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Castlefield Hotel Lifestyle Shoot by Neil Alexander

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Last week, with some assistance, I put together a lifestyle shoot in the interests of boosting my portfolio, and  I haven't enjoyed myself behind the lens so much for a long time. It was a real buzz to work with such a creative team, and be without the shackles of a written brief, and simply my own vision of what I needed to achieve. Admittedly I did have my moments when I simply, creatively ran out of steam, but fortunately they were only ever short lived.

I felt free as essentially I was the client, and yet I felt awkwardly constrained especially in the edit. We got so many great photographs in comparatively such a short space of time that it was a true testament to putting a good team together. I was quite fortunate in this regard.

I used a virtual PA service to put this together. I'd never used someone like this before, and she likewise. I assumed too much. It wasn't her fault that she didn't know what TF meant or a MUA is. So it took quite a while to put together. Initially I'd planned on shooting two or three different groups of models in various locations around the city over a 48 hour period. Whammo. Nail a knew portfolio whilst I'm firing on all four. I know I can pull of the shots - it's the co-ordination of the whole damn thing that's a killer. I'm sure any Creative who's been in the game for a wee while will understand the trials and tribulations of organising half a dozen people to be at the same place at the same time, all chosen specifically for their skill, and to be bursting at the seems with creativity. It ain't easy. Val did an outstanding job of putting this all together, though I'm not sure whether she's game for another one or not.

It was the team that made these shots, I simply lit them, composed them and clicked the shutter. Without the bounciness of Alex, the sharp wit of Pat, the brilliant hair and make-up by Steph, the stylish input from Pash, and the generosity shown us by Ann at the Castlefield Hotel, I'd never have been able to make these photographs.

So it's now onto the next one. I've another couple of rather cool venues lined up to use this month, so I'm now putting together another team. If you're a model, stylist or make-up artist looking to expand your portfolio then please do drop me a line.

Finally, before I sign off....

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A woman measures chillis in a bowl at Can Cau market, Sapa by Neil Alexander

Last Sunday I had this image appear in the Sunday Times Travel Section, which was a rather pleasant, and slightly unexpected surprise, and I might add with a far better caption!  Check it out here. See more of my images from  Vietnam here.

Have a great weekend.

Neil

My favourites from 2011 by Neil Alexander

It's that time again.... In keeping with the last couple of year's reflections on the year that was (2010 here, and 2009 here) below are my 12 14 favourite images from 2011. Slightly different from these previous entries though, I haven't picked one image from each month, I've simply tried to pick my 12 (which ended up being14) personal favourite images from this year. It's always an interesting exercise and I find it really quite rewarding to see how my skills have developed from the year before. So here they are, although not in any order in particular, other than chronological.

First up is an image I made in Spinningfields, Manchester that I submitted in the Urban View category of the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011 competition, which was subsequently shortlisted.

The Avenue, Manchester - Shortlisted for Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011

Also in January I made the image below with Charlie in Castlefield with one of my favourite modifiers, the Lastolite Ezybox. Details here

Charlie, Castlefield

Patrick with his guitar on the roof of the Arndale car park before the security guards came along. Blog post here

Patrick with his guitar on the roof of the Arndale Car Park, Manchester

Maltese street scene - First trip to Malta this year. Blog post here.

Typical street scene in Victoria on the Island of Gozo, Malta

Kayleigh, Trafford Park with the moon. Blog post  here

Kayleigh

Zejtun, Malta

Second trip to Malta this year. Blog posts here and here

Doorway, Zejtun, Malta

Anna - "Waiting for a bus?" with some very carefully placed SB900s - blog post here

Waiting for a bus?

Lighthouse, Vilamoura, Portgual. Blog post here and on variable neutral density filters here

View of the breakwater at Vilamoura, Portugal with a lighthouse at the end

Manchester Central Library - post here

Manchester Central Library at sunset

Jenson Button in his McLaren Mercedes tears up Deansgate, Manchester. Post here

Jenson Button in his McLaren Mercedes tears up Deansgate, Manchester

The Lake District. Post here

View up The Struggle in the Lake District on an Autumn morning

Derwent Valley. Post here

Tree in the Derwent Valley, High Peaks

And finally a shoot I did with Sophie and Pat in mid December that I haven't yet blogged about. Post to follow in the New Year.

Pat & Sophie

So in retrospect I'm more than happy with the quality of what I've produced this year, though I do feel that I need to up the quantity next year. And in upping the quantity I'm pretty certain that this will also see an improvement in the quality too. I ought to write a post on my plans for 2012 too. For one, it'll give me something to be held to, and it'll also help me to thrash out my thoughts and plans for the next year of my business and where I want to take it. So you can look forward to this in the coming weeks.

Finally, for 2012 I'll be releasing desktop wallpapers for your personal use. You can download January's here in 3 separate sizes. There's 2560 x 1440, 1920 x 1200 & 1440 x 900. Simply click the appropriate link and right click to save to your desktop.

