Sunday, 28 April 2013

End Of An Era...

It's no secret that the publishing industry has had its fair share of problems of late, and that the Internet has really eaten into the saleability of magazines, especially in niche markets. Unfortunately, these hardships often translate into money-saving so a few weeks ago it was my turn to be part of the austerity and lose my job.

I'd worked on magazines for the last 12 years, so it was with a heavy heart that I resigned myself to leaving a job I loved. That job had seen me visit loads of interesting places and meet and equally interesting number of people. Aside from the crappy hours and the mind-boggling mileage, the positives were easy to see; loads of fishing, photography, and getting lungfuls of fresh air. But those things don't create revenue and I was one of the few to be culled because I wasn't 'financially viable'.

I actually intended to go freelance, with jobs flying in, including the dream chance of working on a guitar magazine and producing a bookazine about British luthiers. But family always comes first and when I was approached by Leeda UK to become its Digital Media Manager, I knew it was security that I couldn't turn down. I can always do the freelance thing some other time in my life...

So, what's going to happen to me as a photographer? Thankfully, I'm being employed for my skills and it's not a case of there being a round hole and me being a square peg to fit it. There's going to be a lot of video work - something I've been doing more of lately and enjoying - but also a massive load of studio photography, plus location shooting for catalogues, websites and adverts. And I get to surround myself with creative people and loads of good fishing tackle. Oh yeah, and I finally get some kit provided that I've not had to scrimp and save for.

It's amazing how two weeks sees so many emotions emerge. One minute you can be as high as a kite on the thought of creative freedom, the next minute feeling tense and anxious about things that you feel are totally out of your hands. I've done the whole spectrum. Thankfully, due to great family, great friends and great acquaintances, I've not been left wanting when it came to advice and opportunities.

It's my first day tomorrow and after 12 years of working at the same place, it feels like the day I got my first job after school. And it feel great....

Strobist Goes Natural

Since I got into portable off-camera flash a few years ago, the Strobist blog has without doubt helped me more than anything or anyone else. David hobby's keenness and enthusiasm for lighting comes across in every post he makes and he corroborates everything he preaches with hard evidence that many photographers could only dream of producing.

His latest blog post is particularly insightful; keen to feed an interest in the birds that inhabit his garden an their food source, he ends up calling upon a raft of lighting knowledge to kmake one of the most awesome images of a bird I've seen for ages. It's the pose, the fact pretty sharp (considering it's shot remotely on a 70-200mm) and the fact that you can clearly see the bug in the bird's mouth.

It's this kind of photography that many of us crave to achieve yet never put into action. If anything, it's got me looking away from the TV and into the back garden to see what visitors I'm getting...

Read the full blog (and lose yourself in a world of lighting info) by clicking here

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Lighting Guitars

Although not that technical, this is a really good insight into A) where a job can take you, and B) how these beautiful guitars are lovingly viewed by their creators - click here to see some awesome axes lit awesomely!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A day on the water

Due to work commitments I don't actually get to do that much freelance stuff these days. However, last Autumn I had the pleasure of doing some freelance work for Ebay UK, covering the 2012 Great River Race held on the River Thames, which ebay is a major sponsor of. I'd not heard of the event until I got involved - rowing isn't something I follow - but looking back on it, it's spurred me on to cover more events where I'm on the go constantly and have to work on-the-fly.

As mentioned, the guys at Ebay sponsor the event and for several years have entered teams into the 22-mile race that starts near Canary Wharf and finishes at Ham near Richmond. This year was the company's biggest turnout; eight teams and nearly 70 staff from within Ebay and its subisidary companies, Paypal and Gumtree. It's all done in the name of charity and this year saw in excess of 180 boats compete with nearly 1,000 rowers all told. It's a massive event that's been running from humble beginnings back in the late 1980s.

My brief was to document the day from the perspective of the Ebay team. From getting on the coach at Ebay headquarters in Richmond, through the pre-race set-up and then onto the actual race (and later the post-race celebrations) I was tasked with shooting a collection of images that would show both those involved and those staff who weren't there on the day, what happened as we passed through the capital.

London has always held a fleeting fascination with me; my brother has lived there for years, so I've spent some time there, but aside from those visits and day trips when I was at college, it's not somewhere I'm familiar with. Of course, I know the landmarks - who doesn't - but it's only when you actually see things 'in the flesh' do you get a sense of scale.

