Month: December 2015

And the studio space is almost there…

And the studio space is almost there…

Day Nine.. the studio space is really starting to take shape.  The fact that we might actually be open by Christmas is nothing short of a miracle, given that the decision to go for it happened less than four weeks ago!  When we took hold of the keys the studio was a shell, now it looks like a studio!

The main wall being painted white

Ironic that our recent terrible storms should take some credit for this quick turnaround, as it has allowed the friendly builders to work indoors.  I can quite easily see how this phase of the development could have taken months rather than weeks otherwise.  As someone that doesn't know a paintbrush from a toilet brush, I've learned a lot and I have to say it's been invaluable having people around that I can trust to tell me what's what.  There's just the final painting and the flooring to be completed now. (Note to self: don't ever complain about stormy weather again.)

How it all looked 9 days ago

The building is still empty and the space looks vast; a lot bigger than it appeared initially.   I've been comparing studio set ups and for a while I toyed with the idea of fixed seperate areas to create distinct working spaces for viewing, shooting and so on.  However, for now I've decided to keep things flexible by using a large cabinet to create our main single partition.   The big advantage with this is that I will be able to move this around from time to time to increase each working space, depending on what I'm actually involved in. The open plan will avoid any feeling of claustrophobia. Of course I could just be sitting on the fence.  I'm terrible for that.

Trying to plan the picture gallery areas has been a job and a half!  Who would have thought that deciding on a few images and selecting a handful of frames could be so difficult?  I must confess, I was so exhausted by the process that I've still only completed half the task, but since the finished frames won't make it back to us before Christmas, I've let myself off.

I've actually not taken a single 'proper' portrait in 3 weeks and amongst all the painting and peeling I've been mulling over some new creative ideas. The studio is going to give me the chance to push that creative side.  For starters, I'm going along to the annual senior citizens Christmas bash on Thursday with my camera and I'm genuinely chomping at the bit to do some camera side work.
There's still a lot to do here but at last my 'things to do before the studio opens' list is only growing at a slightly faster rate than my 'cool photography projects to do once the studio opens' list.

The next few months looks like it might be a whole lot of fun.  Do pop in and say hello if you are walking past.  But be warned I might just pass you a toilet brush...  sorry paint brush.

Chat soon  : ) Nick

Top 10 Songs about Photography

Songs About Photography
Crash Bang Wallop

If there is one thing I really REALLY love to do, its making lists of music. Sad to say my kids will never know the joy of making compilation tapes to hand over to girls they want to impress.

(I’m not sure I ever did this, because my tapes were far too cool to give away).

Anyway I thought I’d do a top ten songs about photography list.  The downside is I could only think of 7.   So for you ..  here you are “The definitive top 7 songs about photography” blog.
Feel free to leave suggestions of any more in the comments below.


7. America – Simon & Garfunkel.
Not actually a song ‘about photography’ but there is a great line “Be careful his bow tie is really a camera” which deserves recognition.


6. Kevin Carter – Manic Street Preachers
Kevin Carter was a fine photographer, he is famous for a photograph that brought the horrors of famine to millions. Sadly the stress of his job, caused him to take his own life.  Pretty Grim.

5.  The Model – Kraftwerk

The most exciting band to ever come from Dusseldorf, this is a song about a model who is looking good.


4. Girls on Film  Duran Duran

One of only two Duran Duran songs I ever liked, the other one was Planet Earth.  I think this was considered rude when it was first released, but the video is safe enough for work.

3. Pearls Eye View  Nanci Griffith
I don’t think I’ve ever done a music list that hasn’t featured Nanci Griffith on it. This song is about Dickey Chapelle who was a freelance war photographer. I think she was the first woman conflict photographer to be killed in action (in Vietnam).  Great song… Really amazing war pictures.  You can find out more about Dickey Chapelle and her work here

2.  Kodachrome  Paul Simon

When I look back at all the crap I  learned in high school..   Indeed.. my art teacher told me  I should forget taking pictures.  He was a bit boring and he didn’t like me at all.

1  This is a killer tune, from a great musical.  Deserving to be number one!

You’ve probably heard the song but maybe not seen it in context.   From  Half a Sixpence.. I give you the brilliant Tommy ‘Friend of Elvis Presley’ Steele


Right so there you have it.. Feel free to leave other suggestions that I could shoehorn to make it a legitimate top ten  below!   Nick


Review of the Canon Powershot at a great price from Lidl

Each year I get asked about cameras as gifts and it’s become a bit of a tradition that I do a quick review of some buying options.   The first thing to realise is that even though technology changes, the principles of buying a camera don’t  and so you can still read last year’s ‘buying a camera article’ on my blog with confidence.

Rather than go over old ground all the cameras I reviewed last year will still perform well, but I noticed that Lidl are offering a competition to win a Canon Powershot SX530 HS on their facebook page. If you like their Facebook page you’ll have a chance of winning one. You can read my review of the camera Lidl have on offer below.

Before I get to that I’ll offer some sage like advice. Cameras are always great gifts and it’s really worth taking some time to get through your instructions to help you create better images. I’m the sort of person who usually ignores instruction manuals, but when it comes to a new camera I’d say you need to devour each and every page!

