The new Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies on Marston Road, Oxford.

Just seen the designer, Steve Legge’s post on Facebook about a client’s website he’s been working on. Steve is the brains behind One Hat Design: http://onehatdesign.com

This page: http://rosedalebrickwork.com/project/third-project/ shows my photographs of brickwork detail and an exterior of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, which Steve commissioned me to photograph for his client Rosedale Brickwork, during construction, to capture the incredible craftsmanship of the bricklaying. There was a certain urgency about the shoot because it was just a matter of time before the bricks were hidden by decoration. It’s really hard to gauge the epic scale of this dome, unless you happen to be driving along Marston Road in Oxford. I don’t think you’ll need to have the new Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies pointed out.  I took the shot lying on my back in the dust of a typical construction site – nothing if not determined.

Islamic CenOxf_HDP5938 copy

By sheer coincidence, I was back at the new Centre a few days ago, while covering a conference: the OCIS Roundtable 2015, at Ditchley for the Centre themselves. The delegates took the opportunity to have a tour of the building, which is finally due to be commissioned in the Autumn of 2015. I took a snapshot during the walkabout, of the dome as it is now. The comparison is interesting and I’m sure Rosedale are delighted that not all their workmanship is hidden.  Be sure to click on the photos to see ‘the bigger picture’, if you like that sort of thing.

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Photographing the Prime Minister

Yesterday, I mentioned a shot of the P.M. of mine, which I was pleased to see used in his Election Leaflet.

I believe I took a much nicer shot of him at a private function, where I was the sole professional photographer with access.  This meant that he was just a tad more relaxed about my camera, which gave me the chance to show him much more as he comes across ‘in the flesh’.

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‘Behind every great man is a great woman’: ManBuysPresent.com

They was a saying ‘behind every great man is a great woman’ long before that Eurythmics track was a hit and the same seems to be true of a certain web-site aimed at men and launched this month by two dynamic, successful young business women.Image

I was very fortunate to be asked to become involved with ManBuysPresent.com almost from it’s inception and to prove it here are a couple of shots from a studio shoot of the founders:  Rachael Ogilvie Robertson and Kate          .

As the site is aimed squarely at helping men negotiate the minefield of present buying and emerge looking a hero, they had enlisted the help of a local fireman to put his point of view.Lee, the fireman & client of ManBuysPresent.comMy brief was to portray Lee looking as heroic as possible.  To say he’d never been in a studio in his life before, I’d say he did pretty well but I’ll leave it to you, the reader, to have the last word on that.

As the shots will be used world-wide, we were after a range of moods and styles.Kate & Rachael, ManBuysPresent.com foundersThe web-site is pretty intuitive – a result of hours of research and planning –  including quizzing me for my personal disaster story and that’s all you’ll hear about the tumble-dryer the lady in my life got for Christmas some years ago.

Let there be light – please. A location photographer’s prayer.

I’m just back in.  It’s a beautiful crisp January afternoon in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds.  Despite the clear blue sky, not a day to dawdle on the location shoot, thanks to the cutting wind.

Location photography in Britain is such a testing discipline.  I am often racing storm-clouds to a location across the country, despite the weatherman’s assurances that the day will be fine.

I had just that problem with the weather on a shoot last summer.  I was booked to cover an Open Day at a huge grain store a few miles from the studio. The agency added that throwaway remark that will be familiar to any pro: “See if you can get some nice exteriors while you’re there.”  It seems such a reasonable request….. but architectural photography, (which I better make clear I love shooting) is unsurprisingly, all about the light.  Only when the light is where you want it, can you begin to think about framing your shots and responding to the building aesthetically, as the architects will expect of you, since they sweated blood to achieve it.   Surprisingly, this rarely seems to fall into line with a day photographing visitors, enjoying guided tours of a facility for the purposes of PR.

DuctingThere will be moments when you see a shot and have just enough time to set it up.  Factories often have areas painted different colours to identify them.  Powerful lighting and an interesting angle can make a dramatic shot that is almost unnoticed by the naked eye.  A pleasantly surprised client is usually a happy one.

Interior grain store yellow hoppers
Interior grain store: yellow hoppers

As for the exteriors, it was hopeless – grey skies, overcast and drizzling.  I knew I had nothing for the client.

Watching the weatherman that evening I realised I had a lucky break, should I choose to take it.   He was describing a change in the weather and a great day to come.  I knew I had to go back and get my exteriors.  I also knew that there was no budget for a second visit, so the shots would have to be good enough to earn their keep, but it was close enough to be feasible.  Back at the site, as and when they pulled into the yard, I commandeered lorries, begging the goodwill of the drivers.  Each time, I had to work fast, delaying their work schedules as little as possible.

By the time the lorry shots had been taken, the sun had moved around the building and I was able to start shooting my exteriors.  I think I will be forgiven for saying the building is no beauty.  It was an instance where colour really adds nothing, but in black and white there can be great drama.

If you are ever in the OX7 region, driving on the B4030 between a little hamlet called Gagingwell and Enstone, look to your right (watch the winding road) into the old airfield.  You can’t miss the grain store, but I rather hope you won’t recognise it from my photography.  Without wishing to be unkind, let’s just say my job is usually to portray the world in the best light possible.

Three Royal encounters in one day – business as usual in Oxford.

Royal rota pass

I was lucky enough recently to be booked to act as Host camera during the visit of HRH Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall to one of the Oxford colleges.  Since my NUJ Freelance days, I’ve frequently photographed members of the royal family including a young, shy Diana, but the importance of these events to all involved does crank up the pressure and the kit gets checked pretty thoroughly before the off.

I was amazed (and a bit delighted, if I’m honest) to discover at the press briefing that photographic royalty was also covering the visit, in the form of Arthur Edwards MBE, Royal Photographer for The Sun.  Arthur is a bit of a celeb in his own right these days.

Royal photographer Arthur Edwards
Royal photographer Arthur Edwards chats with the Duchess of Cornwall

It was a hoot watching his charming tussle with the Clarence House press officer, as Arthur ducked and dived to get his shots, whilst never quite overstepping the mark.  We all know that a Rota pass is worth it’s weight and is easily lost.  So direct interaction – “Over here, Camilla, love” –  will not go down well.  You observe and take photographs from an agreed ‘safe’ working distance, only during designated activities and never whilst a Royal is eating or drinking.  Please don’t expect to pose or set up your shots. If you miss it, it stays missed and woe betide you if it was the shot your picture editor was expecting to drop onto his front page.

That day we were all allowed a fair amount of leeway about changing position, with a beautiful college backdrop.  What more could you hope for?Well, Mr Bean for a start, an alumnus of the college and for many, the right Royal icing on the cake that day.

Duchess of Cornwell and Rowan Atkinson
Duchess of Cornwall and Rowan Atkinson