NeilAlexander_JanuaryDesktop - 1440x900

As this'll be my final post for 2011, I'll sign off by saying that it's been a fantastic year for me photographically speaking and I hope that 2012 is even better. Enjoy the celebrations, and I'll see you on the other side.

Wishing you a prosperous 2012. Neil

Snappy Tips for Better Photos - part 5 - Composition by Neil Alexander

For this fifth and final post (for the time being in my Snappy Tips series), I'm going to focus on composition and some simple do's and dont's. Learn the rules and then learn why and how to break them.

rule of thirds grid
  1. Rule of Thirds Imagine splitting your frame into 3 equal horizontal strips, and then 3 equal vertical stripes. This will give you the basic layout for the  "rule of thirds" which basically states that in order to make your frame more appealing to the eye, you should place the focal point, or primary element of your photograph on any of the 4 inner connecting joins.

Salford Quays at sunset

  1. For one reason or another (too complicated to go into here), this generally makes your image more aesthetically pleasing. However, this is not always true but you need to learn why it works, and when to break the rule. For the image below of the bridge in Salford Quays at sunset, I have purposefully placed the bridge in the lower third of the frame which also gives me more room to show the magical colours in the sky.

  2. Balance- this is simply the arrangement of shapes, colours, or areas of light and dark that complement one another and make sure that the photograph does not have an uneven feel to it. For this image below of "Dawn in the Peak District", I have used the rising sun in the top left to balance the munching sheep in the bottom right. Without the sun in the frame, the image appears lopsided, and bottom heavy.

    [caption id="attachment_759" align="aligncenter" width="590" caption="Dawn in the Peak District"]

  3. Simplicity- Make sure that your frame is free from clutter, and always make sure to check the edges for intruding elements. If you could lose that telephone pole by taking two steps forward, then do it. Telephone poles, random tree branches, power lines are all examples of elements that if included in an image, often provide distraction inevitably detracting from the final quality of the image. These are also all things that can often easily be removed by moving your feet a few paces forwards or backwards. In this image of Sarah below I have gone in close to remove some distracting grafitti on the wall just to the camera left. This image also incorporates elements of point 4 below using the lines of the brickwork to lead the viewer's eye up to the subject.

Sarah

  1. Using lines - Lines can often be used to draw the viewer's eye into and around the image. These don't just have to be clear lines like roads or paths, but they can be more abstract such as the line of a subject's gaze, or the pattern created in a cloudy sky. The more of a path you can create for the eye to follow in an image, the longer you will keep the viewer engaged, and the stronger the image will be. In the image below I have used the windy line of the road to lead the viewer's eye from bottom right round and up to the tree.

View up The Struggle in the Lake District on an Autumn morning (Click to view larger)

  1. Using lines - Lines can often be used to draw the viewer's eye into and around the image. These don't just have to be clear lines like roads or paths, but they can be more abstract such as the line of a subject's gaze, or the pattern created in a cloudy sky. The more of a path you can create for the eye to follow in an image, the longer you will keep the viewer engaged, and the stronger the image will be. In the image below I have used the windy line of the road to lead the viewer's eye from bottom right round and up to the tree.

View up The Struggle in the Lake District on an Autumn morning (Click to view larger)

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  1. Simplicity- Make sure that your frame is free from clutter, and always make sure to check the edges for intruding elements. If you could lose that telephone pole by taking two steps forward, then do it. Telephone poles, random tree branches, power lines are all examples of elements that if included in an image, often provide distraction inevitably detracting from the final quality of the image. These are also all things that can often easily be removed by moving your feet a few paces forwards or backwards. In this image of Sarah below I have gone in close to remove some distracting grafitti on the wall just to the camera left. This image also incorporates elements of point 4 below using the lines of the brickwork to lead the viewer's eye up to the subject.

Sarah-41-590x404.jpg
  1. Using lines - Lines can often be used to draw the viewer's eye into and around the image. These don't just have to be clear lines like roads or paths, but they can be more abstract such as the line of a subject's gaze, or the pattern created in a cloudy sky. The more of a path you can create for the eye to follow in an image, the longer you will keep the viewer engaged, and the stronger the image will be. In the image below I have used the windy line of the road to lead the viewer's eye from bottom right round and up to the tree.
View up The Struggle in the Lake District on an Autumn morning (Click to view larger)
  1. Using lines - Lines can often be used to draw the viewer's eye into and around the image. These don't just have to be clear lines like roads or paths, but they can be more abstract such as the line of a subject's gaze, or the pattern created in a cloudy sky. The more of a path you can create for the eye to follow in an image, the longer you will keep the viewer engaged, and the stronger the image will be. In the image below I have used the windy line of the road to lead the viewer's eye from bottom right round and up to the tree.

View up The Struggle in the Lake District on an Autumn morning (Click to view larger)

Windsor Castle by Neil Alexander (Click to view larger)Here I have used the path of the staircase bottom left to lead the viewer's eye into the frame