Going Underground

Last week I was commissioned to take pictures in one of the most challenging locations I think I have ever had to work; Wookey Hole caves. Bear in mind, I’ve worked within the Arctic Circle, at the top of a 100ft hospital incineration chimney and from the deck of a helicopter over The Solent, but in terms of technical challenge I think this takes the prize.

The client was Somerset Art Works (SAW), organisers of Somerset Art Weeks Festival, a fortnight of open studios and events across Somerset. My job was to get photos of the launch event, but due to restrictions imposed by Wookey Hole I couldn’t use flash (it would disturb the bats) and by the artist (I couldn’t release my shutter during the live audio recording of the art work), I had to get everything I could during set-up and rehearsal.

There were some lights which the team had set up, but there was really only one that was usable for me, so I made the most of it and concentrated on getting shots of the choir as they rehearsed. I also had to get shots of guests and speeches, and there was a lot of help from mobile phone torches to make that even remotely possible.

For this gallery I’ve chosen a few of the choir photos because they’re the strongest standalone images from the set.

For full details, see the SAW Facebook page, from which I’m quoting their post:

Somerset Art Weeks Festival launched last Friday (20 September) evening at Wookey Hole Caves with new work by Ben Rivers, with the opening speech by Arts Council England Chief Executive, Darren Henley. Thanks to Somerset Film at The Engine RoomArts Council England Wookey Hole Caves team for making this possible, and to everyone at the event for supporting us.

Somerset Art Weeks until 6 October. Celebrating 25th year. https://somersetartworks.org.uk/artweeks

Cycle Challenge

Covering the launch of the new Matrix IC7 cycle training bikes at University of Bath’s Sports Training Village last week presented some interesting challenges, but also made for some interesting photo opportunities – sadly I can’t show show you some of the more creative images as the university hasn’t had use of those pictures yet, but just getting the basics covered presented interesting challenges.

When I arrived on location, the bikes were set up for a spinning class at which a group of cycling enthusiasts, athletes and sports trainers were taking part in a session. The purpose of this was to introduce them to the bikes and their various high-tech features, while also creating a suitable scenario for me to get some shots of the bikes in action.

My first problem was that of how to light the scene; this was a fairly large group of people in a very tight space, with a massive source of light coming from behind them.

With careful positioning of the camera and a bit of shifting of a few distracting objects I managed to get enough room to include the group without being able to see my flashes which were set up, just outside my field of view, at each end of the space in order to bathe the cyclists with enough light to counteract the daylight which would have silhouetted them. I didn’t have much leeway to move about, so the main shots pretty much had to be taken from one position.

Having achieved the basics though, I was able to take additional pictures showing details of the bikes and small sections of the group as well as a few more creative images experimenting with slower shutter speeds and camera/lens movement.

When the group took a break I was able to set up a very quick photo of sports Team Bath athlete Eva Piatrikova as an alternative to the wide group photos.

By the end of the session I had pictures suitable for promoting the spinning/training sessions available at the university and by the end of the afternoon I’d delivered an image suitable for immediate social media use, with the rest of the images edited and delivered the next morning.

Team Bath posted an article using two of the pictures, tweeted one and will use others in future materials to promote the cycle training sessions, so if you’re a keen cyclist wanting to improve your technique or want to learn the basics, now you know where to sign up.