Thursday, 8 July 2010

I HAVE MOVED MY BLOG...

My new blog is now live and is up and running. 

Please follow the link below to my new blog and update any bookmarks or favourite lists that you may have.

If you experience any problems when you visit the blog please feel free to drop me a line so I can rectify.

Thankyou....

Monday, 5 July 2010

Another Day at the Office

The pictures below are from a routine patrol that took place in the Nad' Ali district of Helmand province recently. The patrol, from the 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment went out to resupply another Platoon of troops in a nearby compound with water and rations when they came under fire from a couple of Taliban positions.

These routine patrols are just one example of the various tasks that the troops carry out on an almost daily basis and are vital in allowing the troops to continue to operate in this environment. The 'contact', as an engagement with the enemy is known, came and went without injury to British troops and the resupply went ahead as normal.

A British soldier makes a dash into cover as a GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun) crew lay down covering fire from the base of a compound wall as Taliban insurgents open fire.

A GPMG gunner gestures to fellow troops to move past him during the contact.

Troops move along a ditch into the relative safety provided by a compound wall as Taliban fighters continue to engage the patrol.

A British soldier peers over a ditch to try and identify Taliban positions.

A British soldiers scans the treeline for sign of the Taliban.

The GPMG crew move hastily from their position at the foot of a compound wall as the troops prepare to continue with the patrol.

Having reached the compound where the resupply was to take place soldiers scan a treeline for signs of the enemy through a door of a compound.

A soldier rests against the cracked mud wall of a compound immediately after the firefight.

As darkness falls soldiers from the patrol take time to rest before the return journey to their base after the resupply of food and water to another Platoon.

As the soldiers rest in the relative safety of the compound after the firefight with Taliban fighters their attention turns to the England World Cup football match that has just kicked off.

Keeping hydrated - troops take on water as they rest and listen to the England match on a radio in the compound following the firefight with Taliban fighters .

I am currently working on a multimedia piece from this patrol and hope to have it up on the blog soon.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Consultation

The 'Shura' is a traditional way of resolving differences amongst different groups of people in the Islamic world. Coming from the Arabic word for 'consultation' it was traditionally a way for early Islamic tribes to elect new leaders and make the major decisions that affected the tribe as a whole. 

Today, the Shura is an equally important part of life in Afghanistan and a way that is being used by British and other ISAF troops to further engage with the local Afghans as part of the ongoing work to improve the state of things in this complicated and troubled country. From trying to improve local services to assisting with children's educational needs to resolving queries about possible compensation claims the Shura, at every level, continues to play an important role on the road to a more stable and secure Afghanistan.








Friday, 2 July 2010

As Simple As That

I've included a selection of some of the portraits that I was able to take during the recent trip to Afghanistan. All of these were taken using natural light which, at the right time of day, or in the right shade, was amazing. The normal light through the day was harsh and not particularly beneficial to portrait work so it was always better to move out of the bright sunlight into better photographic conditions - Not always possible of course but worth it if you can find it. Tight shots are on an 85mm and the wides are on a 24mm.

One of the great things about using natural light is you can still get creative and use the light to your advantage just as you would if you were dropping flashes in to light a portrait up. Try and be aware of where the light is coming from, be aware of the quality of light - Is it diffused through trees or leaves? Is it weak morning light that gives a slight blue feel to the picture? Is it bouncing off a wall that is acting like a reflector? Try and see how the harsh sunlight outside gradually drops off as it lights a long corridor providing a great impromptu 'studio'.

Become more 'light aware' as you go about your daily business. Like anything else it is all about practice but try and teach yourself to become more aware, all the time, about how the light falls at a particular time of day or the way light strikes a surface and constantly look to see how you could then use the light to take better pictures.

Good light  =  good pictures, it's as simple as that.











Thursday, 1 July 2010

Physeter macrocephalus

A 40ft long Sperm Whale, Physeter macrocephalus, has recently washed up onto rocks a short distance from the beach at Saltburn by the Sea in Cleveland. The whale, believed to have died a number of days ago has been monitored by the Coastguard as the carcass of the huge mammal floated in the waters off the small Victorian coastal town before finally coming to rest at the foot of cliffs.

At the time of writing the cause of the death of the whale is not known but could have been due to being struck by a passing ship or it simply died of natural causes or illness.


The Sperm Whale is the largest of the toothed whales and is the largest toothed animal in the world. The whale was named after the milky-white substance spermaceti found in its head and originally mistaken for sperm. The Sperm Whale's enormous head and distinctive shape, have led many to describe it as the archetypal whale.


The Sperm Whales' large head, particularly in males, is typically one-third of its length. In contrast to the smooth skin of most other large whales, the skin on the back of the Sperm Whale is usually knobbly and has been likened to a prune by whale-watching enthusiasts and is uniformly grey in colour. The brain of the Sperm Whale is the largest and heaviest of all animals (weighing on average 7 kg in a grown male).