The review

Canon Powershot
Canon Powershot

Where to buy
Lidl have this model as a Christmas Special at €299, but Conns Cameras in Dublin are also selling them at the same price. I’m sure you’d get excellent customer service from both stores and the postage from Dublin is moderate.

What can the camera do?
The camera will take images that you can print to a decent size. It has a 16 mega pixel sensor, which is a fair size. Don’t be worried about this being too small, its more than adequate - one of my own pro cameras only has 12 mega pixels.

Can I change the lens on it?

No, this is a fixed lens camera that has a zoom built in.  One of the weaknesses of fixed lens cameras is that if you do scratch the lens then there isn’t much you can do about it.  The cost of repair will be greater than a replacement camera so it is well worth a bit of extra care, if not a moderate insurance premium!

It has a 50x zoom, is that good?

Personally the zoom isn’t a feature that impresses me much, but if you want to capture a detailed image of granddad snoozing on the other side of the room, it will usually serve you well.  A general rule is whenever you use a zoom, you will need extra light, to help avoid grainy images.

Personally I would advise all photographers that rather relying on the zoom feature to use their feet and get a little bit closer to the subject.  It will help you get much, much better pictures.

What about the flash?

The camera will do a pretty good job of working out when it thinks you need more light and the flash will pop up. This is a double edged sword however. Pop up flash is a huge contributor to 'red eye' in your images, although there are some fairly easy ways to avoid this. If you are interested in learning how to avoid annoying red eye, why not consider one of my photography classes in Kenmare ? These are great fun.

Is it heavy?

No, in fact it’s easy to carry in your hand and small enough to fit in a handbag. If you are a guest at a wedding (and you know how to operate it properly) you’ll be able to create good quality image as long as you find the right light to work in.

Are there any negative aspects to this camera?

One of the weaknesses of fixed lens cameras is that if you do scratch the lens then there isn’t much you can do about it. The cost of repair, will normally be far greater than a replacement camera, so make sure all your photographic gear is insured and keep your lens cap on!

 What other options are there?

There are so many camera options that it would be difficult to advise about different models, I would say that these days it’s almost impossible to buy a 'bad' camera.

The smart phones on today’s market are really impressive and I’m sure camera manufacturers like Canon and Nikon are getting worried about Samsung and Apple having a bad affect on their sales.

The reason I think this camera stays ahead of the iphone camera is that generally, people who use them are looking to get a bit more from their images.  The desire to take better images is the key ingredient, the camera itself is irrelevant.    The reality is that every camera iwill only take the image you tell it to.

If you are interested in a camera like this, you should probably consider the cost of printing images. Whilst sharing digital copies of an image is handy, prints are what really make a picture. Of course when you take a really good image, that looks good as a print. Then it's time to place it in a frame, an image is only finished when it's framed!

If you do buy a camera this Christmas, make sure you get the best of it.  I offer photography classes for all skill levels in Kenmare in groups less than 8.  You can find out more by emailing me via this contact form or calling my mobile 0879 491 002


Time to open a studio?

Time to open a studio?

preparing to open a studio
Nick trying to remove old window stickers

November’s been an interesting month all told.  In addition to the usual flurry of Christmas orders, gift card purchases and special promotions I, in my infinite wisdom, decided to take the plunge and open a studio as a base for our photography business.

To be fair, it did not come completely out of the blue.  It’s something I’ve been thinking of (albeit in a random kind of way) for a while.  Up to now, I never really took my thought process any further than the initial idea.  Each time, I’ve allowed the fairly critical thought process to stall at the first important question and that was that.   But… suddenly over the last few weeks the idea took hold and formed into something I felt I could actually make a go of.

Deep down, I’m convinced it makes sense – apart from anything else, the wildcard that is the wonderful weather has really played havoc with my outdoor portraiture this year.  Whilst I’ve been fortunate enough to be busy with other projects and international assignments, it has really limited my flexibility in working around the climate in what has been a particularly unpredictable year weather-wise.

I don’t know if I would recommend the way that I’ve gone about things, but if there’s one thing I have learned over the past few weeks it is that deciding to open a studio certainly focusses the mind!    Like most people running their own small business, there have always been things, particularly around the more ‘business management’ side of things that I knew I should be doing, or could be doing better.

I have to confess, I find some of these a chore – others I don’t really have a clue about.  The internet is a great resource, but it takes quite a lot of thought to translate even the best ’10 tips to success’ into ’10 tips for success in my business‘.  There are literally hundreds of books out there, but locating a decent one, finding the time to read it and then actually taking action on what it says it is a tall order, particularly if you find the subject matter… well… far less interesting than taking actual photographs!

Our new studio wall before being attached to the blocks.
The new studio wall just before being attached to the blocks.

I’ll try to post regular updates as things progress – and I’ll even try to highlight the things that have actually worked for me, as well as those that haven’t, although I would never claim to be an expert.   In the meantime, if anyone has ’10 tips for successfully removing eight year old full sized stickers from shop windows’, please send them in!

As ever I’d love to read your comments in the box below.  Chat soon  –  Nick : )