the prints online without downloading any software, what I could not find on the saal-digital site was an option the change from cm to Inch, unless I missed it, not a major issue but would be nice to have the option.

Ordering the print is straight forward, select type of wall mount, type of wall fixture, or framed option, size of print and your done, add to basket and do the payment and depending on what type if product you ordered it comes via DHL very well packed.

So side by side the products are identical same finish and quality, there's no fault there, where I found the difference was in the price options which I will detail below.

Price: for my  size option 33x16 inch

Print only: Whitewall GBP 62.95, Saal digital. GBP 77.95

Print with aluminium wall mount:  Whitewall GBP 85.95. Saal Digital GBP 97.95

That's a GBP12 difference which could be the shipping costs if ordered from Whitewall, I have both companies product samples and they are pretty exacting so with the same product the only difference is the price. Whether you use either company you are still getting a very good product, you just decide on how much you want to spend.

The bottom line is I would look at both companies to see which is better priced in the future.


From top left to bottom right.

Product arriving all warped up 1-3, front and side view 4-5, Whitewall's aluminum system as apposed to Saal Digitals system 6-7 and them side by side, Whitewall at the top 8 

The Strypes - Live at the Olympia Theater, Dublin

Having a second opportunity to shoot the lads from The Strypes at the Olympia Theater in Dublin was an awesome chance to try and capture the other side of the stage that fans don't always get to see and experience, so arranging the coveted ALL AREAS ACCESS PASS was just the ticket I had worked hard to get.

We left home really early to drive down to Dublin and timing was perfect hitting peak hour traffic both through Belfast and into Dublin(well its safe to say its probably busy here anytime of day). Parked the car and tried to checkin early but no go the room was not ready, dropped bags and headed straight down to the theater.

I was able to shoot the entire sound check and make images you would never get while shooting during the gig, I mean 3 songs, that's all you get and its sometimes hard to get really good shots during that time. Using a little flash during the sound check makes a huge difference to balancing the ambient light with flash.

The lads are really accommodating during the sound check allowing me to bounce around them, getting right up to them. Obviously they are very different on and off stage and it was great to experience that in a band, that are surely set for great things in the future.


The Empty Stage

The Empty Stage

Once the equipment arrives, its the time of the "roadies" to offload and start putting the show together, setting up instruments and plugging audio into the sound desk.


Snapping  Evan on the way a quick gig for, before the main show

Snapping  Evan on the way a quick gig for, before the main show

Probably one of my favorite images from the gig, I just love how the light catches Ross and a little of the balcony.  

Probably one of my favorite images from the gig, I just love how the light catches Ross and a little of the balcony.  

A greta shot of Josh, the red light perfectly matches the red tie he is wearing.

A greta shot of Josh, the red light perfectly matches the red tie he is wearing.

And another favorite image of the evening, Ross front and center, where the lady's like him

And another favorite image of the evening, Ross front and center, where the lady's like him

So finally I had arranged with the Lads to get this image with the crowd in the background, its such a lovely venue that makes this image something special.

So finally I had arranged with the Lads to get this image with the crowd in the background, its such a lovely venue that makes this image something special.

KT Tunstall, Mandela Hall, Belfast 30 October 2016

Sunday saw me drive down to Belfast from Portrush a mere 64miles to go shoot the very talented KT Tunstall at the Mandela Hall. This been the first time i was shooting there i left a little early, and made sure to stop off at Town Square coffee shop first to relax and have a good coffee.

So with the concert on a Sunday its always a risky move in terms of people coming to see the show, i know i felt a little lazy but once in the car, i could not wait to shoot her. 

Braids kicked off the evening, a three piece from Montreal, there music somewhat difficult to categorize, some would say artistic experimental, interesting tunes non the less, finally KT took to the stage sporting a Freddy Mercury look, it was Halloween after all.  As she warmed up the stage the on thing i admired and enjoyed the most was her interaction with the crowd, between songs she would not just head into the next tune, but chat to the audience and even took the time to do a onstage selfie with someone in the crowd even if she was wowed by the crowd do do it, she gave in.


She played all songs we know and love, and some new ones, my personal favorite Black Horse and the Cherry tree i sadly missed, a great night of music, the venue she chose was small and intimate which, for those lucky enough to get tickets, were in for a treat and a very special Tunstall gig.

Mazda CX3

Recently I received a call from Mazda UK's PR department wanting me to shoot the new CX3 on the Causeway coast road of Northern Ireland, the brief was to showcase the vehicle been used in different sporting activities, aimed at the 30's generation. The CX3 would make its way across the UK driving the most gorgeous coastal roads and capturing the car in different locations.