Sperm Whales breath air at the surface of the water through a single, s-shaped blowhole. The blowhole is located on the left side of the front if its huge head. They spout (breathe) 3-5 times per minute at rest, but the rate increases to 6-7 times per minute after a dive. The blow is a noisy, single stream that rises up to 50 feet (15 m) above the surface of the water and points forward and to the left of the whale at a 45° angle.


Sperm whales are believed to be able to reach depths of 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) when they dive and can remain submerged for 90 minutes. The marine mammal is a carnivore and can reach lengths of up to 49 to 59 feet and can weigh anything between 35 and 45 tons!


However unusual it is to see these rare mammals washed up on our shoreline, allowing us a closer glimpse of a once graceful creature than the majority of us will ever see close up and whether it is down to natural selection or more man made dangers that brought this whale to an early demise I think all would agree, it is far better for them to be out swimming in the seas and oceans of the world.



          The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society..http://www.wdcs.org.uk/
For further information on the Sperm Whale follow this link to Wikipedia....
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sperm_whale

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Press Photographer's Year 2010

The results for the Press Photographer's Year 2010 are out and once again there are some cracking images amongst the winners!

Ah well try again next year.

Click the link below to see the slideshow.....Enjoy......

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Patrol Base

A few photographs taken in a couple of the forward patrol bases that I passed through when out on different jobs whilst I was over in Helmand. The conditions are, as you would probably imagine, very basic and simple but the troops make do with what they have and if they don't have it then you can guarantee that some ingenious member of the unit will make, build or improvise anything they might want. The bases are of course prepared with some defensive positions in case of attack and are made as 'homely' as possible given the conditions as the troops will usually have to live and work from these bases for their six months of deployment.

A bullet marked wall and entrance to one of the 'rooms' used to house troops
 
This poster to support England in the World Cup was stuck up on the wall, however I should imagine it has been removed by now!

A shrine built by Gurkha soldiers at one of their Patrol Bases

An alcove built into the wall provides a storage space for equipment

The officer in charge of one of the units watches over an operation that is taking place from the operations room at a patrol base

A sand-bagged defence position on the roof of a base at one of the locations in Nad' Ali

Clothes dry on a washing line next to a couple of beds brought outside into the cooler evening air

A Gurkha looks out from his defensive position on the roof of a compound that is being used as a base

The bases also provide Mortar support to troops operating around the base when they need it and the mortar crew are able to spring into action very quickly when the call comes for a fire mission

The interior of a Mastiff vehicle is illuminated in the soft glow of the red lights inside the vehicle as it prepares to leave a patrol base 
 

Into the Dark

The images taken below are from a patrol in the Nad' Ali region of Helmand Province as troops prepare to move back towards their Patrol Base after nightfall. Due to the darkness the camera settings were extreme to say the least with the ISO set to 25600! Camera settings were f2.8 at either 1/6 or 1/4. I was shooting with a 24mm prime lens on the D3 which I had resting on my ammunition pouches attached to the front of my body armour to try and keep it as steady as I could as I pressed the shutter.





There was so little light that it was pointless even looking through the viewfinder but knowing the field of view of the 24mm I could make a pretty good guess as to what I was going to get in the shot. Not an exact science I know but it doesn't matter. Sometimes it can produce interesting results. The small white 'squiggle' on the bottom shot is either a flare in the distance or the light from a star low on the horizon, but I fail to remember.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Home Town Features

One of the regular and routine requirements when you work as a photographer for the army is to provide what the military call 'Home Town Stories' but what I prefer to call 'Home Town Features'. The concept is straight forward really.....Individual X from Town Y is photographed, a brief article is written and then both are sent to their local paper.

This type of piece achieves a number of things...
  • The Individual(s) and their efforts are highlighted for their friends, family and others to see, which is of course, a good thing.
  • The local paper receives a good quality finished article, free of charge, for them to use in their paper and which can, ultimately, assist in the circulation figures of the paper.
  • It raises the wider profile of the military and the 'messages' it tries to put out and can also assist with recruitment.
So everyone is a winner really! Although the first point is by far the most important, the other two are of no consequence to me.

The photographs below are recent examples of some of the pictures I took to accompany some of these HTF articles and all of the individuals pictured gave their permission for their pictures to be used and also to then be sent to their particular regional newspapers for publication and in most of the examples below they have already gone out to their local papers.

In the majority of these examples the type of work each individual does comes through in most of the pictures, or at least the environment in which they work and when all are supported by the relevant copy it provides a quality package to their respective local print media. Where the work carried out by the individual is not immediately known these pictures formed part of a more in depth story about an individual and or subject, in other words, a Feature piece, hence - Home Town Feature.








Some brief techy info for those interested in how these results were achieved...
  • Two Nikon D3 DSLR cameras
  • Either a 24mm f2.8 or an 85mm f1.4 prime lens was used
  • One Nikon SB 900 speedlight
  • Flash used off camera, either hand held or placed on a small stand
  • Speedlight triggered with an SU 800 unit
  • 1/4 CTO gel filter for the speedlight - But not used for all pictures. This helps to warm up the image slightly. Use when appropriate.
  • All images were shot in 'Manual' mode on the cameras
  • A mixture of manual and TTL was used on the speedlight