For me the day started at 4am as I set off down the M1 from Rugby, into London, finally finding myself in a sleepy, pre-dawn eBay HQ in Richmond. After a quick coffee and a chat with a few of the staff - and my contact for the day, Tony - I was rattling off frame-after-frame as the staff all huddled onto the waiting coach that would whisk us over to the start. Face painting, breakfast and a whistle-stop sightseeing tour of the city later, we arrived at the start. It was a mellee of boats, rowers and spectators. I found the press tent, quickly realised I wasn't going to be on the fast press boat (unfortunately) and then found the guys who were going to ferry me around on a comfortable motorised catamaran along with a Russian film crew, a videographer and the organiser and his wife.

I have to admit that at this point I did start to think to myself "what the hell am I doing?" - I was documenting what could only be described as organised chaos and somewhere in the middle of it were the Ebay teams. Thankfully, they'd had the forethought to all have flagged fitted to their boats that featured the Ebay logo plus some clever play on words associated with their business (such as Seabay Dragons,  The Oarsome Gumtree) plus some less obvious names such as Gin & Titonic and Sea To Sea Sailors. Anyway, I knew my targets for the day.

It was safe to say that everyone was up for it; teams from Holland, Malta, Cyprus, Ireland plus loads of UK-based teams, were all doing a mixture of stretches, group hugs and cramming in the last cigarette before four hours of hard graft.

After a chaotic rush for everyone to get onto their respective boats, the start cannon fired and the boats set off in a staggered fashion, with the faster dragon boats setting off last. These faster boats are an awesome sight when they (quickly) get up to speed, although less awesome when a speed boat was a bit to keen on the throttle and several of the dragon boats were sunk by its wash!

Organised chaos: I just rattled off frames and didn't ask questions.

The main problem with races like this, despite the best will in the world to win, is that not everyone works to the same pace. This presented one major problem; how was I going to photograph all the eBay boats during the day as was the brief? In reality, it was never going to happen so i just rattled off as many shots as I could of the teams as they crossed the start line and then started the journey up the Thames.

Far too many landmarks to take in... but I tried!
I nice way to see The Eye.
It was easy to lose the Ebay boats in the throng of competitors.
An Ebay team in acton - laughing now, laughing later I hoped.

The journey through London is fantastic when you're on a boat. The unusual angles of iconic buildings is wonderful to see as a photographer, although i have to admit that it was frustrating at times when I knew I had to point my camera at the water and not the surroundings. Still, being able to frame the rowers against landmarks such as The Shard, Canary Wharf and Parliament was still very special.

One thing that amazed me was the number of spectators; the bridges spanning the Thames were bulging with onlookers and once again, it gave great photographic opportunities to put the rowers in context and give them a taste of the race which they probably wouldn't be taking note of as they rowed.

The crowds were out to cheer the competitors on.
In terms of equipment for the day, I knew I needed reliability so hooked up my D7000 with the 17-55mm for all the close-quarters stuff with a D2x equipped with the 70-200mm because it had the faster frames-per-second shooting. Both cameras are great (I've now moved over to just D7000s) and aside from a few issues relating to differences in button placement on each body, I had no issues whatsoever. It's always nice to know that the equipment is the least of your worries.

The whole journey to the finish lasted about three hours, pausing now and then to grab shots of nearby boats. We were actually well ahead of the lead boats by the time we docked, giving me an hour or so to suss things out on the riverbank. Families waited patiently in the heat and we even had olympians (I can't recall who - doh!) to signal the finish as the boats came through.

This part of the day was a stress; I was hot, there was little or no room to move about on the riverbank because of the crowds, it was noisy (lots of generators for food vans etc) and there was no idea of when the Ebay boats would come in. I had to take a leap of faith and shoot as much from the finish line as I could, then run the 400 yards up to the mooring station to get shots of the teams as they disembarked, looking hammered and giving each other hugs and slaps on the back. By the time the last boat got in I just camped up at the mooring station and let them come to me. It was the only time when I felt I'd let myself down in a sense, although I couldn't be two places at once and I was the only shooter. Thankfully, the guys responded well to me sticking a lens in their faces as they struggled off the boats and I got some great shots.

The finish was a melee of boats, competitors and spectators.
One of the Ebay dragon boats making it to the end.
Even after hours of rowing, there were still smiles.
For many, emotions ran high once back on dry land.
Every Ebay team had a final group shot at the finish.

Once I'd got all the team shots I managed to grab some water then rush back to the Ebay 'HQ' tent where beers and food were being eagerly consumed. Never has ice-cold beer looked so good but I knew I had to just keep rattling off the frames. There was a short presentation and much applause as the teams were called out in order of finishing, with The Oarsome Gumtree taking the spoils as winners of the Ebay teams.

Ebay UK's winning team, The Oarsome Gumtree

And that was me done....