Causeway Coastal road from Dunluce castle

We had decided to use Golf and scuba diving as our activities, naturally the thought was to shoot the car on the Royal Portrush Golf Course, it made sense as its among the top golf courses in the world, sadly they did not seem interested or wanted to be associated with the brand. It was decided that Ballycastle would be an excellent alternative, giving us fantastic views over towards Fairhead.

We managed to get the car onto the fairway right next to the green, allowing us to capture some wonderful images. Some folks seem to think that a set of golf clubs would not fit in the boot of the CX3 i set about to prove them wrong, infact the golf bag fits in beautifully you just need to take out the drivers........ Now thats not a unique issue to this car but to most cars today, unless you drive a luxury model with tons of boot space. It has  generous boot space and the clubs fit in quite well. The weather was fantastic, i wanted some puffy clouds in the air and they were spot on, giving us a nice dramatic feel to the coastline and what can be at times a rugged coastline.     

The following day we opted to go down to Ballintoy harbour, as its a great location set in dramatic style, it can be a very busy location as its really popular, even more so now after they filmed some scenes from the very popular Game Of Thrones series here. 

I knew i could get the car on the pier near to where i wanted to shoot. On a stormy day this little harbour can produce some amazing and really awesome wave action as they break over the rocks. Here it was the time for scuba diving, again plenty space for wet suits, BC's cylinders,masks and fins. Its a comfortable car to drive in, as im really tall and sitting in the back seat there were no issues with leg room. Its an all round really versatile car. 

Ballintoy Harbour

Ballintoy Harbour

Dramatic Ballintoy Harbour

Driving in and around the North coast is a treat, the roads are gorgeously dramatic, somewhat narrow in places, but will leave you with a lifetime of memories wanting you to come back

The Road to Torr Head

The Road to Torr Head

The Road to Merlough Bay

Bottom of Murlough Bay

No shoot is complete without a visit to the now famous Dark Hedges, another location for the Game Of Thrones TV series. This can be a tricky location to shoot now without anybody else in the image, it has become that popular. It also proved to be the most popular image from the series, with a whopping 28% engagement on social media, when the norm is around 5% on the Mazda UK social media platforms.

These tree's are in their current state of been leafless, and look dramatically different when they are in their full leafy state.

The Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges

French Toast on Queen street

French toast funnily enough was not invented by the French, infact it has been around long before France ever existed as a country, although the exact origins of french toast are unknown, but traditionally it was made up from stale bread, and up until very recently  the vast majority of humans would never have dreamed of wasting food, therefore one had to find a way to make stale bread palatable. By soaking it in egg and milk solved that problem and made for a tasty meal.

The earliest reference to doing this dates back to the 4th century Rome, in a cook book attributed to Apicius. The Romans would take the bread  and soak it in a milk and egg mixture, and then cook it, typically frying it in oil or butter, which is pretty much just the way its made today in many countries  in the world.

Another popular myth as to the origins of the name "French toast", is that French toast actually came from America, specifically, being created in 1724. The name French toast came from the chef who first made it, Joseph French. Supposedly, Mr French was bad  at grammar and when he named it, simply forgot the apostrophe, as in Frenche's toast.

This story of course, is pure fiction as there are numerous references throughout history of what is now called , in North America, French toast. There are numerous cook books from the middle ages throughout Europe that even give the classical recipes for French toast.

French toast predates the 18th century, with the earliest references popping up in the mid 17th  century, before the story of the grammatically inept Joesph French. Before that time, it was also known as German toast, Spanish toast, and a variety of other names, only of which had anything to do with the name of the country.

Moving forward to present time, and locally made "French toast" buy the LostandFound crew, who do not use stale bread, but rather locally sourced artisan bread made in Ballycastle by Ursala Minor bakery. They now have 3 lovely fusions of "French toast" my personal favorite French toast with caramelized pecan nuts, cinnamon syrup and a dollop of fresh cream, the combined flavors make for a very palatable meal, wanting you to crave more, like been on narcotics its just something you simply cannot live without anymore.

Then just when you thought it could not possibly get better they brought out French toast and strawberries and mint leaves, a beautiful touch that completes the flavor combination in your mouth, leaving a slightly minty taste.

And very recently, they have because strawberries are seasonal brought out French toast with sweet nectarines, infused with lemon honey , cardamom, for a sweet honey lemon flavor, another killer combination that explodes in your mouth, depending on the nectarine you get the sweetness level will vary, but really any one of these fine dishes will blow the senses out of the water.

Normally only served on a Saturday, they are currently available through out the week till 14:00, and do not forget to try their artisan coffee. Lost and Found one of the new Artisan coffee shops on the North Coast, go and give them a visit, the atmosphere and vibe in the cafe is vibrant and easy going, with loads of extra space upstairs, but more about the coffee shop later.