I declined a taxi back and decided to walk the mile or so back to the car, just reflecting on a hard, tiring but rewarding day. The fuss of the race had died off and couples were moseying up and down the riverbank while joggers and fitness freaks enjoyed the late evening sunshine. Richmond really is a nice place to be when it's like this and I'll go back for sure at some point.

The journey back to the Midlands was uneventful; roads around North London were a car park for a while but the M1 was empty. I got back about 9pm, utterly pooped but with that total eagerness to look through the several thousand shots and start work on editing. That would wait, this was time to enjoy the family...

Thursday, 7 February 2013

You, the photographer....

I've become a bit of a philistine in recent years when it comes to looking at the history of photography, looking at contemporary photographers and deconstructing their work, and just generally soaking up photography to find my place within it. I do what I do and for the most part, I feel I do it well.

But is 'doing it well' enough?

The video below, shot by Zack Arias as part of a blog for, pretty much sums up what myself and countless others will feel like at some point.

I've watched it a few times and although several years old (and not exactly a barrel of laughs), it perfectly illustrates the frustrations we feel as photographers when we pass that mark in our photography where 'better' is the only goal. We're sick of doing it well - we want more. More success. More recognition. More confidence that we're doing it right. We want to be more than just one of the millions who own a camera.


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Magazine cover concept

Magazine cover concept by Pat MacInnes
Magazine cover concept, a photo by Pat MacInnes on Flickr.

It's always exciting when editors work with you on a concept, especially when it comes to covers that push the envelope.

Traditionally, our fishing mag covers have always featured a man with fish, a man with a net of fish, or on odd occasions, a man playing a fish. However, the new editor of TCF really wanted to create a 'hero' shot that would stand out on the crowded newsstand so we took our lead from an issue of Field & Stream where a hunter was nicely lit holding his hunting equipment. We decided to use a different kind of 'hunter', well-known predator angler Mick Brown.

The studio space at work is 'bijou' to say the least so we had to work around the amount of working area; to camera left are two 24" soft boxes stacked on top of each other to replicate a strip box for soft fill, and you can see the other two lights and what they're achieving.

There's obviously a considerable crop taken place to fit the image on the cover, plus some heavy Photoshopping. However, as a cover that stands out from the crowd I'm really pleased with what we achieved.... sales will tell if we made the right decision, but nonetheless we've produced something we can be proud of.

*Nikon D7000
*Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8
*ISO 100
*1/250th @ f/7.1

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Robin by Pat MacInnes
Robin, a photo by Pat MacInnes on Flickr.

Just a quick snap from today's feature with Bob Nudd for UK fishing magazine, Total Coarse Fishing.

This cheeky little robin was doing the usual winter trick - look cute and then steal maggots form your bait tray. I couldn't begrudge him that when he was so willing to model for the camera!

*Nikon D7000
*Nikon 70-200mm VR
*ISO 1600
*1/320th @ f/4

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

New Toy...

I've been after a small HD camera for ages after seeing a friend's GoPro Hero. Thankfully, at a recent angling trade show I chanced upon Ultra Sport Europe (, who were displaying fishing kayaks but also distribute Contour, one of the main rivals to GoPro. I'd heard about these cameras but didn't know the spec and to be honest, wasn't sure on what spec was required; all I knew was I needed a small HD camera that could be attached to a fishing rod, submerged in the margins or secreted somewhere out of shot to get cuts that could be edited into DSLR footage.

Anyway, I ended up ordering one (thanks to USE for giving me a bargain price) and today it turned up. So what are the initial thoughts? Well, it's a simple camera, as these units tend to be because they're being operated by skiers, rock climbers, surfers (etc) who all have limited time to be faffing around with buttons. Build-wise it feels like it'll take some abuse and one great plus point is that it's waterproof straight of the box - no underwater housing is required if you want to give it a quick dip, which is what I want for filming fish coming to the net. There is a housing for deep work but I believe that as it is, it'll be safe for a metre of so of submersion.
I'll have to do a bit of reading up about changing modes and frame rates - there's no real instruction manual supplied - but other than that, it seems a logical product. There are two sticky mounts for attaching it to hard surfaces such as helmets, cars, stuff like that, but there's a pole clamp that'll I'll get on order for getting on-rod action of anglers fishing. For the time being I'll mount it on a landing net pole and use it like that.

I just now have to hope that I get to venues that have clear water - in reality many of the venues I'll be visiting over the winter will suffer from colour due to excess rain, but fingers crossed that I'll start getting great underwater footage ASAP....

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

REVIEW: Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S

I rented this lens as an addition to my own 70-200mm, simply because the event I cover (Evesham angling festival) requires me to get a lot of shots from across the river and at time, the 70-200mm just hasn't got the reach.

I rented this lens from Lensesforhire on a four-day rental for about £40 (plus return delivery costs).

The lens comes in a well-made, padded case that gives a snug fit around the lens and features a shoulder strap.

The lens came equipped with a high-quality UV filter for protection.

First impressions of the build quality are excellent; as solid a lens as I've handled, it's actually smaller than I thought (the same size as the 70-200mm) and marginally lighter. There's an integral lens hood that slides out and locks in place with a twist.

I used it with a D7000, which is felt well balanced with. The manual focus grip is tactile and very large so can be gravid easily (I use a lot of MF for video work).

AF for stills is precise and quick, as good as the 70-200mm. Absolutely no complaints at all in that department.

Image quality is top-notch as you can see below from the full shot and the crop I've done in Lightroom.

(EXIF: ISO 800, 1/800th @ f/5.6)

This shot was taken on a tripod (I was videoing at the same time) but even shooting handheld, without the aid of VR, which doesn't feature on this lens, I was getting sharp shots every time down to 1/200thsec. Of course, handling technique dictates how low you can go, not the lens, but the lens feel really easy to handle and promotes steady shooting at low shutter speeds.

I had to apply -15 AF fine tune adjustment but once that was applied, even at f/4 it was sharp. I wish I'd done a test at various apertures but as I write, it's in the post winging its way back to LFH.

I knew I'd like this lens going by the favourable reviews, but within minutes of using it I knew it would be a lens that I'd have to get at some point soon. I love zooms and it's peculiar using a telephoto prime where you're so limited in the angle of video, but as a lens to get you extra reach it's a very good option for very little money - 10/10 in my opinion.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

More work! Yes please....

Back in February my boss, with an ever-increasing workload of film-based project, he asked me to expand my job role from just stills to taking on filming and editing duties. I’ve done a little bit of filming over the past few years (but no editing) so it was something new that would hopefully allow me to capture parts of a shoot that stills just didn’t do justice. He was adamant that it was as simple as me being able to take a photograph qualifying me to take up filming – I saw it in a more complicated fashion.

For one, I knew nothing about editing, other than some rubbish holiday clips I’d done on my phone. I knew the edit would be the key to good film-making (for our needs) and not just relying on taking some jazzy shots. The other concern was that I knew our (then) video cameras were pants; consumer levels jobs that captured on HD but had poor autofocus and limited focal range, adding to a small sensor that would limit creative use of depth-of-field. For that I new I had to shoot with a video-enabled DSLR so a long story short, I ended up with a D7000 to replace one of my D2x bodies (I’ll write a review at some point)….

So far I’ve enjoyed shooting more and more video as I’ve become confident with the equipment and more confident in knowing what shots I want (and need) to take back to the editing suite. I’m using Final Cut Pro X, a ‘marmite’ piece of software in editing circles; personally, aside from performance issues that stemmed from too little RAM in my MacBook Pro, I’ve found it to be a decent buy, although I’m finding the built-in default effects and transitions a bit basic at times – Apple’s Motion and Adobe After Effects are next on my learning list – but for piecing together 60-second clips for our magazine apps, it does the job quickly and efficiently.

As far as the equipment goes, I only recently turned on to the idea of DSLRs as serious video kit. A mate had a 5D2 for the last few years but rarely used the video function. I don’t like the 5D2 as a camera anyway so never wanted to investigate its ‘dark side’, despite so many reports of it being an awesome video machine. More and more cameras have come along featuring HD capture, although Nikon have been slow on the uptake, with the D7000 and D3s being the only models of note that were seriously useable. Now, I’m sold on the technology… but it’s not without its faults: a lack of built-in audio monitoring on the D7000 is a pain, although erring on the side of caution (mic set well away from mouth, mic level set to ‘1’) seems to work well enough, and the lack of aperture control in manual mode during Liveview being two main hurdles. Mind you, for an £800 camera it is still impressive and the quality is more than adequate. I’m sure the recently announced D600 will improve on these faults….

One thing that has captured my imagination when it comes to filming (aside from those jazzy angles I mentioned earlier!) is the plethora of kit that’s available – dollies, stabilization gadgets, cool microphones, follow focus rigs, LCD magnifiers…. loads of stuff that will keep me skint for a long time but will ultimately help me find my creative ‘mojo’.

I’ve got a few interesting ideas floating around in my head for work and for personal projects, although at the moment I’m pretty much just focusing on honing technique and getting fully to grips with making film-making as automatic as stills photography has become.

Here’s to learning and evolving, things that are essential if you’re going to make it in this business….